The air was still as the night had long settled on the small town. Dewford was all but asleep, except for three young mares who galloped and flew quietly through the back streets. Every building lay silent and dark, leaving the three illuminated only by moonlight and the faint red glow of the sky as an inferno raged to the east. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie followed Rainbow Dash towards the docks, hoping to find Mr. Briney still aboard his ship.
“Mr. Briney! Mr. Briney!” Rainbow yelled as they galloped up to the weather-beaten boat. It bobbed up and down gently, floating silently over the cresting waves. A yellow light flickered on in the boat’s wheelhouse before a silhouette inside moved around. “I knew he’d be here.”
“Didn’t he say he was staying in town?” Fluttershy asked as she watched the cabin door swing open. “Why is he back over here?”
“There wasn’t any place to stay for the night except for the Pokémon Center. He wasn’t there the last time I checked.”
“What do ya’ want?” the old sea pony asked, leaning onto the railing as he looked down on the three. His seagull was asleep, laying on his back as Mr. Briney grimaced. “The sun set a while ago, why aren’t you fillies in bed yet?”
“Look east, there’s something on fire!” Fluttershy yelled, pointing to the burning sky. Its intensity had faded, yet it still gave her a sickening pain in her stomach. The smoke extended over the sea, engulfing the horizon in burning cinders.
“Huh, so it is,” Mr. Briney stated, rubbing his gray stubble. “So, what do you want me to do about it?”
Rainbow flew up to the deck and hovered in front of the sea pony. “We want to go check it out, and we were hoping you would sail us over there. We have to go to Slateport anyway, right?” She flew over the railing and landed on the deck.
“Yes, in two days,” he explained, glaring at Rainbow. “Also, you three want to go towards a wildfire? You’re supposed to run away, you stupid fillies.” He began pacing back and forth, switching his gaze between Rainbow and the other two. “Tell me, why should I risk my vessel to bring three greenhorns to a set of burning land? Fuel is expensive and I’m too old for fillies’ games.”
Fluttershy looked down in thought. Mr. Briney had been harsh before, making the three have to beg to board his ship the first time. The fire in the east gave her chills unlike any other fire she had seen before. It was the same feeling she’d had when she had fought with Norman; it felt as if the fire wasn’t supposed to happen. She didn’t realize why she had begun banging on her Pokédex for not responding until she saw the blaze in front of her; something felt terribly wrong, and it seemed that deviations were becoming worse.
“I know you don’t like us, and you think I’m... pathetic, but we have to go. Ponies could be injured,” Fluttershy argued. “We have to do something about it.”
“There are firefighters and police who can take care of things like this, what makes you think you’re needed over there?” Mr. Briney removed himself off from the railing and walked to the raised ramp. “One good reason, what is it?” He asked, eyeing Fluttershy.
Fluttershy locked eyes with him, watching his movements closely. He said there was a reason he let us on the first time... but why? she thought. If she couldn’t come up with why Mr. Briney let them on his boat in the first place, she didn’t know how to convince him to bring them back to the mainland. She looked back at the blaze, feeling the knot tighten in her stomach, then looked back up at the sea pony. “I... well...”
“Hmm? What was that?” Mr. Briney asked condescendingly.
“Please? I know you don’t trust us, and it’s an odd request, but we have to go. Seeing it there...” Fluttershy shuddered as she looked back. “I... just...” she murmured, clutching at her chest. “Please!”
Mr. Briney looked down at her and Pinkie Pie and laughed. “May, the daughter of Norman, is reduced to begging in front of an old captain.” He looked away from the ponies and up to the horizon, taking out a small, brass telescope and looking through it.
Rainbow flew down from the deck and landed in front of her friends. “Ugh, well that was pointless,” she groaned, then yawned as she trotted down the dock. “I’m going back to the Pokémon Center to get some shut-eye.”
Fluttershy yawned and nodded her head, following Rainbow back onto the island. “I don’t know why we thought that would work. We barely got onto the-” Fluttershy jumped at the sound of a loud clang behind her. She quickly turned around, noticing the ramp onto the ship was lowered onto the end of the dock. After a few quick, silent glances between them, the mares approached the ramp and looked up at Briney who stood just off to the side of the ramp.
“So, are you fillies coming aboard or not?” Mr. Briney yelled out, placing a white, black-billed hat on his head. He had donned a blue blazer with brass buttons running down its front with white trim.
Fluttershy stood confused, watching as the grizzled pony tapped his forehoof impatiently on the ramp. “I thought you weren’t going to—”
“Don’t question your captain, sailor!” Briney interrupted her, stepping off the ramp. “You want to get to Slateport so badly, you’re going to work for it. I’m your captain now, and you take orders from me. Now come aboard before I ship off without you sorry lot!”
Without another word, Fluttershy trotted up the ramp, followed by Rainbow and Pinkie, keeping her eye on the now authoritative stallion. He drew a line with his eyes towards the backside of the cabin, forcing the three to line up with their haunches to the stairwell wall. The rocking of the boat was much rougher than she remembered as she saw Pinkie stumble into the wall from her tired movements. After Rainbow brought Pinkie back to her hooves and with the three firmly lined up, Mr. Briney casually made his way to the middle before scanning the three of them. Fluttershy gulped, anxiously awaiting the sea pony’s next action.
“So you want to be adventurers, huh?” He began to pace in front of them, casually glancing towards the east every few seconds. “If you’re going to use my ship, you’re going to be my crew, is that understood?” Fluttershy nodded as Rainbow and Pinkie looked at each other, making short gestures with their hooves. “I can’t hear you, greenhorns!” He yelled, snapping the three to attention.
“Uh...yes,” Fluttershy said softly. Rainbow and Pinkie followed suit, slightly mumbling their responses.
“That’s ‘Yes, Captain.’ to you lot!” He snapped, grimacing at his lowly crew. “You want to be on my ship and act as my crew, then act like it! Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Captain!” The three yelled in unison, putting a smile on the seasoned captain’s face.
“Good, now let’s put you to work. Rainbow was it? Sound the bell above the wheelhouse as we depart. When we get close enough to the flames, fly ahead to see what’s happening. Pinkie, I need you to man the spotlight on top of the cabin; make sure we don’t run into anything in the open water.”
“Okie-dokie, Captain!” Pinkie said with a salute.
“May, before I give you your instructions, I need to speak with you in the cabin. There’s something I need to clear up with you,” Mr. Briney said to Fluttershy before turning his back to the other two mares. “Sound the bell! We’re shoving off!”
Rainbow flew to the bell and yanked on its string, causing the bell to toll and echo off the cliff face. Mr. Briney entered the wheelhouse, sitting on his wooden chair, pulling several levers and turning the ignition key. With the clang of chains, the anchor slowly rose from the water as the engines roared to life. With a sudden jerk, the boat began moving back from the dock, bowing out to face the blaze. Fluttershy and Pinkie grasped the railing as the boat turned, trying not to bowl each other over. As the boat crawled to a stop, it sailed forward with incredible speed.
“Pinkie! Man the second light, there’s no lighthouse where we’re headed!” the captain yelled out, spurring the pink pony into action. She quickly bounded around the outside of the cabin, galloping up a ramp to the top. She clicked on a switch, giving life the to bulb and swiveled it to shine its light on the dark water below. Pinkie giggled as she turned to light to and fro, blurring the light across the sea and obscuring the wheelhouse light. “Slow it down, lass. I can’t see a thing!” the captain yelled.
“Oops, sorry,” Pinkie laughed in embarrassment before concentrating the light on a single point on the waves.
With the boat now at cruising speed, Fluttershy closed her eyes and took a nervous deep breath. She couldn’t figure out why Mr. Briney wanted to speak to her, and she was hoping it wasn’t just a private berating. Step by step she slowly approached the cabin doors, her breath quickening as she came closer. Apprehensively, she pushed the door open, causing the stern earth pony to look back at her. Without a word she closed the door behind her and kept her distance.
“Y...you wanted to see me, Captain?” she squeaked out, watching the seagull hop down off of the control panel as she avoided the captain’s gaze.
“Yes I did,” he said in a soft tone. She had never heard him with such a lack of bite to his words. With another deep breath, she trotted to his side and looked out at the open sea. “Do you know why I called you in here?”
“N-no, Captain,” Fluttershy answered, watching small islands whizz by.
“You don’t need to call me that, I was just having a bit of fun with you three,” he laughed. “This is about the other day and just before you boarded tonight. Do you have any idea why I called you pathetic in my cabin when you first came?”
Fluttershy lowered her head, peeking up at the captain. “Um... to make fun of me?”
“Of course not, that would be cruel. I just wanted to get a rise out of you,” he explained, confusing Fluttershy. “Your father told me all about you when he first came to Petalburg. Oh the stories he would tell. The girl with fire in her eyes he would say; she’d never back down from a fight and send her opponents packing.” With a sudden movement, he spun the wheel, banking around a stray, empty wooden boat. “That was close... that Pinkie is a good spotter when she isn’t playing around, ain’t she?” Fluttershy responded in silence. “Anyway, I was excited to see this firebrand of a Pokémon trainer for the first time. When you came into my cabin I thought nothing of you, but when you told be your name I was shocked, let me tell you.
“You were nothing like the stories, so I tried to force it out of you. I thought you were playing games with me, so I let you on my boat to see if I was right. When I saw you come up to see your friend, I expected to see that side of you come out, but I heard you talk about your nightmare.” Fluttershy looked up at him in surprise.
“You heard that?” Her face fell, flush with embarrassment.
“Yes, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of I can assure you,” he said, patting Fluttershy on the back. “At that point I needed more confirmation of this ‘change’ you went though. I kept watching and saw you with that stowaway totodile. Any other trainer would’ve fought it, but you approached it like it was a small foal. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised when I saw that. I tried one last time right before I let you on to rile you up, but you stayed as calm as you are now. I didn’t know your father exaggerated so much.”
“Y-yeah, he does that a lot,” Fluttershy lied, trying to keep up with his story.
“Your friends, did they come with you to Hoenn? Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie?” he asked, tapping on of the gauges with a hoof as he steered with the other.
“Yes. They’re my best friends,” she explained.
“Hmm... that’s what I thought.” He paused for a moment, rubbing his stubble with his hoof. “May isn’t your real name, is it?”
Fluttershy took a step back, her eyes darting back and forth in thought. How could he know my name? I’ve only told it to one other pony, she thought, her mind scrambling to come up with an answer.
“No, no it’s not,” Fluttershy answered.
“I knew it! Call it an ol’ sailor’s intuition. May seems more of a Hoenn name than a Johto name. I was wondering why your name was so conservative compared to your friends.” Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief. “So, what’s your real name?”
“It’s Fluttershy,” she answered with a calm breath.
“That sounds better. I think it suits you better too,” he said before turning his attention to the sky.
“What do you think it is? ...the fire, I mean,” Fluttershy asked.
“Well, it can’t be a wildfire. The humidity is too high and we get consistent rainfall throughout Hoenn. A place like Blackthorn where you come from, sure, but not here; especially not a port town.” He grabbed a radio receiver from the dashboard. “Rainbow, can you hear me?”
They waited for a moment before they heard a muffled, “Yeah... I mean yes, Captain,” from outside the wheelhouse.
“We’re getting close to the docks on this strait. I need you to fly ahead and make sure I’m not headed towards a burning dock. See if you can make out what’s going on as well, I don’t like the look of this,” Briney commanded, watching the cyan pegasus salute then bolt through the air, blazing off from the boat. Fluttershy watched as Rainbow disappeared through the smoke, leaving a small rainbow trail behind her.
Fluttershy crept out of the wheelhouse and leaned on the boat’s railing, watching for any sign of Rainbow’s return. She could see the shadow of a dock coming into view over the horizon, absent of the crimson light that consumed the land north of it. A trickle of smoke seeped its way down her windpipe, making her close her eyes and cough violently. Leaving her eyes half way open, she continued monitoring the flames. She stripped off her bandanna and dipped it in her water, covering her mouth trying her hardest to keep from breathing the smoke .
In no time, Rainbow emerged from the smoke, landing gracefully on the ship’s deck. Fluttershy took herself off from the railing and rushed to her friend, awaiting her scouting report. A hum made its way through the speakers as the captain slowed the boat to half its speed.
“What’d you find?” he asked before Fluttershy could speak.
Rainbow fluffed her jacket and desperately tried to wipe the soot off from her jacket. “The dock isn’t on fire, I can say that much.”
“What’s happening over there?” Fluttershy asked with concern. The red glow of the blaze made its way onto the boat as they inched ever closer, enveloping them in its light.
“The entire town is on fire,” the rainbow-maned pegasus cried. “I couldn’t get a good look at it, but I couldn’t see anypony left in town.” She began to pace. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. I would just grab a rain cloud and make it rain, but I can’t seem to touch them. Alerce is probably useless since he’s weak to fire. Wolver is still pretty weak. Pinkie’s alligator is nowhere near powerful enough to put out the fire. Lorica is weak to fire—”
“Lorica?” Fluttershy asked in confusion.
“You remember those creatures in the cave? The ones with the metal backs and all? I caught one of those while you were asleep.” Rainbow explained, releasing the creature onto the boat. It yawned, then looked up at Fluttershy. The crimson from the blaze glinted off its armor, flickering and pulsating in contrast to its bright, azure eyes. “He didn’t stand much of a chance against Igni, so I figure he’s not strong against it.”
“Pinkie, kill the lights!” Mr. Briney yelled over the speakers, prompting Pinkie to switch off the lantern. The boat was on its final approach to the dock, slowing its speed to a mere crawl. With a choke, the engines severely slowed and the lights on the boat flickered off. “Prepare to dock!” He called out through the wheelhouse glass. Rainbow called back Lorica and stuffed his Poké Ball back in her jacket before Pinkie hopped down from the cabin. The grizzled sea pony turned the wheel a final time and dropped anchor perpendicular to the dock, stopping the boat completely.
As the ship rocked on the waves, Mr. Briney came out from the wheelhouse and lowered the ramp onto the dock, letting the three mares onto dry land. “Do you three know what you’re doing? Will you be alright?” he asked, watching the three descend the ramp. Fluttershy could hear the concern in his tone, like a father looking after his daughters. She looked back at him, meeting him with a smile.
“We’re just seeing what we can do. I’m sure there are ponies that need our help,” the pink maned pegasus explained.
“I’ll be here if you need anything. If you need to head back to Dewford, let me know. I’ll be heading back in the morning to get ready for the group still over there,” their captain said before making his way back into the wheelhouse. Fluttershy sighed and turned around, her view now encompassed by the blaze.
The dock was connected to a large sprawling beach filled with umbrellas and fold-up chairs. Several beach balls lay scattered on the sand, while others bobbed in the tide. The three mares trotted down the dock, Pinkie galloping out ahead of them. As their hooves hit sand, Fluttershy felt the sands’ warmth flowing though her legs. It was... tepid, but unusually so. As she drew closer, the heat of the flames rushed to Fluttershy’s face. Fluttershy coughed more as they trudged along the beach and onto the stone roads of the burning town.
Slateport was in ruins; the nautical museum had fallen apart and was left in shambles, a building that held a large boat and submarine was ablaze, the steel inside glowed bright orange as the iron-cast beams emitted the crimson light they saw from Dewford. Not a single building stood unscathed in wake of the fire, each of them crumbled onto themselves in ruin. Fluttershy raised a hoof to shield her eyes, coughing from the lingering smoke and fumes. The sign welcoming them into Slateport lay on the ground, covered in embers and burning with a harsh, orange glow.
“Let’s start looking, there have to be some survivors,” Rainbow said before breaking off from the group and beginning to search through some of the wreckage, heaving off several heavy chunks of roofing and timber.
Fluttershy flew off in the other direction, trying to fan off some of the embers with gusts from her wings. After a few moments, all that remained of the flames on the wreckage in front of her were smoldering ashes, so she got to digging her way through. Each piece felt heavier for the pegasus as she continued coughing. She covered her mouth again with her rag, trying to filter the air between each removed piece. After straining to roll an iron girder off from the collapsed building, she felt the hair on the back of her neck stick up. She felt as if... somepony or something was watching her. Slowly, she turned around and squinted, trying to focus on a small, standing figure in the distance.
The figure was mostly in shadow, with the light of the flames licking at its body. It reflected the light, as though it were covered in a shined metal. Turning her body fully to face the figure, she studied it as it remained still, not moving as the flames inched closer to it. It was bulky and still, and she felt sick looking at it, feeling as if it stared straight through her. Her breathing stuttered as she trotted towards Rainbow Dash, making sure she never broke eye contact with the figure. Before she made it to her friend, it twitched its head to the right, then back up again almost instantaneously. She let out a tiny scream and rushed over to Rainbow who was still chipping away at the wreckage.
“R...Rainb...bow?” Fluttershy stuttered, tapping the cyan pegasus on the shoulder.
“What is it Fluttershy? Did you find something?” Rainbow asked, turning towards her friend.
“L..look over there...” Fluttershy pointed to the figure as it continued its stare unabated. As Rainbow came closer, a flash of light came from behind it, completely silhouetting the pony. Coiling up from behind him was a monstrous serpent, its body segmented with spheres and was covered in multiple fins with a great, gaping maw hanging open. It towered over the figure, its body reaching high above the flames as Fluttershy saw saliva drip from its mouth, sizzling as it hit the ground. She shuddered, quickly ducking behind her friend. Rainbow called out quietly to Pinkie, letting the pink pony hop over to her side as Fluttershy shook behind them.
“It’s probably nothing, Fluttershy,” Rainbow assured her, making her way towards the shadowed figure. Pinkie quickly followed suit.
“Rainbow... I.. no!” Fluttershy squeaked before running behind the wrecked buildings. She snuck her way through the back streets, avoiding eye contact with the shadowed pony. To her right was a hollowed out building with the front still intact. It wasn’t on fire, so she made her way inside, peeking out from a broken glass window to watch her two friends approach the pony. The light of the fire made its body visible, revealing a horn on the pony, its body clad in azure armor. A scabbard with a straight-sword hung on its side, clanging against its side plate as it moved closer to her friends. The beast remained behind it, floating above the ground. She ducked her head, and closed her eyes, hoping her friends didn’t engage it.
“Hey, you!” Rainbow yelled, catching the armor-clad pony’s attention. “Could you help us find survivors? There’s a lot of rubble to sift through.”
Fluttershy poked her head back up, seeing the unicorn only a few feet away from Pinkie and Rainbow. The blue-scaled monster had set down behind the unicorn, its head laying against its master's side. “There are still ponies here?” It asked in a grizzled voice.
“I think so, there might be some trapped under the rubble,” Rainbow said before turning around, frantically looking for Fluttershy.
“Why should I help them? They were given the chance to leave,” the stallion said, his tone sending a shiver down Fluttershy’s spine.
Rainbow quickly turned back, getting into the stallions face. “What do you mean ‘a chance to leave?’ Did you do this?!” she demanded, pushing her face into the stallion’s tempered steel helmet. Fluttershy held her hooves to her mouth, trying to shake off her nerves. She wanted to grab her friends and run, but she was paralyzed in place.
“You two... you look so familiar...” he droned, tilting his head to glance at Pinkie. “It’s almost as if...” he trailed off as Rainbow backed away, motioning Pinkie to her side. He tilted his head up and stepped closer to them. “Your clothes... your colors... your naivety... you two must be the Spark!”
“The what?” Pinkie asked, huddling closer to the pegasus.
He laughed. “All thanks to you I can remember everything,” he explained before his head twitched again. “If you’re the spark, then... Your friend... she turned me into this! This... horse!” He exclaimed, stomping on the ground making Rainbow and Pinkie step back.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Rainbow yelled, Fluttershy hearing a small crack in her voice. “Did you do this, yes or no?!”
“I knew the Blueprint would come when it saw this...” he said, gesturing to the smoldering ruins as Rainbow spread her wings in defense. “The last time a Spark came to Hoenn, the blueprint was with them.” He took a step forward, followed by his serpent. Rainbow’s face showcased her fury as he shoved his face into hers. “Where is the Blueprint?”
“Blueprint? I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you don’t step off,” Rainbow growled, butting her head against his. She gritted her teeth as she stared him down. “I’ll take you down right here!”
“With what, your weak Pokémon?” He laughed, pushing Rainbow back.
“No, with this!” Rainbow yelled, as she turned and bucked the armored stallion in the helmet. He crashed to the ground, tumbling back until he was stopped by the serpent’s bulky coils.
“Tell me!” he yelled, getting back onto this hooves. Scuff marks now defaced the once pristine armor as she could hear the muffled, heavy breathing of the unicorn. “Where... is... Fluttershy?!”
Fluttershy quickly ducked her head down, body trembled. The fact that stallion knew her name scared her. Steven knowing of Cloudsdale seemed innocent enough in hindsight, but even he hadn’t know her name. She sat down with her back to the wall, staring at her shaking hooves. After taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and searched through May’s memories for an answer to who the stallion was, but the armor was complicating her search. His voice was her only clue, but it wasn’t predominant in the girl’s memory. She was afraid to look back at the scene going on behind her so she delved into the only memory she could find,
"I came to see what was taking so long to snatch some parts, and you simps are held up by a mere child?”
Fluttershy’s eyes sprang open. The girl’s memories had only surfaced in reference to Fluttershy’s present... meaning the girl had met this stallion here. With the town destroyed and the stallion obscured, she couldn’t find a vivid memory. He didn’t sound like anyone she knew, but the voice seemed resonated with the girl. At the sound of a loud clang, Fluttershy jumped in shock and peered out the window. The stallion was flat on his back with Rainbow being restrained by Pinkie.
“I said we won’t let you touch her! This is your last warning!” Rainbow yelled, struggling to free herself of the pink pony’s grasp. “Let go, Pinkie!” she screamed.
A blood-curdling roar bellowed from the serpent, making Fluttershy cover her ears. It rose from the ground and flew, circling around Pinkie and Rainbow. With one last shove, Rainbow escaped from Pinkie and bolted straight into the air. With pin-point accuracy, she hit the creature under the jaw, sending it back through the air. It landed, swiftly turning itself to strike. With frightening speed, it flew through the air and rushed towards the cyan pony.
Pinkie ran to a pile of rubble as the unicorn got back on his hooves and shook himself off. “Kill her,” he commanded, watching Rainbow blaze up into the lingering sea of smoke. The serpent followed suit, trying desperately to keep up. As Rainbow emerged from the top of the plume, she dived back down at frightening speed, striking and slamming the creature into one of the smoldering buildings. Her breathing was labored as she hovered directly below the ceiling of smoke, noticing the serpent trapped under the rubble.
Pinkie looked over a ruined home, taking notice of the small chunks of metal and charred wood available to her. She smiled as she began hoarding them into a pile. With one quick look over her shoulder, she started dragging her pile back towards the unicorn with a sly smile on her face.
With a flash, a large, column of fire shot out from the rubble, lighting the sky as it flew towards Rainbow Dash. She quickly noticed the blast and flew down towards the ground, narrowly escaping the encroaching flame. Just as she flew towards the serpent, it broke through the rubble and struck its tail into the pegasus’ back, slamming her into the ground before disappearing. She rolled a few feet before struggling back to her hooves. With a flap of her wings, she carried herself back into the air. She searched the area, awaiting the serpent’s next attack, but it was nowhere to be found. As she looked, she felt something drip on her forehead.
A downpour rained down from the sky, soaking the entire down in a torrent of water. Fluttershy shivered as she placed her bag over her head, trying to keep herself dry. The ground hissed as the flames were doused and the crimson sky returned back to its original, dark blue hue.
Rainbow put her hoof over the face as she flew around, looking for the serpent. With the serpent seemingly gone, she dived and dashed towards the now unprotected stallion who stood silently in the rain. Just before she could strike the unicorn, a thunderous roar filled the sky. Rainbow turned her head up, seeing the creature coiled inside a cloud as a giant flash of white cracked through it. With a thunderous clap, a bolt of lightning arced straight Rainbow’s body, making her scream in pain before crashing and tumbling into the ground. She lay there, scorched and unmoving as the monster landed beside her. Tears flowed down Fluttershy’s cheeks as she recoiled back from the window and held her shaking forehooves to her mouth.
“Rainbow!” Fluttershy yelled before clasping her mouth shut with her hooves. Just as she screamed, the unicorn cocked his head towards her.
“She’s over there; grab her!” the unicorn yelled, motioning for the monster ensnare her. Fluttershy tried forcing her wings open as the growls of the serpent came closer. She broke out into a gallop, frantically looking back to see how much time she had left but the serpent broke through the wall and circled around the frightened pegasus. She closed her eyes and shuddered, sobbing as she clenched her teeth and waited. Against her better judgment, she opened her eyes and watched the serpent circle one last time before closing in on her. For a fraction of a second, she felt its wet, yellow-scaled underbelly brush up against her fur before she felt a small shock where it had touched.
With a massive roar, the serpent recoiled back, electricity surging through its body. It writhed on the ground, squirming in agony as the pain coursed through it. Fluttershy scrambled against a standing piece of rubble, her eyes darting as they followed the flopping monster. After a few seconds, it stopped and lay motionless.
“Take that!” Pinkie yelled as she hurled rubble at the unicorn. Each piece hit and bounced off, knocking the unicorn back before his horn glowed through the armor. A blue light enveloped the debris pile and it was tossed across the town, leaving Pinkie with no ammunition.
“You useless beast, you can’t even handle a puny unicorn?!” he hollered, bringing the creature to attention. “Bind the earth pony, she’s of no use to us. I will take care of the unicorn myself.” With that, the serpent flew through the air once more and descended upon Pinkie. She scrambled down the road, trying to escape, but the tail of the serpent found its way under her belly and scooped her off the ground. It fully ensnared Pinkie and brought her to the ground, forcing her into submission. She squirmed, but the serpent tightened its grip, causing her to yelp out in pain.
Fluttershy’s pupils shrunk as she watched her two friends struggling to survive. She felt a tightness in her chest, causing her to grasp it and slump to the ash-covered ground. She peered to her left, watching the unicorn advance towards her. In desperation, she tried again to force her wings open to fly away, to save her friends and run. A crackling roar threw off her concentration as three walls of fire surrounded her, seeming unaffected by the continuing downpour. Fluttershy turned back to the unicorn who stood only a few feet away.
“There you are, unicor—” he stopped, peering around Fluttershy. “You-you’re a pegasus?! But... you’re wearing the hat and everything! Don’t tell me you’re Fluttershy!” he yelled, stamping his hooves in frustration.
“W-what do you want...?” Fluttershy gulped, her breathing quickening as the tried to steel her courage.
“You must be the Blueprint; you have the green bandanna and orange vest.” He came closer, backing Fluttershy towards the walls of flame. “What is a pegasus doing as the Blueprint? It doesn’t make any sense.”
With the unicorn in a calmer state, Fluttershy looked with worry over to her injured friends, her anger rising towards the armored pony, her fear turning into focus. As her breathing quickened, she rose and flew into the stallion’s face, staring furiously through the eye slits of his helmet. Her pupils disappeared, leaving only her irises and whites of her eyes. ‘How dare you hurt my friends!” She screamed, pushing her face into his as it contorted in anger. “I don’t care what you want from me, but I won’t let you have it!”
She heard a small chuckle from the stallion as he casually broke away from Fluttershy’s piercing stare. “So you are Fluttershy... hollow-boned, cowardly Fluttershy,” he said condescendingly before slipping his sword from its scabbard, holding the point threateningly before the pegasus’ face. She fell back and scrambled away, her eyes returning to normal as the stallion regained his composure. “Help me, and everyone will be saved,” he stated.
“Why couldn’t you just ask?! Why did you have to do this?” Fluttershy cried, her eyes darting between the stallion and the sword. “What about my friends?!”
“Even if I did ask, you’d never help me. Why would you? You’re the Blueprint. Everything in this world is crafted to fit your standards. Every person in Hoenn was turned into one of you horse-beasts, giving you everything you could ever want. I’ve seen it happen thousands of times. Your friends did help me a little at least,” he chuckled lightly. “The Spark allowed me to remember every session, how they began and how they ended. How your starter became a coward to suit your pathetic nature.” Fluttershy’s mouth hung agape. She couldn’t formulate a single thought as the stallion continued. “I know what has to be done, and what my job is as the callen.”
“W...what is it?” Fluttershy squeaked, piling up ash behind her to toss.
“I am to break the time loop... and all I need is you,” he said before approaching Fluttershy, twitching once more. She scrambled back as far as she could without touching the flames, scraping up and keeping a pile of ash close to her.
“I-I won’t go with you!” she yelled, throwing the ash at the stallion before trying to slip by him. After a quick wave of his hoof across his helmet, the unicorn stomped on the ground, causing Fluttershy to retreat back. In the distance, she could hear the faint wailing of sirens above the crackle of the flames.
“I’m not asking you to,” he stated, inching closer, “I’m forcing you to.”
With a swift movement, the stallion grabbed at Fluttershy with one of his hooves. As he touched her, she felt the same small shock as before, watching as the unicorn jumped back. The armor on his foreleg shredded into pieces as shrapnel, scattering across the ash. With part of his armor destroyed, he lunged in to grab her again with both of his hooves. A large jolt of electricity shot through him as he seized her, throwing him to the ground and making him to scream in pain. The flames dissipated around Fluttershy as the unicorn writhed on the ground, violently squirming and crying, his body arching back from shock.
Quickly, Fluttershy grabbed one of the scraps of armor and shoved it in her bag. With the unicorn incapacitated, she ran through the alleyway to get back to Rainbow Dash before he could get back up. She glanced back, watching as the unicorn attempted to climb back onto his hooves, only to fall back down.
“Gyarados! Get over here!” he screamed, the serpent releasing the pink pony and at its master’s call and slithering towards the unicorn. She couldn’t hear him anymore, but watched as the Gyarados hoisted the unicorn onto its back and flew off to the east over the sea.
Fluttershy closed her eyes and let the rain wash away her anxiety. Her breathing slowed and her adrenaline began to fade, allowing her to focus. With the sirens growing louder, the pegasus flew immediately to the still motionless Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy shook her, trying to wake the rainbow-maned pegasus. She bent down to listen to Rainbow’s vital signs, noticing a tear in the cyan pegasus’ shorts, revealing her cutie mark. She rolled Rainbow onto her back, watching as the cyan pegasus’ chest slowly rose and fell. Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief before Rainbow coughed and hacked, hastily opening her eyes.
“Rainbow, I’m so glad you’re awake,” Fluttershy said as the cyan pegasus looked around frantically.
“W-Where’s the monster... and that unicorn?!” Rainbow yelled as she rose to her hooves, spreading her wings instinctively before arching back in pain.
“What’s wrong?” Fluttershy asked, carefully examining Rainbow’s wings.
“It’s a small crick, don’t worry about it. It should be fine in a few days,” Rainbow assured her, slowly and carefully folding her wings back to her side. “What happened to those jerks?”
“I-I’m not really sure... that creature—I think he called it a gyarados—tried to grab me... but a bolt of lighting knocked it away... the same thing happened to the unicorn when he tried to grab me,” Fluttershy explained. With Rainbow awake and on her hooves, she galloped over to Pinkie as she struggled to her hooves.
“So you chased them off? I knew you had it in you Fluttershy,” Rainbow laughed, trotting up to her friend.
“Are you alright, Pinkie?” Fluttershy asked, helping the pink pony up to her hooves.
“Yep, I’m fine,” Pinkie stated. “Feel a little like a jelly doughnut without its filling, but I’m alright.” She brushed herself off, trying to shake some of the rain from her coat. The blaring sirens grew louder as red and blue lights flashed to the north, coming closer to the ruined city. Above them, the rain quieted, slowing to a sprinkle, then disappearing completely. The large billows of smoke from before had vanished, leaving the city in a lifeless lull save the three mares.
“So, what do we do now? Do we keep looking for survivors?” Rainbow asked, stretching her wing. “By the way, where did that stallion go anyway?”
“The monster took him east. I don’t think we have to worry about him for a while,” Fluttershy explained, noticing several vehicles emerging on the northern road.
“Why was he after you anyway? Did you do something to him?” Pinkie asked, sitting down on the soaked earth.
“He said something about me being the ‘blueprint’ or something. He’s trying to break some kind of time loop... and he needs me to do it.” Fluttershy stripped off her hat and wrung it out. “He knew about Alerce too. Something about you guys turning him into a coward. I’m not really sure.”
“Alerce, a coward? He went up against that terrible monkey in Norman’s gym, no problem,” Pinkie said.
“He was probably just trying to get under your skin. Though... you did say something similar when that girl took you over,” Rainbow said, piquing Fluttershy’s curiosity.
“What did she say?”
“I think it was something about the world changing Alerce into something cowardly... I don’t know. She was talking nonsense,” Rainbow said. Several large vehicles charged down the road, not being carried by ponies. Several large white trucks with red crosses, small vehicles with flashing red and blue lights and massive red vehicle with a ladder on its roof charged down the road and stopped near the three mares. “I wouldn’t worry about it, they were just trying to rile you up.”
“I guess...” Fluttershy responded glumly. She had no idea why the consciousness of a girl would taunt her for her docile nature. Maybe she knew something Fluttershy didn’t. She shook her head in rejection and watched several uniformed ponies step out from the vehicles and rush over to them.
“Hey! Are you three alright?” a stallion in a navy blue uniform yelled, galloping alongside several paramedics. Two of them branched off and went to examine Rainbow and Pinkie, carefully inspecting their injuries.
“Y-yeah. We’re fine, just a little shaken,” Fluttershy said, watching Rainbow fidget as the paramedic taped up her wing.
“That’s good,” the officer sighed. “There were several obstructions blocked the road here... made it nearly it impossible. Glad none of you were hurt. What was with the light show? For a second there, It looked like... like there were a lot of white flashes.”
“Oh, well...” Fluttershy started. She had no idea how to explain a stallion wearing armor with a flying serpent without sounding insane, so she decided to do the next best thing. “I don’t know, we only just got here.”
“That’s alright then. You missed a stallion in armor with a massive gyarados, at least according to the townsfolk when we were coming over,” he explained, causing Fluttershy to look down at the ground to avoid eye contact. From the ambulance, several white coated ponies brought out a large white tent with a bold red cross and set it up just off the road. With Rainbow and Pinkie bandaged up, the paramedics escorted them to the tent, Fluttershy presuming to let them rest. She looked back up to the officer who was speaking over his radio to a fellow officer.
“So, the townsfolk escaped?” Fluttershy asked, prompting the stallion to put away his radio.
“Oh yeah, droves of ponies going straight up to Mauville. I’d suggest you do the same.” He looked around the city, taking note of the utter destruction. “There’s really nothing here for you now.”
“Thanks. Could I go see my friends?” she asked, not knowing the procedure of breaking off conversations with law enforcement here. That last thing she wanted was to be arrested after that whole experience.
“Of course. You know, your friends look pretty familiar. Are they from around here?”
“Rainbow and Pinkie? No, they came with me from... Johto,” she responded, taking a couple steps towards the tent.
“What are their last names if you don’t mind me asking?” he asked with an inquisitive look.
“Um, they’re Dash and Pie,” Fluttershy stated, questioning the police stallion’s intent.
“Oh, I didn’t know the gym leaders had any relatives out in Johto. I was wondering why they looked so familiar. That news must’ve been devastating to hear when you’re a whole country away,” he said, shaking his head. “Happened so close to each other too, I was surprised.”
“Wait, what are you talking about?” she asked, halting her departure. “What news?”
“Just tell them that I’m sorry for their losses,” he said before picking his radio back up and resumed his conversation. With a glum look, Fluttershy turned back to the tent and made her way over.
Just as she arrived, the two paramedics exited the tent, talking to each other and letting Fluttershy pass through. With a small push, the tent flap opened, revealing her newly bandaged friends. They were lying on small white cots surrounded by discarded bandage wrappings and gauze trimmings. Rainbow scratched at her bandages, trying to alleviate some kind of itch.
“Hey, Fluttershy! Why do you look so bummed?” Pinkie asked, back to her exuberant self.
“Just something that police stallion just told me. It doesn’t make too much sense.” Fluttershy took a deep breath. “He says, ‘Sorry for your losses.’”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rainbow asked, wincing at the tightness of the bandages. “Nothing in this place has made any sense so far. You know what, let’s forget about that. What do we do now?”
“Well...” Fluttershy dug through her bag and brought out a shard of the light blue armor. The edges were shredded and not clean cut, the electric shock viscerally tore the armor apart. “The police stallion said that the ponies that left went north to Mauville. Maybe if we’re fast enough, we can catch up to them and see if anypony can give us any information.”
“Sounds great, let’s go!” Pinkie yelled, hopping up before Rainbow pushed her back to the cot.
“Are you sure you want to do this now? Are you alright?” Rainbow asked, giving Fluttershy a concerned look.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Fluttershy lied, trying to pass off any worry until she had some hold of the situation. “I’d rather find out information now while the unicorn is injured than stay here and do nothing while he recuperates. I had enough sleep from the day before, so I’m ready to go if you two are.”
Rainbow rose to her hooves, stretching her limbs as Pinkie followed. “I guess that settles it. Let’s go to Mauville,” she said, walking out from the tent. Just as Pinkie and Fluttershy left, they came muzzle to muzzle with a very stern-faced Rainbow Dash. “You realize what this all means, don’t you Fluttershy?”
“What are you mean, Rainbow?” Fluttershy asked, watching the sky turn to a lighter shade of blue as dawn approached.
“You’re going to have to fight, and fight hard, Fluttershy.” Rainbow stated. “You can’t think of these creatures as animals anymore. They have to be our protectors and monsters to our enemies if we want to survive. Pinkie and I can’t do all the fighting, you have to push yourself. Understand?”
Fluttershy gulped. She’d known she had to fight before, but the armored stallion made it all the more obvious. “I... I know. I told you before, I’m not afraid to fight.”
“Good... let’s get going then,” Rainbow said before turning up the road and leading them towards Mauville. Fluttershy lowered her head as she walked, her mind now focused enough to go over everything the unicorn said to her. She let her mind slowly process the information as she marched steadily up the road. Without thinking, Fluttershy let Alerce out from his Poké Ball and let him lay on her head, comforting her as the three made their way north.