• Published 19th Mar 2021
  • 809 Views, 68 Comments

The Runaway Bodyguard - scifipony



Her best and only magic teacher, Sunburst, abandoned her. Proper Step refused to teach her magic; it wasn't "lady-like." She runs away and learns to fight with hoof and magic, to save her life—but doesn't realize she's becoming somepony's sharp tool.

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Chapter 27 — Fight!

Author's Note:

Here's a double chapter. My reader prevailed on me not to give you another cliffhanger and split it.

Warning tags alert: Blood. You've been warned.

"I'll fight."

"Okay, then," Whistlebutt said. "If you want to quit at any point after your opponent has laid a solid kick or punch on you, you hit the floor three times with a hoof. This isn't about winning or losing, it's about experiencing the downside of fighting. If at any point you realize fighting isn't for you, you hit the floor three times with a hoof and you tell me that. Best that we know. Step over the rope and you lose the match. Stallion parts on an earth pony are off-limits, as is hitting anywhere near a unicorn's horn. You fight with regulation gloves. A knock-out wins the match. A knock down where you pin your opponent by sitting on him for a ten-count wins the match. Do you understand?"

"No hitting his cute stallion parts? I wouldn't dream of it!"

Grape began chuckling.

Whistlebutt said, "Grape won't be trying for a knock-out, but you understand as a unicorn, it's best not to let him engage you in close-in combat. Keep your distance and study how he moves. Just because this bout is intended to let you feel what it means to lose a fight, that doesn't mean you have to take a beating either."

"I can hit him?"

"This isn't a street fight, Gelding, or a joke. Are you taking this seriously?"

"Deadly seriously. I expect to learn something about myself."

"O-kay... The bout lasts five minutes. Should you manage not to get hit, we'll schedule another bout. Do you think you're ready, Gelding?"

My heart was already racing. Anxiety grew in my stomach. I wanted to start now. "I was born ready."

"Grape?"

"I need to warm up."

"Of course. You should, too, Gelding."

Dr. Feel trotted up and quickly examined my opponent. Again she didn't warm the stethoscope and he flinched. Maybe she liked that. A couple minutes later, she nodded.

I knew that the additional time he took to warm up only meant the acid in my stomach got to bubble and I might overthink it. For the moment, all thoughts of Grape being sexy had evaporated. He did a few cat stretches, then dashed for two quick laps on the track. When he returned, he did some more stretches. I imitated some of his easy ones, but I quickly realized he was so limber he might be a contortionist.

He began swaying in place, sometimes catching himself almost as if he were about to fall. I noticed him dodging an imaginary foe and I recognized moves consistent with my defense training. Essentially, moving with the attacker's blow to minimize it, then possibly taking advantage of his momentum to trip or throw him.

I swallowed hard. I wanted to look away, but he fascinated me.

No doubt about it, I was going to get hurt.

My inner pony lashed back at me. He's going to have to catch us, first!

"Ready," Grape said.

"Okay," I said.

He started trotting in place, and considering my nerves, I decided to do the same. Whistlebutt moved us to the center of the ring. He said, "It's a regulation bout. Please don't disqualify yourself by forgetting the rules. Yes, I know it doesn't count, but still." I looked at the older stallion and I wasn't convinced his spiel was aimed primarily at me. I swallowed hard again. "I'll get mad. Anypony want me to review the rules?"

We both yelled, "No, Coach!"

I looked at Grape and he at me. We both chuckled.

"Oh, come on!" Whistlebutt said.

Feeling considerably better, I rolled my eyes.

Grape pulled a special set of padded horseshoes from his messenger bag and Whistlebutt offered me two pairs of the odd things. Rubber formed the shell of the shoe that held it to the hoof. A gummy blue substance lined the contact surface. I hit it against the cement floor and the shoe rebounded high enough that I lost hold of it. It flipped and bounced off the bulbous cushioned red fabric front edge. It was a foreshoe. The rearshoe was padded at the rear and much more gummy on the bottom since a strike from a buck might be lethal.

I put them on. My traction on the floor became absolute. If I landed properly, I could stop instantly from a gallop, or break all four ankles. I shoved hooves against the cement and could get it to squeak but not slide. Very interesting.

Whistlebutt took out his pocket watch. He said, "On three. 1. 2. Fight!" He clicked a button and jumped aside.

I barely heard the crowded gym fill with cheers. The rabbit brain would not be fooled as my heart rate spiked. Fear. The primal motivator. I instantly jumped back, feinted left and dashed right. Belatedly, arguably stupidly, only then did I prep a spell.

Grape stood like a stalk of wheat, gently swaying in the wind. I slowed down when I realized he wasn't advancing on me, simply tracking my movement. I paced the other way and realized something else.

He had his eyes closed! His ears swiveled as I paced back and forth, but he looked like he was in a state of trance. His ribs expanded slowly and eased gently back, almost as he were preparing for sleep.

Intuition told me that he wasn't giving me a gap to attack in or an opening. He had to have fought unicorns before. He had referred to training to fight as part of "his job." He waited for me to probe him with magic so he could learn my weaknesses. I used the gumminess of the shoes to silence my steps and breathed through my mouth to silence my breath. If I used any magic against him, he'd use it against me.

But I had to try something. What?

He continued to track me with ears alone, despite the noise of the crowd crying things like, "Punch! Punch!" and "Hit her good!" and "Give him a zap!" And that was...

Because the gummy shoes made a squelching sound as they unstuck from the cement as I lifted a hoof. What bother. I froze. Let him make a move.

Whistlebutt said, "One minute."

I let the time tick by, but the stallion just swayed and looked oh so relaxed. I had to fight with these gloves on. It probably meant the difference between a jab breaking my skull open and just knocking me down. But, still, "A-nnoy-ing!" I said aloud.

Laughter broke out in the audience.

This was the reason I wanted to make Don't Look, Don't See, Don't Hear work. I dropped the Levitate, since Grape didn't seem to be attacking any time soon, and tried to spin up the frustrating spell.

Before I ran away, I'd become adept at moving quietly. As a growing filly, I needed to eat. As a teenager, that meant I needed to eat at just about any time of day. Proper Step was a stickler for planned meals and prepared healthy snacks of nuts or raisins, and had told me sharply not to annoy the servants if I became hungry. He told me if I only ate more slowly, chewed more thoroughly, I'd feel more sated. Such horse apples.

I had to stay trim and look lady-like!

Horse apples, too.

I can't tell you how many times I'd snuck a chomp or two from the lawn. Plenty of times. While fescue may look nice, it's as bitter as chicory. Worse, the gardener kept it pretty trim, so it was a lot of work to make sure nopony knew I was grazing like some pauper pony.

To remedy that, I'd learned to be stealthy. When I found Don't Look, Don't See, Don't Hear, and I realized I wouldn't master it any time soon, I practiced moving about without my horseshoes on. Hooves are sound insulating and don't clatter if pressed down slowly.

That's how I eventually made it downstairs undetected to the servants' level, after mapping all the creaks in the floor and the stair treads. By the light of the kitchen windows, I searched the pantry and found the cookie tins.

"Two minutes."

Bare hoofed, huh? I looked at Grape. He hadn't moved while I'd been lost in reverie. Maybe he wasn't so slick, after all. Well, my illusion spell equations were balancing, but like always something was missing. I could tell I had the math down, bless Princess Celestia's frozen heart for that much, but the targeting just didn't compute. Yeah. Hard to concentrate with the rabble of an audience behind me while facing a pony with the aura of a gentlecolt that had agreed to hurt me.

I let go and the spell spun to pieces, digits shooting like red meteors into the periphery of my sensorium. Despite the chorus of "Awww!" from the audience, I started to pace back and forth, my horn extinguished, making sure that Grape got to sway back and forth and not just fall asleep.

I stopped. I lifted my right back hoof, dragged it against the postern of my left and loosened the shoe. I cast Levitate and removed it. I did the same with my left shoe.

The audience went silent as I levitated the pair up.

I waited for Whistlebutt to bellow, but he didn't. He had specifically stated fight with gloves. But I wasn't fighting.

I stepped with a fore hoof to my right, then lifted it to make it make that distinctive sound.

I reared and took a tentative step left. I could see that Grape's ears had swiveled ever so slightly to my right.

This was the part where somepony in the herd could call out what I was doing. I'd be stuck if he charged me, not being able to buck away an attack. However, no audience pony cheated.

I got an inkling of what ponies found in watching the bloody bouts. It wasn't the brawl.

It was chess.

I smiled and cookie-stepped out of his field of vision. When I was pretty sure he wasn't tracking me any longer, which could be a ruse and was a risk, I crept closer. I knew from my midnight runs through the darkened servant's level that things like iceboxes, cabinets, doorways, and tables actually reflected the sound of a misplaced step. They were like shadows to the ears. I could feel the pressure of reflections and over weeks I grew to know when a chair had been moved, or a door left open without actually seeing it.

The crowd might allow Grape to do the same and notice my approach.

"Three—"

I placed my gloves down softly.

"—minutes!"

The only way I could win this thing was if I could lay a square hoof on Grape and, as he said, clobber him. But he was a resistant earth pony. What were my chances?

Better than zero.

All I had was subterfuge and speed. I knew that a fully prepared spell had perfect targeting, but, if I was close-in, an area of effect would do. I watched Grape's ears begin to tick. Perhaps he was worrying that his strategy wouldn't end in a win. All he had to do was open his eyes...

I cast Illuminate. Most unicorns learned the spell at an early age so as not to sleep in a darkened room, or to read a storybook under the covers. Letting it manifest on your horn was easy. No targeting necessary. Few progressed from that casting. Thanks to Sunburst, I'd realized I could cast it on any surface or in the air. We'd played dodge-sprite and flashes.

I thought about what I had done to the golden Clydesdale. Illuminate and Levitate were from completely different spell arcana, with incompatible math. They had different types of rhymes for their mnemonics. Think pentameter verses haiku. However, they targeted—if you knew you could do it—identically. I practiced switching between the spells a couple times until it felt like it was the best I could do.

I stood broadside to Grape, the closest my nervous rabbit brain would allow me. Heart racing again, gloves back on, I flexed my hindquarters and swayed my hip back and forth (to the appreciative enjoyment of my stallion audience) in preparation for a swing and buck, firmly placing my forehooves to the ground.

I committed.

I flashed a blue-green sprite near his eyes on the opposite side of his face from me and switched to prepping Levitate as I transformed my targeting, tensing for his reaction.

Any normal pony would have startled, maybe reared back. Not him. He swayed into a sideways roll away from me and toward the erstwhile sprite, almost as if he were falling down. Had he fallen asleep?

Couldn't be.

He shifted out of my approximated targeting zone just as I calculated him being closer. In a desperate move, I switched from my intent of lift to push, targeting his far side to push him towards me. Not that he could possibly still have his eyes closed.

Most of the magical impulse got wasted due to my guess. Nevertheless, he rolled away as if he had unexpectedly stumbled. He stumbled in my direction, at least. I transformed the equation back to lift.

His eyes were open and he counter-rotated his head against the trajectory of his body to spear me with both magenta eyes. But as he recovered from the stumble, he had moved closer to me with distracting slowness and overcompensated.

The instant my horn completed my vector subtraction, I cast.

He lifted upward off his hooves with his strange momentum intact. This was where I planned to jerk him high enough to flip. I shifted my weight onto my front hooves and began to rotate my body for a place-kick buck.

He squirmed like a young foal having a tantrum. He demonstrated the bodily consistency of a grape-flavored gelatin dessert, rolling counter to each and every targeting change I tried. Trying to catch water might have yielded a better result!

His general trajectory skewed toward me, but now as I rotated to kick, he fathomed my plan and used my reactions to tumble to where I would be and by then, I'd have rotated past.

I let go of the spell.

That caused him to fall, but he tucked and jerked drunkenly, transforming his vectors into a roll. With all that muscle on him, he twisted his trajectory into a slide and began to pop up even as I tried to recover from my disastrous two-legged spin. He translated his movement into a leap, going the direction I was about to face as I got my rear legs back under me.

Thank goodness for the gloves. I stopped short of sliding.

But so did he, as he used his incredible musculature to convert his leap into rotational force. Had I tried that, I would have torn whole muscle groups from the bone. Without Levitation spun up even a little, I saw his rear dark red-gloved hooves in my peripheral vision growing way too large far too fast.

I jerked back and ducked my head, trying to withdraw into a leap away.

A hoof struck across the side of my face, bounding off the ridge of my right eyebrow. Blue stars filled my vision as I thrust myself into a leap away, anywhere but where I was.

Disoriented, I managed to thrust myself away far too well.

My hooves landed wrong. The stickiness of the gloves tripped me up and I went head over hindquarters, careening toward the archway pillars.

I stopped short of the rope, and the brick. I immediately scrambled up, thinking Levitate, Levitate, Levitate.

To my credit, the spell spun up immediately despite me having struck my horn twice in my somersaulting. The reverberation buzzed in my ears.

Grape had again frozen, three point, as if caught mid-motion by some creative photographer and rendered as a purple sculpture. He swiveled his head toward me until both eyes were on me.

Sweat dripped from his face as he held the pose.

He stood ten pony lengths away, looking in my mind like a stalking timberwolf that wasn't quite sure whether it was safe to immediately attack his prey or to let it bleed out.

It wasn't safe.

It wasn't safe...!

To move.

My right eye was blurry as the phosphenes cleared. An unfamiliar ache spread across my eyebrow to the opposite temple. A trickle of liquid missed my eye; it felt like I was crying on my right side. I decided it wasn't that different than when I'd fallen and bumped my head a few times before. Except for the trickle of blood, of course.

However, I was angry.

My shoulder began to ache.

I glanced there. I saw a rip in my tank top, clear through the seam. One would think that a cushioned horseshoe couldn't cut a pony, but one would be wrong. The skin had separated like fabric on a couch, and red began to ooze out.

I growled as I faced him again. Yes! I needed anger.

I lowered myself until I lay on my belly to conserve my energy and to keep my legs from shaking. Keeping my eyes fixed on him and my muscles ready to spring, I lowered my head and concentrated. I finished my spell prep as Whistlebutt announced, "Four minutes."

I'd been hit. I'd absorbed my required injury. Injuries.

There was no way this side of Tartarus that I was going to quit!

I pushed my anger into the spell and narrowed it. Then narrowed it even more, trying to push it to a point and lengthen it into the required tube reaching all the way to the purple example of pony perfection.

It.

Didn't.

Work!

"Ugh!"

I refined the targeting. I worked on the wish predicate. I felt the threat in those unblinking eyes that faced me.

It wouldn't trigger.

I lifted my rear and screamed, letting the frustration travel from my belly, up my throat, and into my horn.

Nothing!

I crept closer to him, settled, and pushed into the narrow magic tube that I had so handily thrashed The Monster with. I tried to feel the sheer menace of my opponent who had just proved that, baring some miracle, would indeed clobber me.

"Argh!" I bellowed again, my hindquarters again up as I focused my emotions through my body together with all the magic I could marshal in that virtual thrust of energies.

I got closer.

Still he didn't move.

Still I failed to trigger it.

I bellowed again.

He didn't move, but I did.

I had to trigger this spell if I had any chance of winning this. I swore by all the hate I had for the wretched ruler of this realm, I would do this. I had a fraction of a minute to spare. I had to figure this spell out.

To do so, I needed Grape to charge me!

Lifting up my rear as before, I yelled, "What? Too much of a gentlecolt to hit a filly when she's down? You sexist flankh—"

Proving that earth pony muscles could propel a body in contradiction to the laws of physics, he went from static to barreling my direction with no intervening acceleration.

I forced my magic forward. Fire already!

It took a fraction of an instant to realize that it was not going to work. Perhaps I had to be certain that I would die to actuate the spell, not just scared out of my wits. The apparition I wanted to project, while long, was still thankfully narrow. With the speed of thought, I retracted the tube and transformed the... the... Force spell into a hoof-sized push at a point in space. The effect of a magic hit might be whimpy, but added to his forward momentum...?

I used the tension in my hindquarters to rear up and present my fore hooves as I had to the speed bag.

He hit my mark and I pushed for all I was worth, successfully casting.

He rolled to the left as if somehow I had spun him sideways, but it was him rolling, his muscles guiding him past the obstacle, his training, his de-fensive off-fensive method of fighting.

I adjusted closer and pushed again. With the lack of grace of an inebriate that had truly pickled himself, his body seemed to roll bonelessly away from any force I applied.

He closed in.

Horror rose inside. I might have actually succeeded in firing my frustratingly out-of-reach spell, but I had no time to prepare it now. What I did have was a greater attack surface, thanks to the inverse square law and his mad approach.

I pushed toward his chest.

It didn't stop him, but it brought him up short because his wobbly trajectory had again transformed. He reared, bringing his red-gloved hooves up toward my face.

I felt the sudden reaction of his weight against my magical push as I shoved directly into his chest and this time he failed to slide away.

I wisely lifted my rear hooves so I was on their forward tips, reducing to zero the amount of drag the gummy part afforded. I slid back on the comparatively slick fabric part even as I saw him reach his legs around the visible apparition of my spell against his body, leading with his left hoof and following with his right. He was using my spell to anchor his legs and to direct force through them at my face.

I knew that I'd heard something about boxing before, because the term one-two punch came to mind.

The best I could do was rear up further and back away to dodge from his left hoof. With no choice but to get hit, I did the most expeditious thing and kept going, unbalancing myself so that I fell backward.

And still I pushed the spell at him, desperately trying to keep him.

His left punch fully missed, but now I was indeed going over and backwards. It was truly a pity that a unicorn couldn't self-levitate.

I reflexively shuffled my rear hooves, and shouldn't have. That kept me balanced and within reach an iota too long.

His right punch connected with the bridge of my nose. As the fabric dragged across and I lifted my head trying to compensate, I felt the snick of the cartilage cracking, then heard the sick wet sound from the inside.

Not a happy sound.

I pushed with Levitate with all I was worth, even as my neck snapped back and aside as the impulse of the strike carried back along my spine.

Over I went.

Despite a new bloom of pain, I had enough presence of mind to roll my head down toward my chest as I fell back. My defense tutor had first taught me how to fall, though never directly onto my back. I managed to land my flank first then roll and protect my all important horn—and skull—from impact. I yelled with all my growing rage that I could have been so easily defeated.

That yell turned into an oof as my wind got knocked out of my lungs by the impact against the cement. I didn't lose my spell, but I did lose my targeting.

I'd lost track of my position in space, between the punch and the vectors of chaos demonstrated by my fall. Intuitively, I compensated by spreading out the apparition, the volume of space where my projected magic manifested separate from my body. I channeled my fear and anger.

The blue-green nebulosity spread out into an arc that described a circular section of a sphere and took on a molasses-like consistency that rapidly solidified.

Grape stopped as I slid back on the ground, the back of my head fetched up against the hawser-like rope delineating the arena. The apparitional surface was wide enough that he couldn't roll one way or another even as he tried. I tilted it and compensated to support his shifting weight as he pulled one pseudo-drunken antic after another.

In effect, for a few seconds, I'd stopped and trapped him leaning toward me. I pushed with my rear legs trying to find some better traction, but that only brought them to my belly as the rope barrier kept me from going any further. I could see the archway pillar to my right. I'd luckily missed striking my horn by a hoof-width.

Though a pony, Grape actually roared his rage. His teeth clacked as he snapped at me, as if he would bite had he had the chance to connect.

I guess I'd managed to hit a sore spot with my taunt.

Wait a moment! My legs were flexed and I had caught him overbalanced toward me.

I swept up my rear legs.

I let go of my spell.

He fell toward me.

I brushed his ear with my right hoof, missing, but his instinctive dodging to my left combined with him reflexively trying to slow an inevitable face-plant in my groin, I struck him with my left hoof.

I hit his temple.

He jerked forward in a spasm. His full weight landed on top me with stunning force. He weighed about what I weighed, but if you've ever been so unlucky to have a sack of flour roll over on you (I had when I was six), it's substantial.

I had no wind to be struck out of me, so that was good. I gasped.

He had landed bonelessly on me.

My mind screamed, Dead!

Okay, I must have breathed, because I shrieked, batting with both my forelegs even as I planted my rear hooves. I thrust with my hips, and as that lifted him, I got my fore hooves under him then my rear hooves, and I shoved him to the right.

I shrieked again as he landed beside me with all the animation of that remembered falling sack of flour. My thoughts shifted 180° counter-clockwise and I jumped up.

He couldn't be dead. I couldn't have killed him. What had I done?

I was atop of him, ear against his chest with the speed of an earth pony.

Thump, thump.

"Thank Celestia!" I cried.

I lifted my front half and his chest went up and down. As I stood over him, blood from my side dripped on his leg.

Whistlebutt stallion-hoofed me out of the way as Dr. Feel galloped to his side.

Somebody on the other side of the rope said, "She knocked out Punch Drunk!"

Shouts of the same roared out all around, then cheers.

Dr. Feel's sky blue magic popped in and out of his body as she confirmed, "He's out cold."

"Punch Drunk?" I said, knowing I'd heard that name. "Punch Drunk? Wait? Not the stallion Shadow Strike said Secretariat beat to cinch the championship?"

"The one," Whistlebutt said, not turning from the purple stallion laying beside him. "So much for him trying for the championship this year."

The crowd chanted, "Princess Grim! Princess Grim! Princess Grim!"

I hissed and blinked. "Celestia on Roller-skates."

Grape, aka Punch Drunk, groaned, then coughed. He tried to get up, but Whistlebutt pushed him down. "Wha? W-W-Wha haffened?"

"Just rest, my friend."

I looked at the crowd. They were cheering me? I'd been incredibly lucky just now. I'd figured out Shield, which I'd studied since I'd first started defense training. Proper Step hadn't included it in the curriculum. Of course not. But I'd researched and had repeatedly failed to manifest it.

Until now.

I reviewed the math, modified the wish predicate to what I now knew it needed, and pushed splendors of magic into my horn.

An arc the size of a slice of watermelon manifested and I turned to face the closest ponies. They cheered even more. I felt my face warm.

My aches were coming painful. The hit above my eye had started to grow puffy and sent intermittent spikes of blue agony toward the center of my head. Oddly, I felt good.

I'd just beat another pony unconscious.

I'd just beat another pony unconscious.

I had just beaten another pony.

I liked the feeling.

A lot.

No, I adored it.

"Well, well," I said, letting the shield spell spin into oblivion, and smiled.

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