• Published 23rd Jun 2019
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Sunset's Isekai - Wanderer D

Somewhere, out there, there's a bar with a familiar ying-yang sun on the door.

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Once Upon a Time (Game of Worlds - Ongoing)

Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D & Dual Thrones
Chapter 6

Chrysalis das Pupa, sole queen of the changeling race, descendant of the beloved Amaryss, creator of the Grand Scheme by which the Hive Throne and the Dual Thrones would be bound together by bonds of matrimony in accordance with the most ancient and respected tradition of two noble houses... was presently not having a very good day. It had started auspiciously enough: breakfast with Baroness du Luc, a great deal of very important (and frustratingly jargon-heavy) information on the state of the border from Thryssa’s chief logistician (things were in a very good state, it seemed), and a visit from Lady Maredusa’s invincibly cheerful daughter: Mara Belle.

Naturally, it only took a few minutes for everything to turn around and now, Chrysalis was shoving a door closed behind her so she could have a moment of peace to collect her thoughts in the corridors leading to Tettidora’s observatory. They tended to be empty unless Tetti was in the premises, and it just wouldn’t be dignified for her guards to see her seething, even if it was the Honor Guard, who were all on a first-name basis with the royal family.

She’d built up a good head of steam from remaining royal and composed during the pile-up of frustrations, so she’d already started to open the door before it registered that the door she was opening would lead to a drop of about a kilometer or so, and she stopped and stepped back.

A stone arch being above one of the palace doors was perfectly normal. But the palace, along with the city itself, used the black stone quarried from the Sailing Mountain and the arch was made of what Chrysalis swore was the Baltimarian soapstone that Maredusa never missed an opportunity to wax poetic about, and the door made of what appeared to be the unusually fragrant oak that grew around Stalliongrad. But what really drew her notice was that the door was emblazoned with a cutie mark she didn’t recognize--and there was a little bisto chalkboard beside it announcing that the special of the day was a lemon schnapps with chocolate mint garnish. Her favorite.

“...I can’t help but feel like I’ve been extended an invitation,” she said to the door. Then she shrugged, put on her very best pleasant royal expression, and pushed the door open, stepping through.

'Who in their right mind would want lemon schnapps with chocolate mint garnish?' Sunset wondered silently as she stared at the recipe. Sure, she'd made some similar mixes, but the flavor profile… would it be palatable? Dried lemon with chocolate wasn't too bad but schnapps… her thoughts were interrupted by the silver bell announcing the arrival of a new guest. 'Please. For the love of the multiverse, please let it not be another army-type Twilight.'

As if hearing her plea, the visitor turned out to be a changeling. She shared quite a bit of that royal aura that Cheval had when she had visited, but this changeling seemed a lot more cagey, much more experienced and wary. In fact, there was something about this changeling that seemed oddly familiar, not that she had ever met her before, but Sunset felt like she should know who this changeling was.

She was taller than Sunset would have been in her pony form, so that set her roughly at the same height as her human form. Unlike Cheval's shorter mane, this changeling had a long, green mane that somehow managed to make her neck seem more slender. Her green eyes shone with a deep intelligence and a sharp mind, and overall she looked a lot more dangerous than Cheval had seemed at first glance.

Looks were always deceiving of course, but sometimes they deceived you only into seeing the immediate threat, rather than the whole package. Still. This was a guest and a customer, and Sunset Shimmer had met other changelings before, and so far, the worst experience hadn't been them.

"Welcome to Sunset's Isekai," she said, smiling confidently, "I'm Sunset Shimmer, co-owner of this bar, please take a seat. What would you like to drink today?"

Chrysalis stopped upon being greeted by… she wasn’t quite sure. The general structure was like a Diamond Dog or one of the variants of dragon that walked upright (like Princess Ember) but the creature had a mane and her teats were on her upper body instead of where a pony’s would be. But there was no time to gape; the creature was smiling, had given her name, and was inviting her to sit, and it would be extremely uncouth to continue standing in the doorway.

“Good afternoon Sunset Shimmer,” she replied, making a conscious attempt to still the slight vibrato that was natural to changeling voices, aware that some creatures found the auditory effect to be unsettling. “I am…” she paused, considering whether the title would be appropriate, “Chrysalis das Pupa, although Chrysalis would be fine. Your bistro sign advertised a lemon schnapps with a chocolate mint garnish, and I would very much like one, if you please.”

She then stepped towards one of the stools, considered it for a moment, before maneuvering herself so she could rest her rump on it. The feeling was odd, but the stool was a well-crafted one and was actually comfortable despite forcing her to adopt a slightly convoluted posture to seat herself, and she could still flick her tail comfortably.

“I must admit, Sunset Shimmer, that this is the first time I’ve had an Isekai spontaneously added to my home, much less one that comes with its own staff and foreign decor,” she commented, smiling as broadly as she could without exposing her incisors (another part of changelings she’d discovered was very unsettling to other races).

Sunset's smile had frozen in her face when she heard the name. 'Different world. Different world.' she told herself silently. 'Remember Cheval, not all changelings are bad.' "So, uh, Q-Queen Chrysalis, huh?" she stammered, bowing a little. "It's quite an honor, your majesty."

She shook her head, taking advantage of her bow to collect herself. This wasn't the time to freak. Rarity and her own experience had warned her that different versions of her friends (and enemies) could and most likely would visit the bar. She took a deep breath and stood up fully. "And I will get to that right away."

As she started preparing the drink and calmed down, she looked up to the Queen, who was glancing around the bar curiously. "Well, my bar has a tendency to appear wherever it feels like. Usually where people… or should I say anycreature, feels like they need a break, and I'm happy to provide that for them."

She served the drink on a martini glass, decorating it with both the chocolate mint garnish and regular mint leaves on the edge for more visual effect, before placing it on the bar and sliding it forward with her fingertips at the base. "One Lemon Schnapps with Chocolate Mint Garnish."

She took a towel and busied herself by cleaning a glass while studying the queen. "It's only a temporary addition, by the way, hopefully I did not offend anycreature," she added, but it seemed like the Queen hadn't been listening at all.

The royal mask of a pleasant, kindly smile vanished immediately and she had furrowed her brow. “You know my name,” she stated, not stifling the vibrato this time. “More than that, your first reaction to my name is fear. Not nervous fear, or a fear of the unknown, but a personal fear.” Her horn glowed very softly with a viridian light. “You’re… afraid of my name.”

’It makes no sense, this creature, this… Sunset Shimmer would have no reason to know me by name,’ she said to herself ’I’m certain that Celestia made an effort to conceal the events of the Exile, to prevent all manner of horror stories from springing up and growing in the telling, but any such tales would be of my race; no pony would know me by name.’

“I have no reason to wish you harm, Sunset Shimmer,” she said after a moment. “I know neither you, nor your species, and you greeted me kindly before I told you my name, so you do not know my face. Who taught you to fear the name Chrysalis, but not the visage of the queen Chrysalis?”

"Oh," Sunset felt her face go red. "I'm sorry, it's not exactly you specifically, perhaps I should clarify the nature of this place, huh?" She took a deep breath and leaned back, looking around her bar fondly. "Funny enough this place is not actually in your world. "Isekai" is a word from another language that a friend suggested… it means "another world", or in this case "other world". And, if you're familiar with the multiverse theory, you might also know that there are an infinite number of versions of ourselves out there."

She walked over to the pictures and picked one up, going behind the bar again and standing in front of Chrysalis with the picture of Sunset and Gilda. "You see, this girl here is not actually me-me, she's just me from another world, and that's her girl, Gilda. They were my very first guests.

"Queen Chrysalis is also somepony important in other worlds, although not always benevolent." She grimaced, shrugging. "In my original world, Princess Twilight told me about an invasion attempt by the Queen Chrysalis of her world, although I never met her. You are not my first changeling guest, so I am somewhat used dealing with changeling royalty one-on-one… but to clarify… I'm not frightened by you specifically… it was just surprise, really."

Chysalis blinked slowly at Sunset as the girl explained the entire situation. ’So, this is a fragment of one of those worlds Nachtmiri spoke of, she thought. ’And if what the du Dune explorers reported to Queen Vespa is accurate, this bar of hers adheres to my palace like the Archive adheres to whatever structure it attaches to when it stabilizes.’

Her reaction to being told about her counterpart in another reality, however, was to blink several times, and then the corners of her muzzle began to twitch in an attempt to stop herself from laughing. ’Invasion? Of Equestria?’ The thought was making it harder for her to stop herself, but she found she didn’t care. ’And an attempt? Not even a successful invasion?’

After a few more moments of resistance, Chrysalis lost the battle and began to laugh. Her laugh was somewhat lipsy, and the vibrato was quite prominent, but it was a deep belly laugh of pleasure and amusement, not even slightly scornful. “My counterpart invaded Equestria, did she?” It took her a few moments to bring herself under control, but she was smiling broadly now, too broadly not to also be displaying her incisors. “And how did that work out, hmm? How far did Celestia punt her, all the way back to the Barrens?”

She shook her head, clearly in a very good mood now. “Young lady, one does not enter the home of the strong mare and despoil her goods without first binding the strong mare. And with the number of strong people in Equestria--Celestia, Luna, Twilight Sparkle, her friends, the various ambassadors constantly in attendance, innumerable classes from Celestia’s School--one does not invade Equestria. Study Celestia closely, until you learn her every tic and habit, and then imitate her long enough to achieve your goals? That, Sunset Shimmer, is the only path to victory in Equestria and any changeling who fails to consider that path and follow it is a fool.”

“Not that I would do so unless forced,” she added as she accepted the drink from Sunset. “I prefer peace with my people’s ancestral home. I prefer that I and Celestia and Luna should regularly sit at tea and tell each other stories, and be friends.” She delicately grasped the sprig of chocolate mint in between her front teeth before taking a sip of lemon schnapps, causing the liquid to run over the mint as it entered her mouth, before she used a very gentle touch of magic to return the sprig to where it was placed as a garnish. “The way things used to be for the queens of my people. When we were her sword, and shield. When we were her little ponies, and her younger sister’s army, protecting our home and the other three races.”

Sunset chuckled, relaxing a little. "Yeah. Very different world. And I hear you on the invading army, bad idea. Especially if you think a boost in power will be enough." She sighed. "I'm glad to know that in this world you are friends. So, you said that you're not there anymore but there's peace? What about Shining Armor and Cadance? Are you their friend as well?"

“It’s… not quite accurate to call us friends as yet,” Chrysalis said. “That is my aspiration, certainly, but at this stage our belief is that Celestia is unaware that our race is still alive. We’re unsure of Luna; she escaped the bonds of her moon only a year ago at most and she hasn’t attempted to seek us out.” She siped again, this time without the leaf of chocolate mint.

“As to Shining Armor…” She smiled broadly again. “He’s a delightful young stallion. Intelligent, handsome, has distinguished himself in his career, and according to my youngest daughter, ten out of ten Guards agree that their captain is a hopeless doofus whenever he’s around his fiance.” She lightly swirled the remaining drink in her glass. “I’ve been excited by the prospect of having him as a son-in-law ever since they announced their intent to marry.”

"Wait. Cadance is your daughter?!" Sunset asked, eyes wide. "Wow. Talk about different, I mean, when I was Celestia's student and met Cadance she always told she was an orphan… not that she was a changling in that world. You know, it's really funny, one of my guests was pony-Cadance's adopted daughter, and she was a changeling."

She shook her head again. "It seems that no matter where we are you and her are involved somehow."

“Is it really surprising that the Princess of Love would have some relationship to the ponies who need a daily cup of hugs for good health and nutrition?” Chrysalis chuckled a little. “And in my reality, I suppose you’d put it, ‘Cadance’ is the name Celestia gave her when she adopted her as her niece--political considerations made it impossible for her to adopt her as a daughter--but her given name is Chidinida. The explanation is long but the summary is, we used magic called a ‘guise lock’ when Chidnida was born to keep her within the disguise of a lovely little pink alicorn. A couple of my guards were assigned to act as her real parents, ‘die’ tragically, and Celestia adopted the poor ‘orphan’ and raised her as her own.”

Chrysalis beamed, very nearly glowing with pride. “It is my magnum opus, Sunset Shimmer. Tradition and law going back over a thousand years is that with the marriage of the child of one noble house to the other, the two houses become one. With the marriage of my blood daughter to the adopted son of Celestia, our families will be joined. The Exile will be over. Once again, as the pegasi manage the weather, and the earth ponies bring forth the bounty of the land, and the unicorns are given to the study and use of the arcane arts, the changelings will be the soldiers of Equestria, the Sword and Shield of the Dual Thrones to protect Celestia’s little ponies against any danger.”

Sunset slowly closed her mouth. "I—that raises a LOT of questions, but if I asked you everything I don't think we would finish talking in a week." She chuckled. "One of the many things I need to learn if I am to manage this bar, is to not be too curious, I guess. So let's talk about the happy things then." She leaned forward. "When are you expecting grandkids?"

The overjoyed look on Chrysalis’ face when talking about her grand design faded immediately on Sunset asking about grandkids. “When fate stops contriving to interfere with their happiness,” she said with a sigh, taking another sip of her drink. “At first it was the little things--the dressmaker Chidi preferred being caught up in a large project at the last moment, Shining having to supervise a deployment to ward off a raid by the yetis, a very thorny diplomatic matter where Celestia felt that Cadance’s unique insights into love were vital--but then, when they’d practically named a date... “

She shook her head. “We’re still not clear about the details. We can only gather information about the doings of Celestia by the observation of spies--no replacements, disguised changelings who’d been living in Canterlot and were hired on merit--so what I know is quite vague. But it transpires that in my reality at least, Twilight Sparkle is the firstborn foal of Celestia. You can well imagine the kind of chaos that caused.”

"Wow. I mean… a few years back, finding that out would have made me really jealous." Sunset sighed. "It seems however that things are progressing okay? Even if Twilight is Celestia's daughter, did Cadance—I'm sorry, was it Chidinida? Anyway, did she also babysit her in this universe? Does Twilight love her brother? As long as there's trust between those three, I don't see why your daughter should have any trouble marrying him. Especially with your blessing…" Sunset trailed of. "She does know she's your daughter, right?"

“If it was merely the discovery, that would have been resolved in fairly short order. But it became part of some grand design that no one was aware of but the conspirators, to throw the world into disorder and then into the claws of some abomination that called itself ‘the Guardian’. Twilight was murdered by the conspirators, and Celestia’s mind came completely apart from rage and grief. She fell in the same way her sister had, becoming the nightmare Flare. Everything was eventually put to rights, and Twilight somehow restored to life but Equestria was shattered, many ponies killed in the struggle to pull the monster down. In those circumstances, you can imagine that any talk of a royal wedding was put on hold.”

“But yes, on to happy things.” Another sip. “Yes, Chidi foalsat Twilight and they remain the best of friends, practically sisters. Yes, Twilight loves her brother although his duties have made it so they have had to struggle to remain close; Twilight spending a great deal of time with her mother, where her brother is on duty, helps.”

Chrysalis grinned. “Yes, Chidinida knows she’s my daughter. It came as quite a shock for her but if you’ve met Cadance, you know how she is: she practically radiates empathy. She wasn’t very pleased with me--a completely reasonable response, no question--but she understood. The best part was Shining Armor learning that she’s my daughter.”

Sunset laughed. "Okay, this I've got to hear. I knew Shining from my time at Celestia's school, so I can get a very clear image of his expression. It's too bad you couldn't have gotten a picture of him… which reminds me, before you leave, can I take a picture with you?" She motioned to the wall, where a growing number of pictures was displayed. "I'm probably going to run out of wall eventually, but it would be nice to add this visit to the memories."

“It was after Chidinida learned of our relationship,” Chrysalis said. “We lifted the guise lock so she could shift between the form of an alicorn and the form of changeling royal, but she was learning how to do as an adult what most changeling foals learned before they could read or write so she tended to slip out of form without noticing. So one morning, she gets up first and goes to make Shining breakfast. He wakes up and goes into the kitchen, and Chidinida had reverted and was beaming at him with a plate of waffles cut to look like a smiley face and according to Chidi…” She grined widely. “...Shining makes adorably mare-like sounds when surprised. It didn’t take him long to recognize his fiance’s mannerisms--Chidi is the only mare I know who radiates sunshine and cheer in the morning without needing a cup of wake-up--but that’s how he found out that his fiance was my daughter. He handled meeting me without any issues, but he’d had plenty of time to fit his head around the thought.”

While Sunset doubled down laughing, Chrysalis turned to look at the wall, and her eyes went immediately to the picture of Cheval. “...who… who is that?” She points at the picture with a hoof and this close, Sunset noticed that instead of holes going completely through her legs, Chrysalis merely has depressions in her chitin that someone skilled with a carving knife has integrated into attractive whorls and arcs, almost looking like tattooing but carved instead of inked.

"Oh, that's Cadance's daughter, Cheval," Sunset said. "I'm not sure about how that happened in her world, since I didn't get the impression that Cadance herself was a changeling, but she's Twilight's niece, Flurry Heart's sister, and Queen of the Ponyville Hive." Sunset blushed slightly. "We didn't talk much about her history besides some basic details, since she was a bit stressed about her dating situation and being a single mother. We talked dating." Sunset cleared her throat. "She's… very charming." She studiously ignored the slightly glowing container next to the cashier.

"She was my first customer, and I thought when I saw her it was you, to be honest. She thought I was just one of those creatures that were xenophobic about changelings but… well…" she motioned with her hands at the bar. "Multiverse."

Chrysalis frowns, looking at the picture. “Is her build and those… holes… ordinary for changelings where she comes from? Where I come from, a changeling whose chitin had been completely eaten through like that had to have suffered years of severe love starvation. Severe, nearly to the point of fatal. I hope that’s not what was ailing her, and that her appearance is merely one of those differences in our realities.”

"I'm afraid that's the case, your majesty," Sunset said, "as in it being the norm where she's from. From what I heard from my Princess Twilight, that was also the case of her own Queen Chrysalis. So far, you and her are the only two changelings I've met in person, so I can't really tell you if that's how it is for the rest of the multiverse. But, on a happier note, you'll notice she got Shining's mane."

This observation caused Chrysalis to look again, and she smiled. “Yes, yes she does. Perhaps I’m looking at a hint of my own daughter’s future; the decades-long guide lock had an unanticipated effect on her. Not a bad one just one very… interesting. Tettidora--my third daughter, and the family genius--theorizes that the lock caused the magic that lets her change guises to ‘forget’ what she originally looked like.” Chrysalis finished off her glass, including the chocolate mint garnish, and stood. “I feel I should return to being a queen instead of reminiscing with a friendly barkeep with her own little pocket world. I feel much… relieved of my burdens now, and I am grateful to you.”

"Well," Sunset said with a chuckle, "that's what I'm here for." She reached behind the bar and pulled out a silver card, which she offered to Chrysalis. "This is my bar's card. That means that if you ever need a drink…" She shrugged. "Just go somewhere private and tap it. At least that's how I'm told it works. And, I also want to thank you for being patient with me at the start. I knew you were not the Chrysalis from my world, but it helped a lot to talk to you and see you as a person and not some sort of mental boogey mare. I think if I ever meet another one of you, I'll be much better prepared to accept them. Oh! And before I forget, if you don't mind the picture? I had to catch up to Cheval on her way out to take that one, and I'd rather just have a nice one with you."

Chrysalis smiled broadly at her, in an almost maternal fashion. “I’d be delighted, Sunset Shimmer.” She accepted the card into her telekinetic grip and a sound somewhat like a zzort it simply… vanished into thin air. “Personally, I doubt it’ll work. There are some moments, some places, where you go there and enjoy, but you can never return to them. So you move along, tucking them away into a corner of your mind to relive when you need them. But I hope this card works as you say. Now, if you’ll direct me how to stand, let’s get you your memento and after, I’ve one last question of you.”

"Sure! Also, do you mind if I take the picture with both of us in it? I want to send it to my Princess Twilight too." Sunset said, coming around the bar with her cell phone. At her nod of consent, Sunset shimmied over and lifted her camera, grinning at it right next to the Queen, taking a couple of selfies for her wall and to freak out her friend. Once that was done, she stored the phone and stepped back, bowing. "Thank you, your majesty."

Chrysalis had made sure to give the strange device her warmest, most genuine smile. “You are not my subject, Sunset, nor even part of my world; you needn’t use any kind of title when addressing me if you don’t wish to. Now before I go, I was curious about something. Did you have any manner of relationship with Celestia? I don’t mean romantic or intimate, but… perhaps a hoofmaiden, or a student?”

"Oh," Sunset sighed, a small smile playing on her lips. "I was her snarky disciple. Went evil, left home, learned a hard lesson, and now I'm a different species, Twilight's student in friendship, and quite honestly… a lot happier. I even made peace with Princess Celestia. Why do you ask?"

“Because as I’ve sat here, speaking with you, I realized that I knew your mark, and something about you was familiar as well.” Chrysalis smiled to her again. “I don’t believe anyone knows what became of you in my world, Sunset Shimmer, but not because you fled in shame, or anger, or because of some petty dispute with a teacher. Celestia has an eye for exceptional ponies, whether to found a little town in the hinterlands, to sire her foal, to save her sister--or for other important things. No one knows where you have gone in my world, Sunset, but we know two things: a gifted young pony under the personal tutelage of the Princess of the Sun disappeared, and at the same time, an artifact of great power that no one could have gotten unless Celestia gave it to them, disappeared as well. I can’t say for certain if these things are connected, but Celestia doesn’t give her trust to evil ponies.”

Chrysalis bowed her head in Sunset’s direction, somewhat deeper than is normal for a pony bidding another farewell. “Just something to think on, and maybe draw some small joy from. Perhaps there are some worlds where a beloved student didn’t flee, but was sent forth to accomplish something important. Thanks for the drink.” And with that, the changeling queen turned and disappeared out the door, closing it behind her.

"Huh," Sunset said, walking around the bar and picking up the glass the queen had used. Slowly a smile formed on her lips as she proceeded to wash it. "Yeah. That is pretty cool."

Author's Note:

Game of Worlds thanks to Dual Throne for writing this with me, it was fun!

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