• Published 21st Aug 2015
  • 628 Views, 163 Comments

Daring-Do and the Leaf in the Wind - Sylvian



Daring-Do, along with her friend Leaf Wind, are assigned a mission by Princess Luna. What they find may change Equestria's past and future. And, perhaps, their relationship.

  • ...
2
 163
 628

Return to Wonder

Chapter 6: Return to Wonder



Taking a deep breath, Daring sighs as she stops just outside the entrance to the Canterlot Grand Train Station. She changed out of the non-descript sailing shirt she had been wearing in Seaddle and on the train, and now wears a Wonderbolts’ Reservist pilot's uniform, her hair tied up into a bun and an Aviator’s hat and sunglasses shading her face. Here, in Canterlot, this uniform gives her all the anonymity she could ever want; even with the nametag that proudly says “MSgt. Yearling”, it is worlds better than the outfit she wears when she is in her writer persona.

Smiling warmly, and with a lightness to her steps, she gestures to the mare helping her with her bags. “Thanks for the help, be surprised how often we get injuries in this line of work.” She starts forward, the mare following closely behind with the cart. “If you could take those to the Wonderbolt Compound, they’ll see it gets to the right place.”

“Alright, ma’am,” the mare, an earth pony, replies. “I’ll see to it these arrive safely. Might I ask how you earned those bandages?”

Daring chuckles, and shrugs as she continues to walk. “Found myself face to face with a storm straight out of Tartarus. Ended up having to deal with it head on.”

“Huh,” the luggage mare replies curtly. “I heard the Lead Squad had to do something like that awhile back in Ponyville. Didn’t know it was a regular thing.”

Daring shakes her head. “It’s not. I was on a ship, and it was part of my payment to the Captain.” Daring then stops and points towards the Compound, which is still about a mile or so away. “Anyway, this is where we part ways, I need to go the Castle and report some things to the Princess.” She reaches into a saddlebag and pulls out the last of the bits Luna had given her, which is still a fair amount, and hands it over to the mare. “I figure this’ll be more than enough for your trouble. Thanks again, and have a nice day.” the luggage mare nods and departs without further comment after accepting the bag of bits.

Daring waits a few moments, mentally preparing herself for her meeting with Luna, before starting down the streets of the high class district once more. The majority of the high class ponies ignore her -- their noses stuck up in the air so far Daring is once more surprised they don’t come with their own weather systems -- which suits Daring just fine. Even though she has spent time among these… prime examples of the gentry during book signings, she is not exactly keen on them. That said, these stuck up creatures generally paid her for expeditions into interesting places, so she keeps a warm smile on her face and tips her hat at all the right times as she passes through the crowd.

Before too long, thankfully, she reaches the gates to the Castle and stops as the guards lower their polearms and block her way.

“Halt, who goes there.” one of the guards asks. Its formality, really, but Daring cannot help but sigh.

“Master Sergeant Yearling,” Daring replies her voice, for once, professional and proper. “I’m expected by Princess Luna.”

Nodding, the guard that addressed her moves off into the Castle, the other addressing Daring. “Wait here a moment, and someone will come to escort you to the throne room, Master Sergeant.” Daring nods and settles down at the gate to wait for her escort, absently looking around and resuming her usual game with herself to figure out how the keep this ancient castle so well maintained.

Obviously, magic of some sort is involved, but what sort? Preservation spells on this scale would be too costly towards anyone, including the Princess casting it, leaving too little of a pool of mana in reserve in case something major like say, an entire changeling hive decided to try and usurp them. Then again, if the spell was inlaid into the bricks… No, no that would require inscribing each brick to allow them to act as foci for the spell, it would take years to do something like that and an army of magi-tech scribes.

The sound of hooves approaching brings Daring from her thoughts with a sigh. She is still no closer to figuring it out, but at least it helped pass the time.

“I’ll take her from here, boys.” A commanding voice comes from the entrance, causing Daring to smirk. “Princess Luna wants her brought with all due haste.”

“Commander, who did you lose a bet with to come guard me?” Daring says with a smirk as she turns towards the armored stallion who had spoken. He is a honey colored stallion, a serious expression and posturing to him.

“No one, Master Sergeant,” Amber Dawn replies with a raised eyebrow. “Luna requested I bring you to her personally.”

Daring’s smile slips a little. “Ah. I see. Well, lead the way.” She stands up as Dawn nods and leads her into the Castle. As usual, they take the shortest, and least populated, route to the throne room; the servant’s corridors.

Exiting from a door concealed behind a large painting, which Daring finds incredibly cliche, they enter the small guard station just outside the throne room. The guards on station snap to attention and salute as they walk by, and Dawn simply nods and tells them to stand at ease. The doors to the spacious and lavishly decorated throne room stand open, and they walk right in.

Sitting upon the throne, illuminated by the mid-afternoon light that is filtering in through the large stain glass windows adorning each side of the room, sits Princess Luna. She has her eyes closed as if in thought, her long star-jeweled mane flowing off to one side as if in some ethereal breeze. She opens her eyes as they come to the foot of the throne, both Dawn and Daring kneeling before her as a small, if weary, smile crosses her features.

“Rise, please,” Luna says loud enough to be heard by just the two in front of her. “We do not require thee to kneel, Master Sergeant Yearling, Day Commander Amber Dawn.” She descends from the throne as the two rise and looks to the guards stationed inside the great doors at the entrance. “Close the doors, and make sure we are not disturbed.” The guards salute and exit, closing the doors behind them.

“So, Princess,” Daring starts slowly as she sits down stiffly, “I take it you really want to hear my report if you had Dawn escort me here himself.”

Nodding, Luna looks to Dawn. “We do, and Commander Dawn here is quite interested as well. Apparently, he got an earful from the Royal Librarian about your research methods. He wishes to know if they paid off.”

Nodding and poking Daring in the side, lightly because he can see the bandages, Dawn smirks. “Steady Quill gave me an earful the likes of which I’ve not experienced since I was caught stealing cookies as a foal.”

Laughing Daring pokes Dawn with a wing, “Oh, the great Commander Amber Dawn, feared and respected by all as Luna’s right-hoof during the daylight hours, made to feel like a foal by an old bag of wind who looks after stuffy old tomes?”

“Now, Daring,” Luna says with a chuckle, “We are quite proud of Steady Quill’s stewardship of our collection.” She looks to Dawn. “Even if we are also amused by our friend and bodyguard being humbled before her.” Dawn rolls his eyes and spreads his wings with an exasperated sigh, but says nothing. “Now then, we did not question Leaf Wind on the specifics of your adventure, as we are well aware of his tendency to exaggerate.” Luna smiles and shakes her head. “Though we are amused by his stories, we require facts and not fantasy. What say you, Daring? What did you discover in Saddle Arabia?”

Taking a deep breath Daring folds her wing back up and looks to Luna, all business now. “Something that honestly seems more like fantasy than truth.” She removes her hat and glasses, and looks up at Luna with a small smile. “We found a piece of the Equus Empire, along with its guardian, perfectly preserved and still functioning.” Luna’s ears stand up and her eyes go wide, but Daring forestalls the Princess by holding up a hoof. “As you know we procured the books, but we also discovered that the former owner of the Library was known simply as ‘Life’ and ruled over a the place. Whatever caused the fall of the Equus left behind a lot of bodies, we found more than our fair share there, but overall the library is in pristine condition.”

Luna is silent for a few moments, which Dawn uses to turn to Daring and raises an eyebrow. “So, you discovered an entirely intact portion of an ancient and powerful empire?” He smiles chuckles. “Celestia, Daring, can you do anything halfway?”

“Apparently not, Dawn,” Luna says softly with a smile and a reflective look in her eyes. “Anything else, Daring?”

Shrugging Daring gestures off-hoofedly, “Well, there was a pretty garden; Leaf and I explored that a little. Other than that, we got the books and returned back to Half-Flank.”

Nodding Luna looks to Dawn, then back to Daring. “Thank you for the report, Daring. We have much to consider. I suggest you go to the Wonderbolts Compound, and get looked over by a trainer. If we have any other questions, we shall send for you.”

Replacing her hat on her head, and putting her sunglasses into a pocket, Daring inclines her head. “As you wish, Princess. I shall await your summons.” She then smiles sheepishly and looks to her two friends. “Uhm… Could I ask to take the passage behind the throne? I know it’s really not used by anyone but the Elite Squads, but walking here was hard enough…”

Luna smiles and nods. “Of course, Daring, that is what it is there for. You are a Wonderbolt, after all, and it is meant for their use.”

Daring stands up and starts off. “Thank you, Princess.” She looks to Dawn. “See you around, Dawn.” Daring then trots briskly, though not too brisk due to the bandages around her middle, to the entrance to the tunnel. She opens it without much trouble, as the lever to do so isn’t exactly hidden from ponies like her, and starts down the tunnel as soon as it is open wide enough to admit her.

The trip is blissfully short, as by the time she reaches the end of the tunnel and steps into the Wonderbolts’ compound Daring is short of breath and her side is hurting.

“Are you alright, Master Sergeant?” a Wonderbolts security officer asks from where they’re stationed next to the tunnel entrance.

Waving a hoof, Daring smiles weakly, “I’m fine. Just had one heck of a journey here.” The security officer nods and goes back to standing guard. After a few minutes, Daring catches her breath and starts back off down the hallway. She navigates through the other Wonderbolts easily enough, many of them greeting her enthusiastically. Unlike on the street when she is dressed normally, their greetings are not those of rabid fans or rivals, but rather as those of equal status to her. She is, like every other pony in this compound, a Wonderbolt, a part of a family forged from steel and bonded with comradery, the end result being a group who would willingly lay their lives down for any other pony in the group.

More than a few express concern, though, as she walks stiffly the last few feet to the training room, but she brushes them off. That is, until she starts through the door and nearly runs somepony else over.

“Oh, sorry!” the pony Daring nearly ran over says quickly. “Didn’t see you there Master Sergeant.”

Daring smiles stepping back slightly, “No, the fault is mine.” She grunts a little as she sits down. “Go ahead, I’ll just wait for my chest to stop hurting.”

The unicorn, a grey unicorn with a blue mane and tail wearing an Auxiliaries jacket and glasses, frowns and looks at Daring. “You’re injured?” She crosses over to Daring’s side and gently pokes the bandaged area, causing Daring to hiss. “How’d this happen, and how long ago?”

“About six or so days ago now,” Daring replies curtly, but not unkindly. “I was involved in helping save a freighter from a major storm out to sea. Didn’t exactly land with a lot of grace after I clipped the telegraph pole.”

The unicorn continues to frown and shakes her head. “Well, that’s no good. Let’s get you into the training room, I’ll make sure you’re healing properly.” She starts pushing Daring, though gently, towards the door. “And, while I do that, you can tell me why you were on a ship in a storm.” Now that she is closer, Daring can see her name tag states her name and rank as CPO Hour, followed by a medical cross and a musical symbol with lines orbiting it marking her a trainer and researcher in one of the labs.

Chuckling a little, Daring walks through the door under her own power. “Alright, Chief.” She nods to Bliss who is behind her desk reading. “Hey, Bliss. Been awhile, hasn’t it?”

Looking up, Bliss sighs. “Daring, how long have you been back?” She looks at the bandages as Daring stiffly goes over to a table and climbs up. “And when did you get injured?”

“Oh, you know me, Bliss,” Daring replies with a smirk as she slowly slips her jacket off, hissing as the bandages pull tight. “I… make time to get myself injured just so I can have an excuse to ask how life’s treating you while you berate me about things.”

Sighing again, Bliss gets up and walks over to the table as the unicorn who Daring had nearly run down levitates a pair of scissors from a nearby stand to start removing the bandages.

“You want to handle this on your own, sweetie,” Bliss asks with a smile, “or want some help?”

“I think I can handle it,” the trainer replies. “I mean, how much trouble can she be?”

Bliss laughs and shakes her head, taking a seat nearby incase she does need help. “Oh, honey, you have no idea.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Daring says with a roll of her eyes. “I’m not that much trouble. I mean, Luna thinks I’m at least able to get stuff done, or I wouldn’t have been asked to go do what I was just doing the past few weeks.”

Bliss smirks. “Just means you’re useful, hon”

The trainer’s ears stick up as she starts removing the bandages. “Luna had you working on something?”

“Yeah, she needed me to go investigate something for her,” Daring replies, grunting as the bandages are removed. “Not like I… could say no. Y’know?”

Nodding, the trainer chuckles. “Oh, I know exactly what you mean.” She puts a hoof on Daring’s side. “Hold still a moment. I used to have a nice job at Canterlot General, but she moved me here.” The trainer gently pokes around the long cut along Daring’s side. “This looks to be healing alright, are you in a lot of pain?” Daring shakes her head no. “Okay, I think we should put some ointment on this, then rebandage it.”

Bliss nods, “Sounds good, hon. And, it’s not like you’re complaining about your new job.”

Nodding as she levitates a roll of bandages and some anti-septic ointment over, the trainer replies, “I won’t argue. I do love it here, you’re a good pony to work under, Bliss. Even ol’ Velly has his charm, and Piano Treble seems to love my sarcastic comments at the musicians.” She starts applying the ointment, Daring wiggling a little. “Hold still please, Sergent. It’s just, it’d be nice if she had asked, and not just assigned me.”

Daring laughs, more from the fact the ointment is cold than humor. “Yeah, well I’ve learned to just do as she asks. Princess Luna’s assignments usually turn out for the better.” She frowns and sighs. “Usually.” The bandages are applied then, cutting off anything else Daring might say while she does her best to breathe.

“There, that should do it,” the trainer says with a final glance over and nod. “Just need you to sign the clipboard and you can be on your way.”

“I got that!” a new voice chimes in, a brown-red colored unicorn with a pink braided mane and tail comes trotting over with a clipboard being levitated by her magic. “Sign here, Master Sergeant.”

“I know the drill,” Daring replies with a smirk, taking the clipboard and signing it quickly before putting it down next to her. The unicorn who brought it over looks at the name on the clipboard, then at Daring as she puts her jacket back on, then back at the clipboard, then at Daring’s cutie mark…

“Wait a moment…” the secretary says as she narrows her eyes.

“Cinna…” Bliss starts but gets no further as the dots suddenly connect in the other unicorn’s mind.

“You’re A.K. Yearling!?” Cinna says loudly her eyes shining brightly. “OHMIGOSH!” She starts bouncing up and down and squealing., “I can’t believe it!” She then stops and blinks a few times, a lightbulb going off, almost visably. “Wait, if you’re A.K. Yearling… and you have that cutie mark… does that mean you’re also Daring Do?” She looks up at Daring, her eyes growing wider, if that were even possible. “Are all your adventures truueee?” Daring nods slowly, continuing to put her jacket on, and Cinna looks about ready to reply when suddenly a green unicorn calmly walks over, puts a hoof over Cinna’s mouth, and pulls her to one side.

“Cinna, that’s enough,” the newcomer says flatly. “Don’t make me get the sports tape again.”

“Isn’t sports tape a little excessive, Flash?” Bliss asks as she walks over towards them. “She keeps us stocked on bandages. We need those.”

“She doesn’t need her mouth to roll bandages,” Flash replies with a smirk.

Cinna, meanwhile, just stands there frowning. “Come on, Flash, I can’t help it! It’s Daring Do! IN OUR TRAINING ROOM!” She starts bouncing again slightly. “Why aren’t you excited!?”

“Because,” Flash replies with a sigh, “she comes in here all the time, you just didn’t know.”

“What? Why didn’t anypony tell me?!” Cinna asks loudly, hurt that no one told her.

“Cinna, was it?” Daring asks as she slides off the bed and walks over. “I use my real name around the Compound, and I asked Spitfire to make sure nopony outside of the Wonderbolts knew that A.K. Yearling and Daring Do are one in the same.” She puts a hoof on Cinna’s shoulder, causing the unicorn’s eyes to grow large again and a smile to spread across her face. “If you weren’t told, I am sure there was a… good reason. You know, now, though. So, can I count on you to not yell it in the streets?”

Cinna nods quickly, then smirks. “Yes, Daring! But, there is a condition.” She looks to the trainer who had patched Daring up, and points to Daring. “Witchy, she’s coming to tea with us!”

Witch blinks a few times, the shock of meeting Yearling wearing off at last, then smiles broadly. “Of course! Why would I not invite my brother’s friend to tea? Do you think my mother raised me a heathen? After all, I’m not my brother.”

Daring looks at Witch and leans her head to one side, then bursts out laughing. “Oh, wait, you’re his older sister!?” She puts a hoof to her face and giggles, “Oh, sweet Celestia! You’re the sister he is constantly talking about?”

“I guess so,” Witch replies. “So, what do you say? Indulge us by joining me, Cinna, and our friend Midnight for some tea? You can regale us with the misadventures of my brother.”

Nodding, Daring continues to smile. “Sure, why not? I was going to go drop some stuff off with your brother, but that can wait.” She gestures with a hoof towards the door. “Lead the way.”

“Alright,” Witch says, then pauses as she starts towards the door. “Should I call you Daring or Yearling?”

“Daring is fine. What about you?” Daring replies with a shrug.

“Witch or Witchy works for me,” Witch replies as she resumes heading to the door. She reaches the door, opens it, and nearly has yellow pegasus stallion wearing a Wonderbolts uniform fall onto her. Simply stepping around him, Witch calls back over her shoulder, “Bliss, Sky is here again!”

“There goes catching up on my reading,” Bliss says with a smile and a sigh as she walks over. “So, I see you were partnered with Dancer again during sparring practice, Sky.”

“Yes ma’am,” Sky, the yellow stallion, says quietly. “We were practicing aerial fighting maneuvers today.” He gets up and limps towards a table, smiling at Daring as he passes her. “Oh, hey there Yearling. Have fun globe trotting?”

Nodding with a chuckle, Daring continues towards the door. “I did. You have fun giving Rivet a run for his money on how much he needs to pad the mats?”

Sky groans as he gets up onto a table, smiling weakly. “It’s a living.” He looks over to Bliss and smiles. “Besides, I’m sure Bliss here would be bored if I didn’t limp in here and give her somepony to torture.”

Whatever Bliss’ response to this is, Daring never hears, as the door closes behind her right as Bliss turns back towards Sky to start patching him up.

Walking to the lobby of the Wonderbolt Compound, she finds Witch and Cinna already waiting and conversing with a dark blue pegasus mare. As she draws closer, the mare looks over at Daring and regards her with amber eyes, that while kind have the practiced patience of a skilled fighter behind them.

“Hey, you must be the extra Witch and Cinna were talking about!” The mare says with a smile as she walks over and offers a hoof to Daring. “I’m Midnight, a fellow Wonderbolt.”

Accepting the hoof Daring gives Midnight a smile of her own. “A.K. Yearling. And it’s a pleasure to meet you, Midnight.”

“Yearling, eh?” Midnight replies with a chuckle. “I thought I heard Cinna squealing while I was helping drag a squadmate to the training room.”

“Let me guess. Yellow stallion who looked like he’d be run over by a train?” Daring replies with a smirk.

“That’d be him alright,” Midnight replies with a sigh and a shake of her head. “He is like a younger brother. Enthusiastic, energetic, and totally unfocused at times.” She waves a hoof towards the training room. “Ends up there quite often, but what can I say, he is dedicated and when it counts, he gets things done.”

“Sounds like a good pony to have on your side,” Daring remarks as she starts the front door, “but, I believe you all want to drag me out to tea?”

“Yup!” Midnight agrees falling in line with Daring. “Witchy’s family owns a tea house and a restaurant, we go there regularly because it’s not too far from us.”

“And my parents are always thankful for repeat business,” Witch comments as she and Cinna fall in just behind Midnight and Daring. “Especially my mom, Fine Brew. Having Wonderbolts be regulars at her tea house is quite a boon.”

Leaving the grounds of the compound, the small group travels towards the Fine Brew Tea House, conversation light and switching topics frequently -- though Daring’s adventures come up more than once -- and for the most part is just three friends, and one new friend, catching up. The atmosphere puts Daring at ease, having rarely found a group of other mares that she can relate to -- and really with the exception of perhaps Cinna she can relate to everyone in the small group quite well -- and these three seem to be at least a few that she can let her guard down with. Best of all, they’ve not asked her too much about Leaf! She had been afraid that somehow, some way, Distant had sent letters to just about everypony in Equestria to inform them that Daring had feelings for her partner. Since they have no idea, she can relax and enjoy this little afternoon excursion and focus on how to deal with her little problem later.

Walking into the tea house with a warm smile, Daring and co find seats quickly -- there are perks to being a guest to the daughter of the owner -- and start conversing about what tea and snacks to have.

“I’m thinking perhaps a nice green tea, perhaps?” Midnight says with a smile. “Perhaps with some lemon in it? What do you think, Witch?”

“Hm, well…” Witch says looking over the tea selections listed. “Well, I’ve always enjoyed the darjeeling tea; it’s one of the house specialties. However, I think we should let our guest decide.” She looks up at Daring who has been looking around at the tea house. “Anything sound good to you, Daring?”

“Well,” Daring replies, picking up the tea selection. “This one looks good. I picked up a taste for darker blends on my last trip.” She chuckles. “Saddle Arabia was cold, and they didn’t exactly have coffee you could make instantly when out in the desert.”

Nodding, Witch gets up. “Alright, I’ll go place the order with my mother.” She then walks over to the counter to speak with Fine Brew, who has been sitting and reading a rather long letter while quietly snacking on cookies. As she does that, Midnight looks over to her left at Daring from where she is seated between Cinna and Daring.

“So, you and Witchy’s brother were in Saddle Arabia?” Midnight inquires with a smile. “I’ve heard it’s quite an interesting country.”

Shrugging, Daring chuckles. “It’s a lot of sand, really. The ponies are interesting, sure, but I don’t usually get much of a chance to mingle with the locals. I always seem to be running off and exploring ancient ruins.”

“Still, the ancient ruins must be something to see!” Cinna says excitedly from her seat. “Oh! Are you going to write about this latest adventure?”

Daring shrugs. “I don’t know, actually.” She gestures with one hoof at the others in the room. “I don’t know if the ponies of Equestria are ready to know what I found. Or if what I found is ready to have the world know they exist.”

Cinna frowns and leans over to look around Midnight. “Aww, Daring, but we want to know! Could you tell us? I mean, we won’t tell an-” She stops plea as Midnight puts a hoof on her shoulder.

“You don’t have to tell us, Daring. I don’t pretend I know anything about anything you do,” she says with a warm smile. “So if you say you don’t think we’re ready to know, then we’re not ready. Hopefully, though, you’ll trust us enough someday to tell us. I know I would love to hear some of the stories you’ve never written about.”

Smiling and nodding, Daring pats Midnight on the shoulder. “I think, someday, I’ll tell you about them, Midnight.” She looks over as Witch returns, a teapot suspended in her magic. “But, not today, as it seems Witch has returned with our tea.”

Witch sets the teapot down and sits back down with a smile, “Sorry that took so long, this isn’t a very popular blend. Canterlot ponies seem to like their lighter teas, so the darker blends aren’t always a hit.” She looks to Daring. “Well, you chose it, so you get the first cup.” She pours a cup and levitates it over to Daring who accepts it with a smile.

“Fair enough.” Daring takes a sip and smiles. “Well, at least I chose well. This is quite good.”

“Thanks, my mom knows her stuff when it comes to tea blends,” Witch replies with a smile as she pours tea for the others at the table, then herself. “She taught me and Leaf a little, but we’re lucky if we get something palatable and certainly nowhere as good as she is.”

Daring nods and scratches the back of her head with her free hoof. “Leaf did mix a few tea blends on a couple trips. Usually when we were far out and we needed something to keep us going.” She blushes a little and hides it behind a sip from her teacup.

“Good to know,” Witch says with a smirk. “Though, he was always more interested in what my dad knew about other herbs… A lot more survival oriented stuff than the little luxuries in life.” Witch then raises her teacup as if it was a fine example, then takes a sip.

“Yeah, he… did save us quite a few times out there. Mostly when we’d run out of rations and needed food.” Daring chuckles, her blush growing a little. “I’ll admit, your brother saved my life more than once.” She looks to Witch and smiles sheepishly. “Did he ever tell you about the buttercup incident?”

Witch raises an eyebrow and puts her teacup down, “Buttercups? You seriously didn’t try to eat those, did you?” She leans over and smiles. “You did, didn’t you.”

Daring blushes a little more and hunches her shoulders, her ears going back against her head. “They looked like daisies to me, okay!” She looks at her teacup and smiles softly. “Besides, he stopped me before I could eat them. Gave me a proper lecture on what flowers were edible and what wasn’t.”

Witch chuckles and nods. “Sounds like our dad’s influence.” She then takes a sip of her tea before smirking at Daring. “So, he gave me some books from your latest adventure. Saddle Arabia, huh? Find anything else there besides the books?”

Daring shrugs. “Well, sand, and some ruins.” She then brightens up a little. “There was also a flower garden; your brother dragged me into it. I think he was more excited about that than the ruins themselves.” She looks down at the table and off to one side, a blush rising on her cheeks. “It was nice, actually. I’ve seen him cataloguing things out in the field, but he got to share some of his passion with me while we were there, not just find and collect things for your father.”

Witch nods. “Uh-huh.” She then takes a sip of her tea. “Must have been nice; I know his enthusiasm can be a little infectious sometimes. But you two found some ruins, got the books, and he rushed them back to me.” She absently swirls the tea in her cup and looks over at Daring. “Though, I must confess, I am surprised you're here so soon after he returned. Shouldn’t you be exploring those ruins some more? Must have been a lot of stuff you didn’t get to uncover in the short about of time you were there.”

Clearing her throat, Daring gestures with one hoof while doing a poor job of hiding her blush with her mane. “Well, he… left his stuff with me, and I needed to report to Luna. Figured I should come home quickly, and give them back to him, and report to Luna about what we found, since I know he would’ve just exaggerated.” She takes a quick sip of her tea and continues. “And, I was right, Luna didn’t even ask him, because she knew he’d tell tall tales.” She then looks at Witch and gestures again. “And, the nights in Saddle Arabia are so cold. Just unbearably cold! I didn’t want to stay there a moment longer than I had to. Not without him, too cold.”

Nodding again, Witch takes a long sip of her tea. “Oh, so my brother is a good bed warmer, I take it?” she asks with a smirk.

Daring performs a perfect spit take. “I didn’t say that!” Daring quickly explains. “Just… he makes… good tea in the morning, and really good oatmeal… I wouldn’t dream of….” She sighs and hangs her head. “You’re not buying it are you.”

Shaking her head, Witch smiles. “Not buying what, Daring? Is there something you need to tell me?” Daring mutters something under her breath, Midnight chuckling beside her as Witch calmly sips her tea. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that? Did you say something?”

“I said I am head-over-hooves for your brother… Okay?” Daring says, laying her face on the table and covering her face with her hooves, a raging blush on her cheeks. “Your brother has been on my mind since he left me in Saddle Arabia. I… had to come back and see him again.” Cinna starts to fanfilly squeal, but Midnight puts a hoof over her mouth without looking.

“Now, was that so hard to admit?” Witch says with a smile as she winks to her parents, who have been standing at the counter watching the show and eating cookies. Fine Brew motions with a hoof for her daughter to keep going. “So, now that you’ve admitted to us, and yourself, that you’re madly in love with my brother. What are you going to do?”

"I'm going to go back to my bunk in the Wonderbolts compound, put my head beneath a pillow, and scream for a good few minutes. Then, I’ll get on with my life..." Daring replies, her hooves still over her face as he does her best to sink into the table.

“Wrong answer,” Witch says calmly as she puts her teacup down. “Care to try again?”

Uncovering her face, Daring looks over at Witch. "Fine, I am going to go to his apartment and give him the box of rare Seaddle Tulip bulbs I have for him...."

“Good answer,” Witch says with an approving smile. “I don’t think he has any of those yet.” She then gestures with a hoof. “Then what?”

“Then what, what?” Daring replies with a confused look.

Putting her hoof to her face, Witch sighs. “After you give him the bulbs, what are you going to do?”

Daring sits up and shrugs, the blush still remaining. “I… I’ll go back to my bunk in the Compound?” Everyone at the table groans, Midnight shaking her head, Cinna frowning and giving Daring a look of ‘really?’ and Witch putting her face against the table.

“She was so close, too.” Holly Sweep’s voice comes from the counter.

“Don’t be too hard on her, dear; she seems to be new at this,” Fine Brew comments as she picks up another cookie.

“What?!” Daring asks, looking at her friends. “What’d I say?”

Witch sits back up and sighs loudly. “Daring, for someone so… smart and talented in exploring unknown places, you are totally clueless.” Daring opens her mouth to try and defend herself, but Witch holds up a hoof. “After you give him the gift, he is going to invite you in. You are going to go inside his apartment, and you’re going to tell him.”

Shaking her head and holding up her hooves, Daring scoots back a little. “No… no I can’t do that. He is my partner! We’ve built a relationship based entirely around not being tied down. I… I can’t tell him I love him! It’ll drive him away, and I… I don’t want to drive him away!”

Putting a hoof on Daring’s shoulder, Midnight smiles warmly to the panicking adventurer. “Daring, you need to tell him. Trust me when I say, it’s worse to silently love someone who is close to you. Better to open your heart to him, than always wonder what it’d be like to be in their arms.” She chuckles and shrugs. “Especially if they’re someone you work with closely. It can be torture, knowing you have feelings for them, but worried that they don’t. Save yourself the heartache, and just take a chance. You might be surprised by what you find.”

Daring’s mouth works, but no words come out for a few moments before she sighs and hangs her head. “Alright. Alright… I’ll… try.” She looks to Midnight. “But… could you go and get the bulbs? They’re in the reserve barracks. If I go, I… might just stay there.”

Smiling Midnight drains her teacup and stands. “Sure, Daring. I’ll go and get them. Then, we can all go to Leaf’s apartment and make sure you give them to him.” She starts off and pauses at the door. “I’ll meet you guys just outside his apartment, okay? Be faster.”

Witch nods and looks to Cinna with a smile. “Well, Cinna, while Midnight does that, let’s get our intrepid explorer friend here over to my brother’s place so she can boldly go where no mare has gone before.”

Cinna raises an eyebrow. “And where is that, Witch?”

“My brother’s bachelor pad,” Witch replies, smirking as she rises and gets Daring to her hooves. Cinna chuckles and gets up as well, then helps Witch escort Daring out the door.

As they leave, Fine Brew’s voice follows them.

“Have fun storming the castle!” she calls, her husband chuckling beside her.

“Do you think she’ll be able to do it?” Holly Sweep asks as he takes one of the last cookies.

Fine Brew shrugs. “Oh, it’ll take a miracle.”

----

The walk to Leaf’s apartment feels to Daring like walking to her own execution. Her hooves feel like they’re encased in stone, her entire body weighed down by the possibilities she is suddenly imagining. If not for Witch and Cinna’s presence, she would likely not be continuing to walk, as both of them keep prodding her or gently nudging her forward when she starts to slow down.

And then, they are joined by Midnight right before they reach the apartment complex, who silently falls in behind Daring, ensuring she can’t just suddenly stop walking or make a run for it. This leaves Daring to her thoughts. What is she going to say to him? What can she say to him? How can she possibly explain the depth of feelings she has for him?

Can she really admit to one of her closest friends that she has fallen in love with him?

She is shaken from her thoughts by one of her front hooves making contact with stairs. She looks down to find she is standing on a small walkway with stairs in front of her, then up to find she is at Leaf’s apartment building. Looking up at the building, a sudden numb detachment comes over her, the moment is quickly approaching, and she does not feel ready.

“Here you go,” Midnight says from beside her, offering the box of tulip bulbs. “I took a look inside, they’re quite lovely, I am sure Witch’s brother will just love these.”

Daring takes the box slowly, her movements smooth but obviously automatic. When she says nothing in return Midnight looks to Witch and shrugs, and Witch places a hoof on Daring’s shoulder. “Breathe, Daring. Doctor’s orders.” Daring looks over at Witch and blinks slowly, which makes Witch sigh and shake her head. “Come on. You’re not walking to your death, Daring! Just going in to admit your feelings to my brother! It’s not going to kill you! I promise!” She hooks an arm around Daring’s neck and pulls her forward gently. “Now, in we go.”

Daring is led up the stairs and into the building, Cinna starting after them but quickly getting stopped by Midnight who shakes her head.

“Let Witch handle this, Cinna. We don’t need any more of us in there than necessary.” Midnight says calmly with a smile. “Besides, somepony has to stay out here and make sure our lovely lovestruck friend doesn’t bolt!”

Smiling, Cinna nods. “Fine. I really wanted to see Daring profess her love, though.”

Waving a hoof and sitting down on the front steps, Midnight chuckles. “Oh, don’t worry Cinna. I am sure Witch will never let her live it down and we’ll get to hear about it for years to come.” Nodding, Cinna settles down next to Midnight, and the pair wait for Daring and Witch as they hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Inside, Daring is still being led, or rather given no choice to go anywhere but forwards, by Witch as they climb the stairs to the second story where Leaf’s apartment is. Unlike outside, Daring’s mind isn’t racing, but rather silent. While normally Daring would take this as a comfort after thinking about the possibilities of this moment almost since she started on this crazy adventure to get back to Canterlot, she cannot help but admit to herself that she’d prefer the panicked thoughts over this deathly quiet.

Stopping before she bumps into a door, Daring looks up to find herself standing before a door with a few numbers on it. She has never been here before, but the fact that Witch isn’t dragging her forward, and is instead standing just out of sight near the stairs, tells her that this is the end of her journey. Raising a hoof in what almost seems to be slow motion, Daring knocks on the door. The sound echoes in her ears like the tolling of a bell, breaking through the silence that had overtaken her and shaking her back to feeling. Suddenly quite afraid, Daring fights the urge to run, and plants her plot on the floor a little forcibly, earning a raised eyebrow from Witch.

The moments drag on, and for a moment Daring is both hopeful and sad that perhaps Leaf isn’t home, when suddenly the sound of hooves on hardwood come from behind the door. The sound is quickly followed by the lock disengaging, and the door opening slightly to reveal a smiling Leaf.

“Daring?” Leaf asks with a warm smile. “What are you doing here?”

Putting the box down so she can speak, Daring returns Leaf’s smile with a shaky one of her own. “I… figured I’d come back and report to Luna. You know, give her my professional account of what we found.” She pushes the box of tulip bulbs forward, her voice gaining in volume as she finds some of the confidence that had abandoned her. “I passed through Seaddle on my way back, too. Saw these at a local flower shop and thought you might like them.”

Leaf opens the door the rest of the way and comes out. “Are these what I think these are?” He opens the box and then looks up at Daring with a mile-wide smile. “Dee, you shouldn’t have!” He walks over and pulls Daring into a hug. “I’ve been meaning to get some Seaddle tulips for my garden, but never seemed to find the time to go get some.”

Blushing profusely, Daring nods and gingerly returns the embrace. “Yeah… I figured you would like them. But, what are friends for, right?”

Leaf nods and chuckles as he lets her go. “And you are a very good friend, Dee.” He closes the box and picks it up, going back into his apartment for a moment to put it down on his table before returning to the door. “Say, want to come in? I want to hear all about your time getting back to Canterlot.”

Daring stiffens, her mind racing. This is it, the moment she had been waiting for, he was inviting her inside. She was going to go inside, tell him about the whole thing: Distant dragging her plot to a boat, the boat hitting a storm, her injury, the stuff in Seaddle… Looking over to where Witch is hiding, Daring spies her nodding and making ushering gestures with her hooves as she mouths ‘GO!’. Swallowing hard, Daring looks back at Leaf who is standing in his doorway, looking at her expectantly. Her heart beats faster, she stands up and starts to take a step towards him…

“Thanks, Leaf,” Daring starts with a smile, “but it was a long trip back, and I need to get back to the compound and report in.” She shrugs and turns towards the stairs. “Next time?”

Leaf frowns, looking very disappointed. “Yeah, sure Dee. Next time.” He starts to close the door and stops giving Daring one last long look before closing it completely.

As Daring starts for the stairs, Witch bursts out from behind a potted plant, and stands in her way. “And what was that?” Witch demands, all but putting her hooves on her hips as she confronts Daring. “What happened to you confessing your feelings?”

“I… I… couldn’t do it!” Daring stammers. “I don’t know what happened! I was ready to go with him! I was!” She tries to get around Witch, who just side-steps and gets in front of her again.

“Are you a brave adventurer, or are you a scared foal!?” Witch asks as she pokes Daring in the chest. “Because right now you’re looking more like the scared little foal, and not the fearless explorer, Daring Do!”

Daring just shakes her head and dashes around Witch, who is unable to get in front of her before Daring slips around her this time and makes it to the stairwell. Daring all but flies down the stairs, reaching the bottom floor and exiting the building quickly, Midnight and Cinna both standing up in shock.

“What happened?” Midnight calls after Daring, who says nothing as she quickly takes flight and vanishes into the sky. “Daring?” Midnight repeats softly as she looks behind her as Witch comes out the door. “Witchy, what happened?”

“I don’t know, Midnight,” Witch replies with a deep and irritated sigh. “She was going so strong and then… she just wasn’t. She gave my brother the bulbs, and he invited her in. She looked like she was going to do it, go inside, and that would have been that. But she came up with some excuse of needing to report in and just walked away.” Witch looks to Midnight and Cinna, a worried frown on her face. “I’ve never seen my brother look that sad over someone not wanting to spend time with him. I think Daring is full of it, because he looked at her like he was heartbroken she didn’t come in.”

“Well, what do we do?” Cinna asks, looking between Midnight and Witch.

“We take matters into our own hooves, Cinna.” Midnight says with a determined frown, “Or rather, I think Witch will need to take things into her own hooves.”

Nodding, Witch looks out towards where Daring vanished. “Yes I will, Midnight. Yes I will.”

Author's Note:

Daring! How can you be so brave, so readily able to run into ancient and dangerous tombs, yet you can't open your mouth and talk to the stallion you love? :facehoof:

So, yeah, Daring returns to Canterlot and things happen! Most importantly she talked to Luna, and then she ran into Leaf's sister! Oh, and also Midnight, who I swear seems to be wise beyond her years when it comes to love (Yet she too just at that point couldn't seem to open her mouth and talk to a certain Captain :ajsmug: )

Anyway, what is Witch going to do to fix this? Will she be able to convince Daring to talk to Leaf, or will more drastic measures need to be taken?

Stay tuned and find out!

Also, as always this chapter edited by Witching Hour, who selflessly helps me with turning my ramblings into stories! And the picture done by Foxenawolf over on FA!

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!