Sunset's Isekai

by Wanderer D

First published

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

Somewhere in the multiverse, there is a bar. It's small—the kind-of a hole-in-the wall place which you might find open late at night while walking down the streets of Canterlot City in the 1920's.

But unlike most bars, this one is not actually there… or rather, not where you think it is.

The entrance to Sunset's Isekai will be found in passing; an archway made of stone, emerging from a wall that you could have sworn had nothing there before, and in fact seems impossible to actually lead anywhere.

There, a door of solid oak—lovingly worked and stained to look almost golden-red—with a thick, crystal version of her cutie mark at eye level awaits visitors under the soft light of a gas lamp.

This door opens to all worlds, and can only be found by those that need that drink to be just the right type of different.

Close Encounters of the Random Kind

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Sunset's Isekai Bar
By Wanderer D
Chapter 1

"Rarity?"

The young woman turned and blinked, looking at Sunset up and down. "I'm sorry darling, do I know you?"

"Uh… it's me? Sunset Shimmer?" Sunset replied, smiling uncertainly. "You didn't get your memory stolen again, did you?"

Rarity's eyes widened. "Oh. Oh my. I-I'm sorry, I forgot I—this might seem strange to you... miss Shimmer, was it? But… I was trying to be in a place where I didn't exist. Clearly, I failed, so if you'll excuse me—"

Sunset moved forward, placing her hand gently on Rarity's shoulder. "Hey, wait… so, you're from another world? Me too. Rarity from this world is my friend." She smiled gently, taking in the familiar image of her friend, and how she looked overstressed. "So, how about we talk? You look like you could use a friend right now."

Rarity's smile waned. "Do I look that bad?" She sighed. "Very well, darling, lead the way. Someplace where they serve straight shots would do wonders for me." She hesitated. "Just… someplace where other… friends might not show up, please."

Sunset smirked. "Before I became a good girl, I knew all the dives, and plenty of them with the privacy you want. But I don't think we need that… I happen to have a well-stocked bar at home and everyone else I know is too young to drink."

"...so, he wouldn't take no for an answer," Rarity said, taking a sip of her martini, and humming in appreciation at the taste. "I tried to be gentle… it wasn't one thing he had done, you know? Just… many little things that sprung up like red flags in my mind and I had foolishly ignored."

"I take it he didn't appreciate that?" Sunset asked gently.

Rarity shook her head. "He insisted. He chased me around, called me after we have broken up, stalked me online, threatened people close to me with blackmail… he did everything that validated every worry I had developed during our short relationship. It's been two years now, and he still talks trash about me." She sighed. "I just hope he eventually gets over it. It gets tiring in its pettiness."

"Wow," Sunset said, her Manhattan clasped in her hands. "That's insane. I never expected Spike—"

"To be fair, darling, the multiverse has all sorts," Rarity interrupted. "You think you know a dragon and you give him a chance…" She shrugged. "I'm sure that the Spike you know is a true gentle-drake. Circumstances are always different out there, in the multiverse."

Sunset chuckled. "I suppose that's true. I can't see the Spike from either world being that much of an ass. But you still should report him to the police."

Rarity smiled. "Oh, I have."

Both girls chuckled, relaxing into the sofa.

"I must say, darling, you are a wonderful mixologist. Have you ever considered setting up a bar?"

Sunset blinked. "Who? Me? N-no." She cleared her throat. "It was just one of the jobs I got here while I was trying to work things out. It went well for a while, but the owner found out I was in highschool and kicked me out."

"His loss." Rarity chuckled. "And you should. Not only do you have a distinct knack to make people talk, but you also have real skills to make delicious cocktails. I, for one, would return to such an establishment," she said, winking at Sunset.

Sunset blushed. "Do you really think so? I really haven't given too much thought to what to do with my free time."

"Darling, I know so," Rarity replied, fanning her face and rolling her eyes. "You would not believe how many multiverse versions of us exist… well, you might believe it, but you wouldn't be able to count it. Why, there's a bunch of Sweetie Belles running around the multiverse."

"That… can't be good."

"It really depends who you ask," Rarity said, shrugging. "But even the older ones of the group need to relax from time to time, don't you think?"

"Huh." She shook her head. "I wouldn't even know where to start…"

"But I do." Rarity finished her martini and stood. "Darling, it has been a pleasure. If you ever need some help setting up a bar, do give me a call and I will gladly help you set it up, here's my card."

Sunset blinked and looked down at the silvery, almost translucent business card. "How do I even—?"

"Ah, different tech levels, of course… just touch here…" Rarity said, demonstrating the procedure. "If you ever feel ready to tap into the multiverse, let me know, I'll be delighted to help."

Sunset licked her lips, watching Rarity sway her way towards the door. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was her curiosity… or maybe it was the challenge. Or the alcohol. Or all of it. But, was she really going to let this one go?

It was probably the alcohol.

"H-hey," she said, just as Rarity pulled out a device out of her purse. "You know, I think I might like to tap that."

"Well," she cleared her throat, "Sunset, I'm honored, but we just met and as I said earlier, I just came from a very toxic relationship—"

"No, nono…" Sunset stammered, feeling her face blush. "The multiverse. I mean. The bar. I think… I think I'd like to do that."

Rarity smiled, eyes glinting. "Oh darling, I know just the man to help us."

The Bar at the End of the Multiverse

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 2

Somewhere in the multiverse, there is a bar.

It's small—the kind-of a hole-in-the wall place which you might find open late at night while walking down the streets of Canterlot City in the 1920's… brick and mortar and a certain sturdiness to it. Resilient.

But unlike most bars, this one is not actually there… or rather, not where creatures think it is.

The entrance to Sunset's Isekai can only be found in passing, and from the corner of the eye; an archway made stone, emerging from a wall that where nothing was before, and in fact seems impossible to actually lead anywhere.

A door of solid oak—lovingly worked and stained to look almost golden-red—with a thick, crystal version of her cutie mark at eye level awaits visitors under the soft light of a gas lamp. A small wooden blackboard with a crayon-drawn cocktail glass with a ying-yang sun on it instead of a lemon wedge invites creatures in with the promise of a good time.

This door opens to all worlds, and can only be seen by those that need a drink. And they need that drink to be just the right type of different.

The bar's doors, once opened to a customer, will always be open to them when they need to step away. The interior of the bar is simple… a narrow hall with four tables to the right of the entrance—all in a line—designed for no more than two guests per table. The bar itself is long, made of wood and black leather, and allows for about ten more guests to sit down there, facing the bartender, before it ends by curving into the corner of the room, right next to the hallway where the restrooms are and across from the old jukebox.

The jukebox itself is an interesting device - with a magical sensor that plays just the right song at the right time. Or so it says in the instruction manual.

The restrooms are serviceable, single-entity. Kept clean by techno-magical means, and tastefully decorated to match the theme of the bar itself.

The walls of Sunset's Isekai are brick and mortar, with panels made of dark, almost black, wood, decorated only with a couple of guitars, and several empty frames, save for one picture of the proud owner and her patron.

Behind the bar itself, a considerable assortment of drinks and glasses extends all the way down to the end of the establishment, stopping only where the bar turns in to connect with the wall, four levels high above the sink and containing bottles of all shapes, sizes and prices.

And also behind the bar, stands its esteemed owner, cleaning the surface—again—and wondering why she had decided to actually do this in the first place.

"What do you mean by 'forever'?"

Rarity cleared her throat. "Well, darling, I did mention that purchasing this establishment meant that it was yours forever."

Sunset rubbed her temples. "And that, I took to mean that I didn't have to make any further payments!"

"Well, you're not wrong, it just… has some unintended effects."

Sunset stopped rubbing her temples. "Unintended effects?"

"Apparently so." Rarity patted her on the back, then headed for the door. "I'm going to do some PR for the bar, see you soon, darling!"

Sunset shook her head, grumbling under her breath as the memories replayed in her mind, and fondly thinking about choking her business partner to death.

Sunset paused and tapped her chin. "Wait… does that mean I can actually do stuff that would normally kill her and not do damage? What does she even mean by—ugh. No. Bad Sunset! Bad! Now I need a drink."

Just as she was reaching for a bottle, the door to the bar opened, the little silver bell that Rarity had insisted on putting there, giving a cheerful, clear, almost crystalline chime as her very first patron entered. Two voices reached her ears, and one person ran past behind her and into the restrooms before she could even turn around.

Sunset forgot her drink, making sure that the bottle was in place before quickly checking her attire—A plain white blouse under a black waistcoat (with a pin of her cutie mark on the lapel), a simple black tie, and a pair of dark slim dress pants, before forcing herself to smile pleasantly at her very first guest.

A Tale of Two Sunsets (Featherfall - Post Fic)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 3

"Aw hell, I don't think I can keep it in, babe!"

Sunset Shimmer grimaced as her fiance pushed her wheelchair with increasing speed. "Keep calm, Gil, I'm sure there's somewhere here where we can stop."

"I'm so stupid, we still had two stops to go, but I had to take the scenic route!"

Despite the urgency of the situation, Sunset couldn't help but smile and reach out to touch Gilda's hand. "Hey, you wanted to show me this area of town."

"I still should've known I'd need to go soon. I'm not five!" Gilda retorted, although Sunset could hear the smile. "Hold that thought, there's a bar right there… let's go in. You can order a drink while I take care of business, a'right?"

Sunset didn't even have time to look at the sign next to the door before she was pushed through and they entered the bar. The small hall before the bar proper was dimly lit, but they could both see the establishment was well-taken care of, and seemed a little more classy than it had a right to be for the area of Canterlot City they had been trudging through.

Still, Gilda had to go, so she pushed Sunset into the bar and, without looking up, hurried down the bar and followed the signs for the restroom, before leaving Sunset alone.

"Welcome to Sunset's Isekai!" a familiar voice said, sending a chill down her spine. Sunset rolled her wheelchair around so she was facing the bar, where a familiar figure was facing away from her, apparently replacing an expensive-looking bottle on the top shelf, right next to a neon sign of a cocktail glass with her cutie mark on the side that read "Sunset's Isekai".

The Sunset Shimmer across the bar twirled in place, grinning until she saw her. A mix of feelings ran through that face. Excitement. Surprise. Dawning understanding.

"How is this possible?" Sunset asked her counterpart.

The Sunset behind the bar blinked and shrugged. "Interdimensional Bar. I don't know what the actual chances are to have you—and was that Gilda?—be my first guests."

"Right."

There was an awkward moment of silence. "Um, would you like anything to drink?"

"Gin and tonic," Sunset replied, relaxing back into her chair and taking a second glance around. Even though the bar looked a bit worn, it was now clear it had opened really recently. The empty picture frames on the wall were a clear indication that Sunset—the other Sunset—intended to eventually fill the walls with memories that had yet to come.

So far there were only two pictures on it, and neither brought good memories to Sunset. One was of Sunset and a slightly older-looking Rarity, both standing outside the bar. Different enough not to bother her, but the other one was a group picture of Sunset and the others, including human Twilight, outside the school. A picture of what could have been.

"So how did it happen?" her counterpart asked, setting the Gin and Tonic on the counter and pushing it within reach of Sunset's hands.

Sunset tore her eyes from the pictures, momentarily debating how to bring it up. She gave her mirror image a wry smile and shrugged.

"A few steel girders would break anyone's back, savvy?" Sunset replied, and the pair of them shared an eerily identical smirk. "Not everyone gets lucky in life, and when we do it's always in different ways, one man's misfortune, right?"

"Fair enough," she replied, going back to polishing a glass. "Didn't you try to heal it though? You do have magic, right?"

"I do," Sunset confirmed, and after pensive moment admitted, "and I could have."

A pair of dark eyebrows shot up.

"And?"

Sunset shrugged again. "What do you think happened?"

The Sunset Shimmer who stood behind the bar set the tumbler glass down that she had been polishing and stared hard at the one who was seated on the other side. Her eyes traveled over the cold metal bars that made up the wheelchair's frame, the soft padding, the blankets that covered her double's legs, and the care-worn look in her bright, sky blue eyes.

She noted, most of all, how relaxed that version of her looked.

There was an ease to the young woman, a lightness, like she lacked some fundamental weight from around her shoulders.

From behind the bar, Sunset Shimmer let out a slow, even breath.

"What would it have cost us?"

Shifting slightly in her wheelchair, Sunset smiled wanly as she looked up at her double and nodded.

"Far too much," she replied.

"It was the only answer I could figure," the bartender replied, relaxing a little and picking up a new glass to begin polishing it. "The only thing that ever stopped us from doing anything was deciding not to do it."

"We're stubborn like that," Sunset agreed.

"Better question then," her double asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Shoot," Sunset said.

"What the hell is wrong with how you talk?"

Sunset blinked, then started laughing, and the bartender joined in a breath later. For a few moments, they just laughed, one redhead leaning hard on her bar while the other gripped her armrests and cackled.

"Guess you mean, 'savvy'?" Sunset asked, and her double nodded. "Gilda uses the stupid word like a comma or a period half the time, and I spent months with basically no one but her to talk to."

"Aha."

As if summoned by her comment, they both heard the restroom door open, and Gilda walked out into the bar proper. "That's some nice restrooms back there, babe, I have no… idea… how" she stopped and gaped. "How?"

Bartender Sunset smirked. "Hey, babe, what are you having today?"

"Oh, stop it." Sunset shook her head. Even though it was technically her, it was still weird someone else calling Gilda that. "She usually drinks cheap whiskey and coke."

Her counterpart raised her hands in a placating motion, her smile widening. "Oh, so that's how it is?"

Sunset took Gilda's hand when the latter had joined her across from her mirror image. "This is how it is."

Bartender Sunset sighed, her smile growing warm as she proceeded to fish up a bottle of whiskey. "I'm very happy for both of you. It also gives me hope!"

Sunset blinked. "Oh, so you and Rarity aren't…" she motioned with her hand at the pictures, which Gilda noticed and scowled at.

Bartender Sunset's face grew a mock glare. "Oh no. Rarity has much to answer for… specifically legal questions regarding this place. But no. I'm single." She motioned for them to sit at the bar. "But judging from your reactions, it seems that she's not much loved where you come from."

Gilda held up her hands silently, her brow furrowed with concern and something like strain.

“Okay just… just back up, yeah?” Gilda said as she closed her eyes, “can we just talk about how there’s two’a you? Like, just for a second?”

Bartender Sunset crossed her arms, smirking. "Sorry, this is relatively new to me so I don't have a good way to explain it other than "multiverse shenanigans", or possibly "magic.""

Sunset reclaimed her grip on Gilda’s hand.

“Now you know how I felt when you were in the hospital,” she said with a wry grin, “you having fantasies too?”

Gilda flushed scarlet, even showing past her dark complexion, and peals of laughter sounded from behind the bar.

“Wait, wait, what?” Sunset leaned her elbows on her bar and fixed Gilda with a curious look. “What happened?”

Gilda looked sheepish for a few seconds before taking the glove from her hand and revealing the prosthetic, and for the second time that hour Sunset’s eyebrows shot upward.

“Woah,” she reached out tentatively, only continuing when she got a nod from Gilda, and set her hand on the cold Equestrian cloudsteel of the arm. “That’s incredible…”

“Yeah, that’s a word for it,” Gilda said with a grimace, “losin’ my arm messed me up pretty bad actually, had to get a kick in the ass from another me, savvy?”

Bartender Sunset nodded. "I'm sorry you went through that," she said, "but it seems you came out a lot stronger." She leaned back. "Sorry, I know that sounds a bit pretentious coming from me. But you two look like you've conquered everything thrown your way, although I'm still surprised you don't seem to…" she trailed off. "Oh…" she blinked as realization slowly dawned on her. "Oh… don't tell me it was them?"

Sunset felt Gilda's hand tightening around her own, but smiled. "Gil, babe, help me sit up on one of the stools? I think a story is in order."

"So, redemption, huh?" Bartender Sunset took a deep breath, putting some distance between the couple and herself. "Some people think that that's really unattainable, you know? That no matter how hard you try, how many times people might say they forgive you for something, you know deep inside they haven't… and probably won't." She sighed.

“Mhm,” Sunset agreed with a nod and a quiet smile, “I know.”

The bartender frowned at that reply, and her hands went down to one of the stacks for glasses, picking one up and running a clean rag along the rim. Both Gilda and Sunset could see it was spotless but, then again, that wasn’t really the point.

“You know?” She asked finally, and there was a touch of anger in her voice.

Sunset nodded again, though.

“Yeah, I mean… that’s sort of the point isn’t it?” Sunset said, leaning forward on the bar and meeting her double’s gaze fearlessly.

“Bein’ redeemed ain’t somethin’ you can just lean into until ya put enough hours in, savvy?” Gilda added, having taken a place at the bar and taking a tentative sip of her drink before giving a low hum of approval. “I mean, c’mon, that ain’t how shit like forgiveness or redemption or any’a that emotional crap works, y’know?”

The Sunset behind the bar paused in her reflective cleaning, staring pensively down at her reflection in the crystalline glass of the tumbler she was holding.

“It’s not about where you’re trying to get to,” Sunset said quietly, reaching into her coat and pulling out the gemstone clasp of her Element, the gleaming ruby-and-topaz divided sun emblem. “It’s just about trying… it’s about pushing forward knowing there might not be anything at the other end of the tunnel because being a good person isn’t about being rewarded.”

Bartender Sunset's shoulders sagged. "You're right, of course. And I'm sure I'll meet other Sunsets who will feel the same. I went through the whole Anon-A-Miss thing as well, and even though we remain friends, the Memory Stone drove home how much the gang hated me before being blasted by magic. I'll always wonder whether they're really forgiven me… but Redemption isn't an easy thing… especially for those that seek it."

She put the clean glasses away and slowly ran her fingertips on the surface of the bar. "You know, I thought that opening this bar was an impulse decision. Just before you girls came in, I was having second thoughts about this whole thing. It's scary. And it's a big commitment of time and effort. It's a risk… and I'm sure I'll have awful days as much as I'll have good ones. But meeting you both has made me realize that nothing really worth it comes easy."

She smirked at their looks. "Oh, I know it's a well known saying, but internalizing it is different. With all you went through, I guess it makes my own issues seem petty in comparison, at least to myself. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, is it? It means that I can take that and turn it into something positive. There are many lessons I've still to learn, and maybe this bar with its weird inter-dimensional powers is the first step to achieving that."

Sunset's smile softened. "I'm glad you're starting to see what I meant."

Her mirror image shrugged. "Celestia raised no fool. Besides, you and Gilda are so adorable together that I might try and hook up with the next one that comes in, if she's single, or her partner is willing to share."

“No guarantee,” Sunset replied with a wry grin. “We’ve never been very good at sharing, have we?”

“Mm… guess not,” her double said with an equivalent smirk.

After a moment, the Bartender frowned and looked around her, taking a deep breath before looking back at Gilda and Sunset.

“Do you think we have to suffer to be redeemed?” she asked in a voice that was almost painfully small.

Sunset looked thoughtful as she let Gilda help her down into her wheelchair, pulling the covers over her legs as she did, and after a few moments looked up at met her double’s eyes.

“I think you might have to suffer to be kind,” she said quietly. “If you haven’t really hurt, really felt the kind of pain that leaves people broken I think that… it’s hard to real feel it, but maybe that’s just me, or us,” the pair of them scoffed at the irony of that, then Sunset continued. “But there’s a difference between trying to do better, to be better, and just martyring yourself on your cause.”

A few moments passed and Sunset nodded, her grip tightening on the covers that were draped across her numb legs.

“Yeah,” she said quietly, “I think that’s the real trap… when you’re breaking yourself to try to find redemption, you’re just doing it to make yourself feel better, you know?” Sunset glanced up and met her mirror’s eyes behind the bar. “That’s just being selfish, I think, but I do think we have to be kind to be redeemed… make of that what you will.”

Her bar-tending double, nodded pensively. "You've given me a lot to think about… but you know, I think in the end, it's worth it to be kind and forgive ourselves as well… and from there find redemption." Her eyes sparkled. "Anyway, consider this on the house. You are my very first customers ever, after all, and I think you gave me more than the drink is worth… only thing is, I'd like to take a picture of you two… for the wall. And the memories."

Sunset and Gilda glanced at each other and nodded.

"Perfect!" Sunset took a camera from under the bar and went around while they set themselves for the picture. "Say cheese!"

Gilda closed the door behind them and again they were standing on the streets of Canterlot City.

"Gil," Sunset said, calling her attention.

"Yeah, babe?"

"Look."

Gilda followed the direction Sunset's finger was pointing at, and discovered the entrance to Sunset's Isekai was gone. "Damn. Y'think we'll ever see her again?"

"Well, she did give us her card," Sunset said, showing Gilda the transparent business card with the cocktail and sun cutie-mark/logo.

"Heh, well, at least we know it's out there," Gilda said, leaning down to kiss Sunset on the cheek. "Anyway, we should hurry if we don't want to worry Adagio and the others."

She started pushing Sunset's wheelchair again in silence, until Sunset spoke up. "How does it feel to know that there's another me out there?"

Gilda shrugged. "Gives me a headache, but I don't care. There's one Sunshine in my life that I care about anyway, and she's with me right now, savvy?"

And Sunset's smile was answer enough for her to know that her Sunshine did know.

All You Need Is Love (The Third Wheel Series - Post Fic)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 4: All You Need Is Love

Sunset Shimmer scrolled down the pad, considering whether she should add that box of Bendërbrau to her order. Sure, it wasn't anything special when it came to taste, but you didn't get more micro-brewery than that…and it seemed less trippy than her second choice, Spice beer.

She tapped her chin and hummed. Which one to order?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the silver bell at the door, announcing the arrival of a new patron. Well, the order could wait. It wasn't like she needed to restock that quickly anyway.

"Well. This is certainly not what I expected." The voice… was definitely not familiar. It sounded young, but refined, like some of the dignitaries that Celestia would meet occasionally in court.

Sunset watched with some interest as the creature walked in. It was pony-like, but with a black carapace and bright blue mane. The long horn on its forehead was sharp and pointy, with several holes in it, similar to the ones on its hooves.

Sunset had never seen a changeling, but she had heard Twilight talk about Queen Chrysalis, and she had to wonder if this was the infamous Queen. Her hand stayed under the bar as the creature studied the bar, her fingers hovering over the emergency button that would immediately displace any creature in the bar other than her back to their world.

The changeling stopped once she was inside and turned to study Sunset, with only a slight widening of her eyes disguising her own surprise as she took in everything, from her hair to her attire, to their size comparison. "Pardon my curiosity, but I don't recall seeing this establishment before. Are you new?"

"What? No." Sunset straightened out. "I'm a human. Sunset Shimmer, who are you?"

The changeling tilted her head, still studying her. "That name sounds familiar… I think Twilight Sparkle mentioned it at some point. Are you named after one of her friends? Or maybe you're one of the new elements?"

"Uh… no." Sunset shook her head before remembering that this was a potential client. "I'm very sorry, I just didn't anticipate a changeling guest, which I admit is my own fault. I'm a friend of Twilight Sparkle, yes. How do you know her?"

The changeling's eyes narrowed a little. "I am Queen Cheval, daughter of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor. I'm Twilight's niece. And forgive my bluntness, but how would you not anticipate a changeling guest when your bar is in the middle of the Ponyville Hive?"

Sunset cringed, and gave Cheval a small smile. "Sorry your majesty, this bar is really not there. The door did appear for you, however, so you must need a break."

Cheval took a slow, considering look around the bar, seeing the pictures on the wall. They were familiar to her, and yet not. Were it not for the manes on the creatures, she would have never recognized Pinkie Pie, Rarity and the other original Elements of Harmony as they stood—being completely different species—next to Sunset Shimmer in the photos. Curiously, there was another picture of her host, but injured in some manner, sitting in a wheelchair, with another human she did not recognize behind her, the pair holding hands with familiar intimacy. "Were you wounded at some point?"

Sunset chuckled. "Well, that's not me. Or... it is, just not... me-me." She blinked. "Explaining this is going to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated."

"I see." Cheval walked over to the bar and took a seat. "If we entertain the idea that you are indeed an otherworldly bartender, then I can assume you have no direct reason to fear me?”

Sunset's eyes widened as she understood the underlying message. "Oh. I'm very sorry, I didn't intend to come across like that… I haven't met any changelings before, and all I have to go with is what Twilight—my Twilight, that is—had to say about Queen Chrysalis."

Cheval nodded. "If that is all you had to go with, it is no wonder that you would be wary." She shook her head. "For too long we were seen as monsters, and ponies had good reason to think so: we would steal their most precious thoughts, memories, and feelings and feed off of them like leeches. Indiscriminate and voracious… never giving anything back." She shook her head. "Times have changed, but many still see us that way. Including us."

"True, but it still is a bad habit that I need to break, especially now that I'm the owner of this bar."

Cheval waved her hoof. "All is forgiven. I can't get drunk, however, so I am unsure as to how much this can help me relax."

Sunset shrugged. "I can always listen. I've never met a Changeling Queen before, why don't you tell me about yourself? What's going on in your life?"

The changeling snorted. "You really are not from around here. Very well," she levitated a cocktail list and scanned it quickly. "I'll have a Piña Colada," she said, laying the list down and depositing two golden bits on the counter.

"Coming right up!" Sunset said, fishing out the ingredients.

"So you are wondering what it's like to be a changeling queen," Cheval mused as she watched Sunset start mixing. "In a word: lonely."

Sunset pressed her lips together as she blended the cocktail. "I imagine there's a lot to being a queen that distances you from the subjects? Celestia was the same way—"

Cheval laughed. "Not at all, I mean lonely because it's hard to go out on a date!"

Sunset snorted and shook her head, pulling out the glass to pour out the Piña Colada, decorating it with slices of pineapple and cherries on the rim. She set it down with a straw in front of Cheval, who took an appreciative look at it before taking a sip.

"So, pardon my forwardness," Sunset said, once Cheval gave a hum of approval, "but you look like you could have any stallion around just by giving them the right look."

"Well, yes, but being physically attractive doesn't compensate for being a single mom," Cheval said. "Plus, I am royalty. And rich. And I can change into anything they desire. They're all for it if you flick your tail, but when you mention the fifty thousand children… it tends to chill any relationship fairly quickly."

"They run away," Sunset said.

"The honest ones do," Cheval said, "But they're not the worst. The worse ones are the ones that stick for a while, and then they think they have a right to your kids."

"I… can't say I’ve experienced that."

"Trust me, it's a pain." Cheval levitated her drink. "To staying single!" she toasted, raising an eyebrow at Sunset, who shook her head with a smile, pulled out a bit from her pocket and put it on top of Cheval's payment before she poured herself a small shot of tequila, and toasted along.

"May it never happen to me," she coughed after they had drank. "The other Sunset seemed pretty happy with Gilda."

"Dating always goes better for others, especially if they are young and mostly careless," Cheval said disdainfully. "The grass is always greener and all that. When you have some sort of responsibility, however, it's either too much for them to deal with, or you being responsible turns into you ignoring them. Because it's always about them. That's when you know it's toxic."

"Right…" Sunset sighed. "It seems like relationships are really a coin-toss."

Cheval shrugged. "I'm immortal. I have time to find the right stallion over and over."

Sunset shook her head, putting away her shot glass and cleaning the surface of the bar. "But even if they're not perfect, it can't be that bad, right?"

Cheval took a sip of the drink, seeming to enjoy the fruity flavor despite her earlier claim of not being able to get drunk. "I suppose not, for most. A changeling, however, can feel if your love for them increases or decreases over time, and it is… difficult, sometimes, if your feelings for them were genuine to know it's happening."

She sighed.

"Perhaps, it is as simple as accepting that monsters will never find true happiness." Cheval gave a little shrug. "But I have been known to make mistakes."

Sunset pursed her lips. "You know, considering that this whole thing started with Rarity having romantic issues, I shouldn't be surprised that this seems to be a common trend across the multiverse."

Cheval smirked. "I might not indulge in frequent visits to bars, but isn't that part of the job description?"

Sunset crossed her arms. "I'm fairly certain that the actual job description limits itself to basic customer service."

Cheval chuckled, finishing off her Piña Colada. "This has been a nice short break, Sunset Shimmer, but I should probably head back to my duties."

"Yeah…" Sunset slid out a silver card and gave it to Cheval. "Hey… I'm sorry I was a bit nervous when I first saw you. But for the record, if you ever need some space and someone to talk to, my bar will always be open. You should be able to find a door here if you have that card on you."

Cheval carefully took the card, then smiled. "Well, a Queen can hardly accept a gift without giving something in return."

Before Sunset's amazed eyes, Cheval was enveloped in green flames, and out of them emerged...

"Gilda?"

"Come here, honey" the rough-looking, white-haired girl said—right voice, wrong attitude—leaning over the bar. Before Sunset knew what was happening, she was being kissed. The pair remained like that for a moment, before Gilda leaned back, sensually taking her seat.

"I—"

"Love can grow anywhere, Sunset Shimmer," Gilda said, and a second later she was staring at Rarity. "But it appears that the tanned girl wasn't what you were looking for. Is this more appealing?"

"I—"

Rarity laughed before more flames brought back Cheval, who smiled wryly at her. "I think you will have plenty of time to discover who you love, but…" A thought seemed to come to her. "Do you have a glass container?"

"I—uh-huh."

Cheval accepted the offered glass jar and leaned over and hork out a golden-brown slime—it looked almost like honey—that filled the jar to the top. It slowly seemed to lose its liquid properties and harden, becoming some sort of amber, glowing softly with an inner light.

"I uh…" the scene seemed to help Sunset get her senses back. "Wait. What is that? Did you just throw up in my bar?"

"Dealing with that is part of the job description, I'm sure," Cheval said, "but it is not that. This is a special changeling byproduct. Some spies used to use it to subtly reveal if their potential victims would provide sustenance with true love."

"Oh… wow…" Sunset didn't quite pick it up, but she was fascinated. "How does it work?"

"If there is love, it glows," Cheval said. "That simple. The stronger the love the stronger the glow."

"Right." Sunset looked at the jar glass suspiciously. "It's glowing right now."

Cheval's smile didn't fade as she winked and got off her seat, heading over to the door, swaying invitingly. She stopped and looked over her shoulder. "There's always the possibility for love between two creatures that have some things in common. Whether it becomes something else…" She bowed a little. "Well, I think we have all the time in the multiverse to find out. Until next time, Sunset Shimmer."

Space-Time and Sensibility (Good Trooper Gilda - Post Fic)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 5

"And then I saw this," Gilda said, motioning with a claw at the door with a stone arch that suddenly was inside her ship.

Gleaming Shield studied the door for a moment, noticing the sign next to it, before Gilda simply stepped in.

"Welcome to Sunset's—"

"I don't believe I have ever been in this part of the ship before," Gilda said trotting into the bar, thoroughly ignoring the bartender's greeting. The griffon studied the room, then walked further in to take a look around the corner. Her eyes widened in awe at the gleaming, clean restroom visible from where she stood

"Major, this bar is longer than the entire gondola. There should have been three cannons where the little mares' room is. There's a little mare's room. We've been using buckets for three weeks! Ever since that ramming attack stove in the old head!" She looked at the whole selection of alcohol on the shelves. "Major, you have to see this. The amount of grog here could keep me in this bar for the next three weeks!"

"Harmony forfend, Gilda." Gleaming Shield sighed, following the Sergeant into the bar. "You're too young to be debauching in a place of ill repute."

Sunset started at the voice. It couldn't be…

A uniformed, unicorn version of Twilight Sparkle trotted into the bar, also smelling like she'd forgotten what the meaning of the word "soap" was. Unlike Gilda, however, she did notice Sunset. "By the grace of Her Immortal Majesty, what manner of creature are you?"

Upon hearing Twilight's question, Gilda trotted back to her and turned to face Sunset, studying her quietly for a moment, before giving a firm nod. "They look like someone plucked a schooner full of Parrots, Major."

Sunset's eyebrow twitched.

"Or ran amuck with a straight-razor in a Diamond Dog town, Gilda," Twilight replied, narrowing her eyes and studying Sunset's face.

"Could it be a stallion?"

Twilight hummed. "Hard to tell with all the clothes. Did we accidentally walk into a dressage stable?"

Sunset slammed her fist on the bar. "I'm a human, you idiots!"

To her credit, Twilight seemed unimpressed. "I say! The service here seems a tad rude."

"Unacceptable from a lowly bartender, that is, Major."

"Quite right." Twilight coughed into her hoof. "Tell me, my good monkey, how is it that you found your way into my bar?"

"Your bar?" Sunset asked, incredulous, completely forgetting her anger at the monkey remark. "This is my bar!"

"It's inside my gondola, which belongs to Her Majesty's very own Crystal Guards Flotilla. By military and naval Equestrian law, that makes it my bar."

Sunset growled, ignoring Gilda who presently seemed to be distracted by the pictures. "By multiverse law, which encompasses your universe, which encompasses your galaxy, which encompasses your solar system, which encompasses your world, which encompasses your country, which encompasses your thrice-damned military and naval laws, this bar belongs to me, Twilight."

Twilight stopped cold and glared at Sunset with such sheer anger that the latter silently questioned whether this was really Twilight Sparkle at all. "That's Major Gleaming Shield, soldier, and don't you forget it! And the laws you are quoting are questionable at best. You should feel honored to support Her Immortal Majesty's Equestrian Dominion's officers."

Sunset crossed her arms and glared right back. "That sounds as appealing as sticking my hand into the blender and having the resulting mess served to me as supper, only to discover it comes attached with a gas bill." She sniffed in disgust. "And I am neither a monkey nor a soldier. My name is Sunset Shimmer."

Twilight studied her for a moment. "Are you quite sure?" Before Sunset could answer, she approached the bar in an almost casual manner. "Sunset Shimmer? Really. Does the name Sol Invictus mean anything to you?"

Sunset blinked, taken aback by the slight threatening undertone in Twilight's voice despite her casual manner. "Not really? I think it means 'Invincible Sun'?"

"Have you ever been to Gould's Jetty? Or the Dragonstones?"

"I try to avoid Goa'ulds as a general rule, they're kind of pushy, and I have no need for three wishes right now."

"I have no idea what that means."

"Then, for once since this encounter started, we seem to have something in common," Sunset said, smiling brightly, "because I have no idea what you are talking about either."

"There's a bench warrant out on a unicorn named Sunset Shimmer for privateering without a letter of marque, waging private war, multiple counts of murder and mass kidnapping."

"WHAT?!"

"...or possibly slavery, we haven't found out where her victims dissapeared to, yet." Twilight hummed. "But I don't see any horn on you, and there aren't any accounts of Captain Shimmer being a shapeshifter."

Her horn glowed and Sunset felt a slight tingle around her. "Did you just scan me without consent?"

"Hrm. Negative result. Must be an odd coincidence," Twiight mused.

Twilight took that in stride. "In any case, Miss Shimmer, I am willing to grant that your bar seems to be a subspace bubble that found itself attached to my ship, in which case, I am in full rights to requisition as much as I need from your storage."

Sunset leaned forward. "You think I'm just going to let you pillage my bar?"

Twilight huffed in contempt. "Tell me, Miss Shimmer, if you were me, and every single race you knew of with a bipedal gait was an enemy of Her Immortal Majesty's Equestrian Dominion, would you take the sudden parasitization of your highly advanced aerial warship by an establishment run by bipedal apes with any sort of equanimity? Or would you occupy the carbuncle with every armed pony and griffon at your disposal? The only reason I am not doing that right now is for fear that my entire complement of Guards would promptly drink themselves under your admittedly sturdy-looking tables."

"You understand, Sparkle, that it is within my capabilities to displace you and Gilda from your gondola and drop the both of you within the halls of a Tartarus run by none other than Pinkie Pie?"

That seemed to give pause to Twilight for just a second, before she slowly smiled. "Why this is Tartarus, Miss Shimmer, nor am I ever out of it. And there is nopony of that name anywhere in this bar, unless you have a Twilight Sparkle hidden in your apron pocket?"

"Gilda, is there any chance you could knock some sense into Twilight?"

The griffon guffawed, "If it were that easy—" she stopped mid-sentence and cleared her throat. "I'm afraid there's no one of that name that I am aware of in this gondola."

Sunset rolled her eyes. "Regardless, I refuse to let you pillage my bar."

"Well, I was about to pillage your fair bar, so I thought I ought to bring up the subject first," Twilight said, shrugging. "My dear monkey—"

"Human."

Twilight continued as if she hadn't been interrupted. "...you know what port bars say about sailors?" She motioned towards the door. "I've got sixty ravening tars outside those doors looking to enact a perpetual Fleet Week on your lovely little establishment, which has been so unfortunate as to establish its metaphysical cotermination within our hull, for however long you remain. I suggest you allow us to exert our requisitions in exchange for my Guard barring entry to the crew. Who have been nursing a collective professional grudge ever since Celestia ended the rum ration about ten years back. They so rarely get the chance to enhance their limes with proper shipboard alcohol anymore."

Sunset tapped her fingers on the bar. "Fine."

Twilight and Gilda both seemed surprised. "Fine?"

"Fine. Fine." Sunset waved her arms. "Fine. Anything to get you both out of here. But if you're doing this, we're doing it by the rules or I won't get any of my stuff back from the providers. I'll need signed and stamped requisition orders."

After a brief moment, Twilight nodded, looking at her warily. "You seem oddly compliant now."

Sunset crossed her arms and shrugged. "I rather like my bar in one piece as it is. If all it takes is losing a few bottles, then that's what I'll do."

"Gilda, keep the monkey company," Twilight said turning—rather eagerly one might say—to head out the door. "Don't let any sailor in here until I have brought the paperwork."

Once the door closed Gilda and Sunset looked at each other with something akin to uncomfortable silence. Truth be told, Gilda could use the break from the constant bickering between her fellow soldiers and the ship's crew, who were not too happy about having their ship taken over, even if it was under Her Majesty's orders.

That, and the idea that they'd have a LOT of alcohol soon enough, was also appealing. Kinda sucked that the monkey would lose some of her stock, but all things considered, she was getting away easy.

"Gilda," Sunset said, clearing her throat. "I've met you in… other places, so I'm willing to ignore the crazy in favor of a more… amiable discussion. You said earlier you hadn't used a proper bathroom in a long time correct? I hate to say this but I can really tell. How about you take advantage that Major Sparkle is not here and use it first? I'll pour you a drink in the meantime."

Gilda narrowed her eyes. Pretty much since leaving port, she had been deprived of a good toilet, having to make due with buckets, and occasionally—as long as nogriff was around—the edge of the ship. Needless to say, the promise of a nice, clean toilet was a very, very good incentive. But it was clear this not-pirate, not-unicorn, so-called Sunset Shimmer was planning something.

Gilda was no fool. "Are you trying to bribe me with a shower and beer?"

"Yes."

"Fair enough," Gilda said, nodding in understanding, she glanced at the door, trotting over there to lock it before she came back in. At least this Sunset Shimmer knew better than to lie outright. "But I expect no less than a full pint of your best grog, Miss Shimmer."

"Far be it from me to deny a friend a good drink."

Gilda snorted and started walking towards the little filly's room. "You said you knew me from other places?" she asked, stopping on the way, glancing over to the bartender, wondering what her other self would have been doing. Had she stayed in griffonstone? "Pray tell, what do I—this other me do?"

Sunset Shimmer shrugged. "Nothing much, as far as I know," she said, "I only know she's engaged…" she trailed off, giving Gilda an odd look. "To a mutual acquaintance."

Gilda snorted. "Sure. Anyway, I'll be right back. Better have that ready for me."

Sunset Shimmer replied by lifting a rather large tankard and waving it at her.

Nodding, Gilda pushed the filly's room door open and stepped through… suddenly finding herself standing on the deck of the gondola. Behind her the door swung closed. Slowly, comprehension seeped into her and she opened the door, revealing only a staircase going further into the ship. "Bugger me."

"Sergeant!" Major Gleaming Shield called, stomping onto the deck, her eyes narrowed. "What are you doing out here? You were supposed to be on guard!"

Gilda gulped. "She tricked, me, she did!" she said quickly, then, realizing this didn't put her in a good light, she cleared her throat. "She kept looking at the restrooms. I asked her if there was anygriff back there. She said no. I knew she was lying, so I went to check. Couldn't risk there being other monkeys in there, ma'am. In order to secure the premises, I had to check. Turns out she was lying about there actually being a toilet behind the door, damn her."

"Tsk," Gleaming Shield rolled her eyes. "And I had all the paperwork done. It's a good thing that I anticipated the honorless ape would do something like this, so I procured one of the bottles while using my shapeshifting-scan spell to mask it." She levitated a glass bottle decorated with three green apples and some sort of old ape depicted on the sticker.

Gilda narrowed her eyes as she read the label. "What in Hades is Scumble?"

"Don't know, don't care," Gleaming Shield said. "This will certainly be a worthy reward for our inconvenience. The bottle alone shows how much care went into it."

"Considering that it is reinforced with steel, I can't argue with that."

"Well then, let's go have a drink."

"In the middle of the day, ma'am?" Gilda asked rhetorically, following Gleaming Shield into the ship anyway.

"Shouldn't be too bad. We can always dilute it with some water."

Once Upon a Time (Game of Worlds - Ongoing)

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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."

Krogan Traditions (Sparkle's #1 Assistant - Ongoing)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 7

"Anything so far, EDI?" Twilight asked on her way down to the lower decks.

"My search for any information concerning the Pathfinder continues, Commander. Currently I am translating all alien transmission protocols I have encountered and using what information we have to obtain reliable information. I will inform you of anything I find."

"Good. Not knowing who we're dealing with is giving me a headache." Twilight hummed and emerged from the elevator, making her way to the infirmary. It didn't take long before she stood there, studying the surprising addition to the ship. Granted, it was her first time in this particular area (she had first checked the guns) and as such, this could be some sort of aesthetic decision made by someone who shouldn't be making aesthetic decisions. But it seemed unlikely.

"EDI?" she called out.

"Yes, Commander?"

"Why is there an oak door with a rock frame inside the infirmary?"

"I… do not believe there is one, Twilight."

"Yep. There definitely is. I'm looking at it right now. It seems to have some sort of cutie mark on it too. It appears to be the entrance to a bar, if we go by the blackboard sign."

"If anyone would have an entrance to a bar inside the Normandy, it would be Dr. Chakwas."

"I'm sorry, EDI, what was that?"

"Nothing, Twilight," EDI replied smoothly, "I recommend sealing the infirmary and setting a standard quarantine protocol until we can establish the exact nature of this phenomenon."

"...nah. I think I'll go in and check it out."

"Of course you will," EDI responded. "I can see now that the very human need to ignore the logical signs of potential danger in favor of ephemeral adrenaline-induced rewards is tragically shared with other sentient species... such as unicorns."

Twilight blinked. "EDI, are you developing sarcasm?"

"I have dedicated several processes to understand and communicate adequate disdain whenever it seems appropriate," the AI reported. "I am happy to inform that the process has been running for several years and that the results are conclusive."

Twilight nodded, knowing that EDI would be able to see her. "I am both impressed and concerned." She smirked. "But I guess a drink would help with that."

"Commander, as much as valuable a lesson could potentially be learned by meandering into the unknown, barely prepared and heavily armed, I feel it is my responsibility to inform you that going alone is a bad idea by any metric."

"Oh. I'm not planning to."

Sunset sighed, slipping in the new picture she had taken with Rarity into a frame, and putting it up with the others. True, Istar had been a fleeting beauty, as her friend/partner had said, but as always, Rarity had failed to mention small details, such as the fact that it was fleeting because the local gods decided to smash a meteor on it just as the whole city broke into a rebellion.

And just because it had happened in the past and it couldn't be changed didn't make her feel any better to see what amounted to bloody violence ending in fire. On the plus side, the food in the Kingrpriest's banquet hall had been great.

She frowned and shook her head. Not great enough to merit the panicked run through the streets until they had reached her bar. She'd have to get used to not trying to change the future. That old coot, Fizban had been very insistent on that one.

"Alright… two crates of Xak Tsaroth Red, one box of Black Peak, two crates of Mithas Brandy… note to self: contact Kaziganthi de-Orilg next time I visit that time period. What else… six bottles of Elvenblood Wine… and four kegs of Dwarven Deepbrew." She ticked off everything in the scroll, then turned around and updated her stock on the tablet.

She sighed and looked around the bar. "Just how many secrets do you have in here?" she wondered. "Seriously, though. An armory with a full plate armor set? Just... " she shook her head. "I can't even."

Just then the silver bell rang, announcing her new guests. Quickly, she threw the swords, bow, and arrows, magic staff and robes under the bar itself and into the "lost and found" box, then started wiping the surface. The last thing she needed was for new customers to think she had just participated in an Ogres and Oubliettes game in her bar and forgotten to clean up. It was thankfully quick to straighten out, as she had thankfully not needed to engage in combat at all, and there was no blood, and—if she had it her way—she never would.

For a moment, nothing happened, then, a familiar magical signature tingled the edge of her senses, and a gun floated into the room, followed by an armored unicorn Twilight Sparkle. The black armor with the white and red stripes hugged her shape, but seemed comfortable enough to wear, if a little unusual for unicorns.

Then again, this was clearly not her Twilight Sparkle.

She was about to greet her when she heard the thumps that preceded the arrival of a dinosaur-like creature in armor of similar make to Twilight's. It had a red crest on top of his head, and although it looked reptilian for the most part, she couldn't help but compare the face to some bats that Fluttershy had shown her once. The pair looked like they could fight an army and come out victorious.

It was surreal.

She cleared her throat. "Uh, welcome to Sunset's Isekai!" she said, smiling as the pair turned to face her. "My name is Sunset Shimmer, and I'll be your bartender tonight."

The Twilight with the gun held her gaze for a moment before sighing and putting away her gun, which collapsed into a small tube and attached to her armor before she turned and slapped ten bits on the claw/hand of the creature that had followed her in. "Alright, Wrex, how did you know?"

"Ehehehe," the creature named Wrex chuckled. "I'm not going to tell you every secret I know, Sparkle.That's a story for another time."

"So, uh…" Sunset cleared her throat. "What can I get for you?"

Twilight levitated a menu. "The Psychotic Biotic for me. Wrex?"

"Burukh," he said, his gravelly voice slightly amused. "It's the black bottle on the second level, closest to the cashier."

"Right."

Sunset proceeded to make the cocktails, all the while feeling Twilight's eyes on her. "So, you're a human, huh? Alliance?"

"Alliance? I don't think there's one where I come from… I take it you haven't met your Sunset Shimmer yet?" Sunset asked. "I'm surprised, that's usually…" She trailed off, noticing this Twilight had no wings. "Well, I guess it might not be time yet."

"My Sunset Shimmer?" Twilight asked, confused. She narrowed her eyes. "So it is a space-time bubble unrelated to my own timeline. Interesting. By your statement I'm to assume you are a repeating anomaly?"

"So are you," Sunset replied, setting down the red cocktail for Twilight before carefully pouring the Burukh in a glass for Wrex, then setting it on fire with a snap of her fingers. "I know a Pr—Twilight Sparkle in Equestria, she hatched a dragon… not a—" she gave Wrex a quizzical look.

"Krogan," Wrex supplied watching the liquor boil before blowing off the fire and downing it in one gulp. "Ha! That hits the spot. Now, how about a glass of Ryncol to chase it down, Sunny?"

"A krogan, yes. And she had a human counterpart in the dimension I've lived in for the last few years. Her "dragon" in this other world is a dog," she explained as she went over to fetch his drink. "Then there was the one I last met…" she made a sour face and shook her head before pouring the glass. "Here's your drink, sir."

"Call me Wrex. It'll make things easier in the future."

"Will do," Sunset said, smiling as she studied the pair. "I'm guessing I'm missing a lot of history here, so, unless you want me to read your mind, why don't you guys tell me about your relationship?" She picked up the Elvenblood Wine bottles and started organizing them.

"I hatched him," Twilight started to explain, but sighed when Wrex snorted. "Okay, so not… hatched... exactly, since he was in stasis within an ezoo-powered capsule that landed in Equestria a long time ago. But, apparently the ponies in Celestia's school thought it was some sort of mutated dragon egg."

"I took up her education from then on, whenever Sun-butt needed her concentrating on other things," Wrex explained. "And now she's—"

"Commander Twilight Sparkle," Twilight interrupted.

'Great.' Sunset thought. "So… you're not going to try to 'requisition my booze', right?"

Twilight gave her a glare. "We're soldiers, not pirates. Besides, the Normandy already has a bar. Granted, not as well stocked as this one, but decent enough."

"Thank Celestia," Sunset muttered, relaxing her shoulders. "I thought I was going to have another of those situations."

"So what is this place?" Twilight asked, motioning with her hoof.

"It's a bar, Sparkle," Wrex intoned, "I've taken you to bars before. In fact, you've destroyed half of them."

"Only for legitimate reasons! One was harboring criminals, and the other one was collateral damage not instigated by me!"

"What about the one in lower Canterlot that I took you to for your thirteenth birthday?"

"You took her to a bar for her thirteenth birthday?!" Sunset hissed.

"In all fairness," Twilight responded undaunted, "he did not let me drink anything too alcoholic."

"Too alcoholic."

"Right."

"And you destroyed this bar in Lower Canterlot... why?" Sunset asked.

"I asked for a Pina Colada and they gave me a virgin version."

"You were thirteen!"

"It was a Pina Colada!" Twilight countered. "That's as "virgin" as it gets! You don't have to add a chastity belt to it!"

Sunset studied Twilight for a moment in silence before she decided it was not worth arguing. "Right. So… this is my bar. It appears where creatures need a different kind of drink."

"Interesting, do you have a system to appear in some specific places, or is it just random?"

Sunset shrugged. "I sort of let it happen. I can decide to leave or even go back to a place if I want to, or if I know a specific place I want to visit, that can be done. I'm completely new to the Multiverse, so my choices are limited by my current knowledge." She tilted her head. "You said you were in the Normandy?"

"It's my ship."

Wrex snorted.

"Okay, it's Commander Shepard's ship, but, since I'm the closest thing to Shepard left, it is mine by default."

Sunset looked at Wrex, who simply shrugged. "It's true. If Shepard had been born a little unicorn filly, with unnatural magical prowess and was trained by a Krogan Warlord and given her own command… yeah, she'd be the closest thing, I suppose."

"Right now I have some of Shepard's crew and Princess Luna, along with my very own strike-team, in the ship, and we're heading over to rescue a little filly that was kidnapped by space pirates," Twilight said.

Sunset's eyes went wide. "Oh. Damn. Is she—"

"She was rescued," Twilight said, raising a hoof and then sipping her drink. "But not by us, now we have to figure out who this so-called Pathfinder is, and get Dinky back." She grimaced. "Maybe then Derpy will finally join the team."

"Derpy?" Sunset asked, blinking. "Derpy Hooves?"

"Oh, you know her?"

"Probably not the same," Sunset said, frowning. "The one I know was a very awkward teenager."

"Well this one is a very awkward pony," Wrex said, "but good with explosives, and a dedicated parent." He shrugged. "Can't find a fault in that."

Sunset nodded slowly. "Yes. I can see how that would be a bonus."

"Right?" Twilight sighed. "I mean, how can she prefer working for the Post Office over this?"

"Maybe you should sit down and find out what her priorities are when you have a moment?" Sunset suggested. "You might not be getting the whole picture. If she's a mother she might be concentrating her time on her kid and might want a job that involves less bodily harm so her daughter doesn't end up orphaned."

"Huh." Twilight leaned back. "That's probably true. I haven't really asked her what she wants, I just assumed… heh. You're alright, Shimmer."

"You know," Wrex spoke up, "we have a tradition in the Normandy."

Twilight blinked, then looked from him to Sunset. "I mean, she's cute enough, I don't know if she's into mares…"

Wrex turned to look at Twilight. "I meant besides you and Octavia banging (or trying to bang) every mare you meet."

"Oh."

"Anyway, before a big mission Shepard and the crew would have a good drinking competition," he said, digging into his armor and pulling out a hefty bag of gold bits, which he set on the counter. "And the bartender would join."

"I-I'm not sure…"

"Oh, come on, Sunny," Twilight said, "Don't tell me you own a bar and can't handle a couple of drinks?"

Sunset narrowed her eyes. "What do you have in mind?"

Wrex leaned back, a smug grin on his face. "Well. I do see a few kegs of Dwarven Deepbrew right there. I think there's more than enough bits to cover the cost of at least one."

"I'm going to regret this…" Sunset muttered. "Come on, let's take a picture together so I can add it later, and I'll set the bar on automatic so I don't have to remember to drop you off."

As Sunset walked around the bar, Twilight leaned over to Wrex. "What is Dwarven Deepbrew?" she hissed.

Wrex shrugged. "I have no idea."

Princess Luna studied the star map in the Normandy's bridge with interest. Already, as they flew past thousands of stars, she felt their power grow and dim as distance was reduced then increased. Even if she wasn't as accurate as this visual representation, her sense of this Andromeda Galaxy was constantly growing. If they ever had to come back, she would probably be able to navigate them through it without the need for the map, if it became necessary.

"Commander Sparkle is back," EDI said, her metallic, bipedal form approaching her. "She seems to be feeling ill."

Luna frowned. "But she left the bridge ten minutes ago, how can she—"

The elevator opened and Wrex stepped out, Twilight slung under his arm. "Damn. That was some good stuff."

"Ugh… Wrex, tell EDI to stop swaying the ship."

"We're in space, Twilight, with artificially generated gravity. I don't sway," EDI said.

Twilight looked up and studied her for a moment. "No, you really do sway. Especially whe—"

"Alright," Wrex interrupted. "I'm taking Sparkle to her room and dropping her there before she says something that will get her in trouble later."

"Awww," Twilight muttered, but didn't struggle as the krogan turned around. "Yer no fun, Wreck."

Luna turned to look at EDI. "Anything I should know?"

EDI shook her head. "I will inform Miss Octavia that she is needed. I have also received a preliminary report on the Pathfinder," she said, bringing up a screen for Luna to study.

The Princess glanced at the picture on the screen, where a member of a species identified as human was smiling goofily at the camera. She had a red and gold mane, with teal irises. "Huh. Sarah Ryder. We shall meet you soon."

End Chapter

Lonesome Heart (Bulletproof Heart - Complete)

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Sunset's Isekai
Chapter 8
By Wanderer D and PaulAsaran

The soldiers were gone at last. Rarity slipped out from behind the water barrels, flicking the nearby market pony a tip for not saying anything, then headed for the nearest alleyway. This day was turning out to be more trouble than it was worth; soldiers trying to kill her, Twilight keeping Applejack occupied, and she still hadn’t found her quarry. All that on top of the sun deciding Hoofington needed to be extra crispy today.

She flinched at the burning sensation on her upper arm, raising it to peer at the wound. A close shave. It would need stitches. Her attention turned to the fresh tear in Limestone’s jacket, to say nothing of the white shirt underneath. Formerly white. ’Confound those cretins. Do they have any idea what I have to do to deal with bloodstains?’ She’d have to purchase some more thread and fabric before leaving this wretched town, assuming she could find one that would accept her patronage.

A criminal. They were calling her a criminal! Which was better than what they were calling Pinkie Pie, but still! She’d have to finish her task soon and get out of Hoofington, find a place that wasn’t corrupt to the core. She hoped her friend was well away from this place, wherever she might be.

She paused at the end of the alley, stepping back upon seeing the familiar yellow coats of local soldiers. The place was crawling with them. Which made sense, considering they’d just lost her trail and she couldn’t have gone far. She imagined it was only a matter of time before they checked the alley. She took off her hat and rubbed the sweat from her forehead with the back of her arm. “Just peachy. Applejack, Twilight, where are you when I need you?”

She turned around to look for alternative escape routes. Her attention immediately settled upon a door that she was certain hadn’t been there two seconds ago. Ignoring that, it’s whole aesthetic was alien to the region: an arch made of grey stone and a solid-looking oak door. Above it was a stylized yellow and red sun. “Well. That’s… different.” Her ears perked to the sound of whom she presumed to be soldiers barking orders. “I’ll just have to hope they have a back door.” Rubbing the nub on Silver Lining, Rarity pushed her way inside, closing the door as carefully and quietly as possible despite the tinkling of the bell above her.

What she found within was not at all what she’d anticipated. The walls were brick, the small red brick that she’d only ever seen in Manehattan’s wealthier districts. There were a number of wooden tables, their apparent age but smooth finishes giving them a charming air. What really had her attention, however, was the long bar in the back and the rows upon rows of spirits. So she’d not only entered a place with an architectural design unlike anything she’d seen in Hoofington, but also stumbled upon some kind of bar. A nice one.

Which, now that she thought about it, could be exactly what she needed. This looked like the kind of place the Shrouding Midnight might frequent were she not a total homebody. Perhaps there was a connection somehow. A longshot, for certain, but Rarity was willing to risk it. Assuming the soldiers didn’t come barging in looking for her, that is.

There was nopony at the bar just now, but she could hear water running in the back. ‘Indoor plumbing? Definitely an upscale bar. What in Equestria is it doing in this out-of-the-way back alley?’ Her boots clopping loudly on the wood floor, Rarity stopped by the bar. “Hello? Anypony home?”

Sunset washed her face for what seemed to be the third time that day already, trying to wash the last of the grogginess away. Turning to glare at herself in the mirror, she held her own eyes and spoke out. "You will never again agree to a drinking competition with a krogan."

The familiar ring of the silver bell announcing the arrival of a new patron made her wince. She quickly studied herself, making sure she was dressed as prim and proper as Rarity had designed. She checked her hair. The position of her pin.

She could hear footsteps. Hard taps, sounded bipedal. Another soldier?

"Hello? Anypony home?" a familiar voice reached her.

Huh. Rarity.

"Sorry! I'll be right there. Please take a seat," she called out, quickly flashing a smile that hid the headache and stepped out of the restroom. She didn't run, but she did hurry, and slipped behind the bar, her eyes already studying the stunning figure across from her.

It was Rarity, but a Rarity like she had never seen before. Several thoughts flashed across her mind. 'She's gorgeous! She's half pony! She's a cowgirl! That's just as epic as Commander Twilight!' The thought, however, reminded her of how much that particular Twilight could drink and in turn, sobered her up. "Welcome to Sunset's Isekai," she said, bowing slightly at the mare, then as she straightened, she frowned, noticing the blood. "I… would offer you a drink, but maybe you'd like to use my med kit?"

Rarity stared at the… woman? Yes, absolutely a woman. Almost a pony, but there were some distinct differences. The flat face, for example. Well, flat-er. But that hair, those eyes… It couldn’t be, and yet it sounded just like her. Sunset Shimmer, most certainly. But what was she doing here, in this fancy bar in hoofington, and dressed so wonderfully? More importantly, she didn’t seem to recognize Rarity at all.

“I… um… Sunset Shimmer?”

Sunset blinked, then grinned. “Oh, you know me in your world? Awesome, that makes things so much easier. But, uh, what would you like to do about that?” She pointed at Rarity’s wound. “That looks bad. Let me get you something for that.”

That snapped Rarity out of her bewilderment. That Sunset was here—and apparently no longer a pony?—was a mystery that would have to wait until later. “No time, darling. The soldiers here have decided I’m not welcome and could come storming in at any minute. I just had a couple questions and then I’ll be on my way.”

“Oh.” Though clearly bewildered by this, Sunset waved her hand dismissively. “You don’t have to worry about that. I give you my word that no soldiers will be storming into my bar.” Rarity only barely heard her grumble the word “Again.” The mare...woman… thing hurried away. “Just a sec, let me get you that med kit!”

Rarity had to wonder just what kind of establishment she’d gotten into. Could this Sunset really prevent the soldiers from coming in? That didn’t seem likely. From where she was standing, Rarity didn’t even see a locking mechanism on the door, nor did this version of Sunset have a horn. Still, it was Sunset Shimmer… wasn’t it? She might be able to trust her.

She pulled Ruby Heart and Silver Lining out and set them on the bar, just in case, then eased herself into one of the leather stools. After a moment’s consideration, she took off her jacket and set it on the seat next to her own, then placed her hat on top.

Sunset came back with a large white box, freezing upon seeing the guns. “Whoa. Are those yours?”

Definitely not her Sunset. What in Equestria was going on here? “Yes. Sunset, I must admit to being thoroughly flummoxed. Why are you here? What are you? And can I please get that med kit, now? Oh.” She reached into the pouch on her belt and produced a few sapphires, setting them on the table. “I appreciate you letting me use your supplies like this.”

Sunset blinked at the sapphires, before rolling her eyes. "Geez, you never change, do you? I'm not going to charge you for this," she said, opening up the large plastic box containing her kit. "I'll only charge for a drink later. But not for helping you with a wound."

She turned the open box around, so that Rarity could look for what she needed. Cowboy Rarity seemed slightly surprised by the amount of things in there, but her guest was nowhere near as surprised as she herself was when Rarity picked out thread and needle.

"Oh." She gulped. "So you're doing that, huh?"

"Yes, darling," Rarity responded, giving her a slightly amused look. "Even if your words are true and my pursuers cannot come in, I’d rather stitch this than galivate around losing blood. Don't you agree?" Cowboy Rarity looked at her, her expression not even betraying any pain. "Are you sure you're okay? You're looking a little bit green."

Sunset laughed nervously. "You know, I've seen worse…" She cringed as Rarity moved her shirt out of the way. "...in a medieval world. So, you know. Swords. Spell-blasts. Meteorites… But I've never seen anyone stitch themselves up. Is uh, there something I could do to help?"

Rarity smiled after a few seconds. "Oh, I do appreciate it, Sunset. How about you prepare the gauze in there and the bandages? And do explain this place," she added, waving around them with the hand holding the needle.

"Ah," Sunset said, swallowing again and taking a deep breath. She turned the box around and started fishing out antiseptic cream, gauze and bandages. "Well, ahem. Alright, in order, yeah… This bar is in a pocket dimension, it moves around, but don't worry! I won't take you anywhere… I sort of…" She trailed off, smiling sheepishly. "When I set it up with my Rarity as a business partner, I made sure it would allow only those that really need a break from life in. I can make it so no time passes out there, but I can also make it so that it does. Generally I let my guests out basically at the same time they came in."

Once the essentials were on the table, she moved the medical kit out of the way, grimacing as she watched Rarity work. The gorgeous mare's arm was covered in blood, it flowed a bit more freely as Rarity patched herself up, so she quickly produced a clean towel from the bar and slid across, gently setting it in front of Rarity, all the time well aware of how her guest had been watching her every move.

Sunset leaned back. "Uh. So you don't stain more of your clothes, the towel is clean so you can use it after you're done and we can put some antibiotic cream on top," she explained lamely, looking down. "I've… never seen a bullet wound. I bet if Twilight and Wrex were still here you'd be all patched up. I'm sorry."

A pocket dimension. That sounded like something Twilight would understand, but the concept flew over Rarity’s cowboy hat. Still, she had a general idea of the meaning. She threaded the needle through her skin, cringing at the pain the act caused. How many times had she done this now? Strange, how some things got easier with practice.

“My thanks for the towel.” She hissed as the needle pierced her flesh once more. Talking. Talking made it easier. “So, there are other Rarities and Sunset and Twilights out there? That’s… interesting. But I suppose I’ll trust you. I wouldn’t have put you in charge of Little Longhorn otherwise.” At the woman’s cocked head she added, “Long story.”

“Right.” Sunset nodded, still a little pale as she watched Rarity work. When Rarity used her magic to cut the thread and tie it off, she offered the antiseptic cream. “A-anyway, uh, there are technically infinite yous and mes and Twilights out there. My bar caters to all of them, and any other friendly, provided they need a drink and someone to talk to.”

Rarity said nothing as she rubbed the cream on her arm, mostly because she was clenching her teeth against the pain as the salve did its job. Once the sting died down, she grumbled a distracted, “I don’t drink. And I honestly don’t know what we’d talk about.”

“A Rarity who doesn’t drink?” Sunset flinched at Rarity’s glare. “Sorry! I'm not criticizing you, I promise. We’ve got non-alcoholic stuff too.” Sunset reached under the bar and pulled out a small, ornate menu. “For when you’re ready. I promise, nothing alcoholic on this one.”

The gauze had already been applied and Rarity had begun wrapping her arm in the bandage. She considered her options, only to realize that no soldiers had tried to get into the bar. There hadn’t even been a knock so far. And if she really could step out at the same time she stepped in—something she’d have to see to believe—then there was no harm in sticking around for a rest, was there? Luna knew she could use a break.

“Very well, Sunset, I’ll play along.” Arm bandaged, she lowered her shirt back into place and grabbed the menu. “How about we start with your attire? I must know who your tailor is. Wait, don’t tell me.” She smirked. “It was me, right? The taste is impeccable, so I can’t imagine it being anypony else.” A glance at the menu. “Virgin apple cider? From Sweet Apple Acres? Now I have no choice but to compare.”

Sunset chuckled. "That's the Rarity I know," she said, grinning as she took the menu. She glanced at it and frowned before running a line across the "virgin Pina Colada", then she pulled out a cold bottle of cider and popped it open, serving it in a glass with ice for Rarity. "But yes. Rarities, Sunsets, Chrysalises, etc. Not all of them pleasant, but I don't think any so far have been, you know, evil."

She went around the bar to bring a couple of frames, one with her friend the inter-dimensional Rarity, and one with pony Twilight and Wrex. "So, this is how you look in my second world, and this is roughly how you and I look in my original world." When Rarity looked down to the unicorn in the picture up to her, she smiled. "I travel a lot."

Rarity sniffed the cider and took a careful sip, making sure there was no alcohol in there before smiling and drinking a bit more. Sunset for her part leaned back and took a deep breath. "So you know me here, huh? I'm glad I seemed trustworthy to you, although I guess I always meet myself after I've reformed." She licked her lips, glancing at the bottle of changeling amber-sap. Yep. There you go, slight glow. 'Figures.'

She watched Rarity relax a little. "Anyway, this is the first time I've seen you like this… There must be a lot behind how you can take care of yourself." She motioned with her head at the guns. "You speak like a well-educated mare, your mannerisms are practically courtly, but you have an air of danger around you that just seeps through… and yet you remain warm, yourself. Also, before I forget, I do have some extra shirts and a washing machine, if you'd like… although if you just want to let some cold water run through the fabric that should take care of most of the blood…"

Rarity chuckled at Sunset’s blatant curiosity. “Darling, if you only knew. I’ve been shot, burned, nearly drowned, almost starved to death on three separate occasions, ran into poison joke, met a veritable goddess (even if she denies the title), nearly blown up… I imagine I’m forgetting something. Point is, this?” She raised her arm in display. “This is nothing. A scratch. But a flesh wound.” She sipped her cider, which was every bit as delicious as she’d hoped, while Sunset gaped at her. “Yes, that’s about the reaction I would anticipate.”

Sunset sighed and crossed her arms. "I guess I'm full of questions… but if you don't want to talk about it, I'm not going to force you." She smiled understandingly and shrugged. "Hay, it's Friendship Lesson number… uh… 10? Anyway, respect your friend's space."

Sunset shook her head. “Geez, and I thought I’d had it tough at times. Suddenly all that complaining I did as Celestia’s protege makes me feel like a whiny, spoiled child.”

“Ah, I remember that— Hold on, Celestia?” Rarity almost dropped her glass. “Y-you know Celestia? No… No, wait…” She groaned and sat back in her seat. “Alternate universes, right. It almost certainly wouldn’t be our Celestia. If it were that easy she’d have come back by now.”

To this Sunset said nothing, for which she was glad. While her gracious host started cleaning up the medical supplies, Rarity distracted herself with the pictures laid out before her. A Chrysalis that looked uncannily like the one from her world, only quadrupedal. How strange. Was there a quadrupedal Rarity out there, too? What other strange forms might she have? She examined the big photo with all of Sunset’s friends, taking in herself.

A young Rarity, with six equally young, just as happy friends. They were all… whatever they were, but still easily identifiable. Herself, Sunset, Twilight. That one with the exploding pink mane had to be Pinkie Pie. There was even… She smirked. “So, is your Applejack a pervert, too?

Sunset snapped the hitches of the medical kit closed even as she shot Rarity a wide-eyed look. “A pervert? No way, not AJ. She’s got to be the most respectable person there is. How could you possibly jump to that conclusion?”

Sighing, Rarity set the frame aside, face-down. “To be fair, ‘pervert’ is probably too strong a word, first impressions aside. But she… did something, and I haven’t let her forget it. She’s been trying to make it up for me for a while.” A sip of the cider. A light smile. “She’s begun trying to serenade me with her guitar and singing. I tell her it won’t work, but she insists she’s ‘just practicing’, that she’ll ‘serenade me for real’ when she’s found the right song. It’s actually quite charming.”

Using the same hand holding the glass, she thrust a finger at Sunset. “But in case you ever meet her, don’t you dare tell her I said so.”

“My lips are sealed.” Sunset mimed locking her mouth, a motion that she had to have picked up from her world’s Pinkie Pie. She leaned against the bar and eyed her guest with a warm smile. “You and AJ, huh? That’s kinda cute, to be honest.”

“Oh, Goddess, don’t say that.” Rarity covered her face behind a hand as her cheeks started to burn. “It’s confusing enough as it is.”

Sunset grinned, picking up a glass and starting to clean it with a too obvious nonchalant attitude. "You don't say? Well, if you haven't met your Celestia yet, then count yourself lucky on the romantic advice department. Mine was always putting her nose where it didn't belong." She frowned. "Well. One of them anyway, but it was sort of her job to stop students from doing things that they might regret later. Speaking of which, I'm making some coffee."

She proceeded to set up her espresso machine while Rarity watched. "You know… I think Rarity… my friend in the picture—not my business partner—had a thing for Applejack back home. But they had been friends for a long time, so they knew how to hide it better? It's weird thinking they already sorted a little something of their lives out."

She pressed the coffee and slid it into place. "I was ahead in schoolwork, and I guessed a lot of things, but relationships? Celestia forbid. My "ex" was more of an excuse to get popular in school, and he really deserved someone better than some transformed unicorn that saw him as an easy step up in popularity." She tapped her chin, glancing at Rarity. "Although he did try to serenade me once too, after I broke up with him, and now I can't get my head around how—technically—Applejack serenading you with country music is not going to end up in drama."

"What do you mean, darling?" Rarity asked, tilting her head.

"Let's say country music was not her jam. It's just that the only times my friend Rarity wore a cowboy hat, was when Applejack placed it on her head, which now that I look back on it, was kind of a big hint."

Once her coffee was ready, she quickly downed it. "And again, sorry for that," she made a face, "it's just I'm still recuperating from a bad decision involving creatures that can drink a lot more than I. I'm just glad my bar is closed whenever I say it is, or I would have had a lot to explain to potential customers if they had arrived before you did."

She glanced at the guns again, oddly curious. "So… mind telling me how you got these? I've got to admit, I've seen some really impressive guns, futuristic mostly, but these look like works of art."

A curious dodge, but one Rarity could appreciate. “That’s because they are works of art. Really, would you expect me to fight with anything less?” Rarity smirked as she took Silver Lining in her hand, giving it a quick twirl. She might have an audience of one, but that was no reason not to show off. “Gifts, as it were. Silver Lining here is my first weapon, and it… took some getting used to. It was given to me by a—” She hesitated, then smirked. “A cranky donkey named Whyare Youhere. It originally belonged to… Well, I suppose she was my predecessor, in a sense, but she told me I could keep it.”

She’d almost forgotten that the entire reason she was on her own right now was because she was seeking that same mare. Still, she was loathe to stop the break she’d somehow managed to find herself. She set Silver Lining down and picked up the other, much heavier weapon. To think, she’d once had trouble aiming it with two hands. “Ruby Heart was a gift from an entirely different friend. Quite the charmer, that one. Also the size of a small building, but that’s a dragon for you.”

She’s expected shock or something similar, but somehow Sunset’s smile only grew wider. “His name wouldn’t be Spike, by any chance?”

Rarity nearly dropped Ruby Heart. “H-how did you know?”

With a chuckle, Sunset tapped the picture. “The Rarity from my original world? Spike was enamored with her, too. Well, both my worlds, come to think of it. And the Rarity who is my business partner? She’s had relationship issues with her own Spike. It seems to be a common trend across the multiverses.”

“I see.” Putting the gun down, Rarity returned her attention to the picture of Sunset’s friends once more. She traced her finger along the image, first over herself,then over Applejack. “Does this mean me and Applejack are a trend? Are we ’destined’ to be together regardless of my feelings on the matter?”

Sunset began cleaning her glass once more as she studied Rarity’s face. “How do you feel about it?”

Rarity didn’t answer at first. She was too busy thinking. About a night in an entirely different bar. About the strange mare with a dog who started talking to her when she was smashed drunk. About waking up in an unknown bed with no memory of how or why she was there. About the mare who had been there, and all the times she’d been around since.

“She hurt me, Sunset. She hurt me in a way that still sickens me. For a long time, I genuinely wanted to kill her. I became a monster because of that mare. Briefly, and I pulled myself out of it, but a monster nonetheless. I killed a lot of ponies who didn’t need to die, all because I wanted them to be her.”

“Whoa. That’s, uh…”

“And yet.” Rarity stared into those green eyes, so happy and kind, and imagined they belonged to her own Applejack. “And yet. Every day since then, she has strived to correct the mistake. She bends over backwards to support me, to help me in whatever I need, despite knowing I may never forgive her. She’s been by my side, defended me with words and with bullets, respects my need for space, and only pushes when it is necessary. I’ve come to honestly believe that that night was all one big misunderstanding on both our parts. And while I haven’t forgiven her, I…”

She groaned and thrust the frame aside, reaching for her glass. It had been filled at some point during her monologue, but she didn’t care, taking a few big gulps. The cool liquid did wonders to ease the flame inside. The glass hit the bar with a loud thunk. “Tell me, Sunset, is it possible to love and hate someone at the same time? That seems to be where I’m at right now. It’s not a comfortable situation.”

Sunset started cleaning her equipment, thinking about Rarity's words. "From what I know of my Applejack, I can believe it might have been a misunderstanding. Assuming a similar personality and not knowing what happened, of course… but yes, I think you can both love and hate at the same time." She put down the rag. "A couple of years back I became a monster too. A very literal monster. Claws and everything. I stole an Element of Harmony, used its power… not because I needed it, but because I wanted Celestia to admit to me she was wrong, and that I was right. I hated her. But I also wanted so much her admiration and love… It sounds silly to think you can both despise and desire at the same time, but isn't that part of what makes us all special? We have flaws and beliefs that contradict each other, but they're just part of what being sentient means."

She glanced at Rarity. "My stint as a demon was thankfully short, but I think that on some level I can understand that anger and resentment, even if I was lucky and I was rainbow-blasted into a more reasonable state before I did something I would never be able to forgive myself for." She chuckled. "So… I don't know what to tell you other than yeah, it happens. But—if she made an honest mistake—it seems she's dead-set on proving to you that whatever she did, it wasn't with the intent to hurt you."

She poured more cider for Rarity and poured herself a glass as well. "I don't know what I would do if I had been in your boots. How do you deal with having done that? I mentally enslaved a hundred teens for a few minutes and I still feel awful about it. Heh. Now that I think about it, it seems that outside my bar, my primary motivation these last few years to do anything has been guilt."

“Guilt.” Rarity hummed, swirling the glass in lazy motions and watching the amber liquid swirl around. “I suppose that might be Applejack’s motivation. Mother once told me she was ‘devoted’ to me. Sometimes I remember what she did and I just want to slap her, convinced that everything she does is little more than an excuse to get me to lift my tail. Then I remember all that she’s done since. Honestly, it’s a lot to go through just for a little play time.”

She sighed and set the glass down, trading it for Ruby Heart. She ran her fingers along the rubies embedded in the weapon’s side. “As for me? My motivation was always my family. Everything I sacrificed was for their sake. But along the way, I lost sight of things. I let the anger start to fill me up. I didn’t become a demon in the literal sense, but I was probably as close to it as a pony could be. But then something happened.”

“Oh?” Sunset leaned closer, clearly intent on hearing a story. “What happened, Rarity?”

“I met what I could have been. A pony who had let her rage and hatred and bitterness consume every inch of her until there was nothing left but white hot fury. I had to fight her, and I had to win, but I had to do it the right way. In a sense, fighting her was like fighting myself.” She reached up to rub the necklace beneath her shirt. Then, noticing Sunset’s curious gaze, she pulled it out.

Sunset let out a quiet gasp. “Is that an Element of Harmony?”

Rarity smiled warmly at it. “Generosity. Or so I am told. When I rejected that future, it gave me the strength I needed to see things through. And now? Well, I won’t say I’m all together, but I can at least say I’ve overcome that particular demon. I was a bloody mess afterwards, literally, but I pulled it off.”

Letting the Element rest outside her shirt for once, Rarity went back to sipping her cider. It bought her time to think on that glorious moment of perfection, when Rarity Belle was the master of her new art. And oh, how she longed to feel that again. But for now, she was happy with what she could do on her own. Somehow, she knew the Element would be there should she need it.

Sunset sighed and stood up once more. She went back to the routine of cleaning her mugs. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had an Element to get us over the hump?”

The sentiment brought a frown to Rarity’s face. “I beg your pardon? I think you misunderstand.”

Sunset, face partially hidden by her luxurious mane, replied quietly. “You just said the Element helped you ‘see things through’.”

“No.” Now it was Rarity sitting up straight, her expression as hard as her voice. “I won that fight on my own merits. I beat the Flaming Vermillion by my actions, my decisions, my unwilling to become the monster. It was only after the fight was over and I’d chosen my path that Generosity came to my aid. It let me do what came after, but that had nothing to do with me overcoming those demons. You don’t need some mystical, magical artifact to do that much, Sunset. You just need to choose who you are going to be.”

She lifted her glass, peering at the bartender from over the rim. “I have to wonder, what will you choose to be?”

"Well, I'm a bartender now, aren't I?" Sunset glanced over her shoulder, matching the smirk on Rarity's lips. "I've been through my own share of trouble. Not as bad as yours but… I've been trying to make up for it ever since. I don't get shot as often, but it does feel like two steps backward for each step forward, you know?"

Sunset bit her lip before she also slid out her own precious pendant. She held the geode in her hand so Rarity could see it. "It's funny. This is not an Element of Harmony, of course. Same magical principle, however. We had a life or death situation, severely downplayed by sheer luck that no one got killed, and with the power of friendship, we brought forth… our Geodes. We have super powers. You got the ability to cast shields shaped like your cutie mark, although it's not limited to that… you're very creative. Applejack got super-strength, Pinkie can make food explode… you get the gist. Me? I got the power to see into people's minds."

Rarity frowned, lowering her glass and looking hard at her. "I hope you don't intend to do that with me."

Sunset shook her head. "It's been helpful a couple of times, but when I started, I made myself promise that I wouldn't use it to read anycreature." She made sure their glasses were full before continuing, "I thought… that everyone deserves to have their pasts to themselves… or at least that it's none of my business to go look uninvited, especially in a situation like this, where people could have very personal reasons to not share something." She shrugged. "Maybe one day we'll be good enough friends that you'll tell me your whole story, but I won't get there by betraying your trust."

Rarity leaned back, relaxing a little at the statement and nodding in understanding.

Sunset sighed. "It's a pretty big responsibility, but now I'm wondering if there was an additional reason I decided not to use it anymore." She glanced up at the counter with all the bottles. "Most of these bottles I ordered directly from their origin point… wines from elves; beer made by a drunk robot; a cocktail recipe that once you drink it is like having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick… crazy stuff, but most importantly not tied to my past.

"I feel like in a way this bar freed me of that. I can still see my friends… and I do! My original ones, not only their gorgeous inter-dimensional counterparts. And odd as it sounds, I feel like I'm really moving forward now, even if I'm inside the same building at the end of every day."

“‘Gorgeous counterparts?’” Rarity chuckled and flicked her mane, then arched her back and batted her eyes. “Why, Sunset, you flatter me.” When her host simply blushed but didn’t take the bait, she sighed and picked at her shirt. “I’m covered in dirt half the time, get a shower maybe once a season if I’m lucky, have no small number of scars, and yet still ponies say such things. Sometimes I don’t know whether to strut and boast or accuse them of ‘just being nice.’”

Sunset shrugged. “Just being honest. And I'm used to being the bad girl in town. My Rarity’s plenty attractive, but that extra edge on you is just—” Noticing Rarity’s deadpan look, she took a quick drink to mask her face. “Okay, okay. You have trouble taking compliments, huh? That’s certainly not a trait my Rarity takes.”

“I appreciate compliments. And flattery.” Rarity turned her gaze to the drink in her hand, once more swirling it in little circles. “I’ve learned to live with what I’ve become these past few years, but really? All I want is to find a small town to settle down in, open a new clothing shop, and live the rest of my life in peace. You seem to already have that, but I wonder.

“I used to want to be a fashionista, you know? Move to Manehattan, rub elbows with the agricultural elite, have my dresses known throughout the city states. It all seems so petty now.” A sip. She was drinking a little too much of this stuff, but who cared? When one travels hundreds of miles and normally eats carefully rationed food, one need not fret too much over diets. “Reality has a way of slamming the door on your little fantasies, doesn’t it? You and your princess. Me and my career. Are we better for that?”

“Well, if you ask—”

“I kill ponies.” Rarity wasn’t sure why she felt compelled to blurt that, but the words were slipping out and she felt a curious disinterest in stopping them. “Where I once feared guns, I now rely on them for my survival, in more ways than one. I tried to defend myself, and I became hunted. I went to rescue my sister and assistant from an army of bandits, and now the local government wants to put me on a show trial. I try to be a ‘good pony’, and it just leads to more bullets flying my way. It’s like this stupid world has a thing against ponies trying to live their lives in peace!”

She snorted and tapped her Element. “And now I’m expected to find these things. And for what? I have no idea. They aren’t forthcoming with that information, but it chose me and now I’m scouring Equestria. Is that supposed to make me a hero?” A scoff, another gulp of cider. “I don’t know where I’m going with this, but you said I could talk, so damn it all, I’m talking. I never wanted to be a hero!”

The glass slammed onto the counter, nearly spilling its contents. Rarity scowled at it, feeling strangely disappointed by the lack of a mess. “What are these stupid things supposed to do? Save the world? Discord is still in Tartarus, so what else am I supposed to fight, Trixie? Will they magically make all the city states stop fighting one another? Will they bring Princess Celestia back from wherever the hay she’s gone? And they talk about responsibility. Hah!”

She looked up to find Sunset watching her with an expression of concern, and realized she’d been spouting off her concerns for no apparent reason. Why would she do that, and to this total stranger? ‘Because that’s what ponies do in bars, Rarity. Don’t you know that?

I don’t visit bars that often, so no.

You read books, right? It’s a common trope.

I don’t hardly read anything anymore, either. No time.

Bull. You could bring a book along on your travels easily.

Books cost bits.

Fair enough.’

Winning an internal argument for once did little to ease Rarity’s mood. She groaned and went back to staring at her glass. “I’m sorry, Sunset. It’s just… everypony says I’m the best thing to happen to Equestria since the Rainbow Gang, and they got slaughtered at the Battle of Ponyville a couple decades ago. I keep doing what I think is right, but sometimes it feels like it’s all pointless. This time next year I could end up dead in the desert, my heart finally proving it isn’t bulletproof, and for what?”

She waved a hand at the fine establishment surrounding her. “Then I see this. I see a friend living a pleasant dream of sorts. I see the kind of life I’d like to have. I can’t help but ask, ‘Why couldn’t it have been me?’” She sighed and rubbed her bandaged arm, letting the sting ease her thoughts. “I apologize, darling. I’m usually not so… melancholic. Overdramatic I’ll admit, but…” Another sigh, another sip of cider.

The bar settled into silence.

Sunset carefully approached Rarity, and when there was no more glass-slamming, raised an eyebrow before she filled her drink once more. She wasn't splurging either—the stones Rarity had dropped earlier would suffice for all she had drank and she'd still have change left. "This is… what you do at bars, Rarity. Well, at least my bar. I want ponies to be able to forget about life for a while, like the song goes. I don't think I told you, but I opened this place up because I let my business partner talk her heart out… I know it's presumptuous of me to offer that, having as little experience as I do, but…" She shrugged, taking a deep breath. "I needed an ear a lot of times too, so I don't mind listening."

Then, as if she herself couldn't stand the silence brought by brooding, she started speaking again. "It wouldn't be a lie to say that I'm sort of jealous of the romanticized version of what you and the others have said—over here you're doing so much! And, one Twilight is a space commander! And another Sunset found her fiancée. And I met not one, but two Queens and I wonder what their lives are like." Her face soured for a moment. "I even had the misfortune of meeting a Gilda and Twilight that tried to commandeer my stock to get their whole ship drunk," she muttered. She straightened up, looking at Rarity again. "I guess, as a non-heroic type, having you here, where you can rest and tell anything to somepony that doesn't have an agenda is something that I can do. Maybe the only thing I can really do."

They descended into contemplative silence; Rarity taking small sips of her drink, while Sunset arranged things and turned bottles around, trying to think of what to say. It bothered her to have her friend be so gloomy and pessimistic about her future. This was a mare who she could admire, no way she was sitting this one out quietly. "Who's to say you won't get what you want in the end though?” she finally asked. She looked over her shoulder. “I don't think you see—or maybe you do see, but don't really want to admit—just how exceptional you are in every world, and here especially so." She chuckled. "I can see why ponies would admire you. And it's not a bad thing."

Exceptional. Rarity couldn’t deny that, though she’d have loved to. The first time she ever emptied a gun, she’d hit bullseyes. She could miss, but it didn’t happen often. And somehow, despite everything, she was still alive.

She sighed. “Being exceptional didn’t save Papa’s life. Didn’t keep the Rainbow Gang from falling when they were at the peak of their fame. That’s why I have Silver Lining in the first place: somepony exceptional had to fail before me, and lose everything she loved.” She picked the gun up, eyeing it from several angles. She thought of Moonlight Raven, wondered where she might be right now. That mare had given her blessing. Why would she do that?

Because Rarity, too, was exceptional.

“It’s easy to forget, sometimes,” she said, spinning Silver Lining’s cylinder. “I used to hate guns. What do they do but cause death and destruction? But without this weapon, I’d have lost my marehood to a brute. An entire town of ponies would have been cheated out of their lives. My parents would be dead, and so would I. My sister, former assistant, and some good friends would be slaves.”

She met Sunset’s gaze with a wane smile. “I understand where you’re coming from, Sunset. When I was but a teenager, I left home to prove that I could live that great life, filled with dreams of success and fame.” She scoffed and set the gun down once more. “It ended with me alone in the barren wilds, my dress ripped up and wrapped around my head to protect me from the sun. I nearly died from dehydration, and then I ended up with a terrible fever once a kind soul rescued me. Needless to say, it was an eye-opening experience.”

Taking up her refilled glass, she raised it as if in toast. “It’s okay to wish for a more adventurous life. It’s okay to be jealous of it. Just remember that when you wonder what those other ponies’ lives are like, there’s always a downside. And I?” She paused, staring at nothing for a moment as she wondered how to finish that line of thought. The lights of the bar made the amber liquid seem to glow. At last, she smiled and drained her glass in one long pull.

“I suppose I should remember the flip side, as well. It might not be all sunshine and roses, and I might not know if my story will have a happy ending.” She pushed the glass aside, waving off Sunset’s attempt to refill it. “But I didn’t become famous because I’m a failure. I’m making ponies’ lives better, or at least trying to. I’ll just have to live with that for the time being."

Sunset licked her lips, and idea forming in her head. "You know. I think I have some of Rarity's stuff in the back room. I'm sure you could design a new getup for me based on your style and your world in a jiffy." The cowmare looked up, blinked and smiled slightly.

Setting her hat back on her head, Rarity stood and examined Sunset’s attire. “You say my counterpart did this? Exquisite work, as can be expected. Beating it would be quite the challenge, and I’ve not had a proper opportunity to flex my creative muscle in many seasons. Hmm…” She grinned as she envisioned several options. “Yes. I think I know just the thing. You, Sunset my dear, shall look divine. Which is good, because I thoroughly regret not getting to dress my own Sunset. A mare of your physical caliber demands at least one opportunity at perfection and I, of course, am the pony to provide it. If I should ever meet this ‘other me’, I fully expect to hear her opinion, and perhaps a challenge.

“Oh, and while I’m at it?” She raised her arm, putting her torn sleeve on display. “Perhaps I can fix this. A lady must always look her best, after all. Even when covered in dirt and sweat.”

It had taken some cleaning up to make sure the surface of the bar was perfectly clean, before Sunset headed over to Rarity's office. It wouldn't do to get the equipment wet or dirty, after all. Eventually, she came back from the back room, bearing a basic sewing kit, and several sheets of paper that Rarity used to design clothes. She might complain a bit later, but the fact was that it was still Rarity (sort of) making use of it.

Truth be told, she could barely hide her excitement. When she had mentioned it to Cowgirl Rarity, she hadn't been sure what the reaction would be. She hadn't done it out of pity, of course, but rather had seen an opportunity to let a friend indulge in their passion. But she had been secretly afraid it would be taken the wrong way. Now, she was getting a new getup out of it!

"Alright, here's the sewing kit, and some paper. Pencils, design tools, etc. If you need a specific thing, I can go back and get it… I don't work with any of these, but I sometimes sit down with Rarity while she works, so I can probably find what you need if she has it."

She sat down, grabbing one of the stools to watch Rarity work. "You know, I think she'll like that…" she mused. When Rarity gave her a look, she shrugged, clarifying; "What you said, I mean. About her challenging you later. I've yet to meet a single Rarity that doesn't have that competitive spirit," she added, chuckling. "In fact, I think it's one of their, and your, most endearing traits."

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “How many Rarities have you met?” When Sunset declined to respond with anything other than a smile, she shrugged and examined what she had to work with. “First things first: fabrics. Give me colors. Browns. Reds. Blacks. Whites. Don’t worry about the specific shades, just give me what you’ve got. I can’t make something for you if I don’t know what materials are available, and I need something to compare to your dazzlingly natural colors.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Sunset saluted and disappeared in the back once more. While she was gone, Rarity turned her attention to the machine up against the wall. A… juke box? That was what Sunset had called it. She wondered if she could get it to play— Music kicked on, making Rarity jump.

On the road of experience, I’m trying to find my own way
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away

“Interesting choice.”

Rarity jumped, turning to find Sunset and a whole lot of fabric. “B-but I didn’t choose anything.”

Sunset smiled knowingly as she listened to the music. “Trust me, Rarity. You did. You just didn’t know it.”

After listening to a few more lyrics, Rarity smiled. “Well, it’s not a bad song by any means. Now, I’m going to begin sorting all of these.” The many, many pieces of fabric began to float in the air all around her, encased in her light blue aura. “And you are going to get me some coffee. No sugar, but cream would be heavenly.”

“You got it.”

“You know,” Rarity said as she examined her many options, passing them across Sunset’s lovely mane for comparison purposes, “I think that competitive, aggressive spirit may be the thing that’s kept me alive for so long. I never would have had the courage to stand and fight without it.”

It’s a sweet, sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I’m almost there

“So you might be right about it being my best trait. Thank you for reminding me of that, Sunset.”

Sunset turned back to her, a steaming mug in each hand, her smile rivaling the coffee for warmth. “It was my honest pleasure.”

“Now then, enough about how amazing I am. I’m already aware of that, after all” Rarity snatched a piece of dark silk out of the air, closed an eye and peered at it while holding it so it was visibly over Sunset’s cheek. “Let’s make you fabulous.”

Sometimes I fly like an eagle,
Like an eagle
I go flying high

"Wow."

Sunset stepped out of Rarity's office, walking down towards the bar with her boots making a nice, solid sound with each step. She had tight, reddish-brown pants, of a color that Rarity had called "Oakbark", and matching boots. A light cream-colored, slightly frilled blouse with a slightly darker pattern was topped by a cloth black vest.

Unlike her previous one, this one had a collar and lapels, which folded stylishly the moment it was buttoned up… and the buttons! Cowboy Rarity had used her skills and some of Partner Rarity's equipment to fashion them out of some orange garnets. She almost hadn't, expressing a slightly disappointed disgust at using "currency" for clothes, but Sunset had insisted that gems in the multiverse weren't always currency—and besides, if Hotel Chic could exist, so could garnet buttons.

The whole thing was completed by the black leather hat and gloves that Rarity had insisted on making herself. Magic and fashion were things of beauty. "Rarity this… this is amazing." She walked onto the bar's main area and posed for her friend. "What do you think?"

"I think that all you need now is a holster and a pair of guns, and we'd be ready to gallop into the sunset, darling," Rarity said with a smile.

"I don't even know how to thank you for this."

Rarity huffed and turned up her nose in an exaggerated display of pomp. “I didn't do it for gratitude, my dear. I did it for fabulosity. That is its own reward.” She held the pose for just long enough for Sunset to start giggling, then joined in.

“But seriously.” Rarity took her own hat, discarded once more in the work, and set it upon her head. “I should be the one thanking you. It was a delight to work my real craft again. I almost never get the opportunity to anymore. It’s nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.” She raised her arm to show the freshly repaired sleeve of her shirt. “And this is greatly appreciated, as well.”

Sunset grinned and nodded, allowing herself another moment to examine her new attire. “Pretty sure my Rarity will love this. She—the one from my world, mind—once made me a cowgirl outfit. I dare say you’ve outclassed her.”

“She’ll get there, I’m sure. I wouldn’t accept anything less.” With a sigh, Rarity grabbed Limestone’s jacket, also freshly repaired, and slipped it on before putting her weapons away. “I really mean it, Sunset. Thank you. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a break. I almost don’t want to go back out there, but you know how it is.”

“Gotta stand up to the challenge, right?” Sunset nodded before reaching back and taking a bottle of cider. “Here, for the road.”

Rarity’s eyebrows widened. “The whole bottle? Are you sure?”

“Positive. You’ve more than earned it. But I have a request.”

Hand pausing not an inch from the proffered bottle, Rarity abruptly gained an expression of mock suspicion. “Tempting me with virgin cider. You really are a devil, aren’t you?”

Tittering, Sunset pulled out her phone. “Can I get a picture with you for my wall? This is one visit I absolutely don’t want to forget.”

“A picture?” Rarity glanced at all the images on the wall. There was still a lot of space left for filling. “Why, I would be delighted! Just make sure to show me off to myself when you get the chance. After all… “She smirked. “We all need a standard to build up to.”

She watched Sunset eagerly walk around the bar, her thoughts drifting to all they’d spoken of during this strange encounter. Just as her host and friend was standing at her side, she caught the woman’s arm. “And Sunset?”

Sunset looked at the hand on her arm, then at Rarity. Her smile diminished when she noted the gunslinger’s solemn gaze. “Yeah?”

“Don’t ever forget. You may not be going on grand adventures and fighting the villains, but for those of us who are, what you do here is no less important. Please remember.”

They stared at one another for some time, Sunset seeming at a loss for what to say. At last, she managed to regain her smile, this time with a bit of pride to make it shine all the brighter.

“I will.”

Sunset and Rarity stood at the door of Sunset's Isekai. Out there, Rarity's home waited for the return of the Bulletproof Heart. In here, a blooming friendship was reluctant to be split.

"I'm dropping you off a few minutes before you stepped into my bar, in another area of town, just so you have a bit of an advantage. You know," Sunset said, lowering her voice while she gave Rarity one of her cards, "this place will find you when you need a drink and to collect yourself. You'll always be welcome."

Rarity smiled. "Thank you darling, if I see the door I'll be sure to visit."

Sunset returned the smile. "You can tell me more about your adventures when you do. And make sure you bring Applejack with you, alright?"

"I-" Rarity gave her a look before shaking her head. "I guess it's time to go. Good luck to you, Sunset Shimmer."

Sunset watched Rarity leave, her eyes briefly catching a glimpse of the western world outside of her bar before the door closed and the bell rang. Sighing, she turned around and was about to make her way to the bar when the door opened behind her.

She heard a gasp. "Darling! Those clothes! They are fabulous!"

She felt a smile growing on her face as she turned to face her business partner. "Oh, and do I have a story for you." She tapped her chin. "And a challenge."

End Chapter

Belle Hopping (League of Sweetie Belles - Ongoing)

View Online

Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
& GMBlackjack
Chapter 9

Cinder “Sweetie” Belle laid back on the plush couch in Swip’s lounge. Currently, the various screens lining the room all displayed the ‘outside’ of the interdimensional pocket universe they were traveling through: a strange rippling pattern of dark orange that resembled nebulas even though the pocket dimension wasn't anywhere near large enough to hold a star—much less a cloud of interstellar gas.

She considered turning on one of the gaming consoles Swip had built into her, but she had just finished several hours of that with Blink. Truthfully, she should be tired and heading to bed right now, but instead she was just bored. Bored, bored, bored…

“You look bored,” Swip said, calling from the speakers all around the room.

“I am,” Cinder groaned, rubbing her horn with her hoof. “When are we going out again?”

“Burgerbelle’s team hasn’t returned yet, so… later.”

Cinder hopped off the couch and stretched her legs, clacking her hooves on the ground. “Later… right! Think you could maybe do some time shenanigans…?”

“No,” the AI deadpanned.

“Awww…” Cinder sluggishly trotted out of the lounge and into the bridge. Suzie was at her console, tapping buttons furiously.

She was playing Tetris. Or something that looked a lot like Tetris, it seemed a little too flashy to be something that simple, however.

“Hey, Suzie!”

The captain jumped at Cinder’s chipper greeting, losing her focus and causing the entire block-shaped puzzle to explode. Game over.

“Bored too, huh?”

Suzie clutched her chest, eyes wide. “I… Not anymore…” She breathed heavily.

Cinder shrugged. “Want to do something?”

“Just let me… catch my breath, then of course…”

Swip let out a virtual cough. “Hey. You two.”

Suzie looked up. “What is it?”

“I don’t mean to alarm you, but there’s suddenly a door in my corridor that didn’t exist a second ago.”

Suzie blinked. “What?”

“Actually, scratch that, I do mean to alarm you. Do you have any idea how freaky it is to suddenly have a door appear inside your body? No? That’s right, you aren’t a ship. You sometimes don’t even notice when you get a papercut.”

“Hey, Swip, calm down,” Cinder encouraged.

“I’ll calm down when I figure out what’s behind that door. Because, hey hey, I can’t see through it! Shocker!”

“We’ll check it out,” Suzie said, adjusting her uniform. “Anything you can tell us about it?”

“It’s got a neon sign on it that looks like it belongs on a cheap bar.”

“Ah,” Suzie said as they passed through the lounge and entered the hall. Sure enough, embedded between two doors that led to the Sweeties’ quarters was a wooden door with a neon sign hanging over it.

Sunset’s Isekai.

There was what Cinder assumed was a martini or something over the words. “You weren't kidding.”

“I used to have a screen on that wall,” Swip lamented. “A beautiful screen…”

“You have one on every wall,” Suzie said, hand poised to grab her gun.

“...Let’s try going in peacefully first, maybe?” Cinder suggested.

Suzie nodded. “Just being cautious.” She reached her other hand to the door and opened it.

Two people walked into Sunset’s Isekai. A unicorn and a human.

Sunset blinked. That’s a first.

To boot, they were both obviously different versions of Sweetie Belle. The unicorn was a young mare, perhaps not quite an adult, with the standard crusader shield cutie mark and bright orange eyes. The woman was middle-aged with excessively puffy hair—shockingly uncurled. She wore a simple gray uniform with an orange-gold ‘u’ symbol on the chest, and had what Sunset was pretty sure was a weapon hooked to her hip.

The human’s tense hands relaxed when she saw Sunset. “Ah, a Sunset.”

“...In a bar? On Swip?” The unicorn asked, confused.

“Yep. Possibly an interdimensional jumper of some sort… Probably nothing to worry about as long as we keep the doors open and Swip has a lock on us.”

A digitized, yet feminine voice came from the world outside. “Famous last words… just find out what she’s doing in my hall.”

Cinder walked up to the bar and sat on the stool. “Hi! I’m Cinder. Are you just Sunset, or do you have another name?”

"Uh," Sunset cleared her throat. "Yes. I'm just Sunset Shimmer at this time. Officially. As in, when not in wizard robes an—you know, I think this might be the first time I might not need to clarify the multiverse thing. Anyway, to answer… Swip's question, my bar just hops to where people or creatures need a drink. No additional agendas included."

“Need a drink…” Cinder scratched her chin. “I don’t think I’m in need o—”

“You were complaining about how bored you were!” Swip shouted from the hall.

“If you think drinks are guaranteed to cure boredom I think you need to re-examine your processors,” Cinder retorted.

"Girls, girls," Sunset spoke up, motioning with her hands to settle down. "Swip is right in a way, I don't literally mean that you need a drink to get rid of boredom, it's a metaphor for people that need a break; just the right type of different setting to talk, possibly have fun, and maybe unload their worries with a willing ear. No alcohol required, even though I clearly have an excess of it."

Suzie placed a finger on the bar. “I’ll take whatever you got that’ll give me a buzz without making me hopelessly drunk.” She sagged into a seat, letting her arms flop to her side. “I think I’m the one who needs to be here…”

“Being the captain is stressful work,” Cinder supposed.

"Sure," Sunset shrugged, "I've been working on a few of those. I think you should be fine as long as you don't ask for a chaser that might make it worse..." she fished out a menu and passed it over to Cinder. "Those are our non-alcoholic drinks, if you want to take a look."

She turned around and headed over to her bottles, choosing a couple of golden-liquid containers before getting to work on Suzie's cocktail.

“Guess I am underage here… seems I’m pretty borderline,” Cinder commented. “...Do we even have a drinking age? Oh, and I’ll have this cherry thing. I like cherries.”

Suzie shrugged. “It’s up to individual member universes to decide their drinking age. Depends on the local culture, tendency for abuse, things like that.”

Sunset shrugged. "You just seemed a bit on the young side from my Equestrian perspective, but if you're legal here and your captain says it's cool…" She turned around, giving Suzie an old fashioned glass with a large, transparent ball of ice inside, the liquid was a deep amber color, and smelled slightly of oranges and tangerine, with light touches of bitters.

“She can if she wants,” Suzie said. “We adhere by the local rules. But something tells me she won’t.”

Cinder nodded. “I want this cherry stuff. Cherry. Stuff. It has cherries in it!”

“She probably has alcoholic cherry things!” Swip called.

“Yep. And I’m going to pass on it. Because… reasons, I guess.”

Suzie leaned in to Sunset. “Blink gave her something about a week ago. She threw it up an hour later and is currently pretending the smell of alcohol doesn’t make her want to puke.”

"Ah," Sunset nodded sagely. "I understand. No worries, though, the cherry drink is basically the same taste profile with—or without—the alcohol. It'll be good." She busied herself by gathering the ingredients, casting glances at her guests. "So. I'm curious, how is it that a pair of Sweetie Belles are so familiar with the multiverse, and apparently have a ship that can jump around it?"

“I’m a Sweetie Belle too!” Swip called.

Cinder smirked. “Yep! All of us on Swip are. Even Celia, though she’s also part Rarity…” Cinder paused, thinking for the moment. “We are one of the main expedition teams of the League of Sweetie Belles, a multiversal organization that does a lot of stuff. Suzie and the rest of the crew? We explore. Most of the Sweeties manage a lot of local multiversal shenanigans at Celestia City, and…” She rubbed the back of her head. “Uh, yeah. Basically, it’s our job! I’m the new kid.”

"Sorry!" Sunset called out to Swip, sliding Cinder her own drink. "That's pretty cool though!" She turned her attention to the pair in front of her. "Alright, I have to admit this is the first I've heard of you guys. Then again, the multiverse is… well. The multiverse. I'm sort of surprised to find a crew of only you..." She trailed off. "Yous? Anyway, doesn't it get a bit confusing? I get the names are different but, I dunno. I can imagine having issues with more than a couple of Sunsets in the same place. It almost gave Gilda an aneurysm to see two of us in the same place." She tapped her chin. "Although she might have been thinking about other things."

Cinder picked up on the connotation and rolled her eyes, but didn’t comment on it. “It really does help to change the name. Seriously, you should consider it. But we also work on getting a defining feature.” Cinder pointed at her orange eyes. “See? These mark me different visually. Suzie styles her hair differently. And Swip… well is a spaceship.”

“It’s definitely not for everyone,” Suzie said. “There are enough universes and versions of everyone in the Equis Cluster to make all sorts of Self Societies. There are only four big ones I know of. The League of Sweetie Belles and the Pinkie Emporium are both part of our nation, Merodi Universalis. The Sparkle Census and Infinite Carousel are distinct entities.”

"Huh," Sunset said, "I have yet to find another Sunset bartender, but I'll definitely try to come up with a good name." She leaned across the counter. "And these societies, are they are at odds with each other? Anything I should be watching out for? Any borg tendencies? I'm not fond of borgs."

“Borg?” Cinder cocked her head.

“I DO NOT WANT TO RELIVE THAT DAY!” Swip shouted. “We do not speak of the Borg.”

“Okay…” Cinder shivered. “Anyway, uh, I think most everyone’s at peace…?”

Suzie nodded. “Tentative, in a few cases. I won’t bore you with large-scale multiverse politics since your bar is clearly Equis Cluster local, given the pictures back there. Nothing too far out of the way. But dangers… you’ll want to watch for the Infinite Carousel and Eldritch Embodiment.”

"The Eldritch Embodiment sounds like something Nyarlathotep whispered that one time…" Sunset muttered. She smiled. "But! While it sounds squishy and mind-boggling, it also doesn't sound terribly appealing. The Carousel thing sounds like a Rarity conglomerate."

“She spoke to Nyar and lived…” Suzie muttered under her breath, clearly not sure what to make of that. “Must have been in an amused mood that day…” She shook her head. “But yeah, the Carousel is a Rarity conglomerate. They aren’t evil, but they are… how do I put this?”

“Celia called them Capitalism Incarnate,” Cinder offered.

“Ah. Yes. They will try to buy everything they can out. Despite inter-universal businesses being outlawed in Merodi space they just keep trying…” Suzie smirked. “Luckily they usually aren’t my problem. Just don’t let them convince you they’re giving you a good deal.”

Sunset's smile was frozen. "Right. Ah well, uh… I don't think I've met any yet. But it did sound oddly familiar…" she frowned. "Hm."

“Really, though, you should be fine as long as you don’t anger any dark gods, interfere with their magic, and look out for large quantities of Rarities talking about the ‘generosity of big business’.”

"So far I haven't been responsible or even really integral to any major disasters that might have befallen ancient civilization," Sunset stated. "And this bar is neutral ground as far as I'm concerned, so I have no intention of angering any gods, dark or otherwise."

Suzie nodded. “Hey Swip! Send these coordinates back to the Relations Division, declare it neutral territory. Maybe the Carousel will listen to the treaties for once.”

“Done!” Swip chirped.

"If not, I have methods of getting rid of unwanted guests," Sunset said, shrugging. "This place shouldn't open its doors to people with malicious intent either… although oblivious jackassery does seem to be able to bypass the locks through sheer stupidity."

“He who stands…” Suzie chuckled. “You probably don’t have anything to worry about. The people with the power to bash down these doors by force probably wouldn’t have a reason too.”

“It is just a bar,” Cinder admitted. “A nice one, yeah! But… I mean, what’s really here for someone to take?”

Sunset blinked, then motioned with her thumb over her shoulder at the room behind her. "You mean besides the contained essence of three elder gods that died during an apocalypse?"

Suzie stared at her in shock and fear.

“She’s joking,” Cinder said with a giggle.

"Always good to have a sense of humor." Sunset chuckled. "Relax, Captain, that's just Rarity's workshop."

“You work here with your Rarity?” Cinder asked. She gasped before Sunset could answer. “Do you have your Sweetie here too!?”

"Uh… not exactly, and no." Sunset served a bit more cocktail. "It's not my world's Rarity. Either of them. She's a Rarity from another universe that was visiting mine when we met. And she's here occasionally, when she's not promoting the place or something." Sunset hummed. "I'm not exactly sure how you would promote a place that literally doesn't show up unless it's the exact set of circumstances, but well… Rarity. She's also currently engaged in a multiversal contest for bartender clothes designs with a gunslinger." She raised her hand to stop them from speaking. "I know. And it is as cool as you think. Anyway, she has a workshop/office back there that she uses occasionally. No Sweeties here so far, though."

“Oh,” Cinder tried to hide her disappointment. “Well, we always like meeting new Sweeties. Direct them our way, maybe?”

Suzie chuckled. “Quite the little recruiter, huh?”

“Hey!” Swip called. “Guess what I found! Deep multiversal Internet search. There was a Celestia City tabloid that promoted this place! Gave no address, had a bunch of mysterious word puzzles associated with it… not sure what she was hoping to accomplish…?”

"Probably will have to ask her directly, I'm afraid," Sunset said. "Ah well. So you said you're on missions right now? Anything interesting happening in the multiverse that might give me pause?" She blinked. "I mean. Alright, so there's probably always something happening, but I mean something that directly invites your attention to it?"

“We just found the ancient universe-machine responsible for most of the universes in the Equis Cluster,” Cinder said nonchalantly. “Probably responsible for all of us, one way or another.”

“You’d be surprised how hard things like that are to find,” Suzie muttered. “And how much chaos happens when you do.”

"That sounds like a complicated thing to handle, Suzie," Sunset said, patting the older woman's hand with her own. "But if Cinder here is any sign, I think you're leading your friends well."

Suzie smiled. “It’s good to hear that from someone who’s not a biased friend.”

“Hey, Nausicaa doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Cinder huffed. “You’re great!”

Suzie nodded slowly, taking a small drink. “Yeah… by the way, this is excellent.”

“I can replicate it as many times as you want if you bring it out here!” Swip called. “Or I can give you any of a wide selection of exotic multiversal brews…”

Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Well, I can't say I can do that. I have to get everything from the source. And believe me, Dwarves in non-pony universes are not as forthcoming with their products as you might want to believe. Even if I have a sealed scroll from three of their kings. And some dude named Illuvatar. But that was Rarity's and it only worked once." She cleared her throat. "Anyway, I wish I could prepare something for you, Swip, you sound like you also need a drink."

Swip fell silent. “...I can get something for Rachel. For later. When she visits, at least. She likes coconuts.”

Sunset pondered. "Uh… is she legal to drink? Because I don't make virgin Pina Coladas… for insurance reasons."

Suzie smiled warmly. “Rachel’s a full grown human woman. Swip’s adoptive sister, you could say.”

"Right then! In that case, that's an option, but it might not hold well until her visit unless you have a magical stasis field to keep it fresh? Other than that, I have some coconut based alcohol, and a couple of different cocktails I can pre-mix and let you finish for her."

“Thanks,” Swip said. “...Ah, you might want to hurry, looks like Burgerbelle’s back.”

“Already?” Suzie asked.

“She was gone long enough for you to be bored, this wasn’t a short outing.”

“Hmm. Guess I was just beginning to really enjoy myself…”

"Right, Burgerbelle…" She started gathering ingredients and pouring them into a mixer. "Does she sell burgers? Did she work at Burger Princess?"

“Bradburger,” Suzie answered. “Don’t ask. And if she comes in, still don’t ask, it’ll save you several brain cells.”

"Right." Sunset nodded slowly as she shook the container, then poured the contents into a glass jar and screwed it shut. "For Swip," she said, sliding it over to Suzie.

Cinder downed the last of her cherry drink. “Well, guess we need to get going then? Catch up on her mission, that sort of thing?”

Suzie nodded. “But first…” She pulled a brochure and a disc-shaped device out of her pocket. “Basic multiversal introduction pamphlet and a communication device, if you have any need. Should work anywhere in the Equis Cluster barring unusual circumstances.”

Sunset smirked, pulling out a silver card and giving it to Suzie. "Open invite, I'll know where to find you if you need it. Also, before you leave, I'll need a pic with you girls to put on the wall. And Swip if we can get her included."

“A picture?” Cinder grinned. “Ooh, that’s great, here, I can display Swip’s avatar on a tablet a—”

A human charged in through the doors—except she was completely two-dimensional and moved like she was on some sort of poorly-executed puppet animation. She was a Sweetie, yes, and had she not looked like something that belonged on the pages of a cheesy children's book she might have been twelve. She slammed her hands on the bar and spoke with a voice that belonged on a text-to-speech device. “Take me to your leader.” After a pause, she added. “Your leader is ice cream.”

Sunset's eyes went wide. "There is no spoon."

“I am being presented to spoonedly.”

"Unfortunately the eagle has left the underwater carrier."

“Listen, pretty lady, I need a stiff drink.”

"You could have just said that from the beginning," Sunset replied, "I thought you'd just been hanging around a drunk Krogan."

Burgerbelle had somehow managed to produce a glass of beer and slid it over to Sunset, grinning. “And here it is. Drink up, you earned it!” She saluted, put on a pair of pixelated sunglasses, and cartwheeled out the door. She made obnoxious cat sounds every time she touched something.

Sunset looked at the glass of beer in silence for a moment. "Okay. That happened."

“That’s a good way to describe her,” Suzie chuckled. “Now, about that picture…”

“Already on it, dears,” a tall pony with a crystal in her forehead instead of a horn said—she looked like a mixture of Sweetie and Rarity. She was currently dragging Burgerbelle back in with her magic, a digital tablet clutched tightly in the Flat’s arms. “Now let’s get this taken before the rest of the crew decides they want in on it, hmm?”

Suzie, Cinder, Burgerbelle, and Celia stood in Swip’s primary corridor.

The wall was back to normal. Even the screen was back, proudly displaying Swip’s avatar - a young human with darker skin that didn’t seem to match any nationality whatsoever. “And now I’ll be able to replicate amazing coconut POWER for Rachel every time.” She smirked. “I got her.”

“You could have done that before,” Celia pointed out.

“But I couldn't have said it was a recipe from an interdimensional bar!”

Cinder rolled her eyes and giggled. “I’m sure she’ll love it.”

“You bet she will!”

Suzie stretched. “Well, that was a nice break. But I do need to hear your report, Burgerbelle.”

“Nanomachines, son,” Burgerbelle said.

Suzie facepalmed.

“I’m serious. We were in that universe. I even heard the line! I spat it back at him. It was great.

“...How much collateral damage are we talking?”

Burgerbelle shrugged with a ‘boing!’ sound effect.

Suzie glanced to Celia.

“I wasn't on the team.”

“You can translate.”

“Well, yes, I suppose I can…”

Suzie, Celia, and Burgerbelle walked off, leaving Cinder alone in the corridor. She put a hoof on the wall where the door used to be.

“I like her,” Cinder decided.

“...Are you talking to me?” Swip asked.

Cinder shrugged. “Just… thinking aloud. Hope she gets to have a lot of adventures in there. ...Who even is Nyar?”

“One of the highest ranking eldritch deities within the entire Eldritch Embodiment. Has a tendency rather unlike his kind to interact with mortals. Usually… destructively.”

“...Oh.” Cinder blinked. “I hope I never meet him.” She frowned. “Aaaaaand I’ve doomed myself.”

“Probably.”

Cinder rolled her eyes. “Oh well. Time to listen to what Burger got up to. I’m sure it’ll be great!” She scampered off.

Sunset hung the image on her wall. Five Sweeties—Suzie, Cinder, Burgerbelle, that gem-pony Celia she didn’t get to talk that much too, and Swip. Suzie was clearly in charge, taking the center of the image up, an almost motherly arm on Cinder. Celia and Burgerbelle stood to the side, like deputies of some kind, though Burgerbelle was holding a golden scepter with a Twilight head…? Swip was digitally represented on a tablet in Cinder’s hooves, smiling and waving.

She frowned. Swip was wearing a copy of her outfit. How hadn’t she noticed that earlier?

As she proceeded to clean the glasses and equipment, she pondered on what she had learned today. It hadn't been a deep and philosophical moment, but it did put a lot of things into perspective, possible dangers and equally exciting possibilities. She had known a bit about the multiverse, and learned more from Rarity, but the Sweeties had given her a new outlook on it, things that she just hadn't given herself time to think about.

Multiverse adventurers and explorers were now part of her reality. Multiversal Governmental Entities and Conglomerates existed out there. The fact that she had just met representatives of one showed just how big this whole thing was.

She chuckled and shook her head. There was never a dull moment in her bar. She finally came to sit at the bar and grabbed hold of the beer Burgerbelle had left for her. It was still cold enough, so she gave it a sip.

She smirked. It was pretty good. She enjoyed the quiet, even as the many thoughts and revelations and theories she had formulated played about in her mind, slowly sipping her beer, and once more glad she had taken this job and silently promising herself to ask Rarity why exactly she had the essence of three elder gods trapped in her office.

End Chapter

What to Expect when Drinking (Celestia: The Changeling Queen Series - Post Sequel)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
& Vren55
Chapter 10

Stripping off her hospital gown and throwing it over her shoulder, Alternia, changeling queen, and one of Equestria’s three ruling princesses, galloped through the hallways of Canterlot Castle. It definitely wasn’t a pell-mell gallop of a desperate changeling queen escaping a horde of concerned servants and attendants that would try to meet her every need. Muttering under her breath, Alternia spied the janitor’s closet she’d typically used in I need a break from company moments and threw it open.

Once she’d slammed the door behind her, Alternia slipped off her silver and emerald-studded hoof shoes and groaned.

“You are going to be fine, Alternia. You are Equestria’s Changeling Princess, you have ruled Equestria for a thousand years for Celestia and Luna. You have a loving, respectful and reliable husband, supportive family, and the best friends. You can definitely raise a second changeling queen.”

After several long, slow breaths, she straightened and pulled out a mirror from her peytral, similar to Celestia and Luna’s, but silver and studded with emeralds.

Reflected back at her was a changeling queen, but altered. She had a triangular shaped horn that seemed almost blade-like in shape. Her limbs were bulky instead of slender like her sister’s, Chrysalis. Extra chitin was layered over her carapace to make it look as if she wore armor. Blue eyes examined the blue mane that matched its color and she nodded.

“And… there.” She adjusted her silver crown and nodded. “But first, I need a drink. I have not touched one in months.” Blue magic glowed around the door handle and she was about to pull it open, but stopped.

Janitor’s closets didn’t have doors of lovingly worked oak. And she was sure that the door had been plain brown, not this lovely shade of stained red. She took a step back.

Nope. Stone archway. Worn, but nicely fitted stones... Definitely not the door of a janitor’s closet. But a glance behind her showed that she was still in a janitor’s closet, and the only exit was in front of her.

On guard, and wishing that she hadn’t escaped her escort, Alternia opened the door.

The door swung open, making the silver bell jingle and Sunset looked up from where she had been definitely not been trying to take a nap. The night had been annoyingly slow, leaving her with far too much to think about, and not enough to do.

Of course, the moment she just starts to drift into sleep, the door swings open. Sunset pulled herself up, put on her best smile, and blinked.

It was a changeling queen with blue eyes and mane that trotted in, but a few things set her apart from the other queens that she had previously seen. For one, her carapace looked far more heavily armored than the others and her horn was triangular, like a blade. Then there was the silver and emerald regalia she wore, which was undoubtedly Equestrian, based on Celestia and Luna’s own.

And then there was just the fact that even with these differences, she looked so strangely… familiar.

“Oh, hello, I’m sorry for disturbing you. This happened to be the only door I could open from my end.”

Scratch that, Sunset felt the hair on the nape of her neck tingle. That voice. It was familiar. She just couldn’t place it.

The barkeep's silence was a bit odd, especially considering how she was carefully dressed and the bar itself had a sense of formality that would invite a guest to expect a polite welcome at the very least. The little silver bell should have been enough warning, and as Alternia walked in, sensing the confusion of the barkeep, she couldn't help but wonder what to expect.

And then she stepped into the bar proper, noticing the several picture frames on the wall—most empty—and the barkeep herself. She was dressed in a way that reminded her of the west, perhaps Appleooza? Cream-colored blouse and a black vest, tastefully embroidered, and designed. She couldn't see behind the bar, but the attire was certainly stylish and despite its slightly different tone to the bars design, only seemed to accentuate the uniqueness of both the bartender and the aura of the bar itself. The barkeep herself was a surprise.

First off, the barkeep seemed to be one of the bipedal humans Archmage Sunset Shimmer had described in her reports on Starswirl’s magical mirror. Actually, the barkeep was the human version of Archmage Sunset Shimmer—except the changeling knew that the archmage wasn’t good at mixing drinks, and so would never try to run a bar.

Then there were the pictures, which seemed to be of the barkeep with a variety of creatures. Some of them were completely alien, others being human, and then… there were changeling queens. One was unfamiliar to her. The other was Chrysalis. Yet, everything from the expression on her face to her poise, told Alternia that this wasn’t her elder sister. This was another Chrysalis.

There was only one explanation… and thankfully Twilight had just been discussing multiverse theory with her over tea.

“Pardon me, miss… Sunset? Am I in another universe?” Alternia asked, making an educated guess at the identity of the bartender.

The question seemed to shake the barkeep, and Sunset—for who else could it be with that voice?—nodded, managing an unsure smile. "Oh, yeah—I mean, yes! Sorry about that, you just really remind me of somepony." She motioned with her hand at the bar around them. "This is Sunset's Isekai, and yes, you guessed it. It's its own pocket dimension, jumping from one place of the multiverse to another." She chuckled. "I have to say though, before I started this business I only knew of Changelings by reputation, but I keep having changeling customers passing through that door, maybe the multiverse is trying to tell me something?"

“That we like a good drink I hope?” Alternia asked, smiling. She trotted over and pulled a chair, sinking herself into the cushion and onto the bartop. “I gave birth five days ago and have not had a drink in months. I am in dire need of a something stiff and somepony- to talk to. What do you have?”

Sunset tapped her chin in thought. "Hm, well, there's a whole menu of cocktails right here and well, anything that strikes your fancy back there." She motioned with her hand at the several shelves of liquor she had on display. "I have over a hundred types of whiskeys, cognacs, spirits… uh, just ignore the far right area on the second shelf. That stuff is apparently not compatible with most carbon-based life forms." She frowned, and Alternia could have sworn she heard Sunset swear under her breath something about fourth-dimensional bastards.

Alternia levitated the cocktail list, then looked up. "Why is the virgin pina colada crossed out?"

"Safety reasons."

The Changeling Queen waited for a moment to see if Sunset was going to add anything to that remark, but when nothing else was added she simply acknowledged it with a nod. "Ah."

As she read the rest of the list of cocktails, she noticed Sunset shifting in place until the bartender took a deep breath. "Alright, I'm sorry to ask, but this is really bugging me." She paused, eyes widening. "Uh.. no offense."

Alternia felt her lips quirking slightly. "None taken. What's bothering you?"

"Well. You see… back in Equestria… I mean, my Equestria, I was… an apprentice to Princess Celestia… and… well you really sound and act like her."

Alternia chuckled. "Well, Sunset Shimmer, there is a very good reason for that."

"Oh?"

"It’s a long story, so first things first, I need that drink."

Sunset leaned on the counter, frowning. "Alright, so let me get this straight: You are Chrysalis' younger sister. And everything was fine, but she successfully pulled a coup and you were injured… and teleported to where Princess Celestia battled Nightmare Moon."

Alternia nodded.

"And then, Celestia was too wounded by the battle to carry on, so she found you and healed you, and then you had to take over Equestria for centuries, posing as her."

“And eventually I managed to mend my relationship with my sister, help changelings integrate with Equestria and formally became a princess.”

Sunset crossed her arms. "I suppose it makes it easier to solve things since you have an additional vote. I'm actually surprised they took you in as basically family, surprised, but also glad." She smirked. "Other than Luna, family wasn't a big thing for my Celestia. I know it's a multiverse so it's different in many places, but it's always nice to hear about it." She picked up the now-empty glass she had given to Alternia and refilled it. "It's kinda cool that you get the chance to be a mom, congratulations!"

The changeling queen didn’t respond, and the smile on her face twitched. An alarm bell rang in Sunset’s head as Alternia took the proferred drink and chugged it down her throat as if it was liquid love. She didn’t even smack her lips when she finally set the tankard down.

“To be honest, I am absolutely terrified.” She fixed Sunset in her gaze, noticing her start. “Being a mother… I have been one for five years, but I… I’m still so scared that I will make a mess of things. And… well, I don’t know how changeling queens are… built? Born? I don't know how they work in the other universes, but we queens… our power is based on how much love we are given. As such, queens have a lot of responsibility to their hives due to their power.”

“Sounds logical.”

“Yes, but there’s a complication. You see, Sunset, I am the changeling princess of Equestria and was essentially Celestia and Luna’s regent for a thousand years. In the event of my death… which I hope will happen a good long while from now. However, at that time, either of my daughters will succeed me, and before that I know they will be notable figures in Equestria’s governance. I need to raise them right.”

Sunset couldn’t help but wince and frown at the same time. Of course, Alternia made sense, but to pin all that expectation on your children…

“That and raising them is proving to be a challenge. Imagine what happened when my first daughter was born and was presented to the crowd?”

“Oh. Oh Celestia.”

“Oh Celestia was right. It was not fun trying to get her to bed. And now… Kyria is also a queen-daughter.” Alternia’s shoulders sagged, her gaze firmly trying to see through the bar table. “I… I was surprised when Mirage was a queen. I’m horrified Kyria is. If I make a mistake in teaching either of them… raising them… Equestria will pay… or even worse, they’ll pay because I would have made a mistake.”

"Um. Wow." Sunset shifted a bit uncomfortably. "I think I might need to give you something a bit stronger.”

Alternia gave her a half-lidded look and pointed at her empty tankard.

“All that being said…” Sunset set the bottle she was holding down. Isn’t it a bit much to draw out a path for their lives? I mean, Mirage… isn’t even five yet. I dunno." Sunset sighed and turned around, studying the drinks on display. "I never had much of a mom so…" she shrugged. "My personal experience is limited." She frowned, concentrating on the drinks in front of her before grabbing one containing a bright green liquid. "Here, try this. Best from the Stanford Distillery."

Alternia studied Sunset as the bartender slowly poured the drink into her glass. "So. Want to talk about it?"

"Hm?" Sunset looked up. "Oh… there's not much to say. They started about a hundred and ten years ago? But the Bliffe Sector was apparently rather harsh and they couldn't really sell their products that much until they actually produced Ambrosia an—"

"I don't mean the drink," Alternia clarified, giving her a knowing look, "I might have a lot of worries in my mind, but I didn't rule for a thousand years by ignoring signs, however subtle they might be."

Sunset crossed her arms. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Alternia rolled her eyes. "Please. It's clear you have some complicated feelings towards your Celestia.”

“What do you mean?” asked Sunset, in a definitely innocent tone of voice with the blankest expression she could muster. "I've made peace with Celestia. Just a year ago she helped me deal with someone who was abusing Equestrian magic on the other side of the mirror."

“You have mommy issues, Sunset." Alternia sipped the green liquid, eyes widening for a moment before she hummed in appreciation. "This is good."

"I-I don't have mommy-issues!" Sunset gasped. "I don't have a mother to begin with!"

Alternia raised an eyebrow. “I think you aren’t aware of this, but changelings in my universe can feel all emotions to a degree. No thoughts, but with that and a thousand years worth of reading ponies… I can tell.”

"Alright," Sunset groaned, lifting her hands up in a placating gesture. "I have a biomom, but not a mother. No one that was there for me, and I never met her. Once I was—once I became Celestia's student it wasn't important, anyway.”

“Wait. Sorry, Celestia took you on as a student.” Alternia blinked and shook her head. “Sorry, I just realized you did say that earlier, please continue. Perhaps your counterpart is different from you.”

“Oh? How did your Sunset Shimmer turn out like?”

Alternia shut her eyes briefly as a wave of dizziness hit her, and pushed her cup away. “I do not know her that well. I never took her on as a student.”

That took Sunset aback. Yes, the changeling queen came from an alternate universe but Alternia was the “Celestia” of that universe. She frowned. "Any particular reason?"

Alternia frowned. “I promise that I will tell you, once you elaborate on your relationship with Celestia. This is because from what you told me, some of what your counterpart has experienced… I don’t think you will receive well. You are… well something happened between you two.”

Sunset's eyes went wide. "Oh Celes—" Sunset cut herself off. "Don't tell me they're lovers."

Alternia blinked. "What? No! Why would you think that?"

"Because you made it sound like it was something I would dread!"

Alternia opened her mouth to counter the point, but closed it after a moment of thought. "Okay, granted. I did say that in a way that might be interpreted in the wrong way." She sighed. “The Sunset Shimmer of my world is ambitious and authoritative but tempered with a strong sense of justice, patriotism and willingness to serve. She’s worked hard to become an Archmage of my Equestria. Perhaps a bit too hard as it has left her admired but with only a small circle of friends.” Alternia gave Sunset a sympathetic look. “As a result, after my universe’s Celestia finally returned, well… Sunset became a very close friend and advisor to her.”

Sunset studied the table. "That's a very different relationship than mine… or what I expected of my Celestia." She looked up. "Which in this instance would be you. You might be Alternia, but you act, sound and behave a lot like the Celestia I know and love."

“She is not you," Alternia replied. "But if you really wanted to know why I didn't take my Sunset as a student… I can sense emotions. I could tell she was lonely, ambitious and far, far too eager for recognition likely denied to her by her biological parents.”

Sunset chuckled. "Oh boy, I think I'll serve up a drink for myself." She made her way to the shelves and picked a bottle, then turned around, uncorked it and served herself a glass of very dark wine. "Do carry on."

A bit confused by the attitude, Alternia continued, “I felt that taking her on as a student would have been… unwise," she said, "so I imparted some words of advice and reflection and recommended her for mandatory counseling. That, thankfully, guided her onto a good path.” Alternia pointed at Sunset’s chest. “Which I must add, does not mean your path was a bad one. You seem like a fine young mare.”

Sunset took a sip of her wine and pursed her lips. "It took some effort to change," she said. "And Princess Twilight's help. My Celestia and I—she couldn't read my feelings." Her voice lowered. "As much as I sometimes wished she could." She cleared her throat. "In any case, I got better… I eventually forgave her in my heart and when I saw her I—she said she had missed me, and I believed her. I was never what I wanted to be with her, but in the end, I like to think I was finally worthy of being her student at least. It just took longer than anypony anticipated."

"Princess Twilight, huh?" Alternia said, laughing lightly. "Some things don’t change between alternate universes I guess.”

"I guess not" Sunset replied, chuckling.

"Did you let her know?" Alternia asked, her voice softer. "It seems that Celestia meant a lot more to you than she knew. Her not being a Changeling Queen makes it a lot more likely that she just wasn't aware."

Sunset's smirk faded into a sad smile. "Nah. At this point, there's no real reason. She and I will always be teacher and student, and that's all." She swirled her wine in the glass, admiring it. "Sometimes we don't get what we want, as your Sunset found out." She lifted her wineglass in a silent salute. "But sometimes it also sometimes ends well precisely for that reason. Perhaps it was for the best." She chuckled. "The last thing I needed when I left was a legitimate claim to the throne, and I think she doesn't need the additional burden of knowing she wasn't the mother I wanted." She finished the wine and licked her lips clean. "If she didn't know, and I didn't deserve it… what's the point of opening an old wound so much it cuts into somepony else's life?"

Alternia shrugged. "Being tactful will spare somepony’s pain, but secrets are not always the best way to handle things." She met Sunset's amused eyes with her own. "Yeah. I said it."

"But isn't part of growing up accepting that life isn't always going to go the way you want it?" Sunset countered, trying hard not to smile. She sighed. "Look, a part of me will always think that it would have been amazing to be adopted by Celestia, but another part of me looks at where I am now, where I've been and, well… it's also partly because Celestia chose not to do so. Getting hung up in might-have-beens will not lead to happiness. At least I don't think it will."

The Changeling Queen hummed, thinking about Sunset's words."So you don't think your Celestia made the wrong choice?"

Sunset shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe the acknowledgement would have led me down a different path, or maybe it would have fueled my ambition even more. Either way, I didn't have a mom. I had a guardian, and a teacher that loved me very much and I hurt badly before I learned to be a better person." She gave Alternia a look. "And as an adult that has dealt with those issues in the last few years, I think that out of respect for her and for myself I don't need to bring that topic up."

Alternia drank a bit more. "At least I know that if I mess up it's not the end of the world… It’s strange. I've carried the weight of Equestria on my shoulders all this time, and yet being responsible for foals is… terrifying. I question and second-guess myself all the time. I've seen what mistakes can cause and the thought of leading my daughters astray…" she shook her head. "...it's quite frankly paralyzing."

"Ah," Sunset said, "that explains why you want to know so much about my relationship with Celestia… I think you'll be fine. One of the changeling queens I met in another universe had like… a thousand young. If she can manage that many, you can manage two."

Alternia gave her a dirty look. "That is not as encouraging as you might think."

Sunset shrugged, "Neither is telling me to stay the hay out of the Restricted Section of the library, and yet, here we are."

The changeling queen took a long sip from her cup, and fixed Sunset with a contemplative look. Her voice was slurred when she spoke next. “You. You think I'm projecting my worries and issues onto you."

"I think you are," Sunset said, smiling. "And it's… I mean, not okay, exactly, but my job here is in part to lend an ear." She reached across and caressed Alterna's cheek. "I think you'll be a wonderful mom. I think my Celestia could have been a wonderful mother as well, and she still can. I think that you'll get to know your children well enough that you'll make decisions out of love and for their benefit. You'll be fine."

The changeling queen took a sip from her cup, and fixed Sunset with a contemplative look. “Thank you for your reassurance.” Giving the unicorn an only slightly lopsided smile, Alternia asked. “Do you mind if I leave you with some last advice before I ask you to refill my cup?”

Sunset shrugged nonchalantly.

“I believe you need to talk to Celestia. I know what you said about opening wounds, but take it from someone who reads emotions… you need to talk about what them and if the pony you care about is affecting you in a negative fashion.”

“I suppose so-”

“Sunset.”

Although soft, there was a note of grave seriousness in Alternia’s voice and it was all over her face, in her set jaw, in her… haunted, blue eyes. Sunset didn’t find herself scared, but she did find herself wondering… just what had happened to the changeling.

“In over a thousand years of living, I have found myself in far too many situations where poor communication has very literally cost the lives of the creatures I care for, or very nearly cost their lives. With family… or close friends… unspoken resentments tend to fester, even in the best of ponies.” She smiled wanly. “I mean, just as an example, perhaps this happened in your world as well, but Luna, ostensibly the shy, sweet, princess of the night, became Nightmare Moon because of a clear lack of communication between her sister and herself. Don’t force the issue of course, but do address is.”

“I see your point. I promise I'll least feel her out to see if it's appropriate to mention, but no promises on that specific topic unless she brings it up.” Sunset filled Alternia’s tankard, and blinked as the changeling raised it and drank deep. “Are you sure you want to drink all of that, that quickly?”

“I’m about to go care for a baby changeling queen, with all the wailing and extra magic thanks to Equestria’s love. I’m not going to be able to let loose for a while.” Digging into her peytral, Alternia pulled out a large pile of bits and dumped them on the table. “This should cover the costs. Keep them coming, Sunset.”

Weighing the money freely offered and the prospect of a very drunk changeling, Sunset sighed and filled Alternia’s cup. “If you say so… I mean, I guess you are an adult...”

“And hahaha, and when I spat the noodle out, it went into herr… teehee!” Alternia leaned back, a wild cackle bellowing from her lips, and nearly fell off, if not for Sunset’s hand. The changeling wasn’t blushing because apparently changelings of her universe couldn’t blush, but the former unicorn swore the changeling was breathing bubbles.

Either that or Sunset was herself getting a bit tipsy. The bar table was piled with bits, but she was beginning to regret indulging the changeling queen.

“Yeah, Alternia, perhaps we should stop?” Sunset asked, not quite noticing the sound of a jingling bell.

“Oh perhaps, but maybe one more. Pleaaaase?” begged the queen.

“Alternia? Sunset?”

The immediately recognizable voice made Sunset spin around and nearly fall, but for a glow of familiar yellow magic that lifted her onto her feet before her butt hit the floor. She looked up and froze.

Celestia and Luna were standing in front of her, looking understandably confused.

“Is this… a pocket alternate universe?” Luna asked.

“Uh yes. Hi! Welcome to Sunset’s Isekai. Um, Alternia really needed a break and well, she had too many drinks.”

Celestia sighed, but trotted over and used her magic to put Alternia over her back. “Oh I understand completely. Thank you for taking care of her, Sunset.”

“You’re welcome, Celestia!” she squeaked.

“How long has she been here by the way?” Luna asked, glancing at the several shot glasses and empty mugs on the bar. “She’s been missing for but fifteen minutes.”

“Uhh… a good few hours. Time is not directly matched to her universe...”

“Ah.” Luna added a small stack of bits to the pile and dabbed at little bit of drool from the changeling queen’s mouth. “Thank you, Sunset, perhaps we might see each other again.”

"I'm always around when needed." Sunset shrugged and managed a staggering bow as the two alicorns left with the changeling queen. Gingerly standing up, the former unicorn glanced at the pile of bits decorating the table, plus what Luna had added, then to the door, then back to the mess of shot glasses she'd have to clean.

“Well at least they tipped generously.”

End Chapter

Pan Galactic Sparkle Blaster (Past Sins - Post Fic)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
& Pen Stroke
Chapter 11: Past Sins

If one was ever curious to see how quickly a community could change, you wouldn’t need to look farther than Ponyville. Twilight Sparkle’s arrival in what had been a small rural community marked the beginning of so many big changes, and they only became more grand as the years went by.

Nightmare Moon’s second return had left Night Stone Castle standing on the town’s outskirts. Twilight’s battle with Tirek brought the gift of her Castle of Friendship. Soon after came the School of Friendship right next door. Yet, those changes were but preludes to how much Ponyville would grow and evolve, especially after Princess Celestia and Princess Luna announced their “retirement” as Equestria’s rulers.

As Nyx looked out over Ponyville, sitting on a small cloud with the sunset to her back, it was hard to picture what the town used to look like. Ten years had left their mark on her and the community. She was no longer a school age filly, but a mare that was growing back into the impressive height that had once been a defining characteristic of Nightmare Moon. She still had a little ways to go, but it wouldn’t be long before she was able on eye level with Princess Celestia once more.

Or rather just Celestia. Even after so many years, Nyx had to remind herself that it was just Celestia now. Just Celestia. Just Luna. They were not princesses anymore… a luxury Nyx wished she could share. But the daughter of Equestria’s current ruler, even a technically adopted one, still got bunched into the royal family.

Shaking her head, Nyx tried to get her thoughts off that as she continued to look down on Ponyville from her cloud. She could identify a few landmarks that had managed to resist the tides of change that had swept over the town. Sugarcube Corner still stood out as a delectable dream of a building. The town hall still stood at the very center of the town, though it had been repurposed into a community space. But so much else of the community had changed.

New apartment buildings had replaced old single family homes. The market space, once a modestly sized street lined with carts from local farms, had grown to a full plaza with several more permanent business along its perimeter. Ponyville still had much the same charm, much the same theme, as it always had. But it had grown up and matured. Nyx couldn’t help but feel she shared some parallels with the community that was such an integral part of her life.

Though, unlike Ponyville, there were some ponies in Nyx’s life that refused to appreciate how much she had grown.

“There she is!”

And some of those ponies included the members of her mother’s royal guard.

Unable to sit and enjoy the view any longer, Nyx rolled off the cloud and went into a dive. Falling from the sky like a hawk, she plummeted toward the ground. She waited, gathering as much speed as she could, before spreading her wings at the last possible moment. Her feathers caught the air, and swiftly converted her downward momentum into forward velocity. She flew through the street lamp lit streets of Ponyville, her hooves less than a foot from the ground.

Glancing back, she saw the pair of pegasi guards that had spotted her. “Princess Nyx, stop!”

Maybe when she was younger such a command from the royal guard would have been enough to make her stop. But she had heard that word far to many times over the past few years, and it had begun to lose its potency. So Nyx did not stop. She would not be escorted back to her room by the guard again. Not tonight. This night was hers to seize… as soon as she lost the guards.

Nyx banked hard left at an intersection, letting her hooves land on and then push her off a building. It was a turn the pursuing pegasi were unable to mimic. They soared passed, and for a moment, Nyx had broken the line of sight. Now she just had to find someplace to hide. The trouble was that she was in a residential area. Unless she wanted to barge in on some sleeping family, not a lot of places to hide.

Though, a glimmer did catch Nyx’s eye. Landing and ducking into an alley, Nyx approached the thing that had caught her eye. A solid oak door, stained a deep golden-red, that had a crystal embedded in the wood in the shape of a familiar cutie mark. Though, at the moment, Nyx couldn’t quite place it.

The door was surrounded by a stone frame, and that stone frame was set into a stone wall. The wall itself, if Nyx wasn’t mistaken, was the back wall of an apartment building. Hiding in the lobby of an apartment building seemed a reasonable enough way to elude her pursuers. So, she reached out to the door handle with her magic. She gave it a gentle turn, and felt the mechanisms within shift. It was unlocked.

Wasting not a moment more, Nyx slipped inside and shut the door behind her.

The ambience of the place Nyx found herself reminded her of Rarity’s favorite Shadow Spade novels. The last echoes of the door bell filled the tiny place. Really, it was cozy in just about ever sense of the word. In front of Nyx was a narrow pathway that led to a pair of restrooms at the back of the bar and an old Jukebox. The jukebox seemed to sputter to life the moment Nyx noticed it, its internal mechanisms spinning as it searched for some record amongst its internal collection.

To the right of the central path were a set of two-creature tables, four in total. To the left was the bar. A single long wooden bar that stretched back to the end of the room, curving at the end. An Nyx could tell it was a bar, not by the counter itself but by what stood behind it. She was not so ignorant that she couldn’t recognize a veritable cornucopia of alcoholic beverages.

And behind that bar, cleaning a glass for no patrons, was someone Nyx recognized… and yet didn’t. She thought she saw Sunset Shimmer, a friend of her mother who lived in the world beyond the mirror. Nyx herself had never been to the world of Canterlot High, but Sunset Shimmer had come back across the mirror once in a while to visit.

Yet Nyx had never seen the Sunset Shimmer she knew in human form, nor had she ever seen Sunset wearing… whatever that outfit was. A red button down shirt, a color to compliment the red in her hair, with black pants, black bowtie, and black apron. "Welcome to Sunset's Isekai, please, take a seat, I'll be right with you in a second."

Isekai? Nyx hadn’t heard that word before. Was it a word that described the bar? That would make sense, but would also be a bit on the nose. Then again, it wasn’t uncommon for Equestrian business to be very direct with their naming. Quills and Sofas was a prime example of such a business where there was no mystery of what you’d find inside.

It was the Jukebox that managed to shake Nyx from her thoughts and made her realize she had been standing at the door. It had begun playing, it’s speakers able to fill the space easily. It was some slow jazz number, a piano handling most of the melody as it was accompanied by what sounded like a double bass and a muted trumpet. Maybe there was a pair of bongos in there as well, but Nyx couldn’t tell for sure.

It was relaxing, adding to the bar’s natural ambience as a retreat, a place to get away from the world. At the moment, Nyx was happy to call it her sanctuary. She took a few steps forward, starting to approach the bar. There were stools to sit on, though those seemed intended for regular ponies or patrons that shared in the bartenders bipedal form. Thankfully, it did seem there were a few places at the bar meant for creatures of Nyx’s stature. She was able to find one such cushion, and take a seat there.

It put her directly in front of the bartender, this Sunset Shimmer that Nyx had never seen before, if her intuition was right. Still, maybe this was the Sunset Shimmer she knew… and her mother had just failed to mention she was back in Equestria, that she wasn’t a pony, and she had opened a bar behind some apartment building. Really, there was only one way to find out for sure.

“So… do I know you?” Nyx asked as she watched Sunset Shimmer continue to clean a glass.

As soon as the bell rang, Sunset took a deep breath. Alternia's mother issues had been somewhat draining, bringing back her own past hopes and opening a few wounds she wished had been left untouched. Still, Alternia had just given birth and with her being part of the ruling body, it was understandable that she'd be stressed.

It would have been nice to have the stress not involve Sunset too much, however, but she had designed this place with that in mind. It was her role, so to speak. And it seemed that stress was a real problem with both alicorns and changeling queens, if the young Luna that had walked into the bar was anything to go with.

She was definitely a bit different than Sunset would have imagined, her coat was darker and her eyes had a vertical slit pupil than regular adult Luna. In fact, there was a slight chance that this wasn't Luna… the shield cutie-mark reminded her more of the CMCs marks, and unlike Luna, who liked her mane to flow, this alicorn had her mane tied into a ponytail with a scrunchy of all things.

Sunset didn't know what to make of this new alicorn, but she was clearly stressed and confused, taking in the ambience of the bar with wide eyes that slowly crawled up to her and shone with something akin to recognition. Better let this one in slow. "Welcome to Sunset's Isekai, please, take a seat, I'll be right with you in a second," she said, motioning with her head to the seats.

It took not-Luna a few seconds to shake the surprise off and slowly make her way to one of the seats at the bar.

“So… do I know you?”

Sunset put down the glass under the bar and smiled. "Well. I'm not sure… you might know someone like me? I'm Sunset Shimmer, and if you've ever heard that name before, chances are you know Twilight Sparkle. But I wouldn't be your Sunset… this bar is a multidimensional pocket, intended to stop by where friends and friendly creatures might need a drink." She looked at the young mare.

Were this her Equestria, not-Luna would certainly be old enough to drink, but it was always tricky with Alicorns, so she pulled out both cocktail menus.

"This one's the non-alcoholic menu, and this one is the regular one. I have also an insane amount of beers from across the multiverse if that's what you like."

Sunset read not-Luna’s face a moment, trying to gauge her level of understanding. For some of her guests, the concept of the multiverse flew over their head. For those less intellectual customers, it was sometimes better just to say the place was “magic” and leave it at that. This not-Luna, however, seemed to understand the concept. There was even a curiosity in those eyes, as if the mention of the multiverse had sparked innumerable questions. Yet, not-Luna remained quiet, eyes drifting to the menu.

“So, a Sunset Shimmer from an alternate dimension,” not-Luna said. “And this place is a bar… from an alternate dimension. A bar my mother won’t have talked to.” A smile played on not-Luna’s lips for a moment. “I don’t suppose you could recommend something for someone of drinking age but who hasn’t had a chance to try alcohol yet? Ideally before someone can storm in and ruin this golden opportunity.”

Sunset blinked. "Huh. What is it about being chased by ponies?" she muttered. "Alright, I can recommend a couple of things, but first of all, you said your mom won't let you drink? But you are legally of age, correct? My bar will know."

Not-Luna’s expression soured. She bit her lip a moment, as if trying to decide how to approach the situation. “So the bar decides if I’m old enough, but I guess that’s only if I’m honest. Fine. Whether or not I’m of legal drinking age depends on how you count. Biologically, I am a few years past the drinking age. Mentally, I’d argue the same. But… technically speaking, I was only born about a decade ago.”

Sunset studied her again. "What." She shook her head. "Alright, run this by me again. So far I've been operating under the assumption that you're Luna, just… young. And possibly with different upbringing."

“You’re not far off from that.” Not-Luna chuckled as she brought a hoof to her mane. She ran the hoof through her ponytail, causing some… blob of blue magic to come out. They were star speckled, like a very dark night sky. The blob drifted to the bar, breaking apart into about seven smaller pieces. “Been a while since I’ve had to tell this story, but I guess it never does get old.”

The seven blobs of magic took shape, forming into tiny, toy-like versions of Sunset’s familiar friends as well as a larger, black coated alicorn. Though Sunset had yet to see her face to face, she could tell the two inch alicorn standing and posing on her bar was Nightmare Moon.

“Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, Twilight Sparkle and her five friends found the Elements of Harmony and used them to defeat Nightmare Moon.” As soon as Not-Luna began narrating, the seven tiny actors began to move. Sunset watched as the familiar story played out, the tiny pointy ponies turning her bar into an impromptu stage.

“All the magic and rage that was Nightmare Moon was peeled away from Luna like layers of an onion. The Elements of Harmony saved Princess Luna from her darkness, but did not destroy the darkness. Take those shreds, add a cult, a dark ritual, a symbolic, small blood sacrifice, and an interrupting lightning bolt from Princess Celestia, and you get… me.

“I am Nyx,” Not-Luna said as she made tiny pointy ponies disappear. “I was supposed to be Nightmare Moon reborn, but I ended up a filly with no memories instead. So yes, I was born about a decade ago, but my body was more than a decade old when I was born. And I’d like to think my mind caught up quickly. So, in my opinion, I’m old enough to drink.”

With that explanation laid out, Sunset began to see the resemblance. After all, she had grown up in Equestria. She had celebrated Nightmare Night long before she had even heard of the human world’s Halloween. She knew of Nightmare Moon. She, as a filly, had left her fair share of candy as an offering to the boogie mare of Equestria. And now… it seemed a version of Nightmare Moon was sitting at her bar, asking for a drink.

"Well then," she said, taking back the non-alcoholic menu. "It seems we need a drink." She cleared her throat. "Usually a good way to start depends on what you want to do, if you want to drink like an adult, I can get you something to sip slowly, with a more sophisticated palette, like wine, or Scotch. If you want something refreshing, a mojito or a pina colada will do. Or even a Caipirinha."

Nyx’s gaze shifted to one side. Though Sunset couldn’t be sure, she believed Nyx was looking upon the rows of different bottled liquors. “How about… a wine? That was almost my first drink back when I first turned old enough. Rarity had the glasses poured and everything. Then my mother stormed in and ruined it.”

"That's probably the safest bet. Some of the stuff in the direction you were looking takes some getting used to. Or it could end up explosively." She gave Nyx a calculating look before digging under the bar and pulling out a pair of wine glasses. "Alright, I got this from another universe and it has become my wine of choice, it has body, amazing taste and a complex gamma of aftertaste that makes it so much worth dodging arrows and spells to get."

She pulled out a dark green bottle with a yellowish piece of paper glued into it written in some unknown, flowery language. "This is elven bloodwine," she explained, serving the incredibly dark-red wine into the glasses. "It's not blood. And has no blood. But it has a centuries-long process to make. Totally worth it."

Sunset gently nudged one of the two glasses towards Nyx. The other was for herself. It was a personal weakness, but she could rarely serve this wine without having a bit of it for herself. Still, she watched Nyx, her magic taking hold of the glass.

And then… something rather surprising. She watched Nyx, a mare that claimed to have never had a drink before, start inspecting the wine. She swirled it, and watched how it flowed off the interior of the glass. She then put her nose close to the rim, taking a deep smell of the aromas. It was the methodology of someone who had been taught, at least once, the techniques to drinking wine.

Then, finally, Nyx took that first sip. She sipped the wine, set it down, and a smile blossomed onto her face. “That is… very good. A little hard to ignore the taste of alcohol, but I’ve been told that’s something you get used to in time. Nice to finally be able to try a wine the way Rarity taught me.”

Sunset couldn't help herself and started laughing. "Of course, Rarity!" she exclaimed, leaning back and looking at the young mare. "She's definitely be one to teach you about wines. I was about to ask." She shook her head. "So what, or rather who stopped her? She likes her wine a lot, and more so with good company."

Nyx took another sip, enjoying it slowly, before putting her glass back down. “Well, like I said, my mother—”

“When did this door get here?”

The new voice, one Sunset found familiar, came from outside the bar’s door. Nyx’s previously blissful smile was quickly replaced with a deep, aggravated frown as she turned her head to the door. “Of course. Even in an extra-dimensional bar she finds me.” Nyx looked back to Sunset. “Can you hide me, just until she goes away?”

"You're kidding," Sunset said, her eyes narrowing. "Your mom is Twilight Sparkle?" She shook her head. "If she's able to see that door she desperately needs a break herself. And you know she won't leave for a while if she sees me in here."

“But if she sees me in here with this,” Nyx held up the glass, “she’s going to throw a fit!”

"Hey, the bar never lies, you are technically old enough to drink some quality wine." Sunset shrugged. "She needs to relax, it's not like you're downing Bor'Kann and vodka."

“You are underestimating her. This is the mare that got me alcohol-banned from every place in Ponyville when I tried to sneak a hard cider. It was an impressive moment of Twilinanas.”

Sunset pointed up with her finger. "Not Equestria. Besides, I don't like the idea of lying to your mom. She's one of my best friends. Besides, Commander Sparkle can drink like an eldritch god and she loves it, so I'm sure I have something that will mellow down your mom a bit." She reached out and pressed a button. The familiar voice of Twilight Sparkle echoed in the bar. 'This is Commander -hic- Sparkle! And this! This. This! Is my favoorite bar in the multiverse!'

“Hello? Is someone in there?”

Nyx shrank in her seat, but it wasn’t like a pony as big as her could hide so easily. Hearing the doorbell jingle once more, Sunset turned her head and saw her second patron of the evening. It was a Twilight Sparkle, one that reminded her in so many ways of the one she knew from her home universe. Perhaps a bit taller, a bit more regal, but still a very familiar Twilight Sparkle. Though, at the moment, Sunset could see this Twilight was in full mom-mode.

“Nyx!? Sunset!? Why… why are you serving my daughter alcohol? And why do you have a bar in Ponyville!?”

"Oh, hey Twilight," Sunset said, "why don't you take a seat next to Nyx here, who only let me know a moment ago you were her mom, and we talk this out?" She leaned across the bar, locking eyes with her new guest. Her voice softened a little. "Ponies need to be in a very, very desperate need for a break to get here, why don't you listen to what Nyx has to say?"

“I think I’d rather talk to her at home.” Twilight began moving towards Nyx.

“No, mother, how about we talk about it right here?” Nyx said, turning her head to glare at Twilight. “Because this bar, this magic bar thinks I’m old enough to drink. And right now, I intend to sit right here and finish this wine I started.” At that, Nyx picked up the glass and took another long sip.

Twilight visibly bristled. “Nyx!”

"I understand she's your daughter," Sunset said gently, "and I know it's a different circumstance than mine but… communication was an issue a long time ago for me, Twilight, and you know how that ended."

Twilight flicked her gaze to Sunset. It was the well-practiced gaze of a disapproving mother. It almost made Sunset want to apologize for stealing cookies or some other simple, childhood sin, but she caught herself before she could utter the words.

Still, after a few moments Twilight took a seat at the bar. She was still small enough to fit on one of the barstools. So though Nyx was technically the taller of the pair, Twilight’s sat taller than Nyx, who was still comfortably planted on a floor cushion. “So… a magic bar? When did you get this?”

“She’s not our Sunset,” Nyx said as she just held her wine glass in her magic and swirled the contents, watching it refract the light in the room. “She’s another Sunset from a different dimension that has a multidimensional bar that can appear anyplace she wants it to.”

Twilight looked to Sunset, looking her up and down once before turning to face Nyx. “Doesn’t Spike have a comic book that describes a similar situation for the Power Ponies?”

“Eeyup. Power Ponies and the Back Page Cafe.”

“That fills in some blanks.” Twilight turned her gaze back to Sunset. “And you said that this bar appears to ponies that really, really, need a break.”

“That’s what she said,” Nyx answered. “And what does that say about you, mom?”

Once more, Twilight bristled, but didn’t say anything back. She instead drew a hoof to her chest, took in a deep breath, then let the breath out as she extended her forehoof slowly. With a calmer expression, Twilight refocused on Sunset. “Sorry that I snapped when I came in. This is a very lovely establishment, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be interested in hearing how it’s able to travel between dimensions… or how it’s able to decide if someone can drink.”

"Simple multidimensional law-interpretation system," Sunset said, pulling a third wine glass and putting it in front of Twilight, but not serving her yet. "Installed by Rarity from yet another dimension other than mine, and well…" she smirked. "You know Rarity wouldn't let herself be caught with a subpar product that wouldn't allow her to avoid any potential trouble with the law itself. I think Nyx here is one of those cases where the letter of the law is clear enough that the spirit of it has to yield. In other words, she's mentally and physically fit to have a drink."

She showed Twilight the bottle. "However, I'm not serving her some questionable product; This is wine fit for royalty, aged and produced over a matter of centuries by the elves of Silvanesti. The alcohol content is quite low for a world of their nature, and something that you'd sooner get full from than drunk with. Would you like some?"

Twilight glanced about, her horn began to gently glow, There was no spell being cast, at least none that Sunset could see, but the expression from Twilight’s face was shifting from annoyance to curiosity. “The magic in here does feel very complex, very advanced. It’s perhaps some of the most advanced magic I’ve ever encountered.”

There was a huff from Nyx, who’s eyebrow twitched a moment as she took another sip of her own wine. But she offered no interruption to the conversation, and in fact turned her head away to look at the jukebox at the far end of the room.

"It is far more complex than I'd like, but at the same time, who can really ignore a fun challenge?" Sunset replied. "When I got the place, my main directive was to take me to where I could help friends or creatures relax and maybe forget about their problems for a while." She waved the bottle in her hand a little. "Rarity thought I was a good mixologist and here I am, sharing wine with the daughter of a friend. How cool is that?"

Twilight nodded. “It’s very cool, and I can admit it’s nice to have a break, even a small one like this to catch up with a alternate-reality version of a friend. Makes me want to catch up with our own Sunset Shimmer. It’s been too long since we’ve talked face to face, though we still are pen-pals using the book. Her stories from the human world are always so fascinating, though I imagine you have some stories to tell yourself.”

"Yes, but you're leaving me hanging here, Twilight," Sunset said. "I could give you a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster if you want, or do you want something from the non-alcoholic menu? Just promise that you won't do like one of your alternates and destroy the bar because Pina Coladas are virgin enough as they are."

“I suppose I could glance at the non-alcoholic menu.”

"Cool," Sunset said, putting the bottle next to her. "Let me know what you'd like when you're ready." She turned to Nyx. "So how are you enjoying the wine so far? I have other types you can sample if you want."

Twilight picked up the non-alcoholic menu, holding it at an angle so she could comfortably read. “I’d prefer if she didn’t even finish that current glass.”

“It’s wonderful, Sunset.” Nyx said, still sitting at an angle so she was facing towards the back of the bar and away from Twilight. “I do want to finish this glass before I consider trying anything else. Don’t want to dive in too quickly only to find out I’m some light weight. But this has been very relaxing. I really needed this.”

Sunset crossed her arms. "Alright, Twilight, spill. Why are you so opposed to this? She didn't walk in asking for tequila slammers."

Sunset’s gaze fell on Twilight, and Nyx soon joined. Both of them just looking at Twilight. Her eyes flicked away from her menu, taking note of both of them, but then trying to focus back on the nonalcoholic menu in front of her. For a time, that was all that happened. The jukebox played the same music, something calming… soothing… classy, in a way. Ambience but never so loud or upbeat that it intruded. But when the patrons themselves were silent, the music flowed out to fill the gap, to prevent any truly awkward silences.

“Nyx is just… not old enough…”

“Horse Apples,” Nyx snapped. “I’ve got an extra-dimensional age checking spell that seems to say otherwise. This time, I’ve got a backup, so that old excuse isn’t going to fly.” Nyx straightened herself in her seat, looking to Sunset. “You know, in my few year quest to have my first drink, I’ve asked a lot of questions of the right ponies. When Rarity would host a wine and cheese soiree, mother would never go. I always thought it was because of the cheese. But then I heard that during Sweet Apple Acre Cider Season, mother would only ever drink regular cider. Even if she worked all day to help the farm, and everypony else was having one of the much harder to come by hard ciders, she would stick to the regular cider.

“At Pinkie’s rave’s, mother would always ask if the punch was spiked. If it was, she’d just stick to water. There is a pattern. It’s a pattern as clear as the one that lead Pinkie to discovering the great Rainbow Dash Pie Conspiracy. My mother… doesn’t drink. And I don’t care. If she has her reasons, she has her reasons, but I’ve never been able to have that decision for myself. So yes, mother, please do tell. Why are you so opposed to this?”

Once more, the bar was only filled with the sound of the jukebox. It played the melody for a bit longer, the recording of the piano tinkling out a few final notes before the song itself ended. Then… true silence. The juke box’s internal mechanisms didn’t even seem to make nose as it shuffled away the record it had been playing. Just… silence.

“You know, you asked around Ponyville… and around Ponyville, yes, I’ve been very strict with myself. But right after I took over for Equestria, Pinkie threw a retirement party for Celestia and Luna. It was a whole day event. You probably remember it, Nyx. The whole town of Ponyville got swept up in it, but once the sun had set and younger ponies had been shuffled off to sleep… Pinkie and Applejack rolled out Sweet Apple Acre Hard Cider.

Twilight still looked at the non-alcoholic menu, as if it might hold a secret escape for her from the conversation. “I’d never been much of a drinker before that, but… I wasn’t so abstinent either. I had a few drinks, but Celestia and Luna… they were drinking like I had never seen them. They just cut loose. They just… partied like the world was ending, like they had no work the next day… because for the first time, they didn’t.

“And they got drunk. They got so drunk, and then Celestia just started talking. She began telling stories about other times she had gotten drunk and just… made such horrible mistakes. How she teleported a griffon ambassador and he wasn’t seen for two weeks. Or how a few drunk comments got Queen Novo mad at Celestia, which lead to weakened ties with the Hippogriffs, which lead to them not thinking to call Equestria for help when the Storm King attacked.

“And then Luna started telling stories and made it worse. She told stories of a thousand years ago, how she had started and ended wars when drunk. How she won negotiations with the Yaks by drinking some past prince under the table. Maybe some of the stories were exaggerated, but… I’m the ruler of Equestria now. Yes, I have my friends for support, and they’ve done so much. But I’m the alicorn that everyone is looking to, and… I just don’t feel like I can let myself be in a position where I can’t trust my own judgement.

“I don’t feel like I can trust myself not to make a mistake if I went too far.”

"Oh, Twilight," Sunset sighed, patting the alicorn's hoof with her hand. "I saw my Celestia drink on plenty of occasions… both the Princess and the Principal, and they restrained themselves… it all boils down to the pony. You're not them."

When Sunset glanced out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Nyx’s posture relaxed. No longer was she definitely trying to look away from Twilight, even if it meant she had to stare in the direction of the bathroom. Now she was sitting normally again, taking another sip from the wine glass. It was half empty at this point.

“You know, I’m not you either, mom. You’ve at least tried drinking. I can respect that you don’t want to do it anymore, but… this should be my decision, shouldn’t it? And I can’t make an informed decision without trying it for myself, can I?”

Twilight finally looked away from the non-alcoholic menu and focused on Nyx. “I… I know it should be your choice. I just… you grew up to fast, Nyx. Sure, I joke about not having to change any diapers, but… still… you grew up too darn fast. And… I just got worried I’d hear about some story about something you had done while drunk like I did from Celestia and Luna.”

"You girls might not want to hear the bartender's opinion, but as someone who's a friend in other dimensions, I can tell you that you're not the first parent to face those fears, Twilight." Sunset said, turning to pick up ingredients to fix up something non-alcoholic. Her practiced hands fetched the appropriate glass, and began grabbing the other ingredients. She hardly had to even look where she was reaching. She knew the back of the bar like the back of her hand.

"I think Nyx here might be curious about it, but even before you arrived she was very careful about what she wanted to try. She might find herself in situations where it's appropriate and expected to have something to drink, and having some expectations of what she'll experience assuaged can help?" She shrugged. "I did much worse than she did my first time, and I'm not getting drunk constantly despite the myriad bottles behind me."

“It seems that you’re just as practically minded as the Sunset Shimmer I know,” Twilight sighed as her ears drooped and she slouched in her seat. “I’ll admit, I can think of at least one time where I might have offended an important diplomatic guest by turning down their offer. Thankfully Applejack was there to help smooth things over.”

"Maybe, but it's still not my place to tell you what to do about your daughter in the end…" Sunset glanced at Nyx. "But this is also why I didn't want to hide you… I know you feel she's pushing you into a corner, but I think she sometimes just needs a friendly ear or two to chill." She dropped a couple of berries into a glass, followed by lime, some mint leaves and syrup, crushing the contents with the back of a spoon against the ice inside, then filled the glass with a sparkling liquid of some kind. "And speaking of chill… try this. It's my Pan Galactic Sparkle Blaster," she slid it across the bar. "No alcohol. It'll make you feel like you were hit in the taste-buds with berries wrapped in a lemon twist."

“Thank you,” Twilight said, taking the drinking in her magic and lifting it to her mouth for a quick sip. The smile on her face broadened, a sure sign of a well made drinking being enjoyed.

“You know… it feels like forever since we’ve had a talk like this, mom. You’ve been busy, and I can’t say my schedule hasn’t been jam packed either. You trust me with a lot of things. You let me help where I can… guess that’s why it was so frustrating you didn’t trust me in regards to this one particular subject.

“But… right now, this is nice. Good music, good decour, a good drink, and most importantly, good company. And maybe it’s the drink talking, but I do feel like a lot of worries have been lifted off my shoulders.”

Twilight nodded as she took a sip from her virgin mojito. “Yeah, this is almost as good as curling up in my favorite fiction-story chair in the library with a good book: almost.”

Sunset smirked, crossing her arms. "That's just because you didn't bring it. I have tables where people can have a nice little conversation, or a nice little read. Plus, it's only a matter of time before we end up with visitors from other worlds at the same time. Now, won't that be a good time to have a drink at my bar?"

Nyx giggled a little. “You could meet Commander Twilight Sparkle. She’s a real fan of this place. That and I know you have an interest in the concept of branching realities. Or do I need to remind you we still have that little chalkboard Starlight made, the one that interacts with the map table.”

“Yes, that is a fascinating thing that would be a shame to destroy, but that is a very passive means of viewing only theoretical realities. But imagine being able to meet actual parallel versions of myself and talk with them. We could compare personal experiences and book recommendations. Or even… exchange books across realities. Is that allowed? Oh, please tell me that is allowed.”

Sunset pursed her lips. "It's… complicated, but I think it is, since this bar is a neutral territory…" she glanced at the pair. "Long story. I'd have to check. I don't want my license revoked, you know? But at least talking with other versions of you is allowed." She cleared her throat. "In any case, I'll let you know when I find out. And with nothing stopping you from having a drink with somepony other than Commander Sparkle, I think it might be a fun little experiment for you." She smirked. "And I think many a Twilight Sparkle would like to meet Nyx."

“And even if we’re the only two in here, mom… maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. A chance for us to literally escape the world and just relax. After all, you can sit and make sure I don’t go too far, if you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of me drinking.” Nyx brought the wine glass to her lips, sipping down the last gulp before turning the glass to the bar. “That was delicious, Sunset, thank you.”

"You're welcome." Sunset nodded. "And believe me you two, if you need a break… this place is always available. And time doesn't pass the same in here as it does out there. You can walk out at basically the same time you walked in."

“I think I feel a lot better about the drinking subject. I still don’t think I’m ready to get back ito it, but… this virgin mojito is pretty good. There is, however, just one more thing I want to ask.” Twilight locked her eyes on Sunset. “Are you telling me this place is multidimensional and is temporaly desynchronous? Because those two kinds of magic are notably not compatible and…”

With that Twilight began an impromptu lecture into what she knew of theoretical multiverse magic, rattling on and on about how the bar’s magic didn’t sound theoretically possible. All the while Sunset and Nyx did their best to humor Twilight’s ramblings. Sunset refreshed Twilight’s mojito whenever it went dry, and poured Nyx and herself one more glass of the elven bloodwine.

Tonight, Sunset’s guests were ready to stay for a while.

Sunset hummed to herself as she placed the latest framed picture on the wall, depicting her sitting between Twilight and Nyx, the pair with slightly different expressions. Nyx had an almost self-satisfied smugness to her, although her smile was genuine, while Twilight's lips were a bit twisted in the smile—a result of Sunset whispering in her ear that her temporal-dynamics as they related to the multiverse were very interesting, but didn't account for pocket-dimension distortions into reality manipulation just as they were about to take the picture and head home.

She wondered how many of her friends, or even versions of herself already had kids. Certainly Nyx was a very unique circumstance, but, would the others be so averse to having their younger family members have a drink? Was it even responsible to sort of butt in and throw her two cents?

She sighed, sitting down on one of the chairs and studying the pictures so far. Alternia, Sunset and Gilda, Cheval… so many different people, even though they had mostly started the same or lived similar lives. Maybe one day she'd learn enough to answer her own doubts and questions about her responsibility and place in the multiverse.

Cowboy Rarity had struck a chord within her. She wasn't going to other worlds and fixing things directly, like the League of Sweeties, but it certainly helped to clear the minds and hearts of her guests. She glanced at the bar, then at the smiling faces of her guests (except for that specific Gilda and Twilight pair) and sighed with a small smile.

It was worth it.

End Chapter

Bar-hops, Chasers, Sunsets (DuckTales 2016 - Ongoing S2 spoilers)

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Sunset's Isekai
By Wanderer D
Chapter 12: Bar-hops, Chasers, Sunsets

"I'm telling you; he's acting weird."

"Oh, come on! It's probably something stupid. The investors giving him a hard time, or something equally pointless. We've seen him pacing in this hallway plenty of times."

"With a highly-advanced chest of some sort that is marked with several warning signs, as well as chains wrapped around it?"

"... okay. I will grant that—that specifically—is not normal."

"So what are we doing about it?"

"Gah! What are you doing here?!"

"We could hear you all the way down from the other side of the mansion."

"...I still can't get over seeing her here. Like. Wow. Suddenly you're resurrected."

"Thanks? Also, I have a name, you know?"

"Hey boys, what's going on? Oh no. Is that what I think it is?"

"Mom?!"

"Come on kids! I have a score to settle!"

"Wait!"

"Come on! Before the door closes!"

The silver bell chimed and Sunset looked up, seeing no-one for a moment, then she heard it: grumbling and the sound of something heavy being dragged in, followed by more grumbling, until she could see an old duck in a vest and a tophat dragging in a large chest into the middle of the bar's floor and letting it down with a thump. "Curse me kilts! That thing gets heavier every time!"

"If it isn't Scrooge McDuck," Sunset said with a grin serving up a couple of shot glasses and placing them on the table. "I've missed you, you old quack. It's been quite a few jumps since you were last here. Why don't you have a drink on the house?"

"Ah, Miss Sunset," Scrooge replied, smiling back. "Always a treat to see you, lass. You'll have to forgive me, things have been a wee out of whack lately." He stretched his back, making it crack, then gave Sunset a bemused look.

He was about to say something else when, quite suddenly, the door to the bar slammed open and a bunch of much younger ducks landed in a heap on the floor, one of them even rolling past the others to smack against the box with an "oof!" while the last young duck rolled under Scrooge himself, making him trip and fall with a surprised quack.

There was some grumbling and pushing until the children were separated from the adults, but then the young duck in blue saw Sunset and he scampered back to the wall, screeching out, "ALIEN!"

"Gah!" The others also backed against the wall, all except…

"I guess I was right."

Sunset's eyes narrowed. "Della Duck."

"Sunset Shimmer." Della made her way to the bar and slammed her fist on it. "You've got some nerve showing your featherless face here."

"This is my bar, Della," Sunset hissed, leaning over. "If anything, you're the one that shouldn't be here."

Without breaking eye-contact, each very slowly and deliberately picked their respective shot glass and downed the contents in one go.

"That'll be two bits," Sunset growled.

Della crossed her arms. "I heard you say to Uncle Scrooge it was on the house."

"Yes," Sunset said, "for him. You, on the other hand…"

"I don't have gold on me!"

"Big surprise!" Sunset snorted.

The younger ducks stared at the stare-off for a few seconds, and then looked at each other.

"I feel like I'm missing something here," Huey said.

Dewey shrugged. "Mom knows a lot of people."

Huey smacked his brother. "But she's not even a known species!"

"Does it matter?" Louie asked, glancing around excitedly. "Can you imagine how much money you can make with a bar that appears anywhere you want it to be at any point in time?!" He rubbed his hands together, a grin spreading on his face.

"Kids!" Scrooge hollered when he finally managed to get back on his feet. "What the blazes are you doing here?!"

"Ordering a drink!" Louie stated, smiling pleasantly at Sunset as he casually jumped onto one of the seats at the bar and grabbed a menu. "What's a Moloko Plus, and can I have two?"

"You are NOT drinking any alcohol," Della snapped, removing the menu from Louie's hands.

"Aww."

"So…" the younger of the two girls in the back ventured, approaching the bar, "What is this place? I'm Webby, by the way! Is this really an interdimensional bar?! How many universes have you visited? Are you an ex-high-level-adventurer that put down her sword for a quiet life after saving the universe?" She gasped. "Can I get a job here?!"

Sunset blinked. "I don't think—"

"Easy there, Webby," the slightly older girl said, placing a hand on her younger friend's shoulder. "You're a little too young to work at a bar."

"Aww."

The elder girl that had spoken shook her head, glancing around warily. "Plus I feel weird here, like Duckworth is about to jump out of the walls or something."

Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Duckworth?"

"Oh," Webby said, "Lena just means Mr. McDuck's ghost butler."

"Good instincts." Sunset laughed, smiling at Lena "but there is— currently—no ghost in here."

Lena narrowed her eyes. "Are you saying that at other times—"

"According to the Junior Woodchuck manual, page 415, there is no such thing as interdimensional bars." Huey interrupted, jumping onto one of the seats and showing the page to Sunset, who blinked and leaned in to look at it for a second before he turned it around then glanced at the bar, and back to his book. "Even though it has a deceptively specific example about a place that looks just like this one, and even a drawing that looks kind of like the bartender here, but in duck version," he admitted lamely.

"Sorry kid," Sunset said, tapping the top of the book with her finger. "But you can't trust everything a book tells you either. I've never been a duck."

"Aww."

"Wow!" Dewey said, "Look at all these pictures! So many horses! And more whatever you are! And bug horses!"

"They remind me of the Kelpies!" Webby said. "Oh! I bet they even sound the same!"

Louie leaned in with a frown. "Huh. Now that you mention it…"

"Ponies," Sunset hissed through gritted teeth. "Ponies and Changelings. And Humans."

"And there's another you!"

"Yeah." Sunset served herself another shot and downed it. "Yeah. That's another me."

"Can I meet other me's?"

"Not on this trip."

"Aww."

"Better get used to disappointment, kids," Scrooge grumbled, shaking his staff for emphasis before pointing it directly at the younger ducks. "The multiverse is NOT a place where you want to go adventuring unprepared!" He ignored the looks Sunset and Della gave him and leaned in, motioning with his hand at one of the tables in the corner. "Now, I want you five to go sit at that table over there. You can get non-alcoholic drinks if you want. But Sunset, Della and I need to talk about a few things before my business partner arrives."

"Yes, about that," Sunset said, "am I smuggling the essence of more dead elder gods into other dimensions? Because it turns out there's actually quite a few multi-dimensional governments that might have an issue w—"

The box Scrooge had dragged in shook in place until Scrooge kicked it.

"What is in there?" Huey asked. "It did not look friendly. Or healthy."

"You know, my Pa has managed to live for almost a hundred years," Scrooge said, glancing at Huey.

The young duck frowned. "Dragging shaking and growling, highly advanced boxes into interdimensional bars?"

"No. By minding his own business," Scrooge replied, turning back to Sunset. "And yes, I'm aware of that, but Rarity has given me her personal guarantee that this one shouldn't be a problem. In fact, it's community service."

Sunset didn't look convinced, but then glanced at Della and frowned. "So she's with you?"

"Yes," Scrooge said, narrowing his eyes. "And I do wonder how you two met."

"She tried to steal gold from my bar."

Scrooge rounded on Della. "You what?!"

"I was stranded on the moon!" she exclaimed. "How did you expect me to get back?!"

"You could have said that before you attempted to remove vital components from my Bar's management system! It was a pain to repair!" Sunset countered. "I gave you booze, food, and listened to you talk about some alien chick, and you escaped before paying the bill!"

"You're an alien—oww!"

Scrooge smacked Della on the back of the head, then sighed, rubbing his temples. "How much does she owe you?" he growled.

"Oh, I have a tab. I'll grab it for you."

"You kept it all this time?!" Della asked, rubbing the back of her head.

"You bet I did!" Sunset countered, passing Scrooge a piece of paper that unrolled into a long list of items.

"Oh, phooey."

"I see you didn't hesitate to splurge on having fun," Scrooge muttered, going over the item list.

"Uncle, I thought this was a Moon-based restaurant/bar and that I could pay with—"

"Chewing gum," Sunset interrupted. "Which is not a valid form of payment in any dimension."

A chime interrupted them. "Well, I wouldn't say that, darling," a voice said, "there's certainly at least one world I can think of where we could trade some bubblegum for other things."

The door opened fully to allow Sunset's business partner into the bar proper. Rarity was wearing a single piece white dress, a purple scarf and a wide-brimmed hat.

"My, my, Rarity Belle," Scrooge laughed, moving forward to take Rarity's hand in his and kissing it gently. "Can I say, lass, it's always a pleasure to do business with you."

"Oh, Scrooge McDuck, old charmer, you're always such a gentleman," Rarity replied, giggling. "and you know the pleasure is indisputably mine."

"Alright then," Scrooge said, his smile fading as he glanced at his family. "Listen up, by the time I come back, I expect you lot to be ready to head home. This is NOT a place for you to run around and get into trouble, am I clear?"

"But Uncle—"

"No buts!" Scrooge interrupted. "The last thing we need is you all ending up in different places of the multiverse." He turned and smiled at Rarity. "If you will?"

"Of course, darling," Rarity said, waving her hand. To the amazed eyes of the boys—and the narrowed, wary eyes of Lena—the strange chest levitated up into the air, enveloped in a blue-white aura and followed them into the room behind the bar.

"What was that?!" Webby asked.

"Magic," Sunset and Lena said at the same time.

"Huh," Sunset glanced at the tall girl, "I guess you can tell, but you don't sound very enthusiastic about it."

"Nothing good ever comes out of magic," Lena said in a low voice, making the bartender blink.

"I don't know," Sunset said, "I've found it very useful, even if I had to make do without it for a while."

Lena leaned onto the bar. "Don't you realize how dangerous magic is? Webby and Violet played with magic and they almost died!"

Sunset blinked. "I'm a unicorn. Magic has always been part of me. And you have a pretty solid amount of it yourself, you know?"

"Wow! You're a unicorn?!" Webby asked, jumping on the one seats of the bar. "Unicorns must be very different where you come from! Over here, they're just horses with a horn on their head!"

Sunset chuckled. "Well, I wasn't always human. In my original form, I look a lot like them," she said pointing at the picture of Twilight and Nyx. "Just without the wings."

"You have a lot more pictures in here now," Della said, standing in front of the wall. "Looks like you've been having fun."

Sunset glared at her before closing her eyes and sighing. "It's been—"

CRASH!

The girls looked over to the corner where a table had collapsed on top of Huey, Louie and Dewey, who were guiltily trying to get away from the jukebox.

"Right, that goes on your tab," Sunset hissed.

"Boys!"

"Sorry!" Huey said, "sorry! We're just… you know… bored."

"We already explored the bathrooms."

"And we might have tried accessing the storage room."

"Turns out, it has some sort of repulsion field..." Dewey muttered, showing his singed shirt.

Sunset silently turned to glare at Della, who shook her head in dismay and walked over to her kids, kneeling down in front of them. "Boys, you have to make sure you don't destroy things! If you're trying to sneak into the storage room and it has a repulsion field, then you must find the correct sequence to—"

"Ahem."

Della smiled nervously at Sunset. "Ah. Yeah. Uh… I'm uh… yeah, you shouldn't do that."

"Oh, stop it," Sunset growled. "If you tried any harder to give them advice, I'm afraid you'd have some sort of stroke."

Huey raised a finger. "But she barely—oof!"

"It's called 'sarcasm'," Louie said, elbowing his brother.

"Right," Sunset said, "I'm dropping you lot back in Scrooge's mansion—"

"Nooo!" Webby cried, grabbing Sunset by the waistcoat. "Please! This is my first time in an interdimensional bar!"

"It is kinda lame that we have to get kicked out because they acted up," Lena said. "And I… really don't have anyone to talk to about magic back home."

"Hey—"

Lena smirked, punching Webby on the shoulder. "Except you and Violet, dork," she said with a smile. "But it's a bit different."

"Oh, it's fine, I wasn't offended," Webby shrugged.

"So, the question is… what to do with you?" Sunset asked, turning to face the trio of boys.

"Please don't send us back!" Huey begged. "I just want to experience and learn about new technology!"

Sunset blinked. "New tech, huh? I might have an idea." She walked over to the side of the bar and summoned a screen. "Hey Swip, Sunset "Isekai" here. Think you could do me a favor?"

“Extending greetings protocol!”

"Are you sure this is safe?" Della asked, glancing dubiously from the filly robot-unicorn across from her, and into the expanding world beyond.

"It is," Sunset said, "Bot here promised she'd watch over them, and she's more than capable of protecting them."

The little filly robot saluted.

"Do we really want to hang out with a unicorn?" Louie asked.

"It's another dimension!" Huey whisper-shouted.

"This is the adventure of a lifetime, Louie!" Dewey said urgently. "Besides! She's a robot! That absolutely trumps the unicorn part!"

"Anticipation levels rising," Bot said, a small smile playing on her face. "Assessment: three troublemakers. Theory: Celestia City will have an eventful day. Conclusion: I can handle them for a few hours."

"See?" Sunset said as the three kids ran out. "Perfectly safe."

"Do you always talk like that?" Huey asked.

"Nope," Bot replied, motioning for them to follow her out of the bar, "but it's always good for first impressions to appear like a predictable machine."

"Be good, boys!" Della said, giving them a hug.

"See you soon, Bot, and thanks!" Sunset said, waving as the foursome walked away. She closed the door behind them.

"Aww, I wanted to go with them," Webby said.

Lena rubbed her arm. "Well… if you want to—"

"Nah." Webby patted her arm. "I'm sure I'll get another chance, besides, you need to talk, right? Let's do it now that the boys—and granny—aren’t around." She grinned, gasping. "You know what this is?! IT'S A GIRL'S NIGHT OUT! ONLY IT'S NOT NIGHT! AND WE'RE NOT OUT!"

"Right," Sunset said. "Come on, you three."

Lena smiled gratefully and followed the others in, taking a seat at the bar alongside Della and Webby, while Sunset walked around it.

"Are you sure they'll be fine?" Della asked Sunset again.

"Of course they will," Sunset replied. "Bot has enough armaments to take over a planet on her own, and they're in the multi-dimensional capital of a law-abiding conglomeration of Sweetie Belles and their allies. What could possibly go wrong?"

Della gave her a look, then sighed and nodded. "Fine."

Sunset dug around behind the bar and whipped up two strawberry daiquiris for the girls. "No alcohol in these," she said, sliding the drinks to the pair.

"So why didn't you go with them?" Sunset asked, looking straight at Della. "You looked like you had hit adventure jackpot."

Della cringed slightly. "Alright, alright. Look… I just wanted to bury the hatchet, alright? When I saw you last time, I was in a bad spot. I desperately wanted to fly back home and I didn't ask for help when I should have." She looked down. "I'm sorry. I did not mean to cause you problems… I just wanted to be home in time to see my kids hatch."

Sunset's frown lessened and she sighed. "I wish you had just said so!" She shook her head, grabbing a few bottles and dropping measurements into a shaker, followed by a large piece of ice. "I'm not heartless, Della, I would have helped you get back home if I had known you weren't really just a thief."

Della chuckled weakly. "Yeah. It did cost me my one chance… I was really angry with you for a while. You left me and I…" she shook her head. "Well, here I am now." She blinked when a short glass filled with some sort of golden liquid and with two crystal-clear ice cubes, and decorated with a lemon wedge and a maraschino cherry was placed in front of her.

"On the house," Sunset said, raising her own glass. "To burying the hatchet."

"Heh, to burying the hatchet," Della echoed, taking a sip and humming in appreciation of the quality bourbon in it. "This is very nice."

"So…" Lena spoke up hesitantly, glancing at Della and Webby out of the corner of her eyes before settling on Sunset. "Magic?"

"Oh, yeah!" Webby said excitedly. "It's too bad Violet is not here, she'd love this!"

"Maybe next time, Webby," Sunset said.

"Hey, Webby," Della spoke up suddenly, “how about I tell you about how I met Sunset the first time? It involves a giant acid-spitting bug, zero-g shenanigans, and the secret entrance to—" she trailed off when she saw Sunset's glare. "...the moon base!"

Webby blinked, then her smile grew. "Really?!"

"Really. Come on, let's sit over there, out of earshot, and let them talk for a bit."

"Sure!" Webby said, "I mean, if you're okay with it Lena?"

"Yeah, don't worry about me," Lena said.

Sunset gave Della a smile, watching the pair head over to the corner of the bar.

"It all started when I was setting up my base on what was left of the Spear of Selene…" Della started saying as she led Webby to the farthest table.

Sunset let them walk and sit down before turning back to Lena, who was holding her drink in both hands and looking down at it. "So. It seems your experience with magic hasn't been the best, huh?"

Lena looked at her warily. "Look, no offense, but even if Scrooge knows you, I don't, and it's kinda personal."

Sunset nodded. "I understand, but think about it this way… I'm a magical being too. And one that is trusted by your friends. You could just not tell me anything… I'm not going to force you, but it is a good chance for you to talk to someone that might understand what you're going through."

"I don't think you can," the teenage duck said, glancing up at Sunset. "unless you know what it's like to dream constantly about becoming a monster."

Sunset reached out and patted Lena's hand, her smile twisting a little. "You'd be surprised about how much I can relate on that front."

Lena studied her face for a moment before she sighed and glanced away. "What's your story?"

Sunset hummed, but shrugged. "In a nutshell? I was the apprentice of the ruler of my land, Princess Celestia. Eventually I got greedy and studied things I shouldn't have, did things I shouldn't have done, and when things didn't work out, I ran away into a different world… only to do even more things I shouldn't have. I ended up becoming a literal demon for a few minutes before my friends had to use very powerful magic to bring me back."

When Lena stared at her with her mouth slightly open, Sunset smiled. "You asked."

"Y-yeah," Lena replied, looking down and rubbing her arm. "I guess I did." She took a deep breath. "I… started the other way around."

Sunset raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Does that mean that yo—"

"But never mind that!" Lena interrupted. "Look, Magica De Spell is my... aunt, alright? She's—or was—a very powerful sorceress in my world. Scrooge's number one enemy and all that." She rolled her eyes and waved her hand dismissively. "And she's an awful person that used me and magic to hurt everyone I love. Even the whole city of Duckburg."

Sunset grimaced. "Yeah… that doesn't sound like positive magical exposure right there."

"That would be because it isn't," Lena said, her hand tightening into a fist. "Aunt Magica convinced me that I would have a family, that we would be all set if I used magic and trickery to help her—at the cost of Webby and the others."

Nodding, Sunset kept quiet, patting the young duck's hand encouragingly.

"I went along with it, you know…" Lena said, looking down at her drink with a frown. "And Aunt Magica… she used her magic to—" she clamped her beak shut and took a deep breath. "She abused me through her magic. She did things to others through me. Every time she and magic come up, there's something dangerous related to it, be it a shadow invasion or some crazy, deadly shenanigans."

"Have you thought that maybe you hate magic right now only because you were unprepared for it being used against you?" Sunset asked gently. "Bear in mind that magic does have variations in power and function across the Multiverse, but it seems to me like you have a lot of talent for it… and very little training."

"That's one way of putting it." Lena snorted and sipped her drink, still unwilling to look up. "Magica used me… possessed me and made me do things I would never do. Then, when she had gotten what she wanted, did she fulfil her part? Did she try to welcome me at all into her family? No. She simply threw me away. She dismissed me into the Shadow Realm and almost killed me and Webby!"

"But you managed to beat her, right?"

Lena smiled, looking up. "Yeah. Yeah we did. I was able to stick with Webby after that, and Violet later helped her get me back."

Sunset smiled. "Well, they do say friendship is magic."

Lena snorted. "In my world, friendship hates magic. It's the only thing that's kept it from getting us all killed."

Sunset chuckled. "Or maybe it's just a different type of magic?"

The young duck took a moment to consider her words, before shrugging. "I mean… I guess. I can't say that everything about it was bad."

"In the end, how did things work out?" Sunset asked.

Lena smiled a little. "Well. Scrooge promised I could be part of his family. But I still feel like I did them wrong, and even though they're very kind, I still feel like I'm imposing."

"I get it," Sunset said.

"How?" Lena asked, glancing up at her with a frown. "No offense, but being an animated shadow that gained sentience and rebelled against her creator is not something most people can get." She gave Sunset a doubtful look. "Even demons."

Sunset barked a laugh. "This is true, but hear me out. You see that bugpony over there? The changeling with the weird horn?"

Lena gave her a look. "They all look weird to me."

"Right, anyway, the one that's… more armored. Her. Yeah. Anyway, she sort of brought up something important… when I was Princess Celestia's pupil, I wanted more… from the beginning. I didn't just want to be her chosen apprentice—I wanted to be her daughter. I wanted to be the head of the school of magic. I wanted to be a princess. But most of all, I really, really wanted her to acknowledge that I was as great as I thought I was."

"You sound like you were a blast," Lena pointed out. "The type that blows the wall, I mean."

Sunset smiled, drinking a bit. "Pretty much… but like you, it ended up with me making a lot of bad decisions that only got worse, and it took other people blasting me so hard with magical rainbow lasers that I created a crater and being made to confront all of the things that I knowingly dismissed to get it into my thick head that I had a problem and that I needed to work very hard to make up for everything I'd done." She glanced up and patted Lena on the head. "You, on the other hand, learned that on your own. In my book, that puts you on the right track," she added. "Magic—in my experience—is a means to an end. Sometimes it's within us, sometimes it comes from an outside source, but magic itself doesn't make us what we are, magic in our lives is shaped around who we want to be, in one way or another."

Lena hummed, glancing at Sunset. "So you do magic?"

Sunset smiled. "A little. I stopped being able to cast spells like a unicorn when I left home, and until I got my bar I was a bit limited on sources, so now I'm re-learning different ways on my free time." She frowned. "And I need to do it a bit faster in case Rarity decides to visit one of those places again."

Lena raised an eyebrow.

"Not important," Sunset said, clearing her throat. "The bottom line is, I am who I am—and you are who you are regardless of the magic. Magic can sometimes change you for better or worse, but in the end it's directed by something or someone. Magic doesn't hate you." She shrugged. "I can tell it's an integral part of you, and I think it would be worse in the long run if you don't accept that and learn from—and of—it."

"Right. And who's going to teach me? Scrooge?" Lena rolled her eyes. "Webby and Violet almost got killed by experimenting on their own. I don't expect them to quit—I know them too well—but they can't rely on me for real advice. Magica is not someone I would ever trust to teach me, and most of the gods we've met are… of dubious nature."

"You'll find that seldom changes regardless of what dimension you're in," Sunset muttered, eyes narrowing.

"Riight."

"That might be true," Della said, "but that doesn't mean all hope is lost!"

Both Lena and Sunset scrambled back in surprise, just now noticing Della and Webby were both grinning at them.

Sunset slowly lowered the arm she had raised to ward off any sudden attack. "What?" she asked, narrowing her eyes. "I don't like that smile, Della."

"Oh, don't mind me…" Della said, her grin growing. "Webby's the one you should be worried about."

Sunset and Lena slowly turned to look at the younger duck, who's smile would have made Worf take a nervous step back. "I have an idea!"

"Oh boy," Sunset muttered. "I might not have known you for long, but you strike me as someone that doesn't think things through in terms of consequences."

"And you would be right!" Webby said, standing on her seat. "Here's how I look at things," she said, putting down both hands on the bar and grinning at Sunset. "You are a unicorn!"

"Well. Yes?"

"And you know magic! You said you were the apprentice of a princess and you're even retraining yourself!"

Sunset's eyes narrowed when Webby pointed at Lena. "And you! You're Lena!"

"Hey there."

"You're MADE of magic! And you can learn more!" Webby continued unaffected by Lena's raised eyebrow. "So you both should work together!"

Sunset blinked. "What."

"Work! Together!"

"Hey, don't give her that look, Sunset," Della said, smirking. "She's a bit excitable, but she's got a point. If there's anyone that could help Lena learn to use magic that we can trust, it's probably you."

"I'm a bartender."

"But with magic!" Webby said, making a fist.

"And experience," Della added, smirking.

Sunset and Lena looked at each other. The young duck shrugged. "I've got nothing better to do."

Sunset opened her mouth, but they were interrupted by the office door opening, and Rarity and Scrooge walking out of it, coughing. Sunset raised an eyebrow at Rarity's white-blue cutiemark-themed armor, and Scrooge's slightly-singed and irritated look.

"I told you we shouldn't have activated the magical defibrillator before the slime escaped," Scrooge said, glancing at Rarity with a disapproving frown.

"Darling, please," Rarity huffed, checking the back of her gauntlets. "The results speak for themselves."

Scrooge seemed to be about to say something, but held back, nodding reluctantly. "I guess they do."

Then the pair started laughing.

"I feel like I missed out on something pretty epic,' Lena said.

"You get used to it," Sunset and Della said in unison, then turned to look at each other.

"Aww. Friendship!" Webby clapped.

"Right," Scrooge said, turning around to face them. A frown slowly developed. "Where are the boys?"

"I dropped them off in Celestia City," Sunset said. "Sweetie Bot was taking care of them."

Rarity's smile froze. "Oh dear. Oh well." She turned around and shook Scrooge's hand. "Always a pleasure, Scrooge, but I should get going."

"Right, right," Scrooge said watching her go. He sighed. "That lass is going to one day get herself into a situation she can't handle." He glanced at Sunset. "Good thing she has you to keep tabs on her."

"Right."

"Anyway, let's pick up the boys, shall we? I don't like the idea of them being in a different universe without supervision."

"Eh, they'll be fine," Sunset said. "They're with Bot, she can destroy planets. I'm sure she can handle those three."

"Right. So let's go save her."

Sunset considered the newest picture she had framed. All of her latest batch of visitors were there, except for Rarity who had insisted she had something to do when they had picked up the boys. Huey, Louie and Dewey stood posing next to a slightly bedraggled-looking Sweetie Bot.

There was nothing necessarily indicative of Bot being stressed. In fact, she looked perfectly fine, for the most part, but there was an air about her when she had returned the trio, which just… seemed to indicate she was a bit stressed. To Sweetie's left, Lena and Webby were leaning against each other and smirking at the camera, while Dela and Sunset gave each other wary looks.

"What a group of crazy ducks," Sunset chuckled, her eyes going to Lena for a moment before she hung the picture. Was it her, or was Lena slightly translucent?

She headed over to the bar, glancing over her shoulder back at the frame and sighing as she dragged her fingers down her face. "Great. Now what am I supposed to do?" she moaned into her hands.

End Chapter