• Published 1st Oct 2020
  • 1,851 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 5

Sunset Shimmer’s first thought when she stepped out of the mirror was that, more than anything else, it felt good to be a pony again. It was too bad that she would only be here back in Equestria for a short while—just long enough to steal the Element of Magic from that failure of a princess that Celestia had replaced her with.

Back to being a pony, though, the familiar clop clop clop of her hooves on the crystal floors was just so comfortably familiar that it made her want to prance. Which she absolutely did not do. Not even once, just to get it out of her system.

On a completely unrelated note, an impromptu test of her adroitness proved that she was just as light on her hooves as she had learned to be on her feet, which was fortunate, since she was going to have to do quite a bit of sneaking to get that crown.

Well, some sneaking, anyway. The crystal pony guards were kind of pathetic, but this was Cadance she was talking about. What did she expect? Competent leadership? Apparently she hadn’t married that guard captain brother of Twilight Sparkle’s for his military prowess, if you know what she means.

Sometimes Sunset Shimmer felt like a bit of a creep given how easy it was to scry this universe from an outside context using something like the mirror portal and she had to remind herself… yeah, she was a terrible pony and she’d accepted that about herself a long time ago.

What could she say? Some people liked to play sports; others sewed dresses. Sunset liked to watch people and exploit what she learned to the best of her ability. It wasn’t what she’d expected to do with her life, but it was a decent enough replacement for burning things.

Sunset stopped just short of a turn in the hallway and blinked in sudden realization. Slowly, she looked crosseyed up at her horn.

“Oh my god.” She had her horn back.

Well, of course she did. She’d been using it to teleport, open doors and distract guards for a while now, but that wasn’t the point.

She had her horn back and she could properly burn things again. It hit her like a shot of adrenaline followed by a bucket of ice water when it dawned on her that she wasn’t going to be in Equestria long enough to do any real magic.

Also, her plans did not include causing enough of a ruckus that she’d be discovered and followed back to the human world where Twilight and her friends would rally the whole school against her and win the fall formal. This objectively meant that it was a bad plan, but it was the only one she’d come up with.

Also also, the Crystal Castle was, appropriately made of crystal and thus, wasn’t flammable. Well, not flammable in any practical way, at least. If Sunset’s time in the human world had taught her anything, it was that anything was flammable if you applied enough chemistry or physics to it, but she didn’t currently have a way to make even something as simple as liquid oxygen let alone any of the more interesting compounds that she’d read about, so her hooves were tied.

“You win this round, Cadance,” she muttered under her breath.

Fortunately for Sunset, what the Crystal Castle lacked in flammability it made up with in ease of navigation and it wasn’t long before she found her way to the guest wing—insofar as towers have wings—where Twilight and her friends were staying. Ironically, the security was actually heavier in this section of the castle thanks to the presence of non-crystal guards that had come with the princesses from Canterlot.

Princess Twilight, on the other hoof, had only brought her friends, which was kind of sad really.

Oh well. Maybe once the Element of Magic went missing Celestia would realize that she can’t just slap wings on some poor adorkable mare and leave it at that. Seriously, the girl clearly wasn’t princess material, yet, like a Christmas miracle, Sunset almost felt sorry for her. Given how Celestia had basically exiled Twilight right back to that podunk little farming town the day after her coronation, Sunset was self-aware enough to realize why she might empathize in some small way with Celestia’s latest student.

She would just turn right around and steal her crown anyway because that was the kind of person she was. Surviving on her own in the human world had taught her that.

Sunset was all but strolling through the corridors when she very nearly walked right into the mare in question coming around a corner. Panicked, she stumbled back and ducked into an alcove with some kind of crystal tupperware sitting on a plinth and ducked behind it, cursing everything from the Crystal Castle’s translucency and lack of shadows to the fact that her brown cloak didn’t really blend into the scenery as she did so. She supposed that it could be worse, though. When she’d left Equestria, she’d gone through the mirror and come out clothed. As shifty as she looked in dingy brown, it was still better than her natural red and gold, which was to say nothing of the fake crown she’d gotten the school’s fall formal committee to make for her. If that had gone missing along with her cloak… well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it definitely wouldn’t have helped her chances.

To Sunset’s immeasurable relief, Twilight was looking in completely the opposite direction as she walked past the alcove. Unfortunately for her, that relief was immeasurable because it was entirely encompassed by the raw panic of seeing Celestia walking beside Twilight looking right at her.

Sunset braced herself to teleport and run, but the alarmed shouting that she was expecting never came, and the bleary-eyed princess passed by, talking to Twilight, who was the one she’d been looking at, not Sunset.

Story of her life, really.

Sunset allowed herself a short breather to calm down and catch her breath, but not too long. Whatever it was that had Celestia and Twilight up at this time of night didn’t matter. Twilight hadn’t had her crown with her, so she must have left it back in her room. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Once her heart was finally beating normally again, Sunset took a breath and very nearly stepped out in front of Cadance and Princess Luna, forcing her to bite her tongue to keep herself from shouting. If every ounce of her focus wasn’t split between staying hidden and keeping her cursing internal, she would have appreciated the symmetry in how this time it was Cadance who could barely see or walk straight. Even in her impaired state, however, there was a part of her that felt a spark of envy for the kind of night she must have had for the princess of love to be in that condition.

Oh, and she was envious of the alicorn thing too, she supposed.

Look, she was a teenager and no matter how she might dress as a manipulative bitch, people like her didn’t actually get laid. Ever.

Humans were hardly all that attractive anyway.

Overimaginative analysis on Cadance’s gait aside, the crusty-eyed mare in question was in absolutely no condition to actually see Sunset, so she was once again spared discovery as the pair walked on down the hall following after Celestia and Twilight.

This left Sunset Shimmer in quite the conundrum. On the one hoof, the universe seemed to be doubling down on there never being a better time to steal Twilight’s crown, but on the other, Sunset’s inner voyeur that she’d been feeding by treating scrying like it was the best soap opera in the world really wanted to know what was going on that had all four of the princesses gathering secretly in the middle of the night. It was always incredibly frustrating when she missed something important. With the unpredictable, accelerated way that time worked between the two worlds, there was little to no chance that she’d be able to catch what was going on. With her luck, even if she turned around the instant she got back and started scrying, she’d probably have already missed everything up to next tuesday.

Whatever cosmic uncertainty principle it was that dictated what she was able to scry seemed to gravitate to Tuesdays for some reason.

Sunset squirmed nervously in her little alcove as Cadance and Princess Luna got further and further down the hall. Ugh. Ancient power that she could mold to suit herself by isolating it in another world or not missing an episode of her favorite show.

Life just wasn’t fair sometimes.

Unfortunately, no matter how much she wanted to go straight home and scry in, she would never forgive herself if she gave up this chance.

What she could do, though, was hurry up and grab the thing, then follow and watch what was going on herself. In person. On this side of the mirror. There was no possible way that could go wrong.

Fortunately for Sunset, the time crunch that this plan involved didn’t leave her enough time to worry about whether or not it was actually a good idea. Mindful of her previous experience, Sunset checked to make sure that the hall was clear of unexpected princesses and quickly rushed off in the direction they’d come from—and then, when she almost immediately ran into a hall with a pair of stationary guards, tried another corridor, presuming that Cadance would at least do Twilight Sparkle the dignity of assigning the new princess her own separate hall of the guest wing.

Or, barring that, at least give Celestia and Luna some peace and quiet away from Twilight Sparkle’s friends.

Questionable snap decisions aside, Sunset turned out to be right when the next hall she searched was significantly less guarded and had raspy snoring coming from one of the rooms, suggesting that she was on the right track.

Wasting no time at all, Sunset headed straight for the largest suite and ducked inside, where the presence of an empty, unmade bed indicated that she’d picked the right room.

The Element of Magic sitting right there on the nightstand was also a clue.

In a hurry and on alert for unexpected surprises after her previous two close calls, Sunset Shimmer scanned the room quickly just to make sure that Twilight hadn’t formed a harem with the rest of the element bearers since arriving in the Crystal Empire and she wasn’t about to walk in on a pony pile of the less innocent sort.

Or something.

Considering the snoring by which she’d located the right hallway to begin with had been coming from another room, though, she should have expected to be dissapointed. Disappointed? No, the other thing.

Actually, though, disappointed worked after all, because while the room didn’t contain a pile of polyamorous ponies, it did contain a small, sleeping baby dragon, who she had completely forgotten about, so it was like a double disappointment, in a way, which was one more disappointment than strictly necessary.

Yeah whatever. Dragons could be notoriously light sleepers… except when they weren’t, and while Spike wasn’t hibernating, he also didn’t have a hoard to guard and had lived with ponies all his life. He was also sleeping in a new place where odd sounds were to be expected, so as long as she didn’t do something stupid like step on his tail while trying to sneak past him, she’d probably be fine as long as she was in and out quickly—and just like that, she was.

Crown in hoof, she tucked it into her cloak and rushed off in the direction that the four princesses had gone.

***

“Oh. My. God,” Sunset said as quietly as she could while peeking into the room with the four princesses with the door cracked open a bit. That was awesome. It was worth this entire trip just to be here in person to see Cadance and Luna call Celestia on all of her bullshit while Twilight sat there looking lost and betrayed. She felt so vindicated that she wanted nothing more right then than to step in and say a few things of her own.

No matter how good it would feel to swoop in and have the last word with Celestia, though, that would be… bad. Things would get messy, and she hated messy when she couldn’t watch it from afar and take notes.

And yet… suddenly her whole plan to take the Element of Magic to the human world where she could give it stockholm syndrome and use its power to build up an army to come conquer Equestria with just felt so empty and dumb. None of it would hold a candle to this moment, seeing that look of disheartenment on Celestia’s face.

And then, just when Sunset didn’t think that it could get any better, the two sisters went on to explain the history of the Everfree. She wasn’t sure if she believed the story about reincarnations and how Celestia couldn’t just turn somepony into an alicorn, honest, but the great part was that it didn’t even matter. There was two-thirds of an ascension just sitting out there up for grabs, and she already had the last third just from being born.

That thought brought her up short, and she bumped into one of the plinths lining the hall in the middle of her silent retreat. If she did this, then she wouldn’t be going back to the human world possibly ever again.

She had mixed feelings on—CRASH! Sunset whipped around to see some sort of crystal flower vase shattered on the floor, complete with crystal flowers.

“Oh, shit,” she cursed and started running.