AN: Don't own MLP, so don't sue me. This fic is on fanfiction dot net and fimfiction dot net. Thanks go out to TsukiyomiNeko, GraysonPaladin, MasterRaptor77, NaylorFan90, webcam875, Raven, and MrDenim for reviewing! I would also like to point out that Apple Bloom herself is reading this story. Hey there Apple Bloom! Thanks for visiting. I'm afraid things are going to be a little rough for you in this story, but remember, it's always darkest just before the dawn (and no, I'm not trying to insult Princess Luna here, it's just a human saying). There's going to be violence, but it won't be terribly gory. If you want to show your friends, go ahead. Scootaloo would probably get a kick out of it, I'm not too sure about Sweetie Belle though. However, please don't show this to your brother or sister; I don't know if they would understand and I am quite content being ignorant of how an apple tree feels during applebuck season.
Chapter 2: Crisis of Faith
Apple Bloom laid sleepless on her bed. She had just killed somepony. It was obvious that the strange zebra had been the one to collapse the wards on the path, and was certainly capable of doing the same to the ones surrounding the hut. That zebra would have killed Zecora and probably her too given the chance, but it still weighed heavily on her mind.
What bothered her most though, was that something about the situation had just seemed so, so right.
What did that say about her?
She attempted the age old strategy of ignoring it and hoping it went away, but her mind kept drifting back to the sightless gaze of the dead zebra, and her own disturbing reaction to it.
When Celestia brought light to the world, it fell upon a bleary-eyed and still sleepless Apple Bloom. She was grateful for the sun—it let her pretend like last night was just some strange nightmare, and everything would go back to normal.
“Mornin' sugar-cube!” Applejack greeted her younger sister before doing a double take. “Well cover me in leaves and call me an apple tree! You look terrible Apple Bloom!”
“Gee, thanks sis,” Apple Bloom said.
Her elder sister had the grace to at least blush a little at that.
“Are you feeling alright sis?”
Apple Bloom chuckled darkly.
“Yep, and that's the problem,” she answered.
Applejack looked a little confused at this statement, before deciding that she probably shouldn't try to drag whatever it was out of her sister. Being an Apple meant offering help when it was needed, but it also meant recognizing and respecting certain boundaries.
“Well, if you say so,” conceded Applejack. “Why don't ya help me with breakfast?”
Breakfast was swiftly made and consumed, mountains of flapjacks and eggs, all washed down with fresh milk.
Apple Bloom had finally succeeded in putting the events of the night before behind her. Full of pancakes and laughter, she began her journey to the schoolhouse.
She trotted along the well worn path, feeling the wind in her mane, the sun on her skin, smelling the crisp dewy grass, and just feeling truly alive. She paused and scuffed the ground with a hoof, snorting once before continuing on. Only vaguely did she realize what was happening.
It was something that had only happened to her once before, after she had met Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. It was something sacred and cleansing, the Sisters' gift for earth ponies alone. It only happened at pivotal moments in their lives, and each time was something truly special.
Applejack and Big Mac had gone on a Run after Ma and Pa died. Granny Smith spoke of a Run when she realized that Grandpa was the love of her life. Most recently, Applejack had gone on a Run with Pinkie Pie a year ago after the Nightmare Moon incident. A neighbor was expecting for the first time, and she and her husband Ran. And without fail, every time an earth pony got his or her cutie-mark, they went on The Run. In the dark void that Equestria had been brought forth from, Celestia and Luna had Run, and spun the world from a sea of emptiness.
The Run was a reminder of the gift that all earth ponies shared, what was denied to unicorns and pegasi as earth ponies were denied flight and horn magic. Life, Death, and the Ways of the world flowed easier for them, and they Understood.
All this and more flashed through her head in an instant, but none of it mattered to her. All that mattered was Now. Life pulsed all around her, and ensnared her in its web. Conscious thought finally left her, and she gave herself to The Run. A thousand hooves pounded alongside hers on the empty path, as she traveled the way thousands had before. A buzzing, excited feeling settled in her withers, and every time her hooves contact the ground, she could sense more than just what was there at the moment. The potential of all things including herself.
Then there were the eyes again. She didn't need to turn her head, but she knew that whatever was left of the zebra was alongside her and her ancestors.
The Run ended when she was just shy of Ponyville, but the zebra lingered for a few moments. Apple Bloom turned to face him, and the dead eyes stared at her own before fading into the air.
Under that fading gaze, for a few fleeting moments she Understood. Life, Death, and the Ways were clear to her. Despite what she had done, she was still a child of Celestia, still a daughter of Luna.
The euphoric cognition was too quickly over, and she was left to muse on what had brought the sacred ritual on. She supposed that she could hardly deny killing somepony was certainly a significant event in her life, and no matter what happened, she would never wish to take it back. Zecora was a good friend of hers, one that was still alive thanks to her actions. Yes, she decided. The Sisters would have approved.
Apple Bloom arrived at school a full half hour later than usual; apparently spiritual experiences don't necessarily care about tardiness. Ms. Cheerilee gave her an unpleasant look.
“Apple Bloom, we've had this discussion before. Tardiness is not acceptable for any reason,” said Cheerilee.
“Yes Ma'am. Ah'm sorry Ma'am,” said Apple Bloom.
“Go ahead and take a seat. You're lucky you didn't get here any later, or you might have been turned back at the door,” Cheerilee said with a small smirk, gesturing to the schoolhouse door again, where two royal guards had appeared.
Apple Bloom hurried to her seat at the front of the classroom before turning around to see what Ms. Cheerilee was talking about.
“Today class, we have a very special guest. Please stand and welcome Her Royal Highness, Princess Luna!”
Everypony shot to their feet and stared in wonder as the beautiful God-empress of the night entered the room. Her mane fluttered in a non existent breeze, and Apple Bloom thought that she could see the stars themselves floating in it. She stood proudly in the entryway, head held high, and wings spread to their fullest. When you looked in her eyes, you could see the moon itself floating in their depths.
For a few moments there was silence, and then a loud cacophony of dozens of fillies and colts cheering and applauding.
The princess tucked in her wings, and walked regally up to the front of the classroom. These colts and fillies were just so tiny, and so cute! She was struck by the urge to take one home with her, raise it as her very own foal as she had done many times before the pain of loss had become too great. But apparently in this modern age that sort of thing was no longer considered an honor, unless you called it an apprenticeship of course. It was scenes like this that made her even more grateful to the ponies that had saved her from Nightmare Moon.
As she reached the front of the classroom and turned around, the room became silent once more. Luna opened her mouth to speak, but before she said anything, her nostrils flared as they smelled a very familiar scent. One that harkened back to a millennium ago.
Not just any blood, but lifeblood, the blood shed when somepony died.
Her pulse quickened, and she tensed up. This was starting to feel less like a dream come true and more like one of her nightmares.
She cast her gaze upon the room, following where her nose said the scent was coming from.
It was coming from right in front of her.
Her eyes widened in fear, and her wings shot up again, ready to spirit her away. She looked down, and stumbled in shock.
It was Her.
Apple Bloom was feeling a little conflicted. She was happy to see the Princess in person for a second time, but it was a little disconcerting to have one of your Goddesses take a look at you and fall to the floor, scrabbling to get away.
She figured that she should probably say something.
“Uh, Princess Luna? Are you okay?”
Princess Luna started glowing. At this point, everypony else started backing away, slowly at first, and then running out the door. The royal guard hovered near the door, unsure of what to do.
Apple Bloom then decided to do something very stupid. She got up very slowly from her seat, and walked carefully toward the Princess, who was now in the corner, looking at her with frightened eyes.
“Stay away from me! I've been good, I've been good! Stay away!”
A blinding flash filled the room, and Princess Celestia herself ran up and scooped her quivering mess of a sister up, and teleported them both away with another flash.
Apple Bloom was left standing alone in the classroom, hoof outstretched. She sighed. This was not her day.
The classroom was in chaos even once Cheerilee had managed to herd everyone back inside. Eventually, with the help of the two royal guards, she got everypony calmed down and back in their proper seats. Honestly, that was probably about the most useful thing those guards had done the entire time.
Apple Bloom was never more grateful that she had managed to transfer into Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo's class than she was that day. Ms. Cheerilee had said that Princess Luna had what was called a flashback, where a traumatic event was relived again in all of its horror, and that it wasn't anypony's fault. But everypony, including Apple Bloom, knew that it had something to do with her.
As if to confirm this thought, she heard a hissing whisper next to her.
“Nice going, blank flank,” whispered Silver Spoon. “OW! OW!”
Silver Spoon rubbed her head. Apple Bloom saw a smug looking Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, and two erasers on the floor beneath Silver Spoon.
At least she could count on her friends to stand by her side. Smiling in thanks, she returned to her introspection.
Just what had happened here? Everything had seemed so clear after The Run, only for it all to fall apart once more.
Apple Bloom stared at her hooves. For a moment, she saw crimson liquid dripping off of them, only for it to disappear when she blinked her eyes.So many questions. Had Princess Luna actually killed anypony during the Nightmare Moon incident? Did she know that Apple Bloom had killed somepony?
She wasn't quite as certain that the Sisters would understand as she had been that morning.
AN:In my version of the MLP verse, earth ponies have an increased understanding of life and death. Luna and Celestia are not simply pegasus unicorns. They are equal parts earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn. The Run is a gift to remind the earth ponies of their unique understanding. I think we can all agree that something like this is better than the earth ponies just getting shafted.
Also, as far as the smelling blood thing: Luna, as a living Goddess has far better senses than the average pony. She was able to smell the zebra's blood despite her having washed it off.