• Published 5th May 2018
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Seven Days in Sunny June, Book V: The New Frontier - Shinzakura



The conclusion of the Seven Days in Sunny June saga! The world has changed, and those within it must cope with the aftermath of what has happened.

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August 17: Roll the Bones

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE~!”

Seated in the kitchen, sipping on her coffee, Velvet looked at her husband. “I see Sonata is rather excited this morning.”

Drinking from his own mug, Night agreed. “Is it bad that this is the first time we’ve heard this and yet we know exactly what is going on?”

“Somehow, when I agreed to take in our nieces, I hadn’t expected this,” Velvet said, smiling slightly.

“Somehow, when we agreed to watch over them, I didn’t expect they’d be our nieces,” Night added.

“Point.”

Sure enough, a second later, she rushed into the kitchen, bouncing up and down as though she was Pinkie Pie. “I won! I won!” She rushed over and gave her aunt and uncle kisses, dancing around the table for all she was worth. “I won I won I won!”

“That’s nice, dear,” Velvet said with a wan smile. Somehow, she was both amused by the girl’s antics while at the same time long used to them; she didn’t bother to question how the novelty of the former contrasted with the incomprehensible familiarity of the latter.

“Care to clarify before you burst any further eardrums?”

The teen had the good grace to blush. “Sorry!” she said as she walked over to the coffeemaker. “I won the ‘Hangin’ With the Twins!’ contest!” She squeed emphatically. “I get to hang out with Mint and Milk!”

“The Chocolate Twins? Isn’t that the show you watch on Nickelodeon?” Night asked.

“No, Nickelodeon’s for kids, Uncle Night!” the teen reminded him.

“But I thought—”

“No, they have a new show now on YouTube! Hangin’ With the Twins! is for teenagers, not for kids. They go into a lot more stuff that’s relevant to me now. Besides, I’m grown up now – I shouldn’t watch kids shows anymore.”

“Says the girl with the Filly Funtasia pajamas?” Velvet asked, pointing at her niece’s sleep pants. Sonata blushed once more in response. “It’s okay, sweetie, I know this isn’t easy for you.”

“I don’t think this is easy for any of us,” Sonata admitted. “I mean…I know you weren’t expecting to have the three of us….”

“It’s an adjustment for all of us,” Night told her. “But it doesn’t mean that we don’t want you around. You three needed a family – and now you have one.”

Sonata gave him a loving smile, then said, “I guess I should start working on breakfast, since we’re going to have a lot of hungry girls waking up in a couple of hours.”

Velvet smiled and sidled up next to her niece. “I think we can do it together, can’t we?”

Sonata looked at her with astonishment before it changed to acknowledgement. “We always do, Aunt Velvet,” she said, overcome with brief emotion. “That’s what we do.”

Close to an hour later (and after extensive cooking by Sonata, who turned out to be very familiar with the kitchen), Sunset and the others lazed around the large table in the dining room, which was the only one in the house with enough capacity for a baker’s dozen worth of girls.

“Well, I do believe I can spare some time preparing clothing for Raspberry, if we don’t know how long she’ll be here,” Rarity stated to Sunset. “If you don’t mind conjuring up what I need, then I can start right after breakfast.” She then looked at Shimmer. “Of course, if there’s anything you need as well, Shimmer, dear, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Shimmer replied. “I might just do that.”

“Well, I’d love to stay,” Rainbow said, “but I’ve got Summer Soccer League today, and I gotta get some game time in. But if you gals do anything afterwards, don’t forget to include me, okay?”

“Yeah, well, as Ah recall, Ah promised Mel Ah’d take him to the movies today,” Applejack said. “Probably should get to know mah little brother, especially since he wasn’t around the last reality. Really makes me appreciate family all the more.”

“I should probably spend time with my little brother as well,” Fluttershy admitted. “Do you mind if I go get him and we tag along?”

“Not a problem. For all we know, they might actually know each other.”

“I don’t have plans today, but I think I’ll help Aunt Velvet around the house,” Aria chimed in. “As far as I know we don’t have maid service, so it wouldn’t be fair to have her do everything.”

“You might be doing it entirely by yourself,” Octavia sighed. “Remember that I have my therapist appointment today, and Aunt Velvet’s going to be taking me.”

“Taking us,” Twilight insisted. “I’m not letting you go alone.”

“That makes two of us,” Adagio agreed. “Given what’s happened the past few times….” The eldest triplet decided to leave it at that. She saw the heartsick look on Octavia’s face and said, “Nothing’s going to happen, Tavi. You know we won’t let it.”

“Easy for you to say. You’re not the insane one.”

“Neither are you, so please don’t say that, okay?” Sonata asked. “You’re just going through a tough time right now, Tavi, but you have all of us. We’re not going to let you down.”

“Yeah,” Octavia said as an acknowledging smile came to her face. “Yeah, I should know that. Thanks for reminding me, Soni.”

“Oh! Before I forget: I won the ‘Hanging with the Twins!’ contest! I won an all-expenses paid trip for me and two guests to go to Disneyland next week and be on their YouTube show! Isn’t that a blast?” She looked at her family and friends. “You’re all going to come with me, right?”

“Apparently you forgot how to count,” Aria drolled. “That’s two people – not thirteen.”

“Don’t worry about it, Soni,” Shimmer told her. “I can take all of us – least I can do to spend time with my friends.”

“You sure?” Sunset asked her. “That’s a bit over the top, Shimmy.”

“It’s okay, Sunny, I don’t mind, and I think my mom wouldn’t have a problem with it,” came the answer.

“Yeah, plus, if she didn’t, I’m sure my dad would have insisted since we had to cut our vacation short – well in this timeline at least,” Fluttershy added.

“Plus, that way we’ll all have some time to hang together before school starts and Shimmy heads back home,” Sunset told her. “As it is, after school starts, Pinkie and I have to work at the main store while everyone else runs the pop-up stand at the Fair.”

“Are you sure?” Pinkie asked her. “Auntie Cup said you didn’t have to come back to work until you got all of your personal stuff sorted out.”

“By then the personal stuff should be sorted out. Besides, I promised her I’d do it…I think.” Now it was Sunset’s turn to have an infodump stare. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I promised her last week…well, last week in this reality, at any rate. Besides, we talked about it yesterday before we went over to your place.”

“Well, let’s all talk later tonight, okay?” Twilight suggested. “I think going along with Soni to support her favorite celebrities would be nice, and I’m sure we’d probably have fun.” Everyone else agreed happily, with Sunset deciding to usher Raspberry, Shimmer and Rarity up towards her room, when she saw Pinkie trying to flag her attention.

“Yes, Pinkie?”

Pinkie blushed and started fidgeting, and at that moment, Sunset knew she was going to be in for one of those awkward situations. Again. It didn’t help things further as a second later, the cotton-candy-haired girl buried her face in Sunset’s bosom. “Are you okay?” Sunset asked her.

“No, I couldn’t sleep last night,” Pinkie admitted. “Kept having nightmares about your death.”

Sunset sighed. “Pinkie, we discussed this repeatedly, okay? I’m fine. It was…awkward—” Not unlike now, actually…. “—but I’m okay.”

“No we didn’t,” Pinkie sobbed, her voice muffled courtesy of Sunset’s now tear-soaked shirt. “I watched the girl I love die – and not just in a ‘Rarity on her fainting couch in her bedroom’ way.” She finally looked up, and in her red-rimmed eyes was a look of deep, unyielding sorrow. Her hair began to straighten as she said, “I watched your body – your dead body – melt into nothingness. Do you know what that did to your sister? To me?”

“I thought only Twily had to see that.”

“In real life, maybe. But dreams…you know how they can be.” Pinkie shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself.

“Pinkie….”

Boldly, Pinkie reached up and caressed Sunset’s face. “How do I know this is really the same cyan eyes I get lost in? Those luscious lips I want to kiss? That gorgeous body I want to….” Pinkie stopped speaking at that point, which didn’t make Sunset feel too comfortable as the girl started drooling.

“Pinkie?”

“Oh, just…um, well, fantasizing a bit,” Pinkie admitted with a girlish giggle.

“You know, I’m right here….”

“I know. And now you’re so perfect, because you’re literally divine now. A lot taller now, and a body that makes me want to melt.” The thought made Sunset wince; despite Pinkie claiming that she would get her magically-overlaid feelings under control, she wasn’t doing so easily. “You’re just so….”

“Do I really want to know?” Sunset asked, more for herself than her friend.

“Boysenberry body oil and whipped cream,” Pinkie voiced, deep in reverie again. “Yummy….”

“PINKIE!”

“Sorry, daydreaming again.” A near-full body blush enveloped Pinkie as she reluctantly let Sunset go.

“I know!”

“Anyway,” Pinkie began as she started nervously tapping her index fingers together as if hoping they’d be caught in a Chinese finger trap, “I was going to ask—”

“I know what you were going to ask.” Sunset sighed; she knew this was going to come, sooner or later. “Pinkie, we’ve discussed this.”

“No we didn’t, not about this. Trust me, I’m good at looking for loopholes.”

“Look, I’m flattered, okay?” Sunset gave her friend her most disarming smile, the kind she’d used to turn down several guys in the past…and now that things had changed for her, she knew it was probably going to come back into heavy rotation once more. “Pinkie, I love you dearly as a friend, but nothing more. It’s not in me, and I don’t want you to pine after someone you can’t have.”

“You can’t deny me this,” Pinkie told Sunset. “Please don’t deny me this.”

“Pinkie, I….” Sunset didn’t know what to say.

“Just once? For me?”

“I…I can’t answer that.”

“I know.” Pinkie got on her tiptoes and kissed Sunset on the cheek. “But please, think about it. Besides, going out on a date with me might be fun. Bonus: once Rose finds out, she’ll blow a fuse.”

“Are you doing this because you want to go out with me or because it’ll make Rose annoyed?”

“Little of Column A, little of Column B?” Pinkie admitted. “Look, I gotta go home and get ready for work. Just…please think about it, okay?”

“No promises, Pinkie.”

“I know. It’s part of why I love you.” With that, Pinkie smiled and rushed upstairs to grab her backpack so she could head home.


“You know, you have a really interesting life,” Shimmer told her twin. “Maybe I should be glad I don’t live in town. My friends and I get into enough trouble without one of them having feelings for me.”

“Lucky you. Want to trade lives?”

Shimmer giggled. “You’ve already taken mine here – what more do you want, Ms. Greedy?”

“I’m glad you came to meet me for breakfast outside of a school setting,” Waddle began. “I’d have offered to take you out to lunch during the work week, but I’m sure you’re quite busy. Besides, I’ve had my summer busy spending time with my daughter and son-in-law pestering them for a new grandchild.”

“You mean you haven’t killed Sombra yet?” Celestia laughed. Her friend had already told her how he and his wife had first met.

“Oh, I assure you, it took me forever to forgive that young reprobate for what he did,” Waddle mock-growled, adjusting his glasses. “Thankfully, he’s proven to be every bit of the gentleman the Marine Corps beat into him. But enough about Sombra. We’re here to talk about you.”

“About me?”

He nodded. “I have decided to retire at the end of the year, and after some consultations with both the County Board as well as the mayors of some of the cities, they have decided to appoint Core Curriculum as my replacement.”

“I see.” Celestia had met the woman a few times and thought she was too focused on standardized tests, rather than an actual mastery of subjects. Luna tended to agree with her sister’s point of view, and thankfully they were not in Curriculum’s school cluster. It did, however, make life miserable for the schools that were.

Waddle chuckled. “I know what you’re thinking – she’s too focused on testing standards. Well, for one, I actually agree with you, but I’m not allowed to select my replacement. I can, however, still fill in positions that will be empty before I depart. And that’s what I intend to do.” He fidgeted with his glasses once more, then looked at her with cerulean eyes focused onto her lilac ones. “This will be your last year at Canterlot High, Tia. After the year is over, your new duties will be that of assistant superintendent, taking over Curriculum’s area – Cluster Two.” Celestia was quiet for several minutes, so much so that Waddle laughed. “I seem to have caught you for a loss of words. Will wonders never cease?”

“I…I don’t know what to say. I mean, I’m honored, Waddle, I really am. But I can’t take Cluster Two.”

“Oh, I know about your boyfriend, so that shouldn’t be a problem; Sombra was concerned about that as well, given how long you two have been friends. In any case, I’ve spoken to Textbook and he has agreed to take The Blanks into Cluster Three, which will resolve that conflict of interest. And since CHS is in Cluster One, you wouldn’t be overseeing Luna.”

“But what about CHS itself?”

“I thought you’d have some concerns about that, and I don’t blame you: you’ve run that school like royalty, I daresay. Well, I think it’s time that Luna should learn to stretch her metaphorical wings, don’t you? I know she’s been interested in the principal slot over at Bella Vista, but Guiding Hand is probably going to stay on for another year, and CHS will need a principal soon. As for a vice principal, well, that one I will have to leave up to Curriculum, but I’m sure that she’ll want your and Luna’s input on that.”

“I see.” Celestia wasn’t sure of what else to say; being promoted out of Canterlot High was not what she’d expected during a quick working breakfast. Furthermore, given everything she’d been through, she privately felt she had to watch out for Sunset and her friends, something she couldn’t do as easily if she had no easy access to them.

“I know you’ve got some trepidation about it. But I think you’re the one for the job, if you ask me. Besides, it’s either you or Bookwise, and between you and me, he doesn’t really have the flair and passion for education that you do. Sometimes I wonder if he went into education looking for something else other than the futures of his students, but you really don’t get as far as he has without caring a little bit, so….” The old man shrugged and said, “In any case, please consider taking it. I wouldn’t make the offer if I didn’t think you were the best, and the Equestria County Unified School District and its student body needs the best in place to steer them towards the future.”

“I’ll think about it,” Celestia said.

“That’s all I ask. Just let me know before the school year starts. I’ll have to have an answer for the Board by then.”


Celestia managed to make it back to her car before she breathed a nervous sigh of relief. It was a chance of a lifetime: not just for her, but Luna as well. And it would change so much about her life and give her a chance to soar even higher in academia!

But…it would also mean that she wouldn’t be there to protect Sunset and the others anymore. And she had grown to care about them in the past year, more so than just the standard educator/student relationship. Part of her knew that she was probably going beyond the bounds when it came to the girls, but she cared enough about them to want to see them succeed at more than just school life. Because in many ways, the future of Earth rode on the success of Sunset Shimmer and the others, and it was that success that Celestia knew she had to make sure she was there to aid and mentor them every way she could.

Regardless of what she chose, she knew that she had to be there for them, because while teaching a student was only for a short period, mentoring was for a lifetime…and she knew that her life was now inexorably linked with that of Sunset Shimmer and the others.

It made Celestia wonder if somehow that was always supposed to be that way. If so, it would be one hell of a cosmic joke.

In a clinic on the west side of Canterlot, a teleconference was in progress. Both in a room within the clinic where it was happening, as well as a second location on the other side of the world, watched a blank room, with two people in it. And on screen, hell was unfolding.

“Now, Octavia,” the woman began.

“Go fuck yourself. While you’re at it, you can fuck me, too.” The look on the girl’s face was practically demonic. “Now call me by my name.”

“Fine – Melody,” the woman said, sitting down in a chair across from the teen.

“Now untie me, you cunt,” Melody demanded. “Unless you like taking me this way. I like it rough.”

The even look never left the psychiatrist’s face. “Melody, I want to know what you want.”

“You know what I want. It should be so obvious.”

“Why don’t you tell me then?” the psychiatrist asked calmly.

“I want you to lick me until I come,” Melody replied, a sneer on her face. “And then I want you to find a way to kill that prissy little bitch Octavia so that I can have what’s rightfully mine.”


In the observation room, Velvet, Twilight, and the triplets sat quietly, while onscreen, a world away Evening held a teary Ballad to his side. “How could this have happened?” he asked Velvet.

“I wish I could give you an answer,” Velvet told them. “Is there anything that you might be aware of on your side?”

Ballad caught her sister-in-law’s undertone. “You mean to ask if there’s mental illness in my family.”

“I didn’t want to say that and make you think—”

“No, Vel, I understood what you meant. Maybe there is some sort of mental illness in my family,” Ballad admitted. “I’ve certainly told you everything about how my mother and sisters act.”

“I don’t think that’s it, Ballad. You would have known something by now, if only because they would have belittled you about it.”

“I hate to say it, sweetheart, but Velvet’s right,” Evening noted. “It would have been mentioned time and time again if it ran in your family – and if they knew about this, your sisters would have a field day.”

“I know,” Ballad sobbed. “I just want my baby to be okay again.”

“Night and I’ll do everything we can,” Velvet insisted.

“We know, Vel. It’s just…Tavi’s our daughter and we know we haven’t done as right by her as we could—”


“Aunt Velvet?” Adagio immediately interrupted. “You might want to watch what’s going on on-screen.” The look on the oldest triplet’s face was not that of the niece she knew/didn’t quite know/had always known, but instead the uncanny stare of a SIREN.

As Velvet turned her focus to the camera feed of what was going on in the room, she saw that an orderly was holding Octavia down. Somehow, she’d managed to break through the straps holding her and had lashed out at the psychiatrist.

“What did you fuckers do?” the teen railed. “Everything’s changed! You changed time! How the fuck did you do that?”

Velvet forced herself to keep the look of shock off her face. What the…?

“Ms. Melody, I assure you that you are mistaken. There’s no possible way to change time, as you have so colorfully put it.”

“Bullshit!” The teen turned to the camera – how she had known it was there, no one knew, as it was a carefully-hidden one. There was a burning hate in her eyes, an animalistic rage that contorted the face of the girl they all loved. “I know you’re there, all of you. I don’t know what you did, but if you did this to protect your prissy little cunt from me, it’s not going to happen. This is my body, and I will kill her, do you understand me?” The orderly forced Melody down, but she laughed viciously. “Nothing you do will stop me, do you hear me? Nothing!”

The psychiatrist called out, “When I count to ten, you will enter a deep sleep. And when you awaken in twenty minutes, you will be gone and Octavia will return.”

“Like hell she will! I own this body now and I will do what I want!”

The psychiatrist counted down, slowly but surely, from ten to one. And as she did, Melody stopped thrashing as the preset mental suggestion sank in. As she reached one, there was nothing more than a dozing teenager, looking completely at peace, for all that had just occurred.

“Administer 200mg of Malarson to her, then let her sleep for a bit,” the psychiatrist told the orderly. “End the feed when she wakes up. I’m going to go talk to the others.”


A few seconds later, a door opened, and a very shaken psychiatrist came in, running a hand through her hair. “You know what the sad part about all this is? I used to love horror films when I was younger. The Exorcist was one of my all-time favorites. After today, I’m probably going to have to reconsider my tastes.” She went over and poured herself a coffee. “Right about now a sensible practitioner would be suggesting that you seek inpatient stay for Octavia, probably at the Horseshoe Bay Psychiatric Center.”

“Chrys….” Velvet began. On the other end of the line she could hear Ballad gasp.

But the woman gave a wan smile. “I said a sensible one. My husband would be the first to say I’m not sensible.” She chuckled, then took a drink of her coffee. “Just like I didn’t give up on my feelings for Sombra even when it was common sense to do so, I’m not going to give up on Octavia. I think she’s a fighter, and I think she can beat this – she just needs the right help. And between you and me, sending her to an inpatient stay at a psychiatric center is hardly what I’d call the right sort of help.”

“Will my baby be okay?” Ballad asked her.

“It may take a while. It might take years, Mrs. Ballad,” the psychiatrist admitted. “At the risk of being honest? There might come a time when it will be her husband that will be the one to aid her and not you. But I am confident that she will overcome this. I have seen worse in my professional career.”

“How much worse?”

“I’ve been asked by the County to evaluate the Dead Hand Killers. Obviously professional rules prevent me from giving details, but from a layman’s point of view? Those are three seriously fucked-up girls. And Octavia is clearly nowhere near that gone. Trust me. That girl’s a fighter, and I’m going to give her a fighting chance. Now, what the plan is, is that I’m going to up her dose of Malarson for the moment and given that she’s stated it’s made her lethargic at times, I’m going to also prescribe 5mg of Kasevansoc. It’s an antifatigue and should help regulate her a little better.” She looked at everyone in the room, then those at the screen. “I will be honest: this is going to be an uphill battle. DID is not well understood and due to media portrayals, there’s a definite prejudice against her. She is going to need every bit of your support.”

“She’s got it,” Twilight said without hesitation. Though the triplets said nothing, they all nodded as one.

“I’m glad to hear that. Now, I’ll be right back; I need to make some quick system entries so that way we can get the ball rolling on this. It will also allow me, if you’ll permit, to discuss the case with someone more familiar with DID than I am.”

That caught Ballad’s attention. “Oh?”

The doctor nodded. “He’s a psychologist that lives up north in Oregon. Apparently was a wunderkind in his native Britain, but his daily practice was cut short by a horrible accident and so he turned to teaching. Furthermore, he still does extensive research on mental states and has given lectures at several conferences. I’ve met him a couple of times and he’s always been helpful. I’m sure if I bring the case up to him, he might be able to give me some suggestions on additional treatment. I just need your permission.”

Evening was quick. “You have it, Doctor.”

“Good. I’ll call Dr. Phix tomorrow. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll give you all some time to talk amongst yourselves as to what to do next. That way I can also submit the prescription and get Octavia for you; she should be stirring soon.” With that, she departed.


Velvet and the girls spoke with Octavia’s parents for several minutes, assuring them that she would be taken care of. While they of course completely trusted Velvet, the fact was, they were Octavia’s parents and thus deeply worried. Finally, they needed to get off the conference call and the look of heartbreak and worry in Ballad’s eyes Velvet knew very well. It was the look of a mother terrified to learn that her daughter was one step from the meatgrinder and that there was nothing she could do about it.

In a time that no longer existed – thankfully so – Velvet had the same look on her face as she watched Sunset fight against impossible odds. It bothered her to see that look on the face of her sister-in-law, but this time Velvet could do something about it. She had to – she’d failed both Twilight and Octavia before, and now she had a chance to make up for it.

“She knew.” Velvet turned to look at Adagio, who looked at the sleeping girl with an uneasy look.

“Dagi,” Twilight said in a warning tone.

“Twily, don’t, okay? I’m not talking about Tavi. We’re family and I love her dearly – you know that. Hell, even in the time that wasn’t—”

“Is that what we’re calling it now?” Sonata chimed in.

“Soni, not now, okay? The fact that Tavi’s alter-ego knows what happened should be worrisome,” the eldest SIREN commented. “Sure, it sounds like crazy rambling – no offense intended, obviously – but it could turn out to bite us in the ass if we’re not careful. We’re going to have to be on guard for this.”

“Tavi’s not a threat,” Twilight said, standing up to Adagio.

“I know she’s not, Twily. But given everything we went through – in a sense – do you want to go through it again? Because if Sunny’s right, there are still things out there that can push hard against Sunny…and if ‘Melody’—” she seethed, doing finger quotes, “—says the wrong thing at the wrong time, we could be in trouble. I trust Tavi with my life – but I don’t trust this Melody persona.”

“Twily’s got a point, though, sis. We have to make sure that Tavi knows we know we’re safe around her,” Aria advised. “And I for one want to make sure she knows.”

“Thank you, girls,” Velvet said, somewhat relieved.


On the other side of the building, the doctor approached her secretary. “Flowerpot, get a prescription into the pharmacy for Ms. Melody: up her dosage to 250mg of Malarson, as well as 5mg of Kasevansoc.”

Flowerpot looked at her boss. “Isn’t that a bit much?”

“Yeah, we got a bad one here. Also, do me a favor and call Damascus College. See if you can arrange a conference call later in the week between myself and Dr. Phix. I suspect that I’m going to need his advice on this one.”

“Um, sure, but if it’s that bad, shouldn’t you turn it over to Horseshoe Bay?”

“Not on your life, Flowerpot. Doing so means to give up, and you know I don’t do that.”

Flowerpot chuckled and nodded. “I guess not. Anyway, while I have you here, you have a call on line one. It’s the insurance company calling about the leftover bills from the February incidents.”

“Oh, right – those,” the doctor said with distaste. “Yeah, I guess I should get on those. I really don’t like billing those girls after what happened to them, but I guess I don’t have a choice, do I?”

“You’re a shrink, Chrys, not a miracle worker.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She walked into her office and picked up the phone. “Yes, this is Dr. Chrysoberyl,” she said with resignation.

“I really feel sorry for your Pinkie.” Sunset turned to look at a nearly-identical face as the other spoke. “You do realize you’ve ruined her for life, don’t you?”

“And how exactly did I ruin Pinkie, Razz?” Sunset asked Raspberry. Raspberry said nothing, but instead just looked at Sunset with an even gaze, so Sunset decided to make her point. “I mean, I already have to live with a lot of guilt about how I’ve unintentionally hurt her in multiple other ways, so please, give me another reason to feel bad about everything, why don’t you?” Sunset adjusted slightly. “Rares, are we almost done here?”

“Almost done with your measurements, dear,” Rarity told her friend. “After that, I’ll have to measure Raspberry, and then Shimmer here.”

“You really don’t have to do that for me, Rarity,” Shimmer said, protesting.

“Yeah, besides, I’m practically the same size as Shimmy, which means I can borrow all of Sunny’s old clothes, right?” Raspberry commented. “As it is, I’m still trying to figure out why you humans wear clothes all the time to begin with!”

“Well, Shimmer, dear, you are a friend and friends do things for one another, do they not?” Rarity said with a beaming smile. “And to answer your question, Raspberry, darling, while I suppose we can get into a discussion about naturalism at a later time, there are certain articles of clothing one simply does not borrow; intimates, for one – I suppose we can take you shopping for that, later. But as to why I am measuring her, well, with her added height and bust, I’m quite sure Sunset would like better-fitting clothing, which I am all too happy to provide; and as I said for Shimmer, she is a new friend and I think it would be divine to create new clothing for such a new person!”

“Yeah, you’re Rarity, all right,” Raspberry drolled.

Without catching Raspberry’s statement, the teen fashionista continued: “But Raspberry, dear, your tones are different from both Sunset and Shimmer, and while her old attire would fit you, it would not look as good. Both of them are of a fiery Gallic persuasion, while you seem to lean towards a cooler, Persian inflection.” The smile on Rarity’s face was beatific. “You need a different look for a different you!”

“I have no idea what you just said, but whatever.” Though in her head, Raspberry noted, Yup, this is definitely the human Rarity.

“Fiery Gallic persuasion?” Shimmer said to no one in particular.

“Just roll with it, Shimmy,” Sunset responded, cutting in. “Anyway, what were you saying, Razz?”

“Oh, yeah. Anyway, I was saying that your situation with Pinkie reminded me of…well, remember the old story The Fall of Queen Calyx?”

“That doesn’t sound familiar,” Rarity said as she finished with Sunset and went over to measure Raspberry.

“It shouldn’t, as it’s from Equus, not Earth,” Sunset explained. “It’s part of the Matter of Unicornia, and dates back to the earliest of pre-unification times.”

“Well, I’d love to hear it, if you don’t mind,” Rarity stated. From where she sat, Shimmer agreed as well.

“Okay, let me see if I remember the whole thing; it’s been a while. The story goes that the princess of Unicornia at the time, Princess Calyx, grew up with the son of one of the castle’s cooks, a young colt by the name of Sunburst. Despite their stations in life, they were the closest of friends and as they grew older, that strong friendship blossomed into the truest of love. But, alas, Sunburst was a commoner – he couldn’t become a knight, much less a noblestallion. And as for Calyx, as the only foal of the king, she was destined to become queen someday—”

“Wait, wait just a second,” Rarity asked. “Sunset, I thought your grandmother was queen.”

“She is.”

“And I thought your mother – well, your biological mother, that is – is the ruling princess regent.”

“She is.”

“Then…how?”

Raspberry was the one to explain: “When Queen Faust gave up the throne, her daughters were too young. As a result, some nobles stepped in and declared themselves kings and queens for a few hundred years; the earth ponies and other tribes split off as well, and so for a few centuries, there were separate nations that had constant conflict against each other, and we call that period in our history the Warring States era. As for Princesses Celestia and Luna, they had been all but forgotten save for their tutor, Starswirl, who kept them safe until the coming of the Calamity.”

“The Calamity?”

Raspberry, who had heard that the local Fluttershy’s father shared the same name as the avatar of chaos and could possibly be Discord’s counterpart, decided to go with the alternate name for the Discordian era; the last thing they wanted was a panicked Fluttershy. In any case, Sunset overheard and nodded slightly in agreement, so Raspberry went with that. “It was Starswirl’s successor, Clover the Clever, who urged the Royal Sisters to fight the Calamity and restore their mother’s throne.”

Sunset took back over, preventing further questioning from Rarity. “In any case, this story happens during the Warring States era. Now, their stations didn’t deter Sunburst’s love for Calyx, nor hers for him. Even as she learned statescraft and was wooed by nobles, she remained ever true to her heart’s desire. And even as Sunburst learned the art of the sword and bow from a kindly knight, becoming such a warrior of renown that even other swordsponies would bow before his skills, and the king himself would call upon Sunburst to deal with crises of the highest threat, his heart would have no other.

“Whenever they could, they met in secret and loved one another as only true hearts could. They dallied whenever their time was free, with only the closest of her hoofmaidens in the know. After all, it would be a scandal for the Crown for a commoner to be in such intimate discretion with his future ruler. And as for her, none of royal birth could deign to be with a commoner; far easier to marry a griffin warlord than to wed a commoner unicorn – or worse, one of the other tribes. And yet under the apple tree in the royal gardens they swore their ever-pledged love to one another with only the stars and her truest vassals as their witnesses.

“Years passed and the king grew old and infirm, and Calyx assumed the position of viceroy, doing what her father could not and continuing the prosperity of the land, while Sunburst continued to bedevil anypony who would threaten the safety and sanctity of Unicornia. The king, unaware of the love between his daughter and the warrior, offered Sunburst as a token of thanks the hoof of any common mare in the realm, but he refused, stating his heart was pledged elsewhere. As for Calyx, she begged her father to honor the warrior with knighthood and nobility, but the other nobleponies, jealous of Sunburst’s accolades and prowess, persisted in getting the king to reconsider.

“This continued for years, until the old king passed and Calyx rose to the throne. Once crowned queen, her first edict would be that not only would she make Sunburst her greatest of knights for his services to the realm, but she would take his hoof in matrimony. The kingdom cheered for their new queen and her prince-to-be, but the greatest joy would be within the hearts of Calyx and Sunburst, finally to be united in love at last.

“However, one would not hear of this impending marriage: Lord Briarthorn, who coveted both Calyx’s hoof as well as the throne. He conspired with other foul knaves—”

“‘Foul knaves’?” Rarity giggled. “My, it seems as though someone is getting into the story.”

“Look, do you want me to tell it?” Sunset said, stopping the argument. “In any case, Briarthorn, the court’s mage and historian, told Sunburst that if he truly wished to perform acts worthy of a knight, he had to go out and recover the greatest of gifts: the sword of Queen Faust herself, Rosegarden, Sword of Love. Then and only then would he prove himself worthy. Knowing this to be true, Sunburst set off in search of Rosegarden. In truth, however, Briarthorn marshalled a cabal of forces against his rival, sending assassins that would harry Sunburst for years.

“And this treachery by Briarthorn began to succeed over the years: with Sunburst away, Briarthorn continued to pledge his troth to Calyx, only to have it spurned time and time again. Meanwhile, Sunburst fought monsters, assassins and countless attempts to woo him away from his goal, yet they failed for he continued to forever stay close to Calyx in heart. Even still, Briarthorn continued his evil ways, in the chance that fortune would swing his way.

“And then one day, it did.” Sunset looked at her friends and could see they were hushed, well caught up within the story. Rarity’s eyes were swept up in the thoughts of two true loves, holding together against all odds. As for Raspberry, while she’d heard it all before, she did love a good tale spun now and then.

“Years had passed, and Sunburst and Calyx had not given up on each other, though time had taken its toll. The smile Sunburst had loved so much on Calyx’s face had all but vanished, and in the castle, Briarthorn continued to press for her hoof. Meanwhile, Sunburst had found Rosegarden in the farthest reaches of the Crystal Empire, and was now enroute to Unicornia, when a strange being requested his aid: the Megan.”

“The Megan?” Rarity asked, intrigued by the name.

“A mythological hero,” Raspberry explained. “In our myths, humans are considered either monstrous, evil creatures who mean harm to ponies or wise preternatural beings who grant your every wish.”

“Like genies,” Sunset clarified. “The Megan is the lone exception to the rules. The stories go that the Megan came from the human lands to teach ponies culture and civilization, that she got ponies to stop speaking the old tribal tongues and settle on Equish as the lingua Franca. We don’t know if she’s real, though. I suppose Grandmother knows the truth – I could ask.”

“I think we’re better off not knowing,” Raspberry replied, “besides, I know enough humans now anyway. Go ahead and continue, Sunny.”

“Sure thing. Anyway, the Megan asked for his assistance in freeing a town of ponies from brigands; they were too much even for her might. Seeing a need to save innocents, he readily agreed and the two fought a massive battle to save a small town of earth ponies from pegasus raiders. For hours, they toiled with sword and spear, battling off waves and waves of pegasus hordes, until victory came, and with it, treachery: from the shadows of a nearby glade of trees, one of Briarthorn’s assassins struck true, firing a poisoned arrow straight into Sunburst’s barrel. Though the Megan removed the arrow from her companion’s side, it was too late and the venom had struck true.

“Emboldened by the news, while Sunburst was facing his final fate, Briarthorn and his forces attacked – and conquered – Unicornia. Declaring himself king, he then forced himself on Calyx, and then to add insult to injury, he repeatedly stabbed her, leaving her alive but maimed, both for legitimacy and so she could not raise an army against him.”

Sunset could practically see Rarity’s jaw drop. “I thought you said this was a fairy tale!” she gasped.

“Not all fairy tales are pretty,” Shimmer spoke. “They’ve just been changed over the years. Even the ones that seem antiseptic, like Snow White, have darker origins.”

“But that’s horrible!” Rarity cried.

“Do you want to hear the rest?” Sunset asked, and Shimmer nodded. Finally, after recomposing herself, Rarity did as well, and Sunset continued.

“Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, as he lay dying, Sunburst begged the Megan to head to Unicornia to save his love, to give her Rosegarden and to let her know that his last breath was of love for her, and that he would always be so. And with that, Sunburst closed his eyes and remained forever still. Vowing that she would fulfill his final wish, the Megan sallied forth towards Unicornia, mercilessly slaughtering the assassins Briarthorn threw against her. Now knowing the full story, she would put Briarthorn to her sword’s justice and save Queen Calyx.

“But it was not to be, for when she finally arrived at the gates of the capital, the Megan wept for what she saw: the town had been reduced to an abattoir, with the bodies of the dead and the ruined everywhere. And in the center of it all, was Calyx, filled with rage and hatred…and changed. Her horn was cracked and bent and looked nothing like a proud licorne. Her once bright coat was now turned black, from both soot and caked blood. Her mint-green mane was now a teal mess, and despite her wounds, she wore armor that looked nigh-demonic.

“When the Megan explained her presence, Calyx screamed at her for not being there to protect her from Briarthorn…or the populace from Calyx’s grief-and-rage fueled slaughter. She blamed her fellow unicorns for letting her nobles have their way, and other ponies for abandoning them. She even blamed Sunburst for breaking his promise to be forever with her; as naught more than a shade now, he could not keep his vow. And with that vow broken, she swore a new one – that all unicorns, and indeed all life on this world, would suffer just as she had, screaming out the pain of agony just as she had for losing the one she loved most.

“Knowing what was at stake, the Megan pled for Calyx to give up her hatred and forgive, that Sunburst would not want to see her in such pain and would have given his life once more to save her from such agony. The human masterfully pled her case, noting that when true love is present, few forces are stronger, and that her eternal love for him would forever keep him alive, just as he would always exist within her and never abandon her. And to show proof, Megan showed Calyx Rosegarden, the sword once belonging to Queen Faust, now Sunburst’s truest token of love for Calyx.

“But Calyx screamed that she would forever be alone; worse, she would give birth to the foals of the stallion that had defiled her. She claimed herself forever cursed and would suffer until the end of time. But the Megan then asked Calyx a single question: if she were to kill the world, if she were to destroy everything out of pain and misery, would Calyx remain the mare that Sunburst had loved so?

“Standing there with her wounds festering and her coat, armor and very soul stained in more blood than thought imaginable, Calyx spent a long time in thought, so much so that the Megan feared the near-insane unicorn would recommence her wanton slaughter. The Megan could not abide that, and with a heavy heart, she knew she had to slay Calyx if it came to that. But the unicorn looked at the human with soft eyes, and in response, the wounded, wronged queen made two last requests of the Megan, that the latter pledged to do without fail:

“The first would be to find a foal from the poorest of the poor, but with a heart purer than the best magical-grade gem or the most sterling of gold. The Megan found that foal in a ramshackle village: an orphan who gave more of herself than she should. Her name was Penny Lane, and though the colts and fillies of the village taunted her for being parentless, they soon changed their tune once the young Queen Penny was coronated and enthroned upon the Seat of Unicornia. The Megan watched over the young queen until she was of age, and afterwards, none could gainsay that Queen Penny was unjust, unfair or unwise.

“The other vow was to bury Sunburst in a place of honor, far from Unicornia and the other pony lands. And far from all, atop a vast spire of stone, a giant needle of granite that seemed to pierce the very heavens, Sunburst was laid to rest, with Rosegarden embedded into his headstone. The Megan swore that someday would Sunburst find the peace he desired and the love he never had the chance to fulfill.

“The sword still sits upon the Lonely Spire to this day, waiting for a champion to claim it – a soul so invested in love for another, that the sword will be the instrument of justice and valor that it was always meant to be…the tool of a great hero to protect the one loved most.

“And on some nights, somewhere, you can still hear Queen Calyx – now known by her name of Queen Chrysalis – mourning the love she lost and the emptiness she forever feels.”

As Sunset finished her story, the trio were silent for a few moments, until Rarity gasped, “That is a horrifying tale, and I fail to see how that story has anything to do with Sunset!”

“Well, without Rares’ dramarama, I’m going to have to agree with her, Razz,” Sunset added. “Care to explain?”

“Because it’s a story about somepony so in love with another that he did anything to prove himself worthy of her, not realizing that the most important thing was to be there for her. And likewise, Calyx could’ve been smart about it by defying the nobility and taking Sunburst’s hoof anyway…but she cared a little too much about how it would look, tying herself to others’ opinions rather than that of her loved one.” Raspberry looked at Sunset. “From what little I’ve seen, I can tell that your Pinkie is completely and utterly in love with you…and that she’ll probably never change from that.”

Sunset looked at her fellow Equestrian. “Look, Pinkie’s said that there are a few other guys and girls that she’s—”

“No, I believe I understand what Razz is saying,” Shimmer interjected. “Sunny, you are now a goddess – a literal, living goddess.”

“Wasn’t exactly my choice,” Sunset muttered.

“Doesn’t change the facts, though. But even if Pinkie were to marry some Hollywood heartthrob like Sunglass Flare, she would never – could never – love him, not the way she loves you. After all, how do you top a deity? How is there any possible way to top that?”

“Exactly,” Raspberry added. “I think that’s part of the reason neither Celestia nor Luna date: when you’re an alicorn, the chances of finding somepony, like when Cadance found Shining, is rare – beyond that, even. And I’ll bet that even though you’re probably looking for a human partner, Sunny, it’s probably not going to be any easier for you, either.”

Sunset looked at the others with a look of incredulousness. “So you’re saying that I should just throw myself at Pinkie even though I don’t feel anything romantically for her? Razz, just because we come from a world where homosexuality is far more common than it is here doesn’t mean that ‘all mares are bi’, just like the old joke says.”

“I’m not suggesting that.”

“Then what are you suggesting? Pinkie’s heart is not a toy, and I certainly would never treat her like one,” Sunset said firmly.

“I think I understand what our dear Raspberry is suggesting,” Rarity spoke. “Raspberry, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you mean to suggest that Sunset go out with Pinkie on a single date?”

Raspberry nodded. “Exactly.”

Sunset looked at her friends warily. “You did just catch the part where I said I wasn’t going to treat her like shit, didn’t you?”

“Of course we know that, Sunset, darling. And for you, perhaps it’ll be nothing more than spending a day with a good friend, and that’s that. But to Pinkie, it would mean the world to her.”

“Besides, Sunny, you’re the Alicorn of Earth now, and the well-being of this realm is your responsibility, including that of your court. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you sleep with all of them,” Raspberry laughed.

“You’re really pushing it, Razz,” Sunset growled.

“Oh Celestia I’m so glad I’m in Twi’s court – her only problem is which book to read in the evenings!”

Rarity decided it was time to defuse the situation. “Sunset, do you truly care about Pinkie and her happiness?” she asked.

“You know the answer to that, Rares!” Sunset retorted.

“Then please, ask yourself this: if it were any of us in your shoes…if, say, for example, it was Pinkie in love with me…wouldn’t you ask me to give her the night of her life? Not because I care for her romantically, but because she’s a dear friend and you care enough to see her smile? That’s how I feel: Pinkie’s happiness means a lot to me, and one night out with a friend to you is just de rigeur, but it would mean the world to her.” Rarity took her friend’s hands in her own. “So, please, consider it. Despite Raspberry’s tasteless jokes, no one is asking you to be intimate with Pinkie, but please, consider what I am asking.”

Sunset sighed. “I’ll…consider it. I’m not saying yes, only that I’m going to consider it.”

“Good. Now, with that said, I shall be taking my leave, and taking Raspberry with me.”

Raspberry looked at her. “Uh, why?”

“Well, darling, I am quite capable of making many items for my friends, but footwear, I’m afraid, is beyond my ken. And besides, a lady can never have too many shoes. So we’re going shopping!”

“Can I take a raincheck on that?” Raspberry asked nervously, having remembered the times when she’d gone shopping with the Rarity she was more familiar with.

Sunset couldn’t help herself. “Gee, Razz, Rares is a dear friend of mine and I care about how she feels. It would be nice if someone were to agree to go with her, because even though it’s a minor concern for them, it would be the world to me….”

Raspberry narrowed her eyes and glared at the alicorn. “You did this on purpose.”

“Nope, not at all. Have fun!”

Shimmer looked at her twin. “You really didn’t do that?”

Sunset shook her head and giggled. “No, trust me, I would’ve been a lot more blatant if I had.”

Cadance looked at the paperwork on her desk. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously,” Hearts Aflutter, her friend, stated. “It’s what the boss wants, and since you got the short end of the stick….”

Cadance buried her face in her palms. “He can’t possibly be serious! My fiancé was the arresting officer, and that’s a massive conflict of interest! I know I was joking about it before, but just the whiff of impropriety could get the case thrown out!”

“Cadance? Seriously? They’re not going anywhere, remember? They’re catatonic, as a result of whatever happened to them shortly after Shining collared them. You’ll be fine.”

“Not anymore,” someone said and the two women turned to see one of the other guys in the office standing there. “Just got a call from Norco: one of them came out of her stupor, and so the jail wants to arrange an interview with the defense attorney for the three of them as soon as we can. We also have to contact social services, as they are still technically minors, or at least until a judge inevitably charges them as adults with the intent to stand trial.”

“All the more reason I don’t think I should be on this case. Public Defender’s office is probably going to have a field day with this one.”

“Yeah, we know. But you got the draw, Cadance, and you can’t get out of it easily,” Hearts told her. “I would work something out with County and then get it over and done with. From what I’ve done in cases like that before, when you have someone that far gone, they’re creepier than any shit you see in a movie. Trust me, you’ll want it over and done with soonest.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” he told her. “But for what it’s worth? I don’t think this one is ever going to trial. No sane human being does that sort of thing, and even the sickest bastards – Nightstalker, Helter Skelter, and so on and so forth – they were methodical and planned. Everything I’ve seen so far of this case says these girls acted like wild animals. That’s not the actions of sane people. Trust me, they’re never going to see the nice side of bars ever again.”

The first thing Octavia went and did when she got home was race upstairs to her bedroom, running past everyone without saying a word. She suddenly felt possessed, driven – and by something other than the evil counterpart within her, constantly trying to take over. She couldn’t explain why she felt the way she did at the moment; she just knew she needed to go up to her room.

The moment she arrived, she reached out for her acoustic guitar and started to play. She wasn’t sure why she was, only that somehow it felt right. As if it was something that kept the monster within her at bay. Maybe it was that Melody, despite her name, hated it. Maybe because it was Octavia’s shield against her darker side, because it was a part of who she truly was. Maybe because it was the surest thing she knew.

She let her pick slide over the strings, her finger dancing on the neck, the haunting tune coming out of her. She wasn’t sure if it was the best or not, only that she had to play for some reason. Somehow, that was enough for her right now, if for no other purpose than to give a fuck you to her alter ego.

“Yeah, so it goes
Yeah, so it goes
That sweet heirloom,
Them abbey stones

Oh, take a chance and roll the bones
Cut off your hair, unplug your phone

Yeah, and sell your belongings,
All your clever drawings
And try to make a dollar from the grave

Yeah, and sell your belongings,
All your clever drawings
And try to make a dollar from the grave

But who’s to blame?”

Her eyes filled with tears. This was the one thing she had that proved who she was. That she was Octavia Melody, not merely Octavia and definitely not Melody. That she might be physically two people in one, but that fusion was a single person that she was, and that whatever it was within her wasn’t going to destroy her. She would stand firm and fast, and despite the fear rising up to her throat, she would force it down with her talisman of Earthwood phosphor bronze strings and Epiphone maple neck.

“Well, so it goes
Yeah, so it goes
Them city boys in country clothes

Oh, take a chance and roll the bones
Go crash your car, burn down your home

Yeah, try to forget all your enemies and debts
They’ll just chase you round and give you sour dreams

Yeah, try to forget all your enemies and debts
They’ll just chase you round and give you sour dreams

Or so it seems….”

She continued to play until she was spent, until she couldn’t strum another note and couldn’t sing another line. Until she had to face the inevitable and drown herself in 250 milligrams of personality killer and 5 more milligrams of fake personality. The two drugs would force Melody away, but she was afraid they were forcing away who she was as well.

But to give up would be to let Melody win. And that terrified Octavia most of all.

“Yeah, so struggle all you like,
Yeah, put up the good fight –
They say someday, everybody dies alone

“Yeah, so struggle all you like,
Yeah, put up the good fight –
They say someday, everybody dies alone

But hey,
Who knows?
Yeah, hey who knows?
Yeah, hey, who really knows?”

She felt two arms snake around her and she dropped her guitar, bawling uncontrollably. Behind her, holding onto her for all she was worth, Sunset consoled her cousin, reminding her how much she was loved and how much Sunset would be there for her. Four more girls joined in the embrace, and soon six sisters cried in unison, a Pleiades of sorrow.

Standing away from them, Shimmer turned away, knowing this was a private moment for the six girls. To her, it was the final quashing of any feelings of jealousy or envy she had towards her doppelganger. Sunset might have been a more “perfect” version of the two of them, but those perfections were magnified by not just her flaws, but her problems as well. Problems that Shimmer wouldn’t have once she returned to France.

She went downstairs, just in time for both Raspberry and Rarity to step into the house, the latter carrying several boxes, much to her consternation, while the former gave a soft smile.

“The sisters are tied up right now,” Shimmer told them, explaining what little she saw of Octavia’s haunted, impromptu session and the outpouring of the other girls.

“Good, because what I have to say isn’t for them to hear,” Rarity told her. “Shimmer, are you serious about your offer this morning to take us all to Los Angeles for a make-up vacation?”

“Absolutely,” the girl stated.

“Then, if you don’t mind…I need your help,” Rarity stated. “For Pinkie’s sake.”

“I know what you’re going to ask me,” Shimmer responded, “and don’t bother explaining. I’ll agree to it.”

Rarity looked at her oddly. “You’re not interested in hearing my proposal?”

“No. I think in the short time we’ve known each other that you’d do whatever you’re planning for your friends, because you love them dearly. I would do the same for my friends, too. And I have spent the last two days jealous that Sunny is the more perfect of the two of us without realizing that she’s really not perfect – she’s just better at being the Sunset she needs to be. So I need to be better at being the Sunset I need to be.”

“That’s rather poetic, Shimmy,” Raspberry commented.

“Perhaps, but truth doesn’t have a monopoly on the condition of the soul. And I think that maybe if I improve my own self-standing, maybe it will be enough to make me feel less jealous about my ‘big twin sis’, you know?” She smiled. “So let’s go into the kitchen and talk this over. I suspect this plan of yours is going to involve money – and that I can easily outspend Sunny on.”

The sun had been like this for two weeks now. Barely flaring, and a late summer afternoon had become like late fall in terms of warmth. It was starting to affect agriculture and even the best of earth ponies were starting to have problems growing crops. The sun and its warmth and magic were needed and Luna, practically running the government at the moment, had no time to continue working on the situation.

Celestia had sunk into a deep depression, and the world was suffering for it. But at the same time, Luna could hardly blame her. With two weeks on, there was no confirmation that Sunset’s home dimension was accessible. Twilight had her hooves full trying to begin the restoration process in Ponyville, as well as the fact that there was the dead to be buried and mourned, one of which was Raspberry.

But it wasn’t just Ponyville. Whole sections of Equestria, from the Empire to the Badlands, from the Unknown West to Baltimare, were recuperating from the war. And while Equestria’s allies were doing what they could to help, the fact was that Tirek’s forces were still out there, fighting remainder battles. The last report from Appaloosa indicated as such, with several Guards and soldiers lost in the battle, though they’d completely destroyed the enemy forces there.

And out there, somewhere, was another evil. There always was. But this time, Equestria knew it wasn’t ready. And given that of all the nations on Equus, Equestria tended to be the readiest for issues like this, another flareup could be a lethal wound to the nation – to the world.

Somehow, the world seemed to hang on a thread right now…no, a mane follicle. A single gold-and-ruby mane follicle.

You’d best be alive, my niece, Luna thought to herself as she watched the pale orb, barely brighter than her own moon, settle down for the night. Or else I fear that your loss may just precede our own.

Author's Note:

Going to be long on this one.

Given that music influences so much of my writing, it's rare when I find a piece of music that so makes me change the tone of the writing. The original plan (and chapter name) was based more around The Ocean Blue's "Between Something and Nothing" and was much more lighthearted.

Then I was playing Far Cry 5 and heard this song on the in-game radio station: Shakey Graves' "Roll the Bones".

It's a haunting, melodic little piece of Lo-Fi Folktronica and it resonated with me. Thus, there was a lot of rewriting done fairly quick.

By the way, you can get the song and album here (name your price, including free if you can't afford it). But I'd recommend throwing at least a dollar/euro/whatever the artist's way. The album is much better than I expected and the song was enough to help me coalesce the confusion and pain that Tavi's feeling.

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