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It was late in the afternoon by the time Sunset Shimmer arrived back at Scribes' cottage far above Ponyville, under the shadow of Canterlot in the distance. She'd spent most of her day at the small home Lyra and Bon Bon shared, rekindling friendships that had almost been but now were on the path to being real bonds. As they ate the delicious peach pie Bon Bon had made, Sunset discovered all four of her new friends were all so different from each other, and really brought out the best in one another. Lyra was very much in tune with the emotions of all the other ponies in the room, always doing her best to make sure they were happy or, at the very least, not miserable. What Sunset used to see as her trying to fit in with everypony she met was now shown to be a very strong sense of compassion.

Amethyst Star was sarcastic and snarky, and was definitely the pony of the group who cared the least about what other ponies thought of her, or so it seemed on the surface. She later admitted that her humor was her defense, that if she laughed first, no one could laugh at her. Then there was Twinklshine. She was so flighty (and a bit dense) that it seemed like there wasn't much under her cotton candy pink mane, but she would spout random bits of wisdom that made them all pause from time to time.

Sunset apologized to Bon Bon early on in the day, knowing she'd never said anything intentionally cruel to the earth pony's face, but that she'd made many a comment to Lyra about her. Whether or not Lyra passed them along hardly mattered to the amber unicorn. She was ready to try for a clean slate and wanted to get everything off her chest. It seemed Bon Bon would have reserved her forgiveness, had Lyra not given her an encouraging nod.

As Sunset came up over the crest of the hill and walked inside the cottage, she carried with her a mixture of emotions. The girls spent all day coming up with a sort of moral inventory. They took stock of who they'd hurt in the past and who had hurt them, and what causes and effects they'd seen. Her list had been far longer than the others', but it was freeing to be able to purge it all, to get it off her chest and off her conscious. Yet seeing it all before her, in black and white, made her feel incredibly heavy at the same time. She had been hurt when she was very young, and because of it, she'd gone on to hurt many others. If nothing else, she learned how powerful a hurting heart really could be, and it often showed its power in the worst of ways.

“Hello?” She knew Scribes would be home and had taken her journey back to the cottage slowly, needing time to process all that was going on in her head. When the only answer to her greeting was a high pitched meow from the ball of orange and white fuzz on the steps to go upstairs, Sunset looked at the cat, bemused. “Hey, Gallifrey. Where's Scribes?” He flicked his tail and blinked slowly, turning his head as though in distaste of her question. The pale blue pegasus had been in the back yard this morning, maybe she was there now. Upon searching, however, Sunset found she was quite alone. She'd wanted time to think but it was strange being there by herself.

A search of the ice box revealed enough ingredients for a nice salad, so, biding her time, Sunset began getting dinner ready. She still refused to use her magic which made cutting all the veggies a bit tricky, but she was proud of how skilled she was becoming at adapting to no hands. Once the salad was put together and stuck back in the chill chest, she made some lemonade to go with it. Still alone, and with the sun starting to go down. Sunset decided to scan one of the many bookshelves to see if she could find something to read.

There were books on every subject, from every different genre, with no rhyme or reason to their placement. She imagined Twilight seeing it and having a bit of an eye twitch before insisting something be done about the chaos. Eventually, Sunset Shimmer settled on the first book in an apparent series with a castle on the spine. Pulling it from the others, several papers came fluttering down from on top of the book, settling on the floor in careless heaps. Gallifrey sniffed at them, then walked into the center of the paper pile and lay down. Sunset looked at the cover of the book in her hoof – a kilted stallion with a swooning mare entitled, “The Trottish Warrior” - and shoved it back into it's place. She then turned for the papers instead, delicately pushing the cat out of the way so she could clean up her mess.

“What is all this?”

They were all hoofwritten, chunks of text in different colors on the same sheet as though written at different times. Some sentences were obviously notes scribbled in haste, there were some short to-do lists, but there were also bits that rhymed and flowed like poetry.

“I don't remember how I got here, or when my rose colored glasses disappeared.”

“I will hold my head up high. You will never see me cry. I'll smile and say, 'I'm good,' but I would fall apart if I could.”

“I'm tired of being afraid. I'm wondering how I got this way. I'm trying to remember what life was like before panic moved in without even knocking on the door.”

Sunset read them over with a furrowed brow. “These are all so sad.”

The door opened, making her jump. Without time to do much else, her horn glowed in a teal aura of magic, catching all of the papers up and shoving them unceremoniously back onto the shelf. Scribes came into the room just as the magic faded, and Sunset gave her a great big smile. “Hey! I was wondering where you were!”

The pegasus was out of breath, though there was a tired smile on her face as she brushed her tri-colored mane from her face. “Sorry. I got caught up in my research and totally lost track of time. Once I realized how late it was, I zoomed back here as fast as I could. Sorry dinner's going to be late.”

“No need to worry,” said Sunset happily. She helped Scribes with her saddlebags, taking a step back in shock when they thunked to the floor. “I whipped up a salad and made some lemonade. What in the world do you have in there, bricks?”

Scribes laughed and undid the latch on her bags to reveal their contents. “Just a spell book, a couple of history books, a thesis I found interesting, and some new toys for Gallifrey.” She tossed a bright orange stuffed mouse to the cat, who looked at it with mild disinterest. “Let's eat. I'm starving!”

While Scribes poured ice cold lemonade for the both of them, Sunset took a deep breath to calm herself, and allowed herself to use magic one again to get dishes down and portion out the salad. She was purposeful as she concentrated on the task at hand, rather than the surge of power that ran through her body. It was adrenaline-filled and tempting, but once the salads were on the table, she let go of the magic and sat to enjoy her meal. “So, what are you researching? Is it something for the princess?”

“Oh no, this is for something I'm writing. Fiction, obviously, but I want to make sure the fact I have in there are correct. See, I've had this theory for a long time about a pony here.” Scribes made a face. “Well...I think she's technically a pony...or not a pony...anyway. I've tried asking Princess Celestia and Princess Luna about it, and Princess Twilight says neither she nor Princess Cadance know anything about it, so since I have gotten no information to either prove or disprove my theory, I'm writing a book about it.”

“What's your theory?”

Chewing her salad, Scribes pulled the spell book over and flipped to a page that was already bookmarked. “A long time ago, way before anypony still alive can recall, there was a prince who was in love with this alicorn princess. He made a love potion and drank some, somehow getting her to drink it as well. Except something went wrong.”

Sunset nodded, swallowing her lemonade. “Right, the story of the first Hearts and Hooves Day. I remember hearing that when I was a filly.”

“Then you know how it ended. They were so wrapped up in one another that they forgot everything else in their lives. Everything was falling to ruin, but they didn't care. Even when a dragon attacked the princess' castle, all they could think about was each other. The stories tell us that the prince saw the dragon was about to swallow his princess, so he threw himself in front of her to protect her and was gobbled up instead. But everything I've read ends there. No one ever wrote about what happened to the princess once her prince was gone and the spell wore off, except to say that chaos reigned.”

“I assume this is where your theory comes in.”

“This is where my theory comes in!” Scribes hit the table with her hoof hard enough to rattle the glasses upon it, excitement in her orange eyes. “I think the princess turned into none other than Queen Chrysalis.”

Sunset raised a brow. “Who the what now?”

“Chrysalis, the changeling queen! She was so distraught and desperate for the love she'd lost that even when the potion – later dubbed more of a poison – wore off, that her kingdom only fell farther into ruin. I believe her heart changed, that the poison changed her and she became what she is now. Changelings need love, they feed on it to survive. Her one true love was forever taken from her, making her forever searching for the one thing she'll never have enough of because it will never be from the one pony she really wants it from.”

Flipping through one of the history books, Sunset nodded, impressed. “That's actually not a bad theory. I still have no idea who this Chrysalis pony is but...the story adds up.”

Scribes giggled. “Thanks, Sunny. I appreciate the support.” Stopping short, her eyes went wide. “Is it okay if I call you that?”

Sunset tilted her chin, thinking. No one had ever given her a nickname before. It felt...nice. “I kind of like it.” When Scribes smiled and finished her salad, Sunset closed the book and pushed her already empty plate away. “Since we're good enough friends now that you've got your own name for me, can I ask a personal question?”

“My life is an open book.”

She hesitated a moment, wondering how Scribes would react. “Earlier today, when we ran into Twilight and her friends...what happened?”

The levity in the room seemed to deflate and Scribes swallowed her bite of salad like she was swallowing a rock. “What do you mean?”

“Right before we saw everypony, you were telling me that sometimes it wasn't worth having friends, and then the way you reacted when they were all there, talking at once...” She trailed off, thinking of the poetry she'd found. It was depressing and lonely. “I guess I'm kind of worried about you, that's all.”

“I don't really want to talk about it.” The pegasus rose to clear the table, but Sunset wasn't about the let the subject closed and helped her, following her into the kitchen.

“You told me this morning that you were here if I needed to talk about anything. I want you to know that goes both ways. That's what friends do for each other.”

Scribes paused over the sink, her eyes downcast and her expression unreadable for a moment. When she did finally turn back to Sunset, she gave the unicorn a small, albeit genuine smile. “Thanks, Sunny. That means a lot. I just don't want to talk about it tonight, if that's okay.”

“Of course it is.” She had the strange urge to hug Scribes and knew that was because of her friends back at CHS. It seemed everything was done with a hug. Sad? Let me hug you. Celebrating a victory? Hugs all around. Got a zit on your nose? A hug will clear that right up. Just had a fight with your arch nemesis? Hug it out, bro. Instead of doing something that would very possibly weird Scribes out, Sunset elevated the dish cloth in the sink to herself. “How about I do the dishes?”

“The cook shouldn't have to clean,” Scribes argued. “Besides, I didn't want to be rude and say anything, but you kind of look terrible.”

Confused, Sunset trotted over to the mirror beside one of the bookcases and looked at herself. Her mane, tied up so prettily by Scribes just that morning, was coming loose and falling flat. There were bags under her eyes and a piece of celery in her teeth. She touched a hoof to her cheek and dragged it down to reveal eyes that were slowly going red. “Oh...wow. I look special.”

Scribes laughed as she filled the sink with soap and water. “Okay, we can go with that.”

It was impossible not to laugh as well, and Sunset looked at her friend. “If it's all the same to you, then, I think I'm going to go upstairs and crash.”

“By all means. I'll try and stay quiet down here. I'll be up writing for awhile.”

The statement made the unicorn pause before heading up the stairs to her room. “You don't happen to have any blank journals lying around, do you? I think I'd like to document my days so I don't forget anything.”

With a snort, Scribes smirked. “Do I have any blank journals? Are you kidding? I have a whole collection!” She nodded to the shelf from which Sunset had taken the book and found the poetry earlier. “The entire bottom row is free for the taking and there should be a quill in the desk in your room.”

Sunset examined the different shapes and sizes of the notebook, finally settling on a soft gray one with a dyed-to-match leather thong that tied it closed. “Thanks, Scribes. Good night.”

“Sleep well!”

With her new prize on her back, Sunset Shimmer headed upstairs. She stopped only briefly to give Gallifrey a pat on the head, to which she was rewarded with a slow blink and a building purr. In her room, the windows overlooked the pond that was reflecting the moon high above. Sunset put her notebook on the desk and stood at the window, breathing slowly. What a day it had been. It felt like it had been several days wrapped into one. Even just thinking to her state of mind when she'd woken up only that morning was a bit strange. She'd already been a bit irritated, thinking about the reason why she was there, how she was avoiding magic and trying to figure out how to get everyone to forgive her that she needed to. Her day with the girls changed her way of thinking. She knew now that it didn't matter so much that she was forgiven, only that she offered her apologies with a sincere heart. What the recipient of that apology did with it after that was not under her control, and that was okay.

Holding her own gaze reflected in the window before her, she laughed at herself. Control, power...they used to be the only things she wanted. Now, as her horn lit with magic, she realized they weren't the only things in life worth living for. There was still that enticing thrill that ran through her, pulsed in her veins when her magic was activated, but the fight against it would get easier, she knew it would.

Sitting down at the desk, she found the promised quill and an ink well in one of the drawers. There wasn't a detail she wanted to forget, both from today and the day before. As she wrote, she could hear music wafting softly from downstairs. This life was so different from the one she'd been living for the last few years, challenging in a different way, but somehow...natural.

The list she'd made earlier that day began running through her head when she finally tucked herself into bed. A plan had been sketched out in her new journal, a sort of plan of attack. There were still quite a few ponies she needed to speak with before she could feel truly at peace, and it was going to take some time. The School for Gifted Unicorns was her first stop the next morning. Some of the teachers she'd had were retired and living elsewhere, one refused to even see her, but most were pleased to see her overall, and graciously accepted her apologies. No interaction went quickly, each of them turning into lengthy conversations that ended up leaving Sunset feeling better than when she'd entered. Even the few who admitted to giving her poor grades or tougher assignments because of her attitude seemed to be in better spirits when all was said and done. Forgiveness was offered and forgiveness was accepted. The one teacher who refused to see her, Sunset determined, would still get a letter in the mail. Whether she chose to read it or not, Sunset would still do her part.

The next few days brought her back to the school to seek our janitorial workers and food service ponies. After her exhausting first day at the school, she recognized the necessity of meeting with her unicorn friends (and Bon Bon) to decompress and be built back up again. They all listened to her as she recounted her day, taking encouragement from her bravery and vowing to work on their own journey to healing the next day. They all also agreed to meet again the next night.

Sunset Shimmer found out that there were days when her food was extra salty or sour when it should have been sweet as a way of retaliation for her attitude from the ponies in the cafeteria. It seemed each pony she talked to had their own ways of getting back to her, though not all of them had acted on plans of retribution. As they shared stories that evening at the cottage, she noticed Scribes listening to the conversation going on around the table, even though she said she really needed to write and was more comfortable in the main room.

Lyra revealed that her big accomplishment of the day was apologizing to Twilight for stealing books from the library. She figured they wouldn't be missed, what with the selves being so full and new books coming in all the time, but learned how absolutely batty it had driven Twilight, especially since Lyra signed them out under the name Happy M. Buttlicker. Though laughter circulated around the room, and a snicker could clearly be heard from the living room, Lyra understood what she'd done was wrong and did feel bad about it.

As the others shared, Sunset excused herself to poke her head into the main room and looked at Scribes. “Hey, you should come join us. Bon Bon made some really delicious red velvet cupcakes.”

Scribes hastily scribbled away, feigning distraction. “Thanks, but I'm really on a role here.”

“Well Gallifrey seemed on a roll with his whole tearing the head off his stuffed mouse thing, but look at him now.”

Scribes peeked around Sunset to see her cat on his back, purring loudly as Twinkleshine rubbed his fluffy white belly. “Yeah, well, his mostly decapitated mouse will still be there when you all are done. My muses may not be.”

Sunset Shimmer sighed and gave a shrug. “Suit yourself.” She rejoined the group, though occasionally glanced in at Scribes to catch her listening, only to go back to writing when she knew she'd been spotted.

As the girls got ready to leave that night, each of them stopped in to say good night to Scribes and to thank her for letting them crash her place for the night. Bon Bon even said she left her a cupcake. They were all sweet and Scribes replied in kind, but once Sunset had walked her friends out, she cornered Scribes as the pegasus began cleaning up from the big dinner they'd all shared.

“All right, my friend, we need to talk.”

Scribes slid dishes into the sink but didn't look at Sunset. “Okay.”

“I've been here quite a few days now and I never see you hanging out with anypony. You seemed totally fine at dinner but as soon as that was done, you booked it out of the room like socializing any longer than that would send you over the edge. Are you allergic to other ponies?”

Scribes actually laughed and glanced over her shoulder at Sunset. “No. What a weird thing to say.”

Levitating a towel over with her, Sunset took up station next to Scribes to dry the dishes she washed, no longer feeling the tempting pull of her power as much as she had just a few days earlier. They worked together in silence for a few minutes before Scribes stopped washing and looked down, her attention resting on the sudsy water her hooves were submerged in. “It seems like you have really great friends.”

“I do,” replied Sunset easily. With half a smile, she rump-bumped Scribes. “You're one of them.” The pegasus smiled wanly, making Sunset set the towel down to fully face her. “I gave you some time. Can we talk about what happened with Twilight and her friends now?”

“Can we finish cleaning up first?”

“Sure.”

Together, they made quick work of the dishes and cleaning up the leftovers. While Scribes made  a cup of hot cocoa to go with her cupcake, Sunset made herself some tea and fed a hungry Gallifrey. It was coming up on a week that she'd been there, and they were falling into a familiar routine that made both of them feel comfortable. When they settled themselves back into the living room, Scribes set her cupcake beside her cocoa and took a deep breath, steeling herself for the story she was about to share.

“You know I reminded Dash that we went to Flight School together?” Sunset nodded, grimacing when she remembered how quickly Dash had brushed Scribes off in order to inquire about herself in the human world. “Well, what I didn't get to remind her of was how she always made me feel like I was chewed up gum that got stuck to the bottom of her hoof.”

Sunset Shimmer frowned. “Rainbow Dash did? That doesn't sound like her. She may be crazy competitive, but she's not cold like that.” Though her reaction to Scribes the other day suggested differently.

“I know how competitive she is. Every time we did schoolyard picks for teams for anything, if she was ever the captain of a team, she never picked me. The times we did end up on the same team, she actually groaned when I was picked.”

Sunset felt her heart drop. There had to be a logical explanation. Didn't there? It wasn't too hard to imagine Rainbow being irritated at being on a team with someone she felt would slow her down, but would she be so cruel as to vocally express that so openly? “I'm really sorry.”

The pegasus shrugged and looked down, poking at the frosting on her untouched cupcake. “You don't have anything to apologize for. It was just the beginning of a long road of being pushed aside and made to feel invisible.” Scribes gave a short, humorless laugh. “Even my job with the princesses makes me feel invisible. I stand in a corner, writing notes on what's being said, all but forgotten that I'm even in the room.” There was anger on her face. “I was standing right beside you when Twilight and her friends saw you, and when they ran over to see you, they all practically pushed me back away from you and ignored the fact that I was even there. I've tried having friends before, but it never ends well. I should have learned that early when I was in Flight School.”

“Scribes...” Sunset Shimmer wasn't sure what to say for a few minutes. She knew what it was like to feel slighted and how, if left unaddressed, it could grow into something so big and so toxic inside that it became all consuming. “You've been carrying this hurt for a long time.” Scribes nodded but said nothing, choosing to pick at her cupcake instead. “I can't pretend to understand how you felt back then, or even how you feel now. What I can tell you is that I know what it's like to carry the burden of holding a grudge around. It's exhausting, isn't it? It's like, you give so much energy into being angry and having this righteous indignation that you have nothing left to give anything or anypony else.” She moved from the chair she occupied to sit beside Scribes on the couch, seeing tears fill her orange eyes. Laying a gentle hoof on her back, Sunset asked, “Wouldn't it be so freeing to let it go?”

Scribes sniffled, her brow furrowing. “I don't think I can.”

“You don't think you can, or you don't know if you want to?” The unicorn took a breath, making the decision to reveal what she'd found the other day. “I read some of your poetry. It's sad and it sounds so lonely. You have ponies who are here and willing to be your friend...wanting to be your friend. You have me. You don't have to be so sad and alone, but you have to let go of the past. It's only going to make you bitter and angry.”

Tears rolled down Scribes' cheeks and she swiped at them impatiently. “I'm already angry.”

“And what has that gotten you?” The question was softly spoken, but it seemed to crush the pegasus. She covered her eyes with her hooves and gave into the sobs that shook her withers. Instinctively, Sunset wrapped her forelegs around Scribes and pulled her close to hold her friend while she cried. “I know your past hurts, Scribes. Mine does, too. But we control our futures. We control how we let other ponies make us feel, and we control whether or not things that have been done or said to us have control over us. It won't be easy, but think about forgiving Dash and letting it remain in the past. Maybe you're not meant to be friends with her, but there are plenty of other ponies who would be lucky to have you as their friend.”

Her tears slowing, Scribes sat up and wiped her eyes again. “Just...forgive her?”

“It sounds simple, but it's not. Some days you'll forget why you were ever mad at her, some days the old feelings will try and creep back in. Don't give into them, and don't cling to them as tightly as you have been. It isn't good for you.”

Scribes leaned back against the couch looking drained. “I'll try.”

Sunset offered a smile of encouragement. “And I'll be here when you need support. So will Lyra, Amethyst Star, Twinkleshine, and Bon Bon. As you make more friends, you'll find old grudges are easier to let go of when you have a good support system to hold you accountable.” She sighed, her eyes wandering to the bookshelf. “I'm sorry for snooping and reading your personal writings.”

The confession actually made Scribes chuckle. “I forgive you, even though there's nothing to forgive. I know this will probably sound creepy and pathetic since we've only known each other a week...but you're my best friend. I don't want to keep secrets from you.”

Sunset felt a warmth flood her that threatened to bring tears to her own eyes. “It isn't weird or creepy at all. You're my best friend here, too. I'm so glad Princess Luna paired us together.”

“Me, too.”

Thinking a moment, Sunset tilted her head. “Do you trust me?”

“Of course.”

“Then come with me tomorrow. I have an idea.”

Scribes regarded her with narrowed eyes, but said a slow, “...okay.”

“Right now, I want to hear more about this stallion from Trotland you seem to have a few books about...”
Hey, look at that! A fairly quick new chapter. Go me!

Some sad news to report... I have decided this is going to be my last fanfiction so expect some random last minute headcanon theories thrown in like the bit about Chrysalis. It's not that I don't love writing fanfic, it's just that my original writing, stuff I'm being paid to write, is taking off and I really need to focus all of my creative energies on that. That doesn't mean I'm going to disappear from here or stop posting fandom stuff, just that this chapter - this fanfic chapter - is closing for me. I see two or three more chapters in this story and it will be completed. Thank you all for all the support you've shown me through fanfic over the years, especially with the Harbinger series and my FlutterMac pieces. You've been really wonderful.

Part One: phasingirl.deviantart.com/art/…
Part Two: phasingirl.deviantart.com/art/…
Part Three: phasingirl.deviantart.com/art/…
Part Four: phasingirl.deviantart.com/art/…
Part Five: phasingirl.deviantart.com/art/…
:iconportmeirion:
Portmeirion Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2016  Student Writer
Yay for more chapters!

It's bittersweet to hear that you're retiring from fanfiction. I'm super-excited that your original writing is taking off, but I'll miss your ol' pony stories. I remember how exciting and harrowing it was to read Harbinger all the way through for the first time, and I can't count the number of times your shorter fics made me laugh ("Fluttershy's Secret") or melted my heart ("Strawberries") or both ("Twilight's First Date Ever"). I know I'm not one to talk, seeing as how I barely write fanfic anymore myself, but the fandom will miss you. At least, this fan certainly will.

Ah, well. Now I get to look forward to more AoV!
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:iconphasingirl:
phasingirl Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2016  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
It's such a strange feeling, knowing this part of my writing journey is coming to an end. I've made some pretty spectacular friends and connections through and because of it, including you. I'm certainly not disappearing all together, I just won't be around as much. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement over this time we've been internet buddies. I cherish it.
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