Cadance looked up at the hospital entrance with a creeping sort of discomfort. The day was getting cool, and a soft breeze blew the leaves into a slow swirling dance around her hooves. She shivered, but not from the slight wind that rippled across her coat and mane. She didn’t like coming here again, and hadn’t since the whole ordeal began, but she knew she had to be here now. Alone.
But this time, she alone was by choice. This time, she had stepped away from her empire because she wanted to, because she felt she had to for personal reasons, and wasn’t willing to shy away from that feeling. This was right. It felt terrible to be here, but this was the right thing to do. She again put on her princess demeanor, and pushed open the hospital doors.
Ponies bowed as she passed, all greeting her with the customary “your majesty” or “Princess” in whispered, reverent tones. The doctors and nurses especially did this, and she hoped desperately that none of them felt any guilt over what had happened here only a short week before. She hoped that none of them thought she was angry with them, or that she blamed them. No one was at fault here, and she hoped they all knew that.
She spied the kindly nurse that had been with her before, who had offered her a wheelchair, and now Cadance offered a gentle, warm smile in her direction. The pony hesitated, then smiled back. It felt good to do that again, she thought. And also bad. But…more good than bad now.
The thin, young artist she’d summoned was just where she’d asked him to be, waiting by the main check in desk. When he spotted her, he quickly gave a sweeping brow and beaming smile. Probably so proud that a princess had requested his help with something.
“Your majesty,” he said grandly. “It’s such a pleasure to be here, thank you for asking for me. What can I do to be of assistance to you?”
She smiled at him as well, and he rose from his bow, looking more pleased then ever. She took a moment to order her words carefully, because even now it felt strange to say them out loud.
“I have an assignment for you,” she said slowly. “A decree. I will be sure you are compensated, of course, but this is something I ask you to do, as a Princess. This is for the good of all my people.”
“Of course! Anything in my services that I can offer for your kingdom.”
She didn't say that it was also for her, but she knew it was, and he would probably know that as well. She hesitated a moment more, then took a deep breath, shut her eyes, and spoke.
“I’d like you to paint a mural on every hospital room ceiling,” she said softly.
When she opened her eyes, she could see he looked excited but a little confused. Probably to be expected, it was a rather odd request after all.
“Can do, Princess,” he said, then paused. “What kinda scene did you have in mind? Something royal? Some scene from history or a battle or…
“Nothing that complex,” she said quickly. Then more gently. “No. Something simple. Something basic. I’ll leave it up to you exactly what you put on each one, but it should be a night sky, or a cloudy day, or trees, or sunshine or…things like that.”
“Ah, I see,” he said with a nod. “But I mean, is there…any mood I should really try to bring out here? Any message I should be trying to send?”
She smiled then. A smile for her, for no one else. A soft and sad smile that she felt to the center of her being, where an empty space still curled and slept. When the tears came to her eyes, she didn’t wipe them away.
“The message,” she said, her voice trembling, “is that life will go on. And...that you're not alone.”