"Is something wrong," Neighsay asked.
"Is something wrong?" Something inside Cadance snapped, and her temper rose. "Is something wrong?!"
"How could you tell Cinch about Sunny Flare's accident before me?"
"Cadance, my dear. Don't be sad. You're at your most beautiful...when you...smile..."
"Especially..." Tears began to well up in Cadance's eyes at the mere thought of the anguish Sunny Flare must be going through. "Especially considering." She sniffled. "C... Considering..."
"Mi Amore Cadenza!"
Cadance sniffled again, then sighed heavily.
Cadance put an arm over her chest and inhaled, then removed it and exhaled.
"Are you feeling better now?"
"Yes... I'm sorry."
"That is one of the reasons I did not tell you. I knew you would take it hard. Furthermore, Cinch is the Principal. My loyalty remains with you until the day I die, but I must still do my duty as this district's Superintendent."
Cadance put her head in her hands. "Yes. Of course." She blushed with embarrassment. She just wanted to go home and forget about this whole day. It's been one bad thing after another. Feeling slightly calmer, she started her car. "If I didn't know at least half of the principals in this district, I'd argue that you have it easier than me."
"Every day has its ups and downs, Cadenza."
Cadance sighed again. "Today has had far more downs than ups..." she proceeded to tell the Superintendent everything that weighed on her mind in the hopes that doing so would lighten her mental load. Once she finished, she did indeed feel better. "I guess I needed to vent more than I thought."
"Given the events you experienced today, I completely understand your feelings," Neighsay said with a tone of sympathy. "But I don't want your emotions to cloud your judgment any more than already have."
"I know, I know." Cadance reached a light and allowed herself a moment to facepalm, then collect her thoughts. "Are you going to be at the Friendship Games? I'd like to have some hard evidence of magic since I know not all S.M.I.L.E. agents will be able to attend."
"If I can manage to find time from my busy schedule. And I'd have to do so covertly. My being there would draw plenty of unwanted attention."
"Of course." Cadance knew that Neighsay would stand out like a sore thumb. The students wouldn't likely recognize him, but the staff most certainly would, and his being there would probably lead to questions. Questions that could lead to the whole operation she and others had worked so hard to keep secret to have its cover blown! She took a deep breath, then exhaled, calming herself. For crying out loud, she really needed to get a grip on herself! "Ugh!" She growled in frustration. "Maybe Hope is right. Maybe I do need a vacation..." The light turned green and Cadance accelerated her car.
"You need to stay strong, Cadenza."
Cadance's eyes widened as an old memory resurfaced, triggered by Neighsay's words.
Cadance entered Crystal Prep with a heavy heart. It was the first day of Cinch's tenure as the Principal, and the change of atmosphere was noticeable to say the least. The normally bright and upbeat feelings she experienced while in the halls were taken over by sadness as memories of Amore flowed through her. As she walked around, she began to wonder how other students felt about her mother's death. She had no doubt in her mind that they'd be upset, she just wanted some validation of her feelings from her peers.
Cadance approached a student with shaggy lime green hair and light crimson skin. She tapped the boy on the shoulder, who turned around and gazed at her with amber eyes.
Cadance took a deep breath in an effort to steady her emotions, then exhaled. The wounds were still all too fresh, and she didn't even know if they'd ever heal, but she needed to hear from her fellow students. "I was wondering if you'd heard about Amore."
The student sighed heavily with a frown. "I miss her so much already, and it hasn't even been that long."
Cadance smiled warmly and put a comforting hand on the student's shoulder. "Yeah. I know how you feel." More than you'll ever know.
"I mean, she just up and retired for no reason. Not even a-"
Cadance gasped and reeled back, as though struck by an invisible force. Her mouth went agape as she tried to process the boy's words. Surely she misheard what he just said. Maybe she'd been grief-stricken for so long, it began to affect her hearing! "I-I'm sorry," she said, walking up to the student. "Could you repeat that?"
"I said she retired for no reason."
This time Cadance couldn't deny what she heard. A maelstrom of emotions swirled within the core of her being as she struggled to remain upright. This couldn't be happening. Her mother died, she didn't retire!
"Are you okay," the student asked.
Cadance blinked. "She... retired." Her emotions battled for control over her. Sadness, anger, confusion... until anger finally won out. "Retired," she repeated as her blood began to boil. "Retired?"
A droplet of sweat began to form on the student's forehead. "Y-Yes," he said nervously as he slowly backed away.
Cadance walked up to the boy until she was inches away from his face. "Where did you hear that?" Her tone seethed with fury as she fought the urge to punch to next thing within her line of sight.
"Th-Th-The s-s-s-school p-p-paper."
Cadance stormed off to the printing room where the school paper was being made, taking great care to keep her focus forward and in the moment. If someone tried to stop her, she didn't know what she'd do. She reached the office where several computers were all lined up in a windowless room. The walls were grey and contained schedules of all kinds, but none of those details mattered to her right now. She looked to a desk where a young man with light blue hair sat as he glanced over submitted articles with his orchid eyes. She glanced at the name on the board.
Upfront Sizzle, Editor-in Chief
"Are you the editor?"
The young man glanced up from the papers. "I am. Can I help you with anything?"
Still trying to contain her anger, Cadance took another deep breath, then sighed. "Who submitted the article about Amore retiring?"
Sizzle took a copy of the paper and handed it to Cadance. "See for yourself."
Cadance took the paper and began reading the front page until she found what she was looking for.
Sudden Departure: A Letter from Amore
Proofread by Abacus Cinch
Cadance stood still, as though she was frozen in time. A cold chill ran down her spine, and she began to shake. Her breathing quickened as she clenched her teeth. She couldn't take her eyes off of the paper, and that only spurred her impending rage to the forefront. She screamed and tore the paper apart in a fury. "I'm going to fucking kill her!"
Sizzle's eyes widened and he left the room in a hurry upon Cadance's frenzied shout. She didn't take notice, because she immediately broke down after her declaration, sobbing uncontrollably. Hadn't she suffered enough? It was bad enough just being here so soon after her mother's death, but now this?!
Cadance's thoughts were interrupted as she felt a warm presence hug her tightly. She looked up to see Neighsay, tears in his eyes as he sniffled. "I'm so sorry, Cadenza," he whispered. "I... I did not know she would do such a thing."
Cadance let another wave of tears shed as she was held tightly.
"I know it hurts. God, I know it hurts... But you need to stay strong, Cadenza."
Cadance rolled up to her driveway with a sigh. "Some days it's harder than others to do so."
"I completely understand, Cadenza, but don't give up hope."
Cadance's eyes narrowed. "Never," she said in a harsh whisper.
"There's the Cadenza I know and love."
"Thanks for the talk. I really needed it."
"Anytime." Neighsay hung up, and Cadance went inside.