Scootaloo perched herself on the edge of a white fluffy cloud. She looked down at the ground below and saw three small blobs of colour directly below her, silently cheering her on.
She tipped forward and plummeted to the ground. Spinning in a spiral, she recalled on all the techniques Rainbow Dash taught her.
On the grassy field, Sweetie Belle screamed, "Oh! I can't watch!" and covered her eyes. But subtly peeked out between her hooves.
"Come on Scootaloo, you can do it!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.
"Of course she can," Rainbow explained. "She had me as a teacher."
The orange blur continued to plummet, down, further and further.
"Is she gonna make it?" the unicorn exclaimed.
"I don't think so," Apple Bloom said. "Rainbow! Do something!"
"One second..." the pegasus explained, holding a hoof up.
The filly fell, further and further, until suddenly, a few feet from the ground, her wings spread out and she zoomed across the horizon. Pulling up, she made three small loops, and circled up and over the group.
Her best friends were in awe.
"GO SCOOTALOO!" Apple Bloom screamed.
"YAY!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed.
Circling around, she flew towards her audience, making several spirals along the way, before delicately landing in front of them.
The two fillies screamed in celebration before running up to hug their best friend.
"You did it! You did it!" screamed Sweetie Belle.
Scootaloo squirmed out of her friends' grips. "Thanks," she said, before running up to her teacher, stopping a few inches from the mare and feigning coolness. "So...Rainbow Dash..."
"You did good kid," she explained. "Flawless."
"Well...no...but pretty close," she said with a smile. "You were kinda sloppy on those loops, and your recovery was a bit slow. There's still a lot to learn, Scoots."
"Are you gonna keep teaching me?"
Rainbow was confused. "Of course," she said.
"Oh, thank you Rainbow Dash!" she screamed, grabbing the mare in a hug.
Rainbow briefly recoiled from the filly's touch, but quickly returned the embrace before anypony noticed.
The apple tree shook as an orange hoof struck it, and several dozen apples fell into the baskets below.
It was times like these that Applejack allowed her mind to wander. Bucking apple trees wasn't intellectually stimulating, so she always tried to keep her mind active with whatever she could think of.
It had been three weeks since they got back from the Marjave after curing the millions of ponies that had been affected by Pangare's Box.
Applejack wasn't directly involved, but she did take pride in the fact that she helped and defended young Sweetie Belle. The creatures in those caves were nothing more than vicious bloodthirsty savages. They were never more than that. Which was what she had to keep convincing herself of, so the guilt would go away.
As she held that sword in her teeth, and it sliced through the soft flesh of those beasts, she felt good, she felt empowered, and because of that, she felt ashamed.
She heard tales of ponies who had taken the lives of others. That it changed them, permanently. She could only hope that wouldn't happen to her.
The earth pony cleared her head, she had to think of something else, anything else.
The repairs in the downtown area were still being worked on. Construction was delayed by the high-demand for building supplies across the nation. In their feral state, many ponies didn't just attack each other, but the structures around them. Canterlot was hit the worst, since Luna and Celestia were also affected. Half the castle was completely destroyed, as well as a quarter of the main city.
When Applejack saw the damage done, she couldn't believe her eyes. She didn't think that kind of damage was even possible.
One of the places that remained mostly untouched was the Royal Vault in Canterlot Tower. Many of the tower's stained glass windows were smashed. But in the aftermath, a new window was erected, honouring the land's seven heroes: Cadance, Twilight, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie and Spike.
She was happy her friends were honoured in such a way, but she felt a bit out of place at the dedication. Just like her sister.
Apple Bloom felt so alone that day, as her best friends were honoured without her. Things had gotten better since, but within their group, she was set apart.
Applejack was proud of her little sister in one respect: Her work on that train engine, converting it into a land vehicle, was remarkable. She was surprised Apple Bloom didn't get a cutie mark out of it.
The mare bucked the tree behind her with as much force as she could, before turning to face her older brother. "Hey Big Mac! What're you doing back here!?"
"Town's quiet, no more supplies."
"I see," she said. Something was amiss. "How're you doing? Alright?"
The stallion remained quiet.
"You're not still hung up on all that stuff that happened, are you?"
"I hurt ponies AJ."
"No you didn't, the curse did, and they're all fine now."
He remained silent, and Applejack went back to work, bucking apple trees.
Within Ponyville Library, a young unicorn had her nose buried in a book as her dragon assistant was shelving various tomes on the shelves.
She was very busy, trying to research everything she could on the Marjave Desert and the Citadel, as she had been doing for the past three weeks. It was stressful, primarily because she hadn't gotten anywhere. Her notebook was as empty as it was when she began.
So little was known about the Marjave, since it was so remote, and so barren. In fact, the Citadel's existence was a complete unknown until it was discovered, a month before they arrived.
They still didn't know who built it or why. Perhaps they would never know.
Spike filed away a few more books when suddenly, a bubbling came up in his throat. In reflex, he turned his head away from the shelves and belched up an emerald flame and a wrapped scroll materialized within.
Twilight turned to face Spike as he slid down the ladder. Once he reached the ground, he grabbed the scroll and quickly unfurled it.
The dragon cleared his throat and began reading. "My faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, it is with a heavy heart that I inform you tha..."
He trailed off, and the colour drained from his scales.
"Spike?" Twilight asked. "Are you alright?"
He finished reading the scroll silently, and quickly rolled it up. "Twilight? I..."
She could sense the apprehension. Whatever was written on the scroll was very bad news.
"Twilight, maybe you should-"
The scroll was pulled from his claws, and Twilight quickly read the letter over. Her magic cut out and the parchment dropped to the floor.
"Twilight?" Spike asked. "Are you okay?"
She stood there, for several seconds, absolutely motionless. The letter lying at her hooves.
She snapped her head at the young dragon. "I...I..." she stammered out. "I got to go." Twilight quickly bolted up the stairs to her bedroom, locking the door behind her.
Spike walked over to the letter, and gracefully picked it up. Still in shock by what he read, he could hardly believe it. He read the letter one more time, and rolled it back up.
Looking around the room, everything was about as orderly as it needed to be. But there were higher priorities. He needed to tell somepony, and he couldn't do it here.
Sugarcube Corner was sparsely populated. Since the Grand Reopening a week ago, business had gone down, and Pinkie Pie grew bored. As she lazily iced a cake at the back counter, her only customers enjoyed their pastries.
Rarity munched on a blueberry fritter, her thoughts examining the events of the past three weeks. Most of the town had to be rebuilt since the Pangare crisis, and some ponies decided to take advantage of that, to give their homes a complete redesign. Rarity certainly wasn't an expert in architecture, but it was a field she dabbled in. After all, she designed her own Carousel Boutique single-hoofedly. As one of only two ponies who knew architecture, her skills were in demand. Jester's Joke Shop and the new Aloe Vera Spa were radically redesigned and expanded, all thanks to her. She was proud of her work there, and was very glad she was given the opportunity.
At the main entrance of Sugarcube Corner, a single bell rang out. Everypony turned to see a very melancholic dragon slowly enter the bakery.
"Spike!" Rarity exclaimed. "Are you alright?"
He turned his gaze upward, focusing on the unicorn, and quickly turning his gaze to the yellow pegasus behind her.
Pinkie Pie trotted over. "Spike!" she exclaimed. "You look so sad! Here! Have a cupcake!" She pulled the pastry from behind her back. "It'll cheer you right up!"
Spike turned to the excited young mare, and said, "I don't think so, Pinkie."
"What's wrong Spike?" Fluttershy asked.
His claw was trembling, and within it, Rarity could clearly see a scroll embossed with Princess Celestia's seal, albeit broken. She pulled it from his grasp. Spike didn't resist.
As it levitated in front of her, Rarity asked, "Spike? Is it alright if I read this?"
The dragon remained silent, his lower lip trembling.
She unfurled the letter, and quickly read it over. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie joining her on either side.
Rarity had to read the letter several times, to ensure she wasn't missing anything. It had to be some practical joke! But Princess Celestia would never do anything like this! How could this be!?
"Oh my..." Fluttershy said. An apt response in the unicorn's mind.
Pinkie Pie turned to Spike. "Where's Twilight!?" she exclaimed.
"She...she locked herself in her room..." he solemnly explained.
"We have to go cheer her up!" the mare exclaimed as she bolted out the door.
But she didn't get far, just outside the main entrance, she was encased in a blue aura. Rarity was holding her back. "Pinkie Pie," the unicorn explained, trotting through the door. "I think she'd rather be alone right now."
"NO!" the earth pony exclaimed, futilely attempting to run away. "She needs to be happy!"
"But she won't be. There's nothing we can do, Pinkie. All we can do is wait."
Fluttershy walked up behind them. "Um...I think we should tell the others."
"You're right Fluttershy," Rarity continued. "Come, let's find Applejack and Rainbow Dash. Alright Pinkie?"
The pink pony ceased her running, and hung her head in dejection. "Okay," she responded, sadly.
Rarity released her, and they started their trek to Sweet Apple Acres.
Fluttershy held back, and turned to Spike, who had not moved since he arrived. She nudged him onto her back, picked up the letter Rarity had dropped, and quickly galloped out the door.
Applejack and Big Macintosh were working hard on the grounds of Sweet Apple Acres, when they heard the laughter of three little fillies.
They turned to the source of the noise. Rainbow Dash was leading Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom through the trees.
"Hey Applejack," the weathermare said. "Working hard?"
"Yep, you should try it some time," the farmer responded.
"Well, for your information, Applejack, I have. Scoots finally learned the triple loop!"
"It was awesome!" Apple Bloom exclaimed.
"AJ?" Big Macintosh said.
Applejack turned her head, and followed her brother's gaze. Two of her closest friends were trotting through the trees, Rarity and Pinkie Pie. It struck Applejack as unusual, since neither were their normally joyous selves.
As they trotted up to their friend, silently, Applejack got more and more anxious. Eventually, they came to a stop.
"Applejack, Rainbow Dash," Rarity said, greeting her friends. "I'm glad you're both here."
It was at this moment, the orange mare saw Fluttershy following behind them, with a catatonic dragon on her back, and a scroll in her mouth.
"What's up, Rarity?" Rainbow asked.
She opened her mouth, but quickly closed it before saying, "Is there somewhere we could talk?"
"What's going on Rarity?" Sweetie Belle asked.
"Yeah, tell us!" shouted Scootaloo.
"Um..." the unicorn was apprehensive. She didn't want to have to explain this to such young and innocent minds. But it seemed like she had no choice. "Well, it appears that Shining Armor was recently sent to Pyrovia on a diplomatic mission...and...something happened."
"What?" Rainbow demanded.
"Princess Celestia said it was an accident."
"What was an accident?" Applejack asked.
They stood in stunned silence for several seconds. No one said a word. No one could.
"But...how?" Apple Bloom asked.
"He was caught in a rock slide at the edge of a volcano," the unicorn explained. "It seems he didn't see it coming."
"But, we saw him just a few weeks ago!" Scootaloo exclaimed. "He was so nice, he was..." she started to choke up. "He can't be dead!"
"These things can happen very quickly Scootaloo," Applejack explained. "Sometimes, without warnin'." She quickly changed direction. "How's Twilight?"
"Spike said she locked herself in her room," Rarity said.
"Right!" Pinkie quickly interjected. "Which is why we should hold a huge party to cheer her up! Who's with me!?"
"Pinkie, a party is the last thing she needs," the farmer explained succinctly.
"What!? How could she not want a party!?"
As Applejack tried to explain to her friend the basics of grieving and tact, Rarity and Fluttershy had already tuned out, as they had noticed Rainbow's catatonic state.
Fluttershy removed the scroll from her mouth. "Rainbow Dash?" she asked. "Are you alright?"
"Huh?" she said, turning to the pegasus. "Oh, um...I'm fine, I was just reminded of something."
"What is it Rainbow Dash?" Rarity asked.
"Yeah, tell us!" Scootaloo demanded.
"Uh...my mother," she exclaimed. "She, um...died when I was a little filly."
"Oh," Rarity replied. "I...see?"
"Well, one of my friends in flight school, she spent so much time trying to cheer me up back then. Pinkie kinda reminds me of her."
"You can't have parties every single day!"
Rarity, Rainbow, Fluttershy and the fillies started trotting away from the arguing earth ponies. As Big Mac nervously watched the fight.
"You think she'll be okay?" the shy pegasus asked.
"Who?" Rainbow responded.
At that moment, a single phrase echoed in Rainbow's head: "You’re an ass."
"I'm sure she'll be fine," the weathermare lied.
The front door of Ponyville library slowly creaked opened, and a multicolour-maned head peeked through. "Twilight?" she asked. "You there?"
The library was silent. She led Rarity and Fluttershy in, Spike still lying on the pegasus' back.
Following close behind was Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, who remained with the group despite Rarity's efforts to send them away.
"So, what are we planning?" The shy pegasus asked.
"I'm going to talk to Twilight," Rainbow replied. "And see if I can help her."
"Shouldn't we all talk to her?" Rarity asked.
She turned to the group. "Alright, who here has lost somepony close to them?" Rainbow raised a hoof.
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom joined her.
"...That they remember."
Scootaloo dropped her hoof.
"...Pictures don't count."
Apple Bloom did the same.
"I've been there. I've felt the same thing. I might be able to help her out of it."
"Rainbow, darling, she probably just needs time," the elder unicorn stated.
"Or she needs somepony to talk to...and time. Just...wait down here."
She trotted up the stairs to Twilight's room. Knocking on the door three times, she quickly said, "Twilight? You in there?"
Rainbow waited a few seconds for some response. When none came, she trotted back down the stairs. "Hold on," Rainbow said to her friends as she walked out the front door. Several feet away, she took in the entire library, and quickly flew up to one of the many balconies around the building.
Looking through the large bay windows, she could see her best friend, Twilight Sparkle, lying on her bed, mane messy and unkempt, face buried in her hooves.
Rainbow reached in her hair, and took out a single tiny blade. Slipping the tool through the window, she undid the latch. Sneaking inside, she said, "Twilight? Are you okay?"
She trotted up to the bed, and lowered her head to Twilight's level. "Need anything?"
Rainbow was at a loss for words. She tried to remember what she was like when she lost her mother. But the circumstances were entirely different for her, despite what she told her friends.
"We heard what happened," Rainbow explained. "Spike...told us."
"If you need somepony to talk to I-"
Rainbow was interrupted by mumbling from the sheets.
Twilight lifted her head. Her voice was somber, and mechanical. "I called him an ass, the last words I gave to my brother, were me calling him an ass...and now I can't take it back."
Rainbow paused for several seconds. "I know."
"Go away Rainbow."
She stood up straight as the unicorn buried her face in the tear-stained sheets.
Rainbow proceeded out the door, closing it behind her.
The sun set slowly below the horizon. After Rainbow talked to Twilight, everypony decided to leave her alone for the time being. Twilight guilt was just too much for them to fix.
One would assume an incident like this would be something anypony would get over with time. They would tell themselves 'they knew how I really felt,' or something along those lines. But Twilight Sparkle didn't think that way, and Rainbow knew it.
She would never forgive herself, unless...
Rainbow stared at the open refrigerator, looking for something to eat. But nothing interested her. She closed the fridge and trotted to her bedroom. After the events of the day, she just wanted to lay down and sleep, but more importantly, she needed to talk to somepony. She needed some advice.
Rainbow flopped down on the bed. She began to think about her mother. The mare who taught her how to fly.
Starlight Rush flew above the cloud layer, her dark blue mane flowing in the breeze as a young filly clung to her neck.
"Ready?" she asked her daughter.
"Yeah!" Rainbow Dash smiled.
Rainbow let go, and spread her wings as far as she could. She drifted away from her mother, and flew up. The wind rushed through her bright pink mane, as she rushed through the clouds.
Rainbow stared at the ceiling in her room, and began her spectator mantra. The fire of friendship lives in our hearts, as long as it burns we cannot drift apart, though quarrels arise, their numbers are...
Her eyes began to flutter, and roll back into her head, as the memories infiltrated her subconscious.
She lied in the hospital bed, an IV line running to her neck, all strength in her body, gone.
A young filly, with messy pink hair, sat next to the bed, tears bursting from her eyes. The multi-coloured roots in her mane had already started to show from weeks of neglect. She buried her face in the hospital bedsheets.
Rainbow put a hoof on the filly's head. She brushed the mane aside, and said to her. "Rainbow, it's okay."
"Mom," the filly looked up and Rainbow saw her own eyes looking back.
"I love you, and I'll always love you, and I'll always be there for you," she said simply.
"But I'll never see you again!"
"Yes you will," she explained solemnly. "Just remember, you have a great gift, you shouldn't be afraid of it. You shouldn't be ashamed of it."
"But...but dad said..."
Rainbow opened her mouth to continue, but no sound came. She could feel pain building in her throat, and her heart monitor started to beep loudly and rapidly.
The pegasus took a deep breath, stared forward and said, "Sweetheart. It's been a while."
Sorry mom, Rainbow replied.
She laughed elegantly. "You don't need to apologize Rainbow, I understand, you're a busy mare. I don't need you to put things on hold for an old mare like me."
"So, I assume you didn't call me because you were bored."
I just needed somepony to talk to, somepony who understood what it's like to... Rainbow didn't want to continue that sentence.
Starlight hesitated, "What about your father?"
He's a little harder to contact.
As a chuckle left Rainbow's mouth, her stomach started to rumble. "You haven't eaten," she said.
Uh, yeah, I wasn't hungry.
It wasn't easy to lie to a soul that just took possession of your body. "Yes you were." Rainbow's body rolled out of bed. "I'm going to make us a sandwich, and while we eat, we can talk."
As she trotted to the kitchen, her mother knowing exactly where it was, Rainbow replied, begrudgingly, Thanks mom.
She pulled out the loaf of bread, and a head of lettuce. "So, what's troubling you?"
Rainbow knew there was no point in wasting time. Did I ever tell you about Twilight?