Chapter Thirteen: Forever Longing
Prestige Luster nervously strode through the streets of Subterra with her Nightmare guide, trying to ignore the looks she was getting here and there from demons and other creatures. The suspicious looks were bad enough... but there were plenty who were smiling tenderly, and some of them had already taken to calling her 'Lady Prestige,' and 'the Prince's lover.'
Prestige wondered awkwardly if Antares knew how much these creatures adored and looked up to him... and how many of them considered Antares to be just like them. And more, that made her wonder silently just what kind of darkness might lurk inside Antares himself, how many similarities he actually bore to these demons that were hidden beneath the surface, or maybe he only suppressed from the public eye...
But it didn't bother her: he made her feel safe, and good, and protected, and Prestige smiled a little before she stared as the Nightmare led her through the heavy, welcoming and open golden gates leading into the grounds of a beautiful palace. There was an enormous yard that strange trees and gardens of flowers and plants grew through in almost wild clusters in front of the gorgeous building of red stone and golden steel, and there was something... exotic about the whole design. It wasn't spiky and scary like the rest of the darker stone buildings that she had seen through the enormous cavern systems that made up Subterra, but rounded, and beautiful, and attractive, with strange wild flora growing here and there along it, soaking in the heat that radiated through the building.
The Nightmare smiled over at Prestige, then it bowed its head to her politely before simply vanishing, and Prestige squeaked a bit before she hesitantly looked at the golden stairs leading up to a beautiful, open archway leading into the palace. She felt like she was going to see some sultan or vizier, and she couldn't help but wonder how a demon that hadn't left an exactly good impression on her could afford all this.
Then Burning Desire pranced out of the open archway, looking down at her brightly and calling delightedly: “Come, come! What a pleasure, my sweet, oh, don't wait outside! How lucky am I, getting to teach such a pretty young thing, in my own home, and enjoy both the the benefits of tutoring another as well as the delight of having such a beautiful creature around!”
He laughed, and Prestige sighed tiredly before she nervously made her way up the steps as the fiery stallion eyed her appreciatively. She grimaced and shivered, half-wishing he'd at least hide his leering before he turned with a smile, turning and leading her forwards down the massive entrance hall. “Come, darling, I have a room all set up for us... and then once that's done, we can head over to the training area, how does that sound?”
He grinned roguishly down at her as Prestige flushed, looking hurriedly away at the red stone walls as they passed beautiful tapestries and coats of arms, before she stared: the hall was bottle shaped, and they were just stepping out of the thinner neck into the wide, open rectangular body... and here, lining the walls, were not tapestries but instead statues of gorgeous mares standing in sultry, provocative, and sometimes downright debauched poses that revealed every last detail of... “Oh god! How can you decorate your home like this! What about... god!”
“Oh, as if any god doesn't see this every day.” Burning Desire argued, shaking his head with a huff before the enormous, fiery demon leaned against her: he was almost twice the size of her, and his burning fire mane and tail both licked at her body... but the warmth they spread to her was only uncomfortable purely because the fire sent strange heat racing through her instead of burning painfully. “I have some statues of stallions down in the outer garden if you'd prefer to ogle, those, though... just as detailed, in various states of-”
“You horrible... pervert!” Prestige spat, looking up at him with horror as she stumbled to halt, looking once over her shoulder at the statues that lined one side of the wall before she glared forwards at Burning Desire.
The demon stallion struck a shocked pose as he grabbed his face with his front hooves, staring down at her as fiery mane and tail both burst backwards. “What? A Lust demon is a pervert? Oh, inform the magistrate, this is so unexpected and unacceptable!” Burning Desire proceeded to flail his hooves violently around, then he suddenly dropped them flat and leaned down, grinning widely as he pushed nose-to-nose with her, and Prestige stared stupidly up at him. “Some of the statues are modeled off me. Wanna guess which ones?”
“The ugly one at the very end with its rump raised in the air.” Prestige snapped, glaring towards the end of the hall, and Burning Desire's face puckered as he glared down at her. “Can we get to training? I'm beginning to think that you have nothing to teach but... but... how to be disgusting! And how to waste money on... there must be two dozen of these tacky statues here, and I dare not imagine how much other... filth and garbage you've lined this entire ridiculous castle with!”
“Hey!” Burning Desire put a hurt look on his face. “This isn't a castle. It's my palace of pleasure. My fiery furnace of fu-”
Prestige gave him the most horrible look she could, and Burning Desire cleared his throat before he sighed tiredly, then he nodded a few times before gesturing at the open set of crimson double doors at the far end of the hall. “Oh, fine, filly. You mortals are all so touchy these days. Even Twilight Sparkle, who I thought would be much more open-minded to this sort of thing. But it amuses me, I suppose, so it's a fair tradeoff.”
“My disgust amuses you.” Prestige said flatly, and Burning Desire nodded with a childlike smile before he turned and pranced forwards, and Prestige sighed tiredly before she mumbled and followed after him, wincing a bit at the posed statues on either side of the hall.
She followed him into another hallway, ignoring the pictures and tapestries that depicted things she tried her hardest not to look at... or worse, imagine... but thankfully, after a short walk, Burning Desire led her into a curiously-shaped room. At first Prestige winced a little when he closed the heavy metal door behind her, worried about what he was going to do... but then he simply strode down the center of the mostly-empty room, between the six plain pillars that fed up into the heavy ironwood rafters above.
He stopped in front of an empty fireplace, then flicked his horn with a smile, and it burst into vibrant life before he sighed in relief and turned around. Prestige was still looking hesitantly back and forth, but she was surprised to see no ornaments on the wall. Then she glanced up as Burning Desire said gently: “Come here, and gaze into the fire. This is my meditation room.”
Prestige hesitated, but then she grimaced and nodded, walking forwards, and she winced when he slipped a foreleg companionably around her when she sat down in front of the fireplace. She looked down into the fire, studying the way the orange flames danced before flinching a bit as the demon's mouth pressed almost to her ear, whispering: “This is where I come for quiet contemplation... my inner stronghold, my special place. Precious few ever see this... only those... who are special themselves...”
He stroked slowly along her side, then down her back, and Prestige swallowed hard as he leaned into her, nuzzling against the side of her neck as he licked his lips slowly, and the female shivered before muttering: “You need to learn personal space.”
“I can feel your desires, Prestige Luster. Come now, Antares wouldn't mind.” he almost pleaded, before smiling and dropping his face against her neck, making her flinch again... and yet she didn't pull away. Yes, he made her uncomfortable: he scared her a little, and he was touchy and grabby, but somehow, at the same time, she wasn't precisely worried... and Burning Desire chuckled quietly as he murmured, apparently tasting her emotions or her mind clearly enough to answer: “Because I can't force myself on you, darling. Oh, I can seduce, tease, touch, lust and long for you, but I can't force myself on anyone. I'm lust and greed, but what I want... what I need... is for people to give in to me...”
Slowly, his hoof rubbed down towards her flank, but he grasped her gently as he kissed a tender spot on the side of the unicorn's neck, making her shiver again as she shifted and muttered: “Get... off me.”
“Just a kiss? Just a taste?” Burning Desire leaned up, his breath slipping into her ear, making her tremble at the heat and the feeling and the desires that rollicked inside her even as she fought back against his influence, but everything was so hot and he was... he was so handsome...
Prestige clenched her eyes shut, resisting, and Burning Desire almost whimpered, making her curse in frustration as she glared at him before their eyes met, and she said slowly and firmly: “I... I love Antares.”
She twitched a bit, and then a thud ran through her at this confession: said to herself as much as him. The demon stared at her... and then he sighed wistfully, but smiled at her all the same as he leaned forwards and nuzzled her slowly, but it was different this time as his forelegs slipped up, not grasping her but instead embracing her as he smiled with genuine feeling for her. “Lucky filly.”
She frowned, freezing up a little in his embrace... but then he pulled back and gazed into her eyes, sliding his hooves up and grasping her shoulders as he smiled at her kindly. “You mortals are so silly. But I was silly once, too, and... I suppose I'm silly now. Very well, shall we get started?”
“I... what?” Prestige said slowly, staring across at him before she asked uneasily: “Is... are you... is this some kind of trick?”
“Oh, what, I stop groping you and now you get suspicious?” Burning Desire glared at her, and then he huffed a little. “No, filly. I do have my respect, and... no means no. Well. The fiftieth no means no. Of course, if you ever change your mind, just let me know...” He grinned toothily, leaning forwards and licking his lips as he added positively: “And oh, filly, I can help you learn just how to please a stallion in all the right ways if you want, too...”
He began to lean forwards, his hooves sliding down her sides as Prestige stared at him... before she almost fell over in shock when the metal door was smashed open and Aphrodisia charged in, barking wildly. Burning Desire squealed in terror as he hurriedly leapt away from Prestige, then he transformed in a burst of flame into a firebird that hurriedly shot up to the rafters above, half-flopping over one girder as Aphrodisia charged around in a circle below him, still barking like a dog and sending splatters of drool in all directions.
Then the young demon skidded to a halt before glaring over at Prestige, who was breathing hard as she stared dumbly back at Aphrodisia. The pale-pink mare growled at her, then she spat to the side before sitting down and glowering up at Burning Desire, shouting: “Mommy sent me to tell you to keep your hooves off Nova's marefriend, or she's going to geld you, dumb... bird-butt!”
“I wasn't doing anything!” Burning Desire half-argued, half-whined, and Prestige looked up in surprise as the firebird hopped up to his talons and glared down at him, the demon speaking as fluently now as ever. “You know the rules for my kind, or at least you should... I'm not like you, Dominia demon! Lust and Wrath get to take anything they want, they have to agree for me to get what I need... and besides, I don't interfere with love.”
“Love?” Aphrodisia stared stupidly over at Prestige, who turned beet-red as she glared angrily up at Burning Desire when the firebird nodded contritely. Then she growled again, turning towards Prestige and slowly storming over to her, before the unicorn yelped as the young demon easily pinned her by one shoulder with a strong hoof, glaring down into her eyes as she asked coldly: “Did you just tell the flaming demon up there that you love Antares?”
“Stop implying that I'm gay! Oh, I admire and respect a handsome male form, but I'd never have sex with another stallion... well... unless, you know, there wasn't anyone else around. Or it was me. I would have sex with myself a lot.” The firebird licked his beak, looking almost dreamy for a moment as he hugged himself with his wings. “That doesn't count, though.”
Aphrodisia glared up at the fire demon crankily, and then she returned her eyes to Prestige, who swallowed thickly before nodding weakly once... and for a few moments, there was silence before the young demon slowly stepped back off her, then she leaned down and said quietly: “You better. Because he could do so much better than you, Prestige Luster. Because you don't deserve him. But you show me you really care about him and I'll stick by you through anything, because he's my best friend ever and he always will be.”
She stopped, then sat up a little and sighed as Prestige didn't know whether to be insulted, scared, or touched, before the young demon grumbled and turned around. “I'm going to go play with your stuff, Burning Desire.”
“Please wash anything you touch.” the firebird muttered, then he hopped along the rafter when Aphrodisia glared up at him before he looked conspiratorially back and forth, then cupped his beak with a wing as he whispered: “I bought you a present, don't tell your mother. It's in my room, it's the big box. You'll like it.”
Aphrodisia's eyes lit up at this, her mood suddenly changing as she brightened and clapped her hooves as Prestige stared in confusion... and then shivered at she thought of all the horrible things it could possibly be. “Oh, oh, oh! Mommy wouldn't let me have one! Thank you, Burning Desire!”
“Yes, yes, yes, just go.” Burning Desire chuckled a little as Aphrodisia turned and scurried off, then the firebird calmly flitted down from the rafters. He hovered in front of the door, then flicked his head to the side, and it slammed closed as he murmured: “Such a little sweetheart, she is.”
The firebird turned, then flew easily through the air... and Prestige glowered upwards when Burning Desire landed on her head and then calmly turned around, furling his wings as his small talons pulled lightly at her mane before he settled comfortably. She cleared her throat loudly, and Burning Desire brightened as he craned his head down to peer at her upside down. “Oh, you're confused? Oh, don't worry, honestly, most of the time between us demons it's all just an act. And Pinkamena is such a wonderful soul... while Twilight Sparkle and I were seeing each other, she introduced me to her. I'm actually to be Aphrodisia's mentor when she's old enough... she's going to spend a decade or so learning about her heritage with me.”
“What?” Prestige looked up in surprise now, shaking her head a bit before she frowned: “Impossible. I... but Pinkamena herself is a demon, and training Aphrodisia!”
“Yes, but Pinkamena is a Devourer... Wrath and Gluttony. Aphrodisia is a Dominia, Lust and Wrath... her mother can only teach her to master half of herself.” Burning Desire replied cheerfully, shaking his head quickly. “And clearly I'm Lust and Greed, if you haven't already noticed. The eternal, hungering fire... Passion. I have a lot to teach Aphrodisia when she's ready... but always, always, we silly demons like to keep up appearances. Although mostly I do it for Pinkamena's sake... we all know how touchy she is about her reputation.”
He sighed in quiet pleasure, then the firebird paused before saying jovially: “But that's all in the future and what's important now is that we instead get you ready! Now, sweet little Prestige, I want you to know that I was a unicorn in life, and although I heard that you're very good at elemental manipulation I'd much rather start you off with a different kind of spell. Look into the fire, focus your magic on it... I've already started the enchantment and I'll help you along, if you'll trust me...” He paused, then added softly: “And you can trust me. Longing... is cursed to suffer, until what it desires is freely given to it. Those that long, can never steal, force, or snare... only take what is offered.”
He fell quiet, and Prestige shifted uncomfortably before she nodded a little, then sighed a bit and tilted her head forwards as the firebird settled itself a bit more comfortably atop her mane, mumbling: “I just wish you would get off my head, wretched demon.”
“Oh, shush. Do you know how many maidens I've wooed as a sweet-singing cardinal? And it's not a lie when I tell them I'll turn into the stallion of their dreams, if only they'll favor me with a kiss!” Burning Desire exclaimed, then he laughed and leaned down, winking into her eyes. “But focus! Focus on the fire!”
Prestige sighed tiredly, then grumbled as she did so, looking into the flames as her horn began to glow softly... and her eyes widened after a moment as the fire's dance and sway slowed, became strangely crystalline, and she whispered: “What... what is this...”
“Shh, shh, keep your mind steady and clear...” Burning Desire murmured, and then he instructed gently: “Think of one of your friends... not Antares or Aphrodisia, but someone out in the open...”
Prestige shifted and nodded, swallowing a bit as Avalon came to mind next... and her eyes widened as she stared into the flames as they hardened further, becoming like clear red glass as images began to form, and as she watched in amazement...
Avalon grinned widely, the Pegasus strutting proudly into the training arena used by the Royal Guard with Rainbow Dash beside her. The tiny Pegasus was in full armor, and her father smiled warmly as he said: “You're gonna do great, Ava. I'm so damn proud of you.”
“Thanks for coming, Dad... it... it means a lot that you did, you came to watch.” Avalon said with a small smile, looking up at him happily, and Rainbow Dash winked at her before they traded a fierce, tight hug... and in front of them, one of the Royal Guards gave a long, mocking catcall, to the laughter of the rest of the group.
Both Pegasi looked up sourly, across at the armored soldiers: there were five Pegasus Guard standing at the ready, two of them with crossbows. One of them stepped forwards in his polished golden armor, grinning mockingly as he asked easily: “Who are you, some new recruit? You're the one supposed to be wearing armor, not your ickle little filly there.”
Rainbow glared across at the Pegasus Guard sourly, then he glanced moodily back and forth, asking: “Who's in charge here? My girl Avalon is here for training.”
“What? Get the hell out of here, pal, this ain't a babysitting center.” The guard snorted in disgust and disdain, stepping forwards now as his friends behind him all chuckled. Rainbow Dash only glowered, however, and Avalon glared angrily up at the Pegasus Guard as he leaned down and asked mockingly: “Wouldn't you prefer to be playing with your dollies? What are you, five?”
“I'm seventeen.” Avalon said icily, and the Guard looked stunned... then he threw his head back and laughed before staring down at her again with something like amazement, and the tiny Pegasus leapt forwards, barking: “Yeah, big tough guy with all your friends, huh? My Daddy and I could trash you and every one of your friends here!”
Rainbow Dash winced a bit at this, looking awkwardly back and forth: Royal Guards, both on duty and off-duty, were up in the stands, and other soldiers were arriving through different gates, setting up targets and marking off sparring areas here and there in the coliseum, while others were just looking with interest at the developing argument. “Uh, sweetie...”
“Oh, yeah, your daddy looks like a real big tough guy, honey-cake.” the Pegasus Guard in front of them mocked, then he reached down and shoved Avalon backwards by the helmet, and Rainbow Dash snarled as he looked sharply up and Avalon glared furiously. “Go home. You got no business here.”
“Don't you touch my daughter.” Rainbow Dash said quietly, and the Guard glared across at him before Avalon reached up, grasping her father's shoulder firmly. He looked down at her, saw the plea in her eyes, and he hesitated... then he gritted his teeth and said sharply: “Not unless you think you're stallion enough to take her on, that is.”
“What? You gotta be kidding me.” The Pegasus Guard snorted in disgust, then he slowly grinned, shaking his head in disdain as he looked with entertainment over his shoulder at his friends. They all looked just as amused at the prospect, and the soldier looked forwards again with a snort, stepping back and smiling mockingly down at Avalon. “Okay, little girl. Tell you what. If you really want a spanking I guess I can dole one out for you. Come on, let's see your best shot!”
The Pegasus Guard grinned challengingly, and Rainbow Dash stepped carefully to the side as Avalon set herself and shivered, her wings slowly spreading, her body slowly straightening against her armor before the Guard jeered: “Yeah, like I thought, too scared to-”
In a blur, Avalon shot forwards, smashing like a bullet into the Guard's chest and cutting him off as he staggered backwards before she rose up in front of him and slammed her head into his face. He reared back with a yell of surprise, grabbing at his bloodied nose before both of Avalon's rear hooves shot up and kicked savagely off his chest, launching him staggering back on his rear hooves as Avalon flew backwards, then twisted her body gracefully and launched herself forwards like a missile.
She smashed into his chest while he was still staggering, and the Guard yelled in horror as the tiny Pegasus tackled him onto his back, his wings bending painfully as he skidded a good ten feet through the sand and his group of friends were sent scattering like scared rats. Then tiny Pegasus and Guard rolled together violently before the soldier's face smashed down into the ground as the small Pegasus ended up beneath him, a snarl of effort on her face as she pushed her back up against his stomach and all four powerful legs flexed.
Avalon launched herself savagely into the air before the stunned guard could react, reaching her front hooves up to seize him around the waist as she roared and he yelped in horror. Guards around the arena stared in dumb surprise as the tiny Pegasus hauled the fully grown, armored stallion high up above before she began to violently spin, and the Pegasus Guard flailed wildly before he shouted in frustration as Avalon half-threw him off her body... only so she could become like a blur, racing violently in a whirlwind around him as her tiny hooves smashed into his armor and every exposed bit of flesh she could find before she crashed savagely into his back.
The Guard howled as he stared in horror at the ground below, flailing his limbs wildly, but his wings were unable to get purchase even before Avalon started to spin violently as she held tightly onto him, forcing his body to corkscrew wildly. All he could do was yell incoherently until he crashed face-first into the sand in a puff, a single golden blur rocketing high into the air after the impact before it flipped gracefully once... and then Avalon dropped and slammed both rear hooves with a crunch into the unfortunate Guard's back, and he squeaked in pain.
The tiny Pegasus dropped back to all four hooves, standing on top of him primly before she stomped viciously up and down, and Rainbow Dash gave her a pointed look before his daughter snorted and rose her head proudly. “He just got what was coming to him, that's all.”
On the ground, the Pegasus Guard whimpered as he lay in a broken heap, slowly bleeding from the nose and mouth as tears leaked out of his eyes, and Avalon stepped carefully off him before she moodily kicked a bit of sand back into his face. He whimpered sluggishly again as soldiers stared and pointed, and Rainbow couldn't help but laugh before he chastised gently as Avalon bounced happily over to him: “Look, only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner, kid. No need to add insult to injury. Not after you did that to the poor jerk.”
Avalon only huffed, but she nodded and gazed up respectfully at her father, before both Rainbow Dash and Avalon looked up with surprise as a soft voice said: “Most impressive. Your daughter fights almost as well as my little sister.”
Avalon blushed and smiled radiantly at this compliment as Celestia calmly approached in her own armor, smiling softly at them, and then she glanced over at the Pegasus Guard as they saluted her, looking pale. “You are all dismissed. Take your comrade to the infirmary and have his wounds treated...” She paused, then added quietly: “I hope this serves as a lesson to all present not to underestimate any pony's worth, no matter what they might look like. And... on that note...”
Yamato Elite approached, and Avalon's eyes glittered as she grinned widely... and then stared when the guards parted, and Fluttershy made her way slowly forwards, head low and a meek smile on her face. For a few moments, Avalon's mouth worked stupidly as Rainbow stared dumbly at his friend, and then Celestia bowed her head and said quietly: “I've found you a tutor, Avalon.”
“I... but.. you're not, she's... Fluttershy, I... your wing, too...” Rainbow babbled awkwardly, and Fluttershy blushed deeply as she bowed her head a little.
Avalon was shaking her own head in disbelief, and then Fluttershy looked up at Celestia and said quietly: “If... I really don't want to cause any trouble, and there are so many ponies around that... well... you know. I... I don't know if...”
“It's perfectly alright, Fluttershy... don't worry. Your friends are only surprised, that's all.” Celestia soothed, and then she looked up and said in a gentle voice that all the same carried the tone of command to it: “Fluttershy is doing me an enormous favor, facing both her past and her own anxieties in order to help your daughter, Rainbow Dash... and more than that, she's doing both you and Avalon an immeasurable service. Please treat this opportunity with the respect that it deserves.”
Avalon shifted apprehensively, but Rainbow blushed and bowed his head forwards, saying quietly: “I'm sorry, Fluttershy, Celestia, I just... it surprised me, that's all. You never... well...” He halted, then smiled a little and nudged his daughter. “Thank you, Fluttershy.”
“Yeah... I... thanks?” Avalon said doubtfully, but Fluttershy smiled warmly all the same, seeming to draw strength from this as she looked up. Her single wing flapped a bit as she breathed quietly, and then Avalon couldn't stop herself from blurting: “But what am I thanking you for?”
Celestia sighed a little, but it was Fluttershy who answered, bowing her head and saying quietly: “My... my mother trained me since I was a child in... combat. I remember... enough, that I hope I can be of service. Ever since... ever since ten years ago, when Prudence attacked, I've... been having memories surface, and it's been very hard for me to deal with them. While Celestia has been so generous to me and treats me like I'm doing such an enormous favor to everypony here, I really think... this is a favor to me. Perhaps if I can use these memories for something good... I can forgive the past, and let things finally rest. Let my mother's memory... finally fade.”
She quieted, and Rainbow Dash nodded silently before he reached up and touched Avalon's shoulder when she opened her mouth. The tiny Pegasus frowned, looking over her shoulder at her father, but she remained quiet at the look on his face, and Celestia nodded approvingly before she said softly: “Perhaps, Fluttershy, if you're ready...”
“Just... just one moment, please.” Fluttershy said quietly, and she glanced over her shoulder... and Celestia smiled softly, stepping carefully back and aside as Nirvana approached. Phooka and one-winged Pegasus gazed into each other's eyes, and the Phooka's glowed faintly before Fluttershy smiled a little and nodded hesitantly as her own irises reflected the creature's green-fire eyes.
For a moment longer, there was quiet, and then the two embraced fiercely before Fluttershy drew back and took a slow breath, nodding once. Nirvana rumbled quietly, then he, Celestia, and the Yamato Elite drew back to watch as Fluttershy looked up and smiled hesitantly. “Before we begin... please let me know at any time if I'm too rough. I have no desire to hurt you. But don't be afraid of trying your hardest... I won't be mad if anything happens. Okay?”
“I... okay.” Avalon said, looking nonplussed, and then she looked lamely up at Rainbow Dash before sighing and fidgeting awkwardly as her father smiled before patting her and drawing back, the foal looking a little miserable as she mumbled: “Sorry, Fluttershy. I... guess I'll try not to hurt you.”
Fluttershy only smiled, bowing her head politely, and Avalon made a surly face before she simply strode forwards and threw a simple, straight punch, aiming for the shoulder of the one-winged Pegasus. The foal wasn't exactly shocked when Fluttershy flinched back... but she was surprised to realize that Fluttershy had actually caught her hoof, as the gentle mare murmured: “Excuse me, Avalon, I... don't mean to be rude, but I know you can fight much better than this... please try again, okay?”
Avalon glowered a little, and then she grunted and stepped back before swinging another hoof up, in a harder, sharper blow... and while Fluttershy winced a little again, she easily blocked the hook punch, saying quietly: “It's okay, honestly, Ava. I'm not going to be mad at you. You can try harder.”
“I don't want to hurt you, Fluttershy, I mean... no offense, but I just took down a Pegasus Guard.” Avalon complained; in the background, Rainbow Dash winced and then grinned lamely at Celestia as the Baroness frowned a little. “You're... really nice and all, but I don't know how much you can help me.”
She stepped back as Fluttershy blushed and lowered her head a little, murmuring: “I'm sorry you feel that way, Avalon... maybe you're right. But all the same, I would very much like to teach you what I could.”
From the sidelines, Nirvana rumbled something in his own language as Avalon sighed, then frowned when the one-winged Pegasus cocked her head curiously. Fluttershy looked back at Nirvana, then asked something in that strange, sibilant language that the Phooka spoke... and Nirvana replied quickly, leaning forwards a little, visibly encouraging her.
Fluttershy smiled after a moment, then she returned her eyes to Avalon, saying kindly: “Here's an idea. Why don't I attack you, and you block? I promise to be gentle. Only pins. And again, we can stop any time you feel uncomfortable.”
“I... don't...” Avalon looked almost desperately towards Rainbow Dash, and then she quailed at the glare her father gave her before turning towards Fluttershy, nodding quickly as she mumbled: “Well. Okay, fine. I guess that works. We can start when you're ready.”
Fluttershy smiled, then she nodded as she took a few deep breaths, straightening before murmuring quietly: “Okay. Here I come.”
Avalon smiled indulgently... and then stared stupidly, slowly blinking. The world was upside down, and there was nothing under her hooves... before she realized she was on her back, her jaw falling open as Fluttershy asked nervously: “I didn't hurt you, did I? Oh, Avalon, I'm sorry.”
“I... I... what?” Avalon asked stupidly, and then she rolled back to her hooves, gaping, staring back and forth. She looked desperately at her father, but Rainbow Dash was sitting with his own jaw dropped, and Celestia was smiling warmly, looking impressed. “I... what happened?”
“I'm sorry. I didn't hurt you, did I?” Fluttershy leaned forwards, looking over the tiny Pegasus with concern, but Avalon hurriedly shook her head before staring as Fluttershy said nervously: “Well, perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all...”
“N-No! I... let's do that again!” Avalon said hurriedly, frowning. Fluttershy nodded apprehensively, and Avalon gritted her teeth before snapping as she dropped to a ready position: “Okay, let's go!”
Now that she was paying attention, she saw it: Fluttershy made a grab at her, but Avalon hurriedly leapt backwards... before staring as the Pegasus in front of her moved like liquid, pursuing her with so much grace it was a like a ballet more than a battle. On instinct, Avalon swung a hoof out hard and fast, cursing herself even as she did so... and then gaping when Fluttershy easily locked her own forelimb around Avalon's before...
The world was upside down again, and Avalon was laying just as speechless and stunned as before, not entirely sure what had happened. She rolled to her hooves, breathing hard, and Fluttershy complimented quietly: “You're quite fast, Ava. I think you're even faster than Rainbow Dash was at your age... you must make him and Applejack very proud.”
“Again!” Avalon demanded desperately, and Fluttershy smiled kindly, nodding once... and then the two Pegasi moved like lightning, Fluttershy so graceful and elegant it was like gravity itself couldn't bear to hold her down, Avalon like golden electricity and limitless energy ricocheting itself in any direction it could move.
She leapt backwards, and Fluttershy's hoof grasped her head all the same, beginning to gently push her down; Avalon yanked her head back and swung both front hooves up to try and seize the limb, and Fluttershy's other hoof almost cradled her beneath the body, pulling gently to the side as she twisted the held limb at the same time. A moment of weightlessness... and Avalon flapped her wings hard, launching herself backwards to just barely escape.
But Fluttershy kept up with her: again, Avalon felt the hoof on her head pushing her down as the world seemed to move in slow motion, and in desperation, the tiny Pegasus yelled desperately before letting her front drop as she flipped herself, swinging both rear legs down in a savage bicycle kick.
And next thing the tiny Pegasus knew, she was somehow on her stomach, one of Fluttershy's hooves tenderly rubbing her back as the maternal Pegasus smiled down at her softly. “Are you okay?”
“What happened?” Avalon wheezed, staring stupidly up and vaguely aware that her body was trembling. Fluttershy only shrugged, and Avalon staggered to her hooves, breathing hard as she stared desperately up at the one-winged Pegasus. “How... how... how can you do all this stuff? I... you... but y-y-you're...”
“My... my mother taught me. Her name was Sol Seraph, and she was...” Fluttershy looked silently down, murmuring quietly: “She was a predator, and a hunter, Avalon. She taught me awful things, how to hurt, how to kill, tried to raise me to believe in... awful things. But I never... was very good at what she wanted me to do. I could never hurt, and the thought of killing... still makes me feel sick to my stomach.
“I was never... good... in my mother's eyes. But even though I couldn't bear the thought of harming another pony... I had to learn to protect myself. I had to learn to block her blows when she would 'train' me and I had to learn the evil things she taught me, if only so I could survive, because... she would have killed me many times as a foal, if I hadn't. And I'd like to teach you that, Avalon, how to protect yourself.” Fluttershy looked quietly down into Avalon's eyes, then she reached up a hoof to gently cup her cheek. “But you have to promise me you won't use these skills to hurt other people. If I'm going to do something good with these... awful talents... I need that promise, because you have a lot of skill, Avalon... but you have a bit of a temper, too.”
Avalon swallowed thickly, then she nodded slowly before whispering, trembling a little: “Fluttershy I'm... I'm so sorry for... I didn't think, I mean, I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you. And I promise. I promise, all I really want is to help ponies, I won't just... I'm sorry.”
“It's okay. You didn't hurt my feelings.” Fluttershy smiled softly, stepping forwards and hugging Avalon tightly, and the young Pegasus hugged her fiercely in return, burying her head against her body, humbled and trembling as Fluttershy murmured softly: “What's important to me is helping protect ponies. Maybe my mother's evil.. can become another pony's good, if we try hard enough.”
She closed her eyes... and Prestige gasped and staggered backwards in surprise, the red crystal becoming red flames again that swirled and danced as the vision faded. It had been like she had been right there, the whole time, somehow so much more intense than any scrying magic she had ever experienced before...
On top of her head, the firebird chuckled before he hopped off her, smiling warmly. In a burst of flames, Burning Desire transformed back into a fiery stallion beside her, the demon gazing down and saying delightedly: “Beautiful! You did gorgeously, pretty filly! What a grasp of magic you have... no wonder you were made the apprentice to Twilight Sparkle.”
He threw a companionable foreleg around her, and Prestige winced a bit... but she didn't try to shrug it off this time either, as she looked up and asked in disbelief: “What... what happened, precisely? Such magic...”
“Demonic magic.” Burning Desire waggled his eyebrows, and Prestige ground her teeth together nervously before the fire demon threw his head back and laughed, rubbing her back soothingly. “Oh stop! It's nothing evil or even sinful... just like your mortal magic, we demons have plenty of spells that are neither distinctly good nor distinctly evil... just gray, or perhaps not even that, more for... amusement than anything else. We've had a long, long time in Helheim to train in and learn magic, after all... but admittedly, this was a spell I worked on while a mortal, too. I only perfected it after I was dragged down to the pit, though... I must admit, the one nice thing about being in Hell was all the time I had to further work on my magical talents.”
Burning Desire looked up musingly, then he smiled down at her and asked gently: “Did you feel the basics of the spell out? This time, I'd like you to focus on another of your friends, and cast the spell without me amplifying its effects, and let's see if you can create such a powerful vision. The nicest thing about this spell is the fact that all those who gaze into the scrying medium will be able to experience the vision, you see...”
“Wait, when... when is this happening? Is this past, present or... or future?” Prestige whispered, and Burning Desire chuckled quietly, leaning down, inches from her face as his crimson eyes gazed affectionately into her own silver irises.
“Don't be silly. No one can truly see the future.” he said softly, and then he straightened and smiled down at her kindly. “What we're seeing is... technically, the past. But the beauty of this spell is that it's only one or two seconds behind... really, for all intents and purposes, we're gazing across the present, which is normally very hard... but that tiny buffer of spent time makes all the difference in the world to the casting difficulty. Yes, I know I'm a genius as well as handsome.”
Burning Desire leaned back, combing his hooves through his fiery mane as his strong, masculine body flexed slowly, and Prestige grimaced at him as she muttered: “You're handsome, at least.”
The demon glowered at her sourly, then he huffed a little and gestured with his horn towards the fireplace. “Come on, let's see what your other friends are up to.”
Prestige sighed a little, but then she nodded hesitantly before looking towards the fire... and then Burning Desire reached up and touched her shoulder, saying in a more serious voice: “But not Aphrodisia, nor Antares.”
Prestige winced a bit at this, not wanting to imagine what the young demon could be getting up to before she hesitated, then asked curiously: “You... called Aphrodisia a Dominia...”
“Yes, Lust and Wrath. Control, power, strength and hunger... but not the gluttony kind of hunger. In our demonic hierarchy, she would be First Tier.” Burning Desire said proudly, raising his head with a warm smile. “But look at her parents, what apart from exceptional could be expected?”
“What tier are you?” Prestige asked curiously, and Burning Desire immediately soured and mumbled under his breath, and the young unicorn smiled despite herself before she turned her eyes back to the fire, murmuring: “I suppose... it doesn't matter. Not if you spoke the truth earlier, and... not if you continue to be... a fair teacher.”
“Good.” The fiery stallion reached down and firmly swatted her flank, and Prestige twitched before glaring at him, but Burning Desire only smiled brightly at her. “Perhaps later you'd like me to teach you some of my other talents? I might have to charge you for the overtime as your tutor... but oh, I think we'd both be the winners with how I delight in taking my fee.”
Prestige muttered under her breath, looking into the flames as she concentrated, trying to replicate the spell she had cast before: without Burning Desire's help, it was much harder, making her strain a little as she breathed slowly in and out... and then her eyes widened before she saw Meadowlark...
The red Pegasus smiled awkwardly up at Amdusias as the demon looked down at her meditatively with his arms crossed, standing at the front of the wide concert stage. There was no orchestra present here, however, and no audience in the worn seats of the cozy theater, nor the boxes or balconies above. Instead, there was only the chair that Meadowlark was sitting in... and several tables near the back of the stage, stacked high with books, tomes, scrolls, and archive papers.
“Are... you... shouldn't we be working?” Meadowlark asked finally, and Amdusias huffed a bit, the Pegasus wincing a little as she held up her hooves embarrassedly. “I... I really appreciate all the time and stuff, I just... I mean, you want me to...”
“I want you to sing. Come now, you're named after a songbird, and Antares mentioned you have a beautiful voice.” Amdusias said mildly, flicking one hand... and then he winced at the look that passed over Meadowlark's face, before he sighed and mumbled, dropping his hand in his hand. “This is why I don't like singers. They're more broken than actors. And actors are nothing but hyperactive attention-seekers.”
“Antares and I were in a play together once, for Nightmare Moon... he just had a minor role, but... he... he really supported me. He helped me get the role of Nightmare Moon.” Meadowlark whispered quietly, and Amdusias gazed at her softly. “It meant... he... it was the first time I'd really sung in years. And I sang... for him... believing every word I belted out...”
“You still remember the song. You remember it, because you sang it for him.” Amdusias said quietly, and Meadowlark swallowed as she nodded a little, looking up at him quietly. The demon studied her for a few moments, then he sighed softly, crossing his arms and inviting gently: “Sing me a verse or two. Believe it all over again, little mortal. And remember... nothing fuels the poetry of music like unrequited love's hopes.”
Meadowlark trembled... then she looked up at the demon and closed her eyes, breathing slowly before she whispered in a voice that sounded a little hoarse and weak: “Okay. I'll do my best...”
Amdusias grimaced a little, shifting a bit... and then Meadowlark took a long breath before raising her head, eyes glowing with her unshed tears as her voice burst from her with a strength that surprised the demon:
“Why have you forsaken me, my people that I have served for years?
A thousand nights have passed, and not one did you revere...
I showed you stories in the stars that could never be seen in the day,
I gave you the beacon of the moon to always light your way...
And yet here you leave me, forsaken, alone, wishing away my night!
I gave you lullabies and dreams and you call my dark blanket 'blight?'
I have have never asked once for thanks or tribute despite how I slave away,
But do you think I'll just stand by and let you mock my night all day?
I'll teach you all a lesson that none of you ponies shall ever forget,
I declare the sun shall never rise again, after it next sets in the west,
Not until you little ponies learn about something called respect,
And you learn of the consequences that your cruelty can effect!”
Meadowlark dropped her head forwards, flushed, breathing hard as he rubbed slowly at her throat... and Amdusias smiled faintly, shaking his head slowly as he murmured quietly: “Remarkable. You still care about him, despite everything, don't you? Yes, a song of revenge... but you sang it with the tenor of a plea.”
Meadowlark flushed deeply, looking up silently... and then Prestige trembled as she dropped back from the fire, breathing hard as Burning Desire murmured quietly: “Poor girl. But you must hold on tightly, Prestige... even when the emotions are jarring. You must master the spell, and not let your emotions get the better of you, even when you see... something... painful.”
Burning Desire looked over at her softly, and then he smiled a little before saying quietly as Prestige began to open her mouth: “Now, why don't you see what Antares Mīrus is up to, if your thoughts turn so tightly to him?”
“I...” Prestige shivered a bit, shaking her head a little before she asked quietly: “Do I have to? And why... why are you so intent on...”
“Because this is more than learning a spell, my darling... this is learning discipline, and to override your emotions.” Burning Desire smiled at her, reaching up to gently stroke under her muzzle before he leaned down and kissed her forehead tenderly, and Prestige closed her eyes with a shiver before her eyes snapped open as the demon asked quietly: “Your father never loved you?”
“W-Why would... you... why would you...” She shivered, looking up at him and breathing hard... but there was gentility in Burning Desire's eyes before she gritted her teeth and looked away, whispering: “Unicorns are superior. But male unicorns are the most superior.”
“Yes, they are.” Burning Desire smiled sadly, before he lowered his head and murmured quietly: “Unless they're eccentric failures, of course. Then they'll never amount to anything in the eyes of anyone, not even after they die, especially not their fathers... but who needs a father, really?”
Prestige glanced up silently, and Burning Desire smiled again and closed his eyes, tilting his head to the side. “Well, I said you don't need a father, Prestige my sweet. But if you have the rare fortune of a good father... then I can think of no one who deserves more envy.”
Prestige laughed in surprise, looking up at him silently before she nodded slowly, sitting up as the demon said quietly: “You must learn to master your emotions, and your beliefs, and everything else inside of yourself. You must learn to use your magic under any circumstance, at any time, without hesitation, with ultimate focus. You must learn to be able to use magic even if it will hurt you: you must learn most of all... to never be afraid. Master yourself, Prestige, and you'll be able to learn any spell... and better yet, you won't end up like me, a mess of nothing but longing and silliness.”
Burning Desire smiled radiantly down at her, and Prestige nodded slowly, breathing quietly as she sat slowly up and gazed towards the fire. She leaned forwards a bit, then closed her eyes when the fiery stallion carefully slipped to the side and overtop her, pressing down against her back with a slight smile as she blushed a little but murmured quietly: “I do not believe this is part of your training.”
“Oh, what do you know, filly? It might very well be.” Burning Desire replied positively, and then he chuckled quietly before kissing the side of her neck, then he whispered into her ear as he wrapped his strong forelegs around her, making her blush as he pulled her back against him. “Prove your strength to me, Prestige. Prove your loyalty, and your focus. Then I'll go away.”
Prestige grumbled under her breath, then she nodded hesitantly before staring into the flames... but then she smiled faintly, feeling the demon curling over her... and the heat of his body, the strength of his form, it wasn't possessive, or lustful. It was protective: it was... he was... is this friendship?
She didn't need to speak it, as Burning Desire hugged her tighter, and curled closer, and she felt strength filling her body as she looked into the flames, her horn glowing... and then becoming all the brighter as she thought of Antares Mīrus, his smile, his...
The young stallion's midnight cyan eyes looked apprehensively towards Selene as she mulled over the question he had asked, before she simply nodded slowly, murmuring quietly: “Yes. I can try to teach you this, at least, Antares Mīrus... it is... interesting to me, that you desire to master such an art, though. I would have thought different faucets of your mother's magic would have interested you...”
“I... feel like this is important.” Antares said finally, bowing his head forwards. “Aunt Tia taught me a purification spell, but... I can't use it very well. But I was thinking... if I modify it with my mother's magic, one of her own exorcisms or spirit-burning spells... maybe I could... I dunno...”
“You wish to mix light and darkness together? I do not know if that is even possible.” Selene said softly, but her galactic eyes studied him with interest before she murmured softly: “Yes, it is true... light shines best in darkness. Brightest light has much more meaning in the deepest shadow... but that is metaphor, handsome Antares, and applies much more to the ups and downs of life than it does actual magic.”
The young stallion nodded slowly, and then Selene paused thoughtfully before asking curiously: “What is bothering you so much? Something is on your mind.”
Antares sighed after a moment, then he hesitantly glanced up, feeling a strange tickle run through his body before he looked back at Selene, saying quietly: “I'm scared. Cancer's out there somewhere, Selene... and I know that... we have to stop him before I can leave to find my parents. But at the same time, I'm getting... more and more and more afraid of what's going to happen when I finally leave for that. Yeah, I know, all my friends are training and stuff, but... what if I'm wrong? Celestia already had to make a few adjustments-”
“She did not make these changes because of a lack of faith in you and your abilities, Antares. She made these changes because new possibilities became available, that is all.” Selene interrupted gently but firmly. Antares shifted but nodded after a moment, and the two studied each other before the Nephilim smiled and slowly stood up, striding quietly off her pool and approaching Antares.
He shied back a bit, swallowing a little, and then she reached up and touched his shoulder, looking down into his eyes. He stared up at her, feeling her gazing beyond his mind, into the darkest reaches of his soul, with her unknowable, alien eyes... and then she smiled softly, whispering quietly: “You carry more of your father and mother in you than most ponies would ever guess. Antares, you are a natural leader. Do what your instincts compel you to, and you will lead your friends well. And you will find your parents... you will save them.”
“That's all I want.” Antares closed his eyes, bowing his head forwards, and Selene smiled softly as she hugged his head up against her body, laughing quietly.
“Yes... that is what many of us desire, Antares.” She paused, then finally slipped back, her body thrumming with energy as Antares shivered a little post-contact: it felt like he'd been touched by electricity, and she had left him feeling both numb but also... excited. Like her emotions had passed into him by her touch. “But my training comes with a cost, Antares. We have spoken much today, gotten to know one-another better, and you have held up your promise to dialogue with me. I enjoyed our conversation... but there is a further cost. I will require you to do something you will not like for me, Antares...”
Antares shifted nervously, studying the Nephilim before she said softly: “I cannot train you unless I know that you are honest. Unless you are willing to show your true face, your true heart. Do you understand?”
Antares only smiled faintly, however, bowing his head forwards as he said quietly: “I try to be honest every day of my life...”
“No, you try to live up to your parents' vision, and you are not always honest. No with yourself, not with your desires, not with many things.” the Nephilim replied calmly, and Antares shifted apprehensively before Selene asked conversationally: “Meadowlark and Prestige. You wish you did not have to choose between them, don't you?”
“Of course. I hate seeing Meadowlark in pain... I... I care a lot for her. But Prestige... makes me feel... we found...” Antares fidgeted, and then he finally looked up and said quietly: “I... care about her.”
“Yes, but you know little about her. If you knew more of her past, you would not be so fond of her.” Selene replied, and Antares made a face before Selene said quietly: “Speak your mind. Be honest.”
“I... you're wrong.” Antares said quietly, and when Selene tilted her head, he hesitated before continuing quietly: “The past is the past. I... I won't hold it against her. I'll stand beside her, and I'll help her... make what wrongs there may have been right, and... I can see her, becoming a better person every day. And she makes me... a better person.”
Selene laughed quietly at this, saying kindly: “That is a lie. She is racist and rude. How can a flawed person make someone who sees himself as perfect even better?”
“I... I don't!” Antares argued, shaking his head violently before he continued sharply: “And... because she's helped me understand that... she, and people like her, they're not... they believe in something really stupid but that doesn't mean they can't change! That they can't be shown why they're wrong, that they'll never understand-”
“Celestia still doesn't understand. She speaks quietly, but no one is faster to violence than her... nor more eager to kill.” Selene remarked, and Antares ground his teeth together in frustration.
“No, that... she... in the past, maybe, I-”
“But so was your mother. Luna, I mean... such beautiful darkness. A killer, alongside your father. They lured in Twilight with their gorgeous webs and she became like them, but... twisted. She kills the dead to live, and awaits their return... but she is thankful, you know.” Selene smiled as Antares trembled. “I expect she will bind herself to Luna and Scrivener when you bring them back. And she'll forget all about you... they all will. They'll thank you, but if your mother and father ever loved you they never would have abandoned you in the first-”
Antares lunged, tackling the Nephilim backwards as he bared his fangs and his eyes glowed, snarling down at her: “Stop talking about my parents like that or I swear by Yggdrasil itself that I'll kill you! Don't you ever talk about them or my family like that!”
He breathed hard, sharp fangs glinting, flexed body and spread leathery wings making him look monstrous... but Selene only smiled softly on her back, eyes gazing almost tenderly up into Antares' pale-glowing irises as she whispered: “And now, we see honesty. Hello, Antares. I am so glad you decided to join us down here, in Hell.”
The glow faded, and Antares breathed hard before he shoved himself backwards, shaking his head wildly as he stammered: “No, no, I... I'm not like that, y-you were... I mean, I'm sorry, Selene, I didn't mean to... I d-didn't...”
“What is spoken cannot be unspoken... what is done, cannot be undone.” Selene bowed her head politely, still smiling softly before she sat slowly up and gazed across at him, saying quietly: “Antares, you have bottled up all the sins of your parents inside of you. You hide it spectacularly well... I do not think even Celestia suspects the depths of darkness you possess. But as you were saying, the brightest light burns in darkness; what you forget, Antares, is that the greatest and deepest darkness may very well hide safely behind the brightest light. But I know this well.”
Selene closed her eyes, bowing her head forwards before she said kindly: “We will attend to your problem in time. But if you do not learn to vent this pain inside you, if you do not learn to truly trust others, to let your friends support you... Antares, you will become everything you've tried so hard to avoid becoming. You understand that you must accept help from your friends; what you fail to understand, is that sometimes you must do more: you must tell them you hurt. You must entrust them with your pain... for it is not a burden, Antares, to carry a friend's pain. It is a demonstration, of the deepest of trusts, where something awful may form into a concrete bond.”
Selene smiled, then slowly, she glanced up and said gently: “And this goes for you as well, Prestige Luster. Trust Antares Mīrus with your pain. You two have much to give each other, and much to learn from each other.”
Antares glanced up in shock, tears spilling down his cheeks with the jerk of his head upwards... and Prestige recoiled back against Burning Desire, who winced a bit with a grunt before he squeezed her firmly, murmuring quickly as she gasped for breath: “It's alright, it's alright...”
“I... I... I've never seen Antares... truly angry...” Prestige whispered, and then she trembled and shook her head. “And now he'll think I've been spying and-”
“No, Selene will explain it, I'm sure.” Burning Desire soothed, and then he smiled as he rocked her slowly in his limbs, grinning down at her and adding gently: “And you can always stay with me, Prestige. I'll always have a place for you here, sweetie.”
Prestige only glowered up at him, and the fiery stallion cleared his throat before he carefully let go of her and stepped back. She turned around, and then sighed and dropped her head... before looking up in surprise as he said kindly: “Go ahead, go see Antares. We can pick up with another magic lesson later... but, oh, oh, wait, I want to give you something first.”
The young mare winced when Burning Desire leaned forwards with a smile, his horn glowing... but before she could argue, he touched the tip of his against the base of hers, and Prestige winced at the sizzle she felt before blinking in surprise as she felt something lock into place around the base of her horn. Prestige chuckled, then he winked as he flicked a hoof up through the air, a sheet of fire bursting into life beside him that solidified into a crimson mirror. “A token of my affection.”
Prestige Luster stared in surprise at the red ring now locked around the base of her horn: it was in the shape of a serpent, spiraling several times around the base of her horn and magnificently detailed. Then the mirror burst back into flames that faded from existence and Burning Desire looked down into her eyes as he said softly: “If you ever require my aid... focus your magic into that ring, all the magic you can. I'll come running, my sweet.”
Then he paused before grinning, leaning forwards and licking his lips slowly: “Please don't be shy about using it if you're feeling particularly lonely or adventurous...”
“Goodbye, Burning Desire.” Prestige said flatly, shoving past him to the doors... before she hesitated, then smiled a little over her shoulder, saying quietly: “I am glad that... Twilight Sparkle was correct. You... are kinder than I expected, and a good teacher. Although repulsive, too.”
With that, she turned and left as Burning Desire sat back on his haunches, bowing his head forwards as his eyes closed in gratitude and a smile lingered over his tragic and handsome features.