A person who wishes only companionship may find this world a cruel one, where there were many who seeks only their own benefits. It's important to remember that not only yourself matters, but those around you too.
An Innocent Start
Shadows engulfed the empty plain of the cruel north, lit only by the lights of the massive encampment of the Equestrian Army. A host numbering twelve thousand strong. A host meant for the recapturing of the Crystal Kingdom, the only place within miles to be illuminated by a brilliant light, similar to a beacon of hope in a time of despair. Except that the Equestrians know better, for the light was the Enemy, one of the foes that had enthralled an entire kingdom.
The Kingdom had changed its outer appearance. Towering Spires of crystals rose before them, each either burning bright with brilliant light or filled with dancing shadows, which moved endlessly within.
A wall of similar make stood glittering underneath the spires, like a cruel guardian standing between the Equestrians and their goal. On the other side of the wall however, stood a most imposing structure.
A Fortress stood in the middle of the city of Crystal Ponies. Towers of dark stone and clear gems that reached out toward the sky, each like a claw that seeks to grab the clouds which floats about. In fact, though nopony knows it, the one responsible for everything stood upon the battlements of the Crystal citadel.
As Lueur looked down from the battlements of the crystal fortress he raised. He could not help but feel a pang of regret at how things came to be.
No! He shook his head, dispelling such thoughts. He had come too far to reminiscence, too far for regrets.
Then something caught his eye.
Two young dark crystal foals were carrying a barrel together, aiding the preparations for the upcoming war. In fact, the dark lord had begun to notice that throughout the kingdom, all the children who had been mindwiped by him had been put to work.
Without a second thought, Lueur opened a telepathic link to his most trusted subordinate. It did not take long for the dark crystal Pegasus to reply.
“Wild Wake! Heed my call.”
“What is it you wish, my master?”
“It appears I had been too hasty in issuing orders. Gather the children, and herd them to the Citadel’s dungeons.”
“I understand,” replied Wild Wake, “but why, milord? Wouldn't it be more prudent to have them fight for us?”
“And become a liability?” Laughed Lueur, “I think not. Keep them in the dungeon where they would be safe. They would also serve as a nice shield in case the princesses tries anything funny.”
“Understood, milord.” Affirmed the Pegasus as the link was cut.
Why did he do that? Wondered Lueur, he had instinctively thought up a scheme to not only further his advantage, but to keep the children safe. Had the great Overlord Lueur soften up?
Unknown to himself, or perhaps, he had been denying it all along, but the Dark Lord’s mind shifted to his past.
10 years ago…
Cloudwalker fidgeted in her seat. She was seated in the newly appointed Ponyville’s mayor office. She could never quite get used to the cushions. After all, the soft and comfortable feeling of the clouds was quite addictive.
“So, Cloudwalker,” said Mayor Mare, glancing at her guest through a pair of spectacles, “how’s things at the school?”
“It’s fine,” replied Cloudwalker, “the foals and fillies are growing well, some of them even learned how to fly within weeks of their induction.”
“Excellent,” smiled the Mayor as she peered at the Pegasus, “that's great to hear.”
Cloudwalker, however, sensed that there was more to this than a simple meeting. In fact, she even had an inkling on what the Mayor’s true purpose was.
“I don't think that you came to ask me about my school’s wellbeing alone…” Probed Cloudwalker carefully, “is there something else you wish to discuss?”
“Nothing gets past you,” smiled Mayor Mare gently, “do they, Cloudwalker?”
“It’s hard to hide things from an old friend. May I know what else you need to tell me?”
“The Princess had paid a visit.”
“What? She had? What did she say?” Asked Cloudwalker; awestruck at the honor Mayor Mare had received.
“It’s about the foal we found weeks ago, do you remember? On the night of falling stars?”
“You mean Chrome?”
“He has a name now?” Asked Mayor Mare, “well, it does suit him, after all, about his silver eyes, wait why Chrome? Isn’t silver more fitting?”
“Well, it’s after Chromium, a metal with a slivery look. Not to mention that silver is a bit too… generic,” Continued Cloudwalker, “He can speak now, too.”
“He can?” Laughed the mayor, “why, a few weeks ago I recall that young Pegasus to not even know how to talk? What a fast learner!”
“Yeah, he's a fast learner,” agreed Cloudwalker, “just a few days ago a few of the older Pegasi tried to create a mini-tornado. Then it flew out of control, and then guess what he did? Flew into the darned thing at an incredible speed. For a moment there, I thought he was going to recreate the Sonic Rainboom! Sadly, It appears that stopping the tornado was what he’s intended on at the moment”
“Uh…. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Simply put, he was at such a fast speed when he hit the tornado, he was at the exact same velocity! Then he simply controlled it and dissipated it!” Laughed Cloudwalker, “That was when the seniors started calling him Windcutter coz when he flew at the thing, he looked like a blade cutting the very air. So the nickname stuck.”
“Chrome Windcutter,” smiled Mayor Mare, “a fitting name for one so young.”
“Anyway,” interjected Cloudwalker, “What did the Princess say?”
“Well,” replied Mayor Mare, “she just asked a bit about how the town was and that she had heard that we had found a young foal wandering about. She seems quite… Concerned about the young Pegasus, even asking us if we knew where he came from.”
“And?” Prompted Cloudwalker eagerly, still awed by the whole ‘princess’ thing, “what did you say?”
“I just told her we found him outside the Everfree Forest, the poor child who can’t even speak, so you just took him to your school to be tutored and brought up. She was like… Okay, keep up the good work and she left.”
“Just like that?” Asked Cloudwalker incredulously. “That's not much of a visit.”
“You were the one getting all excited,” pointed out Mayor Mare.
“Don't you think it weird, though?”
“What to be weird?”
“This is the first time that the princess had actually taken her time off to find us over such a trivial matter. Trivial when compared to matters of the state.”
“Chrome is a special child.” Mumbled Cloudwalker thoughtfully. “He's a fast learner after all.”
“Look after him, Cloudwalker,” said Mayor Mare, “he may be far more than your average foal.”
“Well, look at the time!” Exclaimed Cloudwalker, “the examiner from Flight Protégé Institution is about to arrive! I should get going soon…”
“Maybe after a cup of tea?” Offered Mayor Mare.
“Yeah, sure. Why not.”
At the top of a cliff, a young light green Pegasi stood still, the wind ruffling his unkempt mane, blue strands swaying in the gale. Silver eyes survey the ever-moving cloud, which was when he opened his wings.
With movements like a blur, he shot forward, punching a cloud apart.
“One,” he noted.
Spinning around, he bucked a second one apart.
Moving with the momentum of the spin, he plunged into the next one, bursting the cloud as he made his exit.
Doing a mid-air somersault, the young colt struck apart another four clouds in rapid succession.
However, here comes the hard part. The somersault had him moving into another cloud. Unable to stop the spinning, he needs to time this correctly if he wants to continue.
Pouring his entire being into concentration. He shot his legs out… which stop short of an inch of the cloud.
“Uh-oh,” was all the Pegasus could manage before the momentum he used carried him face first into the cloud. Plunging through it, he desperately tried to regain his balance as he spun out of control towards the sea of clouds beneath.
“Aaaaaaaaargh!” He screamed as he crashed into through, one, two, three clouds before landing on the third one.
Eyes rolling dizzily, Chrome Windcutter laid still as the world spun about him.
“Uh… are you okay?” Asked a voice.
“Totally,” Chrome wheezed sarcastically, “Like falling from a height…of… 300 meters… at… my age is totally healthy…”
Hooves helped him sit upright and Chrome found himself facing Fluttershy, a young filly close to his age. To be honest, there was nothing special about her, just a normal gentle, shy filly who just so happens to be a bully-magnet.
That was how he met her weeks ago, having a bucket of water dumped upon her when he was inducted into his adoptive parent’s flight school. After he talked the Bullies out of furthering the ‘damage’, apparently, the young filly had decided to follow him EVERYWHERE. Added to that, Fluttershy has a habit of NOT SPEAKING AUDIBLY, something which just INFURIATES- convinces Chrome that she needs some help in boosting her self-confidence.
“Just want to ask,” Smiled Fluttershy awkwardly, “are you sure you want to try for entrance into Flight Protégé Institution?”
“Uhhhhh.” Huffed Chrome, who’s still dizzy from the fall, “Yeah… I mean… Cloudwalker says… I should go for it… Why…. You ask?”
“Wouldn’t staying here be much better?” Asked Fluttershy, “I mean… it would be nicer to… stay here?”
“What’s… the diff…difference between here and there?” Gasped Chrome.
“I don’t know, but Fillydelphia is awfully far, I mean, like you won’t be able to keep in touch as often.”
“Ever heard of writing?” said Chrome, regaining his breath.
“Oh…” Mumbled Fluttershy, before muttering something barely audible.
“Huh? What did you say?”
“Nothing…”*mumbles something else*
“Wh- never mind… by the way, how long did I take?”
“About 10 seconds…”
“Aw Shucks, would have been nicer if I was a little bit faster.”
“Um… Chrome?” Whispered Fluttershy.
“Oh my gosh, the time!” Exclaimed Chrome, “C’mon Fluttershy, we’re going to be late!”
Spreading his wings out, Chrome took off like a bullet, leaving Fluttershy alone among the trees.
“Hurry up Fluttershy, we’re going to be late!”
Flapping her wings, Fluttershy slowly followed her companion.
It did not take long for Chrome and Fluttershy to be assembled with the class. A building constructed out of dense cloudmass, the class of two-dozen stood at their desks, where Madame Redwing, a red pony with a flowing mane of grey, their flight teacher said for what felt like the 37th time.
“Listen!” She said, “The instructor coming down to assess you all is from one of the most prestigious Flightschools of Equestria, be on your best behavior and don’t embarrass yourself.”
“Um, Chrome?” Whispered Fluttershy, “Do you have a moment?”
“Can it wait till a little later, Fluttershy?” Chrome whispered back, “I don’t wanna get scolded by Redwing right before the instructor comes.”
“Chrome! Stop chatting! The instructor will be here any moment!”
“Like that…” Sighed Chrome, a deadpan expression upon his face.
That was when hoofsteps were heard down the hallway. Tension hung in the air, as the hoofsteps grew louder. In fact, the darting eyes of Madame Redwing made the situation worse, as beads of cold sweat flowed down everyponies’ neck.
Cloudwalker entered the classroom first, a Pegasus still in her youth who was in charge of the entire Flightschool, in fact, one could practically see the pride flowing through her azure coat and red mane as she gazes at the attentive class. Following her was a Black Pegasi, her mane a light tone of blue. Dressed in military uniform, which covered her flank, one could immediately tell that she received a well-trained upbringing.
Standing before the class, Cloudwalker smiled at them.
“Good afternoon everypony! It’s great to see that all of you turned up!”
“Good Afternoon, Miss Cloudwalker,” chorused a couple of dozen voices.
“This here is none other than Mrs. Rearsweep, a former Captain of the Wonderbolts who decided that she would serve better by training the next few generations of fliers!”
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Rearsweep!”
“Afternoon,” replied Rearsweep, her eyes resting on each of the foals in turn.
“Now,” continued Cloudwalker, “I am sure that you all know why Mrs. Rearsweep is here. She’s here to assess which of you would like to join Fillydelphia’s most famous Flightschool, the Flight Protégé Institution!”
“Now, Chrome Windcutter, Tallsign and Lightningstreak! Please step forth!”
Chrome slowly walked to the front of the classroom, where he stood with a grey colt and a yellow filly. Cloudwalker gave him a wink as she turns and asked Rearsweep.
“So, Mrs. Rearsweep, these are the younglings who want to join your school. What do you think of them?”
Rearsweep swept her gaze over them before giving a wry smile.
“Now, nothing special. However, let’s see them out in the sky…”
“Of course!” Agreed Cloudwalker, “Come on, young ones, let’s head to the obstacle course!”
“Now listen!” Hollered out Rearsweep to the foals at the starting lines, “the rules are simple, clear the obstacle course in top notch time and finish up by hitting ten clouds in a row in quick succession! If you fail to punch at least ten of them up in a row, you have to redo it or fail the test! Understood?”
“Yes ma’am!” Replied the foals.
Glancing at Tallsign, the grey colt, and Lightningstreak, the yellow filly, Chrome gave them a quick smile that was returned before turning his gaze upon the obstacle course.
He had never gotten used to the sight of the imposing Cloudsdale Racecourse. An incredibly large white cloudmass served as the floor. Pillars of dense cloudmass, The Columns, marked the start of the obstacle course. Following the pillars was a roiling river of mist, River Mist, where one had to maintain pure balance in flying through as literally nothing can be seen. A slight deviation from in form would cause one to move off course or crash into the ground. After the wall of mist would be the most famous feature of the obstacle course, the Bubble Field. At first glance, the field of oversized bubbles floating about seemed hardly menacing, until one actually flies into it. Each bubble ranges from the size of baby pony to twice the size of a full grown Pegasi, but the size of the bubbles were not the problem, it was the force they explode with that were the true threat. In fact, Chrome had experienced the impact once before, and had never forgotten the power packed inside even the smallest of those bubbles. That one time, he had flown into one about roughly his size, the force of the explosion propelled him into another… and another… in fact, he had lost track, only remembering striking the cloud surrounding the course sometime after. Afterwards would be the most common practice area found in all Flightschools and Courses, The Cloud Harvest, where one trains for busting clouds.
“Ready,” yelled Redwing, as she stood glaring at the audience with the “No Jeering Allowed” look.
The participants bent forward, hind legs ready to push off. The audience seemed to hold their breath as the atmosphere went taut with tension.
Lightningstreak was the first to take off, followed by Chrome and Tallsign. Like three blurs of movement, the three foals sped towards the first stage of the course.
Chrome followed in directly after Lightningstreak, but took a different route. After all, first rule of racing, never directly follow a fellow contestant, for if they trip, they may trip you too.
The wind brushing against his face, Chrome weaved and dodged, avoiding each of the cloud pillars. One or two were a narrow inch from crashing, but the rest of the pillars were cleared easily.
Bursting from the thick foliage of pillars, Chrome sped towards the river of mist. Closing his eyes, Chrome reflexively felt every single part of his body with his mind. Maintaining perfect balance, Chrome dove straight into the river before exiting out of it sometime later with no apparent difficulty.
Unfortunately, the river of mist had a side effect. Moisture clung to his wings and mane, making it tougher for him to move. Desperately, Chrome tried to shake off the water that clung to him when the next stage looms before him.
The Bubble Field.
Remembering his mistake from last time, Chrome slowed down, after all, bubbles floats about, making it tough to predict as thousands of them are floating about AT THE SAME TIME.
Heaving a breath for confidence, Chrome entered the third stage of the Obstacle course.
Cloudwalker had never been so excited.
Well, except for the one time where she attended the Summer Sun celebration in Canterlot, but now, Cloudwalker honestly could not believe what the young Pegasus who had been inducted into her school weeks ago was capable of.
“Calm down, Miss Principal.” Chuckled Rearsweep beside her, “you got a reputation to keep.”
“Sorry!” Muttered Cloudwalker as she sat down in embarrassment.
Well, you can’t blame her for being excited. After all, three of her finest students were not only taking the test for the a transfer into Fillydelphia’s Flight Protégé Institution, they were clearing the obstacle course while doing so, something that has not happened in years. After all, there was a secret motive behind the race, which was to find out a simple quality the Institution was focused upon
“However,” continued Rearsweep, “this is a first, after all, none of the previous students we accepted actually finished the race.”
“Yeah,” muttered Cloudwalker, her eyes focused upon Chrome, who was carefully avoiding the bubbles within the field at a manageable speed, “this is really a breathtaking moment.”
Dodging and weaving among the floating bubbles like a green blur, Chrome could only curse as a grey bullet shot itself past him, causing him to fly off course.
Barely stopping before a large bubble three times his size, Chrome flapped his wings as hard as he can, ducking about him. Roughly ten meters ahead, a small “pow!” and a grey shape flying into the air indicated that Tallsign had been on the receiving end of an explosion.
The actual test was harder than during practice, for Chrome had not counted on River Mist’s side effect. In fact, the moisture had caused him to tire more quickly, being unable to glide as efficiently due to some of his feathers were stuck together by the water. Not to mention that the additional weight was unwelcome, even to Pegasi who focused on balance more than speed like Chrome. His wings were already straining to keep himself in the air; in fact, Chrome felt that he had only a few more seconds left to go before his wings could not hold up his body anymore.
There! He’s almost at the exit.
With an extra burst of strength, Chrome cleared the Bubble Field, making his entrance into the Cloud Harvest. Clouds of multiple shapes and sizes loomed before him.
“One try,” muttered Chrome Windcutter, entering a state of pure concentration. Spreading his wings, he flapped them once before pushing himself forward towards the field of clouds, looming before him.
The crowd gaped at the event happening before them, a crowd which had started as roughly a couple dozen Pegasi foals and adults, to roughly an audience of a hundred. It was not unusual for a rare spectacle to attract a large crowd, especially when one was happening before them now.
It was well known that Cloudsdale was home to one of the toughest obstacle course in Equestria, a course that tests one’s speed, dexterity, balance, stamina and focus, all essential parts of a flier. Yet right now, three foals were taking on the difficult task of clearing the course.
The grey one had been sent flying into the sky by a bubble explosion, but in amazing show of agility, he had twisted mid-air and dived back into the field. The crowd was also entertained by the antics of the other two. The yellow filly had impressed many Cloudsdale adults with her speed, clearing what would have been seen to be impossible, one such event being her dashing in between two bubbles on a collision size and zipping free just as the bubbles were about crash into her.
The green colt was equally as impressive. With a control over balance almost unparalleled, he had cleared the River Mist without breaking speed, and had seemingly treated the bubble field with ease. Except for the one time where he was almost knocked off course by the grey colt, where he awed the crowd by narrowly dodging a bubble three times his size by quickly ducking around it.
The current spectacle was no less impressive. The three foals had finished the course and were clearing a path among The Cloud Harvest. Each was unique in their own way. The green Pegasi was demonstrating feats of amazing dexterity and balance, making sharp and narrow turns as he struck apart the clouds he chose to be his targets while avoiding those that seemed overly dense and large. The grey one was doing the exact opposite, plunging through each cloud regardless of their size, a show of incredible stamina and strength for one his age. The yellow filly was like a butterfly, where speed was her main concern before, here she slowed down drastically, choosing her targets carefully before hitting it like a lightning bolt.
In simple terms, the show happening them was one not seen for a long, long time. And none of them regretted being able to witness it, for no one doubted it then, three outstanding fliers had blossomed in Cloudsdale.
Chrome gritted his teeth as he attempted to push his wings past his limits. In fact, he had needed felt like this before. A flame burns within him, a desire to prove himself.
Out of the corner, he spotted a yellow figure spiraling to the cloudmass floor, but he was too engrossed in his own world to feel anything but the need to not be outdone. Like a blade of green, he sheared through his seventh cloud and angled sharply upward.
The eighth one loomed before him, like a forbidding figure denying a trespasser entry. Clenching his teeth, Chrome put on an extra burst of speed, propelling himself towards the dark fluffy object, hoping it would be enough.
Except it wasn’t.
Instead of bursting through the cloud, Chrome got stuck, not having the strength the break through. As he hung upside down, grim realization hit Chrome like a thunderbolt. He had failed.
A second passed.
The word hung in the air.
Eyes tearing, Chrome could almost imagine the disappointed face of Cloudwalker as he attempted to pull himself free. He got to do it again, he needs to bust apart another ten clouds in rapid succession. However, as much as he tried, his strength failed him, for the course had taken a lot out of him.
Spreading his aching wings, Chrome attempted to use them to help him push himself off the cloud. Pushing as hard as he could, Chrome attempted at least slowly shift his left leg out when a strong pair of hooves helped him out.
Turning his head, Chrome Windcutter was faced with Cloudwalker. However, contrary to his expectations, Cloudwalker holds no disappointment in her eyes. Rather, a glimmer in her azure eyes beams with pride.
“Why?” Whispered Chrome forlornly.
“Why what?” Whispered back Cloudwalker as she pulled him out of the cloud.
“I… I did not finish the course.” Panted Chrome.
“Silly child,” chuckled Cloudwalker, “I have a surprise for you, get on my back.”
Having little choice in the matter, Chrome lay still as his adoptive parent placed him on her back and slowly flew back to the starting line where everyone else was waiting. To his surprise, it appears a crowd has gathered while he was doing the obstacle course.
Lightningstreak and Tallsign were in no better shape, looking as exhausted as Chrome was and had to be supported upright as well. Both gave sad wry smiles as Cloudwalker carried Chrome in, one which Chrome sadly returned, taking comfort in that no one passed the test. When the sound of hoofsteps drew his attention.
Marching towards the group was none other than Rearsweep, the black Pegasi a far more imposing figure than the clouds which Chrome were busting apart minutes ago. Eyes resting upon Chrome Windcutter, Lightningstreak and Tallsign in turn, Rearsweep eyes narrowed as she spoke, Chrome preparing to control the flinch that was bound to come with her reprimand.
“Congratulations on passing.”
Jaw gaping, Chrome sputtered, “What?”
Smiling mischievously, Cloudwalker chuckled.
“Silly child, you actually thought you failed?”
“The test was to evaluate you,” continued Rearsweep, “if we chose merely the foals who completed the entire schedule, Flight Protégé Institution would have no students at all. The schedule was built to evaluate your current level, and I dare say that you all had been exemplary, for no foal in all my time of teaching had ever cleared all three stages of the Cloudsdale Obstacle Course.” Rolling her eyes, “I have no idea what made you think that wining is passing. Anyway! Congratulations on your admission to Flight Protégé Institution!”
“And congratulations on your cutie mark, Chrome!” Added Cloudwalker.
“What?” Asked Chrome, “cutie mark?”
“Your flank!” Laughed Lightningstreak, “you got a cutie mark!”
Turning his head, Chrome beheld at wing spread across a tornado upon his flank. Eyes widening at the image, Chrome could barely contain his excitement.
“A fitting cutie mark for you,” smiled Cloudwalker, “it really suits you when you were fighting against impossible odds just now.”
“Well,” Concluded Rearsweep, “go home and celebrate, I’ll be returning in a week to pick you three up!”
The small group cheered, a cry that was echoed by the surrounding crowd, all with the exception of a single filly. Who looked on with eyes filled with sadness.
One week later.
“Time’s up Chrome, we need to go.” Said Cloudwalker.
“Yeah…” sighed Chrome Windcutter, pulling on a backpack twice his size.
They were at the edge of Cloudsdale, about to take flight down towards Ponyville, the place where Cloudwalker first found him, to take a train to Fillydelphia. However, Chrome had been waiting at the edge of the city, for a friend.
“Don’t worry, child,” assured Cloudwalker, “I’ll tell her that you promise to write.”
“Yeah…” Said Chrome, “She just feels like avoiding me for the entire week. Ever since that race. “
“She’s a shy kid,” replied Cloudwalker, “but strong, and kind.”
“Uh… Mom?” Started Chrome.
“Is it a mistake? To want to improve?”
“It’s not a sin, my child,” smiled Cloudwalker, “not a sin…”
“Not a sin,” repeated Lord Lueur. “Not a sin.”
“Milord?” Asked a voice. “Is there something wrong?”
Spinning about, Lueur stared at the bearer of the voice, a red Dark Crystal Pegasus stared at him with concern in her green eyes.
Her name was Crimson Fall, a follower possessing a loyalty bordering upon fanaticism. Even now, behind the concern within her eyes, Lueur can feel her desire, her desire to please him so that she could hear a sliver of praise from his tongue. It was not her fault, for once one had seen miracles that he had wrought, especially if it saved lives, it would hard to resist following him.
“Is it a sin, Crimson Fall,” Asked Lueur as he turned away from her, facing the direction of the Equestrian Encampment. “Is it a sin to want to climb to greater heights?”
“It’s not a sin, milord,” replied Crimson Fall, adoration clear in her voice, “for you saved us. That’s why it will never be a sin.”
Far away, in a house of cloudmass situated in Cloudsdale, a middle aged Pegasus gazed at the stars through her window. The lamplight revealing her coat to be one of azure.
With sad eyes, she gazed upon the night sky, the thousands of twinkling stars shining upon the blanket of darkness. She was witness to the movement of Equestria’s forces, and she believed her beloved son to be among them.
Eyes gazing at the stars as though pleading to them, she whispered.
“My child, return safely.” Whispered Cloudwalker, “It’s not a sin to want to climb to higher grounds… Just like how you did it for Fluttershy… How you did so that she would have something to work towards…”