Chaotic Harmony: Do Over

by shirotora

First published

A human finds himself in Equestria where other humans - turned into one of the various native races - have been living for hundreds of years.

So, you think you know Equestria just because you watch My Little Pony? Well, I can tell you, the show barely scratched the surface. The name's Shirotora, and I'm one of many humans that call Equestria home.

Of course, where most humans find themselves in the form of a pony, griffin, minotaur or some other regular race, I happen to have the form of the servants of an ancient tyrant god that were sealed away along with their master thousands of years ago.

Yeah, that didn't go over very well with Celestia.

This is the story of my adventures in this crazy world of not-so-cartoonish ponies, along side a colorful cast of friends, including a crystal pegasus that can control fire, a dragon-pony that was locked in stone for eight hundred years, a demon blacksmith looking to get contracts with mortals, and the worlds luckiest/unluckiest mare... Oh, and the Mane 6 are in there, too.

Together, we'll figure out why the hell predators are getting more violent, and why more and more monsters are suddenly popping up everywhere.

I just hope it doesn't have anything to do with some ancient, long-banished evil coming back...

It does, doesn't it...


This is a complete reimagining of my first successful story, Chaotic Harmony. While it will share some characters and events with the original, this is going to be an entirely different experience.

To those of you who loved the original, I hope you love this just as much. To those who didn't, I hope you find this an improvement.

Also, to those who have been following Children of Chaos, that story will also be reworked a little as a sequel to this, not the original.

Note: While this is not a true AU, there will be some pretty major deviations from canon. There is no AU tag because all major plot points in canon still happened in this fic, though the details of how they played out may have changed, and most changes could be wedged into the show's canon.

Basically, this was made as if the show was the kid friendly version of what happened.

Chapter 1: Hello, Equestria

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A shaft of light interrupted my pleasant slumber as it pierced through my window and homed in on my closed eyes. I let out a low growl and rolled over, intent on hiding from that evil fireball called Sol.

A couple of minutes later, when my brain finally started to wake up, I noticed a couple things wrong. First, my window faced west, so there was no way the morning sun should wake me. Second, when last I checked, my bed wasn't made of mossy stone.

Slowly, I opened my eyes, intent on solving this mystery. Glancing around, I found myself sleeping on a large, moss covered boulder in the middle of the woods. My brain still wasn't quite awake enough to properly process this information, so I pushed myself into a sitting position, blinking dumbly.

Still trying to figure out what was going on, I scratched an itch behind my ear with a foot and took a look around. It was your average, everyday forest of mostly oak trees, with a layer of autumn leaves on the...

Something hit me like a bucket of bricks...

Something I just did that was wholly unusual...

Ever so slowly, I reached my left foot up...

And scratched behind my left ear.

I turned to face the anomaly and blinked several times in utter confusion.

I stared at the furry appendage for several long seconds. A part of me realized this was my leg, but the rest couldn't believe it. After all, my leg wasn't furry, and it certainly wasn't shaped like that.

My eyes followed the leg-that-couldn't-be-mine down to an equally furry body. The white fur stood out exquisitely against the darker surroundings, and the black stripes accented the snowy fur beautifully.

I was at such a loss, I couldn't even begin to comprehend my situation, so I laughed.

The mind is a truly amazing machine. It has so many ways to protect itself, that we are still trying to understand them all. One method of self defense the mind has is simple denial. It will deny the 'truth' presented if it's too much to handle and substitute its own. Naturally, my mind denied the truth of my furry, striped leg and decided that I was either bat-shit crazy, or simply dreaming.

And dreaming is so much easier to accept.

With a laugh, I jumped off my 'bed' and landed on all fours. Yet more proof that this was just a lucid dream was the fact that I didn't even have to think about walking around on four legs, I just did. After all, I had read plenty of stories to know that there's always a mandatory 'tripping over your own feet' moment in these stories.

So, there I was, padding around some random forest, just taking in the sights. After about ten minutes of trees, flowers, and birds, as lovely as they were, I started to get a little bored.

“What should Ah make this?” I thought out loud. I figured if this was a lucid dream, I might as well have some fun with it.

Maybe a zombie apocalypse? Or something kinda sexy... Oh! Jedi Mal fighting the Reaper invasion! That last one had me laughing a bit.

Just then, I heard what sounded like talking as a flash of movement passed overhead. Curious to see if my Firefly/Star Wars/Mass Effect fantasy started already, I climbed up the tallest tree I could find. It felt rather weird to be digging claws I never had into the living wood, but I thought nothing of it at the time. When I reached the top, I peered over the forest. I couldn't see that much, considering there were quite a few trees nearly as tall, and a couple even taller. However, I did see what looked like the roofs of buildings that seemed more fitting in a fantasy, with bright thatching, a little ways away. Whatever it was that flew overhead was already gone, so I decided to head toward the town.

Maybe I'll find some friendly villager that will direct my to the Ice Rod every time I try to talk to him. I giggled laughed a manly laugh at my corny joke.

So, I jogged off, a bit of a skip in my step, in the hopes of adventure and fun. As I went, I started to hear voices, so I knew I was getting close. Finally, I came to the edge of the woods. Now, when I say the 'edge', I mean the edge. In a way that only a dream can do, the forest just stopped abruptly a few feet in front of me.

From my position, I could finally see who was talking; three familiar youngsters... Or, at least, I figured it was them. Granted, they didn't look quite like they did in the show, but there was no mistaking the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Applebloom was the same canary yellow with the red apple mane and big pink bow, though she was noticeably bulkier than the other two, muscle wise. Sweetie Belle was taller than the others, and her mane shifted gradually from lavender to pink as opposed to a hard border between the two colors, but she was still her. Scootaloo was smaller than the others, with much bigger wings than the show depicted, but like the others, was still recognizable.

All three also had much smaller eyes than the show, though still about three times as big as a similarly sized human. Also, their legs weren't quite as marshmallowy, but more horse-like. It was as if my mind was trying to make them more realistic. Oh, well. I liked the cartoon versions, but these were equally adorable. That said, I decided to do what any sane person would do when confronted with the Trio of Adorable Destruction; hug them.

I leaped from the woods and bound straight for them, a huge grin plastered on my face. The filly's eyes snapped to me, eyes widening in terror before letting out a screeching wail of fear and taking off in the opposite direction.

Immediately, my smile vanished in my confusion. Why would they be scared of me in my dream? Shouldn't they have been happy to see me, and gladly return the gesture?

These questions were answered in the worst possible way as a multicolored blur slammed into me, sending me flying several feet away, landing quite painfully. This told me two very important things. First, it told me I wasn't dreaming. While you actually can feel pain in dreams, anything more than a small twinge will usually jar you awake instead. This was much, much more than a small twinge. The second thing it told me was that Best Pony was real... and she was about to kick my ass.

I twisted around midair just in time to see her hind legs rocket towards my face.

Fuck my life...

In all my life back on Earth, I never had a hangover. Sure, I drank, but never got drunk. I would get a little tipsy and stop there. Therefore, I didn't really know what a hangover felt like, but if it felt anything like the headache I had upon waking up, I knew I made the right choice in avoiding them.

“Ugh... mah head,” I uttered quietly as I stirred awake.

I started to sit up as I rubbed my temples, hoping it would ease my cranial agony. Instead, I felt a sharp pain shoot right through my butt bone. However, instead of a scream of pain, the sound that I made was more like that of a big cat.

All my pains were instantly forgotten as my eyes shot open. As I turned to see what caused my sudden pain, I saw I had stepped on my own tail...

My tail...


Memories of my 'dream' jumped to the forefront of my mind. I lifted my hands to look at them, wiggling my now furry fingers. My gaze went up towards my surroundings.

Not surprisingly, I was in a cage. What was surprising, though, was that it was actually quite comfortable. I was laying on a rather soft... Pet bed? It looked like one, if they made them bear sized. There was a large bowl (more of a tub) of water and... a scratching post. I actually groaned at that.

Beyond the cage, I could see a large yard, full of various small animals, and a quaint cottage a little ways away. The cottage itself looked like something right out of a fairytale. It was as if someone had grown it rather than built it.

It was then I heard the sound of voices coming from within.

“- do you mean?” came one voice.

It was answered by another, softer voice, “Well, for one, its front paws kind of resemble a monkey's, but with claws, and its hips seem to be able to pivot.”

“Pivot? You mean it can stand upright?” the first asked in confusion.

“Or on all fours,” the second confirmed, now louder as the cottage door opened.

“Similar to a werewolf...” the first trailed off, pondering as the two finally came into view.

They were... ponies. And similar to the crusaders from the previous day, these two were very familiar, if quite different. Both had a build more similar to that of a pony from Earth, but that's about the only similarity.

One had the butter yellow coat, and long pink mane she had in the show, but her wings were huge by comparison. Even folded, I could tell they were each likely at least as long as her entire body. Then there was her tails. Yes, I said tails, plural, or maybe it was still one tail, with two distinct parts? One was the regular horse tail, while the other was a bundle of long feathers like one would find on a bird.

The other had the lavender coat and striped, dark blue mane I recognized, but her horn, while still spiraled, had a slight backwards curve. Also, her hooves were cloven, like those of a deer, and her tail resembled that of a lion. She was certainly a unicorn, but more like those from myth rather than the show.

I wasn't sure how long I was studying them, but apparently they noticed. They gave me curious looks before glancing at each other and back to me.

“Is it studying us?” Twilight asked, she took a cautious step forward. “Maybe... Can you understand me?” she asked slowly and hesitantly.

I looked back and forth between the two ponies before nodding. “Y-yeah...”

Their eyes widened in surprise before the unicorn's eyes narrowed slightly. “Why did you attack those foals?”

For a moment, I was rather baffled by her question, but I quickly realized to what she was referring.

“Uh... Oh... well, the thing is...” I rubbed the back of my head in embarrassment. Eventually, I just sighed and resigned myself to admitting my stupidity. “Ah thought Ah was dreaming, and when Ah saw them three... Well, they were just so damn adorable that Ah... wanted to hug them.”

The unicorn cocked an eyebrow in confusion before suddenly laughing loudly. “Wow... Really? I mean, it's not the first time I've heard of someone just having the urge to hug a pony, but usually they're...” Her eyes shot back wide open, though this time it seemed to be in revelation more than confusion. “Are... are you human?”

It was my turn to be surprised. Ignoring the fact that she knew what a human was, how the hell did she make the conclusion that I was human just because I wanted to hug a pony? I mean, I knew she was smart... Or, well, I knew Twilight Sparkle was smart, who this unicorn may or may not be, but how could even a super genius like her deduce that?

“Y-yes? How...?” I started, but just couldn't formulate the question.

The unicorn sighed and turned to the other, whispering too quiet for me to hear. They conversed for a few seconds before the unicorn turned back to be. Her horn seemed to ignite in a magenta blaze, one that surrounded the door to my cage and opened it.

“My name is Twilight Sparkle, and this is my good friend Fluttershy,” she introduced herself and her pegasus friend. “Please stay close to me. We're heading into town, and I don't want ponies to panic.”

I cautiously stepped out of my enclosure and approached the two. I'll be honest, I was scared. I wasn't sure if these two were dangerous or not. I mean, I knew how they were in the show, but there was no way to know if that was how they really were.

“It's okay, we won't hurt you,” Fluttershy assured me in a soothing voice. It was as if her voice was laced with magic, as my fear seemed to just melt away. I was still a little wary, but not so much to keep me from going with them.

“Fluttershy, could you go ask Rarity, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash to bring the Crusaders to the Welcome Center?” Twilight asked her soft-spoken friend.

“Alright.” And just like that, Fluttershy was gone.

The two of us started towards town, barely visible through the trees.

With a sidelong glance, Twilight began, “We're going somewhere that will help better answer any questions you have, but first, you're going to apologize to those foals you scared.”

I nodded, shamefully. I was actually glad that she was arranging that. I felt bad that I scared someone, and it would make it that much easier. However, I was curious as to what this 'Welcome Center' was.

We didn't speak anymore until we entered the town proper. When we did, Twilight pretty much played tour guide, pointing out important locations, likely to give Fluttershy time to gather the others. She pointed out Town Hall, the marketplace, the library, the post office, and several other essential places before we arrived at a somewhat large brick building labeled as the 'Ponyville Acclimation and Welcome Center'.

We walked in and immediately, it reminded me of a psychiatrist's office, with motivational posters and pamphlets lining the wall.

“We'll wait here for the others,” Twilight informed.

The posters were mostly just your generic 'You are not alone' and 'we care' posters, so I went to take a look at the pamphlets, and what I saw was quite shocking.

'Hooves for Hands: Adapting to Life as a Quadruped' with a picture of a smiling mare waving a flag in her hoof.

'Your New Diet' had a picture of grass and hay on a plate.

'Don't Fear your Fur' had a picture of a pony throwing a trench coat over her shoulder.

Slowly, it dawned on me. This place, these pamphlets, how Twilight figured out what I was. What she said...

“I mean, it's not the first time I've heard of someone just having the urge to hug a pony, but usually they're...”


The door swing open quickly and in walked four mares and three fillies. The first was Fluttershy, who came in and stood between me and the door.

Next was Applejack, if her orange coat, blonde mane, and trademark stetson were anything to go by. She was, for lack of a better word, scary. She was built like a bull, with thick legs and barrel, but it was natural muscle built from years of hard labor not weight lifting. Then there was the scars on her face and side. This mare looked like she could break me in half and not even know I was there.

Behind her came who could only have been Rainbow Dash. Like Sweetie Belle, the colors in her mane shifted gradually between colors. Like Fluttershy, her wings were much larger than the show depicted, and upon seeing me, they flared out a little, along with her bird-like tail feathers.

Then came who I assumed was Rarity. Like Twilight, she had the slightly curving horn, cloven hooves, and lion-like tail of the mythical unicorn. Like the show, her mane was styled in very elegant curls.

The fillies were the last to come in, and immediately upon seeing me, hid behind their respective sisters/roll model.

“What the hay is that thing doin' here, Twi?!” Applejack seethed. “Didn't that thing try to attack Applebloom and her friends?”

“Not exactly,” Twilight informed and turned to me. “Go on, tell them.”

I took a step forward, hesitating as both Applejack and Rainbow Dash tensed. I swallowed thickly and said timidly, bowing my head, “Ah-Ah'm sorry Ah scared y’all. Ah wasn't trying to hurt you. Ah just... Thought Ah was dreaming, and when Ah saw you, Ah thought you were just so adorable that Ah wanted to hug you.”

Of course, as soon as I started to speak, the newcomers' aggression became shock.

The first to recover was Rarity. “Ah, you're human. No wonder we're meeting here.”

“That's right, Miss Rarity,” I replied.

“Oh, I see Twilight already told you about us,” the fashionista remarked.

“No, I didn't. How did you know her name?”

“Oh, great,” Rainbow spoke up. “Don't tell me, you're one of those 'bronies'.”

“Uh...” I replied oh, so wittily.

“Oh, man,” Scootaloo piped up. “He's going to try to adopt me, isn't he?”

Chapter 2: What's in a Name

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As it turned out, I was not the first human in Equestria. Hell, I wasn't even the only one at the time. Apparently, around seven or eight hundred years ago, humans started popping up, and ever since then a couple dozen or so arrived every year, usually as ponies but sometimes other races, though all are referred to as Terrans to prevent confusion. Of course, a few years ago, they encountered a different kind of human...


“Naturally, most of them end up here, eventually, wishing to meet their favorite characters,” Rarity explained as we sat in one of the counseling rooms, just she and I.

“And then they try to adopt Scootlaoo,” I added, trying not to chuckle.

“Yes. We understand why, but it causes her poor parents such grief.”

We sat in silence for several seconds before I finally asked the question that had been on my mind. “So... What happens now? Ah mean, is there a way home?”

Rarity sighed, losing her own jovial attitude. “No, I'm afraid not, but there are plenty of us that have gone through the exact same thing you are now and are perfectly willing to help you through this.”

I laughed mirthlessly. Honestly, that was the answer I expected, yet I very much hoped it wouldn't be the one I got. “So, Ah just settle down and start over? Just like that?”

Rarity winced. “Well, I'm not certain. You see, you're a rather unique case. Whenever humans come here, they usually come as a pony, or sometimes a griffin, zebra, or other race. There are even a few that are dragons... but they are always a preexisting sapient race. You're race, though, simply doesn't exist. At least, not that we are aware.”

She let that sink in for a while before continuing. “However, Twilight is contacting the princesses, and will be formulating a few tests and experiments to discover as much about your new body as possible. I am certain they will be able to get to the bottom of this mystery.

“In the meantime, we can at least begin to acclimate you to Equestrian culture. Being a brony, some of this will come as no surprise, however, for that same reason, much will be difficult. For example, you are, I assume, well aware that there is no nudity taboo, however, most ponies still wear some kind of pocketed clothing - a saddle bag, or pouch belt - at all times. Regardless what the show indicates, we can't just pull things out of thin air, and so we wear something in which to carry our essentials.”

I smirked. “So, the fashion pony leads off with clothin’, huh?”

Rarity tittered. “Actually, this is the first subject we acclimation counselors are told to address. The fact that it aids my business is simply a favorable coincidence.”

“Really? That's not the reason you became an 'acclimation counselor'?” I made sure to give a friendly chiding smile, so she wouldn't think I was honestly accusing her.

She responded with obviously hammed up indignation, “Heavens no. I simply wish to help my fellow Terrans.”

I blinked dumbly. With that one statement, she defeated me in our duel of snark. “‘Fellow Terrans’?”

Smirking triumphantly, she explained, “I was born Maria Dunn, in a small town in New England. When I was seven and a half, my parents and I were on a road trip when the road was suddenly replaced by fields of grass near Winnyapolis. Admittedly, I remember very little of Earth, but what I do, I remember fondly.”

Out of everything, my mind latched onto one thing, “So... if your name was Maria, why did you change it?”

“A number of reasons, really,” Rarity replied. “Like most, I wanted to fit in with a more 'pony' name. However, initially I had taken the name Ivory. After I got my cutie mark, though, I decided to change it to Rarity, to better reflect my desire to create unique clothes that would be considered a rarity.”

“So... you just up and changed your name, just like that?” I asked.

“Oh, yes.” the posh mare confirmed. “Names in pony culture are less static than humans'. It is believed a name should identify who you are, not what your parents called you when you were born. Thus, if a pony feels they are no longer the same pony they once were, they will often change their name. Most do so when they receive their cutie marks to better reflect their talent, or when they get married to fit a family theme.”

“Well, that would explain why pony names always seem to match their talent. Maybe Ah should take on a new name.”

“Well, while you think about that, I do have a few things to give you.” A box, about the size of my head, levitated towards me. “This has some rather helpful information, including information on what is and isn't socially appropriate, and groups that lend aid to new arrivals. It also contains a simple belt with several pouches. It's not much, but I include a 'new customer discount' coupon to each of these packages, my own personal addition. There are also a few forms for an identification card, citizenship, employment, etcetera.”

“Thank ya, kindly,” I said. “Ah'll read through it as soon as possible.”

“Well, now all we can do is await word from the princesses. Twilight sent them a letter, asking for advice on how to best go about integrating you into society. After all, you do at least resemble a carnivorous animal, and many may react poorly to you. The closest thing we have to experience for this is griffins and minotaurs, both being omnivores, but both are recognized as civilized. Our hope is that the princesses have encountered something similar to yourself. While I have no doubt they will be interested in you, I assure you they will have no ill will toward you, whatsoever.”

And, of course, because she spoke with such certainty, Fate took that as a challenge. At that very moment, twin flashes of light, gold and indigo, filled the small space and I found myself quite violently slammed into a wall, two blades pressing against my throat.

It was then that I learned the angel of death wasn't some hideous, skeletal form, draped in a black cloak. No, she was a terrifying beauty, eyes aflame with the cleansing flames of the sun, a mane like a blazing corona, and voice like a deafening supernova.

Why have you returned?!” Death's voice boomed. “Has your master been freed?!

Now, I will admit that not only did I begin sobbing like a five year old, but I did, in fact, wet myself. Why am I completely okay with admitting that? That's actually very easy...

A god was about to murder my soul!

Anyone that claims they wouldn't do the same, or worse, is a liar or an idiot. Thankfully, though, my reaction seemed to work in my favor. Seeing me reduced to the whimpering ball of solidified pathetic, the irate princess released me, blinking away her eyes-of-fiery-death in surprise.

“Sister, something tells me he is not the beast he appears to be,” said a beautiful, musical voice from behind White Death.

“Yes... it would appear so,” said another, equally lovely voice from the fire demon.

I slowly looked up to see who couldn't be any other than the princesses of Equestria, Celestia and Luna, and let me tell you, the show is downright blasphemous in their depiction of the two most radiant beings to ever grace existence.

Celestia's coat wasn't simply white, it was iridescent, shining with various warm colors depending on how the light hit it. Her mane wasn't just the three wavy colors, but an actual, honest to god, aurora. Her eyes... How can I even explain her eyes? It's like they were many colors, yet none of them. You could look her in the eyes for hours and not be able to figure out if they were blue, red, green, yellow, or anything in between. The only thing I can say for certain is whatever color they are, they were warm, reminding me of a grassy hill on a warm summer afternoon.

Then there was Luna. Like Celestia, her coat also seemed to shine with various colors on top of the dark blue, almost reminiscent of an oil slick, but far more beautiful. Also like Celestia, her eyes seemed to be many colors, though hers showed cooler colors that brought the feeling of stargazing during a meteor shower on a cool autumn evening. Her mane, though, was her most striking feature. Peering into the void of her mane, one could see not only stars, but nebulae, comets, quasars, entire solar systems... I still wonder at times if there's intelligent life in Luna's mane.

Seeing the two god princesses made me realize again how close I was to utter annihilation by one of them. I found myself prostrating before them, begging forgiveness for whatever sin I had committed..

“Look, Tia, you traumatized the poor thing,” Luna chided. Somehow, her teasing tone actually took away some of the magic of seeing them. With that one joke, they became... well, not regular ponies, that's not possible for these two, but... less mythical, if that makes sense. And you know, I'm glad she did. It made them far less terrifyingly intimidating. They were still scary as all hell, though.

“Y-yo-your highnesses,” At least Rarity's trembling voice told me I wasn't the only one affected by their... dramatic entrance. “May I ask... what exactly caused this... misunderstanding?”

Celestia looked back at Rarity and actually managed to look sheepish, obviously not intending to scare Rarity. “I... must apologize, to both of you, it seems. When Twilight wrote me, I feared an old enemy had returned.”

“That is because she didn't get past his description,” Luna half-scolded her sister. “I assume, considering where we are, you are a Terran? A human from Earth?”

“Y-yes, your highness,” I stammered, still quite afraid.

“Perhaps it is best that I leave. It is obvious my presence is causing you undue stress,” Celestia stated, my state not lost on her. “I am truly sorry. Perhaps in the future we can speak under better circumstances. I will be at Twilight's library when you are finished.”

“Give her my greetings,” called Luna before Celestia vanished in a flash.

Luna smiled down at me. “Please, rise. I believe you deserve an explanation, and I would prefer to speak to you face to face.”

Slowly, I stood upright. It was strange how natural it was to switch between walking on two and four legs. It was sure handy, though.

“As I am sure you have already deduced, you are not the first being to have this form,” Luna began, taking a seat beside me. “Long ago, a tyrant ruled over Equestria. He was a cruel ruler that treated mortals as nothing but his personal slaves.

“His agents were a powerful race of warriors called Tigarins, the race in which you now belong. They were created by him, and served him without question. After his reign was toppled, his agents were sealed along with him in the depths of Tartarus.

“When we read Twilight's description of you, we feared one of his agents had escaped and was moving to free his master. We should not have jumped to conclusions. For that, I apologize.”

I considered her words for a few seconds before releasing a shuddering breath and finding my voice. “Ah-Ah suppose if you acted to protect your subjects, Ah can forgive the lapse in judgment. We all make mistakes from time to time, even immortals, Ah guess. Just... give me some time to convince myself of all that.”

“I thank you for your understanding, Mister... Ah, I do believe we are long overdue for proper introductions. I am Princess Luna Nocturna, goddess of the night sky and those that dwell beneath. The one with the bad first impressions is my sister, Celestia Solara, goddess of the sun.”

I was taken back a little by the declaration of divinity. I had always just assumed they were just powerful ponies, not goddesses.

When I noticed Luna looking at me expectantly, I realized I still had to introduce myself. I was about to when what Rarity told me about names came back to me. I was starting a new life, so why not take on a new name? The only question was, what should my new name be?

I wanted it to reflect not only my admittedly badass new form, but who I am. Thus, I found the perfect name. A name that not only reflects my new, badass form, but also a little of who I am.

I looked back to Luna, who seemed to understand already what was going through my mind.

With a pleased grin, I said, “Call me, Shirotora.”

Chapter 3: Meet n' Greet

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I sat, trying to be calm, shakily sipping my tea as I sat in Twilight's kitchen. I was actually doing better than what I expected. Maybe it was the honestly timid and sheepish expression and posture of the sun goddess sitting across from me and beside her sister.

Somehow, she managed to look meek and powerful at the same time. It was rather strange, and not easily described. Regardless, we were trying to eliminate the awkward tension between us. Something told me she was waiting for me to begin. Perhaps she figured I would speak when I was ready.

Well, if I needed to start, I would. “So...” She glanced up at me, trying to keep a soft, friendly expression. “Um... You're, like, old...” Don't you just love the taste of toe jam.

Celestia giggled softly. “Quite, though I left my walker at home.”

I actually laughed a bit, however brief and awkward it was. It did give me the courage to ask about a topic that I was nervous about broaching, but felt I had to anyway.

“So... Princess Luna said that what Ah am was dangerous... Um... Why? Ah mean, what made them dangerous? Ah won't just, Ah don't know, explode and hurt anyone, will Ah?”

Celestia answered. “Tigarins' magic can be quite unpredictable, but while it can act on its own volition, it also matches the personality of the individual. The fact that you would be concerned about hurting another, tells me you will not do so unintentionally.”

I sighed in relief. The last thing I wanted was to just randomly blast someone. However, something bothered me. “Wait, what do you mean 'act on its own volition'? Mah magic has a mind of its own?”

Luna explained, “Your race's magic is semi-sentient. Unlike most magic, the kind you possess doesn't work by formulas, matrices, or incantation. Instead, you simply will your magic to act. Another difference is that while other magic can become more powerful the more precise one is, yours will become weaker with precision.

“For example, commanding your magic to change this couch's color to blue will tax you more than simply commanding it to change its color. However, in the case of the later you will have no control over the color it becomes. This is why it is called 'chaos magic'.”

“Chaos magic? Ain't that what Discord uses?” I asked.

A pained look briefly crossed Luna's eye, but she answered anyway. “Yes, though you will never be that powerful.”

“Ah don't think Ah want that much power, anyway,” I admitted. “So, who's gonna to teach me to use it?”

Celestia answered with, “Chaos magic cannot be taught. One simply does it. You cannot force it, there is no trick to it, it is simply willed. It will come to you in time.”

Well that sucked. I had magic I couldn't even use, and could only 'let it happen'. I lived without for my whole life, though, so it really wasn't a big deal.

Gracefully, Celestia got to her hooves, making me tense a little, unintentionally. “I'm afraid we must be going. We have already been gone longer than we should have.” She turned to me with regret in her eyes. “I truly am sorry. I pray we may one day be able to sit together without my foolish actions weighing on our minds.”

“So do Ah,” I responded, still unable to meet her eyes.

The flash of their teleport made me jump, spilling what was left of my tea.

“Crap,” I mumbled as I grabbed a napkin to wipe up what I could.

“Is everything alright?” called the voice of a young boy.

Spike was probably the closest in appearance to his cartoon counterpart. The only major differences is a more appropriate head/body size ratio and slightly longer legs. He also sounded more like his voice actor, only more puberty-y. Yes, that's a word, regardless of what Merriam-Webster says. That guy's an ass hole, anyway.

“Yeah, just... jumpy, still,” I answered.

The kid just chuckled and said, “Who wouldn't be. I get scared just seeing the princess mildly annoyed.”

I laughed at that.

At that time, Twilight made her way into the kitchen. “Did everything go alright?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Ah was able to talk with her without soilin’ mahself, at least.”

Twilight lit her horn, removing the remaining tea from my coat, the table, and the floor and levitating into the sink. “So, did they tell you what exactly you are?”

I scoffed in annoyance. “Some kind of evil servant to an ancient tyrant.”

Twilight's eyes shot open. “Oh... Um... Y-your...”

“Ah ain’t gonna to hurt no one,” I deadpanned. “Ah might accidentally annoy someone until Ah get mah magic under control.”

“Magic?” Twilight perked up. Damn my mouth. Why does it hate me so?

“Yeah,” I replied hesitantly. “Ah have chaos magic, apparently.”

Twilight groaned, “Of course it's chaos magic.”

I looked between her and Spike in confusion. “What's wrong? The princesses didn't seem worried. Should Ah be worried?”

Spike rolled his eyes and answered, “Nah, she's just upset because she can never get any data on it.”

“It's not just that, Spike,” Twilight snapped before turning back to me. “It's because a colleague of mine can and even showed me how, yet I can't make heads or tails of it! Chaos magic just infuriates me. Even when it's right in front of me, I can't figure it out.”

“Oh... Sorry?” I said, at something of a loss for words.

Twilight just blushed a little in embarrassment and assured, “Oh, no. It's nothing you did. I'm just upset at my own inability to understand something.”

“Didn't you go through something like that with Pinkie, or was that just the show?”

Twilight snorted in amusement, “I did, but I still have trouble with putting that lesson into practice, sometimes.”

I let out a loud guffaw, “Ha! Ah can be the same way. Ah hate not understandin’ somethin’, especially when it's right there, starin’ ya in the face.”

“Well, since you're here, why don't I help you with your paperwork,” Twilight offered. “Some of it, I'm told, is very different than what you have on Earth.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Ah could use the help.”

So we spent the next several hours filling out the forms, taking them to town hall, and mostly just getting me ready to properly join society. For obvious reasons, I'm not going to go into detail about it. It may have worked slightly different, but bureaucracy is boring in every dimension.

After everything was said and done, I was a registered immigrant worker of Equestria. I could work, own property, and do pretty much everything a citizen can do except vote. Yes, vote. Equestria is a 'democratic diarchy'. In other words, the princesses rule above all, but the citizens vote for everyone else. It's a strange concept that only really works when the rulers are benevolent immortal goddesses.

Anyway, after that was finished, we headed back into town. As we walked, Twilight asked, “Do you like parties?”

I looked at her, a bit confused and answered, “Yeah, why?”

Twilight just smiled and said, “Good, because that's our next stop.”

“Party?” I asked in confusion.

Twilight just giggled and said snarkily, “I figured a brony would know.”

“A welcome party?” it clicked, but I was still kind of confused. “Ain't those supposed to be surprise parties?”

“They used to be,” Twilight explained, “but we found out rather quickly that many terrans don't take it very well, being in a new, unfamiliar place. Some run away, some lash out, etcetera, so we decided to drop the 'surprise' part.”

“Makes sense,” I said. “Well, what're we waitin’ for, then? Let’s go.”

The party was not what I was expecting. It wasn't so much the high energy party Pinkie usually threw in the show. Instead it was more of a 'meet n' greet' with refreshments and music. Mostly it was Terrans and ponies that would often lend them aid.

Apparently a few ponies from the show were terrans, including Rarity and Vinyl Scratch, among others. According to Vinyl, she was weeks away from getting her masters from MIT when she was zapped to Equestria a couple years ago, but she said it was the best thing to ever happen to her. She made it big as an inventor, and only DJs for fun.

The other terrans there included a baker, a launderer, a mailstallion, three weather ponies, and a few others in various occupations. Then there were the ponies that offered services to new arrivals, like a warehouse owner that offers temporary employment, a cafe owner that exchanged food for services, and Applejack who offered both food and pay.

Fluttershy stopped by real quick, but only to ask how I was getting along and drop off some meat dishes for those that ate it, which was only me and one griffin.

I swear, that mare can cook meat better than any vegetarian in history.

I was conversing with Applejack. She was telling me how she often hired terrans, as farm hands whenever harvest time came. At the moment, though, harvest was over and all she had was menial tasks, but it would earn me a meal or two. Naturally I agreed. Even if I wasn't a brony, I would have accepted. Coming from a country family myself, I knew the best food is some good old fashion southern home cooking.

Even if it’s not technically southern.

After agreeing to come by in the morning, we just started chatting, mostly sharing stories.

“ Ah do the only thing Ah could, Ah jumped off the bike, grabbing the old rope swing. In mah mind, Ah was like Tarzan or Indiana Jones, but then, bam! Slammed face first into a tree.”

Applejack busted out laughing, “Ah bet that hurt!”

I nodded and said, “Mah pride more than mah nose, but yeah.”

“Ah feel for ya, remind me to tell ya 'bout the time mah cart broke on the way to Southville,” the farmer said. “Fer now, Ah gotta introduce ya to somepony.”

She waved someone behind me over. I turned and froze. I knew Big Mac was big, but holy crap, he was almost as tall as Luna! He was massive, yet his soft features and kind eyes made him far less intimidating than one would think. He certainly wasn't as scary as Apple Jack.

“Ah take it ya recognize Big Macintosh?” Applejack said.

I nodded and said, “Yeah. He's a lot bigger-” I found myself unable to continue as my brain suddenly decided it was time to clock out as I watched the massive stallion plant his lips on those of the massive mare.

After a couple seconds of lip locking, the two separated and looked right at me before busting out laughing.

“That never gets old,” AJ said, mirthfully. “This here is Big Mac, mah husband and not in no way mah brother, cousin, or nothin' like that.”

“B-but... the show...” I uttered.

“They probably didn't want one of their main characters bein' involved,” she explained. “Apparently, they changed a few things like that. Kinda how they made Gil into Gilda.”


“Gil was Rainbow's ex boyfriend. He kinda screwed her over when she was in school, and came back last year. It was pretty much how Ah heard it was in the show, but with screwin' and the whole 'on the run from the law' thing goin' on.”

“Wait, what?!”

AJ shook her head and said, “Sorry, that's more’n Ah should’a said. If ya wanna know the rest, ya gotta hear it from Rainbow Dash, herself.”

I gave her my best unamused stare. “That's messed up.”

“Eeyup,” the big guy agreed.

“Oh, mah god, you actually do that,” I laughed.

“There's the kitty of honor!” shouted the sudden personification of pink that decided to murder logic right in front of me.

“Come on, I got you a job!” Pinkie exclaimed as she began dragging me away.

Pinkie was, honestly, the closest in appearance to her cartoon self. Granted, she still looked more like a small horse than a little cat-pony made of colorful marshmallows, but she was rounder than the others. Of course, by round, I don't mean fat by any means, but she had just the right amount of fluff to hide any 'hard edges' a body typically has.

“Here we are~” she sang as we stopped in front of an off white pony with a suave mustache and combed back black mane. “Shiro, meet Souffle, Souffle, meet Shiro.”

“Ah, so zhis is Shiro,” the pony said with a thick French accent. “Pinkie tellz me you are a fantastic cook, no?”

“Uh... Yeah?” I ventured, turning to look at Pinkie only to find she had ninja'd away. “Ah can cook, but how’d she know-”

“Ahp-ahp-ahp, do not question Pinkie Pie,” Souffle warned. “Only madness lie zhere. Az Pinkie has said, I am Souffle, owner of Sunflower Cafe.”

“It's a pleasure to meet ya, sir,” I said, offering my paw.

“What iz zhis 'sir'? I am not so old to be 'sir',” He scoffed, but took my paw anyway. “let us get down to business, az zhey say. I wish to expand my buziness, and am in need of a talented chef. I assume you are staying in zhe apartment of zhe welcome center?”

“Actually, Twilight asked if Ah would stay in her guest room. She said she wanted to run a couple’a tests on me. You know, scans, x-rays, blood and tissue samples, all compensated of course.”

“Ah, zhen I shall come by tomorrow afternoon, and you shall impress me with your culinary prowess.”

I was a little taken back by his declaration. He just invited himself over for dinner, and it wasn't even my house.

I guess even in parallel universes the French have no manners.

Chapter 4: Magic Milk

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Fun fact; the first week after moving to a parallel dimension is excruciatingly, mind-numbingly dull. Seriously, after that first party, it was nothing but paperwork and appointments.

The only interesting bits were my 'cultural acclimation' classes, which was really just a 'how to not put your foot in your mouth' class. It was mostly just to teach Terrans what is and isn't taboo or socially appropriate here. Some of it was no surprise, like no touching a pegasus' wings or unicorn's horn if you don't know them, though neither are considered 'groping' like many in the fandom believe.

Others, like nuzzling being akin to kissing, touching a pony's hooves (other than a hoofshake) was rude, or how touching a cutie mark is pretty much groping, were not surprising but not really something I would have guessed.

Other things were completely unexpected, like the term 'hoofing it' to describe walking somewhere being derogatory. Apparently that dates back to the pre-unification era where earth ponies were called 'hoofers', being the only race that had to rely almost solely on their hooves.

Then there was the relationship lessons. I kid you not, the rules for relationships are so freaking complicated, it makes D&D (3.5) look like Candyland. There are so many levels and types of friendship, it's just crazy. Thankfully, like relationships on Earth, these rules are more like commonly accepted guidelines than actual set-in-stone rules, but still.

Did you know one can have multiple girl/boyfriends, but only one spouse? This is because ponies believe that love should always be embraced, no matter if you already have it with someone else or not.

Ponies are weird. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, fast forward past the bureaucracy and red tape.

While many a fan fic depict Pinkie throwing big parties for every occasion, this really isn't true. Sometimes she just delivers a 'party package' full of a few occasion-appropriate things for one to celebrate a lesser event with friends.

The party package I received simply consisted of champagne and a few glasses for celebrating my citizenship with the few ponies I could really call friends. At the time, that consisted of Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack, though the later was really more of close a acquaintance that Rainbow convinced to come.

Yeah, I only had two real friends, but considering I was only there a week, that's not too shabby.

Anyway, the 'party' really wasn't much, just a toast and dinner, but it wasn't really the party that was important here. No, it was happened at the party that was of particular note.

We were listening to Applejack tell this hilarious story about her cart breaking.

“-and the ass end falls, tiltin' the whole thing back with me still hitched to it. Ah'm sittin' there, fumblin' with the straps, but it got me danglin' upside down and Ah just can't get it. Ah was there 'til nearly sundown before somepony came wanderin' by and helped me.”

“And that's one thing Earth has on this place,” I said with a chuckle. “Earth horses are like... what, five times a pony's size. Ah doubt that would have happened. Plus, they wouldn’t have been without people.”

AJ laughed, “Ah'm sure it woulda been helpful to have someone with fingers around.”

“Oh, is Big Mac not delivering?” Rainbow Dash teased.

I had been laughing and talking so much, my throat was starting to get parched. Before I got up, though, my desire was preempted.

“Oh, thanks,” I said as I accepted an offered glass of milk.

After taking a drink, I noticed everyone went rather quiet. I looked up to see everyone staring at me with confused expressions.

“What?” I asked. “Somethin’ on mah face?”

“Where did that just come from?” Applejack asked, pointing to my milk.

“Uh, Ah got it from...” I drew a blank. “It was...” My eyes widened and a smile spread across my face as it dawned on me. “Ah... Ah think Ah used magic! Holy crap, Ah just thought ‘bout how thirsty Ah was, and it just popped up! Ah did it!”

“Well, Ah'll be,” Applejack said. “Congratulations, Shiro.”

“Yeah, now you just have to figure out how you did it,” Rainbow cheered, seemingly as excited as I was. “Then we can totally use that to go pranking!”

“Ah gotta show Twilight!” I cheered as I ran out the door.

Looking back, I probably looked like a doofus, running upright through the streets of Ponyville, with a half full glass of milk held in front of me as if it was the holy grail. At the time, though, I couldn't care in the slightest. After all, I had just used magic.

I barged through the library door, yelling, “Twilight! Come quick!”

In a flash of light, the librarian/superhero was there. “What's wrong? Are we being invaded by vine monkeys? Is the world ending? Did another ancient evil escape?”

“Better!” I cheered and held the glass out to Twilight.


“Ah did magic!”

It took Twilight about half a second to realize what I was saying and looked at the miracle cup in awe.


“Ah know!”

“We have to examine it,” Twilight suggested.

“Uh...” came the voice of the resident dragon as he walked into the room.

I turned to him and held out my first work of magic. “Isn't it beautiful?”

“I'm... gonna be in my room,” Spike said warily as he backed out of the room.

As he beat a hasty retreat, we turned our attention back to the magical glass.

“What does the milk taste like?” Twilight asked.

“Like regular milk.”

“Could it be regular milk?”

“Don't know, Ah could have summoned it from elsewhere, or maybe created a facsimile of milk.”

And we went on like that for quite some time. I'll be honest, telling it just makes it boring, so long story short, we deduced that the milk was just a full illusion. What is a full illusion, you ask? Simply put, where your typical illusion only affects sight and/or sound, a full illusion affects every sense. You can see it, hear it, touch it, smell it, and taste it. When you grab it, it feels like you're actually holding something. If you eat it, it tastes and feels like food.

What this means to me, however, is that I can make all the junk food I wanted without all the health issues that come with them. Of course, that was so long as I learned how to do it again.

As momentous as my first use of magic was, though, that wasn't even the most important thing to happen. No, that happened after, when Twilight mentioned something that peaked my interest.

“I'm sure you'll figure it out,” Twilight assured me as I stare forlornly at the spot my magic cup had occupied before vanishing. “In the meantime, seeing as you seem to have an interest in magic, why don't you look into a field of arcanum?”

I raised an eyebrow as I glanced at Twilight. “Arcanum?”

“Academic magic; magic any being can use with study and practice.”

Milk forgotten, Twilight had my undivided attention at that. “How’s that work?”

“Well, it depends on the school,” Twilight activated Super Egghead Lecture Mode (SELM™). “Some, like Divination and Evocation, are good for the 'casual spell caster', while more advanced forms like High Magic are so complicated, they're really only practical for those looking to make it a career. Perhaps you would like something more 'middle of the road', so to say.”

Twilight trotted over to one of the bookshelves along the right wall, me close behind.

“Enchantment is always a good one to study up on, but it can get incredibly expensive when delving deeply.” A book floated its way to a table. “Alchemy is also a good one, and easy to get started, though has a similar problem as Enchantment.” another book joined the pile. “Demonology can be useful, so long as you know what you're looking for.”

“Wait, wait, wait... Demonology?” I asked, quite surprised by that one. “Like, summonin’ and banishin’ evil spirits?”

“Oh, no,” Twilight said with a giggle. “I forget, sometimes, that humans think of 'demons' as something different. Here, the word 'demon' refers to the physical manifestations of spiritual beings, specifically, those that dwell in the Void, the space between universes.”

“Oh...” I said, letting the information soak in. “So... what all can one do with Demonology that makes it so useful?”

Twilight's SELM reengaged. “Well, Demonology is usually used to summon beings and objects. Though the term 'summon' isn't entirely accurate, it's often used to explain things to the common pony. Anyway, these 'summons' can be anything from tools to beasts of burden to sapient beings. It can be incredibly useful, but it can also be tedious to get started and you certainly want to be careful. I'll let you read about that, though, seeing as it's not my strongest field.

“So, is there anything else you're wanting to get while we're getting you set up?”

“Uh...” I pondered for a moment. “Somethin’ more entertainin’. You guys have sci-fi?”

“Of course,” Twilight stated, directing me to the fiction section.

By the way, they have Star Wars novels.

Books about how to use real magic, and Star Wars.


It's pretty easy to see why more people don't get into Demonology. Just to start out, you need to make deals and contracts with otherworldly beings. One can summon without one, but you'll be paying each time. The book had a list in the back with various spirits that were known for helping out beginners. One was even a Demonology guide, who helps noobs learn the ropes and whose only price was to make a contract with another spirit.

I decided I would have to think about what I was looking for out of Demonology before continuing with that, so I picked up the book on Enchantment.

Making the Mundane Magical; Enchantment for Beginners.

It sounded promising.

I spent the next few hours reading about the basics of enchantment and what I would need, material wise. It wasn't too pricey for the basics, just a special kind of chalk and a couple cheap gems. I picked out one of the simple enchantments to try later, one that gives a plate the ability to keep your food warm without itself being hot.

I glanced through the alchemy book, as well, marking what I would need to get started. Twilight said she had an old travel cauldron she would lend me, as soon as she could find it. That left a mortar and pestle, a sharp knife, steeping bags, and a few other odds and ends. Alchemy was definitely the more expensive to get started of the three.

After listing everything I would need to get started with those, I went back to the demonology book. I figured I may as well try my first summoning. Laying it open on the floor, I took the salt I snagged from Twilight's kitchen and began recreating the magic circle depicted in the book on the floor.

When that was done, I began to recite; “Guide of mortals to the spirit realm, Ah seek your wisdom. Aid me, and help me understand your world. Ah call upon you, Innor, Patron of Demonology.

The salt burst into green flames, but it quickly shifted to red. The book said the flames should be green, though. Something was not as it should have been, and I will admit to being a little scared.

Instead of the wispy four legged owl that was, according to the book, Innor, the spirit that first introduced demonology to ponies, a short, bulky gorilla looking being occupied the circle.

Greetings, mortal,” the being said, his voice having a strange, rumbling, ethereal sound to it. “My name is Bakura, Spirit Smith.

“Ah summoned Innor, not you,” I said.

Well, you failed,” said the asshole, laughing merrily.

“Yeah, yeah. This was mah first summonin’, so don't blame me,” I defended.

Bakura, still chuckling, looked at me, examining me in a slightly uncomfortable manner. “Unless I am mistaken, you are a human in the form of a servant of evil.

“Yeah, great, can you just send Innor here? Ah kinda want to talk with him,” I demanded, getting rather impatient.

He regarded me for a moment, as if considering something. “Actually, I have a proposition for you. As you have never performed a summoning, I have never been summoned. How would you like to make a contract with me?

I was rather surprised by that. I mean, it was usually the mortal that initiated the dealings, not the spirit. Regardless, I decided I might as well hear him out. “What kinda contract?”

I will offer you my wares in exchange for... let's call it 'advertising'.

I raised a suspicious eyebrow. “You want 'advertisin’'? How do you mean?”

Simple, just tell others of me,” Bakura stated. “Spirits rely on mortals to spread word of their services to others, but contacting one's first mortal can be... difficult. I have been trying for decades to find one without success. However, your mistake can be mutually beneficial. You obtain access to my master crafts, and I gain possible clientele.

“That's all? Ah just have to tell others ‘bout you?” In all honesty, if what he said was true, and according to the book it was, I could see the logic behind his deal. I get his product in exchange for advertising. It's a solid business tactic that was often employed back on Earth. “Okay, let's outline the deal.”

Bakura nodded and said in a business like tone, “I, Bakura, Spirit Smith, offer all tools, weapons, armors, and devices crafted by my hand to you, in exchange for you, Shirotora, spreading the knowledge of my summoning to all who ask.

“Ah, Shirotora, offer in exchange to share all information on your summonin’ to any that ask it of me, and to offer this information to any Ah believe may benefit from your services. In return, Ah am allowed access to your tools, arms, armor, and devices to use as Ah see fit.”

I accept.” He extended his hand.

“Ah accept.” I grasped his hand in my paw, sealing my first demon contract.

Bakura smiled. “I thank you. Now, if you shall excuse me, I shall return to my forge. With luck, I shall be summoned again, soon. In the meantime, I leave you with this...” He raised his hand, creating a swirling vortex in which a thin bound book appeared. “This is my tome. It contains my summoning ritual, as well as a brief biography and list of offered goods. If you make three copies and send them to public arcane libraries in three different cities, I shall craft something special for you, and you alone.

“Ah'll see what Ah can do.”

Fare well.

“Yeah, take it easy.”

Then the flames flared and he was gone.

“That was not how Ah imagined that would go.”

Chapter 5: Swords and Fast Food

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“So,” Twilight began with a knowing smirk as we sat at the table, waiting on Spike to finish breakfast. “I felt a bit of astral energy last night coming from the guest room. I take it you summoned Innor?”

I hesitated for a moment, before speaking, “Actually, that was somethin’ Ah was wantin’ to speak to you about. Ah tried, but... You remember how the princesses said mah magic can act on its own?”

“What happened?” Twilight asked, sounding slightly concerned.

“Well... Ah think mah magic changed the summoning circle,” I admitted.

“What did you summon?” Twilight asked, now more curious than worried.

“A spirit smith named, Bakura. He seemed like a stand up guy, so Ah made a contract with him,” I explained.

“You shouldn't have done that without somepony experienced there to make sure he wasn't taking advantage of you,” Twilight admonished. “What was your price?”

“Advertisement,” I replied, fighting back a smirk. I won't pretend that I know how these prices work, but even I can tell that was a damn good deal. “All Ah gotta do is get his name out there. He even offered to make me somethin’ special if Ah make three copies of his tome and distribute it to three different city libraries.”

“That's all? Awesome,” Spike approved as he walked in with three plates of waffles, two with what looked like sausage. “Applejack has to make an offering every harvest for hers.”

“Applejack's into demonology?” I asked as I cut into my sausage.

“She has a deal with a dryad for a few timberwolves to help with some of the heavy lifting around the farm,” Twilight answered. “I’m sure you’ll see them eventually.”

I went back to my breakfast as Twilight and Spike discussed their schedule for the day. I'll tell you, that little lizard can cook. The waffles were crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, the eggs light and fluffy, and the sausage perfectly seasoned to add a savory contrast to the sweetness of the waffles.

A perfect breakfast.

After we were all finished with our food, we sat sipping drinks, Twilight nursing her coffee while Spike and I had OJ, fresh squeezed from oranges from Sweet Apple Acres.

What? You didn't think they only grew apples, did you? That would be a very poor business choice.

Anyway, as we sat there with our drinks of choice, I asked, “So, you needin’ me for anythin’ today? Ah could help out with whatever needs doin’ ‘round here.”

“Oh, no,” Twilight assured me. “You're our guest. The chores are ours.”

“No, Ah'm your border, and Ah'm not paying rent,” I corrected. “And don't try sayin’ the tests you're gonna to be doin’ count. That benefits me more than it does you and you’re payin’ me.”

Twilight giggled at that. “Alright. I guess your paws would be helpful, especially since you're so much taller than Spike.”

“Say that again in fifty years,” Spike defended.

Twi and I could only laugh.

“This kinda defeats the whole idea, Twilight,” I said as we walked into the Hayburger.

“I was already planning on treating you and Spike, so no it doesn't,” Twilight countered.

If her faux-innocent expression meant anything, she wasn't even trying to fool me. Oh, well. I supposed if she was that adamant about it, I’d let it go.

There was no one else waiting, being just before the lunch rush, so we walked straight up to the counter where we were greeted by the colt behind the counter.

“Welcome to Hayburger, home of the Hayburger, can I take your order?”

“Yes, I’ll have a number four large with a large onion ring, two number two, and two King Burgers,” Twilight said.

“I'll take a number twelve large, extra crispy,” said Spike.

I was still taking a moment to decide. I had never been here, so I didn't know what they had, but they did have meat based items.

“Get whatever you want,” Twilight told me. “I have plenty of money.”

“Then, Ah guess Ah'll take the manticore burger combo. Ah take it that's not made with real manticore,” I joked.

The kid behind the counter chuckled. “Hey, if you want to eat a manticore, go get one and I’ll cook it for you. That'll be seventy-seven bits.”

Twilight payed, we got our drinks, and found a table. Twilight soon arrived with three trays of food in her aura, passing out our meals. Before I could even begin, Twilight attacked her hayburgers...

All five...

At the same time.

I could only sit there and gawk at the display.

A small clearing of the throat drew both mine and Twilight's attention to the little dragon beside us. Twilight couldn't help but wither under his disapproving glare, and I couldn't blame her. He had that down perfectly. He didn't even have to say anything, and Twilight took the hint, setting down two of her burgers.

“Sorry,” Twilight said. “I'm still getting used to my increased metabolism.”

“Increased metabolism?” I parroted.

Twilight suddenly froze up, as if that was something she wasn't supposed to say.

“You might as well tell him, Twi,” Spike said. “I doubt he'll think any different of you.”

“You're right,” Twilight agreed. “Well, Shiro, you would probably find out anyway. I'm an alicorn.”

“Uh...” I raised an eyebrow, at that and looked to her sides. “But you don't have... what?! How’d Ah miss those?”

She flared her wings slightly. “A spell. It makes it so ponies don't notice them unless they already know, or are looking for them.”

Admittedly, I figured she was going to become an alicorn in the show, somehow, but I never thought about it. I guess it just wasn't important. Though now that I was thinking about it...

“Hey, Twilight, how many bronies live in Ponyville, anyway?”

“Told ya he wouldn't care,” Spike said, smugly.

Twilight just smiled and rolled her eyes in response before answering me. “You're the second.”

“Really?” That was actually quite unexpected. “How many are in Equestria?”

“That I know of, seven others. One lives here, five are traveling across the world, and one...” she suddenly became sheepish. “Well, the other is in Canterlot Psychiatric Hospital.”

That... was not something I was ready to hear. “Why?”

Twilight sighed. “You have to understand, not everyone takes the displacement very well. For some, it's too much. For one... well, his fascination with us was obsessive, especially with Fluttershy. One day, he attacked her and held her against her will in his home.”

My chest tightened at that. “He didn't...”

“Oh, no, he didn't hurt her or take advantage of her. Trust me, if he did... well, he wouldn't be in a hospital.” The venom in her voice was a little scary to say the least. “When we found them, she was bound to a chair where he was attempting to force her to go on a date with him.”

“Damn... How did Fluttershy take it?”

“Better than expected,” Twilight replied. “She was actually worried about him. She still is, in fact.”

“Ah'm impressed. She really is far stronger than people give her credit for,” I said.

“Yeah, she is,” Twilight agreed.

Our conversation, as well as our meal, was interrupted by a deafening roar followed by panicked screams.

In an instant, both Twilight and I were up, running for the door. Outside, ponies were running past, trying to get away from whatever was attacking. Twilight and I ran off in the opposite direction as the crowd, towards the danger.

It didn't take long to find the culprit, a massive beast with huge bat-like wings, long, barbed tail, and the face of a decrepit lion. This wasn't the cute and cuddly looking manticore from the show. This was a beast born of wild, corrupt magic. And it had already killed a pony.

I looked down at the pony. He was young, probably not even a stallion, yet. Seeing his lifeless form filled me with fear. Why had I followed? What did I think I could do? Yeah, I knew how to fight, but only other people. I couldn't fight a monster.

“Leave this town, right now!” I heard a powerful voice over the sounds of panic.

I looked up to see Fluttershy, glaring at the beast, while Twilight carefully pulled the colt away with her magic. The manticore reeled back a little, as if in pain, but it never looked away from Fluttershy.

“He's clear!” Twilight called just before she vanished in a lavender light.

“Go back to the forest,” Fluttershy commanded as I took a vial of magic chalk and started crafting a summoning circle.

To my surprise, it actually turned around, but it seemed stiff, as if it didn't want to. Regardless, both Fluttershy and I sighed in relief as she turned to start flying toward me. I was about to run over to congratulate her, when the manticore violently shook its head, like it was knocking something loose.

My eyes widened in fear as the monster turned around and lunged at Fluttershy.

“Look out!” I cried, but my warning was too late.

The monster swung its barbed tail at the mare, its poison stinger finding her right flank. Fluttershy was spun like a top by the force of the impact, slamming hard into the ground.

An anger like none I had ever felt rose up in me. I felt my fur bristle as I growled a deep, primal growl before bellowing out a challenging roar.

The manticore turned to face me, lowering into an aggressive stance while I rose to stand upright. I glared at the monster as I focused on the spell sigil in the chalk, willing what I needed to manifest.

The circle ignited before me, provoking the manticore to charge. I plunged my hand into the magic ring, my paw grasping hold of what I sought and pulled. A length of red steel emerged. It had no hand guard. Instead, it was just a long piece of metal, smooth blade on one side, serrated on the other.

Quickly, I brought the blade up to parry the tail of my foe. It hit like a sledgehammer, but I wasn't stupid enough to take the blow head on. Instead, I redirected the force, moving to the left as I deflected to the right.

At its side, I thrust forward, intent on skewering the thing, but its size belied its speed. It leapt away, twisting as it swiped at me with its claws. I barely managed to bring the blade between the massive claw and myself before it tore me to ribbons. It slammed into me with all the force of a pissed off rhinoceros, sending me flying.

I learned that day that cats really don't always land on their feet, as I crashed on my side, knocking the air from my lungs. I shakily put my feet under me, standing up again.

That rage was burning even brighter, now. I wasn't going to let this thing get away with what it had done. This was my home now. It was my territory. And I wasn't going to let this animal beat me.

I charged, glaring hatefully at my enemy.

No... Not my enemy... I thought to myself.

My prey!

It thrust its tail at me, but I didn't dodge. I swung my sword with all the force I could muster, the blade erupting in a silvery fire, as the blade cleaved through the deadly tail and into the monster's skull. The force of our collision shattered the cobblestone road, but I held firm.

The monster pawed dumbly at the air for a few seconds before it fell limp. I didn't even bother trying to dislodge the blade, instead opting to rush over to where Fluttershy landed.

To my surprise, Fluttershy was starting to sit up, rubbing her head with a hoof, and hissing with pain.

“Fluttershy!” I called. “Are you okay?”

My breath caught as I saw a sticky green goo mixed in with the blood from her wound.

“Oh, god, you're poisoned!” I panicked.

“Huh?” Fluttershy said, dumbly, before looking back. She leaned closer to examine it more closely, grunting in pain. “Oh... it's not so bad.”

“Not so bad?!” I shouted in worry. “You're poisoned!”

Fluttershy's eyes widened. “Oh... um, well. I'm... sort of... immune.”

I blinked, trying to understand what she said. “Y-you're... immune? But... how?”

Fluttershy winced and answered with a simple, if cryptic, “It's complicated.”

I was still worried, but I decided if she said she was immune that would have to be good enough.

I turned back around to look at the fallen monster. The sword was gone, likely returning to its owner, but the corpse was already starting to draw a crowd.

“Hey... you're that new guy, right?” a stallion asked, cautiously approaching me.

I turned to regard him. He was a somewhat young earth pony stallion, with a yellow coat and a baby blue mane.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“That was pretty impressive,” he said. “I was wondering, who did you contract for that sword? I’m in the Royal Guard, and I could use something like that when I go back on duty.”

I smiled. Looked like it was time to uphold my end of the contract.

Chapter 6: The General and the Demon

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It turned out, the colt that the manticore attacked didn't die. He was stung, and suffered some damage he would feel for a few years, but he was alive. However, his mother wasn't so lucky. Apparently, the beast attacked him and his mother when they were practicing magic in the park. They ran, but his mother was stung. He didn't notice, and kept running until he was caught, too. His mother passed before the medical team even arrived.

“So, that's it?” I asked, quite upset with Twilight. “We just say 'too bad your mom's dead', and move on?”

Twilight sighed. “Look, I get where you're coming from, but if we get that upset every time somepony gets killed by a monster, we'd never be happy.” She walked over to a shelf and grabbed a thick book off the shelf and levitated it over to me. It was called 'Bestiary of Everfree Valley'.

“This world is full of big, dangerous predators, many of which, like the manticore, have evolved, at least in part, to hunt ponies. Ponies are constantly being hunted. It's a fact of life. We do what we can to stop it, but sometimes it's not enough.

“That colt and his family will mourn, and they will move on. Everypony I know has dealt with it. Rainbow lost her aunt, uncle, and some cousins, Pinkie lost her sister, Fluttershy lost her father, and Applejack, Rarity, and I each lost our parents.”

That caught me by surprise, as I was pulled abruptly from the book. “You... lost your parents?”

Twilight gave a sad smile as she answered. “I was very young. While I still miss them, if it weren't for that, I would have never met all the important ponies in my life; the girls, mom, Nightlight, Velvet, and everypony else at the palace.”

“Wait... Nightlight and Velvet? In the show they were your parents, though,” I said.

Twilight giggled. “They may as well have been in real life, too. They would always take care of my brother and me when mom was busy, which was often considering she had a nation to run.”

“A nation to run? So does that mean Princess Celestia is your... adoptive mother?” I asked.

“That's right,” Twilight answered. “Remind me to tell you the story of how that happened sometime. It's kind of sad, though.”

“Alright, later. Right now, Ah was wantin’ to talk to you about somethin’,” I said. “When Ah was fightin’ that manticore, the demon sword caught fire with a weird silver fire. When Ah asked Bakura about it, he said the fire had to come from me.”

Twilight knitted her brow in thought and confusion. “Yes, one of the ways demon tools are useful is because they can channel one's spells while helping draw out the magic. Basically, one can channel a spell with two-thirds the effort.”

“So, Ah cast a fire spell?”

“I'm not sure. Without real training, the only way you would cast fire magic would be if it were innate and instinctive, but I don’t know if you have that kind of ability. It’s possible to be evocation if you had a reagent, but even then, it requires intent. Unless you wanted to cast a fire spell, it couldn't be an evocation spell.”

Twilight had begun pacing in thought, a habit I noticed whenever she was stumped on a problem. “Perhaps it's an innate racial ability? But if it were, mom would have said something. Perhaps I should write her.”

I winced a little. I really wasn't looking forward to seeing her again.

“Y-yeah,” I reluctantly agreed. “She does know more about what Ah am than we do.”

I just hoped my second meeting would go better than the first.

Thankfully, I didn't have to meet the princess just then. Instead, she wrote Twilight back saying she may know what it was. She asked us to try to recreate the spell, and if we could, to contact her again.

Thus, we were in a field just outside the West side of town.

“Alright, based on what you describe, I believe this was an instinctive spell. What exactly were you feeling, when you summoned the fire?”

I rubbed the back of my head. Like Twilight's pacing, it was a habit I did whenever I was thinking hard.

“Ah was angry, but Ah don't think that was it,” I said. “Ah felt... angry, but more at the fact that the manticore would hurt innocent ponies. Ah felt like... Seein’ him come to mah home and hurt someone, Ah just snapped.”

“Hmm, perhaps it was instinctive? Twilight pondered, scratching her chin with a hoof. “It could be you saw the manticore as a rival, or perhaps it was a protective instinct? You may have seen the manticore as harming your pack.”

Twilight turned back to me, horn lit in her magenta fire, and said, “I have an idea. Try-”

Suddenly, she was cut off by an enormous winged snake lashing out, grabbing her, and wrapping her in its coils. I was so caught off guard, I couldn't react. It had come out of nowhere. When I regained my senses, I leaped at it, trying to catch it in my claws, but it took to the air, hovering just out of reach.

I could only gaze in horror as Twilight looked down with terror filled eyes. That same rage as before filled me, coursing through my veins.

“Give her back!” I roared, leaping high into the air as my right paw lashed out towards the flying serpent.

I felt power flow through my body. It swirled like a hurricane before shooting up my arm and engulfing my paw in silver fire. I closed the distance to the monster in a second... and passed right through.

The scene wavered and faded away, leaving nothing but blue skies. Nearly in a panic, I flailed as I began to fall back to the ground from at least thirty feet in the air. I was saved from eating dirt, though, by a familiar purple glow.

“Uh... Sorry,” I heard Twilight say, “but that was the easiest way to test my theory.”

I looked at the unharmed mare, blinking dumbly for several moments.

“You... but...” It took a moment, but it dawned on me as she set me down. “That was an illusion?! What the hell, Sparkle?!”

“I'm sorry,” she repeated, cringing. “If I told you what I was doing, it would have ruined it. I needed you to think I was in real danger to see if it really is your protective instincts that caused your magic to manifest, and it worked.”

“You... are an ass hole,” I stated. “A smart ass hole that gets results, but an ass hole all the same.”

Scraping a hoof in the dirt and hanging her head in shame, she said, “I know.” She slowly peeked up at me and continued, “Do you at least remember what it felt like? Not the emotion, but the flow of magic. Do you think you could summon that fire voluntarily?”

I held a paw in front of my face, studying it as if it held all the answers. “Ah don't know, maybe.”

I closed my eyes, trying to remember the feeling. Slowly, I felt something stir. It wasn't the hurricane it was before, more like a gentle breeze. I latched onto that feeling, feeding it, willing it to grow. It grew until I could will it through my arm. The warm feeling traveled to my paw, where I focused on it gathering in my palm.

“Shiro, you did it!”

I opened my eyes to see Twilight beaming, her eyes locked on what I held. In one paw, a silver flame flickered, yet did not burn me.

“Ah did it!” I cheered, a huge grin plastered on my face. “Ah created weird fire! Yes!”

“I gotta write to mom about this!”

And just like that, the fire vanished along with my smile.

I had to admit, I was really starting to respect Celestia. She still terrified me, but I respected her. She was going out of her way to make me feel more comfortable. The mare that arrived still looked very much like the solar alicorn, but if she were just a unicorn. Yeah, she used a spell to seal away a portion of her magic so she could take a form I wasn't soiling myself in front of.

I was still nervous, as I summoned up the silver fire again, but I was able to manage. It was actually easier to summon it again, having already felt what it was like, and was only getting easier. Celestia, for her part just observed with a neutral expression, though something about her gave off an undertone of dread.

She didn't beat around the bush too much about why, either.

“I was afraid of this,” Celestia sighed.

“Afraid of what?” I asked, nervously.

“Not of you, Shiro, but what your ability means,” Celestia explained. “Normally, Tigirans are orange, like a common tiger. Only one was white, General Mikava, and she was also the only one to display the power you just did. We called it 'silver flame'. It was a very unique fire, as General Mikava seemed to have complete control of it, even so far as its shape and who it burns.”

“You're not tryin’ to say Am'm anythin’ like this general, are you?” I asked.

“Havens, no,” Celestia said. “Despite her power and ruthlessness, Mikava was not the most dangerous. That title belonged to a creature we called the Black Death. It was solid black, could rip an ancient dragon limb from limb with ease, and had an insatiable thirst for blood and destruction. My fear is that if you show traits unique to General Mikava, what's to say one couldn't show traits of the Black Death.”

“But... Ah'm the only chaos tiger after ten thousand years, right?” I asked, my new found fear of a psycho living death machine outweighing my fear of Celestia.

“Yes, it is unlikely,” Celestia explained. “However, even if it takes another ten thousand years before another appears in the form of a chaos tiger, the possibility that it could be the same as that monster terrifies me.”

“Perhaps we should look into some kind of countermeasure?” Twilight finally spoke, having been content to listen to us up until then. “Both magic and technology have come far since then. There's bound to be some way to contain the creature, now.”

Celestia smiled warmly. “Perhaps there is, my student.”

“Oh, um,” Twilight blushed, looking away nervously. “I've already told him about... you know.” She flared her wings slightly at that.

Celestia beamed, scooting over to wrap Twilight in a loving hug. “I'm so proud of you. I don't think you've ever told anypony so quickly.”

Twilight rolled her eyes, but obviously enjoyed the contact. “I told the girls the same day I met them.”

“They don't count,” Celestia countered, with a playful smirk.

“I wish I could stay longer,” Celestia said, releasing Twilight. “I must speak with my sister, and see if we can get into contact with our brother. Perhaps the elders know of a solution to our problem.

“Shiro,” she turned to me, extending her hoof. “I wish you luck in your magical studies.”

I tried to will myself to take her hoof, but my body locked up at the thought. Her smile faltered. It was ever so slight, but I noticed it as if it were a blow to the gut.

“Until next time, Twilight, Shiro,” and in a flash, she was gone.

My body finally moved as I sagged. “Dammit. It was just a hoof shake, and Ah act like it was a freakin’ rattlesnake.”

“It's okay, Shiro, we understand,” Twilight tried to comfort me, placing a hoof around my shoulders.

“Ah still need to get over it,” I replied.

“And you will,” Twilight's tone took a turn for the chipper. “For now, though, why don't you practice with that fire of yours.”

I nodded. She was right. I needed to figure out my magic. Seeing as my chaos magic was still giving me trouble, I figured I may as well learn to use my fire.

“Twilight,” Spike said from the other side of the room, setting his comic aside. “Message.”

He didn't just belch it up, like in the show. He just opened his mouth and breathed out a burst of sparkling green fire. It looked like someone hit rewind on a scroll being burned as it materialized.

“Thank you, Spike,” Twilight said as the scroll left the green fire for a magenta one.

Her eyes quickly scanned the page before she said, “It's from mom, obviously. She forgot to ask if you've considered taking up a Ranger Reserve post.”

“Ranger Reserve?” I inquired.

“Are you familiar with the Equestrian Rangers?” I shook my head. “Well, they're the ones responsible for protecting towns from monster attack. It's comprised of the Ranger Watch, and Ranger Reserve. The Ranger Watch is tasked with patrolling borders and is composed primarily of pegasi and unicorns who are skilled in detection magic.

“If a monster is spotted, the Watch use a special crystal that alerts any Reserves in the area and attempt to delay the monster to allow ponies to find shelter. At the moment, we only have Fluttershy. She's great as Watch, with her animals helping her, but she needs help.”

“Fluttershy's a Ranger?” I said, quite amazed. “So, would that make her-”

“-the yellow Ranger?” Twilight cut me off with a cocky smirk. “I've heard that one six times, already.”

I narrowed my eyes, spitefully, to which Twilight just laughed. “Ah'll think about it.”

I got to my feet and started to the door when something from earlier came back to me. “Hey, Twilight... The princess mentioned she was gonna to try to contact her brother. Who is that?”

Twilight's mischievous smirk returned, that smirk I have come to associate with her getting ready to drop a bombshell on me. “That would probably be Thor.”

Best God is real!

Chapter 7: Lady Luck

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Interestingly, when you kill a manticore on your own, the application process for joining the Ranger Reserves is quite expedited. Of course, it may have helped that I had a recommendation from one of the heirs to the Equestrian throne.

Anyway, all I had to do was show them my weapons, which consisted of summoning a demon battle ax, and my silver flame, which I had been practicing for five days straight before hand. They were impressed, and I was given a special bracelet that would vibrate when a warning was sent out and tug in the direction of the call.

The job came with a small monthly stipend – not enough to live off of, but it would help –, and a commission for fighting off monsters, more if you use non-lethal methods. The Rangers try not to kill the monsters unless they keep coming back to populated areas or are a particular threat.

I even got a bounty on that manticore I killed. It wasn't much, but combined with my income from my job at the cafe and Twilight’s testing, it was enough to move out of Twilight's and into my own place. It was a small place with only a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bathroom, but it was mine.

My furniture consisted of a mattress on the floor, and an old couch a mare down the road was getting rid of in favor of a new one. The kitchen was nice, though, with a new stove, a large fridge, and plenty of cabinet space. It was definitely what sold me on it.

Anyway, things were rather quiet. I was settling in, working at the cafe, and doing other odd jobs to save up enough to get actual things to put in my house. I did this for nearly a week before anything interesting happened.

I was just coming home from the market, having gotten a great deal on a freshly caught salmon, when Fluttershy approached me.

“How's it goin’, Fluttershy?” I greeted.

“Hello, Shiro,” she returned. “I hope you've been having a lovely day.”

“Ah have, thank ya, kindly,” I said. “Ah got a feelin’ you need to speak with me.”

“Oh... yes,” She blushed, shyly, half hiding behind her mane. “Um, some of my animal friends saw signs of timberwolves near the road to Canterlot, and a pony a few hours out, heading to town. The tracks aren't too close, but do you think you could just make sure whoever that is gets here safe?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “You mind takin’ these for me?”

“Of course. Beaksworth is keeping an eye out. He has my beacon and will activate it if anything happens, so there's no rush, I just have a bad feeling.”

“Alright, thanks.” I took off my saddle bags – which I might add are not made with tigers in mind – and handed them off to the pegasus before taking off at a quick jog.

I moved quickly through town, some ponies greeting me, some moving nervously to the other side of the road. I returned the gestures of the former, ignored the later, and soon found myself on the road toward Canterlot.

It was approaching the end of autumn, and the leaves were in full color and soon the running of the leaves would be taking place. Contrary to the show, it doesn't really knock the leaves from the trees, but it is a tradition dating back to when it was believed that it loosened the remaining leaves to allow them to fall.

It was a pleasant, if uneventful, walk. Eventually, I could see the pony in the distance. It was at that moment, something hit me. I was about to approach a lone pony in the middle of nowhere, and I'm a tiger. They might not take to my appearance well.

Perhaps I should follow from the shadows? I thought, but that could frighten the pony even more if they notice me. They might think I was stalking them.

Maybe I could try to approach in a non-threatening manner? The problem with that was actually doing that. How does a predator the size of a pony approach a pony non-threateningly?

Maybe I could lay down on my back, relax, and wait for them to come to me? That could work, but they might just turn tail and run as soon as they saw me.

My thoughts were cut off by the sudden buzz of my bracelet. It seemed I no longer had the luxury of a plan. With a growl, I took off. All I could do was call out to the pony and hope they listened.

As I neared, the pony tensed, ready to bolt at the sight of me.

“Timberwolves!” I yelled out, causing the pony to freeze.

Apparently seeing that as their opportunity, three wolves leaped from the treeline. The pony looked back, seeing the arboreal predators, and took a step toward me before looking at me and taking a step back, unable to decide which was the least dangerous path.

“Run!” I yelled.

That seemed to help make the pony's mind up, as it bolted in my direction. I could hear the pony screaming, now. She – a mare if the voice was any indication – wasn't fast enough, and one caught her right hind leg in its jaws, bringing the mare down. Judging by the scream of agony, it likely broke a bone.

With a furious, bellowing roar, I put on all the speed I could muster. That had the benefit of drawing the wolves attention before they could finish their prey off. With their eyes on me, I rose on two legs and summoned up my silver flame to envelop my fists.

The three wolves lunged at me, the first taking a full forced punch to the face. Its head shattered, putting it out of the fight and launching it into the second. The third, however, managed to avoid its kin and tackled me to the ground.

I barely managed to put my forearm between the wolf's sap dripping maw and my throat. It caught the beast off guard and gave me time to act before it bit down. I pressed forward, pushing my arm deeper into its mouth, and forcing the wolf's jaws open. With my other paw, I grabbed the upper jaw, my thumb in the gap between its front and back teeth, and pried open. With my arm free, I grabbed the lower jaw in that paw, and pulled as hard as I could, ripping the bottom clean off.

“That's what y’all get for not having ligaments!” I yelled.

It sounded so much better in my head.

Taking advantage of my distraction, I was blindsided by the second wolf, the one that was knocked back by the first. It grabbed me by my left arm, but unlike the last wolf, it bit down hard. I felt and heard a painful crack.

I roared in pain, and my silver flame flared, instinctively, covering my entire body. The wolf released me and yelped, pawing at his muzzle to extinguish the flames. Once the fire was out, the wolf turned tail and ran back into the forest.

I stood there with my ears swiveling and eyes scanning the trees, watching for any threats until I was sure they were gone. Still keeping my ears open, I walked over to the mare, clutching my broken arm. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, it was starting to throb.

The mare looked up at me with a touch of fear.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Y-yeah,” she said, quietly. “Um... Thank you.”

I smiled down at her, making sure I didn't show my teeth. “Ah just wish Ah got here a few seconds sooner.”

I looked at her leg and winced. It was obviously broken.

“I've had worse,” she said with pain in her voice.

Getting a good look at her, I could tell she wasn't kidding. She had thin lines in her fur, suggesting scars hidden by her khaki fur, but the it wasn't the scars that surprised me. It was the fact that she had the cloven hooves and lion-like tail of a unicorn, but where her horn should have been, a small, two inch stub poked out. A part of me wanted to ask, but I wasn't a douchebag.

“Come on,” I said as I tore my attention away. “Let's get you to a hospital.”


I stopped. I was going to offer to carry her, but I doubted I could with one arm without further injuring her leg.

“Never mind.” I thought for a little bit, trying to think of something. “Can you walk at all?”

“Maybe,” the mare said. She slowly struggled to her hooves, hissing in pain, and took a step.

“Gah!” she cried, collapsing to her rump.

“Are you okay?!” I rushed to her side, forgetting my own injury. “Ah!” I ate dirt when my arm gave out.

“Hey, don't hurt yourself any more than you already did,” the mare said in concern.

“Ah guess we're stuck here, for a little bit,” I said in disappointment. “Unless...”

An idea struck me. I sat sat down and lifted my paw. I willed my silver flame around my paw. I had never tried this, but I figured there was a first time for everything.

With the mare looking in awe and curiosity, I willed the flame from around my paw into my palm. It obeyed my command, forming a ball. I raised it above my head, and...

Nothing. Damn. I really hoped that would work.

Thinking quickly, I dug deeper and willed my magic, Do something!

I snapped my fingers and a red ball of fire streaked from my paw into the sky, flying straight up before it exploded into a cloud of sparks at my will.

“It worked!” I cheered.

“Oh Celestia, that was silver fire, wasn't it? What you did before the firework? You really are a Tigiran,” the mare said in awe.

I looked back to her in shock. “You know what a Tigiran is?”

“I read about it in an ancient tome found in some ruins from the Crystal Empire,” she said, as if admitting to stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

“Well, hell, maybe you can teach me something,” I said. “Princess Celestia didn't really say much... though that wasn't entirely her fault.” The last bit came out a little more like a confession than I intended.

“I can imagine,” the mare said. “I take it she didn't take your presence too well.”

I laughed mirthlessly at that. “Understatement of the year, right there,” I said scathingly before catching myself, looking away in shame. “... Sorry. It’s kinda a sore subject for me.”

“It's okay,” she said. “I shouldn't have brought it up.”

“Sorry, it's just... It wasn't pleasant,” I said.

We sat there in awkward silence for a time, me remembering that horrible first encounter, her likely regretting bringing up what was obviously a bad memory. Looking toward Ponyville, I could see a small group of ponies running up the road, lead by a yellow speck hovering just above the ground.

I let out a chuckle.

“This is a pretty bad first mission with the Rangers, huh?” I asked, sarcastically.

The mare laughed, too. “Yeah, it could have been better, but at least you saved the girl.” She scooted over and leaned in, giving me a peck on the cheek.

I blushed a little, rubbing the spot her lips were.

“Thanks,” she said. “I owe you.”

“No problem,” I said before realizing something.

“By the way,” I extended my good paw with a smile. “Mah name is Shirotora, but mah friends call me Shiro.”

The mare smiled back. “Jynx Charm... That's Jynx with a 'y'.”

She took my paw.

I had a feeling the two of us would be good friends.

Chapter 8: The Sisters Awesome

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My stay in the hospital was thankfully brief. All I needed was my forearm set and wrapped in a cast, and I was done in half an hour. Unfortunately, I had some paperwork to fill out about the encounter with the Timberwolves, which took another half hour. At least they let me finish that before I left.

On the way out, I was greeted with an unexpected surprise. In the lobby was four ponies; Twilight, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Jynx Charm, the latter's leg in a cast. That, though, wasn't the surprise. The surprise was Rainbow Dash flying up to me and throwing her hooves around me.

“Thank you, Shiro,” she said in a far more serious, somber tone than I had ever heard.

I was caught quite off guard by her sudden display of affection.

“Alright, Dee, get off him so I can thank him,” Jynx said.

“Oh, right,” Rainbow said, sheepishly, as she released me and backed up.

Jynx hobbled over with a smirk on her face. “You're just full of surprises, aren't you? Not only are you a Terran and Tigiran, but you know my little sister and her friends. What next, you dating Luna?”

“Sister?” Suddenly, Rainbow's actions made sense. “Ah didn't even know she had a sister.”

“Yeah, she doesn't like to talk about me, because she hates the fact that I’m cooler than her.”

“Oh, yeah, well I'm awesomer,” Rainbow countered.

“Wow, you really are sisters,” I said, holding back a laugh.

I looked over at the other two ponies silently watching the exchange. “So, you guys here for me or her?”

“Both,” Twilight said, trotting up. “First, I would like to thank you for saving our friend. Jynx has helped us on many occasions. Second, are you okay?”

I smiled. “It hurts a little, but nothin’ severe. Ah'm just glad it really does only take a few days for broken bones to heal. Ah was afraid that was just the show. Gotta love medical magic.”

“So you're a brony, too,” Jynx asked, her voice betraying her mischievous intent. “Who are you planning to stalk?”

I shrugged, “Well, it would’a been Rainbow but Ah can't fly, so Ah guess her sister is the next best.”

“A logical conclusion,” Jynx returned. “Just a heads up, the bushes on the north side of my house have poison ivy in them, and I sleep in the nude.”

Fluttershy and Twilight had things to do, so Rainbow, Jynx, and I went to Sugarcube Corner. Jynx insisted she repay me, so she bought me a fresh brownie with ice cream on top. Pinkie, of course, also thanked me for saving their friend with a free root beer float.

“So, Jynx,” I began. “You mentioned something about the Crystal Empire, and Tigirans?”

“Oh yeah,” She said, quickly swallowing her bite of carrot cake. “About a year ago, my team was investigating some Crystal Empire ruins when we discovered a couple tomes protected by a powerful preservation spell. One told about the downfall of the empire.

“Apparently, King Sombra, who was a priest of Kronos, actually managed to free a Tigiran from Tartarus. That Tigiran shared all kinds of secrets with Sombra that allowed the Crystal Empire to wage war on the three tribes in exchange for help in freeing his master.

“It was that tiger that taught Sombra how to rip a ponies soul from their bodies.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, he could rip souls out of people?” I asked in morbid fascination.

“Only ponies, not that he didn't try with other races,” Jynx explained. “He didn't just rip their souls out, though. He tore away the soul's ability to feel love, joy, and everything positive. The wraiths would then fly around trying to fill the void left over by sucking the positive emotions out of ponies until only negative emotions were left.

“Ponies affected by them would become violent and cruel. The most infamous case was a town so secluded no pony even knew what was happening until a group of buffalo traders came. They found ponies driven so far into madness, they were actually eating each other. For that reason, the buffalo called them wendigo; cannibal spirits.”


“No kidding,” Rainbow chimed in.

“Yeah, those same monsters, though, are what destroyed the Crystal Empire.”

“So, you said your team found this? Are you an archaeologist?”

“My big sis, here, is the youngest Professor of Ancient Magics at Canterlot U ever,” Rainbow bragged proudly, a sentiment reflected in Jynx's smirk.

I gave Jynx an impressed nod. “Oh yeah? Ah'm studyin’ magic, myself; Evocation, and demonology mostly with a little enchantin’, and alchemy on the side. It's all independent studies, but Ah’m getting pretty good at them. Ah have a full set of plates and bowls that keep mah food at the proper temperatures, Ah make a pretty good Pitila potion, have a sweet contract with a spirit smith, and pretty much mastered magnification and acceleration.”

“Not bad, but you might want to limit yourself to one or two subjects,” Jynx advised. “Demonology, and evocation are good for your Ranger work. Dabble in enchantment, if you want, seeing as it's easy for the basics, but don't focus much on it. Alchemy can get complicated very quickly, though, but there are a few potions you might find useful that are easy enough.”

“Alright,” I replied. “That sounds like a good idea. Honestly, Ah was thinkin’ about shelvin’ mah alchemy and enchantin’ studies, anyway.”

“Yeah, you should listen to her. She's an egghead but she's still awesome, so she knows how to do things without sacrificing coolness.” Rainbow Dash stated, matter-of-factly.

“Good to know,” I said.

“Which is your favorite?” Jynx asked.

“As useful as evocation can be, Ah think Ah like the convenience of demonology,” I answered. “Bein’ able to summon whatever tool Ah need whenever Ah need it is great, and Ah can actually channel evocation spells through spirit tools. Besides, Bakura's pretty cool.”

Jynx nodded, understandingly, “I have a couple books you might be interested in on non-contract demons. Many of them are good in a fight. I'll ship them once I get home, so long as you promise not to try it without me. They can have unusual prices.”

“Of course, thanks,” I said. “Ah appreciate it.”

“Well, I gotta get going. I promised Twilight I'd help her with an experiment she wanted to run,” Jynx said and levitated a black marker to me. “Have fun.”

I looked down at the marker in confusion. I turned to Rainbow Dash to see if she knew what it was for when my question was answered by her light snoring.

“Just remember, there are foals still out so keep it clean,” Jynx said before heading out the door.

Rainbow grumbled as we walked down the road, still a bit miffed. I, on the other hand, was still snickering.

“You know I'm getting you back for that, right?”

“Ah look forward to it,” I replied.

“Oh, I doubt you'll be saying that when I exact my revenge,” Rainbow said as she turned to glare at me.

The effect was ruined by the flowers drawn all over her face.

“Do you know what this can do to my reputation?” she continued.

“If you hate it so much, why not just wash it off?” I asked, not-so-innocently.

Rainbow stared at me, dumbly. “What?”

“It is a washable marker, after all.”

Her dumbfounded expression had me falling over with laughter. It was too perfect.

“You son of a...” Her expression morphed into one of rage. “Why didn't you tell me?!”

“Maybe you should have tried washing your face before we left,” I answered.

She crouched low, hind legs tensing as she prepared to pounce at me, only to be be interrupted by a wash rag slapping onto her face.

“Huh...” I uttered, looking down in thought at the paw that threw the wet cloth.

Rainbow glared at me with an expression of mixed rage and curiosity as she wiped the ink from her face fur. “What, you finally figure it out?”

“Ah'm not sure,” I said. “Ah'm getting what it feels like, but Ah’m still not a hundred percent sure how to activate it. Ah did it when Ah signaled for help, but the feeling is... hard to grasp.”

“Just do it,” Rainbow said. “I'm no egghead, but even I can see that every time your magic happens, it happens when you aren't thinking about it. So, don't think, just do it.”

I chuckled, but figured I’d try it again... No. Do, or do not, there is no try.

Every other time I tried to call on my magic, I would clear my mind, thinking that would help 'let it happen'. This time, though, I didn't. I let my thoughts be as they were and thought, I want something sweet, and...

“Yes!” I cheered, spinning around with a Zagnut held over my head in triumph. “Thank you Yoda!”

“Cool...” Rainbow said, but her smile quickly vanished. “Wait, whaddya mean 'Yoda'?! Who the heck is 'Yoda? I gave you the advice!”

I quickly opened the wrapper and broke the candy bar in half, tossing one of the pieces to Rainbow. I had to walk upright to eat, as only one of my forelegs worked, but Rainbow just took to the sky, hovering at about eye level so I wasn't looking down at her.

“This isn't bad,” Rainbow said. “It's got nothing on Bon Bon's stuff, but at least you don't have to count the calories.”

We reached my home soon enough after that.

“Not a bad place, considering how long you’ve been here,” Rainbow said as she stepped inside.

I snorted at that. “It’s better than mah place back on Earth, that’s for sure.”

I Went straight for the kitchen and grabbed a pair of ciders from the fridge, tossing one to Rainbow.

“So...” Rainbow said, taking a chug of her cider, “You gonna show me around?”

I chuckled. “Not much. You see mah living room, slash dining room, and the kitchen.”

I went toward the back of my apartment. “This is mah bedroom, and in the corner is mah bathroom.”

Rainbow took a look around and hopped up on the bed.

“Not bad,” she said. “Is this cloud stuffed?”

“Yeah,” I said, “The mattress store owner insisted I upgrade, for no cost. Turns out, it was his kid Ah saved from that manticore.”

Rainbow chuckled. “Well, it comes with the territory. Anyway, you wanna break it in?” she asked with all the casualness of asking if I wanted to order a pizza.

I just blinked in confusion. “Uh... ‘Break it in’?”

Rainbow Dash’s expression twisted into one akin to a white guy realizing he accidentally dropped the ‘N’ bomb.

“Oh, crap, sorry. I forgot you’re Terran,” she said, apologetically. “Just forget I said anything, okay.”

I placed my intact paw to my chest in mock disgust. “Rainbow Dash, did you just proposition me for sex?”

She groaned, “I said I was sorry! I forgot about that whole thing with Terrans and sex.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “You’re so adorable when you’re embarrassed.”

“Hey!” She scowled at me, realizing I was teasing her. “Don’t call me adorable, cat-face.”

I gave her a flirty smirk. “How about ‘sexy’, then?”

“Huh-” She didn’t even have a chance to complete a thought before I pounced.

The bed was, indeed, quite broken in by morning.

Chapter 9: Dinner and a Show

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The next morning I woke to the smell of breakfast.

“Morning sleepyhead,” Rainbow Dash greeted from the stove as I walked in the kitchen.

“You’re up early,” I stated.

“Well, yeah,” she scoffed as it were obvious. “I’m Ponyville’s weather manager. I don’t have the luxury of sleeping late.

“Though, after last night, I’m probably going to need an extra nap or two. Kinda surprised. Most Terrans are kinda weird about sex.”

I shrugged. “Ah’ve always been opened minded. Besides, mah first few sexual experiences were with a girl who was just a friend.”

“Well, lucky me. Eat up,” she said, placing one of the plates in front of me.

I was mildly surprised by the contents of my plate. “You cooked me sausage?”

“Yeah, I used to date a griffin and cooked it for him every now and then, so it doesn’t bother me,” Rainbow Dash explained.

“Ah, yes. Applejack mentioned Gil, but only said it went badly.”

Rainbow scoffed at that. “Yeah, 'badly' is one way to put it.” She angrily stuffed a bit of pancake in her mouth, not even bothering to swallow before continuing. “I dated him back in school, when that whole cold war with Griffany was still going on, 'til the fuzz showed up sayin' he was a spy.” She finally swallowed. “I was so head over hooves for him, when he told me he was being 'wrongfully accused', I helped him get away.”

I stuffed my own face to keep myself from growling. I could already see where this was going.

“When we got to the border, I was tackled by an EIA agent, and instead of helping me, he kept flying on past the border.

“They told me that he really was a spy, working for the GGB. I was held as a traitor and interrogated for two weeks. It was the worst two week of my life. And to make it worse, they even showed me the files they stole from GGB headquarters that told them all about him so I couldn't even tell myself it was all to help an innocent griffin get away.”

Rainbow sighed, taking a drink of her orange juice. “After that, me and my family couldn't go anywhere in Cloudsdale without people whispering about the 'traitor'. We eventually had to move to Shin Nihon, where mom's from.”

“Shin Nihon? 'New Japan'?” I asked. My Japanese was a little rusty, but that much was easy.

“Oh, you speak Japanese?”

“Not very well, but enough,” I chuckled, taking a sip of my milk. “Ah was stationed in Yokosuka when Ah was in the Navy. So you're part Japanese? That explains a few things.”

Rainbow rolled her eyes, “Yeah, whatever.”

“So,” I said. “What happened next?”

“Huh? Oh! Well, we lived in Shin Nihon for a while, until I turned eighteen. I found out Fluttershy and Flitter, another old friend, lived here and decided to move here, too.”

“Applejack said Gil came back,” I mentioned. “Ah'm kinda curious, if you don't mind.”

Rainbow sighed as she stood up, taking up her dish and heading to the sink. “Yeah. He came back, telling me that he was forced to work for the GGB. He said they threatened to kill his family if he didn't do it, and like a stupid, lovestruck filly, I believed him.

“You can probably guess, he was lying. Apparently, he killed a couple ponies while he was here, which is against some kinda international thing – you'll have to ask Twi about that – and was arrested for it as soon as he got back. They were about to send him back here to stand trial when he escaped.

“He only wanted to use me to get through the country to Zebrica. When I learned the truth, he threatened to kill Pinkie.”

“What happened?”

Surprisingly, Rainbow laughed. “He didn't know Pinkie.”

Sudden thoughts of the physics butcher driving the poor griffin mad to the point of ripping out his feathers filled my head and I couldn't help but laugh, too.

“Oh, god. Ah almost pity the guy.”

“Yeah, you don't want to get on Pinkie's bad side, but if you actually manage to do that you probably deserve whatever you get,” Rainbow said as she began stretching her wings.

“Anyway, I gotta get to work,” she said. “Thanks again for last night, you were pretty good, for a noob. Maybe we can do it again, sometime.”

“That sounds like fun,” I replied, feeling my cheeks warm.

And with that, she trotted out the door and took to the sky.

Man, I envy pegasi, I thought as I watched her speed away.

I always wanted the ability to fly. Maybe there was some way I could. I'd have to ask Twilight if there's any kind of magic I could use to fly, even if only temporarily.

Or maybe I could ask Jynx. Her sister is a pegasus, after all, and it would make sense that she would want to fly with her and maybe looked into it.

Before I could do anything, though, I had to get ready for work, myself.

Work had been doing well, the past couple weeks. At first, a few of the regulars stopped coming, saying they didn't trust a carnivore to make their food. Still, Souffle stood by his decision to hire me, and soon enough some ponies started coming just for the novelty of eating vegetarian food made by a carnivore (even though I was still an omnivore, but whatever). After they started becoming regulars, themselves, some of the old regulars started to come back. Now, it's actually a little bit more popular.

However, it was a little different immediately after my fight with the timberwolves. With my forearm in a cast, I couldn't really cook, so I was waiting tables, while Souffle cooked.

It was around the end of the lunch rush, one day, when one of those regulars came by, but this time she brought company. As soon as they arrived, they spotted me and waved.

“Hello, darling,” Rarity greeted as I approached. “So, was it a fling or a thing?”

I smiled and rolled my eyes. Of course she would open with that. “A fling.”

Jynx put on a playful smirk. “What a shame. You two would make a cute couple.”

Her smirk turned into a slight frown as her eyes landed on my cast. “Should you even be working today?”

I smiled in return. “Thank you, kindly, for your concern, Miss Charm, but Ah can manage.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I'm not old enough to be called 'Miss', just yet, bub.”

I chuckled. “Ah know, but Ah’m working, and it's only professional.”

“He does have a point, Jynx,” Rarity said, siding with me.

“What ever happened to 'the customer is always right'?” Jynx countered.

I chuckled again, “Alright, for you Ah’ll make an exception. Anyway, what can Ah do you for?”

“What's good?” Jynx asked.

“The daffodil glazed potato steak and seasoned tomatoes are absolutely divine,” Rarity recommended.

“That does sound good,” Jynx's brow raised when she saw the price, though. “Oh, no. That's a little too much.”

“Nonsense, I just received payment for a commission. I have plenty of bits,” Rarity insisted.

“I suppose... I guess I’ll try it” Jynx relented, and I wrote it down.

“And I shall get the fettuccine with alfredo sauce and a side of Minoan hay,” Rarity ordered her own food.

“And to drink?”

“Two lemonades with cherry.”

“Alright, Ah'll go place the order and be right back with your drinks.”

I quickly delivered the order to Souffle in the kitchen, filled the drinks, added a splash of cherry juice, tossed a couple stemless cherries in and was back to the table in a jiffy.

“Thank you, darling.”


With no other customers at the moment, Rarity offered me a seat. While on Earth, sitting and chatting with friends while on the job would most likely get you in trouble, but Equestria – or maybe just Ponyville – was much more lax with things like that. As long as you get up and get to work as soon as someone else shows up, it was accepted.

“So,” Jynx began. “When you aren't rescuing damsels in distress, you're waiting tables? Not what I expected from you, to be honest.”

“Actually, Ah normally cook, but Ah broke my arm saving one of those damsels,” I said, cheekily.

Jynx laughed, “Well, be glad it was an arm, not a hind leg. It's a lot harder to walk.”

“So, Shiro,” Rarity asked. “When are you going to come into the boutique and let me make something better than that dull belt.”

“Hey, you made this 'dull belt',” I reminded.

“Which is why it's only dull, not ugly,” Rarity countered. “How about you come by the boutique after your shift and browse my selection of casual attire?”

I raised a brow. “You sell 'casual attire'?”

“Of course,” she stated. “You don't think I can make a living on formal commissions alone, do you? I'm not quite that popular, yet, and clothes aren’t as important here as on Earth.”

“Alright, Ah have somethin’ to do after Ah get off, but Ah’ll drop by as soon as Ah’m finished with that,” I said.

“Maybe I’ll join you,” Jynx said. “I could use a couple nice blouses and maybe a bag.”

“Perhaps something for the classroom?” Rarity asked. “A ‘sexy-but-professional-teacher’ look?”

“Sounds good.”

That reminded me. “So, Jynx, Ah’ve been meanin’ to ask; what exactly do you do at the University?”

Jynx grinned proudly. “Well, mostly, I look for new applications for preexisting magic, but my talent is in deciphering and unlocking the mysteries of ancient, forgotten magic. Right now, most of my work involves a little of both. I'm one of the leading researchers in the field of crystal magic.”

That got my attention. “Crystal magic?” I wondered if it’s something I can learn.

“A kind of magic discovered by the crystal ponies,” Jynx elaborated. “It uses crystals and gems to channel latent natural magic in the environment into spells, including a form unique to it; Hard-mana. It’s a magic that compresses pure mana into a form that emulates matter. It's really cool.”

“Ah bet. Can you demonstrate, by chance?”

“You have a gem on you, Rarity?” Jynx asked.

“Obviously,” Rarity replied, pulling an emerald out of her saddlebag with her magic.

Souffle decided that was as good a time as any to bring out our food. “Oh, what good timing,” he said as he placed the mares' orders in front of them, and placed a couple slices of mushroom and olive pizza in front of me. “Iz zis one of your... demoztrations?”

Jynx grinned as she took the gem in hoof. “This is the most basic use of crystal magic, through incantation.

“Shii kul ratuul, shii kul ratuul, shii kul ratuul.” As she chanted, the emerald began to glow. A green light, the same hue as the gem, extended from the stone, splitting into three smaller prongs at the end.

With a smirk, she dug the ethereal fork into her potato steak and brought a piece to her mouth. As she chewed, the magic fork faded, leaving just the emerald, unchanged.

“That would make washin’ dishes so much easier,” I uttered.

A knock at my door brought me out of my studies. I quickly got up and made my way to the door, stepping around the pre-made summoning circle. I opened the door to be met by the misaligned, but pretty eyes of every brony's favorite mailmare.

“Hey, Derpy,” I greeted.

Yes, her name actually is Derpy. Derpy Muffin used to just be Muffin, but she started going by Derpy because some bullies started calling her that. Needless to say, they didn’t find it funny anymore and moved on to bully someone else. She kept the name because, though she’s actually very, very smart, she has plenty of ‘derpy moments’ but is good natured enough to at least laugh them off.

“Hi, Shiro,” she replied. “You said you have a package for me?”

“Yeah, hold on. We need a witness, first.” I walked up to the circle on the floor and placed my paws beside it, channeling energy into it. “Bakura, spirit smith, come forth.”

In a flash of light, the otherworldly ape took form.

“Hey, Bakura. Ah got your tomes ready,” I said. “Ah figured you'd want to verify.”

“Bakkie!” Derpy cheered from the door.

“Muffin, how have you been? I trust my wares were up to your standards.”

“It was pretty good, but the balance was about three centimeters too forward,” replied the sweet, harmless Derpy.

“Huh?” was my wonderfully articulate inquiry.

“Oh, I have a contract with Bakkie,” Derpy informed me. “It beats having to carry my spear on long trips out of town.”

“You got a spear? Wait, who’d you hear about Bakura from? It wasn’t me.”

“I'm a mail pony. I have to fly all over Equestria by myself,” she answered with a grin. “Something tries to eat me at least once a month. And a friend in the Guard told me about him.”

“Yes, and her muffins are quite the wanted commodity in the Netherworld,” Bakura added. “They are fantastic bartering chips for trade... when I don't eat them myself.”

“Your payment is in muffins?” I said with a laugh.

“If you've ever tried them, you would understand,” Bakura said. “Anyway, you have my tomes?”

“Oh, yeah, right here.” I held the three tomes out to him.

After flicking through them, he handed them back. “Alright. To where are they being sent?”

“One to the Canterlot Public Archives, one to the Manehattan Arcane Library, and one to the Fillydelphia Institute of Ethereal Sciences.”

“Quite the prestigious locations, thank you.”

“Hey, a deal's a deal. Besides, it was Jynx that got them to accept them,” I said as I packed them into three padded envelopes and handed them to the mailmare. “Here you go, Derpy.”

“Great,” she said, slipping them into her saddlebag. “They should be delivered by the end of the week. I gotta get back to the office, so I'll see you later. Bye Shiro, bye Bakkie!”

With that, Derpy took off, climbed a good distance above town and shot off like a rocket. I whistled, impressed by her speed. She had to be nearly as fast as Rainbow Dash. She just couldn’t really turn or maneuver at that speed the way Dashie could.

I turned back to the demon ape and grinned. “So Bakkie...”

“Only Muffin, and Pinkie are allowed to call me that,” he growled.

I chuckled, “Fine, fine... wait, Pinkie? You got a contract with Pinkie?”

“No she...” he hesitated, a slight blush forming. “She only summoned me to ask if I wanted to be friends. She's throwing me a party Tuesday.”

I laughed.

What else could I have done. That was just so... Pinkie... to summon a demon just to be friends.

“Do not laugh at me!” Bakura yelled, angrily

“Ah'm not,” I defended. “Ah'm laughin’ because Ah should have figured she would do that. She's just that good of a pony. You should be happy.”

“She... treats me as if I were of this world, not just a business partner,” he said, sounding baffled. “This is strange to me. Concepts such as friendship are foreign in the Void. I've never had a friend before.”

I gave him the most reassuring smile I could. “Well, you're missin’ out. Besides, Ah thought we were friends.”

“We are business partners,” he declared, as if it were plain as day.

“So? Why can't we be both?” I asked.

“I...” Bakura began, but froze. He looked as if he were searching for a reply. “I do not know.”

“Great! Then we're friends!” I cheered, giving him a slap on the back. “Anyway, about that 'something special'...”

Bakura gave me a deadpanned stare. “I may be new to friendship, but even I know that is contrary to the concept.”

“Yeah, but we're business partners, too, and it's in our contract,” I said giving him a shit-eating grin.

He rolled his eyes. “Very well. I shall create something bound only to you that no other can summon. What is it you wish?”

I stopped and thought for a moment. “Oh, wow. Ah didn't think Ah’d get to choose. Hmm...”

“If you wish, you can think on it and summon me when you decide. I have many arms to take to the fire.”

Me eyes widened as an idea hit me.

“Hey, Bakura... Ah know what Ah would like, if you think you can make it.”

His eyes narrowed at me. “I can make anything.”

My grin woulda made the Joker jealous.

Chapter 10: Nevermore

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“Shit!” I exclaimed as I ducked another stream of fire.

As intriguing as it could be to find something that differed from the show, sometimes it just sucked.

For example; Cockatrices could breathe fire.

Damn dragonkin!

What was worse, because they were an endangered species, Fluttershy begged me not to kill it. If you've ever seen Fluttershy's beg-face, you would know why I would rather die than let her down.

Damn my inherent weakness to cute.

I ducked behind a tree, trying to slow my breath. The steadily increasing volume of hissing told me it knew more-or-less where I was.

I lifted my right paw, reaching into my magic, and snapped my fingers. I didn't care what happened, as long as it was distracting. I found that it really was easier to just let my magic decide what to do, and now was no exception.

“Hello my honey, hello my darlin', hello my rag-a-time gal,” a big green frog sang as it danced out from a tree behind the chicken-lizard, twirling a cane and a top hat.

The chicken-snake turned towards the distraction, flame building in its opened beak. I took the opportunity to leap out, wrapping one arm around its body from behind to pin its wings, while my other paw clamped its mouth shut and my legs hooked around its powerful tail to keep it from flailing around.

Then I cursed myself for not thinking this through.

The cockatrice was restrained, though thrashing wildly, but I couldn't do anything without releasing something deadly.

“A little help! Someone!” I yelled, even though I knew everypony was inside with their doors locked.

“I'm coming!” I heard somepony flutteryell.

A yellow face filled my vision, eyes closed in concentration.

Then her eyes opened, and my world was replaced by turquoise eyes. The pupils shifted into slits, and the irises faded to silver.

My heart began to race as I stared into the abyss.

The sounds of screaming ponies surrounded me as the world burned. I looked at my blood covered paws, trembling as I stood over the bodies of my friends.

I looked back up at the oppressive silver eyes.

“My... child.”

I was screaming as I shot up in bed, sheets wet with sweat.

“Wh... What?” I mumbled as I looked around in confusion.

I recognized the room as one in Ponyville General, but why was I there? I tried to remember what I was doing. I remembered the cockatrice in town petrifying a couple ponies. I remembered trying to fight it, a task made far more difficult by having to avoid eye contact. I remembered grabbing it from behind, and then...


Horrible, terrifying eyes...

What evil hell spawn attacked me, and who else did it hurt?

As much as I dreaded it, I needed answers.

I was relieved to notice that I wasn't hooked up to any machines. That meant I was probably fine and had the benefit of meaning I didn't have to disconnect them and thus sound an alarm.

I opened the door and made my way through the hallway to the front, where I was immediately assaulted by pink and yellow.

“Shiro!” my attacker exclaimed as she latched onto me like a vice. “I'm so, so sorry! I didn't know my Stare would affect you, too! I never used it like that before! Oh, won't you ever forgive me?!”

“Fl-Flutter...shy?” I forced out through my collapsing lungs.

“Oh!” the pressure around me suddenly released, letting me gasp for sweet air. “I'm sorry.”

“It's cool,” I wheezed, taking a couple more breaths to calm myself. “What happened?”

Fluttershy winced and hid behind her mane, leaving nurse Redheart, who had left the front desk, to answer. “According to Fluttershy, while you restrained the cockatrice, she attempted to use The Stare, but accidentally hit you with it, too.”

I looked at her with a confused look. “The Stare?”

Of course I knew about The Stare, but I knew nothing about it. While I figured there was something magical about it, I didn't know how it worked.

“It's... a power unique to Fluttershy...” She turned to the mare in question and whispered. Unfortunately, my ears seemed to be a little better than she thought. “Fluttershy, dear, you really should tell him if you're going to be working together.”

Fluttershy eeped and withdrew even more. “I... I...”

I gave the frightened mare a reassuring smile. “It’s obvious that, whatever it is, you’re not comfortable sharing. So, unless it’s something that can negatively impact mah, or another’s safety, don’t you worry ‘bout it. You can share when you’re comfortable.”

Fluttershy’s ears flattened as she looked away, almost ashamed. “I-I’m sorry. I’ll tell you, eventually, I promise. I just... need more time.”

“So, Nurse, am Ah free to go?” I asked, shifting the focus away from the shy pony.

Redheart sighed and said, “Yes, you may go, but if you have any further complications, let me know.”

I was enjoying walking in the cool autumn air, despite my leg still being sore from where that cockatrice whipped me with it's tail during the fight.

I was still beaming with pride after reading a sweet little 'thank you' card from the son of one of the cockatrice's victims. Thankfully, I got there before the monster could eat any of its victims and they've all been unpetrified.

This was certainly a victory, and I was looking for something to celebrate. I wasn't looking for a party, but just something for myself and a friend or two. I already asked Rainbow if she'd come over, to which she replied, “Free booze? Uh, yeah!” and she went to invite a couple others.

“Welcome to – Oh, Mister Tora,” Berry greeted as I walked inside.

“Hello, Missus Punch,” I returned. “Just looking for something for a little celebration.”

“Alright. Let me know if you need anything.”

I went through the halls, grabbing a thing of vodka, rum, whiskey, and apple brandy and went to the counter.

After getting my liquor, along with a sample of a new wine flavor Berry was experimenting with to taste test, I left the store.

Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy were all waiting for me when I got home.

“Congratulations on saving the day!” Pinkie shouted as a bunch of confetti shot from behind her.

“Thanks, Pinks,” I said. “Nice to see you made it, Shy.”

“Oh, I just wanted to thank you again for not killing the cockatrice,” Fluttershy said with a grateful smile.

“Ah'm just glad Ah didn't have to. You really saved the day, there.”

Fluttershy blushed and giggled bashfully.

I glanced over to the farmer in the room, grinning. “Hey, AJ, finally decide to give me the time of day?” I said, teasingly.

“Ah heard there was gonna be free liquor, so Ah figured Ah'd tolerate ya,” she returned.

I laughed. “So, where's the hubby?”

“He's chaperoning the Crusaders.”

“Oh, you cruel, cruel mare,” I teased.

“Hey, he offered,” AJ defended.

“Oh, Ah didn’t realise he was a masochist.”

Applejack gave an overly fake sigh, “He will be missed. You wanna replace ‘em?”

I laughed at that. “We’ll work out the details after his funeral.”

“Ah think he’ll survive,” Applejack said.

“Yeah, he’s tough enough, Ah suppose,” I agreed.

We made small talk for a bit before she went to hoof wrestle Rainbow Dash, so I went to talk to my coworker to get to know her a bit more. After all, I really didn’t know that much about her. Seeing as we rely on each other, that really couldn’t stand.

“So, Ah was thinkin’ ‘bout gettin’ a pet,” I said, trying to strike up a conversation.

Fluttershy’s face practically split with the smile she gave me. “Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! I actually have several animals that have taken an interest in you.”

“Really?” I asked, giving her a perplexed look. “So... did they tell you that?”

Fluttershy giggled. “Oh, not exactly. I can’t really speak to animals the way a druid can. I just get impressions and emotions from them, and quite a few are impressed by you.”

“Really? Like who?” I asked.

“Well, there’s Ori the otter, Perry the platypus, Wiley the coyote, Tod the fox...”

She continued listing several more animals, some intriguing me while others not so much.

“Perhaps, if you’d like, you could come over sometime for tea?” Fluttershy asked. “You could meet them all and decide.”

I smiled back. “Ah’d like that.”

“H-how does tomorrow at six sound?” she asked.

“It’s a date!”

Yes, I said it like that just to see that absolutely adorable blush, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The next day was a quiet one. I woke up, went to work, finished work, went to see if Rarity was busy, saw that she was, went to see if Rainbow Dash was busy, she was napping, blew a horn in her ear, ran across Ponyville from her wrath, got tired, and hung out for a while.

When six o’clock was approaching, I started toward Fluttershy’s, Rainbow in tow.

“So, what are you gonna get?” Rainbow asked, excitedly. “Maybe a manticore, or a big black wolf. Oh, maybe a tiger. That would be so weird, right?”

I laughed at that one. “That would be uncomfortable, Ah think.”

“Yeah, it would be like me getting one of those horses from Earth,” Rainbow agreed. “So, wha’cha gonna get?”

“Ah’ll see when I get there,” I smirked, mischievously, “but it’ll probably be cute and cuddly.”

Rainbow gave me a shocked look. “What? ‘Cute and cuddly’? But... but... You’re too awesome for something lame, like that!”

I laughed. “What can I say, Ah got a weakness for cute things. Besides, Ah said ‘probably’. Ah’ll see which one Ah click with when Ah get there.”

“As it should be,” came the soft voice of Fluttershy from the path ahead.

“Hey, Shy,” I greeted.

“Hello, Shiro,” She smiled at me before looking to my companion. “Rainbow Dash I wasn’t expecting you.”

“I’m just keeping Shiro company ‘till he gets here. I actually got some things to do in a bit, so I can’t stick around.”

“Oh, well, then I’ll see you tomorrow,” Fluttershy said.

Rainbow took off, leaving me and Fluttershy to our business.

Fluttershy smiled up at me. “So, are you ready to see the animals?”

“You bet Ah am,” I said, grinning like a cheshire cat. “Ah’mma cuddle me some cute little critters and adopt one.”

“Alright,” Fluttershy led us to her cottage. “All the animals that want to be adopted will be in the living room. Just get to know them for a little bit and don’t be afraid to ask me any question.”

I stepped into the living room and all the animals stopped what they were doing. A couple backed away before running off, but that was expected. I was a large predator, after all.

A couple braver animals actually approached, cautiously. One little red fox kit, however, pranced straight up to me without a care in the world and looked right up at me... and bit me right on the nose.

“Oh, it’s like that, huh?”

And with that, the battle of the ages began. I unleashed a tickle attack on the little fox, but his two puppy friends weren’t taking any of that and rushed to their companion’s side. A kitten, however wouldn’t abide the canine menace harassing his follow kitty and pounced to my aide.

Of course, the otter’s treachery was unexpected, and my poor tail paid the price, but we found an unexpected ally from the bunny legion. A little brown bunny leaped on the otter’s back, blinding him long enough for my tail to claim vengeance.

The Battle of Fluttershy’s Living Room would be told throughout the ages. Lowly, nameless animals rose that day as heroes and would be remembered so long as any creature draws breath.

Which I was doing in copious amounts, after the brawl moved from me to the rest of the floor.

As I laid on my back, trying to catch my breath and a few stragglers continued to gnaw on me, Fluttershy approached with a warm smile.

“So, did you decide already, or would you like to sleep on it?” she asked.

That was an excellent question. That little fox was certainly a bold one, but the kitten lept to my side without hesitation. Of course, there was the clever otter that caught me completely off guard, and the brave little bunny that took on something five times her size.

I got to my paws, the puppy still attached to my ear whining that his chew toy was now out of reach.

As I thought, I was startled by the sound of flapping wings.

I looked up, only to see a black feather floating down.

“What wa-” a black blur interrupted me, sweeping by my face.

I turned around, trying to see where it went. I looked around, not seeing anything.

A slight movement drew my attention to a dark corner near the ceiling. A pair of red eyes glared back at me, and I could just barely make out the outline of a big, black bird.

It leaned down, it’s head just touching the light and opened its beak and squaked, “Nevermore.”

I turned to Fluttershy, pointed to the raven, and said, “That one.”

Chapter 11: Monster

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“Oh, yeah~,” I cooed as I sank into the mud bath. “This is heaven.”

“Mmm, yes, it is,” Rarity agreed.

For the past three days a pack of timberwolves was harassing the town. What was strange, though, was that they would always run as soon as I arrived, as if they were testing me. It was very disconcerting, but eventually I trapped them and took them out.

To be honest, it really wasn't an interesting story, but it was a stressful one. Rarity noticed how tense I was and offered to treat me to a visit to the spa.

I had never been to one before, but man was it great. I can't for the life of me figure out why so many guys back on Earth see it as sissy. I guess they think 'real men' are supposed to have high blood pressure and stress. Well, they can keep that. I'll just be a sissy. They can have fun with their coronary.

“As I was saying,” Rarity said, picking up our conversation from the sauna, “I have some simple designs for something more formal that I think you'll find quite fetching. If you would like, I can show you after we're done here.”

“No need,” I said. “Ah trust your fashion sense. Ah'll get you the money and you can surprise me.”

Rarity giggled. “Thank you for your confidence.”

We both let out content sighs as we relaxed, sinking deeper into the mud.

“So, Ah've been meanin’ to ask you,” I started, my nerves rising. “Is... there anything Ah should know ‘bout... you know... courtin’...”

I practically felt the cucumber raise off Rarity's eye and the grin on her face. “Oh? Have your eye on a pony already, do you?”

“Ah don’t know... maybe,” I said.

“Who do you have in mind?” Rarity asked.

“Uh... Ah'd... rather not say just yet,” I said.

“Would it be Fluttershy?” Rarity asked. “You two do seem to have gotten rather close.”

I chuckled. “Nah, she's just a friend. Ah... doubt she’d be interested.”

“Hmm,” Rarity hummed, skeptically. “I don't know. I could see you two together. Whoever it is, there isn't really much different from how you would court a human. The only difference is in giving flowers. Some flowers have different meanings than on Earth. For example, roses are best given after you've been dating for some time, as it shows you're willing to start taking things seriously.”

“Okay, so what kinda flowers would be good?”

“Daisies are a safe choice, just make sure they match her coat, not her eyes,” Rarity instructed. “The Flower sisters always have a fine selection. Personally, though, I like lilies.”

I laughed. “Sorry, but as wonderful as you are, it ain't you, either.”

We relaxed for the last few minutes in the mud before getting out, rinsing off and getting in the mineral bath.

Rarity stepped right in. I, however, hesitated.

“What's wrong?” Rarity asked before her face fell a little. “Oh, of course. I'm sure there is a spare bath for those who are shy.”

“No, no,” I said as I forced myself to get in. “It's still just a little strange, is all. Ah just have to get used to the lack of gender separation... Are you okay?”

Rarity sighed, dejectedly. “Yes, merely a bit of an existential crisis.”

“Because of a bath?”

“Every Terran I help always goes through moments like this, yet I never did.” Rarity gave me a somber smile. “To be honest, it makes me feel that I don't really know how to be human. I was only seven when my family and I were brought here, and as such the only human sensibilities I know are those known by a seven year old.

“I try to be a bridge between Terrans and natives, but the truth is, sometimes I forget I ever was human. It only seems to be when I'm with other Terrans that I even think of myself as one.”

“But that's what makes you such a good bridge,” I assured. “You're a Terran that grew up here, so you know how to be native better than any Terran could, but you're still Terran, so you understand us better than any native.”

Rarity giggled. “Thank you. That does make me feel at least a little better.”

“Ah'm glad Ah could help,” I said with a smile. “It’s the least Ah could do, after all you’ve done for me.”

Rarity and I parted ways after we finished at the spa. She went to fill a couple orders, and I went to further treat myself at Sugarcube Corner.

I was enjoying a nice sundae when a familiar voice piped up.

“Are you actually petting yourself?” Rainbow said, holding back a snicker.

I couldn't help it. For the last half hour, I've been stroking my own fur, marveling at how incredibly soft I was.

“Ah just finished at the spa, and Ah'm lovin' myself. Feel.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow but sat on the seat beside me and brushed a hoof along my shoulder. “Wow, dude, you really are soft. You totally need to do that before we bang again.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course, your mind goes straight to the gutter.”

Rainbow snickered. “Well, maybe you should do something about it.”

I gave her a lecherous grin, “How about tonight?”

“How about right now? Pinkie’ll let us borrow her bed, if we ask,” she said.

I laughed. “Ah’m not going to have sex on someone else’s bed unless it was with them.”

As soon as I said that, Rainbow got that look people get when they think they have a genius idea, and as soon as I saw it, I knew what was going through her mind.

Before she could ask what I already knew she was going to ask, my bracelet buzzed. I answered my crystal to hear Fluttershy’s panicked voice on the other end utter two words.

“Shiro! Dragon!”

I rushed as fast as I could to where Fluttershy was waiting, just on the edge of the Everfree Forest, only stopping to grab my 'utility belt', as I like to call it. This was a belt and shoulder strap that held various packets full of evocation pods; reagents wrapped in paper with arcane runes and sigils inscribed on them.

“Where is it?!” I asked, urgently.

“It's s-still stalking outside town,” she replied, her voice quavering.

“Are you sure it's going to attack?” Rainbow asked, having followed me.

“Yes, and it's feral. It’s mind is gone. You won't be able to talk it down,” Fluttershy said, her face full of worry. “Shiro, what are we going to do?”

I was already drawing the summoning circle.

In a flash of fire, Bakura was before us. “Yes?”

“Got anything that can kill a dragon?”

“Shiro, no!” Fluttershy cried. “You can't fight that thing, it'll kill you! We need to lead it away long enough for ponies to get to their shelters.”

“Not a full grown true dragon... at least, not yet,” Bakura answered, ignoring Fluttershy. “The weapon is finished, but the enchantments are not. If you can give me time, I might be able to finish something passable.”

I nodded. “Alright. Ah'll need a spear.”

“Shiro, please don't,” Fluttershy pleaded.

“Ah gotta, Shy. A dragon can dig ponies out of their shelters. They’ll be like canned sardines,” I said, trying to hide my fear from her. “Go back to town and get everyone inside. Ah’ll try to keep it out of town, but Ah’ll feel better if Ah know Ah can fight with everything Ah have.”

“Get me a spear, too,” Rainbow demanded.

I raised an eyebrow at that. “Do you even know how to use one?”

“No, do you?” she asked severely, as if she knew the answer.

I gave her a flat stare. “Ah've been a student of martial arts for fifteen years. Ah can use most weapons, both Asian and European, to some extent.”

“Oh...” She said, sheepishly. “Well, I can distract it until that weapon's ready.”

I sighed. “Fine, but only distract it. Don’t try to take it down, no matter what. Keep out of danger as much as possible.”

“Got'cha,” she said with a salute.

Bakura held out his hands, forming a pair of circles in the air. “Here, my two best spears. Use them well.”

Rainbow and I pulled our weapons from the circles. They were incredibly simple in design, a basic shaft and diamond shaped head, made of the same blood-red metal as his other goods. I gave the weapon a few thrusts and swings, getting a feel for it.

“So, what's the game plan?” Rainbow asked.

I thought about it for a moment. I would somehow have to overcome its incredible size and power, but how?

I looked around for anything that could help. All the trees were small, vine and moss covered things. They would do little to slow it down considering it's after the town. It could just fly over them without trouble.

How would a man fight Godzilla?

My gaze swept back over the trees, and an idea started to form.

I grinned as I said, “Nerdom saves the day.”

“Huh?” Rainbow said, quirking an eyebrow.

“Help me out,” I ordered.

“Uh... okay,” Rainbow replied, moving to help. “With what?”

“You're gonna to be mah Dak.”

I stalked through the brush, creeping up on my quarry. It either didn't notice me or didn't care. Either was understandable, really, as I was unnaturally quiet, but even if he noticed me, I'm tiny by comparison and didn’t seem to be a threat.

That was about to change, though, as I picked up a sizable rock with one paw and pulled out one of my pouches with the other. I channeled magic into the packet. It burst into blue flames that I pressed into the rock.

The rock absorbed the crafted spell and it began pulsing with a red-orange glow, vibrating slightly with stored energy.

I took a deep breath and lined up my shot, cocked my arm back, and launched the rock with all my might. It struck the dragon on its left thigh, exploding with a mild concussive force.

The dragon roared in pain. The damage wasn't great, only a scratch, but it was enough to get its attention.

It's head, twice as big as my entire body, swung around to level a death glare at me before roaring and lunging, jaws wide open.

Outrunning something that size is practically impossible, so instead of running the opposite way, I dove under its head, swung around it’s foreleg, jumped on his back and clung to its neck.

The dragon roared and took to the air, swinging its head in an attempt to dislodge me, and beating its massive leathery wings to take to the sky the way no creature that size should be able. That was expected.

As its massive wings flared in downbeat a couple hundred feet in the air, a blue blur streaked in like a dive bomber, launching its crimson payload. The spear tore through the thin, membranous skin of the dragon's right wing, trailing a length of vines tied to the center of the shaft.

The dragon let out another roar of pain. In an instant, he forgot about me completely. Rainbow threw the rolled up vine to me and flew in the dragon's face.

“Hey, ugly!” she taunted. “You're mother's a saddlebag!”

With him distracted, I wrapped the vine around my paw for a better grip and jumped off the dragon's left shoulder. The spear turned sideways and slammed against the wing as the vine went taught. Another roar and I was swinging under a suddenly destabilized dragon.

My momentum flung me around to land back on the dragon. With the vine still in one paw, I gripped the beast with the other as hard as I could and pulled on the peak of the next upbeat.

It didn't take long for the vine to snap under the strain of the powerful wing, but it did enough to the delicate appendage. The dragon was going down, and it was time for me to bailout.

I let go of the vine and jumped off again, this time into the waiting hooves of Rainbow Dash as the monstrous creature slammed into the ground hard, digging a rut in the countryside.

“That was so awesome!” she cheered.

“That it was,” I agreed. “Now let's get down there and finish this.”

The dragon was just struggling to its feet when we landed.

“Alright, let's do this. Keep it busy.”

“Rodger.” Rainbow gave a salute and rocketed to the dragon, kicking it in the face before darting away.

Whipping out my chalk powder, I drew a summoning circle as quick as I dared. It was big, but if Bakura was right, this would be the best weapon to take down such prey.

The circle lit up, the space inside shimmering as it bridged this world and the Void. A long, two foot handle emerged and rose to meet my paw. Then came the guard, a little broader than my shoulders and as thick as my fist. Then the blade came...

And came...

And came.

This thing was a behemoth. The blade was eight feet long, two feet at the base and tapering to one before it angled into a shallow point. It was the kind of thing you only see in video games and anime. It was an impractical and useless thing on its own.

However, as I lifted the thing and gave it a few swings, I could feel the weight, yet it wasn't pulling me off my feet despite the thing weighing easily three times what I do.

It still wouldn't be very useful against anything smaller than a house, being unwieldy as it was, but against a dragon, it was perfect.

After getting a little bit of a feel for it, I turned to face my foe. Rainbow was flying away, dodging a jet of dragonfire. Perfect, the dragon was facing away from me.

I closed the distance between us quickly with the sword held behind me to one side. With my padded hind paws, he never heard me coming. Everyone within a mile around us heard him, though, as the blade dug into the flesh and tendon of his hind leg.

The sheer mass of the weapon carried it through the armored scales, though not without a small amount of difficulty. Considering it was still a dragon, it made sense. I figured it was similar to fighting someone wearing leather armor with a knife. It could work, but not easily.

As it stumbled, it turned toward me, lashing out with a massive claw. Unable to dodge, I brought my blade in front of me in the hopes of deflecting at least some of the impact. It kept the claws from slicing me to ribbons but the impact wasn't lessened in the slightest.

I went tumbling at least a hundred, painful feet before coming to a sliding halt.

A roar brought my attention from the dirt back to the dragon limping toward me intent on melting my face off. Thankfully, my own personal guardian angel dove in, spear in hoof, and buried half the thing in the dragon's right eye.

I struggled to my paws, digging through my pockets as it reared back, roaring at Rainbow. I grabbed my sword from where I dropped it and pulled out a spell that was normally meant for a hasty retreat. Like the mitosis of some strange amoeba, an exact, illusory duplicate of myself melted out of me.

As it began its mindless charge, another spell packet dissolved into a bolt of lightning, streaking from my paw to the rampaging dragon, striking it in the back. Immediately, I dove into a bush to the right as my doppelganger went left.

The dragon turned and charged. I, in the meantime, waited until it was nearly upon me before I leaped out, taking advantage of its blind spot.

As I passed beneath its neck, I swung the massive blade with a powerful overhand chop. The sword dug into its throat and the arteries within.

The dragon twisted and fell to the ground, gurgling on its own blood and clutching its wound with its claws.

As its life faded, it looked at me with its one remaining eye, not in rage or blood lust, but fear.

It looked at me as if I were the monster.

I suppose, from his perspective, I was.

Chapter 12: The Northern Kingdom

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The train came to a slow, steady stop as it pulled into the station in the Frozen North. I readied my things for departure, straightening out my new vest. Rarity had made me a few, two red and black – one of which I was wearing – two blue and black, both of those types matching my stripes, and two black that was a little more formal.

Two days ago, I received a letter from Jynx saying that she was contracted to examine some Crystal Empire artifacts, and asked if I would like to assist her. It was kinda surprising, to be honest. I had no experience with this kinda thing, but I had expressed an interest in the Crystal Empire so I figured that was why.

I was expecting to meet her in some frontier-like town when I stepped off the train. Instead, I was met with an enormous city.

“Shiro!” I heard Jynx's voice calling from down the platform. “Over here!”

I followed the waving hoof to find the unicorn attached. “Uh, Jynx... Ah thought you said this place was destroyed.”

“The Crystal Empire was, not the Crystal Kingdom,” Jynx explained as we started walking. “Think of it like our world's equivalent of Egypt. It's a much newer nation built on an older one that adopted the name.”

“You know ‘bout Egypt?”

“One of my professors was an Egyptologist before getting displaced,” Jynx explained as we turned onto the main road, heading downtown. “Anyway, about five hundred years ago, an archaeology team unearthed the Crystal Heart, the Crystal Empire's most prized artifact and a Divine Element.

“The Heart allowed them to create an area of fertile land which they turned into a permanent settlement for teams searching for Crystal Empire artifacts and ruins. This made it much easier to search, as before that, one had to bring everything you would need all the way from Equestria.

“First they brought in farmers to get food production going. Those farmers then needed smiths and carpenters for tools and buildings. Then miners and foresters to supply the smiths and carpenters. Eventually, like usually happens with these things, a full fledged town sprang up.

“Fast forward a couple hundred years, and it was a bustling city. The problem, though, was that they were too far separated from the rest of Equestria, both physically and culturally, and it caused some political and legal problems.

“Eventually, Princess Celestia decided that it would be better for them to govern themselves and released them as a vassal state under the protection of the crown.”

“And would Shining Armor and Princess Cadance be the rulin’ couple here?” I asked.

Jynx raised an eyebrow at that. “The show?” I nodded. “Yes and no. You see, Cadence was originally from here, the daughter of a prominent pegasus family. Her father was a well known figure in the local government.”

“So, she wasn't already royalty?” I asked.

“No, her father didn't want her growing up to be just another spoiled rich filly, so he sent her to Canterlot to work as one of the palace servants. It was meant to help teach her the value of work and humility. That's when she met Twilight,” Jynx chuckled. “Anyway, I think it would be better to let Cadence tell the rest. Obviously, she knows it better than me.”

“Wait, we're gonna to meet the Princess?” I asked.

“Yeah, she's the one that hired me... And I forgot to put that in the letter.” she blushed, sheepishly. “Heh, sorry.”

As we walked, Jynx played tour guide, pointing out various notable buildings, mostly restaurants and shops of which she had a particular fondness.

The first thing I noticed was the designs. Where Equestria was all soft and round, these buildings were angular and very colorful, looking as if actually made of crystal, despite being the same material as most of the buildings in Canterlot.

The second thing I noticed was the complete lack of crystal ponies. Jynx had told me a while prior to this trip that most had been wiped out by windigos, and the few that survived eventually died off. A few ponies have crystal pony ancestors, but their genes are too diluted to be considered one.

I expected there to be no crystal ponies, but actually seeing it just reminded me that this world isn't the sunshine and rainbow filled world the show made it seem. It had plenty of its own evils.

“You alright?” Jynx asked, bring me out of my thoughts.

“Yeah, just thinkin’,” I replied.

“Well, we're here,” she said, gesturing to the rather unimpressive place.

“This... ain’t at all like the one in the show,” I observed. “It’s pretty small for a palace, isn’t it?”

“That’s because this isn’t the palace, it’s Amore Manor. You’re thinking of the Crystal Spire,” Jynx said pointing to a towering object in the distance that looked more like what I was expecting the palace to look like. “I’ll tell you about it later. For now, let's go inside and introduce you to the local royalty.”

“As long as it goes better than last time,” I joked.

“I'm sure it will,” she said with a smirk. “I mean, one of your kind are only responsible for giving Sombra the knowledge he needed to completely wipe the last nation that sat here off the face of the map. No big deal.”

“Ah hate you.”

Needless to say, I was a little nervous as we were escorted to the Prince's private study. Jynx's little comment didn't help, but most of it came from the fact that this guy actually was captain of the guard.

And no, he didn't get that because of his title. He wanted to make it by his own merits and so none of his superiors knew who he was.

Don't ask me how they didn't recognize the crown prince, because I don't know.

Probably magic.

It's a perfectly legit and rather common answer here, after all.

Our escort knocked on the door, and we were promptly allowed entry. As we stepped inside, I was honestly surprised. It wasn't the lavishly decorated room typical of royalty. Instead, it was adorned with movie memorabilia, comics, and action figures. He even had what looked like a D&D character sheet in a picture frame. The whole thing screamed 'college nerd', not 'crown prince'.

I loved it.

“Jynx, how've you been?” asked a surprisingly deep, strong voice, a far cry from the sissy surfer I was expecting. “And I take it this is the guy my sister's been going on about?”

The stallion that stood from his desk and approached to greet us was, in simple terms, intimidating. He was built like Big Mac, and radiated magical power only slightly less than Twilight. Add the pair of enormous wings, and Shining Armor was an impressive sight. However, he had a calm, relaxed demeanor, balancing it out.

The mare behind him was quite different. It was clearly Cadance and seemed about as I expected. She held herself with a regality that I had only seen in the royal sisters. However, unlike the sisters, she didn't look quite right for an alicorn. Her horn seemed a little small and her tail was too short and the tuft too long.

“Yeah, this is Shiro, Twilight's newest scientific interest,” Jynx said, bring me back to the prince.

“I hope my little sis hasn't been too invasive,” Shining addressed me.

“Not too bad, though she's more interested in mah physiology than mah magic. She's actually been leavin’ the magic to Jynx, here,” I replied.

Shining laughed. “Yeah, Twilie hates chaos magic and pretty much anything else she can't quantify, except Pinkie.”

“Why don't we get you settled in and then we can talk business,” Cadence suggested. “We can catch up and get to know Mister Tora here after you two are all set for your stay.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jynx agreed.

“Alright, we’ll show you to your rooms,” Cadence said, leading us out of the room.

As we went through the manor, Cadence told us a bit about why we were here.

“So, Shiro, how much do you know about recent events?” she asked. “Specifically in the Crystal Kingdom after Sombra’s return?”

“Uh... Approximately jack shit,” I answered. “Ah mean, Ah’m guessing he didn’t return along with the entire Crystal Empire, but he did return. Ah’m gonna to take guess that tower out there that kinda sticks out did come back with him.”

“Very astute observation, Shiro,” Cadence congratulated. “After the Crystal Spire reappeared, and Sombra’s Remnant was destroyed, we began an investigation. However, we’ve ran into a bit of a dead end. The royal vault is protected by powerful locking spells. Considering he was a priest of Kronos, we’re hoping this spell was keyed to allow Tigerians, as a whole.”

“So, y’all want me to see if Ah can open a door?” I asked. “Sounds easy enough.”

“Well, that’s the first part of it,” Jynx explained. “We’re actually hoping that you can bypass a lot of Sombra’s security.”

“Yes, some of the artifacts we’ve already discovered are cursed,” Cadence continued. “We can counter the effects easily enough, but we fear we may destroy the artifacts if we attempt to do so.”

“And Ah take it y’all wanna keep these artifacts for educational reasons?” I guessed.

“Yes and no,” Cadence replied. “Some of them are certainly dangerous enough that we only want to study them to find out how to counter it, in case others are out there. However, some of them may turn out to be useful.”

“So, y’all want me to go play with some magical artifacts owned by a long dead tyrant and see if Ah get cursed,” I summed up.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Jynx said with a teasing smirk. “Don’t worry, breaking a curse on a being is much easier than breaking them on an object.”

I sighed, dramatically. “Very well, for the sake of protecting others I shall, once again, put myself in harms way.”

“And, hey, if you do die, we’ll give you a nice tombstone, on us,” Shining Armor added.

I laughed at that. “Truly, your generosity knows no bounds.”

“... and Ah was like, ‘Why not both?’” I finished retelling a particularly strange event, getting a chuckle out of Jynx as we wandered the halls of the manor.

“I wish I could have seen that,” she said. “It sounds like you’re getting a handle on your magic.”

“Not just mah chaos magic, either,” I said. “Watch this.”

I came to a stop, sitting on my haunches, Jynx doing the same, gathered a bit of silver fire in my paw and held it out. Then, with a smirk, I let it go and dropped my arm, leaving the fire suspended in the air.

Jynx looked at the floating mote of fire with interest.

“It still only burns what Ah want it to, so you can touch it,” I replied.

“Amazing,” Jynx poked the fire as it began to dissipate. “But you can’t project it?”

“No,” I said as we started walking again, a little upset by that. “Ah ain’t sure if Ah ever will.”

“Why’s that?”

I had to think how to word it. “It’s just a feelin’. It just doesn’t feel like somethin’ Ah can shoot. Ah know that doesn’t make much sense, but...”

Jynx nodded sagely and said. “Magic is funny like that. Sometimes its rules don’t make sense. Like how there are spells to change a creature into a completely different species, but simply changing their gender is so far impossible. Magic doesn’t follow logic.

“This magic, you can just ‘feel’. It’s nowhere near the strangest thing I’ve seen. So, how long does it last?”

"Hmm..." I thought for a moment. "Why don't we find out?"

Gathering fire on my fingertip, I wrote 'Hello' in the air, willing it to not burn anything.

"Well, that's not going to cause any issues," Jynx said with a chuckle.

"We'll see if it's still there when we get back," I said.

"Sounds like a plan," Jynx replied. "I don't know if it's a good plan, but it is in fact a plan."

“So,” I started, acting on a whim. “You got any plans later?”

“I was just going to go for a trot. Why?”

“Well...” I thought for a bit. “Do you wanna maybe get some dinner, maybe catch a show after?”

Jynx gave me a cocky grin. “Why, Shiro, are you asking me out?”

“... Maybe.”

Her grin disappeared as she gave me a curious gaze. “You know what, sure. Why not?”

“Really?” I asked, not quite believing she agreed.

“Yeah, you’re a cool guy,” she stated. “Who knows, maybe this will go somewhere.”

“Awesome,” I said, cooly. “So, any place in particular you want to go?”

“I know a nice place. In fact, let’s go tonight,” she said. “How does six sound?”

“Sounds like a date.”

Chapter 13: First Date

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One thing that about Equestria, communal baths are a very common thing. Ponies are a much more social species than humans, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see, as social grooming is a key part of most social species, but it still took a little getting used to.

What took even more getting used to is the fact that, like everything else here, there is no gender separation. Considering they all walk around naked all day, anyway, it makes sense, but it was still weird for me.

What was even weirder was doing so in the royal bathing hall.

What was even weirder than that was having a princess scrub your back while giving you dating advice.

“-and remember that a mare like her is very independent. Don’t go overboard with being a gentlestallion. Show that you’ll assist her, but not take over.”

The whole time, Shining Armor, his personal butler, a couple off duty guards, and one of the maids laughed.

I had to admit, though, it did feel nice having my fur scrubbed. In fact, I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t even mind the constant chatter and teasing.

It wasn’t until I heard a certain voice that I got a little tense.

“I’d make a joke about felines and moisture, but I feel somepony probably beat me to it,” Jynx said as she walked into the bathroom.

“Cadance and Jumper did,” Shining said.

Jynx just rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Of course they did.”

She sighed in content as she stepped into the warm water. “That’s nice.” She looked at me and snickered. “You look like you’re enjoying that.”

“It’s like a massage, and her hooves are magic,” I replied.

“You better not be enjoying that too much,” Shining jokingly threatened.

“I’m pretty sure that’s out of his paws,” Cadence said with a giggle. “Besides, I’m done, now.”

I quickly dunked under the water to rinse the soap out of my fur.

“So, where are you two planning on going?” Cadence asked, doing a bad job of hiding her excitement.

I looked over at Jynx expectedly. She just gave a sly grin. “Oh... just a place I know.”

“Oh, come on, tell!” Cadence begged.

“Cadie,” Shining said in a teasingly chiding voice, “Don’t ruin the surprise.”

Cadence sighed dramatically. “Oh, fine. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.”

“So... a surprise then. Good, I like surprises,” I said with a grin.

Jynx smiled at that. “Well, then if you’re done, why don’t you come over here and help me with my back, so we can head out?”

We walked back through the city, looking at the sights. It was a lovely city. It didn’t have the grandiose of Canterlot, but it had a strange mix of big city flair and rustic charm.

The people were also just as unique. I say ‘people’, because saying ‘ponies’ would be quite inaccurate. While still the majority, ponies were far from the only race here. There were griffins, minotaurs, gnolls, and others I didn’t know. It was far more diverse than I expected it to be.

Still, I managed to stand out. More than a few people stared at me with confused recognition. A couple even looked out right nervous.

“They recognize you,” Jynx explained. “There are very few here that don’t know at least some of the story of the fall of the Crystal Empire. The stories of Sombra’s advisor are pretty well known, so Shining Armor and Cadence made an announcement about you.”

“Really? Would me comin’ here really cause that much of a problem?” I asked.

Jynx nodded, “Most likely, yeah. Like I said, most here know at least something about Tigerians.”

“Yet Twilight didn’t,” I pointed out.

Jynx chuckled. “Yeah, outside the Crystal Kingdom, it’s extraordinarily rare knowledge. I’m not surprised Twilight didn’t know about them. Remember, before Sombra summoned one, Tigerians hadn’t been seen for two thousand years. Add to that, the Discordian Era that wiped out most written history and how isolated this place is, is it really a surprise that Tigerians are more local legends?”

“Ah guess,” I admitted. “So, Shining and Cadence told everyone Ah was comin’ so they wouldn’t think I was here to enslave everyone?”

“Well, when the Crystal Spire reappeared along with Sombra’s remnant, it was feared that the tigerian he summoned might have also returned,” Jynx explained. “Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

“Then why are folks still scared of me?” I asked.

Jynx sighed. “Because some jerks started spreading a conspiracy theory that you’re the one Sombra summoned and you’re just posing as a terran to catch everyone off guard.”

“But... I’m white. They were all orange.”

“Yeah, well, it’s a conspiracy theory,” Jynx replied with a scoff. “When do any of them hold up under scrutiny?”

She had a point. I just had to try to ignore them.

We continued on our way to whatever destination Jynx had in store. She insisted it was a place I would love.

Eventually, we came to a restaurant called, ‘A Taste of Home’. It didn’t look that special, but when we walked inside, I saw exactly why we came. The entire place was decked out in stuff from Earth.

“Every now and then, when someone crosses over, some of their stuff comes with them,” Jynx explained. “Some of it finds its way here. Basically, this is a place by Terrans, for Terrans and lovers of Terran culture.”

A pony, obviously our waitress, came up to us and asked, “How many?”

“Two,” Jynx replied.

“Right this way.”

As we went through the place, I admired the decor. There was decades worth of stuff. There were a pair of roller skates, a He-Man action figure, a Star Wars poster, some photographs of celebrities and influential people, and all kinds of other stuff. There was even a Pinkie Pie plush.

“See that car in the back?” Jynx asked. I looked back and saw it, a rather beat up looking station wagon. “That was Rarity’s parents’ car, the one they crossed over in. It’s the only fully intact car in the world. That was actually brought in while they were still building the place.”

We were led to our table, underneath a tricycle and near a broken arcade cabinet.

“Here are the menus,” the waitress said, passing them to us. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Soda for me,” Jynx ordered.

“Same,” I said.

With that, she left us alone.

“So,” Jynx began as we both glanced through the menu. “How are you liking the Crystal Kingdom so far?”

“It’s not what Ah was expectin’,” I answered, glancing through the options. Not surprisingly, everything was inspired by Earth. “Ah mean, Ah wasn’t exactly expectin’ it to be like the show, but Ah also wasn’t expectin’ so many similarities to it. Still, from what Ah’ve seen, it’s nice.”

Jynx smiled as she said, “Well, the people here try to emulate the old Crystal Empire’s style, but the technique for growing crystal buildings was lost. That’s actually one of the things we’re hoping to find in the Crystal Spire.”

“So, what exactly is the Crystal Spire?” I asked. “Was it just Sombra’s palace?”

“Oh, it was so much more than that. The entire building is believed to be a conduit for magical forces. What kind of magical forces, we can only speculate, but it does seem to draw a lot of mana in.” The way she explained it, I could tell she was passionate about this kind of thing. “Once we get inside the sealed rooms, there’s so much we’re going to be able to learn.

“As evil as he was, Sombra was a genius when it came to magic. Many of the things he did led to innovations that have benefited thousands.”

“Sounds like Hitler and the Nazi party,” I said. “They did so many horrendous things, but we managed to take great things from their advances. It doesn’t justify what they did by any means, but at least we managed to get somethin’ from it all.”

Jynx nodded with a sigh. “I’ve heard a little about that. Still, let’s talk about something a little happier.”

Our waitress took that moment to come back with our drinks. “Are we ready to order?”

Jynx ordered first. “I’ll have the Indian curried vegetables.”

“And Ah’ll have the Greek gyro platter,” I answered.

It was between that, the Louisiana catfish, or the Russian stroganoff. All three sounded great, but I probably do stroganoff better and I had fish for dinner the day before

“Alright, I’ll be right back with those orders as soon as they’re ready.”

“So, what was it like growing up on Earth?” Jynx asked after the waitress left.

“Well, Ah grew up in the Southern United States,” I started. “Ah don’t really know what all there is to say. Ah had a pretty typical childhood. I had friends, we goofed off playing around and pretending to be our favorite heroes. Ah always wanted to be Iron Man.

“In high school, Ah was into video games, anime, comics, Dungeons and Dragons, you know, nerd stuff. Of course, that brought a couple bullies, but they didn’t last long when they tried pickin’ a fight and got more than they bargained for.

“Been in martial arts since Ah was ten. Ah ain’t talkin’ about the flashy, showy crap that movies make popular, or the fake fightin’ like they do in MMA. Ah learned real martial arts, emphasis on the ‘martial’.

“It was somethin’ Ah always loved, ever since Ah was a kid. Ah used to love things like Ninja Turtles, and old Bruce Lee and kung-fu movies. You know, things with guys beating the bad guys with nothin’ but their own bodies.

“Anyway, after high school, Ah joined the Navy. Ah was a Nuclear Machinist Mate for a time, but decided to leave after mah six years were up. Not long after that, Ah woke up on a rock in the Whitetail Woods.

“How about you?,” I asked. “What was it like for a unicorn growing up in Cloudsdale?”

Jynx chucked. “Not easy. Cloudsdale was never meant for non flyers like me. It’s as much vertical as it is horizontal. My school was two hundred feet above my house. Mom had to drop me off and pick me up every day.

“Then there was the fact that I couldn’t do part of the curriculum at the school. I was one of three non-pegasi there, one of which was an earth pony, so they didn’t exactly have classes for magic.

“I actually hated the fact that I wasn’t a pegasus. Not only did we live in a pegasus city, but flying was in our blood. I wanted to fly so bad, but I couldn’t change what I was.

“Then, Great Granny Earhart told me about when she was on Earth. She told me all about the flying machines humans had, and how she used to fly them all the time. That was when I decided that if I didn’t have wings, I would create them with what I had; magic.

“Dad started teaching me what magic he knew. I got my hooves on any books on magic I could find. I studied my tail off. Then, one day, while we were visiting a museum on a school field trip, there was a display from ancient Hippopotamia.”

“Wait, like a hippo kingdom?” I asked.

Jynx laughed. “No, as in ancient Hippek for ‘horse’. It’s our world’s equivalent of Greek.

“Anyway, I was looking at a couple of the artifacts on display when I noticed a broken stone tablet. It was an ancient spell, but it was only part of it. No one knew what the rest of it was, though.

“Well, I noticed a design on the edges that I thought looked familiar. I looked through a book of mine and found a picture of a statue from the same region, and wouldn’t you know it, there was a chunk missing from a tablet being held by the statue.

“Turns out, the tablet piece did, in fact, go to the statue. The spell that was discovered from that was a spell to repel locusts. While we have a spell for that now, and it’s a little better than the one on the statue, it showed that the origin of the anti locust spell was nearly thirteen hundred years older than we thought.

“Anyway, that little discovery got me my cutie mark and helped me get into Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.”

As soon as she finished, the waitress returned with our food. Conversation was put on pause as we dug in. The gyros were quite good. The lamb filling was tender and and the stuffed grape leaves that came with it were amazing, though nowhere near as good as my mom’s.

Jynx let me try the curried vegetables. It was quite good, too. Nice and spicy but not so much it hides the flavor.

After dinner, we decided to head back to the palace. We enjoyed the evening air, chatting more about our youths. I told her all about some of the stupid things I did as a kid, and she told me about the time the accedently sent her desk to a parralell dimention.

You know, kid stuff.

Eventually, we made it back to our rooms.

“So,” Jynx began. “I had fun.”

“Me too,” I replied.

She gave me a smouldering gaze. “So... You want to come in?”

“I’d love to.”

The moment I was inside and the door shut, she pounced, tackling me onto the bed as her lips mashed against my own. I returned the favor as my paws trailed down her back and squeezed her rear.

I rolled over, pinning her beneath me before-

“-And I said, ‘That’s not... butter...’”

We froze, slowly looking to our side where a pegasus stallion that wasn’t there seconds ago sat blinking in confusion.

“Uh... Zack, what did you put in my drink?”

Chapter 14: Coincidence

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The calm of the night was shattered by screaming and crashing as a pegasus stumbled and tripped in a panic through the halls of the palace.

“Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!” the pegasus screamed as he turned a corner and slammed into a table, knocking a vase of flowers off. “What the fuck is going on?!”

All he knew was that one moment he was hanging out with his friend, and the next he was in some weird place, in a weird body being chased by a weird tiger monster.

Another of the horse things came around a corner, wearing what looked like a maid outfit. Still not accustomed to his quadrupedal stance, he plowed into her, hard. The hit the ground in a tangle.

He disengaged from the other creature as fast as he could, gave a quick apology and continued his mad dash through the halls.

“Zack?!” he called, desperately. “Where are you, man?! This isn’t funny!”

“Wait, please!” someone called, but he ignored it. It was probably that tiger monster trying to eat him.

He had to get out of there. Maybe he could hide until they gave up.

He crashed through the first door he saw, tumbling through as he heard a woman yelp.

“Huh?” He looked up just in time to see an angry looking horse thing launch something glowing right at his face.

“Thank you. I don’t think we have anymore questions,” the guardspony said as he finished taking our statements.

“If there’s anythin’ else we can do, just let us know,” I said.

I sighed and slid down into the couch. The night had been going so well, and then, bam! I was suddenly being led on a merry chase through the palace.

I tried to relax, spinning a feather the poor guy lost in his panic.

“This is one hell of a coincidence, isn’t it?” Jynx asked. “First you, now him.”

“You think it might not be?” I asked.

“Well, I’m not saying it isn’t just a coincidence, but the odds are pretty far out there,” she answered.

“Right now, all that matters is that he’s lost and confused,” I said. “We can solve that little mystery later.”

Jynx settled next to me. “Yeah, I know. It’s just on my mind right now. I’m not going to poke and prod the guy before he’s ready.”


Jynx regarded me with a curious look. “You’re taking a particular interest in him, aren’t you?”

“Well, he did kind of land in our laps, didn’t he?” I replied.

“And interrupted our fun before it even started.” Jynx said with a smirk.

“We can always have fun later.”

Jynx gave me a concerned look. “Yeah, you seem to be a bit distracted, anyway.”

I gave a little snort in amusement. “Can you blame me?”

“No, I guess not,” Jynx said with a small smile. “Why don’t we just go to bed?”

I sighed. “Yeah. That sounds good.”

As the morning sun filtered through the window, Cedric winced and tried to roll over, only to find himself unable to do so.

“The hell?” he mumbled, groggily. He tried to move his arms, but found himself bound to the bed he was in. “What the fuck?!”

He pulled against the bindings, but couldn’t move an inch. Not even his head could move.

As if someone was just waiting for him, the door opened and in walked one of those horse things he saw the night before. At least, he was pretty sure it was. He couldn’t see it very well from where he was, but he could see it out or the corner of his eye.

“Oh, god. It wasn’t a dream,” he uttered to himself.

“Good morning,” the horse thing greeted.

“What the fuck’s going on? Who are you and what did you do to me?” Cedric demanded. “Let me go!”

“Sir, please calm down,” it pleaded. “We had to restrain you for your own protection, as well as our own. I know you’re probably confused and frightened, and you have every right to be. First, this isn’t something we did to you, but it is something we would like to help you with.”

“Then who the hell did?!” Cedric yelled. “Where the hell am I?!”

“You’re in one of the guest rooms in the palace of the Crystal Kingdom,” the horse explained.

Cedric swallowed his nerves. “Am I... whatever you are?”

The horse nodded. “More or less. You aren’t exactly like me, but of the same species.”

Cedric felt his resolve shatter. “H-how?”

“We still don’t know,” the horse said sympathetically. “But you aren’t alone. There are others here, many others, that have gone through the exact same thing you are now. In fact, one of them is right here, wanting to help you, if you want to see him.”

“What do you mean they went through the same thing?”

“I mean, they were humans on Earth, now they’re something else here.”

Cedric thought for a second before nodding his head.

“Alright, I’ll send him in,” the horse said before leaving out the door. “I’ll remove the restraint spell, now, since you seem to be in control.”

Cedric saw a light and felt his body loosen.

“Alright, I’ll be right outside the door. If you need anything, just yell.”

With that, the horse left. Cedric sat up as well as he could, forcing himself to sit the way a dog would. It felt natural, anyway.

Not ten seconds after the nurse, or who he assumed was a nurse, left the door opened again and in walked the very same tiger monster that chased him the night before.

The guy looked utterly terrified. I couldn’t really blame him, but it did hurt a little.

“Hey,” I said, trying to be as calm as possible. “So, welcome to the Crystal Kingdom, Ah guess.”

He seemed to relax slightly. “Y-you’re human?”

“Ah used to be, yeah,” I replied. “From Virginia, USA. Where are you from?”

“Seattle, Washington,” he answered.

“So, Ah know you have a ton of questions. Heck, Ah still got questions and Ah’ve been here for months,” I said with a chuckle.

“Months?” He asked, eyes widening. “Does... does that mean...”

I sighed. “Yeah, there ain’t no goin’ back, Ah’m afraid.”

“You mean, ‘not yet’, right? Someone’s looking for a way to send us home,” he said, almost pleading.

“Well, there are folks still lookin’ into it, but this has been happenin’ for eight hundred years,” I explained. “You know all those folks that disappear without a trace and are never seen again? Well, some of them come here.”

The guy looked contemplative for a moment before asking, “How many of us are there?”

“Thousands. Ah don’t know the exact number, but it’s a lot,” I replied. “We’re all over the place, and most of us are willin’ to help out.

“By the way, mah name’s Shiro,” I introduced myself, holding out a paw.

“Uh... Cedric,” he said, accepting my paw. “Is that your real name?”

I shrugged, “It is now. Most of us take on names to better fit in with our new lives.”

“So what was your name before?” he asked.

I let out an exaggerated gasp, bringing my paw to my chest in mock indignation. “Oh, my. How rude.” I let out a little chuckle. “Nah, but seriously, it actually is considered rude to ask a native about past names.”


“Yeah, but don’t worry, there’s actually classes to help you learn stuff like that,” I said. “In fact, if you want to come home to Ponyville with me, Ah can introduce you to the teachers. Ah’m friends with all of them.”

Cedric’s eyes widened in realization. “Wait, Ponyville? I’m a pegasus... Holy shit, am I in that My Little Pony show?”

I laughed. “You a brony?”

He shook his head. “No, but a couple of my friends are. I saw the first few episodes and didn’t really care for it.”

“Ah, well, to answer your question, you are but you aren’t,” I tried to explain. “It’s more accurate to say you’re in the world that the show is somehow based on. Kinda like when Hollywood makes a movie ‘based on a true story’.”

“Huh,” Cedric looked at his hooves. “I guess that’s why they don’t exactly look like they do in the show.”


Cedri sighed. “Okay, so, when can I leave?”

“Well, that’s up to the doc and the prince,” I said. “You kinda did barge in on him. Don’t worry, though. He’ll let you go soon as the doc says you aren’t gonna hurt anyone. We aren’t leavin’ town for a few days, though, so we’ll have to get you situated.

“Ah got somewhere Ah gotta be in a few minutes, though, so someone’ll be by to help you out.”

“Thanks,” Cedric said. “You’re a good guy.”

“Well, Ah feel there’s a reason we were brought together,” I said.

“Why’s that?”

I gave him a smile as the sunlight hit his ruby coat, refracting through the crystalline fur and feathers.

“Because we’re both extinct.”

“How is he?” Jynx asked.

“Ah think he’s gonna be okay,” I answered.

“I hope so,” Jyn said. “Anyway, come on. We’re late, as it is.”

“Lead the way,” I said with a flourishing bow.

We left the palace and made our way toward the Crystal Spire. As we approached, we started seeing the aftermath of its appearance along with Sombra’s Remnant. Black crystals jutted from the ground, through buildings, and in the middle of parks. People of every race were still working to remove them.

“Umbra crystal is dangerous and has proven to be very hard to move, due to the corrupting influence of the magic that made them,” Jynx explained, guessing where my mind was.

“Yeah, Ah’m gettin’ ill just lookin’ at it,” I said.

“Yeah, magic sensitive beings are especially susceptible to its effects. That’s why there aren’t many ponies working to remove it,” Jynx explained. “The few that are have to be licenced to work with it. Minotaurs are resistant to it, which is why there are so many. Hundreds have been hired just for this.”

Soon enough, we made it to the base of the Crystal Spire, where Shining Armor and a few other ponies were waiting. Among them was one pretty purple princess that immediately stepped forward to give us both a hug.

“Hello, Shiro,” Twilight greeted. “How do you like the Crystal Kingdom?”

“It’s nice,” I said. “Wonderful people, beautiful city, ancient extinct ponies interrupting dates...”

“Shiny told me about that,” Twilight said, adopting a thoughtful expression. “As much as I would love to learn about him, I share your and Shiny’s concerns that this might mean something.”

“Ah’ve already invited him to stay with me,” I said. “For now, Ah think that’s all we can do until we know more.”

Twilight nodded. “Agreed. For now, let’s focus on what we can do. Jynx.”

Jyn stepped up and cleared her throat. “Alright, we’re heading in. If Shiro is able to open the doors, we will be exploring an area that is almost certainly trapped. Stay within the prince’s barrier and don’t stray. Everyone knows their role. Stick to it and do things by the book. I don’t want to send anyone home in a jar.”

With that, Jynx led us into the Spire. I’ll admit, I was nervous on top of being excited. If things went as we hoped, I would be one of the first people to see things that hadn’t been seen in over a thousand years.

The halls we went through were already stripped of anything that wasn’t nailed down. If the damage to the floor and walls were any indication, even some things that were nailed down had been taken.

We went up several flights of stairs to a mid level hallway. It was down this hallway that we found our destination.

“Alright. Here it is,” Jynx said. “Twilight, Shining get ready to counter and spells that might trigger. Shiro, are you ready?”

“As ready as Ah’ll ever be,” I said.

“You know the risks, yes?” Asked one of the other ponies whose name I didn’t get.

“Ah do,” I replied. “Ah trust Twilight and Shinin’.”

I stepped up to the door as the two alicorns lit up their horns.

I took a deep breath and reached out to the door and placed my paw on it.

The door reacted immediately. The second my paw touched it, it lit up and slid open.

Inside was what I can only describe as the lab of a mad scientist. Machines, weapons, tables full of disassembled experiments.

One thing drew my attention, though. It was a box with a note attached. I took a look at the note.

‘Sombra, the first of the bracers are complete. I expect at least one pair for each of my brothers and sisters by the time we free them. Have your best enchanters duplicate them exactly.’

I opened the box and looked inside. Four bronze bracers, adorned with three rubies in a triangle on one side were inside.

“For his brother’s and sisters?” I mumbled to myself. The way the note was addressed as if the writer saw Sombra as an equal told me that it must have been the tigerian that wrote it. That would mean these were made for tigerians.

Like me.

I took one of them out to get a closer look. As soon as I pulled it out, it started to glow and shot onto my wrist.

“Holy shit! Help!” I yelped.

Twilight ran to my aid. “What happened?” she asked as her magic glow surrounded my arm

“Ah swear, Ah just took it out of the box! It just teleported onto me!” I said.

She continued her magic work for a bit before saying, “I’m not detecting any malicious spells. Try taking it off.”

I grabbed the thing and pulled. Sure enough, it lit up again and zipped right off.

“Woah.” I put the bracer back up to my wrist and just like before, it teleported back on. “Awesome.”

“Must be a safety mechanism to ensure it doesn’t come off by accident.” Jynx observed.

“But, what are they?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” Jynx said, taking the note. “Hmm, I’d bet my tail this was written by the Surat. That would mean these, whatever they are, are made for tigerians.”

“Ah don’t suppose Ah could keep one, could Ah?” I asked, giving Shining Armor a huge grin. “Come on, split the loot.”

Shining armor laughed, shaking his head. “I’ll tell you what. Let our scholars take a look at them and figure out what they are, first. So long as they aren’t dangerous, you can have a pair, so long as they survive. But that’ll be your fee for getting the door open.”

“Sweet!” I pumped a fist. “Epic loot!”

“Don’t get too excited yet,” Jynx said. “We’re going to have to run tests and that’ll leave at least one of them damaged. Besides, we still have one door you need to open.”

“Alright, where is it?” I asked.

“Dusty Tome, Moon Dancer, you two stay here,” Jynx said. “Everyone else, let’s move to the other door.”

“I’m going to stay here, too,” Twilight said.

We went up even more stairs to the top floor. There were two doors up here. One of them big, ornate and decorated with Sombra’s crest. The other was smaller, less gaudy, and had the symbol of Kronos.

“This was Surat’s quarters, so be ready for traps,” Jynx warned.

Shining put up a shield between us and the door. I pushed my paw through the shield, the barrier conforming around my wrist. Like the previous door, as soon as I touched it, lines of runes on the door lit up and the door swung open.

When nothing exploded, Shining armor sent a pulse of magic into the room. Two traps were still intact, but Jynx made short work of them and we all went in.

She turned to us and started, “Alright, everyone spread-”

A flash of light cut her off as I felt my body lock up. I struggle to move, but it was like I was petrified. I glanced around as much as I could, only able to move my eyes, and it seemed everyone else was in the same boat. All we could do was stand there.

All except one.

A pale grey mare with a white mane strolled past everyone, stopping beside me and giving me a friendly smile before continuing on. She walked inside the room, where I could hear her rummaging through things.

She came back out with several books and an ornate obsidian dagger floating in her magic. She shot me a cocky smile as she passed.

And then she just left without a single word, as if she was out for a stroll.

Chapter 15: Back Home

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We were standing there frozen for half an hour before Twilight came up and found us. As soon as she broke the spell, Shining declared the place a crime scene and We were all taken in for questioning.

As far as I knew, none of us were suspected of colluding with the pale mare, they just needed as much information as possible. After all, that mare was a known and trusted member of Canterlot University archaeology department. Hell, Jynx invited her to her birthday party.

The fact that she seemingly betrayed them was a shock to everyone. Most insisted it had to be a changeling. Needless to say, that was the theory Shining Armor thought was the most likely.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the palace. I found a library and decided to read for a while. I found an interesting book about a mare that built a submarine because she wanted to find the lost seapony civilization.

I had just finished a scene with a rather thrilling escape from a school of obsidian sharks when I heard someone stumble in.

I looked up to see Cedric fall through the door.

“You alright?” I asked.

He looked up, clearing his throat in embarrassment. “Yeah, I’m just still getting used to... these.” He waved a hoof at me.

I winced. “Yeah, Ah can’t imagine it’s easy. Ah was lucky enough to keep mah fingers. Still, you got wings, so that’s somethin’. Plus, Ah’ve seen pegasi usin’ their feathers like fingers, so given some time and practice and you’ll come out with more than you lost.”

“Somehow, I doubt that,” he said. “I heard something happened.”

I looked up, cocking a brow. “Word travels fast. Especially when it’s not supposed to travel at all.”

“Was that supposed to be top secret, or something?” he asked.

“No, but Prince Armor did ask us not to just go blabbin’ about it,” I said. “Let’s just say someone stole some things that could be dangerous.”

“Oh...” he said, and descended into an awkward silence.

I waited for him to say what he was obviously wanting to say, but after a minute or two of silence I just started, “I won’t bite.”

He winced at that. “I’m not usually this... I just...” He took a breath. “This really is real, isn’t it?”

I nodded. “Yeah. As crazy and impossible as it seems, it is.”

He sat there for a while before speaking again. “I was getting married. Spring.”

I sat silently, letting him say whatever he had to.

“What’s she going to thin when she finds out I vanished off the face of the Earth?”

He looked to me, as if waiting for an answer, so I gave him one. “She’ll be upset and worried. Likely, she’ll lose sleep, wondering, waiting for a call. Eventually, you’ll be declared dead and she’ll mourne. She’ll cry, at your funeral, and feel like a piece of her was lost.”

He gave me a flat look. “You’re not very good at this, are you?”

“But,” I continued. “Then, she’ll move on. She’ll remember you fondly, and keep the time you shared in her heart. Maybe she’ll find another to love and get married, but she’ll always remember you.

“I suggest you do the same. Mourne your old life. Be sad and let it all out, and then try to move on. It won’t be easy, but there are plenty of folks here that have been through the same and will be here for you.”

He sat there, thinking for a while.

Eventually, he gave a small smile and said, “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

The next day found us on the train home, and me more than a little upset. With the theft, Shining Armor ordered the Crystal Spire resealed. Of course, that meant there was nothing more for Jynx to do there, so we headed home early.

Cadence let us use her personal car. It was surprisingly not as luxurious as I expected. There were nice, plush couches, one of which Jynx and I were resting on, a minibar, and a few bottles of liquor.

Of course, I didn’t really care about all that. I wanted to stay and try to help figure out what actually happened, but since I wasn’t a guard, I was denied.

“Ah swear, if Ah ever see that mare, Am’m gonna do very ungentlemanly things to her,” I grumbled.

“And I’d be glad to help but until then there’s nothing we can do,” Jynx said. “So let’s just be happy they let me take a few things.”

After everyone was questioned, and the search canceled, a couple of the researchers that were considered trustworthy enough were allowed to take a few things that were recovered for further research.

Jynx was one of them. She had a whole case of artefacts being shipped to her apartment in Ponyville. Sadly, the bracers weren’t included. She just didn’t have the necessary tools for those. Still, I was promised that if any survive the testing and they weren’t a danger, they would ship me one or two after they finish.

I don’t know why I wanted them so bad. Maybe it was just the D&D nerd in me wanting the cool enchanted loot.

“Why would she do that, though?” I asked. “I mean, she was a well respected member of the science community. She had friends and family. Why throw it all away for a few old books and a dagger?”

“Whatever they are, she must have thought they were worth more than everything else,” Jynx said. “What worries me was that she knew exactly what she was looking for, despite that room having been sealed for over a thousand years.”

“You really think she was a member of a Kronos Cult?” I asked. That was the dominant theory, amongst both the scholars and the guard.

“I can’t imagine someone like her doing what she did otherwise,” Jynx replied.

It made the most sense, but at the same time, if she was she hid it remarcably well. Not even her husband, foals, or girlfriend knew.

“Could it have not been her?” I asked. “Maybe a changeling, or a shapeshifting spell? Mind control?”

“Posible, but unlikely,” Jynx said. “We were all scanned for shapeshifting and mind magic.”

“But what about a changeling?” I asked. “I read somewhere that their shape shifting isn’t detectable by any known means.”

“Changelings use mind magic to ensure any inconsistencies in behavior are ignored or justified,” she explained. “While it’s possible a changeling just studied her so well that they could mimic her perfectly, it’s highly unlikely.”

I sighed and slumped on the seat. “I just wish I knew what was going through that mare’s head.”

Jynx slid up closer to me and said, “Well, I don’t know what was going through her head, but you want to know what’s going through mine?”

I looked up at her, curiously.

She gave me a sexy stare. “We have the entire car to ourselves and we never finished our date.”

I blinked, taking a second to realize what she meant. “Oh! Oh...” A smile crossed my face.

Jynx climbed on top of me and leaned in for a kiss.

We made it home the next morning where we were met with a small welcoming committee.

“Welcome home!” Pinkie shouted, firing off her party cannon and rushing in for a hug. “Oh, you smell like you had some fun.”

I felt my cheeks heat up.

“Pinkie, have some tact, dear,” Rarity said as she moved in for the next hug. “So, does this mean Jynx is the one you were asking about courtship advice for?”

“Aww,” Jynx cood. “You asked Rarity for advice to ask me out? That’s so sweet.” She followed with a peck on the cheek.

“Well, Ah just didn’t want to stick my foot in mah mouth,” I said. “You’re a cool lady, and Ah want to get to know you.”

She gave me the bedroom eyes. “Oh, we got to know each other, alright.”

“Nice,” Rainbow said with a smirk. “Told ya he was pretty good.”

“Oh, it was pretty awesome,” Jynx agreed.

Rainbow laughed. “Right?! The way those little bumps rub your-”

“Rainbow, darling, please,” Rarity interrupted. “This is not an appropriate topic for so public a place... So let’s hurry and get inside so I can hear all the juicy details.”

I just rolled my eyes at that. I should have expected something like that from her.

“You know, I’m sure he’d give you a more... practical demonstration, if you asked,” Jynx said, giving me a smirk.

“Not right now, Ah can’t,” I said. “Or did you forget who’s comin’?”

“Who’s coming?” Pinkie asked. “Do I know them?”

“Well, seeing as they just crossed over two days ago, no,” I said.

“New friend!” Pinkie cheered, pumping a hoof and jumping for joy. “What are they like? Are they a pony? Where are they from? What kind of food do they like? Are they a boy or a girl? What do they-”

“Pinkie!” I interrupted. “Calm down. Ah don’t know much about them, seein’ as they only just got here, but yes, he’s a pony. Specifically, he’s a crystal pegasus.”

“Did you say, ‘crystal pegasus’?” Rarity asked. “As in, the long extinct tribe that was wiped out by Sombra?”

“Eeyup,” I replied. “He popped up in mah room.”

“Well, I must say that’s quite the coincidence,” Rarity said.

“No kidding,” Rainbow said. “A terran showing up as a dead race in the room of another terran that showed up as a dead race? Are we sure none of the gods can affect the displacing?”

“Not according to the princesses,” Jynx said. “Though, now, I have to wonder if there is some intelligent force that can.”

“We can unlock the secrets of the multiverse tomorrow,” Pinkie said with her usual jubilance. “Right now, we have a new friend to prepare for!”

“Ah agree,” I said. “Ah already offered to let him stay with me for a bit, so Ah need to get a few things for him. First thing first, Rarity, can you get the usual welcome stuff ready?”

“Of course. That won’t take but half an hour,” Rarity replied. “When can we be expecting him.”

“He’ll be in on the next train,” Jynx answered. “He still had a few basic medical tests to go through. Shining Armor’s going to be escorting him. Said he wanted to see Twilight, anyway. Don’t tell her, though. He wants to surprise her.”

“Anyway, Ah gotta get goin’,” I said. “Ah was wantin’ to see Fluttershy before anythin’ else. Gotta get Poe and see what’s been hapenin’ as far as monsters.”

I bid them farewell and made my way toward the cottage on the edge of the Everfree.

After a brief walk, full of greetings and well wishes from folks I knew, I arrived at my destination.

It was a little before noon, so I didn’t bother trying to knock. I just went around the house to find Fluttershy tending to her garden.

“Mornin’, Miss Shy,” I greeted.

Fluttershy looked up and smiled. “And good morning to you, too, Mister Tora. I’m sorry your trip was cut short. Do they know anything about the thief, yet?”

“Nothin’ conclusive,” I said. “How have things been around here?”

“Well, Mister Willow was attacked by timber wolves,” she replied. “We managed to drive them off, my animal friends, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack, and got Mister Willow to the hospital. They couldn’t save his leg, but he’ll live.”

“Damn,” I hissed. “Ah swear, Ah’m gonna wipe out every last one of those bastards.”

“Don’t you even dare think that, mister,” Fluttershy scolded. “Timber wolves may be nasty, dangerous creatures but they’re still living things and are a natural part of the Everfree ecosystem.”

I sighed. “Ah know. Ah just hate how violent they are.”

“Well, they aren’t usually as active as they have been,” Fluttershy said. “I wonder if something’s pushing them out?”

“Ah hope not,” I said. “They’re bad enough, but somethin’ chasin’ them outta the forest would have to be pretty bad.”

“I’ll send a letter to the Ranger office in Canterlot,” she said. “Now, I take it you’re here for Poe?”

“Ah am,” I said.

The caw of my pet raven drew my attention above, to where he sat on a branch nearby.

“Hey, buddy,” I said. “You have fun hangin’ out with all your old friends? Were you good for Fluttershy?”

“Oh, he was an angel,” Fluttershy assured. “He even helped with the tiber wolves.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, Ah think that calls for a treat,” I said. “How about some nice fish guts?”

Poe caws, bouncing happily.

“I think that’s a ‘yes, please’,” Fluttershy said with a giggle.

“Alright then, let’s get goin’,” I said. “Hey, Flutters, you should come on over later. Ah’m gonna be cookin’ or a new house guest and Ah’d like you to meet him.”

Fluttershy thought for a minute. “I should be able to make it.”

“Great, see you there.”

Chapter 16: Confessions and Hard Hooves

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I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon getting things ready, before having to go to the train station to await my new roommate. It was going to be a little cramped, but it was still better than the little room at the Welcome Center.

“There it is,” Rainbow Dash called from above.

Sure enough, we could see the smoke from the engine chugging along.

“Now, Twilight, dear, do remember to control your enthusiasm,” Rarity reminded.

Twilight rolled her eyes. “I know, Rarity. I’m not going to go crazy just because he’s a crystal pony... that were said to have unique magic... and have been extinct for over a thousand years.”

I had to hold back a laugh. I could already tell Twilight was going to be struggling with that.

As the train pulled into the station, the four of us lined up to greet Cedric.

As soon as the doors opened, a familiar white alicorn stallion stepped out, and immediately, Twilight squeed and leaped at him, putting her hooves around his neck in a hug.

“Shiny! I didn’t know you were coming!” she said.

“That was the idea. Surprize, little sis,” Shining Armor said, taking note of everyone present. “Anyway, Twilight, Rarity, Rainbow, I’d like you to meet Cedric.”

Cedric came out, hesitantly.

“Cedric, good to see you again,” I said. “This is Rarity. She’ll be helping you settle in. The enthusiastic one is Twilight Sparkle, the local librarian. She’ll be assisting with some of your education. Finally, that’s Rainbow Dash, Jynx’s sister. She’s going to teach you all about proper wing care and help get you airborne.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Cedric greeted.

“Oh, my, your coat really is quite fetching, isn’t it,” Rarity complimented. “Welcome to Ponyville.”

“Thanks,” Cedric said. “So, Shiro said you used to be human, too?”

We made our way to my house, making small talk and just getting to know our new friend.

He told us he was a student of geology and was going for his masters. He told us a little about some of the things he used to do with friends, like playing D&D and going to conventions whenever they could afford it.

In short, he was a fellow geek, so of course me, him, and Shining got along.

Shining and Twilight bid us farewell at the town center, though, wanting to spend time together.

Me, Jynx, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Cedric arrived at my house after a short tour of the town. I invited everyone inside and told them to make themselves comfortable.

“I know it’s not that big, but it’s a place,” I said from the kitchen area as I fixed drinks for everyone.

“It’s fine,” Cedric said. “It’s only temporary, anyway, right?”

“Of course,” Rarity replied. “I’ll help you get started on the paperwork that will get you on your way to your own place first thing in the morning. What time is good for you?”

“Uh... I guess whenever,” Cedric said. “It’s not like I have any other obligations.”

“How does ten sound?”

“That works.”

“Excellent,” Rarity said with a smile. “I’ll see you then. Shiro can show you the way, can’t you?”

“Ah’d be glad to,” I said.

A knock sounded from the front door.

“Can someone get that, Ah gotta finish diner,” I said.

“I got it,” Rainbow said, zipping over and opening it. “Yo, Fluttershy, Just in time.”

I look up to see the kind little pegasus step inside.

“Oh, it’s a little crowded in here,” she said. “Maybe I should come back.”

“Nah, don’t bother with that,” Rainbow said. “I actually gotta go check on some things at the office. Shiro, save me a plate, will ya?”

“No promises,” I replied.

“Oh, hello,” Fluttershy said as she stepped inside. “You must be the house guest Shiro mentioned.”

“Yeah, I’m Cedric,” he said.

“Come on in, Flutters,” I said, beckoning her in.

“If you insist,” she replied, doing just that.

“Alright,” I said, passing out the drinks. “Now that everyone that’s comin’ is here, Ah’d like to offer a toast! To our new friend, Cedric.”

“To Cedric,” everyone repeated before we all took a drink.

Cedric smiled. “Damn, you guys are great, you know. Thank you.”

“It’s our pleasure, darling,” Rarity assured. “However, since we’re toasting, I would like to offer one to Shiro and Jynx. May your love flourish, and the wedding dress be one of mine.”

“Here here!” Cedric repeated.

Fluttershy looked surprised, looking at us with a somewhat sad expression.

“You alright, Flutters?” I asked.

Her expression fell. “Y-yeah... I guess.”

“Fluttershy?” Rarity put a comforting hoof on her shoulder. “Were you...?”

Fluttershy nodded, apparently answering Rarity while leaving everyone else in the dark.

“Fluttershy?” I gave her a concerned look. “What’s wrong?”

“I’ll tell you later,” she said. “Right now, it’s about your return and Cedric coming to stay.”

I was concerned for her. Something was bothering her, but she wasn’t wanting to interrupt the fun.

I wanted to find out what was bothering her, but I understood what she was doing. So, I decided I would go ahead and enjoy the party and let everyone else do the same. As soon as I could, though, I was going to get to the bottom of it.

“Alright, then” I said. “Let’s enjoy ourselves!”

The party got started, although it took a few of us a bit to get into it. Thankfully, Fluttershy's mood improved quickly, and with it, so did the rest of ours.

Every one got to know Cedric a little better. Even Fluttershy warmed up to him when he mentioned his dalmatian.

Considering he crossed over in the middle of a visit with a friend, his disappearance would have been noticed quickly, and the dog taken care of. That was something we were all thankful for.

Eventually, things started to wind down and I managed to break away, motioning to Fluttershy to follow.

We walked out onto the back porch.

"Great party, huh?" I said, giving her a friendly smile.

She nodded, returning the gesture. "Oh, quite lovely. Cedric's such a nice person, too. I hope his puppy isn't too heartbroken."

"Ah'm sure the pooch'll be fine," I said before deciding to get down to it. "What about you? Ah know somethin's bothering you, and it's somethin' about me."

Fluttershy gave me a sad smile. “I just... I spent all morning trying to work up the courage to ask you out, but...”

I was floored. Flutershy was going to ask me out? I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Fluttershy seemed to steel her nerves. “I... don’t suppose you like the pony way of doing relationships?”

It took me a moment to realize what she was asking. Ponies practice a kind of simple polygamy, though they usually only take a single spouce. They believe that love should be embraced, even if you already have it with someone else.

“Ah... Ah don’t know,” I said. “You know how mah people view that kinda thing. Ah’m much more open than most, but Ah don’t know if Ah can do that just yet.”

“Oh... I understand.” Fluttershy’s crestfallen expression broke my heart.

“Ah’ll tell you what,” I said. “Give me some time. Let me see where this thing with Jynx goes, and after a time, if it doesn’t work out with her or if Ah feel comfortable in datin’ two ladies, Ah’ll take you on the best date you ever had.”

Fluttershy’s mood brightened in an instant. “Really?” she launched herself at me, wrapping her hooves around my neck in a tight hug. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.”

I returned the hug. “Ain’t nothin’ to thank me for. You’re an amazing pony. How could Ah not want to give a relationship with you a try? Ah just need a bit to get used to things is all.”

"Still, this means a lot to me," she said as she pulled back.

"Just promise me you ain't going to wait around for me," I said. "If you meet someone and hit it off, you go for it."

She nodded. "I will. I very much doubt that it won't work out between you and Jynx, anyway, so we'll probably never be more than herdmates."

"That still sounds nice," I said. "How about if we start hangin' out more?"

Fluttershy's smile grew. "I would like that."

I couldn't hide the smirk. What was left of the target dummy laid in an unrecognizable, smoldering heap.

"Well, Bakura, Ah admit, you weren't talkin' out your ass when you said you could make anything," I said.

We just finished a test run of my present. Oh, it was exactly what I wanted.

"Just wait until it is finished. Your foes will quake in terror at its mere sight," Bakura said with a vicious smile.

"Ah always did say the best weapon was the weapon you never had to use," I said.

Bakura raised an eyebrow. "Yes, I suppose for a peacekeeper forcing your foe to surrender without bloodshed would be a desirable outcome. Still, I can't help but feel it would be a waste of such a fine weapon."

"Oh, Ah'll still have to use it, of course," I assured him before dismissing the weapon.

"Woah!" Cedric said as he walked inside, staring wide eyed at the demon gorilla.

"Oh, right," I face pawed. "You wouldn't know about this. Bakura, this is Cedric, a terran that just recently arrived. Cedric, this is Bakura, a demon smith I have a contract with. And before you ask, demons here are just bein's that exist between dimensions and aren't necessarily evil."

"Uh..." Cedric tried to formulate a response. "Hi?"

"Greetings, Cedric," Bakura returned. "I hope you are adjusting well."

"Y-yeah... I guess," Cedric said, a little more relaxed. "Shiro and the others have been helping me out."

Bakura nodded, sagely, "Yes, I can assume Lady Rarity has been of great help."

"Yeah, she's kinda great. I never would have guessed she was from Earth, too," Cedric confirmed.

Bakura gave a little bow and said, "Well, as much as it would please me to talk, I have need to forge more farming tools. It seems my wares are nearly as appreciated in agriculture as they are in battle."

"Alright," I gave a little wave. "See you later."

In a flash of light, Bakura left, back to his forge in the Void.

Cedric slowly walked over, tapping the spot where the circle was. "So... you just up and summon denons, huh? No ouija board needed?"

I laughed. "Pretty much. Why, you intrested in learning magic? You should talk to Twilight."

He gave me a flat look. "You mean that unicorn that keeps trying to get me to give blood, tissue and semen samples?"

"That's the one," I replied, cheerfully. "I honestly don't get why you won't give it to her. It's all painless. The needle for the blood is only a little sting, the tissue sample it taken with some magic thingy."

"Those aren't what I have an issue with," he grumbled.

"What? You have an issue beating off in a cup?" I teased.

He glared at me and waved his hooves.

His hard, rigid hooves.

"Oh... ouch."

Chapter 17: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Non-reference edition)

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Life went back to 'normal' for a time.

Of course, normal for me involves chaos magic and chasing off predators, but at least normal for me is interesting.

However, even my normal can't last forever.

Monster sightings had gone up. Not just in Ponyville, but all over Equestria. Monster variety had also been rising.

Of course, timberwolves were still the biggest threat in Ponyville, but there had been things that had no business being there.

I eyed my quarry. They were dangerous, to be sure, and I had to be smart about this. A straight forward attack would be suicide, but they were clever enough to limit my avenues of approach.

Unfortunately for them, I was clever, too.

My prey's hiding place had a major weakness, and I was going to exploit it.

I crept up from behind and with a swift strike, broke a branch holding up the creatures' den.

There were cries of panic as they darted from the relative safety and into the trees.

I gave chase, pursuing them, closing the distance quickly. Not even twenty yards passed before I was right on top of them.

With a thwip and a snap, the hunt was over...

And I dangled helplessly, wrapped in a net.

My prey returned, giggling like school fillies.

Probably because they were.

"Ah can't believe that worked!" Applebloom cheered.

"I know, how did you know he'd do that, Sweetie Belle?" Scootaloo asked.

To which Sweetie quoted, "When you are weak, make them think you are strong. When you are strong, make them think you are weak."

Scootaloo and Applebloom exchanged confused looks.

"It's Sun Tzu," I explained. "Y'all made that little fort look pretty sturdy, but added that little weak point on purpose. You made me think Ah found a flaw, but that just made sure Ah was in just the right place for you to run and lure me into this trap.

"Ah'm impressed," I laughed. "Now, can you let me down?"

The Crusaders beamed at the compliment a bit as they let me down.

I hit the ground somewhat rough and quickly untangled myself.

"Alright, why don't we-" I was cut off, both by the town alarm bells tolling and my bracelet buzzing.

"Get to shelter!" I shouted as I took off towards town.

I didn't bother checking if they listened. They weren't stupid, and the town alarm meant there was a major threat.

I kept my eyes up, scanning the skies as much as the ground. Threats that warrant the bell usually had wings.

Strangely, my bracelet wasn't taking me east, toward the Everfree, but south. I've dealt with plenty of monsters. While some have come from the south, they were usually spotted long before they got close enough to be a threat.

I ran through town. Thankfully it was mostly deserted by then.

As I got closer, I heard Rainbow Dash's familiar voice. "- couldn't hit the Canterhorn if you were standing on it!"

God bless that idiot, I thought to myself.

She was taunting the monster, making it focus on her instead of going after the townsponies.

I rounded a building and saw what could only be described as a scorpion made of freaking molten rock.

Its tail spewed lava instead of venom at the pesky pegasus, but it was little effort for her to just move aside. Sometimes, just to keep it interested, she'd fly lower, just in its claw reach, only to dart back up when it tried to grab her.

Making use of the distraction, I drew a circle and summoned a long spear.

"Hey, ugly, over here!" I shouted. Smirking, I added, "oh, the scorpion, too."

"Ha ha, very funny," Rainbow said with a scoff.

"Rainbow, get any weather ponies you can and gather up some storm clouds. Keep any fire under control," I ordered.

"Right!" She said and sped off.

I only had a moment to take in my surroundings. A couple homes were on fire. At least four bodies were burnt beyond recognition. A massive hole in the ground, must have been how it got into town.

Over all, no cover and alone. At least no cover meant less hindrance to my mobility.

Good thing, too, as the volcanic scorpion lunged at me, pincer lashing out to bisect me.

I lept away, slashing at it with the tip of the spear. As expected, it did little, but it was something and it kept me at a distance. Even then, the heat was extreme.

Then, because apparently it wasn't hot enough, it spewed lava at me from its tail.

Damn magical creatures and their disregard for the law of conservation of mass.

I reached for a decoy spell, only to feel bare fur.

"Shit," I growled, realizing I left my spell belt back at Sweet Apple Acres with my vest.

That was going to make this problematic. Getting close was already difficult, with the powerful heat radiating from it.

And I finally remembered to put together an ice spell, too.

I dodged to the side, barely avoiding the spray of lava that splashed where I was a quarter second before.

What I needed was a distraction. If I had a few seconds I could summon my new weapon, but the only one I trusted to be fast enough was getting rain clouds.

The only option I had was my chaos magic. So, I put my finger to my thumb, wished for the best and-



No no no!

I turned around, my blood freezing as I saw the little orange pegasus speeding toward me on her scooter.

"Shiro! Your belt!"

"Scootaloo, get away!" I yelled.

The scorpion must have decided she would be easier prey, as it charged passed me and right at her.

I dropped my weapon, needing all four paws to run as fast as I could.

Scootaloo saw the monster heading toward her, and tried to turn around, only to hit a rock and go tumbling.

I was only barely ahead of the scorpion and it was already raising its tail to unleash a stream of liquid hot rock.

I did the only thing I could, I leapt at her, hoping I could at least shield her from such a cruel fate.

I grabbed Scootaloo and leapt as fast as I could, but I still felt the excruciating pain of lava splashing across my side, coating my legs and searing my flesh.

"No!" I heard an anguished cry, not from Scootaloo, but from Cedric, who charged in like a bullet, wielding my discarded spear and stabbing at the monster, drawing it away.

The last thing I felt before the pain stole my consciousness was the cool relief of the first drops of rain.

I laid there, staring at the ceiling of the hospital room. I had regained consciousness about half an hour ago, but I hadn't called for the nurse, yet.

I was scared to.

Scared to learn who else might have died.

Scared to find out I was crippled.

Was that cowardice?

Eventually, though, a nurse came in, anyway. She saw me, and gave a relieved sigh.

"Mister Tora, good to see you awake," she said.

"Wh... what happened? After Ah passed out?" I asked, even though I dreaded the answer.

Instead, she smiled. "The monster was driven off. That crystal pegasus friend of yours kept it busy while the weather pegasi opened up a storm on it. A couple specialists from down south are being sent up here to track it down. No pony else lost their lives."

I felt tears welling in my eyes. No one died. At least that.

"What about Scootaloo and Cedric?" I asked.

The nurse came to my side and started going over my vitals as she answered. "Scootaloo had a couple burns. They weren't anywhere near as bad as yours, but it was enough to keep her overnight.

"As for Cedric, he made out unscathed."

I let out a breath of relief.

"Alright," my nerves shot back up. "What about me? How bad off am Ah?"

I hadn't even tried to look at myself, yet. I was too scared of what I'd see.

The nurse, though, was ever professional. "I have good news and bad news. The good news is the princess had a specialist sent down from Manehattan specifically to work on your injuries and he insists you'll make a full recovery."

The nurse sighed. "The bad news is that road is going to be rather long. Your injuries were severe, and if not for him you would have lost both your hind legs."

I paled at that.

"The burns you sustained were some of the worst I've seen and for all intents and purposes should have been inoperable," she continued.

"What kind of specialist is he? What kind of magic did he use?" I asked.

"I'm not sure exactly, but it has you regrowing cells at an incredible rate, even ones that have no business regrowing," the nurse explained. "Of course, the majority of your legs need to regrow, so you'll still be out of commission for a while."

"How long is 'a while'?" I asked.

"At least a month, probably more," she answered."

Well shit.

"So," Jynx began as I was settled into a wheelchair. "How common is it for you to hurt yourself?"

"Only when Ah'm saving fillies that blunder into harm's way," I countered.

Jynx chuckled. "Well, let's hope no more fillies need rescued."

The nurse finished strapping me in and gave Jynx a nod, "Alright, Doctor Charm, he's ready to go."

Jynx thanked the nurse before wheeling me out of the room. We walked in silence for a good while, until we were outside.

"Thanks," I said, finally breaking the silence. "For agreein' to take care of me, and whatnot."

"There's nothing to thank me for," she said. "What kind of girlfriend would I be if I didn't. Besides, I never returned the favor from when you saved my life."

"Now, that ain't true," I said with a chuckle. "Ah've been paid back in spades. Ah got a beautiful, lovin' girl out of it."

She laughed. "And I got a brave, handsome male as well as my life. No matter how you look at it, I came out ahead."

"Well... can Ah ask you for a couple more favors?" I asked. "Can you take me to Twilight's? Ah need a favor from her, too."

Jynx stopped for a moment before turning around and heading toward the Golden Oaks.

Three ponies were guided into the library, two mares and a filly. As soon as they saw who they shared the room with, the two mares moved closer to the filly, protectively.

"Mom, auntie, don't," Scootaloo said, her voice reserved.

The mares looked from me to Princess Celestia and back.

One of the mares stepped forward. "Please, she didn't mean-"

Princess Celestia raised a hoof, cutting her off. "I assure you, this isn't what you assume. Shiro, if you will."

I rolled forward. It was talking almost everything to keep my anxiety being around Celestia under control, but I pressed on. I needed to.

"Ah'm not sure how much Earth history you know, but there were two wars that were bigger than any others; the world wars," I began. "Durin' World War 2, everyone wanted to do their part, even those who couldn't. Because there were so many that wanted to help fight off the Nazi threat but couldn't enlist, there were several programs that helped in other ways.

"One of those programs was called the Boy Scouts. They would help the elderly whose children were at war with chores, they would collect scrap metal for the foundries to make the ordnance needed to fight, and they would help ensure folks knew what to do if the enemy ever invaded.

"In short, they helped out on the homefront when the men were gone fightin'."

I looked at Scootaloo. "What you did was foolish, and if not for a specialist, Ah woulda lost mah legs." She winced, tears welling up in her eyes. "However, Ah understand why you did it. You wanted to help, and that’s admirable.

"Ah know what happened to your father. He was a brave pony; mah predecessor that gave his life to protect you. He instilled in you the desire to help others, and that's a good thing. However, that desire needs direction.

"That's why, with Princess Celestia's blessing, Ah'm founding somethin' to give ponies like you a chance to help without gettin’ in harm's way; the Junior Rangers.

"The Junior Rangers will help ensure evacuation routes are known, and will ensure shelters are well maintained, clean, and stocked with necessary medical supplies. They will stay away from the fighting, but will help ensure everypony gets to safety in an emergency."

Princess Celestia took over. "Scootaloo, I'm disappointed in your lack of thought in rushing into that fight. You endangered not just Shiro's life, but your own as well. As such, your punishment is as such; you will be the first member of the Junior Rangers. You will answer directly to Shiro and follow his orders.

"Do you have anything to say about this ruling?"

Scootaloo looked at me with teary eyes. "I... I almost get you killed trying to help... and you're idea of punishment is to make me help more?! Are you stupid?!"

That caught everyone off guard.

"No, lock me up, put me in the dungeons, don't let me hurt someone else!

"I... I almost killed you," her tears fell freely. "Just like... I don't deserve to help anyone."

I wheeled up to her, grabbed her, and pulled her into a hug. "Wantin' to help isn't a bad thing. Yes, you went about it the wrong way, and bad things happened, but don't let that drag you down. Learn from it. Let it motivate you to do better. You're a brave filly. You just need to learn how to be brave and smart. That's why I asked the princess to let me start this program."

Through her sniffles, Scootaloo managed to say, "I thought you were scared of the princess."

"Ah'm absolutely terrified of her," I admitted. "But not as scared as Ah am of you either getting hurt like Ah did or losing faith in yourself. Ah'll face any fear for that."

She buried her face in my fur, letting her fears and sorrows out.

"Th-thank you."