Sunset could feel the light of friendship in her heart, the same light that always helped to fight off the darkness and helped her be her best. No. Now wasn’t the time to quit. It was going to be hard, It was going to be difficult, but she would never truly be able to move on from her past until she resolved her biggest mistake.
She envisioned being in Celestia’s throne room again, and this time Celestia was wearing a tender smile, the same one she used to give her. “Welcome home, Sunset,” she said lovingly, a happy tear coming down her eye.
All Celestia really wanted was to know that she had changed. Celestia wouldn’t blast her off the face of the planet. That was a silly idea.
When the others let her go Sunset said serenely, “Thank you, everyone. I’m feeling much better now.”
“GREAT!” said Pinkie, hopping in the air. “So let’s finish the inspection and then go on some rides.” She took off with the usual bounce in her step.
“It shouldn’t take long,” said Applejack.
The rest of them began to walk away, engaging each other in conversation, and once more Sunset hung behind. It wasn’t a crushing fear that stopped her this time. She had a thoughtful frown on her face as she looked at her retreating friends.
“Something wrong, Sunset?” asked Twilight.
Sunset jumped, letting out a cry of surprise as she turned her head to see Twilight standing right next to her, Spike still on her back. She put a hoof to her chest, panting. “D-Don’t scare me like that!”
“I hung back too, to see what you would do. Are you still feeling doubtful?”
Sunset stared at Twilight, the thoughtful look back on her face. ‘Is there something I can do?’ she thought. ‘Something to ensure the outcome? I trust that Twilight has a lot of influence with the princess, and that she’ll listen, and that my friends will stand by my side… but if I could just do something to tip the scales in my favor… really PROVE that I’m a changed mare.’
Looking into Twilight’s eyes she said determinedly, “Twilight… you saved my life when you showed me a new way to live and freed me from my evil ambitions. If some freak or monster comes out of the woodwork I’ll fight by your side to protect Equestria. And…” She took a deep breath. “And if it comes down to it I would die to defend you.”
“Sunset!” Twilight said, shock clear in her voice, unsure of how to respond. “Why are you being so morbid?”
“Twilight!” she said sharply, her eyes blazing with passion. “Do you understand why I’m saying that?”
Twilight looked thoughtfully at the ground for a second before meeting Sunset’s eyes again. “Yes… I do.” There was weight in her words and eyes too as she said, “And if it came down to it I would be the one to die for you. As princess, I should be the one to put myself in danger for my subjects. You may be older than me, Sunset, and there is still much I need to learn, but I value you and everything you stand for, so I wouldn’t let you die.”
Sunset put a hoof out to Twilight, a confident smile on her face. “Then it’s settled. The two of us will protect each other, no matter what.”
Twilight met her hoof. “You know it!” she said with a giggle.
“Hey!” said Applejack. “Do I haveta grab a lasso ta get ya ta move, Sunset?”
Sunset looked ahead of her, seeing the rest of them all waiting for her.
Pinkie was looking distressed. “You’re not still upset at us, are you?” She put her hooves on the side of her head. “Oh, it must be because I didn’t throw you a welcoming party and you’re feeling left out. We don’t have time right now but after we leave the carnival I can throw you an 'I used to be a student of a princess until I got into a big fight with her and ran away into another world but now I’m back and ready to apologize' party.”
Sunset began to crack up again as the rest of them rolled their eyes. “Pinkie truly has a party for every occasion.”
She walked forward, Twilight and Spike matching pace with her, until she was in front of them again. “I’m fine, you guys. Seriously. I was just thinking a little. However…” She looked warmly over at Pinkie. “I certainly wouldn’t say no to a Pinkie Pie party later on.”’
Pinkie cheered up right away, her eyes lighting up. “WOOHOO!” she yelled out, hopping into the air.
After walking around for a bit they met a crowd of ponies all wearing white coats. “Hello, Princess Twilight,” said a stallion, bowing his head.
Twilight returned the gesture. “Hello, Placid Ocean. Are the preparations complete?”
“Yes, princess. We are ready to open whenever you’re ready.”
“Very good. Thank you, everyone.”
Placid turned to the others. “You heard her. Everybody to their positions.” The group broke up, all heading in different directions.
“Who was that?” asked Sunset.
“They’re the ride operators,” Twilight responded. “Without them this wouldn’t be possible. I may be strong with magic, but I can’t do everything myself. They helped to set this whole thing up. There just aren’t enough of us to handle something of this magnitude. Plus… I’d like to go on the rides too.” She snickered.
Sunset laughed too. “I get that. It would be a shame to set all this up and not have the chance to enjoy it.”
“There’s still about a half-hour before opening time. I’m going to just walk around for now and check for any problems, and address the crowd when we open.”
Sunset just chatted with Twilight and the rest as they walked. When it was time they headed near the main gate to the large crowd of ponies. Twilight’s speech was rather short. She mainly just thanked all of them for coming and encouraged them to donate as much as they were able. As everyone put in their donations and began to enter the park Twilight returned to them.
“Well, that’s it for my princess obligations. Let’s go donate some bits and hit up the rides!”
“YEAH!” they agreed.
Once they gave up their bits Pinkie asked, “So what do you guys wanna do first?”
“Sunset’s our guest,” said Fluttershy brightly. “She should choose first.”
“Me?” Sunset said in mild surprise. She looked left and right, then up, and she smiled. “Let’s start with something to get the blood pumping.”
Rainbow got a smug grin on her face. “Now this is a mare after my own heart. A roller coaster is the best way to start off the festivities.”
Fluttershy’s face sank. “I just had to open my mouth,” she remarked with a hopeless sigh.
“I… I believe I shall have to decline,” Rarity said in a dignified tone that didn’t quite match her face.
“Nonsense!” said Applejack, pushing Rarity toward the ride. “Ya’ll love it.”
“No, that’s quite all right.” She tried backing up, but she wasn’t strong enough. “I’m fine.”
Rainbow put a hoof around Fluttershy. “So you getting in line or do we have to do what they’re doing?” she asked with a wink. Fluttershy let out a small, frightened squeak. “Come on. I’ll sit next to you.”
Fluttershy let out a pained groan. “Okay,” she said in a barely audible whisper.
“That’s the spirit!” Rainbow said joyfully, gently shaking her.
Spike jogged over to Rarity and Applejack. “I’ll sit with you, Rarity. I’ll protect you!”
Pinkie Pie grabbed Apple Bloom. “Come on, cousin!”
“Sure, Pinkie,” she responded, “seein’ as my sis already chose her partner.”
“Sunset, come sit with me,” said Twilight.
“Sounds good,” she replied.
Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle looked at each other. “I think we just got slighted,” said Scootaloo.
Sweetie Belle good-naturedly rolled her eyes. “I guess I’m stuck with you.”
Scootaloo turned her nose up. “Hmph! Maybe I’ll make you ride alone.”
“No way!” Sweetie responded, sounding panicked.
Scootaloo laughed. “Oh, fine.”
Each of the eleven took their seats inside a cart, along with several other ponies. Once all the cars were full the bars were lowered to keep them all in place so they didn’t fall out. They weren’t even moving yet but Fluttershy was already trembling like crazy and holding onto Rainbow.
Rarity wasn’t faring much better as the cart began to move forward, slowly climbing an incline.
“Here it comes!” Rainbow said excitedly as they reached the peak, going forward about twenty feet before reaching the descent, and she cheered as they went down.
Rarity screamed, clinging to Spike, who got hearts in his eyes, holding back onto her. Applejack had a cocky grin on her face as she saw Rarity’s terror.
On and on they went. Sunset’s heart was pumping in excitement as they did a loop-de-loop. Feeling reckless she took her hooves off the bars, putting them in the air. Twilight followed suit and the two of them felt exhilarated.
When the ride finished up most of them got up. Spike was disappointed, as Rarity finally let go of him. Fluttershy was still trembling. As Rainbow gently nudged her she looked up, fearful tears coming down her eyes. When she saw she was free she hopped out of the car as fast as she could, running away.
Rainbow followed her, getting in front of her, hugging her. “That was awesome, Fluttershy! Why don’t we go to the petting zoo for a little while to calm your nerves?”
“T-t-that s-sounds g-g-g-g-great!” she stuttered out.
Rainbow waved to the rest. “I’ll meet you guys in a little while.” She picked Fluttershy up and took off with her.
“That may have been a bit much for her,” said Applejack.
“Oh, and it wasn’t for ME?” Rarity said angrily.
“Oh, come on,” Applejack said innocently. “Ya got ta be all cuddly-wuddley with yer Spiky-Wikey. Isn’t that enough?”
Rarity just gave her a dirty look.
“I certainly didn’t mind,” Spike said contentedly, little hearts appearing over his head.
“Let’s get some food!” Pinkie said, hopping off toward a concession stand, grabbing some cotton candy and popcorn.
They went on a spinning teacup ride while Pinkie pigged out on junk food.
By the time they were done Rainbow was back. “Fluttershy said she wants to stay by the animals for now while she cools off. Poor thing,” she said sincerely. “She said she didn’t want to ruin my good time since she knows hanging out with a bunch of animals isn't my thing, so she insisted I come back to you guys.”
“Ya have ta give her credit, though,” Applejack remarked. “That she even went on a ride like that took a lotta guts.”
“I’ll go keep her company,” offered Sweetie Belle. “I like animals too. I bet there are some real cute ones over there.”
“That’s sweet of you,” Rarity said, pride clear in her voice.
Sweetie Belle let out a little squee as she took off, always loving to get praise from her big sister.
Following that they went on a water slide, and splashed around in a pool for a while.
From time to time the group would split up. Scootaloo took off to compete against Button Mash in some arcade games, and Rainbow Dash and Applejack dared each other to go on the most adventurous and scary rides.
Eventually they’d all meet up again. As the hours passed by Sunset lost herself in just being part of the group.
Late in the afternoon Scootaloo began to get excited. “Rainbow Dash! It’s almost time. You ready?”
“Oh, yeah!” she responded, getting her game face on.
“Ready for what?” Sunset asked, getting infected by their enthusiasm.
“Me and the squirt here are going to put on a show for the feeble, simple masses.”
“Squirt, my butt!” said Scootaloo. “Just because you’re a little more skilled than me…”
“A little,” Rainbow said with a loud snicker. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
Scootaloo sighed, torn between exasperation and gratitude. “Well, I can’t deny that having you as a goalpost and a teacher has helped me to excel.” She looked over at her cutie mark. “You pushed me to define myself and what I wanted to strive for, and through that I learned who I really was and what I should become.”
As Scootaloo lowered her ego Rainbow followed in turn. “Well, hey. We’re a joint act playing off of each other’s skills. We’re not competing today, and I wouldn’t have chosen you as my partner if we didn’t have roughly comparable skills.”
Sunset turned to Twilight. “Are the rest of you showing off skills too?”
“Oh, no," she responded. "I don’t care to show off my abilities. We already had enough of that nonsense with Trixie.”
Twilight shook her head. “I keep forgetting you’re not up to speed. She was a vain stage magician who made outlandish claims, and when called on them showed she couldn’t put her money where her mouth was.”
They headed off towards the corner of the park as Twilight and the rest explained about Trixie’s first visit to Ponyville.
As she went to tell about Trixie's return visit for revenge they arrived at a big half-pipe. A crowd of ponies had already gathered. "Well, look at that. I guess I'll have to tell you later on."
Scootaloo went into her saddle bag and took out the key to her scooter lock. Unlocking it she grabbed her scooter and flew to the top of the incline. Rainbow Dash was in the air. "Helloooooo, citizens of Ponyville!" Scootaloo called out. "Are you ready for a show that's gonna knock your hooves off?"
Cheering came from the crowd.
"Alright, then!" said Rainbow Dash, doing a loop-de-loop, "then keep your eyes on us. Ready, Scootaloo?"
"You know it, Rainbow Dash!"
The two of them looked at each other and nodded. Scootaloo jumped, going down the incline. Using the momentum she flapped her wings hard as soon as she cleared it. She did this several times, going up higher and higher into the sky until she landed on a cloud Rainbow set up.
Sunset felt a little uneasy. “She isn’t going to do what I think she is, is she?”
She got her answer to her question a few seconds later as Scootaloo hopped off the cloud with a loud, “WOOOHOOOOOO!”
Going down much faster than she came up she did a couple of spins until she hit the incline, hitting the other side and heading back into the air within seconds. She did continuous backflips until she hit the other side of the incline again.
Down she went, and when she reached the other side once more she went flying far forward toward a nearby tree. Grabbing it with her hooves she swung around a couple of times before flinging herself backward.
As Scootaloo headed toward the other side Rainbow began to place clouds around ahead of Scootaloo, each one alternating in height and direction from each other.
As Scootaloo hit the air she spun upside-down as she neared a cloud, using her hoof to kick off toward a cloud beneath her. She jumped off that one into the air, flipping again and repeating the pattern with the rest of the clouds until she jumped off the last one toward the grassy ground.
Rainbow Dash created a tornado between the two to give Scootaloo more air, and she landed smoothly back onto the track.
This time as Scootaloo reached the other side and took to the air Rainbow was waiting on the other side. Just as Scootaloo began to lose momentum Rainbow grabbed her back hooves, taking them off the board and flipping Scootaloo up higher.
Scootaloo flipped herself, using her momentum to throw her scooter up higher before grabbing Rainbow’s hooves and doing the same. They repeated this a few times until they were up near the clouds again.
Rainbow was now flying on her back, her hooves up in the air and slowly descending as Scootaloo kept hopping around on Rainbow’s hooves with her own hooves, using her back hooves to continually pump her scooter into the air.
When they were halfway down Scootaloo pumped her hooves one more time before the two of them raced downward in spirals, creating a big tornado. Faster and faster they flew around each other until they were almost touching the ramp.
The scooter got sucked into it and rocketed back into the air, and Rainbow abruptly grabbed Scootaloo and flung her into the middle, propelling her into the air as well.
Scootaloo reached her scooter, putting her front hooves on it and twisting so she was upside down on it, angling towards the edge of the half-pipe. Putting her back hooves on the handlebars for balance she went swiftly down the incline to the other side. At the right moment she gave a swift yank on the handlebars before flipping off of it toward the center of the ramp. She landed almost dead center, catching her scooter as it flew toward her.
Applause and cheering went out through the crowd. Scootaloo gave a few humble bows as Rainbow gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Enjoy it while you can,” she said competitively.
Scootaloo met her gaze. “Bring it on anytime,” she said with a wink.
“U-u-um… excuse me,” said a small voice.
Scootaloo turned to look and saw a pegasus filly standing in front of her, awe on her face. She had a pink coat, with a red mane styled up like a rose in bloom, with a short green tail that looked like grass. “D-d-do you think I can get your autograph?” she asked, her face going red as she held up the quill and parchment.
Scootaloo was flattered. No one had ever asked for her autograph before. “Sure,” she replied, a little embarrassed. “What’s your name, little one?”
“M-m-my name is Rose Blossom. I really want to be a great scooterist like you when I get older, but I’m not that good yet.” She rubbed her head, her blush now from a different kind of embarrassment. “We’re kinda poor, so I can only use my friends scooter, and he gets annoyed sometimes because I’m always asking to borrow it. I can’t help it, though. I just REALLY love to scooter, and watching all those cool moves you pulled off just makes me want to try so much harder.”
Scootaloo gave her a warm smile as she wrote the autograph and handed it over. Lowering herself so she was on Rose’s level she said, “Well, Rosie, I can give you lessons, if it’s okay with your parents.”
Her eyes lit up. “REALLY?” she practically shouted.
“Yes, but only if you promise you’ll work really, really hard.”
“I will! I promise!”
“I see. In that case…” She turned around and grabbed her scooter. “I want you to have this.”
Rose was shocked. “You… you’re really just gonna give me your scooter?”
“I have another one at home. Now, this is the scooter I used growing up, so it has a lot of sentimental value to me, so you have to promise me you’ll take good care of it.”
“Good. In that case I’m now your tutor.” She looked at Rainbow Dash, thinking of their camping trip to Rainbow Falls. “No. I’ll do you one better. You’re now my little sister. Would you like that?”
Rose’s eyes filled with tears. She could barely compose a response, and after a few failed attempts she just fell sobbing onto Scootaloo.
Scootaloo held onto her, knowing the way she felt. “I’ll take that as a yes and thank you,” she said warmly.
When Rose got herself under control she said thickly, “Thank you, Scootieloo.”
“Scootaloo,” she corrected.
“Whatever,” she responded. “How about BIG SIS? Oh, can I meet you at the park after school tomorrow?”
“Sure thing, Rosie.”
Rose Blossom let out a squee as she took the scooter, and kicked off it with extreme delight.
“That was really sweet of you,” said Rainbow.
“Friendship and the lessons we learn is something passed on from one pony to another. You taught me that important lesson when you took me under your wing. Now that I’m grown up it’s time that I start helping the next generation.”
“Well said, squirt,” she replied, mussing up Scootaloo’s mane.
They wrapped up their day at the carnival with a big fireworks show. Lights of all colors and shapes exploded against the sky, the perfect ending to the festivities.
While most of them were content to just lie on the grass and look at the stars and just relax for the time being, Pinkie ran back off toward Ponyville. When questioned why, she would only say it was a surprise.
Maybe twenty minutes later she returned, telling all of them to get up and follow her. Though comfortable, they complied, heading back into town. When they arrived at the Golden Oaks Library Pinkie was a ball of energy, telling all of them to go inside.
The lights were all out, and they could barely see by the faint moonlight. Once they were all inside Pinkie closed the door. “Are you all ready?”
“Ready for wha-OW!” Rainbow cried out. “I can’t see anything.”
“Hold on, let me find the light switch,” said Pinkie, fumbling around the wall. “Found it!”
As the room was flooded with light Sunset gasped, before collapsing into hysterical laughter on the floor.
“SURPRISE!” Pinkie said happily over Sunset’s giggles.
Applejack wondered what was so funny, until she saw the banner stretching from one side of the room to the other, and her mouth hung open, disbelief on her face. Pinkie had actually done it. The banner read, just as she’d said before, “I used to be a student of a princess until I got into a big fight with her and ran away into another world but now I’m back and ready to apologize.”
Rainbow just facepalmed at seeing it.
Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy found it mildly amusing and were more subtle in their reactions.
Pinkie Pie pulled Sunset off the ground and said, “Let’s party!”