• Published 12th Oct 2015
  • 8,067 Views, 1,025 Comments

A Pony Displaced: Another Path - NoLongerSober



Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape. There once was a stallion who faced Nightmare Moon and was sealed away with her. Now he returns in the modern age, hoping to find a new path.

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Chapter 31

“Barrier…” Daring groaned from beneath the pillow she had draped over her. “Get th’ door.”

“You get the door.” Barrier was also buried beneath a pillow, trying to ignore the incessant pounding.

“Please open up!” The muffled voice called out. “I have a message for a Mr. Barrier from Princess Celestia!”

“Barrier…” Daring groaned out once more, rolling over to face the stallion.

“Don’t care, go awa-” Barrier yelped as Daring’s pillow suddenly collided with his face, driving the stallion off of the bed in the brief panic.

“Get the door.” Daring stuffed the pillow over her ears once more and buried herself into the mattress.

“Don’t wanna.” The unicorn whined from the floor before climbing upright with a huff. “Get the damn door…” As he mutted to himself in irritation, the unicorn’s horn flared, jerking the door open and revealing a thestral stallion; in his dazed state, Barrier’s horn flared a second time before noticing this stallion was wearing the armor of the day guard. Taking a shaky breath as the adrenaline settled, Barrier’s horn died out and he met the bat-pony’s light-purple gaze. “What do you want this early?” The unicorn kept his tone neutral.

“I have a letter for you from Princess Celestia.” The guard held out his hoof, a wax-sealed roll of parchment resting in the crook.

“Right, thanks.” Barrier snagged the scroll in his magic and shoved the door shut. “Too damn early for this…” He glanced briefly at the clock which read ten-thirty. Too early. Unceremoniously throwing himself on the bed—much to his companion’s annoyance—he broke the seal and unfurled the scroll, reading aloud.

“Dear Magic Barrier,” the unicorn nudged his companion, smiling at the groan he received. “You are requested to aid Captain Shining Armor in this morning’s guard training regiment. I believe your advice and criticism will be highly valuable. Should you choose to accept, this letter will provide you access to the training grounds. Her Royal Highness, Princess Celestia.”

The lump in the pillows shifted. “Mm, well, go on then. Go play guard and lemme sleep.”

“You’re going to continue to sleep? This late in the morning?”

“Screw you, I’ve been getting up at dawn for over a week. I deserve this,” the lump shot back. “Besides, my hips are kinda sore.”

Aye, and ‘tis your own fault. Barrier smiled as he lifted himself from the bed and made his way to the bathroom. Might as well look the part if I’m to play instructor.

***

Barrier took a deep breath as he set eyes on the training field, a nostalgic smile working its way onto his face as he saw twenty or so stallions and mares running laps, Shining Armor directing them from the front of the pack, running with them. Exhaling slowly, Barrier waited until the white unicorn called a halt and joined him.

Shining swallowed a mouthful of water from his bottle. “Was wondering if you’d show up. Princess Celestia said you would be to judge and advise on these guards.”

“Aye. I’m not entirely certain what she expects me to do with you softies, but I had no reason to say no.”

Shining’s gaze narrowed slightly, until he saw Barrier’s grin. “While we may not be in a constant state of war like in your days, I assure you my guards are not softies.” The unicorn groaned when he realized the grin his elder was wearing. “Anyways, why don’t you train with us for the day? Show you how outclassed you are at your age.”

Barrier’s smile only tightened. “Why don’t you let me lead training for today? I’ll show you how outclassed you are by somepony my age.”

The two ponies stared off for a moment, fully aware of the cadets watching them with curiosity.

“Alright Barrier, you’re on, but why don’t we make it interesting?” Now it was Shining’s turn to grin.

Barrier’s eyebrow tilted upward. “What did you have in mind?”

“If my guards do a satisfactory job, or you mess up in any way, you have to polish not only my armor, but the armor for all of these troops.”

“Very well,” Barrier nodded. “And when I win, you will have to pay for new armor for me, and eat five ruby reapers.”

It was Shining’s turn to cock an eyebrow. “Ruby reapers?”

“How could you not know about…” Realization dawned on the unicorn’s face. “Ah, right… it was a pepper from the Crystal Empire. Okay, instead you can pay the bill the next time Miss Yearling and I go out to dinner.”

“You’re going to dinner with A.K Yearling?” Shining Armor asked with an almost-childish grin.

Barrier ignored the question entirely, instead stepping past the modern captain and addressing the assembled ponies who were still waiting for their instructor. “Good morning, cadets!” Barrier’s tone took a hard edge and his eyes seemed to narrow as his face set itself in a scowl “You likely heard the bet your captain and I just made. Those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Magic Barrier. I returned with Princess Luna, and I did your captain’s job for her one-thousand years ago. And today…” Barrier’s scowl broke in favor of a terrifying smile, “I’m going to run you ponies into the ground. Ready Captain Armor?”

Shining swallowed at the gaze Barrier shot him, but nodded his affirmation. “They’re all yours.”

“Alright ponies, thirty laps, keep up with me! If you lag behind, you get five extra laps when the rest of us are done!” Doing a few short squats to loosen his legs, Barrier took off at a heavy gallop, Shining Armor staying close to him.

“Thirty laps? The unicorn asked in between breathes, taking care to pace his speech with his breathing. “Isn’t that a bit much? They just finished their laps when you showed up.”

“Stamina was the single most important thing back in the day,” Barrier replied in a similar fashion, his speech broken up by breaths. “Some fights could last for over a full day and ponies had to be able to go as long as equinely possible. After this it’ll be sparring, probably followed by other exercises. Since I only have them for a day, I can’t give them the full experience. A shame.”

***

Shining Armor and Barrier both fell to their flanks, sucking in huge gasps of air along with the cadets, who were in a pile of heaving bodies at this point. To Barrier’s great surprise and Shining Armor’s joy, none of them had fallen behind the group enough to warrant extra laps.

“Alright ponies!” Barrier’s voice rang out again, the stallion seemingly having caught his breath. “Five-minute break and then pair off for sparring!” He turned to Shining Armor. “Wanna have a quick sword match to show them how it’s done?”

“Sure, I can smack you around for a bit,” Shining Armor replied with a shrug that added the unspoken, ‘why the hell not.’ “Somepony please give Barrier a sword,” he requested as he drew his blade.

“Sir,” A familiar mass of thestral stepped out of line and threw a hasty salute before holding her practice sword—35-inches on blunt-edged steel—out to the charcoal-grey stallion.

“Thank you, Cobalt,” Barrier smiled as he took the blade and gave it several practice swings. “I’m glad to see you here. I hope you’ll do great things.”

“Sir.” Cobalt threw a salute and flashed a slight smile before stepping back into line.

Bringing both their swords to bear with their magic, the stallions assumed combative stances.

Intending to get the jump on him, Barrier was the first to lunge forward with a downward slash to Shining’s right. Shining’s eyes widened slightly as his brain and reflexes went into overtime to meet the attack in time.

Barrier’s slash was parried by Shining just a few inches from his muzzle, having just made the time window to defend himself. Momentum forced Shining backward and both stallions gritted their teeth as they each attempted to power through the other’s blade.

A flaring of Shining’s horn brought the brief power struggle to an end as Barrier was forced back by a telekinetic blast. Shining smirked for a moment, which prompted an arched brow from Barrier as tactical space was opened up for the moment between them. The white stallion saw openings as Barrier was forced back by his spell.

Seizing one of them, Shining lunged forward this time with a horizontal stroke of his blade that was met by Barrier’s crossguard. Through the ringing of metal from steel against steel, the whirring of magic sounded for a second time as Barrier now ignited his own horn.

Whatever remnants of a smirk Shining had quickly evaporated into a gawking ‘o’ as Barrier vanished with a pop of air and magical energy. A second and a half later, the black stallion appeared first to Shining’s left, and then right, delivering one swing each that Shining was barely able to fend off.

A third pop of magic and a ringing of steel that came from his rear left Shining beginning to feel the first signs of fatigue as he spun about to parry. The smirk had since migrated from his muzzle to Barrier’s own.

It was clear to Barrier that Shining was just one final well-placed attack away from forfeiting, thus securing Barrier eternal glory. Barrier promptly seized the moment as Shining’s sudden bout of drawn out breaths left openings in his defences.

Even despite nearly being worn out, Shining was still able to think tactically. Barrier had chosen his would-be victory attack to be a stroke that came in low and ended in an upward slash to—once again—Shining’s right.

“You’ve still got a lot to learn. There’s no way you can defeat me.” Barrier’s voice rang out, a hint of amusement clear in the tone.

Shining adopted a blank expression as he made a feint parry to the right while slugging Barrier in the muzzle with his left hoof. While Barrier reeled back slightly from the blow, Shining prepped another spell and his aura encircled Barrier’s neck.

Shining added a tiny amount of extra force to the spell and held Barrier in place, with just enough force for it to be extremely uncomfortable for his combatant.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Shining’s spell tightened even further, just enough to limit his opponent’s breathing. “Say uncle,” Shining Armor said, a grin now gracing his lips.

“Shiny, I am you uncle!” Barrier wheezed between gasps as Shining Armor drew closer.

“What do y-” Shining’s head snapped forward as something smacked him in the back of the skull. Only through training did he manage to hold his concentration and maintain the spell on his opponent, though the feeling of something cold resting along the side of his throat had his gaze drifting downward as the stars faded.

“Draw?” Barrier offered with the same grin as before, his face notably paler from the reduced oxygen.

“Draw.” Shining agreed as his magic died out and he rubbed the back of the head, wincing at the already-forming knot.

None of the cadets uttered so much as a squeak when Barrier returned the blade to Cobalt Lancer’s side with his thanks.

“Alright ponies, pair off!” Barrier’s voice called out. “Captain Armor and I are going to evaluate you all as you spar!”

***

Shining Armor and Barrier had followed the cadets to the barracks after the day's practice.

“Hey Barrier, want to see something cool that you guys didn’t have one-thousand years ago?”

“Sure.” Barrier kept careful pace alongside the younger stallion, his coat still glistening with sweat from where he’d followed the cadets on their last run of the day, a run Shining had opted out of.

“Come on, I wanna show you our flashbangs.” Shining’s horn flared to open the door across from the barracks, revealing a room stocked to the brim with gear and -once again- a sleeping quartermaster. Shining took a deep breath and very slowly exhaled.

“He seems like a keeper.” Barrier offered with a smile.

“He seems like he’s going to be out of a job. And no, we can’t draw dicks on his face again.” Shining tore his gaze from the dozing pony to a rack behind him, a half-dozen small metal capsules resting along the wall. “A mixture of earth-pony engineering and unicorn magic.” The alabaster unicorn explained as he removed from the wall and transferred it over to his counterpart.

“What do they do?” Barrier asked as he examined the small capsule, his magic testing the small circular clip near the top.

“Th-” Shining fell silent as the soft clink of a pin being removed reached his ears. He had just enough time to make a small ‘o’ with his muzzle before the room exploded into a painfully bright light and set his ears to ringing.

“Oh Faust!” Barrier was the first to speak. “It burns! Why does it burn?!”

“It’s a flash-bang grenade.” Shining’s much calmer voice replied, his eyes and ears having been covered by one of his shields. “It’s supposed to temporarily blind and deafen.”

“WHAT?!” Barrier yelled out, ears still ringing painfully.

“It should wear off soon!” Shining called out even louder.

“WHAT?!” Barrier asked again, even louder than before.

Shining got a slight smile as his bubble faded. “An idiot who pulls the pin out of a grenade and holds onto it says what!”

“WHAT?!”

***

“So,” Shining took a sip from the thick glass, savoring the burn of the amber liquid. “What did you think of my recruits?”

“They’re good. Much better than I expected.” Barrier took a drink from his own glass. “I don’t think I’d pit them against my own though. Wouldn’t be pretty.”

“Is there really such a big difference between your guards and mine?” Shining drained the last of his glass.

“Yeah, but it’s not a bad thing.” Barrier also swallowed the last of his drink and quickly moved to fill both of their glasses once more. “Your guards don’t have the same…intensity as mine. They lack of the anger my ponies had. Anger at their enemies, the drive to return to their loved ones no matter what they had to do. The drive to do whatever they had for Equestria. For their loved ones. No matter how much blood they needed to shed to do it.” Barrier quickly drained his glass. “But times have changed…and what Equestria needs changed with it.”

Shining didn’t reply, instead simply sipping the bitter liquid from behind his desk. “This is good whiskey. Where’d you get it?”

“Princess Celestia’s private stash. She always kept a bottle in the bookcase when I served under her. We’d share a drink from time to time, usually over a game of chess. Seems she still keeps it there.”

Shining’s nodded before the statement caught up with his brain. “Did I ever tell you that you’re out of mind?”

“No.” Barrier shrugged. “But plenty of other ponies do.”

“Well, at any rate.” Shining reached into his desk-drawer and retrieved a worn-out rag which he then threw at Barrier, who caught it with a hoof. “Start polishing, Captain.”

“Tch,” Barrier shook his head and threw back the last of his drink before taking the rag in his magic. “Dammit.”

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