Rarity appeared in the middle of the dark and lonely streets. And it did not take long for her to find the running thieves. If they had the chance, they would have already teleported away, but the defense spells in the houses of rich ponies frequently had parts designed to temporarily seal away the teleportation ability of any invaders, and that was the case that time.
Rarity examined the thieves, trying to get whatever advantages she could before the fight...
[Darkness Pain Nature Spirit]
It was a delicate balance of using enough attention to find out the information she wanted but not enough that she would lose control over her awareness. There were four thieves in total, two unicorns, an earth pony who were running through the street and a pegasus who was flying slightly above the street. One of the unicorns was a stallion, while the rest were all mares. This was all that Rarity could determine about them, for all four of the ponies were wrapped up in layers of darkness that looked somewhat like blankets, and concealed both their colors and cutie marks, making them look like shadows which had somehow escaped to the physical world.
Apart from that, there was one other interesting aspect. Each one of them was carrying some kind of artifact floating along with them, the unicorn stallion had a globe, the mare had a spear, the pegasus had a scroll and the earth pony had a necklace. Rarity narrowed her eyes upon noticing that those artifacts looked rough and without artistry, as if they had been made by amateurs, but they still looked somehow familiar...
[Craft Gold Battle Light]
But it would be better to think about that after subduing the thieves. Rarity wasn't hiding her presence, so they noticed her very quickly.
"On no! It's a Knight!" The spear thief alerted.
"Don't worry, it's just one of them!" That was the scroll thief, who activated her scroll.
It soon became clear that the layers of darkness of concealment were produced by the scroll artifact, because it released several waves of darkness that completely covered the thieves and the surroundings.
"So, that's how you want to play it, huh?" Rarity muttered to herself as the darkness prevented her from seeing anything.
That kind of thing could work on ordinary guards, but it wouldn't work on a Knight, specially not Rarity. She simply activated the Wind Ruler Dagger and connected with the wind currents to gain a sense of the general positions of the enemies and what they were doing.
The spear thief ran straight at her, apparently able to see in the darkness and confident that Rarity couldn't. She waved her spear and released a beam of power straight at Rarity, powerful enough to break through the walls of a house. Rarity was almost insulted that they thought this would be enough to deal with her. The Knight simply raised a double layered barrier of earth to forcefully resist the attack.
The thieves were clearly surprised at her being able to defend so easily, but they had good coordination, and the next attack came immediately after the first. This time it was the globe thief, whose globe flew at Rarity and changed forms, turning into a wall of stone that came straight at her head.
Rarity was leisurely as she used a water charm to instantly create twelve liters of water and she rode on the water to avoid the attack, but the enemy seemed to have predicted that, and moved and shaped the earth into a concave dome that blocked Rarity from moving anywhere but forward, while the necklace thief activated her own artifact, and every link in the necklace released a different spell, shooting all of them at Rarity.
This time, the unicorn used her Earth Ruler Dagger again, forcefully taking control of the earth the opponent's artifact had created, forcing the globe to return to its previous form and shaping the loose earth left behind (for the artifact had actually teleported part of the earth under the user to do its work) into a powerful shield that easily resisted the barrage of low-level spells.
'Okay, I think I've seen all that I needed to, I just need to use my Fire Ruler Dagger and-'
[Fire Burn Death Chaos]
'-and be very careful to avoid harming the enemies unnecessarily.' Rarity finished the thought after shaking off the latest round of almost loss of control.
Rarity released a wave of flames straight at the opponents. The spear thief retreated back to the others, and all of them defended against the fire, magic blasts from the spear, multi spells from the necklace, a new earth barrier from the globe and condensing almost the entire darkness (except what was concealing the thieves) into another shield.
They easily managed to withstand the flames, but that hadn't been the point. Rarity had deliberately made it flashy but low powered in order to distract the enemies, and as they were focused on them, Rarity activated two other Daggers to finish things off.
With the Earth Ruler Dagger, she made the earth under their feet come up to their necks and trap the thieves, and with the Water Ruler Dagger, she wrapped their artifacts in water and forcefully cut the connection the thieves had with them. (And that was another indication that those weren't made by a professional, because better artifacts would make it harder to do something like that.)
The whole thing happened before the thieves could understand what was going on, and Rarity smiled at a job well do-
[Triumph Might Power Battle Conquest Survival Calling Being Pain Feeling Knowledge Magic Destruction Order Ruler Sin...]
Celestia immediately realized that Rarity was losing control.
Even in all her years, Rarity had only been the fifth Knight to whom Celestia had tasked with surviving the Samsara of Ten Thousand Lives. And she could proudly say that none of them had ever lost themselves, because Celestia knew a lot about that trial, and she understood exactly what kind of pony would be able to survive it, and Rarity was one of them.
Of course, that also meant that she knew where Rarity's limits lie, and she was aware that such a situation was possible during the mission.
However, that was exactly the reason why Celestia had been constantly on oversight during the mission, and she managed to help Rarity by speaking just a single word, that was transmitted directly to the unicorn via their connection.
"Auff..." Rarity sighed, shaking her head "That was a little unpleasant"
"I kinda lost focus due to the feeling of victory. Better to pay attention to prevent that from happening again.
That said, Rarity had dropped the artifacts upon losing control, so she manipulated the water again to draw them towards her. She also reinforced the restraints on the thieves (and saw that their faces were now exposed after losing control of the darkness artifact) to make sure that they would remain in place until the guards arrived (it wouldn't take long, she was already hearing the sounds of galloping).
Now Rarity had all the time in the world to check what exactly she had felt to be so familiar about their artifacts. She looked closely, noticing fairly quickly that those artifacts were indeed very roughly made, to the point where it would take significant effort to make them work if you weren't the pony they were made for, and it seemed like each of the thieves had made their own artifact, but it wasn't like even rough artifacts were such an easy thing to create, so how-
At that point, Rarity realized something, and she very nearly lost control again, this time out of pure rage.
'Hey Rarity. Even though you're still stable, your emotional output is pretty concerning. What is going on?' Came Celestia's voice in her head.
"I just saw something that I really need an explanation for." Rarity replied absolutely politely and with a smile, but the fact that she had spontaneously created a flaming tornado behind herself was a pretty good indication of how she was feeling.
Rarity walked towards the bound thieves, carrying the flaming tornado behind her. She gestured to a guard that was approaching to wait, and that guard seemed to have suddenly remembered something very important that he had to do somewhere else.
Rarity stopped in front of the thieves, who seemed somewhat upset by that turn of events, and she smiled sweetly at them before talking:
"These artifacts you had... I thought they looked familiar, and I finally realized why. The core, the center of them, the most important part of it, that works to link with the soul of the user, it is just like my designs." She stopped for a moment "It is simplified enough that any pony could potentially create it, but it is definitely based on my own artifacts. Now, I am going to ask this just once: Where did you get that design?"
'Wow, it's been a while since the last time I saw criminals so eager to go to jail.' Celestia remarked 'Did you manage to let off some steam?'
"Yes, actually." Rarity replied, sounding much calmer "But things are still not done yet."
The thieves had spilled everything. Apparently, there was a fashion store in the city of Coloratus which was owned by a pair of Earth Ponies. In the show section of the store, there was actually a working replica of Rarity's Armor. The leader of the group had asked about how that was possible, and the two owners had actually given her the design for the "Artifact Base", which the four used to create their artifacts.
And now Rarity was standing in front of that store, getting ready to confront the plagiarists and ask what exactly had been their goal. The name of the store was 'Fashion Style', which Rarity felt was good but generic, she got in the door.
Both earth ponies were currently in, as Rarity had ascertained before entering. One of them had a lilac coat and violet mane with a cutie mark of three buttons, and was wearing a scarf, while the other had a bicolor cyan/light gray mane and an amber coat with a cutie mark of a plumed hat, she was also wearing a different style scarf and a flower mane decoration. Both of them seemed to be cleaning up on the store when Rarity got in. They turned to her with the "shopkeeper's smile" upon hearing but their mouths dropped when they actually saw who it was.
"I-I-I..." The flower mare started.
"IT'S RAAAAAARITY!" The scarf mare shouted.
Rarity had a strange expression on her face. This wasn't something she had been expecting. Those two mares were actually squeeing.
"Oh my Celestia, Rarity is here, in our shop!" Scarf was jumping in place looking around wildly.
"What do we do, what do we do?!" Flower was running around from side to side.
Rarity raised her eyebrow.
The two of them finally snapped out of their panic and ran over to Rarity, shouting "Rarity, could you give us an autograph?!"
The Knight put a hoof on her face as she heard Celestia laughing through their connection.
She did give them autographs.
Eventually, Rarity had managed to calm the two of them down enough to get an explanation. "Flower" was called Coco Pommel, while "Scarf" was actually Suri Polomare. They had become Rarity's fans after seeing her wearing that magnificent armor that she had created.
"Look, look!" Coco called Rarity over with a grin "We've managed to create our own version of your armor, and it even works like an actual artifact!"
Rarity had to admit that the two of them had talent. Their copy of her old armor wasn't rough and unrefined like the artifacts of the thieves, but appeared to ooze love and care for detail. It wasn't a perfect copy, since a lot of the more subtle parts of her armor could not be detected by simply looking at it, but their project had a nice spark of creativity in which they didn't simply reproduce Rarity's design, but actually changed some things to give the same effect while using their own techniques.
"I can see the base of the artifact is a simplified version of my own base designs. It is actually pretty impressive." Rarity said casually "Could you show me the formulas and everything you've researched to get to this point?"
Suri came out of the back room with a small smile "I knew you were going to ask that, so I already went and got everything." She put down a huge stack of papers on the ground.
"We did a lot of things to try and recreate the abilities of the armor, but none of them worked. Eventually I hit upon the idea of using an identity signifier to force a connection with the soul, and Coco managed to figure out how to make it work without needing complicated materials, so we worked together to make it." Suri explained proudly.
"Ah, I understand." Rarity said, thinking that some ponies could be really naive "Did you show your designs to a certain pony two months and a half ago?"
"Oh yes, she was very polite. How did you know about that?" Coco answered.
"Well..." Rarity started awkwardly "It turns out that she used the design together with her friends to create their own artifacts and become a gang of thieves."
Coco and Suri looked at Rarity with their mouths open.
"Also their artifacts were all badly made." She finished.
There was a moment of silence before Suri Polomare said "We... Really screwed up, didn't we?"
Rarity nodded "Indeed. The work of you two is great, being capable of allowing anypony to create their own artifacts with enough effort, but that is also dangerous, since it allows criminals to obtain powerful abilities with a lot of ease." She looked down to the papers "As such, I shall have to dispose of those documents, to prevent them falling in the wrong hooves."
Coco swallowed and looked at Suri, before nodding "Okay. It feels a bit bad, but we don't want anything bad to happen because of this."
"Right." Rarity nodded solemnly and prepared her Fire Ruler Dagger.
However, before she could activate the magic, something bizarre happened:
An eye appeared on the top document. And before anypony could react to the sudden change, the papers seemed to explode in a pulse of magic, multiplying themselves and flying away at huge speed through the window.
There was a beat.
'Rarity. That just now was a shard of chaos, wasn't it?' Celestia asked.
"Indeed it was, and if I'm right, it seems to have spread the knowledge of easy to create artifacts throughout Equestria."
'That's just what I was afraid of.' There was a mental sigh 'Bring your new friends here, we should prepare as soon as possible.'
"... And that's why I have drafted you as the new Royal Artificers." Celestia explained to the two designers "Your duties will revolve around improving your original formula to make creating more powerful artifacts possible, so that our guards throughout Equestria can be prepared for whatever new foes appear. And also, I shall send you requests for special artifacts for you two to create."
"Ah... But we are just fashion designers." Suri said.
Celestia's eyes softened "I know. You can still do that, I'll even set up a teleportation formation to take you to your store and back whenever you want as well as a special guard. But you two do have a lot of talent that even Rarity recognized, and it's been a while since the last time I had dedicated Artificers working, so there are a lot of things I would like for you to do. You can always say no, but I think it would be a waste."
The two ponies looked at each other and talked quietly for a few seconds. Then they looked at Celestia and nodded, at first shakily, but later firmly.
"Very well. This place shall be your special workshop and you can make requests of materials and information by asking the guard at the door to send a message. I'll go along and set up that formation." Celestia walked off.
Suri looked at her partner and smiled awkwardly "Well... What do you think we should do first?"
Craft SubArc End
Next: Mission Trip Arc