• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,633 Views, 308 Comments

The Maker's Reject - Albi



Every pony has a destiny—a reason for being. Sunset Shimmer has no cutie mark, and struggles just to feel like she belongs in this reality. But the price to find her purpose might be one too high to pay.

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14. Back in Session

Summer wound down quickly. The Canterlot Weather Team transitioned the weather from hot and dry to a more mild climate, adding in some blustery winds for effect. The days began to shorten, Mom lowering the sun a minute earlier with each passing day.

I spent my last few weeks of vacation studying or spending time with Cadence. Around the city, stores touted back-to-school sales while students tried to cram in as much last-minute fun as they could. I had mixed emotions about returning to the university. On the one hoof, it would give me potential projects and practical applications to what I had been studying. On the other hoof, with the amount of independent studying I had done over the summer, I wondered if I had jumped too far ahead of what most classes could offer. Would I just be spending half of my day doing rudimentary review? Even with me choosing all advanced classes, I felt some of the lessons might now be… beneath me.

Then again, my magic was still hesitant to fully cooperate with me on some of the higher-level spells. So, maybe some review would be good for me.

On the night before school resumed, we had a family dinner in the great hall. Luna had continued to grow through the summer and was now only a head shorter than Mom. Her mane was also… wavier than before. Flecks of white lights would occasionally flicker through her locks. It looked like it was trying to imitate Mom’s flowing astral mane. I constantly wanted to bring it up, but held my tongue out of fear of rudeness.

“Excited to be returning to school, Sunset?” Mom asked as she cut a piece of her lasagna.

“‘Excited’ might be a bit of a stretch,” I said, rolling my hoof. “I guess I’ll be glad I have something to do, rather than staying in my room most of the day.”

Cadence smirked. “Yes, instead you’ll spend most of the day in a classroom. Much better.”

I stuck my tongue out at her.

Luna smiled idly. “The educational system was not nearly as organized in my time as it is now. Nor could most ponies even obtain said education. We merely had tutors, not entire faculties dedicated to the teaching arts.”

“Of course, we did have the best tutor possible,” Mom said fondly.

Luna playfully stuck her tongue out. “If you consider fussy and nagging the definition of ‘best.’”

“Who taught you, Aunt Luna?” Cadence asked.

“Starswirl the Bearded of course.”

This wasn’t news to me. Mom had mentioned Starswirl’s lessons a number of times. Yet, it always filled me with foal-like wonder and amazement how they could just casually toss out his name like that. They got to learn under the greatest sorcerer of all time.

Greatest until me.

“What was he like?” Cadence asked.

“Critical, nagging, bossy, always had to be right,” Luna listed, tapping her hoof against the table.

Mom clicked her tongue. “He wasn’t that bad. He cared deeply for both of us. And he did have his playful side. Remember when he enchanted the topiary in the garden to change patterns every day?”

Luna let out a gale of laughter. “Indeed! The groundskeeper was so befuddled and furious!”

“What happened to him?” I asked. It was the one thing the history books agreed that they had no knowledge about.

Luna’s laughter ceased and she bowed her head. Mom followed suit. “We don’t know. He left on an important mission and never returned,” Luna said.

Celestia sighed. “There were plenty of days where I wished he had been around to give counsel.”

The mood was decisively somber now, and I couldn’t help but blame myself for bringing up the question. I swallowed the last piece of my food and stood from my chair. “I should go get ready for tomorrow.”

Mom perked up a little. “Yes, off to bed. You don’t want to be sleepy on your first day of school.”

“I’m not a foal, Mom,” I remarked, turning my nose up as I headed for the door.

“You’re also not a morning pony. And no more sass from you, young lady!”

I stuck my tongue out at Mom this time as I headed for the door. Cadence stood up and followed after me, bidding her aunts good night. The guards saluted us as we passed through the halls and headed up to our towers.

“Remember, you’re more than welcome to spend time with my friends and I after you’re done with classes,” Cadence said as we came to a crossroads in the corridors.

“I’ll think about it. I’m going to do my annual ritual of trying and failing to make new friends on the first day of school, so if that bombs, I’d be happy to join.”

Cadence gave a good-natured giggle. “Well, I certainly wish you the best of luck!”

We bade each other good night and parted ways. I was reminded of my previous attempts to make friends at school. Introductions, asking questions, promising to hang out during break. Then, after being skipped over in roll call and an hour of instruction, the confused stare of a pony who had never met me.

Group projects weren’t much better. The group in question would forget to invite me to the meetup or attribute any contribution I made to someone else. One time I decided to be a total nag and send them constant reminders and feedback. They remembered me alright, as the mare who wouldn’t shut up.

With my plan of hosting the gala, it didn’t really matter if I made friends this semester. I would come out on top in the end. Still, a school companion of some sort would be nice; someone to fill the void Twilight left.

I returned to my room, more unorganized than I usually kept it. My desk was littered with papers and folders for the gala, leaving no room for my study books, forcing me to leave them on the floor. I cleared a few more from my bed as I finished getting ready for sleep. My saddlebags hung by the door, already prepped for tomorrow.

I snuggled under the sheets and flicked off the lights. No matter how old I got there was always a flutter of nervousness before a new school year. I stared up at my bed canopy decorated with changing constellations. My mind named each of them as they formed, even as my eyes grew heavy.

No sooner had I closed them did my alarm spell go off. I let out a loud groan over Bethooven’s fifth and pulled a pillow over my face.

Knock knock knock.

“Lady Sunset, Her Majesty asks you to get up in a timely manner for your classes.” Platina’s deep voice penetrated the door. “She also told me to tell you she, quote, ‘told you so’.”

I groaned again. Why did sleep have to be so fleeting? And why did I pick early classes? I turned the alarm spell off and forced myself up. The wall clock across from read 8:32. Outside, the last blushes of dawn were fading into the morning blue.

With a jaw-popping yawn, I rolled out of bed and dragged myself to the shower. The hot water burned away my remaining lethargy so by the time I stepped out, I was wide awake. I made quick work of my teeth and mane and stepped back into my room just as the clock struck nine. I had one hour before my first class, just enough time to squeeze in breakfast.

“Okay,” I said, hopping up and down on the carpet, “new school year, new you. You got this!”

Go show those underachievers who’s boss.

“Yeah! I’m the smartest mare at Canterlot University!” With that affirmation filling my ego, I grabbed my saddlebags and opened the door. Platina waited on the other side, still as a statue like always. She saluted as I crossed the threshold and fell two steps behind me.

“Good morning, My Lady. Excited for your first day of class?”

“As excited as one can be for ‘Advanced Runeology.’”

The dining hall was empty this morning, leaving me to eat in silence. Mother had left a note on top of my pancakes urging me to have a nice day and not to push myself too hard.

It’s just school. She shouldn’t be coddling me like a filly.

I shook my head. She was just concerned. And it was nice to be coddled sometimes.

Once I scarfed down my breakfast, I made my way to the chariot hold of the castle. The university wasn’t too far, but I didn’t want to risk being late on my first day. I approached one of the earth ponies and cleared my throat.

“I would like a ride to the university, please.”

He twisted his head about, looking right past me to see where the voice came from. His eyes finally met mine and jumped a foot into the air.

“Oh! Lady Shimmer, my apologies! I didn’t see you.”

“That’s all right,” I said, wearing my fake smile. “I would like a ride to the university, if you would be so kind.”

“Of course! Right away, Lady Shimmer!” He hooked himself up to the front of the cart while Platina and I seated ourselves. Though it had been a while since I had had an incident, Mom insisted I still have a guard nearby at all times. I couldn’t disagree, and Platina always made good company.

The Royal Chariot Runners were fast and knew every shortcut in the city. Despite the heavy hoof-traffic, we were at the front of the school within minutes. I thanked our Runner and melded into the throng of students stepping onto campus.

Canterlot was better known for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns; the elite, magic-only academy that honed a young unicorn’s magic and set them on the path for greatness. Still, one’s time was limited to just four years of magical learning before graduation day came and you were set loose on the world. With the education CSGU provided, it was more than enough for most unicorns.

However, while not quite as lustrous or grand as Celestia’s personal school, Canterlot University offered a higher level of academia for not just unicorns, but for pegasi and earth ponies as well.

The pearly white school buildings backed themselves against the mountain, fanned out around an expansive quad strewn with cobblestone paths cutting across large green lawns. Tables and booths with colorful banners promoting the on-campus clubs lined the roads, and ponies of all colors and races roamed about, signing up for activities or meeting with old friends.

Platina and I stepped into one of the older buildings on campus, though the way they were maintained, you wouldn’t have been able to tell without looking at the dedication plaque. My first class, Arcane Special Topics, was on the third floor and started in fifteen minutes. I always thought a seat at the front would help me stand out to the teachers a little bit more. It didn’t.

As we approached my classroom, Platina slowed and took a post by a window. “I’ll be right outside if you need anything, My Lady.”

“Thank you,” I said, stepping inside.

To my surprise, there was another pony already sitting in the front row. She was a light cream color with a red mane boasting purple highlights and tied into an untidy top knot. She had her sweater vest pulled up to her chin, giving the appearance it was trying to eat her. Her muzzle was so far into a book, her thick-rimmed glasses were almost pressed against her eyes.

After staring for a few seconds, the recognition hit me. I had seen her several times at CSGU and around the university. That was Moondancer. She called herself Twilight’s friend, though the way Twilight acted in the past, I didn’t think the sentiment went both ways. Of course, Twilight was all about friendship now, so perhaps the two found even ground.

I took a seat next to Moondancer. Her eyes moved back and forth across the pages of her book, sparing me not even the briefest of glances. Part of me wanted to wave or say hi, but I recognized that mental focus. Whenever Twilight was in one of her reading frenzies, it took forever to get her to notice me. And that was with her being aware of my existence.

Other students steadily filed in and took their seats, replacing the silence with buzzing chatter. Moondancer didn’t look up once. I envied her, wishing I had brought along some leisurely reading material. I stared at the clock, watching the minutes slowly tick away until the bell chimed. The professor trotted in, a beige coat around his dark blue fur and a horn poking out from his wavy black mane.

“Good morning, pupils,” he said jovially. He levitated a piece of chalk and began scribbling on the blackboard. “I am Professor Cosmos, and I’ll be your instructor this semester. Well, less of an instructor, more of a guidance coach.”

He paused to finish writing a list of topics then turned to face us. “If you read the syllabus already, you’ll know that the majority of this class consists of you pioneering your own projects. In class, we’ll discuss some of the more obscure, outdated, or less researched aspects of magic. The deeper, technical levels of how teleportation works, for example, or why self-levitation isn’t more widely used. You will then drum up a hypothesis on a particular field or idea that really grabs at your interest and spend the remainder of the semester pouring research into it to prove said hypothesis. Fun, yes?”

As he beamed at the class, I couldn’t help but take a quick glance over my shoulder. Judging by the looks on most of my peers' faces, ‘fun’ wasn’t the first word they would use. I thought it sounded interesting at least.

Professor Cosmos waved a hoof. “Now, now, don’t look so glum. You won’t be doing all the work alone. This is partner-based research!” There were a few muffled groans that he clearly chose to ignore. “Fortunately, we have an even number of students, so we’ll have perfect pairs of two! Today, we’ll spend all of class mingling and getting to know one another. By the end, you and your partner will come up and write your names down on the roster.”

That certainly killed any enthusiasm I had. Group projects were bad, paired projects were even worse. My past partners either acted like I didn’t exist and they had to do the project alone, or they remembered me but not any of my contributions and claimed I was a horrible partner. Unlike the rest of the class though, I held in my sigh of disappointment.

The professor had us rearrange our desks into a wide circle so we could all see each other. Moondancer sat to my left, her thick eyebrows furrowed in annoyance.

Cosmos clapped his hooves. “Alright, let’s start! Just give your name, something you love, and just some fun fact about you!”

“Asinine.” My ears just barely picked up Moondancer’s harsh mutter.

We started with some random student across from me and moved clockwise. They gave generic statements about their significant others and their favorite foods or vacation memories., all of them delivered with the underlying tone of ‘I can’t believe we’re doing this’. It was, as Moondancer aptly put, asinine. Though, I suspected it would give us a great talking point for after class.

As the pony on my right wrapped up, I watched Professor Cosmos’ eyes pass over me and jump to Moondancer. I immediately put my hoof up and waved it around.

“Alright, looks like you’re next—”

“Excuse me, professor, you skipped me,” I said loudly.

His ears twitched and he looked in my direction. “Oh! Did I? Forgive me; you’re next then.”

I gave him a small nod of thanks. As asinine as this ritual was, I’d rather be a part of it than ignored. “My name is Sunset Shimmer. I love studying and practicing magic. Fun fact about me: I’m the one who stopped that dragon last month.”

That didn’t get quite the reaction I was looking for. A few ears pricked up, and two students whispered behind their hooves, but the rest of the class seemed unimpressed. I huffed and sank into my chair.

Professor Cosmos clapped. “Oh my, that is quite impressive! Glad to have you in my class, Miss Shimmer. All right, who’s next?”

The praise made me feel slightly better. I shifted my eyes to Moondancer and caught her staring at me curiously. She cleared her throat and looked out over the rest of the class.

“My name is Moondancer. I enjoy reading and studying. I suppose a fun fact about me is I graduated CSGU with the highest written test scores in my class,” she said in monotone. She didn’t even try to hide her disinterest.

We rounded off with the remaining students before Cosmos took the floor again. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now that we’ve gotten to know each other a little, let’s get up and mingle! Have some deeper conversations with each other—use those fun facts as ice breakers!” He lit up his horn, and a tray of snacks and lemonade floated in from a door in the back.

With more hushed grumbles, we got out of our seats and moved around, with most of the class forming a snack queue. I hung out near the back, sizing up who I thought might make a good project partner.

Someone tapped my shoulder, and I turned to find Moondancer. “Um, hi,” she said, staring at her hooves.

“Yo.”

She shuffled in place, then pushed her glasses up her muzzle. “Um, are you really the one who stopped the dragon?” She was far less monotone now, sounding soft and reserved instead.

“Yep, that was me.”

She raised her head and looked me in the eye. “How?”

I smirked. “Challenged him to a race.”

Moondancer’s eyes widened. “You beat a dragon in a race?”

“Well, I teleported. But I never said how the race had to be won.”

Her eyes widened further. “You can teleport?”

“Barely.”

“That’s still impressive.” She scuffed the floor. “I’ve memorized the theory, but I can’t muster enough power to pull it off.”

I rolled my shoulders. “You’re not missing much, trust me.”

“I beg to differ. Teleportation has a multitude of functional applications, especially if a safe technique for mass teleportation could be found and implemented.” She had fallen back into her professional monotone that reminded me of Twilight’s lecture voice.

“True enough. I suppose I just don’t have the stomach for it.”

“Oh, that’s actually common for those who can teleport. Some researchers call it ‘quantum queasiness.’ Since your stomach is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, it…” Her cheeks turned red and she looked at the floor. “Sorry. Um… I’ll just go now.”

“Woah there!” I put a hoof on her shoulder as she turned to leave. “I like arcane babble. You don’t have to leave.”

She gave me a shy smile and adjusted her glasses again. “Thanks. Um, I’m Moondancer by the way. But, I guess you already knew that.”

“Sunset Shimmer.” I moved my hoof from her shoulder and held it out. She gave it a gentle tap. “So, you wanna be partners?”

Moondancer looked around at the other students laughing and engrossed in deep conversations. “I don’t think anypony else is going to give either of us the time of day, so yes, I gladly accept your partnership.”

“Cool, now we just need a project idea.”

“We could explore the applications of mass teleportation like I mentioned before,” she offered. I could hear the eagerness in her voice.

“No thank you,” I said with a shake of my head. “I’m trying to stay as far away from teleportation as I can now.”

Her ears folded for a second. “Understandable. Perhaps we can discuss more ideas after classes? I’m done around two today.”

“So am I. We can meet up in the quad and go get lunch.”

We sealed the deal with another hoof bump and signed our names onto the project register. As class time ran down, we quietly discussed the cliché nature of the sharing circle we had just endured, reveling in each other’s discontent.

“Though, to be fair,” Moondancer said, yielding a sigh, “I might not have approached you otherwise. I’m surprised you didn’t have a line of students begging to be your partner.”

“I’m a little surprised too. Two weeks ago, I was the talk of the town. Now, ponies act like the dragon never even happened.”

Moondancer shrugged. “That’s Canterlot. The nobles will devour the latest trend, but the second it becomes old news, they toss it aside.”

My stomach turned. Would hosting the Grand Galloping Gala be enough to cement myself in the eyes of Canterlot? It had to be right? What was bigger than the gala?

Becoming an alicorn.

Right. That was the real goal; the gala was just a step on the way there. Still, I had no idea how long that would take, and after already pouring a month of work in, I was growing attached to the idea of being known as the best gala host.

The bell finally dismissed us, and Moondancer and I said our goodbyes. Platina waited outside the classroom for me, looking like she hadn’t moved an inch from her spot.

“How was your first class, My Lady?” she asked.

“It was fine. Just introductions and all that. I might have made a new friend.”

“Lovely.” She took point ahead of me; her large frame forced other students to move out of the way, giving me a wide berth. Some of the students gave me interested looks, but most of them just stared at Platina in confusion.

My next class was Advanced Runeology, across campus and on the top floor of the northeast tower. If I wasn’t so accustomed to climbing up and down the castle, I would have been winded like most of the other students when I got to the top. Another unicorn was desperately chugging a bottle of water, and I then understood Moondancer’s interest in accessible teleportation.

Platina stood guard again while I attended class. It was much the standard fare as my first lesson was: introductions, looking at the syllabus, and giving an overview of the class. We at least got to start on the origins of glyphs and how unicorns of old would perform magic with them.

The bell rang, and our professor assigned us our first readings before letting us go. I found Platina in the exact same spot I had left her.

“What do you do while I’m in class?” I asked as we headed down the tower.

“The same thing I do anywhere else: stay on guard.”

I shook my head. “This can’t be fun for you.”

“Actually, this is more fun than standing at the castle. I get to hear the gossip students say when they think I’m not listening.” She gave a rare smirk. “Did you know Honeysuckle is dating Bronze Coat and Clipper at the same time?”

I gasped in faux shock and pushed a hoof against my cheek. “Shut up!”

“You didn’t hear it from me.”

It was just after two, so I figured Moondancer had to be getting out of her class soon if she wasn’t already. I led Platina back to the quad and sat on one of the stone benches near the center. More club booths had popped up since I had been in class. Two earth ponies were dueling in front of the Fencing Club stand, and there were mats laid out in the grass for yoga. Somepony from the Illusion Club conjured a hazy manticore and sicced it on the Frisbee Club.

I was so enraptured by the display, I almost missed Moondancer walking right past me.

“Moondancer, wait!” I hopped off the bench and waved a hoof.

Her ears flicked as she came to a stop and looked over her shoulder. My stomach dropped as her eyes went right through me before she looked from side to side, trying to find whoever had called her name.

“No, Moondancer, right here!” I scrambled over and tapped the back of her shoulder.

“Ahh!” She jumped a foot in the air and spun around. “Who are you? Why are you sneaking up on me?”

Please, no. I took a controlled breath. “I’m Sunset Shimmer. Remember, from your Arcane Special Topics class? We’re project partners?”

She squinted her eyes, and I could see the gears turning. “That was this morning…” She rubbed a hoof against her temple. “That sounds familiar but I can barely remember it. To be more accurate, I can barely remember you.

I gave a mirthless laugh. “Yeah, happens a lot.”

Moondancer gave me a curious look. “Other ponies have trouble remembering you?”

“Let’s just say I have a… presence that’s easy to forget.”

Moondancer huffed and turned her head away. “I wish I could forget about other ponies as easily as I forgot about you.” Her pupils dilated and her cheeks turned red. “Uh, not that I wanted to forget you! I just… did…”

I waved a hoof. “Relax. I’m used to it. Mostly.”

“Right.” Moondancer pushed her glasses up. “Still, forgive me for my lapse in memory. I believe we have to decide on a project, correct?”

“Yep. You wanna discuss it over some doughnuts at Pony Joe’s?”

Moondancer made a sour expression and she scraped a hoof against the ground. “I would… prefer to go anywhere else but there.”

“Oh. Uh, sure.” Given the number of times I had seen her and her group of friends in the store, I thought it had been a favorite choice. “We can go to the Lemon Grass Café instead.”

Her expression softened. “Yes, that sounds much more preferable.”

“Cool.” I turned and led the way, Platina now shadowing from a distance. My thoughts turned to Cadence as I passed under the arches of the school’s main gate.

Huh. I made a friend. Sorry, Cadence, guess I won’t be joining you after all.

Comments ( 18 )

its alive?

I feel the project will be challenging with memory problems but hey, better to try and work through them!

Glad to see an update, love this story.

Nice to see another chapter. This is before Moondancer and Twilight made up, right? I wonder how that’ll affect Twi’s attempts at mending fences.

I actually forgot to like this until...now...shame on me. I love this. Its haunting in all the best ways. The only thought that trickles under my skin is...will at you at ounce address, say? Again, mind, for I remember you bringing up in text. Their fear of Sunsets pursuit of alicornhood? In so far as they seem oddly blind to both need, want, and necessary it would be...

Oddly narrow minded, even. Like they feel in such way that Sunset should be content, happy even. Its almost like her very life is a...rebellion even to their eyes. And they want her to not make waves...?

Its kind of silly thought I had. Rather not blather on and have to finish the chapter tommorow.

Thanks sharing such cool stuff!

Ps. Because...I can't help myself. I love a sunset that is nuanced and complex. Sometimes oddly it seems like (in other storys) shes the only one that can have negative emotions (and character growth...but always well letting everyone being better then her)

Which is what I find really. Why does Sunset have to feel guilty all the time? Further...and why I write, why can't she get power...and keep it. Perhaps the story could be about how both she and them handle her having power. Ultimately they fear her becuase she is passionate, and more alive? In a sense? Sigh. The other reason I became a writer. Because I wanted to write a sunset that could want things...after a noble pony isn't scratch scratchtry's to write more. But finally stopped.

Sunset hits all the feels for me. So introducing word vomit.. dramatic sigh :facehoof:

Hopefully Sunny's going to be able to make enough of an impression on Moondancer for her to stick in her mind.

“Did you know Honeysuckle is dating Bronze Coat and Clipper at the same time?”

I gasped in faux shock and pushed a hoof against my cheek. “Shut up!”

“You didn’t hear it from me.”

:rainbowlaugh:

I think Sunset and Moondancer could be good for each other ... if Moondancer can overcome the whole "Remember-Me-Not" curse.

And I'm still worried that those angry/cynical voices in Sunset's head may not be actually her's.

10909700
Yeah in this version of her story she only wants because it the only cure she can see unless you can force the maker to pay attention to her but that begs the other question where did she come from in the first place if the maker didn't create her. She might have a cure in twilight because twilight despite not being an alicorn remembers her. That shouldn't be possible with her condition.

10910183
Did you have the cover art done? Its absolutely fits the story? It has the edges of a dream. With warm pastels that makes you think shes going to leap off...or dissappear...forever.

Nice to see this return and it does a good job of setting up more of what's to come. Bringing in Moondancer is certainly intriguing - especially given the relationship between Sunset and Moondancer in Spectacular Seven - and it'll be something to see how they develop, especially as Moondancer tries to remember Sunset. We can already see the signs of Twilight's departure and missing the party affecting her, so I wonder how that will go given Sunset is now trying to be friends with her. Who knows how that'll affect Moondancer's psyche where on one hoof she is burying the betrayal and anger she feels for being left behind, and on the other hoof she is suddenly remembering she is making a new friend with Sunset. Can't wait to see what happens! :twilightsmile:

Had to go back a few chapters to remember where we left off. And pleasantly surprised to see Moonie annnnnd she forgot Sunset. Poor girl just can't catch a break.
At least Platina never forgot why she was on guard.

10910309
No I'm not the author just someone who feels for the main character and wonders why they don't get why she is trying to be an alicorn so much. She needs to be able to live but forever dependent upon the alicorns remembering her when they have lots to do as princesses isn't easy and it be better for her to find a way to be remember so nobody forgets her.

I was real confused here for a second before realizing this story's still incomplete.

Anywho, following and looking forward to the next chapter.

Good to see more of this. And more of Sunset working to reinforce lasting social connections. Making big splashes only lasts as long as the ripples. She'll need more ponies like Moondancer to force reality to recognize her.

So happy to see one of my all time favourite story to have an update. Keep up the good work. :D

Good story so far really enjoyed it. I do hope that it continues.

Ahh, this is really different! :raritystarry:
I'm loving the unique situation Sunset is having to deal with and slice-of-life stories that take place in Canterlot are things I can never get enough of.
Thank you for writing this. :twilightsmile:

hope the next chapter(s) come out fairly soon, please and thank you!

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