• Published 2nd Jan 2012
  • 13,216 Views, 2,495 Comments

Jericho - Crushric



If you came to hear a story, I'm sorry to disappoint. I suspect this'll just end up as one big confession, really. Still, with enough wit, some Prussian ingenuity, a droll sense of humor, and wanton murder, I might just be able to survive.

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Chapter 2 — Nemawaschi

Chapter Two: Nemawaschi

“When somepony offers to do you a favor, like making you a beautiful dress, you shouldn’t be overly critical of something generously given to you. In other words, you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so of me just blankly staring down at her hoof, nothing continued to happen. Finally, I managed to squeeze out something: “Pardon me?”

“I said, you seem a bit lonely out here.”

Of all the possible ponies that I run into, why did der Allmächtige have to send one that was highly attractive, a lady... and naked? Hes just trying to test my cool, isnt He? A dreary spark of recognition bloomed in my head. “Wait. Haven’t I seen you before? Earlier this night, in that inn?”

“Mm-hmm,” she chirped. “And do you know what?”

I didn’t reply, just stared into her eyes.

She frowned for a moment, but lost none of her initiative. “And do you know what?”

After another pause, I slithered my arms through my sleeves, taking them out into the cool but humid Equestrian air. “What?”

“I realized something: I didn’t know you. And, see, Ponyville’s a small town, the kind where everypony knows everypony else, the kind that isn’t exactly known for its tourism business.”

Wait. Pony. Ville. As in, a village of ponies? Thats really this places name? Wow. Just... wow, that’s awful. But I think fish is horrible and that rain is wet, so who am I to judge? Maybe it’s actually a very clever name.

The mare went on. “And then I find this very same pony brooding out in the rain, sitting all by himself.” She extended her arm, holding out a hoof towards me.

“Wha’?”

Eloquent as always.

The mare giggled. “Well, it’s a hoof, and I’m offering it to you, and you look so sad on that bench. You do the math.”

“But, Ma’am, I don’t even know your name.”

“Lyra, Lyra Heartstrings,” the mare offered. “And you?”

“Jericho.”

“What a strange name, Jericho. Never heard anything like it.”

“My father named me after some ancient city, I believe,” I said, shrugging. “I can’t help that he was a fair bit eccentric, Miss Heartstrings.”

She rolled her eyes. “Call me Lyra, not ‘Miss Heartstrings’.” Before I could reply, Lyra gave her extended hoof a jostle. “Come on. Don’t just sit there in the rain.”

My eyes shuffled to her hoof, peering at it, as if expecting it to suddenly slug me upside the jaw. Just dont ogle her naked body. Just dont ogle her naked body. Pretend shes wearing something. Anything! I don’t care. Just dont stare! Then, extending my hoof, I grabbed Lyra’s. Soon I was on my hooves, standing beneath her umbrella.

Lyra flashed me a smile. “You can let go now.”

“Huh?” I mumbled, looking down. “Oh. Oh, oh, oh, right.” Still looking at the ground, I let go of her.

“What are you doing out here, Jericho?” She took a step to the side. “You know, other than just looking lonely?”

“I—”

“Hey, here’s an idea: let’s go for a walk.”

This girl needs to get her head examined.

Mental cogs still slogging through the muck of confusion, I ambled after her, keeping pace and staying under the umbrella. “I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I lack a satisfactory answer. But were I to make one up, I would say, ‘sitting’.”

“I could see that,” she chuckled. “But why were you sitting out in the rain?”

“I had nowhere to spend the night. I had wanted to get a rest tonight, to leave tomorrow morning, but there were... complications.”

Lyra flashed me a sideways look as she stepped onto a stone bridge spanning a narrow brook. “What do you mean?”

“No Equestrian money, plenty of money from everywhere else. What was I to do?”

She paused, angling her head up to me. “What does that mean?”

Inclining my head, I replied, “When the total amount of time you’ve spent in Equestria is less than two hours, you don’t find much in the way of Bits.”

Now it was her turn to stare like an idiot. “What?”

“I said—”

“No, no, no. I know what you said. The other thing. What do you mean?”

I let the question hang in the air for a moment. “I’m not exactly from around here.”

Her mouth creaked open. “But, but, but, no way.” She spun around to face me, her umbrella consequently abandoning me.

“Have I done something wrong?”

“There’s no way you’re not from Equestria. You’re even speaking Equestrian!”

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. “I learned how.”

“How?” she demanded.

“Studying hard.”

“But you don’t even have a foreign accent at all!” she countered, shaking her head.

“Neither do you,” I said, my tone flat.

Lyra rubbed the bridge of her noses. “Look, I know ponies from up north with brogues that are almost unintelligible. I mean, you sound like you’re from Equestria. Maybe even somewhere in the South.”

“I had a good teacher.”

She put a hoof to her chin. “Well, well, if you’re not from Equestria, then... then you must know another language, right?”

I nodded, then cleared my throat. “Ich würde dir doch niemals belügen. Ich werde immer ehrlich sein. Ich würde dich doch nie etwas sagen, was nicht der Wahrheit entspricht.” I lifted my hoof and pounded it once over my breast. “Hand aufs Herz. Ich gebe dir mein Ehrenwort.”

The rain applauded me, and a singing cricket shot me a decent review. But even so, the mare before me held her tongue.

“My apologies; should I go?” I asked.

Nothing.

“Miss?”

“Oh, my,” she almost crooned, her eyes sparkling. “I don’t know what you said, but I liked it. A. Lot. There’s just something—” she hesitated “—spooky about it! There’s, like, a certain throaty toughness to it, I think.”

A weight rose from my breast. “All in all, what I said was: I would never lie to you. I will always be honest. I would never tell you something that was not true. Cross my heart. I give you my honor-word.”

She ran a hoof through her pale cyan mane, playing with the hair’s white stripes. “I, I just... wow. I’ve never met somepony from outside Equestria before. I mean, wow!”

“Is it really that big of a deal?”

“Um, yes!” Lyra leaned towards me. “Where ya from?”

“Teutschland,” I offered with some degree of hesitance. “And therefore am I ein Teutscher.”

“Toych-lahnt,” she slowly repeated. “Toych-uh.”

My eyes scanned the shadowy alleyways flanking the street before returning back to Lyra’s face. “Yes, Ma’am.”

A grin broke out across the mare’s face, only for her to swallow it down. Lyra took a deep breath, making of motion with her hoof that seemed almost to mime the action of breathing. “Okay, calm yourself down, girl,” she mumbled.

I allowed myself a hesitant step towards her. “Are you alright, Ma’am?”

Lyra shuffled, sliding up next to me as she put me back under the cover of her umbrella. “Come on, we’re wasting time,” she said, advancing forwards.

For a moment she was in front of me, and I was leering directly at her hinds. I thanked dem Allmächtigen that Lyra had such a long tail, the closest thing to a nod of decency I’d seen so far. With any luck, having such tails would be the dominant local fashion. Realizing that I was staring, I stumbled forwards, trying to keep pace with her. “Hey, wait up!”

“Sorry,” she giggled, pausing and letting me catch up. As I did so, she resumed walking, mumbling, “Oh, wait till I tell the girls about this one!”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, I, um, nothing.” Lyra chuckled. “So, I guess that means you haven’t heard the crazy news out of Baltimare, right? Been wanting to talk to somepony about that all day.”

Rather than reply, I simply cocked a brow. Is she right in the head?

“Well, you see, some sailor got caught up in a storm, they say, and a large wave was about to sink him. Apparently, he got saved when some titanic monster ate him.” She shook her head and sighed. “It’s sensationalist garbage, I’m sure, but I guess anything passes for news these days.”

I glanced around the empty Ponyville street Lyra was leading me down. “To where do we go?”

“Hmm? Where are we going, you mean? Well, you don’t have anywhere to go tonight, right?”

“Quite.”

“It’s not exactly a warm day, well, night out, either.”

I narrowed an eye. “What’s going on?”

Lyra stepped around a puddle, the umbrella momentarily shifting and rain hitting my hat. I picked up my pace for a moment, trying to keep under her umbrella. Noticing me falling slightly behind again, she paused and waited for me.

“And why are you out strolling around in the rain?” I continued as I got back under the umbrella.

“Can’t a girl walk around on her own?”

“That’s not the point. The point is that it’s rather odd to be wandering around in the rain. The streets are empty. We’re its only denizens.”

“Well, maybe I just like walking in the rain,” Lyra said, flashing me a mischievous smile. Eyes forward, she chuckled. “Or maybe I just accidentally got caught up in it. But, hey, that’s what you get for not paying attention to the forecast, am I right?”

“Oh, that makes sense. But why were you in that tavern, then?”

“Just a quick stop to talk to a friend of mine. Nothing major or time-consuming.”

I nodded. “I see.”

Lyra glanced over her shoulder. “So, tomorrow you’re heading out? You’re not staying... not even for a while?”

“The mere thought of me staying here for any longer than I need to be hasn’t even begun to speculate about the merest possibility of crossing my mind. It’s a quaint town, but I’d probably just cause problems.” I hesitated. “Why do you ask?”

She made a hard turn right.

Scheiße, stop jumping around,” I mumbled as I turned after her.

As the rain slid off her umbrella, the mare walked up to a house. Stopping at the door, she used her magic to fish around in her little saddlebag.

The raw temptation to observe her work overtook me. Attempting to avoid catching sight of anything too sensitive of hers, I crept sideways. After only a few steps to the side, my heart froze as I caught a glimpse of her haunches, a piece of her mortal soul laying bare for all to gaze upon. It was simple, just a golden lyre resting at a slight angle. Yet it somehow looked as if der Allmächtige Himself had put all of His creativity into etching this part of her soul onto her naked body, like a legendary artist making every brushstroke with the greatest of love and the deftest of care. The strings on her lyre, even, looked so realistic and perfect that it felt as though I could just reach out and play the mare herself as an instrument.

Maschinengeist, give me strength yet,” I muttered, forcing my eyes away from her lyre mark and to the ground. “Es tut mir leid,” I apologized.

“You say something?” she asked.

“No. I mean, yes. I mean—” I stopped and took a breath. “Why are we at a house?”

“You like asking questions, don’t you?”

“A very bad habit, but one I find hard to break,” I replied in a cool tone of voice, recomposing myself.

“Ah, there you are,” she cooed to her bag, levitating out a small key. Humming to herself, Lyra slipped the key into the door, turned it, and I heard the tumblers click. As she put the key back, she twisted the knob and pushed the door open. The mare looked over her shoulder to me. “Coming?”

I just stared at her.

Lyra rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. Don’t just stand there in the rain.” She gestured her head towards the house. “Come on in.”

Setting a hesitant hoof forwards, I eyed her, as if expecting her to bite. Another hoof over the other, and soon I stood in the dark house. The door shut behind me, prompting me to spin around. There, folding the umbrella, was the naked lady, remarkably dry for all things considered.

Catching my look, she chuckled. “What? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“More akin to witnessing a scenario that’s played out far too often in the past,” I muttered, “one that ends with bad things happening to either me or my player character.”

“What was that?”

“Huh? Oh, just muttering my thanks to you for, uh, bothering,” I stammered.

She smiled. “You know, you don’t have to wear a soaking wet outfit indoors, right?”

Staring at her, I took my cap off, then, slowly, worked to remove my duster. As I did so, she flicked on a light and walked into the next room over. Peering down into the darkness of the rest of the house, I could only make out a hallway and maybe a staircase, as well as a doorway leading into some sort of den. To my flank was a doorway leading to the room Lyra was in, the kitchen.

When my gear was off, I looked around for a hat or coat rack, but found nothing of the sort. After folding my duster, I set it onto the floor, then gingerly topped it with my hat. On the wall by where I’d put my duster, I observed, was a black-and-white poster of several instruments, the caption reading, “La Musique est Magique!” which I instantly translated in my head as “Music is Magic!” The poster had a signature on it, but I couldn’t read the cursive script—partly because it was dark, partly because I just couldn’t read cursive. Calligraphy, as far as I was concerned, was a dead art.

I sighed, patting myself down to make sure I was presentable when I remembered what else I was wearing, something which I thought might frighten my hostess. Quickly I removed the dagger and its sheath from my shoulder, sliding it under my folded clothes. As I attempted to remove my sword’s sheath, the girl came out of the kitchen. Our eyes met.

“Hi,” she said, staring at the sheathed weapon in my hooves.

“Fräulein,” I replied, giving her nod.

A pregnant pause.

Her eyes flicked over my body. “Interesting outfit.”

I adjusted up the waistline of my black suit pants. “One always overcompensates for disabilities. I’ve been thinking of having my entire body surgically removed.”

“Wha’?”

“But until the day that happens, I’ll just stick to wearing awesome outfits; they make me feel cool.” As I set the sheath down next to my hat, I turned to her. “Can I ask why you brought me here?”

Lyra licked her lips. “Well, since it’s cold out there, I figured you wouldn’t mind for some tea.” She flicked her gaze to the left. “I felt rather bad for you, just sitting there and looking all sad-like.” Stepping back into the threshold of the kitchen, she said, “If you’d like, the tea’s ready to drink now. I started it before I left, so, I mean, it should be ready. Or burnt.” She put a hoof to her chin. “Can you burn tea?”

For the longest time I just stared at her, and, slowly, she seemed to shrink away from me.

As completely unrealistic as this situation is, we’d best play along. There’s no telling what could offend these ponies. I nodded. “Thank you kindly, Ma’am. I love tea.”

She let out a quiet sigh and put a hoof over her breast. “Great! I was worried there for a second.”

I soon sat at a small table with Lyra sitting across from me. Before me, placed atop a little plate which itself rested upon the wooden table, was a cup filled with a semi-opaque brown liquid. The mare eyed me, as if studying every motion and hunting for weaknesses.

Adjusting the collar of the white shirt beneath my black suit, I looked to the side, to the rest of the room which composed both kitchen and dining room. “Nice place you have here,” I commented, my gaze falling to the teacup’s liquid.

“You know, that’s a strange outfit you’re wearing,” she observed, playing with her mane. “Is it cultural?”

I shrugged.

She shot me a small smile. “You look almost like an undertaker, wearing all of that.”

“So I’m told.”

I took a quick survey of the room, taking in the sights. To the wall on my right was a noir-esque mural of a jazz band playing on a dark stage; a mare who looked almost like Lyra was playing a lyre somewhere in the middle. On the wall behind me and next to a doorway to some other room was a framed painting of a strange green parrot with a yellow neck, red face, and white beak perched upon Lyra’s head; she was smiling and looked to still be just a filly, but it was definitely her. I mistook it at first for a photo, it was painted so lifelike and realistic. But then I saw a signature at the bottom right, “J.J. Audubon.”

“Aren’t you going to take a drink?” Lyra asked, indicating my cup.

I saw a note posted on the room’s icebox. Squinting, I barely was able to make out a few words, namely, “Dear Lyra: How NOT to make tea—”

“Ladies first,” I replied, nodding to her drink.

Lyra rolled her eyes, smiling playfully. She took a sip. “Now it’s your turn.”

Last time a girl offered you a drink, it was poisoned. That was fun, though, trying to solve your own murder. Still surprised we managed to torture the cure out of her so easilyand all we had to do was manually remove her ovaries without the use of anesthetics.

I inclined a brow. “Hmm. Friendly company, warmth, shelter from the rain, and a hot drink too. With all my good fortune, I wouldn’t suppose the tea’s poisoned, is it?”

“Oh, just drink it,” she chuckled, and I eyed her every action. Lyra’s facial muscles contracted in a perfectly natural way, and their timing was just as natural. Her eyes remained on me, save for a quick, bemused roll. Her body language was fluid, not stiff, and her whole form stayed facing me. She didn’t give an out of place shake or nod of her head. Her voice had inflected naturally when she laughed.

Okay, so her body language just then suggested that she’s not lying. However, she didn’t make a direct statement, didnt tell me that it wasnt poisoned.

Raising my forehooves in a mock defensive gesture, I said, “Hey, I’ve had far too many experiences with cute girls and poisoned drinks. Do forgive me if I’m a bit paranoid.”

“Sure, sure. That’s not at all silly,” she said with a playful roll of the eyes.

Comparing her current behavior and physical mannerism to how she was earlier, I think I can safely assume shes not trying to murder me. Accidental food poisoning, on the other hoof…

I took a sip of the liquid. “Mmh.”

Ach lieb Gott im Himmel, what vile womb spat out this horrid ichor?!

“So?” she asked, leaning forwards. “How is it?”

“To put it as precisely as possible, it tasted like a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

“Huh?”

I shook my head. “It’s fine, Miss Lyra.”

“Oh.” She smiled. “I’m glad. I’m usually an awful cook.”

I can tell!

“Well, it’s a hot drink with nice company; my answers have been prayered.” I blinked. “Prayers been answered.”

She giggled.

Setting the drink down, I sighed. “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Only if I can ask you one.”

“Deal.” I adjusted my collar. “This is a rather large house for a girl on her own, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, yeah, you caught me.” She held up her forehooves. “I don’t live alone.”

“Boyfriend?”

Lyra laughed. “No, no, nothing like that. I suppose you could call her my, uh, best friend, but she’s out this week for some family thing. She’s supposed to get back sometime soon, but she neglected to tell me when.” She shrugged. “I shouldn’t worry about her.”

I nodded.

“So, it’s my turn,” Lyra said with a smirk. “Without that coat you were wearing, you look almost like the director of a funeral parlor, with that impeccable black suit and white shirt. But you’re clearly no mortician: the suit looks too expensive, the cut too... elegant and fresh.” She leaned forwards. “What’d you do back home?”

“Nemawaschien.”

“Neh-mah-vah-sheen?” The mare tilted her head to the side. “Huh?”

“Nemawaschien. It’s a word that’s hard to translate, especially since it’s a loanword. In its original context, the word was ‘nemawaschi’, which literally meant ‘digging around the roots of a tree, to prepare it for a transplant’. By the time it entered our vocabulary, it came to mean ‘to lay the groundwork’, which is more-or-less what the phrase meant to those we borrowed it from.” I sat back in the chair. “In more precise terms, I laid the groundwork for a safer society. I even had a title, Spezialagent.” Letting out a nostalgic sigh, I shook my head. “It was things like that which probably contributed a great deal to making me the psychological mess I am today.”

Lyra opened her mouth, only to be interrupted by a knocking at the front door. She glanced over her shoulder. “Um, I’ll be right back.”

“Please, take your time,” I replied as she stood up.

As she left the kitchen, I looked down at the table. There was a newspaper, the headline reading: “Monster! Off the Coast of Balitmare!” Pushing my cup to the side, I picked up the paper.

The article’s cover depicted a stallion lying in a hospital bed. His face sported a two-day-old beard, the white of his eyes so bloodshot they looked purple, and bandages covered a good portion of his body. He was holding out his hoof; held within was a black pin depicting some sort of bird of prey.

“Ponies have always been fascinated by tales of monsters, from wereponies to sea serpents, from the kraken to mind flayers. Today we add a new monster to that list of those that fascinate us: the Steel Leviathan.”

Aren’t conjunctive adverbs like today” usually followed by a comma? I’m not even an Equestrian, and even I know that.

“Last night, during a large storm just off the Equestrian shelf, Baltimare local Sharp Eyes met such a monster. ‘In all my years as a photographer,’ he told reporters, ‘I’ve never really believed in monsters. Now I can’t say that anymore.’ Sharp Eyes went on to say that his career was all about taking beautiful photos of nature at her deadliest, ‘from roosting dragons, to active volcanoes, to the dangers up in the Crystal Empire. I’ve always been the first on the scene, camera in hoof. Last night… [however], I thought I’d try to get perhaps the most dangerous snapshot of all: images of a storm at sea.’ He says that he went out near the Equestrian shelf, where the ocean suddenly deepens by monumental levels, eventually leading into the abyssal plain.”

The article went on to give information on how the Equestrian shelf was long a notable area for monster sightings back during the old days. I put the paper down as a voice from the front door got louder; it wasn’t Lyra’s, but that of another mare.

“No, no, Lyra, I’ve got it covered,” the other voice said. “I’m just glad to be back so soon. So, anything fun happen while I was—” She gasped as she caught sight of me. Her eyes had already gone wide.

There, standing in the doorway between the little foyer and the kitchen, was an earth pony mare with a cream coat. Her arctic blue eyes stared at me as she held a half-closed umbrella to the side. Though not soaked, water still dripped from her fuchsia-highlighted mane of cobalt blue.

Our eyes met, and a heavy, uncomfortable silence overtook the room.

Slowly, as though her neck were made of rusted clockwork, she turned her head to Lyra. The mint-coated mare was standing just slightly behind her friend and trying her best to look completely innocent. “Lyra,” the cream mare said in a calm, almost dangerous voice, “why is there a stallion wearing a suit in our kitchen?”

“Um,” Lyra droned.

Lyra, what did you do this time?”

“Good evening, Ma’am,” I said before taking a sip of my drink.

She flashed me a glance, then looked back at Lyra, who forced a smile and an awkward chuckle. The mare took a deep breath, then gave me her attention. “Terribly sorry, where are my manners? My name is, uh, Bon Bon. And you are?”

After quaffing the rest of Lyra’s concoction, I flashed Bon Bon a smile. “Name’s Jericho.”

“Yeah,” Lyra said. “I invited him over because he looked lonely and because he’s not from around here.”

Here we go.

The perky girl gave Bon Bon an outline of what she knew about me, not that I paid any attention. Somehow during the span of my aloofness, the mares had sat down at the table. They now both possessed their own steaming cups of Lyra’s unconscionable ichor.

“So you’re really not from around here?” Bon Bon asked, snapping me out of my daze.

I ran a hoof through my hair as I settled back into reality. “Correct, Ma’am.”

“And so what were you planning on doing?”

“Spend my night on a park bench, in the rain. Perhaps there was a better solution, but I was too exhausted to search any further,” I said with a shrug.

“No specie?” she asked.

“No what now?”

“Specie. It means any form of coined money.”

“Oh, I have specie, just none of it Equestrian, as I’ve said.”

“It’s like I said,” Lyra chimed. “He just looked so lonely, and I just felt so bad.”

Bon Bon gave Lyra a look, whispering, “He’s not some stray cat, you know.”

“Well, yeah,” Lyra replied, her voice also quiet.

As they began to talk, I picked up the paper and briefly skimmed through the day’s other major story. Apparently, the Equestrian western frontier was in grave danger from the buffalo. As the settlers expanded their operations further into the frontier, they appeared to have angered Chief Standing Bull and Chief Crazy Horns, two incredibly influential figures to the buffalo. However, Chief Thunderhooves, a known friend to the Equestrians, had strongly urged for both sides to cooperate. There was also mention of how Chief Thunderhooves had been invited to tour Equestria so that he could gain a better understanding of Equestria and her ponies, and that Princess Luna was to personally greet him when he arrived.

“You were planning something, weren’t you?” Bon Bon accused as I put the paper down.

“Why do you say that?” Lyra said innocently.

Bon Bon shot Lyra a blank expression. “You know why.”

“Okay, maybe. But what was I supposed to do? I’d feel bad if I just left him there. I mean, he just seemed so lonely, and it’s probably because he’s so far from home.”

“It was bad enough when you went through that phase where you kept bringing home stray cats. But this? You brought a strange stallion into our home, and who knows what kind of foreign things he’ll do.”

They know I can hear them, right?

“Sie wissen, ich kann Sie hören, ja?” I muttered at them, shaking my head.

“Hmm?” they chimed in unison, looking at me.

“Oh, nothing,” I chirped. “Just remarking on how lovely your house is.”

Lyra glanced at Bon Bon, smirked, then looked at me. “Say, Jericho, you don’t have anywhere to spend the night, right?”

Bon Bon’s eyes flicked to Lyra.

I nodded. “Indeed, Fräulein.”

“Froy-line?” she asked. “You’ve used that before, right?”

Fräulein is a slightly dated term for ‘Miss’. That’s Miss as in ‘Miss Lyra’, not in the ‘I miss you’ sense. Point being, you are most correct; I have nowhere proper to spend the night.”

“Oh, okay,” Lyra replied. “So, Jericho, since you don’t have anywhere and plan to leave in the morning, don’t suppose you’d like to spend the night here, would you?”

Bon Bon’s eyes nearly burst out of their sockets. When she forced them back into her skull, she glared at Lyra.

“Excusez-moi?” I asked, blinking.

Lyra shrugged. “Well, we’d feel bad if we just left you out there in the rain, riiight, Bon Bon?”

Gritting her teeth, Bon Bon replied, “Of course, Lyra.”

“See,” Lyra went on, “a while ago we tried renovating the basement because of—” she glanced at her friend “—reasons, but all we managed to do was create a guest bedroom and a fully featured bathroom. Other than that, there’s only the laundry room in there. If you wanted to, you could hold up there for the night.”

“But then that would be rude of me,” I replied in a calm voice.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been so kind as to offer me tea and company during a rainstorm. I’d hate to impose any further on you, Ma’am.”

“But then where else would you go? Back to the park?” she asked.

Bon Bon flashed me a look.

I shrugged. “Or maybe the graveyard.”

“But those are, like, haunted,” Lyra replied.

I shook my head. “Graveyards aren’t haunted, hospitals are.”

“What?”

“Well, if you think about it, ponies die in hospitals, but are buried in graveyards. So, logically, they would haunt where they died, the hospitals. A graveyard should probably be one of the safest places to sleep: there are no ghosts; and nopony will bother you, as they think ghosts are there.”

She put a hoof to her chin. “That makes sense. Too much sense.”

“My point being, were I to accept your offer,” I continued, “I would be most mortified about having nothing to repay you with, save for worthless trinkets from across the globe.”

More importantly, I’d be in your debt. And we can’t be having that, now can we?

Turning her icy eyes to Lyra, Bon Bon remained silent.

Flashing Bon Bon an “oh, yeah?” smirk, Lyra said, “I have an idea, then.”

I tilted my head to the side.

“Here’s what we’ll do, a trade. Bartering, if you will. You give me—I mean, us something interesting that you have, it doesn’t really matter what, and we’ll take that as payment, hmm? That way we get something neat to show to our friends, and you get a roof over your head.” She chuckled. “And I don’t feel bad about leaving you out in the rain.”

As I pushed back my chair, I stood up, noticing that Bon Bon was grinding her teeth. “I’ll be right back, Ma’am.”

Sauntering into the hallway, I found a smile on my face as I heard the furious whisperings of the mares. Getting to my bags and rifling through them, I found myself muttering. “Nein… nein… nein… Oder ja? Ja, erledigt!”

Picking up something that I thought would strike Lyra’s fancy, I closed my bags and stood up. I turned around and strolled onto the tiles of the kitchen. The whispering quickly jerked to a stop.

“Ladies,” I greeted, walking up to the table.

Lyra offered me a victorious smile. Bon Bon just sulked in her chair, her shoulders scrunched together and eyes to the wall.

Setting down a tiny coin purse on the table, I yawned. “Here’s a neat little thing for you.”

That I looted from the dead body of a tomb robber whose throat I slashed, I didn’t clarify.

Flipping out my dagger, I positioned it beneath the strings that tied the purse together. With a swift motion of the blade upwards, the string split and the bag’s contents bloomed for them to see. The mares gasped as I slid the knife back in its sheath, which I was now wearing around my waist.

“I-is that real gold?” Lyra asked, jaw open.

I shrugged. “Well, they always told me that ladies liked shiny things. Never really understood why that was.”

Bon Bon reached into her little saddlebag, which was unceremoniously placed by the foot of her chair, and pulled out a tiny coin of her own. Putting it on the table, she compared it to the coinage from my purse. “By Celestia, that’s the real McCoy.”

Looking down at her coin, I noted that it almost looked like gold. In fact, if viewed from a distance, one could easily mistake it for gold; yet her coin, in reality, was not actual gold, but some kind of look-alike metal.

“What’s that coin you’ve got there. Ma’am?” I finally asked.

“Huh?” Bon Bon looked up at me. “Oh. This is an Equestrian Bit, our unit of currency.”

“Why’s it made of false gold?”

“You’ve got a sharp eye,” Lyra said through a forced chuckle. “The prices of gold, stocks and such, are through the roof and getting cozy with Nightm—” She stopped, shaking her head. “Er, sorry, force of habit, using an old phrase that we shouldn’t say anymore.” She swallowed. “See, it’s kinda hard to use actual gold for currency when its price is so high. But this? This is, like, wow.”

I was about to mention how the money from my homeland is usually printed on slips of special blend of wool and linen that most ponies mistakenly think is paper, but I didn’t. Instead, I asked a question: “So, if I gave these to you, would that cover any cost?”

Bon Bon snapped her attention to me. “With this? Heh. This is enough to cover any possible costs from that, and probably a few months of the mortgage too.” She flicked her gaze to meet Lyra’s, then cocked a brow. “Plus a few other things.”

Lyra giggled, rolling her eyes.

“So, you’ll accept it, then?” I asked.

“Of course!” they both replied in unison, and laughed.

I’m glad Ive got tons of inconsequential gold just sitting around in my pack. It can’t be healthy, hoarding all those tons of it. But, hey, now I know that Equestrians will accept my random coinage.

I nodded. “Most agreeable. I don’t feel bad about accepting such a generous offer, I get a room for a night, and you gals get to do whatever with that gold stuff.”

Lyra stood up. “Hey, so, want me to show you where that spare room is, hmm? It’s a little bare, but functional.”

“I’d be delighted to, Fräulein.”

She giggled. “That's such an odd word. Whenever you say it, it sounds like you’re purring.”

I was about to say something in response, but I struck the thought from my head when it dawned on me that my words might be interpreted as flirtation. So I just nodded at her and smiled. I glanced to the side, momentarily peering out of the kitchen window. There, resting so peacefully on the outside sill of the window, was a paper crane.

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