The Worst of All Possible Worlds

by TheTimeSword


Arc 1: Chapter 4

“There is nothing more powerful than magic,” Twilight Sparkle said, adamant. She had stepped out to be beside her teacher. “There is nothing stronger.”

Sunset hadn’t expected a Twilight to argue against friendship. Before she could disagree, Sunburst laughed and said, “Actually, for once Sunset Shimmer is correct. Friendship is the strongest form of magic. If it hadn’t been for friendship, your brother and most of Canterlot would be changeling food. Had I not been there to see my friend’s illness caused by the changeling queen, we might be fighting a very different war right now.”

The purple unicorn quickly shifted her eyes to the ground. She mumbled something that Sunset couldn’t quite hear and then stood despondently silent. “Then it’s settled. Prince Sunburst, please take Twilight Sparkle and Sunset Shimmer to the tent with the other three. We’ll begin search for the other two Elements,” Celestia commanded. “What were their names, Sunset?”

“Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash,” answered Sunset. “According to the map, they’re somewhere here.”

“Very well. I’ll see to it that they’re found in our records and brought to you right away.”

She thanked the princess and followed after Sunburst. Things were slowly going her way, she felt. All the pieces that had been out of order or set aside were coming together. Getting the six Elements of Harmony to return to her map would be difficult, but if Celestia was right they were the only things she needed in order to get home. She wondered what Princess Twilight would do to aid in the four obtaining their Elements. Would she trick them? Convince them by talking to them? It was a weird thought to imagine what somepony else would do in her shoes, but that sparked an answer. “Put myself in their place,” she murmured to herself, then attempted to snap the fingers she didn’t have.

Upon reaching the tent, Sunburst held the drape open for the two mares to enter. Sunset was surprised to see such a luxurious pavilion in the middle of a war. Couches sat rounding the far side with a table close to the entrance which held fruit, crackers, and sweets. The middle was filled with pillows of varying sizes where the three friends sat getting to know each other. They perked up and greeted Sunset as she entered, but they all became quiet as Twilight and Sunburst spoke to each other.

“It’ll be just for a short while, Twilight. You’re not losing me as a friend or a mentor. This day has been coming for a long time, I always knew you’d be needed for something greater. You’ve just got to have faith in yourself like I do.” Sunburst spoke with a calm, wise voice, something Sunset hadn’t expected of the stallion.

“B-But…”

“No buts. You’ve spent these last few years learning so much magic from me, and now you’re going to learn about the one thing I’ve yet to teach you.” He placed a hoof atop her shoulder. “Past this one final test, for all of us.”

After Sunburst took his leave, Twilight turned to Sunset with fury, anger, and tears on her face. “Who are you to just come in and ruin my life!?” she asked with a high pitched crack. “I spent years slaving over all the magical studies I could find just so I could be of some use to Prince Sunburst! Now I’ve got to tag along with whatever half-cocked idea that you’ve somehow convinced Princess Celestia to be a good idea!”

That timid unicorn who lacked confidence seemed to have vanished, replaced by a fourth Twilight Sparkle, one whose temper was larger than any storm at sea. “I don’t know you,” she said as she stepped toward Sunset. “I don’t want to know you. I don’t care to know you.” Her eyes sharpened around the edges as she spoke. “I just want you and your little friends to g-” As she took another step, her hoof planted on a pillow that slid out from under her, causing her to trip and slam her chin on the ground in front of Sunset.

Sunset was quick to lend a hoof, but the mare pushed herself up. She rubbed her chin and looked away, but Sunset continued to stare with a bit of pity behind her eyes. “What happened to you in this timeline?” she blurted out her question, though she hadn’t meant to.

“Me?” Twilight growled as she glared back at Sunset. “What has happened is you. I was finally becoming something, but this stupid war and that awful King Sombra ruined it all for me. Now you’ve come along and ruined it even more!”

The words Twilight spoke brought Sunset back to a time long before she went beyond the mirror. The want for power and control, coupled with the want to be something. Those two things were all she had ever wanted. She could see a lot of herself within this Twilight, the irony wasn’t lost on her. It seemed that this world had a desire to make her relive the past. “In my world, there’s a Princess of Friendship. Her name is Twilight Sparkle. She’s a close friend of mine. It’s funny, I once thought she ruined my grab for power. Turns out, she showed me an even greater power.”

Twilight’s eyes shifted to the ground, a look of guilt on her face. “A princess? Th-that’s not possible,” she argued.

“Actually, I can verify that it’s the truth,” Applejack interrupted. The blonde mare sauntered to the side of Sunset. “My name’s Applejack, and the Twilight Sparkle that Sunset is talkin’ about is a mare I’ve met. She came to me explainin’ that this world was offset by somethin’ in the past. I thought she was crazy till Sunset came along and showed me the truth.” She tapped the necklace around her throat. “And you’re a splittin’ image of that princess. ‘Cept, y’know, without wings.”

Sunset nodded and smiled at the earth pony. “Celestia’s given her approval. We will soon have Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash, and from there we’ll figure out how to get the last four Elements of Harmony we need.”

“Elements of Harmony? There’s no such thing,” Twilight dismissed.

“Uh.” Applejack tapped the necklace around her throat once more. “Beg your pardon? How do you explain this then?”

“A piece of jewelry? Wow. You sure convinced me.” Twilight rolled her eyes carelessly. “The Elements of Harmony are a mythical legend. It’s said that they were used by Celestia to defeat the Spirit of Disharmony, bringing an end to the Era of Chaos, but it’s just a folktale.”

Sunset suddenly felt like she was hit with a dozen bricks, knocking the very breath out of her. It was a thought that had struck her. A single detail she had overlooked invaded her mind. It was so obvious that she was unsure how she missed this one key element. It was the very reason she even knew of Princess Twilight’s crown. The Elements of Harmony, used by Twilight and her friends to bring down Nightmare Moon.

Where’s Luna? she asked herself. “Where’s Luna?” she repeated her question aloud, searching their faces to see the answer.

“Luna? Who’s that, darling?” asked Rarity.

Her mind was racing with questions. Had Luna become reformed? Was Nightmare Moon still around? Did so much change that not even Tirek or Discord got released? She had to find out. Rushing past Twilight, Sunset pushed through the tent curtains and slammed into a pony standing outside. Sunset fell on her rump, landing in the snow. She held her muzzle in pain, eventually taking a look at the pony she had run into. “P-Princess Celestia!” she muffledly stuttered.

“Are you alright, Sunset? Where are you off to in such a rush?”

“To find you!” she replied, staring up at her old mentor while still clutching her muzzle. Her words had become nasally from the hit, causing Celestia to crack a slight grin. The smile quickly evaporated as Sunset asked, “How was Nightmare Moon defeated!?”

If Celestia had ever wanted to play poker then the face she bore would have been perfect for the game, as even Sunset could not tell what the alicorn was thinking. She waited patiently, hoping that the news would be good, though every second of silence caused her to become more disheartened. “A thousand years ago I banished her to the moon,” Celestia finally gave an answer that sounded almost rehearsed.

It wasn’t the answer Sunset wanted. “And what happened when she returned?” she asked, her brows furrowed.

Sunset hadn’t noticed that the others stood within the tent’s curtains, but Celestia had. “She has not returned, nor will she,” Celestia lied.

Sunset knew it was a lie. There were a thousand things Sunset couldn’t do. Lick her elbow, save the chocolate center of a lollipop for last, wake up without at least one cowlick in her hair, just to name a few. But knowing when Celestia was lying? That she could do.

“But-” Sunset tried to argue.

“We’ve located the manifest for field operatives,” Celestia cut her off, changing the subject entirely. “It seems Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash are out on an important mission.” Celestia stepped past Sunset and through the curtain of the tent, the Elements scrambled to move out of her way. “We’ve sent out a scouting party to retrieve them. Regardless of their mission, the decree I’ve sent will bring them back. That I can guarantee.”

Sunset held her tongue. She felt relieved to know the last two Elements would soon be found, but the thoughts of Princess Luna weighed heavily on her mind. I’m not the cause for all this change, she told herself, but knowing how things turned out in her world, she could only feel remorse. Following Celestia in, she trotted over to the pillows in the center of the room and sat down. She watched as Celestia picked some grapes from the table and swallowed them down. I should make sure Principle Luna gets some appreciation when I return, Sunset reflected.

“Shouldn’t we be going and getting them?” Applejack asked, breaking the silence while Sunset wallowed.

“Absolutely not,” Celestia curtly replied. “If one of you four Elements were to fall into King Sombra’s control, we would lose all hope for bringing the Elements together.”

“P-Princess Ce-Celestia-” Twilight slowly stepped toward the alicorn, her hooves shaking as she walked “-Surely y-you don’t believe the Elements of Harmony truly exist, d-do you? I mean, I know the tale of Nightmare Moon’s defeat, b-but that’s just a folktale told to fillies and colts. If they truly existed, wouldn’t you have used them t-to defeat King Sombra?”

Celestia continued to eat. Crumbs of cracker fell from her mouth onto the wooden table. She didn’t look at the five, not even when she answered. “The Elements are real. Those necklaces are proof enough.”

“I-I see.” Twilight stepped back and closed her mouth, still visibly shaking.

“I’ll let you all know once Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash arrive.” Celestia’s eyes met with Sunset’s as she looked over her shoulder. Every word she couldn’t speak was understood by Sunset. Whatever had happened in this world, Sunset knew there was nothing she could do about it now. Bringing up old memories wouldn’t change that.

Celestia left without another word. Twilight collapsed to the ground, her sweat drenched the floor. Fluttershy and Rarity cushioned themselves next to Sunset while Applejack trotted to the tent’s drapes. “She’s got us guarded,” Applejack affirmed. “I guess we’re waitin’.”

The silence was deafening. Even with the tent’s opening, the sounds of war and training were not heard. After Applejack went and sat with the others, Twilight rose from her spot on the floor. She paced back and forth within the room, slowly growing on Sunset’s nerves. “Would you sit down,” Sunset mumbled, though she wanted to yell it instead.

“What’s my Element?” Twilight inquired, her pacing slowed.

Sunset groaned and pushed her face into a pillow. “Magic,” she replied, muffled by the cushion. A snort and a laugh caused her to lift her gaze. “What’s so funny?” she asked, eyeing the giggling mare.

“There is no way,” Twilight said through laughter. “Magic? I failed every attempt at magic I ever tried.” She wiped a tear from her eye as her laugh settled.

“But, your cutie mark!”

Twilight turned her rear to the four. “Well, sure, magic is my cutie mark, but that’s because I know a lot of different spells. I could give an entire lecture on the different types of mental magic, or teach students how to make inanimate objects animate. That doesn’t mean I personally can perform the spells. It’s why Prince Sunburst thinks so highly of me. I have to memorize these things, I’m no use otherwise.”

Shoving two pillows to her ears, Sunset groaned, “Please don’t say that stallion’s name.”

Twilight’s muzzle scrunched up as she let out an audible scoff. “I think you’re just jealous of him! You failed as Celestia’s student while he took charge. Even when he was told he would lose, or that he couldn’t do something, he did it anyway. Meanwhile, you ran off to some other world. And even then you still failed at your own goals!”

“You know what!” Sunset yelled, standing to her hooves and flinging the pillows off. Her anger seethed for a moment, she wanted to yell back, but couldn’t let herself. “You’re right,” she said, softer this time. “Even Sunburst has taken charge. We should too!” She marched over to the entrance and peered out the crack, eyeing the two guards.

“What are you talkin’ about, Sunset? We’re supposed to wait here till Princess Celestia finds the other two Elements,” Applejack reminded her as she tossed a pillow into the air and then caught it, repeatedly.

Sunset shook her head. “We’re going after them ourselves,” she hastened to say. “That’s what Princess Twilight would do. She wouldn’t wait around for someone else to do her work for her! She’d get out there, get a little mud on her hooves and save the day! Her and her friends!”

“Figurative dirt, correct?” Rarity questioned, giving a coy smile to Applejack who in turn tossed a pillow at the prissy mare.

Almost angrily, Twilight asked, “You’re not saying we should defy Princess Celestia’s orders, are you? That’s insane! I knew you were up to no good!”

“Celestia is clearly using reverse psychology. She knows the only way for any of you to gain your Elements is through becoming friends, and we’re not going to become friends by just sitting around here all day,” Sunset explained. “If you were such a good student under Sunburst, you would have learned a thing or two about Celestia.” Sunset gave a smug smile as she stared down her nose at the other unicorn.

It was odd to see Twilight lose confidence in herself, but Sunset knew this Twilight wasn’t like the two in her own timeline. This Twilight was angry. At the world, at the war and at herself. “I suppose Princess Celestia does sometimes do things that I don’t understand. B-But she wouldn’t lead us astray! What she says goes… Right?” She looked to the others who gave aloof responses.

Sunset placed a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. She could see the bags under the student’s eyes and a few strands of hair that had gotten loose from the bun atop her head. “Princess Celestia isn’t leading us astray. She wants us to win, and she knows doing it ourselves is the only way we can. Watch, I bet the guards are gone right now.” She lifted the curtains with her magic so that everyone in the tent could see out. The two guards were nowhere to be seen. “Well would you look at that.” Sunset sneered over her shoulder, happily gloating in her wisdom.

Just as she stepped one hoof into the snow, a stallion’s voice called out to her. “Planning on sneaking off, huh?”

She was quickly pushed back into the tent as Shining Armor entered. “W-What? No. No! Of course not, why would we?” Sunset lied, giving a nervous laugh as she looked back at the others, hoping one of them would help.

“Big brother? What are you still doing here?” Twilight wondered.

“You want me gone that quickly, huh?” His laugh was hoarse and dry. “I’m here making sure you five aren’t planning on heading for The Crystal Empire…” he paused, a frown on his face. “Without me, at least.”

Twilight became furious. “No! Absolutely not! I know exactly why you want to go and there’s no way I’d let you head to The Crystal Empire! Just look at you. When was the last time you slept? You sound awful!”

“I’m heading to the empire regardless if you’re going or not, but since you four arrived out of thin air, I figured it’d be best if we teamed up,” he said, ignoring his baby sister.

“Not that I’m against help, but why would you be going to The Crystal Empire alone?” Sunset curiously asked.

Twilight groaned and hung her head, taking a few steps away. Shining Armor’s smile faltered, his eyes showed him a million miles elsewhere. “There’s somepony I have to rescue.”

The other Elements stepped beside Sunset, all curious to hear what the stallion had to say. “Who?” Fluttershy voiced her soft-spoken question.

“My fiancée, Princess Cadance.”

Sunset could see the pain in his eyes. “How did it happen?” she asked. With Luna gone, it hadn’t even struck her as odd to not see Cadance around as well.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His eyes remained closed as he spoke. “After the invasion, we were determined to have the wedding, but due to the changelings’ ability to disguise themselves as ponies, it became increasingly hard to root them out of Canterlot. Months went by before we were truly sure they had all been captured or absconded. It was then that we heard word that The Crystal Empire returned after being lost for a thousand years. Cadance and I went north as soon as we could, delaying our wedding.

“When we arrived, we were met with King Sombra attempting to take back the city, along with the blizzard’s terrible winds. After we realized we were missing a key artifact to restoring the city, we went searching for it, leaving the city undefended. As King Sombra returned to his throne and became his physical form, we retrieved the only thing that could defeat him and restore balance, the Crystal Heart. Once we reached the outside of the castle we were met by some of the crystal ponies who had already been forced into wearing his brainwashing armor. But they were just a distraction. As Cadance went to place the Crystal Heart, King Sombra encased her in crystals and sent her sailing through the castle.”

“What happened after that? How’d you escape?” asked Applejack.

“Once I realized I could not take on King Sombra and his controlled soldiers, I activated the Crystal Heart. I had hoped it would take care of that evil king and save the city, but with his form returned to him he managed to encase it in crystal as well, sending it up with Cadance. It’s still working, however, as the storm retreated. Had I known it would not stop him, I wouldn’t have activated it…”

“You did the right thing,” Sunset said as she comfortingly patted his shoulder. “Without you activating the Crystal Heart, the storm would have taken the city and froze everyone in it. At least now we can fight for their freedom.”

“Then I suppose that means you’ll join me?”

Sunset’s eyes drifted to the purple unicorn who sulked in the corner. “What do you think, Twilight? Should we join him?”

The mare’s hair bun flopped back and forth as she perked up. “Y-You’re asking me for my input? Why?”

Seeing Twilight so unsure of herself reminded her of the human version she had recently befriended. “You’re supposed to be so smart, but did you ever think you shouldn’t be messing around with things you don’t understand!?” she remembered her yelling at the human Twilight after one of the competitions with Crystal Prep. She had been so angry at Twilight’s inability to understand the situation she had put them in. Now, she was putting Twilight through a dangerous situation without giving her a reason. Defeating Sombra, bringing out the Elements, returning home. Those weren’t reasons to help, they were just the end goals.

“Because, Twilight, you’re our friend. Friends listen to each other. I know friendship is difficult to understand, especially when you’ve never had friends,” Sunset answered. She stared at the floor, thinking of her time at CHS. “I probably know that better than anyone. I once turned into a demon after absorbing magic from one of the Elements of Harmony. I was defeated, and after that, all I wanted was some guidance. Listening to what others… listening to what my friends had to say, it made a real difference.”

Twilight stared over her shoulder at Sunset, a subtle frown below tear soaked eyes. “A demon?”

Sunset chuckled. “Yeah. Bat wings, mind control, dark magic; the whole shebang.”

“Well, I suppose fighting fire with fire would make sense,” Twilight replied with a slight lilt and giggle. “Or in this case, demon versus evil unicorn,” she added as she walked over to her brother and Sunset.

“I can’t really turn into a demon anymore, not that I’d want to, but I do know a few girls who can kick the pants right off of a demon. If Sombra knew what was coming, he’d be shaking in his boots right about now.”

Twilight held a hoof over her mouth as she laughed. It was good to see the mare smile, and Sunset could only assume it was a rare thing for her. “Alright. I’m not sure I entirely believe in this Elements of Harmony thing, but I won’t let my brother go out there alone,” she said, confidently.

“Then I guess you better get the lead out, sis. We’ve got to move before the guards realize something is up and return to their posts. Follow me around the tent and down the embankment, we’ll hit the snow before they realize we’re gone and be too far out for them to catch us,” Shining Armor explained the plan as he levitated the drapes open.

Sunset held caboose as they followed Shining Armor out of the tent and around the side, crouching behind barrels and boxes as they avoided other guards. They crossed through the sets of wooden spikes that pointed toward The Crystal Empire and slid down the incline. Sunset was last to hit the bottom of the hill and could hear alarm bells ringing just as she hit the bottom. The guards had either seen them leave or had inspected the tent, either way, they hadn’t gotten nearly as far as she wanted. However, they were quick once they reached the bottom, reaching the snowy gulch that had been formed through the fighting.

She could see The Crystal Empire in the distance with the towering pillars of plum and eggplant colored crystals furthering its defenses. It wouldn’t be easier reaching the city, that she knew, and the snow and soldiers that sat between them would make it all the more difficult. As they crossed through snowy hills and signs of war, Sunset noticed the sky was growing darker. At first, she thought she was just seeing everything in the same shade of purple as the crystals, but it soon became clear that night was upon them. The sun was already hardly visible past the wall of blizzard that encompassed the battleground, and now the city itself would become a silhouette in the night.

As they reached another hill Shining Armor stopped them and fell to the ground, commanding everyone to do the same. Sunset crawled up beside him, getting her first look at some of the fighting going on below. A large battle had commenced with hundreds of ponies on both sides. Celestia had sent a force forward and King Sombra’s forces retaliated with their own. Sunset assumed it was a diversion, possibly to give her scout time to find Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie. They watched for a moment as the battle pushed west, waiting for their moment to go undetected down the hill. As they prepared to move they were surprised by an ambush from behind.

“Watch out!” Twilight yelled, but Shining Armor was quicker to act, surrounding them all in a lavender shield. The five soldiers pounded on the barrier, attempting to break Shining’s spell. “We’ve got to take care of them,” Twilight exclaimed, “Blast them away, brother!”

“We can’t hurt them! They’re still ponies under all that armor,” Fluttershy argued, restrained by her kindness.

“Fluttershy’s right. Knock them out or confine them, but don’t be excessive,” Sunset agreed, taking hold of two soldiers with her magic and pushing them into the ground. Their bodies and heads stuck out in the snow, making them look like nails that had been hammered.

Once Shining Armor released his barrier, Applejack tackled one of the soldiers and wrestled them to the ground while Shining slammed his head against another. The last soldier charged at Fluttershy, but Rarity used her wits, teleporting the pegasus out of the way and sending the soldier rolling down the other side of the hill. As the soldier rolled, a ball of snow formed around him, eventually plowing into several other of Sombra’s soldiers and encasing them all within the icy sphere. After Shining Armor and Applejack had restrained their attackers, the group rushed down the incline of the hill, remaining on the sidelines of the escalating battle.

They stopped at the side of a cliff where snow hung over their heads atop a drooping ridge. Tiny icicles stuck to the top. “W-We did it!” Sunset cheered, taking a moment to catch her breath. “This feels just like the time I went paintballing with Rainbow Dash, except, y’know, less bruises and more fear.”

“What’s paintball?” Applejack asked, “Is it like buckball?’

“I don’t know what buckball is, but probably not. And now that I stop and think about it, pretty much any sport I play with Rainbow Dash ends up with bruising. She’s really competitive.”

“Yeah? Five bits says she can’t beat me at buckball!”

As they spoke, a large boulder was pushed off from above, slamming down in front of them and covering them with a liberal coating of snow. “I still don’t know what that is, and I don’t care anymore!” Sunset snarled fiercely, shaking the snow from her fur. “We’re almost half way, let’s keep moving before we get squished!”

“Your perception is flawed,” Shining Armor argued, leaning his head out from the cliff side to view The Crystal Empire. “Celestia’s forces were pushed back over time, we’re only about a tenth of the way there. I remember when I and a few others camped out on the ridge above, preventing King Sombra’s forces from flanking the camp as they moved everything.”

“Then let us not waste any more time squatting here,” Rarity said as she finished shaking the snow from her scarf.

Shining Armor took charge, but this time Sunset followed beside him. They clung around the ridge and rushed between two other hills. The hill to the east became smaller and smaller as the hill to the west rose and continued its length, forming into a cliff side three stories high. As they followed the path, they were forced between a rock and a cold place, quite literally. The cliff side eventually broke and went north, but the blizzard raged mere yards away from the icy wall. The jutted ridge partially hung over them, touched by the wind and ice of the storm.

One of the Elements yelled “We must turn back,” though Sunset could not tell who it was. Even while not directly in the storm, the winds of the blizzard screeched like a thousand bats fleeing their cave to feast in the night. As they turned to return the way they had come, Shining Armor spotted a few black helms coming their way. It was either flee or fight, though both options would be putting them all in peril.

“Into the storm!” he yelled, casting a barrier around the group. They all clung together as they marched into the winds. Sunset kept the cliff side in her view. She never wanted to lose sight of it for fear of losing where they were within the storm. They marched for minutes, which felt like an eternity to everyone. It had been a brisk jog when they passed through the storm’s walls earlier in the day, but now they were walking toward the winds, fighting the flurry. As they trudged on, the cliff side eventually fell and they marched out of the storm onto the other side. The sky had grown darker than before but was still bright enough. Shining Armor released the barrier and the snow and ice that clung to it fell to the ground.

The cliff side that had blocked their way was climbable from this side. There were a few sunken indentations in the snow leading up to boulders at the very top, though no one was around to push them off. To the north, there were no more hills or ridges or cliffs. Instead, the opposite blocked their way. Craters lined their path the entire way up to a collapsed crystal that sat on its side only a few miles from The Crystal Empire’s walls. Both Sombra’s soldiers and Celestia’s guards were dogging it out in these craters or on the edges between. The crater that sat before them was empty, side for a few hoofprints.

They slid down the incline of the crater and trudged up the other side, The Crystal Empire looking just as far away as it had when they first left the camp. Sunset took a look back and could see the smoke in the distance, floating above the tall hills. It was growing harder to see, however, and would soon be impossible with nightfall. As they slid down another crater, they came across a soldier of Sombra’s without their helmet, a mare with purple hair and orange coat. Fluttershy and Sunset were the first to see to her, the others crowded around while Shining maintained the perimeter. “Do you think she’ll still be brainwashed without the helmet?” Rarity asked, discovering the helmet tucked into the snow a few yards away.

She levitated it up and wiped the snow away. The black plume was ruffled, the eye slits were grey, and the inside smelled like rancid sweat.

“We should just keep moving,” Sunset offered. “We don’t have the time to stand around and figure out what to do with her.”

“We can’t just leave her. If she isn’t controlled then she could help us. We might even be able to find out what she knows. It’s rare to recover somepony who still has the knowledge of their tactics and defenses,” Twilight argued.

Before Sunset could respond, Shining Armor called out, “There’s fighting on the next slope. Get up here.” They all rushed up the side and reached the top, the argument settled and forgotten before an answer could be decided. The next crater held three earth pony guards surrounded by seven of Sombra’s forces.

“We’ve got to do something! They’re outnumbered,” Applejack said and Shining nodded in agreement.

“No! We’re on a mission to find these last two friends of Sunset’s. If we put ourselves in danger, who will find them?” Twilight reasoned, but the Element of Honesty didn’t care. Applejack leaped down and slid into the foray. Shining Armor was quick to follow while the others stood on the sidelines.

I can think of a million reasons to not help them, and a million more why we should, Sunset bemused. It’s not like any of this matters. If I return to the past, would this timeline cease to exist? She didn’t wait to contemplate that last question. Taking a deep breath, she dived into the crater. Shining Armor had already taken down one of the soldiers while the three guard ponies helped Applejack. Sunset used her levitation spell to lift the straps off a soldier’s armor, causing it to trip over itself and land with its head stuck in the snow.

With the soldiers defeated, Sunset turned to Shining and Applejack. “That wasn’t so hard. I don’t know what Twilight was worried about,” she said, but they ignored her. Their eyes stared up the ridge as did the eyes of the three guard ponies. Her head swiveled to catch a peek at what they were looking at. “Oh Celestia,” she whispered, her mouth agape, though it still held the stretch of a smile.

Atop the crater levitated the Element of Generosity.