• Published 18th Oct 2019
  • 8,042 Views, 295 Comments

My Empire of Dirt - PrincessColumbia

Sunset Shimmer has been defeated at the Fall Formal, but something has gone drastically wrong and Principal Celestia must play magic detective to rescue Sunset from the fallout.

  • ...

Chapter 3 - When the Dawn Comes, Tonight Will be a Memory Too

Celestia felt the ache of the abdominal wound already, even though the knife wouldn’t enter her belly for another 2 minutes. “Luna, please, let’s talk about this!”

“No, sister! All you ever DO is ‘talk,’ more like lecture! Ever since mom and dad died, you only LECTURE me! You never listen, you never…” Luna’s voice choked off in a pained sob, “I just needed someone to be there, but you were too busy with your FRIENDS...no, your subjects! You were so busy being a Queen Bee that you couldn’t be bothered to see your own sister needed you!” Luna’s face was pure black, and her pupils were slitted like the ‘cat’s eyes’ contacts she wouldn't start wearing until she took up the guitar with her death metal band in about three year’s time. The scars, which on Luna’s skin would be a pale blue that would eventually fade so much that they would barely be noticeable by the time they started teaching years later were now a bright, ash-white against the pitch black of Nightmare Moon’s skin.

Celestia took a hesitant step forward, hoping against hope to change the course of events she knew would happen. Didn’t she know how this would happen? She couldn’t know the future, but somehow she knew that her stomach shouldn’t already be bleeding through her t-shirt, that the knife in her sister’s hand should be covered in blood and tissue.

The horrible thing was once one of those decorative daggers anyone could buy in a mall kiosk that catered to fantasy and anime fans, but Luna had painstakingly sharpened every edge and point until the monstrous blade was perfectly capable of cutting into flesh like a scalpel. The series of even lines that scored her little sister’s arm from wrist to elbow were testament to that.

“Luna, please, just stop! You’re hurting yourself, I can’t…”

“OF COURSE IT’S ABOUT YOU!” roared Luna, her canine teeth long and pointed and white enough to be visible from stage while she was performing in five years. Celestia didn’t know why Luna was in her stage makeup half a decade before she first declared herself Nightmare Moon to a throng of adoring “Lunatics,” but that wasn’t the point right now. “You, you, you! It’s NEVER about me! I don’t get to have a breakdown when our parents died, only precious, responsible OLDER SISTER Celestia gets to weep nobley over their caskets! Only Queen Bee Celestia gets the hoard of sympathetic...sycophants that I used to call “friends” before they all TURNED THEIR BACKS ON ME AND RAN OFF TO YOU!”

This was spinning out of control way too quickly. Celestia knew her sister would accidentally stab her in a minute, maybe less. She had to get the knife away from her before she robbed Celestia of the ability to bear children cut herself again. Celestia couldn’t live through the next twenty years of life reliving the crippling realization over and over again every time her friends and sister had their periods, reminding her that she didn’t have a functional womb. Luna could wind up going too far and actually slit her wrists, killing herself either accidentally or on purpose.

Without any further hesitation, she lept for the knife wrapping her wrists around her younger sister’s. She was expecting her greater height to give her the advantage, but she misjudged her sister’s anger-fueled state and found herself truly struggling. She managed to get the knife away from Luna, her sister collapsi...but she misjudged her sister’s anger-fueled state and found herself truly struggling. Luna dropped the knife, howling at her sist...but she misjudged her sister’s anger-fueled state and found herself truly struggling. She pushed the younger woman down and pinned her with her body, managing to knock the phone off the wal...but she misjudged her sister’s anger-fueled state and found herself truly struggling. No matter how many times she lived through this, it always ended the same. Her sister’s angry thrashing coupled with an inexperienced, weak grip resulted in the knife wielding arm suddenly slamming down, a gouge being torn in her breast in line with the sudden presence of a metal spike in her gut. The sudden motion caused them to fall, jamming the knife further in, jostling it so the barbed blade turned part of her abdomen into hamburger.

The shock crystalised the moment in Celestia’s mind, looking down at the black blade, her sister screaming her name as she called an ambulance. The one thought that kept running through her mind as she slowly lost consciousness was that she had to clean the blood up if they were going to have guests coming over in an ambulance.

Celestia awoke, her mind still locked in that moment, wondering if she was in the process of dying and her life for the last two decades had been just the hallucination of a fading brain. She blinked her eyes, realizing she was in a pitch dark room, and her fear started to build. She had liked that dream where she became a principal of a school and lived long enough to have met a magical princess from another world...no, wait, the dream was the night of The Incident, wasn’t it?

She needed proof. She needed some confirmation that she wasn’t dying on the floor of the kitchen that had belonged to her parents, something to confirm that she was an independent adult that had a life and a job and a purpose outside of dying in a stupid accident at her sister’s hand.

She started to shift, her body breaking from her sleep paralysis and letting her mind control it. She realized there was something pinning her down. Her eyes now finally cleared of the blurriness of waking, she looked down and saw a head resting on her shoulder, a cascade of red and yellow hair crowning a (finally!) peacefully sleeping young woman.

Her memories started to straighten themselves out from there. She had prepared a dinner for Sunset, this time an enthusiastically consumed fettuccine alfredo (admittedly, she splurged a bit and had a ride-share driver deliver a small load of groceries so she could have all the ingredients to make it), before the pair made their way to the guest bedroom and Sunset climbed into bed. The girl spent an appreciable amount of time tossing and turning as Celestia sat by the bed, book in her hand as she tried to stay awake to keep the girl company. Eventually she just climbed into the bed herself, and Sunset tentatively snuggled next to the older woman. Celestia opened her book again and resumed reading, and it wasn’t too long before Sunset was reading too, every so often holding Celestia’s hand away from the page before she could turn it so Sunset could finish reading. The pauses to let Sunset finish grew longer and longer as time past, until a light, sighing snore met Celestia’s ears. Celestia did her best to keep the side buried under Sunset still as she used her other arm to put the book on the bedside table and turn off the light, falling to sleep shortly after.

It was no wonder she revisited The Incident in her dreams. Especially when Luna had been in juvenile hall, the first few years after the accidental stabbing she kept having night terrors of that event. Her sister’s spiral into depression followed by the self-destructive behavior that Celestia was convinced would lead to Luna committing suicide was very reminiscent of another teen girl who’d done things that had hurt people around her.

20 years ago…

“But I’m not pressing charges!” snapped Celestia at the man across the desk from her.

“I’m afraid, Miss Faust, that it doesn’t matter if you’re pressing charges or not, she committed assault on you and needs to be held accountable for her actions.” the man in the odd, mismatched suit held a smirk that could curdle milk, and his odd yellow eyes held malicious intent, but his position and authority meant that he could pretty much do as he chose within his particular sphere of influence. And since that sphere happened to be District Attorney of Canterlot City, he was able to pursue taking a minor to court to try her as an adult for attempted murder.

Celestia took a deep breath, trying to keep her blood pressure down so she didn’t rupture any stitches. “If anyone is responsible for the accident, it’s me. I’m the one who jumped at her, I’m the one who…” the painful emotions were still too raw, she couldn’t finish her sentence.

“Yes, and she’s the one who purchased the knife, she’s the one who sharpened it for use on a person, and we have records from her school that she has expressed anger directly at you, wishing for your death and then planning her own suicide.”

This wasn’t news to Celestia. The documents had been revealed at the preliminary hearings and the judge had disallowed them as evidence seized outside of the proper bounds of patient privacy law. The cat was out of the bag, however, and Celestia had learned just how badly she had been ignoring her younger sister and how badly Luna had needed her to be there. Eyes burning from tears that had been simply wrung out of her by now, Celestia did her best to keep her voice at civil volumes, “I’m sure that she was upset and, perhaps, I could have been more attentive to her…”

“My dear Celestia...may I call you Celestia?” he didn’t let her answer, “If you had been ‘more attentive,’” really, the air quotes with his fingers was just pretentious, “Given her state of mind we’d have found a pair of bodies instead of one seriously injured young lady and her sister holding a knife and covered in blood.”

Celestia realized she was getting nowhere. This...creature wasn’t interested in actual justice, let alone mercy, so it didn’t matter what she said to him. “Very well Mr. Chord...”

“Oh, please, ‘Mr. Cord’ is my father. Call me Dis.”

Celestia withheld the comment on the name ‘Dis’ being a literal layer of Hell, “...I won’t waste any more of your time. Thank you for seeing me.”

The visitor’s room of the juvenile hall was surprisingly well appointed and actually granted a modicum of privacy. Celestia’s visions of a horrible cement room with bad lighting and worse guards was belied the first time she came by the day she got out of the hospital. “I couldn’t get him to drop the charges.”

Luna didn’t look good in the prison orange jumpsuit she had been supplied when transferred to juvie from the county jail. But then, she just looked crummy in general. Luna hadn’t looked Celestia in the eye since they first saw each other the first time the older sister visited. “Sister…” she began, “I know you think you’re helping...but it’s just as well that you weren’t able to convince the D.A. to let me off. I…” she sighed, still looking at the table’s surface, “I’m clearly not well and have needed help for some time, I just didn’t know how to ask for it.”

Celestia reached across the table, not too quickly, though. She’d learned that lesson the first time she lunged at her sister to try and hug her, she’d been tackled by an overzealous guard for her efforts. “Luna, this whole thing, it’s my own fault. If I’d just paid more attention to you…”

For the first time since the night of the stabbing, Luna looked her sister in the eye, “NO!” she snapped. “This...this is my fault. I blamed you for...for everything. My friends leaving me because I was being a loner, for my depression, for...the accident.” Their parent’s deaths were still fresh enough that neither could reference the traffic incident that had turned lethal. “I...I’ve been talking with the shrink here in juvie.” Luna finally smiled, just a little, “She got me some pills...it’s like I don’t have to be sad anymore. I don’t...I don’t feel helpless. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever realized...maybe I get to be in control of me.”

At Celestia’s bewildered look, Luna finally reached across the table and clasped Celestia’s hand. “I was blaming all the things that were happening to me on a 19-year old girl. That’s not fair to you, I’m just so, so sorry I hurt you before I was able to get the help I needed.”

As though she hadn’t shed enough tears in the last few weeks, Celestia bent nearly double to clasp Luna’s hand to her forehead, tears streaming from her eyes anew. They sat there that way for a few minutes before Celestia was able to collect herself.

When she sat up and wiped at her eyes, she said, “I don’t know what I’ll do without you. We’ve already lost mom and dad…”

Luna’s sad smile actually grew at this. “You’ll survive, and you’ll thrive. I know you, ‘Tia. You’re going to land on your feet, you’re going to look fabulous doing it, and people will think you were born on the pedestal they’ll put you on. No,” Luna waved Celestia’s objections away before her older sister could give them voice, “I’m not upset, I’m just telling it like it is. Nearly...nearly killing someone can give you...perspective.”

The older girl sighed, “I...guess? But it’ll still be so long without you.”

Luna dropped her eyes to look at their clasped hands. “It’s okay, my G.A.L. is telling me that the judge is planning on reducing my sentence from what that idiot D.A. recommended. Only a little under three years.” she smiled up at her sister, and for the first time Celestia realized she didn’t see the emotional pain her sister had been carrying for so long that she didn’t think Luna had ever been without it before. “Just 1,000 days to freedom. It’s not so bad, all things considered.”

Present day…

Sunset had roused enough to use the bathroom on her own and then join Celestia in the kitchen, where there was a couple of stools pulled up to the island in the center. Normally, Celestia and Luna would have breakfast together there, but the vice-principal had left early to get an early start on the increased workload that was plaguing the two sisters since the situation had come to a climax two Fridays prior. While Sunset ate the quickly prepared omelet Celestia had thrown together for the girl, Celestia set up her laptop on the island next to her notebook and logged on to the VPN that connected her to the school’s network.

Celestia noticed that Sunset would glance over at the laptop, then back down at her empty plate. After pondering for a moment, she said, “I just noticed you don’t have your phone, and to the best of my recollection nobody has mentioned you having one since the girls found you last Sunday.” Sunset looked up at the educator like a kicked puppy, then slid off the stool, picked up the plate, and went to start rinsing it off in the sink.

After a bit more pondering, Celestia smiled in the smile of the Secret Santa. “Sunset?” the girl paused in her cleaning and turned just enough to be able to see Celestia, “I’m going to head to the mall to pick up a couple of things. Do you…no sorry, I almost asked a question. If you would like to come, please meet me at the door. Otherwise you will be in charge here and can feel free to read or nap or even eat more. Heaven’s knows you need it.” She smiled at the girl, hoping to get a reaction. Sunset merely sighed then returned to washing her single dish.

Celestia re-entered the home nearly three hours after she left. It had taken significantly longer than she expected, given that she was only picking up one item, but she hoped it would be worth it. “Sunset,” she called to the house at large, “I’m back. Please come to the kitchen.” While she normally wouldn’t want to sound...rude, she couldn’t think of a way to phrase her request without asking a question, and she’d rather not trigger one of Sunset’s odd seizures from rooms away on accident.

As the principal was settling in, putting her purse and shopping bag next to her temporary home-office setup, she heard the sounds of teenage feet padding down the hall from the guest bedroom. The girl was still in her borrowed pajamas, a pair of socks, and holding a book. A glance at the spine showed it was one of her sister’s, an early entry in The Jewelbox Files. Celestia’s mouth quirked into a small grin, wondering how a magic user from an alternate world might react to the fictional adventures of a wizard-cum-detective in modern Chicacolt. Well, she thought to herself, That’s a good incentive to get her through this and being able to communicate. Sure, it was a small goal, but sometimes one needed small goals because the bigger ones could seem impossible.

“Have a seat,” she said as she sat down as well. Sunset’s face pinched slightly, clearly trying to ponder the purpose of this sudden meeting. “I confess I had a hidden purpose for going to the mall,” so saying, she gingerly pulled the focus of her shopping expedition out of the bag to reveal a cell phone retail box. It wasn’t the latest version, perhaps a generation or two behind, but it wasn’t an old, cheap model either. She gently placed the box in front of Sunset, who was simply staring at it like she expected it to bite her.

This was not the reaction she expected.

Gingerly, she reached back into the bag and pulled out another item. This was a simple case, or at least appeared to be at first. She flipped it over so the back could be seen. “I got this at the kiosk outside the phone store. I noticed that you used to have this symbol on your clothes, so I figured you might want your phone to have it, too.” The yin/yang sunburst symbol that Celestia was referring to was easy enough to find (she did ‘lurk’ on her student’s social networking sites, after all, she knew exactly where to find a good picture of the back of Sunset’s jacket) for the employee to be able to feed into their sticker printer, which was then applied to the back of the blank case and then flash laminated with a heat gun while Celestia watched.

As Sunset hesitantly reached out for the case, she gently gripped it with both hands for a moment, then set it on the counter next to the still closed box. With the deliberation of a Neighponese tea ceremony, the girl opened the box and pulled out the small slab of black glass and metal trim. She carefully applied the case and turned the phone on, setting it down as the familiar logo of the phone’s OS appeared. For a moment, they watched it boot.

Before it finished, Celestia decided to break the silence. “I thought, well..I thought you needed to have some independence. I don’t know if you can actually use the keyboard for much, since I noticed you haven’t tried to write anything or type, but you can at least browse the web and maybe play some games. And who knows, maybe...maybe you’ll be able to write to me to keep in touch if you need to, when you can. I…” she hesitated to mention this, but it needed to be said, so she steeled herself and plunged ahead, “I know you don’t have anyone as a support network, but maybe I can be your emergency contact? Just in case?”

The phone finished booting up, showing the “swipe to unlock” screen. Sunset let the screen sleep, then slipped out of her chair. To Celestia’s great surprise, the girl wrapped her arms around the educator and started shivering. The principal overcame her surprise and returned the hug quickly, only for Sunset to pull away. At first Celestia thought this was to end the hug, but then Sunset put her hands on Celestia’s shoulders and, for the first time since Celestia picked her up on Friday, uttered a sound. “Th...ththth...th…”

Celestia shook her head, “No, Sunset, please. You don’t have to say anything! We don’t know what’s wrong or if you could hurt yourself trying to…”

Sunset’s hands turned to fists as she started shaking, “...th..tha...t’t’t’t…” Sweat started to bead on her forehead as she fought some internal battle, now gripping the neckline of Celestia’s shirt as she struggled, “Than...thank…” Celestia now put her hands supportively on Sunset’s shoulders, practically holding the girl up as she clashed with whatever was restraining her ability to speak. She took some breaths, as though steadying herself for the second half of a marathon run. “...y...yu…” Tears started leaking from her eyes, and Celestia found herself crying along with her student as a final syllable finally escaped, her voice starting to squeeze off suddenly, “...youuu…” She ended with a rasp, then finally collapsed against Celestia, who embraced her and kept her from falling to the floor.

Abruptly Sunset shuddered and stood. When Celestia could see her face, she could see that Sunset was terrified, but whatever the problem was came from inside her. Suddenly, her eyes blazed with light. To Celestia’s credit, she didn’t do more than flinch, but watched as the white light blazed for a moment, and for just an instant, the principal was worried she’d have a giant she-demon in her kitchen, but then she realized there was some sort of pattern in the light. A wheel...or a gear? She thought as the light streamed from Sunset’s eyes.

Just as suddenly as it started, the light show stopped, and Sunset slumped down. Celestia caught her and eased her back onto her own stool. Making sure the girl wasn’t going to collapse all the way to the floor, Celestia was just sitting back down herself when Sunset surged back to full alert, this time lunging across Celestia to grab one of the notepads out of the binder that the principal had sitting next to her computer. Yanking it over to her, scattering some pens and pencils in the process, Sunset scrambled for a writing tool. Before Celestia could even recover enough to stand up to move out of Sunset’s way, the girl was already scrambling to write on the notepad. As Celestia watched, she realized that the sudden surge of energy wasn’t over, it was just focused on writing, and it was frantic in a script that Celestia barely recognized but was only just able to read. Apple...jack? Yes, that’s Applejack! Rarity, Rainbow Dash...there’s Thunderlane, Pinkie Pie, Apple Bloom? Micro Chips...she’s just...oh!

Realization struck Celestia and without interrupting Sunset she turned back to her computer. A quick unlock and she brought up the student records on her computer. A quick command to the database and Celestia leapt up to run to the living room, where Luna had the printer set up that they used for the frequent times they had to work from home. Fifteen minutes later, she hurried back to the kitchen island and pushed the stack of paper under Sunset’s hands.

The girl paused in her writing and looked at the printout, which was just a list of the names of all the students at CHS. She rapidly read down the list, turned the page, then repeated the scan until she’d reached the end of the stack. She nodded, then set the stack aside. She started writing again after skipping a few lines. Celestia read the writing, Let’s see, that’s me...Luna...Ms. Harshwinney? Prof. Whooves...she’s doing the staff now! Once again, Celestia turned back to her computer to print another list.

A much shorter list being given silent approval followed by a much smaller handful of names being hand-written (including the Cakes that owned Sugar Cube Corner and a few others that were neither students nor faculty of CHS), and Sunset finally collapsed against the counter...for a few breaths. Then she reached for the first page of the printout of students and started to tear the paper. At first Celestia couldn’t imagine why she would be tearing apart the printout, then she realized that Sunset was tearing it into strips, one strip per name.

“Hang on,” she said, “I’ll grab some scissors.”

Luna strode down the hallway of Canterlot High, Applejack trailing behind her. “Thank you again, Applejack. With the fallout from the Fall Formal, the rest of the staff are rather busy, and I know your whole family already knows what’s going on and can be trusted to keep things quiet.”

Applejack tipped her hat to the vice-principal. “A’course.” she said simply as they approached on locker in particular.

Luna sighed in disappointed anger and Applejack whistled under her breath. “Well,” began the student, “I reckon people are a...mite upset at Sunset.” Covering the locker from top to bottom was graffiti. Some were just in marker, some in pen, at least one person managed to get a can of red and yellow spray paint into the school, and Luna was pretty sure she recognized the acrylics that the art classrooms used. Several overlapped, some were just simple single word statements like, “bitch,” others were more derogatory to Sunset directly. Luna’s stomach turned when she spotted a symbol that had been used by a genocidal madman three quarters of a century earlier and had been adopted by some radical extremists in the intervening decades. It was a symbol that had denoted racial supremacy, and seeing it painted on Sunset’s locker just confirmed what the school staff had already heard rumors of.

“I’ll have school maintenance...remove the door or something.” growled Luna. She lifted the combination lock and used the administrator key to disengage the latch the lock was holding closed. Opening the locker, they were met with a small avalanche of notes that had been shoved through the locker’s ventilation slots, the pair picked up one each and read, mostly in morbid curiosity.

‘I hope you die and go back to the hell you crawled out of.’ Not terrifically creative… thought Luna.

“‘You finally showed your true colors, bitch,’” recited Applejack. “Wow, they had t’stretch for that one.” she said sarcastically, “Are these people attending the same classes I am? ‘Cause Ms. Cheerilee’d read me the riot act for writin’ somethin’ so...predictable.” She crumpled the paper up and tossed it on the pile of the others.

Luna sighed, “As much as I’d like to just sweep this up and be done with it, someone does need to document it all for legal reasons. Now who am I going to get to go through them all?”

“I could...no, wait, I got chores on the farm later, and we had to put a few off last week ‘cause...well…” they both flinched a little, “Maybe Rarity could...no, wait, she’s got work tonight. Maybe she can get out of it, but I don’t wanna speak for her. RD...well, you’d never get her t’sit still long enough. Even worse with Pinkie. Maybe Fluttershy?”

“What about me?” came a quiet voice from behind them. They both turned with a yelp and saw Fluttershy standing there holding a hall pass. “Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you, I just heard my name. And that the others couldn’t help...and that some really mean people were saying some really bad things that need to be documented…” she timidly trailed off.

Luna resisted the urge to shake her head in irritation, “Actually, Fluttershy, your friend Applejack was just trying to volunteer to assist, but this really should be a staff matter. I just can’t think of anyone we can spare to get it done.”

“Oh, well I could help, that is, if you want me to. I already did the homework for all my classes I have in the morning, and afternoons are just home ec, P.E., and art, and none of those teachers ever give us homework. And the shelter doesn’t need me until this weekend, so I was just going to be at home with my...brother.” Neither of them missed the pause, and Applejack shuddered. Luna had also encountered the younger sibling, and did not enjoy the experience. The number of complaints from other teachers (and one of those teachers transferring out of the school because of it) about Fluttershy’s brother were legendary in the district, let alone the school.

“Shee-oot, Flutters,” began Applejack, “Why didn’t you say somethin’ earlier? You know we’ll gladly make room for you on the farm.”

Fluttershy smiled, “Oh, thank you, Applejack, but I wouldn’t want to be a bother. Besides, Rainbow already offered. I was going to go there after dinner.”

Luna nodded firmly, “Well, it looks like we have a plan, however accidental it may be. Fluttershy, you finish your current task and come back to help us with these notes. Make sure you bring back a bag. After school you’ll stay with me and I’ll make sure you get something to eat while we get these documented, then I’ll drop you off at Rainbow Dash’s house on my way home.” With a nod, Fluttershy hurried back to her classroom. Luna and Applejack turned back to the locker, “And you and I will finish up the task we came for. If you would please gather Sunset’s belongings from the bottom, I’ll clear the shelf and hooks.” With a nod, Applejack knelt down and started sweeping away some hate notes from Sunset’s books and binders. Luna started by grabbing the books on top, but had to pause when she realized that one was much larger than any textbook Luna had ever seen. She pulled it down and temporarily re-shelved the other books she was already holding to investigate.

The cover was soft and smooth, and in the center of the cover was what Luna recognized as the symbol that Sunset liked to wear on her person and often added almost as a signet when she turned in essays. Luna opened the book to a random page, only to find it blank. She flipped around in the book and realized that only the first two dozen or so pages had anything on them, and it was handwritten. Ah, a journal, Luna realized, closing it and then resuming gathering Sunset’s belongings.

Several hours later, Luna was finally able to let the door to her home close behind her and put her purse and the bag with Sunset's locker contents down on the coffee table. She looked up to the kitchen to see if her sister had any dinner ready, only to see a paper wasteland.

That was, perhaps, a bit hyperbolic. There was a decent papery mess, as well as...is that string? Celestia’s computer sat on the counter of the island, untouched, with torn and cut paper strewn around it. Luna noticed the paper shreds were forming a trail that went down the hall, and a brief investigation showed the trail led into the guest bedroom. She pushed the door open, light spilling out into the hallway, to see Celestia sitting on the floor amidst small scattered piles of paper shreds, lengths of cut string, at least two empty spools of the stuff and four different colors of partial string balls. In Celestia’s lap was Sunset Shimmer’s head, the girl fast asleep and clutching a cell phone to her chest like a security blanket. Sunset was practically curled around the phone, breathing deeply in her sleep as Celestia stroked the girl’s forehead and hair.

The furniture had been moved away from the one wall that didn’t have a door, window, or closet on it. Yearbook pictures that had been blown up and printed out on letter-sized printer paper of the five students who had assisted Princess Twilight at the Fall Formal were in the middle, arranged around an otherwise blank page that just had the word “magic?” written on it in Sunset’s flowing script. Rarity, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy were the five who’s pictures graced the wall, with their names and some personality attributes listed beneath them. Applejack being paired with Honesty I get, but why is and while odd I understand Pinkie being listed with Laughter...OK, I’m seeing the pattern now. Each of the five were listed with their respective most dominant personality trait. What that meant Luna didn’t yet know. Connected with string was the names of other students, teachers, and the handwritten names of people in the community. Applejack being connected to her family made sense, as did Rarity being connected to Sweetie Bell, but Rarity had hundreds of connections (probably the reason two spools of thread had been used up) and Rainbow Dash had a similar number, but the color of the string was different for apparently different connections. Luna thought at first that red thread indicated family, as that was how Applejack was connected to her kin and Rarity with Sweetie Bell, but Rainbow Dash was connected with Scootaloo with a similar red thread, and Luna knew they weren’t related by blood.

“You’ve been busy.” said Luna quietly.

Celestia smiled wanly, a slightly shell-shocked look underlying her exhausted expression, “...something...something to do with magic happened. I have no doubt about it now, her inability to communicate is related to what happened at the Fall Formal.” She looked down at Sunset with an expression that Luna might have mistaken for...no, don’t be silly Luna, it’s just a teacher being proud of their student.

“She couldn’t stop,” continued Celestia. “Once it started she needed to write the names, needed to make the connections. She still can’t explain what they all mean, but we’re up there…” she nodded her head in the direction of the slips of paper and string. Sure enough, there was a pair of slips labeled with her and her sister’s names, connected with string to dozens of others and a red string between them. There was also some blue carpenter’s tape wrapped around it, though what that meant she didn’t have a clue. “...so whatever this is about, it’s more than just the students.”

Luna pondered the compilation of string and paper for a moment, then shook her head. “Well, we’re not going to solve this tonight. Have you eaten?”

Celestia waved to the corner of the room with her free hand. “I ordered some Chinese. I think Sunset may be a vegetarian. She wasn’t happy with having a hamburger the other night, but she eagerly ate the fettuccini alfredo yesterday and the vegetables from tonight, but avoided the meats entirely.”

Luna pondered this for a moment. “Hmm...if she’s truly an alien, then she may not have known that humans can’t be purely herbivorous without some additional supplements. That would explain some of her behaviors, as well as why she got noticeably worse over time.”

Celestia’s eyebrows rose as she made the same connection, “Of course, that would make quite a bit of sense, and I’ll bet Princess Twilight wouldn’t know about this either. I wonder if the magic they used did something to re-balance the amino acids...but that wouldn't explain why she can’t talk.”

“Again, sister, we’re not going to resolve this tonight.” she knelt down and started to get her arms around Sunset’s knees, “Get her arms, let’s get her into bed.”Celestia let Luna take the lead in getting first Sunset, then herself into bed. As she drifted off she had the sudden thought that Sunset might wake up before her and panic, but slipped off to sleep before she could force herself back awake to return to Sunset’s room.

Author's Note:

Six thousand words.

You're welcome.

11/12/2019 - Minor edit: Added strikethrough that had gotten stripped out in the reformatting for FiMFiction.net from Google Docs, corrected the reference to Fluttershy's brother's age