Sunset bounded towards school, humming to a song that had been stuck in her mind.
There was a time we couldn’t see
Past our differences
That separated you and me
And it left us on our own
As she strolled, she caught the distinct sound of leaves crunching beneath each step. Birds soared high about, chirping loudly so as to make their presence known. She scanned the scenery around her, spotting that the leaves on the trees had begun to turn orange, no doubt a sign that Fall had arrived. Squirrels and other small woodland creatures scampered on the ground, grabbing whatever fallen fruit they could. Fluttershy would be late for class if she saw these critters. She took a deep breath, feeling the cold crisp autumn air flow through her, bringing a large smile to her face.
Sunset made no effort to hide the fact that Fall was her favorite season. The air was cool yet not freezing. And the abundant color of orange was something she delighted in as well. Crossing the street towards her school, Sunset felt a slightly stronger gust of wind blow past her, causing her scarf to flutter lightly around her neck. She instinctively shot her arm up to hold it in place, and she felt the necklace that laid beneath.
Right, how did I forget. Underneath her orange scarf sat the necklace she had received from Camp Everfree. Reaching under the garment around her neck, she pressed her fingers tightly against the pendent, feeling the smooth outline of her cutie mark on it. The memories flooded back into her mind and she couldn’t help but smile.
It had already been two weeks since Camp Everfree had ended, though Sunset swore it was just yesterday they were on the bus home. They had been dismissed from school to continue their summer break, much to everyone’s joy. Sunset too, was looking forward to meeting up with her friends before school had started. However, Fluttershy soon cancelled on their only free day and they had decided that a sleepover with one friend missing would not be a sleepover at all. And before she knew it, two weeks had passed and she had not even met up with them.
Can’t wait to see what they’ve been up to. Sunset grinned at the thought of seeing Twilight, Applejack and the rest of her friends together once more. They had so much more to talk about and discuss, especially about their newfound… Superpowers. That was the only word that Sunset could think of to accurately described what they had received. Thanks to the necklaces they wore, they were each able to do things no other person could. It was amazing! It was magic. And Sunset was ecstatic at the thought of starting a school year with them.
She bounced up the school’s concrete steps, pushing over the glass doors only to see the hallways and foyer already filled with people. Their loud talking quickly overwhelmed the song she was singing in her mind. She strode past several familiar faces, returning the waving and greeting she received.
“Morning! Hey! Good morning to you too!”
The salutations didn’t stop once she had reached her locker. She continued to return every single one she got with a warm smile of her own. Despite it being, well, school, Sunset found the social interaction and thought of learning new things exciting. Well, as long as they don’t come with any magical creatures from Equestria. I’d like a normal school semester for once, she thought, pulling open her locker door and depositing her books.
“Sunset!” A familiar raspy voice called out to her, albeit softer than she was used to. Sunset turned, spotting Rainbow waving to her from the far end of the hallway. She waved back but before she could even gesture for her friend to come closer, Rainbow was already standing beside her, smiling. “Hey!”
“Wha-!?” Sunset jumped at the voice. She pressed her hand over her heart, panting. “Rainbow! Don’t do that!”
“Heh, sorry,” Rainbow said with a sheepish smile. She was dressed in a red jacket that Rarity had stitched last winter for their skiing trip, and a pair of blue jeans. Rarity was ecstatic that Rainbow had taken a liking to her clothes, though Rainbow seemed to have liked it too much, as Sunset never saw a change in her winter garments since.
“I see you still have your powers,” Sunset commented with a roll of her eyes as she undid her scarf and placed it neatly into the locker.
“Why?” Rainbow sped in front of Sunset, causing her to scream once more. “Did you lose yours?”
“Rainbow!” Sunset screamed, drawing the attention of several nearby students. “Stop!”
“Whoops, sorry. I always forget I’m super fast.” Rainbow zipped back, leaning on the lockers beside her.
“No, I haven’t lost my powers.” Sunset grumbled, closing her locker with a thud. She glanced down at the red necklace, though just as quickly she noticed that something was missing. Or more accurately: someone. 5 of them in fact. “But where are the others? Not like you to come to school alone.”
“I didn’t, there they are!” Rainbow pointed to the group across the hallway. All of them looked fairly cross, especially Applejack.
Oh Rainbow, what did you do this time.
“Rainbow Dash!” Applejack screamed, causing the nearby crowd to dissipate in seconds. “You left us at your house! We waited for you and you just ran off!” She stomped her foot, scowling. Rainbow attempted to retort, but was caught in her own gigglefit.
Sunset stared silently at Rainbow before turning to her friends. “Glad to see all of you here again.” And once the others noticed her, their anger quickly dissipated. Pinkie pulled her into the girls and initiated one of her signature group hugs.
“My my Sunset.” Rarity pushed her away at arm’s length. “What are you wearing?”
Sunset glanced down at her outfit. It was a simple get-up she enjoyed in the cooler weathers of the year, consisting of a long-sleeved teal shirt and a pair of blue jeans. Maybe it’s my shoes? She lifted her feet, staring at the black boots that each had a yellow chevron on the front. She never found a need to change them, and it helped that they were extremely comfortable, fit for any of the four seasons. Out of all the shoes she had (and some that were bought for her by Rarity), this still remained her favorite due to its practicality.
Uh oh what is it now? She shot her head back up to Rarity with a worried smirk and furrowed brows. “Honestly, Rarity. I think I look pretty good. Plus this outfit is practical—”
“Oh no no no no, darling!” Rarity interrupted. “Your outfit is simply spectacular! I was talking about your hair!”
Sunset darted her eyes up, but only caught one strand of hair falling in front of her face. She swiftly tucked it back in order, grinning at Rarity once more. “Better?”
Twilight giggled, levitating an orange leaf out of Sunset’s hair with a swirl of her finger and bringing it in front of her face. “You know, when Rarity told the group to ‘wear fall’, I don’t think this is what she meant.”
Sunset's eyes grew wide and a blush started to grow on her cheeks. Her friends started to burst into laughter, only making the situation worse for her. She lifted her hand to cover her eyes, knowing Rainbow would never let her live this down.
“Oh Sunset,” a soft voice spoke just in front of her. “It’s okay. We just found it funny!” Sunset started to lower her hand at the comforting tone. She spotted Fluttershy reaching for her arm and her heart started to race. No! Wait, Fluttershy! She screamed in her mind. However, before the words could reach her mouth, she felt Fluttershy grasp her hand and immediately, she froze.
Her mind quickly filled with visions of Fluttershy’s life during the holidays. She saw the animal shelter just a few minutes away from school and the animals that all surrounded Fluttershy in hopes to get fed. However, the happy memories quickly dissolved, and she heard the terrible sobs that echoed from Fluttershy. The vision soon cleared and she spotted Fluttershy’s hand holding a dog’s paw. The dog was laying on a table as the shelter owner, Miss Constel, held a syringe in her hand. Sunset could feel the same sadness Fluttershy felt, and it was crushing her. Even in the vision, Sunset felt light-headed from the devastation in her heart, and her breathing grew shallow.
This was why Fluttershy cancelled. She spotted Miss Constel lowering the syringe towards the dog, and Fluttershy’s sobs grew into harsh wails. There was a voice, but amidst the chaos, she could not deduce who it was from.
Without warning, the scene changed once more. This time, Sunset immediately knew where she was. The butterfly wallpapers, animal shaped cushions and smell of flowers was a clear giveaway. She was in Fluttershy’s room. Fluttershy was seated at her dressing table, staring at the pendant that hung around her neck. Tears flowed from eyes, falling onto her skirt one by one. Sunset felt her reach for the clasp at the back of the necklace and instantly, she felt her heart fall.
No, please don’t do this, Fluttershy. She begged in her mind. The sudden realization doubled the sadness in Sunset’s heart, threatening to overwhelm her completely. Pull away. She screamed in her mind, but she could not act. Pull away! Once more, it called out to her but she found it far out of her control. Pull!
Fluttershy released her grip on Sunset’s hand, taking a step back into Pinkie’s caring hug. “S-Sunset, I’m sorry! I...I forget that you could—”
Sunset raised her left arm to stop Fluttershy from speaking. Cold sweat poured from her forehead and tears ran down her face. Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, though she wasn’t sure which ones belonged to her. The beat of her heart was so strong and quick, it felt like it would burst from her chest. Hoping to force some of the emotions out of her, she balled her hands into tight fists, but all it accomplished was making her arms painfully numb.
Rainbow, finally having processed what had happened, rushed over and held the trembling girl’s shoulders.
“Sunset? Hey! Sunset!” Rainbow called out to her, finally snapping the girl back down to Earth. Sunset shook her head, realizing the state that she was in. She glanced at Fluttershy, who had started to tremble in Pinkie’s comforting hug. Her eyes stared at Sunset in horror and fear.
Sunset had never seen someone look at her in such a manner since she had wore Twilight’s crown almost a year back. She opened her mouth to speak, but chose her next words cautiously.
“Fluttershy, you tried to take off your—” Sunset caught Fluttershy tensing up as she spoke. She saw her shut her eyes tight, and knew that she was focusing on a topic Fluttershy did not want to be on. “Nevermind. And hey, I’m… okay. It was nothing!” Sunset lied, wiping her tears away. There was a mixture of fear, sadness and confusion swirling in Sunset’s mind, rendering her unable to think. She attempted to stand, but her legs quickly gave way and she fell back into Rainbow’s arms.
“You sure? From the way you reacted and all, I could’ve sworn—” Applejack was quickly interrupted by a sharp gaze from Sunset. She didn’t need to be told what the daggers being stared at her meant, and quickly averted her eyes to the nearby concrete wall instead. “W-we should get to class.”
“Thanks, Rainbow. I think I can stand.” Sunset pushed herself up to her feet, feeling her legs shake violently. She moved towards Fluttershy, placing a hand upon her shoulder. Fluttershy didn’t react. Instead, she attempted to avoid meeting Sunset’s gaze. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I didn’t mean to.”
Fluttershy nodded slightly before being pushed onto her feet by Pinkie. “There you go, Fluttershy! Back on your feet!” Pinkie chirped.
“Well, before we go back to class, I still haven’t helped Sunset complete her outfit.” Rarity spoke loudly, hoping to draw the awkwardness away from the group. Whipping out a hairband, she swiftly bundled Sunset’s hair into a long flowing ponytail, much like the one Sunset had after she transformed in Camp Everfree.
“Thank you, Rarity.” Sunset gave her friend a small smile, but the emotions behind it were anything but tiny. Rarity returned the expression with an understanding nod of her own, making sure to grasp her clothed arm and lead her towards the classroom. “What did you see, Sunset? Did something terrible happen?”
“Well, yes. Or… no. I don’t know.” Sunset took her seat. “Look, Rarity. I need some time to think about things alright?”
Rarity nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely, darling. We shall chat again at lunch.”
The morning classes were a blur to Sunset. She had found herself focusing not on the teacher, but instead on the scattered thoughts in her mind; memories of various events that had happened during, and after, Camp Everfree. Though not all of them were hers. She ran a finger across the pendant around her neck, tracing the edges of the sun that had been carved on it.
“Sunset! Hello! Earth to Sunset Shimmer!” Rainbow’s loud voice had finally broken through her daydream.
“Wha- Huh?” Sunset glanced around the classroom, noticing that she and her friends were the only ones remaining.
“Lunch time!” Pinkie beamed, clasping her hands together.
“Sunset, you okay?” Twilight sat beside her friend, watching her fingers repeatedly rub her necklace.
“Yeah…” Sunset allowed her hand to drop to her thighs. “Yeah, I’m okay. Come on, I’m starving.” Gathering her books, Sunset moved out the door, leaving her friends in the room giving confused shrugs to one another.
The lunch hall was abuzz with life. Students flooded into the room, grabbing food before taking a seat with their friends. It seemed every group still had their own favorite table, something that had not changed even with her friends. Sunset sat her tray down, taking a seat between Rainbow and Applejack. The smell of the veggie burger and fries filled her nose, causing her stomach to growl hungrily. Her friends had already begun to devour their food with gusto. That is, except for Fluttershy.
“Hey, Fluttershy?” Sunset asked. She waited, but there was no reply. “Fluttershy.”
“Hm?” Was the only word Fluttershy spoke as she pierced the tiny cherry tomatoes in her salad and forked them into her mouth.
“Is there something you want to talk about? Anything that might make you feel better if we-”.”
“No.” Fluttershy said with a frown and an angered glare. The sharpness of her tone made Sunset aware that she had hit a nerve. She opened her mouth to apologize, but two loud claps drew her attention away.
“Students!” A voice caused the noisy chatter in the cafeteria to silence completely. Sunset stood up, spotting Principal Celestia at the entrance with Vice-principal Luna beside her. “Welcome back to your first day at school! As you all know, fall has arrived, and with that, the Fall Formal!” Sunset glanced around the room, watching almost every head turn towards her. She shrugged, a coy smirk being her only reply.
Celestia cleared her throat, drawing the attention back on her as she continued, “I’m afraid I have some shocking news. We’re bringing this year’s Fall Formal forward a few weeks because someone wrote the month wrong on the event letter.” Celestia said through gritted teeth and glared at Luna, who stared back with an equal amount of malice. “And so—”
“The Fall Formal shall occur this friday!” Luna finished Celestia’s sentence. As the words resonated through the hall, the cafeteria’s buzz immediately picked up once again. Some voices were filled with enthusiasm while others were more worried and unsure. Sunset heard several voices remark ‘how are we gonna get this done in time?’. Luna must have noticed as well as she continued, “now I know it’s a lot to ask from all of you-”
Rainbow leapt to her feet, screaming at the top of her lungs. “Are you kidding, vice-principal Luna!? We’re the Canterlot Wondercolts!”
The cafeteria erupted into an orchestra of ‘yeah!’
“We tangle with magic all the time! Organizing a Fall Formal in five days? Not only are we gonna do it! But we’re gonna make this the best Fall Formal ever! Right?”
Another chorus of ‘yeah!’ shook the cafeteria. Sunset watched, admiring the pure school spirit her friend displayed. She took a quick peek at Fluttershy, who was the only student Sunset could see not entranced by Rainbow’s enthusiasm. Her eyes were locked to her salad and she appeared completely lost in her thoughts. Sunset sighed and glanced back to Rainbow, watching her super speed to the front, cheering with the others.
“Who are we?”
“And what will we do?”
Luna and Celestia grinned wide, nodding. “Well,” Luna continued. “We certainly are amazed by your school spirit! Starting today, you are all free to begin decorating the gym after class!”
This time there was no mistake, the cheers that erupted from the room were filled with only one emotion: joy. “The materials you need will be available in the gym and crafting rooms! We are sure you will all make this the best Fall Formal ever! Even better than last year's!” Sunset spotted Celestia sending an elbow into Luna’s shoulder, drawing an angry scowl from the vice-principal. Once more, all eyes were locked on her, though this time, they included the worried stares from her friends.
Sunset smirked once more. “I’ll try not to enslave all of you with mind control powers and destroy the Fall Formal. Again,” she joked. The cafeteria erupted in laughter and she retook her seat. Her friends were chuckling as well, giving her smacks on the back for a job well done. All, that is, except for Fluttershy.
Twilight moved closer, whispering, “you aren’t angry that they keep bringing that up? That… that you transformed into a...”
“Freaky she-demon?” Sunset gave a nonchalant shrug. “I guess I’m used to it. Everyone keeps bringing it up anyway, so I might as well play along.” She turned to Twilight with a smile. “Plus, if that didn’t happen to me, I wouldn’t have met these girls and changed my horrible attitude. So I guess it’s a part of me.”
Twilight could only smile back as she sat upright once more, grasping the necklace tightly in her palm and whispering under her breath, “a part of you…”
“So, ya’ll still got after school activities?” Applejack asked.
“Still captain of the football team!” Rainbow bragged, pointing to herself. “And the baseball team. Tennis. Soccer.”
“We get it, Rainbow Dash.” Applejack scowled.
“Hey, you’re the one that asked! And I got track and field training today too.”
Applejack rubbed her temple, taking a breath to calm herself. “Anyone else wanna chip into this conversation?”
“Well, I’m going to start baking treats for the Fall Formal! It’s going to be so much fun!” Pinkie clapped her hands together, shaking in her seat.
“I’m... just going to head back.” Fluttershy muttered, letting her hair fall over her face.
“Wait, you aren’t going to help at the animal shelter?” Rarity inquired, but Fluttershy only replied with silence.
“What’s wrong, Fluttershy?” Twilight leaned across the table, helping Fluttershy tuck her hair away from her face and neatly to the side.
The heartbreaking vision quickly lept into Sunset’s mind, and she quickly jumped into the conversation. “I’ll help set up for the Fall Formal. I mean, after what happened last year…”
“Aw Sunset, that ain’t your fault.” Applejack tried to comfort her, forgetting about Fluttershy’s situation completely.
“She’s quite right, it was out of your control. And you’ve worked so hard and saved this school three times and counting!” Rarity spread her arms to the sky, as if she was reciting a story to the heavens.
“Thanks girls, but I still want to help make it special, instead of sitting by and watching. It’ll be a good experience for me.” Sunset grinned, finished her meal.
“Once I’m done with track and field, I’ll come and help! And with this.” Rainbow pulled the necklace taut with her thumb, watching it glimmer and glow with a soft blue hue under the cafeteria lights. “We should be able to get things done in a day, maybe two.”
“I’ll see if I can help tomorrow once I’m done with my chores back home.” Applejack offered. “With my strength I should be able to do some of the heavy lifting.”
“Me too! I’ll help out tomorrow! I want to see what a CHS school event is like!” Twilight beamed. “Considering you six won’t stop talking about it.”
A nervous laugh escaped from each of their lips, except for Fluttershy, who whispered silently under her breath, “I miss Tiberius.”
“Tiberius?” Sunset repeated, catching the girl off-guard. “Who's Tiberius?”
Fluttershy anxiously glanced to her friends. “N-no one!” She defended.
“Ooo, is it a boy?” Rarity nudged with a wink, but Fluttershy responded with a deep frown.
“Whoa, Fluttershy. You’re getting together with a guy already? Talk about a shocker!” Rainbow slammed a fist on the table, grinning.
Fluttershy gathered her things, standing up. “I’m going back to class.”
“Sounds good, actually.” Sunset stood, grabbing her tray. She quickened her pace to match Fluttershy’s and spoke in a soft whisper, “Fluttershy about what happened between us at the hallway…”
“Please, Sunset. Just let it go.” Fluttershy said, exasperated.
“But your necklace—” Sunset glanced at Fluttershy’s pendant, watching it glow with a soft pink and yellow hue.
“Is mine. And I get to decide what I want to do with it. So please Sunset, would you mind just not butting in?”
“I-I just want to help you.” Sunset’s words fell with sorrow.
“Don’t.” The word stopped Sunset in her tracks. She allowed Fluttershy to walk by her and empty her tray at the return area.
“Sunset? You stopped out of nowhere,” Twilight said, spotting the crestfallen expression Sunset wore. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Sunset answered, placing her tray on the return rack before exiting back to class.
Sunset had spent the rest of the school day staring out the window. The notepad that sat in front of her remained empty, with not so much as a pencil line being written upon it. Occasionally, Sunset would dart her eyes across class to Fluttershy, who seemed even more distracted than she was. Once the final bell had rung, the students swiftly emptied the room and her friends went about their separate ways, leaving Sunset and Rainbow behind.
Rainbow raced to the exit, dressed in her gym attire. “See you later at the gym?”
“Yeah!” Sunset zipped up her bag, slinging it behind her. “We could use any help we can get.”
Rainbow gave a thumbs up as her reply, disappearing in a blink of an eye. Sunset was silent as she walked. Fluttershy’s vision kept popping in and out of her mind at random. She pushed open the doors to the gym and walked in, seeing that it was already filled with people. The arts club had already begun cutting the letters for the banners, while Vinyl and the audio team prepared the maze of wires and soundboards at the side.
Sunset scanned the room, hoping to spot someone she could work with. She soon caught sight of Flash Sentry, who was kneeling over a large banner with a paintbrush in his hand. She strolled over. “Want some help there?”
Flash turned and, spotting who it was, grinned wide. “Sunset! You’re just the person I needed.”
Sunset glanced over his shoulder, seeing that only two minute strokes of brown had been drawn on the fabric. What’s more, she noticed that he was oddly alone. “Umm, where’s your band? Don’t they usually help you?”
“Ehhh,” Flash ran a hand through his hair. “They’re catching up on their homework. They can’t risk failing another subject.”
She quickly sensed something was wrong in his tone. “You sure? Anything happened?”
Flash dropped his brush into the paint can. “There’s really no getting past you is there? Even back when we were dating. Look, it’s not something I wanna talk about right now. So can we just work on the banner? I’ve been trying to do this alone.”
“Well then lucky you,” Sunset swiped a paintbrush from the pile, sitting across him. “You got me to help. So we’ll be done in an instant.”
Flash gave a scattered chuckle. “I… don’t know, Sunset. It is a huge banner. Maybe we should wait for the others.”
“Rainbow’ll be coming in an hour or so, give her some time.” Sunset twisted her head left and right, trying to figure out what the two lines were supposed to be. “So, urr… is this your take on a fish? Or maybe snakes?”
“Actually, I was hoping to draw a tree. You know, because Fall and all.” Flash swished his brush towards Sunset, sending brown paint flying onto her nose. “Sunset! Sorry! I forgot-”
“It’s fine,” Sunset chuckled, wiping the paint off with the palm of her right hand. “Well, let me help. Rarity taught me a few things about drawing…”
“And there!” Sunset took a step away from her banner, staring at the result of her efforts. The large banner read ‘FALL FORMAL DANCE’, in a beautiful, bold font. Two autumn trees flanked each side of the text, while falling tangerine-colored leaves scattered the background.
“Have to admit, Sunset. That might be the best banner this school has seen for a Fall Formal yet.” Flash grinned, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
“Hmm…” Sunset glanced up at the clock, noticing that three hours had passed since they had started. “Strange, Rainbow said she’d join us.”
“Knowing that girl? She probably went home and crashed instead.” Flash shrugged.
Sunset tapped her finger against her chin. “I guess…” In a way, Flash was right. Those who didn’t know Rainbow well, would have assumed the same thing. But Sunset knew Rainbow better than most. She knew that Rainbow would never go back on her word, especially on a CHS event. She was practically the embodiment of Canterlot High’s school spirit.
Something’s not right… Sunset rubbed her chin, attempting to think of a reason, but none came to mind. Better text her on my way home.
“I’m gonna head home for some rest. Great job, Flash!” Sunset raised her hand for a high-five. Flash smirked, slamming his palm against her’s. But just as he did, Sunset froze.
And she knew she had made a mistake.
Her mind and thoughts were overwhelmed with Flash’s. Sounds of screaming and shouting filled her ears. And soon, images of Flash’s band members appeared in her mind. She stood in the band room of Canterlot High, with Ringo, Flash’s keyboardist, and Brawly Beats, Flash’s drummer, yelling at the top of their lungs. The rage Sunset felt in Flash reminded her of her stint as the school bully a year back.
“This isn’t just your band Flash!”
“I never said that it was!”
“Then agree to change our name!”
“Why!? I’m the lead singer! And guitarist!”
“Oh yeah? Well if you’re so great, then jam without us!” Brawly and Ringo stomped out of the room.
“Fine! We’ll see how far you guys get! I’ll just play on my own!”
Sunset could feel Flash’s negative emotions start to overwhelm her. Pull away! The voice in her mind once again screamed at her, cutting through the argument. Pull! Sunset tore her hand away from Flash, falling onto the floor.
“Sunset, did you…” Flash stared at his own hand in horror. “You… You tricked me? Sunset, I told you I didn’t want to talk about it!”
Sunset pushed herself onto her feet, her mind still trying to separate Flash’s thoughts from her own. Her legs shook immensely, threatening to send her hurtling back towards the ground. “F-Flash, I didn’t… I didn’t mean to,” Sunset stammered out, taking a step forward, but Flash took a step back instead, anger crossing his eyes.
“I-I’m gonna go.” Flash leaned down and rolled up the banner haphazardly. “Go wear gloves or something, so you can stop poking into people’s private lives,” he bitterly spat the words at the girl before stomping off.
“Wait! Flash! I’m sorry! I… I didn’t…” Sunset felt a rush of sorrow fill her heart. First Fluttershy? And now Flash too? And soon, a rush of voices filled her ears. Her eyes scanned the room, and every single set of eyes were locked onto her. However, unlike the cafeteria, their stares seemed to be scanning her. Judging her.
“She used her powers on Flash?”
“Why would she do that?”
Sunset grasped her head, hoping to drown out the gossip and whispers. No, don’t listen. They don’t know.
“Don’t touch her, she’ll just invade your privacy.”
“I thought she was good, maybe Tangerine was right”
Tears welled up in her eyes. I am good. I’m not like I was. I promise. Please… .
“Who does she think she is?”
“Better stay away from the freak.”
“Her friends must hate her.”
That was the last straw. Run. Sunset summoned the rest of her strength and tore through the air and out of the gym. Tears were rushing down her face, and the thoughts in her mind were in chaos and disarray. She did not know where she was headed to, but she did not care. All that mattered was that she was away from the hurtful words. Away from the intruding thoughts. Her legs carried her down the hallways, until she stood alone.
Sunset wrapped her arms around herself, sobbing softly beneath her fringe. She attempted to drown out the thoughts with her own happy memories of Camp Everfree, of her friends, but it did little to silence the deafening voices. She strolled slowly past several familiar doors. Taking a breath, Sunset looked around, instantly recognizing the way the lockers were placed and the rooms around her. Her mind clicked, and she focused her thoughts on one specific place. A place that could bring her the silence and peace she so desired.
I know where I can go.
Taking several turns down the maze of stairs and studios, Sunset spotted two large green doors in the distance. Just a little bit more Sunset. Music room is just up ahead. She attempted to find some comfort in the words. Her instinct told her to run for it so that she might finally get peace, but with how violently her legs shook, she found it impossible to take more than a few steps at a time.
As she approached the doors, a sound from the inside caught her ears. The closer she got, the clearer the noise became. There was no doubting it in her mind: it was crying.
Someone’s in the band room? Sunset sighed at the thought. She was in no mental state to deal with a stranger. Especially one that was in tears. Her mind told her to go home instead, but the more she listened, the more she recognized the voice coming from inside. She closed her eyes and focused, finally identifying the sobs.
Rainbow!? Sunset’s eyes shot open. She quickly wiped her tears and stifled her own sobs. Raising an arm, she knocked on the door.
“Go away!” Rainbow’s voice screamed from the other side. “Room’s occupied!”
“Rainbow?” Sunset called back, hearing the crying suddenly cease, instead replaced with a rapid series of ‘uhhs’ and ‘umms’. “Rainbow, I’m coming in.”
Sunset pushed open the doors, spotting Rainbow holding Rarity’s keytar, still dressed in her gym clothes. Her eyes were red and puffy, and the smile she wore was even more plastic than the instrument in her hands.
“Hey! Just… Doing some evening practise. Never know when you might need to play an awesome rocking song!” Rainbow increased the size of her false grin, quickly wiping away a stray tear.
Sunset locked the door behind her, grabbing the keytar and setting it down. “Rainbow, what happened?” She almost grabbed her friend’s arm, but quickly stopped herself. Instead, she sat at the steps to the stage, gesturing her friend to join her.
Rainbow sighed and collapsed onto the steps, hands covering her eyes. “This is the problem.” She tugged against the pendant around her neck with force.
“What?” Sunset reacted in horror. Just like Fluttershy? She placed a hand over her friend’s shoulder, making sure not to touch any bare skin.
“At track today, I ran as I usually would. And got first place in all the timings, as usual,” Rainbow spoke those words like poison, taking shallow breaths in between them. “But instead…”
“First place! Aw yeah!” Rainbow ran forward and pumped her fist into the air.
“Cheater! Coach! She cheated!” One of the runners, a young blue haired boy, pointed towards Rainbow.
“What!?” Rainbow screamed. “You better have some proof on that!”
“It’s because of that super speed she has!” Another runner, a second boy with green hair, caught up, joining the accusations.
“I… I didn’t!” She stomped her foot, feeling the anger in her rising rapidly. Shooting her hand up to her neck, she pointed to the pendant. “I’ll take this off and I’ll beat you all the same!”
“How do we know you can’t use the power without the necklace!? Huh?”
“Yeah, any advantage is still cheating! And you can’t prove you aren’t running just a second faster!”
Rainbow gritted her teeth and clenched her fist. It was an anger management technique Applejack had taught her, though right now, socking the two boys in the face seemed like the best anger management technique available.
“Coach, you aren’t gonna believe them right? You’ve seen me run! I’m always first!” Rainbow looked at the tall, muscular man who jogged to the scene. Coach Vel was CHS’s most trusted physical teacher. He led both the soccer and the track & field team. And though he was tough, Rainbow held nothing but respect for him.
“You two, get.” Coach Vel gestured to the two accusers to run off. Once they had gone out of sight, he walked up to Rainbow. “Rainbow, as much as I hate to admit it. They have a point.”
“With your new abilities, I can’t let you on the team. With no real way to determine when you are or aren’t using your powers, you could get the whole team into trouble for cheating.”
Rainbow felt her heart drop. All the anger had vanished in an instant, replaced instead by anguish and heartache like she hadn’t felt before. She unclenched her fist, allowing her hands to drop limply by her side. The thought of being unable to play her favorite sports for CHS was far too much for her to bear and she soon felt her pride and motivation wither away. “But... maybe we could... I-I don’t…” She opened her mouth to argue, but found that every point she thought of only reinforced Coach Vel’s suspicions. He’s right…
“I’m sorry, Rainbow. I know how much this means to you and I wish there was another way.”
“I… I understand coach,” Rainbow muttered, hanging her head low. Tears began welling up in her eyes, obscuring her vision. She turned around trying to gather as much of her composure as she could.
“Yeah! CHS has no room for cheaters!” One of the boys shouted from a distance.
“Guys! Enough!” Coach Vel bellowed out, silencing the two. However, the words stuck to Rainbow’s heart like thorns, causing her unbearable pain. In an instant, she had disappeared from the stadium, leaving only a trail of dust in her wake.
“And that’s why you didn’t come to help.” Sunset’s eyes opened wide in revelation. “Rainbow, I… I’m so sorry.” She pulled her friend into a hug.
Rainbow cried harshly into Sunset, tears pouring from her eyes. Through staggered breaths, she spoke, “do you think I cheated?”
“No.” Sunset answered without a second though. “I know you Dash. You’re competitive, but you don’t cheat. You never would.”
Rainbow did not reply, only continuing to sniff and sob.
A few minutes later, Rainbow’s cries were fewer and slower. Sunset held her at arm’s length, smiling. “Feel better?”
“Yeah…” Rainbow nodded and smiled back. “Thanks. Though what about you? What’re you doing here?”
The memory of the incident at the gym and at the hallway rushed back into her mind. She felt her heart buckle under the pressure and a lump formed in her throat. “It’s… this too.” Her index finger lightly tapped on the necklace. “I keep seeing visions I don’t want to see. Feelings emotions I don’t want to feel.”
Sunset nodded, letting the necklace fall against her chest. “Fluttershy tried to take off her necklace.”
“What!? But... Fluttershy loves her powers! She wouldn’t give them up.” Rainbow watched as Sunset wiped her tears away.
“Something happened with Fluttershy. I know why she would.”
“What? Tell me, Sunset. I can help her.”
“No, she doesn’t want help.” Sunset hugged her legs to her chest.
“That’s not, Fluttershy!” Rainbow angrily scowled. “I’ve known that girl for years! We’re all best friends! Sunset, you have to tell me what’s going on! I can help you both!”
“I’m sorry, Rainbow. But Fluttershy made it clear to me that she’d rather do this alone, and I think I angered her trying to do otherwise.”
Sunset’s sorrowful tone told Rainbow that her friend was not joking. She did not like to be kept in the dark. And even though she trusted Sunset to know what she was doing, anger still burned in her. The two sat in silence for a few moments before Rainbow spoke once more, “hey Sunset? I’m gonna take a slow walk back. I wanna think about some things.” Rainbow stood up, grabbing her bag. She took a deep breath, managing to calm the rising ire. Deep inside, she knew Sunset would never willingly hurt or hide things from her, and if she did, she had a good reason for it. “You coming?”
The logical thing to do would have been to head home as well. It made sense, and having company on the way back would have made it easier to deal with the emotions she was experiencing. Especially now that Rainbow was the only person she could talk to regarding it. Yet, despite all that, Sunset shook her head.
“I need to think things through too. But... alone. You head back first.” Sunset gave a broken smile to her friend. Rainbow nodded, forcing a smile as she waved goodbye.
“See you tomorrow, Sunset.”
“Mmhm.” Sunset acknowledged. She forced a smile as well, giving Rainbow a small wave in return. Seeing Rainbow smile, even though it was forced, felt like the only thing that gave her the comfort she needed in the state she was in. To know that at least one friend was still on her side, even attempting to cheer her up, granted her a moment of peace in a storm of chaotic feelings and thoughts.
Rainbow strolled to the door, but just before she left, she turned, speaking once more, “maybe… taking off these necklaces isn’t such a bad idea after all.” Sunset did not reply, her gaze locked onto at the floor beneath her feet. Rainbow turned back to face the door, sighing. “I just want things to go back to the way they were.” She pushed the doors opened, disappearing from view.
Rainbow’s words echoed in Sunset’s mind. She wanted to reply to Rainbow, but could not find the strength or words to do so, even after she had left. Staring at the orange pendant around her neck, only one thought filled Sunset’s mind. I do too.
Taking a breath, she started to sing in a shaken, broken voice,
“So we had magic
And at first it was great
Cause when it found me
I thought it was fate.”
Sunset stood from her seat and made her way to one of the windows at the back of the room. It was one of her favorite views as it provided unobstructed scenary of the hills in the distance. Though what made it truly special, was the sight of the sun slowly falling behind them, painting the sky a soft orange. Sunset loved this time of day, as the light was bright, yet not glaring. And it still seemed controlled as it shone. On any other day, she would be smiling from ear to ear, but instead, she sighed once more, grasping the pendent tightly in her hand.
“But it all seems scary now
I don’t know what I should do
Well I tried to embrace the magic
But all it did was hurt me too.”