• Published 1st Oct 2020
  • 1,899 Views, 297 Comments

Equal Opportunity Ascension - Cast-Iron Caryatid



Twilight Sparkle is a bit underwhelmed with her ascension to alicornhood and, after a disastrous coronation ceremony, it becomes clear that something is missing. It'd be a shame if somepony else got to it before she did.

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Chapter 14

Twilight’s mind went completely blank at the sight of the mare that she’d been obsessing over just lounging around in her home without a care in the world.

“Twilight?” Sunset asked, cocking her head innocently to the side. “Is something wrong, Twilight? You look kind of tense.”

“I—what—you—” Twilight stammered, trying to get her thoughts in order.

“Me?” Sunset asked, looking down at herself. “Is there something wrong with little old me?”

It was just… what did she actually do in response to this? Jump on her and start beating her up? Of course not—but Sunset didn’t appear to be doing anything, which seemed to limit the number of things that she could do to stop her.

A moment of awkward silence later, Sunset’s attention shifted to something behind Twilight. “Girls? Is there something wrong with Twilight?”

Twilight turned to see that the rest of her friends had caught up to her at some point, but they seemed to be just as much at a loss as she had been. Finally, she realized what she should do. “Rainbow! Go find a guard—no, wait—go find Spike at the market and bring him here, then find a guard!”

Snapping out of her astonishment, Rainbow Dash saluted and said, “You got it!” before racing off.

“Spike?” Sunset continued to pretend this was all completely normal. “Do you need to mail something?” she asked, then perked up. “Oh! That reminds me!” Sunset quickly levitated a pair of saddlebags with her cutie-mark embroidered onto them over to herself, dug around in them for a moment, then produced an envelope of very similar style to the one that Twilight had just received, only with a golden seal instead.

Princess Celestia’s seal.

Oh no.

She didn’t.

Shellshocked, Twilight gingerly took the letter, confirmed that the seal was real, then opened and read the letter.

She did.

Twilight gaped at the mare sitting in her home as happy as could be. “I—you—you—”

“I apologized,” Sunset Shimmer confirmed. “Celestia and I have had our differences over the years, but I’m willing to try again if she is.”

“But you came here to steal my magic!” Twilight accused, then immediately winced, already knowing exactly how Sunset would respond.

“Steal your magic?” Sunset asked, putting on a very good bewildered face. “Is that even possible? I’m sure I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to do that.”

Twilight was grasping for straws when she remembered the one concrete thing they had on her. “You were trespassing in the Crystal Castle and stole the element of magic!”

“Technically, as artifacts with some semblance of inherent morality, the Elements of Harmony can’t actually be owned in the traditional sense, so it’s actually impossible to steal them,” Sunset said, finally letting through the slightest amount of vindictive triumph through her mein of innocence. “Also? I’m a minor.”

“How?!” Twilight shouted, incredulous.

“Funny thing!” Sunset Shimmer said, brightening up even further. Setting the book in her lap aside she turned to face Twilight directly in order to explain. On closer inspection, she did look rather young. Younger than Twilight, which shouldn’t have been at all possible, though she had already suspected as much on the train. “So, it turns out that time flows differently in different dimensions. The world that I ended up in is only one of several that the mirror connects to. It opens every thirty moons in each world, but from this side it goes through a cycle. This is actually the first time the portal on the other side has opened up since I went through, meaning—”

“It's only been two and a half years,” Twilight concluded for her.

“Yep,” Sunset Shimmer said with a toothy grin.

“Is there a problem here?” asked a rather irate pegasus of the Ponyville guard patrol that had just come in with Rainbow Dash, and it was only then that Twilight deduced that Spike had been present for a while.

After one long, trying glare at Sunset Shimmer, Twilight sighed and apologized to the guard. “Sorry, officer,” she said, not taking her eyes off of Sunset. “It seems that we’ve had a small misunderstanding. I apparently left the library unlocked while I was gone and this innocent little filly wandered in. Nothing sinister going on at all.

The guard seemed to take Twilight’s statement entirely at face value and nodded in understanding. “Please remember that your place of residence is also a public building,” he said and made a show of looking around the room. “If there’s nothing else?”

Twilight waved him off and waited until he was out of earshot to angrily snap out, “Spike! Take a letter!”

“Uh, sure thing, Twilight,” he said, pulling out a scroll and parchment.

Twilight nodded in satisfaction, took a deep breath and calmly recited the phrase she’d spoken many times before, “Dear Princess Celestia,

“Are you bucking serious?!

“Signed, your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.

“P.S. I always wondered why the distinction. I get it now.”

Spike finished transcribing and looked up at Twilight with uncertainty.

“Send it,” she instructed him.

He hesitated. “Umm… Are you sure, Twilight?”

“Send the letter, Spike,” she repeated, quite serious.

With great reluctance, he did.

Sunset Shimmer, for her part, seemed to be enjoying the situation far more than was healthy.

There was only a short wait until Spike received a reply. Unrolling the letter, he read: Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle,

“Yes.

“Signed Princess Celestia.

All was silent for a moment before he clarified, “That’s all it says.”

“I don’t know what I expected,” Twilight admitted, rubbing her temples to stave off what she was sure was going to be an incredible headache. “Fine,” she growled out. “You’ve convinced Princess Celestia that you want to resume your studies. That’s… not as surprising as it really should be—but then why are you here?!”

Sunset Shimmer did that thing where she cocked her head to the side in innocent confusion again. “Isn’t it obvious?” she asked in the most sweetly saccharine way she could and followed it up with a beaming smile. “To study friendship, of course!”

***

“Well, if that filly ain’t faker than udders on a snake then Ah don’t know what is,” Applejack remarked as the group reconvened out in front of the library away from prying ears.

“Intentionally,” Rarity added. “She knows that she has the backing of the princess and is relying on it rather than any actual deception to prevent us from acting against her.”

“”I’ll send another letter to Princess Luna just to make sure she knows what’s going on, but her hooves will be as tied as ours,” Twilight said. “More, maybe. I doubt that she wants to be seen as openly acting against her sister, no matter what goes on in the privacy of the castle.”

“There’s gotta be something we can do!” Rainbow Dash instisted.

“Well, there are a couple of things,” Twilight said, gaining Rainbow Dash’s undivided attention. “Pinkie Pie had already gone off to get the party she's been planning since we got back started, and I think Fluttershy is making sure that Sunset Shimmer is okay after what happened on the train.”

“Wait, what?” Rainbow Dash shouted, looking back inside. “Fluttershy!”

“Are you alright, Twilight?” Rarity asked as Rainbow Dash loudly made clear her objections to Fluttershy getting close to ‘that two-faced-filly’ without her to make sure that she didn’t pull anything. “You seem awfully calm about all of this.”

Twilight sat down on the library’s welcome mat and let out a sigh. “I don't know, Rarity. I just don't know. I think I’ve reached the point where I’m actually angrier at Princess Celestia for doing this than I am at Sunset for taking advantage of it, but I don’t actually know how to be angry at the princess. Not really.”

“Well…” Rarity dithered. “I’m not sure if there’s anything I can say about that, but there is one bright side in all this.”

Twilight looked up with hope at her friend. “Is there?” she asked.

Applejack nodded along and said, “At least this way, you know where she is and can keep an eye on her.”

Twilight blinked, not quite understanding. Sunset was here at the moment; that much was true, but—“Wait, no no no no no, Sunset Shimmer isn’t staying here,” she said, balking at the very idea. “Not in the library.”

“She isn’t?” Rarity asked, sharing a dubious look with Applejack. “Are you certain? It seems the obvious choice to me. Where else would Princess Celestia send a student in need of friendship lessons than the princess of friendship?”

“Princess of friendship? Since when am I the princess of friendship? I am not the princess of friendship.” Twilight insisted, then immediately backtracked. “We’ll come back to that to that later. Sunset Shimmer is not staying with me in the library. I will run off and become a hermit in the Everfree before I allow that, and that’s final.”

As it so happened, Sunset Shimmer was not going to be living in the library with Twilight.

Unfortunately, it didn’t make Twilight any happier to learn that the princess’ ex-student—reinstated student? It didn’t make her any happier to learn that Sunset Shimmer was living in the Everfree as a hermit.

Somehow, Twilight didn’t think that accusing Sunset of overhearing her and changing her plans just to be contrary would make her seem entirely mature—not when there were far more obvious and worrying reasons for Sunset to be spending time in the Everfree.

Unfortunately for Sunset, she had made that claim in front of exactly the wrong ponies.

“Oh my,” Fluttershy exclaimed.

Rarity followed it up with a much more vehement, “Absolutely not! We cannot have the princess’ student ‘roughing it’ out in the murder forest!”

“Err, what?” Sunset asked, not having anticipated this reaction. “The what?”

Fluttershy was nodding frantically. “Oh, yes. Lots of ponies have gone missing in there over the years. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that ponies who go in there almost never come out.”

“But the Zebra—” Sunset objected.

“Oh, Zecora can handle it,” Rarity assured her. Aside from being a master alchemist and shaman, she has many years of experience in defending herself. You, on the other hoof, are a filly—a minor. You said so yourself!”

“I’m almost seventeen!” Sunset argued, then immediately winced, realizing how she had just sounded.

“That’s nice, dear,” Rarity said and patted the ‘filly’ on her head. “Come, now. If the princess hasn’t provided you a place to stay, then I’m sure that we can arrange something with the mayor. If not, why, then I shall have to put you up myself! After all, Sweetie Belle only uses her room a few days a week, and I’m sure the two of you would get along marvelously!”

Twilight watched blankly as Rarity, backed up by Applejack, somehow herded Sunset Shimmer out of the library and off to find her a residence, with Fluttershy following along.

“Well, that just happened,” she remarked.

Rainbow Dash grunted in agreement. “She was kind of laying it on a bit thick at the end there, don’t you think? I mean, running with the filly thing, sure, but saying she’d get along well with Sweetie Belle is harsh.”

“A bit,” Twilight agreed. “Though, the crusaders do tend to get along with adults more than other fillies their age.”

Rainbow Dash snorted. “Only when they’re learning something that’s going to get them in trouble.”

Neither of them said anything for a few moments as that sunk in. “Oh damn,” Rainbow Dash cursed and disappeared after them.

It was another ten minutes before Twilight remembered the box from Princess Luna that had been left back at the Carousel Boutique.