The morning sun brought light to the frozen world that was Canterlot High, indicating to everyone that it was time to start yet another miserable day of school.
There were only three days left of school before it let out for winter break, and at this point the students were just trudging along, hoping to get them out of the way so they could go on Christmas vacation already. The only solace they took was that the last day of break was usually a half-long free day where everyone would be gathered to watch a movie in the gymnasium.
So it was that the students of CHS dragged their feet along towards the school, wanting to get the day over with. However, they found themselves coming to a stop just outside of the school, looking up to see Sunset Shimmer standing firmly atop their proud Wondercolt statue.
One foot resting on the horse’s forehead, knee popped up in defiance, head scanning around at the gathering crowd. Her scarf billowed in the light breeze, seeming to add to the intimidation that she was radiating from her position.
The students had been silent for a while, but the longer she stood there not saying anything, the more they began to murmur amongst themselves. Their confusion was understandable, as even for Sunset Shimmer this was confusing behavior.
Sunset’s eyes continued to scan the growing crowd, keeping an eye out for a specific group of students. The longer she stood there the more students her message would reach, but if too many showed up before she started speaking than she was likely to cause a riot just as easily.
‘Keep things under control, maintain your power, don’t give them an inch.’ Sunset repeated in her mind. Her entire plan would make or break here, and if she lost control of the students then she could say goodbye to it ever working at all.
If the girls didn’t show up soon, she was going to have to start without them-
“What in tarnation is going on here?” Applejack’s voice managed to cut through the murmurs.
Sunset closed her eyes for a moment, a bit of relief washing over her before being replaced with a looming dread. She turned her head and opened her eyes, spotting the five girls, who were the most important to her in all of CHS, standing there staring up at her in confusion the same as everyone else.
That put everyone in place, and it was time for her plan.
She took one last deep breath of the biting winter air, letting it out slowly, before she forced herself back into a mindset she hadn’t been in for some time now. Her face fell into place once more, like slipping into an old glove she hadn’t worn in some time. An evil smirk appeared on her face as her eyes set into a glare onto the student body.
Sunset Shimmer was back.
“Students of CHS!” Sunset declared, the students that had gathered around quieting upon hearing the girl speak, “over the past few days, the school has been being tormented by a MyStable page known as ‘Anon-a-Miss’, with secrets being spread carefree and without regard for your reputation or privacy. And many of you have suspected that this style of malicious secret spreading was done none-other than by me!”
Sunset paused with a smirk, lifting a hand up to her head to curl her hair around her ear, closing her eyes as she spoke.
“And I suppose I could have been a bit more subtle about it, couldn’t I?” She darkly chuckled.
The gathered students’ eyes grew wide, murmurs instantly beginning to spread amongst them at Sunset’s blatant admission. She opened her eyes to see the looks of confusion, disgust, horror, and anger spread out across the student body. She even glanced at her old friends, noting that they all seemed to be reacting with an even bigger level of shock than the others.
Sunset couldn’t help but wonder if the shocked expressions meant they hadn’t fully believed that she was Anon-a-Miss before this moment, and that there had yet been hope that she would either be proven innocent or learn the error of her ways.
A fleeting hope that Sunset was now dashing right before their eyes.
‘Time to burn the rest of the bridges I suppose.’ Sunset internally sighed, before turning back to the rest of the student body.
“I do, however, have some corrections to make,” Sunset spoke loudly above the murmuring, quieting the students down again, “you see, there’s one big mistake that everyone has been making about the website. Because while it is true that I am Anon-a-Miss, the secrets I’ve been sharing? Only the first two were actually obtained by me.
“Every single other secret on the page was submitted to the page by you, my adoring public.”
Utter silence fell over the students of CHS at the reveal. No one dared to say a word now that Sunset had revealed the truth.
“Everyone who has submitted a secret to the page knows I’m telling the truth. And if for some reason you’re not yet convinced, I’d suggest for you to take another look at the source of all of the photos. After all, do you think I’m capable of hacking your phones? Of being in every corner of the school at once? Even with magic that would be quite the feat for someone like me.” Sunset laughed, flipping her hair for effect as she scanned over the crowd.
“And I have the records of every single person who sent in secrets to Anon-a-Miss. Your name, the secrets you submitted, and even your darkest secrets that you think no one else knows about. But I can assure you, I know about them just fine.” Her grin broadened.
“I set up Anon-a-Miss as a test. A test to see if you all would turn on yourselves like a pack of rabid wolves if your secrets were revealed. And I have to say, you have not disappointed! This has been an extremely entertaining experiment, and you all played your roles as lab rats perfectly.” Sunset shook her head, tucking her hair behind her ear again as she spoke.
“So! I hope you all can live with yourselves knowing just how terribly you all betrayed your friends. My little website will remain for the time being, but I’m curious to see how you all will treat it now that you know the truth.” Sunset let out a practiced villainous laugh, one that came straight from the height of her villainy days.
With her announcement finished, Sunset jumped from the Wondercolt statue, landing with a loud crunch into the snow before standing up and dusting herself off. The students around her backed up wearily, not wanting to be near Sunset as she made her way into the school, parting the crowd for her.
No one said a word as she walked away, too stunned by that brash announcements and the reveal behind everything. The girls didn’t know how to take this news or the confirmation of Sunset’s betrayal, and most importantly of all…
The Cutie Mark Crusaders were in the most shock out of anyone.
Word spread fast about the incident that morning at the Wondercolts statue, and soon the entire school was aware about all of the confessions Sunset Shimmer had made. And so it was that she found every student was avoiding her again, just like they had when she was Queen of the school.
Not that any of it made Sunset particularly happy. She’d worked hard to dig herself out of the villain hole she’d gotten herself into and had wanted to stay on everyone’s good side. The fact that things had resulted in her being forced to play the villain role once more left a nasty weight in her gut. Anxiety and guilt frayed at her emotions, but she forced it all to the side to maintain her facade.
Her plan was working. That was the main thing she kept in her mind every time she felt her mask starting to crack or break.
The Anon-a-Miss website hadn’t updated in hours that day, when normally by lunch time there’d be a minimum of 20 new secrets spilled out about the school. Even more if it was a busy day.
Instead, the website had been deadly silent. Either the students had finally wised up and stopped sending in secrets, or Anon-a-Miss knew that they were in hot water and had decided to back off for good.
In either case, it accomplished exactly what Sunset wanted.
Secrets weren’t being spread around anymore, and that was all that mattered.
“Hey, Sunset!” A blue hand slammed against the locker she had been opening. “We need to talk!”
Sunset turned and saw a rather angry Dash glaring at her, turning further to see the rest of the girls looking various levels of upset as well.
‘Knew this was coming.’ Sunset mentally sighed, turning herself around fully and crossing her arms. She’d managed to avoid the girls up until this moment, but she knew she’d eventually be talking to them about this morning. It wasn’t a conversation she was looking forward to, but one that had to be had.
“What has gotten into you, darling?” Rarity spoke up, expressing everyone’s exasperation. “Why on Earth would you turn the whole school against itself like this!?”
“You were doing so well! You were being a good person!” Pinkie added, her eyes wide and puppy-dog like as she spoke. “Why did you turn into such a meanie-pants again!?”
“Well, I could try and explain it to you all, but somehow I get the feeling you wouldn’t believe me even if I did.” Sunset shook her head, a smirk forming on her face. “All that matters is that I’m on top of the school again, where I’ve always belonged. And isn’t that what’s most important?”
“You were supposed to be our friend!” Fluttershy spoke up, hiding behind Applejack and trying to hide the obvious tears forming in her eyes. “We trusted you, and you…! You USED us!”
“The whole school is rowdier than a bull at a rodeo, and what do you have to show for it all? Power? Infamy?” Applejack grunted, glaring daggers at Sunset. “It just ain’t right Sunset.”
“I can assure you, Applejack, that what might seem wrong to you, seems oh-so-right to me.” Sunset chuckled. “And let’s face it, it doesn’t matter whether I’m lying or telling the truth anymore does it? You girls are going to believe what you want about me, and it’s a hole I dug myself. So I’m going to continue to use my power to put myself at the top of this school, and before you realize it, things will be better off than they were before.” She lifted a hand and pointed at the five girls.
“So if you truly know what’s best for all of us, you’ll stay out of my way until this is all over, and no one will be hurt in the end.”
“You’re making a mistake, Sunset.” Applejack said simply, crossing her arms. “You’re going to end up sad and alone from all of this.”
“You make it sound like I don’t prefer it that way.” Sunset shook her head. “Now if you’re quite done giving me the ‘friendship lecture’, I have places to go and people to see.”
“...I miss the Sunset Shimmer that was our friend…” Pinkie said, visibly deflating. “She was fun to be around…”
“Life’s full of disappointments, Pinkie. You just get used to it.” Sunset said simply.
“Come on girls, let’s go.” Dash spoke up, placing a hand on Pinkie’s shoulders as she glared at Sunset. The girls all shared one last glare at Sunset as they began to walk away, until Applejack was the only one left standing.
“Princess Twilight would be ashamed of you.” She said harshly. “I hope one day you’ll see what a fool you’ve been. For your sake.”
‘I’m sure that day will come sooner than you realize Applejack.’ Sunset thought to herself, watching the farmer follow after her friends. It was only once all of the girls were out of sight did turn to the lockers and press her head against them, sighing deeply.
That had hurt her soul a little more than she would have liked.
She didn’t want to be cruel to the girls at all, even after everything that had happened, but she couldn’t let them get caught up in everything she was planning. Besides, what she’d said was absolutely true, even if she had explained to them her plan of taking the fall for Anon-a-Miss, they wouldn’t believe that she wasn’t. The end result would be the exact same, but at least this way there was less pain tossed around.
She could handle the brunt of their pain anyway. As long as they had someone to hate, their wounds would heal with time.
And so would hers. Just once this whole stupid affair was past everyone.
She wiped away the moisture forming at her eyes, pulling herself back and regaining her composure. She’d known this was going to be hard and she’d known that turning the girls away was going to break her heart. She just had to hold her head high and believe in her plan.
Stop the school from turning in on itself. Direct their hate at her and unite them through it.
The secondary goal was uncovering Anon-a-Miss’s true identity, though she didn’t feel like there was much hope on that front. She was going to put her absolute best effort into figuring out that mystery, but once the holidays started there was very little chance of their identity becoming public.
That meant she had two whole days to either uncover Anon-a-Miss’s plot and get them to apologize to the school, or return to school next year and continue the charade of being Queen Bee. And while it wasn’t her favorite option, she would do it if it meant peace for the school.
She pressed a hand against the locker and took in another deep breath, steeling her nerves once more.
She was going to look into it tonight, and she was going to have help doing so. She just had to tough it out and continue on as if this was what she’d wanted all along. Everything was still going according to plan, and as long as she kept it that way, everything would be alright.
Rarely does everything go as planned.
“Well, well, well.” Spoke the tall, angry woman who was cracking her knuckles. “If it isn’t little miss secret spreader.”
“Gilda Griffon,” Sunset sighed, backing up into the bleachers as she spoke, “I wasn’t expecting to find you here… Or Hoops. Or Dumb-Bell. Or Score.”
The three large boys stood at Gilda’s sides, looking just as pissed off as the large woman herself did. Her yellow eyes were certainly piercing through Sunset at that moment, though the smaller girl was doing her best not to appear intimidated.
Gilda had always been one of the people she had left alone during her time as Queen Bee, mostly on account of the woman being a gigantic brute. It wasn’t like Sunset had never dug up dirt on Gilda: she had some fairly juicy secrets on the girl. However, she’d always gotten the distinct feeling that her dirt would’ve been insufficient to prevent her face from getting pummeled in, so she’d never thought to use it.
This very situation was proof-enough that she had been right.
“I think it’s time you and I had a little ‘chat’ about your little ‘Anon-a-Miss’ stunt.” Gilda growled. “You put some pretty nasty stuff up on there about me, and I’d certainly like an apology.”
Sunset remembered Gilda’s particular secret being leaked. A video of her harassing another student that had been recorded from around a corner. Not that her being a bully was exactly a big school secret, but it was actually a little cathartic to see it being posted for everyone to see.
“As I said this morning, Gilda, I wasn’t in control of anything that was posted. Everything was submitted to me by other people. So if you’ve got an issue with that, you should take it up with whoever sent in your video, not me.” Sunset shook her head, hoping it was enough to dissuade the large woman.
“They wouldn’t have been sent in in the first place if you didn’t have your dumb website, dweeb!” Gilda roared, reaching out and grabbing hold of Sunset’s jacket. Her eyes widened in surprise as she was suddenly lifted off her feet and slammed into the back of the bleachers.
She hissed as her head banged against the metal bar, her ears ringing from the impact.
“So, I say you better start apologizing, or me and my boys here are gonna make sure you never have the chance to spread your dirt around again!”
Hoops, Dumb-Bell, and Score all started pounding their fist into their hands, making it clear what their intent was.
Sunset grimaced, finding herself suddenly in a very precarious situation. Gilda wasn’t the type of person to be easily reasoned with, and simply giving her what she wanted rarely meant that you were going to persuade her into not pummeling your face in. The most you’d guarantee was getting it over with quickly, something she imagined wasn’t going to be the case here.
Her entire plan hinged on the school believing she was Anon-a-Miss, and getting pummeled for having been them was certainly a way to solidify that in the school’s memory. Not that she was particularly looking forward to the idea, but it was better than trying to scream and plead that it wasn’t actually her in the end.
An apology would mean nothing, and her other options led to being beaten. So Sunset did the only thing she could think to do, and kept her mouth shut.
“Want to do this the hard way, eh?” Gilda said, an evil smirk forming on her face, “fine by me, we can do this the hard way!”
Gilda pulled her fist back, ready to wail on Sunset, the girl squeezing her eyes shut in return, readying herself for the first strike.
“HEY!” A familiar voice roared from atop the bleachers. Sunset felt her body sag with relief upon hearing it, while the bullies looked up to see a familiar figure of purple and lavender standing there. “Let her go! Right now!”
“Or what?” Gilda laughed. “You gonna sing us a song?”
Twilight jumped from the bleachers, landing in the snow with a soft crunch, before standing up and glaring daggers at the bullies. To anyone outside of the situation, it must have looked like Twilight had a death wish, seeing as she was a few inches shorter than Sunset who herself was towered over by the bullies. On top of that, she was wearing a rather cute, and somewhat frilly, purple winter coat that complimented her hair and wasn’t exactly anything intimidating.
“Let her go now, or I’ll let the rest of the school know you’ve upset me.” Twilight growled. “Or have you forgotten that I’m the one who faced down She-Demon Sunset here and beat her? She was even trying to kill us!”
Twilight paused for a moment as she realized what she’d just said, turning to look at Sunset apologetically.
“Uh… No offense…”
“Hey, you know what? I’ll take it right now.” Sunset couldn’t help but laugh at that.
“I’m not scared of you,” Gilda said, letting go of Sunset, the girl letting out a short cry of surprise as she landed hard on her butt. She hissed again, rubbing her hip at the soreness. “Me and the boys can take care of a prissy little pony princess, can’t we?”
“Uhhh…” Hoops vocalized.
“Yeah, uh, I think I actually have homework that needs finishing,” Dumb-Bell offered.
“Yeah, and I think I see Coach coming, so um, we’re gonna go,” Score offered, before the three boys turned tail and fled.
“Wha-HEY! GET BACK HERE COWARDS!” Gilda roared, seething as her entourage ran away.
“Well, it certainly looks like your cronies know how to pick their battles, maybe you should too,” Sunset spoke up as she stood, dusting herself off as she did.
“Don’t think this is over Sunset!” Gilda growled, pointing at the red head. “I’ll make sure you pay for crossing me!”
With those words lingering in the air, Gilda turned and ran, quickly following after the boys.
“Yeah, you don’t gotta worry about that Gilda. Was always part of the plan,” Sunset said mirthlessly, waving at the girl who was far out of earshot by that point.
“And what was THAT!?” Twilight asked bewildered, holding her hand out in the direction the bullies had run. “THIS is why I was against this plan! I come over to help and find you about to be pummeled into the ground!?”
“Look, it was a complication alright? I knew it was a possibility that could happen, I just hadn’t really expected it to actually happen.” Sunset rubbed the back of her head, feeling the small bruise already starting to form. “Anon-a-Miss really pissed people off, and this was the only way to get people to stop tearing each other apart over it. I thought I’d done enough to prevent people from lynching me, but…”
“But it wasn’t enough, apparently,” Twilight sighed, squeezing the bridge of her nose. “Sunset, you’re putting yourself in danger for no reason! We should’ve just talked to the girls together, make them see that you’re not Anon-a-Miss! They would’ve listened to me!”
Sunset was quiet at that, adjusting the scarf around her neck.
“Yeah… They probably would have.”
“So why didn’t we-”
“Because that’s exactly the problem.” Sunset said seriously, turning to look at her best friend. “They would’ve listened to you, not to me. And even if they had believed I wasn’t Anon-a-Miss because of that, the school would still be tearing itself apart and secrets would still be being dropped.” Sunset turned around to face away from Twilight, squeezing at her scarf.
“At least with this plan I put a stop to all of that, and I have a chance to make up for what I did in the past at the same time. If the girls can forgive me through all of it, then our friendship really was meant to be. If not, then it’s not like it’s the end of the world for me. It’s just High School at the end of the day…”
Twilight was quiet at that, staring at Sunset. She didn’t like this plan at all, but there was something to Sunset’s logic she couldn’t deny. She sighed in defeat, shaking her head.
“This is a big gamble Sunset. And I’m worried that if you lose it, that you’re going to end up even worse off than when I first found you here…”
“I just need you to trust me, Twilight,” Sunset said, turning to face her friend with a sad smile. “No one else in this world trusts me right now, and I just need the support of even a single friend right now. I’m going to fix everything by the end of this, I just… I just need a little reassurance that if I screw up somewhere, that you’ll have my back…”
Twilight stared at Sunset for a moment, letting her words sink in before gently nodded. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Sunset, something she hadn’t been expecting Twilight to do.
“I do trust you Sunset. Maybe more than I should, but… I believe you really have changed, and that you have the school’s best interest in mind.” Twilight shook her head again. “I just don’t want to see you hurt through all of it…”
Sunset wrapped her arms around Twilight in return, closing her eyes as she spoke.
“I know Twilight… We’ll put an end to this as quickly as possible, I promise…”