“Are you ready?”
Sunset smiled and placed a hand on Twilight’s shoulder. “We've triple-checked every part, and the calculations are all perfect. We're as ready as we’ll ever be.”
“Yeah, but…” Twilight blinked, adjusted her glasses, then shook her head. “No, you're right. All that's left is to actually try.”
She began flipping switches, and the hulking machinery that dominated the lab began to hum their sterile melody as they booted up. “Initiating scan for dimensional anchor.”
Words flew past on the monitor before them, a barely comprehensible string of coordinates and variables. After about a minute, the computer chimed, and a set of coordinates blinked in and out.
“We've got one!” Twilight shouted, her eyes alight with the passion of science. She leaned closer, read the coordinates, then nodded. “We're locked on to a dimensional anchor. It's close. -7x, 23y, 40z, -19h.”
The system for measuring the distance between parallel realities was completely proprietary, developed by the joint efforts of both Twilights. It had all started with a simple question: can the portal to Equestria be used to visit other worlds instead? Further investigation determined that the answer was: no, but we might be able to build one that can.
“This is it.” Twilight took a deep breath. “All I have to do is pull this lever, and our machine should punch a hole through spacetime itself and lock in a way to travel to a completely new reality. What's the worst thing that could happen?”
“It fails catastrophically and kills us both in a fiery explosion, or worse, destroys the whole city, or maybe even the planet.”
Twilight swallowed, her face suddenly pale. “That's not very reassuring, Sunset.”
Sunset placed her hand on Twilight’s, both of them now holding onto the lever together. “It’ll be fine, Twilight. I promise.”
“I…” Twilight looked down at Sunset’s hand, then blushed furiously and looked away. “O-okay. I trust you, Sunset. We can do this together.”
It was hard for Sunset to suppress her grin. It was plain to anyone with a functioning pair of eyes that Twilight had a massive crush on her. It was cute, and Sunset didn't mind the attention. But she planned to wait for Twilight to fully sort out her feelings, gather her courage, and make the first move. If Sunset took the initiative, it would be far too easy to lead the besotted young scientist into something she wasn't really ready for.
Though teasing her a bit here and there was still devilishly fun.
Snapping her attention back to the project at hand, Sunset pulled her goggles down over her eyes. “Initiating dimensional transfer in three.”
Twilight bit her lip, her knuckles white as she squeezed the lever. “Two.”
They pulled down the lever together. More machinery whirred to life, and electricity began to crackle. Sunset could feel the power coursing through the air, an all too familiar sensation. This technology was built to mimic the effects of magic, after all.
Energy arced between the circular ring of metal on the central dais, the conduit for what would hopefully become the portal. The lights flickered, and the ground began to shake.
“It's going to work!” Twilight shouted, barely audible over the cacophony. “It has to!”
With a squeal and a snap of electricity, a sheet of smooth energy coalesced into place between the ring. It reflected the image of a dim laboratory, and two teenaged girls in lab coats.
“Is that really a portal?” Twilight asked, her eyes wide.
Sunset pulled a pen out of her pocket, and tossed it into the circle. It rippled, and the pen vanished. “Signs point to yes.”
“Yes! I knew we could do it! Come on, let's see what's on the other side!” Without wasting even a moment, Twilight dashed over to a nearby shelf, where she started booting up a little robot they had constructed for exactly this purpose, based on the design of something called the Mars Rover.
Joining the robot in its journey to the unknown was Archimedes the rat, who was obliviously munching on some snacks in the cage bolted to the back of the rover.
“Hey there little guy.” Sunset bent over to peer inside the cage. “You're about to go on quite the adventure. I really hope you make it through in one piece.”
Not just because of her own concern for the animal’s well being, but because Fluttershy would almost certainly murder the both of them if anything happened.
Or at the very least she’d cry a lot and give them a stern lecture.
“Energy readings are stable,” Twilight said as she futzed with the controls. “Begin expedition zero-one.”
Twilight flicked a switch, and some sort of bombastic classical music began to play as the rover inched its way forward. Sunset was positive she'd heard it in a movie before.
“Isn't this a bit much?” Sunset asked, raising an eyebrow.
Twilight blushed and looked away. “Wagner is always appropriate.”
Without further fanfare, the rover passed through the portal.
Sunset stretched, cracking her back. “Guess we just wait now, right?”
“Yeah. It's programmed to take some atmosphere and water samples, some pictures, then come back through. I won't be able to send it a signal across dimensional barriers.” Twilight paused, then scratched at her chin. “I bet we can figure that out though, with some more experimentation once we have ready access to both sides. Like your diary.”
“The magical principles involved aren't all that different from your theories on quantum entanglement,” Sunset said. She pulled out a chair from the wall and sat down, crossing her legs. “Of course, this all assumes that the portal didn't open up over a chasm of magma or at the bottom of the ocean.”
Twilight adjusted her glasses and shook her head. “You know it won't. The dimensional anchors it searches for and attaches a portal to are supposed to be in an environment that’s similar enough to earth, and more importantly, one that’s human-compatible..”
Rather than joining Sunset in leisure, Twilight returned to her computers. The sight of her hunched over a screen was all too familiar. “What do you think it's going to be like? I mean, it could be anything, right? Humans or ponies or dragons or elves and orcs or any number of fantastical creatures.”
Sunset kicked back, balancing the chair on two legs and resting her hands behind her head. “Personally, I'm hoping there's no sapient life whatsoever, just a nice beach and some warm weather. The perfect vacation spot, accessible right from the lab rather than being a long and expensive plane ride away. Just you and me.” Sunset waited a beat until she noticed Twilight’s blush then added, “And the rest of the girls, of course.”
Twilight turned towards Sunset, her lips pursed and her voice quiet. “Don't you have a sense of adventure? Do you have any idea how many fantasy novels I've read that start with almost this exact same situation?”
“I've been on enough adventures for a lifetime, Twi,” Sunset said with a yawn. “Both as Princess Celestia's student and in the human world. “Trust me, they're overrated.”
“B-but,” Twilight sputtered. Before she could make any further objections, the portal shimmered, and the rover returned along with its furry passenger, looking no worse for wear.
Sunset immediately got up to inspect the Archimedes and the machinery while Twilight started uploading the data the rover had gathered.
Archimedes seemed shaken, but healthy. Sunset gave him a cracker with some peanut butter on it. It seemed to placate him well enough for the time being.
“Alright, I've got it. We've got an earth atmosphere, temperature of twenty-three degrees Celsius. No nonstandard pathogens detected in the air or the soil. Readings of an energy field similar to that of Equestrian Magic. Pictures show what appears to be a standard earth-esque arboreal forest around the immediate area. The portal is anchored to a large rock, about the size of a room.” Twilight paused, then fiddled around with the controls and enhanced the image. “There's some sort of script around the edge of the portal. It kind of looks like elvish.”
“And you would know that how?” Sunset asked, raising an eyebrow.
Twilight coughed. “It's not important. Besides, I said kind of. It isn't.”
Sunset stuck her tongue out. “Nerd. Well, so much for my non-sapience theory. Next up we prep the robot for a longer trip, right? Oh, but we should celebrate. And probably make sure we can turn the portal on and off without any difficulty.”
“That's…” Twilight gripped the side of the table and stared at the portal, eyes distant. “Why don't we just go check it out real quick? The environment is safe. Just a quick trip to see it with our own eyes.”
“You're kidding, right?” Sunset stood up and dusted off her pants. “We have no idea what's really over there. There's evidence of sapient life. It could be hostile. Just jumping into a portal unprepared is way too dangerous.”
Twilight turned to glare at Sunset, her eyes harsh behind her glasses. “Isn't that exactly what both you and Princess Twilight did?”
Sunset faltered. “I, well. It was a stupid move on both of our parts. Just because it worked out in the end doesn't mean it should be emulated.”
“It'll be fine,” Twilight said with a weak smile. “Just a quick peek. Come on. We can, uh, do it together.”
The longing in Twilight’s eyes made Sunset want to give in. Whatever fantasy Twilight had concocted about this world, surely it would be safe to indulge her for just a bit. A lesson on the harshness of reality could come later.
Sunset shook her head. “No, Twilight. I'm putting my foot down. This world will still be waiting for us when we've prepared properly.”
Twilight glanced at Sunset then quickly looked away. The emotions that flickered across her face were difficult to read, but they eventually hardened into a steely expression full of determination.
“Twilight?” Sunset asked, taking a step forward.
Without another word, Twilight grabbed a pack that was stashed under her desk, and dashed forward. She slipped into the silver energy and vanished before Sunset could react.
Sunset stared at the portal in stunned silence for a few moments. When the reality of the situation finally hit her she groaned, smacking her face into her palm.
It wasn't all that surprising coming from a girl who built a magic absorption device and started using it long before asking whether or not she should.
Grumbling, Sunset found her backpack, dumped out the books, stuffed in a few supplies she found around the lab, then sent a quick text to the rest of the girls informing them of the situation.
The portal loomed in front of her, a marvel of magitek ingenuity that she had worked with Twilight to create. She reached out a hand to touch it. The energy was cool against her fingers, and she felt a tug as the dimensional gate pulled at her. Sunset took a deep breath, then stepped through.
The world twisted and spun around her, a familiar but chillingly different sensation of inter-world travel. The portal lacked transformation magic. She'd be coming out as a regular human.
Sunset landed on her feet and managed to stay steady, her eyes suddenly filled with the soft light of morning. The buzzing of insects and the flowing breeze assaulted her senses. She spat on the ground, the smell of ozone flooding her mouth. Bile rose in the back of her throat and she fought to keep her stomach under control.
“Twilight?” Sunset called out, looking around. She was at the center of a perfectly circular clearing in the forest, but Twilight was nowhere in sight. Celestia but she hoped there wasn't a time differential.
“I'm over here,” Twilight called out after a few moments.
Sunset circled the giant boulder that served as the anchor for the portal and found Twilight behind it, furiously scribbling notes and taking pictures with her camera.
“This is amazing. I bet this is what the first men on the moon on must have felt like.” Twilight looked up at Sunset, her sheepish embarrassment hidden behind a radiant smile. “I'm, uh, sorry I ran off. But this is my experiment anyway, I can use the portal if I want.”
“Uh-huh.” Sunset crossed her arms over her chest. “Look, we saw what's on the other side. Cool forest. Whoo. Can we go back now? What if there's a power failure and the portal shuts down while we're on this side?”
“It won't,” Twilight said immediately. “Because we designed it better than that. And I can hear a stream nearby, I want to collect some water samples before we go back.”
Sunset sighed and shook her head. “Forget the natives, what if there's dangerous wildlife about? Doesn't even have to be the magical kind, what will you do if there's a bear or a mountain lion or a venomous snake?”
Twilight stuffed her equipment back into her bag, and stood up. “I don't remember you being this paranoid when we went backpacking with the girls. If I get in trouble, will you come save me?”
Sunset blinked. “Of course I will, but I'd really rather not have to—”
“Then that's that.” Twilight pushed her way into the underbrush. “I trust you, Sunset.”
Just what had gotten into Twilight today? This was the culmination of months of hard work, a science project just to see if they could. Sunset always loved to challenge her capabilities. But she already came from another world, so why would she be all that excited about the prospect of a third?
Apparently Twilight felt differently.
Sunset made her way through the woods. She stopped briefly when she spotted a fallen branch that was a good size and sturdy enough to make a decent cudgel. When it came to protection she would have preferred a quality knife, or even a spear, though she'd never wielded the latter without telekinesis.
When Sunset finally caught up to Twilight, she found her crouched over a small stream, collecting water samples.
“There, you've got your samples. Can we go back?”
Twilight popped a cork into the vial, then stood up and adjusted her glasses. “How can you not be more excited about this, Sunset? Science is all about the discovery and understanding of something new. It's an entire alien world! What could be newer than that?”
“Because the last time I did that, the new world kind of sucked. Besides, it's just a forest. You wanna go hiking, we’ll call up Applejack and Rainbow Dash and we make a weekend of it.”
“You…” Twilight wilted under Sunset’s gaze, her eyes tracking towards her feet. “I just want to have an adventure with you, Sunset. You've done so much with your life already, and with the other girls. Everything's changed for me since I transferred to Canterlot High, but I still feel so outside of it all.”
Sunset sighed, then made her way over to place a hand on Twilight’s shoulder. “I get that, Twilight, I do. I just want you to be smarter about it, that's all. If we have to defend ourselves, all I've got is a stick.”
“I'm not defenseless,” Twilight said quickly. She knelt down and pulled something out of her backpack. It looked like a modified version of a child's toy ray gun, with extra bits taped on, and a glowing circular dial on the back that resembled…
“It's based on the magic tracker I designed back during the Friendship Games.” Twilight beamed for a moment, then coughed and looked away. “Though it's gone through a lot of improvements since I was able to get real equations on magic from you and Princess Twilight. It can absorb magical energy on one setting, then fire it off in a blast on another. No unstable portals involved. Better yet, I can hook it up to my phone, and use it to track magical energy signatures, so we’ll be able to find our way back to the portal no matter what.”
Sunset blinked. She took the device, looked it over for a moment, then handed it back. “This is impressive, Twi, but if it needs magic to function, where are you going to get it?”
Twilight flicked a switch and the device lit up, beeping several times. “Can't you feel it? This world is teeming with magic.”
There was a strange itch in the front of her skull, and Sunset closed her eyes. She reached out, trying to feel the magic like she would if she had a horn. There was definitely something there. Power all around her, waiting to be tapped, controlled, unleashed.
Sunset shuddered, and shook her head rapidly. It was different from Equestrian Magic, and while she was sure she could tap into it, it might behave in wild and unpredictable ways. Better to leave it be for now.
“Hold on to that, Twilight,” Sunset said, turning to go. “But don't mistake having a weapon for the same thing as knowing how to fight. Come on, let's get going.”
Twilight nodded. “Okay. I got what I wanted, and I'm sorry for being a brat. Please, just promise me we'll come back? I want to—”
Sunset clapped a hand over Twilight’s mouth and pulled her close. “Quiet!” she hissed into Twilight’s ear.
“Mmmf,” Twilight murmured in acknowledgement, her eyes wide and darting frantically back and forth.
Sunset strained her ears and she caught what was once an all too familiar sound. Galloping hoof beats. So this was an equestrian world after all. Looking down, she could see fresh hoof prints in the muddy bank of the stream, and she mentally kicked herself for not noticing earlier.
They were big ones, too.
The underbrush was about forty paces away, and offered scant cover until even deeper in. She couldn't see who was coming, but the sound grew louder, like rolling thunder. A bend in the river and jutting rock formation obscured her line of sight towards the approaching strangers.
Fight? Flee? No, it probably wouldn't come to that. Believing in the magic of friendship meant extending that good faith towards the unknown as well.
Sunset stood her ground, planting herself in front of Twilight. The strangers rounded the bend a moment later.
The fact that they weren't ponies became immediately obvious, and Sunset tightened her grip on her cudgel. Armored humans rode great warhorses, a head higher than her and shod in metal barding. With just a brief glimpse into the eyes of one, Sunset could tell they were mere dull-minded beasts like those in the human world. Shame.
The column of riders began to shout, and horns were blown at the sight of two teenaged girls by the river. They flew some sort of orangish banner, though it was flapping too erratically for Sunset to make out the design. Within moments, the riders surrounded them, blocking off any escape, though at the very least they didn't draw their weapons.
“Look at that armor,” Twilight whispered. “History almost never saw that many men in plate at once. That's usually a product of modern fantasy. It's incredibly expensive and difficult to maintain.”
Sunset nodded absently, not taking her eyes off of the humans surrounding her.
There was some muffled shouting, and soon a rider approached them, this one with plumage on his helmet and a red and gold tabard. He dismounted his warhorse, then strode towards them. He took off his helmet, revealing an all too familiar mop of blue hair.
“Flash?!” Sunset sputtered, her eyes bugging out as she stared into the face of her former high school paramour. Only, she realized, he looked older, more grizzled, and had a small scar on his chin.
Flash Sentry smiled, his face a mask of relief. He dropped to one knee. “Queen Sunset. I am glad to see that you're unharmed. You've given us all quite the scare.”
“Queen Sunset?” Twilight asked, her words echoing Sunset’s thoughts.
“Your majesty, I hope you will allow us to escort you back to the palace. There are urgent matters that require your…” Flash trailed off, and his infuriating grin faded when he finally noticed Twilight. His eyes went wide and he took a step back, drawing his sword in one fluid motion. “It's the Witch of the West!” he called out. “Protect the queen!”
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Flash grabbed ahold of Sunset and flung her to the side. She twisted as she fell, splattering mud onto her rear. She watched Flash take another step forward, then raise his sword high into the air above Twilight. Sunset could see that gleaming blade reflected in Twilight’s glasses, ready to spill the lifeblood of an innocent girl.
Sunset screamed in incoherent rage, and power flooded her senses. It was immense, raw, and wild. There was a bright flash of light, a howl of pain, and a wave of heat that washed over the clearing, browning grass and singing eyebrows.
When Sunset managed to blink the spots out of her eyes, she found Flash clutching what appeared to be a broken wrist. His sword was embedded through a tree fifty paces away, the metal twisted into a misshapen lump. The rest of the soldiers had their swords out, all them staring at Sunset.
Twilight stood still, eyes panicked and distant. Sunset was willing to bet that her life was still in the process of flashing before her eyes. She'd have to handle this alone.
Sunset stood up, raising her chin high into the air and doing her best to look imperious even as mud dripped from her jeans. “I did not command you to attack.”
The soldiers looked at each other warily.
Flash stepped forward, clenching his teeth through the pain of his wrist. “Your majesty, that is without a doubt Twilight Sparkle! The dark queen of the western kingdom, and an evil sorceress beyond measure. I do not know what ensorcellment she has managed to lay on you, but…”
Sunset sneered at him, letting perhaps a little too much contempt for her ex seep into the expression. “Did you ever stop to think that it might be the other way around? I have bested Twilight. She is now my prisoner, and anyone who dares harm a single hair on her head will answer to me.”
“But, your majesty,” Flash muttered, licking his lips. “Her magic is—”
“Neutralized.” Sunset met his eyes. “I assure you,” her gaze flickered towards the insignia of rank on his shoulder, “Commander, right now she is as harmless as a kitten.”
Flash pursed his lips, his muscles taut as he strained not to let his pain show. “As you command, your majesty. But please, I implore you to let me escort you back to the palace. You and… your prisoner.”
As Flash finished a few more horses trotted around the bend, pulling a carriage behind them.
“S-sunset,” Twilight finally squeaked. “What are you doing?”
Improvising, Sunset thought, but she sauntered her way over to Twilight, who had fallen down to her knees at some point. Sunset bent over and ran her finger along Twilight’s chin.
Twilight shivered, looking away.
“Just play along, okay?” Sunset whispered as she leaned in close. “I promise I'll get us out of this as soon as I can.”
“But…” Twilight’s eyes were full of tears, but she squeezed them shut and nodded once.
Sunset turned, resuming her royal bearing and looking at the surrounding soldiers. “See? Docile like a lamb. Commander, I trust she will be treated with the utmost respect, as I would be. If she is not, I will not show mercy.”
This was all an incredible gamble. She had no idea if she was overdoing it. Maybe this world’s Sunset was kind and just, not arrogant and haughty. But in for a bit…
Flash looked up into her eyes, his gaze piercing. He seemed to be searching for something. His stare lingered long enough that it was probably entirely insubordinate, and it took everything Sunset had to remain passive and unflinching.
Finally, Flash sighed and turned away. “It will be done, your majesty. Do I have your leave to seek medical attention?”
Sunset glanced down at Flash’s broken wrist and winced. It looked dreadfully painful, but the man barely let it show. “I must apologize for my carelessness, Commander. I was given little time to enact a gentler approach. I would see my soldiers fit and able. Seek what attention you need.”
Flash raised an eyebrow but stood straight and gave a crisp salute with his uninjured hand, crossing it over his chest, then turned and began barking orders to the soldiers.
“Shall we be off then?” Sunset asked, turning back towards Twilight. She took Twilight’s hand and gently lifted her up from the ground.
Twilight’s legs wobbled underneath her, and she rested most of her weight on Sunset. She nodded mutely, and the two of them shuffled towards the carriage.
The interior was lush and rich. Fit for a queen, she supposed. With their muddy clothes it seemed like a travesty to get inside, but nobody offered them any complaint.
The carriage started moving a few minutes after they closed the door, and Sunset finally let out a sigh of relief. She slumped into her seat and let the tension finally drain away. “You alright?’
Twilight stared blankly down at her feet, her hands clasped in her lap. “I… I almost died. You saved my life.”
Sunset moved next to Twilight in an instant, and pulled the younger girl into a tight embrace. “Hey, it’s alright. I know it’s scary, but you’re fine now.”
“It all just happened so fast…” Twilight sniffed, and buried her face into Sunset’s shoulder. “I couldn't move, couldn't react, couldn't do anything.”
“That's just how combat is, Twi. Your body moves by instinct, you blink twice, and it's over, hopefully with all your limbs still intact. I'm just lucky to have been in a few scraps when I was younger.” Sunset grimaced. Lucky was hardly a word that applied to her past. Still, if there was anything she'd retained from Princess Celestia’s tutelage, how to react to danger and respond in a crisis was at the top of the list.
The lying and improvisational acting was something she'd picked up on her own.
“I'm sorry,” Twilight murmured.
Sunset took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Just what the hell had they gotten themselves into? “Twilight? You can still have a few minutes to gather yourself, but I'm going to need you to be strong, okay? I just bluffed myself into royalty. With luck, it won't take long to find a window where we can slip away none the wiser. Hopefully before the real Queen Sunset shows up. I've got magic here, and if things go south, we can fight our way out, but it's difficult to control, and if possible I'd like to avoid hurting anyone. Besides Flash, that is.”
Twilight pulled out of the embrace, sniffed again, then took off her glasses and wiped them on her shirt. “Will he be okay?”
“I suspect he won't be sword fighting anytime soon. Though who knows, maybe this world has good healing magic.”
“I should be writing all of this down…” Twilight muttered. She still had her pack with her, and she pulled out a pad of paper and pencil and began scribbling furiously.
Sunset raised an eyebrow, but didn't intervene. The time for scientific observation was over, but the way Twilight’s hands shook as she wrote told Sunset that this was more of a way to hold onto something familiar.
Sunset sighed, then closed her eyes and leaned back into the cushion. She began running through possible scenarios in her head, coming up with responses, refining her new ‘queen’ persona, and generally mentally preparing herself.
This was turning out to be quite the adventure after all.
Sweat trickled down Sunset’s brow, in part from the concentration it required to use this world’s magic, as well as the heat the energy radiated, warming up the carriage.
A pencil floated in front of her, twisting this way and that. Power battered against her senses, a raging river trying to overwhelm her mental dam, but she only let through a trickle, just enough for basic levitation.
The splintered remains of her previous attempts were a testament to how far she'd come. It felt weird and awkward to move things around like this, in a way that reminded her of the first time she'd tried to write with hands.
The carriage rolled to a stop, and Sunset let the pencil drop, blinking spots from her eyes. It had taken maybe three hours to reach their destination. She found herself unable to remember the average speed of a horse drawn carriage, relative to how far they must have traveled.
Twilight snorted, and her eyes fluttered open. A tendril of drool hung from her chin. “Huh?”
“I think we're here,” Sunset said, her voice low. “I'm sure they'll treat us with hospitality, but be ready for anything, just in case.”
In searching the interior of the carriage, Sunset had found a well crafted dagger stuffed in a hidden pocket. Apparently her queenly counterpart was a practical sort. She kept a tight grip on the hilt.
Muffled voices approached from outside. Someone rapped on the carriage door, then it swung open, revealing a well-dressed old man with a hooked nose.
“Ah, welcome home, your majesty. I've been instructed on your current situation. We are ready to get you and your new… companion cleaned up from your time on the road. He paused, looked Sunset up and down, then sniffed. “I'm afraid I am unfamiliar with the tailor who made your current garments, but I do not think their style works on you.”
Sunset frowned, then stepped out of the carriage. They were in a courtyard of sorts, walls on all sides and the afternoon sun high in the sky above. She looked down at her clothes and smirked. “These trousers come from the House of Levi. I assure, you, they’re quite well made.”
Twilight snorted with laughter.
The man—presumably a butler of some sorts—glanced over at Twilight, sighed, and shook his head. “That's all well and good, your majesty, but I assure you, time is of the essence. We must get you cleaned up and presentable as soon as possible.”
Presentable? That implied Sunset would be expected to present herself in some capacity. How long could she keep this lie going?
“Right this way,” the butler said, then turned and began striding purposefully through the courtyard, his posture stiff and full of refinement and poise that Sunset could never hope to emulate.
Sunset nodded, and began following.
“Sunset!” Twilight cried out. A gaggle of female servants dragged her in a different direction.
Without breaking stride, Sunset whirled around and grabbed the shoulder of one of the maids. “Just so there's no miscommunication, this girl here is to be cleaned up, then immediately brought to me when you're done, alright?”
The maids all turned to look at Sunset, eyes wide with horror before they began bowing and stammering apologies and affirmatives.
Sunset met Twilight’s gaze, then nodded once.
Twilight blinked, licked her lips, glanced around, then nodded back.
“I would appreciate if you would refrain from intimidating the maids, your majesty. This recent round of recruits is a rather timid lot,” her butler said in a smarmy tone of voice that reminded her of, well, every butler she’d seen on TV.
“Yeah yeah,” Sunset said, waving her hand dismissively. “Lead the way, Jeeves.”
What followed was the most luxurious and exquisite pampering Sunset had received in her entire life. Her spa trips with Rarity didn't compare in the slightest. She was scrubbed raw from head to toe, massaged until every muscle sang with bliss, rubbed down with oils until her skin shone like the sun. If she had desired attention of a more lustful nature, she was sure she could have had it as well.
It was apparently good to be the queen.
If Twilight was getting anywhere near the same treatment, Sunset would have killed to see the look on her face.
After it was all said and done, Sunset was dressed in a gown of exquisite loose fitting silks of crimson and gold, and left alone in what were apparently her own quarters.
She took the chance to admire herself in the mirror, and what she saw surprised her. She looked like a queen, and strangely enough, it looked right on her. This was the future she had dreamed of as a misguided filly, one of power, of prestige, of luxury. It was what she had spent years chasing after in the pointless popularity contests of Canterlot High.
Now she finally had it, and she didn't even particularly want it.
Sunset sighed and shook her head. This was someone else's life, someone else's room. The style reminded her of Princess Celestia’s personal chambers.
Out of curiosity, she pulled open the closet. In addition to lavish outfits in more styles than even Rarity’s wardrobe, she found a bust wearing a chain vest of a silvery metal, and a short, bladed spear hanging on a rack behind it.
Sunset grinned and picked up the spear. It was surprisingly light, and it tingled in her hands; it must have been attuned to magic somehow. She opened herself up to power, grasping the shaft with telekinesis instead. She tried a few practice jabs, then spun it about.
It was like exercising a long unused muscle. Staff training was a basic part of the unicorn curriculum under Celestia's tutelage, and those who wished to further their studies on the martial and magical arts usually upgraded to spears.
Pleased with herself, Sunset moved to set the spear aside when something on a nearby writing desk caught her attention.
It was a book emblazoned with with her cutie mark, and looked nearly identical to her magical diary back home.
A lock held it shut, but as Sunset moved her hand close it glowed red and unclasped itself.
Easy enough to get past her own security, she supposed. And by definition she couldn’t violate her own privacy, right?
Though as she started to read the words on the page below, she felt her face heat up to an inferno of embarrassment.
My Dearest Twilight Sparkle,
My heart still quickens at the memory of the night we spent together under that waterfall. I long to taste your lips against my own, to feel your breath hot against my neck. For all the subjects in my kingdom my life is empty without you. Would that we could just broker peace between our nations so that we may be together forever and always. I would gladly burn every member of my cursed senate alive would it actually help in furthering that goal, but alas, I'm not sure pond scum is flammable.
I am dying to hear your voice. Please let me know when we may next meet again.
Your lonely lover,
Sunset’s heart pounded in her chest, and she licked dry lips. Well, that answered some questions, but raised so many others. She checked the next page, and found Twilight’s reply to be as equally devoted and overly poetic in its affection.
She skimmed the rest of the pages in the diary, and found only more of same. The pair of star crossed lovers gushed on and on about how much they wished to be together, occasionally discussing serious political troubles as well. At some points the messages even devolved into full blown erotica.
Sunset apparently had quite the dirty mind.
The last page contained only two brief messages, them promising to meet up with each other at some sort of cathedral. It was time stamped, but Sunset didn't know this world’s calendar so she didn't know if it was sent last week or last year.
She wondered what Twilight would make of it all.
The door to her chambers opened, and Sunset nearly jumped out of her skin. “Who's there?” she shouted and whirled on the door. She felt like an embarrassed teen caught with their hooves between their legs.
Flash Sentry slipped inside and closed the door behind him. “Your Majesty. I'm sorry to bother you, but I'd like to report the current situation.”
Sunset took a deep breath, steadying her nerves. She'd gotten a few tidbits from the diary about this country's politics, but not enough to have a clear picture.
“Very well, Commander. Make your report.” Sunset glided over to a nearby table that was well stocked with fruits and bread and honey. She popped a grape into her mouth, then immediately grabbed some more. She hadn't realized how hungry she was.
Evening light shone in through the large windows overlooking the palace below, and Flash cleared his throat. “Sunset, there's something personal I would ask of you. It's about my little sister. I think she’s in trouble.”
Sunset blinked. She didn't remember Flash having a sister. And he addressed her by name as well. “I see. And what makes you think that?”
Flash sighed. “I was afraid you'd say that.”
Sunset’s instincts screamed at her, and she jerked to the side. A knife rumbled through the air right where her head had been and slammed into the wall with a dull thud.
She heard the sound of rasping steel and turned to find Flash drawing his sword and stepping forward. His wrist seemed perfectly fine.
“I've been an attendant, soldier, bodyguard, and friend to Queen Sunset Shimmer ever since we were both children,” Flash growled. He stalked across the room, his eyes full of nothing but steel and a promise of violence. “Whatever kind of demon you are, imposter, you are not my queen.”
So much for her acting skills. Sunset raised her hands placatingly and took a few steps back. “Look, you're half right, but can we just talk this out instead of stabbing each other? I don't want to hurt you.”
In response, Flash bellowed a war cry and lunged forward, sword raised.
With a heave of magical energy, Sunset upended the table and slammed it into him. Food and drink crashed to the floor in a tumultuous clatter.
Flash grunted under the impact of the wood, but shortly after his sword sliced through the heavy oak like it was made of cardboard. Wisps of black smoke rose up from the wood where it had been cut, and Flash kicked the remains of the table aside. It would have been slightly more intimidating if there wasn't a sprig of lettuce stuck in his hair.
Crap crap crap. The first rule of fights was to avoid them entirely. The second was to know what your enemy was capable of. The third was to know your own capabilities. Sunset was currently failing pretty spectacularly at all three. She darted to the side and reached out with her magic to grab the spear. It floated in front of her defensively, and the haft glittered with the same silvery metal as the chain shirt she wished she was wearing. She hoped it would be strong enough.
“What did you do with her?” Flash asked. He side stepped further around the table, his footwork perfect and precise. “So help me if you've hurt the real Sunset I will not make this pleasant for you.”
“I don't even know her!” Sunset shouted.
Flash darted forward, his sword lashing out in quick strokes. She met his blade with her spear, and the weapon held fast, though she could feel the impact ringing through her mind. She pushed forward, striking at him with the butt of the spear and the flat of the blade. Flash parried each blow, but when one strike left him a little open, Sunset reared back and kicked him hard in the stomach.
Flash grunted and stumbled back a few steps. It must have hurt even through his chain mail.
Sunset took the chance to gather her power and let loose a blast of pure kinetic force. It wasn't a particularly elegant use of magic, but elegance and combat rarely went hand in hand.
With a downward stroke of Flash’s sword, the bolt of energy split in two and curved around him, blowing out two of the windows instead.
“Oh come on, that’s just not fair!” Sunset whined as she set herself to defend against the renewed assault. It was quickly becoming clear that she wouldn't be able to win like this. Flash was the superior fighter. And if she brought the full weight of her magic to bear, it would certainly leave the poor guy dead.
Sunset leapt backwards, pushing against the floor with her magic to boost her movement. She landed on the far side of the room, then expanded her awareness as much as she dared allow with this strange magic and lifted up damn near everything in the room that wasn't nailed down. It began to slowly float through the air, orbiting Flash.
“Can we please just use our words like adults?” Sunset asked through gritted teeth, sweat trickling down her brow. “I swear there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for this little misunderstanding.”
Flash held his sword in front of him, eyes carefully tracking the debris that surrounded him. “What point would there be in listening to the honeyed lies of a doppelgänger who has infiltrated this kingdom to destroy it from within?”
Sunset shook her head. “I'm not a doppelgänger. I am Sunset Shimmer. But I'm not the woman you know. I come from another world, where I'm just an ordinary student. There's another Flash Sentry there as well, who’s nowhere near the badass you are. Just a kid who dreams of being a famous musician. Twilight and I traveled here through a magical portal, and when you found us in the forest and called me Queen, I figured bluffing was my best shot. I'm sorry if my presence has confused things or whatever, but I promise you that I mean no harm.”
“That’s…” Flash blinked, the grip on his sword slackening slightly. “That's the stupidest lie I've ever heard.”
Sunset grinned. She released her magic, let everything drop to the ground, and spread her arms wide. “That's because this is the truth. Sunset Shimmer—any Sunset Shimmer from any world—is a damn good liar. I could come up with something way better in my sleep. This is just the simple truth, Flash. Please. I don't have good control over this world's magic. I really don't want to hurt you.”
Flash stared at her long and hard, his gaze unblinking, his stance never wavering. After what seemed like an eternity he finally slackened, the tip of his sword lowering to the floor and his shoulders sagging. “I… Gods but you sound just like her. Say I do believe you, what then about my missing queen?”
A wave of relief washed over Sunset and are let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. “I was only in this world for like fifteen minutes before you found me. But I might have an idea of where she is. Check that diary entry on the table there.”
“That's… You read the queen’s personal diary?” Flash asked, his eyes wide. His eyes glanced at the book and he licked his lips. “It is not my place.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “How long had Queen Sunset been missing before you found me?”
“About three days.”
“Well, your Queen was carrying out an illicit affair with Queen Twilight Sparkle. Apparently they were deeply in love and wished your nations could live together in peace. The last entry in the diary talks about them meeting up at some cathedral or another—I suspect three days ago.”
“That's impossible, she…” Flash cursed under his breath, then darted over to the table and began skimming the diary. He looked like he wanted to throw up.
After several minutes Flash turned back to her, his hands shaking. “This… explains a lot, actually. But the witch must have betrayed her.”
Sunset shook her head. “I doubt it. The Twilight Sparkle I know isn't that kind of person. The love on those pages seems genuine to me.”
Flash raised an eyebrow. “Do you love… your Twilight Sparkle the same way?”
Blood rushed to her cheeks and Sunset looked away. “The uh, jury’s still out on that one, but—”
“Sunset!” Twilight slammed open the door. “Are you okay?”
Everything was still for a moment as the three of them all stared at each other. Sunset watched Twilight’s eyes scan across the room, taking in the wanton destruction their brief scuffle had strewn about.
Twilight licked her lips, and raised her magic-gun to point at Flash, her hands unsteady. “D-don't move or I'll shoot!”
Flash held his sword in front of him warily, eyes narrowed. “Where are the guards that were supposed to be keeping an eye on you?”
Sunset groaned and smacked her face into her palm. “Twilight, put the gun down. Flash is one of the good guys, and we've already worked out our differences.”
“I snuck past them. And you're wrong.” Twilight shuffled a few steps towards Sunset and grabbed her hand, keeping the gun trained on Flash. “I overheard his guards talking about a coup to overthrow the queen.”
“Is that what this is all about?” Sunset turned to Flash and raised an eyebrow.
Flash blinked, then shook his head. “You're mistaken, uh, my lady. The coup to usurp the authority of Queen Sunset is currently ongoing, and is exactly what me and my men are trying to prevent.”
Sunset leaned in close to Twilight, and gently lowered Twilight’s aim to the ground. “Hey, it's okay, Twilight. I'm not hurt. Let's just listen to what's really going on here, okay?”
“But…” Twilight looked back and forth between Sunset and Flash. Her face fell and her shoulders sagged. “Damnit, I didn't mean to… I'm sorry.”
“Don't worry about it. You're not the only one jumping to conclusions around here.” Sunset did her best to smile reassuringly, then turned to Flash with her back straight and her chin raised. “Commander! I'd like the quick and dirty version of what's going on in this country. We may be able to help.”
Flash gave a stiff salute in a perfect reflexive action, then scowled as he realized what he'd just done. “I'm still not convinced I should trust you.”
Sunset shrugged. “It sounds like you and your queen are in trouble. If you don't want my help, fine. Twilight and I will go home and you'll never see us again. But I still want to help.”
“Why? If what you say is true, then this world should mean nothing to you.”
“Because it's the right thing to do.”
Sunset could feel both Twilight and Flash’s gazes on her, a kind of silent awe in their expressions. She did her best to refrain from blushing. Getting involved in other people’s problems was hardly noble or worthy of praise.
Flash broke the silence with a deep throated laugh. “Sweet Illumina, you really are Sunset Shimmer. Though I haven't seen her act like that in years. Very well. I'll tell you what I know.”
The three of them took the chance to right one of the end tables that hadn't been destroyed and took seats around it.
“Where do I even start,” Flash muttered. He leaned forward, tenting his fingers and resting his chin on them. “I guess the simplest briefing is that Queen Sunset has always been at odds with the senate, and it's been a constant power struggle. Three days ago, the Queen vanished with no explanation. A short time later, a brutal terrorist attack was carried out by Twilit infiltrators.”
Twilight bit her lip and looked away.
“A false flag operation?” Sunset asked. She rested her hand on Twilight’s and squeezed gently.
“That very well may be the case, if the words from Queen Twilight in the diary are to be trusted. In any case, there's an emergency council going on at this very moment to wrest wartime command from the monarchy and the military in response. Politicians loyal to the queen are currently in there filibustering for everything they're worth.”
Twilight blinked, then pulled off her glasses and rubbed at them. “How long is that going to last?”
Flash shook his head. “There's a time limit, so we have at best five hours. The plan was to get Queen Sunset dressed and ready to storm in there unannounced and take her enemies off guard. But, well, it seems like that plan is shot.” Flash gestured vaguely in Sunset’s direction.
“Couldn't Sunset just pretend to be the queen?” Twilight asked.
Sunset stood up and stretched. She wandered over to the window to stare into the wash of colors blanketing the horizon. The sun hung maybe an hour from setting. “I'm not the Queen. Maybe I can bark orders like one, but I suspect this meeting requires a little more political nuance than I'm privy to. This is something the real Queen Sunset should handle.”
Flash nodded. He stood to grab a map from a nearby bookshelf and unfurled it onto the table. “And we now have a lead to find her. The cathedral is here, maybe half an hour’s ride at full gallop.”
“But if they've moved somewhere else…” Sunset sighed, and closed her eyes. “Well, it's the best chance we've got.”
“Hold on,” Twilight said. She set her gun on the table and began fiddling with the controls. “We might be able to use this to track the Queen. It can detect magical energy signatures, and if we attune it to yours, Sunset…”
Flash raised an eyebrow and rubbed at his chin. “Interesting.”
“Hah. Love it.” Sunset grinned, then moved to peer over Twilight’s shoulder. “You really do have knack for this kind of stuff.”
Twilight blushed and mumbled, “Thanks.” She adjusted her glasses, then set to work on the machine.
Sunset stood back and pondered the girl in front of her. Their alternate universe counterparts were madly in love with each other. Was there some sort of deeper meaning behind that, some sort of destiny to it? She’d held back so far to let Twilight find her own confidence, but after all of this…
A few minutes later, Twilight announced “I’ve got it!” She held up the display on her phone. “Your signal is here, Sunset.” She zoomed out, the display showing two blips now. “And the other Sunset is somewhere in that direction.
They compared the information to the map in the table, and Flash placed a small figurine on a location in the woods. “There. Close to the cathedral, but not exactly.”
Flash stood back. “We'd better get ready to travel, then. Lady Sunset, you're quite the capable fighter. I don't want to risk alerting the enemy by bringing a large group of soldiers. Will you stand by my side?”
Sunset nodded. “Yeah. I'm sure we can handle it.”
With a bow, Flash turned to leave. “Gather your things and take what gear you need. I'll go prepare the horses.”
Once Flash was gone Twilight let out a long sigh and slumped into the chair. “This is all completely insane. Sunset, what are we doing?”
Sunset slipped out of her loose silk dress—it had gotten torn in the fighting anyway, such a shame—and made her way over to the closet, where she started searching for some good traveling clothes. “You wanted an adventure, Twilight. This is what they tend to be like: chaotic, confusing, full of danger and a lot of running around while pretending to know what you're doing.”
“Uhhh…” Twilight averted her eyes, her face crimson. “Okay fine. I admit it. I was wrong because I'm a stupid naive little girl who reads too many books and has no idea what the world is really like. I'm sorry for dragging you into this.”
Sunset found a nice pair of breeches, then threw on a airy overshirt, followed by the chain vest she had spotted before. The fit was a bit loose. From context, Sunset assumed the Queen was a little older than herself, and probably bustier. “You were pretty brave back there, coming to save me when you thought I was in danger.”
“But I screwed that up too.” Twilight sniffed and rubbed at her eyes. “You handled it all yourself and I might have just made things worse.”
“Like I said. Adventures. You make mistakes, and hopefully they don't hurt anyone else. No choice but to pick yourself up and try again. Or quit while you're ahead.” Sunset examined herself in the mirror. Not entirely unlike that time a Rarity had dressed her up to attend the Renaissance Faire. She should get one of those hats with a feather.
Sunset turned away from her wardrobe and rested a hand on Twilight's shoulder. “So am I. Anything could happen out there. I could be hurt, or even killed. I'm going to do it anyway. You don't have to come with, Twilight. I won't think any less of you. Not everyone is cut out for this sort of thing. You're a brilliant scientist and a great friend. That's enough for me.”
“It's just…” Twilight leaned against Sunset. “I grew up reading these stories, dreaming of other worlds and magic and adventures. I became a scientist because I wanted to see the impossible become possible. When I met you, that’s exactly what happened. It turned out you're basically my childhood dreams personified. What am I supposed to do about that?”
“I don't know. You'll have to figure that out for yourself.”
Sunset resumed her preparations. She found a hoard of weapons, as well as a good sturdy round shield.
Twilight remained silent for a good five minutes before she stood up and took a deep breath. “I want to go with you.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”
“No.” Twilight began fiddling with the controls in her device. “But I might be able to help. And if something happened to you while I sat and cowered, I'd never forgive myself.”
Sunset grinned, then tossed Twilight a sheathed dagger. “‘Atta girl.”
Twilight blushed, awkwardly fumbling to catch the weapon. “There's um, one more thing.”
“If something happens to either of us, I don’t want to leave things unsaid. I want to, uh.” Twilight took a deep breath, then moved to stand in front of Sunset. “I want to, um…”
Sunset waited patiently, one hand on her hip.
Whatever courage Twilight was searching for, she must have found it. She squeezed her eyes shut, puckered her lips, and leaned close.
It was a completely bungled attempt at a kiss, and the aim was way off. Sunset smiled, then leaned down to intercept it, pressing their lips together.
Twilight trembled as she pulled away, her eyes unfocused. “Oh, wow. That was, um. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—”
Sunset kissed her again.
When Sunset pulled back, she grinned and clapped Twilight on the shoulder. “It's okay, Twilight. I like you too. Let's save the relationship talk for when we get home. Right now, we've got work to do.”
Twilight nodded, a goofy grin splitting her face in two.
It made for a striking image—The heroine galloping through the woods on horseback, her love interest sharing the saddle with arms wrapped tightly around her midsection. The sky awash with the brilliant red and gold light of the setting sun.
Sunset would have watched that movie.
But real life was rarely so glamorous. The only time Sunset had ridden her intellectually-challenged cousins before had been with Applejack, and that was a considerably tamer affair. She was certain her muscles would be screaming bloody murder at her in the morning, and Twilight held on so tight Sunset wouldn't be surprised if she had cracked a rib.
When they finally slowed to a stop, Sunset climbed down from her horse, and her body protested against her best efforts to stand straight. “Commander?”
Flash dismounted, then pointed towards a small building in a clearing up ahead. It was barely more than a shack, though it had some symbols embossed on the side that Sunset didn’t recognize. “This should be it. It’s a chapel, an offshoot of the main cathedral the queen was visiting. It fell into disuse after the bigger building was built.”
Twilight climbed down, helped by Sunset. Her knees gave way underneath her when she tried to stand, and she held onto Sunset to stay steady. “I have so many questions about the nature of religion in your country, but I guess now really isn’t the time, huh?”
“You are correct. Be on your guard.” Flash approached the building purposefully and pushed the door open, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword.
Inside lay a small altar, a few chairs, and a woman who knelt in prayer. She was dressed in flowing white vestments, and she spun around when the door opened, her eyes wide. “Goodness! I wasn’t expecting visitors this late.”
Flash’s eyes darted this way and that, scanning every corner of the little chapel before coming back to the woman. “Ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you at this hour, but I’m on a mission of grave import. Have you seen Queen Sunset Shimmer in these parts, or anything strange whatsoever?”
The woman blinked several times. “The queen? I…” Her eyes fell on Sunset, and she managed to somehow look even more surprised. “Isn’t that her right over there?”
“I’m just her body double,” Sunset said. She flashed her teeth at the woman and leaned against the doorframe.
Twilight followed close behind, staying away from the door and behind Sunset. “We’re definitely in the right spot,” she whispered. She held up her screen and showed that the two dots representing two Sunset’s nearly overlapped.
“Seems an odd time and place to be praying,” Sunset noted. She held her spear loosely in one hand, the blade dragging idly circles through the grass outside the door. “Isn’t there a much nicer cathedral just down the way?”
The woman glanced between them all and stood up, bowing deeply. “I apologize if I have given offense, m’lords. This chapel affords privacy and serenity with which to commune with the gods. I find it to my liking. I’m afraid I have not noticed the queen, nor anything out of sorts at all, at least until your own arrival.”
“Mind if we take a look around?” Sunset asked. She didn’t wait for an answer before stepping inside. She felt a tight tug of energy as she did so, a sort of tingle of magic in the air. This place must have been enchanted in some way. Or maybe that was how all churches worked in this world. She began poking around, looking under chairs and tapping the wall with the butt of her spear. An odd scent tickled her nose, a bit like sulphur.
“I, um.” The woman cleared her throat, then backed into a corner, making room for the impromptu investigation. “Please, do what you must. Though I’m afraid this chapel is quite plain, there is little to see here.”
“We’ll be the judge of that, Ma’am.” Flash Sentry nodded his head. “Though I do apologize for our abruptness. I am Commander Flash Sentry of the Sunset Army. What, pray tell, is your name?”
“Golden Wish, good sir,” she said with a bow.
Flash blinked, then smiled widely. “The Wish family? I have a sergeant who tells me of his gorgeous little sister. Truly, his words do you little justice.”
“Ahah…” Golden Wish licked her lips, then smiled. “My brother certainly likes to flatter.”
“Indeed. A good man.” Without any hesitation or change in his expression, Flash drew his sword and rammed it into the woman’s stomach.
Twilight’s scream echoed throughout the forest.
Sunset leapt backwards, her spear held in front of her. “Sweet Celestia man, is stabbing people just how you say hello or something!?”
Flash grunted, pulled his sword out, and kicked the woman to the ground.
With dawning comprehension, Sunset realized there was no blood.
The woman’s form melted into black smoke, revealing some sort of small twisted creature beneath. Its leathery skin was an ashen gray, its limbs gnarled and knobbly, with bat-like wings protruding from its back. It thrashed about, razor sharp claws flailing through the air.
Flash stamped down on its arm with his boot and held his sword to the creature’s throat. “Where is Queen Sunset?”
The creature laughed, its voice a high pitched cackle. “It’s too late!” It lunged forward, and met sharp steel before it could make it more than a few inches.
Silence hung in the air and Flash sheathed his sword. The body dissolved into more smoke underneath his feet.
“Alright, I’ll be the first to bite,” Sunset growled. She rested her spear casually on her shoulder. “What the heck just happened?”
Flash shook his head and sighed. “It was a demon, impersonating a nun. They’re foul creatures, summoned by dark wizards to do their bidding. Its presence here means we’re at the right spot.”
“And you knew that before you stabbed her?”
“Same trick I used on you,” Flash said with a grin. “Mention something obviously false the real person would catch immediately, like the little sister I don’t have. If they’re vaguely affirmative, you’ve got a liar.”
Sunset rolled her eyes. “I knew what you said was off, but being vague tends to be the safest bet when you’re running a con. Good trick.”
“My Queen taught me it after all.”
“Of course she did.” Sunset knelt down by the empty stain on the ground that had once been the demon. “So what’s next?”
Flash frowned. “Keep looking around, we might find a clue or a secret door somewhere. Just be careful. These demons aren’t the toughest, but where there’s one, there’s usually—”
“Sunset!” Twilight screamed.
Sunset whirled to see one of the creatures advancing on Twilight, drool dripping from rows of razor sharp teeth that split its face in a wicked grin.
Both Flash and Sunset lunged forward, but they got caught up on each other in the narrow doorway. The awkward maneuver cost them precious seconds.
The demon leapt forwards, hissing gleefully, eyes alight with fire.
A sharp crack split the forest, and the demon vanished into a puff of smoke.
Sunset blinked. Twilight stood there trembling, her gun raised in front of her, wisps of energy coiling around the barrel.
Twilight turned to Sunset and gave a shaky smile. Her right sleeve began to stain red and she fell to her knees with a cry of pain.
“Twilight!” Sunset rushed to her side on an instant. She gently pulled Twilight’s hand away, inspecting the wound, then returned it. “It doesn't look too deep, but keep pressure on it. I remembered to pack bandages, give me a second. I'm so sorry, I should have been paying more attention.”
Twilight managed to smile through clenched teeth. “It's my fault we’re here anyway, right? I broke my leg during a hiking accident as a kid once. This is nothing.”
“Have her drink this,” Flash said, handing Sunset a vial of clear liquid. “It should heal her up in a few minutes.”
“For real?” Twilight asked, her eyes sparkling. “If you have healing powers that strong, it could change everything our world knows about medicine!”
“One problem at a time, sweetie.” Sunset patted Twilight on the head, handed her the potion, then stood up. Glittering pairs of eyes stared back at them from the trees, and low laughter carried across the wind. They were surrounded.
“They're not poisonous, are they?” Sunset drew her spear and shield into her telekinesis and took position with Flash at her back.
“This variety? No. Nasty infections though. The potion should handle it, though it's mostly just good for knitting flesh wounds. She’ll need some aftercare later.”
“Good to know.”
A stillness fell over the clearing, marred only by the gently blowing breeze and the rustling of trees.
Sunset grinned. “We doing this or what?”
In reply a chorus of shrieks erupted from every direction and the pack of demons leapt into the air, ready to tear the small party limb from limb.
Sunset’s spear rocketed through the air, impaling the first demon clean through. The blow stopped it’s momentum completely, and it hung there limply on the shaft of metal, twitching. She batted aside the second demon with the rounded metal of her shield. The impact rang through the forest like a gong and the twisted beast slammed into a tree, dazed and lying in a crumbled heap.
A third still bore down on her, and Sunset let the flow of power in.
Magic, at its most basic, was energy. Force that could be controlled and directed, through conduits like a unicorn’s horn, and mental acuity. With advanced spells, and the memorization of complex patterns, that energy could be shaped to do almost anything.
Sunset didn’t know what conduits or patterns this world’s magic required to be shaped. Most of the ones she knew from Equestrian magic didn’t work. But the energy was still there. And simply directing it around was child’s play.
Sunset pointed her finger at the descending imp and willed fire into existence. A bright flash left her blind, a titanic boom that was surely heard across half the queendom deafened her, and a wave of hot wind nearly knocked her to the ground.
As she blinked the spots from her eyes and tried to shake the ringing from her ears, she looked around to see that everyone else on the battlefield had been momentarily stunned.
“Sorry!” Sunset shouted, her voice muffled to her own ears. “Still trying to figure this out!”
Flash recovered before his opponents did and moved with the simple, practiced movements of combat butchery. His sword tore smoke from the demons like it was all they were made of, and it danced around or parried their blows as if he were training awkward children.
When something crashed into her from behind, she realized that taking the chance to admire his prowess was probably a mistake.
She felt claws rake against her chain vest, which fortunately held fast. She twisted about, trying to shake the demon off. She couldn’t let it get ahold of her where it would have easy access to her less protected extremities.
A crack split the air and something else slammed into Sunset from behind. The impact knocked her to the ground and her breath flew from her lungs.
Even as her mind fought for clarity, Sunset rolled onto her back and pulled her shield down in front of her.
After a few moments when no further attack came, Sunset looked to see the demon lying on the ground, trying to get up but failing.
Twilight had her gun trained to it. She glanced to Sunset and gave a weak smile.
Sunset blinked. “Did you just shoot me?”
“Um…” Twilight coughed and looked away. “It was set to stun.”
Calling her spear down to finish the stunned demon, Sunset regained her feet and found no opponents left for her.
Flash finished dispatching the last of the demons, then wiped black soot from his blade. “Casualty report.”
“A bit sore, but I think we’re all intact.” Sunset grunted, then swept her eyes around the forest. “You said these were summoned by dark wizards or whatever? What kind of numbers can we expect?”
Flash frowned and rubbed at his chin. “I’m not exactly an expert on such things, but I think what we just faced is about the limit of your garden variety warlock. Any more would require more practitioners, or a considerable reserve of magical power.”
As if on cue, a horde of demons burst forth from a trapdoor inside the chapel, skittering and scrambling over each other in their rush to get out.
“Get down!” Sunset screamed. She knelt in front of Twilight, held up her shield, and unleashed her power once more. A little more precision this time. She demolished the entire structure on top of the demons, flattening the old wood with crushing force from above. Then she channeled her energy into heat, turning the pile of scrap into a raging inferno. Shrieks rang out in the cold morning air, and were quickly silenced.
Twilight licked her lips, tugged gently on Sunset’s sleeve. “Are you really doing all of that by yourself?”
Sunset let out a breath. A wave of dizziness swept over her, and she stayed crouched, turning to face Twilight with a weak grin. “Yeah. Takes a bit more out of me than I thought, though. Damn.”
Flash made his way over to them, eyeing the burning wreckage. “I suspect the queen is deeper inside the tunnel those things came out of. But we’ll need to move all that away first.”
“Yeah yeah, give me a minute.” Sunset fished out her pack, then pulled out a bottle of water and a power bar.
Twilight blew her bangs out of her eyes and rubbed at her shoulder. It seemed like the flesh had knitted together, leaving only a scar behind, though the way she winced when she touched it suggested it was still tender. “This is all so insane… and everything keeps happening so fast.”
Sunset took a swig of her water, swished it around, spit it out, then drank some more. “When I was Princess Celestia’s student, she once sent me on a mission to retrieve an ancient gemstone from a remote village. When I got there, I found that it had been stolen by diamond dogs, and the vermin had been harassing the village for years. I eventually gave them all a good solid drubbing, collapsed their tunnels, and drove them away, but fighting them was a lot like this. Quick bouts of intense action that spring out of nowhere, and then you’ve either won or they’d run away.”
“I see.” Twilight took a deep breath, then sighed. “You’re really amazing, Sunset. I can’t help but admire that. I know what we said earlier, and I believe you, but… I mean, when you run around performing miracles, and being a total badass… why would you be interested in a boring girl like me?”
“If I was amazing, I would have solved the problem through diplomacy instead of violence. Fostered friendship between both parties. Maybe I could have left behind something new, something better than it was before.” Sunset grimaced and looked away. “Anyway, I thought we agreed to save the relationship talk for when we got back.” She stood up, then helped Twilight to her feet. “I like you because I like you, Twilight. You’re cute and smart and I enjoy spending time with you. Do I need any more of a reason than that? Also, you had my back in that last fight, and took out that earlier demon on your own, which was pretty badass in its own right.”
Twilight blushed, but smiled brightly.
Flash cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt, uh, you two, but we are on a schedule here.”
Sunset nodded. She stretched, cracking her back and loosening her sore muscles. Then she channeled magic to lift and move the burning remains of the chapel, depositing them a short distance away. Burning coals surrounded an opening in the ground, and what appeared to be a staircase descending into some sort of tunnel.
“Not enough room to fight side by side in there. Take rear guard, Lady Sunset.” He set about kicking the remaining embers to the side, creating a path. Grass smoldered and blackened around the burning remains of the building, but it didn’t seem like it was in any danger of spreading to the trees.
Which was a good thing, because Sunset wasn’t sure she knew how to put the fire out.
Black spots swam in front of Sunset’s eyes, and she wobbled on her feet, but she shook them off, rubbing her forehead. “Sure thing. That means you’re in the middle, Twilight. If we get into a fight, crouch low and get to the side. I’ll need to maneuver my weapons above you.”
Twilight nodded, looking a bit concerned as they gathered their wits and descended into the darkness below.
The tunnels turned out to be old catacombs, tunnels used for the transport and storage of the dead. It was dark, dusty, and horrifically morbid. Thankfully, at least one cliche was avoided, and no skeletons rose from the darkness to attack them.
The demons, however, kept coming.
The little bastards attacked in packs of two and three. In the narrow confines Sunset couldn't bring any of her fury to bear for risk of hurting her allies, but her spear and Flash’s sword—with the occasional assist from Twilight—made quick work of them.
Sunset didn't make it through unscathed. By the time they reached an antechamber with a pair of large wooden double doors, she was completely exhausted. Blood caked around various tears in her clothing. For serious wounds the healing potions had done quite nicely, but they weren't an unlimited resource, so many of her cuts and bruises had to make due with ointment and bandages.
“You think this is it?” Sunset asked. She collapsed against a nearby wall, the cool stone a welcome relief to her sweat soaked body. “Looks kind of ominous to me.”
Twilight sat down next to Sunset, hesitated, then grabbed her hand. “I feel like I can hear chanting.”
Flash ran his fingers along the door, then pushed against it with a grunt. The heavy wood didn't budge. “There's some kind of enchantment keeping it sealed.”
Sunset groaned. “Of course there is. If there's a locked door, means there's gotta be something interesting behind it, right? Give me a minute, I can probably bust through.”
It would take precious energy she might need to deal with whatever is on the other side, though.
“I wonder how the other girls would deal with this,” Twilight mumbled. She idly traced her finger through the dust on the floor.
“It's kind of easy to picture.” Sunset said, chuckling. “Rarity would complain a bunch, Applejack would try to be a sensible leader, until Rainbow Dash goaded her into making it a contest. Fluttershy would hang back and play support. And Pinkie would be Pinkie.”
Twilight giggled. “Yeah, that sounds about right.” She squeezed Sunset’s hand a little tighter.
Sunset squeezed back. “We’ll see them all again soon enough.”
With a war cry, Flash leapt through the air and slammed his sword into the door. His efforts met with a shower of sparks and was then thrown back into the hallway.
“So much for that.” Flash grunted and picked himself up off the ground. “Lady Sunset, do you think you're up for the task?”
Sunset winced as she stood up, but managed not to lose her balance. “I'm running on fumes here.”
Flash blinked. “Fumes?”
Stupid idioms. She wouldn't have gotten that herself four years ago. “I can probably bust it, but won't have much power left if there's a fight on the other side.
“I see.” Flash rubbed at his chin, then sighed. He dug into his pack until he pulled out a vial with a swirling purple liquid. “This is a combat enhancer. Dulls pain, enhances reflexes. Lets you push your body and mind to their absolute limit. It's dangerous though. You crash hard afterwards, and the power it gives makes you feel like you can do anything, which is a good way to make a fatal mistake.”
Sunset took the vial and eyed it, noting how the dim torchlight filtered through the liquid. “Wasn't expecting to turn to hard drugs so soon.”
Twilight grabbed onto Sunset’s arm. “This doesn't sound like a good idea.”
“Sometimes the bad ideas are what you need in the moment. Unless you have an alternative?”
“Well, I… Oh!” Twilight pulled away, then began fiddling with her gun. “This isn't just a fancy weapon. The original design absorbs magic, remember?”
Sunset blinked, then grinned.
Twilight ran over to the door, pressed the tip of her gun against the wood, and pulled the trigger. Wisps of luminescent smoke began to drift into the gun, the radial lights on the back lighting up in rapid succession. A sharp buzzing sound rang out, and after a few moments, the crack of shattering glass echoed down the hall, followed by a rush of wind.
Flash eyed Twilight’s gun appreciatively, then nodded and drew his sword. “Ready yourselves. I don't know what we'll be facing here, but I have a bad feeling about this.”
Sunset took position next to him, spear and shield floating in front of her. “Hey Twilight, serious time for a second. If things go really badly, run, and don't stop until you make it back home, okay?”
“Huh? Sunset, there's no way I could—”
Flash reared back and kicked the door open.
What greeted them inside was, well. A lot to take in.
Torches burning with blue flame cast an eerie glow over the high domed ritual chamber. Columns carved into horrible monstrosities locked in combat with humans with beautiful features were dotted around in what were presumably structurally important locations.
In the center of the room a dais rose above the ground, giving the three of them a clear view of the man in dark robes atop it. Intricate runes and circles, glowing with the same blue light, stretched from the center across the room and up the walls.
Where the forms of two very familiar women were suspended in midair, lines of energy swirling from them towards the man in black.
“Chancellor Haspitte,” Flash growled, taking a step forward. “I should have known it was you, you simpering traitor.”
“Crap,” Sunset whispered. “I was really hoping it would be the butler.”
Twilight turned to stare at her, her head tilted to the side. “Why the heck would it be the butler?”
“I don't even know this guy! What’s the fun in stopping a villain when you can’t rub it in their face?”
“This isn’t our story, remember?” Twilight rolled her eyes, but smiled anyway.
The chancellor looked down at the three of them with a sneer. “You’re far too late, Commander. The time where countries are ruled by fluke of birth and strength of bloodline is over. The people shall reign, and the magic of the queen’s is mine!”
Flash moved closer still, his eyes blazing. “Release my queen now, and I’ll let you pick two of your limbs that you get to keep.”
“Poor little Flash Sentry,” Haspitte droned. “Ever the faithful sycophant. Tell me, do you think rescuing her will actually make her care for you? I’m afraid her heart is far more dark and corrupted than you ever would have dreamed. In fact, she’s been—”
Sunset tuned out the boring speech and leaned in closer to Twilight. “Psst.” She tapped the energy indicator on the back of Twilight’s gun, which was completely full. Then she pointed to the chancellor, and winked.
Twilight grinned, nodded, and took careful aim. Her hands shook and she licked her lips as she tried to center the shot.
Sunset stepped up behind her, wrapping her arms around Twilight to support the gun, helping her aim.
Twilight blushed, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger.
“And this glorious victory is all thanks to—”
A brilliant bolt of energy tore through the air, crackingly and screeching before it slammed directly into the chancellor’s chest. He flew backwards off the dais where he tumbled out of sight.
“Yes!” Sunset shouted. She pumped her fist into the air, then clapped Twilight on the back.
Twilight stared, her mouth hanging open. “I just… we just did it, didn’t we? It was so… easy.”
Sunset nodded. “That’s the way you want fights to be, really.”
Flash glanced back at them, then sighed. “My queen is still in trouble. Lady Twilight, do you think you can use your device to get them down?”
“Huh?” Oh, right, sorry. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can—”
“So be it,” a deep voice rumbled from all around them. “Let me show you the power of the nations which you claim to serve.” The chancellor raised a glowing fist into the air, intricate runic patterns lighting up all across the room.
Dark wisps of smoke billowed from the dais, twisting and coalescing into shapes: a great torso the size of the room, muscled arms as thick as an ancient tree, and a wispy head of indiscernible shape, save for the burning blue fires that served as eyes.
A fist the size of a car smacked Flash aside, and he crumpled into a heap against the far wall.
Sunset chugged the potion Flash had given her.
It hit her in an instant, like a needle of adrenaline stabbed directly into her heart. She gasped, her body suddenly tingling with energy, burning with the need to move, to fight, to win.
Sunset let out a scream that was one part battle cry, one part exultation.
Both massive fists coalesced raised in the air to slam down onto Flash and finish the job.
Sunset skidded to a stop in front of him, shield raised to absorb the impact. The shield held firm, the force rocking through her mind. She strained to hold back such an awesome blow, but she didn’t have to hold it for very long. Her spear spun through the air, rotating fast enough to cut clean through both wrists, which erupted in great gouts of blue flame while the fists dissolved into smoke.
There was a howl of otherworldly pain that shook the chamber around them, her footing unsteady. She didn’t relent, dashing forward. Heat and power streamed towards her in a curving arc from the demon’s eyes. She sensed that they would overwhelm her shield, so she ducked into a slide. The rough cavern floor tore up her leggings, but she didn’t pay it any mind. As she slid under the beast she stabbed again and again into its torso, more fire casting erratic shadows that danced about.
“It’s useless!” the chancellor roared. He stood in the back of the room, underneath the protection of a dome of energy. “The meager power you can bring to bear will never compare!”
She’d just see about that. Easier just to target the one controlling the monster. She charged towards the chancellor, gathering her power. She found herself laughing as force and fire began to swirl around her hand, growing painfully bright.
She leapt through the air, bringing the energy crashing down onto his shield. Sparks flew in every direction, and she could feel it starting to give under her overwhelming strength. She hung there, grinning as she stared into his eyes and saw a crack split his defense.
The chancellor rolled his eyes, expression full of contempt, and lifted a finger. Something slammed into Sunset’s stomach and she flew backwards through the air, landing hard on the cold stone.
Before she could regain her feet, dark tendrils of smoke snaked around her limbs, pulling her into the air and binding her tight.
“Oh hell no,” Sunset growled. She struggled against her bindings briefly, and once she realized that physical strength wouldn’t do the trick, began to summon enough magic to tear free.
The ethereal fist that slammed into her jaw disrupted her concentration. The subsequent pummeling from every direction didn’t do her much good either.
Flash’s words about that potion making her overconfident echoed in her mind.
A familiar hiss of steel whipped through the air, and Sunset fell down to the ground. She looked up to see Flash there, battered, but whole.
“Thought you were down for the count,” Sunset grunted. She stood up, wiped at her jaw, then spat out blood.
“I don’t know what that means,” Flash said. “But as long as my queen needs me, I will never give up.”
Sunset glanced towards her counterpart, then to Flash. “Do you love her?”
Flash winced. “As a boy, yes. I have long since been disillusioned of that notion.”
“Probably wouldn’t work out anyway.” Sunset turned to face the mass of darkness that had surrounded them. “You ready to end this?”
Another giant fist made to smash them both where they stood. They dodged in opposite directions, and Flash’s sword severed the hand at the wrist in one quick snicker-snack.
“I’ll open him up!” Sunset called. She wreathed a jet of white hot flame around the tip of her spear, then sent it to slice through the top and bottom of one of the nearby columns. Even as it began to slide away, Sunset grabbed ahold with telekinesis, her mind and body straining against the immense weight. She planted her feet, then swung the massive column of stone directly into the face of the great demon.
Flash followed right behind. He leapt into the air, cleaving downwards with his sword and splitting the column with a bubbling of molten stone, bisecting the creature as he fell.
Sunset held onto both halves of the column, and slammed them back into the demon from either side.
The roar that burst forth from the demon threatened to deafen her, but its form wavered, then burst into a flash of blue light, globs of iridescent napalm flying in every direction. Sunset dodged a few, then grinned.
She walked towards the chancellor, her spear ready in front of her, the tip still glowing red hot. Fire fell all around her. She saw his shield flicker and vanish.
“It’s not appropriate for a soldier,” Flash said, walking towards him from the opposite direction, “but I think I’m going to enjoy this.”
The chancellor held his head low, muttering something under his breath. Energy still coiled into him from the imprisoned queens.
“Crap, he’s still—”
A rush of heat that threatened to tear the air from her lungs washed over her, and the blue globs of flame began to swirl through the air. Sunset crouched low, shielding her face as they formed into the shape of the demon once more, only this time a mass of fire rather than smoke.
It roared and slammed its hands into the cavern floor, which bubbled and melted away at the impact.
Sunset grit her teeth. She glanced over at Flash, and what she saw in his eyes echoed her own sense that they were outmatched.
“Now understand the true meaning of power!”
The demon’s arms spread wide, stretching to encircle the entire outside wall of the cavern. Columns melted away, and it began to sweep inwards, an overwhelming flame ready to consume everything in its path.
And then all of a sudden, it stopped moving. Wisps of energy began to trickle away from its arms, dancing towards the center of the room. The oppressive heat that threatened to suffocate ebbed, and Sunset sucked in a deep breath of fresh air.
She turned to see Twilight, standing at the center of the dais. She held her device high into the air, disassembled from the framework of the gun. Just like Sunset had seen months prior at the Friendship Games, all the available magic in the area was pulled into the dark vortex that was the result of the insane genius of Twilight Sparkle.
Within moments the lights in the room shifted, the creature gone, the torchlights gone, the glowing runes gone. Only the radiance held in Twilight’s outstretched hand illuminated everything, and she stared down into the stunned face of the chancellor.
A moment passed, long enough to be awkward before Twilight cleared her throat. “You, uh, shouldn’t take things that don’t belong to you!”
Sunset rubbed at the bridge of her nose. She’d have to give Twilight a lesson on proper one-liners later.
Twilight threw her device to the ground and power spilled out, all of it streaking through the air back towards its originators.
Queen Twilight Sparkle and Queen Sunset Shimmer erupted in a corona of purple and gold radiance. Their forms shifted, sprouting wings and horns of energy. It was a mirror to their own transformations, but somehow carried an air of regal majesty that Sunset knew she’d never be able to match.
They floated down towards the chancellor, eyes full of cold anger.
Chancellor Haspitte, to his credit, did not run or cower. He stood up, chin held high, facing both of them. “I did what was best for this country.”
Queen Sunset shook her head and sighed. She raised a finger to point between his eyes.
Sunset took a step forward, maybe to object, but whatever rush of power had kept her going throughout this battle suddenly ran out, and she was unconscious before she even hit the ground.
Sunset awoke to the warmth of sunshine on her face, a gentle breeze, the song of birds and insects intermingling to create the harmony of nature.
Then came the pain.
Every muscle in Sunset’s body felt like it had been wrapped in a rag of boiling water, which then shrunk three sizes. She groaned as her eyes fluttered open, the sunlight stabbing like needles directly into her brain. She tried to raise an arm to shield her eyes, but it was mostly unresponsive.
A shadow fell over her, indistinct as it blocked out the light. “Hey. You feeling alright?”
Sunset blinked a few more times, then finally recognized the shape and voice. “Twilight?” She realized that she could feel warmth under her head, and that she must be in Twilight’s lap. “What happened?”
Twilight smiled softly, idly running her finger across Sunset’s cheek. She shifted her position, and sat Sunset up, leaning her against what appeared to be a large boulder. “Uh, let’s see. Short version, the chancellor was taken care of, the cavern started to collapse, we teleported out, Queen Sunset and Flash left to deal with their political stuff, and Queen Twilight brought us here to rest while you recovered, and we’ve been talking about a bunch of stuff.”
“I see.” Sunset cracked her neck, then tried to raise her arm again. It was heavy, like it had been asleep, but she managed it. “Sounds like everything worked out in the end.”
“More or less,” Queen Twilight said, stepping into Sunset’s field of vision. “Queen Sunset and I have a lot of work to do for our nations, but it’s no concern of yours. I do want to extend our utmost thanks to you, however. You have saved our lives, and probably the lives of many others down the line. We are eternally grateful.”
Sunset took a moment to study the queen. She was older than Twilight, and even Princess Twilight. Early thirties, maybe. Her skin was absolutely flawless, and she had a figure that could make mouths water. Her hair waved with an ethereal luminescence as it fanned out over her shoulders.
Twilight noticed Sunset’s visual appreciation of her regal counterpart and she pursed her lips, her eyes downcast.
Queen Twilight giggled. “You two are adorable! Sorry, you just remind me so much of Sunny and I when we were younger. I do miss those days.” Her eyes grew distant for a moment, before she shook her head. “Are you feeling well, Sunset? I’ve done the best I can to heal your wounds, but it won’t help with exhaustion.”
Sunset grunted, and flexed her fingers. “I’ll live.”
“Great! Now, before you go, Queen Sunset wanted you to have this.” With a glow of purple magic, the spear and chain shirt floated to the ground in front of them. “She doesn’t use them much anymore, and it fits well in your hands. Oh, and Twilight, I’d love to get to know you better, and learn about your world, and share what I can with you about mine. Here.” She handed Twilight a small, leather bound diary. “I suspect you already know how it works,” she said, glancing at Sunset with a smirk.
“Yeah, seen one or two of those before,” Sunset said, trying not to blush.
Twilight adjusted her glasses, disentangled herself from Sunset, stood up, and shook Queen Twilight’s hand. “Thank you so much.”
Queen Twilight waved her hand dismissively. “Alright alright, too many thank yous and we’ll be here all day. I’ve still got to get back home and make sure Spike didn’t burn down half the kingdom looking for me.”
Sunset grabbed the spear and used it to prop herself up as she tried to stand. She faltered, but Twilight ducked under her shoulder, supporting her. “Sorry for barging into your world in the first place.”
“Same thing goes for apologies,” Queen Twilight said, wagging her finger. “Though you’re right. I'll be locking down this portal stone once you pass through. We can communicate, and that’s fine, but this world is in too much turmoil for firecrackers like you two to be wandering around.”
“Fair enough.” Sunset shook Queen Twilight’s hand, then grinned. “I’ll be sure to tell the third Twilight Sparkle I know all about this.”
Queen Twilight blinked, glanced between the two of them, then burst out laughing.
After another round of goodbyes, Queen Twilight stepped away, and with a flash of light, was gone.
“So,” Twilight said, supporting Sunset as they limped around to the front of the portal stone. “I believe you said something about um…” she blushed and licked her lips, but continued, “relationship talk?”
Sunset chuckled. “Did you learn anything from this trip?”
Twilight pursed her lips. “Beyond the wealth of scientific and cultural data that’s going to take me weeks to unpack? I learned that adventures are scary, fighting is scary, love is scary, but you kind of just do it anyway, you know? What about you?”
“I learned—well, was reminded, really—that I might be a bit of an adrenaline junky.”
Twilight rolled her eyes and elbowed Sunset in the side.
Sunset grunted, but stuck her tongue out. It hurt a lot more than she let show. “This was all a pretty stupid idea, but I’m glad we did it. If you want to be girlfriends, Twilight, with kissing, and dates, and sexy things, and maybe even an adventure here and there, I’d be happy to do it with you.”
“I…” Twilight blushed a deep crimson but her smile was unavoidable. “In all those stories I read as a kid, one of my favorite parts was always when the heroine gets the girl.”
“A bit cheesy if you ask me.” Sunset leaned over, kissed Twilight on the cheek, then turned to face the portal. “Come on, let’s go home.”