I stood in stunned silence for a moment, the narrowed eyes of little griffin like daggers. I was suddenly very glad that Cicada had managed to change me when she did, no matter what I felt about the disguise she'd trapped me in. Turns out that having her hide me as the pegasus mare was not the only thing I had to thank the far more experienced changeling for, however, as she cleared her throat and spoke up.
"Oh, hey there, little one." She trotted towards Ginny with a kind smile.
If I had not known any better, I'd have no doubt she was a real pony. "My name's Grape Vine, this is Digit."
She directed a forehoof at me, and I awkwardly waved back, murmuring. "Hey there."
Ginny's beak worked silently, her face contorted into a whole manner of unsure expressions as she looked between us. Meanwhile, Cicada, or more accurately, Grape Vine, maintained her perfect ruse.
"We're new weather ponies from Hoofington, just transferred and well... we kinda got lost." The way she lied, right down to her expression, gave me chills.
My instincts longed for me to be able to do that so well, while my morals were really not sure what to make of the deceit. Twilight never brought me up to be like that... no matter if it's natural for changelings.
"Really, I don't remember Dash saying anything about new weather ponies on the team," the griffin retorted, lifting a talon to her beak.
I felt my new coat begin to crawl, ears folding as my feathery wings ruffled nervously. She's going to figure us out, she's far too suspicious!
Yet as I panicked, Cicada was cool as ice, and on top of the situation like a master. Her stature shifted, her expression mimicking one of admiration as she smirked at the little griffin.
"Wow, in the know are you? Quite the observant one," she commented, and Ginny's downy chest puffed up as she responded.
"That's right, I'm Princess Sunset's number one little helper, and I know everything that goes on in Ponyville."
Grape Vine chuckled, a forehoof lightly pressed to her muzzle. "Oh, well in that case then I guess I'll have to tell you why we're really here."
Ginny perked as if she'd expected nothing less, meanwhile I stared at Cicada uncertainly. She's not seriously going to tell her why we're here, is she?
"It's a secret drop in weather inspection. No prompts, no forward information, just get in and review the situation as it is. So your friend wouldn't know," she finally announced, and I felt a breath of relief escape my throat.
"So it would be better if you make sure it stays that way for us, please," she added, but Ginny frowned.
"What, so I can't tell Dash? But she's super awesome, if she knows you're coming she could have them work really hard..." My companion raised a forehoof to cut the griffin off.
"That kinda ruins the whole idea of it being an honest review. Let's just see how awesome your friend is without even knowing she has to be, okay?" Ginny's face scrunched, but she huffed and nodded.
"Fine, I guess, but she won't let you down, I can tell you that for sure," she insisted, glancing back at the bushes between us and the clearing. "I guess you're going to want to know the way to town, huh?"
"It would be very helpful, yes," Cicada confirmed, glancing back at me with a wink. "Plus, directions to where we can get something to eat too, we're both pretty weary from the flight over here."
Ginny shrugged and looked between us once again as she added. "Yeah, I guess that makes sense. You can't all be as good at flying as me and Dash."
I just want to be able to fly, full stop, don't care how fast or whether I can do dumb flips, I mentally huffed.
Meanwhile, Cicada giggled, forehoof still on her muzzle as Ginny added.
"You'll want Sugarpop Corner, it's in the middle of town. Come on, I'll show you." She turned and started to make her way back into the bushes.
Cicada glanced back at me, and as the tension left me, I could not help but say something. "You handled that well."
"Well, pretending is what we do," she offered with another wink as she moved after Ginny and prompted me to follow with a wing.
Before either the griffin, or any of us, could make our way out into the clearing, however, there was a heavy rustling in the bushes and a wall of orange fur emerged to block our path.
"By Luna, there ya' are, Ginny, Sunset was so worried 'bout ya' just then an..." Applejack materialized from the undergrowth like a giant, peering down at the far smaller griffin before noticing us.
The way I had to crane my neck to look up and try to not wilt away at the imposing sight of a pony so tall reminded me of the first time I'd met Celestia and Luna. Yet from the stunned look on Applejack's face, I could only assume the feeling of surprise was mutual.
"Oh, hello there. You must be Applejack, right?" Cicada suddenly introduced, and the large farm pony blinked.
"Ah... Sure am. But beggin' ya' pardon, miss, how do ya' know mah name?" Applejack rumbled and Cicada chuckled.
"Oh, what decent pony's not heard of your apple business before? I've heard all about your trade where I come from," she improvised.
"They're from Hoofington, AJ. Here to see Dash and the weather team, got lost in the forest," Ginny elaborated as she took a position next to the towering earth pony.
For his part, Applejack blushed, taking his hat off his head with a forehoof to wipe his brow.
"Well, shucks. Ah never did think word got that far 'bout me. The farm, sure, but it's not just me puttin' in the hard work. Got mah sisters too."
"Oh, don't be so modest. I know there's no I in team, sure, trust me I'm a weather pony, I understand. But a strong stallion like yourself has to take some credit." For a second it was hard not to see Cicada as Rarity as she practically swooned the stallion.
But he's a guy... Kinda one of your best friends, only a stallion and she's what, my sister... Or not? My head spun so much it hurt, and I had to fight not to gag.
"Hah, y'all are startin' ta sound like somepony ah know there," Applejack commented as Ginny mocked a gag beside her.
"Thanks fer the kind words though, miss. Ah'm guessin' y'all are after a way inta town? Ah know these woods can get pretty hard to navigate fer newcomers."
"Oh, that would be greatly appreciated, thank you," Cicada responded, before taking a step back and wrapping a wing over my back, pulling me into the most awkward hug I'd ever been exposed to.
Years of getting snagged by Flurry, and this is what makes me cringe the most? The thoughts boggled me as I manufactured a smile to keep in line with Cicada's act.
"You can call me Grape Vine by the way, and this is Digit. Pleased to meet you." I forced another awkward wave and Applejack nodded.
"They're hungry too, AJ. Wanna stop at Sugarpop Corner?" Ginny asked, bouncing on the spot as Applejack chuckled.
"We'll have to see, little one. Sunny and tha girls had ta rush back, ah stayed ta make sure ya didn't wander off." Ginny went from bouncing to slouching with a huff.
"I don't wander, I explore," she stated flatly, but Applejack's chuckle did not cease.
"Ya almost scare Sunset half ta death, now come on, we gotta get back ta town, somethin's come up."
"Oh my, really? I do hope it's nothing serious?" Cicada interrupted and Applejack shrugged.
"Nothin' that's goin' ta interfere with yer day, miss... Ah... ah mean, Grape Vine, ah'm sure," Applejack assured as he picked Ginny up onto his back and began to trot back to town.
Oh Celestia, even his hoof steps sound like a giant's! I thought to myself as Cicada nudged my wing, specifically where I was still hiding the cartographer.
"Keep it safe, keep it hidden. We'll get her back, just let me do the talking," she instructed.
I chuckled and added, "Are you kidding, after that, I'm going to just let you talk your way out of every situation." She just rolled her eyes and trotted on, with me close behind her.
Ponyville was where I'd lived all my life, where I grew up, where I'd made friends, attended school. This place was not my home. It was almost identical, but it was not the same, and that did not help my confused thoughts one bit. Just like in the forest, it was the little things. Yet here where things were so familiar before, the differences were far more noticeable. Ponies that I thought I recognized, only to look again and see stallions where there should have been mares, or green coats instead of red. Inkwells and Couches owned and run by Ms. Divan, Antique Boutique, Sugarpop Corner, they were all so off. Ponies I knew as foals were elderly, fillies and colts I'd gone to school with were either fully grown or younger then I recalled.
Even the emotion felt different, and while I did my best not to sap at the feelings of strangers, only prolonging my hunger, it was pretty clear that things were not so flamboyant here as they were back home.
Looking past the inhabitants, I noted that houses were blue or green instead of pink or cream, the clock tower almost looked backward, time ticking by in the opposite direction I was used to. Where I knew there should be a well, there was instead a statue of a rearing princess Luna, all of which was decorated with blue banners and streamers depicting a solar eclipse. 'Happy Sunfall Celebration' proclaimed a banner overhead as two stallions looked curiously at a smaller banner awkwardly reading 'Welcome Princess Lu...'
Sunfall Celebration? What in Equestria happened here to make things so different? I wondered, noting the fact I'd seen no reference to Celestia anywhere, only her younger sister.
It wasn't until I received a subtle nudge in the side from Cicada that I broke free of my perplexed stupor, however.
"Hey, watch it, these things are sensitive," I muttered, rustling my wing, and she rolled her eyes.
"You'll get used to it. Anyway, when you activated the cartographer, what were you thinking of?" she questioned.
I didn't need to think too hard to remember what had been going through my head in that intense moment atop the cliff.
"I was thinking of home, why?" I told her, and she seemed to consider that for a moment before responding.
"Figured, so Chrysalis was right when she considered that may have something to do with how it works," she said, more to herself than me it seemed.
I took one look around and raised an eyebrow. "Hardly, this place only looks like home on the surface," I told her.
"It has to pick from infinite realities, the thing may have blurred all of our thoughts between us. I know this is nothing like my home, so what do you think Flurry was thinking?" she inquired, but I shrugged.
"Probably how dumb I was acting, she doesn't trust you, she obviously doesn't trust Chrysalis," I told her.
"Well, yeah, obviously. Not like she tried to call me out as the queen twice," she responded, then tapped a forehoof to her chin. "Though if it says one thing, it may not be as hard for Chrysalis to track us down again as I thought."
At that, I almost landed face first in the dust as my legs turned to jelly. "W–what... She can find us again?"
"If she figures out that her theory was correct it could narrow down where we ended up. Plus, she used her magic so Chunrabo's gonna force her to make a move," she informed me and I wondered how desperate the queen had been to stop us to go that far.
"Just all the more reason to find your friend and get out of here," Cicada went on, and any semblance of calm I had from being in a place that at least kinda looked like home disintegrated.
Great, queen crazy can come after me even here. If I can't hide in a completely different universe then where can I hide? I considered just how far I could go to be safe, before recalling. Then again, wasn't I just hidden in another universe to begin with?
The idea of how I'd ended up in the version of Equestria in which I'd grown up boggled my mind, not to mention the phantom of an idea that I may have not even been a changeling before-hoof. I'd have to ask Cicada about it more when we were all safe, but if it was possible for the queen to find us before we could get home, finding Flurry was all I wanted.
"You two mumble a lot, you know that, right?" Ginny said, and I looked forward to see her resting lazily on Applejack's haunches, head slumped on a claw as she watched us.
Ugh, why does it feel like every time somepony here talks to me they're going to find out the truth! I internally cried, as Cicada once again answered the curious young griffin.
"Sorry, just not used to having an escort, we're kinda supposed to make our time here as unobtrusive as possible for the best results," she assured, beaming that happy, perfectly convincing smile once again.
The sweetness seemed to make Ginny gag, and even I could feel her sense of distaste for the whole idea. It was pretty clear she wanted to warn her apparent idol of the oncoming inspection, even if she had no idea was just a facade.
"Well, y'all won't have ta worry ta much 'bout drawin' too much attention anymore, here ya' are," Applejack swiftly chimed in as she stopped before what I recognized as Sugarcube Corner from my own universe.
Aside from the change in name, the establishment looked relatively similar, only with blue walls and doors, instead of the usual pink and cream.
"Ah take it y'all will be okay findin' yer way now, because me and the little one here gotta get ta Sunset's castle mighty quick," the larger earth pony added and the little griffin on his back huffed.
"Sure, let the secret weather ponies stay for a treat... Why am I always the one dragged to where all the boring stuff's going on?" she grumbled.
"Now, now, Ginny, ah'm sure Sunset will be happy ta bring ya back here when she's done with all her royal princess stuff," Applejack assured the young griffin as Cicada spoke up.
"Oh, thank you, you have no idea how helpful you've been." She offered the stallion a nod of appreciation, before addressing Ginny. "You too, I sure can't wait to see just how awesome this Rainbow Dash of yours is."
Ginny's chest puffed up once again as she boasted. "Like I said, she's the best, no way will you be disappointed!"
Meanwhile, Applejack let out a hearty chuckle. "Oh, ah'm sure. Y'all are welcome, the both of ya. Ah'd offer ya' a trip round to the farm when y'all are done with Rainbow, but... well, friendship duty n' all," the farm pony added.
"Oh, we'd never dream of getting in the way. But don't let us keep you, I'm sure whatever you have to deal with is very important," Cicada responded, vigorously shaking hooves with the orange stallion before Applejack uttered one last goodbye and trotted off with a very bored looking Ginny on his back.
Cicada drew back her foreleg as I spoke up. "Almost took your leg off with that shake, huh? Still kinda the Applejack I'm used to."
Yeah, because anything that makes this place feel even a little like home is better than wherever else we could have ended up. I thought as Cicada snorted at me.
"Well, mister know it all, if you know the way to this castle, now's the time," she asked, jabbing a forehoof at me.
"Sure I do, but what are we supposed to do, just break in and steal an alicorn from them?" I asked, but she gave me an odd look.
"We're changelings, infiltration is our thing. We still have the cartographer, provided it's charged again it should not be too hard to teleport out," she pointed out, and my muzzle wrinkled with uncertainty.
Lifting my wing I inspected the metallic pyramid nestled under my feathers, its runic marking starting to glow brighter. I once again tried to ignore the blatant code Churnabo had given me.
"And how long does that take? Because you can be the one to make sure this thing works the next time," I responded.
"A few hours, if what Chrysalis knew about it was right, so we sneak in, grab Flurry, and jump out again," she elaborated as if it'd be the most simple thing in the world.
"Yeah, well this time hopefully we'll end up in my real home, the sooner we get this thing to Twilight, the better," I retorted.
"I told you I'll get you both home, don't worry," she assured, before lifting a forehoof to her chin.
"We'll have to give it some time though, that griffin sees anything out of the ordinary near the castle she'll be suspicious," she went on.
"You're telling me, every time she looked my way it made my mane crawl," I told her, running a hoof through the hair between my ears. "Still not used to it being so fluffy."
At that, there was another growl from my stomach, and pressing a forehoof to it, I added. "Hunger's still the same no matter where I go, though. You said we needed food too?"
Cicada blinked at me, then raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, and we are where the food is? There's so much love and companionship here, how in the great hive's name are you hungry?" she grumbled, then looked to the food establishment we'd been left outside as I winced.
"What, you expect me to just drink emotions from them like some parasite?" The idea made the words taste foul in my mouth. "I don't even know their names."
"I expect you to know how to keep yourself alive. No pony would notice if you just take enough to make sure you don't starve. So you're doing it for what, decency?" she huffed, and the flare of irritation coming off of her was hard to ignore.
"Raised by ponies, remember? And for your information, yes, it's out of respect," I insisted, sitting down and crossing my forelegs. "I lived perfectly fine off of real food back home... Even if it was not what the others ate."
"Yeah, I can tell, no wonder all your changeling traits are stunted," she grumbled, then reached out and pressed a forehoof to my chest.
Given the last time she'd done such a thing I'd ended up in an utterly alien body, I flinched. "Just hold still, I can pass on some of the love I've stored if you're really so hung up on feeding naturally."
I glanced back at her eyes as a warm feeling emanated from her forehoof, instantly chasing away my hunger and seeming to drain her a little.
"Unless you're too righteous to accept help from your own kind too," she went on as she looked back.
Despite myself, years of hoping that I'd at least meet another changeling, let alone end up stuck with one, allowing me to set my nobility aside.
"Thanks," I muttered appreciatively.
"Yeah well, don't get used to it. I'll teach your dumb hide how to feed properly before I siphon you love all the time," she stated, withdrawing her hoof and turning away. "Okay, now to the matter at hoof."
I winced at her words. She really thinks I'm dumb?
I tried to shake it off as stress, yet I could not help but feel I was a disappointment.
If she really had waited all her life for me... Probably not what she was hoping for... Not that I really feel like anyone hoped for me.
I held the cartographer close under my wing as I struggled to shake the thoughts. At least I have this, getting this somewhere safe has to be worth something. I thought boldly, very aware of what could happen if I failed.
"I–I was sure there was a way in here. We used to use it all the time when we were foals!" I insisted as the pair of us stared at the blazing orange wall of crystal.
The realization that the castle I'd grown up in may be so different here had hit me far too late. So by the time we'd made our way to the monolithic icon of amber crystal and golden spires, I could have only hoped every entrance was in the same place as I remembered. Ultimately, only the main entrance doors seemed to be identical to my world, and I was left stammering as Cicada looked the castle wall up and down.
"Well, we can't just walk in the front door without those guards getting suspicious, so any other ideas?" she asked, walking over and tapping at the walls as if to crack it like a safe.
With the guards we'd seen stationed at the castle's main entrance, unlike back home, it was pretty clear that getting in was going to be difficult no matter what I came up with. Cicada had already shot down my idea of using the Cartographer to teleport inside. Stating that, when it had literally infinite possibilities to work with, it was hardly ever so accurate.
Come on, Digit, you've lived here for years... Or somewhere like here... Ugh. The idea still hurt my head as I tapped my skull with a forehoof. There's gotta be a way in, think of all the times you played hide and seek, all the little passageways Spike used, or the ones Rainbow used to prank Twilight.
Finally, something came to mind and my head perked along with my ears. Hmmm, I wonder, are they even going to be the same here?
I glanced around, double-checking for anypony that might catch us snooping around the castle before calling to Cicada.
"Hey, can you give me a boost up to one of the windows, I have an idea that might work?" She glanced back at me, opened a wing and rolled her eyes.
"I get time and I'm teaching you how to use your wings and magic if it kills me," she huffed as she marched back over and wrapped her forelegs under mine. "Did those ponies really teach you anything?"
"They taught me enough. It's not their fault I had a crazy zebra messing around with my thoughts my whole life," I reasoned as she beat her wings and slowly lifted me up.
The sensation of my hooves leaving the ground again was an odd one, and I had to fight not to let my mind go back to the memory of plummeting off the cliff before Chrysalis' fire toasted us. Before I knew it, I had to catch the cartographer in my forehooves as my own feathery wings tried to flap, much to Cicada's irritation as she snorted the things out of her face.
"Sure because all Churnabo wanted to do was stop you from flying and using spells, like she really has anything to worry about if you could," she responded as she set me down on a thin ledge before one of the tall windows.
I peered through the glass, seeing a crystal corridor lined with doors, identical to my home save for the fiery colored rock from which it was made, and the sunny cutie mark adorning the hanging tapestries.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked, looking back at my companion as I wobbled.
She hovered forward to steady me on the narrow ledge as my wings once again floundered instinctively.
"I mean Churnabo may as well be a god if she gets hold of the cartographer, so if you have a plan to get in here so we can leave, now's the time," she insisted, and I tapped the window frame.
"Okay, it looks like they're built the same, I just need something long and thin. Flurry and I always used a twig but... Ouch!" there was a sudden, sharp pain in my wing and I looked to see Cicada had plucked out one of my pinion feathers.
I pressed the soft limb to my side, glaring at the other disguised changeling. "Hey, how am I ever supposed to learn how to fly without those?"
"You're not really a pegasus bug-brain, you'll get them back when you transform again," she assured, before spitting the feather to me. "Now, you were going to get us in?"
Rubbing my stinging wing with a forehoof, I took the feather in my mouth and set to work slotting it between the two panels. Usually, something so precise would be Flurry's job with her magic, yet as I ran the feather up and down I finally felt it catch.
"Gotcha," I muttered around the thing in my mouth as I felt it bend, giving a little before there was a click and the latch beyond the glass slid open.
Despite myself, a little voice in my head cheered as I spat out the feather and rested a forehoof against the open panel. "There, open, not so useless after..."
The window swung open and I fell through before I could say another word. A shrill, all too mare-like shriek left my muzzle as I plummeted towards a set of armor, closing my eyes in panic. Forehooves over my face, the cartographer clattered to the floor as I clumsily flapped my wings. The feathery limbs caught the air, an odd, magical sensation similar to how I'd been levitated around as a foal forming under them. I suddenly felt light, and further from the floor. Seconds later, the sensation of my hooves on soft carpet allowed me to open my eyes. That was when I stumbled flat on my face in the worst landing imaginable.
D–did I just fly... Like really fly? I thought with a groan, pressing a forehoof to my snout as I glanced back at one of my outstretched wings.
"Digit, oh goodness are you..." Cicada was down at my side in a flash, resting a forehoof on my back before cutting herself off. "Y–you... You're okay, good."
Lifting my head and shaking off the little ponies dancing in my blurred vision, I scooped up the cartographer and looked at her. "I–I think I just flew."
"Yeah well, there's also the part about sticking the landing," she told me, a hint of a chuckle in her voice.
What's that... Pride, I think that's pride coming from her? I cocked my head in confusion, yet her eyes went wide and before I knew it I was yanked behind one of the armor stands.
"What is it... Did anypony see us?" I muttered, but she pressed a forehoof to my muzzle, ears standing tall.
I tried to peek around the suit of armor to see what had alarmed her, yet before I could, my ears also picked up on the sound of voices echoing down the halls.
"Seriously, how does nopony here recognize me? There are only five alicorns in existence for Celestia's sake!"
That's Flurry! My mind raced, yet as I attempted to get up and run to her, Cicada held me back, silently shaking her head.
"Damn it, what did I tell you about using that name?" responded the raspy voice of Rainbow Dash. "Why do I always get saddled with the best jobs, the day before the celebration too, for Luna's sake!"
There was a snort from whom I could only assume was Flurry before she responded. "Seriously, Rainbow, I'm all for a good prank, but this is seriously taking things too far!"
"Ha, if this is a prank then Pinkie's seriously outdone herself. Now, just stay quiet and I'm sure Sunset will sort everything out for you," the brash pegasus responded as the voices drew closer and the pair of them passed our hiding spot.
I peeked up as Rainbow passed first, a golden helmet atop her head, Flurry was next, golden band around her horn in addition to a pair of magical shackles around her forehooves and wings. There were two guards either side of her, each of them clad in midnight blue armor.
I had to look twice before realizing they were bat ponies. Lunar guards, here in Ponyville, what in Equestria goes on in this place?
None of the group noticed us as they passed and Cicada finally let me slump back out into the hall.
"How did they not recognize her? I thought there was no alternative version of you or me, but they have to have their own Flurry Heart?" I asked, waving a forehoof in the direction they'd vanished.
Cicada shrugged. "They will, but she could be different, maybe not even born yet," she told me.
"We gotta get after her before they do something stupid," I said, glancing up at one of the banners above, this one with a crescent moon and the sunburst cutie mark I'd seen on Sunset's flank.
Even if there's no Twilight here, where are the other two alicorn cutie marks? I wondered as I heard the sound of armored hoof steps again.
Cicada pulled me back into cover before I knew it, and with another green flash the pair of us became perfect imitations of the two guards I'd seen with Flurry. I took one look over myself and frowned to find I was still not my regular male self, yet Cicada was not about to give me time to complain.
“Put this on,” she ordered, shoving part of the armor from the stand into my forehooves before finding some for herself.
"Now, time to go, come on," the disguised thestral bundled me along before another set of guards rounded the corner behind us.
The next few minutes spent darting around the castle and peeking around corners while dodging guard patrols reminded me all too much of the time I'd first appeared in the castle years ago. Only this time I did not think they'd be so welcoming if they found us and the added weight of the armor made it even harder to stay hidden. Even so, the layout was mostly the same, and no matter how confusing the change in decoration made it, only a few accidental stumbles into broom closets later, we were standing across from the main chamber. I felt the cartographer buzz under my newly leathery wing, as if it were somehow calling to the map within the center of the castle.
Squinting, my nocturnal eyes could just about make out the table bearing the projected image of Equestria through a small crack in between the ajar doors. I could see ponies moving too and swore I caught sight of Applejack and Rarity, as well as Rainbow Dash hovering above. One nod from Cicada and the pair of us were creeping towards the door, voices reaching my perked ears as we drew up beside it.
"Of course, I know who you are, you're Sunset Shimmer," Flurry began, only to be cut off by a snort.
"Hey, that's Princess Sunset Shimmer to you!" Rainbow snapped, before the more reasonable voice of the fiery maned princess cut in.
"Rainbow what have I told you?" There was an awkward silence, followed by a weary sigh. "Well, seeing as you are aware of who I am, why is it again that you think we should recognize you?"
It was Flurry's turn to give an indignant snort. "Is this seriously a joke, where's Auntie Twilight, did she go through that mirror and have you stand-in for her or something?"
There was another silence, and through the ajar door I caught Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy exchanging confused glances.
"I'm sorry, I don't know about any pony called... Twilight, or this mirror? Care to elaborate?" Sunset asked.
"Twilight Sparkle, princess of friendship, my aunt, really? You were all her best friends, how do none of you remember her?" The perplexed tension was almost unbearable, and I sensed a crack in Flurry's voice.
Family is the last thing she has to lose? Oh, how can I let her think they all forgot about her? I cursed myself, chest aching as Cicada once again had to keep me from doing something stupid.
"I'm sorry, but that can't be true, I'm the Princess of Friendship, dictated by Luna herself," Sunset informed her as I pulled away from Cicada and moved to the door.
"Digit, get back here," she hissed through gritted fangs, but through the crack in the door, I now saw Flurry atop the table, standing before the very much larger and elevated throne of Sunset Shimmer.
"But... no, that's not right. What about Princess Celestia?" At Flurry's mention of the name, there were a series of gasps and mutters.
Rarity looked about to faint and Sunset winced. "W–we... we don't say that name here, please stop using it."
Flurry cocked her head. "Okay then, how about Princess Cadance of the Crystal Empire? She is... was my mother," my friend pressed and that gave every mare in the room pause.
Each of them looked up at Sunset, and the fiery mane mare blinked. "Queen Cadance... But... she doesn't have a... you can't..."
"Well, do you know her or not?" Flurry pressed, and Sunset seemed to take a deep breath before collecting herself.
"Yes, I've known her since I was a filly... But she's never had a foal, I can assure you," the orange princess declared.
I felt the feeling drain from most of my limbs as Flurry perked up. No, no, if that's true then...
"Y–you mean she's alive, Princess Cadance is alive?" the younger alicorn asked, and Sunset nodded as if such a thing were nothing of consequence.
All the while my thoughts came to one conclusion. Oh, this is really going to complicate matters.