• Published 29th Jun 2017
  • 3,574 Views, 120 Comments

Hearts and Minds - The card holder



Equestria is facing a potential crisis involving distorted reality based on cognition. Celestia tells an old friend, who has just the solution for her...

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Arrival

"Wait, you helped protect a woman from someone who was being drunk and violent, and you were arrested for it?!"

"The guy had a lot of connections," Ryuji pitched in, drawing Twilight's focus to him.

Futaba chuckled. "Just wait until you hear what else he did!"

"We're gettin' there, Oracle!" Ryuji pointed a thumb at Akira. "Anyway, he got expelled after that, and ended up transferring to Shujin."

Twilight paused in her note taking. "Shujin?"

"The high school we all went to," Ann explained, "except for Fox, he went to another school, and Oracle..."

"Give me time!"

Twilight tilted her head. "You're all still in high school?"

"Well, mostly," Makoto said. "Me and Noir just graduated this last year, actually."

"Anyway, to get back on track," Ryuji continued, "it was the first day of school that year, and I was already running a little late because of some sudden rain. Then I saw Joker standing at the side of the road close to the school, just as that asshole Kamoshida was driving off."

Twilight cringed slightly at the profanity. "I take it you didn't like them?"

Akira pushed up his glasses.

"He was our first target."

Before Twilight could manage any kind of shocked reply, Ann spoke up. "Kamoshida was a gym teacher at the school, who was riding high on his former glory as an Olympic medalist, and getting his volleyball team to nationals. But the truth was, he was a disgusting, perverted bastard of a man, who didn't give a shit about who he hurt just to satisfy his... urges."

Twilight looked down. "That's... awful..." She shook her head. "But wait, how did you discover he had a palace then?"

Ryuji shrugged. "Back on that first day, me and Joker tried to walk to school, but apparently we accidentally triggered this weird app he had on his phone," he explained. "Next thing we knew, we were in a castle, instead of the school, and Kamoshida was its effin' king."

Twilight let out a small hum of thought. "So, he saw himself as a king, the school his castle, and so that's how his palace appeared?"

"That's correct," Morgana answered. "And to be specific, it wasn't Kamoshida himself in the palace, but rather his shadow; the deepest, darkest truth about who he really was in his heart."

"Oh yeah, we also found Mona here in that palace," Ryuji cut in. "He's been trying to help us ever since."

Morgana jumped onto a seat to look Ryuji in the eyes. "Tried? You'd both be dead several times over if it weren't for me!"

"Easy now," Makoto interrupted the argument before it could even begin. "Let's continue with the story."

The others nodded in agreement.

"I joined them not too long after," Ann said. "After he..." She trailed off slightly, then shook her head. "Nevermind."

Twilight could tell there was more to that part of the story, but refused to push the issue. Obviously, she still had several bad memories about the events. "So, how did you 'change his heart'?"

"We swooped into his palace and stole his treasure," Morgana said simply. "After we did that, the real Kamoshida lost those twisted desires of his, and turned himself in."

Twilight looked back over her earlier notes. "And he was... unharmed?"

"Not a scratch on him," Ryuji confirmed. "Even though we beat the crap out of his shadow."

"I... think I understand," Twilight said slowly. "And you're absolutely sure there was no other way?"

"None of the teachers or parents who even knew about it had the guts to say anything," Ryuji said. "Plus, he was going to expel me and Joker just because we found out the truth, so we didn't exactly have time on our side."

After a moment of silent thinking on her part, Twilight nodded her head. "Well, at the very least, I don't think your actions were wrong, per se..."

Suddenly, they felt the train car come to a stop, and Morgana almost lost his balance from his standing position.

"Oh, we're here." Twilight rose from her seat, the Thieves doing the same. "Alright, I guess I'll go ahead and introduce you all to some of my friends. Follow me."

"But, we didn't even reach my part of the story," Yusuke said.

"I'm sure we'll be able to keep telling this later," Makoto reassured him. "For now, we should follow Twilight."

The others agreed, and they followed after the pony. The train station was almost completely empty, only a few other ponies standing around here and there. They gave the Thieves a few odd looks, but none of them took any sort of action, and simply resumed their daily activities.

They spotted Twilight with no issue, and she didn't even look back as the Thieves fell in step behind her. "Well, the first place we should go is Sugarcube Corner, we can meet Pinkie there, first."

"What, is that like a restaurant?" Ryuji asked.

"Kind of. They sell all kinds of desserts and sweets."

Suddenly, Ann was at the front of the group, alongside Twilight. "Did you say sweets?"

"Hey, Panther, gotta watch your figure."

"Shut up, Skull!"

"Sweets do sound nice right now," Makoto admitted.

"I agree," Yusuke added. "Some nourishment would be nice."

"Inari, did you forget to eat while painting again?" Futaba said, stifling a giggle.

"Never let it be said that I make no sacrifices for my art."

Akira just chuckled and shook his head as his team argued. Things truly never change...

"Alright, we're here!"

Twilight stopped as they rounded a corner to point a hoof towards their destination: a building that looked like it was actually made out of gingerbread and candy.

"I think I'm full just from looking at it," Haru commented.

"Gotta give points for creativity, at least," Ryuji said.

"Come on, let's go!" Ann said, not even waiting for the others as she started jogging towards the building.

"H- Hey, Panther, wait up!" Morgana cried, getting down to all four paws in an effort to keep up.

Twilight was the next one to react. "W- Wait! Be careful!"

As she galloped after them, the others shrugged and took their own leisurely pace towards the building.

The inside was far more mundane than the exterior would have made one believe, although the walls still looked like it was made from pastry. Ann was already looking over a display counter, Morgana trying to do the same despite his size. Next to them, Twilight was just looking on in confusion.

Once the others joined her, she looked to Akira. "Is she usually like this?"

"Sometimes."

Rolling her eyes, Twilight turned her attention towards one of the doors leading to the kitchen. "Pinkie?"

There was suddenly a noticeable bump from upstairs, followed by the sound of galloping as the pony in question ran down the stairs.

"Heya, Twilight! What's-" Pinkie screeched to a halt, both metaphorically and literally as she managed to stop just short of colliding with Akira, who simply watched the display with his hands still in his pockets, only taking a single step back in surprise.

As Pinkie looked from one face to another, her look of shock slowly grew into a wide smile.

"Pinkie," Twilight started to say, "I'd like you meet-"

"Ohmigosh! Where'd you get all these new friends, Twilight? And why didn't you tell me earlier?! I could've had a party ready for them already! And-"

Pinkie's speech was cut off by Twilight's magic holding her mouth shut for a second. "I was... about to introduce them, Pinkie. And I didn't actually meet them until earlier today."

Pinkie nodded excitedly in understanding. "Okie dokie!" She then turned back towards the Thieves. "I'm Pinkie Pie!"

Haru was the first to introduce herself. "I'm Noir."

"Oracle here!"

"Fox."

"Queen."

"I'm Skull," Ryuji finished up. "And that's Joker, Panther, and Mona," he added, pointing to Akira, Ann, and Morgana, respectively, the latter two keeping their attention split between the assorted snacks on display and the conversation.

"And these people are part of the 'Phantom Thieves'," Twilight explained. "Apparently, Celestia summoned them... somehow."

"Oooh! Sounds fancy!" Pinkie hopped to the other side of the group, as if to get a better view. "Ooh, do you guys solve crimes or something?"

The group looked between each other. "I mean, I guess?" Ryuji eventually answered.

Suddenly, Pinkie stopped her hopping. "Aw, man, I just realized I won't be able to throw you guys a party yet!"

Twilight tilted her head. "Why not?"

Pinkie looked back at her with a raised eyebrow. "Remember? We're going with Rainbow Dash to that convention tomorrow!"

It took a second for what Pinkie said to sink in, but once it did Twilight's eyes widened. "That was tomorrow?! Oh no, I forgot!" Looking back and forth between the Thieves and the door, she eventually reached a decision. "Pinkie, could you watch them for a bit, I gotta go pack okay thanks!"

And with that, she was out of the door.

"'Watch us'?" Futaba echoed. "But Skull's the only one who needs supervision!"

"Hey, you're the youngest one here, I don't wanna hear it!"

"Well I can't throw a party yet, but I can at least get you something to snack on!" Pinkie said, bounding behind the counter and finally breaking Ann and Morgana out of their concentration. "So, what can I get ya?"

"It's so hard to decide!" Ann lamented. "What do you think, Joker?"

"Something with chocolate."

Makoto sighed. "Please don't encourage them. Besides, I'm pretty sure we don't have any local currency."

"Don't worry, it'll be on the house!" Pinkie said.

"Well, I certainly won't turn down some free refreshments," Yusuke said, stepping up to the counter as well.

"That's the spirit, Fox!" Morgana called out. "Now get me the strawberry one there!"

As the others moved forward and put in their own orders, Makoto just shook her head in amusement, before joining them and making her own request.

Despite the sheer number of orders, Pinkie was able to quickly and perfectly retrieve each and every one, getting everyone their chosen desserts in under a minute. Before they knew it, the Thieves found themselves sitting down at one of the tables, their food in front of them.

"Dude, that was sick!" Ryuji complimented, before turning to Akira. "Why can't Boss have service like that?"

"I doubt his heart could take it."

"Hey, Sojiro isn't that old!" Futaba spoke up. "Clearly, his back would give out before his heart did!"

"Oh, this is soooo gooood!" Ann said, already digging into her food.

Suddenly, she elbowed Ryuji in the side.

"Ow, what the hell?"

"I knew you were going to say something."

He went to make a rebuttal, but stopped. "Dammit, how did you know?"

"We can read you like a book, Skull," Morgana suggested, standing on his hind legs to reach above the table.

"This is... unlike any other sweets I have eaten," Yusuke said. "The flavor is almost overwhelming."

"And these brownies are cooked perfectly!" Haru complimented.

Pinkie just smiled widely as she hopped up to the table. "Glad you like it!" She then started bounding towards the stairs. "Well, I gotta finish packing, so see you guys later!"

Once the Thieves had said their own farewells, Makoto cleared her throat. "As good as this food is, we should probably try and figure out a plan going forward."

"Already on it," Morgana said. "You heard what she said about a convention, right?"

"Yeah, what about it?" Ryuji asked, his mouth still full of donut.

Makoto caught on quickly. "With that many people in one place, we're bound to overhear some intel about a palace."

"I believe they're called 'ponies' here," Yusuke added.

"Wouldn't we stand out though?" Ann said. "I mean, I haven't seen any other humans since we got here."

Morgana smirked. "Phantom thieves work better from the shadows, anyway."

"Honestly, I'm not sure how much help I can be here," Futaba admitted. "From what I've seen so far, these guys don't exactly have computers."

"Your support will still be appreciated in the palaces, Oracle," Haru said.

Ryuji swallowed the last of his food. "Actually, about that, do ya think we need to keep up the code names still? I mean, Twilight's being pretty nice and cooperative with us."

Seeing that the others couldn't come up with an immediate answer, Akira spoke up.

"It sounds better."

Morgana chuckled. "As always, your priorities are impressive, Joker."

"Actually, he might be onto something," Makoto said. "Assuming that pony names are all like Twilight's and Pinkie's, using our real names would likely make us stand out even more."

"Then it's settled!" Futaba cheered. "Code names are still a go!"

"Speaking of going, we should probably go find Twilight and ask if we can go along on that trip," Ann said.

Yusuke was quick to shoot the plan down. "But we do not know where she lives."

"Probably like a library or something," Ryuji suggested. "You saw how many books she put away before we came here."

Morgana jumped onto the floor and looked back at the others. "Well, if everyone's done, we should go ahead and leave."

The others agreed, and set out back into the streets of Ponyville, this time without a guide.


"Hey, Twilight?"

"Let's see, toothbrush, check, personal soaps to use instead of hotel soap, check..."

"Twilight."

"Now where did I put that-"

"Twilight!"

Spike's shouting finally broke Twilight out of her frenzy, and she sheepishly turned around. "Sorry, Spike, what is it?"

"Just trying to tell you that you have some visitors."

Just as he said that, the door behind him opened, revealing the Thieves behind it.

Twilight smacked a hoof into her face. "Of all the..." She sighed and walked forward to meet them. "Sorry, I still tend to panic when I forget things like this."

"Don't sweat it, we still found you just fine," Ryuji said. "Also, gotta say, this is some impressive living space."

"I never thought I would see a castle made out of crystal in such a manner, even within the palaces," Yusuke commented.

Makoto stepped forward. "In any case, we wanted to ask if we could accompany you on your trip tomorrow."

Twilight tilted her head slightly, before realization hit her. "You think we'll find out about one of these palaces there?"

"It's worth a shot," Morgana said. "Plus, we still barely know anything about the area, so it would most likely be a good idea to stick with you."

"Well, alright then," Twilight answered. She then looked over to Spike, who was watching the conversation with mild interest. "You don't mind staying here, do you, Spike?"

"Not at all. Those conventions are usually a lot less fun than they sound, anyway."

"Oh yeah, what's the convention for, anyway?" Ryuji asked.

"It's for a book series that's incredibly popular here," Twilight said. "This is actually the first time I've been able to attend one of the conventions, though, but my other friend, Rainbow Dash, went to the last one and said it was fun."

"Just remember our primary objective," Morgana reminded everyone. "We have no leads on palaces yet, so this is a good place to start looking."

"Still, they're not leaving until tomorrow," Yusuke said. "What should we do until then?"

"Let's head home for now."

"Good idea, Joker," Makoto responded, before turning to Twilight. "So, should we meet you at the train station tomorrow?"

Twilight hesitated. "I... guess... But wait, what do you mean by heading home? How will you get back?"

"We got an app on our phones," Ryuji answered. "It lets us go from our world to yours whenever we-" Suddenly, he stopped talking. "Oh, crap."

"What's wrong, Skull?" Haru asked.

"The app's gonna put us in the other castle when we come back, that's what's wrong!"

Out of curiosity, Akira pulled out his phone and opened the app, only to recoil slightly at what he saw.

Futaba noticed his reaction and tried to get a look at the screen. "Hmm? What's up, Joker?"

Akira moved his phone where the others could see, and they saw that the app had an actual map of the local area, just like a normal GPS.

"Huh, it's never done that before..." Morgana thought out loud.

"Well, looks like we can come back to specific parts of Equestria," Makoto theorized. "That should prove incredibly useful."

Twilight, meanwhile, just looked at the phone with confusion and more than a little enthusiasm. "What exactly... is that?"

Akira put his phone away as Ryuji answered her. "We'll explain later."

Akira nodded and started walking away.

"Let's go."

The others followed him, and Twilight awkwardly leaned out of the door to watch them leave. "Well... see you tomorrow!"

They replied with their own goodbyes, and once they were a sizable distance away, they stopped, and then... phased out of existence.

Twilight just looked at the spot where they were standing, jaw agape. Eventually, she shook herself out of it and went back inside her room, Spike leaving as he did so.

"Huh, they left pretty quick," he commented.

"Yeah..." Twilight said, barely thinking.

Just what exactly was she in for, here?

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