An Interesting Arrival

by Moongaze14

First published

Retirement in Equestria is harder than expected. Even in such a peaceful land, Statice finds that his new life can be just as stressful as his old one, especially after getting in the bad side of a certain purple alicorn princess and her friends.

Equestria has always been a land of peace, harmony, tolerance, love, and friendship. For anypony who has grown outside of is the perfect place for retirement. Statice has worked hard as an adventurer to start a new life and he has chosen Equestria to be his new home. Sadly, Statice will find out that being a pony doesn't mean that he will fit in with other ponies, especially due to his "unique way" of solving his problems. Join Statice as he learns what it means to be a pony in Equestria...if he does not end up getting arrested in the process.

Story takes place in an alternate universe. It mostly takes place in season 5. Early chapters are between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4.

An Interesting Arrival

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An Interesting Arrival

It was a rainy afternoon in Canterlot and most of the citizens were not taking it very well. Contrary to most cities in Equestria, Canterlot rarely had weather complications such as rain days. Despite its lower number of weather changes, the city was not immune to them as they were still a necessity, not that the Canterlot ponies cared about that. Most of them could not fathom the thought of getting wet or dirty so they often locked themselves in their homes until the rain has ceased and the streets were completely dried. Fortunately, some of them had the precaution of scheduling their activities in such a way as to enjoy their day. An example would be the Elements of Harmony having a lunch date with Princess Celestia in a casual get together.

Excluding the aforementioned examples, one particular pony did not seem to mind the rain that was falling in Canterlot, even as he walked by the streets in the middle of the storm. His only garment was a brown hood, which was surrounded by a green magical aura that was coming out of his horn. Curiously, despite the raindrops falling on top of the cloth, it was not wet at all. The little drops of water that were assaulting the stallion slipped away across the surface of the hood, not even dampening it in the slightest. Paying no attention to the weather, the stallion walked across the fanciest city of Equestria and looked at a classy looking building. Just looking at the employees inside let the stallion know that he was standing in front of a restaurant. Its sheer proximity made his stomach growl, demanding nourishment.

“This seems like a good place to eat,” the stallion said as he walked into the restaurant. “What could possibly go wrong?” With that said, the hooded stallion entered into the restaurant, ready to eat a nice meal.

“It’s so nice to have lunch with you, Princess Celestia,” Twilight Sparkle stared at her mentor, grateful to have the chance of chatting with her after not seeing her for so long.

“I think the same of you and your friends, Twilight,” Princess Celestia nodded at her former student, now her equal as a princess.

Next to Twilight Sparkle sat her closest friends, all of them were having a blast. Twilight had brought her fellow Elements of Harmony, the ones who taught her the Magic of Friendship, to her appointment with Celestia. Even though she became a princess, Twilight still preferred to live in Ponyville to stay in close contact with her friends and she always found a way to bring her friends along with her despite her duties as a princess.

Pinkie Pie was eating cupcakes like a machine. Her cerulean eyes were tearing up at the sweet sugary flavor of the pastries she was wolfing down in seconds. The mare was fun impersonated as she always put a smile on the faces of everypony with her cheerful personality and good humor that made her worthy of being the Element of Laughter

Applejack was a hardworking mare and the most honest pony in her hometown, making her the Element of Honesty.

Rainbow Dash was talking with Applejack about some new air tricks that she was working on. She worked on weather duty in Ponyville but her true ambition was to join the Wonderbolts, a team of pegasi that consisted of the best flyers in Equestria. Despite her large pride on her flying skills, Rainbow Dash was always a reliable friend and the first one to come to her friends’ rescue whenever they needed her. Her devotion is what earned her the Element of Loyalty.

Rarity was nodding her head to what her friends were saying and was slightly more focused on admiring the restaurant’s silverware. The unicorn was a drama queen and an attention seeker, but she had a good heart and was willing to help those in need. Her selfless behavior when it came to others despite her aversion of getting her hooves dirty marked her as the Element of Generosity.

The last one was Fluttershy, who was just content with sipping her tea quietly. Fluttershy was the shyest pony in Equestria and somewhat fearful of everything, yet she was also a caring and helpful pony that believed in aiding others, even if that meant facing her fears with a surprising amount of bravery that nopony expected her to have. Her pure heart allowed her to tame even the most dangerous animals and made her the Element of Kindness.

Twilight stared at them with affection, remembering all the adventures that they had together and everything that they taught her. Back then, she was only a unicorn who believed that friendship was a distraction from her studies. She came to realize her mistake and how important friendship could be when they first used the Elements of Harmony to defeat Nightmare Moon and redeem Princess Luna. Ever since that victory, Twilight took her first step towards unlocking her potential as the Element of Magic. It was because of her friends that she ascended and became an alicorn. Although she was still uncomfortable with being treated as royalty, she was still happy that her friends were treating her with the same affection that they gave her when she was just a unicorn.

“You want some cake Twilight?” Spike, a purple baby dragon with green spikes and eyes, was offering her a plate with a slice of chocolate cake in front of her. Back when she was a filly, Twilight had a magical overload during a school test that resulted in Spike being hatched from a dragon egg. Since that day, both of them had been inseparable with Spike being her best friend and her number one assistant.

“No thanks,” Twilight politely shook her head to the sides. “I’m not hungry.”

“I want cake!” Pinkie Pie popped out of the air and ate it in one gulp before disappearing in an instant.

Twilight and her friends giggled at Pinkie Pie’s random outburst. At first Twilight was confused with Pinkie’s behavior but learned to just get along with it. Nowadays, she just enjoyed her friend’s antics.

“I trust that our guests are having a nice stay,” said Princess Luna as she entered into the room. Her cyan eyes were happily scanning the guests at the table, happy to see each and every one of them.

Princess Luna was Celestia’s younger sister and fellow ruler of Equestria. A thousand years ago, she felt a strong jealously towards her sister and turned into Nightmare Moon, forcing Celestia to seal her to the moon for a millennium. After returning, she was once again defeated, this time by Twilight Sparkle and her friends, as the Elements of Harmony destroyed the darkness within Nightmare Moon and returned Luna to her former self. Since that day, Luna has harbored a strong affection for Twilight and her friends, as they were the ones who saved her from the darkness and returned her to the side of her beloved sister.

“I am so glad that you made it here, Luna,” Celestia stood up from her seat and nuzzled her younger sister. “Did Cadence and Shining Armor arrive to the castle?”

“Not yet,” Luna shook her head. “Cadence is a little busy at the Crystal Empire, so she will arrive a little late. But Shining Armor will come soon.”

“I am so happy to hear that!” Twilight stood up from her seat, not noticing that she knocked it behind her as she did so.

Princess Cadence was another alicorn and Princess of Equestria. Cadence used to be Twilight’s foalsitter and one of the few friends she had in Canterlot. Some years later, when Twilight was an adult, Cadence eventually became her sister in law when she married Twilight’s brother, Shining Armor, but not before fighting together to save Canterlot from a Changeling invasion.

Shining Armor was Twilight’s older brother. Both siblings were very close to each other and shared the same dedication to follow their dreams. Just like Twilight became Celestia’s student, Shining Armor became the Captain of the Royal Guard and married Cadence, making him a prince in the process.

The married couple ruled together in the Crystal Empire, a kingdom made of crystal and that had Crystal Ponies as its citizens. Both of them were very loved by the Crystal Ponies as they were the ones who saved them from King Sombra, the previous ruler of the Crystal Empire that made it disappear for over a thousand years until he was finally defeated for good.

“I am delighted to bring cheer to you, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna nodded her head at her fellow alicorn princess. “Let us enjoy this feast and talk about our good fortune as friends.”

Before any of the ponies could say anything an explosion was heard. Fluttershy immediately yelped and hid under the table. Rarity fainted at the sudden commotion. Spike held onto Twilight like his life depended on it. Rainbow Dash flew into the air in surprise, an instinctive reaction for a pegasus that was ready for battle. Applejack fell out of her chair as Pinkie Pie tackled her into a hug. Only Celestia and Luna were shown to be calm, although adopting stern frowns at the possibility of somepony invading their kingdom.

“What was that?” Twilight asked as she used her levitation spell to pull Spike away from her.

“We are not sure!” Luna spoke gravely. “But whoever is the culprit for this must be a possible threat if such action was done within our vicinity. It may even be the GREATEST threat that Equestria has ever seen!”

Meanwhile, outside of the Canterlot, the true cause of the explosion was running away with several Royal Guards after his tail. He was a green unicorn with a mane and tail colored in red, blue, purple, white, and yellow. His golden eyes had a calculating gaze as they measured the distance between their owner and his pursuers. His cutie mark was a purple flower of lightning-shaped petals with a yellow center. Now that he had discarded his hood on the restaurant, everypony that was looking for him was bound to find him.

“Darn it, Statice!” the stallion cursed at himself. “How did you get yourself into this? This is the fifth time this month!”

I'll be lucky if I don't add Canterlot to the list!

There were a couple of answers to that question. The first one was that he probably jinxed himself when he asked himself what could possible go wrong at the restaurant. The second answer, and perhaps the most obvious one, was that he assaulted some Prince Blueblood character at the restaurant.

“Worth it,” Statice said to himself. He didn’t try to pick a fight in the first place. He entered into the restaurant and paid the owner. He even gave him a very large tip just to remove his dressing policy on him. Then this Blueblood came into his business and started complaining to him about not following the dress code. He kept going on and on until he finally started insulting Statice, angering him. Statice didn’t give him a warning as he blasted him with magic across a wall. The only problem was that he overcharged the spell and created an explosion that made a large hole on the wall. From there on to this moment, Statice was literally on the run.

“I better add royal assault and property damage to the list,” Statice muttered as the royal guards were getting closer. His answer came up as he tripped on the road and slid down the city at a speed that surpassed the guards.

And here I thought things couldn't get any worse. Who am I kidding? I didn't even think things could get any worse and they still did!

Statice screamed in fear as his body slid down the city. He was afraid that he was going to crash into a house or captured by the royal guards. He looked down and noticed a green aura around his hooves and his body. He cursed at himself when he realized that his Insulating Spell was still active despite the fact that the sky was no longer raining.

The spell was designed to create a thin layer of magic around Statice to let anything physical or magical slip from Statice’s body. He realized now that the slippery factor of his spell made him a target for slipping in moist surfaces such as the road that was still wet from the rain.

Statice kept on screaming as he reached the end of a street and was heading to a wall. If he didn’t do anything he was going to crash head first into a wall. He gulped as he imagined the pain and the injuries that he would sustain should that happen. Narrowing his eyes in determination, Statice channeled his magic into his horn as he came up with a solution.

A green circle formed on the floor, just in front of the wall on which Statice was bound to collide. As soon as he entered into the circle, the unexpected happened. He suddenly vanished and then shot forward into the left road. The royal guards who saw that gasped in shock at the fugitive’s escape before they continued their pursuit. Despite their professionalism, their curiosity still showed up in their conversation.

“What do you think was that?” one of them asked.

“I guess that it was some sort of teleportation spell,” another one answered.

“Boy, I wish Captain Shining Armor were here,” a third one said. “He would probably come up with a solution to catch this punk!”

Statice kept on sliding, trying to ignore the ponies that were chasing him. He wondered how ponies like them could be guards when they were speaking loud enough for him to hear. It was a good thing that these guys didn’t know squat about his Warp Spell.

The Warp Spell differed from teleportation in the fact that it bended the forces around the user and redirected them to propel the pony in a different location. It was like some short ranged teleportation at the time being, although Statice still had some suspicions that the spell had room for improvement.

He used the Warp Spell repeatedly as he kept reaching dead ends. Much to his delight, the royal guards were getting tired from the chase, so he eventually lost them by repeating the spell a few more times.

He kept on sliding around Canterlot, enjoying its beauty now that there was nopony around to act as a potential obstacle to his course. His earlier fear of crashing or being caught was replaced with a sense of adrenaline and excitement as he burst into laughter. Belly sliding in the rain was fun now that he thought about it. As he laughed, he could have sworn that there was somepony else laughing with him.

“Wee!” a feminine voice was heard beside him.

Statice gasped as he saw a pink mare sliding on her belly, a huge grin plastered on her face. Closer inspection revealed her to be an earth pony with a light pink coat and a darker shade of pink on her curly mane and tail. She had some innocent cerulean eyes and her cutie mark consisted of three balloons, two of them were blue and the third one was yellow. He assumed that she was some party girl based on the design and the fact that she was having fun sliding in the rain...ignoring the fact that she was sliding near a criminal on the run.

“Who are you?” he asked demandingly.

“I’m Pinkie Pie!” the pink mare grinned. Some sort of squeaky noise was heard along with her name and grin. “There was some sort of boom outside and me and my friends went to check it out. Twilight suggested splitting up to find out what happened. I was going to put on my detective suit and ask some questions around when I saw you belly sliding on the rain and saw how much fun you were having so I gave it a go. What’s your name by the way?”

Statice stared at her in shock as she spoke entire sentences so quickly in one go. He barely understood what she said but knew that whoever that Twilight was meant bad news for him. Despite this, he saw no danger in presenting himself to her.

“My name is Static.”

“Ooh!” Pinkie Pie was interested as she scooted closer to him. “Do you have anything associated with electricity? Your name sounds very sparky. Maybe I should call you Sparky as a nickname”.

Statice frowned at her nickname choice. Static was a nickname that he chose, mainly because his name was feminine. Who wouldn’t laugh at him if they knew that he was named after a flower? At least when he was Static he received respect from others and avoided ridicule from his real name.

He was snapped out of his thoughts when he saw another wall incoming to him and Pinkie. “Look out!” Statice yelled as he grabbed Pinkie Pie on his arms and warped to change their direction before they reached the wall.

“Wee!” Pinkie Pie squealed with delight as she was shot safely into the air of Canterlot at greater speeds than before. She giggled as she hugged Statice, unintentionally or maybe intentionally, nuzzling his face.

The green stallion blushed at the close proximity of the pink mare. “Cut that out, Pinkie Pie!” He sounded more embarrassed than angry at her hugging and nuzzling him.

What's with this mare getting so close to me? I don't even know her!

“But you are so fun!” Pinkie Pie whined before nuzzling him again. She stopped her nuzzling to gaze at the air in front of her. “Hey, I can see Sugarcube Corner from here!”

To accentuate her point, she grabbed his head and turned it to the side a little too roughly, letting him see a village located under Canterlot. Although he didn’t see the building that Pinkie was mentioning at least he knew where to find it.

They landed once again on the streets. “I didn’t see anything,” Statice told Pinkie as he wrestled his head out of her hooves.

“Aww,” Pinkie Pie moaned in disappointment before chirping. “Well, at least you know where to find Sugarcube Corner. We sell cakes, pies, and cupcakes, and parties, and balloons, and candies…”

Statice had a twitching eyebrow from the constant chattering. It was unbearable to tolerate so many words from a stranger. He was about to answer her when he saw another ramp close to them. He smiled smugly as he used his magic to remove the pink bother out of him and then used the ramp to launch himself into the sky. Despite being cast aside, Pinkie Pie still smiled at Statice and waved at him.

“Good luck, Static! I hope to see you soon!”

Well, I hope I don't. Statice did not even bother to hear her words. He was busy trying not to fall to the ground. He lighted his horn on magic and used a spell that he recently developed… the Air Walking Spell.

A trail of green magic materialized in the air beneath Statice’s hooves. He smiled as the spell took effect and started running away. The Air Walking Spell worked by using the ambient magic found in the air to create a solid path on which Statice could thread on by using his own magic to adhere himself to the magic path. He invented the spell to have an idea of how flying was like and now it helped him to run away from his pursuers. The problem was that he needed a lot of wind in order to create the substance needed for the spell to work, fortunately him flying around by the sky at maximum speed was probably going to work good enough.

“Nopony can catch me now!” Statice bragged at himself.

“We will see about that!” a brash feminine voice responded to his claim.

Statice turned his head around to see a cyan pegasus mare flying straight at him at a speed that surpassed that of the royal guards. She had cerise eyes and the most notable attribute was the rainbow that she had for the colors of her mane and tail. Her cutie mark was a cloud that was releasing a lightning bolt that came in red, yellow, and blue color. In a few seconds, she was already flying by his side, glaring at him with hostility.

“Who are you and why are you running away from the royal guards?” she demanded angrily.

“Who are you and why are chasing me?” Statice retaliated as he kept running, not liking the tone that she was using with him. “What business do you have with what I am doing? You’re not even a member of the royal guards!”

“The name is Rainbow Dash!” the mare said with a mixture of pride and determination, and a little hint of vanity. “I’m the fastest flyer in Equestria and a future member of the Wonderbolts!”

Statice rolled his eyes. “This is just what I needed! Nothing makes a chase better than some braggart with no skill at all!”

Rainbow Dash gasped in shock at his insult before snarling at him. “I will show you no skill, punk!” She flew around him until she was a few feet in front of him and immediately launched herself with an extended hind leg, ready to kick him for his insult.

Statice yelped as he used his magic to make a trail that would help him move vertically at the air, narrowly dodging the kick for a second. He looked around and watched as Rainbow Dash bowled through the royal guards that were previously chasing after him, gulping as he saw the strength of her kick.

“It’s official,” Statice told himself. “This mare is more skilled than I anticipated.”

He focused his magic and teleported himself into the entrance of Canterlot. There was no reason to stay here any longer. Before he could give a step forward to his freedom, he saw a magenta glow surrounding his body, stopping him from moving. He gasped as he turned around, trying to see who was his captor.

Much to his surprise, he saw the two mares he met before, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash. The first one was waving at him playfully while the second one was cracking her hooves as if she were about to pound him. Next to them, there were four other ponies.

Great, as if I didn't have enough with those two already.

One of them was an orange earth pony with green eyes and a blonde mane and tail that were tied in a ponytail. She wore a Stetson hat over her head, making her the only pony in the group wearing an artifact of clothing. Her cutie mark consisted of three apples, probably meaning that her special talent was related to apples. She spread her forelegs to the side, ready to charge, although not as violently as Rainbow Dash appeared to be.

Just what I needed, another angry mare! What did I even do to this one anyway?

An alabaster unicorn with a curly purple mane and tail and azure eyes was staring at him with disapproval. Her cutie mark consisted of three diamonds, probably meaning that she was a miner or something. Although he had to give her credit in that she looked pretty and elegant for a miner. She probably found lots of gems that gave her a decent lifestyle in Canterlot.

Well, if I'm lucky, at least this one will just yell at me. I can deal with that. It's not like anypony has never yelled at me before.

A yellow pegasus with cyan eyes and a long pink mane and tail was staring at him with fear, hiding her eyes behind her mane. Her cutie mark consisted of three pink butterflies. Did that mean that she was a social butterfly? She looked like she didn’t want to be in this situation and seemed to do so out of peer pressure.

What the hay is that mare doing here? She looks like she's gonna run away any second now. Maybe she's just a witness that got caught up in the moment. Poor thing...I better end things quickly to avoid traumatizing her more than necessary...if that's even possible.

However, his eyes wandered to the last pony. She was a purple winged unicorn with a long dark purple mane with a little streak of pink on the side and matching purple eyes. Her cutie mark was a magenta star of six points that was surrounded by five smaller white stars. He stared at her wings, which looked realistically like a pegasus, and then at her horn. She was probably a big shot unicorn who used a spell to give herself decent wings. How else was a unicorn going to obtain such beautiful yet realistic wings like that? He felt her strong magic power through the aura around his body and the aura that was surrounding her horn.

Who is this mare? Is she friends with those other five? Is she their leader? How strong is she? What kind of spell did she use to get those wings? Not even i could make myself wings like that. Something tells me I'm about to have a bad time.

“You are not going to leave Canterlot that easily,” she said. “You have a lot of questions to answer to me.”

Further Complications

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Further Complications

Twilight held a steady gaze as she glared at the troublemaker, who was awkwardly floating in her magical aura. She was having a nice time with her friends and now this unicorn had to show up and ruin her fun. As a Princess of Equestria, it was her sworn duty to protect her subjects and that was what she was going to do.

Despite her anger at him, Twilight could not help to ponder on who was the stallion that she was apprehending. Rainbow Dash seemed eager to attack him based on the eerie way on which she was cracking her hooves, much to Rarity’s apprehension. But Pinkie Pie was waving at him in a friendly manner so there was a chance that he was not that bad.

Think, Twilight. What is the best course of action to apprehend this criminal? Analyze the information that you gathered about him and the crimes that he committed.

She quickly shook her head when she remembered that he was running away from the Pegasi Royal Guard based on what Rainbow Dash told her. What caught her attention was that he somehow used a spell that allowed him to walk on air. As much as it fascinated her to think of the mechanics behind the spell, she was confident that he was using it on his escape.

Before she could ask him a question, the prisoner lighted his horn and disappeared in a green flash. Twilight and her friends gasped before he reappeared again, a few inches to the right on where he had been levitated. Growling at him for attempting to escape, Twilight tried to levitate him again, only for him to disappear in another green flash and then reappear on a nearby location.

She tried to capture him a couple more times, only for her to get rewarded with the same results. “Stop moving around!” she growled at him in frustration as she kept trying in vain to capture him with her magic.

“No,” he responded as he teleported away from her magical grasp again. “Here is a little piece of advice. It is possible for anypony to escape the levitation made by somepony else by teleporting away from the user’s aura. You may attempt to pick me up but I’ll always be away from that magenta magic you’re using.”

Under normal circumstances, she would have asked him questions regarding his discovery. Using teleportation to counter the restraining power of a levitation spell was indeed a fascinating concept that could be applied to battle magic. However, the smug and somewhat condescending expression on the green stallion’s face was irritating.

“That does it!” Rainbow Dash slammed both hooves together. “I say we charge at this jerk and teach him not to mess with Equestria!”

Twilight considered the option. Teleportation required an extensive usage of magic and she had already counted him using the spell five times, and that was excluding any other spell he may have used prior the confrontation. On the other hoof, there was a chance that he may have a few more spells hidden beneath him based on what Pinkie Pie told her about their sliding. However, before she could decide what to do, Applejack took charge of the situation.

“Hold on a minute, Rainbow Dash!” Applejack bit on the rainbow mare’s tail. “We don’t know anythin’ about this fella over here! There is somethin’ fishy about him.”

“What’s the big deal, Applejack?” Rainbow Dash glared at her friend. “We took down chumps worse than him. This guy is only a plain old unicorn! We six can take him on! Heck, I bet I can take him down on my own!”

Statice narrowed his eyes at Rainbow Dash. He was not the kind of pony that enjoyed getting into conflicts with others, but that didn’t mean that he tolerated being looked down on. If push came to shove, SHE was going to be the first one to fall.

“Static is not a bad pony, silly!” Pinkie Pie bounced close to Rainbow Dash. A spring noise was heard with each bounce, making Statice tilt his head as he tried to hear it again. Where in the world did that noise came from? “He is a very fun guy. He and I went belly sliding and we had a blast!”

“Maybe we can convince Mr. Static to come peacefully,” Rarity suggested as she walked in front of Statice with a seductive pace. “Excuse me, maybe we started with the wrong hoof. My name is Rarity and I would like to ask you to come with us and explain what happened that got you in the run from the royal guards. We won’t do anything to you that you’ll regret.”

She finished her promise with battering her eyelashes at him. The stallion blushed at her gesture, making her giggle as she saw her charms working on him. She was certain that he would surrender himself peacefully and save her and the girls the trouble of capturing him.

In his mind, Statice was chastising himself for blushing. He found the act embarrassing and avoided flirty females like a plague to focus on his work, as they tended to bring problems to his doorstep. It seemed that retirement allowed him to finally be attracted to mares as his life was no longer in danger by thinking about them. Despite her distracting allure, he gave Rarity the same answer he would always give to anypony that tried to sweet talk him into giving up.

“No!” he punctuated with a firm hoof stomp.

“What did you say?” Rarity asked, taken aghast by his resistance to her charms.

“Do you think I’m stupid enough to willingly deliver myself to be arrested?” Statice looked at her as if she were dumb. “Just because you’re pretty it does not mean that I’ll throw away my freedom for you, babe!”

Rarity’s shock turned into anger at his refusal. “Such nerve! How can you turn down a lady’s words like they were dirt?”

“Because they are words from a mare with the manipulative spirit of a Changeling,” Statice countered, making the white mare gasp and recoil at the insult.

“That does it!” Rarity screamed in anger. This sleight against her honor was not going to be left unpunished. “Give the signal, Twilight!”

Realizing that a fight was incoming, Statice levitated several tables on a nearby restaurant and floated them in front of him and his new rivals. He brought one of the tables closer to him and stood on top of it before levitating it back to the other floating tables. In the good old days, this was one of numerous battle tactics that he used in fights. He never thought that he was going to use it again after retiring.

“Brace yourselves, girls!” Twilight ordered, flaring her wings and lighting her horn at the stallion. “He is ready to attack, so don’t let your guard down!”

“Let’s see how well your guard is then!” Statice challenged as he eyed the six mares that opposed him. Five of them were ready to fight him, with the exception of Fluttershy, who was cowering in the background.

He knew that Twilight was good at magic, saw Rainbow Dash’s flying and fighting abilities, and had been stunned by Pinkie Pie’s surprise appearance. The only mares he didn’t know about were Rarity and Applejack. Despite getting a view of her personality, Statice did not know about the white unicorn’s fighting prowess, and the orange mare’s abilities were a mystery to him. The only way he could find about them was to test them out a little bit.

I better take advantage of my first attack to see how good are those two.

“Let’s start this!” he bellowed as he threw a table at Rarity and Applejack.

Rarity squealed at the thrown projectile while Applejack leaped forward. She turned around, raised her hind legs, and then obliterated the table with a mighty buck. Statice felt his jaw drop as he saw such explosive power. It was official, the mare was stronger than him, so close quarter combats was off the table.

“Nopony attacks my friends!” Rainbow Dash charged at him immediately after that. She quickly flew at him and turned around, ready to give him a good buck on the chest. Her hooves ended up shattering a table that the green stallion used as a shield to protect himself from her attack.

Statice growled in frustration. It was obvious that Applejack and Rainbow Dash had him beat in physical strength. Furthermore, he was sure that Twilight surpassed him in magic based on their short altercation. To make matters worse, he was still unsure of what Pinkie Pie and Rarity could do in battle.

This is bad! At least half the group surpasses me in physical and magical strength. The remaining half is still a mystery. To make matters worse, I'm still outnumbered!

“Surprise!” Pinkie Pie yelled as she brought forth some sort of cannon out of nowhere and used it to shot confetti at Statice. The stallion yelped as he levitated the table on which he was standing away from the party projectile.

The pink mare repeatedly kept shooting at him with her cannon, preventing him from going into the offensive. Much to his annoyance, every time that he dodged an attack from Pinkie he had to sacrifice a table as a shield for protection against a mighty punch or kick from Rainbow Dash or Applejack. If that wasn’t bad enough, Twilight was throwing magic blasts that were blowing his makeshift table shields into smithereens.

Curse that pink menace! She's making me waste my resources!

“Get out of my way!” Statice yelled as he attempted to throw a table to Rainbow Dash instead of using it as a shield.

“Make me!” Rainbow Dash challenged him as she flew to the side of the table and delivered a flying kick to his chest.

It was a complete agony for the green stallion. He had his share of fights in the past and he had been hit by worse, but that didn’t make her kick a pleasant experience for him. The mare’s kick had knocked him from his table and into the ground, making him lose focus on his magic. The surviving tables that had been floating in the air fell to the ground, shattering from the fall.

“That hurt!” Statice growled as he clutched his chest. There was a nasty dark bruise on the center of it. He was going to make that rainbow witch pay for that kick!

“Well this is gonna hurt a lot harder!” Applejack’s voice called out close by. As the stallion turned around, he saw a pair of orange hind hooves fly on his direction and striking him in the same spot where Rainbow had hit him.

The buck was strong enough to lift Statice off his hooves as a pain, one far stronger than Rainbow’s blow, overwhelmed him as it joined with its predecessor. Of all the places where she could buck him, why did she decided to buck him in a place where he had been kicked a few seconds ago? The bruise that Rainbow gave him was now two times bigger than before and its sting grew worse.

She was right...that hurt a lot worse.

Landing on the ground, he slowly stood on shaky legs, clutching at his chest in pain. This was by far one of the most unpleasant battle experiences that he had ever felt in his entire life. The combination attack that Applejack and Rainbow Dash had pulled on him was an effective one.

“You and I still have a score to settle, you ruffian!” Rarity charged at the downed stallion as she jumped forward with a battle cry and delivered a flying kick to his nose.

For the third consecutive time, Statice had been knocked off his hooves like some chump and he fell once again on his back. He groaned in pain, not from the pain on his chest but from the sharp agony of his sore muzzle. He was certain that his nose was bleeding and that it was going to have a sharp red color when he took his hooves off of it.

Even though my chest was not hurt worse again, it doesn't make this kick to the nose any better.

“I told you we could beat him!” Rainbow Dash cheered as she did a hoof bump with Applejack and threw a smug look at Twilight. “You saw that Twilight! As long as we are together, nopony can beat us!”

“Ah agree with Rainbow Dash over here,” Applejack winked at Twilight. “We all took down that varmint quite easily.”

“You can say that we did teach him some manners,” Rarity raised her chin, trying to act like a lady now that the barbaric act of fighting was over. “I say we bring him to the guards and let the princesses decided what to do with him, Twilight.”

Twilight cocked her head to the side to look at Statice. The green unicorn was not moving unless it was to groan in pain. Still, her instincts were telling him that the fight was won too easily considering the innovative way on which the stallion was fighting.

That was easy. It was a little too easy. We don't win our fights that quickly. Even minor threats give us a harder time than this. No, Twilight. Don't overthink this...

Her train of thoughts was interrupted when she heard Applejack yell. She quickly turned around and saw Applejack sinking into the earth.

“Applejack!” Twilight and her friends cried out as they went to help the orange mare. Rainbow Dash and Rarity were trying to pull out Applejack out of the trap, but failed despite their efforts. They were immediately joined by Twilight, Pinkie Pie, and Fluttershy. The five mares pulled Applejack again and again but to no avail, watching as their friend was slowly being devoured by the earth.

“Help me!” Applejack screamed and begged, almost in tears, as her whole body was sinking, only her head was visible. “Ah don’t want things to end this way.”

“And who says that you are getting completely swallowed?” Statice’s voice came out as Applejack turned her head, basically the only body part she could move at the moment, to stare at the green unicorn.

“You did this to me?” Applejack asked, her voice carrying a bit of shock and anger at her enemy.

Statice glared at the six mares, rubbing his nose to alleviate the pain from Rarity’s kick. “I sure did. I used my Quicksand spell to sink you into the earth from the neck down. Consider that payback for bucking me in the chest!”

“I knew that was too easy of a victory!” Twilight pointed an accusing hoof at Statice. “You were faking defeat to take us down!”

“As a matter of fact I was wallowing in pain before I got mad and decided to get serious,” Statice explained as he glared venomously at the five remaining mares.

“Just you wait until Ah get out of here!” Applejack roared, infuriated at him for his surprise attack.

“Don’t worry, AJ,” Rainbow Dash pounded her hooves together. “We’re getting this chump for you.”

“Bring it!” Statice lighted his horn, a green aura surrounding his body as he spoke and assumed a fighting stance. The bruises on his chest and in his nose disappeared almost instantly as he looked at his remaining enemies intently.

“He healed himself?” Rarity gasped upon seeing it.

“That’s impossible!” Twilight was stunned at the magic she was witnessing. “I’ve seen spells like this in hospitals but this one is entirely different. Healing spells are supposed to reduce the damage done by injuries. They’re not advanced enough for instant regeneration.”

“My Healing Spell is unique in the fact that I can repair any injury that has been dealt to my body,” Statice admitted in a somewhat bragging attitude. “You don’t get to survive in my line of work by letting injuries put you out of commission.”

“You can heal yourself all you want and the result will be the same!” Rainbow Dash charged at Statice, unfazed by his spell.

The green unicorn quickly placed a barrier around himself and her. Rainbow Dash did not deter from her attack and kept moving forward. The moment that she collided with the barrier, she let out a scream of pain as electricity surged across her body and knocked her several feet away from her opponent. Her friends gasped as she fell close to their hooves, twitching and with green lightning surrounding her body.

“Did I forget to mention that I specialize in elemental magic?” Statice grinned smugly at the three mares that remained to be defeated. “I use earth magic, except that my specialty is lightning magic. The best part is that I can apply lightning to some of my battle spells for additional damage.”

Twilight growled at Statice. How dare that jerk hurt her friend like that? The worst part came from guilt of not capturing him when he was groaning in the floor. The only way to make things right was to beat him and take him to justice.

“You are not getting away with this!” Twilight declared as she assumed a fighting stance. “Nopony hurts my friends!”

She analyzed her possibilities. The first thing she knew was that her opponent used elemental magic, which made him a real threat in magical combat. Throughout her studies with Celestia, Twilight learned that elemental magic was complicated as one needed to have a strong affinity towards an element of nature. It was rare to see a unicorn with mastery over elemental magic, but that was what made them a real threat in combat magic. Their ability of fusing elemental magic with offensive or defensive spells created a very versatile fighting style.

“I think I can take care of this, girls,” Twilight turned her head to Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Fluttershy. “I can figure out a strategy to defeat him, but I need you to take Rainbow Dash and Applejack out of here.”

“We can still help, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash protested, her limbs twitching and suffering spasms as she spoke.

“You’re hurt, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight looked at the electrified pegasus with guilty eyes. “I can’t let you fight in these conditions.”

“Ah’m afraid that Ah’ll have to agree with Twilight, Rainbow,” Applejack hung her head low in defeat. “We can’t fight like this. All we need to do is place our faith in Twilight.”

Rainbow Dash tried to protest, only to find herself unable to argue with the orange pony. They had lost and now it was Twilight’s turn to make things right.

“Take care of them!” Twilight looked at her remaining friends with a steady gaze.

“We will do that, darling,” Rarity gave Twilight a reassuring smile.

“Show him whose princess, Twilight!” Pinkie Pie cheered excitingly as she somehow used her mane as a drill to dig underground and try to get Applejack out of her burying spot.

“We’ll take care of the others,” Fluttershy flew to Rainbow Dash, putting some rubber gloves on her hooves to protect herself from being electrocuted as she tended to the prismatic mare.

Twilight smiled at her friends before confronting Statice, who stared at her with a bored expression on her face. Her face turned into seething anger as he stared at her with a passionless look on his face.

On the meantime, Statice looked at her and the scene that she had with her friends with growing boredom. In all the time that she wasted having that touching scene, she could have ordered her remaining friends to surround him and attack at the same time. Instead, she challenged him in a one to one fight rather than rely on numerical advantage against him. Seriously, what was up with good guys and their pathological desire to prove themselves to their friends with sentimental speeches and honorable duels?

“Are you mocking me?” Twilight demanded, blushing as he was mimicking her question with lip movements and hoof gestures.

“You do realize that you wasted valuable time with that friendship speech when you could have just ganged up on me?” Statice asked her as he rolled his eyes at the purple mare for committing such a stupid mistake.

Twilight blushed from his response before feeling indignation from his lecture. “What would you know about that? I bet you probably don’t even have friends!”

Pinkie Pie immediately came up from the ground, close to Applejack’s side and winced. “Ooh, that was a low blow, Twilight!”

It was just as the pink mare said. It was indeed a low blow. Statice snorted in anger at the verbal retaliation the purple mare threw at him. Forgetting any strategy that he was thinking in the spot to fight Twilight, Statice charged at her.

Twilight quickly lowered her head, aiming her horn at the charging stallion. A magenta magical blast was shot from her horn only for the unicorn to sidestep it. She kept firing shot after shot, watching as each of them kept missing her target. By the time she was preparing another shot, Statice grabbed her horn with his hoof.

“Let go off me!” Twilight shrieked, outraged at the stallion for touching her horn like that. She moved her head in any direction as her horn started shooting magic out of control.

For his part, Statice was gritting his teeth at the pain on his hoof. Grabbing a unicorn’s horn was an excellent way to prevent them from using magic. At least that was his experience with other unicorns. Twilight was different in that she had a lot of magic inside of her and was capable of shooting consecutive blasts from her horn. It turns out those shooting magical blasts actually heats up one’s horn as Statice’s hoof was personally finding out on its own.

By the stars, this thing is hot as an oven!

“Let go off my horn!” Twilight demanded, thrashing her head back and forth as she continued firing her magic in random directions. She hoped that one of her blasts would immediately hit her captor on the face rather than enduring the disappointment that she was feeling when he still kept grabbing her horn as if his life depended on it.

How long does he intent to keep holding on to my horn? LET GO!

Twilight’s magic blasts were turning erratic as they hit several buildings and left small scorch marks from the impact. The situation got more out of control when Statice, unable to handle the pain in his hoof any longer, decided to just put her on a headlock and redirect her magical attacks rather than trying to block them. As the indignant mare kept thrashing around, her blasts were starting to hit where Statice desired them to hit, mainly in the direction of her friends.

A blast hit Rarity, leaving her with a sizzled mane that caused her to shriek and faint at her new hairdo. Another one nearly hit Pinkie Pie, who immediately slammed her head through concrete in a curious imitation of an ostrich. Several were focused on Fluttershy, only to divert by a few millimeters away from her. Despite controlling Twilight’s blasts, Statice couldn’t bring himself to hurt the yellow pegasus. He didn’t know why other than she was too adorable to hurt.

As he stared at her, Twilight used this to her advantage to push Statice away from her. She quickly threw a blast at him, one so fast that he barely managed to defend himself against with a magic shield. Although the shield took the blast head on, it broke against its power, leaving Statice to get hit and be sent a few feet away from Twilight.

The battered stallion stood up again and used his Healing Spell on himself, more specifically on the right hoof he used to grab Twilight’s horn. The hoof was all black and charred from the ordeal that he put it through. He winced as he felt the heat that had been absorbed from Twilight’s magic. It was a lot of damage, so he employed more magic to return his hoof to its pristine condition. Pouring all his focus onto his hoof, his magical aura surround it and slowly returned it to its original green color. He sighed in relief as the pain went away only to be replaced with exhaustion after casting the spell.

That was a lot of damage. I'm never trying that move again when a unicorn is casting.

“Give up,” Twilight ordered with a stern gaze. “The fight is over. Just go with the royal guards and I will promise you a fair trial.”

Statice stared at her. The correct choice would be to do as she said and let it all end with no further provocations. But, once again, he already assaulted a prince and resisted arrest so how worse could it get if he continued fighting. Rather than answering her, Statice charged at her.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Twilight sighed in disappointment. She prepared to fire another magical blast only for Statice to quickly cover the distance between them. The second she saw him raising his hoof, she knew that he was going to try to grab her horn again.

“You won’t get away with it this time, Static!” she screamed as she met Statice’s attacking hoof with her own. The green stallion was unfazed as he tried to use his other hoof to grab her horn. Twilight immediately retaliated by meeting his second hoof with her other hoof.

“Now you cannot do anything!” Twilight grinned smugly as she lowered her head and prepared to do a spell. This was her victory. She was sure about it. Even if he managed to escape from their locked position she was confident that he was not going to escape the royal guards that were approaching them right now.

Her celebration was cut short when she felt something warm, moist, and sticky on her horn. She felt shivers at the unusual sensation and raised her eyes to see what was wrong with her horn. The thing that she saw coming out of her forehead was not her horn. It was gone. Instead of that, it was inside the maw of the green stallion she was fighting. He was literally sucking her horn.

Twilight gasped as her face took a red hue. Everypony in the battlefield saw what happened and they all had different reactions. Rarity, who managed to awaken from her unconsciousness, gasped and immediately fainted upon seeing her. Rainbow Dash felt her jaw drop but a muscle spam made her close it immediately. Pinkie Pie quickly took her head from the ground and stared at the scene with a confused frown on her face. Applejack modestly moved her head to make her hat cover her eyes. Finally, Fluttershy started whimpering and blushing furiously at the scene, her shy mind finding it too much for her to handle. Even the arriving royal guards broke out of their stoic expression to stare at the pair in shock as what their eyes saw was too powerful for their training to handle.

Statice went on biting and sucking her horn. It was a tactic that he used and was used against him every time that he fought a unicorn. By having something uncomfortable happening to his horn, a unicorn was not capable of concentrating enough to use magic. It was a theory that he used over the years and today was no exception. Soon, Twilight would not be capable of using magic and he was going to win the fight.

It's not the method I intended ot use. Then again, as long as I win, it will suffice.

Twilight’s mind raced several thoughts. The most common was that the jerk she was fighting was sucking her horn. No, he was sucking her horn in front of her friends and the royal guards. She gritted her teeth in anger and shut her eyes in frustration humiliation. She was going to make him pay for this humiliation!

Statice kept biting onto her horn expecting her to give up swiftly. Instead of that, he saw her purple hoof coming straight at him. A resonating echo was heard as Twilight’s hoof slapped Statice on the cheek so hard that he was lifted off the ground, his mouth letting go of the horn it had captured for a few agonizing seconds. Everypony winced at the slap and were surprised at its power. Twilight was always the studious type of pony so it was a surprise for them all to see her knock somepony that hard with one slap.

As Statice was once again on his haunches, he couldn’t help but place a hoof on his stinging cheek. That blow was harder than he expected. As he raised himself to prepare to fight again, Twilight’s magenta glow once again surrounded him. He was now suspended into the air, staring at the face of a very livid Twilight. She was snarling at him and glaring at him with unbridled anger. Tears were coming out of her eyes and a blush was still present on her cheeks, two responses that Statice was unable to understand.

“You…you…jerk!” Twilight screamed as she slammed Statice into the ground with all of her strength. The slam knocked the wind off of the green stallion, preventing him from concentrating in a teleportation spell that could help him escape her grasp.

“How dare you do that to me?” Twilight screamed as she slammed him against buildings and the ground. “You humiliated me in front of my friends!”

She slammed him against the buildings and the floor. Everypony watching was wincing in sympathy for the poor stallion. The rest of the Elements of Harmony were stupefied at Twilight’s reaction. She was always in control of her emotions and never expected her to get that violent with anypony, even if that somepony had it coming. For their part, the royal guards were scared out of their wits. They were trained to respect the authority of the princesses and to fear their wrath should they ever bring harm to the citizens of Equestria. They’d never witnessed a princess’ fury before and it was now making them doubt if they ever had what it takes to be guard the princesses.

With a final cry, Twilight slammed Statice into the ground with all of her strength. The green stallion could only moan in pain as his vision started turning black. He was losing consciousness. It was not the first time that he had been knocked out, but it was his first time since his retirement that this happened to him. As his vision faded to black, one thought crossed his mind.

This is really going to hurt in the morning.

Second Impressions

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Second Impressions

To say that things were a little uncomfortable the next day was an understatement to everypony that knew of the events of the prior one. Shortly after subduing Static, Twilight Sparkle spent the rest of the day in a grumpy mood, locked inside her bed chambers. Her friends, who saw how violently she defeated the stallion, were reluctant to talk to her about the incident, so they decided to keep silent about it. They were all in the dining hall, having the most awkward breakfast in the history of the castle.

Spike was not told of the fight, as Twilight refused to talk about it and the girls didn’t want him to know until the time was right, preferably when Twilight was away from them. Despite the lack of information, Spike knew better than to push the subject. It was quite obvious for the baby dragon that Twilight was not going to react well if he dared to question her about her bad mood.

Celestia and Luna, on their part, were informed of Twilight’s outburst by the royal guards and were shocked at how violently she had reacted. As disappointed as Celestia felt with her former apprentice, she couldn’t bring herself to admonish her upon seeing how upset she was about the whole ordeal. Luna, on the other hoof, approved of Twilight’s actions, as she believed that it was an appropriate punishment for assault against royalty, resisting arrest, and humiliating Twilight by sucking her horn.

“Next time he is in your grip give him a couple of bucks in the head and midsection,” the lunar princess had advised the purple alicorn, who grumpily, and literally, took note of her advice.

Both sisters were outside of the dining hall, discussing about Twilight’s fight from yesterday. Next to them was Princess Cadence, ruler of the Crystal Empire and Twilight’s sister-in-law.

Before she married Twilight’s brother, Cadence used to be Twilight’s foalsitter. She knew Twilight for many years and found the purple alicorn’s foul mood to be something to worry about. She was aware of what had transpired between Twilight and the stallion and could somewhat understand why her sister-in-law was so angry. Regardless, Twilight was not the type of pony that held a grudge against others, so it was strange to see her gritting her teeth and talking to herself about “that jerk” as she darkly called him.

I better start asking questions about the situation. I can't help Twilight if I'm not well informed.

“Has she been like that since yesterday?” Cadence stared at her aunts, watching as Twilight was absentmindedly putting a lot of sugar cubes in her tea.

“Indeed she has,” Celestia closed her eyes, finding the behavior of her student troubling. “Even after…subduing the source of anger, she still is too irritable to speak to for the moment.”

“This stallion named Static deserved it,” Luna huffed angrily. “Can you believe what he did to Twilight in front of her friends and the guards?”

“I was told about it,” Cadence blushed as she pictured the scenario, turning her head in embarrassment. “I cannot blame Twilight for reacting the way she did, but that does not mean that I approve of it. It doesn’t feel like the same Twilight Sparkle with whom I used to play with when we were young.”

Considering the amount of things for which she can forgive anypony, that seems a little too...abnormal.

“Does your husband know about it?” Celestia asked, with a hint of fear in her voice as she imagined Shining’s reaction upon hearing what happened between Twilight and Static.

“No,” Cadence shook her head in relief. “And I plan to keep it that way. Shining is a little overprotective and I don’t want him to react badly if he were to know about…the horn thing between Twilight and the stallion.”

The last thing I need is a brawl inside the castle.

“Perfect,” Celestia nodded her head. “I’ve instructed the royal guards to omit the last part of Twilight’s fight with Static. Now all we need to do is to wait for the trial.”

“Where is the prisoner?” Cadence asked a little nervously. “I know that he is secured, but I fear for his safety should Twilight ever reach him. I don't think that she's ready to meet him again so soon.”

“He is in the dungeons,” Luna stomped the floor with a front hoof. “He is in a special cell that prevents his magic from getting out of it. The walls are reinforced with my own magic to make them immune to the prisoner’s magic.”

“What do you know about him?” Cadence asked. Something told her that sooner or later Twilight was going to meet again with the dreaded stallion, so she wanted to be prepared in case things took a turn for the worst.

“We only know that his name is Static and that he used some unusual spells to escape the authorities,” Luna’s eyes had a stern gaze as she described the hated stallion with a venomous voice. “Based on Twilight’s reports, he is good at elemental magic, mainly with earth and lightning. From what she told me of his performance, he has used magic before to fight at some point in his past.”

Cadence winced upon hearing this. As the Princess of Love, she was among the most compassionate ponies of Equestria. Luna’s description of Static sounded like he was a hardened criminal, but she knew better than to judge a book by its cover. She would only label him as a criminal if she saw him acting like one.

If there was hope for Discord, why can't there be hope for him? Maybe he's not as bad as Twilight thinks.

“Is the prisoner still on his cell?” Cadence asked, hoping to have a chance of meeting Static and see if she could try to make peace between him and Twilight.

Perhaps a quick personality survey will help me determine the proper course of action. Maybe I can reach a consensus with him to behave affably with Twilight during the trial. Maybe that will help him and Twilight bury the hatchet. All I need to do is bury the hatchet and make sure that he doesn't give her any more reasons to hate...

“He is on interrogation with Shining Armor,” Luna shrugged her shoulders.

Her answer was met with horrified glances from Celestia and Cadence. Both mares shared a look before darting out of the hall to the interrogation cell.

Statice was bored. It was a logical option since he was under arrest. Although, it had been a long time since he awoke inside a cell, this was the first time that he had ever been arrested in Equestria. He mentally chastised himself for getting arrested in what was supposed to be his new home.

Well, congratulations, knucklehead! You got your first post-retirement arrest in your new home!

When he first awoke after the disastrous fight with the purple mare, he was in a special cell under the dungeons of the royal castle. At least that was what the guards standing at the door of his cell told him. They also took the liberty of explaining to him how his cell was inescapable.

The walls and the door were reinforced with ancient magic to prevent unicorns from destroying the cell from the inside out. Additionally, the magic inside the cell nullified any attempt to focus magic outside of it. Statice growled at the complexity of his cell as he realized how much it narrowed his escape options. On one side, he could not use destructive spells to destroy the room on which he was staying. On the other side, it was impossible for him to focus magic outside of the cell, preventing him from either using levitation to pick up the keys from an unsuspecting guard or a teleportation spell to get out when the guards were not looking.

Darn it all to Tartarus! I can't bust my way out from the inside! And I can't bring the keys in from the outside!

He was forced to stay in that cell for a few hours until he was brought in for interrogation. In order to prevent him from escaping, special cuffs were placed on his body to prevent and nullify the flow of magic around his body as he was dragged out of the cell and led into the interrogation room.

I guess these guys are not as dumb as I thought they were.

Now he was in an interrogation room, sitting on a chair in front of a table. At the other side of the table, another unicorn was facing him. He was a different type of guard, one who wore a purple armor, but shared the same white coat as the others. Unlike the others, this one wasn’t wearing a helmet, so he saw that he had a long blue mane with some lighter strands on it. His eyes were blue and fixed in the same stern gaze that was carried by most of the guards that he faced, although Statice could not help but notice that they were smaller than the eyes of his fellow guards.

What the heck is wrong with his eyes? Did he came from another city that's not from Canterlot?

“Do you know who I am?” the guard asked him. He sounded surprisingly young in comparison with the gruff voices he heard from the other guards.

“I can ask you the same question,” Statice narrowed his eyes. It wasn’t the first time that he had been interrogated, but he was sure that this was going to be barely an interrogation given that his interrogator was just a pony. If he were a griffin or any other creature known for violent tendencies, then he would have been more intimidated. Given how little performance he watched from ponies in his adventures across many foreign lands, Statice couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed at his species attempt to do dark activities that required the presence of a mean bone, like interrogation.

The guard stared at him before using his magic to remove his armor. The aura that surrounded the armor that was leaving him was colored magenta. After the armor was removed, the guard got out of his seat and stood in front of Statice, showing him his full appearance.
Like his compatriots, he was very buff for a unicorn and his cutie mark was a blue shield with a pink star of six points at its center with three small blue stars above it. He noticed that his fetlocks were unshorn, revealing blue hooves that matched his eyes, mane, and tail.

“My name is Shining Armor,” the unicorn presented himself. “I am Captain of the Royal Guard and I would like to ask you what were you thinking when you assaulted both royalty and guards indiscriminately.”

Normally, Statice would have gone straight to the point and explain the whole thing with Blueblood. Instead of that, he decided to mess with Shining Armor the same way he used to mess with his previous interrogators.

Let's see if you have what it takes to do the questionnaire with me, Shiny.

“You are the Captain of the Royal Guard?” Statice gave him a questioned look. “If you really have that rank, then tell me why the hay you have a purple armor while your underlings have a golden one?”

Shining Armor’s eyes widened at the question. He furrowed his brow in anger, figuring out that he was trying to get him mad. Well, he had a surprise prepared for his guest. But first, he needed to play along.

“Purple is the color of royalty,” Shining Armor explained, a hint of pride coming out of his voice as he recalled the day he achieved his rank. “The Captain wears a purple armor as a sign that he is the most suitable to serve Equestria under the orders of the princesses.”
He finished his answer with a proud grin. To his surprise, the green stallion was unfazed by his speech.

“Purple is a normal color,” he deadpanned. “The only unique thing about it is that it is made by mixing red and blue together. Golden is the true color of royalty, so, in a way, despite being the top pony around here, you’re giving the wrong message that you are worth less than your subordinates. If you want a better armor, I suggest one made of platinum. I heard that stuff is better than gold.”

Shining Armor felt his jaw drop. Not once in his entire career had any pony spoken to him like that. He ground his teeth at the prisoner for being so disrespectful and decided to get serious.

It's already bad that Blueblood insulted my armor once and made that same platinum suggestion years ago, now this criminal has the nerve to do it too? Fine! I'm not playing nice with him anymore!

“I think that you are forgetting who is interrogating who, Static,” Shining Armor sat on his hind legs and crossed his forelegs. “But since you are determined to play dumb with me, then I guess I will have to end your game.”

Statice narrowed his eyes at the white unicorn. This was normally the part where things got violent, as far as he knew. He wasn’t certain if his fellow ponies had the mean bone necessary to beat the information out of him.

Might as well find out.

“My guards told me that you assaulted Prince Blueblood yesterday with little provocation,” Shining Armor stood up on all four legs and started circling him. “Are you aware of the possibility of a long sentence for assaulting royalty.

“He asked for it!” Statice snapped. “I just wanted to have a nice meal and then he started to lecture me in a degrading manner because I wasn’t following a dress code.”

Shining Armor widened his eyes at the outburst before bursting in laughter. “That does sound like something Blueblood would do!” He kept on laughing for a little bit, not only for the whole Blueblood incident, but because he got a flustered reaction from the prisoner. He stopped laughing when he noticed Statice staring at him irritably before returning to his serious frown.

“You had enough laughter?” Statice growled, clearly annoyed at Shining Armor’s lack of professionalism. At least his former interrogators acted as such instead of acting like a school foal…still, this was probably a better option in retrospective.

It's official. He's an idiot. He won't be getting anything important out of me.

“You also resisted arrest,” Shining Armor added, quickly getting back on tract.

“I didn’t resist arrest,” Statice frowned. “Resisting arrest means that I beat up the guards when they tried to arrest me. What I did was avoiding the arrest.”

Shining Armor raised an eyebrow. “You call THIS avoiding the arrest?”

“I avoided getting arrested by them!” Statice slammed a hoof on the table defensively. “I only resisted when six mares attacked me once I was getting out of Canterlot.”

Shining Armor felt anger at Statice at that confession. He already disliked the stallion when he heard about the trouble he caused in Canterlot and made a fool out of his guards. His distaste grew further when he was told that he fought his sister Twilight and the rest of the Element Bearers. Having the perpetrator in front of him admitting all of these crimes allowed him to release some pent up hostility that he had saved for him since the interrogation begun.

“Those six mares are the Elements of Harmony,” Shining Armor gave Statice a venomous glare. “They are national heroes that have protected Equestria from major threats more than once. Their leader is Princess Twilight Sparkle, the Element of Magic…and my little sister.”

Statice’s eyes widened at the revelation. He had heard about the Elements of Harmony once when he read an old mare’s tale, The Mare in the Moon, as a foal. He never expected them to be real, much less to be wielded by the six mares that got him arrested. Another bout of realization struck him suddenly.

“Wait a second over here,” Statice raised his hoof and pointed it at Shining Armor. “Your sister is that annoying white unicorn that tried to seduce me into letting them arrest me, right?.”

Shining Armor slapped his hoof on his forehead and slid it down his face before glaring at the green stallion in annoyance. “That’s Rarity, the Element of Generosity. My sister Twilight is the purple…”

“The purple one is your sister?” Statice interrupted Shining Armor before he could finish his explanation. “No disrespect, but Rarity looks more like your sister than the purple one. I mean you both have white coats and blue eyes.”

“Stop interrupting me!” Shining Armor yelled, his patience running short. “Who are you and what is your business in Equestria, Static, if that’s even your real name?”

“That’s a cliché question if you ask me, Captain!” Statice snorted, not intimidated at all by the white unicorn. “You got that from a detective flick or something?”

“I know that a mercenary never uses his real name so he often comes up with an alias when operating on the job,” Shining Armor grinned maliciously.

“How did you?” Statice spoke only to be silenced when Shining Armor raised a hoof in front of him.

“The royal guards described your athletic and magical skills when you disabled Blueblood and when you ran away from them. Pinkie Pie described in detail how you used a spell to quickly change directions while you were ‘belly-sliding’ down the streets of Canterlot. Rainbow Dash alluded to another spell that allowed you to walk on the air when she met you. Finally, Twilight gave me a detailed report about how you used levitation to use tables as projectiles, shields, and platforms for attack. She also mentioned your proficiency in earth and lightning magic, the latter of which I can attribute to your possible codename. A healing spell was brought up when Twilight told me about how she and her friends managed to land a few blows to you during the fight. Your spells hint that this was not the first time that you ever used magic to fight against somepony. But my favorite clue that hints that you were a mercenary was your surprised reaction when I expressed my suspicion about your profession.”

Statice’s jaw dropped at the explanation while a grin manifested in the muzzle of Shining Armor. The former mentally started kicking himself for letting his reaction reveal his former occupation. He fell for the oldest trick in the book at the hooves of a smart guard. Begrudgingly, he mentally acknowledged that Shining Armor was indeed worthy of his rank as Captain.

Okay, no mean bone, but definitely the clear mind necessary for interrogators.

“So, Static,” Shining Armor leaned close to him. “Would you mind telling me what your true name is?”

Statice sighed, recognizing that Shining Armor earned the right to call him by his name by figuring out a part of his identity. “My true name is Statice and I used to be a mercenary. That is as much as you are going to get from me.”

“I think that is enough information for today,” Shining Armor smiled contently, feeling glad to have knocked Statice off his peg.

“Don’t get cocky with me, you pea-eyed jerk!” Statice snarled, not liking that smirk the white unicorn was giving him.

“What did you call me?” Shining Armor sneered, finding the insult very offensive.

“I said that your eyes look like peas!” Statice yelled as some royal guards came by and started dragging him away. “Your eyes are smaller than a normal pony’s. They make your head look abnormally big.”

“GET HIM OUT OF MY SIGHT!” Shining Armor roared, wanting the insolent prisoner to leave before having the chance of losing control of his emotions.

The guards nodded their heads and dragged the still kicking and screaming Statice out of the room. Shining Armor took a deep breath, using the stress-relieving technique his wife taught him. Once he calmed down, he left the room, only to stop to look at his reflection on the mirror.

“My eyes are not that small, are they?”

Statice was roughly pushed into his room, giving his guards a nasty glare before they slammed the door shut on him. As much as he wanted to beat them up, he knew it was impossible with his magical cell preventing his escape. The only thing left to do was to wait and see if he could make an escape.

“Maybe a little nap will make things less boring,” Statice mumbled to himself before closing his eyes. Napping was always hard for him in his line of work, but it was worth the wait. It gave him the rest that he barely got, and it made time flow faster in a bad day.

Sadly, as he prepared to begin his long journey to his nap with breathing exercises, the doors opened again and the guards entered and forced him into his hooves.

“What’s the big idea?” Statice irately called out to them as they dragged him out of his cell. “I just got back on my cell! I didn’t even get to have my nap!”

“The princesses want to see you to decide your sentence,” one of the royal guards spoke out. “Behave yourself or you will receive a greater punishment than the one decided by them.”

Seeing your ugly mugs is more than enough punishment for me.

Statice groaned, feeling within his heart of hearts that things were about to take a turn for the worse when the trial started.

Celestia was wearing a neutral expression on her face. As a princess, she was often in charge of settling disputes in Canterlot. This trial wasn’t going to be any different from previous disputes. Although this was the first time that she ever trialed a criminal that attacked royalty, she was going to be professional and not let her emotions cloud her judgment.

Next to her sat Luna, the dark blue alicorn was wearing a stern frown on her face. Unlike her sister, Luna was less forgiving on anypony who committed crimes in Equestria and was more than ready to deliver a punishment if she saw fit.

Cadence was extremely worried about the safety of the prisoner. She spent the morning trying to calm down Twilight. Her sister-in-law always enjoyed spending quality time with her ever since they first met, but even now she was barely acknowledging her since she arrived at the castle. Unfortunately, Shining Armor returned with the same foul mood as his sister. He also seemed a little insecure, as he asked her if she thought that his eyes were small when she and Celestia met him after his interrogation. It took little time for Cadence to figure out that the green unicorn somehow managed to infuriate her husband during the interrogation.

I better keep the fact that the prisoner and Shining interacted. I don't want to give Twilight more reasons to hate him.

Twilight looked livid as she stared at the green unicorn. When she heard that there was going to be a trial, she actually wrote speeches that could prove the guilt of the stallion and devised a fair, yet proper punishment. Nopony was going to say that she was going to be unfair once the sentence was given.

Twilight’s friends were sitting next to her. Rarity was trying to make conversation with Twilight, trying to reassure the purple alicorn that the trial was going to be just and promising that she was going to get closure on the issue. Applejack kept her emotions in check, opting to give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt that the princesses were giving him at the moment. Fluttershy was trembling and with her eyes closed, not wanting to partake in the trial as much as possible. Pinkie Pie was just being herself as she ate popcorn in anticipation for the trial. Rainbow Dash looked ready to fly down there and attack the green unicorn, just in case he tried anything.

“The trial is about to begin,” Celestia announced as she stood up, stretching her wings to the sides and striking a pose.

Statice saw the Princess of the Sun and was mesmerized at her magnificent appearance. She was a tall alicorn with a white coat, beautiful magenta eyes, and a flowing mane of blue, green, and pink hues. Her cutie mark was that of a sun and she wore golden regalia from her shoes to her collar and ending with the crown she proudly wore over her head.

I can't believe this. Celestia exists. She's not just a myth or a hot mare with a very convincing wing spell. She does look like the real Princess Celestia my parents told me about.

This was the ruler of Equestria. It was an exciting moment to be able to meet her. His excitement turned into shame when he realized that his first meeting with her was going to be as a criminal.

As he turned his head around, he noticed a mare next to her and realized that she too was an alicorn. She was smaller than Celestia, but far taller than Twilight. Her coat was dark blue with a patch of black on her crescent moon cutie mark. Her mane was cobalt blue with what appeared to be stars on it and seemed to wave in the wind just like Celestia’s. She wore silver hoof cups, a black chest plate with a crescent moon on it, and a black crown on her head. Her cyan eyes were glaring at him, already telling him that he was going to get condemned by the end of the trial.

Who the heck is this one? I don't remember another alicorn besides Nightmare Moon and Celestia.

He saw another mare close to them and realized that she too was an alicorn when he saw that she had both wings and horn. She was a tall, smaller than Celestia and Luna, but still taller than most ponies, with a tricolored mane of pink, purple, and gold hair. Her cutie mark was a crystal heart that seemed to reflect something important…he just couldn’t put his hoof on it yet. Her purple eyes, which seemed full of love and compassion, were staring at him with concern.

Another alicorn? Just what the heck is going on here? There was no such things as a pink alicorn in my bedtime stories!

As his eyes went to the six mares, Twilight snorted at him, pawing at the floor as she flared her wings open. Statice’s eyes widened as he remembered her wings during the fight. He mentally slapped himself on the face. He had been so entranced on the fight from yesterday that he didn’t figure the possibility of his opponent being a natural alicorn rather than a unicorn with a wing spell. He remembered how Shining Armor referred to her as his sister and a princess.

Oh, crud! I assaulted a princess and her friends!

It was official. This trial was not going in his favor.

The Trial

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The Trial

Trials in Equestria were not common incidents. Equestria was a land of peace and harmony, so the crime rates were low. Even if crime did happen every once in a while, most of the punishments were already predetermined, so there was no necessity for a trial in many of those occasions.

As Celestia stood in front of Statice, she noticed how young the green unicorn was. He was probably the same age as Twilight, but his facial expressions suggested that he was more emotional maturity within the stallion. In her thousands of years as a ruler, Celestia knew that nopony was born inherently good or evil, so she was trying to be as impartial as possible.

Only one way to find out what kind of pony this stallion is. Let's try to test him with some simple questions.

“Static,” Celestia called out the green stallion’s name. “Do you know who I am?”

“I think that you are Princess Celestia,” Statice admitted with a bit of reluctance, despite his determined gaze.

“You think?” Celestia raised an eyebrow. Every subject knew who she was, even if she didn’t directly meet them. It was kind of easy considering her unique physical appearance and her cutie mark.

“I came from afar, so I don’t know much about Equestria,” Statice admitted, not lying but neither telling the whole truth about his life.

“You were not born in Equestria?” Celestia cocked her head.

That's odd, but not impossible. There are some rare cases of ponies being born in neighboring lands. Still, that leaves me wondering about his roots. Where was he born exactly and how did he came to Equestria?

“I was born close to Equestria, but not exactly inside of it,” Statice admitted, as he tried to determine which details of his life he was going to mention. A lifetime of travels taught him that moving to different countries was a complicated issue that was much easier when one didn't talk much about previous visits to other locations.

“I think that he is a spy,” Rainbow Dash whispered to her friends.

“That’s ridiculous, Rainbow Dash!” Applejack shot back.

“It is not!” Rainbow Dash snapped at the orange mare. “What pony would grow up outside of Equestria? It’s like being born and raised in the Everfree Forest!”

“I don’t wanna think about that!” Fluttershy trembled.

“We are going to be partial, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight told the prismatic mare as her face showed a failed attempt to look calm with a twitching eye and a trembling lip that alternated between demented smile or threatening scowl. “I mean, look at me! I don’t like him, yet you don’t see me doing anything about it.”

The mares gave a concerned look to Twilight, more specifically what she was holding on her hooves. She was using Spike as one of those therapeutic squeezing balls as her forelegs kept squishing him against her in vice grip hug. Their attention was now focused back on Statice and Celestia.

“Would you mind explaining to me why you attacked my nephew?” Celestia asked with a stern tone. Despite his shortcomings, Blueblood was still her family and she didn’t approve of anypony hurting him.

“He was a jerk that lectured me over my lack of manners because I did not follow a dress code at a restaurant!” Statice stomped his hoof on the floor. “I already paid for my meal and I gave the owner a generous tip to ignore it, but then he showed up and started a rant in front of the whole restaurant. I stood there and took it until I had enough, at which point I blasted him out of the place.”

The mares gasped at the green stallion's honest admission of his crime. It was a big deal because he attacked a member of Celestia’s family and he sounded like he didn’t think much of it. To put it in simple terms, he was buying himself a one way ticket to the moon for his behavior.

Despite being surprised at his nerve, Rarity was slightly pleased that Statice injured Blueblood, remembering how cruel and insensitive he acted towards her at the Grand Galloping Gala. The only thing she did not approve of the incident with Blueblood was the fact that Statice didn’t follow the dress code of the restaurant. After all, what kind of pony would go to a Canterlot restaurant without formal clothes?

“You are also accused of running away from the guards,” Princess Luna chimed in, ready to participate. This was going to be her first time giving a serious trial in Equestria since her return and she was determined to act as professional as possible.

“I wasn’t going to let myself be arrested for giving that jerk what he had coming to him, Princess” Statice stared at her challengingly.

“That is Princess Luna to you, criminal!” the dark blue alicorn stood on her hind legs and spoke in her Royal Canterlot Voice. “I am the Princess of the Night and co-ruler of Equestria and you will address me as such.”

Statice widened his eyes in surprise before staring at Luna. He remembered the tale of the Mare in the Moon on which Celestia was forced to banish her sister to protect Equestria. Despite the memory of the tale still being printed inside his mind, Statice couldn’t help but notice that there was a little inconsistency with the story his parents used to read him when he was a foal.

“You’re small,” Statice pointed a hoof at Luna.

“Excuse me,” Luna cocked her head to the side, confused at what Statice said.

“My mother used to tell me about the Mare in the Moon and even showed me a book with drawings once. In it, you were the same size as your sister was in the illustrations. Now that I see you in person, I must ask you, out of curiosity rather than disrespect, why are you smaller than your sister?”

Everypony gasped at the question. Cadence slapped her forehead, annoyed at how Statice was digging his own grave with his question. Celestia seemed bemused at the turn of events while Luna was having a twitching eyebrow.

That went out of hoof.

“My size is of no concern to you!” she snapped as her horn summoned gales of wind and clouds of lightning. Fluttershy and Rarity squealed in fear as thunder echoed across the hall. Pinkie Pie popped out with an umbrella, just in case Luna was going to make it rain inside the castle.

Before Luna had the chance of smiting the fool who ignited her anger, Celestia put a hoof on her shoulder and gave her a disapproving look. She shook her head, silently letting her know that it was not worth it. Luna sighed before cancelling her storm, mentally admitting that her sister was right.

Statice stared at the scene, awed at the second alicorn’s power. He was fascinated by what he saw and desired to see what the remaining two were capable of doing. He raised his hoof so that Celestia could see it.

“Do you have a question?” Celestia asked in a calm voice, trying to maintain her composure to keep the trial orderly.

“Would you mind explaining me who these two are?” Statice pointed at Cadence and Twilight. “Before I came here, I was only aware that you were the ruler of Equestria. I knew of Luna’s existence, but I thought that she was still… you know… trapped in the moon. I was not informed of the existence of two more alicorn princesses.”

Celestia was tempted to answer, only to see Cadence standing up and walking to Statice. Shining Armor stiffened, not wanting his wife to be close to the prisoner, but refusing to take an action that may earn her disapproval.

“My name is Cadence,” the pink alicorn gave him her most charismatic smile, making Statice blush and turn his head away from her. “I am the ruler of the Crystal Empire and the Princess of Love.”

Statice blushed even more when she mentioned the L-word, a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed by Shining Armor. He glared at the prisoner, whose blush disappeared and was replaced with an angry scowl when he noticed him.

“My husband told me that your name is Statice and that you are a mercenary,” she smiled comprehensively at him. “He told me about your name right after you two were finished with the interrogation.”

“That was supposed to be between you and I, jerk!” Statice shook his hoof at Shining Armor. His blush was back, this time out of unbridled rage rather than nervousness around a pretty mare.

“I just did my job for my princess and my wife!” Shining Armor snapped back.

“You have a pretty name, Statice!” Cadence giggled.

“Call me Static!” Statice turned his head away in embarrassment.

“May I say something, Princess Celestia?” Rarity stood up, wanting to give her utmost sincere opinion about the prisoner.

“You may take your word, Rarity,” Celestia nodded her head at the white unicorn and prepared to listen to what she might say.

“I think that you have a pretty name, darling,” she gave him a coy smile. “After all, in the language of the flowers, your name means fond memories. It's quite a beautiful meaning name when you think about it.”

Statice felt his jaw drop as Rarity revealed the secret hidden in his name that he didn’t want anypony to know. Several reactions were made from different ponies. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Spike broke in laughter. Fluttershy smiled, finding the name lovely and meaningful. Shining Armor was suppressing laughter, finding Statice’s name relation to flowers to be hilarious. Even Celestia and Luna snickered as they found the laughter of the other ponies contagious. The only ones who didn’t laugh were Applejack, who didn’t saw a problem with Statice’s name, and Twilight Sparkle, who was still calculating her punishment for him.

Statice felt the humiliation drown him as he was unable to do anything other than bear with it until the laughter died down. He wanted to glare at Cadence for bringing out his name, but a look to those beautiful purple eyes calmed him down.

“Would you mind telling me why would you rather be called Static than your true name?” she asked innocently, seeming worried about why he would hate his real name that much.

“I am a mercenary,” Statice deadpanned. “Who is going to hire a mercenary that is named after a flower? Furthermore, do you have any idea of what an easy target you are when you are a male with the name of a flower?”

Cadence frowned as she uncovered another piece of the stallion’s past. He was probably bullied as a colt in a place outside of Equestria, where the inhabitants were less likely to treat him nicely. It was quite obvious that he was more of a misguided soul rather than a criminal. She gave her aunt Celestia a look that promised her an explanation before she went back to her husband, nuzzling his cheek before the trial continued.

“Statice,” Celestia addressed the green unicorn, rolling the name on her tongue to see if she pronounced it right. “Can you tell me where do you come from? I find it unusual that being a pony you don’t know anything about the princesses of Equestria?”

“I grew up in Hobuck,” Statice shrugged his shoulders, hoping that the answer was more than enough to satisfy Celestia. After all, she did visit Hobuck once based on the history lessons his parents gave him.

Both Celestia and Luna winced upon hearing the name. The gesture did not go unnoticed by Twilight, who frowned in worry for her mentor and her sister. “Is there something wrong?”

“We do not have good memories of Hobuck,” Luna shook her head, wanting to avoid a conversation about the town.

“Ooh!” Pinkie Pie called out. “Is it some magical place that disappeared from Equestria like the Crystal Empire?”

Luna silently cursed her luck before exchanging a nervous glance with Celestia. It was better if she just told them. They at least owed the Element Bearers the truth after everything they’ve done for Equestria. “Hobuck is a normal place in comparison with the Crystal Empire, but we don’t talk much of it nowadays.”

“Why don’t you talk about Hobuck anymore?” Twilight raised an eyebrow, curious to know about the location. She studied everything about the geography of Equestria, and knew for a fact that there was no place like Hobuck in there. Speaking about geography, she was not aware of the Crystal Empire until Celestia tasked her to save it. Did that mean that Hobuck had some obscure history like the disappeared kingdom?

“You can say that it is one of our failures,” Celestia sighed before looking at her fellow ponies. “It is no big failure like Nightmare Moon or the disappearance of the Crystal Empire, but it was still a disappointment that we would rather not talk about.”

“Why is it considered a failure?” Twilight asked, hoping that she was not intruding too much into Celestia and Luna’s past. As much as she wanted answers, she didn’t want to cause discomfort to her former mentor.

“It was supposed to be the center on which all the sentient creatures of Equestria could live in harmony with each other,” Statice responded as he prepared to give them a tale about his home. “The place was originally inhabited by ponies. However, it was also filled by dragons, Diamond Dogs, griffins, changelings, and any other life form that was capable of speech and socialization.”

“That sounds like a nice place!” Pinkie Pie cheered. “Just imagine having friends of all sizes and shapes!”

“I know a lot of ponies that will disagree with you,” Statice retorted. “Hobuck is not very pony friendly.”

“Why not?” Pinkie Pie asked, her ears flattening as well as her mane.

“Hobuck was supposed to be a city of equality,” Luna answered before Statice did with disappointment palpable in her voice. “Unfortunately, the non-pony citizens started a civil war because they believed that the pony citizens were going to receive privileges over them.”

“That sounds awful!” Fluttershy cried, trembling as she imagined a war. She could see that her friends agreed with her based on their shared horrified reactions.

“It was awful,” Celestia shook her head. “The war drove most of the pony citizens away from Hobuck with only a few remaining there to fight. By the time the fight was over, those who left refused to come back. To make matters worse, one of the results of the war was complete independence of Equestria.”

At this point, everypony but Statice, Celestia, and Luna gasped. Equestria was one of the best places in the world to live. Nopony in their right mind would want to leave it, much less stop being part of it.

“Princess?” Shining Armor looked at Celestia unsurely. “Ever since I joined the Royal Guard, I’ve studied the military history of Equestria. No mention of Hobuck was ever written in my study books.”

“We didn’t like to talk about Hobuck,” Luna admitted somberly, her head lowered in shame. “There were lots of casualties that we’d rather forget.”

“That brings us to the issue for this trial,” Celestia coughed into her hoof, trying to hide the sadness of her previous failure. “Due to Statice not being a citizen of Equestria, this may excuse some of his behavior. However, this will not excuse any crimes that he knowingly committed. You still used offensive magic on my nephew, my guards, my student, and her friends.”

Statice placed a hoof over his eyes. Why was royalty always trying to kick his tail? They were always the ones who threw the first blow! He was just fighting back for crying out loud!

“They started it!” Statice crossed his hooves across his chest. “I was the one that ended it. It’s not my fault that lots of ponies tried to get in the way.”

Twilight glared at the green stallion, angry at him for speaking like that to her mentor. She stood up and looked at Celestia with determination. “May I speak, Celestia? I want to ask our prisoner some questions.”

Celestia gave Luna an unsure glance before sighing and addressing her former student. “You may speak, Twilight. But do not let him coerce you into a fight.”

“I won’t,” Twilight promised. Statice raised an eyebrow at her. That sounded like an interesting challenge to him.

“Why did you attack me and my friends?” she asked him as she walked at his direction. “You could have run away, but instead you chose to stay and fight. Why did you choose that option?”

“It was impossible,” Statice sighed. “The rainbow mare would have caught up with me if I had tried to run away. Your magic also prevented me from escaping unless you were neutralized. It was one of those fights that you have to fight whether you like it or not.”

Twilight pondered on the answer. It was kind of true as he could have been captured by Rainbow Dash the second he started running. He couldn’t have escaped her as long as she was using her magic on him. Both of his statements were truly valid.

I guess fighting was the only option for him. Thinking about it, escape wasn't really an option for him.

“I guess that I will tolerate your behavior because of your unfamiliarity with the society of Equestria,” Twilight began as she paced back and forth in front of him. “But I will not tolerate any further misbehavior in this trial. We are your princesses and we ask of you to give us…”

“Don’t tell me you’re still mad at me for sucking your horn,” Statice interrupted her in an exasperated manner. “It happened yesterday so get over it.”

The room went silent. Spike’s jaw dropped as he stared at his five friends, expecting them to say something about the issue. Their shocked silence was the only verification that proved that Statice’s claim was true. Having gotten his answer, Spike stuck out his tongue and groaned in disgust. Sucking a horn sounded gross.

Now I understand why Twilight was so mad at Statice.

Cadence stared at her husband in worry. He had entered into a state of shock that she never expected of him. She never saw Shining Armor losing his cool before as he kept his emotions in check due to his job. Right now, she was wondering how her husband was going to look like if he shared his sister’s temper. She tried to look at her aunts for reassurance, only to find them staring at the scene uncomfortably.

Twilight’s face was now sporting a blush. She was stammering, incapable of making coherent speech. She was ashamed and humiliated as that…that jerk once again brought back her horn, this time on the trial, in front of her fellow princesses and Shining Armor. The blush on her cheeks spread across her face as steam came out of her ears and nostrils. She bared her teeth, grinding them as she felt her face scrunch up in anger.

Statice quickly figured out that he messed up when Twilight’s hoof flew at him and slapped him across the face in the same way it did yesterday. The slap echoed across the hall and made everypony, except a still shocked Shining Armor, wince in sympathy.

“Don’t bring my horn into this!” Twilight yelled in a hysterical fashion. Her purple fur was now red across the face, reflecting her anger and embarrassment.

Statice rubbed his sore cheek, conscious of the red hue that was covering the green fur. “I don’t understand what is the big deal about it,” he protested. “You were a powerful magic user, so I chose to disrupt your focus by hitting your horn. Since my hooves were unavailable, I just used my mouth and teeth on your horn to distract you with pain, or at least with moderate discomfort because I couldn't manage to bite you hard enough to hurt you. What's so bad about mentioning that strategy?”

This time, Twilight’s other hoof slapped him on the intact cheek. Statice groaned as he rubbed both red bruises on his cheeks. “Stop talking about my horn!” Twilight screamed at him.

“Fine,” Statice growled, getting tired of the violence. “It's just that I don’t see what is so wrong about it! I’ve used that strategy on fights against unicorns and it always worked to disrupt spells that were impossible for me to defeat.”

Cadence quickly took a step forward, gently pulling Twilight away to prevent the purple alicorn from having the chance of slapping him a third time. “The problem is that a unicorn’s horn is very sensible, so when you attacked it, you…”

She was unable to finish her sentence as her husband quickly tackled Statice into the ground. Both stallions were now surrounded by a cloud of dust as their hooves were flying in every direction. It was clear that they were getting into a hoof fight.

“You sucked on my sister’s horn!” Shining Armor roared in outrage in the middle of the big ball of violence. They were fighting so fast and so violently that it was impossible to recognize who was hitting who.

“And what if I did that, you incompetent punk?” Statice challenged as the fight grew in scale.

Cadence stared at the scene in horror. She had never seen her Shiny behave that violently. She turned her head around to ask for her aunt’s advice but stopped at what she saw.

Celestia was breathing heavily…with the angriest face she could muster. Frustration and irritation marked her features as the last of her patience wore down. Powering her horn with magic, she sent a current down her front hooves. She raised her forelegs and brought them down on the floor in a powerful stomp. The magic she released created a blinding flash that was accompanied with a strident shout.


Meeting Discord

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Meeting Discord

Statice was once again being escorted back into his cell. This time the ones that were escorting him were Applejack and Pinkie Pie. After Celestia stopped the brawl between him and Shining Armor, she had both mares be in charge of him while she and the other princesses discussed his punishment. Rainbow Dash had offered to go with them but Celestia forbid it, quickly figuring out that she also had a grudge against the green stallion that would result in another altercation. Rarity had refused to go with them because she didn’t want to be associated with a “ruffian” as she had called him. Fluttershy was too scared and shocked at how violent the trial got that she hid under the chair, leaving Rarity in charge of consoling her. Spike wanted to be around Statice as well, wanting to see what else was going to happen around him, only for Twilight to levitate him onto her back and carry him away.

“Ya have a big mouth,” Applejack scowled at Statice.

“I have a big mouth as well,” Pinkie Pie bounced, stopping in midair to get a large cake out of nowhere before opening her mouth extra wide to swallow it. Statice stared in surprise while Applejack kept her eyes on him.

“It’s bigger than mine,” Statice remarked in surprise as the pink mare returned to the floor, licking her lips in delight.

“Thanks Static,” she hugged him. “Oops, I meant to say Statice,” she giggled before giving him a sad pout. “Why did you lie about your name? That wasn’t very nice, Statice! I could have made you a cake with the wrong name because I missed a letter.”

“I’m embarrassed of my name,” Statice blushed. Although his father was a florist, it was kind of humiliating to have been named after a flower when you were a stallion.

“But some ponies are named after flowers, silly,” Pinkie Pie corrected him, bopping him on the nose playfully. “There is Rose, Lily, and Daisy in Ponyville…”

“And how many of those ponies you mentioned are stallions?” Statice asked, expecting Pinkie to get his point.

“They’re all mares,” Pinkie Pie grinned, somehow making a squeaky sound in the process. “But that doesn’t mean that there is not a stallion that is not named after a flower apart from you.”

“Let it go, Pinkie Pie,” Applejack stuck her hoof on the pink mare’s mouth before she continued talking. “This vermin ain’t worth it.”

“Like I care,” Statice snorted as he finally reached his cell. When he extended his hoof to enter his prison, he felt two strong hooves grab him by the shoulders, lifting him from the ground and slamming him into a wall. He was now looking at the livid green eyes of the orange pony.

“Listen here, ya no good fellah. Ah will excuse yer previous behavior because you are not from ‘round here but that ends now. Everypony in that trial is mah friend and you have shown to be a disrespectful scoundrel. The princesses, mah friends, and Ah have worked hard to keep peace in Equestria so if yer goin’ to be here ya better learn some respect. Ya got that?”

Statice stared at the orange pony. Despite her appearance, she had monstrous strength, not only in her hind legs but in her front legs as well. As he looked at her in surprise, he noticed that there was something about her green eyes. They were emerald pools that reflected who he was and what he was feeling inside. It was as if no secret was safe from them and that all the truth that was hiding within him had to come out. He felt that desire to be honest come out of him as he said the first thing that was in his mind.

“You have pretty eyes,” he blurted out. He spoke those words reflexively and without even thinking it, immediately regretting it when he covered his mouth with his hooves. He couldn’t believe he had said something so…embarrassing. He looked down at the mare that held him and was surprised at what he saw.

Those green eyes he complimented were very small, the size of pinpricks. There was a rosy tint on her cheeks. Her lips were trembling as if they were trying to say something. He felt her forelegs tremble as her grip on his shoulders reduced to nothing, letting him slump against the wall. As he stared more into her face, he noticed that her lips were grimacing and that her teeth were bared. He tried to contemplate the meaning behind those facial gestures only to find out the answer when he felt her hind hooves kicking him in the chest. The wind was knocked out of him as he was sent colliding into the door, forcefully opening it with his body, which then landed on the floor.

“That’s what ya get for tryin’ to sweet-talk me, you scoundrel!” Applejack yelled with her face still flushed. She looked angry but the tone of her voice sounded flustered… and a little bit scared. Without giving him another look, she slammed the door closed and galloped away from the cell.

“Applejack, wait up!” Pinkie Pie called out for her friend to no avail. She turned around and gave Statice an apologetic look. “I’m sorry for that. She doesn’t normally act that way.”

“You don’t say,” Statice gave her a sarcastic look as he rubbed his sore chest.

“I’ll try to talk to Applejack to see what’s wrong,” Pinkie Pie smiled reassuringly at him. “And speaking of sweet talking, next time we talk let’s eat sweets as we do. Now that will be some real sweet talking.”

She giggled before bouncing away. Statice groaned in annoyance, yelping in pain when he touched the injured area. Applejack left him another bruise in his chest. He concentrated magic on his horn and spread it across the area, feeling the pain go away after a few seconds. Once it was done, he realized something important.

He had done magic and it didn’t backfire on him. He wanted to celebrate but refused to do so out of fear of being overheard by a guard. The last thing he needed was for his cell to get an upgrade.

“I can use magic in this area just as long as it is not focused on the walls,” Statice concluded to himself happily in a voice barely above a whisper. “Things are turning better than expected.”

“Indeed they are!” a mysterious voice chuckled. Statice’s eyes turned into pinpricks when he realized that he was not alone. The owner of that voice sounded dangerous based on how deep it was. There was also an air of charm in the way his visitor spoke, which reminded him of several tricksters from his past.

“Show yourself!” Statice yelled, trying to sound courageous.

Be careful, Statice! If somepony got inside this cell without anypony noticing, then that means that this guy is the real deal.

“Your wish is my command,” the voice responded. A snap of fingers was heard, followed by a puff of smoke. From within came out a mismatched creature that Statice never thought could exist.

He had the head, beard, and horns of a goat with one fang curling from one side of his lips and two red eyes mismatched in size. He had the body of a serpentine dragon with each limb being different from the other. One arm resembled a lion and the other resembled an eagle. One leg resembled a goat’s cloven hoof and the other resembled a lizard. On his back, there were two mismatched wings, one resembled a bat and another was a feathered wing.

By the stars, what kind of chimera is that?

“What are you?” Statice asked, taking a few steps back in awe. He had seen many exotic creatures in his life but none as bizarre as the being standing in front of him.

“I am Discord, the Spirit of Disharmony!” the creature made a bow. “But I think I just told you who I am rather than what I am. I am a draconequus to be exact.”

“What is a draconequus?” Statice asked, feeling genuine interest.

“Can’t you figure it out by looking at me?” the Spirit of Disharmony knocked on the green unicorn’s head playfully with his lion paw.

“No,” Statice deadpanned. “And I would appreciate if you don’t treat me like a child and just tell me already. I am not fond of the ‘you’re too young to understand the world’ garbage that I’ve been told all my life.”

Instead of looking enraged, as Statice expected, Discord burst into laughter. “I like your attitude, kid! If Celestia and Luna had half of your charm I would have had more fun dealing with them in the past!”

“I amuse you?” Statice asked, surprised at the thought of accomplishing something like that with a being he assumed to be ancient.

I hope that whatever amusement I bring to him is the good one. I’m not looking forward to becoming some monster’s toy.

“I’ve been around for eons, kid,” Discord wrapped his lion arm around Statice’s neck while he waved his eagle arm at the side as if he were showing something. “You’d be surprised at how anypony speaks to me unless they have some magical trinkets of ultimate power with them.”

Now it was Statice’s turn to laugh. Something about Discord was off but in the fun way. “I like you, Discord. You’re funny. But I need to ask you why you are here.”

“I heard about the commotion between you and Celestia’s pompous nephew,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “The fight you had with Twilight and her friends, your interrogation with Shining Armor, and your trial with Celestia and Luna piqued my interest.”

“How do you know about all of that?” Statice asked, not comfortable with how much Discord found out about him.

“I am a spirit of chaos, my dear boy!” Discord laughed as he snapped his eagle fingers and reappeared wearing a suit. “If there is something chaotic happening then I’ll be the first one to know…especially if it involves Celestia and the Elements of Harmony.”

“Can you tell me everything about them?” Statice asked, feeling interested about his captors. “I’m probably gonna see them soon and something tells me that things won’t go well if my lack of knowledge of Equestria plays against me.”

Discord gave it a thought. “I am not sure on how to answer this, Statice. On one side, if Celestia finds out, then I’ll be in big trouble. On the other side, I’ve got a feeling that tells me that you have something between hooves and I’m dying to find out.”

Statice closed his eyes, measuring his options before coming out with a plan. “How about I give you something?” Statice proposed.

“I’m listening!” Discord came out with a hearing device on one of his ears.

“My life as a mercenary was chaotic,” Statice started with an obvious fact. “I promise you a story about my mercenary days if you tell me everything about you, the Princesses, and the Elements of Harmony.”

Discord looked intrigued, scratching his chin with his eagle hand. “I’ve never seen a mercenary pony before. Still, the way you spoke to the Princesses suggests that you are indeed a very chaotic pony. I’ll give it a go.”

“Good,” Statice smiled at his progress. “Let’s go to a more appropriate setting for this story.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Discord shook his head. “Celestia and Luna will know if you try to leave your cell room and the guards don’t like me well enough to omit me in a report if they ever see us talking together.”

“It’s a good thing that the place we’re going to is a place inside the inside of this cell,” Statice smirked as he charged his horn with magic.

Discord’s eyes widened at what the unicorn was trying to do. He was not sure what he meant by the place inside the inside of the cell but he wanted to see what it was. His answer came in the form of a large vertical green line that opened to reveal a white hole in front of him.

“Follow me,” Statice smiled as he entered into the hole. Shrugging his shoulders, Discord put on a swimming cap and then he launched himself into the hole.

After crossing the opening, Discord was met by pure whiteness. This place was empty, devoid of anything. He was just floating around in a blank space with an eerie silence being the only noise there.

“Scary, isn’t it?” Statice asked from behind Discord, making him scream girlishly before disappearing with a snap of his fingers. “I can’t believe I just scared the Spirit of Disharmony that easily.”

“Is that so?” Discord reappeared in front of Statice, putting on his best scary face with a lower and deeper voice to induce extra fear. The green stallion yelped, falling on his flank and crawling away from Discord. The draconequus laughed at him in response, angering him to the point of sulking.

“Are you done laughing?” Statice asked, heavily irritated by the mismatched creature’s antics.

“Yes,” Discord wiped away a tear from his eye. “Now straight to business, I am impressed with this. You used an intradimensional space to travel to a new location without abandoning the old one! That is thinking outside the box! Or should I say inside the box?”

“It is my Hammerspace Spell,” Statice admitted, feeling pride swelling inside of him for earning praise from an immortal’s mouth. “It is a special dimension that I use for storage of anything, from supplies to treasures.”

To reinforce his claim, Statice focused on the first thing that came out of his mind and from nothing came out mountains of gold, precious metals, and gems. Next came out several supplies, such as snacks, and even a cart full of ice cream that was still perfectly cold.

“This place is amazing!” Discord grinned upon seeing the bulk of things Statice had there. “This is a perfect place for souvenirs.”

Did the Spirit of Disharmony praise my spell? I’m honored. Well, I’m more or less honored since the guy is kind of a creep.

“Tell me about it!” Statice bragged. “This place is not bound by the rules of physics so I don’t have to worry about running out of space! Things such as gravity, space, time, and temperature are worth nothing here! Are you ready for the show? I got some snacks right here if you want some.”

“That won’t be a problem,” Discord shook his head and snapped his fingers. A large bag of popcorn materialized in his lion paw along with a huge couch. “Show me what you have, Statice!”

The green stallion sighed as he focused all of his memories into his horn, turning them into magic. He never expected to talk about his past, but this was the only way to get what he needed to escape. A little favor for another was always good every once in a while. Taking one deep breath, Statice let all of his life flow out of his horn and into the screen.

You can do it, Statice. It’s just one time. Besides, having somepony that can bypass the magic of the Princesses may be handy someday in the future.

It took him several hours inside Hammerspace until he reached the end of his memories. Once the show was over, Discord was in tears, loudly blowing his nose with a small handkerchief. He delivered the snotty tissue to Statice, who quickly vaporized it with his magic in disgust.

“That was it,” Statice said with finality. “I gave you my life’s story.”

“Your life is the best story that I’ve ever seen!” Discord cried with tears in his eyes, blowing his nose once again. “It made me laugh and cry. It made me love you and sometimes hate you. You should get an award for that. You’re not just a mercenary, bounty hunter, thief, and spy. You are also an excellent anti-hero! I wish there were more interesting ponies like you.”

I just made Discord cry with my life story. That’s awesome…I think.

In spite of the accomplishment, Discord’s approval somehow filled Statice with shame. “I did my end of the deal so now it’s your turn. Tell me everything about the Princesses and the Elements of Harmony. I need to know what I’m going to fight when I escape from this place.”

“Fair enough,” Discord grinned, quickly recovering from his crying fit. “You might as well take a seat because this is going to take a lot of time.”

“I got time to spare,” Statice shrugged his shoulders. The green unicorn watched with interest as the draconequus snapped his fingers and materialized a movie screen.

It took at least two days in Hammerspace for Statice to get everything he needed to know about his adversaries. He also learned to never underestimate Discord as the strange being was more cunning than expected, especially because he managed to gather information for over a thousand years despite being sealed in stone. The first few hours were focused on Celestia and Luna’s war against Discord, which ended with them defeating him with the Elements of Harmony. Then another hour was focused on Luna’s corruption into Nightmare Moon, ending with her being sealed by Celestia into the moon with the Elements of Harmony. The remaining hours, based on Statice’s calculations, focused on the current wielders of the Elements of Harmony.

Statice had mixed feelings regarding the six saviors of Equestria. Although they accomplished amazing feats together, and even excelled in some fields on their own, he found their personalities to be immature, even wondering how the hay did they ever save Equestria in the first place. Pinkie Pie seemed to be either stupid or crazy depending on the day, Rarity was a drama queen and a somewhat lazy jerk that took advantage of the baby dragon’s crush on her to do chores she would rather not do, and Fluttershy was either an overly scared pony or a pushover. He was aware that he was only focusing on their worst traits and that their redeeming qualities more than made up for them, but he still had trouble thinking of them as hero material.

Rainbow Dash and Applejack had potential as they excelled in athletics and were the fastest and strongest mares in Ponyville, respectively. The former actually earned Statice’s respect based on her dedication to her flying and her Sonic Rainboom. The latter, although not as interesting as the first, still had some potential as a threat based on her physical strength, stubbornness, and cunning when it came to fighting and solving problems with a practical approach.

The biggest threat of them all was Twilight Sparkle. Out of the six, she was the one who had the most focus on Discord’s memories. She started out as a unicorn only to become an alicorn princess. Hay, most of the greatest victories of Equestria were caused because she was the only one smart enough to do something about them. She was the one who found out about Nightmare Moon’s return, released her friends from Discord’s spell, stopped the Changeling Invasion by rescuing Cadence, and found the Crystal Heart. She even travelled to an alternate dimension to recover her crown and was willing to stay trapped there for years to protect the friends that she made there. Even though he found her ascension to be ridiculous for completing a half-made spell made by Star Swirl, he still believed that she deserved her status based on her greatest accomplishments.

His opinion on Celestia and Luna was mixed. For starters, he realized that, although they were the rulers of Equestria and probably the most powerful ponies of the kingdom, both of them were just as fallible as anypony else.

He felt sympathy for Luna’s loneliness while on the moon and for Celestia’s forced decision to seal her there. Despite this, he couldn’t respect them as leaders even if he wanted to coexist with them once Discord had shown him their flaws

. Luna’s descent into darkness sounded like an inferiority complex. He had dealt with enough sibling spats throughout his career to notice one. In her defense though, at least she earned points for trying to atone for her sins.

Celestia was surprisingly worse despite her most pleasing personality, given her tendency to rely on gambits and blind faith in her student’s success. Twilight and her friends could have died facing that sleeping dragon or King Sombra, especially since they didn’t have the Elements of Harmony to help them fight against such odds. The Changeling Invasion was probably her worst mistake for hosting a wedding when there was a threat of an invasion happening and then ignoring Twilight’s warnings about Cadence being replaced by an impostor. The mare was Cadence’s aunt and didn’t realize that her niece was replaced by an imposter who didn’t even bother to imitate her personality.

It’s official. Celestia needs to get some family counseling. You certainly need one if you don’t realize that your sister is having an evil personality growing inside of her or your niece is replaced by a second rate actress who uses the wedding nerves excuse.

Ignoring those failures, he could see that both sisters were smart and powerful despite their flaws and not to be underestimated at any time.

“I got everything I needed to see,” Statice breathed in as he opened a tear on Hammerspace. “Let’s go back to my cell.”

The unicorn and the draconequus entered through the tear and came back into his cell. Discord stretched himself out, cracking his back with an audible pop. “You are indeed a very amusing pony, Statice. I can’t wait to see what you’ll do in the future.”

“That’ll be a surprise,” Statice smiled evilly.

Discord returned the gesture with an evil smirk before vanishing with a snap of his fingers. The green unicorn stretched himself and started some calisthenics to physically prepare himself for his escape.

“Operation Escape is about to begin.”

Operation Escape

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Operation Escape

Loyal Pawn was on guard duty, making sure that the prisoner remained in his cell at all cost. For a private, this was a huge mission, especially with how demanding Captain Shining Armor acted when he assigned him the responsibility of guarding Statice. He had never seen his Captain so worked up in the past, so he knew that this was a big time mission. If he played his cards right, then there was a chance of getting a promotion to corporal. It was a small promotion but his dad always said that baby steps are better than no steps when it came to climbing the ladder of success.

“Corporal Loyal Pawn,” he mumbled to himself dreamingly, liking the sound of his name and future rank. He had dropped the Royal Guard’s default stoic expression as he fantasized about his promotion. He shook his head a couple of times to get rid of his daydream. He adopted his stern expression and prepared to resume his guard duty with no complaining.

“This is so boring,” he complained anyway. It was the truth though. There was no fun in just guarding the prisoner. The real fun came from capturing prisoners. He was not sure what to think of the prisoner, but he heard that he gave the bearers of the Elements of Harmony some trouble before his capture.

“I wonder what’s so special about him,” he mused to himself in a whisper, not wanting the prisoner to hear him. It would be very unprofessional if the prisoner heard a guard that was supposed to be watching him wondering in curiosity about him. To be honest, he wanted to talk with Statice, hoping that it may ease his boredom, but his duty as a Royal Guard forbid him from interacting with prisoners.

“I guess a little peek won’t kill me,” Loyal Pawn sighed as he turned his head to the side. He had only seen glimpses of Statice in the past but he never had a detailed view of the stallion.

He gasped. “It can be,” he muttered, almost blanching if it weren’t for his already white coat. There was supposed to be a green unicorn stallion inside that cell and it was empty.

“He can’t be gone!” Loyal Pawn cried out in fear as he levitated his keys with a red aura of his horn. “I can’t let him escape. How am I supposed to tell Captain Shining Armor about this?”

The keys nervously entered into the keyhole before he turned the knob. He frantically ran around the cell, trying to see what escape route Statice used to get out of his cell.

There must be some tunnel in the ground or in the walls. That must be it! No! That’s stupid. This is a cell that has been reinforced by alicorn magic. There is no way that he could have escaped!

“I can’t find him!” Loyal Pawn cried out, tears threatening to come out of his eyes. “I failed my mission! How am I supposed to face my fellow guards and my captain without the prisoner? He is nowhere to be seen!”

“As a matter of fact, I am everywhere and nowhere,” a voice said behind Loyal Pawn. He turned around, gasping in shock. His only answer was a green hoof shooting straight at his face.

“That was easy,” Statice exhaled in relief over the unconscious royal guard he sucker punched. “Everypony always falls for the Light Camouflage Spell.”

The Light Camouflage Spell was a spell designed to alter the photons in the air surrounding Statice. By distorting the light particles around him, Statice was able of making himself invisible with the spell. It was a perfect spell for stealth and deception, at least in the case of amateurs. Had Loyal Pawn paid attention, he would have smelled Statice’s sweat from the heat caused inside the cell or the heavy breathing he was making out of fear of being discovered. His spell made him invisible but not silent or odorless.

“Now I’m on my way to Step 2: Disguise.” Statice levitated the armor off of Loyal Pawn and then took a look at the unconscious guard. He had seen white fur and blue eyes, mane, and tail with a black pawn cutie mark. Once he memorized the details, Statice prepared to use another spell.

This time he used the Light Disguise Spell. Unlike its predecessor, this spell did not make Statice invisible but altered the photons into distorting Statice’s colors. His green fur was turned white and his cutie mark was replaced by the one on the guard’s flanks. His golden eyes turned blue and his multicolored mane and tail just turned blue. This spell was based on the data that Statice gathered about Changelings during his days as a bounty hunter. He finished his disguise by putting up the guard’s golden armor, getting surprised at how nice if felt on his body.

“A perfect disguise needs a perfect performance,” Statice once again lighted his horn, but this time he put it on Pawn’s head. “I’m going to do a little background check on you to get more into character.”

The spell he was using was the Psychometric Spell, which allowed him to know the detailed history of anything, from an inanimate object to a living pony. He was only focusing his spell on anything involving Loyal Pawn’s full service to the Royal Guards. The last thing he needed was another identity crisis from absorbing too many memories of his victim into his mind and mixing them with his own.

“Worst mission ever,” Statice shuddered once he got everything he needed. Using the spell reminded him of a time on which he used it on a mare and developed a case of confused gender breakdown from absorbing too many memories from her. Nothing was more confusing than a stallion that thought that he was a mare trapped in a stallion’s body.

Snapping out of his bad memories, Statice once again used his Hammerspace to open a tear to his blank sanctuary. He levitated the unconscious guard and put him through the rift. One of the benefits of Hammerspace is that things such as food and drink were just an optional commodity instead of a life preserving necessity. He was confident that Loyal Pawn was not going to die of hunger or thirst there. Of course, with Loyal Pawn gone, Statice was now free to take up his identity and continue his plan.

Using the memories he had gathered, Statice went out of his cell and climbed up the stairs into the castle. He then took a step to the right into the armory. The room was full of sets of golden armors and spears. The disguised stallion found it hard to not be awed upon seeing such weaponry, taking off one of his golden horseshoes to rub the spears with his bare hoof as he kept analyzing the room. A mischievous glint came out of Statice’s eyes as he decided to get some payback on the royal guards for arresting him.

“Enough window shopping,” Statice smiled as he was finally done checking the armory. “It’s time to take my prize.” He once again opened a tear to Hammerspace, placing all the armors and spears inside of it before closing the tear.

What the heck. It’s not as if petty theft is going to make my situation worse than it already is, thought Statice.

“Time to get out,” Statice chuckled as he left the room. He looked on both directions to make sure that nopony was watching him before going on his merry way. “It was going to be lunchtime soon so he could drop out as Loyal Pawn and then leave the castle to “return home” once the shift was over.

“The prisoner has escaped!” a royal guard exclaimed as he ran across the halls. Following him from behind, several guards were stampeding, shouting things and orders of capturing the prisoner as they went along.

“Darn it!” Statice swore under his breath. “I thought they were going to find out much later.”

Just pretend that you’re Loyal Pawn. You have his history recorded in your brain. It won’t be the end of you to wait a few hours until your escape.

Knowing that there was no other choice but playing along, Statice joined the stampeding soldiers. He prayed the stars that nopony would suspect of him in the meantime.

Shining Armor was stressed. It wasn’t the same stress he had when he did training with his fellow guards. It wasn’t the same stress that he felt helping Cadence rule the Crystal Empire. It wasn’t even the type of stress that he had doing his duties as a Captain of the Royal Guards. This stress felt more personal and frustrating, taking the form of a green unicorn stallion that had somehow managed to escape his cell. Right now, he had two royal guards with him, discussing the situation.

“Tell the other guards to gather around in the barracks,” he lectured the first guard, who saluted him before leaving. He then turned his attention to the second one. “I have a special task for you.”

“What is it, Captain?” the remaining guard stood in attention, prepared to serve his superior.

“Do not let the Princesses or the Element Bearers know anything about Statice’s escape,” he instructed him with a firm yet stern gaze. “I don’t want Twilight or Cadence to encounter that criminal.”

“Yes, sir!” the guard saluted before leaving the room. Shining Armor took a deep breath and exhaled. It was a stress relieving technique that Cadence taught him every time that he got stressed out during his training days as a guard. He rarely used it anymore, but now he needed it more than ever.

After calming down, Shining went to the barracks. His soldiers needed a leader to help them catch the criminal and he was going to do his job.

At the barracks, all of the royal guards working at the castle were standing firmly, watching their captain pace in front of them. He had the same stern look as them but there was a little bit of disappointment in them. Statice could notice that emotion from his position even though he wore the same stoic mask as the rest of the guards.

“Soldiers, I was informed that our prisoner has escaped the dungeons not too long ago,” Shining Armor spoke with a stern tone. “It is our duty to capture him and make sure that he does not get away with his crimes. He may have escaped but we have not failed our duty yet!”

The royal guards roared with approval as Shining Armor spoke passionately among them. The uproar caught Statice by surprise as he did not expect that lively reaction from the guards.

Great, now they’re all riled up to capture me. Let’s just hope the enthusiasm cripples their performance.

“We’ll assign several teams to search all over the castle. Everypony will go in groups of two to survey each room in the castle. If you find something out of place, let everypony know about it.”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“I’ll let the lieutenants assign the teams,” Shining Armor stopped pacing and stood right in front of Statice. “Right now, I would like to have a talk with you in my office, Loyal Pawn. It was your duty to watch the prisoner after all.”

How did he know? Statice mentally asked inside his mind.

Despite his fear at being potentially discovered, he nodded his head obediently to keep appearances. “Yes, Captain,” he meekly nodded his head, trying his best to imitate Pawn’s voice.

Shining Armor raised an eyebrow at him, turning away from the private and walking forward. Some of the guards snickered as Statice followed Shining Armor, finding the idea of Loyal Pawn being punished to be hilarious. Statice quickly silenced them with a look that shut them up good. He then went on to follow Shining Armor into his office. He never noticed the white unicorn looking over his shoulder in the instant on which he glared at the other guards.

Shining Armor’s office was well ordered, not unlike that of his little sister. His office had a desk and two chairs for personal discussions. It was huge enough to hold bookcases, each filled with books of history, geography, politics, battle strategies, and magic. Like his sister, he too believed that knowledge was power as it helped him to quickly rise through the ranks of the Royal Guards. The most notable aspect of the office was a couple of pictures in the desk. One of them was of Shining Armor and Cadence at their wedding and another one was of a young Twilight Sparkle playing with him.

The office was normally Shining’s sanctuary, a place where he could calm down whenever things got stressful for him. Right now, he looked ready to rip Loyal Pawn to pieces as he walked towards his desk and sat down on his chair.

“Sit down,” he ordered in an ominously calm voice.

“Yes, sir,” Statice gulped, feeling genuinely afraid that his disguise was going to get blown off. He was not afraid of fighting Shining Armor if the situation demanded it but he knew for a fact that if he fought him there was a high chance that he may have to fight somepony else after that, increasing his risk of getting captured again. The worst part was that Shining Armor was tough given the power of the shield spells that Discord showed him during the information exchange.

It’s okay, Statice. He probably thinks that you’re Loyal Pawn and wants to chew him up for your escape. Just bear with it. He won’t find out who you are.

“Who do you think you are deceiving?” Shining Armor asked plainly.

“Beg pardon,” Statice asked nervously.

“You didn’t do a good job imitating Loyal Pawn’s voice, Statice,” Shining Armor raised an eyebrow at the stallion sitting in front of him. “For the record, Loyal Pawn is somewhat nervous and easily intimidated. He does not give threatening glares to other guards the same way you did.”

Okay, he did find out who you are.

“You figured it out immediately,” Statice sighed, feeling his fear get replaced with disappointment at the imminent fight that was about to take place.

“You don’t get to be a Captain by being the smartest or the strongest guard in the physical and magical category,” Shining Armor lectured with a firm expression on his face. “A true Captain knows his soldiers, not only by their appearance but by their spirit. That’s how I picked Loyal Pawn, you to be exact, among a group of soldiers that looked like him.”

“So that’s how you knew I was Loyal Pawn from the beginning,” Statice grinned at the white unicorn. “I guess that explains why you sent me to your office.”

“Not really,” Shining Armor looked a little dismissive. “To be honest, I really thought that you were Loyal Pawn when I asked you to come to my office. I intended to reprimand him for letting you escape but then you proved to me that you were him when you intimidated the guards that were laughing at you.”

Statice slapped a hoof to his forehead and dragged it down his face. This was the second time he had been outfoxed by the white stallion

I guess retirement is starting to get to me.

“Where is Loyal Pawn?” Shining Armor asked threateningly. Competent or not, Loyal Pawn was still a guard and Shining Armor was not allowing one of his ponies to get hurt by a criminal while he was in charge.

Statice sighed, using his magic to remove his stolen armor before cancelling the spell that was disguising him. He once again returned to his original green coat, golden eyes, multicolored mane and tail, and his flower cutie mark. “I guess there is no point in maintaining my charade anymore.”

He used his Hammerspace to make a tear by his side, levitating the golden armor into the hole before extracting the unconscious Loyal Pawn from it. He gently placed the unconscious guard beside him in a neighboring chair without breaking eye contact with Shining Armor.

“That’s going to go to your charges when we have a second trial,” Shining Armor stated in a low voice.

“What’s making you think that I’m having a second trial?” Statice asked, standing up from his chair.

“I’ll personally drag you back into your cell and tell Princess Celestia about your little escapade,” Shining Armor darkly promised as he stood up from his chair to glare at Statice.

“You really think that you can take me on, Captain?” Statice walked away from the chair, going straight to the center of the room for more fighting space.

“I’ve been facing bigger threats to Equestria before I even met you,” Shining Armor walked threateningly to the green unicorn. “I can manage a low life criminal such as you if I have to do it.”

Statice narrowed his eyes at the insult. “I don’t need to receive threats from a guy who has to get his flank saved by his little sister every time Equestria is in danger.”

Shining Armor’s eyes widened at those words before narrowing them at his adversary. “How do you know about that?”

“A little birdie told me,” Statice shrugged his shoulders. He wasn’t lying when he said that. Technically speaking, Discord was part bird based on the feathered wing behind his back and the eagle talon that he had for one of his arms.

“What did that birdie tell you?” Shining Armor started pacing in a circle with Statice doing the same.

“He told me how you’re a punk that let your own wife get captured by a bug, ignored your sister’s warnings, and then failed to protect the country you swore to serve on the day of your wedding. Then, you spent days getting your flank kicked by King Sombra while Twilight only needed one to figure out a way to defeat him and save the Crystal Empire. I sincerely feel sorry for anypony that has your protection.”

“Those words are going to be used against you when I drag your flank back to the trail,” Shining Armor swore as he pawed the ground with a hoof and lowered his glowing horn to point it at Statice.

“Well, then make sure to remember these two words into your thick skull,” Statice imitated his enemy’s action as he prepared for battle. “Bring it!”

Shining Armor VS Statice

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Shining Armor VS Statice

The battle began with a furious blast of magic from Statice’s horn. The green projectile flew across the room to hit Shining Armor, only for it to be absorbed by a magenta force field.

“I suggest that you give up,” Shining Armor glared at the green stallion through his force field. “There are very few things that can break through my shields.”

“Let’s prove that theory!” Statice bellowed as he lighted his horn with magic. This time, he used a levitation spell to pick a large bookcase, throwing it at the force field surrounding the white unicorn. The furniture broke with the impact against the shield, scattering several books across the room. Some of the books were burned or torn apart by the collision and Shining Armor looked upset upon seeing their condition.

“Those were special editions!” he snarled at Statice. Like Twilight, he had a special passion for books, particularly those of military history and strategies. He spent a lot of time, money, and effort in locating rare books, so watching them get destroyed a few seconds after the fight got started angered him.

“You were right,” Statice smiled mischievously, feeling some small pleasure in annoying his adversary. “I can’t break your shield, but I can use it to break your stuff.”

Shining’s white fur took a shade of red as his anger reached his limit. He lighted his horn, opening a small hole in his shield to shoot magic blasts through it. Statice yelped as a magenta blast nearly struck him and quickly used another levitation spell, this time to use all of the office’s furniture as a shield.

“You’re not the only one that can shoot through his shield!” Statice challenged as he used a Permeability Spell on the bookcase that was acting as the center of his improvised barricade. The shelf had a wavy greens spot of magic that marked the success of his spell. He grinned with anticipation as he imagined Shining Armor’s reaction when he sees the true power of the spell.

“I don’t see you doing anything!” the Captain roared as he kept shooting through the hole on his shield. To his surprise, a green blast flew through the bookcase without hurting it and continued flying straight at his shield. Out of instinct, the white unicorn closed the hole in his shield to reinforce its defensive power. He was fortunate enough to have done so as the blast was harmlessly cancelled against the surface.

“Tough scumbag,” Shining growled. As much as he hated to admit it, the green unicorn was a troublesome opponent. He was the most difficult adversary that he had face so far, excluding the crushing defeat Sombra gave him at the Crystal Empire. Sombra had access to ancient evil magic but Statice was quite nifty with magical spells that were not registered in the archives on Equestria. As a Royal Guard, Shining Armor was tasked with learning all combat spells, including the illegal ones, but none of his studies mentioned anything about a spell that allowed magic to phase through objects.

Statice, on his part, was constantly shooting through and above the bookcase. He was growing frustrated upon seeing that his tactic failed to work. It irked him that Shining Armor had switched to a more defensive approach and was waiting for him to waste his magic before going back to the offensive.

“You may be the best shield user in Equestria, but you’re not the only one I’ve faced,” Statice silently mouthed to Shining Armor as he remembered previous sparring matches with his friend and fellow bounty hunter Digitalis. He would have probably lost the fight by now if it weren’t for all the experience he collected thanks to those daily combat sessions that he had with Digitalis back in his darker days. He closed his eyes to remember any of his previous magical sparring matches with Digitalis, trying to remember all the lectures his friend gave him regarding combat magic. Suddenly, a memory reached into him...

“You’re going to have to do better than that, Statice!”

“I’m not losing to you!” Statice replied as he fired a magic blast from his horn. The recoil of the spell sent the foal a few feet back as he shot. Much to his dismay, the green bolt of magic struck a gray shield that didn’t seem to budge from the impact.

“Is that the best you got?”

“I’ll give you my best!” Statice cried as he kept shooting magic at the shield. It took about four more shots before the foal grew tired. He was about to shoot another blast but his opponent beat him to it when he turned off the shield and shot at him with a gray bolt of magic.

The colt cried out as he was hit by the blast, grunting as he landed on the floor. He rubbed his chest, which stung a little because of the spell, before he looked up at his opponent.

He was a teenage colt with a green coat, purple mane, and icy blue eyes. His cutie mark had the numbers 0 and 9 to symbolize his talent with numbers and his high intelligence. Digitalis kept an encouraging smile on his face though his gaze was calculating and pensive as he was evaluating his best friend’s progress in the fight since their last session.

“How did I do?” Statice asked nervously. He always got nervous when his best friend and surrogate brother evaluated his performance.

“Well your magical power and control has increased,” Digitalis nodded his head approvingly. “You were capable of using ten consecutive blasts whereas the last time you were only strong enough to do six.”

“Nice,” Statice grinned in delight at how much he improved his limit. His smile vanished when he saw Digitalis frowning at him.

“But you’re also becoming a little arrogant,” he lightly chastised the colt. “Why did you just rely on blasts, Statice?”

“They’re my strongest attack,” Statice reasoned, not sure what was so bad about using them.

“You could have levitated some objects to throw at my shield,” Digitalis gestured to a large rock next to them. “That rock over there looks big enough to do more damage to my shield than any of your blasts. With your skill with levitation, I am sure that you could have thrown the rock to my shield without wasting any more magic.”

“I guess I got obsessed with my blasts since our last training match,” Statice avoided looking at Digitalis in embarrassment. He felt bad for pushing his best friend to educate him so much.

“Speaking about your blasts, we have to find a way to improve your control,” Digitalis gave Statice a concerned glance. “Every time that you shoot a magic blast, the recoil pushes you back a distance. That’s not supposed to happen. You should remain in place when you shoot.”

“I put a lot of magic into the blasts to make them stable,” Statice admitted bashfully as he looked at the ground. “I don’t know at what concentration of magic the blast will be stable, so I add a little bit more magic when I shape them. If I put too little magic, the blasts vanish before they can hit something.”

“We’re going to have to work on that,” Digitalis rubbed Statice’s mane. “But right now, we have to teach you more about tactics in battle. Did you notice what I did throughout the fight?”

“You hid inside your shield,” Statice sorely pointed out. “How does that count as a tactic? Isn’t that the same thing as running away but with you getting beat up at the end?”

“Yes,” Digitalis nodded his head, ignoring Statice's low opinion about his strategy. “I conserved my magic reserves while you wasted yours futilely trying to destroy my shield. Once you deployed most of your magic, I went on the offensive. Always attack your opponent when they are at their weakest.”

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head. Whenever Digitalis gave him advice, it was best to follow it. That was how he managed to make it so far since he left home.

“Okay,” Digitalis wrapped a foreleg around the colt’s neck as he led him into the road. “We’re going to take a lunch break and do some studying. Afterwards, we are going to work out in your battle skills until you learn to do this tactic well.”

“Got it,” Statice smirked challengingly as he promised his best friend to defeat him after lunch break. As he kept going on and on, Digitalis took his time to give Statice suggestions on how to better fight his opponents in a magic fight.

“Alternate on the spells wisely,” he advised. “Don’t just randomly shoot magic. I want you to think carefully on what spell is better suited for the situation. If you need to defend yourself, use a shield. If you don’t have enough magic for blasts, use your levitation to throw anything at your disposal. Make sure to always save a little bit so that you can teleport away if the enemy is too strong.”

“Okay,” Statice agreed as he munched on a daisy sandwich. He didn’t like daisies, but it was the only good flower that was available at their current location. The good thing about talking with Digitalis was that it took his mind away from the taste of daisies over bread.

“Remember these suggestions, Statice,” Digitalis looked at the colt pointedly. “You may have to apply them later in life.”

“Thank you, Digitalis,” Statice mentally said to himself. He once again resumed his assault, but this time he switched from magic blasts to his Permeability Spell during his frenzy. As the spells struck his shield, Shining Armor was confident that he was going to win the fight, failing to notice that a little part of his shield was turning green instead of its usual magenta.

Statice was sweating from his exertion. As much as the Permeability Spell was affecting Shining’s shield, there was still the fact that it was too thick to have full effect on it. The difference in raw magical power was clearly in Shining Armor’s advantage as he was in better shape than his rival, who was now panting and struggling to keep on fighting. All he needed to do was endure some more attacks and then Statice was going to be too exhausted to fight back during the counterattack.

“I need to save energy!” Statice scolded himself for carelessly wasting too much magic fighting Shining Armor. “I guess I’ll have to settle with what I’ve done with the shield and hope for the best.”

The green stallion levitated all of the books inside the bookcase that he was using as his shield. The green aura that was surrounding the books was focused on the ends of every book. The magic around them was supercharged and then fired forward into the magenta shield.

Seeing this attack, Shining Armor grinned in anticipation. “I’ve got you now!” he yelled in triumph as he opened a hole in his shield and shot through it with a magic blast.

Time slowed down as the projectiles flew past each other and hit their respective marks. Shining’s blast hit Statice square on the chest, knocking him off his hooves, just as Shining Armor expected. What he did not expect was for the books that Statice threw at him to explode the second they hit his shield.

The spontaneous explosions of the books took Shining Armor by surprise, eliminating most of his focus and damaging his force field. The white unicorn kicked himself for having attacked Statice. He thought that the books were just a levitation spell done out of desperation, so he opened a hole in his shield to attack him. His rash decision compromised the structure of his shield, which cost him dearly when the explosion filled it with several fractures.

The white unicorn cried out in pain as he put a hoof on his head, remembering the migraines that he suffered every time that he put a shield to protect Canterlot from the Changelings on his wedding day. He glared at the green criminal, who was groaning in pain and using his Healing Spell to repair the damage done to his chest.

“You’re not getting away from me!” Shining Armor yelled as he used his magic to teleport behind Statice to buck him from the rear.

Shining’s hooves were met with empty space as the green unicorn sidestepped them and shoulder tackled him to the ground. The white unicorn angrily stood up immediately and charged, leaping at his enemy when he was within range. He used his teleportation again, hoping to hit him from above with a double stomp from his forelegs, only for him to stomp on the floor when Statice rolled to the other side.

“Darn it!” Shining Armor glared at Statice. His glare was replaced with a confused frown when he noticed that Statice’s horn was coated in a magenta aura, the same color as his own.

This is impossible! Statice’s aura is green. Why is it the same color as my own? What kind of spell is he using?

“What happened to your horn?” Shining Armor asked, feeling curious over the sudden change of aura color in Statice’s magic.

“I’m using Hacking Spell to absorb your magic from the blast earlier,” Statice bragged as he patted his horn. “Now I know exactly what spells you are going to use against me, if only for a couple of minutes.”

“Great,” Shining Armor growled in exasperation. “Now you’re a mind reader with a smart mouth.”

“For the record, I’m a spell reader” Statice snarled. “I simply predict what spells you’re going to use by synchronizing my magic with the magic of your horn. Besides, do you think that such an obvious trick like teleporting to attack me from behind would work?”

Seriously, he is the leader of the greatest army of Equestria and his idea of a surprise attack is to teleport behind me to kick me when I’m not looking? This guy really needs to learn how to fight dirtier.

“You may counter my magic but I still have some good hoof-to-hoof combat training to make up for it,” Shining Armor declared as he assumed a fighting stance, leaning his body forward and spreading his forelegs a bit.

“No thanks,” Statice said as he threw a blast Shining’s side. The white unicorn sidestepped the projectile, hearing it break a window behind him. As he turned around to meet Statice, he found that the green unicorn had vanished.

“Where did he go?” Shining Armor asked, stunned and confused of his enemy’s whereabouts.

“I’m over here,” Statice called out to him. He gave Shining Armor a threatening glare when the white unicorn turned around. His next attack was going to require some cunning if he was to be successful.

“Leave Loyal Pawn out of this!” Shining Armor glared at Statice with murder in his eyes when he saw him levitating the private in his aura.

“I’ll leave him out of this room, Captain!” Statice responded by throwing Loyal Pawn towards a window. He didn’t bother to look at the unconscious royal guard as his cold eyes were solely focused on Shining Armor.

The Captain of the Royal Guard shut his brain from all of his emotions. He charged towards Statice, but then turned around and went in the direction Loyal Pawn’s body was going. He had all the time of the world to capture a criminal, but losing a fellow member of the Royal Guard was not something that was possible for him to do.

Once he was within proximity, Shining Armor leaped with outstretched hooves, ready to catch his companion and shield him with his body if the situation demanded it. As he was facing Loyal Pawn, a few seconds from grabbing him in his arms, he was shocked when his subordinate’s body was engulfed in green aura and disappeared from sight, only to pop back next to Statice. The unicorn’s threatening facial features changed to one of childish contempt as he gave him a mocking smile. By the time Shining’s mind realized what happened, his body had already went through the hole that used to harbor his window . He felt the air coming out of his lungs as he landed on the floor outside of his office. He stood up with anger ignited in his eyes, enraged at the trickery, and leaped inside of his office, only to find Loyal Pawn resting on a chair and Statice nowhere to be found.

“That was close!” Statice admitted as he was now hiding around the castle, attempting to prevent himself from being discovered by the royal guards.

The battle with Shining Armor had been more challenging than expected. It had drained him of most of his magic. He felt a little proud for using the Yoyo Tactic that Digitalis had taught him. First, he pretended to throw something valuable to the opponent, making them go out of their way to protect the thrown object. Then, when the enemy was about to catch the object, he teleported it out of their reach and into his original position; giving him the chance to escape. He felt some nostalgia in using the old trick but sadly he couldn’t use it to his fullest potential when he was running away. He couldn’t afford getting caught after that fight, so he needed stealth to leave the castle.

By the stars, if I had faced a unicorn like that back then…I don’t think I could have made it out. It’s a good thing Shining Armor is one of the good guys. I think I wasted a fair share of my magic just holding my own against him.

“I’ll recharge a bit,” Statice concluded his thoughts as he opened Hammerspace with his magic. He focused on the portal forming in front of him and retrieved a silver bracelet with a diamond at its center. Dismissing the spell, Statice brought the bracelet to his right hoof and put it on. The diamond at the center of the bracelet glowed unnaturally. The light that came out of it was too different from an average gem.

“Focus,” Statice muttered to himself. The light that was coming out of the diamond dimmed out a bit, glowing more naturally. Only a tiny sparkle was now visible from the ring as Statice finished his spell. He lit his horn with magic and was pleased to feel that his reserves had been replenished.

“I don’t have enough magic to fight Shining Armor, so I’ll have to use it wisely from now on,” Statice leaned on a wall and crossed forelegs and hind legs in a lotus position as he was thinking for a strategy. “Maybe if I find an exit that is not supervised…”

An idea popped out on his mind. “The catacombs,” he whispered excitedly. When Discord showed him the Canterlot Wedding, he showed how the Changelings infiltrated Canterlot through the catacombs. All he needed to do was find the way into them. The only problem was that Discord didn’t show where he was supposed to go.

“Maybe an Echo Spell will work,” Statice focused his magic on his horn, releasing green waves from the tip. The waves struck the floor and spread across it. A mental map formed inside Statice’s head for brief seconds before it vanished. He saw what was supposed to be around him and even some small rooms built into the lower levels of the city but he found no catacombs.

This isn’t gonna help me. I will have to try again and again until I find a hint. And Canterlot is a huge city. Ugh…

“This is going to take more time than expected,” Statice sighed as he focused on his Echo Spell again to find the catacombs. He had a LOT to search in the city of Canterlot.

“Darn it!” Shining Armor swore as he watched the mess that was currently his office. How could he let him escape? He had him right on his hoof and then Statice just managed to escape him. Loyal Pawn was alright, but the fact that he was never in danger in the first place and still managed to get used as a bargaining chip annoyed Shining Armor to no end. He was still unconscious, but there was no sign of damage as far as Shining could tell from the small revision he gave him.

“Calm down!” Shining Armor told himself as he closed his eyes and followed his wife’s advice. He took a deep breath, eyes still closed, and extended his hoof as if he were pushing his problems away. “Thanks, Cadence,” he whispered lovingly into the air as he felt the tension disappear from his shoulders.

Now that he was calmed down, he could think clearly. Statice was not a powerful threat like Chrysalis and King Sombra, but he was still nopony to be underestimated. The green unicorn was weaker than him in terms of magical power, but he was probably more experienced in combat and escape. The way that he used the environment to fight against him was proof enough of his prowess.

Evaluate the situation, Shining Armor. You know how strong he is and now you have an idea of how tricky he can be. Now you need to find a way on how to employ that in your plans.

“He’s too weak to fight me in one on one, but he is too strong for the regular soldiers,” Shining Armor observed as he checked the damage to his office. Truth to be told, one of the many reasons on why Shining Armor was the Captain of the Royal Guards was because he was the most powerful and skilled in magical power. All of his sparring matches with his fellow guards ended in immediate victories for him. The fact that Statice managed to hold him off for some minutes indicated that the green unicorn would be too much of a treat for an average royal guard.

“I better start calling my officers,” Shining Armor stomped a hoof on the floor with a determined expression. “I won’t let him elude me again! In the name of the Royal Sisters, my wife, and my own little sister, I will not let Statice escape this castle!”

Escape Complications

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“I’m going out for a flight,” Rainbow Dash excused herself from the room without turning to look at her friends. “I’ll be back in a dash!”

Rainbow Dash smiled proudly as she heard Pinkie Pie laugh at the pun that she made. She was even chipper when she heard the rest of her friends join into the laughter for a little bit. But what really made her day was that Twilight joined them in their cheering. It had been a while since the trial and Twilight had been sulking for the rest of the day. It was a victory for Rainbow Dash to snap Twilight out of her bad mood, even if it was for a few seconds.

It’s a good start.

“I’ll settle with just a few laps around the castle,” Rainbow Dash told herself as she started her laps. If she was going to be a Wonderbolt, she had to dedicate some time to her flying, just to make sure she remained on shape. The sensation of air flowing across her body as she flew in the sky refreshed her and erased trouble from her mind. That was one of the best issues with flying: your head was literally in the clouds.

The prismatic mare lowered her eyes to Canterlot, watching the scenery carefully. A pegasus always needs to keep her eyes alert to prevent crashes. A Wonderbolt, however, needs to maintain her eyes open if she is to save anypony. Everything around the city was peaceful to say the least. All of the nobles were walking with their heads turned up and their eyes closed. If it weren’t for the fact that they were snobs, Rainbow Dash would feel at least some respect for them for never having accidents with their walking style.

Her eyes shifted back to the castle, noticing some royal guards talking hurryingly with each other. The rainbow pony smiled and flew to them, close enough to hear them but far enough to remain unnoticed. She made sure to diminish her speed to prevent her rainbow trail from giving away her location. Spying was wrong. She was aware that it was an invasion of privacy. But how often was she able to see the royal guards breaking their stoic faces? Besides, if the royal guards were panicking, then that meant that there was probably some threat coming after Equestria and that she and the girls would have to eliminate it. She was bound to find out one way or another.

It may not be my business now but it WILL be later.

“Can you believe that the prisoner escaped?” a royal guard asked another.

“To be honest, I can’t believe it,” the second royal guard shook his head. “I just can’t believe that he got out of his prison and then held his own against Captain Shining Armor before escaping.”

“He didn’t escape,” a female royal guard corrected them. “He is still out there in Canterlot. Captain Shining Armor wants us to find him but you must avoid confrontation. The prisoner can only be taken down by somepony of the same caliber as Captain Shining Armor.”

Rainbow Dash covered her mouth with her hooves to prevent a gasp from coming out of her mouth. Statice had escaped! Not only that, he fought Shining Armor to a draw if what she heard was right. The worst part was that he was out there. It was hard for her to think what kind of destruction the green unicorn was capable of unleashing.

“I have to tell Twilight and the others,” Rainbow Dash flew out of her hiding spot without being noticed by the royal guards. She flew back to her room but stopped before she knocked on the door. A thought crossed her mind. How was Twilight going to react when she found out about Statice’s escape?

Rainbow Dash gulped when she remembered the beating Twilight gave Statice when he bit her horn and sucked on it. As much as she disliked the stallion, even she felt bad for him when Twilight was pummeling him. With Statice’s fight against Shining Armor, she couldn’t imagine what Twilight was going to do to him if she found out.

Forget about Statice, Twilight is gonna destroy Canterlot if that means capturing him! I don’t think he’s gonna need a dungeon as much as he is gonna need a hospital

“Maybe I should try to do this on my own,” Rainbow Dash turned around and flew again. If what the royal guards said was true, Statice was probably exhausted from his fight with Shining Armor. He was going to be too weak to pose much of a threat against her. Although Statice proved to be a formidable adversary during their first meeting, Rainbow Dash was not the type of chump who loses twice to the same rival. Even with her new advantage, she was not going to underestimate him.

I can do this! With the way he is now, I can capture him before Twilight finds out. I get to pay him back for our previous fight, Statice gets what he has coming to him, and Twilight won’t be mad anymore.

“Prepare yourself, Statice!” Rainbow Dash darkly promised. “Today your flank is mine to kick!” With that oath made, the prismatic pegasus forced her eyes into overdrive to search for her prey.

Shining Armor was standing at the entrance of his sister’s room. The Elements of Harmony, his wife, and probably the other two princesses were going to be there. As much as it pained him to tell them about his failure, especially in front of Twilight and Cadence, he was aware that he needed help. He needed accomplices of his caliber and above, and who was a better choice than the saviors of Equestria?

Taking a deep breath the same way Cadence taught him, Shining Armor knocked on the door. He was met with the loving face of his wife, who greeted him with a kiss on the cheek.

“I am so happy to see you, Shining Armor!” Cadence added more love to the mix with a warm hug. The white stallion smiled at the gesture. One of the best things of being married to the Princess of Love is that you were often the recipient of the best hugs and kisses that Equestria had to offer.

“Me too,” Shining Armor smiled nervously.

“Are you feeling shy because we have company?” Cadence teasingly tilted her head to let Shining Armor see that the Elements of Harmony were smiling and giggling at him.

“I’m not ashamed of showing our love in public, Cadence,” Shining Armor shook his head dismissively. He loved his wife and was always happy to prove it to anypony who saw them.

“But there is something that is troubling you?” Cadence asked with a worried tone.

It hurt Shining Armor to see his wife make such a face. And it hurt him more to see that the smile that Twilight had a few seconds ago, probably the only smile that she had made for the whole day, had vanished when she heard about his problem.

“Is there anything wrong, Shining Armor?” Twilight asked as she stood up.

Taking a deep breath, Shining Armor prepared to let the news go. “Statice escaped from his dungeon cell.”

“WHAT!” Shining Armor covered his ears as he was greeted by a loud and simultaneous chorus from the rest of the ponies in the room.

“I said that Statice escaped from the dungeon on which we put him,” Shining Armor explained as he rubbed a hoof against his sore ear. “He got out and disguised himself as a royal guard. I managed to confront him but he succeeded at escaping during our fight?”

“DID HE HURT YOU?” Cadence and Twilight asked at the same time but in different tones. Cadence was alarmed and horrified, not even wanting to imagine the pain her husband was suffering. Twilight, on the other hoof, was enraged and ready to kill Statice if possible.

“I’m okay!” Shining Armor waved his hooves at both alicorns. “Other than destroying my office there was nothing serious between us.”

Except some rare collector books…

Cadence was pleased and relieved with the answer but Twilight was still livid and ready to bust some skulls, more specifically one belonging to a certain green unicorn that made the mistake of awakening her ire. The purple alicorn walked to him and stared into his eyes.

“Where is he?” she practically demanded.

“I don’t know,” Shining Armor admitted, trying to resist his shame long enough to look tough in front of his sister. “That’s why I came here. I need your help in finding Statice before he escapes from Canterlot.”

“You can count on us!” Twilight nodded her head at him. Despite her anger, she managed to give him a little smile to let him know that she was glad that he was okay. The white unicorn was happy that his sister was not mad at him for failing to stop Statice. He may not show it often, but he was just as afraid of failing and disappointing his loved ones the same way Twilight was.

“Wait a second?” Shining Armor frowned. “Where is Rainbow Dash? Wasn’t she supposed to be with you girls?”

“She went flying,” Fluttershy meekly explained. “Rainbow Dash takes her flying training seriously so she always flies around towns that she visits just to maintain her abilities.”

“That means that she is the only one of Elements who doesn’t know about Statice’s escape,” Shining Armor crossed his forelegs, annoyed at the complication.

“Don’t worry about it, Shining Armor!” Pinkie Pie popped out next to the Captain, startling him into casting a shield. “Rainbow Dash will find Statice in no time, even if she doesn’t know that he is out there.”

“How can you be so sure?” Shining Armor asked as he dissipated the shield.

“Rainbow Dash’s eyes are specifically trained to not miss a single detail while she is flying,” Pinkie Pie explained as she stretched her eyes to ridiculous proportions. “She can even tell what you’re eating on your way out of Sugarcube Corner from the sky.”

“That’s kind of impressive,” Shining Armor awkwardly admitted. He would have shown more admiration at Rainbow’s skill if it weren’t for Pinkie Pie’s eyes stretching in front of him. That was disturbing as Tartarus!

“Well what are we doin’ here?” Applejack reared on her hind legs and kicked out her forelegs. “We got a criminal to catch!” Her declaration was followed with cheers from the rest of her friends.

“Hold on!” Shining Armor stretched his foreleg in an attempt to calm the mares down. “He may not look like much, but Statice can be quite problematic in combat. It’s not wise to underestimate him.”

“We’ll be alright, Shining Armor,” Rarity affirmed as she stroked her mane vainly and relaxed. “I am confident that Rainbow Dash can take out this ruffian if the situation demands it. We’ve been taking out lots of villains lately. I am sure that we can capture a hoodlum if we put our minds into it.”

“Yeah!” Pinkie Pie chirped happily. “Do you remember how Twilight slammed him down? Wait! You were not there! You should have seen it Shining Armor! Statice had no shot against Twilight! The fight was over as soon as she got serious! It was like Bam and Wham all over the streets!”

“I can’t believe I missed that!” Spike groaned. Why was he always the one who’s never there to see the good stuff?

“Believe me, you’d be glad you missed it,” Fluttershy trembled as she remembered the beating that Twilight gave Statice on their first fight. She didn’t dare to imagine what was going to happen to the green stallion on their rematch.

“We’re wasting time!” Twilight stomped her hoof on the floor in frustration. “We’re moving out right now!”

Having spoken her mind, Twilight spread her wings and flew out of the window. Fluttershy gulped before she followed the purple alicorn behind. The rest of the girls and Spike left through the door. Only Shining Armor and Cadence remained in the room. The white unicorn brought a hoof to his forehead and sighed at how things went out of control with the news.

“Are you okay, dear?” Cadence asked in a concerned tone. She put a hoof on his shoulder and gave him a tender look.

“No,” Shining Armor admitted. No matter how much he wanted to hide something from his wife, that look from her eyes was always going to make him spill out his secrets and insecurities to her. “I messed up, Cadence. I let him escape. I had him on my office and I let him escape!”

A kiss on his cheek brought his rant to an end. “You did the best you could, Shining Armor. You can’t beat yourself up just because things did not go the way you wanted them to be.”

“I know,” Shining Armor lowered his head in resignation. “I guess I should let Twily and the girls deal with this problem.”

“Or we can solve your problem together,” Cadence lifted Shining’s chin with her hoof and gave him a mischievous look. “You didn’t think I was going to shy away from adventure when my husband is in trouble, right?”

A smile curved across Shining’s face. “I love you.”

Cadence bopped her nose against his. “I know.”

With renewed vigor, the couple left the room and began the hunt for the green stallion. Shining Armor was more than ready this time. He always fought better with Cadence by his side. This time, he was going to beat Statice. He was going to capture him no matter what.

“Darn it!” Statice swore as he was met with another loose end. His Echo Spell was detecting everything below Canterlot but he still couldn’t find the catacombs. He had to add more magic to get more depth on his readings. So far, he had made little problem with his search. With his current progress, he was sure to exhaust his magic reserves again. He would have to use Hammerspace to get another one of his enchanted gems to recharge his magic if that were to happen.

“This is getting me nowhere,” Statice muttered to himself. “Maybe I should try to see if the catacombs are at the borders of the city. Perhaps I can find a hole there if my calculations are correct.”

As he sneaked across Canterlot, Statice couldn’t help but notice how different it was than the previous day. The nobles were absent. There was no living soul walking on the streets. It felt as if Statice was in a ghost town. Although the green stallion would have been happy for having no ponies acting as obstacles on his escape attempt, he knew from experience that lack of citizens in a place was always a bad signal.

“It’s a trap,” Statice slapped a hoof on his forehead. “The absence of citizens means that there are not going to be any casualties when a trap is set on the city. The worst part is that no matter where I go I’m going to fall anyway.”

Now he was making a monologue. That was also a bad sign.

“Might as well go,” Statice sighed as he walked to the streets. The walk was awkward despite the perfect climate. It was a sunny day with no clouds and no chance of rain. It was the most appropriate setting for a walk on the park. Only the impending sense of doom was preventing his mood from lightening.

As he walked on the streets, he checked on everything around him. It was a reflex taught to him to make sure he was not being followed or to ensure that he could gather information on any location that he visited. The skill paid off when he got in front of a paper with his name and picture. He levitated the offending paper and read its contents. His mouth curled into a small frown when he noticed that the picture was taken right after he was knocked unconscious the previous day. He looked more like a hobo than a criminal, which certainly didn’t fit with the charges below the picture.

“Searched for assault against royalty and escape from the dungeons,” Statice read the paper out loud before dropping it to the ground. “That explains why there is nopony here.”

Let it to nobles to run away and hide as soon as they find out that there is a criminal on the loose. Well that works better for me. If they were hiding out of cowardice then that means there is a reduced chance to find a trap waiting for me.

Statice smirked now that the odds were slightly on his favor. He just had to sneak on the borders of Canterlot and try to search for the catacombs there. The green unicorn galloped past the streets in a hurry, trying to exploit his advantage before it was taken away from him.

A rainbow blur was all that he saw as he felt something hit his chest and send him flying into the air. He landed painfully to the ground on his back with a hoof clutching his chest. He removed his foreleg to reveal two hoof prints in the afflicted area. The green unicorn winced as he reflexively used his Healing Spell to remove the bruises out of him. He groaned as he stood up and faced his attacker.

“Heard that you escaped from the dungeon,” Rainbow Dash smiled threateningly as she lowered her raised hind legs back to the ground and turned around to face him. “I just wanted to come by and finish our fight from yesterday.”

Statice swore mentally. Of all the ponies that he had to face, why did he have to fight somepony like her? He was too magically exhausted to use any attack spells on Rainbow Dash. The worst part was that she was probably too fast for him to give him time to recharge on a fight. If anything, he would have to rely on his hoof-to-hoof abilities to have a chance against her.

He assumed a defensive stance while Rainbow Dash did the same. The rainbow mare was fast, too fast for him to dodge if he gave her the time to attack. He was going to throw the first blow.

Statice charged at Rainbow Dash, who crouched and delivered a jumping uppercut when he got close to her. The green unicorn barely dodged the attack, with the hoof grazing his chin. Rainbow Dash followed her attack with a diving kick that he barely avoided. The prismatic mare flew in biped position and started doing boxing gestures with her front hooves.

“What’s the matter, Statice?” she teased as she continued throwing punches in the air. “Are you scared of me?”

“Yes,” Statice admitted in annoyance. It was humiliating but he was not going to act tough only to get beat up easily. That was way more demeaning than admitting his fear for his adversaries.

“You should be!” Rainbow Dash gave him a predator grin.

She charged right at him and attacked with two jabs of her front hooves. He backpedaled away from her.

She delivered a front kick at his face. The tip of her rear hoof hit the stallion’s nose, causing him to yelp in pain. He stood up on his hind legs to rub his nose with his front hooves.

Rainbow Dash grinned triumphantly as she turned around to deliver a spinning side kick to Statice’s gut. The unicorn’s air was forced out of him as he felt her hoof hit his stomach. He was once again sent into the air and landing on his back, this time clutching his sore belly.

“How’s that, Statice?” Rainbow Dash teased him in a celebratory tone.

“That smarted,” Statice groaned as he stood up. As much as the kick hurt, he had dealt with worse pains throughout his whole life. He assumed his fighting stance again and waited for Rainbow Dash to attack.

The cyan mare flew at him and spun vertically in an attempt to deliver an ax kick at his head. Statice stood up on his hind legs and crossed his forelegs above his head to block the strike. It was a powerful blow that sent a hard pressure all over his body, but he still managed to stop it. Taking the chance, Statice wrapped his hooves around Rainbow Dash’s leg and used it to slam her on the floor. This time, it was Rainbow Dash’s air that came out of her as the slamming bounced her body. Not wasting the opportunity, Statice stood biped style and spread his hind legs to the sides so that he could deliver a straight punch with one hoof. The blow caught Rainbow Dash in the stomach and sent her several feet away from her opponent. She bounced across the street a couple of times before she stopped and stood up to glare at her opponent.

“It’s not that awesome when it’s you getting beat up, right?” Statice teased as he returned to his quadruped stance.

“You’re the one who’s getting beaten!” Rainbow Dash snarled. All that she saw was shades of red as the target of her ire was mocking her. She was going to punch that arrogant tone right out of his mouth. Putting all of her strength on her wings, the pegasus flew at the unicorn as fast as she could.

“I won’t be beaten that easily!” Statice reared on his hind legs as he stood up and prepared to hit her with a lariat. At the speed at which she was flying, getting a foreleg wrapped around her neck was going to knock her out.

Time slowed down between the two warriors as the distance between them was growing smaller the closer they got to each other. Meters were being crossed in seconds. It was a clash that was bound to happen between them. Whoever managed to deliver the blow first was destined to be the victor.


The attention between Statice and Rainbow Dash was cut short at the sudden outburst. They simultaneously turned their heads to the side to see Pinkie Pie running towards them from afar.

“WE’RE COMING TO HELP YOU, RAINBOW DASH!” Pinkie Pie declared as she continued running. “JUST HOLD ON!”

Rainbow Dash was about to say something but stopped when she felt her body hit something. At the speed at which she was flying, her body was a projectile that was unable to stop until it completely decelerated. All that Pinkie Pie saw was a rainbow trail that ended with a crashing sound and a large burrow trail that led to a dust cloud.

“I’m coming for you, Dashie!” Pinkie gasped at the possibility of her friend and prank partner getting hurt. Taking out her party cannon and pointing it at the dust cloud, Pinkie Pie shot herself into Rainbow Dash’s new location. As she flew by the air, she noticed two familiar shapes flying next to her.

“Hi, Twilight! Hi, Fluttershy!” she waves at both of them. “How are you two doing?”

“We saw a dust cloud and we assumed that Statice and Rainbow Dash had something to do with it!” Twilight explained as a matter of fact.

“Rarity and Applejack are on their way,” Fluttershy added as she pointed at the ground.

Pinkie Pie lowered her head and noticed the fashionista and the apple farmer going in the same direction as her. She gave Twilight and Fluttershy a grin followed by a group hug. Both mares gasped at the strength of Pinkie’s grip as they fell to the ground because of their combined weight. Luckily for them, they succeeded in breaking the hug to grab Pinkie by a foreleg each and fly before they landed. Much to their relief, they were now within speaking distance of Applejack and Rarity.

“We found the vermin!” Applejack declared.

“Just follow the messy dust cloud in front of you!” Rarity instructed with a disgusted tone but still keeping a determined expression on her face.

“We already figured that out,” Twilight smiled at her friends as they finally arrived to their destination.

The dust cloud was big and there was no way to see what was inside of it. There were no hitting sounds that indicated struggles and there were no limbs popping out that could show who was fighting. The only thing that was certain was that Rainbow Dash and Statice were there and that there was no way to know what was happening there.

“We gotta help Rainbow Dash,” Applejack took a step forward but was covered in a magenta aura that stopped her.

“We can’t just barge in like that, Applejack,” Twilight instructed her sternly. “We may end up becoming a liability to Rainbow Dash in these conditions. We have to wait until the dust settles before we can provide any assistance.”

“I hope Rainbow Dash is okay,” Fluttershy turned her head away. The thought of her oldest friend in danger unnerved her to no end.

“Did I miss anything?” Spike asked as he suddenly ran into the group, carrying a camera with him.

“You didn’t miss anything yet, Spike,” Rarity smiled at the dragon kindly but frowned in confusion at the camera. “Can you explain why you brought a camera with you?”

“I’m sick and tired of always missing all the good stuff so I decided to bring a camera to take cool pictures,” Spike smiled as he prepared to take a picture, pointing it at the dust cloud. “And my first picture is gonna be the first thing that comes out of that dust cloud.”

“Ooh, send me copies when you’re done, Spike!” Pinkie Pie bounced happily close the dragon. “I want to remember every detail of this day!”

She had no chance of continuing her tirade as the dust dissipated. Spike turned around and placed a finger on the camera, ready to see some action. The dust dissipated and an outline was starting to show. Spike wasted no time in pressing the button to take the picture. The image that he got in front of him was so surprising that he didn’t even bother to check the picture.

Rainbow Dash was on top of Statice with his foreleg gently wrapped around her neck. Her eyes were closed, almost as if she were asleep. Underneath her, Statice had Rainbow’s hoof resting on his cheek and his eyes were just as closed as hers. The most unbelievable part of the image was that their lips were touching.

Rainbow Dash and Statice were kissing!

Spike’s jaw dropped as he watched the gesture in front of him. He was aware that ponies fell in love and kissed. He had seen Shining Armor and Cadence kiss a lot since they got married. He knew that eventually Twilight and his friends would get coltfriends and kiss with them when they got romantic. What he didn’t expect to see was Rainbow Dash being the first of his friends to kiss somepony else. The reactions that Spike saw behind him added additional surprise.

Twilight had a twitching eye, almost as if she was refusing to believe what her eyes were seeing. Fluttershy was covering herself with her mane, blushing profoundly and making whimpering noises. Rarity had fainted, using the last of her conscious control of magic to bring a fainting couch to her. Applejack turned her head away and covered her eyes with her hat with a hint of pink noticeable on her cheeks. Even Pinkie Pie, who took this kind of moments lightly, was too shocked to say anything. Her jaw was comically dropped into the floor.

Snapping out of his shock, Spike looked at the picture. Even now, what he saw coming out of the camera looked just as improbable at what he was seeing. He snapped out of his second shock and noticed that the girls were still unresponsive for what was happening around them. Deciding that there was not going to be another moment like this, Spike took a picture of his friends’ faces before he focused his camera again on Rainbow Dash and Statice.

Maybe the next picture of them will be worth something.

Sounds were coming out of the kissing ponies, snapping the rest of the girls out of their trances. They all watched as Rainbow Dash and Statice opened their eyes. They both blinked weakly and stared at each other for a few seconds. They were both drowsy and unaware of their situation. It took a few more seconds for them to fully awaken and realize what they were doing. Their eyes contracted and left them with pinprick pupils as they broke the kiss and displayed their disgust.

Statice gagged and wiped his mouth with one foreleg as he pushed Rainbow Dash away with the other one. Rainbow Dash’s reaction was more dynamic as she screamed hysterically into the sky. None of them noticed the flash of a camera as Spike took a photo of the moment.

Got it!

“STAY AWAY FROM ME!” Rainbow Dash screeched in horror and anger. She took Statice’s forelegs on her own and flapped her wings to send them both into the air. She then kicked her hind legs into his stomach and spun midair, pushing the unicorn with all of her might.

Statice screamed in surprise as he was kicked off and knocked into the sky at a greater distance than before. The event snapped the girls out of their shock as they were now blinking. Rainbow Dash landed on the ground and rushed to them.

“That didn’t count!” she cried desperately. “It was an accident!”

“It’s okay, darling,” Rarity muttered, trying to sound supportive. “Nopony thinks that…”

“It was my first kiss!” Rainbow Dash got on her hind knees and started pounding the ground with a hoof. “It was my first kiss and I gave it to that jerk!”

Rarity winced. She knew how special a first kiss was. She felt sympathy for her friend losing the chance to spend such meaningful event with the stallion she loved. She started petting the hysterical mare in sympathy for what she lost.

“Ah don’t want to sound rude…” Applejack awkwardly spoke. “But we need to find Statice and catch him.”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “Aw, I was supposed to capture him! Instead of that I kicked him away from Canterlot. He’s escaped.”

“He may be unconscious,” Fluttershy suggested. “We can see where he landed and give him medical assistance.”

“Or maybe he fell out of Canterlot,” Spike suggested. “He may have fallen out of the mountain when Rainbow Dash kicked him.”

All of the girls, especially Rainbow Dash, gasped at the implication.

“Spike!” Twilight yelled at the dragon in an admonishing tone.

“I’m sorry,” Spike apologized immediately.

“We better start looking for him,” Twilight ordered sternly. “If he is still conscious then he’s probably thinking on his escape plan.”

“She stole my first kiss!” Statice angrily swore. Life had taken a lot from him since he was a foal. Now that he was starting over again, it dared to steal his first kiss?

“It was my first kiss!” Statice snarled. “It was supposed to be with my special somepony. Why did it have to be with the rainbow mare?”

He had been a criminal to get a life and, now that he got a life outside of being a criminal, he had already planned what he wanted. He wanted to get a home, make friends, get a marefriend, marry, and have a family. He had even planned for his first dates on which he was supposed to get his first kiss. Now he was going to miss that event because of a fighting accident.

He tasted his mouth. The flavor that he got was oatmeal and hay from breakfast. There was no magical aftertaste that was expected from kisses that he read in romance novels. There were no fireworks inside his head. All that he would remember was a tomboy mashing her lips on his by accident.

Ugh, all of those romance books and movies lied to me!

“Change the thought!” Statice slapped his cheeks with his hooves. “Change the thought! Think of something else!”

To his dismay, the new thought was the reminder that he was on the run. He didn’t have the privilege to sit and mope about his lost first kiss. He checked on his surroundings and noticed that he was at the borders of Canterlot. He went to a ledge and looked down, seeing a forest below the mountain on which it was sitting. He gulped at the large height, taking a few steps back to make a plan.

He could try to use the Echo Spell again but he was going to look out from the sides to make sure that the girls won’t catch up to him. On top of it all, his gut still hurt from Rainbow’s last kick. He was grateful that her kick was more to shove him away from her than to hurt him or he would have been in a lot more pain than in his current situation. It wasn’t anything serious, so it wasn’t necessary to waste magic on a Healing Spell, but it was still annoying, almost like an itch that would keep anypony scratching for minutes before it went away.

“I’ll start over fast,” Statice lit his horn with magic and started using his Echo Spell, making more mental maps inside his head every time the spell hit the ground. He was satisfied to feel the presence of a tunnel nearby, but he was going to need to continue the spell if he was to find the entrance.

The stallion walked around the edge of Canterlot repeating the spell on trial and error. He was getting closer with each try. All he needed to do was to persist until…

“I got you!” Statice shouted triumphantly as his Echo Spell revealed a hole that led inside the mountain and into the catacombs right below his hooves. If he started climbing down, there was a chance that he may reach the entrance in no time.

“Stop right there!”

Statice groaned, recognizing the familiar voice as he turned around and saw Shining Armor, scrapping a hoof against the floor and ready to fight. Next to him was Cadence, who looked at Statice sternly, but in a different way than her husband. Shining looked ready to pound him, but Cadence’s gaze was that of a mother who was losing patience with her child and was about to establish some discipline.

“I see that you’re going to enact round two on me,” Statice glared at the white unicorn. Of all the times that he had to come out, he had to do it right when he was going to do the last step of his escape.

“You’re not going to escape from me this time,” Shining Armor promised. “I have a plan for this occasion.”

“You’re gonna tag team with your wife, dude!” Statice glared at Shining. “That’s not a plan but an unfair advantage, especially when your wife is an alicorn. Don’t pretend that you’re some hero just because your wife is gonna make it easier for you.”

“Why you…” Shining advanced threateningly at Statice. He was not going to put up with his insults any longer. Only the outstretched hoof of his wife prevented him from attacking the green unicorn.

“Let me talk some sense into him,” Cadence turned around, changing her stern expression into a loving one.

“What?” Shining Armor and Statice asked in unison.

“Despite his actions, I can sense no evil in this pony,” Cadence looked at Statice sadly. “There is a chance that he is just a misguided little colt on the inside.”

“Excuse me, but I’m a grown stallion and standing right here!” Statice protested. As grateful as he felt for Cadence’s intentions, it was hard not to feel offended at the words that she used to describe him.

“Trust me,” Cadence looked at her husband, ignoring the negative response that she got from Statice.

“Fine,” Shining Armor sighed. “Go talk to him.”

The couple shared a brief kiss between them. Statice scowled at the display of affection. He didn’t have anything against married couples and their kisses. He only had disgust for this one because it reminded him that Shining Armor had a hot wife while he didn’t have a girl of his own. Seriously, why was life so unfair to him?

Breaking their kiss, Cadence turned around to give Statice that scolding mother glare that she had used previously on him. “You’re in a lot of trouble, young man.”

“Tell me something that I don’t know,” Statice replied, more out of reflex than conscious choice to be defiant. Despite his challenging response, he didn’t display the usual rebel spirit that usually came with his words. This mare was triggering some awkward feelings on him.

“Turn yourself in, and maybe I can convince my aunts to let you go,” Cadence spoke calmly and soothingly with a slight smile at the end. “I can give you sanctuary at the Crystal Empire and help you reintegrate, or in this case integrate, into the Equestrian society.”

Statice felt his jaw drop and so did Shining Armor. He just committed assault on royalty, resisted arrest, and escaped the dungeons! Despite all that, she was going to give him a second chance! It was unbelievable and too good to be truth. But…why did she sound so convincing? Why did he feel safe with her offer?

Those beautiful purple eyes of hers, they shone with caring and affection. They were offering a second chance. The most surprising aspect of them was that they were sincere. She really meant to keep her promise.

He shook his head. No. There was no way that anypony would feel sympathy for him. Only Discord knew about the true horrors of his past. It was impossible for Cadence to find out about the struggles that he surpassed on his darker days.

He looked in front and behind him. In front of him was the Princess of Love, willing to forget and forgive for a new start. Behind him was his jump to freedom. Both options could be the wrong ones. A step forward was going to get him arrested in an instant and a step back…well, he didn’t mean to think about it if he made a mistake on the way down.

He focused his eyes on Shining Armor, trying to see if he had a plan. The white unicorn glared at him threateningly and assumed a fighting position. His glare intensified when one of Statice’s eyes focused on Cadence. Rather than scowl back at him, Statice smiled as the Captain of the Royal Guard helped him out of his indecision.

“Sorry, but I’ll take my chances,” Statice bowed at the Princess of Love respectfully, his first and so far only act of genuine appreciation towards royalty before taking a step back into the empty air.

The married couple gasped as they saw Statice fall out of Canterlot. Wasting no time, Cadence leapt over the precipice and dived in to save him. Much to her surprise, Statice was flipped upside down with his head pointing toward the ground and his eyes looking at the wall. It was as if he were not afraid of dying!

“Hold on!” Cadence hollered as she flapped her wings faster. Her fall was accelerating with the movement of her wings. She was getting closer to the green stallion, her hooves nearly reaching his tail.

I just need to get a little closer to him!

The stallion flipped himself onto his back to look at Cadence. He seemed confident on himself as he beat his chest with one hoof and offered it to her. The pink alicorn grunted as she pushed herself close to him and attempted to grab his hoof.

Remember your lessons at flight camp. Grab his hoof, pull him close to you, and then hold his body in both of your forelegs.

She didn’t see the green light on his horn until it engulfed his body. She didn’t feel a thing as she passed through the light when it vanished. She was now floating in the air, suspended by the flapping of her wings. She was alone, and there was no trace of Statice falling to the ground.

“Statice!” Cadence called loudly. “Where are you? Are you here? Are you hurt? Answer me!”

Silence was the answer she got. The pink alicorn looked dejected. She sighed sadly before flying upwards to Canterlot. She had failed Shining Armor. She had failed Twilight. She had failed her aunts. Above all else, she had failed Statice. She only hoped that wherever he went, he could get the help that he needed.

As she flew on her way up, she didn’t notice a small fissure at the side of the mountain. Inside that fissure, there was a green light from the magic coming from a unicorn’s horn.

“That was close,” Statice panted. “I hate to teleport during a free fall! I’m never sure when it’s the right moment to use the spell.”

Excluding his palpitating heart, Statice felt okay. He had escaped them all for the time being. He was going to rest and replenish his energy. Once he was in better conditions, Statice could move on with his life…or his attempts to get a life.

He popped his head out of the entrance, seeing a speck of pink returning to Canterlot. He felt some shame at refusing Cadence’s offer and it got worse when he heard her call his name when she was searching for him. For a brief second, he felt the need to come out of his hole and shout that he was okay. It scared him that she was able to wake up such feelings inside of him.

Note to self, stay away from alicorns MORE than ever.

Shaking his head, Statice went into the cave, reaching the crystal catacombs. This was the place where Cadence was locked away when Queen Chrysalis abducted her and replaced her at the wedding. This was the same place where Twilight rescued the Princess of Love after she herself was abducted by the impersonator. He felt a little sick to use this sanctuary of war crimes as his base of operations. There were many harsh memories there and he was going to sleep at their place of origin.

“Good thing you don’t dream in hibernation,” Statice encouraged himself. He closed his eyes and lighted his horn in magic.

The Hibernation Spell was like his Healing Spell, but it was designed to replenish both health and magic by putting himself in deep sleep. Like its name implied, the spell put the caster out of commission for days and as such it was recommendable to use on a deserted place. The crystal catacombs were the perfect place on which to use the spell because there would be nopony there.

The green unicorn lied on his side and used the spell on himself. He felt his body being encased by his green magic. He lost sense of his body as darkness was the only thing that his eyes were seeing.

He didn’t know for how long he was going to be out. The spell depended on things such as the damage on his body or how nourished he was at the time of the casting. He could be out for days, weeks, or maybe a month or two. Whatever day on which he was bound to wake up, he was certain that things were going to be different when he opened his eyes.

He was seeing pitch black now. His body was numb. The only consolation was that when he opened his eyes things were going to be different.

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Keeping Up with Current Events

Back when Statice used his Hibernation Spell on himself, his last thoughts at the time were that things were going to be different when he opened his eyes. He didn’t expect them to be TOO different when he met face to face with Discord.

“Hi there, Statice!” the draconequus smiled at the green unicorn, who yelped and got away from him.

“What are you doing here, Discord?” Statice demanded, not too happy with his lack of personal space.

Discord crossed his eyes and pouted. “That’s the first thing you say to a friend after not seeing him for so long.”

“Can you tell me how long was I out?” Statice asked as he rubbed his eyes with the back of a hoof. “I’ve only been asleep for a day.” That last part was half a lie. Regardless of how many days passed during the hibernation, it would always feel like a good night sleep to the caster.

Discord’s face changed from pouting, to shocked, to mischievous all in a flash and with clones. The mischievous one snapped his finger to disappear the pouting clone and the stunned clone. He snapped his fingers again and he was now dressed as a movie director.

“Oh, Statice, you’d be surprised at what you missed these last months!” Discord declared as he brought a movie screen and some popcorn. Statice’s reaction was less than enthusiastic though.

“I’ve been out for months!” he yelled out in surprise.

“Yes,” Discord told him before shushing him. He materialized movie theater sits for himself, Statice, and many other clones of himself. There was even one clone acting like an usher walking around the files.

“That’s ridiculous!” Statice snapped at Discord.

He was shushed by Discord and his clones.

“I wasn’t that beat up so I should have woken up in a few days,” Statice groaned as he struggled to explain his spell to Discord. He was a genius in making up spells, but that didn’t mean that he could come up with good explanations for them. “I barely ate that day but that should have made my hibernation last for weeks at worst. It shouldn’t have lasted a month, much less many of them.”

The Discord clones once again shushed him.

“Sir, be quiet or I won’t show you the movie,” Discord usher threatened.

Statice crossed his forelegs in a sulking manner before watching the movie. The opening credits featured a Discord shaped lamp and a movie version of Discord narrating the events of the plot.

“Today only, I will show you The Fourth Season!” Movie Discord promised.

Statice raised an eyebrow at the name of the movie but he knew better than questioning. He didn’t want to be shushed again or kicked out of the movie. He was not going to be scolded by Discord of all ponies…or draconequus in his case.

“Last time we saw our heroine, Twilight Sparkle, she had ascended to become an alicorn princess. Being a humble pony all of her life, our purple unicorn-turned-alicorn had doubts regarding the new responsibilities offered by her position.”

Statice smiled a little bit. It was great to see that royalty did not change Twilight’s personality. He would have hated it if Twilight became a professional problem solver. The last thing a movie needed was an invincible protagonist.

“Fortunately, the love of her friends, and an unwanted arrival from some out of control plants from the Everfree Forest forced our new princess into a new adventure. The Royal Sisters disappeared out of nowhere, leaving Equestria stuck between day and night and it was up to Twilight to find out how to save them. Old secrets of the past were revealed…”

Images of Discord being defeated by Celestia and Luna were played. They were followed by Luna’s transformation into Nightmare Moon and her subsequent imprisonment to the moon by Celestia. Statice had seen those events before but he was still awed at the power of the Elements of Harmony.

“And new sacrifices were made. To stop the chaos caused by the Everfree Forest, the Bearers had to return the Elements of Harmony to the Tree of Harmony. Equestria returned to normal and Celestia and Luna were returned. Curiously enough, a coffin came out from the Tree of Harmony, offering some sort of treasure that could only be opened by six keys.”

Statice watched how Twilight returned the Elements and reunited with Celestia and Luna. The special chest that came out of the tree was made of crystal and offered six locks. The green unicorn’s curiosity was piqued at the moment. How were the girls going to open the chest?

“After the incident, the girls moved on with their lives. They all came up with the idea of making a journal to explain the lessons they learned on their adventures. Little did they know that those lessons were going to be more useful than they expected…”

“Spoiler alert, Discord!” Statice angrily stood up. He was getting interested and now Discord had just given him a clue of how the girls were going to get the keys.

Instead of getting shushed again, all of the Discord clones, including the Discord usher started booing at Movie Discord.

Movie Discord smiled sheepishly at his audience. “Sorry about that, my audience. I better get to the good part.”

He snapped his fingers and divided the screen into five. Each screen focused on one of the Elements of Harmony. The first of the screens showed Rarity talking with some shy looking earth pony mare, who gave her a spool of thread.

“Rarity learned a lesson in generosity during a trip to Manehattan. A greedy rival fashionista stole her designs and Rarity had her friends abandon their plans to help her sew new designs. She realized how wrong she was for putting her interests ahead of those of her friends. Rarity’s generosity inspired her rival’s unappreciated assistant to quit her job and start a new life. She gave Rarity a spool of rainbow thread in gratitude.”

The second screen focused on Rainbow Dash at the hospital talking with a blue pegasus stallion, one of those Wonderbolts that Statice heard many ponies talk about. The scene shifted to Rainbow Dash confronting two pegasus mares, one yellow and the other light blue, about trying to replace the stallion with her. The final scene showed the yellow mare give Rainbow Dash a golden Wonderbolts pin.

“Rainbow Dash learned a lesson in loyalty on Rainbow Falls. Caught between competing for Ponyville with her friends or Cloudsdale with her Wonderbolt heroes, Rainbow Dash attempted to prevent a choice by faking an injury. Upon talking with Soarin, a Wonderbolt who got hurt and abandoned by his friends in favor of them trying to get Rainbow Dash into their team, Rainbow Dash confronted her heroes to call them out on their actions. She decided to participate in the Equestria Games in the Ponyville team. Her loyalty earned the respect of Spitfire, leader of the Wonderbolts, who gave her a Wonderbolts pin in appreciation.”

The third screen focused on Pinkie Pie, who was competing with some orange earth pony in some sort of comedy duel. Apparently, it was Rainbow Dash’s birthday and they were competing to see who was going to make her laugh. Pinkie Pie quitted when she saw that Rainbow Dash was not having fun, only for her opponent to reveal by song that she was the one who inspired him to be a party pony. Both went on to make an excellent birthday party, even by Statice’s admission, before they went to say their goodbyes. Pinkie Pie was given a rubber chicken that used to belong to her as a reminder of the party.

“When party planner Cheese Sandwich goes to Ponyville to plan Rainbow Dash’s birth-iversary party, Pinkie Pie challenged him to a goof-off. It was a comedy duel unlike anything ever seen, but it ended in defeat when Pinkie Pie resigned from the match. Her pride as a party planner was indirectly ruining the party for Rainbow Dash. Only with a quick musical origin story by Cheese Sandwich did Pinkie Pie regain her party spirit. The pair went on to give Rainbow Dash the party that she deserved. Cheese Sandwich left with Pinkie Pie on good terms, but not before returning Boneless, Cheese Sandwich’s rubber chicken that he got from one of Pinkie Pie’s party, back to his original owner.”

The fourth screen showed Fluttershy talking with some adorable insect looking ponies. The leader of the group seemed short tempered and impatient with Fluttershy as his group was living on her house and didn’t want to leave. Fluttershy reluctantly but firmly got them out of her house and led them back into their homes by having Twilight turn her and her friends into those insect ponies. After getting them back into their home, Fluttershy was given a flower to remember them.

“Fluttershy’s lesson in kindness happened during the migration of Breezies. An incident with a leaf separated some Breezies from their group and left them unable to return home. Fluttershy let them live on her house for some time until they were ready to move. Sadly, the Breezies grew too accustomed to their new living conditions. After their leader, Seabreeze, was nearly attacked by bees in his attempts to return home, Fluttershy finally got the courage to get them out. With a magical spell from Twilight, Fluttershy and her friends returned the Breezies to their home. Because of her efforts, the Breezies gave Fluttershy a flower in response to her help.”

The fifth screen showed Applejack with some yellow unicorn brothers. They were promoting some tonic that Applejack’s grandma was drinking. An encounter with a silver earth pony who worked with the brothers revealed that the tonic was a sham. Applejack wanted to tell the truth of the tonic but didn’t want to at first because it made her grandmother feel strong. When Applejack’s grandmother attempted to do some dangerous diving trick, Applejack saved her and admitted the truth of the tonic. Applejack’s honesty got the silver pony to admit the truth and he paid her back with the single bit that he earned working for the brothers.

“Applejack’s trial of honesty happened when dealing with the scamming Flim Flam Brothers and their ‘cure all’ tonic. The tonic was supposed to cure all ailments and Applejack’s grandma, Granny Smith, fell for it. When Applejack met the brothers’ assistant, Silver Quill, she refused to tell the truth out of fear of breaking Granny’s heart. It was only when Granny’s stunts became dangerous that she finally told the truth. Inspired by her honesty, Silver Quill, quitted his job for the Flim Flam Brothers and gave Applejack the bit that he earned working for them as payment for her lesson.”

The screen faded to white for a full minute. Neither Discord nor his clones said anything. Statice was focused on a pattern that he had seen on the stories. It appeared that the girls had some sort of epiphany that revealed some rainbow light in their eyes before they did something that represented their elements. Even more strange was that every time that they succeeded they got some sort of memento that glowed with the same rainbow light as their eyes. Rarity had her thread, Rainbow Dash had her pin, Pinkie Pie had her rubber chicken, Fluttershy had her flower, and Applejack had her bit. But there was one that was missing…

“What happened to Twilight’s key?” Statice asked the movie screen.

“What about Twilight?” Movie Discord asked as he stared at Statice deeply. The green unicorn took a deep breath and spoke his mind.

“All of the girls had some sort of rainbow light in their eyes and their mementos released that same light when they got them. I assume those things were the keys. But you only showed me five of the six elements. What do you have to say for Twilight?”

Discord hummed in contemplation as he stroked his beard. “I’m not sure on how to tell you that part. I guess that we will have to do some backstory first so that you can catch up on what is going on in the story.”

Statice groaned in dismay. Why did everypony always wanted to give him the full story? It was not like he was going to need it anytime soon. As he silently protested, the movie switched to an ancient book that showed two creatures. One looked like a black and red centaur and another seemed like a brown hybrid of a monkey and a bat. He stared at the draconequus for an explanation before he found him sitting on a couch in front of him.

Discord was dressed in elegant purple robes and a red fez, like a storyteller, as he explained the story in front of the unicorn’s eyes.
“Long time ago, there were two brothers from another land that came to Equestria. Those brothers were Lord Tirek and his brother Scorpan. They intended to steal all of the magic from the ponies. However, Scorpan befriended a unicorn wizard and decided to change his ways. He attempted to convince Tirek to abandon his plans and ultimately betrayed him when he told Celestia and Luna about them. Tirek was exiled to Tartarus while Scorpan returned to his homeland.”

Discord snapped his fingers and disappeared, replacing the drawings with his own appearance. All of the Discord clones were captivated by his story but he found Statice’s lack of reaction to be disappointing.

“Can you move on with the story already?” Statice gave him an annoyed look. “I have a lot of things to do!”

Discord was not amused at Statice’s comment but opted to resume the movie. It now showed a pony in Canterlot meeting with an old shrouded figure. Statice narrowed his eyes, feeling some sort of horror story vibe. To his surprise, he was right, as the shrouded figure opened his mouth and sucked the magic out of the pony. Statice gasped in shock at what he had just seen. That thing was capable of sucking magic! His shock turned into horror when he saw the pony’s eyes turn glassy and his cutie mark disappear.

“That thing was Lord Tirek, right?” Statice asked the Discord clones with a grimace.

A somber nod was the only thing that he got in response.

“I guess that backstory was worth something,” Statice remarked as he took a few breaths to regain his cool. “Tell me, what does Twilight Sparkle have to do in this little horror story?”

Discord smiled as he snapped his fingers and presented Twilight at the Crystal Empire. The purple alicorn was nervous about a meeting with some dignitaries from Maretonia, only to be disappointed that her presence was needed just so that she could smile and wave. In a certain way, Statice could understand that, although he would be more angry than sad for being forced to travel all the way home to the Crystal Empire just to greet some ponies he barely even knew.

“Poor Twilight started the story going into the Crystal Empire to do some royal duties with the dignitaries of Maretonia. Sadly, said royal duties were just smiling and waving. Of course, dear Twilight’s self-esteem took a turn for the worst by the end of the meeting.”

Statice narrowed his eyes as he watched Twilight coming out of the meeting and being depressed. As the other princesses came out and asked her was wrong with her. She told them on how useless she felt in comparison with Celestia raising the sun, Luna raising the moon, and Cadence spreading love while she didn’t even have a purpose. This started some sort of musical that Statice quickly interrupted.

“Stop!” Statice yelled angrily.

“Why should I stop?” Discord questioned as he glared at Statice for the interruption.

“First of all, I’m not fond of musicals,” Statice crossed his forelegs. He had already seen enough musical numbers when Discord told him about Twilight and her friends. “But this is getting ridiculous.”

“Do tell?” Discord crossed his arms and gave Statice a questioning look.

“First of all, what’s with Twilight’s self-doubt?” Statice threw his forelegs to the air in exasperation. “I get that she was no princess with a specific affinity like the sun, or the moon, or love. I would feel a little annoyed if I were just a prince. But come on! Twilight has protected Equestria multiple times, long before she was a princess, and she feels worthless? She is the Element of Magic for crying out loud! And now she is singing because she doesn’t feel that she belongs with the other princesses? If I don’t recall, she and her friends are always the ones who protect Equestria while the other princesses barely do anything! The way I see it, Twilight deserved to be a princess long before she completed that ridiculous destiny switching spell!”

Discord stood aghast at what he had just heard. He expected Statice to be insulting and dismissing of Twilight given his lack of social skills and previous encounters with her. And even though he was right regarding the unicorn’s opinion of Twilight, he was also shocked that he held an even greater opinion of her.

“I think that we’re going to see the musical number,” Discord replied, still stunned but willing to continue the movie. “Don’t pout, little unicorn! You’re going to like the musical!”

Much to Statice’s surprise, Discord was right. The musical number that Celestia, Luna, and Cadence made for Twilight was beautiful. Their voices were divine and the lyrics were sublime. A part of him actually wanted Discord to replay the part but he controlled it in favor of continuing the story. By the time the musical was finished, all of the Discord clones were applauding.

“Excuse me,” Statice raised a hoof shyly, trying not to let it slip that he loved the song. “Can we please focus on Tirek now?”

Discord smirked in satisfaction at the unicorn’s question. “Eventually, Celestia found out about Tirek’s return and told Twilight about it. Afterwards, she put me on charge of capturing Tirek.”

“Celestia trusted you to capture Tirek?” Statice reluctantly pointed a hoof at him with a disbelieving expression.

“Excuse me but I am pretty reliable,” Discord frowned angrily before rubbing the back of his head in what looked like…shame. “I was reliable at first though.”

“Did he beat you in a fight?” Statice asked, trying to sound comprehensive with him. Although Discord was a jerk, he was technically speaking the only friend that he had on Equestria for the time being.

Rather than answering, Discord snapped his fingers and showed him the fight between himself and Tirek. Much to Statice’s surprise, Discord proved to be a tough opponent. He made short work of Tirek and even dodged a magical blast by splitting his face in half! He felt awe at the draconequus until it turned into horror when he saw Tirek speak to him with tempting words.

“You didn’t?” Statice asked apprehensively.

“I did,” Discord nodded his head. The next images featured Discord helping Tirek to steal the magic from all of the unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies of Equestria.

Statice couldn’t believe what he saw. He knew that Discord was a little wacky, but siding with Tirek was pure insanity. He was going to question Discord about it but chose not to when he saw him feel guilty for his actions. The movie moved on to show Twilight reuniting with the other three princesses. Much to Statice’s surprise, the princesses’ plan was to transfer all of their magic into Twilight. He couldn’t believe what he heard from Celestia’s mouth until after he saw the magic transfer in front of him. Seeing his surprise, Discord continued his narration.

“With almost all of the magic of Equestria stolen by Tirek, only the alicorn magic was remaining. Seeing no other choice, Celestia instructed Twilight to take her magic, Luna’s, and Cadence’s for safekeeping. Since Twilight’s special talent was magic, only she was capable of holding that much power. Even though I was not present for the event, I felt it outside of Canterlot Castle but chose not to tell Tirek about it.”

Statice was confused. If Discord was Tirek’s ally, why did he choose to hide that information from him? The movie went on to show Tirek banishing the princesses to Tartarus, capturing the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony, and then stealing Discord’s magic from him before going after Twilight.

“Celestia’s plan succeeded, as Tirek was unable to steal the alicorn magic he desired. Sadly, this did not stop him from banishing her, her sister, and her niece to Tartarus. As a reward for my…services, Tirek gave me a medallion as a symbol of trust. Unfortunately, Celestia’s plan was ruined when Tirek saw a window of Twilight as a princess and he went to Ponyville, where he stole my magic and that of Twilight’s friends. With his magic power taken to a whole new level, Lord Tirek faced Twilight in a duel to obtain her alicorn magic.”

Statice dropped his jaw the second he saw the fight between Twilight and Tirek. All of the spells that they used were fueled with powerful magic. Their sheer destructive power terrified him…and he was the type of unicorn that had highly destructive spells on his arsenal. Despite what he saw, there was something amiss in what he saw and that made the fight less realistic on his eyes.

“Cut that out!” Statice snapped at Discord.

“Cut what out?” Discord asked Statice.

“You expect me to believe that’s what really happened?” Statice angrily pointed a hoof at the screen.

“It is what really happened!” Discord cried out in indignation.

“I understand the need to take creative license to make the story more entertaining but you’re really exceeding it, Discord!” Statice stomped a hoof on his seat.

“That’s what happened!” Discord slapped his eagle talon on his forehead.

“Yeah, right,” Statice snorted dismissively. “Not even Celestia and Luna could beat you together. And now you’re telling me that with their combined power and that of Twilight and Cadence’s is enough to not only beat you but to rival Tirek when he has stolen your magic and that of almost everypony of Equestria? How does that even make sense in the first place?”

Discord sputtered. As much as he wanted to come out with an explanation he couldn’t find one. That was how magic worked and he didn’t mind as long as it didn’t make sense. That kind of erratic mechanic was what made magic what it was…at least in his opinion. “Well that’s the way it happened, Statice! It might seem exaggerated but I am giving you a full recap of the true events.”

Statice took a deep breath. “Let’s take Twilight and Tirek out of the equation. At your best, you’re stronger than Celestia and Luna put together. However, when you put Cadence, they are more powerful than you. I can get that if the difference was at least a little margin, not when the gap is so big that you need the power of everypony in the land to face them as your equals! The only way this equation makes sense is if Cadence was more powerful than Celestia and Luna put together!”

“Are we going to stay here and talk math problems or are we going to watch the movie, Statice?” Discord gave him an authoritative look.

“Continue the movie,” Statice crossed his forelegs.

The movie continued with a stalemate between Tirek and Twilight. Statice was surprised to see that Twilight gave up her magic not just to save her friends from Tirek but to save Discord as well. Twilight’s forgiveness was what ultimately led the ponies to victory when Discord gave her the medallion that Tirek gave him, which turned out to be her rainbow key. The girls used their rainbow glowing objects as keys to open the chest given to them by the Tree of Harmony. They obtained some sort of magic called Rainbow Power that changed their appearance and gave them the power to defeat Tirek, sealing him in Tartarus once again.

“It turned out that Twilight and Tirek were too powerful to defeat each other in combat so Tirek decided to do a little bargain: Twilight’s friends for her magic. Being the good girl she is, Twilight traded her magic for her friends and even asked to save me despite my betrayal. After the bargain was done, I gave Twilight the medallion Tirek gave to me as a sign of friendship. This ultimately turned out to be the final key needed to open the chest that the Tree of Harmony sprouted some time ago. Once the chest was opened, the girls obtained new powers, which they promptly used to lock out Tirek in a jail inside Tartarus.”

For some reason, Discord giggled at the last sentence, more out playfulness than out of sadistic spite for his betrayer. Statice went on to watch the end of the movie, which showed Twilight getting her library replaced with a new castle that had seven thrones, six for her and her fellow Elements and one for Spike. The last minutes of the movie featured a musical number celebrating the return of the princesses and Twilight becoming the Princess of Friendship.

“Wow,” Statice whistled once the screen went to black. “I thought that Twilight was going to be the Princess of Magic or something.”

“Friendship is magic, Statice!” Discord smiled as he snapped his fingers and dissipated all of his clones. “I don’t think that it’d be different if you were to say that Twilight is the Princess of Friendship instead of the Princess of Magic.”

“As interesting as the movie was, this does not explain how I was out for months,” Statice said, returning to the original topic of their conversation. “Even with no food in my belly and little magic reserves, I shouldn’t have been out for that long with the injuries that I had when I made the spell.”

Discord winced at the explanation. “That may have been my fault, Statice, for the whole out of control Everfree incident.”

“What does the Everfree have to do with this?” Statice raised an eyebrow at the draconequus.

Rather than answering, Discord showed a video of Statice being wrapped by spiked vines as he was hibernating. The green unicorn was horrified upon seeing what happened to him months ago before glaring at Discord.

“So that’s what happened!” Statice yelled at Discord. “You and your stupid vines disrupted my spell!”

“Humph!” Discord raised his snout indignantly. “Excuse me, but I took care of your body while you were asleep. I took out the thorns from your coat and I even looked out for you when I was not busy with Fluttershy.”

Statice wanted to yell at Discord but opted against it. As annoyed as he was with Discord for the situation, he did help him during the months…apparently.

“I guess I shouldn’t whine about the months that I lost,” Statice exhaled in resignation. “I would have probably spent them on the run anyway. And I don’t have any right to blame you for something you didn’t mean to do to me. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not holding this against you, Discord.”

“That’s my friend!” Discord scooped Statice into a hug. “How does it feel to learn your first Friendship Lesson?”

“It’s not a Friendship Lesson!” Statice yelled as he teleported out of Discord’s grasp. “I don’t need to take friendship as homework to know about it.”

“Are you sure?” Discord teasingly elbowed him before turning into Twilight, dressed in royal clothes and wearing a ridiculous scepter with her face on it. When he spoke again, he did it with her voice. “Look what Twilight got for doing her homework!”

“I’m sure,” Statice gave the now purple alicorn a deadpan look.

Discord shrugged his shoulders and returned to his original appearance. “If you like, I can also show you some additional material of Season 4. There are still some adventures you haven’t seen yet.”

Statice rolled his eyes. “I’m fine. I need to get out of here right now. I have to move forward and not waste time.”

“Are you sure?” Discord asked again when he saw Statice walk away from him. “It’s nighttime already and even though you’re still in the crystal caverns the only ways out are either through the entrance many miles above the land and the exit that leads you back to Canterlot, where you’re still a wanted fugitive.”

Statice stopped on his tracks. He took a deep breath to calm down but he only ended up growling at himself and speaking in angry gibberish. Behind him, Discord smiled and summoned a bucket of popcorn to watch the spectacle.

“You know,” Discord munched as he ate his popcorn. “You don’t have to leave right away. You don’t have a life anyway so you don’t have to worry about compromises or deadlines or the like. Sit here and have some fun with your friend!”

Hearing those words stopped Statice’s anger. As insane as Discord was, he made a good point. He didn’t have to leave immediately and he might as well as have some fun after being asleep for months. He used his magic to teleport next to Discord and summoned his own bucket of popcorn.

“Start the movie, Discord,” Statice levitated his popcorn and started eating it.

Discord smiled, snapped his fingers, and played the movie.

Evergreen, Everfree

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Evergreen, Everfree

They spent the whole night watching the rest of Season 4. Much to Statice’s surprise, he found the adventures that Twilight and her friends had amusing. Sure, they may have done some stupid things that either caused them trouble or made things worse, but they always managed to solve them. Every chapter that Discord showed him always ended up in a happy ending, much like the other three “seasons” that the draconequus had shown him the day he met him.

By the next day, it was time to leave, but now Statice had a problem. He had to find a place on which to stay. He couldn’t go back to Canterlot or go to Ponyville for obvious reasons. He needed to plan his next move perfectly.

Focusing his magic on his horn, a virtual map of Equestria appeared in front of him. A green dot that marked his location was resting in Canterlot. At least four cities in the map were covered with red crosses. All of those crosses were places on which Statice was probably not welcome anymore.

“What are you planning on doing, Statice?” Discord asked as he turned into a small serpent and wrapped himself around the stallion’s body.

“I’m trying to see where I should move next,” Statice focused his eyes on the map. “I guess I should give Canterlot a cross since there is zero chances of me ever being welcomed there after my encounter with Blueblood.”

“Maybe if you sit on your haunches and beg you may be given a second chance,” Discord suggested with raised eyebrows.

Statice gave him a dour look. “What makes you think that Celestia is going to forgive me so easily after attacking her nephew, acting disrespectful on my trial, escaping, and engaging her guards and the Elements of Harmony in combat during said escape attempt?”

Discord snorted at the question. “Dear boy, I did worse than that and here I am. She had lots of reasons to hate me and yet she still gave me a second chance.”

Statice thought about it. Celestia may have colossal patience if she was willing to forgive her greatest enemy for his past transgressions. She even wore the Element of Kindness during her early days. Maybe if he gave an explanation…

“No,” Statice shook his head. “I already messed things up in Canterlot.”

He slammed the hoof on the virtual map of Equestria, not even bothering to put a cross mark on Canterlot. The map turned into a green spot, revealing a blue screen that contained small purple squares at the center. Discord’s eyes lit up when the green spot entered into one of the squares that was labeled as “Locations” and he promptly popped next to the unicorn’s side, back to his original appearance.

“That was an interesting spell, Statice,” Discord eyed the screen, reading the labels on each book. “May I see what’s inside those boxes on the screen?”

“Why should I?” Statice asked a little aggressively. He knew that he couldn’t take Discord head-on, but it was still his spell. He didn’t want him to fidget with it if he could do something about it.

“I can poke on the screen with my magic and find out,” Discord threatened as he wiggled his fingers evilly.

“It’s my Archive Spell,” Statice admitted in defeat. “I use it to collect information and store it for later use.”

“Was that so hard?” Discord rubbed Statice’s head before looking at the squares again. “Now then, can you give me a tour in your Archive?”

“Might as well,” Statice sighed as he pointed at each square. “The Locations square has maps to every land I visited and each land has smaller lands for towns and cities. The Spells square gives two lists of spells, the first one is for the spells that I learned and the second one is for the original spells I created. The Individuals square is for everypony that I ever met and their affiliation with me. The Journal Square is for documenting all of my adventures so that I won’t forget them.”

“What about the Fun Square?” Discord narrowed his eyes at Statice as he pointed at the only square that was not described. Wanting to get it over with, the green unicorn gave Discord the shortest summary he could give.

“The Fun Square contains either visual memories or magical games that I created for my personal amusement. You’ve seen it when I showed you my past.”

“Interesting,” Discord remarked as he rubbed his chin with the same expression one had when he suspected something fishy. It lasted a few seconds before he recovered his cheery expression. “Anyway, I think that I can help you with moving out, Statice! Hold on to me!”

The draconequus placed his eagle talon on the unicorn’s shoulder and promptly snapped his fingers. The pair vanished into a pop and appeared inside a large forest. Statice wandered the place with his eyes, trying to see where he was standing on.

“Where are we, Discord?” he asked.

“We are standing in the Everfree Forest, of course,” Discord spread his arms as if making an important announcement.

Statice dropped his jaw in surprise before gritting his teeth in anger. Of all the places that he chose, he just had to put him there. Even he knew of how dangerous the Everfree Forest was based on the rumors he heard during his early days in Equestria.

“Can you please tell me why you brought me here, Discord?” Statice asked angrily.

“You need a place to stay, so I figured that this was appropriate for you,” Discord shrugged his shoulders innocently.

“In what way is this place appropriate for me?” Statice asked.

“For starters, nopony is crazy enough to live here, so you’re going to be alone,” Discord gave Statice a hug and a noogie, lifting him into the air.

“I’m going to be alone with Zecora!” Statice snapped at him. “She is friends with Twilight, dude! If she talks with her or her friends, I’m gonna be caught.”

“Then don’t let her meet you,” Discord dropped Statice to the ground and waited for him to stand up. “You have lots of places on which to hide here, like in the castle.”

“The castle is filled traps and the girls are remodeling it!” Statice replied in frustration. He didn’t mind the traps as he could use his Echo Spell to find them, avoid them, and eventually dismantle them. What frustrated him about the castle was that he was destined to meet the girls thanks to their remodeling project. Why did they even bothering repairing the castle anyway? It’s not like anypony else was living on it! The worst part was that the castle was perhaps his best hiding spot and he lost it because of some ridiculous restoration idea those six mares had.

“You can try to go to civilization,” Discord pointed at a random direction.

“The closest civilization here is Ponyville, where the girls are!” Statice stomped a hoof irritably. “Are you even trying to help me or you’re just messing with me!”

“Both,” Discord smirked. “But you can try to go the only way you haven’t done yet, Statice.”

“Which is?” Statice raised an eyebrow.

“I suggest you go deeper into the Everfree Forest than anypony else has ever done,” Discord snapped his fingers and was dressed as a military. “You can’t be found in a place nopony knows.”

“I think that surrendering to Twilight is a more plausible solution,” Statice gave him a deadpan expression. “I don’t think that going into the unexplored parts of the Everfree is a good idea, Discord! What you don’t know will always get you!”

“Who said that?” Discord placed his hands on his hips in a sassy way.

“Practically any survivalist that returned home in one piece,” Statice responded annoyingly. “This place is filled with hydras, manticores, and Timberwolves! You want me to go deeper and see what more wants to make me its lunch?”

“I’m trying to help you, Statice!” Discord raised his eagle hand, tracing his finger into the air with a golden light to make a halo appear on top of his head in an effort to look innocent. “I’ve turned a new leaf and I intend to prove it with you.”

“You want to prove you’re good by sending me into peril?” Statice raised an eyebrow at him. “Forgive me if I doubt the credibility of your claims.”

Discord adopted a serious expression. “Look now, Statice. I am serious on my intentions and I’ll prove it. When your life is in danger, just call out my name and I’ll come to your aid.”

“Why should I call out your name?” Statice asked as he looked at him. “You are going with me.”

“Sadly, no,” Discord shook his head. “I have a picnic with Fluttershy and I cannot be late.”

He raised his fingers and was about to snap them. “Wait,” Statice called out. “I need to ask you something.”

“Sure,” Discord smiled kindly. “What do you need to do?”

“Are you sure that helping me is a good idea?” Statice asked, looking at Discord uncertainly.

“I made it clear that I was going to help you, didn’t I?” Discord gave him an exasperated look. “What must I do to…?”

“Fluttershy is one of the Elements of Harmony,” Statice reminded him softly. “I left Canterlot as a criminal, and that makes me her enemy by default. Are you sure you want to help me, Discord? You already betrayed her for Tirek. I don’t want you to hurt her because of me.”

That explanation caught Discord off guard. Even to this day, he still felt guilty over betraying Fluttershy. She had given him a second chance, besides Celestia, when nopony else trusted him. She even defended him and saved him from the wrath of Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash when they thought that he had made Celestia and Luna disappear. She even took care of him when he was sick despite the fact that he tried to ruin Twilight and Cadence’s quality time. He felt sick at the idea of hurting her again, especially now that he had befriended the rest of the girls.

“I don’t want to hurt Fluttershy again,” Discord lowered his head. “But that doesn’t mean that I want you to be on your own.” He raised his head to look at Statice fiercely with determination. “You are just like me, a chaotic soul trying to fit in a world of peace and harmony. But you’re not me. You don’t have my charm, my good looks, and my power. You’ll be doomed if you don’t have somepony who can assist you here.”

Statice frowned, at first from sympathy and then from annoyance at Discord’s speech. He was more than capable of surviving Equestria, thank you very much! As much as he wanted him to let him know that, he decided that Discord deserved to give his speech. He was just learning to be a friend…the same way he was learning to be a friend.

“What I am trying to say, Statice, is that you need a friend and I am willing to be that friend,” Discord finished his speech by placing his hands on his shoulders and staring at him dead in the eyes. He really meant what he said, and Statice could see the honesty inside of him.

“I guess I’ll believe you,” Statice replied with the same honest expression as Discord. “You’re risking an awful lot to help me so you deserve my trust on this.”

Discord’s expression brightened as he grabbed Statice on his hands and gave him a hug. “Was that so hard, Statice?” Discord asked as he rubbed his cheek against the unicorn’s face, disgusting him to no end.

“I think that you’re spoiling the moment,” Statice shoved his hooves on Discord’s face, trying to break the infernal hug he was receiving from him.

“Sorry about that,” Discord smiled as he broke the hug and let Statice fall onto his rump. “And sorry about that as well,” he smiled playfully at the glare he received from his new friend.

“Don’t you have a picnic to attend to, Discord?” Statice reminded him with a cross look and a growling voice.

“Oh my!” Discord slapped a paw to his cheek. “I nearly forgot about it. I better go see Fluttershy.”

The draconequus snapped his finger and some sort of vehicle resembling a bike materialized in front of them. Despite its size being significantly smaller than him, Discord somehow managed to get into the vehicle and drive away from the forest.

Statice stared at his ally for a few seconds with a blank expression on his face. A shake of his head erased the lack of emotion as he thought of his options.

“North, south, east, and west,” Statice chanted as he analyzed his options.

Going into the north meant going into the unexplored parts of the Everfree Forest on his own. It was already a danger to be in the known parts of the forest so imagining the dangers of the unexplored gave him the shivers. The monsters inside that part were probably more dangerous than anything that he could currently face at the forest or anything else he faced on his past.

If he went to the south, he was bound to reach Ponyville. The idea of civilization calmed him, especially after seeing how peaceful and friendly the town and its citizens were thanks to Discord’s memories. Unfortunately, the Elements of Harmony lived in that town and they probably told the citizens bad things about him. If he went there, chances were that he was going to get captured. He could disguise himself, but even he was afraid of Pinkie Pie’s ability to challenge the universe. There was a chance that she could see through his disguise, and that was a gamble on which he was not going to partake.

The castle at the east was the perfect hiding place for Statice, with emphasis on the “was” part. He wasn’t afraid of abandoned buildings because they were mainly old and surrounded with myths that would keep anypony gullible enough away from them. He didn’t mind the traps that were in the castle as long as they were not as dangerous as any other traps that he activated during his days as an adventurer. What he did mind were the constant visits the Elements of Harmony made to the castle. Since they visited the place regularly for renovation and research, it would be like breaking into the house of somepony else. No matter how much one can break in and try to hide his visit, sooner or later, he was bound to be found. That was not going to happen. Statice was not going to allow for anypony else to hunt him down like an animal! Again…

Going into the west was probably his safest route. Zecora, the zebra who was good enough to survive and live inside the Everfree Forest for years, could give him advice and supplies for his stay in the woods. The bad part was that she was also friends with the Elements, which meant that there was a chance that she may become an enemy upon meeting her or that she may have one of the Elements in her hut, which may lead to his eventual capture.

Statice grinded his teeth as three of his options exposed him to capture. Why couldn’t he reach Equestria during the times on which nopony else wanted to go to the Everfree? Even his only remaining option was a gamble with a far more horrific outcome should he be unlucky.

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you,” Statice chanted. It was an old saying that adventurers said to motivate themselves into going into dangerous territories. On Statice’s experience, the chant was a 50/50 deal. Not knowing anything led to being unprepared to survive anything. On the other hoof, sometimes some places were more peaceful than they appeared so there was a chance that he was worrying for nothing.

“I’m going north,” Statice told himself. He stared at his new objective with a blank look before his eyes hardened into a determined stare. He moved his hooves forward and now he was journeying into a new route.

Statice walked for what he calculated to be an hour. There were no signs of life on his route, which relieved him as that meant that there were no predators around him. He could relax for the time being, but he still needed to stay at the tips of his hooves if something was ready to attack him.

“You can do this,” Statice mouthed the words to avoid making a sound. “You have a friend that will get you out of here. Just keep moving forward, Statice.”

His self-rousing speech reassured him a bit, but it still did nothing for his lingering worry. There were occasions on which a silent environment meant that there was a predator so big and scary that no living creature stayed within its domain. A small chance of Statice invading his territory and becoming his next meal was possible.

“Calm down,” he reassured himself silently. “You faced worse, Statice! Just because you retired recently doesn’t mean that you lost your skills!”

He took a deep breath and raised his ears. Any danger could be avoided as one used his senses correctly. His eyes did not see anything out of the ordinary, but his ears could pinpoint a source of danger that could tell him where not to go. He stood still and listened to what the forest had to say to him.


A scream was detected at nine of clock. But it wasn’t just a scream. It was a combination of three screams. They were obviously female, but the pitch gave away their young age. His conclusion: three fillies were in danger.

“Darn it!” Statice swore as he now spoke angrily. He didn’t want to expose himself to danger in this part of the forest, but there was no way in Tartarus that he was going to let three fillies to be hurt for his selfishness. As much as he wanted to stay out of trouble, he was not going to turn his back on somepony in need of help.

Statice lighted his horn with magic as an aura surrounded his body. He jumped in place for a few seconds before he darted with insane speed at the source of the scream. The Gallop Burst Spell that he was using coated his body with lightning magic that boosted his velocity. Although teleporting was an easier choice, there was a chance that he may teleport on the wrong location if he tried to reach an unseen place just by sound alone. Magically running with augmented speed was the natural solution to his problem…regardless of how weird it sounded in words.

With each sprint he gave, Statice heard the screams getting louder and clearer. He was close to the fillies. Focusing his magic, he canceled the spell in order to preserve his energy. By the time the magic aura around his body disappeared, Statice had already reached his destination. Needless to say, he was not pleased to see what he was facing at the moment.

A pack of ten wolves made of wood and leaves was surrounding three scared fillies. But they were no ordinary fillies. The fillies were a yellow earth pony, a white unicorn, and an orange pegasus. Discord had shown him enough memories to know those fillies. They were the Cutie Mark Crusaders… and they needed his help.

“Stupid kids,” Statice growled as he noticed some pebbles and levitated them close to him. He should have taken his chances with Zecora…

“This sucks!” Scootaloo cried as she hugged her friends. “Thanks a lot for your idea of getting our cutie marks in cartography, Sweetie Belle.”

“I wanted to try to do butterfly catching but you didn’t think it was cool enough, you dodo!” Sweetie Belle snapped with tears in her eyes.

“Would you two quit it?” Apple Bloom glared at her friends. “We have to find a way to escape these Timberwolves.”

“How are we gonna do that?” Scootaloo gestured at the wolves with her head. “In case you didn’t notice, we are outnumbered and outmatched.”

Apple Bloom was about to reply when one of the Timberwolves pounced on them. The trio of fillies screamed as loud as they could as they saw their lives flash before their eyes and culminating in a wide open Timberwolf jaw. The smell that came out of the monster’s mouth was atrocious, a cruel reminder that they were going to be gobbled up and digested.

Before those teeth had the chance of clamping on their bodies, many green lights erupted from the side of the Timberwolf, making it explode into pieces. The fillies and the rest of the Timberwolves got slacked jaw.

“What just happened?” Scootaloo asked, too shocked to say that what had happened was awesome.

“Ah’m not sure,” Apple Bloom blinked but regained her fear. “But whatever happened right now, Ah hope it does again, because there are still nine more Timberwolves out there to get us.”

The Timberwolves snapped out of their shock and glared at the fillies. They snarled at them for what had happened to their friend and now they were going out for them with a vengeance. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo screamed and hugged each other but Sweetie Belle remained immobile, still aghast for what happened.

“We’re gonna die!” Apple Bloom and Scootaloo cried out as they hugged each other with tears in their eyes.

“We’re not,” Sweetie Belle spoke, smiling. “We got a friend to save us,” she pointed a hoof in front of them. “Look over there.”

Sweetie Belle’s happiness snapped the hugging fillies out of their panic as they followed her hoof’s direction. At a side of the scuffle, there was a green unicorn levitating some pebbles and glaring at the Timberwolves defiantly.

“Hey, mutts!” He called out angrily. “Why don’t you guys mess with somepony your own size?”

As he said that, he threw the pebbles at a couple of Timberwolves. Much to the fillies’ surprise, the pebbles exploded when they hit the Timberwolves, destroying their bodies into splinters.

“This is awesome!” Scootaloo pumped her hoof into the air.

“We’re goin’ to make it!” Apple Bloom hopped happily. “It’s a good thing that a hero came by to save us.”

“Yeah, my hero,” Sweetie Belle smiled dreamingly at the green stallion that was risking his life to save them.

Apple Bloom stared at Sweetie Belle, confused with how weird she was acting. She understood being happy about the green unicorn coming to save them, but she sounded way too woozy. Before she had the chance to comment, she heard something and was enthralled at what was happening in front of her.

“This is the best fight I’ve ever seen!” Scootaloo cheered as she watched the green unicorn fighting off the Timberwolves.

Statice loved the Propulsion Spell. It was like levitating objects but, rather than focusing the magic evenly on the object’s surface, it focused all of the magic at one end of the object. By condensing and releasing the magic at one end, the object was shot faster than when it was shot by a levitation spell. Curiously enough, every time that the objects hit their mark, they blew up. Although he wasn’t sure what was the reason behind those explosions, Statice didn’t mind or even care about the results as long as it got his enemies out of his back.

“Lay off the fillies!” Statice commanded as he threw more rocks with his Propulsion Spell. Three more Timberwolves fell by the exploding rocks he threw at them. One was hit on the chest and burst into pieces, another one was hit on the legs and he fell hard on the ground to shatter, and the third one got its head destroyed and then had its body remains ram against a tree.

“Six down and four more to go,” Statice counted as the remaining four Timberwolves surrounded him. To make matters worse, the Timberwolves got angrier than ever with each one he beat. They were going to be at their most violent now. And for further difficulty, there were no more pebbles to use as explosives now.

One of the Timberwolves lunged at him, Statice jumped to the side to avoid its attack, but it turned out to be a ruse. Another Timberwolf had taken the chance to tackle him when he had avoided the first attack. The green stallion started wrestling with the Timberwolf, trying to get it off before its three brothers had the chance to attack him. He heard the Crusaders gasp at his predicament and then he heard them scream again.

Statice widened his eyes, purposely rolling the Timberwolf to the side to see what was happening. He was mistaken about the intelligence of the Timberwolves. They forgot about their grudge against him and were back to the meal that they were chasing before he got there.
The Crusaders trembled as the Timberwolves approached them, no longer having his protection now that he was facing his personal Timberwolf. Statice gritted his teeth as he continued rolling in the embrace of the Timberwolf, dodging the bites that it was throwing at him. He had to dispose of him now to destroy the remaining ones or else the Crusaders were not going to make it. Another dodged bite led to him smelling the infamous breath of the Timberwolf.

“That’s gross!” Statice complained as the scent hit his nostrils. The foul breath smelled like sulfur, worse than rotten eggs. It was then that an idea popped into his head. It was all so simple. Why didn’t he see it until now?

Sulfur was flammable and so were the Timberwolves. They were made of wood for the sake of Tartarus!

“It’s time to show you who is the top dog over here!” Statice lighted his horn with magic, letting tendrils wrap around all four hooves. Placing his hind hooves onto the wolf’s belly, Statice gave a mighty push and sent the Timberwolf flying into the air.

The Timberwolf kicked all four of its paws in an attempt not to fly into the sky and then not to fall when he saw how far on the air he was, making whimpering sounds as he tried. It was quite a depressing sight before gravity did its cruel job to bring it back to land. The terror the Timberwolf felt increased when it saw the green unicorn standing on his haunches and with a hoof clad in magic reared back for a punch.

“This is gonna hurt!” Statice promised as he threw the punch and hit the Timberwolf straight in the face. Time slowed down as the hoof hit the bark, fissures spread across the face, down the neck, around the torso, and descended into the legs and tail. It appeared as if the Timberwolf was going to burst into pieces based on the arrangement of the fissures, but even more fissures spread on what were supposed to be the pieces. Lights of green magic came out of the cracks as time went back to normal.

The Timberwolf exploded in a green burst. Its remains were now smaller than toothpicks. For the second time since their conflict started, the Crusaders and the Timberwolf were left slack jawed at their current development. They looked at the green stallion as he was busy dissipating the magic around his hooves casually.

“You messed with the wrong ponies,” Statice said calmly, appreciating the reaction to his Enhancement Spell. He always got a kick out of using the spell to skyrocket his physical strength to ridiculous levels and then watching the reactions of everypony else when he did something awesome with it. Hay, even he was surprised at how he obliterated the Timberwolf.

The remaining trio of Timberwolves was scared. They didn’t move a single inch even though they were now within biting distance to the Crusaders. The green unicorn took a step forward and the wolves gave a step back. He took another step forward and they stepped back. By the third step, the wolves recovered their courage and attacked the unicorn all at once.

“Burn away, mutts,” Statice coldly muttered as he levitated the Timberwolves into the air. The wolves whimpered as they realized how defenseless they were. Their pathetic noise came to an end when they were consumed by green flames from within them. They had no more time to say anything else as the flames floated where they used to be. Statice kept the flames where they were until he saw the ashes of his fallen enemies land on the grass.

“That’s enough for now,” he said as he absorbed the flames into his horn. He turned around and found the Cutie Mark Crusaders staring at him blankly.

He widened his eyes and slapped a hoof onto his face.

He traumatized them. It was just like on his previous tries. He saved somepony else in a…morally questionable way and then they ran away from him or yelled at him for doing something reprehensible. And he did all of this to the fillies who were sisters with three of the Elements of Harmony, students of the leader of those bearers, and the best friends to a zebra that was tough enough to survive the Everfree Forest all on her own.

Not even the Everfree Forest was going to be a safe hiding place for him now…well it wasn’t safe on the first place but still…


Three fillies threw themselves at Statice and gave him a group hug. The stallion gasped at the sudden display of affection. They were supposed to run away from him so why were they happy? A long time ago, he would have enjoyed the gesture of gratitude instead of being treated as an amoral monster…but now he was just confused.

“Thanks for saving us, Mister!” Apple Bloom nuzzled his chest.

“That was awesome!” Scootaloo nuzzled his neck.

“My hero,” Sweetie Belle drowsily said as she kissed his cheek.

Statice was left in shock. Gratitude never came so easily to him. Even those who eventually accepted him in the past had trouble at first. And yet…the Crusaders accepted him right away.

“Thanks,” Statice replied. “But I was just doing my duty. It’s not right to let fillies wander in a dangerous forest, especially when giant woody wolves are trying to eat them for breakfast.”

The girls laughed at his joke. Statice smiled inwardly, but still remained serene out of fear of saying something that could kill the mood.

“What’s your name, sir?” Sweetie Belle asked as they broke the hug.

“My name is Static,” he replied instantly. It had become a habit for him to say his nickname rather than his true name because of his former job. Even now, it was suggestible to avoid saying his real name given his previous encounters in Canterlot. And yet, he felt a small sliver of guilt for lying at the fillies.

“My name is Static and is nice to meet you.”

“How did you manage to burn the Timberwolves like that, Static?” Sweetie Belle asked as she and the girls walked with Statice. “Did you use some type of fire spell? I read that those are kind of hard.”

It had taken a few minutes before the Cutie Mark Crusaders introduced themselves to Statice by name and mission. The green unicorn was more than familiar with the fillies as they starred in several stories that Discord showed him on his first meeting. Regardless, he had to act as if he didn’t know about them in order to avoid raising suspicion. His first idea was to walk the girls away from the dangerous part of the Everfree Forest in order to ensure that they return safely to Ponyville.

“I used an original spell of mine,” Statice replied. “It works by focusing my magic on flammable substances to create fire in a more efficient and magic conserving way than most fire spells.”

“You mean like the wood of the Timberwolves?” Apple Bloom asked as she got curious. She was not much interested on magic but watching him make fire that easily awoke her interest.

“The wood, the sulfur inside the wolves, and the oxygen,” Statice answered as he remembered the chemistry lessons his friend Digitalis taught him about fire. “All of those things are combustible and capable of making fire.”

The Fire Ignition Spell was an elemental spell that Statice created on a whim. One day, Digitalis told him that it was almost impossible for a unicorn to have multiple elemental affinities at a time so Statice challenged himself to create at least one original spell for the basic four elements. Although he was an earth element user, he at least succeeded in making one spell for each element, albeit with some difficulty.

“Speaking about fire, can you tell us what spell you used to absorb the fire into your horn?” Scootaloo asked with buzzing wings. “You just sucked those flames and you didn’t get burned or anything.”

“That was a Magic Reclaiming Spell,” Statice answered proudly. “It allows me to absorb all the magic I used on my previous spells.”

“But how come you didn’t get burned?” Sweetie Belle asked, more curious about the fire than the spell itself.

“The fire was made with my magic so I won’t get burned once I reclaim it,” Statice explained calmly. “It guarantees a 99% magic recovery if done right.”

“What happened to the remaining 1%?” Apple Bloom asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I had to spend it to use the spell in the first place,” Statice chuckled, feeling relieved that he was doing well with the Crusaders. He felt happier to see that the fillies were laughing at his joke.

Once they were close to leaving the Everfree, Statice stopped and let the girls walk forward. Much to his dismay, the fillies realized that their new friend was not going with them into Ponyville.

“What’s wrong, Static?” Apple Bloom asked Statice in concern.

“Sorry, girls, but I’m not a town pony,” Statice admitted. Technically speaking, it wasn’t a lie given his track record of being forced to run away from town to town, but he still felt guilty to say that to the foal.

“But aren’t you gonna come with us?” Scootaloo took a step forward. “You gotta see Ponyville! We can ask Pinkie Pie to make you a party for saving our lives.”

“I’m not much of a party pony,” Statice shook his head. “In fact, I am not a social pony at all. That’s why I live in the Everfree Forest.”

“But the Everfree Forest is dangerous!” Sweetie Belle gasped, not liking where her new crush was living.

“I’m a grown stallion with magic,” Statice shrugged his shoulders. “Which reminds me, why were you girls at the Everfree Forest? You could have gotten eaten by those Timberwolves if I had not come to your aid?”

“We were trying to get our cutie marks in cartography,” Scootaloo admitted, lowering her head and pawing the ground in shame at nearly getting herself and her friends killed.

“Why did you decide to go to the Everfree Forest then?” Statice asked them softly but a little more sternly. He had to teach those fillies a lesson.

“All of Equestria is already in the map so we thought that if we go deeper into the Everfree then we would most likely find an ancient city or something,” Apple Bloom admitted, feeling more like a fool as she realized how ridiculous the idea was in the first place.

“Girls, I’m not sure about your cutie marks, but I can guarantee that you’ll never get them in the Everfree Forest, so don’t try anything like that again,” Statice sighed, feeling some frustration at the fillies. What was it with those three and their affinity to go there in the first place?

“We’re sorry,” the Crusaders apologized simultaneously.

“It’s okay,” Statice went and petted their manes softly, making them smile. “But you girls have to be careful from now on. I’m not your daddy.”

The fillies laughed at his last comment before giving him another hug. Before they could break their embrace, Statice held them firmly in his arms and stared at their eyes.

“I need you to make me a promise,” he told them. “Can I trust you with being secret keepers?”

“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS SECRET KEEPERS!” the trio yelled enthusiastically. The stallion gritted his teeth and covered his ears with his hooves, letting the trio fall to their rumps.

“I need you to keep my existence a secret from Ponyville,” Statice clarified them his secret…as soon as he made sure to hear again.

“Why don’t ya want Ponyville to know about you?” Apple Bloom asked unsurely.

“I’m shy,” Statice deadpanned. “Now listen, I don’t want anypony to look for me. I don’t feel comfortable with having a stranger following me, even if said stranger is an acquaintance of yours. Can I trust you with keeping this a secret?”

“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye!” the Crusaders made the gestures for a Pinkie Promise.

Statice smiled in spite of the ridiculous gestures. They were serious about keeping his secret… and even if they were not, he was glad to know that they were going to suffer the second Pinkie Pie heard about them breaking their promise. He waved at them as they went into Ponyville, hearing them wonder how their cutie marks in secret keeping were going to look like.

As soon as they were out of sight, Statice sighed and turned around back into the forest. The fillies were cute, but they were also going to be a great burden, especially if they insisted in coming back into the Everfree Forest. He couldn’t be there for them every time that they got in trouble. Even worse was that Applejack, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash were most likely to find him if their sisters ended up revealing a little too much about him. They didn’t need to learn the whole truth to search for him when they could simply go to the Everfree Forest and find him by coincidence.

He was going to need an operation center, a base where he could live in the Everfree Forest without being detected. It had to be far enough to not be found in Ponyville but close enough to a source of protection from the predators. He spent hours travelling into the forest, trying to find the perfect hiding place. His frustration built up as he felt his search was not giving him the results he wanted. Ultimately, he found what he wanted: a large tree with a big entrance in the middle.

“Perfect,” Statice purred in satisfaction as he lighted his horn.

He focused his magic on the earth, preparing to build a base underground. Though Statice was infamous for his lightning magic, his true elemental magic was focused on earth, which was shown in the power of his earth spells. His Earth Compacting Spell, for example, allowed him to control the density of the earth and to manipulate it. He formed a large hole twelve feet deep, making sure to add some solid earth stairs as well. When he reached the bottom of the stairs, he made sure to use the spell again to make a room nine feet tall and twenty four feet wide. Now he had a place on which to rest for the time being. He made sure to use the spell a third time to turn the moist soil solid to ensure structural stability for his new room.

“Might as well work on the details,” Statice examined the room with pride before giving it his own personal touch. He first used his Aromatic Spell to remove the smell of mud from his new home. Statice created the spell to smell like any flower that he desired and this time he chose lavender for his nasal delight.

“Now for the perfect temperature,” Statice used his magic to summon an orb of green light. He was familiar with how hot an underground base could get and he wasn’t sure how cold the air in the Everfree Forest could become at night, so he made an Optimal Temperature Spell to ensure that his place was at room temperature.

“Some vegetable life will be nice,” Statice smiled as he focused his magic on the earth beneath his hooves. He focused on the soil, its humidity, and its nutrients, letting his magic change those properties to his desires. Before long, the soil was perfect for breeding roses, daisies, sunflowers, and many more flowers. With the Fertilization Spell he invented, Statice could have the garden of his dreams.

“For a makeshift home, you do know how to live with style, Statice,” a voice interrupted the green stallion from his task, but it did not disrupt his concentration.

“How was your picnic, Discord?” Statice asked as he kept modeling his temporary abode. “Did Fluttershy suspect anything?”

“No,” said Discord with some relief in his voice. “But my chaos senses tingled as my tail pointed to the Everfree Forest. Did something happen while I was gone?”

“I met the Crusaders,” Statice answered simply.

Discord burst into laughter at his response. It took Statice five minutes to get him to shut up long enough to tell him what happened.

“Those Crusaders are one shenanigan after another,” Discord wiped a tear from his eye. “I just love the chaos that they cause.”

“Speak for yourself, Discord!” Statice snorted. “If the forest doesn’t destroy me then those girls will.”

He lighted his horn in magic and then spread it across his body. A pony shaped drawing came out from his horn with some numbers written on the side.

“What is it that you’re doing, Statice?” Discord asked as he wrapped himself around Statice’s body.

“A Biofeedback Spell,” Statice remarked as he checked on the information. “It’s a scan that says if there is something wrong with my body. It checks stuff like my heart rate, blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and even how much magic do I have on my reserves.”

“You outdid yourself today,” Discord gave a low whistle. “Your magic reserves are at 48% right now.”

“Filly saving and house modeling demands an awful lot of magic,” Statice replied as he gave his room a look. “I’m gonna have to replenish my magic reserves.”

“And how will you do that?” Discord asked. The draconequus was familiar with the classical “wait until I feel strong again” routine, but what Statice promised made it worth the wait.

Statice used his Hammerspace to summon lots of bracelets and bands filled with gems and crystals. He closed his eyes and poured magic on each gem, increasing their glowing. After he was done with the process, Statice sent them back to Hammerspace, feeling more exhausted than ever.

“What was the purpose for all that?” Discord asked as he flipped himself upside down. He loved the classic opposite chaos where ponies did the opposite of what they wanted to do, but he knew Statice was probably going to give him a surprise.

“I used a Magic Storage Spell to store some of my magic on those gems,” Statice responded with panting. He made a Biofeedback Spell again and saw that his reserves were at 28% after the whole process.

“You mean that you spend your magic on those gems to make them shine brighter?” Discord asked teasingly. Now all he needed to do was to wait for the answer.

“Consider the spell like an investment at a bank,” Statice replied as he stared back at Discord. “You pay your bits and then you get them back the next month with interests. My spell works like that.”

“You mean that once you get your magic naturally restored, you use those bracelets as the interests that temporarily increase your magical capacity when you put them on?” Discord asked as he got the gist and loved it when he saw Statice’s surprised reaction at his description.

“Yeah,” Statice nodded. Though he was aware that Discord knew his spells, he found it weird that Discord could get his metaphor and describe it that eloquently. It turned out that sophisticated Discord was more disturbing than wacky Discord.

“I gotta say that you are a brilliant unicorn, Statice,” the draconequus patted Statice on the back. “Nowadays, it is hard to find somepony that bothers to produce his own amulets.”

“They’re not amulets,” Statice snorted. “I don’t think that I can make something of that caliber.” That was the truth. Amulets were powerful magic amplifiers and they at least lasted forever in contrast to his treasures that temporarily boosted his magic power.

“Whatever,” Discord snapped his fingers, causing the hole on the top of the stairs to be covered with leaves. “Now you won’t have to waste unnecessary magic with an illusion to prevent anypony else from reaching your place.”

“Thanks, Discord,” Statice blinked at the kind gesture. Discord really meant what he said earlier that morning. He was willing to help him out.

“You’re welcome, Statice,” Discord smiled at him before vanishing with a finger snap. “Remember I’m always willing to come after you when you say my name!”

The unicorn gave a defeated sigh, letting his exhaustion finally reach him. He lighted his horn with magic one more time and let the magical aura spread across his body. He moaned blissfully as he felt many vibrations spread across his body. His Massage Spell was doing its job by sending multiple vibrations in his body, giving him the ultimate massage.

Once his body was completely relaxed, Statice cancelled the spell and closed his eyes. “I guess today was not so bad,” he said dreamily as he finally fell asleep. “I just hope tomorrow gets better.”

Adjusting to the Neighborhood

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Adjusting to the Neighborhood

Since his retirement, Statice wanted few, but very essential things in his possession. He wanted a decent house, in a nice neighborhood, in a peaceful town, where he could make friends and start a normal life. Instead, he was living in a hole, under a tree that was located in a forest that turned out to be the most dangerous place in Equestria. Life was just as cruel to him as it was ironic.

At least he made the best of what he had, and one of those things was the good luck of having adequate living conditions. He was hidden from the citizens of the Everfree and the neighbors in Ponyville, so there was no risk of him being locked in jail or eaten. The Crusaders turned out to be more bearable than he thought they were. Even Discord was lending him a paw…or a talon…it was hard to know with his distinctive anatomy.

“What time is it?” Statice asked himself as he activated his Archive. One of the benefits of the spell was that he had programmed it to measure time and now it was telling him that it was a quarter till 7 AM.

“It’s way too early,” Statice snored, and yet he kept walking. He used his magic to sink the earth deep to make a hole big enough for his whole body. He then changed the density of the walls of soil in the hole to turn them into a smooth stone. Finally, he used an ice spell to freeze the bottom of the hole and the walls.

“Might as well wake up with a nice bath,” Statice rubbed his eye with one hoof as he continued using his magic. There was still a couple more spells to do if he wanted to have a proper bath.

The green aura surrounded the ice and liquefied it into water. The hole was now filled a fourth of the way with water. Another ice spell froze the newly made water and then the walls again. For the second time that morning, the ice was turned into water and the volume inside the hole increased when it was melted into more water. The process of freezing and melting was repeated a last time and the makeshift tub that Statice made was properly filled.

Walking to the tub, the green unicorn took a deep breath and sank his head into the water. It was freezing cold in spite of the numerous rounds of melting it endured as he felt his grogginess disappear and be replaced by a stinging sensation on his face. After a few seconds of agony, Statice came out panting for breath and shaking his head.

Contrary to what it appeared, Statice did not use a spell to melt the ice but one that allowed him to change its phase from solid to liquid. The Water Phase Change Spell was an original elemental spell that allowed Statice to change the water’s phases without having to use spells that relied on temperature and pressure. It was a versatile way of fighting with water, but the disadvantage in the bath was that the temperature didn’t increase if he turned ice into water.

“I’m awake!” Statice muttered reflexively before resuming his bath. This time, he used a spell to increase the water’s temperature to a bearable level and then sunk inside the tub. He summoned a shampoo and soap from Hammerspace and began his bath.

Once he was clean, he decided to go out for breakfast. He climbed up the stairs and munched on the grass around his tree. Unlike most ponies, Statice was used to eating his food from the ground. Even if he had not been a bounty hunter with his life on the line, he’d still eat like that. He didn’t see the point in going to a store to buy vegetables when anypony had the chance of eating the grass in their home. It was easier, economic, and it worked wonders for gardening.

After breakfast, Statice went on with his exercises. Although he was no longer in a job, he still treated his body like a temple. He spent an hour doing pushups, sit-ups, and his own set of calisthenics. Another hour was spent on martial arts training, a hobby that Statice loved and one of the few good things about his job that he managed to pick on.

He stood up on his hind legs, spreading them on a squat as he threw punches in the horse position for five minutes. He practiced biped attacks and quadruped attacks for fifteen minutes each. The remaining of the training was a sparring match with the perfect sparring dummies.

Statice lighted his horn to make the earth lift up and shape itself like a pony, more specifically, an earth replica of him. The replica was lifeless, except for the magical glowing green eyes it had.

“Show me what you got, mineral clone!” Statice smirked at his earth double as he charged at it.

The Mineral Clone Spell allowed Statice to make clones of him with anything related to the earth. Although the clones were weaker than him in their inability to use magic, they were still strong enough to face Statice in a sparring match that was purely hoof-to-hoof combat.

Both opponents clashed hooves on their first attack. Statice winced and shook his hoof from the pain of the blow, crying out in surpise when the the clone remained unaffected and tackled him. Statice was pinned to the ground, but he pushed himself away with his hips and then hooked a hind leg around the clone’s neck, spinning around to flip his enemy into his back. The clone’s position was now in reverse with how it was before, and yet it didn’t give up as it used its superior strength to pick up Statice and throw him away.

The fight went on for half an hour before Statice decided to go all out. He used his Enhancement Spell and delivered a punch to the clone’s midsection, destroying it. As he panted for the workout, Statice heard a bell ring and found Discord dressed as a referee.

“And the winner for today’s martial arts fight is Statice!” the draconequus announced as he lifted the green stallion’s hoof in triumph.

“Do you really have to play referee, Discord?” Statice asked while glaring at Discord’s direction, feeling a little miffed that the draconequus invited himself into his home without asking his permission first.

“I was bored,” Discord shook his shoulders.

“So am I,” Statice replied, feeling grateful that there was somepony in Equestria to whom he can complain about his situation. Boredom was always less boring when there was somepony else to whom complain about.

“What have you been doing, Statice?” Discord asked with interest. According to Fluttershy, the best way to help a friend was to hear their problems and give an opinion on how to solve them.

Knowing Statice, it's probably something good. And I'll get to help! Now I see why Twilight's so obsessed with solving friendship problems! It's so much fun waiting to come! No! Play it cool, Discord! Don't make it so obvious!

“Same thing that I always did in my past life,” Statice admitted in defeat. “I force myself to wake up with a cold bath, eat my breakfast, work out to keep my body in shape, and I upgrade my Archive to my liking until I have a mission.”

“What mission are you talking about, Statice?” Discord asked with a raised eyebrow and a mockingly accusing tone.

“I have no mission,” Statice growled in clenched teeth. “I have nothing to do besides upgrading the intelligence in my Archive. I had no idea that retirement was going to be so…boring.”

“Have you thought about going back?” Discord suggested.

“No,” Statice shook his head. “I’ve already hurt myself enough with bad decisions. I’m done with that for sure. I want something normal.”

“You do realize that there is nothing normal about you, right?” Discord asked teasingly, giving the stallion a little noogie with his lion paw as he used his eagle arm to put him in a headlock.

“Neither are you, chimera!” Statice snapped at him.

“Easy there!” Discord extended his arms in surrender. “I’m trying to lighten up the mood over here.”

“Your trying is worthless if you don’t succeed,” Statice remarked as he rubbed his temples. “I need to find out what to do besides sitting here. I don’t wanna spend the rest of my life doing nothing!”

Discord pouted at Statice and hummed thoughtfully. “Give me an hour and I’ll see what I can do,” he promised before vanishing with a finger snap.

Statice stared at the spot where Discord had vanished for a few seconds before sighing. “I might as well update my Archive.”

He sat in a corner and used an Alarm Spell, imagining a small clock inside his horn. Once the time limit passed, his horn was going to vibrate and tell him that the wait was over. With the alarm set, Statice activated his Archive.

“I’ll update the Locations,” he muttered as he went to the section and selected Equestria. He made entries for Canterlot, Ponyville, and the Everfree Forest based on what he had seen so far with his eyes and from what was shown to him in Discord’s home movies.

“I’ll add some data to my Grimoire,” he remarked as he focused on the section. He was greeted by a list all of the spells he learned or created, a list of magical artifacts, and a list of magical creatures. He went to the third section and did summaries on the inhabitants of the Everfree Forest.

“I will finish with the Individuals,” Statice went to a third section that listed friends, enemies, and acquaintances. This was going to be a more time consuming task than the previous ones as he had a lot to update there. Fortunately, it was going to decrease the amount of time he was going to have to wait for Discord by the time he was finished.

He made updates about the Princesses, the Elements of Harmony, Shining Armor, Spike, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders. He used all the information he gathered from his interactions with them and from their accomplishments. He established profiles with everything that he knew about them, feeling grateful at Discord for showing him their lives while annoyed at how much he was going to have to put in their entries. It was evident that he was going to need more than an hour to finish the updates.

A ringing on his horn snapped him out of his updating and was followed by the sound of fingers snapping. Discord was dressed as a scientist and had a blackboard filled with senseless equations and poorly drawn versions of the Elements of Harmony, with the exception of Fluttershy, who looked very realistic and beautiful in the drawings.

I guess somepony likes to play favorites. Then again, she looks the nicest out of the six...

“Eureka!” Discord shouted triumphantly.

“What did you get, Discord?” Statice asked, not feeling reassured with the scientist coat the draconequus was wearing. The badly drawn pictures and nonsense equations were not reassuring him of what the draconequus had in mind.

“You have a neighbor to meet in the Everfree Forest!” Discord snapped his fingers to give himself black and white stripes. The green unicorn realized what his friend was suggesting and he made sure to give him a sincere and immediate response.

“I can’t meet Zecora,” Statice gave him a deadpan expression.

“Why’s that, Statice?” Discord asked, annoyed at having his suggestion ignored.

“She is friends with those girls,” Statice remarked. “There is a chance that she may have heard of me. I can’t risk being recognized if I give her my name.”

“You can use your fake name,” Discord suggested.

“She may have heard my real name and my fake name from the girls,” Statice crossed his forelegs. “If the girls didn’t tell her, then there is a chance that the Crusaders talked to her about our little escapade with the Timberwolves.”

“You don’t know until you try,” Discord shrugged. “It is either to go with Zecora or to stay in this place for the rest of your life.”

Statice sat on his haunches and measured his choices. For one thing, he didn’t want to be recognized and be forced to leave his temporary home. On the other side, there was no way he was making a routine out of his morning. There was a limit to how much boredom he could stomach. Seeing no other choice, Statice stood up.

“I’m going to meet Zecora,” he looked at Discord with determination.

“Excellent,” Discord clapped his hands and summoned a camera. “I’m going to record this magical moment so that you can see it later.”

“My Archive can record memories, Discord,” Statice lightly smiled at him, feeling proud for his spell and a little happy to join the conversation rather than trying to end it with sharp replies.

“Double excellent,” Discord grinned. “We better get going.”

“Give me a second,” Statice extended a hoof at Discord, who stood up in place.

The green unicorn lighted his horn with magic and then poked his hoof with the tip of it. He winced at the pain before his hoof was covered in the same magic aura as his horn. He finalized his ritual by gently tapping the ground with his hoof, letting the magic sink into the soil. Once he took his hoof of the spot, Discord was surprised to see a mark that portrayed a red rose surrounded by a green horseshoe.

“That’s a very unique mark,” Discord remarked with sarcastic scientific interest. He even went as far as to stroke his beard thoughtfully.

“I made a Marking Spell for security,” Statice answered as he walked by Discord’s side.

“Do you mind sharing with me what is a Marking Spell?” Discord smirked in curiosity at the green unicorn.

Statice grinned at him. “It is a spell that does more than leave a mark. You will see what it does if things take a turn for the worse.”

Discord smiled at the unicorn’s foresight. Regardless of whether Statice did well or bad with Zecora, amusement was guaranteed at least. He was wishing things were going to end up bad between the unicorn and the zebra to see where this was going.

“I better record every little second of it,” he smiled as he acquired a movie director costume and vanished with a finger snap.

It took almost half an hour before Statice eventually found Zecora’s hut with some of Discord’s instructions. During the trip, Discord convinced Statice to adopt another alias apart from Static, just in case Zecora was aware of his identity. Having no other choice, Statice opted for Digitalis, in honor of his best friend.

Having already established the meeting, Discord and Statice stood in front of Zecora’s hut. The green unicorn was nervous and scared despite hiding it under a stoic face, but Discord was relaxed and was looking for a good vantage point on which to see the meeting.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Statice muttered as he turned to glare at Discord, only to see that the draconequus had disappeared.

“IT’LL BE FINE” Discord shouted from a tree that was behind Statice.

Rolling his eyes at his friend’s silliness, Statice knocked on the door and waited for the zebra to come out. Zecora walked out and opened the door, smiling at him pleasantly before gasping.

Statice stood still. Gasps at first sight were never a good sign. And he was correct when the zebra adopted an angry expression on her face. He gulped on instinct when she snarled at him.

That's not a good sign.

“Defiler!” she shrieked as she turned around and kicked both hind legs at his face.

That's an even worse sign!

Statice yelped as he jumped back, his chin barely dodging the hooves that tried to kick him. Zecora’s hind hooves touched the ground only for a second before the zebra spun 360 degrees and delivered an elegant roundhouse kick with one of them.

Zecora’s hoof hit her mark this time as it struck Statice across the face. The blow knocked him of his hooves and sent him flying several feet away from Zecora. Discord winced at the impact. He felt a need to comment on the fight, but he stopped when he realized that if he intervened then there was a chance that Zecora was going to report to the girls. Although he had been forgiven for the Tirek incident, it was clear that the girls and everypony else in Equestria were a little sore about it. Because of this, Discord swore to lay off causing mischief for a while. Sadly, helping Statice fitted in that category.

Stupid Tirek and his evil charm...

“Caponeighra,” Statice groaned as he rubbed his pained cheek. “Why did she have to study caponeighra?”

He once read in a book that zebras had the strongest kick among all hoofed animals. The fact that many zebras in Zebrica were warriors only cemented that reputation. There was even a fighting style based on the kicking legs of the zebra and rotatory movements to add centripetal force to those legs for greater impact…and that was caponeighra.

Caponeighra consisted of dance like moves that allowed the zebras to kick in quadruped and biped position from different angles in the ground and in the air. The agile movements in any space and the rhythmic movements of all four legs made the zebras hard opponents to predict. It was the perfect fighting style on which the destructive power of the hind legs was brought to its maximum…and now Zecora was going to use it against him.

Ugh, what did I do to deserve...oh yeah, I did that...or maybe not. I should ask just to make sure. Boy, my life sucks so much at this point it's not even funny.

“What was that all about?” Statice stood up as he angrily rubbed his cheek. Even though he predicted that this was going to happen, it didn’t explain why she attacked him all of a sudden.

He didn’t get an answer as Zecora was moving her front and hind legs back and forth. The rhythm she was employing made it hard to know if she was moving forward or backward or if she was going to attack or evade.

“I guess there is no other way,” Statice grumbled as he took a step forward.

His step motivated Zecora into attacking. Using the strength of her right foreleg and her left hind leg, she leapt at Statice with deceiving speed. Once she was close to her target, Zecora spun around and extended her right hind leg to hit him with her hoof.

Statice sidestepped the attack, still getting an idea of how strong it was based on the air current he felt as he dodged Zecora’s hoof. The positions were reversed between them as Zecora resumed her rhythm.

“Have a taste of this!” Statice challenged as he shot a few magic blasts at the zebra.

Zecora was unfazed as she switched to biped position. Much to Statice’s surprise, the zebra used the strength of her hind legs to somersault over his projectiles. She flipped above them in an elegant arch before she descended straight at him. The green unicorn backpedaled as Zecora landed close to him. One hind leg landed perfectly on the ground and the other hind leg managed to hit the horn.

Statice cried out as he felt Zecora’s hoof hit the tip of his horn. A unicorn’s horn was very sensitive to damage, feeling almost like a tooth when it was about to fall off, only much worse since the pain at the tip was easily spreadable across the horn itself and into the head. The fight was now a disadvantage for him, not only because of the horn pain, but also because he was unable to cast magic until the pain vanished away.

The zebra smirked at her enemy before she performed a backflip similar to her previous somersault. Realizing that he was in danger, Statice crossed his forelegs under his chin to protect it. The kick that he received from Zecora’s backflip proved him wrong.

The first hind hoof hit the crossed guard with enough strength to make Statice hit himself on the chin with his own hooves and still lift him off the ground. Fortunately for Statice, the zebra’s kick send him far enough to prevent Zecora from kicking him with the second hind leg. Zecora managed to land gracefully back on her hooves...while Statice landed flatly on his back.

Can't believe she kicked my guard so hard she made me hit myself. Insult to injury...

“Your punishment has just begun,” the zebra continued her rhythm. “It will turn worse once I have won.”

“You’re not the first one to use caponeighra on me, lady!” Statice shakily stood on his hooves, barely balanced despite the blow to the horn and his chin. “I know exactly how you fight and how to deal with it.”

“Your knowledge of caponeighra is weak,” Zecora gave him a spiteful look. “As you will see, each style is unique.”

Zecora crossed the distance between the two and delivered a roundhouse kick with her left hind leg. Statice dodged the kick, only to fail to anticipate the second kick. He dodged it, but the hoof grazed him a bit. Zecora gave a third spin, only for her roundhouse kick to employ both hind legs in this occasion.

Statice could only grunt in pain as Zecora’s hind hooves smacked him across the face, sending him flying yards away from her. His right cheek felt like it was on fire from the blow he received and he was barely capable of recognizing Zecora as the zebra got close to him.

Zecora leaped at Statice with a chambered hind leg, hitting the stallion’s chest with her knee. Statice felt the air leave his lungs from the strike as Zecora landed in biped position and gave a swift kick to the calf of his left hind leg. He leaned to the left as Zecora spun and delivered a roundhouse kick to his left cheek and another to his ribs. Both attacks drained the unicorn from the strength to fight and much less defend against the next ones to come. Zecora gave a buck to Statice’s hind legs, making him lean forward towards her as she placed all of her weight on one foreleg to give an overhead kick at his face with one of her hind legs. Statice tumbled at the impact before Zecora stood on her hind legs and finished him off with two roundhouse kicks. His body was sent flying with the last kicks, spinning in the air for a few seconds before he landed painfully on the ground.

He groaned from the pain of all of those kicks. His vision was blurry and spinning. His horn was still sore from the overhead kick that he got before. He was physically and magically overwhelmed. All he could do was fight with his own body. Even though he was a decent hoof to hoof fighter, it was clear that he was fighting against a master with lifelong training. The skill that she displayed was on the same league as the master warriors that had trained him during his adventures.

Some clarity returned to him as he watched Zecora walk at him, holding a staff on her fore hooves. He wondered where did she even get it on the first place and why bother to use it when she did an excellent job with her hooves.

Probably overkill. This is gonna hurt.

“You have lost this fight,” Zecora told him with narrowed eyes as she deftly twirled the staff with her forelegs. “Now I’ll make things right.” She stopped spinning her staff and held it over her head with her hooves.

Statice closed his eyes, waiting to feel the staff hit his head and knock him unconscious…but nothing happened. He opened his eyes and found Zecora standing in front of him with an idle look on her face. Above her was Discord, who was holding a bag with green powder on his lion paw that he was spreading with his eagle claw.

“Memory mushroom powder,” Discord winked at Statice. “Common side effects include short term memory loss and unconsciousness.”

Zecora fell flat on her face, eyes closed, as he finished listing the symptoms. Statice stared at Discord and then at Zecora. He poked the zebra to verify if she was still conscious. Only the sound of snoring alerted him that she was indeed unconscious.

“I didn’t think that she was a snorer,” Discord snickered as he landed next to Zecora. His laughter turned into a yelp of pain when Statice punched him on the knee. “What was that all about?” he asked indignantly. “I just saved your life!”

“It was your idea to visit Zecora!” Statice angrily yelled at Discord as he pointed at the sleeping zebra and then at his face. “Look at what happened! She attacked me!”

“Well she didn’t attack you for what happened between you and the girls!” Discord placed his hands on his hips as he stared at the green unicorn. “If I don’t recall, she called you a defiler on first sight.”

Statice sighed. “You’re right. This was a factor in the equation that I didn’t take into account. I didn’t think that she was from that tribe in Zebrica. She didn't answer my least not with words. Let's just say that her hooves more than answered my questions with the last kicks she gave me.”

“I think I know what you mean,” Discord smiled as he snapped his fingers to summon his trusty movie projector. Statice frowned in annoyance as he was forcefully sat down and fed popcorn as a movie played in front of him.

The movie showed a savannah filled with wildlife. There was a tribe of zebras playing and training as warriors. Some zebras were meditating and others were busy farming crops and taking care of the animals. At the center of the tribe, there was a pedestal that held a beautiful zebra totem made from the finest ivory and ebony. And at the stairs of that pedestal, a teenage unicorn was fighting against a muscular zebra.

“Isn’t this the mission were you had to capture a criminal zebra that tried to steal a sacred totem only for it to backfire on you when you finally caught him?” Discord asked as he drank from a soda.

“Why are you asking me this?” Statice growled at the draconequus. “I showed you ALL of my past. You know exactly how this is going to end.”

The fight between the young Statice and the zebra was reaching its climatic point. In a ditch attempt to win the fight without any more difficulty, Statice focused all of his magic at the tip of his horn and rammed it on the zebra. The striped villain was electrocuted and then blasted away from Statice.

That had been the first time he had used his Taser Horn Spell in battle. Sadly, the moment backfired on him when the zebra was propelled into the pedestal. The sacred totem of the tribe was sent flying into the air and landed into the ground, breaking into pieces.

All of the zebras gasped. Some of them were heartbroken and crying. Others were too shocked to say or do anything else. The last ones were quick to turn on him and start chasing him with spears. Statice immediately wrapped the criminal on his aura and levitated him to the boat. He had gained a juicy reward for his ordeal, but he could never set his hoof on Zebrica ever again.

First time I've ever been kicked out of an entire land.

With the movie over, Discord’s improvised movie theater vanished, leaving a sore Statice, in the physical and emotional sense of the word, glaring at Discord. The Spirit of Disharmony gulped at the stare. An eerie silence spread across them before Statice sighed, walking to Zecora and carrying her on his back. He took her back to her hut and put her on her bed. He walked out of the hut and stared at Discord.

“I’m going back to my house,” he told him firmly.

“Do you need a ride?” Discord asked hopefully. “I don’t think that you’re in physical condition to walk your way back to your lair.”

“I can teleport,” Statice coldly reminded him.

“I don’t think that you can muster enough magic for teleportation with a sore horn, Statice,” Discord said, trying to sound concerned for his friend. It was clear that Zecora had given Statice a terrible beating and that the green unicorn was silently blaming him for it.

“Why do you think I used the Marking Spell?” Statice asked him as he simply vanished without any effort.

Statice reappeared back on his home, standing right on top of the mark he had made when he used the spell. A few seconds later, he heard the classic sound of fingers snapping from Discord. The draconequus seemed distressed and surprised to see him.

“How did you do that?” Discord asked in wonder. “You were in no position to use teleportation. You’d need to have large reserves of magic to accomplish something like that.”

“The Marking Spell is designed to leave my magical essence in a place,” Statice explained casually, trying to forget his disastrous meeting with Zecora. “I can use it for long distance spells and as checkpoint for following spells at a lesser price.”

“That’s impressive,” Discord admitted. He was genuinely impressed but, given the nervous smile that he gave Statice, it sounded false to the unicorn.

“Let me verify if I don’t have any broken bones or something,” Statice bluntly told Discord as he used a Biofeedback Spell on himself. “No broken bones or internal injuries,” he observed with satisfaction.

“I’ll make it up to you,” Discord hurriedly said, snapping his fingers and disappearing all of the bruises Zecora had left on Statice.

The green unicorn stared at Discord in surprise, checking his body in stunned silence. “Wow,” he said. “Not even my Healing Spell can get rid of my injuries that quickly.”

“Never underestimate the magic of a draconequus,” Discord waved one of his finger talons in front of Statice playfully. “So, are we clear now?”

Statice took a deep breath. On one hoof, Discord had gotten him beat up by trying to introduce him to Zecora. On the other hoof, Discord had meant well and Zecora had only attacked the unicorn for something he had done before. Besides, even if it was his fault, at least Discord took responsibility and healed him. That had to count for something…

Oh, what the heck...I'll just act and pretend that this never happened in the first place.

“I forgive you,” Statice offered his hoof cordially.

Discord sighed, whipping sweat from his brow with his broad lion paw before taking Statice’s hoof with his eagle hand. “I’m glad you’re okay,” he admitted. “I never meant for you to get hurt, Statice. Your friendship and your safety do mean something for me.”

Statice raised an eyebrow at him. Despite Discord claiming that they were alike, he couldn’t feel any kinship from him. He simply did not understand why did Discord care about his friendship so much, especially when he had, and was risking, his friendship with Fluttershy over him. Maybe this was all a trick to get him to lower his guard and capture him once he grew bored with him or maybe he was just feeling genuine friendship towards him. Regardless of Discord’s intentions, his company was better than remaining alone.

“I guess that’s it for today, Discord,” Statice stretched his back.

“What do you mean by that?” Discord asked incredulously. “It’s barely afternoon!”

“Getting beat up by a zebra does that to you,” Statice poignantly reminded him, shutting up the draconequus. “I think that I will do some gardening here. I will finish updating my Archive and then I’ll go to sleep.”

Discord sighed, this time in disappointment. “Suit yourself.”

Statice was alone now. Although he was glad that Discord was no longer there to bug him into doing something he didn’t want, the boredom that followed loneliness instantly reached him. The only thing that made his situation bearable was doing what he promised to do.

He walked to the soil that he had fertilized yesterday. He focused his magic and made different types of flowers to materialize from the ground. His Memory Flower Spell allowed him to create any sort of plants without seeds as long as the soil was on the right conditions.

He levitated some of the flowers that he created and used them as his dinner for the day. Who would have thought getting beat up by a zebra and then subsequently healed would get somepony very hungry? After eating, he decided that he still had more than enough space for more plants so he used a combination of his Fertilization Spell and his Memory Flower Spell to create crops of carrots, lettuces, celeries, and many more fruits and vegetables for his later consumption.

“I better start with the Archive,” Statice reminded himself as he leaned on his back and summoned it. He continued updating the information that he had obtained about the Elements of Harmony and the Princesses. He spent about three hours filling all sections with what he got before dedicating a special hour for Zecora. After beating him like a ragdoll, at least she deserved some attention, even if Statice was bound to use it to eventually beat her in a rematch if he ever fought her again.

“I can make notes on the Ponyville citizens,” Statice observed.

Before he even knew it, Statice was making profiles on anypony that lived in Ponyville, putting attention to some citizens in particular. He put special emphasis on Big Macintosh and Granny Smith, as they were Applejack’s older brother and grandmother respectively. He also wanted to put emphasis on Rarity’s parents, only to have difficulties thanks to their lack of presence in Ponyville. Mr. and Mrs. Cake acted as good substitutes for Pinkie’s parents and their kids taught Pinkie Pie the meaning of responsibility so the whole Cake family got entries of their own. Cheerilee got her own entry thanks to her role as the Crusaders’ teacher and so did Mayor Mare, even though the town depended more on Twilight and her friends now that the lavender unicorn ascended into an alicorn princess.

He made smaller, yet still substantial entries on other ponies such as Lyra, Bonbon, Vinyl Scratch, Time Turner, Derpy, Thunderlane, Rumble, Flitter, Cloudchaser, Caramel, and many other ponies.

“Dear heavens,” Statice groaned in exhaustion. “This place is crowded.”

He wasn’t sure if he had finished with the whole town, but he was tired of writing on the Archive. The only thing that happened to him after his Archive session was to wonder what to do now. He yawned as the boredom finally took over him. He closed his eyes and he fell asleep. Just like usual, he didn’t dream at all.

A Visit to Ponyville

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A Visit to Ponyville

The next morning proved to be boring for Statice. He did the same routine that he did yesterday. The only problem now was that, with his Archive already updated, he didn’t have anything else to do for the day. He was already bored by the time he had finished his sparring match with his mineral clone. Training would be a lot more fun if he were out in the open, but that would risk being captured by the Elements of Harmony or being attacked by the beasts of the Everfree Forest. Seclusion was his safest bet at the moment, and he hated every second of it since there was little to do apart from waiting for something, anything, to happen at all.

His boredom came to an end when Discord came by to visit him. The normally annoying visitor popped out of nowhere, but at this point of his sloth, Statice didn’t care, because Discord’s arrival brought him hope. He was aware that Discord’s ideas were VERY likely to bring him trouble as it was proven with his meeting with Zecora, yet he was so bored that he didn’t care just as long as he got to do something other than wait for the day to be over just to repeat the same boring cycle tomorrow. He allowed the draconequus to see his smile, happy that there was a chance to do something fun.

“Somepony is happy to see me,” Discord smirked in a singsong voice. “I usually don’t receive such warm reception from anypony that is not Fluttershy or Pinkie Pie when I bring my trusty chocolate milk raining cotton candy clouds with me.”

Statice gasped and stuttered. “I’m not happy,” he corrected himself as he attempted to sound aloof. “I’m just interested to see what you will offer me this time to get rid of my boredom. Any obstacles that I’ll face because of you will be worth the trouble compared to this lack of action in my lifestyle.”

He won't let me hear the end of this after today.

Discord crossed his arms and hummed thoughtfully. “Well, your visit with Zecora ended with disastrous results.” He chuckled a bit when he saw the green unicorn glaring at him, not too pleased with remembering the beating that he took yesterday because of Discord’s idea. “But I think that I have a plan for what you can do today. It’s crazy, but I think it beats staying here all day.”

“What do you offer?” Statice asked carefully. Though he was glad that Discord came up with something, he was also wary of the possibility of being endangered. His encounter with Zecora was proof enough, even if his Healing Spell managed to get rid of the bruises she gave him during their fight rather than Discord’s magic.

“How about you visit Ponyville?” Discord suggested with a trickster smile and an intrigued raised eyebrow.

“Are you out of your mind?” Statice asked him, too stunned with his ridiculous idea to properly yell at him. Even from the ancient and insane draconequus, this idea was too far-fetched to even be considered a coherent thought.

“No,” Discord shook his head, still keeping his suggestive expression.

Discord's snapped. I better lay it out to him in the most sensible way possible.

“Yes, you are!” Statice pointed a hoof at him as he recovered from his stupor long enough to get sufficiently angry to yell at him. “This is just like Zecora all over again, but this time I will have a town instead of just one zebra chasing after me.”

“Excuse me, I didn’t think Zecora was going to recognize you from her past,” the draconequus placed his hands on his hips in annoyance. “It didn’t occur to me that she may have met you back in your bounty hunting days. I don’t even recall seeing her in any of your memories…must have been a background zebra.”

And I also didn’t think that she knew zebra Kung Fu or something.

“Discord, how is visiting the hometown of the most powerful ponies in Equestria gonna help me out?” Statice asked the draconequus with a raised eyebrow. “Besides, need I remind you that some of those mares have it against me? Out of those six, Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle carry the worst grudge against me, and the data you gave me suggests that they are the most dangerous to have as enemies.”

“You’re going to use a disguise,” Discord grinned as he materialized a trench coat on Statice and placed a fake mustache on his face. “Not even Pinkie Pie and her Pinkie Sense will be able to find the difference between you and your new identity.”

I don't think I wanna take that gamble with her at my side.

“You think a coat and a fake mustache is gonna deceive those six mares or anypony else?” Statice gave him an annoyed glare as he used his magic to remove the disguise Discord put on him. “What can you say about somepony finding out that I am hiding something when I dress as if I am trying too hard to hide something? There is a chance that they may know my identity if Twilight and the girls talked about me to any of their other friends.”

“You’re no Changeling, Statice, but you’re a master of disguise,” Discord playfully nudged Statice’s ribs with an elbow. “You even have a spell just for the occasion. Heck, you used it to get the best, well nearly get the best, out of Shining Armor. If it weren’t for the fact that he knew his soldiers too well you could have escaped Canterlot without a fight.”

“My Light Disguise Spell can change my coat color, but it will still be transparent to anypony who pays enough attention to my body type,” Statice complained as he pondered the possibilities, focusing his mind in trying to find an efficient way to use his disguise rather than thinking of his fight with Shining Armor or his nearly failed escape in Canterlot months ago.

Discord snorted. “Most of the ponies look kind of the same. Some are just palette swaps of others. Believe me, I tormented many of them to notice the similarities before Celestia and Luna turned me into a statue for their garden.”

Statice stared at Discord in disgust. That was offensive to his species…and sadly true. He had often used the Light Disguise Spell to change his colors and then blend in with a crowd of ponies during his first escapades in Equestria. As much as he wanted to yell at Discord for making such claim, he knew that he was technically admitting that Discord was right with the statement.

You’re a racist, Discord…then again so am I against my own kind, so I guess I’m the worst between the two.

“I get your point,” Statice admitted shamefully. “But I’m not going to make changing my colors the only part of my disguise. There is a chance that I may have to do this again eventually, so I need to make a disguise that can be convincing enough to last more than one day, maybe a week or a month doing research among the citizens of Ponyville.”

Focusing his magic on his horn, Statice altered the photons of his coat. His green coat turned dark blue and his mane and tail turned white. His yellow eyes turned grayish blue. His cutie mark was changed from a flower into a white star. Discord smiled at the new design and clapped his hands.

“I think that you did a good disguise,” the draconequus gave him two thumbs up, only to get a raised eyebrow from the unicorn as he was not familiar with the gesture that Discord was giving him.

“It’s not enough,” Statice shook his head as he ignored Discord. “I think that I need to disguise my voice just to be sure.” He lighted his horn with magic and felt his vocal chords shift inside of his throat. The physical sensation was a mixture between tickling and a sore throat that immediately disappeared once the spell was over.

“HOW DO I SOUND?” Statice asked with a resounding voice, almost in league with the Royal Canterlot Voice. Discord burst into laughter when he heard it.

Statice groaned in annoyance, making Discord laugh harder when he heard that voice again. The Creepy Voice Spell was originally designed to scare off others with a terrifying voice. However, Statice had managed to develop it over the years to change it into any vocal range he desired rather than a childish prank.

“Hello,” Statice practiced with his spell one more time, wincing as the sensations of pain and pleasure in his throat altered his vocal chords again. He got a raspy voice in the first try, then he got a feminine voice in his second try, a squeaky voice followed it in the third try, and a soprano voice came up in the fourth attempt. Each voice made Discord’s cackling grow in volume before Statice found the correct one. It was a smooth baritone voice that reflected maturity yet still displayed some youthfulness.

“I wish this was my genuine voice,” Statice said wistfully. With a perfect baritone at the unicorn’s disposal now, Discord was disappointed that Statice was speaking.

I suppose all good things must come to an end.

“Are you done now?” the draconequus stood up and prepared to teleport them before Statice extended his hoof at him.

“Give me a cloud,” he asked patiently.

Discord grinned and did as he told. The following problem was that Discord gave him a cotton candy cloud that rained chocolate milk from above, rather than the storm cloud that he asked for in the first place. “I should have seen that one coming the second the petition came out of my mouth,” Statice chastised himself before looking at Discord, who started laughing at his pouting expression. “If you’re done joking around, I need a real storm cloud.”

Discord stopped laughing and prepared to rectify himself, only to take a pause when Statice gave him a gesture with a raised hoof. He stopped what he was doing and was surprised to see Statice filling a glass with chocolate milk and drinking it. He repeated the process a couple of times before he gave Discord the signal to continue. The draconequus replaced his cotton candy cloud with a real storm cloud, leading to the stallion being drenched with real rainwater.

“On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about bathing again,” Statice scowled, trying in vain to sound optimistic. It was something that he was working on since he retired. As cathartic as beating up Discord would have been, he knew that it was going to be wishful thinking and even if it were a possibility that it was going to cost him the only friend that he had acquired in Equestria at the moment.

“Would you rather have the chocolate milk again?” Discord proposed. “You were having a nice time with it.”

“It’s been so long since I drank chocolate milk,” Statice admitted, inwardly laughing upon hearing his attractive voice saying something like that. “But I need the storm cloud for my next spell.”

Focusing all of his magic on his horn, Statice released a green vapor into the cloud before he absorbed it. Discord watched with interest as the cloud entered the tip of Statice’s horn. Once the cloud was gone, Statice’s horn vanished and was replaced by a pair of dark blue wings on Statice’s sides. The stallion grinned in triumph as his metamorphosis from unicorn to pegasus was a complete success.

“Nah,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “I have seen better transformations than that, Statice. Twilight turned her friends into Breezies once.”

She even has better transformation sequences than you.

“My Race Shifting Spell does something more than change the shape of the target,” Statice corrected Discord, feeling insulted by the comparison with Twilight. “My spell gives me all of the advantages of the pegasus and the earth pony with an additional bonus coming from my unicorn heritage.”

“Pray tell, what is your advantage in your pegasus form?” Discord asked challengingly, wanting to see what was so special about Statice’s spell that put it above any other transformation spells.

Statice response was to fly circles around Discord and releasing green electricity from his body. The electricity zapped the draconequus, although it didn’t seem to hurt him. He was covered in soot and minor burns although he was not fazed at all, even when a part of his beard was singed with a flame his only reaction was tocasually turn it off by licking the fingers of his eagle hand and closing them on the flaming tip of his beard.


“I think I see your point,” Discord snapped his fingers to get rid of his injuries. “You’ve disguised your body, your voice, and even your species. Are you done with your preparations?”

“Give me a second,” Statice ordered him as he thought of his new identity. He came up with a name and a small background check just in case the ponies were getting too inquisitive about his life. “Okay, I’m done,” Statice smiled at Discord as the draconequus snapped his fingers and brought them to a hill close to Ponyville.

Statice was surprised to see Ponyville from this perspective. He had seen the town from the exit of the Everfree Forest, from the top of Canterlot, and he had seen the memories of the Elements of Harmony. But he had never seen the town from up front. It was simple yet beautiful. It was no wonder Twilight decided to live there. He recognized each building in front of him, but he was mesmerized by the castle that was now Twilight’s residence. He had to give it to the Tree of Harmony; it really knew how to rewards its chosen ponies with style.

“Where are you going to start, Statice?” Discord asked his disguised friend. “Small or not, the town is still big enough for a pony to travel on hoof if you want to check all the attractions in it.”

“Call me, Aster,” Statice smiled at Discord. “I am going to need to use an alias here for the time being. As for what I am going to do here in my first day, I think I’m going in for a flying session and then nap at a cloud.”

Gonna start the tour Rainbow Dash's way.

“Aren’t you going to travel on hoof…Aster?” Discord winked at Statice. “Flying will make the tour shorter than you expected. Believe me! Ponyville is much more interesting when you’re walking on its ground.”

“If I go on hoof, I’ll be meeting Pinkie Pie,” Statice deadpanned at Discord, momentarily forgetting his enthusiasm. “I want to postpone that meeting as long as I can. For the time being, I need to recharge my pegasus self if I am to keep my disguise still working.”

“Recharge you say?” Discord asked, intrigued at the phrase. “Is there something wrong with your pegasus form, Statice?”

“Using special abilities of my alternate forms wastes my internal magic,” Statice explained the kinks of his spell. “For my pegasus form, I fly fast and get the ability to coat myself in electricity as I do so at my top speed, but the magic runs out of my body the longer and faster I fly.”

“So, if you do something like the Sonic Rainboom your pegasus form will run out of magic?" Discord theorized with genuine scientific wonder, rubbing his chin thoughtfully without even bothering to put on some lab coat to make fun of the situation. “What will happen if you run out of magic?”

“The spell is cancelled and I go back to being a unicorn with zero magic until I recharge,” Statice explained, annoyed at his spell’s weakness. “The only way I can recharge is by absorbing clouds within my body to prolong my form.”

“What do you mean by absorbing clouds?” Discord asked feeling more excited. He had seen pegasi manipulate clouds with their forelegs and busting clouds with their hind legs but he had never seen them absorb them…unless they were Bulk Biceps literally eating the clouds.

“For some reason, when I stand on a cloud, my hooves absorb it from within,” Statice awkwardly tried to elaborate on the details in the mechanism. “It’s like sweating in reverse in that rather than sweat coming out of my hooves precipitation comes inside of them.”

“Fascinating,” Discord stroked his beard. “Does this only happen with your hooves or does it also extend to anything else?”

“I can absorb clouds by crashing into them so I guess that my whole body can absorb the clouds,” Statice informed him as he remembered the notes that he recorded in his Archive after doing test flights on his pegasus form. “That way I can recharge my energy as I spend it flying at fast speeds.”

He had done research and experiments on both of his forms. Thanks to his training and studying, he had found many applications and ways to use each of those forms at their very best of their abilities. His pegasus form had its positive and negative variables in the air, but he could maintain it longer if he remained on ground and did not fly at all. He could have used the earth pony form if it weren't for the fact that its special qualities may bring suspicion if he didn’t use it correctly.

“This should be interesting,” Discord smiled as he snapped his fingers of his lion paw to materialize a pouch that had a bag of bits inside of it in the right side of the pegasus’ barrel. “I’ll be doing some of my royal duties, Statice. If you’re in trouble, just call me. Take this bag of bits in case you decide to buy something.”

The draconequus vanished with a finger snap, leaving Statice, now known as Aster, to fly around Equestria. The now dark blue pegasus opened his wings and flied into a nearby cloud. He pretended to take a nap as he let his hooves absorb the cloud on which he was resting. He hid his head between his forelegs to make it seem as if he were asleep rather than trying not to laugh at the tickling sensation on his hooves. Once he felt recharged, he “awoke” from his nap and went flying around town. The cloud on which he rested was now smaller. Fortunately, nopony realized what had happened to it.

The flying view was amazing. Now Statice understood why Rainbow Dash liked to fly so much around town. A blush formed on his face as he remembered the accidental kiss that they shared months ago. He shook his head back and forth to get rid of the memory and focused on his flying.

Forget about Rainbow Dash. She is just an individual. She is just a face among a large population. There’s lots of ponies that you can meet here! Keep your eyes open and you’ll see there’s more pleasant ponies for you to meet.

He saw several pegasi flying around town; all of them too busy soaring in the air to notice him. Statice was scared at the possibility of having ponies stare at him, not having much social experience other than business transactions and basic social skills. His chance arose when a blonde gray pegasus mare with golden wall eyes noticed him and waved at him. Statice smiled as he recognized Derpy and waved back at her. Even though he didn’t know her that well, he always felt happy to see her every time that she appeared in one of Discord’s movies.

I guess she must be one of those nice ponies you instinctively like when you see them. She was my favorite on Discord’s movies. Maybe I'll talk to her if I ever meet her face to face.

He kept flying for a few minutes until he had seen all the town had to offer to him during his visit. Now it was time to choose his next destination.He was now struggling on whether it was a good idea to test the effectiveness of his disguise by trying to establish contact with one of the Element of Harmony as he let the options run inside his head. Fluttershy was too shy to meet, he couldn’t just barge in on Applejack’s farm unannounced, there was no way he was going to meet Pinkie Pie that soon, he was still awkward about the accident between him and Rainbow Dash, Twilight was probably busy doing princess duty, and he was not going to tolerate Rarity’s fashion thing.

What in Tartarus am I thinking? Meeting those mares is a bad idea even if I'm not discovered. I don't have anything in common with them. It's better if I try to do something new in Ponyville than trying my luck with them. Maybe some shopping in an area less likely to find any of the Elements of Harmony would do fine.

Without further ado, Statice flew to the markets and went on to buy fruits and vegetables. Much to his relief, the bits Discord gave him were genuine, instead of some chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper or coins that had poorly drawn pictures of Discord in the sides that he expected, so he was able to pay his purchases perfectly.

Thank you, Discord. I guess you really want to help me.

He attempted to be sociable with the vendors, only managing to remain coldly polite and professional, never giving them a smile until he was away from them with his purchases done.

“Don’t forget to smile,” Statice reminded himself as he walked towards three mares that were selling flowers. Discord called them the Flower Trio because they sold flowers, although in Statice’s opinion the only recognizable thing about them was that they were the mares that were afraid of anything. Despite how annoying their panic attacks were, Statice decided to practice his smiling with them.

“Excuse me,” he asked them with a charming smile. “I would like to buy some flowers. Can you give me some advice?”

“Yes!” all three mares responded enthusiastically. They gave him free samples of flowers to eat before he decided to settle with a sunflower. Once he made his purchase, he flew away from them, not noticing their heart shaped eyes and the longing way that they stared at him.

“At least I’m remembering to smile to the vendors as I make the purchase,” Statice admitted to himself. Granted, the line was ironic when it was the customer rather than the owner of the food stands saying the line, but he still considered smiling to be an appropriate custom for a good social relationship. However, his shopping spree had its ups and downs, causing Statice to alienate between smiling and frowning. Buying with stallions and older mares was the same business transaction he always had, even if he somehow managed to smile at them. However, buying stuff from young mares earned him sultry looks and lots of free sample. In some cases, he actually got discounts with each purchase.

“I bet that it’s because of my voice,” Statice pondered as he remembered how desperate the mares wanted to be with him. He was just an average stallion, albeit with soft features. His disguise was just a change in color and replacing a horn with wings. It was probably the suave voice that he selected. He liked it. He just didn’t expect mares to LOVE it that much though!

Deciding to forget about his unusual adventure at grocery shopping, Statice gave Discord a quick call to ask him to put all of his purchases back on his home while he keep himself out of sight from anypony to watch their conversation. Discord did the favor with no reluctance, disappearing as fast as he appeared, allowing Statice to continue his explorations. He could try to visit the Crusaders, only to drop the idea when he realized that they were not going to recognize him with his new disguise.

I better not cause a scene with them. I don't think they'll appreciate a stranger claiming to be another stranger that rescued them from Timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Yikes, that sounded just as weird in my head as it would have sounded from my mouth.

“I might as well see the girls,” Statice whispered silently. He wasn’t going to interact with them. All he was going to do was get close to them and try to eavesdrop on their conversations just to see if they remembered him.

It's more about blending with the crowd, Statice. You just get inside and out. It's no big deal.

So far, nopony remembered him or even knew of his existence. There were no wanted posters of him so there was a chance that he may not be recognized. Maybe Twilight forgot about her grudge against him. She forgave her friends for turning their backs on her during the Canterlot Wedding and she even forgave Discord for betraying Equestria to Tirek. That meant that there was a chance that she forgave him for the horn sucking incident or that she cooled and down and decided to forget about it…at least for the time being.

“No,” he finally decided. “It is way too early to meet them. I better not take any chances.”

He gave another flying tour around Ponyville, recognizing some familiar faces that he had seen in the videos. Deciding to take a nap, Statice flew around and found an abandoned cloud. It looked thick and fluffy, the perfect place to sleep. He flew headfirst into the cloud expecting the sensation of a pillow to be met with his head...CRASH... He certainly didn’t expect to feel something hard hitting the top of his head when he was less than a second away from the cloud!

“Ow!” Statice and a feminine voice shouted at the same time. The unicorn turned pegasus rubbed his head with a hoof as he floated in place. Much to his surprise, he saw that he had collided with Rainbow Dash herself. The stallion felt his heart freeze in fear. Was she going to recognize him in this form?

“Watch where you’re going, you jerk!” she yelled at him angrily as she rubbed her head and glared daggers at him.

“I was watching where I was going!” Statice snapped at her, already forgetting his fear of being caught. “I was going to nap on that cloud until you banged your head against mine.”

“Well, tough luck, buddy,” Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes and hugged the cloud to herself. “This cloud belongs to me!”

“Since when does it belong to you?” Statice angrily asked as he pulled the cloud to himself, not willing to let the mare do as she pleased. He grew annoyed when he saw Rainbow Dash trying to tug it back to her.

“It belongs to me since I got there first!” Rainbow Dash kept pulling. By the stars, was this mare that strong? It took her less time to pull the cloud towards her body than it took Statice to pull it away from her.

“You got there at the same time that I did!” Statice shouted at her defensively, gritting his teeth and grunting as he struggled to keep as much of the cloud in his grip as possible. It didn't help that he was absorbing part of it on his hooves, effectively reducing the surface area he could grip and pull to himself.

It's a bad time for my special abilities to take place right now!

“What proof do you have about that?” Rainbow Dash asked defiantly, slowly getting the upper hoof in the ensuing contest.

“We got the head bumps to prove that we got there at the same time,” Statice rubbed his still sore head with his hoof while still trying to keep the cloud for himself with the other hoof.

“Whatever,” Rainbow Dash continued the tug of war, not even bothering to rub her bump with one hoof so that she was free to use both to pull more of the cloud to herself and away from her adversary. Feeling frustrated, Statice decided to try diplomacy, especially now that he saw that Rainbow Dash was close to winning the tugging match.

“How about we solve this dispute like civilized ponies?” Statice suggested with a sly smirk. All he needed was an appealing proposal and then he was going to have her right where he wanted her.

“No way,” Rainbow Dash growled at him threateningly with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth. “I’m not letting you use that suave voice of yours to sweet talk me into letting go of my cloud.”

“I wasn’t going to do that,” Statice growled at her. As much of a success as he was with the ladies, seduction was never his forte. And even if it were his forte, he was NOT going to use it with Rainbow Dash even if his life depended on it. “I was going to suggest a more peaceful solution to our cloud problem.”

“And that is?” Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. She stopped pulling the cloud but still kept a firm grip over it, just in case he was trying to trick her into lowering her guard to steal the cloud from her.

“How about we compete over it?” Statice suggested, trying to appeal to Rainbow Dash’s competitive spirit. If there was something that Statice knew of Rainbow Dash from the movies Discord showed him was that wherever there was a challenge she was going to tackle it head on.

The suggestion worked a little too well on her as she gained a determined grin on her face. “Now we’re speaking the same language!” Rainbow Dash fiercely pounded her hooves together. “I’ll race you three laps across Ponyville. The winner gets to nap on that cloud!”

“No!” Statice declined.

“Why not?” Rainbow Dash seemed offended and a little disappointed at being denied a race. “Are you scared or something?”

As a matter of fact, yes. It was the truth though, even if he wasn't going to phrase it like that. “I’m not much of a good flier,” Statice responded. He rarely used the Race Shifting Spell to turn into a pegasus so he rarely flew. Furthermore, since he barely trained, his flying abilities were lacking. Even if he trained and had an environment on which he could recharge, there was no way that he could beat Rainbow Dash in a flying race. The mare was capable of breaking the speed of sound, for crying out loud!

“What do you mean by that?” Rainbow Dash demanded questioningly. “Every pegasus is taken to flight camp to develop their flying skills. That's like going to kindgergarten!”

“I’m not much of a speed type,” Statice remarked. “I was suggesting more of an even competition on land.”

Please fall for it! Please fall for it! Please fall for it!

“You mean an Iron Pony Competition?” Rainbow Dash asked as she was looking very excited at the prospect.

Statice was aware of the Iron Pony Competition. It was a series of athletic events between two ponies to find out who was the best athlete. He had seen Rainbow Dash’s athletic prowess before, yethe was curious to see it in real life. Furthermore, he was curious to see how much he was capable of doing with the skills that he got.

“Yes,” Statice reaffirmed her question with a nod of his head. “I challenge you to an Iron Pony Competition for the right to use this cloud as a napping spot.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Rainbow Dash spat on her hoof. Statice did not hesitate to repeat the gesture before placing his hoof on hers.

“The name’s Rainbow Dash,” the cyan mare smiled smugly. “I’m the fastest pony of Equestria. You must be new here since I’ve never seen you before. What’s your name?”

“My name is Aster,” Statice replied. “Where will I see you for the events?”

“I’ll see you at Sweet Apple Acres in five minutes!” Rainbow Dash smiled as she flew at fast speeds, leaving a rainbow trail behind her. “Follow me if you don’t know where to go!”

Deciding to humor his athletic rival, Statice followed the rainbow.

The Iron Pony

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The Iron Pony

“Shucks, Rainbow!” Applejack swore in annoyance. “Ah can get you bein’ competitive, but havin’ an Iron Pony Competition just to see who gets to sleep on a cloud is kind of over the top, don’t ya think?”

“He’s the one who suggested it!” Rainbow Dash snapped defensively. “Besides, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in a competition. No offense, Applejack, but I am hungry for new challengers.”

Statice watched the argument with amusement. Despite their raised volumes, the friendship between Applejack and Rainbow Dash was clearly evident. The farm mare had presented herself with a firm hoof shake. Statice rubbed at his throbbing hoof as he still kept looking at the farm pony. For a mare that had the strongest hind hooves in Equestria, her front hooves were still monstrously strong in comparison to the average pony.

“The competition is goin’ to begin in ten minutes, Aster,” Applejack trotted casually at Statice. “Big Macintosh and Ah are gonna do the preparations for the events. In the meantime, Ah suggest that you get to meet Pinkie Pie. She’s gonna be the commentator for the games.”

“Pinkie Pie?” Statice asked nervously. To Applejack, it was more of confusion for her yet to be introduced friend. For Statice, it was him being uncomfortable with the pink mare. There was something about that girl that told him that she was not a pony to be underestimated.

Oh, I"m gonna be meeting that mare more than enough times today. I'm sure of that.

“She is a pink earth pony with a puffy mane and tail that likes to smile and laugh all time,” Applejack shrugged her shoulders as she gave a simple description of one of her best friends to her new acquaintance. “She may act a little odd, but she’s fun to have around ya. Give her a try and you’ll end up likin’ her.”

I just hope so.

Statice frowned. To be honest, he found the pink mare to be creepy thanks to her ability to defy reality. He shuddered to think what would have happened if she were serious and had real intent to hurt him rather than being friends with him.

“Hi there!” Pinkie’s bubbly voice took Statice by surprise as he turned around and found Pinkie Pie grinning at him.

That was faster than I anticipated. Better try to play it natural.

“Pinkie Pie…?” Statice found himself asking the pink mare her name.

“That’s me,” Pinkie Pie jumped happily, making her trademark springing noise every time she hopped. “You must be Aster. Are you new in Ponyville? Because I know everypony in Ponyville and I never saw you here before, so that means that you must be new to this place. I can’t wait to throw you a party and introduce you to all of my best friends…”

Hope that's not the case. Too bad it won't stop you.

“Yes,” Statice responded quickly to prevent Pinkie from speaking even more. “I am new in Ponyville. I’m just here on a little visit, and then I have to come back home.”

“Aw,” Pinkie Pie seemed mildly depressed, only to perk back up after a few seconds. “Well, I better make up for your short stay here with a memorable welcome party. I gotta start thinking which ponies you should meet right away.”

“I’ll be happy to meet new ponies,” Statice replied, taking a few steps away from the mare. His attempts were unnoticed by Pinkie Pie, who cut the distance between them and gave him a hug.

“I knew that you and I were going to become friends, Aster!” she said happily as she squeezed him with all of her strength.

In spite of the constricting hug, Statice felt his face blush at the display of affection. Even after Pinkie Pie broke the embrace and bounced away, he still felt that flush on his cheeks. He decided to focus on the games now, which was an easy feat once Pinkie decided to make the announcement with a microphone.

“Attention, everypony!” Pinkie Pie announced over the microphone. “It is my pleasure to announce the return of the Iron Pony Competition, featuring another appearance of our previous champion, Rainbow Dash!”

Many ponies stomped their hooves at the mention of Rainbow Dash, particularly her best friends and Scootaloo, who had a flag with a poorly drawn, but still distinguishable image of Rainbow Dash.

“And on the other side, we got the new pony of Ponyville that is challenging our current champion!” Pinkie Pie announced dramatically. “Let’s give a welcome to our town to the challenger, Aster!”

To Statice’s surprise, the crowd was cheering at him the same way that they cheered for Rainbow Dash. Even Scootaloo was giving him the same praise despite the fact that he was competing against the pony that she idolized and looked up to as a sister. In his stunned silence, he raised a hoof and timidly waved it at the audience. He got another round of cheering stomps in response.

What's with this reception? I haven't been part of this town for so long and yet I'm getting as much praise as one of the local heroes? How does that make sense?

“We will begin with the barrel running!” Pinkie Pie announced as some ponies placed barrels in front of Rainbow Dash and Statice. Both ponies stared at their improvised obstacles before Rainbow Dash took the lead.

“Watch how a pro does it, novice,” Rainbow Dash boasted playfully before she ran on the course. Statice was amazed at the speed on which she ran. Even when on hoof, she was still fast enough to leave a rainbow trail behind her. What made it better was that she maintained enough speed despite maneuvering across the barrels.

“Seventeen seconds!” Spike announced as Rainbow Dash crossed the finish line.

“I broke a new record!” Rainbow Dash performed a backflip. “Last time I got eighteen seconds!”

“It’s your turn now, Aster,” the baby dragon patted him on the shoulder.

Statice smiled at the baby dragon and rubbed his head affectionately. “Thanks, kid,” he told him nicely. “I’ll do my best.”

He jumped on his hooves and stretched his legs to limber himself up. Once he was prepared, Statice darted across the field. He nimbly dodged the barrels, not even touching them for a second. After evading the last barrel, he crossed the finish line.

“Eighteen seconds!” Spike announced. The crowd erupted in cheer at the time limit.

“The winner of the Barrel Weave is Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie Pie announced, turning Statice’s cheer into Rainbow Dash’s.

Statice growled at himself. He had lost to Rainbow Dash for a measly second. The prismatic mare was deeply enjoying her victory as she watched Fluttershy raise the score in her favor.

“Nice try,” Rainbow Dash smiled confidently at him. “I gotta say, you’re very quick in your hooves. Only Applejack gives me this much trouble in hoof races.”

“I still got more events to try,” Statice reminded her. The rainbow mare smiled at him before the next event came by.

“The Bucking Contest is about to begin!” Pinkie Pie announced as Statice and Rainbow Dash were taken to a modified high striker. It was like one of those carnival games with a hammer, except that on this one the ponies kicked the target with their hind legs rather than with a hammer.

“Let me show you a true athlete’s buck,” Rainbow Dash walked to the target. She turned around and bucked it with all of her strength. The puck instantly rose to the top and rang the bell. Rainbow Dash flew and held her fore hooves over her head in triumph.

“Let me try,” Statice told her as he walked into the target and repeated the process. Statice’s buck was strong enough to ring the bell. However, he noticed that the puck was slower in the ascending than when Rainbow Dash tried it.

“It appears that the Bucking Contest was a tie!” Pinkie Pie announced, earning stomping applauses from the ponies. Fluttershy raised the score for both competitors with a smile on her face.

Despite the tie, Statice frowned. His puck didn’t ascend with the same velocity as Rainbow Dash. It barely even rang the bell. Though he had technically tied with Rainbow Dash, he knew that her buck was stronger than his and that he had lost. He promised himself to do better in the next trials.

“I can’t believe that I’m doing this again,” Spike morosely commented as he was sitting on Statice’s back. Last time he did this event, he had a REALLY bad time with Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Now he was doing it once again with Rainbow Dash and a stallion that looked tough. Deciding to get over his predicament, Spike swallowed his bad mood and braced himself for his least favorite event.

“The Bronco Buck is about to begin!” Pinkie Pie bounced in anticipation.

When the bell rang, Statice took his time as he started bucking and throwing his hindquarters up and down in an attempt to throw Spike off him. The baby dragon screamed in fright as Statice acted more animalistic. He was neighing, snorting, and jumping wildly like a wild beast before he flung Spike away from him.

Once the event was over, Statice was panting and was met with a lot of disturbed stares. Perhaps his method of bucking had turned them against him.

“I’m okay!” Spike reassured them as he walked into the scene dizzily.

The ponies snapped out of their stupor as they cheered for Statice, much to the stallion’s relief. Spike’s calm disappeared as Rainbow Dash placed him on her back and began her bronco buck technique by jumping like a jackhammer. The poor dragon was thrown away from her in record time.

The score now was 3 to 1 in Rainbow Dash’s favor. Statice growled at the prismatic pony from behind. He was not going to let her win that easily. He was gonna catch up to her no matter what.

The next competition was a lasso contest that ended with both competitors humiliating themselves and Spike. Rainbow Dash had once again tied herself up on a tree while Statice had tangled himself with Spike. The unicorn turned pegasus cursed silently as he would have done a much better job with his magic rather than attempting to use his mouth, hooves, and wings. Despite the mess that he made, Statice won the competition because he tied up the dragon…even if he tied himself up to him in the process.

Well, a victory is a victory.

The current score was now 3 to 2. It was still in Rainbow Dash's favor. The stallion growled, knowing that the next two events were importrant. The first one was going to even the score and the second one was going to put him back in the lead.

Gotta take it to the next level!

“It’s time to do some Ball Bouncing!” Pinkie proclaimed as she was walking on top of a giant ball and rolling it with all four hooves.

The event started with Statice and Rainbow Dash bouncing balls with their heads. It was an even match as both of them had no trouble with their balls. Rainbow Dash had lots of practice with ball bouncing back when she attempted to break the world record while Statice had done juggling and bouncing back on a mission where he had to disguise himself as a clown. After five minutes of doing nothing more than casually bounce their balls with their heads, Rainbow Dash decided to step up her game.

“Pass me another ball, Spike!” Rainbow Dash ordered at the baby dragon.

Spike saluted at her only to realize that there were no balls next to him. His panic lasted little as Pinkie Pie popped out of nowhere with a box of balls.

“Here you go, Spike!” Pinkie Pie gave him a ball. “I always keep a stock of balls all over Ponyville! You’ll never know when you need them!”

“Thanks, Pinkie Pie!” Spike smiled at her, partially grateful and partially disturbed at her odd habits. He then threw the ball at Rainbow Dash as fast as he could. The rainbow mare casually lifted a hind leg and caught the ball with her hoof, bouncing it and making it spin. All of the ponies cheered at her display of athletic skill, except for Statice, who wasn’t taking any of that.

“You’re not the only one with tricks!” Statice proclaimed as he stood on his hind legs and kept bouncing the ball with his head. “Pass me a ball, Spike!”

The dragon did as he was told and was surprised to see the stallion lift a hind leg to the side and bounce the ball with a rhythmic movement. The ponies were now cheering for Statice as he was easily holding his own against Rainbow Dash. He felt a little proud at his skill, feeling grateful to have developed some martial arts skills in Pandasia when he was young.

“Throw some more balls to me, Spike!” Rainbow Dash demanded as she stood with one foreleg and extended the other one to the side along with the hind leg that was not busy bouncing her second ball.

Spike did as he was told and the result was Rainbow Dash standing with one hoof while using the other three and her head to bounce four balls at the same time. The balls that Statice was balancing duplicated as he used both of his free forelegs to bounce two more balls. The crowd cheered at both dexterous ponies before the match was declared a draw.

“Nice moves there, Aster!” Rainbow Dash smiled smugly at Statice. “I gotta say that I didn’t expect you to keep up with me. But don’t get too full of yourself. The score is still 4 to 3 with me on the lead.”

“Not for long,” Statice promised as Rainbow Dash flew again.

The next events were pretty hard for Statice as they measured strength and Rainbow Dash’s strength was slightly higher than him. She tossed her hay bale farther on the track than Statice did. She got a narrow win against him at hoof wrestling. Her football kick sent her ball further into the distance than Statice's did. Although he redeemed himself by winning the next two events, Rainbow Dash was still on the lead with a score of 7 to 5.

The next event was an endurance match featuring a series of consecutive push-ups. Statice and Rainbow Dash were both doing fine in the event, reaching to the mark of ninety five push-ups.

“97!” Spike counted as he saw Rainbow Dash and Statice doing push-ups with the same rhythm they had as if they just started.

“98!” Spike counted as he saw them do their push up slower than before.

“99!” Spike counted as he saw them continue, albeit slower than ever.

“100!” Spike counted as Rainbow Dash and Statice completed it, only for the former to fall on the ground after finishing.

` “101!” Spike counted as Statice kept doing his push-ups, not appearing to be exhausted by his workout. He had done harsher trainings than this.

“Aster wins the push-ups!” Spike raised Statice’s hoof in victory. In spite of the celebration, Statice knew that he had to step up on his game in the next events if he was to catch up with Rainbow Dash.

His disadvantage got back to 2 wins behind as Rainbow Dash easily beat him at the long jump event. He had done lots of jumping during his escapades, but he was no speed runner and that put him at disadvantage against Rainbow Dash. Moments like this made him wish that he had turned himself into an earth pony instead of a pegasus.

Statice once again managed a recovery by beating Rainbow Dash at chick wrangling. Although it was disgusting to walk on mud, Statice had done it more than enough times to be able to walk on top of it with perfect balance. He quickly brought his chicks to the finish line while Rainbow Dash was busy trying to deal with the chicks that were pecking her head for getting them covered in mud.

“Stupid wing restrictions,” Rainbow Dash muttered under her breath as the score was changed to an advantage of 8 to 7. She was still in the lead, but she knew that there was a chance for her rival to catch up to her.

Easy there, Rainbow Dash. You can do it! You can win this!

The competition became more heated up between Statice and Rainbow Dash during the next six events. Statice won three games and Rainbow Dash won three as well, making their score 11 to 10 with Rainbow Dash still being in the lead.

“I’m going to have to settle with a tie,” Statice grumbled as he prepared himself for the Tug of War. “It’s not just about strength. It has a technical side. Try to use Rainbow Dash’s own strength against her.”

As he was done with his mantra, Statice walked in front of a mud hole and stepped in front of it. He picked up a rope that was lying across the hole with her teeth and nodded at Rainbow Dash, who had already picked up her end of the rope.

“And the Tug of War begins!” Spike announced with a microphone that Pinkie Pie gave him for this special occasion.

Both ponies pulled the rope as hard as they could. None of them were budging for a few seconds before Statice was slowly being pulled away.

“Strong,” Statice muttered as he felt the difference in strength between him and Rainbow Dash. He braced all four legs to keep some leverage and partially let go of the rope to save some of his strength. Rainbow Dash did not seem deterred as she kept pulling back, not noticing that her adversary was not moving.

“I got you now,” Statice smiled when he noticed Rainbow Dash getting tired. He bit down hard on his rope and tugged at it with all of his strength. The mare yelped as she felt herself being pulled towards the mud hole.

“No, you won’t!” Rainbow Dash spread her legs to brace herself and give him a better fight. She pulled harder than before, slowly yanking Statice towards her. Both rivals were reaching towards the mud hole just as Rainbow Dash got a second wind.

“I’m not losing to you!” Rainbow Dash promised as she pulled with all of her strength. The extra tug sent Statice face first into the mud, splashing it all over Spike and Rainbow Dash.

The public felt silent for a second before Spike wiped off the mud from his face and happily spoke through the microphone. “And the winner of the Tug of War is Rainbow Dash!”

Spike’s announcement was met by Pinkie Pie popping out of the mud, next to Statice and with a microphone on her hoof. “And with a score of 12 to 10, the Iron Pony is once again, Rainbow Dash!”

“That’s right!” Rainbow Dash flew into the air so fast that the mud fell off her face. She posed in triumph as two pegasi, one of them being Derpy, brought a rainbow flag and placed it behind her.

All of the ponies below cheered as Statice bitterly cleaned the mud from his face. Of all the ponies against which he could have lost to, why did he have to lose to her? Great athlete or not, he didn’t have the best opinion of her after all of their encounters.

“And now Rainbow Dash gets the prize: the sleeping cloud for which she and Aster were fighting for in the first place!” Pinkie Pie floated in the air with some balloons wrapped around her barrel as more pegasi came in with the cloud that started this whole mess.

Rainbow Dash squealed in delight as she hugged the cloud. “Come to Mama!” she cried as she hugged and kissed it. Statice cringed in disgust at the display, watching as his opponent flew away with the cloud.

“DON’T FORGET THE WELCOME PARTY, RAINBOW DASH!” Pinkie Pie cried out in the microphone, sending sound waves that got everypony to cover their ears in pain, including Statice. He wasn’t sure if Rainbow Dash got the message and he didn’t care as long as she was out of the way.

“That’s some way to keep low profile,” Statice muttered at himself. While he prevented Rainbow Dash from finding out about him or suspecting about his identity, meeting her or any of the Elements of Harmony was not on his plan.

“Are you okay there, partner?” Applejack asked as she walked up towards him.

“I’m okay,” Statice lied, hoping that it was good enough to get her away from him. “I just don’t like to be covered in mud.”

The farmer didn’t seem convinced as she raised an eyebrow at him. “You don’t need to hide somethin' from me, Sugarcube. We’re all friends here.”

Statice cringed at Applejack’s perception. She was the Element of Honesty for a reason! Still, he got annoyed at her casually referring to him as a friend when they barely met each other. Friendships didn’t work that way. He was familiar with that.

“I guess I wanted that cloud,” Statice said as he sat down on his hind legs and started cleaning his chest a bit with a hoof. “Fortunately, I’m a graceful loser. I take my defeats maturely.”

It was true. Statice had learned the hard way that crying over not being the best never helped anypony become the best. The only times on which he was ever sore was if somepony beat him by a landslide…or if he didn’t like them, just like Rainbow Dash.

“If it makes ya feel any better, then Ah’ can say that you’re one heck of an athlete, Aster!” Applejack patted Statice on the back. “Not many ponies beside me can keep up with Rainbow Dash in an Iron Pony Competition. You were lucky that she didn’t use her wings to win most of the games. She beat me by a lot when that happened the first time we competed.”

If that had happened, Statice would have demanded a rematch and used his wings as well. Let it not be said that he doesn’t play with his rivals at the same level.

“Thanks, Applejack,” Statice thanked her as politely as possible. It wasn’t that sincere, but at least it was polite enough to be socially acceptable.

“You’re welcome,” Applejack proudly nodded her head. “Now let me present you mah friends while we’re at it.”

Statice’s eyes widened as she walked away from him and brought back with her the rest of the Elements of Harmony. Statice wanted to groan at being close to them, but he chose not to in order to keep his appearance.

I was gonna meet them anyway. Better meet them on Applejack's terms than Pinkie's.

“Ah believe that ya met Pinkie Pie, Aster,” Applejack pointed at Pinkie Pie, who was gleefully jumping on place, and was still making some sort of springing noise every time that her hooves hit the ground.

“I can’t believe how close you were!” Pinkie Pie ran in front of Statice and had her face close to his. “You were amazing! If you had just won the Tug of War, it would have been the first time there was a tie in the Iron Pony Competition. Ooh, maybe you and Rainbow Dash would have become Twin Iron Ponies as well!”

Statice mentally groaned. While he preferred to get a draw against his opponents to a loss because in that way he denied them victory over him, he was now more disappointed about the outcome since it denied him from doing something so…memorable, even if he had to share the honor with Rainbow Dash.

“Enough, Pinkie Pie,” Rarity spoke as she levitated the party pony in her blue aura. She walked gracefully towards him with half-lidded eyes. “Excuse our friend, Mr. Aster. She gets a little excited when meeting new ponies. My name is Rarity and it is a pleasure to meet such an athletic stallion as you.”

She batted her eyelashes at him and raised her hoof daintily. Statice gave an inner groan as he raised her hoof and gave it a kiss. He resisted the urge to spit and wipe his tongue just to keep appearances. The white unicorn giggled at the gesture before Pinkie Pie came back carrying Fluttershy above her head.

“This is Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie cheered as she placed the trembling pegasus in front of him. “She is a little shy, but she is a lot of fun once you get past that issue.”

“Hi,” Statice raised his hoof and offered it to Fluttershy, already knowing what kind of reply he was going to get from her.

“Hi,” she said in a very low and inaudible voice.

Statice felt a slight sense of frustration with the mare. She was capable of standing up to dragons and a cockatrice, used the Elements of Harmony to save Equestria from Nightmare Moon, Discord, and Lord Tirek, redeemed Discord himself, and yet she was afraid of an average stallion? Although frustrated with her behavior, he accepted it because of how cute she looked and how delicate her entire being was.

“My name is Aster,” Statice lied. If he messed up his disguise, she was going to get hurt and something told him that there were going to be SERIOUS repercussions if she was ever hurt.

“My name is Fluttershy,” she presented herself in her still inaudible voice.

“Your name is Fluttershy, right?” Statice smiled reassuringly. He felt ridiculous having to do this with a grown mare. Sure, he had actually done this with kids of different species, but it felt weird when Fluttershy was about the same age as him.

Rather than answering, Fluttershy gave loud whimpering noises that sounded like she was crying. The ponies frowned a little bit in sadness and pity while Statice’s frown, albeit similar, hid some awkwardness. He knew that she was sensitive, but he didn’t expect shyness of that magnitude. Dealing with Fluttershy was going to be like walking on a minefield.

“I think it is time that I present myself,” Twilight intruded as she gently levitated the cowering Fluttershy away from Statice. “My name is Twilight Sparkle. I am the princess in charge of Ponyville and I welcome you to our town.”

“Thanks, your Majesty,” Statice knelt in front of Twilight. The action got several reactions from the ponies around them. Rarity’s face showed approval, Pinkie Pie giggled at the gesture, Applejack was sort of accepting, Fluttershy was awed, and Twilight looked awkward.

“You don’t have to bow to me,” Twilight answered with discomfort.

“But you’re a princess,” Statice replied, trying to sound humble. “Shouldn’t I bow to royalty when I see it?”

Twilight was about to answer, only to be cut off by Rarity when the white unicorn shoved a hoof into her mouth. “Please excuse Twilight for her behavior, darling! She is new at being a princess of Equestria.”

Statice resisted the urge to roll his eyes at them. He was aware that Twilight was originally a unicorn, but he had to feign ignorance if he was to mingle among them.

“You forgot to present me!” Spike yelled as he came to Twilight’s side. The ponies looked at the baby dragon to see him crossing his arms and giving them an annoyed glare.

“Sorry,” Twilight apologized as she removed Rarity’s hoof from her mouth. “This is my number one assistant Spike.”

“You were awesome!” Spike cried out at Statice with admiration. “I can’t believe that you kept up with Rainbow Dash! Nopony but Applejack can keep up with her in an Iron Pony Competition!”

Statice smiled lightly at Spike. He remembered somepony very dear to him just by watching the baby dragon. He lifted a hoof and gently patted Spike’s scales.

“I can say that you’re awesome as well, Spike,” Statice smiled honestly at him. “It is very rare to see a dragon, much less talk with one. I’m surprised that you are not a celebrity.”

“Well, thanks,” Spike blushed at the compliment. The baby dragon felt honored at the stallion’s nice words. “As a matter of fact, I am a celebrity at the Crystal Empire, so if you ever come there, just ask for Spike.”

“I’ll do,” Statice promised, already knowing about how Spike had saved the Crystal Empire twice. “You’re a very mature, kid.”

“I’m a baby dragon,” Spike corrected him while smiling.

“I think that you’re too big, strong, and smart to be considered a baby,” Statice smiled teasingly at him. “Besides, how can I consider you a baby when you’re not wearing any diapers?”

The comment got the girls and Spike to laugh. Statice was shocked at their sudden reaction. He didn’t think that he made that big of a joke and yet they were laughing their lungs out.

“I hope that you make jokes like that at your Welcome to Ponyville party at Twilight’s castle, Aster!” Pinkie Pie smiled as she hugged Statice and then went on hopping away from Sweet Apple Acres. “If you don’t know where it is, go to the sparkly castle, okay?”

“The party is in an hour, so Spike and I will see you there, Aster,” Twilight smiled at Statice before levitating Spike onto her back.

“I hope we can talk more at the castle, Aster!” Spike waved at Statice as Twilight carried him out of the farm.

“Ah got some chores to do,” Applejack said as she looked at Statice and Rarity. “You can help if ya don’t have anythin’ else to do.”

“Sorry, I have to take a bath,” Statice immediately excused himself. “I can’t just show up at my welcome party with mud on my gut.”

“You’re right about that, darling,” Rarity got close to him and batted her eyelashes at him. “If you want, I can take you to my boutique and arrange a makeover for your party. I can even make you a special outfit for the celebration.”

Statice looked awkward at the offer while Applejack rolled her eyes. The farm pony shrugged her shoulders and just went to do her chores, leaving the stallion to deal with the fashionista.

“I guess I can go to your boutique,” Statice reluctantly agreed. “But I’ll just take a bath. I don’t think that you need to make a suit for me. I don’t tend to wear clothes.”

“Oh, give it a try, darling,” Rarity pouted at him and once again repeated her batted eyelashes move with him. He sighed at the gesture and resigned himself.

“Lead the way, Miss Rarity,” Statice grudgingly told her. He didn’t want to familiarize himself with Rarity or the rest of the Elements of Harmony, but he had to keep them complacent. Given Rarity’s fixation with being a lady, he accurately guessed that being called Miss Rarity was going to be to her liking.

“Such a gentlecolt,” Rarity tittered at the name he gave her. She then went on and on to talk about the clothing options that she was going to make. It was mainly which fabric she was going to use, which color matched with his coat, and so on. As Rarity spoke, she started walking away from Statice.

The disguised stallion looked at every side to make sure that nopony was seeing him. Once he was sure that he and Rarity were alone, he took the chance to spit on the side of the road. His mouth tasted like hoof polish and dirt. He didn’t understand why Rarity loved the hoof kiss gesture. She could give herself a hooficure to keep her hooves clean and shiny, that didn’t change the fact that immediately afterwards they were going to touch the dirty floor. Seriously, why did she have to signal him to do that? He didn’t even know where her nasty hooves had been!

He kept walking and looking cordial. Although his mouth still had a lousy aftertaste, at least it was more bearable than before. As he walked around Ponyville, everypony around him gave him friendly smiles and curt nods. Some of them even went as far as complimenting him on his performance. He felt weird to receive such praise. It was rare to get it at its purest form when he was a bounty hunter. It felt kind of nice…to just do something and have everypony cheer for him rather than criticize him.

They reached to Carousel Boutique in a few minutes. Statice was surprised at the architecture, admiring the combination of blue, purple, and yellow colors, as well as the elegant shape of the building.

“Amazing,” Statice muttered in awe. Granted, he had seen many buildings, but most of them were not very clean from nice company and others were pretty much in bad condition after lots of time and decay. As much as he hated to admit it, Rarity had talent as a decorator.

“Wait until you see it from the inside, darling,” Rarity smiled at him before she opened the door with her magic.

Statice entered into the building and admired the commodities. The inside was just as eye-appealing at the outside, except that it was more personalized for work. There were mirrors and platforms for modeling and there were many mannequins that were dressed in beautiful garments.

“Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything is chic, unique, and magnifique!” Rarity posed triumphantly as she gave her boutique’s trademark greeting.

Statice didn’t know why but he found himself speaking. “I think that I would like a makeover for my party. Can you do it in less than an hour?”

“Of course,” Rarity smiled as she levitated her beauty tools and prepared for work. “The bathroom is on the second floor. You can take a bath there and then I’ll wait for you down here in five minutes.”

“Thanks,” Statice walked up the stairs and prepared himself for what was probably going to be his first party in like…ever.

Ponyville Party

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Ponyville Party

To say that Rarity’s bathroom was overly girly was no exaggeration. The room itself was filled with perfume. It had lots of health care products ranging from shampoos to aromatic soaps. The unicorn turned pegasus investigated the bathroom as he tried to find a decent shampoo for his coat. He found a mint scented shampoo that he could use for himself.

“Thank the stars,” Statice smiled as he opened the shampoo and smelled its contents. The scent was refreshing and addicting. “At least I have a shampoo that is equal to both genders. I can’t show up to the party smelling like a girl.”

He opened the knob to fill the tub with water. Once the water volume was at a decent level, Statice entered into the tub and applied the shampoo onto his mane. He hummed a tune to himself as he scrubbed his mane with the shampoo.

Normally, a bath for Statice usually lasted a few minutes thanks to his magic, but it was going to take him longer in this occasion. He was a pegasus now, so he had to use his hooves to groom himself. There was also the possibility of using his wings as a couple of extra limbs, except that he lacked enough practice to use them correctly.

“I might as well enjoy the bath,” Statice sighed as he continued scrubbing his mane with his hooves. “I hope Rarity is not going crazy with my costume.”

I should also start practicing with using my wings to do activities other than flying if I am to keep up with this charade.

Rarity smiled lovingly as she looked up the ceiling. “If this is a dream, do not wake me up,” she tittered happily as she levitated her working tools close to her.

As much as she loved her hometown, Rarity was disappointed with the lack of stallions in Ponyville. There was very little male material available for her in the dating stage, so it was impossible for her to try to pursue a romantic partner unless she travelled somewhere and had the good luck of finding an attractive stallion. This time, she was fortunate enough that a young, handsome stallion moved in to Ponyville, even if it was only for a little while.

“Oh, Aster,” Rarity arched her back as she fawned over him. “I wonder how well you’ll look in one of my attires.”

It was the first time in ages since she had a stallion inside her boutique and she definitely wanted to make him some dashing attire. Deciding that she waited long enough, the white unicorn called out for her visitor.

“Aster!” Rarity called out in a singsong voice. “I’m ready to make your attire. Are you done or do I need to give you a few more minutes?”

“I’m done!” Aster’s deep voice rang out as he climbed down the stairs. Rarity gasped in awe as she watched his dark blue coat sparkle and his white mane and tail perfectly brushed. He looked different when he was cleaner than when he was dirty and covered with mud.

“You look radiant, darling!” Rarity cried out as she rushed to him, her muzzle very close to his cheek. “A bath has really made a difference for you.”

“Thanks,” Aster smiled nervously as he pulled his face away, a little blush present on his cheeks. “Anyway, can we go with the preparations for my suit?”

“Of course, darling!” Rarity pulled away dramatically, sporting a more evident blush in her paler coat. “Stand in front of the mirrors while I take your measurements.”

The dark blue pegasus smiled nervously as he stood in front of Rarity and let her use her measuring tape on him. The white unicorn smiled approvingly as she took his measurements and noticed that he was in perfect shape.

Such slim perfect musculature... It's no wonder that he was able to match Rainbow Dash in that Iron Pony Competition.

“You got good measurements, Aster,” Rarity batted her eyelashes at her client. “I can see how you were able to keep up with Rainbow Dash.”

“Thank you,” Aster gave her a charming smile in response. “I work out a lot, but you also look like you exercise regularly, as your figure elegantly shows.”

Rarity giggled in response. “You flatter me, Aster!” she blushed at his compliment and shyly turned her head away from him. To be honest, she did the occasional aerobics routine to maintain her weight and figure. Having an attractive stallion point out her attributes filled her stomach with butterflies.

“Is there something wrong, Rarity?” Aster walked close to her, looking concerned for her health. This only made Rarity feel more attracted to the pegasus.

“Nothing, dear,” Rarity backpedaled a little bit, feeling a little more conscious about Aster’s presence. “I am going to work a little bit more on your suit. You can take a rest on my couch while I finish it. Give me a couple of minutes and I’ll have it done, Aster!”

The unicorn promptly levitated a couch close to Aster and placed the pegasus on top of it. She adopted a confident expression on her face as she levitated sewing needles and fabrics for the suit. “Your new suit is going to be fabulous!”

Statice was surprised at the sudden change of personality that he witnessed on the white unicorn. One minute she was flirting with him and enjoying his compliments and on the next one she was completely focused on finishing her work.

“I guess she is very passionate about her special talent,” Statice muttered to himself in awe. “She is certainly more than a drama queen.”

He didn’t like to put on the gentlecolt act with her, but he still needed to maintain appearances for the time being. He was incognito after all. Still, it was amazing to see Rarity at work. In the eyes of most ponies, the levitation was just a simple spell. However, in the magic of a professional, levitation was the most versatile spell a unicorn could have. This was the main reason for his theory of why most unicorns only bother to learn the levitation spell rather than continue their magical education as one could suffice in life with just that single spell.

“That’s an impressive control,” Statice complimented Rarity. He wasn’t one to compliment his enemies, but he just felt as if he needed to express his respect for Rarity’s magical dexterity.

“Thank you, Aster,” Rarity smiled proudly as she stitched the suit together, humming the Art of the Dress to herself. “Being a fashionista is a challenge as you require multiple tools for this craft. I developed my levitation spell so that I can always have all the tools that I need at the right time.”

“It is a nice control,” Statice smiled at Rarity in respect. “You levitate those tools with grace and poise. The tools in your magical aura move elegantly like a specially designed choreography.”

“Thanks, Aster,” Rarity smiled as she continued her work, yet still got a light tint of pink on her cheeks. “But my levitation is not that impressive. You should see how strong Twilight’s levitation can be. And that was even long before she became an alicorn.”

Statice grimaced. He HAD seen how powerful Twilight’s levitation was. She actually used it to stop an Ursa Minor from rampaging across Ponyville. The true extent of Twilight’s levitation scared him, especially when he had been the victim of the spell when he pushed his luck with the horn sucking incident.

“Is there something wrong, Aster?” Rarity asked at Statice with concern in her face...and yet she still continued to masterfully work on the suit. “You look a little distressed.”

“I was just thinking about some stuff,” Statice admitted, trying to sound vague.

“If I may ask, were you thinking about your family or something like that?” Rarity questioned as she felt more interested on his life. Statice flinched in response, surprising the white mare.

“It’s nothing,” Statice responded as the concerned look in Rarity’s face got him to speak more. “I was just thinking about my family.”

Rarity stopped her work, placing her working tools back on their places. The suit was not yet finished, but she needed to put all of her focus into listening to Aster if she was going to find out what was troubling him.

“Can you tell me about my family?” Rarity nervously asked him. As much of a basic question as it was, she still felt reluctant to ask him that. If his reaction was anything to say about him then chances were that his family life was less than stellar.

“I have two nice parents and a little brother,” Statice answered simply.

“How are your parents?” Rarity asked. She felt as if the answer she was going to get was not going to be pleasant.

“My father is a florist from several generations and my mother is an amateur writer,” Statice admitted, surprised at how much information he was giving about himself to somepony who was his enemy not so long ago. “They’re decent folks. The problem is that we have communication problems. It’s like we don’t exist to each other.”

Rarity noticed how the last line was spoken with sadness. A part of her wanted to ask what he meant by that, but she knew that it was probably going to make the talk more awkward than before. “Can you tell me about your little brother?” Rarity asked hurryingly to change the topic.

Hearing that question made Statice smile. He loved to talk about his little brother during the few times he was given the chance. “He is very young and a nice pony at heart, just like I was when I was his age,” he smiled wistfully. “I don’t see him very often since I work too much, but those few moments I spend with him mean a lot to me.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Rarity smiled at him. “I have a younger sister. Her name is Sweetie Belle. I rarely spend time together with her, but she means a lot to me. The moments on which I am together with her are a source of comfort for me.”

“A bond with a younger sibling is quite magical,” Statice smiled warmly at Rarity. It was an aftereffect when he talked about his younger brother. He was one of the very few things in life that made him happy.

“You should see Applejack when she does chores with Apple Bloom,” Rarity said proudly. “I’ve never seen a pair of sisters that close in my entire life. They’re the ones who taught me what a sisterhood between Sweetie Belle and I should be.”

Statice nodded. He had seen Applejack’s interactions with Apple Bloom in Discord’s movies and it was no lie that the bond between the sisters was strong. He was about to say something else when he noticed that Rarity was back at work, turning her back at him.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Rarity spoke without looking at him. “I can see that I touched a very sensitive subject and for that I apologize. I’ll let you rest a little bit while I work on your suit. We’ve already wasted enough time talking when you have a party coming up. It’s not dignified to be late at your own welcome party.”

She continued working where she left off. Statice was about to say something, only to cut himself off at the last minute. He had said more than enough. All that he needed to do now was enjoy the show Rarity was giving him.

You've said more than enough already.

It had taken a few more minutes, but Rarity managed to finish the suit. Statice came back wearing a black suit and a red tie that complemented his coat and mane. Rarity was walking by his side wearing a purple dress with golden trimmings. Statice had to admit that she looked beautiful. Still, that raised a fact that needed to be brought upon.

“Why are you wearing a dress, Rarity?” Statice asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Can’t a lady look her best at a party for her new friend?” Rarity batted her eyelashes at Statice. “This is your welcome party, Aster. Consider me being dressed at my best as my way of welcoming you to Ponyville.”

Statice blushed at the flirtatious gesture, barely managing to give a little smile of appreciation at the underlining affection. “Can you lead the way, my lady?” Statice asked, more out of genuine playfulness than fake politeness.

“Just go to the center of Ponyville,” she winked at him. “You can’t miss it. You just need to follow your way to the crystal castle next to us and ask.”

Statice laughed at the sarcastic yet playful jab Rarity threw at him. She rarely showed such humor, albeit it was definitely worth hearing it from somepony who liked to act like a proper lady. He rarely laughed around others because of his upbringing and only did it whenever somepony he didn’t like suffered some deserved misfortune. The fact that Rarity elicited a laugh from him with a good natured joke surprised him. He had not laughed like that since his chats with Digitalis. His laugh increased in volume when he heard the sound of Rarity’s laughter.

“I haven’t laughed like that in years,” Statice admitted, feeling some relief in finally getting that out of his system. “You’re a really funny pony, Rarity.”

Never thought I was ever gonna say that to her.

“You should try to spend time with Pinkie Pie,” Rarity walked close to him. “She is the Element of Laughter. I’m sure that she can make you laugh better than I did.”

“I guess it’s true,” Statice said as the castle got larger with each step they took. “If she was chosen by the Element of Laughter then she must be some first class comedian.”

As long as she does it from afar...

“She is indeed the comedian of the group,” Rarity smiled at him. “But you’ll see more about her right about now. Look in front of you and tell me what you see.”

Statice did as he was told and was stunned to see the door to the castle. He went on to open the doors when the handles were surrounded by a blue aura. He turned around to see Rarity had used her magic to open the doors for him.

“Isn’t it the stallion that is supposed to open the doors for the lady?” Statice asked teasingly at the fashionista.

“It’s your welcome party, Aster,” Rarity smiled pleasantly at him. “Your rule about the stallion opening the door for the lady is right. However, I decided to make an exception for you in this party.”

“You are such a gentlecolt,” Statice complimented her teasingly.

“Thank you, my lady,” Rarity bowed at Statice the same way a stallion bowed to a mare. It was a surprising gesture for Statice, who expected Rarity to overreact and not to laugh it off and counter his joke with her own.

“You didn’t think I had any sense of humor, did you?” Rarity winked at Statice as she passed by his side.

The stallion was surprised by her clever response until he decided to shrug it off rather than question it and entered into the castle.
He was surprised to see lots of ponies in the main hall. Loud music was being played in the background. There were many party games around. Tables full of food and drink were spread across the hall. A large cake was resting on the largest table that had “Welcome to Ponyville, Aster” written with frosting. All of the party guests were extremely happy, talking and laughing with each other.

“That’s some party,” Statice stared in awe at the place.

“That’s a Pinkie party for you,” a feminine voice spoke from behind Statice. He turned around and saw Twilight Sparkle giving him a friendly smile.

“Hi, Princess,” Statice greeted her quickly. “I got to say. This castle looks amazing. I got to congratulate whoever built it.”

“It is a nice castle,” Twilight smiled at Statice. “And I got the Elements of Harmony and my friends to thank for it.”

“I didn’t know that you were an architect,” Statice smiled teasingly at Rarity. She and Twilight giggled at the remark.

“Nice joke,” Twilight smiled at Statice. “I can see that you’re a nice pony, Aster. Thank you for coming here.”

“Thank you for hosting it,” Statice replied.

“You should thank, Pinkie Pie,” Twilight gestured at Pinkie Pie, who was happily dancing with some friends. “She always throws a welcome party to every newcomer in Ponyville. I still remember when she threw me my own welcome party when I first moved in to Ponyville.”

“That was a nice gesture,” Statice remarked. He had seen Pinkie’s nice attitude towards others. Her cheery disposition and desire to make everypony around her happy was quite an inspiration…when she was not being annoying.

“It was,” Twilight looked up into the ceiling nostalgically.

“You made it!” Spike came in and gave Statice a jumping hug. The dark blue pegasus smiled embarrassingly as he put the baby dragon back to the ground.

“It is my welcome party,” Statice smiled as he patted Spike’s head. “How are you doing, Spike?”

“I’m doing fine,” Spike brushed Statice’s hoof from his head with a smile.

Statice looked down at the baby dragon. “Are you enjoying the party, Spike?”

“Who doesn’t enjoy a party made by Pinkie Pie?” Spike asked in bewilderment. “It is literally impossible to have Pinkie host a party and not have any fun.”

“You don’t say,” Statice patted Spike on the head again. “I’m going up to the tables to see what’s there to eat. I’m a little hungry for the moment.”

“Sure,” Spike smiled. “Go ahead and have fun. I’ll stay here and have a chat with Twilight and Rarity.” He mentioned the last name with obvious infatuation. Both mares giggled at Spike’s crush while Statice went on to the tables.

“Everypony is having fun,” Statice observed as he reached the tables and took in some snacks. He had to give credit to Pinkie Pie. She was a real professional if she was able to make parties of such magnitude on a daily basis.

The party just got started and everypony is in the perfect mood. Who would have thought a new face was gonna be such a big deal around here. Can't blame them...last one became royalty.

“You can say that again, partner,” Applejack’s drawl made Statice turn his head to notice her and Rainbow Dash next to him. The apple farmer looked as friendly as before, and Rainbow Dash seemed more relaxed than when he was facing her in the Iron Pony Competition.

“It’s nice to see you, girls,” Statice saluted the two. Normally, he would have faked a smile for them if it weren't for his encounters with Rainbow Dash annoying him into just giving them a cordial gesture.

To his surprise, Rainbow Dash flew to him and wrapped her foreleg in a sisterly fashion. “How are you doing, Aster?” she asked in a friendly tone, surprising him. He was taken aback by her cheery disposition in spite of their Iron Pony Competition. He thought that she was going to act more…smugly.

What's the big deal with this chick?

“Hi,” Statice greeted her reluctantly. “Did something happen to you, Rainbow Dash? I noticed that you’re a little…touchy.”

Rainbow Dash flinched and broke the hug, laughing nervously. “Sorry about that,” she rubbed the back of her head embarrassingly. “I’m just in a good mood to see you after giving it my all in that Iron Pony Competition.”

“And a nap on that cloud you won doesn’t contribute in that better mood?” Statice asked with a raised eyebrow. He was met with laughter from both Applejack and Rainbow Dash.

“Nice joke, Aster!” Rainbow Dash chortled. “I did take an excellent nap for half an hour in that cloud. Then I went here to prepare your welcome party.”

As much as it annoyed Statice, he decided to move along with Rainbow Dash’s conversation. “Thank you.”

“Ah’m happy to see ya again, Aster,” Applejack tilted her hat at Statice.

“It’s only been an hour,” Statice dully noted. He didn’t understand what was the big deal with spending so little time separated from each other. It wasn’t that important if it wasn’t even a day of separation.

Probably some friendship stuff. Makes sense since they need it to do their job.

“But Ah didn’t get to introduce mahself and mah friends to you,” Applejack winked at Statice. The stallion turned his head away, blushing at the gesture. Winking was a sign of attraction between a mare and a stallion. He had read enough comic books to know of that detail. He just hoped that the wink was platonic.

Please be platonic...please be platonic...please be platonic...

“I’ve already met Twilight, and Rarity and I got to introduce each other when she made me my suit,” Statice answered as he took a look at his suit. “Rarity brought me to the castle. She was very nice.”

“You don’t say,” Applejack and Rainbow Dash shared knowing looks and laughed at each other. Even though he knew that his identity was not endangered, the stallion’s face was uneasy at the laughter of the two mares.

“Hi, Aster!” Pinkie Pie popped up between Applejack and Rainbow Dash and promptly placed a party hat on top of Statice’s head. “Are you enjoying your party? Are you? Are you? Are you?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” Statice answered in rapid fire to prevent Pinkie from speaking anymore. The less she opened her mouth the better it was for him. The pink mare grinned and gave him a hug, somehow making a squeaky toy sound.

“I am so glad that you like my party three times more than anypony else!” Pinkie bounced, happily ignoring the stallion’s confused reaction to her statement. “I have so many friends that I want to introduce to you.”

“Rarity brought me here, Twilight and Spike received me, Applejack and Rainbow Dash just met me, and now you just popped in,” Statice summarized so that the pink mare wouldn’t force anymore introductions to him.

“You forgot Fluttershy!” Pinkie Pie chimed in playfully. “You already met her before, but that was no proper introduction. Let me go get her! You're gonna love meeting her”

I don't think she'll love meeting me.

Pinkie Pie got out of Statice’s field of vision so that only her hind legs were sticking out in front of him. When she turned around, she was sitting on her haunches and was carrying a struggling Fluttershy in her forelegs. The yellow pegasus was kicking all four legs forward, whimpering as she was being held by her pink friend. Fluttershy’s symptoms worsened when Pinkie placed her on the ground in front of Statice. She reflexively hid her face under her hair while the rest of her friends watched the scene.

“Hi,” Statice greeted her awkwardly.

“Hi,” Fluttershy greeted him with the same awkwardness…along with a side order of fear. “My name is Fluttershy.”

At least this time she presented herself with a normal tone of voice. “Call me Aster, Fluttershy. It is a pleasure to meet you…again.”

“Thanks,” Fluttershy demurely turned her head away from him. “Are you enjoying Pinkie’s party? She worked really, really hard to make it special for you.”

“She must have,” Statice looked around, feeling honored at how much detail the pink mare put on this party. “You don’t mind if I tell anything about myself to get better acquainted, right?”

“Not at all,” Fluttershy shook her head. “I don’t mind hearing about you, if that’s okay with you.”

Statice smiled. He was already familiar with some of Fluttershy’s interests thanks to Discord’s memories. The best part was that he shared some interests with her so he was not technically lying to her. All he needed to do was show his interests while making it look like a coincidence.

“I like nature, plants, and animals,” Statice begun before he heard Fluttershy gasp. She went forward and looked at him with big enthusiastic eyes.

“You like animals?” Fluttershy asked excitingly, yet still shyly. “I love animals! I live in a cottage where I spend time with my animal friends. If you want, I can introduce you to one of them. I can even give you a pet if you don’t have one. You two could become best friends forever and ever…”

Once again, Statice was left uneasy. He had gotten Fluttershy to suppress her shyness just to get her excited and prevent him from talking. Fortunately, a new song played by a white unicorn DJ made it easier to escape her clutches…only to fall on Pinkie’s.

“Ooh, this is my favorite song!” Pinkie cheered as she took Statice’s hooves on her own and brought him with her to the dance floor.
Statice screamed as Pinkie Pie pushed him away and pulled him close to her. She grabbed him around the tail and spun him around before throwing him into the air and catching him before he hit the floor. As much as Statice found her annoying, he had to recognize that she was stronger than he expected. A second song from the DJ, made it clear that he was going into another dancing rave with Pinkie.

“Ooh, this is my second favorite song!” Pinkie Pie laughed as she extended her forelegs at Statice to bring him close to her.

“I want to meet more friends!” Statice cried out before her hooves touched his. The pink mare stopped as she stared at him in curiosity and surprise. “I want to see if there are more ponies available that I can greet someday in the future. You don’t mind if I take a break to make some talk, Pinkie?”

Pinkie pouted her lower lip and hummed with a concentrated expression. It was as if she making a vow or something inside of her head. She came to a conclusion when she smiled and gave him a hug.

“Of course that you can go talk with more friends!” she giggled playfully. “That’s what this party is all about. You would not be welcome in Ponyville if the citizens don’t greet you.”

“You’re right about that,” Statice smiled awkwardly as he tried to break the hug. It was impossible for him to use his front hooves to push her away and he was not familiar with using his wings for something other than flying. He had to endure until she broke the hug.

“It was nice meeting you, Pinkie Pie!” Statice smiled as he hurried himself away from her. “But I got a bunch of new friends to make.”

As the pegasus left, Pinkie’s smile turned into a pensive frown that concerned her friends. Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Fluttershy shared uneasy looks before Twilight and Rarity came in.

“Has anypony seen Aster?” Rarity asked, feeling a little distressed. “I was hoping to spend some time with him. I’ve been looking for him all night and I haven’t found him yet...”

“He was gettin’ better acquainted with us and now with everypony else in this party,” Applejack explained easily before Rarity had the chance of acting like a drama queen. “The way Ah see it, he is gonna be busy chattin’ around with everypony, probably the next day if he keeps goin’ like this.”

Rarity sighed in disappointment. “Well, I guess that I have no right to deny him the chance,” she lamented maturely. “At least I can try to get to know him better after the party. Speaking about knowing him better, how did you girls do?”

“Aster likes animals!” Fluttershy cheered. “At first I was scared of talking to him, but then I found out that he liked animals! Normally I’m too shy to talk with anypony…at least until I have something in common with them as I do with him now!”

“It’s so nice to hear that, Fluttershy!” Twilight gave her friend a congratulatory hug for her achievement. It was very rare of Fluttershy to be open with new ponies and this was a perfect example of how she matured as a pony over the years.

“Thanks, Twilight,” Fluttershy smiled, returning the hug.

“Can anypony tell me what is troubling Pinkie Pie?” Rarity asked as she noticed her pink friend still frowning. “It’s not like her to keep that face for so long.”

“Ah’m not sure,” Applejack shrugged her shoulders. “She was just bein’ Pinkie with Aster. Then she hugged him for a while until he said he wanted to meet some new ponies at the party. As soon as he was out of sight, she just started frownin’ all of a sudden.”

The girls shared uneasy glances before Twilight walked over to Pinkie Pie. “Is there something wrong, Pinkie? Did Aster say or do anything that made you…unhappy?”

“No,” Pinkie spoke with an eerily somber tone. “There was something familiar about Aster when I hugged him.”

“You hugged him before, Pinkie,” Applejack observed, still unnerved.

“I did, but it wasn’t a long one,” she countered. “This hug I gave him was super long and felt familiar. I feel as if I hugged Aster at some point in the past. I just can’t put my hoof on it.”

Before anypony could formulate a question, a new song was played. This snapped Pinkie back to her senses as she returned to her happy self. “Ooh, this is my third favorite song of all time!”

The pink pony reared on her hind legs and kicked out her forelegs in a circular movement before rushing to the dance floor. The remaining five ponies stood there in confusion.

“What just happened?” Twilight asked in disbelief.

“Maybe it’s just Pinkie bein’ Pinkie,” Applejack suggested uneasily. All of the mares just nodded their heads to avoid mulling about it. They had long since decided to stop understanding Pinkie Pie and just accept her for what she was a long time ago.

“My name is Time Turner,” a light brown earth pony with brown mane and light blue eyes spoke to Statice. “It is a pleasure to meet you. I work on fixing the clocks in Ponyville. If your clock is not giving you the time, then let me now and I’ll fix it for you.”

“Thanks,” Statice smiled politely, knowing that he could trust Time Turner when he saw his hourglass cutie mark. The stallion proved to be more polite, chatting with Statice for a couple of minutes before resuming with the party. As he left, two mares took his place to speak with him.

“Hi!” spoke a mint unicorn with streaked white and cyan mane and golden eyes. “My name is Lyra Heartstrings and this is my best friend Bonbon. I work as a musician and Bonbon is a confectioner.”

Statice raised an eyebrow at the Lyra, noticing how she was a unicorn version of Pinkie Pie, albeit more subdued. Her cutie mark was a lyre and that of her friend were three candies. He stared at the beige earth pony with blue and pink mane, and light blue eyes giving her friend an annoyed glance.

“Excuse Lyra,” Bonbon gave Statice an apologetic look as she shoved her hoof into Lyra’s mouth. “She usually gets overexcited when meeting new ponies. You can say that she is the second friendliest citizen in Ponyville after Pinkie Pie.”

You don't say.

As if on cue, Pinkie Pie was dancing erratically, grabbing ponies by the hooves and flinging them around as she changed partners one after the other. Seeing the pink pony dance, made Lyra feel excited again.

“Let’s dance, Bonbon!” she grabbed her friend by the hoof and dragged her to the dance floor. Bonbon didn’t get a chance to protest before she was taken away from Statice, her shrieks of help being ignored by the stallion once they turned into laughter.

“That’s an odd pair,” Statice remarked with a smile as he moved on to start another conversation. So far, he was doing well in the social practice, although that was mainly because the ponies were starting it since he was the honor guest. If he was to develop his social skills for a peaceful life, he had to have the capacity to start a conversation on his own.

His next target was a purple earth pony with a mane of two shades of rose and light green eyes. When he was close enough to her, he noticed that her cutie mark was that of three flowers. Statice stopped his communication attempt when he recognized the mare now. He had seen her enough time in Discord’s memories to know who she was.

“Hello!” Cheerilee smiled as she noticed Statice close to her. “I am Cheerilee. I work as a teacher in Ponyville Schoolhouse.”

“Hi,” Statice lifted his hoof to shaker hers. “Thanks you for welcoming me into your town. Your gesture is much appreciated.”

“You should thank Pinkie Pie,” she giggled playfully. “She always knows how to throw the best parties. This is the first welcome party that she is ever thrown into this castle. I bet that she must have planned it long before you came.”

Hearing those words disturbed Statice. He was aware of Pinkie’s unnatural ability to defy the laws of the world. As impossible as it was, the possibility of Pinkie Pie somehow knowing of his visit to Ponyville was disconcerting.

“I think that I am going to thank her,” Statice nodded his head and excused himself from the conversation. He didn’t feel comfortable talking with somepony closely affiliated with the Elements of Harmony. Right now, he needed somepony that wasn’t so close to any of those six mares and he already thought of one.

This time he went to talk to the DJ, who demonstrated some multitasking skill by talking with him while playing the next songs. She was a white unicorn with a blue mane and complementary red eyes. Her cutie mark was a black musical sign, which fitted well with her career.

“What’s my name, you say?” she asked as she switched her attention from her work to her new acquaintance. “I am DJ Pon-3!” she whooped triumphantly as she bobbed her head to the music. “You can call me Vinyl Scratch when I’m off the clock.”

“You mean when you’re not working, right?” Statice asked with a raised eyebrow. One of the disadvantages of bounty hunting was that most of his clients were wealthy so they often used perfect and professional grammar. As such, he was not used to hearing the idioms and phrases that the DJ threw at him.

“Yeah!” Vinyl smiled as she nodded her head before switching to a skeptical frown. “What’s the matter, party boy? You don’t get to hang outside very often.”

“I’m not much of a social guy,” Statice answered.

“You sound like Octavia,” she chuckled. “It’s a shame that she couldn’t be on this party. I hope that you get to meet her soon.”

“Me too,” Statice smiled. He had seen the earth pony perform with her cello a few times and he had to admit that meeting her was going to be interesting.

Statice continued meeting new ponies on the way. He was introduced to pegasi like Thunderlane, the twins Flitter and Cloudchaser, the adorable Derpy, and the muscular Bulk Biceps. He met Pinkie’s bosses, Mr. and Mrs. Cake, who gave him a cupcake.

He was also forced to reintroduce himself to the Cutie Mark Crusaders and had to endure Scootaloo talking about how awesome Rainbow Dash was for winning the Iron Pony Competition. He understood that at her age she was impressed by her idols...but couldn’t she say something that didn’t involve Rainbow Dash? It was as if her admiration for Rainbow Dash was her only personality trait besides being friends with Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle.

It didn’t take long for Apple Bloom to introduce him to her big brother, Big Macintosh, and her grandmother, Granny Smith. Big Macintosh was a huge red stallion with orange mane, white freckles, some oversized collar on his neck, a large green apple for a cutie mark, and green eyes. However, he was VERY silent in comparison with her younger sisters. Granny Smith was an old lime green mare with white mane and orange eyes. Her cutie mark was that of a baked pie. While she was just as talkative as her granddaughters, it was hard for Statice to understand her a little bit.

He retreated back to the table and met Spike. The purple dragon was wearing some sort of lamp cover as a hat. It was clear that he was having fun despite not being able to see well with his improvised party hat.

“Are you having fun, Aster?” Spike asked, still euphoric from the hard partying.

“Yes,” Statice admitted. “It’s been so long since I had so much fun. So, how does it feel to be the number one assistant of the Princess of Friendship?”

“It’s pretty cool actually,” Spike shrugged his shoulders as he removed his new lamp hat off himself. “Still, there are times when it can be frustrating.”

“What do you mean by that?” Statice asked, raising an eyebrow. He had seen Spike barely having his contributions acknowledged, but was not sure if he was feeling negative about it and hiding it or if he just accepted it and was troubled by something else.

“Twilight is my best friend and she functions as a mother and big sister to me ever since I became her assistant,” Spike began with confidence, and then feeling reluctant after the first sentence. “Still, sometimes I feel that I don’t do much in comparison with the girls, other than just write letters or do castle chores for Twilight. I am no Element of Harmony and I play no part in saving Equestria.”

“You did save the Crystal Empire,” Statice reminded him.

“Yeah, but Twilight could have done it better if she could have used her magic,” Spike added, remembering that he only got to save the Crystal Empire because she had been rendered incapable of helping due to some dark crystal traps.

“You have a throne for yourself,” Statice pointed his head at the seven thrones. “If you didn’t deserve it, then you wouldn’t have it in the first place. Besides, you have a good life ahead of you. Maybe you’re destined to do something.”

“You really think so?” Spike asked hopefully.

“I do,” Statice playfully punched him on the shoulder. He was surprised to receive a hug from the purple drake. He gasped in surprise at the contact before returning the gesture. The last time he had received a hug like that was from Meadow. He really missed that sensation. Although Spike was about the same size as his younger brother, he was a lot less soft… it was probably the scales.

“Oh, that’s so sweet!” Statice heard Rarity’s voice as he broke the hug with Spike. Both boys blushed and tried to act manly as they saw the white unicorn and her friends giggle at him.

“Nothing happened!” Statice and Spike shouted at the same time, eliciting more laughter from the six mares. The stallion rubbed his head with a hoof while Spike hid his face with the lamp screen.

“The last song is playing, Aster,” Rarity walked to Statice. “Can you give a lady the last dance?” she blinked, more normally than seductively this time around. Somehow, she looked more beautiful than when she was trying to hit on him.

What the heck? She earned this dance for the suit she made.

“Sure,” Statice answered. He walked side by side with her to the center of the dance floor. They stood on their hind legs with Rarity straddling her forelegs onto Statice’s withers while Statice’s front hooves held her waist.

“Do you know how to dance?” Rarity asked gently.

“No,” Statice answered. “I just know that the dancers stand in their hind legs and walk circles around each other. I think that we can do that for a few minutes.”

“I’ll show you how to dance then,” Rarity gave him a reassuring smile.

“You don’t mind if I fly to eliminate the balancing on the hind legs issue, right?” he asked unsurely. "I don't want to make a fool out of myself out there, especially when the party is dedicated in my honor."

She hesitated. As much as Rarity wanted to dance with him, she preferred her hooves to be on the ground and not in the air. The reluctant look on his face convinced her to give him the chance. She gave him a nod of her head before the dance began.

They stood on their hind legs and walked in circles as they held closely to each other. Surprisingly enough, they held their own before Statice used his wings to fly a few inches from the ground. He dipped Rarity to let her see his eyes, scared but determined to try the dance. He put both of their hooves back on the ground where they alternated between dancing on the ground and back into the air. By the time the music stopped, both of them were standing on their hind legs and staring into each other’s eyes in surprise and shock. Wanting to get out of the situation, Statice lowered his front body to return himself and Rarity back to quadruped position. They were no longer touching each other...yet they were still close. The white unicorn was about to say something when they heard the stomping of hooves.

Both dancers turned their heads and found the party guests applauding them. Rarity gasped before posing elegantly for the crowd. Statice turned his head and rubbed the back of his mane. Unlike Rarity, he didn’t like to be the center of attention.

“Nice dancing, guys!” Pinkie Pie came in between Statice and Rarity, wrapping one foreleg across each of their necks. “Those were some nice moves.”

“You should try some pegasus moves next time,” Rainbow Dash advised him, although she had a supporting smile on her face.

“It was a beautiful dance,” Fluttershy spoke loudly. Somehow the dancing pair increased her confidence.

“You should try askin’ us to a dance next time, Aster,” Applejack winked at Statice, making him blush.

“Thank you,” Statice bowed his head.

“I gotta say that this was an excellent party,” Twilight smiled as she noticed the guests leaving.

“We all partied until we dropped,” Spike smiled at Twilight, his friends, Rarity, and surprisingly Statice. It stunned the stallion to see the dragon not being jealous after he saw him dance with the mare that he loved. For a kid, Spike was very mature and Statice respected that.

“I guess that we should leave now,” Statice smiled at the group.

“Eeyup,” Applejack tilted her head. “Mah big brother is waitin’ for me. We have to take Apple Bloom and Granny Smith back to Sweet Apple Acres. They’re already exhausted.”

“Eeyup,” Big Macintosh nodded as he held his youngest sister and his grandmother on his back. It was kind of reassuring for Statice to see such close family when he watched Applejack join her brother in the departure.

“I have to bring Scootaloo back to her house,” Rainbow Dash yawned before she flew and picked up the sleeping orange filly. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“My animals will get worried if I come in late,” Fluttershy spread her wings and flew away. “It’s been a lovely evening.”

“I have to sing lullabies to the Cake babies!” Pinkie Pie gasped as she ran from the castle. “Wait! I forgot to give you your goodnight hug! Come here, Aster!”

The pink mare gave Statice a mighty squeeze, knocking the air out of him. The hug was longer than expected, and he could have sworn that he heard Pinkie humming in concentration before making a dismissive shrug as she ended the embrace between the two of them. As the stallion gasped for air, Pinkie Pie bounced away.

“I’m going to take Spike to bed,” Twilight smiled at Statice and Rarity. “He usually gets sleepy at this hour.”

“I do not!” Spike protested before he started yawning. “Okay, maybe I’m just a little sleepy,” he smiled sheepishly.

“Aw,” Rarity nuzzled Spike. “Get yourself some rest, Spikey Wikey!” She gave the little dragon a kiss on the cheek, which knocked him unconscious.

“I guess you already gave him his rest,” Statice remarked dryly. In response to his comment, Twilight and Rarity laughed at him. The stallion got annoyed at their laughter. He didn’t understand what was so funny about it. He just pointed the obvious.

“I’ll take Sweetie Belle with me back home,” Rarity smiled at Twilight as she levitated her little sister onto her back. “You don’t mind joining me, Aster?”

“I don’t mind,” Statice shrugged his shoulders as they walked their way back to Carousel Boutique in the night.

The walk was awkward for Statice as he kept watch on his surroundings. Danger was at its most present at night. Granted, Ponyville was among the most peaceful locations he visited. It didn’t change the fact that it was prone to disasters. He wasn’t going to take chances when Rarity and Sweetie Belle were by his side.

Maybe Princess Luna should send her guards to do some patrolling over here. It would certainly help with her public image. I rarely hear anything about her in comparison with the other princesses.

The trio returned to Carousel Boutique in a few minutes. “Wait here,” Rarity instructed him as she climbed upstairs with Sweetie Belle on her magical grasp. The stallion stood there, uncomfortably watching his surroundings. He was safe, only for him to easily grow bored and agitated as a result of inactivity. The only living soul with him at the moment was Rarity’s cat, Opal.

The white cat stared at him with bored green eyes while he kept his distance. He had seen Opal’s antisocial behavior before. He was not going to get that close if it meant getting scratched. The white cat stood up and walked to him. Statice froze. If he got scratched, he may lose control and attack Opal. If he ran away, he was going to look like a fool. To his surprise, Opal purred and rubbed herself against him. The pegasus gasped as he brought a hoof and stroked her fur. The volume of Opal’s purrs increased, informing Statice that he was doing a good job.

“Oh my,” Rarity spoke as she looked impressed. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen that side of Opal. She rarely acts like this with me…unless she is with Fluttershy.” She spoke the last part with annoyance, although it was more out of irritation at the cat rather than malice at her friend.

“Is Sweetie Belle okay?” Statice asked.

“She is nicely tucked in bed,” Rarity smirked in satisfaction.

“Excellent,” Statice nodded his head and went up to walk out of the boutique. “Thank you for the suit, Rarity.”

Before he could get out, Rarity crossed the distance between them and gave him a kiss on the cheek, surprising him. “Thanks you for the date, Aster.”

“Date…?” Statice asked. Did he really go on a date with Rarity?

“Not a romantic date,” Rarity tittered, clarifying his doubt before he had the chance of asking it. “But I did have a nice time with you. If you ever want to visit a romantic place, you know where to find me.”

“Thank you, Rarity,” Statice smiled gratefully.

Once again, Rarity kissed him on the cheek, except that she closed the door on him this time around. The pegasus smiled before frowning in sadness, placing a hoof on the cheek that had been kissed twice. He spread his wings and flew away back to the Everfree Forest and into his lair.

“I’m home, Discord,” Statice muttered to nopony. He spoke to nopony until Discord blinked into existence at the sound of his name.

“Did you call, Statice?” Discord asked, looking quite satisfied but exhausted. “How did you do?”

“I got into a competition with Rainbow Dash over a cloud, Pinkie Pie made me a party, and Rarity tailored me a suit,” Statice summarized his day dejectedly.

“That sounds like a nice day if I do say so myself,” Discord touched the suit with his eagle talon, analyzing the fabric. “So why do you have the long face?”

“Pass me a storm cloud,” Statice asked him tiredly.

The draconequus frowned even as he still did as he was asked. A black cloud materialized in front of Statice. The stallion grabbed the cloud with his hooves and devoured it, much to Discord’s surprise.

“Did you just eat a thunder cloud?” Discord asked incredulously, not knowing if he should laugh or be worried.

Instead of answering, Statice grunted as he folded his wings to the sides. His new appendages fused into his barrel, disappearing from sight. Statice grunted more before a small green lightning bolt was shot from his forehead, taking a pointy appearance. His horn was back in place.

“That’s a good way to get back in touch with your unicorn self,” Discord smirked as he poked Statice’s horn.

The unicorn ignored him as he used his magic to recover his regular colors and return his voice to its original pitch. He looked downcast once he was back to his normal self.

“Is there something wrong, Statice?” Discord asked with concern. “Did something bad happen to you at Ponyville?”

“It was perfect,” Statice answered. “Nopony recognized me. I was thrown a welcome party. Everypony treated me nicely. Hay, even Rainbow Dash treated me nicely despite her first meeting with me as Aster. Rarity took me out on a date, a platonic one, and even gave me the option to date her in the true romantic sense if I so desire.”

Discord was confused. The way Statice described his day was quite the opposite of anypony else that may have gone through the same ordeal. Technically speaking, Statice had a great deal, so why was he so depressed about it?

“It was a great day,” Statice continued. “But it wasn’t a great day for me. It was a great day for Aster.”

“But you’re Aster,” Discord responded in a frustrated mood.

“I had a great day because I was Aster,” Statice replied bitterly. “If I had been Statice then it would have been a horrible day. I have to live knowing that the every good thing that was given to me on this day is a lie.”

“It is not a lie, Statice,” Discord placed his hands on his hips. “Believe me, I am an expert in lies. And what the ponies showed you was no lie. That hospitality was genuine. It's the classic Ponyville welcome they give the new guys like you. You have nothing to worry about.”

“It would turn into a lie if they knew who I really was,” Statice replied, this time in a defeated tone. “And the worst part is that I lied to them in spite of that kindness.”

“You’ve lied to others before, Statice,” Discord pointed at him awkwardly, remembering how many times the pony had lied across his career. “Besides, all of those times that you lied were to protect yourself. I don’t see what the difference is when revealing yourself gets you arrested.”

“I’m not sure,” Statice took a deep breath. “Back then, I was surrounded by jerks that wanted to hurt me so it was natural for me to lie to them. But this town is full of honest ponies that I never…I never expected to lie.”

Discord winced at his friend’s guilt. “I’m sorry, Statice,” he apologized, not sure what he was doing.

“Nothing has changed,” Statice covered his eyes with his hooves. “I retired…and yet I’m still a criminal that has to lie to remain free.”

“You still have me, Statice,” Discord consoled him, placing his lion paw on top of the unicorn’s head.

“Better than nothing,” Statice looked at Discord, feeling slightly better...only slightly. “I need to take a letter.”

Discord grinned as he snapped his fingers. He was holding a sheet of paper on his lion paw and a quill on his eagle talons. “Tell me what you want me to write.”

Statice gave him an impatient look. “Do I look like Twilight and her friends? I am not too lazy to write my own letters. Besides, something tells me that you may misspell my words,” he said as he levitated the quill and paper out of Discord’s hands.

“I would never do that!” Discord shouted in outrage.

“You’re the Spirit of Disharmony,” Statice gave him a blank look. “Do you think that I am going to trust your writing, your spelling, or your grammar?”

Discord opened his mouth to answer but stopped. The green unicorn did make a good point. Discord always had trouble writing, something that Fluttershy could attest with the letters she received from him. The draconequus was very eloquent, except that his chaotic nature kept him from writing without making orthographical mistakes. This is what made communication with Celestia so frustrating that the princess decided to resort to addressing him through summoning spells rather than writing letters.

“There,” Statice gave Discord the sheet of paper.

For a second, he was tempted to read the message, only for his friendship with Fluttershy to remind him about respecting the privacy of his friend. He snapped his fingers to summon an envelope that he somehow held with his tail. He folded the message neatly with his hands before placing it inside the envelope.

“I am going to need the directions for Hobuck, Statice,” Discord snapped his fingers to disguise himself as a mailman.

Statice didn’t say anything as he wrote all the information that he needed to reach his former home. He levitated the envelope to Discord, who saluted and then disappeared with yet another one of his finger snaps.

Statice took a deep breath, used his Hammerspace Spell to store the suit that Rarity made for him, and then he went to sleep. He had the best day of his life and yet…it wasn’t meant for him.

Another Day

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Another Day

The following morning was stressful. Sleep eluded Statice for most of the night, so he woke up before his Alarm Spell had the chance of waking him up. He did his morning routine with bathing and breakfast before he went to the Archive. He had to do a massive update with the new information that he gathered from the citizens of Ponyville. He did not get much, but it was more than what he obtained from Discord.

“I got enough to entertain me this morning,” Statice mused as he kept updating his database. His thoughts turned sour once he had finished with his updates. He didn’t have much to do now that he was done with updating his Archive.

The green unicorn lied down on the ground, trying to think of what to do. It didn’t take him long before groaning and covering his face with his hooves in frustration. Every time that he had an idea, some sort of scenario ran over his mind that told him not to do it. It was an aftereffect of learning how to think before doing something in his previous life, and one that Statice detested. How was he supposed to enjoy his retirement if his brain kept shutting down his ideas for fun?

“This wasn’t supposed to end like this,” Statice sighed in defeat.

“You mean your retirement?” Discord’s voice chimed in before he materialized into Statice's home.

Does this guy know about knocking on the door? Who am I kidding? He wouldn't do it even if I had one! Statice frowned upon hearing the question. “Why are you even asking me such obvious question, Discord?” Statice growled as he stood up and gave the draconequus an impatient scowl.

“I am simply trying to understand my new friend,” Discord gave Statice a hug, ignoring the unicorn shivering in disgust.

“I showed you my memories,” Statice dryly reminded him. “You saw how I got into this mess in the first place.”

“Seeing is one thing, but understanding is another,” Discord said, wearing some sort of psychology teacher getup. “What did you feel when you first started that fight at the beginning of your life in Equestria?”

“I might as well talk about it,” Statice muttered grudgingly. “I am not sure. I have been met with hostility since I left Hobuck that I react to it. I can’t help but retaliate against anypony who antagonizes me.”

“True that,” Discord snapped his fingers, showing a snippet of Statice getting into a bar fight. “Those two ponies looked like they were picking trouble. Chances are that they were going to attack you if you hadn’t done so first. By the way, I love that creative use you gave your lemonade in that fight.”

“The old trick of throwing sugarless lemonade in the eyes of your adversaries,” the green unicorn smiled wistfully as he remembered every single time he had used that trick as an outlaw. “That’s a classic.”

I call it genius!” Discord clapped his hands. “I’ve never seen ponies come up with such dirty fighting! I love it! Don’t get me wrong, I love Fluttershy and the ponies…but they can be a little too…simplistic when dealing with their know talking out their problems or blasting the bad guys away with artifacts of mystical power.”

“It’s not original,” Statice shook his head, remembering that he learned that trick when he saw another criminal do it in a bar brawl in one of his first visits to a bar. “I’ve seen enough fights with low tricks to know how to fight them dirtily.”

“You’d be surprised at how much fair play is important in Equestria,” Discord snorted. “Don’t misunderstand, some dirty fighting is shown, but it often comes in surprise tackles or throwing pies at faces.”

“That’s a waste of pie,” Statice remarked as he shook his head disapprovingly.

“You wasted liters of lemonade,” Discord countered with the same disapproving head shake that Statice made.

“What other idea do you have this time, Discord?” Statice asked. “Zecora is out of the question and that castle as well.”

“Either you explore the Everfree or you continue to Ponyville,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “There is not much that you can do now.”

“How about you and I do some magic training?” Statice suggested. “Digitalis and I used to do it to keep our skills fresh and our spells sharp.”

Discord stared at the green unicorn for a second before bursting into laughter. The draconequus hugged his stomach as he kicked his mismatched legs into the air. Statice did not look amused as the entity kept laughing at his face.

“Are you done?” Statice asked, his blood boiling with each roar of laughter that assaulted his ears. “I am very serious on my offer, Discord.”

“You think that you have a shot against me?” Discord pointed a finger at Statice as he bit his lip. “Forgive me for the laughter, but that's insane. Not even Celestia and Luna, the strongest ponies in Equestria, could do anything against me. They had to use the Elements of Harmony to have a fighting chance against my power. And you think that you can actually beat me?”

“I don’t think I can beat you, Discord,” Statice rolled his eyes at him.

“You know so, right?” Discord was struggling not to cackle anymore as he imagined the unicorn using that same counterstatement.

“Not really,” Statice looked at him stone-faced. “Defeating you on my own is impossible, even if I were to fight all out.”

That caught Discord’s attention. “If you know that you can’t beat me, then why are you challenging me?” he asked with a raised eyebrow. "You don't seem like the type of pony that would take a losing fight on purpose."

“Fighting somepony of a higher level helps anypony learn to grow stronger,” Statice stated as he stretched his legs. “If I fight somepony of a lower level, then I will only help him grow stronger. If I fight somepony on my level then we don’t get anything. Losing to somepony who is stronger than me lets me know what I can do to improve.”

“I think that you should choose somepony, preferably one who has a strength difference that is not so abysmal,” Discord teased, still giggling on the inside for what he considered an excuse of a challenge.

“Does it look like I have anypony else?” Statice shot back, growing annoyed at his partner. “Besides, if I can get stronger fighting you, then I won’t have much threats coming at me in the future.”

“Fair enough to me,” Discord snapped his fingers. He popped into view dressed in attire that had elements of a boxer, then a martial artist, a ninja, a samurai, and a royal guard.

“Let us prepare the arena,” Statice lighted his horn and opened a portal into Hammerspace. “Be my guest, Discord.”

“Thank you,” Discord bowed as he entered into the tear. The green unicorn followed after him, closing the portal and being greeted with the familiar white nothingness of Hammerspace. “But where are we going to fight now, Statice? This place has lots of room, but I don’t like to fight in the air.”

Especially when this air has no environment whatsoever. Would it kill Statice to put some clouds or some floating islands here? My dimension has more class than this place. Frankly...this empty white space is kinda scary.

“We’re going to make an arena,” Statice explained as he floated to Discord. “Just snap your fingers to create a piece of land that is five miles long. That would be enough for our contest of strength.”

“Can’t you just bring some fighting arena for us, Statice?” Discord placed his hands on his hips with a miffed expression on his face. “I don’t appreciate being a luggage carrier.”

“My Hammerspace stores things that I want,” Statice explained as he rubbed his temples, feeling a migraine coming up for trying to reason with his new guest and training partner. “The spell does not provide me with the things I need most of the time. This is why I am asking you to do it.”

Also, I don't think I can store a cursed arena on my own! I can't pick that much weight and store it in one go! I'm just a pony!

“Fine,” Discord grumbled, silently criticizing the green unicorn as a host.

A finger snap later got Statice and Discord stranded in a floating piece of rocky land, resembling a desert mountain or a canyon. Statice uttered a low whistle as he gave the draconequus a look of admiration and respect. “This is some nice fighting stage!” Statice acknowledged him. “I never thought you had so much power.”

“Part of being born the Spirit of Disharmony,” Discord smugly rubbed his eagle fist into his chest. “Now then, show me what you got!”

The answer that he got was several magic blasts coming straight at him. Discord cried out as he dodged the attack by bending and twisting his body in ways Statice thought unimaginable.

“I wasn’t ready to start!” Discord snapped at Statice.

“You told me to show you what I got!” Statice replied with equal frustration in his voice. “Besides, why are you so afraid of my blasts when you probably had worse from Celestia and Luna?”

“Weak or not, they still hurt,” Discord huffed as he crossed his arms. “It’s like getting mosquito bites. They hurt a little, and yet you can’t help but not like them.” As he said so, he blocked every bit of magic thrown at him with his lion paw.

“Let me see if this is a mosquito bite to you,” Statice grinned as he made a solid sphere of magic and threw it at Discord’s feet. The draconequus stared at the sphere for a few seconds before it broke.

From the sphere, many lightning bolts came out and spread into the sky before falling back into the ground and into Discord. The draconequus cried out in surprise as green lightning bolts hit him, even showing a detailed bone structure during the electrocution. By the time the lightning dissolved, Discord looked heavily charred, although still in one piece and looking very annoyed.

“Lightning-works Spell,” Statice winked smugly at Discord. “I reserve them for festivities on which fireworks are just not enough to celebrate.”

“Quite a sight to behold,” Discord changed his annoyed face to an amused one. He snapped his fingers and got rid of his injuries in record time. “But you won’t catch me off-guard a second time, Statice.”

“We’ll see about that,” Statice grinned as his horn cladded in magic. A green sphere of lightning was being formed at the tip.

“I’m not going to fall twice for the same trick,” Discord smiled confidently as a catcher’s mitt was conjured into his lion paw. He confidently punched his mitt with his eagle fist.

Statice hurled the ball at impressive speed. The draconequus extended his mitt to catch it, only for the speed to be faster than expected. The sphere hit Discord’s mitt and forced it to hit him in the stomach. The ball dissolved into an electrical discharge as he was being flown by the impact. By the time Discord landed on the ground, the lightning had disappeared and he was just as charred and frustrated as he was when he got his first hit.

“Lightning Ball Spell,” Statice explained. “It’s a hit and a shock.”

“I think that you got me to act serious,” Discord whispered threateningly. “You want to play with lightning? Then you got a storm of chaos coming straight at you, dear boy.”

“It’s about time,” Statice grinned, happy to have gotten the draconequus to drop his playful attitude for a change.

The next couple of minutes, Discord snapped the fingers of his lion paw and eagle talon like crazy, sending waves of chaos after Statice. He attacked by dropping rocks, explosive chocolate milk , restricting clouds made out of cotton candy, and even natural disasters. Any pride that Statice felt after getting Discord to fight seriously was dropped the minute he saw how the destructive the Spirit of Disharmony was when he got enraged. By the time he dodged an explosion, Discord had already caught him on his arms.

“I got you!” Discord exclaimed triumphantly. “I won the fight, Statice!”

Rather than saying something, Statice shot Discord with a magical blast. The draconequus frowned as he literally split his face in half to dodge the attack.

“Nopony likes a sore loser, Statice,” Discord said in a chastising tone. “I played the game at the best of my capacity and I can…UGH!”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence as a rock slammed into the back of his head. The draconequus lowered his head until he was staring at Statice right in the eye. The unicorn was giving him a teasing smirk as his horn was lighted in magic.

“You should have anticipated that,” he teased before Discord snarled at him. “You didn’t think I wasn’t going to levitate that huge rock behind you and pull it to the back of your head the second you started bragging, right?”

The draconequus promptly threw Statice into the air before rapidly snapping his fingers. Four chains materialized from thin air and shackled all of Statice’s legs. A new chain went for the neck and another one went for the horn. As much as Statice resisted, he couldn’t figure out a way to get out of the trap.

Can't move my legs! My horn is restricted too! I can't use my magic! Darn it! He's got me!

“I guess I’m beaten,” Statice admitted grudgingly. All of his legs were restricted and his horn shackle was painfully tight enough to prevent him from properly channeling his magic into it.

“That’s more like it,” Discord growled as he snapped his fingers. They were back in Statice’s lair in no time.

The chains vanished, leaving the unicorn to rub his sore extremities, neck, and horn without wincing. Though he hated to admit it, Statice had to respect the fact that Discord was a strong fighter once he dropped his wacky antics.

“Nice fight,” Statice forced himself to smile for his friend. He didn’t like to lose a fight by a big margin, but he did not mind if it was coming from an ally. To his surprise, Discord didn’t seem happy.

“It was a nice fight,” Discord said as he coldly grabbed Statice’s hoof and shook it.

“Is there something wrong?” Statice asked nervously. Half of him was scared that he may have done something to hurt Discord’s feelings while another half was annoyed at his attitude.

“Sorry, it's just that my head is a little sore,” Discord gave Statice a glare. “It’s not like you didn't use your magic to pick up a rock and give me a rabbit punch to the back of the head!”

Now it was Statice’s turn to look indignant. “Excuse me!” he yelled, feeling offended. “It was sparring match! And you agreed to it.”

“And you threw a rock at me!” Discord bellowed at Statice.

“It was just a fight!” Statice stomped his hoof. “Why are you so upset? You didn’t seem to mind about my spells hurting you! In fact, you can actually heal much better than I ever did.”

“It still hurt!” Discord gritted his teeth.

“And what is so wrong about that?” Statice asked. ‘It’s not like you haven’t received a hit before!”

“As a matter of fact, I never received a hit in my entire life,” Discord raised his head in protest. “At least I never got hit until now!”

“You still used your chains on me and you don’t see me whining about it!” Statice pointed at the vanishing red lines around all four of his legs.

“You’re used to pain while I am not!” Discord placed his face close to Statice’s.

This guy is such an ancient overgrown baby!

“Well you wouldn’t feel this pain if you took things seriously,” Statice pushed his head into Discord’s. “You got hit by that rock because you underestimated my ability with magic. It’s just like every one of your major defeats.”

“And what exactly do you mean by that?” Discord growled at Statice.

“It means that you had Equestria under your control and you blew it because you are an idiot,” Statice answered, remembering all of Discord’s misdeeds.

“I am not an idiot!” Discord pushed Statice back with his head.

“Yes, you are!” Statice glared at him. “You conquered Equestria and you had it taken away by Celestia and Luna because you were laughing like a dummy when they blasted you with the Elements.”

“I didn’t expect those Elements to be that powerful!” Discord gritted his teeth. “And I made a consistency plan to capture the sisters just in case that the Elements worked against me.”

“And it took until after your first redemption a thousand years later before those seeds started working,” Statice reminded him, feeling annoyed that his hibernation was prolonged because of the incident. "It sounds like your consistency plan was all for nothing when you no longer have any desire to conquer Equestria anymore, doesn't it?"

“I could have conquered Equestria right away had it not been for my friendship with Fluttershy!” Discord snapped his fingers to point at an adorable picture of the yellow pegasus.

“Yeah, first you let yourself be beaten by Celestia’s asocial student and her friends by repeating your ‘point your finger and laugh at them’ mistake and then you let them use their friendship to put you on a leash!” Statice said mockingly. “That’s some way to recover your kingdom. Let the girls use the same things that beat you while you are mocking them! I am sure that worked out well for you.”

Discord snarled at Statice. “You better watch what you’re saying.”

“What happened with Tirek was your biggest mistake,” Statice stared at him coldly. “Not only did you betray your friends, but you let yourself be betrayed by him. I expected better from a former threat of Equestria, especially the only villain who managed to conquer it for a little time…”

“You don’t know anything about what happened with me and Tirek!” Discord roared at Statice with enough strength to push the unicorn into a wall.

Statice groaned as his back collided with a wall. He was about to say something else when he noticed that Discord’s angry face showed signs of hurt.

“I thought that Tirek was my friend because I missed making chaos in Equestria,” he lowered his head in defeat. “For once I was happy to be myself without worrying about being sealed in stone or having my friends abandoning me. I should have seen that betrayal, but I didn’t because deep down…I wanted a friend that could accept me for what I was.”

Statice grimaced. He had clearly crossed a line. “Discord,” he began as he walked forward to him.

“Forget this!” Discord yelled. “I think I had enough of you for today!”

With all said and done, the Spirit of Disharmony snapped his fingers and disappeared. Statice just stood there wondering what he did wrong.

“I messed up,” Statice said, rubbing his head.

The sparring match was a complete failure. Discord was a fun opponent…annoying, but nonetheless fun in his own bizarre way. It had been a while since he had an entertaining sparring match…the last time being with Digitalis. Moments like this made Statice wish his best friend could be there to provide him with advice for this kind of moments. And now, Discord was probably not going to spar with him again after that disastrous fight.

“I messed up,” Statice repeated to himself as he got out of his home and wandered across the Everfree Forest. Not having much else to do, Statice’s mind started planning scenarios with Discord.

Best case scenario: Discord was going to break up his friendship with Statice. Worst case scenario: He was going to tell the princesses and the Elements of Harmony where he was.

“Why did I have to make an enmity with the Spirit of Disharmony?” Statice chastised himself as he kept moving forward.

If his calculations were right, this was going to be the first of the very few days of freedom that Statice had remaining. There was no way that Discord was going to forgive him for a little spat just like that. He was chaos incarnate, which meant that he was probably going to get back at Statice by turning him over.

Statice gritted his teeth in frustration. Things were still getting worse for him. No matter who he met, Statice was bound to either befriend a jerk who was going to betray him or gain the enmity of somepony who could have been an excellent ally.

“I’m going to work out again,” Statice told to nopony as he saw two large boulders on the way. He concentrated his magic and lifted both of them into the air. He kept them on the air for a few seconds before repeating a cycle of raising them and lowering them.

Sweat was coming out of Statice’s forehead. The boulders were heavy enough to test his magic, but not too heavy to make them impossible to lift. He was going to need to do lots of repetition if he was to work out his magic.

“HI, STATIC!” three voices called in a chorus.

Statice turned his head around, still keeping the boulders in place. The Cutie Mark Crusaders stared at him with smiling faces, except that Sweetie Belle had a blush on her cheeks along with a wider smile.

“Hi,” Statice greeted them while trying to keep a social smile.

“What are ya doing?” Apple Bloom asked, looking at the boulders that he was levitating in his grasp.

“I’m doing a magical workout,” Statice answered as he resumed his training.

“You can work out your magic?” Scootaloo asked in disbelief.

“A unicorn can work out his magic the same way a pegasus can work out his wings to fly better,” Statice answered, trying to be patient with the fillies. He didn’t want to explain about his magic, but he knew that he was going to do it anyway.

“You mean that if I work out my magic then I can do better?” Sweetie Belle asked with an excited smile.

“Magic is like muscle,” Statice answered, not even bothering to give her an affirmation. "Constant practice makes your magic feel solid. If you make your own training methods and slowly exert yourself to surpass them then you’ll get better.”

“Can you teach me?” Sweetie Belle asked with hopeful eyes.

“You already have a teacher!” Scootaloo reminded her indignantly. “Her name is Twilight! Remember! She's the Element of Magic and the Princess of Friendship!”

“Yes,” Sweetie Belle replied in an annoyed voice. “But she makes me levitate brooms and other small objects. I want to lift boulders!”

“You better stick to her training,” Statice counseled her before she got any ideas. “A wise pony once told me to start small before going to the big leagues. These boulders right here are only half my limit to keep my magic well-toned.”

“What do you mean by well-toned?” Apple Bloom asked with a raised eyebrow. She had heard some mares talking about how well toned her brother was. She didn’t understand what they meant, but she felt curious now that Statice was using the same expression.

“Well toned magic is that your magic can work quickly and efficiently,” Statice explained as best as he remembered. He wished that he were Digitalis to explain it with more detail. “It’s like when your body’s muscles are toned enough to do hard work fast.”

“You mean like Rainbow Dash when she flies?” Scootaloo asked.

Before Statice could answer, Apple Bloom did it for him. “He doesn’t know who Rainbow Dash is, Scootaloo. He just moved to the Everfree Forest!”

As grateful as Statice was for Apple Bloom for her help, he was annoyed because he had to spend the rest of his training hearing about how great Rainbow Dash was. As much as he understood Scootaloo’s love for her idol, he was still quite miffed with having to hear her speak about the rainbow pony. Seriously, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle had two older sisters to admire and yet they never spoke about them as obsessively as Scootaloo did. Although, given that they both live close enough to their sisters to know their flaws, it was of no surprise that Scootaloo spoke of Rainbow Dash so highly as she didn’t live close enough to her to learn that her idol was as flawed as anypony else.

Then again, maybe my brother annoys his friends by talking about me all the time. I guess I don't have any right to complain about her talking about Rainbow Dash. Braggart or not, at least she has a clean slate.

Once his training was done, Statice sat on his haunches before falling on his back in exhaustion. Since there was an absence of heavy things, Statice had to settle with lifting to maintain his magic tone.

“Are you really that tired already?” Scootaloo asked in bewilderment.

“Don’t judge him, Scootaloo!” Sweetie Belle glared at her.

“I’m just saying,” Scootaloo lifted a placating hoof. “It’s just that, compared to what we’ve seen Twilight do before…”

Sweetie Belle attempted to protest, sputtering for a few seconds as she remembered all the magical feats that Twilight had accomplished over the years. Unknown to the fillies, Statice was quite familiar with Twilight’s magic as well.

It wasn’t just him being slammed repeatedly by Twilight in a display of righteous ire. He had seen Twilight defeat an Ursa Minor big enough to destroy Ponyville back when she was a unicorn. A part of Statice dreaded how powerful Twilight’s magic was now that she was an alicorn. He was sure that even if she had still remained a unicorn that her magic was still the most powerful between him and her. What made this gap in power more apparent was having the Crusaders giving him a crash course on all the amazing stuff that Twilight had done with her magic.

“Can you levitate a pebble, Sweetie Belle?” Statice asked in the middle of their impromptu lecture. Sweetie Belle perked up at the mention of her name.

“Of course, Static!” she lighted her horn and did as he asked her to do.

Statice smiled approvingly before taking the pebble and placing it far away from her reach, until it was barely visible to her.

“Try to do it again,” Statice gave her an encouraging smile.

Sweetie Belle smiled and concentrated her magic. To her surprise, the pebble weighed more than before, and although it was surrounded by her magic, it did not budge from its spot. After a minute of concentration, Sweetie Belle lost her magic aura and was now panting heavily.

“What just happened?” Apple Bloom asked in stunned surprise. “Why couldn’t she lift a pebble when she did it so easily?”

“Levitation has three weakening factors,” Statice explained, remembering the first time he faced those obstacles. “One: you cannot levitate an object that is heavier than what you can lift.”

“But the pebble wasn't even heavy,” Scootaloo countered. “I’ve seen Sweetie Belle lift heavier stuff than this. Well…they’re really not that heavy, but they’re still heavier than some pebble.” The orange pegasus looked embarrassed, realizing how lame her comeback was with the last sentence. Statice did not seem fazed as he continued with his explanation.

“Two: you cannot levitate more than one object if their combined weight is more than what you can actually lift or if you don’t have the concentration to properly shroud enough magic in both of them.”

“But Sweetie Belle was just liftin’ one pebble,” Apple Bloom commented with the same stubbornness as Scootaloo. Statice just decided to finish his lecture.

“Three: you cannot lift an object if you cannot concentrate your magic at a certain distance. If the object is too far, then it's going to be harder for you to enshroud it in magic and then lift it.”

“I didn’t know that,” Sweetie Belle admitted, visually surprised, but not discouraged by her failure. “Well, I did, but I didn’t understand some of Twilight’s words.”

“I had a similar mentor once,” Statice smiled fondly as he remembered how hard he struggled when levitating objects when Digitalis tried to give him an explanation on the mechanics of the spell. He was grateful that Digitalis was comprehensive enough to show him by example when words were not enough.

“Have you ever tried to become a teacher, Statice?” Apple Bloom asked smiling at the green unicorn. “You’re very good, and Ah think Ah learned somethin’ about magic even though Ah can’t use it.”

“Yeah!” Scootaloo buzzed her wings happily. “You take the boring and confusing part out of the lesson and make it straight to the point!”

A little part of Statice wanted to face hoof. Being a teacher would have been a respectable job. He could have gotten a good pay and a decent social life if he helped the foals of his residence. If he made it into another town, he was going to make sure to become a teacher.

“I don’t think that I can be a teacher,” Statice humbly told them. “But I think that I got a cutie mark for you.”

“Really?” the Cutie Mark Crusaders asked as they stood on Statice’s belly. The green unicorn grunted as he felt the combined weight of the three fillies on top of him. He was going to scold them for trampling him, only to find himself mute thanks to their hopeful smiles.

Statice sighed as he came up with his ideas. “How about you girls try to get a cutie mark in counseling? I am going to pretend to be somepony else with a problem and you girls give me some advice.”


That was enough to let Statice know that they were going to help him out. He smiled as he now could bring his problem with Discord without getting caught. He took a deep breath to prepare what he was going to say.

“What’s taking you so long?” Scootaloo asked impatiently. “I wanna try to get a cutie mark.”

“I’m trying to come up with a case for you,” Statice half-lied. “I just need time to formulate a scenario that you can solve.”

“Sorry,” Scootaloo folded her ears in embarrassment and chuckled nervously. “I got a little overexcited.”

Statice didn’t answer. He remembered his fight with Discord and tried to make a story out of it. It had to be something that was relatable to the problem yet subtle enough to not let his association with the draconequus look apparent. A grin spread on his face as he came up with a cover story before he frowned and acted like a troubled pony.

“I have a problem, girls. You see, my friend and I got into a little playful snowball fight. My friend is much stronger than me, but I didn’t mind since the two of us agreed that he was going to hold back. He did as promised and I was barely holding my own before he dropped his guard to start taunting me. I got annoyed, but I kept my cool and manage to hit him a few times while he was bluffing. After enough snowballs, he got mad and went all out on me, winning the fight. However, the dude was still upset with me despite winning and getting back at me, so we got into a real fight on which I told him that he was careless and for that he got hit more than he should have been during the snowball fight, and we have not talked to each other since then. What do I do?”

“The way I see it's your friend’s fault,” Scootaloo spoke in a professional accent, which she imitated from Miss Harshwhinny the last time she came to her school.

“How is it the friend’s fault?” Apple Bloom asked in outrage. “No disrespect, Static, but ya shouldn’t say mean things to yer friends over some snowball fight.”

“The guy had it coming!” Scootaloo snapped back. “He was stronger than Static and holding back and yet he still had enough time to showboat. If he got hit, then it is his fault and he has no right to whine about that, especially since he won.”

“But it’s not about winnin’ or losin’,” Apple Bloom stomped her hoof decisively as she glared at Scootaloo with fierce eyes. “This is about not lettin’ some competition get in the way of yer friends. Haven’t ya seen mah sister and Rainbow Dash compete enough times to learn this lesson?”

“I think that you both need to talk things over,” Sweetie Belle suggested before Scootaloo retaliated. “I think that your friend is more upset about something other than the snowball fight, Static. You should talk to him about what’s wrong with him and find out how to make things better. Then you must let him know that his actions hurt your feelings and that he needs to be more considerate with you.”

After giving her answer, Sweetie Belle was met with open jaws from her friends and a surprised glance from Statice. None of them expected her to come up with such wise words. The stunned silence got to her as she took a few steps away from them. “Was it something I said?” she asked with a mixture of innocence and guilt.

“No,” Statice stood up with a shake of his head. He was giving a satisfied smile at the white unicorn. “You did an excellent job with the problem.”

Sweetie Belle gasped in delight, checking at her flank for a cutie mark. She was disappointed to see it bare. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo also checked their own flanks but groaned in equal disappointment when they saw no cutie marks.

“You’ll get them someday,” Statice spoke up, giving each of them a pat on the head before they had a chance to complain. “Anyway, thank you for your time. You must get going now. It’s going to be late.”

“You’re right!” Apple Bloom yelled in alarm. “It’s going to be dinner in a few minutes. Granny Smith is gonna get mad at me if Ah come in late.”

The yellow filly left the place running as fast as her little legs carried her.

“I better go after her,” Scootaloo shrugged her shoulders. “I need to go back to my house and do my homework. Miss Cheerilee is gonna be mad if I don’t complete it like last time.”

The orange filly followed in after her friend, leaving Sweetie Belle with Statice.

“Thank you for the magic lesson,” Sweetie Belle hugged Statice’s foreleg. “I’m going to practice with my magic from now on.”

“You’re welcome,” Statice wrapped a foreleg around Sweetie Belle to return the hug. Much to his surprise, the white filly lifted her head and kissed him on the cheek. He had gotten one before for saving her life, except that this time it was for no reason.

“Consider this a thank you for trying to give me a cutie mark,” Sweetie Belle smiled as she went after her friends.

Statice stood there, waving at the filly. He placed his hoof on his cheek. Ever since he had come to Equestria, affection has been very common for him. He had rarely received it before and now it just stunned him. Years of getting threats and insults felt more normal to him now than a hug or a kiss.

“I guess I’m messed up,” Statice shook his head to get rid of his confusion. He went back to his home once he noticed that the sun was settling down. That night, he waited for Discord to show up but the draconequus didn’t appear.

“I wonder if Discord ever sent that letter I gave him yesterday,” Statice wondered before closing his eyes. He might as well enjoy his slumber because, if things went downhill for him, it was going to be his last.

Earlier that morning, in a land far away from Equestria, a unicorn colt came out of a flower shop. He had a green coat, a mane and tail that came in shades of purple and blue, and yellow eyes. He had no cutie mark yet, but he didn’t mind at the time. All that he cared was to check on the mail and see if he got a letter.

He used the levitation trick that his brother taught him: visualize the mailbox opening and the letters flying in front of him. He read the envelopes, most of them to be delivered to his parents. He paused when he noticed a letter directed to him. A smile spread on his face as he darted inside the house with the letters on his grasp.

“I got your letters!” he sped across his parents, giving them their letters as he passed them by. “I gotta check on my letters.”

He locked himself onto his room and started reading his letter in a loud but still silent voice.

Dear Meadow Tails

It’s been so long since I’ve last sent you a letter. On my previous session, I had informed you that I retired from my profession and that I was to turn a new leaf. Well, it was easier said than done. I no longer do dangerous stuff for money, but somehow trouble still keeps finding me. Everywhere I go, I find jerks that antagonize me, and when I fight back, I end up becoming a fugitive. These last moments have been very difficult for me with virtually no friends. Fortunately, I made a friend after my latest escapade. He is kind of wacky but he is nice…more or less. He is kind of like me in having a shady past but he is working on it. I know that you might think that it’s a bad idea to associate myself with him but I have no other friend left. Anyway, I’ll inform you if things start to get better.

Your loving brother, Statice.

Meadow Tails smiled at the letter. He levitated it and brought a small wooden box hidden under his bed. He opened the box to reveal that its contents were full of letters from the same writer.

“I’m glad you’re safe, Statice,” Meadow Tails smiled, glad that his big brother had a friend at least. He deserved one after all that he had been through.

“It’s nice to see Meadow having a letter from his pen pal,” Lavender Petals smiled as she checked through her mail. She was a unicorn that shared her son’s coat, mane, and tail with the exception of blue eyes and a flower cutie mark.

“Our son is quite popular inside and outside of Hobuck,” Great Garden smiled back at his wife. He was a unicorn with a brown coat, a tricolored mane of red, white, and yellow, and golden eyes. His cutie mark was a collection of gardening tools, a reflection of his job in his family’s flower shop that had been passed on through generations.

“I am just glad that Meadow is hanging out with kids his age,” Lavender nuzzled her husband lovingly. “I was really worried about that imaginary friend of his.”

“He was more of an imaginary brother,” Great Garden chuckled in nostalgia. “His name was Statice, wasn’t he?”

He didn’t get an answer as his wife was now wearing a pensive frown. She was struggling to remember something as she rubbed her head with a hoof.

“Was it something I said, dear?” Great Garden asked worryingly.

“No,” Lavender shook her head while laughing nervously. “I am sorry, dear. It’s just that Statice sounded like a familiar name. It feels as if I heard it before.”

It was Great Garden’s turn to frown. “Now that I think about it, weren’t we going to name Meadow Tails as Statice when he was born? He is our first child so we wanted to give him a memorable name.”

“The flower of remembrance,” Lavender swooned romantically. “It’s such a perfect name for such wonderful occasion. I swear that we named him Statice on his birth certificate.”

“So did I,” Great Garden was rubbing his head. “But I assume that we must have been confused.”

Lavender giggled at that explanation. “You’re right. Why would anypony care if our son was named Statice anyway?”

As the conversation descended into playful flirting, a door opened for a little bit. A green unicorn colt was sadly peaking over them as he remembered the story of how he got his name from his older brother.

“If only you knew the truth,” he silently told his parents before coming back to his room. Sometimes, being the only link between his parents and his older brother was the hardest thing he ever did.

Daily Life

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Daily Life

The next day was pretty much the same routine as before, except that Discord didn't show up. As much as Statice hated to admit it, he missed Discord. The draconequus was the only living soul that visited him and with whom he shared his past. He was the only being that understood him with Digitalis gone and Meadow Tails too far away to talk. The day was pretty much boring as Statice was forced to do calisthenics to spend his time. Even worse, the Crusaders did not visit him so Statice spent the day pretty much sleeping out of boredom.

No wonder Twilight made friendship her shtick. Being alone is unbearable once you've had somepony by your side for too long!

The following day was the same... and the next one after that. By the fourth day, he received a visit from the Crusaders, more precisely from Sweetie Belle, with her other two friends acting as moral support. She wanted some tips on how to improve her levitation spell. She had talked with Twilight about what she had learned from him on their previous meeting. Statice was afraid at first because he thought that she may have given away his existence to Twilight, but he relaxed when Sweetie Belle informed him that she had told Twilight that she learned it from a magic book that she read at the library…before it was destroyed. Statice was relieved that his secret was still safe and pleasantly surprised that his magic knowledge had been correct when Twilight verified the theory. He still felt pretty bad for Sweetie Belle, who had to spend an extra hour of Twilight Time learning about magic tone, strength, and endurance from the perfectionist scholar. Despite this, he was satisfied with the filly wanting to learn from him, at least a little.

Guess that means I'm a better teacher than Twilight, at least when it comes to being fun to have around.

“We’re gonna start with a mental exercise to develop your focus,” Statice began as he used Hammerspace to bring a chocolate cupcake onto his hoof. The Crusaders looked in awe at the pastry.

“Are you going to teach me how to summon cupcakes?” Sweetie Belle asked with stars in her eyes.

“I hope he does,” Scootaloo licked her lips as she looked at the cupcake.

“Ah wonder if he can summon apple treats,” Apple Bloom wondered. Although she liked sweets, she was still a devoted lover of apples.

I should've picked a better, less distracting choice... Statice took a deep breath to calm down. “Imagine that everything around you is pitch-black and that the only visible thing you see is the cupcake that I am holding,” he instructed as he placed the cupcake in front of the Crusaders.

“How do I do that?” Sweetie Belle tilted her head in confusion. “I see many colors all the time, so I don’t know how to turn them black.”

“Close your eyes and just visualize the cupcake in the darkness that you see,” Statice rolled his eyes at having to deal with such distraction.

“But if you close your eyes then how are you gonna see in the first place?” Scootaloo asked as she rubbed her head. Thinking about what the green unicorn said gave her a headache.

“Wait a second,” Apple Bloom told Scootaloo. “Ah think that you’re gettin’ it wrong. You can still see with yer eyes closed. It’s just that the only thing that ya see is darkness.”

“You can still see darkness with your eyes open!” Scootaloo countered. “Turn off the lights and you’ll see darkness.”

“You can still see darkness when you close your eyes too,” Apple Bloom pushed her head to Scootaloo’s. “In fact, darkness and seein’ nothin’ look kind of the same whether ya have yer eyes open or closed!”

Statice was about to tell the fillies to shut up, only to remember a similar case back when he was a foal. Statice had been very young when he left Hobuck to start a new life and he needed to learn insanely fast if he was to survive. Digitalis made sure to teach Statice everything he knew to ensure that his younger friend was capable of surviving whatever fate threw at them. The learning process was very hard as Digitalis was unsure on how to teach and Statice was too easily distracted to learn. It took months of extensive tutelage for them to find an excellent teaching and learning dynamic.

So that's how Digi must have felt like when he was trying to educate me...

Remembering those moments made Statice feel bad for causing so much trouble for Digitalis and a little ashamed for thinking of yelling at the Crusaders. He decided to continue his teaching and ignore the argument Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were having behind them. He was going to focus on Sweetie Belle.

“Did you focus on the cupcake?” Statice asked pleasantly as he noticed Sweetie Belle had her eyes closed.

“I can see it,” Sweetie Belle smiled. “I just closed my eyes and imagined the cupcake where you left it.”

“Light your horn with magic and imagine that magic surrounding the cupcake,” Statice instructed, his eyes alternating between Sweetie Belle’s horn and the objective in front of her.

“I’m trying,” Sweetie Belle concentrated as her horn lit with magic. Statice shifted his eyes to the cupcake and was satisfied to see it being covered in green magic. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo stopped their argument to watch in awe, but Statice gestured them not to talk or say anything else with a glare and wave of his hoof.

“Imagine the cupcake moving to the left, then to the right, up, down, and back to the center again,” Statice told him, watching in satisfaction as the cupcake moved in the exact same directions as he told her to move it.

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were smiling with glee at their friend’s progress. She was doing levitation with her eyes closed! Statice noticed their joy and gave them a smirk, gesturing them to be quiet.

“Now extend your hoof and imagine it in the darkness with the cupcake,” Statice instructed as he watched Sweetie Belle extend her foreleg. “Imagine that the cupcake is flying towards you…only to stop and lower itself onto your outstretched hoof.”

Sweetie Belle did as she was told. She imagined the cupcake getting closer to her and then resting on her hoof. She knew that she did her trial right when she felt the weight of the cupcake resting on top of her hoof. It was as if she was literally holding a real cupcake on her hoof.

“I think I did it!” Sweetie Belle smiled softly. “I think that I can feel the cupcake on my hoof. It feels surprisingly heavy for an imaginary cupcake.”

Her friends giggled behind her before Statice spoke. “Open your eyes, Sweetie Belle,” he gently told her, feeling proud for her accomplishment.

Sweetie Belle did as she was told and was surprised to see the real cupcake resting on her hoof. She turned her head to her friends, who were giving her congratulatory smiles, and then to Statice, who seemed content with her development. Sweetie Belle gave a shriek of celebration at her accomplishment, making the other three ponies cover their ears. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo were smiling out of joy for their friend. Statice, on the other hoof, was grimacing and rubbing his ears.

How is it that this kid's special talent is not being a living siren?

“I think Sweetie Belle is part banshee,” Statice muttered in an inaudible voice that sounded like noiseless mouthing. He felt a pair of hooves wrapping around his neck as he let go off his ears to look at Sweetie Belle.

“Thank you so much for the lesson, Static!” Sweetie Belle nuzzled Statice’s cheek with her own before kissing it. ‘

“You’re welcome,” Statice gave her a curt nod. “Try to practice this on a daily basis and you’ll notice that your levitation skills are better than ever.”

Sweetie Belle left the Everfree Forest with a bounce on her step. Apple Bloom and Scootaloo left as well, but not before they gave Statice a goodbye hug.

“Thank you for helpin’ Sweetie Belle, Static!” Apple Bloom finished her hug.

“Yeah!” Scootaloo exclaimed as she ate the cupcake that Sweetie Belle had levitated. Sweetie Belle didn’t want to eat it and neither did Statice so she took it for herself as she didn’t want it to go to waste. “I think it’s awesome that Sweetie Belle is getting some help with her magic.”

“Any time, girls,” Statice told them in a welcoming tone. “I’ll be there for you any time that you need my help.”

Anytime didn’t come soon enough. The next two days were boring as neither Discord nor the Crusaders showed up to his lair. Statice just kept the same routine that he did since his fight with Discord. How was he going to apologize to the draconequus if Discord kept avoiding him? He had time to plan his apology, but every second of boring wait either made Statice forget about it or debate with himself on rather he should plan an apology or just improvise one from the heart.

I’m running out of options. I can’t get outside. I already tried all the options inside here. I only have one thing to try.

“I better check on my Euphoria Spell,” Statice sighed in a defeated tone.

The Euphoria Spell was a spell that Statice designed to deal with negative emotions when there was no way to cheer him up. It made Statice feel happy and relaxed by making everything around him look and sound funny. The only downside is that it made him stupid and that was something that he was never supposed to be in his previous life. He had used the spell only in vacations so he wasn’t fully sure on all the effects the spell had on him.

“Only one way to find out,” Statice declared as he released the spell. His vision became blurry as the spell was done. He swore that his hoof looked like it was made from tiny little dots.

“Is it just me…or is everything…like made of many… tiny little dots?” Statice asked to nopony in particular. He spoke the words slowly and with some difficulty, feeling the adverse effects of his spell affecting him and not caring at all.

“That’s dot of my concern,” Discord answered as he popped into view. He looked like he was back to his old self, but he looked a little too submissive, almost wary of him.

The green unicorn tried to say something, only to burst into laughter. “You replaced ‘not’ with ‘dot’! That was hilarious! You’re a good at this, Discord!”

“It wasn’t that good of a joke, Statice!” Discord replied with a confused expression at his friend’s behavior. “And explaining the joke does nothing but take the fun away from it. Anyway, I came here to have a talk with you.”

“Discord is being the straight pony!” Statice erupted in harder laughter. “Now I’ve seen it tall! Say it again, but with an angry face.”

“I can be serious as well!” Discord complained in a whinny tone. He only got the green unicorn to laugh at him again.

“You’re the best, Discord hallucination! But I don’t think that Discord will ever act the same way you do. Now that I think about it, I must add hallucinations to the list of side effects to the Euphoria Spell.”

“That’s the Euphoria Spell?” Discord asked in surprise. He had read about it on Statice’s Archive but he never imagined how powerful the effect was going to be on the green stallion.

“Hall-you-she-nation is written with or without an h?” Statice asked as he rubbed his head with a hoof. “I can’t think well while under this spell. Maybe I am supposed to write that on that section of the Euphoria Spell.”

“Slurred speech,” Discord observed in a dry tone. Normally, he’d enjoy having conversations with anypony with that problem. It made every sentence funnier than what they were meant to be. With Statice, hearing him talk like that just felt unnatural…and he was the expert in being unnatural! “And for the record, hallucination does carry an h at the beginning of the word…and that h is pronounced silently as well.”

“How do I know that you’re not lying to me?” Statice asked with suspicion, or at least the equivalent of suspicion that was possible to show in his loopy state. “You’re the Spirit of Dis-harmonica! For all I care, you’re just trying to make me write the word incorrectly and then make fun of me for misspelling it.”

Discord gasped in offense. “I would never do that to a friend!” he exclaimed indignantly before getting pensive. “Well, I could do it to Twilight, but I’m not sure if I can put her in such position when she probably memorized every word in the dictionary.”

“Nerd,” Statice chuckled. “What kind of sad, pathetic lifestyle a pony must have if she actually bothers to learn all the words of a dictionary?”

“One who at least was happy about her life,” Discord snapped at him. Though he liked Statice and understood that he was not in his best state of mind, he was not going to allow him to insult Twilight after she had forgiven him for his betrayal.

“Now that hurts my feelings!” Statice gave Discord a smile that looked…broken. He was still grinning dumbly at the draconequus, but his eyes were glistening a little bit with hurt.

“Well, I’m sorry,” Discord rubbed the back of his head in awkwardness. “You hurt my feelings the last time we met so I am a little testy.”

“OH!” Statice exclaimed in surprise. “That de-minds me, I prepared an apology exclusively for you during the time you were accent, I mean absent.”

“You did?” Discord asked in surprise. He never expected the unicorn to apologize for what had happened between them.

“Sure,” Statice stared at Discord in the eye. “After our fight, I met with the Crusaders and talked about our problems, without letting them know it was us, and they told me that we are supposed to talk about how we hurt each other’s feelings.”

“They did?” Discord asked in surprise for the second time. He never thought the Cutie Mark Crusaders were this perceptive in friendship troubles. Either their time with Twilight Sparkle made them more mature or they were more mature than their older sisters thought they were.

“This is going to be very hard, Dish-cord,” Statice informed him as he regained a serious frown on his face although with his slurry speech still apparent. “I’m not the type of pony that apologizes because I think that I am right. You do have a problem with not taking things seriously.”

“Worst apology ever,” Discord huffed at Statice. He was going to leave before Statice decided to continue with his apology…or at least that poorly made attempt to apologize.

“If you were in a fight and you captured a supersonic pegasus like Rainbow Dash in your hands or a unicorn that can make her legs move at the speed of light with a spell, chances are that you’ll get to kiss their hooves thousands of times in one second before you have the chance to say a word. That’s how easily dish-tracted you can get once you think that you won a fight.”

Discord cringed at Statice’s words. That didn’t sound like an apology. It sounded more like an insult. It wasn’t only that, but the scenarios that he mentioned were indeed quite painful when he thought about them. He didn’t feel like getting kicked thousand times in the face in less than a second. He was sure that even with his magic there was no way to repair whatever damage he may receive with that kind of attack. Statice noticed his expression and softened his frown.

“However, I only said those hurtful things because I care about you. I don’t know how to inform some-bunny of their flaws so when I tell them I end up sounding harsher than what I meant to be. I c-care about you and sometimes when you care about somepony your words can turn hurtful at times. What I am trying to say is that I am sorry for hurting you. I was only trying to help you to learn when to be she-cereal.”

Discord stared at Statice, watching as the unicorn yawned and looked at him silently, expecting him to say something. His apology was not what he expected. To be honest, even when Statice tried to sound comprehensive, it still sounded harsh and a little messed up. Despite this, he saw the sincerity in Statice’s eyes. He really meant what he said. The unicorn cared about him.

“I’ve heard better apologies,” Discord finally answered. “It pales in comparison with any other apologies I’ve ever heard, such as the one I gave Twilight after she saved me from Tirek despite my betrayal.”

“Jerk,” Statice giggled. He choked a little bit in laughter and annoyance.

“But I can see that you’re just as new in being a friend as I am so I accept your apology,” Discord smiled as he extended his lion paw in a friendly hoof shake.

Statice smiled as he extended a foreleg and gave Discord’s paw a shake. “Let’s celebrate with some laugher!” He lighted his horn with magic and casted the Euphoria Spell again, this time including Discord in the party.

The pair spent the rest of the day laughing and talking about their misadventures and former escapades. It felt good for both of them to talk about those incidents without having somepony to judge them. It was probably the most fun that they ever had in a conversation. By the time that Discord left, it was clear that they were back in good terms now.

“I’ll see you later, Statice!” Discord promised, walking with a clumsy step before disappearing with a finger snap.

“You’re welcome to come back,” Statice called after him, ignoring the fact that the draconequus had already disappeared. Out of the two, he was the least affected by the spell now, mainly because he had used the spell on himself so many times that he had learned to tolerate the effects in a shorter time than others who were under the same conditions as him.

“Well it was a nice day,” Statice spoke to nopony in particular. His voice was no longer slurry, but he was still feeling optimistic because of the spell. His reconciliation with Discord only cemented the effects of the spell.

Statice went on to sleep happily for the rest of the night. No hidden doubts or complications inside his mind kept him awake longer than necessary. He just closed his eyes, waited a few minutes, and he was back in the numbing darkness that expected him by the end of the day.

Later that night, a lone figure was flying across the skies of Equestria. It was a new moon, a lunar phase on which the moon was at its darkest. Other than the stars, there was no way to see anything in the sky under this type of nights. Anypony could lift their heads into the sky and they’d be barely able to recognize anything flying into the sky. Still, although fliers could not be seen from below, this didn’t mean that they could see well from above. New moon nights were the darkest on Equestria, whether on land or sky. The only way it was safe for anypony to fly in the night was to have excellent nocturnal vision or have equipment for such conditions. For the stranger that was flying so late, the darkness was no longer a trouble for his eyes…not anymore.

He sniffed at the air, trying to find the scent that he had been tracking for months. It had been so long since he had seen his target. It had managed to escape him after their last encounter turned into a huge brawl. But he had gotten used to its scent so it was going to be easy to find his prey.

That scent was foul, not as foul as it was when he had first smelled it, but it still lingered on his nostrils. As long as that stench kept following his target, he was bound to find it.

“I will find you, Statice,” the stranger promised. “You will pay for what you took from me if it’s the last thing that I’ll do.”

The next morning was entertaining for Statice. He woke up in a better mood, one so great that he gave Discord an unusual petition.

“You want me to help you turn into Aster again to spend another day in Ponyville?” Discord asked in surprise. “But I thought that you didn’t want to take risks like those. You were not happy after your first day in Ponyville.”

“I was sad about other things,” Statice explained without elaborating. “This time I am in a good mood and I want to enjoy the place a bit. I’ll just keep my distance from the Elements of Harmony and I’ll be good.”

“You do realize that what you’re going to do is impossible, right?” Discord gave him a questioning glance. “The girls have taken a liking to you so chances are that neither all nor one of them is going to leave you alone.”

“They will leave me alone if I decide to have a private moment with the other ponies in Ponyville,” Statice grinned as he used his Creepy Voice Spell on himself to mimic Aster’s voice.

“Are you sure about this?” Discord asked as he materialized the cloud that Statice needed for his reconnaissance across Ponyville.

“I am sure,” Statice declared as he changed his colors and then used his Race Shifting Spell to turn into a Pegasus. “They may mistrust Statice the unicorn, but they will love Aster the pegasus!”

It was just like he had predicted. Statice had a good time as Aster once he bonded with other ponies besides the Elements of Harmony. He avoided personal affiliations to them such as the Cakes, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and other close acquaintances. He had fun even when he was checking the area for any Element Bearer trying to get close to him. To his delight, none of the Elements interrupted his sessions.

The day ended positively for him as he finished it with some improvements to his Archive. He spent the next week visiting Ponyville as Aster, making new friends and updating his Archive. He didn’t realize that six ponies were closely watching him from afar and were having a private conversation about him in the castle.

“I’m telling you, girls, that I may have seen Aster in the past!” Pinkie banged her hoof on her throne. “I never forget a pony that I ever met and I feel like I’ve known him from way before the party!”

“I don’t think so, Pinkie Pie,” Twilight shook her head. “I didn’t see anything familiar in Aster.”

“But he’s been acting weird, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash looked at her intensely. “If I don’t recall, we haven’t seen him in Ponyville for a few days after his party and then he comes back and starts having friends. Something doesn’t fit right in this mess.”

“Humph,” Rarity lifted her head angrily. “I can see that there is something wrong with Aster. He never bothered to come back to Ponyville after his welcome party and then he just comes back after a few days and ignores us for even more days. Frankly, I don’t have a trouble with him making friends, but I do have a trouble with him seemingly avoiding us all of a sudden. There must be something that he must be hiding from us, but I’m not sure what it is.”

“Maybe he was replaced by some Changeling,” Applejack proposed, remembering how acting out of character was one of the keys to distinguish a Changeling from a real pony that they were pretending to be.

“I don’t think so,” Twilight shook her head in dismissal. “Our castle would have revealed if he was a Changeling trying to steal our love.”

The others smiled a little bit at Twilight when she referred to the castle as not only belonging to her and Spike, but to their friends as well. She may have become an alicorn princess, but it was clear that Twilight considered her friends to be as much royalty as she was.

“I think that he may be just shy,” Fluttershy suggested. She remembered how she moved to Ponyville and she was nervous about meeting somepony new, much less making a friend.

It had taken Pinkie Pie lots and lots of tries to obtain Fluttershy’s friendship, and even then it took the yellow pegasus a long period of waiting to get used to the pink earth pony. If it weren’t for Rainbow Dash’s assisting Pinkie Pie, nopony was sure on how long it would have taken Fluttershy to accept her pink friend.

“I don’t think that it's shyness,” Twilight observed. “I’ve noticed that he is hanging around many ponies around here.”

“Maybe he is a spy that will brainwash the town against you,” Rainbow Dash proposed, still undeterred from her suspicions.

“Ah suggest that we go meet him and try to talk with him,” Applejack proposed. “Ah can sense if he is tellin’ the truth or not. If he is lyin’ then we’ll know if he is hidin’ somethin’ from us. If he’s not then maybe we’re overthinkin’ this a little too much. Ah mean, think about it, we can’t expect everypony to just swarm around us like fruit bats on the orchard’s apples.”

She was met with a chorus of affirmatives.

"I guess you're right," Rarity sighed, mildly disappointed with herself for her suspicions. "Just because we're the Elements of Harmony doesn't mean that everypony that goes to Ponyville HAS to be our friend or spend time with us."

“Well then,” Twilight spread her wings. “It is time to meet with Aster and see if he is friend material.”

With that said, Twilight led her friends out of the castle and into Ponyville, getting ready to meet their new friend.

Statice had fun with Time Turner. For somepony whose special talent was working on clocks, Time Turner did know a lot about quantum physics. He didn’t remember or understand most of what he said. He wasn’t even sure if he was going to understand what he said even if he got a book with the terms that he used. Regardless, it felt nice to have a smart friend. He was sure that Digitalis was going to love hanging out with Time Turner with the way that they kept talking about science.

Working as a taste tester for Lyra and Bonbon was kind of cool. Some candies were a little too sweet for his liking, although he didn’t let that feeling interfere with his duties. He and Lyra talked about music and she even offered to give him some harp lessons if he so desired to take them. He accepted, as long as he figured how to use his wings to play the lyre, as he was not sure on his ability to perform it with hooves.
Vinyl Scratch was absent on Ponyville as she was busy visiting her friend Octavia, who had to leave Ponyville for a few days, in Canterlot. He got to play a few games of Air Frisbee with some pegasi that included Derpy, Flitter, Cloud Chaser, and Thunderlane. Unfortunately, he had to leave when Derpy accidentally threw the disc too hard and ended up hitting a travelling balloon. The pegasi had to fly full speed ahead in order to prevent the balloon from crashing to the ground. The speed at which they saved the ponies that were riding on the balloon impressed Statice. He could see now why some of them were considered Wonderbolts in training. They were faster than he was in dealing with the problem before he even had the chance to assist. Once the problem was corrected, the pegasi decided to drop their game and continue their day, leaving Statice with figuring out what he was supposed to do next.

Well, at least they didn’t call me a nuisance or a slowpoke for not being fast enough to help them. I gotta admit that these ponies are more friendly and heroic than I expected them to be.

His next target was the swimming pond. It was big and deep enough to practice his swimming and even play water sports if he brought the necessary tools for any game of his choice. Since he was a pegasus and brought nothing with him, Statice was going to suffice with just swimming.

“Let’s perfect this skill,” Statice told himself as he took a deep breath and threw himself into the pond. He moved his body to the left and to the right as he swung his forelegs to the side. He kept swimming until he felt an unpleasant feeling on his chest, the familiar sting of getting his lungs filled with water and needing air. He raised his head into the water’s surface, catching as much air as possible.

I hate this part!

One of Statice’s greatest shames was that he didn’t know how to swim perfectly. He was familiar with the motions, except that he had trouble with getting his face into the surface and breathing some air before sticking it back into the water and repeating the process in the other side. He had attempted to swim the proper way, but he always ended up sucking water through his mouth and nose, which resulted in him choking a little bit and ending with an unpleasant soreness on his throat that lasted a couple of minutes.

He missed his Air Bubble Spell and wished to be a unicorn again to cast it. He originally created the spell to work around his swimming weakness. By infusing the air bubbles that he released from his mouth and nose into the water with his magic, Statice was capable of fusing them into a single large bubble that he placed over his head to allow him to breathe underwater. He had tried to learn how to swim the correct way to avoid relying too much on the spell, but even when he strived to do it the challenge was still too much. The only reason why he was even practicing proper swimming technique was because he had no choice when it came to swimming. At least nopony was going to judge him on the way he swam…

“You call that swimming!” a raspy voice was heard from above. Statice raised his head to see Rainbow Dash flying on top of him. She was on her back, clutching her sides with her front hooves while kicking her hind hooves as she laughed. Surprisingly enough, she was flying in stationary position, flapping her wings with instinctive accuracy despite the rest of her body moving erratically.

“Have a heart, Rainbow Dash!” Rarity’s voice called out to chastise her prismatic friend. “The poor dear is having trouble with his swimming. He looks like he would have drowned at some point or another.”

Statice turned his head to see the rest of the Elements of Harmony at the edge of the pond. Rarity was wearing sunshades and was levitating a parasol with her. Pinkie Pie was carrying floaters with her and so did Fluttershy. Only Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash were the only ponies that were not wearing anything.

“What are you girls doing here?” Statice asked in surprise.

Rainbow Dash flew downwards and slammed headfirst into the water, splashing Statice with the rain that she caused from her dive. She rose to the surface and grinned at him. “We were just going to have our swimming day and then we noticed you into the pool,” she smiled confidently.

Statice mentally kicked himself. Of all the times he decided to go swimming, he did it when the Elements were near him. Now he was going to need to avoid suspicion.

How the heck do I get out of the water the second six mares enter the pond without looking like a jerk or a wuss? What’s the point of having a crazy past like mine if I was not trained to handle this scenario?

Statice heard four more splashes, turning his head around to see the rest of the Elements of Harmony joining on the swimming session. Only Rarity remained on land as she covered herself with an umbrella and applying lotion to her body to avoid sunburns.

“Aren’t you gonna swim, Rarity?” Pinkie Pie asked at the white unicorn.

“Sorry, dear, but I don’t like getting wet unless necessary,” Rarity shook her head in polite refusal. “Besides, I think that the only swimming that we must focus on is on Aster’s technique.”

“What do you mean by that?” Statice asked at the critique.

“Your technique is sloppy, darling,” Rarity lowered her sunglasses to look at Statice. “I just arrived, but I noticed that when you swim you never bother to move your head to breathe air.”

“She is right,” Applejack nodded her head. “You may have swum, but ya didn’t do it right. Ya just hold yer air as long as you can and then take a breath to recover it. That’s not how swimmin’ is done.”

“You can say that again,” Rainbow Dash started swimming backstroke style. “You can’t win a race if you constantly need to stop to recover your air. You have to recover it with each stroke that you give.”

“I have some books about swimming that may help you,” Twilight smiled with glee at the idea of helping out a friend with her knowledge. “They detail the dynamics between the movements of your body against the surface of the water…”

“Let me handle this, Sugarcube,” Applejack interrupted her before she had the chance of giving a lecture. “Granny Smith was a swimmin’ champion and she taught me and my siblings some things about swimmin’…though Big Macintosh could use a refresher course every once in a while.”

The girls giggled at Applejack’s comment. They had visited Sweet Apple Acres many times before and they had seen that Big Macintosh was not the best swimmer as he used floaters to swim properly. His younger sisters and his grandmother were far better swimmers than he was.

“Ah’ll begin the lesson,” Applejack started by putting one hoof on Statice’s back and the other on his stomach, gently flipping him until he was floating on his stomach with his head up. “Raise a foreleg and gently push it on the water before pullin’ it as you sweep the other foreleg above yer head.”

I can't believe this is happening.

Despite his thoughts, Statice reluctantly did as she told him. He tried this practice many times in the past, but he failed miserably in all of his attempts. The only reason he was trying again was to cover his ruse now. It didn’t matter as he accomplished the first part quite easily.

“Now make sure to kick yer legs one after the other,” Applejack instructed him with the same gentleness an adult showed to a child.
Statice inwardly frowned at that instruction. Kicking one’s legs in the water was the most basic thing anypony did when swimming. He didn’t have much trouble with that.

“Now I want ya to breathe at the side yer hoof is pointing when you make the stroke,” Applejack gently cupped Statice’s chin to move his head to the left side when he moved his right foreleg. “If you’re pushing the water with yer right foreleg then breathe to the left so that the splashing water won’t hit ya. Then breathe to the right when you’re pushing with yer left foreleg.”

Statice did as he was told and was surprised that no water was splashing on his face when he did the motions. He was swimming more elegantly than he ever did before.

What the heck? I'm swimming just like I always why am I doing it better than ever?

Applejack smiled in satisfaction at her student. “Now Ah’m going to let go of ya and I want you to swim the way I taught ya to swim, but slowly. You can’t just go all out after I taught ya something new. You have to do it slowly to make a rhythm and keep practicin’ at that rhythm until yer body gets used to the motions. By the time you’re done with yer practice, ya’ll be swimmin’ at full speed with no problem.”

Statice was going to say something to Applejack about her teachings, only to be interrupted when he was pushed forward by Applejack in an instant. He quickly did the swimming motions, but made sure to slow down on the alternating foreleg movement to keep himself afloat. He was surprised that he was advancing without getting water on his face. This has never happened to him before. By the time that he reached the edge of the pond, Statice was receiving praise from the girls.

“Nice job, Aster!” Pinkie Pie cheered from the other side of the pond. “Maybe I can throw you an ‘I learned How to Swim’ party after this.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Pinkie Pie,” Fluttershy gently chided her. “I don’t believe that he wants other ponies to know about his swimming problems. Besides, Applejack still has to teach him other strokes.”

And I’d rather not have anypony know that I didn’t know how to swim, thank you very much.

“You have other swimming styles to teach me?” Statice asked in disbelief.

“Granny Smith was a swimmin’ champion when she was young,” Applejack beamed with pride. “And she passed on her swimmin’ talents to Apple Bloom and me. In fact, even at her old age, Granny Smith is still a good swimmer. She and Apple Bloom won a synchronized swimmin’ contest a while back.”

“Wow,” Statice feigned ignorance. He was aware of the accomplishment from before, but that was still hard to believe. Granny Smith didn’t seem like the most athletic mare based on her looks. Then again, looks were deceptive, as Statice proved many times when he was a foal learning the trades of adventure.

The next hour was dedicated to learning everything Applejack was taught about swimming since her training began as a filly. He learned to swim doggy style, an obsolete method in Statice’s silent opinion, and was forced to race against Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie, both of whom were masters of the style. He lost by a big margin, although this was mainly out of refusal to take such races seriously. He was taught professional techniques like the breast stroke, the backstroke, and the butterfly stroke. The breast stroke was the easiest to learn, but he sank on the water in mid-swimming when he practiced the backstroke. The butterfly stroke was alternating between starting well at first only to end bad when he somehow sucked water through his mouth and nose instead of air.

Despite the many setbacks in the lessons, Statice was having fun with his swimming lessons. Not only had he mastered the freestyle swimming, but he was advancing in other techniques as well. Granted, he only needed to learn freestyle, but he also wanted to learn the other strokes for the sake of a competitive sport rather than the pressure of a lifesaving skill.

“Let’s practice yer backstroke a bit,” Applejack smiled gently as she took Statice’s hooves with her own. Statice blushed at the gesture, still not used to a pretty female touching him. Those emerald eyes of hers were captivating him to do as she said.

Stupid late puberty hormones!

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head instinctively before gasping. He felt Applejack’s hind hooves on his stomach, anticipating a kick in the gut. His body still remembered how much of a wallop Applejack packed in those hooves. His mind was racing, wondering what he did wrong to deserve her wrath before Applejack spoke again.

This is gonna hurt…

“I’m gonna push ya away from me so lean on yer back and start swimmin' once we’re separated,” she instructed him with a firm yet confident smile.

…Or perhaps not…

“Yes,” Statice sighed, mainly out of relief that he was not going to get kicked in the stomach again. He still remembered how hard she bucked and didn’t want to be in the receiving end of it again.

Applejack gently pushed him with her hind legs, leaving the former unicorn to slightly lean on his back as he waved his forelegs backwards. Much to his surprise, Rainbow Dash was joining him on the swim.

“Do you need any help?” Rainbow Dash gave him a smug yet relaxed smirk. She was easily keeping up with Statice, not even paying attention to her surroundings.

“I’m good,” Statice answered, feeling annoyed at her skill. “Why are you swimming next to me? Weren’t you supposed to be playing with your friends?”

“I wanted to talk to you a bit,” Rainbow Dash replied. “You’re one of the few athletes that I know in Ponyville.”

“Don’t you have fellow pegasi that are athletes?” Statice asked her with a raised eyebrow. Rainbow Dash was kind of a celebrity in Ponyville, more out of her skill as a flier than as the Element of Loyalty. Hearing her say that she didn’t hang out with fellow athletes sounded wrong to him.

“Yes,” Rainbow Dash nodded her head as she stopped swimming. “But they all have their own personal lives. My life revolves around training to join the Wonderbolts and spending time with my friends, so I don’t hang out much around other athletes.”

I guess you can't compete with others when you're focusing on your dream career or hanging out with your friends. Doesn't look like a major loss though.

“I see,” Statice commented as he stopped swimming. The air around them grew tense as Statice had no more things to say. He decided to improvise.

“Your backstroke is excellent.”

“Thanks,” Rainbow Dash calmly rubbed a hoof against her chest. “I do tend to occasionally practice it when I’m flying. Regardless of whether I fly or swim, the technique easily transfers to them.”

“Neat,” Statice complimented her. He decided to change his opinion on her based on the fact that she mentioned. It was very interesting for him to hear her talk like that.

“Hey, the lesson is not yet over!” Applejack bellowed at them in annoyance. “Lean on yer back and keep swimmin’, Aster!”

“I gotta go,” Statice smiled at the prismatic pony before doing as he was told. He spent half an hour practicing his backstroke with Applejack and Rainbow Dash supervising him and occasionally joining him. Rarity was watching them swim and she did not appear to have anything against Statice swimming with two of her friends. The remaining Elements of Harmony were busy playing a game of Marco Polo that Pinkie Pie suggested when she realized that most of her friends were going to be too busy to play, so she needed to adjust her game choices to those that required few players. Twilight and Fluttershy agreed to play with her, only for the former to eventually get tired of it while the latter was happy to engage in a fun game that wasn’t dangerous forher.

Eventually, all six ponies were out of the water with Rarity providing them with fashionable drying towels. “I made these for you while you were busy,” she told her friends as she gave them towels that matched their colors. The towel that she gave Statice was blue with some white stars on it.

“How did you…?” Statice asked in surprise before Rarity lifted a hoof at him.

“I made them while you were busy swimming, Aster,” she lifted her head with dignified air. “You don’t need to thank me. Providing somepony with help is the duty of a friend.”

“You truly are the most generous pony I’ve ever met,” Statice thanked her with genuine gratitude. His comment was also filled with admiration at her for making personal towels without him noticing. That was indeed impressive.

She sure knows how to make the best out of her free time.

“Oh, thank you,” Rarity blushed at the praise. More than her looks, she loved to be complimented for her generous spirit.

“You’re welcome,” Statice nodded at her. “I gotta go back to my home.”

“Wait!” Pinkie Pie cut the distance between him and her. She wasn’t smiling like she normally did, indicating that there was something wrong. “I need to ask you something before you leave.”

“What is it, Pinkie Pie?” Statice asked her.

“Have we met before?” Pinkie Pie asked, looking at him with uncertainty. Statice froze upon hearing the question.

“A few days ago on a party,” Statice nervously joked.

It got Pinkie Pie and her friends to laugh, albeit only for a few seconds. “I’m serious though, have we met before?” Pinkie Pie pressed in a little uncertainly. “Because I feel like I met you before. I just can’t figure out where?”

“Do you recall meeting a pegasus like me before?” Statice asked her quickly, barely keeping an even tone of voice. Always ask a question to counter a question. That was a trade secret he learned to avoid confrontations.

“No,” Pinkie Pie shook her head. “But there is something familiar about you. I can’t help but thinking of somepony else when I am with you. I just can’t think of who he was yet.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Statice reassured her with a pat on the head.

The pink pony gave a squeaky sounding smile before hugging him. “You’re right!” she cheered. “Maybe I’ll get to meet him later. I think that you’ll probably like each other if I ever find out who he is.”

Statice grimaced at Pinkie’s statement. He didn’t want to imagine her reaction if she ever found out that he and Aster were the same pony all along.

He said goodbye to the girls before he left again. Each of them gave him her own special goodbye that showed a bit of her personality.

“If you need help with your swimming performance just call me,” Twilight suggested as she materialized a quill and parchment. “We can make graphs and tables that can compare your swimming performances across different days.”

“If you want more swimmin’ lessons then go to Sweet Apple Acres,” Applejack patted Statice’s back roughly, albeit in a friendly manner. “Ya’ll find me there in no time. If Ah’m not available then ask Granny. She is a far better swimmer than Ah despite her old age.”

“Uh, maybe we can have a doggy style swimming race the next time we meet at the pond,” Fluttershy avoided her gaze to not look at him in the face. “If that is what you wish, then I will be happy to participate in some water games with you.”

“Try not to push yourself, Aster,” Rarity advised him. “You have all the time in the world to master the skill.”

“Work on your technique, Aster!” Rainbow Dash more or less ordered him. “I want to see how well you fare against me in water sports!”

“Bye, Aster!” Pinkie Pie hugged Statice. “I got to go find your clone, or is it your twin? It doesn’t matter. I’ll call you when I make some progress!”

Statice watched the six leave, feeling safe and happy that they didn’t figure out his identity despite the time that they spent together. Now was the time for him to leave undetected.

He called out for Discord once he was away from them and had him teleport him back into his lair. The draconequus leaned on the unicorn’s shoulder despite the size difference and started questioning him.

“How did you do?” he asked excitingly as he gave Statice the cloud that he needed to recover his original form.

“I did fine,” Statice answered, back to his unicorn form, but still conserving Aster’s voice and colors. “I engaged in social interactions and then I had some swimming lessons from Applejack.”

Discord burst into laughter at the last part, much to Statice’s ire. “You don’t know how to swim?” he asked in disbelief. “How can that be? You were an adventurer. I’m sure that swimming is something you must actually learn.”

“I can swim!” Statice defended himself before blushing in embarrassment at his previous attempts without Applejack’s instructions. “I was just not familiar with the professional method.”

“I can see that,” Discord grinned from ear to ear. “Did you drown and needed Applejack or somepony else to give you mouth to mouth resuscitation?”

“Get your mind out of the gutter!” Statice snapped at the draconequus when he caught him wiggling his eyebrows at him. “I didn’t drown or anything. Applejack taught me everything she was taught by Granny Smith.”

“Say whatever makes you sleep at night,” Discord smiled teasingly as he disappeared with a finger snap.

“I wonder if it was worth having him back as my friend,” Statice mumbled in annoyance now with his original appearance and voice.

He updated his journal with the ponies that he interacted with throughout the day. His greatest addition was to Applejack’s page that highlighted her swimming skill. Feeling satisfied, Statice created a page that focused on everything that her learned about swimming for later references

“It was a fine day,” Statice reminded himself with a smile. “Maybe the next one won’t be so bad.”

The mysterious stranger perched himself on top of the Everfree Forest. He had found his prey. He was sure that he was going to catch Statice based on the scent that he had tracked for months now. The familiar stench of darkness inhabited a spot of the so called Everfree Forest.

“I found you, Statice,” he said, feeling the need to follow the darkness and have his revenge. The only thing that was stopping him from going after the unicorn was the fatigue of flying for hours finally catching up to him. He was tired and he wanted to sleep. Even when he was filled by vengeance and hatred he knew better than to overtax his body when it was at its limit.

“Consider yourself lucky, kid,” he grumbled in the dark, perching on the highest branch of one of the tallest trees. I promise that tomorrow you are going to suffer the same way that I did.”

He stared into the horizon, where the darkness was resting. He positioned his body so that it was pointing at the source of darkness. It was just like his fellow griffins said in class: the early griffin gets the meat. To make matters worse, this griffin had badly desired this type of meat for a long time.

Late in the night, Statice woke up with a gasp. He was not the type of pony to have nightmares. In fact, he’d rather have nightmares than what he had. In the case of some unicorns, nightmares were premonitions of bad things to happen or signals of inner turmoil that were negatively affecting their magic. They were horrible, but they at least gave the dreamers hints on how to get rid of them or at least warned them of a future reality that had the potential of being avoided. Statice, however, did not have nightmare. He had a night terror.

Just like nightmares, night terrors were signals of ill omens for unicorns. Unlike nightmares, night terrors didn’t come with images that warned the dreamers of future misfortunes. They just filled them with fear and paranoia at what the future had in store for them. There was no way to predict what catastrophe was bound to happen in the next day or a posterior date. All that the unicorns confirmed was that something bad was going to happen and that there was nothing in their power that was to be done to stop them.

Night terrors were not common in Equestria, to the point on which their prophetic events were disregarded as just nightmares whose contents were forgotten by the dreamers in response to stress. Even Statice disbelieved them when he first started having them on his adventures. He later learned how wrong he was when every time that he had a night terror a new horror was awaiting for him in the future.
“Calm down!” he chastised himself. “You’re safe now! You no longer have adventures. You’re no longer risking your life for money. You may have some minor problems with the law but that is not important. You’re retired and trying to make a new life. Nothing bad is going to happen. You’re no longer a defenseless colt. You can use your magic and you have a draconequus as an ally. You’ll be safe.”

A part of him told him that he was lying to himself. Another part of him told him to stop worrying and to go back inside his head to make a choice. More parts of him started to give different opinions on how to handle the situation. Eventually, they all came to the same conclusion as Statice carried out the sentence that they placed on him.

He closed his eyes but he didn’t get to sleep. He just kept his eyes closed for the rest of the night. The familiar fear of the unknown kept him awake and, for all the things that came into his mind, afraid.

All that remained for him was to pray to the stars that nothing bad was going to happen to him tomorrow or the following day…or preferably never. As cowardly as it sounded, he didn’t want to be brave or strong anymore. All that he cared about was to rest in peace for the first time in years. It was a desire that was going to take a lot of time for it to take place…even in the peaceful land of Equestria.

A Change of Routine

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A Change of Routine

It took some grueling hours of insomnia before Statice was finally asleep. He even went as far as to cancel his Alarm Spell to conserve some magic and sleeping time despite his dislike for oversleeping. Discord did not come to visit him early, much to the unicorn’s joy as it gave him more time to rest. By the time the draconequus finally showed up, Statice had already finished eating breakfast.

“Good morning!” Discord showed up with a newspaper featuring the latest news in Equestria. “Did you have a good night sleep, Statice?”

“Not good enough,” Statice mumbled grumpily.

“Did you have a nightmare, Statice?” Discord asked mockingly, giving an innocent pout at him. The only response he got was a dour look from the unicorn.

“I don’t have nightmares,” Statice shook his head.

“Denial,” Discord accused him in a singsong tone.

“It is a fact,” Statice spoke in a serious tone that froze the Spirit of Disharmony on his tracks. “When I was a foal, my master fed me a special potion that prevented me from dreaming so that I won’t lose sleep by nightmares. He made me drink that concoction for years until I was no longer capable of dreaming. Believe me, Discord. I did not have a nightmare.”

Discord winced at the idea. Nightmares were terrifying, especially if they were omens for tragedies to come. The fact that Statice was denied the ability to even dream was inexcusable to him. A colt had the right to dream, regardless of whether the dreams were good or bad. It was up to nopony to deny him that. Even for somepony that used to destroy and corrupt ponies for his hijinks, Discord found what Statice’s master did to him as something disgusting. It was a good thing that Luna was not present or things would have gotten ugly for Statice’s master as the Princess of the Night was not going to rest until she managed to capture and punish him for messing with a colt’s dreams.

“That may explain why Princess Luna has found it impossible to catch you ever since your initial escape,” Discord stroke his beard. “Luna specializes in dream magic, so it is possible that your inability to dream prevents Luna’s mind from connecting with yours.”

“I guess that was a good thing,” Statice smiled in relief, finding himself sighing at the thought that he was safe from having somepony use his dreams as a beacon to find him at his most vulnerable. “At least I won’t have to worry about falling asleep.”

Good thing I didn't think too much of her dream magic. The last thing I needed was being too worried about whether too sleep or not to sleep.

“Any other unusual potions that your master had you drink?” Discord asked with a raised eyebrow, feeling that he was not going to like the answer.

I don't see the harm in telling him. He's my friend. It might as well help in the reconcilliation.

“There was some hormone potion,” Statice recalled loudly. “It was designed to prevent my hormones from finding other females attractive. As a side effect, my growing was inhibited so that explains my softer appearance.”

“I always thought that your cute appearance was natural,” Discord teased him with a cheek pinch. “But that also brings another question. Do you like girls?”

Statice grimaced at the question. It was very hard for him to talk about his attraction to the opposite gender when he was just starting to discover it. Still, it was time to get it off his chest before things had the chance of getting awkward.

“I like girls…but it is a very recent development. That potion…prevented me from acting out on my attraction to them. There were high chances that they were thieves or mercenaries trying to capture me and do other…unexpected stuff.”

Discord gave Statice a weird look, but he was interrupted before he had the chance of speaking out. By the looks of what Statice was saying, it was important, as not even the unicorn was so confident about his answer.

“I was capable of acknowledging if a girl was attractive, but I never felt more than that. It was more like noticing a physical feature of somepony else and not be interested on it. I was given some mental training and discipline just in case that pheromone potion didn’t work so as to not to let my guard down around the opposite gender. I only stopped taking the potion after I retired and I started to look at girls more often than ever.”

“When did you start?” Discord asked, already wanting to find out Statice’s first crush. “Was she pretty? Where did you find her?”

“About the same time that I set hoof on Equestria,” Statice begun. “After a few weeks, I started checking out every pretty mare that started walking around me.”

“Every mare, you said?” Discord asked, now astounded. Statice had always seemed like the stoic, silent, and brooding stallion that all mares desired because he showed no interest in them. Finding out that he liked girls back with the same intensity as them sounded just so out of the blue…and he was starting to like what he was hearing.

Never pictured the bad boy to be girl crazy… No… I need to make sure…

“I’ve never had a crush,” Statice confessed. “I almost had a crush like many times. I see a pretty mare, I start looking at her, and then I change my sights to another mare that is close to her. I don’t really have a chance to get a crush on a mare because I get distracted by another.”

Oh, what the heck! I might as well ask him! This is gonna be good!

“Statice…” Discord called out to his friend, biting his own lip as to not giggle. He had come to a conclusion based on what the green unicorn was telling him and his next question was one whose answer he was definitely going to enjoy. “Are you by chance…girl crazy?”

Statice blushed. “Yes,” he admitted.

The draconequus roared in laughter, clutching his stomach with his arms and kicking his legs in the air. His tail was waving furiously, just like a dog when it was about to be given a treat. Statice was not amused and was already having an eye twitch. It wasn’t funny to be laughed at when he was talking about his problems, especially one that gave him much embarrassment.

Why did I even bother mentioning the hormone potion? Why couldn't I just lie and just say the dream-depriving potion was the only one I drank? Heck, why did I think he was even going to understand this issue?

“It’s hard to believe that the stoic outlaw is girl-crazy!” Discord was now closing his lion paw into a fist and banging it on the ground.

“Believe it,” Statice glared at him. “I got lots of repressed hormones that have been stored for years finally bursting out for a few weeks. I can’t help it. To make matters worse, most of the population of Equestria is female so I…”

“That’s bad for you,” Discord wiped a tear from his eye. “Your new home has the highest levels of estrogen that the world has ever seen.”

“I already saw the evidence, Discord,” Statice deadpanned, not happy with having the obvious pointed at him. “And believe me, Discord. You have no place to laugh at me when I’ve been acting like myself in spite of the large abundance of eye-candy around here.”

“You’re right about that,” Discord lifted a fist of his lion paw. “Bump my paw as a sign of respect to you, Statice.”

“You don’t have one of those things that shock you on your paw, right?” he asked the draconequus skeptically. “I’ve seen pranks like this in Hobuck, Discord.”

“I’m not wearing any rings,” Discord turned his paw around and wiggled his fingers playfully. The paw was bare, free of any rings or hidden gizmos to electrocute him. Despite the apparent safety of the bump, Statice still felt uneasy.

“But you can make your paw electric or pop out a shocking ring the second I bump my hoof in your paw,” Statice replied as he eyed him suspiciously. “Friend or not, you’re still a prankster, Discord.”

“I would NEVER do that to a friend, Statice!” Discord retaliated with mock hurt and anger, although Statice did notice him scribbling the idea with a pencil and a notebook with his tail. “Besides, I wanted to say goodbye to my friend. Duty calls after all.”

Statice gave Discord another skeptical glance before smiling at him. He lifted his hoof and bumped it with the draconequus, feeling surprised that he felt no electrical surge flowing across his foreleg to the rest of his body. He was about to thank him, only to find nothing more than a storm cloud on his lair.

“I better prepare Aster for his day out,” Statice said as he unleashed his magic and did the necessary spells. He came out of his lair as the new pegasus of Ponyville and trotted towards town.

“A couple more days and that’s it,” Statice reminded himself. “I just have to find a place to live without bringing suspicions. Maybe I will take some ideas from some ponies, maybe even use a few locations to divert them from finding me while I take residence in a different town or city. That sounds good.”

“The only thing that sounds good is the sound of your new voice,” a growl from above kept him from talking.

Statice paused and turned around, looking at his surroundings. He used his new pegasus eyes to search for any sight of movement. Moments like this made him wish that he was back to being a unicorn again. Statice had trained himself to be a fighter as an earth pony and as a pegasus, but that did not mean that his fighting style in both species was as powerful as when he was in his original race. Right now, he hoped that his enemy was not the type of enemy that demanded the use of magic to be beaten.

“Show yourself, coward!” Statice demanded, expecting that his new voice was threatening enough to scare off his enemy.

“All in due time, my prey,” the stranger purred darkly.

Statice’s eyes widened. The stranger’s voice was familiar. Furthermore, he was aware that Statice’s current voice was not his real one. They must have talked at some point in the past. He closed his eyes and tried to remember any individual of his past that may have a grudge with him. All that he needed to do for confirmation was to hear the stranger talk some more.

“What’s your beef with me?” Statice challenged with some griffin slang that he picked up from his travels for when he wanted to sound tough and threatening against enemies that were verbally antagonizing him. “I am just a pegasus that took a walk through a forest. In what way does that earn your enmity?”

“You can change your voice, Statice, but you cannot change your darkness,” the voice growled a little aggressively.

He knows my real name? Darn it! I thought I had cut all the loose ends! Why did this have to happen right now? No! Calm down and review the facts!

Statice gritted his teeth. The stranger was somepony from his past and had managed to identify him despite his new shape. The bothersome part was the allusion to darkness and that the voice was becoming more familiar. The list was narrowed down considerably, but there were still too many enemies to identify. Deciding that this was taking too long, Statice decided to get some answers.

“Time to play twenty questions,” Statice muttered under his breath before asking at the trees. “Who are you?” he asked. It took a tense moment of silence for him to get an answer from his aggressor.

“You don’t remember me?” the voice asked angrily after the pause.

“I don’t remember a lot…” Statice replied with a flick of his head. “I got so many individuals who want to destroy me that I lost count. I got such a long list of enemies that even some of them sound like you. I’m not gonna try to guess who you are by the sound of your voice. Let’s just cut to the chase and be done with it.”

“Fair enough,” the voice answered with a dangerously low growl.

A reddish brown blur flew at Statice, almost hitting him as he jumped into the air and kept himself floating with hasty wing flapping. Statice stared down at his enemy in shock as he finally recognized him.

He was a griffin with brown fur and red feathers. His body was highly muscular, particularly in the upper section. He was wearing shades that covered the color of his eyes, but Statice did not need to know such detail…because he was the reason that the griffin was wearing them in the first place.

“Piercing Gaze,” Statice stared at his former enemy.

I guess I was right about using griffin slang. I was just trying to sound tough for my mystery stalker.

“You have grown a lot, Statice,” Piercing Gaze acknowledged him coldly as he started circling him, like a predator about to eat his prey.

“And I see that your shades are the only thing that changed about you,” Statice countered, smirking with satisfaction when he made the griffin growl at him.

“Straight to the point, aren’t you?” Piercing Gaze dug his talons into the grass.

“You started it,” Statice spat unsympathetically. “Are you upset about the whole cabin thing?”

“You BLINDED me, you stupid cub!” Piercing Gaze snarled at Statice. His wings flared and his talons were now sinking deeper into the soil.

“The correct term for a young pony is foal,” Statice corrected him, unfazed by his anger. “And to be honest, the blinding and the cabin was your fault. My role in those misfortunes was purely accidental. However, it doesn’t change the fact that what happened to you was your fault and that it served you right.”

“What did you say?” Piercing Gaze asked as he spread his wings and flew towards Statice. He lifted his talons and slashed them downwards at his enemy, only to hit air. He smelled something foul flying next to him.

“You won’t get away from me, Statice!” Piercing Gaze roared as he followed the scent trail, not even caring about the sound of flapping wings coming from Statice or wondering how he got wings all of a sudden. “I’m not sure where you got that new pair of wings to fly, cub, but I can assure you that the stench of your darkness is more than enough to tell me where you hide.”

“Darn it!” Statice cursed at his luck. Not only did Piercing Gaze found him, but he now had the perfect tracer on him. This was a battle that Statice was going to have to fight on his own.

Now I got an avian hound chasing after me. Since when the heck do griffins have a sense of smell? Those guys barely even have nostrils!

Piercing Gaze was flying close to him and was accelerating by the second. Signs of collision were imminent. If he was to escape, Statice had to give the best of whatever limited flying skills he possessed. Too bad for him, Piercing Gaze was an expert flier that was complemented with a grudge and some sort of super darkness smelling senses to track him down.

“This is just perfect,” Statice snapped as he braked and pushed his body back before Piercing Gaze had the chance to catch him. He wasn’t going to get close to that beak and talons while he had the power to do something about it.

“You took the words out of my beak!” Piercing Gaze gave a predatory smile as he flew, giving an eagle screech as he did so.

“It’s always fun to hang out with Zecora!” Apple Bloom smiled at her friends as they walked from their visit to their zebra friend.

“You’ve been better at those potions, Apple Bloom!” Scootaloo cheered the farm pony. “I think that you’re gonna get a cutie mark on potion making someday.”

“Ah’m not sure about that,” Apple Bloom seemed uneasy. “It’s fun to make potions with Twilight and Zecora, but Ah don’t feel special about it.”

“I know how you feel,” Sweetie Belle put a comforting hoof on Apple Bloom’s shoulder. “I thought that I was going to get a cutie mark on theater when we worked hard on my play. Even though I did most of the hard work, I still didn’t feel anything special about it. But I sure had fun preparing my play. I wouldn’t mind writing another one in the future, even if it is not as good as the first one.”

“Not like the first one was good or anything,” Scootaloo mumbled in annoyance, remembering how the audience cared more about the dresses that Rarity made for them than for their own acting.

Sweetie Belle threw her a dirty look, but she didn’t have the chance of saying something when they were both interrupted by the sound of an eagle screeching. All three ponies huddled together in a group hug.

“What was that?” Sweetie Belle asked in fear.

“It sounded like one of Fluttershy’s eagles,” Scootaloo said. “Fluttershy showed me a few of them after Rainbow Dash told me her story of how she made Tank her pet.”

“Ah think Ah see it now,” Apple Bloom pointed her hoof at the sky. “There is like a huge eagle fightin’ in the sky with somethin’.”

“Let me see,” Scootaloo scrunched her eyes at the blurs above her. “I am a pegasus. My eyesight is better for long distances.”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle got behind Scootaloo in order to give her a better field of vision. She needed to concentrate if she was to see what was happening in the sky.

“I don’t think that’s an eagle,” Scootaloo said as she tilted her head to see from a better angle. “It’s way too big to be an eagle. This looks more like a gryphon. Wait…it’s a gryphon!”

“What’s a gryphon doin’ here?” Apple Bloom asked in surprise.

“Fighting,” Scootaloo answered, trying to see the blue blur that the gryphon was trying to catch. “I can’t see well, but the gryphon is trying to do something to that blue thing that is flying in the air. By the looks of it, I think that he is trying to hurt it.”

“It’s probably a rival male,” Sweetie Belle answered, only to be met with weird glances from her friends before shouting in exasperation. “I read a book about gryphons in Twilight’s library! Some male gryphons get territorial and fight over female gryphons or land.”

“That’s disgustin'!” Apple Bloom backed away from Sweetie Belle. She didn’t like the idea of boys fighting each other to get the heart of a girl. She didn’t care how romantic the other girls thought it was because, in her eyes, that was treating a girl like a trophy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Scootaloo smiled at the prospect of watching a gryphon fight. “And I think that I am starting to see the blue thing. Let’s see how tough is the blue gryphon.”

“Ah don’t think there’s such thing as a blue gryphon,” Apple Bloom frowned as she whispered to Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo’s eyes managed to adjust enough to distinguish what was happening. She gasped upon seeing the second combatant. Her reaction caught her friends by surprise. It wasn’t like Scootaloo to get so shocked when she considered something to be awesome, especially after seeing all of Rainbow Dash’s best and worst stunts over the years. That was a sign that something bad was happening above their heads.

“What’s wrong?” Sweetie Belle asked Scootaloo.

“It’s Aster!” Scootaloo cried out in fright. “That gryphon is fighting Aster!”

Her fellow Crusaders gasped in horror. A mean gryphon was attacking their friend and they were unable to do anything about it.

“What are we going to do?” Sweetie Belle asked, feeling insecure about the situation.

“We call for help!” Apple Bloom responded sternly. “We can’t take down an adult gryphon by ourselves, but we have lots of friends that will be more than happy to protect Mister Aster.”

“We can ask Static for help,” Sweetie Belle suggested, for once not even thinking about him as her charming prince. “He may have a spell that can help Mister Aster.”

“We can also ask Twilight and Rainbow Dash for help,” Scootaloo assisted with her own idea. “I don’t think that gryphon can beat the most awesome flier in Equestria, much less with an alicorn princess to back her up.”

“We gotta hurry then!” Apple Bloom said. “Mister Aster is countin’ on us.”

“I suggest we look for Static first,” Sweetie Belle raised her hoof, a reflex that she had developed during her days of class with Cheerilee. “He’s the closest. We can ask him to fight the gryphon and then we look for Twilight and the girls.”

“Ah don’t think that’s a good idea,” Apple Bloom shook her head. “We don’t know where Static lives in the Everfree Forest. We just wander in the forest and he finds us more than we find him. Ah think that it’s better for us to call out for our sisters.”

“Apart from that, Static made it very clear that he doesn’t want to meet anypony,” Scootaloo reminded her. “I don’t think that he is gonna be much of a team player if he and our sisters try to work together.”

Sweetie Belle was about to protest when they heard a scream. The Crusaders looked into the air, noticing Aster with a hoof on his cheek and the gryphon smiling at him. It was clear that the gryphon had scratched him while they were arguing below them.

“We have to go get Rarity and the girls!” Sweetie Belle ran off to Ponyville with her friends following behind. She felt bad about not asking for Static’s help, but a small part of her reassured her that he probably was going to see the fight in the sky and was going to assist Aster in some way or another.

There's no way Static won't help a pony in need!

“I hope you’re okay, Static,” Sweetie Belle wished silently before running at full speed at Twilight’s castle. Ever since the incident with Lord Tirek, Rarity visited the crystal castle with regularity to the point on which Sweetie Belle met her before or after Twilight Time depending on her sister’s schedule.

If she was going to get help for Aster, it was going to be from her sister and her friends. After all, who could protect anypony better than the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony?

Aerial battles have never been a forte for Statice. Most of the time, he beat airborne enemies by shooting magical blasts at them rather than finding a way to get at their height level and fight them with hooves. Unfortunately for him, griffins were fast and nimble on the air, so attempting to knock them down with magic was going to result in wasting his reserves, a fact that he learned in his fights against them as a unicorn. Fighting griffins even in pegasus form was no picnic either as his combat with Piercing Gaze gave him little fighting strategies. Trying to attack meant the risk of making a mistake that Piercing Gaze was going to exploit for a devastating attack with his beak and talons. Running away was no option as the griffin was faster and more agile than him, as well as the risk of lowering his guard in his efforts to escape.

For once I'd like to forced into a fight on which I'm at least given the option of running away.

The only way that he was going to make it was to rely on counters. He was going to stay in the evasive, only using his flight to dodge and only attack with a counter if he was within his attack range. The flaw with his plan was that the altitude at which they were fighting was very high and that the spell was not going to last forever. If Statice exploited his pegasus magic in high speeds, then the spell was going to be cancelled and he was going to be a unicorn again. The main problem with being a unicorn in that situation was that his magic reserves were going to be empty once that happened, leaving him at the mercy of the griffin or the fall.

“I won’t let you take me down, Piercing Gaze!” Statice pointed a challenging hoof at the griffin, who smiled at him.

“Futile words,” Piercing Gaze grinned mockingly. “Don’t the wounds that I gave you prove that I will eventually win this fight?”

Statice growled at him, mainly because he was right. Throughout the whole fight, he had been attacked with eagle talons and pecks from the griffin’s sharp beak. He had a scratch on the cheek and chest from two claw attacks and his right shoulder felt as if it had been injected with a huge needle ever since the griffin pecked him there. The pain was taking its toll on his flying, making Statice’s moves more lethargic.

“I will make this one count,” Piercing Gaze flew at full speed with outstretched talons. Specks of reflected lights were visible on those razor sharp talons, ready to claw at his enemy in just a second.

“So will I,” Statice tucked his wings to the sides and let himself fall. Piercing Gaze was following after him.

“Evasive maneuvers won’t help you escape, Statice!” Piercing Gaze roared triumphantly as he got closer to his prey. His talons were very close to Statice’s body once again…so close that he could see victory in his mind’s eye.

The outcome of the match was decided, but not on the way on which it was expected. As Piercing Gaze was close to his enemy, he didn’t perceive the attack that was coming at him until it was too late. Once the appropriate distance was settled, Statice spun his body horizontally and delivered a roundhouse kick to the griffin’s jaw with the back of his right hind hoof.

The kick was strong enough to knock Piercing Gaze away from him. His motionless body fell into some trees below, away from Statice’s eyesight. Meanwhile, Statice was busy working with his own fall. Although his kick was impressive, it meant nothing in stopping his fall. Only the instant flapping of his wings turned his fall into a slow and safe descent, albeit an arduous one with the accumulated pain of his wounds and the exhaustion of the fight.

“I’m too young for this garbage,” Statice winced as he placed a hoof on his shoulder. Thinking about it, what he said used to be his catchphrase when he first started adventuring, usually when he was stuck doing a chore he’d rather not do.

He had to go back to his place now. There was a chance that Piercing Gaze was still ready to fight. He had to get his cloud now to reclaim his unicorn form AND his magic. If he ran out of time, then he was going to have to fight Piercing Gaze as a unicorn with NO magic. The last thing that he needed was more complications in this fight.

“ASTER!” ten voices called out in harmony. Statice’s eyes widened as he realized who were the ones calling his name.

Statice turned around and saw the Elements of Harmony, Spike, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders going straight at him. Once they got close enough to see him, they gasped in horror at the damage that he had taken.

“What are you doing…here, girls?” Statice panted, feeling grateful that his exhausted condition was the perfect mask to hide his panic.

“We were on our way with Zecora from practicing potion brewin’,” Apple Bloom began the story with worry.

“Then we saw two blurs fighting in the sky,” Scootaloo interrupted her. “I used my eyes and saw you fighting with that gryphon.”

“And then we left the Everfree Forest and called out for our sisters and their friends to help you,” Sweetie Belle finished the story just as alarmed as her friends were.

As much as Statice wanted to be angry at the Crusaders for bringing the Elements of Harmony to him and compromising his disguise, he had no right to be mad at them. They saw him in trouble and decided to help him. That was more than what many did for him in the past.

Life is such a cruel mistress. The past haunts you for a bad deed. And the present taunts you by making sure no good deed goes unpunished. Story of my life…

He grabbed the three fillies in his forelegs and gave them a hug. “Thank you, girls,” he sincerely thanked them despite the future complications they brought with them. “I appreciate your assistance.”

The girls smiled at Statice and happily returned the hug. He put them down on the ground and stared at the six older mares and the baby dragon. All of them were looking at him with a mixture of horror, shock, and sympathy.

“Hi,” Statice awkwardly raised a foreleg in greeting. He realized how stupid he looked like doing that, but there was no way to back down now that he did it.

“What happened to you, Aster?” Twilight Sparkle asked with horror in her voice.

“I was attacked by a griffin,” Statice replied, trying to put on a brave face.

“A gryphon attacked you?” Fluttershy asked, trembling in fear as she watched the damage he sustained. She had gotten in the bad side of a gryphon once and she didn’t like it one bit. Granted, Gilda only yelled at her, but watching the injuries that Aster sustained made her realize that the pony in front of her could have been her had Gilda been a more vicious gryphon.

“Tell me where he is and I will pound him!” Rainbow Dah snarled as she punched her hooves together.

“Don’t worry,” Statice reassured her in a soothing manner. “I won the fight. He’s unconscious somewhere in this forest.”

“Then we have to find him, Sugarcube,” Applejack stomped a hoof. “We can’t let him get away with attackin’ one of our own.”

“Applejack is right,” Twilight adopted a stern frown on her face. “We cannot allow this criminal behavior to remain unpunished. You are a citizen of Equestria and you will get the justice you deserve.”

“You don’t have to do it, Twilight,” Statice said hurryingly. If she arrested Piercing Gaze then he was going to be discovered.

“Don’t even bother, dude,” Spike shook his head. “Twilight takes her duty to help everypony in need very seriously. It comes with being the student of Celestia, the younger sister of the Captain of the Royal Guards, the Element of Magic, and the Princess of Friendship.”

Statice mentally frowned at Twilight’s sense of responsibility. In the earlier days, most of Statice’s antagonists were criminals, but there were special occasions on which he was forced to fight against heroes. Some of them were good citizens trying to do what was right, others were soldiers doing their duty, and others entitled themselves to do their heroics by their connection to a respectable authority figure or position. He hated having to deal with those kinds of heroes because they made things harder for Statice, regardless of whether they were friends or foes. Right now, Twilight embodied all of those traits that put him at odds with those heroes.

“We need to get you to the hospital, Aster!” Rarity covered Statice’s body with her magic, lifting him into the air. “You have to see a doctor to treat those wounds.”

“I’m okay, Rarity,” Statice insisted, finding it increasingly hard to maintain his polite behavior with their intruding.

“Nonsense,” Rarity huffed dismissively. “Those scratches can get infected. I don’t want you to catch a disease just because we didn’t give you proper treatment.”

“Maybe I can bake you a ‘Get Well’ cake after we drop you at the hospital,” Pinkie Pie suggested with a reassuring smile rather than her overly happy one. “Just think of happy things when you get scared and then eat the cake.”

That DID sound like a good idea. He didn’t go to hospitals often because he used magic to heal himself, but that trick with the cake was probably going to be useful if he ever ended up at a hospital with no magic to use.

“I can bring my first kit supply,” Fluttershy suggested, putting up her brave face. “I am no expert, but I can at least clean the wounds by the time we bring you to the doctor.”

“Good thinking, Fluttershy!” Twilight commended the pegasus. “Now all that we need to do is to find the suspect and arrest him.”

“You made some nice friends since the last time I saw you,” Piercing Gaze spoke out from the darkness, unseen by anypony yet still audible to them.

Talk about a mood killer.

“Get over here and fight me, you jerk!” Rainbow Dash flew to the sky. “I will show you what will happen when you mess with one of Rainbow Dash’s friends!”

“I got no trouble with you, Rainbow Dash,” Piercing Gaze answered, almost politely. The tone was almost pleasant to hear, but still carried a bit of hostility. “All I care is about the other pegasus.”

“What do you want with Aster?” Twilight asked Piercing Gaze as she unfurled her wings and flew beside Rainbow Dash.

“I want to settle a score with him,” Piercing Gaze answered in reply.

“What score are you talking about?” Rainbow Dash snorted. “Aster is an awesome pony. I don’t think that he deserves any of what you did to him.”

“Aster, you say?” Piercing Gaze asked in surprise. An evil smile formed on his beak as he roared in laughter. The girls and the Crusaders took a step back at the griffin’s change of behavior.

“What’s so funny?” Rainbow Dash asked challengingly.

“Not only did you somehow use your magic to change your race…you also thought of an identity to go along with it,” Piercing Gaze answered not to her, but at the stallion in front of him. “It shows how much you’ve matured over the years…Statice.”

The stallion snarled at the griffin as soon as he heard the girls gasp in unison. He turned his head around to see them all staring at him in shock and surprise.

“Did he just say that Aster is Statice?” Rarity asked in horror, remembering her previous encounter with the unicorn.

“That’s impossible!” Pinkie Pie gasped dramatically. “Statice was a unicorn and Aster is 100% pegasus! It can’t be a disguise! He doesn’t have a zipper!” As she made the statement, she started to invade Statice’s personal space to look for said zipper.

“Can Aster be Statice, Twilight?” Applejack asked her purple friend, not even bothering to look at the pegasus that was looking at her.

“It can be him,” Twilight rubbed her head with her hooves. “But I’m just not sure. Transformation magic is very advanced. I don’t think that Statice can replicate it at such an intricate level.”

Statice’s eyes narrowed at Twilight. Magical prodigy with almost no social skills or not, she had no right trying to determine his proficiency with magic. He stared briefly at Fluttershy, who was trembling at his sight. He didn’t need to see Spike or the Crusaders to know that they were confused about the whole ordeal.

Might as well end this farce once and for all. It wasn’t gonna last forever anyway.

Taking a deep breath, Statice decided to do the most logical thing.

“COME FORTH, DISCORD!” he bellowed. His call made everypony but Piercing Gaze cover their ears. The snap of fingers was heard before Discord materialized with a bathtub beneath him.

“This better be good, Statice!” he shouted as he pointed a scrub at him. “I was in the middle of my bath!”


Ten voices echoed in surprise, catching the draconequus off-guard. He turned his head around to see the Elements of Harmony, Spike, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders close to Statice. Next to them was a tough looking griffin glaring at him through his shades. The draconequus made his tub disappear with a finger snap and positioned himself close to Statice. He looked surprisingly calm and composed, almost bored.

“Your past caught up to you?” Discord asked Statice.


“The gryphon is one of your former enemies?”

“I call him griffin, but yes,” Statice nodded his head.

“He turned out to be too tough to handle in your pegasus form?” Discord asked as he pointed at the injuries over Statice’s body.

“Yes,” the stallion answered in an annoyed tone.

“The girls decided to help you?” Discord asked as he looked at the girls and waved at them. Only Pinkie Pie waved back at him and yet she was too stunned to even smile or say a greeting to Discord.

“Yes,” Statice lowered his head, looking guilty.

“The griffin spilled the beans about you?” Discord asked, now looking concerned at his friend.

“Unfortunately,” Statice sighed. “It’s about time I ended up this farce. Pass me my cloud so I can take out this jerk and get out of here.”

“I’m sorry things didn’t work for you,” Discord looked at Statice apologetically as he materialized the cloud that Statice used for the transformation.

“Don’t be,” Statice whispered at him, glaring threateningly at the griffin. “The one that will be sorry is about to be.”

Piercing Gaze didn’t say anything. He only smiled now that he was going to fight Statice. It wasn’t going to be a victory if he defeated a pegasus rather than the unicorn that took his light away from him.

“I’m going to have to do a lot of explaining to do to the girls,” Discord grumbled in a disappointed tone as he finished positioning the transformation cloud on the air, right above Statice's head for the sake of a very dynamic entry.

“I’m sorry,” Statice apologized as he spread his wings and flew upward. Once he was at a good height, he dive-bombed straight at the cloud.

The girls gasped as they watched the pegasus collide with the cloud. Rainbow Dash flew by the side of Spike and the Crusaders. As a weather pony, she was familiar with what happened when a pegasus struck a storm cloud. To her surprise, no lightning bolts came out and she didn’t hear the familiar sound of thunder. She looked up to the cloud and saw that it had turned into a glowing green light and was descending to the ground. Rainbow Dash was not familiar with this event, but it was easy to figure out that a glowing cloud was not a good signal for anypony to be close.

“It's gonna blow!” Rainbow Dash yelled out as she took the Crusaders and Spike on her back. She spread her wings and flew away from the cloud with the rest of the girls running and flying next to her.

Once the cloud was a few inches from the ground, it exploded in a green flash. The ponies and the dragon gasped at the explosion, closing their eyes and covering their ears for a few seconds. They heard no sound and they didn’t feel any rise of temperature close to them. The group opened their eyes and uncovered their ears to see what was happening in front of them.

Standing in front of them was no longer Aster. It was a green unicorn stallion that they had not seen for a long time. He looked at them with his golden eyes with an expression that showed some…regret before they turned sharp and glared at the griffin.

“You wanted to fight me again, Piercing Gaze?” Statice challenged as he spread his legs in a battle stance. “Well, your wish has turned true!”

Piercing Gaze grinned, showing his carnivorous teeth hidden behind his beak in the darkness. “I’ve been waiting years for this, Statice.”

“All I wanted was a peaceful life,” Statice glared at the shadows with cold, emotionless eyes. “I wanted a life where I never had to fight for money or for my safety. I thought that if I moved to Equestria that I was going to find peace. I was mistaken. And now…you come here to make my life here even more of a torture than it already is. I am going to hammer on you the lesson that you were supposed to learn back then. DON’T MESS WITH ME!”

The unicorn lighted his horn with magic and charged at the griffin. It was time to settle the score.

Old Enemies and New Frenemies

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Old Enemies and New Frenemies

Piercing Gaze grinned with satisfaction as he spread his wings and charged at Statice with his outstretched talons. He had tensed his powerful hind legs for a mighty pounce, and he combined them with the flapping of his wings to deliver a tackle with immense momentum. By the time that Statice was ready to throw at spell at him, the unicorn was going to be on the ground begging for mercy.

Piercing Gaze’s grin faltered in surprise as he felt his body hit something that was not furry. It was hard, like a rock, but the contours of the texture resembled a pony. It was as if he had tackled a statue. And now that statue was wrapping its hooves on him!

“What is this sorcery?” Piercing Gaze screamed as he landed his hind paws on the ground and tried to push the statue away with his eagle forelegs.

“Terra Coat Spell,” the statue answered with a voice that the griffin recognized as Statice’s. “I used my magic to absorb the earth around me and turn it into armor.”

Piercing Gaze clenched his teeth in frustration and for the effort of pushing the now heavy Statice away from him. The unicorn was smart. He had to admit it. When he made the spell, it wasn’t to blast him but to make that coat. Piercing Gaze had to acknowledge it now: Statice was no longer the cub that he tried to hunt down years ago. But that didn’t matter for the time being. He was going to get his revenge at any price!

It's better this way. An easy prey would make my whole journey pointless. I'd rather have a challenging hunt that makes my arduous journey worth the travel.

The griffin spread his wings and furiously flapped them, gripping the pony’s earth hooves with his talons. That earth armor made the unicorn heavy but he was strong enough to carry him. He was going to try out a favorite move of his: Pick Up and Drop. Once he reached a height that was appropriate enough to destroy the coat without hurting Statice too much, Piercing Gaze finally dropped his prey.

“Have a nice fall!” Piercing Gaze called out as he heard Statice scream once he let go of him. The griffin placed a talon close to his ear to hear the result of the fall. He didn’t hear anything…but he felt something wrap around his ankles.

The griffin squawked in protest at the tugging sensation of his hind legs. He placed his talons around his ankles, trying to find out what was wrapped around them. He felt something heavy and solid, but it was something that could not be torn apart with his talons. It was of something like…magic.

“Let go off me!” roared Piercing Gaze as he bent his head down. If he was still capable of seeing, he would have seen two tendrils of green magic coming from Statice’s hooves.

The green unicorn smiled under his armor. The Appendage Spell was very useful as he used magic to construct unique limbs on his hooves. He was capable of getting hands, claws, and pincers, among other unusual extremities. But his favorite by far was the pair of tentacles that were capable of wrapping around anything. With the tentacles wrapped around his enemy’s ankles, Statice’s weight, which was already a burden thanks to his rock armor, was making it harder for Piercing Gaze to remain in the air for much longer. The griffin was going to land in one way or another.

Guess Digi was wrong when he said this spell was a stupid idea...


To say that Twilight was not frustrated with the sudden turn of events was an understatement. She was irate at how many random things were happening around her as well as her inability to comprehend them.

First, she met Statice in Canterlot and had her first meeting with him ending with her knocking him unconscious for sucking her horn in public. Second, Statice managed to escape and she never heard from him again. Third, she met a new pegasus named Aster and befriended him with her friends a few months later. Fourth, Aster was in trouble and she decided to help him out as one of her duties as the Princess of Friendship. Fifth, it turned out that Aster was Statice all along and that Discord was helping him out.

All of these revelations had stressed her out beyond what she normally expected. It was hard for her to put her hoof around the current issue, but she knew the right pony, or draconequus in this case, that was going to set things straight for her.

“After your little encounter with Statice I felt curious about meeting him,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “I met him months ago during an experiment to see how a little unicorn was capable of making a big fuss for the Elements of Harmony. Statice turned out to be more entertaining than I expected.”

“What do you mean by entertaining?” Rainbow Dash glared at Discord with hostility. “The guy is a criminal, Discord!”

“So was I!” Discord reminded her with a singsong voice. “Besides, this all happened before my full redemption after the Tirek incident.”

“Well it looks like you met him AFTER the Tirek incident,” Applejack narrowed her eyes at him, not content with being locked out of the loop. Even if words were not spoken, that counted as a lie in her book.

“I grew fond of him after our first meeting!” Discord shouted in exasperation. “I’ve never met such an interesting pony in my entire life!”

“And what do you think about us?” Pinkie Pie stood on her hind legs and placed her front hooves on her hips. “We’re very interesting, thank you very much!”

“He was interesting in a dark sense,” Discord corrected her. “You wouldn’t believe the type of adventures that he had since he started working as an outlaw.”

“What kind of jobs did he have?” Fluttershy asked fearful and concerned for Statice if he had somehow gotten Discord interested in him.

“I can’t tell,” Discord grinned sheepishly. “I Pinkie Promised not to tell anypony about his past.”

Hearing this made everypony around him groan in dismay. Pinkie Pie was now standing on his chest, shoving her muzzle on top of his.

“Why did you have to go and make a Pinkie Promise like that, Discord?” Pinkie Pie growled in annoyance that she was not going to learn Statice’s past because of her own special oath. She wanted to find out what was Statice’s past, but she couldn’t do it without risking Discord’s friendship with him if he broke his Pinkie Promise. To say that it was the first time that Pinkie Pie was mad about a Pinkie Promise being kept was quite a small understatement.

“I wanted him to trust me,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “The kid was special and entertaining. He was unlike any other pony that I met since I moved to Equestria.”

“How is he special, Discord?” Twilight asked, trying to sound comprehensive.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that,” Discord turned his head away, sounding genuinely guilty. “I did make a promise to him, Twilight. You can only find out about him if he accepts to share his past with you.”

“Easier said than done,” Applejack snapped as she pointed at the unicorn and the gryphon fighting it out in the sky. “Ah don’t think that he wants to share anythin’ regardin’ that guy.”

By this point, Statice had summoned some sort of magical tentacle to drag Piercing Gaze into the ground as he was falling. The gryphon’s constant wing beating slowed the descent, but it was evident that the fight was going to reach the ground thanks to the tentacles and the additional pounds that were provided by the earth armor that Statice was wearing.

“Can somepony explain to me what’s goin’ on here?” Apple Bloom yelled, getting the attention of the older ponies. “Why is that gryphon chasin’ after Static?”

“Ya know him, Apple Bloom?” Applejack raised an eyebrow.

“He saved us from Timberwolves,” Scootaloo answered hurriedly. “We were gonna chart a map of the Everfree Forest to get our cutie marks in cartography. Then some Timberwolves attacked us before he came in and wrecked them up!”

“You did what?” Rarity asked in outrage. “How many times must I tell you fillies to not go into the Everfree unsupervised? You could have been hurt!”

“We know that!” Sweetie Belle shrieked. “Static…no, Statice told us how dangerous it was for us to have done that. But I don’t know why he lied about his name or how he got to meet you.”

“Statice is the name of a flower…” Spike tried to explain the Crusaders.

“Got it,” Scootaloo interrupted him with a dismissive wave of her hoof. If he was named after a flower then she could understand why he lied about his name. It didn’t sound cool or even masculine…even she was willing to lie if that had been her name.

“Look girls, he’s landed!” Pinkie Pie called as she looked at the fight with some binoculars. “They’re going to fight it with hoof-to hoof…or is it hoof-to-claw? Wait! I think that it’s hoof-to-talon. Yeah, it’s a hoof-to-talon fight.”

“I think this event calls for some battle commentary!” Discord snapped his fingers to portray something akin to a television screen. He was now sitting on a table with a microphone in front of him. Pinkie Pie and Spike were sitting next to him, both of them with their own microphones in front of them. The purple dragon was stunned by his participation but seeing Pinkie Pie waving at Discord and playing with her microphone allowed him to know what he was supposed to do.

What am I supposed to do here?

“And Statice VS Piercing Gaze: The Blind Vengeance is a go!” Discord declared as the screen showed the unicorn and griffin rolling on the ground, pawing and kicking at each other.

“The way I see it this battle is full of hate from both sides!” Pinkie Pie adopted a professional point of view. “What can you tell me about this fight, Spike?”

Spike stammered for a few seconds, but recovered fast enough to enter into character. “Well…it seems that they are deciding to go on fighting close quarters. I think that Statice is weaker than Piercing if he is being pushed back despite his rock armor.”

The screen showed Statice being pushed back by Piercing Gaze as the gryphon stepped forward with meticulous steps with his hind legs. Statice narrowed his eyes at Piercing Gaze, his eyes reflecting his determination in the griffin’s shades. The gryphon pounced on Statice, only to find that his earth armor was an empty husk. In the split second of the griffin’s assault, the unicorn teleported from inside the armor to behind the griffin and covered his body in a green aura.

“Talk about a feint!” Discord banged his lion paw on the table. “Piercing pounced on Statice, only to get an empty shell instead! And now Statice pops in from behind to give him a nasty surprise!”

“Ooh, it appears as if Statice is going to throw him away with a levitation spell!” Pinkie Pie bounced on her chair. She had seen Twilight doing the same strategy during the Changeling Invasion at the wedding of Princess Cadence and Shining Armor. She estimated that Piercing Gaze was going to be thrown away from his opponent in a few seconds.

“No he is not,” Spike countered before she had the chance of voicing her theories. Statice was rearing on his hind legs as he covered the griffin in magic. “He is going to use the…” He stopped. He couldn’t say it until he saw it done.

Statice bent his body back, making sure that it was flexed in an arc as his fore hooves touched the ground and were pointing opposite to his hind hooves. Piercing Gaze soared above him, screaming in fright as his body was sent flying into an arc above the unicorn before slamming beak first into the ground.

“He hit him with the Arcane Suplex!” Spike declared ecstatically.

“An Arcane Suplex?” Rainbow Dash and Twilight asked at the same time.

“What in tarnation is an Arcane Suplex?” Applejack asked, wondering how Rainbow Dash and Twilight knew the term well enough to say it at the same time. The only time these two had something in common was when they were reading Daring Do.

“It is a wrestling move done by unicorns in many wrestling competitions,” Rainbow Dash explained excitedly as she witnessed the technique for the first time. “Normally, a Suplex is a throw on which you pick up your enemies with your hooves and then you bend down the ground to slam them on their back.”

“But the Arcane Suplex is a variation done by unicorns,” Twilight interrupted to give her own explanation, not noticing the glare her pegasus friend was giving her. “Instead of using their hooves to lift their opponents, they use their magic to pick them up and then do the Suplex motion to throw them. It is an illegal move in competitive wrestling and it is only taught in the Royal Guard nowadays.”

Even though Twilight was not into martial arts, she did help Shining Armor study for his tests in the Royal Guard Academy. One of the lessons on which she helped him to study was in theories of combat, which gave detailed instructions on combat techniques, including the Arcane Suplex.

“Why was such a technique forbidden?” Rarity asked, not understanding how horrible was the technique if it was not allowed in a violent sport like wrestling.

“Unicorns have a lot of range with their magic so the technique gave them a lot of unfair advantages,” Twilight recalled her studying sessions with Shining Armor as she enlightened her friends with the illegality of the move. “It wasn’t a fair move to use in a competition so it was only used in periods of war.”

“Shining Armor showed me this technique once when he brought me to the Royal Guard Academy,” Spike commented on his microphone, remembering the good wrestling events that he saw there before Twilight’s study sessions grew increasingly longer and forced him to cancel his visits to the academy for good. It had been a long time since he saw an Arcane Suplex and it was just as awesome as he remembered it to be.

Why can't Twilight use moves like that?

“And Statice is not finished fighting yet!” Discord pointed at the screen. Statice was now balancing on his fore hooves. He bent his forelegs and then threw himself at Piercing Gaze, kicking him on the chest with both hind legs. The gryphon's beak came out of the dirt as his body was sent flying into the air with the force of the unicorn’s kick. He kept flying fruitlessly into the air even as Statice landed in the ground with his back turned on him. In a few seconds, Piercing Gaze was now lying on his back with his talons rubbing on his chest, wheezing for air.

“A Flying Drop Buck!” Rainbow Dash and Applejack commented in astonished surprise. Their synchronized response earned them shocked looks from their friends.

“I like wrestling,” Rainbow Dash shrugged her shoulders unapologetically.

“Ah’ve been to some wrestling shows when Ah was young,” Applejack blushed a little bit, recalling the few times on which she used to sneak out of the farm back when she was as young and mischievous as Apple Bloom.

“What is a Flying Buck Drop?” Spike asked from the commentator side, feeling curious about the move as he did not watch it being performed on the wrestling shows in Canterlot.

“You do a hoofstand and then you do a hoofspring to throw yourself at your opponent and kick him with both hind legs,” Rainbow Dash demonstrated by performing the motions in the air. “I saw some old pegasus wrestling tapes that showed how the move is done.”

“Ah saw the move being done in a dummy and Ah can see why it was cancelled,” Applejack remembered the wrestler destroying the dummy with a single kick of his hind legs. “The Flying Drop Buck is not like yer average buck. It throws yer whole body rather than yer hind legs into the buck for massive damage. Ponies used to get hurt severely when they used this move.”

Ah gotta say that's some buck. Ah think it's nearly on the same league as a buck from the Apple family.

“Oh my,” Fluttershy hid her eyes behind her mane, turning her head away, and even raising a hoof to cover her field of vision just in case she witnessed more violence. “I hope that he is okay. The gryphon may be mean, but he doesn’t deserve to suffer that much.”

Taking no chances, Statice used his Earth Prison Spell on the griffin while he was recovering from the kick. He only had a few precious seconds to end the fight. The earth started to shift around Piercing’s talons and paws. The griffin squawked as he found the earth getting solid and growing around his body. He was going to get trapped if he didn’t escape.

What is the cub doing this time? I don't feel like I'm being grabbed by his magic. It feels like his earth armor, only this time its something larger enveloping me. What spell is he using this time?

Statice smiled for a brief second before frowning in concentration. The earth started shifting around the griffin and turning solid. Soon enough, the griffin was going to be trapped in a prison of solid rock. A few seconds more and the battle was ending.

“I’m not letting your cursed magic beat me again!” Piercing Gaze screamed before letting out a powerful roar. It was different from the eagle screech that Statice heard from him. He felt his muscles bulge as he roared, which was a peculiar trait of the griffins in the Leo lineage from which he came.

Statice covered his ears in pain. He was not used to hearing such loud noises in close proximity. His trained ears had turned against him as they absorbed the full volume of the roar. The stallion didn’t resist as he plunged his hooves into his ears to prevent them from hearing anymore.

The unicorn’s ear pain and the griffin’s bulging muscle mass was enough to disrupt the spell, allowing Piercing Gaze to escape from his rocky prison. Having regained his freedom, the griffin wasted no time in tackling Statice again to resume their fight. In the meantime, the commentators were having the time of their lives.

“And it appears Piercing Gaze went all ‘I am a lion hear me roar’ on Statice,” the draconequus took his microphone and leaned back to make his comment.

“I am surprised with how muscled Piercing Gaze turned out to be,” Spike cringed as he remembered how muscular the gryphon became when he got out of the rock prison.

“He must be a gryphon from the Leo lineage,” Pinkie Pie observed with a frown that looked like a professor giving a seminar.

“What do you mean with Leo lineage?” Spike asked.

“Some gryphons have lineages the same way pets have pedigrees,” Pinkie Pie explained, her cheery mood returned. “What I'm saying is that gryphons have lineages that show a close connection with either their feline half or their avian half. Those with the Leo lineage are closer to their feline half, so they are excellent hunters and fighters.”

“How do you even learned all that?” Spike asked in surprise, not expecting Pinkie Pie to have such intricate knowledge about griffins.
“I read it in the book that Twilight gave me when me and Dashie went to Griffonstone that time,” Pinkie Pie grinned, which was soon followed by a squeaking noise in the background.

“I can’t believe how thorough you went with that book, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash deadpanned as she stared at her alicorn friend.

“At least it gave us some valuable insight about this fight,” the purple alicorn defended herself. “Besides, it is a good lecture about another species. You just need to expand your horizons.”

Back to the fight, Statice and Piercing Gaze were busy wrestling each other. The unicorn was using his hooves to prevent the griffin’s talons from scratching him. Similarly, their heads were dancing back and forth as Piercing attempted to peck Statice with his beak while Statice tried to poke him with his horn. Their hind legs were kicking and stomping at each other with Piercing’s claws scratching at Statice’s legs in the exchange.

Statice gritted his teeth as the wrestling continued. He was holding his own for now, but beating a griffin at wrestling was impossible, especially when they were fighting for the kill. He couldn’t blast him or levitate him away with his magic. Fortunately, he had a spell reserved for such occasions.

Statice grinned as his horn was covered with his magic aura. Soon enough, all of his body was covered with magic. Piercing Gaze frowned as he felt some sort of warmth surrounding his prey. He wondered what that sensation was before he found the answer: it was pain!

“And it appears that Statice has used his Electric Eel Spell!” Discord happily pounded his lion paw into the table on which he and his friends were commenting. His mood was better as he watched Statice’s magic covering his body before it turned into electricity, which the unicorn was more than happy to share with the griffin that was pinning him.

“Why is it called the Electric Eel Spell, Discord?” Pinkie Pie asked as she narrowed her eyes at the fighting pair. “I don’t see an electric eel anywhere!”

“It is a spell that is used to emulate electric eels, Pinkie Pie,” Discord explained as he dressed like a professor and then materialized a blackboard with a poorly drawn electric eel on it. “Statice coats himself with lightning magic to electrocute his enemies just like electric eels use their electricity to defend themselves against predators.”

“He is right,” Fluttershy commented to her friends. “I read that in one of my books about marine animals. I didn’t think that Statice was knowledgeable enough to actually replicate this defense mechanism in his magic.”

“I didn't think so either!” Twilight stared at the stallion, watching as he was still wrestling with the gryphon despite electrocuting him for seconds. “Not many ponies are brave or foolish enough to coat themselves with elemental magic. It’s a very dangerous act of spell casting.”

“Didn’t ya do somethin’ like that when you were tryin’ to understand the Pinkie Sense?” Applejack asked, remembering how Twilight got so enraged in one occasion that she literally turned on fire.

“It was only for a few seconds, Applejack,” Twilight blushed as she remembered that lapse of petty anger. “If I had remained on that form, I would have wasted too much magic and I may have gotten some pretty nasty burns. I was lucky to calm down as soon as I lost control.”

“Then what will happen to Statice if he keeps doing that?” Rainbow Dash pointed her hoof at the still electrified duo that was continuing their fight.

“I’m not sure,” Twilight looked on as the fight progressed. “Nopony has been documented as doing something like that in the books of spell history that I read as a student of Celestia. He can either injure himself or exhaust his magic.”

“He doesn’t seem to have a trouble keeping it up,” Scootaloo observed. She had not missed a single detail since the fight started. From the looks of Statice’s face as he fought, she could see that maintaining the spell was easier than trying to keep the gryphon away from him.

“We don’t know that yet,” Twilight frowned as she watched Statice and Piercing continue their combat. “I can only assume that Statice has a limit to how much he can cast the spell.”

Just what kind of education did you have, Statice? There's no way a sane magic teacher could let you try that spell...

Soon enough, Statice’s spell was reaching his limit. The spell’s electrical current was only designed to last for a few seconds. Prolonged exposure caused the spell’s strength to decrease and the current to become weaker. In spite of the pain, Piercing Gaze gained an increased tolerance to electricity during the ordeal, which he demonstrated when he picked up Statice and threw him into a tree.

Hard to forget that I'm not the only one in this business that can adapt in a fight. This is why I retired in the first place.

“Ouch,” the unicorn uttered as his body managed to break a tree in half when he was thrown by the griffin. He used his Healing Spell to repair the damage that was done to him. Much to his dismay, the damage was taking time to heal. It was a clear indication that he was running out of magic.

I’m running out of juice…in both senses of the metaphorical word.

Statice cancelled the spell when the amount of pain in his body became bearable. He needed to save his magic for a more productive fighting approach. An idea came to mind, but he was going to need to get close and personal again. Wasting no time, the unicorn charged at the griffin this time. The next spell used little magic, but it was going to be ideal enough to disarm the griffin of his main weapons.

“And it appears that this time around Statice wants to go hoof-to-talon with Piercing Gaze rather than keeping it safe with his spells,” Discord observed as he faked a concerned and shocked face from Statice’s approach. He had seen enough of the green unicorn’s fights in his memories, and he knew that he was prone to take huge yet calculated risks that gave high rewards. He could see that this was one of them, but decided to pretend that he didn’t know to maintain the suspense for his friends. He didn’t want to ruin the surprise for them.

“This is SO tense!” Pinkie Pie gasped exaggeratedly. “Why is he fighting a griffin so close when he has those huge talons? Have you looked at them? They’re very big. One mean griffin in Griffonstone picked me up by the head with one of his talons!”

“I think that Statice is taking a risk!” Spike was fighting his urge to panic. He read enough comic books to know that this was the part in the fight where the hero pulls out a risky move to earn victory. He was not missing up on that.

Please let me be right about this!

Soon enough, Statice and Piercing Gaze were rolling around the ground, trying to gain an advantage over the other. Punches and kicks were thrown with hooves. Swipes and stomps were thrown with talons and claws.

Statice lighted his horn with magic as he attempted to headbutt Piercing Gaze. His horn barely nicked the griffin’s beak. Piercing took the chance to peck at him again, only for Statice to push his head away with one hoof. The frustrated griffin grabbed that hoof with one of his talons and slowly tried to pull it off. Statice attempted to shove his horn at the talons, barely nicking them. Not wasting any time, Piercing Gaze used the talons of his other foreleg to pin Statice’s head to the ground. He could feel that Statice’s neck was exposed, not caring about the little magic sparks that the unicorn was sending on the talons that firmly planted his head on the ground.

“It’s time to finish this!” Piercing Gaze screeched as he raised his talons, ready to deliver the finishing blow once and for all.

“We have to stop this fight!” Pinkie Pie yelled in horror. As fun as it was to narrate the match, she didn’t want it to end with Statice getting severely hurt. Whether that stallion was the unicorn Statice that she met in Canterlot or the pegasus Aster with whom she had fun in Ponyville, Pinkie still liked him enough to worry about his safety

“It’ll be fine!” Discord leaned on his back and rested his mismatched legs on top of the table. He placed his arms behind his head, not caring about Statice’s safety at all.

Spike stood up from his table and looked at Discord pleadingly. “But Statice is going to get…”

“He’ll be fine,” Discord smiled reassuringly. He knew that Statice was going to end the fight big time. Plus, he had fast fingers ready to snap if the green unicorn was really in danger.

Having seen enough, Twilight lighted her horn with magic and threw a magic blast at Piercing Gaze. As much as she still resented Statice for their first meeting and lying to her and her friends, she was not going to stand there and let him get hurt. Much to her horror, a barrier of magic contained her attack. She turned her head around to watch Discord, who somehow grew eyes in the back of his head. He waved a chastising finger with his eagle hand while the lion paw was ready to snap its fingers.

“What are you doing, Discord?” Twilight shouted in outrage. “Statice is in danger! He needs our help! He’s going to get…”

She was interrupted by the gasps of her friends. The purple alicorn turned her head in horror, feeling the need to watch despite the results that were running inside her mind. A particular image that went against everything that Twilight expected greeted her, leaving the purple alicorn with an open mouth.

“What did you do to me?” Piercing Gaze shrieked with outrage. He was swiping his talons against Statice’s neck…but he didn’t feel flesh being torn. He didn’t feel blood. He didn’t hear screams of pain or anything of the sort. His talons were passing across the neck with all the strength that he put in his foreleg and yet he found no result.

“Let’s just say that I got enough magic inside of me to take off your edges,” Statice beamed wide enough for the blind griffin to felt it.

Infuriated, the griffin lunged at his prey beak first. He felt the beak hit something hard… but he didn’t feel it budge against its sharp tip.

“I told you that I took your edges off!” Statice grinned as he took the chance to use a Taser Horn Spell on the griffin’s forehead. Piercing Graze roared in pain as the electricity surged inside his head and spread across his body. Once the spell reached its peak, his body was blasted off of his rival and into the ground.

Pinkie Pie and Spike were left slack jawed at how Statice reversed the situation. On the other hoof, Discord had a smug smile on his face as he decided to give the finishing touch to the fight. Taking a deep breath, Discord spoke in his loudest volume to comment on the victory.


With a finger snap, Discord got rid of the tables and the microphones. The gesture was enough to wake up Pinkie Pie and Spike from their stupor. Opening her mouth and closing it, Pinkie was the first one to speak.

“Hey!” Pinkie Pie protested as she crossed her forelegs on her chest and pouted. “I didn’t get to give my final comment in the fight! That was very rude of you, Discord!”

“You snooze you lose, Pinkie!” Discord shrugged his shoulders, which only made Pinkie Pie give him a bigger pout. Spike’s reaction, however, was the opposite of what the pink mare showed.

“That was awesome!”

In the background, the rest of the girls were thinking on how the fight ended. They all remained standing in place, shocked and impressed by what they witnessed.

“What in tarnation happened here?” Applejack bellowed, not believing how the fight ended.

“I’m not sure,” Rarity responded. “For a second I thought that his talons were going to hurt him, but then they didn’t. It was as if his talons lost all cutting edges that they once had.”

“I think that it was a spell of some sort,” Rainbow Dash voiced her opinion. Being a pegasus speedster, her eyes were trained to see objects in motion. “I noticed that he used some sort of magic sparks in the talons and the beak when he was wrestling with the gryphon.”

“I saw them too!” Scootaloo proclaimed, wanting to get her idol to notice her. “It was when he was starting to headbutt him.”

“But what do them sparks have to do with the talons not cuttin’ him?” Apple Bloom asked, still not getting how Statice survived what was supposed to be a finishing blow over and over again.

“It doesn’t matter!” Sweetie Belle shrieked hurryingly. “Static…I mean Statice, needs our help. He’s hurt and tired!”

With that said, Sweetie Belle went after her crush.

“Get back here, Sweetie Belle!” Rarity called after her little sister, more out of concern than anger. As much as she trusted Sweetie Belle, Rarity was not going to let her get close to Statice until she got answers from him.

“Oh my, we need to help them both,” Fluttershy flew after the sisters. As much as the fight scared her, she couldn’t let the two combatants to just remain there with their injuries.

Twilight’s friends followed after Fluttershy. Soon enough Spike and Pinkie Pie followed after them. Discord disappeared as soon as the duo left him to follow their friends, leaving Twilight alone with her thoughts.

Who was Statice? How can a normal unicorn like him managed to earn the hatred of such a savage gryphon? What kind of past did he had if Discord was that interested in him? Where did he learn to fight like that? Why did he turn into Aster? How did he meet the Crusaders in the Everfree Forest? And why did he go through all the trouble of spending time in Ponyville with her and her friends despite apparently being enemies?

She didn’t know the answers to any of those questions. But she was going to find out now. Frowning from the many emotions in her head, Twilight went after her friends to talk to Statice. He owed her some answers and she was getting them.

Statice stood over the defeated body of Piercing Gaze. His gambit worked. The Blunting Spell was a defensive spell that he used to give smooth edges to sharp weapons to prevent them from cutting them. Statice normally used them on swords and axes of large enemies. It was the first time that he ever used them on small weapons like a griffin’s claws and beak. Regardless of his inexperience with using the spell under those circumstances, Statice’s tactic paid off.

As he checked on Piercing Gaze, Statice noticed that his last spell knocked the shades out of his face. He closely levitated the shades and stored them in Hammerspace as a little memento of his fight. Now all that he needed to do was to get rid of Piercing Gaze to be on his way.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Twilight’s voice called out from behind him.

Statice groaned as he turned around. Was it too much to ask for a fight that won’t be followed by a tense confrontation that may result in another fight? He didn’t feel strong enough to keep fighting after the brawl Piercing Gaze gave him.

“I’m getting out of here with Piercing Gaze,” Statice responded as he levitated the unconscious griffin in his magic grasp.

“We can assign a dungeon for him in Canterlot,” Twilight replied neutrally.

Statice snorted. “Lots of good that turned out to be against me,” Statice bragged dismissively.

“How did you escape?” Twilight asked. A part of her thought that Discord may have helped but another part told him that Statice may have figured that part out on his own.

“You really think that I am telling you that part?” Statice raised an eyebrow at her inquiry. “How do I know that you won’t use the information to put me in a harder cell for me to escape?”

“He’s got a good point, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie gave Twilight an uneasy look. The purple mare groaned at Pinkie’s reply, but she kept with her interrogation. That fight with Piercing Gaze was one of the scariest sights that Twilight had ever seen. She never saw a gryphon trying to hurt another pony like that. Not even Gilda was that violent.

“What does Piercing Gaze have against you?”

Statice winced. He hated to explain that part so he kept it to a minimum. “One of the first enemies that I made in my adventures,” Statice awkwardly explained. “Let’s just say that he doesn’t take losing in a good way.”

“No, I don’t take losing in a good way,” Rainbow Dash pointed a hoof at herself before glaring at Statice. Being an athlete, Rainbow Dash was used to winning and was very sore in the few moments in which she lost a competition. She recognized a sore loser when she saw one and that gryphon was much worse than a sore loser. “That guy over there went all out to hurt you.”

“Let’s just say that the fights outside of Equestria are a LOT different than the fights inside of Equestria,” Statice responded to avoid further digging into his past.

“Where were you all this time?” Twilight continued her interrogation before Rainbow Dash lost her cool. She could see that the prismatic mare was going to attack Statice for not giving her a satisfactory answer.

“I was hibernating,” Statice responded.

“You were hibernating?” Fluttershy asked. She was very familiar with hibernation, having seen many of her animals go into it during winter. Hearing that Statice hibernated visually surprised her. “But ponies don’t hibernate.”

“They do if they use a spell,” Statice answered quickly, perhaps a little too quickly for Fluttershy’s state as she whimpered in fright at his reply.

Seriously, she got scared just for a quick answer? Who am I kidding? I don’t look too friendly right now.

“How did you meet our sisters?” Rarity asked, feeling uneasy about Sweetie Belle already knowing him and caring about his safety.

“After waking up from my longer than expected hibernation, I went to the Everfree Forest and heard them screaming,” Statice answered that question more securely. “It turns out that they were being attacked by Timberwolves when they were trying to get their cutie marks in cartography.”

Hearing that answer, Applejack and Rarity gasped and promptly glared at their younger sisters. Rainbow Dash did the same thing with Scootaloo, not approving of the filly for doing something so dangerous.

“Why did you turn into Aster?” Twilight asked with a little resentment in her voice. She didn’t like it when her friends lied to her, especially if they did it since their first meeting.

“I needed to learn basic social skills,” Statice answered the question carefully. “I suspected that I was going to be searched all over Equestria from our previous meeting months ago. I created a new identity and decided to blend in with the ponies of a town to learn how to make a living on my own. Afterwards, I was going to move out into a new town to start my life there.”

“Why did you choose Ponyville?” Twilight asked. For all the pragmatism he showed, it was unnerving that he chose the hometown of the six most dangerous enemies that he had made months ago.

“Proximity,” Statice answered. “I needed to develop my social skills by talking to ponies and Ponyville was the closest town in my vicinity at the time.”

“Why did you befriend us as Aster?” Twilight Sparkle asked, feeling a little betrayed by the revelation.

“I didn’t mean to befriend you,” Statice answered sorely. “I suspected that you were going to see through my disguise so I made my best to avoid you all. Unfortunately, fate had me meeting you more times than I expected.”

“Does that mean that you didn’t like spending time with us?” Pinkie Pie interrupted, her voice breaking at the revelation. It hurt to find out that Statice and Aster were one and the same because that meant that she lost two friends that lied to her twice.

“Not really,” Statice sighed. “Spending time with you girls was fun…but you can’t really enjoy the experience if you’re feeling guilty while you’re at it. I was planning on leaving Ponyville soon enough to start a life. All I needed was more social skills…until this guy showed up.”

He glared at Piercing Gaze for ruining his plan. It was because of him that he was having such painful conversation. Deciding not to waste any more time, Statice opened his Archive, showing a map of Equestria. Each part of it had the same symbol that he used on the Marking Spell. By using magic on the symbols written in the Archive, he was capable of remotely casting spells in the place that corresponded to the mark.

Statice’s eyes wandered across the map, trying to find a place on which to get rid of him.

“What’s that map?” Pinkie Pie asked, her curiosity mending her heartbreak a little bit. “It looks like the one that we have in Twilight’s castle.”

“Let’s just say that I am planning on putting this troublemaker in a place far away from here,” Statice kept on scanning the map to look for the perfect place.

“Have you tried putting him on jail?” Pinkie Pie suggested.

“I think I’ll put him in Appleloosa,” Statice hummed in thought.

“Say what?” Applejack glared at Statice with indignation.

“There is a desert in Appleloosa,” Statice explained calmly. “I plan on letting Piercing Gaze there.”

All of the girls gasped in shock.

“But Piercing Gaze won’t be able to make it out in the desert!” Fluttershy yelled in horror. “He’s too hurt and weak to survive there.”

Statice gave her a blank look. “You think I care?” he asked her indifferently. “He tried to hurt me in the WORST possible way. Why should I show him mercy?”

“Because leaving him in the desert is no different than what Piercing Gaze was trying to do to you,” Twilight countered angrily. “You’re just using a different approach. It won’t make you any better than him.”

“He’ll survive,” Statice scoffed. “It’s not like he and I had not been in the same situation before.”

Hearing such horrible words being pronounced so calmly made the blood of the ponies turn cold. That sounded like an awful fate, and yet Statice claimed that he and Piercing Gaze had been on that situation before. They couldn’t stop thinking what kind of life did the stallion have when he was a foal.

“Well you’re not doin’ that!” Applejack stepped out, her righteous fury allowing her to snap out of her stupor. “Mah cousin Braeburn lives there. You ain’t sendin’ some crazy gryphon to cause trouble there, ya hear?”

Statice felt his eye twitch. “Contrary to what you think, Applejack, unconsciousness only lasts between a few seconds and minutes,” Statice explained his reasoning. “I think that there is a slight chance that Piercing Gaze just heard about his next destination right now. Because of you, I have to choose a different place to drop him.”

“What makes you think that we’re letting you go?” Rainbow Dash spread her wings. “You still escaped from Canterlot and you lied to us!”

“I don’t have time for this!” Statice snapped as he lighted his horn with magic. He selected a random location on the map, disappearing with Piercing Gaze still in his magical grasp.

“STATICE!” Twilight exclaimed in shock and anger. Much to her displeasure, he was gone. She felt her anger blazing inside of her. Twilight was not the vengeful type, nor did she intend to be. However, that did not mean that she was going to leave Statice unattended.

“Write a letter, Spike!” Twilight barked fast enough to stun Spike.

“But I don’t have scrolls or quills, Twilight!” Spike answered desperately.

His problem was solved when Pinkie Pie shook her head and let a quill, a scroll, and a bottle of ink to fall out of her mane.

“Here,” Pinkie Pie smiled at Spike. It was a sad smile over the whole incident, but it was still a smile since she was doing it after helping a friend. That always cheered her up, even if it was just a little.

“What do you want me to write, Twilight?” Spike asked the purple alicorn as he dipped the tip of the quill into the jar of ink.

“We’re sending a letter to Princess Celestia,” Twilight announced sternly. “We’re getting those answers from Statice, one way or another!”

What To Do Now?

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What To Do Now?

Statice groaned in exhaustion as he popped into Hoofington. This was one of the earliest towns that he visited, as well as one the earliest to kick him out. He had gotten into a bar brawl when a few jerks started insulting him. By the time the royal guards showed up, Statice had already beaten them down. Unfortunately, this caused them to think that he had assaulted those jerks in the first place. The process had repeated itself several times on every occasion on which Statice moved to another town.

“Irony is a harsh mistress,” Statice sighed as he placed Piercing Gaze against a tree and activated his Archive, making sure that one of his eyes was pointed at the unconscious griffin to make sure he won’t wake up and attack him. His statement was correct in that Ponyville had no jerks that bothered him. Everypony was nice and Statice was only going to leave more out of fear of being discovered by the Elements of Harmony than causing enough trouble to warrant being kicked out. He didn’t expect an enemy from the past to track him down and blow his cover.

“Stupid Piercing Gaze,” Statice angrily muttered as he picked the perfect destination in the magical map to escape. Focusing his magic, he selected Winsome Falls as his next destination. He was gone in a flash, leaving behind the unconscious body of the griffin.

Hours passed before Piercing Gaze woke up. His injuries and his exhaustion made recovering consciousness a living nightmare. Carefully, he placed the palms of his talons over his eyes to feel them.

“I’m awake,” he concluded. One of the worst parts of being blind at the beginning was the difficulty of knowing if one had the eyes opened or closed upon waking up. The pain of attempting to see with his blind eyes was easily confused with the heaviness of one’s eyelids upon awakening.

“Where the heck are my shades?” Piercing Gaze angrily questioned as he touched the area around his eyes and felt the lack of shades around them. He wasn’t a shades griffin at first, but upon being blinded he found the need to use them. He couldn’t allow himself to be seen without his shades.

Gritting his teeth, he closed his eyes and started pawing around. His shades had to be there somewhere. He spent a couple of awkward minutes walking in circles in an attempt to hide his eyewear until he stopped. He smelled something. It was a very familiar scent that he memorized over time.

“Statice,” Piercing Gaze growled. He remembered the fight that he had with the unicorn. He had grown strong from the cub that he chased. He actually beat him in a fight on his own skill. A sense of frustration grew inside Piercing Gaze as he recalled his defeat against the unicorn.

“Darn it!” the griffin angrily formed a fist with his talon and slammed it into a tree that was standing close to him. His mind flashed back to that last blow. The electricity surged across his body, a familiar sensation of getting hit by lightning made from the storms fabricated by his clan. In hindsight, his shades went flying out of his face after the electricity blasted him out of Statice. It was probable that the unicorn had either destroyed them out of spite or that he had stolen them as a trophy.

“First he takes my light and now he takes my shades,” Piercing Gaze muttered dangerously as he clawed at a tree with his talons. “I am going to make him regret winning that fight.”

I did not travel this far to lose! You can beat me all you want! I will not stop fighting until I’m the last one standing!

His sense of smell felt the air around him. It smelled different from the forest on which he fought Statice. The scent was more akin to a natural forest, a cleaner and safer one to be exact. He cocked his head upwards and smelled the stench of Statice’s magic. He heard a town of ponies nearby, not enough to see them but close enough to recognize their presence and vicinity.

“That little punk took me out of the forest on which we fought and dumped me somewhere else,” Piercing Gaze concluded from the information he gathered. The conclusion infuriated him. How dare that cub to treat him like garbage?

I’m through letting him get the best of me!

He followed the scent as best as he could. It was a small track, but it was pointed at the sky. He was still covered in magic residues from the fight with Statice. He could use that stench of magic to familiarize himself with the trail.

“I’m going to beat you this time, Statice!” Piercing Gaze kicked off and flew into the air. “I’ve been waiting long enough to catch you. I won’t wait anymore!”

It had been hours after Statice dumped Piercing Gaze in Hoofington and then moved to Winsome Falls, and yet he still felt exhausted for the whole ordeal. The fight had taken its toll on him. His physical and magical resistance had both been drained from fighting such a seasoned combatant. Even now, he could barely heal his injuries or use Hammerspace to bring a gem with stored magic to recover his power.

“Stupid Piercing Gaze,” Statice muttered angrily. It was his first time on which he left on his own terms... and now he was back to square zero because of some arrogant jerk thinking that he didn’t deserve what happened to him.

“It’s quite rare to see you like this,” Discord’s face covered the sky as the draconequus stood above him.

“Did the girls get mad at you?” Statice asked, not wanting to make idle chitchat after such an event.

“I vanished as soon as the fight was over,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. Despite the nonchalant gesture, his face showed that he feared for a future confrontation with the Elements of Harmony.

“You didn’t tell them anything about me, right?” Statice narrowed his eyes at Discord. “I hate to pull this card, but your promised me that you were keeping it a secret from others.”

“They understood,” Discord reassured him with a placating paw. “Although, I must tell you that they are not too pleased with me making a Pinkie Promise with you.”

“Thank the stars for Pinkie Pie being insane about such things,” Statice sighed in relief at having his past belonging only to himself.

“So, you left your little problem in Hoofington?” Discord stroked his bear as he sat next to Statice. “And now you are resting on Winsome Falls, I see.”

Statice groaned. “I was going to leave him at the desert in Appleloosa, but Applejack didn’t want Piercing Gaze close to her cousin’s home,” Statice stood up to look at Discord firmly.

“Why not choose the Badlands?” Discord asked curiously. “Their deserts are far worse than the one you found in Appleloosa.”

“You really think I am that stupid to go to a place known as the Badlands?” Statice gave him a deadpan look.

Considering the places where you’ve been…can you really blame him?

“Couldn’t you leave him at Hammerspace?” Discord asked, finding the idea of locking somepony inside such dimension as quite an excellent prison.

“Hammerspace is infinite, Discord,” Statice sighed. “I’m not sure on where he is going to be the next time I use Hammerspace after locking him there. Can you imagine having me look for a snack there only to find a vengeful griffin leaping at me as soon as I open the portal?”

Discord chuckled at the imagery. “Good point,” he placed his hands behind his back and rested besides Statice. “Can you tell me why did you choose this place, Statice? I’ll admit that Winsome Falls is a beautiful place, but it’s more of an attraction than a living settlement.”

“I’m fighting Piercing Gaze here,” Statice admitted.

“You’re fighting him again?” Discord stood up, shocked by the revelation.

Once again, this place is too beautiful. It’s not fit to be a fighting location.

“He’s going to come back to get revenge on me,” Statice nodded his head. “As long as he is after me, I won’t be able to settle in any town. I have to defeat him for good if I want him to leave me alone.”

“How do you plan on defeating him for good?” Discord raised an eyebrow at Statice. He didn’t like the term that the unicorn mentioned. In this kind of situations, “for good” actually had very bad implications for the losing party, which he was sure were not going to put him in the good graces of the majority of Equestria if that was the case.

“I have no idea,” Statice looked uneasy. “Normally I just leave my opponents to their fates in a dangerous situation so that I won’t get my hooves dirty, but something tells me that I am not allowed to do that on Equestria.”

At least he has the decency of admitting it. Still, since I’m friend, I guess I should support his point of view.

“That’s the worst plan I ever heard,” Discord deadpanned.

“Well, excuse me, but I don’t have magical trinkets that send your enemies to the moon or seal them in stone for a thousand years,” Statice glared at Discord.

“How about you let the authorities of Equestria deal with Piercing Gaze?” Discord proposed as he disguised himself as a cop. “I’m pretty sure the princesses and I can make a perfect prison for Piercing Gaze.”

“How do you suggest that they will help me?” Statice asked as he looked at the draconequus suspiciously. “I don’t think that they’ll want to assist me after my last encounter with them.”

“I’ll bring them Piercing Gaze once you’re through with him,” Discord reassured as he lifted a badge with his face on it. “That way, you won’t have to get into more troubles than you already have.”

“Nice,” Statice smiled. As much as he mistrusted the quality of the prisons in Equestria, having escaped multiple ones in his life, he was sure that one made by the Spirit of Disharmony would be impossible to escape.

“You’re welcome, Statice,” Discord ruffled the unicorn’s mane. “Now then, what are you going to do about Piercing Gaze in your rematch?”

“First, I am going to recover my strength,” Statice pointed at his bruised body. “I can’t fight at my best with these bruises and lack of magical juice.”

“Would you like to have another period of hibernation?” Discord asked teasingly.

“I want to recover for a fight,” Statice frowned at him for his bad joke. “I don’t want to sleep through it as a sitting duck.”

Besides, I will never do another hibernation with you around. The last thing I need is for your jokes to turn Piercing Gaze into my last wake up call because I ended up oversleeping again.

“You got any strategies?” Discord asked as he started to shadowbox, wearing some yellow shorts and boxing gloves with Fluttershy’s cutie mark on them.

“Improvise,” Statice muttered. “I’ll think of something. I assume that he will take a couple of days to get here. For the time being, I plan on sleeping to recover my magic. One bout of sleep will give me enough magic to open Hammerspace and retrieve one of my gems to recharge my magic.”

“Nice plan,” Discord was now dressed as a general, using some map of Winsome Falls and poorly made dolls of Statice and Piercing Gaze to make a mock strategy.

“Thanks,” Statice yawned. “I have to go to sleep.”

Or maybe faint from exhaustion…whichever happens first.

Closing his eyes, the unicorn fell asleep, letting his exhaustion easily drift him into unconsciousness. Seeing the green pony resting, Discord sighed as he disappeared with a snap of his fingers. He was going to have to do a lot of explaining to the girls and something told him that it was also going to affect Statice eventually.

The next day at Canterlot, Twilight had informed Celestia and Luna everything that had happened. She told them about the arrival of Aster, being attacked by Piercing Gaze, and then being revealed to be Statice. Both princesses were shocked to find out that Twilight’s new friend was the same prisoner that had eluded their watch months ago. The fact that Discord had helped him in his escape and in hiding did nothing better to assuage them.

“What exactly do you mean by hibernation, Twilight?” Celestia looked at Twilight with intrigue. “You said that he used a spell to put himself to sleep.”

“It is apparently some sort of spell that mimics the effects of hibernation,” the purple alicorn frowned as she gave what little details she learned about it. “I’m not sure what was the purpose of such a spell though.”

“Indeed,” Luna frowned. “Hibernation is nothing more than a prolonged dream. I should have been able to see his dreams over such a time and find his hiding spot before he had the chance of awakening.”

“Maybe he used a version of hibernation on which he doesn't dream,” Twilight suggested. To be honest, she was not sure if it was possible for ponies to dream during hibernation as they didn’t take it in the first place. It was more of an educated guess to be exact. Great, now she felt the need to study that spell.

“Be that as it may, it still doesn't explain my inability to see his dreams after he woke up from hibernation,” Luna frowned angrily, finding the stallion’s ability to escape her dream realm to be irritating.

“Maybe Discord knows about it,” Celestia suggested. “He sounds like he spent a lot of time with Statice. Maybe he found something about…”

“He cannot dream because he lost the ability years ago,” Discord’s voice answered, followed by a finger snap. Surprisingly enough, he looked somewhat depressed and guilty as he avoided eye contact with all three princesses.

“What do you mean that he cannot dream?” Luna asked, feeling more irritated at her inability to find Statice than at the draconequus for finding out Statice’s location and not telling her about it.

“Apparently, his job was so horrible that he was given a potion to prevent him from dreaming every day from back when he was a foal with the effects still apparent on his recent arrival to Equestria” Discord answered awkwardly, feeling disgusted with the answer even after hearing it before from Statice. The reactions that he got from the three princesses were just what he expected.

“That’s horrible!” Twilight shrieked. “How can a pony live without dreaming for so long? That doesn’t sound right!”

“It isn’t right, Twilight Sparkle!” Luna declared angrily, showing the same ire that Discord had anticipated that she was going to have after finding out the truth. “Everypony has the right to dream. It shouldn’t be taken away from anypony, much less a foal! Who did such a barbarity to him?”

Called it! I knew Luna was going to react like this.

Discord shrugged his shoulders. “I am not sure exactly,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “His master gave it to him to cope with the nature of his job. He couldn’t give Statice the right to dream when he was going to have nightmares.”

Celestia felt her stomach twist. “What kind of horrible life did Statice have to live if he needed to avoid dreaming to spare himself the nightmares?” she reluctantly asked, feeling that she was not going to like the answer.

“That’s as far as I can tell you three about his past,” Discord shook his head. “I can tell you how he got to Ponyville and became Aster, but I promised him not to tell about his past.”

“I guess that’s probably for the best,” Celestia asked, preferring to focus on the present. “Do you know anything about Statice’s whereabouts, Discord?”

“He is at Winsome Falls,” Discord snapped his fingers to materialize a memory of him talking with Statice. “Feel free to check the veracity of my memory if you don’t believe me.”

“I must certainly will!” Luna decreed before Celestia had the chance of saying anything. “You already did a lot to help the criminal. I will not trust your words until I see that they are true.”

Focusing her magic, the Princess of the Night turned into mist and entered into the memory. One of the advantages of guarding the dreams of Equestria was that Luna often interacted with memories that influenced her subjects in the past and present. She was capable of finding full memories when her ponies only had fragments of them, allowing her to give them a new perspective.

“It’s time to see if you are really telling the truth, Discord,” Luna whispered as she dwelled deeper into the memory.

Back inside the castle, Celestia and Twilight were checking on Discord’s memory, which now had a blue background on it. Both princesses were staring at the image while Discord stood with a straight face. It was quite a rare sight to see those three focusing in the same room.

“What is Princess Luna doing there?” Twilight looked at her former mentor with curiosity and wonder.

“Dreams are abstract, Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia explained as she recalled her conversations with Luna. “More often than not, they are made of fragmented memories, biased thoughts, and inflicted perspectives. What Luna used was a spell that will allow her to see if a dream is made from a complete memory. If the image breaks apart, the memory will be a fake. Similarly, if the image stays the same, the memory is true.”

Twilight felt interested, wanting to know more about the mechanic behind the spell, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Luna. Much to her surprise, Luna looked stunned, staring at Discord with disbelief.

“I can’t believe it,” Luna looked at the draconequus with surprise. “All of that memory was true. You really do consider Statice a friend.”

“If I didn’t, do you think I will not be so serious right now?” Discord asked as he closed his hands into fists and put them on his hips.

“But how did you grow so close to each other?” Luna asked, still surprised at Discord’s loyalty to a criminal.

“He was interesting!” Discord shot his hands to the side exasperatedly. “I was young and chaotic! As glad as I was to be out of my stone prison and have a friend in Fluttershy, it was frustrating to have to sit tight under threat of petrification if I acted out on my own. After hearing about how Statice made Twilight lose control, I felt the need to meet him. I visited him on his cell, we talked, and then we clicked. And that’s how we became friends with each other.”

“Did you have a hand in helping on his escape?” Twilight asked, wanting to get rid of the itchy need on how the green unicorn escaped a prison that had been reinforced by Luna’s magic.

“Not really,” Discord shook his head. “I had no part in his escape. I just stood there and watched it all happen in the background. I only came to visit him after the incident with my Plunderseeds.”

“What happened with the Plunderseeds?” Twilight raised an eyebrow at Discord, not noticing Celestia and Luna shuddering behind her as a result of the question and the memory that came from it.

“Statice was hibernating in the caverns on which Cadence was trapped, and he became the first victim of my Plunderseeds as they traveled to Canterlot,” Discord rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment. “The vines captured Statice and disrupted the spell that he placed on himself. He was asleep for months instead of days or weeks as he had expected.”

“You kept him hibernating for months?” Twilight asked in horror.

“I made sure that he was okay!” Discord turned into a doctor as he gave a plushy with Statice’s face a lollipop. “I kept watching out for him as much as I could. I was even there when he woke up.”

And it’s not like I wanted him to be attacked in the first place. It just happened…by accident…I think…that’s just chaos magic.

“What happened when he woke up?” Twilight asked, as she realized that Discord was getting closer to the Aster part.

“I told him what he missed during his nap and then took him to the Everfree Forest to find a place to stay,” Discord recalled the events carefully.

“Why would you bring him there?” Twilight irately asked. “The Everfree Forest is very dangerous!”

“It’s not dangerous for your Zecora friend,” Discord huffed angrily. “And that doesn’t stop the Crusaders from going there. It doesn’t stop you from going to the castle there as well. Why should it be troublesome to Statice?”

Seriously, what is it with everypony whining about how dangerous the Everfree Forest is when they pretty much go there every week or so without a care in the world?

“He does make a point, Twilight,” Celestia reluctantly agreed with Discord before fixing him up with a glare. “But be that as it may, it was still a bad idea to suggest the Everfree Forest as a perfect place to live, considering the fact that he is not a natural born citizen of Equestria.”

Discord snorted. “He’s been through worse, Celestia,” the draconequus crossed his arms with a pout. “He has endured much worse than a couple of manticores and cockatrice stone vision.”

“Can we please focus on Statice’s trail?” Twilight asked, more disturbed than demanding as Discord gave more clues on the green unicorn’s dark past.

“Anyway, after saving the Crusaders, Statice made his own home base underground as a temporary settlement,” Discord looked at Twilight, remembering that he still owed her the truth. “He met the Crusaders every once in a while and even taught Sweetie Belle a thing or two about levitating.”

“So that’s why Sweetie Belle was more interested in levitation,” Twilight frowned pensively as she remembered how much Rarity’s sister progressed with her magic.

“Statice got bored of hiding, so he decided to learn how to make friends in order to start a life in Equestria,” Discord summarized Statice’s motivations to the Aster scene. He was not fond of recapitulation and, as much as he thought that Statice’s humiliating defeat against Zecora was funny, he was not going to make the situation worse for him if he could help it.

I don’t think that mentioning him fighting Zecora is going to help on his public image…even if the whole fight consisted of him getting beat up. Besides, it's not a vital part of the story. You can literally skip that part and still move on with the plot. Nopony likes fillers anyway.

“That’s where you help him trick us with Aster?” Twilight gave Discord a glare upon reaching that part. This was the sorest point in the whole situation. It hurt to find out that Aster was Statice just as much as it hurt to have Discord help him out.

“Statice is a master of disguise, Twilight,” Discord sighed. “He used some kind of spell to absorb a cloud to become a pegasus. I only just gave him a cloud. Even if I had refused, he could have turned into an earth pony if he had meant it.”

“He can turn into an earth pony as well?” Twilight asked in surprise.

“Yes,” Discord looked at both sides nervously. “But you figured that part out on your own. Don’t tell Statice that I told you that.”

The draconequus spoke faster than usual. He looked nervous. The three princesses stared at him in shock. The only time he was that concerned about the approval of somepony else was with Fluttershy.

“You really think that Statice is your friend, Discord?” Twilight asked.

I might as well let it all out.

“It’s like the same thing that happened with Tirek,” Discord took a deep breath, remembering how much it hurt to betray the ponies that trusted him and how much it hurt to be on the receiving end of treachery from Tirek. To make matters worse, getting betrayed by Tirek made betraying Fluttershy in vain, his greatest humiliation as a trickster and his greatest shame as a friend.

“How is your friendship with Statice similar with Tirek?” Twilight asked. As angry as she was with Discord, he was still her friend. If she was going to forgive him for hiding Statice, she needed to understand why he saw him as a friend.

“Do you have any idea on how it feels to be friends with somepony when the basis of your friendship is the fear of being turned into stone?” Discord glared at the three princesses. For a second, Celestia, Luna, and Twilight took a step back as they remembered how powerful Discord was and how dangerous he could be when he was properly motivated to fight. Their fear disappeared as he looked at them with exhaustion on his face, as if he was too beaten to do anything to them.

“It’s not comforting at all. If it weren’t for Fluttershy genuinely trying to redeem me, I’d conquer Equestria as soon as I had the chance. But her friendship turned out to be more meaningful than I expected, so I still kept myself in check back when you lost the Elements of Harmony and were no longer capable of defeating me. Capturing Tirek was the best assignment of my life because I got to use my chaos powers for something. Naturally, I defeated him…but then I let myself be convinced by his silver tongue.”

Discord momentarily got angry and let his tongue out, which was now colored silver. It even gave a little sparkle at the surface. The three princesses grimaced in disgust before the draconequus put the tongue back into his mouth.

“He was right. I used to be the ruler of Equestria. Not even Celestia and Luna were capable of beating me. So why did I let myself be under their hooves when they no longer had the tools to defeat me? It was then that Tirek offered me the chance of a lifetime: a friend that accepted me for who I was and who would never try to change me. As luck turned out, it was too good to be true.”

He cringed as he remembered the unpleasant sensation of having his magic forcefully drained by Tirek. It wasn’t like the Elements of Harmony, which contained it inside his body and at least gave him the ability to use it inside his mind to make his confinement a little bit bearable. It was a sense of weakness that left him incapable of doing anything as he was rendered powerless. In that moment, he saw why Celestia wanted Tirek to be sent back to Tartarus immediately.

“What does Statice have to do with Tirek?” Twilight asked, feeling curious about why Discord would compare Statice with such a monster.

“He accepts me for who I am, except that he is too pure of heart to betray me,” Discord answered, closing his eyes as he remembered Statice’s past. “That stallion has seen betrayal thousands of times, but he has never been on the giving end of it.”

Once again, Discord’s words caused the three princesses to visually cringe. What kind of life did Statice live if he had been betrayed that many times?

“Does Piercing Gaze have anything to do with those betrayals?” Twilight asked, feeling that a betrayal may have started the rivalry between Statice and the griffin

“No,” Discord shook his head. “I’m pretty sure that he didn’t know Statice when he tried to foalnap him during his apprentice years.”

“Foalnap?” the three princesses asked in shock.

“Yes,” Discord nodded his head. “It turns out that Statice’s master was very infamous outside of Equestria. Piercing Gaze had attempted to foalnap Statice to get leverage on him. Unfortunately, the little rascal turned out to be too much of a problem for him. Things got a little ugly and here they are years later.”

“What exactly did Statice do to him, Discord?” Twilight asked him. “If Statice was indeed a victim of foalnap, chances are that he must have escaped and done something to get on Piercing Gaze’s bad side.”

“He did escape,” Discord answered uneasily. “Piercing Gaze tried to capture him again… but, during the crossfire, he got blinded by Statice?”

“Statice blinded him?” Twilight asked with horror. Behind her, Celestia and Luna looked just as horrified as their fellow princess. In all of their knowledge and experience, they never heard of a spell that caused blindness. Not even Discord had done such a thing to anypony, even when he probably had the power to do so.

“Yeah,” Discord rubbed the back of his head. “I think I mentioned that when I commented on the fight. It was more of heat of the thrill moment. Statice panicked and threw a magic blast on Piercing Gaze’s face and then he crashed into a building that fell on him.”

Despite his best efforts to censor what happened, Discord’s answer once again horrified the three princesses. They looked at him with disbelief written all over their faces, as if they were refusing to believe what he told them.

I think I should have kept that part to myself.

“No wonder Piercing Gaze is after Statice,” Twilight shook her head, trying to erase the images that her mind was processing. She always imagined scenarios as a tool to plan her next move or to imagine scenes of the past that may affect her in the present. Right now, she wished she never asked Shining Armor to teach her that skill.

“Where is Piercing Gaze, Discord?” Celestia asked sternly. “If the information you gave us is true, we cannot allow him and Statice to meet each other.”

“I heard that Statice was dropping Piercing Gaze in Appleloosa,” Twilight recalled, remembering how indignant Applejack reacted when he mentioned the possibility of leaving the gryphon in the desert next to the town. She had to spend an entire hour of yelling back and forth to convince Applejack that Statice probably did not leave Piercing Gaze in Appleloosa in order to prevent her from leaving Ponyville to check on Braeburn.

“He left Piercing Gaze in Hoofington and then he went to Winsome Falls, as you saw in my memory, to prepare for his final showdown with him,” Discord answered as he once again displayed the memory to further state his point.

“Excellent,” Celestia nodded her head. “I can send some of my royal guards to any town or city that is between Hoofington and Winsome Falls in order to intercept Piercing Gaze.”

“If it doesn’t bother you, I would like for me and my friends to go to Winsome Falls to deal with Statice,” Twilight politely asked her mentor as she looked at her in the eyes. “It may be personal for Statice to fight Piercing Gaze, but this issue is also personal as Aster was our friend and he lied to us all the time. I deserve an explanation from him as much as my friends do.”

Celestia and Luna exchanged glances. It was clear that the older of the two was reluctant of such course of action, recalling how short tempered Twilight was with Statice during the trial, but a nod from her younger sister let her know that this confrontation was as unavoidable as it was necessary.

“Very well,” Celestia nodded at her former student. “You and your friends may go after Statice, Princess Twilight. Just be careful.”

And let this be an important lesson in the Magic of Friendship. I know you won’t disappoint. You always find a way to make the best of your trials.

“Thank you, Princess Celestia,” Twilight nuzzled Celestia, who reciprocated the gesture. She then turned to Discord to look at him uneasily.

“Is there something wrong, Twilight?” Discord asked, not liking the look on her face. As much as he didn’t like having her angry at him, that sad facial expression promised Discord a lot of grief coming at him.

Please, just give some random friendship speech. I’d do anything if you just give a friendship speech and let me be on my merry way.

“Can you bring us to Winsome Falls, Discord?” Twilight asked. “I can go with my friends there on my own, but the journey will be long and will take time.”

Darn it!

“I can,” Discord nodded his head before adopting a serious frown. “But that’s as far as I can help you with Statice. I am not capturing him or convincing him to give up.”

Hearing this annoyed Twilight to no end. “And why are you not helping us with that part?” Twilight demanded angrily. “In case you forgot, Statice tends to resist arrest. Your assistance will definitely help us prevent his escape.”

“I know that, Twilight” Discord snorted. “But he is as much of a friend to me as I am to you. Besides, contrary to you and Fluttershy, let’s just say that he has higher standards for being a friend.”

“What do you mean by high standards?” Twilight asked with a raised eyebrow.

Discord rolled his eyes at her. “Try to picture one of your imaginary friends that will suddenly turn on you just for a tiny mistake in one of your paranoid breakdowns and put it on a pony with trust issues after facing betrayal too many times to count. That’s how high Statice’s standards are…well that and the fact that they are realistic.”

“Hey,” Twilight glared at Discord. “I’m not paranoid.”

Discord snorted. “Oh, please, you cannot deceive me, Twilight. You still have that habit. You just keep it under better control. Believe me. I have a chaotic sixth sense that allows me to see the personality flaws of anypony. It’s still there, only less evident.”

“Fine,” Twilight gritted her teeth, not willing to let Discord speak about her flaws as a pony. “Just bring me and my friends to Winsome Falls and we will take it from there.”

“As long as you come up with an excuse on how you found, Statice,” Discord nodded his head and crossed his arms.

“You want us to lie to him?” Twilight raised an eyebrow at him. “That is not going to make Statice happy.”

“Neither is the truth of me helping you to capture him,” Discord angrily looked at the ceiling, unwilling to let the Princess of Friendship convince him to tell him the truth. “I just said that Statice has high standards for me. If I fall down those standards, I’m no longer my friend.”

“Be that as it may, he deserves the truth,” Twilight clarified. “And I am not going to lie to him about it if he asks me.”

Why that little…!

“Just gather your friends,” Discord growled irritably. “I don’t think that I need advice about this fear coming from Twilight ‘Everypony Is Going to Be Disappointed with Me’ Sparkle. Just do as I say and I’ll take you to Winsome Falls.”

“FINE!” Twilight yelled in frustration.

“FINE!” Discord snapped back.

The purple alicorn got out of the throne room, leaving Discord inside with the other two princesses. The conversation was quick to turn awkward with the three of them as they stood in place and said nothing.

“I think that you should apologize to Twilight after this, Discord,” Celestia broke the silence after a few seconds of it.

“I'm already apologizing by helping her reach Statice,” Discord pouted at the ceiling. “If you expect me to help her with the capture, then I am going to decline. I still want Statice to be my friend.”

“Don’t you think that you are being greedy, Discord?” Luna asked with a raised eyebrow. “You already tried to be friends with a villain once and things didn’t turn out to be great for you.”

“I was greedy for helping Tirek conquer Equestria only,” Discord placed his hands on his hips angrily. “I don’t get anything from helping Statice, not even at his worst. I only decided to stay neutral and just hang out between the two of them.”

“You do realize that you’re going to have to make the choice between the two of them, right?” Celestia asked worryingly. “You cannot be friends with Statice or the Elements of Harmony at the same time if they are in conflict with each other.”

When is this interrogation going to end?

“I’ll find a way to make it work,” Discord stubbornly replied. “If Fluttershy did it with me then why not I can do it with Statice?”

“Fluttershy at least tries to remain true to herself as she is to you,” Luna glared at him disapprovingly. “You can’t be a friend to anypony if you let them walk over you.”

“This conversation is over!” Discord declared, vanishing with a finger snap.

“This conversation is not over, right?” Luna asked Celestia as she turned her head to look at her. In response, the elder princess shook her head.

“No, Luna, knowing Discord, this conversation is far from over.”

It was later in the afternoon that Discord teleported the Element Bearers and Spike to Winsome Falls. With the group there, the draconequus spoke in whispers to talk to them.

“Okay,” Discord began. “This is as far as I can get you. Statice will probably find us later on so I am going to leave.”

Knowing him, he’ll probably know that they’re here right now. I better leave before he finds me.

“Don’t tell me that you're scared of getting scolded?” Rainbow Dash snorted at the draconequus. “You’re one of the strongest ponies…well, magic beings, of Equestria.”

“It’s complicated,” Discord rubbed his arm self-consciously. “Look, I am not used to doing this whole friendship thing. I…”

“You should try to talk to Statice,” Fluttershy suggested. “Maybe he will listen if you give him the chance of hearing your opinion.”

“Statice is complicated,” Discord rubbed the back of his head. “And coming from the Spirit of Disharmony, that’s quite a statement.”

“So am I and I still get lots of friends!” Pinkie Pie hopped next to Discord. “Many ponies always tell me that I am complicated so I think that you can understand Statice if you try.”

If only you knew the type of stuff he did, Pinkie. Discord shook his head as he looked down at the hopping mare.

“Besides, Ah don’t think that any lie we throw at Statice is gonna work on him,” Applejack joined in the conversation. “He’s bound to find out the truth sooner or later anyway.”

“I gotta go,” Discord hurryingly snapped his fingers and disappeared.

“That draconequus has some issues,” Spike stared at the spot on which Discord used to stand a few seconds ago.

“Everypony has issues, Spike,” Rarity tactfully reprimanded Spike. “Some ponies just happen to have more issues to work out than others.”

“We can talk about Discord later,” Twilight called out at her friends. “Statice may be near us at any second. We have to find him before he finds us. We need to form a plan if we are to deal with him.”

Okay, I didn’t make a plan since I was too busy finding out about Statice’s past. But maybe I can work something out with my friends. We always manage to come up with something at the last second’s notice.

The six mares and the baby dragon huddled together in a circle. As they started talking strategies, bordering on capturing Statice by force or using a more diplomatic approach, the grass underneath their hooves had some sort of greener color.

“Forget about this!” Rainbow Dash angrily declared. “I am going to the sky and see if I can see him from above. Once I see him, I’ll get him.”

The brash pegasus flapped her wings to take off the land. Much to her surprise, she remained in the ground, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed with her friends.

“Shouldn’t you be up by now, Dashie?” Pinkie Pie asked innocently.

“I should be, but I can’t fly for some reason,” Rainbow Dash grew frustrated as she attempted to fly, but found herself stuck to the ground. “Try to have Twilight and Fluttershy fly and you’ll see it.”

Twilight and Fluttershy did as Rainbow Dash told them. Much to their shock, they were in the same condition as Rainbow Dash. They couldn’t fly regardless of how hard they flapped their wings.

“Is it just me or the sky is farther away from us than it was a minute ago?” Pinkie Pie scrunched her face with narrowed eyes as she looked at the sky.

“Not now, Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash was beating her wings at full speed, growing more irate as she was still bound to the ground.

“I have to agree with Pinkie Pie on this one,” Spike looked above and then gulped as he lowered his head to the group. “And I also like to point out that you girls are getting smaller by the second! Wait! You’re now getting larger now!”

At Spike’s yell, the girls looked at him and found that he was sinking into the ground. His head was the only thing visible of him. As the girls screamed at the talking head, they screamed more when they saw that they were sinking.

“It’s quicksand!” Rarity shrieked. “We’re standing in quicksand!”

“But we’re not even on a desert!” Rainbow Dash protested, having read enough quicksand scenes in Daring Do to know that they grew in deserts and jungles.

“It’s the Quicksand Spell that Statice used on me!” Applejack cried out in surprise and anger, remembering how he got her trapped underground in their first meeting.

“I’ll teleport us out of here!” Twilight declared as their heads became the only thing visible of them. As she concentrated her magic, her focus was broken when she felt the earth below her neck turn hard and choke her. The purple alicorn gasped as the pressure in her body prevented her from kneading magic good enough for the teleportation spell.

“Anytime now, Twilight,” Fluttershy pleaded, not liking the thought of sinking into the ground any further.

“I can’t!” Twilight wheezed. “The earth is crushing me! I can’t focus on my magic with all of this pressure building in my body.”

“You should have gone to the bathroom when you had the chance!” Pinkie Pie yelled in alarm.

“I’m not talking about that kind of pressure, Pinkie!” Twilight exasperatedly snapped at her pink friend. “The earth around my body is squishing me too tight for me to concentrate. It’s a very distracting sensation.”

“I wished this were real sand!” Pinkie Pie protested. “At least sand is not hard enough to squeeze your body!”

Before Twilight could lecture Pinkie Pie in the topics of density and pressure, she was interrupted by the approaching hoof steps of somepony. They came far enough for their owner to be seen but their increasing volume let her know that he was getting closer to them.

“It looks like I got cursed with the ugliest crop in Equestria,” a familiar voice greeted them. It sounded arrogant and insulting yet it was very recognizable.

As the seven victims turned their heads to the side, they saw Statice walking to them from afar with a smug smile on his face. That smile went as easily as it came when he got closer to them. It was replaced with a frown that was audibly accompanied with a dismayed groan.

“What in Tartarus are you girls doing here?” Statice asked, feeling annoyed now that his plan of capturing Piercing Gaze was already ruined. Not only was he going to have to make another plan, but he was also going to make a new one to deal with those girls. Why was being an enemy with somepony always so hard for him?

Getting Answers

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Getting Answers

“What in Tartarus are you girls doing here?” Statice demanded as he stared down at the Elements of Harmony. “How the heck did you even find me?”

He was very irritated now. He spent the entire morning planning for this trap and now those seven had to go and ruin it. First he used his Sensory Strands Spell to send tiny threads of magic around the perimeter. Once Piercing Gaze stepped on the threads, his weight was going to send a tension around them back to Statice’s horn to alert him of his presence. In order to avoid a fight on which he may get severely injured, Statice decided to create a trap rather than directly confront him like last time. To accomplish this deed, he used the Trigger Spell to set up his trap.

The Trigger Spell was designed to delay the activation of anything, regardless of whether it was another spell or a mechanical function. Statice only used this spell to set up traps or for safety reasons. In this case, the Trigger Spell delayed the activation of the Quicksand Spell and the Earth Compression Spell and it was only activated unless the magic threads of the Sensory Strand Spell were stepped on. The drawback of the Trigger Spell was that it required lots of magic when it was used to delay the activation of spells. In this case, it was three spells, two that were being delayed and one who acted as the support structure.

It’s going to be worth it. Once Piercing Gaze steps into the threads, he is going to fall for the trap. He’ll be beaten before the fight even starts. It’s no use to waste your magic defending yourself in a fight. Remember to fight smart, fight to win.

Those thoughts were the only thing that reassured him about wasting so much magic making the trap. Granted, he could have saved it for a fight, but it was better than getting hurt repeatedly until he ran out of magic. Besides, chances were that Piercing Gaze was going to be stronger than before when he faced him again. No professional was going to be easily bested in a second fight, especially one that was going to be as motivated as that griffin. All of those precautions were in vain now that the trap was activated by seven unexpected and meddling visitors.

“Hey, I’m with them!” Spike shouted indignantly. As much as he hated being planted in the ground like a vegetable, he hated being ignored even more.

“Sorry, Spike,” Statice rapidly turned his head to apologize before he focused it again on the girls. “But I’m pretty sure that you tagged along rather than go to apprehend me. Which brings me to my previous question, what are you girls doing here?”

“We want answers, Statice!” Twilight glared at the green unicorn. “We want to know about what you’ve been up to these last months as well as your story with Piercing Gaze. We deserve to know after the way you lied to us.”

Statice didn’t answer. He needed to play his cards safe first before replying. He closed his eyes and channeled magic in his horn. He opened Hammerspace and retrieved a small box from the dimension.

I might as well since I owe this girl something for their kindness. I just hope they believe the words that will come out of my mouth.

“What’s inside that box?” Pinkie Pie asked excitedly. “Is it a surprise? I love surprises! It must be a surprise since I don’t know what it is! Ooh, doesn’t that make every gift a surprise? Now that I think about it, this may be why you bring gifts to a party, to make an even greater surprise.”

The stallion didn’t answer. He needed concentration in this special box. He sent a small part of his magic into the base to carefully levitate the box as he lifted it above Twilight’s head. Once it was at the appropriate height, the stallion opened the lid and flipped the content of the box on top of Twilight’s horn. The purple alicorn yelped in surprise as she felt something cold wrap around her horn. As the box left Twilight’s head, its content was revealed as a ring around Twilight’s horn.

It was an unusual ring. Based on the sensation in her horn, the material of the ring was metallic in nature and yet it felt smooth, almost like pearl. It was a plain ring that had a brilliant green sheen on it. It had no jewels, but its brightness was good enough to not need them anyway. From the look of Rarity’s face, the ring seemed to be very valuable as the fashionista was looking at Twilight’s new ring with sparkling eyes.

“That is one beautiful ring!” Rarity gushed over Twilight’s new accessory. “Just look at that green shine on it. What kind of material does it have to have such allure?”

“I’m not sure,” Twilight answered uneasily. “My knowledge in metals is not high, but I don’t think that there are any metals like the one in the ring.”

“Ooh, Statice proposed marriage to Twilight!” Pinkie Pie bobbed her head excitedly. “I should totally prepare an engagement party for when this is over!”

“WHAT?!” Twilight and Statice asked in unison. Both of them were sporting crimson blushes on their faces. The purple alicorn looked alarm and embarrassed while the green unicorn looked frustrated and annoyed.

“It’s not an engagement ring, Pinkie!” Statice replied angrily, his blush still present on his face. “This is an Orichalcum ring!”

“Did you say that it was an Orichalcum ring?” Twilight asked in shock. Next to her, Rarity’s gushing over the ring stopped upon hearing about it.

“What’s an Orichalcum ring?” Rainbow Dash stared at Twilight. As an athlete, Rainbow Dash was not much into academics. That’s why she always relied on Twilight to explain things to her that were out of her normal understanding.

“Orichalcum is a rare ore, Rainbow Dash!” Rarity answered immediately, stunning Twilight, who was about to respond. “It is so rare that it is considered a myth. Nopony knows anything about it apart from its beautiful appearance.”

Oh, I can just imagine the dresses that could match that ring. Maybe if Twilight does find a way to settle things peacefully with Statice, I can convince him to give me some Orichalcum for creative purposes.

Statice smirked, glad to see that somepony was well informed, regardless of how little they had. “Correct,” he nodded his head at the fashionista. “But your knowledge of Orichalcum is incomplete. There is more to this material than what you learn in the books of Equestria.”

Twilight groaned. Had she had a scroll and a quill, she would have gladly written what Statice was about to say. Unfortunately, he was an enemy, and he was probably going to keep the secrets of Orichalcum to himself.

“Well what do you know about Orichalcum, Statice?” Rarity challenged, not liking to be corrected by a criminal, yet still feeling the wonder and excitement of learning about the ore she always wanted to find.

“Orichalcum is a magical ore, Rarity,” Statice answered as he looked at the fashionista with interest. “But it is almost impossible to find in Equestria. Outside of it…it’s pretty much common. I am no expert with it, and even I know more than any scientist who ever tried to learn about the material.”

“How about ya stop braggin’ and tell us what it is?” Applejack demanded, not liking the tone Statice was taking with her friend.

"Yeah," Rainbow Dash dared him. "That sounds like something you'd get out of a Daring Do story. How about you tell us more about that fancy ring of yours?"

“I’m not bragging,” Statice glared at Applejack and Rainbow Dash, particularly at the former. “And you don’t even know what bragging is since you barely get any spotlight, background pony!”

“What did ya call me?” Applejack fumed. She didn’t know what he meant by the “background pony” insult, but she was the Element of Honesty and there was no way that she was going to allow him to speak to her with such disrespect.

Statice smiled at Applejack’s reaction. Ever since Discord showed him those movies about the Elements of Harmony, Statice made sure to keep specific attention to each of the bearers. A particular detail that he noted with Applejack was that she was the least focused on the movies. It was as if every time a memory was focused on her, she had to share the spotlight with somepony else. Granted, he knew that in real life that she was very popular and that messing with her was going to get him hurt, but he was not going to let her talk back to him as if she was in charge of the situation.

Who would have thought such a petty insult was going to get her so worked up? I might as well save it rather than wear it out. Something tells me that this insult will get old very quickly.

“Hey, take that back!” Pinkie Pie replied indignantly, defending her friend and probably-distantly-related cousin. “Applejack is an amazing pony. You just don’t get to know her that well because you don’t give her the chance.”

Statice flinched at the pink mare’s outburst. This was the first time Pinkie Pie had yelled at him. He couldn’t blame her though. She was good friends with Applejack and possibly related to her if Twilight’s findings about her family tree were true. Rather than yell back at her, he decided to return to answering Rarity’s question about Orichalcum.

It’s better to change the topic of a conversation than keep one that will dissolve into a pointless argument. I’m not gonna waste time arguing with Pinkie Pie of all ponies. I don’t think I’ll detect Piercing Gaze’s presence if I can’t even hear my own thoughts.

“To return to the topic at hoof, Orichalcum is very rare. But it is much known for a particular fact. It is invulnerable to magic, the same way rubber is resistant to electricity.”

“What?” Twilight and Rarity exclaimed in shock.

“It is true,” Statice reaffirmed as he stared at them. “Why did you think that I put the ring in your horn by levitating it inside a box rather than directly put it there with my magic, Twilight? If you don’t believe me, try to take it off.”

Twilight closed her eyes, trying to gather magic around her horn. There was nothing at all. She didn’t feel that familiar sensation of mystical energy surrounding her horn. She felt neither the warmth nor the light pressure on top of her head. She gritted her teeth in effort as she redoubled her attempts. The only thing that she felt was a headache, a feeling of pain that she had not felt since she was a filly learning to use magic. She opened her eyes to look at her friends, who were all giving her concerned stares. The purple alicorn lifted her gaze to see that the ring was still in her horn.

“I can’t do it!” Twilight remarked in shock. “I can’t take it off! I focus and gather as much magic as I can…but I can’t lift it.”

“Then I will try to take it for you, Twilight!” Rarity declared dramatically as she gathered her own magic to levitate the ring.

Statice rolled his eyes at the white unicorn’s futile attempts to remove the horn. He opened Hammerspace once again to retrieve a second box, similar to the first one that contained another Orichalcum ring. He levitated it above Rarity’s head and waited until she was finished trying, wanting to give her the courtesy of trying to help her friend.

“I can do this,” Rarity gritted her teeth as her magic surrounded Twilight’s ring. “I can see the ring around my magic! All I need to do is take it off!”

The white unicorn’s blue aura surrounded Twilight’s ring. It appeared as if it was going to lift the ring at any second, but the aura remained there. As Rarity concentrated more, she stopped when she saw that her magic was entering inside the ring, as if it were being eaten.

“It cannot be,” Rarity said, canceling her magic. “I can’t take the ring off.”

Before she said anything else, Rarity let out a lady yelp as she felt something fall on top of her horn. She lifted her eyes to see that Statice had now given her an Orichalcum ring for herself.

“Of course it didn’t work,” Statice gave Rarity an annoyed look. “Orichalcum is a magic insulator. It doesn’t matter if you use magic on the inside or the outside, it won’t work no matter how strong or hard you try.”

Were any of these mares paying attention to anything I said?

“Take these rings off, Statice!” Twilight irately demanded. Magic was very important to her. It was the most important part of being a unicorn, it was her special talent and cutie mark, and it was also her Element of Harmony. Having her magic sealed away without her consent awoke a fury inside of her unlike anything that she’s ever felt in her life.

“Forget it,” Statice stared at her “Your magic levels are off the charts. If I let you in control of your magic, chances are that you are gonna use it to capture me.”

“And why did you seal Rarity’s magic?” Twilight glared at Statice. Taking her magic was something, but taking her friend’s magic was something that she was not going to tolerate.

“Rarity’s magic may not be as powerful or as skilled in comparison to you,” Statice casted a look at the fashionista. “But she has proven capable of defending herself with her hooves in moment of danger. What makes you think that she is not capable of using her own magic to defend herself at the most critical time? I’m going to play safe just in case. I don’t like nasty surprises when I have the upper hoof.”

“Wow, he really covered up all his bases,” Spike winced, remembering how King Sombra was the last villain who had done so and how close he had come to victory had he not come along with Twilight to the Crystal Empire.

“I think that we already wasted enough time here,” Statice glared at his seven intruders. “Tell me what are you doing here and how did you find me.”

“That’s none of your business!” Rainbow Dash glared defiantly at him.

“I am the interrogator over here,” Statice pointed a hoof at himself. “As long as I am asking the questions, you will show me respect.”

“Why should we show you respect?” Twilight glared at him. “The last time you were interrogated, you called Shining Armor names.”

“As if being respectful was going to do me any favors anyway,” Statice snorted, remembering how unpleasant their banter had been. “However, unlike your brother, I am willing to get the information through means.”

Those last two words made the prisoners’ blood freeze. They didn’t like the way he phrased it. What was he going to do to them now that they were defenseless? Tense seconds passed before Rainbow Dash recovered her courage.

“I’m not afraid of you, punk!” she challenged. “I’ve faced scarier threats than you and always came up on top with my friends by my side.”

“Yeah, you’re really tough when you have six pieces of jewelry of unlimited magic that use you six as living batteries to win your fights for you,” Statice sarcastically praised her.

“Hey, we won those fights!” Rainbow Dash protested.

“No, you didn’t,” Statice frowned at them. “I’ve been doing some research about you six before I came to Ponyville. You only won because some magical object always gave you victory and the villains are always standing there and laughing at you rather than doing something.”

“No, we didn’t!” Rainbow Dash glared at him angrily.

“Tell me your major victories and I will tell you how you won by luck,” Statice narrowed his eyes at Rainbow Dash, ready to burst her ego.

“We beat Nightmare Moon,” Rainbow Dash proudly lifted her head, remembering the first time she saved Equestria with her friends.

“She underestimated you,” Statice looked at her. “The mare nearly destroyed Celestia when she fought her. The only reason she chose to send obstacles to you girls rather than outright destroy you was probably that she didn’t think that you were worthy prey.”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash yelled at him, followed by the indignant cries of her fellow Elements of Harmony. The stallion seemed unfazed by their anger.

“We beat Discord!” Pinkie Pie chimed in. “Until we came in, only Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were the only ponies who defeated him.”

“Standing around to point and laugh at your opponent is not the most ideal way to fight them,” Statice snorted, more in annoyance than Discord than Pinkie Pie. “Besides, if memory doesn’t fail me, he corrupted you six and you only won because Celestia sent Spike all those Friendship Lessons to help Twilight remember who she was. Had that not happened, I’d be having a conversation with a bunch of jerks rather than you six.”

The girls shuddered. Being corrupted was one of the worst things that ever happened to them. It was one of the main reasons on why they didn’t want to reform Discord when Celestia suggested it. What made it worse was how Statice was right and how they had come close to a horrible fate had Discord not underestimated their friendship with each other. Spike, on the other hoof, shuddered as he remembered the pain of having to send all of those letters in one day.

Why did Twilight have to send so many letters? Why Princess Celestia couldn’t come herself and told her about them? My stomach was killing me that day!

“We stopped the Changelings when they invaded Canterlot,” Applejack challenged, not liking how arrogant Statice was acting.

“You allowed the invasion to happen in the first place,” Statice sharply glared at the orange mare. “Had you actually paid attention to Twilight, the only pony who knew Cadence at the time, the invasion would not have happened. And that’s not taking into account that you were beaten at the end. You are lucky that the Changeling Queen was so busy bragging about her victory long enough for Cadence and Shining Armor to use their love to defeat her. The way I see it, the only ones worth praising at that wedding were the bride and the mare of honor.”

Twilight gasped upon hearing those words. This was the first time that Statice had praised her since she met him. Although it had been years since the wedding, nopony defended her like that. The fact that it was Statice -somepony with whom she has quite a troublesome relationship- that defended her left her in shock.

Similarly, her friends reacted with hurt. Turning their backs on Twilight was, in their shared opinion, the worst thing that they ever did in their entire life, to the point on which they all promised not to talk about the Changeling Invasion so as to avoid remembering that moment. The closest thing to a scolding that they received was when the Changeling Queen bragged about her upcoming victory, and even then the purpose was more to mock them rather than to lecture them about their betrayal. Even with the incident in the past, it still hurt to remember it and much more to be called out on it.

“Spike saved the Crystal Empire!” Rarity answered hurryingly, not wanting to deal with the guilt of the wedding fiasco or its possible consequences had the circumstances been different.

“Only because you all cared more about a stupid test than the Crystal Empire,” Statice glared at Twilight with disgust. “Hundreds of ponies disappeared for a millennium and are on the brink of being conquered by the tyrant who made them disappear in the first place, your brother and your sister-in-law are in danger, and yet the only thing that matters to you is a stupid test? I mean, seriously, your worst fear was Celestia disowning you as her student? That’s pathetic.”

“It’s not pathetic!” Twilight snarled back at him. “Princess Celestia is like a second mother to me! She spent years teaching me everything I know about magic so that I can achieve my full potential.”

“She didn’t apologize to you for the wedding incident,” Statice recalled. “And shortly after that she risked a kingdom just to teach you about self-sacrifice. Does that sound like a good teacher to you?”

Silence was the only thing that he got in response. Despite her fervent defense, Twilight could not bring herself to answer the question. Deciding to take action, Statice continued.

“You’re right about something. Spike is indeed the true hero of the Crystal Empire. Unlike you, he had a logical and horrifying fear, something that snapped you out of yours upon hearing his suffering. It’s ironic, isn’t it? The one friend who you always leave in the sidelines was the one who saved the Crystal Heart when not even you could handle Sombra’s traps. It’s a good thing that for once you brought him with you.”

Now it was turn for Spike to get surprised. As much as it angered him to hear Statice talk down to his friends, it was shocking for him to get praised like a hero. Only the ponies of the Crystal Empire gave him that much respect. For all of Statice’s behavior, it was impossible to find out if he was being nice or if he was being mean.

“We saved Princess Celestia and Princess Luna from the Everfree Forest by returning the Elements of Harmony,” Fluttershy chimed in.

“Twilight did,” Statice deadpanned. “She is the one who found out what you were supposed to be doing and she is the one who returned the Elements of Harmony to the Tree of Harmony. You five had the brilliant idea to ask her to go away in order to lead Equestria while you girls did the job.”

“We thought it was a good idea at the time,” Applejack glared at Statice.

“How was that a good idea if you were going to fix the problem right away?” Statice gave her an annoyed look. “It took you about a few minutes to reach the Tree of Harmony. Don’t you think that Equestria can handle itself without their Princesses for a few minutes?”

“We figured that out when we reached the Tree of Harmony!” Rainbow Dash angrily blushed. She didn’t like to remember how their idea to send Twilight back to Canterlot to keep the ponies under control was a waste of time once they figured out that they needed Twilight with them at that moment.

“We stopped Tirek,” Pinkie Pie added.

“That was indeed a good triumph,” Statice praised. “Your connection to the Elements of Harmony led to you standing up to their principles and that led to you six unlocking the power that you needed to defeat Tirek. Granted, you still relied on them, but at least you have the excuse of your opponent being a magic-stealing jerk.”

“What in tarnation is wrong with ya?” Applejack asked Statice in frustration. “Ya spend the whole talk bein’ mean to us and now you’re praisin’ us? That doesn’t make a lick of sense.”

“I’m complicated,” Statice shrugged his shoulders.

“That’s what ponies say about me!” Pinkie Pie beamed, feeling glad to meet somepony who had a unique perspective.

“Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that without the Elements of Harmony you are nothing more than six punks who like to play at being heroes,” Statice concluded as he looked down at his victims. His last comment earned infuriated responses from the mares and the baby dragon.

“You’re the punk, punk!” Rainbow Dash snarled as she attempted to fly at her captor and give him a piece of her mind.

“Then prove it,” Statice gave them a challenging look. “Tell me of an instance in which you girls defeated a major threat of Equestria without the Elements of Harmony or any other equivalent.”

Upon hearing the question, the seven victims stammered. The problem was not that they were weak, but it was more of them having faced too few villains that were that threatening to Equestria as a whole.

“We stopped Starlight Glimmer from stealing cutie marks with her magic,” Pinkie Pie grinned at Statice. “It was our first mission together shortly after Twilight got her new castle!”

“Cutie marks can be stolen?” Statice asked in surprise.

“Heck yeah they can!” Rainbow Dash glared at Statice, more out of anger at their former situation rather than her dislike for him. “My cutie mark got stolen and I became slow as a turtle!”

“Sounds like an interesting story,” Statice admitted sincerely.

“Would you like me to tell you all about it?” Pinkie Pie smiled at Statice.

“I’ll pass,” Statice shook his head politely. “What else have you been doing since you got your new castle?”

“We stopped a Bugbear that literally came out of Tartarus from attacking Ponyville!” Rainbow Dash bragged. “And we didn’t need to use the Elements of Harmony to stop it! We fought that thing for an entire day! That was all 100% us!”

“But we did miss Cranky and Matilda’s wedding,” Fluttershy lowered her head, still feeling bad about having to watch it from the windows.

“I guess that you’re more than entitled posers,” Statice acknowledged the six with a smile. “Not everypony can defeat a monster from Tartarus.”

“In your face,” Rainbow Dash stuck her tongue out at him.

“Still, we have detoured from the interrogation,” Statice shook his head as he replaced his smile with a neutral frown. “How did you find me?”

“I’m not telling,” Rainbow Dash turned her head away from him.

“As you wish,” Statice narrowed his eyes at the prismatic mare as his horn lighted in magic. He already had his first plan to get information from her.

Rainbow Dash yelped as the earth around her body shifted her position. Her head was still sticking out of the ground but now all four of her hooves were facing the sky. A confident smile spread across Rainbow Dash’s face as she saw her limbs again.

“You’re in trouble now, jerk!”

Putting all of her strength in her legs, the rainbow pegasus attempted to get out of her prison. Much to her dismay, her legs were moving, but they were only wiggling uselessly above the earth. It was as if she were wearing stocks on all four of her legs.

“I compressed the earth around your legs so that you cannot move them as you will,” Statice smiled evilly as he got closer to Rainbow Dash. “Now tell me, how much do you know of Pegasopolis?”

“I know a lot,” Rainbow Dash snorted. “I even played Commander Hurricane in a play for Heart’s Warming Eve. All pegasi in Equestria get history lessons about it in flight camp.”

“Did you know that Commander Hurricane had a special training regimen for soldiers?” Statice asked Rainbow Dash as he got closer to her. “Since pegasi spent most of their time in the clouds, they had very sensible hooves that were unsuitable for ground combat.”

Sensible hooves…

Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened upon hearing about the hoof part. She tried to maintain her tough girl appearance, but the sweating indicated to the witnesses that she was about to lose it. Statice’s impromptu lesson was only making things worse.

“To deal with hoof sensitivity, Commander Hurricane had the soldiers take a storm cloud and release small amounts of electricity upon their hooves in order to train their resistance to stimulus. I’m not sure about the results since this is a myth at best. But I am open for experimentation.”

Rainbow Dash let out a scared gasp that turned into a girlish scream when Statice placed his horn on all four of her hooves. Small arcs of lightning danced across the sensitive flesh under her hooves. Needless to say, the poor mare had no chance.

It had been five minutes since the Hurricane Hoof, the name that Statice chose for the session, began and Rainbow Dash was on the breaking point. She was laughing and begging for mercy in less than five seconds. Statice had suspected the flier of having sensitive hooves when he saw that Gabby Gums article in Discord’s movies, but it was more of a second guess at Rainbow Dash not wanting to ruin her image.

“That guy is a butcher!” Pinkie Pie cried out as she turned her head away, unable to see laughter being used as a torture on her friend.

“No wonder why Rainbow Dash doesn’t like to get a hooficure,” Rarity winced sympathetically upon seeing the speedster laughing like crazy.

“Oh my,” Fluttershy trembled. Images of Statice subjecting her and the rest of her friends to the treatment were creeping inside her head.

“How did you find me?” Statice increased the voltage, making Rainbow Dash laugh harder than before.

“N-no more,” Rainbow Dash gasped, tears coming out of her eyes as she kept a goofy expression on her face. “I-I don’t want t-to d-d-do this anymore!”

“I guess a little more energy into your hooves will…” Statice prepared to add more voltage into her hooves when Rainbow Dash’s head perked up and yelled at his face.


With her screaming rant done, Rainbow Dash laughed hysterically. After having her sensitive hooves so thoroughly stimulated, nothing else was necessary to keep her laughing as she was doing now.

“That was fast,” Pinkie Pie winced sympathetically at her friend. It was as if Dashie was no longer able to stop laughing.

“If it makes Rainbow feel any better, Ah probably would have told the truth before the ticklin’ even started,” Applejack started sympathetically.

“Girls,” Spike grimaced as he got their attention. “I don’t think that Statice is okay with the news. He doesn’t seem to have taken it very well.”

True enough, Statice was standing there with an empty expression in his face. His mouth was a neutral line.

“Is he okay?” Fluttershy asked. She never saw such reaction from anypony. It was as if his mind had turned blank.

“Get over here, Discord,” Statice whispered.

His claim was followed by the sound of fingers snapping.

“Hello, Statice!’ Discord cheerfully called. “It’s so nice to see…you,” his enthusiasm disappeared when he saw the girls and Spike buried and Statice looking at him like that.

“You opened your mouth, Applejack, didn’t you?” Discord deadpanned as he stared at the orange mare accusingly.

“Ah did not!” Applejack yelled indignantly. “Rainbow Dash did it!”

“G-give me a b-break,” Rainbow Dash was giggling. “I’ve b-b-been tickle t-tortured for minutes. It was-wasn’t a-awe-awesome.”

“Why did you do it, Discord?” Statice looked at him, his disappointment evident in his face. “Why did you tell them where I was?”

Discord opened his mouth, ready to give an excuse. He remembered his conversation with the Princesses and sighed.

“I wanted to be friends with everypony,” Discord sighed. “I was friend-greedy, okay? I like being friends with you, but I also like being friends with the rest of the ponies. I already betrayed them for Tirek and I think I overstepped my limits when I gave you those videos of them.”

“You gave them videos of us?” Rarity shouted scandalously.

“Only the best moments in your life,” Discord raised his hands to placate the white unicorn and anypony else. “I didn’t show anything private. Anyway, by the end of the day, I ended up helping you more than I helped anypony else that is friends with me. And that is not fair for them.”

“I guess it makes sense,” Statice sighed. “But this changes perspective for us, Discord. I’m afraid I can no longer be friends with you.”

Discord looked hurt at those words, but he also appeared solemn and understanding, as if he had expected that those words were going to be spoken. The reactions of the girls were more shocked and outraged.

“Take that back, Statice!” Pinkie Pie shouted. “Discord is a good friend.”

“He betrayed me for my enemies,” Statice countered. “I don’t think I can trust him anymore. Betrayal is a very unforgivable crime to me.”

“So what?” Rainbow Dash asked, her outrage allowing her to surpass the tickling sensations in her hooves. “This guy betrayed us for the greatest villain of Equestria and we still forgave him. He also did it again when he covered up for you when you were pretending to be Aster. Who the heck do you think you are to ditch him for so little?”

“I can’t be friends with somepony who is friends with my enemy,” Statice turned his head to look at the girls.

“That’s horse apples!” Applejack bobbed her head as she could no longer stomp the ground with her hoof. “If that were the case, we wouldn’t be friends with Fluttershy after she chose to reform Discord.”

“She is right about that, Statice,” Rarity eyed him with disapproval. “You don’t have to be so narrow-minded to somepony who cares about your friendship.”

“I can’t compete with you, girls,” Statice rubbed his temples, trying to end this discussion once and for all.

“Friendship is not a competition, Statice!” Fluttershy admonished him. “This is just like when Discord was trying to send my friend Tree Hugger to another dimension because he was jealous. You can be friends with more than one pony!”

“Easy for you to say,” Statice growled. “How am I supposed to compete with the cute sack of butterflies who redeemed him and made him see how important friendship was to him?”

“Meep!” Fluttershy blushed after hearing that comment. It was very rare for ponies to praise her beauty like that.

“Discord risked his friendship with us to be friends with you, Statice,” Twilight admonished the green stallion. “The least you could do is to give him a try. If you want to be upset with somepony, do with me. I'm the one who asked him your whereabouts. I'm the one who asked him to bring us here. And I'm the one who even tried to have him convince you to come wiht us. Don't take it out on him!”

Statice took a deep breath. He was not the type to forgive anypony. But then again, he owed Discord more than what Discord owed him. He was in Equestria to have a second life. Mercilessness was not a virtue to live normally now that he was in a land of peace.

“Fine,” Statice walked up to the draconequus and offered his hoof. “I forgive you, Discord. You can remain friends with me.”

“Thank you, Statice,” Discord smiled, grateful to still be friends with him.

“Don’t thank me,” Statice shook his head. “Thank them for convincing me to give you a second chance.”

“Thank you, girls,” Discord turned his head around to sincerely shows his gratitude to them. “You were right about telling him the truth.”

“You’re welcome, Discord,” Pinkie Pie beamed at him.

“Can’t ya get us out of the dirt, please?” Applejack asked frustratingly. “Ah don’t like the feelin’ of bein' buried.”

“Do you promise not to interfere or get in my way until after I defeat Piercing Gaze?” Statice asked cautiously. “I am going to give you a chance to ask me questions, but only until after this ordeal is done. Afterwards, we decide how to settle this vendetta we have with each other.”

“We promise,” Twilight agreed cordially.

“You also have to promise that you won’t try to attack me or remove the Orichalcum rings until this is over,” Statice looked at them cautiously.

“Hey!” Twilight protested angrily.

“I’m not trusting you to walk around with your magic, or to have Pinkie shoot me with her cannon, or Applejack kick me with her legs, or to Rainbow Dash try to pummel me for tickling her hooves,” Statice narrowed his eyes at her. “I am being merciful, not dumb, your Majesty.”

“Fine,” Twilight sighed, knowing that she had no other choice.

With Twilight’s consent, Statice cancelled the spell and removed all seven of his victims out of the ground. He turned his head around and whispered something into Discord’s ear.

The draconequus smiled and snapped his fingers. Winsome Falls now had a camp built on top of it. The Elements of Harmony were dressed with white shirts and rainbow skirts. Statice and Spike had a rainbow polo shirt and sweatshirt. Discord was now dressed with the same uniform as Statice and Spike, but with a sash that contained lots of badges only.

The draconequus lifted a megaphone and spoke for everypony to hear.

“Today only, we open Winsome Falls Camp! Enjoy these few days of camping experience because this is a very rare once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Boys stand on one side and girls stand in the other one!”

With another snap of his fingers, Discord created a wall of magic that separated the mares from the stallion and the baby dragon. With the deed done, Twilight gasped and rushed after Spike.

“Spike!” she banged on the wall with her hoof. Much to her shock, it was stronger than Shining Armor’s shields.

“Twilight!” Spike banged on the wall as well, wanting to reunite with her.

“Relax you two,” Discord snorted. “Spike is safe and sound. He only has Statice as company. That’s all!”

“How is that being safe and sound?” Twilight protested.

“Statice doesn’t harm kids,” Discord shrugged his shoulders.

“He buried him with us,” Twilight casted an accusing hoof at Statice.

“That could have happened to anypony,” Discord patted Twilight’s shoulder reassuringly. “Listen, I know that you are worried, but Spike will be fine. I am going to look out for him just to make sure.”

“Why would you separate us like that?” Twilight asked angrily, feeling confused on why the separation was necessary.

“Statice wanted to keep you close enough to look out for you but far enough to prevent you from interfering,” Discord explained. “This gave me an idea. Why not do camping? Some camps separate boys from girls in one territory so that they are close enough to talk to each other but far enough to respect their privacy.”

“He’s right about that, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash was flying next to her, refusing to let her hooves touch the ground after what happened to them. “Fluttershy and I were only allowed to stay with the girls in our bunkers. The colts were put on the other site of the camp.”

“I can relate to that,” Twilight looked at them uneasily. “But I’m not comfortable enough with Spike being at Statice’s care.”

“Hey, I needed to separate the groups into genders,” Discord huffed in annoyance as he put his hands on his hips. “It’s not my fault that Spike is the only boy among you. Then again, Spike is in touch with his feminine side. I can always use some magic to get him to the girl side.”

“I want to stay in the boy side!” Spike yelled in panic when he noticed that Discord was about to snap his fingers. He overheard what they were talking about and as much as he wanted to be with his friends he was not going to be turned into a girl.

“Fair enough,” Discord wiped his hands. “For security, I will give Spike his own personal cabin and place a field of magic to prevent Statice from entering.”

As promised, a cabin materialized in front of Spike with a green force field surrounding it. The purple dragon walked into the force field and was surprised to see that he could phase through it. The green unicorn touched the portal, only to get burned.

“Ouch,” Statice yelped, glaring angrily at Discord as he licked his singed hoof.

“Are you feeling better now?” Discord asked Twilight.

“I think that I am fine,” Twilight smiled, happy to see that Spike was safe from either Statice or Piercing Gaze.

“Okay,” Discord looked at the girls. “Anypony has a question about this camp?”

“Ah don’t have any,” Applejack shook her head. “I went campin’ with mah friends and the Crusaders here before.”

“Can we return to Ponyville to get some provisions first?” Rarity timidly raised her hoof. “I don’t feel comfortable out in the wild under these conditions.”

“Sure,” Discord smiled. “Anypony would like a quick trip to Ponyville to get some provisions.”

“I wanna go!” Pinkie Pie hopped happily. “I have lots of emergency camping party supplies just for the occasion.”

“Anypony else want to come or is going to need anything else?” Discord asked loud enough for the mares to hear.

“I’m good,” Rainbow Dash yawned. “All I need is a cloud on which to sleep.”

“Get some supplies for me,” Applejack looked at Discord. “Some sleeping bags would be nice for us.”

“I would like Camping 101,” Twilight smiled loud enough to make a squeaky sound. “It is a book that was written by the same pony who wrote Slumber 101!”

“I wanna come to Ponyville,” Fluttershy smiled at Discord. “I needto let Angel and my animals that I'm going to be out for a few days.”

“Good enough,” Discord snapped his fingers, disappearing in the act. Much to Twilight’s surprise, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie had also disappeared with him.

“What are we going to do now?” Twilight looked at Rainbow Dash and Applejack, not sure on what was going to be their next move.

“You girls enjoy your time at the camp,” Statice looked at them sternly. “I’ll prepare for the arrival of our new guest at the boy camp.”

Twilight glared at Statice, walking to him as she glowered at him threateningly. “If you hurt Spike I will…”

“I don’t hurt kids, Twilight,” Statice gave her a disgusted look. “Now back off.”

“You back off!” Rainbow Dash bucked the wall, only to burst into giggles as soon as her hooves felt its surface.

“Wow,” Applejack looked at Rainbow Dash awkwardly. “That ticklin’ is still kickin’ at Rainbow’s hooves.”

While the orange mare made sure to help the laughing pegasus, trying to make sure to avoid touching her hooves, the purple alicorn was exchanging glares with the green unicorn.

“This conversation isn’t over,” Twilight dangerously promised.

“Why don’t you go and write a letter to Princess Celestia, teacher’s pet,” Statice scowled at her. “Or are you too lazy to write your dumb letters without having Spike write them for you.”

Twilight attempted to focus her magic in an attempt to blast the infuriating unicorn, growling as she remembered that the Orichalcum ring was cancelling her magic. Having no other thing to do, Twilight did that breathing exercise that Cadence taught her to calm herself down. Once her anger was gone, the purple alicorn turned around and left without saying another word.

Statice stood there, watching the three remaining mares. Twilight had turned her back on him and was now focused on helping Rainbow Dash to get through the laughing trauma that she was enduring. Seeing that there was nothing else to do, he decided to walk on his side of the camp.

Spike doesn’t want to talk to me. Discord is gone. The girls are either scared of me, mistrust me, or hate my guts. It looks like nopony likes me in either side of Winsome Falls. Ugh, this is just like camping.

“I’m going to take a nap,” Statice told himself as he decided to rest. Today was a long afternoon and it was probably going to be a horrible night as well.

Winsome Falls Camp Stories

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Winsome Falls Camp Stories

Despite the tense atmosphere between him and the Elements of Harmony, Statice was unable to ignore the beauty of Winsome Falls at night. Normally, it was impossible to see rainbows at night, at least in his experience. Even under the dark nocturnal sky, the rainbow waterfalls kept falling and shining beautifully. In fact, it appeared as if the darkness of the night complemented the ethereal colors of the rainbow, which sparkled better than during the day.

It’s amazing how much beauty you can see when you take your time to admire it. I didn’t get to enjoy my first visit here, nor did I get to enjoy this second one because of Piercing Gaze being on my mind. I just hope that I can change that on this night.

Discord had returned with the rest of the mares a few hours ago. He brought sleeping tents, sleeping bags, firewood, marshmallows, and the book that Twilight asked him to bring. Pinkie Pie brought crackers and chocolate bars to melt over the fire, Rarity brought unnecessary baggage that Discord had to carry, and Fluttershy just brought a portrait of Angel with her. It appeared that the girls were going to spend the night having fun rather than question Statice, a course of action that greatly pleased him.

I guess Discord came up with a good idea when he made this camp. He and the girls have fun, I get some tranquility, and he enjoys a good fight on the final day. It’s a win-win-win for all of us.

“What are we going to have for supper, Discord?” Spike asked as he approached the draconequus with a growling stomach.

“It’s Camp Counselor Discord,” the draconequus firmly but gently corrected him. “I have not planned a menu for the campers, but I can ask Pinkie Pie to give me some chocolate bars, marshmallows, and crackers to make you smores.”

“Do you have any gems to go along with it?” Spike asked with bright eyes. “A few sapphires make treats taste better.”

“Did you bring any gems, Rarity?” Discord asked uneasily as he looked at Spike. “I have a baby dragon that needs his gem smores stat.”

“I’m sorry, Spikey Wikey,” Rarity apologized, not even bothering to reply to Discord. “I didn’t think that you were going to ask for gems.”

“It’s okay, Rarity,” Spike made a placating gesture with his hands to avoid making the mare that he loved feel guilty. “I didn’t really want gems in the first place.”

As Spike turned around, he gasped when he saw Statice standing in front of him. He had his horn filled with magic and was levitating a big emerald in front of him. “Here you go,” he politely said as he placed the gem in his hands.

“Thanks,” Spike reluctantly accepted the gift.

“Don’t you eat it, Spike!” Twilight called out from the other side.

“Why shouldn’t he eat it?” Statice glared at Twilight.

“I don’t like the looks of that gem you gave him,” Twilight narrowed her eyes at the emerald and pointed her hoof at it.

Spike looked down at the emerald. At first sight, it was no different from any previous emerald that he ate. A closer inspection showed that it had a stronger inner glow than any gem that he ever saw. It made it look magnificent in comparison, almost like a queen of all emeralds.

So shiny...I don't think I've seen a gem so perfect after that Fire Ruby I gave Rarity.

“Don’t you think that you’re exaggerating, darling,” Rarity gently lectured her alicorn friend. “It does look like an exquisite gem if I do say so myself.”

“I guess you’re right,” Twilight sighed. “Maybe I’m just blowing this out of proportion. Go ahead, Spike. You can eat it.”

“Thanks, Twilight!” Spike licked his lips in anticipation. He couldn’t wait to see how good this emerald tasted. He was going to savor its texture and flavor, make every second count…

Forget this! Bottoms up!

Without further thinking, Spike shoved the entire emerald into his mouth. Twilight and Rarity cringed upon seeing how abnormally big the baby dragon’s head turned up upon eating the emerald. He wasn’t as good at eating large meals in one bite like Pinkie Pie did, so watching him struggle did got them scared them as they watch the spectacle. The little dragon spent almost a minute chewing on the emerald, breaking it with his sharp little teeth so that it was small enough to slide down his esophagus and into his stomach. With the chewing done, Spike swallowed the triturated emerald and moaned in delight.

“This is the best emerald I ever tasted!” Spike licked his lips.

“It was?” Twilight and Rarity asked in unison.

"And you thought he shouldn't eat it," Statice smirked, half of it was in triumph that he proved Twilight wrong and half of it was in joy that Spike enjoyed the gift he gave him.

“Yes!” Spike beamed at the pair. “I’ve never tasted such a gem. I feel more alive than ever. It feels as if…as if…”

The baby dragon didn’t get to finish as his eyes became slits. He thrust his head up and released a burst of flames. Everypony gasped, even Statice and Discord, upon seeing how much flames Spike released. They were about the same size as the flames that he used to melt the giant ice back at the Equestria Games. No, it was more powerful than that! The sheer force of the flames was pushing Spike down, actually making a hole under his feet as he kept breathing fire for a full minute. Once Spike was done exploding, Twilight began exploding.

“WHAT IN EQUESTRIA IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Twilight yelled at Statice.

“There is nothing wrong with me!” Statice defended himself. Although Statice was yelling with as much anger as Twilight, the anger was mainly directed at himself for nearly hurting Spike and not knowing how to apologize to him. The only thing he could do with that anger was to use it to give excuses that were making him angrier at himself with each sentence.

“Yes, you are!” Twilight pointed a hoof at him. “Look at Spike! He shot a geyser of flames AFTER eating YOUR emerald!”

“I didn’t know that this was gonna happen!” Statice indignantly stomped his hoof at the accusation. “It’s my first time feeding a dragon!”

“What was in that emerald, Statice?” Twilight seethed. If it weren’t for her magic being restrained by her Orichalcum ring, she probably would have found a way to circumvent Discord’s magic to attack him.

“It was my magic,” Statice sighed. “I sometimes store my magic inside gems so that I can recharge it, like rations for a later day.”

“You fed Spike with your magic?” Twilight slammed her horn at the wall. “How could you do something so reckless?”

“Give me a break!” Statice grunted as he stared at Spike. “I didn’t think that my magic was going to react with his magic. How was I supposed to know that feeding him a magical emerald was gonna give me an explosive result?”

Twilight was so angry that steam was coming out of her ears. Her eyes were turning red from the accumulated rage. She was pawing the ground with her front hoof. From the worried faces of her friends, it was clear that she was going to batter him with her hooves if the wall was not separating him from her.

“I…” Spike spoke slowly, calming Twilight down. Everypony turned their head around to hear what the baby dragon had to say. It was a big shock to them when he sported a huge excited smile and looked at Statice expectantly.

“I want another one!”

The rest of the night was as peaceful as possible. Spike had been given his own bowl of gems, but he was disappointed that they had not been charged with magic. To him, being fed normal gems after that emerald was the same thing as being only allowed to eat bread at a party after being given a slice of the best cake in the world. Despite this, the experience allowed him to feel more secure around Statice.

I guess he's not such a bad pony after all. Nopony can be evil if he gives me an emerald. He was even worried when he thought I was hurt by those flames I shot.

The opposite case happened between Statice and the Elements of Harmony. The incident with Spike had done nothing more than increase the fear and suspicion that the girls had for the stallion. Similarly, Statice was not pleased to have the girls constantly remind him that Spike could have been hurt for his mistake so he made sure to ignore them as much as possible.

I guess any chance of me making peace with them after settling the score with Piercing Gaze has officially gone down the toilet. It looks like I still need to grow up after all if I can't even own up for my mistakes. I gotta make it up to Spike someway or another.

The girls were busy cooking and making smores for themselves. After they were done eating their part, they cooked smores for Spike and put them in a bag so that he could eat them. As an extra precaution, Twilight made sure to ask Discord to enchant the smores so that Statice could not eat them, feeling that he didn’t deserve them after the incident with the enchanted emerald.

Reluctantly, Discord enchanted the smores so that they may vanish every time that they got on Statice’s hooves, magic, or his mouth. With the same reluctance, Spike ate his smores. As an excuse to avoid looking at the stallion, he broke the gems that he received from him and sprinkled them in the smores so that he wouldn’t feel guilty for eating them in front of Statice.

The stallion didn’t seem bothered. He was just content with eating grass, a fact that was noticed by the mares. Although ponies had an herbivore diet, they mostly made it more delicious with the inclusion of drinks, candies, breads, fruits, and vegetables. It was very rare to see a pony eating grass without anything else.

“Are you just gonna eat grass?” Pinkie Pie broke the silence between her friends and Statice. Her question earned looks from everypony at the camp.

“Yes,” Statice looked at Pinkie before focusing on eating his grass.

“That’s it?” Pinkie frowned.


“You’re not going to eat anything else?” she asked with a deeper frown.


“Did you eat anything else before the grass?” she pushed on, feeling that she was going to be satisfied if he had eaten a snack before eating the grass.


“Really?” Pinkie Pie asked, her mind being blown out with the last answer.

“Really,” Statice deadpanned. “What’s with the sudden interest in my diet? We are ponies! We eat grass all the time!”

“Since when do we eat only grass, dude?” Rainbow Dash asked him with a raised eyebrow. “We don’t live with dinosaurs anymore. We learned how to farm and cook ages ago.”

“What does that have to do with this?” Statice asked, feeling annoyed at their criticism for his eating choices.

“We don’t just eat plain grass when we’re hungry,” Pinkie Pie looked at him, feeling taken aback by his simplistic diet.

“Of course we don’t just eat grass,” Statice snorted. “I eat flowers every once in a while when I want something else.”

“That’s still quite a humble selection,” Rarity frowned a little bit. “Don’t you eat any fruits or vegetables?”

“I eat them when I want them,” Statice stopped eating. “I mostly eat anything the land has to offer me. I only buy those things if I have the bits to pay them and a shop to buy them. What exactly do you girls eat?”

“Cupcakes, muffins, cakes, pies, rock candy,” Pinkie Pie started counting with her hooves all of the delicacies that she enjoyed. Knowing that she was going to take a long time to say what she wanted, Statice focused his attention on the other mares.

“Ah mostly eat apples, but we also eat hay, oatmeal, and anything that our crops can give us,” Applejack listed proudly the products that her family's farm could make. “It’s very easy to eat anything you want when ya have yer own farm.”

“I mostly eat oatmeal and anything that gives me energy,” Rainbow Dash said as she was back on the ground, her hooves no longer tickling her after her encounter with Statice.

“I occasionally eat a quiche and other exquisite dishes in rare occasions,” Rarity inspected her hoof vainly, happy to share her tastes with her friends, and a forced acquaintance.

“I don’t mind eating a salad,” Fluttershy timidly added.

“I like hay burgers,” Twilight added.

“I saw that,” Statice shuddered. “You may have become a princess, but you eat like a pig when you’re in front of a hay burger.”

If I ever have nightmares, being a burger in front of Twilight would be number one in my top ten list.

“I do not!” Twilight Sparkle blushed as her eyes darted back and forth in consternation. “And how would you even know about that? Did Discord show you that?”

Since Discord had come clean to the girls, Statice no longer had any necessity to be ambiguous. He looked at Discord, who silently nodded and showed them a memory. It showed Twilight happily chomping on a hay burger during Twilight Time with the Crusaders, her muzzle covered in ketchup. The alicorn blushed as she realized what horrible table manners she possessed. She was so enthralled in enjoying her burger that she didn’t notice.

“Oh darling, how could you?” Rarity closed her eyes and turned her head to the side, as if she was watching a horrible crime being committed in front of her.

Fluttershy didn’t say anything, except looking uneasy at the memory. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were laughing, appreciating the irony that a princess had table manners that were as bad if not worse than them. Only Pinkie Pie didn’t seem to find the situation funny or disgusting.

“It’s okay, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie reassured her purple friend. “Those hay burgers are that good that you can’t help but dig in. I should know!”

Pinkie’s words appeared to have touched Twilight, as the alicorn hugged the pink mare immediately after that. After breaking the hug, Twilight stared at Statice angrily.

“How much do you know about us?” she asked him threateningly. “I know that Discord showed you his memories of us.”

“He only showed me the most important moments of your lives,” Statice shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t worry about it. He didn’t show me anything that I shouldn’t see. He still has enough decency to keep your private matters to yourselves.”

“He better had,” Rarity gave Discord a venomous glare, causing the draconequus to create a halo of light above his head to feign innocence.

If he so much as showed that ruffian anything he shouldn't have seen...not even Fluttershy would save him from a one year stone time-out

“I think that you should tell us something about you,” Twilight glared at him. “You owe us after invading our privacy like that.”

Darn it. Well, I guess I should share something with them. It’s the least I could do after peeking through their past. Good thing I can control how much I can show them.

“Very well,” Statice used his magic to write something on the wall, the letters being bright enough to be readable. “I will write all of my personal information in the wall so that you can know me better.”

The girls and Spike walked closer to the wall to see what Statice was writing. As he finished writing the information, Twilight gave Statice an annoyed look.

“Excuse me, but you wrote the information wrong.”

“How did I write it wrong?” Statice gave Twilight an annoyed look. “I wrote them as good as anypony writes in something.”

“You do realize that when you write something in one side it is read in the opposite way in the other side?” Rarity gave Statice a crossed look.

Statice slapped his fore hoof on his forehead and slid it down his face. “Just read it from right to left,” he scowled at them, more out of embarrassment for forgetting that detail rather than anger at being corrected.

For the next few minutes, the girls and Spike were reading the information that Statice wrote about himself. Some of the details were unexpected, such as his birth date.

“You’re younger than us?” Pinkie Pie questioned. She couldn’t believe that a complicated pony like Statice was a year younger than her.

“Oh my,” Fluttershy placed a hoof to her mouth at the implications. As the oldest of the group by a year, this made her older than Statice by two years. She had always been a shy pony all of her life, even at her bravest moments, and yet he somehow managed to endure a hard life than not even she would dare to live.

He's around the same age as my younger brother Zephyr. I can't believe he's been through so much at such a young age.

“You don’t look younger than us?” Rainbow Dash gave him a questioning glance.

“Stress makes you look older than what you already are,” Statice replied, not content with elaborating.

“There is no information about Piercing Gaze here,” Twilight observed, feeling dissatisfied with what little data she got.

“That’s of no concern to you,” Statice crossed his forelegs to glare at the Princess of Friendship. “You’re not the one fighting him.”

“I know that you blinded him,” Twilight narrowed her eyes at Statice. “And you watched memories of us, so I think that we deserve a memory of you. Discord told me how your conflict with him started, but he never showed me the memory.”

Statice’s eyes widened upon hearing those words. Discord really gave them all of that information about him.

They’re going to find out sooner or later. I might as well show them the memory. I’ll improvise if they try anything.

“Fair enough,” Statice closed his eyes as he materialized a memory. “You will see a memory of how I met Piercing Gaze. But I’m warning you that is not going to be pretty.”

Statice was running across town, a camping establishment to be more specific. He was a foal back then, about the same age as the Cutie Mark Crusaders. He already had his cutie mark. Tears were falling out of his eyes as the expression of his face showed primal fear. A lion’s roar echoed behind him, making him run faster than before. The shadow of a griffin loomed above him, ready to descend at any moment.

“Where are you, Master?” Statice cried as he kept running. “The mean griffin is going to hurt me! Are you there, Digitalis? Can anypony help me?”

His cries of help were stopped when a griffin stood up in front of him. It was Piercing Gaze, but he looked different. He was younger and he was not wearing the shades he wore in the present. He had sharp red eyes, the same ones owned by a predator about to finish a hunt.

“Where do you think you’re going, prey?” Piercing Gaze stalked forward, smiling maliciously at the colt.

“Why are you doing this to me?” Statice sniffled as he backed away. “I didn’t do anything to you! Leave me alone!”

“Sorry, cub,” Piercing Gaze followed him. “But your master’s got a juicy reward, one big enough for me to retire. The problem is that he is too tough of a prey to take head on. This is why I need some leverage over him…you.”

With his intentions revealed, Piercing Gaze swiped a talon at Statice. The colt ducked under the swipe and ran underneath the griffin’s body. He didn’t get to advance that much before he was grabbed by the hind leg.

“I got you,” Piercing Gaze bragged as he held Statice over his head.

The colt disappeared in a burst of magic as he teleported away. The memory became unstable. Statice was shown nearly being captured in many occasions. The griffin stoodin front of him, so Statice had to throw dirt into his eyes. The colt got cornered into a wall, so he was forced to levitate many objects and barricade the corner. As the memories continued, Statice had small scratches and his coat was dirty from so many close calls with the griffin.

At this point, he was crying desperately. He was hiding under the small space of a cabin, one too small for an adult griffin to fit in. The griffin was so frustrated with each failed attempt that he was turning violent. He roared and swiped at the colt with each new attack.

“Celestia help me,” Statice started begging at the sky. “I don’t know if you’re real or a myth, but I really want to get out here. Please help me.”

She won’t help you.

“Who’s there?” Statice asked in frantic fear, scared that another mean griffin or pony was going to try to hurt him.

I am. I am inside you to be exact.

“Who are you?” Statice spoke in a low whisper, almost inaudible.

I am you, the part of you that you’ve been trying to avoid.

“What part of me?” Statice asked, forgetting his fear.

I’m all that you want to forget. I’m all that you don’t want to let out. You hate this, don’t you? You hate being the victim here? You resent this situation, right?

Statice meekly nodded his head.

You don’t have Mommy and Daddy to kiss your booboos away. You don’t have your Master to give you the answer to your problems. You don’t have Digitalis here to save you from that griffin. You are all alone.

Statice began crying, covering his mouth with one hoof and wiping the tears in his eyes with the other hoof.

You’re a crybaby. You are going to let everything get out of control like always. Stop being a coward! That griffin wants to hurt you? Then hurt him first! You just need to be angry!

The voice’s rant stopped when a talon burst through the floor to grab the colt by the tail. Statice screamed in fright as he realized that he was captured.

“I got you now, you troublesome cub!”

Yelling in fright, Statice concentrated all of his magic to teleport as far away as possible. He disappeared in a green flash and materialized somewhere else. Much to his horror, he was still back in the camp, just at the opposite side of it. He closed his eyes to gather more magic for another teleportation, gasping in pain as he tried it again.

“I’m out of magic,” Statice’s tears returned to his eyes.

He didn’t have a chance to cry before the frustrated Piercing Gaze burst out of the previous cabin’s roof into the sky. He stared at his surroundings until he caught up to his prey. Giving a loud roar, he charged at the colt. Time seemed to slow down as Statice’s thoughts moved faster into his head.

He’s going to hurt me! I’m never seeing Mom and Dad again! I’m never seeing Meadow Tails again! I hate this! I hate this! I hate this! I hate him! I hate him for hurting me! Why am I the only one who has to suffer? Why can’t he be the one who has to suffer for a change? I want to hurt him! I want to hurt him right now!

Statice’s tears kept falling, but his expression changed. It was a mask of fury. He bared his teeth, grinding them in frustration and resentment. His innocent eyes were sharper and fiercer than before. His eyes were now crimson orbs with no iris or pupils. His magic gathered into his horn as it took a red color with a black hue around it.

“HOW IS THIS FOR A PREY?” Statice shouted as he fired the blast.

Piercing Gaze’s mood changed from unbridled fury to shocking surprise as the blast hit him square in the face. Out of reflex, he brought the palms of his talons to his eyes once he felt the pain of the attack. The reaction destabilized his flight course and caused him to crash into a cabin. The collision was strong enough to break the cabin’s foundations, making it fall on top of the griffin.

Without missing a beat, Statice walked to the cabin.

I am not done! I am not done yet!

He started using his magic to remove the rubble out of the cabin, trying to find Piercing Gaze to hurt him some more. After enough excavation, he found the griffin buried under a mountain of logs. Only the upper half was available, but it was fine as it was the half that he wanted to hurt.

Piercing Gaze stared in horror as the colt stood in front of him. This wasn’t the prey that he had hunted the whole day. This was a monster beyond anything he’s ever faced in his career. Statice focused his magic on his horn, ready to blast him, only to stop as he saw something in Piercing Gaze’s eyes.

There was a little bit of black in the white parts of his eyes. As he stared at them, he noticed that the black was spreading across the eyes. Soon enough, the black darkness spread across both eyeballs, obscuring the red eyes that had been following him the entire day. What followed afterwards was a scream, not from Statice but from the griffin.


Statice flinched at the outburst. A few seconds ago, Piercing Gaze was defenseless and now he was ready to fight him again. As the colt took a step back, his hind hoof stepped on a log that made him fall on his rump. He sat up, noticing a mirror next to him and looking into it. When he saw his reflection, he was shocked to the core.

This isn’t me!

But here he was. He had sharp red eyes and a cruel uncaring frown on his face. The griffin’s curses were running through his ears.

This isn’t me! Those are not my eyes! I’m not supposed to do this!

“This isn’t…me,” Statice said as a tear slid off his eye and fell on the mirror. He closed his eyes and opened them again to see that he was back to normal.

“It was all a dream,” Statice placed a hoof on his chest.

Are you sure that it was a dream? How about you take a look at your surroundings and see what you caused once you unleashed your inner self?

Statice gasped as he heard that voice again. He turned his head around and noticed the destroyed cabin. He took another look and saw Piercing Gaze, whose eyeballs were now pitch black, swearing revenge on him.

“No,” Statice shook his head. “I didn’t do this.”

Then who else did it? You and I are one and the same so you cannot put the blame on me. There is nopony else here. And Piercing Gaze sure as Tartarus thinks that you’re the one who blinded him.

Unable to take it anymore, Statice screamed as hard as he could and ran away to the camp, back to the port. The ship was there. All he needed to do was to get out of the island and return to Hobuck to forget this nightmare…

By the time the nightmare was over, the girls were horrified out of their wits. They had never seen such brutality in their entire lives. To think that the stallion managed to blind Piercing Gaze as a colt was an unnerving thought. What made it more horrible is how scary the situation had been for Statice. He had been chased by a griffin in an attempted foalnap and then he was forced to use dark magic to protect himself.

Fluttershy was on the verge of tears, unable to fathom such horrible things to be done to and by a colt. Pinkie’s mane deflated, which was a sign that her happiness was gone and replaced with sadness. Rainbow Dash and Applejack avoided looking at Statice, staring at him with a mixture of fear and pity. Rarity was wiping her tears and her ruined makeup with napkins that she brought from Carousel Boutique. Spike was terrified and backing away from Statice, as if he were afraid of getting blinded next.

“I told you that he went through a lot, Twilight,” Discord spoke with a tone that showed understanding and sympathy. “Coming from a Spirit of Disharmony who delights in the suffering of others, that is something.”

Twilight looked at Statice in a different light. He wasn’t like any of the other villains that she and her friends faced. Most of them were power-hungry monsters that delighted in the suffering of others. But he was an exception. He was more of a tragic victim of circumstances. He wasn’t born as a bad pony. He just grew in an environment with no friends or family to support him.

Is he who I could have been if I had grown up outside of Equestria? Is he what I could have become had I been surrounded by enemies instead of friends?

She didn’t have many friends for most of her life, but she still had ponies that cared about her. She had her parents, her brother, Celestia, Cadence, Spike, and her old but unappreciated friends in Canterlot. Statice was mostly alone and surrounded by enemies while she grew up in a land on which ponies were at least polite to her and tried to befriend her.

“And that’s why Piercing Gaze is after me,” Statice finished as he stored the memory back in his horn.

“What kind of spell was that?” Twilight asked.

“It was the Sight of Darkness Spell,” Statice informed her, sounding more ashamed than proud at the spell. “It replaces your sense of sight with pure darkness, rendering you blind.”

“That’s the most horrible use of black magic that I’ve ever seen,” Twilight stepped back. “Why would you create such a spell?”

“You just saw me using the spell for the first and only time,” Statice bitterly pointed, not happy to be judged. “I got carried away by fear, despair, and anger. I reacted to all of those negative feelings and that’s it.”

“No wonder Piercing Gaze is after you,” Rainbow Dash spoke a little warily. “The sense of sight is very important for fliers and gryphons.”

“But how the hay did he found ya?” Applejack asked cautiously. “He’s as blind as a fruit bat before apple season.”

“Maybe he’s got super senses to compensate for his blindness,” Pinkie Pie proposed, her mane recovering a little bit of her puffy appearance.

“I second that,” Spike raised his claw supportively. “Take that Mare Devil comic where the superhero gets blind, but gets super senses to make up for her disability.”

“That would only be the sense of hearing, Pinkie, and I don’t think the comic supports the theory, Spike,” Twilight shook her head in disapproval at her friends’ hypothesis. “I read that gryphons don’t have a good sense of smell. The only way that he could track him was with his sense of hearing and even that sounds ridiculous.”

“It is his sense of smell,” Statice corrected Twilight. “He claimed that he could smell me based on my magic. I assume that my magic increased his sense of smell beyond griffin standards or his sense of smell is linked to my magic due to getting a blast full of it in the face.”

“What are we gonna do now?” Spike asked.

“Let me take care of him,” Statice proposed. “I’ll fight him and then give it to you to put on a cell once I beat him.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good plan, Statice,” Twilight frowned disapprovingly. “I think that we should try a more peaceful approach. How about you try to remove the curse from his eyes?”

“Oh sure, maybe he’ll forget the trauma of being blind for years and agree to make peace with me,” Statice sarcastically smiled and clapped at Twilight, his sardonic comment making the purple alicorn glare at him.

“I’m glad that we got into a compromise,” Pinkie Pie smiled, recovering her normal appearance.

“That was sarcasm, Sugarcube,” Applejack corrected her.

“I’m just trying to help,” Twilight stomped her hoof angrily. “Maybe I can try to find a way to remove the curse.”

“Not gonna work,” Statice shook his head. “You can try, but you won’t get any result whatsoever.”

“I am the Element of Magic,” Twilight confidently glared at him. “I think that I can figure out your spell.”

“My spell was powered by emotions, Twilight,” Statice gave her an unconvinced look. “I’m no traditional magic expert, but you cannot replicate emotion-oriented spells if you don’t feel anything when you cast them.

Twilight frowned. He was right. If she wanted to replicate such a spell, she needed to feel the same negative emotions that Statice felt at the time. Although it was possible for her to try to replicate it anyway, it was not going to be a perfect copy. It was just like that dark spell that Celestia taught her when they first talked about the Crystal Empire. Although Twilight managed to replicate the spell, it was barely a passing replica instead of a perfect reproduction.

According to Celestia, to cancel a spell done by somepony else, two factors were needed. The first factor was to know how to cast the spell in order to understand the mechanic in detail and create a way to counter it. This was the main reason on why Celestia and Luna were incapable of recovering the Crystal Empire after Sombra made it disappear, as they did not have an idea on how his last spell worked despite having enough power to revert it. The second factor was to have enough skill and power in magic to be able to create the counter spell. This was troubling for Twilight as creating counter spells that required them to reverse the negative effects of another spell was quite challenging, as she had learned when Rarity got reality warping powers and she was forced to clean up all of that dark magic with the help of Luna and Cadence.

I suppose I could ask Celestia and Luna. They have more experience dealing with black magic to know what we should do.

“I’m going to sleep,” Statice announced. “I have to prepare for tomorrow. If Piercing Gaze arrives tonight, call me so that I can put an end to this.”

“Are you going to hurt him again?” Fluttershy asked with concern. “Are you going to use dark magic on him again?”

“Does it matter?” Statice asked. “I’m pretty sure that you girls and Discord can take me on if I get out of control.”

“How can you say that?” Fluttershy raised her voice in alarm. “Aren’t you afraid of what may happen to you if your magic corrupts you? What will happen if you were to hurt somepony other than Piercing Gaze?”

“I have the Elements of Harmony and the Spirit of Disharmony to keep me in check,” Statice yawned, not caring what Fluttershy had to say.

“Aren’t you even scared at all?” Fluttershy asked, feeling frustrated by the lack of concern for his own safety.

“Less so than you, spineless omniphobia patient,” Statice glared at her, not liking the tone that she was taking with him.

“What did you call her, jerk?” Rainbow Dash banged on the wall with her hoof. She didn’t care what happened between him and Piercing Gaze, she was not going to stand idle and let him insult her best friend.

“Let me put it in terms that you can understand,” Statice switched glances from Fluttershy to Rainbow Dash. “I called her a coward who is afraid of everything.”

Fluttershy flinched. She had always been teased by her shyness and her phobias, which only made her more insecure about herself and reinforced those traits more in a vicious cycle.

“You don’t have any right to call Fluttershy a coward,” Rainbow Dash was now beating on the wall, trying to break it to hurt Statice.

“Oh please,” Statice snorted disdainfully. If she thought he was wrong, then she was going to get an argument out of her. He glared at Rainbow Dash as he pointed an accusing hoof at Fluttershy.

“She is afraid of her own shadow, confrontations, heights in spite of being a pegasus with the ability to fly, crowds, meeting new ponies, and too many things to list. She is the oldest of the group and yet she is scared of everything in spite of growing in the most peaceful land in the world. Here is a newsflash for you, girls! I grew up outside of Equestria, in lands that were filled with jerks that were trying to hurt me or monsters that were trying to eat me. I did this back when I was the Crusaders’ age. In base of those experiences, she don’t have the right to be scared of anything, much less my own safety.”

He cast an angry look at Fluttershy before turning away.

“You’re right.”

Statice stopped and turned around. Much to his surprise, it was Fluttershy who had spoken to him. She was having that shy look on her face, but he could see the confidence of a fighter in her eyes.

“Compared to what you’ve been through, I don’t have a right to complain about my experiences. But still, I can’t help but being shy or scared because that is how I was born and how I am happy with myself. You may think that only your fears are justified, and in a way they are, but that doesn’t mean that my fears are not justified. Not everypony is born scared. Some ponies like me grow scared because of bad things that influenced on that fear. I know that I have fears, but I am working my best to get rid of them. I still fight alongside my friends when they are defending Equestria despite how much it scares me. I try to confront my fears despite taking baby steps. But you know what, that is okay because I am trying to get over my fears, like watching a pony get hurt and being powerless to do anything about it. You can call me an omniphobia patient, but I will not let you call me spineless!”

After giving her speech, Fluttershy was panting, taking deep breaths from speaking so passionately. She looked at her friends and saw that they were all staring at her with open jaws. Spike was also staring at her with the same slack jaw as his friends. Statice had a surprised look on his friend, not really expecting Fluttershy’s rant. The only one who seemed to be expecting that reaction was Discord, who was now wearing a foam finger in his eagle claw while hollering with his lion paw.

“And here we have the Element of Kindness putting the criminal right on his place! Can somepony give Fluttershy a round of applause for winning the debate of the night? Come on, girls! I don’t hear you!”

At Discord’s cheer, Pinkie Pie brightened up and started cheering.

“Hooray for Fluttershy!” she chanted as she bounced happily.

Soon enough, the rest of her friends were cheering after her. The yellow mare blushed at the praise that she received. She didn’t really like to yell at Statice or to give such a long speech. She just felt the need to correct him. As she looked back at the stallion, she noticed him leaving. She was about to call him when she noticed that he slightly turned his head towards her. For a brief second, he gave her a smile before turning his head back and leaving her to celebrate her speech.

She stood up to me. I guess that she is more of a fighter than I expected.

“Are you here to lick your wounds after Fluttershy schooled you?” Discord’s teasing question caused him to stop walking.

“I decided to sleep early,” Statice looked at Discord. “Shouldn’t you be with Fluttershy in her moment of glory?”

“She’s got better friends to cheer her on,” Discord leaned his head on his lion paw to look at Statice. “She wasn’t bad enough to be a spineless omniphobia patient, right?”

“To be honest I am surprised that you didn’t go after me,” Statice smiled at Discord, honestly surprised at how lenient he was after hearing him insult and demean Fluttershy in his presence.

“I was thinking about it,” Discord lowered his voice as he smiled at the unicorn, terrifying him with his idea of retribution. “Fortunately for you, Fluttershy stood up to you before I did.”

“Never thought that she had her in her,” Statice muttered in praise.

“She stared down a dragon and a cockatrice, Statice,” Discord gave Statice a noogie that messed up his mane. “She also redeemed your friendly and chaotic neighbor Discord when nopony else thought possible. For somepony with many fears, that is more than just being spineless.”

“First time somepony actually counters my arguments,” Statice looked at the sky, remembering how many of his enemies tried to get on his brain with speeches of how he was weak or unworthy, or any negative quality that they tried to brand on him.

“She has strong convictions, Statice,” Discord smiled. “Her shy and peaceful nature just doesn’t show it too often. Did you know that she stood up to me when I tried to send her friend Tree Hugger to another dimension?”

“Wow,” Statice grimaced at the incident. He didn’t think that Discord had the power or the evil that condemn a pony to such grim fate. He was surprised that Fluttershy actually stood up to him despite such display of power.

“That’s the power of friendship, Statice,” Discord gave Statice a malicious smirk. “You are just as brave or strong as your friends. Try to think about that the next time you talk back to Fluttershy.”

Statice’s eyes widened as he listened to the tone in Discord’s words. There was a dark but promising tone in them. It was as if he was swearing to hurt him if he ever hurt Fluttershy. He gulped when he turned his head and saw that Discord was gone. He had tried to end his friendship with Discord earlier that day and he only conserved it because the girls convinced him to keep it. Even then, he still earned a subtle threat for insulting Fluttershy in front of him. He gulped as he realized what could have happened had he broken his friendship with Discord and gotten into that argument with Fluttershy.

Well, I guess I have something more terrifying than Piercing Gaze to worry about now. It’s a good thing that I’m his friend.

Main Camp Event

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Main Camp Event

Sleep was fine for Statice. With the Elements of Harmony separated from him thanks to Discord’s magic, he was free to go on his way to breakfast. Just like yesterday, he ate only grass…initially.

“What’s up, Statice?” Rainbow Dash called out to him. “Did you come here to get another lesson from Fluttershy?”

Rainbow Dash was laughing at him as she had a picnic with her friends. They were eating some daisy sandwiches that Pinkie Pie brought along inside her mane, much to Statice and Rarity’s disgust. The fashionista was eating some cucumber sandwiches that Discord materialized for Fluttershy, who was eager to share them with her. Rainbow Dash was eating a hay shake that Pinkie Pie had brought with her as she kept teasing the stallion.

Statice glared at the prismatic pony. It was clear that he wasn’t the only one who disapproved of her behavior, noticing the annoyed glares that she was getting from Twilight, Applejack, and Rarity. Pinkie Pie had no problems with the badgering, but looked uneasy after a few minutes. Fluttershy was avoiding having another confrontation, but it was clear that she was also avoiding looking at him when he saw her gasp at him. Only Discord seemed interested in the argument, looking at it with as much enthusiasm as a foal about to get a story for bedtime.

“I came to eat breakfast,” Statice answered, not even bothering to look at Rainbow Dash. “Now buzz off.”

“Whatever,” Rainbow Dash glared at him. “It’s not like you can have an awesome breakfast with just grass. I hope you like your breakfast, jerk!”

She just asked for it.

Lighting his horn with magic, Statice opened Hammerspace to retrieve a bottle from his dimension. He made sure to hoister the bottle above his head, giving it a little spin so that the girls could read the label it had at its center. His plan was not going to be satisfying if none of the girls knew right away what it was. A gasp from Applejack let him know that she figured out what he was levitating.

“Is that an Apple Seed’s brand of apple cider?” Applejack asked with a mixture of awe and respect. Her question earned surprised glances from everypony. Rainbow Dash in particular was the one with the biggest reaction. She had an open jaw and wide eyes, which were alternating between Applejack and the bottle.

“Did you just say apple cider?” Rainbow Dash spoke in a whimper, her eyes now entirely focused on the bottle.

“It ain’t just cider,” Applejack looked at the bottom with a look on her face that made Statice think that she was going to get down on her knees to worship it. “The Apple Seed brand is the rarest cider to ever exist. It is a cider made of every type of apple in Equestria, which is then aged for years before havin’ special species added to it to accentuate its flavor. It only comes once every few years.”

As expected from Applejack, she really knows a lot about apples. Wait a second, is that a tear coming out of her eye.

Statice narrowed his eyes as he noticed a small tear coming out of the corner of Applejack’s eye. It looked like a tear of pride and love for her family. He could see why though as her family specialized in apples and this was the best product that they ever made in the history of Equestria.

“You are correct,” Statice looked at Applejack. “I bought this particular cider in Appleloosa. It apparently costs a fortune to buy one of those. It was in one of those auctions on which you have to be the highest bidder.”

Not to mention the brawl that took place before and after I won the auction... or when some citizens got so desperate that they attempted a poorly made attempt to steal from me. Seriously, it's just cider.

“Is that cider really that d-delicious?” Rainbow Dash looked desperate, licking her lips as she eyed Applejack hungrily.

“It's so hard to make that we don’t even share it with each other,” Applejack spoke solemnly. “We don’t drink it because we have to send it right away. The only time we get to drink is if we have a little bit to spare.”

It was clear from Applejack’s words that she never tasted the cider. This was going to make it a little hard for him to do. Only his dislike for Rainbow Dash was going to help him with the deed he was going to commit.

I just hope this doesn't hurt her as much as Rainbow Dash.

“I was saving this cider for a very special occasion,” Statice responded as he forced himself to look at Rainbow Dash rather than Applejack. It was true. He had saved this cider for when he got himself a home, for when he got his first date, for his marriage, and for many special occasions.

And now I’m going to waste it in teaching this mare a lesson. Thanks a lot, Rainbow Dash. You forced my hoof in throwing away such a marvelous gift.

Tilting his head to look at the cider, he removed the cork with his magic. He slowly dipped the bottle so that its mouth was pressed against his snout. He smelled the tangy smell of the apples and the combination of aromas in the spices. The scents were more than enough to make his mouth water.

“Let’s make some good memories,” Statice boasted without looking at the mares before he chugged on the cider. His eyes widened as he drank as much cider in one go. The taste of the cider was so complicated that it sent his mind into overdrive.

It’s like drinking apple juice, but with a fresher flavor, almost as if I were drinking an apple rather than eating it. I feel it changing by the second. It goes from a sweet gentle flavor to a strong bold one in one moment. I taste cinnamon, some citric taste of orange maybe, and a spicy taste. By the stars, the sensation of the cider tickles my tongue, my mouth, and down my throat! It’s so tasty that it brings tears to my eyes!

With great reluctance and effort, Statice separated his lips from the bottle. A huge smile was plastered on his face as tears were falling out of his eyes. He was glad that he was not facing the girls for them to see his reaction. He used his hoof to wipe the tears out of his eyes, but made the motions in a way that it appeared that he was wiping his mouth from cider droplets. He turned his head around and gave them his smuggest grin.

“Such a divine taste this has!” he grinned as he tilted the half-empty bottle in front of the girls. “I don’t think that I can finish this all by myself.”

“Are you going to share? Are you going to share?” Pinkie Pie asked, bouncing happily in front of the wall. “That cider looks delicious.”

“No,” Statice shook his head. “I think that I would rather keep the cider for myself.”

The response turned Pinkie’s excitement into sadness. Her eyes were bordering with tears and her lips were trembling. Statice nearly felt bad about denying her the cider. But then again, she was the type of pony who hoarded all the cider for herself every time that cider season came. The mare had a monstrous appetite for cider, one that rivaled that of a black hole. Besides, it wasn’t her that he wanted to torment with the cider.

“You monster!”

Rainbow Dash had gone berserk. She was punching, kicking, and bucking the wall in an effort to destroy it. She had murder written in her eyes as she flew back and attempted to ram herself headfirst into the wall. It appeared that Apple Seed brand was quite powerful to influence Rainbow Dash just by its sheer description.

Statice smiled evilly. This was the reaction he wanted to get from Rainbow Dash. In Discord’s videos, he figured out that she had a particular weakness from the beverage, which was further reinforced by the trauma of constantly getting her chances of drinking it taken away from her. It was the main reason on why he decided to bring such rare cider into the conflict rather than save it for the special occasion. Statice smirked as the pegasus paused to recover energies from her incessant attacks on the wall. It was time to step up on his game.

“You know what, Rainbow Dash? I think that this cider is not good enough to be breakfast. After all, breakfast is more than just a drink and I think that this one is too perfect to be partnered with something as common as grass.”

He turned around and opened Hammerspace again. From the dimension, he got a large metallic box that was releasing cold vapor. He turned the box around to show that it was filled with ice cream boxes. Each box came in different flavors that got Pinkie Pie to salivate at mere sight. Just like the cider, the box was designed for special occasions, particularly parties. After all, what kind of pony didn’t like a frozen treat every once in a while? Feeling that an explanation was in order, Statice decided to give them an explanation.

“What would be the best breakfast in the world? I think that it would be a glass of warm cider and a cold buffet of frozen desserts. It’s not just ice cream. On the contrary, I also have other frozen desserts like gelato, snow cream, sorbets, sherbets, Neightalian ice, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, and much more. Each of them comes with a different flavor and texture. Don’t you think it complements such a wonderful drink?”

Bringing up a bowl, he served many balls of frozen desserts and gave one to Spike, who reluctantly picked it up. He looked at Statice uneasily, not sure if he should trust him.

“Take a taste,” Statice offered with a smile. “I picked different frozen desserts, but all of them will have the same chocolate flavor so that you can see how different each and every one of them is by the texture alone. Prove your worth as a judge, Spike.”

Reluctantly, Spike picked up a spoonful of ice cream and tasted it. The flavor got him to moan instantly. He took another spoonful, this time from a ball of gelato. It tasted the same as the ice cream, but the consistency felt different. It felt creamier, thicker, and denser, yet it was also more elastic than ice cream. The baby dragon was overwhelmed as he kept eating new balls of chocolate, each feeling different than the previous one. By the time he finished tasting each ball, he was on the ground, breathing heavily.

“Too much…deliciousness,” Spike moaned in defeat. This was like the time on which he exploited Twilight’s decision to not move to avoid causing trouble after getting a warning from her future self to eat as much ice cream as he desired, except that he was lying on the ground more from the tasty experience of eating cold chocolate rather than a stomach ache.

“It appears that the little drake’s fire was tamed by the coldness of my frozen treats,” Statice poked Spike gently.

“Aren’t you going to share those with us?” Pinkie Pie asked hopefully, willing to forget about the cider incident as long as she got some of those frozen treats.

“I need to eat, Pinkie,” Statice sarcastically chastised her as he served himself a bowl that was twice as big as the one Spike ate. “Piercing Gaze will be here any minute soon and I need to recover my magic strength if I am to beat him.”

“What does drinking cider and eating ice cream have to do with recovering your magic, Statice?” Twilight asked angrily, not liking how selfishly Statice was behaving towards her friends.

“I have a Magic Calories Spell,” Statice got another bowl, one that was four times bigger than the one he was using. ‘

“What does that spell do?” Twilight asked, feeling curious just from hearing the name of the spell. “I’ve never heard of a spell that affects calories before.”

“It alters my digestive system to convert calories into magic,” Statice answered as he continued filling the second bowl with frozen treats. “The drawback is that anything that I eat while the spell is in place will not nourish my body so I have to eat lots of food after the spell is gone.”

“That sounds like the best spell ever,” Pinkie Pie remarked, wishing that she were a unicorn to learn the spell and use it every day.

“It doesn’t protect you from cavities,” Statice added bitterly, remembering how he got two of them after spending weeks eating nothing but sweets when he perfected the spell for the first time.

That reminds me, if I have enough free time, I need to create an anti-cavities spell so that I can eat sweets without worrying about them. I’m going to need to get books about teeth if I want to create the spell though.

After finally completing the final bowl, Statice levitated it to Discord. The draconequus looked surprised at the gesture.

“Here you go, Camp Counselor Discord,” Statice politely told him.

“Thanks a lot, Statice,” Discord smiled as he looked at the delicacy.

“Hey, why are you giving Discord a treat, but not to us?” Rainbow Dash protested as she placed her hooves on her hips.

“He created the camp in the first place and he is one of the boys,” Statice shrugged, noticing that Spike was close to the metal box, trying to get more treats, but being unnoticeable to the girls because the box was covering him from their sights.

“Sounds like you want to show off in front of us,” Rainbow Dash glared at him.

“I don’t need that comment from you, boaster,” Statice narrowed his eyes as he used his magic to flip Spike up. He summoned his cider once again and dipped it to Spike’s mouth. Thanks to the box covering Spike, it looked as if Statice was throwing the cider to the ground out of spite. The prismatic pegasus stared at the scene in horror before gritting her teeth in rage.

“I’m remembering this, Statice,” she darkly promised.

“Noted,” Statice turned around and took his own bowl of frozen treats.

“Let’s just enjoy our breakfast, girls,” Twilight called out, hoping to make her friends forget about the unpleasant discussion. As Statice left, he could have sworn that he saw a tear sliding down Applejack's cheek as she walked away with her friends.

Hiding behind the box, Spike had only one thing to say.

“More cider and ice cream, please.”

Statice was eating his frozen treats in peace. He had activated his Magic Calories Spell and was feeling his magic recover with each spoonful he took. To be honest, this was one of his favorite spells of all time. It not only helped him to recover magic in record time, but he got to eat second rations afterwards thanks to the drawback of the spell.

Always turn your flaws into a blessing. That’s one of life’s hardest lessons.

“How did you like the treats, Discord?” Statice asked once he finished eating from his bowl. He didn’t need his stealth training to know that draconequus had been spying on him for a while now.

“What happened to Camp Counselor Discord, Statice?” Discord crossed his arms and pouted angrily at not being called by his title.

“I did that to maintain the whole camping stuff,” Statice stood up and made his bowl disappeared, wiping the melted stains of his desert out of his snout. “Besides, I think that you deserved the title since you created this wall.”

“Fair enough,” Discord smiled. “It takes a whole lot of effort and dedication for me to build something.”

“You only made a wall that separated the mountain in two,” Statice deadpanned.

“But I did it in such a way that it was an establishment,” Discord glared at him indignantly. “I should tell you that for a Spirit of Disharmony such a feat is quite a challenge regardless of power.”

“Okay,” Statice rolled his eyes in resignation. “You did a great service for the eight of us. You stopped an unnecessary fight from taking place. Are you satisfied?”

“Very satisfied,” Discord smiled smugly.

“Did the girls like the treats?” Statice asked, not looking at Discord.

“Beg your pardon?” Discord asked perplexedly

“I’m asking if the girls liked my treats,” Statice looked at Discord.

“How should I know?” Discord raised his hands awkwardly. “It’s not like you gave your frozen treats to them.”

“But you did give them to the girls, didn’t you?” Statice raised an eyebrow at Discord. “I’m pretty sure that you went to the other side and gave it to the girls.”

“What makes you think that?” Discord asked with obviously fake indignation.

“You’re a rule breaker, Discord, even when you make them,” Statice rationalized as he stood up. “I’m pretty sure that you probably gave them your bowl as soon as I gave it to you.”

“And how exactly do you come up with that conclusion?” Discord asked as he leaned closer to the green unicorn.

“One, you’re friends with Fluttershy. Two, she is friends with Pinkie. And three, that girl loves her ice cream.”

“Quite a good detective, aren’t you?” Discord gave Statice a cheeky grin.

Statice smiled back in return. He knew that Discord was going to give them the frozen treats as soon as he gave him the bowl. He didn’t plan on sharing with Discord because he expected him to do it, but he changed his mind upon seeing how much Pinkie wanted to eat from his treats. Although he didn’t know if Pinkie was a friend or enemy at the time, he couldn’t bring himself to deny her ice cream when she looked like a kicked puppy.

That should probably keep them busy for a while.

“This is so good!”

It took Pinkie Pie all of her self-control to swallow the bowl in one gulp, not out of fear of getting her brain frozen, but to let her friends have a taste.

“I must say Fluttershy that you did a marvelous job redeeming Discord,” Rarity beamed as she took a bite of gelato. “I never expected him to be generous enough to give us the whole plate.”

“I’m glad we have him by our side,” Rainbow Dash ate the sherbet. “He’s much better than that jerk.”

“Ah’m not sure about that,” Applejack frowned pensively, and a little miserably, as she ate her frozen apple custard. “Ah think that there was somethin’ wrong when Statice gave Discord the bowl. It felt as if he didn’t intend to give it to him.”

“Maybe you’re up to something, Applejack,” Twilight took a bit from the ice cream as she looked at Spike in between bites. “Statice sounded a little different when he gave Discord the bowl.”

“M-maybe he meant to give it to him after all,” Fluttershy chimed in. “They are friends. It wouldn’t surprise me if Pinkie Pie just made a pastry just for us.”

“Would you like one, Fluttershy?’ Pinkie Pie perked up, feeling happy to have the chance of making a new pastry for her friend.

“No, thanks,” Fluttershy shook her head.

“I don’t think so,” Rainbow Dash frowned upon remembering Statice’s behavior at breakfast. “Did you see the way he dumped that precious cider to the ground? He could have just drunk the thing but instead threw it away just to spite us.”

“No, he didn’t!” Spike called out from the other side of the wall.

This earned him six pairs of interested glances. The baby dragon was busy serving himself a second bowl of frozen treats. He was still beaten from the delicious flavor of the first bowl, but he had recovered enough strength to serve himself a second one.

“What do you mean by that, Spike?” Twilight asked, feeling interested in what her assistant had to say.

“Back when I was too beaten by the taste buds to move anymore, Statice poured cider in my mouth as he was talking to you,” Spike explained as he licked his lips. “It was that cider that got me back on my feet.”

“You tasted the cider?” Rainbow Dash flew to the wall, feeling curious to find out how did the best cider of Equestria tasted like.

“I did,” Spike beamed. “It was the most delicious cider that I ever tasted. It tasted like regular cider at first, except that the flavor kept changing. And it leaves a good aftertaste after you’re done drinking it.”

“Wow,” Pinkie Pie had gleaming eyes from the description. “I guess Statice is not a meanie after all.” As much as it hurt Pinkie Pie to not taste the cider, she was happy that Statice was kind enough to give it to one of her friends.

“Speak for yourself, Pinkie” Rainbow Dash curled her hooves angrily. To her, cider was one of the things that should never be denied to anypony. The fact that he used her favorite drink to torture her increased her dislike for him.

“Ah agree with Rainbow,” Applejack looked at Rainbow Dash supportively. Although she was glad for Spike, she didn’t agree on Statice’s choice of deceiving them like that. The fact that he dared to use a product of the Apple family only made her anger at him more personal.

Ah don't care if ya shared it with Spike, you don't use lies on an Apple Family product on an Apple Family pony and get away with it. You're gonna get some apple justice some day, Statice! And I'm making sure it's gonna happen soon!

“We have to focus on more important things, girls,” Twilight interrupted before they got distracted. “We still have to find out about Piercing Gaze. Spike, take a letter for Princess Celestia. We have to figure out if Piercing Gaze has been captured.”

Spike frowned as he was too busy eating his second bowl. “You may have to wait for that one, Twilight,” he apologized as he gave her regretful eyes. “I can’t send letters if I don’t have scrolls.”

Twilight groaned in frustration. She was going to have to wait for Discord if she was to communicate with Celestia again.

This is going to be a long day.

“Do you have any news on Piercing Gaze?”

“He’s still in the loose, Statice?”

Statice groaned in dismay. How difficult it was to capture a blind griffin? It wasn’t like he had superpowers apart from his advanced sense of smell.

“You think that he may arrive here?” Statice asked the draconequus.

“Maybe today,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “I can talk to Celestia again if you have a problem. Perhaps her guards have already captured him.”

“It won’t hurt to try,” Statice smiled hopefully at Discord.

The draconequus vanished with a finger snap. Only a few seconds passed before he heard a second finger snap. It was surprising…although not as surprising as Discord looked like at the moment.

His whole body was singed. He had small flames coming out of his beard. He was covered in scorch marks and ashes. The most defining aspect was that Discord looked very nonchalant with the experience.

“No progress at all,” he sighed in disappointment.

“What happened to you?” Statice asked, knowing that he was going to regret asking the question.

“Do you know that when you get behind somepony they get scared and buck you with their hind legs?” Discord asked absentmindedly.

“Celestia did this to you with a buck?” Statice asked in wonder.

“Not really,” Discord shook his head. “I wished she did because it would have hurt a LOT less than this.”

“Then why did you gave me that metaphorical question rather than giving me a straightforward question?” Statice asked, irritated by Discord confusing him.

“It makes my answers more meaningful,” Discord stomped his goat hoof in annoyance. “But if you want the truth then here it is. It turns out that ponies DO get surprised when you meet them from the front. Celestia’s reaction to those surprise visits are to blast me with her magic.”

“Ouch,” Statice winced. "Having the most powerful pony in Equestria blasting you point blank sounded like a painful ordeal."

“Don’t sweat it,” Discord healed himself with a snap of his fingers. “It’s not like this was the first time Celestia blasted me with her magic.”

“She blasted you before?” Statice asked in surprise.

“We used to be enemies over a thousand years ago,” Discord floated in the air as he leaned on his back. “You see, when you are an all-powerful Spirit of Disharmony, you feel the desire to do something challenging. In my case, it was conquering Equestria.”

“So you’re the thrill seeking type of villain?” Statice asked, not surprised given what he had seen from the draconequus so far.

“Pretty much,” Discord nodded his head. “I heard that in the land of Equestria there were two alicorns ruling it. They were the greatest thing since sliced bread so I decided to give them a visit.”

“And that’s how you conquered Equestria,” Statice concluded, already familiar with what happened to Discord.

“Yes,” Discord nodded. “I tested their magic when I first met them. I fought them one-on-one and then two-on-one. They were strong, but not strong enough to compete with me.”

“It was like our sparring match, right?” Statice asked, remembering a similar situation they shared back when he was hiding in the Everfree Forest.

“Something similar,” Discord nodded his head. “I held back and let them hit me with every spell in their arsenal, every flying tactic that was taught to them by Commander Hurricane, and even let them kick me around every once in a while. It didn’t stop me from dusting myself up and then take them down in the time it took me to snap my fingers.”

Statice frowned at Discord and his tolerance of pain. Unlike him, Statice did not like pain and hated the experience even when his Healing Spell made it disappear. He didn’t see himself receiving damage just to see how strong an enemy was. Even if he were as strong as Discord was back then, he didn’t want to imagine being on the receiving end of Celestia and Luna’s attacks.

“How does it feel to be powerful?” Statice asked.

“How does it feel to be weak?” Discord asked back.

“Answer first,” Statice gave Discord an annoyed pout. “I gave the first question so answer it right now.”

“It feels good until you find somepony to take you down,” Discord shrugged his shoulders. “You feel like you can do everything that you want because in a way you can do as you want. But eventually somepony more powerful comes along and takes you down.”

Being leagues beyond the powers of even Celestia and Luna made Discord feel very confident with himself. This made his defeats against Celestia, Luna, the new wielders of the Elements of Harmony, and Tirek quite a traumatic experience. It wasn't something that he liked to talk about and it wasn't something that he wasn't going to share with anypony, not with Statice, Celestia, or even Fluttershy.

Then again, I could make an exception if Statice can give me a good answer regarding weakness.

“Being weak feels frustrating,” Statice answered the question before Discord repeated it. “You don’t know if you have what it takes to accomplish your objectives so you force yourself to work to the bone to make up for it. All of my spells were like that and any other skill that I learned.”

“Based on your track record, I’d say that you are very strong,” Discord praised him, remembering how many victories Statice achieved when he watched the stallion’s memories.

“If things go downhill, I’d have to face the Elements of Harmony, the Royal Sisters, have a rematch with Shining Armor, and fight with Cadence,” Statice listed with a pessimistic face. “And that’s not taking into account any threat to Equestria that has a grudge against Celestia and Luna since I am very likely to get caught in the crossfire of their attempted vengeance.”

“You forgot me,” Discord pouted at Statice. “I could capture you if things go downhill, Statice.”

“You like me too much to capture me,” Statice gave a dismissive way of his hoof.

“Be that as it may, I don’t like being excluded,” Discord snorted, pretending to be insulted in the outside but being happy on the inside that Statice saw him as a friend.

“Sorry,” Statice stretched his muscles to limber his body.

“You think that you can take him on again?” Discord asked, feeling excited about the upcoming fight.

“I am currently at 95% magic power,” Statice started doing push-ups. If I am lucky, he may take too long arriving here and I’ll be at 100% power by the time the fight starts.”

“Excellent,” Discord gave him a thumbs-up.

“Let me pick up my freezer box,” Statice smiled as he left the draconequus.

“It’s going to be an interesting day,” Discord smiled as he prepared himself for the main event.

“Enough frozen treats," Statice sternly warned. "You’re going to get sick, Spike.”

As soon as Statice arrived back into his spot, he had seen Spike trying to eat his third bowl of frozen treats. Not willing to let his freezer depleted of his favorite desserts, Statice promptly took back the freezer box to prevent Spike from serving himself a fourth bowl.

“But I’m still hungry,” Spike protested.

“Kids are always hungry for ice cream,” Statice rolled his eyes.

“I’m not a kid and I’m always hungry for ice cream,” Pinkie Pie whined, not liking to be excluded from a group.

“Hasn’t Discord given you enough of the frozen treats I gave him?” Statice asked the pink mare exasperatedly.

“I had to share with my friends!” Pinkie Pie stood on her hind legs and placed her hooves on her hips. “That’s like giving you one spoon of ice cream instead of a cone.”

“You’re one of the Elements of Harmony and one of the most esteemed guests of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna,” Statice reminded her. “Can’t you just ask them to reserve frozen treats for you from now on?”

Pinkie Pie seemed to consider the idea before Twilight interrupted them. “No, we don’t,” she cut in before the pink mare responded. “They are our rulers, not our servants.”

“It’s not an order, Twilight,” Statice rolled his eyes. “It’s a favor. Are you too proud to let you and your friends ask a favor to the Princesses?”

“It’s not about pride, Statice,” Twilight glared at him. “I just don’t like to take advantage of my relationship with them.”

“And how is Pinkie Pie asking for more desserts the same as you taking advantage of your relationships with them?” Statice asked, not liking her disapproving behavior. “It is she who is making the petition, not you.”

“We can’t take advantage of our connections to the Princesses to get what we want, Statice,” Twilight shook her head at him.

“And who are you to determine how they should behave?” Statice challenged. “Just because you’re Element of Harmony was a crown and you got a new pair of wings doesn’t mean that you get to decide how your friends should behave.”

“I think that I am going to talk to Spike,” Pinkie Pie nervously got away from the arguing pair.

“Sure,” Spike laughed nervously. “I can even share some of my frozen treats with Pinkie Pie. I don’t think that I can handle eating anymore. Let me just find Discord to have him teleport the bowl to you.”

“The Princesses are very busy keeping peace in Equestria,” Twilight began. “I don’t like to cause them more trouble by asking them favors for selfish reasons.”

“You’re not asking them favors, Twilight,” Statice glared at her. “Pinkie Pie is. What’s the matter? You think that if you can’t keep your friends from causing trouble that it’s going to be your fault? How insecure can you be?”

“I am not insecure!” Twilight snarled, getting close to the wall to look at Statice.

“Yeah, right,” Statice rolled his eyes. “Even Fluttershy has more guts than you when Celestia comes to Ponyville. You’ve known her for years and yet you act as if she’s going to throw you away at the slightest mistake? That’s insecurity at its finest.”

“I don’t think that I want to talk about ice cream anymore,” Pinkie Pie chimed in, trying to diffuse the situation.

“It’s not insecurity,” Twilight grew closer to the wall until her horn was nearly touching it. “I feel nothing more than respect and adoration for Celestia after she taught me everything that I know about magic. She gave me a purpose and was always there to help me reach my full potential. So excuse me if I feel the need to make her happy just as much as she makes me happy.”

“I don’t need this garbage from you, Twilight,” Statice snorted disdainfully. “You’re nothing more than a doormat. It doesn’t matter what you do, nothing is perfect until your precious teacher praises you. Even the slightest flaw will make you think the worst out of everything. Even if Celestia fails you, you act as if you deserved it. So excuse me if I find your pathological desire to be perfect in front of Celestia to be pathetic, teacher’s pet.”

Tensions finally reached their peak as the girls gasped. They all took a step from Twilight, who was gritting her teeth in seething rage. She was no longer capable of using magic, yet she still managed to look scary with that sheer expression alone. Giving a cry of rage, Twilight charged at the wall horn first.

The tip of the horn hit the transparent wall. Nothing seemed to happen at first... until the Orichalcum ring glowed and the wall just broken. Everypony in either side stared at the event in shock.

Did she just break through Discord’s wall?

Before he could question what happened, Twilight tackled him.

“Darn it.”

Statice winced as Discord placed a bag of ice over his black eye.

“Never thought that Twilight was into physical fights,” Statice winced even with the ice reducing the swelling.

“She caught you by surprise,” Discord checked on the stallion’s condition. Other than a few minor bruises, he was still good enough to fight Piercing Gaze.

“How is suggesting Pinkie Pie to ask for frozen desserts at Canterlot Castle descend into a hoof fight?” Statice angrily asked as he rubbed his eye.

"How does Statice suggesting Pinkie to ask for frozen desserts at Canterlot Castle turn into a hoof fight, darling?” Rarity asked scandalously.

Although Twilight’s surprise attack led to her giving the stallion more blows, that did not mean that Statice was incapable of defending himself. He had given her one nasty kick to the gut while she had pinned him to the ground. She was currently lying on her side to check if he had not given her any injuries during their fight.

“Ah have to agree with Rarity on that one, Twilight,” Applejack looked at her friend cautiously. “Even though Statice did cross a line with that insult, you did start the argument in the first place.”

“I already gave my reasoning,” Twilight responded as Fluttershy checked on her wounds. Other than a bruise on her stomach, she was fine. It was clear that Statice was more intending in restraining her than in hurting her.

“Twilight, no offense, but Pinkie Pie asking Princess Celestia to serve frozen desserts is no reason to get uppity on somepony,” Rainbow Dash gave Twilight a doubtful look. “Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome of you to teach that jerk a lesson…but still.”

“You really think that I crossed a line?” Twilight asked, not liking how insecure her friends felt around her.

“You both crossed a line,” Fluttershy answered gently, letting her know that she was wrong but that she didn’t need to take it all upon herself. “You can fix it by apologizing to each other.”

“What about you, Spike?” Twilight asked, feeling her oldest friend and confidant could give her the best answer.

“I think that you exaggerated at the beginning, Twilight,” Spike slowly explained, trying to think each word before saying it. “Celestia has ruled Equestria on her own for a millennium, so I think that she can keep up with making an ice cream reservation for Pinkie Pie. I mean, don’t you think that Pinkie deserves a treat after helping to save Equestria time and time again? It’s just a small favor, Twilight.”

“He is right, darling,” Rarity smiled at Spike before looking at Twilight. “If you can convince Princess Celestia to give me a suite at the castle, I don’t see how troublesome it can be to make a dessert reservation for Pinkie.”

"Besides, Ah'm sure that if Princess Celestia can't give Pinkie ice cream she'll explain it to her in a nice way," Applejack interjected. "It's not like giving her a small lecture it's gonna be the end of Equestria."

Twilight sighed as she looked at her assistant. “Maybe you’re right, guys. I’ll apologize to Statice the next time I see him. In fact, I’ll go look after him”

The purple alicorn stood up and walked to the other side of the mountain, already preparing her apology for the green unicorn.

“She is going to get into another fight with him, isn’t she?” Spike asked nervously.

A chorus of affirmative responses answered his question.

“Let’s go before things get out of control,” Spike stood up and followed after Twilight. “Boy, I hate it when I have to be the pacifist of the group.”

“Ouch,” Statice winced as he looked at the sky. He was lying on the grass, with his forelegs resting on the back of his head. A warrior should always relax before an impeding fight.

His black eye hurt but it was not troubling his vision. He could use his Healing Spell to fix the damage, except that it was going to cost him magic and wasting magic before a fight was never a good idea for him.

Who would have thought the egghead had a nice hoof?

“Can you give me a minute, Statice?”

The green unicorn stood up from his resting spot. He turned around to see a repentant Twilight looking at him.

“What do you want, Princess Twilight Sparkle?” Statice asked, making sure not to mask the bitterness from his voice.

Twilight winced when she heard Statice speak her full name with her royal title. It was clear that he was mad at her for their earlier fight.

“I just came here to…”

“If you came here to apologize, don’t bother,” Statice interrupted her as he focused back on staring at the sky.

Twilight was flabbergasted. Did he just refuse her apology? Why would he refuse her apology? Was her attack on him that unforgivable?

“I-I… listen I’m sorry about my…behavior,” Twilight stammered. She never felt so angry at somepony in her entire life back then so it was hard to come up with an apology now that she had calmed down.

“No, you’re not,” Statice gave her an annoyed look. “You’re only feeling guilty because it makes you look bad in front of your friends.”

“What?” Twilight stepped back, surprised at Statice’s rebuttal.

“You’re not sorry for attacking me,” Statice began. “You’re feeling sorry because your friends told you that you were wrong and you’re probably apologizing to look good in front of them.”

“I am not!” Twilight yelled at the accusation. “My friends made me realize that my behavior was wrong, but I am not apologizing to you because they told me.”

“You’re apologizing because you’re afraid of getting criticized by your friends,” Statice remarked, not convinced by Twilight’s justification. “It’s that part of that messed up self-esteem of yours.”

“I do not have a bad self-esteem!” Twilight cried, feeling the same anger and desire to hurt Statice return to her.

“Oh please,” Statice laughed at her. “You think that any relationship that you have is conditional. Every time that a friend of yours says something negative about you, no matter how small it is, you act as if you committed an irredeemable crime. Face it, you shape your self-esteem based on what other ponies say about you, hence why you are trying to apologize to me. You probably think that if you don’t apologize your friends will think that you are a bully and will leave you.”

Twilight stood there, paralyzed, as if Statice had just slapped her in the face. Her mind became filled with thoughts, each of them focused on different topics rather than the conversation at hoof.

I am not a bully! Oh no, what if Statice thinks that I am an enemy rather than come over with peacefully? This isn’t good, what if my friends think I AM a bully? No! He’s just trying to mess with you, Twilight. He’s not a nice pony! He is a jerk!

Her mind was going to explode now. The contradicting thoughts were taking a toll on her. Twilight could feel it as her mane was starting to get undone. She was not going to give it a chance. Taking Cadence’s advice, she took a deep breath and extended her hoof as if pushing the stress away.

“I’ll admit that my friends did play a part in making me realize that I owed you an apology,” Twilight began, continuing when she saw Statice pick an interest on her. “I may have sounded a little bit like a snob and then reacted like a bully when you said something that I didn’t like. But my decision to apologize was by my own volition. They suggested the apology but didn’t ask me to make it. I chose to apologize. That’s the truth.”

“You cannot deceive me, Twilight,” Statice looked at her, unconvinced. “I’ve been in this situation before. You are not apologizing to make amends. You are apologizing to look good in front of the ponies forcing you to apologize.”

“I am not being forced to apologize!” Twilight groaned. Was this stallion so thickheaded? She already explained her reasoning to him, so why was he denying her logic?

“Twilight…when you apologize it's because somepony makes you do it,” Statice began coldly. “Every time that I ever said I was sorry about something I did was mainly because I did it under threat of punishment. The only time on which somepony ever feels sorry about something is when they can never make amends.”

“How can you say such things?” Twilight asked, appalled by what she heard.

“I have enough experience to find out that truth on my own,” Statice sighed. “The next time you want to say sorry try to do it after stepping on my hoof or bumping my shoulder. That’s the only time the word is going to work on me.”

“That’s not how apologies or forgiveness works!” Twilight glared at Statice, not liking his beliefs or his words. “If you ignore your wrongs and focus on those of somepony you know then you are just reinforcing them. You have to acknowledge all flaws in both sides to make peace with each other.”

“Not everypony is born with your talent for forgiveness, Twilight,” Statice groaned, hating the debate the longer it continued.

“Forgiveness is not a talent,” Twilight shook her head. “It is a choice that you make to let bygones be bygones and move on.”

“And there are actions for which there is no forgiveness,” Statice narrowed his eyes at Twilight, his dislike for her idealistic point of view becoming more evident with each verbal exchange they shared.

“Give me an example!” Twilight challenged.

Statice was about to open his mouth and give a detailed list of all the unforgivable wrongs that he had committed. He was very close to give each item copious details just to horrify the purple alicorn. Fortunately or unfortunately, his choice of words was broken by a very familiar roar.

The mare and the stallion raised their heads in unison to see Piercing Gaze flying above them. He was glaring at them with the same dark eyes that Twilight had seen in the memory. He was growling like a lion as he was cracking his talons.

“Well, you are just seeing item one on my list,” Statice cracked his neck but spoke with a resigned tone of voice. “I suggest that you call your friends and have them leave.”

“We can help,” Twilight gave him a determined expression.

“I know that,” Statice assumed a fighting stance. “But I don’t like to associate other ponies into my personal matters. As much as I don’t get along with you, I don’t want you to get hurt because of my mistakes.”

Twilight stared at Statice, surprised by his act of responsibility and self-sacrifice. He was throwing away a chance of easily defeating Piercing Gaze to protect her and her friends.

What’s wrong with that stallion?

Statice saw Piercing Gaze flying straight at him. He ran forward, ready to meet the griffin as he began his descent. The fight was going to be harder than the previous one but that didn’t matter now. All that mattered now was to end this to avoid those girls from getting hurt.

I hate being the hero.

Settling The Score

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Settling the Score

Piercing Gaze grinned as he finally tracked down Statice’s scent. It had been days of constant flying before he finally picked up on his location. To make matters worse, his instincts told him that he was followed, a suspicion that was proven correct multiple times when he heard many royal guards approaching him more times than not. Quick reflexes allowed him to hide from their vicinity every time that they were up to him. Once they were gone, he was back to his hunt.

In spite of the obstacles, he had found Statice. It was time to finish what he had started all those years ago. His dark scent was stronger than ever, even when the unicorn was not using dark magic, the griffin could smell the darkness inside his magic. Such was the cursed gift that he had received when the cub had blinded him.

Let’s see how you like it when your light is taken away from you, Statice.

He announced his arrival with a mighty roar and then dived at the green unicorn from a high altitude. If he caught him from such fall, he was going to deliver a load of damage into the unicorn. The first strike was always the most important one as his griffin forefathers had taught him.

The first strike is the deciding strike for a griffin. Once you’ve given it, the fight will be decided. Don’t throw it away! Make that first strike count!

It was going to count…he was going to make sure of that…

Statice sprinted towards the high-diving Piercing Gaze. He was familiar with the griffin strategy of the first strike. Piercing Gaze may have been the first griffin he ever fought, but he wasn't the only one since then. As he charged at the griffin, strategies and options were being reviewed inside his mind.

Blasting him won’t work. He’ll dodge the shots and I'll end up wasting my magic for attacks that won’t hit. Teleporting won’t do me any good if he can smell my magic and find out where I'll be. The Blunting Spell I used on his beak and talons is probably not working anymore and I am not looking forward to taking the risk of close quarters with an angrier and more experienced griffin to try the same trick again. I’m gonna to counter this strike first.

Piercing Gaze was already close to the ground when he switched directions to fly straight at Statice. The collision was imminent. Whoever struck first was going to be the one with the advantage. Not wasting any chances, Statice jumped as he was charging at the griffin in spite of not being within his range.

Twilight watched Statice’s decision and went into panic. The physics on the collision between the two rivals were playing inside her head as she calculated the variables in a matter of seconds. She could see Statice jumping at Piercing Gaze to clash against him, but that was not going to work in account of the griffin having a bigger mass and moving at a greater velocity that gave him superior momentum over the unicorn. However, this was a scenario that was supposed to happen if Statice jumped at the right moment. He had jumped seconds before the right moment, so by the time that he was back on the ground he was going to be hit by Piercing Gaze anyway.

What is he thinking? He can’t meet him head-on! He’s going to get hurt by the time he lands back on the ground! I need to help him! But how can I do it? I still have that ring preventing me from using magic. And my flying and fighting skills are not good enough against a professional…Wait! Is he twirling around?

At the apex of his jump, Statice flipped himself around so that his legs were facing upward. He tuckered his forelegs to his chest and extended one of his hind legs skywards while the other was chambered.

What is he doing? Is he going to hit him like that? It won’t work!

Ever since she lived in Ponyville, Twilight had watched Rainbow Dash perform her daily cloud-busting activities on the weather patrol. The speedster was very fond of showing off, so she often found ways to make her weather duties 120% awesome. One of her favorite tactics was using martial arts punches and kicks apart from bucks to make her chores more visually appealing to any audience that she may have at the time. It appeared that Statice was going to imitate a move that Rainbow Dash loved to use under special occasions, some sort of downward crescent kick.

He won't be able to hit him from this distance! By the time Statice finishes the kick, he is going to be exposed to a counterattack.

Her concerns vanished when Statice teleported. She gasped upon seeing that he had teleported right above Piercing Gaze. She saw the glimpse of a cocky smile as Statice performed the kick and nailed the griffin right in the ribs. She heard Piercing Gaze roar in pain as the blow sent him far away from the green unicorn.

Meanwhile, Statice landed on his hooves. He turned around and chased after Piercing Gaze to continue his fight with him. It was clear that Statice was not going to stop fighting until he was sure that the griffin was in no condition to continue.

Twilight was left aghast as she replayed that kick. It was the most clever and practical use of teleportation that she had ever seen in a battle. In most of her fights, Twilight’s main use of teleportation was merely teleporting away from her opponents, and then blasting them with magic from a safe distance. She never used teleportation to engage in close combat. Even then, the closest thing that she had to a strategy in those cases would be merely to teleport and then buck them the same way Applejack would do. She didn’t think to teleport mid-attack close to an opponent so that she could instantly hit them immediately after reappearing.

It’s just like when we first met.

First he used levitation in a way that she never imagined. Now he was using teleportation in the same creative way. It was clear that he was more cunning than she thought. He took two of her favorite spells and used them in a way that she never thought possible in a fight.


She was snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the synchronized chorus of her friends calling her name. She turned around to see them run to her, concern written over their faces.

“Are you okay?” Spike asked Twilight before she had the chance of asking them what they were doing there. “We heard a roar!”

“It’s Piercing Gaze!” Twilight informed them. “He finally found Statice and is fighting him again.”

“How bad is it?” Fluttershy asked, feeling concern for Statice in spite of his most recent behavior. “He didn’t get hurt, did he?”

“Only Piercing Gaze at the moment,” Twilight informed them as she gave a brief recapitulation on the fight.

“Wait!” Rainbow Dash threw her hooves at Twilight. “You’re saying that Statice caught him with a downwards crescent kick?”

“I thought that you needed to be a pegasus just for that!” Spike exclaimed, having seen Rainbow Dash practice the move hundreds of times when she was doing her weather duties in Ponyville.

“He didn’t fly exactly,” Twilight remembered. “He just jumped and made the motion of the kick as he teleported above Piercing Gaze.”

“Ya mean that he popped and kicked him just like that?” Applejack summarized the information as best as possible. She preferred her information short and simple.

“He teleported above him as he made the kick,” Twilight added. “I’ve never seen such a battle-oriented use of teleportation before.”

“Sounds like somethin’ Ah would do if Ah were a unicorn,” Applejack stated, not needing to think on it. “Ah just teleport in front of them, turn around, and introduce them to Kicks and Bucky.”

“That’s my strategy for using teleportation in close-quarter combat, Applejack,” Twilight mentioned, glad that she wasn’t the only pony to think about it. “But Statice does the teleportation as he does the attacks. It’s just like when he fought us in Canterlot when he used the levitation spell.”

“Thinking about it, he did use levitation in an unconventional way,” Rarity remembered how he exploited his environment as a shield, projectile, or platform. “I do recall that his magical aura was linked with each object, almost like I use my spell to levitate my working tools at Carousel Boutique.”

“Hello,” Pinkie Pie got in between her friends. “I don’t know if you forgot, but Statice is fighting against a mean angry gryphon. We need to help him right now!”

Remembering why they went into Winsome Falls in the first place, the girls stopped talking and pursued the fighters. They only hoped that it wasn’t too late.

Statice was looking after Piercing Gaze, trying to find where the griffin landed. His first strike was successful, but he didn’t believe in that griffin first strike creed of fighting. Many years of combat experience had taught him that he needed more than a strong first strike to win his fights. A single moment of having the upper hoof could be changed by an opponent’s action that was bound to switch the outcome of the fight. Statice had been under that situation more than enough times already to learn that lesson. Right now, he was evaluating his advantages and analyzing his disadvantages.

I countered his first strike with a kick to his ribs. He doesn’t heal like me, so he’s probably still sore from our last fight. He had to travel from Hoofington to Rainbow Falls while evading the royal guards, so he must also be exhausted. He’s weaker than he was during our first fight, but I cannot underestimate him. Griffins are very durable and quite more brutal when they’re angry and injured. With or without my Blunting Spell, this guy is dangerous. I must not let my guard down.

Statice looked on his surroundings. Piercing Gaze was not just an opponent, he was a hunter. Underestimating a predator was the closest thing to defeat, or whatever horrible fate Piercing Gaze had in store for him, in this type of mortal combat. He gave meticulous steps. Hearing was the second most powerful sense a griffin had when hunting. He had to avoid making unnecessary sounds if he was to catch him by surprise. Lifting his ears to maximum height, he prepared to hear his opponent to catch him first.

He was knocked to the ground when he felt a weight on his sides. His forelegs were pinned by talons gripping his wrists. His hind legs were stepped on by lion paws to prevent them from kicking. He was glaring at the dark eyes of Piercing Gaze.

“I’ve been sharpening my beak and talons since our last meeting,” Piercing Gaze bragged as he dug his talons into Statice’s wrists making him wince. He drew his head back to deliver a beak strike.

Well, that leaves the Blunting Spell out of the advantages. Now that I think about, I didn’t know that it was possible to counter the spell by sharpening the objects again. I have to think of a new plan. I might as well, get out of range as I think of something.

Gathering his magic, Statice casted the Quicksand Spell on the ground on which he was being pinned. His body sunk before Piercing Gaze’s beak struck his head. A large hole on the ground where Statice’s face was supposed to be was the only thing that he felt. The griffin roared in rage as he realized that his prey escaped from him again.

“I’m going to find you, cub!” he swore as he bellowed to the heavens.

“No, you won’t!”

It had taken them a few minutes, but the girls finally caught up with the fight…at least one of its combatants to be specific. He was swearing to catch Statice when they met up with him. They were not sure on why he was shouting an oath to hunt him down again, but they didn’t care. They came to finish this fight once and for all.

“You’re not harming Statice, Piercing Gaze!” Twilight declared, having her friends pose heroically alongside her.

“And just who are you to tell me what to do with my prey?” Piercing Gaze challenged, recognizing the owner of the voice as one of the mares that were with Statice in the forest.

“I am Princess Twilight Sparkle!” Twilight presented herself with authority, just like Luna had taught her to do in her first meeting as a princess. She expected the griffin to be surprised or acknowledging on her presence. Instead of that he looked…annoyed.'

“No, you’re not,” Piercing Gaze deadpanned.

“Yes, I am!” Twilight cried as she angrily stomped a hoof.

“Equestria only has two princesses. One of them apparently controls the sun and the other was a lunatic that was sealed in the moon a thousand years. Furthermore, while I see the point of worshipping princesses that control the sun and the moon due to the symbolism, I don’t see the point of worshiping the twilight at all.”

“I am not the Princess of the Twilight!” Twilight protested. “I am the Princess of Friendship! And for the record, genius, Equestria has four princesses now.”

“You’re lying,” Piercing Gaze was more annoyed. “Why on Tartarus will there be a Princess of Friendship? It sounds like a fairy tale if you ask me. I suppose that the fourth one is the Princess of Love!”

“As a matter of fact she is!” Pinkie Pie chimed in. “That was a nice guess for somepony who doesn’t know about Equestria. Are you a psychic?”

Piercing Gaze growled. From the sound of it, his obstacle was a group of young cubs, just like Statice…only more immature.

I’m getting out of this dump as soon as I’m finished with my revenge. There’s so much of this fairy tale garbage to put up with this place before reaching my limit.

“What is Statice to you if you want to defend him?” Piercing Gaze stared at the girls with his dark blind eyes.

“Not exactly,” Twilight asked, sounding a little awkward.

“Then how can you be the Princess of Friendship if you’re not even friends with the cub?” Piercing Gaze shrieked at her. “You contradict yourself as soon as we’re starting this conversation.”

“Let me finish!” Twilight yelled at the griffin. “Statice is not my friend at the time.”

“He’s also not a citizen of Equestria based on my sources,” Piercing Gaze inquired dangerously. “And from my years of tracking him down, I heard that he has a tendency of getting in trouble with local authorities. Did he perhaps get himself arrested during his stay there?”

That question erased the girls’ heroic poses. He was making a good argument on why it was a bad idea to protect Statice.

“We met him at Canterlot and then we got into a little fight and he got arrested,” Pinkie Pie summarized awkwardly. “Then he faked his identity to lie to us after we made friends with him and left without saying anything. But I’m sure that he may have good reasons.”

Piercing Gaze had a twitching eyebrow. From his facial expressions, it was sure that he was rolling his eyes behind the darkness that covered them. As much as he wanted revenge, he was a professional. He could not involve these girls in his mission. Sadly, their optimistic wishful thinking was frustrating him to no ends.

“You do realize that you’re not helping your case, right?”

“Maybe we don’t have good reasons to help Statice,” Rainbow Dash cut in. “He’s not a citizen of Equestria. The only thing I get is that he’s an outsider criminal and he’s a big jerk to boot. But there is no way that we’re going to let you hurt him after you started this fight. We know exactly what happened between the two of you. As much as he overdid it when he blinded you, it was you who brought it upon yourself, jerk!”

Piercing Gaze snarled. He was content with just leaving the girls with a warming. But if they were going to be so adamant in interrupting their fight, he was not going to hesitate in taking them down.

“What are you doing, Rainbow Dash?” Rarity asked the rainbow pony angrily.

“I’m going to take down this jerk and then we’re going to pound Statice to the ground for causing all this mess,” Rainbow Dash replied as she assumed a fighting position.

“But he’s blind, Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy sounded horrified and disgusted with her friend’s decision to fight the blind griffin.

“He’s still dangerous with or without sight,” Rainbow Dash reasoned, remembering how beat up Statice was after his first fight with him.

“It kind of sounds wrong when you talk about it, Dashie,” Pinkie Pie frowned. “Tell me, how am I going to tell the story when the hero is beating up a blind gryphon? Where is the fun in beating somepony with a disability? I’ll tell you the answer. It’s nowhere because it’s not fun, it’s mean!”

“Ah have to agree with Rainbow Dash,” Applejack spoke in favor of her friend, albeit reluctantly. “He’s still a dangerous vermin and we can’t let our guard down with him.”

“I suggest that we can try to stop him together,” Rarity proposed. “Maybe we can use our powers to help him with his…sight problems.”

“Rarity is right,” Twilight concurred. “Maybe we can subdue him without unnecessarily hurt him. Afterwards, we can make an agreement between him and Statice to end their vendetta.”

“Stop speaking as if I’m not here,” Piercing Gaze spoke, having overheard their plan. He was not happy at being treated as a defenseless cub with anger issues.

Does every pony in Equestria always talk in the middle of a fight?

“Well you won’t be here once we’re through with you, punk!” Rainbow Dash challenged as she flared her wings.

“That does it!” Piercing Gaze unfurled his wings and prepared to attack.

“How about you finish your fight with me first before you go after the girls, you stupid blind jerk? “

The girls and Piercing Gaze turned their head around to the speaker. Standing distantly from them was Statice, a coy smile plastered in his face.

“It’s so nice to see you, Piercing Gaze!” Statice smiled teasingly. “Don’t you find it nice to see me?”

Piercing Gaze snarled at Statice, turning his head to the source of the noise. He was able to smell the scent of his magic from where he spoke. It was a little scattered across the field, yet he smelled the most prominent path in front of him.

“I’m going to pound you,” Statice smugly rubbed his chest with his fore hoof. “I’ll pound you so hard that you’ll see stars. Consider it a favor since you haven’t seen them in a while, haven’t you?”

Piercing Gaze was gritting his teeth as the taunting increased. The unicorn’s words were striking nerves. Outside of his job, he was an artist. He loved to see the beauty of the world, and even paint and draw. It was the only pleasure of his job as a bounty hunter. And it got taken away by that cub.

“I can see that you are exhausted!” Statice bragged with more mockery. “What’s the matter? Are you too blind to see that you don’t have any chance?”

“That does it!” Piercing Gaze roared like a lion as he flew to Statice. He flew at full speed at his enemy, talons outstretched, ready to tear him to shreds. He collided with his prey, grabbing him by the shoulders. He prepared to give his final strike…only for his whole body to stop as pain surged across it.

The fight took a surprising turn of events after Statice appeared. First, he gave very hurtful insults to Piercing Gaze regarding his blindness. Then, Piercing Gaze tackled him. The next thing the girls saw was Statice smile, turn into green light, spreading said green light across the griffin’s body, and electrocute him.

“Quite a nasty surprise, wasn’t it?”

The girls yelped as they saw Statice next to them.

“Did I shock you?” Statice smiled teasingly.

“What are you doing here?” Spike asked in surprise. “You were standing over here and now you’re standing over there.”

“I used my Lightning Image Spell,” Statice informed them as he watched Piercing Gaze be electrocuted by his clone.

“What is that spell?” Twilight asked, not believing that Statice had the power to clone himself. Other than the Mirror Pool, there was no magic strong enough to create an exact copy of another pony.

“I used a magic field shaped like myself, filled it with lightning magic, and then used an illusion spell on it to make it look like me,” Statice pointed at Piercing Gaze, who was laying one the ground, incapable of moving. “You can say that the clone is a trap that activates when you touch it. The magic field breaks upon contact and releases the illusion and the lighting magic that was contained inside of it. A shocking way to tell my enemies that they missed, don’t you think?”

“That’s not funny, Statice,” Pinkie Pie frowned disapprovingly.

“It was a bad pun, but I am trying to regain my sense of humor,” Statice shrugged his shoulders.

“You find humor in this barbarity?” Rarity asked him with disgust.

“Why should I not enjoy the suffering of my enemies?” Statice glared at them. “If you girls forgot, this guy tried to take me away when I was a foal. He deserves every misery that I cause him and more.”

“Do ya listen to yerself?” Applejack asked pointedly. “You’re not only goin’ to his level, you’re sinkin’ to a lower one.”

“That’s how you beat enemies,” Statice retaliated. “You need to be willing to do anything to destroy them.”

“Even if that means turning into a jerk, is that worth it?” Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs. “As much as I disliked Piercing Gaze, it was a sick move to mock him about his blindness, especially since you caused it in the first place.”

“It was practical,” Statice reasoned. “If you want your opponents to fall into a trap, you need to get them angry enough to make them go where you want them to go.”

“I don’t know, Statice,” Spike looked at him harshly. “I think that you went over the line with those insults.”

“Whatever,” Statice rolled his eyes at them. “I don’t need war advice from six pampered mares and their pet. Unlike you, I win my own wars on my terms. I don’t fight them because somepony tells me to fight them and I don’t rely on ancient magic jewelry to solve my problems. Everything I do, I do it because I wanted to do it.”

“Where are you going?” Twilight asked pointedly.

“I am going to finish the fight,” Statice looked at them. “Here is some tip, Princess, you need to make sure that your opponent is beaten before leaving the battlefield or they will get a second wind and attack you.”

“You’re not going to hurt him!” Twilight stood firmly.

“I can easily top you girls down now that you have your magic sealed, Twilight,” Statice glared at her. “Unlike your petty villains, I do look to hurt you in the worst possible way. If you cross the line that separates friendship and enmity to become my enemies, I won’t hesitate to mess you up.”

“And you think that we’re going to let you hurt him?” Fluttershy glared at Statice, ready to give him the Stare if she needed it.

“If I wanted to hurt him that badly, Discord would have already put me in the dungeon by now,” Statice gave her an annoyed look. “I am just taking an insurance to make sure he won’t stand back up.”

“What kind of insurance?” Applejack asked, not liking how easily he could use words to convey another meaning.

“This one,” Statice shot a beam of green light that zapped Piercing Gaze now that the electricity of his clone was no longer zapping him.

“That was harsh,” Spike glowered at Statice with disapproval. “He was already beaten. You didn’t need to cherry tap him.”

“You really think that this was an ordinary blast?” Statice raised an eyebrow at the baby dragon.

“What spell did you use?” Spike asked, sounding fearful at what may happen to Piercing Gaze for getting hit with the spell.

“You’re going to find out,” Statice tossed his head to look at Piercing Gaze, who was standing up and ready to rumble.

“I will end you!” Piercing Gaze threatened, foam coming out of his mouth as he shouted in rage.

“I already ended you,” Statice countered, a monotone voice clearly evident in his voice, quite the contrary of the one the clone used on him.

Piercing Gaze tried to move forward, only to fall to his sides and twitch erratically, kicking his legs in all directions. He tried to stand up again, just in time to see that his body twitched and twisted further. He tried to speak up, only to see his tail swishing uncontrollably. It was then that Piercing Gaze remembered that horrible familiar sensation that he felt many years ago…the day he lost his sight.

He had grown frustrated. That cub had dodged and escaped him for more than enough. Bursting out of the roof of the cabin he explored, Piercing Gaze found his prey about to escape.

I found you!

He dived down, ready to catch the cub. He was going to take Statice and use him as leverage against his next target. He heard that the cub was his apprentice, so Piercing Gaze could try to use him as an advantage. Teachers were like parents, and what kind of parent would not want to take care of his cub? It was the perfect reasoning…but not the perfect development.

As he got closer to the cub, he noticed something in Statice’s eyes. They were red and his horn was cackling with magic. He noticed that the magic around his horn changed from green to red. Said red magic was being covered in a black outline.

What is wrong with that cub?

His answer came in the form of a spell that struck him in the chest. It didn’t hurt at first. He didn’t feel any different than when he was flying at him at first.

He’s just trying to scare me. He wants to act tough. He didn’t hurt me! I’m still flying in one piece. I’ll just fix my course and catch him.

He had practiced his flying technique to achieve a high skill in pursuit. Changing directions in mid-flight was one of his most prized abilities. This was not an exception. He was going to change from diving to flying into a straight line. He had done this movement thousands of times. There was no way that he was going to miss.

He did the motions as he always did…only for his course to change to the right.

I missed? How did I miss? This is impossible! I shouldn't miss at this level of skill and practice!

He tried to correct his flight pattern, but he ended up changing direction up.

What is wrong with my body? It won’t do as I tell it to do!

A brief flash passed on his mind. It was the spell that Statice used on him a few minutes ago. His flying skill started to change after being hit by the spell.

What did that cub did to me? What was in that spell?

Panic was seizing his mind. He was trying to come up with different flight patterns at once. His attempts lead to his body to spasm uncontrollably. He went up, down, left, right, front, and back until he finally stopped…by crashing into a cabin.

The griffin moaned in pain. He had collided with a wall and made a hole with his entire body. He attempted to stand up, but he tumbled miserably to the floor. He heard a snapping sound. Somehow, he managed to turn his head around to see that he had damaged the cabin’s support beam.

The cabin is going to fall on me!

The panicking griffin tried in vain to stand up and run away. The spell made it impossible though. He was stuck, as he was crawling, jumping, crouching, and moving in all directions, but never at a path that led to an exit. Time ran out, and the whole cabin fell on top of him.
By sheer chance, he had survived. Only the upper half of his body was exposed, and he still had trouble coordinating it thanks to the spell.

“You’re not escaping.” Piercing Gaze gasped as he saw Statice, still sporting that horrendous appearance.

“Who are you?” Piercing Gaze spoke, barely happy to have his ability to talk still intact.

“I am Statice,” the cub responded. “You tried to hurt me. Now I will hurt you. That Tangled Limb Spell was too little of a punishment. I will hurt you in the worst way possible right now.”

Statice charged his horn with magic. The red magic looked blacker and darker by the second. The trapped griffin tried to escape. He coordinated his upper body to escape, just to find out that his lower body was responding but was incapable of properly answering thanks to the weight of the cabin on top of it.

Piercing Gaze tried to say something before he was interrupted by a black ball of magic thrown at his face. His eyes faded to black but he was still there. He could feel something in his eyes but wasn’t sure what it was.

Maybe he shut my eyelids together.

He brought his talons to his eyes. Not even bothering to feel happiness at recovering the motility in his talons, he touched his eyes. They were open. They were not closed. They were open… and he could not see. It was then that he realized what Statice had done to him.

A roar echoed across his mind in rage, grief, and despair.

Back in the present, Piercing Gaze snarled at Statice. Infuriated that he had used that horrible spell to strip him away of his body control, the griffin could do nothing more than twitch without any sort of restraint.

“The Tangled Limb Spell causes the victims to lose control over their bodies when they get hit by it,” Statice explained. “I just mess up the connections between the nerves and the muscles. Some ponies that get stuck with this spell are left twitching uncontrollably and others have cramps.”

“That sounds awful!” Fluttershy gasped, horrified at the thought of losing control of her own body. How was she supposed to live her life if she couldn’t do something as simple as walking?

“It’s only temporary,” Statice waved his hoof dismissively. “We need to bring Discord here to restrain Piercing Gaze.”

“You’re going to arrest me?” Piercing Gaze asked, feeling too bitter to be surprised by Statice’s course of action.

“I can’t abandon you in a desert,” Statice did not hesitate to point out his dislike for the griffin. “I’m going to try to do it the old-fashioned way. You’re going to the dungeons, one specially made for you by the Spirit of Disharmony himself.”

“I don’t care about your dungeon!” Piercing Gaze roared. “You took my light away from me. I won’t rest until I get my revenge!”

“Tell that to somepony who cares,” Statice glared at the griffin. “I don’t care how horrible it is to be blind. I’m sick and tired of you pretending to be a victim when you started it, pal.”

“Statice, please,” Twilight approached him with a begging tone. “Let me and the girls try to help him so that we can talk it out.”

The green unicorn sighed. As much as he wanted to protest that it was not going to work, he decided to give it a try. “Show me that Magic of Friendship.”

“First we need to expose the dark magic,” Twilight looked at the griffin’s darkness-covered eyes. “We can’t use our powers while he still has darkness inside of him. We don’t want to seal him in stone for a thousand years.”

“Why not do it?” Statice rolled his eyes. “Isn’t that what you ponies always do with your problems? You seal them away and then you let your successors do the hard work for you.”

“Are ya done with yer sarcasm?” Applejack gave him an annoyed glare. “Twilight’s workin’ over here. She doesn’t need distractions.”

“Did I miss something anypony?” Discord snapped into existence, stunning the group. Even Piercing Gaze looked stunned.

“Caught him,” Statice pointed at Piercing Gaze. “The girls want to cure his blindness first though. How do you remove darkness from eyes?”

“I’m afraid that you’re talking to the wrong draconequus,” Discord got close to Piercing Gaze to look at his unusual eyes. “I can’t cancel such a spell if it is that specific. I have to know how the spell works to counter it.”

“You can’t counter my spell despite being leagues stronger than me?” Statice asked, shocked by the development.

“Why do you think Celestia and Luna couldn’t save the Crystal Empire despite easily defeating King Sombra?” Discord playfully bopped Statice’s head. “You need as much magical brain as magical brawn to counter a spell.”

“Does that mean that we can’t help him?” Fluttershy sounded disappointed.

Seeing his first friend sad, Discord forced his chaotic mind to get to work. There was not going to be a sad Fluttershy in his presence. Nopony knew how the brain of a draconequus worked, but one could always assure that they knew more about magic than any species in Equestria. Sure enough, Discord got an idea.

“You can use your Magic Reclaiming Spell,” he smiled at Statice. “If you reclaim your dark magic from Piercing Gaze’s eyes, you can give him back his life.”

The girls gasped in delight. Even Piercing Gaze was shocked at the revelation.

“Then let’s do this!” Spike beamed at the group.

“What do you mean with that quote?” Statice glared at the baby dragon. “First of all, you’re no Element of Harmony so you’re more of a spectator than actual help. And second of all, I am not doing that.”

He got groans of annoyance from the group.

“Don’t be such a jerk, Statice!” Rainbow Dash yelled at him.

“I am not being a jerk,” Statice glared at the pegasus. “I am being cautious. If I absorb black magic, what makes you think I won’t turn evil? What will happen if the Elements think that I am evil and I get sealed for a thousand years? I am not losing a millennium of my life just because you girls wanna play hero.”

“He’s got a point there,” Discord whispered into Spike’s ear. “Being sealed for a thousand years is no picnic.”

“Statice,” Twilight walked up to the green unicorn. “I promise you that nothing bad is gonna happen to you when we use the Elements of Harmony. You can count on me and my friends that no harm will befall upon you in this operation.”

She finished her speech by putting her hoof in his shoulder. It was the first time that she had touched him like a friend, not as Aster but as Statice. Feeling no other choice was left, Statice looked at Discord.

“Take the Orichalcum rings, Discord,” he ordered the draconequus.

Discord did as he was told as he used his lion and eagle hands to remove the rings from the horns of Twilight and Rarity. He then placed the rings into special boxes that Statice sent to Hammerspace.

With their magic back to normal, Twilight and Rarity reared on their hind legs and kicked their forelegs in elation. After their little celebration, all the girls closed their eyes and activated their powers. Standing in front of him, the six mares were empowered by the Elements of Harmony, now sporting much colorful appearances. Statice said the only thing that came into his mind.

“I hope that you girls finish this quick. Frankly speaking, you’ve never looked dumber in your entire lives.”

The comment changed the girls’ default smiling expression into angry or offended frowns, particularly Rainbow Dash.

“Just do the stupid spell!”

Sighing, Statice performed the spell. His horn glowed green before it switched to the red with black outline magic that he used on Piercing Gaze. The darkness was slowly being pulled from the griffin’s eyes. As the black magic nearly reached Statice’s horn, the girls unleashed their Rainbow Power.

In a bright flash, the operation was done. Piercing Gaze no longer had darkness covering his eyes. His bright ruby eyes were visible again. Tears were falling as he saw Winsome Falls in its entire beautiful splendor.

“I can see,” Piercing Gaze spoke tenderly. “I can see! I can see again! I’ve never been so happy in my entire…”

His monologue was interrupted when Statice used his Taser Horn Spell to electrocute him into unconsciousness. The Elements of Harmony, back in their regular form, did not hesitate in expressing their disapproval.


“Hey, I’m not gonna have him speak about how beautiful it is to see again and how he is grateful to us for breaking his curse,” Statice pounded his chest. “I just wanna get this done once and for all.”

“You could have at least let him enjoy his happiness a bit more,” Pinkie Pie pouted, not liking it when somepony had a happy moment ruined by a meanie.

“He’ll have a lot of time to see how beautiful Canterlot is when he wakes up in one of the dungeons,” Statice rolled his eyes at the girls.

“Do tell how he is supposed to watch any beauty inside of a dungeon? “ Rarity asked indignantly.

“Give him a cell with view,” Statice sneered at her. “Now let’s get to Canterlot so that you girls can trial me.”

“I wonder if I want you by my side or as far away from me as possible,” Twilight groaned as she and her friends got close into a circle.

“Lead the way, Discord,” Statice told the draconequus.

With a flourish, Discord snapped his fingers and disappeared with the ponies, the dragon, and the griffin. And just like that, Winsome Falls Camp was over.

A Stay in Canterlot

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A Stay in Canterlot

Princess Celestia always trusted Twilight. No matter what mission or obstacle, Twilight always managed to surpass her expectations. If she promised to do something, Celestia could always trust her loyal student to accomplish her word. This belief in her student was stronger when Twilight had her friends by her side. There was nothing they couldn’t accomplish as long as they were together. Time and time again, they had defeated the greatest threats of Equestria as a team. She was sure that Statice was not going to be a problem to any of them. And that was not mentioning that they had Discord by their side. They were probably about to visit her very soon with Statice and Piercing Gaze on their hooves.

“Celly, I’m home!”

Sure enough, Discord was in her throne room. He had the Elements of Harmony by his side. Statice was also there along with the unconscious Piercing Gaze. Quick as lightning, her royal guards pointed their spears at Statice, who did not hesitate to assume a fighting stance.

“Stand down!” she firmly ordered her guards.

The royal guards did as they were told, albeit they did so while glaring daggers at the green unicorn. She could have sworn she heard Statice mumble something about them being lucky at having her save them. Deciding to start the conversation on the right hoof, Celestia addressed her group.

“I see that you managed to find Statice and Piercing Gaze,” she addressed the Elements of Harmony respectfully.

“Yes, Princess Celestia,” Twilight bowed her head at her. “We managed to convince Statice to come with us after he settled his score with Piercing Gaze.”

"A little bit too brutish if I may say so myself," Rarity added distastefully as she gave Statice a disdainful glare.

“Is he okay?” Celestia eyed the gryphon with a mixture of caution and pity. As much as she disapproved of the gryphon’s actions, she only wanted to deal the necessary justice to him.

“He’s unconscious,” Statice replied. “I suggest you avoid touching him though. I used lightning magic on him during our fight.”

“I see,” Celestia eyed the unicorn warily. “Do tell, did you use any dark magic on him whatsoever? I am very sure that blindness is not something that could be accomplished with regular magic.”

I'm already sure from what Discord told me on his last visit that he used dark magic. However, having him admit to it may give me an insight of what kind of user he might be. If he lies, I'll know that he's a weak user. If he tells the truth, I'll know the extent of his strength by the context of his words.

“How would you know?” Statice challenged. “I could have made a very luminous light to blind him. That can happen. One can even get blind for staring at your sun for too long.”

“Black magic is filled with negative emotions,” Celestia walked close to the unicorn. “You were but a colt when you fought him. Were you filled with feelings of fear and despair when you blinded him?”

He tried to evade the question. Does that mean that he's the weak lying type? Or maybe he's the strong secret type who likes to hide his power to have an advantage over his enemies. She pondered as she lowered her head to look down on the green stallion, not with disdain, but with a hint of caution and courage.

Perceptive princess, aren’t you? I guess being around for millennia can give you some phenomenal observation skills. Statice returned the same look Celestia was giving him by raising his head to meet her eye-to-eye.

“You are right,” he admitted. “Piercing Gaze was too much for me when I first fought him. I was his prey. He was close to taking me away. I panicked and I struck him with a blast of dark magic that left him blind.”

“Dark magic is forbidden in Equestria, Statice,” Celestia clarified dangerously. “Are you aware that using it is a crime?”

“With all due respect, Princess, I didn’t use dark magic inside your domain,” Statice countered, not too happy with the threat yet trying to answer in a way that wouldn't get him thrown in a dungeon. “I don’t think that you have any right to question me on my actions back then. I did what I had to do.”

The girls gasped. Nopony had dared to speak to Celestia like that. Only Discord and Tirek, and both occasions were mainly because they were evil and more powerful than her at the time. It was impossible to have a fellow pony speak to her like that.

“Guard your tongue!” one of the royal guards ordered angrily. “You are going to address Princess Celestia with the utmost respect, criminal.”

“Mind your own business, you waste of space!” Statice yelled back, his patience wearing thin after the stressful day he had. “Your precious princess can defend herself from me if she so desires. The only reason she even has you losers in this castle is to have an excuse to give your worthless hides jobs!”

The pair of royal guards were about to lunge at him, stopping only when Celestia gave them a stern glare, not unlike that their Captain gave them when he was being strict with them.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak to my royal guards that way,” Celestia used a scolding tone as she talked to Statice.

“Fine,” Statice stared to the side. “But I suggest that you have them take Piercing Gaze to the dungeon.”

“Very well then,” Celestia nodded her head and gestured at the guards to do so.

The royal guards bowed to her and went to pick up Piercing Gaze, glaring at Statice on the way. As soon as their hooves touched the gryphon, electricity surged across their bodies. All of the ponies gasped at the scene, except for Statice, who had an evil smirk on his face.

“I think that you should change your armor for something made of rubber,” he suggested, not bothering to mask his delight at their misfortune. “I forgot to warn you that electricity is easily conducted through gold.”

The royal guards glared at Statice. They were about to say something when Discord snapped his fingers. They looked at themselves, noticing that they were wearing rubber gloves in their fore hooves. The draconequus pointed at the gryphon and gestured them to leave with a smirk that quickly morphed into an impatient sneer. Noticing that they were out of their element, the royal guards reluctantly complied with the orders, picking Piercing Gaze up and bringing him to the dungeon for his incoming trial.

“How exactly did your conflict with Piercing Gaze started?” Celestia narrowed her eyes at Statice. So far, he had the mentality to justify his use of dark magic and he lacked remorse on its use.

That's how all the evil wizards in Equestria started. First, they hide under justification for their first time, which then becomes a reason to keep on practicing dark magic...and then they no longer see any reason to defend their extended practice.

“I don’t like to talk about that,” Statice rubbed the back of his head. “You can have Twilight or Discord show you the memory later.”

“Fair enough,” Celestia nodded her head. Years of conferences had taught her on ways to get the truth. If the direct approach did not work, she could always circumvent her target’s defenses by asking other questions and then return to that first question as soon as she saw an opening.

And if he says that Discord and Twilight can show me the memory later, then that means that he at least trusted them enough to show him his past to them. I may have to do some testing on the memory just to make sure he didn't deceive them.

“Did you hurt Piercing Gaze during your second fight?” she asked, wanting to make sure that Statice did not cross a line during his rematch with him. While she could tolerate his use of dark magic back when he was a colt due to his unfamiliarity with the power, the circumstances on which he used it, and the fact that the event happened outside of her jurisdiction, she was not going to tolerate him using dark magic while he lived on Equestria.

“Nothing he couldn’t handle,” Statice rolled his eyes.

“Except for shockin’ him with yer magic when he wasn’t lookin’,” Applejack glared at him.

“I already gave my reasoning for that,” Statice sat on his haunches and crossed his forelegs on his chest. “Besides, he is fine and no longer blind.”

“He’s no longer blind?” Celestia asked, feeling amazed at what she heard. How did somepony manage to reverse blindness?

Not even the most advanced medicine and healers have managed to cure such ailment, especially one caused by dark magic. Just what exactly happened back there?

“He used some spell to retrieve the dark magic that he inflicted on his eyes,” Twilight explained, trying to be as detailed as possible. “We then used the Elements of Harmony to destroy the dark magic before it entered Statice’s horn.”

Celestia smiled at the summary. Curses were one of the most forbidden forms of magic in Equestria. Almost all of her professional mages were trained to dispel them. She even made it an obligatory skill for her fellow princesses, making sure that Luna, Cadence, and Twilight were up to date with it. She had dispelled many curses across her reign for many years. Hearing Twilight dispel of one that deprived the light from the victim’s eyes filled her with pride.

Is there anything you won’t do, my faithful student?

After her moment of pride passed, Celestia concentrated on Statice. She had him back in Canterlot, but what was she supposed to do with him? He still had to pay for his earlier crimes, he was also the subject of fake identity, and she could not trust him with that dark past of his. The only reason she was being merciful at the time was because Discord implied that he suffered a lot when he was a colt.

I guess if even Discord can vouch for him then he deserves a chance. This is a land of love and tolerance. He deserves an opportunity to prove himself.

“What's gonna happen now, Princess?” Statice addressed her.

“We will talk about it after dinner,” Celestia informed him. “You shall meet with me and the Elements of Harmony at the dining hall. Luna will also be there so please be on your best behavior.”

“Crystal clear,” Statice replied. “I’m already in enough troubles as it is.”

“Very well then,” Celestia kept a neutral frown. “This meeting is dismissed. I shall see you for dinner in a few hours.”

A few hours passed. It was dinner time already. It was EXACTLY dinner time because Twilight had forced him to stand in front of the door to lecture him about the appropriate behavior when eating with the princesses. It didn’t take long before it became an argument between the pair.

“Give it a rest!” Statice yelled at the purple alicorn.

“No!” Twilight glared at him. “You will show Princess Celestia the respect that she deserves when you’re eating with her.”

“I know how to behave, Twilight,” Statice groaned at her insistence for lecturing him. "I’ve had years to master the art of behaving around powerful figures.”

“No, you don’t,” Twilight snapped at him. “You’re the most disrespectful jerk that I had the misfortune of knowing. You didn’t show Luna or me any respect.”

“You didn’t act like you deserve any respect,” Statice snorted. “Besides, what will it matter if my first encounters with you two started with the wrong hoof?”

“Ponies can change, Statice,” Twilight massaged her temples. “You just have to show a compromise to prove it.”

“I can compromise for my own safety,” Statice growled at her. “I’ve been doing this since I was a colt. Unlike most of you, I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

“Funny thing to say,” Applejack looked at him unconvincingly. “Ya seem more outspoken than Rainbow Dash.”

Okay, now that was insulting. I don't open my mouth as much as Rainbow Dash. And I certainly make sure that what comes out of it is more than empty threats, bravado, or boasting.

“I’m not much of a social pony,” Statice rubbed the back of his head self-consciously. “I’m no expert in social conventions.”

“Is that why you pretended to be Aster?” Pinkie Pie asked, still feeling awkward about the deception, although feeling sympathetic on why he went to such extremes.

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head. “But this was for personal bonds. I know how to behave professionally. I just need to treat Celestia like one of my clients and I’ll be fine on my own.”

“You do realize that Princess Celestia is not the type of pony that asks you to commit barbarities, right?” Rarity asked poignantly.

Not liking her tone, Statice retaliated. “Those are some tough words coming from one of the six mares that constantly have to do all the fighting for her,” he narrowed his eyes at her. “Your missions for Celestia are no different from my own. You just happen to have a client with decent public standing.”

Rarity harrumphed angrily, closing her eyes and tilting her head up.

“I hope she just puts you in jail,” Rainbow Dash crossed her forelegs. “I won’t mind as long as it keeps your mouth shut.”

I bet that’s what most ponies say about you every time you boast.

“Please try to behave,” Fluttershy begged. “I don’t think I can take more fighting after today.”

She looked at him with those beautiful cyan eyes of hers. Those delicate features in her face made her look more vulnerable than her age suggested.

At least somepony gives me a nice gesture.

“Fine,” Statice sighed in resignation. “Let’s just start on this dinner.”

Dining with Princess Celestia and the Elements of Harmony turned out to be one of the best meals that Statice ever had. He didn’t even begin eating when he saw all the plates that were served for him. They all looked delicious. It was the kind of plate that he only ate when one of his nobler clients invited him to his manor to discuss a mission. A small part of him envied the Elements of Harmony for having the chance of eating like that with the ruler of their country.

Lucky witches, you don’t know what you have.

Statice looked at his plates. There were breads, pastas, soups, salads, fruits, tea, and many more dishes. This was better than eating plain grass and flowers. This was far better than any monstrosity that resulted from his cooking.

What am I supposed to eat first? Who am I kidding? I’m eating whatever I like.

He levitated the small sandwiches, the small cut pieces of bread, the crackers, and the cheese cubes. He spun them around in an orbit, eyeing each morsel with hunger. He ate one piece at a time. He started with the crackers, then the bread, followed by the cheese, and ending with the sandwich.

“Can you please not play with your food, darling?” Statice was interrupted by an annoying voice, one that he recognized too well.

With most of his appetizers eaten, Statice had enough space to see Rarity give him a disapproving glance. The heavenly taste of the food had nothing against the annoyance he felt at the fashionista, turning his smile into a frown.

“I don’t see a problem with the way I eat,” he answered curtly, remembering that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were watching him from the ends of the table.

“You are levitating more than one morsel at a time and you do it more to play with them than to eat them,” Rarity would have pointed her hoof at him, choosing not to do it as she felt that it was rude.

“I am choosing which one to eat first,” Statice defended himself.

“You can choose while you’re food is still at the table,” Rarity added in an uppity tone that sounded a little condescending.

“I don’t see a problem with the way I eat,” Statice added. “In fact, I can see that Spike, Pinkie, and Fluttershy are enjoying the view.”

True to his word, the two ponies and the baby dragon were mesmerized with how he was making the food orbit around him before eating it.

“I wish I could play with my food like that,” Pinkie Pie said longingly. “That would make eating a ton more fun!”

“It looks like Twilight’s trick with Fluttershy’s animals,” Spike added, remembering how amazing Twilight’s performance was.

“It sure does,” Fluttershy supported, glad that she found a version of Twilight’s act that did not involve her animals.

“I think you’re just trying to show off,” Rainbow Dash glared at him, earning an annoyed look from Statice.

Look who is talking, Mrs. 120% Awesome!

“Ah agree with that,” Applejack supported, albeit she was more focused on eating the same items that Statice was using. “That’s a whole lot of magic that you don’t need goin' to waste for eatin’.”

Yeah, right, I don’t think that you ever know what showing off means.

“I think that you should stop it,” Twilight gave him a firm glare. “This is the dining hall. It is no place for games in the table.”

“I don’t see Princess Celestia complaining,” Statice narrowed his eyes at Twilight before looking at Celestia. “Do you have any problem with my behavior, your Majesty?”

“None at all,” Celestia spoke in a civil tone. Luna didn’t say anything at all, other than glare daggers at him. Still, she didn’t spoke out against Celestia’s response so it was easy to assume that she had no problem against him playing with his food.

The stallion gave the girls a smug look before resuming to his eating. There was a plate of vegetarian lasagna that he wanted to try. From the looks of the casserole on which it came, the slices were going to be big. The butler proved him right when he served him a huge slice. His point was further supported when each pony and the baby dragon on the table received slices that were as big as the one he had. Celestia and Luna received the largest slices on account of being the biggest ponies.

Wow, I don’t think anypony can eat something so voluminous.

His sentiment was echoed by some of the girls in the group. Rarity looked to be inwardly arguing with herself, probably not feeling well about eating so much pasta for fear of ruining her figure. Spike looked at his plate uneasily, not feeling sure if his little stomach was going to tolerate the whole slice. Fluttershy appeared intimidated at the size of her slice, feeling that she was not going to finish her dinner before completing her portion. Twilight appeared to be more worried about how to eat her slice rather than the thought of eating it, from the looks that she threw Celestia and Luna, which Statice inferred was because she was more mortified about not looking bad eating the lasagna in front of them rather than her ability to eat it.

From the opposite side, Applejack was licking her lips when she got her portion, which was probably because one of the benefits of being a farmer was to have a huge appetite. Rainbow Dash did not seem to be intimidated by her slice, seeing it as a challenge on how much she was capable of eating. Pinkie Pie was already eating her slice with huge bites from her mouth, not even bothering to use a fork and knife.

I better start eating.

Statice levitated his slice of lasagna. It was a little too big for him at first sight, inspiring him to cut it. He stared at the knife and fork on his table. He didn’t remember which one he was supposed to use for this dish.

Forget about that. You have a spell for this kind of situation.

Statice levitated the lasagna close to him and then made small flourish gestures with his head, up and down, left and right. His fellow companions stared at him, some confused and others annoyed. He didn’t care. All that mattered to him was his lasagna. Small, clean fissures spread across his portion until it adopted a grid pattern. A few seconds later, the lasagna was cleanly cut in small slices.

The audience stared at him in shock.

“What did you do?” Twilight asked. “What happened to your lasagna? You were levitating it as a whole one moment and now it was cut in tiny slices.”

“I used a Slashing Spell to cut my lasagna,” Statice answered as he started to contently eat from his dish.

“That is an unusual spell, Statice,” Celestia praised with a charming smile. “Can you tell me more about it?”

The whole table looked at Statice. It was the first time that Celestia had addressed him apart from welcoming him into the dining hall. They were all anxious to see how Statice was going to react to the ruler of Equestria. Of course, the most anxious of them all was the green unicorn.

What do I do? I don’t want to share my spells with her. If she's as good as Twilight copying spells, I don't want to imagine her swinging the equivalent of a magical sword at me, not from the most powerful pony in Equestria. I have to refuse. However, I can’t be that rude or I’ll get arrested. I have to be careful with my explanation.

“It is a spell that uses my magic like a blade to cut anything I want,” Statice opted for a brief explanation. “You have to treat the spell as if you were using a sword.”

“I see,” Celestia narrowed her eyes with interest at him. In the eyes of the beholder, it was more out of satisfaction with the answer she received. But in the eyes of Celestia, there was an analysis of his magic right in that lasagna.

The secret of the levitation spell was to use a magic field around the desired objects to levitate them. For the average unicorn, levitation required using a field larger than the object’s area to be able to lift it. Although it worked, it was impractical because the unicorn used more magic than necessary to lift the object. Trained unicorns were capable of using magic fields with the exact same area than their desired objects to avoid wasting magic unnecessarily. It was a rare skill that very few unicorns possessed.

Statice appeared to be very close to the skill. The amount of magic in each slice of lasagna appeared to be almost exact, with every excess connected to one square being transferred to the next one. She had not seen that kind of control since Star Swirl the Bearded.

A look on her peripheral eye showed that Luna was making the same observation, raising an eyebrow in interest, quite a progress since the diner started. A curt nod from her informed Celestia that she saw the same thing her sister did and was going to talk to her about it later on.

No training in magic, yet he has the skill gained from a lifelong practice. He must have worked very hard to accomplish such control. It’s a good thing that he plays with his food. He’s giving us much information about his magic with every dish he tastes.

The next dish was a soup. It appeared to be a smooth transparent soup with a bit of white thickness to the side. All of the girls were eating right now, except for Pinkie Pie, who was looking forward to seeing how Statice was going to eat the soup. The green unicorn noticed the attention, throwing a little smile at her.

At least I am happy that somepony doesn’t criticize me.

He levitated all of the soup until it coalesced into a ball. From the ball, an eastern dragon of soup came forth. From his travels, Statice learned that there were many different types of dragons apart from the ones in Equestria. One of his favorite types of dragons was the eastern one, a flying dragon that resembled a snake that flew thanks to a special sort of magic that was released from their scales.

The eastern dragon appeared to get Spike’s attention. The baby dragon was leaning forward to look at the spectacle. Even Twilight was looking at the soup with wide eyes, probably out of fascination of watching a type of dragon that Equestria has never seen.

I guess growing outside of Equestria does have its benefits. How many ponies can claim to see an eastern dragon?

The dragon flew around his head a couple of times. He smiled as he leaned his head back and had the dragon descend upon his mouth, creating the illusion of him swallowing the dragon. The girls gasped at the imagery, shocked that Statice ate the dragon. The soup provided more entertainment as Statice made a floating waterfall that descended into his mouth and even spun the remaining liquid of the soup into a spiral to make it seem that he was sucking it into his mouth like a whirlpool.

“What’s next?” Statice asked Celestia.

Okay, I guess I am trying to show off.

Celestia hummed, changing her facial expression to a thoughtful one to make it seem like she was trying to remember something. “I think that you should try a spinach and broccoli main dish.”

Statice frowned. He didn’t like spinach and broccoli back when he was a foal. He never ate them anymore when he left home. Even after spending years eating almost anything, he didn’t bring himself to eat those vegetables.

Maybe I should use the Numb Tongue Spell. No, I need to stick up my tongue for that. I can’t use the spell under the watchful eyes of the Princesses of Equestria and the Elements of Harmony. I guess I’ll have to eat that awful dish.

The Numb Tongue Spell was an anesthetic magic on Statice’s tongue. It turned off the sensory neurons and taste buds in the tongue to prevent him from tasting food that he didn’t like or feeling its consistency. He used it to eat garbage and other distasteful meals in several occasions, such as his very own cooking. It was very hard to cook when one had to rush on the job, but it was imperative to make every ingredient count, hence why he forced himself to eat his failed meals. Other than failing to protect him from gastric diseases due to him eating…questionable nourishment, the spell never failed Statice into helping him eat anything.

I hope that those veggies taste better than I remember.

The chefs came and served something they called Green Terrine. It was a terrine that used green veggies like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, and much more. It looked like some sort of bread that was cut with different shades of green. Statice frowned as its appearance looked like molded bread. He had a little memory of his last encounter with molded bread, one of him being stuck on a ship while having stomach pain from eating old bread, and it was not a pleasant one. He looked at Rarity and swallowed.

I better ask the most cultured of the mares. It might help me get some points with Celestia for good behavior.

“I’ve never seen such a meal before,” Statice told the fashionista. “Can you please tell me what’s a terrine, Rarity?”

Rarity gasped at the question. To be honest, she expected Statice’s lack of familiarity with a terrine given his background. What caught her by surprise was him actually asking for her expertise. She’d felt flattered if she was not shocked for his sudden change of behavior.

Calm down, Rarity. This is perfect. He’s behaving. He’s asking you a question. Everypony is looking at you. They expect you to answer correctly. How can you call yourself a lady if somepony asks you a question and you don’t answer them?

Rarity coughed to begin her explanation. “A terrine is a special loaf made of coarsely chopped ingredients. This Green Terrine is a new dish that uses green vegetables as the ingredients. It is quite a rare main dish in many expensive restaurants in Canterlot.”

“Thanks,” Statice politely replied.

“You’re welcome, darling,” Rarity lifted her nose up with a little smirk present in her muzzle, glad to show her gourmet knowledge to her friends.

With Rarity’s explanation, Statice began eating the terrine. It wasn’t bad. Some of the veggies he ate were ones that he liked, and the ones that he didn’t like as a colt were not so bad now that he was an adult.

It must be a part of growing up, liking things that you didn’t like as a kid, such as girls and vegetables. I wonder what I will like when I grow older than I am now.

“How do you like the terrine?” Celestia asked her guests, but placing her eyes on Statice. “Our chefs worked very hard for this meal.”

She got a chorus of affirmatives. She was happy that they praised the skills of her chefs, making a mental note to go to the kitchen and tell them about the compliments her guests gave them. Statice appeared to be the most satisfied with the full-course meal, probably having very few on his life.

I think that it’s about time we cut to the chase.

“Tell me about you, Statice,” Celestia inquired cautiously. “How much do you know about magic? I’m not talking about dark magic. I am talking about the normal one, the type that you always use.”

Statice took a deep breath. That question was destined to be asked sooner or later. It was unavoidable. Steeling himself against the gazes he received, Statice answered to the best of his ability.

“I am mostly self-taught,” he responded sincerely. “Most of what I learned is from an old book of spells of about hundreds of years.”

“What kind of book?” Twilight asked, feeling curious about Statice’s magical education. He must have had a good learning source if he had some proficiency with his magic.

Magic 101,” Statice answered with a blush.

He got blank stares from Twilight, Celestia, and Luna.

Magic 101?” Luna asked, breaking her long silence since the dinner started. “You mean the first spell book that is taught at any magic school since my banishment.”

“Yes,” Statice turned his head away from them.

“You’re talking about the book that constantly gets revised every year to keep up with the advancement of magic over time?” Twilight inquired, having already read the book years ago when she was a filly, even reading it now to see how much the study of magic progressed since she grew up.

“Yes,” Statice groaned. “I think it was the 159th edition. I originally thought that it was the 951st edition until it was explained to me that the book I was reading was a poorly repaired book that had the first and third digits switched over.”

“And rather than read a book of your current time you read a version that was published hundreds of years ago, at which point filled with obsolete theories by today’s standards?” Celestia asked gently, trying to avoid sounding condescending as she asked her question.

“Yes,” Statice covered his face with his hooves in embarrassment. “I used a centurial book, barely readable due to years of misuse and bad care, to learn how to use my magic.”

“Didn’t you have somepony to teach you magic?” Celestia asked sympathetically.

“I had my friend Digitalis,” Statice opened up. “He didn’t have much training either, but he was a harder worker. It was him that managed to learn and teach me all of the spells he managed to decipher from that book.”

“Where is he now?” Twilight asked, feeling that Digitalis had played an important part on Statice’s life if he was his friend.

“Not here at the moment,” Statice sighed, sounding a little beaten. It had been a long time since he saw him and remembering the last time made him feel worse.

Realizing that Statice was hiding something out of pain, Luna felt enough sympathy for him to ask another question to divert the conversation. “You seem to have quite an arsenal of spells,” she noticed with an observant tone. “Did you make them?”

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head. “I created many original spells to better increase my survival chance in my missions. But Digitalis helped me develop some of them.”

“Did he have anything to do with your dark magic?” Celestia asked.

“He didn’t,” Statice responded, giving Celestia a narrowed glare. The Princess of the Sun was not intimidated, calmly taking a mental note that he had a sensitive nerve in regards to his friend.

“The dark magic was born from you then?” Luna raised an eyebrow at him.

At least it was born from good reasons, Nightmare Moon! Statice bit his tongue to prevent himself from saying something that was going to get him in trouble. Despite this, he answered Luna’s question by nodding his head.

“You are in a troublesome situation, Statice,” Celestia looked at him gently. “You are no legal citizen in Equestria, you have committed crimes since your arrival, and you have your soul tainted by dark magic.”

Statice groaned. He was going to get thrown into a dungeon again. His chances of escaping were low if they learned from their previous mistakes.

“However, I am willing to forgive all of that,” Celestia gave him a hopeful smile. “I have a proposition for you.”

“What’s the catch, Princess?” Statice asked, already familiar with the proposal if Discord was a good example.

“I want you to learn the Magic of Friendship with Twilight Sparkle and the others,” she said, looking at Twilight and her friends with an approving smile.

“What?” the girls and Spike asked.

“It is as you heard,” Celestia addressed the Elements of Harmony. “Since you came together, you have defeated every adversary that stood against you. I have seen you accomplish many things in your lives, including redeeming Discord…”

“I refuse,” Statice interrupted Celestia before she had the chance to continue.

Everypony stood there with their jaws open. Even Celestia, who was focused throughout the whole dinner, looked very shocked.

“I beg your pardon?” she asked, her surprise still evident in her voice.

“I am not going to befriend these girls and let them use friendship to brainwash or enslave me,” he glared at Celestia disapprovingly. “I’d rather stay in Canterlot under supervision by you and your sister than let that happen.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Rainbow Dash challenged. “Are you saying you’re too good for us?”

“Yes,” Statice glared at Rainbow Dash. “Unlike Discord, I don’t plan on letting you girls manipulate me into becoming something I am not just because Princess Celestia told you to do it.”

“Excuse me, but we all befriended Discord to redeem him,” Rarity scandalously yelled at Statice.

“At what point is threatening to turn him to stone if he didn’t behave a sign of friendship?” Statice gave her a pointed look. “The way I see it, your situation is not so different to that a bully promising not to beat up a weaker kid just as long as he does what he says. I’d rather stay here under supervision than let you girls corrupt me, or purify me in this case, or whatever term that applies to me in this situation.”

The Elements of Harmony were very offended by the comparison. Rainbow Dash was about to attack him and Applejack appeared to put less effort of stopping her than she normally did. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were on the brink of tears. Rarity was yelling at him and Twilight was just glaring.

“You should remember how to properly address them, criminal!” Luna used her magic to force him to look at her in the eyes.

“Try to tell that to somepony who cares, Nightmare Moon!” Statice glared back at her. The insult worked a little too well because Luna dropped him from her magic only to concentrate more of it into her horn.

Curse my royalty insulting reflex!

“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Celestia declared with the Royal Canterlot Voice. “We are going to settle this issue like civilized adults! Do I make myself clear?”

Silent and terrified nods followed her question. Even Statice and Luna were intimidated by Celestia’s outburst.

“I am giving you a choice, Statice!” Celestia advanced to the unicorn, her glare stabbing through his core. “If you do not agree to these conditions, I will have to label you as a criminal and send you to a dungeon.”

Statice mentally swore. There was no way to escape if he got into one of those dungeons. On the other hoof, there was no way to be free if he was under the supervision of the Elements of Harmony. It was time to improvise.

“Can I trust these girls?” he asked as he pointed a hoof at them. Celestia looked a little perplexed to his question but answered confidently.

“The Elements of Harmony have never failed…”

“I am not talking about their Elements of Harmony,” Statice interrupted. “I am talking about these girls. Can their friendship be enough against me?”

“What exactly do you mean by that, punk?” Rainbow Dash flew, butting her head next to his. “We can beat you just like we did with every chump that tried to take over Equestria.”

“How about you show me that your friendship can take me without the Elements of Harmony?” Statice pushed his forehead against hers, being careful not to poke her with his horn.

“You’re not even worth using them on you,” Rainbow Dash boasted.

Statice felt a twitch in his eye, suppressing the instinct to retaliate. He turned his head and walked to Celestia and Luna. He gestured at them to come closer and whispered something into their ears. The sisters were grimly enthused by his proposal. After his idea was explained, they spoke in private with each other before giving him their blessings in the form of a nod.

“Perfect,” Statice approached the girls. “Tell me, girls, how good is your teamwork?”

“Very good,” Pinkie Pie answered, trying to sound tough. “We’re not just good at using the Elements of Harmony. We also make musical shows at the drop of a hat. Now that’s teamwork!”

“Excellent,” Statice smiled. “Then I guess that you won’t mind to my proposal now that Princess Celestia and Princess Luna gave me their blessings.”

“Yer bluffin',” Applejack cut in. “There ain’t way that the princesses decided to help ya, vermin.”

“How about you ask them after I tell you my intentions,” Statice did not falter at the rodeo queen. “They’ll be more than happy to tell you the details.”

“What are we gonna do?” Fluttershy asked, feeling intimidated by whatever Statice had in store for her and her friends.

Twilight gulped. What kind of proposal did he give to Celestia and Luna to obtain their approval? As much as she trusted her elder princesses, she didn’t trust anything that came out of his mouth.

I don’t have much of a choice either way.

“What do you have to propose, Statice?” Twilight narrowed her eyes at him. Her suspicions grew when a smile slowly spread across Statice’s face. His answer did not help with the sentiment.

“I want to play a game.”

Arcanum Ball

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Arcanum Ball

Ever since they stopped Nightmare Moon, the ponies that were chosen to bear the Elements of Harmony had many adventures, some to protect Equestria and others to solve a friendship problem. Each of their journeys came in different shapes and magnitudes, from personal to professional. It was not weird for them to face situations that were beyond conventional. Despite these experiences, they were still stunned by Statice’s deal…all of them but one.

“Ooh, I love games!” Pinkie Pie bounced happily. Now this was something that she could do. As much as she loved to save Equestria with her friends, she was not fond of riddles, illusions, lies, and any other mean things that took the joy of playing a game. For once, she got to solve a problem by playing a game.

“Glad to see that one of you is getting in the mood,” Statice smirked. It only lasted a few seconds before Pinkie shoved her face into his, making him blush.

“What kind of games are we playing?” Pinkie Pie showed her enthusiasm by constantly disappearing and reappearing next to him. “We can play Pin the Tail on the Pony. We can play Tic-Tac-Toe! We can try pictograms!”

“I was thinking more of a sport!” Statice clarified before Pinkie went into overdrive with her talking. His idea caused Rainbow Dash to get a competitive smirk.

“Now we’re talking!” she flew close to him. “When it comes to sports, I am the best! Name your game!”

“Arcanum Ball,” Statice replied.

The answer erased the smirk from her face. “What’s Arcanum Ball? I’ve played every sport ever made in Equestria and I’m sure I’ve never heard of that.”

“It’s a game that Digitalis and I invented,” Statice said, showing a little pride and fondness in his tone of voice. “We mainly used it to keep ourselves in peak physical condition. You should feel honored in becoming the first citizen of Equestria to play the game.”

“As a matter of fact, I do feel honored,” Rainbow Dash smirked, still sounding smug, but this time with a hint of being flattered.

Rainbow Dash…first pony of Equestria to play Arcanum Ball…that’s awesome! I can’t wait for my first match to end with me and my friends kicking this guy’s tail!

“Good,” Statice got close to her. “Because this was a private game reserved for me and Digitalis. The fact that I am sharing it with you six in spite of not being in the best terms with any of you is a clear indication of how serious this is.”

“Sheesh, it’s just a game, dude,” Rainbow Dash sneered at him, her smirk vanishing after hearing his words.

Now I feel less honored to play with him and more desperate to mop the floor with him. I hope we get to play against him soon.

“You six prepare yourselves tomorrow for our match against me,” Statice warned them. “I am going to give you everything I got.”

“Wait a second,” Rainbow Dash gestured with her hooves. “Did you say that we six are going to play?”

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head without missing a beat.

“We six are going to face you…as in all of us at the same time?” Rainbow Dash frowned in confusion, trying to understand the situation.

“Yes,” Statice clarified with the same tone of voice.

Rainbow Dash smiled, biting her lip. She burst into laughter, falling to the ground and clutching her sides. The rest of the girls looked awkward, although it was hard to see if it was for Rainbow’s behavior or for the nature of the challenge itself.

This is why I hate Rainbow Dash the most.

“Is there anything funny with what I said?” Statice asked Rainbow Dash as he shoved his muzzle into hers.

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash giggled. “You actually think that you can beat me AND my friends? I’ve got MORE than enough game to take you down on my own. Why don’t you save yourself the humiliation and keep this one-on-one?”

She accentuated her point by lifting a hind leg, placing it on his chest, and shoving him away from her. The stallion grunted as he fell on his rump. He snorted before he stood up and looked at the six.

“The game starts tomorrow afternoon,” he spoke to Twilight, feeling that he needed to talk to the most responsible of the team.

“But we don’t know anything about Arcanum Ball,” Twilight protested.

“I will talk to the other princesses about the game and they will tell you in the morning.”

“Do we really have to do this?” Rarity whined, albeit in a tolerable fashion. “Can’t we just talk it over like civilized ponies rather than do some barbaric sport?”

“This is the only way I can trust you,” Statice felt his eye twitch when he heard her speak badly about his sport. “Besides, it is the most fun-oriented method to work out our differences.”

“But there is no fun in a game if it’s a whole team of ponies against just one pony,” Pinkie protested, surprising the unicorn that she was vouching for him. “Aren’t you gonna get your own team to face us?”

Statice waved his hoof and snorted at her dismissively. “I doubt that I can get a team willing to work for me in short notice,” he rolled his eyes at the pink mare’s idealism.

“Do we really have to play…as in all of us?” Fluttershy trembled. She was not good at sports, and, even if she was, she still felt reluctant to participate despite the six of them having an overwhelming advantage against Statice.

“The victory won’t matter if I don’t beat you all,” Statice addressed her gently.

“Ah don’t like this,” Applejack narrowed her eyes. “There is somethin’ shifty with this fella, Twilight.”

“Is it his arrogance?” Rarity gave Statice the same scrutinizing gaze that her farmer friend was giving him. “It would be just fine if either you or Rainbow Dash just faced him on your own. I think that he wants to show off his skills in front of the princesses.”

Look who is talking, drama queen! Statice kept his thoughts to himself. It was no use to let his mouth keep him in trouble. He just needed the confirmation of the group, more specifically, Twilight’s confirmation.

The purple alicorn hummed, trying to understand the point of the game.

Why is he doing this? He is risking his whole future over a game! This must be a plan! Why else would he choose a game of his own making? But why does he want to face all of six of us at the same time? He could just simply have one game after the other. But he promised to talk with the princesses about the game. They wouldn’t have us play this game if the rules were not fair.

“We accept,” Twilight declared.

“Excellent,” Statice smiled. “I will go to talk with the princesses about the rules of Arcanum Ball. They will give you the details in the morning.”

“Okay,” Twilight nodded her head. “We will see you at the courtyard tomorrow afternoon. Try not to be late.”

“I won’t,” Statice turned around and went to talk with the princesses.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Twilight,” Spike looked at her worryingly. “I don’t think that Statice’s game is going to be easy.”

“Me neither, Spike,” Twilight frowned. “All we can do is work together and find a way to beat him.”

Back in their suite at the castle, the Elements of Harmony were talking about their upcoming game. Each of them felt a little confrontational regarding the Arcanum Ball issue.

“Ah think that this was a dumb idea, Twilight!” Applejack protested. “We know squat about this game. Ah think that he’s settin’ up a trap for us.”

“Don’t be silly, Applejack,” Pinkie Pie snorted, dressed as a referee. “Why would Statice cheat in a game HE invented?”

“Ah’m not sure,” Applejack took off her hat. “But he must be up to no good. Why else would he challenge all six of us at the same time?”

“Frankly speaking, I think that you should have let me take him on rather than make it a team game, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash was flying upside down.

“Aren’t you feeling a little overconfident, Rainbow Dash?” Rarity lifted an eyebrow at her brash friend.

“Overconfident is when you don’t have the skill to back up your claims,” Rainbow Dash snorted. “I’m the Iron Pony! I even beat Statice once in a competition!”

“Wasn’t he Aster at the time?” Pinkie Pie frowned in confusion. She didn’t know if she should put a point in her friend’s favor due to Statice not being a natural pegasus at the time.

“She’s got a darn good point,” Applejack looked at Rainbow Dash in worry. “He ain’t a real pegasus, but he still gave ya a run for yer bits.”

“Whatever,” Rainbow Dash frowned as she turned her head.

“I don’t think that I can do this, girls,” Fluttershy turned her head around. “I’ve never been very good in this kind of competitive sports.”

“You participated in the Equestria Games, Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash reminded her timid friend.

“But it was a race, Rainbow Dash!” Fluttershy countered. “This is a ball game! What will happen if somepony gets hurt in the process? I’m not much of a kicker!”

It was true. As a pony, Fluttershy had a potentially strong kick. The problem was that her shy nature and lack of competitive spirit inhibited her strength, to the point in which she couldn’t break a single vase.

“Don’t let that bother you, Fluttershy?” Rainbow Dash waved her hoof dismissively. “We’ll protect you.”

“She’s right, Sugarcube,” Applejack smiled at Fluttershy reassuringly. “You’re in good hooves. You have Rainbow Dash and me to help ya.”

“And you have me as well, darling,” Rarity joined in. “I am not much of the physical type of pony, but I do have a respectable amount of athletic skill.” She smiled proudly as she remembered the Sisterhooves Social with Sweetie Belle, on which the pair nearly won the competition and only lost by a small margin.

“And I think that I can use the information I read about sports to come up with an appropriate pacing system for the game,” Twilight smiled as she remembered how she obtained fifth place during the Running of the Leaves just by pacing herself.

“Ooh, maybe I can use my Pinkie Sense to help you if a ball is about to fall on you,” Pinkie Pie suggested, not wanting Fluttershy to miss out on the fun.

“I can cheer for you from the sidelines!” Spike offered.

“Thanks,” Fluttershy smiled at her friends, feeling all better now.

Outside at the courtyard, Statice was checking the place to see what kind of field he was going to use. He had already told Princess Celestia and Princess Luna the rules of the game. He was very happy that both rulers had agreed to the conditions of the game after explaining the rules to them.

Thank the stars that me and Digitalis spent hours making the rules and we even thought of making Arcanum Ball a sport that can be played between teams of different sizes. I don't think Digi will ever believe me if I tell him that the alicorns that control the sun and the moon think that the rules that we created are fair to the players of both teams.

As he celebrated his triumph, his mind went back to the dinner. In retrospect, it was a total disaster. Once again, his reflexive disregard for authority got him into trouble again. The reason he was playing Arcanum Ball was because he was gambling his liberty right when he was already in hot water with Celestia and Luna. The worst part was that this time he was aware of who Celestia and Luna were and he did it anyway.

I can't believe I ticked off Princess Luna again!

He took a deep breath. He just had to win. All he needed was a victory and it would be as if that disastrous dinner never happened in the first place. He walked around the courtyard to make some measurements for the field.

"I'm gonna write a letter to Meadow after this game is over," Statice swore to himself. A conversation with his younger brother would be nice to make him forget this trouble. Unknown to him, a blue alicorn was looking at him from the balcony of her room.

The next morning was uneventful. The girls and Spike woke up and then went on to have breakfast. Surprisingly enough, Statice was not present in the dining hall, leaving them with Celestia and Luna.

“Good morning, my little ponies!”

“Good morning, princesses!”

After exchanging their greetings, the Elements of Harmony sat down and prepared to eat breakfast, stopping only when Celestia coughed up to raise their attention.

“I believe that we must inform you about your game with Statice,” Celestia began.

This statement got all of the girls to lean forward to hear what the Princess of the Sun had to tell them. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie looked excited. Twilight, Rarity, and Applejack looked tense. Fluttershy was scared. Only Spike appeared to be on the verge of bursting out from the drama.

“As the name implies, Arcanum Ball is a ball game that deals with arcane arts for playing. It consists of infusing magic on a ball and hitting it back and forth between two teams. Each team has six small zones to defend, working hard to prevent the ball from falling in any of them or else they will be conquered. The game ends when one team conquers the other team’s six zones.”

“Wait a second,” Rainbow Dash raised her hoof. “How exactly are we supposed to play this game? You said that we have to infuse the ball with magic. How are we going to do that? Only Twilight and Rarity can do magic.”

“The game was originally done for the enjoyment of unicorns,” Luna explained, recalling the information that Statice gave her. “Back when he played with Digitalis, the game consisted of them levitating the ball back and forth, making the games tedious and boring due to how easy it was to catch and return the ball. To make it more interesting, they decided to start using their hooves to play the game.”

“But how do we use our hooves against magic?” Applejack asked.

As an apple farmer, Applejack was very familiar with using her hind hooves for kicking. She grew dexterous enough to properly coordinate them with her front hooves in hoofball games, turning all four of her extremities into valuable sport assets. Additionally, she was an ace player of Buckball despite how rare the sport was on Ponyville. The idea of having her trained hooves compete with magic felt as wrong as competing with Rainbow Dash when she was using her wings during their Iron Pony competition.

“Similar to the ball, your hooves, and wings in the case of Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Twilight Sparkle, will be imbued with magic in order to properly connect with the ball.”

“Wait what?” Rainbow Dash flinched. “How is that even going to be possible?”

“Statice will cast the spell on your extremities,” Luna informed them.

As the sisters expected, the Elements of Harmony did not take the news well.

Fluttershy was squeaking and blushing. Rarity was scandalized. Twilight looked nervous at the development. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were enraged. And Pinkie Pie was taking all this in stride.

“You can’t be serious!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “I don’t like ponies touching my hooves! I don’t want HIM getting close to my hooves! And I refuse to let him get close to my wings!”

She still had nightmares with that lightning magic on her hooves. She wasn’t going to repeat that incident again. Even worse, she was not letting him get close to her wings. Those were her money makers!

If that jerk get close to either of them I’m going straight to the butt-kicking!

“You don’t really expect him to grab our hooves, right?” Rarity complained, not approving the idea of a stallion touching her that intimately. "I can accept it if it's from a stallion working at a spa..."

“He won’t touch you inappropriately,” Luna reassured her with a hoof on her shoulder. “We made sure to talk to him about boundaries and he promised to be on his best behavior.”

Fortunately, there is nothing that a good threat from me and a good preemptive scolding from my sister could not fix.

The Night Princess’ word of safety managed to calm down Rarity. After a few minutes of shouting, they all wore down. They had regained enough tranquility to le the sisters inform them more of the situation.

“Statice is in the courtyard, building the playfield,” Celestia told the girls. “You can visit him if you want.”

After eating their breakfast, the Elements Bearers went into the courtyard to check on their playfield. Just like Celestia told them, Statice was there to build the playground. What they didn’t expect was for the playground to occupy the whole courtyard.

Statice was drawing lines of green magic around the courtyard, dividing it into twelve zones, each of them the same size. The next thing he needed was to use force fields and a few Trigger Spells to activate them every time a pony stood out of zone. He was about to finish when he saw the six mares staring at him.

“Is there any problem?” he asked the girls.

“What are you doing to the courtyard?” Twilight asked, feeling insecure about using the whole space for a game.

“I am making the playfield,” Statice spread his forelegs to the sides to accentuate his point. “You need a big stage for this game. That reminds me, which side will you pick? Would you rather take the left side or the right side?”

“We’ll take the side from which we came from right now,” Rainbow Dash answered before Twilight did. “We’re not going to waste time deciding which side we'll choose when we're close to one of them.”

“Good point,” Statice smiled in relief. “I’m going to work on your zones for the game. I trust Princess Celestia and Princess Luna have told you about the rules of the game, right?”

“They did,” Twilight nodded her head. “But I’d like to ask some questions about it.”

Statice groaned at her petition. What was it with Twilight’s desire to stick her nose on everything? Was it too hard for her to go with the flow rather than drag things out?

“Shoot them out as fast as you can,” he told her. “Just make sure that they're all about how to play the game, Twilight. Don’t ask me things about why did I choose the game or why am I playing against all six of you.”

Twilight frowned, angry that she was told to ask the questions that Statice wanted her to make…and disappointed that he predicted and shot down some of the questions that SHE wanted to make.

Work with what you have, Twilight.

“How does your game work?” she asked with a stern frown. “You wouldn’t have asked the princesses for this game if you were not that confident in your ability.”

“I have the physical and magical skills to play the game,” Statice admitted confidently. “Plus, I’ve been playing this game with Digitalis enough times to know that I have a shot against you.”

“I’d like to see you trying, chump!” Rainbow Dash stood up between Twilight and Statice. “We beat stronger guys than you.”

“Was that done without your Elements of Harmony?” Statice asked them.

“Oh, you won’t start that garbage again!” Rainbow Dash poked his chest with her hoof. “We are more than enough to take you down!”

“Like you took Starlight Glimmer,” Statice smiled teasingly.

“We took her down!” Rainbow Dash glared at him.

“To be honest, we exposed her, Dashie,” Pinkie Pie chirped in. “It was everypony else that ran her out of town.”

“It doesn’t matter!” Rainbow Dash waved her hooves at everypony. “We came here to give you some good kicks in the flank. We’re not leaving until we beat you.”

“We’ll see,” Statice pointed at them to leave. “Give me a few minutes and the field will be ready for you.”

“Not until you explain to me what’s the trick hidden behind your game!” Twilight demanded as she gave him a glare. “You’re not the type of pony that would gamble his own freedom over something, especially with such odds.”

She is on to me. Statice narrowed his eyes at her. He summoned a leather ball from Hammerspace and floated it next to him.

“Magic users in front of me,” Statice demanded as he gave an annoyed look to a certain purple alicorn and white unicorn.

Twilight and Rarity shared skeptic glances. With great reluctance, Rarity stepped to Twilight’s side to look at Statice. They stared at the green unicorn as he placed the ball in front of them.

“This game used to be a game for unicorns on which a magical ball was used to conquer magical zones,” Statice explained, recalling how the game was founded and the rules that Digitalis invented. “The magic users of both teams will infuse the ball with their magic in order to resonate with the magic of the field.”

“How are we supposed to do that?” Rarity asked, looking at either Statice or Twilight for instructions of what to do.

“Pour a little bit of your magic until the ball is glowing with a mixture of our magical auras,” Statice explained, suppressing the urge to insult her out of love for the sport.

Without hesitation, Rarity poured a little bit of her magic, followed by Twilight’s magic. Statice joined his magic with the three of them. The three different types of magic surrounded the ball. They appeared to be fighting for dominion over the sphere until they settled in. The ball was glowing and on three colors. Twilight’s magenta magic was the widest spread color, Statice’s green magic was the second, and Rarity’s blue magic was the third one.

“Okay,” Statice lifted the ball, satisfied with the progress. “I am going to calibrate this magical ball with the magic in the zones. Afterwards, we’ll be ready to play.”

“What about the magic hooves thing that Princess Celestia told us about?” Pinkie Pie inquired. The question brought uneasiness to the group, but Statice remained calm as he walked to each zone and subtly released magic into them.

“A ball of magic is thrown harder than one with hooves,” Statice reasoned calmly as he stepped to the next zone. “If we are going to kick the ball around, we need our hooves to be protected. Think of the spell I’ll use in them as protective gear.”

“Thanks, Statice!” Pinkie Pie grinned, making a squeaky sound.

“Do we have to do this spell on our wings?” Rainbow Dash asked, feeling secure enough to allow him to get close to her hooves if it was to help her friends.

“Unless you’re willing to strike the ball with your wings, I don’t think that you’ll need the spell,” Statice reassured her. “It is entirely optional. Do any of you fliers want me to use a spell in your wings?”

“No,” Twilight, Rainbow, and Fluttershy responded in unison.

“I suggest you start your formation then,” Statice was now in the third zone.

“What formation are ya talkin’ about?” Applejack looked at him.

“As a team of six ponies with six zones to defend, each of you will only be capable of defending one zone,” Statice explained as he moved to the fourth zone.

“What?” they asked in unison.

“You didn’t think I was going to play six against you without having an insurance to make this a fair game, did you?” Statice asked as he finished with the sixth zone, doing his job faster than before.

“Ya cheatin’ little vermin,” Applejack venomously glared at him. “You tricked us into playin’ you in these conditions.”

“How exactly is playing six against one an honorable condition?” Statice frowned at the orange mare for daring to insult him about fairness. “In fact, ALL of your major fights are six on one, you hypocrite.”

“He does make a good point,” Pinkie Pie frowned, remembering how insecure she initially felt when she thought that she and her team were going to compete against him alone. She stared at Statice as he continued explaining the rules while working on the magical zones of the field.

“The relationship between the number of zones and the number of players is inversely proportional. The greater the number of players is the lower the number of zones is going to be. A team with one player will have him defend all six zones. A team with two players will have each of them defending three zones. A team of three players will have them defend two zones each. Finally, a team of six players, that means you, will have only one zone to defend for player.”

“I knew I should have taken you down on my own!” Rainbow Dash snarled at being manipulated into such a disadvantageous position.

“You got number advantage and I got space advantage,” Statice pounded a hoof on his chest in courage. “Even Celestia and Luna acknowledged that it was a fair rule. That means that there is nothing in your power that you can do about it. Also, they were gonna tell you about this rule in the morning, but I asked them not to do it just so that I could see the look on your face, Rainbow Dash.”

“Darn it!” Rainbow Dash kicked the air angrily. As a pegasus, flying was everything for her. As such, she hated being restricted to limited spaces. To make matters worse, that dumb rule was going to prevent her from assisting her friends should the ball go to their zones.

“Quit your whining,” Statice was now in the tenth zone, which was the fourth zone of his side of the field. “I chose the courtyard to give you girls enough space to move around.”

“It is a nice gesture,” Pinkie Pie smiled, appreciating Statice being kind enough to give them some advantages for the game. “Even with all of these surprise rules, he’s making sure that they are fair so that everypony can have fun.”

“I take my game seriously,” Statice smiled in appreciation. “You girls should think about your formation while I finish with the field.”

“Okay,” Pinkie Pie smiled as she bounced away. The rest of the girls looked at the green unicorn with mistrust before following after the pink pony.

“That stupid jerk,” Rainbow Dash growled. “I should have thought that he was setting a trap for us. I should have taken him on my own.”

“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity comforted her. “Maybe Statice assumed that we were going to fight him as a team and came up with that cheap stratagem.”

“I knew that there was somethin’ wrong with him,” Applejack kicked the ground with her foreleg.

“It doesn’t matter, girls,” Twilight calmed her friends down. “We have to think of the formation for this game.”

“Can I please stay on the back?” Fluttershy begged. “I don’t think that I want to compete against Statice. He can be a little…mean…and scary.”

“I agree with Fluttershy,” Spike shivered as he remembered the fight with Piercing Gaze. “He sure can be a mean pony when he wants you beaten.”

“I support that,” Rainbow Dash lifted her hoof. “Fluttershy is not the most athletic pony in Equestria and she is kind of fragile. I think the last zone is perfect for her. We just have to make sure that the ball never reaches her.”

The pegasus’ opinion was met with affirmatives, including Fluttershy. With the votes given, it was time to figure out what would happen with the other five zones.

“Who’s gonna take the first zone?” Twilight asked, looking at her friends for volunteers.

“I’ll take it,” Rainbow Dash extended her wings cockily. “I’m the best athlete of the group and nothing can stop me thanks to my wings. I’m not going to let that jerk throw the ball out of my zone.”

“That seems like a good idea,” Rarity nodded her head. “It will be very hard for Statice to reach our zones if he can’t get past Rainbow Dash first. Even if he does get past her, just imagine how exhausted he'll be after wasting his energy on her.”

“Good,” Twilight smiled. “But now we have to think on who is going to be in the second zone.”

“Ah can do it,” Applejack walked to Twilight. “Ah can give Rainbow Dash a run for her money and Ah always clean up her messes.”


“She is right about that, Twilight,” Rarity affirmed. “I think that having our best athletes in the front will be our best choice.”

“That leaves the middle zones and the penultimate zone,” Twilight hummed as she tried to decide on which pony to guard the perfect zone that suited her qualities the most.

“How about Twilight and Rarity go into the middle zones?” Spike suggested. He got stunned looks from his friends that he assumed were asking him what he meant with that suggestion.

“Well, he’s going to use magic on the ball so why not have Twilight and Rarity take the third and fourth zones to counter his magic in case he uses it to pass Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Pinkie Pie can take the fifth zone and use her Pinkie Sense to predict the ball’s course if it turns out to be too unpredictable for the previous four zones.”

His explanation got him wide-eyed stares.

“Did I do something wrong?” Spike asked self-consciously.

“That was brilliant, Spike!” Twilight praised her number one assistant with a hug.

“It was?” Spike smiled, feeling happy to help in spite of not participating in the game. The following cheers of his friends made him feel better about himself for speaking up.

“How did you come up with that strategy?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“I watch hoofball!” Spike proudly announced.

“Good,” Twilight nodded her head. “Pinkie Pie will get the fifth zone. Now we need to verify the order of the third and fourth zones between Rarity and I.”

“Take the third zone, darling,” Rarity politely offered. “Your magic is much stronger than my own. I’m sure that if Statice’s ball bypasses your spells, it will be too weak to take on my own spells.”

“Thanks, Rarity,” Twilight smiled now that their formation had been organized. “I think it’s time to start this game.”

A round of cheers from her friends backed her up. They were ready to show Statice what the Magic of Friendship was capable of accomplishing.

“Are you ready?”

“We are,” Rainbow Dash snorted.

“You decided on your formation?”

“It’s done,” Twilight confidently answered.

“Good,” Statice smiled. “Give me your hooves.”

That erased the confident smirks of most of the team. “Do we have to do this?” Rarity asked, feeling a little uneasy with offering a stallion her hooves.

“Would you rather get a broken leg or hoof from trying to kick a ball infused with magic?” Statice asked the fashionista with a raised eyebrow. Her pinprick eyes let him know that she was going to cooperate.

That’s what I thought.

“Me first, try me first!” Pinkie Pie bounced next to Statice, offering her foreleg at him. “Is it going to tickle? I tend to squirm a lot when I tickle so…”

He shushed her before lighting his horn with magic. He placed his horn in the center of his hoof, transferring the magic of his Enhancement Spell across the extremity. He did the same with the other fore hoof.

“Your back hooves,” he instructed her. Pinkie offered him her left hind leg. Much to her friends’ surprise, she was taking it well. She seemed more distracted with a song she was humming than whatever Statice was doing to her hooves. She gave him the remaining hind leg, stopping her song once he placed her hoof on the ground.

“Done,” Statice pointed at her newly finished hooves. “You are ready to play the game, Pinkie! Take a new look at your hooves.”

Pinkie Pie gasped in excitement as she saw that her hooves were covered in magical aura. But it wasn’t Statice’s magical aura. It wasn’t green. The aura was a dark shade of pink, which was apparently the color of her own magic aura if she were a unicorn.

“I enhanced your magic in your hooves,” Statice explained. “This will allow you to touch the magic ball…”

He was choking when Pinkie Pie wrapped her forelegs around his neck and hugged him with all of the strength.

“I have magic hooves!” Pinkie declared happily. “Maybe I can do spells with them like Twilight and Rarity do.”

Statice teleported out of her hold rather than wait until she finished. He was not going to let her hug him as long as she had the Enhancement Spell on her. He wheezed out a little bit from the surprise hug, tenderly rubbing at his neck.

“Who’s next?” Statice asked as he looked at the remaining five ponies.

“I want to try,” Twilight offered. “I want to see the spell up close.”

Statice narrowed his eyes. Twilight was a magical prodigy, capable of learning spells at a faster rate than the average pony. He didn’t want her to get close to him and see him use his spells. She was going to copy them! Nopony but him used his spells!

Looks like I’m gonna have to be more creative with how I use my magic around her to avoid her magic plagiarism. Let’s see, she can’t copy me if she doesn’t pay attention to the spell. How about I try this…?

“Fine,” Statice politely gestured at Twilight to come. “Give me your hoof and we’ll begin right away.”

Twilight extended her right foreleg, which Statice took right away. The purple mare yelped as he pulled her towards him. Their faces were very close to each other. Twilight felt a blush forming on her cheeks at the close proximity. This was the closest that she had been to a stallion that wasn’t her brother or Spike. Taking advantage of the situation, Statice placed his horn against her front hoof and placed the spell on it. The magic color that he obtained was a magenta one, the same color as her magic aura. After catching up with that fact, he dipped Twilight to the ground so that her hind hooves were facing his horn. He placed the spell on them before he flipped Twilight into the air. The alicorn yelped at being suddenly flung into the air until she felt Statice’s hoof grab her left foreleg. He brought her back to him in the same way he did when he grabbed the other hoof. Once again, she felt a blush form on her face.

“And done,” Statice smirked, breaking Twilight out of her stupor. “Your hooves have the spell on them.”

Twilight gasped as she looked at her left front hoof. It was covered in a magenta aura, the same color as the rest of her hooves and her horn whenever she used magic.

“When did you…?” Twilight stuttered, feeling frustrated and flustered at not watching the spell be done up close.

“Next one,” Statice called, gesturing to the remaining four.

The purple alicorn got away from him, apparently suffering a nervous breakdown based on the messy mane that she was getting. The rest of the girls were talking with each other for a few seconds. Their decision was taken when Rarity walked up to him with her head held high and her eyes closed.

“I’d like to inform you that I want you to treat me politely during this whole process,” Rarity narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t want you to get bold with me like you did with Twilight a moment ago. Am I understood?”

“Crystal clear,” Statice nodded his head. He wasn’t intimidated by the fashionista, having expected her mistrust after that stunt he pulled with Twilight. She daintily extended one of her forelegs, which he took carefully. As he lighted his spell, Rarity interrupted him with a worried tone of voice.

“Will this hurt or ruin my hooficure?”

Statice stared at her in annoyance. He took a moment to stare at her friends, who all had the decency of looking annoyed or embarrassed. Rolling his eyes, Statice sighed as he tried to think of words that were going to make the drama queen accept the procedure without further interruptions.

“No,” Statice answered simply before speaking with a calmer tone. “But try this method to make this more bearable for the both of us. Imagine that the magic around your hooves is the same water you soak them in when you get your hooficure at the spa.”

“Ooh,” Rarity swooned, closing her eyes as she imagined her hooficure. “I can feel that lukewarm feeling of the water around my hooves, relaxing them after a long hard day of work. Any discomfort that I feel when I walk just melts away before the spa attendants bring their files to work on my hooves…”

Statice frowned as Rarity got into a monologue detailing a hooficure. He had started the spell on her front hoof when she mentioned the lukewarm water thing, feeling a little surprised that his spell felt as warm as a hoof bath, especially since that was a lie that he made on the spot, but nonetheless continuing with his work. As he finished the second front hoof, Rarity reflexively summoned a fainting couch on which she leaned on, extending her hind legs and wiggling them at him.

Even when doing things that she loves, she always finds a way to be a drama queen to the end. He placed his magic around her hind hooves, finishing the procedure. All four of the fashionista’s hooves were glowing with light blue magic.

“Finished,” Statice groaned, not willing to hear anymore of Rarity.

“Is it over?” Rarity whined, her eyes remained closed as she asked the question.

“Take a look at your hooves and give me the verdict,” Statice crossed his forelegs to look at her. “I’m sure I did a nice job considering how immersed you were.”

Rarity opened her eyes to see all four of her hooves glowing with magic. She turned her head around and noticed that she had summoned her fainting couch. She tilted her head back to see that her friends were giving her incredulous looks. She focused her eyes on Statice, who was giving her his best deadpan expression.

“I got too immersed in the metaphor, right?” Rarity blushed, at least having the decency to feel a little embarrassment for her behavior.

“Are you sure you’re not an actress?” Statice sarcastically asked her as he stared at her friends. “Bring in the next one!”

Rarity tittered nervously as she levitated her fainting couch away from him, returning to her friends with a forced smile. Much to Statice’s dismay, Applejack was the next one to come. She narrowed her eyes at him, clearly not trusting him.

“Give me your hoof,” Statice asked carefully.

Earth ponies were physically the strongest of the three tribes. Statice had learned that, as a unicorn, he was not as naturally strong as a pegasus or an earth pony. He made up with this disadvantage through training, increasing his natural strength to that of the average pegasus or earth pony. Unfortunately for him, Applejack was not only naturally strong, but had harder training as a farmer by bucking apples and carrying heavy weighted objects in a daily basis. At this close range, Applejack’s kicks had the potential of knocking him out.

I better not push my luck with her.

“Ya better not try anythin’ funny, mister,” Applejack narrowed her eyes at him. “Ah swear that Ah will introduce you to Bucky McGillycuddy and Kicks McGee if Ah see ya playin’ dirty.”

“I don’t play dirty at my own game, Applejack,” Statice glared at the orange mare as he finished enhancing her hoof…in orange magic. “And I’d appreciate it if you don’t antagonize me. I have my magic and I am point-blank at you. If I felt like it, I could just take you down.”

He finished his statement by enhancing the second hoof. He was about to ask her to let him continue the procedure when he felt Applejack’s hoof being yanked away from his own. He was about to ask her what was her problem until he saw a couple of orange hind hooves coming straight at his face. He made a mistake in forgetting about their close range and how fast Applejack’s reflexes were as well as how aggressive she was when properly insulted. He didn’t have time to flinch as the hooves were less than an inch close to his snout.

“Ah’m sorry,” Applejack sarcastically apologized as she dexterously stopped her buck before her hooves hit the stallion. “What was that about ya takin’ me down?”

“I underestimated you,” Statice gritted his teeth, more angry at himself than Applejack for letting his guard down.

“Sure ya did,” Applejack snorted, sounding amused as her hind hooves bumped him in the nose. “Now, how about ya finish yer magic on mah hooves? Ah won’t keep mah dogs up just so you can stare at ‘em.”

Statice growled as he worked the spell on her hind hooves. He could have sworn that she was smiling after her little demonstration. Sure enough, the orange mare was smirking at him, playfully slapping his face with her tail as she trotted back to her friends, who were giggling and praising her.

“Next,” Statice announced, looking at Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. “Which one of you two will come first?”

Both mares looked uneasy, quite an unusual sight given Rainbow Dash was the bravest between the two. For a second, she appeared to gain enough courage to volunteer, stopping only when Fluttershy walked in front of her.

“I will do it,” Fluttershy spoke with a determined frown.

Statice widened his eyes at the sudden courage of the shy pegasus, a feeling that was echoed by the gasps of her friends. Rainbow Dash in particular was the most vocal with her bewilderment.

“You don’t have to do it right away, Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash hurriedly spoke up as she flew by her friend’s side so that she was flying in front of her.

“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash,” Fluttershy gently reassured her. “I will be fine. If the others can do it then so can I…and you as well.”

The prismatic mare was left shocked by Fluttershy’s words, a moment that Fluttershy took to fly in front of Statice. She stared at the green unicorn with determination, which lasted for a few seconds. She came back to her usual shy ways as she timidly kicked the floor with her front hoof.

“Does this hurt?” she asked meekly.

I guess courage only lasts when she has friends by her side. I better find a way to ease her into this. I won’t be able to play the game if she refuses to let me put the spell on her out of fear.

“It won’t hurt a bit,” Statice spoke delicately. “Picture the experience as putting on horseshoes.”

“Meep!” Fluttershy flinched as she ducked and covered her head with her forelegs, shaking fearfully at him.

Statice looked at her friends with a surprised but somewhat deadpan face. “She is afraid of putting on horseshoes, isn’t she?”

The uneasy looks of the girls gave the answer right away.

“She’s not scared of horseshoes technically,” Pinkie Pie gave him an uneasy smile, followed by a squeaky sound.

“She’s more scared of the process itself,” Rainbow Dash added, remembering how Fluttershy had to get her horseshoes replaced more than any other pegasus due to her preference on walking on the ground rather than flying.

“Well I can’t blame her,” Rarity winced in disgust. “I don’t like to imagine having a hammer and nails coming to my beautiful hooves.”

“You’re not making yer case, Rarity,” Applejack deadpanned as Fluttershy squeaked louder and trembled harder.

“Try to talk her with something more…friendly,” Twilight approached Statice carefully to advise him. “Use an example like the hooficure thing you did with Rarity.”

“I think he should have used that example,” Rarity looked annoyed that Statice chose to make another analogy rather than use one that worked well on her. “Fluttershy loves the spa as much as me so I’m sure she would have felt good with the hooficure analogy.”

“Let me try something else,” Statice walked close to Fluttershy, not willing to listen to any of Rarity’s suggestions. He gently prodded her with his hoof. “Are you okay?”

“Sorry,” she apologized. “I just feel a little nervous when I think about putting on horseshoes. Those nails and those hammers are really scary once they get close to your hooves.”

Back with the girls, Rarity had a triumphant smirk at having one of her friends share her opinions about the process of putting on horseshoes.

“I meant that you are not going to feel anything,” Statice clarified. “Give me your hoof and I will show you.”

Reluctantly, Fluttershy offered her left hoof. The stallion smiled approvingly as he worked the spell on it. Fluttershy’s aura was a light shade of pink. The yellow pegasus gasped as she looked at her hoof.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Statice spoke with a confiding tone. “Now, let’s go with the other ones, shall we?”

Fluttershy meekly nodded her head as she gave Statice her right hoof. Afterwards, she lied on her side so that he could work on her hind hooves. Once the process was done, Statice looked at Rainbow Dash.

“Your turn,” he pointed a hoof at her. “Get over here or risk losing by default.”

Rainbow Dash gritted her teeth in frustration. She didn’t like getting her hooves touched, especially since the electrical tickle torture Statice gave her. However, she didn’t like the feeling of defeat, much less from default, especially against him.

You can do it, Rainbow Dash. You just have to endure it! Bear with it for a few seconds and then you can smack him around in the game. Show him that you’re not afraid of him!

Her fearful frown was replaced by a competitive one. She flew to him and grabbed his horn between her hooves, stunning the green unicorn with her speed and surprise reaction.

“I’m ready!” Rainbow Dash challenged him as she tightened her grip. “Hit me with your best spell, Statice! I can take it and more!”

At least she won’t burden me. Statice focused his spell on her hooves, causing them to have a rainbow glow. He frowned a little bit upon seeing the color of her magic.

Really, her magic color is rainbow? Doesn’t she have enough affiliation with rainbows as she is now?

With both of her forelegs done, Statice made a spinning gesture with his hoof to signal her to turn around and let him work on her other pair. Rainbow Dash gulped as she turned around and offered her hind leg to him. The stallion frowned, grabbing the leg with both forelegs to make sure that she was not going to retract it, a good choice as the leg was trembling and threatening to retract.

Rainbow Dash yelped as she felt the magic on her hoof, pulling back her leg as soon as Statice let go of it. She had to fight the urge to kick him immediately after recovering her leg. To make matters worse, she still had another hind leg to give.

It’s okay, Rainbow. Now you know how it feels. You can brace yourself for the next leg. It’s the last leg. It won’t feel so bad.

It did turn out to be bad. She had the same reaction as with the previous leg, yelping and retracting it as soon as she got it back. The difference was that she was unable to control her kicking reflex, shooting her leg at Statice’s face. Fortunately, her pained reaction messed up her aim and her leg just kicked the empty space besides Statice’s face, missing him.

“Sorry about that,” Rainbow Dash blushed as she frantically waved her hooves in the air. “I didn’t mean to kick at you!”

“It’s okay,” Statice reassured her with fake calm. “I’m not hurt, so now we can play the game once and for all. You and your friends go to your stations.”

“Sure,” Rainbow Dash meekly nodded her head before flying back to her friends.

The stallion turned around and walked to his station, his mask of calmness falling into shocked fear. His mind remembered the kick, forcing his body to gulp.

By the stars, that kick was fast! I could have sworn that the wind around her leg was a breeze caressing my cheek. That could have been my face! Just what kind of opponent will I play against in this game?

Statice took a deep breath to calm down. As scary as the nearly accidental kick was, at least it gave him data on Rainbow Dash, probably the greatest threat in the game. It was clear that her hitting the ball was going to be troublesome.

Don’t let your guard down, Statice. These girls are a lot stronger than you think.

The match was about to begin. Statice stood up on his zones and then watched the Elements of Harmony take on their own zones. Much to his dismay, their placement was strategically perfect.

In the first two zones were Rainbow Dash and Applejack. They were the fastest members of the group on air and ground, as well as physically the strongest. Getting the ball past them and returning the ball from them was going to be a pain in the neck.

In the second pair of zones were Twilight and Rarity. They were very talented at magic and it was clear that it was their best solution if their athletes’ brawn was not enough against him. Even if Statice managed to pass through Twilight, it was going to take effort, much more if he had to face Rarity after her.

On the last pair of zones were Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. If he was to pass the first four zones, he was going to be unpredictable. The problem was that Pinkie Pie was the living embodiment of being random and unpredictable. Whatever surprise he was going to use on her four companions was not going to work on her. Fluttershy was not much of an athlete so putting her in the last zone to be protected by her five friends.

These little witches managed to adapt. Even with this surprise game and the rules limiting their space, they found the best way to exploit their strengths in their period of weakness.

“Let me rephrase on how to play with the ball, girls,” Statice looked at the six enemies in front of him. He coughed up into his hoof to rephrase the rules that he created and revised with Digitalis hundreds of times before.

“The game starts when a magic user throws the ball to the other side to be intercepted. Afterwards, the opposing players will retaliate by kicking the ball back. The exchange will continue until the ball lands in a zone. The owner of that zone will lose the territory but will have the privilege of serving. Do you have problems with that rule?”

He got head shakes from them. There were no problems. Smiling, he returned to the rules, feeling excited as they came back to him from his memory.

“Unicorns, and alicorns in Twilight’s case, are allowed to levitate the ball and throw it at the opposing side when serving. They may also levitate it close to them to hit them with their magically enhanced hooves if they so desire. When returning a ball, they can only use the levitation spell on one zone at a time, preferably those under their jurisdiction. To make things easier, they are allowed to teleport to reach the ball if they are unable to hit it, provided that they stay in their zones. Once thrown, a ball cannot be further affected by a unicorn’s magic unless the unicorn does it in a different zone. Even then, unicorns are forbidden from using magic in the ball if it’s already in the opposing side of the field. Are you satisfied with these rules, Twilight and Rarity?”

The pair grimly nodded their heads.

“For the pegasi, you are free to move in air and ground, but you are not allowed to grab the ball. You can only strike it with your hooves. The only time that you are allowed to grab the ball for yourselves is when you are serving. Are these rules fair enough for you, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy?”

Both mares nodded their heads. Rainbow Dash had a serious frown while Fluttershy fearfully nodded her head.

“For the earth ponies…I suggest that you just try to hit the ball with your hooves, if you manage to reach it.”

The lack of rules designed for the earth ponies made Applejack frown, mainly because it seemed as it didn't give her race any advantages or privileges. Pinkie Pie was happily nodding her head to let him know that she approved of the games.

“Somethin’ tells me that this game ain’t cut for earth ponies,” Applejack grumbled, feeling as if she was going to be limited by the lack of physical privileges that her tribe offered.

Try to come up with special advantages for earth ponies when even your strength is kind of normal in terms of gameplay when dealing with catching a ball against ponies that fly or use spells.

"You'll manage," Statice encouraged Applejack. "If it makes you feel any better, I may revise the game at some point in the future regardless of the outcome so that it's fairer to your tribe. Now let me continue."

“I made the walls permeable so that the ball can safely pass back and forth between the zones of the opposing teams. As a bonus, passing the ball through the last wall will count as conquering the sixth zone of the rival team, meaning that the ball won’t have to hit the ground of the sixth zone to conquer it.”

Hearing this made Fluttershy tremble in fear. During the talk before the game, Twilight reassured her that the only thing that she needed to do in case the ball passed through the five previous zones was to prevent it from landing in her zone and to pass it to Pinkie Pie so that she could start a counterattack. Hearing that the last wall was a goal to automatically conquer her zone terrified her as she was now more obligated to participate into the game. Her trembling was stopped when she felt Pinkie’s hoof on her shoulder.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy,” she smiled optimistically. “We won’t let that mean ball get close to you.”

“Thank you, Pinkie Pie,” Fluttershy smiled back as she regained her composure.

“Okay,” Statice stomped a hoof into the ground to call their attention. “Let’s not waste the attention of our beloved audience.”

“What audience?” the girls asked.

Statice smiled as he pointed at the courtyard. Much to the girls’ surprise, it was bigger than before and looked like a coliseum. All of the ponies in Canterlot were watching and cheering for them. In a special seat, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were smiling at them. Similarly, Princess Cadence and Shining Armor were present in the audience, both waving at Twilight, who happily returned the gesture. Much to their surprise, Spike was now dressed in a blue suit and wearing a microphone. He was sitting in a special table with Discord at his side. The draconequus was wearing an orange suit with yellow stripes that made Rarity gag in repulsion.

“You didn’t think to bring a better suit, Discord?” Statice turned his head around in disgust, not liking Discord’s fashion sense. The draconequus stood up on top of the table, dramatically calling up to the audience.


All of the ponies started cheering for the baby dragon, who blushed and timidly waved back at the audience. Seeing him receive the cheer that he deserved, Twilight and her friends smiled at him. Even Statice had a little smile to show his appreciation for the little drake.

“Standing in this corner, with a combined weight of 1550 pounds of pure friendship and harmony, we have Princess Twilight Sparkle and the Elements of Harmony!”

The audience cheered for the nation’s heroes, not noticing that some of them were not taking kindly how Discord introduced him.

“What exactly do you mean by 1550 pounds, you cretin!” Rarity shrieked at Discord, who was too far for him to hear her. “Are you implying that we are fat? Come back here so that I can personally turn you to stone!”

“And standing in the other corner, we have the creator of the game, who decided to share it with the heroes of Equestria, Statice!”

Much to the green unicorn’s surprise, everypony started clapping at him. How could they clap for him when months ago he was a criminal? He stared at Celestia to see if she had anything to do with it, getting a wink from her in the process.

“I shall also be the referee in this game to make sure that there are no dirty plays in this match,” Discord promised as he adopted a referee suit. He walked to both teams to look at them directly into their eyes.

“Are you ready Team Harmony?” he asked them, taking the liberty to name the team for better word flow.

“Yes,” the girls nodded, not even bothered by Discord naming their team.

“Are you ready, Statice?” Discord turned to the green unicorn.

“Yes,” Statice nodded his head before looking at Twilight. “Just do me a favor, girls. Don’t come crying to Celestia when you lose.”

“I won’t!” Twilight swore with a hoof stomp.

“There you go!” Statice smirked playfully. “It’s good to see that Celestia taught her student to face defeat with dignity.”

Twilight stammered, realizing that she made a fool of herself. “I won’t lose!” she corrected herself. “I meant to say that I won’t lose.”

“But if you were to lose then that means that you’ll cry to Celestia?” Statice teased back with a cocky smile.

“Yes,” Twilight responded quickly, widening her eyes when she realized that she just made a fool of herself again. “No! I won’t cry to Celestia, but I won’t lose either. We’re going to win and…”

“Too late,” Statice smirked. “You messed it up, Princess!”

He went to his zones laughing as he thought of which of the mares was the most suitable one to be the target of his first move.

Meanwhile, Twilight was gritting her teeth at the humiliating verbal spar that she had with her rival.

“I hate that stallion,” Twilight growled.

“Welcome to the club,” Rainbow Dash snorted as Applejack and Rarity agreed with her statement. Only Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy took the insult in stride.

“And Statice prepares for the match with a pre-game collective burn on Team Harmony,” Discord announced, causing everypony in the audience to wince in sympathy as he replayed the argument between Twilight and Statice.

“That looks like a really good burn,” Spike grimaced at the insult. “It looks like Twilight was going to get burned regardless of which choice she picked up.”

“Gotta love loaded questions and trash talking before the games,” Discord spoke through a clone that was sitting next to Spike, who didn’t seem to mind about his presence, having grown used to Discord’s chaotic magic.

“Thanks, Discord,” Statice smiled before cracking his neck. He limbered his body for maximum movement and dexterity.

It’s been a long time since I played the game. I gotta stay sharp. This one goes for you, Digitalis. I’m dedicating this game to you, wherever you are.

“Alright, Team Harmony,” Statice decided to settle in the third zone of his side. He picked up a coin and levitated it to Discord. “Choose sun or moon to decide which one of us serves first.”

“Sun,” Twilight answered quickly.

“Teacher’s pet,” Statice snorted as he looked at Discord. “I choose moon since she already took the sun.”

The draconequus flipped the coin with his lion paw. He flipped the paw around so that its back was facing upward. When the coin landed, he slapped his eagle talons to keep the coin in the paw. Once he took the hand, he smiled as he announced the result.

“It’s moon!” Discord declared. “Statice gets to serve first!”

The green unicorn grinned as he levitated the ball close to him. He stared at his rivals with grim determination.

“It’s time to start this game, girls. Let’s make some good memories.”

The Game Is On

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The Game Is On!

“And Statice starts the game by spinning the ball around him in some sort of elliptic orbit, probably to put some sort of spin into his throw!” Discord started his comment by observing the way on which the green unicorn levitated the ball around him, changing its course for every revolution it spun around him.

“I bet it must be some sort of super shot with a whole lot of spin,” Spike added, trying to sound helpful. He didn’t know much of this game. However, he did get some expertise in ball games by hanging out with Shining Armor and Big Macintosh which taught him that some impossible shots were made by adding a little bit of spin into a ball when it was thrown or kicked. As much as he didn’t know about magic, he was sure that the ball worked on the same principles as other ball sports he had seen around his short life as a dragon and sports fanatic.

Statice walked around his zones with the ball orbiting around him. In reality, it was an illusion. There was no trick shot. He was making a strategy as he prepared for the first move. His eyes wandered to the six opposing players, remembering his master’s advice when it came to fighting.

Listen up, Statice. Always aim for the weak spot. That’s the easiest way to damage your enemies and defeat them. You’ll know it when they get desperate to defend themselves from your attacks.

Statice frowned. He already knew that Fluttershy was the weak point in the team long before the game started. She didn’t have the competitive or mean streak to fully immerse herself into the game. Her trembling and scared gaze confirmed his point.

Unfortunately for him, this was a battle against a team, so she was heavily guarded by her more physically and magically capable friends. It was impossible for Statice to exploit the team’s weak spot. Luckily for him, he was knowledgeable about weak spots and how to best exploit them.

If the weak spot is too well-protected, I suggest you aim for the area around it. That way, the area of the weak spot will increase in size. Once you have a large size target, it will be impossible for you to miss.

He frowned in confusion. Which of the remaining Elements of Harmony would be the weak spot barring Fluttershy? It couldn’t be Twilight giving what she was capable of doing with her magic, much less so given that she was an alicorn princess. Rainbow Dash was the fastest pegasus he’d ever seen fly and probably the best flyer in the world. He had already seen what a buck from Applejack was capable of doing.

That left him with only Pinkie Pie and Rarity. He paced around, thinking of his probabilities.

Both of them are athletic in their own ways. Rarity more or less could have won that Sisterhood event with Sweetie Belle if it weren’t for that tripping accident. And Pinkie Pie could actually keep up with a flying Rainbow Dash and outrace a running Applejack at times. Then again, Rarity had magic, and he didn’t think that Pinkie could use whatever powers she had to her full extent in restricted spaces.

In that case, the second weakest point was Pinkie Pie. She had neither the athletic skill that Rainbow Dash and Applejack possessed, nor did she have access to magic like Twilight and Rarity did. Despite this, her Pinkie Sense had the potential of defending Fluttershy from his throws if he somehow managed to slip through the first four opposing zones. Barring that physics defying ability she had, Pinkie was definitely the second weakest point.

Let’s just hope I’m right. Otherwise I definitely cursed myself.

Her skills were going to be a bother, but the benefits of getting Pinkie out of the game were important. With her gone, Fluttershy was going to be at her weakest, having nopony to protect her once the ball bypassed her remaining friends. All that he needed to do was to throw the ball through her four friends and aim at the wall behind her to conquer her zone. Once that was done, he was going to be free to pass the ball through Rarity’s wall to conquer her zone and then repeat the process to conquer the remaining zones.

Okay. My strategy is done. Now I’m going to test these mares.

Statice settled in the third zone, close enough to keep watch on his rivals, yet far enough to have enough space for good shots. He bent his neck to the side, the ball following behind him.

“Statice is about to make the first move!” Discord announced as he leaned forward.

“I think that he’s going to throw a curve ball or something!” Spike imitated the draconequus as he also leaned forward.

Statice swung his neck forward, throwing the ball up and straight into Rainbow Dash’s zone. The rainbow mare flew into the air and kicked it with a hind leg to Statice’s second zone.

“Quick as lightning, Rainbow Dash’s caught up to Statice’s ball and is giving it a kick of seven colors!”

Statice ran to the second zone, leaping into it with both forelegs extended and cupped into each other, hitting the rainbow ball and sending it flying into the air and back into Rainbow’s zone.

“What do you think of this?” Rainbow Dash challenged as she cupped her forelegs above her head and gave the ball a hammer blow into the fourth zone. Statice wasted no effort in teleporting in a biped position to deliver a side kick with the length of his hind leg to throw it into the opposite side.

“Rainbow Dash spikes the ball into Statice’s fourth zone, but the stallion is stubborn enough to teleport right into it to deliver a standing spin kick with his hind leg!”

“Look, Discord! The ball passed Rainbow Dash’s zone!”

Just as Spike announced, the ball was returned so fast that Rainbow Dash had no time to catch it. It only passed the first zone as Applejack intercepted it in the second zone with a mighty buck.

“Here’s how it’s done, vermin!” Applejack cheered as her hind hooves smacked the ball into a straight shot. The aura around her hooves spread into the ball, accelerating its progress as it entered Statice’s side of the field.

This is bad! Statice stood on his hind legs and bended his upper body forward, ready to intercept the orange ball. He swung his forelegs up in skyward hammer blow.

By the stars, this is heavy! Statice grunted, giving a bellow of effort as he swung the ball upward, its aura changing to green to indicate that it was a successful blow. He attempted to regain his equilibrium, failing miserably as he lost it after making such swing on a heavy ball. He fell on his back, watching as the ball landed on the fifth zone.

“And the ball was returned by one of Applejack’s trusty bucks! Not to be outdone, Statice retaliated! Sadly, in spite of returning the ball, it landed on his fifth zone. Team Harmony is in the lead!”

Discord’s announcement caused the ponies in Canterlot to cheer. They all stomped hooves in celebration as the team that consisted of the six ponies that always saved their lives when Equestria was in danger was now in the lead.

“I’m best friends with those mares!”

Team Harmony was having a blast after Spike’s comment. The mares were hollering happily at their small victory. Rainbow Dash and Applejack in particular were hugging and celebrating.

“Nice shot, Applejack!”

“Ah can say the same thing about ya, Rainbow!”

Statice’s fifth zone was glowing with the same magenta and light blue colors that Twilight and Rarity infused into the ball before the game began. It was a visual aid to remind everypony that those girls had a point in their favor.

Statice gritted his teeth as he levitated the ball.

“As per the game’s rules, the next serve will be done by the player whose zone was conquered in the previous round. Statice is going to be serving again.”

“The way I see it, Statice will probably be the only pony serving, Discord. There is nothing those mares cannot do.”

We shall see about that, Spike.

Statice narrowed his eyes as he came up with an idea. It was a strategy that he and Digitalis constantly used when they played one on one with each other. He once again stood up in the third zone, this time bouncing the ball repeatedly before shooting it upward in an arc.

“It appears that Statice is trying a basketball approach. Remember kids, the left hoof is for support when shooting.”

“But he’s not using his hooves, Discord!”

“Doesn’t mean he can’t use them later, Spike! Open up your mind!”

Ignoring their bantering, Statice watched as the ball passed to the second zone. Now was the moment for him to strike. He popped into the second zone when the ball was at its apex and then delivered a downward crescent kick. The ball was thrown with the speed of cannon, bypassing the first two zones entirely.

“Wow! It appears that Statice threw the ball from the third zone to the second zone, only to teleport there as well to spike it into Team Harmony’s field!”

“Is that move even legal, Discord? It looked awesome, but I can’t help feeling that this was illegal.”

“It was awesome and not illegal, Spike. The ball can only be hit once one zone at a time, meaning that is possible for him to hit the ball more than once provided that he hits it in different zones.”

“By Celestia, Statice thought of everything when making this game!”

To be honest, Digi was the one who came up with that rule.

The ball easily bypassed Rainbow Dash with its speed and Applejack due to the attack coming from above. Luckily enough, Twilight’s magic caught the ball before it had the chance to leave her zone. The catch was a difficult one as she grunted her teeth with effort, finding the momentum of the ball to be the equivalent to catching a large rock being thrown at her by surprise.

“And Twilight catches the ball right away! You can see that she’s Celestia’s student from such talent!”

“Well she’s beaten an Ursa Minor on her own, Discord! There is nopony that can actually beat Twilight at magic.”

Twilight levitated the ball carefully under her magical grasp. Bending her neck forward, she threw it as hard as her magic allowed her. The ball soared through the first zone, but Statice was not going to let her surpass his second zone.

“Here we go again!” Statice yelled as he countered the ball the same way that he did with Applejack, except that this time he bucked his hind legs into the ball rather than intercepting it with his forelegs.

“Statice has learned his lesson from his previous bout with Applejack. He’s using his stronger hind legs to return Twilight’s shot rather than his forelegs.”

“I don’t think that Statice’s buck can do much of a difference for him, Discord. It may have made a difference if the shot had been made by Applejack like earlier, but right now he’s doomed since it’s Twilight who made the shot. You just can’t compare the force of Applejack’s hind legs to the power of Twilight’s magic.”

It was just like they had suggested. The buck managed to send the ball soaring into the air. Statice fell on his chest from the strain, turning his head around to see that the ball was about to fall into his first zone. Forcing himself to stand up, Statice once again used his teleportation to return to the air, grunting with effort as he delivered a scissor kick to the ball.

“And now Statice is trying to replay his previous strategy, except that this time he’s trying it from the first zone! Will he be capable of standing up to Twilight in this occasion?”

Just like before, the ball shot through the first two zones. Twilight gasped as she realized that she accidentally used too much spin and force on her throw, which made the ball go backwards and aided Statice into invading her team’s zones when he kicked it. Not willing to let the ball catch her by surprise, Twilight reflexively used her levitation skill to mend her mistake. Her timing was a little off and the ball slowly rolled out of her grasp. She gasped in surprise when the ball got out of her zone.

“Oh no!” Twilight cried out as the ball entered into the fourth zone. Much to her delight, Rarity caught the ball in her blue aura before it landed in the ground.

“Are you okay, darling?” Rarity asked as she levitated the ball close herself.

“I’m fine,” Twilight stood up and immediately went to apologize to her unicorn friend for nearly getting her eliminated. “I’m sorry if I didn’t stop the ball, Rarity. I put too much spin into the ball and that helped Statice pass Rainbow and Applejack’s zones when he kicked it. I missed the timing to catch it and…”

“Nonsense,” Rarity dismissively waved a dainty hoof at her purple friend. “We all make mistakes in our first time playing games. I don’t have a trouble helping you the same way you help me, darling. Now then, let me answer to this ruffian the way I am supposed to retaliate.”
Throwing the ball up, Rarity waited a few seconds before she punted it. She stood up on her hind legs, cocked one of them behind, and then kicked it with all of her might in an upward arc.

“Statice’s strategy worked as the ball slipped through Twilight’s magic. Thankfully, Rarity’s magic grabbed the ball and is more than happy to return it to Statice’s field. I gotta say that I never thought Rarity would use such a masculine punt like that.”

“She still looks graceful and beautiful punting a ball.”

“Stop covering the microphones with your lovesick drool, Spike!”

Statice gritted his teeth in frustration. Rarity had caught his shot immediately after he accomplished the feat of passing through Twilight. To make matters worse, she punted the ball to his side, right after he had landed on his first zone. He casted his teleportation spell to his sixth zone to prevent Rarity from scoring a goal.

“And it looks like Statice is once again in the defensive. Will he manage to prevent Rarity from scoring that ball? Or will he fall down to the hidden power that the Element of Generosity holds within her graceful exterior?”

Statice caught the ball in a volley ball hammer blow. Unlike the balls thrown by her previous three friends, Rarity’s ball was not as heavy. He managed to deflect the ball into the air, this time maintaining his balance in all four legs.

“And Statice catches the ball! Now what will his game plan be now?”

“You think that he may try that strategy that he used before, Discord?”

“We shall see, Spike! We shall see.”

Unknown to them, their comments gave Statice another idea. It was the same as the previous two. The difference was that this time he was going to hit the ball in each zone to gather strength and momentum. Using carefully timed teleportation spells, Statice hit the ball again in the fifth zone, then the fourth zone, then the third zone, and the second zone, elevating the ball higher and higher with each hit. By the time he reached the first zone, he delivered a hammer blow from his forelegs that shot the ball like a cannonball.

“I guess he used that same plan.”

“The shot looks stronger than the previous ones, Discord.”

“I’ve seen better, Spike.”

The ball traveled faster than before. It was faster than Rainbow Dash, it was still in the air and out of Applejack’s reach when it passed on the second zone, it bypassed the third zone even when Twilight flew upward to increase her magical range into the ball, and it still had enough magic and altitude to be out of Rarity’s reach. Statice smiled, feeling that the mares in either the fifth or sixth zone were going to be out of the game by the time his ball landed.


His smile vanished when he heard the sound of a cannon being fired.


That high pitched voice was easy to recognize. Pinkie Pie was soaring into the air, ready to meet the ball head on. She didn’t seem to be afraid of it, cheerfully laughing as she approached the potential projectile.

That mare is insane!

As soon as she got close to the ball, Pinkie Pie somehow floated into the air just in front of it. She raised her hoof and slapped the ball back as hard as possible.

Okay, maybe I’m the insane one.

The ball traveled all the way across Team Harmony’s field and back into Statice’s field. The stallion gasped in surprise when he heard the sound of the ball landing on something by the time he landed back in the first zone. He was stunned to see that his second zone had been conquered by Pinkie Pie’s return.

His stunned silence was broken by the cheers of the audience and Team Harmony as they celebrated their second conquered.

“And Pinkie Pie conquers Statice’s second zone…right in the second zone!”

“Ha, I knew they could do it. Team Harmony is in the lead with two conquered zones to zero! I said it once and I’ll say it again! Is there anything these mares can’t do?”

“Quick thinking, improvisation, and a little Pinkie randomness stopped a ball that not even Princess Twilight was capable of stopping. I feel bad that Statice has to fight such odds in this game.”

"Isn't it illegal that Pinkie uses her cannon, though?"

"It's only illegal if she shoots the ball, Spike. There's no rule forbidding the use of objects to help the players reach the ball. I don't see our green friend complaining. Well, he is, but I can see that's envy."

Statice gritted his teeth. They had conquered another zone from him. This was his game. He wasn’t supposed to be beaten at it by newcomers. He took many deep breaths to reclaim his composure. Anger was going to seal his defeat if he let it take control of his actions. He was going to take another step in his strategy.

You brought this on yourself. You underestimated that pony shaped incarnation of chaos and paid the price for it. It serves you right for not expecting her for exploiting a loophole whether on purpose or by accident. Calm down and think how to fix this.

Obviously Pinkie Pie was going to be a problem. Going after her was a slightly better problem than Fluttershy. It was still an almost impossible challenge to conquer her zone as much as it was with the yellow mare. If he was to recover, he needed a different target this time. He was going to have to resort to another lesson from his teacher if he wanted to prevail.

Getting close to the weak point of an opponent can be a hassle if he is too powerful for you to take on. My suggestion is that you attack the spot that links the strong point to the weak point. Break that connection and your opponent won’t be capable of using his strongest weapons to defend himself.

From his observations, it was clear that Rarity was the beginning of where the difference in strengths between the six mares started. She wasn’t the magical or physical fighter that Twilight, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack were. Her abilities were mostly out of support and a little dull from inactivity, yet still dependable to have when push came to shove, much more so than Pinkie or Fluttershy since she was the most serious of the three weaker ponies.

Still, there were complications for going after her. The first one was that, with the second zone conquered, it was impossible for him to run into the first zone or out of it. He was going to have to teleport more frequently if he was to defend it or attack from it, meaning that he was going to waste magic in the process. To make matters worse, he had to find a way to send his ball out of the second zone and into the first to smash it, as there was no other way to bypass Twilight’s strong defenses.

“I have to step up my game,” Statice muttered as he teleported back into the third zone. He brought the ball close to him as he once again started the process of walking between the third and the fourth zones.

“And now Statice is once again doing that orbiting walk thing he did at the beginning of the match.”

“I’d say that he’s losing it, Discord! He wasn’t that impressive when he started the game. It was more of a disappointing throw.”

Statice stood up in the third zone and threw the ball upward into the fourth zone.

“Statice just threw the ball into the fourth zone. He’s throwing it backwards. Is he trying to conquer his own zones?”

“I’d say that the thought of losing is messing up his game. I think that he would rather eliminate himself from the game than let the girls do it for him.”

Ignoring the remarks on his sanity, Statice sent the ball flying from the fourth zone into the sixth zone. A quick teleportation later, Statice spiked the ball into Team Harmony’s field. Rainbow Dash intercepted the ball with a downward buck in an attempt to throw it into Statice’s first zone.

“Statice has reattempted his tactic by using the limited space that he has left, but Rainbow Dash was quick to the draw!”

“Look, Discord! Statice is at the first zone!”

Just as Spike pointed out, Statice had his hind leg shoved back ready to punt the ball that Rainbow Dash sent to him. Despite the heaviness of the ball, the punt sent the ball flying into a straight line. Applejack wasted no time in bucking the ball upward, attempting to catapult it into the goal of Statice’s sixth zone.

“Here comes an applebucking delivery!” Applejack hollered as she sent the ball flying into the air, ready to fall into the sixth zone or cross the goal at the end of it.

“I think you got the wrong address!” Statice declared as he teleported high into the air, holding his forelegs above his head and spiking the ball back into Team Harmony’s field.

The momentum of the ball with the high altitude sent it accelerating into the ground at increasing speeds. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were unable to catch it. Twilight gritted her teeth as she attempted to use her magic to catch the ball. Her efforts were futile due to the amount of spin and momentum that were on it. She only managed to decelerate it a little bit.

It crossed into the fourth zone to be caught by Rarity. The fashionista caught the ball in her magic, crying out as her neck was forced down by an invisible force. The ball still had downward rotation that was slowly bringing it close to the ground. Rarity growled with effort as she attempted to keep her head high. Her friends needed her. She couldn’t let the ball touch the ground. Giving a warrior’s shout, Rarity felt the weight disappear inside her magic aura, lifting her head in an epic flourish with her eyes closed. She slowly opened her eyes, hoping to see the ball traveling to the other side of the field, only to see a clear sky and no signs of the ball being in there. It wasn’t in the air.

The ball was at her zone. It was releasing the same green light as Statice’s magical aura. It had been captured by him.

A tense silence spread across the courtyard before it exploded with the roaring excitement of the crowd.

“And Statice finally manages to conquer his first zone. Team Harmony’s fourth zone has been conquered, leaving Rarity out of the game!”

“I’d love to add that Rarity played amazingly for a first time.”

“Don’t let your feelings get in the way of your comments, sport. It’s not very professional from your part.”

“You’re drinking chocolate milk as we speak!”

Ignoring the bickering of the commentators, Rarity looked downcast. She stared at her friends, all of which looked very disappointed.

“I’m sorry for not holding up to the ball,” Rarity apologized.

“No, Rarity,” Twilight shook her head. “I should have kept the ball from reaching your zone. You shouldn’t blame yourself for this.”

“How about we play the game rather than point hooves at each other?” Rainbow Dash interrupted both magic users before they started a pity party. “We still have an advantage against Statice. I say we avenge Rarity and beat this jerk.”

“Ah agree with Rainbow Dash,” Applejack grimly nodded. “It ain’t this team’s fault that Rarity was eliminated. The one responsible is standin’ right here in front of us.”

“Which one of you ladies is ready to serve?” Statice challenged as he assumed a fighting pose.

The question got the mares in Team Harmony to frown.

“Show him some manners, darling,” Rarity asked Twilight venomously before stepping out of the playfield.

“Gladly,” Twilight darkly promised as she levitated the ball next to her.

“And Team Harmony sends Twilight Sparkle to make the throw. Since this is the first time a zone of the team has been captured, it will be the first time one member of the team does any throwing.”

“Twilight looks mad! I can’t promise you that Statice is going to lose one of his zones anytime soon.”

Focusing her magic into the ball, Twilight gave a battle cry to throw the ball into a straight line. The throw was done with such power that the ball was literally turned into a missile. Statice didn’t even react as the ball passed to his side and pierced into the goal of his field. The ball’s trajectory continued until it hit the wall of the castle, leaving it covered in fissures.

Statice stared in shock as the ground of his sixth zone was now glowing magenta and light blue, indicating its capture. The spectators were staring in shock at what Twilight had accomplished with raw magic and anger.

“And you were right, Spike. Twilight did conquer the third of Statice’s zones immediately after she made her throw.”

“And she threw the ball into the goal, officially conquering Statice’s sixth zone. I can see that Team Harmony has conquered half of Statice’s field.”

“That’s not all, Spikey! With the sixth zone conquered, the goal moves to the closest activated zone. Since the fifth zone has already been conquered, Statice’s goal is now in his fourth zone!”

The news got the ponies of Canterlot to cheer up, snapping out of their fear when they heard that their heroes had a greater shot at winning the game than they expected. The same thing was felt in Team Harmony as the mares started cheering with each other. As a special reward for conquering half of Statice’s field, a time break was given to both sides to regain their breath. The magical barriers that separated the mares temporarily disappeared to let them regroup.

“Nice shot, Twilight!” Rainbow Dash hugged her alicorn friend with one foreleg.

“We’re halfway there, Sugarcube!” Applejack reared on her hind legs to cycle her forelegs in the air.

“Thanks, girls,” Twilight blushed at the compliment. “I don’t know what got into me. I just wanted to get payback for Rarity so I threw the ball as hard as possible.”

“Well keep them coming, Twilight,” Rainbow Dash smiled enthusiastically. “We can beat this jerk if you keep throwing shots like that.”

“I guess I can take Statice’s fourth zone with my next shots,” Twilight thought of a strategy to ensure her team’s victory.

“Let Applejack and I take care of his first zone,” Rainbow Dash arrogantly pounded her chest with a hoof. “He won’t be able to make his super shots if he doesn’t get to use his zones to accumulate hits to charge the ball with power.”

“Does that mean that I get to conquer the third zone?” Pinkie Pie bounced in place, wanting to participate in the game and the conversation.

“Sure,” Rainbow Dash shrugged her shoulders. “Just make sure that the ball won’t hit your zone when it reaches you, Pinkie.”

“Of course, Dashie!” Pinkie Pie bounced happily as she prepared for the game.

“We must not let our guard down, girls,” Twilight warned them. “Statice is quite crafty. He’ll come up with a new strategy. I just know it.”

“Darn it!” Statice stomped the ground, his Enhancement Spell causing the floor to shatter with the increased force of his hoof. “I’m losing the match!”

He had gotten Rarity out of the game only to immediately lose one of his zones to a vengeful Twilight. He was still at a disadvantage as he only conquered one zone in comparison to the mares of Team Harmony conquering three of his.

“Calm down,” Statice lectured himself to keep focus. “What other advice should I do now? Shall I try to target Pinkie Pie again or try another approach?”

With Rarity gone, chances were that the morale of the team decreased a little bit or they may use the desire of revenge to fuel them just like Twilight did when she scored that goal. Now that Rarity’s magic was not assisting Twilight, he had more chances of capturing Pinkie’s zone. However, that did not eliminate Pinkie’s worth as a player or how dangerous the three mares in front of her were.

“Another advice from my master may be helpful right now,” Statice thought of any memory on which his master gave him advice. He focused on that of the weak points and the strong points, smiling as he got something that sounded promising.

Sometimes the strong point is just too strong for you to approach the weak point. In that case, just find the weak point in the strong point. Once you start hitting it, your enemies will lose their strongest weapons.

“The weakest of the strong,” Statice muttered. The strong point was the three zones that were occupied by Rainbow Dash, Applejack, and Twilight Sparkle. But which one of them was the weakest link in the game?

Twilight had superior magical range to restrain the ball. With his limited zone range, it was going to be a draining effort to score past her. Rainbow Dash was too much of a hassle for him as well. She was responsible for him having to use complicated maneuvers to shoot the ball past her zone. Applejack was the least problematic of the three as she only hit the ball when it was within her limited range as she had no magic or flight to extend her hitting range besides bucking.

The timeout was over. It was time to resume the game. Statice did not mind as he already made his decision on his next target.

“Applejack it is,” Statice decided as he started in the third zone. He threw the ball and had Rainbow Dash return it.

“And the game resumes with quite a simple throw from Statice. Rainbow Dash is returning the ball and so is Statice.”

“We are now looking at a mutual ball exchange between Statice and Rainbow Dash, Discord! I think that the timeout did not give Statice enough time to cool off. I don’t think that he’s thought of a strategy during the break.”

Foolish drake, I made up my plan already.

Statice smiled inwardly as he kept volleying the ball back and forth between him and Rainbow Dash. He was building a sense of security within the arrogant mare. He was using an illusion of desperation and lethargic movements to make her think that he was running out of stamina. It was paying off as Rainbow Dash was slowing her reaction times and responses to taunt him a little bit.

“Is that your best shot, Statice?” she taunted as she kicked the ball with one hind leg, not even bothering to look at him.

“Now is my chance,” Statice smiled as he punted the ball a little too seriously.

Rainbow Dash gasped as the ball soared past her zone. The ball didn’t go past the second zone before Applejack bucked it back to Statice.

“Don’t let yer guard down, Rainbow Dash!” Applejack chastised the cyan mare as Statice struggled to return the ball.

“I’m not!” Rainbow Dash yelled defensively as she returned the ball with a reverse hit from her front hoof.

“And the volleying has evolved! Applejack joins Rainbow Dash in returning the ball to Statice! Facing off with the best athletes in Ponyville is going to be a battle for Statice.”

“It may be, but they’re off, Discord! Applejack and Rainbow Dash are competitive but they can get carried away with it. They bicker a lot and that affects their performances. Their arguing caused them to get last place during the Running of the Leaves despite being the ponies most likely to win.”

“It doesn’t look like they will need much cooperation to take on Statice.”

“I hope they don’t need it, Discord.”

The volleying was getting worse. Applejack’s bickering with Rainbow Dash was messing up the timing of her bucks. They were still heavy, even with the load becoming more bearable. As their concentration shifted, so did their attention to him.

“Let’s put a spin in the situation,” Statice smiled as he hit the ball with a roundhouse kick. The ball was propelled forward, skipping through Rainbow Dash’s zone.

“You won’t get away from me!” Applejack swore as she got close to the barrier that separated her zone from Twilight’s. She readied her hind legs to buck the ball back, shooting them as soon as the ball was within their extended length.

She didn’t feel anything. She didn’t feel the familiar weight of the ball in her hooves nor did she hear the thwacking sound that she always heard after a successful buck. She turned her head around to see that somehow the ball had landed in her zone.

“What in tarnation happened here?” she found herself asking.

“And Statice conquers Team Harmony’s second zone right in the second zone, just like the team did earlier in the game. Now that’s poetic justice!”

“What the heck happened, Discord? The ball just spun around Applejack’s hooves and then fell down! Isn’t that illegal?”

“That was no magic, Spike. I would have felt it if that had been the case. What you saw was a slider ball. It is a type of thrown ball that moves to the side as it falls down. You have seen baseball games before, right?”

“I did. I just didn’t imagine that it could be done with balls that were suited for kicking rather than throwing.”

“You always learn something new, Spike.”

“Ah’m sorry girls,” Applejack apologized as she got out of her zone, now marked with Statice’s magic. “Ah didn’t think that the ball was gonna curve like that.”

“It’s more of my fault, Applejack,” Rainbow Dash looked at the ground, ashamed that her mistake caused her friend to get expelled from the game. “I got overconfident and let him manipulate me into lowering my guard.”

“It’s okay, Sugarcube,” Applejack smiled at her to show that she had no resentment or regrets about her defeat. “We’re still in the lead.”

“We’ll make it up to you, Applejack,” Twilight swore as she levitated the ball.

“Ooh, it is Twilight’s turn to serve again!” Pinkie Pie announced excitedly, remembering how Twilight easily conquered a zone the first time she made a serve.

Statice braced himself. He had a spell reserved for this occasion. He wasn’t sure if he was going to get success or failure. It was still worth a shot.

Just like before, Twilight threw the ball with immense power. As the ball got within his proximity, Statice created a force field.

“And it looks like Statice created a force field to defend himself against Twilight’s shot! Those are some quick reflexes!”

“Wait! The ball is moving around the force field!”

It was just like Spike had said. The ball was moving around the force field. This was because he was using the Force Redirection Spell. Rather than creating a regular force field with stationary magic, Statice combined the principles of his Warp Spell with those of a force field to redirect projectiles rather than receive them. It was usually reserved against attacks that were too strong for his force field to withstand. The ball orbited insanely before being catapulted into the air.

“I’m not sure on what just happened. All that I can tell you is that it was epic!”

“What happened with the ball, Discord?”

“I’m not sure. We’ll find out eventually Spike. What goes up will eventually go down. If the ball went out of the courtyard, then that means that it must have crossed Fluttershy’s goal and that her zone has been captured.”

“I don’t see anything different with Fluttershy’s zone.”

“Then she is safe…for now.”

An awkward silence passed between the opposing players and the spectators. Statice even blushed in embarrassment at having sent the ball out of everypony’s field of vision. It was going to be impossible to find out where it was going to land.

“Twitchy tail, I got a twitchy tail, girls!”

Never mind, Pinkie Pie was going to find out. All of the players braced themselves just in case the ball was going to land in their zones. However, Pinkie Pie had other plans as she jumped and fell head first into the ground, somehow drilling through it with her forelock.
As the girls were going to ask her what she was thinking, they got their answer when the ball landed in Pinkie’s zone, causing a crater. Pinkie Pie got out of the hole that she had made, looking very relieved.

“That was a close one! Thank Celestia that I lived in a rock farm!”

The crowd cheered as both sides now had three zones conquered each. With the marker equal, Discord and Spike did not hesitate in remarking on the situation.

“And Statice used some spell to redirect Twilight’s shot. Whether or not he meant it, I can’t do more than praise the stallion for such risky move.”

“I’ll admit it. Whether he meant it or not, that was still awesome!”

Back in Team Harmony’s field, Pinkie Pie was bouncing out of the field.

“I’m sorry, Pinkie Pie,” Twilight apologized with her head held low and downcast eyes. “I wanted to avenge Applejack…I got you eliminated instead.”

“It’s no biggie, Twilight,” Pinkie Pie hugged her friend. “I guess the game is going to be a closer one now that both sides have the same number of zones. I can’t wait to see how you’re gonna play in the next round.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Rainbow Dash pounded her hooves together as Pinkie Pie gave her the ball. “I’m giving this jerk a ball he won’t forget!”
Satisfied with Rainbow’s promise, Pinkie Pie got out of the field. The cyan mare glared at Statice menacingly before she flew skywards at increasing speeds.

“Are my eyes deceiving me? Rainbow Dash is flying out of the field!”

“Maybe she’s going to attack from above. That’s something that Rainbow Dash loves to do in…anything.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure that Dashie has a surprise for all of us!”

“Get out of the table, Pinkie!”

“But I want to partake in the comments section!”

“Let her stay, Discord!”


Rainbow Dash accelerated until she felt the wind wrap around her. It was that familiar sensation that told her that she was ready to perform her trademark move. The Sonic Rainboom sent her as high as possible, reaching the apex of her flight course in just a few seconds.

“Let’s see how you like my Sonic Rainbow Bomb!” Rainbow Dash declared as she threw the ball the same way she dunked a basketball.
The ball turned into a rainbow missile. It wasn’t just rainbow aura that was surrounding it. A sphere of rainbow fire was surrounding it as well. The move was only witnessed at its truest form by three spectators as Discord summoned three pairs of binoculars for himself, Spike, and Pinkie.

“Aha, Rainbow is going all out with this move!”

“I told you so, Discord!”

“Ooh, I wonder what happens when you throw a ball at the same time you do a Sonic Rainboom. Maybe it’s going to be a huge rainbow.”
“For security issues, I am going to put a force field in the zone that is going to land as well as around the courtyard and the coliseum to prevent the excess force from doing any collateral damage.”

“Please do, Discord!”

Statice gasped, understanding Rainbow’s intentions. There was no way that he was going to be able to return such ball. Hay, he was confident that not even Twilight’s shots were as powerful as this one.

That rainbow mare wants to kill me.

The unicorn focused his magic until he made two glass-like ovals that resembled his eyes. He made another replica of the pair that was slightly smaller than its predecessor. The process repeated itself until Statice had many eye-shaped magic barriers in front of him. He widened his eyes so that the smallest pair entered into his eyes, followed by the next one until the original pair positioned itself into his eyes. Statice blinked his eyes a couple of times before raising his head into the sky.

The Scope Spell was a visual aid spell on which he created magical lenses to improve his vision. With this spell, he was capable of seeing objects that were too far away or too small to be seen with the naked eye. Right now, he chose the binoculars model to see the ball.

“She wants to kill me alright,” Statice gulped as he saw that the ball turned into a rainbow fireball. He looked at the ball for a few seconds before guessing its trajectory. It was going to land in the first zone.

“I think I’ll settle for letting her conquer this zone,” Statice wisely replied to himself as he dismissed the spell.

The ball finally hit the ground, creating a rainbow pillar that stretched across the whole zone. It made the whole field vibrate as well as the whole coliseum. If it weren’t for Discord’s rapid finger-snap magic, the whole courtyard and the coliseum would have been destroyed by now.
The smoke settled to reveal that the first zone was heavily fissured and the ball was deeply incrusted into a crater. It was a miracle that the ball managed to survive such impact after being shot at supersonic speeds.

“And Rainbow Dash conquers Statice’s first zone. Team Harmony returns to the lead by conquering its fourth zone.”

The citizens of Canterlot started cheering for the team, causing Statice to look at them with surprise, given how scared they must have been when they saw the shot. How was it that ponies manage to switch their emotions at the drop of hat?

I’ll never understand Equestria.

“How’d you like that, Statice!” Rainbow Dash bragged. “Two zones more and you’re out!”

Statice chose to ignore her incessant bragging. He had to evaluate the situation at the moment. Fluttershy was still the weak point while Twilight and Rainbow Dash still remained the strong point. It was going to be impossible for him to go directly after Fluttershy thanks to Rainbow’s speed and Twilight’s magic. He was stuck between those two aggressive mares. Another lesson was brought back from his memories.

There will be times when the weak spot is heavily guarded and the strong point is just too dangerous. In those moments, forget about the points and attack anything that’s in between them.

Easier said than done, it was hard to apply that lesson in the case. Fluttershy’s part of the team as the weak point was crystal clear. However, it was impossible to determine who was the strong point between Twilight and Rainbow Dash.

Twilight was an alicorn and had vast reserves of magic. It was unthinkable to get past her now that he was limited to two zones. Rainbow Dash was a moving impenetrable defense wall as her speed was going to cause her to catch the ball. That Sonic Rainboom-infused ball that she dropped earlier was proof enough that she was also a threat.

Twilight hasn’t used her magic that much in the game. She’s still got some juice in her. Rainbow Dash is an athlete with more stamina than hers. However, she must have depleted a significant part with that Sonic Rainboom.

“Hey, Statice!” Rainbow Dash brought her hooves to the sides of her muzzles to increase her volume. “Anytime will be nice, loser! At this rate I’ll be bored to snores!”

I made my choice. That prismatic witch goes first!

His decision was made, yet there was still the issue on how he was going to conquer her zone. Using low attacks was going to force her on the ground, but she was still fast enough to catch them. He tried to think of a strategy. When that didn’t work, he remembered past games with Digitalis. He remembered a particular one where his first zone was the last one to defend. Digitalis had read a sports magazine before the match and came up with a technique that he read from the article.

“Play ball,” Statice muttered as he went to the fourth zone.

“Ooh, Statice is trying a new approach! He always throws from the third zone and yet he is now focusing in the fourth zone!”

“I guess Rainbow Dash was too much of a challenge for him, Pinkie. By the way, you got some nice observation skills! I’m surprised you noticed.”

“Who doesn’t pay attention to details in a game, Spike? That’s what makes it minutely fun for everypony!”

“I think that he’s going for a baseball pitch, you two!”

True to form, Statice was standing on his hind legs, holding the ball in his hooves as if he were holding a baseball. Due to the ball’s larger size, Statice was going to throw it with both hooves.

“I hope Statice knows what he’s doing. Otherwise, he’s going to make a fool of himself.”

“I don’t think he can work it out with a ball that big, Discord. He’s definitely going to make a fool of himself.”

“We can try to see what happens, boys. Maybe Statice will find a way to surprise us as he makes the pitch.”

I better get this right. I don’t wanna prove Spike and Discord right by looking like a fool out there. At least somepony in this match believes in me...even if she was an enemy just a while ago.

Feeling more motivated by Pinkie’s praise, Statice bent his back as far as possible, to the point in which a contortionist would be proud. Once the tingle of his back advised him that he reached the limit, Statice snapped his body back in position and threw the ball, as if his body were a catapult. He made sure to slide his wrists downward and to turn his hooves sideways at the moment of throwing to give it the desired spin.

“And Statice throws a fastball!”

“That’s nothing!” Rainbow Dash flared her wings aggressively. She had played baseball in flight camp when she was a filly. She had seen fastballs faster than the one that Statice threw at her. A ball that big was slower and it gave her more area to hit. She raised her hind legs and tensed her muscles, ready to give a buck that would send the ball into the fourth zone’s goal. After that, all she needed to do was to conquer the last zone to win the game.

Her confidence disappeared when she noticed something wrong with the ball. As a flier, she had trained her eyes to see moving objects with pinpoint precision. The ball was no exception as she perceived something. The ball had a topspin that she noticed through the rotation of the ball. That fastball was slow. It wasn’t just the size of the ball that made it go slower. It was the topspin in it that made it sink lower.

“It’s a sinker!” Rainbow Dash shouted as she spun her hindquarters around, glad that she didn’t kick out her hind legs in her moment of arrogance. She ran towards the ball and dived with outstretched forelegs, attempting to catch it. The mare slid on the ground, her displacement being stopped by the barrier that separated her team’s field with Statice’s field. The ball sunk until it was barely crossing the line to the first zone, landing on Rainbow Dash’s hooves. It bounced away from her hooves and landed on top of her head, rolling sideways and falling to the ground.

“Statice has just conquered the fourth zone, right in Team Harmony’s first zone. By coincidence or on purpose, both fourth zones that were conquered by both teams were each other’s first zones.”

“That’s one sharp observation, Discord!”

“From the way things are, the game is up to Twilight and Fluttershy now that Rainbow Dash is out of commission. You did a great job, Dashie! Even if the ball fell off your hooves, it was still awesome for you to catch it!”

“Darn it!” Rainbow Dash bucked the air in frustration. She gave Twilight and Fluttershy a sincere look of regret.

“I’m sorry, girls!” she avoided looking at her friends in shame. “I messed up. I got overconfident and didn’t pay attention to him. If I had, I would have realized that he was going to throw a sinker ball at me.”

“It’s okay, Rainbow Dash,” Twilight hugged her friend. “I promise to take care of Statice. I don’t think that he can hold on for much longer.”

“Hold on, Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash cheered her friend to invigorate her. “It’s just two more zones. You can do it!”

Statice smiled inwardly, never feeling gladder to have played with Digitalis so many times. His wits and intelligence had always been a source of survival for Statice. And now they had gotten him out of another tight spot.

I guess that whole “friendship is magic” mojo is not entirely exclusive to them.

Still, there was no time for celebration. There were two zones to be conquered and two enemies left. Twilight was once again giving him one of her enraged glares as she prepared to throw the ball at him. She reared her head back and threw the ball with all of her strength in hopes of avenging Rainbow Dash.

Knowing that there was no other choice, Statice once again used his Force Redirection Spell to protect himself from Twilight’s assault. The ball struck the field and started orbiting around Statice. But it was slower and heavier. He gritted his teeth as he struggled to control the ball’s orbit.

Darn it! Twilight must have put a lot of magic into the ball…or maybe I am getting weaker. I have to get rid of her. I can take on Fluttershy at any moment, but Twilight is impossible to defeat on the long term. I have to eliminate her.

Statice roared in exertion, ready to throw the ball. Much to his surprise, the ball was propelled skywards at a straight angle. It was going to fall on top of him.

“Statice has caught Twilight’s ball once again. He’s using that weird spell that he used to eliminate Pinkie from the game.”

“As long as it’s not as bad as what Rainbow Dash did, I’m fine with it.”

“Ooh, I think Statice should get out of the fourth zone right now.”

You don’t need to tell me twice, Pinkie! Statice cried out as he jumped to the third zone, watching as the ball landed in the fourth zone. A small quake and a crater was the result of the ball’s fall, although it wasn’t as potent as the one that Rainbow Dash made earlier in the game.

“Princess Twilight Sparkle has done it! She’s conquered Statice’s fourth zone. With this, Team Harmony has conquered five zones in Statice’s field. One more zone is all that separates these wonderful mares from victory.”

“Two zones conquered in one game!”

“That’s the spirit, Twilight! We shall make a party for you after this.”

Statice gritted his teeth in frustration. He was one zone away from defeat. His magic reserves were lower than before. If he didn’t eliminate Twilight right now, his chances of defeat were going to increase. He tried to remember anything else about his master’s teachings.

A strong point will always be strong and a weak point will always be weak as long as they are on their own. That’s why they are separated from one another. A weak point will turn stronger when it is protected by the strong point, but the strong point will turn weaker when it’s using all of its strength to protect the weak point.

“I got a plan,” Statice levitated the ball. “It’s going to be all-or-nothing. I just hope I still have something for the other one though.”
Statice reared his head back as he threw the ball straight to Twilight.

“Ouch, that serve was weak!”

“He’s in his last legs, Discord! Twilight’s got this entire match in the bag.”

“But she didn’t bring any bags with her, Spike!”

“I wasn’t being literal, Pinkie.”

Not one to be caught with her guard down, Twilight caught the ball and used the momentum she gathered from it to throw it with her own magical force. The ball was just as strong as her serve was. If her calculations were right, Statice did not possess enough magical strength to return the ball. The only thing left to do was wait and see how Statice was going to retaliate.

Statice performed his spell again. The ball was heavier than before. By the stars, he was tired. Defeat was not an option though. He had to win this. He accelerated the ball’s rotation as he spun it around his body. Taking careful aim, he fired a curving shot.
The alicorn gasped upon seeing the shot. It had the combined force of her magic and Statice’s plus an unnatural spin to boost its destructive power. The worst part was when it entered her zone and Twilight managed to calculate its trajectory. It was going at the sixth zone: Fluttershy’s zone!

Automatically, her horn lit up with magic as a tendril connected itself to the ball as Twilight reared on her hind legs and pulled her head back. To the eyes of the spectator, it looked like she was fishing for the ball, trying to prevent it from leaving her zone. The ball kept rotating, slowly getting out of her zone despite Twilight’s pulling it. Several worst case scenarios played in Twilight’s mind, all of which showed Fluttershy getting hurt or traumatized in detail.

I’m not letting you get hurt!

Twilight extended her wings and flew, hoping that her lift was going to help her pull the ball towards her. Much to her dismay, the ball was heavy enough to pull her slightly for every two flaps she gave with her wings to ascend. She kept pulling, not giving up until she was sure that Fluttershy was safe from the ball. Eventually, she was capable of freely flapping her wings. She lowered her head to see how the ball was doing, gasping when she saw why she was feeling light. The ball had dropped from her magic.

The audience cheered madly with the events.

“Statice once again gets the score even! He’s conquered Team Harmony’s third zone. This is the fifth zone he conquers, my little ponies!”

“Man, it looks like the final zone that Statice has to conquer is Fluttershy’s zone.”

“Don’t worry guys! I’m sure that Fluttershy is feeling well!”

“Meep!” Fluttershy was trembling. Twilight’s zone had been captured. All of her friends had been eliminated of the game. Now it was just her and Statice.

“Are you okay, Fluttershy?” Twilight approached her looking exhausted but relieved to see her safe.

“I’m fine,” Fluttershy asked her, feeling more concerned about Twilight’s safety than her own. “Are you feeling well?”

“I’m just a little tired,” Twilight rubbed the back of her head apologetically. “It all depends on you now, Fluttershy. You’re the last member of the team standing.”

“I don’t think that I can do this, Twilight,” Fluttershy admitted.

“You can,” Twilight gave her a firm but understanding glare. “Look at Statice. Tell me what you see.”

The yellow mare looked at the green unicorn. He was panting and breathing heavily, looking like he was barely capable of standing.

“He’s tired,” Fluttershy remarked, feeling sympathy for the stallion.

“Exactly,” Twilight nodded her head. “He’s exhausted. You, on the other hoof, are not. You spent the whole game not doing anything at all while he has faced me and the rest of our friends on his own. You can play against him while you are at the best of your abilities, Fluttershy.”

“Okay,” Fluttershy meekly nodded her head.

Twilight gave her an approving smile as she gave her the ball.

“Try to use your wings, Fluttershy,” Twilight advised her. “You can try to score a goal by hitting the ball while you’re in the air. I don’t think that he has enough magic to teleport so much now.”

“Okay,” Fluttershy nodded her head again.

The yellow pegasus flew into the air, pulling her hooves back and throwing it to the wall of the third zone. She was not confident in her sports skills…but Twilight’s advice was never wrong. She believed in her when that dragon was blowing smoke in Ponyville and she believed in her in other occasions.

Statice teleported next to the ball and hit it when it entered his zone. He spiked it downwards in an attempt to exploit Fluttershy’s poor flying skills. Much to his surprise, Fluttershy dived in with an outstretched hoof and managed to hit the ball.

“Fluttershy is on fire today, folks! She goes to the air and goes for a frontal attack!”

“But Statice counters it by teleporting it and spiking it back!”

“And now Fluttershy has caught up to the ball and returned it. There is more to this shy mare than meets the eye, everypony!”

Statice gritted his teeth. He didn’t have enough magic power to teleport. Luckily for him, he still had enough for a useful spell that still gave him enough freedom of movement at a cheap price.

He concentrated his magic until a sheet of magic big enough to hold his entire body weight was underneath his hooves. The magic of the sheet mixed with the magic that was already surrounding his hooves, keeping him firmly planted to the sheet.

The Platform Spell was designed so that Statice would always find foothold at any location, regardless of whether it was on air or water. The platforms that he created with the spell varied in density with the current one he was using being hard and steady. When he used the spell in the air, Statice was capable of fighting in a stationary position, unlike the Air Walking Spell that required him to be perpetually moving around with winds.

He returned Fluttershy’s ball by cupping his front hooves together and swinging them like a baseball bat. The yellow pegasus retaliated by bucking the ball, albeit a little out of course as Statice immediately spiked it back to her.

“Statice has created some sort of platform and is using it to fly around his zone. I am afraid to say that Fluttershy has lost her flight advantage against Statice.”

“That Statice is quite the opposite of a one-trick pony.”

“I’m not afraid for Fluttershy. She participated in the Equestria Games after all.”

“But that was months ago, Pinkie!”

“I know, Spike! But Fluttershy’s flying skills have improved thanks to her training for the Equestria Games. Even though the Equestria Games won’t take place in a long time, she still has some of her improved flying tricks.”

“No kidding there,” Statice delivered a hammer blow to the ball.

He had made the mistake of underestimating Fluttershy. Hidden inside her timid behavior, there was the potential to be a competent rival. He thought that her best physical skills only arrived when it meant helping somepony. Her shyness more often than not inhibited her physical performances. Yet here she was, volleying with him the same way he and Rainbow Dash did earlier.

“And the ball exchange continues! I never thought that Fluttershy was going to last that long! I am so happy that she proved me wrong!”

“From the way I’m looking at things, I’d say that Fluttershy is about to win the match. Just look at how she is faring now.”

It was the truth. When the volleying started between them, Fluttershy was barely able to catch up with him. As the session intensified, Statice’s hits were growing weaker, slower, and sloppier. Meanwhile, Fluttershy was capable of countering and reacting to Statice’s shots with more strength, speed, and precision. Her confidence was surprisingly increasing as well, looking more determined than when she had started participating at the beginning.

By the stars, I can’t keep up with her! I’m gonna lose at this pace! I need to stop her! She is no longer a weak point at this moment. But what I can do to beat her.

The volleying continued. It was taking a lot for Statice’s physical, mental, and magical capacities to hold on much longer. He had to win this now. He thought of what kind of advice his master told him that was going to work in a situation like this.

Listen, Statice! If your enemies don’t have any visible weak points, then make one for them. Turn their greatest strength and use it against them.

That was hard at the moment. What was Fluttershy’s greatest strength now? Was it her loyalty to her friends? Not really, she would have lost if Statice had been a little bit stronger. Was it her latent flying skill that was awakened in this match? Partially, but it was nothing compared to Rainbow Dash. What could be the greatest strength that he could exploit from the Element of Kindness?

“Kindness,” Statice muttered. His mind was formulating a plan. He was going to need time for it though. He kept the volleying going until it was completed. It was a gamble. He hated relying on those, but experience had taught him that there were moments in which luck was the only thing that mattered.

Statice delivered an upward hammer blow that sent the ball high into the sky. He smiled as Fluttershy flew to the ball and spiked it towards the ground. Calculating the ball’s descent, Statice was satisfied that his bet was going to pay off. It was time to act.
His platform faced downward as it dived with Statice firmly attached into it. His course of action elicited gasps from the audience.

“Oh no, Statice is going to fall into the ground!”

“Don’t worry, Pinkie. Look at Statice. He is glued to that platform! There is no way that he’s going to get hurt.”

I hope not. Statice used his Magic Reclaiming Spell to absorb the platform’s magic back into his horn. He was now falling without any sort of protection to save him from the fall.

Fluttershy gasped, putting her hooves to her mouth. This wasn’t how she wanted to win. This wasn’t how her friends wanted to win. This wasn’t how anypony wanted to win at all. She had to save him. She flew straight to Statice, only for the force field that separated her zone from the rest of the field to stop her.

“Statice is falling!”

Ignoring Pinkie and Spike’s simultaneous scream, Statice focused on the ball. He reached it just before it hit the ground. Wasting no time, he curled his body around to deliver an uppercut with all of his strength. The ball was propelled as fast as possible, passing through his side of the field, crossing Team Harmony’s side of the field…and then going through Fluttershy’s goal. The floor beneath Fluttershy being covered in green light was a signal that Statice had conquered the zone…he had won the game.

His triumph was short lived as he saw that he was approaching the ground at full speed with no signs of stopping.

This is gonna hurt.

The stallion collided with the floor with enough force to make a small crater, causing dust to kick in. Fluttershy gasped with horror, covering her mouth with her hooves once again. The rest of her friends gasped in shock. Spike, Discord, the princesses, and everypony in Canterlot were silenced by the horror of what they had just witnessed.

At this point, the force fields that made up the playfield disappeared. Having no magic obstructing her path, Fluttershy was quick to fly to the site on which Statice crashed, desperately calling for him.

“Statice! Answer me! Are you okay?”


“Statice…is that…?” Fluttershy turned her head and gasped at what she saw.

At first sight, Statice looked okay. His horn was glowing naturally, but the magic aura around it was blinking once or twice every couple of seconds. Random strands of magic were oozing from around his body, particularly his right side. He was sitting on his hindquarters, pushing his left hoof into his right whiter. She winced as she saw him push the hoof into the whiter to hear a snapping sound. It was clear that he had dislocated his foreleg in the fall. Statice stood up, trembling as the magic that he was liberating dissipated into the air. The only injury that he still retained was a partially healed wound on his right temple.

“Good thing I can heal,” Statice wobbled. “I believe I won the game, Fluttershy. I gotta say that you did a good job. It’s been so long since I had a match like that. I wish Digitalis was here to see…me.”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. His eyes closed as he collapsed from exhaustion. He had pushed the limits of his magic and his body. He was wrong about them being like Digitalis. They were better.

I hate those girls.

Royally Supervised

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Royally Supervised

“My head,” Statice groaned as he placed a hoof on his skull. He yelped in pain when he felt a stabbing sensation inside his head. That was a bad sign. His Healing Spell erased most of the damage of his fall. However, his spell had its limits, which were always indicated when he got a headache either due to running out of magic to use or damage to the cranial area responsible for using magic. Head injuries were one of the hardest injuries to treat with his spell due to how close they were to the horn and how physical trauma reduced the quality of the spell. To make matters worse, he used the majority of his magic healing a broken, dislocated leg. He extended his right foreleg and winced in pain, cradling his shoulder with his left hoof.

“No victory comes without sacrifice,” Statice muttered to himself as he tenderly massaged his foreleg, trying to alleviate some of the pain. He was in some sort of infirmary. There were many beds and he was dressed with a white robe.

“Please, don’t let me wake up days after the match,” Statice begged to the ceiling as he rubbed his temples. If he was indeed asleep for days, then that was a sign that there was something wrong with his brain.

“You were only asleep for a few hours.”

“Is that you, Discord?” Statice turned his head to the source of the voice.

“That’s Doctor Discord to you, patient!” Discord sternly addressed him as he was dressed like a doctor.

“Do any of the doctors or nurses around here know that you’re impersonating medical staff?” Statice deadpanned at the draconequus. “There is a high chance of you getting punished for pulling such stunts.”

I should know by experience...

“I can easily cure you from all your injuries if that’s what I wanted,” Discord snorted as he got rid of his doctor clothes. “But I needed my own excuse to talk to you.”

“What is that you want to talk about?” Statice asked as he looked at him.

“Why did you cancel your spell?” Discord asked, his voice becoming deeper and less silly and his eyes narrowing dangerously.

“What are you talking about, Discord?” Statice asked, surprised that he had seen his last strategy in the game.

“I saw you absorbing your magic platform into your horn when it disappeared,” he growled at him. “It didn’t fade away because you ran out of magic. It faded away because you made it disappear. What were you thinking?”

Dang, for such a goofy guy, he’s very perceptive. I guess all that talk about him being the Spirit of Disharmony is isn’t just about his ability to wreak chaos with his magic alone. I might as well tell him the truth. He deserves it.

“I was thinking that Fluttershy was going to get distracted for my safety if I made my platform vanish to make myself fall, which would ensure my chances of hitting the ball to her zone without worrying about her returning the ball.”

Discord stared at Statice for a long time. He got closer to the unicorn, making him flinch. Their snouts were touching. He was expecting him to switch moods from angry to happy. It didn’t happen. Discord was looking at him the same way an adult looked at a child when it was time for a lecture.

“You risked your safety just to win a game?” Discord asked, not even masking his disgust. “You hate losing so much that you were willing to jeopardize yourself?”

“I was exhausted!” Statice defended himself, raising his voice but not pushing Discord away either. “If the match continued, Fluttershy would have won. I had to come up with a strategy to win.”

“You call THAT a strategy?” Discord poked Statice’s head with his lion paw. His thick finger made Statice wince with each poke he gave him. “What you did was nothing more than a gamble! There was a high chance that the ball was not going to reach Fluttershy’s zone. There was a