Make her pay.
Rainbow Dash grimaced angrily when those words echoed in her head again as she glanced to her right at Starlight. The other mare was doing her absolute best to look extremely busy with the blank piece of paper she was holding in front of her face with her magic. She noticed Rainbow looking at her, gave a fake smile, then dug her nose deeper into the parchment in an effort to hide from Rainbow’s undoubtedly bitter expression. She watched Starlight for a moment with a skeptical scowl, then shook her head and deflated before returning her attention to the shelf.
This basic pattern had been going on for the last ten minutes. Ever since Fluttershy had left to get Thorax and the rest of the group began searching the library, Starlight would take every single possible opportunity to try and hide or slip away, usually by making herself look busy with her nose in a book or scroll. She wasn’t exactly good at being inconspicuous, however, Rainbow or Twilight would always notice her evasive behavior and call her to get back to it. She would sigh, nod, return to work, and then the whole process would repeat.
It didn’t take a genius to tell that Starlight was hoping they wouldn’t notice so she could slip away to another part of the library and get away from Rainbow Dash. The awkwardness and tension in the air were not at all helped by the fact that Twilight and Spike were very conspicuously absent from the two, leaving Rainbow alone with Starlight. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what they were doing, either, and Rainbow found herself both glad that they weren’t letting her delay what she had to do, and very angry because she had to do this in the first place. She glanced at Starlight again as the mare returned the blank parchment to its shelf with her ears folded back.
Rainbow perked up a little. “Oh, uh,” she suddenly spoke up, pointing at the parchment with a hoof. “We’re looking for stuff just like that. Blank parchment.”
“Oh, yeah right,” Starlight smiled sheepishly and gave a short, shaky laugh before levitating the parchment off of the shelf. She hovered it in front of her eyes for a moment before rolling it into a scroll and balancing it on her back. “Huh… maybe we should have brought our saddlebags…” she mumbled before looking around for Twilight and Spike. Her thoughtful expression morphed into one of confusion and discomfort when she realized that they were nowhere to be found. “Uh… where did they go?”
Rainbow groaned deep in her throat with frustration and looked up at the ceiling. She fell to her haunches and loosely flailed her forelegs at the roof in exasperation. “You mean you didn’t notice them very casually sneaking off? Really?” she dropped her forelegs and stared flatly at Starlight. “Yeah, they went and left us alone together. Real classic, Twi…”
Starlight’s eyes widened somewhat at that, and a small spark of fear danced in her eyes. “What?! Why would they leave us alone together? That’s a stupid idea!” She exclaimed, sounding appalled. Her eyes shot wide open and scrambled back a few paces when she saw the disapproving glare that Rainbow was shooting at her. The scroll of parchment slipped off of her back and struck the floor, sounding far louder than it had any right to be. The two eyed each other for several moments before Starlight decided she was brave enough to speak again. “Uh, I didn’t mean that Twilight’s stupid or anything. She’s not, really. I just meant that… um…” she swallowed heavily and backed up another step.
“Look, just stop talking for a second, would you?” Rainbow snapped, and Starlight compiled without hesitation. Rainbow closed her eyes and took in a deep breath through her nose. After a moment of holding it in, she let it out through her mouth in a long, heavy exhale. The burning in her head that had swelled up with Starlight’s unintentional insult began to fade away into the background. She opened her eyes to look at Starlight again. “As for why they left us alone… It’s because, like Pinkie said, I need to talk to you… They’re making sure I don’t procrastinate.”
Starlight blinked and looked at Rainbow skeptically. She shifted back a little more, just in case. “Okay… what do you need to talk to me about?” she asked, her tone of voice indicating just how little she was believing what Rainbow said.
The pegasus turned to her left so she could again look at the bookshelf, trying to think of how to breach the subject. She found the words, eventually, and began talking. “I want to know more about you. I need to know you for who you are…” she finally managed before glancing solemnly in Starlight’s direction. “And not what I was afraid you were going to be.”
Starlight raised an eyebrow, slowly inching forward while her ears began to lift back up. “What you were afraid I was going to be? You mean how you thought I was… the same Starlight that traveled in time and-”
Rainbow lifted a hoof to signal Starlight to stop talking, and she did. Rainbow gave a small shrug and let her hoof drop back to the floor. “When the girls and I went to Manehattan to find you, I already had an idea in my head about who you were… I thought you were some kind of psychologically disturbed powerhouse with a grudge against my friends and I for some reason. I was worried that you might try to go back in time all over again…” she looked down at the floor and awkwardly brushed a hoof over the smooth surface. “I know that I was wrong about that, now, and I am sorry for attacking you on the train… but I don’t really know you. All I know right now is that you have the same face and voice as the mare who went back in time, changed history, and… killed my parents. And every time I look at you…”
She looked at Starlight with a distant look in her eyes, making the intensity in the unicorn’s eyes fade a little more when she saw just how confused Rainbow looked. But there was far more than just confusion. She was scared, too. “...That’s all I can see. And every single time I see that mare, I just want to…” she screwed her eyes shut and sucked in a breath as the burning in her scalp flared up again at the thought.
Make her pay! The compulsion shouted, a small headache starting to build in her skull.
“Shut. UP!” She was quick to snap back before dismissing the repeating words and taking another deep breath to calm herself. When she opened her eyes, she could see that Starlight had retreated again, looking about ready to turn and run the other direction.
Rainbow let out another heavy sigh and looked at the shelf next to her, unable to meet Starlight’s gaze. She absently lifted a hoof to nudge one book that stood all on its own over the surface of the shelf. “...Every time I see you, I want to… hurt you… I want to make you pay…”
“Every time?” Starlight asked, her other eyebrow shooting up to join its twin. She watched as Rainbow nodded, then brought a hoof up to her chin. “Every time… That doesn’t sound right. There’s no way that should be happening.”
Rainbow’s hoof twitched slightly, and the book she had been prodding toppled over to thud loudly against the shelf. She turned to look at Starlight with a raised eyebrow of her own. “Huh?” Was all she could think to ask.
“Look, I can totally understand it if you have some… ah, lingering feelings of doubt or bitterness over what happened to your wing,” Starlight winced and looked away as she said that, her ears falling a little bit. Despite the visible display of guilt, she kept going. “But if you know that I’m innocent, you shouldn’t be feeling so angry towards me all the time,” she looked at Rainbow Dash again, and a little hint of venom slipped into her tone. “Not unless you just have a very poor grasp of reality.”
Rainbow frowned angrily at that remark before shaking her head. “I’m just gonna pretend you didn’t call me an idiot there and say yeah, you’re right, I shouldn’t be so angry and hostile towards you, but I am. I’m hoping that getting to know you better can help with that.”
Starlight’s frown also deepened, though not with anger. She brought a hoof up to her chin and let her eyes wander as she thought. “...Tell me, Rainbow. Does your anger towards me feel… normal for you?”
“Uh…” Rainbow blinked and took a step back. “What do you mean?”
Starlight’s eyes shifted around a little as she tried to think of a good example. When one came to her, she looked deeply into Rainbow’s eyes. “Okay, think about Queen Chrysalis for a second. She invaded Canterlot so she could turn it’s population, your subjects, into food to be farmed. She then went and imprisoned your adoptive mother and aunt, probably after fighting them, which means she had to hurt them. Then, to top it all off, when you and Twilight tried to rescue the other Princesses, Chrysalis tried to destroy you two outright. If Twilight hadn’t been as fast as she was to teleport us out, all three of us would have been reduced to ashes. All of that has got to be really upsetting to you, right?”
Rainbow nodded, her brow furrowing as she thought over what Starlight was saying. “Yeah, of course, it's upsetting. I’m angry at Chrysalis and scared for my family. What are you getting at?”
Starlight took a couple steps forward, her posture starting to radiate with a bit more confidence. “What I’m getting at is this; Every single time you talk about Chrysalis and what she’s done, you don’t talk about hurting her or making her pay. You never look as angry when you mention her as you do when you even glance in my direction. You talk about trying to rescue your family and saving Equestria, and you’ve seen her atrocities first hoof. But with me,” Starlight put a hoof on her chest. “You want to hurt me every single time you lay eyes on me, you said. You want to make me pay for a crime committed by a different mare who doesn’t even exist anymore. Don’t you see? That’s not a rational feeling, and it’s inconsistent with everything else I’ve seen in you, everything I know about you.”
Rainbow blinked, her eyes going a little wide. “So… are you saying that…” she breathed out, slowly rising to stand at her full height as the realization began to set in.
Starlight pointed at Rainbow with her expression lighting up with a hint of hope. “I’m saying that, somehow, you might have had your hatred for me implanted into your mind from an outside source. Like, somepony put a spell on you and it’s forcing you to feel this way towards me! It’s not how you would naturally feel, not at all. And if that’s the case, if it was a spell or something similar, then that means I might be able to find it and get rid of it. I’d just need to get a good look and-”
“No.” Rainbow suddenly interrupted her, her eyes narrowing and her pupils dilating.
Starlight blinked and set her hoof down, the hope in her eyes dying away to be replaced with surprise and confusion. She shifted back slightly, looking timid. “But… what do you mean no?”
“I mean ‘no’. You’re not touching me with magic,” Rainbow said firmly, stomping a hoof on the ground for emphasis. “Especially not because you had a little bit of a hunch. Absolutely not!”
“I…” Starlight began, then went silent when Rainbow’s glare grew in intensity. She quickly clammed up and looked down, taking a few steps back with her ears laying flat against her head. “I’m sorry… I forgot… you don’t react well to magic, do you?” she asked weakly, all of the energy from a moment ago having been replaced with melancholy resignation.
Rainbow shook her head slowly. “No. I don’t. It takes me back to the day I lost my parents…” she admitted before looking down and closing her eyes. “...Mom said it’s similar to PTSD. She tried to help me work through it for a while when she first adopted me, but we never got anywhere with making it better. So just…” she looked up at Starlight again, an apology in her eyes. “Just don’t, okay? I appreciate the offer, but my answer is no.”
Starlight nodded slowly and said no more. Rainbow watched her for several seconds before releasing a heavy sigh. She pointed vaguely at the parchment that was still rolled up on the floor. “We’re wasting our time. Let’s take that parchment to Twilight, okay?”
Starlight nodded. Without a word, and with the scroll of parchment floating in the air behind them, the two mares trotted out of that row of shelves to look for Twilight and Spike somewhere in the many aisles of the Crystal Library.