"Gochisousama (It was a good meal.)" I said walking out of a small ramen stand, surprised and glad they had them here. Eol sighed as he slurped up the last of the ramen, while Ubi sat on the roof to eat his diamonds.
"Hey Aoi, what was the food like in your world?" It's been months since I've been to an actual restaurant that served Kaiseki cuisine. I sighed. I never really thought about the food at restaurants, I just ate for sustenance. But there was one food that I enjoyed, 21 years ago. I remembered the taste, and salivated, it was the kind of food that the more you ate, the hungrier you felt and the more you wanted to eat it until you were satisfied. I remembered every single ingredient that made it also. To Eol, I only had one word to say,
"Unbelievable..." I slowly stood up, interrupting my memory, and walked into the street to find Ubi.
"If I remember how to make it, I'll make some for you. Maybe even Ubi would like it." I saw his ears twitch in recognition, still chewing. He put the bag of diamonds on his belt and jumped off the roof, landing lightly. His look started to beam with curiosity.
"Is it really that good?" I nodded.
We all visited the 'groomers' and took baths, so none of the high class ponies would complain about the smell, plus it gave their coats a nice shimmer. Eol complained that his dirt was his history. I snickered as I watched the beautician scrub some sort of shampoo mixed with lotion into his fur, suds forming almost immediately. Ubi looked relieved to get his fur washed. I opted to wash my own fur in the showers. I felt relaxed cleaning the dust clumped in my fur, lathering shampoo over my hair, then finally rinsing the suds out. I then had the mysterious urge to shake, I was alone so I indulged in shaking the water off of myself, my fur air drying fast. I took a deep breath before sighing. I leisurely put my clothes back on and looked to see if the others weren't finished yet. I burst out laughing when I saw that one of the beauticians had tied some of Eol's fur into neat ribbons. I walked past him, laughing and yanking the ribbons off to his relief. He shook off the neat mold the ribbons left and messed up his fur again, following me with a glare backwards. Ubi put slipped on his tunic and followed closely behind, his fur shiny and more fuller than before.
"I am NEVER going back to that place again." Eol rubbed his fur nervously.
"Don't worry, it's only for social events, if it makes you feel better, you can roll in the mud next time it rains." Ubi snickered. We headed towards Canterlot Palace, the various ponies all dressed up for the Gala giving us mixed looks. Some were impressed that some diamond dogs had the decorum to dress in proper attire for a grand event, some disdainful looks at the fact that diamond dogs would even go to the Gala. Some looks were mainly looks of nervousness and fear. They'd probably never seen anyone taller than 6 feet, let alone me towering at 8 feet.
We arrived at the gate of the castle to a handful of guards, one barring our way. I shifted Kokuryu to my backside, concealing it from view.
"The castle's barred to visitors before the Gala, no looky loos." I stared at him with a fierce glare.
"I'm Aoi Myoujin," I thought of a political position on the spot, "Vanguard and Embassador to the Diamond dogs of the Griffin Dominion, come to have a meeting with Princess Celestia. Besides," I pulled out the 'Admit All' ticket from my dobuku, "She personally invited us." They seemed dumbfounded by our approach.
"Now, if you'll excuse us, It's very urgent we get through." We start walking past them, after we were about to enter, Eol turned around and made an insulting face to the guards before quickly turning back around again.
The castle was devoid of life, just a griffin setting up what seemed to be a drumset onstage, wearing scaled armor that shimmered like a rainbow. I shifted Kokuryu back to my side, resting my hand on the hilt. The griffin catches sight of me and remarks with open arms:
"Oh Hey, who invited Captain Komamura to the party?" Who the hell was he talking about? Maybe another human from Japan came here before me... Some kind of insult... military?... or maybe it's just something else... I waved the matter away and kept on walking. As I kept walking however, something kept on bothering me about that griffin, a nagging feeling. I passed the stage at a slow pace, Ubi having a somewhat worried look. Just then Kokuryu emitted a slight, brief hum. I turned around to look back at the griffin, spotting what looked like an oversized zanbato sheathed on his back. I spotted the black sheen near the hilt, hinting at the material the weapon was made out of: dragon scale. There's only one way he could've gotten it. I whispered something to Ubi and Eol.
"Ubi, Eol, go on ahead and look for the Princess. If you find her, tell her to wait for me in the throne room. I'll catch up later...." They looked at me questionably, then went onward. I started to approach the stage, questions and thoughts racing through my mind all at once. 'Did he actually kill the dragon, or did he just loot off the body. If so, that means I'm not the only dragon slayer. Maybe I can get him to help me... there's also a likely chance he's going to reject it.' I hopped up onto the stage, landing as lightly as possible, my footpads making my approach silent. I walked up slowly and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. He swiveled abruptly complaining:
"Damn, we haven't even started yet and we already got a- WHOA!" He was caught off guard by my sudden appearance. I always had an uncanny problem of surprising people when I approached them from behind.
"Are you always this sneaky, or did you take lessons?" I raised an eyebrow, then started asking.
"Your sword, the one your back... where did you get it exactly?" I cocked my head to one side in curiosity.
"Up north. Damn dragon ate me." He pointed backwards and smirked, "Too bad for him, I'm chewy." Was he just joking or serious? Interesting, but highly illogical, I decided to press him further on the matter.
"...You're saying a dragon choked on you and you took his scale?" I kept a straight face, I wanted straight answers, not a joker out for laughs.
"Yeah, that's about right..." He looked away then back at me, "Well, the scale taking was first, THAT'S what he ACTUALLY choked on. But pretty much, yeah!" A griffin of daring... but not just any daring...
"Who are you?" I shifted my stance to the other side of my body, glancing at the sword on his back, "Not everyone just takes a scale and dives into the mouth of insanity..." I grinned, "Two emotions would require that: a disregard for one's own life... and rage..." His mood changed slightly at my mention of rage.
"Quite perceptive of you. I never valued my life too much until recently," He looked down, "and he was hurting the first friend I ever had. So, I MAY have gone a tiny bit off the deep end." He motioned with his talons as if he was measuring his insanity. He put his hand on his hip and mimicked my look.
"What about you?" He squinted, "What's your story? You seem like an interesting sort..." Info for info... fair trade... but why not play with him a bit... give him the honest truth...
"... I'm Aoi... my parent's were killed... I killed the guy who killed them." I gauged his reaction: eyes opened wide with surprise, then relaxation, as if I did something worthwhile.
"Good on ya. Trash like that needs to be thrown out... and burned" His face winced to emphasize the burn, he was satisfied with what I did, "Not many have what it takes to do it, you're okay in my book," He leaned back with a grin. Agreeance, he knows what it's like to hate something with every fiber of your being... I decided to divulge more...
"... And I loved every fucking second of it..." He chuckled lightly.
"Of course you did." His look had a tinge of sincerity towards it, "Putting and end to someone like that has got to feel good." ... hmm, one to indulge in violence... I was starting to like him...
"I spent 20 years learning... training... and fighting... just to kill him..." I changed my tone to playful, "worth every second..." I clicked my claws, like I was cleansing the underside of them from dirt. His grin had a sense of wicked interest.
"Well, at least you prepared for it. Too many people just go all willy nilly and end up six feet underground." He was drawing attention to me, getting me to reveal more. Times up, it's my turn.
"Now, what's yours?" I flicked a finger at him, drawing the topic to center around him, "Starting with your name..."
"Griffin. Yours?" I held out my hand, offering a handshake.
"Aoi... remember?" He grabbed it with an Evil smile, I spot his other hand resting on the hilt of his blade. In a deft movement, I unsheathed Kokuryu, then had the blade over his neck, the wind flowing anxiously past his feathers. Similarly, he drew his and had the edge right over my jugular, holding the blade steady. I grinned back.
"Do you always do this to people you meet?" He asked wryly, glancing of Kokuryu's edge.
"Only to those I like..." I moved the blade away from his neck, the tension winding down as he moved his away from mine. He looked interested in my sword.
"That's no ordinary sword..." I turned the topic back to him.
"I take it you're not here just for the sights and sounds now, are you?..." He smiled and held his arms outward.
"I am one of the sights and sounds." He puts his arms down, "I'm finishing up my concert tour here in Canterlot, and the Gala was right around at same time." I rewind back to the paper I read, then asked myself, 'Why does the name Griffin sound familiar.'
"Concert?" I ruffle through my dobuku and pull out the newspaper, then skim through the article about the Griffin Pirate's tour. I look back at him.
"You're Griffin from the Griffin Pirates," I raise the paper in front of him, "You and your crew are plastered everywhere."
"Aha... So you have heard of me." He scratched his chin, "Yeah, I didn't really want fame, but it came up and bit me, so I decided to use it." All it took was one look at the blatant manipulator to realize he was giving me humility bull shit: he was loving it.
"But for what purpose? Money?" I paused, "Mares?" Maybe his 'tastes' aren't monetary. He snickers in response.
"Money, I have PLENTY of, gained legitimately in fact. Well, if you call stealing from thieves legitimate." Robin hood justification? "Mares? I have my mate, and that's all I need." He had a shimmer in his eye. He had quite the catch already. I scratch my chin in curiosity; not women, not fame, not money, reputation as a pirate... I reread the article in my head, 'Griffin Pirates Recruiting'. It hit me, A pirate, heavily armed, with a dragon sword to reinforce a hovering notion of power, comes to perform concerts and gain fans, possibly becoming supporters just by him mentioning a cause... he was building an army... but for what purpose? Time to press him...
"'CAPTAIN Griffin' is that right? Or shall I call you General?" He looks at me with an indifferent look.
"No, just captain. It's not like I'm raising an army... yet." This brought a new card in play, he had no other reasons, but was still gaining supporters. I reread the article again in my head, 'Griffin gives amazing performances all for free, songs leaving the crowd speechless except for the clamor of cheers...' I pieced it together with everything he told me already. I curled the edge of my lip in excitement, now to take a shot in the psychological dark...
"So... as my friend Keith would have called it," I rested my chin in my palm, "You're doing this for the lulz..." His expression tells all, the look of complete shock, then a sly grin. His face told all, he was a human.
"Aoi, by any chance, do you like banana's?" ... redirection?... No, too off center... now that I knew he was human... he was making a reference. Now his query, 'Do you like bananas?' was one Keith asked me a long time ago, when I answered bluntly, he explained the joke to me... I didn't get it, but maybe I could use it to have some fun of my own...
"I know where you can go bananas..." I watched amused with the widest grin almost looking plastered on my face as Griffin pointed high into the air...
"ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA- wait." Gotcha... he stopped abruptly and cleared his throat.
"So, both of us are human. This just became very interesting..." I crossed my arms, retaining my grin...
"Definitely interesting. Well, considering the fact that we haven't tried to kill each other yet, I take it as a good sign." Apparently he didn't include 2 minutes ago as one such event.
"Now that we are at an understanding... let's talk."
"Aren't we taking right now?"
"I meant over a nice cup of tea," I paused, raising an eyebrow, "Or do you drink beer?"
"Tea. Have any green tea blends?" I could tell from his slight grimace he knew the consequences of alcohol.
"I actually have some I got from someone in Ponyville. I believe you two have met?" He stood their pondering for a second before finally responding.
"Twilight?" Now to break the news...
"Yes, she mentioned how you drove her crazy on your question about how ponies could grab things without fingers." He starts to laugh immensely. After catching his breath and wiping away a tear he continues.
"Actually, I asked the Princess, who didn't know and passed the question on to her. Is she still trying to figure that one out?"
"I asked her the same question and she seemed to have a mental breakdown... I should probably avoid that question." We started walking down to one of the tables in front of the stage and sit down. I drop a small amount of the tea leaves into a nearby teapot to let it steep.
"Don't worry too much about it. She's brilliant to be sure, but she'll spaz out if the slightest thing goes out of alignment. She'll probably have some foul words for me when she realizes yet again that I didn't tell her how I use magic. I'm sure it's driving her nuts just thinking about all the studying she COULD be doing that she can't because I won't spill my secrets." He was enjoying this way too much, oh well. What actually interested me was the word magic... then the interest wavered... was a griffin using magic uncommon? I decided to play on that thought and press him on the matter.
"A griffin who uses magic... what other surprises do you have?" He reacted immediately.
"Ah ah ah, a magician never reveals his secrets. People like having an ace up their sleeve, I keep about twelve or so. Even from friends." Concealing... he likes secrets as an advantage... Let's see what happens when I counteract with divulgence. I huff, hinting a lack of interest.
"I'm not going to lie... my prior training has helped me well in this world..." Now to hit him with a familiar topic, "One of them helped me kill a black dragon..." He motions for the newspaper and takes it, turning to the article about the dragon slayer in Stalliongrad.
"You?" I nod intently...
"Surprised?" I glanced inside the teapot to check on the leaves, rewarded by the tea becoming a nice tan. I start to pour the tea gently into two small cups.
"Not really, I heard about some prophecy from one of my dog crew members, then saw it in the paper." So the news reached even to here... "And now, seeing you, it fits. I could tell by the way you carried yourself that you were a warrior, hesitant to let his hand leave his sword," He knew about the legend aswell. "Still, you've got some catching up to do. My draconic kill count is..." he starts gingerly counting on his talons. I slowly take a sip, the unfamiliar aroma spreading over my taste buds again.
"Ah... So I see you take pride in your kill count..." No problem in indulging, but there's a fine line between that and bragging.
"I like to keep track... I'm up to nine now," Impressive, he's not lying about it either, "I've also got a youngling we adopted on board the ship. Didn't kill her parents though. As it turns out dragons aren't all bad. Poor kid, her mom got killed trying to protect her." I cough on the tea, What did he just say? I regain my composure and continue.
"Who was the mother?"
"Some green dragon we found dead up by the volcano." I sigh in relief, then listen intently, "Little blue dragon nestled up next to the corpse." At least she's found another family now, I'd like to meet her one day...
"I'm glad for her... what's the young dragon's name?"
"She's Shimmer. She was named that by her mother, because her scales gleam brilliantly under both the sun and moon." He exits his poetic tone abruptly, "She's a good kid, likes to help out, brave. It's always the nice ones that fate gives the middle finger to." Just like us...
"I'm glad she has parents now..." I look down at my tea cup, he starts to drink his.
"Who were the two Diamong Dogs you came in with?" he asked with slight curiosity.
"The silver one's Ubi, the other is Eol. They're my family now..." I continued with a soft smile, "I found a new purpose in life, to save the clans under oppression." My mind flashes back to Eol stabbing Ensin.
"I started with Eol's Clan. Believe it or not, their leader hoarded the gems for himself and offered his own clan as recompense." I feel my own tone grow with regret, "One was Eol's father." He winced.
"Ouch. yeah, a lot of those alphas are sick fucks. It hurts having family taken away, like Etch." My ears turn toward him at the mention of another comrade, "I feel the same about Etch and Growl. That they're family, I mean. They were slaves for seven years, after their alpha was killed by a competitor. I busted them out, and gave them new names to show that their past didn't matter." Eol and Ubi, hmm, I'll have to ask them sometime, "They seemed to like them. Etch is looking for his family. Growl is really just along for the ride, pretty much nothing better to do with me because he hopes that by freeing the clans, he can see his wife and pup again," Just like Ubi, wanting to see his mom again...
"Ubi, his is a different story, his mother... Well, she is or was a white dragon... His clan tried to kill him for being the son of a dragon... even sent a hitman after him..." Griffin gagged as he heard, choking and coughing. he looked at me in confusion.
"He's the son of a Diamond Dog and a DRAGON? How would that even WORK?" I knew nothing on dragon anatomy...
"I wouldn't know much about how dragons mature." I should probably ask Twilight next time, the dragon that accompanied her seemed like a baby, yet acted like an adolescent.
"Nevermind, I don't think I want to know..." He was off guard, I wanted to redirect back to the topic of magic...
"On a previous note, I believe that said you use magic, I take it that's unusual amongst griffins?" He answered without hesitation.
"Yeah, definitely unusual." So only certain species naturally used magic, "Although there's not much about me that is usual." We're human, the fact that we're here is unusual.
"Well then... It's only fair I share something unusual..." He perked up in interest.
"Oh?" I place Kokuryu on the table, slowly unsheating it, revealing the blade.
"I think you can take a guess on what's special about it..."
"Well, considering the way it hummed when you had it at my throat, I take it you know magic as well?" A wild guess, but close enough...
"Not really... I'm not sure of it myself," I sat looking at the blade, it's unique luster shimmering in the ambient lighting, "But I believe this sword has the dragon's soul inside of it."
"Yep, that'd do it." He seemed to believe it. I started to run my claw along the flat of the blade.
"Forging a dragon blade is similar to forging a katana, except there are a few adjustments you have to make." I pull my claw away near the middle of the blade.
"The material is very... unique." he had a wary, unsure look.
"I don't know too much about that, care to explain?" He motioned a hand towards me, signaling the go ahead.
"Dragon scale requires a higher temperature to heat before quenching, because of that, the blade ensures maximum strength and sharpness." I demonstrate by grabbing the hilt and swinging the blade to my side, the air cleaving the table cleanly, cloth and all.
"That sharpness, obtained only from refining the edge of a dragon scale, can render the very air itself." I was the only one who knew the exact way to make it. A craftsman never reveals his own style...
"Impressive. All I did was rip his arm bone off, jam it into the scale, and wrap it up. I had a blacksmith in Wethoof strengthen it. I use magic to enhance the edge." Hmm, interesting techinque, but to use unnatural magic is taxing, unless you're powered by the adrenaline caused by battle, using it repeatedly would probably exhaust you to the limit.
"To each his own..." I pour another cup of tea, "Cheers."
"Cheers. Well, it was nice talking with you." He takes another sip, then starts to leave.
"Likewise," I stand up and crack my neck, the stiffness relieving instantly, the chairs here are horrible for posture... "Maybe someday you'll have enough bits for me to reforge your sword. By the way, mine's named Kokuryu... what about yours?" One should have the respect to know the other's blade.
"Hades, and I'm pretty sure I already have enough, Hundred K enough?" I did enough rough conversions to know it was small change. I hold up 4 digits in response.
"Along the lines of 4 million..." He starts to laugh.
"Man, Steelhorn is gonna have a hayday. Good thing I just set up a deal in Ponyville for gem sales. I should have enough in a month or two," Music to my ears, a month's wages are usually what even some of the richest nobles in Japan would pay for one of my blades.
"I half expected you to talk me down, now I see you mean business," I cross my arms with a slight grin, "I like that..."
"If you're as good as you say you are, then it's worth the price. I can see how finely crafted your sword is. So, in that case, money really isn't a problem. I mean, it's only bits." I was starting to like him better by the minute.
"I guess sword making's my version of a painting now," I sheath Kokuryu and started to walk away.
Captain Griffin, I'll have to Remember that name.
"Man, what took you so long?" Eol asked me as I caught up with them. I simply smiled as we headed to the throne room. Looks like I'm not the only one wanting to free those in captivity.
"I found some useful information, and a possible ally."
"You mean that griffin back there?" Eol looked uneasy.
"Yes, he's from the same world I am, working to free everyone."
"So he'll help us?" Eol's face lit up when he heard.
"Not us, persay, but he will help others," Who knows, we may just meet him again.
We entereed the throne room, the glass windows letting in sunlight through the rear windows, bathing the throne in a warm glow. Perched atop the throne was the princess herself. Her mane shone like the colder part of the spectrum, with an ivory colored coat. We bowed in front of her to show respect, then said our greetings.
"Princess Celestia, I am..."
"Aoi Myoujin, yes, I know who you are... do you mind if we talk in a more... private setting?" She turned to a door nearby. We obliged, heading to the door, Princess Celestia taking the lead. We walked into a large bedroom, the bed was wide, with a furnishing just above it, satin curtains and a dresser next to it. She sat down on a rounded sofa nearby, patting the seat next to her. Ubi sat on my side, Eol on the princess' side. She levitated a teapot over to the counter that the sofa surrounded, pouring us each a cup. Eol rolled his eyes, the princess simply smiled.
"So, I take it if you know who I am, then you know why I am here?" Time to test a hypothesis.
"You're here to ask me for help on the current situation in Gem Fido..." Her expression turned sad. So she could read minds, to a certain extent.
"... Sometimes, I've torn myself apart over this dilemma dozens of times before..." She blinked away a tear welling up at the corner of her eye. She sighed and continued.
"Aoi, I'm sorry, but the most I can help you with is inside the bounds of Equestria. Griffin's done much more than I could do." So she knew him as well. But what did she mean by all she could do? She started shedding a tear. Helplessness, followed by frustration. It hit me, although she was a god, in earthly form, she can only do so much.
"I'm sorry I brought up a troubling subject for you..." She sniffled.
"Don't be Aoi... It's I who should be sorry." I took a small sip from the teacup as she sighed, "When I think back 900 years ago, I think of the other ways I could have handled that situation... but for lack of forsight, I decided to go with the shortest route, the result being the enslavement of those outside of Equestria. Now, it's too late for me to go back and fix my mistake." She then starts to pull a wry smile...
"Aoi, as far as I know, you and Griffin are the rest of the world's hope for a better future. I can handle things here, but we're stretched to the limit on support, all I can really do is pardon any crimes you 'accidentally cause' from here on out." I nod to her.
"What happened 900 years ago?" At the very least, I can help her deal with what happened...
"I was handling Equestria on my own, Luna banished to the moon before. I started to regret not having my sister not helping, me having to raise the sun and the moon. Running a country becomes difficult when it's just one person. Everyone looks toward you to be strong." her expression turned to one similar to defeat, "I tried to be, but I didn't take it seriously, and things started to decline for the worst. The Dominion's Government, led by Igor Redwing, saw what difficulty we were in, and started making hostile advances towards our borders. That was the straw that broke the mule's back. I could do almost nothing under the stress of ruling, and the coming threat. We were at the edge of war. I didn't want to risk that. I had to dissolve their government, So I teleported Igor to a remote island. With their leader gone, the government collapsed, the Dominion in shambles." She was new to ruling alone, now had to face her consequences. The worst part of it was she had to live with her mistake.
"I'm not going to lie, that's not what I do. You made a mistake and had to deal with it. It was the wrong choice and now this is happening." I take a sip of the tea, the cold porcelain irritating my lips, "But now, It's in the past. What's done is never undone." I recline in the sofa, the cusions soft and comforting, "But now, you've got others that will help you through. I'm not mad at you for not being able to help, I understand. For now, let's just talk..." Eol started to comfort her as well.
"We all know what helplessness feels like, no matter how powerful you are, or how much you know. Some things, you just can't stop." Celestia looked at Eol with a smile. Ubi started to speak as well.
"We all have had bad things happen to us that we wish didn't, but they did. What we do afterwards shape who we are." I finished our point.
"After all is said and done, no matter what you've done in the past, it's time to start life anew..." Princess Celestia's expression started to show a sense of release, one we knew as letting go of the past. She spread both her wings and gathered all three of us in a slightly awkard group hug. It still felt nice though, the feeling of appreciation never really goes away, nor an embrace from a loved one.
"Thanks... I've learned a valuable lesson from all three of you..." She giggled, "Maybe I should write a letter to Twilight about what I've learned." She released her wings and folded them back at her side. Even when a god, she still had to bear the burdens of life, burdens thrust on one without consent and carried often without reprieve or reward.
"I'll never forget the favor you've done for me... if you ever need aid or guidance, ask me. I hope you and Griffin can work together."
"With all due respect, I think he'd rather work apart from other humans." She seemed rather unphased by my mention of humans, "Being one of them, I can relate to him having... trust issues." I stand up and look out the bedroom window, "Beside's, working alongside a pirate... as tantalizing as the idea is, I think I'll pass." She got up and stood beside me by the window.
"I can sympathize, as enjoyable as his letters to me and Luna are, they're somewhat inconsiderate in their approach." A pirate captain keeping close ties with royalty, interesting, "Still, I see his and your cause just in nature. Maybe even worthy enough to mark your heroic deeds in the history books." I objected coldy.
"I'm no hero, at least not in my eyes at least," I realized the cliche of what I just said, "Heh. I bet Griffin's told you the same thing... in that case, you know that where I'm from, heroics are just a sad fairy tale." I continued to keep her from objecting, "Like most humans, my past is one that would give nightmares to your subjects in this world, those that could withstand them would question why ANYTHING like this could happen. Nothing's gonna change that." I wasn't going to mention my days as a blade for hire. I turn around and lean back on the glass, facing her. I smile maliciously.
"In a land where everything in Equestria is happy and loving, one battle torn and weary might think to take up residency here. Then there's the outside world where what it takes to survive and live free are slit throats." I motion a claw past my neck to emphasize my point, "It's not that different... except the level of danger." Her expression turned to serious regard.
"So, you've taken lives as well?" She inquired with a heavy air.
"Only when I needed to, and I've learned not to lose sleep over it. In all seriousness, some would consider me a sad husk of a person. Fuck those condenscending assholes." I started to look away, "But I never kill those who don't deserve it." Her look turned to one of Empathy.
"What happened in your past?" I figured she must have been told what Griffin's past was like, so I decided to tell her.
"My parent's were killed when I was little, right in front of my eyes, and I did nothing but watch curled up in the closet I was watching from, unable to do anything but fucking watch. I spent 20 years of my life after that planning on finding the person who killed my parents. When I did, I gutted him like the pig he was and threw him out the window." Her look turned to one of shock, apparently my past was worse than Griffin's. "The day after, I came here. I decided to start a new life, I was told this world was a Utopia, but when I arrived, it was the same." I paused, "At least the outside of Equestria is..."
"This world you come from... how could it breed so much suffering?" She was completely in horrified awe.
"How the hell would I know... I was just one person in a sea of others, living in the same world, under the same sky. That world made people like me and Keith and Griffin. You know what?" I pause starting to laugh, "I don't want to even look back!" She seemed confused.
"All it takes is for the world to not care anymore for evil to spread," I stand straight again and look down at the princess, "Heroes are born when everyone else is too afraid to care anymore." She started to back up slowly understanding what I meant, "Heroes are there to do what others don't even try." I spread my arms out. "Heroes are there to SAVE EVERYONE'S ASSES When NO ONE ELSE WILL!" I step back as my vision goes red, "When no one else will lift a finger to help because it doesn't help them." I think about what I just said, "So yeah, I guess that does make me a hero... but what happens when the hero becomes forgotten, when no one cares about the hero anymore..." I stand there, looking at Celestia's face, "That moment is when the hero sees himself turns into the very person he tries so damn hard, each and everyday to stop. That's why I don't want to be the hero." I laugh, " I don't ask for people to remember what I do, I don't want to be famous, or rich, or marked in history books for people to remember another fact put on a quiz. If I wanted to do all that stuff, I'd have stayed in my other world. I just wanted to finally find others that... that I could call my family again. I'm doing this to prevent others from going through what Eol, Ubi, and I have been through. I'm sure you understand..." Tears started to run down Celestia's face. She was utterly speechless.
"I fight for my family... that's enough for me... thanks for listening." I walked back over to the window and gaze over the landscape, forests overshadowed by distant mountains, only disturbed by an occasional city or two. I kept looking outward, sighing at my outburst. Emotions overtake the best of people, an outlet's the only way it's ever get out into the open. I feel a cloth brush against the back of my fur, and turn around to find a hankerchief, levitating by my shoulder. I grab it and wipe my face off, the blood staining the hankerchief with streaks of crimson. I held it in my hands, I felt better.
Then I hear a loud thud come from outside.
"What was that noise?" Celestia answers seemlessly.
"Oh, that's probably Knightmare training."
"My friend... he's helping me with something." Her mood turns to an indifferent state. She waves the matter away. I sigh, wondering what could possibly be going on.
"Anyway, thanks for letting me talk with you, and thanks for the ticket."
"No problem," She waves a hoof at me. I wondered what the noise actually was. I walked to the door to see what was going on in the courtyard, with Ubi and Eol following close behind. We walk down the marble halls. I had renewed hope, we now had royal support: We had near free reign in terms of operations in Equestria, as well as pardon for accidental crimes. Music playing interrupted my train of thought as we enter the courtyard, what we see is strange to say the least: an entire military company marching and singing to the lead of a changeling at the fore with an electric guitar.
I lean against the entryway and watch as the group march, wondering how the entire Royal Guard was lead by what looked like a humanoid changeling with an electric guitar. I decide to walk alongside the group, my long strides catching up to the leader easily. He starts to bid goodbye to the guards as the song comes to a fading close, then turns to greet me.
"... 'sup?" I start to fold my arms and begin.
"I didn't expect for a Princess to let a changeling into her ranks, what makes you so special. By Eol's lore, Changelings recently attacked Canterlot, their leader attempting a coup d'etat. Already grounds for suspicion.
"Well, for one thing, I'm actually an alien," An Alien? "She kinda 'customized' me to her liking. That, and I'm her biggest fan, so I'm also pretty loyal." It took me a few moments to realize what he meant. He was another human, a 'Brony' by the way he reffered to himself as a fan. Just because he was one, I wasn't about to let down my guard, let's see how he reacts to a slip of the lip.
"So... do you have any idea how many humans are here?" he answered immediately.
"So far, there's me, Griffin, and apparently you," apparently he and Griffin have met already, "Since I never specifically SAID 'human'." blunt, not caring...
"I know," I said with a slight grin, "Before we continue, allow me to get introductions out of the way, I'm Aoi," I offer a paw with a widening grin. He grins as well, mimicry: uneasiness.
"They call me 'Knightmare'." He takes my paw and shakes lightly, "Literally, they don't know my real name, and I don't plan on giving it. New life, new name." Time to give him a little push, I grab his hoof and twist it around his back, then slam him into the ground.
"Still a rookie..." I bear down on him slightly. I didn't notice him grabbing the guitar with his foot. I sway at he last second to reduce the force of the impact of the guitar. I flip back to standing position, drawing Kokuryu out of reflex.
"Not as much as you might think!" Might as well follow up.
"C'mon, a worm hits harder than you," I easy my grip on the hilt, "So now what? Is that all they teach you?" In response, he takes off into the air, tossing his guitar and deftly catching it, strumming a riff, sparks dancing across where the strings should be.
"I don't know about you... but I was going to go help set up for the Gala tonight..." That's all I needed. I sheath Kokuryu.
"I was just having a little fun," Actually, I was testing him to he how he would react. He passed with flying colors, "In all honesty, I need to ask you some questions..." He moves the guitar to rest on the crook of his shoulder bone.
"Sure, whatcha need to know?" From what I could tell, he was a novice at combat, using a rather crass move to handle being pinned down, moreover, it was out of self defense. What he said about being loyal seemed to be the truth, but how loyal?
"Is the Princess really a goddess of this land?"
"Hmm... let's see... immortal, revered, beautiful, commands the sun, TECHNICALLY all-seeing, a LOT more powerful than she appears, and undeniably benevolent. Yup, sounds like a goddess to me!" He was just stating good qualities, time to press further.
"And yet, she does nothing to help others outside Equestria..." He objects immediately, going from a playful grin to a hostile expression.
"Have you ever tried to run a country? Being a bog-standard 'goddess' basically means doing ONLY the magical duties, and getting nothing but praise. Celestia raises the everloving SUN day in and day out, WHILE Running the entirety of what, from what I've seen, is the BIGGEST country on the planet.... She's been doing it ALONE for the past thousand years. I honestly don't think even SHE indulges in herself THAT far. She's, technically, a goddess, yes. But she's not ALL POWERFUL. She still has to abide by the laws of physicality. She, quite literally, CANNOT go improving the lives of countries outside Equestria because there's literally no way TO do so in her position. She's running a goddamned country WHILE managing her goddeess-ly duties. It's not easy in the slightest." The fact that he repeated Celestia's reasoning in a defending matter proved what I suspected: He was absolutely smitten for her...
"Hmm, now that that's answered, I can trust you..." He looked at me with a troubled look. Might as well le him in on my charade, "I talked with the princess already, she told me she could only provide support while I was in Equestria, but anything beyond her borders was out of her control."
"Same thing on my end. Basically, if I leave Equestria, I'd best be self-reliant by then. I don't plan on it until I'm damn sure I'm ready... she's got a mission for me, but hasn't revealed the full details yet." He seemed resolved, but uncertain.
"Well, I suppose I should tell you about myself, I owe you that much," After all, I did just tackle him and taunt him for no GIVEN reason.
"My two companions here are Ubi and Eol, I also am on a mission, but I doubt it's the same as yours..." He looks past me and waves at them. His expression turns somewhat friendly.
"Maybe we'll be allies at some point, who knows? Better friends than enemies, I always say." Apparently easy to forgive and forget, better not press him on that trait.
"Maybe... but you're too weak as is..." He shot me a glare, "No offense, but I don't think you'd want to take on dragons, am I right?" He rolls his eyes.
"I don't plan on killing ANYTHING. I play music, it's what I do."
"Then why train with the royal guard if you don't plan to fight?" A mission, not planning on killing anything, yet training with the guard. I had an idea on what he was doing.
"A changeling, undisguised, amongst ponies so soon after a failed invasion. Think for a moment." Self defense...
"I'm not training to kill people. I'm training to defend myself if a crowd wants to get rough. I'm no fool. I know that, sooner or later, fighting will be unavoidable."
"You're all alone aren't you..."
"Yeah, no idea what your mission is, but should we cross paths again, I'd hope we'd be allies." He had a mission, but no idea what it was even about, he was setting himself up for failure.
"So, you're here as a wandering bard, Celestia as your patron, yet with no idea what your goal is..." I shook my head, "Life's going to get much more difficult for you..." He gave a wry chuckle.
"My life was already hell, back on Earth. Even if things aren't perfect and pristine, even if things are extremely dangerous here in Equestria... it's still a step up for me. Plus, Celestia said she'd give me the details after the Gala." So he wasn't just going in blind. I start to turn around.
"Well, let's hope you get stronger," I wave back at him, "You're going to need it if you plan on reaching your goals..." I turn back to him, "What are they anyway?" He smiles.
"A little peace and happiness where it's needed..." One who wants to turn things around... I smile.
"Good Luck, you've got the rest of your life to accomplish it."
"And I'm hoping it's a long life. Well, i gotta go help set up the GGG. Be well and Blessed be, Aoi." He salutes me goodbye. I turn back around.
"I guess I'll see you there, Knightmare... have fun." I start to slowly walk away, just as the sun was about to set on the horizon, painting it with gold and amber. Knightmare grumbles something, my ears barely catching it.
"Why in the everloving fuck is everyone more badass than me?" I grin and look at him one last time.
"Cheer up, you'll get your moment..." We leave for the Grand Galloping Gala. I look at the sky once again... A night promising to be a night to remember...