This is a fanfic that I came up with. It was inspired by an episode of an old show called Bravestarr (thank you, Silver Quill, for the introduction of the show, even if it wasn't the same episode), which has a shock value that I really apprieciated when I saw it. This episode, called The Price, involves a character who got addicted to a fictional drug, and put his friend through some difficult times, including a hard decision, and I think the ending really hit a home run when it comes to conveying an important message to kids. While this isn't follow that episode completely, I think you might get the idea of what happens here. So here it is: A Price Paid.
It was a sunny day in Ponyville as three young fillies, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo, were leaving the Sugar Cube Corner. Apple Bloom groaned in pain as she held her head up with her hoof, cringing all the while.
“I told you not to drink your shake so fast!” scolded Scootaloo. “You know what happens when you do that!”
“I know, I know,” said Apple Bloom in a low voice. “I regret not learning to sip something so cold. I'll remember next time. --I hope.”
Just as the fillies reached the middle of the street, Apple Bloom's pains were quickly forgotten when a loud scream filled the air. Wondering what was causing such a scream, the trio hurried in the direction it was coming from and found a crowd gathered in an area by the street.
“What's all the commotion?” Apple Bloom asked.
“Did somepony get hurt?” Scootaloo added.
“Maybe there's some sort of monster there,” Sweetie Belle suggested.
“Well, let's check it out,” said Apple Bloom. “Maybe there's something that we can help with.”
The three girls ran over to the crowd and maneuvered their way between the ponies in their way. Once they made it through, they saw a mare with a golf club, swinging it around through the air, continuously screaming in terror.
“Windigos! Windigos! Windigos everywhere!”
Windigos? The fillies looked around. There weren't any windigos anywhere. What was this pony talking about? At that moment, Princess Twilight and Mayor Mare came into the circle that the crowd had made and tried to get her under control.
“No! No! Get away from me! You'll never freeze me alive, you windigos! NEVER!!!”
“Ma'am, just calm down,” said Twilight, trying to keep her patients. “We're not going to hurt you. We're just trying to help.”
The mare started swinging the golf club at Twilight and Mayor Mare, trying desperately to fend them off as they ducked and dodged her.
“Ma'am, please, we're not what you are seeing!” said Mayor Mare as she avoided getting smacked in the head. “Just put down the golf club and there shouldn't be any trouble.”
“Back off! BACK!!! I don't have any hatred to give you!”
The fight continued as Twilight and Mayor Mare struggled to get the pony to calm down whilst avoiding getting hit with the club. Onlookers kept their distance as she continued violently flailing her club around, threatening to hit any windigo that dared to approach her. Finally, Twilight decided that it was time to take drastic measures. She used her magic to freeze the mare, causing her to scream even louder.
“AAH! No! No! Let me go! LET ME GO!!!”
Twilight kept her magic up and lifted the screaming mare off the ground.
“I'm going to take her to the Ponyville hospital. Hopefully she can get some help there.”
“Thank you, Princess Twilight,” said Mayor Mare in relief as she left.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders were puzzled by this strange behavior. What could make this pony think there were windigos in the area when the weather wasn't even cold? They looked to Rainbow Dash, who was hovering just above the crowd.
“What is wrong with that pony?” Scootaloo asked her. “Why is she acting like this?”
“I don't know,” Rainbow Dash explains. “She's probably another drug addict that took something that would cause these crazy hallucinations. Soar, probably.”
“It's pretty nasty stuff. And, from what I hear, it's been on the rise all over Equestria lately. Both the princesses and the royal guard are doing everything they can to find out how and why, because not only is it dangerous, it's also highly illegal.”
Sweetie Belle looked at Twilight and the wailing mare, feeling sympathetic for her.
“I hope she's going to be okay. I'd hate to be in that position; seeing scary things attack you when there really isn't anything there.”
Later, the CMC were in their clubhouse, having a very deep, thoughtful conversation.
“Can you believe that somepony would have the gull the try something as dangerous as what that pony was taking?” Sweetie Belle asked. “I don't think I'd even want to come into contact with something like that.”
“I know, right?” said Scootaloo. “And how did she even find something like that if it's not even legal here?!”
“I remember Applejack telling me about drugs like Soar,” Apple Bloom explained. “She says that drugs are kinda like a tasty treat: once you taste it, you're instantly hooked, and you're gonna want more.”
“But how does somepony even get to try it if it's not even a legal thing in Equestria?!” asked Scootaloo, marveling over the fact that it was even possible for it to even be a thing there.
“That, I don't know,” Apple Bloom admitted. “Legal or not, it somehow finds its way here.” She changed her tone. “But however it does, I know I'm not getting anywhere near that sort of stuff, especially considering the facts.”
“Me neither!” Scootaloo agrees. “I don't want any part of something illegal and dangerous, especially if it's gonna make me hallucinate like that!”
“Yeah, I don't want to end up like that mare did!” Sweetie Belle adds. “I'm not trying it either!”
“Great! So we're all in agreement!” declared Apple Bloom, going up to her podium. “All in favor of never trying drugs like that pony did, say 'aye'!”
“Then, it is settled! None of us will ever get into drugs!”
Soon after the meeting, Sweetie Belle walked home with her head held high, confident in her vow to not do drugs. On her way, a figure in a brown coat followed her, making sure that she never noticed him. As she approached her house, the figure called out in a whispery voice.
“Psst! Miss! Miss! Over here!”
Startled, Sweetie Belle stopped and looked around.
“Um, hello? Is somepony there?”
She backed up, looking around nervously. As she came to a stop, a hoof stretched out and touched her shoulder, causing her to yelp in surprise. She around and found a colt, who looked to be a little older than her, hiding in a bush behind her.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I wasn't trying to scare you.”
“Um, that's okay,” said Sweetie Belle. “But why are you hiding in a bush?”
“I have a special offer for you to try,” explained the colt. He reached into his coat and pulled out a small vial filled with an unusual substance. Sweetie Belle took a close look at the substance in the vial and saw that it contained a fiery image of a phoenix flying.
“What is it?” she asked.
“This is a whole new world of fun like you've never known before,” the colt explained. “It's an amazing experience that once you try it, you'll wonder why anypony would want to pass it up. It's called-- Soar.”
Sweetie Belle immediately saw red flags coming up when she heard what this substance was called and stepped away from him.
“Oh, no! No, no, no, no! I know what that stuff is! It caused a mare to think that she was being attacked by windigos and she made a real scene in town!”
“How do you know it was the Soar?” the colt asked. “It could've been anything. She may have even had some sort of head trauma.”
Sweetie Belle noted that this colt had a point. She did remember hearing that head injuries can cause all sorts of problems.
“Besides, even if it was the Soar, she probably wasn't using it right. I use it all the time, and I don't have any problems.”
There was one fact that Sweetie Belle couldn't get past. “But it's also illegal. I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with trying something that's not even allowed in Equestria.”
“That's because the princesses don't understand what good this stuff can do,” the colt said. “Look at this.”
He pulled out another vial with significantly less Soar in it. “You see this? Now watch how I use this and learn.”
Sweetie Belle watched curiously as the colt opened the vial, held out his hoof, hovered the vial right over the hoof, and put a single drop of the Soar right in the middle of it. As the Soar absorbed into the hoof, he let out a deep sigh.
“See? It's perfectly safe. You just have to make sure that the drop lands in the middle of your hoof and no where else.”
Sweetie Belle looked at his hoof. It sure seemed safe.
“I'll tell you what,” the colt said. “I'll give you a free sample, and if you like it, I can let you have this newer vial and every one afterward will be five bits each.”
Sweetie Belle was still unsure, remembering her vow, but after thinking for a bit, she gave a small nod and slowly held out her hoof. The colt took hold of her hoof, opened the full vial, and carefully put a small drop right in the middle of the hoof. Before she could react, the Soar instantly seeped into it. Sweetie Belle's face suddenly went blank and her eyes dilated as she felt her head start to spin.
Meanwhile, on the other end of Ponyville, Twilight returned to her castle and met up with Starlight Glimmer, who was waiting for her in the foray.
“Is she alright?” Starlight asked. “She did seem to be in a lot of distress.”
“Well, she wasn't too happy with me taking her there, but I hope she'll be fine.”
“I still can't believe that somepony would think that stuff like Soar would even be safe, let alone fun. Especially when you consider ponies going through incidents like this.”
“Believe me, Starlight, nopony wants to be an addict of any kind. But, sometimes it just happens, usually starting with peer pressure. But, don't worry; the princesses and I are doing everything we can to put a stop to it.”
“Well, I do hope that you and the other princesses can put an end to it soon, 'cause the longer this goes on, the more victims this crazy epidemic will claim.”
“I know. We're all getting more and more frustrated with this rapid progression and the lack of development we keep running into.”
Back at Sweetie Belle's home, Sweetie Belle was sitting on her bed, emptying her piggy bank onto the blanket. She counted all the bits that came out of it; there was quite a lot there. Sweetie Belle sat back and thought for a moment. She remembered the craziness from earlier, and how distressed that pony was when she was fighting off creatures that really weren't there. If she accepted this colt's offer, could this happen to her, too? It was pretty frightening to think about, being attacked by something that only existed in the mind. She also remembered her vow with her friends. She had already broken it by taking that sample, and she wasn't sure she wanted to throw it away just like that, knowing just how angry her friends would be. But, she also thought about the sample that she did take and the experience she had from it. It wasn't anything like what that mare went through; it was actually quite pleasant, and as that colt had told her, fun. She remembered it all too well; the singing teddy bears, the cheery clouds, the dancing butterflies; it was beautiful. Sweetie Belle knew that her family and friends wouldn't approve of it, but she didn't want this to be the only time she saw this amazing world; she wanted to be in it, playing along with the teddy bears, clouds, and butterflies, and she wanted to do it as often as possible. Sweetie Belle's conscience tried to interfere again, reminding her that the Soar that she had tried was also illegal, not just in Ponyville, but all of Equestria. But, she didn't see any reason for it to be; it just causes ponies to have funny visions, kinda like dreams that you don't want to wake up from, unless, of course, if that dream were a nightmare. After thinking for another minute, Sweetie Belle picked up five of the bits that were still laying on the bed. She looked out the window and wondered if that colt was still around.
The next day, Sweetie Belle was in front of the clubhouse, spinning around and giggling, playing around in her own little world. Her pupils dilated, and her dizzy legs wobbly, she was dancing around as if she was in a fantasy land.
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom arrived, and were surprised to see their friend acting so giddy. Looking at each other in confusion, they wondered what it was that made her act like she was dancing in outer space. Apple Bloom approached her to find out.
“Hey, Sweetie Belle, what's going on? Did you put too much syrup on your waffles again?”
Sweetie Belle snapped out of her fantasy land, but was still in a loopy state of mind.
“Oh, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, you're not going to believe this, but I found something that gave me a whole new idea of fun!” Her voice was slurred and wobbly.
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were confused.
“Uh, what do you mean by that?” Scootaloo asked.
“Oh, I met this really nice colt who showed me something that lead me to this beautiful place with singing teddy bears, cheery clouds, and dancing butterflies. It's just so… magical!”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at each other, confused at first. She still seemed to speaking in a different language that used the same words. But then, Apple Bloom made a realization.
“Scootaloo, are you thinking what I'm thinking?”
It took her a second, but then, what Apple Bloom was trying to tell her quickly clicked.
“You don't think she--”
“I hope she didn't.”
“I hope she wouldn't.”
Apple Bloom finally decided to pop the question. “Sweetie Belle, you're not talking about… Soar, are you?”
“Aw, it's really not that bad. I don't even see the danger in it.”
Scootaloo quickly became angry. “Sweetie Belle, you vowed that you wouldn't even try it yesterday! How could you already be breaking it?!”
“It's fine, really. It's perfectly safe when you use it right.”
Apple Bloom was equally angry. “Sweetie Belle, Soar is illegal! You know that!”
“Sure, but it's safe.”
“Ugh! Sweetie Belle!”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo started to walk away in disgust. Sweetie Belle looked at them, puzzled.
“Where are you guys going?”
“We're going to tell somepony, and then you're gonna tell them who gave you this Soar.”
Sweetie Belle freaked out. “No! Don't tell anypony! Don't!”
In her panic, she ran over and tackled them both. “Please, you can't tell anypony, ever! Please, promise you won't tell! Please!”
She shook them as she yelled out her pleas.
“You can't tell anypony! It has to be a secret! Please!”
“Alright, alright! We won't tell anypony!” Scootaloo tried to console her, feeling pain in her neck from the frantic shaking. “We promise!”
“No! No! You have to Pinkie Promise! Please, Pinkie Promise!”
“Okay, okay!” Apple Bloom also had enough. “We Pinkie Promise! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!”
“Me too! Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!”
Sweetie Belle finally stopped shaking her friends and let them go. But she still wasn't relaxed.
“Remember, you Pinkie Promised! You can't break it! You have to keep it a secret! You have to--”
“We'll remember, Sweetie Belle! And we won't break our Pinkie Promise, especially if means keeping our necks intact.”
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom started to walk away, having enough of Sweetie Belle's unnatural state of mind. But, Sweetie Belle still wanted to show them the fun that the Soar provided.
“Do you fillies want to try the Soar? It's fun!”
Scootaloo sighed and slapped her face with her hoof. “Are you kidding, Sweetie Belle? It's already bad enough that we're keeping your using it a secret!”
Sweetie Belle sat on her bed with her piggy bank, pulling the cork and getting ready to empty it. She shook the little ceramic pig up and down, expecting to see plenty of bits falling out. But as she shook nothing came out. Concerned, she looked into the hole in the bottom of the bank, and found it completely empty, with not one single bit left.
“No! No! No, no, no, no! No! How can I be out already?! It hasn't been that long!”
It had been a few weeks since she first got hooked on Soar, and without realizing it, she was buying more and more of it from that colt each time she saw him, which had become more frequent. They'd meet up behind a rock near the Everfree Forest so that they could make their trade. Five bits per vial ended up becoming quite a large sum as the number of vials increased. Sweetie Belle sat back on her pillow, feeling stressed. She still had plenty of full vials yet, but they wouldn't last. As she thought about what to do, she became even more freaked out and became so desperate that she could only think of one solution. She hurried out of her room and down the stairs, looking around to find what she was looking for, and to her relief, she found it: her mother's purse, sitting on the couch. Making sure that the coast was clear, she sneaked over to the purse, opened it, and looked inside. After searching around for a minute, she levitated out five bits and slipped them into her empty coin pouch. With the bits safely secured, she had a strange feeling come over her: is this such a good idea? After all, she was practically stealing money from her own mother, just for a small vial of something that she shouldn't even be having. She shook the feeling and rushed out the door.
She found the colt behind their usual rock and, making sure that nopony was around, trotted up to him.
“Hey. I can only get one vial this time; I was hoping to get more, but I ran out of bits”
She showed him the stolen bits in her coin pouch. The colt looked at them, disappointed that he wasn't going to sell as much.
“So, where'd you get these bits?”
“I had to steal them from my mom's purse. I would've taken more, but I feel a little weird about using theft just to get some small vials of substance.”
The colt smiled at her as he took the bits and gave her another vial of Soar.
“Do you really think that you're doing something wrong here? Over time, I've found that sometimes, if you really want something, you can always look to somepony else for help, even if they don't know they're even helping you. After all, a friend in need is a friend in deed, am I right?”
Sweetie Belle thought for a minute, and gave a small nod.
“So, if you need more money, just get it from somepony else, like your parents, your friends, whoever. As long as they don't know about it, they won't notice. Just don't worry about it.”
Sweetie Belle still felt a little weird about it, but she agreed.
Over the course of several days, she took the colt's advice. Every chance she could, she'd find ways to slip some bits away from ponies, including her parents, her sister, Rarity, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, Pipsqueak, as well as other classmates, and even some of her grown-up friends, like Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and even Discord, Spike, Starlight, and Twilight. The amount of stolen bits built up, and dissipated as she used it to buy more Soar. But as she continued this cycle, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo started to notice that her condition was growing worse. They knew that she was stealing money from them behind their backs, but as much as they wanted to, they were hesitant to catch her in the act.
“Ugh. I really don't like watching Sweetie Belle deteriorate like this, Apple Bloom. I really wish we could help her.”
“I know. It's like the longer we keep her secret, the worse she becomes.”
They both looked at Diamond Tiara, who's looking in her purse.
“I don't understand it,” she said to herself. “I don't remember buying anything, but it seems like there's less money in here.”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo look at each other, thinking the same thing.
“Oh, Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom whispered desperately. “If only you could see that you're reaching a new low for you.”
Meanwhile, in Twilight's castle, Twilight and Starlight were dealing with another Soar addict, this time, a stallion, wielding a thick pillow.
“Keep away from me, you queen snakes!” the stallion sneered. “I am not your food!”
“Just calm down, sir” Twilight said softly. “We're not going to hurt you.”
The stallion swung the pillow at her as she ducked to avoid it.
“Whoa! Take it easy, now! You're gonna be fine!”
Starlight tried her hoof at calming him.
“Just put down the pillow, and there should be no--”
Starlight dodged the pillow.
“Geez! You're gonna knock my block off here!”
“Just hold still, buddy,” Twilight said calmly, but losing her patients. “We're just trying to help you--”
The stallion took another swing at her, then another at Starlight, then at Twilight, then at Starlight again.
“Get back! Back I say! Back! I'm nopony's lunch! BAAACK!!!”
Starlight groaned in frustration and decided to take extreme measures. She froze him with his magic so that he wouldn't give them anymore trouble, causing him to scream at the top of his lungs, filling the whole castle.
“Argh! I really need more tapestries to muffle loud noises like this,” Twilight groaned while rubbing her now ringing ears.
“I know, this is the 10th Soar addict this week!” Starlight commented, struggling to hold the crying stallion. “The hospital is really getting filled up here!”
“And these cases just keep popping up everywhere! I can't even come up with any patterns to pinpoint where the dealers are coming from, which must mean that whoever is selling these ponies this stuff is probably mobile. Which would make catching them all the more difficult.”
Twilight trotted over to a desk and picked up a scroll and quill.
“You take him to the hospital while I contact Princess Celestia about this new development.”
“I'll be back as soon as he's settled.”
Starlight then galloped out the door as the desperate stallion cried out for his mommy.
Ugh, stop being such a baby, buddy! Seriously! Starlight thought to herself, annoyed with the spectacle of a grown stallion crying like a toddler.
The next day, the Ponyville foals were at recess at the schoolhouse as Diamond Tiara was doing some advertising.
“It's a whole new product that my father is now selling at Barnyard Bargains! It's called 'caramel apple pies,' a delicious new treat graciously made by our dear Apple Bloom and her totally awesome family!”
Apple Bloom beamed with pride as her former bully praised her for the new product that was sure to be a hit amongst anypony who had a sweet tooth. But as the students exclaimed in excitement over a new dessert, Sweetie Belle snuck behind a table where Diamond Tiara had set her purse. Being careful that nopony saw her, she nervously opened the purse, dug around for a minute, and found her five bits. But as she was levitating them out, something else caught her eye: a sparkly, silver hair ribbon that could rival Silver Spoon's beautiful mane. In an instant, Sweetie Belle fell in love with the beautiful ribbon, and wanted one of her own. She looked up at the crowd of students, still distracted as Diamond Tiara continued to advertise the caramel apple pies and stroke Apple Bloom's pride with every compliment in the book. Assured that nopony was watching, Sweetie Belle levitated the silver ribbon and hid it in her pouch with the stolen bits she had collected. She then closed the purse, and nonchalantly walked away, joining the crowd in the excitement over the Apple family's caramel apple pies.
Later, after school had let out for the day, Sweetie Belle was with Rarity at the Carousel Boutique. While Rarity was working with a client downstairs, Sweetie Belle was upstairs, looking for more bits. She looked on dressers, on desks, under fabrics, in Opal's litter box, which she disagreed with, and inside drawers. While she was looking, she opened a drawer filled with jeweled barrettes. She looked at them, admiring the beautiful colors that bedazzled the entire drawer. As she scanned over the barrettes, she looked at one in particular: a deep blue sapphire that matched the Ponycific ocean on a bright, clear day. She picked it up and stared at the beautiful gem as it sparkled in the light of the room. Unable to resist such a thing a beauty, she stuck it into her pouch with the bits and the ribbon from school.
As she closed the coin pouch of stolen valuables, she heard a commotion outside. Curious, she trotted over to a window and looked down to see a stallion in the street, attacking a helpless changeling. Twilight, Starlight, and Mayor Mare were also there, trying to get the stallion under control and diffuse the situation as the stallion continued pummeling the changeling, who was desperately trying to escape. Finally, Twilight and Starlight were able to grab a hold of the stallion and restrain him as Mayor Mare quickly pulled the now traumatized changeling. Still erratic, the stallion fought the two friends as they struggled to hold him.
“Sir, you're coming with us!” Twilight said, sternly. “That Soar has turned you into a menace!”
Sweetie Belle watched all this from the window, growing concerned about her own use. After all, her desperation to get more has led her to stealing money from her friends, and now she was starting to go into petty theft! But maybe this guy wasn't using his Soar quite right, and that caused him to lose his cool. She walked into the guest room where she sleeps while staying with her sister, and sat on the bed, setting her saddle bag right next to her and pulling out a half-empty vial of Soar. She sat back against her pillows as she opened the vial and poured a drop of the fiery substance into her hoof. She then held her head back as her vision came into view. It was the same as always, but Sweetie Belle noticed that something was different: the singing teddy bears were starting to sing a little off-key, the cheery clouds were starting to sound a little cheesy, and the dancing butterflies were starting to lose step.
The next day, as Sweetie Belle was returning home with another purchase of Soar, she met up with a very irked Apple Bloom and Scootaloo. Sweetie Belle was startled to see her friends there, as if they knew what she had been doing, which they did.
Scootaloo was the first to speak. “Sweetie Belle, we are very tired of watching you destroy yourself like this.”
“Aw, come on guys! I'm not doing anything harmful to myself! I'm perfectly fine!”
“Don't you know what just happened yesterday?” Apple Bloom asked in a firm voice. “A stallion was attacking a changeling who wasn't even doing anything! And it was confirmed that he was a Soar addict!”
“Well, he wasn't using it right! If he knew how to properly use it, he wouldn't--”
“I don't care about how it should be used!” Scootaloo snapped. “All I care is that you're actually using it in the first place, and you're making us be quiet about it!”
Sweetie Belle suddenly became agitated. “Did you guys tell somepony?! Did you forget that you both Pinkie--”
“No, we did not!” Apple Bloom shot back. “But we're getting this close too--”
At that moment, the girls were interrupted by a loud screeching sound. With their argument cut short, the three crusaders ran in the direction of the loud noise and ended up at the train station, where Princess Cadance, and her husband, Shining Armor, and their little daughter, Flurry Heart were just getting off the train, the littlest princess riding in a majestic stroller. Twilight was there to greet them, happy to see her relatives from the Crystal Empire, but having a serious tone in her voice, except for when speaking to little niece.
“I'm so glad you two came here. The rise in Soar addicts over the past few weeks has been getting out of hand!”
“We're glad to be here, too, Twilight,” Cadance said. “I will say, my aunts and I have noticed that there's been a real spike in cases being found here in Ponyville, of all places.”
“And the chaos that these addicts are creating seem to be getting more and more dangerous!” Twilight exclaimed. “Why, just yesterday, somepony was attacking a resident changeling, who was just feeding off a little puppy that he was playing with!”
Her brother and sister-in-law expressed shock when she gave this part of the message.
“But the biggest problem is that I can't find any patterns to even get an idea of where the Soar is coming from!”
“Don't worry, Twily,” Shining Armor reassured her. “We're gonna do everything we can to catch whoever's behind this.”
“Thank you,” Twilight said with a sigh as she and her relatives left the station.
“You see what we mean?” Apple Bloom asked Sweetie Belle. “This is what we're worried about!”
“Come on, guys,” Sweetie Belle groaned. “They're just making a big deal over nothing!”
“Sweetie Belle, didn't you hear what they were saying?!” Scootaloo asked. “These Soar addicts are becoming dangerous!”
“Well, maybe if ponies would just learn how to use it correctly, they wouldn't be facing this kind of trouble!”
“You're facing a lot of trouble, yourself, Sweetie Belle!” Apple Bloom snapped. “And you don't even see it!”
“Ugh! You guys are even giving this a chance!”
With that, Sweetie Belle stormed off.
Scootaloo sighed helplessly. “I don't know what to do with her, Apple Bloom. She's just-- not herself anymore.”
Apple Bloom, feeling helpless herself, could only watch her friend stomping away as tears filled her orange-colored eyes.
Meanwhile, Sweetie Belle was hiding behind a house closer to town. She sat down and pulled out a vial of her Soar, just getting ready to take another dose, when she looked up and saw a familiar face: the colt who had been selling the Soar to her was just making a trade with a grown-up pony, unaware that a regular customer was just nearby. As soon as the pony walked away with her own Soar, Sweetie Belle approached the colt.
The colt gasped in surprise, nearly dropping his new bits. He turned around, expecting to see an authoritative figure, but became relieved when it turned out to be somepony that he had met on a regular basis.
“Oh, it's you.”
“Yeah, sorry about that,” Sweetie Belle blushed. “I was just about to take a dose of that Soar you've been selling me and I just happened to see you making another sale.”
“Oh, yeah. Business has been going pretty well. It'd probably be going better if that meddling Princess Twilight would stop taking all of my customers to the hospital every time they use it wrong.”
“You know, after all the times we've been getting together, we've never even gotten each other's names.”
The colt's eyes widened. He had never shared his name before, in case one of his customers decided to rat on him. Then again, this filly was pretty trust worthy.
“Oh, of course.” He chuckled nervously, as Sweetie Belle started getting friendly with him.
“I'm Sweetie Belle.”
The colt hesitated.
“What's you're name?”
After contemplating for a moment, he finally told her.
“Uh, High Fall. My name is High Fall.”
“Hi, High Fall. You wanna sit over here for a minute. I mean, I'm sure you have to get home soon, but maybe we can hang out for a little bit.”
“Um, sure. We can hang out.”
Sweetie Belle and High Fall sat down behind the house where Sweetie Belle was hiding.
“So, do you do this often? I mean, I see you pretty frequently, so I know you've got a lot of Soar in your possession.”
“Well, it helps me put more money in the piggy bank. Actually, it makes more than what allowance I get for doing chores around the house.”
“Yeah, parents don't really give that much when they want to reward you for doing stuff like cleaning your room. So how'd you even get into this business?”
High Fall thought for a second. “Well I met this gang of ponies in Canterlot who specialize in making and selling drugs all over Equestria. One of their specialties happened to be Soar, 'cause the plant that they get it from grows all over their property, and their place has just the perfect conditions for it. They offered me a sample of it, and after I saw all the cool effects, I was totally ready to make a purchase. But then, they talked about what a big seller it is, so I ended up buying a whole case, some of it I used for myself, and some I'd sell so that I could make more profits. Business ended up going so well that I was able to buy more cases, and it just took off from there.”
Sweetie Belle sighed. “My friends won't get off my back about my using it. They think I'm gonna hurt myself by using this stuff.”
High Fall laughed. “Hey, my mom has no idea about my business. I have a special hiding place where I like to keep all the Soar I purchase, and as long as she never finds out about it, she'll never know what I'm doing, so she doesn't worry.” He paused for a second. “Your friends didn't tell anypony, did they?”
“No. I made them promise not to, and I've been reminding them that they made this promise.”
“Well, in that case, keep it up. Do whatever you can to keep their mouths shut. We don't want anymore trouble.”
Sweetie Belle nodded. And with that nod, she and High Fall dropped some Soar into their hooves and leaned against the house. Sweetie Belle took a deep breath and went into her vision, where she finds that her teddy bears are even more off-key and seem to have lost rhythm, the cheers of the clouds are sounding more lazy, and the butterflies have become clumsy.
Three days later, the royal family still had no luck in locating any dealers. The lack of progress made the trio grow increasingly frustrated. They decided to meet in the middle of town.
“Okay, this is getting ridiculous!” Twilight growled. “How can we not find anything?!”
“I know,” Cadance sighed. “It feels like whoever's doing this is always at least one step ahead of us!”
Just a few feet away, Sweetie Belle was lounging behind another house, having just passed the effects of another dose of Soar. She peeked out around the corner to see the princesses and prince in the middle of town as Starlight Glimmer arrives with Flurry Heart, who was having her formula for lunch, and a large bag of baby supplies. The sight of Flurry Heart seemed to brighten the group. Sweetie Belle, feeling groggy, decided to check out what the royals were talking about, so she stood up and, on wobbly legs, walked over to them, trying not to be noticed.
“I have to say, this has been about as difficult as when Celestia asked me to increase security after Queen Chrysalis sent that threat.” Shining Armor commented. “I don't think I've ever had to search this much for anything.”
“Even for your saddle bag every first day of school” Twilight joked.
“Come on, Twily, my room wasn't that messy.”
“Sure. I could tell from the smell of that pizza crust that you lost among your pile of books. I can still remember how mom use to complain about that garbage smell.”
“It was just one crust!”
“There was still some cheese on it.”
“Oh, cut it, Twily!”
“Come on, guys, we can't lose our focus here!” Cadance finally said. “There's a Soar dealer around here, and we have to find out how we are going to be able to catch him.”
“How are we going to do that if we don't even know who the dealer is, or even if he's alone?” Twilight asked.
As the group talked, Sweetie Belle searched them for more bits, making sure that she doesn't get noticed. She soon found herself having no luck, but when she looked up, she saw that Starlight was feeding Flurry Heart with a crystal baby bottle. She stared at it, marveling at what she believed was the most beautiful baby bottle she had ever seen.
“Maybe if we can find a trail, we can probably track this pony down,” Starlight suggested.
“That might work if there was a set path to follow,” Cadance told her. “But it seems the cases are pretty scattered, and we don't know if he's gotten to anypony else recently.”
“Ugh. I just want to get this over with,” Twilight complained.
At that moment, Flurry Heart finished her bottle and was showing signs of discomfort.
“Whoops!” Starlight exclaimed. “Looks like somepony's got a little gas.”
She lifted the little filly onto her shoulder and gave her a firm patting on the back. After a few gentle blows, Flurry Heart let out a small, yet loud burp.
“Ooh, excuse you!” Twilight said in a playful voice.
“Aww, does that make you feel better?” Shining Armor cooed as Flurry Heart started getting playful. “I'm sure it does.”
Cadance and Starlight laughed as Shining Armor tickled the tiny princess. Starlight took the now empty bottle and slipped it back into the bag, only to notice that something was off.
“Um, Princess Cadance, didn't you have six bottles in here?”
“Well, it looks like there's one missing, not including the one that I was just using.”
Cadance looked in the bag. “Huh. That's strange. I thought for sure I brought one more.”
Scootaloo and Apple Bloom arrived at the clubhouse. As they went to open the door, they had a strange sense of discomfort.
“Um, are you feeling as nervous as I am?” Apple Bloom asked.
“I'm sure it's just because of what Sweetie Belle's been going through lately,” Scootaloo responded.
“Yeah, maybe.” Apple Bloom's voice was downtrodden.
She opened the door, and to her and Scootaloo's surprise, Sweetie Belle was sitting in the back of the clubhouse, looking like she was sucking on something. The two friends took a closer look at her and saw that wasn't looking so good.
“Sweetie Belle?” Apple Bloom gasped. “You look awful! Are you alright?”
“Oh, sure. Why wouldn't I be?” Sweetie Belle's voice slurred and wobbled as she spoke.
Apple Bloom walked toward her, her concern for her friend turning to aggravation. “Sweetie Belle, you don't even see what you're doing to yourself! That Soar has made you--” She stopped as soon as she was what it was that Sweetie Belle was sucking on. “Sweetie Belle, is that-- a baby bottle?!”
Sweetie Belle pulled the bottle out of her mouth. “Isn't it just the prettiest thing you've ever seen? It belonged to a princess from the Crystal Empire, and once I found this treasure, I just couldn't resist having it for myself.”
It didn't take long for Apple Bloom to realize where Sweetie Belle got the bottle.
“Sweetie Belle, you stole a bottle from Flurry Heart?! How could you steal something from royalty?! And from a royal baby of all ponies!”
Scootaloo hurried in to see the evidence and was shocked to see that she was, indeed, using a crystal baby bottle from a baby princess.
“Aw, man! Please tell me this is the first time you stole something from somepony!”
“Nope. I also have the sparkliest hair ribbon from a rich filly's purse, and a barrette from my beautiful sister. And I even took lots and lots of money from lots and lots of ponies.”
“Ugh! Sweetie Belle, this is getting serious! I mean, we figured you would be stealing money for the Soar, but now you've gone into petty theft! How could you let this get this bad?!”
Sweetie Belle wasn't listening. She was off in her fantasy land. “Heh, heh. I think that butterfly missed a step.”
“Okay, I think this has gone on for too long already!” said Scootaloo. “I think it's about time we get somepony to help!”
“The cheery clouds are-- Wait. What?” Sweetie Belle started to snap out of her loopy state. “No! You can't! You Pinkie Promised!”
“We have to, Sweetie Belle. You're getting worse every moment that we wait!”
“No! No, please! You can't!” Sweetie Belle rolled onto her belly, and hugged her friends' legs. Her voice became whiny. “Please, don't! You Pinkie Promised!”
“Come on, Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom said, trying to pull her leg away. “It's the only way you're gonna get out of this.”
“Please! Please, don't! Please!” Sweetie Belle started to cry. “Please! Don't tell anypony! You Pinkie Promised! Please!”
“Seriously, Sweetie Belle,” Scootaloo started. “We can't let this--”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at each other, and finally relented.
“Okay, Sweetie Belle,” Scootaloo sighed. “We'll keep our Pinkie Promise.”
Sweetie Belle looked up with tears still in her eyes. She let go of her friends' legs, and lifted herself a little bit, relieved that her friends finally agreed to keep her secret.
Scootaloo picked up the baby bottle from the floor. “But, we're taking this back to Cadance and Shining Armor.”
She and Apple Bloom walked out of the clubhouse as Sweetie Belle rolled onto her side and leaned up against the wall. As they left the clubhouse, Scootaloo looked at the half-empty bottle and became curious. It had been years since she had drank anything from a baby bottle. The closest she came in recent events was when Pinkie Pie made a giant baby bottle out of balloons in her effort to keep the news about Flurry Heart's coming a secret, and shoved it into her mouth. That was an awkward moment. Scootaloo decided to find out what this stuff tasted like, so she stuck the nipple into her mouth and began to suck on it.
Apple Bloom looked at her with a confused expression on her face. “You're actually tasting it?”
Apple Bloom snorted and shook her head. “You and your curiosity.”
Scootaloo continued to suck on the nipple of the bottle until she was able to get enough of the formula to get a taste. As soon as the flavor of the formula finally registered, her eyes widened in shock. She quickly spewed the milky liquid out and continued sputtering in disgust.
“Blah! How can babies stand this stuff?! This is probably the worst thing I've ever tasted!”
Apple Bloom laughed at her.
“I'm serious, Apple Bloom! This stuff is nasty! I mean, what are we feeding our babies?!”
As Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked for Cadance and Shining Armor, Apple Bloom was holding her head low. She was thinking of her friend, who was hurting herself right before her and Scootaloo's eyes, and wasn't letting them help her. She closed her burning eyes, struggling not to cry, and not doing a very good job of it. Scootaloo looked at her and noticed Apple Bloom's fruitless fight against raging tears.
“You tired of holding Sweetie Belle's secret and letting her destroy herself, Apple Bloom?”
Apple Bloom rubbed her eyes, trying to cheat. “Uh-huh. I don't know how much longer I can let this go on.” Her method of cheating wasn't working very well.
“Yeah, me too,” Scootaloo said, wrapping her hoof around the yellow Earth Pony. “I just wish I knew what to do to.”
At that moment, Pinkie Pie bounced by. She was looking around at her surroundings, enjoying the sunny day, when she spotted the two fillies, looking blue amongst the bright landscape. She decided to go over to them to see if she could right whatever wrong was bothering them.
“Hey, you guys! Why the long faces? Normally, you two would be out with Sweetie Belle, trying to find something fun to do and somepony with a cutie mark problem!”
Scootaloo looked up at the pink pony, hoping that she'd be able to help them.
“Well, Apple Bloom and I are trying to keep a secret for somepony, but this secret could cause us to lose them, whether we reveal it or not.”
Apple Bloom sniffled and wiped her tears. “We really want to tell somepony about it, but then we'd lose their trust. But on the other hand, if we don't tell, we could lose them entirely!”
Pinkie thought for a minute. “You two didn't happen to Pinkie Promise that you'd keep this promise, did you?”
“Yes. Yes, we did,” Scootaloo sighed.
“Ohh.” Pinkie realized just how serious the situation was. Being the inventor of the Pinkie Promise, she knew that this one promise that you would not want to break, especially when that promise was made to her. However, she had an idea:
“Well, there is a way to get out of a Pinkie Promise.”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked up at her with shocked, yet hopeful expressions.
“All you have to do is go through this quick process.”
Pinkie pulled a red pen from out of her mane and drew a cross on both of their chests. Then she stuck the pen back into her mane, picked up the two fillies, and tossed them up into the air.
Pinkie grabbed a feathered mattress from out of nowhere and used it to catch them so that they didn't have to hit the ground. Then she pulled two cupcakes from her mane and smashed them onto their eyes.
“Okie-dokie-lokie! You two are now officially released from your Pinkie Promise! Now you can go tell anypony you want!”
“Oh, thank you, Pinkie Pie,” said Apple Bloom as the pink mare skipped away, singing merrily.
But, as Pinkie went out of hearing range, Scootaloo turned to Apple Bloom. “I think I've got frosting in my eye.”
Meanwhile, back at the clubhouse, Sweetie Belle was still laying where Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had left her. Although she was successful in getting her friends to feel sympathy for her and agree to keep her secret, she was feeling unhappy. Her most recent dose had taken her to the same place in her visions, except now the teddy bears were singing badly out of tune, the clouds' cheers had become slow and lethargic, and the butterflies were constantly slamming into each other. What was worse, everything in her vision seemed to be staring at her with unsettling smiles. Sweetie Belle looked down at the ground, almost wishing that she hadn't been so adamant that her friends keep their Pinkie Promise to not tell anypony about her addiction. She thought about the ride that had lead her up to this point, from the moment that she broke her vow to not even try it on the very day that vow was made, to her friends' first discovery of her new-found “fun” and her first demands that they Pinkie Promise to keep it hush-hush, to the moment she discovered her piggy bank empty and stole her first bits from her own mother, to the day that she found Diamond Tiara's hair ribbon and took it from her purse without letting her know, to now, laying on the floor, feeling sick and worthless, no longer finding the effects of the Soar fun.
She finally decided that she had had enough and wanted to do something about it. She stood up, fighting the urge to upchuck, and staggered toward the door. As she opened it, sunlight shined in her face and she took a deep breath of the fresh air.
Maybe I can tell Twilight about all this. After all, she's been looking all over Ponyville for the dealer that's been selling Soar all over town, and she's helped every other addict in the area. I just hope she doesn't get mad at me. I don't care if High Fall does.
As she stepped off the ramp that lead up to the clubhouse, she felt a sudden sense of danger, having never passed that last dose of Soar. Taking a deep breath and mustering up some courage, she walked away from the clubhouse.
As she walked through Ponyville, Sweetie Belle looked around at her surroundings. The trip to Twilight's castle felt much scarier than usual, as the Soar was now turning against her, as if it hadn't already. As she walked, she found herself being surrounded by angry teddy bears, large snakes, and giant spiders. Although Sweetie Belle knew that these creatures were imaginary, she was still afraid of them, remembering the pony who was fighting off windigos that only she could see. She worried that one wrong move would get one of these scary creatures to hurt her. She stepped lightly as she continued on her way to Twilight's castle.
However, other ponies in the area noticed Sweetie Belle, walking through Ponyville on wobbly legs, looking around, nervously, as if she was expecting something to jump out and grab her. As they watched the little filly going through town, some of them began to speculate what might be going on with her. Was she sick? Was there somepony after her? Did she see something? Was she hypnotized? Was this some sort of trance? As Sweetie Belle looked to one side, she suddenly jumped with a startled yelp at the sight of an imaginary spider, just off to the side of her path. She backed away from it, and cautiously walked around it, keeping her eyes on it until she was on the other side, and continued on her way. This strange behavior shocked the witnessing ponies, who only saw a filly jumping at the sight of nothing and walking around it, and it brought about another speculation: Was she another Soar addict?
Sweetie Belle continued walking toward the castle, avoiding the frightening creatures that were in her way, threatening to attack her, and trying to keep her balance as she took each step. Finally, after what felt like a long and treacherous trip, she made it to Twilight's castle. She dragged herself up the stairs, and knocked on the door.
“Hello? Twilight? I need to talk to you!”
The door opened, and Spike, holding a wet mop, stepped out from behind it. He took one look at Sweetie Belle and noticed that something didn't look right.
“Sweetie Belle? Man, you look terrible. Are you alright?”
“No. I'm not alright.”
Spike's concern increased as he let her in. “Well, what's wrong? Is there anything I can do?”
Sweetie Belle didn't answer his question. Instead, she asked him one of her own. “Is Twilight here? I need her right away.”
“Uh, Twilight's still out, looking for the Soar dealer. I'm not sure she's gonna be back until--”
Sweetie Belle suddenly became distressed and started crying. “But I need her now! I can't wait for her! I need her now!”
“Well, I don't know what to tell you, Sweetie Belle. Just tell me what's going on, and maybe I can help.”
Sweetie Belle became whiny. “I need her now!”
Starlight Glimmer heard the commotion from another room and came out to investigate.
“What's going on out here? I just got Flurry Heart to sleep in her cradle.”
“I don't know,” Spike told her. “Something's wrong with Sweetie Belle, but it seems she only wants to tell Twilight about it. What's worse, she wants her here right now.”
“I need her! I need her! I need her now!” Sweetie Belle's cries were becoming more desperate as she laid on the floor, feeling helpless.
Starlight trotted in and held Sweetie Belle up. She looked into her tear-filled eyes and saw that her pupils were dilated. Concerned, she held her head up.
“Sweetie Belle, is there anything I can do? I can't help you if you won't tell me what's wrong.”
“No, no! I need Twilight! I need Twilight! She's the only pony who can help me! I need her now-- AAH!” Sweetie Belle ducked as an imaginary snake tried to bite her from behind.
Seeing Sweetie Belle behaving so strangely, Starlight became increasingly concerned. There was only one thing she could think of doing.
“Spike, I think you'd better send a message to Twilight and tell her to get here right away.”
“I'm on it!” Spike grabbed a scroll and quill, on the scroll, rolled it up, and breathed fire onto it, sending off. He then went back to Starlight to help console the hysterical filly.
Meanwhile, just outside Ponyville, Twilight, Cadance, and Shining Armor were scanning the are, looking for any clues, though mostly coming up fruitless. As they were looking, Twilight was met by Spike's firemail.
“What's this?” she wondered aloud. She opened the scroll and took a look at the message, and then groaned.
“What's wrong?” asked Cadance.
“Ugh, Sweetie Belle's at my castle, and it seems she has some sort of crisis that requires me to be there right away.”
“Now?” asked Shining Armor. “But we're in the middle of a very important hunt!”
“I know, but if I'm needed at this very minute, it'd better be serious. You guys keep looking. I'll be back as soon as I can.”
Twilight flew off back to her castle.
Back at the castle, Sweetie Belle was still whining and crying, desperate for Twilight. Starlight and Spike were growing increasingly concerned for her.
“This is ridiculous!” said Spike. “She's never acted this baby-ish before!”
“Honestly, Sweetie Belle,” said Starlight. “What has gotten into you?”
“I need Twilight! I need Twilight!” Sweetie Belle was not giving any relent.
Finally, Twilight showed up and was shocked at what she saw.
“What in Equestria is going on in here?!”
Sweetie Belle looked up at her, and almost immediately, she stood up and ran to her, dodging an imaginary spider that was in her way, and clung to Twilight's body, sobbing in relief.
“I've had enough. I've had enough. I want to stop. I've had enough.”
“Enough of what? What's wrong, Sweetie Belle?”
Sweetie Belle tried to talk, but she was crying so much, she couldn't get a word out. Twilight decided to take Sweetie Belle into another room to talk to her in private. She held Sweetie Belle close and walked her into a nearby room, then got herself down to her level.
“Sweetie Belle, I want to help you, but you have to calm down first. Okay? 'Cause I can't help you if you can't tell me what's going on. Can you calm down for me?”
Sweetie Belle tried to calm down, but something was making it harder than usual. She didn't know what, but she just couldn't gt herself to the point where she could say anything.
“Sweetie Belle, try taking a deep breath. You're gonna be fine. Just take a deep breath and calm down.”
The breath the Sweetie Belle took was shaky, but she breathed in as deeply as she could. She soon found herself calming down to the point where she felt ready to speak. She started by getting straight to the point.
“I-I'm an-- addict.”
Twilight was taken aback. “What?”
“I'm an addict. I met this colt near my home who convinced me to try a sample of this stuff, and I was instantly hooked on it and ended up buying more of it from him. I even spent my entire allowance on it, but when I realized that I was out of money, I started stealing bits from my friends and family, including you. And, just recently, I started getting into petty theft. I stole a hair ribbon from one of my classmates, I stole a barrette from Rarity, and I even stole one of Flurry Heart's baby bottles. When I first started using this stuff, I found it really fun. It gave me visions of a land with singing teddy bears, cheery clouds, and dancing butterflies, which was beautiful at first, but overtime, the singing teddy bears lost their tune, the cheery clouds were losing their cheery-ness, and the dancing butterflies became clumsy and were even slamming into each other. It eventually got to the point where the vision became unsettling, and not very much fun at all. Now I'm seeing angry teddy bears, large snakes, and giant spiders everywhere. The only other ponies who knew about my doing this are Apple Bloom and Scootaloo, but I made them Pinkie Promise not to say anything about it, and I kept reminding them about it every time they try to address my problem. But, now I wish they hadn't Pinkie Promised. I wish they would break it already! I want to stop! I want to stop!”
Twilight kept Sweetie Belle from losing herself again. “It's okay, Sweetie Belle. I'm glad you came to your senses to say something. This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and I will do everything I can to make sure you get the help that you need, and to find this colt that's been selling you this stuff. But tell me, what is this stuff that you've been taking, anyway?”
Sweetie Belle hesitated for a second, but after mustering up a little courage, she breathed in, and spoke.
“It's-- It's-- It's-- --Soar!”
Twilight was shocked. The Soar epidemic had gotten to one of her youngest friends!
They came running in.
“I need you to get Rarity, Cookie Crumble, and Hondo Flanks at once! Meet me and Sweetie Belle at Ponyville Hospital!”
“But what about Flurry Heart?” asked Spike. “We can't leave her here by herself!”
“Then take her with you! Hurry!”
Twilight swept Sweetie Belle up onto her back, to which she clung to, and the three castle residents departed.
Meanwhile, back on Sweet Apple Acres, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo found Applejack working on a little piglet that had gotten himself tangled in the wired fence.
“Hold still, sugar cube!” she said to the squirming little creature. “You're not going to get out if you keep moving around like this!”
She finally removed the wire from the little pig's body.
“There you go. Now go on and join your brothers and sisters.”
The piglet scurried off, happy to finally be free of his trap.
At that moment, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were right behind Applejack.
“Um, Applejack, can we talk to you for a minute?” Apple Bloom asked her sister.
“Sure thing, little sis. What can I do you for?”
The two fillies were hesitant at first, but they eventually mustered up the courage to speak up.
“Well, it's about Sweetie Belle,” Scootaloo started. “We think she's in real trouble.”
“Hmm,” the orange mare said. “Judging from the initial hesitation, I'm guessing she's been doing something that she shouldn't. Is it serious?”
“Is it? She's been hurting herself and making us be quiet about it!” Apple Bloom exclaimed.
Applejack became worried. “What is it that Sweetie Belle's been doing that she doesn't want anypony else to know about?”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at each other, having another bought of hesitation, then Apple Bloom sighed.
“She's doing Soar. She's gotten herself so hooked on it that she's been stealing money for it, and it's lead her to petty theft. She even made us Pinkie Promise not to say anything!”
Applejack quickly stood up and galloped off the farm as Apple Bloom and Scootaloo followed.
“Applejack, where are we headed?!” Apple Bloom puffed as she ran.
“Off to find Rarity!” Applejack told her, not stopping. “She has to know about this! If her sister is using that Soar stuff, she's gonna need--”
Before she knew it, Applejack crashed right into Rarity, who was with Spike and Flurry Heart, and in a hurry herself.
“Oh, pardon me, Rarity, but I have something to tell--”
“No time to talk now!” Rarity yelled frantically. “I have to get to the hospital! I've just gotten word that my dear Sweetie Belle is addicted to Soar!”
As she leaped over Applejack and ran off toward the Ponyville hospital, Spike following close behind, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo exchanged confused looks.
“She was so adamant that we--”
“Well, what happened?”
Applejack, who was just as puzzled, snapped out of her confusion and followed her friends.
“Come on, gals! No time to puzzle over this! Sweetie Belle's gonna need all the support she can get!”
With that, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo followed her.
Twilight carried Sweetie Belle to her hospital room. She was about to lay her down under the sheet on the bed when Sweetie Belle yelped.
“What? What is it?”
“Giant spider! There's a giant spider under that sheet!”
“It's okay, Sweetie Belle! Calm down! It's just the Soar making you see things.”
Sweetie Belle was still shaking, and could still see the spider under the sheet, but she trusted Twilight, and knew that she wouldn't let anything hurt her, so she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let her lay her down and cover her. Once all that was done, Sweetie Belle opened her eyes, and once she saw that the spider really wasn't there, she breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed.
As soon as she was settled, a nurse came in with a check board.
“Okay, Sweetie Belle, is it?”
“Yeah, that's me.”
“And I understand from Princess Twilight that you've admitted to being on Soar, am I right?”
Sweetie Belle, feeling a bit embarrassed, pulled out a half-empty vial of Soar. The nurse took it and looked closely at it.
“Uh-huh. That's Soar alright. And how long as this been going on?”
“Uh, I don't know, exactly. It's been quite a few weeks.”
“That's alright. At least we have an idea. So what got you into this stuff?”
“Well, I met this colt who convinced me to try a sample, and it just took off from there. I actually spent my entire allowance on getting more, and ended up resorting to stealing money from my friends and family.”
“Hmm. That's pretty serious. Does anypony else know about this?”
“Just two of my friends, but I made them promise not to tell anypony, and even held them to that promise.”
The nurse raised an eyebrow, intrigued by this answer. “And what finally convinced you to open up about it?”
“Well, the Soar gave me some visions of singing teddy bears, cheery clouds, and dancing butterflies. At first, it was really cool, and I wanted to see it as often as possible. But overtime, the visions just went from fun to creepy. It eventually got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore.”
“Well, I'm glad that you came to your senses about this. Most of the addicts that come in here are erratic, and just try to fight off any help that they get. They don't even give us any information, so you're pretty much the first pony in here to give us anything useful.”
Sweetie Belle smiled, happy to be in good hooves. But as she was starting to feel safe, her family entered the room, along with Starlight, Spike (holding Flurry Heart), Applejack, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo. Her parents and sister were overwhelmed with concern.
“Sweetie Belle, what happened?”
“How did you get into Soar?”
“Where did you find it?”
“Why did you even try it?”
“Was it something we did?”
“How long has this been going on?”
Feeling overwhelmed with the oncoming questions, Sweetie Belle sank down underneath her sheet. She didn't like having her family fussing over her like this, and wished that they'd stick to one question at a time. However, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo came up to her, more shocked than anything, with questions of their own.
“Sweetie Belle, we can't believe you told somepony!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “You were so insistent that the Soar was safe, and that we kept our muzzles shut about it!”
“What in Equestria happened that made you decide to tell yourself?!” Apple Bloom asked. “I mean did you get caught and had to fess up?”
“Well, no,” Sweetie Belle said, softly as she blushed awkwardly. “My visions just got a little too creepy for me, and it just wasn't fun for me anymore. Plus, the teddy bears kinda became hostile, and the clouds and butterflies got replaced with large snakes and giant spiders.”
“Well, Pinkie Pie broke me and Scootaloo off our Pinkie Promise so that we could tell Applejack about it, only to find out that Rarity had already gotten the news.”
Sweetie Belle sighed. “Why couldn't she have done that when I was early in the addiction?”
The three fillies looked at each other with smiles on their faces for a moment, then they busted up laughing.
Spike turned to the nurse. “You should've seen her when she wanted to fess up! She actually believed that Princess Twilight was the only pony who could help her with this, and when she wasn't available right away, she was practically crying like a baby!”
Offended, Flurry Heart scowled at her dragon uncle.
“Uh, no offense. Anyway, she has never acted this way before, so Starlight Glimmer and I knew that something was wrong!”
Just then, at that very moment, another nurse came in.
“Princess Twilight, there's a mare in the waiting room looking for you. She's really hoping for your help.”
Surprised, Twilight trotted out to meet this mare. She found her anxiously pacing back and forth in the waiting room.
“Uh, can I help you?”
“Oh, Princess Twilight, can you help me? My son's run away from home, and I think he's upset that I discovered his stash of Soar!”
“Do you have any photos of him?”
“Yes! Here! He's the smallest colt in the photo!”
Twilight took the photo and looked at it. “Hmm. And what's your son's name?”
“High Fall. His name is High Fall.”
Twilight thought for a minute. “You know, I think I know somepony who might be able to help. Mind if I show this photo to somepony here?”
“Oh, yes! Please do!”
Twilight took the photo to Sweetie Belle with the mare following.
“Sweetie Belle, do you happen to know a colt name High Fall?”
“High Fall? Yeah, that's the colt that's been selling me the Soar.”
The mare was shocked. “Selling?!”
“And does this look like the colt in question?”
Twilight showed Sweetie Belle the photo.
“Yes, that's him! He's this colt here!” Sweetie Belle looked up at the mare. “Are you his mother? What happened?”
“I found his secret stash, and he lashed out at me and ran off! I couldn't even keep up with him!”
Sweetie Belle gasped. “I think I know where he is! There's a rock just outside of Ponyville where we meet whenever he sold me more Soar!”
Twilight gasped. “That's the information I need! Applejack, I'm gonna need your dog! We've got a colt to find! Ma'am, do you have anything that might have his sent on it?”
The mare gave Twilight High Fall's trench coat.
“High Fall likes to wear this everywhere he goes. He stores his belongings in it.”
“Thanks. This will be a big help.”
And with that, she and Applejack hurried out of the room.
The nurse picked up an IV needle. “Okay, Miss Sweetie Belle, the medicine in this bag will help clear up the Soar in your system. Once we get this in you, your hallucinations will clear right up. Are you ready?”
Sweetie Belle looked up at an angry teddy bear that was standing just outside the doorway, glaring at her in a threatening manner. She took a deep breath.
“Yes. Yes, I'm ready.”
The nurse took the needle and, as Sweetie Belle watched the imaginary bear, stuck it into her foreleg. As soon as the medicine started flowing into her veins, Sweetie Belle watched as the angry teddy bear vanished into thin air.
“Wow! That was fast!”
“Is that better?” the nurse asked, smiling.
Sweetie Belle nodded happily. “Yes. That's much better.”
Twilight and Applejack ran out of the hospital and hurried to find Cadance and Shining Armor with Applejack taking a detour to get her dog, Winona. When they finally found them, they were still coming up empty on clues.
“Cadance! Shining Armor! I've just gotten some new development on this Soar dealer! His name is High Fall, and he's this colt here!” She showed them the photo and pointed to High Fall.
“He's that young?” Cadance asked in surprise.
“Yes, and he's just been busted by his own mother, only to disappear on her, and we've just discovered that he's been selling the Soar all over Ponyville, and Sweetie Belle has just confessed that she's one of his customers, which was why I was needed right away!”
“Well, how do we find him now?” Shining Armor asked.
“Not to worry, y'all!” Applejack bragged. “Winona's gonna sniff him out, and we even have an idea of where he might be: he usually hides behind a rock to sell his product to young'uns in secret! You ready Winona?”
Winona barked and wagged her tail. Applejack presented the trench coat to her, allowing her to sniff it, and she brought her nose to the ground, looking for a match. Applejack let her go to search for the sent on the coat. After a moment or so, Winona picked up on a trail and quickened her pace. The four ponies, knowing what this meant, followed her.
It didn't take long before Winona lifted her head for a second, having smelled something in the air, compared it to the sent on the ground, and knew that what they were looking for was in the area. She took off running, barking excitedly, and the four ponies behind her hurried to keep up. They finally came upon the rock where High Fall and Sweetie Belle got together to make their exchanges. Winona ran around to the other side of the rock, looked down at the ground, and whimpered.
“I don't like the looks of that,” Applejack commented.
She and Twilight went around the rock and looked at what Winona had found. What they saw made their hearts drop. Twilight lifted a hoof and held onto it for a few seconds before looking at Applejack with sad eyes that only told her one thing. Applejack sighed and removed her hat.
Sweetie Belle cried Twilight told her what they had found. She had her legs pulled up and her face buried into them, soaking the sheet with her tears. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo hugged her, comfortingly, trying to console her.
“It's not your fault Sweetie Belle,” Apple Bloom said softly. “Even if we had decided to tell sooner, it probably would've happened anyway.”
“I know,” Sweetie Belle croaked out. “It's just that-- it-- it--” She sobbed. “It could've been me!”
“Hey, come on now, Sweetie Belle,” Scootaloo whispered. “At least you were able to speak up before it actually was you. Maybe he could've been saved if we had said something sooner.”
Apple Bloom glared at her.
“Uh, but there's really no guarantee.”
Sweetie Belle raised her head back up and wiped her eyes.
“Well, even if those visions weren't so creepy, I'm going to make a vow. A real vow, this time. From now on, no more Soar! I vow to never take another dose of Soar or any drug ever again in my for the rest of my life!”
“Oh, Sweetie Belle, I'm afraid that's not all that easy,” Rarity told her. “After all, just confessing to being an addict does not solve the problem; it is only the first step. In the meantime, though, you are still an addict, and you can still end up taking another dose of that Soar without even thinking about it."
Sweetie Belle lowered her head as her ears drooped. She thought that all you had to do to stop being an addict was to just stop taking whatever it was that you are addicted to, but it seemed that simply stopping wasn't enough.
“But, don't worry,” Rarity continued. “The doctors will make sure that you get all the help that you need.”
“And we'll be there to support you!” Apple Bloom adds.
“That's right!” Scootaloo exclaims. “Cross our hearts, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in our eye!” She did a slight winking. “Ugh. I can still feel the frosting in mine.”
Sweetie Belle giggled. “Just make sure that you keep that promise.”
Apple Bloom and Scootaloo joined in the giggles.
At that moment, High Fall's mother walked in, just wiping away the last of her tears.
“I am so sorry that my son got you into something so illegal and dangerous. I had no idea he was doing anything like that.”
“That's okay, Mrs. Fall,” Sweetie Belle said. “I'm just sorry I couldn't save him.”
“Oh, he was always defiant. He probably wouldn't have wouldn't have followed through with any kind of help. All I can do is hope that his story will help other ponies to avoid going down the same path he went down.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
Applejack came into the room with some good news.
“Well, it appears that High Fall has done more good than just providing a cautionary tale. Princess Cadance found a business card on him that gives some information on a company of Soar dealers that specialize in making drugs of all sorts and dealing them all over Equestria, with Soar being their specialty. Princess Twilight has just contacted Princesses Celestia and Luna so that the ponies involved can be taken care of.”
“Must be that gang that High Fall told me about," Sweetie Belle commented. "They told him that Soar is one of their biggest sellers, especially since everything they need is on their land.”
“Are the princesses going to make sure that these ponies pay for what they did to my son?” High Fall's mother asked.
“Not to worry, ma'am,” said Applejack. “Them dealers are gonna get what-for for what happened here, and the princesses will make sure that they put a stop to all this madness.”
Meanwhile, in a remote part of Canterlot, a small cabin with an outdoor furnace suddenly found itself surrounded by a large army of guards, with Shining Armor at the front. A small band of guards stormed the cabin, and a commotion resonated from inside, then moved outside as the guards dragged out a gang of angry ponies, who were trying to resist arrest.
Shining Armor presented himself to the gang.
“Fellas, your business not only defies the law of Equestria, but also has caused great harm to many a-pony, including a young colt who has been selling your products, and only recently was found on the ground after an overdose of the same product! There will be a hearing about this, and all of you will pay the price for the damage that you all have brought to your fellow ponies!”
As the guards dragged the gang away, one of them realized what Shining Armor was talking about.
“It's that Fall kid! I knew he couldn't be trusted!”
“How do you know it was him?!” another shouted at him. “It was your idea to give him one of our business cards!”
“Why did we even have a bunch of dumb cards for anyway?!” another demanded. “How's a pony suppose to remain discreet these days?!”
The next day, Rarity took Sweetie Belle to a support group with Scootaloo and Apple Bloom tagging along. As they entered the room where the group was getting together, Sweetie Belle looked around that the participants. She saw that, while there were a few foals, most of the ponies there were grown-up. She also recognized a couple of ponies: one of them was the mare who was fighting off windigos, and the other was the stallion who had attacked that changeling. She felt a sudden sense of shyness and hid her face into Rarity's side. Rarity gave her a comforting hug.
“Don't worry, darling. Your friends and I will be right here for you for these sessions.”
Scootaloo placed a hoof on her shoulder, showing her support. Sweetie Belle still felt a bit nervous, but knowing that she had good friends and a sister by her side made her feel more comfortable. She took her seat with Rarity, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo sat behind her, with Rarity rubbing Sweetie Belle's shoulders.
When the session started, the participants in the group started standing up and telling their stories about their experiences with Soar, and much to Sweetie Belle's surprise, almost everypony in the group had gotten their Soar from none other than High Fall, including the windigo mare, the stallion that fought off the queen snakes, and the changeling attacker.
When Sweetie Belle's turn came, another bought of shyness struck her. She looked back at her sister and friends, who gave her encouraging smiles. She took a deep breath, stood up, and told her story, finding that she was getting extra sympathy from the other ponies there. All that extra sympathy made Sweetie Belle feel pretty bashful, which showed as she blushed in front of the crowd.
“Don't worry, Sweetie, you're in fine company!” the windigo mare shouted, causing the entire group to laugh. With the ice broken, Sweetie Belle relaxed and finished her story, then sat back down as Apple Bloom and Scootaloo patted her on the shoulders. Sweetie Belle looked back at them and smiled.