• Published 8th May 2016
  • 3,339 Views, 127 Comments

Substitute - RQK



Everything has a price. The smallest of actions, both good and bad, can place many into the grave. The roots run deep, after all, in any and all Equestrias.

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Prologue

“Sunset Shimmer, please report to the principal’s office immediately.”

Sunset Shimmer glanced toward the intercom in the ceiling and frowned. Calls to the office were not uncommon, but Principal Celestia rarely spoke so sharply. What’s going on now? she thought.

With a sigh, she took one last look at the books sitting neat and orderly in her locker’s top shelf. She slid all but one into her backpack and then flipped through the pages of that final, sun-covered book to see if there was anything new. She sighed—half in disappointment and half in relief—when that came up negative and she jammed it into her backpack along with the others and then slammed her locker shut.

She dipped into the next available hall, brushing past several students as they laughed and talked about plans for the coming weeks and lamented over recent tests. The standard fare of gossip and rumors flew overhead, but Sunset ignored it all in favor of the dread stewing in her stomach.

She rounded another corner and finally found a source of relief. Four sources, in fact. They had gathered in the center of the hall and they, despite bearing almost no similarities to each other, had the tightest bonds out of everyone in the school. Just the very sight of them usually served to ease whatever tension and stresses she had. Even now, she felt just that, and she faintly smiled.

They all turned to her as she approached.

“Sunset?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow and crossing her arms.

“I’m on my way there now,” Sunset replied without missing a beat as she reached them.

They moved forward in anticipation and then collected her in full. “We’re going with you,” Rainbow Dash said, balling her fists.

Sunset nodded. “Yeah.”

They moved forward in unison, zig-zagging through the packed hallways as a single fluid unit. Their strong aura prompted the other students to move toward the lockers on the sides of the hall, leaving a clear path.

Applejack appeared out of a side hall and joined the group without saying a word. Her furrowed brow, a mirroring of the rest of their faces, did the talking for her.

Another girl raced up from behind, pushing her bulky glasses back up her nose. “Oh goodness,” said Twilight Sparkle—the human world’s Twilight Sparkle, “I sure hope it’s not bad news!”

Pinkie Pie shook her head. “I’m sure it’s nothin’. Ya know?”

Fluttershy pushed her long, pink hair out of her face. “I’m not sure… we get an awful lot of not-nothing around here…”

“Just as long as it ain’t something we gotta save the world from, it can’t be that bad,” Applejack said.

They arrived in front of a wooden door whose textured window made everything past it a kaleidoscope of browns and whites. It had the words Main Office emblazoned on the center, their former shine lost to scratches and paint tears. Sunset stopped and turned to face them. “I’m hoping we’re just overreacting to this,” she said as she grabbed the door handle. “But I guess, either way, we’re gunna find out.”

The girls stepped into the office. They immediately saw their school’s principal digging through the secretary’s desk, sliding manila folder after manila folder into a drawer.

“Principal Celestia,” Sunset began, stepping into the room, “you wanted to see me?”

Principal Celestia looked up. While she recognized Sunset, her expression remained unreadable. “Yes, yes,” she said, standing up. “I just had a visit from Spike. The other Spike.”

The six looked at each other with worried frowns as light shivered overtook them.

On the other hand, Spike the dog—the native Spike—popped out of Twilight’s backpack, panting happily.

Sunset swallowed. “Y-yes?”

Celestia fetched an amber scroll, all rolled up and tied with a shiny red bow, from atop the keyboard at the end of the desk. A horseshoe seal held it all together. “He told me that I should give this to you,” she said, offering it.

Sunset paused before grabbing it. She frowned at the construction, noted the seal, and shook her head. Her fingers quivered as she broke the seal, her stomach ached as she unfurled the scroll. Whatever it was, it didn’t belong there, and yet there it was.

Sunset skimmed over the contents once, and that was enough to get the gist of it. “Oh, buck me.”

Celestia narrowed her eyes. “Sunset Shimmer! Language!”

“...Sorry.”

Twilight frowned. “What is it?”

Sunset pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to ease the sudden mental pressure. “I don’t really know…” she said at length, “but it’s something. And chances are I’m going to see it soon.”

At that, she buried herself into the scroll once more, intent on reading the entire thing in silence.

Dear Sunset Shimmer,

I hope that this letter finds you well. I am loath to say this, but I must summon you to Canterlot. There are some important matters I must discuss with you face-to-face. And while I do not wish to impose, especially since I am well aware that you have made a living for yourself in the other world, you must come here tomorrow afternoon.

Please make your school principal aware that you will have to miss class tomorrow. You are permitted to show this letter as proof. I am sure it will be permissible.

Due to circumstances that I am not at liberty to disclose, I cannot offer you any official escort, so you will have to find your own means of transportation. I would suggest the afternoon train from Ponyville.

There is one more thing that I want to mention. I have also summoned one other to be present as the discussion is intended for the both of you. I expect you will meet them as soon as you arrive in Ponyville.

I look forward to speaking with you.

Yours, as always,
Princess Celestia