Sunset Shimmer thought that becoming the Canterlot High School pariah was the lowest point of her life. But a Wendigo attack lands her in a hospital in another person's body. It will take every ounce of willpower to survive in this world.
Her friends abandoned her and everyone else is out for her blood. At this point, her life has reached a low point. Then, a Wendigo lands her in the hospital inside another person's body where her whole life was an elaborate dream. It's all just a dream? No, that can't be right. That was too elaborate to be a dream! But at the same time, this is too real to be a dream as well!
Sunset must figure this out before the lines of dream and reality are blurred to her forever.
She could hear the crunch of ice cracking beneath her boots as she walked on the sidewalk. The streetlights shone down on her with a faint orange glow. There was a faint smell of peppermint in the air as the road bustled with honking cars, buzzing streetlamps, and loud laughter from other people. Despite the liveliness that surrounded her, she was heartbroken and the bitter cold that nipped at her did not help matters at all.
"You're not our friend!"
It all started with a sleepover at Applejack's house. She was so excited because she'd never been to a sleepover before. And the Rainbooms were so surprised about that revelation. So, they invited her to a sleepover and Applejack even gave her the title of honorary Apple family member. Her heart warmed at that proposal and heartily agreed. For the next two days, there was nothing to break apart her bubble of happiness.
"You're a no-good secret stealer!"
Then, the gossip blog known as Anon-a-Miss appeared on Mystable. It had only one blog post and that too about Applejack and her childhood nickname. It garnered many a mocking giggle at Applejack's expense, but nobody thought to even give a reason to suspect her for creating the blog. But then, the Spring Fling debacle was posted on Anon-a-Miss shortly after. The Rainbooms asked her if she lost her phone. When she answered no, all Tartarus broke loose right there and then.
"We offered you friendship and you stabbed us in the back!"
They were dead-set on making her the villainess in this scenario. No matter how much she begged and pleaded for them to believe her, they were stubbornly making it clear that she was the mastermind behind Anon-a-Miss, no questions asked. All she could do was watch in tears as they walked away from her in disgust. That would be bad enough, but a large crowd just amassed to see what the hullabaloo was all about.
"Yer nothin' but a rotten, good-fer-nothin' snake!"
Immediately, everyone jumped at the opportunity to rake her on the coals. For the next few days, it was nothing but taunts, jeers, and the occasional shove into the locker. It wasn't unbearable at first, but then the attacks escalated. It got so horrible that she opted to stay in the Principal's office for most of her school day. Thank the Heavens that Principal Celestia was nice enough to lend the office. But that didn't stop the heartbreak of being a pariah once more.
"It'd be better if you got out of our lives once and for all!"
She talked to Twilight in bits and pieces about this whole situation and the princess responded that she believed in her. The reply alone was enough to renew a bit of hope in her. She met the Rainbooms at the Sweet Shoppe, spoke with them so the girls knew that she was innocent, that she was being framed. Admittedly, she didn't know who framed her, but Twilight believed in her. That was good enough, right? Right? She winced as the cold pierced the sting of her wounded cheek.
"Stay strong and find your family."
She clenched her fists as she remembered the last words that Twilight left her before exhaling a heavy sigh. Family. A word. To Sunset, finding family didn't matter as much anymore. She was cast out like a leper, a pariah. She had no place anymore. Sure, there was her apartment. But she didn't belong in Canterlot High School nor did she belong in Equestria.
'So where do I belong in this world?'
She looked up only to find that she was in a different place than her intended destination. She was in one of the local parks, where it was heavily deserted. The trees were barren, the grass dried and crunchy under her feet, and the streetlights were flickering in the distance. Oops. She was too preoccupied in her emotional thoughts. That never happened before. Now the air was thickly condensing to fog. A sickening chill ran down her spine. She wasn't safe here.
"Well, well, well. What do we have here?"
A sickeningly sweet voice wafted in-and-out of her ears. She turned around to see a tall figure looming over her cloaked in a dirty mixture of white and gray. Two hollow sockets leered at her while a wide grin containing sharp teeth split its face. Then it reached out a large, bony hand at her complete with sharp nails. Sunset shakily stepped back in shock and fear as she just gaped at this ominous presence.
"Ah. A unicorn in a human body. My, my, my, what a delectable surprise."
"A-Ah," Sunset gasped from a combination of cold and fear. "A Windigo!"
"Now, now, now," The Windigo purred mockingly. "I do have a name, dearie. But, I suppose it doesn't matter. You will become a delightful meal all the same."
Breaking free of the shock that paralyzed her, Sunset wasted no time in turning on her heel and booking it to her apartment building. She could hear her heart thumping in her ears as she sprinted towards safety. She grit her teeth as she felt the hot putrid breath of the Windigo wafting near her neck. Tears spilled from her eyes as she felt the sharp point of its nail graze at the back of her neck. Her apartment building neared now and she used all of her adrenaline to pick up speed.
"Come on, come on," She panted. "I'm almost there."
Her fingers fumbled when she tried fishing out her keys out of her bag, knowing that she was near death's door. She began to push the key into the lock when she felt a piercing pain on her right shoulder. Turning around, her eyes widened and her breath hitched as the Windigo loomed over her like an angel of death. Luckily, the door opened and she raced inside, into a warm lobby that smelt of slightly stale coffee. She fell onto the carpeted floor and turned to see the Windigo hissing in pain.
"I will come back for you! Just you wait! I will come back for you!"
She could only watch as the Windigo vanished before her eyes, trying to catch her breath. Her shoulder throbbed with pain and she felt dizzy. Her legs were aching and she felt exhaustion creep up slowly, like a slow-growing vine. But she was alive. That was enough for now. She slowly gathered herself, double-checking the contents of her bag, putting her keys back, and slowly heading for her apartment. Sunset grimaced as her legs wobbled unsteadily to the elevator and the pain increased.
"Ugh," She whimpered. "It hurts. It hurts so bad."
She managed to reach her apartment somehow and nearly collapsed in bed. Glancing down at her wound, she hissed. That wound was bleeding a grotesque mixture of dark-blue and purplish-red. She felt the chill of the ice slither down her back as slow as it could. She winced as she hobbled her way into the bathroom, looking for the first-aid kit. Her mind traveled down the list of things that she needed to write to Twilight. Then, a single thought stopped her in her tracks.
'Am I allowed to speak my mind about this,' The thought whispered in her ears. 'After all, this is my word against her friends.'
Wincing as she applied the antiseptic on the wound, she found herself sighing in defeat. There was no use in trying. Twilight was busy with her duties as a princess. This was probably small-time drama to her. Besides, she would panic at the mention of a Windigo on the loose. Sunset frowned. No, Twilight needed to know about the Windigo. It was a magical emergency in a place that didn't deal with the supernatural all that often.
After brushing her teeth and changing into her pajamas, she rubbed at her wound before writing down to Twilight in sparse sentences as to not put pressure on her wounded shoulder. Afterwards, she settled down to an uneasy sleep, unaware that the moon shone a little too brightly.
She felt groggy when she awoke. Her head throbbed intensely and her mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. Her body was filled with dull aches and exhaustion held her like a heavy weight. For a moment, she wondered if she died and went to hell. Then, she remembered that she would be going to Tartarus considering her soul was that of a unicorn. Also, thinking about such heavy thoughts made her headache worse. Was this the side effect of the Windigo wound?
'Ow. Right. Thinking makes the headache worse.'
She resolved to slowly open her eyes and see where she was because, as her senses returned to her, the room that she was in wasn't the room that she slept in last night. The smell wasn't that of old paper and weak coffee; instead, the sterile stench of antiseptic and cleaning fluid permeated the air, which greatly worried her. Why was she in a hospital room? The light that hung overhead pierced her retinas and made her wince. Luckily, that pain didn't last long and she was greeted with a sterile white ceiling with a weak iridescent light.
She slowly sat up and looked around the room, confused. The room that she was greeted with was nothing but white, white and white. White tiles, white walls, a white door with a window, and a large window complete with translucent blinds. As her brain took in her surroundings, she held in her panic. After all, she could have been lucid dreaming and this was a tad more pleasant than what she usually dreamed about.
She looked down and found that she was wearing faded blue pajamas underneath a thin cotton blanket. As she studied her appearance, she noticed that her arm had skin color akin to that of Applejack. A strand of hair revealed it to be a cherry red with golden streaks. Her nails were nicely painted in colors of blue and gold, but the nail beds were left to be desired. There were little scars that dotted the arms, which worried her. What kind of lucid dream was this that she would have scars? This was not normal, that's for sure.
"Ah, you're awake," A voice floated in her ears. "That's good."
Sunset turned to the door where a young woman dressed in nurse scrubs beamed at her. She looked to be in her twenties. Her brown hair was tied in a bun and her kind brown eyes contrasted perfectly with her pale skin. Sunset let out a sigh. The woman reminded her of Twilight in a weird way. Her breath hitched and tears sprung to her eyes at the thought of Twilight. She clutched the blanket and tried to hide her tears. It wouldn't do to cry even in a lucid dream. She had to remain strong. A deep breath and a gulp was all that she needed to regain her strength. She looked up and saw that the nurse wince in some mixture of sympathy and compassion.
"Hey, it's okay," The nurse smiled as she moved closer to Sunset. "Did you have a bad dream? Do you want some water?"
Sunset winced as she held her throat. For some inexplicable reason, her throat felt dry and sore. The nurse seemed to take the hint and quickly poured a glass of water without a single spill. Sunset accepted the glass and felt the cool rush of water. She guzzled the glass down and panted, shivering as now she was aware of the cold seeping in the room. The nurse picked up on this and moved towards another end of the room, turning up a thermostat just a bit.
"T...Thank you," Sunset stuttered. "W...Where...Who...?" Her voice wasn't working as well as she wanted to.
"I'm Nurse Halliwell and you're in the medical room at St. Amestris psychiatric hospital," The nurse recited. Sunset frowned. "We brought you in here after you had a nasty fainting spell following an episode."
Sunset swallowed as she absorbed the information presented to her. Ah, so she was lucid dreaming that she was someone else who was committed to a psychiatric hospital. It certainly was different from what she was used to dreaming. Of course, that didn't mean that this dream was all that pleasant. Sure, Nurse Halliwell was kind enough, but being inside a psychiatric facility wasn't exactly a pleasant place to dream of all things considering.
"Ugh," Sunset swallowed. "I feel tired."
"I'll get the doctor right away."
It was the last thing that Sunset heard before the darkness covered her like a blanket. It was a pity, she thought, for she had not gotten her other self's name.
Sunset grimaced as she awoke slowly, a dull ache persistently attacking her right shoulder. The scent of weak coffee and old paper greeted her nose and the bright sun rays pierced her eyes when she opened them. For a few minutes, she just looked around her bedroom dazedly. It was quite bare, consisting of only her bed, a little bookshelf, and a desk complete with chair sitting off in the far-off corner. But there was a coziness to it that made her feel happy. It was her comfort zone in a world of danger.
"Ouch," She hissed, rubbing her shoulder. "That Windigo really did a number on me."
Remembering past lessons with Princess Celestia, she knew that the Windigo could not touch her in areas of warmth. Lucky for her, her apartment was blessed with a working heater that kept her alive throughout the brutal winters. Sighing, she sat, watching the sunrays dance across her room. She hummed to herself as she slowly stepped out of bed and into the shower in the next room. She grimaced as she saw spotting of blue on the bandage. She needed to do more research on these new batches of Windigo, otherwise this world will be in grave danger.
"I wonder if Twilight saw my journal entry."
After showering, she opened the journal and was a bit disappointed that there was no new journal entry. But that was to be expected. After all, she kept repeating to herself, Twilight was a princess and princesses have multiple duties to attend to. A growl of her stomach persuaded her to have some breakfast and a bit of pondering regarding both Anon-a-Miss and recent events leading up to her wounds by the Windigo. The first thing that was obvious was that Windigo were attracted to strong negative emotions. This meant that Anon-a-Miss was creating enough discord among CHS to attract Windigo behavior. Now the question remained: Who was behind Anon-a-Miss?
"It has to be someone at the sleepover," She mumbled to herself. "Nobody else had access to those secrets except me and the Rainbooms. But it couldn't be the Rainbooms, could it?" Her thoughts were swirling as she sipped her coffee slowly. It's unthinkable to see the one of the Rainbooms behind the attack given their position as the Elements of Harmony. Yet, more rumination made their involvement more plausible. "After all, they've all had their grudges against the me from the past. It would be easy to create this and frame me, creating fake outrage to punish me further."
The thoughts swirled, swirled, swirled, around in her head. The spoon fell from her hand in slow motion as it clattered onto the table with the small coffee drops dripping slowly, slowly, s l o w l y... . . .
"Oh my gosh! Are you okay?! Come on, wake up!"
"What happened?! What do we do?!"
"Everyone, please remain calm. It'll be okay."
Sunset grimaced as someone was tapping her cheek lightly. She could feel the cold tiled floor underneath her and the smell of faint antiseptic pervading the air. She winced as a sharp pain hit her temples like a sledgehammer and she moved slowly. She opened her eyes to a blurry mass of colors and a gentle hand on her shoulder. Looking up, she felt heat rise to her face as the doctor smiled sweetly at her. He had a pleasant face, with brown curly hair, twinkling blue eyes, and a chiseled jaw. It seemed that he was fit for movies and TV rather than medical school.
"Um," She mumbled. "Thanks..."
"It's no problem," The doctor replied warmly. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Yes," Sunset looked down timidly. "Thank you."
After being guided back to her seat, Sunset slowly looked around the room, trying to absorb her surroundings. It was larger than the medical room last time, with the same linoleum, steel walls, and the sterile smell of cleaning supplies. Doctors and nurses alike were shuffling about handling patients of varying sizes. Surrounding her on all sides, in a circle no less, were at least twelve patients. They looked at her with concern, pity, and fear, which was a step up from what she saw these days.
"Ouch," She winced as she pressed a hand to her forehead. "That smarts."
She was back in this lucid dream. It was a different room, to be sure, but the theme of hospitals was the same. She frowned as she saw some of the patients' states. Some were crying, some were screaming and yelling at the hospital staff, and other patients were even getting hysterically violent. There were a couple that weren't moving, as if they were rooted to the spot. Clutching the hem of her pajamas, she turned her attention to the circle she was in where all eyes were on her.
"Um," She fidgeted, uncomfortable with all of this attention. "Am I supposed to say something?"
"Mmm," The doctor nodded. "You were telling us about how you were about to tell your friend about the Windigo sighting." He frowned, pausing as if he was recollecting his thoughts. "You were also telling us about how your other friends might've, ah, been behind the profile wreaking havoc in your school. And then, you had an episode. We lost you for a few moments." He smiled. "But we're glad to have you back."
They were glad to see her? They were glad to have her back? Sunset held in a bitter snort as her hands balled into fists. Even the nicest person alive wouldn't be glad to see her whatsoever save for Princess Twilight for whatever reason. Her mind was either being sadistic or pitying her at the lowest point in her life. She gasped softly as she felt the familiar burn of tears.
"I think that's enough for today's session," The doctor said, looking at the clock. "We'll be back here tomorrow. Apologies for the room, but the other one's being renovated for the time being." He frowned. "It's not ideal but it will have to do for now."
Sunset raised an eyebrow. It was as if he was subtly catching her up to speed about her current situation. She looked down, lost in thought. Suddenly, a gentle tap to her shoulder startled her out of her thoughts. She turned around and met with the kind nurse from yesterday. Nurse Halliwell smiled and gave a hand to which she reciprocated. They walked out into a bright, pastel-pink hallway with drawings and pictures that decorated the walls. They stepped into an elevator and Nurse Halliwell's hand pressed on the top floor button.
'Okay, let's review. This is a lucid dream to where I am a patient in a psychiatric hospital. The first time was where I awoke in a medical room. This time, it's in a room where I apparently shared parts of my life with other patients. I understand that every time I fall asleep, I end up either here or back in my apartment. But why is this happening? I still need to figure it out.'
"Ah, we're here," Nurse Halliwell opened a door with a flourish. "Here's your room."
Sunset stepped in and she was, admittedly, impressed. The room was a little larger than her apartment bedroom and it had soft green walls and a window that led to a view of a pristine lake. The bed was positioned next to the window with a green-blue bedspread and thin pillows. Across from the bed was a small desk and chair. Next to the desk was a door that led to an extremely pristine bathroom. Attached to the walls were different pictures that were heavily detailed. As Sunset took a close look, she gaped at the drawings.
"These are of...!"
One drawing was of Princess Twilight, right down to the cutie mark. Another was of the Rainbooms in perfect detail. Sunset let her fingers ghost over the papers as her eyes absorbed how intricate the drawings of her previous life in Equestria were. She swallowed like an ice cube slipped into her stomach. Lucid dream or not, it was still eerie to see someone else know, let alone draw detailed intricacies of her life.
"Yes. It's about the life that you describe in your dreams."
Sunset turned to see another woman at the door alongside Nurse Halliwell. She was in her early thirties with black hair tied back in a neat bun. Her icy blue eyes were hidden behind sharp glasses and her lightly painted lips curved in a little smile. A nametag loosely hung from her lanyard and her long, thin, and elegant fingers tapped against her skirt.
"A-Ah, Doctor Alba," Nurse Halliwell yelped. "What brings you here?"
"Well, I just want to remind our patient of the appointment we have tomorrow afternoon," Doctor Alba replied, not missing a beat. "And to remind you of your daily meeting report that is due in two hours."
"Oh, right," Nurse Halliwell slapped her forehead. "Well, I'll see you later, alright?"
She left, leaving Sunset alone with Doctor Alba. Sunset swallowed as she continued to gaze at the doctor. Something wasn't right, whether it was atmosphere or the fact that the blue eyes behind the rimmed glasses seemed to pierce her like a knife through a soft block of cheese. She decided to sit on the bed and was surprised at how soft the bed seemed to be. It was as if she was sitting on a cloud. Sunset frowned; this had to be a psychiatric hospital for people who could afford it.
"Well, continuing on our previous conversation," Doctor Alba purred. "These drawings are about the events in your dream."
"My dream," Sunset raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by that?"
"Your dream, where you believe yourself to be a unicorn who transformed into a human," Doctor Alba replied smoothly. "At length, you've told us about how you used to be an evil unicorn who terrorized a local high school. Then, you were turned to good by those chosen by the Elements of Harmony and then helped them defeat sirens who wanted to take over the world. But now, you have hit a rough patch with the Elements of Harmony and are once more a social pariah at this school. Then, a creature called a Windigo attacked you."
"Ah," Sunset nodded a little too quickly. "Right, right." What the heck? It was just a lucid dream. It was best to play along for now, though she couldn't help but feel as if she's seen this somewhere before.
"So, then," Doctor Alba crossed her arms. "What happened next?"
"Um," Sunset mumbled. "I woke up in my apartment and I was about to tell Twilight about the Windigo sighting. That's it."
"I see," Doctor Alba nodded. "Well, we'll discuss this at length tomorrow. I'll leave you to rest." With that, she turned on her heel and left, a slight smirk dancing on her lips. Sunset watch her close the door before flopping on to the bed. She sighed. She got new information of this world, however she was left without a name and much of a detailed face to this body. That was short-sighted of her. She should've asked either the doctor or the nurse.
"Might as well start with the face," She muttered. "The name can come afterwards."
Getting up, she headed for the bathroom. It was nice and simple, with a shower, a toilet and a sink complete with mirror. In the mirror reflected a face. Sunset blinked. It was a lovely face, for sure. Two hazel eyes sat over tanned skin and freckles. A small nose and slightly plump lips finished the rest of the face. Barring the slight bags under her eyes, it was a model face.
"Well, that settles that," Sunset sighed. "Now for the name."
She decided to check the drawings for answers. Gingerly, she touched the sketchpad, briefly wondering if she could make a creation as detailed and beautiful as her host. Opening up the sketchpad, she scanned the drawings for an answer. Twilight and the Rainbooms met her with their smiling faces. It created an ache in her heart that she'd rather forget. She returned to her original task at hand. Just when she wasn't going to find a name to this body, she spotted a little scribble at the end. She squinted as she tried to decipher it.
"Okay, so this person's name is Soleil Sands."
Suddenly, a wave of dizziness washed over her. Placing the sketchbook back in its place, she sat down on the bed. Breathing slowly, the dizziness slowly went away but it left her tired. She decided to crawl back into the bed where it felt soft, cool, and nice. She smiled a little before letting the vestiges of sleep take her away.
Sunset awoke with the smooth wooden table on her cheek and the coffee spilling onto the table. She grimaced, feeling stiff all over. It was definitely not helping her aching shoulder at all. Sighing, she cleaned up the mess on the floor and went back to bed. Luckily for her, it was a Saturday, which meant that she could stay in bed all she wanted. And now that she was out of the Rainbooms' lives for good, she decided to spend the whole day in bed save for lunch and dinner.
"Alright," She plopped on the bed with pen and paper. "Time to detail the events in the dream so far."
Just when she was about to detail the encounter with Doctor Alba, a sudden buzz made her jump. She looked over to where her journal lay and saw that it was shaking like an angry chihuahua. She walked over to the journal and opened it to at least a ton of panicked messages from Twilight. Sunset frowned. The time that passed was only a night or so ago, so why was the princess panicking? Sunset flipped over to the last message, where the intentions were spelled out in big, bold letters.
"I will arrive on the grounds of Canterlot High School tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Come alone."
Sunset Shimmer sighed as she checked her watch anxiously, tugging at her coat lapels to fend off the wind chills. According to her watch, she would arrive at Canterlot High fifteen minutes before Twilight did. She wasn't sure whether it was good or bad of telling Twilight the news of Windigos appearing in the city, but she figured at the time that it was better to be safe. At the intersection, she rubbed her arms to keep her warm when she saw two familiar faces walking down the sidewalk. As if a light switch flipped on, her heart ached with longing and her eyes immediately watered. It was amazing to see just how both Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy could keep themselves happy what with everything going on. Then it dawned upon her. They were acting as if she never entered their lives.
Immediately, Fluttershy looked up and made eye contact with Sunset. Then, any instance of friendliness or warmth that was in her face evaporated in an instant, leaving nothing behind but hatred and coldness. Sunset turned away and walked in the opposite direction, not even wanting to see Pinkie Pie's face. Actually, she ran, trying to quell the swelling heartache growing in her heart. She couldn't handle how the kindest of the Rainbooms looked at her in such disgust and hatred, as if she was a parasite in their lives.
As the distance between her and Canterlot High grew closer, so did the roaring thoughts in her head. They screamed at her, yelled at her, throttle her without any mercy. The world around her was nothing more than white noise at this point and the cacophony of cars honking, music blaring, and people chattering soon became secondary to the toxicity of her thoughts. It's probably a scene to see, a girl running like she was crazy. But the emotions blaring in her head numbed her to judgment.
After all, she was already being judged for a crime that she didn't commit.
She slipped and fell on the sidewalk, pain erupting in her knee and shoulder. She stifled a scream with her good hand while she pulled herself up. Hobbling to the statue, she sank down to the ground and pulled her knees to her chest, trying to stop the sudden onslaught of tears trying to reach her face. Covering her ears to any possible noise, her breathing came out in a ragged pattern. Why was it so hard to stop her emotions from going out of control? She wasn't any stranger to hostility. No, she was desensitized. She was-
"Hold her down! I said, hold her down!"
-and nothing could affect her. She wasn't a regular human, she was a unicorn who was transformed into a human. And that also meant knowing the ins and outs of another world that was filled with creatures far beyond the human imagination. It's completely absurd to be worn down by the trifles of-
"Oh my god! She's going into shock! Quick! Get the-!"
-and it was absurd to think that-
"Shh, Soleil. It's alright, honey, it was only a bad dream. I promise everything will be-"
-Why were her thoughts cutting in and out? Why couldn't she concentrate? Everything felt so itchy, uncomfortable, and just, nothing but odd, odd, odd. She grimaced as she wriggled out of her position and clumsily climbed up the school's steps. It's a miracle that she even reached the door at all without falling and yet everything felt so uncomfortable, she wanted inside-
"Easy, easy, she's still too sensitive. You did double-check the dosage, did you?"
A hand to her bad shoulder made her yelp in pain and scramble back in foggy confusion. The blurry figure retracted in fear, looking at her warily. Her vision cleared, revealing the figure to be Flash Sentry. Usually, she didn't mind Flash's company at all, considering that he was one of the few people who actually believed in her. But her perceptions were blinded and world muddy, she shook like a Chihuahua, trying to compose herself. She could hear a couple of students snickering, but then the world was silent once more.
"Sunset, it's okay," Flash knelt down, backing away so she could have some space. "It's just me, now. Are you, ah, waiting for someone?"
"Twilight," She swallowed a lump in her throat. "I'm waiting for Twilight. Nobody else, sorry."
"It's fine, it's fine," Flash smiled in response, offering a hand. "My hand's here in case if you need it. Can you stand?"
"Y-Yeah," Sunset gave a shaky smile. "Thanks, Flash. I...I don't know what came over me, but I'll be fine in a moment."
"Yeah, you'll be fine."
Sunset froze at that icy tone and turned to see Twilight there, hands on hips and tapping her foot. Heart sinking, Sunset was smiling away sheepishly, looking between Flash and Twilight nervously. Her hands shook with cold and nervousness while a myriad of thoughts filtered into her brain again. She grimaced as Flash and Twilight began to talk. At least, that's what she'd thought they were doing. Once more, the world was going into static and she was sinking deeper, deeper, d e e p e r . . .
Ah, she was back here again. So, this was more than just a lucid dream, it seems. Now that she was here, her head cleared a little. Her emotions were kept at bay while the world became more than just static. As she opened her eyes to the dark blue ceiling of Soleil's room, she closed them while taking in the world around her. The faint chirp of the birds outside, the warm feeling of the sun rays on her face and a soft humming buzzing in her ears.
"Ugh," Sunset reopened her eyes again. "Miss Halliwell?"
"Well," Nurse Halliwell wringed her hands in worry. "You were feeling fine and then, you had a severe episode that might've been the reaction to some medicine spiked in your drink." Her face twisted in disgust as she recalled the incident. "I cannot believe that someone would do this to a girl like you. For someone to do this to a sweet girl like you, why if I'd been there..."
The sentence devolved into grumblings and Sunset felt a swell of gratitude towards Nurse Halliwell. It was a long time since an adult actually cared about her well-being like this. It made her nostalgic for a time where Princess Celestia gave her a lot of comfort whenever she was upset. She smiled as she looked outside where butterflies were flittering about and the birds were chirping, working on their nest. The grass shone a beautiful bright green while the sky was a pale blue with the sparse smattering of fluffy white clouds. She opened her window just a little and caught the scent of fresh dew in the air.
"Ah, Soleil," Nurse Halliwell appeared at her side suddenly. "Be careful when you're opening the window! Luckily, it's opened just so nobody tumbles down from the windows from one of the upper floors." She gently pressed against the window. "Ah, that's good. It looks secure and stable enough, so there would be no accidents." When she turned to see Sunset's confusion written on the face, she blinked before seemingly remembering the person standing before her. "I apologize, Soleil. I wanna make sure you're safe in this place. I don't mean to scare you or anything, but I just want to make sure you're alright."
"It's...fine," Sunset replied, not used to such worry from an adult. "It's from a good place. You don't have to apologize."
"Alright," Nurse Halliwell huffed out a smile. "But please tell me in advance whenever you want to open a window, alright?"
Nurse Halliwell nodded and turned around, bending to write down something on her notepad. It was most likely medication notes or daily schedule notes. Temptation poked her to peek at the notes but she decided against it, looking at the drawings on the wall. Instead of Twilight and the Rainbooms, these were landscapes. One was of the Everfree Forest, another was the grounds of Canterlot Castle, and the last one was of Canterlot High School. Her fingers involuntarily brushed against the top layer of the paper. The faint scent of papery shavings reached her nose and she sneezed.
"Bless you." Nurse Halliwell's voice echoed in the background.
She giggled, said her thanks, and continued her observations. It was so intricate, right down to the faded bricks and the chip in the statue. Soleil either had a powerful imagination, building from the references of her surroundings, or the magic inside of Sunset was reacting to something inside of Soleil's body. The Windigo inflicting the wound on her was an obvious bridge.
'The question is why,' Sunset rubbed her chin thoughtfully. 'It's obvious that the Windigo would target me, being that I'm magical and everything, but why would it also target this random girl? Is it because she looks similar to me? Or maybe... there might be something else at play. Something dangerous.'
"Soleil," Nurse Halliwell called. "Here. It's time to take your medicine."
Sunset startled at that. Aside from a few pain relievers from when she was sick, she didn't need to take medicine at all. Then she remembered that she was technically not Sunset in this world, she was someone else. And the owner of this body was a person who needed to take the medicine provided. Reluctantly, she walked over to the nurse and observed the pills given. A feeling of distaste rose within her gut as she observed the tiny yellow and red pills in her hand.
"Well," Sunset sighed. "Here goes nothing."
She gulped the pills down and felt woozy. Was the magic being countered by the pills? Was it the effects of the Windigo? The answers were still unclear. She felt her knees buckle a little and decided to get some rest. Nurse Halliwell must have sensed, or even had an inkling, of what was happening because she helped Sunset get into bed. Sunset felt the coolness of both the blanket and pillow and smiled involuntarily.
"Rest up, Soleil," Nurse Halliwell whispered. "You'll need it for tomorrow. You'll have visitors."
"Yeah, that's right..."
"What do we do?"
Sunset awoke to the same cool pillow and bedsheets, but there was the faintest hint of antiseptic in the air. So, this must've been the nurse's office, which meant she was inside the school with Twilight and Flash. Opening her eyes, she was relieved, and a little groggy, to find the nurse's office dim with only the light outside serving as company. Humming a little, she slowly sat up to find Flash and Twilight talking in hushed whispers. There was only one guess as to what they were talking about. A clearing of her throat alerted them to her awakening.
"Sunset," Twilight gasped, rushing towards her. "Sunset, are you alright?"
"Y-Yeah, I'm fine," Sunset smiled. "Seems like you're not as mad as you were before."
"Well, I should be," Twilight grumbled. "Considering the condition that you're in despite you claiming that you're alright. You should be thanking Flash for his involvement, otherwise I wouldn't be letting you off the hook for lying to me." Her face was filled with slight bags and faint worry lines. "But I suppose that my wrath should be saved for other deserving persons." Her face screwed with disgust. "Like those Rainbooms! I never thought that they'd stoop so low to make you helpless against..."
"Easy, Twilight," Sunset soothed. "You shouldn't let your anger get the best of you." Now that she was up again and without the troubling thoughts in her head, her rationale was strengthened. "Look, I understand that they've made a major mistake in taking the easy route, but letting your anger overcome your logic would lend way to the mistakes that they've made."
"Sunset's right, Twilight," Flash nodded. "First things first is to find the real culprits of Anon-a-Miss. The whole school's been torn apart because of Anon-a-Miss to the point where the only thing that they'll unite about is hurting Sunset." He threw an encouraging glance at Sunset, who smiled back gratefully. "Then, maybe we can work on a solution to stop these Windigos. Do we have any lead on Anon-a-Miss so far?"
"Well," Sunset tapped the bed thoughtfully. "Apart from me, the only ones that were at the sleepovers were the Rainbooms. But the question is: Would they really do something like this just to get back at me?"
"If they were willing to leave you to the rest of Canterlot High School, then they would be capable of anything," Twilight said with a fierce tenacity. "In fact, it would be more plausible that they would do something like this because they are protected by the Elements of Harmony." She stood up and paced around. "But who among the Rainbooms would create Anon-a-Miss, just to get back at you, I wonder?"
"Remember what I said, Twilight," Sunset chided gently. "As to who among them, it seems that your best bet would be three suspects: Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fluttershy."
"Fluttershy," Flash Sentry choked out. "Why her out of all people? She's the kindest person that I know!"
"Because out of all of them, she and Rarity have the most reason to have grudges against me," Sunset frowned, recalling. "A reminder to all of us, however, that we don't have evidence to condemn them of being Anon-a-Miss yet."
"Alright," Twilight nodded. "Now, onto a bigger topic that's been troubling me: your wound." She frowned. "How did you get that wound, Sunset?" She pointed to Sunset's shoulder. "From what I can infer, you either got it from the Windigo or from a person here in this school." Her eyes flashed to Flash Sentry, who flinched. "So, tell me, Sunset. How. Did. You. Get. This."
"From the Windigo," Sunset replied blandly. "When I was walking back to my apartment, a lone Windigo got me." She began to rub her shoulder when Twilight stopped her. "It's odd. Don't Windigos usually travel in packs?"
"They do, but there might be a couple of stragglers that travel by their lonesome," Twilight frowned. "Well, it's not much, but these types of wounds usually go away on their own in a couple of weeks. But there might be some lingering side-effects." A flash that Sunset couldn't decipher shone in her eyes. "Do you feel any side effects, Sunset?"
"No. No, I don't."
Was it foolish to keep quiet about the other world to Twilight and Flash? Yes. Yes, it was to some extent. However, if she was to tell them, it would only complicate matters further. They had more than enough to deal with concerning Anon-a-Miss and the appearance of the Windigos. Besides, she had a feeling that the world that Soleil resided in had more mysteries, secrets, and a sinister air that she needed further investigation on.
As the trio were talking amongst each other in hushed whispers, Sunset felt a small soul trembling in her, begging for help.
Sunset gulped as she slowly made her way to the steps of Canterlot High School. Every step that she took was like taking an extremely small step up a steep mountain. Swallowing the nausea building in her throat, she took a deep breath, focused a ton of her energy on walking in a straight line, and began to make her way to her locker as quietly as she could. However, it would seem that luck wasn't on her side because she could feel the piercing stares of the surrounding students and faculty as she walked down to her locker. She swallowed a lump forming in her throat as she felt unnecessary tears burning at her eyes. Clenching her fists, she stopped at her locker.
"Why isn't she expelled?"
"We should tell Principal Celestia about her."
She gritted her teeth as she tried to block out the nasty whispers from her ears. It was no use to change minds of those who were not willing to listen to reason. She knew that nobody save for Flash and maybe a couple of others would believe her. A soft hit to her legs made her wince, but she used a fraction of her willpower to ignore it. Soon, there was a massing of paper balls at her feet. But she would not budge. She scoffed at how childish her peers were being. Did they honestly think that an attempt so flimsy would intimidate her? She was the former Queen Bee of Canterlot High. She would not back down.
"Hey, She-Demon," Another voice called out. "Get out of our school!"
Suddenly, Sunset was met with the cold sharp metal of the lockers. Her stomach churned and screamed with nausea as her throat expelled vomit on the floor. Coughing and gagging at the bile burning in her throat, she opted to rest near a garbage can sitting besides the locker. She hid a little smirk at the sight of those who laughed recoiling in surprised disgust. She was just about to stand up when a pink blur made itself known in front of her. Too tired to groan at the possible person, she let herself be hauled to the nurses' office.
Pinkie Pie was not a happy camper.
Sure, she could fake her smile for all those that she could see, but she knew that fake smiles was nothing compared to true, real, genuine smiles. However, all of her reasons of smiling were taken away when Anon-a-Miss appeared on the scene and wrecked havoc on Canterlot High again. And the culprit was none other than Sunset Shimmer. She regressed to her old self for whatever reason and was crying crocodile tears in order to dupe everyone again. But nobody rushed to her rescue. CHS was tired of her and she deserved to be alone for all of her schemes. That was what Pinkie liked to believe.
But her Pinkie Sense told her otherwise.
It was screaming at her that abandoning Sunset was wrong and that she should be ashamed of herself for hurting Sunset. A feeling of uneasiness settled and her footsteps slowed almost to a stop. With a flimsy excuse and a forced smile, she turned back from her friends to where her Pinkie Sense was screaming that something was wrong. She frowned as she knew that a chance of her Pinkie sense being wrong was zero before she stopped suddenly, blinking slowly at the scene before her.
Sunset was hunched over herself besides a garbage can while a large puddle of puke stewed a little ways from her. Student and faculty alike were crowing in disgust at the sight and began to shuffle away from the girl. Pinkie wrinkled her nose in an angry sniff of disgust before sighing. Approaching Sunset, she stopped as she took in the other girl's appearance. She was a pale shade of yellow and held her shoulder in pain. Slight bags were under her eyes and little vomit bits were at the corners of her mouth. Without hesitation, Pinkie picked up Sunset gently by her uninjured arm and headed straight for the nurse. A tired groan was emitting from Sunset and she could hear the audible pain and exhaustion behind it. She pitied the girl if for a second before hardening her heart.
"Why are you doing that," Her Pinkie Sense asked. "Are you doing this because of your friends? Or are you doing this because you can't stand someone wounding your ego this badly?"
"Pinkie," Nurse Redheart stepped out of the office and her eyes widened at Sunset. "Sunset! Oh my goodness!" She stepped aside and ushered the girls in. "What happened? You look so pale! You look like you'll collapse at any second! Why don't we rest on the bed, hm, Sunset? I'll tell your teachers that you're resting for at least half of the day if not more. In the meantime you should rest easily after you drink some water." She poured a nice glass of water and handed it over to Sunset, who took it gratefully. "Thank you, Pinkie. Is there anything else you want to add?"
"Yes," Pinkie nodded. "There's a mess at the entrance of the school. That's all for now."
Without nary a word to either Nurse Redheart or Sunset, she headed to class. She wouldn't leave this alone, however, for an instinctual curiosity hounded her to check Sunset's phone during lunchtime. One way or another, she would get expose that girl for who she was. She would figure out a way to stop Anon-a-Miss and bring everyone's smiles back. When the lunch bell, loud like an alarm, rang in her ears, she immediately booked it to the nurse's office, not stopping for anyone or anything.
"Pinkie," Nurse Redheart opened the door. "Why, what brings you here? Are you alright?"
"Y-Yeah," Pinkie forced a grin. "I just wanted to check on Sunset. You know, to see if she's okay after what happened today."
"Oh, how sweet," The nurse smiled. "Sure, come on in. I was just going over to see Principal Celestia about a couple of nasty incidents that have been happening ever since Anon-a-Miss came on to the scene. I won't be long. Just keep an eye on her." So saying, she left, leaving Pinkie alone in the nurse's office.
Pinkie's expression turned into stone as she approached the girl sleeping soundly on the bed. Sitting next to her, she dug in Sunset's backpack and retrieved her phone. It was thin and long, encased in bright yellow and red. She flipped to the phone opening and was on the home screen. She frowned, pausing for a moment. It was surprisingly easy to access the phone. An irrational wave of anger fueled her to continue. She would get to the bottom of this no matter what. It was for her friends. It wasn't for another five minutes that Pinkie accessed Sunset's search history.
Sunset opened Soleil's eyes to Doctor Alba staring at her with a severe expression on her face. Despite the sweat forming in buckets on her neck, her expression was calm and posture was elegant. Her brain tried to fill in the blanks of her memories, but it seemed that, like always, she was at a loss. As much as it pained her to do so, she knew that she had to ask help of the doctor. She shook her head a little. No, it wouldn't do to suspect everyone who marginally looked like a bad guy to be bad. A small nervous smile cracked her lips.
"Er, sorry, Doctor Alba," Sunset apologetically began. "Did I do something weird again?"
"Oh no, no, no, Soleil," Doctor Alba smiled gently. "It's not you, I promise. It's just that..." She sighed as she rubbed the sides of her head. "Well, the thing is that every time we try to delve into something deep and personal, we immediately start back at square one. I know that it's your go-to for protection but it needs to be done sooner or later."
Deep? Personal? Square one? Sunset frowned as she mulled over the details. None of this information was adding up. What was going on? What was the Windigo's plan for all of this? Who exactly was Soleil? What connection did she have with magic or the Windigos? Her stomach rolled with butterflies as she felt the sweat on her neck stick to her skin. All of this led to a lot more unanswered questions. She felt a tap on her shoulder and looked up to see Doctor Alba looking down on eerily.
"Don't get lost in your thoughts," She sternly said. "It's detrimental to your progress. If you get lost in your thoughts, you will be weighed down by their baggage which will impede your progress. We want to progress at a steady rate, alright?" She had swiftly turned back and sat down at her desk, peering over her spectacles. "Now, I believe that time is up for our session. I'm going to ring up Nurse Halliwell to send you back to your room so that you can rest before you go for daily art sessions."
"Daily art sessions," Sunset's face lit up. "I get to do art?"
"Yes," Doctor Alba chuckled. "You love art so much, don't you? You have so much passion for the arts, so much talent in that mind of yours. There is so much untapped potential within your hands that can be put on either canvas, paper, or computer program." She resignedly smiled at Sunset, who blinked in surprise. "It's just a shame that in your prime, you arrived here in such bad condition. I can't tell you the details right now, but we're glad that you've recovered physically at least."
Sunset nodded. "I see."
"Yes, Doctor Alba," Nurse Halliwell popped in. "You called?"
"Yes," Doctor Alba nodded, crossing her hands together. "I need you to escort Soleil into her room. She needs some rest for a little while before she goes to her art sessions." She smiled once more. "She likes those the best, after all."
"Of course. Soleil. Let's get back to your room."
Sunset wasted no time in following Nurse Halliwell out of the office and back to her room. She was conflicted. There was no leads anywhere in both her life and Soleil's life. Scratch that, she knew that Soleil was involved in something that nearly cost her her life. Something wasn't right about this whole affair. Even Nurse Halliwell's cheery demeanor couldn't lift her mood a single iota, though she did smile to the nurse when prompted. Lying alone on the bed only made her thoughts worse.
"If only there was a computer in here," Sunset mumbled to herself. "Perhaps if I can sneak a laptop or if there's a computer lab nearby, then maybe I can figure out what is going on."
She stood up and began scouring high and low for any possible clues to what happened in Soleil's personal life. She bit her lip a little as a part of her was chiding her for doing such a thing, saying that it was an intrusion of someone else's life, even if she was occupying their body. But, all things considered, wasn't it technically her body? Her movements slowed down, an unstoppable barrage of thoughts entering her head. She sat up slowly as she looked out the window into the sunset.
"What if Equestria doesn't exist?"
Considering everything that happened to her recently, would it be a stretch to say that everything that happened so far was nothing but a bad dream? A product of imagination conjured up by a girl who was on the verge of death? It was possible. At every ticking of the minute hand, her eyes slowly traveled to the drawings that she had on the wall and desk. Her feet gently shuffled towards them and her fingers brushed up against one. They were so detailed, so intricate. And yet, they might be a vivid dream.
A long, vivid dream.
She closed her hand into a fist as she mulled over the possibility. If she renounced her life back in Equestria and started her life afresh here, maybe there was a chance that she could make a more positive impact on her life and the lives of others. A painful swell of her heart ballooned in her chest as she fought the bitter memories of what happened back in Canterlot. The fresh tears slid down her cheeks and soon, she began to sob into the pillow. It would be better in the end, wouldn't it? As far as she knew, nobody would really miss her, would they? The Rainbooms hated her, Canterlot High despised her, and two of the people in her life who ever gave her a chance would move on without her.
"Would it be better if I gave up my life as Sunset Shimmer and became Soleil?"
So many questions, so many tears, so many bitter regrets. She curled up in a fetal position, knees in her face. Her sobs were painful and broken. She tried so hard to be strong in the face of everything. From Princess Celestia disowning her to turning into a demon and now Anon-a-Miss. She tried so hard to be a good person and doing what's right, even if it was hard. It was unfair at times, but she thought she could handle it. However, maybe Sunset Shimmer needed to disappear and Soleil could take center stage.
'Haha! You're so stupid! As if we would ever like you!'
'Aw! Are you gonna cry? Huh? Crybaby!'
'She was right about you! You're nothing but a loser!'
'I hate you! The world was better off without you!'
Sunset awoke with a gasp.
The sterilized ceiling couple with the scent of peroxide made her sigh stoically. Ah, this was either the hospital or the nurse's office. Judging by the small room with the faint outline of Nurse Redheart's hat bobbing about, it had to be the nurse's office that she was in. Sighing, she sat up slowly as she tried to reorient herself with her surroundings. She frowned as she stewed in anger. Why was she back here again, to a place where nobody liked her whatsoever? She turned to see Pinkie Pie sitting a little ways from her, fiddling with her phone.
"Pinkie Pie," Sunset asked, voice laced with exhaustion. "What are you doing?"
"Ah," Pinkie yelped, nearly dropping her phone. "Sunset." Her tone was laced in panic and anger. "I thought you were..."
"Sleeping," Sunset replied blandly. "Well, I just woke up. A better question would be what you were doing with my phone. As I recall, that's not your property. So, what were you doing with my phone while I was sleeping?"
"As if I need to tell you anything," Pinkie replied hotly. "But I wanted to find out if you were Anon-a-Miss or not. I mean, why shouldn't I, considering that you're capable of pulling a stunt like this? So, I decided to search your phone." She looked a bit guilty in saying so. "But I got something different on your search history. That doesn't mean that you aren't Anon-a-Miss." A soft huff of breath escaped her.
"So, let me get this straight," Sunset narrowed her eyes. "Because you're still on that kick of me being Anon-a-Miss, to which you have no tangible evidence of, you decided to go through my phone so that you could expose me. Was talking to me not an option anymore or do you want to exact more revenge on me? Because hating me wasn't enough for you, is that right?"
Pinkie's eyes widened in shock. "What are you talking about?"
"As if you didn't know," Sunset continued in a calm voice. "I know that you and the other Rainbooms have it out for me ever since I joined your ranks. You girls never wanted to be my friend at all, you just saw me as a pet to parade about. All I am to you is a person who deserves to be hurt and humiliated no matter how much I change whatsoever. I'm nothing to you girls, nothing at all. And that would have been fine and dandy had you girls actually told me the truth. But no, you kept up a nice, lovely façade of friendship with me all for me to lower my guard." She stared at Pinkie, a cold smile on her lips.
"All of you are just as two-faced as I was."
While she was laughing bitterly, Pinkie sat there, wide-eyed and shaking. Just then, Flash and Twilight entered the scene. The duo looked confused and a bit scared, looking at each other. Flash stepped up just then.
Flash bit the inside of his cheek as he rubbed circles into her back gently, cognizant of Nurse Redheart's concerned gaze. No doubt that she was considering of calling the counselor or even the principals to deal with this situation. It wasn't a situation that either of them was used to handling at all. Sunset was considered one of the more level-headed members of the group so to see her lose control like this was disconcerting and uncomfortable new territory to handle. But he focused helping her during her time of distress to make up for the time where he didn't do it before.
Simply put, she was a hot mess. Her face was blotched and stained with dry tear tracks while her eyes were red, bloodshot, tear-filled, and puffy. Her hair was disheveled and sticking to her face in clumps. Her breathing was heavy, hot, and gasping akin to a fish. Her jacket was slipping off and Flash caught a faint, sickly, yellow glow shining underneath the bandages. At a closer inspection, it looked like it was pus. But he knew that pus couldn't glow like that. Was it Windigo wound pus? Did pus like that even exist? Well, if it was from Equestria, maybe. He'd have to ask Twilight about that. Suddenly, Sunset grew quiet and she was looking straight at the wall.
"Hey," Flash asked tentatively. "How are you feeling?"
"I...I feel odd," Sunset replied in a far-off voice. "Real odd. I also feel sick to my stomach and my head's pounding like mad."
"Yikes," Flash grimaced. "Sounds like that wound on your shoulder is causing more problems again. Are you sure that there isn't anything that we can do? There's gotta be some medicine or something that can help with your symptoms."
There was no reply. Flash raised an eyebrow as Sunset stared down at her hands. Her eyes were cloudy, dazed. They darted from one hand to the other as if she was seeing them for the first time. He briefly wondered if she had the same reaction to them when she came to Canterlot High for the first time. She took in a couple of deep breaths before turning to Flash, still a little dazed but smiling at him. But it looked off-putting, strange, and he shrank back a little.
"Flash," She asked sweetly. "Why are you flinching away from me?" She leaned forward. "Are you scared of me?"
"Scared," Flash leaned forward to meet her eyes. "No. Of course not. It's just that you're acting strangely right now. You look like you're out of it. And the wound on your shoulder is glowing, too. Something's wrong here. I want to help you in any way that I can."
"You don't have to, you know."
That statement was blunt and yet delivered without malice that Flash blinked from the whiplash of it all. He was slack-jawed and stared as Sunset continued to smile at him sweetly. He gulped as the air around him turned thick with tension. Now, he knew that the wound was affecting her mind somehow. What would Twilight do in a situation like this, he wondered. Flash's fists clenched as he steeled his courage.
"Yes, I do. What makes you say that, Sunset?"
"I know what the others think of me, Flash," Sunset continued gently. "I'm not blind, you know. I know that the pain that I've inflicted on this world is not light. I know that many others, including you, have grudges against me and want to inflict cruel, tortuous revenge on me for what I've done. The Rainbooms turn a blind eye on me because they are part of the people that I've hurt. The crimes that I am guilty of in this world are great in number. Perhaps that why Pinkie looked through my phone just earlier today."
"...I'm sorry, she did what now?"
"But that's what happens when you're the former queen bee of Canterlot High School. In one single action, your actions and your words and everything else become meaningless to everyone else because they just. can't. let. go. It's their right, isn't it? After all, they have a right to extract vengeance on those who hurt others, right? But now, I have a solution that will make all of Canterlot High happy. I will make you, Twilight, the Rainbooms, and everyone else at Canterlot High School!"
"And what would that be?"
"I will erase myself from this world."
In the band room, there was nothing but silence. Pinkie was sitting on a metal chair with hair straightened and sulking while Twilight paced back and forth, trying to handle both the information given to her and her own emotions. Anon-a-Miss. They took advantage on everyone's hatred on Sunset as well as their willingness to dish out dirty secrets on people that they had hatred for. It was the perfect catalyst to induce hatred and suffering for a long time. And the fact that it worked on CHS was, to say the least, very disappointing.
"Okay, Pinkie, let's recap so that I get my facts straight," Twilight stopped and turned to face Pinkie, eyes devoid of emotion. "The photos that were first up on the Anon-a-Miss profile were from Sunset's phone during the sleepover. Not to mention a posting of Applejack's nickname. Then, when the profile was made known to everyone, then came the influx of secrets from many online profiles that are flooding the profile even as we speak right now. And, so far, the only person that is a suspect... is Sunset Shimmer. Did I get everything or did I miss anything?"
"Alright," Twilight paused to take a deep breath. "Okay."
"Twilight, she's gone back to mean Sunset Shimmer again," Pinkie Pie retorted. "She's the one who posted those pictures on Mystable! She's the one who posted Applejack's nickname and Rarity's photos and Rainbow Dash's papers and the secrets!" She gritted her teeth. "Everyone's at each other's throats again and it's all because of her! Everyone knows that she's guilty!"
"I see," Twilight mused. "Pinkie, if that's the case, can I ask you a question?"
"After accusing Sunset Shimmer of being Anon-a-Miss, has the situation improved in any way, shape, or form?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, let's look at the facts here. If Sunset Shimmer was guilty as everyone says, then surely she wouldn't be blatant to oust herself as the main culprit, first and foremost. She would put the blame on someone else like Fluttershy, Rarity, or even me! Even still, it wouldn't work anyway because everyone's caught on to her tricks by now and would at least give a second once over on this situation if she were behind this! Why would she risk everything that she worked hard for all for something real petty like this?"
"But let's push that aside for now. Ever since you girls accused Sunset of being Anon-a-Miss, has any improvement be made to the situation whatsoever? Has the tension decreased in Canterlot High whatsoever? Have relationships been maintained, have rivals made peace with each other, and has the magic of friendship withstood even this setback? Or is it the opposite?"
Pinkie swallowed the lump in her throat as she turned to look away. No, the situation did not improve whatsoever. Not even when everyone ousted Sunset did the situation improve at all. But that would be easily excused as Sunset not owning up for her crimes, right? Pinkie bit her lip. Now, she wasn't sure. Twilight, for her part, wanted to go easy on her. She and the other Rainbooms were still new to the world. But they were also at the age to know that actions had consequences. Better to stop this behavior before their behavior gets them into worse trouble.
"Now, as for your actions against Sunset, you girls were mad at Sunset for circumstantial evidence. You didn't bother to take her side of the story at all, first off. Secondly, you aired out that dirty laundry in front of a large crowd of students instead of doing so privately, and after leaving her to fend for herself, you continued to isolate her and attack her with such aggressive comments. What's more is that, due to Sunset's accounts, you tried to look into her search history without her noticing. Tell me, Pinkie, how are your actions no different from Sunset's actions before the Fall Formal?"
"We didn't blackmail anyone! We didn't lie to the principals or teachers about anything!"
"That's true, but you isolated her and attacked her passive-aggressively. You'd inadvertently instigated everyone against her and left her without anything to defend herself with. You're an Element of Harmony, Pinkie, the Element of Laughter. You're supposed to be teaching her the magic of friendship. That magic also means giving her the benefit of the doubt like friends, best friends, would. Or do you want to repeat the same mistakes that you girls made the first time?"
Pinkie whimpered and sunk down in the chair, hurt at the accusation. Why couldn't Twilight see that she wasn't the bad guy here? Her friends were being attacked by Anon-a-Miss and Twilight was here, getting angry at her. Was this how Sunset felt, a crushing sense of helplessness? No, Sunset was stronger than that, right? She was the former queen bee of CHS. She was, for most people, a juggernaut of strength, resolve, and pride.
"I thought that you girls would learn from both the Fall Formal and the Battle of the Bands. Instead, you're making the same mistake again and again. If, by some chance, there's another crisis like this, will you still be blaming Sunset even after all this time?" She sighed and rubbed her temples, a tell-tale sign of a headache forming. "Listen, Pinkie, we don't have much time." She rubbed her temples. "We need to clear Sunset's name as soon as possible. It's clear that whoever's behind Anon-a-Miss is reveling in their victory." She then narrowed her eyes. "And we will find them, with or without the others' help."
"You want to what?"
"It's not what I want, Flash. It's what this world needs. And what they need is for me to be erased."
Flash stared, open-mouthed, in horror. He turned to Nurse Redheart, who covered her mouth and stared in equal horror. A soft sound of the minute hand ticking was the only one in the room. Erase herself from this world? She wasn't being serious about that, was she? No, this had to be the effect of the wound. He bit his lip as he saw Nurse Redheart slink out of vision. A deep breath and he turned to the girl, who was still smiling at him as if she were in a daze.
"Sunset, you shouldn't-"
"Why not," She asked calmly. "It's what everyone wants. I know that. You, the Rainbooms, everyone in CHS. Even Twilight is thinking that deep down in her heart. And why not? Wouldn't it be better for everyone if I did disappear? They wouldn't get hurt anymore. They'll be free, they'll be free, they'll be..."
"No, they won't," Flash vehemently retorted. "They won't be free or happy! You want to know why, Sunset? Because they will have to live with the fact that they've erased a person from this world, as you put it. Erasing a person from this world carries a heavy sentence both with the law and on a person's conscience! And if you did that, then they'd feel guilty forever!" Flash's tongue tasted acidic and burden weighed on his gut. "Sunset, please, you have to snap out of this! It's the wound, right?" His eyes darted to her face, which dripped heavy beads of sweat. "The wound must be affecting you somehow!"
"And if it's not?"
"If it's not, then..."
Flash bit his lip at that possibility. It wasn't one that he wanted to consider, but he supposed that if that was a possibility she wanted him to consider, then he would consider it. It's true that the wound was glowing so much, but Sunset was also a girl, a girl with emotions and thoughts and the potential to break under pressure like any other ordinary person. But Flash was a teenager. A teenager who did not have the expert psychological advice to aid Sunset. But he did have friendship advice that, give or take, could be useful. He took a deep breath.
"If it's not, then the things that I said before still hold true. Sunset, your life matters here. I...I...I'm real sorry that you've been feeling this way. I know that saying sorry won't undo the bullying, the taunts, the utter apathy shown by me and the others." He gulped and clasped her hands together with his in determination. "I promise you, Sunset. I promise we will catch the real culprits behind Anon-a-Miss and we will get you the amount of help that you need. I know that it sounds like an empty thing right now but I promise that I will help you! I promise, I promise, I promise!"
Sunset stared at him through shiny, glassy eyes. It was as if she was seeing him for the first time. Flash's eyes darted back to the wound, whose glow was decreasing dramatically. Flash's face lit up with joy as the wound finally stopped glowing. But at the very next second, his face turned into horror as her eyes rolled up in the back of her head and she collapsed on the bed. For a moment, Flash couldn't move a muscle. It was as if someone froze him with some sort of spell. Then, he checked her if she was breathing and if her pulse was alright. Her breathing was there and so was her pulse, but it moved rapidly.
"Sunset," He mumbled. "Sunset, please wake up! Please! Please! Please wake up!"
There was no reply, which made him frantic. What happened? What was going on? Why couldn't he fix this? Why?! He buried his face in his hands. What could he possibly do in this situation? A soft hand squeezed his shoulder gently and he turned to see Twilight giving him a soft grimace with Pinkie trailing behind. He looked at Twilight and then at Sunset with no words. At the soft footsteps of the nurse approaching them, he finally found his voice.
"What's going on, Twilight? Just a minute ago, Sunset...she...she..."
"Easy, Flash, easy," Twilight gave him a gentle one-armed hug. "First, let's have Nurse Redheart take over from here. We'll go to the band room. Then, you can tell us what happened from there. Come on. Let's go."
"Oh...Oh my Celestia."
This time, it was Twilight's turn to sink down in the chair. The air was thick and heavy with tension within the band room. No single soul uttered a sound. Twilight buried her face in her hands, Pinkie's mouth was covered by one hand, and Flash ran a hand through his hair. It was quite the bombshell and nobody knew how to break the silence. Finally, Flash turned to Pinkie, a sad expression on his face. He couldn't hold malice for Pinkie no matter how hard he tried. Sunset didn't need anymore of the malice and vitriol that haunted her life recently.
"Pinkie, we have to know," Flash started. "You looked through Sunset's phone, right? What did you find?"
"I...I found," Pinkie stammered before taking a deep breath. "I found searches for m-mental health illnesses. Various ones. It was a search history for depression, mood disorders, schizophrenia. I...I...I thought she was faking it...B...But I didn't think...I, I, I..." She trailed off, her face wet with tears. "I...I just thought that..."
"Easy now," Twilight regained her composure. "We have to be calm for Sunset. Let's focus on the wound on her shoulder. It was glowing a sickly yellow color, right, Flash?" At Flash's nod, she continued. "I looked up in the books that talked about the Windigos at length." Her eyes were burning with determination. "This isn't any ordinary Windigo attack."
"What do we do?" Flash asked uneasily.
"We must ask Sunset of what happened that night," Twilight replied. "And I know it won't be easy to ask her that right away. But we have to ask her whenever she's ready to talk." She sighed as she rubbed her temples once more.
Both Pinkie and Flash nodded, but that didn't dispell much of the tension in the air. Of course, there was not much that they could do about the situation for now. Indeed, all they could do was wait for Sunset to wake up. Flash opted to go first as his stomach was twisted and tied into knots in this room. He bit his lip as he made his way back into the nurse's office again. At the scent of diluted disinfectant, it just made his nausea accentuate even more.
Flash held his breath as he slowly made his way towards Sunset's bed. Sunset definitely looked better. Her face wasn't pale, her eyes were clear, and she looked at Flash with a questioning stare. It was as if the last couple of hours could be erased in a second. But Flash couldn't forget so easily. No, he could never forget. He just smiled at Sunset as he sat down next to her, his heart hammering in his chest.
"I...I said all of that," Sunset uttered in horror. "Oh Sweet Celestia."
Sunset buried her face in his heads in embarrassment. She, Flash, and Twilight were currently at her apartment discussing a whole day's worth of events. How could she say all of that sensitive information without abandon to a teenager like that? It's unfathomable to imagine that someone like her, who was so guarded and careful with her emotions, could just lose control. She merely shook her head in mortification while Twilight and Flash looked on in awkward sympathy. Twilight sat down and, mindful of the painful shoulder, gave Sunset some comforting and encouraging pats on her back. Meanwhile, Flash sighed a short sigh while he looked around the kitchen.
"Thanks, Twilight," Sunset smiled weakly. "I needed that."
"Anytime, Sunset, anytime," Twilight replied. "Now, I know that you might not feel comfortable with talking about it with us. I know that it's hard for you to experience those feelings and those thoughts a second time, but we need to clarify if the pull's as deep as you say it is." She glanced back at Flash, who nodded. "Now, start from the beginning. You can start from either a month ago, where Anon-a-Miss started, or you can start from a couple of days ago with the Windigo wound."
Sunset decided to start at the Anon-a-Miss situation and work from there. She recounted of the hardships, the pain, and the emotional turmoil that she went through. She was surprised by how calm and serene she felt when recounting these events but maybe that was because she had nothing to fear anymore. Her head was clear of all of the negative emotions that she'd been latching on to and she was still thinking about Soleil. Even though she would be sad, she would not let that impede her for now. When she finished, Twilight was trembling in anger, her knuckles turning white from gripping her knuckles tightly.
Sunset uttered it so calmly that it got the princess to deflate and relax her hands. She took a couple of deep breaths, pacing. Finally, she turned to both students with an air of authority befitting of royalty. Flash just stared in awe while Sunset bristled as it reminded her too much of Princess Celestia to be comfortable. But she reminded herself that Twilight was standing. It's for her own safety and comfort.
"For now, we need to find someone who knows their way around computers in order to track down Anon-a-Miss. CHS won't let Sunset rest until she admits to a crime that she's never committed while the real culprits watch and laugh at us. Flash, I'll need you to find someone who knows the ins and outs of a computer. As for the Windigo wound, I'll need to talk to Princess Celestia about this. It's clear that this is no ordinary Windigo wound that you're dealing with, Sunset. It could be something a little more."
Sunset nodded. After some time of chatting and talking, Flash left reluctantly, which left the two girls together. Sunset began to pull out some comforters and pillows for Twilight to use for the night. Twilight would not hear of leaving Sunset just all on her lonesome. It was a little awkward to be doted on like this, but Sunset supposed that it was natural. After all, if Twilight or anyone else were in her position, then she would probably act the same way.
"I haven't told Flash," Sunset told Twilight as they watched a movie. "But I owe Pinkie an apology when we get back to school soon. I shouldn't have blown up at her like that." Her shoulders sagged in guilt. "I was so angry and frustrated and helpless."
"Don't apologize," Twilight replied. "If anything, Pinkie should be the one apologizing. Along with the rest of the Rainbooms." She gritted her teeth in anger. "How dare they strike you like that? Furthermore, going through your phone like that without your permission. I will never forgive them for that. When I will approach them next, I'll make sure that they'll beg for mercy."
"Twilight, please," Sunset balked. "Don't say that. Remember, you're the princess of friendship, not the princess of absolutes or whatever. Celestia knows that I shouldn't have told you that. It's just that they're hurt in this too, Twilight. It's not fair that, for all their faults, they get hurt as much as the culprits."
"True," Twilight huffed. "But that doesn't mean that they get to hurt others just because they got hurt themselves. Where do the lines end between justice and revenge?"
"I don't know."
"As it is," Twilight concluded. "Shouldn't we stop them before they go too far and hurt another person?"
"...I guess so."
It was an unsatisfactory ending, but Sunset didn't press. She didn't like that everyone was at each other's throats and things were getting vitriolic. She'd do anything to go back to the days where things were starting to look up, where everyone at her school were nice or getting along. She let the sound of the TV turn to fuzzy static and unconsciously rested her head on that faulty armrest which she'd been meaning to fix for awhile. And as the snow turned into sleet outside, she felt herself smile.
Oh. She was back here again. Opening her eyes, she sat up as if she had a nightmare. Looking around, she found that, along with Nurse Halliwell, there were three people standing nearby. Two adults and a girl around her age if not younger. Was this Soleil's family? She pursed her lips in thought as she eyed them up and down warily. It was quite jarring to see and believe a pack of complete strangers to be family. Then again, she didn't have a good relationship with the word 'family' recently, so it wasn't a surprise to be tense around supposed family members.
"Soleil," The woman rushed forward, pulling her into a hug and covering her face with kisses. "Oh, Soleil, my baby!" Ah, she's Soleil's mother.
"Mrs. Sands, please," Nurse Halliwell gently chided. "She just woke up. She might not recognize who you are."
"I...Oh, I apologize," Mrs. Sands backed away, tears still streaming down her face. "I'm just so happy to see her again! I...I..."
Sunset could only bite her lip in apprehension while she took in the scene in front of her. She wanted to comfort the woman in front of her, but she didn't know any of these people. As such, she didn't know how to comfort them. All she could do was to dust off her pajamas and try to look as presentable as she could in such a state. She looked towards Nurse Halliwell to fill in the blanks to which the nurse obliged.
"These are your family members," Nurse Halliwell confirmed Sunset's suspicions. "This is Mr. Apollo Sands, Mrs. Misty Sands and your older twin sister Bianca Sands. They usually visit you on the weekends, but sometimes you go out with them for an occasional holiday or two, like Christmas and Thanksgiving." She smiled. "I know that there's a bit of information to take in. I think that a change of clothes is in order. It'll help you process the information."
Sunset nodded and changed slowly. It was all too much to take in but it was also easily digestible. Still, there was still a thing that was bothering her. What that thing was, she didn't know, but it was tugging at her mind. She looked at herself and gave a slight chuckle. On first assumption, she would probably be mistaken for Fluttershy's twin. A cream headband that fit nicely with her red hair, a sweater that hid her curves, some faded, baggy jeans, and slightly worn sneakers. She hummed. It was a cozy fit for sure, but not so fashion conscious.
'I wonder what Rarity would have to say about this outfit. Provided that I don't cause her to have a hissy fit.'
As she stepped out of the door, Bianca strode forward and gave her a hug. Sunset hesitated before returning the hug, but it definitely felt awkward. Not to mention off, extremely off. As if there was an interloper about. Putting this feeling in the back of her mind, she smiled gently and moved with her family members, giving a hug to Nurse Halliwell before she left. The cold and crisp air greeted her and for a moment, she stopped and inhaled deeply. She smiled to herself as she took in the sweet, refreshing ambience before moving to the family.
The car ride was uneventful, for the most part. Apollo and Misty were mostly chatting about the weather and other little talk that sounded mildly pleasant. Bianca wore a small smile on her face for the most part, but Sunset sensed something wrong. It was as if there was a heavy tension that was between them, between her and Soleil and Sunset didn't know if she wanted, if at all, to uncover the secrets behind this tension. All she needed to do was to be with her thoughts and fix things.
"Now, Soleil," Misty chirped, helping her up. "It has been a while since you've been home, so take your time exploring, okay? No need to rush anything, alright, sweetie?" Her eyes were becoming misty again and she brushed a stray hair gently out of Sunset's face. That action flashed Sunset back to Princess Celestia for a few seconds and she felt a slow burn in her eyes. "It is going to take some getting used to, so you need to take your time."
"Bianca," Apollo spoke up. "Please. Won't you show Soleil up to her room? In the meantime, it would give you ample time to catch up."
"Of course," Bianca smiled, taking Sunset by the hand. "Come on, Soleil."
Without warning, Sunset was led upstairs to a room that overlooked the front of the house. It was cute and small with a nice shade of pink overlapping the wall. In one corner stood a small desk complete with chair and drawers. Standing a little ways from the window was a bed that looked fluffy with its comforters and pillow. Opposite were a walk-in closet and a little shelf that contained small stuffed animals. She could've whistled at how intricate and neat everything was in this room. It was the room of dreams, at least for someone like Pinkie Pie. By the by, she had to apologize to her even if Twilight didn't approve.
"So," Bianca's voice answered behind her, unfriendly. "You're back here again."
Sunset turned around, eyebrow raised at the girl. Eyeing her up and down, Bianca looked to be her opposite. Pale skin, blue hair that shimmered in the pale fluorescent light, and an outfit that was definitely screamed rich, popular girl. A lovely black sweater complete with skinny jeans and knee-high black boots. Her icy-blue eyes would have been intimidating but Sunset's tolerance shot through after dealing with Canterlot High School. Sunset inwardly groaned; of course, she couldn't have easy times in this life either. But why before Christmas Break? She said nothing as Bianca approached her, glaring intensely.
"You're a loser, you know that," Bianca hissed, voice low to not alert their parents. "And it's my bad luck that I'm related." An annoyed sigh came out of her as she circled around Sunset like a predator. "You couldn't just stay there like a good girl. You just have to come here for the holidays and ruin any social life that I might have with them."
Them? Sunset said nothing as she let Bianca ramble on. The gears in her head were turning as she thoughtfully put a finger to her chin. Were they popular people that Bianca was rooting for? Were they her parents? It was a possibility that the adult Sands might have something to do with this. After all, kindness out of nowhere was deemed suspicious. She maintained the eye contact on Bianca, who had a half-smirk on her face. It was as if she couldn't help but mock the person in front of her. A slow anger coursed through Sunset, but she remained a calm exterior on her face.
"What, got nothing to say," Bianca purred. "Honestly, I'm not surprised that you'd remain silent. You've been a doormat ever since we were kids. And the fact that I get saddled with you as a sister makes me want to puke. You're trash, a loser, nothing more than everyone's punching bag."
Suddenly, Sunset chuckled. It was low, quiet, and off-putting. Bianca blinked in surprise. So, that meant that she'd never had a response like this before. Fair enough. Soleil was like Fluttershy in a way, if Bianca was to be believed. But Sunset was here and in charge. As long as she was here, nobody would put her through the wringer again, especially not an amateur like this girl here. Sunset put on her best smirk and glare like it was nobody's business. For now, she would channel Demon Sunset.
"I'm sorry," Sunset replied. "But if you're trying to intimidate me, it's not working."
"E-Excuse me," Bianca hissed. "Do you think that you can talk to me so casually like this? Do you have any idea who you're talking to?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. I'm talking to an amateurish mean girl whose riding on the coattails of weak popularity." The glare, her queen bee glare, intensified. "Listen, Bianca. I don't know what history you have with me nor what kind of grudge you've been having all these years. But at the moment, I am too tired and too angry to even care. Let's get one thing straight here. I do not kowtow to amateurs like yourselves or anyone else who think that they can intimidate those they deem outcasts."
"Please," Bianca spat. "Not even the outcasts at our school would associate with you. You're that pathetic."
"Personally, I don't give a hoot, okay? I've got better things to do with my life, limited as it is, than to be intimidated. You're a rank-amateur, Bianca. A wannabe mean girl whose looking up to people who are unworthy of any time or energy by anyone who actually wants to make something of their lives. Their peak time is at high school, Bianca. Soon as they get to college, at no point will they ever better themselves and so they'll live a life of regret and pain. That's where your future is going to go."
In record time, Sunset found herself on the floor with a stinging pain in her cheek. She looked up and saw Bianca seething a horrible anger. Perhaps, in the future, she would consider that a retaliation against her remarks. But for now, she saw anger and a desire to get payback. She rubbed her cheek and felt a thin line of blood that was drawn. Well, she tried to play nice. A devilish smirk was dancing on her face. Bianca's eyes widened in fear and she stumbled back, presumably not used to Soleil acting this way. Good. More fear meant more desire for retribution.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Sunset clicked her tongue. "How awful of you, sister dearest. I just wanted to tell you how I felt in my moment of lucidity. But I guess that wasn't really uncalled for, seeing as how you wish to act this way." She leaned down and grabbed Bianca by the chin gently. Locking the door, she sat Bianca down on the chair, leaned over, and gave her a hellish glare.
"I wanted to play nice with you. To show you that I don't care how you see me and that I won't kowtow to the likes of you. I'll be frank, though, I can't get to people like you. People who show a fake personality around others only to bully other people behind their backs." She gripped Bianca's chin tighter and smiled gleefully at the other girl. "See, the thing about me is that I have time to stew, to plot, to be just as nasty as you. Possibly more so now that I've decided to become stronger. I have you, the popular people, and basically everyone else at that school to thank for my newfound vengeance high. I wonder if you're up for becoming the first one to fall, dear sister."
"Y-You wouldn't," Bianca said. "I'll tell Mom and Dad about you! They'll believe me over you! I'm the one whose gonna make it in life! I'll make sure that they know about what you did! You're a crazy person! A loony! A menace to society!"
"I don't think they would like either of us to fight nor would they want us to bully each other. But I'm sure that if they're the greatest parents in the world, they would be fair and investigate. Secrets might be secrets, but I've got nothing to hide." An eerie pallor washed over Bianca's face. "I'll stay out of your way and you promise not to antagonize me. Capiche, dear sis?"
Bianca nodded and once Sunset unlocked the door, she fled to the safety of her room. Sunset knew that this tense peace is the only goodwill that she would get out of Bianca and nor that it would last, which is why she needed something on Bianca and the whole school to give Soleil some form of justice. She sighed. She didn't want to bring out Demon Sunset, but choice was not there.
A glow filled Sunset and it was warm. A good kind of warm. She turned to the mirror and gaped. The faint glow of pony ears and a beautiful tail shone for mere moments before vanishing. Her chest carried the warm yellow glow akin to fire and then it turned to a light peach. The color of sweet and gentle timidity.
Sunset blinked as she looked down at the peach orb nestled comfortably in her borrowed chest. Well, she has to say that, in her life as both a unicorn and a human, she didn't see this one coming. Of course, she didn't know about the Windigos, or at least ones that acted on their lonesome. But how did this lone girl connect with Equestrian magic through a Windigo of all things? She stroked her chin as the questions streamed through her mind but she didn't come up with a concrete answer which frustrated her to no end. She slammed her fist on the desk, to which the peach orb squeaked frightfully.
"Oops," Sunset smiled sheepishly as she waved her fist as to reduce the light pain. "Sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you at all when I did that." She then frowned at her hand, hoping no bruise formed. "Nor do I want to take your body for granted. And I didn't mean to steal your body like this, but it wasn't as if I had much of a choice."
"Oh, no, no," Soleil's voice came out in a soft whisper with nary reproach or even annoyance. "It's fine. It's fine. It's no big deal." The peach orb nestled into the left side of her chest. "But are you okay?"
"Yes," Sunset smiled. "Yes, I'm fine. Don't worry about me. I'm a strong fighter and tougher than I look! It's just that I want to keep you safe and unharmed from all of this, uh, situation." Her mouth dipped into a frown. "I'm sorry. I wish that I could've stopped an innocent from getting involved in these magical situations." She frowned as she tried to remembered how there was a possible connection between Soleil and the Windigo. "Apologies, Soleil. But speaking of bruises and cuts, I have to ask you a question. As much as you can remember, do you recall any sort of magical wound on your person?"
But before the peach orb could answer, there was a knock on the door. The peach orb, squeaking in fright, disappeared into her body and vanished. Sunset felt a warm intense rush before it subsided. This time, it felt awful. Real awful. It was as if her whole being was exhausted both physically and emotionally. She gnawed at her lip, regretting her question immediately. Of course Soleil would be extremely hesitant to answer that given her background. But was her question the whole lock, stock, and barrel or merely the trigger? Of course, the knock on the door didn't really help matters.
"Soleil, honey," Misty's voice called. "I just wanted to let you know that dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes." There was an eerily short pause. "I, I don't want you to rush or anything, honey. I just wanted to let you know in case you were hungry." At Sunset's lack of reply, there was a soft sigh. "I'm glad you're back here, honey. Even if it's for a short while, everyone's happy to see you here. At home. We'll be downstairs if you need us."
At the sound of retreating footsteps, Sunset sighed and waited for Soleil to come back. A few minutes later but there was no sign of the peach orb anywhere. She wanted to panic but knew that it would be of no use to do so. For one thing, it wouldn't be good to raise suspicion among the family members, even Bianca. As far as they knew, their daughter was home and brief lucidity took place. Why shatter their hopes of becoming a normal family? Besides, she had to maintain the body so that her host could return with no complications whatsoever.
Changing into comfortably warm pajamas, she descended down the carpeted stairs and entered the dining room timidly. At her appearance in the doorway, her parents were smiling warmly while Bianca visibly averted her eyes. The smell of freshly, piping hot bread mixed with the delicious smell of carbonara pasta made her mouth water and stomach rumble. Sitting at a seat across from Bianca, she decide to help herself to a large portion.
"Oh, um," Bianca piped up in a sugary-sweet voice. "Be careful, Soleil. You don't want to burn your tongue on the sauce. The bread's also really hot, too." She flashed a half-smile, half-smirk. "Also, Mom and Dad have told me that if you eat too much, you might have a bad stomachache."
"That's apt advice, Bianca," Sunset smiled sweetly. "I will keep that in mind. However, you must forgive me. I haven't tasted a dinner that was homemade in a long time. Not to put down the food back there, but there's something nice eating at home. But thank you for the advice. I will keep that in mind moving forward."
She didn't mean to launch into a speech that was so corny that an outsider watching it would be put off by its corniness. But she wasn't going to be intimidated by amateur mean girl, at least not when she was here. However, Soleil was different. And whether or not she was going to survive under the control of Bianca was a worrying matter indeed. But maybe she would've been more hesitant to go with the Sands had she understood the family dynamic sooner. Guilt piled up in her chest.
"Soleil," Apollo spoke for the first time. "Are you okay? Don't feel bad about eating a lot. It's Christmas after all."
"Oh, yeah," Sunset smiled forcefully. "I'm fine. Honest." Taking a deep breath, she took a bite out of the pasta. "Mmm!"
Dinner was a relatively quiet affair, with Bianca going on and on about what was going on in this particular school. The topic ranged from the cheerleading squad to the prom that was coming in the spring. All the while, she was making glances at the girl sitting across from her. Sunset, for her part, rolled her eyes. It was watching a cracked mirror being distorted before her. As she thought before, Bianca was nothing but an amateur who was taking cues from someone else. Maybe the people who had done something terrible to Soleil.
"By the way," Bianca's voice cut through her thoughts. "Aspen told me that he was going to be taking me to the prom. We've even got a limo service that will be taking us to the after-party afterwards." She said this as she looked directly at Sunset. "At the prom, Soleil, there'll be some cake and cookies. Maybe I'll give you some when I can." She finished with a fake smile.
"Okay," Sunset shrugged with a smile. "Thanks for thinking about me."
Bianca's smile slipped and the parents looked at each other with unreadable expressions. As she continued to eat, Sunset's ears pricked up to something outside of the window. An eerie chill ran down her body and she dared herself to turn herself to the window. Her breath hitched as she saw a horrible sight. It was the Windigo, though not as she remembered it before. Its fingers now had a thin slice of blood curling at the nails and its teeth were gleaming in the moonlight. The lips were taut, cracked, and dry at the edges.
It was smiling.
It was smiling at her.
No, no, no. Sunset's eyes widened in fear as she continued to stare out the window before blinking to will the apparition out of her vision. When she reopened her eyes, it was gone and she breathed a sigh of relief. Looking down at her plate, Sunset, stomach turning knots, decided to put the rest of her food in the fridge and excused herself weakly before heading upstairs. Closing the door behind her, she curled up with her knees to her chin, shaking like a leaf. Her mind was swirling into a mess.
Sunset gritted her teeth as she stood up on shaky legs and buried her face into her pillow, too tired to pace around and very paranoid to go to sleep. Her nerves were frazzled, on edge. She felt her heartrate beat at a rapid pace and shivered as every nook and cranny crept on her like ivy. She narrowed her eyes as she looked out the window, at the opposite house. She was taking comfort in its soft glow when she saw that the snow was flurrying rapidly. Grimacing, she closed her curtains. No. No. No. None of that right now. A tap was at her window. She puckered her lips as she turned away and closed her eyes.
Sunset opened her eyes to the scent of lavender and a lethargy weighing her down. The tickle of soft hair prickled her cheek and she smiled softly as she looked towards Twilight sleeping right on her like a cat. For five minutes, she just laid there as a gradual wakefulness roused her from the vestiges of sleep. Then, an abrupt buzz jolted the both of them. Sunset frowned, a confusion washing over her. Who, except from Flash, would be calling her at all? As Twilight rubbed the sleep out of her eye, she picked it up.
"Pinkie," Sunset mumbled in wonder. "Why does Pinkie want to come over here for a visit?"
"Probably because she wants to help out," Twilight responded from behind her. "The last time we talked to her, she was real torn up about your condition as well as how she messed up with the other students of Canterlot High School." She frowned.
"Good that she's coming here," Sunset looked down. "It'll give me an opportunity to apologize to her." She looked outside. "I know that she was part of the crowd who turned on me, but she's still human. She can change, just like me."
Twilight said nothing, to which Sunset decided to make some breakfast for the three of them. As she worked on the eggs as well as the toast, she glanced back at the Princess and frowned. Twilight looked at her in a way that made her feel guilty. An odd frown crossed her mouth and her eyes were a mixture of anger and sympathy. Sunset turned away and focused on not burning the eggs. But she always felt the piercing stare cut right into her soul. Finally, she sighed as she set the food down.
"Twilight, is everything okay?"
"I...I heard you talk in your sleep," Twilight replied, looking away. "I didn't know what to do but to listen. I...I heard everything about that other world, Sunset. I also heard from Flash that you wanted to...wanted to..." She couldn't speak. "I...I..." Twilight then flung herself onto Sunset. "I'm so, so, so, so, sorry. I promised you that I'd be there for you. But then, I didn't and you'd, you'd been going through a rough time and I...I..."
Sunset frowned as she rubbed the other girl's back. Twilight was inconsolable and she knew that it was her fault. She bit her lip. At first, she was so angry and confused at the world when this whole thing hit, even as she put on a mask of indifference and stoicism. She wanted vengeance, revenge, to see the whole of Canterlot High School off their high horse for once. And a good portion of her wanted to scream at the Rainbooms for their inconsiderate hypocrisy.
The aftermath of pouring out whatever she poured out was not pretty. Three people were traumatized because of what she had said, a fourth counting poor Nurse Redheart. Flash's horror, the nurse's shock, Twilight's tears, and Pinkie's guilt. It's not as sweet as she hoped, revenge. Painting someone as the villain was all too easy and its consequences and she almost went down that path. She bit her lip. She thought that she was smarter than this, but of course, thinking that was also hubris.
"Easy, Twilight, easy," Sunset soothed. "Here, have some breakfast. You need something to eat, you know?"
Twilight reluctantly obeyed and sat down at the small table. Just then, a soft knock was at the door. Sunset opened it and an expected Pinkie was there, except disheveled. Her hair was straight and dulled pink, her eyes were puffy and reddened with tears, her cheeks were dry-stained with those tears, and her clothes were wrinkled. Her fists were clenched and shaking. It's a honest-to-god miracle that she looked so stoic as she did. Sunset blinked only once before ushering the girl in.
"Pinkie, what happened," Sunset asked as she directed Pinkie to the chair. "Are you okay? Did something happen?"
"I...I yelled at the Rainbooms," Pinkie could only reply. "I told them what I needed to say. And, honestly, I've never felt better. It felt good, you know. To unleash what I needed to say. And it felt good, you know." She turned to Sunset. "The Battle of the Bands. You told everyone there that your past didn't define every part of you. We should've...I should've...I'm so sorry! I...I..."
"Pinkie, it's okay," Sunset smiled at her. "If anything, I also owe you an apology regarding what I said that day. I forgot about the consequences and just whaled on you. I'm sorry. I should've been more mature than that. But I lost myself that day." At Twilight's cough, she turned and gave a sheepish grin. "And I have something that I have to tell you both. I need all the help. It's not an option to do this alone anymore."
It had taken an hour.
By the time she was finished, Twilight and Pinkie were more than floored. Twilight was biting her fingernails and Pinkie was rubbing her hands on her skirt. They seemed to be lost in thought, processing the information. It wasn't surprising. It was a overlord of other world information. One where Equestria was nothing more than the detailed lucid dreams of a young girl. A young girl who was going through a lot, to put it bluntly. Of course, nobody knew what had caused this, not even Sunset.
"I know," Sunset nodded. "It's all kinds of odd and kind of disturbing. What's more is that I saw the Windigo even there. It's a true mystery and this wound on my shoulder factors into this shift." She grimaced at the dull pain of her shoulder. "She's an important connection to the Windigo. Someway, somehow, that Windigo has given me access to her point of view." Sunset's face suddenly paled as a new realization set in. "This means that she's vulnerable there with the Windigo running around."
"What do we do?" Pinkie piped up.
"I have no idea," Sunset admitted. "The most that I can do is to be her for a little while. But other than t h a t..."
A second blink.
A third blink.
Sunset frowned as she stared at the ceiling. What, what, what was happening? Wasn't she talking to Pinkie and Twilight? She turned her head at a piece of paper fluttering in the wind. Wind? No, it was the slight opening of the door as well as a voice.
She blinked immediately at the sound of Twilight's voice. Both her and Pinkie were looking at her strangely. Oh, she spaced. That was strange. She usually had a pattern when entering these things. But now that pattern was being disrupted in a way. A negative way. Sunset frowned and she blinked again. Huh. That was strange. Why were her thoughts getting disjointed? At this point, Twilight got up and gently sat Sunset down on a spare chair.
"Easy, Sunset, easy," Twilight mumbled. "Just rest on this chair."
"What do we do, Twilight," Pinkie whimpered. "What do we do?"
"Hmm, from what I can recall," Twilight responded, stroking Sunset's hair. "It doesn't seem like any other Windigo attack the books have spoken about nor of what Princess Celestia warned me about. However..." She trailed off in thought. "It doesn't, to my knowledge, have the same...But what if..." She turned to Pinkie. "There is a creature that is rarely talked in Equestria. I only heard of this creature in hushed whispers."
Pinkie sighed as she sat inside the Sweet Shoppe, a hot chocolate in her hand. Sipping the warm beverage, she glanced over to the counter where Mrs. Cake was wiping the countertop. After Sunset left in tears, Mrs. Cake was very angry at the scene, scolding them to high heaven. Then, Pinkie Pie was taken to the back of the room where she was suspended with pay with a strong reminder to never create a scene like that when she came back to work in the new year. Their anger dissipated in the next day, but their slight disappointment did not and the punishment was still acted upon.
Pinkie's eyes then concentrated on a small spot in the wall. At first, she was upset and vowed to concentrate all of her anger on Sunset. But after she saw Sunset in the condition that she was in, it was honestly a miracle that the Cakes were lenient at her as they were. After all, creating a scene like that was bad for business and would scare potential customers away. It was, to be frank, something that she would regret going forward. Why didn't she listen to her Pinkie Sense when it screamed and yelled at her to look at the situation differently?
Her hair bounced as she turned to see her friends enter the bakery. She swallowed her saliva nervously. She knew that with Anon-a-Miss going on, just even uttering Sunset's name would be a hot-button issue. And yet, she had to challenge them. At this point, every single lead on Sunset was exhausted and they were willing to beat a dead horse into the ground. Pinkie just bristled as she thought that last point. Twilight wouldn't be happy with that analogy.
"Pinkie," Fluttershy's soft voice broke her out of her trance. "Pinkie, are you okay?"
"...Yeah," Pinkie forced a smile. "Yeah, I'm fine, Fluttershy. I'm just thinking about things right now." She honestly couldn't be more amazed at how this shy girl was the same girl who glared at Sunset like a basilisk threatening its prey.
"Aren't we all, darling," Rarity grumbled. "It's gotten worse." She pulled out her phone and showed it for the girls to see. "It's horrible what she's doing to Canterlot High! Look, somebody posted this on the Anon-a-Miss blog about Lyra and Bon Bon!" Her dainty fingers clenched the phone tightly. "Did she learn nothing during the Fall Formal or even afterwards, when we've given her a place in our family?!"
"Honestly, sugarcube," Applejack growled. "We should've let the police deal with her the moment she fell on the Fall Formal! That way, she would never hurt anybody else ever again! But it just goes ta show that a leopard never changes its spots that easily!"
"Next time I see her," Rainbow slammed her fist into her hand. "I'll teach her a lesson that she'll never forget!"
The more they talked, the more Pinkie was starting to get uncomfortable. It was quite surreal, to see her friends who were a group of friendly girls being so vindictive and vengeance obsessed. Just yesterday, she was the same way, being angry and a revenge-obsessed girl towards Sunset. Would she still be revenge-obsessed if she didn't find out about Sunset, she thought, or would her Pinkie Sense eventually win out in the end?
"Pinkie," Fluttershy asked again, frowning at the girl. "You've been real quiet right now. Are you sure that everything's okay?"
"I've been thinking about this whole Anon-a-Miss thing," Pinkie finally said. "And I've been wondering on whether we're a bit too eager to pin this on her. I mean, she wasn't the only one at the sleepovers. We all were there, so it's a little too easy." It's risky for her to plant this seed of doubt in their minds, considering everything, but she had to try. "I'm just thinking. Maybe a different person could've started this whole thing."
"Pinkie, I know that you still want to see Sunset as a good person," Fluttershy softly spoke, putting a hand on hers. "But I can honestly say that she has crossed the line of no return with this. We thought that we could trust her, but who else could this profile be but hers? After all, she said it to us herself. She didn't lose her phone that day."
"And because of that, we're immediately declaring her guilty of Anon-a-Miss?"
Wow. Twilight was right. When it was said aloud just like that, it sounded really dumb and too convenient an excuse. Pinkie's eyes widened in disbelief. How could she be so foolish? Why was she so foolish? She was the Element of Laughter, yes, but a closer inspection should tell people that she wasn't dumb! And yet, here they were, playing the fool for all the world to see.
"Yes," Rainbow said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Pinkie, what's gotten into you? Why are you sticking up for that traitor?!"
"No, Rainbow Dash," Pinkie glared at the chromatic-haired girl. "A better question is why aren't you?! After all, aren't you the Element of Loyalty?!" She knew that she would get into trouble with Mrs. Cake again, but it didn't matter. "Besides, if no one, not even us, will stand up for her, who will?! Sunset's got nobody else in this world before we came along except maybe Twi! But Twi can't be here everyday, so we promised to be there for Sunny when everyone else was rightly against her! But now!"
"Land sakes, Pinkie," Applejack gaped. "What's gotten into ya?! Ya more wound up than an agitated rattler!"
"Because...Because I should be," Pinkie gasped, clenching her fists. "Why did we act this way towards her?! It's not fair! She's done a lot for us without asking anything! But all we did was turn our back on her when we did! Worse, now everyone's mad at her for something that someone else might've done! And we didn't care at all about her! We should've been there for her, but now we're lucky if we can even talk to her again when all of this is over!"
"Pinkie," Rarity stood up, alarmed. "When all of this is over, Sunset will be charged for the profile of Anon-a-Miss by Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna. So there's no reason to fret over her!"
"I can't believe it," Pinkie responded, flabbergasted. "You still want to declare her guilty of being Anon-a-Miss even after I say otherwise! It's that attitude that makes Twilight and Sunset hate us! We've become nothing but a bunch of bullies!"
"Pinkie, how could you say that?" Fluttershy gasped, tears in her eyes.
"Because it's the truth, Fluttershy! Because it's the truth! Ever since this whole thing started, we've done nothing but make a person who's supposed to be our best friend miserable! Worse, we've turned the whole school against her, both the faculty and the students! We're no better than Anon-a-Miss in that regard! Heck, we're no better than Sunset before she was good, and you know that!"
"What are you saying," Rainbow growled, seeing red. "We didn't blackmail anyone into doing things for us!"
"We isolated her, Dash! We called her names such as traitor and lying, no-good snake! Heck, I called her a meanie and a no-good secret stealer! We didn't lift a finger when the other kids were trying to push her into the lockers or spill their lunch on her! We even ganged up on her when she tried to say that she was innocent! You even slapped her, Rarity! How could you?! She didn't even lift a finger in her defense that night! We left her crying out in the cold! And now, she could be real hurt due to our actions! But you still want to accuse her of hurting people when she's the one hurting!"
"It's not like we wanted ta accuse her..." Applejack began.
"Well, you're not acting like that," Pinkie retorted, narrowing her eyes. "In fact, you want to see her hurt even more! Why is it that we want to see her guilty even when there's a good chance that she might be innocent? Do we really hate her so much? Or is it because now that the shoe's on the other foot, it's too good to see Sunset humiliated beyond all belief?! Answer me!"
Nobody replied. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Rarity were all looking at each other in disbelief while Fluttershy looked at an ornate part of her skirt, biting her lip. Pinkie felt her rage dissipate a little, but her sadness didn't. She wondered why Sunset even tried to speak with them if they didn't even want to hear her out. Maybe Sunset was too persistent or too hopeful. But, in the end, it only left her with heartbreak.
"And the fact is," Pinkie continued, echoing Twilight's words. "Nothing about this mess even looked up for us! In fact, it got a lot worse! Everyone's at each other's throats and the only thing that's uniting them is how they treat Sunset! But, other than that, everyone hates each other again!" She stood up. "I'm going to see Sunset. I'm going to apologize to her and be a friend to her again!"
"Yes, I am. And I don't care if you hate me after this. Unlike Sunset, who was trying to walk on eggshells around us, you can't intimidate me with what you do from here. You can join me if you want, but I'm leaving right now. Bye, Mrs. Cake!"
With that she left, leaving the four other Rainbooms in disbelief.
"They are a specific type of Windigo," Twilight responded, frowning at her coffee. "Unlike most Windigo, they usually hunt by themselves for their prey. They are known to be vicious and nasty, often killing for vengeance rather than justice. If a person gives them a reason, they will happily make their fury known. And they won't stop until they are either appeased or stopped through the means of vanquishing." Her eyes narrowed as she turned to Pinkie. "That's why we have to be quick in finding a cure as well as the real culprits behind Anon-a-Miss. Otherwise, this Erinye will build enough power to lay waste to everyone and everything!"
"As for the wound," Twilight frowned, deeply troubled. "Wounds made by the Erinye have been said to cause hallucinations, but absolutely nothing of this magnitude before. Whatever this thing is, it's not the usual Erinye that is in the magical books. It's something worse, much worse." She said, gently rubbing Sunset's hair. Sunset grumbled, but she did not stir from sleep.
"Well," Pinkie tried to remain optimistic. "If we solve the Anon-a-Miss situation quickly as we can, then maybe the Erinye will leave everyone alone, right? Sunset's name is cleared, the culprits will be reprimanded, and we learn a valuable lesson from all this, right?" When Twilight didn't answer and instead looked at her with an annoyed glare, Pinkie flinched and stared at a spot on the wall. "It's just a thought."
"As much as I want to be optimistic about this whole thing, Pinkie, I don't know if it can be as simple as that. I'm sure that we would love nothing more than to have everything back to before this whole mess began." She frowned. "However, this thing is more than just a petty squabble or a spat that lasts a couple of days. This is a scandal that questions the integrity of entire students and faculty inside one school. Whether we like it or not, this is something that will last a while."
"Oh," Pinkie lowered her eyes, fidgeting before speaking up. "Um, Twilight, I know that this is a bad time for me to ask...but I need to ask this. Will you take away the Elements of Harmony from us? I...I would understand if you did, considering that we did something really horrible."
Pinkie's head whipped around like lightning, eyes widened with surprise. Twilight could only raise an eyebrow at this but did not say anything. Pinkie's neck hurt from the whiplash and she massaged it, wincing at the pain. She looked to Twilight, who only gave a gentle smile in return. She motioned for Pinkie to help her with moving Sunset from the chair to the bed. Sunset was snoring away, looking peaceful and content, while only mumbling in whispers. When they tucked her in, Twilight moved to the kitchen again.
"Pinkie, I want to make something clear here. Even though I am disappointed in you and still angry at the other girls for this, know that I wouldn't revoke you on the Elements of Harmony all because of a mistake, however huge it may be. I know that I came across as cold to you, but that's only because I don't want you to go down the same path as Sunset did. The Element of Laughter is your own, and though you have made mistakes in your lapse of judgment, you are willing to more than make up for them." Her smile lessened to a frown. "I don't know if the other girls are willing to change, but I'm holding out hope."
"I hope so, too."
"Let's place matters on what you said to the other girls, Pinkie. What did you say to them?"
"What you said to me plus a lot more," Pinkie rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly, cheeks turning red. "I'm sorry, Twi." A sigh punctuated that sentence. "You were right. We were acting real stupid about this. If I could take it back, I would. Sunset, we just thought that she would revert back and she didn't. Not only that, we were acting like bullies because she used to be. And when I said what we did out loud, I was just so surprised at how stupid it was." She sighed. "I guess it's true on what the people say about 20/20 hindsight. I just wish that I learned this the first time around..."
"Unfortunately, there is no progress to be made over lamenting the past whatsoever. All we can do is set things right again."
Sunset awoke to a sleepy warmth cocooned all around her and smiled subconsciously. She did not want to get up at all. No, she would rather stay in bed and sleep the whole day away. Unfortunately, she knew that she would have to get up soon. It, along with everything else in life, was inevitable. Opening her eyes and rubbing them out of sleep, she found herself back in Soleil's bedroom. Only this time, there was angry shouting going on downstairs. Frowning, she put on some fuzzy slippers, a sense of unsettling tension washing over her. As she descended down the steps, she could make out Bianca's hair bobbing.
'Oh dear,' Sunset groaned inwardly. 'This oughta be good.'
She tiptoed silently into the living room and sat down on an inconspicuous spot on the couch. Concentrating on the TV, she visibly frowned as she heard the yelling going on in the background. She fidgeted a little, the yelling noise pulsating into her mind. Her mind was getting fuzzy and everything, from the couch underneath her to the strange smell of static hanging. It's a horrible feeling and she felt so tired. What was Soleil's stamina? Did she even have stamina? Okay, now this was getting to be a little bit repetitive.
"Hee, hee, hee," A scratchy voice trickled inside her mind. "It's fine by me if you keep on waiting and waiting."
Suddenly, the room changed to a dark nothingness. She was floating into nothingness. Sunset sighed, steeling her nerves as the monster suddenly took form in front of her. Her eyes widened as the creature in front of her was not a Windigo. At least not the Windigo that she previously encountered. The creature that she encountered was instead a beautiful woman clad in white. She had flowing pink-golden hair with porcelain skin and magenta eyes. Her smile, however, was not welcoming.
"Hello, Miss Sunset Shimmer," The voice turned pure and melodious. "It's a pleasure to meet you finally."
"Ah," Sunset responded nonchalantly. "I take it that you know me."
"Quite," The woman smiled at her ferociously. "You have quite the reputation, my dear. Indeed, quite the reputation. Once a former queen bee of Canterlot High School, now a pariah of that same school. It's honestly quite remarkable how you insist, insist, insist on staying here when the other worlds would have been easier to integrate to. And yet, you didn't. Why is that?"
"Because I wanted a challenge," Sunset replied, shrugging her shoulders. "I wanted to prove to everyone that I can change. I am more than my past. And I wanted everyone to see it, no matter what." She frowned, glaring at this woman. "Why exactly, if I might ask, are you so interested?"
"Did you know that I used to hate you before your redemption," The woman asked. "When you were the former Queen Bee. I just wanted you to suffer and be miserable if you didn't change your wicked ways. However, when you changed, I felt really bad. You were really trying your best to be a good person and everyone saw that. And yet, they spat in your face anyway." A frown marred that terrifying pretty face. "They knew what they were doing and still have the nerve to call it justice."
The beautifully colored hair suddenly turned into a fiery red color with smoke and embers. Sunset stepped back as she tried to dodge the fiery temper of this lady creature. Her white robes adorned with gold were flowing with a nonexistent wind. An eerie calm suddenly fell on the atmosphere and the woman turned to Sunset again with a smiling face. Sunset fidgeted a bit thinking of a way to escape.
"That's why I want to punish them," The woman's voice cut into her train of thought. "I want to punish them in full."
"And you will be the perfect catalyst for that."
Sunset blinked and she was back in the living room with only Bianca sitting as far away from her as possible. She clicked her teeth as she went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. As she turned on the faucet, she heard Bianca's footsteps behind. A groan tried to climb out of her throat, but she suppressed it as she turned around to face the scowling girl. Well, these types of people were slowly going to resistant to mere warnings. However, Bianca did not give her any headaches. She just merely observed her.
"Yes," Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Is there something that I can do for you?"
"Look, I don't know what's gotten into you," Bianca began. "But Mom and Dad have left the house, which means I'm the one in charge. My friends are coming over and I want you in your room without a peep. If I even so much as hear a peep, I'll...!"
"You'll what," Sunset glared at Bianca. "Tell me, Bianca, you'll do what to me? Make me even more insane to the point where I'm catatonic. Tell me, Bianca, what did I do to you or to anyone else that makes you hate me so much? Huh, tell me. Tell me what I did so wrong that you and possibly everyone else want me dead?!" She screamed and Bianca's eyes widened. "I don't understand what I did that made you and everyone else hate me so much!!" Tears were dripping from her eyes.
"I...Dead...I..." Bianca swallowed and looked away, the faint traces of a glare still on her face. "It's just so embarrassing to be the sister of a loser, you know? You don't understand how hard it is, to have everyone pointing and laughing at you!"
"So that's how it is, huh," Sunset threw up her hands in disgust. "You can't handle having Soleil as a sister because vapid and shallow people told you that she was a loser, huh? Is that it? Well, let me tell you something that I've told you when you tried to intimidate me like this when I came into my room for the first time. If you keep pursuing this shallow popular girl routine, you'll end up in misery. Just like I did."
"Shut up, shut up, shut up," Bianca screeched. "It's your fault! You just couldn't be normal now, could you? You just couldn't stop being such a goody two-shoes! It's your fault that I got grounded for that stupid prank! It's your fault that I got in deep, deep, deep trouble for that stupid prank last year! Why couldn't you be more normal, huh?! Why couldn't you?!"
"How is not being to your liking my fault," Sunset screamed, seeing red. "How is being my own person my fault?! See, this is what I hate about people like you! You never accept people who are different from you! You just want to mold them into an extremely boring and horrible person who has no care for anyone but themselves! If living with you and going to the school where others tormented me is like this, then...then...I...I...!"
"Girls, what's going on," Misty came into the kitchen, worried. "Why are you two screaming at each other?"
"Bianca, what's going on," Apollo followed behind. "What's the ruckus about?"
Sunset felt dizzy and felt her legs wobble. She groaned and sucked in a harsh breath. It was happening again. She hated this happening again and again. It made her feel weak. She stumbled into the living room and massaged her growing headache. A crack of light was entering her vision and suddenly, her eyes widened.
Hey you! What's the matter? You gonna cry?!
Oh, look! She is gonna cry! Aw, the poor baby is gonna whine!
Hey! I have an idea! Why don't we-?!
"S-Sunset," Twilight's voice entered her hearing. "Sunset, are you alright?"
Sunset nodded as she sat up slowly. Luckily, she didn't feel any headache of the sort. She walked over to Twilight and Pinkie, who watched her with widened eyes. She sighed. She also had to stop scaring Pinkie Pie the first time that she could get. It's certainly tiring going back and forth all the time. Sunset decided to cook some nice lunch for all of them as a patient reward. The atmosphere turned light despite the heavy tension before until the conversation turned to the other world.
"I saw a part of her memories, you know," Sunset frowned. "It wasn't pleasant."
"Yeah, I can imagine," Twilight frowned. "It doesn't imply any pleasantness."
"I can't believe her sister would act like that," Pinkie chimed in indignantly. "I don't know what I'd do if Maud, Limestone, or Marble acted that way towards me and vice versa." She shuddered just thinking about it. "Poor Soleil."
"Yeah, I can't imagine Princess Cadence acting that way towards me either," Twilight murmured. "Though there was a close call with the Changeling."
Sunset snorted, understanding Twilight's sentiment. She didn't know what she would do either if Princess Cadence acted up like Bianca did. At least old Sunset and possibly current Sunset deserved that hostility. Twilight certainly didn't, not at all. But Pinkie did bring up a good point. It was unimaginable to believe that family members could do that to each other. But hey, it was just another learning experience. Sometimes one's worst enemy were family members, be they parents or siblings.
Sunset gasped softly, immediately getting out of her chair. Twilight and Pinkie just blinked at her, looking quite bemused. As she made her way towards the living room, her mind was on hyper overdrive. She flipped through the journal's pages for an extremely vital clue. Twilight and Pinkie were right behind her, crouching and generally looking puzzled for the most part. At Sunset's silence, Pinkie decided to brave a question.
"Sunset, are you okay?"
"Yeah. But I think that there's something that we haven't really fixed on."
"Well," Twilight ventured. "What is it?"
"We were talking about sisters and family, right? How they could be our worst enemy? Well, I was just thinking back to how I was accused of being Anon-a-Miss and disowned from the term family member. But then, when we were talking about Sol's sister Bianca and how she was the worst enemy so far, it got me to think that there's something else. Pinkie, can you recall?" Sunset took a deep breath. "Can you recall if we were the only ones at those slumber parties?"
"Well, let's see," Pinkie frowned. "Well, there was you, me, Fluttershy, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack. But we weren't the only...ones...there..." Her eyes widened in realization as she put a hand on her mouth. "Oh my gosh. You mean...?"
"It's only a theory, Pinkie, and so far, I don't have evidence yet. But Anon-a-Miss has new suspects to add to its list."
Sighing heavily and massaging her temples, Sunset was thankful that the Christmas Break was fast approaching. Otherwise, she would be extremely burned out by all of the passive-aggressive comments, the assaults on her mind, and the mysteries. Pinkie comfortingly rubbed her uninjured shoulder, giving her an encouraging smile. Sunset smiled back, feeling better than last time. At least, there was no nausea to speak of and even her shoulder was calming down in terms of pain.
"Ah, Sunset Shimmer," Vice-Principal Luna suddenly appeared. "Celestia and I would like to have a word with you, please." A nod towards the office door. "It's very urgent."
Sunset raised a suspicious eyebrow but obeyed, waving Pinkie a temporary goodbye before following Luna into the office. It was no doubt related to Anon-a-Miss and she braced herself for the flurry of accusations her way. But surprisingly, both the principal and vice-principal did not look at her with any contempt or hatred whatsoever. Sunset was confused but uttered a mere huff of breath to signal her arrival.
"Ah, Sunset," Principal Celestia looked up, a gentle smile on her face. "It's so good to see you. Please, please, take a seat." As Sunset did so, her smile turned into a frown, though it still retained a gentle manner. "I wanted to see how you were doing."
"Well," Sunset stuttered, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly. "Do you want the honest answer or the nice answer?"
"I don't think you need to answer this question, Sunset," Celestia shook her head. "Nurse Redheart told me what happened. She was quite worried about you. As were we when we heard the news." She sighed, rubbing her temples. "Believe us when we tell you, Sunset, that this is quite concerning to us. Not just as a school, but also as..." She swallowed, looking away. "This is a very serious matter, Sunset. Talking about erasing yourself is a seriously concerning thing." Her eyes shone concernedly as she leaned in a little closer.
"Sunset, I want to recommend you to a counselor. A good counselor that can help you with all of your needs."
"A counselor," Sunset raised an eyebrow. "But Principal Celestia, I'm fine. I really am."
That sentence turned out to be a big mistake.
"Fine," Principal Celestia repeated, her eyes narrowing. Her tone was tranquil yet filled with a hidden fury. "You say that you, Sunset Shimmer, are fine. Alright then, tell me. What would you call having to what was happening in the nurse's office, hm? What would you call that? Nurse Redheart was practically in tears when she told me of what transpired that day. She was so convinced that you were going to hurt yourself. What would you call that?"
"Easy, sister, easy," Vice-Principal Luna intervened while flashing Sunset an apologetic smile. "Shall I handle this, Celestia?"
"Yes," Celestia replied, nodding her head. "I need some time to clear my head. If you will excuse me."
She stood up and walked out the door, leaving the atmosphere in the office quite cold. Sunset swallowed the lump growing. She looked to Vice-Principal Luna who was thankfully smiling at her apologetically. She didn't mean to strike a raw nerve but it happened and she was at a loss as to what to do. Luckily, Vice-Principal Luna didn't seem to be as angry as Celestia, which, give or take Sunset's options, was a relief. She didn't know what she do would do if Luna was also angry.
"Please do not be rattled with Celestia," Luna spoke. "She had to go through a similar incident with me, so she can be testy."
"Ah, no, it's alright," Sunset sheepishly replied. "I can understand."
"Regardless of her tone, however," Luna's voice got softer. "I do agree with her in the essence of seeking out guidance." She raised a hand when Sunset opened her mouth to protest. "Let me explain, Sunset. Seeking out guidance is not any absence, lack, or downsize of any sort of courage or strength of mind. But it is a sign that the problems that you're facing need a little outside help from someone who knows how to deal with these things."
"Well, the problems that I'm facing may not be within their range." Sunset smiled sardonically.
"True, true," Luna replied, returning the smile. "But regarding the scene within the nurse's office, I feel that it can hit close to home even here, no?" When Sunset didn't reply, she sighed as she rubbed her neck shyly. "Just think about it, Sunset. I don't want to force you to do something that you don't want to do. But it would help you tons like it helped me a long time ago."
"Thanks, Vice-Principal Luna," Sunset smiled, nodding her head. "I will think about it."
"Alrighty then. And don't worry about Celestia. I'll talk to her soon."
Sunset left the office and was about to collapse right there and then when she spotted Pinkie waiting for her. She and Pinkie walked to the library to eat some lunch since the cafeteria was out of the question. As she and Pinkie settled down, she saw, much to her pleasant surprise, an empty table next to the manga section. She and Pinkie giggled in delight as they sat down and began to whisper about the new releases that season. It was nice. It harkened back to old times where she felt wanted.
"Hey," Rainbow's voice startled her out of her happiness bubble. "We need to talk."
Sunset turned around to see Rainbow, Rarity, and Applejack approach them with glaring eyes. She sighed as she rubbed her fingers on her temples. She really did not want to deal with them right now, but Murphy's law declared that she had to. This, she surmised, just had to be punishment for her past mistakes. Ah, karma. Sometimes it was great and sometimes it was no help at all. She felt a comforting squeeze on her shoulder. Pinkie. She frowned.
Where was Fluttershy?
"Hey, don't ignore us," Rainbow growled. "We want to talk to you!"
"Talk to me," Sunset repeated. "Do you really want to talk to me? Or is this another chance for you girls to bellyache on me?" She then frowned as she did a mental headcount. "Hey, wait. Where's Fluttershy? Did she not come with you girls?"
"She's absent today," Rarity said as she fidgeted. "She said that she wasn't feeling well today, so she's taking a day off." But a severe frown crossed her face. "Of course, I don't know why you're so bothered. As it is, you hate us, don't you?"
Sunset bit back the bitter chuckled bubbling within her throat. It was a strong word that Rarity used just now. It was also the most incorrect word for this situation. As much as Sunset was completely done with this situation, hate was not the term. At no point would she feel complete and utter hatred for the girls. Hatred was something visceral, something toxic, something, something festering like pus on an open wound.
There was no hatred to be had here.
But she couldn't deny that she, at least, felt angry and betrayed. No, those weren't the only emotions in her. There were lots more where that came from. There were such emotions as sadness, guilt, fear, the list was endless. But right now, emotions such as those were not present right now. No, the only emotion within her was a tiredness. She was burnt out beyond belief and comprehension.
"No," Sunset replied. "No, I don't hate you. I'm just tired. Tired and burnt out."
"Burnt out," Applejack narrowed her eyes. "What do ya gotta be burnt out for?"
"With all of this. Anon-a-Miss, my past, everything. Everything has been weighing me down and, until recently, I could never, ever escape from that torment. It was horrible. At least you girls had each other to comfort each other. I didn't have anyone to talk to. Twilight was busy with her duties as a princess and everyone was either afraid of being the next target or were on my case just like you. I was so tired, angry, sad, you name it. It was as if every day was hell on Earth. And unlike Fall Formal, I didn't even do this. But you girls were so willing to throw me to the wolves that it felt like nothing I did mattered anymore."
She took a deep breath before continuing. She didn't want her emotions to take over.
"It was so easy to be mad at you, even if I didn't hate you. After all, you girls acted so smug and superior towards me, never once thinking that you could be wrong. Even though you needed to be taught the lesson of friendship and trust over again! Twice, in fact, by the Princess Twilight Sparkle. Yet you continue to jump to conclusions and boast about your Elements as if it shields you girls of any fault or folly whatsoever!"
She was ranting at this point, she knew. And she certainly didn't like how the girls flinched at every hostile word out of her.
But she was done playing nice with these three stubborn girls.
At least, she wasn't going to sugarcoat her words anymore.
"You know what it proved to me? Not only did it prove to me that no matter what I did, it was ultimately a failure in the end. No, it also proved that our friendship was nothing more than a contract that could easily be broken with just one thing, one catalyst, to end it all. It doesn't matter whether it was the Dazzlings or Anon-a-Miss. If it could cause havoc, you three will be at the forefront of it all! Why? Because you three are so stubborn and sure in your self-righteousness that the mere thought of being wrong never crosses your mind!"
"Now you listen here." Applejack began, but was promptly cut off by Pinkie shaking her head.
"What's worse is that you girls made this whole thing worse by throwing me to the wolves instead of actually talking to me! I just don't get it. Is the idea of talking to me so out of this world that you thought that throwing me to the wolves was better? Didn't you think that it would backfire on you spectacularly at all? Not only is Anon-a-Miss successful in breaking our bonds, it also broke every bond within this school! You practically undid all of the hard work that Twilight did here! And for what?!"
"Hey, this wasn't our fault," Rainbow weakly spat back. "This was Anon-a-Miss's doing!"
"True, they started this fight with us, but ultimately you girls made it stronger by creating a scene right where everyone saw! If I did that, would you allow it? No! You would rightly call me out on making a scene in front of everyone seeing it! So, what, if any reason, makes you think that you are exempt from this kind of behavior! Tell me!"
When they didn't reply, Sunset gave an apologetic look to Pinkie, who looked down guiltily, before continuing.
"But if that wasn't enough, you girls didn't listen to me! You girls didn't want to listen to me at all even when I begged you to! Nope, you girls just went on telling everyone that I was guilty right there and then! You even slapped me for it! I still feel that burn on my cheek! What made you think that resorting to violence would be a great idea! Shouldn't I slap you then? After all I've been wronged too!"
The three girls stepped back, fear on their faces.
"And you know what accusing me led to? Nothing but people bullying each other, mocking each other, and beating me up in two weeks repeatedly because they thought I was Anon-a-Miss! When I don't even have the password for that dumb, stupid, account! Moreover, if it were me, I wouldn't be this transparent! You girls know that! You girls have known me for some time before the Fall Formal!"
She flung her arms upward in frustration, mindful of Pinkie behind her.
"But there are two things that just kill me inside. One is that you girls are walking the same path that I did. Sure, reasoning is different. But the path is still the same! And that's terrifying! You don't want that! You don't want that at all! It's dark, scary, a nightmare to climb out of, and your future and reputation will be in tatters! I don't want that for you girls! And I don't want a high school like Canterlot High to go down that path either!"
She took a deep breath before going to her next point.
"And the second thing is that you girls will not learn from this experience. You girls didn't learn from the time before the Fall Formal, you girls didn't learn in time for the Battle of the Bands, and you girls are probably not going to learn here. If you do find the real Anon-a-Miss, you'll get mad at them instead of getting mad at yourselves for escalating this whole thing! You're probably just gonna blame them instead of me for the next bad thing that's happening instead of the possible real bad guy! It's a lesson that just refuses to stick with you girls!"
At this point, she was panting hard. Sweat was dripping down her forehead and she felt tears blur her vision. The three girls she was ranting stood stock-still, jaws dropped. Miss Cheerilee was standing a little ways behind them, eyes widened. Oops. Ah well. She really couldn't care right now. This needed to be said and, by Celestia, she was gonna say it!
"I don't hate you. The reason I say this is because I care for you. The path I took was horrible and I don't want you girls doing that anytime soon. That being said, I don't want you to think that your actions towards me can be excused just because you, among millions, are the Elements of Harmony. Please, just think about what I said, okay?"
So saying, she left the library with Pinkie on her heels, leaving the other three behind.