• Published 15th Apr 2016
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Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls - thatguyvex

When dangerous supernatural creatures start to stalk the streets of Canterlot City, Sunset Shimmer and the gang become involved in events that will irrevocably change their lives. A crossover series with the Bleach anime/manga

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Episode 4: The Shopkeeper

Episode 4: The Shopkeeper

To say that the group of girls rapidly walking down the street, one of them having to be carried, was tense would have been an understatement of massive proportions. The two sirens Aria and Sonata were carrying the body of Adagio between them, not unlike Applejack and Rainbow Dash had done for Clover the previous night. The only difference here was that the actual Adagio, or rather her soul, stiffly walked beside her sisters and her body, the thick metal chain connecting her to her body clinking with each step.

Adagio’s mind was a storm of erratic thoughts.blending into one another half formed. She couldn’t keep from staring at her limp body slung between her sisters, feeling queasy. The crazy looking woman named Screwloose seemed to think there was a chance to get Adagio back into her body, but the whole situation felt so surreal it was hard to feel assured of anything.

Then there were the girls ahead of her and her sisters, the ones who had landed them in this mess in the first place. They walked in a tight cluster, sometimes whispering among themselves, or occasionally looking back at the sirens behind them. Sunset Shimmer especially kept casting furtive, tense looks backwards, a twitch of guilt in her eyes whenever they met Adagio’s.

This is your fault. All of this. If it wasn’t for you... me, my sisters, we’d be safely home. Not that junky apartment, but our true home. Equestria. All your fault...

“H-hey,” said Sonata, “You guys are sure you can see Dagie, like, her soul or something?”

The fearful concern in her voice was clear and it snapped Adagio out of her brooding for a moment to look at her sisters with a guilty expression of her own. Twilight Sparkle responded first, though most of the girls from Canterlot High looked back at Sonata’s question, some of them actually looking at Adagio herself.

“We can, or at least some of us can. She’s there, walking right next to you, just a few feet to the left. Um here,” Twilight took a small purple device that looked to Adagio like a cell phone, and after a few button presses she handed it to Sonata, who took it gingerly with one hand while still helping carrying Adagio’s body with the other.

“What’s this thing?”

“Just point it this way,” said Twilight, gesturing towards Adagio, and as Sonata did so, hand trembling slightly. Then Sonata gave a small gasp, eyes glued to the cell phone, “I see her! I mean, a I see a weird glowy blob that’s kind of shaped like Dagie! But I’d recognize that poof of hair anywhere! Hey! Dagie! I can see you!”

“Ugh,” Aria grunted as Sonata’s excited gesturing nearly caused them to drop Adagio’s body, “Sonata, watch it! Fat lot of good it does to see her soul if we end up dumping her body and cracking her skull.”

“Oh, um, s-sorry,” Sonata said, carefully handing the phone shaped device back to Twilight Sparkle. As she did so Adagio heard the younger siren whisper, “Thank you,” to Twilight, and it made Adagio fume. Thanking these girls? They were the reason this whole mess was happening in the first place!

There was nothing she could do about it. Her life hung by a thread, and the dubious mercy of the boss of the strange woman who was leading them. The streets were still crowded, and a few of the passing humans gave the group of apparent high school girls being led around by a woman in a black cloak a strange look, especially with one of the girls being carried by two of her companions. Most of those watching just shook their heads with amused smiles, and Adagio could imagine they thought the unmoving body being carried was just a girl who’d gone a bit too eager into her first night of drinking.

She supposed it was better than anyone calling the police about people shuffling around a dead body. Or nearly dead.

Screwloose herself was not an encouraging guide, constantly chuckling erratically to herself and mumbling under her breath. With the frizzy, unkempt hair it only added to the distinct aura the woman put out of being more than a tad unhinged. Stranger still, that weapon she carried had vanished under her cloak in a manner that seemed quite physically impossible, given its bulk.

They’d gone about three blocks from the site of the attack by that monster when Screwloose abruptly hung a left down a narrow alley. There was only a small moment of hesitation from the gaggle of girls before they followed her, and Adagio felt a slight shiver entering the alley. She was starting to think her and alley’s were a bad combination. If she lived through this she resolved to avoid them as much as possible.

The narrow alley stretched out ahead of them, almost seemingly forever. It left Adagio shaking her head in confusion, as if something was trying to muddle her brain as they walked down the alley’s tight, confined corridor. As they walked it sounded even as if their footsteps were being muted, all noise having a quieted, echoing quality to it. On a whim Adagio glanced back, and blinked. The mouth of the alley was gone, replaced by a turn in the alley that made it look like they’d already gone through several turns.

What is this? Magic?

Adagio didn’t know what to make of it all, but what choice was there except to keep going forward?


Guilt gnawed at Sunset, worrying away at her gut like a hyperactive puppy with a bone. Nevermind that she didn’t have any particular reason to like the sirens, that was besides the point. She’d wanted to keep people safe by dealing with the Hollows, not get anyone hurt. Or killed. That thought chilled her. Whatever this Screwloose woman said it didn’t change that, at this moment, Adagio’s soul was torn out of her body. Nothing about that struck Sunset as safe.

And she’s only in this condition because of me, Sunset thought with one hand clenching around the hilt of her Zanpaktou, I led that Hollow right to her and her sisters. I couldn’t defeat the Hollow fast enough to keep it from doing that to her.

Adagio’s death glare any time Sunset glanced back was proof enough of how the siren felt about the matter. As for the other two, whose names Sunset had finally learned were Aria and Sonata, she wasn’t sure if they blamed her or not. Sonata just seemed terrified and anxious to help Adagio. Aria looked like she wanted to commit murder, but that anger didn’t seem directed any anyone or anything specific, rather just a general ire spread out to everything that wasn’t her sisters.

Some part of Sunset was telling her she shouldn’t feel that bad, that the sirens weren’t deserving of sympathy after the fiasco with the bands, but Sunset squashed such thoughts quickly. Anyone deserved a second chance, and of all people Sunset Shimmer understood that lesson best. Whatever they’d done, or might do in the future, Sunset felt confident that helping them now was the right move. She just wished she had been able to do more to keep it from getting to this point.

“All passengers keep your arms and legs inside the guidelines and brace for landing,” said Screwloose suddenly, cackling softly under her breath. She’d led the girls to a cross section in the alley leading off in four different directions, and Sunset got the distinct feeling of something in the air. Perhaps magic, or perhaps something else, but it almost tasted like the air was thick with an energy that made Sunset’s tongue tingle.

“Alright, where in sam heck are we?” asked Applejack, “I can’t tell nothin’ ‘bout where we’re at an’ I’ve been tryin’ ta pay attention.”

“Oh but that’s the point my pretty sunflower,” said Screwloose, “Misdirection wards to confuse the senses. You need a ‘pass’ to get through, or a guide with a ‘pass’.”

She reached into her cloak and pulled out a small trinket, a wood block carved in the shape of an unusual symbol that looked very much like a stylized skull. Laughing once more Screwloose held out the pass towards one of the alley’s turn offs, and the air shimmered. Orange light filled the alley as a barrier of energy barred their path, though only for an instant. As the pass touched the barrier a doorway opened up within it, just wide enough for one person to walk through.

“Go on piglets,” said Screwloose, “Head on in. I have to go last to keep the way open.”

Sunset went through first, her friends filing in behind her, and the sirens taking up the rear just ahead of Screwloose. Once all of them were through the barrier sealed up behind them on its own. Beyond the barrier the alley swiftly opened up into a plain looking courtyard, a dirt lawn and a old, broken cobblestone path leading up to a squat two story building that nestled between much larger buildings like a barnacle lodged between docked ships. The building was mostly made of wood, with a stone foundation but the rest simple wood planking. A front awning covered the front of the building, from which hung a sign. It was in lettering that Sunset couldn’t read, not at first, but as she looked at it the letters seemed to wiggle and writhe until they spelled out, “Discount Import Sundries, Candies, and Other Random Delights.”

The girls hung there for a moment, taking in the sight of the dilapidated building and its strange sign, but Screwloose didn’t give them more than that before striding forward, “C’mon, no gawking. You want the pretty fish girl saved, right? Every second wasted just means her soul chain gets weaker.”

“Just what is a soul chain,” Sunset heard Adagio ask, the siren soul tugging at the chain implanted in her chest, “You still haven’t explained anything!”

Screwloose waved a hand dismissively, “Would’ve thought it was pretty obvious. Soul chain. Chain that attaches your soul to your body. If it gets severed, you're no longer attached to your body; ie dead as a doornail. We’re not talking quantum physics here, just soul mechanics.”

“Fish girl? So you know what they are?” said Sunset, “How?”

Adagio shot a glare her way but Screwloose ignored it and chuckled as she led them up to the shop’s front, a pair of double doors. “Boss knows everything that goes on in town, including that niffy concert and light show you lot put on not too long ago. Oh, not to mention both your's and the purple nerd’s little dip into magical girl transformations, or does the term ‘raging she demons’ fit those events a bit better?”

Sunset blanched, exchanging a look with Twilight who had gone a tad pale. Suddenly Rarity stepped forward, eyeing Screwloose with a frank stare, “As interesting as this all is, a woman’s life is in danger, so let us move things along, yes?”

“Fine by me,” said Screwloose, opening the door to the jangle of the bell hanging above, “Hey, boss, I’m baaaaack!”

One by one the girls shuffled inside, the front of the shop getting crowded very fast. Pinkie Pie seemed happy to shuffled between the shelves, eyes widening at some of the candies on display. Sunset noted that most the shelves in this front of the store were filled up with candies or packaged pastries, yet some of them looked very... odd. She wasn’t even certain all of it was actually edible.

Sonata and Aria leaned closer, more protectively, around Adagio’s body as they eyed the poorly lit shop, the first with nervous worry, the second with narrow eyed suspicion. Sunset found Rainbow Dash next to her, the other girl whispering, “This doesn’t look like the kind of place you’d go to for help.”

“Oh but looks can be so deceiving, can’t they?” said a man’s voice as a sliding door at the back of the shop opened. From it stepped a mature man whose exact age Sunset had trouble placing. He was wearing very casual and usually eastern styled clothing, his sandal clogs clacking on the wood floor as he stepped forward, holding a green and white stripped hat to his head. When his eyes glinted from beneath the brim of that hat Sunset felt an odd shiver pass through her. The shopkeeper’s eyes were yellow upon red.

The man looked at the lot of them, made a ‘hmm’ sound and turned to give Screwloose a flat look, “I take it the rather simple task I gave you of watching those girls and making sure they didn’t get into too much trouble didn’t go so swimmingly?”

Screwloose coughed and tapped one of her feet, looking away, “You said to keep an eye on these seven here, and just these seven. Which I did. They’re totally unharmed. It’s not my fault some random extras slipped into the middle and got hurt.”

The man stroked his chin, which bore a tuft of white beard, “I suppose not. No punishment detail for you then. So, why bring them here?”

At that point Sonata nearly ran forward, only held back by the fact that she had to drag her sister’s body with Aria’s help. Just behind them Adagio herself followed, for once looking less angry and now more nervous as she kept eyeing her flaccid body and the chain connecting her to it.

“Please,” said Sonata in a voice filled with desperation, “You gotta save my sis! Some creepy monster, like, knocked her soul out. The weird lady that works for you said you could save her. Please, we’ll pay any price you name!”

The man looked at Adagio’s body, then not much ot Sunset’s surprise he looked straight at her soul standing not far away. “Hmm, I might be able to do something. Bring her to the back and I’ll see what kind of help I can offer, and what kind of payment I’ll expect in compensation.”

As Sonata nearly fumbled over four or five rapid ‘thank yous’ amid bursting tears Sunset also took a step forward to join them but the man held up a hand, “Just these three. The rest of you can wait here. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about once I’m done with my present customers.”

Sunset blanched a bit at that, but took a deep breath and nodded, “Fine. We’ll be waiting.”


Screwloose had also vanished into the back of the shop with the mysterious shopkeeper and the three sirens. Sunset and her friends had taken to finding what comfortable spots they could around the shop front, with Sunset herself sitting down to lean against the wall next to the door, sword propped up next to her. She’d dug into her backpack to get out the snacks she’d brought and she saw many of her friends followed suit, having brought their own odds and ends to nibble on. A glance at her phone told Sunset it was half past midnight, and for all her earlier energy she was feeling pretty battered and drained.

Two nights in a row of battling hideous ghost monsters was taking its toll and every bit of her ached, now that she wasn’t moving.

“Anyone else wondering why we’re sticking around here?” asked Rainbow Dash.

“Whatever do you mean, Rainbow?” asked Rarity as she examined some of the shop windows, “We want to know how things turned out with that Adagio girl, don’t we?”

“Do we?” said Rainbow Dash, “I mean, I get that it bites for her and her sisters that she’s all hurt and stuff but its not like we’re friends with those three. I mean, shouldn’t we get back out there to look for Hollows?”

“No offense Rainbow Dash,” said Twilight, “But if anything I think what just happened shows it might be too much for us to handle patrolling for Hollows, at least until we’ve found a better way to fight them.”

“What, so Sunset had a spot of bad luck,” said Rainbow Dash, pressing onward with a determined look, “If those siren chicks hadn’t shown up and distracted her I bet Sunset could’ve taken that Hollow, or at least held it off until we got there to help put the hurt on it.”

“It could have easily been one of us in Adagio’s place right now,” said Fluttershy, hugging herself. She looked up at Rainbow Dash, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep trying to stop Hollows from hurting people, but maybe Twilight is right that we should wait until we have a way to do that without getting hurt ourselves.”

“More to the point,” said Sunset, “I want to see who this shopkeeper is and what he knows. He’s clearly a lot more in the know than we are. He might know how to better fight Hollows than what I’ve been trying. Besides, I do want to know if Adagio is going to be alright. Not a friend thing, just... she got hurt because of me. I owe it to her to stay.”

Rainbow Dash looked like she wanted to argue, but at a touch on her elbow from Applejack, the farm girl giving a solem shake of her head, Dash sighed and said, “Yeah, okay, I get it. Just after seeing what one Hollow can do I ain’t keen on letting those things have their way with my hometown.”

“I’m thinkin’ we’re all on the same page on that one, sugarcube,” said Applejack.

“This place is awfully run down for a shop owned by a man of apparent means,” said Rarity, gliding along the storefront, seeming unwilling to stop moving, perhaps too jittery to do so, “Also has anyone else noticed how deathly quiet it is in here, or am I imagining that?”

Sunset cocked her head, curious now that Rarity had mentioned it. Aside from her friends talking the entire shop was completely silent in a way that almost made it feel uninhabited. Whatever the shopkeeper was doing with Adagio, Sunset thought at least she might’ve heard something, some kind of background noise. In fact, a place as old looking as this ought to creak quite a bit, but there was nothing.

“Strange,” said Twilight, carefully reaching into the pocket of the dark purple and red flannel blouse she wore and pulling out her magical scanner, “I wonder if this place is just built to be soundproofed, or if there’s a magic involved.”

“You could probably find out with that interesting nic-knack of yours,” said the shopkeeper as he returned, practically flourishing his way through the back door, “But I warn you it might explode in those pretty hands if you turned it on inside my shop. We have some rather, erhm, volatile goods in stock.”

Twilight paled, hastily putting away the scanner as the rest of the girls stirred, Sunset standing up unsteadily. “Is Adagio going to be okay?”

“Well, why don’t you ask her yourself,” said the shopkeeper with a crooked grin stepping aside from the back door and clearing the way for Sonata and Aria to walk through. Aria had a strange look on her face, like she was trying to keep from bursting out laughing while still being furious. Sonata looked both incredibly relieved, happy, and anxious all at once as she cradled something in her arms, hugging it tightly.

The object in question was a plush doll, about the size of a forearm. Shaped like a miniature yellow siren with orange frills, with big magenta button eyes and a fuzzy flipper tail. Sonata was all but crushing the doll to her chest, making little ‘squee’ noises at it. Sunset just blinked in pure confusion.

“I... don’t get it. Where’s Adagio?”

Suddenly the plush doll mumbled something loudly into Sonata’s chest, to which she giggled, holding the doll up, “Heheh that tickles Dagie! Stop it, I wanna keep hugging you!”

The small siren plushie opened its mouth and yelled, in Adagio’s clear voice, “I said you’re smothering me you moron! I might not need to breathe in this thing but I still don’t want you crushing me like a pillow! Gah, this is undignified!”

Sunset and every one of her friends just stood there in utter bewildered shock, all eyes so blankly wide that a Hollow could tear apart the store around them and they’d probably have not noticed. Sunset was pretty sure her brain had decided to check out for the evening.

Noticing their stupor the small siren doll, the Adagio doll, turned and glared at them as best as a plushie that weighed no more than a single pound could manage, “What’re you all staring at!? I’m stuck in this body because of you!”

“Oh relax Dagie, it won’t be forever,” said Sonata, still hugging Adagio tightly, and she looked over at the shopkeeper, “Right?”

The man gave a few quick nods, slick smile still on his face, “I don’t lie to such lovely young girls. As I told you before we transferred your sister’s soul into that temporary gigai, I shall be working to repair the damage done to her true body post haste. The Hollow’s attack damaged her body’s connection to her soul, along with other complications stemming from you girls’ rather unique identities. In about a month’s time I should have your sister’s body repaired and ready to accept her soul back into it. In the meantime that gigai should serve well enough.”

“Says you!” barked Adagio, and actually floated in the air, her little plushie siren tail waving angry as she slipped from Sonata’s grasp to put her fuzzy nose up against the shoppkeepers, “You made this thing to look ridiculous on purpose, didn’t you!? I bet you had much more suitable gagas-”

“Gigais,” the shopkeeper corrected.

Whatever! Why’d you stick me in this useless little plush doll!?”

Holding his hands out to his sides in a harmless gesture and adopting an apologetic smile the shopkeeper said, “I just thought you might appreciate a swift, small body to help you avoid any further dangers while I repair your real body, my dear. You did listen to me when I told you how badly damaged your soul really was, yes? Both your soul chain and your soul sleep were injured from that blow you took, and if you take another such hit again... well, I’m sorry to say that will be that. Even my extensive, genius abilities won’t be able to help you then. So, yes, I thought a small, inconspicuous form that was very good at running away might be best for you, don’t you agree?”

To that Adagio continued to grumble but backed off, floating reluctantly back to Sonata. In the meantime Aria crossed her arms and gave the shopkeeper a level stare, “Just make sure you keep your end of the bargain, old man.”

“Oh, do I look like someone who’d back out of a deal?” asked the shopkeeper, putting a hand over his heart, “I mean really, how could I run a respectable establishment if I gained a reputation for going back on my word? As long as the pair of you fine young ladies run some errands for me while I work upon your sister I assure you, she will be returned to you good as new.”

“Is that the price you asked of them?” Sunset found herself asking, “Sonata and Aria have to work for you now?”

Aria turned a sharp stink eye towards Sunset, “What’s it to you what we do? Its none of your business!”

“Now now now, no need for shouting,” said the shopkeeper, smiling politely as he tipped his hat to Sunset, “Before we go any further, my dear girls, I think some introductions are in order.” He reached into the folds of his dark green shirt and withdrew a plain white paper fan that he unfolded with one hand and proceeded to lightly fan himself as he gave the girls a short bow. “As you no doubt have guessed I’m the humble proprietor of this not quite so simple candy shop. Among other things I act as a neutral party that caters to various individuals whose needs run towards goods and services of a supernatural nature. You girls may refer to me as Mr. Discord.”

The name instantly struck a chord inside Sunset’s mind and her mind went sailing back in time, scrolling across her memories of what felt like practically another lifetime ago. As a promising student and apprentice to Princess Celestia herself Sunset had been privy to all manner of lore during her studies, and although she had not always been the most humble student, she had possessed a thirst of knowledge and a love of mythical tales, of which Equestria had no shortage of.

Few such stories were as prominent as the tale of the entity known as Discord, an draconequus and embodiment of chaos that had put Equestria through a serious period of unrest before the Princesses had managed to stop him with the Elements of Harmony. It was only through her recent correspondence with Princess Twilight that Sunset had learned Discord had been freed, defeated again by Twilight and her friends, then released once more to be reformed by Equestria’s Fluttershy into something almost approaching a respectable member of society. Or at least not nearly as dangerous as he’d been before.

Sunset was getting used to the idea that the human world had equivalent persons for practically everypony back home, just meeting ‘Principal’ Celestia alone had been quite the mental trip when she’d first got here, but it still shocked Sunset to be staring at a man who was this world’s equivalent to her world’s master of chaos.

Yet at the same time it wasn’t that surprising, especially considering he seemed to be more than enjoying her and her friend’s confusion.

“Guess it’s a pleasure ta meet ya,” said Applejack first, though her tone indicated she wasn’t so sure just what to make of Discord, “Name’s Applejack.”

“Oh, I already know who all of you are,” said Discord with a wink, “Why it's been rather hard not to hear of the girls who have kept this town from falling into chaos, what, three times now? First when Miss Shimmer here went a tad power mad, then when these colorful sisters tried to drain power from the local student body, and of course who could forget the most recent fun with the Friendship Games, with all those fascinating portals opening up and Miss Sparkle here doing an encore of Miss Shimmer’s previous performance? Why one hardly needs Hollows and Soul Reapers running about town for it to still be lively around here.”

“So you know a lot about us,” said Sunset, “Where do you fit into all this? What are you?”

“What a personal question,” said Discord, chuckling dryly, “Perhaps you can tell me instead what are you?”

“What do you mean? You can’t tell just by looking at me?” Sunset asked cheekily, trying to maintain control of the conversation and getting the distinct feeling that control wasn’t ever there to begin with, “I’m just a regular high school girl.”

Discord smirked knowingly, gesturing at the Zanpaktou leaning up against the wall, “Ah, yes, I keep forgetting that high school girls are well known for carrying the weapon of a Soul Reaper. Hunting down Hollows is also a normal pastime for a ‘regular’ high school girl? Come now my dear, let’s not pretend either of us are as normal as we want to appear. You, or your friends. Now, what do you say we go in back, have ourselves a nice little sit down with a cup of tea, and talk about your rather unique situation?”

The girls exchanged hesitant looks, except perhaps for Pinkie Pie who looked as if she wanted to go over to Sonata and try and give the plushie Adagio a hug, and was only being held back by the death glare from Aria. With apprehension Twilight leaned towards Sunset, whispering, “I don’t think we have much choice but to go along with it. I can’t help but point out we can’t even leave that barrier without a pass.”

It was an excellent point, and Sunset wished she’d thought of it sooner, although she had to admit it probably wouldn’t have changed her decision to come here. One look among her friends told her that they’d follow her lead, though Rainbow Dash was looking agitated enough to chew through the walls.

“Alright,” she said to Discord, “Lead the way.”

“Yo, what about us?” spoke up Aria, “We free to go or what?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” said Discord, snapping his fan closed and with his other hand pulling out a wooden, skull carved pass from his robe and tossing it to the siren, Aria catching it deftly with one hand. “I’ll call on you when I have need of you, which may be quite soon, but do feel free to go home. Although the offer of using my abode as your own is still open. I have plenty of space.”

“Thanks, but we’ll pass,” said Aria, and Sunset noticed Adagio was looking irritated at the other sirene, perhaps because Aria seemed to be taking charge for the time being as she looked over at Sonata, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

“Okay!” Sonata chirped happily, holding Adagio close as the three sirens strode out of the shop. Sunset watched them go and saw Adagio watching her from over Sonata’s shoulder a the sirens went out the door. Even from a small, admittedly cute plushie, that look made Sunset shudder a bit.

But she put the sirens from her mind for the time being and refocused on the matter in front of her. She retrieved her Zanpaktou and then followed Discord as he cheerily led them through the sliding door at the back of the room. Here was a short hallway that stretched off to the left and right, and Sunset almost instantly recognized that the hallways looked far longer than what she’d think could be contained inside the relatively small looking shop. She somehow wasn’t surprised.

Discord neither went left nor right but instead straight ahead, where the seemingly plain wall actually turned out to be another sliding door, leading to a somewhat small sitting room where a circular table took up most the center space. There was enough room for all the girls to find a seat, but Discord remained standing, taking up a spot along the wall with a casual lean as he gazed at the seven young women before him with appraising eyes.

“Well now, let’s get some tea to relax with. Screwball!”

Another part of the wall next to Discord slid open and a small girl in a white and pink dress, her poofy purple and white streaked hair bouncing, stepped in. “What’cha want boss? I was just getting the pretty ladies body hooked up like you wanted.”

“Oh, finish that, but after could you be a dear and brew us all up a fresh pot of tea? It may be a long evening and I think all these girls could stand to have some of that tension seeped out of them with something nice and relaxing.”

“Right away boss, heheh,” the girl said, giving Sunset and her friends a wink and a wave as she bounced away.

Sunset watched her go for a second, then switched her attention to Discord, “Hooked up? What exactly are you doing to Adagio's body?”

“Nothing that isn’t necessary,” said Discord plainly, “Until her soul can be returned to it the body has to be kept in good condition. Now enough about them, let’s talk about you. All you girls have had a rather rough couple of nights, haven’t you? Quite suddenly thrust into conflict with Hollows, seeing that the world isn’t all that it seems. Then again, the lot of you already knew the world wasn’t exactly mundane, what with one of you being a magical pony.”

Sunset flinched, and Rarity pipped in, “Okay Mr. Discord, how do you know so much about us? I don’t know about everyone else but I for one am rather uncomfortable with your insistence on this cryptic manner of yours.”

“My apologies, Miss Rarity. My information comes from many sources, but I haven’t been monitoring your school directly. That said, it hasn’t been that difficult to discover the true nature of your friend or the portal that exists on the school grounds. Why, even your friend Twilight here was able to learn all of that, and she did it practically by accident with a cobbled together device of her own.”

“C-cobbled together?” said Twilight, sounding almost insulted, “I spent a lot of time refining my scanner.”

“And an impressive piece of work it is,” said Discord, “Especially for being built by someone who didn’t even know what she was looking for when she first built it. In fact all of you girls are rather talented in your own ways... if only those ways were useful for combating Hollows perhaps Miss Adagio wouldn’t have found herself in the state she is.”

“Whoa, hold on there buddy!” said Dash, hands slamming into the table, “That wasn’t our fault!”

“Oh, I’m not saying it was,” said Discord holding up a placating hand, “But you cannot deny that if any of you, especially Miss Shimmer, had more power then the Hollow wouldn’t have been as much of a threat.”

“If your employee had acted sooner the Hollow wouldn’t have been a threat either,” pointed out Rarity.

“Alas I don’t control every single action of my staff,” said Discord with a shake of his head, “I did tell Screwloose to ensure no harm came to the seven of you, but I had no input on her moment to moment decisions. Ultimately it doesn’t change the fact that were, say, Miss Shimmer more capable of using the power of that Zanpaktou of hers then perhaps the next time you face a Hollow it can be dispatched without any harm coming to anyone.”

“That would be nice,” said Fluttershy, “I don’t want to see anyone being hurt, by Hollows or anything else, but how can we do more than we’re already doing? I was right there when Adagio was hurt and there wasn’t anything I could have done.”

“An’ ta be honest, it ain’t no sure thing we coulda done anythin’ if we’d been there too,” said Applejack, glancing around the table, “I mean, me n’ Dash might’ve tried doin’ fisticuffs with the critter, but no tellin’ if that would’ve helped or just ended up with one o’ us needin’ the plush doll treatment instead of Adagio.”

Pinkie Pie for a moment let her carefree look slip into a tiny frown, “Hollow’s are pretty big and tough. Next time I’ll have to bring my party cannon.”

“I suppose it is rather obvious at this point that we need some manner of edge against these brutes,” said Rarity with a light sigh, curling one finger around her hair, her next words coming reluctantly, “That, or we perhaps just... call it quits?”

“Quits?” asked Rainbow Dash, as if the word itself was some kind of curse.

“Well, darling, if we can’t fight Hollows without getting hurt, or others getting hurt, then perhaps we should just not fight Hollows at all. Clover did say they were hunting us, and the Hollow was chasing Sunset specifically tonight. Perhaps if we just, well, stayed at home and didn’t go out it would spare both us and others the trouble.”

Rarity didn’t sound entirely convinced herself of what she was saying, but Sunset understood what the other girl was talking about. However there was an issue with Rarity’s suggestion, and Sunset heaved out a large sigh as she said, “I understand what you’re trying to say Rarity, but there’s a problem with us just trying to hide from this. We can’t stay locked up in our homes forever. We have to go back to school come Monday. What will we do if a Hollow attacks while we’re in class?”

Rarity pursed her lips, hanging her head, “I suppose that is a good point. Even if we stayed at home, there’s no telling if a Hollow might not attack us there as well... with our families around.”

“I ain’t brinin’ this kind o’ trouble back ta the farm, wit little Applebloom there ta get caught up in it,” said Applejack firmly, “Maybe Big Mac might try ta fight it out, but I don’t even want him gettin’ invovled in this. No way, no how.”

“I sure don’t want my mom and pops or any of my sisters having to deal with these super scary things,” said Pinkie Pie, “I’d waaaaaay prefer to take on the big bad Hollows out on the streets than at home or school.”

“And even then there’s still a chance we might get attacked there anyway,” said Twilight, who fixed Discord with a curious stare as she adjusted her glasses, “One thing among many I’ve been wondering about is why now? Why are Hollows appearing now? Nothing like this has ever happened before.”

“Oh, Hollows have always been here, and everywhere,” said Discord off handedly, “They are the souls of the dead, unable to find peace in the afterlife. Any time a person dies their soul must be sent on by the hand of a Soul Reaper. If they are not, its inevitable at some point, perhaps months, perhaps years or decades, that a lost soul will transform into a Hollow. Soul Reapers keep the Hollow population under control so that they don’t bother the living, however things changed rather recently in this town when Hollows started to appear in far larger numbers than before. The increase was small at first, but more and more have been appearing ever since...” he tapped his chin, smiling in surprise, “Why, ever since about half a year ago when you had your little brush with dark magic, Sunset Shimmer.”

Sunset felt her mouth go dry and her heart beat skip a note, “Are you saying this started happening because of me?”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. It may have been your transformation that fateful night, or it may have been the overuse of that interesting portal to another realm. It does seem to be that every time you girls got caught up in a situation at that school of yours the Hollow population increased in this town, as if they were being drawn here. By what, specifically, I have no idea,” Discord shrugged helplessly and at that moment Screwball returned with a tray of cups and a steaming pot of tea.

The girls all sat silent for a minute or two as tea was poured and they took a few sips. Sunset had to admit the tea was very refreshing and helped wash away some of the fatigue and aches from her body. Her mind, however, was whirling. Bad enough that she had gotten the sirens caught up in this business with Hollows, but to think that she might’ve been responsible for the Hollows being in town in the first place was one that made her gut twist sickeningly.

“It's not a light burden,” said Discord simply, sipping his own tea, “What you girls are trying to take on. Soul Reapers fight, and many die, every day keeping Hollows in control all over the world. Their society has evolved over thousands of years to combat this constant threat to the stability of the world, a necessary but constantly exhausting war... one all seven of you have unwittingly stepped into and made this city a center point of. Now I don’t know exactly what the Soul Society might do next. Certainly Clover has made her report by now and things will change for the seven of you drastically in the coming weeks. All I can say is that, if you are resolved to face this head on, I can offer my assistance in preparing you girls to fight, and win, against Hollows.”

Sunset cast a sidelong look at Screwball, the young girl leaning against the wall and smiling as if at some private joke, her swirling purple eyes watching them with amusement. She turned her gaze back to Discord, voice level, “And what will be the price of this help?”

“Well, I’m a generous soul with new customers,” said Discord, pointing at Sunset with eyes glinting with eagerness, “My help has but one price tag in this instance. You girls will give me your word that if there ever comes a time when I am in need of your aid, you will lend it, just once, without question.”

“Oh no, I know how these things turn out,” said Rainbow Dash, “This is going to be one of those things where we agree thinking it’ll just be like some random innocent thing but then BAM you’re asking us to do something crazy like help you take over the world. Nu-huh, no way, I’ll take my chances with the Hollows on my own.”

“Come now Miss Dash don’t be so dramatic,” said Discord, “If it makes you feel better I’ll add this addendum; if any of you have legitimate moral objections to the future favor I ask then you are free to dismiss it, no repercussions.”

This made Rainbow Dash grimace, but she leaned back in her seat, arms folded as her brow furrowed in thought. The other girls all looked around at one another, all of them showing various expressions of uncertainty. At last it was Fluttershy who spoke, “I think we should trust him.”

“Are you sure about that Fluttershy?” asked Rainbow Dash, “Personally this guy gives me the creeps. I think we can do just fine on our own, we don’t need his help.”

“I git that ya don’t like takin’ a deal without knowin’ the full price Dash,” said Applejack, “I ain’t real fond o’ the notion either, but fact is we need the help, an’ he did just say we can back out if we feel whatever he ask o’ us ain’t somethin’ we can live with doin’.”

“Sunset? What do you think of this?” asked Twilight nervously, hands fidgeting, “I don’t suppose it could hurt to take him up on this offer. We’ve already seen that his servants have weapons that can hurt Hollows, so clearly he knows about fighting them.”

The girls all looked to her and Sunset wanted to squirm under the combined force of their eyes, but she took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, meeting Discord’s waiting gaze. “Alright then, Discord. You help us take on Hollows, and we’ll help you, once, down the road, as long as whatever the help is it isn’t something we have good reason to object to.”

Discord’s smile seemed entirely too wide for his face as he snapped his fan out, fanning himself as he came up to the table and leaned over it, his free hand extending towards Sunset, “Well then, we have a deal.”

After a second of hesitation Sunset stood, reached out, and clasped his hand, “Yeah, we have a deal.”


Later that night the girls were gathered at a street just at the edge between the downtown and suburbs. Each in their hands carried a wooden skull pass that would allow them to return to Discord’s shop when the wanted to. He had explained that the passes were just the first step in his help for them, and that as long as they kept the passes on hand either of his staff, Screwball and Screwloose, could more easily find the girls if they were in danger.

He’d also said that if they waited a few days and came back to the shop sometime during the school week he’d have something prepared to help train the girls in fighting Hollows.

“I still think this was a mistake,” said Rainbow Dash, pocketing her pass and looking sourly at the ground.

“It’ll be fine, Rainbow darling,” said Rarity, “While I admit the man seemed rather less than genuine in all his aspects I don’t think if he meant us harm he’d have let us go so easily.”

“I think he honestly wants to help us,” said Fluttershy, flinching a bit at Rainbow’s stare, “I mean, it's just a feeling I have. He may act strange, but I just felt like there was... I don’t know. He seemed sad, to me.”

“Really, with all that grinning he was doing?” asked Pinkie Pie.

“It's just a feeling,” Fluttershy repeated, shaking her head, “So are we going to look for Hollows tomorrow?”

The question hung in the air. Sunset’s hand strayed to the hilt of her Zanpaktou, looped through her belt. When she touched the blade she could almost swear she felt heat within it, struggling for an outlet. Looking back at her friends Sunset said, “If all of you are up for it, yes.”

“You could all stay at my home again to rest and prepare, “ said Twilight, rather hopefully. It occurred to Sunset that Twilight probably had never had friends over to her home before last night, and she smiled.

“We’ll make it a full sleepover.”

At Twilight’s return smile Sunset knew she’d made the right call. Hunting Hollows wasn’t going to be easy, tonight had proved that beyond a shadow of doubt, but Sunset had to remind herself it was her friendships with this girls that would strengthen them all to bear the burden of whatever was to come.


Upon a infinite plane of pale white sand several dark mesas of stone rose like an onyx forest. Between the shadowed cracks of these mesas Hollows gathered in a shifting, howling horde. Some gnashed teeth and tore at each other, their unnatural hunger overwhelming them as they sought to consume souls, even the corrupted souls of each other. Others hung in tight groups, familiar packs that warded off other Hollows that stalked among the horde.

It was unusual for Hollows to gather in this numbers, not without the will of a much stronger Hollow or group of Hollows to force it. As it happened there was such a group. These four Hollows stood head and shoulders taller than any of the others in the horde, their heavily muscled bodies hunched over stone boulders as if they were thrones.

“We’re running out of time,” said one of the large Hollows, a creature that looked like a humanoid shark with a large fin sprouting from its back and a mask lined with knife like teeth, “If we don’t get at least one of the souls soon those bastards from the fortress will lose their patience with us.”

“The problem is that we kept sending these scrubs,” said another of the Hollows, one with a female voice, her body like that of a vast, coiled snake, but bearing the upper torso of a praying mantis. She pointed with a large claw at the Hollow horde, “None of them are strong enough to get the job done. I say we stop it with the half measures and go ourselves. It won’t matter then, and we can appease those Arrancar to get off our backs.”

“I don’t see why they don’t go hunting themselves,” said the grating voice of a Hollow whose form looked as if some deep sea urchin had a skull face implanted into it, “Even one Arrancar would gather plenty of souls, the whole damn town, without trouble.”

“Don’t be a fool,” said the last of the four Hollows, a huge, hairy thing whose body was little more than a mass of hair with a pair of large, spindly hands, and a huge grinning mask poking from the hairy bulk of its body, “An Arrancar would bring down all the Soul Society upon that town. That’s why they’re using us. Lower class Hollows don’t attract too much attention, even in great numbers. It’s also why we won’t get involved unless we have to. For now, we continue to send these lesser Hollows. Its only a matter of time before we snag one of the souls the masters in Las Noches desire.”

“Hmph,” said the female snake Hollow, “Well I for one am tired of sitting around waiting. I’m going. With my power I can keep hidden from any Soul Reaper eyes, and if I do find one of these unique souls the Arrancar want, I’ll snatch it up myself.”

The big hairy Hollow let out a rumbling chuckle, “Do as you please, but don’t expect any help from us if you get into trouble.”

“Tch, as if I would need help.” said the snake, slithering off the rock in a whisper of scales as she flowed away from the meeting.


It was well past two o’clock in the morning by the time the girls got back to Twilight’s family mansion, all of them exhausted and famished from the night’s events.

“We still have plenty of food left in the pantry,” said Twilight, “So we can fix up a quick dinner before heading to bed, or you girls head to bed. I think I’m going to spend some time studying this.”

She held up the pass from Discord’s shop, eyeing it with a keen light of curiosity. Sunset had to laugh. Only Twilight would consider research before sleep. “Just don’t spend the whole night playing with it, Twilight. You need some rest too.”

“Oh I can sleep in if I have to, I just want to see how this works and maybe if there’s a way I can duplicate it.”

Rarity gave a small, lady-like yawn, “Well, while food sounds lovely I almost think I might skip it to hit the proverbial hay. I’m utterly drained.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty party pooped myself, but no worries, I’ll put all my culinary power towards a fast but tasty dinner first,” said Pinkie Pie.

As the girls went to the same side door as before, Twilight opening it up with her brass key, there was a noise behind them, just like a sudden gust of wind. They all turned and Sunset blinked in surprise. Standing behind them was Clover, the Soul Reaper looking much better than before, and standing with a curt, polite stance as she approached them.

“I returned as fast as I could,” Clover said plainly, a bit stiffly, Sunset thought as the Soul Reaper stopped a pace away, “The Soul Society has heard my report and made its decree as to what is to be done.”

At that, Clover bowed to Sunset, her form rather rigid as she did so, “I have been assigned the task of training you as a Substitute Soul Reaper. I look forward to working you.”

Author's Note:

So, who out there would cut a deal with Discord? He's such a trustworthy fellow. I suppose one major difference between Discord and Urahara is that while Urahara's always been a bit mysterious there was rarely ever any question that he was an ally. Discord is a bit more of a wildcard.

Anyway, this story might slow down for a bit as I have to adjust to a new work schedule tonight and have some other stories that need attention, but rest assured I'll be continuing with this as well. Hope you folks enjoyed the read, and as always thanks for checking my story out. Any and all comments are welcome.

'Till next time.

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