Sunset Shimmer was sitting on the doorsteps of CHS, quietly studying calculus for her upcoming test. She smiled as she wrote down notes on simplifying each formula to the best of her abilities. She didn't even notice that Twilight was walking up to her, eager to see what she was learning.
Twilight opened up her backpack and let Spike climb out of it before she reached in to get the textbook that she needed to revise on. She already had the answers, but she still felt like she needed a refresher. When she opened the book, she caught a faint image of someone in her eye. Turning to see what it was, she looked at Sunset Shimmer; who was still deep in trying to study.
"Hi, Sunset!" Twilight said before she began, catching the red-haired girl off-guard for a second. "Oh. Sorry. Did I scare you?"
"No. It's fine, Twilight," Sunset closed the book and turned towards her. "In fact, I was just about to ask you something."
"What is it?"
"It's about before you came to Crystal Prep. Did you try making any friends in your school years before becoming a senior?"
"Not really." Twilight adjusted her glasses. "Most of the students at Crystal Prep were less than friendly at the time, and fended only for themselves. In fact, I even told Fluttershy that they didn't commend other people for doing something impressive."
"That sounds so selfish of them," Sunset sighed. "Only taking pride in their own accomplishments and not even turning a blind eye towards what other students did?"
"Sadly, yes. In fact, the only times that other CPA students were cheered on or were congratulated was for achieving victory in the Friendship Games. And most of the time, they were encouraging them to beat your school," Twilight face showed a solemn frown.
"And you didn't think about getting them to change their ways?"
"Crystal Prep students are usually quite self-contained. They don't take advice from others, nor do they care about the well-being of their fellow classmates. With them, it's every man and woman for themselves."
"It's almost similar to how Canterlot High was when I started," said Sunset. "Most of the students here had a few differences, and I took advantage of them and drove them apart one group after another."
"Why would you do such a thing?" Spike asked.
"It was before I met the Twilight from Equestria. I was selfish and cruel due to my lack of patience. I eventually gained a reputation of my own, but one that shattered the friendships between the students at CHS." Sunset dusted off her shirt and looked at the book that was used to contact Princess Twilight. "It was only due to your Equestria counterpart that I was finally defeated, and shown the true light of friendship."
"But how could a simple scientist like myself possibly defeat you? I mean, I rely on scientific studies, whilst you rely on magic to solve your problems. So if my doppelganger is similar to me, how could she have stopped you from being a bully? If anything, she could very well have been the stereotypical nerd-who-always-gets-picked-on kind of girl."
"The Twilight in Equestria is a lot different to you. She's still a scientist with a passionate love for books, but she's also an alicorn princess with exceptionally high grades in magic."
"Alicorn?" Twilight asked. "I'm afraid I don't follow."
"An alicorn is a pony who is essentially a combination of all three types of pony: Earth Pony, Pegasus, and Unicorn," Sunset pulled out a blank sheet of paper and laid it down on the book. "Only through a powerful feat can a pony become an alicorn, and there's been no record of such a thing being born willy-nilly," she wrote down a unicorn's horn, a pair of pegasus wings, and regular pony hooves. She then drew an arrow from all three of them until they met in the center. "So far, there's only been four alicorns on Equestria: Celestia, the princess of the sun; Luna, the princess of the moon; Cadence, the princess of love; and Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship."
"Hold on a second—you're saying that in this other world, your principals and my former dean are princesses? This gets stranger every day..."
"I guess when you say it like that, it does get pretty hectic," Sunset chuckled. "But that's enough about Equestria for today. Do you mind if I change the subject, Twilight?"
"Sure. What is it, Sunset?"
"Do you have any family that you can connect with?" Sunset stood up and knelt down in front of her.
"Well, Mom and Dad aside, the only other member of my family is my big brother, Shining Armour," Twilight said. "My mom's a writer, my dad's a retired cop, and Shining's currently part of the Canterlot PD."
"And how often do you get to spend time with them?"
"My parents are always there for me, and I used to spend a lot of time with Shining Armour before he went to CPA." Twilight seemed to tear up for a second. "But in recent years, Shining Armour has been spending countless nights working overtime with his squad, slowly but surely spending less and less time with me." She wiped a tear away and sniffled. "Sometimes, I feel like he's abandoning me..."
"Hey. He's your brother, Twilight." Spike leapt up onto her knees. "He's not going to give up on you just because work's taking up most of his time."
"And besides, he couldn't forget about you even if he wanted to." Sunset put one of her hands on Twilight's shoulders. "If you're the same as the Twilight from Equestria, then there's a good chance that Shining Armour will be there for you, even when you think he won't be."
"Are you sure?" Twilight was unsure.
"Trust me, Twilight." Sunset's smile grew wider. "Have I ever steered you wrong before?"
"No," Twilight admitted. "At least, not yet."
To that, both of them laughed before the school bell rang.
"That's my cue. I've gotta get going." Sunset put her books away, and walked up the stairs. "I'll see you and the others girls at lunch, okay?"
"Okay, Sunset." Twilight waved her off. Once she had left her sight, the purple girl closed up her own book and put it away before doing the same with Spike. When she had hid him away, she zipped up her backpack and followed Sunset inside.
The school bell rang, signalling the end of another day at CHS. Most students walked out and leisurely made their way to their houses, with Sunset Shimmer and her friends being the last to leave.
"Man, that was a long day." Rainbow Dash put her hands behind her head. "I swear. If I ever had to sit through another one of Ms. Harshwhinny's lectures on the use of Victorian age inventions, I'd have slammed my head through my desk!"
"But it's still quite amazing to learn about what happened way before our time," Twilight said. "Speaking of which, what's your favourite historical time period, Sunset?"
"Personally, I'm interested in the Egyptian period. Mainly because of how deep and unique it is," said Sunset as the group made it to the park. "I mean, there are three or four gods from that historical era that could have just as easily been integrated into Saddle Arabian history back in Equestria."
"You know, I've had so many questions about the world you came from since I transferred here." Twilight took a deep breath. "Do all dogs turn into dragons there? What's the other me like? What's the—" she suddenly had her mouth covered up by one of Applejack's hands.
"One at a time, sugarcube," Applejack removed her palm from Twilight's lips. "And besides, I don't really think that those are good questions to be asked in a public place like this one..."
"But still, I'm sure that I can answer all of those questions in time, Twilight." Sunset shot her a smile before she looked back at where she was going. "It's great that you're taking an interest in my world—even if you did try to destroy ours to see it for yourself back at the Games."
Twilight felt somewhat colder as she remembered back to that fateful day. She hung her head and said, "I'm sorry I tried to do that. It was just that I had no choice in the matter." She explained. "Principal Cinch blackmailed me into releasing it and risk the destruction of both our worlds. If I didn't, she would have denied my application into the Everton Indepenent Study Program."
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Twilight." Spike popped out of Twilight's backpack. "Principal Cinch was, is, and probably will always be, an awful woman..."
"Now there's something we can all agree on," Pinkie Pie joked, resulting in laughter coming from the others.
The walk from there was relatively silent as the girls began taking in the beauty of the world. The trees were growing at a steady pace, the flowers were bright and grew in intricate patterns around them, and the sky was clear aside from one or two stray clouds. With all of these sights, they didn't see that there were five girls approaching them.
"Hey, Sunset!" one of the girls called out from the distance.
Sunset heard the girl's call and looked around to see the Shadowbolts approaching her. At first, she raised a brow, but then decided to hold her judgement until she knew what they wanted.
"Hey. Aren't you all from Crystal Prep?" Rainbow Dash asked when the five girls had finally closed the distance between them.
"Yes. Yes we are, dearie." Sunny Flare was the first to respond.
"Then why aren't you in uniform?" Twilight asked as she had taken notice of the five girls' clothes. They were nothing like what they had worn in the past. "Isn't there still a dress code back there?"
"Twilight." Sugarcoat put a hand on her shoulder, mercy cearly visible in her eyes. She took a deep breath and said, "A lot of changes were made since the end of the Friendship Games. These clothes we're all wearing is just one of them."
"Speaking of..." Sour Sweet curled her hair around one of her fingers before saying, "We need your help, girls. Something terrible has gone down at Crystal Prep since the Games."
"I don't know..." Rainbow Dash was the first one to think about it. "You did kind of come off as a negative crowd back then. Always talking about beating us to the ground in any kind of competition, trash talking us and saying that we would never win, and even forcing Twilight to let out all of the stolen Equestrian Magic to totally destroy both of our worlds."
"We couldn't help it," Indigo spoke up. "Cinch had played Twilight for a fool, and we were all just pawns in her little plan in trying to set that monster loose just to win the Games." She kicked the stones on the ground away before looking back at the CHS girls. "But anyway, for what she did to Twilight, she was fired a few weeks ago."
"WHAT?!" The Rainbooms all exclaimed.
"At least, that's what we were told," Sunny came back. "But her blackmail plot being exposed was just one nail in the coffin."
"She did try and convince the board to shut CHS down, but they merely called her discoveries a fairy tale." Sour Sweet added in. "She tried a lot of things before the board's president, Spoiled Rich, decided that it was time for her to permanently resign from her job." Her brows dropped. "And by resign, we mean she was kicked off of the board for good, and stripped of her title as Principal!"
"We thought that the school was looking up after we had been given the news." Lemon Zest spoke next, taking off her headphones. "But after a new principal named Chrysalis took over CPA, a group of students were outraged by the changes she made, so they formed a rebel group that would bully and torment others who wanted the school to recover."
"And why would you tell us all of this?" Sunset raised her right eyebrow.
"Because..." Sugarcoat stalled for a few seconds, but eventually recomposed herself. "We want to stop these students from fighting all of the time, but we have no clue how to do it."
"Why? Is it because you're struggling to think of what would be the best way to do it?" Sunset asked.
"No." Indigo brushed her hair with the palm of her left hand and crossed her arms. "It's because those jerks would just try and beat us up the second we tried something like that."
"Oh my..." Fluttershy brushed some hair out of her face. "That sounds terrible..."
"Tell me about it," Sour Sweet said.
"We should probably head to Sugarcube Corner to talk this out," Sunny Flare suggested. "You can lead the way, Sunset."
"Well, I know that the Shadowbolts of Crystal Prep have been known for their ability to show off, so naturally, I wouldn't stop to help them at first glance," Sunset saw the pleading faces of each of the five girls and said, "But you girls all sound desperate, so I think it's definitely worth a shot," she then turned towards the rest of her friends. "Come on, girls. Follow me."
The rest of the girls were hesitant at first to be helping their long-time rivals, and some of them scoffed mentally. However, when they saw that Sunset was being serious, they quickly joined her and made their way towards Sugarcube Corner.
The inside of the shop was fairly crowded with people; most of which didn't pay attention to the Rainbooms and the Shadowbolts walking into the establishment. They were too busy eating their pastries, looking through their newspapers, drinking their beverages, talking to each other, or using their electronics for leisurely purposes.
Each of the girls all placed their orders for milkshakes and waited patiently to be served. When each of them had their drinks, they finally walked over to three tables which could seat four people each.
"So, how bad is this fight with the Defectors?" Twilight asked after everyone sat down.
"It's pretty bad, Twilight," Indigo Zap said. "But I think you girls should hear it from the beginning before we tell you more."
"A few days after Principal Chrysalis took control of Crystal Prep Academy, she abolished most of Cinch's old rules along with the dress code," Sugarcoat started, stirring her drink as she told the story. "However, a group of students – led by someone named Blueblood – were furious with her for it. They called her out, saying that Crystal Prep was a proper school, not like most of the others in the country. They were unsure as of how to prove it at first, but they eventually thought of make their mark." She paused to take a quick sip. "Most of these Defectors use brute force and delinquent methods in an attempt to prove that Chrysalis would be unable to manage a school, in the hopes that she would be fired and replaced with Cinch; or at the very least, someone like her."
"The fighting got so bad that Chrysalis had to form a disciplinarian team to counter the Defectors' ruthless ways," Lemon Zest took over. "She calls them the Changelings, a group of black-clad defenders to keep the students safe, to keep the bullies' cruelty low, and to ensure that Crystal Prep was still the same as it was before, without all of the harsh rules," her smile then faded. "But after we saw how the Changelings went about doing their work, they're just as bad as the rebels, and are constantly dragging the other students into their power struggles."
"If it's gotten that bad, then why haven't most of your fellow classmates left yet?" Rarity said before taking a sip of her milkshake. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't your school be enforced by better protection? It just doesn't seem right to fight fire with fire..."
"As much as we begged Chrysalis to do something else to keep the school safe, she merely shrugged us off and said that she would do things her own way," Sour Sweet added her voice. "However, she wasn't cruel in dismissing us, saying that she had everything under control," she then took a big sigh herself. "But even we're starting to doubt her decisions..."
"How can you tell a Defector apart from a regular student there?" Sunset propped her elbows on the table and put her fingers together.
"The Defectors all wear the old uniforms as a sign of unity, much like the one Twilight's still wearing now." Sugarcoat pointed at Twilight to prove her point. "Everyone else now wears whatever they want, making them victims in these dark times."
"The worst part of it is that some students actually choose to be Defectors of their own free will, with another few joining the Changelings when they suffer enough abuse." Indigo looked down at her hands, which were now shaking. "It won't be long before the five of us have to pick a side..." She then shook her head violently and banged one of her fists on the table. "But I don't want any of us to choose! It'll just make things even worse!"
"You have to help us, girls!" Sour Sweet reached over and grabbed Sunset by her shirt, tears streaming from her eyes. "It's bad enough that we made you all feel uncomfortable before, but I don't want you to see us as Changelings, let alone Defectors!"
Sunset couldn't help but stop and think at Sour Sweet's pleas. She then had memories back to when she had a tight grip over the students of Canterlot High, where her words split everyone up into multiple different groups after she spread rumours and lies. After being reminded of it in great detail, she balled up one of her hands into a fist.
"Girls," she turned towards the rest of her friends. "We have to help them. They're all close to being forced to fight. We can't just abandon them at times like this."
"Sunset. Don't you remember all the times they thrashed and utterly humiliated Canterlot High in the past?" Rainbow Dash was less than amused at the idea. "All of the years we've lost to Crystal Prep, and you think we're gonna help them now? After all of the times we had to lose and see our school get pranked because of it?"
"Rainbow Dash!" Applejack grabbed onto the cerulean girl's shoulder. "They're about to be forced into a war they don't want to fight! We can't just sit back as they either get hurt by the Defectors, or lose their freedom as Changelings!" She pushed her aside, almost spilling her milkshake in the process. "Count me in, Sunset."
"Are you kidding me, Applejack?!" Rainbow Dash lashed back at Applejack after she pulled herself up from the ground. "They're the Shadowbolts of Crystal Prep! Hello?!"
"Rainbow Dash!" Fluttershy now raised her voice. "They've clearly changed by what they're saying and how they're saying it! There's no need to turn your back on someone who's desperate to avoid wanting to fight!"
"Yes. And as much as I am not one for this, we cannot deny them their wishes if they are on the verge of crying!" Rarity scolded as well. "Rainbow Dash. Whether you're helping or not, we will be doing our best to aid these girls through their moment of crisis."
"I'm in as well!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie, not paying any attention to the conflict between Rainbow Dash and her friends.
"I think we're all in, Sunset," Twilight said after she had taken another sip of her milkshake. "The five of them are desperate, and I myself want to see that the Magic of Friendship can be brought to Crystal Prep as well."
"Well, Rainbow Dash, we're all in this together." Sunset stood up along with the rest of her friends to confront the rainbow-haired girl. "Now then. We'll only ask you one more time. Are you going to help these Crystal Preppers, or not?"
Rainbow Dash looked at the eyes of all of her friends, most of which were looking straight back at her with a fire in them. The only ones who weren't were Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, who just seemed to stare off into space. With all of the eyes on her, she eventually hung her head and sighed. "Fine. I'll do it..."
"Good to hear it, Rainbow Dash." Sunset walked over and put one of her arms around Rainbow's shoulders. "We couldn't be able to do this without you."
"Yeah. I know I'm a little rough around the edges, but when you all put it like that, I think that we could spare some time in helping out..." She stopped when she looked at the five Shadowbolts. "Uhh... What are your names, anyway?"
"Name's Indigo Zap." She stood up and came over to Rainbow Dash. "But you can just call me Indigo. I'm one for competition, with or without the Games. Although, I do play a little dirty if I know I'm going to lose."
"Just like Dashie!" Pinkie Pie leapt up from her chair and pulled Rainbow next to her. "Rainbow Dash is super athletic and competitive as well! She's also a little sneaky, but knows when she's beaten when she loses."
"Pinkie..." Rainbow Dash whispered in her ear before the pink girl let out a little snort before sitting back down.
"You know, your Pinkie Pie is a lot like me." Lemon Zest stood up and draped her headphones around her neck. "My name's Lemon Zest. I'm a hyperactive girl myself, I'm no stranger to parties, and I never leave home without these babies." She pointed towards the headphones. "Background noise reduction, bass slider, and all of the latest hits. This is what really gets me moving."
"Cool!" Pinkie Pie immediately returned to her feet and looked at Lemon's headphones. "Mind if I try them on?"
"Sure! I'm always one for sharing my music with others!" Lemon put them on Pinkie's ears before she even had the chance to touch them. "Now it's quite loud, so I hope you like that sort of thing."
"How loud could it possi—" before Pinkie could finish, a rock song blasted out of both speakers directly into her ears "—bly be?" It took her a few seconds to get used to it, but once she adjusted to the volume, Pinkie Pie began dancing and shaking her head like there was no tomorrow.
"Anyway, while those two are getting along, I suppose I should introduce myself." Rarity stood up and looked at Sunny Flare. "My name is Rarity. Or Miss Rarity if you prefer. I'm one who dabbles in the world of fashion, and I am always willing to let my best friends try out all of my latest creations." She took her by the hand and helped her up. "If you'd like, darling, I could schedule you in to try some new ones out."
"That would be nice, dearie." Sunny stood up and did a formal bow. "My name is Sunny Flare, and I'm someone who people usually go to for good advice." She put the pigtails forward so that they were now hanging down from her shoulders. "Usually, I'm quite pacifistic. But there are times when I have to get a little bit feisty, as it were."
"Oh. I understand completely, darling," Rarity said. "A lady cannot always be expected to be pristine." She accidentally spilled some of her milkshake onto her clothes. She cringed for a second, but then said, "Normally, I would be a lot more bothered by this, but I have four other copies at home. We all have to get a little dirty sometimes."
"A pleasure to meet you. My name is Sugarcoat." She greeted Applejack with a simple handshake. "And as the name implies, I don't tend to sugarcoat things. I just say it as it is. After all, honesty is the best policy."
"I can relate to that." Applejack tipped her hat. "I'm Applejack. And I'm an honest gal myself." She leaned back in her chair and put her hands behind her head. "I was born and raised at Sweet Apple Acres, alongside my little sister, Applebloom; my big brother, Big Macintosh; and our elder, Granny Smith."
"Your family sounds really nice, Applejack." Sugarcoat brushed her dress briefly. "I do hope that our families can become friends eventually."
"Hello there. My name's Sour Sweet." She looked down at her feet for a few seconds before looking up to face Fluttershy again. "I've got this weird thing called Bipolar Syndrome, where I can swap between kindness and cruelty at the drop of a hat." She emphasized the point by frowning. "Something like this."
"Oh, it's no bother." Fluttershy gently rubbed her butterfly hairclip. "I'm Fluttershy. Shy by name, and shy by nature." She then pulled out her backpack and opened it up in front of Sour Sweet, revealing Angel Bunny, a cat, and a bird. "I'm quite good with animals, as you can see. But I'm also very kind to other people as well."
"And of course, you five most likely know about the two of us." Sunset stood up with Twilight close behind her. "Twilight Sparkle, and me, Sunset Shimmer."
"Sunset's been a really great friend to me," Twilight said. "She's always willing to forgive anyone who did something wrong, because she knows that everyone can be forgiven with a little encouragement." She sat back down again. "She's also from Equestria: the world I tried to open when I turned into that creature back at the Friendship Games."
"It's really nice to meet you all, girls," Sunset spoke to the five Shadowbolts. "Hopefully, we can all work together to stop the feud between the Changelings and the Defectors and make Crystal Prep a much brighter place."
"So, how do we get to stop those jerks, Sunset?" Rainbow Dash asked.
"Well, the first thing we've gotta know is exactly what we're up against here." Sunset put one of her hands to her chin. "Sunny. I don't suppose that we could perhaps see first-hand how these Defectors and Changelings work? See what makes them tick, and hopefully find a way to make them listen to reason without the need to fight?"
"But how would we do that, Sunset?" Sunny raised one of her brows. "Unless I'm mistaken, both Canterlot High School and Crystal Prep Academy run until fifteen past three, and both dismiss their students at the same time," she pointed out. "How would we be able to get seven girls from CHS into CPA for a few hours without you all catching a detention or some other form of punishment?"
"I think I have a plan..." Rainbow Dash's smile grew into a devious grin.
"This can't be good." Sugarcoat grimaced.
"I agree, Sugarcoat." Applejack nodded. "Tomorrow's gonna be a long day..."