Rainbow Dash said nothing, as she stared into the pictures of her dear friends. Berry held another 3 photographs of other ponies. Inside the box, other than the pictures, was a note, stating the location of each of the photographed ponies. Looks like I have another 8 more to save. Berry sighed deeply. Dash was silent as she went through the photos of her friends. They’re here too? Wonder what’ve they done to get themselves here.
Berry went through the 3 pictures of the other ponies. She had only recognised one of them in the picture. At the Great Galloping Gala two months back, she was part of a quartet that played the music during the party. Berry remembered her very well. Pinkie Pie had mimicked her actions by grabbing the cellist’s hoof and sawing back and forth on the cello violently before letting go of her. The photograph was of her walking down a street in Canterlot, with a cello case on her back. Berry could see great detail in the photograph, and saw the mare’s treble clef cutie mark. The mare was staring straight at the camera.
Octavia... Berry shook her head. She turned her attention to the other 2 photographs. One was a photograph of a unicorn sitting on a bench. The unicorn had a seafoam green coat and a lyre as a cutie mark. Berry was sure that she’d seen the unicorn several times around Ponyville with another mare. Berry never really had time to acquaint herself with everyone else in Ponyville. The other photograph was of a pegasus. The image was blurry so Berry couldn’t really see much about it. She could only make out the flame-orange mane.
Berry eyed the note. Every photograph had a number marked at the bottom right part of the photograph. And every number was matched to a certain location within the meadow. Two extra locations were also written onto the note.
That would mean that I’d have to go everywhere around this meadow to get them. Or so she thought. Whether or not if the note was meant to throw her off the trail, she’ll just have to wait and see.
Berry turned to face Rainbow Dash, who was moving a hoof through the pictures. Judging by the frown on Dash’s face, Berry could tell that she was worrying about what they did wrong, instead of worrying on what to do next.
Berry spoke up. “You okay there, girl?”
Dash looked up from the photographs. “I just woke up in a cottage that was already burning with a piece of rope around my neck, only to wake up 10 minutes later under a storm cloud. And now I’m here staring at the photographs of my dearest friends and you ask me if I’m okay? I’m just peachy.” Dash’s tone was sour.
Berry held back for a moment before speaking. She could have asked why Dash didn’t just break free of her bonds and escape.
“Hold on there. Is that your way of speaking to the pony who saved your flank? You had a noose around your neck and you could have broken free of the ropes tying your hooves.”
“Alright listen here. When I woke up, the first thing I thought of was about what happened last night at Pinkie’s party. Did you know I bumped into Soarin’ from the Wonderbolts? No I think not. You were probably getting wasted inside Sugarcube Corner.”
“Yeah, like you would even care about what I was doing last night.”
Dash sighed. “Anyway, last night before I could go in, I bumped into Soarin’. He was all dressed up for Celestia knows what. Then we chatted a bit. Soarin’s tux made me wonder where he was going. So I asked him. He told me if I wanted to know I’d have to race him to find out. I wasn’t surprised to be much swifter than he was, but when he started slowing down I thought he was trying to trick me into slowing down as well.”
Dash breathed out heavily before continuing. “So yeah I made it to Sugarcube Corner first. Honestly, the music coming from that place was just deafening. I wonder how you can cope with that. Anyway, I heard a noise and assumed it was Soarin’ trying to creep up on me, so I just played along. Then out of nowhere I felt a sharp pain in my neck before blacking out. You know what was the last thing I saw? My teammate, Soarin’, lying dead in front of me.” Dash’s voice cracked in the last sentence and tears started streaming down her face.
Berry was no kind of counsellor, but she knew that she had to console Dash somehow. Berry was afraid that she might make Dash feel worse, and that she’ll end up flying off.That would mean losing a potential asset in rescuing the others. Berry patted Rainbow Dash on the back.
Dash looked up with tearful eyes. Berry looked at her with a sad smile. “He may have been your teammate, but does that mean that you’ve lost your whole world along with him? You have other friends that are in trouble. So why cry for what is lost when you can fight for something before it’s gone?”
Dash wiped her tears away and nodded at Berry. She felt somewhat better after hearing Berry’s words. Soarin’ may have been an important part of the team, but that didn’t mean that he can’t be replaced. After all, the Wonderbolts weren’t honest ponies. I should have learned that when I knew that I could bribe her way into joining the Wonderbolts. I probably would be better off without the Wonderbolts.
Dash smiled at Berry, her eyes full of new commitment. Berry smiled back. “Now let’s get going. It’s almost 1pm. Keep those photographs in my saddlebag and we can go check out the office.”
Dash complied. As she was about to pick up the photos, Dash let out a cry of warning to Berry. Berry turned around just in time to avoid a blow from an earth pony. The colt had a brown mane with a light grey coat with a hammer and an anvil as a cutie mark. He seemed to have device wrapped around his neck, with a harpoon gun attached to the front, the harpoon directly below his jaw. The straps holding the device were attached to a leather vest the colt was wearing, secured in place by a single metal padlock.
The colt was about to deal a second blow when Rainbow Dash bucked the colt in the face. The colt stumbled back, dazed from the blow. Before Dash could deal any extra damage, the colt had already gotten up and was charging towards her. Dash flew skyward as the colt charged past her. She flew back down with one of her rear legs stretched outward, aiming for the colt’s jaw. The colt merely bucked her midflight and Dash went stumbling backwards, onto her back.
“GIVE ME THE KEYYYYYY!” The colt shouted as she attempted to charge Dash again. This time, Berry stepped in with the knife from her cottage earlier. The colt was unfazed as he charged at Berry. Berry slashed the knife around, hoping to at least injure the colt. Berry missed the colt on her first slash, but managed to nick him on the cheek the second time.
The colt took a step back, feeling the stinging sensation in his cheek. However, he recovered his posture not soon after. Dash got up and went skyward one more time, hoping to try another aerial kick. Somewhere nearby, a beeping noise could be heard.
Rainbow Dash made a flyby and bucked the colt right in the face, but he didn’t flinch. He grabbed Rainbow Dash and flung her a few feet away from Berry. Berry gave up and just threw her knife at the colt, hoping to get at least one more injury on him before he could try anything else. Berry’s hoof was bleeding profusely from the adrenaline flowing through her whole body.
The beeping noise intensified, and Berry wondered if she was the only one that could hear it. The knife clattered on the ground in front of the colt. Oh Celestia I’m so screwed.... As Berry stared at the colt picking up the knife, she noticed the colt’s collar had four flashing lights. And with each passing second the lights flashed faster, matching the rhythm of the beeping noise. The colt raised the knife.
“Gitth me derr key!” The lights on the collar flashed a few more times before it stopped flashing and the beeping noise stopped.
The device around the colt’s neck started moving. The harpoon gun cocked and the colt stared defiantly at Berry. The look in his eyes were of pure regret and disappointment.
The weapon discharged, firing the harpoon through the colt’s jaw, straight through his skull. However, the harpoon didn’t make it out all the way, only the head of the harpoon made it all the way through the colt’s head. Blood had sprayed in all directions, some even getting onto Dash and Berry. The harpoon got stuck on it’s way out. Not that it mattered anyway, the colt collapsed to the ground seconds later, dying on the spot from his injury. His leg twitched as he was no longer in control of his bladder. Pieces of skull and brain matter were strewn around the colt as the pungent smell of blood and urine started to fill the air.
Berry repulsed and tried her best not to throw up. Rainbow Dash, who had seen the whole thing, was however, unmoved by what she had just witnessed.
“Good Celestia that’s just disturbing!” Berry wiped a spot of blood from her neck.
“Serves him right for attacking us without reason”. Dash’s tone was cold.
Berry looked over at Dash with a look of surprise. How can she not be moved even by the slightest bit by what just happened? Berry sighed. Well it’s best to get going now before anything else happens.
“Um... Dash?” Dash turned to face Berry. “You got some blood on your wing.”
Dash turned around, and saw that in fact, the blood of that son-of-a-buck was on her left wing. She brushed it off, and turned to look at the colt one more time.
The ground beneath the colt’s head had turned crimson from all the blood pouring out. His dead eyes were staring at nothing in particular, but the dead stare gave Berry shivers down her spine.
“Hey is that a note?” Berry tried to look close at the colt’s vest. Sure enough, there was another note left behind, but this wasn’t for Berry or Dash. It was written for the colt, who was oblivious Berry picking up the note from his leather vest. The hoof writing matched the ones on the other notes that Berry had found.
Hello Iron Anvil. I want to play a game. For many years, you have made the armour and the weaponry of the Royal Guard, serving her Majesty, Princess Celestia, and the Royal Equestrian Military. However, recently, you have had trouble keeping up with the profits of your labour, so you found a way on making weapons and armour with reduced quality but still look the same as the genuine weapons and armours you had made before. This may have saved you a few extra bits, but what you have done, did not save a few extra lives in the wars around Equestria. You see, before your selfish act, the armours had great durability. But now, with what you’ve done, enemies of Equestria have no problem breaching the armour with a a few mediocre slashes and bashes.
You are probably aware of the leather vest you are wearing, along with a heavy weapon around your neck, hence making it hard for you to get up. The device you are wearing is what I call the “harpoon vest trap”. In fifteen minutes, you will have to find a key to the padlock securing your vest, for if you don’t, the harpoon gun underneath your jaw will discharge, and fire through your skull. Now, the quality of the harpoon is very good compared to the ones you make, so rest assured, it will be a quick, painless death. Let the games begin.
Berry’s eye twitched. Now this is just crazy. Berry remembered something from the note she picked up in the bedroom of the burnt down cottage.
You see, some of the ….wrongdoers are actually quite dangerous, and might require certain measures to be subdued. Luckily for Berry, she didn’t have to use the special knife she found. She doubted that pulling out a blade from a colt would be easy. Most of the ponies here are undergoing their own tests. Berry paused. Well that explains the note. Berry took out the note from the bedroom out of her saddlebag and read the last line. Should they be successful, and should you be lucky, you might have an extra ally alongside. But can you differentiate friend from foe? Berry frowned. Screw that, he would have killed us to get whatever the hell he wanted. Then something came across Berry’s mind. What had the colt said earlier?
“Give me the keyyy!” Was he talking about the key I found? Berry turned her head around and reached for her gold key. Fitting it carefully into the padlock, as if fearing the colt would get back up and bludgeon Dash and Berry to death, Berry turned the key in the lock, and the padlock opened. Berry drew back. Celestia Damn it....
1 Key unlocks all. Was this the key that the note meant?
“HEY BERRY!!” Berry jumped. She turned to face Dash, who was looking at her with an annoying expression on her face. “Let’s get going, judging by your watch it’s already 1.30.” Berry nodded, and kept the gold key back in her saddlebag.
Berry kept the note, and walked alongside Dash, on their way to the office, where Berry’s next test will be held....
Author's note : I'm sorry it took so long for me to post this. Been busy since my birthday yesterday and I still have lots of other things to do >.> But rest assured Chapter 5 will be released in the next few days.