• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 5,551 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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6. The Answer

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, my dear Sunset. Happy birthday to you.”

My mother’s voice, sweet like birdsong, danced into my ears and roused me from my slumber. I rolled over and opened my eyes, finding her standing next to my bed, a plate of pancakes decorated with strawberries and whip cream that made a smiley face floating in her golden telekinesis.

I sat up against my pillows and took the plate in my magical grasp. “Thanks, Mom,” I said, stifling a yawn. “These look delicious.”

She placed a kiss on my forehead. “If you think those look good, wait until you see your birthday cake.”

Will I see my birthday cake?” I gave her a cheeky grin. My mother’s weakness for sweets and pastries was a common secret in the castle.

Her red cheeks gave me a warm satisfaction. “Of course you will! However, I do claim the second slice after we cut it. And it will be a large slice.”

“I have no doubt it will be.”

“You’re only getting away with this sass because it’s your birthday, young lady. Now, eat your pancakes and get ready. Your friends should be here by two.”

Twilight’s friends, really. I nodded my head, my mouth full of pancakes.

Mother stepped out and closed the door behind her, leaving me to finish my breakfast. Nineteen years old today. A miracle, all things considered. I speared a piece of pancake on my fork and raised it like a toast.

“Here’s to another year of staying alive.”

As I climbed out of bed, I realized I had woken up with a clear head today. Everything about me felt right. The simple fact that the world wasn’t spinning around put me in a fantastic mood. I sang in the shower, I smiled at my reflection as I brushed my hair, I even stopped and danced with myself for a few songs.

When I emerged from my room, I was light as a balloon, with a smile stretching from ear-to-ear. Maybe the fact that I had stared an eldritch villain in the face and lived to tell the tale was finally catching up to me.

Platina greeted me down the hall. She smirked at my overly-enthused smile and said, “Happy birthday, My Lady. You appear to be in good spirits today.”

“Well, after everything that happened yesterday, I guess I’m just happy I got to live this long.” I walked by her side as we made our way toward the dining hall. As we walked, I noticed a faint blush creep across her muzzle.

She caught my suspicious eye and coughed. “I hope you don’t mind, My Lady. I won’t technically be on duty when your party starts, but I wanted to come as your friend.”

My own cheeks heated up. “Platina…”

“I, err, also invited Lance.”

I laughed and punched her leg, since her shoulders were covered with metal pads. “So I finally get to meet the coltfriend? I was starting to think you were making him up.”

Platina gave me a smirk that said, ‘if I wasn’t a professional, I’d punch you right back.’

To my disappointment, the dining hall looked remarkably the same from yesterday. The only difference being the table linen was red and gold like my mane. There was also an extra guest today.

Cadence sat very close to a unicorn guard decorated in purple and gold armor. She quickly scooted her chair away upon my entrance, her face bright red. “S-Sunset! Happy birthday! I-I didn’t think you’d be out of your room so soon.”

I couldn’t contain my raunchy grin. “Oh, is this the guard you’ve been ogling from your balcony? You’re right, he’s kinda cute.”

Like Platina, the stallion’s muzzle turned red. He stood and saluted. “P-pardon me, Lady Sunset. I should, err, be inspecting… the thing outside.” He hurried out the other door, tail between his legs.

Cadence, for her part, looked ready to melt into the rug. She was more red than pink now. I strutted over to the table, sat down, rested my cheeks against my hooves, and gave her my best shit-eating grin.

“So what’s his name?”

“Shining Armor…” she mumbled, looking down at her smiling pancakes, one of the eyes eaten.

“Is he the one who ‘escorted’ you last night.”

“Maybe.”

Seriously, why didn’t I hang out with her more? This was a riot!

She looked up at me, her eyes narrowed like she was trying to be mad. I knew her enough to know anger was an emotion she barely felt. “Don’t you have a party to get ready for?”

“I thought the party was in here. I was half right.”

“It’s in the back garden!” she half shouted.

With one last grin, I got up and headed out the door Shining Armor had left through, Platina behind me.

“Should I expect the same level of embarrassment?” she asked.

“I dunno. Do you turn the same shade of red?”

Wisely, she didn’t answer.

Coming around to the back garden, I found a sight much more befitting for a birthday celebration. Flags of red and gold hung off the balconies overlooking the garden, and streamers ran down the banisters and pillars. A large buffet table had been set up, and across from it, a DJ table stood at the ready. A large banner in the center read ‘Happy Birthday Sunset Shimmer!’

Nopony had arrived yet. Only a few castle staff members wandered about, setting up a few more streamers or balloons. A sobering thought hit me: what if nopony showed up? Twilight might remember me, but her friends? Would they think she was crazy for wanting to go to Canterlot to a birthday party they couldn’t remember promising to attend? Would they pressure her to stay in Ponyville?

What’s it to you? Then it’ll just be like any other birthday. Just you, Mom, and Cadence. Except Luna was also here now. And Twilight had said she would come. The idea that she would go back on her word…

Platina cleared her throat, and I snapped my attention to her. “I should go and get ready so I’m not late.” She smiled at me. “Don’t worry. Your friends will be here. I’ll see you soon.”

I smiled hesitantly. “Yeah. See you in a bit.” I waved as she walked away. I knew a few of my other guards were hiding in the shadows, watching me, but it wasn’t the same without Platina. It felt empty. I turned and craned my neck up to the rest of the castle. Mother was somewhere up there, probably with Luna.

My heart twitched with what I knew was jealousy, but I buried the thought as far down as I could. I would not be jealous of a pony who had spent one-thousand years in orbit. That didn’t stop me from wondering how her presence would affect Mother’s attendance to my party.

With nothing to do until somepony showed up, I sat down on the top step leading down to the gardens. The sky above was a brilliant blue with not a cloud in it. The sun seemed extra bright today, yet the temperature was perfectly moderate. It was the small things that told me how much Mother loved me. Every birthday had been on a day like this. It was enough to put a smile on my face.

I lost track of time, staring at the multitude of colorful flowers blooming across the garden. In one corner were marigolds and lilies. In another were roses and tulips. Pollen and cut grass tickled my nose and drew up memories of yesteryear.

Mom had taken me into the garden, where we settled down under an old tree, lounging in the shade while she read me a story. She then wrestled me into the grass and tickled me into submission. We had both been really itchy afterward, but I think it was worth it.

I was so into my memories, I almost didn’t hear the soft hoofsteps coming up behind me. I turned my head and found a blue alicorn gazing at the garden.

“Oh, hi… Aunt Luna?” I really had no idea if she was comfortable with me calling her that. I wasn’t sure if I was comfortable with it.

“Hello, Sunset Shimmer,” she said softly. “Happy birthday to you.”

“Thanks.” I hesitated. “Um, so, how was your first night home?”

Luna turned her head to me. Despite looking like a young mare, her eyes held a century’s worth of wisdom. They were also red and lined with bags. I wondered if she had gotten any sleep last night. She continued to regard me without speaking a word. The way her eyes held me reminded me nervously of Nightmare Moon. I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me, or through me.

“It was enjoyable,” she said at last. “I… I am just happy to be home and free. A thousand years of a twofold imprisonment makes you appreciate everything you have.”

She lifted her head and inhaled deeply. A few tears gathered at the corners of her eyes. “Even the summer air feels like a heavenly boon.” She shook her head. “Forgive me, Sunset Shimmer. I did not mean create a somber atmosphere. I just wanted to see the garden again. I shall not interfere with your party.”

“No, it’s fine, really!” I said quickly. “You’re more than welcome to stay. There won’t be a lot on ponies here anyway.”

Luna smiled faintly. “That is most appreciated. Perhaps I might join at a later hour. For now, I just want to walk and see how much the castle has changed in my absence.” She waved a wing at me and walked away, stopping once to look back at me with that analyzing look. I wanted to ask her what she was looking at, but she was gone before I found the courage.

Thirty minutes later, Cadence had come out to join me. I was tempted to taunt her some more, but I had grown tired of sitting alone and didn’t want to drive her away. We watched the kitchen staff bring out platters of food: assorted fresh salads, hay fries, veggie kabobs, three-cheese lasagna, stir-fry, cookies, cakes, and a large punch bowl.

“I’m glad you decided to have a party,” Cadence said. “This’ll be a lot of fun.”

“That’s if anypony shows up.”

Because the universe operated on verbal cues, the castle doors opened up, and out walked Twilight, Spike, and all their new friends. Twilight and Spike both carried a present with them.

“Happy birthday, Sunset!” Spike said.

Twilight opened her mouth, no doubt to parrot him, but her eyes fell on Cadence, and she made a squeal of delight. “Cady!” She ran forward and threw her hooves around Cadence’s neck.

“Hi, lady bug,” Cadence said with a laugh. “It’s been awhile.”

“I didn’t know you were going to be here! It’s so good to see you! There’s so much I have to tell you! Oh!” Twilight looked back at me, cheeks red. “I can wait though. Happy birthday, Sunset! Sorry if we’re a little late.”

I shook my head. “Nah. I’m just happy you’re here.” Turning to look at the others, I found one Rainbow Dash very close to my face, her eyes narrowed. “Uhhh….”

“Twilight keeps saying we met you yesterday… but I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen you before. So, I’m gonna make sure I don’t forget your face.”

“That’s… nice?”

Pinkie Pie tapped her chin. “I think I remember seeing her yesterday, but I don’t remember promising to go to a party.” A grin split her face. “But I never say no to a party, especially a birthday! So, happy birthday, pony-I’m-pretty-sure-I-met-before-but-can-barely-remember-right-now!”

“Thanks… I guess.” I can’t say I was surprised by any of these reactions. At least they had shown up. Twilight gave me a hapless shrug that said, ‘I tried my best.’

I led them down to the buffet tables and allowed them to start making plates. Pinkie Pie went straight for the desserts, making me glad the birthday cake wasn’t out yet. Twilight engaged Cadence in conversation, speaking a mile a minute. Spike guided Fluttershy around the gardens. That left everyone else within close proximity of me.

It was thanks to that closeness they could actually focus on me.

“So, are your really the Princess’ daughter?” Rainbow asked, hovering beside me with a plate of food in her hooves.

“By adoption. But she took me in when I was just a baby.”

Rarity looked at me with stars in her eyes. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to be raised by Princess Celestia herself. Oh, oh!” She sidled up closer to me and smiled conspiringly. “That means you know Prince Blueblood, right?”

I snorted. “Prince Blueblood? Only he’s conceited enough to call himself a prince. Yeah, I know him. Spoiled, narcissistic, and a complete wimp. But he’s another honorary adoptee by Mom.”

Rarity looked defeated. I guessed, like many other deluded mares, she had a crush on Blueblood. Better she find out now rather than later.

While Rarity tried to cope, Applejack examined me with a raised eyebrow. She was pretty good at the scrutinizing look. “Now, Ah don’t mean no disrespect, but if you’re the Princess’ kin, why haven’t we heard of you? You ain’t like Nightmare Moon.”

“I guess I’m just not very memorable,” I said, nibbling on a carrot. I wish I had a better answer. Heck, I’d make that my birthday wish: knowing why ponies couldn’t remember me. Judging by Applejack’s still raised brow, my answer hadn’t been all that satisfactory. But what else could I say?

Pinkie swallowed a whole slice of angel food cake, then smiled like it was no big deal. “So, what do you like to do for fun?”

I blinked, wondering what had happened to the two other piles of food she had had on her plate minutes ago. “I liked to read, practice magic—”

“Oh, so you’re an egghead like Twilight,” Rainbow said.

“Hey!” Twilight shouted.

“That’s Lady Egghead to you,” a deep voice said. Walking down the steps was a well-built silver unicorn, with her golden mane pulled into a ponytail. By her side was a pegasus, blue as the midday sky, with a short mint green mane. The unicorn smiled at me, and it snapped into place.

“Platina!” I ran up to her and who I could only presume was Lance. “You look great without your armor on.”

Platina’s cheeks turned a faint pink. Amusing, but not as good as Cadence. “Sunset, this is Lance.”

He gave a short bow. “It’s nice to meet you. Platina talks about you a lot.”

I smiled. So, he knew who I was without ever meeting me. Platina must have said a lot. “She talks about you a lot, too. So, when’s the big wedding?” I couldn’t have resisted if I wanted to.

Platina’s cheeks turned redder, quickly approaching Cadence levels. Lance also turned a delightful shade of pink. They both coughed and looked away from each other, their faces stuck between mortified and excited.

Soon, then, I decided.

Despite being a fair deal older, Platina and Lance mingled well with the rest of us. Rainbow got on especially well when she learned Platina was a royal guard.

“How heavy is your armor? How many weapons do you know how to use? How many monsters have you beat up?”

Platina took a moment to think. “Thirty pounds altogether. Sword, spear, and of course, a variety of magic. Lost count around forty.”

“So awesome!”

Meanwhile, Lance was nice enough to strike up a conversation with me.

“So, what’s it like living in a castle?”

I shrugged. “It’s pretty nice. It’s the only life I’ve ever known, so I don’t have much to compare it too. The food is definitely great though.” I gestured to the buffet table, where Pinkie was helping herself to the chocolate fondue fountain that had been brought out.

Lance laughed. “Yeah, hard to beat getting five star dining everyday. You should hear the way Platina complains about the food they serve at the guard camp.”

I made a mental note to share some of my meals with Platina. “So, what do you do?”

He pointed skyward. “I’m on Canterlot’s weather team.”

“Really? That’s pretty cool.” Tall and lean, he certainly looked the part for it.

A steady thump surrounded us, followed by synth noises and scratching records. A spiky blue maned unicorn had appeared at the DJ table, a pair of purple shades over her eyes. She bobbed her head to the beat, using her magic to command the turntables.

“Whoohoo! Now it’s a party!” Pinkie shouted, chocolate staining her mouth. She flew to the clearing between the two tables and began to dance, doing an impressive spin on her tail.

One-by-one, the girls moved onto the dance floor and grooved to the beat, save for Fluttershy, who found a chair near the buffet table and sat down to watch. I hadn’t spoken a word to her yet, so I supposed now would be the best time.

“Hey, Fluttershy,” I said casually.

“Eeeep!” She nearly jumped out of her skin, like I had snuck up behind her with a chainsaw. “O-oh! I, umm… s-sorry, I didn’t s-see you.”

“Of course you didn’t,” I muttered. In a friendlier voice, I said, “How are you?”

She hid an eye behind her long pink bang. “I’m fine,” she whispered.

“Enjoying the party?”

“Mmhmm.”

“...So, what do you do in Ponyville?”

I know she said something, but it was at a decibel so low, not even a dog could hear it. She had shrunk so far into her chair, I was convinced it was trying to eat her.

“Right. Good talk.” I now knew where the ‘shy’ in her name came from. Well, that was one friend I wouldn’t be making. I joined the others on the dance floor, casually moving my hips and shoulders.

Twilight put her whole body into it, poking her tongue out while erratically moving and kicking her legs. It might have been cute if it didn’t leave me terrified of getting hit.

The music played on, and we danced on. In pairs, or in a clustered group, we moved and flailed and laughed. I had never partied like this before, mostly because I never had anypony to party with. Was this what it felt like to truly live? To really have friends that liked you? I tried not to think about tomorrow, whether or not these few hours of interaction would be enough to ingrain me in the memory of Twilight’s friends. For now, it was fun just to be apart of the moment.

I had taken a break from dancing to grab some punch, when my mother descended the stairs. Behind her came two unicorn chefs, carrying a three-layered cake between them. The first and third layers were red with gold frosting, while the middle was an inversion. Firebird Dahlias were dispersed around the edges, and at the very top was a number 19 candle, already lit.

While the chefs set the cake up, Mother trotted over to me and smiled. “You look like you’re having a good time.”

I couldn’t help but smile too. “This might be my best birthday yet.”

“Surprising words coming from miss ‘I-don’t-want-to-have-a-party’.”

“You know, I’m pretty sure you’re where I get my sass from.”

Mom laughed and pushed me toward the cake, where the rest of my… I didn’t want to call them friends yet. My guests had gathered. Mom leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Don’t eat the flowers. They’re just for decoration, trust me.”

“Noted.”

In a joyous chorus, everyone sang Happy Birthday to me, and I blew out my candles, changing my birthday wish. I wanted ponies to see me. I wanted them to remember me. I made the same wish every year, but this time… this time, I had this warmth in my heart that turned it into a desperate plea.

With the candle blown out, the cake was cut up and served. True to her word, once I got mine, Mother gave herself a large slice. The inside of the cake was a rich strawberries and cream flavor that had me salivating before it even touched my tongue.

Pinkie wolfed down her slice of cake, then quickly got up for a second one. Her new piece had a dahlia on it. She tipped it back into her mouth, chewed for a moment, then twisted her face into one of absolute revulsion. Lips puckered and eyes narrowed and watering, she forced herself to swallow and gagged.

I tried my hardest not to laugh and choke on my own piece. At least that insured she wouldn’t go back for any more. I wanted my cake to last a few days.

The DJ turned the music down, and we sat and conversed in the waning afternoon sun. Twilight talked to Celestia about her magical studies, and what she hoped to learn while she was in Ponyville. Despite the revelation about Blueblood I dropped on Rarity, she was keen to talk to me about Canterlot culture. I was about to explain what the Day Court was like, when Pinkie leapt at me from across the garden.

“Hey, Sunset! Can we play in the maze?” she pointed over to the hedge maze off to the right.

She had shoved her face so close to mine, I could count the crumbs in her teeth. Her dentist must make a fortune. “Umm, I don’t see why not?”

“Hey, yeah!” Rainbow said, springing into the air. “A good ol’ fashion game of hide-n-seek!”

Applejack bit Rainbow’s tail and pulled her to the ground. “It’s only old fashioned if you can’t fly,” she said with a smug grin.

“Pssh, like I need these babies to beat you.” Rainbow ruffled her wings. “But that means no magic either!”

Rarity turned her nose up. “The very accusation that we would play unfairly in any manner is offensive.”

Pinkie slid a hoof around Rarity’s neck. “I’m glad you feel that way, ‘cause…” She leaned in close to Rarity’s ear while her other hoof poked Rarity’s horn.

“You’re it.”

The rest of us, Fluttershy included, broke into a mad dash for the maze while the older ponies just laughed and watched.

“You’re first, Pinkie Pie!” Rarity shouted.

With how much Pinkie was laughing, it wouldn’t be too hard to find her. The first split in the maze was a three way branch. Rainbow, Twilight, and I broke right, following the path until it split again. Having traversed the maze dozens of times before, I knew where I was going, but I stayed behind Rainbow and let her lead until I knew a dead end was coming up. For her part, Rainbow made an impressive string of good choices.

Her luck finally ran out when she turned left at a fork. I made a right, watching Twilight follow along with Rainbow. That path would go on for a bit before they would be forced to turn around. I eased my run to a steady gait and forged ahead, keeping my ears perked for any sign of Rarity.

If I kept on this path, I would eventually reach the center of the maze. Three other roads also lead to the center, making it an easy place to get tagged. I decided to keep to the halls and stay on the outer edges. I grinned, remembering the countless times Mother and I had played hide-n-seek in here.

I heard a panicked yell from Applejack, and knew Rarity had found her first victim. That gave me pause. Did that mean Applejack was it? Or did I have to run from both Rarity and Applejack?

I stepped forward and swooned, my head become light as a feather. Another step forward, and I was back to normal. I froze, my mind tuning out the world around me. Even today, on my birthday, I felt like this? Why? I had woken up feeling great—the entire day had been going great! Yes, the spell had only been for a brief second, but it still happened. I felt like I didn’t belong to this world.

What are you?

A single question voiced by my deeper subconscious rose up to the front of my mind. Not ‘who’ but ‘what.’ What was I? I was a pony, wasn’t I?

Are you sure? The voice asked. Is that what you know, or what you believe?

I never considered the difference until now. I believed I was equine. I believed Celestia had adopted me after my parents had not wanted me and left me in front of the castle. I believed those things. But what did I know? My head tilted to one side. What did I know?

I bet Celestia knows the truth.

The truth… but that implied that Mother had lied to me. While she sometimes wasn’t as forthcoming as I’d like her to be, she would never lie to me… would she?

Would she?

My hooves turned me around and carried me toward the entrance of the maze while thoughts swirled in my head and heart. I stopped and tilted my head to the other side. What about this one, tiny incident had set off this string of thoughts?

You want it to end.

That was true. I didn’t want to feel like I was being erased. I didn’t want to stumble and fall anymore. I didn’t want to be forgotten. I nodded, like the new voice in my heart could see me, and continued down the path. Enough was enough—I wanted an answer.

I reached the beginning without running into anypony else, though I heard Pinkie shriek in delight. Part of me wondered if they even remembered I was playing. I moved through the garden toward the castle, sneaking past Platina and Lance as they slow danced to a song.

They paced back and forth, resting their heads on the other’s shoulder, eyes closed, and warm smiles on their faces. It was almost enough to get me to stop my march to Celestia.

I retreated into the castle and made my way toward the royal suites. I didn’t know how I knew, but I was sure Mother was with Luna right now. Granted, it was an obvious assumption all things considered, but I was dead certain about it.

To the untrained eye, many of the hallways might have looked the same. But I knew what tapestries and paintings to look for, and which guards were on duty. They might not know me to well, but I remember all of them. I passed under the banner with the phases of the moon and turned the corner, finding Long Sword and Riot Shield standing guard. I gave them a stiff wave as I passed by, which they acknowledged but didn’t return.

The corridor beyond them was empty and silent, save for a hush of voices. At the end of the hall, a large blue door with a crescent moon was open just a crack. I crept forward and positioned myself against it, trying to see through the tiny opening.

Shadows clung tightly to the room. I could barely make out a vanity against the wall, but the rest of the room was completely lost to me. I could, however, hear the whispers much more clearly.

“...nice mares, Luna. They would love to see you again,” my mother said gently.

My heart gave a jealous twitch. Was this where Mother had spent most of my birthday? I was caught between my desire to march in and speak to her, and to stay put and listen in on the conversation.

“I am fine, Sister,” Luna said with tired appreciation. “I am just taking time to appreciate the small things and recover. Besides, I do not want to impose on young Sunset.”

“I’m sure she would enjoy having you down there.”

I scrunched my nose. Would I? If it got Mother to come down too, then sure. Luna herself? Meh.

“She… reminds me of you, in many ways,” Mother continued.

Luna fell silent for a while. Then, in an even quieter voice that forced me to strain my ears, she asked, “Who is she, Celestia?”

A pregnant pause. In it, my pulse slowed to a crawl.

“She’s my daughter.”

I allowed myself a tiny breath of relief.

“That’s not what I meant, Sister,” Luna said tersely. “When I was still… not myself, I saw her. Or rather, I saw something that shouldn’t be here—”

“She has every right to be here!” my mother shouted, making me jump. I clapped a hoof to my mouth and became still as stone, hoping neither of them had heard me.

Mother took a calm breath. “I’m sorry, Luna. It’s… complicated.”

“Tia… please.”

I held my breath again. This time, my heart rate quadrupled, crashing against my chest until it ached.

Celestia remained silent for another minute. I could hear the shifting of blankets and feathers. She was stalling for time. After an eternity of waiting, she spoke.

“I… don’t know where she came from. She just appeared one day. This frail and sick foal, flickering like she was a trick of the light. I took her in. Something in my heart told me I needed to. I put her in the infirmary, asked the doctors to look after her. But when I came back the next day, they couldn’t even remember that I had dropped off a foal. I rushed in to find her, so thankful that she was still there. I berated the doctors for being so negligible… but I found out in time, it wasn’t their fault. No one could seem to recollect Sunset if she left their vicinity.

“It was… curious… and frustrating. I didn’t know what to do. I kept thinking about her, and showed up three times a day to check up on her. And soon, she wasn’t as frail. She stopped flickering and fading. And in a few weeks, she smiled and giggled at my approach,” Mother said fondly.

“Then, I left on a short embassy to Manehattan. I was gone for almost a week, and was so busy… my thoughts strayed from Sunset. When I got back, she was struggling to stay… here. If the doctors hadn’t begun to remember her…”

If I leaned forward anymore, I ran the risk of moving the door. Yet, I was pressed up as close as I could, drinking in Celestia’s words. I needed her to keep talking. But a quivering part of my heart told me to turn and walk away right now.

No! The voice from before shouted. Stay. You have every right to know.

“It sounds like her existence is tied to you,” Luna said with dawning comprehension. “Actually, it sounds like… Celestia, have you talked to Mother?”

“I… I tired. So many times. Mother refuses to even talk about her—refuses to Acknowledge Sunset’s existence.” Mom had never sounded so bitter before.

“So,” Luna began in a grim voice, “Mother did not create her.”

“...No. She has foreseen every possibility the world could take. Sunset… Sunset does not exist in any of them. I don’t know where she came from, but according to Mother…” Celestia’s voice cracked like fragile glass. “My Sunset was never supposed to exist. And because she doesn’t exist, Mother refuses to Acknowledge her.”

Somewhere during Celestia’s speech, my legs had given out. I laid against the carpet, eyes impossibly wide. My heart had stopped functioning, and my lungs refused to take in air. I wanted to move as far away from this conversation as possible. But my limbs refused to respond. Everything had gone numb, or at least tried to. A blistering pain began to sprout from my chest.

Luna spoke. “I had my suspicions. When I looked at her, I knew something was not as it should be. She’s a true anomaly to the universe.”

“And because of that, it wants to get rid of her,” Celestia said, her voice quivering.

“And you’re using your divine powers to Acknowledge her in place of Mother?”

Another pregnant pause. “I have to. If I stop thinking about her for too long, she runs the risk of disappearing. Other ponies acknowledging her helps, but… I am her strongest anchor to this world. And I love her. I can’t bear to lose her.”

They fell silent. We were all silent. The whole world was silent.

I pulled away from the door. I don’t know how. My legs were jelly. My insides were knotted together. My heart sat in splinters. I moved down the hall with agonizing slowness.

“Sunset was never supposed to exist.”

I staggered against the wall and gasped. I hadn’t breathed in minutes. My brain floated in fog. The numbness started to fade. I was cold—freezing from the inside out. It was worse than being erased. That pain eventually ended. This would haunt me...

I wasn’t…

Brain couldn’t process the truth. It refused to focus on it. I concentrated on moving my legs. I couldn’t go back to the party. I needed to lie down. Maybe forever.

I wasn’t supposed to…

An electrical jolt shot through my brain. I had a strange urge to laugh. It was absurd. Who got to dictate who could exist and who couldn’t?

Apparently, Celestia’s mother. The Maker.

And she hadn’t made me. She didn’t even want to entertain the notion. She ignored me.

Another jolt shot through me. The absurd humor morphed into an unbearable sadness. I wanted to cry. I wanted to wail. I didn’t. I couldn’t. What had I done to spurn the Maker’s favor? If she hadn’t made me, where did I come from?

I wasn’t supposed to exist.

I was nothing. The thought took full shape in the center of my mind, draining away the despair and humor and even the pain, leaving me empty. Hollow. Null. It was almost like falling into the void.

Everything was disconnected. I couldn’t feel emotions anymore, but something had my heart in a vice grip. My hooves trudged along, instinctively following the path to my room. I failed to register anything around me though. I took another sharp breath, having forgotten to breathe again.

“Lady Sunset?”

Turning a corner, I found Platina strolling toward me. Her stoic face dissolved into an anxious frown. “What’s wrong?”

I looked up at her, positive my eyes were haunted and cheeks sunken. What was wrong? Everything was wrong. Nothing was wrong.

“Nothing is wrong with you.”

My head jerked to the left. Had she thought herself clever? Was that her justification for lying to me? That she had technically told me the truth?

A spark, short and fleeting, burned through me, driving back the cold void for but a moment. It returned to swallow the spark up, but I could feel it flickering and lingering deep within the darkness. I had never felt anything like that toward Mother before.

“Sunset?”

My eyes took in Platina again. A worried crease in her brow joined her frown.

“I don’t feel good,” I croaked.

Her eyes shone with a motherly concern that I should have appreciated. She acknowledged me. She was one of the reasons I was still here. But it only reminded me of Celestia, and kindled the faint spark sitting in the void.

Platina moved behind me and shepherded me forward. “You don’t look too good either. Come, bedtime for you.”

With her prodding me forward, I shuffled faster. I was still off-kilter, teetering from time-to-time, but Platina didn’t comment. When we reached my door, she pushed it open and nudged me inside.

“I’ll inform your friends you’ve retired for the night.”

“Thank you,” I croaked again, keeping my eyes on the setting sun.

“Feel better, My Lady.” When I didn’t respond, Platina stepped out and closed the door.

I stood in the center of my room, staring out at nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Nothing.

The urge to scream hit me full force, but if I did, I knew Platina would come running back. I didn’t trust myself to cast a silence barrier. But the tightness in my chest mounted to a crushing pressure. I started to hyperventilate, falling to the floor and curling into a ball.

I wished for this, hadn’t I? I had wanted to know the truth. How was I to know the truth would be so painful? How was I to know Mother withheld so much? Another wave of anger washed over me. The truth was terrible, but she had no right to keep something like this from me for so long! I asked her what was wrong with me and she lied! She told me she didn’t know!

My life—my very existence was held by a thread she controlled. I could die—fade away at any moment. The realization locked every muscle in body. I could go at any moment. Even in my sleep. All she had to do was forget. And it had already happened before. Every fainting spell, every time the void tried to pull me in, she had forgotten for a moment.

A broken sob sputtered out of me. I was nothing. I came from nothing. When I died, I would go back to nothing. The Maker wanted nothing to do with me. Of all the countless creations in the universe, I was the only one she hadn’t created.

The only pony neither made nor wanted.

The Maker’s reject.