The evening was basking in the final hot rays of the sun, a certainly hot day was passing. Richard Henson was wiping the sweat from his forehead. Behind him was the training parkour he had set up. For hours now he had trained, his muscles burning, the droplets of sweat running down his back making him feel every little cold breeze.
That's when a female voice approached him.
"Final evaluation day is tomorrow, Richie." Turning around, he saw Flower Star slowly trotting towards him. A pleasant natured unicorn mare with white coat, crystal blue eyes and golden mane. Like him, she seemed sweaty and with that towel over her back it was obvious she came from her own exercise."Do you feel ready?"
"I don't know. I guess I will give my best as usual. That's all I can do. If my best isn't good enough, then maybe I'm not fit for it at all."
Taking a glance over to the parkour, she began to smirk.
"So you're just killing some waiting time on our parkour, hm? Mind if I join?"
Having the parkour behind him, Richard shook his head.
"Can't say that I do..." The last two months were brutal. Constant physical training for him to get him into top shape while in the same time educating him over Equestria's society. They weren't lying that the test phase for Harmony Rangers were torture. But now, honed to this state of the fittest he ever felt, Richard felt so prepared. Taking the parkour with Flower while at the same time sparring with her was as awesome as it was tiring. At first, the two of them fell almost all the time, even without a sparring partner to go with. But with healing magic and iron willpower, they somehow managed to be among the best of the recruits for the HQ after one and a half month. Now, after all that time, their sparring became almost a dance of blade strikes, blunt hits and evasion, all while taking precised steps. It helped them to concentrate on their opponent while also paying close attention to their surroundings
Flower Star was a recruit like he was and had her own training routine. Often they trained together, but being a unicorn pony, she was always stronger and faster than him. What he considered running was endurance jogging for her. Often she happily obliged to run along to have some company. Now, in combat, his agility and speed ascended him on par with her strength and speed, him often evading her strikes and blows, sometimes even landing weaker hits on her legs or rear. After all this training, both of them seemed equal as combatants.
After a long parkour, the two opponents jumped to a resting area within the parkour. Both catching their breath were smiling at each other, enjoyed this training session as always. Flower then nodded over to him.
"It's strange that the things we take for granted are things we never imagined we could actually need the most."
Then after a jump back to the parkour and another long exchange of hits and strikes, both opponents struck at each other, their weapons halting at each neck. A dynamic duo, able to adjust their strikes to neither injure their partner or damage their weapon.
It always surprised Richard how agile she could be, how swift and precise her strikes with the levitated sword were. Even if he only used a wooden staff to train, she never cut it, but simply tapped on it with the edge of her blade. He on the other hand didn't thrust so hard that he might injure her. Then again, her horn and her magic empowered her to have more agility in her swordsmanship than an earth pony or Pegasus. Now, with each of them having their weapons at their throats, it was an even count and both smirked knowingly at each other.
Flower would have decapitated him if her attack would have gone through and he would have crushed her throat with his wooden staff. Giving a grin, she caught her breath and nodded.
"Richie,you're finally are warming up. Good... Listen, there's another thing I want to tell you... Don't worry, the communication crystals are down. What I want to tell you is between you and me alone."
Arching a brow, Richard then let out a chuckle.
"Now what, girl? You're going to propose to me?"
The smirk on her lips grew a bit, before her face sobered to a serious expression
"Maybe? Listen up now, this is important! I'm going to join them. And I want you to join me."
All of a sudden, a bad feeling crept up Richard's guts
"Stop this crap right there, Flower Star... Get serious."
Her eyes narrowed,
"I am serious and you know that I wouldn't kid with this. I really thought you would know me better after spending such a long, intimate time with me."
Richard blushed. It was true. Working with his partner most of the time for three months now, since his arrival in Equestria, they both became very accustomed to each other, shared the same quarter, the same bed... After all that, it became natural somehow to be intimate with one another. It all started with a bad joke from him, stating that mares are like human women, only bend over already and ready for it.
At that time, she simply stared at him before stating that mares don't bend over. He expected her to yell at him. What he didn't expect was her stating that mares invite to sex by raising their tail, before actually doing it. Like most mares, Flower Star took great pleasure from a human lover and greeted this deep bonding with open arms, or in her case, with open hooves. When Richard looked up to her again now, he only saw a determined glare. Taking a gulp, he slowly shook his head. This mare either wasn't kidding or was hiding it like a professional.
"Flower, you're really beginning to freak me out."
She stared at him, ever watchful, and somehow, slowly creeping him out. There was something about her today totally different than the other times she was with him.
"Good, then you listen to me very carefully! It's only a matter of time until the Harmony Rangers fall victim to the Descendants. You weren't there when it happened, but their ingenuity knows almost no bounds... And I'm not losing you over this. Come with me..."
"But we can't just leave everything behind!" he evaded, "I do love you, but I won't stab this entire nation in the back just because you're afraid of losing! We can't do-"
"We can!" she interrupted him harshly, twisting her sword and striking his wooden staff, cutting it in half. Richard's eyes became wide in an instant. This was serious; she never destroyed his weapon. Ever. "I've come to my senses, Richie. You should do the same!"
Jumping backwards with a somersault, Richard landed on a wall beside the training field, and jumped right to the warehouse nearby.
"Should I?" Stepping inside, he knew that this was a serious problem. She was actually playing with the thought of defection. If he wanted to get out of this, he would either face her in combat or convince her that this was a stupid idea. His staff was gone, so subduing her was out of the question. He still had his sword and combat knife, but this would mean lethal force he wanted to avoid. Hiding between the crates of the warehouse, he could buy himself some time to think of something.
But his time wasn't that long, as a few moments later the doors to the warehouse were blasted open with magic and Flower Star stepped inside the warehouse. Slowly trotting through the crates and bulky items, she rose her voice.
"You disagree with me? I heard even the technological terrors you humans have had no effect on the Darkness Sisters. How do you expect us to win this? But I don't care about winning anything anymore. What's important is you and me being together. Are you listening to me?!? You know I'm right..."
To his fortune, the warehouse was quite dark and with blasting the doors open, Flower had also destroyed the only switch to activate the lights. She couldn't spot him right away, so he also rose his voice.
"And I suppose that this is reason enough to roll over and do as they please? No! We have to remain united against them! I can't split up from the others right now just because you want to go the easy way!”
Flower Star's ears twitched up and she turned her head around, blasted a smaller crate where she expected him to be, yet only destroyed one a few meters away from him.
"You can!" Since there was no yelling in pain or other sounds to reveal his position, she stood still in place. He was a human, she could hit him if he jumped right at her. All she had to do now was waiting. Screening over the many crates in the moody, dark warehouse, she then continued.
"I made up my mind and came to a decision. We worked well together in these past three months. And no stallion has ever reached your quality between the bedsheets. I lost my heart to you. That's the reason I want you to defect with me..."
Richard noticed a small window that lead to the outside. As of now, he would either have to face Flower, or make a quick escape over the roofs and he decided to go for the latter. Crushing through the window, two magic blast almost hit him. And when he ran across the rooftops, he heard her yelling behind him.
"Running away won't change the situation!"
Jumping up another roof, he gritted his teeth. This time, he only managed to get his upper body onto the roof. Huffing a bit, he then climbed with all his effort before making it.
"Says the mare running away from the Descendant threat!" 'That foolish girl really thinks that I'm only running away for my sake.' But when she appeared with teleportation right in front of him, her sword drawn and galloping right at him, he knew he had no choice but to draw his own. "Enough, Flower! I've had enough!!!"
The swords collided and the metal screeched in agony as the blades were put under immense pressure. Looking up to him, Flower gritted her teeth while a drop of sweat ran down her forehead as her horn was glowing, magic holding her sword in a fierce grasp. Even for a unicorn, this constant usage of magic was draining.
"There's no time, Richard... They're already on their way."
In Richard's eyes, contempt for her betrayal sparkled as he uttered his disapproval.
"Traitor! Descendant!" His sword then finally gave in under all the stress and broke apart, barely giving him time to evade with what was left of it. Taking a leap towards the ground, he quickly ran to the bag with the communication crystals. Richard quickly grabbed one before screaming at it. "Rangers! Ranger HQ, do you read me?!? HQ, I need reinforcements!!!"
A magic beam blasted the crystal out of his hand and Flower Star was standing on top of the roof a few meters above him, her voice cold and collected.
"It's no use. I already told you: I rendered our communication crystals useless." Taking a jump behind some crates he then made haste to the next cover before Flower Star flanked him, her sword levitating ready beside her. "The choice isn't that hard. Come into the south with me. We'll be together. I don't want to kill you..."
A feeling of hopelessness engulfed Richard. He was on his own and facing a traitor he used to love. It was either choosing her and becoming a traitor himself or choosing his duty as Harmony Ranger and facing her as an enemy.
"If you want to abandon everything we've worked for so far, you'll have to do so yourself! I can't just turn my back on my friends and family, left alone my planet. If it's your choice to live with that lie, then go on! I won't turn my back on 7 billion people on Earth and the entire nation of Equestria, I just can't!"
Taking another step forward, Flower's glare became ice cold when she uttered her final warning.
"You Rangers won't stop us. Not this time."
Yet Richard, given up on making her seeing things his way, turned around and went into combat stance.
"I won't defect, baby. You'll have to kill me then."
In her face, he could see the determination withering a bit. If she was to strike him down, she would do so reluctantly.
"In that case... I'm sorry..." With this she began to gallop right at him, the sword levitated right in front of her pointing right at him.
Richard closed his eyes. It was certain that she would aim for anything non-lethal to subdue him and take him into the south by force, even if it would mean to totally break him. She didn't love him, it was more something that he was her and her prize alone. God knows what prompted her to think that he would ever achieve happiness like this. But it was of no concern now. She was a traitor and he would deal with her as with anyone slated for high treason. Once more he opened his eyes. Everything happened in slow-motion like a nightmare forcing him to see it all.
The descending blade, a controlled motion, a short, strong pat on her blade with his palm to direct it away from him, the drawing of a weapon and throwing his entire might against her stopped the attack in an instant. Richard's teeth were clenched together as his sight got blurry. Wide eyes silently got wet as he didn't dare to look down to her, her being so close and yet, in a few moments, gone forever. The dagger penetrated her heart, no magic could ever hope to save her now. Silence was in the area as both opponents stared to the front. Silently the blood dripped down to the ground and yet Richard could have sworn that every drop echoed in his ears.
Both her hooves wrapped around him and her embrace pushed the dagger even deeper into her. Tears ran down his cheeks up as he heard her now shivering, frail voice,
"I wanted... to have a family with you over there... I love you..." Richard's pupils became tiny dots in his eyes.
* * * * *
Screaming as from awakening from a nightmare, Richard opened his eyes wide and sat upright in the chair he was lying in. The seat back was still leaned far back and a black arm held him in check as bright light was shining from above. A calm voice then spoke to him,
"Woah, woah... Easy, feller... Don't overdo it. You're OK. Settle down. She was just part of a standard illusion. It's over. It was just a test to evaluate your character. Assessment, judgment, self control, loyalty... You did well on everything... Now get some rest." While Richard panted heavily, the black hand now patted his shoulder, "You OK?"
Richard's arm now rose up to get the collar of his fellow ranger and grabbed him. Pulling him in, Richard then delivered a punch to Sam's face, sending him flying over a pony before he landed in another seat. Shaking his aching hand, Richard then looked down to the ranger with a stern look,
"No, but now I feel better!"
A few meters above, three silhouettes looked down to the newest recruit to the Harmony Rangers through a window with a one-sided mirror.
"Well, sir? What do you think about him?"
Princess Luna arched a brow and took some notes,
"I must say I find it unnecessary to implant a love interest that deeply into the illusion, but I understand that it's for the benefit of the new loyalty test... What do thou think, beloved?"
While inspecting Richard Henson, Tyler Jones nodded with a satisfied smile,
"The relationship illusion of the Koba Test doesn't exceed three months. I know about stuff like that myself. As for the ensign: Except for the punch part, I'd say he passed... Get his stuff together, we got another Ranger."