• Published 5th Nov 2014
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Starcrossed - The Drunken Sailor



Flash, a young poor stallion makes a decision that will change both his life and the life of Princess Celestia's favoured student: Twilight Sparkle

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Chapter 10- Over The Hills And Far Away

Chapter 10~ Over The Hills And Far Away


They left Fillydelphia just before dawn, that way they could leave quickly and quietly and be in Manehatten by early morning. It was a clear winters night, a light shower of snow whipped past the speeding train lie shorting stars, the spectacle went unnoticed by the passengers though.

"I can't wait to get to Manehatten," Twilight said excitedly. "My friend Rarity has only been there a few times, she's told me all about it, huge cites and bustling streets, not to mention it's home to some of Equestria's most influential nobility, including Iron Hill, Lord of Manehatten and House Hill."

"Great, a whole city full of stuck-up rich ponies," Flash said sarcastically.

"You should talk, you grew up there!" Twilight said, giggling. "I still hope you'll introduce me to your family."

"Uh... Yeah of course," Flash said uncertainly. "As soon as I get the chance I'll let them know we're in town, you can say hello and everything."

"You haven't seen them in a while have you?" Twilight asked. "I'm guessing you didn't leave on the best of terms?"

"You could say that, but let's just focus on meeting Lord Iron Hill, then we can see about meeting my family, deal?"

"Deal."

Great Flash, just create a family out of thin air.

As they entered the county around Manehatten the landscape became very hilly, slopes both steep and not passed by, some even higher than the train itself. It wasn't until they were very close to the city that Manehatten came into sight behind the rolling hills, even at night the splendour of the city was evident, sitting on its own island the buildings were some of the tallest in Equestria, many of them made of primarily metal rather than the usual wood, their glass windows reflected the stars and Luna's moon.

The train crossed the rail bridge to the island and pulled into the station, Twilight and Flash stepped off the train and were greeted by a Hill Guard. The stallion was wearing heavy iron chain mail and helmet, with a grey tunic over it, the likeness of a black mountain with a star just above it was adorned on his chest, the sigil of House Hill.

"Princess Twilight," the Hill Guard greeted, his accent sold him as being at least somewhat upper-class in Manehatten. "I shall take you to my Lord's house, unfortunately you come at a rather indecent hour and Lord Iron is still asleep but if you only wait for a few minutes when we get there then his lordship will greet you properly."

"I understand," Twilight said with a smile. "Lead on."

The Hill Guard nodded and lead them into the narrow streets of Manehatten, even at this early hour they were packed with commuters of all classes. The streets proper were full of taxi carriages and the sidewalks crowded, gratefully the commuters parted in the way of the Hill Guard that was their guide.

Light was beginning to flood the city when Lord Iron's house came into view, it was tall and wide, made out of the white marble that would usually be more common in Canterlot. This was because marble was one of the many natural resources that is mined in the hills surrounding Manehatten, banners with the sigil of House Hill flew proudly and whole platoons of Hill Guards stood in the courtyard on either side of an impressive fountain with a statue of what must have been a deceased member of the Hill family.

"That's the late Lord Stone Hill," Twilight said, gesturing to the statue in the fountain. "He was called Stone Hill the Great, he founded Manehatten and established the noble Hill house."

They entered the Lord's house, they were greeted with the sight of polished floors, expressive rugs and carpets and exotic plants decorating the walls. The Hill Guard lead them through the main hall into a small circular room with several expensive chairs, a large set of double doors was on the far side of the room, the doors inscribed elegantly, depicting a mountain exploding from the top and showering the land around it with gems.

"His Lordship will be right with you," the Hill Guard said. "If you will only wait here."

"Of course," Twilight said. "No rush."

The Hill Guard bowed and left through a side door, Twilight made herself comfortable on one of the chairs and Flash resigned himself to standing by her side.

"Lord Iron Hill must really like to flaunt his wealth," Flash commented, looking around at the expensive furniture.

"I'm sure it's mostly inherited," Twilight said. "And don't sound so unhappy, we haven't even met Lord Iron Hill yet."

"Well our track record of nobility hasn't exactly been reassuring," Flash countered. "So far we've had an asshole and a swearing-possibly-drunkard, not exactly stunning representatives of the nobility."

"Well, I'm technically a noble now," Twilight said, poking Flash in the side. "So is Celestia and Luna, and Cadence as well."

"Yeah but your all Princesses," Flash said. "It's not the same thing."

"Yeah, I had to learn to lead," Twilight said. "With thousands of years of history behind them, these nobles are born and bred to lead."

"If you say so," Flash admitted, they waited only a few more minutes before the Hill Guard returned.

"Lord Iron Hill will see you now, I ask that you be respectful while in his house," the guard said. "Follow me."

The large double doors opened to reveal a well-lit circular room, a throne stood on the far side of the room, flanked by five chairs on either side. Each of the chairs was occupied by a noble which mostly consisted of upper-class looking unicorns, the throne itself of course held Lord Iron Hill himself.

Lord Iron Hill was a rather chubby steel-grey unicorn with coal black eyes and hair, he wasn't exactly fat but it was quit apparent that Iron Hill enjoyed his food and drink. He was draped in and expensive looking silk tunic that was embroidered with silver, the sigil of House Hill stamped on the front.

"Lord Iron Hill," Twilight gave a short but respectful bow when they approached.

"Ah, Princess Twilight Sparkle," Iron Hill said from his throne in a rather bland voice. "I welcome you to Manehatten and my house."

"Thank you, I trust you are already aware of the purpose of my visit?" Twilight asked.

"I am, and in turn I have already planned the appropriate festivities," Lord Iron said.

"Oh? What did you have in mind?"

"A ball and banquet of course," Iron Hill said. "It's only fitting to welcome Equestria's newest Princess, only the most influential Ponies outside of Canterlot will be attending, I would hope this would give you an opportunity to meet some of the resident nobility."

"That is a wonderful idea, thank you," Twilight said tactically, but Flash could detect she was unhappy about something.

"Indeed," Lord Iron Hill said. "The ball will be tonight, please feel free to relax until then, I have rooms already ready, if you'll excuse me, I'm a terribly busy stallion."

"Of course, thank you Lord Iron Hill for your hospitality," Twilight said before she and Flash followed the Hill Guard through a side door and down a hall, they were lead to the room Lord Iron had provided and the Hill Guard left them in peace.

"Is something the matter?" Flash asked. "You didn't seem excited at the ball idea."

"It's just... The purpose of this trip is to create relations with the people, not the nobility, and while I should be familiar with influential nobles it's not why I'm here," Twilight said.

"Hey, cheer up, maybe this ball will be fun?" Flash offered. "Not I've ever been to one... But I'm sure it'll be great!"

"Oh I'm sure," Twilight giggled before looking Flash over. "Actually, your going to need a suit."

"A what?"

"A suit, you can't go to a ball in a Lord's manor dressed in your armour," Twilight said.

"Okay, I suppose your right but how in Equestria am I going to get a suit on short notice?"

"Mmmm... Ah! I know!" Twilight said, summoning parchment and a quill out of nowhere, she wrote a few short sentences before folding the parchment and teleporting it off Celestia-knows-where.

"There's a rather talented seamstress nearby on Mane Street, her name's Coco Pommel," Twilight said. "I don't doubt she could get you fitted before tonight."

"But... I can't just up and leave!" Flash said. "What about you? I have to stay and keep you safe!"

"Flash, I'm fine! What could happen inside Lord Iron Hill's own house?"

"Don't you remember how you were attacked not two blocks away from Lord Thunder's manor?"

"Yes, and I'm still grateful for you saving me," Twilight said, patting Flash's cheek endearingly. "But I'm a big mare, I'll be fine, go get yourself fitted and if you can talk to your family while your here! I don't want to keep you from them."

"But..."

"Go!" Twilight yelled, giggling as she shoved Flash towards the door, her Pegasus guard took another worried look before reluctantly heading off.

Twilight sighed once he left, she sat down in her room for a few moments. She noticed how quiet it was and decided she didn't want to sit in her room for Flash to come back, so Twilight decided she would take this opportunity to walk around Manehatten.

Twilight felt slightly guilty about breaking her promise, especially after only a few seconds. But Flash was clearly overreacting although that didn't mean she wouldn't take precautions, once Twilight left her room she found the nearest Hill Guard.

"Excuse me," Twilight said, getting the guards attention.

"What do you need your majesty?" The guard said dutifully.

"I am taking a walk throughout the city and I need you to accompany me to assure my safety," Twilight answered as professionally as she could.

"Of course your highness, it would be my honour," the Hill Guard said. "Please, lead on so I may follow."

"Yeah, of course," Twilight said awkwardly, slipping past the guard and heading out of the manor.

The sun was well set in the sky now and as such the streets and sidewalks were well and truly packed now, Twilight had trouble imagining how she would move anywhere without the crowd parting in way of the intimidating Hill Guard.

Twilight wondered the streets, not really knowing we're she was going but content to simply soak in the impressive sights of Manehattens mighty buildings. Turning onto another street Twilight entered what must have been Manehatten's market area, if it was then it put all other markets to shame bar Canterlot's own international market that was held every few years.

The market square was an entire city block, stores and businesses made up the square shape and stalls filled said square selling some of the finest goods in the land. With a smile Twilight entered the market, browsing casually through the stalls, quite a few market-goers gave her curious and awe-struck glances.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to the stares," Twilight said, when no response came she looked behind her to the sight of the stone-faced Hill Guard.

"Sorry, did you say something ma'am?" He asked.

"Uh, no, never mind."

Twilight turned away, a little put off, I felt odd not having Flash around although Twilight couldn't fathom why exactly. Ignoring the feeling Twilight continued throughout the market, stopping to chat will the merchants every now and again, asking about business and how well they were doing, so on so forth. Overall the response was positive, the ponies of Manehatten were happy and Lord Iron Hill clearly ruled fairly, Twilight couldn't help but compare him to the other lords she had met.

Lord Forest was vile that much was simple, from what Twilight had seen he treated the common working pony with contempt and Twilight had already promised to make his frankly unacceptable behaviour known to Princess Celestia. Twilight didn't have time enough to see most of Fillydelphia but Lord Thunder gave the impression that he truly cared for his city and its inhabitants despite being a bit rough around the edges, Lord Iron gave a similar impression that he cared or at least the city reflected that as Twilight hadn't spoken to him long.

She came out on the far side of the market without breakup step, not really sure where else to go. It was already midday when Twilight felt her stomach grumble, with a smile she decided to head back to the manor and grab lunch, perhaps Flash would already be there?

Deciding to take a different route around Twilight exited the market opposite the way she came in, coming through a small side street she came out onto the road but immediately noticed that there was much less traffic on the road. The sidewalks as well were free from bustling crowds with the only groups around moving in tight shuffling groups, with many of these groups peering out from darkened alleyways.

A cold winters wind gnawed at Twilights fur and she shivers, fleetingly she wished for the warmth of Flash's cloak but immediately shook the though out of her head as her cheeks burned. Looking around Twilight tried to gage which direction would bring her back to the Lords Manor, her thoughts were interrupted as the Hill Guard spoke up, making Twilight jump as she had honestly forgotten he was there.

"Your majesty, I think we should go back the way we came," he said softly but urgently, his eyes darting from place to place like a crazed parasprite.

"What's wrong with a little more walking? I want to see more of the city after all," Twilight said curiously.

"It's just I think we shouldn't be here your highness," the Guard replied.

"Why don't cha' stay around taffer?" A new voice said and Twilight and the Hill Guard turned to face it. Looking out at them from a nearby alleyway was a very rough-looking Earth Pony stallion. His brown fur might have at one time been a lighter colour and his mane may have been orange but both were almost as soiled and dirtied as the many jackets that were wrapped around him to keep the cold out.

"We always like company down 'ere 'specially when it's a pretty little princess," the lowlife said and suddenly there were more of them, six more equally dirty stallions surrounded them, all of them holding heavy thick knives in their mouths and eyeing Twilight like lions before a gazelle.

"Why don' we give 'er a Manehatten welcome boys?" The lead lowlife called and his companions gave hearty guffaws in response as they slowly stalked forward, the Hill Guard drew his blade which made a few of the lowlifes halt in their step for a moment before they grinned and continued closing the circle.

"W-wait a minute everypony!" Twilight said in a panic. "You don't need to do this! We can work this out!"

The lowlifes laughed and laughed, a few them almost dropped their Dirks from their mouths. The leader himself was nearly rolling on the ground in delight before getting back up and moving his coat out of the way to reveal a small axe hidden under it.

"Ya' don't get out much do ya' missy?" The leader said with a chuckle before grabbing his axe and stalking forward.

The Hill Guard was darting the point of his sword from place to place, trying to keep track of each one of the lowlifes.

"Ma'am, perhaps you should fly away now," the Hill Guard said.

"Oh no ya' don't!" The criminal closest to a Twilight and lunged forward with his dirk, Twilight screamed and fell backwards, sparking her magic in a panic. The lowlifes dirk clattered to the ground as the he went flying across the street from the panicked force spell, he hit the ground with a wet thump and a sickening crack.

The remaining criminals stood stunned for a minute before coming back to reality, the lead lowlife growled and gripped his axe more firmly.

"Stick 'em!" He grunted through the weapon and attacked. The Hill Guard blocked the blow and pushed him away before turning to face to the left, he blocked their blows and pushed them back slightly with a spell but he was too slow as three different blades scraped across his back, the chain mail held but it knocked the guard off balance. Meanwhile Twilight was shifting across the ground away from two of the thugs, the Guard noticed her peril and blink teleported over. He caught the criminals by surprise and buried his sword in the neck of the nearest lowlife, blood spurted from the would like a broken fountain, the stallion gave a death gurgle as the Guard pulled his sword out with a wet sound.

The small victory was short lived as three of the remaining lowlifes tackled the guard from behind in a deadly pile, the Hill Guard crashed to the ground and his sword went skidding, the criminals quickly surrounded him and began raining blows down on the guard. The Hill Guard screamed in pain as the blades sheared through his chain mail and cut into his back, his screamed became moans, moans became a gurgle and the gurgle stopped and there was silence from the guard.

Twilight looked on in horror as the lead criminal pulled his axe free from the spine of the dead guard, blood dripped from the blade and from the stallions muzzle giving him a savage look. Slowly the lowlifes creeped towards Twilight, grins were plastered on their mouths as they revelled in the moment, the sight of their delight at violence churned Twilights stomach in disgust.

Scrambling to her hooves Twilight began running through hundreds of spells in her head, but her head and heart were pounding, she couldn't focus nearly enough to cast half the spells she knew, she certainly couldn't teleport. One of the lowlifes lunged forward, not really meaning to actually do damage but frighten the mare, he was met with a magical blast that knocked him off balance.

The axe-wielding thug glared in fury but Twilight charged her magic, sending a shock wave in every direction.

"Get away!" Twilight yelled as the shockwave released, it hit the lowlifes and sent them skidding backwards on their hooves which only really accomplished in making them more angry.

Before anyone could make any sort of move one of the lowlifes pointed up and called out in surprise, the rest of the criminals and Twilight followed his lead. A orange blur shot through the air above them and landed with a metallic clank onto the road, throwing up a cloud of dust in the process. As the dust cleared Twilight was met with probably the most comforting sight she had ever seen in her short life, Flash stood there between her and the lowlifes and as she watched he drew his sword.

The thugs seemed to second guess themselves, exchanged worried glances and eyeing Flash's Snowhawk cape. Steeling themselves they dashed forward, Flash sidestepped the first attack and brought his sword to bear with the stallions spine, the lowlife fell to the ground with a crack just as Flash turned and caught the next criminals dirk in his crossbar. Disengaging his sword Flash ducked under and speared the criminal through the throat and ripped the blade out the back of the stallions throat splattering blood everywhere and freeing his sword just it time to meet two more lowlifes that attacked together.

Flash blocked the first ones blade but the second stepped to the side and landed a solid blow against his armoured side, Flash grit his teeth and extended his wing rapidly and smacked the criminal in the face with it. The lowlife was sent stumbling and Flash pushed the other one away, he slashed across the chest of each on in turn in two quick strokes leaving him facing that last axe-wielding criminal.

"Fucking Snowhawk! Why don't you pompous fucks ever learn?!" He yelled and charged Flash, raining downward blows on him.

Desperately Flash blocked blow after blow, unable to retaliate or risk injury. His only hope was that he would outlast his criminal opponent and the lowlife would tire and start getting sloppy, although that didn't seem to be happening anytime soon. Flash and the criminal locked weapons and set their strength against one another and found they were seemingly matched, that was until the lowlife widened his eyes and was suddenly hit by a blast of purple magic.

The stallion feel backwards and screamed in pain as his body dissolved into dust as the spell consumed him, his eyes gave on last terrified look before he completely turned into a pile of slightly glowing dust.

Flash sheathed his sword and looked behind him at Twilight who was staring that the newly-created dust pile with a horrified look, tears began flowing down her cheeks and immediately Flash rushed towards her. Twilight felt herself wrapped in his embrace and lifted of the ground as Flash took to the air, the air thrown up by his wings blowing the disintegrated lowlife into the air.

They didn't fly for long but then again Twilight could barely register what was happening around her, she felt the ground when they hit it and could continually sense Flash's comforting Wong around her Ashe lead her Celestia-knows-where, voices occasionally breaking through the mist.

"Give a message to Lord Iron Hill, tell him that Princess Twilight was attacked not two blocks away from his own house."

"Are you alright sir?"

"I'm fine, but send a healer later on to do a check up on her."

"Of course sir!"

"Do you need any help?"

"No... Actually could you get a pot of strong tea send to her room... And maybe a bottle of wine?"

"Of course sir, at once."

Flash lead the sniffling Twilight into her room and sat her on the bed, Twilight accepted his guidance passively. Flash unhooked his armour strapped and quickly shed the metallic second-skin, he took his Snowhawk cape and wrapped it around Twilight. There was a knock at the door and a servant poked her head in, she carried a tray with a fresh pot of tea and also a bottle of Saddle Arabian wine and small glasses along with it, Flash quickly thanked the servant and brought the tray over to Twilight.

Twilight had stopped crying but the streaks in her fur were all-too visible, she stared blankly forward seemingly not noticing anything around her. Flash sat next to her and wrapping his wing around her, his face scrunched in concern and worry.

"What to talk about what happened?" Flash asked.

Twilight didn't say anything at first, instead she stared at the food tray in front of her. She sparked her magic and grasped the wine bottle with it, the cork came off with a pop! and she poured into a glass, filling the vessel completely instead of partly as was originally intended. Twilight downed the glass of wine like a proud northerner with his ale, she came up with tears in her eyes and hiccuping slightly, wether from the wine or sorrow was not clear.

"I killed two Ponies that's what happened," Twilight sobbed, pouring more wine for herself.

Flash held her close as Twilight downed another glass of intoxicant but he blocked the bottle from the glass the next time she tried to pour, he pulled her close and let her sob into his shoulder. She hiccuped and was clearly already very tipsy which only really made her condition worse as Flash tried to smooth her.

"Listen to me," Flash said. "They attacked you, a princess, you defended yourself, there's nothing wrong with that."

"B-but I didn't have to kill them!" Twilight cried. "I could have stunned them! Used a Paralysis Spell or disarmed them! Instead I killed them both like sort of... Of witch!"

"You're not a witch Twilight and don't you dare think that," Flash said. "Think, why did you do what you did instead of paralyzing them?"

"Well... I... First I just panicked and I used a force spell, I couldn't concentrate so I just did it," Twilight said. "And then I saw you fighting that one with the axe and I was scared, I couldn't just let you die or get hurt because of me I wouldn't be able to live with myself, suddenly the disintegration spell just popped into my head and... Well... You know..."

"See? Panic, heat of the moment," Flash said. "We can say all day that we could have knocked them out or pacified them, but when the fighting starts and instinct takes over those ideas go out the window and we act for our own survival rather than our moral standing."

" 'A plan never survives first contact with the enemy' " Twilight sighed. "You sound like Shining."

"Your brothers a smart guy," Flash said, slipping out of Twilight's embrace and looking her in the eye. "And I think he would agree with me that you have nothing to beat yourself over about, you acted like anypony else would have acted and truthfully? I'm really proud of you for how you handled it."

"Thank you," Twilight sniffed, wiping her eyes and actually managing a smile.

"Feeling better?" Flash asked.

"Much better, although that might just be the wine talking."

The two of them laughed together and Twilight cuddled up to Flash who certainly didn't mind, Twilight poured both of them tea and they sipped at their drinks together contently taking comfort in simply being close to one another.

"Actually... How'd you know I was there anyway? On that street I mean?" Twilight asked.

"Oh... Well, I didn't actually, I was nearby," Flash answered, looking at his teacup and not Twilight.

"Nearby? Why? That's nowhere near Coco's Boutique, what were you doing there?"

"Well... "

~~*~~

Flash signed a bit as he walked away from Twilight's room, he was worried about what might happen while he was gone, she had already been attacked once already but as long as she kept her promise to stay on the Lords manor than she should be fine.

Flash left the lord's manor and turned onto Mane Street, as he walked his thoughts turned to his conversation with Twilight on the train ride to the city. She wanted to meet his family, a family that largely didn't exist and Flash seriously doubted that Swift would just fly out of the sky and offer to meet Twilight.

So what could he do really? Fleetingly Flash considered simply spilling every ounce of the truth to Twilight but very quickly shot that idea down, he could scarcely imagine Twilight's reaction. At the very least Flash would never see her again and the thought brought a sharp pain to his heart as he could quite proudly admit that they had grown close in the past few days and Flash was not about to throw that away, he could only hope that the past would stay dead and he could move on free of the guilt in his heart.

He came across Coco Pommel's Boutique three blocks down Mane Street, it was a humble little shop and Flash would have gone past it had he not been looking for it. He walked into the shop with a cheerful little twinkle from the bell above the door, inside was a simple circular studio of sorts with mannequins lined along the wall all sporting an assortment of dresses, suits, and other sorts of outfits.

There was a small reception desk with a service bell, Flash rung it and quickly what must have been Coco Pommel came out from a back door. She was a cute little mare with a blue mane and a cream-coloured coat, Coco smiled in a friendly manner.

"You must be Flash Sentry," she said a soft voice. "Twilight sent a letter forward, you need a suit for tonight right?"

"That's right," Flash said. "I hope it's not too much trouble."

"Not at all, I don't have much business these days anyway," Coco said. "Just take your armour off so I can make some quick measurements."

"Why aren't you having much business?" Flash asked as he began unlatching his armour. "I would of thought Ponies would be lining up for warm clothes with winter coming."

"Well they were, but unfortunately I've been marked," Coco said sadly, taking out her measuring tape.

"Marked?"

"I suppose you wouldn't know," Coco said. "Marked is when a local gang makes it known that a certain store isn't cooperating with them, so everypony knows to avoid that store or face violent punishment."

"Does that mean..."

"Oh no, your fine, the Blood Manes are tough but they won't bother a Royal Guard."

"The Blood Manes huh?"

"Yeah, charming name don't you think? They're bent on controlling Mane Street one shop at a time."

"Why don't the guards do something about it?"

"I'm afraid it's not that easy, the Manes' cover their tracks too well," Coco said sadly. "Plus they probably pay off half of them, their leader a stallion called Bloody Buck has the guard captain on the payroll."

"Bloody Buck?" Flash asked, finding familiarity in the name. "Bucky?"

"I've never heard him called that."

Flash was barely listening, before his brother... Disappeared, Canterlot had not been their only place of crime, they had in fact worked in Manehatten before. And when you do business in Manehatten you do business with Bucky, or 'Bloody Buck' as he apparently called himself these days, Bucky and Swift had been fast friends so Bucky may know where Swift was!

"So, where does this Bloody Buck hang around? Just so I know to avoid the place."

"He and his lowlifes usually hang around Flood Street," Coco said, too busy noting down measurements to really pay attention to the question. "There! All done!"

"Great, so you'll have the suit ready before tonight?" Flash asked, already putting his armour back on.

"You can bet on it, I'll have it delivered to the Lord's manor shall I?"

"Cheers."

Flash left Coco's Boutique and onto the bustling street, he looked down one way were the road turned and eventually lead back to Lord Iron's house. He then looked the opposite way were a nearby sign identified the street he was on as Mane Street and the next one over as Flood Street. With rather little internal debate Flash turned away from the Lord's house and onto the dank slum that awaited him.

Flood Street lived up to its name, the snow had melted into slush and water drenching everything around to the point that there was almost a consistent centimetre of water on the street that dampened Flash's hooves.

Hungry eyes peered at him from darkened alleyways, sizing him up, weighing the risk. Apparently most thought the risk was too great, others were mor courageous.

"Oi! You! Soldier-boy!" A voice yelled out from the gloom, Flash turned to see three rough-and-tumble looking stallions all glaring at him, one of them smoking a rotten pipe.

"What'cha doin' around 'ere soldier-boy? This 'ere's Bloody Mane territory and no pony struts around 'ere but with the consent of Bloody Buck," one of the Lowlifes said. "What's yer business 'ere?"

"I want to see Bloody Buck," Flash said, getting a round a hearty guffaws in turn.

"Nobody sees Bloody Buck, 'specially not some shiny soldier-boy!" The Lowlife wheezed. "Buck off!"

"Me and Bloody Buck are old friends, you wouldn't want him knowing you turned one of his friends around do you?"

That shut them up quick, the lowlifes exchanged glances before coming to a decision.

"Bah! Fine! Come meet the king~ò~criminals but don't cha' be surprised when he lobs yer head off!"

The stallion lead Flash further down Flood Street, eventually turning into and alleyway and navigating a maze of back streets and paths between run-down houses that made up the slum. They made a turn into a unimpressive dead-end alleyway were a bush of stallions sat around an old rotten table playing cards, the one directly opposite Flash was a burly rough Earth Pony with fiery orange mane and beard and fur that once might have been beige, he wore a heavy long-coat covered in patches and a short brimmed at atop his head, a pipe stuck out one side of his mouth and the exhaled smoke came out the other.

Bloody Buck slammed his cards down on the table "Blackjack ya' taffers!" He guffawed as the others moaned and groaned and forked over their bits.

"H-hey there boss," Flash's guide said nervously. "There's somepony 'ere to see ya'"

Buck eyed Flash in his golden armour and spat in his direction "what's a soldier-boy like you doin' in my kingdom eh? Speak up lad!"

"That anyway to greet an old friend?" Flash said, removing his helmet. "Hello again Bucky, long time no see."

Bucky stared at Flash with scrutiny before his eyes widened and his pipe fell right out of his mouth, clattering to the ground.

"Flash Hoof lad... Ya' all grown up.." Bucky said before clearing the table a giving Flash a big hug.

"It's good ta' see ya' lad! Look 'ow you are! Last time I saw ya' you were little more than a foal!"

"Good to see you too Bucky," Flash said with a smile, he really did meet it, Bucky was the closest thing he had to family outside of Swift, almost like a crazy grandfather.

"You ya' joined the guard then did ya' ?" Bucky said releasing Flash and tapping his armour. "Should'a known, you were always goin' on about becomin' a knight and such, good on you lad!"

"Thanks," Flash said. "But I'm really not here for a reunion as great as this is, I need your help."

"Anything lad!" Bucky said. "What'cha need?"

"Information," Flash said. "Just one question, do you have any idea where my brother is?"

"Yer brother?" Bucky asked confused. "Swift? As in ya' don't know where he is?"

"No," Flash said with his spirits falling. "I hoped you might know."

"Lad I haven't seen that brother of yers for years, not since the last time you and him did a job for me," Bucky explained. "What happened?"

"Something went wrong," Flash explained. "It was just another job, I got in with this rich noble filly, won her over, then I was supposed to let Swift in so we could rob the entire mansion blind but... I... I..."

"I was stupid! I felt so bad about leading her on! And then she saw me letting Swift into her house and I couldn't lie to her! So I told her everything! Asked her to run away with me and she just screamed for the guards, Swift said he would hold them off so I could run, so I did, I flew to Cloudsdale and my money ran out, that's when I signed up for the guard and I tried to move on."

"I'm sorry to hear that lad, truly I am," Bucky said. "I wish I could tell you that I knew where yer brother is but I haven't seen hide nor tail of 'em in years."

"Should have guessed that anyway," Flash. "Still, it's good to see you again Bucky."

"And you too lad!" Bucky said heartily. "Speakin' o' which, why are you in Manehatten anyway? You ain't been assigned to the Hill Guard else I would've known."

"No, I'm only here for the day, guarding Equestria's newest princess Twilight Sparkle as she goes on a tour," Flash said casually.

"The new princess huh?" Bucky said, popping his pipe back into his mouth and taking a puff. One of this henchcolts trotted up to him and whispered something in his ear, Bloody Buck grinned and said something back softly, the stallion grinned wickedly and ran off.

"Seems your pretty little princess has wondered into our territory lad," Bloody Buck said, puffing on his pipe.

"What?! I told her to stay!" Flash said. "I'm sorry Bucky but I gotta-"

"Calm yer tats lad," Bloody Buck said soothingly. "I've sent me lads to give 'er a proper Bloody Mane welcome."

"What do you mea-" Flash's eyes widened. "No! You can't! She hasn't done anything to you!"

"Sorry lad but is she's stepped into my lands and she's gotta learn how things work around here," Bloody Buck said. "Not to mention there's a hefty price on her head, seems a certain lord ain't a fan of our newest overlord."

"Please Bucky! Don't do this! She's innocent!"

"No! She's a noble! You said yourself! That Canterlot bitch stabbed you in the back and broke yer heart! This one will do the same! You belong with me lad! Keep to the guard if you want but work with me from there! Help me take over Manehatten from the ground up and the both of us can be rich!"

"No," Flash said, grabbing his helmet and backing away.

"Don't make an enemy of me lad," Bloody Buck warned. "Cross me and I'll bloody your mane, trust me on that."

Flash spread his wings and was gone in a gust of wind, giving one last look to Bloody Buck was shaking his head in disappointment at him. Flash put his helmet back on and immediately began looking for Twilight, Bucky said she was on his turf to she must have been nearby, he flew in slowly growing circles until he spotted Twilight. She was lying on the ground and was slowly being approaching by a group of Bucky's lowlifes, steeling himself Flash folded his wings and shot towards the ground in between Twilight and the thugs.

~~*~~

"....I was nearby," Flash said. "I was on my way back and a decided to drop in on my parents only place."

"Really?" Twilight asked excitedly. "And?"

"No luck," Flash said. "Seems they've moved and no pony near bye remembers them or me."

"I'm sorry," Twilight said, nuzzling him and giving him a squeeze. "Are you going to be alright?"

"Me?" Flash asked incredulously, drowning the guilt that was bubbling up in his facade. "What about you? Are you alright?"

"I said I'm fine!" Twilight giggled. "I'm fine, your fine, the ball is in a few hours and-" there was a knock at the door.

"-my dress and your suit have just arrived," Twilight finished, she got up from the bed and Flash immediately missed her warmth. Twilight opened the door to see a servant holding two packages, she thanked the mare and took the packages, levitating one over to Flash.

"Where'd you get the dress anyway?" Flash asked.

"I wore it at the Grand Galloping Gala a few years ago, I had by friend Rarity send it over for the ball," Twilight explained, opening the package. "There's a changing room right their, I'll get dressed in here."

"Yeah, sure," Flash said, taking his package and into the side room to get changed.

The suit was a simple three-piece outfit, with a bow tie and flower lapel to boot. Flash came out of the changing room and his jaw dropped, Twilight stood their in a gorgeous starry gown that fit snugly around her female curves and wings, Twilight noticed him standing there and gave an all-too enticing wink.

"How do I look?" Twilight asked.

"Absolutely gorgeous," Flash breathed, getting a blush from Twilight.

"Come on, the ball will be starting soon."

~~*~~

The ball room was full of chattering nobility, from wealthy merchants to long standing families, to second-cousins-of-the-half-brother-of-the-sister-of-that-king-somewhere-out-east. All of whom turned towards the entrance as Twilight and Flash stepped through, they chattered excitedly and Flash couldn't help but be reminded of a flock of birds, all doing what the others were doing for fear of being thrown out of the flock.

Twilight walked up through the crown with Flash in tow, Lord Iron Hill awaited them at the far end of the room. He and Twilight exchanged mutual bows and Iron Hill turned to the crowd, Twilight standing by.

"Today we celebrate Equestria's newest Princess! Long may she reign and bring us all closer in friendship!" Lord Iron Hill said. "Let the festivities begin!"

There was a round of clapping and the nobility resumed their chatter, Lord Iron Hill turned to Twilight and gestured for her to follow him, Flash tagged behind them letting the two have their conversation.

"I'm sorry we couldn't speak earlier," Lord Iron said.

"It's alright, I understand how busy you are," Twilight responded.

"And I also apologize for what happened on Flood Street, to think that there were such violent criminals in my doorstep is simple unacceptable," Lord Iron Hill said with a stake of his head. "I can assure you that an investigation is ongoing to discover the scum behind the attack."

"Thank you, I appreciate it."

"But do tell you thoughts about my city, excluding that unfortunate incident."

"Well I had thought you had done a very good job at managing the cities economy, but after that attack... Are all criminals so violent? Are their more street gangs like them?"

"Unfortunately yes," Lord Iron sighed. "They are a plague on my otherwise glorious city, I have made numerous attempts to route out this problem but to no avail, every time my guards raid their hideouts they disappear, like they know we are coming."

Flash considered releasing his knowledge that the Hill Guards were being paid off but then that would reveal his association with Bloody Buck, so with ever mounting guild he kept his mouth shut.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Twilight was saying. "But I'm sure if you keep trying you'll bring them to justice."

"I agree full heartedly," Iron Hill said with a smile. "Now if you'll excuse me I must be off, but please! Mingle! I'm sure everypony here is eager to meet you!" Flash walked up next to Twilight as Lord Iron Hill cantered away.

"I'm guessing you don't want to meet with Manehatten's snobbyist," he said.

"Yeah, not really," Twilight said, the orchestra began a fresh song, it was slow and moanful and many of the guests went to the dance floor and became circling slowly together.

"Say, you want to dance?" Twilight asked suddenly, catching Flash off guard.

"W-what?" Flash stuttered, his face heating up.

"Come on," Twilight said, hooking her leg with his and pulling him gently to the centre of the dance floor. She placed one hoof on his shoulder and directed Flash's hoof to her side and then held him by his, they started out at length but Twilight quickly closed the distance so that they were practically hugging. They circled slowly with the music with Twilight taking the lead as Flash was having trouble concentrating, he found himself lost in Twilight's large lavender eyes.

"I'm glad you came with me on this trip Flash," Twilight said softly. "I don't know how I would've done any of this without you around."

"You would have been fine," Flash said, finding his voice. "I'm just here to make you look good."

Twilight giggled and placed her head on Flash's shoulder, they danced and danced until the night grew old, and then they danced some more, neither of them willing to leave the embrace of the other.

Author's Note:

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