There were a few things 'D' never thought he'd experience in life; granted, he couldn't remember much concerning if he'd done these things or not.
One of these things was go beyond the speed of sound, a feat that the pony now dragging him behind her conquered within the space of ten seconds; were a pegasus' wings really that strong? It seemed crazy for a living-, er, dead thing to go this fast, yet here he was, being dragged behind a dead pony who just broke the sound barrier. Welp, it was another thing off the afterlife bucket list at least!
Tears flew past 'D' as his focus changed from a soupy texture to almost-focused, though the sounds usually connected to those tears were muffled by the hurricane of air passing them by. Clamping another hand on the rainbow-colored tail in front of him - come to think of it, what ponies had rainbow-colored manes and tails? - and gave it a yank. He pulled himself onto her back with abnormal ease, and leaned in by the side of her head. A few tears bombed his face, managing to miss his eye by a hair; getting hit in the face with water at this speed'd hurt.
"Rainbow! That's your name, right?!" He shouted over the wind, garnering no response. C'mon, she was dead! Couldn't she tell if he was here?! "Rainbow!!"
Still no bloody response! Well, if sound can't reach her, how about this?! 'D' grabbed Rainbow by the mane and yanked it hard, sending them rocketing upwards into a loop; the world spinning from sky to ground felt like a horrid trip during a flight.
"Ow!" The pegasus shrieked, yanking her head back down. They were sent spinning into a quickening barrel roll, shooting straight towards green; green was the ground, right?! It was hard to tell after all that spinning! "S-Stop pulling on my mane!"
"Well at least you can tell I'm here!" 'D' shouted; finally, someone who could see him. You know, besides the psychopathic scythe swinger from a few seconds ago, "Where are we?!"
"I don't know, but I know one thing: I wanna get away!" Another flap of her wings, and they blasted through the air. It was scary, finding out just how fast two ghosts could fly! The cloaked man clamped onto Rainbow's neck, trying to prevent himself from being blown away and lose his only kin in the world; pony, human, didn't matter, being alone and dead would be enough to drive any man insane! The pegasus pulled up out of the barrel roll and blasted off again, the massive hurricane seeming to grow even louder; why weren't they on fire yet!?
"Slow down! Where the hell're we going?!"
"Anywhere but here!"
"Are you really that worried?! You're dead, there's nothing she can do to you now!"
"Yes there is! He was there! That crazy cloaked pony! They're working together!"
"Oh that's a crock, and you know it!" Well, trying to reason with crazy people was one thing, crazy dead people another. Were crazy dead ponies that much different from crazy dead people? 'D' kinda wished he knew, just so he could tell if his efforts were in vain or not. "We can't keep flying around like this!"
"Yes we can! I'm gonna keep flying 'till she's gone! No, she's not a she anymore, that monster!" More tears flew off into the earth-shattering typhoon, shivers moving through the pegasus' body as her wings beat with wild abandon; escape was all she wanted!
"We can't! We've gotta stop sometime, God knows where we'll end up if you keep flying this fast!" At least slow down enough so he can hear more than half the conversation, damn it!
"I'm never stopping! I never wanna see it again!" The wind muffled most of her words, gagging her cries of desperation. This mare really was going crazy!
"You don't have to! But seriously, we've gotta land somewhere! Aren't you getting tired?!" Please God, say she is...
Sure enough, the beats of her wings slowed down. Blessed relief came on the breath of the wind as the typhoon levelled out into a short gust, then a small breeze; they could actually see the world now. Then the wing beats stopped.
Wait, they stopped? Oh dear.
The loud whistling picked up as they started falling, and the sight of the cityscape below held no remorse or mercy for their plight; not a single landing area in sight! Oh, this was gonna be a really bad landing... do ghosts feel pain?
A resounding SLAM and the following roll for sixty feet before slamming into a wall answered 'D's question; ghosts do not feel pain, at least not from hitting the ground, but they sure can get winded! Especially when a pony crashes into your chest! This pony wasn't too heavy, if that was any consolation. She flailed, obviously trying to get back onto her hooves, before 'D's arms wrapped around her.
"What're you doing?!" She screamed, eyes looking around at the city-goers walking by, "Let me go! Help! Help!"
"Calm down! I'm trying to stop you from flying off and getting yourself caught!" 'D' shouted, tightening his grip; that wasn't the only reason of course, ghosts needed company to keep the crazy away, and she seemed like she needed at least something to vent on. In order to calm down someone who might keep him from wandering the world alone, he could live with being a punching bag.
"I'm not gonna get caught! Nopony can catch up to me when I'm flying! Now lemme go, crazy... whatever you are!" Dash struggled again, legs flying all over the place. Ponies can't possibly be this flexible, can they!? A quick slug to the face by a maniacally flying hoof answers that question for him; yes, yes they can, and apparently are! And they hit pretty hard, too!
After a minute or so more of struggling, Dash finally lost her energy and flopped to the ground. Her eyes still moved around, perceiving invisible horrors, and sweat still rolled down from her forehead, mixing with her tears, but she was spent. 'D' sighed in relief and rubbed his nose, thankful that this mare wasn't full of boundless energy, though he did feel bad when she started crying again.
"Why're you holding me here? I just..."
"I'm holding you here because we can do more together, rather than on our own. You flying off, being the emotional wreck you are, I can only see bad things happening."
"You don't even know me!"
"Call me a good judge of character, then. The way you were randomly flying... well, you sure were running away from something."
'D' let the mare go, slowly so that he'd get a good grip back on her if she tried flying off again. He finally sat up against the wall with a sigh, and wiped his brow; that was a hellish experience... finding out you're dead, getting dragged around at sonic speeds, then crashing down in some city in the arse end of God knows where. Not just that, but being stuck with a crazy mare who was just murdered, and her being his only company? Sticking together was smart... but hopefully, she'd learn to control herself soon.
Ponies, both striped and not, walked past the two, barely paying a glance to the sobbing mare on the ground. Nothing like tens of passersby barely even looking at you to make you feel like a common hobo on the streets.
"Why?" The sobs finally came down to a few sniffles, and a twitch here and there.
"Why what?" 'D' replied, looking up at the sky. Well, he knew he was gonna be dealing with problems, he just didn't expect the first one he'd face would be this one.
"Why'd she kill me?" The pegasus slowly dragged herself into an upright sitting position, eyes still locked to the ground. "Why'd she..."
"You asked her that quite a bit, yet got no answer, right?"
"Well, yeah... then I blacked out. Saw you," Dash mumbled; guess she was holding onto her emotions.
"I dunno why she killed you. If I had an answer, I'd give it to you, but right now, I can't give anything," 'D' stared out at the streets before him; nice, wide roads, carriages moving back and forth, ponies walking up and down, chatting. Was home anything like this?
"Could you at least tell me what you are?" Dash turned her head slightly, eyes levelling on 'D'. He took a quick look at her before his eyes were forced away; that was the exact same look he got from her dead body.
"I'm... not completely sure what I am. I know I've got hands, feet, legs, torso, everything that a body is. I think I'm... hmm... starts with an 'h'," He tapped his chin in thought of the term, "human, I think?" He could readily name the parts of his body, but couldn't remember what... well, whatever you called a certain kind of... pony, he guessed? Funny, he'd said it a while ago during his slave theory. Humans. Yeah, he was a human. Couldn't remember his own name, but he was definitely a human, "Yeah, I'm a human."
"Human?" Dash raised her eyebrow, head leaning back. "Never heard of em."
"Guess that's to be expected. All my theories sounded crazy before, anyway. Guess Reid telling me I was a long way from home put the last nail in that coffin," 'D' grimaced, thinking back to that smug bastard in the cloak. Next time they ran into each other, he wouldn't miss with that scythe. "Who're you?"
"Me? Oh c'mon, you've gotta know me!"
"I... do not, no," 'D' quirked his mouth; only thing he knew about this mare for certain was her name, or at least what could be used as her name. Rainbow Dash... was that some kind of crazy nickname or something?
"Well... guess I could give you a crash course on me. I'm Rainbow Dash, fastest flyer in Equestria, all-around awesome pegasus, and one of the weather patrol team members in Ponyville!" She smiled, but it quickly faded into a half smirk, "Well, I guess I used to be. Now I'm some kind of... ghost, I guess."
"You're still called Rainbow Dash, aren't you? And you were flying pretty fast earlier."
"True, I guess. What's your name?"
"I guess I go by 'D' right now."
"'D'? That's stupid. You need an actual name... hmmm," Dash tapped her chin, seemingly distracted by the chase for a proper name for 'D'; least she wasn't crying anymore, right?
"How about... Dash?"
"That's your name!"
"I know, and it's awesome!"
"No, if only because I don't wanna get our names mixed up."
"Just try again!" 'D's eyes rolled to the heavens as he smirked; Dash did sound kinda cool, but c'mon.
"Then um... hmmm... does it have to start with D?" Dash squinted her eyes in thought; weren't there tons of names that started with D?
"I... guess not."
"How about Lightning Strike, then?"
"... Lightning Strike," 'D' reiterated, receiving a smile and nod from the pegasus before him, "Really?"
"Of course! It makes you sound really fast! You are fast, aren't you?"
"I um... I dunno, never really tried running after I woke up."
"Oh, uh... what's your special talent?"
"Yeah, you should have a Cutie Mark if you're this old," Dash walked up and threw 'D's cloak to the side, looking him over.
"Oy! Don't do that, damn it!" 'D' grabbed his cloak and pulled it back over; didn't ponies have any sense of privacy!? Red appeared on his cheeks as he looked away.
"I didn't get a good look! C'mon!" Dash stomped, then pulled the cloak away again. 'D' covered his nude crotch as she looked him over. He grumbled, looking away as the red on his cheeks brightened; sure, this'd be fine if he was with his girlfriend, and she was the one looking. Did he even have a girlfriend? Matter at hand, this was just plain wrong.
"Weird... you don't have one," Dash quirked her mouth, pushing the cloak back over the man's body. His eyes finally came back to her, a full-on drilling glare firing into her forehead.
"The hell was that for?! And what's a Cutie Mark anyway!?" He shouted, pulling his cloak in closer; oh, what he'd give for some boxers and jeans right now!
Dash turned and tapped her hip, pointing at the cloud with a lightning bolt coming down. The bolt pointed away from the rest of her body, cloud shifted forward a bit; did someone draw on her butt? "That's a Cutie Mark. I'm a speed demon, and the fastest flyer in Equestria, so mine is a cloud that moves faster than a lightning bolt."
"You fly faster than lightning?" 'D' blinked; he knew for a fact that that was impossible.
"I'm trying, but I can't fly faster than lightning. A Cutie Mark represents your special talent... so I'm just wondering why you don't have one. How old are you, anyway?"
"No idea. How about you?"
"That was a pretty quick answer. What, too afraid to sound old next to a young mare?"
"Shut up. I don't remember my age."
"Alright, alright. If you're wondering, I'm twenty-three. Got my Cutie Mark when I was ten."
Twenty-three? She didn't look that old. 'D' squinted his eyes, staring Dash in the face, looking over her features; rainbow-colored, scraggly mane, vibrant magenta eyes, a raised eyebrow, probably in confusion. She looked like a drawing... how the hell could he tell her age?
"You don't look past five to me," he finally said, grip loosening on his cloak. He shifted his weight slightly, getting... whatever flowed through his veins now back into his legs and feet. Funny, he was dead, yet his limbs could still fall asleep.
Dash smirked, raising an eyebrow, "Is that supposed to be a compliment? It's a pretty bad one."
"I guess it could be, if you want it to be. I'm just saying the obvious," 'D' shrugged; she really didn't look all that old. Shouldn't she be... taller? At least taller than his waist line. Taking her shape and figure into mind, actually, all these ponies were really weird; their heads were a mite bigger than the rest of their bodies, and their eyes seemed to take up nearly all the space on their faces. Manes and coats were strange colors, marks were drawn on their flanks to mark 'special talents'... these ponies were weird.
"Now it sounds like an insult," that flat tone felt more like a punch in the shoulder than the punch in the shoulder 'D' got. The eyes of the two spirits looked out to the street, watching the sun slowly arc down towards the horizon. "So... what now?"
"Now? Depends. You've got a lot of freedom as a ghost, considering no one can see or hear you. What do you wanna do?"
"Besides leave the country, break Pinkie's neck, and get my body back? Lots of stuff, I guess," Dash rubbed the back of her neck, eyebrow raised, "My dream was to become a Wonderbolt... guess I've always wanted to see Spitfire, one to one."
"Captain of the Wonderbolts, and a personal hero of mine," she rubbed her foreleg as she spoke, looking away.
"Don't feel comfortable talking to me?"
"Well, I don't even know you. Why am I talking to you?"
"You see anyone around here looking at us?" 'D' stuck his leg out, it passing through a pair of giggling fillies as they walked past as emphasis.
"... Guess you have a point," Dash said with a sigh, looking more depressed than before. How do you get more depressed than the moment you wake up from your murder? It should be illegal to look like that!
"Buck up, Miss Dash. We might be dead, but we haven't been taken out of the world yet. There's still a lot we can do," 'D' leaned forward, placing his arms on his crossed legs, "You wanted to go meet Spitfire one to one, right? What for?"
"Well... to talk to her, I guess. See what she's like, what leading the Wonderbolts is like. I've always dreamed of being part of that stunt team, but they're all like one big family, rather than just a... well, a team," Dash looked up, a smile finally crossing her face.
"People, or ponies in your case I suppose, always have a connection to those they work with, right? Haven't you worked with Miss Spitfire before?"
"Well, once... she came by Ponyville to supervise the creation of a tornado."
"A tornado!? Isn't that a natural disaster?! You can't make one of those!"
Dash laughed, mocking 'D's shocked look, "'Course you can! Just takes a lot of pegasi, and a lot of wingpower!" She flapped her wings on the end of her sentence, "Mine being almost sixty."
'D' just stared at her, dumbfounded, his mind still locked on 'pegasus making tornados'. How the heck would a pony as small as her make a tornado!? Or even a bunch of them! It's crazy! "Wingpower? Bunch of pegasus-"
"Pegasi, tornados, it doesn't make sense! How big was this tornado!?"
"About seventy feet tall, we shot water from a lake up into Cloudsdale. About six or seven hundred feet up, I think..."
"Ok, now I know you're insane."
"No I'm not! We really did it! Ask anypony! Twi' recorded the whole thing!"
"Twilight. Twilight Sparkle. Best friend and one of the Elements of Harmony."
Another blank stare and a few moments of silence.
"You're kidding me. You don't know what the Elements are?"
"To be honest, before now, I didn't know what a 'pegasus' was," 'D' blinked; he was happy with the basic terms, 'pony', 'mare', 'stallion', but all this? Elements? Pegasi making natural disasters to throw water hundreds of feet into the air? Cloudsdale?
"Alright, I guess I'll try and explain. We really should be asking Twi' this," Dash closed her eyes, thinking of how to explain everything. She leaned up onto her hindlegs and crossed her forelegs, mouth quirked up. 'D' sat expectantly for, what he guessed would be the most psychotic rambling of crud he'd ever heard in his afterlife, to be told straight from the horse's mouth.
"Ok, the Elements of Harmony are um... gems. Yeah, they're these necklaces that me and my friends have. Mine's Loyalty. AJ's is Honesty, Twi's is Magic, Fluttershy's is Kindness, Rarity's is Generosity, and... her's is Laughter. Put together, we can make this really powerful spell that blows bad guys away, and we've used them every time a threat against Equestria came up," Dash nodded, seemingly satisfied with her explanation. 'D' simply blinked in response; was that smoke coming out of his hood?
"Oooook... and where is one of these 'Elements'? Just so I can see if you're pulling my leg or not."
He definitely expected her to be lying; who could tell the truth about magic gems representing loyalty and stuff?
If 'D' was alive, he'd be locked up in the looney bin for listening to this mare.
"Canterlot. Castle. Canterlot. Seriously?"
"Seriously. Ponyville, Canterlot, and from what I can tell from this city... I think we're in Fillydelphia."
"I'm stuck in a world of ponies," the realization hit him almost like a train made of kittens.
Train of kittens? Wow, he really was going insane.
"Well, if you wanna put it that way, though it is pretty mean," Dash frowned.
"I don't mean to be insulting, but I... I don't belong here! And if I am as far from home as I think I am, I don't even know where my planet is," 'D' stared back down the street, blinking. Where was home? Was it in this city? This country? Planet? Even galaxy? Where was it? What was it?
"Well, it's out there somewhere, probably... who knows, maybe you're really from Equestria?"
"I don't see any other people walking around. Just loooots of ponies," 'D' quirked his mouth, finally letting down his hood. Despite the fading light, a sheen fell across the mat of brown hair on his head, steely blue eyes staring forth to the horizon. He didn't appear youthful, though his age couldn't be nailed down by anyone nearby.
"Is that your coat color?" Rainbow raised an eyebrow, poking at 'D's head. He tipped his head from the recoil of each poke, his face showing his increasing irritation. "Brown's kinda simple."
"It's what I was born with. Can you please stop poking me now?" He looked over at her and raised his own eyebrow, though the poking continued. That mischeivous smirk... she was enjoying herself, wasn't she?
"I will. Eventually," she smiled, and the poking carried on.
"Nope, now it's fun!"
"I thought it was 'Miss Dash' earlier?"
"Miss Dash, if you prefer, could you please stop now?"
"Nope! And Rainbow's fine, or Dash."
"Can you stop now, Dash?"
The infernal poking carried on for about three minutes before Rainbow giggled herself to a stop, leaving a nice red mark on the side of 'D's reddening face. At least she stopped...
"So... what to do now?" 'D' leaned back, staring up the wall behind him. Above him was a great neon sign, with the picture of a grey mare with long black hair. He tilted his head to get a better view of the name of the building, eventually scooting around to lie on his back and hold his cloak down. "Octavia's?"
"Octavia? I've heard about her... played at the Grand Galloping Gala two years ago, I think," Rainbow tapped her chin in thought, "Didn't hear much about her after that... she is pretty good though, apparently."
"Well, we're out here in the cold... wanna go in?"
"I dunno. I'm not a fan of classical... rock and roll is more my speed."
"To each, his own, I suppose. C'mon, could be worth a look," 'D' got to his feet, thankful that he couldn't feel anything anymore; at least temperature and feelings still came to him, but walking around here barefoot would likely hurt someone pretty badly. The two nodded to each other and walked along the wall, the front door pleasently close by; the sound coming from within couldn't be called pleasent, but at least the door was close... right?
If only someone had run out and screamed 'Warning! Loud Noises Ahead!' before they went in, they could've plugged their ears before the deafening sound of what seemed to be civil war assaulted their hearing. Rainbow flattened her ears against her head and weighed them down with her hooves, while 'D' nearly crushed his head from the force of covering his own ears; this music was impossible to even think through! It was so bloody loud!
No, no, this wasn't music, this was someone recording a war and changing it into some horrific, body-shattering sound! 'D's eyes slowly opened, worried that they might explode from the sound waves, and looked about the crowd with the increasing thought of having a headache. Ponies bounced around on the floor, heads banging, rubbing up against each other as they danced, all to the beat of their maestro on stage; a white unicorn with a shocking blue mane, purple sunglasses over her eyes. Seriously, why weren't her ears bleeding?
"C'mon, ponies, let's hear it! Shout your lungs out!" The booming voice of the mare on stage tore through the wall of bass currently assaulting the pony and human walking through the door, and the crowd shouted in return.
"You said this was 'worth a look'!" Rainbow shouted, her whole form shaking under every impact of the song.
"I know! I'm starting to think it wasn't such a good idea!" 'D' truly did regret sending them in here; maybe this was how he died? The lack of exploding heads helped to at least half-disprove his theory, but anyone exposed to this had to leave with some kind of medical condition! "Who is that up there!?"
"I think her name's Vinyl! A DJ! Played at Ponyville a few times, then did music for Captain Armor's wedding!"
"How did anyone survive that reception!? This music's unbearable!"
"Believe me, it sounded a lot better back then! Probably because Twilight was singing!"
"You ponies sing!?"
"It's a lot better than this! Trust me!"
The sound was getting more explosive as the song picked up towards its climax, much like artillery raining out of the sky in increasing numbers. From deafening booms to vein-rupturing blasts, and the crowd was only getting more excited as the song went on!
"Think we can leave now!?" Rainbow shouted, her eyes rolling into the back of her head; was she still feeling pain!?
"Y-Yeah, let's get outta here!" 'D' grabs her by the tail and runs through the door, a single leap throwing them quite bloody far down the street. He let go of her tail, preferring to hold her by the torso, and skidded to a halt, fourty feet down the street. He blinked, looking back at the night club.
"Ok... your name from here on is Lightning Strike. That was FAST," Rainbow said, finally taking a deep breath. Her ears flop back up, one smacking 'D' in the face, and she sighed in relief.
"You can still hear, right?"
"Yep, still clear as day," she squirmed a bit, and 'D' let her go, "Mind not grabbing my tail next time we need to go, though?"
"Sorry, it was readily available... you're alright, right?"
"Yeah. The sound was getting irritating... started getting a bad feeling in my gut," Rainbow rubbed her cheek, it a bright red. "Never had that happen before..."
"Hm. Well, whadya wanna do now? We've got a whole city to explore, after all."
"Ohhh, I've got a few ideas... just need to check something," Dash sat down and tapped her chin, the blush leaving her cheeks, "That scalpel that was hovering back then..."
"That was me."
"You? Why didn't you use it?"
"Have you ever tried moving a mountain before?"
"Twilight says I try moving cliffs with my face after every crash I go through," Dash chuckled.
"Well, it felt like that, only a blade's edge against my knuckles. It was... heavy, really heavy," 'D' lowered his gaze and folded his arms, sighing. He really was useless then, wasn't he?
"You look down... what's wrong?"
"Well... I did try to save you," another carriage races through Rainbow and 'D' as they stand in the middle of the street, the blood of the city still running, despite the two ghastly cells stopped in the middle of the street, "I tried, but couldn't do it..."
Dash blinked, staring up at him. "You tried to save me?"
"Well... yeah. I couldn't just let someone die in front of me... maybe I shouldn't've tried at all..."
"No! No! It's really cool that you tried! I... understand why you couldn't. You weren't even there after all... thanks. If that scalpel was any lighter though, it'd be her standing next to you, and not me," Dash chuckled again, looking down at the bottom of 'D's cloak, "I dunno if you could've gone through that... so maybe it's better that I'm here."
"I can't see the sense in that... sure, she would've been here, but I would've run off a long time ago, left her alone. You'd still be living a good life, right?" 'D' looked over at Dash's face, surprised to see a sudden strike of guilt cut across her eyes as she looked away, "... Pinkie was right?"
"I don't wanna talk about it..." Dash turned and started walking down the street, 'D' running up to match her pace. The two walked down the road, occassionally taking in the sights; the city really did look the part, skyscrapers reaching up to the clouds, hotels all over, restaurants dotting the street and filled with customers with upturned noses, massive appartment complexes... when the moon finally started to rise, street lamps kicked into gear, lighting the street with an almost ethereal green-blue glow.
Their eyes would always wander back to each other, though, and every time 'D' caught sight of the pegasus' eyes, his heart would fall further; she was dead, sure, that was something to be sad about, but it felt like this dug deeper... a far worse slash to her psyche. He hunted for the words to try and ease her into talking about it, but every time he settled on something, the creeping thought that this would make things worse would stop his mind in its tracks. How do you ease a troubled girl into talking to you? And is it the right thing to do in the first place?
Maybe just talking to her about what she finds fun would be a good start?
"Hey um... Dash," 'D' scratched his forearm, looking over at the mare to his side. The two round a bend into a quieter part of town, the street looking more like a dead alleyway than anything.
"Yeah?" She kept her eyes turned towards the wall scrolling past them.
"You wanted to do something here, right?"
"Yeah... I was thinking about pranking some ponies."
"Pranks?" 'D' raised his brow; was it really that unexpected?
"Yeah! I'd do 'em all the time back home, lots of fun! Always ended with a good laugh," Rainbow smiled, genuinely for once. Well, that's one bridge crossed... Rainbow liked pranks.
"So, anyone in mind?" 'D' smirked, rubbing his hands together; who knows, it might be fun!
"Let's see if anypony's down here," Dash trotted forward, pushing 'D' into a jog. They easily kept pace with each other, rounding a corner to find a single pony walking along. They smirked to each other and quickly joined the pony in her walk, stepping in time with her. A simple yellow coat, a red mane, purple eyes full of confidence, this mare would be easy! Least, that was what 'D' hoped. The final detail was the horn adorning her forehead.
"Any ideas, Dash?" 'D' put his hands on his hips, looking down to make sure the cloak still covered his body. He really needed to find some clothes...
"I'm thinking. We could try the old telescope trick with ink."
"Leave 'em with a black eye?"
"Yep! But I dunno if this mare has a telescope... hmmm..."
"Nah, I tried that before. Spike couldn't stop scratching for a week."
"Baby dragon, Twilight's assistant, I'll tell you later," Dash made a throwaway gesture with her hoof, returning to her thoughts. Can't rush the artist, obviously... "Hmmm... maybe we should watch her for a bit, see where her home is?"
"Isn't that stalking?"
"We're dead, what's it matter? I just wanna blow off some steam before going to Canterlot."
"Thought you wanted to go see Spitfire first?"
"Hmmm... so many places to go to... anyway, focus, we've got a prank to pull here!" Some excitement returned to her eyes, the shine from when 'D' first saw her coming back.
"You sure bounce back fast."
"Hey, you've gotta stay positive, right?" Dash smiled, placing her gaze back on the mare between them. A prank pulled by two ghosts on a mare walking alone? To anyone else, this'd be pretty cruel, but to the two wandering next to her, it was a release that needed to happen.
About six minutes later, the trio arrived at a hotel called 'The Toff'; as if anyone could mistake the name of the place with that massive, gold sign. The mare walked in with a smirk, nodding to the valet at the doorside, and spoke a short greeting. Her voice sounded quite refined-
"A Canterlot accent?" Rainbow filled in 'D's thought, and he looked over at her, "That's weird. Most of these ponies sound like somepony from Ponyville..."
"People get around, don't they? Maybe she's travelling?" 'D' shrugged as he passed through the door, barely nudging it. The two stuck to their target as she walked up to the counter, the old stallion stroking his silver handlebar mustache as she approached.
"Ah, Misses Blue, it's good to have you back with us. Usual room?" He said with the biggest smile he could muster. 'D' simply grimaced at it; looked like a salesman who was trying too hard to get you to buy his product...
"Yes, thank you, Mister Tender. If you could send room service up in fifteen minutes as well, that would be grand," The mare nodded to him, receiving a quick 'tut' in return as the stallion walked to the back of his counter area. Figuring this a good time to look around, 'D' took in his surroundings; his tongue immediately regretted the warm taste of toffee. Seriously, the place looked so upper-class, so clean, so... brown, you could taste toffee! What was toffee, anyway?
"Lightning, focus!" 'D' jerked out of his flavorful trance as Missus Blue walked through him, heading towards a rather ornate carpeted staircase at the end of the room. The two quickly followed their prankee as she went up, Dash jumping up a few steps at a time, "Huh... I feel pretty light."
"It's nice, isn't it?" 'D' folded his arms, looking around as he followed the mare up. Everything around him seemed to be made of gold, bronze, or some kind of high-class silk or wool... he wished he could physically feel, just so he could rub his feet on the thick, red carpet below him. Ok, so being dead had its drawbacks...
"Yeah! No kidding!" Dash giggled to herself, jumping higher and higher until she managed to get her head hit on the ceiling. She frowned, rubbing the top of her head, "Weird, we can walk through doors just fine..."
"Maybe we can't go through some things?"
"Maybe. It's still annoying, though... hope I can still stand on clouds," Rainbow gave her wings a flap, putting herself in the air, "And at least I can still fly."
"You couldn't before?"
"I thought I was just kinda flying through my will, or something... I didn't flap my wings a lot, but I got tons of speed whenever I did."
The trio carried on in silence. Rainbow looked to the mare as they approached her hotel room, seeing her confidence slip away with every step. By the time they got to the door, she was almost shaking. 'D' and Rainbow shared a look of concern before looking back to their target.
"Maybe we shouldn't prank her..."
"Well... yeah, maybe we shouldn't..." Rainbow rubbed the back of her neck, dismayed by this turn of events, "What's got her so shaken though?"
"Well, nothing stopping us from finding out," 'D' sighed; going into another's room without permission... was that rude?
The two wait for the mare to unlock her door and walk in, then both walk to the threshold.
"We're coming in!" They both shout, then smirk at each other. Walking inside was a real experience though.
It was like stepping into another world for a man who's last sleep was had on a dirt path, and a pegasus who spends most of her time sleeping over a rural town. The room was set up for a Princess; velvet curtains adorned with gold lining, thick, purple carpet covering every part of the floor, masterfully crafted end tables... and the bed. The only word suited for that bed was 'wow'; it looked like something you'd see in a movie, a big heart-shaped bed with pink cushions, red blankets, a thin, silk sheet just under it... perfectly made as well.
"Woooow..." 'D' muttered, jaw hanging open as he looked about the room.
"No kidding... it's nothing like my cloud house, but this is... yeah, wow," Rainbow walked in, eyes moving about the room. They both could hardly believe such luxury could exist outside of a castle! They moved about the room as Missus Blue wandered about the room, gathering a few things and placing them on the bed. Hair brush, a tube of... something, lipstick, among other things. 'D' wandered over to the bed and looked over Blue's shoulder, appraising the items.
"Hm, these are interesting..."
"Huh? Lemme see," Rainbow jumped up on 'D's back and looked over his shoulder, staring at everything, "What's this tube for?"
"I dunno. Anything you can think of?"
"Bit short for that."
"Who would need this much? Unless it was bulk disinfectant..."
"Then what do you think it is?"
'D' stroked his chin, thinking. Blue walked through the duo appraising her things, heading over to a nearby desk. A clatter rises from the desk as she pulls out a small notepad, quill and ink pot, and sets about writing. "Not sure what this'd be..."
"Maybe if we wait here, we'll find out?"
"Solid idea," 'D' nodded, standing up. Rainbow slipped off his back and landed on her flank, not making a sound.
"Hey! At least tell me when you're standing up!"
"Sorry," 'D' smiled apologetically, rubbing the back of his neck. His eyes went over to the mare at the desk; was she shaking? He moved over to her side and looked at the journal, "Sorry, miss, gonna read a bit, here..."
Sindus, 67th of Winter, 1781,
Another day at the bar ended, and I got my paycheck. Things are going fine so far; I've got a coltfriend, I've got a steady job, even a stable home here. The city air is kind of getting to me, and the walks through the alleyways seem to get darker every night. I stave it off though... the relationship I've got leaves me satisfied every night though!
"Sindus?" 'D' tilted his head, staring at it.
"Yeah. Don't you have a calendar back home?" Rainbow jumped back onto 'D's back, looking over his shoulder.
"Well... I guess I did, but I'm pretty certain Sindus wasn't on it."
"It's one of the days of the week."
"Ah... and the sixty seventh of Winter?"
"Date of the season."
"Huh... interesting," With a nod of recognition, 'D' stood up again. Rainbow grabbed his shoulders in response.
"Sorry! I'm not used to giving piggy backs all the time!" 'D' huffed; this mare could fly, couldn't she? And she sure as heck didn't have a boulder tied to her leg, "Guess we're waiting now?"
"I'm gonna look around a bit more then," 'D' lifted Rainbow off his back and put her down on the ground; she really was light, lighter than air almost. The pair started moving around the room, Rainbow often perching herself at the window to stare at the stars while 'D' looked around, coming back to the journal from time to time. Blue simply found satisfaction in lying on the bed, staring at the door. The two ghosts in the room with her would often lock their eyes on her figure, finding it difficult to look away.
From before, she looked like any other pony; yellow coat, red mane, horn, violet eyes. But in the lighting of the room, her figure came out under the rose light of the bed's overhanging curtain... she was shapely. How the heck could a pony be 'shapely'? Yet there she was, bed balancing her body perfectly, tail draped over her hindlegs like a silk shawl of red. She lay on the bed with a foreleg under her head, the other layed on her side as she looked at the door. With a grunt, she adjusted herself slightly to better show off her hips... those bright, yellow, round hips, outlined by the pink of the bed and the rose from the light. The silk red of her tail covered just enough of her rear to drag the eyes back to her Cutie Marks. 'D' blinked, stopping mid step.
"Wow..." he mumbled, simply standing there, one leg slightly in the air. Something landed on his head, and he looked up to see the fur of Rainbow's belly, "I guess you-"
"See something I like? Yeah, a bit..."
"Get off my head..." 'D' took her off, getting a face-full of wing as he set her down.
"... Wish I had a figure like that," Rainbow blinked, staring, "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I doubt it... but let's say I am. Enlighten me," 'D' set his foot back on the ground and looked to the pegasus beside him.
"Well, I'm thinking we should probably get out of here..."
"Let's say things are about to get a liiiittle hot in here."
"Little ho- oooooh... yeah, say no more."
No sooner had that been said than a knock on the door was heard. The two ghosts froze, staring at the door, while the mare on the bed simply giggled; at least someone there was ready for what was coming... the door soon opened as Rainbow and 'D' made their way around the bed to it, someone walking through. Rainbow froze as the stallion walked through the threshold, 'D' stopping soon after.
"Hey Dash, something wrong?"
"Oh my gosh... oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh... I-I know that stallion!"
"Who is it...?"
White coat, blue mane, Cutie Mark of a lightning bolt with wings... big deal, looks a bit like the rest of the ponies around, only a little bigger.
"You've gotta be kidding me!" Rainbow fell on her flank, staring at the stallion walking through the room. He threw a smile that would flip any guy's stomach upside down, and set any woman's engine running a million miles an hour, to the mare on the bed. He quickly hopped up on it with a flap of his wings, and laid down next to the yellow mare lying there.
"Ooookaaaay, we gotta go!"
'D' dragged Rainbow out of the room to the sounds of giggling, grimacing to himself.
"Lemme go!" Rainbow yanked back, flailing for something to grab on to. What's with her?!
"Rainbow, this isn't right! Just c'mon! We'll come back once they're... well, done!"
It was a bit of a fight, but despite Rainbow's struggles, the two managed to get out of the room just as things were getting good. How could 'D' tell? Rainbow was becoming progressively more frantic in her struggles to stay. The two sat down at the stairwell, staring at the wall, contemplating what just happened. The red in their faces was still fading away.
"Well... that was interesting."
"Huh? S-sorry, kinda lost myself there..."
"Nah, just um... n-nothing, don't worry about it," she scuffed the floor and shook her head, looking away.
Should he prod? She was already pretty unstable, and seeing this stallion just seemed to shove her further towards the edge. Was there something there before? Maybe a safe question first...
"So... who was that?"
"Huh?" Rainbow turned around, keeping her eyes to the floor, taking hazardous glances up to 'D's face.
"Who was the stallion?"
"Oh, um... he's uh..." Rainbow tapped the floor, mouth hanging on each word. She quickly shook her head to get the stars out of her eyes, and she focused on 'D', "He's the uh... second in command of the Wonderbolts."
"Him? He didn't look all that impressive," 'D' tapped his chin. Such a basic color scheme... nothing really eye catching. Was he really that high up?
"His name's Soarin', and he is that impressive. One of the best stunt flyers in the country, and someone I've been trying to impress for the last year, along with Captain Spitfire."
"Guess that'd make him one of your heroes?"
"Of course! I've always wanted to get into the Wonderbolts! Ever since I was in Flight School, and Fleetfoot came to speak to the school... guess you could say I've been starstruck," Rainbow smirked, thinking back.
"Yeah. Every single one is an incredible flyer... though I'm not sure how the team finds all their members. I think they pull from the regular ponies in Cloudsdale, and pegasi from around the cities. Every chance I got to hang out with them though, even for an hour, I'd go and tear the sky up."
"You get your chances?"
"Nearly every time, though it did get pretty close with the Best Young Flyers Competition two years ago... then again, I did manage to pull off a Sonic Rainboom."
"Yeah, it's this really cool flight technique, really rare too. You fly up really high and go into a freefall, pumping your wings as you race towards the ground. You go faster and faster until the air around you just lets go, and BOOM! You're flying at really fast speeds with nothing pushing you back! It's incredible!" Rainbow had stars in her eyes as she spoke; this must've been one wild ride, then!
"No kidding? And the Wonderbolts saw it?"
"Ahhh... they were actually unconscious... I had to go save them. I guess they got hit by Rarity as she was falling down from Cloudsdale."
The squeaking of a bed interrupted the conversation for a moment, the two ghosts looking back to the door. 'D' simply lowered his eyelids; well that was quick. Rainbow simply sighed, looking down the staircase.
"Ah... you were saying, Rainbow?"
"R-Right," Rainbow threw one last glance to the door before turning back to 'D'. What was that look? Looked kinda like when she first saw that stallion... Soarin'? "Rarity was falling from Cloudsdale at the end of the Best Young Flyers Competition, which is this big contest run by the pegasi of Cloudsdale and the Wonderbolts. The winner got to spend a day with the stunt team, so I obviously had to go."
'D' nodded, watching the pegasus brighten up as she went on with her tale. So, that's another few things she liked... speed, flying, and the Wonderbolts. Good to know.
"We got up to Cloudsdale with the rest of my friends riding in Twilight's hot air balloon. I'd gone ahead early to meet them there, and while we waited for the contest to start, I showed them around. The weather factory there is incredible, but the jobs are boring."
"Yeah... we manufacture weather there. Thunderheads, rain clouds, tornados... the whole thing."
"No kiddin'... wonder if we had that kind of thing back home...?"
"Well, I showed them around, and when it came time for the contest, I'd found out that Rarity joined! Rarity, a unicorn!"
"How was she able to join? Unicorns don't have wings, do they?"
"Well no, of course not, they've got horns," Rainbow tapped her forehead, "And some of em are really snobby, like Rarity, but Twilight's nice... anyway, she entered into the contest because Twilight gave her these really funny-looking butterfly wings. I waited for my turn, not nervous at all," Rainbow put on a big smirk and a raise of the brow, "And she went up with me... Rarity went up on my turn."
"Is Rarity really that bad?"
"Nah, of course not! Well, maybe, but she's usually pretty nice... we butt heads, but that's what friends do sometimes. Anyway, she had this whole... dance routine set up, and she even turned off my rock and put on this frilly classical music! How was I supposed to perform with that playing!?"
"I hear that," well yeah, he heard that, he wasn't completely sure if he understood her plight.
"So I was sh-, rocking my maneuvers when she came to the climax," Rainbow nearly hissed out the word, squinting her eyes, "And flew up towards the sun. Everypony was amazed by how good her wings looked in the sunlight, but then they lit on fire... why? I dunno, some sciencey mumbo jumbo Twilight could tell you. Anyway, her wings burned away and she started falling. She would've been fine with the cloud walking spell, if there wasn't a giant hole in the arena... but yeah, falling. Wonderbolts went after her, and I guess she hit them hard enough to knock 'em out cold."
"So you went in to save the day?"
"'Course I did. I'd never leave a friend hanging like that... or falling. So I ditched my routine and flew down after 'em. Kept going faster and faster and faster, and this big cone of air was building up around me. I couldn't hear a thing during that fall, it was amazing! Everything blurred around me, I hit a cloud and it exploded behind me! Really, it exploded! But that wasn't the best part, ohohoooo no, the best part was about to come..."
'D' raised his brow, leaning in; Rainbow did know how to tell a good story!
"The cone kept getting tighter around me, pressing in," Rainbow gestured with her hooves, pressing in on the air between them, "Until... boom. It all just released!" She threw her hooves out, just missing 'D's nose by a hair, "Woops, sorry... anyway, there was this huge blast that went off behind me, and I guess I managed to double my speed... I caught up with the Wonderbolts and Rarity in no time, grabbed em all, and for that extra flourish, I drew a rainbow over the arena," she nodded, obviously satisfied with her retelling. And what a retelling it was!
"That's pretty damn impressive!"
"I know, right? Of course, I'm always impressive," Rainbow flicked her mane back with a confident smirk. The light was finally back in her eyes, brighter than ever. 'D' chuckled, leaning back with a folding of his arms. "What's that laugh for?"
"You're finally happy again," 'D' smiled.
"Well... yeah, I guess I am," Rainbow smirked back, shrugging. She looked back to the wall, the smirk becoming a grin.
The squeaking of the bed finally came back into ear shot, followed by mad grunting. 'D' furrowed his brow and looked to Rainbow, getting the same look back.
"No way in Tartarus am I going in there right now."
They both stared back at the wall, trying to block the sounds out. After about six seconds of sitting there, they decided their valiant ignorance of what was happening on the other side of the wall was for naught, and walked off to the lobby. Back among the golden lights, scents of oak, and the nice old stallion behind the counter. 'D' leaned on the counter as Rainbow wandered around, looking at things. A few magazines littered a shiny table in the corner of the room, flanked by two black couches; must be leather.
Rainbow went over to the table, staring at the cover. She poked at it, her hoof going straight through the magazine and the table, much to her chagrin.
"Well this sucks," she scuffed the ground, reading over the cover. "Why couldn't anypony just leave these open?"
"Who would guess ghosts came by and wanted to read?"
"Yeah, I guess."
The next few minutes carried on in boredom, silence, and general half-interest in the building around them. 'D's thoughts fell back to the mare upstairs, and that journal entry she'd written. Why'd she seem so nervous? Was Soarin' a bad guy or something? Nah, couldn't be... she seemed pretty happy from the writing. Could unicorns 'shake' like that? "Hey, Rainbow."
"Yeah?" Rainbow was hovering near a bookcase, her interest locked on the spines of the book.
"Can unicorns 'shake'?"
"I mean from earlier, that Missus Blue mare. Her quill was shaking while she was writing."
"Yeah, what about it?"
"Can unicorns shake like that?"
"I guess they can, if you saw it happen."
True. Stupid question. Ok, how about stupid question number two?
"Whadya figure was making her so nervous?"
"From the looks of her journal entry, she's dating one of the Wonderbolts. That'd send chills up my spine, even," Rainbow still seemed more interested in the books than the discussion.
"How do you figure they met?"
"Unicorn and a Pegasus stunt flyer? Maybe they work together?"
"Journal entry said she worked at a bar though."
"Ponies get smashed all the time."
'D' looked over at the staircase, seeing a white stallion walking down the steps. He had this stupid grin on his face like he'd just won the lottery, but was too sleepy to really shout out with joy about it, and his blue mane had red hairs along it. He stumbled up to the counter like a common drunk and slapped down a couple of coins, simply nodding to the stallion behind the counter before wandering off. Was that lipstick on his Cutie Mark? The bolt seemed a bit more red than before.
"Need t' stop drinkin' so much when I visit Ocean," he mumbled as he walked out the door.
"Wow, someone woke up on the wrong side of the sack."
"Yeah, no kidding. Does a stallion really look like that after... you know?" Rainbow flew back over, landing on 'D's head... well, kind of landing on it; she held herself up on his head using her forehooves, with her hindlegs draped over his shoulders.
"I have no idea, but it looks like he had a good time. Guess that's our cue then."
"Onwards!" Dash proclaimed, pointing to the staircase with a big smile. How dramatic...
"Yes, ma'am, Captain!" 'D' sarcastically shouted with a salute.
The climb up the first flight of steps was uneventful, though having a pegasus perched on his back did annoy 'D' a bit. It was the rest of the climb that started to bother the pair of ghosts; it started as a small sound. Inexplicable, but it was there... it slowly refined itself into sounds with spaces in between, refining further into a muffled noise, coming in short bursts... then refined itself fully, as they approached the door and passed through it, as sniffling followed by a sob or two...
The sobs and sniffling... coming from a black creature sitting next to the window, one that caused Rainbow's grip on 'D's head to tighten exponentially.
"W-What the hay...!?" She stuttered, hopping off 'D's back and onto the floor. She slowly approached the creature with wide eyes, unbelieving of what was before her. 'D' followed close behind, keeping his eyes locked on the black creature. Thankfully, it didn't seem to notice them, though whether that was because they were dead, or it was just ignoring them, was anyone's guess.
"What is that? Another pony?" 'D' asked, slinking along beside Rainbow.
"That's no pony... to call it one would be an insult the rest of us," she hissed, every bit of venom she could muster riding on her words, "These... bugs were supposed to've been blown away a few months ago."
It certainly had the features of a bug; clear, green wings, a hard exoskeleton, the glint of a compound eye catching the light as 'D' approached, but that's where the similarities stopped. It really did look like a pony, with four legs, a muzzle, horn, wings... but why were there holes all over it? It was like something picked this little guy up and took quite a few bites out of it.
A swish passed through the room, just like Rainbow's hoof through the creature's head. She grunted, throwing another punch, then another.
"Rainbow!" 'D' grabbed one of her flailing forelegs, but she kept on swinging with the other one. "Calm down!"
"Why!? These bugs are the reason the wedding went so badly!"
"Just stop flailing! You can't do anything to it anyway!" 'D' yanks Rainbow's flailing body away from the 'bug', and she eventually calms down. She simply glares at the back of the creature, as if trying to yank its heart out with her mind and crush it, forcing the creature to watch before it died. "What's with you?"
"What's with it!? Those bugs ruined Captain Armor's wedding, and a whole attack on Canterlot was carried out! I was happy thinking they were all out of our manes, but seeing this thing here... I don't even have a word for how mad I am right now!" Rainbow shivers, her glare only intensifying. She seemed to stay put though, thankfully.
'D' turned his eyes away from the furious mare over to the table, seeing the journal with a newly scrawled entry. He walked over to it, and planting a hand on the table beside it, began to read.
Day 100 of Fillydelphia Occupation,
Things are getting more difficult with holding all this up. I'm satisfied every night... but I just don't love this stallion, even though he provides me with more love than I'll ever need. He's a sharp one, knows plenty of flight maneuvers, has a good personality...
Being this way is tough, since I can't give my heart to anypony. I'm stuck simply taking love from others, without being able to give any of it back... ever since that explosion in Canterlot, that's just been more obvious without my kin around.
Still no sign of Q anywhere... hopefully I'll find her.
Now that was different... no date, just a hundred days of 'occupying' Fillydelphia. Must be the name of the city.
"Rainbow... what are these?"
She broke her intense glare with some visible difficulty, and looked over at 'D', causing an instinctive retreat in the ghost. "Sorry... these things are Changelings."
"Changelings?" 'D' composed himself, moving away from the wall.
"Twilight had a word for them, said they were 'shapeshifters', but I don't think they deserve such a fancy name. So, they're bugs to me."
"Ruining a wedding?"
"And attacking Canterlot. I still wanna buck whoever pulled this stunt in the face," Rainbow set her glare back on the bug before her. 'D' tapped the desk, thinking.
"I guess you wanna do something about it?"
"Of course I do."
"Seems to me like you're just trying to take the Changeling's skin off with your eyes."
"I wanna do a whole lot more than that to these things..."
'D' sighed, looking over the journal entry again. Who's 'Q'? And what's with the depressing writing? There were still things to do... maybe it could wait?
"Well, considering we can't even touch the Changeling, it doesn't make much difference. We've still got places to go to, Rainbow."
"... Yeah, I suppose."
"Where d'ya wanna go then? Cloudsdale and the Wonderbolts?" 'D' put a hand on his hip, looking at the pegasus. That glare still hadn't fallen off her face... what happened that could piss her off this much? Sure, ruining a wedding was bad, really bad, but it wasn't her getting married, was it? Then again, an attack on a city is reason enough to get angry.
"Cloudsdale sounds good... I also I wanna see my friends again."
"Where to first, then?"
Rainbow blinked, taking her eyes off the Changeling. She stared at the floor, brow furrowed, and a grimace splayed across her face. 'D' looked outside, leaving Rainbow to her thoughts, and the full moon stared back at him before a curtain of stars. Something flashed in his vision, a sight of grey clouds, the buildings vanishing to reveal rolling hills, the echo of... some voice bouncing around in his ears before the vision altogether shatters. He blinked a few times, rubbing his eyes, and stared back at the moon. What the heck was that?
A cough caught 'D's attention, and he turned to Rainbow. "Made a decision?"
"... Cloudsdale. I... I'm not ready to go home yet," Rainbow averted her gaze from 'D', looking at the floor again.
"Fair enough. Where is it?"
"It'll take a bit of looking, but it's really hard to miss."
"And given from what you told me earlier, you're carrying me?"
"Cloudsdale is in the sky, isn't it?"
"And you're the one here who can fly."
"Alright, I'll carry you," Rainbow rolled her eyes and walked to the window sill. She gave the bug one last glare before hopping up and splaying out her wings, "Hop on."
"Will do," 'D' nodded and walked over. With a quick hop, he was on her back and holding on to her neck, "Onwards, faithful steed!"
"Don't say that."
"Sorry, kinda flew out on its own..."
With an apologetic smile made as a peace offering to a bone-chilling glare, the two were off with a gentle flap of Rainbow's wings. The two ghosts flew off into the night, leaving a rather chilled Changeling behind in their wake, and it looked up to see two passing vapors vanish into the starlit sky. She quickly shook her head; trick of the eyes against the stars... there's no way she could've seen what she thought she saw.