Were We the Bad Guys?

by CommissarAJ

Chapter 1: Long Ride on a Short Bus

The atmosphere within the bus was subdued during the trip back to Crystal Prep Academy. The students were all tired and worn out from the day’s events, and the thoughts of what transpired during the Friendship Games were still fresh on many of their minds. To say that the games ended far differently than any one of them had expected would be as much of an understatement as saying that Principal Cinch could be a bit of a grouch in the morning.

But despite all the hardship and many of them nearly falling through a portal into an alternate dimension, something that few people were ever mentally prepared for, the students of Crystal Prep were returning home with lessons learned and a new perspective on life. For Indigo Zap, the Friendship Games didn’t end in the victory that she had wanted or expected, but she felt better for how things turned out. Getting to know the students at Canterlot High was far more enjoyable than it ever was just beating them all the time.

“That Rainbow Dash girl was pretty cool,” Zap thought, smirking to herself. “Maybe that school isn’t so bad after all.”

Sitting near the back of the bus, having spent most of the ride just contemplating the day’s events, Indigo Zap glanced over her shoulder to her other teammates on the Shadowbolts—her friends, for want of a better word. From what she could tell, none of them looked shaken up from what happened: Sugarcoat was fiddling on her phone, Sour Sweet and Sunny Flare were having their own little conversation, and Lemon Zest was listening to her headphones.

Seeing them still holding together as they always had when faced with challenges brought another smile to Indigo’s face, plus another strange feeling that she wasn’t used to. It was pride, but it wasn’t in herself, but rather her friends. It was a weird sensation, but at the same time not an unpleasant one.

Maybe there was something to be said about all that friendship stuff that the red-headed girl said.

“What was her name again? Sunlight? Sundawn? Sun-something-Glimmer... oh forget it.”

Her brain was too exhausted from the academic decathalon to try anything strenuous. It was a miracle she was still able to remember the names of everyone on the bus, let alone a student from another school.

Shifting about-face in her seat, Indigo peered over the back of the chair to her colleagues in the rows behind her. “Hey girls,” she started off, “I just want to make sure I didn’t get a concussion or anything during the motocross event, but we all just saw the same thing happen, right?”

“You mean when Twilight Sparkle unleashed a supernatural power that turned her into a demonic entity and then ripped open a portal through the fabric of space?” Sugarcoat replied in her always reliable upfront manner. “Or the part afterwards when that other student summoned even more supernatural power seemingly from her friends in order to turn into another unnatural entity to confront the first?”

“Umm, both? I guess.”

It sounded almost absurd hearing it from another person, but when Indigo saw all of her other friends nodding in the affirmative, she at least could feel secure in knowing she hadn’t lost her mind. That or everyone had collectively lost their minds. Maybe somebody put something in the punch during the morning party.

“Well, good to know I’m not seeing things,” Indigo said with a half-hearted grin. “So that was a thing that just happened. I mean, magic and portals and flying students… didn’t see that one coming.”

“I saw it coming!” Lemon Zest suddenly shouted, her voice louder than everyone was prepared for as she was still listening to her headset.

“Sure you did. I bet you heard all about it while listening to your music all the time,” Sour Sweet remarked.

Ignoring the sarcastic remarks, Indigo pushed to keep the conversation on track, “How’d you know?”

“From MyTube, of course,” Zest replied, as though it should’ve been plain as day.

She slipped off her headset for a second and then pulled out her phone. After a few swipes and taps, she turned the screen to Indigo, which showed a band of familiar-looking girls playing music at a concert. Indigo’s confusion was short-lived, as the video soon showed the band begin hovering off the ground, and one of them sprouting wings just like she had during the motocross event.

“Battle of the Bands?” Indigo said, reading the title of the video. “This happened almost a month ago, why didn’t anybody say anything about this?”

“I sent you all the link when I first saw it,” Zest explained. “Didn’t any of you watch it?”

Indigo Zap and the others began averting her gaze, demonstrating that Crystal Prep was lacking in the dramatic arts department since none of them could pull off a convincing look of innocence. For her part, Zap tried her best to look as though something terribly important had befallen her goggles and needed immediate inspection.

“Gee, thanks,” Zest pouted before falling back into her seat. “Bunch of philistines.”

An air of silence drifted through the bus once again, save for the faint tones of music coming from Lemon Zest’s headphones. Though nobody else had noticed, she had not put them back on and had instead turned to stare out the window in a brief spell of introspection. She too began a reflection upon the day’s events, how things had unfolded, and the parts she played in the near-tragedy that had befallen her and her fellow students. It was at that moment that a flash of inspiration came upon her, a sudden realization that reshaped her whole outlook on life. She leaned over the seat once more to get closer to her friend, Indigo, in order to gain insight on this new revelation that had dawned upon her.

“Indigo, were we the bad guys?” she asked.

Zap stared at her in a moment of disbelief. “I… beg your pardon?”

“During the Friendship Games. I feel like we were totally the bad guys just now.”

“Wha—no. No, that’s impossible! It’s absurd,” Zap dismissed the idea wholesale. “We won, for starters. We’ve won like every Friendship Games that’s been held. Bad guys don’t win; ergo we were clearly the good guys.”

“Yeah, Lemon,” Sunny Flare added, having overheard the discussion, “you can’t be a bad guy in your own story. Why would you even think that?”

“I dunno, I was just thinking about all the stuff we did today,” the rocker girl explained herself. “I mean, we weren’t exactly nice to the Canterlot High students. Plus, think about our team name: the Shadowbolts. Other schools go with names that are heroic or awe-inspiring or symbols of courage and we got… whatever a shadowbolt is.”

“Sounds like something that Sunny Flare would invent back when she decided to go goth,” Sugarcoat quipped.

“That was three years ago, Sugarcoat!” Sunny Flare snapped, turning red from ear to ear. “It was just a phase and you said we’d never talk about it again!”

Sugarcoat returned the outburst with a playful little smirk, like a cat toying with their prey. “Oh Sunny, we all know it’s never ‘just a phase.’”

There was a quick round of giggles from the other girls as Sunny Flare could only grumble and stew in her own ire. There was no point trying to fight back unless she wanted Sugarcoat to bring up something else embarrassing to tease her about. While the brief moment of levity helped to lighten the mood, it did little to stop Lemon Zest from arguing her case.

“I mean, ‘Shadowbolt’ sounds all dark and gloomy, like we’re trying to scare people,” she continued on. “And then you hear a team name like ‘Wondercolt’ and what do you think?”

“That those people have a strange fondness for horses?” Indigo replied.

“Aside from that.”

Indigo Zap slumped back in her seat for a moment, tapping her chin as she mulled over the term ‘Wondercolt.’. “I guess it does sound a little empowering, ya know?” she concluded with a half-hearted shrug. “But Shadowbolt is a perfectly respectable team name. It doesn’t always have to be inspiring; sometimes you want to intimidate your opponents. It’s a cool name, right… right?”

“Of course it is,” Sour placated her friend. “If you’re thirteen years old and think edgy is an acceptable substitute for actually being cool and creative.”

Indigo groaned and rolled her eyes. “The sarcasm isn’t helping, Sour Sweet.”

“I’m supposed to be helping?”

“Gah! Listen, the Shadowbolts was a good choice for a name,” Indigo continued in her rationalization, though desperation rang more true. “Canterlot High was the Wondercolts and we were the Shadowbolts. Notice the similarities and the whole rhyming thing? It works as a pairing like Yin and Yang, or like—”

“A hero and villain?” Zest suggested.

“... Shit,” Indigo grumbled under her breath.

Just then, Sugarcoat appeared at Indigo’s side, crouching in the aisle beside her as she held up her phone. “If I may present some additional evidence for Zest’s case,” she announced while pulling up a picture. “Here’s a picture of the Canterlot High team just before the Friendship Games.”

Though she couldn’t quite remember all the names, Indigo would never forget the faces of the six girls who helped put a stop to Twilight’s magic-infused rampage. To her, the picture seemed to be your typical team photo, full of proud, hopeful, and grinning faces, save for one who looked like she was about to sneeze. In the end, she saw nothing out of the ordinary and was about to ask for an explanation from her friend when Sugarcoat continued her presentation.

“Now may I present exhibit B, our team photo.”

The second picture showed Indigo the faces of the Shadowbolts’ team, all of which held stern and determined gazes, with the lone exception being Twilight Sparkle, who also stood awkwardly amongst them as if some sort of anomaly. It wasn’t the first time Indigo Zap had seen a picture of herself or her fellow students, but it was eye-opening having just seen the competition.

“Wow, we look like we’re about to go to a funeral,” Zap exclaimed in dismay. “You’d think Principal Cinch outlawed smiling by the looks of us.” She then leaned in for a closer look at the picture, her face beginning to twist in horror and disgust. “Oh for the love—have I always come off this conceited in pictures? I look like a complete bitch!”

“It’s okay Indigo,” Sour Sweet reassured her in a manner that was about as comforting as a pillow over the face, “you weren’t like that every day. Just on days that ended with ‘y.’”

“It was literally all the time,” Sugarcoat added before she pocketed her phone. “Lemon Zest presents a good case; considering our behavior today and the overall outcome, we were indeed ‘the bad guys.’”

“No. Nononono! That is absolutely bullshit!” Zap replied, waving her hands in front of her face as though this were all a bad dream. She couldn’t be a bad guy, she was a prized student. She was one of the top athletes at the school, a top-league academic, and in line to achieve more accolades and scholarships than anyone else in her grade, moreso now that Twilight Sparkle was out of the picture. Indigo Zap was going to breeze through college on a full sports scholarship and then get a Master’s degree and a PhD and become an astronaut and be the first woman to set foot on Mars and then she’d get elected president and have a Great Dane named Teddy who’d also be the first dog bodyguard!

That was not the future of a ‘bad guy.’ This was not going to be her legacy at Crystal Prep Academy.

She needed somebody to tell her that all of this was just a wild fantasy—somebody smarter and wiser than her friends who could sort this mess out. Indigo Zap sprang to her feet and waved her arms frantically in the air.

“Dean Cadance!”

At the front of the bus, the aforementioned school administrator cast a curious look back at her students, wondering why it looked as though one of them was two steps away from a panic attack. “Is something the matter Miss Zap?” she inquired.

“Be honest with us, Dean, were we the baddies today?”

At first, Cadance was taken aback by the unusual question. “I… beg your pardon?” she replied as her brain tried to wrap itself around the situation. For a second, she thought perhaps her students were pulling a little prank on her, but the pleading look on Indigo’s face told her this was a genuine concern, which made answering all the more difficult.

“Were we bad guys?” Indigo repeated.

“No, of course you weren’t the bad guys,” she began, albeit starting with the easiest part. “You were just… um, you just got a little carried away in the spirit of competition and made some… poor choices.”

“Right, right of course, just poor choices,” Indigo mumbled to herself. She sat down again, repeating those choice words to herself over and over like a mantra. People made bad choices all the time, after all, like accidentally picking the wrong soda from the vending machine, or not holding the door open for a classmate. A bad choice here and there didn’t make a person bad; mistakes were why people had erasers and white-out. “Because I’m a good person, right? Right? Just a good little girl who made a few silly mistakes… like trusting Principal Cinch.”

“And choosing to act like an arrogant, self-absorbed brat unwilling to display even the most basic levels of sportsmanship,” Sugarcoat chimed in once more.

Her words homed in and blasted down the last vestiges of Indigo’s confidence like a heat-seeking missile. The young teen sat in absolute silence, a look of horrified bewilderment across her face. She didn’t want to believe any of it could be true, but it was. It was a horrifying, inescapable truth that, in hindsight, looked so glaringly obvious that Indigo couldn’t believe it had gone on like that for so long. And it wasn’t just pushing around Twilight when she thought using a little magic might level the playing field, it was every dismissive remark, and the constant indifference to anyone’s achievements other than her own.

“I am a bad person…”

“Cadance!” Indigo shouted, jumping to her feet once more. “Why didn’t you tell us we were all being a bunch of assholes?”

“Indigo! Mind your language!” came the stern warning in response.


“Girls, I have always tried my best to be supportive of each and every one of you,” Cadance continued on. The others could tell she was straining to remain diplomatic since one couldn’t just tell their students they were behaving like a bunch of brats, unless she wanted to become ex-Dean Cadance the next day. “But you must admit that you are very… strong-willed when it comes to doing things in your preferred way.”

“In other words, we’re all stubborn jerks,” Sugarcoat clarified.

“Oh god, I’m a giant bitchzilla!” Indigo howled in dismay. After a few more seconds of shrieking that would put the wailing of the dead to shame, she unceremoniously collapsed once more into her seat, now drained physically and emotionally. Maybe if she was lucky, there would be a merciful god watching over her and he would make the bus explode so that she didn’t have to live with this knowledge another moment longer.

Instead, though, Indigo Zap felt a hand settle down on her shoulder, giving her a firm but reassuring squeeze. As her weary eyes gazed up, she saw her friends gathered closer and with Sour Sweet’s hand upon her.

“It’s okay, Indigo,” she told her in that sickeningly sweet voice of hers. “You have all of us, remember? So we can all be horrible human beings together.”

“I honestly can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not,” Indigo deadpanned. Against all odds, however, she managed to crack a weak little smile to her freckled friend. “But I think you have a good point there, Sour.”

“Really? ‘Cause I was being, like, super sarcastic back there.”

Once again, Indigo was finding that line between sincerity and sarcasm blurring to an ever greater degree. “The point is, as long as we stick together as friends, we can fix this. And that’s what separates us from the baddies—we learn from our mistakes, and we make ourselves better for it.”

“Speak for yourself,” Sunny Flare quipped under her breath, which earned her a quick elbow to her side from Sugarcoat. “I mean, fine. I guess we could do something. I still think this is stupid.”

“What’s so stupid about wanting to be a better person?” Indigo remarked.

“Because I’m just fine the way I am,” Sunny said. She let out an indignant huff as she folded her arms across her chest, making a show of her defiance for their ‘ridiculous’ notions of morality. “I’m not going to be corralled to the whims of others just because they think I’m a ‘bad girl.’”

“And that’s why Twilight is already more popular than you are,” Lemon Zest informed her, who had switched to browsing the internet on her phone.

Whatever facade Sunny Flare had prepared for herself, those words hurled a brick through it. “She’s what? H-how?” she hollered in ever-rising fury. “How could that dweeb possibly be more popular than me?”

“Well for starters, she’s actually pretty cool,” Sugarcoat explained. She leaned over and showed her phone to her irate teammate. “She’s getting all sorts of friend requests on MyStable—from both Crystal Prep and Canterlot High.”

Furious and in disbelief, Sunny grabbed the phone from her friend to check the evidence for herself. She scrolled down the ever-growing list of ‘friends’ on Twilight’s profile page and then noticed a number of familiar names. “You sent her a friend request?” she shrieked.

“Of course I did,” Sugarcoat replied.

“Did all of you?” Sunny said as she looked to the others.



“Why wouldn’t I? She has a talking dog. How awesome is that?” Zest added.

At that point, nobody was certain whether Sunny Flare was trembling because the air seemed to have chilled several degrees, or she was quaking in her unyielding fury. If hate could burn, everyone and everything in the bus would’ve been reduced to ash and cinders, leaving nothing more than just the smoke rising from the ashes of her broken pride. But as Sunny Flare continued to scroll through the phone, yet another injustice caught her attention, one that could’ve ignited such a hellfire in her that it would make the surface of the sun look tepid.

“Why is Twilight Sparkle trending on our school’s Whinny feed?” Sunny Flare demanded, holding the phone out for the others to see. None of them looked very surprised by what they saw, in fact Lemon Zest just giggled to herself. “She’s got her own fucking hashtag!”

“Hashtag Team Sparkle!” Zest cheered in delight. “I came up with it during the after-games party. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Et tu, Lemon?” Sunny growled before tossing the borrowed phone aside. Having thoroughly burnt herself out, she sank into her seat and buried her face into her hands. “How did it come to this?”

“Welcome to my world,” an equally dejected Indigo offered her condolences.

None of the girls were feeling too cheerful anymore, as though the curtains had been drawn back and all their sins had been laid bare for the world to see. The worst part was the realization that they were all probably the last people to realize it.

“So how do we fix this?” Sour Sweet asked after a prolonged, pregnant pause. “Unless you girls want to go through the rest of high school like this.”

Sadly, none of them had an immediate answer. There was a lot of humming and head-scratching, but despite all their academic prowess, all the girls were coming up short for answers. One by one, each eventually gave up with a resigned sigh and a shrug of their shoulders. How could they be failing so spectacularly at something that the students at Canterlot High clearly had no problem with?

“Girls, if I may offer a suggestion,” Cadance’s voice perked up, catching their collective attention. Their Dean stood before them in the aisle, having obviously overheard their growing dilemma. “Learning how to be a better person isn’t something you just fix overnight, it’s a commitment to a set of ideals and virtues: things like integrity, compassion, and generosity.”

“Oh, you mean like those things that red-head said before she went all magicky too,” Indigo remarked.

“Indeed. And you need to learn how to make those virtues a part of you, not just because you don’t want to be a ‘bad person’ but for their own sake,” Cadance continued to explain. “Now I’ve… unwillingly overheard most of your conversations, and I think the best place to start teaching yourselves these lessons is with each other.”

“Each other?” Indigo remarked in evident confusion. “What do you mean, Dean? We’re already friends. We’re great friends!”

Cadance raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Are you really?”

Three words, but it was enough to plant the seed of doubt in Indigo’s mind. “Y-yeah, of course. We’re all like peas in a pod.” She turned to the others, but many of them held looks as uncertain as her own. “Sour Sweet, we’re best buddies, right?”

“Of course we are! We’re the absolute best of friends!”

“See Cadance?” Indigo beamed in delight, albeit briefly. “Sour Sweet agrees with—oh, god dammit. You’re being sarcastic again, aren’t you?”

“It’s how I show my love.”

Unfortunately, none of the students noticed Cadance rolling her eyes or the visible signs of her slowly eroding patience, otherwise they might’ve corrected their behavior sooner. “As I was saying,” Cadance resumed, “I think the five of you would benefit from improving your friendship with one another, which in turn will help make you better people when it comes to the rest of the school and beyond.” She gave them all a reassuring smile, not wanting to make any of them feel despondent about their future. “You are all brilliant and driven girls, and there’s nothing any of you can’t achieve when you put your minds to it. Yes, you may have made some bad choices, but I know in my heart that each of you can make this into a turning point in your lives for the better.”

Hearing those inspiring words gave Indigo Zap all the hope she needed. Filled with a renewed sense of hope and spirit, she knew what had to be done. “You’re right, Dean Cadance,” Indigo exclaimed, fists clenched tight in excitement. “We’re not going to let this bring us down! We’re not quitters; we’re not losers! We always give our very best for we are Crystal Prep Academy—we are Shadowbolts!”

“At least until we figure out a better name,” Sugarcoat added. “Seriously, it sounds like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon.”

“I presume there’s a plan to go along with all of this bravado, Indigo?” Sunny inquired.

“Oh, well… um, I was thinking…” It was obvious to see that Indigo hadn’t thought that far ahead, to absolutely nobody’s surprise. “You know what, it’s been a long day. How about we go out and celebrate—as friends!”

There was a round of nods and murmuring agreement, with Sour Sweet to be the first to give voice. “That’s a great idea!” she exclaimed. There was a sudden and brief pause, however, as everyone around her shot her a skeptical glare. “What? I’m being serious this time. Really!”

“How about we go out for ice cream?” Sugarcoat suggested.

“Nah, I don’t want to go for ice cream,” Sour replied, shaking her head. “I’m pretty hungry, how about pizza instead?”

The spectacled student frowned and scrunched her nose in disgust. “After today, pizza’s going to make me feel all bloated,” she replied.

“And I don’t want all that sugar!” Sour snapped back.

“How about instead of just stuffing our faces, we go someplace that we can actually relax,” Sunny Flare interrupted with her own idea. “How about the spa? Now that’s how you unwind after a busy day.”

Sugarcoat and Sour Sweet just shot a glare back at Sunny as if she had just kicked their puppies.

“No way.”

“Not a chance.”

And to no surprise, Sunny Flare took grave offense to their rejection, snapping back, “For crying out loud, the spa is fantastic! How could you possibly be against that?”

“Because it’s boring,” Zest chimed in. “We should go to the arcade instead. Now that’ll be an awesome time!”

“Yeah, if we were like eight years old.”

“Better than your dumb idea!”

“My idea isn’t dumb!”

“Ice cream is still the objectively superior choice.”

“Only if you’re a lame-ass!”

And before Indigo Zap could even say ‘let’s go Shadowbolts,’ she and her so-called friends had all degraded into a complete and utter shouting-fest. Both her and Dean Cadance looked on in dismay, one palm firmly planted across their face and silently mouthing their grievances to whatever gods might have been listening. As the argument raged on like wildfire, the vicious barbs and verbals arrows growing more intense with each passing moment, one could see Dean Cadance’s tranquil temperament beginning to falter. Her hands tightened around the seat she stood next to, her fingers digging deep into the velvet cushions. Anybody paying attention would’ve realized that she was seconds away from losing the last vestiges of her patience, but with almost everyone embroiled in their own argument, only Indigo Zap saw what was about to be unleashed.

Suddenly Midnight Sparkle didn’t seem all that frightening to her.

“That’s enough!” Dean Cadance shouted, silencing everyone and everything on the bus. “Do you girls really want the truth? Fine! You can have it! You are not just the ‘bad guys,’ you five are some of the most self-absorbed, egotistical, spoiled brats that I have ever come across! You’ve had so much in life handed to you for so long, the very idea that other people have wants and needs that occasionally have to come before your own is as alien as a three-headed monkey! Day after day I have tried my best to instill into you some measure of virtue but even the most basic principles of decency seem too hard for you to grasp, despite it being something that every other child learns when they’re still wetting the bed! You tout yourselves as a bunch of princesses, but the only thing remotely royal about any of you is how much of a royal pain in my behind you’ve been!”

All of the girls were taken aback by Cadance’s outburst, silenced by a combination of shock and awe at the verbal bombardment. For her part, Indigo tried to speak up to defend herself, but it was soon clear that their Dean was not yet finished.

“Most people have the sense to realize that acting in a polite and civilized manner is an important part of growing up, but it took you five a near-apocalyptic event to even come close to recognizing that you are the root cause of all your dysfunctional relationships! And despite all this, I have still refused to give up on any of you because the last thing I want is for any of you to wake up twenty years from now and realize that the reason your life is a complete mess is because you were a horrible person to everyone around you! Yet even the simplest lessons are amiss on all of you as you all have your collective heads shoved so far up your own butts that you can fellate your own appendix. If Principal Cinch had told me this job would involve having to babysit such a bunch of whiny little snot-nosed troglodytes, I would’ve told her go fornicate with a cactus!”

By the time Cadance took in that deep breath to signal the end of her tirade, she was completely red in the face and everyone around her looked as though they were terrified that movement would result in instant death. As her complexion began to return to a calm shade of pink, Dean Cadance took a moment to straighten her coat and composure.

“I… apologize for that outburst,” she said before clearing her throat. “That was callous and unprofessional of me.”

Indigo was the first to regain a measure of courage and managed a response, “No… no, we kinda deserved that.”

“The truth shall set you free, as the saying goes,” Sugarcoat added. “And I can say I certainly feel… liberated right now.”

There was a round of quiet, murmuring agreements from the other girls, though whether it was sincere or just an instinctual reaction derived from fear was anybody’s guess.

“Very well then,” Cadance concluded, taking another moment to straighten a few wayward strands of hair. “I will be at the front of the bus if you need me; I hope that I will not have to come back here to settle any further disagreements, is that understood?”

“Yes, Dean Cadance,” the five girls responded in unison.

Once Cadance left, the girls were once again left with nothing but their own company and the overwhelming sense of shame upon them. A number of awkward, uneasy glances were chanced between them, but each were hesitant to be the first to say anything.

“So was anyone else impressed that Cadance managed to go through all that without swearing once?” Sour Sweet remarked.

“We got wrecked,” Indigo nodded in agreement.

Super wrecked,” Zest added, “like, hashtag sic semper tyrannosaurus wrecked.”

Lemon Zest’s remarks managed to spur a small round of chuckles from the others, but it was short-lived as they realized they were still putting off what actually needed to be said. They all knew the words, but it wasn’t something any of them were used to. Saying sorry was like admitting defeat, and all of them still had a tenuous relationship with that concept as a whole.

It was eventually Sunny Flare who worked up the courage to take that first step.

“I’m… I’m really sorry about what I said,” she apologized. “Pizza or ice cream or the arcade; they all sound like fun ideas. I’m sorry that I said they were childish.”

And with the first step taken, the others soon followed suit.

“And I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have called your ideas dumb,” Sour Sweet said next.

Zest went next, adding, “I’m sorry I yelled at all of you.”

“Sorry I was being a butt,” Indigo sighed.

“And I’m sorry I made disparaging insinuations about your sexual preferences,” Sugarcoat rounded things off.

“Well, that wasn’t so bad. A little airing of the soul and all that,” Indigo said, feeling another swell of pride at the display of humility amongst her friends. This time around, it didn’t feel so strange; in fact she was beginning to like having something new to be proud of. “Listen, I know none of us really say it very often, but… you girls really are my best friends. At the same time, however, I know we can do better. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing what we have, and I know none of you want that.”

“I wouldn’t mind losing some of Sour’s sarcasm,” Sugarcoat quipped, but flashed a quick smirk to her friend.

“You know you love me for it,” Sour replied before sharing a laugh with her friend.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Indigo spoke up. “During the games, some of the Canterlot High students mentioned a place called ‘Sugarcube Corner’ that they liked to hang out at. How about we try that?” The others looked a bit skeptical at first, even after Indigo pulled up a map on her phone in order to show them how close Sugarcube Corner was. “Come on, I know it’s not one of our usual spots, but maybe something new is what we need. Besides, what’s important is that we do it together.”

“You know what, you’re right!” Zest exclaimed. “Let’s give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“Sour Sweet stabs you in the hand with a salad fork?” Sunny Flare remarked.

“That was one time!”

Seeing her friends smiling and laughing together, acting like the friends they kept insisting they were, gave Indigo Zap even further inspiration. “Oh! Oh, I just had a brilliant idea!” she hopped to her feet and motioned for her friends to gather in the back row. “How about a picture of the five of us together, but this time no being all serious and stuffy. I’m talking real smiles for a change.”

“Great idea!”

With everyone’s approval, the five girls all grouped together while Indigo sat in the center with her phone held outstretched. Even though this wasn’t the first group picture she’d taken with her friends, this one felt different. If she had to pick a word for it, she’d say it felt hopeful.

“You know girls, I get the feeling that this is going to be the start of something beautiful,” Indigo said before smiling for the camera. Her friends all nodded in agreement, flashed their pearly whites, and then she hit the button.

“Oh come on, how am I still looking like a bitch in these?!”

The End

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