Still can’t believe some idiot had the balls to steal something from the room of a deity. Not like they had much choice, but still damn near suicidal. It’d be like trying to steal the Power Armor off a Paladin’s back.
Luna was angry. Nothing compared to what her sister did when she found out.
When morning came, Luna informed Celestia of the situation. If anything, she seemed to take the news even worse. The Courier was glad that he was on the other side of the dining room when the alabaster alicorn’s entire body very briefly ignited in fury, turning her chair into so much expensive ash. The gold-armoured guards were the polar opposite of Luna’s, terrified by this display. From what he could gather, Celestia was the perfect picture of calm and serenity, while Luna had more of a hair-trigger temper. For her to lose her temper was a once-in-a-generation phenomenom. “They have made a mockery of our security, and try to undermine our hospitality to someone displaced from their home,” Celestia said when she regained control of her emotions. “We cannot let this stand.”
“We won’t, sister,” Luna replied. “Leave this to me. His belongings were in my room, I feel responsible for this.” The younger sister smirked. “Besides, my talents are far more appropriate than yours for this.”
“If you wish, Luna,” Celestia said, a little wary of her sister’s smile. “Just be careful.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“The last time you said that it ended with a thousand-year banishment,” the elder said sadly. “Please, don’t do anything too foalish.”
“Of course,” Luna said, nuzzling her sister.
“So, what now?” the Courier asked when she came closer.
“You are so informal,” she commented. “Why?”
The question caught him off-guard. “I... honestly don’t know. Just feels natural. Do you want me to stop?” he asked, worried that he had been insulting her this whole time.
“No, don’t.” The alicorn smiled. “I find it refreshing.”
The Courier smiled back, straightening his beret. “All right then. I’ll ask again, what now?”
“Unfortunately we can’t do anything until we have more information. With no knowledge on the identity of the perpetrator, we’re blind.” Luna frowned. “All we can do is wait.” It was clear to the Courier she was not happy with this course of action. Neither was he.
“Well that’s great,” he muttered. “Might be a good idea to let me keep my weapons with me. Don’t want any more to get stolen.”
Luna seemed uneasy with this proposition. “I can understand your concern, but you must understand. Allowing you to roam the castle while fully armed is bound to make many uneasy.” A pony with a feather duster in her mouth squeaked and scurried away as the pair approached.
“That’s partly why I want them. Looking dangerous is even more important than being dangerous. I once met someone whose entire business strategy revolved around that.” He eyed the princess. “You know that I’ll be as dangerous as ever with or without them. Having them with me will only broadcast it. Surely there’s no harm in that?” he asked, a good-natured smile on his face.
Luna found his logic hard to argue with. “Fine. On the condition that they are kept non-functional at all times, I shall let you carry them with you.”
“Good enough for me,” the Courier said with a shrug. “Where are we going?”
“The barracks. I’ve been told that you fought a manticore with nothing but that strange gauntlet,” the alicorn said as they emerged outside.
“And you want to know just what I can do in a fight, he said with a nod. “I could use the exercise,” he said with a very confident smirk as he cracked his knuckles.
Luna smiled. She was glad that this was keeping his mind off the disappearance of one of his belongings. She didn’t know what might happen, but she was confident that neither him nor her guards would be too seriously injured.
So Luna wanted me to fight a few of her guards. I knew she was trying to get my mind off the fact that I was stuck, and I really appreciated it. And I wanted to know what those ponies were capable of, combat-wise, when I wasn’t drunk and off-guard. I’m still a bit embarrassed by that, honestly.
Three purple-armoured, bat-winged pegasi looked at the being that had followed their princess. “He doesn’t seem so tough.”
“Apparently he killed a manticore. Can’t see how he pulled that off, he looks so scrawny,” another said.
“I dunno,” the only female said. “The princess obviously thinks he’s dangerous. I wouldn’t disregard that.”
“True,” the first said. “Wonder what that armour’s made of.”
Their conversation was cut off when Princess Luna stood in front of them. “Captain Thunder Strike, Captain Storm Surge, Captain Cloud Nine. This is the Courier. He wishes to spar with one of you.”
The mare pushed one of the stallions forward with a wing. “You’re up, Storm,” she said with a smirk.
“What, just one of them?” the Courier asked. Only Luna was able to understand him, so the three pegasi were a little shocked when their princess gave him a great wide-eyed stare.
“You cannot be serious!” she exclaimed. “They would kill you!”
“They said the same when I said I was gonna clear the Deathclaws out of Quarry Junction,” he said with a smile. “I think you can guess what happened.”
“Your highness?” Thunder Strike asked, regretting not having taken Zebrican. “Is something the matter?”
“He - ” The alicorn cleared her throat. “He says that he will fight you all. At once.”
The pegasi stared for a moment at the human, who had pulled Love & Hate from his pocket. “This should be interesting,” Cloud Nine commented.
Yeah, in retrospect taking on all three at once was a bad idea. Let me tell you, those ponies hit hard. Yeah, their armour’s more for show, but punching it still hurts. You ever punch a wall? A Vault wall? Ouch.
In the ten minutes both sides had been given to prepare a strategy, a large group of off-duty guardsponies had gathered and set up an impromptu arena, enclosed by a short circular fence. There were also three rows of seating around the arena, a small stall and even a pony pulling around a small cart laden with snack foods. The Courier couldn’t help but laugh when he realised what was going on.
The guards watching were a near-even mix, the bright colours of the Day Guard contrasting sharply with the much darker Night Guard. There was excited murmuring and bits were changing hooves as ponies wagered on the outcome.
Thomas was thankful that Luna had cast the translation field over the arena, along with spells limiting the flight capabilities of his opponents. From what he could hear, he was the definite underdog in this fight, as the three he was fighting were the most experienced in combat and he was outnumbered three to one. He was simply a wild card. He couldn’t help but smile at that. “Never underestimate the Courier,” he muttered as he scrubbed out what he had been writing in the dirt with a boot.
“We clear?” Cloud Nine asked the pair of stallions, who nodded. “All right then. Let’s do this.”
The three pegasi faced the Courier in the middle of the arena, Princess Luna standing between them. “The rules for this are simple. If you are knocked out or ask for mercy, you are considered a non-combatant and will be forced to sit out the remainder of the bout. You are not to use lethal force, and the last team standing will be considered the victor. Any questions?”
“Just one,” the Courier said, still facing the pegasi. “You sure you don’t want to surrender?” he taunted.
“We should ask you the same question,” Thunder Strike said over the crowd’s jeering.
“FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” the crowd chanted.
“BEGIN!” Luna exclaimed as she backed away.
The Courier was the first to strike, throwing a punch that connected solidly with Storm Surge’s helmet. The sharp ringing could be heard over the crowd. As the pegasus picked himself up, his comrades swooped in from the sides and attempted to catch the human in a pincer movement.
The Courier was not prepared for the speed of their movement and tried to get away. All he got for his trouble was a pair of hooves to the spine. He went down, and stayed down, with a loud yelp.
The pegasi approached carefully as the crowd murmurred. “Did you kill him?” Thunder asked, glancing at his female colleague.
“I don’t think so. Spine damage, maybe.” She nudged him with a hoof.
What happened next was almost too fast for the crowd to see. One of the Courier’s hands shot out and grabbed Cloud Nine’s throat just before his free hand, balled into a fist, slammed into her face with bone-shattering speed, the damage compounded by Love. Before Thunder Strike could react, the human had flipped himself onto his feet and placed a solid kick in the stallion’s ribs. He could feel the bones snap. At this point Storm Surge had recovered sufficiently. Only to have his head grabbed and his chin forced down onto the Courier’s armoured knee, shattering his jaw.
The amassed crowd gaped at this sudden, terrific display of brutality. He had moved faster than any living thing had any right to, and incapacitated three members of the Night Guard. “That was easy,” the Courier commented uneasily. “Too easy.”
“That’s because it was.” He turned to see Cloud Nine staring defiantly at him, her broken face mending itself as he watched. The eye in the chestpiece of her armour glowed as it supplied her with the healing charm.
“Is that the best you’ve got?” Storm Surge taunted, stretching his newly-healed jaw.
Thunder Strike didn’t say anything, instead opting to paw at the ground aggressively.
The Courier’s expression was somewhere between joy and terror. “Now that is not fair.”
That armour does more than look awesome!
And I cannot get the Mortal Kombat “X-Ray Moves” out of my head as I wrote that last part. I kept having this mental image of a pegasus’ skull fracturing...
And it was awesome.