• Published 2nd May 2016
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The Last Impressionist - CrackedInkWell

On the way home one night, Fancy Pants discovers a painting of extraordinary quality being thrown away in the trash in the poorer part of Canterlot. Curious, Fancy discovers a depressed artist who's down on his luck named Acrylic Brush.

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Chapter 21: In the Land of the Rising Sun

“Good morning you two,” Fleur said as she joined us on deck with her suitcase in tow. “Are we all ready to go on shore?”

Acrylic picked up the cat and commented, “I think Cleo’s been long ready to see something other than ocean for a while. Frankly, I agree.”

By now, the three of us were among many on the steam-liner that were out in the open air. Although I was a bit tired, I do admit that sailing into the harbor was rather beautiful. Underneath a bright blue sky was our destination. Ichiuma’s skyline was a clash of old, traditional Neighponies structures that share side by side of modern architecture. Everywhere in the harbor, there are that are filled with ponies or Gryphons pulling up fishing nets from the sea.

Our ship maneuvered itself carefully to dock up next to a building that was as long as the ship. Soon, gangplanks were lined up with certain points of the decks that let us out and into customs. After we checked in with the section of our nationality, reviewing passports, checking the contents of our suitcases, we set free in Neighpon, where we were greeted by a stallion holding up a sign with my name on it.

“Haiku I presume?” I asked.

“Fancy Pants and party?” he inquired. He was in a black business suit that covered his deep sea green coat with a short black mane. After confirming who we are, he took a step back and bowed his head, in which I instructed Acrylic and Fleur to do the same. “Welcome to Neighpon everypony. My name is Haiku Pose; I am the same guide and translator that your father had hired me.”

“Good morning sir,” I nodded, “Allow me to introduce to my small party: this here is Acrylic Brush, my personal Valet, and artist; and this here is Fleur de Lis, my bodyguard. Oh, and this little girl here,” I patted the cat’s head, “Is our pet Cleocatra, or just Cleo for short.”

“Ah,” he tilted his head, “Your father has told me so much about you, but I didn’t know you have a cat.”

“We’ve adopted her just recently. But anyway, I suppose our first priority is to get ourselves a room before we see the sites.”

“Very understandable sir,” Mr. Pose said. “Perhaps I can direct you to the hotel that your father had stayed in while he was here.”

“That would be lovely,” Fleur smiled.

Once our guide called up for a cab, we’ve loaded our things in the back and the four of us got into the carriage. Mr. Pose said, “シルバーロータスに私達を運転してください.” Our driver nodded and immediately pulled us into the ancient city.

“What did you say?” Acrylic inquired.

“I just told our driver to take us to the Silver Lotus, where you’ll be staying. Very modern, and is welcoming of pets.”

“Your Equestrian is very good,” Fleur pointed out.

“Thank you. Tweedy Pants had hired me as the best to help him on his recovery tour of Neighpon.” He turned to me, “How is your father?”

“Alive and healthy, thank Celestia. Now keep in mind, we’re not here for very long, just to explore the city, see the sights, enjoy the food, have Acrylic paint a few pictures.”

Then Mr. Pose turned to my coltfriend, “You an artist?”

He nodded, “Yes sir, I’m an Impressionist.”

“What do you paint?”

“Usually landscapes, maybe a portrait here and there if I’m commissioned to.”

“Then you sir are in luck. Here in Ichiuma, there are several shrines, parks, marketplaces, and museums that may give you inspiration for painting.”

To be honest, I don’t think he would have much trouble with that. Our cab drove us down several streets of wooden structures that for most stand two stories high. We pass by ponies and gryphons alike go to and fro on both sides of the street, some of them in traditional robes while another rush in more modern clothing. Down streets that hung signs in a language that the three of us understand and up pass shops that sold all sorts of items to pedestrians. Every so often we look up at colorful paper lanterns that hung on zig-zagging lines or look curiously onto pieces of paper that hung off of windows or over door-frames.

“…. There’s a festival coming up,” Mr. Pose informed us to snap our attention.

“Sorry?” I asked.

“I was just asking you how long are you planning on staying,” he told us. “We have the Rice Festival that’s coming up next week.”

“Well we are staying for two weeks,” Acrylic said. “So I think we should still be here by then, right Fa- I mean, Mr. Pants?”

“I should think so,” I looked at my pocket watch, “Quick question Mr. Pose, where are you planning to take us after we’ve dropped our luggage off?”

“It would all depend on what the three of you want to do,” he informed us. “If you wanted to get souvenirs, or perhaps looking for a bite to eat, there’s always the marketplace downtown. But if you want someplace quiet I know a few monasteries around. So it would all depend on, as you say, what you’re in the mood for.”

While the three of us thought for a moment, Acrylic spoke up, “Sir, can I ask you a personal question?”

Our guide raised an eyebrow, “How personal is personal?”

“A little, I was just wondering, do you have a family?”

“Oh,” Mr. Pose coughed for a moment before replying. “Yes, Mister… Acrylic?”

“Brush is fine.”

“As a matter of fact, I do. I have a wife and daughter here in the city. Why do you ask?”

“I was thinking, would it be improper to ask if you could invite us into your home for dinner sometime?”

Now it was Fleur’s turn to be curious, “Why are you asking that?”

“Well,” my coltfriend cleared his throat, “I figured that if we’re going to be given a tour of your city, sir, especially if we’re going to be doing this for a couple of weeks, why not try to get to know our guide? That is if this isn’t too much to ask of you.”

“How unusual,” Mr. Pose put a hoof to his chin. “This is the first time anypony has asked me this… My daughter is going to Trotkyo tomorrow so the only time we could do that is by tonight. That is unless Mr. Pants has any objections to it.”

“On the contrary,” I said, “I think it’s a terrific idea.” Once again, a yawn escapes my muzzle. “Excuse me; I’m afraid that I’m still in need of a nap. If it’s alright with you two, but I for one want to rest a bit, after all, we’ve just arrived.”

“If we’re serious about this,” our guide said. “Then I would need time to inform my family that the four of you are coming over if you include your cat.”

“Fair enough,” I nodded.

“Also, you Mr. Pants might receive some rather… personal questions yourself from my daughter.”

“How come?”

He avert his eyes when he said, “Let’s just say that she has a… interesting job that requires some research.”


A long nap, visiting a shrine and a good amount of window shopping later, our cab pulls over to Haiku’s home. Our guide’s home is, what I can describe in every sense of the word, humble. It was part in the older neighborhoods where the structures weren’t made out of stone and concrete like our hotel, but rather out of wood and paper. It was one of those two-floor buildings where there’s a shop on the first and living spaces on the second.

“I do hope this isn’t too much trouble Mr. Pose,” my bodyguard said, “This dinner being last minute.”

He waved it off, “My job is to make you feel welcomed in Neighpon as much as possible. I think Mr. Brush had chosen wisely as a good introduction.”

I could feel Cleo jumping on my back at this point, “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind having Cleo over?”

“We have a cat ourselves, Mr. Pants,” he said as he lead us down the sides of a thin alley before we reached a pair of stairs in the back. “We’ve had him for several years, so we know how to take care of them. Oh, before I forget,” he turned around at the very bottom of the steps. “There are some rules that the three of you need to keep in mind. For example, when we first enter, visitors are required to wear slippers and socks in which we’ll provide for you. The slippers you can move about as freely as you like, but when we reach the dining room, you’ll be required to take off your slippers. Since we’ll be sitting on the floor, it is conceded rude to bump into any other cushion that isn’t your own. If you’re eating out of a small bowl, it is polite to pick up your bowl close to one’s mouth before eating; however, larger dishes are excluded from this rule.

“What else… Ah, in Neighpon, blowing your nose, burping, or loud munching is considered bad manners. At the same time, you are expected to eat everything you’re given, even down to the last grain of rice. But if you feel that you can’t eat all or there’s something you don’t like to eat, please tell me in advance. Otherwise, I advise leaving that particular dish intact.

“Lastly, once you’ve finished, you must return everything the way it was at the beginning from your bowls, plates, and chopsticks back in their original place – and to give the phrase, “Thank you for the feast,” at the very end. Any questions?”

I could hear my coltfriend gulp, “What if we can’t remember all of that?”

Our guide laughed as he headed up the stairs, “Not to worry, I’ve told my family in advance to excuse the three of you for making some sort of offense that you had no intention in. However, if any of you do step out of line, I will try to give a sort of warning.”

We trotted up the stairs in which Haiku opened the door, “こんにちは? 誰が家の中にいるのですか?”

“はい、私たちは夕食のために座ってしようとしています,” a voice said. “彼らはここにもあります?”

“はい、誰もがここにあります,” he then turned to us. “Come in.”

We followed him in. Already as we stepped in, we could hear the chatter of china from a different part of the modest home. As we stepped in, we saw a whole floor covered in shiny wood except for the island that we’re standing on. All around us, apart from the white walls, there are posters, tapestries, and integrate bowls of porcelain that rest on dark wooden boxes. Apart from that, there’s a noticeably tall scratching post in one corner of the room. Near to us were slippers and pairs of socks that pointed towards the house.

“Where is your cat?” Acrylic inquired as he let Cleo down.

“I think he’s in the other room, napping. But follow me; I’ll introduce you to my family.”

Mr. Pose led us deeper into the house of paper thin walls and a polished floor. The air, we noticed, was perfumed with something delicious and promised of succulent flavor. At the end of the hallway to the left, he slides open a door further in which he took off his slippers.

We did the same as we entered; there at a low table were two unicorn mares, the one that we quickly assume to be Mr. Pose’s wife was deep blue with a light purple mane that was tied up in a bun, while the other was cream colored with a long black mane. As we entered, they bowed and we likewise did the same.

“Mr. Pants, Mr. Brush and Ms. De Lis,” our guide said, “Let me introduce you to my wife and daughter: this is Chihiro,” the wife bowed as he pointed over with his hoof. “And this is Ink Stroke,” his daughter too bowed, “she’s the artist in the family.” He turned to his family and introduced us in his native language.

“今晩は,” they said as we bowed again.

“Pardon me Mr. Pose,” I said, “are you the only one that can speak Equestrian?” He nodded, “Well, in that case, could you please tell your family thank you for being kind enough to open your doors to us and to have this honor if having our first dinner here in Neighpon?”

Haiku did so before he helped show us to our seats with me at one end of the table with Fleur and Acrylic beside me while the family sat on the other. At the very center of the low table was a very large bowl with a pair of chopsticks nearby. Our host passed along a bottle of rice wine to us, “I’m sorry sir,” Acrylic said when it was passed to him, “could I have something that doesn’t have alcohol in it?”

“Would you prefer juice Mr. Brush?” our guide inquired, and he nodded. After some orange juice as fetched for my coltfriend, the bowl in the center was opened to a dish of noodles and vegetables in a dark sauce. “We’re having ramen tonight,” he said, “is this sufficient for all of you?”

“I’ll eat it,” Acrylic said.

“I’ll try some,” Fleur agreed.

“This will be wonderful,” I added before we started to dish out our portions into our bowls.

Soon enough, the family and we started to eat our simply delicious meal. I confess, it’s been a while since I had anything Neighponies related, but the noodles alone are tempting enough to learn what the recipe is for a rainy day. For the first few minutes, the family looked on with worry as we silently ate.

“This reminds me of comfort food from where I came from,” Acrylic commented.

“Where you came from?” Mr. Pose asked, “You mean you have ramen in Equestria?”

“I’ve seen noodles, but not used like this in Canterlot,” he said, “I mean from the village that I was originally from.”

“Oh? You mean you’re not from Equestria then?”

“Immigrated actually,” Acrylic told him before scooping some noodles into his mouth before a loud slurp was heard. Quickly realizing what he’d done, he put his bowl down and bowed, “Oh I’m so sorry!”

The family looked around confused and looked at Haiku as to what was going on, “Why are you apologizing?” he asked.

“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to slurp.”

“What are you- oh.” He chuckled as he put his bowl down, “I’ve completely forgotten to tell all of you that here in Neighpon, slurping your noodles is considered a compliment. That the louder the slurp, the greater the approval. My apologies for leaving that bit of information out, but we were starting to get worried that the three of you didn’t like the noodles.”

“No,” Fleur chimed in, “This is really good, we didn’t-”

“Not to worry,” Haiku waved a hoof. “It was my fault for not telling you about it. So please, if you feel the need to slurp, go right ahead, we’d appreciate it.” We resumed our eating (noisily I may add) while he returned to Acrylic, “You were saying that you immigrated to Equestria?”

“Oh, right,” he nodded as he slurped. “I’m actually from a place called Lightning Falls that’s near the South Luna Sea. I remember seeing something like this when I was younger, that was made as a kind of comfort food.”

“Lightning Falls…” our guide thought for a moment, “I’m afraid I don’t quite know where that is. But I can say that the ramen is a form of comfort food to us as well. We’re glad you like it.”

“Didn’t you say your daughter is an artist?” Fleur asked. Haiku told her that she was, “What kind of art does she do?”

“Well,” he looked over at his daughter for a moment, “she produces manga. I think there’s another word for it… graphic novels? Comic books?”

“Oh, I see,” I nodded before slurping my noodles. “What kind of subject does she tackle, if I may so boldly ask?”

“It’s… uh…” he looked over to Ink Stroke, “彼らはあなたの仕事に疑問を抱いています.”

“あなたはそれらを伝えることができます,” she said looking over at me. “私はそれが私の仕事を手伝ってくれるだろうと思う、あなたがそれらを伝えるべきだと思います.”

“What did she say?” I inquired.

Sighing, our guide said, “She… (この答えを与える方法?)” pausing for a moment, Mr. Pose responded, “Are you aware that in Equestria, especially among young stallions, that they tend to view lesbians as attractive?”

“I’ve noticed it since my high school days,” I raised an eyebrow, “What does that got to do with anything?”

“You see… in Neighpon, that sort of thing is in reverse, especially among the female demographic who read manga. In some, as far as I know from what my daughter has told me, there are some scenes that artists draw that can get rather… graphic.”

From the corner of my eye, I can see Fleur blushing and Acrylic’s eyes widen, “Oh my…”

Our guide nodded in embarrassment as his ears folded back, “Yes… However, my daughter doesn’t quite do that sort of thing, but she does deal in that sort of subject of… boys love, that sort of romance. To tell you the truth, Mr. Pants, up until your father had told me about you, we never really known anypony that was like that. Even my Ink Stroke, who draws out these romances, has never really known one up close before.”

I put down my chopsticks, “I’m just like everypony else, to be honest. We have jobs, we eat out when we can, and we fall in love just like any other pony, the only difference is just with the same gender sir. I’m not sure how it is here in Neighpon, but I’m not ashamed of knowledge of who I am and where my interests lie.”

“That’s what your father said as well,” Mr. Pose said before glancing at his family, “And to be honest, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect, including me. Although, and no offense sir, now that I’ve gotten to know you a little, you are rather… underwhelming compared to the flamboyant characters that my daughter draws.”

“Then you haven’t met Hoity,” Acrylic joked, and I too chuckled.

Turning to Haiku, I said, “You can tell your daughter that once dinner is over, that I and Acrylic would be happy to be interviewed.”

He raised an eyebrow, “Acrylic?”

I then leaned over towards my coltfriend and kissed him on the cheek, “That’s why,” I smirked, backing away while noticing that he was blushing as Ink stroke’s head was turning bright red.

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