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After Every Sunset Comes The Dawn (Bellosh & RainbowFoxxy)


Bellosh
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Sunset Shimmer loved her dear friend Twilight Sparkle, truly she did... but never since Sunset’s brief transformation into a fiendish monstrosity at the Fall Formal had she felt the overwhelming urge to end Twilight.


What could generate such strong emotions from Miss Shimmer? Why, the impending marriage of Petunia Petals and Mayor Skies of Hope Hollow, of course. Granted, from what little Sunset remembered of the childhood hometown she deserted, those two ponies were actually among the few ponies who did her no wrong. The fact that the engaged couple didn’t send Sunset an wedding invitation didn’t upset the Equestrian girl one bit either; she was still rather glad to avoid Hope Hollow at all costs.


No... the problem was that Princess Twilight got sent an invitation, and using her granted right as a wedding attendee, she chose Sunset Shimmer as her “plus one” guest. Sunset tried making a huge stink, reminding her supposed friend of all the bad blood between Sunset and her folks, but it was to no avail. For reasons the unicorn couldn’t fathom, Twilight refused to budge, countering Sunset’s every excuse with a well-reasoned counterargument or an ingenious workaround.


Like it or not, Sunset Shimmer would be forced to return to the scene of her first ever betrayal.....


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Up in front of the train car, Twilight’s Ponyville friends (plus a few guests of their own) were excitedly yammering amongst themselves, for they too were invited to the Hope Hollow Wedding. But Miss Shimmer, despite being a fellow Friendship professor, stuck to the very back. The amber unicorn clearly appeared to others as pensive as she fixed her gaze upon the landscape moving past the window.


All these years gone by, and yet Sunset Shimmer remained unprepared to face the most terrifying specters that remained from her past. Would she have the strength to confront her parents, if it came to it? Did they still hate her? Did they miss her? Or had Sunset been entirely forgotten about? And of course, there was also the unnamed sibling to consider, who had not yet been born when Sunset left Hope Hollow forever. How did that kid turn out? .....How did he or she cope with a world without color?


Sunset sighed as she forlornly shook her head; nothing good could come out of a family reunion. The best she could hope for was to either hope she was forgotten, or succeed in avoiding her folks until it was time to return home. Goodness knows how that could be done in such a small town as Hope Hollow, but Celestia-willing, Sunset will make a good damned try out of it.....

 

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Well... it seemed like this was happening. It was really happening. 

 

The young mare sucked in a breath as the rumble of the train announced a reckoning she wasn't sure she was ready for. She wasn't sure she'd ever be ready. Well, eventually she would be. She had no intention of staying away from her hometown, from her parents forever. She had just needed some time away. Time to expand her mind beyond what Hope Hollow had to offer. Beyond the few friendships she'd made there.  Beyond the drab grey that she'd heard had returned to it's formerly colorful state. Oh! Yes that would be exciting! She'd always wondered what the "Town At the End of the Rainbow" would look like in all its glory and soon she'd see it!

 

She'd also see her parents, not that she thought they would care all that much. They had hardly seemed to care about anything during her entire growing up so why would things be different now. Well, there was color now...maybe it had changed them too? She hoped so. She loved her parents despite their lack of enthusiasm over much of anything. It was their lack that had ended up brewing so much in Luster herself. She loved knowledge and learning and the process of it all. She loved discovering and researching and coming to conclusions. When it came to family, there were some things she'd really love to know about.

 

Mainly, her sister. She didn't even know her name. Her parents had accidentally let it slip only once, only right before she was leaving town that she'd ever even had a sister. Nopony else in the town had bothered to say anything either. She guessed that's what living in the grey did to ponies. Made them forget. Made them not care. But she cared! In fact she made up her mind right in that moment that her parents would tell her all about her sister while she was in town for the wedding. Yes, perfect plan!

 

The train rumbled to a stop and ponies from Canterlot piled on. Luster let herself be swept up in the throng and was soon aboard her train home! It was exciting but also daunting. She took a breath and looked for somewhere to sit. Somewhere not overly crowded if possible? There were lots of ponies on the train today. Some of which she figured were probably heading to Hope Hollow too. It wasn't every day a mayor got married after all!

 

Ah! There was a seat! Towards the back. There was an empty bench seat across the aisle from one amber colored unicorn. Perfect! Luster trotted back, tossed her saddle bag down and took a seat by the far window. As the train lurched into gear she felt her heart jump. There really was much to be anxious about. Maybe if she tried some polite conversation it would ease her mind? 

 

As the train rolled on towards Hope Hollow she glanced across the aisle.

 

"Hi there!" She gave a half smile. "Headed to Hope Hollow? There's a big wedding in town tonight!"

 

There that was friendly. She wondered how the unicorn across from her would respond. 

 

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The voice of a filly talking to her startled Sunset Shimmer out of her stupor. “Ohh uh, wha-?” Getting her mental bearings adjusted, Sunset glanced around and saw that across the aisle, a reddish-pink unicorn child with a streaked, shimmering mane of amber was staring at her. The older mare couldn’t exactly pinpoint why, but the kid felt like something that came out of a half-remembered dream of Sunset’s. Kinda odd, really.


After a moment, Miss Shimmer shook off her sense of deja vu and gave the young filly a polite half smile of her own. “Oh yeah,” Sunset replied; “I know. I’ll be attending, actually!” The adult betrayed no hint that she didn't want to be in Hope Hollow; she wasn’t about to go vent her frustrations at a bystander kid she didn’t know. Pretending to take an interest in the subject to make the little gal feel her attempt at friendliness wasn't a waste of time, Sunset asked; “I take it you’re going too?”

 

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Oh! The other unicorn had been lost in thought, or at least that's how it seemed from her initial response. Luster hoped she wouldn't be irritated. That would be no good on top of the unease she was already feeling about going back to where she grew up. She'd left so much there and even thinking of stepping off the train made her anxiety rise. 

 

Thankfully the mare seemed receptive to the light conversation. There was something...she didn't quite know...just something about this other unicorn. She couldn't place it exactly. Had they possibly met before? It seemed unlikely. She'd never met another pony with markings like the vibrant yellow unicorn across from her. She scooted a bit closer on her bench. She was intrigued.

 

"Oh! Yes," She glanced out the window at the scenery as it flashed by. Mountains giving way to a pass the tracks were laid through. Further and further north the train trundled, taking her back to a past she wasn't ready to revisit. Luster sighed.

 

"Yes!" She put on a convincing smile...at least by her estimation. "Yes, I'm going too. The wedding is for two um," She glanced at the unicorn, making brief eye contact. "For two old friends of mine."

 

She looked away, deciding to just talk. Perhaps it would take her mind off her anxiety. "I grew up in Hope Hollow. Are you from Ponyville?" She made the deduction based on the train stops before Canterlot. 

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Something smelled a bit wishy-washy about how the filly answered Sunset Shimmer’s question. It almost made the older mare think that the kid may have had reasons to avoid the wedding. The mention of Mayor Skies and Petunia Petals as old friends also sounded strange coming from a little girl; that was, until she mentioned growing up in that dreadful, crummy old town of Hope Hollow. Going by what Twilight mentioned before about how low that place sunk, and based on Sunset’s recollections of life right before the town lost all color, it didn’t seem far-fetched at all if those two adults had been the only two friendly souls around. Without the kindness and support of those two, Sunset wouldn’t have had a sponsor sign off on her attending the School of Magic against the will of her parents.


“Ehh, yes and no... Sunset answered the next question in a rather confusing way; “I’m a part-time professor at the School of Friendship, but I live outside Ponyville... outside Equestria, actually. If I explained to you how it all works, you’d probably think I’m just pulling your leg... it’s that crazy.” The Equestrian girl left out the rather important detail of being a Hope Hollow filly herself, sensing that neither unicorn was in a real rush to talk about that locale.


Knowing for sure that she’s never seen the kid around campus before, Sunset could only think of one other reason that a Hope Hollow unicorn was on a train BACK to her hometown instead of being already there. “So, I’m guessing you go to Celestia’s Schoo-” the mare blushed and chuckled as she caught her anachronism; “I mean... Twilight’s School for Gifted Unicorns?”

 

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Luster scooted just a little closer so she could hear what the unicorn was telling her. Her brow raised a bit at the answer for the question of where she was from.

 

"Outside of Equestria?" Her mind went to far flung regions. What was this mare, some kind of explorer of something? But that didn't seem right, she didn't seem to fit the profile of a Daring Do type individual. "Yeah, I'll bet it is..." She pondered as Sunset explained the craziness of where she was from. "And you're  a professor?"

 

Then on the more familiar topics. Luster brightened up at the mention of her school. "Yes! I'm a second year now!" Twilight's School for Gifted Unicorns was one of the few places she felt truly comfortable and at home. She was a top notch student and had a deep sense of pride in her accomplishments. Not that she was going to brag. She never did. "So you teach at the School of Friendship huh? Wow! Didn't think I'd be meeting teachers on the train."

 

At that point a vending pony came into the train car. As she came Luster the filly smiled. "Oh good! I'm starved! Can I get a chocolate chip hay biscuit, two oat clusters, and a blackberry fizz please?" She glanced over at Sunset. "You want anything?" 

 

After she had her snacks Luster took a bite of the hay biscuit and washed it down with a sip of blackberry fizz. The food and the conversation with the unicorn had helped relieve much of her anziety about going home.  "So uh, what subjects do you teach? Oh! And my name is Luster Dawn! It's nice to meet you!" 

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With an affirmative “Mmm-hmm”, Sunset Shimmer indicated that yes, she was in fact a friendship professor. As for the younger girl... she was a second year? .....Right on!!! Sunset grinned; it wasn’t all that hard for her to establish automatic kinship with a pony attending the same magic school as she once did. The kid’s next comment made the mare chuckle. “Heh,” Sunny stretched her foreleg towards the other, more recognizable friendship professors up in front; “There’s a whole bunch of them right there in case you like, want to get their autographs or something. Nearly the entire Harmony Gang’s on this train... aside from Princess Twilight, of course.”


Sunset had to hand it to the kid; she had a large appetite! As for what the mare wanted; “Hmmm, I think a sunflower sandwich and an iced tea will be enough for me.” When the vending pony came back with their food, Miss Shimmer proceeded to munch on her meal. Ah; this felt much better than sulking around.


Quite eager to avoid falling back into a gloomy mood, Sunny more than happily indulged the kid’s desire for chit-chat. “Luster Dawn, huh?" The amber unicorn silently pondered for a couple seconds before flashing a warm smile; “...I may be a little biased, but that’s a lovely name.” The mare winked as she reached out towards Luster with a hoof; “I’m Sunset Shimmer. Nice to meet you too, Luster!”


Once that pleasantry was exchanged, Sunset finished answering the question. “I teach Defense Against Dark Hearts. It’s sorta like the Self-Defense Magic classes you take at the School of Magic, except instead of learning spells, you learn to manifest the Magic of Friendship. The neat thing with Defense Against Dark Hearts is that literally any creature can harness this power. Other than that, I teach students about what sort of darkened hearts that may be potentially encountered in this world, how to avoid becoming corrupted by harmful emotions inside you, and to show empathy for others. I’ve been teaching Defense Against Dark Hearts for about a year now, and it’s been a blast both passing down what I know and making new discoveries in the process!”


After a momentary lull in the conversation, Sunset turned the tables on Luster and resumed her questioning; “A second year student, huh? What’s been your favorite subject so far? Field Magic’s useful if you wanna become an adventurer someday; Creative Magic’s fun for conjuration, enchantment, and transmutation stuff... that’s Princess Twilight’s speciality actually; there’s Chemistry if you like brewing potions; and my fav of course was always Self-Defense, since we learned about monsters and how to take them on. Heh heh, sorry for rambling on like that,” Sunset softly sighed; “I guess I sorta miss the old days.....”

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When the mare across from her mentioned there were other teachers aboard she nearly chocked on her blackberry fizz! "Wow really? Not just teachers but celebrities! They're all going to Hope Hollow for the wedding?" She could see that of course. They had been the ones to free her town from the grey. But that lot having time to come to the mayor's wedding? They certainly were a good group of friends! "I've thought about transferring to the Friendship School more than once. It would be so cool to be educated by...well by famous ponies! And saviors of Equestria...and now you!" She didn't really know this new mare at all but she liked her very much all the same.

 

Any anxiety she had been feeling about going home was melting away as they continued their conversation. "Aw thank you Sunset!" She blushed at the compliment of her name. "Your name is super pretty too!" She connected hooves with Sunset, returning her wink with a charming smile. 

 

Luster listened while Sunset regaled her with the class she taught. Her eye widened as she explained what was possible with manifesting friendship! It all sounded exciting, and dangerous, and super cool! "I haven't taken a class like that yet." She smiled. "But they do have lots of other really interesting ones that I have taken!"

 

The filly nodded as Sunset asked the question about types of magic. Her head swirled for a moment. It was always tricky to pick a favorite. She liked lots of magical studies and hadn't found the one she'd be focusing on. Her professors had told her that was fine. Sometimes it took a long time to decide what you really wanted. "I guess I never even thought about self defense as a form of magic to focus on." She tapped her muzzle. "But the way you talk about it, it sounds like I've been missing out on!"

 

She blushed. "Well, maybe Princess Twilight and I have something in common. I've been very interested in conjuring and enchantment lately. it's really challenging and rewarding! Last week I actually had a chance to work one on one with a professor. I was able to conjure a force field against a magical blast!" She gasped and them smiled. "Which is self defense! Looks like I'm part Twilight and part Sunset as far as what I'm liking about magic!" Her blush deepened. Was she being too presumptuous with the connection she felt with this mare? 

 

Luster gave a sad smile. "I bet you got up to all kinds of fun stuff at school! What were your friends like? Do you keep in touch with them?"

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"I've thought about transferring to the Friendship School more than once. It would be so cool to be educated by...well by famous ponies! And saviors of Equestria...and now you!"

 

The filly’s exuberance earned a blush out of Sunset Shimmer. “Well, I remember the professors over at Cel-Twilight’s School were pretty top-notch too. Oh and don’t forget; if you show a really REALLY high aptitude for magic... Princess Twilight could very well take you on as her personal apprentice!” Sunset nodded and smirked; “You gotta admit she’d make an awesome teacher...”

 

"I guess I never even thought about self defense as a form of magic to focus on. But the way you talk about it, it sounds like I've been missing out on!"

 

“Sounds like you don’t get into many magic duels at school,” the older mare quipped; “Do you, Luster?” She quickly added a disclaimer; “That’s not to say that you SHOULD be dueling, being against the school rules and all. Not to mention the risk of serious injury when participating in unsanctioned duels!” It was here that Sunset betrayed her inner rebel with a cheeky grin and a flip of her mane; “...But I wiiiilll say I was a pretty good duelist at your age, kiddo.....”

 

"Looks like I'm part Twilight and part Sunset as far as what I'm liking about magic!"

 

Sunset chuckled, admitting in her mind that this kid was starting to grow on her a ton; “Heh heh, I betcha you’d be able to conjure stun rays yourself in no time!” If only the unicorn mare could go back in time and relive the sheer joy of beginning the voyage of learning the secrets of arcane magic…

 

"I bet you got up to all kinds of fun stuff at school! What were your friends like? Do you keep in touch with them?"

 

With this pair of questions, Sunset grew ill at ease, which was a real shame because of the good vibes she was feeling between herself and Luster up until now. “Ehhhhhhh,” Miss Shimmer grimaced as she rubbed the back of her neck; “I keep in touch with a FEW alumni who were there at the same time I was, but well... let’s just say I used to be the sort of girl who focused more on making good grades than making friends.” Sunset wasn’t quite up to the task of conveying her complete Magic School story right then and there.


“If I had to guess though,” Sunset forced herself to smile; “You’re probably doing a better job at the whole Friendship thing than I did back then.....”

 

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Luster's eyes widened as Sunset spoke of magical dueling. She'd heard rumors of some students partaking in that sort of activity but she wasn't just going to mention it to a teacher! Until of course the teacher mentioned it first! Wow! This Sunset was super cool, she was having such a great time chatting with her. For some reason she felt a connection between them and just wanted to keep on talking. 

 

"Welllll, you're right! I probably could do a stun spell... I just haven't had any proper training." The more Sunset talked about dueling, the more Luster was interested. She'd been a good student and followed all the rules and suddenly this mare who a professor of all things, was bending her towards unsanctioned activities.So cool!

 

And then she hit a nerve. Luster could feel herself deflate a bit as Sunset took on the question about friends. She hadn't thought it was something that would bring hesitation but here they were. "I guess I'm pretty good with it yeah." The light red filly did have a fair amount of good friends. "I haven't ever really had to work to make friends but the grades...yeah they don't come easy!"

 

She took another sip of her drink and a bit of hay biscuit. Letting the moment pass and trying to think of other topics. "So uh, do you train any students for sanctioned dueling? I mean you train lots of students for Defense Against Dark Hearts class, but do you have any students that you uh...mentor?"

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Sunset Shimmer offered a knowing nod to Luster about the grades not coming easy. Back then, the amber unicorn had quite happily made a ton of sacrifices in her single-minded quest to become the best of the best. Few others tended to be willing to go without things like social connections and recreational time.


After a few moments of silence — which Sunset used up to finish her sandwich — Luster Dawn’s next round of questions caught the older mare a bit off-guard. “.....You know,” Miss Shimmer scratched her chin; “I’ve haven’t really thought about becoming a mentor at all. Maybe if I didn’t have to jump between worl-... make long-distance commutes every other day, I’d have the time to give somebody a proper arcane mentorship.”


With a sigh, Sunset glanced back towards the window; “...If I choose to relocate to Ponyville once this current school year ends, then it’ll something I’ll consider for the future...” Great; now the Equestrian Girl was once again reminded of the anxiety-inducing time bomb that was Graduation, and what it would mean to six of the most meaningful friendships in her life. As if she didn't need more to worry about already.....

 

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Luster finished off her snacks while Sunset gave her answers. She raised an eyebrow for a moment as the older mare stammered on her words. Jumping between what now?! But before she could consider it further Sunset had moved on. She'd never mentored anypony? Luster gasped.

 

"Wow! I can't believe you haven't been a mentor!" She blushed. "I think you'd be great at it!" She glanced away. "I mean you already have me motivated and we barely know each other."

 

Ponyville. Luster had considered that school more than once, and lots of times since her brief encounter with this particular professor. The Friendship School did seem to have some awesome things going for it however she'd miss the intense magical training she was gleaning from her current educational situation. It was something she would keep in consideration though. 

 

"Oh!" She looked out her window as the train's gears began to grind. "Time flies when you're having fun!" She smiled over to her new friend. At least she hoped they would be friends after this! "Looks like we're almost there!"

 

They'd be arriving at the Hollow Shades stop in the next few minutes. Luster's heart skipped a beat. She was actually going home...she wasn't sure she was ready for this...

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“Weeeell...” Sunset’s cheeks reddened from hearing Luster’s encouragement; “I suppose I’ll have to give mentoring some more thought, then.....” True, Sunset Shimmer was technically a Magic School drop-out, but the amber mare might have very well graduated with highest honors had she stayed the course and not gotten herself caught engaging in “unauthorized extracurricular studies”. Academic black mark notwithstanding, Sunset could wipe the floor with the typical arcane graduate with a hoof tied around her back. With that in mind, maybe mentoring wasn’t such a far-fetched idea after all.


But every train ride had to come to an end, and the lil’ kiddo pointed out that they’re almost there. We are?” Sunset forced a smile; “That’s uh... great.....” The older unicorn nervously looked out the window, half-expecting against all rationality that she’d find random splotches of prismatically-desaturated land that remained contaminated by hopelessness magic. Looking toward the immediate future, Miss Shimmer would just have to wing things once they got into Hope Hollow, hoping that the townsponies would either have forgotten about her or not see fit to bother her.....

 

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Hope Hollow looked, well it looked brilliant! She still couldn't get used to the fact that the color had been returned. She'd spent lots of her growing up in the grey and so to see the towns ponies all brightly colored and such still made her eyes pop! 

 

They had decorated practically the whole town for the wedding! 

 

"Wow! Everypony went all out! I mean it is the mayor's wedding after all!" She glanced about, speaking to Sunset without even knowing if the mare had come off of the train behind her. 

 

Now that they were here it was time to get ready for the wedding. Luster had packed a gown for the occasion but she wasn't quite sure where to get ready. She blanched at the thought of going to her parent's house for some reason. It had been a while now and she knew they supported her. It was just, the time away had been nice. The fact that she' have to see them again and soon, made her stomach drop. She wasn't sure why but it felt like she'd turned a page in her book and coming back here was like restarting the story. 

 

She glanced behind her noting the yellow and red unicorn was still in hearing range even with the sounds of the train settling. "Are you heading right to the wedding?" 

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“Well I’ll be darned...” For all of Sunset Shimmer’s existentialist dread about returning to the place of her birth, even she had to admire this new revitalized Hope Hollow. Despite having left home before the Great Desaturation happened, the whole town looked much more well-kempt and lively than she remembered, and that was after looking past all the assorted event decorations. This new Hope Hollow practically now had the same sort of energy as Ponyville itself!


Based on the peeks Sunset took of the townsponies every now and then, it didn’t seem like anybody recognized her. A part of that realization stung, but then again, it wasn’t as if Sunset wanted to get embroiled in any awkward reunions anytime soon. Besides, she was a relic of a bygone prelude to a dark age; the unicorn would have been ancient history to the ponies here, for better or worse.


At least, for most ponies, that was.....


The familiar voice of a filly cried out from behind Miss Shimmer. She turned towards Luster Dawn; “Nah, I gotta meet up with my partner first, whenever she gets here. My friend’s literally my ticket into the wedding, so to speak.” A moment of thoughtful silence; “I’m guessing you’re off to see your folks now?” Luster DID say she came from here, afterall.....

 

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