• Published 16th Feb 2019
  • 589 Views, 71 Comments

Equestria Girls: Duel Monsters - Night-Quill



Twilight Sparkle's crown, the Element of Magic, has been stolen. She must now pursue the wayward Sunset Shimmer into a new world. A world where a dark magic lurks beneath the notice of its inhabitants, within a most peculiar game unlike any other...

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Duel #1: Canterlot High: A Game Like No Other

Upon entering the light at the end of the spiraling vortex, to which she could mentally note the prospect of being one of very few privileged to have partaken in inter-dimensional travel off the mental list of things she’d never expected to do in her life, Twilight felt sore, both physically and mentally. Her body felt strange and her mind and senses addled, at this point only capable of feeling the pull of gravity as she lay on something hard. Her sense of touch could at best describe the feeling as if lying on solid concrete.

“Twilight…”

She let forth a sore groan upon hearing a muffled voice reach her ears, almost as if recovering from tinnitus, “Ugh… Who…?”

“Twilight?” the voice came in clearer now, and it was very familiar.

She managed to sit up, the sensation of doing so feeling stranger than normal, “Spike?” she asked, her vision finally coming into focus, able to make out light, and gradually sharpen onto shapes, as a purple blur began to come into focus, “You’re not supposed to be here…”

The moment she could visually distinguish colors and shapes, her depth perception still questionable, she saw Spike in her view… Or what she thought was Spike anyhow. But for the life of her, in her sensory dishevelment, she couldn’t help but think of her closest companion looking less like a dragon and more like a…

“Spike? Are you a dog?!” Twilight asked, her left eye scrunching as her facial nerves began to settle in.

She watched as a small purple dog, with green lop ears, a little green tuft atop his head and… very striking green eyes, as if his irises and pupils had taken up more space from his sclerae, turned around in place, looking himself over in an expression just as confused as she herself felt. Even Spike’s movement looked much less… fluid, if her vision was to be believed.

“I think so…” the dog spoke, in what was clearly Spike’s voice, wagging his now shorter, furry tail, before he looked up at Twilight with a confused look, “But… I have no idea what you are…”

Twilight raised her still strange feeling brow as she raised her forehooves and… What she saw before her were not hooves, but rather hands, something common to beings like minotaurs and certain other species from Equestria. Her coat was gone, replaced by bare, hairless skin in the color of said coat.

Upon realization that the body she found herself in was not her own, Twilight’s mind went from muted to overtaken. With shallow, uncontrolled breaths, she managed to get in enough air to let it out in a high-pitched, uncontrollable scream of horror, before having the cognition to shut her mouth. She looked at her new limbs again and tried moving the fingers at the end of her former hooves. They moved in an undulating pattern and felt much more sensitive compared to hooves. She didn’t particularly enjoy the sensations, and their rhythmic wiggling looked strange, almost unsightly.

She found herself sitting in an odd upright posture, kind of like she recalled one unicorn back home in Ponyville who had a propensity for such a posture on park benches (who, according to rumors, had a strange obsession with hands, now that she thought about her). Looking down at her hindlegs; they seemed much longer now and were covered in very restrictive feeling clothing that reached up almost to her knee joint, under which she could feel similar extremities like her fingers, implying feet, pressing against the very sturdy insides. The very bottoms of these foot garments were highly elevated, almost like hooves.

In fact, most of her body was adorned in clothing; her lower part in a dark violet skirt on which she could make out what looked to be her cutie mark. Her top half was covered in a light blue, buttoned-up shirt with a magenta bow around the neck. One part that felt particularly disturbing about her chest area were a pair of prominent bulges said shirt was pressing against. For the life of her, she could not determine what these obstructions were for.

“Spike,” Twilight croaked, “Be honest; how does the rest of me look?!”

Spike squinted his eyes as he looked her over as per the request, “Bit hard to describe, really… I recognized you, so that’s a plus. And hey; look on the bright side,” he pointed up, “At least you don’t have those pesky wings anymore.”

Twilight tried to look over her back, something this body was not well suited for, just far enough to notice her recently obtained wings were also missing. Aggravating as they had been for the short time she had them, she’d rather much had them back, along with the rest of her normal body.

As Twilight tried to get up on her hooves… Hands? Feet? Whatever. She found herself unable to settle on all fours due to the major difference in length, and if she tried to bend over, the muscles in her new legs would pull in protest, eliciting her to stand up straight into a bipedal posture, to which vertigo took over and she found herself wobbling backwards until she caught herself against some structure behind her. To which she immediately reeled back when one of her transformed limbs elicited a rippling surge against the surface of whatever it was.

Above her, set atop a massive marble pedestal, stood a quite exquisitely carved statue of a rearing equine, though its physiological traits looked much different from a pony; bigger, more angular and overall less rounded. Seeming to get the hang of maintaining a bipedal pose, Twilight eyed the surface of the pedestal. Reaching out, she prodded it carefully, eliciting another magical ripple.

“Well at least we know where the portal is,” she mused, finding her knees wobbling slightly before settling back in place, “But dear Celestia, what the hay is with this body?!” she exclaimed, her knees knocking together as another bout of vertigo crept in.

“I dunno,” said Spike, idly scratching at the back of his ear, “But I can definitely say I have a bit of an understanding about being on four legs.”

In spite of the continued strangeness of her new bipedal body, Twilight couldn’t help but stifle a laugh as she lowered herself down the best she could, “But Spike; Princess Celestia and Luna told you not to follow me.”

“I know,” the dragon turned dog mumbled apologetically, “But I couldn’t just let you tackle it all on your own. And besides,” he placed a paw atop the deck box they’d found, “You forgot about this. Though it might be important.”

Twilight, with some difficulty at first controlling the pressure exerted by her new fingers, managed to pick up the container of cards Sunset Shimmer must have dropped, popping the lid to look at the card she’d been analyzing earlier. On a second inspection, she was starting to get some inkling as to what exactly she had turned into upon exiting the portal on this end. Whatever connection these cards had to Sunset Shimmer was going to have to wait, so Twilight felt back for her saddlebags… Which also seemed to have changed into one large bag slung up on her back. Like some form of “backpack”, with two straps going around her new limbs. With some fumbling, she slid the bag off and inserted the box into one of its compartments for safe keeping.

“Well, multiversal disharmonic theorem or not, it is good to have you with me Spike,” she remarked as she slid the bag on her back once more, still feeling very unused to the forms of movements she was now capable of, “Given the circumstances and whatnot…”

She looked around her surroundings; the world around her looked, for lack of a better description, somewhat muted, a little less vibrant than what she was used to, though that may have been an effect of crossing between dimensions and being changed into this new bipedal form. Behind the equine statue across what looked like a road for wagons stood rows of houses, very different in design compared to those from back home, and she could see some of the natives walking about on the sidewalk in the distance. Bi-pedal in posture like she was now.

She turned to behold a much larger building down a concrete path. Two stories tall, made of stonework that was colored a dull magenta. Two wings extended from the sides parallel of the central structure, all facets lined with tall windows. Located in the very middle of the central structure she could make out what must have been the entrance. A castle or keep of some sort perhaps?

“Regardless,” she took a step, taking it slow to become acclimated to this temporary mode of locomotion, “We have to find my crown and get back home as quickly as possible. You heard what Princess Luna said about there being what could amount as dark magic in this world!”

“I dunno…” said Spike, briskly keeping pace with her, “It doesn’t look that bad. I was expecting at least something along the lines of Sombra.”

“What do you mean?” Twilight raised a brow.

“You know; thorny spires, endless winter, dark clouds over yonder,” Spike nudged upwards, addressing the quite pleasant weather.

Twilight smiled uneasily at the thought of someone like King Sombra having access to the Element of Magic, and partially in regards to Spike’s enthusiastic imagination. Coming upon the door to the building, she focused for a moment, swaying her head to the side to telekinetically swing it open… Only to walk right into its glass surface.

“I, uh…” Spike cleared his throat awkwardly, “Prolly should’ve mentioned you don’t have a horn.

Really?” she mumbled, staring at nothing in particular incredulously with her cheek pressed against the glass.

Her eyes diverted towards a trio of natives standing on the other side of the door, who were looking right at her. They were shorter compared to her, their faces rather round with almost stubby noses (she assumed hers must look similar then). Possibly their equivalent to fillies? They each had brightly colored skin and manes; one with bright yellow skin and red mane with a magenta bow at the back, one with orange skin and a muted purplish short mane and one with alabaster skin and a curly mane consisting of shades of dulled rose and a faded violet. All three wore clothing of some variety. But the most striking features in their outfits were strange devices adorned on their left arms.

Seeing the natives up close and personal confirmed the further strange physiological traits, like the lack of proper muzzles, smaller, albeit rather intense looking, expressive eyes. The red and purple maned ones were staring at her with pursed mouth and their irises and pupils shrunken in some strange manner, while the white curly maned one bore an expression of unease. In retrospect, Twilight found the three looked rather familiar.

The three looked among one another, before the red maned one walked around and pushed open the door beside the one Twilight was plastered against, “Uh… Ya’llright right there?” she asked with a pronounced southern twang in her voice.

Regaining her bearings, Twilight stood back, dusting herself off and as casually as she could and resorted to use her hand to pull the door open and step in, chuckling awkwardly as the three fillies(?) stared at her with varying looks of confusion.

“I, uh, have a habit of… daydreaming?” she offered with an unsure smile.

When the curly one looked to speak, she was cut off by the one with the short purple mane, “C’mon, girls! The duel might be starting right now!” and with that she took off running down a hallway.

“Scoots, wait up!” called the red maned one as she and the curly maned one ran after.

“Scoots?” Twilight wondered aloud.

“Twilight!” Spike pawed at her limb, “Weren’t those-?!”

Twilight’s eyes widened upon realization, “They look and sound like the Cutie Mark Crusaders-” a specific word from the one who looked like the spitting image of Scootaloo suddenly addressed in her mind, “Did they say something about a duel?!”

The realization was not lost on Spike either, “You mean like a magic duel? As in the kind you had with Trixie?”

Now Twilight was both intrigued, and concerned. The Princess’ warnings about the unruly magic endemic to this reality rang in her mind, urging her to rush after the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ doppelgangers. The first few steps almost had her trip and fall, particularly with the elevated hoofwear, but like a newborn foal, she soon found herself able to accustom herself to this new form of locomotion and increased in speed. She hurried down the corridor lined with lockers. It dawned on her that this place seemed to be a school of some kind.

She heard murmured clamor coming from an ajar double door. Going through it, opening to a roomy gymnasium. And it was filled with, she was guessing, students of this school. Nopony paid her any mind as she walked in, unsure of how to address what she thought was happening. They were all gathered at the left and right sides, leaving a wide-open space occupied by only two students, one near the entrance and the other at the far end before a stage.

She quietly snuck into the crowd of natives. As with her fellow ponies; they were all of different variations of body and mane colors, added with a rainbow of various colored clothing. Rarity, she thought, would be ecstatic to see such variation in styles and designs, and seeing how everyone was clothed from almost head to hoof. And they were all wearing those strange devices on their left arms. They were circular at the front end with a rectangular portion at the back, with sheening flat surfaces over the tops front portions, almost like windows, while two, almost geometrically identical shapes were embedded in the sides.

“Hey, Twilight,” she heard a whisper from down her legs, “Little boost?”

“Oh right, sorry,” she knelt down to pick up Spike.

“So, what do you suppose everypony- everybody… what are those things on their arms?” inquired the dog.

“I have no idea…” Twilight looked over at the two students occupying the cleared center of the gymnasium, their devices having the geometric shapes combined into what looked like an angular blade running perpendicular their forelimbs, “They’re not some sort of weapon are they? This society practices blood sports?”

A hushed “Huh?” sounded next to her, to which Twilight realized one of the students looking at her. Glancing in their direction, Twilight almost jumped when she actually recognized who it was. Of course, she was of the species that she herself had been turned into, but the traits were all there:

A long, flowing bright pink mane curved down from her head with a white butterfly pin. Her skin was a vibrant yellow. Thought her eyes were significantly smaller from the pony she reminded Twilight of, they were still wide and expressive with a noticeably aqua green color. Her clothing was simplistic; a white sleeveless shirt hugged the top portion of her body, while a breezy light green skirt fell down her hind legs, emblazoned with butterflies, and had similar footwear that almost reached up her knees, just a different design and a color matching her skirt.

Twilight couldn’t help but notice that the obstructions, as she’d thought of them as, on this native’s chest were significantly bigger compared to the one’s on hers. From what she could define now; they must have been some form of gender dimorphic indicator, seeing how what she assumed as the stallion equivalents had almost flat chests.

“Aww,” the familiar… being(?), took immediate notice of Spike and reached out to pet him, “What an adorable dog you have there!” Even her voice was exactly the same! Spike did not seem to mind it, despite the initial groan, when his tail started to wag.

“Uh… Thanks…” Twilight grinned sheepishly, “So what exactly is going on here?”

She looked up, though still continued scratching behind Spike’s lopped ears, “Oh, it’s another bout between Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Every week it’s the same thing…”

Wait… Applejack?! Rainbow Dash?!

Twilight looked at the student near the gymnasium entrance. Her eyes widened upon further realization of the bipedal figure wearing a very familiar looking Stetson hat. Her skin was a burned orange hue with a thick hay blonde mane reaching down her back, and was dressed in a skirt made of a material she assumed as denim, a red checkered top that for whatever reason was tied into a knot at the front, exposing another top, this one plain white underneath. (So the denizens of this world wore clothing in layers?) A pair of very distinct looking footwear donned her hindlimbs that Twilight was not certain she knew the material of. Even the device she wore on her arm was color co-ordinated; the component over her arm being red with the blade part being a leafy green, aside from the dark indentation taking up most of its surface.

Across from her stood another figure with an eerily familiar rainbow mane, though it had been pulled back into a splayed tail, added with her wearing goggles over her forehead. Her body was a light blue in color and her outfit consisted of a darker blue top, left unzipped, exposing another top emblazoned with a cloud with a tri-colored lightning bolt jutting out from it. She did not wear a skirt, but some very low reaching… leggings? (Is that what they’d be called?) Her legs were otherwise almost completely bare, save for the footwear these beings took to wearing, though hers only reached past the ankles. The device on her arm was a dark shade of blue with a golden yellow blade.

“What exactly are we looking at…?” Twilight leaned in to ask the being who was the spitting image of her friend Fluttershy through the portal.

“You don’t know?” she asked, looking rather perplexed.

“Duel!” The crowd chanted, making Twilight jump a second time.

“Oh, you can share my disk’s spectator mode, seeing how you don’t have one,” the being that looked like Fluttershy said sweetly as she brought up her arm, the window on the device lighting up, showing images of the two being observed and some form of five-by-five grid.

Twilight stared intently at what the device showed her, the images of the purported Rainbow Dash and Applejack flickering rapidly before settling on Applejack’s.

DUEL START

Rainbow Dash Life Points: 4000

Applejack Life Points: 4000

What kind of magic is this? Twilight wondered.

“Alright, let’s get this over with!” she heard a voice speak through the device, carrying a distinct southern accent.

Twilight observed as Applejack snagged something from the front of the device tethered to her, placing them in her left hand and fanned them out.

“Twilight,” Spike whispered as quietly as he could, “Aren’t those like the cards we found?”

“You’re right,” she whispered into the dog’s ear, taking care to see that their new acquaintance didn’t hear.

Twilight watched intently as Applejack looked over the fanned cards, picking one among them, “Ah summon ‘Sylvan Flowerknight’ in attack mode!” she called out in the same voice, complete with the distinct southern twang of Twilight’s friend, as she slapped the card on the blade jutting from her device. “Disk” the doppelganger Fluttershy called it?

Before her opened a blue portal, from within which leapt a bipedal creature similar to them, covered head to feet in green armor with plan-like accents, wielding a double-edged sword in one hand and a shield in the other. (Level 4, 1800/1000)

They’re summoning creatures from the cards to do their bidding?

“When he’s summoned, Ah excavate the top card of my deck, and if it’s a plant-type monster, Ah send it to the graveyard,” Applejack declared, to which she pulled out another card and turned it over, “Ah send ‘Sylvan Hermitree’ to the graveyard. When he’s excavated and sent to the graveyard, Ah can look at the top three cards of my deck and put ‘em back in any order.”

Twilight watched as the bipedal Applejack drew three cards, going through them intently, before shifting one from one end to the other and inserted them back on top of the deck of cards held at the front end of the disk.

… It’s a game. Twilight realized. I don’t know how, but that thing she summoned is not magical. At least I’m not feeling any. Princess Luna said the magic of this world was without masters, and independent.

“You mind hurrying this up?” called the rainbow-maned being from the other side of the room, her voice also identical to the Rainbow Dash Twilight knew, “Would like to get this done with sometime today,” she spoke with a hint of scorn in her voice.

Applejack frowned, or rather, deepened the frown already present on her face, as she slid another card from her hand and slid it into what Twilight could perceive as some hidden compartment at the back of the round portion.

“Ah play the spell card ‘Fragrance Storm’! By destroyin’ one plant-type monster on the field, like my Flowerknight,” and with that the creature’s image burst into specks of light and vanished, “Ah draw a card. And oh; lookie here,” she flashed the card she drew, “It’s ‘Sylvan Cherbusprout.” Who’d ‘ve thunk it? And because it’s a plant-type monster, Fragrance Storm lets me draw again.”

She then slid another card into the device and tapped the 'window', a facedown image of one materializing near her feet.

“Ah set one card face down, and end my turn. Fast enough for ya, Dash?”

The bipedal Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes as she drew a card from her respective disk, “Not as fast as how I’m gonna kick your ass!”

Ass?!

“I summon ‘Level Warrior’ in attack mode!”, the rainbow-haired student slapped a card onto her disk’s blade, to which a blue portal appeared before her, out leaping in a dramatic fashion a bipedal creature covered entirely in a suit of red spandex, complete with a cape and stars emblazoned on its chest, as well as its face oddly enough. (Level 3, 300/600)

“Whoa! It’s like something out of Pow-” Twilight grasped onto Spike’s muzzle when she noticed Fluttershy looking up. Twilight grinned innocently as she lowered her hand from Spike’s face.

“When I normal summon Level Warrior if there are no monsters on the field, its level is reduced to two. Then I play the spell card ‘Double Summon’!” the image of another green-framed card arose from a flash of light on the ground. “I’d say the name speaks for itself at this point; I can normal summon a second time this turn, so I’ll also summon from my hand the tuner monster ‘Bri Synchron’, also in attack mode!”

From yet another portal appeared, from within emerging a creature made entirely of metal, its body composed of segments bearing a predominately green, white and gold color scheme. Long, wing-like protrusions extended from its back. (Level 4, 1500/1100)

Rainbow held forth a hand towards the two creatures before her, “And now I tune my level four Bri Synchron with my level two Level Warrior!”

The bipedal mechanical creature suddenly seemed to fade away, the outlines of its segmented body glowing brightly, which erupted as a quartet of brightly shining orbs shot out. Then the spandex donning creature erupted into two green rings hovering in the air, within which the orbs of light aligned in a straight line.

“Gathering stars will call upon a new force! A warrior who’s fist of awesome might will clear the way to victory!”

The rings encircling the orbs of light began to revolve, the orbs erupting into a brilliant pillar of light.

Rainbow snatched another card, which seemed to eject from the back of her disk's rectangular half, throwing her hand upwards, “Synchro summon!” she slapped the card onto the blade, “Come forth, ‘Mighty Warrior’!”

The pillar of light vanished, revealing a new, much larger bipedal creature. Twilight watched in sheer awe of the spectacle before her when the creature descended onto the ground: It was taller than any student gathered, its body a dark blue with golden lines running through it in an intricate pattern, its head donning a blue helmet, whilst its face was merely a pair of fierce red eyes staring from underneath the rim of said helmet. Its left arm was a light grey and thicker than a single student’s body, whilst its right arm appeared to be mechanical, composed of what Twilight assumed was meant to be some form of hydraulic technology. (Level 6, 2200/2000)

“Is that all?” Applejack asked, sounding unimpressed by the display, “Come on Dash, at least try to be unpredictable fer once.”

Rainbow grimaced at the attempted insult, which may or may not have worked, at least from where Twilight was standing, to which she slid yet another card into the back of the device, “I activate the Equip Spell, ‘Assault Armor’ and apply it to Mighty Warrior!”

A golden aura suddenly surrounded Mighty Warrior, its eyes flashing in the same golden light, its mechanical limb hissing with a burst of steam. (ATK: 2500)

“Assault Armor can be equipped only to a warrior-type monster that is also the only monster I control. It increases its attack points by 300. But I can send it to my graveyard,” to which she brought the card back up and slit it into a slot adjacent to the blade of the disk device, “To which my Mighty Warrior can now attack twice this battle phase,” she smirked arrogantly.

Applejack did not seem the least bit perturbed. Not that Twilight understood half of what the two were saying. So far, she had perceived that the point of this very ritualistic seeming activity was summoning monsters, or at least some form of astral images of monsters, to attack one another, based on what the bipedal Rainbow Dash stated.

Before anything else could be said or done, Twilight cringed when a loud noise suddenly reverberated through the gymnasium. The discomfort forced her to drop Spike as she clasped her ears shut, a sentiment many others around her shared as they too found themselves cringing or reeling.

The moment the ear-piercing honk stopped, everyone’s attentions had turned away from the game in session to somepony… someone(?) standing at the entrance to the gymnasium. She was a taller female of this species, her skin a bluish gray and sported and amazingly long, almost flowy sapphire mane, adorned in a short-sleeved magenta top with a contrasting pair of muted blue leggings. Whomever it was, she appeared very unamused, holding up an airhorn in one hand.

“Miss Applejack. Miss Rainbow Dash. My office,” she called flatly, her voice also very familiar to Twilight, “Everyone else; to lunch. Immediately.”

The images of Mighty Warrior and the face down card on the field faded and the blades of the devices on Applejack and Rainbow’s arms split apart and folded away to the sides. The spectators began to shuffle out past whomever this was. Perhaps a teacher or even an administrative figure of the school. Twilight walked along the other students to remain inconspicuous.

“Is it just me, or does she sound and look like Princess Luna?” Spike whispered.

Twilight took a look as she surreptitiously walked past her, “Now that you mention it; she really does.”

“So, we’re basically dealing with dimensional counterparts…” the dog remarked in a matter-of-fact tone.

“How do you-?”

“Comics,” Spike smirked as he was let down after the two of them rounded a corner away from the rest of the crowd.

Twilight rolled her eyes amusedly, “Well wherever you heard of it, it seems to be the case…” parallel worlds, let alone this new tidbit about inter-dimensional travel, so many new questions began to form in Twilight’s mind, only to have them set aside when she remembered what they were supposed to be doing, “We still need to find my crown and get back home! If anything, that spectacle did nothing but waste time.”

“Um, excuse me…” a soft-spoken voice came from behind Twilight.

Twilight wheeled around, seeing the counterpart of Fluttershy approach her.

“You might want to keep your dog tucked in. They don’t allow pets on school premises,” she stated, indicating Spike.

“Oh! Thanks for the heads up!” she promptly leaned down, opening up her bag, to which Spike hopped in before putting it back on, “Are you- Err. I mean my name is Twilight Sparkle. Good to meet you,” she said with a smile, this encounter feeling very nostalgic.

“I’m, um, Fluttershy…” she mumbled, very reminiscent to when Twilight first met her in Equestria.

Nailed it. “Fluttershy? Yes, hi,” she waved awkwardly, especially given her physiological changes.

“Are you new here? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before,” the dimensional counterpart stated.

“Um, yes!” Twilight responded perhaps a tad too enthusiastically, “I was just looking for the administration when I just stumbled into… that, when I heard the commotion. Could you point me in the right direction?”

“Of course, it’s just down the hall from the entrance, near the library; third door to your left” she explained, pointing towards the entryway down the corridor, “I should, I mean, I really need to go. Lunch period’s starting.”

“Alright, thank you!” said Twilight with a smile as she watched Fluttershy head back down the corridor.

Twilight turned the opposite direction and followed the instructions given to her, entering the central alcove from which she headed in the opposite direction from the entrance.

“So what do we do now?” asked Spike, poking his head out of Twilight’s bag.

“If the portal from Equestria exits before this… school. It’s very likely that Sunset Shimmer could be hiding out here, as a student,” Twilight remarked as she passed by a glass case filled with a series of trophies, “First and foremost, we need to avert any suspicion. So, I’ll see if I can enroll myself here. We’ll have more free range to investigate and hopefully we’ll get on the right track to finding my crown.”

Twilight soon found a door within the central corridor, just ahead being a set of double doors marked as the school library that had helpfully been marked with the title of “Principal”. Of course, seeing the name of the head of this school made her feel more than a little flabbergasted, given how she seemed to be running into counterparts everywhere she went. Taking a deep breath to steel herself, she knocked on the slightly ajar door.

“Come in,” a voice called from within, prompting Twilight to push open the door.

Twilight entered the office, head bowed low as she went, the tile flooring giving way to red carpeting. She stood before a hefty wooden desk, behind which sat whom she assumed was the principal, her face currently obscured by a folder she was perusing through.

“How can I help you?” said the principal, her voice familiar as her namesake’s, albeit it sounded less regal and more mundane.

Twilight cleared her throat in trying to come up with the proper manner to address the principal. Maybe it was a developed habit, but somehow, she felt the same nervousness she’d often feel when directly addressing Celestia in their world. After taking too long to answer, Principal Celestia lowered the folder.

True enough, she was almost a perfect reflection of Princess Celestia, albeit in the form of this strange bipedal species (Twilight noted how she really needed look into what to properly call them). Her skin was the same pristine white with a hint of pink as the Princess’ coat, and her mane was in the same tri-colored pattern, albeit it did not flow endlessly. The rounded face, the smaller eyes, and her not all that greater size compared to Twilight made her seem much less imposing than the alicorn she was the dimensional counterpart to. The chest obstructions underneath the yellow button-up jacket did nothing to help in this regard.

Celestia looked up at Twilight with anticipation, raising a questioning brow at the silence.

Twilight pulled at her collar with a faint cough, “Greetings. My name is Twilight Sparkle and-”

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” the principal interrupted, “Oh, excuse me. Just making an observation,” she smiled apologetically, “I’m Principal Celestia Solaris, but please; just Celestia will suffice. Are you by chance a new transfer?”

The perfect opportunity; “Yes!” Twilight composed herself, “Yes, I am. I’m due to start next week. I’ve just moved into the neighborhood and my credentials might not have arrived just yet. I decided to come and have a look around beforehand, if that’s alright.”

Celestia rested and arm against her desk, swiveling slightly sideways, crossing one leg over the other, humming thoughtfully, “I suppose some might find it rather unconventional, but I see no harm, as long as there are no disruptions, much like just now.”

Twilight glanced to the side, guessing what the principal was referring to; “The bout at the gymnasium? What was that about?”

Celestia sighed outwardly, “A conflict between two of our students that tends to get out of hand every once in a while. With the CHS half-term fall formal championship in three days’ time, some of our students can get confrontational.”

“Championship?” Twilight inquired.

“Yes; Canterlot High, being a registered dueling academy, maintains a roster of its best duelists, recognized on a national level,” the principal looked at Twilight, as if scrutinizing her, “I take it your previous institution was not part of the dueling baccalaureate program?”

All Twilight could do was shake her head, this world raising only further questions the more she heard.

Celestia turned forward on her chair, placing both arms atop her desk tenting her fingers, “Here at CHS on top of providing base academic education, we also specialize in professional Duel Monsters,” she indicated something on the adjacent wall, “Our current champion, Sunset Shimmer, has remained undisputed since her freshman year.”

Twilight saw that it was a framed photo portrait the principal was addressing. It depicted a someone with a fiery red and yellow mane, the most distinct piece of her outfit being a studded jacket, wearing one of those disk devices, and expressing an aloof, almost condescending smile towards whomever beheld it. Atop her head was a familiar looking crown with a star-shaped gem at the top and center.

Twilight feigned ignorance, pointing towards the portrait, “What’s with the crown?”

“Something Vice-Principal Luna and myself came up with,” the principal replied, her lips forming into a small smile, “We came up with the title of Duel Queen or King for whomever reigns as our top duelist. They are also granted an honorary place on the student council, but so far Miss Shimmer has remained disinterested in the matter.”

“So whomever wins this championship title gets the crown?” Twilight reiterated, “Would I be eligible for this tournament?”

Celestia looked at Twilight thoughtfully, then glanced downwards in contemplation. After what felt like a needlessly uncomfortable moment of silence, she looked up, “I don’t see why not, seeing as you are going to be attending our school. Although…” now was her turn to clear her throat, “On such short notice, I’m afraid the most likely means for you at an attempt at the fall formal champion position would be to defeat our top duelists to appeal to the student body in a bid as a finalist. Of course, if you came from a non-dueling baccalaureate, you will need to be registered into our roster.”

Twilight felt her stomach clench at how complicated her task to retrieve her crown had become so far, “Is it possible for me to register?”

Celestia crossed her finger, offering a comforting smile, “I’ll speak to Vice-principal Luna; she handles the duelist registry.”

Twilight felt slightly relieved, “I appreciate that, Principal Celestia,” she gave a curt bow of her head.

“It’s no trouble at all,” Celestia smiled kindly, “Is there anything else I can help you with, Miss Sparkle?”

A thought crossed Twilight’s mind, “Out of curiosity; where is this crown?”

“It’s under lock and key for now under Vice-principal Luna’s care. Strangely enough, it had been stolen the other day, when one of our students returned it just this morning,” she shrugged, “How it ended up from stolen to lying on the front lawn, I have no idea.”

Twilight held up her hand, “Well, I think I can manage for now. Thank you. I think I will just get the lay of the school, if you permit me.”

“Of course,” Celestia nodded, “If there’s anything else you need, my door is always open. We look forward to having you with us here at CHS.”

Twilight nodded gratefully before backing away out the door, softly closing it behind her. She promptly sighed and sauntered over to slouch her side against a row of lockers.

“Twilight!” Spike’s head popped out of her bag, “What are you doing?! You could have just told her that the crown was yours and be done with it!”

“I wish it were that simple, Spike,” said Twilight regretfully, “But the crown in that photo was obviously the one Sunset tried to replace mine with; they couldn’t possibly know. And besides: Would you believe it if somepony from this world came to Equestria saying they’re a bipedal hairless creature with these,” she emphasized wiggling her fingers.

“I guess you got me there,” Spike shrugged, “But how are you going to became a champion in three days? You’re not even a duelist.”

“Ah, but you forget, Spike,” she reached back into one of the side pouches of her back, producing the white card container, “We already have these,” she gently shook it, smiling triumphantly.

“Okay. But do you even know how this all works?” Spike inquired further.

“… I have no idea!” Twilight replied, her smile not faltering, “But I’m certain I can get the hang of it, the best way I know how…” she emphasized by jabbing a thumb towards the doors labeled “library.”

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