• Published 26th Jan 2012
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Sunshine Forever - Nug TWH

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Part IV: Cracked

Sunshine Forever

Part IV: Cracked

Derpy glided above the spreading flames, her eyes rapidly scanning the ground as best as she could despite the smoke and heat that engulfed everything. She could hear the roaring grow louder as the inferno thickened and an occasional cracking as branches gave way to cinder. Somewhere deep below her emotional shell she was deeply disturbed. She wanted nothing more than to fly up to some cloud somewhere far up in the atmosphere and far away from the frightful scene. But she kept her cool so far; she was on a mission. She had to find Rainbow Dash.

Before, when Derpy realized that she vanished after the sky attacked, Spitfire had to think swiftly about how to best apply her team. Spitfire said that they should spare a pegasus to scout for Rainbow but that everypony else needed to work with her at bringing rainclouds to towns and cities that were burning. When Spitfire posed the plan, nopony spoke up to volunteer for the task of finding Rainbow at first. Derpy couldn't understand why they were silent. Maybe it was because they were too shaken up to talk, or maybe it was because they didn't like the way Rainbow joked around with them earlier.

In the short pause during Spitfire's plan, Derpy managed to find some courage even though the thought of losing Rainbow left her wanting to cry. Having a quick thinking leader like Spitfire around helped her move past her emotions. After all, if Rainbow was still alive in the forest below, Derpy would only be hurting her chances if she wasted time crying. She raised a hoof and volunteered.

"Me," she said while moving forward with an air of determination. "I'll do it."

Spitfire, with a deeply set frown and concerned eyes, fluttered close to her to speak. The others stayed in their places, stared down at the rising fire, and spoke a few words amongst themselves as their leader spoke to the gray mail mare.

"I know that you can do it, Derpy. But you need to stay focused," the Wonderbolt said as she now looked closely at her face. "We can't be sure that another attack won't happen again, and there won't be anypony around to help you if you blank out next time."

Derpy saluted her leader and managed her most soldierly voice. "Don't worry about me, Ms. Spitfire. I won't let Rainbow Dash get hurt, no matter what."

Spitfire leaned in closer for a few hushed words before she gathered her squad to depart. "I know you'll do your best," she said. "It's just that I owe her too much to abandon her. And she saved my back before. Just--" She paused for a moment. "Just don't get yourself hurt looking for her, okay?"

Those were the last words that Spitfire had for her before she hurriedly regrouped with the squad and departed on their sudden new mission of saving what they could from the rampant fires.

So now Derpy soared over the Everfree Forest, cupping a hoof to her mouth to shout while her eyes scanned over the inscrutable flames.

"Raaaainbow! Rainbow Daaaaaaash!" she called out to the distance below.

Her voice was fast becoming hoarse, but she still shouted as loudly as her lungs would allow. Derpy knew she couldn't have gotten too far away from this area. This is where they were during the attack. She should be right here, Derpy thought with worry.

Unless she didn't land on the ground, she considered. Maybe she flew far away to safety when the fiery lightening began. Maybe she flew to Ponyville and now she's putting out fires with another team.

The gray pegasus calmed her nerves by imagining that Rainbow Dash was just arriving to Ponyville on top of a giant dark cloud stuffed with an unending waterfall of cool rain to tug from fire to fire. Derpy pretended that Rainbow was just now extinguishing a flame as it began to spread close towards her home. Afterwards, Rainbow would zip off to save the rest of Ponyville before everything was burned and everypony was hurt. She fantasized that everything would return to like it was before this terrible summer began. But it was hard to pretend for long with the fire right below her.

And she had a realization which ruined her imaginings; it was a possibility that her rainbow-colored friend was somewhere within the foreboding fire. She didn't like the odds and her emotional shell splintered more with every passing second.
Focus, she reminded herself. Concentrate.

She drew in a deep breath to resume calling the name of her friend but was interrupted when a nearby burning maple buckled with an intense crack and smashed into the ground. It teetered briefly before falling and sent a looming trail of flames across a previously untouched clearing. She nearly ignored the event to resume search elsewhere - until she heard a much softer sound from that direction that made her sick to her stomach.

It was a voice, indistinct and mewling. It sounded like the voice of a pony who was dying.
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My kingdom. Our kingdom. Are you blind to its beauty? A world without night; no space for evil to dwell or secrets to lurk. A bounty of light and fire to nourish the strong and uproot the inferior.

Only a monster sees beauty in destruction. You can only justify your atrocity with grand metaphors.

Another pithy, tedious dismissal. Why are you incapable of seeing the good in my order?

Why do you persist? Is there a purpose in controlling my thoughts, or do you truly believe in your own words? What do you stand to gain from my concurrence? You have stolen me. I have surrendered.
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Rarity lounged back on a lime green futon beside the window. A fashionable oriental-style fan levitated in front of her covered by a purple haze as she magically fanned herself. Opalescence lay curled under the shade of the stairs across from her. Fluttershy held a porcelain tray by her mouth, containing sweet biscuits, a tea kettle, and two petite glasses. She gingerly placed it on a coffee table besides Rarity, who was desperately trying to cool herself in the comfort of Fluttershy's home.

Fluttershy seemed more timid and apologetic than usual. The unicorn immediately noticed the crow's feet that had begun to appear under her eyes. The yellow mare made no movement to sit and instead stalled for a moment while looking distractedly at the tray.

"You don't have to trouble yourself for me, Fluttershy, dear," Rarity said. "Why don't you have a sit and rest for a while?"

Fluttershy stared at the tray as she talked and shyly pawed the floor. "Oh, it's no trouble, really. Angel made these, anyways. But I appreciate your visit; I'm just so sorry I couldn't make it to the spa for our weekly get together."

"Don't be. I completely understand how busy you must be," Rarity reassured her. "As for me, this heat has wreaked havoc on my complexion - especially with Ponyville's concern in water conservation. Some days, I only have enough water to rinse my mane," she continued, while taking a glance at her napping cat. "And Opalescence has been even grumpier than usual in this awful weather."

She then refocused her attention at Fluttershy. The white unicorn softened her voice and empathetically said, "But I imagine it's been far more difficult for you. You have a whole nursery of animals to care for."

For an awkward moment, Fluttershy cringed and gazed sadly at the tray she brought.

"Darling, why don't you sit?"

"Oh, no, I shouldn't. I couldn't. There's just too much to do. Several new bunnies were born earlier this morning -- I mean, ah, a few hours ago. They aren't used to this heat," she mumbled as she continued to stare at the tray. "Not to mention all of the animals getting sick from dehydration."

Rarity sat up, levitated a large cushioned lounge chair from near the book case and carried it behind Fluttershy. Meanwhile, the kettle came to life and slowly filled a cup with the freshly brewed tea.

"You have to care for yourself first, dear. I'm sure it must be hard for you. And I really wish you asked for my help sooner," she said in a concerned and motherly tone while the tea cup drifted gently towards Fluttershy. "Why don't you sit, have a nice cup of tea, and talk for just a few minutes? I can help you right after. We can more than make up for lost time in your work."

Fluttershy looked at the cup hesitantly, released a gloomy sigh, and grabbed it with her hooves as she positioned herself comfortably on the lounge chair that had appeared behind her. Rarity's fan suddenly stopped to swerve delicately through the air. It began fanning lightly towards Fluttershy's face.

"Um, okay," the shy pegasus said, her voice cracking. "I suppose a few minutes to rest would be fine." She looked down into the tea water which gleamed from the sunlight pouring in from her window. Fluttershy sat and stared in silence at her cup without taking a sip for a long time. She couldn't stop herself from tearing up and she wasn't even sure why.

"Fluttershy, goodness! Please, tell me what's wrong."

The pegasus tried to wipe her eyes with the back of her foreleg as Rarity spoke, but it was futile to try to hide it. She felt too emotional from the stress of the past week. She coughed and tried to speak calmly. "I'm not any more worse off than anypony else. You don't have to worry about me, Rarity."

Rarity stood up from the futon and approached her with a compassionate expression. "Oh dear, you're more distressed than I imagined," she said.

The tea water rocked precariously against the lip of Fluttershy's teacup as she became less in control over her emotions. She looked at Rarity directly for the first time and spoke. "The long days are hurting all the creatures. So many of them are sick and hurt," she said in a quivering voice. "I just don't know what to do. They can't sleep and water is so hard to come by. I don't know what went wrong or why our days have to be like this now. Or why all of the little creatures --" her voice stalled as tears began to form fully in her eyes. "Why all the little animals have to hurt."

Fluttershy returned to stare mournfully back to her cup. "I... don't deserve tea," she said wearily. "They need me. I... I don't want to abandon them just because I'm selfish. I... I..." The tears began to stream down her cheeks now. A droplet of tea splashed onto the floor.

Without saying anything, Rarity stepped onto the lounge seat next to Fluttershy as her friend began to sob openly. The unicorn politely placed a hoof around her shoulder and let her cry against her while she murmured, "Shh. It's okay. I'm here. I can help you." They sat for a quiet moment in that position. Eventually, Fluttershy's sobs subsided. She finally sipped her tea, which was now cool.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cry," she said resignedly.

"Oh, hush. You needn't apologize. You shouldn't have to do all of this work by yourself in these conditions, anyhow," Rarity said reassuringly as she retracted her hoof from around the pegasus's neck. "You just take your time. We can take care of your duties whenever you like."

Fluttershy smiled faintly and was glad that her friend visited."Thank you, Rarity. I --"

Her voice cut as the sky blinked outside. Her tea cup slipped between her hooves, fell quickly towards the floor angled at its side, and cracked noisily. The fall sent the tea splashing long against her floor. A chunk of the cup fractured and bounced about foot away from the mess. At first the two friends looked at each other with confused expressions. Each wondered if the other saw the sky flicker. Their silent question was answered when the sky blinked several more times.

Reflexively, Rarity stood up and jumped from the sofa. Fluttershy buried her face into the cushion.

"What's happening!?" Fluttershy shouted feebly from under the seat's cushion.

Rarity took a few hasty steps towards the window next to the futon and watched intently outside for a few seconds. She opened the window, examined the sky for a few seconds and pondered about a familiar odor that began to fill the air.

That smell... I know that smell, she thought.

"Rarity, what's going on!?" the curled up ball of yellow and pink continued.

"I smell something. Smoke," Rarity said.

Fluttershy lifted her head from her hiding place with a face of absolute terror. Her wide eyes still appeared sore from crying. "Smoke!?"

"No time to panic, dear," she loudly spoke as she assessed the situation. The white unicorn quickly scanned the room. Her eyes stopped on a large cauldron meant for cooking soups near the fireplace. She levitated it towards herself and turned to speak to Fluttershy.

"Darling, find something that can hold water, would you?" she politely demanded of the yellow pegasus.

"Wuh-what?" Fluttershy responded in her still stunned state.

"It looks like our break has been cut short," Rarity stated impatiently. "Why don't we get outside and try to save your nursery?"
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I want you to understand because I honor you as our princess - despite your lack of vision. There could be no nobler blessing than yours.
This is a strange show of honor, demon.
I did what I had to for the greater good; assuming full control over your form was an unpleasant but necessary consequence when reason failed you. I once thought your wisdom was infinite, you know.

I fear you truly are a demented spirit unaware of its own delusions. It is some bitter irony that I doomed my kingdom to spare it from a quicker death.

I have only acted upon what is necessary to achieve paradise. You will understand me soon enough.
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Rainbow's vision was blurry. Something hit her, though she didn't know what. She tried screaming, though she couldn't get her voice to work. Something was burning - she was hurting enough to worry that it might have been her own body. A great weight was pinned down against her lower right leg. She tried shifting the weight off, which resulted in a sickening crack. A shot of pain trailed up through her body from her leg and nearly caused her to black out. But before she lost consciousness, she heard a familiar voice.

"Rainbow! Is that you!?"

Rainbow Dash turned her face to the noise and saw a gray figure descend towards her. The shape with the familiar voice continued to scream something, but Rainbow Dash couldn't understand its words now. It approached very close to her.

The last three things that Rainbow Dash could remember before blacking out was a feeling of release, a sense that she was being lifted upwards, and a dim certainty that she wasn't dead. Not yet.
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-- To Be Continued --

Written by Nug TWH, published on FiMFiction.net on February 7th, 2012. Please give credit or link if you copy.

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