• Published 19th Oct 2012
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Eljunbyro - Imploding Colon



Bellesmith must perform experimental tasks in order to keep herself and her beloved safe.

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Straight Strokes

"Now this is more like it, girl," Eagle Eye said with a rosy smile. He leaned back from his intricate task and telekinetically slid a wooden bucket full of water over into the torchlight. "Gone are the days of running around with a hideously unnecessary tangled mess." He winced slightly. "Well, for the time being, at least."

"Hmmmm..." She leaned in and smiled at the multiple, immaculate braids made out of her mane. "You know, EE, to be perfectly honest, I can't remember the last time my mane was taken care of this nicely."

"Surely you jest!" he exclaimed. "Have you really been on the run that long?"

"It's not so much that. There was a time when I could brush it myself, but I relied so much on telekinesis. But... well... that all changed, obviously." She turned her half-horned head from side to side, examining her reflection from multiple angles. "I've tried asking Pilate to help me with it, since his hooves are more dexterous than mine. Though I love him to death, it doesn't make him sprout a working pair of a hair salonist's eyes overnight."

"Awwwww..." Eagle Eye smiled. "I'm sure he adores your mane through and through, in his own way."

"Ooooh... Most definitely," Belle purred, then blushed slightly. "Er... ahem." She turned and smiled pleasantly at the mercenary. "Thank you so very much, EE."

"Hehehe..." He smiled with his violet eyes shut. "It was my pleasure. You have no idea."

"Seriously, though. It means a lot to me to feel so... I dunno, prim and proper? For once?" She stifled a giggle. "Back where I used to live, I didn't have many marefriends to help me with the small things like—" She winced heavily, and navigated a grimace to stammer, "I-I didn't mean it that way! Uhm..."

"It's quite alright," Eagle Eye said with a calm smile. "I know you didn't mean anything bad by it."

"Really. I'm sorry. I—"

"It's okay," he said, resting a hoof on her shoulder. "Trust me. Heh." His eyes became thin slits. "You're no Zenith."

"Of that, I am definitely sure."

"Do you seriously wish to hang out with them?" Belle blinked. "Once you've returned home and headed south to colonize beyond Franzington, I mean."

"Eh..." Eagle Eye shrugged, glancing pensively aside. "I've lived with them just fine so far, haven't I? Besides..." He brought a hoof up and straightened his violet bangs as a tiny smile beset his features. "So long as Crimson's around, I think I'll do just fine."

Right after that, a familiar stallion's face appeared in the bucket's reflection. "So long as I'm around where?"

"Eeep!" Eagle Eye jumped up onto all four hooves. "Uhhh... uhm..." He levitated his sword and shield up from the corner of the granite chamber and hooked them back onto his vest. "I was just... I was j-just about to back on patrol! Why would I be braiding Bellesmith's beautiful mane while I have a delapidated castle to observe? Ha! Th-that's just silly—"

"Calm down, EE," Crimson said with a gentle wave of his hoof. "It's been a while since I last heard from Zenith and Phoenix. Could you go check up on them?"

"Absolutely, Crimson—er, I mean, anything you say, Captain!" He scampered off.

"Don't forget your torch!" Belle called after him.

"Don't worry! I've got my horn—" Eagle Eye bumped into a wall. "Ow! Ahem... d-don't want to spread too much light around!" He alighted the edge of the ruins and galloped beyond sight.

She smiled in the direction that he had left. With a sigh, she turned and looked towards Crimson. "He wouldn't have lasted a single day as a fugitive without the rest of you, would he?"

"Don't underestimate the pony," Crimson said in a deep voice as he paced across the torchlit interior. "He's very good with a blade, and his senses detect enemy presence long before the rest of us."

"Well, he certainly is resourceful," she said, then flounced her braided mane with something akin to a proud smile. "Not to mention artistic."

"Hmmmm... indeed." Crimson strolled to the edge of the enclosure and squinted out into the nocturnal vista of Foxtaur. "Though he's helpful with his skills from time to time, he'd do a lot more good with a pen and paper than a sword and shield."

"Maybe he can pick up drawing when he gets back to Franzington?"

Crimson's nostrils flared as he murmured, "He can pick up whatever the hay he wants, so long as we get back there."

Belle gazed at him. With a nervous shudder, she let her eyes fall down to the floor of the place. "I am sorry, Captain, if our arrival here has jeopardized your chances of getting home sooner—"

"Your beloved has discovered a series of symbols down in the lower chambers," Crimson said.

Belle blinked at that. "Oh?"

"Well, it's not so much that he discovered them," Crimson said. "They were here before when we first stumbled upon Site Beta. However, they seem to be of major significance to your mate."

"That's... quite intriguing," Belle said with a nod. "I wonder if I should join him..."

"He's likely to talk your ear off if you do."

"Heehee... you say that as if I'm not used to it."

"I can see why you picked him as your life partner," Crimson said. "His heart and soul resonate with enthusiasm and discovery."

"Yes, I am certainly a lucky mare," Belle said, then tentatively added. "Though I doubt I would have been quite as lucky if he and I met in Franzington."

At that, Crimson's eyebrow raised. He glanced Belle's way, then said, "I see that EE has told you about our province."

"I knew enough as it was from common, geographical knowledge," Bellesmith said. "But more is always gained from the horse's mouth, as t'were."

"He's awfully homesick," Crimson murmured. "Moreso than the other two, at least."

"Is that truly so?" Belle's face hung in a sympathetic expression. "He's such a positive pony, and yet he hides so much sorrow and disappointment."

"How do you mean?"

"You don't have to try to pretend so hard that he's not sad," Belle said softly. "You know as well as I do that he has nothing to return to." She gulped. "No family."

"Yes, well..." Crimson shuffled uncomfortably, gazing back into Foxtaur. "He has his own tenacity."

"He has you, Captain," Belle said in a solid voice. "You've made such a difference in his life."

"All I want is for him to get back safely," Crimson said, his jaw tightening. "He's... like a brother to me..."

"It's way more than that," Belle said softly. She leaned forward. "He adores you, Crimson. He truly, deeply cares for you."

Crimson was silent.

"Surely you can't be ignorant of that..."

The muscular stallion closed his eyes. After a deep breath, he pivoted about and paced Belle's way. "I have a family back home," he said solidly. "I have a beloved who's waiting for me, and two foals—aged three and five winters. I want to see them so much that I almost want to scream in the middle of my sleep at night." He came to a stop, his heavy hooves scuffling. "But all the same, I want to see my fellow soldiers reach home just as much. They've given so much, and there were so many m-more stallions before them that gave their very lives." He paused to compose the sudden shakiness in his voice. "There were times, Ms. Bellesmith, when I could have sworn Eagle Eye wanted nothing more than to let adversity triumph."

"H-how do you mean?" she asked.

"Let's just say that half the times I dragged him from battle, it was against his will," Crimson said, his ears partially drooped. "It took him several months before he could muster the courage to tell me about his father... about his family. But it didn't matter; I had figured out most of it on my own. He really does not have anything to return to in Franzington. I'm quite sure, Ms. Bellesmith, that he only went to war because he knew that it would kill him."

"Then... what changed?"

He glared into space as if facing the enemy. "I couldn't let it come to that. I couldn't let his own sorrow and misfortune consume him." He turned to look at her. "Not all ponies of Franzington dance to the same, traditional song, Ms. Bellesmith. I can only imagine what you think of my culture, of the rules and regulations we and our beloveds adhere to. I'm here to tell you that a soul can change. There is enough mayhem and carnage in battle to realize that all life is precious, and all too easily snuffed out. I may have thought differently once, but now I can't for the life of me imagine the gall of some ponies to tell others how and in what fashion to live out their short, meager days." He sighed. "And my heart goes out to EE... just not as much of it as he would hope for."

"Do you..." Belle narrowed her eyes. "Do you plan on telling him exactly how you feel?"

"You mean 'exactly how you don't feel?'"

She bit her tongue.

He smiled slightly. "I only want to get him out of Confederacy territory safely. If in the end he is heart-broken, which I very much doubt, at least he will be in the condition to have a heart. Then, with our combined resources in tow, we can find a place beyond the mountains to start a life where he won't feel the weight of unnecessary guilt on his shoulders. He deserves a long existence, full of all the love and beauty that he craves. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get him—and Phoenix and Zenith, for that matter—to that point."

Belle nodded. "Well, I hope you get there, Captain."

"And I hope you get to wherever you need to go too," he said. "In the end, we're all just trying to get home, even if we don't know what that home is."

"Well..." Belle's face suddenly grimaced in pain and worry. "Not all of us."

Crimson blinked at that, then exhaled in understanding. He hung his head briefly before straightening his shoulders, walking over, and tilting Belle's chin up.

"She will arrive here sooner than later, Ms. Bellesmith," he said. "Just as I have given EE reasons to live, I suspect you and Pilate have inspired Rainbow Dash to overcome all odds as well."

She blinked at him, and then her face broke out into a serene smile. "You have no idea."

"It would do you well to sleep, but if you can't, your beloved is just the next closest stairwell down," he said as he trotted off towards the other end of the ruins. "If you would excuse me, I have to go check on my fellow soldiers."

'But of course you have to..." She smiled proudly as he departed into the night.

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