The next day, Sunset's grandparents decided to take them on a picnic near a calm, beautiful lake called Swan Winged Lake. After waking up, having breakfast, a quick shower, though Cresent Moon insisted they all took ages and getting ready for the rest of the day, Sunset helped the elders prepare for the picnic. After getting everything ready, the family hopped into Crescent Moon's car, but very quickly, a problem arose.
"Ngh! It's too tight!" Sunset exclaimed as she pulled at her arms.
"Mom, Aunt Luna, I'm small but not this small," Snowdrop said between gasps, as she was currently squished between Sunset and Celestia.
"Change of plans. Me and Sunset will follow behind you all in Celesia's car," Luna purposed after getting her ribs elbowed by Sunset for the fifth time.
"Sounds like a plan. Let me out."
The two quickly jumped out of the car and made their way to the car. Sunset jumped in the front seat while Luna ran inside to grab the keys from Celestia's bag. Luna started the car while Sunset messed around with the radio. As they pulled out of the driveway and followed behind Cresent Moon's car.
As they were driving, Luna looked over at Sunset, who was bobbing her head to the music. She bit her lip before speaking, "So, Sunset, how is school? Is everyone treating you well?"
"It's going good. It was a bit of an adjustment going from being the most hated person in school to the revered hero of the school."
"I can imagine. You've gone through much in so little time."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I've gained so much more than I could have ever gained had I continued my path. Change is the path to progress, something I wasn't doing when I was the school's, Queen Bee. While I changed physically when I became human, I was still the same pony I was when I left and eventually returned to Equestria. I stayed in the same place for too long. I was slowly rotting from the inside out. Twilight revitalized me, and Fluttershy helped me grow into the person I am now."
"Your friends surely helped a lot, but it was ultimately up to you to change. Don't sell your actions short. Your will to change wasn't any less significant when comparing them to your friends. You must love yourself in order to love others," Luna said slowly in a somber voice.
"I know. I'm reminded of my love for myself and others every day I wake up," Sunset said with a small smile as she looked at her screensaver of all the girls and Spike together with her family.
The picture had been taken just before Twilight returned to Equestria. Sunset wanted a picture of everyone together. Chrysalis was standing next to Luna while Sunset and Snowdrop were being hugged from behind by Celestia. Surrounding the front were girls all in different poses and holding different items. Pinkie had a plate of Cupcakes to send back to the other Pinkie. Rainbow was sitting in a cocky pose while spinning a soccerball on her finger. Fluttershy held Angle in her lap, who looked less than pleased to be there. Rarity was the only one that wasn't holding an item, preferring to focus more on posing and liking as fabulous as possible. While Applejack was taking a bit of an apple, having not realized the picture was being taken. Applejack insisted on a redo, which they did, but Sunset preferred this picture as it captured their essence in the truest form.
Her thoughts were interrupted when Luna asked, "How's your project coming along?"
"It's coming along great. I only have to wait for the clay to arrive. Rarity said she'd helped with the lifelike feature."
"I'm sure she'll love your gift. It's nice of your friends to help you with this."
"Yeah, Pinkie's like a coke bottle and mentos bottle, though. She can't wait for the reveal."
"Miss Pie is an energetic girl under calm conditions. I can only imagine how hard this must be for her."
Sunset laughed softly, "Yeah, she almost said too much so many times."
The two fell in a moment of silence before Luna spoke up again, "Sunset, there was a purpose as to why I suggested the two of us ride together."
"Yes, I feel like I should have said this a long time ago," Luna said as she turned down the radio. "Sunset, I must apologize to you."
"Apologize? For what?"
"For my actions and the things I said and did during the Battle of Bands," Luna answered somberly. "What I said was out of line even with me being brainwashed."
"But Luna, you just said you were brainwashed. That wasn't you."
"Maybe, maybe not, who can really know. It makes me wonder if those were my actual thoughts. When I thought of that, I was filled with shame and guilt. That never should have happened. I'm the disciplinary enforcer of the school. To think that I would cause harm to an innocent student leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but to enable that or do nothing to stop it hurts me to my very core. I should have stopped it."
"Luna, there was nothing you could have done. They were over a thousand years old, and no one knew that there were banished equestrians here other than me," Sunset tried to pacify, but Luna wasn't conceding that easily.
"What you speak of is true, Sunset. They, however, do little to stop the emotions I feel towards my actions or inactions during that time. In any case, I wanted to apologize, as I realized that I never gave one when I should have desperately done so. I hope that you can forgive me for the way I treated you during those troubling times."
"Luna, there was nothing to forgive. I knew you never meant to harm. You were being used against your will."
"You truly are one of a kind, aren't you. Your sense of empathy knows no bounds. Thank you for forgiving me."
"You're welcome. I love you, Aunt Luna, just as much as anyone I know," Sunset smiled as she wiped away traces of tears that gathered at the edge of her eyes.
"I Love you too. Though I think of one animal-loving girl that you may love a teensy bit more," Luna said in a very suggestive tone.
"L-Luna, not you too." Sunset blushed as the adult began laughing at her expense.
Minutes later, Crescent Moon pulled off the road into a small gated area, with Luna following behind. Driving to a parking spot revealed a beautiful lake filled with ducks and other aquatic animals and plants. A thicket of cattail lined the edge of the lake. Fluttershy would have loved to see this place. Sunset made a mental note to take her here one day, maybe as a date. While gathering the needed items. Cresent Moon commented on the name of the lake. It got its name from pioneers that discovered it. According to Cresent Moon, when they found the lake, the cattails had just spread their speeds. That, together with the shape of the lake, caused them to mistake it for a swan wing. Thus, the lake's name was created, and at the beginning of every fall, the same phenomenon could be seen.
While the adults talked, Sunset and Snowdrop walked away from the group to take in the scenery. The whole place was so calming that Sunset almost forgot about everything else. Almost. The thoughts of her powers still lingered in her mind. She looked at Snowdrop for a moment. The little girl holding onto her arm looked so happy, walking with Sunset with a slight hop in her walk.
"Hey… Snowdrop. May I… ask you something?" Sunset asked, unsure of how to get going with this. Snowdrop angled her head a little.
"Mm-hm. What is it?" She asked in her soft, almost like flowers rustling in a gentle breeze.
"If… for some strange reason. I got powers, do... Do you think I will become evil again?" She asked carefully.
"Nope," Snowdrop said, popping the 'p'.
"Why do you say that?"
"Well… is this about that time you got really mad and got very scary?"
"You mean when I stopped Diamond Tiara? Well… yeah," Sunset said, even though it was not what she was referring to.
"Well, in that case, I think you will be evil to all the bullies in the world," Snowdrop said in her happy voice.
"Huh?" Sunset said, confused.
"I wouldn't worry about it. You'll never be evil. Remember, you only got mad at sirens and Diamond Tiara because you were trying to protect your family," Snowdrop explained. "You haven't got angry when the school hated you. You just tried to protect your loved ones. So I think, if you ever got some kind of power, then you will be like one of those superheroes. Saving everyone from bad guys. Being angry doesn't make you evil, just hurt. They're too scared to show themselves hurting, so they become scary and mean to keep people away."
"Hehe, you really think so?" Snowdrop nodded. "Well, if you ever get powers. You'll be amazing, you're already superhuman with your hearing. You can be my side-kick," Sunset said. "We can be real-life Human Torch and Daredevil," Sunset exclaimed, posing a heroic pose.
"Huh?" Snowdrop said, confused.
"Oh, sorry, forgot you don't know much about heroes," Sunset said.
The two shared a laugh before the calls of Celestia and Luna gained their attention. They made their way back to their parents and began serving and passing each other dishes to eat.
"So, what do you think of this place?" Solar Wind asked.
"It's great. It reminds me a lot of home," Sunset said.
"And calming. The sound of nature is everywhere, the gentle lapping of the water, the buzzing of insects, and the singing of birds ." Snowdrop said.
"Glad you liked it. We come here all the time. Especially when I need to brainstorm things to draw."
"Mmhm, I'll show you when we go back."
The family began to speak of each other's interests, with Sunset commenting on painting and video games being just a few of her many interests. Though Luna teased Sunset about raging at video games being more her forte. Snowdrop commented on enjoying sculpting and wanting to make pottery. After finishing the food, the family decided to take in the scenery. Sunset looked at the lines of Cattail in the pond. She then walked over to one and plucked one from the stem, and walked over to Snowdrop.
"Hey Snowdrop, wanna feel something amazing?" She asked.
"What is it?" Snowdrop asked curiously.
"Here, take this," Sunset said, handing the cattail over to Snowdrop. Snowdrop took it in her hand before feeling around it.
"What is this?" She asked.
"It's a cattail. Now, break it," Sunset said, smirking.
"Okay," Snowdrop said before breaking the cattail in half. "Ahck!!" and shouted when she felt her arm being covered in wool. "What is it!?"
"Hehe… hehe… it's cattail fluff. They are filled inside the bud." Sunset said. "I remember a time when I was little. I think it was three weeks after I started to live with Celestia. Me and Celestia went to the castle's private gardens. There was a small pond, and a bunch of Cattails was growing. Celestia tricked me into break three Cattails at once to and I quote, "To test your magic's strength". The main problem was it was windy that day, and I was facing the wind. When it snapped, I was so startled by it that I ended up falling into the pond. During this, Celestia just laughed, that is until I threw water at her. The rest of the day, we had a water fight in the pond, and the gardeners were so angry. Granted, they didn't know that Celestia was one of the ponys that caused the mess."
"Sound like it wasn't all bad growing up with her," Snowdrop said.
"It's complicated. But what do you think? They're pretty cool, right?"
"Hehe, yeah," Snowdrop said before picking some fluff and throwing it to Sunset.
"You startled me," Snowdrop said innocently.
After spending a couple more hours at the lake, the family got back to the house, and Solar Wind brought Sunset to a room that Sunset never entered before. When Sunset entered the room, she saw the whole room was filled with art equipment.
"Wow, you weren't kidding when you said you are drawing," Sunset said, looking around the room.
"Hehe, thanks. So what do you think?" She asked. Sunset looked at all the drawings Solar Wind made. Almost all of the drawings were of nature.
"They are great," Sunset said.
"So, do you draw?" Solar Wind asked.
"Oh yeah, I do. Wait a sec, I'll bring my sketchbook," Sunset said before running back to her room to grab her sketchbook. When she got back, she handed it over to her grandma. She took it and began to scroll through the pages.
"Wow, these are great." Solar Wind said before stopping at a drawing of a castle. "This castle is amazing. Where did you get the inspiration?" Sunset looked over her shoulder and saw the drawing.
"Oh, that's Canterlot castle. From my homeworld," Sunset said.
"It must be enormous, I can only imagine," Solar Wind said, looking at the fully detailed drawing of the castle.
"It is. That place is like a huge maze. I used a map of the castle for months to get familiar with the layout when I first got there," Sunset said. But her voice had a little bit of sadness in it. Solar Wind kept scrolling through the pages when she got into a drawing of a particular girl.
"Oh, who's this?" She asked with a knowing smile. Sunset's eyes widened and blushed when she saw the drawing and tried to grab the book.
"No one!" but failed as Solar Wind pulled the book away from her.
"Is it someone important?" She asked with a sing-song voice.
"I… I-It's not important."
"Honey, you can tell me anything you know that, right?" She asked.
"Okay fine. She is… my… *ahem* girlfriend…" Sunset said with her face redder than chili sauce. "And… um… mom already knows,"
"Oh- hehe, young love, it's so precious. What can you tell me about her?" Solar Wind asked with an expected smile.
"Well… for starters… she's very beautiful. Her pink curly hair. Her teal eyes. They are the most beautiful things I've ever seen," Sunset began. "She's very meek, shy, and kind, but she can be so strong and assertive. Probably the kindest soul in the whole world. She's an animal lover. She even has this bunny called Angel, though don't let his name fool you. I'm pretty sure he is plotting some kind of evil plan to get rid of me."
"Hehe. I'd like to meet this girl of yours. She sounds lovely," Solar Wind said.
"She is," Sunset said before they were engulfed by a comfortable silence.
The silence was interrupted by Solar Wind as she spoke to Sunset.
"Sunset… you are in trouble, aren't you?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Don't try to hide it. I've noticed it. Especially when you told us about your powers yesterday," Solar Wind said, putting an arm around Sunset. "Sweetie, what's the problem?" She asked.
Sunset didn't answer. Instead, she looked away. Solar Wind didn't say anything and waited for Sunset to continue. After a while, Sunset responded.
"I'm afraid." She said, still not looking in the eye.
"Of… of m-me… afraid what I-I could do. That I'll become a monster again, something evil."
"Oh, Sunset, what happened? Why do you say something like that?" Solar Wind asked, stroking Sunset's hair.
"Um… do you remember about those sirens and how we defeated them?" Solar Wind nodded. "Well… that night… something else happened. Something that I haven't told anyone about."
"Um… ever since fall formal… I began to have this recurring dream. I would wake up in this dark void with nothing but a light in the distance." Sunset began. "Each time I have this dream. I keep getting closer to the light. But after we defeated the sirens, I went there again and… I saw what the light is. It was the Tree of Harmony."
"Tree of Harmony?"
"Yeah. The crown I stole? It is an artifact from a set of magical artifacts belonging to the tree. The Elements of Harmony. They are the strongest, most powerful weapon in Equestria. It was even able to turn a literal god of chaos into stone." Sunset then looked at her grandma.
"That night, when I saw the tree… it did something. When I went to inspect it… the elements began to glow and struck me with a magical light. And I began to burn. My whole body was set in fire," Solar Wind's eyes widened. "But, it didn't hurt. Instead, it felt calming. Then I found out the tree gave some of my magic back." Sunset said, igniting a flame in her palm. Solar Wind watched as the flame danced on Sunset's open palm. Sunset quickly swiped the fire away.
"I don't know why it gave me my powers, but I'm afraid," Sunset said, hugging herself.
Solar Wind didn't respond right away. She took a little bit of time before responding.
"I don't think you need to be afraid. Because from what you told me, I have a feeling that the tree has some kind of mind of its own. And when it saw you defeat the sirens and save the world. I believe that it might have seen the good in you. You suffered through so much strife. You grew into a loyal friend that has nothing but kindness and joy to your friends. You are able to empathize with them. I think it gave you your magic as a gift," Solar Wind said. Sunset looked up at her eyes.
"A gift?" Solar Wind nodded.
"Yes, Sunset. But you should talk to Celestia and Luna about this. And keep in mind that there are people standing with you. Whatever happens, you don't have to go through it alone. Do you understand?" Solar Wind said.
Sunset kept looking at her grandma for a moment before she suddenly hugged her.
"Thank you," She said with tear-filled eyes.