The Worst of All Possible Worlds

by TheTimeSword

Arc 1: Chapter 2

Ponies pushed and shoved to get off the cramped train while Sunset took a moment to stretch her limbs. The overnight trip aboard the mildly comfortable benches were apparently not for sleeping. Rest had been a come and go experience what with the snores of other passengers, the common noise of the train, and her own anxiety of what they would soon face. Regardless of their sleeping arrangements, both Sunset and Applejack were wide awake, eager to find the next Element of Harmony. Neither had ever been to the city of Manehattan.

Just exiting onto the train platform gave them an idea of what they would be dealing with. Skyscrapers, large bridges, bustling traffic of pony-drawn carriages, and shouts and shrieks in every direction. To Sunset, it was almost like being downtown, though it was much less muggy without the diesel bound cars and trucks. To Applejack, however, it was nothing like she had ever seen. The tallest building in Ponyville was the town hall, but even she could climb that and be back down with ease. To scale any of these buildings would mean a lot of planning, patience, and luck. Though falling from any of these giants would be less worrying since there seemed to be more pegasus in the sky than clouds or birds.

Sunset’s drawn map left a lot to be desired once they realized the markers were far too large, even for the gigantic city. “Where do we even attempt to start?” Applejack had asked, to which Sunset could not answer. As they trotted off the platform, they came across a tourist board marked with destinations for travelers. It seemed outdated, perhaps only used prior to the war. Applejack raised a hoof and pointed to one of the names. “Manehattan City Hall.”

“If Rarity is here to help the war effort, then maybe Fluttershy is here helping in her own way too. Heading to the city hall might be our best option to find ponies who are aiding the war effort.” Sunset studied the street names for a moment, looking to find the best route. “Alright, let’s see if somepony can help us there. If not,” she paused and motioned to the docks on the east side of town. “I’m sure the bay will have ponies shipping all sorts of supplies out of Manehattan. Maybe somepony there might know them.”

Traipsing down the city’s streets seemed a lot more dangerous on hoof rather than hailing a cab. Every crosswalk had an older pony or foal crossing without paying attention to the signal, ending up with a cart screeching to a halt and some vulgar language tossed around like it was nothing. It’s definitely like downtown, Sunset thought. There was a small difference between her city and Manehattan, however. Ponies smiled at each other as they passed on the sidewalk, but in Manehattan, nopony smiled. Whenever she looked directly at Applejack, she noticed how out of place she seemed to be. Not just because of her country personality, but because she smiled. It was a glow that Manehattan lacked. She wondered if it had always been this way, even before King Sombra’s return.

Once they reached city hall, Applejack noted how large and undamaged it was compared to Ponyville’s town hall. Large sets of marble steps lead up to the beige building. Six columns held a decorative purpose in front of the large open doorway, though most ponies used them as cover from the wind. Sunset pushed through the mahogany doors with Applejack on her tail. It was an endless flood of ponies entering and exiting the foyer of the city hall. The circular room was tall and wide with a welcome desk opposite the door. Flags hung down from above, and two sets of large doors were matching the one they came through on both sides of the room.

Flashes of cameras and echoing voices sounded off in the middle of the foyer. “Mayor! Mayor!” a male reporter called out as he slammed past Sunset. He didn’t even apologize nor did he even attempt to acknowledge his mistake. Instead, like all the other reporters, he crowded around a pony that stood in the center of the congregating press.

“Please, I am not answering any questions today,” the mayor said, “But you can save them for the press conference tomorrow morning.”

As the mayor pressed through the crowd of paparazzi, Sunset and Applejack stood in her path. “Mayor?” Applejack called out, surprised to see grey haired pony she once knew in Ponyville.

For a moment, the mayor recognized her, but then the memory seemed to fade from her eyes. She quickly asked, “Do I know you? If you’re looking for a story, please wait until tomorrow’s press conference.”

Applejack shook her head. “It’s me Mayor, Applejack! From Ponyville?” Reporters soon swarmed the three with questions of who they were and how they knew Mayor Mare, all itching for a scandal or secret details.

It seemed to click for Mayor Mare upon the mentioning of Ponyville. She quickly called for them to follow her through the foyer, past the large reception desk where the reporters couldn’t pass. Sunset and Applejack followed her down two separate halls, both smaller than the last. City officials seemed to chatter around water coolers but broke up as soon as they saw the mayor coming. A unicorn secretary quickly opened a decorative auburn door with frosted glass window, to which the mayor led them both through. It was then closed by the same unicorn, leaving them undisturbed by the rest of the offices.

“You have no idea how good it is to see somepony from Ponyville,” Mayor Mare said, wrapping her forelegs around the fellow earth pony. “Manehattan is a growing nightmare compared to that rundown town. No offense.”

Applejack patted the mayor’s back before breaking off from the hug. “Yeah, it certainly looks like a hoofful. You got your own office though, that’s a step up from Ponyville.”

“Yes, well, the town hall in Ponyville pretty much was my whole office. And it didn’t come with the numerous difficulties that this one has,” she replied, motioning to the sole window opposite the door where only another building sat. She trotted around her desk that seemed too big for the small office and sat down in a chair that creaked like bending metal. “So, what can I do for Ponyville’s finest farmer and…” Her eyes drifted to Sunset. “Who are you?”

“This here is Sunset Shimmer,” Applejack introduced, smiling at the unicorn. “She’s uh, she has got a real good plan for helpin’ defeat King Sombra.”

The mayor’s desk seemed to move as she suddenly pushed against it. “Shhhush!” she hollered, waving her forelegs at them. “Don’t mention his name around here or you’ll start a panic! I don’t need more worried ponies on the city steps!”

“Why would that start a panic?” asked Sunset. It’s not like they don’t know about the war.

Mayor Mare sat back in her chair and turned it away from them, facing the window with the atrocious view. “The whole war has the city in panic. Everyone expected Princess Celestia to have won by now, but every day we hear more tales of her forward operating base being pushed back by King Sombra’s forces. Everypony knows that if they get overwhelmed, Manehattan will be the first to see the consequences of her loss.”

“That’s why we’re here. We’re looking for two ponies that will help us defeat him and put this timeline back on track,” Sunset pleaded.

“Timeline?” Mayor Mare spun her chair back around.

Applejack quickly covered Sunset’s mouth, holding her in a tight grip. “Heh, sorry ‘bout that. My friend here is just a little tired from the trip is all. But she is right, we’re looking for two other ponies that are somewhere within the city. A pegasus named Fluttershy is one, the other is Rarity who also used to live in Ponyville. She was a dressmaker, I think.”

“Rarity… Rarity…” The mayor tapped her desk as she pushed the name into her brain. She got up from her chair, still repeating the name, and pulled open one of the drawers from the desk. Applejack let go of Sunset who took a few moments to breathe as the mayor plopped a file on the desk, startling her. “Here we are. Yes, she runs a clothing charity over on the east side of the city, near the bay. I believe they give out clothing to homeless foals while also creating underclothes for Celestia’s troops. You can find her between Ninth and Horseshoe Avenue, though I don’t have a record of the name of her charity on this file for some reason.” She closed the folder. “As for this, Flutterguy, I don’t have anything on that fellow. Sorry.”

“That’s alright. It’s more than enough help. Thank you, Mayor,” Applejack replied.

“I’m glad I could be of some service to someone lately. Especially you, Applejack. You’ve more than earned it after all the times you and your family helped Ponyville.” Her smile faltered. “It’s a shame that you and I couldn’t have saved the town completely. Though I suppose neither of us are to blame for that.” She sighed. “Regardless, I’m sure you two can see yourselves out. It was good to meet you Sunset, and pleasure seeing you again, Applejack. If you’re ever back in the city, let me know. We could do lunch.”

They said their goodbyes to the mayor and made their way out of the city hall. The reporters had long since vanished, making it easy to head back out into Manehattan. “Alright, Ninth and Horseshoe Avenue,” Sunset repeated the mayor’s directions. “That was surprisingly good luck that we ran into someone you knew.”

“Yeah, but, she’s right,” replied Applejack as she lifted her necklace to look at it. “A lot of ponies are unknowingly countin’ on you being right about this. Uniting the six Elements, bringing us together. If we don’t, or if we fail, a lot of ponies are gonna be in trouble.”

Sunset kept her smile from Applejack’s view and didn’t bother to answer. They hadn’t failed before in the alternate timeline that she came from, they wouldn’t fail here. Not if she could help it. “It’s this way. Here’s Horseshoe Avenue.” The street was made of dirt like that in Ponyville, which seemed a bit odd for the overly populated Manehattan. Fillies and colts played in the road, kicking a ball up and down the sides. No carriages traversed this part of the city it seemed, only wagons filled to the brim with supplies meant for the north.

“Is that it?” Applejack asked, pointing to a shop without a sign.

“No, this isn’t Ninth. This is Seventh Street. Should be three more.”

“You mean two more,” corrected Applejack.

They traveled two more blocks, passing Eighth Street, then Main Street. “No, I meant three,” she replied as they cruised past Main, reaching Ninth Street. She could feel her coy smile as she peered back at Applejack.

“Show off,” Applejack grumbled. “Well, then that’s gotta be it.”

On the corner of Ninth and Horseshoe Avenue, just like Mayor Mare said, sat a door with a white and purple sign over it. “Rarity’s Charity,” Sunset mouthed. The two-story brick and mortar was a lot less dazzling than Sunset would have imagined for her designer friend. Even the sign left something to be desired, the paint had chipped and the wood warped from the rain.

“Before we head in, I’ve got a tiny question that’s been with me since we left city hall,” Applejack spoke up. “Rarity’s the, what’s it, generous Element? If she’s doing a charity to give out to ponies, shouldn’t she already have her fancy necklace? Shouldn’t she already know that she’s needed for somethin’?”

Sunset shrugged. She didn’t have an answer for the earth pony, and she didn’t need one. The answer was either waiting for them inside or it wasn’t.

The bell over the door rung out as Sunset pushed it open, only to have it overshadowed by the dozens of sewing machines working all at the same time. Clothes were sewn together and then tossed in piles, left for another worker to pick up and prepare for travel. Most of the brown clothing had collars of cotton, while blue was for the back leg pants. There didn’t seem to be any other colors that Sunset could spot as they waltzed through the loud building.

At the furthest row of seamstresses sat a white unicorn. Her purple mane didn’t move under the amethyst colored bow as she stood up. The unicorn trotted to a door on the wall opposite from where they entered, closing it behind her. “That’s Rarity,” Sunset whispered to Applejack, who didn’t hear what she had said but nodded her head, acting as if she had. They walked after the white mare, passing by the rows upon rows of sewing machines. None of the workers even looked up from their fabrics to give a suspicious eye or question who they were. Sunset gave a knock and didn’t hear anything. She knocked again before pushing the door open.

“What is it Tape Length?” the purple haired unicorn called out, not bothering to look at the opening door. “Did you receive word from that cynical sheep groomer yet?”

“Rarity?” Sunset called out while Applejack shut the door behind them.

The unicorn turned after realizing the voice wasn’t that of her co-worker. “Oh, I’m sorry. I was expecting somepony else. What can I do for you two?” she asked, still levitating a pencil and clipboard that she had been working with.

“Well, shoot. That sure is Rarity, though the clothes are a bit off for yah.” Applejack stepped forward, giving a wave to the dark amethyst colored uniform the unicorn wore.

“Um, do I know you two?” she asked boorishly, squinting her eyes down her muzzle at them both.

Applejack gave a nod and said, “You know me at the very least. You used to live back in Ponyville. I’m Applejack, one of the Apple family at Sweet Apple Acres.”

Rarity seemed to shift from side to side as she stared at Applejack as if to judge the mare on the truth and the look of her. “Uh huh,” she said in response, her accent seemed more posh compared to Mayor Mare’s. She didn’t say anything more, merely judging the two in silence.

“We’re here because you’re one of the six legendary Elements of Harmony,” Sunset added, hoping this would be easier than dealing with Applejack or Mayor Mare.

With a raised eyebrow this time, Rarity repeated herself, “Uh huh.”

Sunset looked worriedly at Applejack, her hopes slowly fleeting with every silent second and curt reply. “And, well, we’re going to go defeat King Sombra with these Elements after we gather the full six bearers.” She pointed to Applejack’s necklace, thinking that would prove their claim. “See?”

Rarity closed her mouth and swallowed, taking a moment before she decided to answer them. “Listen, this is a donations office for the war effort. We’re not looking to be part of any weirdo cult at the moment so I must ask you to please leave.”

Of course it won’t be easy, Sunset mused as she slapped her hoof against her forehead. “I know how it sounds, but you’ve got to believe us. You’re the Element of Generosity. We can’t hope to end the war without your help.” Or get me home.

“As nice as your friend’s necklace looks, nothing is going to convince me to leave my charity on some halfwit adventure. I’m not a soldier. I’m a seamstress with emphasis on stress. So again, I must ask you to please leave my establishment before I have to call the city guards.”

“Rarity, please. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’m from another world where we aren’t at war with King Sombra. The Crystal Empire is a free city full of happy ponies. You, Applejack, and four others helped in his defeat. You helped in several villains defeats. There’s got to be something we can do to convince you to help us. Anything,” Sunset pleaded, inching herself forward till she had become face to face with the other unicorn.

The annoyed look Rarity had hadn’t changed even with Sunset’s words. “Another world? That sounds like a cult to me.”

Applejack slapped herself across the forehead. “There’s a reason I held you back at the mayor’s office, Sunset. You barely got me convinced that you’re from another time, and that didn’t happen till we went to the Tree of Harmony. Shoutin’ it to everypony we meet is gonna lead to some jail time or livin’ in an insane asylum.”

She hadn’t thought of it like that. Sunset had assumed that everyone would just believe her word as truth, but that wasn’t the case. Then, a brilliant, magnificent idea popped into her head. “That’s it! We’ll have to do something extremely generous for you, Rarity. Then you’ll be convinced by the necklace appearing right in front of your very eyes!”

“I get my own necklace for this cult? How exciting,” Rarity huffed. “Really now. If you could convince that stubborn Fluttershy to generously donate the wool she promised us, then I might believe you.”

The name sent a spark into Sunset. “Fluttershy!? Absolutely! You tell us where she is and we’ll get that wool for you!” Sunset stomped her hooves with a movement of delighted dance.

The sudden excitement radiating from Sunset caused Rarity to drop her clipboard and pencil. “Right, well, she’s on the outskirts of town I believe. To the east and north of the docks, most if it is orchards out there, but there’s a sheep farm too,” she answered before levitating the fallen objects off the floor. “If you did this for me I’d certainly be grateful. I’d be able to mark a few things off my list if I had that wool.”

“A farm shouldn’t be difficult for me to find,” Applejack commended herself as she trotted over to the door.

“Awesome!” Out of force of habit, Sunset gave a quick hug to Rarity before rushing off behind Applejack. She didn’t get to see Rarity’s reaction, though if she had, she would have laughed at the disheveled confusion on the unicorn’s face. After the two exited the building and stepped out onto the dirt road, Sunset said, “Well, that didn’t go as planned, but we know where Fluttershy is. We might be able to, uh, smack two apple trees with one buck?”

Applejack gave a snort and let out a long, single hoot. “That sounds about right.”

One down, now they needed to find the other. Convincing them both would be hard, Sunset now knew, but she believed in herself. She had convinced the stubbornest pony she knew, after all.

They followed the road north and eventually reached the outskirts of town where buildings were spread apart and only held one floor. Sunset’s smile had stayed the entire walk. She had forgotten how fun it was just to spend time doing things with friends. Even though it wasn’t the friends she knew, gaining their friendship was just as exciting. For a moment, Sunset wondered if she had been forced to be here so that she could spend more time with the ones she cared about. Not that she minded if that had been the reasoning, but the words ‘time’ and ‘help’ still burned in the back of her brain.

Barns and country houses seemed smaller compared to that of Sweet Apple Acres, though the orchards that sat behind white picket fences were undoubtedly equal in size to the Apple’s farmland. This land, however, held no apple trees. Instead, pecans and oranges seemed to be the highlight of Manehattan’s produce, presumably meant for the sailors and soldiers of the north. The smell of freshly trimmed grass permeated the air of the farmland, with working ponies still out and about, hoping to finish their chores before sunset.

Once they were past the orchards and the grape vines, they stumbled into the farm animal territory. Pigs oinked as they passed by while cows ignored them, too focused on the fodder of the field they stood within. Neither of the mares seemed to be paying attention as a flood of sheep suddenly came bolting across the street, stopping them dead in their tracks. This herd of sheep filtered into a large, long metal barn that looked repurposed from something else. “Looks like we found sheep,” Applejack stated the obvious.

Sunset asked, “Yeah, but do you notice anything odd?”

Applejack glanced over the sheep as they passed, noting the floppy ears, happy smiles, and white wooly coats. “Uh,” she started to say. She took another, harder look at the seemingly perfect sheep. “No?”

Rolling her eyes, Sunset pointed to a passing sheep’s fleece coat. “They all have their wool. Unshorn sheep. Rarity was complaining about the lack of wool she was receiving.”

“Oh, yeah! Maybe they’re goin’ into that there buildin’ to be sheered?”

The last few sheep crossed the road and filtered into the metal barn, pushing and shoving against each other as the steel doors began to close behind them. Just before the doors could shut, Sunset and Applejack pushed through the opening. Dim lights hung overhead providing the only light now that the doors had closed, making the white wooly sheep a bit grayer in color. The musky scent of sheep and hay wafted through the enclosed space. It was a tight barn, and the sheep were just a tad smaller than they were. Seven or eight sheep could line from wall to wall at most, and there were at least a hundred down the length.

“Hurrk,” was the sound Sunset made before she pressed a hoof to her muzzle, blocking her nostrils.

Applejack looked at her and chuckled. “Guess you don’t live on a farm in your fancy human world. This place smells like home.” Applejack then took a big whiff of the barn’s scent, causing Sunset’s stomach to churn.

“Let’s just find out why these sheep haven’t been shaved yet,” Sunset said as she stepped to the left side, hoping to push against the wall and the sheep.

“Winter is coming,” a sheep said, startling Sunset away from the wall. “It’ll be too cold for us,” another stated. “Yeah! We’re keeping our wool. Fluttershy said so! She’s so kind.” Many of the sheep began repeating Fluttershy’s name, baaing and bleating incoherently.

So that’s the reasoning. Rarity was already generous, now Fluttershy is kind. This might be a lot harder than I thought, Sunset concluded as the sheep slowly simmered their cheering.

A voice then rose their cheers back from the silence. “What’s got you all so excited?” the voice questioned, echoing from the far end of the metal barn. Sunset could barely make out the pink of the pony’s head.

They pushed forward, pressing by the gentle livestock with ease. As they drew closer, the grey wool played contrast to the yellow and pink of the pegasus. The voice called out again, “Don’t worry little ones, you’ll be safe in here tonight, and then tomorrow you can go back into the yard.” The pegasus hadn’t noticed Sunset or Applejack creeping up behind her. The dim light worked against her just as it had for them.

The pegasus was busily moving hay bales around and brushing off the coats of the closest sheep. As she set down a bucket near the herd, her eyes drifted up to some movement that was higher than the rest of the livestock. That’s when she finally noticed the two ponies that stared at her with their menacing faces hidden in the shadowy lights. Her scream resonated within the metallic walls of the building, forcing Sunset and Applejack to cover their ears.

“Fluttershy!” Sunset called out over the screaming. Pushing through the sheep, Sunset reached out and closed shut Fluttershy’s muzzle. “Enough!” she commanded in a deep, angry voice.

“Is it safe?” Applejack yelled, still covering her ears. Some of the sheep looked up at her with squinting eyes and brief looks while others snickered and murmured.

Pushing Sunset’s hoof away, Fluttershy asked, “W-Who are you? What d-do you want?”

“Relax, relax. We’re friends.” Sunset hadn’t thought of what she could say to the pegasus to get her on her side. According to Applejack, mentioning the different timelines was out of the question. “My name is Sunset Shimmer,” she greeted, “We have been looking for you, Rarity told us we could find you here.”

“R-Ra-Rarity?” the pegasus stuttered and wiped the sweat from her brow. “You’re not h-here to collect the wo-wool are you?”

“The wool, Rarity, and you, actually.”

Her answer looked to have puzzled the pegasus. “Please! Don’t tell anyone about the sheep! I beg of you!” Fluttershy dropped to the ground, pleading with Sunset. Hay and dirt clung to her tears and stuck to her face in the process.

Sunset stared down at the teary-eyed pegasus. It had been a long while since she made her timid friend cry. A flood of memories poured into her mind. Yelling, slamming lockers, cornering her. There were a lot of things she had done to the shyest of her human friends, all of which she still regretted, regardless of being forgiven. Now, staring down at the sullen pegasus, Sunset wondered if she’d ever get to see that introverted friend again, to share a day at the animal shelter or a picnic with her friendly animals.

Placing a hoof on Fluttershy’s shoulder, Sunset said, “We won’t tell, Fluttershy.”

The downpour of tears hadn’t yet stopped as she looked up at Sunset. “Y-You won’t?”

“It wouldn’t be very kind of us, now would it?” Applejack emphasized her question with a wink as she walked over and stood next to Sunset.

Fluttershy looked unsure of the two but was quick to regain her composure. “Oh, well, t-thank you.” She trotted past Sunset to slump down next to the sheep, wrapping her forelegs around one of them. “I don’t want to think of these poor souls being cold for the winter. It’d be just awful for them. I can’t even bring myself to pick up a razor.”

“We did promise to bring Rarity back their wool,” Applejack whispered to Sunset. “How’re we gonna do that now? We can’t really promise one thing and then do the other.”

The Element of Honesty was just as honest as Sunset had known her to be. And she was more often right about things than Sunset would want to admit; this being one of those times. Sunset watched as Fluttershy opened the metal door of the barn and trotted outside, the song in her step returned to what it had been prior to the screaming.

Taking a moment to breathe, Sunset levitated down her zipper and pulled the journal from the backpack. “What’re you doin’?” Applejack asked as Sunset flipped through the pages.

“I-I’m not the greatest when it comes to friends,” she admitted. “I’d like to say I’m pretty knowledgeable about it, but it’s only recently that I’ve truly understood what friendship means. This book isn’t just history of what’s happened in my timeline; it’s advice for trying to make new friends, and keep old ones.” She eventually came to a page where she had asked about Fluttershy, to which Princess Twilight retold the tale of the Breezies. “Fluttershy was once forced to be unkind to some small creatures, which goes against her Element, but she did it so that they would be able to go home. Essentially, being unkind was the greatest kindness she could give.”

Applejack ran a hoof through her flowing mane, rubbing the back of her neck. Blonde strands of hair moved gently around her dirty hoof. She had remained silent for a moment, contemplating a reply. “So, we’re gonna roughhouse some sheep?” she finally asked.

“What? No. No!” Sunset scoffed and shook her head. “I’m going to convince her to come with us and give up the wool.” She trotted out of the barn and headed for Fluttershy, feeling less confident with every step. “H-Hey, Fluttershy. Can I talk to you? About King Sombra?”

The pegasus froze. She had turned to face Sunset with a smile but that quickly dissipated at the very mention of the name. “K-K-King Sombra!?”

“Yes. You see, when I told you I was here for you, I should have told you that I’m not from this world. I’m from an alternate world, in a different time where we don’t have a war with King Sombra. We live peacefully. When The Crystal Empire returned, King Sombra was defeated. Many villains were defeated, actually. One of them being myself.” She smiled at the thought of her demonized form. “But in every instance, you and five others had a hoof in the victory. And I think I’m here to help you six win in this timeline too.”

The pegasus had remained frozen. She was either blindsided by the amount of exposition or still traumatized by the mention of King Sombra, Sunset couldn’t tell which. Her throat moved to swallow before she finally spoke up. “O-Oh,” was all she replied.

Sunset stood still, unsure of how to respond to such a simplistic answer. She could feel her cheeks burn as she realized that ponies really didn’t believe her. She now knew Applejack was right to say she’d be in an insane asylum if she continued telling everypony of her alternate world. Before she could say anything to prove she wasn’t crazy, a mocking laugh cut her off.

“Sorry! Sorry!” Applejack apologized, wiping a tear from her eye as she continued to cackle. “I can’t help but laugh at awkward situations.” She took a few steps and stood next to Sunset, placing a foreleg around the unicorn’s neck. “I know how it must sound, Fluttershy. I didn’t rightly believe it at first. But Sunset is definitely a time-travelin', universe-hoppin’ pony from a different world. I wouldn’t have left my farm and family back in Ponyville if I didn’t believe her.” Giving a tap to Sunset’s chest, she added, “Apparently we’re all friends in her world, and I can’t help but get a good feelin’ from you, Fluttershy. So, when she says we can defeat King Sombra, I’m more than inclined to believe her.”

“I-I’ve never really had any friends before. B-Besides the sheep, of course,” Fluttershy nervously replied, rubbing one foreleg with the other while hiding behind a few strands of hair.

“Well, it’s never too late to have more. I’m living proof of that.” Sunset placed a hoof around the pegasus with Applejack joining in on the opposite side. “Though being friends means we shouldn’t lie to each other. I’m sorry to say, but we really do need the wool from these sheep.” She watched as Fluttershy’s head sunk. “But I don’t think it’d be too much to ask if Rarity made them coats as well.”

The pegasus removed the brown bandana from her head, revealing her short hair. It seemed to be matted and shorter in places, which Sunset assumed meant she had cut it herself. “O-Okay. I suppose if you really want me to, I can start sheering.”

“That’s the spirit!” Sunset cheered.

Nothing more was said by the pegasus as she went to work sheering the sheep. Her smile had faded as the razor buzzed in her hooves. Wool fell to the ground to which she quickly swept into a basket. She then froze at the sight of the other two ponies who had begun helping with her work. “Y-You’re hel-helping me?”

Sunset threw a look over her shoulder, noting the disbelief in the pegasus’s eyes. “Of course. You didn’t think we’d force you to do it all yourself? What type of friends would we be if we were that self-centered?”

“Baaaaad friends,” Applejack replied, still focusing on the sheering process. It took a few seconds for her to notice the silence, to which she turned to see the unamused faces of Sunset, Fluttershy, and even a few sheep, which spoke for them. “Oh come on now. Someone was bound to make the pun eventually!” she argued before returning to the chore.

A smile pursed Sunset’s lips, hidden by her focus on the sheep. “I suppose helpful friends come with bad jokes in every universe.” She shut off the razor and turned back to Fluttershy. “Isn’t that right Fl-” Her mouth ceased to move as she saw the glowing eyes of the pegasus.

They had almost missed it, too focused on the sheep, razors and bad jokes. A necklace grew from white light. It wrapped around Fluttershy’s throat, the gold hem shining against her yellow fur. Once her hooves touched the ground, the two rushed up to greet her, the Element of Kindness. “Oh, my,” Fluttershy whimpered as she opened her eyes and held her head. “W-What just happened?”

“You did it! You unlocked the Element of Kindness! How’d you do it?” Sunset tapped the pink butterfly that sat contained within the necklace.

Fluttershy rubbed her temple as she stared down at the piece of magical jewelry. “Uhm, I, well, it was when I saw how kind you two were, helping me and all.” Her eyes met Sunset’s. “I thought you were just saying those things to get to the wool, but when you started sheering the sheep with me, well, it just sort of clicked.”

Applejack snorted and said, “Hah! Told you that’s what it was like!”

Rolling her eyes, Sunset turned her attention back to Fluttershy. “This is an Element of Harmony, Fluttershy. With this, with six of these, we can defeat King Sombra, and I can return home. Will you help us? Will you come with us to The Crystal Empire?”

The shy pony hid behind a few strands of her short mane for a moment before popping out her smiling face. “I couldn’t say no to somepony who has that much faith in me. Especially not somepony who’s a friend.”

Sunset wrapped her forelegs around the pegasus and squeezed, to which Fluttershy did as well. “Then I guess that’s two down, four to go. Maybe three if we can convince Rarity,” Applejack said. As Sunset and Fluttershy went back to their spots and picked up their razors, Applejack began to tap the ground with a hoof. “It used to be that smiles were come and go. Friends were something that I used to know,” she began to sing, tapping happily along.

But just by being near you has helped me grow,” Fluttershy picked up where Applejack left off. “I feel it in me, that something that I used to know.”

“Are you two seriously singing right now?” Sunset asked, interrupting their lyrical tirade. Fluttershy and Applejack both sang their answer, to which Sunset gave a smile and began to join in. She couldn’t stop herself. Her friends were happy, and that alone made her happy. It all seemed to wash away. The war, her troubles, everything. For a moment, this was what Sunset needed.