The Worst of All Possible Worlds

by TheTimeSword


Arc 2: Chapter 8

Guards were roaming the halls in pairs, and every doorway remained watched over. Had it not been for Rainbow Dash’s stealthy flight skills, it would have been difficult to navigate silently among the changelings. They crossed into an antechamber, following far above two unwitting changeling patrols. The door closed behind the pair of guards, allowing Rainbow to drop back to the floor and set Sunset down. “Alright, we need to open up every pod in this hall,” Sunset said to Rainbow, speaking as quietly as she could. Finding Twilight wouldn’t be difficult, she would most likely be with the other Elements in the dungeon, but they needed a distraction – and to find Rarity.

They had yet to spot the white unicorn. In fact, they hadn’t found any of the workers. It had been Sunset’s first thought to return to Rarity’s room but found no hide nor tail of the Element of Generosity. The only ponies they had found were those kept in the green glow of the cocoons that lined the largest halls of Canterlot Castle.

With the hall silent, Rainbow Dash went to work opening each and every pod. Goo flooded into the hall, but Sunset had surrounded herself in a bubble, remaining on the ground to catch any pony that fell from the cocoons closer to the ceiling. Some woke instantly while others remained unconscious, only to be forcibly awoken by one of their fellow escapees. Goo slid down Sunset’s portal, blocking her vision, but she remained steady with her magic, not allowing a single pony to fall and injure themselves. She didn’t even have a moment to think, her concentration fully devoted to the safe care of the podded ponies. That’s why, when Rainbow Dash said, “Hey, it’s your friends!” Sunset did not register what that meant. It wasn’t until it was too late, the pods already opening, that Sunset screamed for Dash to stop.

The three disguised changelings burst from their gooey pods, green flames shooting off of them like lightning. One surprised Rainbow Dash, tackling and sending them both to the floor. The other two turned their focus to Sunset but were shocked to see the gathering of so many ponies within the hall. It was like an angry wave stood behind Sunset and she was the dam preventing the water from breaking through. The two changelings circled around, running past Rainbow Dash and their fellow decoy. “Where are you going!?” the sole changeling lisped through his fangs, struggling with all his might to keep Rainbow Dash immobilized.

“Ahem.”

Once the changeling looked to the beckoning voice, Sunset grabbed him with her magic, lifting him into the air. He was able to see the entirety of the hundred ponies that stood like statues. Stallions, mares, fillies, and colts. Even in the darkness, Sunset could see the terror in his big bug-like eyes. She trapped him in a different pod, goo flooding in to keep him fed, forcing him to watch as the rebels passed. Some glared at the changeling while others simply ignored him, but they all made their way to the end of the hall.

It was there Sunset turned to those that had been following. None had asked her any questions or thanked her for freeing them, they all seemingly understood their purpose. “There’s plenty of other halls in the castle,” she finally spoke to them, loud enough for it to echo down the line. “I need you all to free them. Everyone in Equestria is here in this city, most in this castle. We outnumber them twenty to one, if not more. Reclaim Equestria!”

With a boom as loud as thunder, a roar rumbled within the hall. Sunset knew their fury would sustain them, and they needed to keep that fire going, especially since the two changelings had run off to alarm their kin and queen. To most, any alerts would be a bad thing, but that’s exactly what Sunset wanted. As they transferred out into a hall that held no pods, Sunset pointed the freed in the direction of the next cocoon-filled corridor. She and Rainbow Dash would not be joining them. “Rainbow,” she said, motioning for them to both head off down a different conjoining hall. Sunset knew exactly where they needed to go, and it was not in the direction of the cocoons. The alarms had been rung; a distraction in place for the queen’s army.

Even in the darkness, Sunset was able to tell where the staircase was. Canterlot Castle had not changed as much as Chrysalis wanted it to, and Sunset had grown accustomed to the darkness, it was no longer such a maze. The light emanating from the cracks of the door was a good marker, one of the few areas that was ever lit up. The last time she came down here she had been terrified of her disguise disappearing. There was no need for petty secrecy now, however. Even the guard was surprised when two free ponies came trotting down. So surprised that he dropped his loaf of a bread. Even if he had been expecting them, he still would have dropped his bread when Sunset sent him smashing into the half-broken table, making it fully broken.

She was quick to pull the keys from her backpack, opening the first cell in the row. It just so happened to be the one with the white stallion who mocked the magazine she had given him. He had started to beg to be free but Sunset cut him off. “We’re freeing everyone!” she said, levitating the changeling into the stallion’s cell.

“Finally,” the white stallion trotted out, flipping his hair back. “I thought I was going to be stuck within this prison for the rest of my life. You have my thanks, ladies. My name is Prince Blueblood, but I’m sure you already knew that.” Blueblood bowed, graciously, and his bangs fell in front of his eyes.

Sunset remembered him from her life as a student to Celestia, but the smell reeking off him kept the reunion at bay. I don’t think I ever said more than three words to him anyway.

Rainbow took the keychain from Sunset and said, “Pfft, who’re you calling a lady?” With the speed of a terrified gazelle, the pegasus went to work releasing every prison cell on the block.

Many ponies poured out, but Zecora was one of the few Sunset pushed through to greet. She apologized profusely to the zebra, telling of everything that had happened, but Zecora replied in her whimsical vernacular thanking Sunset for releasing her. “You have nothing to be ashamed of, Sunset Shimmer, you are making the world a better place. The changeling’s rule is but a simmer, I am sensing a change of pace.” It brought peace to Sunset, the words spoken by the zebra. All she could do was apologize and thank Zecora once more.

“There’s already a large group of ponies freeing the pods of the upper hall. If you make your way up there, try to join them. I’m sure you’d enjoy a little payback.”

“I shall lead whom will follow until I reach my limit, for this is a day that is truly kismet,” Zecora replied, nodding her head and leading forward a few of those who recognized her.

It was then that Rarity came forward. Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie trailed steadily behind her. “Rarity!” Sunset yelled, greeting the fellow unicorn with a hug. “We went back to your room and couldn’t find you. I was worried that they had discovered your true identity as a bearer of the Elements.”

“They took everyone, my dear,” Rarity replied, clearly trying her best to relieve any distress. “All the staff was shoved down into this stony hovel. It’s also where I met some friends of yours. Well, now ours.” She laughed a nervous sort of laugh and moved out of the way, the trio’s tired eyes staring at Sunset with hesitant expressions.

Sunset didn’t mind, hugging every last one of them and apologizing for not being able to release them sooner. “I wanted to help you out while I was disguised as a changeling, but it wasn’t the right time.”

“That was you?” Pinkie Pie replied. “I had no idea you had that sort of power!”

“It wasn’t me, it was-”

“Twilight, right?” Rarity interrupted. “I don’t suppose you’ve already busted her out of that cocoon, have you?”

“Cocoon?” repeated Rainbow Dash. “We didn’t see any cocoons. Well, not any that weren’t already hoisted on a wall.”

Applejack recalled the details, “They came down here with that them mare in a pod – they were gonna stick her in the cell next to mine but couldn’t find the keys, so they gave up.”

Sunset felt like kicking herself. Had she not taken the keys they would have had a full house of bearers ready to take on Chrysalis. “Well, hindsight’s twenty-twenty,” she mumbled to herself. “Do you still have your Element’s stone, Rarity?”

The white unicorn reached into her uniform, she was still wearing the outfit they had given her to clean in. That had been their mistake, but good fortune for them. “Tada!” Rarity grinned, the purple gem reflecting the fire from the torches on the opposing wall.

“You found them?” Fluttershy spoke up, her eyes gleaming over the gem. It was then that Sunset pulled out the remaining five Elements. “They’re so pretty. Can these really help defeat the changelings?”

Even though Sunset wanted to explain her idea of only taking on Chrysalis and hoping that the changelings could be made peaceful, there would be no time to strategize. A thunderous boom shook the world around them, sending dust falling from the ceiling and knocking a few scones off the wall. The entire dungeon rattled, the black iron bars of the cells resonated with a low hum, some even tilting closed. It came and went like a summer rain. “What in all of Equestria was that!?” Applejack hollered, having held onto Fluttershy during the unknown calamity.

“Sounds like the fun’s already started. No time like the present!” Rainbow Dash yelled, already speeding off ahead of everyone else. She disappeared up the grey steps before Sunset and the others even thought to follow.

They caught up surprisingly fast – but mostly because Rainbow Dash had stopped at the top of the stairs. The blue pegasus was staring up at the open sky. “I’m goin’ to assume there wasn’t always a giant gaping hole within the castle,” Applejack offhandedly remarked, and she was right. It was as if a cleaver had struck down from the sky on the castle, tearing through every floor. It was a small but long cut, not extending more than the width of the hall they stood in, and barely managing to reach halfway in length.

As they stared in awe, a changeling came falling out of the air, skidding to a stop in front of them. Atop the changeling’s black back stood Zecora, rain-soaked and grinning. “They made a mistake in bringing me to Canterlot, this is a battle that will not soon be forgot!” Her smile was smug and powerful. Sunset couldn’t truly believe it was her and wanted to ask if she had been the one to ruin a piece of the castle, but Zecora cut her off before she could speak. “I’ve also brought news of the changeling queen, in the middle of the city she can be seen. A cocoon is with her as she attempts to command, though her words float in the wind like that of sand.”

“A cocoon?” Pinkie noted aloud. “That must be your friend Twilight. We’ll have all the bearers in one place!”

Sunset nodded. “Let’s go – but first, Zecora, could you do me a favor?” Zecora smiled, ready to please. “Could you go and free Princess Celestia and Princess Cadance, then tell them where we are? They’ll want to be present.”

But Zecora laughed. “Ah, you are quite funny but I cannot have a chat, for you see, it is Princess Celestia who is the cause of that.” She motioned to the destruction and gave another set of heavy laughter. “An impressive sight I did behold, I am eager to see what will unfold!”

“Whoa,” was all that was chorused amongst Sunset’s friends, but Sunset did not share in surprise. She had seen what Celestia could do, almost beating King Sombra in single combat had the stallion not been tricky.

No more time was wasted now that they knew Celestia was free. Making their way through the castle’s gash, passing the crumbling rubble of stone and marble, and rushing out into the rainy courtyard, they headed for the closest gate. The hinges had been blown off and the metal bars that had been once locked were now smashed to pieces down the wet steps leading to the city. “My word! It’s like the day they invaded all over again!” Rarity remarked, gasping as a pegasus and changeling fell from the sky together.

“Yeah, except we’re the ones that are winning.” Rainbow Dash pointed to a group of changelings tied in a rope with earth ponies standing around them. “Looks like we took them unprepared just like they did to us!”

“With all this chaos, try not to get separated. If you do, remember the secret code word,” Pinkie Pie exclaimed over the sound of rain.

“What’s the secret code word?” Sunset asked, yelling just as much.

“Uh, duh! It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you!” Pinkie replied, rolling her eyes and shaking her head as she spoke.

They wouldn’t have a chance to get separated, Equestria was winning. Sunset hadn’t been accurate in her numbers – it wasn’t twenty to one, it was triple that. Had the queen not ceased the Hatchery’s production, then the ponies would surely have lost their initial battles. Instead, every pegasus spread their wings, maintaining air superiority while unicorn’s and earth ponies took care of the changelings on the ground. Storm clouds had been beaten back in some areas, but it didn’t even seem to affect the ponies like it did the changelings. They had worked so efficiently and so effectively that the street was cleared for Sunset and her friends. If there were any changelings in disguise, they were so outnumbered that it did not even matter.

Of course, pony morale went through the roof once Princess Celestia was seen flying above. Sunset caught sight of her at the end of a four-way street, all four routes were blocked off by ponies. The clouds had been parted over the center, sending a ray of light down on the surrounding fleet. It wasn’t until Sunset got closer that she saw the reasoning – no more than a dozen changelings sat in the middle. They were all decked out in armor, protecting their queen and the single cocoon. “There’s Twilight and Chrysalis!” Sunset shouted, pushing faster than ever as she and her friends crossed the line from rain to sun.

“I’ve already sent for reinforcements from the surrounding outposts! Soon they’ll arrive to tear down this little rebellion and you’ll be back in a cocoon! I’ll make sure it’s down in the pits so you’ll never even see your precious sun!” Queen Chrysalis was yelling as Sunset and the bearers trotted up to be beside Princess Celestia and Princess Cadance. The threat was laughable, especially due to the amount of ponies that surrounded the changeling queen and her queen’s guard.

Celestia acknowledged Sunset’s presence but said nothing. Their focus was the queen who was outnumbered and becoming more fearful by the second. “Give up Chrysalis. Your days of rule are finished,” Princess Cadance yelled in reply. “You made the mistake of bringing Equestria together, in more ways than one. Save yourself some pride and surrender.”

“I’ve got my hostage –” Chrysalis slammed a hoof down on the glass of the cocoon “– I don’t need to surrender so long as I’ve got her!”

“Twilight!” Sunset said, more loudly than she had meant to. Princess Celestia perked up, realizing now that it was her student that Chrysalis was lugging around. “We’ve got to get her out of there, she’s the Element of Magic.” Sunset turned to face her friends, but a glint of white fur and blue hair caught her eye. In the rain, she saw him coming.

It was Shining Armor. “Sorry, Sunset. I’m too much of a coward!” he shouted as he galloped toward her, passing by and throwing himself over the blockade of ponies and changelings. For a skinny stallion, his sprint and jump was impressive. He landed almost perfectly on the cocoon, but his legs fell out from under him, sprawling out on the glass. “I couldn’t sit in the darkness when the whole world was shaking!” he said as he slipped off to one side.

“You!” Chrysalis spat, but it was too late. The stallion ripped the shell off with his magic, sending goo spraying onto her guards. As Shining Armor grabbed Twilight and fled, the ponies that surrounded the changelings seized the moment and attacked the queen’s guard. Hooves and horns clattered, leaving the queen defenseless.

“It’s over, Chrysalis,” Princess Celestia said coolly.

While the fighting wore on, Sunset and the bearers crowded around Shining Armor and his unconscious sister. Twilight awoke after a second, still held in the forelegs of her brother. She smiled when she saw him, then froze, turned, and spat goo out onto the road. A few strands stuck to her mouth as she pulled away. “I guess we didn’t need my device after all,” Twilight said, noticing Sunset.

The liberated ponies had taken down the queen’s guards and prepared to strike on Queen Chrysalis. In a fit of rage, the empty cocoon was sent flying down the street behind Princess Celestia by the changeling queen. “You think this is over!? You think you’ve won!?” The queen went mad with her laughter, bellowing like the villain that she truly was.

“You’re completely surrounded by two princesses, the Elements of Harmony, and the entirety of Equestria bearing down on you.” Sunset stepped around Shining Armor and Twilight, levitating the Elements out from her backpack at the same time. “Twilight’s right, we didn’t even need her device to take you down,” she said, holding the gemstones in the air. “But just in case you decide to get funny with your surrender, we may as well be ready.”

There it is, Sunset thought as she stared at the pupils of the changeling queen. That moment of fear where you realize that all your hard work was for naught, beaten out by friendship. Sunset wanted to laugh just like the queen had, but she had figured that was too demon-like. There was only room for one villain in Equestria, and soon she would be down in the dungeons beneath Canterlot. Or, at least, that’s what Sunset hoped for.

Chrysalis wasn’t like Sunset though, as everyone in the intersection soon found out. “Oh, I’m not worried about your little Elements of Harmlessness,” Queen Chrysalis replied in an almost warm voice. “You see –” The queen tilted her head down and a small, silver cube floated from an entanglement of her hair “– You’re going down with me as far as I’m concerned.”

“T-That can’t be!” Shining Armor shouted.

“Why does everyone hide it in their hair!?” Twilight also shouted, sitting up to see it better.

“That’s right. You think I didn’t know you were building something? I know everything that happens within my castle, and I know that this little grey box is supposed to be my ultimate destruction. You didn’t intend for it to be used on yourself, did you?” Chrysalis bore her teeth in what would count as a smile. “I thought not. Such a dramatic turn of events. What a wonderful happenstance!” She laughed again, but it was cut off by a shout.

Sunset pointed at the queen. “That’s not how you use that word!” she yelled as if it were more important than anything else. She quickly realized all eyes were on her and switched to something more meaningful. “If you use that device, it won’t just destroy us, it’ll destroy you as well! Destroying your own species just to destroy us isn’t a victory!”

“Quite contraire! You claimed I’ve already lost, but I can make sure you don’t win either!” The queen began to charge her horn, a barrier encasing her as she went to work.

“The device doesn’t work without a powerful power source, Chrysalis,” Twilight explained. “No matter how much love you’ve absorbed, you’re not strong enough to defend and build up magic to activate it.” She turned to Sunset. “Let’s use the Elements of Harmony on her, I’ll be glad to rid this scum from the world,” she hissed resentfully. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Applejack chorused her sentiment, they all seemed to want to bring their wrath upon the queen. All except for Rarity.

The white unicorn seemed to notice Sunset’s hesitant face upon hearing Twilight’s request. “The Elements of Harmony should be used to bring harmony to the world, not erase foes we don’t like from existence,” Rarity spoke the words that Sunset didn’t.

Twilight turned her glare at the white unicorn. “That’s the device I made,” she said calmly at first, and then exploded, “It’s either her or us! She’s brought this destruction upon herself!”

All the bearers’ eyes turned on Rarity, and it was clear the Element of Generosity was outnumbered. When she turned to Sunset, Sunset was staring at Chrysalis. “It’s alright Rarity,” Sunset said, she didn’t bother to look at the bearers. “I’ve been so caught up in trying to save this world, to make this world matter to me, to make it better. I’ve found what matters, though. It’s you all. I already knew that, though.” Sunset did not turn her head away from the direction of Chrysalis. She dared not.

The queen was charging her power, holding the whole world as hostage. Sunset knew Chrysalis was crazy enough to do it – she had been the same way once. She would have done anything to hold on to her demon power, though it had been a good thing that she lost it. It’d be good once Chrysalis was defeated too, and there was no other way than allowing the Elements to have at her. “In the previous world, the world was at war. Kind of like this one, but we were winning, more or less. All of you were given your Element of Harmony when you realized exactly what your Element was.”

Sunset turned to face them, though they were blurry from her tears. “I tried my hardest to get you to see your Elements in this world, but the Tree of Harmony didn’t care. It had no connection to your or the Elements, not like I did.” She smiled. It wasn’t a happy smile or sad smile, it was more that she was content. The fear that she had let go, though she should have been afraid of the destruction formulating behind her, it did not phase her.

“Every moment I’ve spent worrying about how to get you to use the Elements of Harmony, every time I came so close to figuring it out, I was thrown for another loop. I started to doubt myself; to give up. I wanted nothing more than to just quit and go home, and I still want that. As much as I care for you guys, as much as I want to help this world, I still can’t help the feeling of wanting to just, let go.” She paused, glancing over the mix of reactions from each of the bearers, even feeling the sad eyes from Celestia peering down at her. “But you all taught me something. Something that I’ve been trying to teach you.

“Twilight, you’ve shown me magic I never thought I’d see. Rarity, your generosity helped me more times than I can count. Rainbow Dash, you’ve been loyal even before you thought to call me friend. Applejack, your honesty is what helped me understand the hard times. Pinkie Pie, I can’t help but laugh at your loveable luck. And Fluttershy, the kindness you showed me, the willingness to be my friend, a stranger that you didn’t know, that was the moment I should have realized.”

Sunset stepped back, bowing her head and levitating the gemstones to each of the bearers’ necks. “I didn’t need to try and help you realize what your Element was. Instead, you represented each Element perfectly, teaching me what they truly meant. I couldn’t ask for a better lesson.” She lifted her head, witnessing as the gems transformed into white lights, spreading out into necklaces. “Thank you.”

No words passed between the Elements as they looked at their necklaces, glancing up at Sunset with tears in their eyes. Even as they held a group hug, the only voice that was speaking was that of Chrysalis who was murmuring about their destruction. Sunset had felt the spark of the Elements within the throne room but had not realized truly what that had been till everything was on the line. Even as she turned to watch the excitement of her friends tearing Chrysalis’s plan in two, she knew that it was for the best.

Just as Chrysalis finished powering the device, a rainbow of color swooped down upon the silver cube. In a dramatic twist of irony, much like how Sombra was turned to crystals, Chrysalis and the cube merged, turning the changeling queen into a silvery grey statue. It finished with the queen almost instantly. The tornado rainbow swirled around the queen and then exploded in six directions.

It was like a sonic boom, tearing a bubble of magic through Canterlot and forcing out any semblance of the changeling species with it. Though Sunset had not known it, it was much in the same way her own world’s changelings had been expelled from Canterlot. This, however, took everything with it. Changelings flew in every direction so high that they’d be several continents over, and the cocoons that had been added to the walls of the city went with them. The Hatchery uplifted, snapping off the royal tower like a tick, crumbling part of the slender building in on itself. Some of the smaller cocoons were simply shredded, releasing the goo inside along with whomever was still locked away.

Again, the Elements of Harmony had brought the world back to peace. Sunset had hoped for a less destructive end to an otherwise clean defeat, but as she basked beneath the sun, staring up at Chrysalis, she dared not think of the what if. Just let it go, it’s not what matters, she thought, unsure if she should be smiling. As her friends returned, landing in a whirlwind of color, she did not go to congratulate them. She could not. It had not been her victory – she was just the great uniter. The victory of King Sombra had not been her victory either, she now realized.

It was a surreal feeling. She was supposed to be happy. The changelings, however odd or horrible they could be, were simply thrown out of Equestria in one fell swoop. Sunset didn’t feel happy, though. The final decision had been completely taken from her hooves. She did not desire the hero’s spotlight, but, as she stared at the silver queen, she could not help but feel she had made a mistake somewhere down the line. Let it go, she told herself, trying her best to listen.

“Hello, Sunset,” a voice spoke to her, striking her from her inexplicable thoughts.

“Hello, Princess Celestia,” Sunset responded, though she did not offer any other courtesy. She had already been forgiven by one Celestia, and it was her own world’s Celestia that she wanted approval from next.

“You’ve done a mighty fine job, I must say. I… did not think that you would return. I feared-”

Sunset cut her off, “I’m not this world’s Sunset Shimmer.”

Princess Celestia’s eyes lit up. “Oh. I see. That would explain some things.” What she was really saying was, “That explains why you’re so friendly and helpful.”

“I’m hoping I can return to my world now, or soon, at least.” Sunset turned back to the silver queen, remembering the stone statue that sat in the courtyard and how badly she wanted to turn Chrysalis into the same thing. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to return to my world, though. As much as I wish I could. So, for a little while, I’d like to stay here. If you don’t mind.”

“You are more than welcome here, though I do not think I have to say it. You’ve done more than enough to earn your place. I’m sure you’re exhausted after how much you’ve accomplished. You even tried to save me. Twice!” Celestia chuckled.

It didn’t matter what excuse Celestia made for her reasoning as to why Sunset wanted to stay. Sunset had her own reasons. She had not stayed nearly long enough in the last world, barely taking the time to know the ponies who had been her friends in multiple worlds now. But, even that was an excuse. In truth, she suspected there would be another world in peril, and she had no desire to go unprepared. There had been many ponies who chorused the idea of multiple universes. Even if the next trip was her trip home, she wanted to be ready for the worst of any world.

The days after the battle that ponies were calling ‘The Battle for Harmony’ – aptly given by the word that spread through the city about how well the Elements of Harmony took care of the changelings – things started to settle down. Work was slow and meticulous, but everyone in Equestria was there to help rebuild the city. Some had returned to their home cities to judge the damages, but many remained. With so much help, Sunset was forced to move on from one thing to the next just to stay busy.

Wherever she went, however, the Elements were right beside her. “Fluttershy, you were at flight school the same time I was, right?” Rainbow Dash had asked as they were lugging wood logs down the main street. Though the remnants of the changelings had been destroyed, much of the city required lumber to help rebuild the stone that had been damaged. Incidentally, the majority of buildings that were in ruins all had checker pieces littering the floors.

“That’s right. It’s been so long I barely remember anypony. I wasn’t there as long as you were,” Fluttershy replied.

“Not much good it did it. I wonder if the Wonderbolts are forming up again.”

“We could use the Wonderbolts to spread apple seeds down in Ponyville to replenish whatever we lost. I’m sure they could make quick work,” Applejack noted, hauling the heaviest of logs.

It was nice to hear them hopeful for the future, Sunset thought, but it was odd to hear of a future that she would not be a part of. “There’s going to be a lot of things that will need righting.” Sunset dropped her logs down on the grass of the courtyard. She looked over at the gardens where two ponies were chipping down the statue of Chrysalis. It had been replaced with the silver statue, a marvelous decoration for the castle grounds.

Celestia’s hole in the castle had been easily repaired – one of the first things Princess Cadance and Shining Armor had started work on. “Not as much as you’d think, though. It’s mostly tearing things down and rebuilding them. I think we’ll complete it in a year so long as we don’t move winter in,” Twilight described. “It’ll be more of a hassle to move ponies back to their homes. After the wedding, Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor will be aiding in moving ponies.”

“Before turning their sights on The Crystal Empire, right?” Sunset asked. If the world was truly going to return to normalcy, then things needed to match up with what was right in her own world.

“That’s the idea,” Twilight replied. The purple unicorn had dropped her vest, ugly green shoes, and even was letting her mane grow out some – though she still remarked of how she enjoyed the coolness atop her head as she worked.

They all had been hard at work, and by the day the wedding had been set to be, the castle had almost been completely renovated. The wedding was not in the castle, however. It was held in the very spot where Chrysalis was defeated, a final jab at the changeling queen. Everyone in Equestria was invited, and it wasn’t hard to attend. There was nothing to be flashy about the wedding, not like Sunset would have imagined a Princess’s wedding to be. Cadance wore a white gown and Shining his superior captain uniform, though it looked too big for him, what with how skinny he had become.

Sunset had been asked to be a bridesmaid but had refused, leaving the spot open for the six Elements. She wanted to be prepared, sitting in the front row, waiting for the single changeling who thought they could act as vengeance upon the wedding. It had all been for naught, however. It was a short wedding, and Sunset appreciated that. Everyone was eager to be done with the last remnant of the changeling invasion. And so, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Shining Armor were married at long last, and no one was more ecstatic than the happy couple, though their honeymoon would have to wait.

During the nights, Sunset would visit with Zecora. The zebra had produced large quantities of the green paste that prevented a changeling’s disguise, covering the faces of every pony that stayed within Canterlot. Sunset had grown attached to the whimsical way Zecora spoke, and she had never met someone like her within the human world. Sunset knew she might not ever meet Zecora again, whether in her world or the human, and thought it best to learn as much as she could from the zebra. Of course, Zecora was happy to oblige. “Spend time in the Everfree Forest and you will come across me, that or it shall be I who stumbles upon ye.”

When she was not speaking with Zecora, Sunset was using her spare time to copy the journal that had been the cause of her plight. She hoped all the information she had learned from Princess Twilight would be helpful to the friends of this world. She did leave out a few embarrassing stories that happened to herself, but overall, it was a match for match copy.

She presented the copy to Twilight and the gang of friends who had grown even closer with each passing day, and they all accepted it warmly. Sunset, however, did not expect a gift in return. “It’s not a replacement for the one you have, but it might do good to write down some of your thoughts or notes about this world,” Twilight stated. “It might also help in writing down things in the next world you visit,” she trailed off. Many ponies had told Sunset that she would most likely be visiting another new world, but Twilight was the only one that was certain of it. “It’s just basic calculations,” she had muttered absentmindedly to Sunset, only to realize it had not been the right thing to say.

But everyone around Sunset had drawn to the same conclusion. Even Princess Celestia had figured it out as soon as she learned Sunset was not of this world and had visited another, different world. But none had an answer for how many worlds Sunset would have to face, or why. “It’s not a penance,” she would tell them, though. Only Rarity understood what that meant, and seemed delighted to hear Sunset say it.

A week after the wedding, Sunset finally decided she was ready to move on. She had not been gone from the human world as long as she thought she had, thankfully. Still, Sunset worried about what her friends might be doing to try and save her. “Remember, just send them my way,” she had told the friends of this world as they traveled through Ponyville. Much of the town was still in disarray, but the destruction had happened recently, which meant it was easily fixable. “They’re not used to this world, they’re not used to being ponies,” Sunset mentioned. I just hope they aren’t foolish enough to try and save me. That was her one fear, her only fear now. The fear of bringing whatever burden was facing her down on them, much like Princess Twilight had done to her – regardless if she had meant to or not.

“We’ll put them under intense observation to make sure they’re not changelings,” Rainbow Dash jokingly said. “But after that, I might challenge my clone to a race.”

“They’re not clones, Dash,” Twilight scolded for the fourth time, but the pegasus shrugged and flew on ahead once the crystalline table came into view.

Princess Celestia had remained in Canterlot with the newly wedded couple, leaving only Zecora and the bearers to see Sunset off. “I wish I could tell you more of the worlds you will soon face, but it is not in my fire to tell of other times and space,” Zecora had told her, also believing that Sunset would face many more trials. She had looked over the journal Sunset was copying and believed there could be an infinite amount of worlds that Sunset might face. That did not reassure Sunset, but it had already been a possibility that she knew she might face.

“I’m not looking forward to this,” Sunset complained, rolling her shoulders and feeling the straps weigh heavily on her back. “The portal gives some seriously weird vibes.”

“I can’t believe we’re actually going to see somepony disappear right before our very eyes!” Pinkie claimed. Her enthusiasm and laughter was slow to return, and her paranoia would most likely never leave her, but she was closer to the human Pinkie than that of the last world. Sunset had written all about the last world’s Pinkie and this world’s, making detailed observations about both. She even made a note, “An interesting psyche study would most likely come from studying Pinkie Pie.” She missed making notes, having forgotten most of the notes she had told herself to remember.

Twilight sighed. “Pinkie, you’ve seen me teleport like five times just today.”

“Oh, right. My bad!”

“Will the portal affect us?” Rarity happened to ask.

Sunset shook her head. They all stood around the crystal table and she lifted her front hooves onto the edge. The green trees and vines reflected the light of the hologram atop the table, they’d definitely need to beat back the Everfree Forest now that the war was over. “Don’t forget. The Tree of Harmony might need those Elements back some day.”

“We’ve got the journal,” Applejack assured, nodding.

“Be safe, Sunset,” Fluttershy said as she sat down, the other bearers following suit.

For a moment, Sunset clung to the table. She had changed her mind for a split second, wanting to stay with these friends that she had made. “Let go, Sunset,” Rarity had called out over the bellowing winds that did not affect her. Sunset did as she was told, but not before a few happy tears floated up into the portal.

Sunset felt light as a feather as she floated through time and space. She felt so light that she screamed – she couldn’t feel anything! Swinging her forelegs in front of her eyes, she could see them but not feel the weight they once had. That’s when she closed her eyes, hoping it would soon pass.

A voice washed over her. “See? You can’t stop me no matter what you do.”

Who is that voice? Sunset wondered, still praying that she would be standing inside a crystal castle, a mirror to her world only a few doors down. She felt the portal spit her out, more gently than she expected. Her legs had returned feeling and she heard the portal close but did not open her eyes. “Until I open my eyes, I’m nowhere. This is certainly my timeline,” she said loudly, her eyes squinted closed so hard it was starting to hurt. “I am in my timeline. This is my timeline. I am not-”

“From another timeline?” a voice interrupted. Sunset threw open her eyes and turned to see the legendary Nightmare Moon staring down at her. “Lost two, but gained one. Seize her!”