“So you try to break us up because you’re afraid of us. Which is silly, why not be our friends instead?”
Flying has a lot of meaning for the three different tribes—for Pegasi it’s a way of life. Unicorns, it’s just one more obstacle for them to try and conquer with their magic. Earth ponies just see it as just one of those things that other ponies can do. For me, it has always been a way to relax and clear my head. It was something Rainbow Dash ingrained in my head during training ‘Nyx, up here, you can really relax. Nothing can get you and you are the master of your own destiny. Just you and the clouds.’
A chuckle escaped my lips, letting the words flow through my mind while the air flowed past my wings. There is just something about having the wind blowing through your mane and air that blows under the feathers of your wings that helps you forget your troubles or put them in perspective. Even the air, sickly though it was, felt a little better while up in the clouds. Taking a deep breath, I performed a small corkscrew in the air to position my back to the ground. Looking up at the cloud barrier, my hoof gently raised up and began to cut deeply through the clouds, making a tiny little slit in the clouds to reveal the blue sky above.
“How do you live like this?”
“One day at a time kid, one day at a time,”
The words of Guiding came back to me as I looked at the blue sky and frowned. There was the beautiful sky, untainted by the devastation that now covered Equestria, and down below was nothing more than a depressing wasteland of death. I flipped around again to look below. Everywhere my eyes looked, I could see nothing but rotten blackened trees and brown tainted dirt. No grass, flowers, or even animal life could be seen for miles around.
“So much death, and I can’t fix a damn thing. What am I good for? What am I supposed to live for?” I spoke aloud. Shaking my head, I turned my sights ahead to look at the approaching city of Manehatten. A small smile came to my lips as the first stop in my journey lay just a few hours ahead of me. But first, I needed to rest and relax my wings.
Looking around, I found a small hill with a little pile of rocks near the edge. Titling my wings to catch the downdraft, I glided down to the hill and landed on the side of the rocks. Once my hooves were on the ground, I stretched a little and arched my back as I extended my leg. Laying down on my belly, the first thing I did was look over my wings, “Stars, when did I last preen you girls?” I leaned my head to the right wing, taking out the broken feathers and adjusting the misaligned ones. I noticed a few burn marks and holes from some of the bullets that I had been trying to dodge for a while. Sometimes, I wish that somepony made armor for wings.
My right wing done, I extended it and gave it a good flap. Confident that it was clean and fixed, I moved onto my left. A few memories came to my mind as I fixed the wings.
“Hehe, it tickles Mom,” I giggled as she went through my wings.
“You’re doing it wrong, Twilight; you are supposed to gently glean through them, not run through them roughly,” Dash said, watching.
“Well, I’ve never tried to…” Mom made a small grunt as she moved a feather. “Preen a wing before.”
“You’re doing great, Mom!” I smiled as she continued.
I pulled my head away from my left wing and gave it a few test flaps, making sure that any leftover loose feathers were gone and that my wing was now officially clean. Nodding in pride at my work, I lifted my saddle bags in front of me and looked inside. Ok, lets see what we got here, I thought to myself as I reached into the right pouch and pulled out the contents.
“One canteen,” I said, taking a small drink of water. It may have been irradiated, but at least it was liquid and tasted good. “Two boxes of Fancy Pants candied apples, one small bowl of instant noodles from Guiding’s house, and,” I quickly opened the box of apple crisps and took a bite, “a quickly depleting box of apple crisps.” As I ate through my improvised lunch of apple crisps (although, I wished that I had a daffodil sandwich with a bit of celery soup), I made a mental note to scavenge the city and find some food there or maybe find some ponies that are selling some for caps. It shouldn’t be too hard; Manehatten had a few grocery stores and Pumpkin even owned a branch of Sugar Cube Corner there.
I opened my left pouch after I cleaned Dusk. The holster I made for Dusk was crude, and Rarity would have killed me for the horrible design, but it was the only thing I could keep her in. Taking a quick look inside, I smiled at the sight of all of my treasures inside the bag. Reaching in with my magic, I levitated the Twilight plush and looked at it, “You know what would make this journey easier, Mom? If I had a friend.” I sighed, not really expecting an answer or response from the plush. Putting her back inside, I took another bite of the apple crisp.
Finishing the last of the apple crisp, and taking some Rad-away for good measure, I looked above the small rock mound towards my destination. There, just a few miles beyond a small cabin (I wonder who that belonged to), was the once gleaming city of Manehatten. Although much of it was decayed with places that looked like somepony took a bite out of one of the buildings, I was able to see in my head what the place once looked like. The gleaming spires, the tall towers, and the almost mirror-like buildings were all placed on a small island. My mind replayed a memory I had of Mom and the others heading off to watch a play while Rarity went off into a fashion show. Now, all of those memories seemed lost forever, broken like the city before me. All those memories and ponies like... “Babs.” I whispered with a soft smile.
“So, I hear youse gals were gonna be getting a bodyguard,” the brown mare next to me said as the elevator rose up.
“Yeah, apparently an alicorn needs protection,” I joked with Babs as we neared the top.
Babs looked at me with comforting eyes, “Hey, after what happened to Big Mac, I’m surprised that all four of ya ain’t under a lot more protection.”
“It’s not me that would need it. It’s them. I can handle a lot more than Sweetie Belle, Scoots, and Bloom,” I said as we walked to the main office.
“Well,” Babs began, after blowing a piece of mane out of her eyes—a habit that she never seemed to grow out of. “Maybe your bodyguard is there to protect them from you.”
I let loose a giggle, “Maybe.”
As the door began to open, I could hear Apple Bloom talking. “And, our personal bodyguard should be walking through the door right no- BABS!? You’re the bodyguard?”
I was about to disagree when I looked to Babs, who had a smirk on her face that said ‘ya, I am’. My face broke out into a wide grin as I picked up Babs in my forelegs and gave the biggest hug I could, showing off her cutie mark: an apple seed within a shield.
As the memory faded from my mind, I made a mental note to find Babs’ old apartment and pay my respects. I extended my wings, gave them a few flaps, and took off towards the broken city.
As I flew through the buildings, I couldn't resist swooping and weaving through some of the more intact structures. Racing through various holes in the ruins like some sort of insane obstacle course made me feel alive, and it became a nice sport in spite of the relatively creepy feeling of the city. Making my way deeper into the city, I stopped to hover for a moment so I could get my bearings.
“Okay, Nyx. If the Arcane Sciences hub is to the south-west...” I turned to see Mom's Ministry building towering over a few smaller buildings next to the highway. Most of the windows were blown out, giving a clear view of any ponies that might be in there. Considering the state of the other buildings around the city, I was surprised that it had remained mostly intact.
I looked to my left. “And the Four Star Grand Terminal is to the south-east, then Red Racer is there with Hoofbeats next to it.” I pointed to distant broken building. The rusted and crumbling building had seen better days; the once impressive scooter was now fallen halfway to the ground and jammed between the tower and its neighboring building. A smile came to me as I fixed my gaze on the distant scene. Though it was mostly just a silhouette, I could recognize that scooter anywhere.
However, as I had gotten my bearings, my ears twitched at a whistling sound. Turning around, I barely had time to let out a gasp as I watched a missile coming at me, a white trail of smoke followed the incoming ballistic. With a little chance to move I swiftly ducked uner the incoming projectile, it hitting a building neext to me. The force of the explosion sent me flying into a corkscrew, and a second flew past and striking my wing. All feeling lost in my wings, I plummeted towards the ground at an almost unbelievable pace. Dazed, my eyes were barely open as I watched ground come up to meet me as I hit it hard.
I looked up from the small crater that I made, trying my best to get myself reoriented. Everything hurt, my body felt like every inch of it was on fire. My eyes were opened in slits, letting me see very little. Moaning in pain, I looked around at my body to see just how badly the missile had hurt me. Slowly lifting my eyes to look, my leg was turning purple from be twisted, and my head began to throb a little in pain as a trickle of blood ran over my eye.
Closing my eyes, I tried to use my basic healing spell to try and help my worst injuries; the constant loud ringing in my head was not helping my concentration. Wincing and struggling through the pain and ringing, I tried to help reset my wing a little, but the pain was getting to me.
That was when I heard a slow thunderous walk coming in through the ringing. It sounded like an iron giant walking towards me, ready to claim his prize. Struggling through the pain of the missile strike, I watched in horror as a steel ranger walked slowly towards my crater, kicking up dust and breaking rocks as he walked. After it got closer to me, the iron monster looked down at me, his weapons drawn. Trembling, I raised my hoof to the metal pony, trying to gaze through the helmet and into his eyes. “W-w-wait, I’m not, t-them. I’m not a mons...” the rest of my sentence fell away as I succumbed to the darkness.
“Nyx?” I heard a voice call out.
After what I guessed to be about a few hours of unconsciousness, I began to slowly reawaken. My body still felt a little groggy from being out for so long, and it took me a while to begin to move again. The first thing I did was try to move my legs, and to my surprise, they were fine. Opening my eyes wide and taking a closer look at my wings and leg, noting that I must have been given a healing potion when I slept. Raising an eyebrow at this, I rolled onto my stomach and laid there for a few moments. It made no sense to me that I would be fine like this, the spell I cast before I passed out was only supposed to help my chest and stomach heal.
Turning my head back and forth, I tried to hunt down who it was that was responsible for my current condition. On my left, I caught quick glance of a few bottles and some white stuff. Slowly getting up and walking to the objects, I smiled when I noticed that the bottles were some healing potions and a couple bottles of Sparkle-Cola. Levitating the bottles into my bags, I then looked at the white object that I had seen earlier. It was a small white cup and a note attached to it.
Curious as to what was in the styrofoam cup, I opened the little and took a whiff of the scent from inside it, “No way,” I gasped as I opened the cup. My eyes widened in happiness as I looked at the thin red broth, with the small green chunks floating within, “CELERY SOUP!” I exclaimed in pure happiness.
I knew that the celery that had made up the main part of the soup was probably filled with enough preservatives to make it more chemical than soup, I didn’t even want to think about what was done to make the soup, and it was most likely radiated to blazes. I didn’t care. Tirek himself could’ve appeared, offered me the stuff made out of Discord droppings, and I would take it. Giggling like a little filly, I generated some small heat magic with my horn and warmed the soup to a boil. After waiting a few minutes to warm it up, I tipped the cup to my lips and began to slurp it down.
“Nyx, don’t slurp your soup,” I could hear Rarity say in my head. I just smiled in response as I drank my soup, moaning in pleasure as I could feel the warm broth go through my mouth and down my throat. The leafy taste of celery mixing well with whatever it was that the makers decided to create the broth with.
After I had finished gulping down the soup, tasting like preservatives along with the rest of the tasty vegetable, I licked the remaining drops of soup from my lips and put down the cup to the side. I then looked at the note, wondering who in Equestria knew about my love of celery soup. Picking it up, I began to read it.
Remember that you should be careful flying around cities like this one. Not all Steel Rangers are going to be like me; most would’ve left you to die. I fixed you up the best I could with some potions and left you with some that I had scavenged. I had also found some soup I scavenged up.
Sgt. Steel Hooves.
“Steel Hooves is alive!?” I gasped in shock as I folded up the paper in my magic and put it away into my bag. I never had much interaction with him beyond the times me and Apple Bloom met up with him at Applejack’s, but the idea that there was somepony else alive from my past out there besides Ditzy made me smile. I turned towards the direction of the coordinates, but then I stopped and stepped back.
My mind began to think if I really should go and meet him now. After all, we probably didn’t have too much to talk about. It also didn’t help that he recently fired two missiles into my body and almost killed me. That would make things a little awkward between us. I sighed and shook my head before turning back to the direction of Red Racer, “I’ll see you later, Steel Hooves.” I smiled and walked away, mentally making a note to come back. After all, he did say to come back when I needed help, and he also might know what happened to Applejack. I knew he had problems with her before the last day (I was only one of a few who knew about their relationship), but maybe they patched things up and he knew where she died.
Remembering what he had said earlier about being careful, I decided it would be best to walk the rest of the way. After all, it didn’t seem too far to walk.
Thank the stars I was right, for within a few minutes, I was already within sight of the large building and the club next to it. Looking up, my ears fell against my head a little as I saw the fallen scooter wedged in between the two buildings. No doubt it fell down due to rust. The adjoining building, in comparison, looked a little better with all of its floors intact. It looked blackened from a great fire that hit it. With the exception of the Hoof Beats club right below it, one wouldn’t think it any different from any other building, nor would they think it would be a Ministry hub.
I took a few steps forward but stopped when I heard loud growling. Not wanting to risk a fight just quite yet, I flew up to a small building just across from the Red Racer building and looked down. At first glance, the little group looked like winged scorpions, “Enclave?” I asked myself as I looked. From the description that Guiding gave of that one scout he encountered, they had armor like the one Rarity made for Rainbow Dash. And these things seemed to fit the bill nicely.
However, I looked closer and saw that they all had manes and resembled large lions rather than ponies, “Manticores,” I said. Looking to my side, I pondered for a few moments of going down and taking them all on to make my way to Red Racer. The temptation to let them all feel the wrath of my sword was palatable.I held out my sword in front of me, my lips turned into a sneer in Dusk’s reflection.
Giggling, I shook my head a little and I sheathed the blade. There wasn’t any real reason to be fighting them and I didn’t want to waste my time kicking their tails. Instead, I looked to where the scooter of the Red Racer had fallen and flew towards that instead, making a soft landing on the bridge, “If I remember right, Pinkie’s office is just one floor above me. With any luck there’s some clues to where Pinkie Pie went,” I thought to myself as I took a few steps forward, trying to ignore the sound of leathery wings right behind me.
As the sound drifted closer to me, I leapt over the incoming flying thing and landed behind it, “What the buck?!” I exclaimed out loud as I turned to see four more of these batlike things flying from the scaffold of the old Red Racer building towards me.With a step forward, I could hear the bridge creak and groan, and chose not to risk a battle on shaky ground. Choosing, instead to move into the building. In a flash of lightning, the bat thing in front of me fell down thanks to my bolt..
Panting, I turn around to watch as my little bat pursuer decided to hunt elsewhere and fly back to its perch. Resisting the urge to give the offending creature an immature razberry, I turned to walk down the hallway of the building. With any luck, some of the stairs would be still standing after all this time to allow me a chance to walk up to the floor above me. Continuing my journey down the hallway, I began to notice the frequent appearances of kitchens along with the offices one would expect to find in a building like this. A small chuckle came from me as I thought, “It just wouldn’t be Pinkie to have a lack of kitchens in a building. She would miss out on a lot of baking.”
The old hallway was much like the rest of the building, burnt and ruined with parts of the ceiling falling apart to reveal some of the wires beneath. The rooms that looked like they could be entered were mostly blocked off by rubble or dead ponies. The idea that I might have to fly up to the next level was looking more and more possible. Also in the back of my head was the thought that I might not be able to get any info from the computers about Pinkie Pie, and then where was I going to go. The tuba music playing behind me was not helping with my worries, “Tuba music?” I said out loud. Turning behind me, I saw what looked like to be a mechanical flying bug,” A sprite-bot?”
“You are not supposed to be here, you are a bad pony,” the voice spoke with Pinkie’s voice.
I didn’t even have time to try and argue before the sprite-bot began to shoot its lasers at me, making me roll to the side of the hallway. My eyes narrowed, I unsheathed Dusk and launched myself at the sprite-bot and cut deeply into the flying machine. After two swipes with my sword, the robot was down, sparking and sizzling in a heap of scrap. Tossing my mane back with a shrug of my head over the ease of killing the bot, I then caught sight of three more of those things coming at me. A gasp of surprise came from my lips as I ran down the only available hallway on my left.
This turned out to be a bad idea as two more bots showed up, and left me with little choice but to duck into the adjoining kitchen. Letting out a yelp of pain as I felt one of the lasers burn off some of my tail. Using an overturned table for cover, I took the time to look at my burnt purple tail. Luckily it was only mildly singed, and I quickly blew on it to get rid of the flames. Looking over my cover, I sent Dusk flying out to one of the sprite-bots like a flying javelin and piercing the side of the machine, destroying it. I retrieved my sword with a loud *ting*. I saw some of the other bots began to fly down the hallway looking for me.
A groan came from me as I began to look around for some alternate way for me to get to the next floor without crossing the paths of the bots, and luckily for me, one was opened as I looked up to the ceiling at a hole to the next floor. With a few flaps of my wings I took off from behind the turned table and up the hole. I smiled as I climbed up out to look at my surroundings on the upper floor: It appeared to be a small waiting room that led right to the Ministry Mare’s office. With a few quick trots, I opened the door to take a look inside.
The room was nice and big, appropriate for an office belonging to the head o the ministry. It even had a nice big panoramic window behind the melted desk, perfect for watching over the city. Well, it would’ve been perfect if weren't for the fact that the window was shattered, leaving behind jagged glass in the frame. Walking into the room and looking into a corner on my left, I took note of four safes against the wall. If I was any good at lockpicking I would’ve tried to see what Pinkie left behind, but instead, I took the time to look at the small kitchen in the far other corner with a computer on it.
Walking towards the computer, my eyes caught the body of a charred skeleton holding a small purple object. A sorrowful sigh came from my lips as I looked at it, feeling sorry for whoever the he or she was, and then walked to the computer. Taking a few tries to access it, I opened up the first file I saw, an audio recording. “Hi Twilight. It’s me …
“I’ve tried sending messages to you at both your Canterlot office and the one here. Everypony says that you are in Splendid Valley again, so now I’m trying you there too. I really hope you’re not just avoiding me. I… I wouldn’t blame you if you were.”
“Pinkie pie?!” I exclaimed with glee, happy to be getting somewhere with finding where the other girls were.
“I went to the get-together at Spike’s place and brought it just like you asked.
“Get together? Spike’s place? What is she talking about, and what did she bring,” I made a note to myself to find out.
All of my friends were there but you… Spike said it was because you couldn’t get away from your work, but… Was it because I was gonna be there?
“Twilight, I’m so sorry. You were right. Totally right. I’ve known it for a long time. I just…
“I mean, I couldn’t. But I will. I’ve made an appointment at the Helpinghoof Clinic. For tomorrow. They’re supposed to have stuff there… medicine that can help make… addictions… go away.
“Do you think they might be able to bake the medicine into a cake? Or maybe a pie? I like pie!”
“Oh, Pinkie, I’m so sorry,” I whimpered, putting my hoof to the screen. “I wish there was something I could’ve done to help.” I said, over the next few pieces of dialogue in the recording.
“I’ve done bad things, Twilight. Awful things. And I’ve let the ponies in my Ministry do even worse things. And I’m really, really sorry. I don’t know if I can be your Pinkie Pie again. But I’ll try. That’s a Pinkie Pie Promise!
I shook my head a little, and sighed, “You just made mistakes Pinkie, we all did. I know Mom would’ve been there to help you all the way.”
“And Twilight? Do you think… maybe… you could go with me? I’m… kinda scared. And it isn’t the sort of scared that goes away with giggling.
“I mean, I have you with me now, so you’ll kinda be with me anyway. But it’s not the same. I want the real Twilight Sparkle. I…
“I want my friend back.
“I’ll do anything…”
I could feel some of my tears fall from my eyes, feeling miserable at the pain that my dear aunt Pinkie went through. I felt so useless at being unable to help someone so close and dear to me. Recoling in horror, I read the last few lines on the screen
Error: Connection to Maripony Terminal #42 Failed.
Message not sent.
I sat there for a few minutes, reading the message on the screen, as the gears in my head began to turn and I shuddered at the realization of just who that corpse was across from me. I peaked my head from behind the screen and let out a barely audible shuddering whisper, “P-Pinkie Pie?” Taking slow, shivering steps, I began to walk to the charred skeleton of my aunt. Leaning in, I moved the skull with my snout, as if this was some cruel prank and she would pop up again, alive.
As I nuzzled her, I kept saying, “Pinkie, please, get up. Please, get up! Come on, this has stopped being funny!” The tears began to roll down my cheeks, unstopping as I collapsed to my stomach, “Didn’t you always say a prank is only fun when everypony is laughing with you? Well, I am not laughing! This is not fun, Pinkie! Please, come back, make me smile again. G-give me something to laugh about, give me hope again! P-please Pinkie... I can’t do this, not alone... ” then I laid my head in between my forelegs and cried myself to sleep. “So... alone.”
“Alone?” Pinkie giggled as she jumped down next to me, her grin shining brighter than anything.
“Yes, alone,” I groaned, looking out at the small town. I was planning on reading my royal guard manual that day alone when Pinkie heard me talking to myself. “When I get into the royal guard, I am going to feel so alone there. It was hard enough to make friends here, and now I am going to a place where the first thought will be to ‘kill the newbie.’ I am going to be all by myself and my friends are all going to be who knows where! You know, Dinky’s planning on being a teacher? Apple Bloom and Scoots have a few ideas about some companies they want to set up and Sweetie is planning on going to Las Pegas. Me? Stuck, alone, and all by myself.”
I then notice that Pinkie had a reassuring smile on her lips, before putting a hoof on my shoulder, “Ah, you aren’t going to be alone-”
“I just said-”
“They are going to be where they always are going to be,” she then placed a hoof on my chest, “Right here! Along with me, your mom, and all of our other friends! Just because you can’t see us, doesn’t mean we aren’t there. The friendships you made today will always be with you. And if you ever forget it, just have a little laugh and I will be right there.”
“Now come on, laugh, you really need it right now...”
My eyes were still closed as the dream ended, a smile coming to my lips. Slowly, but surely, I let out a small innocent laugh. For a brief moment, I thought I saw Pinkie putting her hoof onto my shoulder, smiling at me. Wiping away the tears from my eyes, I stood up slowly and looked to the window, needing to get as far away from there as possible. I took one final look at the resting corpse of Pinkie, praying that she and Mom would meet again one day. Turning my head to look out the window, my eyes narrowed in determination and I spread my wings to take off and fly out.
After a few minutes of flying, I found a small rooftop to land on. Once my hooves hit the cold hard surface of the broken roof, I looked up at the sky in an attempt to try and tell how long I had been asleep. A growl of irritation escaped my lips as I looked up at the cloudy sky, forgetting how impossible it was to see the sun. Guessing by the lighter grey of the cloud cover, I must have slept all night. With a quick pull of my magic, I pulled out the book Mom gave me and began to write,
“Pinkie Pie soon met her end...
She spent her final...
Her Life was...”
I blinked rapidly, trying to stop crying as I found myself unable to write anything down in the book. Every sentence I seemed to write just fell apart as I couldn’t get the image of Pinkie’s body out of my mind. It felt like a sword stabbing through my heart just trying to even write her name.
“Oh, by the stars, if I am having this much trouble with Pinkie... What am I going to do if I see Rarity’s body, Fluttershy’s, Applejack’s, or even Mom’s!” I shook in fear, the image of my mother’s charred body laying before me caused fear to run through my mind. “ T-this is too hard, why did you choose me, Mom?”
“I want that book to be a memorial to us, the good and the bad. I want the ponies of the future to know our true history, not whitewashed history. I want them to know how we lived and how we died. To learn from our lives and grow from it,” my Mom said to me in the memory.
“Because you trust me,” I whispered to myself, “to write down the truth and not sugar coat it. You want to teach a lesson on life and friendship one last time.”
Getting back up, I placed my book back into my pouch and walked to the edge of the roof in attempt to get some flying in and taking my mind off of my friend’s corpse. With a deep breath, I prepared to take off into the air, but some noises caught my ear and I looked down.
On the ground beneath me, there was a pony in a gunfight with six other ponies. At the same time, it looked like he (or she) was standing in front of three smaller ponies, “Raiders,” I growled. Getting to my haunches, I used my cloak to cover my wings and jumped off the roof. It must’ve looked like I had jumped of the roof and allowed myself to glide to the ground with my cloak. A smirk came across my lips as Dusk came unseathed.
The first raider did not even see my attack coming as I slashed Dusk deeply into his back, before using the blade’s dull side to knock him out. While I got up from my landing, I took note of what the other raiders were holding as they took note of their new opponent. As they yelled commands to one another, I could see that two of them had shotguns (Take those out first) one had a pipe and the last two had pistols.
“Oh, it’s an unicorn bitch. Boys, git her!” the one with the pipe smile as he turned with his two friends to stare down their previous opponent and the ponies they were attacking. At this time I noticed it was a small group of teenage fillies that they had cornered and were trying to kill. But where was the pony that I thought I saw protecting them?
My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a hand gun being shot, the bullet passing by my right foreleg, “Shoot! I missed.” He would not get a second chance, for while he reloaded, I raced at him, using Dusk to cut off his left foreleg. Ducking beneath the shot of his partner, I slashed at him with my sword’s dull side, sending the pony to the ground unconscious. Looking to the pony who’s leg I chopped off, I used my fire magic to cauterize the wound and stop the bleeding, before I slammed my hoof down to knock him out.
This left the three other riders to fight, but before I could get to them, the other pony who had been fighting the six raiders appeared. My eyes opened wide at the shine from his wings as he swooped at the two raiders, decapitating them, “Wingblades,” I whispered to myself before yelling out, “Duck!” the pegasus did, allowing me to send Dusk flying out to the last raider and hit his head, knocking him out.
“Thanks,” the white stallion said, walking by me to look at the two other raiders I took down. “But you shouldn’t be letting these raiders live. They don’t deserve it.”
“I’m not an executioner, it not my place,” I said calmly, looking at the decapitated corpses of the other two raiders. “You may like it, but I don’t.”
The stallion sighed, shaking his black mane, “Naive. The name is Swift Blade, and you are?”
“Nyx Sparkle,” I said, looking at the three fillies as they ran towards us.
“Thanks for saving us,sir/mam,” they said in unison.
“What are you three doing out here?”
“Soft touch,” the filly of the group said, pointing to a light blue pony next to her. “Said he saw an alicorn flying into the Red Racer building, and we wanted to see if he was right. But then those raiders found us and began to chase us.”
“They come from Guttertown, not too far from here. I say a few blocks from the way they carry themselves. Not tired at all,” the stallion said, and then looked behind him. “You can cut across the alley and get yourselves there.”
The three kids nodded and ran off in the direction that Swift told them, while I turned to walk away, “So, where are you headed?” Swift asked me.
“Umm,” I froze or a few moments, unsure of my destination. Beyond Pinkie, the book really didn’t offer any real clues to where I could start looking for the other bearers. I took a deep sigh and looked at the towering MAS building ahead of me. Maybe Mom’s ministry might have some clues. Looking over my shoulder at Swift, I responded while pointing my hoof to the building towering over the monorail, “To the Ministry of Arcane Sciences Building up ahead.”
“You new here or something? Nopony has called it that in years. It’s Tenpony Tower now,” Swift said, looking at the building with me. “I can understand the confusion if you were a stable pony.”
As I looked to him, it was then I had noticed the glowing green device on his right hoof. This look also provided a chance for me to look at his cutie mark, metal wings swiping through a cloud, “Well, I used to live with a group of monks that respected and studied the ministry mares and my group focused on Twilight,” I lied, not wanting to go into detail about the truth.
“I see, and you left the confines of your little sect because?” asked Swift, an eyebrow raised.
“Well, I am on a pilgrimage from my monastery to find out what had happened to the ministry mares when the world ended and record it for them,” I answered, not completely lying. “I already have Pinkie Pie, but the rest-”
“I can’t guarantee you will find the answers to where the mares fell, but you might find some rumors in Tenpony Tower,” Swift said, walking ahead of me, his wind-swept black mane not seeming to be messed by the soft wind.
“You live there?” I asked as I began to walk side-by-side with hm=im.
“No, but some of the jobs that I take come from there,” he said, looking towards the tram line.
“Mercenary?” I asked him.
He silently nodded, “Of a sort, I mainly protect those who can’t protect themselves.”
“By killing,” I muttered under my breath.
“Way of the wasteland. You can’t get by for long on a naive ideal like never being able to kill,” he stated coldly.
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” I said, shaking my head.
“Thoughts like that get ponies killed,” he said, heading to the four star terminal.
“Why aren’t we flying there?” I questioned, letting my curiosity about this stallion take over.
Swift turned to look at me as we walked through the station and towards the Luna line of the elevated train, “They don’t like the idea of pegasi flying into their tower. Kind of raises suspicions.” Then he stopped and looked at me, “But, why would you worry about flying? You are an unicorn.”
I stepped back and chuckled at my accidental faux pas, “Well, I thought that you pegasi are strong enough to carry ponies, so I figured you could fly me there.”
“We are strong, but not that strong,” Swift said as we stepped onto the line proper. As we began to walk forth onto the Luna line, the extent of the devastation of the city finally hit me in full force. Empty buildings now broken down, or crumbled into various states of ruin passed me by. When I looked over the railing at the ground below, I could see nothing but destroyed vehicles and the occasional piece of litter blowing by. The cool wind that blew by me caused me to shudder a little, although that is probably more from seeing the former city surrounding me as an example of how to wipe out all life in a matter of seconds.
Swift looked at me, “You are warm, I assume?”
“Huh? Oh yeah,” I sighed. “It’s just all of this death and devastation around me, it’s a little much.”
“It’s something you have to get used to,” Swift said, and then before I could respond with a snide remark, the stallion looked towards a collection of buildings. “But if you need something to warm you up and make you feel better. Wait.”
I arched an eyebrow at this and walked to his side, and let out a gasp of awe as I watched a phoenix fly out from the alleyways and towards the Luna line. My eyes continued to watch as the bird encircled me and flapping its beautiful green and yellow wings as it gave a beautiful caw. It made another loop above our heads before flying towards some other buildings. A small chuckle came to me as my thoughts drifted to Spike and Peewee, “I wonder if they made it,” I said in a low whisper.
“Even in times of darkness, there is a light waiting to be found,” Swift said, before turning around to continue to walk down the monorail.
My head cocked to the side, “Philosophy?”
“No,” Swift shook his head, stepping over some random debris. “Just the thoughts of a pony trying to live in a hellhole.”
I nodded in understanding, after all, ponies like him need something to do in a place like this. I turned as we walked by a large anti-zebra propaganda poster. I felt rage within me as I saw it.
Ok, I’ll admit it, there was a small part of me that actually bought into the MOI propaganda. Can you blame me? The zebras killed one of my best friends and a school’s worth of fillies and colts. Of course I’m going to hate them for a while, even though I know there are good ones out there, ones who don’t believe that I am...
I turned my head away from the image, unsure whether to thrust my hoof in the air in celebration of the message or to groan with disgust at the sight. With a sigh, I kept my pace with the white pegasus and began to wonder if this wasn’t the time to let old prejudices die.
After a few more feet of travel, we reached a part of the monorail where another crossed just above it, “We’ll use the Celestia rail, I can fly you up if you want.”
“Such a gentlestallion,” I smiled as I took him up on his offer and let him fly me up to the above line, where we continued on our journey.
To be honest, I did not know what to expect as we neared the Ministry of Arcane Science building, but seeing lights in the old broken building was something odd. Granted, part of it was in disrepair and the sign was long gone, but otherwise it looked like it took on the worst of the end o the world and came out clean. Looking at the flickering lights, I began to wonder just who lived in that place.. Snapping myself out of the admiration for the building for the moment, I followed Swift into the station outside of the building, onto the walk just outside of the building. I’ll admit, I never visited Mom much here, always too busy with the CMC back at stable-tech or working with Babs, but, I admit that the building was a perfect example of archaeology. Totally preserved for the most part. My walk stopped as I gazed at the picture of a matronly purple unicorn running amongst the leaves with a number ten jacket on, “M-mom,” I whimpered. Slowly I ran a hoof along the smiling visage of my mother, and smiled back.
I looked to some of the other stallions and colts with a cocky grin, “So, which one of you guys are ready to tire ourselves out?”
I chuckled at the angry mutterings of the other contestants, only to be knocked out of my confidence by an all-too familiar voice, “It isn’t a race Nyx, you know that.”
“MOM!” I squealed as I wrapped my forelegs around her and hugged her tightly. “I-I thought you weren’t going to make it this year?”
“I was able to find time in my schedule to arrange this. Besides,” she then smiled softly, looking past some of her bangs. “I’m not going to miss this special time with my daughter.”
A happy grin came to me as I turned to look at the starting line. My eyes narrowed in serious determination before looking at her out of the corner of my eye, “Ready to have an in depth discussion on the five pools of magic and its relationship to the twelve schools of magic?”
“Didn’t we have that discussion last year?” Mom smiled at me, happily.
“No, that was about the use of metamorphic substances to create a change into a different species and the ramifications on the mind,” I smugly said, and then smartly giggled. “Don’t tell me my mother forgot something.”
My Mom was about to respond but was interrupted by the starting signal. With a wink at her distraction, I calmly began to trot a few feet of her. After a few moments to recuperate, she began to follow me, “So, Nyx, I think that one could easily divide up the twelve schools of magic into the five mana pools.”
“But mom, that leaves 2.4 out of the equation, how do you-”
“Make a sixth pool. I have a theory that-
This was how all our little races went, during the running of the leaves. She or I would find a random science or magical talk to have and we would spend the rest of the race talking about it. Sometimes it would get heated, but it was never with malice to one another. Sometimes, I wonder if she had only pretended to forget some of our discussions just to look at an old argument from a new angle with a few years of experience.
During this particular race, I couldn’t help but admire her at that moment. At her age and she could still remember every spell she learned or equation she solved. As we began to near the last stretch of the race, a small smile of admiration came to my lips, “Mom, we are almost near the end. Ready?”
My mom nodded as she began to speed up, “Same deal as usual?”
“Yep, triple fudge chocolate chip muffin at Sugar Cube Corner,” a chuckle came from me as we began to push the last leg of our journey, victory assured.
I don’t remember which one of us won on that day, but I do remember the two of us collapsing near a tree while the leave began to fall around us. Turning my head to look at my mom, I began to giggle, “ Mom, you have a leaf on your head.”
My mom looked up at the orange leaf that landed on her mane and blew it off with a puff of air. Turning to face me, she gave out a stretch and stood back up, “Well, that was a fun way to end the marathon.” My mom smiled at me.
“Yeah,” I sighed, getting up to shake the leaves off of my coat. “Can’t wait to do this next year.”
The my mom looked down at the ground, the smile quickly disappearing from her face, “Nyx, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I will be coming to do this next year.”
“What? Why?” I couldn’t believe what I had heard, this was one of the few times I could actually spend with her. The rest of our time had been caught in in so many other projects, her with her ministry and me with Stable-Tec or Babs.
“A lot of the projects that I have lined up at the MAS will take up a lot of my time and I don’t see me being able to find room for stuff like this anymore,” Mom said, looking at the group of ponies talking to each other.
I looked at the same group, noting the small foal that was playing with them. I felt my heart sink a little, the memories of Little Horn reminding me of why it was so important or her to be so into her work. Still, the fact that one more thing that I loved to do was taken away from me left a bad taste in my mouth. With a sad sigh, I turned to face mom, “I understand, Mom. At least you’ll be able to find some time for me soon, right?”
“Of course I can!” Mom said, smiling before lowering her ears, “Just like I do with... my friends.”
I let out a sad breath that I didn’t even know I was holding as I trailed my hoof along the smiling face of my mom, “I miss you.”
“You all right, Nyx?” Swift asked, walking back to me.
“Um, yeah. I was just thinking about what the ministry mare was like,” I responded, before going off to follow him to the front of the tower. At the gate there was an older-looking guard stallion wearing some small barding.
“Hello, Swift. Welcome back to Tenpony Tower,” the guard said, nonchalantly.
“Swirl,” Swift said, nodding to the guard as we walked in.
“You know the rules, disarm before entering,” the green stalion said, looking at my sword in its sheath. “That goes or your partner too.”
I looked at little sad at Dusk as I handed her over. I had begun to enjoy my weapon’s company over the past few days. With my sword deposited, me and my companion entered the building. My eyes widened as I let out a shocked, “Whoa.”
The place was like a small town, with the world of the Wasteland quickly forgotten as the ponies milled about their daily lives. I looked back and forth at the various shops, restaurants, and ponies that walked overhead on the mezzanine. The golden chandelier would cause my eyes to blink from its brightness as I would sometimes look at it as I passed it by.
“My place is in the living quarters,” Swift said, reaching into his pocket and bringing out a key. “If you want to meet up there, otherwise there is a restaurant up there that we can meet up in.”
I looked up above us and nodded before asking, “What are you going to be doing?”
“To the bounty’s office, I need to collect my caps for my job,” Swift said, walking away from me.
“A bounty hunter?” I thought to myself as I walked up the stairs to the shops. Some of the raiders had some equipment I could sell and I could remove the barding that Ditzy had given me a few months ago. Finding the nearest shop door, I walked inside.
“Well, hello, miss unicorn and welcome to the Snake-in-the-Grass shop!” the orange mare with mint green mane said as I stepped in. “Got something you need to ditch?”
I used my magic to pull out some of the weapons and ammo I procured off of the fallen raiders and handed it to the mare. I chuckled as she whistled at some of it, but then arched an eyebrow at the look of the older barding I was getting rid of, “Are you sure ya wanna part with this? You don’t find barding in such good condition like this around here.”
I nodded and looked to the armor that Guiding had gifted me, “Yes, I’m sure.” After all, it only had a few cracks from where Steelhooves hit me with that missile and armor that could take a hit like that needed to be kept safe.
With my loot sold and some caps in my cloak’s pocket, I walked out of the store and nearly into a grey unicorn mare. I apologized to her as she walked by, noting that her electric blue mane was done in such a way that made me think of Vinyl Scratch. I smiled at the memory as I began walking to the restaurant that Swift had pointed out to me. Once there, I made my order and sat down at a small table. While I waited for my food, I brought out my mom’s book.
Looking it over again, I let out a reflective breath. Mom did a good job at getting everypony’s lives down to the letter, not a single detail was left out. I noticed that at various parts of the book, tear stains had dried on it and some of the entries had been partly scribbled. I couldn’t help but wonder what went through Mom’s mind as she wrote each entry. How many times did she stop to cry over the past? Reaching the blank page of Pinkie’s story, I looked at my writings and shook my head. I still couldn’t find the strength to write down her final fate..
“Your order, ma’am,” the waiter said, bringing to me over-preserved peaches.
“Thank you,” I said, handing the waiter my caps and began to eat. I didn’t really know what to expect from a restaurant at the end of the world, but peaches were a nice surprise. Taking a soft bite o the overly syrupy food, I swallowed it and smacked my lips of the residue. Taking a quick swig of the water (Stars, it had been so long since I had fresh un-raditated water, it was like a miracle) I went back to the book.
I growled lightly as I began to near the final entry. There were no more clues to be had within its pages. The entries on the other four stopped at least a year or more before the world ended, Pinkie was the only one that was the close to that date. A frustrated grunt escaped my lips as I slammed my book shut in frustration. I couldn’t believe that my quest to find out what happened to the other bearers was going to end right here, with only one element found.
As I put away my book, I saw a slip of paper next to me. I picked up the paper and gave it a quick read,
“Follow me, daughter of the Twilight,”
I raised an eyebrow at this, trying to figure out who had left this behind. Looking up, I saw a pony in a cloak slip out the door. Moving quickly, I ran after the figure, allowing my curiosity to take over. I followed the pony through the hallways and paths of the tower until I reached a metal door in front of me. I was about to try and open it with my magic when the doors opened in front of me. Cautiously, I walked inside the doors and saw a light blue unicorn standing before me.
“Welcome, Nyx,” the stallion said, bowing. “To the Twilight Society.”
Footnotes: Level Up!
New Perk: Batmare: You have gotten really good at the whole”Hiding your alicorn-ness” thing! Now when you wear your cloak, you can simply glide without revealing your wings!
Companion perk added: Mare-sashi: You are 20% faster with all bladed weapons as long as Swift Blade is with you.