Meeting an old friend
After the encounter with the wolves, and their jeeps in terrible condition, the group decided to rest for the night. Avon, the mysterious unicorn who had saved them tugged on his long cape as he sat on a rock. The poor thing looked as if he hadn't slept or eaten in so long, given how thin he looked. Rarity handed their new companion some water and Fluttershy offered him some oats, vegetables and fruits she packed for the trip. The unicorn devoured the food and drank the water in one gulp. He wiped his mouth with the back of his wrist.
"Thank you. I apologize for my lackluster table manners."
"Oh, don't fret, darling." Rarity said kindly, "I understand."
"How long have you been out here?" Fluttershy asked. "And how did you end up in the forest in the first place?"
Avon swallowed the piece of apple he was chewing before replying. "I'm a botanist."
Pinkie Pie jumped in, "Oooh, is that a band?"
"No Pinkie." Rarity said with a deadpan tone. "A botanist studies plants."
"Yes." Avon nodded his head. "I came to this corner of the earth kingdom to study rare exotic new plants, but I got separated from my group and couldn't find my way back. I've been living in a cave for almost a month now, feeding off of what I could find."
"And where did you get the archery stuff?" Rainbow asked.
"An old hobby of mine. I figured I might as well place it to good use. You have no idea how relieved I am to see actual people and ponies again."
Korra and Mako approached the unicorn, Iris held her father's hand, smiling gratefully at the stallion. "Thank you for saving our daughter." Korra said.
Iris ran up and took the unicorn's hand into hers. "That was really brave, Mr. Avon."
Avon smiled warmly, "Please, just call me Avon, child."
Leilani smiled at the stallion, "We are all grateful."
All heads turned when Sunset Shimmer angrily kicked the side of the jeep. A wrench clenched in her hand. "Come on! First the airship and now this?!" she exclaimed in frustration. Twilight was quick to gently tug on her arm and pull her away from the wreckage.
"Um, Sunset, I don't think kicking is gonna help."
The orange unicorn sighed, "Sorry, I'm just frustrated."
"I know, we all are."
Bolin pulled out his map, looking at the picture before smiling. "Well, there's some good news and bad news. The good news is, we can still make it there by morning. Maybe not so much dawn, but around breakfast time."
"And the bad news?" Mako asked.
"Bad news is, we'd have to keep walking all through the night."
Akari let out an exhausted yawn, stretching her arms. Flash picked her up on his strong arms. "The kids need to rest."
"We all do." Twilight added, "Especially Avon."
Nova, who had been leaning against a tree the entire time, reacted. "What?! You're not seriously suggesting we bring this guy along, are you?"
"Oh, I don't want to be of any trouble." Avon said, his voice trembling with self consciousness.
Rarity and Fluttershy stood up, both placing hands on their hips, sternly looking down at Nova. "Honestly, Mr. Nightshade, show some hospitality. This poor dear's been through a lot. You don't really expect us to just abandon somepony in need, do you?"
Nova wanted to say something back, but even he had to admit the unicorn made a valid point. Besides, he should have remembered to whom he was talking to. The heroes who would do anything to save someone, even if it meant sacrificing the mission. He scoffed and crossed his arms like a pouty child.
Asami turned to Bolin, looking at the map. "Actually, if we set up camp a few yards north of here we can make it close to noon tomorrow. It may not have been our original plan, but it's better than nothing."
Nova sighed, "I suppose. Her home will still be there until midnight tomorrow, so yeah, it should work."
"Then it's settled." Korra said and turned to the Sato couple, "Bolin, Asami, lead the way. Once we arrive we'll set up camp."
Pinkie Pie jumped upwards, starling Avon, "Sweet! And we've got a new friend to join us! This calls for a song!" Music began to fill the air as she began to sing. "Tell everybody I'm on my-"
"I swear if you start singing, I will throw up." said Nova as the music stopped abruptly.
Pinkie Pie pouted, "Buzz kill." she muttered under her breath.
The group followed Asami and Bolin, while Sunset used her firebending to light the map for them to read. Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Mako and Korra all used their firebending to illuminate the path, while Rarity also used her horn as a beacon as well. Pinkie Pie had two flashlights, one held in her hand, and another held in her long bang. How her hair was able to hold into a solid object was beyond Nova's understanding.
The Satos stopped and Bolin pointed his finger forward. "There!" they had arrived at a clearing near a lake, which sparkled in the moonlight. The sky was perfectly visible, with stars that went on for miles. Iris and Akari marveled at the beauty before them.
Leilani nodded her head, "Let's set up camp and get some rest. We still have much ground to cover." she said, slightly turning her head to see Nova, still narrowing his eyes at her. Leilani's ears lowered in sadness. Nova kicked the ground beneath him with his boot.
Chi flew on over, carrying an armful of firewood and dropped it on the ground. "Good work, Chi." said Nova. "Now all we need is something to light-Ah!" before he could finish, a stream of fire came shooting in his direction. Nova jumped back, nearly tripping, and the fire manifested, cracking the wood. He looked to see the culprit, who was none other than Sunset Shimmer, blowing at her finger, which emitted smoke, smiling confidently.
Nova grinned. "Show off."
The others sat around the fire after having something to eat. Flash and Fluttershy were smart enough to have packed the food they had packed for the trip before leaving the airship. Thank Raava that almost all the food wasn't ruined during that incident. Everyone sat around the fire, eating their food.
"Hey, Nova. Want something to eat?" Spike asked, only for the unicorn to turn down his kind offer.
"Not hungry." he said as he walked away.
"Come on, Nova. Join us." Avon offered, only to flinch when Nova spun around, giving him a death glare. The stallion's ears lowered in fear. "Um...never mind."
Nova grunted and walked up towards a tree, sitting behind it, blocking him from everyone's view. The others didn't know if to try and get him to join or not. It was very clear he didn't want to be a part of their so called "family dinner."
Leilani looked down in sadness and amped up the courage to walk towards the tree. Nova did not turn to look at her. "Go away."
"I just want to talk."
"I said; Go away!"
But Leilani was persistent. "Nova, I know no amount of apologizing can correct what I did in the past. You know as well as I that neither of us asked for it to happen."
"But you let it happen."
"And I've lived with that guilt for centuries! They were my friends too, Nova!"
"If they were really your friends you would have done more to save them!"
"I was trying to prevent a war!"
Nova stood up and faced the queen, his fists clenching in anger. "And now everyone I love is dead because of your obsessive desire to want Equestria to be the perfect world where everypony got along!"
"I didn't want my subjects to repeat the mistakes the humans made! And I never killed them, it was the guards who betrayed me! You think you were the only one who faced betrayal and loss that day?! I was betrayed by the ponies who I put my trust in and they went behind my back and slaughtered your people while White, the Elder and I tried to find a diplomatic solution so everyone could live in harmony! We wanted your people to feel welcome, we wanted them to see Equestria as their home! The Elder didn't deserve to lose his family. Your people didn't deserve to lose their lives!" Leilani stopped, taking in slow deep breaths while Nova remained silent. His eyes wide, never once blinking.
The queen lowered her head and shoulders in shame. "I won't try to defend my choice. I know it was wrong of me to erase the truth of your people. But I couldn't bare for other ponies to see them as monsters. The Knights of Hans had made their blood filled mark on Equestria, and that wasn't an easy mess to clean. I didn't want their good name to be tarnished because of the ones who rebelled. I didn't want ponies to see you in such a light. It was heartbreaking. I know I can't change the past, but…" she stopped herself when Nova raised his hand to silence her.
"There is nothing you can do to make up for what happened." he said coldly, his brows twitching. "You can follow me until the ends of the earth and it still won't change anything."
"Nova, your animosity towards me are understandable, but you can't keep hiding in the shadows out of grief and heartbreak."
"Why not? You've done it before."
Nova opened his mouth once more, only to come out empty. The queen's icy stare prevented him from speaking any further. Once she had said all she wanted to say, she walked away back to the others. Nova leaned against the tree, trying to shake the very idea from his mind.
Deep down, he knew it wasn't all black and white. Both the Equestrian ponies and Sorcerers were to blame. Mainly, those who allowed their pride to increased. Leilani might had chosen the easier route, but her world was only just starting to rebuild itself. If he were under all of that stress, and needing to place personal feelings aside, or having to struggle with them to the point you couldn't think rationally anymore...he probably would have made a similar mistake. Maybe not completely rewrite the history of how a civilization was lost, but he would have certainly made a dumb choice.
Especially because this one mistake was the reason as to why they were all there in the first place.
"You okay?" Chi asked, appearing beside him with Iris and Akari. Nova cleared his throat before speaking.
"Uh, yeah, sure, fine….how long were you standing there?"
"Long enough." Iris replied, "Don't worry, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
"Oh, good. Because I really don't want to repeat any of that in front of a kid."
Chi sat beside Nova, already making him feel better, while Iris sat beside the wisp. "But, can I ask another question?"
"What is it?"
"I was wondering...How did you and Chi meet?"
"Yeah how did you two meet?" asked Akari.
"Why ask me when she's right beside you?" said Nova as he gestured to the blue wisp sitting beside Iris.
"Yeah, but I kinda wanna hear from you." said Iris. "Can you? Please?"
"Not really in the mood, kid." Nova said. He opened his eyes but quickly closed them when he saw Iris giving him her puppy dog eyes. "That's not gonna work on me…"
Iris gave him a pout him crossed her arms.
"Let me handle this.." Chi said as she gave her a wink. She snapped her fingers and instantly she turned into a fox. She ran over to Nova and nudged his leg. The unicorn opened his eyes and saw her adorable little eyes looking at him.
"Nice try, fox girl."
Her eyes got even bigger and Nova was trying his best not to break, but it was no use. The sorcerer rolled his own and gave her a smirk.
"Fine! You win." He said, finally giving up. Chi silently pumped her paw in the air in victory.
"Works every time."
"Alright. So you wanna know how we met huh?" the two princesses nodded. "Well, if you wanna know when, you gotta find out 'who'. Chi is part of a race known as the wisps. A ghost-like species who has the power to shape shift into anything they want. When they found out about humans, well, you can say they wanted to see how that was like."
"And I love it!" exclaimed the wisp. "You know how tiring it is to walk on all fours? With these babies.." she said pointing to her feet, wiggling her toes. "It's sooo much better! But then again it's kinda lame that I have to wash them all the time so I also prefer flying."
Nova chuckled. "As you can tell, human is Chi's favorite form. She thinks it makes her looks more cool…" Nova then went and pinched her cheek. "But it's just an excuse to show how adorable she is.."
Chi's aura changed to a bright green as she swatted his hand away. "You know how much I hate being called that!" She said, blushing in embarrassment.
"Well you can't deny it, can you?" he said making her aura to glow even brighter and covered her face. "Cute little eyes, cute little nose, cute little feet!"
"Nova!" she looked to see the girls giggling and her aura glowed even brighter. She turned into a turtle and hid herself inside her green glowing shell.
Nova saw this and laughed. "Ha ha! Got ya, sis."
"Sis?" Akari asked in confusion. "You didn't tell us you were siblings."
"More, adopted siblings actually." said Chi as she poked her head out of the shell and reverted back to her normal form. "The first time we met I had to save Nova's sorry behind."
"No way!" Nova exclaimed with a smile, "I was the one who saved you."
"How did you meet?" Iris asked, already intrigued.
"One night, I was out in the Everfree forest, trying to see if I could find these wisp creatures I heard so much about. But, naturally, I ran into some nasty Timberwolves!" he exclaimed dramatically, raising his arms upwards, making them look like claws for dramatic effect, making the girls flinch in reaction but still payed close attention.
"What did you do?" Iris asked.
"I tried to fight them off, but I was exhausted and hungry, having traveled for so long. I ran as fast as I hooves could carry me, when all of a sudden, I bumped into a strange blue fox creature."
"Me!" Chi said enthusiastically, raising up her hand. "And after that, I showed him how awesome I was by totally kicking those wooden pups' butts! Oh, and Nova did a few cool things by levitating a rock to crush them." she said, pretending not to be so amazed by the action. Nova playfully ruffled her hair.
"Ever since then, we promised that we'd have each other's backs." Nova said.
"We've been friends ever since." said Chi.
"Oh, we've been more than friends." Nova said as he wrapped an arm around her and brought her closer. "We're family."
Iris and Akari smiled as Chi hugged her brother. "And now we're an even bigger family, right?"
"Huh?" Nova was startled by her words until she wrapped her free arm around the two princesses. He caught what she meant, and while a part of him still felt uneasy about actually developing any form of friendship or attachment with these people. But, seeing the look in Chi's eyes as she hugged these two girls it...it warmed his heart. Nothing made him feel better more than seeing her happy. Maybe….maybe it was time to actually listen to Leilani for once.
He smiled. "Yeah. I...I guess so."
Nova's head was swarming with thoughts. He couldn't sleep. Chi, while in her fox form, had curled up with Iris and a now pony Akari slumbering beside her. Her soft fur doubled as a pillow for both of them. Nova's eyes scanned the rest of the camp, seeing everyone curled up in their sleeping bags. All of the Mane Six had reverted back to their pony forms once they fell asleep. Spike snored softly next to Bolin and Asami, who were snuggled together. The same went for Twilight and Flash as well as Korra and Mako. The unicorn pony tilted his head a bit, noticing how peaceful the couples looked as they slept in each other's embrace. He caught sight of a soft smile on Asami's lips. Flash had his wing over Twilight like a blanket and Mako's arm was wrapped around Korra's waist, while her hand rested on his chest. His eyes shifted towards Iris and Akari.
He took notice of the similarities Iris had to her parents. Her skin was brown like her mother's but had a semi lighter shade. Her hair was dark with tints of brown and her eyes, when open, were a beautiful violet color, nearly identical to Twilight's. As for Akari, her coat color no doubt was the result of mutated mixture of her parents colors, giving her that peach color. Her hair was blue like both her parents, but of a darker shade in comparison to her father's, and yet lighter than her mother's. Even her eyes shared the same bright blue eye shade as Korra. Strange how both girls wounded up with the opposite eye color as their mothers. Or, maybe that was to show just how close both Korra and Twilight really were.
After a while, Nova couldn't bare to look at them anymore, and yet he had a hard time trying to look away. He morphed into his anthro form and walked away, hoping the midnight air would clear his head. As he walked on by, he caught sight of Sunset Shimmer. He walked slower in hopes of not waking her.
His attempt went in vein.
Nova walked towards the lake and sat on a rock beside it. He sighed, tracing his fingers through his white streak bang. His ears flickered at the sound of footsteps approaching. Yet, he didn't flinch.
"I figured you'd follow me."
This time, his eyes widened and he spun around. "Sunset! I...I thought you were Chi."
"Sorry to disappoint." Sunset replied with subtle sarcasm, which Nova immediately picked up on.
"I may be old, but I know sarcasm when I hear it."
Sunset shrugged and sat beside him on the rock. "Guess I still need to work on my subtlety." she joked, only to notice Nova's saddened expression. He didn't reply with a snarky comeback, nor did he even try to push her away. She reached out a hesitant hand, "Hey, are you okay?"
The moment she placed her hand on his shoulder, Sunset's eyes turned a bright white. It didn't take long for Nova to realize what she was doing. She had inadvertently activated the spell which would allow her to look into his mind and feel his emotions. Nova quickly removed her hand from his shoulder, jumping away in fear, but Sunset's eyes remained white. The spell worked incredibly fast, he knew that. She could see a lifetime of memories and emotions in a matter of seconds. No doubt the cat was out of the bag.
The images Sunset saw were truly right out of a nightmare. She heard cries of pain and suffering, darkness cascading across the land of Equestria. Innocent blood was shed, tears spilled from pony eyes, and an entire civilization was lost in time, never to be seen again. She felt pain, loss, regret, anger and depression. She felt pride, hatred, vengeance. She knew these feelings. She felt them once. She used to relish in these emotions, but now they only made her terrified. She wanted to get away. She needed to get away.
Sunset closed her eyes shut, shaking her head and stood up, rubbing her forehead, her fingers touching the edge of her horn. She gasped and took a hesitant step back.
"Sunset, I can explain." Nova said, trying his best to keep his calm. He tried so hard to hide this from the others, but now that Sunset Shimmer knew his secret, his true ties with Ronin, nobody will believe a word he says afterwards.
The female anthro unicorn rose a shaking hand, pointing a finger at Nova. "You...and him...you're…"
"I know. But please, I'm not going to hurt anybody, I promise."
"Ronin...he never took your shadow." Sunset concluded, "He...he is your shadow!"
"He was!" Nova corrected, "I'm not a part of him and he's not a part of me! We're two separate creatures now." he looked away, clenching his fists. "You saw my mind. You know I'm telling the truth."
Sunset slowly calmed down, her ears which had been pressed close to her head rose back up again. She slowly approached Nova, seeing the regret and self-hatred in his eyes. It was something Sunset knew all too well herself.
"I understand now." she finally said. "That's why you don't want any friends. You don't want to put anyone else in danger. Even though you keep saying you and Ronin are separate now…that bit of darkness is still there. You're scared of it taking over, and that's why you act so cold towards everybody."
"How would you understand?" Nova spatted defensively. "I may have only met you a day ago, but I'm well aware of who you are. I've done research on all of you. You're a highly respected war hero, a skilled engineer, and you're currently working on perfecting magic hybrid technology. Your airship still needs work but still. You're beloved by many, you have friends and family who love you."
"But it wasn't always like that!" Sunset stated fiercely, snapping at Nova, making him reel back in fear at the fire in her eyes. "You only know who I am now, not who I was! I used to be a student at Celestia's School of magic. I was a protege, I had promise. But I didn't care about anypony else by me. I wanted power. I wanted to be on equal grounds with Celestia. But when I didn't get what I wanted I turned my back on her. I snuck away into another world where I tortured and humiliated innocent people! I tore friends apart all in an effort to glorify myself! I stole Twilight's crown and you know what it made me?"
Nova was hesitated to reply.
"I turned into a monster. Literally. With wings and claws, everything! The magic reflected my heart. It wasn't because of some spell beyond my control, it was all me!" she placed her hand over her heart, and tears began to shed. Her voice cracked a bit. "That creature was who I was. Who I had become. There was no one to blame to me. That experience. That…" she sucked in her lips, tasting her salty tears, "That was the moment that broke me. That shattered my entire viewpoint on everything. My entire world came crumbling down in one single swoop. I hated myself. I hated who I was. After that, I tried so hard to move on. To change for the better but I kept being reminded of who I was. I believed I hadn't changed, that I was still that monster. And you know what...In a way, I was right. That monster is a part of my past, a part of my story. That's something I can never erase. That experience shaped me into the person I am today. I don't run from it anymore. I accepted it, and I've come to terms with it. And you know what? It's only made me stronger. My past doesn't have to defy who I am, or who I chose to be. Ronin doesn't have to defy who you are now, Nova."
Nova turned his head away, trying to fight the anger growing inside of him. Nova sighed in exasperation, rubbing his eyes while shaking his head. He didn't know what else to do. Sunset knew he was feeling conflicted. She had never met someone even more tragic than herself. His thoughts made her heart break, and the bond he had with the wisp was the one thing that still kept him going. The one thing that kept him from actually doing what he would regret.
Sunset placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "This is why I didn't want anyone to know." Nova said, "Even with him being separate from me, I can still feel him. Even from afar, his darkness is a part of me. I don't want it coming out, so I keep to myself. Chi is the only friend I've ever made, and the only one I know I can't hurt if I ever lost control. I've tried to deny for years, but I can't anymore. I'm a monster. "
"No. You're not. You made a mistake, but if there is anything that I have learned over the years it's that, no matter how badly you mess up, there's always a second chance. Even if everyone doesn't see it."
Nova looked at the unicorn. He saw her cyan green eyes shimmer in the light. It was hard to imagine she was ever once a monster. She was kind and filled with such hope. He, for the first time, was looking completely vulnerable in front of someone other than Chi.
"It's okay. If anyone else can understand what it's like to struggle with inner demons, it's me. I can help you, Nova, and the rest of my friends can too, but you need to trust us if you want to have any chance to imprisoning Ronin and saving Chi's Sol."
"You know about that too, huh?"
"You know, she likes you." Nova gave a soft chuckle, smiling handsomely. "That little wisp. She know's she's in danger but she's always eager to make new friends."
"We'll find a way to help her. To help both of you. I promise. But, we need to tell the others. If anything happens to Chi, we want to help."
Nova sighed once again. "Alright. But, I can't tell them about Ronin and me. Not yet."
"Fine. I promise. But only if you promise to tell them yourself. I don't plan on keeping secrets from my friends, especially when the stakes are this high. You need to tell them. Tomorrow."
"But what if they hate me?"
"I'll vouch for you. I've seen your memories, I know what's really in your heart. You can trust me."
It was at that moment, Nova knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he indeed could trust Sunset Shimmer. "I trust you. Okay, I'll tell them."
Sunset nodded her head and prepared to leave, but not before Nova stopped her by speaking. "And Sunset….thanks for listening."
Sunset smiled, a tint of blush on her cheeks. "What are friends for?"
Nova smiled back. Once she was out of sight, Nova frowned once again. He looked up into the sky, a full moon reflecting over the surface of the crystal lake. The moon always was a way for him to clear his mind. But still, those words lingered in his head. This is exactly why he didn't want anyone around him. Now he has to tell them the real truth about what's happening. But deep down, he knew it was the right thing to do, even though he didn't agree with. He jumped off the rock he sat on and began to walk back to the campsite but not before looking back up at the moon one more time. He let out a sigh and proceeded through the woods
Tomorrow was going to be fun.
Korra's eyes snapped open when she heard a mysterious sound. It was almost like a faint whisper, or a growl. Gently, she nudged her husband's shoulder. "Mako. Mako, wake up."
Mako's eyes fluttered open and he groaned as he sat upright. "What time is it?"
"Do you hear that?"
Mako rubbed his sleepy eyes and heard the sound. His drowsiness disappeared and both he and his wife stood upright. The two followed the sound and Korra pointed towards a rustling in the bushes. "There."
The two follow the sound. The two looked around but saw nothing. Even the sound was gone too. "Probably the wind." Mako said.
"Yeah. Probably." Korra repeated. "Maybe I'm just on edge."
Mako wrapped his arm around her. "We all are. Come on, let's try and get some sleep before morning."
Korra nodded and complied and the two returned back to camp. Meanwhile a pair of red eyes glared at them from afar.
The very next day, the team woke up bright and early if they wanted to stay ahead of the game. Several hours has passed and they have been making good time. Applejack looked over and saw Rainbow suspiciously looking at Avon.
"You alright, Dash?" Applejack asked the pegasus who was sitting beside him. She was looking at Avon, who was in deep conversation with Rarity and Fluttershy, suspiciously.
"I'm not entirely sure I trust this guy."
"Who? Avon? He saved Iris from those wolves." said Applejack.
"Yeah, I know. But, I can't help but have this itching feeling there's something off about him. Don't you think it's a bit convenient he shows up just when Iris was about to be thrown down rapid waters?"
"He said he had been out here for months. And you saw him, he didn't look like he'd eaten right in days."
"I'm not saying anything for sure, all I'm saying is I've got my eye on him."
Applejack chuckled, "Be glad Soarin wasn't around to hear that."
Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes in annoyance. "Not funny."
Nova listened in on the two from afar, his eyes darting towers Avon, who was happily chatting with Rarity and Fluttershy. There was no denying that this male unicorn was indeed charming and polite and amicable. In short…everything Nova wasn't.
Meanwhile, the kids were telling each other different stories. Chi, who was walking beside Iris and Akari as a fox, told them a little more about her kind's abilities
"And so you can drop a boulder the size of a house on me. and I'll just pop right back to normal as if nothing happened." she finished
"Woah." said the two kids.
"So you're pretty much invincible?' Iris said.
Chi nodded. "Well like I said, only my kind can hurt me but everthing else. They got nothing on me!" she said pointing a paw to herself with an egotistic smile.
"Does it get kinda old being invincible to everything?" Akari asked. Chi only shurgged.
"Eh. every so often. But what doesn't get old is me having rubber limbs."
"How far can you stretch?" Iris asked. unlike Akari, she wasn't around when Chi first showed off her elastic ability.
"I..honestly don't know." said the fox spirit. "I never really tried it out actually. I mostly use this ability when I really need to." she then leaned in and whispered into her ear. "Like saving Nova's behind."
"You're the one to talk." said Nova. "I was mostly saving yours."
"Hey! that was one time, okay?" she snapped back.
"Yeah one out of every hundred." he corrected before looking down at the princesses. "Don't let her fool you. She's more of a goofball than and awesome wisp." he said, winking at the girls. They giggled a little as Chi only rolled her eyes but gave a small smile to him. Suddenly, her ear began to twitch and she froze.
"Chi?" Akari asked.
"What is it, kid?" whispered Nova has got beside her. The vixen didn't say anything, her ears twitching every couple seconds. She walked towards the noise she was hearing. Seeing Chi's sudden defensive behavior, the others stopped.
"What is it?" asked Korra. "Is it-"
Nova shushed her and raised a hand up. "What do you hear?" He whispered to Chi.
"I sense something.." she said. "It...it feels like…" Nova knew too well what she was talking about. "I...I think it's…" before she could say anymore, her ear twitched and turned around to see something forming behind Korra and Twilight.
The girls turned around to see a strange creature appear behind them with sharp talons and razor sharp teeth. The two dodged out of the way as its swiped its claws at them. The team got into fighting stances to take on the two mysterious creatures. But something caught Asami and Bolin's attention as they saw several black puddles beginning to surround them.
"Uh guys?" Bolin called. "I think they brought friends!"
They group looked around to see the puddles taking form of different creature. Some looked like the first two while others had bat-like wings or some who remained a puddle but had piercing glowing red eyes. The monsters screeched, roared and even laughed at the heroes as they prepared to attack.
Mako attempted to firebend at the creature, but it simply avoided the attack and knocked Mako down with its long reptilian-like tail. He rolled across the ground. Korra and Iris rushed to his aid.
"What's the matter, Prince?" said a voice. The team turned around to see a figure standing on top of a rock. He stared at them with a pair of glowing red eyes and holding a flaming sword in his hand. They couldn't see it but they could tell he was smiling at them. "You won't break outta here that easy."
It was then Korra remembered the words of Crossguard back at Canterlot when he described the thief.
"The only thing I saw was a black cloak and glowing red eyes…"
"It was you!" Korra shouted, pointing an accusing finger at him. "You're that thief who robbed Canterlot Castle and killed those guards! You're Kage!"
"Ding ding ding!" Kage replied, wagging his finger in the air. "Someone give the pretty lady a prize!"
"You're gonna pay for what you did!" shouted Rainbow Dash as she charged towards him only to be stopped by several monsters.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." said Kage. "Shadowling can be very…"protective"." his eyes darted towards the alicorn queen, protectively shielding the others. "Ah, Leilani. It's been a while."
"Why are you here, Kage?" she demanded to know.
"Well it's quite simple, your Majesty." said Kage as he jumped down from the rock he was on and stepped forward. "All I'm asking is for you guys to take me to Madame Alpha so I can retrieve what was lost."
"As if!" Iris shouted at him, placing her fists on her hips confidently, mirroring her mother's bravado. "You only want that blade so you can give it to Ronin!"
Kage looked down at Iris and chuckled. "Smart girl."
"Stay away from her!" Chi had enough of Kage's games and began to charge at him, full speed.
"Chi, no!" Nova shouted, but she continued on not stopping but an ear grating howl was heard. Everyone, except for Kage, covered their ears in pain as the howl echoed throughout the area. Chi froze in her tracks and grabbed her head with her paws, trying to block out the noise, the symbol on her head glowing red once again. This caused her to drastically change from her fox form to her wisp form then human form then back to a fox. The next thing she knew she was knocked aside by a large creature into a stone.
"Chi!" Everyone shouted. Chi got back up and shook her head from the sudden attack, she was greeted by a black wolf with strange red markings all over his body like Chi. His left ear looked like it was chewed off by some animal and his tail looked like a bolt of lightning. On his forehead, he has had the symbol of a silver spiral similar to Kage's and red sphere in the middle. He had red eyes and showed its sharp teeth as it growled at the blue fox, who looked who at it with fear in her eyes.
"Shade?" Chi said to the wolf, her eyes widening and her body trembling. Her aura changed to a dark purple.
"Nice to see you too….Sister."
"Wait, sister?!" Flash exclaimed as he looked at Nova.
"So you're still with that fool are you?" Shade said, venom oozing from his voice.
"Shade, don't make me fight you." Chi replied, struggling to get back up. "It doesn't have to be like this!"
"ENOUGH" Shade bellowed. "I'm sick of your bickering! When will you learn your words mean nothing to me anymore."
Shade looked into his little sister's purple eyes. He could see the pain in them. She really wanted him to come back to her, more than anything. But she knew well that he had already made his choice and there was no turning back from the path he was on.
"Then you leave me no choice, sister." Shade hissed and charged at Chi at top speed.
The younger wisp quickly jumped out of the way and dodged his sudden attack. The team looked on as Shade continued chasing his fox-turned sister. Fluttershy flew into his path, attempting to blast the wolf with her wind, but was knocked down by the creature. His saliva dripped from the sides of his mouth and the upper row of his jaw. A beam of blue colored magic came shooting out of the symbol on Chi's forehead, blasting her brother right into a group of shadowlings. Fluttershy's eyes widened and Chi helped her back to her feet.
"This is getting boring…" sighed Kage as he pulled out his sword and lunged forward to attack the others. Leilani readied to blast him, only for Nova to step in. His sword clanging against Kage's. With all of his might, Nova pushed Kage back.
"Get the kids away from here!" Nova ordered the others and went after Kage.
Kage leaped into the air and jumped from tree to tree, prompting Nova to chase after him. Nova tried to catch up with the anthro but he proved to fast. Nova then decided to teleport in front of him, tackling him to the ground. They both got up and picked up their swords, Kage quickly placing his hood back over his head.
"Still with the hood, I see." Nova taunted the unicorn. "Isn't that kind of cliche?"
"I'd watch your tongue, sorcerer!" shouted Kage as he pointed his sword at him.
"And I'd watch who you're messing with." Nova warned.
"I'm surprised you're even helping them." said Kage. "Didn't know you were that soft."
"Are you gonna keep yapping or are we gonna fight?" Nova said as he got into his fighting stance.
"Well I was hoping to at least chat for a bit." he said before igniting his sword. "But if you insist…"
While Nova dueled Kage, the rest of the team fought the various different shadowlings. "I thought Ronin wouldn't have the power to command his army!" Sunset said said as she sent one group of shadowlings away with a fire arc.
"Guess we've got less time than we thought." Applejack said, flipping away from one shadowing before rising a rock from the ground, hitting the creature in the face and sending them away.
Rarity and Pinkie countered some shadowlings by using their bending, sending them over the cliff or up into the air. The two high fived each other but quickly got back into fighting stances as the shadowlings who fell over the side flew back up and charged towards them, but they were defeated by a sneak attack from Applejack who shot a rock, knocking them to the ground, feeling dazed. The three fistbumped each other and went on to help the others.
Twilight threw several beams of magic at a group of the monsters while Flash was in the air attacking the flying one's with his katana. One of them yanked him by the tail and threw him down beside his wife. She helped him up and more shadowlings surrounded the two.
The pony couple stood their ground and shared knowing smirks. Twilight spiraled around, creating a fire ring around them, separating her and Flash from the creatures. She extended her arms and her wings spread out. With a powerful cry, the flames expanded, the heat from her bright magenta flames were enough to frighten the creatures and or melt right then and there.
Once the flames disappeared, Flash wrapped one arm around his wife's waist, pulling her close and stealing a kiss, which she happily returned. Two more shadowlings gained up from behind them...only to be punched by both of them, knocking them both out cold. And all without even breaking their kiss.
Mako and Korra fought side by side as they defeated several but more quickly appeared. "Oh, come on!" Korra groaned as she blasted several away with her magic but more appeared.
"These shadowlings won't stop until their job is done!" shouted Leilani as she fired a light spell from her horn, disintegrating several around her, only for more to come out of the shadows. The team fought as hard as they could but the more they fought, they more appeared. Iris and Akari watched from behind some bushes as they saw their families struggling to fight.
"They need our help!" Iris told Akari as she tried to jump out of the bushes but was stopped.
"No, Iris!" said Akari. "It's too dangerous!"
"But they need our help!" Iris exclaimed.
"I know you do, but what can we do against them? I don't think I know a spell that can beat these guys, and I've read every spell book in my mom's library!"
Before Iris could reply, she gasped when a shadowling came closing in on the unicorn. "Akari!" she shouted as she pushed her out of the way and the shadowing grabbed her leg and dragged her deep into the forest. Korra heard her daughter's screams and turned around to see her being dragged into the woods.
"Iris!" she shouted as she ran after her. Iris tried to break away from the shadowling but it proved to strong as it went faster and faster. Korra was almost there as she opened her wings and was about to jump on it but she was tackled by several shadowlings and pinned her down.
"No!" she shouted as she saw her daughter being pulled further away. Suddenly, Avon leapt from the trees and sliced the shadowlings with a long dagger he had in his pocket, causing it to let go of Iris and then disappear into mist. It then jumped and destroyed the shadowlings that were on top of Korra and handed it her daughter.
"I'd keep a better watch on her if I were you, princess."
"Thank you." she said as she kissed her daughter, now safe in her arms.
"Ah well it was nothing.." he said. "But lets save the thank yous for later."
Korra nodded and told Iris to hang on. She opened her wing and flew up into the sky, heading back to the others with Avon not far behind.
Nova and Kage still kept at it as their sword clashed with each other. Not one broke a sweat or even tried to catch a breath, they kept going at it for what felt like eternity. Finally the two jumped back and caught their breaths.
"You...have gotten stronger, Nightshade." said Kage. "I'm impressed."
"How did you find us?!" he asked, clenching the handle of his sword tightly as the two metallic weapons hit against each other.
"Ronin had enough magic left to give Shade a locator ability so we could find Chi."
"So, you're the one responsible for the airship!" Nova concluded, his eyes reverting to an almost psychotic appearance as the sword fight continued. The two leaping from tree to tree like ninjas. Nova managed to slice a bit of Kage's arm, causing him to cry out in pain and clench his wound.
For a moment, Nova hesitated. His eyes became soft again and was even tempted to inspect on the injured anthro. His compassion quickly became overshadowed by anger when Kage knocked Nova off balance and he fell from the branch, allowing for Kage to run off. Nova teleported himself back onto the branch and went after Kage.
Nova leaped out and came down on Kage with his sword, only for Kage to block the attack with his own. The two landed on their feet, still trying to best the other with their weapons.
"Come on, I'm sure that pretty girlfriend of yours can make a new one." Kage taunted, making Nova growl in anger. "I'm actually quite surprised. I didn't think you would ever get over Midnight. Wonder what she would think if she knew about your new fling."
Nova growled even louder like a rabid beast and kicked Kage in the gut with his leg, causing him to fall back, dropping his sword. He tried to reach for it, but Nova stepped on his hand before he could.
Nova lifted his sword up, ready to strike. His eyes once again filled with rage. His vision partly clouded, only for the image of a familiar pair of eyes to suddenly appear in his mind. Nova gasped and stepped back, trying to shake the image away.
Kage quickly reached for his sword and laughed. "I always knew you were soft hearted but this is ridiculous." he taunted. Nova panted in exhaustion, sweat dripping down his brow. Kage readied to attack again, but winced at his wound. He knew he wouldn't be able to fight anymore in this condition. Thankfully, it wouldn't matter much. He smiled wickedly and prepared to make his leave.
"We're not finished!" Nova spatted.
Kage chuckled. "Oh, I think you are. If my memory serves, didn't we see a weak little fox fight a gigantic wolf?"
"Chi can handle your pesky mutt!"
Nova suddenly winced in pain, feeling a jabbing in his heart. He knew what this meant.
"If I were you, I would go help. She probably can't last much longer."
Without a second thought, Nova turned around and ran back to the fight. Hopefully, he wasn't too late.
Chi continued to dodge Shade's attacks and tried to counter with her own, but Shade was quick and dodged everything she threw at him. Even though she was stronger in her magic, she was not physically or emotionally. And that was Shade's advantage. What was worse, was that Chi had been knocked on her chest, which spelled bad new for her sol. Another, though very small, crack formed. But though small, it never the less made her feel like she had been jabbed with a knife.
Chi continued to grow weaker and weaker with every attack. She slowed down and her attacks became weaker and weaker. Soon, Chi had lost all strength to continue and transformed back into her human form than into her wisp form.
"What's the matter?" Shade said, stopping his attacks. "You're looking pretty tired already."
"Please…" Chi weakly said. "Stop this...we don't have to-"
"Will you stop!?" Shade said. "What I don't understand is why you refuse to see the truth, little sister. With Ronin's help, we can avenge our kind. We wont have to be the only wisps anymore. Finally, those ponies will know the true meaning of loss and fear!"
"It wasn't their fault! Tirek was the one who destroyed our people, not them. They were victims just as we were. Don't you see? Kage has manipulated your to do as he says."
"He hasn't manipulated me. He understand me better than you ever will!" Shade growled.
With her last bit of strength, she turned into her fox form and stood her ground with a look of determination on her eyes. "I won't fight you." She said firmly. "I am your sister and I will not have it end like this." before she could even react, Shade pounced on her, pinning her to the ground. She tried to break free but it was no use. She stared into his bright red eyes as did he into her purple ones. The wolf bared his teeth and growled at her.
"This will end here…" he said coldly. "And you...are not my sister…"
Those words echoed in her head. Everything else she was thinking about completely disappeared and only those five words remained inside of her. She couldn't believe what he said. He just disowned her as his sister, right in front of her. Chi's heart shattered into a million pieces, each fragment piercing her body causing even more pain. She closed her eyes trying to make this feel like a dream but she knew it wasn't, she simply didn't want to believe it but it was no use. Shade felt the exact same way, when those words left his mouth, he could instantly feel the pain Chi was going through. Why did he say that? He didn't mean to. It was like the words just came out like he had no control over them. He wanted to say something, try to change his mind but soon darkness clouded his mind and he reverted back to his evil self.
"Goodbye, wisp." He said as was about to strike down on her…
"Hey, Boy!" said a voice. Shade looked up and saw Nova coming right towards him. "Go fetch!" he shouted as he kicked him in the face, knocking him into a rock, rendering him unconscious. Nova looked down and quickly rushed to the vixen's side picking her up. "Chi! Are you okay?"
Chi weakly opened her eyes and saw Nova cradling her in his arms. "N….No...Nova?" she said. "I couldn't...do it…."
Nova shushed her. "Enough. You need to rest.." He said softly he held out his hand towards her. "Come on.." he said. Chi nodded and flew into his hand his cutie mark glowing brightly. Once the glowing died down, Nova stood back up and sighed.
"I'm so sorry, sis." he whispered before running towards the others. Once he made it back he saw the others still fighting the shadowlings. Leilani continuously fought long and hard, but it was evident in her eyes that she was wearing out. The queen had fought in many wars, and several more in the past few years. And while her strength was still present, signs of her incredibly old age were finally beginning to show.
Iris and Akari hid behind Avon, who continuously shot arrows at the creatures and slicing them with his dagger, but they just kept coming. Iris's eyes darted back and forth, seeing every one of her family members getting bested by the creatures. She felt a powerful urge to save them, but didn't know how.
"Leave them alone!" Iris shouted, extending her hand outwards, which sent a powerful ray of light from her hand. A light so powerful it illuminated the entire forest. The shadowlings shrieked in fear at the intense heat. Everyone else shielded their eyes as did Kage and Shade, who whimpered like a puppy dog. The creatures screeched in pain and disappeared into the forest. Once gone, Iris's bright light diminished. She hesitantly opened one eye and looked in confusion at her palm.
Kage watched as the remaining shadowlings ran away in fear. "Where are you going?!" he shouted. "Get back here!"
Kage turned around to see the team glaring at him, ready to knock some sense into him. Kage let out a sigh and put his sword away. "Well...I guess this my cue." he said before snapping his fingers and disappeared in a puff of smoke. "We'll meet again but until then, tell Ma I said hi!"
"Get back here, you coward!" shouted Flash.
"He's gone, Flash." said Applejack, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Flash glared at the sorcerer. "Where were you?"
"I was trying to stop Kage." Nova said, "The shadowlings obey his command, and if Ronin is able to create an army, even a small one like this, it means he's growing stronger already."
Iris looked down at her hand as her mother held her. "Honey, are you okay?"
"I..I think so. Did I really do that?"
Korra smiled proudly. "You sure did."
"Guess your instincts just took over."
Avon cleared his throat, "Forgive me to interrupt this moment, princess, but if what our friend Nova says is true then we must hurry. There is no telling when those shadowlings will return again.
"We should get moving." Sunset said.
Nova nodded in agreement. "She's right." he turned to Bolin, "How much farther are we?"
Bolin looked at the map, "We're in luck." he said, "It says were not far from our destination."
"Oh, thank goodness!" said Rarity. "I simply cannot take anymore walking."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" said Avon as he went up front and led the way. "Time is of the essence!"
The others quickly followed behind him. Rainbow Dash turned around to see Nova looking at the unicorn suspiciously.
"You feel it too?' she asked the sorcerer.
"There's something about that pony that seems so...familiar." said Nova.
"I think it would be best to keep an eye on him." said the pegasus. "Let's be on our hoofs."
"For the first time...I actually agree with you." he said as the two quickly ran to catch up with the team. Something was off about Avon.,and Nova was intending to find out. Speaking of off, this girl, only seven years old, just took on a group of the most dangerous creatures known to ponykind on nothing but pure instinct. There was no doubt that her heart was consumed by power but…pure…as…light…Could it be?
Nova shook it off and focused on the main objective. Getting to Madame Alpha...and fast.
The sun shone high in the sky as the team walked towards the swamp. Iris, Korra and Mako walked beside Nova who was looking at the map, making sure they were in the right direction. Akari was asleep on Flash's back. Iris looked up and saw Nova's hand. It glowed blue as Chi was recharging inside of it. Iris looked up into Nova's eyes and saw his guilt and sadness. He felt sorry for him, blaming himself for what happened with his friend. But she knew it wasn't his fault. He was tricked and even he knows it but still he showed anger towards himself. Building up the courage, Iris finally spoke up.
"Don't blame yourself, Nova. it wasn't your fault."
Nova looked down at the princess and sighed. "I appreciate the words of encouragement but I say otherwise."
"She's tough. I know it."
"I know she is. It's just…." Nova trailed off for a moment. Should she really know the truth about her? Sooner or later they were going the to ask about her condition and then he remembered what Sunset Shimmer told him the night before. Maybe it was time they knew about the truth of Chi. The real truth.
"Nova." Korra spoke, getting Nova's attention. "What haven't you told us about Chi?" she asked, "Why is that thing on her chest cracked."
"It's called her sol, Mom." Iris said, only to quickly cover her mouth at her slip up. "I'm sorry, Nova! I just-"
"It's okay kid. I already told you and Akari, it's only fair that I tell your folks."
"Tell us what?" Mako asked.
"Chi is a wisp. A ghost-like creature who can shapeshift. And the last of her kind."
Iris's eyes widened. "You guys never mentioned that."
"Guess it slipped our minds. Plus, Chi doesn't like talking about it much."
"What happened?" Korra asked.
Nova frowned as he remembered the story she told him. "Remember when she said that Tirek attacked her kind?" the family nodded their heads. "When Tirek came to Equestria, he wiped out all the wisps, absorbing their magic. Only Chi and Shade survived. After the attack, they lived on their own until something happened between them. Since then the two have gone their separate ways until we found each other. She's been my companion ever since."
"That explains why she didn't want to fight Shade." Korra said. "But, what happened to make them enemies? What made Shade turn to the dark side?"
"They opposing views on how to deal with the loss of their kind was what drove them apart. They got into a fight and it severely damaged her sol. Her life force. Normally, a wisp can withstand the attack from any other creature due to their magical endurance, but among each other they can get severely injured if it's a fight to the death. When Kage gave Shade a sense of his dark magic, it clouded his better judgement. He's been seduced by the dark side long ago. But even with her brother teaming up with Ronin, Chi still believes that there's still good inside of him and wants to save him, even if it means putting her life on the line."
Iris began to feel even more sorry for the wisp. Poor kid. She's been through so much in all this time and even still with her brother in the darkness, she wants to bring him back to the light. Nova then felt a small hand inside of his own and looked to see Iris smiling at him.
"Don't worry, Nova. We'll find a way to fix Chi's sol. We promise." said the young princess, "You've got us to help you. And maybe we can find a way to make Shade remember how much his sister loves him."
Nova gave the princess a small smile. For the first time on this journey, he was actually glad to have these guys around. "I wouldn't give my hopes up about the last one if I were you, kid but….thank you."
Korra and Mako gave one another bewildered expressions. Their eyes darted to one another before looking back at Nova. "Did…did you just say something sincere?" Mako asked, rather surprised.
Nova's cheeks turned red and he covered his eyes with his left palm. "Let's just keep moving!" he said as he marched forward.
Korra and Mako chuckled, as did Iris. "You know, he's not so bad once you get to know him." she said.
"I'm beginning to see that." Korra said with a smile.
Nova's hand suddenly started vibrating, and the mark on the back glowed brightly. Chi emerged in a stream of neon blue, landing beside Nova, stretching out her arms, yawning.
"Man, that nap hit the spot! What did I miss?"
"How far do you think we got?" Asami asked her husband as they walked further along.
"Shouldn't be long now." he replied. "Though, it's a little hard to tell because of these trees."
The group stopped all at once. They had paid very little attention to the trees beforehand, but now that they had traveled farther, they noticed that the large trunks of wood was somehow grown even taller to the point they almost blocked out the sky. More trees outstretched before them, making it hard to see the path. Traces of sunlight peeked in through the leafs.
"Is it me, or have these trees gotten…bigger?" Chi asked.
"We must be close." Korra said, "The swamp does have some powerful magic, so abnormalities such as these are actually quite common there."
"I'll fly up and have a look." Rainbow Dash said and flew up to the sky to get a better view, angrily tossing aside a few branches as she did. The twigs and leafs itched at her wings until she reached the top, breathing in the fresh air.
Korra cupped her hands around her mouth, calling out to Rainbow Dash from down below, "What do you see up there?"
Rainbow shielded her eyes from the sun, squinting her eyes to get a better view. A smile formed on her face and she gasped with delight. She saw the famous Banyan Grove tree. "Bolin was right! I see the Banyan Tree! We're here!"
Rarity breathed in a huge sigh of relief, she literally tilted her head back, wiping some of the sweat from her brow. "Oh, finally!"
"Hang on, I'm coming up too." Nova said to Rainbow Dash. He looked at Chi and nodded at her. She nodded back and flew inside of him, spouting his blue transparent wings and flew up to Dash and sure enough, she was right. He could see the tree clearly now as it stretched high into the sky. "Alright!" he shouted victoriously. "And with time to spare." The team cheered at the response. They were almost there. So close. Rainbow Dash and Nova gave each other a fist pump.
"Yes! Whoo hoo!" Cheered Chi, while still in Nova's body. As she pumped her fists in the air. She quickly stopped and saw Rainbow who looked at her awkwardly. She blushed in embarrassment.
"Yeah. I'm never gonna get used to that."
"Neither am I, Rainbow Dash. Neither am I."
The swamp was much darker and creepier than usual. Vines dangled around them and the smell, after all these years, was still strong and kinda revolting. Spike jumped into Sunset's bag and his entire body shook in fear. Iris and Akari held on tight to their parents' hands. Nova and Chi were in the front, leading the way. Rarity tried not to step into the murky water but it was no use as her boot was covered in smelly muck.
"Blech! And I thought the smooze was revolting." She said as she shook off the slime, accidentally hitting Applejack and Asami in the process. "Oops! Sorry."
Asami wiped the slime off her shirt, looking at her surroundings. "Um, Korra?"
"Yeah?" the Avatar replied.
"I've never been to the swamp, but is it always this…."
"Spooky? Scary? Scooky?" Pinkie finished.
"Well, it's been seven years since I last came here." Korra started, reminiscing her past experiences.
"How far is Madame Alpha again?" Applejack asked.
"It says she's not too far. Come on, We need to keep moving. Who knows what's lurking in this-AHH!" Nova couldn't finish his sentence as he was suddenly grabbed by a vine and was raised into the sky.
"Nova!" Korra shouted. She tried to bend a fireball at him, but was grabbed by some vines as well. Soon everyone was being grabbed by spirit vines and were hoisted up into the air. The team struggled struggled to break free, but the vines were too strong. Chi, being a wisp, was able to dodge all the vines from grabbing her and thanks to her abilities, she created a hole in the center of her which caused a vine to go right through her.
"Ha! You missed!" She mocked the vines...only to have several glowing ones quickly wrap around her and hoisted her up beside Nova.
"You and you're ego." Nova muttered.
"Let us go!" Mako shouted. "We're not going to hurt you!"
"I don't think it believes you!" Nova called to him.
Nova tilted his head, and the others saw the ground moving. What rose upwards was a large spirit, the size of a gigantic boulder, with leafs, moss and flowers growing from its body. He appeared to be some kind of plant/frog hybrid creature. It towered over the group, its bright orange eyes burning at their very souls.
"Who dares trespass here?!" the creature demanded to know.
Korra struggled to break free, but instead of getting angry, she tried to reason with the spirit. "Please, we mean you no harm."
"A likely story, mate." another voice was heard from the trees. A shadowy figure leaped from the branched, landing beside the spirit. The figure was revealed to be a non-human. Nor a pony, or even a dragon.
It was a diamond dog.
He has brown fur with golden yellow fur on his paws, underbelly and face. He had green eyes and big brown ears that continued to twitch every so often. He had on a red and white plaque shirt and a black hat with a red stripe going across it. But the most noticeable feature was his right hand. It was completely robotic from the shoulder down.
"You folks got a lot of guts to come strolling this neck of the woods." he said, speaking with an Australian accent.
"Excuse me!" Rarity exclaimed, narrowing her eyes at the beast. "But do you have any idea who she is?" she said, gesturing her head towards Korra, "That is the Princess Avatar, for your information. I'd expect our grassy, wart covered friend here would have at least heard of her."
The frog spirit's eyes widened in shock, bringing the Avatar closer to his face in order to examine her. "You're the Princess Avatar?"
"Um, yes?" Korra replied with an unsure nod.
The frog spirit was silent for a short while before beaming. "Well, small world! I've heard great stories about you from other spirits, but I never thought I'd get the chance to see you in person. My brother Jim and his wife May have told me all about when you imprisoned that no good rebel spirit Koh after he ruined their beautiful meadow home. Thank you so much, the place has never looked better since you showed up."
"Oh, you're Jim's brother? Why didn't I notice before? You both have the same eyes." Korra said, now completely calm and speaking to the spirit as if they were old friends.
The diamond dog, however, stepped forward, walking upwards onto the vine that was still wrapped around her. "So, Princess, what business do you have here? Unless I'm bias, but I doubt you and your crew here are on vacation."
"You assume correctly." Korra replied firmly.
"We're looking for Madam Alpha." Nova said, "We mean you no harm."
The diamond dog's eyes softened once he saw the unicorn. "Nova? Nova Nightshade?"
"You know him?" Sunset asked.
Nova shook his head, "No. I've never seen him before in my life."
"He's right, he doesn't know me. But I do know of him. Ma's mentioned you and your little wisp friend time and time again."
"So, can I let them go, Mekarm?" the frog spirit asked.
"Sure thing, Kaeru. Just do it-" Mekarm stopped midway when Kaeru released everyone. Those who had wings managed to stay in flight, while those who didn't wounded up flat on the ground. Mekarm face palmed himself. "Gently, mate. Gently."
"It's okay!" Pinkie Pie said, raising her hand upwards, "We're okay!"
Mekarm then looked to see the two princesses and bowed in respect. "Please forgive me, your highnesses. Kaeru and I were simply doing our job. We help protect Ma's home wherever she ends up. You can't be too careful with someone as powerful as she is.
"All is Forgiven." Leilani said, lifting him back up. "We are just happy you're willing to help us, Mr…."
"Mekarm. Pleasure to meet you all." he nodded to Kaeru, "You can relax now, buddy."
Kaeru nodded back and then nodded again to Korra. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Princess."
"Likewise. Give my regards to your brother!" The Avatar waved farewell as the frog spirit submerged itself in the greens of the swamp, once again blending into his surroundings.
Mekarm led the way. "Come along, now. Try not to trip, Nightshade."
"Why would I-Whoa!" Nova was cut short when he he tripped on a vine and fell into a mucky pond of swamp water. He coughed and gagged as he tried to get rid of the swamp water until he looked up and saw Sunset trying to hold back her laughter. Nova could feel his face beginning to tingle a bit. He nervously chuckled and quickly got back up on his feet and dusted himself off.
"You saw nothing." He hissed at Sunset
After the others explained to Mekarm of their mission, his happy expression then turned into one of seriousness. "So Ronin is finally free, huh?" he sighed, "Crikey, Ma knew this day would come. I was just hoping it'd happen long after I hit old age. You're lucky you came when you did."
"And we're lucky to have run into you." Avon said, "How much further are we?"
"Not much." Mekarm said, removing a few vines from his way. The entire group stopped at the banks of what looked like a small river. "What you're about to see must be kept secret. Do you understand, mates?" Mekarm asked. The group nodded. Mekarm then twisted a tree branch beside him and instantly, the river began to part ways. Mekarm led the team down to the entrance which revealed a long tunnel that was filled with vines. Small firefly like creatures lit up the dark path as they walked further and further down. Finally, they made it to a large wall of vines and Mekarm slowly pushed it away. The team gasped at what they saw next. A large hut was built in the middle of what looked like a moat. A bridge connected the small island and the swamp together with another bridge heading into who knows where. The moon shined through the opening of trees on top while fireflies and spirits were flying all over the place. Strange objects dangled on her roof and poles which surrounded her home. One of them even had what looked like a skeleton of a soldier, Which frightened the kids a little. Once across the bridge, Mekarm brought them up the front stairs and told them to stop.
He knocked on the door, "Madam, we have visitors."
The door flung open, making a creaking sound. From inside the house walked out an old brown pony wrapped in some brown garments that looked ripped and torn. Her mane was black and was braided so nicely, it looked like she went to a hair salon, but it had a twig hanging out of one of them for some reason. She had green eyes and a faint scar that went down her muzzle. Her cutie mark was a silver a (alpha symbol).
"Well, about time you showed up. Always the tardy one, aren't you Nova?"
The blue stallion unicorn sighed in embarrassment. "Everyone, meet Madam Alpha."
"Please, call me Ma."