In Dark, There Comes Light
Manehatten: The Past
In the life of Rightful Vice, ever since he had risen to the top of the metaphorical pyramid of the Soul Redeemers gang, only few things had remained constant. One of those constants was that Glistening Waters was his partner. There would be no Redeemers if he and Glistening had never teamed up and Rightful couldn't imagine working without him. Another constant was that the PurePonies were a big problem. The PurePonies, a self-righteous rival gang that believed they were a superior race of ponies, were the enemies, and that would never change.
The final constant thing in Rightful Vice's life was the most important by far: Aurora. He loved his daughter, and it was that love alone that motivated him into moving to Cloudsdale. It was that love that gave him the strength to throw his wife... to throw the Vigilante, he corrected himself, off the roof of the apartment building where they both lived.
Rightful hated his job sometimes, and gave serious consideration to quitting sometimes. After all, being co-head of one of the biggest gangs in Manehatten was deadly business, and fillies like Aurora tended to get hurt because of the father's mistakes. Every night, he'd tuck Aurora into bed and she'd say "I love you, daddy," before falling asleep. It melted the stallion's heart, and often sparked long nights when he'd lock himself in his bedroom, guzzle a bottle of Applejack Daniels, and think about his life choices.
By day, he was working his way up the corporate ladder at a Manehatten bank, and by night he was a mob boss. How strange his life was. The best part? His own daughter didn't know, didn't even suspect it.
The night went by as usual. Aurora climbed into bed, a tired Rightful covered her up with a blanket and kissed her forehead, and Aurora whispered, "I love you, daddy," as Rightful began to trot out of the room.
His hoof landed on a hardcover book, and he looked down instinctively to see what he had trodden upon. When he lifted his hoof, his eyes were staring into the Vigilante's mask. Aurora's copy of "The Vigilante of Manehatten" sat discarded on the floor. Rightful's heart skipped a beat, and he hurried out of the room. Aurora didn't notice.
Outside Aurora's bedroom, Rightful grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut as he began to sweat. When was he going to stop lying to his own daughter? When was he going to sit Aurora down and go over every single detail of how their life alone together came to be?
When was he going to tell her what happened to her mother?
Manehatten: The Present
There came a knock at the door, snapping Shiny Seas out of her thoughts. She pried her attention from the notebook that lie open on her desk and shouted out a "Coming!" over her shoulder. She clenched a stray pencil in her teeth and jotted down a few notes on the paper, and then dropped the pencil onto the desk as she hurried out of her room.
Shiny's mother had left for a little "girl time" (Shiny shuddered at the term) with a few of her friends for a night on the town. It seemed like she was gone all the time... which was fine with Shiny. It gave her more time to work on the designs in the notebook.
Shiny trotted out of her bedroom, through the living room, and then hesitated by the front door.
"Who is it?" She called out.
"Ish me!" came a familiar voice from the other side, but the voice sounded like the pony on the other side of the door was holding something in her mouth. "Aurora!"
Shiny opened the door slightly and peeked out, sighing in relief when she saw Aurora standing on her front porch, clenching a dark blue bag in her teeth. Shiny pulled the door open the rest of the way, and motioned Aurora inside. Her best friend hurried into the house from the cold Manehatten streets, and Shiny closed the door before a draft could wander in.
"Hey Aurora," Shiny greeted, "Anything new happen? Do you know if Rightful is okay?"
"He'sss fine!" Aurora spat out, trying to speak while she held the bag tightly, "Ssssomething in-portant, Shiny...!"
"I can't understand you, Aurora," Shiny sighed, "What'd you say? 'Something important'? Is it in that bag?"
"Bag?" Aurora tilted her head in confusion. Her eyes widened in realization, "Oh, dis? Dis isn't a bag."
Aurora lowered her head and gently set the bag down on the ground. She looked up at Shiny, who awkwardly smiled.
"Why so serious?" Shiny asked, throwing a quote from one of Aurora's favorite movies at her. Her grin faded when she saw Aurora was actually quite serious.
"Shiny, what I'm about to show you... you have to promise to never tell anypony else," Aurora said, putting a hoof on Shiny's shoulder, "It's very important. Very, very important."
Shiny looked into her friend's pleading eyes, and realized that Aurora had come to her out of desperate trust. Reluctantly, Shiny nodded.
"O-okay..." Shiny agreed, "I'll never tell another living soul. Cross my heart and hope to soar, however that goes. I promise, Aurora, okay?"
Aurora stared at her a moment longer, and then knelt her head down and poked at the bag with her snout. The bag began to fall open, and Shiny realized that it wasn't a bag: it was actually something wrapped up in a blanket or a sheet or-
Shiny gasped as she realized that Aurora had been holding a costume wrapped inside a cape. A hat settled atop a purple uniform. Dark blue shoes poked out from underneath the rest of the costume. A mask stared up into Shiny's startled face. Her eyes darted to the wide-brimmed hat, and then to the mask. Finally she looked up, gazing into Aurora's solemn stare, a stare that was imploring for help. Shiny stared a moment longer, cold realization striking her as the dots finally connected in her head and she remembered what costume it was. Shiny looked up from the costume, fixating her eyes on Aurora, who seemed to be waiting for her to speak first.
"So you bought a Mare-Do-Well costume?" Shiny asked, shrugging, "Okay?"
"W-what?" Aurora's jaw dropped and an eyebrow raised, "Bought...? No!"
"How much did it cost? 30 bits? Wait... whoa! I didn't know you were a cosplayer, Aurora! This is great!" Shiny exclaimed in excitement, "Now we can go to conventions together! I have this awesome Diclonius costume that I can wear to Ponycon-"
"No, Shiny!" Aurora harshly interrupted, making Shiny's voice falter, "I didn't buy it, I-I stole it!"
"What?" Shiny raised an eyebrow, "You stole it? I know the prices in Manehatten can be a bit ridiculous, but-"
"No, Shiny!" Aurora put a hoof between her eyes and sighed, "Look, just sit down. I'm going to start from the beginning... you know how I always take the back roads to get home? Well, y'see... the other day..."
Aurora and Shiny sat down on the couch in Shiny's living room, and Aurora began to speak. Shiny listened in wide-eyed horror, occasionally gasping but not once interrupting as Aurora told her everything, from coming across Evergreen fallen in the street to stealing the costume to her brief duel and narrow escape from Powerhouse. When Aurora had finished, Shiny opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She looked at the costume, and then looked at Aurora.
"Y-you can't be serious," Shiny shook her head, rising from the couch, "Tell me you're joking. You have to give the costume back, Aurora. You can't be Mare-Do-Well!"
"Look, Shiny, my father's in trouble!" Aurora defended, getting up from the couch as well, "You said it yourself: the Manehatten branch of the Royal Guard is corrupt! If I don't save him, nopony will!"
"Listen to yourself!" Shiny shrieked, "Saving ponies? Costumes? Fighting villains? You think you're jumping right into a comic book! You don't know how dangerous this is, Aurora! You're going to get yourself killed if you try to stand up to Powerhouse! Forget what I said about the Guards, they're working to catch him! Not all of them are corrupt, they'll save your father!"
"If they ever get their heads out of their plots long enough to do that, my dad's gonna be dead!" Aurora sharply retorted.
Shiny paused. Aurora immediately knew that she was thinking of her own deceased father. She stepped forward and put a hoof on Shiny's shoulder.
"Listen, Shiny," Aurora said softly, "I can't do this alone. You're the smartest mare I know, and together I know we can make a difference. I need your help... your smarts..."
Shiny looked toward Aurora, whose heart sank when she saw a faint glistening in her friend's eyes.
"I need you, Shiny," Aurora whispered.
Shiny closed her eyes, and kept them squeezed shut for a minute or so. Aurora kept her hoof on her friend's shoulder the entire time, and tried not to look at the costume on the floor. Finally, Shiny's eyes opened and she trotted over to the Mare-Do-Well costume.
"Hmm..." she pondered, rubbing her chin with a hoof, "I think I might have something that can help."
Without warning, Shiny turned and hurried into her bedroom. Aurora, completely caught off-guard by the sudden change in her friend's attitude, followed after her. Shiny trotted over to her desk and looked at a notebook that lie open on top. Aurora realized that the notebook was Shiny's precious one; the notebook that had caused a fight with Golden Eagle. Shiny's eyes lit up, and she laughed a little as she turned around again and hurried back out into the living room, pushing past a confused Aurora.
"Yeah! I think I can help you out!" Shiny grinned, grabbing the mask from where it lie on the floor, "Can you leave the costume with me? I'll fix it up, add a few things here and there..."
"So does this mean you're going to help?" Aurora asked hopefully.
"It means I don't want to see you get killed," Shiny sighed, "Aurora, do you really have to do this?"
"I don't know, Shiny. I really don't know."
Masquerade Vanity, a dark brown unicorn, fidgeted with the bowtie on his tuxedo as he stared at himself in the mirror. Finally getting it into a satisfying position, Masquerade stepped back and tilted his head to the side, pleased with his appearance. After all, appearance was everything at these oh-so-important Manehatten dinners where millionaire stallions guzzled down scotch and then tried flirting with mares half their ages.
Masquerade, bringing a small champagne glass through the air with his unicorn magic and gently placing it on an endtable, turned away from the mirror and began strolling through the party. This dinner party was currently taking place in the penthouse suite of a rather expensive hotel. The host and owner of the hotel was nowhere to be found; Masquerade knew that he had probably locked himself in a bedroom with a drunken mare. He shivered at the filthy image as he navigated through the crowd of "high society" ponies, careful to avoid contact with any of them.
"Hey, you..." slurred a voice off to Masquerade's right. He stopped, and turned to face the voice with a stoic expression. The voice belonged to a red-cheeked mare who was stumbling over to Masquerade. Everything about her, from the blush in her cheeks to the wobbly way she moved, said that she had drank a few too many. She wrapped a hoof around his shoulders, making him flinch at her touch, "Brighten your night, darlin'... just a few more drinks oughta do it..."
"No thank you," Masquerade replied in his deep voice, "I'm quite all right."
"C'mon," the mare pouted, "What're you into? I can do the kinkiest stuff for ya, just a few more drinks, please..."
Wondering how a mare like her managed to get an invitation to the party, Masquerade gently pushed her aside and smoothed his tuxedo. Then again, it only made sense for the host of this little social event to invite mares who drank until they couldn't even remember their own names. He was probably sleeping with one at that very moment.
Masquerade made his way through the crowd, finding his way toward the exit. Incredibly, the red-faced mare scampered after him.
"C'mon, just a few more 'n I promise... I'm great 'n bed..."
Masquerade whirled around, quick enough to become a blur of motion. The mare stopped, nearly tripping. She hadn't anticipated Masquerade's sudden stop. She cast him a foolish smile.
"So, is this a yes? Because I hear they're almost out of wine-"
Masquerade's hoof lashed out and caught the mare's cheek with a wet, slapping sound that rang out over the entire party. The mare gasped as she moved with the blow. Her head snapped to the side and she practically dove to the floor with the force of the slap. Masquerade wiped his hoof on his tuxedo as the mare looked up at him with wide eyes, her mouth hanging open in an "O" of shock.
"You... you hit me... you hit me..."
"Ponies like you are ruining Equestria," Masquerade spoke curtly, unaware of the attention that everypony in the crowd was now giving him. The mare reached up with a hoof and rubbed her cheek, which was now burning bright red. Her blue eyes began to fill with tears, and Masquerade turned around and kept moving as she began to cry.
"Just wanted another drink, just one more... wasn't that much to ask..."
Masquerade paid no attention to anypony as he reached the exit and trotted out into the hallway where three stallions dressed in tuxedos similar to his were waiting. He reached the elevator and clicked the button to call it as the three stallions followed.
"How'd it go, sir?" one of them asked. Masquerade turned around.
"As well as you'd expect any Manehatten social event to go," Masquerade dismissed, trotting into the elevator as the doors finally opened. The three stallions followed him inside, one of them pressing the button to bring the elevator to the bottom floor, "You didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to, sir," the stallion replied as the doors closed.
Upon reaching the bottom floor, Masquerade made a show out of stumbling out of the elevator. The stallion behind the front desk glanced at Masquerade and gave him a small grin.
"Leaving so soon?" He asked politely.
"Yesh," Masquerade slurred, "Gonna try 'n find my way home... Thas' enough scotch for one night..."
The front desk stallion gave a polite smile, like this was something he saw all the time, and turned back to his work. Masquerade struggled to keep a drunken facial expression as he staggered outside of the hotel with the three stallions following after him.
Once outside the magnificent hotel, standing under the looming white building in the dimly-lit Manehatten streets, Masquerade spat on the sidewalk and stopped his drunk act.
"Just remember," Masquerade said, pulling a small metallic device out of his tuxedo pocket, "This is an extraordinarily large group of 'Manehatten's Finest' gone tonight. Our work was fantastic."
The stallions nodded in agreement, and then they followed Masquerade as he crossed the busy, chariot-covered street. Was there ever a point when Manehatten didn't have a chariot on every street?
Safely across the street, Masquerade and his followers looked up to the sky, gazing at the top of the hotel where the dinner party was still in full swing. Masquerade, shuddering a little as he remembered the filthy mare that had dared to soil him with her touch, pressed a small black button on the device.
With a thunderous crash, the roof of the hotel exploded in a fiery inferno as remote-controlled bombs were detonated. A black column of smoke rose from the roof of the once-tall and proud hotel as a few more explosives and three gallons of gasoline went off, consuming everything in a blaze of orange and red. Ponies on the sidewalks began to panic, and galloped away while screaming for the Royal Guards. The hotel began to cave in on itself as the damage began to take control. A stream of panicked survivors began pouring out the front of the hotel. Masquerade turned and began trotting away, with the three stallions following closely behind.
"Again, good work today," He praised, "Another victory for the PurePonies. Mark my words, Manehatten will be cleansed of all scum and sin. We're doing this for the good of all of Equestria!"
A few Royal Guards galloped past Masquerade and his followers as they rushed to the scene of the disaster. They arrived in time to save a few ponies from the rubble, but there had still been plenty of unavoidable causalities.
Just another success for the PurePonies.