by Tungul

First published

So what if Anon-A-Miss destroyed every effort she made at CHS and turned her into a social outcast again? She has one friend left to turn to. Sunset Shimmer is gonna be fine. Really.

With a single post, just a handful of pictures from her phone, Anon-A-Miss managed to destroy months of effort to redeem herself. Even her actions at the Battle of the Bands seem to mean nothing in the face of this apparant treachery.

But when the Rainbooms confront Sunset, about her sudden betrayal and cast her out, she gives a response none of them had anticipated.

Chapter 1

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The five girls looked at Sunset in disbelief. They had just accused Sunset of being Anon-A-Miss, a MyStable blogger who just had, on this very day, published a series of embarrassing pictures from their last sleepover. Voices had been raised, tears had flown, and yet Sunset seemed unperturbed. After an initial expression of shock and surprise, the fiery haired teenager had become almost eerily calm.

“What?” Applejack asked. After everything they had just thrown at Sunset, this was not the kind of reaction she had expected.

“I said ‘fine’,” Sunset replied evenly, crossing her arms before her chest. “If everything I have done for you, if saving all of you from the Sirens, wasn’t enough to convince you I have changed, then I suppose trying to turn over a new leaf in this place was a waste of time to begin with.”

She fixated the Rainbooms with a cold look. It had hurt, when they had accused her. It had hurt every time they had brought up her past, or made a crack at her expense over it. At the time, she had just taken it as the price to pay for her crimes, and it was not as if she didn’t deserve punishment for her actions.

But this? This was crossing the line. Just two days ago, these girls had called themselves her family, and now they were casting her out at the first suspicion of wrongdoing. Granted, the pictures were the ones she had taken, but there was supposed to be some trust by now, damnit! Not one of them was even doubting her guilt in this.

It was… it was like back in the day, almost a year ago now, when she had turned them against each other. A few text messages, some minor disagreements, and they had just abandoned each other. For six months, they had refused to so much as look at each other, until Princess Twilight came and pointed out the inconsistencies they had never bothered to question.

Was a friendship that could break so easily even genuine?

“I really thought we were friends,” Sunset said slowly. “When you invited me to the sleepovers, I was happier than I had ever been before in this world.”

“And now…” anger creeped into her voice. “Now you throw all of that away, like it doesn’t mean anything.”

“We’re throwing it away?!” Dash echoed. “You did this to yourself, Shimmer! You’re the one who decided to go back to your old ways,” she sneered. “If you ever even left them to begin with.”

“I didn’t…” Sunset reared up for an irritated rebuttal, but only let out a deep sigh. “You know what? Forget it. If you don’t want to believe that I’ve changed then I can’t force you to.”

She gave the Rainbooms a sorrowful look. “I’m not Anon-A-Miss, girls. I didn’t do this. But if this is the extent of your trust in me, then there is no point in arguing this further.”

With cold glares being all the answer she received, Sunset turned around and walked away from her former friends.

Glares. Glares all around her. It wasn’t a new experience to Sunset Shimmer. When you’re the number one most hated student of CHS, you get used to everyone giving you dirty looks. The sheer amount of glares Sunset received as she walked the halls of the school was unusual, though. Ever since the Battle of the Bands, the other students had warmed up to her considerably, and some had even started to smile when they saw her.

Now though? Now it was like during the early days after the Fall Formal. The students were glaring and whispering to each other as she passed, and her ears picked up the word ‘Anon-A-Miss’ several times. Had the word traveled so quickly, or was she just the obvious suspect? Probably the latter. Sure, the Rainbooms had accused her in the middle of a crowded hallway, but that seemed excessively fast, even for the school’s grapevine.

So she walked, ignoring the looks and the voices with no clear goal in mind, just trying to put some distance between herself and the girls who had tossed her away so casually. On an intellectual level, Sunset could understand where the Rainbooms were coming from with this. Rainbow Dash valued loyalty to her friends above all else. She believed that Sunset had betrayed her and the others and reacted accordingly.

“But on the other hand,” Sunset thought to herself, “shouldn’t her loyalty compel her to trust in a friend’s innocence, until proven guilty beyond doubt?”

That is, if she actually was as loyal as she claimed to be. It had only taken one text message, one perceived betrayal by Applejack, to make Rainbow break ties with her best friend. She hadn’t even tried to ask Applejack why she hadn’t been there at the appointed time of the bake sale. She had just assumed the worst and stuck with it.

Looking back, Applejack hadn’t been much better. She too had assumed the worst of her best friend because… Why had they even done this? These girls had been friends since they were freshmen. How had she even managed to break an old friendship like that apart with a few texts? Everything Sunset had learned about friendship in these past few months, told her that it should’ve been harder and yet...

Sunset shook her head as she rounded a corner. In hindsight, it made no sense that her plan had worked at all, much less had such a profound effect on those girls. Unless, of course, they and their friendship weren’t as genuine as she had thought. Considering that Anon-A-Miss had effectively just made them fall for the same trick, with the same level of success, it didn’t seem that far off.

Anon-A-Miss… That was the second conundrum. Who was behind the account? Who had made it their mission to ruin her friendship? And most importantly: Did it even matter? The glares everyone was still sending her way told Sunset everything she needed to know about how little she had actually accomplished in her attempts to redeem herself. And if saving the entire school wasn’t enough to change their minds, then being wrong about Sunset Shimmer wasn’t gonna tip the scales either. Even if Anon-A-Miss was caught, it was only a matter of time before the next incident was pinned on her.

Ultimately, what was she to do? Stay at CHS and endure the scorn of the student body? No, she wasn’t gonna subject herself to that treatment again. She had deserved it after the Fall Formal, but with saving them from the Sirens, she considered that debt paid. Transferring to a different school then? That was certainly an option. Somewhere far away from CHS, where no one had ever heard of Sunset Shimmer, she could build a new life.

With a determined nod, Sunset started marching towards the Principal’s office.

“You wish to transfer, Miss Shimmer?” Principal Celestia asked, looking at the fiery haired teenager in front of her. Sure, Sunset had had her... problems with the school, but ever since the Battle of the Bands she had seemed happy.

“Yes, Principal Celestia.” Sunset nodded, shifting slightly in her seat. “I know this must be a bit of a surprise.”

“Putting it mildly,” Celestia chuckled. “If I may ask, what brings this on? You have been doing well, both academically and socially, since the Battle of the Bands.”

“Yeah…” Sunset sighed. “About that… I suppose you haven’t heard of Anon-A-Miss yet?”

“Who?” Celestia tilted her head. She usually liked to be well informed about everything concerning her student body. Whatever this Anon-A-Miss thing was, it must’ve been something very new.

With another sigh, Sunset pulled her phone out of her pocket and opened up MyStable before handing the device over to Celestia.

“I’m not quite sure I understand,” Celestia said slowly, after studying the posts for a minute. This Anon-A-Miss seemed to have posted a number of embarrassing pictures of Sunset’s friends, and while it undoubtedly humiliating for them, it didn’t seem like something to transfer over.

“Everyone thinks it’s me,” Sunset replied glumly. “And if they don’t, then they will soon. My friends just got done accusing me of posting these pictures, in the middle of a hallway. By tomorrow, everyone will know that Sunset Shimmer is a bully again.”

“I see.” Celestia nodded, her tone even as she handed the phone back to Sunset. On the inside though she felt a stab in her heart. After everything Sunset had gone through to redeem herself, it hurt her to see it all undone with but a few pictures. “In that case, I only ask that you wait out the rest of the week while I prepare the paperwork for an emergency transfer. In the meantime, you should take a look around for where to transfer to and, we can finalise everything over Winter Break.”

“Thank you, Principal Celestia,” Sunset said, giving her a genuine smile.

“You’re more than welcome, Sunset.” The least she could do now was to ensure that Sunset had a smooth transition into a better environment.

After Sunset had left, Principal Celestia let out a deep sigh and pushed a button on the intercom. “Luna, could you come to my office please? There’s something I need to show you.”

Leaning back in her chair, Celestia considered the situation. A student, or possibly several students, were out to ruin Sunset Shimmer’s reputation and by all means, seemed to have succeeded already. Enough for Sunset to jump ship preemptively, at the very least. But who would had done this? With Sunset’s history being what it was, there were more than enough students with reasons to hold a grudge.

A knock on the door pulled Celestia out of her musings, closely followed by her sister, Luna, entering the office.

“You wanted to show me something, Tia?” she asked, closing the door behind her.

“Yes, Luna,” Celestia nodded. “Sunset Shimmer was here a few minutes ago with some rather worrying news. Take a look at this.” Opening MyStable on her computer, Celestia quickly found the Anon-A-Miss account, and worryingly enough, the account seemed to have attracted a rather large following already.

“Alright, what am I looking at?” Luna asked as she rounded around the large desk and leaned against her sister’s chair.

“Miss Shimmer informed me of this account. It seems that it went up yesterday on MyStable and published an embarrassing childhood nickname of Miss Applejack.” Celestia explained as she scrolled down to the first post. “And today, it released several photos of her friends in rather outlandish costumes. Look at the profile picture.”

Spotting the red and yellow silhouette, Luna leaned a little closer to the screen. “That does look remarkably like Sunset Shimmer, doesn’t it?”

“That’s what her friends thought as well, it seems,” Celestia sighed. “Miss Shimmer said that they publicly accused her of being this ‘Anon-A-Miss’.”

“And you don’t believe that she is?”

“Please, Luna.” Celestia gave an amused snort. “I know you love playing the Devil’s Advocate, but what possible reason could Sunset possess to turn herself into a social pariah again?”

Luna chuckled at that “I admit, sister, you got me there. Even if Sunset was responsible for this, I don’t believe that she would’ve done it in a way that painted such an obvious target on her back. This begs the question: Who did this and why?”

“The why seems pretty obvious,” Celestia replied, rooting in her desk for the emergency transfer papers. “Whoever is behind this wants to destroy her reputation. Why else would they go to such lengths to make it look like her? And they seem to be successful; Miss Shimmer already requested to be transferred to a different school.”

“Given her unique situation, that is probably a sensible option, yes. I can’t imagine that the student body will take very kindly to this apparent relapse.” Luna said.

“And I have the bad feeling that this is only going to get worse.” Celestia sighed. Teenagers being what they were, it was likely only a matter of time before Anon-A-Miss started targeting the rest of the student body as well. “Which is why I want you to inform the rest of the staff to be on the lookout. We have to keep this situation under control and catch whoever is hiding behind this account. The last thing we need, is a bullying spree fueled by whatever secrets Anon-A-Miss is going to reveal.”

“Understood.” Luna nodded and made her way back to the door “And it wouldn’t be a bad idea, to call the Rainbooms in for some questions. I imagine there can’t have been a lot of people who had access to that nickname or those photos.”

“True enough…” Celestia murmured thoughtfully, as the door closed behind her sister.

With an exhausted sigh, Sunset threw herself down onto her mattress. The rest of the school day had been about as unpleasant as the initial round of glares had promised her. Wherever she had stepped, heads had turned and hushed voices had whispered venomous words in her general direction. As such, Sunset was more than happy to finally be back in her apartment.

True, it wasn’t the most luxurious apartment. When you were an illegal alien, in the most literal of senses, you couldn’t exactly afford upscale living. Still though, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears had gone into making her little studio apartment into something homey. Her queen sized bed, the only genuinely new piece of furniture, occupied the upper left corner of the room. On the opposite side stood her work desk and a comfortable upholstered chair, from which she did most of her work. The lower left corner of the room held her kitchenette next to an old, but wonderfully cushy, couch she had gotten for a bargain in front of a coffee table.

Her bed aside, the furniture was old, second hand, and utterly mismatched, but Sunset loved it all nonetheless. It was hers. She had earned it with her own two hands, and that made it all the more satisfying to have. Speaking of earning, if she was gonna move out of Canterlot soon, she needed some extra money, and that meant doing some additional work. With a groan, Sunset rolled out of her bed and and sat herself down at her desk. If there was one good thing about this world, it was certainly the internet. A small smile appeared on Sunset’s face as she booted up her computer.

Opening up her email, Sunset found that she had received a couple lucrative requests since yesterday, all of them from regular customers. A few essays for college courses, a book report, and one particular pervert who wanted yet another piece of erotic art featuring his favorite character. Rolling her eyes, Sunset looked around the room. The formerly bare white walls were covered in a plethora of pictures and paintings. As it behooved a student of Princess Celestia, Sunset Shimmer was a true Renaissance Mare skilled in magic, science, and art alike. And while drawing weird pictures for even weirder folks on the internet didn’t exactly compare to the dignified oil paintings she was used to, it still beat sitting part time behind the counter of a random store.

As such, Sunset reached for her graphic tablet and reviewed the specifics of the commission. With no friends left to hang out with, she had a lot of time on her hands to prepare for the transfer.

“It’ll be fine,” she told herself. “I’ll make new friends, better friends, friends without all of this… baggage. I’ve started my life over once, and I can do it again.”

With those reassuring thoughts in mind, Sunset began her work.

Chapter 2

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The next day at CHS held every promise the previous one had made. As soon as Sunset Shimmer entered through the front door of the school, the buzzing conversations between the students mingling in the entry hall ceased and all eyes turned towards her. The news seemed to have spread at this point, because even a few students who hadn’t glared yesterday, were now looking at Sunset with open hostility.

With a mental sigh, Sunset steeled herself and walked past the crowd, meeting the venomous looks with an expression of measured indifference. As a professional bully and subsequent professional punching bag, Sunset knew not to show them any weakness. These kids hated her guts right now and the moment they believed they could get away with it, they wouldn’t hesitate to vent those feelings. Thus, Sunset drew upon her vast experience at being a tough girl, to project an aura of concentrated ‘Don’t fuck with me’. It lasted for about ten seconds, before the first paper ball hit the back of her head.

With a snarl, Sunset turned around towards the thrower. Unsurprisingly, it was Trixie Lulamoon and a scowl formed on Sunset’s face, as she looked at her smug expression. Trixie had been the one who had trapped her and the Rainbooms under stage before the final round of the Battle and while the Sirens might have fueled everyone’s hypercompetitiveness, that decision had still been her own. The fall through the trapdoor had been deep and it was a minor miracle, that none of them had been hurt in the process. Sunset had never really forgiven Trixie for that.

As such, a familiar anger began to bubble up in Sunset, as she looked the braggart to end all braggarts in the eyes.

“And just what do you want Trixie?” Sunset asked, crossing her arms before her chest.

“You thought you had everyone fooled Sunset Shimmer, but your little Anon-A-Miss blog has revealed your true colours once again.” Trixie declared, in her usual overblown manner “And now the Great and Powerful Trixie, will do what should’ve been done months ago and banish this daemon from Canterlot High!”

“Banish me?” Despite herself, Sunset snorted in amusement “You and what army?”

“The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn’t need an army, Sunset Shimmer.” Trixie took a threatening step towards Sunset “She will kick you out of this school with her own two hands.”

Cheers erupted from the students surrounding Trixie, who practically glow with her own brand of smug pride at the praise. It wasn’t hard to see what had compelled the braggart to put up this ridiculous little act.

Oh well, if Trixie wanted a fight then Sunset was more than happy to vent some frustrations on her.

Shifting into a more stable stance, Sunset scoffed “Pah! We both know that you’re all talk Trixie.” Trixie seemed taken aback a little, by Sunset’s apparent lack of fear. It was understandable, ever since the Fall Formal, Sunset had been nothing if not meek around her former victims and Trixie’s overblown ego had made her one of Sunset’s favorite targets for mockery. The thing was, Sunset actually enjoyed the creative and sometimes downright ingenious tricks, that human stage magicians employed to entertain their audiences. There was just something about Trixie’s constant blowharding about her magical prowess, rubbed Sunset the wrong way.

Maybe it was because Sunset knew actual magic, maybe she just didn’t like Trixie’s face. Either way she was gonna enjoy putting the little braggart in her place, far more than she should. With her lips curving into small, mocking grin, Sunset continued “But, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll give you one free shot,” she demonstratively turned her cheek towards the Trixie “but I have to warn you, if you waste it-”

Without warning, Trixie’s fist collided with Sunset’s cheek, the force of the blow snapping her head back. This actually came as a genuine surprise to Sunset, she had expected a battle of mockery and counter mockery with Trixie. But with an adoring audience at her back, it looked like Trixie was determined to actually make good on her threats for once. The look of triumph in Trixie’s eyes quickly turned to horror though, as Sunset began to chuckle.

“You’re gonna regret it.” She growled, turning her head to look Trixie in the eyes. In a flash she grabbed the wrist, of the still outstretched arm, with her left hand and hooked her right arm under Trixie’s armpit. Turning around she pressed her back against Trixie’s body and pulled. Letting out a high pitched shriek, Trixie went flying over her shoulder and crashed down onto to the floor with a painful thud.

Keeping her vice grip on Trixie’s wrist, Sunset turned towards her followers, daring them to try and come to her aid. Nobody moved to help. They just stood there, watching. At the back of the crowd, Sunset found her next target, a large garbage bin, just the right size to stuff a nerd into. Or in this case, a two-bit magician. Her grin widened and she began to move towards the bin, dragging Trixie along behind her.

“Unhand me! Unhand me, I say!” Trixie shouted as she struggled to free herself, but Sunset’s grip was as tight as a vice.

Sunset just laughed mockingly as she dragged Trixie the last few meters to the bin.

“You should be thrilled, Trixie! Now everyone is watching you!”

“Help!” Trixie shrieked in panic; flopping helplessly on the floor, like a fish on dry land. “Somebody help Trixie! Trixie will be forever thankful!”

Instead of helping though, the other students merely watched; some even recording with their phones.

“You threw me down a hole, Trixie. Let me return the favor.” Tossing away the lid of the trash bin, Sunset chuckled maliciously as she grabbed Trixie around the waist and lifted her up.

“Wait, Sunset Shimmer! Trixie is sorry! The Humble and Apologetic Trixie apologizes! Please! Please don’t do this!” Trixie begged as she saw her garbage filled doom approaching.

Not wasting any further words, Sunset chucked the still shrieking Trixie head first into it. The bin was deep enough to swallow her whole upper body, leaving only her legs to kick uselessly into the air. Sunset took out her phone and snapped a picture to remember this moment. That was definitely one for the album.

“Garbage in,” Sunset tipped the rubbish bin over and it fell to the floor. “Garbage out!” She gave it a kick and sent it rolling down the hallway with Trixie inside.

“Now if you’ll excuse me,” Sunset said with a glance towards Trixie’s less than loyal supporters “I have to get to class.”

Her spirits lifted, Sunset walked off towards her first period.

Sunset winced as she saw Fluttershy in the hallway, the shy girl resolutely turning away from her. Fluttershy had been among the students who had suffered the most during her bullying days, not because she was a threat to her next crown, but because she was an easy target. If Sunset woke up on any given day, feeling even angrier about her situation than usual, then Fluttershy was always a good punching bag to vent her frustrations on. She might not have had her magic anymore, but making that pathetic little human cry and beg for mercy always served as a reminder, that she wasn’t completely powerless in her new form.

‘Sweet sun above, is that really why I did all of this?’ Sunset thought to herself, a wave of disgust rising up in her, as she remembered how much better she had always felt for making others miserable.

But that’s why she had done it, wasn’t it? To make herself feel better about her life. To make herself feel like she still was something, even with no magic, no crown, no nothing to her name. Making Fluttershy miserable, had made her feel better about her exile, for no matter how much life in this world sucked for her, at least she wasn’t Fluttershy.

Sunset groaned at this realisation ‘Heavens, I was pathetic…’

With all that in mind, could she really blame Fluttershy for jumping ship at the first opportunity? From her perspective those pictures being published, seemingly by Sunset, must’ve been like the second coming of Discord; the return of the living nightmare that had plagued her for years.

‘Would I have acted any different in her shoes?’ Sunset didn't even know anymore. Then again, she was planning on leaving CHS to avoid another round as the school’s whipping girl, wasn’t she?

Such were Sunset Shimmer’s thoughts, as she settled down for first period Math with Mr. Cranky. Since there were pretty much guaranteed to be more students, who throw things at her in this class, Sunset opted for the window seat in the last row. This way the cone of fire was limited and easier to observe. As she walked between the rows of other students, she could feel the venomous glares again.

‘Just one week, Sunset.’ She thought to herself ‘Just one week of people giving you dirty looks and trying to beat you up. Again.’

She sighed, silently. It was going to be a long week.

It seemed her fears were ungrounded though, as the lesson proceeded without incident. Mr. Cranky was standing at the front of the class speaking about something or another, Sunset wasn’t really listening and her classmates seemed to content themselves to the occasional venomous look. As such, Sunset relaxed and let her thoughts drift. Her mind was still occupied by Fluttershy and all the torment Sunset had put her through. Why had that girl even put up with her? By all rights, she must’ve hated Sunset for everything she had done and yet Fluttershy had always been there for her after the Formal, with kind words and a comforting presence. Why? Had she honestly believed in Sunset’s change, or had she just done it because Twilight had asked her to?

A paper ball bouncing off her forehead snapped Sunset out of her musings. Mr. Cranky had turned his back to the class, to to write a function on the blackboard and it seemed Fuchsia Blush had taken that as her cue to exact petty revenge, if her smug expression was anything to go by. Sunset thought back. Fuchsia Blush was a member of the fashion club and for the last Spring Fling, Sunset had used some rather risque pictures of Fuchsia and her girlfriend getting intimate in the clubroom, to blackmail her into sabotaging Rarity’s dress. One foot placed in passing on the hem and the manipulated dress had fallen apart, exposing a rather revealing set of lacy, purple underwear. Before her mental eye, Sunset could still see Rarity’s butt jiggling, as she ran out of the gym, her face flaming red. It had been a cruel move, but Rarity had been doing well in the race for the crown, despite her disintegrating friendships at the time. Drastic measure had to be taken and Rarity hadn’t dared to show her face at CHS for two whole weeks afterwards.

Rarity… yeah, with the Spring Fling in mind, it wasn’t hard for Sunset to understand why Rarity would react so harshly, to being publicly humiliated again. Seemingly by Sunset Shimmer no less. Sure, she had said that she had forgiven Sunset for the Spring Fling, but that didn’t mean that the scars weren’t still there, did it?

Again, a paper ball bounced off Sunset’s face, interrupting her thoughts. This time however it was accompanied by a round of giggles. It seemed Fuchsia’s little target practice had attracted an audience. Another paper ball, from a different direction this time. Sunset didn’t even bother to look and just flipped the bird in the general direction the ball had come from. That little show of defiance didn’t seem to sit right with her tormentors however, as a verifiable barrage of paper balls, pens and erasers began to rain down on Sunset. The general commotion however finally got Mr. Cranky’s attention, who turned around with his usual grumpy scowl, just in time to see Fuchsia throw the last paper ball.

“And just what do you think you’re doing there, Miss Blush?” he asked sharply.

“I... uhm….” Fuchsia struggled for words, her pink face quickly turning a bright shade of red.

Mr. Cranky stepped around the teachers desk and towards Fuchsia, his scowl deepening as he spotted all the litter around Sunset.

“Are you completely out of your mind now? What possessed you to act like this towards a fellow student?”

“Oh come on, sir!” A boy in one back rows whined “This is Anon-A-Miss we’re talking about!”

“And if she was Charnel Mansion himself, I’d tell you to knock it off!” Mr. Cranky snapped “I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in my class!” He turned towards Fuchsia again “Miss Blush, since you were the one I saw throwing, you will be the one to clean this mess up! Now.”

Grumbling to herself, Fuchsia rose from her desk and grabbed the broom, leaning in the back corner of the room.

“As for the rest of you,” Mr. Cranky turned his attention to the rest of the class “the next student I see throwing anything at anyone, will spend the rest of the week in detention, are we clear?”

Meek nods all around.

“Good.” Mr. Cranky nodded “Back to the lesson at hand then.”

Sunset blinked, confused, as Mr. Cranky went back to the blackboard. Had that grumpy old hardass actually just defended her?

The rest of the class had gone by without further disruptions, barring the usual dirty looks that everyone, especially Fuchsia, had been sending her way. When the bell finally rang and the rest of the students rushed out of the class, Sunset stayed behind and walked up to the teacher’s desk.

“Yes, Miss Shimmer?” Mr. Cranky asked, wiping away the last equation on the board.

“Thank you.” Sunset said simply “For standing up for me.”

Mr. Cranky turned towards Sunset. "Miss Shimmer, I've been at this school a long time, and I've seen some unbelievable things. Sure, ya turned into a demon, but I had ya in my classes for four years before that. You're the smartest kid at this school. If this was you, they'd never know it."

"Does... that mean, you believe me, sir?" Sunset asked, her voice hopeful.

"It means, I don't believe you've suddenly lost three quarters of your brain." Mr. Cranky answered, with an actual, genuine smile on his face.

With at least one teacher still believing in her, probably Princessipal Celestia’s work, Sunset made her way back to her locker in a good mood. Only for that good mood to utterly evaporate, when she saw the girl waiting for her there.

“Hello, Gilda.” Sunset said, rolling her eyes. She and Gilda used to have a Gentlemen’s Agreement,to stay out of each other’s ways. Gilda not bothering Sunset in her pursuit of more crowns, while Sunset didn’t encroach on Gilda’s lunch money shakedowns. Even after the Formal, Gilda had kept her end of the agreement which had always been suspicious to Sunset.

“Hey there Anon-A-Bitch.” Gilda, who had been leaning against the row of lockers, grinned. People who didn’t know her very well, could’ve mistaken her tone for jovial, but Sunset new better. That was the grin of a shark.

“Please, Gilda. We both know that you don’t actually believe that.” Sunset scoffed and crossed her arms. If Gilda came all the way to seek her out then there was only one explanation: Their truce was off.

“True.” Gilda chuckled “And even if I did, I wouldn’t care. But this is as good an opportunity as any to settle the score between us.”

“Are you still salty, that I kicked your ass all those years ago?” Sunset asked, putting on her most infuriatingly smug grin

“Salty? No. I just don’t like leaving these kinds of things unfinished.” Gilda’s grin fell into a her more typical scowl “If it hadn’t been for those two flunkies of yours, you would’ve been the one lying bleeding on the ground that day.”

Before their truce, Gilda and Sunset had clashed a couple times, with their last confrontation turning into a brawl. Luckily, by that time Sunset had already recruited Snips and Snails into her service and between the three of them, they had managed to beat some sense into Gilda.

“Fine, but before we do this, I have one question.” Sunset said, raising up a finger “You could’ve done this at any time since the Fall Formal and no one would’ve looked at you weird. Why only now?”

“Because…” Were Sunset’s eyes playing tricks on her, or was Gilda blushing? “Because now Dash isn’t hanging out with you anymore.”

“And what does that have to do with anything?” Sunset pressed on, curious as to what had caused that reaction. She couldn’t remember Dash and Gilda ever hanging out, in the four years she had been at CHS.

“Dash and me,” Gilda said slowly, her cheeks now visibly tinged with red “we go way back to Elementary. And since she decided that you were somehow her friend, like the dumbass dweeb she has become, kicking your ass after the Formal would’ve meant going through her first.”

“Heh, never known you to be the sentimental kind.” Sunset gave a snort of amusement.

“I don’t like beating up an old friend, just get to a shitstain like you, Shimmer.“ Gilda’s eyes narrowed dangerously “So I decided bide my time and now, Dashie ain’t here to play the loyal friend for you.”

“More like an old girlfriend, from the way you’re blushing.” Sunset retorted, putting on a mocking grin. Gilda was easy to rile up and tended to makes mistakes when she got angry. That’s how she had lost their first fight. “Tell me, did you give her your virginity?”

In lieu of an answer, Gilda merely growled and stormed towards Sunset, fists clenched.

The fight was on. Sunset dodged a right hook from Gilda, silently thankful for three and a half years, she had spend in a weekly self defense class. Thinking back, she had taken those up directly after her fight with Gilda. The bitch hadn’t been wrong, about how she could’ve been the one bleeding on the ground, Snips and Snails had really come through for her that day. Gilda on the other hand didn’t seem to have improved much and Sunset made sure to needle her about that, as she dodged a swipe from the left.

“You know, maybe if you’d actually trained, instead of gorging yourself on stolen lunch money, your punches might hit a little closer to home.” Retreating backwards, Sunset saw several students lining the hallway, looking at the fight with eager smiles. They had probably been waiting, for CHS’s resident bullies to have an all out fight.

Sunset’s jab at her skill, and weight, had the desired effect on Gilda, as she growled in anger and pressed the attack, steadily driving Sunset backwards. Suddenly, Sunset’s back hit against another row of lockers and she could see triumph lighting up in Gilda’s eyes. Her prey was cornered in a dead end hallway, with no place left to dodge. Or so her anger addled mind would have her believe, as she threw her fist with all her might, aimed squarely at Sunset’s face.

Sunset however had been hoping for that reaction and ducked under Gilda’s fist, too late for her to stop. A sickening cracking noise echoed through the hallway, followed by Gilda’s scream of agony, the girl stumbling back a few steps clutching at her broken hand.

“Ooh, that looks like it hurts a lot.” Sunset said, looking at Gilda with mock concern “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine!” Gilda growled between clenched teeth, swaying unsteadily on her feet, a small trickle of blood seeping between her mangled fingers.

“Good to know.” Sunset chirped, crossing the distance between them. She grabbed Gilda’s head with both hands and with a cheerful “Yoink!” pulled it down, right in the path of her rising knee. Gilda’s nose made a crunching noise, followed by a second scream, as the girl doubled over and fell on her back.

“Oh, was that your nose? That was your nose.” Sunset chuckled blithely “I had worse time, you know? It’s not often, that I have to beat up people, dumb enough to assault me, but there’s always a certain amount of satisfaction, that I get out of doing it.”

Stepping over the defeated girl, Sunset gave her a serious look “If I were you Gilda, I wouldn’t try this again.” She walked a few steps, before looking over her shoulder “Oh and you should probably go to the infirmary and have the Nurse check out those injuries.”

With those final words, Sunset grabbed her books from her locker and marched off towards her next class.

The next two periods ran their course without any major interruptions, ignoring the fact that pretty much every student Sunset encountered, either muttered an insult at her, threw something at her, or glared at her as she passed. And while Sunset had resolved, not to let the petty antagonizations of those mindless peons bother her again...

‘Sweet Celestia, I’m starting to think like the old Me again.’

...the fact of the matter was, that it bothered her all the same. Mostly due to the fact, that deep down, she couldn’t even blame them for hating her.

“Out of my way, Anon-A-Bitch!” A sudden shove to her side, send Sunset careening against a wall.

She could totally blame them however for being a bunch of massive arseholes about the whole thing. No one outside Rainbooms had even been posted about, by Anon-A-Miss. As of yet, anyway. Not that it deterred the large guy who had just shoved her in the middle of the hallway.

“Care to say that to my face, dumbass?” She called out after him.

The guy froze up and turned around. Sunset groaned internally as she recognized him. It was Dumbbell. She had used him in the past, he was good at smashing things up. And he absolutely hated to be called a dumbass.

“The fuck did you just say to me?” He grunted

“I said ‘care to say that to my face, dumbass’. Or are you ears not working right, dumbass?” Provoking Dumbbell further was probably a poor idea, but then again, it was not like apologizing worked on him either. Might as well double down and make him too angry to think straight.

Uncharacteristically for him however, Dumbbell didn’t immediately fly into a howling rage. Instead he calmly walked up to Sunset and grabbed her by the lapel of her leather jacket.

“You think you can still play the tough girl, Shimmer?” He growled, getting uncomfortably close to Sunset.

“No.” Sunset replied blithely “I just stopped pretending to be a soft girl.” And with that, she jerked up her knee, right into Dumbbell’s crotch.

A rather pathetic squeaking noise escaped Dumbbells throat, his hands releasing their hold on Sunset’s jacket. A quick push, send him sprawling on the floor.

“I’m only going to say this once, Dumbbell, so you better listen closely.” Sunset said as she stepped around Dumbbell and raised her foot over his stomach.

“Stay!” She stomped down, causing Dumbbell to groan in pain.

“The fuck!” Another stomp. The onlooking students winced in sympathetic pain.

“Away!” Another stomp. Sunset was wearing flat heeled winter boots on this day, but she fairly certain that this was gonna leave a bruise now.

“From me!” In a way, Sunset could understand why so many bullies enjoyed beating up their victims. Stomping down on Dumbbell’s stomach and hearing to him whimper, had certain cathartic quality to it.

Stepping away from Dumbbell, Sunset leveled a glare at the surrounding students “And I hope you all got that.”
Giving Dumbbell one last, contemptuous sneer, Sunset walked off. There was lunch to be had.

Face like a storm cloud, Sunset Shimmer entered through the large double doors of the cafeteria. Instantly, conversations throughout the room paused and all eyes turned towards her. Sunset ignored them and stepped in line to grab a lunch tray. She wasn’t as angry as she looked; stomping Dumbbell into the dust had been very cathartic, even if it bothered her, that he was the third student she had to beat up in a single day. But she reasoned, that if she looked like she was about to rip someone’s head off, then most of the students present would be too cowardly, to try anything during her lunch. And it seemed to be working, as she made it through the lunch line and towards an unoccupied table at the end of the room without any interruptions.The murderous glares, she kept sending towards everyone who so much as looked at her, turned out to be surprisingly effective. News of what had happened to Trixie and Gilda, had probably spread at this point. Gilda was one of the toughest girls in CHS and nobody wanted to end up in the garbage like Trixie. What happened with Dumbbell only happened like five minutes ago, but it would eventually spread, humiliating him further.

Sunset was not going to start things, but she would damn well finish them. And make everyone involved regret ever messing with her. Of course, the peace the wouldn’t last forever. Sunset had just put her lunch tray away and was on her way out of the cafeteria to spend the rest of the break somewhere away from the rest of the student body, when the door opened, to reveal Lightning Dust.

Lighting Dust was a member of the CHS soccer team and Rainbow Dash’s rival. She was hypercompetitive, always having something to prove and most importantly, liked to dabble in performance enhancing substances. A piece of information, that Sunset had used on numerous occasions, when she needed some additional muscle that Snips and Snails couldn't provide alone. And from the almost Gilda worthy shark grin on Dust’s face, she was about to collect some payback for all that heavy lifting.

“Hey, Sunset.” Lighting said, stepping right into Sunset’s path.

Rolling her eyes, Sunset picked up the pace, marching briskly towards the jock. She had to end this one quickly, she was in no mood right now, to have another brawl. Out of the corner of her eye she could see the excited looks on everyone’s faces, probably already making bets on who would win the fight, as she crossed the last few steps between them.

“Hi Dust.”

Without warning, Sunset clenched her fist and threw a right hook that collided with Lightning Dust’s stomach, just below the ribcage. The onlookers, who had been itching for a showdown, just looked in surprise as Dust doubled over and fell to her knees, her arms clutching her belly.

“Bye Dust.”

Sunset left the lunchroom without looking back. She just needed to endure a few more hours of school. Hopefully, people would wise up and realize that provoking her was hazardous to their health.

An irritated scowl on her face, Sunset trudged towards Principal Celestia’s office. She did not appreciate being called there so close to the end of the school day, especially after the particularly shitty school day she had just suffered through. But a summons from the Princessipal wasn’t easily ignored, and so, Sunset was making her way there, despite her sincerest wishes to go pretty much anywhere else right now. Knocking on the wooden door with the brass name plate, Sunset didn’t wait for a response before entering the room.

“You wanted to see me, Principal?”

Behind her desk, Principal Celestia looked up from the papers she had been pretending to sort through.

“Yes, please have a seat, Miss Shimmer.”

Doing her best to hide her annoyance, Sunset crossed the room and sat down in the chair in front of Celestia’s desk.

“What did you wish to speak to me about?”

“Well…” Celestia looked down at her papers for a second. “I’ve been receiving some rather worrying reports about your behavior throughout the day.”

“Really?” Sunset raised an eyebrow. “My behavior is what’s worrying? I’ve just been trying to stay out of everyone’s way; it’s all the other students who insisted on harassing me the whole day.”

“Yes,” Celestia sighed, shuffling through another set of papers. “I have been hearing a lot of worrying things about that as well and action will be taken, but that is not why I called you. I have called you here because you’ve injured several students in fights today.”

“Yeah and in case you didn’t notice, they injured me too.” Sunset pointed at the bruise on her cheek. Trixie might only punch like a little bitch, but it did it’s work.

“I know,” Celestia replied, making a placating gesture with her hand. “I know and they will all answer for that, but there are still several students in the infirmary because of you, a few of which will probably require further medical attention.”

“Well, whaddya want me to say?” Sunset leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms, her face a mask of indifference. “That I’m sorry? Because I’m not. These students attacked me first. It’s their own fault that they got hurt in the process; no one was forcing them to do this.”

“Be that as it may,” Celestia picked her words carefully. Privately, she didn’t blame Sunset for what she did. Violence wasn’t a good solution towards bullying, but allowing others to brutalize you, wasn’t one either. “The school’s policy on violence is very clear and regardless of how justified it may have been, beating up your fellow students can’t be tolerated. I’m sorry, Sunset, but I’m afraid you will have to serve detention for the rest of the week.”

“WHAT!?” And just like that, Sunset’s mask fell to pieces. She did not care what those mindless peons did, but now Princess… Principal… Celestia was punishing HER for defending herself? Anger bubbled up in her stomach, raging at the unfairness of it.

“Sunset,” Celestia’s voice was gentle, trying to calm the increasingly agitated looking girl. “Sunset, you broke Gilda’s nose.”

“So what!?” Sunset snapped, leaning forward in her chair. “She was about to break my everything!”

“I know, Sunset, I know.” Celestia said calmly. “But you have to realize that I can’t just let you get away with this. Some sort of pro forma punishment needs to be dealt.”

"Why are you taking their side!?" Sunset rose from her chair and glared at Celestia. What was that woman’s problem?

"I'm not taking anyone's side, Sunset,” Celestia tried again to calm her student. “I'm simply enforcing the school policy on fighting."

"But, but... they started it!” Sunset whined. This was just classic Celestia. Always a stickler for rules that no one needed. “How am I the bad guy in this!?"

"They may have started it, but you chose to beat those students up, Sunset," Celestia said sharply. She realized that Sunset had suffered through a bad day, but her stubborn refusal to see reason was beginning to irritate her.

"Well, excuse me for defending myself from bullies, mom!" Sunset shot back, before freezing up as she realized what she had just said.

“Sunset?” Celestia’s voice was soft and she slowly reached out for her shocked-looking student.

“NO!” Sunset yelped and slapped Celestia’s hand aside. “You are not her! You’re not… ugh!” Groaning, Sunset stumbled back a few steps and took a deep breath. “Okay, okay, I’m not doing this again.” She looked up towards Celestia. “I am not going to detention! I am not going to let you punish me for doing the right thing and that’s final!”

With that, Sunset whirled around and stormed out of the office.

Still fuming, Sunset made her way to the school’s exit. First Anon-A-Miss, then the students and now even Celestia had to make her life more miserable and she had enough. She was not going to subject herself to a week of that kind of treatment. And even if she made it through the week, would Anon-A-Miss and the students actually let her get away? Sunset had her doubts that here was a school far enough away, for them not to haunt her there out of sheer spite. There was really only one place she could go to get away from all this. An option Sunset had actively tried not to think about. Equestria. Twilight would no doubt give her asylum if she asked her, the crux of it was with Princess Celestia. Would she still tolerate Sunset in her kingdom?

Arriving in the school’s entry hall, Sunset groaned as she spotted the burly boy waiting for her at the door.

“That’s right Anon-A-Bitch.” Dumbbell said with an ugly grin “It’s time for payback.”

“Ugh, really Dumbass?” Sunset rolled her eyes “Is one kick in the balls not enough for you?”

“I’ll make you pay for that.” Dumbbell growled at the reminder, of his previous humiliation.

“Well come on then!” Sunset scoffed. With all the anger still bubbling in her stomach, beating Dumbbell to a pulp sounded downright therapeutic. ”It’s not like it’ll be your first time getting beaten up by a girl.”

With a snarl, Dumbbell charged fists raised. Ducking out of the way, Sunset let him barrel past her, before whirling around and kicking him in the back of the knee. His leg collapsing under him, Dumbbell fell flat on his face with a dull thud. Pressing her advantage, Sunset kicked him in the side at full force, only for Dumbbell’s arm to wrap itself around her calf.

“Wha-?” Caught of guard, Sunset found her leg pulled out from underneath her and stars dancing before her eyes, as her head collided painfully with the ground.

With a grunt, Dumbbell stood up and turned towards her “And now, to finish you off.”

Drawing on the most ancient and instinctual of pony combat techniques, Sunset reared her legs up and bucked, her feet aimed squarely at the massive bruise on Dumbbell’s stomach. The burly young man let out an surprisingly high pitched squeal and stumbled backwards, giving Sunset the time to scramble to her feet.

“You...bitch…” Dumbbell groaned in between clenched teeth, his arms wrapped around his stomach.

“Well you know,” Sunset shrugs “everyone was so insistent on having me back as one.”

Dumbbell stumbled towards her, swaying slightly with every step and raised his fist again. The kick to the stomach seemed to have taken the wind out of him, as the punch lacked it’s usual force. Now was as good a good opportunity to put Dumbbell out of commission for a while. Dodging backwards, Sunset grabbed Dumbbell by the outstretched wrist and twisted. Dumbbell screamed as his wrist broke and shove from Sunset send him sprawling on his back.

“Who’s lying flat on the ground and has two broken wrists?” Sunset asked with a grin of malice.

“You...stupid...bitch. I only have one-” Dumbbell was cut off when Sunset stomped on his good wrist with her boot, hard. There was a definite crack and the Dumbbell let out a pathetic whine.

“This guy.”

For the second time that week, Sunset collapsed exhausted onto her bed. Out of a long line of bad days she had had at CHS this one had certainly been one of the worst. At least after the Fall Formal, she had always had her friends to back her up. Now though… With a sigh, Sunset rolled off her bed and trudged over to her desk, where her journal was waiting. Grabbing a pen, Sunset opened the book.

“Hey Twilight. I know it’s a bit short notice, but can you open the portal today?” Sunset wrote.

It only took a few minutes for her to receive an answer.

“Hello Sunset.” Twilight replied “I can open the portal for you today. Why? Did something happen?”

“You could say that.” Sunset chuckled slightly “Nothing magical, but…”

“But what?” Twilight inquired “Please, if there’s any way I can help just say so.”

“I’d rather talk to you about this in person, Twilight. It’s kind of a long story to write this all down. Can you open the portal tonight at 10?”

“Of course. I’ll be there, 10 o’clock sharp.”

“Thanks Twilight, I’ll be seeing you then.”

Sunset closed the journal and leaned back in her seat with a sigh. Now all she had to do was pack and… Her eyes drifted towards the computer. If she was gonna leave CHS anyway then she might as well clean house in the process. Booting up the computer, she opened her MyStable Profile. And this way everyone would at least hate her for something she had actually done.

‘To the students of CHS,' Sunset typed, the steady staccato of her rickety old keyboard echoing across the room, ‘over the course of today’s school day, you have made it very clear that you all believe that I am Anon-A-Miss. For the record and in the interest of clarity, I am stating it once more for the especially slow among you: I am not Anon-A-Miss. I did not create that account and I did not make any of those posts. I. Am. Innocent. Alright? Alright. Now that we have that clarification out of the way, let’s get down to business.’

‘Over the last couple months, ever since the Fall Formal, I have done everything in my power to try to make up for my previous actions. I apologized to the students I mistreated, I volunteered to provide whatever help was needed to anyone who asked, I even let you all push me around to help you vent your frustrations. And after I helped in vanquishing the Dazzlings, I thought that my efforts had finally paid off, that everyone had finally accepted the new person I had become. Obviously I was wrong in that assessment.’

Sunset gritted her teeth, as the events of the day flashed through her mind, the taktaktak of the keyboard becoming louder. 'Despite the progress we had made, despite the fact that you all seemed to like the new Sunset, you were still more than eager to have me back as the bad guy.’ The taktaktak grew faster as Sunset’s anger began to boil along with each incident remembered. ‘I’ve had things thrown at me, insults spat in my face and few particularly stupid specimens even tried to beat me up, and all day, not a single one of you seemed to so much as doubt my guilt in this matter!’

But you know what? Fine. If you want the Bad Sunset back so much, you can have her back and choke on it! In this post I’ll include all my old blackmail material, all the stuff that used to make you too afraid of me to even lift a finger in my direction.
This is my gift to you, CHS.
Merry Fucking Christmas

Actually compiling and attaching all of the pictures, sound files and video clips to the post took the better part of an hour, along with preparing an email for Celestia with a copy of it all, but it was finished. Now all it took was the press of a button to send it.

At 9 pm, Sunset arrived at CHS, a duffel bag carrying all the earthly possessions she planned on taking with her, at her side. The hours she had spend preparing had helped her calm down and clear her thoughts. In the end, it was better for everyone if she just returned to Equestria, especially herself. Her outburst in Princessipal Celestia’s office notwithstanding, there was no way she would get around answering for the various beatings she had been doling out, at this point. Not to mention the fact that the way the student body had been acting, there was no way the student’s of CHS would just let her quietly transfer to another school and start her life over.

The post to MyStable was just the final nail in the coffin.

‘Equestria it is.’ Sunset thought as she walked up the school’s entrance. Before she left there was still something she had to do.

Five minutes before 10 pm, Sunset left the school building and locked the door behind her. Rubbing her eyes, she yawned and looked at her clock. Twilight was due any minute now. Sitting down on the steps, Sunset looked towards the portal and waited.

At precisely 10 o’clock to the dot, the surface of the portal rippled and a familiar, lavender skinned girl came tumbling out and landed face first in the snow. Giggling, Sunset rose from her seat and rushed over to help her up.

“Hey Twilight.” Sunset smiled “Thanks for showing up.”

Wiping the snow from her face, Twilight beamed “Of course, Sunset. If a friend calls, I come running.”

Instead of her usual outfit, the portal had decked Twilight out in full on winter gear, with thick snow pants, an enormous padded jacket in addition to a scarf, earmuffs and gloves. The overall impression, was that of an extremely nerdy grape.

“So,” Twilight asked, with an expression of concern and unbridled curiosity “why did you want me to open the portal so late a night?”

“Yeah…” Sunset took a deep breath “Let me start from the beginning…”

It took Sunset the better part of an hour to recount the events of the last few days. Twilight’s concerned expression was quickly replaced with one of outrage at the Rainboom’s sudden renunciation of their friendship, before again being replaced by horror at the harassment Sunset endured during the day.

“And that,” Sunset concluded “is why I called you.”

“And good thing you did!” Twilight exclaimed “This isn’t just a friendship problem, it’s a downright friendship catastrophe! But don’t worry Sunset, we’ll get this mess sorted out! I will-”

“Twilight!” Sunset cut her off “It’s okay.”

“No it’s not!” Came Twilight’s heated response “None of this is okay! None of this should’ve even happened!”

“I know.” Sunset put a calming hand on Twilight’s shoulder “Trust me, I know. But it’s fine, really. I’ve been meaning to come back to Equestria and set things right there anyway. Now it’ll just be a more… extended stay.”

“Maybe…” Twilight looked concerned at her “But still…”

“Please Twilight, this isn’t some magical threat that needs your help to fix.” Sunset pleaded “This is just someone with a grudge against me. Once I’m gone, everything will go back to normal.”

“Are, are you sure Sunset?” Twilight asked, doubt ringing in her voice.

“I am.” Sunset nodded “I… I don’t want to be in this school any longer. I tried everything I could to make up for my mistakes and it didn’t work. It’ll be better for everyone, if I just go away and let them sort out their lives by themselves.”

After a few moments of contemplation, Twilight nodded “Alright, if you’re sure that this is what you want, then I’ll respect your decision.” She perked up slightly “But don’t think I’ll go easy on you.” she playfully punched Sunset’s shoulder “I’ll help you make some true friends and if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Thanks, Twilight.” Sunset chuckled, ”That means a lot to me.”

“Are you ready to leave then?” Twilight asked, eyeing the duffel bag.

“Yeah.” Sunset nodded and pulled out her phone “I have everything I need with me.”

With a few flicks of her fingers, she opened up a few final messages and sent them out. Pocketing her phone again, she shouldered the duffel bag.

“Let’s go.”

And together, they stepped through the portal.

Chapter 3

View Online

When Sunset Shimmer awoke the next morning, she felt...weird. Her bed felt softer than usual and the light from the windows seemed to be coming from the wrong direction. And for some reason her fingers felt incredibly stiff, liked she had clenched a fist so hard they got stuck that way. Also, her throat was dry. Groaning, Sunset tried to reach for the glass of water she usually kept on her nightstand, only to find nothing there. Frowning, Sunset opened one bleary eye and looked at the empty space next to her hoof. Where had her nightstand gone? Wait a moment. Her hoof?

“Oh right, back in Equestria.” Sunset mumbled to herself as the memories of the previous night came back to her. After the usual stomach churning trip through the portal and about a minute of stumbling around, until Twilight managed to remind her that she was a quadruped again, Sunset had been led to one of the many empty bedrooms in Twilight’s quite absurdly spacious castle.

With a sigh, Sunset rolled onto her back and stared up at the purple ceiling. She frowned, shifting slightly, as she tried to get more comfortable. This position worked a lot better as a human. Adjusting back to her old body would probably take a while, but then again, it was not like she didn’t have a lifetime as a pony ahead of her now.

“A lifetime to do what exactly?” She mused. Any plans she might have had for the human world were shot to hell now and after her plans for rulership had been beaten out of her by Twilight she hadn’t bothered making new ones for Equestria.

“Sunset? Are you awake yet?” A gentle knock on the door interrupted any further musings.

“Um, yes!” Sunset called out, unsure of who was calling for her there “Come in?”

The door opened and a small, purple and green coloured lizard entered the room.

“Spike?” Sunset looked the little dragon over. His colouration matched the puppy Twilight had brought along for her visits.

“In all my dragony glory.” He chuckled, before looking at Sunset “Good morning Sunset, or rather good noon. Twilight said to let you sleep in, she said you had a rough day yesterday.”

“That’s one way to put it…” Sunset chuckled bitterly.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Came Spike’s gentle question, the dragon stepping closer to Sunset’s bed.

“I dunno…” Sunset sighed, looking to the side.

"Come on Sunset, you can confide in Spike the dragon." Spike said, hopping onto the edge of her bed. "I've been listening to Twilight's problems since pretty much the day she hatched me. I've gotten pretty good at it."

Sunset gave an amused snort; she could just imagine a little Twilight venting her problems to a dragon hatchling, who had absolutely no idea what she was talking about.

“Alright, stay awhile and listen.” Sunset smiled. If nothing else, talking to Spike might help her sort things out.

“Uh, yeah, that’s what I was planning to.” Spike replied, giving Sunset an odd look.

“All my pop culture references, worthless now…” Sunset let out a melodramatic sigh. “Shame too, after all that time hanging out with Rainbow and Pinkie I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

“Anyway,” Sunset took a deep breath “it all really started last friday when I was talking with Applejack about the holidays...”

“So I guess they don’t have the same holidays in Equestria?” Applejack asked, as they were stoving away their bags.

“Well, not exactly the same,” Sunset replied, taking of her scarf “the story behind it is different, but it’s the same spirit; everyone coming together with their families, exchanging gifts and so on…” She sighed “Of course I didn’t exactly have much in the way of family even before I ended up here and here no one wanted to hang out with me for the holidays, because I was a massive bitch.”

“So you’ve been alone for the holidays this whole time?” Applejack asked incredulously.

“Yep.” Sunset simply nodded.

“That… that’s awful.” Applejack’s voice was full of sympathy. The idea of anyone spending the holidays alone must’ve been anathema for someone, who put as much stock on family, as the Apple Family did.

“Well, that is pretty awful.” Spike said “Spending Hearth’s Warming Eve all by yourself…”

“Believe me, it was.” Sunset sighed deeply, as she remembered all those winter evenings she had spent, bitterly cursing Celestia’s name for her predicament. “In hindsight, I think a big part of my general attitude back then just stemmed from me being lonely and miserable, in a world where my special talent wasn’t worth a damn. And I wanted to make everyone else just as miserable, so I could feel better about myself.

“Of course,” she amended, “ the other part was my insane desire to become a princess…”

“Why did you want to be Princess so badly anyhow?” Spike asked, sounding genuinely interested.

“That is a whole ‘nother story to get into.” Sunset sighed “Anyway, later that day I was just putting my stuff away, when Pinkie showed up out of nowhere next to my locker and whisked me away to a slumber party at her house.

“And at first everything went great.” Sunset smiled a little, as she remembered that evening. “We had pizza, I utterly kicked Dash’s ass in Street Fighter, Rarity even managed to talk Applejack into letting her paint her nails. “She sighed. “Then Applejack told us the story behind her embarrassing childhood nickname, and by monday that nickname was plastered all over MyStable.”

“If it was so embarrassing, why did she tell you about it?” Spike asked.

“Hm…” Sunset frowned, thinking back to exact order of events. “Why did she do that again?” Her frown deepened. “Because Apple Bloom called her by that name on the phone, during the evening. Then we all got curious and she said that it was a family nickname, that Apple Bloom liked to use as a dig on her.”

“And on Monday it was on MyStable?”

“Yup.” Sunset sighed. “And like half the school used the opportunity to mock Applejack for it. Even with me out of the game, that place has a serious bullying problem…”

“So what happened next?”

“On Monday we had a sleepover at Rarity’s place,” Sunset continued her tale, “where Pinkie got into Rarity’s stash of outlandish fashion failures. We spend the rest of the evening playing dress up and making photos.”

“And then those photos got onto MyStable too,” Spike concludes dryly.

My photos.” Sunset sighs, closing her eyes. “And only mine. None of the photos the other’s took and not a single photo with me in it. And when I got to school on Tuesday...”

“Hey guys!” Sunset waved cheerfully as she walked towards her friends, who had gathered near her locker. Her smile faltered as she saw the serious looks in their eyes. They looked almost... suspicious of her.

“Is something wrong?” Sunset asked as she got closer, a bad feeling making itself known in the pit of her stomach.

“Sunset,” Applejack said, her voice sounding tense, “have ya lost yer phone lately?”

“Um, no?” Sunset pulled her phone out of her pocket. “It’s right here.” She gave Applejack a confused look.

“Then ya need ta explain this.” Applejack held out her phone, her brow furrowed with barely suppressed anger.

“Oh no…” Sunset whispered, her face turning pale. “Oh no no no no! How did she get our pictures!?”

“Not our pictures,” Applejack didn’t even try to keep the anger out of her voice anymore, “your pictures! These are all the ones that you took!”

“But I don’t understand!” Sunset looked at her phone, panic spreading through her body. “I had my phone with me the whole time, how could she have gotten her hands on those photos?”

Sunset looked up and saw the expressions of her friends, the furrowed brows, the narrowed eyes. A stab went through her heart. She knew those looks, she knew what they meant. ‘They- They’re blaming me for this?’ The panic in Sunset was smothered under a sudden numbness that permeated her entire being. Of course they blamed her. It looked like she had done it, so of course she must’ve done it. She was Sunset Shimmer, demon bitch extraordinaire, why wouldn’t they suspect her? Sunset fought those thoughts down. No, damn it! These girls were her friends, they had forgiven her for what she had done.

“You don’t think I did this, do you?” She then asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“They did,” Sunset concluded, her voice flat, staring blankly up at the ceiling. “They accused me, called me a secret stealer, Fluttershy even yelled at me that I wasn’t their friend.” She sighed. “And that whole time I just felt numb, I still feel numb, like I had moments where I was angry since then but mostly I was just numb.”

“What did you do then?” Spike gently asked.

“I… I told them that, if everything I did to show that I’ve changed wasn’t enough to convince them, then I had just wasted my time staying at CHS in the first place.”

“Do you really believe that though?”

“I dunno…” Sunset shrugged. “We had some good times, I admit, and it was fun while it lasted, but in the end it just didn’t matter to them. Not enough to trust me, at any rate. So was it really worth all the pain it took me to get there? Maybe I would’ve been better off, if I had just gone back to Equestria in the first place.”

“What did you do afterwards?”

“I told the Principal that I wanted to transfer, because if my own friends publicly accused me, then everyone else wasn’t gonna hold back either and I was not going through another months long trip as Public Enemy Number One. And after that….”

Sunset recounted the events of the previous day, the harrassment from the other students, the fights she had gotten into, which resulted in Celestia giving her detention.

“And after that I just stormed off…” Sunset sighed “I wrote to Twilight that she open the portal that evening. As far as I was concerned, I was done with this place and this world in general. But I was also pissed beyond measure and I refused to go out like the punching bag everyone wanted to treat me as. So I threatened to post all my old blackmail material.”

“ ‘If I’m going to be hated, at least it’ll be for something I actually did.’ That was my thought process at the time,” Sunset took a deep breath, “but in the end I decided to just put up the stuff that they deserved to have exposed. Even the stuff that implicated me.”

“So, why did you change your mind?” Spike asked.

“To be honest, I’m not even sure myself anymore.” Sunset sighed. “I felt and still feel betrayed by everyone I trusted, but I also felt like I was betraying myself. My best guess is, that I wanted to spite the Daemon in my mirror.”

Sunset flinched slightly, as she saw the grinning demon face in her bathroom mirror.

“Hey there, Sunnybun!” It greeted with it’s usual disturbing cheerfulness.

“What do you want?” Sunset frowned at her mirror

“I just wanted to congratulate you.” The demon cackled. “Those beatdowns you handed out today, the blackmail you’re about to publish…” It wiped a tear from it’s eye. “The Elements may have knocked me out of the driver’s seat, but looks like we’re finally getting back to normal.”

“Oh shut up, will you?” Sunset sneered disdainfully at her mirror. “You’re not even real, you’re just a visualisation of my issues.”

“Your point?” The Daemon raised an eyebrow. “Just because I’m in your head, doesn’t mean that I’m not real.”

“Yes it does!” Sunset snapped, her anger flaring up again. “You’re just a figment of my imagination, everything that I hate about myself given the form the thing that I hate the most! And I thought that I’d finally gotten rid of you after the Battle!”

“Well, if that’s true,” The Daemon leaned towards her, its grin widening, “then what does that say about you right now?”

What did it say about her? Sunset realized that she had been slipping back into old patterns, the disdain for her classmates, the gleeful brutality on her attackers and now she was planning on anon-a-missing practically the entire school. She really was letting the old Her back in the driver’s seat wasn’t she?
“That thing actually talks to you?” Spiked asked, genuinely worried for Sunset.

“Nah, it’s just a projection of my issues.” Sunset waved her hoof dismissively. “All the parts of myself that I hate, given a shape that I hate even more, to help me remember why I wanted to change in the first place. The Elements purged the dark magic from by body, remember? That demon isn’t actually a thing that’s talking to me.”

“Hm…” Spike frowned, unconvinced. He’d have to talk to Twilight about that one later, or better yet Princess Celestia.

“So yeah, I posted everyone’s crimes to take them down with me, send a copy of everything to the Principal and legged it to Equestria.” Sunset shrugged “And now, I guess I’ll just have to get a new life started around here, make some new friends. Twilight offered to help me with that. Where is Twilight anyway?”

“She’s upstairs in the throne room,” Spike said “explaining the whole situation to the girls.”

“So yeah, that’s basically what happened.” Twilight concluded her report, looking expectantly at her friends. Doubtful faces greeted her.

“Ah dunno, Twi…” Applejack broke the silence. “Are ya sure that Sunset is actually reformed? Cause it sounds like she went back to how she was when she stole your crown. Ya know, beatin’ up folks and puttin’ up blackmail.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow nodded, “shouldn’t the Elements have turned her good permanently, like they did with Princess Luna?”

“What? No! That’s not what the Elements of Harmony do.” Twilight shook her head in exasperation. “Come on guys, we talked about this.”

“Yeah, um.. no offense Twi, but your lecture on that was kinda sleep inducing…” Rainbow said, awkwardly scratching the back of her head.

“Ugh!” Twilight groaned, once again frustrated at her friend’s lack of academic interest. How could a little five-hour seminar on the Elements of Harmony possibly be sleep inducing? Their mysterious history alone was one of the most fascinating things Princess Celestia had ever taught her. “Fine. The abridged version then.

“The Elements of Harmony did two things to Sunset Shimmer that night,” Twilight said, immediately falling into her ‘lecturing voice’. “One: They cleansed her of the dark magic that had infested her body and turned her into an insane demon.” Insane enough, to think that she could conquer Equestria with an army of teenagers, at the very least.

“Two: They stripped away the lies she had been telling herself and forced her to confront the truth.” Which was the truly painful part in being cleansed by the Elements of Harmony. “Sunset Shimmer saw herself, truly saw herself, for what she had become. The Elements did not ‘turn her good’, or scrubbed the bad parts of her away. They merely forced her to confront herself and showed her a better path.

“The decision to take that path, the decision to change and reform, was entirely her own and the fact that she partook in the Magic of Friendship during the battle against the Sirens, is proof of how far she had come in that regard.” Twilight smiled, proud of Sunset’s progress in the few months between the Formal and the Battle. “What she did yesterday was a stumble, yes, but she caught herself before she could fall back completely. I have every confidence that she will only continue to grow into a better pony, as long as she has somepony to support her along the way.”

“Fair enough,” Applejack nodded. You couldn’t argue with the Magic of Friendship on that one. Even Discord had fixed his act after that business with Tirek. If he could change for the better, then pretty much anypony could. “So what do we do about her?”

“She’s in a very bad place right now,” Twilight said, “being abandoned by her friends, because of this whole Anon-A-Miss mess, hurt her deeply.”

“You mean Anon-A-Mess!” Pinkie Pie quipped.

“Yes, Pinkie,” Twilight chuckled. “So while I go over to the other side tomorrow, to hopefully straighten things out, I’d like for you all to show her around Ponyville. Right now, Sunset needs to feel that she is welcome and among friends here. That there are still ponies who care for her.”

Sunset had made it quite clear she was not yet ready to face Princess Celestia again, and Twilight was not going force the issue. Right now, Sunset needed time to heal. Potentially emotionally taxing reunions with her old mentor could wait.

“Um, wouldn’t we kinda make her uncomfortable?” Applejack asked, looking a bit doubtful. “Ya know, the whole thing with those friends being our counterparts?”

“It might be a bit shaky at first, but I’m sure that Sunset can keep you and them seperate in her mind.” Twilight replied with a confident smile. After all, despite her mixed feelings towards the Princess, Sunset had called Principal Celestia one of her closest confidants at CHS.

“Well, you can count on us, Twilight! We’ll show Sunset what real friends are like!” Rainbow Dash boasted, puffing out her chest and pounding it with a hoof.

“I am counting on you, Dash.” Twilight smiled. “I promised Sunset that I would help her make some true friends here and if her life in the human world can’t be fixed, then I will make sure that she has a better one in Equestria.”

“Won’t they miss her over there?” Fluttershy asked.

“That’s another reason why I’m going,” Twilight nodded, “because I don’t think that her friends would actually want her gone. They’re impulsive and tend to act before they think, but during my first visit they were just as quick to apologize, when they realised that they were wrong about each other. I’m sure they’ll try to make amends once they know that Sunset is innocent.”

“Are you sure you’ll be able to convince them, Twilight?” Rarity asked.

“I have every confidence.” Twilight puffed her chest out a little. “I know they’ll see reason.”

“Can I come too, Twilight?” Pinkie requested, raising her hoof and waving it enthusiastically. “I wanna give the other me a piece of my mind! If she’s a Pinkie Pie, she should know better than to make somepony cry!”

“Right now I need you here, to make Sunset smile, Pinkie.” Twilight chuckled “You can chew your counterpart out after I’m back.”

Pinkie Pie gave a salute and blew a party horn.

“Don’t you worry, Twilight! I’ll make sure Sunset Shimmer feels welcome with a genuine, 100-percent certified Pinkie Party!”

“Good soldier.” Twilight nodded and returned the salute, just like she had learned from her BBBFF. “Alright girls, meeting adjourned. I’ll go check up on Sunset and tomorrow, we start getting her back on her hooves!”

When Principal Celestia entered her office that morning, she found a surprise waiting for her on her desk. A large, leather bound tome, wearing the red and gold sun that Sunset Shimmer had always been so fond of on its cover. Next to the book sat a folded letter with the words “To Celestia” written on the cover. Frowning at the realisation that someone, possibly Sunset, had broken into her office after hours, Celestia opened the letter.

“Dear Principal Celestia,” it read, in Sunset’s neat, flowing handwriting.
“By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be back in Equestria. Please do not worry about me, Princess Twilight is here and she’ll help me get situated. After everything that happened yesterday I decided that it would be better for everyone, myself included, if I just went home. I doubt that I’ll be coming back any time soon, if ever, as I didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms with pretty much everyone I knew around here. I would however like to entrust my journal to you. If there’s ever any magical trouble at CHS again, you can use it to contact Princess Twilight for help. Just write your message in it and it will appear in its counterpart in Equestria. Just, please don’t ask me to come back here again.

And I wanted tell you that I’m sorry for how I acted yesterday. Our discussion… It reminded me of a fight I had with your counterpart many years ago and I overreacted. I know this doesn’t excuse or justify anything, I just wanted you to know why I reacted like that. It wasn’t your fault and you were right in what you said, I did go overboard in beating up my attackers and for what it’s worth I’m sorry for causing so much trouble for you with it.”

The writing turned a bit shaky now, small stains smudging the ink and paper. Had Sunset been crying as she wrote those lines?

“I’m sorry for everything. I spend my years at this school causing nothing but trouble and when I finally tried to turn things around I couldn’t even managed that! I failed you as a student both then and now and I’m so, so sorry for it! And I’m sorry for the trouble I’m about to cause you even now.”

Celestia felt a pang in her heart as she read those lines. Despite her unfortunate past, Sunset had been one of the best and brightest students Celestia had seen in all her years as an educator. She had been overjoyed, witnessing Sunset finally using her gifts for the benefit of others and growing into a better person as a result and she had done everything she could to encourage that growth. Seeing it all undone because of some student’s grudge and feeling the sheer anguish in Sunset’s words made her all the more determined to find Anon-A-Miss and clear her name. Even if Sunset was never coming back to CHS, this was the least she could do for her. But what did she mean with ‘even now’? In search of an answer, Celestia kept reading.

“I don’t know if you’ve checked your emails yet,” the next line read, the writing becoming less shaky as it went on, “but there’s one from me in it, with a with a number of files and some explanations. I decided that since I was going to leave anyway, I might as well clean house and this way, I’ll at least be hated for something I actually did. So I wrote a post on my MyStable that I was gonna publish all of my old blackmail material.

“No…” Celestia groaned as she read those words. “Sunset please tell me you didn’t actually go through with that.” Booting up her computer to check, Celestia read the rest of the letter.

“But after a rather uncomfortable look in the mirror I realized that I couldn’t go through with it. Because I realized that I was going back to the demon that I used to be and I didn’t want to be that person again. So I compromised to posting everything that was genuinely the wrong thing to do. I know you’re probably going to say that I should’ve just given that stuff to you to handle, but having my evil exposed to everyone, helped me turn my life around. I just ask that you give them a chance to do the same.

Plus if I’m entirely honest, this is a bit of vindication too. They brought this upon themselves, just like I did.

In case you were wondering how I got into your locked office, well, I may have blackmailed the janitor into giving me a copy of the master key a couple years ago, after I caught him on tape coming drunk to work that one time. I included that in the files I sent you too, by the way.

And lastly, I wanted to thank you for everything you’ve done for me, for being there for me after the Fall Formal and for helping me, when I came to you yesterday.

Oh, and please give Mr. Cranky my thanks too, for standing up for me in class today.

I guess this is everything I have to say…
I hope you’ll be having a better time being a principal, now that I’m no longer here to cause trouble for you. Please keep the journal safe and away from the other students, I’m afraid they’d probably burn it if they found it.

Farewell, Principal Celestia.

Your student
Sunset Shimmer.”

“Damn it, Sunset...” Celestia sighed as she opened MyStable on her browser and confirmed Sunset’s words. “You really should have just let me handle this.” Now it was going to become a mess, not just the legal troubles that would follow some of those things, but also the angry parents and the resulting search for Sunset Shimmer. Not to mention the hit to the schools reputation. Celestia could practically see Cinch’s smug face before her inner eye; smirking as she heard about these things happening at CHS.

With another sigh, she hit the intercom. “Luna? Call a staff meeting please, the situation just got from bad to worse.”

By the time lunch hour rolled around, CHS was abuzz with talk of Sunset’s blackmail post. Even the newest reveals about the Rainbooms from Anon-A-Miss had been ignored in favor of the much bigger and juicier pieces of gossip.

Sitting at their usual table, the Rainbooms were conflicted at this new development.

“Ah’m just sayin’ that this don’t seem right to me.” Applejack said, a deep frown on her face.

“Come on, AJ,” Rainbow Dash, sitting opposite of her, replied. “She said it herself.”

“Ah know what she said, Dash.” Applejack grimaced irritatedly. “But still…”

“But still what?” Dash rolled her eyes. “She said that she didn’t lose her phone after the sleepover and we were the only one’s at the sleepover. It had to be her; there are no other suspects!”

“Ah know!” Applejack replied forcefully, before letting out a deep sigh. “Ah know, but still... this doesn’t feel right. Why bother with the Anon-A-Miss thing in the first place, if she was gonna publish all of that stuff on her own profile anyway? And why keep pretendin’ that she was innocent, if everyone had already figured that it was her?”

“Uh...because she wanted people to think that she wasn’t the one posting it?” Dash omitted the ‘duh’ everyone could hear at the end of that sentence.

“Read her last message again, Dash.” Applejack pushed her phone towards Rainbow. “This is the stuff she used ta blackmail folks with. Everyone would’ve known that this was her the moment she had put any of that up as Anon-A-Miss. Sunset would’ve known that everyone would’ve known. And everyone already thought that she was Anon-A-Miss anyhow. So why bother pretendin’ that it wasn’t her and then put up somethin’ even worse on her own blog?”

“Uhm…” Rainbow read Sunset’s last message again. Applejack had a point, just like with the pictures, everyone would’ve known that this stuff could’ve only come from Sunset. So why hide behind a useless facade? “Hm.”

“And more importantly,” Applejack pressed on, “what’s in it fer her? Ah mean, if anything, this post makes her look even worse, if not an accomplice ta half the stuff in it. Why would she admit ta all that?”

“I have to agree with Applejack on this, darling,” Rarity now said. “Sunset Shimmer did some truly dreadful things in her day…” humiliating memories of running half naked through the crowd of students at the Spring Fling flashed through Rarity’s mind, “...but there was always something for her to gain in it. Now, all she has accomplished is to paint a target on her back. I’m fairly certain even the police will want a word with her about some of these things.”

“Well, okay…” Rainbow frowned, the more she thought about this, the more confusing and fishy this whole thing became. “But this still leaves the pictures that only Sunset could’ve put up there.”

“Ah know…” Applejack sighed. “Ah’ve been tyin’ mah brain into knots, tryin’ ta figure out if this might’ve been some kinda scheme o’ hers gone wrong, but Ah can’t even imagine, what kinda scheme that could’a been.”

“Quite so…” Rarity said, tapping her chin in contemplation. “The more I think about it, the less this whole Anon-A-Miss business fits her old modus operandi…”

“What if she didn’t do it?” Fluttershy, who was sitting next to Rainbow Dash, whispered almost inaudibly from behind her hair.

“Pardon me, darling?” Rarity leaned towards her. “What did you say?”

“What if she didn’t do it?” Fluttershy repeated, her voice trembling. “What...what if she really is innocent?” Her body began to shake in quiet sobs. “I said...those awful things to her...because I didn’t want her to hurt me again...and now…” She looked at Rarity, tears brimming in her eyes. “Now I’ve been the one who hurt her!”

The other girls shared a glance. It was unpleasant to contemplate, but the more they thought about the whole thing, the less likely it seemed that Anon-A-Miss had been one of Sunset’s old tricks. Maybe they had been wrong.

“There there, Flutters.” Rainbow Dash pulled the crying girl into a hug. “We’ll figure this out, okay? And if Sunset is innocent…” she looked towards her friends, “then we’ll set things right.”

“If there is anythin’ left ta set right with her,” Applejack sighed. “Ah mean, even if she isn’t Anon-A-Miss, she still hospitalized Dumbbell and Gilda and she posted every scrap o’ dirt she had as revenge on the school. This whole thing might’ve just driven her back to the Dark Side.”

“Well…” Rarity grabbed Applejack’s phone and looked through the list of files. “Maybe not completely.” At Applejack’s questioning look she elaborated “We all know that Sunset had dirt on pretty much everyone, right?” Nods all around. “And she had reason to be angry with pretty much everyone, right? But when I look through that list I don’t see any of the embarrassing secrets, or pictures, or rumors, that we know she had. For some reason, Sunset limited herself to material about illegal activities, school code violations and otherwise amoral dealings. The old Sunset wouldn’t have had that kind of restraint.” She smiled. “Our friend might be a bit lost right now, but I don’t think she’s completely gone.”

“Sooo…” Pinkie, who had been sitting quietly absorbed into her own little world throughout the exchange, perked up. “Where is Sunny anyway? I haven’t seen her all day.”

“Considerin’ that everybody and their grandmother oughta be out for her blood right now, Ah don’t think she bothered comin’ ta school today,” Applejack answered with a shrug.

“Agreed.” Rarity nodded. “You have all heard about what happened to her yesterday, didn’t you?”

“Trixie, Gilda, Lightning Dust and Dumbbell,” Dash counted down on her fingers, “all attacked her yesterday. Dumbbell twice.”

“And that was just with the things Anon-A-Miss had posted about us.” Rarity shuddered “I don’t think I want to imagine the kind reaction Sunset would get, if she walked into the cafeteria right now.”

“And it’s all our fault.” Fluttershy sniffed. “They all believed that she was guilty because we accused her.”

“Alright,” Rainbow nodded, soothingly rubbing Fluttershy’s shoulders, “first thing after school, we go to Sunset’s apartment and talk to her.”

‘And pray to the great rainbow Alicorn in the sky that she’s in a forgiving enough mood to hear us out,’ She thought.

Chapter 4 Part 1

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When Sunset Shimmer awoke the next morning, she felt… surprisingly good.

Yesterday, after a delicious lunch, courtesy of Spike, Twilight had dragged her to the library and needled her for every bit of information that Sunset could give her. A detailed description of the whole Anon-A-Miss incident, as well as explanations on how MyStable worked, how smartphones were operated, student dynamics before and after the initial accusation, everything she knew about her attackers, the exact nature of the blackmail material Sunset had released, and all the reasons Sunset could name as to why her friends would be resentful of her. By the time they were done, Sunset was utterly exhausted and a small forest’s worth of paper had been filled with notes.

In celebration of having her insatiable need for information satisfied, the Princess of Friendship had declared a sleepover for the two of them. While the idea of a sleepover stirred up some bitter memories in Sunset, when she actually settled down in bed with Twilight it felt...nice. There was something pleasantly nostalgic in laying there beside Twilight, one purple wing draped over her back and listening to the excited Princess detailing all the fun things she was envisioning to help Sunset settle back into life in Equestria. It took Sunset back to when she was just a little filly and Princess Celestia would do the same with her lesson plans, filling Sunset’s head with all the marvels of magic they’d soon be exploring together.

And so, cuddled up against her best friend in the world, Sunset felt some of the numbness that had taken root in her body give way to cautious optimism. As long as she had Twilight at her side, Sunset felt, she could get her life back in order. Closing her eyes and soaking in the warmth radiating off Twilight’s body, Sunset fell into a deep, relaxing slumber.

It was the glare of the morning sun, that roused Sunset from her sleep. A particularly annoying ray of sunshine seemed to have chosen her eyes as its target and no matter how much she turned her head and squeezed her eyelids shut, she could not escape it. Her old childhood curse, no doubt cast upon her by Celestia to get her to wake up on time for the early morning lessons, was acting up again. Groggily grumbling a colourful multitude of curses under her breath at the Princess and her infuriating morning pony ways, Sunset tried to prop herself up, only to be held down by an unfamiliar weight around her neck. Slowly opening her eyes, Sunset turned her head towards the direction the weight seemed to be coming from and came muzzle to muzzle with Princess Twilight Sparkle.

‘Oh right,’ Sunset thought to herself. ‘The sleepover.’

That also explained why she felt so warm on one side. Somewhere during the night, Twilight seemed to have decided to take cuddling with her friend to the next level. Lying on her side, facing Sunset, Twilight had her arms wrapped tightly around Sunset’s neck and one purple wing draped over her barrel. Feeling her cuddle buddy trying to slip away, Twilight mumbled something unintelligible and tightened her grip with Earth Pony strength, pulling Sunset closer to her, where she nuzzled into the crook of her neck with a happy noise.

Deciding against a another, equally futile, attempt to escape the clutches of Princess Twilight Cuddlebug, Sunset simply settled down and closed her eyes again. While Celestia’s curse might have prevented her from sleeping beyond the wee hours of the morning, the part of Sunset that was definitely not a morning pony was determined to at least doze a few more hours away. If nothing else, then to stick it to the Princess and her insufferable, caffeine independent early day cheerfulness. Plus, if Sunset was entirely honest, being cuddled like that felt really nice.

Dozing next to Twilight, Sunset enjoyed the warmth and closeness to her best friend, but, as the minutes trickled by, a fun little idea entered her mind. When Twilight awoke, groaning and bleary eyed, Sunset was ready to enact her plan.

“Good morning, beautiful,” Sunset whispered, giving a Twilight a peck on the nose.

“S-Sunset?” Twilight’s bleary eyes widened and her muzzle scrunched up adorably. “W-what are you doing?” She stammered, blushing brightly.

“What am I doing?” Sunset giggled and gave Twilight a teasing look. “Can’t a mare kiss her own wife anymore?”

“Wife!?” Twilight squeaked, her blush intensifying. Staring at Sunset in shock, she tried to back away.

“Oh Twilight…” Sunset sighed affectionately, wrapping an arm around her neck she pulled Twilight closer and nuzzled her cheek. “You really are hopeless without your morning coffee. We’ve been married for five years now, silly. Do I need to get the baby to prove it to you?”

“Married? Five years? Baby!?” Twilight’s expressen grew more confused and panicked with each word.

“Yes!” Sunset chuckled, then paused, a worried you look on her face. “I mean, you do remember it, right?”

“Sunset, I…” Twilight tried to say something.

“Are you te-telling me, that you don’t remember?” Sunset cut her off. Her lip was trembling and tears began to well up in her eyes. “You don’t remember it? Our love? Our daughter!?” She cried in anguish.

“No no no no!” An entirely new kind of panic rose up in Twilight, and she hurried to comfort her wife. “Of course I remember it, Sunset, honey,” she said, pulling Sunset close again and began to stroke her mane. “How could I ever forget…” She trailed off as she noticed the mirthful look in Sunset’s eyes. “You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”

Sunset managed to squeak out a ‘Yes!’, before dissolving into a mess of laughter.

Sunset was still snickering by the time the two made their way towards the kitchens for breakfast.

“Alright, alright,” Twilight finally chuckled, giving Sunset a look of mock annoyance. “I admit it, you got me good.”

“Right?” Sunset giggled, playfully bumping her rump against Twilight’s. “Like you could ever forget being married to all of this.”

“Yes yes, you’re the prettiest filly at the Gala.” Twilight smiled, rolling her eyes. “And I am glad to see that you’re feeling better today.”

“Me too,” Sunset smiled mischievously, pushing open the door to the kitchen. “We should do this more often. Sleeping with you clearly does wonders for my mood.”

Smirking at the blush spreading across Twilight’s face, Sunset walked into the kitchen. There, on the breakfast table, sat two plates of steaming pancakes and a bottle of syrup waiting for them..

“Well, breakfast is ready.” Sunset sat down at the table. “I wonder where Spike is though,” she said, looking around the room.

“He’s already off to Canterlot,” Twilight replied, sitting down opposite of her. “Princess Celestia sent him a letter yesterday. Apparently she needs him for some Royal Business again.”

“Hm, weird.” Sunset eyed the delicious looking pancakes. “What sort of Royal Business would the Princess need a baby dragon for?”

“I don’t know.” Twilight shrugged. “She summons him like that every once in a while, but they’ve never disclosed exactly what it is they’re doing together and I don’t wish to pry into their private activities. I assume she has her reasons for not telling me.”

“She usually has.” Sunset shrugged. “So what do we do today?”

“Well,” Twilight said, pulling the plate of pancakes closer, “what I’m doing today, is going through the portal and trying to fix the situation over there.”

“Why bother?” Sunset replied, reaching for her own plate. “With me gone, Anon-A-Miss loses its target. The situation will fix itself.”

“Maybe.” Twilight began pouring syrup over her pancakes. “But have you considered that you might not be the target, so much as the scapegoat? Whoever is behind Anon-A-Miss might not give up, just because you’re not there to take the blame.”

“Hm. Maybe.” Sunset frowned. That was indeed something she had not considered. The initial posts and their effect seemed very deliberately aimed at her. “But what’s the point then? Who benefits from humiliating the Rainbooms?”

“Maybe not just the Rainbooms.” Twilight cut up the first layer of pancakes. “Was anyone else targeted?” she asked, shoving a piece of pancake into her mouth.

“I dunno, maybe?” Sunset shrugged, cutting up her own stack. “I already told you, I didn’t bother checking my feed for updates, after my friends ditched me.”

“Then we can’t discount the possibility, that this isn’t just someone with a grudge against you and the Rainbooms, but an attack against CHS as a whole,” Twilight concluded, eating another piece of pancake.

“Hm.” Chewing on her piece, Sunset just gave a noncommittal grunt. “You still haven’t answered my question Twilight. Why bother? This isn’t some sort of magical threat from Equestria, it’s just some jerk messing around with a blog. Fixing the bullying problem at CHS isn’t your job.”

“Actually,” Twilight replied, with just a shade of smugness in her voice, “as the Princess of Friendship, fixing this sort of problem is exactly my job. And also, because these people are still my friends. They may have stumbled, but I’m not giving up on them yet.”

“They didn’t just stumble, Twilight!” Sunset snapped. “They spat on everything you taught them! They lied about having forgiven me, they called themselves my family!” She stared down at her plate. “They don’t deserve your friendship, or your help.”

“Maybe,” Twilight said, calmly looking at Sunset. With everything Spike had told her about their little heart to heart, Sunset expressing some anger towards the Rainbooms was a good sign. “But without them, I wouldn’t have been able to save you. Without them, we wouldn’t have managed to stop the Sirens. Even if they’ve truly turned their back on the Magic of Friendship, I still owe it to them to give them a chance.”

“Fine,” Sunset grumbled. “I suppose I can’t talk you out of doing the friendshippy thing.”

She sighed. “Then what am I supposed to do all day? I don’t exactly know this corner of Equestria.”

“Yeah, about that,” Twilight said, cutting up another layer of pancake. “I asked my friends to show you around Ponyville today.”

“Do you really think it’s a good idea to leave me alone with them?” Sunset quirked an eyebrow. “All things considered?”

“It is a necessary idea,” Twilight replied. “They’re my friends, Sunset, and they’re not going to go away. I’m not asking you to be friends with them, I’m just asking that you give them a chance as their own ponies and try to get along with them. Please? For me?”

“Fine…” Sunset sighed. “I suppose it would be silly of me to just hate them for something their counterparts did. I probably won’t like them either way, but I’ll give them a chance.”

“Thank you, Sunset.” Twilight smiled warmly.

Sunset returned the smile with a confident nod. “I can do this.”

Sunset took a step back and shook her head. “I cannot do this.”

After breakfast, the two had settled down in the library to wait for Sunset’s tour guides and Applejack, punctual early riser that she was, didn’t keep them waiting for long. Immediately upon seeing Applejack however, a wave of mixed emotions began to bubble up in Sunset. Regret, longing, betrayal and a whole lot of anger; everything she had tried suppressing surged through her, vanishing the good mood the morning had set her in.

“Sunset…” Twilight began gently, but Sunset cut her off.

“I mean it, Twilight! I just look at her and…” Sunset gestures towards Applejack, who awkwardly scratched the back of her neck. “...and I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now, but I’m not feeling ready to spend a day with them all!”

“Sunset, please.” Twilight placed a hoof on Sunset’s. “You can do this. Just give them a chance.”

“No, Twilight!” Sunset swatted her hoof aside. “I can’t! I just can’t deal with them all right now!”

“Okay,” Twilight said softly. “Maybe it’s still too soon for that. It’s okay, we’ll just spend the day together then. I can deal with Anon-A-Miss some other time.”

“No,” Sunset shook her head. “You go ahead and fix that moronic school.”

“Are you sure?” Twilight tilted her head. “I’d hate to leave you alone like this.”

“Twilight, it’s okay. I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself for a day.” Sunset smiled reassuringly. “And besides, the sooner you’re finished worrying about them, the sooner you can focus on fixing this hot mess here.”

“Alright.” Twilight nodded. “If you’re absolutely sure.”

“Twilight, I’ll be fine.” Sunset gestured around the room. “I’ll just spend the day catching up on some reading. That should keep me occupied.”

“In that case…” Twilight’s horn lit up and a purple book came flying from one of the nearby bookshelves. “This journal documents all the Friendship Lessons me and the girls have learned over the years. Maybe learning a bit about how they are on this side of the portal will help you sort out your feelings.”

“You want me to study up on your friends?” Sunset let out a snort of amusement and grinned at Twilight, who smiled sheepishly.


“That’s an incredibly you thing to do.” Chuckling, Sunset grabbed the book with her magic. “Alright, I’ll give it a look and hey, maybe I’ll learn some more friendship lessons while I’m at it.”

“That’s the spirit!” Twilight smiled broadly. “If you’re really okay with this, then I’m gonna go now.”

“Yeah, go and give them all a good lecturing.”

After a quick hug, Twilight put on her serious face, squared her withers, and marched off through the portal.

After watching Twilight disappear through the portal, Sunset settled down on one of the comfortable reading couches, that dotted the castle library. With a sigh, she opened up the Friendship Journal to the first lesson. Twilight had told her about a few of her adventures during their conversations through the journal, usually when Sunset wrote to her about a new friendship lesson she had learned, and she was rather curious to see the path that had shaped Twilight into the embodiment of Friendship that she was.

“So....” Applejack’s voice pulled Sunset back out of her thoughts. “Since ya called off the tour fer now, Ah guess I’m just gonna go…” She said, awkwardly scratching the back of her neck. She turned around and made a move towards the library door.

“Wait!” Sunset voice rang out, halting Applejack mid-step. “Can I… ask you a question first?”

“Sure thing, sugarcube.” Applejack turned back around towards Sunset. “Ask away.”

“If…” Sunset gulped and took a deep breath, her eyes fixed on the pages of the journal. “If you found out that a member of your family had been spreading embarrassing secrets about you, how would you react?”

Applejack winced, a look of sympathy appearing on her face. “Ah got so mad, Ah refused ta even talk ta Apple Bloom.”

“Huh?” Sunset replied rather dumbfounded, looking up enough to throw a glance towards Applejack..

“Ya see,” Applejack said. “Something like that happened here once, when mah sister an’ her friends tried ta earn their Cutie Marks in journalism.” She described the events of the Gabby Gums incident, how Diamond Tiara had blackmailed the Cutie Mark Crusaders into gathering all sorts of hurtful gossip and the eventual fallout. “It should be somewhere near the end of the first half in the journal, if ya want ta look up the details.”

“Huh.” Sunset frowned flipping forward through the Friendship Journal until she found the appropriate page. “Maybe the... Other Applejack, wasn’t lying about me being family after all…”

“Maybe that’s what’s going on over there?” Applejack offered, with a nod towards the mirror. “Twilight said that this human world has got a version of all of us. Maybe Anon-A-Miss is that worlds version of Gabby Gums?”

“That is possible.” Sunset hummed thoughtfully. “If one version of Diamond Tiara had access to that sort of blackmail on your sister, then the other version might too.”

Her eyes widened up in sudden realisation. “Applebloom was the one to bring up Piggly Wiggly in the first place. And Sweetie Belle was there during the sleepover, so she could have taken the pictures from my phone. I didn’t even keep a pin to unlock the screen, because I never kept anything important on my public phone…

“But…” Sunset made another thoughtful humming noise. “I can’t think of any reason why Diamond would do it. Anon-A-Miss isn’t a gossip column in a newspaper, it’s a MyStable blog. She’s not selling any copies with it, or otherwise earning anything, not even any kind of positive reputation. She can’t take credit for getting me to leave CHS, without exonerating me.”

“Maybe she just got it out fer ya personally?” Applejack shrugged.

“Maybe…” Sunset furrowed her brow. “But I can not for the life of me remember ever doing anything to her, or her little girlfriend. The freshmen as a whole were pretty inconsequential to any of my plans… And I can’t think of anything that she would gain out of anonymously ruining my reputation either. It doesn’t fit.”

“Somepony else then?”

“Probably.” Sunset shrugged. “In the end it doesn’t really matter.”

Applejack gave Sunset an incredulous look. “O’ course it matters! Don’tcha wanna know who did this ta you?”

Sunset sighed deeply. “On the one hand, yes, I want to know. On the other hand, I just want to leave this whole thing behind me…”

“Even if it means that ya can never go back ta yer life there? Yer home?”

“Pft!” Sunset scoffed dismissively. “Equestria IS my home, Applejack. That place? It was a prison I was foalish enough to get myself trapped in. I never wanted to make a life there. Let Anon-A-Miss have her little victory. Ultimately, all she achieved was to get me out of my self-imposed exile.

“Besides,” she added. “It’s not like I could go back even if I wanted to. The police will be looking for me sooner or later.”

“Whaddaya mean?” Applejack asked. “Because of the fights ya got into?”

“Potentially,” Sunset sighed. “Assuming they try to press charges. But more because of the post I sent the night I left. I revealed all the students’ crimes, I was privy to. A good few of which I blackmailed and extorted over those crimes. They’ve got nothing to lose in letting the cops know about that now.”

“Oh…” Applejack said, looking uncomfortably to the side.

“Having second thoughts about the whole ‘showing me around’ thing by now?” Sunset gave her a sardonic smile. “You don’t have to try and be friendly with me just because Twilight asked you to, you know? It didn’t go well with the other Applejack either. And I am fully aware of how bad I look right now. I won’t hold it against you if wanna leave now.”

“Sunset,” Applejack said slowly, after thinking for a long moment. “If ya had shown up at mah farm that night and told me that whole story? Ah would’ve taken ya in. Ah don’t need Twilight ta be neighbourly. Ah admit, Ah had some doubts when Twilight told me what happened, but Ah know now that you really have changed.

Applejack reached out with her hoof to touch Sunset’s shoulder. Sunset flinched slightly but relaxed after a moment. Something in Applejack’s words had struck a chord in her.

“Ah know yer scared that dealing with us will turn out the same way it did with our counterparts, but it won’t, Ah promise.” Applejack’s voice was gentle and reassuring. The kind of voice you use when talking to a hurt foal. An honest voice.

‘Maybe I can actually trust them…’ Sunset looked thoughtfully at Applejack. ‘They are the people Twilight thought their counterparts were.’

‘And what if they’re not the people Twilight thinks they are either?’ Her doubts answered unbidden.

‘Well what if they are?’

‘What if they aren’t?’

‘Then it’s not like we can sink any deeper, than the rock bottom we’ve already hit.’

‘Twilight could abandon us too. They could turn her against us.’

‘Do you really believe that Twilight would ever abandon us?’

‘We didn’t believe that any of the others would ever abandon us either. Fact is, we have no guarantee that this will end any other way than with any of them.’

‘We have no guarantee that it will not either.’

‘If you’re wrong, we’ll regret this for the rest of our life.’

‘So will we if you’re wrong. And right now, I’d rather make the mistake of trusting a friend too much, than not trusting one enough.’

“Maybe...maybe you’re right,” Sunset finally said. Her voice came out a little hesitant, but she managed to give Applejack a small smile. “I think I feel a bit better now.”

Applejack returned the smile with one of her own, broad and confidence inspiring. “Feel like going on that tour now after all?”

“I…” Sunset hesitated again. “If it’s alright, I’d rather just...follow Twilight’s advice and study up on you a little for now.”

“Alright.” Applejack nodded. “Ya just give the word when ya feel ready, okay?”

“Okay.” Sunset's smile turned a little wider now. “And thank you, Applejack, I really needed to hear that.”

“Yer welcome, Sunset.” Applejack gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder and turned to leave. “And if there’s anything ya need, just ask.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Sunset nodded. “Thanks.”

After watching Applejack leave, Sunset turned once again back to the Friendship Journal. These mares had inspired so much confidence in Twilight, that she hadn’t thought twice about entrusting her into the care of their counterparts after the Formal. It was time to find out, just why that was.

Chapter 4 Part 2

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Twilight’s Friendship Journal contained a great many stories about herself and her friends. Some were very entertaining, some were very insightful, and some made Sunset Shimmer very concerned for her friend.

“I swear, this girl needs a good therapist,” she muttered to herself, as she finished the latest chapter. She took a sip from her tea cup. “Having a mental breakdown, about being potentially tardy with the Princess, is not the behavior of a healthy mind…”

‘Hah! A great suggestion! You should find one for yourself while you’re at it!’

Sunset almost choked on her tea as she heard the familiar voice echoing through her mind. Setting aside her cup, she looked up towards the Crystal Mirror and grimaced. Her reflection had once again been replaced with the annoying demon.

“What do you want this time?” Sunset rolled her eyes. “I’m not going back to being like you, no matter what you say. And for your information, I didn’t release… most of the stuff I had. So fuck you.”

‘I saw,’ The Demon smirked. ‘As half assed as it was, the revenge felt sweet. Good job, Sunny.’

“No,” Sunset replied flatly. “It was a stupid idea and we both know it. Just about everything I've done since this all started has been stupid. A kind of stupid I thought I had outgrown at this point."

'Oh Sunny…' The Demon shook her head, grinning. 'You can't deny your own nature. Wind blows, rain falls, and you make stupid decisions when you're mad; it's simply how things are.'

"Oh yeah?" Sunset shot back. "Well here's a stupid decision I'll never make, no matter how mad I get: become you again. Now begone, I want to read."

‘Sunny, Sunny, Sunny…’ The Demon sighed. ‘I'm a part of you. I can never be gone.’

"Well then do me a favor and shut up anyway."

The clip-clopping sound of hooves on crystal floor interrupted their witty exchange. Sunset and the Demon glanced towards the library door and then back at each other.

‘Are you expecting visitors?’

“You’re a part of my psyche, you should already know that I don’t.”

‘You don’t quite get how this whole conversation thing works, do you?’ The Demon raised an eyebrow.

“Shut up, someone’s coming!”

“Sunset? Sunset Shimmer? Darling, are you in here?” A voice called out. Feminine, cultured, with just a tinge of an affected Canterlot accent. It sounded like Rarity.

“Over here!” Sunset replied and sighed quietly. So much for spending the day alone with her book. Still, after reading all those stories about them, she had become a bit curious to get to know them personally. So she wasn’t too upset at this opportunity to find out what Pony Rarity was like.

‘Crazy,’ The Demon said, grinning at Sunset. ‘That’s what she’ll be like.’

Sunset didn’t dignify that with a response and merely send a withering glare at the Demon.

‘Awww, come on, Sunny, you know I’m right.’ The Demon’s grin only grew wider, however. ‘We’re what? A quarter through the book? And each of those mares had at least one mental breakdown by now. As Twilight so accurately put it in that first chapter: “All the ponies in this town are CRAZY!” Including you.’

“Shut up!” Sunset quietly hissed at the Demon. She did not want Rarity to overhear this. “They’re not crazy and neither am I!”

‘Pfft!’ The Demon snorted. ‘Let’s be real here, Sunnybuns, you’re not the poster child of sanity. Mommy issues up to the moon, crippling doubts in your self-worth, a single minded obsession with becoming a Princess, the list goes on. And let’s not forget, you’re literally talking to a voice inside your head right now.’

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Sunset snarled, louder than she had intended to. “I’m not crazy!”

“I’m sorry, is somepony else already here?” Rarity said as she finally arrived at Sunset’s reading couch. “I wouldn’t want to interrupt.”

“No…” Sunset blushed deeply and shrunk into her seat. “Just...talking to myself…”

Eager to change the topic, she shook her head and looked straight at Rarity. “Nevermind that, what brings you here?”

“Well, darling, Applejack told us that you decided to postpone our tour of Ponyville for the time being,” Rarity said and Sunset silently thanked the stars that Rarity possessed the tact and social graces not to pry. “And since I had already cleared my schedule for the day, I thought I’d pass by and ask if you’re feeling up for a little chat.”

“A little chat?”

Okay, that was fine, a chat with Rarity she could handle.

“Yes, you see, there is something I’ve been wanting to ask you about the human world.”

Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Okay, what would that be?”

“I was wondering,” Rarity gracefully settled down on the couch opposite of Sunset’s, “what you could tell me about the fashion of the human world.”

“The fashion?”

“Ever since Twilight told us about how everypony in that world wears clothes all the time, it’s been occupying my thoughts somewhat,” Rarity said with a wistful sigh. “A professional weakness, I’m afraid.”

“I can imagine,” Sunset let out a small chuckle. “You have your own boutique here in Ponyville, don’t you?”

“And opening a branch in Canterlot soon.” Rarity’s eyes gleamed with pride.

“The ponies of Canterlot could indeed use someone with an actual fashion sense,” Sunset smirked.

“And I aim to provide them with quality garments,” Rarity smiled modestly. “But let’s talk about that later. I’m ever so curious is like when everypony around you wears clothes all day every day.”

Her eyes lit up at the thought. “Just imagine it, darling! Everypony in Ponyville! Nay! In Equestria! Wearing my fabulous creations every day of the year!”

“And spending lots of bits in your boutique to get them.”

“Well, yes, there is that too,” Rarity admitted with a small blush. “But the money is a secondary benefit. I am an artisté! My creative soul soars at the thought of ponies wearing outfits that are chic, unique and magnifique!”

“You’re setting yourself up for a disappointment then,” Sunset snorted. The sheer enthusiasm in Rarity’s voice, was lifting her mood as well. “Most people over there have a lousy taste in fashion.”

“Oh, pish posh.” Rarity waved the objection off. “That is but one more creative challenge that I will relish to overcome! Now tell me everything!”

“Alright, alright,” Sunset laughed. “But first, would you like some tea? I made a fresh pot just before you came.”

“A cup of tea would be lovely, thank you,” Rarity smiled.

Sunset stood up from her couch. “Let me just fetch you a cup.”

Closing her eyes, Sunset lit up her horn, visualising the castle kitchen as her destination. With a bright burst of magic she disappeared from the library and reappeared in a bathtub.

“Stupid oversized castle, stupid screwy magic…” Sunset muttered darkly to herself as she trotted through the many hallways of the castle. The bathtub she had teleported to had been adjacent one of the to many, mostly still unfurnished, guest rooms of the castle, and finding her way to the kitchen proved to be more challenging than she had imagined. On the positive side it gave her some time to think.

Despite the unexpected nature of her visit, Sunset found that she was actually enjoying her chat with Rarity. After the exhausting flurry of emotions that the rest of her week had been, just a casual conversation with a friend was a welcome change of pace. Friend? Was Rarity her friend? Well no, of course not. She had literally just met the mare. Friendships didn’t develop that fast. She’d scarcely been able to believe it when the girls had called themselves her friends following the Fall Formal. And from the looks of it, she had been justified in her scepticism.

Still, Rarity had been under no obligation to visit after Sunset had called off the tour. But she had still decided to come here, trying to connect with Sunset in her own Rarity-ish way. Just like Applejack had, when she could’ve just left. That knowledge made Sunset feel warm inside. But their conversations had already highlighted something Sunset had not wanted to think about: She missed her friends.

They had hurt her terribly and Sunset wasn’t sure if she’d be able to forgive them any better than they seemed to have forgiven her but… That warmth she was feeling right now? They had made her feel it too. Every day after the Formal and the weeks following it, they had made her feel that there were still people who cared about her. That she didn’t have to be alone. That she could get better again. And despite everything, she missed them. Yes, their lack of trust still hurt. The way they lied about forgiving her still hurt. The way they had called themselves her family and then turned their backs on her really hurt. But she still missed them. She still wanted this entire horrible week to have been nothing but a bad dream.

Sunset sighed. It was pointless musing. Even if Twilight managed to fix the situation at CHS and get her friends to forgive her, and her to forgive them, she’d never be able to go back to CHS. Even under the best of circumstances, she’d still get kicked out of the school for what she had done on her last day. And it wasn’t like she could go back in time to stop it all from happening. All she could do now was to accept that fact and keep moving forward. And at this moment, moving forward meant finding that blasted kitchen and having tea with Rarity.

A flash of light that drowned out the world and Sunset reappeared in the library, just below the ceiling. She only had a moment to realise her predicament, before she plummeted screaming down towards the hard crystal floor. Fortunately, a blue shimmering couch suddenly moved itself into her path, and the impact upon the soft cushions merely knocked the wind out of her. And as Sunset lay gasping for breath on the mysterious couch, she noticed that even the tea cup had survived the fall. Then Rarity was upon her, her big, blue eyes filled with panicked concern.

“Oh my goodness! Sunset, are you alright?!” Rarity shook Sunset frantically, looking over her body for signs of injury.

“I’m okay…” Sunset gasped weakly, trying to get her breath working again. “I’m okay…”

“Thank Celestia!” Rarity breathed a sigh of relief. Then she immediately moved on from panicked concern to angry concern. “What in all of Equestria were you thinking teleporting yourself up that high?!”

“Wasn’t my idea…” Sunset groaned, as she tried to rise from the couch. “My magic is all screwy…”

“Then why did you try to teleport of all things if your magic isn’t working properly?” Rarity gave her a look of stern, big sisterly disapproval. “If I hadn’t had my trusty fainting couch handy, you could’ve been seriously hurt.”

Sunset blushed and muttered something unintelligible.

“I’m sorry, darling, what did you say?” Rarity’s stern expression did not waver.

“I said I was lost!” Sunset’s cheeks lit up flaming red with embarrassment. “I teleported into a random bathroom the first time, and then I got lost trying to find the kitchen, and then I got lost again trying to find my way back here! This castle way too big and stupidly designed! If I’d actually kept going on foot back here, the movie would’ve been over!”

Rarity blinked. Then she asked: “The movie?”

Sunset sighed. “Nevermind, human reference.”

“Well, at least you appear to be unharmed.” Rarity looked Sunset over one last time.

“Yeah, that couch pretty much saved me there.” Sunset raised an eyebrow. “Why exactly did you bring a fainting couch with you anyway?”

“I always carry it with me for an outing,” Rarity said, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. “A lady never knows when she might have to faint dramatically, after all.”

Okay, that was an eccentricity her Rarity hadn’t possessed. Possibly only due to lack of ability to lug a couch around with her everywhere she went, granted.

“Well, at any rate, I got your teacup.” Sunset held up the cup in her magic. “Shall we get back to fashion?”

“Yes, let us resume,” Rarity smiled.

While far from being the fashionista Rarity was, Sunset had learned a thing or two about subject during her life. The future Princess of Equestria had to look her best, after all. And later on, nobody could be friends with Rarity for months without learning a little bit about fashion and the current trends. Rarity for her part listened to Sunset with rapt attention, her eyes sparkling and her mind brimming with new ideas.

“I’d like to show you some examples, but my clothes didn’t make it back through the portal,” Sunset concluded her lecture. “Which is a bit weird, since those weren’t even the same clothes the portal gave me when I passed through from this side, except for my jacket.”

“I miss my jacket…” She sighed. “I’d worn it almost the entire time I spent in that world. I feel… kinda naked without it now...”

“Sunset, Darling, you are naked.”

“I know! I mean like...more naked. Like, if someone had shaved my coat off, kind of naked.”

“What a ghastly thought!” Rarity let out a horrified little gasp. “Fret not, Sunset Shimmer! I shall make you a new jacket posthaste!”

“You don’t have to-” Sunset tried to protest, but Rarity magically clamped her mouth shut to cut her off.

“You’re right, I don’t.” Rarity shook her head and smiled. “But I want to.”

For a moment, Sunset stared helplessly at Rarity. Then she laughed at how silly she was being. Attempts to dissuade Rarity from being generous had only ever ended with her feeling foolish for not accepting the gift right away. And the way Rarity had immediately jumped on the opportunity to do something nice for her just stoked the warmth in Sunset’s chest even further.

“Thanks, Rarity. That means a lot to me.”

“You’re more than welcome, Darling,” Rarity said. “Just stop by my boutique whenever you’re ready. I’ll need your help to make sure that the design is accurate, after all.”

“Actually, I can give you something even better than that.” Sunset glanced towards the Crystal Mirror. “My phone’s got a couple pictures of me wearing the jacket on it. Once Twilight is back, I can show them to you.”

For a moment, an expression of disappointment flickered across Rarity’s face. Then her smile reasserted itself.

“Why yes, some reference material will be most helpful. Please, do bring your, uhm…’phone’ along when you come to visit.”

Drinking the last of her tea, Rarity stood up from her couch. “Now, I do believe I’ve taken up enough of your time for today. It’s been a pleasure finally meeting you in person, Sunset.”

“Likewise, Rarity.” Sunset rose as well and, on a sudden impulse, hugged Rarity. “And thank you for coming here. It really helped me feel better.”

“My pleasure.” Rarity returned the hug with a tender smile. “And please, do not hesitate to come and visit me when you’re in the mood for some tea and conversation.”

Sunset broke the hug, a broad smile on her lips. “I will.”

With Rarity gone, Sunset made herself a fresh pot of tea, and settled down for some more reading. After Twilight’s mental breakdown about tardiness, Celestia had instructed all of her friends to send her friendship reports as well. The stories became more varied and carried some rather amusing revelations.

“Rarity wears false eyelashes?” Sunset snorted. “Well consider my worldview shook.”

“Ooooh! Are you reading the one about the cake?!” A very excited, very pink voice suddenly said from behind Sunset.

With a startled “Ack!”, Sunset flung herself away from the voice and off the couch onto the hard crystal floor.

“Are you okay, Sunny?” Pinkie Pie’s head popped up from behind the couch, followed by the rest of her body and a tray of cupcakes she balanced on her tail. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I’m okay…” Sunset replied weakly. With some effort, she managed to climb her way back onto the couch. “When did you get here anyway? I didn’t hear any hoofsteps.”

“Silly Sunny,” Pinkie giggled. “This castle is way too big. If I had walked all the way to the library, the movie would’ve been over.”

“How do you even know-” Sunset cut herself off before she could finish the thought. “Nevermind, you’re Pinkie Pie, you get a pass on that kinda thing.”

“Soooo? Were you reading about that time we escorted Mr. and Mrs. Cake’s Marzipan Mascarpone Meringue Madness for the National Dessert Competition and in the middle of the night I chased around three cake thieves and it turned out that the cake thieves had taken three bites out of the MMMM and Twilight detectivised that Rainbow, Fluttershy and Rarity were the thieves?” Pinkie took a deep breath. “Were you?”

“Yes-” was all Sunset managed to reply, before Pinkie buried her under a second avalanche of words.

“Cause let me tell you, that was one doozy to explain to Mr. and Mrs. Cake when we got to the competition. Thankfully Princess Celestia was kind enough to let the MMMM enter anyway, on the condition that she got to eat the rest of it afterwards.”

“Yeah that sounds like her kind of bribe…” Sunset snorted. “I swear, that entire Competition is just an excuse of hers to eat her own weight in dessert without feeling guilty about it.”

“Twice her weight if you count the life-sized Chocolate Mousse Moose,” Pinkie added brightly.

Sunset facehooved.

“So what brings you here?” She then asked Pinkie.

“Well, two things. First my Pinkie sense told me that a friend of mine of was in need of some cheer-up cupcakes, so I brought you these!” Pinkie proudly presented her tray. On the tray stood, neatly lined up, a baker’s dozen of Pinkie-Pie-Grade delicious looking chocolate cupcakes with white frosting. “I made your favorite kind.”

Sunset’s stomach took that as a cue to rumble audibly.

“It’s been a while since breakfast,” Sunset admitted, licking her lips. “Some cupcakes right now would be- Wait!”

She eyed Pinkie suspiciously. “How do you know my favorite kind of cupcake? I don’t recall divulging that information.”

“I have my methods,” Pinkie smiled mysteriously. “Now try one!”

Still not taking her gaze off Pinkie, Sunset picked up one of the cupcakes and took a bite. Immediately, the world disappeared into a rush of bliss, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry came together in her mouth in a perfect balance of deliciousness. Letting out a loud moan, she sunk into the cushions of the couch.

“Aaaaand?” Pinkie smiled expectantly down at Sunset. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect!” Sunset moaned, when she had discovered enough from the sensory overload to speak again. “Perfect neoponitan cupcakes, down to the gooey, strawberry center! How did you find that out?”

“That would be telling~” Pinkie singsonged and giggled.

“Fine, keep your pinkish secrets,” Sunset rolled her eyes. “So what was the second thing you came here for?”

Suddenly, Pinkie’s expression turned almost business-like.

“You still haven’t had your Welcome to Ponyville Party.”

“Pinkie, I’m not really in a-”

“Now I know you’re not in a partying mood right now and that’s okay,” Pinkie said over Sunset’s protest. “I just wanted to tell you that, when you’re feeling better, all you gotta do is say the word and I’ll throw you the bestest Welcome Party you’ve ever had.”

Sunset was genuinely touched. Usually when someone was not in a partying mood, Pinkie’s fix to it was to throw them a party and infect them with cheer anyway. And she knew how much it pained Pinkie, when she couldn’t make someone feel better with a party. That this Pinkie was not only willing to hold off until Sunset actually asked her to throw the party, but also realised that a party wasn’t the solution to Sunset’s gloom, was a level of maturity Sunset had never seen in her counterpart. That more than anything proved in Sunset’s mind that these mares really were different from the girls she had known at Canterlot High.

“Thanks, Pinkie,” Sunset smiled. “I will.”

“Okie dokie lokie!” Immediately, the serious expression on Pinkie’s face gave way to her usual, cheerful smile. Then her tail began to wag wildly and her back hooves broke out into a sort of frenzied tapdance.

“Looks like I gotta go,” she said, with an almost analytical look towards her hindquarters. “Waggy tail and dancy legs means the Cakes have some deliveries for me to deliver.”

“Sure thing,” Sunset chuckled. “I’ll just have some more cupcakes and read the rest of the book.”

“Alrighty! See ya later, Sunny!” And with that, Pinkie disappeared in a pink blur.

Still chuckling to herself, Sunset grabbed another cupcake. If the pattern held, she was going to get a visit from Rainbow and Fluttershy before the rest of the day was over.

But she was ready for that.