Meeting the Wizard
The next morning, Statice awoke to find his letter gone. It took him less than a second to figure out who took his letter and what he did with it. Sighing with relief at being done with the emotional burden he carried from last night, the green unicorn thought of what he was supposed to do today.
I have to meet Flash Sentry and stage a way to introduce myself to Sunburst without looking suspicious. I can’t get in the bad graces of a wizard by having a bad first impression.
He did his morning exercises to prepare himself for the day. Once he was limbered up, he opened the door, and suddenly had to cross one item of his list.
Standing in front of him, there was an orange stallion pegasus with blue mane and eyes, probably the only Royal Guard that was not a crystal pony in the Crystal Empire. It was no hassle for Statice to figure out his identity.
“I am Flash Sentry!” he announced boldly. “I was assigned by Captain Shining Armor and Princess Cadence to be your escort during your stay here!”
Well, he’s the only guard that stands out among the rest and probably the only guard that I can have a conversation that won’t be out of place for either of us or that won’t result in me triggering some millennial trauma from King Sombra. I might as well give him a chance.
As it turned out, Flash Sentry was a nice pony. Despite Statice’s tendency of never getting along with guards, sentries, sentinels, soldiers, cops, and any other type of underling serving any power fighting against him, he didn’t feel anything against Flash Sentry. Most of that lack of animosity was because Flash treated him with respect and acted like a friend once the professional coldness between them was over.
It first started with them talking about Princess Cadence and Shining Armor. Then they talked about Flash Sentry working at the Crystal Empire. Then Statice mentioned how Shining Armor talked about how Flash Sentry played the guitar and that got Flash excited about the topic of music. Once his cold front was broken, Flash Sentry was easily approachable even if Statice did so reluctantly.
“I used to have a band before joining the Royal Guard,” Flash Sentry sighed wistfully. “I wanted to devote myself to music, but I loved my country more so it was either the Royal Guard or the Wonderbolts.”
“I take it you weren’t much of a flyer then,” Statice teased.
“Believe it or not, the best pegasi members of the Royal Guard are on the same league as the Wonderbolts,” Flash Sentry smirked. “Their specialty is more focused on flight combat rather than rescue though. Why do you think the Wonderbolts do so many performances that focus on speed and agility?”
“So you’re saying that you could have been a Wonderbolt?” Statice raised an eyebrow at the orange stallion.
“Received an invitation and I sent them the rejection letter explaining the reason,” Flash answered, his voice sounding slightly guilty at rejecting the opportunity. “I won’t lie that it was the hardest choice of my life since I already left music by then so choosing either the Royal Guard Academy or the Wonderbolt Academy felt like being kicked while I was down.”
“Ouch,” Statice grimaced, not wanting to imagine being put in such a dilemma immediately after going through a hard decision.
“I don’t regret it,” Flash Sentry smiled. “I sometimes wondered what would have happened if I had gone to the Wonderbolt Academy or if I had continued with my band. I guess that when you make a decision, you have to make the most of it.”
Statice smiled back, masking the sadness behind it. You don’t know how hard it is to live by that lesson, Flash. The stars know how much I tried to make the best of my decisions and they saw where they got me.
“Your panini is served!”
Statice’s thoughts were interrupted by a large piece of bread sliced in half that had some sort of melted cheese within with veggies inside. From the face Flash Sentry was putting beside him, wide eyes and drool coming out of his mouth, it was probably one of the best dishes the castle offered.
I bet Flash must have eaten one of those things before. Wouldn't be surprised if Shining Armor personally suggested him to be my escort. If he works at the castle then he probably eats what the chef cooks. Let's see what's so good about this sandwich.
Without missing a bit, Statice levitated the panini and bit into it. The sandwich was soft, the veggies were crunchy and juicy, and the cheese was mild and sticky. There was some sort of harmony of flavors that caused Statice to bite into the sandwich more and more until there was none of it to eat. It's good! Cadence and Shining Armor are lucky to have to eat a menu like this every single day for the rest of their lives! I've never been so jealous of rich ponies until now! He only blinked upon seeing an empty space where the panini used to be, a satisfied chef, and a smirking Flash Sentry looking at him as he was eating his own panini. Not wanting to be embarrassed, Statice said the only thing he could say to save his own pride.
“I play the flute.”
“I can’t believe you just said that!” Flash Sentry laughed as they were touring along the Crystal Empire.
“I was continuing our conversation,” Statice stated without missing a beat.
“Oh please,” Flash rolled his eyes at the unicorn. “We pretty much stopped talking about music a long time before you ate that panini. A normal pony would have asked for seconds, or gotten embarrassed, or said anything else.”
“I wasn’t about to let that chef have the satisfaction of beating me by asking for another panini or letting his first one be the cause of me making a fool of myself,” Statice huffed.
“You pretty much made a fool of yourself by enjoying the food way too much and then trying to deny it,” Flash replied. “There’s no shame in that, Statice. You made the chef very happy when you ate his dish.”
Statice blushed at the comment. More than anything, the blush was one of deep personal shame at his outburst
This is the problem when I deal with good ponies. I don’t know when they’re playing with me or when they’re messing with me and then I feel like a jerk when I find out they meant well.
“Let’s just go to the library,” Statice growled.
It took the pair five minutes to reach the library. It was still early in the morning so Sunburst was not in the library or he was probably one of the few that came in. For security, Statice solicited only spell books, choosing them all at random. He settled for ten of them and sat at the table closest to the entrance door. That way he could ensure that he could see Sunburst as soon as he got in or out of the library.
“Time to read,” Statice said as he started flicking the pages of the books and scanning the contents. In reality, he was only looking and them rather than reading the contents.
He wasn’t a fast reader, and even if he was, reading was going to distract him from checking the door. He developed a rhythm: flick the page, check the door, look at the page, check the door, and repeat the cycle. It was boring, it was probably going to take hours, but it was going to work. At least the plan was going to work, until a certain guest decided to show up.
“Mind if I sit here with you,” Flash Sentry flew beside Statice holding a stack of books in his hooves.
“Not at all,” Statice smiled politely at all, quietly masking the seething rage at the pegasus for choosing now of all times to hang out with him.
“Thanks,” he smiled at him as he picked up one of the books he selected and started reading it. The book he was reading was one of music, but the last one that he was going to read appeared to be one of self-help that was titled How to be Better Liked and had some sad looking pony trying to give a cheesy smile.
Gee, what happened to Flash Sentry that gave him such a bad reputation?
As he better observed the books that Flash was going to read, he noticed that all of them were new. None of them were the millennium old books that were kept in the library of the Crystal Empire. They were probably new books that were imported from either Canterlot, Ponyville, or other important cities.
It makes sense. Why would a place that used to be a nightmare house for slaves a thousand years ago have a book teaching them how to be better liked? They have better problems to worry about than looking good in front of others.
After getting rid of the unnecessary thoughts, Statice realized that there was no way of standing vigilance over the entrance with Flash Sentry there. He heard rumors of pegasi having good eyes so there was no way of him not noticing Statice trying to catch glimpse of Sunburst at the entrance. Even if the rumors were false, Flash Sentry could still catch him by virtue of sitting next to him at the same table.
Darn it! I have Flash Sentry blocking me! Even if he wasn’t here, it would be Shining Armor or probably Cadence! This is the only place I know Sunburst visits, but I can’t track him down from hereif I don’t know his schedule or if I’m being shadowed!
“Thanks for your visit, Sunburst!”
Statice felt his ears perk up as he heard the name of his target being spoken. He turned his head to see the stallion speak with the librarian for a while. Not wanting to look suspicious in front of Flash, Statice returned his face to the book while keeping one ear straight and alert.
“You’re welcome,” Sunburst replied with a curt nod. “Also, I am sorry for my short stay today. I normally stay longer, but I had some personal problems.”
“No worries,” the librarian cheered him up. “You’re always the first one to come here anyway. It wouldn’t be fair for you to be cooped up here while the library is open the whole day.”
“Thank you for your understanding,” Sunburst left, sounding grateful for her words as he closed the door behind him.
He’s leaving. I have to follow him. But if I follow him, Flash Sentry will follow me. Sunburst catches me, Flash Sentry catches me and reports me to Cadence and Shining Armor, or I don’t do nothing and let Sunburst get away.
Statice gritted his teeth. It was now or never. But how was he going to follow Sunburst without Flash Sentry or him discovering his presence? Should he put an illusion? No, illusions don’t talk or have mass if somepony feels like having a conversation or touching them. Should he try giving Flash a hallucination? No, he had too little experience with that so regardless of whether he succeeded with Sunburst or not, the damage to Flash Sentry would not be worth the trouble.
Then how about I try a projection?
He took a deep breath and lidded his eyes in a way on which they were nearly closed but open enough for him to read the book in his possession. He turned his head to the side to see if there was nopony looking at him, which fortunately there wasn’t as the librarian was busy attending customers, the others were on other tables far away from him, and Flash Sentry was too busy reading his own book to notice him. He leaned his body forward to the table so that it looked to everypony else that he was either asleep or relaxed in literary bliss. He levitated the thickest book and opened it on the middle so that it looked like he was slowly immersing himself in the pages. With the preparations done, he levitated the book on his hooves and then spread the magic across his forelegs and the rest of his body. The magic went inward and then outwards as Statice felt himself being pushed. The last thing he saw was the library and his own body reading a book that he wasn’t even interested on reading.
“Uh,” Flash Sentry perked his ears. His eyes adopting the characteristically stern glare of the Royal Guard as he looked left and right for an enemy.
There’s nothing here.
Sighing contently at the false alarm, Flash Sentry focused his attention on Statice, noticing something different on him. The green unicorn was sitting on his chair, leaning forward in a relaxed position, holding a book on his hooves. The book was halfway through and supported by magic, probably to turn the pages to avoid damaging them with his hooves. Flash could see that Statice was enjoying the book from the enamored look in the stallion’s eyes as he was reading it.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying your day at the library, Statice,” Flash Sentry smiled contently as he picked his own music book. “Everypony deserves a chance to be happy every once in a while.”
“Iam not happy about this so called once in a lifetime chance,” Statice mumbled as he crossed his forelegs.
The Astral Projection Spell was a spell that allowed him to separate his mind from his body, allowing him to travel beyond what his physical vessel restricted him. He was inspired to create the spell by the beings of Pandasia, who taught him about the values of illumination and inner peace. All of which meant nothing to Statice as they solved none of his problems. Even the Astral Projection Spell only served as a glorified spying spell that he rarely used, if at all.
“All that flank kicking I endured, all that meditation I had to sit on, and all those riddle lessons I was forced to understand were pretty much worthless,” Statice grumbled as he floated all over the Crystal Empire, trying to find a glimpse of Sunburst. “The only good thing I got in Pandasia was some good martial arts training and a spell for this situation.”
By Celestia, this is harder than finding Derpy! And I’m saying this because I literally just found Derpy!
It was the truth because Derpy was walking by the side of some random visiting ponies. How hard was it to hard a normal unicorn among many crystal ponies?
“Well, speak of Discord,” Statice smiled once he found his target. He flew as he noticed the orange unicorn carrying a small package of book, which was followed by an even larger package of antiques.
Apparently, wizards like antiques.
Then again, back when he was a mercenary, he always had to find or steal old artifacts that were technically considered antiques, most of which were magical in nature. Most of his employers were magic users, albeit mediocre ones at that, and even he had magical artifacts that were very old so that meant it wasn’t his place to judge Sunburst on his interests unless he called himself a nerd.
I’m just a thug that knows magic. He’s a wizard that knows the real deal. I don’t have the right to criticize him on what he likes or what he doesn’t like.
It took Statice a few minutes of observation and careful tracking to find out where Sunburst lived, always keeping his distance. If there was one thing he learned in his past is to always assume that his targets are more powerful than he imagined for his own precaution. He didn’t know how strong Sunburst was, meaning that he could probably have sensory magic. The last thing he needed was for Sunburst to figure out that he was being tracked and to do something about it.
As a result of his precaution, Statice ended his spell, which caused his mind to return back to his body. He fully opened his eyes, staring at the book he used as a cover and sighing in exhaustion.
“I think I’m done for today,” Statice declared.
“Are you sure?” Flash Sentry stopped reading his third book of the day to look at Statice worryingly.
“I’m feeling hungry,” Statice said as an excuse. “Besides, I can’t always spend my time at a library.”
“How about we return to the castle and then we go to the stadium?” Flash Sentry proposed. Although Flash Sentry enjoyed reading, he was a pony that enjoyed action and recreation.
“Sure,” Statice nodded. As much as he wanted to meet Sunburst he didn’t mind if he didn’t meet him today. He had his whole vacations to encounter him. He’d rather not stress himself out planning it out. Instead, he’ll wait for the chance to present itself.
This time around, Statice and Flash Sentry were served pizza. However, that wasn’t the only difference on their meal. They had company in the shape of Shining Armor and Cadence. Their royal duties turned out to be shorter than they anticipated so they were going to spend more time with Statice and Flash Sentry, who was very adamant on spending time with Statice, at least for the rest of the day.
The pizza they ate was a mushroom pizza with veggies divided into eight slices. It started with each pony eating two slices. But the slices were too delicious so more pizzas were demanded and soon enough a hilarious fight broke out to see who should eat the more slices.
“Miserable jerk!” Statice cried out as Cadence’s hoof slapped his own right as he attempted to take one of the last four slices. Taking advantage of his recoil, the Princess of Love took the slice and stuffed it on her own mouth.
Princess of love, my flank!
“Ouch!” Shining Armor yelped as Statice took out his frustration of getting smacked by Cadence by zapping Shining’s hoof with lightning. Grinning in triumph, Statice, levitated the second slice onto his mouth.
“Dang it!” Statice swore as he tried to hog the third slice, but it was swiftly knocked out of his hoof by Flash Sentry with an overhead kick and swiftly caught between his wings to slowly dip into his mouth.
Right in the same hoof Cadence hit! You're getting payback later, Flash!
“I get dibs on the next one!” Flash called out, hoping the sacred oath of dibs would give him the right to eat the fourth slice.
“You get dibs to clean the barracks if you eat that slice, soldier!” Shining Armor ordered in his best commanding voice.
“Dang it!” Flash Sentry pouted as he gave his captain the slice, watching in grievance as he smugly ate it in front of him.
The duel of pizza eating continued as more pizzas were cooked and each of the four contestants either ate the slices faster or tried to steal them from each other in more ridiculous ways. It eventually went to the last slice. They lost count to who ate how many slices so the victor was going to be decided by who ate the last one.
Geez, for a land based on love and friendship, the contests are no different from the one I used to engage back in the day. Well, at least nopony is in the hospital…yet.
“Let’s do this!” Statice threw his hoof forward. He gasped when he saw it covered in a pink dome of magic, pushing the slice rather than grabbing it. Shining Armor had predicted him making the first move so he decided to counter accordingly.
“I’ll take that slice then!” Flash Sentry grinned as he slid his wing underneath the pizza slice, intending to use it as a makeshift spatula to flip it into the air and catch it in his mouth.
“Oh no, you won’t!” Statice slammed his domed hoof into the tip of Flash’s wing, putting him in a world of pain if the shrunken eyes and gritted teeth were any evidence of the statement.
Now we're even, pal!
“Thanks for the opening,” Cadence smirked deviously as she daintily went for the slice, stopping shortly as she felt her husband’s hoof wrapping around hers.
“And thank you for playing with me,” Shining Armor said charmingly as he gave her a hoof kiss, earning a mirthful laughter from her and a disgusted groan from their fellow competitors.
“Get a room, you two!” Statice yelled as he angrily threw the slice upward with his magic. It rocketed so far, that it was a miracle that it didn’t land on the roof.
“Darn it!” Shining Armor swore as he broke the moment with Cadence, earning an annoyed scowl from his wife as he went to levitate the falling pizza slice. He had intended to distract his wife with a sweet moment to win the game and get her in the mood for some quality time. Now he was stuck trying to save a pizza from falling to the ground.
I am so blaming Statice if this ruins the game…
Shining’s magic caught the pizza and brought it to him. The game was his or at least that was how it was supposed to be before Statice’s magic intermingled with his own not a few seconds later.
“Give me my pizza slice!” Statice pulled his head back as if the head motions were going to help him in the magical struggle.
“Let go!” Shining Armor demanded.
The pizza moved up, down, left, and right due to the contrasting forces of the fighting unicorns. Despite Flash Sentry trying to take advantage of the situation, he found it hard to catch the pizza slice when it was constantly moving from one side to the other.
Watching the scene from the sidelines with a bored expression on her face, the Princess of Love decided that this game had gone long enough as it was. She gathered her magic into her horn and formed a barrier that encompassed all the room, compressing it to trap her fellow players until they were close into each other.
Now let’s see if can still pull off those cheerleader stunts back in high school.
Extending her wings to their full extent, Cadence flew to the group at full speed, rolled at blinding speed, and collocated herself in a flexible position. She was balanced on her right hind leg with her hoof being held together by Flash Sentry’s right wing, her left hind leg was perfectly leaned across Statice’s shoulders, and her back was rested across Shining Armor’s forelegs. Thanks to the position, Flash Sentry couldn’t fly because he had one wing pinned to the ground and Statice and Shining Armor were incapable of using magic due to her good looks being that distracting. Cadence smiled as she used her magic to levitate the slice and bring it to her mouth.
I still got it.
[Well, that went out of hoof,” Statice commented five seconds after the pizza challenge. A lifetime of near death experience had taught him to get over bizarre experiences. The pizza challenge was one of the least bizarre things that ever happened to him so it was no big deal to him less than a few seconds later.
“More like that went out of wing,” Flash Sentry gave him an annoyed glare, remembering how he smashed his wingtip right at the end of the challenge.
“Work it out, you big baby,” Statice rolled his eyes at him. “You did kick my hoof at one point. Do you remember that? Right after Cadence slapped it earlier.”
“I guess so,” Flash Sentry groaned, having forgotten about that part due to tending to his wing.
“Still, I can’t believe Shining Armor and Cadence got really into it,” Statice commented, still awed that it was Cadence who won the challenge.
“You don’t become the Captain of the Royal Guard by not being competitive,” Flash Sentry smirked as he defended Shining Armor. “As for Princess Cadence, I heard that she’s the liveliest of the princesses.”
“She seemed more energetic than Celestia, Luna, and Twilight,” Statice observed, recalling his previous meetings with the other three. “But I’ve also noticed that this time around that she’s been more energetic.”
“It’s either that, or she’s always been energetic and this is the first time you’ve seen that side of hers,” Flash Sentry lectured. “You can’t make assumptions of others when you barely met them.”
“I’m not that dumb, Flash Sentry,” Statice gave him a droll stare.
“Excuse me, Shining Armor,”
“What’s wrong, Statice?” Shining Armor asked just as he was off from seeing Cadence. She had to do some sudden royal duties that came out of nowhere so it was up to him to entertain Statice for the time being.
“Did anything happen to Cadence?” Statice asked bluntly. Next to him, Flash Sentry slapped a hoof to his face.
“What exactly do you mean by that question, Statice?” Shining Armor asked, having bad experiences the last time somepony queried him like that.
“Well, I noticed that Cadence was oddly more energetic than usual,” Statice pointed out. “Did something good happen to her on the way out before she hanged out with me?”
Oh, what am I supposed to tell him? Cadence and Luna are going the extra mile with him. Why is he suspecting her? Why do I even have to make some lie for him? Okay, think, Shining Armor. She’s happy to see him. No, they’re not really that close even if they like each other as friends. Oh, maybe the royal life is too hard so hanging out with a friend for once got her to unwind.
“You don’t know what’s gotten into her, right?” Statice asked, annoyance engrained deeply into his voice.
“Of course I do!” Shining Armor snapped back, flustered.
“No, you don’t!” Statice yelled. “If you take your sweet time thinking your answer, then you’re obviously thinking of a lie. Trust me, I have experience getting caught as a liar because I took too long thinking of a lie or bringing up the truth.”
“Fine, I do not know!” Shining Armor yelled, not all happy to admit that there was something that was different with his wife and he didn’t know about. “We spent all day trying to negotiate with yaks in the north. The problem is that they’re very stubborn in their traditions of old so we’ve been talking with them for hours with no success and…”
“Got it…” Statice stopped him with a raised hoof.
“You got it?” Shining Armor asked in stupefied shock.
“Diplomacy,” Statice asked bluntly. “It’s hard. And these yaks sound like they’re hard to get along.”
“We’ve been trying to get along with them for more than a thousand years,” Shining Armor winced. “We couldn’t establish an official alliance before the Crystal Empire disappeared and even after it appeared again.”
“I guess that explains why Cadence was excited,” Statice explained. “Those yaks are probably stubborn jerks and she wanted to get out of the room to spend time with somepony who didn’t criticize her for anything.”
“They do make a big deal for things that don’t go their way,” Shining Armor winced as he recalled how often the yaks broke the rooms the crystal ponies provided for them every time they visited.
“Seems kind of unnecessary to get along with them,” Statice scoffed. “Equestria is already a peaceful nation as it is.”
“It could be better and it could make other nations better if we both share our friendship with each other,” Shining Armor advised. “It’s pretty much why we want Twilight to handle the yak ambassadors if we and Cadence fail.”
Yeah, no disrespect Shining Armor, but something tells me that Twilight and her friends are destined to clean up after you and your wife while you two are destined to failure just because fate plays favorites with Twilight.
“Do you want to do something else before supper?” Statice asked. “I feel very bored right now.”
“Well, we could always try the favorite sport of the Crystal Empire,” Shining Armor smiled cockily, earning a competitive smirk from Flash Sentry.
“You don’t mean…?”
The sounds of trumpets announcing the next jousting matches played again. It was a free for all fight so that meant that ponies were allowed to participate on matches as many times as they wanted. The only rules were that contestants could fight as much as they pleased until they chose to retire, that they were free to select their opponents, and that they fought as according to the jousting match rules unless they were eliminated for bad behavior.
Well, I can see why jousting is such a big deal in this place. Tournaments in any place are pretty much elitists. You can’t advance without getting sore feelings from the other contestants or their fans. It’s pretty much why I don’t do tournaments anymore despite never winning one in the first place.
“I don’t need you to give me armor,” Statice politely rejected a crystal pony offering him a jousting armor. He settled by opening Hammerspace in front and above him so that the Orichalcum armor fell in front of him. “I have my own personal armor right here.”
Making sure to grab it from beneath to avoid touching the magic draining stone, Statice carefully put on the armor. The Orichalcum armor was something dangerous to magic users such as him. It was pretty much why his master had it custom made by having it padded so that Statice could put it on without the risk of draining himself from magic. At least, it worked as long as Statice took off his helmet unless all magic that he tried to cast was absorbed by the headgear he was wearing.
It’s been a long time since I wore this thing. Never thought I’d use it again.
“Nice armor, sir,” the crystal pony said as he gave Statice a jousting lance.
“It’s foreign,” Statice answered simply. “I’ll have a match with Flash Sentry. I heard from some guards that he’s the descendant of some guy named Flash Magnus.”
“You shouldn’t underestimate him then,” the crystal pony frowned gravely. “I heard that Flash Magnus was one of the six Pillars of Equestria. He had a shield that could take on the fire of a dragon.”
There were ponies that had things like that? How is it that the best ponies are always the ones from the old school? Well, if Sentry is indeed the descendant of Magnus then this will be a good match.
Still, there was no guarantee that the rumor was true. For all he knew, the only thing they had in common was having Flash as a first name even if he got a good fight. “I should tell Flash Sentry to check his family tree after this.”
It would certainly do good to Equestria to have heroes that rely on skill rather than overwhelming power provided by overcharged magical artifacts. If Flash Sentry is indeed a descendant of this Flash Magnus, then a confidence boost may inspire him to better himself as a hero.
“I’m ready!” Flash Sentry called from the other side of the field.
Flash Sentry was dressed in light blue armor for better mobility. The model of armor he was using differed from the standard type he wore as a Royal Guard from either Equestria or the Crystal Empire as it used a mineral from Cloudsdale that increased mobility for pegasus. It contrasted Statice, whose dark green armor fully encompassed his whole body and therefore restricted his movement to increase his defense.
Military punk…you’re trying to wear me down with many lance strikes until you land the decisive strike. Well, your strategy can backfire if I get the right timing. I only need one hit to get you.
Both stallions ran at each other, their lances held high at first, lowering until they were pointed at each other once they were at the appropriate distance. The first hit was landed by Flash Sentry as his superior speed allowed him to strike first and dodge the retaliatory strike of his adversary.
On the second bout, Statice attempted to move to the side and then attempt to strike Flash Sentry right at the meeting point. It was a surprise when the tip of the lance met empty air as Flash Sentry dodged at the last second and then thrust his lance at Statice’s ribs. The third bout caught everypony by surprise when Statice attempted a double thrust, but Flash Sentry caught him with a jumping strike on the back.
Ultimately, it was on the fourth bout that decided the match, as both stallions decided to charge at one another in a frontal charge. Statice decided to give a rising a downward thrust at Flash Sentry’s legs, an unusual move, albeit not an illegal one. It was countered when Flash jumped above it and prepared for a downward strike. To his surprise, Statice was waiting for him ready to trust his lance, which he had yet to break in any of their bouts right at his helmet.
This is bad! Flash Sentry slammed his lance down with all his might. Maybe it was a matter of warrior pride, maybe it was survivor’s instinct, or he just panicked and went with it. All that he knew is that he needed to slam his lance into Statice’s helmet as hard as he could even as he felt the tip of the unicorn’s lance returning the favor at that same instant.
“What just happened?” Flash Sentry asked at the sky. His vision was white at first and there was a cacophony of noise at first. It cleared up after a few seconds to recognize the sky of the Crystal Empire and the sound of the cheering citizens. It was followed up by a helmeted face with a strange design.
“You lost,” Statice said bluntly. “Though I find it hard to call myself the winner after you pummeled me through most of the match and you flipped my helmet off when we hit each other in the head.”
“Oh,” Flash Sentry put a hoof on his head. “I remember. Losing your helmet in a jousting match is an instant defeat.”
“Try to get a sturdier armor next time,” Statice advised as he took off his helmet to put it on correctly. “It doesn’t matter how fast you are and how many hits you land, it won’t matter if your opponent hits you back and you can’t take it.”
“I know that,” Flash Sentry gave him an annoyed glare. “You just won because you aimed for my helmet.”
“I would have smashed that puny little armor of yours,” Statice chuckled. “And I’m not even that strong.How many ponies managed to knock the helmet out of their rivals even if they hit them there?”
The conversation devolved into good natured teasing.
Both stallions decided to watch some matches. As it turned out, Shining Armor was a natural at jousting. He had a good winning streak, not just on matches but also on points as no lance was ever broken on his purple armor.
There’s more to being a captain than just magic.
A competitive fire lit up inside of him. He wanted to see how good Shining Armor was on the field. As soon as Shining Armor won the match, Statice went to the registration line-ups to ask for a match against him.
“Are you sure you want a match against him?” Flash Sentry asked him.“He’s almost as fast as me on land and I heard that he’s just as strong and durable as any earth pony member of the Royal Guard.”
“I got a good armor,” Statice patted his Orichalcum armor. “I just need to figure out the timing for my counterattack.”
“And your strategy involves getting beat up in the aftermath,” Flash Sentry deadpanned, not approving at all of the strategy he heard.
“As long as he’s not as fast as you are,” Statice replied as he already signed what could have been his dead sentence.He knew it was a challenge he was bound to lose, but when was the last time he did something dangerous for the sake of a challenge?
A crashing sound snapped them both out of their discussion. There was a new fighter at the jousting court. It appeared to be a pegasus wearing light blue full body armor and a red track suit underneath. From the sleek and lithe appearance of the pegasus, it was obvious that the new contestant was a mare and quite athletic too. She was dueling two contestants at the same time as she had two lances tucked on her forelegs.
They ran at her from one side while she ran at them from the other side. They were two crystal pony stallions, both heavily built. From the way they ran at full sprint and how they gracefully descended their lances, Statice deduced that they were professional jousters, maybe in big shots around the Crystal Empire. The mystery mare didn’t care as she just gave a small hop and slammed her lances into them, sending the stallions into big piles of hays.
Their defeats earned horrifying gasps from everypony, including Flash Sentry. The only one who was unaffected was Statice, who could only give a wince. In all honesty, he felt slightly sympathetic for the stallions upon seeing the lance hitting them.
That had to hurt.
“Do you know these guys?” Statice asked Flash Sentry as he pointed at the hay piles that were currently housing the defeated stallions.
“They’re the best jousters of the Crystal Empire,” Flash Sentry whispered into Statice’s ear. “They taught me, Shining Armor, and pretty much mostly everypony what there has to be known about jousting.”
“Lots of good that did them right now,” Statice scoffed as he stared at them.
He got horrified gasps for them.
“It’s the truth, you guys!”
“I think they meant that,” Flash Sentry pointed at the mystery mare as she was pointing straight at them. She had lifted a foreleg and made a gesture at them.
“Bring it on,” she silently told them.
“This is not going to end good,” Statice groaned.
“We’re going to fight her?” Flash Sentry asked, clearly shocked in this development.
“She looks like she’s the type that doesn’t like ponies denying her requests,” Statice went to the field. “We might as well take our beating like stallions.”
Also I can't teleport while I'm wearing the armor and I'm getting in trouble if I leave you to get pummeled.
“Says the pony wearing the full body armor,” Flash Sentry growled.
They stood on opposite sides of the field. The mare decided to settle on Statice’s side since she was obviously faster and capable of outpacing him. As soon as the bout started, the proved him right by disappearing from his side in less than a second.
The mystery mare was going to take Flash Sentry out first and then turn around to take out Statice next. As complicated as it looked, it was probably the only logical solution to having two opponents attacking her from opposite sides of the field.
Flash Sentry was faster than her, but the mystery mare knew when there was time for war and times for love. She spread out her wings to suspend herself on the air just above Flash’s lance. A malicious grin hid inside her mask as she stomped the tip of the lance with all hind hooves and then stabbed Flash in the chest with her first lance as she turned around to face her second opponent.
She took out Flash Sentry already? I haven’t gotten close to her yet.
He knew that she was going to outpace him and that she was going to take out Flash. And yet a part of him hoped that Flash was good enough to hold his own until he cut enough distance between them so that when she took him out it would be too late for her to defend herself against the green unicorn. He was too slow with or without the Orichalcum armor weighing him down.
That does it! I’m laying one blow on her one way or another!
He put all the strength on his body. The armor was heavy, clanking as the metal moved as fast as his body allowed it to move. He thrust the lance, hoping that it hit the mare at the speed she was moving.
It didn’t hit. She just leaned to the side and carefully lowered her lance underneath Statice’s own lance, hitting him right in the gut. He felt the air leave him due to his own momentum, the force of the mare hitting him with her lance, and the weight of his armor being multiplied as he was rolling around. The abrupt stop made his skull hit the inside of his helmet, knocking him out cold.
“Oh my head,” Statice woke up, staring at the sky of the Crystal Empire. It was going to be evening very soon. To his surprise, he realized that there was nopony in the jousting matches anymore but him and Flash Sentry and yet there appeared to be a match taking place.
“I see you woke up,” Flash Sentry’s face poke up into view. He looked relieved.
“What happened when I was out?” Statice asked. “Also, please make sure that I was not out for more than an hour.”
“You were out for fifteen minutes,” Flash Sentry told him. “You’d be at the hospital if it’d been otherwise.”
Statice sighed in relief. It was cut short when he heard a grunt. It sounded like Shining Armor.
“Also it turns out that our mystery mare that’s been taking out jousters is none other than Princess Cadence,” Flash Sentry winced as he was looking elsewhere, presumably the jousting courts.
“What did you say?” Statice tried to stand up, but he was pushed by Flash Sentry before he had any chance of doing something.
“Well, after you were knocked out, I took off your helmet to check your vitals,” Flash Sentry recapitulated as he remembered his training on first aid. “As it turns out, Cadence thought you were one of Captain Shining Armor’s friends pretending to be knights.”
“Nerds,” Statice hissed under his breath.
“She wanted to have some fun jousting, but she didn’t want her subjects to hold back on her because of her royal status,” Flash Sentry winced sympathetically as he would have held back just a little as well due to being honor bound to not harm her in any way.
“Suck-ups,” Statice scoffed, still out of breath.
“Shining came in and then they started arguing and now they’re jousting,” Flash Sentry ended the tale.
“They’re jousting each other?” Statice stood up, very much alarmed at the ideaof the couple physically fighting.
“Well, not really,” Flash Sentry hesitated. “Their love is so strong that they don’t want to physically hurt each other. Take a look.”
Statice observed and noticed that every time Shining and Cadence clashed that their lances always collided, but they never hit the ponies themselves. Not even the splinters that exploded from the tip of their weapons hurt their significant others.
This must be true love. Not even when they are angry or frustrated with each other, they will never do any lasting damage. Still, this has probably gone long enough and their subjects will probably be worried for weeks if this doesn’t get solved.
“Are you two doing alright?” Statice asked the jousting couple.
Shining Armor and Cadence stopped their unending match and stared at Statice, then at Flash Sentry, and then at themselves. They blushed at their behavior as they realized how their lovers spat made them look in front of their subjects and guest.
“I think we’re about done here,” Shining Armor admitted. “You can go back to the barracks, Flash Sentry. I think you’re in need of a medic.”
“I’d like to accompany Statice back to the castle if I may be allowed,” Flash Sentry inquired politely. “After such a day, I’d like to see it to the end.”
“Do what your betters tell you, Flash Sentry,” Statice put a hoof on the back of the pegasus, eliciting a yelp from him. “You did take quite a beating. We can always hang out again anytime soon.”
Flash Sentry stood up defiantly, but changed his demeanor after a moment of consideration. It had been a long day. He was hurt. And he was going to need to be at his best if he wanted to be by Statice’s side when his princess and captain were incapable of doing so.
“Fine,” he extended his foreleg for a hoof bump. “I’ll see you later, Statice.”
He gave the pink alicorn and the white unicorn a salute and then he flew away. The three remaining ponies awkwardly stared at each other.
“We should go home,” Cadence gave a sheepish smile.
“I’ll be there in a minute,” Statice excused himself. “I’ll just get myself to a clinic to treat my bruises.”
The excuse got a guilty face from Cadence and an annoyed glare from Shining Armor for his lack of tact.
“We can always come with you,” Cadence suggested hopefully, desperate to patch things up.
“It’s okay,” Statice smiled. “Besides, don’t you guys have to talk anyway?”
That was apparently a million bit question as the royal question stared at Statice as if they saw a ghost. They wished him good luck on his appointment and told him that they’ll wait for him at the castle.
Sighing, Statice waited for them until they were out of sight, and then went the opposite way of either the castle or the clinic and into the town.
“Where the heck are you?”
A place always had many faces no matter how much one looked at it. Even if somepony knew where it was, one could still have trouble finding it when there was no resemblance between the face it bore on the day and the night.
He didn’t think the chance would arrive so soon. He was only going to play some jousting matches with the boys and circumstances played in his favor in more ways than he expected.Flash Sentry was acting like his tracker, but his recent injuries meant that there was no way of following his movements right now. Shining Armor and Cadence having marital difficulties-however small they were- was going to put them off his back for a little while. He didn’t know what got into them, but the window of opportunity was a once in a lifetime chance that he was not going to waste. Finally, the Orichalcum armor he was still wearing prevented him from using any magic. It was the reason why he couldn’t heal today’s bruises or light his way in the darkness, but it was also going to be his ultimate shield against magic if it was used against him.
I can’t let my guard down just because there’s nopony following me. Cadence and Shining Armor are still waiting for me. I need to make this quick.
It took time for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. And more time for him to pick up the simple solution of just taking off his helmet so that he could cast a simple light spell to illuminate his way into the darkness to find the right house.
“About time,” Statice grumbled, debating on whether or not to put on or off his helmet. Appearances were important on establishing contact with somepony whose help you needed. Then again, you also needed your head to be protected from either having its mind controlled or blasted with any type of offensive magic.
Things would be so much easier if I had just been evil. Appearances are of no concern to evil ponies.
Statice settled on putting his hoof inside his helmet and knocking on the door with it, hoping that the lights on inside the house were a signal that the wizard was awake and not a sign that he was a sleep and that he just forgot to turn off the lights.
“I’m coming in,” a deceptively young voice replied.
Statice braced himself. Sunburst opened the door. He looked younger than how Statice thought he was at the library. Either it was one of those super prodigies like Twilight or magic gave him slow aging.
“Are you Sunburst?” he asked, feeling annoyed at having to do the usual prodding questions needed to stage a fake meeting.
“Yes,” Sunburst answered awkwardly, not helped by the armor Statice was wearing and the helmet he was wearing around his hoof.
“Do you like magic?” Statice answered with a friendlier tone.
That was a good question based on Sunburst’s more positive reception. “Actually, I do like magic,” he nodded his head.
“It appears that we have a common interest,” Statice smiled. “May I come in? It’s just a short visit.”
“Sure,” Sunburst allowed the armored unicorn to enter. Both of them sat on opposing chairs to discuss whatever Statice had in store for Sunburst.
Statice was pleased to see many books of magic in one place. Most of them contained magical theory and ancient magic. Certainly one of them had the chance of breaking his curse.
“Do you believe in magic being capable of doing anything as long as you find the right way to use it?” Statice asked mysteriously. “Do you think that no matter how strong or how weak you are, you won’t be capable of accomplishing anything unless you know exactly what you’re doing?” It was a simple question that was more about Statice than anything, usually when talking with other magic users.
“Yes!” Sunburst leapt from his chair, surprising the green unicorn.
What’s with the sudden outburst? It’s not like a great wizard had to struggle with magic in the first place.
“I believe that magic power is worthless if you don’t weave it properly into a spell,” Sunburst explained as he levitated many books. “Take a look at the Crystal Empire. Have you ever wondered how Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were incapable of bringing it back for a thousand years when it was cursed to disappear even though they were strong enough to easily defeat King Sombra?”
Quite a weird question to ask considering where you're living, Sunburst. Well, at least it shows that you know your stuff. Might as well prove my mettle to you. I just hope it's more than enough to impress you.
“I assume that they always had the strength to break the curse, but they didn’t know how to use it,” Statice proposed, recalling how most of his original spells didn’t work at first when he improvised them out of nowhere in contrast to the original spells that were based out of other spells or scientific concepts.
“Exactly,” Sunburst nodded his head. “A spell is dependent on magic power and magic knowledge. You need the necessary power to cast it and the knowledge to give shape to the spell.”
That makes sense. And I guess it also makes sense that most of the unicorns in this land are pretty much brain dead since very few can do something besides levitation.
“That’s quite a good concept,” Statice smiled at what he learned.
“I learned it at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns,” Sunburst smiled wistfully. “Do you have anything you want to show me?”
What can I show him? I’m still wearing a magic draining armor? Wait, I’m not wearing it on my head and there’s a pot with plants. All I need is a seed. Maybe I can show him my first spell.
“Do you have a seed?” Statice smiled in a way he never did in a long time.
“Are you going to use a plant elemental spell?” Sunburst asked hopefully.
He didn’t answer. Statice closed his eyes and just focused on the seed. It was a sunflower. It couldn’t survive in the snow, and if it did, it was probably because of the warmth provided by the Crystal Empire. It was time to create a plant suitable for the cold of this place.
The sunflower bloomed, but it was white and blue rather than the yellow that Sunburst expected. He was delighted with what he saw. It wasn't a sunflower anymore. No. It was a snowflower.
“This is the ancestral spell of my family,” Statice smiled fondly. “According to my dad, not many unicorns do this practice anymore. Many unicorns always learn levitation as their first spell. I'm one of the rare exceptions. I learned my family's spell instead. This is my first spell, the spell of my family, the ability of creating new flowers from a single seed.”
“I heard of ancestral spells,” Sunburst shed a single tear as he saw the flower Statice created. “It’s either a spell that a family of unicorns created or a single spell that a family of unicorns is so good at using that it’s become their trademark spell for generations. I thought the practice died ages ago.”
“It didn’t,” Statice smiled as he recalled when his father taught him the family spell. “There’s a family that created this spell three generations ago. I’m the third user of this spell. And I need you to do me a favor for me and for them.”
“Sure,” Sunburst smiled. “Actually, I’d like to meet your family so that I can find out more about this ancestral spell. Not many unicorn families practice this in actuality. If I’m lucky, maybe we can revive the practice.”
“Hear the favor and then we speak,” Statice spoke, a little too bluntly.
“Sorry,” Sunburst apologized. “What’s the favor?”
“I need you to break a curse,” Statice stated bluntly.
Sunburst paled. Whatever enthusiasm that he had about Statice’s magic, academic breakthroughs, or plants disappeared in an instant.
“Did you say curse?” Sunburst asked. “What kind of curse are you talking about?”
“Tell me, Sunburst,” Statice sighed, finally opening up in a chapter of his life that he never wanted to talk about. “What do you know about memory magic?”