Emerald was sleeping. Normally this was a bad thing, but she was exhausted enough that the only thing unpleasant about it was a lot of violent images and the sound of her mother screaming for her. Still quite bad, but not the worst she ever had. The odd thing however was this odd buzzing sound that started at some point and was growing louder. Eventually it ended up drowning out everything else and Emerald found herself waking up.
The Evolved blinked her eyes as she found herself staring at a familiar ceiling with a blue blur occasionally coming into view. Quickly taking stock of her surroundings, she found that she was in her and Twilight's bedroom. She also quickly realized that the buzzing sound was still present and found it emitting from the blue blur flying around the room.
“Navi?” Emerald asked after tracking the blur for a moment.
There was a trill of delight and the blur shot at Emerald and impacted her cheek with a light smack. Navi buzzed and trilled happily as she snuggled Emerald's cheek. Emerald shifted her form back into her human one before grasping Navi in her hands.
“It worked!” Emerald said happily as she petted a trilling Navi. “Feeling all better now, Navi?”
Navi took off from Emerald's grasp and started flying in circles around Emerald far faster than she ever could before in answer. The virus smiled but quickly frowned as she thought about how she went about keeping Navi alive and healthy; namely giving her an an altered strain of her own virus...
'Crap, she could release a super plague without realizing,' Emerald thought in worry. 'Definitely glad she hasn't really done anything just yet because I can still fix this.'
“Navi, could you come here?” Emerald beckoned to her pet who obediently flew over and lighted down on Emerald's outstretched hand. “Okay, now listen to me carefully. I'm going to do something that will feel really weird, but I need you to trust me and try not to resist it. Okay?”
Navi, in response, tilted to the side in some confusion before giving a trill which Emerald took as an affirmative. At that, Emerald took her pet and went to sit at Twilight's desk before setting to work.
Extending a tendril into Navi's flesh, Emerald began the slow finicky work of extracting lines of genetic code and basically decreasing Navi's viral potency. Even with Navi not fighting it, it was clear this wasn't something the virus in her wanted to happen. Thankfully, her virus didn't react violently. The thing that upgraded her control over her own viral creations aided her greatly here. She could have ended up being forced to basically hold Navi down and wage a microscopic war as she tried to render her pet less likely to accidentally cause a genocide by sneezing on someone.
It was a half hour of solid work later when Emerald finally pried the last of the potent genes from Navi who was looking a little nauseous from what she had just gone through. It may have been quite unpleasant for Navi, and even as a pet it still was a violation of her being, but Emerald viewed it as worth it. Blacklight at the potency Emerald now had wasn't something you entrusted to something with Navi's intellect and naivety. It was difficult to describe just how terrifyingly lethal and unstoppable any virus made by her strain would be. Her cells were capable of the Gray Goo apocalypse, basically. Airborne, waterborne, capable of infecting ANY biological life form and was capable of infecting metals and rock. If Emerald created a virus that did nothing but eat and replicate without any intention of stopping it, no one would be able to stop it before it consumed the world inside and out. Causing Navi a bit of discomfort was far more preferable to entrusting her with this power and hoping for the best.
'Not that she is helpless or downgraded to a lesser viral form,' Emerald thought as Navi took to the air again, not flying as fast as before due to some dizziness. 'She is still Blacklight... just starter Blacklight which is still rather deadly and potent if used smartly. No offense, but I do not think there is much worry there with Navi in the driver's seat. Still, I've not stayed alive this long by being stupid. I'll keep her with me at all times... hmm. Navi's intelligence wasn't exactly impressive before and it wasn't expected to be anything more because she was a little insect that was my pet, but now she's Blacklight. If I wanted, I could give her some stimulants for growth of intelligence...'
“Emerald!” came a shout from below; Twilight's voice. “I'm home! I'd like to talk to you right now!”
'I'll consider making Navi smarter later,' Emerald thought as said bug lighted down on her ear. 'Let's go see what Twilight wants. She didn't look so good last time I saw her and it would be nice to see her right about now. Feels like more and more of the world's eyes are staring at me nowadays.'
With that, Emerald switched back to her pony form and went downstairs to give her girlfriend a warm welcome.
“HELP!? I don't need help!” Emerald shouted at Twilight in anger.
Twilight and Emerald were downstairs in the library, and off to the side staring on in worry and some fright was Spike, Navi and Owliscious. The virus had never been able to give Twilight that warm welcome, for as soon as she arrived in the library Twilight started laying into her about what she did in Canterlot. Emerald who had basically spent most of the day yesterday having people shouting at her for going out of her way to help didn't take this so well and got angry. It got even worse when Twilight started going on about some psychiatry research she had been doing and told Emerald she wanted her to go to therapy to help with her issues. Emerald took this even worse than the criticism of the help she had given Equestria.
“Yes you do, Emerald!” Twilight shouted back, now definitely riled up by the argument. “It isn't normal for anypony to kill others with the ease you do, but I put it aside because I know your past. But causing the death of thousands and being so blase about it? I've got to draw the line somewhere, Emerald! I've done so much for you already, Emerald! Can't you just do this for me?! Is that so much to ask?”
“The last time I did something you asked, I got put away for two months,” Emerald stated.
The silence that followed those words was so thick with tension you could cut it with a knife as Emerald and Twilight stared at each other. Emerald's previous expression of anger was replaced by a blank one as she stared at Twilight who now had a deeply hurt but also guilty look.
“Emerald, you... you KNOW I didn't intend for that to happen,” Twilight said softly as wetness began to appear at the corners of her eyes. “I wanted to help you. That was all that I intended and wanted to happen, but...”
'I DON'T CARE!' was what Emerald wanted to say, but she knew it wasn't true so she kept her mouth closed and continued to stare for the moment, not trusting what may come out of her mouth next in this moment of anger.
“... Navi, come here,” Emerald said and started walking out of the room. The little bug lifted off the top of Spike's green crest and flew over to buzz and orbit around Emerald as the virus was stomping out.
“Emerald, where are you going?” Twilight asked as she wiped the beginnings of tears from her eyes.
“Going to work,” Emerald simply replied.
“But you aren't a model...” Twilight began, but the door slammed behind Emerald so hard it shattered in three pieces and sent some pieces of the door frame flying. “Anymore...”
A moment later, a flash of pink light signaled Emerald's teleport away. Twilight sighed and began fixing the door with some precise applications of her magic as Spike approached with a deeply concerned look on his face.
“Y-you and Emerald aren't going to break up... are you?” Spike asked hesitantly.
“I'd think not,” Twilight said a little confidently. “We've had our arguments before... though none as intense as this... but I think we can move past this easily enough once we've had some time to ourselves. In either case, despite how bad this has gone, I am not done with this. I am going to broach her getting some professional help again. I just need to do a bit more carefully.”
With an intense flash of light and a bang that made anyone that was a bit too close recoil, Emerald arrived in the Enclave. The virus took the time to reform back into her human form as Navi took to the air before storming off down the street.
As Emerald stomped along almost hard enough to crack the now paved streets, she remembered she forgot to tell Twilight about Navi and specifically what she had changed her into. However, currently Emerald didn't care at all about that little fact and banished it from her mind as she continued along.
'I need something to cool myself down,' Emerald thought as she forced herself to not crack the road with every step. 'I know, I've been meaning to practice with some ideas I've had about re-purposing some magical spells. Testing the destructive potential of ideas should help me calm down.'
With that, Emerald made her next destination somewhere in the Everfree. She didn't have a specific destination in mind; she just planned to walk and find some clearing. Hopefully the walk would help clear her head a bit and calm her down as she didn't intend to do the magical testing purely for stress relief.
With her thoughts otherwise occupied, Emerald failed to fully take in her surroundings. Namely the fact the dogs were treating her differently. Before they'd cheerfully greet their leader and give her smiles but now they were either giving her a respectable amount of space or solemnly nodding their heads towards her. Before, Emerald's fairly lax attitude towards being in a position of leadership made the dogs feel like they had a more personal relationship with her. Some even stopped thinking of her as their boss and more someone who had a ton of good ideas and thus was worth listening to. Emerald putting her foot down seemed to have reinforced the view of her as not only a leader but one that didn't tolerate insubordination, but didn't go to the same lengths as Nidhogg did to punish it. In some ways, Emerald lost something great with the Diamond Dogs and in some ways she had regained something important. It was hard to say if the tradeoff was worth it, but as always, Emerald had only herself to blame. Of course, this wasn't mentioning the Dogs who now had some rather negative views of Emerald due to her recent decisions. They happened to be mostly the few immigrant dogs who were part of the Warhounds, though, and thus were a small group in themselves.
Suddenly, Fenrir appeared wearing his black Warhound armor, jogging down a street having apparently heard that Emerald was back in the city.
“Princeps,” Fenrir said respectfully and fell into a kneeling position on the road before Emerald, taking his helmet off and holding it in the crook of his arm.
“Hn,” Emerald grunted and continued walking past him.
Without missing a beat, Fenrir rose from his kneeling position and fell into step at Emerald's side.
“Would you like an update on the forces still deployed in Canterlot, my lady?” Fenrir asked.
“Don't call me that,” Emerald stated but gestured for him to continue.
“Half of our forces have returned to the Enclave,” Fenrir reported from memory. “All the war buggies have been returned to the engineers and the entirety of the Raptors have returned as ordered. The other half of the dogs are in Canterlot on guard duty under the command of Alpha Tavish Degroot who himself is under the command of Celestia as you ordered. However, I confess that I and the other Alphas have taken liberties to ensure that all the Warhounds that have reacted badly to the battle in Canterlot were the ones to be returned home.”
“Soldiers need to de-stress from time to time. This can be rather important,” Emerald merely stated in reply. “Anything else to report?”
“Yes. I've been told several times by Princesses Celestia and Luna to remind you that tomorrow is the day of the League meeting in which you are to be presented,” Fenrir reported.
“This soon?” Emerald said in surprise and came to a stop to give Fenrir her full attention.
“I am not aware of the full details, but I did make sure to take what little free time I had to myself in Canterlot to do some investigation,” Fenrir stated. “One master Gyatso apparently has connections with the Heron government and managed to pull enough strings to get a majority attendance for an emergency meeting. That combined with the rather high profile invasion of Canterlot and the fact that many of the guests were politicians has managed to get this gathering set up so quickly.”
“...That is actually quite a bit of information you managed to find out. Good work,” Emerald said honestly.
“I cannot claim all the praise, my Princeps,” Fenrir replied with a smart salute, “I've had some advisory assistance from Tavish as well as a good bit of help from our Pony Auxiliary Whisper Wind.”
“My commendations to them as well,” Emerald said, the small hint of a smile just beginning to appear. “Is there anything else?”
“No. That was my full report, Princeps,” Fenrir reported.
“Great. You can go back to what you were doing,” Emerald said, and was about to turn away when she paused. “Is Belvedere back?”
“Yes he is, Princeps.”
“...Tell him the time for our talk will be today if he can spare the time,” Emerald said before walking away.”
“Of course. Right away, my lady,” Fenrir said with a quick bow of his head before replacing his helmet and making his way to follow his new command.
No one else approached Emerald for the entirety of her trip towards the surface and the forest. Before long, the virus found herself crossing over the border of clear cut land that was the surface land controlled by the Enclave and the wilderness that was Sovereign's domain.
Emerald made her way through the forest quietly, her hands in the pockets of her hoodie and Navi buzzing about her head as she enjoyed her now tireless nature to it's fullest extent. Eventually she found what she was looking for; a large open clearing for her to practice her ideas end and wreck some of the landscape without Sovereign complaining.
Coming to a stop in the center of the clearing, Emerald made sure to keep track of Navi's position at all times so she didn't accidentally get hit. With that precaution in place, Emerald readied her first re-purposed spell, the Heat Ray.
The spell the heat ray was developed from was a warming spell meant for keeping one warm in cold temperatures and as well as boiling water and heating up food. Emerald didn't change much from it except for the amount of power that went into the spell and the targets she would be using it on.
Focusing on a patch of grass a few feet away, Emerald aimed at it with one of her fingers for a moment. At first there was nothing, but after a few seconds the grass started to brown and then wisps of smoke rose from the patch. After a few seconds of smoldering, a small flame suddenly leapt into existence on the patch of grass.
'Okay, the theory works,' Emerald thought with a smile as she telekinetically manipulated a handful of dirt onto the small fire to smother it. 'Now let's kick it up a few notches and see what I can really do with this.'
Emerald turned her attention to another patch of grass and pointed at it. This time, the grass practically exploded into flame instantly, putting a smile on Emerald's face. She looked around until she found a boulder of a decent size before unleashing her heat ray spell on it. Since it was a larger target, Emerald also widened the area of effect of the laser which predictably raised the power requirements.
Contrary to popular belief, rocks don't exactly transition smoothly to a molten state when hot enough. The pebbles around the boulder heated up rapidly along with the target before finally exploding with sharp cracking sounds. The boulder itself heated up quietly as the pebbles exploded like firecrackers, but before long there was a loud bang as the boulder split into several pieces from the heat. Finally, after a few more seconds, the boulder went molten as its heat went further above its ability to resist.
Emerald studied the results of her spell for a few moments before using magic to carpet the area around the boulder with dirt, smothering the flames that had sprung up around the partially molten rocks. It didn't solve the problem of the hot rocks themselves, but that was okay as Emerald had another spell she wanted to test.
This spell was one re-purposed from a spell used for constructing refrigerators and other kinds of frozen food lockers. Emerald had called it the Cryo Beam; hopefully she'd find out if the spell was worthy of the name.
Pointing at the pile of partially molten rocks, Emerald unleashed her spell. Like before, Emerald didn't use her spell on full power, wanting to study the feel of the spell as it worked and maybe spot any flaws so she could correct them on the go. Her studying seemed to pay off, however, as the spell worked without fault and the molten rocks started to slowly darken and cool.
Now an interesting fact about the refrigeration spell was how it made things cooler. It didn't use raw power to force things to a different temperature like the Heat Ray did. Instead, it simply moved the heat away from the targeted object or area. Now normally there were heat sinks built into devices that used the refrigeration spell so there was no worry of heating up the surrounding area, but that wasn't the case here. So while the molten rocks were cooling, the heat that made them so hot was being shuffled into the air above it. This wasn't exactly an issue, but it did give Emerald ideas for the heat. One was that she could have the heat be simply moved to a different area of her victim, so anyone she used the Cryo Beam on would both freeze and overheat at the same time. Another idea was that she could simply use herself as the heat sink and use the stored heat to further power her Heat Rays.
Once the rocks were fully cooled, Emerald ceased her spell and turned away, feeling satisfied at how things were going so far. Moving onto one final spell, she walked towards one of the few trees standing within the clearing itself. The final spell she had actually learned from Clock Work. It was the spell they used on the speakers. While Clock Work couldn't use unicorn magic to fix the speakers if they got wrecked, he still knew enough to know how to keep them in top condition until there was no choice to either have it repaired or replaced.
Standing a few feet away from the tree, Emerald readied the spell she had dubbed the Sonic Cannon. Encouraged by the success of the previous spells, Emerald decided to use the Sonic Cannon at the intended power level. There was a loud wail and suddenly a large circle was gouged into the bark of the tree as sound waves ripped at it insistently.
'Hmm... pretty good,' Emerald thought as she ended the spell. 'The thing about sound though...'
A moment after Emerald had ended the spell, there was a loud creaking and cracking sound and the tree started to tilt to the side at the point Emerald fired the Sonic Cannon at. After a moment, the tree started its fall in earnest and crashed to the ground.
'Is that it goes through most things,' Emerald continued. 'So while this spell has a lot of potential, it is also rather dangerous to use in places with non-combatants. The other thing about sound, though, is that it comes in many different forms, so if I want to just incapacitate people I could just change the sound itself and make one that is agonizing and nothing else. Kind of hard to fight when your body is wracked with pain and you feel completely nauseous.'
With that, Emerald was done with the testing she had planned. There was actually one other spell, but it didn't really count when she thought about it. It was just her practicing her skill with telekinesis, moving multiple objects at once or moving said objects at greater speeds.
As Emerald went through her practice, she thought about the actual need of these spells. Technically she didn't need to use her magic for combat as her own physical and viral capabilities were perfectly good and so worked against everything she fought. But that was the thing, wasn't it? So far it has worked, but there was no telling what she may face in the future. She may be incredibly strong now, but really, potentially all it could take was someone with an ability she had not been expecting at all to get the better of her. Magic opened a vast array of ways she could go about dispatching an enemy or nullifying something that made killing them much easier. So the virus practiced her magic and worked on refining it to ever deadlier ends.
Several hours later, Emerald was finally done training her magical abilities for the day. The clearing was completely wrecked to say the least; Sovereign wasn't going to like that. That much was for certain. But the virus was willing to deal with having to listen to the Forest Spirit's complaining so she could let loose a little bit.
Emerald was making her way back at a leisurely pace with Navi perched atop her hat when she stepped on something. The virus wasn't really paying her surroundings much attention again, much more focused on thinking about the plan she thought up for her presentation before the League of Nations. In fact, she wouldn't have noticed she stepped on something odd had it not squawked rather loudly.
Looking down, the virus found a cockatrice with its reptilian tail caught beneath her foot. Utterly surprised at finding the little creature she had set about looking for several years but had since given up on, Emerald lifted her foot up and quickly swiped down with a hand and plucked the little creature off the ground. Ignoring the protesting squawks of the creature, she turned it this way and that, seeing a real cockatrice for the first time instead of a stylized picture in a book. Done with her little examination of it, she squeezed down with her hand.
The cockatrice squawked in pain before turning it's head to face Emerald, it's gaze meeting hers.
Gyatso took in deep, calming breathes as he went through a few positions and forms of his fighting style.
The old heron was currently in the training grounds of the Royal Guards. The grounds were lined with training dummies, but Gyatso wasn't here for that kind of practice as he already gone through the main body of his own personal training earlier that day and was just winding down for the day. Normally, Swift would have been with him doing the same, but Gyatso had decided to take mercy on his beleaguered apprentice and let her have a day out on the town after she asked for the fifth time. No doubt she was enjoying herself very much, Gyatso wondered if she would still appreciate the day off if she knew he'd be working her twice as hard to make up for lost time tomorrow. From all that he knew of his apprentice, he was fairly certain she'd be unrepentant of the break she took.
As Gyatso smiled in rumination of past journeys and adventures with his student, a pony entered the near empty training grounds. At a glance, the old heron recognized the purple armor of the Captain of the Royal Guard himself, Shining Armor. Gyatso was also able to recognize from the stance and the way Armor walked that he was rather angry.
Shining Armor spared Gyatso a glance and kept moving forward towards one of the nearby training dummies. Once he was before the dummy in question, he started striking at it.
Gyatso subtly studied the Captain of the Guard as he beat on the dummy. He was putting a lot of energy into his strikes and he was also shouting and growling with each powerful blow that sent the dummy rattling on its post. It was rather clear that the Captain was only here to blow off some steam and cool a riled temper.
For about a minute, Gyatso let Armor beat on the dummy as he himself went through several forms before speaking up.
“You know, while beating on something does help sooth one's anger...” Gyatso began serenely, interrupting Armor from his stress release. “It also conditions one to search for something to hit every time you get angry. Which can get rather unpleasant if the only thing around to hit is another person.”
Shining Armor seemed to be more irritated by the advice than anything at first, but after a few moments Armor seemed to accept it with a deep sigh. For a long moment, Armor was left standing in place as he wondered what else to do. After watching Gyatso go through his forms and positions for a few moments, Armor decided to follow the Heron Master's lead and started doing a few basic exercises of his own.
For several minutes the only thing that could be heard was the sound of Gyatso's robes and feathers ruffling in the wind as he rapidly shifted position every few seconds and the clinking of the armor Shining was wearing as he went through some stretches. When Armor was about to pick up the pace of his own exercise, Gyatso spoke up again.
“What has troubled you so, Captain Armor?” Gyatso asked calmly. “Perhaps it would calm you further to share your woes?”
Armor stopped his own exercise and seemed very hesitant to answer Gyatso's question. However, there was something about the old heron. His kindly demeanor and the air about him was very sagely. It made the unicorn wanted to trust that all the heron wanted was to help him through his own problems and nothing else.
“It's... about a certain individual, really,” Armor began somewhat reluctantly. “A criminal to be specific. Normally I wouldn't let a simple criminal bother me this much, but nothing about this criminal is normal. Sh-They got away from me many times and now they are out in the open I cannot bring them in as they are basically both physically and politically untouchable.”
“This criminal caused Equestria a lot of grief with their actions,” Armor continued, finding coming clean with his feelings and concerns easier and easier in the presence of the still training but clearly closely listening heron. “Not only did they do that, but their ability to get away from the Guard untouched time and time again has marred the Royal Guard's own reputation and the people's trust in us to protect them.”
“Not only that, but when they finally resurfaced and the chance presents itself to have justice for past crimes be done, I am forced to stand down,” Armor added, his voice dripping with the frustration he felt at his predicament.
“Hmm...” Gyatso hummed thoughtfully as he slowly came to a stop and faced Armor, taking several deep calming breaths. “What is the reasons for letting this criminal be?”
“Well for one, she is really physically... intimidating,” Armor said, now very willing to vent his issues on someone who was willing to listen. “But not only that, my higher ups somehow managed to become personally invested in this criminal. A criminal! Then there are other elements who have even more personal connections with her and would react really badly if any action were to be taken against her. Of all the things to happen, I have to now deal with the idea that there are GOOD and DECENT ponies who are willing to stand in defense of a criminal instead of letting her face justice. How am I supposed to handle this? I am a Royal Guard, not some local bully trying to push around some ponies so they'd do what I say. I just can't understand it! How could she do this?! She...”
“Hmm...” Gyatso hummed again, as Armor seemed to realize he was letting out too many clues to truth of his problem. “Is this criminal one Emerald Gleaner?”
Armor flinched as he realized he really did let out too many clues of the truth. Armor considered trying to salvage the situation and try to deny what Gyatso figured out, but after thinking about it he decided there was no point. He couldn't fool someone who looked as perceptive as Gyatso did.
“Yes it is,” Armor answered with a sigh.
“There is nothing to fear from me, Captain Armor,” Gyatso said reassuringly. “I am already in the know of the situation surrounding Emerald Gleaner.”
“Yes. I know that she masqueraded as the Gray Fox, leader of the Diamond Dogs of Equestria,” Gyatso replied. “Though I suppose it can hardly be called a masquerade if she actually was the leader. If you allow for it, I shall make a few suppositions on your woes.”
“Hmm... while you are legitimately angry about what Emerald did, as is expected as Captain of the guard, it is not the majority that fuels it,” Gyatso said as he slowly started to his exercises again. “No, the majority of your anger isn't born out of the concern you feel as Captain of the guard. It is born out of the concern you feel as Shining Armor, brother to Twilight Sparkle.”
Armor paused and looked thoughtful about what Gyatso said. After a long moment, he had to agree with the heron's guess. Sure he was angry as Captain of the Guard, but as a brother he was very deeply concerned for his sister since she was involved with such a dangerous person.
“What do you think I should do?” Armor asked.
“While you can't do anything about the concern you feel as Captain of the Guard,” Gyatso began. “You can do something about the concern you feel as a brother. You should go to your sister.”
“...Thank you for you advice. You've given me a lot to think about,” Armor said after nodding and digesting what he heard for a moment. Then he turned around and left. While he still felt tense and angry, he felt much better now that he knew he was going to be doing something about it.
Gyatso continued to exercises, but after Armor left he suddenly leapt fifteen feet into the air. The old heron master created a swirling sphere of rushing winds between his wings and sent it flying towards the ground beneath him, where it impacted far softer than expected and settled a foot above the ground. Then he fell as well and landed softly upon his sphere of rushing winds and took up a roosting position.
'Ah Emerald Gleaner, what glorious changes you bring,' Gyatso mused internally with a thoughtful hum. 'Glorious... but terrifying changes to the paths we are made to walk in life.'
Emerald tilted her head to the side as she met the Cockatrice's gaze, it was documented that its gaze would turn people to stone but she wasn't... wait she felt an odd numbing sensation from the tips of her toes. Looking down, the virus saw nothing at first but as she focused on her other senses she was able to see that she was in fact turning to stone, just very, VERY slowly. At the rate she was being turned to stone, she would eventually be fully petrified in roughly three minutes. But the thing was that she wasn't exactly trying to resist the process currently.
With a single thought, the healthy cells fell upon the ones turned to stone and rapidly consumed them. Within a few seconds, what little progress the stoning process had made was repulsed completely and what cells that was turned to stone after were replaced far faster than they could be petrified.
Having observed what was happening to her on the cellular level, Emerald hummed and simply crushed the cockatrice with a sickening crunch in her hand and consumed it, taking in it's ability to petrify as well as whatever had allowed it to hide from the viral pulse.
As the Evolved continued on her way back to the Enclave, she considered what was going on with the petrification. She guessed that it had something to do with her now great power, it somehow served as a natural resistance to the Cockatrice's gaze whereas if she had run into it when she arrived she likely wouldn't have been as successful in resisting. This also made the gaze not as useful as it initially appeared. Sure she had another way to deal with normal people but she had tons of ways to kill people by now. What she needed now was something to help against incredibly powerful people like Discord.
'That's another reason why I am practicing my magic more,' Emerald thought. 'So I could have more means of fighting people that are more around my level, rather than trying to beat them with pure brute force... I think I have an idea for a way to fight someone powerful, though the means are rather mundane compared to everything else I have. But I can't deny the damage potential...'
As Emerald continued her thinking, she arrived in a rather small clearing that was shortly before the artificial one that was the Enclave's surface territory. In this clearing, Belvedere was standing against the trunk of a tree with his eyes closed, clearly patiently waiting for her.
“I heard you wanted to have that talk you promised,” Belvedere stated as he got off the tree he was leaning against and approached Emerald.
“Yes, but I'll let you open with your own grievances,” Emerald said as she walked over to a bare stump in the clearing and sat down, Belvedere now standing before her with crossed arms. “Because it's you who thinks there is something so wrong with what I am doing that you must openly defy me when I needed the dogs most.”
“I defy you out of concern for your mental state,” Belvedere said immediately. “The thing you needed us most for was to help the ponies, the very people that have hurt us twice and already betrayed the both of us once. And yet when they were in trouble, instead of letting them lie in their own issues and problems you have us go out to save them. Don't you realize how this looks? What does our loyalty to you even mean? Does it mean anything to you beyond the fact you have servants to command?”
“Bah...” Emerald snorted in some amusement at the idea she held Equestria as valuable and important beyond the few people she cared for who called it home. “You should already know the answer to that question by now, Belvedere. Or did my actions as the Gray Fox drip with care for how the ponies may suffer from me stealing their means of making wealth?”
“And what about Twilight Sparkle?” Belvedere stated heatedly. “The mare you entrusted everything, including secrets you don't tell us about? You told about the Enclave, you told her your own closely guarded secrets and entrusted her with your own heart. And yet after she betrayed all that you are not only willing overlook it but leap to her aid at your own cost when she needs it.”
“That was a personal situation between the both of us and you know it!” Emerald snapped. “Or did Twilight not keep the secret of the Enclave to herself and not even hint at its existence? Because I'm certain sure she didn't.”
“I'll accept that, but you have yet to convince me of anything else about this.” Belvedere stated before pausing for a long moment. “Emerald... don't you trust me?”
“...” The virus sighed deeply at that as she cradled her face in her palms for a moment before looking back up at her unofficial second in command. “...Take a seat over here, Belvedere. What I'm going to tell you will take a while.”
Belvedere hesitated for only a moment before walking forward and joining Emerald on the stump as she moved over to make room for him. The two of them sat on that stump staring at the ground silently for a long moment before Emerald looked up, causing Belvedere to look up as well and meet her gaze.
“Well... my story begins about several years ago in an entirely different world called Earth,” Emerald began.
And so a long hour passed, filled with Emerald relating her tale to a completely silent Belvedere as they sat side by side on that stump. Emerald shared everything in that time, from her early life before the first outbreak in New York with her mother, Adela, to her days on the streets hungry and homeless, to her brief period with the cannon fodder Evolved before becoming Cadre, and finally arriving in this world and all that she had done before meeting the diamond dogs and a few things after that she hadn't told them about.
“... If it wasn't for Twilight and all that she was to me, I'd not be the person I am today,” Emerald said a bit quietly. “In fact, in all likelihood if it weren't for her I would have likely just killed those first diamond dogs I met, I honestly don't know what I would have done with the rest of you afterwards, though. I'm just too different now... maybe I wouldn't have even bothered... “
“Anyway, what Twilight did, locking me away in stone for two months I mean,” Emerald continued with a shake of her head. “That wasn't done with any harmful intention at all. She really did mean to help me and if it had worked instead of... the point is she didn't betray your trust and expose the Enclave, Belvedere. What happened was something personal between the two of us. Besides, it's not like you all suffered in my absence. You did make good use of all that I taught you and made those extra steam generators to fill in for the Storm Sapphire when its store of magic ran out, which we are still using by the way since you all did such a good job of making them.”
“And... honestly, I wasn't exactly being truthful about the reasons why I wanted to deploy the Warhounds to Canterlot and fight off the invasion,” Emerald added after a moment of hesitation. “It wasn't done to make us look like the good guys or good neighbors or anything like that. It... my girlfriend was in trouble. She was in trouble and I couldn't be everywhere at once. Not only that, but my friends were in trouble as well. I needed help and I remembered you telling that there wasn't anything the Dogs wouldn't do if only I'd just ask... so I decided to be selfish and used my army for selfish means.”
“...” Belvedere was still silent and was facing towards the ground intensely, deep in thought. Finally, he turned towards Emerald. “Just answer this question. What do the lives and happiness of your dogs mean to you, Emerald? Because those loyal dogs who really would do anything for you no matter how much they may dislike it are in a terrible place right now. They may not be physically harmed, but emotionally they are in agony and they put themselves in that state for you.”
“Ugh...” Emerald sighed and rubbed her face. “Belvedere, you know better than anyone that healing psychological scars is something I'm still trying and mostly failing to do for myself. Just... just give me a minute to think of something... alright how about... the dogs who are suffering from PTS- from trauma will be given time off to heal and recover. And along with that, I'll also supply some antidepressants to help them through the harsher moments. This is honestly the best I can do, Belvedere. Being with friends and family to heal... I mean it's been helping me...”
“Thank you, Emerald.” Belvedere said quietly. “I'll make sure to let the dogs know about your plans for them.”
“Belvedere... you asked if I trusted you, well you have your answer now,” Emerald began. “But do you trust me? Or... has that changed?”
“Emerald, our relationship wasn't exactly built upon a foundation of mutual trust,” Belvedere replied simply and honestly. “What trust that exists between us has always been a luxury and privilege.”
“Right, of course...” Emerald sighed and rubbed her head.
“But,” Belvedere began with something approaching a grin upon his normally perpetually stoic features. “I do trust you to behave like a traumatized maniac sometimes and I hope you trust me to try to pull you back and calm you down when you do.”
“Uh, wah??” Emerald blinked and stared at Belvedere in surprise. Was that a joke? “... Heh. Sure thing, Belvedere.”
For a long moment the two sat together in what was now a comfortable silence as they both digested what had been said to each other in the past hour. A leader and her trusted second in command.
“Well, since I'm starting this whole being open thing with people who place their trust in me and live in my care.” Emerald began casually. “Celestia told me I ought to prepare to be presented to the League of Nations, a group consisting of nations from all over the known world, since because I was being very public back in Canterlot and there is no real way to return to anonymity after everything that has happened. I plan to be wearing this special outfit I've been thinking about and I also plan to be taking some Alphas with me as my escorts of sorts. Mostly they'll be there so they can see and learn some new things about the wider world, though, and I intend for one of them to be you.”
“Hmph...” Belvedere nodded but huffed at the mention of Celestia's name.
'Hmm? Oh wait, that's right,' Emerald thought in some puzzlement before suddenly realizing. 'Quite a lot of Diamond Dogs are unhappy with Celestia due to her failure to keep Nidhogg contained. And I haven't exactly kept anyone in the loop regarding Celestia letting bygones be bygones regarding the mass burglary of Equestria's goods, sending them into a recession and all the slavery the dogs did in the past. Good thing I've decided to change that now.'
“Just so you know I made Celestia aware of what happened concerning Nidhogg and the Old Kingdom,” Emerald said to the other dog, sharply getting his attention. “She was willing to give a lot to make amends for what had happened in the past and has gone to quite some extents to make sure Tartarus is reinforced to make further escape much more unlikely. My request was for her to let bygones be bygones regarding the dogs' past history of slavery over the ponies and our more recent crimes which drove her kingdom into a recession it is only now springing back from.”
“Hmph, I would have taken her for all she was worth.” Belvedere huffed but nodded in agreement with Emerald's decision. “In any case, I'll let the other dogs know that Celestia was made to pay for her past crimes. I'm sure the vagueness of the statement will let them think up some far more satisfying punishments Celestia had to go through.”
“You know... after learning how much Twilight means to you, I'm surprised you didn't become angry with me over what happened between me and her,” Belvedere stated curiously.
“Angry over what?” Emerald asked. “What exactly happened?”
“She did not tell you?” Belvedere said in surprise and continued unhesitatingly. “When you disappeared for those two months I decided to investigate why you had gone out of contact with us for so long. I went to see Twilight first. ‘If anyone would know what you were up to it would be here’ were my thoughts. When I talked to her and she admitted that she had sealed you away with the Elements, I am not afraid to admit that in my anger I had struck her with my pistol.”
“...” Emerald was silent at that. Her mouth opened and closed for a few moments as her expression looked completely torn between anger and confusion. One of her hands started twitching unnervingly and writhed and throbbed with black tendrils. “You... hit her. I... she didn't tell me about that so... I guess she was fine with it so... god damn it...”
Emerald stood up and paced a few seconds with a calm Belvedere watching her do so. Eventually, Emerald stopped her pacing and turned back towards Belvedere with an expression that brooked no argument.
“I'm going to let this go but if you ever feel the need to strike Twilight again, you to come to me about it, alright?” Emerald demanded.
“Of course, boss,” Belvedere replied and got a sigh from Emerald as she scratched her head. “I believe we've gone over everything that needs to be gone over. I have some work that needs to be done, so I'll see you later.”
“Yeah sure,” Emerald said as the Alpha got up and walked past her before an idea struck her and she called out. “Oh, and Belvedere! I'll entrust you to let some of the Alphas of your own choosing into the know of what we talked about.”
“I already have a clear idea as of who should be told,” Belvedere stated his reply as she walked into the underbrush of the forest.
Emerald continued to pace again, once more feeling the anger that she had just gone to bleed off in the forest start to simmer to the surface. Eventually she felt better and calm again to start making her way back to the Enclave. In only a minute she found herself back in the clearing with Navi having taken to the air about her head again.
As the virus made her way through the area, she looked over to the side where Whisper Wind's cottage was and saw said former thief was with Bluno. The normally perpetually happy husky Diamond Dog didn't look so happy anymore. He was cradling his small legs with his large arms as Whisper rubbed his back and spoke soft comforting words to him.
'Yeah, Belvedere was right...' Emerald thought. 'I really need to do something for my dogs. They need a bit of active kindness from me for once. I’ll just run some quick tests on the big monsters I have in the cages below, then I'll get straight to work on those antidepressants.'
Plans for the rest of the day thought out, Emerald teleported with a crimson flash down below.
The next day found Celestia and Luna already at the kraken that the League Headquarters sat on. The two princesses had been driven a little haggard that morning themselves, surprised at how quickly the League meeting was happening. But they didn't look it at all, wearing their finest jewelry and royal vestments for this. Despite their issues with Emerald, they actually were hoping things would go well for her today.
“What are your thoughts, dear sister?” Luna asked.
“I hope Emerald has a plan for the upcoming meeting,” Celestia stated worriedly. “Her motives may have been noble, but her means were unquestionably brutal. The League members will know this and look unfavorably on her for it.”
“My hopes are the same,” Luna replied. “My student certainly has a history of being tricky and wily. It's possible she has something in place to at least lessen the potential fallout of her actions... though if all goes well and her nation is accepted, what are your hopes for the future?”
“Emerald's nation is clearly becoming ever more increasingly industrialized,” Celestia began. “I'm hoping that the Enclave and Equestria can benefit from a partnership of sorts in the future. Hmm... The Enclave has the industry for profitable trade but none of the trade fleets and caravans. Perhaps a trade agreement can have Equestria act as the middle pony of sorts; the Enclave the producer and we the ones who do the shipping.”
“You believe a nation of barely twenty thousand can produce goods enticing enough for other nations to desire business?” Luna asked.
“I believe Emerald's Enclave has much hidden deep in those tunnels beneath the Everfree,” Celestia answered. “Sometimes I find myself wondering and even fearing a little for what she may think up and build in the solitude and isolation of that dark forest.”
Luna frowned and nodded a little, though she did look look disagreeable on her sister's wording.
Suddenly an intense flash of crimson light signaled the end of any further conversation as Emerald arrived.
The virus was also flanked by three diamond dogs, each wearing the black armor of Emerald's army, but all of them were sans helmets and thankfully they were also unarmed, though honestly Emerald clearly didn't need armed soldier to be absolutely dangerous and lethal. Of the dogs, one was a tall, lanky greyhound, one was a short and stocky terrier and finally one was a massive and heavily massive wolf like diamond dog. However the appearance of Emerald herself caught the two princesses' attention.
It was clear that Emerald was most certainly taking the upcoming meeting with the League very seriously, as was dressed much more formally. She wore pure white dress coat, pants and shoes with a band on her shoulder bearing the emblem of her nation. The coat had golden buttons going up the middle and the clothes in general clung to her form much more tightly than the loose, baggy clothes she wore before ever did. She was also without her hat this time, choosing to go bareheaded. This also revealed the different way she wore her hair. Rather than let it hang loosely, she had gathered most of the back into a neat ponytail, and one could tell just by looking that Emerald made her hair much longer than normal as the pony tail hung down to the middle of her back. One final eye catching detail was a short cape Emerald was wearing that ended at her waist. The cape was just as white as her fine clothes, but underneath was a moving field of stars like a beautiful night sky.
“Hello,” Emerald greeted with a small smile to the two alicorns. “How do I look? Oh, and I hope it isn't too much trouble that I brought a few observers with me, is it?”
“It is no issue at all and I do think you look wonderful, Emerald,” Celestia stated before getting a knowing smile on her face. “Is the cape with the starry night sky on it there for the reason I think it is there for?”
“Well I figured since I am a student of the Princess of the Night, I ought to represent that fact,” Emerald simply stated to Luna's visible delight as she smiled widely at Emerald.
“Well as much as I wish to continue this line of discussion, we'll have to end it for now,” Celestia said as she got serious. “Emerald, are you prepared to be presented to the League of Nations?”
“Yes I am,” Emerald replied solemnly. “It's a bit quicker then I expected it to happen, but I am fully prepared for them all the same.”
“Good. Let's be off then,” Celestia said with a nod towards the building. “The meeting will be starting soon.”
With that, the group walked into the building. For the most part they were ignored, but there was a great deal of whispering and attention from some of the representatives in the lobby and from the people working there, all of them talking about the events in Canterlot and how brutal it was. As expected of this world, though the rumors of what happened were actually more tame than the actual events.
Eventually they reached a point where the three dogs that had accompanied Emerald went off to the observation room while the rest went on their way to the main floor. After some more walking, they entered the large meeting chamber for the League members. Since this meeting was on short notice, there weren't that many representatives present, but a little over half of the desks had people sitting at them, all of them whispering and discussing things to themselves.
During the time taken to walk to and arrive into the main meeting room, Celestia and Luna were doing their best to subtly gauge Emerald's mood to tell how well she was going to mange to gathering. But no matter how hard they studied her, they weren't able to gauge Emerald as anything more than serious and calm in face of the oncoming meeting and first time presentation of the Enclave to the world. Seeing that they couldn't glean anything more than what Emerald allowed to show on her face, Celestia and Luna made their way down to their desk, hoping that everything would turn out well for Emerald. The virus remained at the very back of the room in the shadows, awaiting the moment she'd be called down to present herself.
“Welcome everyone to this emergency meeting of the League of Nations, called for by the Heron Republic, one of our prestigious members,” said the zebra secretary general, who did a good job of vocally hiding the amount of stress he looked to be enduring from his still prematurely aged appearance. “Now, before we move onto the main subject for our gathering, let us take the time to look over a few minor things our other members have taken the opportunity to inform me of. May the representative for the Bast Dynasty ruling Osiran Dune Sea take the floor please?”
And so it was that several minor issues were to be taken care of first. When the feline representative finished her talk about the price of cotton going down, she was followed by another. This went on and each time the speaker was mostly given the attention they desired for the subject they were talking about. Like the last time Emerald was present for a League meeting, it was a rather dull affair overall, but it did get somewhat exciting towards the end, when one member brought up an international incident caused by one of the Minotaur nation's Adventurer Researchers recording something that was actually rather sensitive information for the other nation in question. When this last issue when handled to the benefit of both nations did the main point of the meeting be brought up.
“And now we move on to the main topic for our getting together on such short notice,” the Secretary General announced. “I'm sure by now you have all heard about Equestria getting invaded by a large force of Changelings and that very force being annihilated by an army belonging to a then unknown nation, one calling themselves the Enclave.”
There was a round of low murmuring and agreements at that, though there was also some shouts of surprise as some members managed to miss this bit of information.
“Well now today the Enclave's leader is here to present herself and her nation to the League and hopefully also provide some answers for the questionable actions of her forces in Canterlot,” the Zebra stated before turning his attention to the back of the room where Emerald stood, an action that many others mirrored.
Taking this as clearly being her cue, Emerald began her descent down the stairs towards the floor of the room. The entire way people stared and talked amongst themselves, making their own guesses and predictions on this new face based on what they had heard so far. However, one set of eyes that managed to get Emerald's attention was Master Gyatso who was wearing a very high quality version of his usual robes and hat. The heron was sitting beside the Heron Republic rep and was currently giving Emerald a very encouraging and hopeful smile. Outwardly, Emerald didn't change her expression, but she made a mental note about Gyatso having a lot of political pull for someone who appeared to be just a martial artist of sorts.
Finally Emerald arrived on the floor and turned in place to face all the eyes that were now upon here. In this moment, the eyes of the world may as well be upon her as their representatives’ and leaders’ certainly were.
“Please introduce yourself and your nation before the League,” the virus heard the zebra say behind her.
“Prestigious members of the world renowned League of Nations,” Emerald began, her voice easily heard throughout the specially made sloping room. “I, Emerald Gleaner of the Enclave, do humbly introduce myself to you. We are an isolated nation within the borders of Equestria itself. We reside within the Everfree and as a result of our homeland, we are heavily militarized by necessity. Guarding ourselves externally against the dangers of the wood is not all that we are, however. We are an industrious people that work hard for all that we've gained in the face of the forest and possess an advanced industry mimicking that of Equestria. I come here today in the hopes we'll be welcomed amongst the greater community of the world as friends and neighbors, and initiate trade with those who wish to do so.”
When Emerald finished, there was silence for but a moment and in that moment a hundred people were about to speak out. One person beat them to it by raising a wing.
“The Heron Republic wishes to ask a question of the Enclave,” the heron rep stated after his simple act of raising a wing silenced a good portion of the League members. With this, Emerald realized that the Republic must have at least been up there with Equestria as one of the more respected nations in the world.
“The Enclave is willing to answer any question,” Emerald replied with a nod of her head. “What does the Republic wish to ask?”
“The Republic wishes an explanation for the deeds done in Canterlot,” The rep stated firmly but not harshly.
“I fully expected this question,” Emerald said. “You see, we live in the Everfree and are used to fighting off the monsters there. Unfortunately since we were so used to fighting the large and fearsome beasts that often encroach upon us, we were completely unprepared to fight an enemy that would show mercy and surrender if they couldn't win. The end result of the invasion was a terrible travesty that should never be forgotten and serve as a lesson to any others that may seek violent means to fulfill their goals. However, as the popular saying goes, ‘Talk is cheap’. To demonstrate our penitence, the Enclave is wishing to sell at far decreased cost, our greatest and revolutionary product, meat grown from trees.”
Silence filled the chamber as everyone absorbed that announcement, particularly the carnivorous members of the League of Nations. The largest kingdom of carnivores was the Griffin Principalities at a whopping ten million, an almost impossible number for carnivores to reach if it wasn't for the sheer amount of land the Principalities held and the mega-beasts it could hunt for meat. The idea of being able to farm meat like it was some vegetable was world changing to everyone there. It meant that the normally small populations of carnivorous nations and kingdoms around the known world could potentially grow just as numerous as the herbivore races.
“What you say explains a lot about why events happened as they did in Canterlot, but what you are offering... it is quite surprising,” the heron rep said honestly. “But can you prove what you say?”
“Yes I can,” Emerald answered and held out a hand. With a small flash of crimson light, one of the meat trees appeared on the chamber floor in a large pot. Emerald reached out and plucked a large red fruit from it's branches. “This is a meat tree and one of the fruits it grows. It also comes in several flavors. Can I have one of the prestigious members of the League come down and prove my claim?”
“Peh, I be taste tester!” Emerald heard a thickly accented voice come from further above and heard surprised shouting and some cursing followed by loud thumps. Looking up, the virus saw a large shape coming down from the desks in the rear by leaping from desktop to desktop with little concern for those sitting at said desks.
Finally, with a loud bang, the shape landed on it's feet before her and Emerald took in the sight. The species of the being appeared to be a wolverine; he stood upright on two legs but his head slouched forward along with the upper portions of his torso. He was also very tall, easily taller than Emerald by two feet. Most of the people attending this meeting wore what was clearly finery of their culture, but not the wolverine before her. He wore dark gray armor that was covered with faint scratches and the signs of dozens of hammered out dents. The armor was also two inches thick in some places which very clearly demonstrated the wolverine's strength. Underneath the armor was a tunic made of hardy, scratchy material that was dyed red and upon his head was an eye patch covering one eye.
“Ataman Mikhail...” the secretary general sighed in a long suffering voice. “We have stairs for a reason. Please use them.”
“Da,” Mikhail replied with an absent wave of one massive clawed hand. “You, pass big peach looking fruit here.”
“Here you go,” Emerald said, voice slightly tinged with amusement.
Mikhail grasped the meat fruit firmly, his claws sinking into the flesh of the fruit and causing its blood like juices to ooze out. Opening his maw as wide it would go, the wolverine bit down with gusto, sending a bit of juices flying and dripping down his mouth. The sight of Mikhail's mouth full of razor sharp teeth as well as the unnervingly fleshly interior of the meat fruit caused more than a few herbivores in the first few rows to either go green or pale.
“Hahaha! Is juicy and delicious, just like fresh meat!” Mikhail stated with a loud, hearty laugh before turning rather serious. “I want it, a lot of it. Know many comrades who would enjoy it and sisters back home would make many stews with it.”
“Well said, Mikhail,” the heron rep commented. “Let it be known that the Heron Republic accepts the Enclave's reasoning for the actions in Canterlot and wishes to conduct trade for it's meat fruit as well. Tofu is a wondrous invention by my people, but rather few carnivores can stomach it and I myself hope you have many fine varieties of fish flavors.”
A moment later the chamber filled with shouted agreements with the Heron Rep's statement. After a few moments of a this, a small satisfied smile crossed Emerald's face. That's when a loud voice roared its disagreement.
“THE GRIFFEN PRINCIPALITIES WILL SPEAK!!!” a voice roared above the clamor, silencing everyone in an instant.
Emerald looked up towards the Griffin desk and saw two griffins sitting there. One was a severe looking female griffin wearing a cloak that covered most of her body and hid away the dark blue velvet bodice and silken light blue dress; the cloak had a claw made of lightning on the back. The other griffin Emerald recognized instantly thanks to her photographic memory. It was the very same griffin that had been with the Griffin Grand Prince when Celestia showed him her when she had been sealed away.
“Clearly you are all letting your greed blind you!” the lady griffin roared in anger. “Should we dismiss the death and grief of others just because this beast shines a bit of treasure in our eyes?!”
“The Republic protests this overly insulting protest.” The heron rep frowned as Emerald herself frowned thoughtfully as she took in the griffin's words. “And this isn't some treasure. Surely the Principalities can see that? This is a way to end the perpetual rationing of food for all meat eater nations in the world. And surely the process to cultivate the trees and grow this fruit isn't simple or cheap. I for one feel having the price for the fruit being driven to being sold at near cost of manufacture levels more than satisfactory reparations.”
“The honorable Heron Republic can keep its own opinions to itself!” the lady griffin growled in reply. “If no one else will ask for further reparations, then we shall!”
“And what does the Principalities ask of the Enclave?” Emerald stated calmly.
“We demand over half a million tonnes in assorted metals,” the lady replied to the vocal shock of several League members. “Just how many tonnes and the type will be specified at a later date.”
Several people were shouting out loud that on top of the meat fruit price reduction, the half a million tonnes in further reparations was too much. Many also expected Emerald to share this thinking, but the virus remained silent with a thoughtful look on her face.
“The Enclave will fulfill these demands,” Emerald finally answered to the surprise of quite a few. Many wondered would what make Emerald cede to these demands but nothing could be gleaned of the virus' stony expression. “I will await the specific details of the reparations.”
“Expect it soon.” The lady narrowed her eyes, seemingly more angry Emerald agreed without a fight.
“So... we still make deal, yes?” Mikhail asked, having not moved at all from his spot since coming down from his desk.
“You get to go first for being so persistent,” Emerald replied with a small smile, getting a toothy grin from the Wolverine in reply.
Several hours later found Celestia and Luna patiently waiting for Emerald in the lobby of the League Headquarters. The League began dispersing soon after the meeting involving the introduction of the Enclave and Emerald, practically every single one of the carnivorous and omnivorous members of the League staying behind to talk trade deals with the Enclave. The two princesses had observed these discussions at first to make sure Emerald was going to be doing all right. But other then being more than a bit blunt and cutting to the chase when it came to making deals, Emerald seemed to be handling herself well.
“Emerald!” Luna called out the instant she saw the Evolved walk out one of the conference rooms.
“Hello there,” Emerald said with a bit of a sigh. “I'm definitely going to have to expand the meat tree farms by a few magnitudes when I get back.”
“It's all gone well, then?” Celestia asked. “I can only imagine how much more wealthy you'll be when the shipments begin. It would have been so much more had you not had to decrease the price. You could have named almost any price and the meat eating nations of the world would have still tripped over themselves to pay it.”
“Yeah, well...” Emerald began with a bit of a glance around. “Really, the only thing that will cost me anything is probably the shipping. It literally costs me nothing to grow the meat trees or the fruit. I'll be making tons of money from even the fraction of money I would have originally sold the fruit for.”
“Quite the coup, my student,” Luna praised with a wide smile before frowning. “Just what are you going to spend your ever increasing wealth on? I get the feeling how the economy of the Enclave works is different from Equestria's.”
“That's the question isn't it?” Emerald said, rubbing the back of her head. “I've literally got nothing to do with the money other than hoard it in some giant money bin. I mean... I guess I could play the political game and start buying favors left and right but... politics...”
“Is that so?” Celestia stated with a thoughtful hum. “This bares some serious conversation later, but as for right now, I must congratulate you, Emerald. When I looked at you, I saw nothing but one who was calm and in control. It was far better than my own first forays into politics.”
“I...” Emerald began a bit hesitantly. “If it wasn't for my total control over my body, I would have been sweating so bad... my hands felt like they were shaking even though I knew they weren't... all those eyes staring at me... it felt like all the eyes of the world really were looking at me in that moment. And... god fucking damn it, I'll have to do this who know how many times in the future, won't I?”
“Perhaps we should go home and call it a day?” Luna suggested after sharing a look. “Still, I must comment on how wondrous it is that everything worked out the way it has.”
“You and me both,” Emerald said honestly. “I was expecting my meat fruit to get into more than a few peoples' good books, but I was still expecting this to go somewhat downhill after Celestia's reaction to my help. I definitely owe Gyatso severals favors for this one. I get the feeling that without the Heron Rep's open acceptance of my explanations, things would have gone more the way of my expectations. I need to go back to Canterlot with you two. Think I really ought to pay Gyatso a visit.”
“Before we go, let's make sure to collect your dogs, shall we?” Luna stated as she looked around.
“I believe I saw them walking around looking for the cafeteria,” Celestia added and the three of them went on their way.
Off to the side, the Lady Griffin and her Stormwing companion stared after the leaving trio. The Lady's eyes were full of cold fury as she watched Emerald walk away.
“What's next to do, my lady?” The Stormwing asked.
“We take what we are due, then we start building up.” The lady answered. “It makes mistakes. That's how my husband tracked it down. It is an eventuality that such a beast will make yet another one, then we can make sure that all know of how much of a monster it is and we can bring it down like one of the great beasts gone rabid.”
“Shall we... work 'behind the scenes' as well?” the stormwing asked.
“Grrr.” Instantly, the lady rounded on the stormwing with a growl and bared talons. “I will not abandon my honor like you have! The only reason I do not banish you and strike you from the family tapestry is because of how important this information is to me. Your loyalty to family is commendable. Your lack of loyalty to the Grand Prince is shameful.”
“As you say, Lady Villja...” the Stormwing replied, bowing his head shamefaced.
“No. We act not in the dark, skulking like thieves,” Villja continued. “It is the patient hunter that gets its prey and I do not intend to need to strike twice.”
Later that evening found Emerald back in Canterlot in her pony form with Navi orbiting her. Some of her Warhounds were still here and the ponies were all staring at her. The secret- at least most of the secret- was most definitely out. They definitely knew about the Gray Fox and her, but they didn't know about the Monster of Everfree; something she and the princesses agreed was a good idea. Some of the ponies were probably brave enough to confront someone they knew to be the Gray Fox, but they most certainly were not brave enough to be near anyone who lead such a dangerous army.
'Definitely not feeling very welcome here,' Emerald thought as she saw ponies either run inside to avoid her or give her a very wide berth as she moved down the street. 'Not that I blame them. I wonder what the Thracians think of me? I haven't seen any so far just yet and they know that their transformation was a side effect of my fight with Discord.'
Ignoring the behavior of the ponies around her Emerald continued on her way to the training grounds of the royal guard. Soon she found herself walking past several rather twitchy royal guards and onto their grounds.
The training grounds were mostly empty. In some isolated parts were Royal Guards making use of the grounds and in the very center was the young pegasus Swift Gale, apprentice of Gyatso. Guessing that the heron had yet to return to his student, Emerald walked over to Swift.
“...Worth it. Was totally worth it!” Emerald heard the young pegasus mutter as she sweated heavily and swung a very heavy wooden version of her sword. “Night out on the town, even as miserable as everyone is... awesome to talk to and have some fun with girls my age.”
“Hello,” Emerald greeted as she neared
“Oh!” Swift jumped a little in some surprise and turned towards Emerald. The moment she did, she gave a big, friendly smile. “Hey you! I was hoping I'd get to see you first!”
“Oh?” Emerald raised a brow. “Did you need anything?”
“You promised Master Gyatso you'd spar with him and I bet you are here now to fulfill that promise,” Swift replied as she walked over to the side where her non-training weapons sat on some laid out cloth. “Well I want a go at you first! Just give me a minute to get ready.”
“Hmm...” Emerald considered Swift's desire to fight her for a moment. While Swift obviously wasn't a master like Gyatso, the fact she was being taught his fighting style definitely would give her a few clues of what to expect. “Sure thing.”
“Glad you agree!” Swift said cheerfully as she adjusted her smaller katana on her hind leg. “Now normally I'm not supposed to use my real weapons in a spar until much later. But considering what I've heard about you, that isn't going to be much of an issue, is it?”
“Yep.” Emerald nodded as she made a show of limbering up a bit and shooed Navi away so she was watching from the sidelines.
“Hmm...” Swift Gale hummed as she took in Emerald's form for a bit. “Y-you certainly look fit... a-anyway! You ready?”
“I am,” Emerald stated, wondering what was up with Swift briefly before focusing. She honestly wasn't expecting Swift to be much of a danger or true challenge, but it was a good habit to take every fight seriously.
“I am psyched!” Swift said as she finished strapping her main katana to her back and walked over to face Emerald. “I can't wait to try out my moves on you! Right, we start when I draw my sword.”
After that, the two stood in silence for a moment. It was obvious that Swift wanted some tense standoff between the two of them straight out of some kung fu movie, the way she was bouncing in place and and how utterly happily excited she looked ruined any such thing however.
Finally, Swift drew her sword in a movement that would have been seen as a blur for a normal opponent; though Emerald was far above normal. Swift charged forward, her speed boosted by powerful wing beats and had her in swinging range of Emerald in a moment. The virus dodged the pegasus' attack by leaning backwards a bit, avoiding the edge of the blade by a few inches.
Just to test the sorts of defenses someone with Gyatso's fighting style would have as well as make sure Swift wouldn't get frustrated by her not taking her seriously or something along those lines, Emerald darted in close and delivered a pulled punch with a hoof. In response, Swift reared, pivoted and twirled away, also managing to just avoid Emerald's strike like she had done hers though it took Swift more effort on her part. With a flap of her wings, Swift was suddenly sent darting to the side, twisting in place to deliver a slash to Emerald's flank.
Emerald leaned away from the strike and managed to dodge it by inches again. Deciding to throw Swift a curve ball, Emerald hardened her tail into a light club before swinging it into the pegasus who was still in motion. The virus managed to catch Swift's widening of eyes and look of surprise, but she managed to barely avoid the strike by sending herself flipping into the air with her wings.
'Okay, so biggest form of defense is obviously to not be in the way of the hit,' Emerald thought as she leaned her head to the side of a vertical strike from Swift. 'Clearly this style of fighting involves a lot of movement and not being in the same spot for too long. Now, other than her own sword fighting style, I've not seen much of her master's offensive forms. Let's see if I can make her use them, hmm... maybe if I test her against the obvious advantage of magic?'
Emerald leapt back from Swift Gale with her horn glowing pink. The virus then concentrated and Swift Gale started to glow pink as she was lifted up into the air. The telekinetic grip on Swift wasn't very strong because Emerald was honestly curious if Swift had a form of defense against being immobilized like this. She couldn't exactly test if Swift had that capability if she had to go up against the raw power gained from consuming Discord's blood.
Swift was initially confused at what was happening but after looking at Emerald's curious gaze she suddenly realized what was happening. With a confident, toothy grin Swift Gale flared her wings and started to spin in place rapidly as she flapped them. A sphere of rushing winds covered Swift Gale and after a single moment there was a flash of light as the magic holding Swift suddenly exploded out.
“See?” Swift said as she posed mid air with a triumphant grin. “Ain't no unicorn countering me! Now let me show you a bit of ‘magic’ of my own!”
Suddenly Swift darted to the ground and made a slashing motion with one of her wings at Emerald. Instantly, a wave of rushing winds form and shot at Emerald.
Emerald made a show of bracing for impact but didn't expect the wind wave to possess nearly enough power to budge her. She was proven right a second later as the wind impacted her and she just felt like she was standing in some strong winds for a brief moment. This didn't discourage Swift in the slightest and continued her barrage of wind blasts. Some of the blasts even appeared to have been formed into blades which likely would have done quite some damage had Emerald not been as durable as she was.
“Alright, time for my ultimate move!” Swift shouted and gained some distance from Emerald.
As soon as the pegasus had said this, Emerald heard a sigh come from the side. Turning to look, she saw that Gyatso had appeared at some point and was observing the fight. Gyatso seemed long suffering currently and didn't appear impressed with what Swift had said at all. Navi was with him, sitting on the very top of his cone hat.
“Swift Gale, it would be in your best interests to not announce your intentions in a fight,” Gyatso advised. “Even in a friendly spar like this, it could cause you to develop it as a habit. Also, I heavily advise you to not use that 'move' of yours.”
“Advise?” Swift said in some confusion. “You mean you aren't going to tell me to not use it?”
“Well the area behind Emerald doesn't have anyone you could potentially seriously injure,” Gyatso explained. “And Emerald herself is quite hardy so even if you somehow managed to land the move you wouldn't cause much in the way of injury.”
“I-I can land it!” Swift stuttered in embarrassment as she glanced over to Emerald out of the corner of her eyes. “I'll show you! Right now I'll get it perfectly!”
Now really curious as to what Swift Gale was up to, Emerald stood her ground and waited. Swift Gale stood in place and closed her eyes in intense concentration as rushing winds began to swirl around her. For a long moment nothing else happened until the rushing winds seemed to suddenly focus in on one spot; the small katana on Swift's hind leg. The winds seemed to wrap around the hilt of the sword and after a long moment the blade suddenly shot out of the scabbard.
Swift Gale's intense look of concentration seemed to increase and sweat started to form at her temples as the small katana seemed to brandish itself and spun in midair before aiming itself at Emerald. Then the winds seemed to intensify greatly as the blade suddenly shot forward.
Emerald didn't really react to this move. All she did was turn her head to watch as the small blade shot past her, missing her completely by at least two feet. A moment later there was a small clang in the distance as the small katana sunk into the stone walls of a building all the way to the hilt.
Turning back, she saw Gyatso palming his face with one of his wings and Swift Gale looking utterly humiliated as she covered her face with both of her hooves. Navi was still on his cone hat but was now just running little laps around the edge.
“If it wasn't a magical blade, I'd be shocked it hasn't shattered into a million pieces by now...” Emerald heard Gyatso mutter.
With a thoughtful hum, Emerald focused on the blade now embedded in the wall and teleported it away. It reappeared in a pink flash and levitating beside Emerald's head where she magically held it aloft. She then walked over to Swift Gale who was still covering her face with both hooves and muttering the word 'stupid' over and over again.
“Here's your sword back,” Emerald said and held the blade to her hilt first.
“Th-thanks...” Swift said softly, finally taking her hooves off of her face, showing utterly crimson cheeks clashing with her light blue coat.
“I get the feeling you aren't entirely ready to incorporate these into your fighting style,” Emerald began. “But I also get the feeling there is a good reason you are trying to.”
“These swords are very important to me...” Swift replied as she sheathed the blade in the scabbard on her hind leg. “They're from my family and... well, Master Gyatso wanted to fight you too and you better get to that.”
With that, Swift quickly trotted away, still blushing up a storm. Rather curious if she upset the pegasus, Emerald used her newest ability gained from consuming changelings, namely magical empathy. Technically she was consuming surface emotional energy but it was also a real good way to gauge someone's mood with almost no possibility of getting it wrong.
Reaching out, Emerald felt the trickle of energy as she absorbed emotional energy that was slowly bleeding off Swift as she moved away. The energy felt like embarrassment, some minor self loathing but... there was also confusion matched by excitement caused by being near someone attractive.
'Hmm...' Emerald wondered for a moment before shaking her head then facing Gyatso who was now a few feet away from her.
“Greetings, Emerald Gleaner,” Gyatso said with a small bow which dislodged Navi from her jogging and she took to the air. “What did you think of my apprentice's fighting skills?”
“Well...” Emerald said. “I'm honestly the last person to be asking about gauging someone's fighting ability. But... I'd say she is more then ready for the average persona and can also easily handle other trained fighters... not too sure about how she would do against people you would call elites or other people like her in that they've been training for years in the martial arts.”
“Despite what you said, you've done a good job at analyzing her combat ability,” Gyatso praised. “Swift Gale is rather average at unarmed combat but she shines when it comes to channeling the winds and wielding her blades. She doesn't realize just how skilled she is, however. She keeps overreaching herself trying to accomplish something someone several years her senior would struggle with. It taints her skills in her own eyes when she fails at it but for me the fact she can actually reach for them is a feat in itself.”
“Hmm,” Emerald tilted her head and looked towards Swift Gale who was sitting some distance away from them, cleaning her blades. “So you did a lot to help me back at the League Headquarters. I'm also rather surprised a Martial Artist has so much political pull to their government arrange for this to happen.”
“The Channelers of the Republic have a lot of influence and pull with the Cabinet,” Gyatso answered. “This was a bit on the costly side when it came to pulling strings, but getting to meet you is worth it in the eyes of the Grand Masters.”
“I am going to have to wait until I meet them to find out why they think that, won't I?” Emerald asked.
“Your wisdom belies your years,” Gyatso said with a kindly smile. “It is best we meet you in person. Sometimes knowing something doesn't give the same impact as experiencing it.”
“Of course. Well I most definitely owe the Channelers now,” Emerald said with a sigh. “I will go see them when I am able to. You have my word on that.”
“We are patient. Yours is a young nation and you are a young ruler,” Gyatso stated. “We expected these to be the busy years most of all, but with the advent of your meat fruit we only expect you to be busier still. But enough of this talk, do you wish to spar?”
“That's why I am here,” Emerald said as she took a ready stance. “You ready?”
“I am. Shall we begin?” Gyatso asked with a smile.
“...Yes.” Emerald took a breath before answering.
Emerald expected Gyatso to explode into motion but instead he flowed into an easy stance and started taking long, steady breaths. The virus waited a moment, but unlike Swift Gale, Gyatso seemed content to let Emerald make the first move. After a moment more, Emerald decided to make a move.
She charged forward with greater speed than she used on Swift, but as she expected, Gyatso was much more skilled. However, she didn't exactly expect him to move so fast he practically teleported. The next thing Emerald knew was that she felt several things thud into her head extremely hard and sent her stumbling into the ground.
Teleporting away from the spot on the ground, Emerald just barely managed to avoid a large ball of swirling winds as it tore up the ground like a cannon ball. Gyatso was a few dozen feet away, his head was bowed hiding his eyes under his coned hat. His wings were stretched out and at the ends of his primary feathers were several balls of wind condensed down to the size of marbles.
Emerald teleported away from her spot to right next to Gyatso and struck out with a hoof. However, Gyatso twirled on the spot and sent more wind pellets. Now prepared for the move, Emerald ignored the pellets as they thudded squarely into her head and temples and quickly struck out again with a hoof.
Gyatso dodged yet again, front flipping over Emerald, sending a large ball of swirling wind down at her while she was just beginning to turn to face him again. The ball impacted her, hitting hard enough to make her sink into the packed down ground by a few inches.
Trying to regain the initiative, Emerald teleported again, locating him by her various other senses alone. Emerald swung out with a hoof the instant she teleported, but yet again Gyatso dodged out of the way, moving his body just out of reach of the strike. Starting to get annoyed with not doing anything to her opponent, Emerald changed forms, switching to her human one as she was more used to fighting in that one. Then she started to send magic flowing throughout her body in greater amounts, causing her to grow in speed and strength.
Emerald blurred into motion, moving to the very limits of her ability to control her movements. Despite this, it didn't seem to help much. Gyatso seemed to move the instant Emerald did and the virus couldn't move any faster than this. If she tried, she would lose all awareness of her surroundings as they blurred beyond her ability to comprehend them.
Trying to gain some sort of advantage, Emerald tried to grip Gyatso telekinetically but the heron seemed to have an even more developed defense towards such attacks than Swift. The magical aura seemed to wrap around Gyatso, but he would move around it. For Emerald, the feeling of trying to grasp Gyatso was like trying to keep hold of something slick with oil. It didn't help that Gyatso did everything he could to disrupt Emerald's concentration via sending pinpoint accurate air pellets at her eyes and temples.
This state of events would remain for over an hour of constant sparring as a crowd gathered to watch Emerald and Gyatso fight. Both of the fighters were a perfect counter for the other. Emerald was too tough and was literally tireless for Gyatso to either outlast or wear down and Gyatso was too fast and nimble for Emerald to actually land a hit. Emerald could still win in a single hit though, if she was willing to commit to an attack that would annihilate a large area, but this was just a friendly spar so she wasn't going to go that serious.
So the two fought for a hour straight until Gyatso himself decided to call an end to it.
“Hold, Emerald Gleaner!” Gyatso called out, his breath coming a little faster... if only just a little bit. “It is clear that the only winner that would result of this is the one to resist exhaustion most.”
“Yeah, don't exactly want to win that way.” Emerald replied as she shifted back to her pony form. “Plus fighting for several hours just to win a spar doesn't seem like a good investment of time to me.”
“Indeed, though it proved to be a good workout for me,” Gyatso said with a smile. “I hope you got something out of our spar as well?”
“I did,” Emerald nodded. “I learned that I need to be faster. So I am going to practice my speed in my free time. Just spamming teleport doesn't seem to work as well as it could.”
“Being faster is always good,” Gyatso smiled before giving a small bow. “Thank you for taking the time out of your no doubt busy schedule humor a spar with me and my student. I and Swift Gale will remain in Canterlot until you are able to fulfill your promise to see the Grand Masters in the Republic.”
“It was no problem,” Emerald said and waved over Navi where she had been buzzing in the air. The little bug immediately flew over and landed on the tip of Emerald's ear. Emerald took stock of her surroundings. There were many little groupings of Royal Guards; some were talking excitedly, but most sounded nervous. Over and away from everyone else was Swift Gale, who appeared to be still embarrassed for her showing earlier and looked away with blushing features the moment Emerald met her gaze.
'Should I go home now?' Emerald thought as she took in the setting sun and the slowly appearing stars. The moment she considered going home, Emerald felt a surge of annoyance fill her over what Twilight had said to her yesterday. 'Actually, never mind. I've got plenty of work to do anyway. I'll go back home later...'
With that, Emerald teleported back to the Enclave.
Several days later found Emerald perched on a ledge in the walls of the ravine next to the Enclave. Navi was orbiting her doing her own little aerial acrobatics. Construction on the hydroelectric dam was continuing. It was about a third of the way done mostly thanks to the dogs' natural skill working with stone. The real important work was the many devices that would be housed inside the dam, however, and those ones were only just being built and installed inside. In addition, the dam was complete enough that some of the river was allowed to flow through some of the completed spillways.
Emerald herself had long since gotten over what Twilight had said days ago and was calm now. A fact the virus made sure Twilight knew after said unicorn had worriedly sent her a letter via Spike asking if she was still mad at her. Emerald hadn't gone back just yet because she had found a ton of work for herself. She was just busy, nothing more.
What Emerald had spent the last several days doing was thinking and experimenting.
One subject had been thinking and self examination of her behavior regarding the changelings and their abilities. She had discovered the changelings mostly because her instincts had alerted her something was up with some of the ponies around her. However, Bon Bon had proven to be a changeling in disguise and she had been around Bon Bon for close to two years without feeling that anything was off. So what was going on? What had been the changelings in Canterlot doing that Bon Bon was doing differently for Emerald to feel that something was off with them? The issue here was that while she had the changelings' abilities now from consuming them she couldn't exactly experiment on herself in hopes of bringing up the same reaction to find an answer, she needed a willing changeling to help her find the answer... and the one changeling that might be possibly willing to help her...
'Yeah... might be a bit awkward to come out of the blue and ask her for help right now,' Emerald thought with a small wince. 'Heard some mixed rumors about her and how she's been doing in the past few days. She stayed home for the first few days before coming out into the open to try to return to some form of normalcy. Sometimes she goes out in her pony form with the armband, and sometimes she just goes out as a normal changeling. Ponies seem to be confused at how they are supposed to react to her. It's still Bon Bon, but the changelings invaded Canterlot, though that fact seems mitigated by the fact the invasion force was massacred. Now ponies aren't sure whether to pity her or sympathize... it's better than outright hatred, anyways.'
Shaking her mind clear of the situation with Bon Bon and other mysteries concerning the changelings she couldn't solve right now, Emerald thought about the next thing she worked on, which was the powered armor designs she was working on. The armor itself was ready and much stronger than even the dragon scale armor without increasing the weight. However, the important parts of the powered armor were the parts that made it powered and not just normal armor; namely the runes. Various runes were being developed; a kinetic energy siphon was one major one and Emerald did get it working. It was just the fact the rune was incredibly energy wasteful and wasn't finely tuned enough to absorb enough energy from kinetic strikes to offset the energy cost of stopping said strike. But eventually with enough bug fixing the rune would be viable. The rest of the runes were ones to maintain an internal atmosphere in the armor and keep the temperature at comfortable levels no matter the conditions outside, and filtering the air out of water. Honestly, she also could also include runes that would augment the strength and speed of the wearer, but she didn't want to make this type of armor that complicated yet, plus this was her first serious foray into the mass use of runes. Trying to make the leap from normal worn armor to power armor might take longer than just taking a developmental stop at powered armor.
However, all this work on the powered armor brought up an increasingly obvious issue. Namely that the diamond dogs couldn't exactly be taught to make or even put together these things. Unlike the guns and the dragon scale armor, this was magic and her own control of biomatter to form nanotubes for the armor pieces, which was clearly something only she could do. Honestly, she could teach some of the dogs to do what she could do, but one involved giving them a way to use magic which would take years to learn how to use, or infecting them with Blacklight which she was never doing again. Even infecting Navi had been pushing it as far as she was concerned. So the issue here was that Emerald's military developments were going down paths that the dogs both couldn't follow and keep up with, which left her as the only one to be able to make and improve upon these developments. At the very least the guns and the buggies were well within the dogs' ability to comprehend and even make a few improvements of their own here and there.
'So what do I do?' Emerald frowned in thought. 'I don't just want to leave them behind and focus on my own things... now that I think about it, it's been a very long time since I've introduced some non-military developments to them. What exactly was the last non-military thing I introduced? It was home amenities, like plumbing, heating, electricity and lighting. Those are pretty big things compared to what they had before but they shouldn't settle for just that. So what to introduce to them next? Hmm... we have electronics here, but other than the production lines and various pieces of automation, we haven't really used it for much else. So I should introduce computers. With the kind of parts we have right now, I can probably throw together a few eighties level ones. Well, other than teaching them computer science, I should also start some projects to increase the standard of living in the Hub even higher. Speaking of projects, that reminds me I need to set up a work gang to carve out several caverns for more meat trees.'
Emerald was about to stand back up to get to work directing dogs when glittering green smoke rushed at her out of the sky. When the smoke got within a foot of her it suddenly formed into a scroll. Quickly snatching it out of the air, Emerald unfurled the scroll and found a letter from Twilight.
'What's this?' Emerald frowned and narrowed her eyes down at the print. 'This doesn't look like Spike's hand writing... is this Twilight's writing? Why is it so messy and why did she write it herself and not dictate to Spike like she usually does? Hmm...'
The Evolved studied the writing, but despite her best efforts, Twilight's excitement fueled chicken scratch defeated her attempts to decipher them. However, she did manage to glean a few parts of the message. Twilight seemed to be incredibly excited about some sort of test Celestia wanted her to take part in, which might be in Canterlot later today. That was the most Emerald could get out of the scroll Twilight had sent her. The virus also wondered why Twilight told her about this. Was she asking her to tag along or was she being a good girlfriend and keeping her in the loop?
'I don't know. It could be either reason,' Emerald thought with a shrug as she pocketed the scroll. 'I'm actually rather curious about just what kind of test Celestia has lined up for Twilight, so I'll head there to both see what's going on and be moral support for Twilight. I mean, from the looks of things, the idea of Celestia giving her a test personally is probably driving her crazy.'
With that last thought, Emerald collected Navi before teleporting away to Canterlot.