• Published 17th Nov 2011
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Fallout: Equestria- The Last Sentinel - Adder1



It's hard to kill memories when you remember everything.

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Reflection Six: Calling

Reflection Six: Calling

For the longest time, I couldn't figure out why I didn't have mine.”

You don't get to be my age without learning a thing or two about what's what. But the most important lessons come early in life.

Find out what you're good at. Branch out from there.

Knowledge is power, but knowledge without application is fruitless.

It's all in the façade.

Words can't win every battle.

Smile, and the world smiles with you. Cry, and you cry alone.

There's always an opportunity in the aftermath.

You gotta think big in a city of giants.

Know when to yield. Know when not to yield.

Words can't win every battle.

It's never a game of numbers. Consider every factor.

You're not trying to annihilate your enemy. You're only trying to find their breaking point.

Plan ahead.

Nothing lasts forever, even in paradise.

Have a backup plan.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

Power corrupts. And wealth is power that can be sold.

There are always alternative solutions.

And lastly, think before you act. Do you really want to do this? Are you willing to live with the consequences?

These aren't the only lessons I learned, but there were the most important ones. Admittedly, I didn't always pay attention to them. I didn't always follow them. I still slip up nowadays. But I know when and where I failed. I spent the following month trying to correct those failures. I obliterated all trace of the gang I created. Soon, the only things left was the occasional word-of-mouth, the off-chance murmur. Nothing more. I could finally breathe easier, even if my parents still didn't accept me. We still talked, to be sure, but we never did anything together like the good old days. We ate our meals separately, and they would often excuse themselves to their bedroom when I was around. But I think- or at least like to think- that they acknowledged that I cleaned up my mess.

But there was no denying that lone fact, that blatantly obvious thing about me.

I was still a mumei.

* * *

I loved the cold. You had to get used to it as a Manehattaner. The nightlife was where it was at in the City of Lights and Legends. You had to learn how to get around without a coat, especially when you were once so poor you could barely afford one. Those days in the aftermath, I just strolled around. It was the little things, those days. I never really got to explore Manehattan during my childhood. Either I didn't have the luxury, or I was building my empire. Now? I could take it all in and enjoy what I missed.

It was cold the day I decided to take a stroll about the park, wandering aimlessly to wherever I fancied. I could always find my way back, after all. I found a bench and settled down on it, looking about and watching the cool breeze kick up the fallen leaves. I watched the people of Manehattan walk on by- ponies, zebras, donkeys, mules, griffins, bison, even a lone diamond dog. I even managed to spot a couple celebrities taking a leisurely stroll- you couldn't get around the City of Lights and Legends without happening upon one of those legends. Back then- in Manehattan at least- we gave them some space. We got used to seeing them around, and while we gave them an appreciative nod and smile, we often let them be without crowding around them and asking for an autograph. Manehattan was where the popular could enjoy a little privacy. I was the former head honcho of the Mumei myself. I spotted a few familiar faces, but I was left alone aside from some glares and glances.

Alone... for someone who surrounded himself with thousands upon thousands of supporters and enemies alike, it felt alien to me to be by myself again like all those years ago. It made me feel a lot older. Most of all, it made me feel even more anonymous. I chuckled to myself as I thought about that. I felt more like a mumei then than ever before.

And that reminded me about something.

Hokkaido,” my father's voice echoed in my head, each Equestrian word coming out syllable by syllable, “if you are trying to get your cutie-mark, you should try to find what you are good at. After you do, focus on those. For me, I knew that I was a good listener. So, I listened. But then I learned I could see through listening what was good in ponies, uh, in people I mean. And after listening to someone talking through his heart, what is next step? You give advice. That was how I got my mark. So find what you are good at. Maybe somepony else already good at it. Keep trying, keep finding. Keep pushing yourself.

“It just takes a little pressure,” I whispered to myself, looking down at my green, featureless flank.

I got up from the bench, inhaling that fresh, crisp air and adjusting my trusty fedora. It was time to head for the local library.

* * *

Eidetic memory helps when reflecting on where I failed and where I could succeed. Words weren't anything special enough to me to earn my mark, and I felt I was damn good with words. That told me something- that there was something out there that I was even better at. I just didn't realize it. Until now.

Remember who I was before all that? I sure did. Blank-flank-flunk. I failed magic kindergarten. I could only light up my horn- that's it. Couldn't even lift a wad of tissue paper. But I remembered something about those days that I thought could have been the answer to all that, the key to my new life.

I could form an overglow without prior tutoring.

The next place I would look into- I decided- would be magic. And how did I do that? What I always did back then when I needed to learn something.

I did my research.

1101 Unicorn Mages You Never Learned About taught me a great deal about the possibilities. There were many, many notable unicorns that specialized in only one kind of magic- frankly because that was all they could perform. And they were undeniably masters of their field. Telekinesis. Teleportation. Phasing. Hypnosis. Telepathy. Psychokinetic amplification. Illusions. Purification. Amniomorphism. Transmorgrification. I barked up all these wrong trees from October of that year into November. I searched- searched for that specific kind of magic. Eventually, my studies took me to one group of magicians in particular, one very powerful group.

The Mancers.

Remember when I told you that after Princess Luna and Princess Celestia took over controlling the cycle of the night and day, the unicorns of the Far North were freed from their duty to pursue other magical interests? The Mancers were some of those unicorns. They were a select group of unicorn magicians that developed elemental magic. I see some nodding around the crowd. Yeah, you can all see where this is going. The Mancers were the ones who gave ponykind the ability to harness the power of the natural world. There was pyromancy, hydromancy, electromancy, terramancy, anemomancy, spectramancy, and umbramancy- and some elemental “trees” had more specialized branches. For instance, terramancers could accelerate the growth of plant life and manipulate metal in addition to bending the earth to their will. Umbramancers could manifest shadows into physical objects along with obscuring vision. Hydromancy...

Well, I'm sure you can connect the dots.

This elemental magic was very, very tantalizing to me. I don't know why- there was just something that clicked to me about it. Unlike most forms of magic, the elemental magic championed by the Mancers had their own interesting blend of rules. For one, Mancers needed to possess an elemental affinity in order to get anywhere beyond entry-level spells. You were born with this attachment; there was no other way to get it. Either you had it, or you didn't. Additionally, there are seemingly no species-based limitations on this unique brand of magic. You didn't have to be a unicorn to perform elemental magic- you didn't even have to be a pony. Everyone has magic in their blood. It just usually expresses itself in different forms. I happened to get the chance to witness a certain mule molly use terramancy myself.

Unfortunately, elemental magic also had its risks. People with the necessary elemental affinity who dedicated themselves to their magic eventually formed something known as an elemental union. As this union strengthened, the Mancer would find him or herself taxed less and less by his or her respective elemental magic. The cost, however, could be enormous- and it could be both physiological and psychological. Pyromancers found their core temperatures rising higher than the normal equines and were forced to seclude themselves to warmer climates. Hydromancers could grow gills to breathe underwater but rapidly dehydrated themselves on land. Electromancers needed to drain electrical or magical energy in addition to taking in food and water in order to subsist. Terramancers found themselves feeling that they needed to stay on solid ground. They wouldn't even dare to just go up a flight of stairs. Or worse, they felt the need to live underground. Anemomancers were the opposite- they didn't want anything to do with the ground. It drove some of them to attempt to fly. It often ended in their death- no laughing matter. It was why anemomancy was strongly recommended for pegasi and griffins only. Spectramancers thrived in direct light and grew lethargic- sometimes insane without it. The umbramancers were the opposite in that regard.

Reading over that, I couldn't help but swallow hard. Small wonder that the Mancers eventually died off. The risk outweighed the return to most of them. Developing an elemental union would completely change one's life- and may very well end it. It was dangerous magic, to be sure. Few kinds of magic had so much lethal potential as those of the Mancers. But told myself I wanted to find my calling in life. If I had an elemental union, so be it. If I couldn't perform any of this magic at all, then no harm done. No need to face the risks. Just find another tree of magic and move on. Still, the fact that every copy of the Mancers' works had a warning from the Magical Utility, Safety, Training, Education, and Regulation board, or M.U.S.T.E.R., didn't make it any less concerning.

Surprisingly, I tried spectramancy first. I just thought- hey, if I can make a whole lot of light with my stupid horn, maybe spectramancy is my thing. I could live with being in the light all the time, too. I mean... I lived in Manehattan, City of Lights and Legends! It couldn't be that bad, could it? Spectramancy sounded pretty cool back then, too. Bending light, creating sustainable illusions, making hard light... yeah, pretty cool.

It didn't work. Of course not. You know that already.

Then I tried umbramancy. I figured I was comfortable enough in the dark now. I wouldn't mind living in some secluded area or the like. Nope. Didn't work.

Electromancy could've worked, I thought. If I needed to depend on draining electricity to live, I was certainly in the best place for it. Again, City of Lights and Legends. Manehattan wasn't going to run out of electricity anytime soon. Alas, I couldn't even produce a spark.

Anemo- no. Just no.

Hydromancy. Ugh... I decided to give it a go. If it worked, I guess I had my magic. There was Manehattan Harbor to splash into if I became a seapony or something, I suppose. So I gave it a go.

* * *

Early evening. I was lying down in bed at my family's apartment as I read the copy of the Hydronomicon I borrowed from the library. It was thick, the pages were an aged yellow, and the text on the deep-blue, hardcover flaps was faded. I breathed out a heavy sigh as I opened to the first page and glossed over the warning. “Be warned that performing the following magic with an elemental affinity may result in forming an elemental union, which can result in numerous unwanted physiological and psychological changes. Proceed at your own risk.” At this point, the sane pony would have shut the book, turned it back into the library, and went on his or her merry way. I might not have come out of that dumpster a sane pony after all.

“Basic entry-level spell number one. Draw water out of a goblet without using telekinesis.” I arced an eyebrow at that. Well, simple enough. I headed to the kitchen/dining area and picked out a plastic cup that I took from a restaurant with a kid's meal purchase years ago. The printing of a tabby cat snoozing and basking in the sun was long faded. It wasn't exactly a goblet, but it was free. I took a moment to fill it to the brim from our water cooler and trotted back into my room, setting it down on my nightstand. I lied back down in bed and glanced at the book.

“Make a connection between your magic and the water. Imagine reaching out and grasping it as if with a hoof just as with trying to grasp something with telekinesis.” Alright then. I took a deep breath and fired up my horn with a soft, blue glow. The water in the cup was suffused with a similar aura. No surprise there.

“Now, instead of lifting with your imaginary hoof as with telekinesis, imagine channeling the water upward, commanding it to flow up against gravity.” There it was. The moment of truth. If this didn't work, I was doing pyromancy next.

I inhaled and exhaled deeply, eyes closing as I focused. Upward. Let the water flow upward. Let it rise, fly, fly higher...

Over the dulled music and honking outside and the sparkling of my own magic, I heard a light bubbling- just barely. My heart raced for a few seconds and I opened my eyes in astonishment. There was a soft sloshing as the water in the cup settled back down, the surface rippling softly. My lips stretched into a smile and my breath quickened with exhilaration as I lit up my aura and stretched it to the water. I didn't dare close my eyes this time. I wanted to see it for myself. I only beamed brighter and wider as I watched the water slowly coil upward against gravity, collected into a rippling, quivering ball. I found myself laughing and bouncing on my squeaky bed.

Yeeeeeeeeeees!” I cheered in amazement, cheered in success, cheered with all my heart.

And then the ball of water exploded and showered the entire room with droplets of water. It was as if a water balloon exploded right in front of me, leaving me- and the bed, and the walls, and the floor, and the nightstand, and my hat- slightly damp. I blinked dumbly, taking a moment to register what happened.

I started flipping through the pages. There had to be something about cleaning up the water somewhere...

* * *

I had my magic at last, at long last! I wasn't quite sure if I was willing to become a seapony, but I finally had my magic! Take that, magic kindergarten! Hah!

I was happy, so unbelievably happy that I had finally found my magic. It was enough to only slightly disappoint me that my flanks were still bare. Nevertheless, this was the magic I was solely able to perform; I was going to invest all my effort into mastering it. And if that still didn't earn my mark... well, then, that would be a downer to be sure, but I at least had my magic!

From there I went down the various applications of hydromancy, working my way down the basics.

* * *

I was seated on my bed, making the cupful of water flow up and around me as I smiled in wonder. That feeling of flying high was back, and it was breathtaking. I weaved that liquid coil around me, twisting it, extruding it, condensing it back into a ball. I cleaved it, brought it back together, separated it into dozens and then hundreds of droplets. And then I coalesced some back into a rippling ball and brought it to my lips experimentally. I took a sip and slowly drank up that floating sphere. It was tough at first, having to carefully relinquish control of the glowing water at just the right speed. Too slow and I was just sipping up moistened air. Too fast and I was spilling it down onto the mattress. Eventually, I got it just right and couldn't help but let out a delighted giggle. Yes, a giggle. Me.

When I calmed down, I noticed the rest of the water I was suspending was missing. And that the carpet looked a little wetter. Seemed like I forgot something...

I rolled my eyes up, gave myself a light bop on the head for my inattentiveness. I inhaled deeply and focused to strain the water from the fabric, working my jaw around as it rose drop by drop. I found myself giggling like a schoolfilly again as I succeeded, the bed squeaking a bit as I bounced giddily.

I didn't even notice that the sun was creeping its way back up over the horizon until its rays started fluttering into my eyes.

* * *

I exited the library, tucking my trusty fedora back down and slipping the Hydronomicon back into my saddlebags along with the receipt. It was mine now. I found my magic at last, and I was damned willing to invest in it. With no job and no classes, I could fully devote myself to delving into the art of hydromancy. And I knew the best place to practice to my heart's content.

Manehattan Harbor was a collection of shipping docks where ships bound for and from Zebrica made off with their various imports and exports. Seafaring vessels of all sorts milled about the bay, ranging from personal sailboats and schooners to hulking cargo ships. One end of Manehattan Harbor was lined with stacks of shipping containers and the powerful cranes that hauled them on and off decks and onto and off of transport wagons. The other end was for the Manehattaners themselves. At that end was a collection of piers and docks where ships idled, bobbing gently in time with the Berrillion Sea. It was a popular place to have a stroll or even just sit down and watch the waves wash into the harbor. Those waves made a beautiful sound as they rolled toward shore, broken only by the squawk of seabirds and the bellow of the foghorn. And then there was that wonderful offshore breeze, carrying the scent of freshness and brine. Just standing out on the wooden planks and basking it all was enough to put the most troubled mind at ease.

Standing there before the mighty sea, I didn't feel like a giant in a city of legends. I felt so, so small against the vast, boundless expanse of endless blue that spread out before me. It was a... very humbling feeling. I closed my eyes and raised my head, taking all of those wonderful sensations in. Then I set down the Hydronomicon, placing a hoof down on the pages as the gentle breeze fluttered through them. I flared up my horn, trailed up stream of water up to circle around me, and curved it into itself in a loop of infinity. A mother and a little unicorn colt passed by, the kid's eyes widening and his mouth gaping in awe as he tugged on his mother's foreleg.

“Mom!” he cried out excitedly. “Can we watch? Please? Pleeeeease? It looks so cool!”

I chuckled softly to myself, feeling a smile creeping across my muzzle as the mother huffed softly with a soft twinkle to her eyes, nodding.

“Hey mister!” The little colt waved. “What's your name? How're you doing that?”

“Hokkaido,” I answered, tipping my fedora toward him in greeting. I loved that hat. “And I'm practicing hydromancy.”

He tilted his head in confusion.

“Water magic.”

Tilt was gone now.

“Cool!” he exclaimed.

“Heh, you have no idea...” I chuckled again, still smiling.

As I went down the pages and the techniques started to strain my horn, the mother and child eventually went on their way. Several other passersby stopped to watch, asking the usual questions of who I was, what I was doing, how I was doing it. One of them actually took a picture, to my surprise. I just worked my way through the pages...

* * *

November left with the leaves, and December settled in with a layer of fresh sleet. It's the little things, I have to say again. In the years before where I was too little or too busy to notice, I scarcely took the time to appreciate how beautiful Manehattan was during wintertime. The gently falling snow caught the city lights just so, creating a dazzling display of color as it descended. And when layered on the ground, it reflected each light in a subtle fashion.

The storyteller flattened his lips, eyes downcast as he spoke. His eyes glassed over slightly, tears pooling.

It was so beautiful... just... so beautiful.

He sniffed softly, sublimating the tears as they formed. He took a deep breath and continued.

Even when the sea and sky grayed, I still returned to Manehattan Harbor to practice. I grew more daring, more adventurous until... I finished everything that hydromancy had to offer. It actually took me by surprise. Sure, the intermediate and advanced techniques, such as desalinization and condensing moisture in the air, took a lot out of me, often forcing me to create an overglow or two. There were times where I needed to wait until the next day to get a variation of the spell just right. But I was finished. I glanced at my side to make sure... no. Still no mark. I was perhaps a bit disappointed by all that, and I picked up the book to head back home early.

It was then that I noticed that I wasn't quite finished with the book.

* * *

Cryomancy- ice magic. It was one of those specific branches, another layer of complexity within an already incredible spellwork- an art form within an art form. The classifications for them existed only in that the hydromancers felt that they needed that distinction as different states of water.

Still... if hydromancy was my sole magic, it was all worth a shot. What most intrigued me was that cryomancy was a relatively unexplored field of elemental magic.

* * *

Home again, lying in bed.

“Reach out with your magic to a goblet of water.” I lifted up and set down my plastic 'goblet'. “Imagine exhaling a cool breath- it may help to do this yourself as you attempt this. Relax and calm yourself. Try to duplicate that same feeling in your magic.”

My soft-blue aura enveloped the water and I focused. I inhaled deep through my nostrils and exhaled through my mouth. Be calm, be tranquil. I idly thought of the endless expanse of the Berrillion Sea, and I felt a slight coolness suffuse through me. Slowly, crystals began to form on the surface along the edges of the cup, working its way inward. It was a beautiful, fascinating thing to watch. It was like a pond freezing over in fast-forward. And it felt... easy. It was as if I was a natural. I used the edge of my hoof to poke a hole in the ice just to refreeze it just for the fun of it.

Freezing the rest of the cupful proved to be just as easy, as did melting it back into water. I repeated that a few times to build magic memory- think muscle memory but for your horn- going faster, faster. I moved onto coalescing additional ice onto the cupful, pulling moisture straight out of the air to do so. I built it up, melted it down, learned to spread out a sheet of ice. Interestingly, though I still needed to fire up my horn to perform cryomancy, the water only shared my aura when it was in a liquid state and direction under my control.

The storyteller demonstrated by forming a pair of ice arms, pulling out a familiar shotgun- Luna's Judgment. He smirked and reduced it all to water. The weapon he showed to them days ago when he first started was merely a sculpture. The water rose from the floor and flowed around him, sharing the same soft-blue sparkle that his horn was dimly glowing. His horn snuffed out as he turned the flowing loop to vapor.

After practicing these basic spells for the better part of an hour, I turned the page to the intermediate section.

There was none.

I raised an eyebrow and checked for any sign of missing pages or defacement. There was no such atrocity evident. The Hydronomicon merely moved onto atmidomancy.

I deadpanned in astonishment and turned back those few pages. “That's it?” I asked aloud, a touch disappointed.

* * *

Hm, now that I think about it, maybe it was a little more than “relatively” unexplored. For something that came to me so naturally, I found that a touch insulting. The Mancers were perhaps two-thousand to three-thousand years before my time. There were hundreds of pages on hydromancy and at least a few dozen on atmidomancy. Why so little for cryomancy?

I presented this question to Shinespark Whitney, a spectacled unicorn mare with a cheery, orange coat and a crimson mane, when I invited her to lunch at Ramenhausu 79. She was a Northerner professor and magus at the Manehattan Magical Institute- and the head of the Ancient Arcane Sciences department. Though somewhat perplexed by my lack of a cutie-mark as most people were- ponies especially- she gradually loosened up after I began a discussion about the Mancers. Then came the question.

“Oh, it's actually a pretty good reason, if not a simple one,” the slant-eyed mare answered. “Recall that we- more specifically the people of the Far North- spent the majority of the year preparing for the harsh winter ahead. Up until the Age of Industry where food production skyrocketed, Northerners lived a subsistence lifestyle. Almost every effort- paid or not- ultimately went to producing enough resources to survive the winter.”

“Sorry to be a bother,” I spoke up, “but I'm afraid I don't quite understand where this is going, professor.”

“Think of it this way, Hokkaido- the Northerners despised the cold of winter and thrived in the spring and summer. What kind of magic would they instantly scorn?”

The realization dawned on me, and I leaned back in understanding. “Cryomancy.”

“Exactly.” Shinespark nodded, punctuating with a pointed hoof at me. “It's why the Pyronomicon and Spectranomicon are so much more well-developed compared to the other Mancer codices. We ponies are diurnal creatures that thrive on warmth. Phryggia, the Mancer credited with- or rather shunned for- creating cryomancy was denounced for her discovery and study of the magic by the Northerners. The Mancers were quick to outlaw cryomancy completely within their order thereafter.”

I grimaced at that. “Sounds harsh.”

“It was. It was purely through luck that we discovered records of Phryggia at all and even luckier that we were able to use them to find her written works. Now, why do you ask about this? I'm curious.”

I replied by firing up my horn and looping my tea into the air, freezing it.

“Dear Goddess...” Shinespark gasped, eyes brightening. “You're a hydromancer! And with an elemental affinity! Goodness, a modern-day Mancer!”

“To be honest, I don't know if I deserve a title as lofty as that,” I chuckled with a wan smile.

“Well you can perform elemental magic above the basic level, can't you? Then you're a Mancer. A modern-day Mancer! Amazing!”

“Here's the thing, Professor Whitney,” I said, “this is the only magic I can perform at all.”

“A one-trick pony, hm?” She tapped a hoof against her chin. “I assume you're quite the adept, then?”

I was tempted to boast, but I really didn't want to go back there. I merely melted my tea and settled it back down in my cup. “Only because I learned from the work of adepts. Professor, I desperately wish to delve deeper into cryomancy. It comes so naturally to me, even more so than the hydromancy it's grounded in. Truth be told, I also believe it might earn me my cutie-mark. If there's anything you can tell me...”

Shinespark pondered for a few seconds. “I can't really tell you much more than what's available in the Hydronomicon.” I slumped a little to that. “But!” I perked back up, hopeful. “But I can point you in the right direction. Mancers often studied their element of choice from a scientific standpoint in addition to a magical one. You can visit the Institute's library for our records on Phryggia and her research. It's open to the public after all. I don't know how much insight it will give you, but I also encourage you to blaze your own trail with research of your own.”

I smiled and nodded. “Thank you, Professor Whitney. I appreciate it.” The waiter came by and set down our bowls. I gave him a polite nod and turned back to Shinespark. “Enjoy.”

* * *

That week saw me researching extensively at MMI. The library, though not as jaw-droppingly expansive as Twilight Sparkle's Athenaeum at Tenpony Tower, was the largest one I'd seen yet. Phryggia's research only served to reinforce what I already knew through basic chemistry in high school. It was the university's research in that field that aided me the most.

I spent hours poring over academic journals just looking up information on water and especially ice. There were several times when Shinespark sneaked up on me- it was all too easy without Zoleks at my side- just to check on how I was holding up. “How's my little Mancer doing?” she would ask me. She made me feel welcome there just by taking a few minutes to check on my progress and maybe watch me condense and then freeze moisture from the air as if flexing my fetlock, which- in all honesty- it had become just as easy for me to do. The overall difference in atmosphere between MMI and Verdana further reinforced that welcoming feeling. It was much more open, much friendlier, and so much... cleaner. If this was what higher education was like, I wouldn't mind it. I just had to get past the odd looks I was getting for being a blank-flank.

The first breakthrough came toward the end of the week when I happened upon a student-written article on the formation and structure of snowflakes.

Almost all of the hooves and hands shot up from the audience.

... you're all wondering what a snowflake is, aren't you?

And down they went.

I really should have seen that coming. But really, I talk about all of this, and you don't ask any questions up until now? Roanoke, I blame you for not helping out.

The griffin at the jukebox shrugged. The storyteller sighed and cast a cloud of mist into the air. From it fell dozens of frozen flakes.

No two are alike. Each and every one of them is unique. What the research article did was not only confirm that but also explain why that is. You see, as a snowflake forms, temperature changes of the minutest difference affect how the ice bends as it changes shape. The spokes and branches of each snowflake are the product of these very minute, very rapid temperature changes.

That definitely got me thinking...

* * *

I looked up, staring into space after reading that article, lost in thought. My mind tried to wrap around that concept, and I slowly turned my gaze up toward the water swirling beside my head, freezing and melting, freezing and melting. I stopped it right there- melted- and rubbed my chin in thought. I began freezing the ball of water, trying to recreate the concept I just read about. To compensate for the more pronounced temperature changes, I slowed the freezing process. It was like freezing my first cup again. This time, I was working slight feelings of exhaling warmer and cooler breath with my magic while I held my own. When I was ready, I released my hold on the water's shape and watched.

The slowly forming ice stretched out, expanding slowly- splitting, branching into something I couldn't quite comprehend. It was like watching a panel of glass fracture into a web of cracks made solid. After the water completely froze over, what I had floating before me looked like a three-dimensional Zebrican glyph. I definitely didn't intend for it to come out quite like that.

I still smiled nonetheless.

I couldn't help but check to my right, looking at my flank. I sighed a little. Still blank...

“I think my little Mancer's had a breakthrough!” Shinespark remarked from behind me.

I jumped in surprise, my magical field imploding and causing the glyph-thing to fall and shatter on the table. “Professor! Why do you keep doing that?!”

“Come on, I gotta have fun after spending all day talking,” she chuckled. “So, what should I call you, then?”

“Just call me Hokkaido, ma'am,” I sighed, sublimating the ice.

“You sure? Last I checked, Hokkaidans, get a second name when they get their cutie-marks.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “I don't have a cutie-mark.”

Shinespark just gave me a smug look.

“...what?”

She kept giving me that look.

I blinked. Twice. No way. No way no way no way.

I looked down at my left fla- yes way!

“Hahaaaaaa!” I cheered, throwing my hooves into the air.

I immediately had all eyes on me. Shinespark was blinking awkwardly.

I smiled apologetically and settled back down. “Right. Library.”

* * *

The storyteller's next memento was the last to fall from the mist above his head to his outstretched hoof. He dissipated the cloud and took a moment to reshape the snowflake before presenting it to the crowd.

That's the story about how I earned my cutie-mark. Magic is what magic does, but even so it still adheres to certain rules. My cutie-mark was a snowflake- so unique and one-of-a-kind that it only showed up on my left flank. Because no two snowflakes are exactly alike.

That was the happiest day in my life. Even if I was disowned by my parents, they still smiled and greeted me back with open forelegs. And they gave me that sweetest sound in any language.

My name is Frostbane Hokkaido Windchill. Pleased to meet you.

<====ooO Ooo====>

Footnote: Hokkaido

H o k a d

k i o

H o k a d

H k o a d

Pcozl

Frost

Frost- Level Up! Level 6 Reached!
Perk added: First in Class (Rank One)- Hitting the book pays off. You gain +5 to Medicine and Science for each rank of this perk.
Quest perk added: Mumei No More- Finally... you have a new name for yourself. Your cutie-mark also improves your cryomantic spells by 20%. That's 20% cooler!

Unlockables added: Soundtrack- Learning to Love Life

Soundtrack- My Magic

Soundtrack- Practicing at the Harbor

Soundtrack- My Mark, My Name

Soundtrack- A New Name, a New Stallion

Author's Note:

Many thanks to the wonderful community that sprung up around FoE. I'm especially grateful for Lazer 726 for his editing. You are awesome- don't deny it. Lastly, thank you for reading. Please leave some feedback. I would greatly appreciate it, and I can use it to improve your reading experience.

Until next time.

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