All's Fair in Love and World Domination

by TheDriderPony

Chapter 1: The Work Never Stops, But Neither Does The Fun

Heavy chains rattled with each leaden step Fleur De Lis took, their cacophony sounding for all the world like churchyard bells tolling out a funeral march.

A macabre fit, as she knew deep in her heart that this journey would end in her death.

Two guards walked ahead of her and two behind. The former held the lead to her chains, the latter, a pair of rifles as motivation to keep up the pace. Hallway after hallway passed in a blur of confusing turns and intersections, the walls slowly transitioning from unadorned metal panels illuminated by bitingly harsh bulbs to rich wood covered in tapestries and warm candlelight. But there was nothing left in her to appreciate the master-level artistry on display. What did it matter to the condemned man how beautifully the noose was tied? It would do its grim duty all the same.

After an eternity that took but a moment, they finally arrived. Double doors swung open on silent hinges to a nearly vacant courtroom. No crowds filled the stands, gawking for a glimpse of the accused. No jury filled the box to hear her pleas and protests. No lawyers stood by the counsel table to speak in her defense. Even the highest pulpit that towered above all else in the room like a mountain among foothills sat bereft of high judge.

All that remained was a small, tired-looking man in an ill-fitting wig occupying a much smaller bench at the foot of the high seat.

This was no public spectacle. It wasn't even a mock trial for appearances. This was a stamp on some bureaucrat's paperwork saying that procedure had been carried out and nothing more.

The metal collar choked her for a moment as the guards came to a sudden and coordinated stop. She barely had a chance to gasp before the proceedings began.

"Prisoner 26532," the judge read off from a sheaf of papers as though he were reciting the weather. "You stand accused of sedition, insurrection, and lèse-majesté against Crown and Country. How do you plead?"

She had no chance. It was a fool's errand. Merely delaying the inevitable. But it was all she had. "Not guilty."

Small though it was, there was a fragment of hope that she clutched deep in her chest. That even as she fell, her comrades in arms would keep fighting the good fight in her name and memory. That, thanks to her tireless devotion to absolute secrecy, they'd live to fight another day against the tyranny that threatened to consume the world. Soul buoyed by that knowledge, she could die, not happy, but at least relieved.

The judge arched an eyebrow, his lip twitching in a minor display of annoyance. "Very well then. The evidence." He reached under his desk and removed a scroll.

The next hour was one of the worst in Fleur's life, second only to when the Secret Police had raided her safehouse and dragged her away. They knew. They knew everything. Names, dates, locations. Plans she'd discussed in only the strictest of confidence. Allies she'd never contacted through less than three layers of obfuscation. Everything that made up the rebellion was spelled out in black and white on that seemingly endless scroll. Hope withered and died in her breast.

When at last the final footnote of her efforts had been disclosed, the judge cleared his throat and put the scroll away. "In light of the evidence, does the accused have anything to say?"

Anything to say? Was there even anything left that wasn't already recorded in his notes? A small sound worked its way out of her throat, less a word and more an emotion given sound.

"I'm sorry?" the judge asked.

"...How?" Fleur dared lift her head, using the last of what fleeting strength had guided her these past months. "How did you know? We were careful. So... careful."

The judge opened his mouth, but it wasn't he that responded.


Fleur jolted upright at the unmistakable voice. In one word it drew an icy path down her back like the cold finger of death. It was a voice you'd have to be deaf not to know. She heard it every day. On the radio. On the television. Echoing through the streets like the wind itself.

Her gaze travelled up, past the judge who had likewise turned skyward, past the balconies of empty seats, all the way to the highest seat in the courtroom. A seat that was no longer unoccupied.

"A-All rise!" the judge stammered even though no one present was sitting. The guards shifted and straightened around her, snapping into parade rest. "All stand in the presence of her majesty, Arch-Princess Sunset Shimmer!"

For as much as Fleur had seen the warlord's face every day everywhere she turned, her blood still ran cold as she made contact with those smokey grey eyes. As striking as she was in print and on screen, there was a grandeur about the Arch-Princess that could only be witnessed in person. It existed beyond the dusky red skin, surpassing the hair of living flames that thrashed and raged in an unseen wind, past the leathery Mephistophelian wings. It was an aura of power, of unquestionable superiority so strong it made her wonder how she ever thought her meager band of rebels could stand up to it. Even lounging in the chair with her feet up she looked a picture of casual strength.

" 'How' is easy." Words flowed off her tongue like honey, a disturbing contrast to the demonic visage that delivered them. "The simple fact of it is that your efforts, amusing though they were, were simply... lacking. Insufficient. Secret codes? Untraceable calls?" She tutted like a disappointed mother. "Child's play. You'll have to try much harder than that to outwit my intelligence network."

"Now then." The demon lord sat up, her clawed fingers coming together with a sound like sharpening knives. "I believe we were just about to get to the sentencing?"

"Y-Yes, your highness!" The judge lowered his head so quickly his wig became askew. "On the charges of sedition, insurrection, and lèse-majesté against the Arch-Princess and her Sovereign Nation of Shimmquestria, I hereby pronounce you Guilty!" He banged his gavel against the table in two swift cracks, like a double-tap shot to the back of the head.

"Normally," All eyes returned to the figure who peered down at them like a wrathful god. "The punishment would be death, as is suitable for traitors and rebels."

Fleur felt nothing. This much she had expected since the moment her door was breached.

"But I find myself feeling generous today. Rather than execution, I think I'll be commuting your sentence..." The smallest spark of hope flared in Fleur's heart, lasting only moments before it was mercilessly quenched by the demoness' fanged grin and the dark gleam in her eye. "...to servitude in The Factory."

Someone screamed, and it took Fleur a long time to realize it was her. Something cracked, like a pane of glass, and her final thought before darkness overtook her was a wish that she'd been granted the mercy of a swift death.

The Grand Palaces of New Canterlot were known for both their opulence and their impenetrable security. Statues that concealed automated turrets, tapestries boasting magical wards beyond the ken of man. Nowhere on Earth or Equus was more impregnable. Deep within its heart, in the most secure of sectors, was a set of private rooms furnished with surprising modesty.

It was within these rooms that Sunset Shimmer, Arch-Princess of Shimmquestria and its Expanded Territories, collapsed onto a couch with a low groan.

"Platform heels," she groused, "Why did I have to design it with platform heels?"

A flash of magic banished her fiery-haired demon form, revealing a rather ordinary young woman. Ordinary as one could be, that is, while wearing a tailored dress uniform that looked just as suitable behind a podium as it would in the heat of combat. A true marvel of form, function, and fashion. A snap of her fingers soon vanished her work clothes, replacing them with a comfortable pair of sweatpants and an oversized shirt with the old Canterlot High insignia and only one or two bullet holes from the early days of her conquest.

She groaned again as she took one aching foot in her hands and started to work out the kinks with her thumbs. "Ach! Ooh! Ah! An asprin! My kingdom for an asprin!"

Sunset blinked as a momentary wave of discontinuity washed over her. She glanced at the coffee table. It bore a glass of water and two small pills that definitely hadn't been there before.

A slow smile grew across her face.

A crimson glow summoned a large pillow from across the room and nestled it at the small of her back so she could properly lounge.

"My what a terribly productive day I've had," She announced in an exaggerated tone like a bad actor in a high school play. "Over fifty rebels rounded up and tried in one fell swoop. My biggest victory since I took Canada." She sighed dramatically. "If only my trusty Spymaster was here so I could thank her properly for all her hard work."

In an instant, the room had two occupants. But it was not illusions, nor invisibility, nor even teleportation at play. She'd never been alone to start with. She'd just forgotten.

Sunset smiled at the newcomer who'd always been there. "Hey."

The newcomer looked up from her one-legged kneel, a matching smile on her face. "Hey yourself."

"Missed you."

"I've been told that's fairly easy."

The young woman that rose to her feet was perhaps even more ordinary than the one who lounged on the bed. Pale green skin with darker green hair tied back in a pair of long braids. On the shorter side of average with a face best described as mousey. She was dressed nearly as casually in sweater and jeans, save for a military jacket draped over her shoulders with the clear markings of a general along the red and gold piping. Her only concession to accessories was a necklace; a wide gold band filigreed with arcane runes around a heavy green and grey stone.

The sight of the stone brought old memories back to the surface; ironic, given its power. Memories of her early days in the world of humans. Of finding a surprising kindred spirit and powerful ally in a quiet girl fuming in the corner. Someone else who knew the sting of being shunned and turned away from what they rightfully deserved. Wallflower Blush. A girl Sunset had known from the start she'd go far with (though the direction had escaped even her predictions).

Sunset —it was always just Sunset when they were alone— pointed to the jacket. "Is that General March's?"

"It was," Wallflower admitted shamelessly. "Now it's mine."

"I'm going to have to buy him a new one now, you know."

She shrugged. "If he didn't want it coming out his paycheck, he shouldn't have left it lying around."

Sunset had no doubt that it had absolutely not been just 'lying around'. No doubt March would be surprised to find it missing from his closet. But it was impossible to stop Wallflower's sticky fingers and she'd long since stopped trying. "It's a good look on you. I like the braids as well."

Wallflower removed the jacket and tossed it aside, letting the pressed linen crumple on the floor. "Eh, it just caught my interest."

And wasn't that the way it always went? Sunset patted the couch beside her, inviting the girl to come and sit. She did, first grabbing a pillow for herself as Sunset downed the asprin. When they were comfortable, the conversation turned back to business.

"So. The trials?"

"I watched. Nice job putting the Fear of Shim in them. Breaking them first makes my job so much easier."

Sunset nodded. That had been her intent. "So the rebel leader..."

"Already taken care of." Wallflower smirked in that way that made Sunset's heart skip a beat. It was so rare to find a smile that matched the one she saw in the mirror. "As far as she knows, there never was a rebellion."

Business as usual then. "Perfect. I'm thinking we drop her in Baltimare next. See if she can pull all the radical elements there into one nice coalition we can sweep up."

"Might want to go somewhere more inland," Wallflower warned. "I may have also erased all her knowledge of what an ocean is. Next time she gets to the coast she gonna freak." She giggled at the thought. "The rest I just gave a basic wipe."

"You didn't need to do the others," Sunset commented. "They were already scheduled for execution."

Wallflower shrugged again as she leaned back and turned the motion into an exaggerated stretch. "It wasn't any trouble. If they're going to die anyway I thought I might as well have a little fun first and practice some new tricks. We're down one already. The guy who I made forget his sense of self-preservation didn't last long against the girl who forgot all her morals. Might be handy if you ever need berserker troops."

While aligning interests and a similarly vicious mindset had helped Sunset and Wallflower bond through their conquest, it wasn't what originally brought the two of them together. That honor belonged to the small matter of the power that Wallflower wielded. A near-complete magical mastery of memory, granted by the artifact around her neck. True, anyone could use the Stone (and Sunset had seriously considered just taking it for herself in the early days) but it took a special kind of person to use it to its fullest potential. And it was not without its drawbacks.

Though all it had taken to overcome them was a little applied rune theory from Sunset and her future paramour went from a self-consuming shadow to a powerhouse of potential.

To erase memories was impressive, but to erase and restore at will was a power nearly inconceivable in strength and utility.

It was thanks to her that Sunset's conquest had progressed as quickly as it had.

"Which reminds me." Wallflower dug around in her pocket. "I brought you a present from across the pond." After a moment she produced a folded slip of paper and slid it across the table. Sunset unfolded it to reveal a series of long alphanumeric strings. She raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Germany's launch codes," the greenette explained. "I was going to get France's too, but it turns out they didn't have any. Stopped by the Louvre for a few souvenirs while I was there, though."

It was decidedly hard for an enemy to keep secrets from a woman who could make them forget not just seeing her, but that they ever held the secrets in the first place. It certainly didn't help her kleptomania.

"You keep bringing me presents and soon enough I'm going to run out of places to put them," Sunset teased.

"Good," Wallflower jibed back, "This place is overdue for a renovation. I'm thinking maybe a new North wing. Big bay windows, marble floors, vaulted ceilings..."

A small grin tugged the corner of Sunset's mouth as she recalled the current floorplan of the area. "And an expansion of your servants' quarters? Another playroom for testing?"

"If there's space, of course."

"Of course," she replied, followed by a soft cough.

Sunset frowned and snapped her fingers, causing a frosted glass with a straw to manifest on the table. She levitated it up and over to Wallflower, who took it eagerly. Another snap summoned a matching drink for herself, fresh from a dedicated room in the kitchens. A small noise of surprise escaped the memory manipulator as the flavor contacted her tongue.

"Mm. That's not the usual wildberry."

"Nope. Crystalberries. Shipment just arrived through the portal."

Wallflower sipped it again before taking the plunge with a hearty pull on the straw. "I like it. Tangy."

A minute passed in silence as Sunset waited for her Spymaster to soothe her throat. Wallflower's voice tired so easily; a side effect of sometimes going for days or even weeks without speaking to anyone. She could, of course, but it was an exercise in futility when no one could carry on a conversation without forgetting she existed with every blink. At least the signs of her wearing down were easy so spot and Equestria boasted a variety of delicious fruits with medicinal qualities.

Soon the sound of sucking was replaced with that of slurping as her straw scraped the bottom of the cup. "Thanks," she said, setting the glass aside. "I needed that."

"My pleasure." Sunset set hers down on the table, still mostly full, close enough that Wallflower could take it if needed. "I think we need to discuss the upcoming offensive. The rebels set us back, but we should be ready to launch the attack in a few days and I'd like to confirm our intelligence."

For the first time, Wallflower hesitated. It was slight, just a momentary freeze as she reached for the other glass. "Actually," Something in her tone caught Sunset's attention. A shift from her normally lackadaisical attitude. "I was meaning to talk with you about that. Do you think we could maybe... delay it? Just for a bit."

Sunset frowned. That was decidedly not part of her plans. But more concerning was Wallflower's sudden shift in mood. "You want a delay? When we're this close to our big push into Europe?" They'd been planning it for months. With nearly all her forces in place, any holdup now could set them back weeks.

Wallflower's head sank, her bangs covering her eyes and in an instant the powerful right-hand woman of an interdimensional dictator reverted back to a damaged teenager. "I found one of the people on my List."

Sunset's frown softened. That changed things.

She laid a hand across her girlfriend's shoulders and pulled her closer. Contact helped when she got like this. Sunset was all too familiar with Lists. She'd had her own, once upon a time, though she'd long since exhausted every name on it. "I see. You wanna talk about it?"

Wallflower nodded.

"Who is it?"

A moment passed before she replied. "Empty Barn. I knew her in middle school. We were friends... for a while." She stopped and took a minute to collect her thoughts before she continued. "Rumors were her thing. Nasty ones. She loved nothing more than turning people against me. Other people too, I guess, but she always saved her worst for me."

"Hey, hey hey hey," Sunset soothed as Wallflower descended into silent tears and buried her face in the taller girl's shoulder as memories overwhelmed her. She made quiet shushing noises as she ran her hand down Wallflower's hair. "It's alright. She's nothing now. Less than nothing. There's nothing she can do to you and everything you can do to her. Forget Europe. It'll still be there next week, next month, whenever you're ready. Take all the time you need. Your List won't last forever, so you have to savor these moments and make them count." She'd had to learn that the hard way. She'd cleared her own List far too quickly.

Her words seemed to make an impact, as the shaking was letting up and the tears flowing less freely. "You want me to help plan out what to do? Get a few ideas rolling?"

She interpreted the rubbing on her shirt to be a nod. Now for the tricky part. While Sunset was well-educated and powerful in her own right, Wallflower had always been more creative when it came to uses of her unique power.

"Let's see... how about removing her last ten years or so of memories? Leave her a confused child in an adult's body?"

The rubbing against her shirt felt like a negative.

"You could alway make her forget how to count."

"No." It was muffled, the word coming through hair and shirt and snot. "Too general. Not personal enough."

"Right, right. Maybe... make her forget her family?"

Wallflower groaned and sat up. She looked terrible, but he'd stopped crying. "No. She's an only child and her parents were just walking credit cards to her. This needs to be special."

It was times like these that Sunset was able to enjoy the rare treat of Wallflower's 'thinking face'. Her nose scrunched up, her eyes took on a faraway gleam, and, sometimes, her tongue peeked out the side of her mouth. Combined with her generally mousey features and the knowledge that the mind behind that cute face was plotting how to utterly destroy someone's life, she became the absolute epitome of gap moe.

"I think I've got it."

"Do tell."

"I'll make her forget how to lie. It's simple, but devastating. If she's built her life on rumors and scheming like I bet she has, it'll all come crashing down by her own hand. She'll be the instrument of her own destruction. Beautiful irony."

"And then you'll kill her?"

She shrugged. "Eh. Maybe. I could always use another mucker for the horse stalls."

"You don't have a horse."

"I could also use a horse."

With the jokes came the return of her good mood. "Incidentally," Sunset asked, "Where was she hiding after all this time?"


"Ooh. Tropical. Maybe you might pick up a new swimsuit while you're there. Get a bit a tan." She entwined her arm with the other girl's. "We could be twins."

A soft blush crept across Wallflower's features, turning her cheeks a darker shade of pine. She eyed her pale green hand and compared it to Sunset's mimosa orange. "Somehow, I don't think that's going to work."

Not that she was likely to try on a swimsuit in the first place. Despite having the power to walk through any city in the world totally naked without receiving a second glance, Wallflower still preferred to keep covered up with sweaters and long sleeves whenever possible. Of course, they were all designer sweaters these days, more than one lifted fresh from a garmenteer's studio.

Sensing the shift in mood to a more stable state, Sunset launched a probing question. "Feeling better now?"

Wallflower managed a smile. It was weak, but it was there. "A bit. There's still a lot of emotions whirling around. It's all just… ugh. Like... you ever want to just... unload on a crowd of bystanders with a baseball bat?"

Sunset hmmed contemplatively. "Do magical constructs and or fireballs count as baseball bats?"

"For this, yes."

"All the time. Especially when some wannabe hero from Equestria makes his way into the Palace and kills half my staff before I can smite him. "

Hazel eyes widened. "It happened again?"

"Not two weeks ago." She sighed. "Lunch Special was among the casualties. I haven't had a good sandwich since."

She paused as an idea came to her. "You know, with the European campaign moved back, I suddenly have some free time in my schedule. I could take a vacation. Let off some steam."

Wallflower cocked her head. "A vacation? Where would you go?"

Sunset grinned. "I hear Florida is nice this time of year."

There it was. That smile. That real smile filled with teeth and a sadistic glint in her eye. "Very nice. Height of the tourism season, if I'm not mistaken."

"Lots of crowds."

"Lots of bystanders."

"Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure one of my trusted advisors slipped me a report that some of those tourist mobs are actually insurrectionist riots."

"She will if you can find her a pen and paper."

Sunset flashed a toothy grin and shifted into her Demoness form. "It's a date then. I'll make the arrangements with the staff."

Wallflower hopped up. "And I'll get packing."

As the two separated, one headed for the outside and the other towards the bedroom, they both paused at their respective doors and turned back in perfect sync.

"Love you."

"Love you too."

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