“I’m surprised you both volunteered to help so quickly,” I said as the train moved towards my former home at a pace far too slow for my liking. “It’s... I know you have busy lives, and it was presumptuous of me to assume you would come so easily. I know Lyra is loathe to miss teaching her classes at the academy.”
“Yeah,” Lyra said, nodding her head at me while Bon-Bon looked out the window, “I normally am, but Vinyl needs help, and I kind of feel just a bit guilty, so I figure this is my way of making it up to you.”
“Why do you feel guilty?” I asked, confusion entering my expression. “You didn’t force Vinyl to drink the potion.”
There was a brief lull as she looked between Bon-Bon and me. “No, I guess not, but… you know, I was there when she got it. I could’ve done something, but instead I was too busy making wishes on my monkey’s paw.”
“I saw that,” I said, dimly recalling the monkey paw resting on her work bench. “Do you think you could wish for Vinyl to go back to normal?”
She shook her head. “Not until I have a better idea of how it works. I don’t want it to make things go bad; it already made my second wish go way worse than I had kind of thought possible.”
“What did you wish for?” Bon-Bon and I asked simultaneously.
“Well,” she said, laughing nervously. “I did take what I thought was a decent precaution. For my first wish, I wished that no future wishes would cause any pony to come to harm. Then I wished that Vinyl signed Trixie’s contract.”
“You what?!” I yelled, my nostrils flaring and my eyes going wide with anger. “Why in Equestria would you do that?” Bon-Bon looked between the two of us and moved slightly closer to her wife. I saw her muscles tense as she prepared to leap up and defend Lyra if the need arose.
“Well, because I kind of thought nothing bad would happen in the context of the wish. The worst conceivable outcome was that Vinyl signed the contract; I didn’t think she would start acting crazy. Uhmm, I’m really sorry it led to you and Vinyl having a fight, I totally didn’t mean for it to.”
I took several deep breaths in the hopes of calming myself before I absolutely throttled the life out of Lyra. “Also,” she continued, “when I made the wish, Vinyl hadn’t signed anything yet, so really my wish might not have even done anything. But if it did, I’m sorry.”
I closed my eyes and counted to ten to try and banish my anger. As satisfying as it would be to yell at her, anger would get me nowhere, especially since she might be useful in getting Vinyl back to normal. “Help me find Vinyl and keep things from getting worse than they already are and I will consider your apology accepted. I also expect you to drop all of your other research in favor of finding a way to reverse the spell. If you do all that, then you have my forgiveness. Do those terms sound agreeable?”
Lyra nodded and I looked at her wife, whose brow had furrowed. “Bon-Bon, do you feel I am being particularly harsh?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m just surprised you aren’t angrier. If this was Vinyl, she would be absolutely furious.”
“Well,” I said, still struggling to contain my absolute fury while I felt my eyes water. I suppose that last bit was the work of my rogue hormones. “If the last two days have demonstrated anything, it’s that Vinyl is far more passionate than I.” I looked out the window at the quickly-approaching city. “Now, shall we form a plan of attack?”
The other two nodded and I closed my eyes, thinking of how we could quickly comb the city and make advantage of our resources and skills. “Lyra, you know where you and Vinyl used to hang out. Considering that this whole situation stemmed from her desire to be young again, I feel it is likely that she is either at, has been, or is going to some of those locations. I want you to visit them and ask the bartenders or proprietors if they’ve seen anypony matching her description.”
“Alright,” Lyra said, pulling a notepad from her saddlebags and writing.
“Bon-Bon, I want to make use of your connection to the EIS. I’m sure they owe you a few favors, and if you could call some of them in to find Vinyl as quickly as possible, I would be greatly appreciative.”
“Of course,” Bon-Bon said, nodding her head at me as the train entered a tunnel, shrouding our passenger car in darkness. “But why is it such an issue that we find her quickly?”
“Because,” I said, my lips twisting into a frown nopony could see as tears splashed my cheek. Damned hormones, making me lose my composure at the slightest things. “Right now, Vinyl isn’t herself and I’m worried she will do something we both end up regretting. Normally, that’s not a worry for me, but then, normally she doesn’t run off to Canterlot without telling me.”
“Oh!” Lyra said and I could hear her voice actually perk up. “I get it, you think she will cheat on you.”
“N-no,” I said, suddenly feeling like a dragon’s claw had wrapped around my heart and was trying to crush it, while I heard Bon-Bon shush Lyra. “I don’t… She could. I never thought of it before, I just trusted her to do the right thing, but now… I don’t know, maybe she will or maybe she will do something equally regrettable, I don’t know. I don’t know what she might do and that terrifies me more than it should.” I ran a hoof across my cheek to dry my eyes and I felt another hoof patting me on the back.
“Don’t worry, Octavia,” Bon-Bon said in her best maternal voice as she continued to pat my back. “We will find her and get her home safely, and as soon as I get to Canterlot I will talk with my contacts, alright?”
I nodded my head at her as the train came out to daylight. “Thank you, I’m sorry for panicking back there, it’s just… I’m almost surprised I am doing this well, the last twenty-four hours added to the fact that I’m already pregnant, and a part of me wonders how I am still standing.”
She smiled at me. “It’s like I told you on your wedding day, you endure impossible things. I have no doubt you will get through this. Now, you never told us what you were going to do to find Vinyl.”
“I can’t walk as quickly as either of you, so I thought I could help find Vinyl by enlisting Moldy for aid.”
“He’s in Canterlot?” Bon-Bon asked, the surprise clear in her voice.
I nodded. “He is exchanging data with… I don’t know what you would call the colony he volunteered to help Luna guard the Dreamlands. Either way, the two of them usually spend a few days every three or so months talking and sharing experiences to ‘ensure they are both developing along desirable paths.’” I said, mimicking Moldy’s distinct cadence. “Hopefully, he will be able to offer some assistance.”
“The Lifegiver’s values have been compromised?” Moldy asked in rather spacious chamber of the Canterlot dungeons. Most of it was consumed by a giant green blob that Luna had been nurturing for the past five years, while the mold-pony and I took up what little space was left.
“That’s certainly one way to describe it,” I said before pausing to further reflect on his words. “Actually, that’s an incredibly apt way of describing it. For whatever reason, she decided to leave Ponyville without letting me know.”
“So she ran away from home?” the mold-pony asked, tilting his head at me.
“Yes… I suppose so,” I said slowly, wondering just why it had taken me so long to put those words to describe her actions. They were absolutely accurate, but up until he said them, I had never considered them. She had run away from home, of course she had, because she was acting like a stupid angsty teenager no matter how much she pleaded to the contrary. How had I not seen it before? “Anyways, I came here because I was hoping you could help me find her. You have… a skill at seeing multiple places at once, and I was hoping I could use you to–”
“Spy on the population of Canterlot to find your wife?” he asked, interrupting me.
“I wouldn’t have mentioned the spying on Canterlot bit, but yes, I suppose that statement is basically accurate. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then I apologize for bothering you and will attempt to find Vinyl on my own.”
He laughed as a cloud of spores erupted from the larger colony behind him. “We will not spy on all ponies in Canterlot, but we will listen, and when we hear her familiar voice, we will relay the information to you. Other voices will be filtered out, and so their privacy will stay sacrosanct. Please give us time to work, it will take at least an hour for our spores to properly saturate the city.” Moldy pointed a hoof at the spores floating out of a hole in the ceiling. “Once Vinyl is found, I will alert you.”
“Thank you,” I said, before giving him a friendly peck on the cheek. “Your help means a lot to me.”
“Think nothing of it,” he said as I turned to face the door. “After all the Deathbringer has done to ensure our success, helping her find her other half is the least we can do.”
I walked out the door and headed back to the streets of Canterlot to head towards our designated meeting place.
The Blue Recluse Tavern was mostly empty when I arrived, and the hours since then had seen no real change in its number of patrons. A few ponies sat in one of the back corners drinking, while I picked at my mandarin salad. I had gotten an odd look from the server when I ordered it with barbecue sauce, but since I was willing to pay good bits for it, his look quickly disappeared. I groaned out loud. It was almost 10:00 and I hadn’t heard from Lyra or Bon-Bon yet. It was… they were probably just being thorough, but it would be nice not to be left in the dark.
As for Moldy, he was probably still waiting for his spores to report back, although it had been far longer than the hour he had originally estimated. While I was thinking on what might have delayed him, the tavern doors opened and the mold pony walked in. “Greetings Deathbringer. We apologize for taking so long to find you, but in our last conversation, you neglected to tell me just where the meeting location was.” I mentally facehoofed. That would certainly explain the delay. In fact, it was a small wonder he had managed to find me at all.
“It’s fine,” I said as he sat next to me. “Have you found anything useful yet?”
He shook his head. “Nothing at this time, Deathbringer; the spores reached optimal saturation levels a few hours ago and since then we have been looking for you. Our spores heard Lyra and Bon-Bon speaking of meeting you at the Blue Recluse, and I quickly headed here.”
“They already met up then?” I asked, taking another bite of my salad.
“Yes, thirty-seven minutes ago at the grand fountain. They have been slowly meandering this way since then. Unless my calculations are off, they should be here within five minutes, possibly sooner,” he said, making unblinking eye contact with me as he spoke. While Moldy had gotten better about social cues, he occasionally lapsed and acted in a way that was distinctly unequine.
“Did you find anything out at all then?” I asked, glancing at the entrance to the bar.
“We heard Lyra and Bon-Bon’s news, but highly doubt there is any point in telling you as they will be here shortly, and we have learned that taking away such things from other ponies is frowned upon. Instead, we will try to listen to the whispers of our spores so that we may inform you of news as soon as we hear it.”
I nodded at him as he closed his eyes and seemed to retreat into himself. Over several seconds, all of his movements stopped. The only times he forsook the equine mannerisms I had spent years teaching him was when a task required the concentration of the entire colony. Even though he was offering me assistance, I found the sight of the unmoving pony unnerving, and I tried not to look at him too much while I waited for the arrival of my other friends.
True to his word, the door to the tavern opened in less than five minutes and Lyra and Bon-Bon walked in. My anger flared at the sight of the mint-colored unicorn, but I somehow managed to suppress such feelings and instead reminded myself that it was better to have Lyra feel like she owed me something as opposed to verbally berating or physically accosting her. Besides, there was a very good chance she would be instrumental in helping me save Vinyl.
“Did you find anything out?” I asked the two of them.
They both nodded at me and Lyra spoke first. “Several of the bartenders recalled seeing a mare who looked like Vinyl last night. She was pretty rude to most of them and complained constantly about how the bars had gotten ‘boring.’” I nodded at that, the statement mirroring Vinyl’s complaints before she stormed out of the house.
“So, we know she is avoiding her old locations, I suppose that narrows the possibilities slightly. Where are the clubs that would hold her interest then?” I asked, trying to keep myself from frowning at the fact that all Lyra learned during her investigation was where Vinyl wasn’t.
Lyra shrugged at me before taking a bite of my salad. Why in Equestria anyone else would want to eat a salad with orange slices and barbecue sauce is beyond me. I could barely even make sense of why I wanted to eat it. “I don’t know, I haven’t been here in forever. They did recently renovate the downtown district though, so… maybe there?”
Bon-Bon nodded before I could voice my displeasure at having to work off of guesses. “That matches with what I found, EIS overheard a pony mentioning that an old-school DJ was trying to have her big comeback at his club tonight. Unfortunately, we were unable to successfully identify the mare in question. All we were able to figure out was that the show would be somewhere in the new downtown district.”
“So she’s playing in a club downtown,” I said, trying to figure out if I was happy that we knew that much or enraged that that was all we knew. I look forward to this filly being out of me so I can think like a sane pony again. “In that case, I suppose we should start heading there so we don’t have as far to run when Moldy finds something.”
I tapped my friend in an attempt to draw him from himself. After about a minute he opened his eyes and focused them on me. “Yes?” he said, his words slurred as he worked to refocus himself. “We are headed to the downtown district I assume?”
“We are,” I said, as we all got to our hooves. “Can you focus your efforts there?”
“We’ve been doing so since I heard Lyra and Bon-Bon’s news. Unfortunately, our ability to hear is dampened as one of the clubs is making far too much noise for us to hear anything near it. If I might advise you, considering the Lifegiver’s affinity for producing such loud noises, that club might be a likely location to start at.”
My heart practically leapt into my chest at his news. If anypony was making enough noise to deafen Moldy, it was almost certainly Vinyl, and that meant we had a lead. “How long until we can get there?” I asked as I headed out the door.
Moldy closed his eyes for a second. “Assuming optimal pathing and considering your reduced speed, I would say an hour. The old town district is rather far from current downtown, and the city has been greatly reorganized since the changeling invasion.”
“I know that,” I said as we walked out the pub. “If you will recall, I happened to live here for several years, and even if I was never particularly adventurous, I can still recall the city’s basic layout.”
“Of course,” he said, nodding his head. “We forgot momentarily the history of the Deathbringer.”
Several ponies glanced at us with the mention of the title he had bestowed on me. “Please, call me Octavia in public. I’d rather not create a scene; remember, most of the ponies in Canterlot don’t know your true nature.”
“Right,” he said, “we have grown so used to Ponyville’s acceptance that we forgot it does not extend to the rest of the land. Forgive us our error.”
“It’s fine,” I said as we continued our journey, Lyra and Bon-Bon in the lead while I waddled in the back with Moldy. “We all forget things from time to time.”
“Yeah,” Lyra said. “For instance, a few days ago, I forgot that I shouldn’t use my friends as guinea pigs for important magical research even if I don’t think anything bad can happen. Sorry again, Tavi.”
I sighed at her. “Just help me fix it, and we will be fine. Moldy, please let us know if you actually hear Vinyl talking.”
“Listening for her distinctive voice is my highest priority. Rest assured, your wife will be found.”
We walked for a while longer, occasionally making small talk while I tried to keep myself from sobbing or screaming. Then, as we drew close to the downtown district, Moldy stopped, his eyes going wide. “Vinyl has been overheard. She is walking with another mare while heading down Canter Boulevard, between 3rd and 8th Street, heading towards 8th.” He frowned and paused, seeming reluctant to give the next piece of news. “Tone of voice and occasional smushing sounds indicate displays of affection and romantic interest.”
I froze as whatever worry I had faded away and was replaced with raw seething anger. “Lyra, Bon-Bon, go with Moldy and get to Vinyl before she does something regrettable. Move as quickly as you can, I will be along shortly.”
They nodded and galloped off while I followed at my own pace, a fire burning in my stomach. If Vinyl was going to keep acting like a damned filly, then I would have to start treating her like one.