The Pieces Lie Where They Fell

by Evilhumour

First published

A thousand years after the death of Mane Six, a new generation of Bearers are chosen.

Long ago, tragedy struck Equestria with the deaths of the Princesses and Element Bearers. A thousand years have passed since that day, and the powers of Harmony are calling out for a new generation of Bearers, who must come together in order to bring balance back to the world.


First story in the Pieces Universe


Edited and contributions by Anone Mouse Jr , co-writer.

And we have a Tv Tropes page!

Chapter Zero

View Online

The Pieces Lie Where They Fell

Chapter Zero

In what had been the great hall of Canterlot Castle, once a happy place where a wedding was being held, all Tartarus had broken loose.

During the ceremony, the Changeling Queen had unexpectedly revealed herself and her soldiers, who had begun to flash into existence from formerly trusted ponies before attacking others, hissing and snapping at them.

In the midst of all this pandemonium, a flash of light came as Twilight and an emaciated Princess Cadance appeared out of nowhere, startling everypony and everyling there. It was enough to even distract Princess Celestia, who had been struggling with the Queen on the dais in her efforts to protect her ponies and intended nephew-in-law. Taking advantage of this, Chrysalis hurriedly cast a spell of her own.

With the unholy buildup of magic, it went off.

And in a horrific explosion that rocked the city, the entire castle vanished, leaving behind only a flurry of stunned Changelings to be blasted away from the mountain.

What happened next would reshape the face of the planet for years to come, but this is not that story.

This story takes place one thousand years later.

Chapter One: Xvital

View Online

Chapter One

Xvital

With a chirp in her mouth, Xvital woke up in a very good mood. Hopping out of the bed, she reached over with her tail to turn off the alarm clock she had obtained a while back. Letting out a mighty yawn as she stretched her arms out behind her, she began to pack her belongings into her pack with her other hand.

Shaking her head back and forth to try and rid herself of the last of the tiredness, she turned around to properly finish packing her stuff away as well as do a short inventory check up before she headed to stand in line to enter the Upper.

Currency, check. Papers, check. Notebooks, check. Long knife and knuckle busters, check. Other miscellaneous items, check.

“Good to go,” she said to herself, a smirk breaking across her face as she slung her pack across her shoulders as she fixed her belt around her waist with her other hand, dropping her left hand down to make it easier. Tightening the belt with her two hands, she fixed her short knife to her waist with her right hand. It was pointless extra security as few as ponies from Canterlot Middle or Upper would bother someone obviously from the Cuanmiztl Kingdom but it never hurt to be careful.

Leaving the room she had rented for the night, Xvital made her way downstairs in quick time with ponies moving out of her way but keeping quiet about her appearance. Ponies this high in the Middle liked to pretend they were Upper citizens and that meant being all polite and proper.

Xvital let out a snort; the Middle had the silliest of citizens: acting if they were better than those who lived in the Lower or if they were the elites that lived in the Upper. How could they not know that the only real difference was the amount of direct threats presented to you was beyond her but it had been amusing to Tartarus to see these Middle ponies preen needlessly.

Using her rear hand to grab an apple from the basket on the inn counter while flicking a brass Cadence to the mare that ran this inn and opening the door with her left, she flashed a toothy smile to the owner.

“Thanks,” she said, dipping her navy blue head and shaking her black hair behind her, she stepped into the early day. Towering over most of the Middle inhabitants, baring the griffons and minotaurs, she began to whistle as she made her way to the West Gatehouse. While Xvital could have gotten a room in the North-West quarter, and gone through one of the many gatehouses there, the morning sun would be in her green eyes as she stood in queue to get into the Upper and screw that noise.

Chewing her apple, she did her best to keep her head upright and avoid looking at the beggars lining the street, knowing that they would be brushed away for the Hounor Festival tomorrow. The griffon, diamond dogs, minotaurs and pony beggars would be pushed into the back alleys or down the mountain by the Guards at the very least. The changeling beggars were already antsy and careful of who they begged to for obvious reasons. Looking around, Xvital could spot several changelings moving younger ‘lings away into the hidden streets for their safety, knowing they’d be taking their lives in their own hands if they were seen tomorrow and the next few days.

Pushing it away as it wasn’t her concern, she continued up the pathway to the Cadenzal Gatehouse and let out a groan at already long line of ponies waiting to be passed through.

Still, she still had her trump card to get ahead; herself.

Looming tall over the line of ponies who were flinching and doing their best not to gawk at her, which she made worse as she tore into her apple a bit savagely, using her long tail hand to toss the core into a garbage bin and flashing her sharp teeth, she began a mental countdown as she waited for the Guards to react.

From her experience, she knew that they’d pull her out in three, two-

“Excuse me,” a Guard in the ruby armor of the Cadenza Guardhouse called out to her, narrowing his eyes and doing his best to look intimidating and in control of the situation. Which she broke by turning her gaze to him and everypony seeing him jump a bit. “Y-you’ve been randomly selected for private screening; please follow me.”

With a smirk on her face, she thanked the Guard and refrained from making any smart comments as they might actually screen her instead of just pushing her along to not scare the ponies in the line.

Picking up the tune from before, she followed the unicorn into the antechamber of the Gatehouse and walked over to the table to pull out a chair for herself with her third hand.

“So,” Xvital grinned, as she sat down. “What do you need to ask me?”

“What is your purpose in the Upper, madam?” he asked, doing his best to remain calm despite his instincts must be screaming at him to run from her.

“Research on different books of magical theory in the Great Library,” she answered, which was true enough.

“I see,” he said, a notepad levitating in his salmon pink aura. “Length of visit?”

“A couple of weeks, I suppose, it might take me some time to do my work,” that was true from a certain point of view.

“Name?”

“Xvital,” she answered, knowing that there was little chance that the Equestrian government would reach out to the Cuanmiztl Kingdom and using her real name would be fine. “And despite having no magic myself, I foresee your next question is to what species I am, yes?” She had placed a hand to her forehead in the classic psychic fortune teller position, with the guard letting out an annoyed chuckle.

“Actually, no, I know an ahuizotl when I see one,” he snorted as he eyed her bag, no doubt trying to determine if it was worth his time to check it out properly.

“Heh, you’re one of the few in Canterlot that knew what I was,” Xvital let out a bark of laughter. “Those in the Lower thought I was some sort of monster or demon.”

That did it, playing on the chance that this Guard was a Middle pony and he’d be one of those that looked down on the Lower ponies. With his own laughter, he said, “Those uneducated saps, can’t even recognize one of our nation's allies.” The guard tossed the notepad into a pile of other notepads that had sign above saying today’s date. “Just pass through the bug detector light and you’ll be good to go.”

“Thank you, good sir,” she said, standing upright and moving towards the door. Giving a cheeky smile to the protesting ponies in the line she had just jumped ahead of, she passed through the threshold with the magical lamp remaining inert as she was no changeling.

Moving into the straight and smooth cobblestone path streets, she looked at the broad buildings and statues of the first king of Equestria and the twin goddess-princesses of old. Running a hand over the statue of Blueblood the Great bowing to Celestia and Luna as he always claimed he was their regent until their return and thus below them, she let out a sigh.

She was finally here, in the Upper of Canterlot, all she had to do now was find the Great Library and she could move onto the next part of her plans.


Oh crap, she had forgot to remember the path to the Grand Library.

Facepalming, she reached into her pack and pulled out the map for the Upper and tried to decipher it to no avail.

Maybe she could ask for help…


It had been half an hour since she got into the Upper, and was so damn close to just going back to the Gatehouse to ask for directions.

Maybe Xvital was wrong to mock the Middle ponies for pretending to be snooty Upper ponies; it might have some validity as no one would help her, not even the damn beggars!

Just one more try and she was done being niece.

“Excuse me sir,” she called out to a rather serious looking nox pony striding past her. He looked young, about her age if she was to gamble her money on it, and had a long sword tied to his barrel for easy draw. His coat was light grey and mane was a dark silver colour, with his talon emblem being a sword. Which meant, Xvital realized as the stallion had signet ring on right wing, he was a noble and more than likely prone to using that sword while knowing he wouldn’t get in trouble. In short, not the type she’d usually interact with. But she had already attracted his attention and she decided she had to go all in. “I’m trying to find the Great Library, do you know where it is?”

He gave her a pointed look, the frown on his face tightening for a moment before turning back to face the street he was walking down. After a few seconds, he said in a detached tone, “The Great Library is my destination as well. If you wish, you may follow me.”

Oh. A kindish noble brat that didn’t scoff or stare at her. That was different. Blinking, she said, “Thank you, sir.” as she moved to walk beside him. “You’re the first to actually help me today and this map is no help whatsoever.” She said, tilting out the map to the stallion.

He raised an eyebrow at her before holding out his wing to take the map from her but not using his words to ask for it. Silently handing it over, his eyes roamed over it for a moment before handing it back. “That is because due to you being sold a map of the Upper East labeled the Upper West; whomever sold you this did a disservice to you or a serious misprint has occurred.”

“Oh, thank you,” she said smiling while kicking herself for such a rookie mistake. “I cannot believe I did this.”

“It is nothing; I have lived in the Upper West all my life and at times I get lost myself,” the stallion stated, turning sharply around corner and not even looking at the changeling beggars he forced to press themselves against the buildings with ponies from inside screaming at them to get away.

“Heh,” she let out a laugh, eyes roaming the landscape before looking at the stallion who was frowning deeper now for some reason. “I mean it, thank you for this. You’re a nice guy.”

“I was just doing the proper thing, nothing more miss,” he said, although his frown seemed to flicker for a moment as he lead her through a short tunnel that had towering building on top of it that had a lot of flags hanging out the windows.

“I’m Xvital,” she said introducing herself, holding out her tail hand to the stallion.

“Lord Night Blade,” he said, taking her hand with his wing and shaking it to exact properness a young lord should give to a common citizen with his attention focused straight ahead.

That meant he missed Xvital’s face flush white for a moment as she knew how important the Blade family was but quickly pushed it away as it was not her concern.

Stepping out of the tunnel, she saw the massive library, one of the Great Wonders of the world. It had a golden statue of Magi of Stars lined with priceless jewels that all had magical alarms attached to them that would go off if somepony tried to steal them. Magi of Stars was the patron of knowledge and according to legend, once a student to Goddess Princess Celestia before surprising her and becoming the leader of the Virtuous Six.

Even though Xvital thought most of the pony’s mythology was bunk, she was still awed by the sight of this legendary pony and all the stories attached to her and the Virtuous Six. And she knew better than to mock the faith of a pony who had a sword and talent was swordplay.

Walking up the grand and sparkling marble staircase with ponies already sitting on the steps and talking about different topics, Xvital and Night Blade entered the high ceiling entrance hall of the Grand Library, with stacks upon stacks of shelves of neatly placed books in the background with ponies milling around on the ground and in the air.

“I hope you are good enough to take care of yourself, miss Xvital,” Night Blade said, dipping his head politely as decorum would call for. "If you need anything, you can inquire Matron Hush Tone over there for advice,” he tilted his head much more openly to an elderly looking griffin standing behind the front desk, who smiled warmly at stallion. “Excuse me, Matron Tone, but-”

“She is in her section at this time, Night, as you know full well,” she clicked her beak at the stallion who perked up before taking over into the air and into a direction deep in the library. Shaking her head and muttering soft things under her breath, the griffon turned her focus on Xvital. “So my dear, how can we help you expand your knowledge?”

Xvital smiled, and asked for directions to the magical theorems books so she could began her work, with a mental checklist of the next three steps of what she needed to do already forming in her mind and make herself a tidy profit.

Chapter Two: Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Two

Night Blade

Night Blade woke up late. A small part of him was happy for that small defiance, while overall he knew how petty and pointless it was and that they would not even notice. And he also knew that he would have less time to spend with Page Turner the longer he stayed in the manor.

Still, as much as he wished to run to her, he had duties and obligations to attend here first.

First of which was using the bathroom and once again swearing off having several glasses of mango juice before going to sleep.

Trotting into his private bathroom as flying indoors was not to be done, he began to relieve himself and go over a proper list of what he had to do this day.

As the Blade family was sponsoring this Honour Festival, Mother and Father had informed him that it was his duty to ensure that the public festival was running to the itinerary he was given by the family butler last week as both Sweet Dagger and Lethal Blade were occupied with details of the noble party. He would know of their stances on his week of work tomorrow as they would be retrieving him for the noble party. As it were currently, there were only a few stands left to be constructed, with established venues ready to move in, though he still had to vet a few newcomers.

It was utterly dull and he hated every moment of it, but he knew Page would love it and having her beside him would make the entire affair much more pleasant.

With a smile cracking his lips, he finished his business with the toilet and went to wash up before taking his morning shower, less for properness and more for Page Turner enjoying him smelling nice.

Then again, she had told him she loved his smell after he had been training for a while and had yet to clean up…

Smiling again as he thought of the unicorn, he finished washing himself and began to dry himself off, using the monogramed towel to do so.

He looked at himself in his full length mirror and debated whether or not to brush his coat and mane before he reminded himself that he was going to see Page today and have the gift he’d been planning for a while given to her.

As he brushed his mane into place, he was glad to have stumbled on this Reclaimed magic spell. It would be a wonderful attraction at the festival for lovers and couples, as well as further gaining the notice of the Academy. If these unicorn couples could take this spell back from the changelings, then they would be pressured to Reclaim more spells from their unfavourite Cousins.

He twitched his nose as he thought of the changelings while grooming his coat. While they were responsible for the death of the Twin Goddess Princesses and forever in debt to the rest of the Tribes, he was mostly indifferent to them. Then again, the Blade family never had owned any changelings due to their connection to military matters of the kingdom, meaning it would be a potential risk if those emotional void creatures stole any sensitive information, and so he had little to no true experience with them.

Examining himself and seeing he was all proper, he turned to leave his bathroom and finish his morning preparations. Walking to the other end of his room, he picked up Determined Point and tied it to his side before sliding on his saddlebag that held his license to carry his sword and his monthly allowance of funds along with his signet ring onto his wing.

With that dealt with, he turned to make his bed and making sure his room was tidy as it should be before leaving it.

Closing the door behind him, Night Blade made his way down the private hallway for the living quarters and reached the landing that held the staircase that led to the ground floor with Mother and Father’s offices on the other side.

Walking down the stairs at a brisk pace, the nox pony turned around the hallways as he reached the ground floor to enter the common dining room and leaving the large good dining room untouched as always. It had only been used a few times as far as Night Blade could remember, only for private dinner parties with other High Nobles or his…

He shook his head with a frown plastered across his face as he did his best to forgot about that party to little success. The only good thing that came out of that party was the fact that he had found Page Turner and she had more than made up for it.

As he pulled out his chair at the family dining table, with Lethal Blade, Sweet Dagger, Crooked Blade, Hidden Dagger, Serrated Dagger, Deep Blade’s chairs all pushed in and, for his older brothers and sisters, dusted off, he saw that there was already a meal ready for him.

A couple of poached eggs, three strips of bacon and a glass of mango juice were presented for him and, using the cutlery provided, he began to delicately cut and eat his breakfast as he had been instructed so long ago by Clean Home, the family butler.

It was quite delicious as Generous Spoon was the best cook he knew, next to Page Turner. How she made those little sandwiches so tasty was a real mystery but he didn’t care at all!

Finishing off his meal and cleaning off his mouth with the napkin under his fork and knife, he pushed out of his chair as some servants came by to take the dish and glass away, then went back to the foyer to leave the manor and get on with his day only for Clean to stand in the middle of the room, holding out the list that had all the venues for the festival tomorrow as well as the other items he had to see to.

“Thank you, Home,” he said properly, nodding his head to the unicorn, tucking the list into his saddle bag with the unicorn responding in kind and opening the door for him. “I will be returning late this evening, as to oversee the trial run for the festivities. I will not be returning to the manor for lunch; I believe I will dine elsewhere.”

“Of course, sir,” Home said in a slight twinkle in his eyes, making Night slightly worried again that the old unicorn knew about Page Turner and would inform his parents about her. He wasn’t sure how they’d respond to her being a foundling or the fact he had been seeing her since he was a colt but he knew that he could easily toss anything and everything away for her if they tried to stop him from seeing her.

In any case, he felt he had wasted enough time at the manor and it was time to be productive today.

Walking down the smooth stone pathway out of his family manor, he began to trot his way down the familiar streets to the Grand Library with the white noise of beggars on the street. Unlike the changelings which were actually being truthful for once in their lives, there was no conceivable way for a beggar to operate in the Upper as the Guards worked in tandem with the shelters to provide help for the unfortunate unless they were acting in some kind of scam.

Night Blade believed in helping others when he knew it would actually have a positive impact instead of just lining some greedy soul’s pocket, while Page just gave to any beggar that came across her path, even changelings. She was far too k-

“Excuse me sir,” an oddly accented voice snapped him out of his musing. It was a female ahuizotl, with either a dark blue or purple outer coat, a soft green inner coat and emerald eyes. She was clearly a tourist as she was holding a map in her main hands with just a pack on her back and seemed a tad frustrated. “I’m trying to find the Great Library, do you know where it is?” she asked politely enough, possibly hiding the fact that she had inquired him before and he had unintentionally ignored her.

He felt a bit of a guilt at his own actions, his frown tightening at his impoliteness before gathering his thoughts and turned his head down the street to indicate the location. Speaking in a proper tone, Night Blade informed her, “The Great Library is my destination as well. If you wish, you may follow me.” and began to walk down the road to guide her to the Great Library.

“Thank you, sir,” the ahuizotl said, walking beside him. “You’re the first to actually help me today and this map is no help whatsoever.” She held out the map to him, which seemed odd to him as it had an official seal on it. Rising an eyebrow at this, he held out his wing to examine it, with her pausing a few seconds before passing the offered map over.

Opening it up, he saw the problem right away; it was a map of the Upper East that had been mislabeled as the Upper West somehow as there were notable locations missing, namely the Grand Library itself. Handing the map back to her, Night Blade told her of this, saying, “That is due to you being sold a map of the Upper East labeled the Upper West; whomever sold you this did a disservice to you or a serious misprint has occurred.”

“Oh, thank you,” she flashed a grateful smile at him, which made Night Blade feel a bit better. “I cannot believe I did this.” She continued, looking embarrassed at this uncontrollable action.

He felt it was his duty as a noble and a sometimes follower of the Lady when the family went to the temples of the Virtues to console her with replying, “It is nothing; I have lived in the Upper West all my life and at times I get lost myself.”

“Heh,” she laughed at him, causing him bite back his anger as he spotted a shortcut through a small tunnel. “I mean it, thank you for this. You’re a nice guy.”

Oh, she had not laughed at him which meant he had overreacted again, just like Page Turner told him he did. He brushed it away by telling her, “I was just doing the proper thing, nothing more miss.”

Holding out her tailhand, she said, “I’m Xvital.”

Taking it with his wing and giving it a proper shake, he also introduced himself, “Lord Night Blade,” while keeping his focus forwards as they left the tunnel and were in front of the Grand Library. Leading her up the marble staircase with students of the Academy and researchers in open debate on the steps, Night Blade found himself relaxing ever so slightly.

Stepping into the entrance of the Great Library, Night Blade saw the old griffin that was in charge of the care of this collected knowledge trove smiling at him before he turned to face his traveling companion. “I hope you are good enough to take care of yourself, miss Xvital,” he bowing his head to her. “If you need anything, you can inquire Matron Hush Tone over there for advice,” he tilted his head towards the Free Griffon before turning to ask her, “Excuse me, Matron Tone, but-”

“She is in her section at this time, Night, as you know full well,” she clicked her beak as she cut him off, but he was too delighted to be annoyed. Spreading his leathery wings, he took off into the further aspects of the library, the location he knew as well as his own room.

Landing on top of a bookcase, he crouched low and began to stalk his way forwards towards the corner she had claimed for her own, already hearing her voice and the awe of little foals.

Hopping from shelf to shelf, he laid down and watched Page Turner read a tale of the Virtues to a bunch of excited foals, and smiled to himself at how lucky he was to have a mare like her interested in him. There was no limit to what she would do for others; not many librarians would bother to read books to visitors who were expected to know how to read, let alone do it without a charge to the ponies in question. Some of Page’s fellow librarians disliked her for this, but Matron had approved of her reading time as it brought good light on the Library’s actions in the public’s eye. Also, the foals loved it, and that was always good.

With a soft sigh escaping his lips, he listened to her finish her story, her eyes briefly flicking to his hiding spot before dismissing the foals and using her green aura magic to put away the book.

Flying down to land in front of the light yellow unicorn, Night Blade gave her a friendly nuzzle her muzzle before sneaking a kiss to her cheek. Page Turner giggled at his actions before giving him a peck of her own and flashing him a smile.

“Hello there, silly colt,” she beamed at him, nuzzling against his side. “What brings you here on this fine today?”

“Weeeelll...” Night Blade dragged out, dropping a wing over her as they began to walk towards the doors. “I was thinking to check out this lovely treasure called Page Turner for the day, do you think I could manage this or will others need to lean on this priceless piece of work?”

Slapping a hoof over her mouth to hold back her laughter as this was still a library, she swatted at his side with her tail as she pulled herself together to answer him. “Hmmm,” she tapped her chin with a mock serious look on her face which warmed Night Blade’s heart. “I will need to check with Matron Hush Tone about this, dear sir,” she told him before looking across the counter with the griffon shaking her head at them. She was pinching the bridge of her eyes and doing her best to look stern but there was a smile escaping. “Excuse me, Matron Tone, but-”

Go you two kids,” she said, waving a wing at them with chuckles escaping her beak. “Enjoy yourselves today and tomorrow,” she then paused to look at Night Blade. “You will be coming by to pick her up for the festival tomorrow, my lord?”

“Of course,” Night Blade replied, dimly aware of the fact that this would be the first time his parents would meet Page Turner. ...And he was fine with it. With the gift he was planning to present her today, the only way he could further prove his love for the unicorn next to him was to propose to her and if they had a problem with that, then there would be serious words with Mother and Father. Holding his wing out to the mare he knew completely and she him, he asked Page Turner, “After you, my lady.”

With another chuckle leaving her lovely lips, she leaned herself in to steal another kiss and said, “Of course, my love.”

Leading his marefriend down the steps, Night Blade knew that the next few days were going to be the best days of his life.

Chapter Three: Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Three

Page Turner

With a soft chirp, Page Turner found herself waking up just before sunrise, just as she liked to.

Stretching out in her bed, she licked her lips as moved around in her small bedroom, moving over her dresser that had her mirror that reflected the image of her bedcoat and mane back at her. Sticking her tongue at herself, she fixed herself up a flash of her magic and saw she was perfect to go.

After fixing her light green mane as it was still a complete mess as her magic didn’t work on her mane for some reason. Rolling her eyes at that consistent little headache, she brushed her mane in place and took another look at herself to make sure she was good.

Smiling happily at her light yellow coat with her open book cutie mark on her flanks, she started to sing a happy tuneless song as she made her way out of her bedroom as she started to prepare for her morning chores, the first was leaving the dormitories and prepare breakfast for everyone.

She continued to sing as she entered the main kitchen, her magic pulling out all the food that her fellow librarians liked to eat in the morning as well as retrieving herself an apple to eat. Taking a bite, Page spat it out and grimaced as she saw that it was an Apple Clan apple. Those ponies had placed mass production over quality. Page had spoken with the Matron about switching to a better supplier, but Polished Apple was in charge of buying food and as she was an Apple, the Great Library got a discount on tasteless apples and other farm products.

Thankfully, Page had taken the time to start up a garden for the entire staff with a bit of unofficial sponsoring of the Blade family so they would have options.

Shaking back and forth as she worked the cutting boards and stove tops, she almost fell into a song that had been in her family for ages but paused as she heard chuckling behind her causing her to meep in surprise.

“Preparing breakfast for everypony again, Page Turner?” Matron Hush Tone clicked her beak in soft lecturing tone, leaning over to retrieve her cup of tea that Page had already prepared for everyone. “Dear child, it is supposed to be everypony’s responsibility to make their own meals, not for you to do every morning.”

Blushing, Page looked at her hooves before saying, “Is it so wrong that I like to be generous and kind?”

Ruffling her mane, Matron Hush Tone simply shook her as she took her seat at the head of the long table, groaning ever so slightly. “No my child, they are wonderful traits to have but some will think you are employing tactics of the Lady in a place that belongs to the Magi of Stars.”

With a huff, Page Turner rolled her eyes as she finished making the morning meals and moving her place at the long table. “Those who stare too deep in the inner workings of my morning meals get porridge stuck up their noses.”

The griffon slapped an aged wing across her beak, doing her best not to cackle this early in the day and wake up the entire staff. With tears running down her face, the old griffon let out a weary sigh before she stared fondly at a smirking Page Turner who was turning her porridge over with her spoon in her bowl. “Oh my dear, that was a priceless gem,” the Matron said as she tried to settle her laughter. “Go ahead and eat your breakfast and tend to your actual chores.”

“Yes Matron,” Page bobbed her head, spooning some food into her mouth, already going the mental list she had prepared last night.


With a swish of her tail as she made her way through the stacks and columns of books, scrolls, texts and other manner of record keeping with a soft whistle escaping her lips, putting all the misplaced titles into her cart as well as put those she had with her away. It was soothing in a way, putting away things in their proper place and knowing her place in the entire system.

Not many foundlings stayed with their facility as they went to answer the call of their cutie marks or talent emblems, but Page loved the simple live that the Great Library gave her.

She had not expected much in her life as it were, but things had a funny way of turning out. She never imagined that silly colt coming in and asking where the guides to running away were would have such an impact on her life and fill it with such wonder and love.

She felt like letting out a squee but there were senior librarians around her and she was in a library.

Still, she loved Night Blade and she knew he loved her and may all the Virtues turn their backs on those who said otherwise. She wasn’t after Night Blade due to his wealth and she had nothing that Night would want beyond herself.

And even if Night Blade ever proposed to her, she was almost positive that the Matron and the elders would give their blessings instead of demanding that she stay within the Great Library.

The thought of her love actually proposing to her made Page let out a squeak of joy, with her blushing as she got looks from her fellow librarians with Polished Apple huffing at her.

Letting out a snort at a filly who thought that just because she came from the wealthy family she was better than her, Page had to stifle her laughter at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Polish was sent to the Great Library for a reason, most likely to stop being a public embarrassment to her family as opposed to the official reason of giving back to society. As if those ponies cared about anything but increasing their profit margins.

Tilting her ears, she could hear the ivory doors open up and the complaints of the students from the Academy at the Matron for taking so long to open the Great Library. Which meant she had to get ready for her special clients.

None of the librarians had liked this when she first proposed it, but the Matron had spoken of it in better light as a minor noble family of almost no note, the Belle family, had donated a sizeable sum of funds after their child had joined Night and her in their reading session. It then turned into her project and section at the Great Library as more foals had been dropped off by their parents to outdo the Belles, but had turned into actual enjoyment and support for the Great Library that became a task that the priests of the Lady endorsed.

There would be no true acknowledgement for her and what she had done to start all of this was quickly forgotten by most, but there were still foals that came to listen to her read tales of the Virtues and other fantastical stories, and that was enough for her.

Passing the cart off to a lesser librarian, one who taken on the call of attending the Great Library only as a job instead of as their life, she picked up one of the Scrolls of the Magi of Stars and saw it was the one about the Blue Sorceress and her army of star creatures. Of course it wasn’t a true Scroll of the Magi of Stars, those had been lost for ages and this was just a second hoof retelling of the days of wonder, but the foals loved it just the same.

Turning around the corner, her smile grew as there was already a herd of foals waiting for he, all beaming at her and saying, “Hello miss Page Turner.”

Soaking in all of their love, she sat down in her chair and greeted them before informing them of what she would be telling them what tale they would hearing today.

Hushing their cheers, Page Turner cleared her throat and began to tell the story.

‘To my dear liege and Her grand majesty, Celestia of the Sun, my companions and I have another tale to tell you. It all began…


Page’s eyes darted upwards as Night padded into the room atop of one of the shelves, which was against the rules and would annoy the cleaners to no end.

Still, her smile grew as he sat patiently up there while she finished reading to the foals.

“And that, my dear foals, is how the Magi of Stars and the Virtues defeated the vile sorceress and her star creature army,” Page said to the awe and wonder of the foals. “Tomorrow, I shall tell the tale of how the Virtues came to be as to pay proper homage to the Honour Festival. Now go to your parents, little ones.” She dismissed them all with a tilt of her hoof, her smile growing as all thanked her as Miss Page Turner.

So sweet and adorable.

Using her magic to put away the book, her coltfriend flew down and gave her a nuzzle across her face before deciding he wished to be daring and place a kiss on her cheek.

Giggling at how silly Night Blade was, she returned the kiss with one of her own before flashing him a love filled smile.

“Hello there, silly colt,” she cooed at him, nuzzling against his non-sword side and taking in the faint after smell of mangos. “What brings you here on this fine today?”

“Weeeelll...” Night Blade drawled out as he placed his wing over her, making her heart go pitter patter. He was leading her to the front doors of the library, daring to make an escape when he knew she had work tod- “I was thinking to check out this lovely treasure called Page Turner for the day, do you think I could manage this or will others need to lean on this priceless piece of work?”

She had to slam her hoof over her mouth to stop herself from laughing her head off, her face red with what Night just said. She swatted her tail at his side, doing her best not to break down in laughter. Straightening her neck and putting her best serious face on, she tapped her chin going hmm. “I will need to check with Matron Hush Tone about this, dear sir,” Page said as she turned her head to look at the Matron, who was shaking her head at them as she tried to remain serious but there was a smile on her face. “Excuse me, Matron Tone, but-”

“Go you two kids,” the griffon cut her off, raising her wing at them with her clicking her beak in laughter. “Enjoy yourselves today and tomorrow,” she dismissed her before looking at Night Blade. “You will be coming by to pick her up for the festival tomorrow, my lord?”

“Of course,” Night Blade said nodding his head before facing Page Turner, his wing held out. “After you, my lady.”

With a chuckle leaving her mouth, she leaned to give him another kiss. “Of course, my love.”

With a sigh of contentment as he led her down the same steps where she had been left as a foal, walking down the street with a content smile on their face.

Breathing in the crisp air, Page started to scrunch her nose up as a rather powerful sneeze grew. Doing her best to hide her issue as they started to walk up the West Road, her eyes flicked to the changeling detector lights that were being installed across the Road. They would undo any changeling magic with a magical flare as an alert. With how many ponies were around on a normal day and how little changeling magic remained beyond shapeshifting, any action by a changeling would be noticed immediately and no changeling would dare attract the attention of the ponies, especially not on Honour Day.

As they approached the plaza with the stalls either built or crews working on finishing them, she could not hold it back anymore.

She stopped where she was and, with Night looking at her, she reared her head back and let out a squeak of a sneeze.

Rubbing her snout, Page saw that Night was doing his best not to laugh but failing horribly. Swatting at him as her coltfriend started to snicker at her, Page’s eyes darted around the plaza with statues of the Virtues around a wide fountain before her nose started to smell something good.

“For laughing at me,” she said in her best offended voice, tilting her nose up. “You must retrieve me some food, please.”

Rolling his eyes at her and darting in to sneak another kiss, Night was feeling really affectionate today, before bowing slightly at her. “As you wish; extra spicy of whatever I can find?”

“Of course,” Page said with a smile on her face and her tail swishing back and forth. After spending so much time with Night over the years, she had grown to love spicy stuff and gained a very high tolerance.

Ponies tended to freak out when she ate several jalapenos without so much batting an eye...

With smile on his face, Night bobbed his head and turned to get them food, and would probably begin his inspection of the Honour Festival once he got back.

With a sigh escaping her lips as she watched her stallion walk away, her eyes lingering on his backside a bit longer then supposedly proper, she looked at the statues of the Virtues of Equestria, the former heroes that died with the Goddess. She knew each of them and their stories due to working in the Great Library.

Trotting around the fountain, she looked up at each of them; the Stallion of Dedication, the Lady, the Wise Oracle, the Warrior, the Stern Warden and the Magi of Stars.

She wondered how they really were when they were alive; there was such few actual stories about them and her sources-

LOOK OUT!” a voice shouted before a force crashed into her, knocking her to the side. Squeaking in surprise, Page reached out for her magic when a loud crash startled her and stole her concentration away.

Looking to the side, she could see the remains of crashed construction material where she had been standing before, which could have either killed her or severely injured her to the point she had to go to the hospital.

Looking up at her saviour, Page saw he was a young griffon with a sleet grey plumage and reddish gold coat, his eyes of two different colours, blue and gold. He looked over her quickly, no doubt making sure she was okay.

“You good miss?” he asked with an odd twist to his words, offering a talon to her. She took it and her nose wrinkled as she smelt alcohol on his breath.

“Yeah,” she said, her heart still racing as she was pulled up right. “Thank you.”

“No problem, miss,” he bobbed his head a bit too forwards, his hot breath washing over her face. “It’s a good thing I was watching what Diamond Back was doing, or not doing or this could have got a lot worse.” He glared briefly at a griffon being chewed by an unicorn flocked by other crew workers before smiling at her. “Really glad to see you are okay, miss,” he said, slapping her shoulder lightly.

“I’m fine,” she stressed her words, forcing a smile on her face and went into auto polite mode. “Really, I’m alright and thank you for saving me, mister...”

“Wind Breaker,” he said, telling her he was a Hatchery griffon. His beak was clicking slightly as his tongue lapped the sides in quick darts, so he couldn’t be drunk...

Page began to relax, and smile for real. Holding out her hoof, she started to say, “I’m-”

“PAGE TURNER!” Night shouted as he flew over to the, landing between her and Wind Breaker. “What happened‽” he growled at the griffon, leaning to pull out his sword.

“I saved her, buddy,” Wind Breaker said in a stressed tone, puffing out his chest out. “That idiot over there,” he thumbed towards the other griffon. “Wasn’t watching what he was doing and almost dropped a full ton of shit on her.”

“Is this true?” Night looked at her, his face calming for a moment. She nodded her head in agreement, which caused Night to relax for a second before frowning. No doubt Night smelt the alcohol on Wind Breaker and as the pony in charge of what happened in the festival, he was also responsible for all legal issues including lawsuits. Which meant Page knew exactly what Night was about to do was out of kindness.

“I thank you then, good sir and both he and you are fired for negligence and improper conduct,” Night said, bowing his head to show his gratitude.

WHAT?!” Wind Breaker shouted, eyes almost bulging out of his head. “I just saved her from being hurt, you ass-”

“And I thank you for that,” Night Blade hissed, clearly angered by how stupid this griffon was being. “And if you do not leave now, I will have security remove you from the premises.”

Wind Breaker looked like he was about to say something before throwing his arms in the air and storming away.

Night let out a sigh, before looking at her. “Sorry about that Page; I have to go get you another extra spicy eggplant kebob in curry sauce.”

“It’s okay,” Page nuzzled into his side. “Not that hungry anymore.”

“Heh, that would be a first,” Night said in a teasing tone. “Come, there is something I want to show you.”

With her eyes darting back to the griffon that had saved her, Page held back a sigh and followed her coltfriend into maze of stalls and vendors.

Chapter Four: Wind Breaker

View Online

Chapter Four

Wind Breaker

With a half held back yawn, Wind Breaker shook his head as he began to wake up and wince as he started to feel himself sobering up. Rolling to the side to reach his pack, he reached inside and felt around for his light alcoholic bottle as he had work today, thankfully.

True, it was just some construction for the Honour Festival but any work helped him pay his debts as a Hatchery griffon as well as give him some spending money for food, his drinks and any surprise expenses or sudden splurges that came up.

Tilting his head back as he sucked on the bottle, he kept a bit of his attention focused on how much he was drinking just to get to that sweet spot where he could function.

Pausing to check himself and see if the alcohol was working by doing his little test, Breaker promised himself he would try to deal with his problem tomorrow again. Feeling only a hint of irritation at his promise, Wind Breaker let out a dry chuckle and said, “Well, I guess that’s dealt with.”

Rubbing his throat after another stab of irritation, he dropped the bottle into his pack, clinking against the other bottles of booze, closed the flap, clicked it shut and put it under the bed so it wouldn’t be stolen while he was out.

It was still a crapshoot that it would still be there if he hid it or not, but better safe than stuck sober for a while.

With a bit back growl at his throat burning again, Wind Breaker shook himself as he rolled himself out of the bed and spread out his wings as he let out a proper yawn. Rubbing his eyes, he tilted his head as he heard other griffons and workers for the festival waking up and chatting with each other in their own rooms. He grinned to himself; this had been one piece of luck that he got this room all to himself despite how busy this time of the year was.

His room, and a few down the hall were all singles for various reasons, ranging from heavy deposit to a specialty client to others refusing to bunk with the guy.

His room…

...It seemed his reputation from Caring Sisters of the Virtues Hatchery preceded him a bit, and there were no takers joining him.

He ruffled his reddish gold coat and swished his tail as he thought of the Hatchery. Even though the Hatchery was one of the better ones in the Upper, he still hated his time there and got his most of his issues from that place, like almost every other Hatchery griffon he knew.

At the very least he didn’t have to dye his coat and feathers to more pleasing and proper pony colours anymore..

Doing his utmost to refrain from taking another shot for courage, he picked up his proper saddle bags and went through it to make sure his papers were in place, his funds had been untouched and that his debt balance was still correct.

And as much as he would have liked it, his Ledger remained untouched and unchanged since yesterday. Only an Inspector could do that and they were impossible to bribe. Partly due to their training, but most due to the fact that any change would appear in every other Ledger as well as the Master Ledger and a griffon could actually fight a false charge if such a thing happened.

Which, again due to ponies making sure that their system seemed to be perfectly well thought out for all but the griffons that came from Hatcheries, was near impossible in itself due to the fact that all the Ledgers had every Hatchery griffon’s magical signature embedded in it, and it was an easy process to check with just a plucked feather, consent or choice of which feather not always needed or asked. So having a false charge was all but impossible and the ponies were able to tell themselves they were doing the right thing and nothing needed to change, especially not a system that was created over eight hundred years ago for a problem that no longer existed, that made them second class citizens because they were raised in a place that they had no choice in, that made them obligated to repay that ‘kindness’ back their entire life or else, that had made the Free griffons population smaller than the Hatchery griffon and hear constant talks about finally properly absorbing the griffon lands into Equestria by ponies and griffons alike!

Wind Breaker reached under the bed and took out a drink from one of his stronger bottles and start to gulp it down before stopping himself.

Placing the bottle back, Wind Breaker placed a talon over his head; he overdid it again and he would need to be careful to not get caught.

Lucky for him, he was good at not getting caught.

With all that moping done with, he finally left the room, locked the door, placed the do not clean sign on the door and went downstairs to eat the provided breakfast meal before everypony else came downstairs…

“Hey look, it’s wettle old Wind Bucker,” Diamond Back chuckled at him with a couple of the other griffons from the Hatchery, all sitting at a table near the prepared food that the Blade family had ordered for the workers. It was Apple product but free food was free food. “Looks like he woke up from his nappy.” He mimed drinking from a bottle before laughing again.

“Very funny, Diamond,” Wind Breaker muttered, rubbing his throat as he went to grab a plate of food. “Just like the other times you made that damn joke.”

“You are sober, aren’t you?” Diamond had suddenly moved over to Wind Breaker, and glared at him.

For the longest time, Wind Breaker and the rest of the griffons at the Hatchery had thought that Wind Breaker was just shrimpy but it turned out that Diamond and his friends were actually the large ones due to their heritage of being mountain griffons when a Free griffon had passed by. Diamond and his friends had gone right on with bullying him over everything they could and due to his mouth, few other griffons in the Hatchery defended him.

“Sober enough,” Wind Breaker snapped, moving to a table away from them but was grabbed by Diamond.

“If you do anything to ruin this for us,” Diamond growled threateningly, reminding Wind Breaker that despite everything Diamond Back was still Lead Griffon or chosen as Lead Griffon when their Hatchery was chosen for something and the Caring Sisters reached out to ‘trusted’ griffons to do work in their name for a very slight decrease in their debts. And as Lead Griffon, his job was to make sure that no griffon messed up.

“I’m fine,” Wind Breaker put more bite in his voice, ears slightly red as he could hear the slur in his beak. “Now let me eat my breakfast in peace, arlight?”

DIamond just glared at him and squeezed his shoulder harder before letting go and stalking his way back to his seat, keeping a fixed glare on him and his saddle bags.

As if he would bring a flask or a bottle on the job; he wasn’t a fool and going to risk the job by having alcohol on him in case there was a surprise inspection.

If they did suspect, he could always hope they’d believe he had a speech impediment or hope that Diamond would cover for him.

Lifting a fork of the discount sausage to his beak, Wind Breaker let out a tiny prayer to the Goddesses that nothing would go wrong today.


With a grunt, Wind Breaker lifted the two-by-four and flew over to the back of the stalls, placing it next to the pile of other wood that Sharp Tack and Quick List had brought in for Hard Hammer and Sharp Saw to prepare them into proper roofing and walls for the unfinished stalls for the Honour Festival.

He didn’t know how the pony work crew failed to finish everything as they had unicorns to help them but there was no complaints from him. Any work helped clear his debt to the Hatchery and, as he wasn’t a girl, he couldn’t use the easy way to clear his debts.

He paused, perching on top of a stall, thinking of the so called ‘easy’ way. While it was open to every female griffon that went to a clinic, he could only count on a single talon of how many female griffons he knew that got pregnant solely to sell their egg in exchange for the removal of a massive chunk of their debt.

Wind Breaker let out a tiny shiver at the horror stories of what happened to griffons that tried to back out of the donation path; the trials were always infamously nasty and they always ruled against the griffon for stealing government property and jailed them. They also had their debts from when they had left their Hatchery tripled, and had their debt passed down to their child as further punishment and detriment for other griffons to try and break contracts with the government.

Of course, that was just what happened in the Upper where things were prim and proper; it was supposedly far worse in the Middle and the Lower.

Still, he wasn’t a changeling and he had some rights and they would be respected by the laws. If he was a bug, it would be a miracle if anyone helped him if he needed it.

Shaking his head, he looked at the pony couple walking through the festival and gave an annoyed snort. He wasn’t sure why the Blade family allowed what had to be their grandson walk in with his marefriend when the representative from the Blade family was supposed be around today. Maybe he sent the kid- who wasn’t really a kid, had to be his own age-in first as some half assed attempt of foal sitting?

He looked around the civilian festival, eyeing the stands already up and running for tonight’s start and wondered how they were going to pull it off. They hadn’t even finished all of the curly things that were supposed to be meet together above at fountain of the Virtues.

His ear flicked as he heard Diamond Back talking to his friends as they took another break from the arch thingy, with the supplies dangerously close to the edge…

It seemed if time slowed down as he saw the mare walk under the scaffolding and supplies about to tumble downwards.

Pushing himself off of the roof he was on, Wind Breaker shouted, “LOOK OUT!” as he crashed into her, pushing the mare away from where the supplies smashed into the ground.

With his heart racing in his head, he looked over the yellow mare to make sure she was okay. “You good miss?” he asked, offering to help her up while kicking himself inside as he forgot to hide his slur.

“Yeah,” she replied, her snout wrinkling as she no doubt smelt his breath. Pulling her upright, she thanked him.

“No problem, miss,” he bowed his head forward as he was taught by the Hatchery when talking to a mare. “It’s a good thing I was watching what Diamond Back was doing, or not doing or this could have got a lot worse.” He turned his head to see Diamond being yelled at by Tight Schedule for the near accident. He turned to the mare and flashed a smile as he patted her on the shoulder. “Really glad to see you are okay, miss.”

“I’m fine,” she repeated with a smile on her face that caused his throat to twinge. “Really, I’m alright and thank you for saving me, mister...”

“Wind Breaker,” he replied, swallowing a bit of air and clicking his beak.

She seemed to calm down, her smile becoming true. She held out her hoof out to him and began to introduce herself when her coltfriend flew in the middle of them.

“PAGE TURNER!” he shouted as he landed, facing him down and seemingly drawing that sword on his side. “What happened‽” the bat pony growled at him, his coat on end.

Well two could play at that game...

“I saved her, buddy,” he said in a clear of tone as possible, puffing his chest out. “That idiot over there,” he pointed at Diamond Back before glancing over the colt again to see the signet ring on the right wing, telling him that this was a direct member of the Blade family and was his boss. Still, he was too caught up in the moment. “Wasn’t watching what he was doing and almost dropped a full ton of shit on her.”

“Is this true?” he asked the mare, Page Turner nodding her head. He turned back to him and bowed his head to him. “I thank you then, good sir and both he and you are fired for negligence and improper conduct.”

WHAT?!” Wind Breaker screeched. “I just saved her from being hurt, you ass-”

“And I thank you for that,” the plothead hissed at him as if he were at fault! “And if you do not leave now, I will have security remove you from the premises.”

He was furious at this and so close to saying something he knew he’d regret before he stopped himself.

Throwing his arms in the air, he stormed off from the ungrateful bastard and make a beeline back to the inn.

He hated stuck up noble brats like that foal of changeling, if anypony spoke up against them, they would do whatever they wanted to get even and, like an idiot, he opened his beak when he should have scrapped and bow-.

Whoa there, buddy-birdy,” a female voice chuckled out from in front of him. It was a minotaur with a dark violet coat and a freaking hammer tied to her back. “Where’s the fire and do ya need an alibi?” She laughed again, lightly punching him on the arm.

Wind Breaker roamed her with his eyes, taking in her blue-black mane before snorting and shaking his head. “Get out of my way,” he grumbled, moving to get past the overly cheerful mare.

“Oh come on there, pretty birdy, tell ol’ Vix-Lei what’s wrong,” she chimed in, pivoting on her hooves to stand next to him, pulling out her hammer to twirl it in front of them.

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” he snapped, clicking his beak angrily at her.

“It ain’t but it bums me out to see anyone glum, so tell me chum,” she turned her hands around quickly to bring the face of the hammer down onto his head, revealing it was a cloth hammer and not a real one. “What’s got your feathers so twisted up?”

Smacking the hammer away, he turned to face the minotaur-Vixie Lay or something and glared at her. “I just got fired for bullshit reasons after I saved his mare’s life! So if you don’t mind, I’m going to back to my hotel room, get drunk and pretend that this day never happened, alright?”

“Alright, alright, I get it, geez,” she said holding her hands up at him as if to defend herself from him. “Try and help a person out and that’s what you get? Feh.”

With a growl and a snort, Wind Breaker watched the crazy minotaur walk away before shaking his head.

“At least this day can’t get any worse,” the griffon muttered to himself, stalking back to the hotel for a quiet night.

Chapter Five: Vix-Lei

View Online

Chapter Five

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei was already on her hooves before the sun was even up, humming a wordless tune, throwing the blanket over the bed as she slid about in her rented room in this cute little hotel.

It was her first time in Equestria and in the capital city, and she had to admit that Canterlot Upper...was kinda what she was told she’d see.

"A bunch of stuffy sillies," she snorted to herself, attaching the shoulder holster for Lady Kabonk but deciding to leave Senor Hardhead behind as she didn’t expect to get into any trouble.

Pausing in front of the mirror to fix her hair, she decided she looked good. Still in her good mode, Vix-Lei danced her way out of the room and made her way downstairs with a bit of a hop from the landing, causing the few ponies and griffons to pull back in surprise.

“Guess it’s not everyday you see sometaur jump down, eh?” she chuckled to herself with the crowd mumbling at her. Limbering up a bit more, rubbing her shoulder, she made her way to the spread of food that had no one really watching it. With a whistle and shifty eyes, Vix-Lei took a plate for herself and sat down at an isolated table to enjoy her breakfast in peace, taking a bench as these chairs were not made for minotaurs in mind.

It was pretty okay, just nothing to write home about and if she did, her mom would be wondering why she’d be writing about this breakfast and not her other experiences.

Twirling the fork in her hands and drumming it against the table, Vix-Lei began to think of what she would do today.

She might as well as hang around the Honour Festival, see if she could spot this Blady fellow and get herself a gig tomorrow entertaining the people.

If not… she could just hop back into the Middle and see what she got there. If nothing still, well, she had the wide open world to travel.

“Might hit up Cuanmiztl Kingdom,” she said, scratching her chin, tapping her hoof against the floor. “Those cats seem a bit more fun than these naysayers.”

Grinning at her own joke, she pushed herself from the table and carried her plate back to the buffet table and carefully slid it underneath the stack of plates.

With that done, Vix-Lei made her way out of the hotel, accidentally lifting a griffon over her shoulder as she left the door as it was a bit too early to do the dance of who goes first through the threshold.

Shaking her head at the confused look on the griff’s face that little old her managed to toss him, she took a deep breath of the fresh mountain air.

She then immediately barreled into someone, causing her and the other person to fall into a mess on the ground.

Groaning and rubbing her head, Vix-Lei made sure to not shake her head with her horns being sharp and pointy.

“Ooo, that wasn’t too smart,” she muttered, looking to see the pony she’d knocked down. “You okay-wow, you’re a diamond dog!”

The diamond dog, with a really dark coat, brushed off his pocketed jacket and glared up at her. “You’re quite astute, madam, in describing species,” he huffed, his long nose twitching, with his sharp ears flicking a bit.

“Heh, I guess so,” Vix-Lei said, scratching the back of her head and looking around at the crates in the middle of the street with a lifter thingy rolling down the street before crashing into a building. “Do you need a hand with this?”

“Only if you can lift one of those crates by yourself, madam, otherwise…” he trailed off, no doubt amazed as she picked up both of them with ease. “Hmm, well I suppose I ate the charcoal there.” He chuckled briefly, running down the hill to grab the blue lifter thingy. “Thank you, you can place them down on the hand truck if you do not mind.”

“Nah,” Vix-Lei scoffed, shaking her head. “I’m good double d; so where do you need this stuff?”

“Double d…” he blinked before muttering ah to himself. “I see, how very cute. My name is Rex, madam…”

“Ah, I’m Vix-Lei,” she grinned, stepping beside old Rexy. “I’d give paw and shake, but I’m kinda got my own full at the moment.”

Rex simply looked at her again before shaking his head. “Charmed, miss Lei,” he grumbled, his short tail twitching behind him.

“Nah, it’s all one name, old boy,” she chuckled as she hefted the crates a bit higher to get a better grip on them. “So what’s in these boxes, bones?”

Narrowing his eyes, he shook his head and said, “Nothing as unimportant as bones, Vix-Lei. These are my associates’ and my merchandise, which are a touch on the fragile side of things so please do your best not to jostle them around.”

“Ah, sorry,” Vix-Lei blushed a bit. “So what’s in these boxes?”

“Special merchandise, Vix-Lei, that is quite fragile,” he stressed on the fragility of it, baring a bit of his fangs. He then let out a bit of a breath and looked at her. “They contain blank slates for our product that will act as the conduct for the Reclaimed love identification spell between the two individuals in question.”

“Okay…” Vix-Lei blinked in confusion, tilting her head as Rex dug out an ID card to the guards at the entrance. “So how do you fit in all this; I mean…” she edged out her elbow at Rex. “You is diamond dog, not unicorn. I mean, are you some sort of hired help?”

No, miss Lei, I am not hired help,” Rex narrowed his eyes. “As I have previously stated, I am a third party member to my associates’ business and I am actually the main provider of the formulae for the spell.”

“Oh wow, I didn’t know that diamond dogs knew how to use magic,” Vix-Lei blinked, marveling at this cool new fact.

“Diamond dogs do not have access to the arcane, miss Lei, so I need to use other means to achieve my craft,” Rex barked at her as he pushed the cart thingy a bit harder, with the handles making odd noises in his paws. “Here we are,” he paused in front of a stand that said Forever Find True Love. “If you would be so kind as to place the merchandise down, everything will be fine as diamonds.”

“‘Kay,” Vix-Lei walking ahead to place the crates down and let the Rex scurry ahead and start unpacking these cute small necklaces, taking out a display stand to put the necklaces on it. She stood for a moment, rocking on her hooves. “Soooooo, you’re on the approved list of stuff, right?”

“We will be once Lord Blade gives us his stamp of approval; why do you ask?” Rex turned to her with the sound of rattling bottles coming from his vest back.

Well, I know that the Honour Festival for the ponies’ dead heroes and gods is tomorrow, and if you can get your hoof in the door, you’ll be able to do all sorts of stuff and-”

“And you wish for me to place my name and my associate on the edge for sometaur that has a very questionable sense of comedy with a respected Noble house?” Rex snorted at her, shaking his head ruefully. “I may be a diamond dog but that does not mean I am an imbecile.“ He then pushed himself close to her face, resting his massive paws on the crate. “Now if you are quite done with your racist commentary, I would appreciate it if you would leave me be so I can finish my preparations.”

“All right, geez, you just had to say no,” Vix-Lei held up her hands, annoyed at how touchy this doggy was. “Boy,” she muttered to herself as she walked away, rolling her eyes to herself.

WIth nothing to do and being in the festival grounds, Vix-Lei decided to put that dull doggy out of her mind and enjoy herself.


It had been some time since she'd left the stand behind, wandering from place to place and seeing what they had to offer while doing her best not to be caught as a gate crasher. She had to say, these ponies were being just as dull as the minotaurs back home. No one could really take a joke all that well and were all too touchy and serious, and they found her attempts to make the day better annoying for some reason.

Still she couldn’t just give up as she spotted somegriffon that could use some cheering up.

Whoa there, buddy-birdy,” she chuckled, walking in front of the cranky-looking griff. “Where’s the fire and do ya need an alibi?” she asked, lightly tapping him on the shoulder.

The griff just shook his head, just saying “Get out of my way.”

“Oh come on there, pretty birdy, tell ol’ Vix-Lei what’s wrong,” she whined, dancing on her hooves and feeling the need to bring out Lady Kabonk.

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” he grumbled harshly at her, clicking his beaky beak at her.

“It ain’t but it bums me out to see anyone glum, so tell me chum,” she admitted, using her skills to lightly tap him on the head. “What’s got your feathers so twisted up?”

Pushing away Lady Kabonk, the griff stared hard at her. “I just got fired for bullshit reasons after I saved his mare’s life! So if you don’t mind, I’m going to back to my hotel room, get drunk and pretend that this day never happened, alright?”

“Alright, alright, I get it, geez,” Vix-Lei snapped back, putting away Lady Kabonk. “Try and help a person out and that’s what you get? Feh.”

Storming away from the griffon, she was so done with Equestria. All these annoying jerks couldn’t take even a simple joke and she didn’t need them. Tomorrow, she would leave the hotel and go off to find something a bit more interesting and fun than this dull place for good.

Chapter Six: Rex

View Online

Chapter Six

Rex

Biting back a yawn, Rex shifted on his hindpaws as he awaited his turn to get into the warehouse with the rest of the clients that were preparing the Honour Festival various wares for the Equestrians.

It was a nice enough time, he supposed as he took another step forwards, when the Equestrians more or less opened their borders to their capital city and had members of the Fifth and Sixth Tribes welcomed in opposed to be tolerated as equals at best and treated as oddities. That in conjunction with tourists being treated to discounts across the entirety of Canterlot made this the ideal time to venture out and place one’s trade on the table in the hope that one would be noticed and welcomed into the higher levels society.

Of course, the sole exception would be the Fourth Tribe despite their constant claims of unity at such festivals and promises that the place for the supposed Changeling Monarch to take along the stage with the other five Tribes’ representatives would not result in any negative action against said changeling.

Even the dullest of Diamond Dogs knew that it was a bold face lie, with the stories that changelings told his kind when they fled into the Under during this festival or to other locations opposed to underneath the labyrinthian ruins and caves of the sprawling city of Canterlot.

Rex narrowed his eyes at the thought of his former home, the taste of garnite in his mouth as the negative memories came to the fore. As per norm, the Diamond Dog forced the ideas out of place and placed himself back onto the topic at paw. He had his merchandise to acquire from the warehouse, transport his craft over to stand and ensure all was ready for Magic Mixture and Secured Connection to take over for him.

Breaking off his mild musings, Rex stepped forwards as the stallion in front of him had finished his business with the service pony behind the desk calling him forth without truly lifting her head from the magazine she was reading through.

It was clearly evident as when Rex stood in front of the counter the mare did her best not to react to his species not being equine.

“Hello there ma’am,” the doberman pinscher Diamond Dog smiled cheekily, taking a minute amount of pleasure at her scrambling to put forth a proper face for a client. “I would like to retrieve the contents of my locker, if you would be so kind.”

“Of course,” she replied. “Do you have your key, sir?”

“Yes,” he answered, holding out the key for four-fourteen-nineteen eighty four in his paw that he had retrieved from his vest side pocket. “If you would be so kind?”

Bobbing her head as all was good as silver, she allowed him pass unimpeded and into the building, with her sneaking a glance at him as he left the service center and apparently forgetting that there was a mirror down the hallway at allowed Rex to see her actions.

That action reminded Rex of how he disliked the mindset of the more aristocratic civilians of the Upper section of Canterlot, but he paid it no mind as hopefully tonight and the morrow would be the vein of gold that would be the catalyst for his next step of his plans.

If it turned out to be pyrite instead...he always had his workshop in the center of Canterlot where he could try again to further his name and trade despite it being a sign of insanity of him trying the same procedure with no variants and expecting a different result.

Passing by the the other renters of storage lockers with a polite excuse me or greeting, he reached his location in good time and found that the locker door was untouched since he was last here with the small little tell still in place. Pocketing his special spectacles and retrieving the key to this locker once more, Rex opened the door to see that the hand truck was where he had left it with the boxed crates already on the trolley, exactly as he had prepared it when he had deposited his work here.

Pulling the trolley out of the storage room with a wag of his tail, he closed the door behind with a stretch of his arm and pushed the trolley down the hallway to the exit for items such as his.

Breathing in the fresh mountain air, he could see the hints of the morning sun over the horizon as it began to make its journey around their world. Some had said it was the act of the goddess Celestia who was still seeing to her duties even beyond the grave while he, like a number of others, tended to go for a more scientific answer and ascribed that gravity was at charge.

Of course it would be horribly impolite to voice these thoughts to those who believed in the goddesses and the fabled virtues as well as improper as they lacked the proper means to prove that the Equestrian mythology were just fables.

Send providence to the luckless fool who made that discovery and would be the coal that set the church ablaze with new, indisputable facts.

Shaking his head as his thoughts were running wild as a new cook melting his first batch of ores, Rex traveled on the path he taken earlier the day as he made his way back towards the inn he was lodging at where the Honour Festival was just a turn around the bend.

It was a true stroke of luck that he had managed to find vacancy in an inn so close to the festival grounds.

Although paying for it was easy as pebbles as all he needed to do was produce a number of emeralds to sway the innkeeper to allowing him to stay.

He caught some commotion coming from the inn, an ear flicking as he heard some carefree singing coming from the inn which was odd as it was currently full of male griffons as far as he recalled.

Of course, it seemed he was eating pyrite as he did not take care to stay away from the doorway as someone barreled into him, knocking everything to the ground.

“Ooo, that wasn’t smart,” the other muttered, female by the tone of the voice. “You okay-wow, you’re a diamond dog!”

Brushing off his jacket, Rex glared up at the minotaur. “You’re quite astute, madam, in describing species,” he huffed, noticing that the hand truck was going down the hill to hit the sidewalk and that his crates were laying on the ground, although they seemed undamaged.

“Heh, I guess so,” the minotaur said while scratching her head and looking around helplessly. “Do you need a hand with this?” she offered while Rex was already trying to figure out how to get everything back onto the trolley.

Rolling his eyes, he mouthed off “Only if you can lift one of those crates by yourself, madam, otherwise…” he trailed off the retort as she picked up both crates without any effort. “Hmm,” he chuckled. “Well I suppose I ate the charcoal there.” He turned to cross the street to gather his hand truck, coming back to her and saying, “Thank you, you can place them down on the hand truck if you do not mind.”

“Nah,” she shook her head, making a dismissing sound. “I’m good double d; so where do you need this stuff?”

Rex paused and looked at her, musing the word Double D before the nuget dropped. “Ah, I see, how very cute. My name is Rex, madam…”

“Ah, I’m Vix-Lei,” she smirked at him, walking along side him. “I’d give paw and shake, but I’m kinda got my own full at the moment.”

He shot her a dirty look, seeing that this minotaur was one of those people.“Charmed, miss Lei,” he said as curtly as he could.

She seemed to miss his tone, chuckling as she reintroduced herself and clarified her name as all one thing. Carelessly shuffling his property around, she continued to say, “So what’s in these boxes, bones?”

Yes, this minotaur was definitely one of those bigoted sorts. Giving her a more pointed look and shaking his head in the negative, he replied “Nothing as unimportant as bones, Vix-Lei. These are my associates’ and my merchandise, which are a touch on the fragile side of things so please do your best not to jostle them around.”

“Ah, sorry,” she apologized weakly. “So what’s in these boxes?”

Feeling no need to tell her what he had, he simply said, “Special merchandise, Vix-Lei, that is quite fragile,” while placing emphasis on the word fragile to get it through her head. He then let out a sigh, realizing he was acting too harsh. He turned to explain to her, in the most simplest of terms, “They contain blank slates for our product that will act as the conduct for the Reclaimed love identification spell between the two individuals in question.”

“Okay…” she muttered in a tone that informed him that he was not simplistic enough. Pulling out his identification card for the festival to the guards, she asked him, “So how do you fit in all this; I mean…” she then elbowed him rather harshly, continuing to belittle him with a typical diamond dog speech pattern by saying , “You is diamond dog, not unicorn. I mean, are you some sort of hired help?”

Bristling at her continued insults, he narrowed his eyes at her and told her plainly, “No, miss Lei, I am not hired help. As I have previously stated, I am a third party member to my associates’ business and I am actually the main provider of the formulae for the spell.”

“Oh wow, I didn’t know that diamond dogs knew how to use magic,” she said, still condescendingly towards him as if he did not know his own species’ limitations.

“Diamond dogs do not have access to the arcane, miss Lei, so I need to use other means to achieve my craft,” he barked at the minotaur, squeezing the handles of his trolley too tightly with his diamond dog’s strength deforming the metal. Seeing he was in front of his stand, he forced himself to remain the bigger dog and told her, “Here we are; If you would be so kind as to place the merchandise down, everything will be fine as diamonds.”

“‘Kay,” she said, placing down his crates onto the counter with Rex racing around to the other side to open and check the contents. He started to unpack the necklaces, making sure to get out the stands in a place where they would attract the most attention on when she asked rather bluntly, “Soooooo, you’re on the approved list of stuff, right?”

“We will be once Lord Blade gives us his stamp of approval; why do you ask?” he turned to face her, with some of his potions in his pocket moving around. He made a mental note to make sure they were all secure once this Vix-Lei character was gone.

Well, I know that the Honour Festival for the ponies’ dead heroes and gods is tomorrow, and if you can get your hoof in the door, you’ll be able to do all sorts of stuff and-”

Ah, so that was her goal all along. Snorting at her, he responded by saying, “And you wish for me to place my name and my associate on the edge for sometaur that has a very questionable sense of comedy with a respected Noble house?” Shaking his head at her foolishness, he turned to face her. “I may be a diamond dog but that does not mean I am an imbecile.” He then slammed his paws onto a crate so he could stare directly into her face. “Now if you are quite done with your racist commentary, I would appreciate it if you would leave me be so I can finish my preparations.”

“All right, geez, you just had to say no,” she glared as if he were the unreasonable one, muttering things to herself before finally leaving him in peace.

Straightening the collar of his vest, Rex continued to unload and prepare his stand for tonight.


It was close to two hours later until Rex finally caught word that Lord Blade was making his rounds and would be inspecting stalls at random, if his neighbour behind was anything to go by.

He was not sure if he should retire before the nox pony arrived or maintain the fort, but the choice was taken from him as two young adults arrived, one being a yellow coated unicorn mare and the other being the nox pony of the hour if the signet ring on his wing was any indication.

“Here Page, this is what I wanted to show you,” the stallion told the mare, surprising Rex. As far as he was aware the young Blade wasn’t seeing anyone.

Forever Find True Love,” the mare read with a hint of amusement in her voice. “Oh Night,” she cooed, snickering to herself and lightly swatting the stallion’s side.

“I have done some research into this Reclaimed spell and…" Night trailed off as he noticed Rex’s appearance. “Hello good sir,” the stallion bowed his head politely before stepping forwards. “I presume you are a partner of this kiosk.”

“Indeed,” Rex bowed his head forwards too, moving forwards a pamphlet that explained his entire work to the couple. “I myself provided the foundations of this Reclaimed spell by researching old mythology of the Changelings and-”

“Found notations that long stationed harvesters had ways of finding their target based on the love that had flown between the two individuals?” the mare asked, holding the pamphlet to her face.

“Yes, exactly,” Rex blinked in awe and confusion. “How did you know this?”

“I am a ward of the Great Library and I have had time to pursue a wide range of topics,” her answer was perfectly rational and yet something dug at the back of his head.

Nodding his head, the young Blade turned to face Rex again. “And you claim to have a recreation of the spell?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” Rex said as he flipped a page of the pamphlet to show how he had done his work. “With these specially crafted glasses, I am able to see the magic aether and with my alchemic knowledge, I was able to recreate the spell to work in my modified fashion. My colleagues, both unicorns, can do the procedure as originally intended and will do so tonight and tomorrow,” Rex explained with Night and his marefriend nodding in understanding that few would believe a diamond dog could have such a thing.

Of course, he had to prove himself first.

Placing his glasses on his nose and pulling out his inverted iron tongs, he look at the two. “If I may prove my worth?”

Both of the equines shared a look before nodding at him. “What do we need to do?” Night asked him.

“I just need you both to think of the other while extending your magical aethers,” Rex informed the two, with both of them closing their eyes and concentrating on the task. Using his tongs to extract the auras, he placed the aethers in a necklace’s segments, watching how the aethers were struggling to join each other. In his research, this had happened for those truly in love with the other and he felt a sense a joy that these two had each other.

Pulling the necklace apart in its two pieces, Rex presented the necklaces to his first customers who placed it around their necks. “Now to activate it, all you need to do to say, ‘Find my love,’ and your special somepony’s name.”

Blade looked at Page and said, “Find my love, Page Turner.”

As Rex knew it would happen, the necklace began to move towards the mare-not her necklace but the source of the connected aether.

“By the Virtues, it actually works,” the mare gasped before repeating the action by saying his name.

“This is simply marvelous,” Night Blade said, wrapping a wing around Page Turner. “You are a part of the Academy, correct?”

“Not yet, but I do hope to gain their eye after the Festival with my work getting my tail in the door and become part of their alchemic division at the very least,” he admitted freely, feeling himself blush as he told these two strangers of his goals.

“Well I can talk to my brother Deep Blade about getting you an interview with the Dean, providing your craft actually works, of course.” Night Blade said reasonably enough, clearly not wishing to risk his own name on an unknown element.

“Thank you very much, sir,” Rex said, holding out his paw to shake the hoof of the young lord who returned the gesture. He then noticed a pair of approaching unicorns. “Ah, my associates are here. I wish you two a great time and a good Festival.” He moved his way to the front of the stall and bobbed his head towards the couple. Before he could leave, the mare stepped in front of him and held out several silver Luna in her green aura.

“Here,” Page Turner said with a smile. “Take.”

“Oh ma’am, you are far too kind,” Rex blushed, holding out his paw out in protest. “I can’t take this.”

“I inist,” Page said, pushing the coins into his paw. “If anypony could help prove how Nighty loves me more, it’s the least I could do.”

“Nighty?” Night Blade asked in a bemused tone, with the mare nuzzling his cheek and whispering into his ear.

Rex smiled to himself as the young couple were lost to each other, going to talk to Magic Mixture and Secured Connection about final preparations tonight.

Tomorrow, if everything went as planned, it would be just rubies for him for the rest of his life.

Chapter Seven: Xvital, Night Blade, Page Turner, Wind Breaker, Vix-Lei, Rex

View Online

Chapter Seven

Xvital

The ahuiztol let out a sigh, rubbing her eyes with her hands and scratching the back of her head with her tail hand.

It had been a dull day reading through all these dusty and dry tomes, but she had been seen and had built up the groundwork for her credibility for being a nice person. So when the time came to make the switch for those scrolls, Xvital would be leaving Canterlot a lot richer without anyone giving her so much as a second glance.

And then it would be enjoying the frontiers as a rich single ahuiztoless for a long time if the rumbling in the markets were right on the price of those old scrolls.

“Excuse me, madam?” the elderly griffon matron, one Hush Tone, came up from behind her.

“Oh hello Matron,” Xvital tipped her head politely, feeling a tiny stab of guilt at eventually ripping off this kind grandmotherly griffon that had made it her business to send tea over to her table every few hours. Although not that bad… “How can I help you?”

“It’s the other way around, dear,” the griffon smiled at her, reaching to take the empty tea cup away. “While the Grand Library is still open for a few more hours, you have been here all day and the Honour Festival is beginning tonight. A young lady like yourself shouldn’t be cooped up in here; take it from me, you only seek solace in the Grand Library after you have been spurned by love.”

With that unintentional jab, Xvital felt her face flush and found herself agreeing. “Woe to anyone that ignores the advice of those more wise,” she said, getting up to stretch properly before gathering her belongings. “I do believe I will return to my studies after the Honour Festival.”

“I would turn you away in any case,” she clicked her beak, guiding Xvital out of her small isolated seclusion and towards the general library. “I had seen one of my wards go off on a date with her coltfriend and I do hope that they don’t come back until tomorrow night.” The old griffon smirked, sharing a rather pointed look with Xvital. “The goddesses knows that it would do that colt some good to enjoy himself, as it were.”

Blushing, she remembered that colt that the matron was speaking of and was given unpleasant images of the nox pony enjoying himself.

“One could hope,” Xvital said as they reached the front doors of the library. “Thank you for all the tea today, Matron Tone.”

“You are most welcome, dear, and don’t be too timid to find yourself somepony tonight,” the griffon clicked her beak with a sly smirk crafted on it before pushing her out of the door.

Standing shocked at how this old griffon was acting, Xvital simply snickered to herself before starting to make her way to the inn she had paid for long in advance and did her best to enjoy the creeping night.

Night Blade

It was almost the end of the day, with the crowd in the front of the stage growing larger and those on stage doing their best to remain dignified.

Representing the first Three Tribes were Decorated Page, the unicorn director of the Academy, Raindrop, the assistant captain of the weather management team of Canterlot, and Shining Apple of the Apple clan. As it had been since the time of King Blueblood, there was no official clarification of which Tribe of the three were actually the First Tribe as to promote unity and end tribalism. Next to the three was an empty space for the Changeling leader, always there as if their leader actually came to the Festival or they even existed anymore. Along the empty space was Delighted Gem, the assistant governor of the Crystal Dominance for the Fifth Tribe, and princess Flotsam of Atlantria for the Sixth Tribe.

Night eyed them with indifference as his job was nearly done here; as soon the sun sat and the official of the public Honour Festival - a rather dull pony named Windbag - took over, he would be free to enjoy the festival with Page Turner, who was doing her best to distract him by using her magic to tickle his sides.

Flashing a smile at her, with the beautiful new necklace around her neck, Night Blade let out a tired sigh as the sun finally sat if how the pony on the microphone whose sole role tonight was to tell them when the sun sat was any place to judge.

Stepping forwards to the microphone, Windbag cleared his throat. “My dear friends, before we begin this Honour Festival I must thank young Night for his and his family’s generous contributions, to which without the dedication of the Blade family this Festival would not be as grand as it is,” he snipped, looking directly at Night while enjoying the applause of the crowd. “Tonight, however, this is a special Honour Festival, my friends. For this is the thousand year anniversary of the day when we lost the our goddesses Celestia and Luna, and our dear Virtues to the vile changeling Chrysalis who went against the Tribes and Equestria and dared to attack the demi-goddess Mi Amore Cadenza on her wedding. Due to that deranged changeling, the goddesses Celestia and Luna were forced to leave us, Mi Amore Cadenza the demi-goddess of love had her wedding annulled and the Virtues were slain in a cowardly manner, while the foul changeling did not have the courage to perish in her suicide attack against our fair and just nation.” Windbag paused, collecting himself. “Of course, it was King Blueblood the First who brought Equestria back into order and peace to the Tribes by laying low the vile Chrysalis and destroying her control over the Fourth Tribe and bringing them home. But at alas, her spawn continues its shadow rule even to this day. It is our hope that one day this miscreant will be brought to justice and all the Tribes would be as one.” Windbag paused again, looked at the crowd and smiled. “But enough of our lacking Cousins my dear friends, this is a time of joy and merriment, to honour the days long past. Good sirs, madams?” Windbag, proving his name and talent emblem was accurate, barely waited for the representatives of the Tribes to show their approval before turning to face the crowd again. “With that, I call for this Honour Festival to begin!”

Rolling his eyes, Night turned to face Page Turner saying, “Well that was a terrible speech.”

That’s when he noticed he was alone. Looking around, he saw a stagehoof trot up to him. “Your marefriend said she wanted some air, sir,” he said.

Nodding his head, he was left wondering how he would find her when Night slapped his forehead.

Holding his necklace in his hoof, he activated the spell and went off to find Page Turner, taking to the air so he could spot the yellow unicorn.

Page Turner

Page Turner giggled to herself as she tickled Night’s side again, causing her colt to squirm as he tried to stand at attention while a stallion climbed onto the stage, which was her signal that she had to behave herself.

She began to tune out the stallion, with his speech being less about the Virtues and goddesses and more about being another bigoted hate speech against changelings. Rolling her eyes, she turned to wander away, telling a nearby stagehoof to inform Night she was going to try and enjoy herself.

Key word was try, as the ponies milling about were none too friendly, pushing and shoving as they wanted to get to a stall that caught their eye. Working with the crowd, Page found herself on the far edge of the festival with very few ponies around her.

She let out a sigh, breathing in the cold mountain air. If she could fly, she would imagine that she would have the most amazing view of Canterlot at night right now. Looking upwards, she could spot the few couples on the clouds as well as those being towed around in carriages and wonder if she could get Night to fly for he-

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing, buggy?” a voice snapped her out of daydreaming, her heart racing as she saw half a dozen or so ponies skulking in the alley, with a really disheveled unicorn at the center of the group staring down at a huddle black mas-oh by the elders, it was a changeling nymph. With a rough shove that sent the changeling into the side of the building, the lead pony of this gang sneered at the poor nymph shaking in fear. “I asked you a question, buggy,” he snapped, brandishing a switchblade that matched his talent emblem and held it close to the nymph. “Because what I think is that you’re one of those old buggy queen bitch’s countless broods that are holding back unity for Equestria. Now ain’t that a shame, that because this selfish buggy bitch here refuses to do what’s proper, we can’t do the goddesses proper honour and I don’t think that’s what they want, right boys?”

There was a chortle of agreement from his yesstallions and yesmare, with some rather vicious suggestions being bantered about, and which Sharp Point, as Page learned his name by the lowlifes egging him on, seemed to drink in. The nymph tried to say something but was knocked to the ground by a punch to her face by Sharp Point for daring to speak back.

“That’s enough,” Page snapped, pulling her magic to herself as she stormed forwards. “Leave her alone.” She zapped a jolt of magic across the air, causing Sharp Point to pull back.

“Oi, what the hell you damn pin head?” Sharp Point shouted at her pointing his switchblade at her, with his ponies crowding behind him. “What are you, some fucking buggy lover?”

“What I am is a decent pony,” Page narrowed her eyes, keeping her attention half focused on the nymph and half focused on the thug, stalking forwards. “What kind of colt threatens a helpless nymph with a bunch of ponies to back him up?”

“The kind that doesn’t like noisy bitches mouthing off,” Sharp Point snarled. “Now get the fuck out of my way or else. Because there’s only one of you and a whole lot more of me and my ponies. So be a buggy fucker somewhere else and let us do some work to make them goddess proud.”

Outraged at this crude bastard, Page was about to respond when she heard a flap of wings and something land beside her.

“Count again, dipshit,” the winged individual with a familiar voice snapped. “And for the record, I don’t care about changelings but like her, I have actual morals.”

Flashing a smile at the griffon she met this afternoon, Page felt a bit relieved that she was stopped from following what her instincts told her to do before returning her attention to Sharp Point.

Wind Breaker

He had wanted to drink away this shit morning but Wind Breaker couldn’t bring himself to do so. Half because he was a bit too annoyed at the whole matter to do so, half because the rules against intoxication would end up with him spending some time in jail.

Instead, he spent the entire time getting buzzed as well as mulling over where he could go next to find a job to help pay down his debt as well as resupply his stock. Flipping the newspaper pages again, he let out a sigh; there was no reason to keep denying it.

He would need to leave the sponsored work of the Hatchery and go to the Middle; everything in the Upper wanted a team of griffons or was so snooty that he’d end up dealing with a bastard brat noble that had a massive stick up his plot.

Making sure his bottlepack were tight on his back, Wind Breaker scrunched the newspaper into his saddlebag. He wasn’t sure what he’d be doing for an alchemist as he had no knowledge of mixing stuff together and most ponies had small rooms, so a griffin wouldn’t be the bes-

He tilted his head as he heard a thud outside the wall and frowned. It was far too early for the booze to be served or a pony to be that drunk.

“What I am is a decent pony.” The voice was familiar and for some reason his throat felt rough all of a sudden. “What kind of colt threatens a helpless nymph with a bunch of ponies to back him up?”

Okay, that didn’t sound right. Sticking his head out of the window and looking down, he saw a dirty looking stallion glaring at the mare he had saved this morning, with a changeling directly beneath his window. “The kind that doesn’t like noisy bitches mouthing off,” the stallion snapped, holding a pocket knife with his dirty grey magic. “Now get the fuck out of my way or else. Because there’s only one of you and a whole lot more of me and my ponies. So be a buggy fucker somewhere else and let us do some work to make them goddess proud.”

Wind Breaker had had enough at this point, shoving himself out the window and flying down to join the mare. “Count again, dipshit,” he glared at Knife Head, cracking his talons as he prepared himself to get into another fight. “And for the record, I don’t care about changelings but like her, I have actual morals.”

“That’s what all buggy fuckers say,” the stallion growled, swiping the air with his knife. “Now tell your damn mare to mind her DAMN business!”

“She’s not my marefriend,” Wind Breaker said, hearing a pony run up behind him. Sneaking a glance, he saw the same noble brat from this afternoon running into the scene. “That’s him.”

“Page, what’s going on?” the noble brat asked, glaring at him and then at Knife Head or whatever his name was and the gang behind him before standing next to the mare’s side.

“None of yours or anyones damn business!” the other stallion hollered, bringing the knife close to the nox’s face to try and scare him. To his credit, the batpony didn’t even flinch, only deepening his glare. “Now tell your fucking buggy loving whore mare to get the fuck away or this changeling bitch won’t be the only thing that gets cut up tonight if you understand me.”

Both the changeling on the ground and the mare next him gasped, with Wind Breaker almost able to feel the sheer rage emanating from the nox pony. Speaking in a very strained voice and drawing his blade, the pony said, “For saying that about Page Turner, I’ll carve your talent emblem out of your sides, you damn swine!”

Laughing to himself, the unicorn spat in their direction, running his pocket knife against the sword in the nox’s wing. “Like I told that sult there, we outnumber you bastards and I’ve got magic, you broken pegasus!”

Briefly widening his eyes at the fact this idiot was actually going that road when some of his followers were nox ponies, Wind Breaker was about to toss a near empty bottle when there were a series of thuds beside him.

“That’s what you think, mister racy,” a very familiar voice sang out, causing Wind Breaker to clench his talons as the minotaur he’d met before had literally jumped out of the window. “And take it from a comedy master such as myself, you are the kind of sad funny that needs a good bopping!” the minotaur, Vix Lei if he recalled correctly, said while spinning her hammer. “Let the mare go and I’ll only smack ya a little.”

“As much as I dislike the minotaur, I dislike your beliefs far more,” a diamond dog said as he appeared now, dragging his claws down the side of the building to get him on the floor. For some reason, he didn’t have a collar on; as far as he knew no diamond dog would leave their collar behind as it was their way to tell who belonged in what pack. The diamond dog reached into his pockets and started pulling out glass bottles.

“What they said, ya creepy dink,” another voice chimed in as an ahuizotl of all things slammed into the ground, holding a knife in her tail hand with knuckle busters on her other hands. “And now it seems the numbers are a bit more even.”

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei was so done with Equestria; not a single pony knew how to have fun. Well, none of the adults; the kids seemed to have good heads on their shoulders with their parents whining about her being a pest and the guards complaining she didn’t have the right papers! Who needed papers to juggle stuff, or do a bit? How could anytaur put a limit on what was good comedy and tell her to get lost?

Only Equestrians could be that dull, just like the ‘taurs back home…

Well, enough of that mopey garbage, time to head out and blaze a brand new adven-

“None of yours or anyones damn business!” someone screamed, startling her something wicked. Looking outside to the festival she was ignoring for being lame, she saw that there was some sort of rumble going on outside.

Now while something told her that Loudly McLoudmouth wasn’t the most honest customer, she also spotted that grouchy griffon with a unicorn mare and bat pony standing beside him. If only there was some way to tell who was the good guy and who was the bad- “Now tell your fucking buggy loving whore mare to get the fuck away or this changeling bitch won’t be the only thing that gets cut up tonight if you understand me.”

Welp, that did it! Reaching for Senor Hardhead, Vix-Lei was musing to how best make an entran-

“For saying that about Page Turner, I’ll carve your talent emblem out of your sides, you damn swine!”

“Wow, that bat is a bit batty for that mare,” she chuckled to herself, watching the pony of the night pull out his sword.

McLoudmouth spat in the trio’s direction, bringing his small little knife against the sword. “Like I told that sult there, we outnumber you bastards and I’ve got magic, you broken pegasus!”

Welp, she’d put it off for long enough and she doubted she’d get a better opening then that.

“That’s what you think, mister racy,” she called out, jumping out of the window while remembering to brace her landing. Spinning her hammer, she said, “And take it from a comedy master such as myself, you are the kind of sad funny that needs a good bopping!” Looking to see the cowering changeling, she was certain that she made the right call of who was the good guy and who the baddies were. “Let the mare go and I’ll only smack ya a little.”

“As much as I dislike the minotaur, I dislike your beliefs far more.”

Startled by the sudden voice, Vix-Lei pulled back in surprise as Rexy dropped down beside her, using his claws to get down on the ground. Rexy then reached into his pockets and pulled out some neat looking bottles.

“What they said, ya creepy dink,” a female voice called out, as one of those jungle cats joined them on the ground, holding a knife with her tail and iron punchers on her other hands. “And now it seems the numbers are a bit more even.”

“So either go back to your mommies or get ready for some mucho buttkicking, eh guys?” she flashed a grin at the big jungle cat who gave her a funny look before facepalming and muttering something under her breath.

“Yes she is, good madam,” Rexy said with an annoyed grunt. “And you just met her.” Shaking his head, the doggie turned to look at McLoudmouth. “Now good sir, and I say good sir out of habit only, perform a smart activity and walk away.”

“I don’t need any advice from a dumb mutt!” the stallion shouted, practically throwing his knife at Rexy, with his gang following behind him as they went against Vix-lei and the rest of the ‘taurs around her.

Finally, things were getting interesting. Vix-Lei thought to herself as she leapt to smack a rather large earth pony.

Rex

Rex frowned as he heard some commotion out of his window, with some bigotry being tossed around.

Recalling to why he had departed the Under and chose to reside in the Middle; to be a good person and at ease with his decisions in his life.

From what he had heard, there was a changeling nymph in need due to some intolerant pony taking advantage of the so called Honour Festival to act upon his immoral views, although by the contents of what this Sharp Point was saying he seemed to have an issue with everything…

No matter, it was high time for him to join the fray as it were and do wha-

“That’s what you think, mister racy,” the minotaur he had met earlier called out as she vacated the room next to his, an unexpected surprise that he was glad he’d only learned of now. Brandishing her hammer, she continued to say “And take it from a comedy master such as myself, you are the kind of sad funny that needs a good bopping!” Well that was a gross inflation of the ego if he heard it. “Let the mare go and I’ll only smack ya a little.”

Well, he had stalled long enough, Rex mused to himself. Using his far more durable claws to act as means to lower himself down the street via the side of the inn. Speaking clearly to the bigoted ingrate, he informed him as well the griffon, nox pony, unicorn and the minotaur, “As much as I dislike the minotaur, I dislike your beliefs far more.” He reached into his vest’s pocket and retrieved some of his more potent concoctions.

“What they said, ya creepy dink,” another potential ally added as they jumped down, revealing themselves to be from the Cuanmiztl Kingdom. She seemed to be properly armed with a short blade and brass knuckles. “And now it seems the numbers are a bit more even.”

Hopefully, Sharp Point would decide that this wasn’t worth the effort and-

“So either go back to your mommies or get ready for some mucho buttkicking, eh guys?” Vix-Lei flashed a grin at the Ahuizotl.

Said Ahuizotl gave her an odd look before facepalming, muttering "¡Ay dios mîo, no otro de esa gente!"

“Yes she is, good madam,” Rex replied ruefully, shaking his head as he continued to say, “And you just met her.” Returning his attention to the stallion, he said “Now good sir, and I say good sir out of habit only, perform a smart activity and walk away.”

“I don’t need any advice from a dumb mutt!” Sharp Point all but bellowed, throwing his switchblade at him with his magic propelling it faster. Bringing up his fists to block it, he was nearly barreled over by Vix-Lei rushing ahead to knock a towering earth pony to the side with her hammer.

Tumbling to the side, he had to roll to the side as the yellow unicorn mare snapped a shield around the nymph as a pegasus tried to do a dive with a lead pipe. It vanished as the nox pony flew in front of her, fending off a swish of Sharp Point’s knife.

The griffon and ahuizotl both tried to go after the same foe, causing a massive pile up with his two allies managing to disengage before their bat pony with a board that had a very large nail in the wood smashed the weapon down where they were.

Bringing himself back to the fight at paw, he threw the bottle that would cause some irritation on contact at an opposing foe when he was forced to abandon a muscle relaxant potion on the ground to lob a punch in the gut of a running earth pony.

It was then, as the bottle was broken by the staggering earth pony he knocked backwards, that he made a mistake and grabbed a smoke bomb instead.

With everyone coughing, Rex was faintly aware of more approaching individuals although he wasn’t sure if they were friend or foe.

Xvital

It was late by the time got to the inn she had rented a room from, doing her best to edge away pre-celebration drunks as well as those who wanted to get their photo taken with her. Beside being a major pain her tail, it would also be a trail for anyone to find her.

She hadn’t got this far in life by acting dumb beyond the few incidents, and when she had acted without putting herself first usually served to teach an important lesson.

Like knowing when to fold in a con and how not to get too involved with others. Painful lessons, but important lessons for a con artist nonetheless.

Checking into the inn, some dump named the Carousel Boutique owned by some minor noble family, Xvital opened the door to her room and let out a tiny purr at seeing the comfy looking bed. She was all ready to toss her stuff in the corner and hop onto the bed to enjoy some well deserved sleep when she heard something outside her window.

Opening it told her enough; some stallion had some deep changeling desires that he was doing his damnedest to hide by being overly the top in his threats against the ‘ling and the unicorn mare that had come to try and stop the fight.

Blinking in surprise as a griffon came to join the love-hate whatever was going on and then that Night Blade fellow she had run into appeared on the scene.

She was debating to herself whether or not to join in when she remembered the most important rule in her life; to know that rules were meant for breaking and she had to go help out.

Pulling out her brass knuckles and knife, she filed away what a minotaur and a diamond dog said as they both jumped down, with the latter being a far better talker than she’d imagine of their kind.

As Xvital had nothing better to add to the conversation, all she said when she jumped down was, “What they said, ya creepy dink.” She allowed herself a smile, flexing her muscles as she eyed the jerk. “And now it seems the numbers are a bit more even.”

He didn’t seem that much of a threat, hopefully puffing out both of their chests would calm things dow-

“So either go back to your mommies or get ready for some mucho buttkicking, eh guys?” the minotaur then flashed a grin at her.

No way that this ‘taur actually, Xvital stopped that train of thought. Facepalming, she lapsed back into Burroñeso, saying "¡Ay dios mîo, no otro de esa gente!"

“Yes she is, good madam,” the diamond dog said to her, actually understanding Burronñeso! “And you just met her.” He then turned to the stallion holding the knife in the air, he said “Now good sir, and I say good sir out of habit only, perform a smart activity and walk away.”

Being backed into a corner did it for the stallion, snapping off with an “I don’t need any advice from a dumb mutt!” before lunging to attack.

And… as much as she hated to admit it, but the idiot had it up against her. His gang, as pitiful as it were, had fought together in the past and her newfound allies…

Grumbling as she and the griffon went after the same target, she pushed apart in time to avoid some crazy mare with a nail in a board!

Throwing a punch that connected with of the mare with the board, she peered around for her next target when there was a sudden blast of blinding smoke.

Coughing into her hand as she got low, Xvital tried to get her vision back when she heard the sound of a lot of ponies approaching at once.

As soon as it came, the smoke was gone with a number of police looking at them-and the stallion, his gang and the changeling had all proven to be smarter than her and run off as soon as there was smoke.

The police was were all shouting at them to stand down and not to move.

This… wasn’t according to her plan, but she could adapt.


“As I told you, good sirs,” Night Blade said to the police officer for the fourth time. “We were all responding to an individual in need.”

“And I told you, mister Blade, as it was a changeling, we don’t know if this wasn’t some elaborate plot or con job,” the police pony said, rolling his eyes. “What we do know is that you and those in the cell were involved in some kind of fight. And as such, you and them will need to meet the judge in a few days.”

“Fine fine,” Night grumbled for all of them, with the griffon, diamond dog, minotaur and unicorn watching the exchange with her carefully. They’d all been questioned and it was only when Night had revealed his roots that the cops were actually loosening up on them. “Allow me to pay for the mare’s and my bond then, at the very least.”

Xvital shared the angry look on the griffon’s face, with the minotaur muttering to herself, the diamond dog shaking his head and the mare facehooving.

“No, it is far too late and due to this being a joint fight, the only way I’d release all of them is under your view, mister Blade,” the cop said with a bit of a grin, no doubt enjoying the opportunity to mess with a noble. “That means you will be responsible for them, mister Blade.”

“I understood full well to what you had meant,” the colt snapped, risking the cop’s wrath.

Which proved to be tempered enough that the cop just pushed him back into the cell before leaving them alone.

“Thanks for looking out for all of us,” the griffon sneered at the colt, wasting no time to get into his face.

“I owe you nothing, you drunk,” he said back with the same amount of venom. “In anycase, you owe me for saving your plot this afternoon.”

“How the buck is getting me fired helpful?!” the griffon shouted with the diamond dog barking at him to lower his voice lest the cops got further annoyed at them.

“If the Inspector saw you were drunk, the fines your associate got would be pocket change compared to yours,” Blade snapped back, causing the griffon to blink before scowling off to the side.

“Look, it’s late and I think it would do us some good to get some sleep,” the mare said, walking in the middle of the room, shooting a look at the bat pony which seemed to calm him down.

“The pretty mare is right, guys,” the minotaur said a bit too cheerfully for Xvital’s tastes but at least her heart was in- “The name is Vix-Lei; seeing as we’ll be spending some time together, I think it’d be best if we’d swap names.”

Oh right, that was a thing she would have to deal with now. That and a court appearance.

Wonderful.

It seemed that the diamond dog and griffon shared her feelings on the matter, but the mare just smiled. “Sounds like a wonderful idea, Vix-Lei. My name is Page Turner and this is my coltfriend Night Blade,” she tilted her head towards the bat pony, who gave a half-hearted attempt at a smile. Turning to face the griffon, she said, “I know your name is Wind Breaker, yes?”

The reddish griffon nodded his head in agreement, saying, “Yup, that’s right. A bit surprised you remembered me, to be honest. And yes, I’ve heard all the jokes, so please don’t start.” He moved his eyes away from a pouting Vix-Lei to face the diamond dog next to him. “And your name?”

“My name is Rex, my good sir,” the diamond dog said, holding out his paw to shake the talon of the griffon before going to do it for everyone in the cell. “While it is not the most ideal place to meet new people, it is good to know that there are like minded people when it comes to how others are treated,” he then flashed a smirk at her, which made the ahuiztol feel a bit better about everything. “Care to finish off the introductions, ma’am?”

“I’m Xvital, everyone,” she said, flashing an easy smile as she leaned backwards, trying to get more comfortable. She wasn’t sure why, but she had a feeling that tomorrow was going to be a good day.

Chapter Eight: Night Blade, Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Eight

Night Blade

Waking up in a police jail cell was not an experience Night Blade had thought he would ever experience, especially with it being his first official night out with Page Turner and the actual first time they had spent the entire night together that carried over to the next day.

Still, he saw that Page Turner was already awake and as always, cheerful as she beamed a smile at him. “Morning Nighty,” she said, walking over to nuzzle him as the rest the...people, as that was the proper term for a group of different species as he learned from his tutors and the librarians were, were starting to wake up.

“Good morning Page,” he nuzzled her back, ignoring the giggling from the minotaur. Turning to face them properly, he said, “And good morning to you all.”

“Eh, not the best of mornings Nighty, but it’s better then others I’ve had,” the minotaur, Vixen Lee or something like that said at him with a grin on her face, looking at everyone in the small cell. “What about you guys?”

“First time in custody, Vix-Lei,” the diamond dog replied curtly, reflecting his opinion on the rude ‘taur.

“One would have to get caught first,” Xvital replied with a smirk, causing him and the griffon to laugh.

“Eh, I’ve spent some time in a few cells to sober up,” the griffon replied with a shrug. “I’m guessing you never did something naughty, eh Night?”

“It’s not something I’ve been inclined to do,” Night answered back, shaking his wings. “As getting involved negatively with the police doesn't seem that smart to me.”

“I’ve spent far too much in the Grand library to be in trouble,” Page Turner rounded it off, sitting down next to him.

“Well, with all that sharing done, don’t you think we should we see about checking out?” Xvital piped up, looking around as she stretched her arms.

“That does sound fine to me,” Night said with a faint smile on his face, although there seemed to be something he was forgetting.

“Cool, can’t wait to see your digs,” Vix-Le said with a wide smile, leaning back against the wall as the blood drained from his face. He had forgotten that he was suppose to meet Father and Mother last night and he was supposed to be with them when they were at the noble Honour Festival party. Explaining things would not be easy, nor would introducing Page Turner in such a manner go as easy as he had hoped.


Stepping out into the early morning day, Night Blade looked at his wards, for the lack of a better word, with a sigh. He had wanted to leave as soon as he had Determined Point back, but it had taken Rex the diamond dog some time to get his potions back as he was some sort of alchemist.

Lucky, all of them had proper papers, even Vix-Lei for her hammer which surprised them greatly considering how the minotaur acted normally, so it did not take them until afternoon to leave.

Still, they were only his issue until next week and then he wouldn’t have to see them ever again, save Page Turner of course.

For now, he had make sure they stayed in place until they met the judge.

“So what’s your place like, Nighty?” Vix-Lei asked, twirling the faux hammer around in controlled turns.

“First off, it is Night Blade, not Nighty,” Night snapped off, shooting her a pointed look. “Secondly, my ‘place’ is Blade manor and I’m fairly sure Clean Home can find you some spare rooms that my family is not using anymore.”

“Wait, you still live at home with mom and dad?” Wind Breaker snickered to himself. “You’re like what, twenty four?”

“And what of it?” Night fired back. “I have a place where I belong, is that so wrong?”

The griffon seemed to take offense to that, glaring darkly at him.

All of a sudden, he heard some giggling behind him and saw Vix-Lei sharing a laugh with Page and Xvital over something, with the unicorn giving him a weak smile before breaking into laughter again.

“It’s par for the course, ladies, as it is hardwired in all male individuals,” Rex replied with a smirk on his face. “And I was not eavesdropping, I just have rather sharp ears.”

“Right…” Night mumbled to himself as he continued to lead them on the familiar pathway to his home. “This way; we’re nearly there.”

“Uh, Night, are you okay?” Page asked, moving to join him at the head of the pack.

“Yes, why?” He turned to face the mare he knew since he was only ten.

“Because your home is other way,” she said, causing NIght to pull back in surprise. Looking around, he saw that the streets he was leading down were not the ones he thought he had been on moments ago.

“How odd,” Night muttered, looking to the road on the right. It would be a short cut, of shorts, the easiest way of getting home behind turning around. “This way then.”

He was almost across the threshold when he felt a massive pressure grab him and yank him backwards. He was about to tell the person off when there was a massive crash in front of him. Looking ahead, he saw that a team of fliers had had their cargo fall apart and crash where he and Page had almost passed.

Looking back, he saw that Vix-Lei had pulled them back, giving them a concerned look. “You two okay?”

“Yes, thank you,” Page answered with Night watching ponies drop what they were doing and race over to help. This, however, had the unfortunate consequence of blocking off the other street end, save for the one directly opposite of him which would be the longest way home. “Are you alright Night?”

“Yes I am,” he replied, getting to his hooves and sparing a brief look at the blocked way he had tried to go down before heading off in the only clear way.

Walking down to the next intersection, he frowned again as one way was blocked due to construction and the other way had been closed off for the Honour Festival, with the only clear one taking him further north and away from his home.

When they reached the next intersection, only to see a market street had taken up two of the three possible roadways, Vix-Lei had apparently had enough.

“Okay, anyone else seeing a pattern here?” she asked, tilting her head as she stood high on her hooves and peered over the crowd. “I think that something wants us to go a certain way.”

“Don’t be foolish,” Night lectured her, shaking his head. “I highly doubt that fa-what are you doing?”

Watching the minotaur walk off to a Manechurian vendor, she picked up a fortune cookie and cracked it open.

“‘When all paths are closed off to you, leave it to fate to show you the way forwards’,” she read, handing the paper over to him..

“That’s just a coincidence,” Night began to protest when Wind Breaker reached for his own cookie.

“‘There are a numerous ways to carry out a cause and with fate directing your forwards, you will always end up on the correct path,’” Wind Breaker said with a faint smirk on his face.

“While I’m not too fond of trusting things that go against the scientific method, I can see something acting to guide us somewhere and I’d rather not see what occurs if we fight against such a force,” Rex replied, taking a bowl of food and started to dine with Xvital joining him.

Rolling his eyes, Night found himself in agreement with what the diamond dog said as well as their decision to have an impromptu breakfast.

Sitting down with Page Turner next to him happily pouring hot sauce on her plate, he reached for a plate of his own when it dawned on him that he would more than likely end up hoofing the bill! Damn freeloaders!

Page Turner

She chuckled to herself, licking a noodle off of Night’s face before standing upright and eyed the road where fate seemed to want them to go. She had heard stories, of course, where fate had put several ponies on a path for greatness, but they were just stories. Made up or based on events so far in the past that they were blown out of proportion.

Still after being directed around like that with the streets blocked off and those cookies telling them the same thing, she wasn’t too inclined to go against the flow, not with what her cookie had said.

Eating the cookie and paper without anyone noticing her, Page joined Vix-Lei and Xvital while Night began to pay for the bill while Wind Breaker was eyeing some Neighponese sake bottles and Rex seemed to be talking with some ponies about a blend of their smoke, taking notes in a battered up notebook that she was doing her best not to call dogeared.

“Rex, Wind, I think Night is done,” she called out to the two wandering males, bringing them back to their group as Night finished paying for this nice breakfast out. “Shall we continue?”

With everyone agreeing, Page found herself leading them forwards, trusting her instincts to guide her wherever fate wanted them to go.

With all the twists and turns, Page was still able to place herself and realized that she was being directed towards the old Museum of Victory.

Why in Equestria anyone would want them in that rundown old building was beyond her, what with all the actual artifacts being moved away to the proper new one years ago...

Still, she led on, finally reaching the old building with a tilt of her head, the rest of them following behind her.

“So this is the place we’re suppose to head to?” Wind asked, walking to the front door and tried to open it. The door creaked open easily enough, with lights on in the old building. “Well, when in Roam.”

Holding the door open for them to go inside, Page was last to step towards the door when she heard somepony whispering at her.

Turning her head, Page saw the same changeling from last night peering from the edge of an alleyway, trying to get her attention.

She thought somepony had been following them. Trotting over to the nymph, she could see the poor ’ling had been crying.

Thank you, ma’am,” the nymph beamed a grateful smile at her, holding a young changeling close to her chest. “I hadn’t meant to be caught outside and I was so terrified what that brute would have done to me and that I’d be unable to care for my son and thank you for risking your own life to help me and-”

“It’s okay,” Page hushed the nymph as she was close to blubbering. “I just couldn’t let what I saw go and I had to do something.” Page ran a hoof along the nymph’s side to comfort her. “Just take your foal and get somewhere safe, alright?”

Nodding her head in agreement, the nymph flashed her another relieve full smile. “Thank you for your endless kindness,” she said, bowing her head which caused the foal to be moved near Page’s face.

Acting on instinct, she leaned down to place a kiss on the foal’s head. “It was nothing; now you sh-” she began to trail off, the world starting to get fuzzy.

She could hear ponies calling out for her and saw that the nymph had vanished. Closing her eyes for a second, when she opened them she saw that she was in a very different place.

Chapter Nine: Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Nine

Page Turner

Looking around, Page Turner found herself in a very crowded living room that seemed to be a mixture of nature run wild with the structures of civilization.

She was sitting on a sofa with a number of food bowls spread across the table in front of her for the Virtues’ sake!

“Out of all of them, she didn’t like it the most,” a voice chided her, almost startling her out of her skin. Turning her head, she saw a yellow pegasus with a long pink mane walk into the room with a tea-HOLY TARTARUS IT WAS THE STERN WARDEN!

“No no, that’s not her name and again, Fluttershy hated it as it made her seem scarier than she ever wanted,” the pony said with a glazed look in her eyes, placing the tea set down.

“Fluttershy,” she mumbled the true name of one of the Virtues before something slipped into her head. “Wait, she didn’t like it?” Twisting her head, she looked at the pony who was pouring them some tea.

“I am the spirit of what Fluttershy and the rest of what you call the Virtues’ greatest joint collaboration,” the pony thing said as it flashed her a smile. “I am sorry for the obtuseness but due to circumstances, I cannot tell you what I am truly. For now, I am simply the spirit of Balance.”

“Okay…” Page Turner said slowly, reaching out for the tea cup with a shaky hoof. “And where is the Stern- I mean, where is Fluttershy?”

“Resting,” the spirit of Balance said sadly, taking a sip of her tea. “While she had a hidden heart of a dragon when push came to shove, she was still a very shy mare in life. She does speak to the rest of the girls, but rarely. She did not deserve to die as she did.”

Gulping, Page Turner took a sip of her tea to stall for some time. Putting the cup down, she turned to face the pony thing next to her and asked the million Celestian coin question. “Why am I here?”

“Because it is time for me to return,” the spirit said, placing her teacup down. “Two thousand years ago, my power was perverted by those who had inherited it, and it took a millennium for my powers to be restored to their proper form. The ones who then held my power were killed before they had a chance to pass on their boons. Today is the anniversary of their death and thus my return, although I have been preparing for this day for a long time. I must say, this meeting is one of the more pleasant events I had foreseen. It was good that you did not try and diverge from the path I lay out for you, Night Blade, Xvital, Rex, Vix-Lei and Wind Breaker.”

“Oh?” Page asked weakly, her head spinning at all of the information dropped onto her lap.

“Yes,” the spirit said, taking a sip of its tea. “If you had tried to diverge from my chosen location, one of you would have suffered an injury that would have lasted for at least a month. Although it would have allowed me to say more as I am forced to be balanced in my actions now.”

Taking that fact in, Page lifted the cup to her lips and took another time-stalling sip. “And how do I factor in all of these things?”

“You are one of the six chosen inheritors of my power, Page Turner,” Balance said flashing her a look. “You are to replace the Element that Fluttershy once held... and our Element is Kindness, Page.”

Page Turner snapped her head to look at the pony as her entire voice and tone changed, with the pony letting out a meep, hiding behind her mane.

That wasn’t Balance so it had to be…

“Fluttershy?” she asked tentatively, seeing the big blue eyes for a moment before they become fluid again.

“As I said, she is a very timid soul and she has the Elysium to hide in now,” Balance said, shaking its head. “But she spoke the truth; you have endless love and compassion for all, seeking to give whatever aid you can to others. From helping a colt that was so miserable at home find solace in another to risking your own life to help that nymph mare. You are Kindness, the Element that acts as the moral guidance to the others.”

“That kinda sounds like I’m a generous mare, not a kind one,” Page chuckled weakly as she was still coming to terms that she was heir apparent to a Virtue!

“You would have been another Element if not for you wishing to keep your secrets.”

Page spat out her tea, her heart almost out of her mouth while at the same time pounding in her chest. Feeling her blood go cold, she turned to face this thing and wanted to know how it knew that she-

“I am connected to you through your Element and I have watched over this world, so I know what your secrets are,” Balance said sharply. “So that is why you are Kindness and not another Element, Page Turner.”

“Oh,” Page tried to calm her racing heart but she couldn’t do that as the sheer terror of someone discovering her secrets was overwhelming and-

“Keeping secrets will only do you harm, Page Turner,” Balance said, looking at her. “It would be in your best interest to tell them that you-”

No,” Page Turner hissed, dropping the cup onto the table.

“You have kept the truth from Night Blade for fourteen years and the others are in the dark,” Balance said unperturbed by the outburst. “The fallout will only increase as long as you stay silent.”

“I have kept my secrets from Hush Tone, and that griffon raised me and is practically my mother,” Page snapped, gathering her magic. “So I think I will keep my two secrets to myself, thank you very much.”

Shaking its head, Balance placed the teacup down. “Very well, Page Turner. But now it is time for you to wake up, for I need to speak to the rest and I do not wish to repeat myself.”

Before Page could say anything, she found herself staring up a flakey old ceiling, with Night and the rest arguing about something.

“Look, she’s waking up Night, so you can calm the fuck down,” Wind Breaker said, gesturing a tallon at her.

“She passed out for no reason, so I think I had the right to be worried about her,” Night said, giving her a relieved look.

“And yet you did not wish to take her to a medical professional?” That had to be Rex, as only he spoke in such an educated fashion.

“I don’t like most doctors,” Page grumbled, running a hoof across her head. “Night knows that so thank you dearie.”

“While this is all nice,” Vix-Lei said, squatting down to look her in the face with worried look on her face. “I think we’ve been ignoring the cocktrice in the room long enough.”

“What are you talking about?” Page raised an eyebrow at the minotaur, dropping a hoof onto her chest when she felt something off. Looking down, she saw that there was a second necklace alongside the one she got from Rex. “What the…”

Then her memories of Stern Warden came slamming back, with this necklace being the proof that something had happened.

It is time,” a voice boomed, startling all of them. All of them reached for their weapons as a winged unicorn creature appeared in the middle of the room, which Page noted was bare of any paintings and that she had been resting on a bench. “I have spoken with Page Turner already and she is the first of you to inherit my power as the new Bearers of the Elements.

“Whoa, what the crap is going on?” Vix-Lei swore, moving her hammer towards the translucent being in front of them. “Holy fuck!” she shouted, dropping the hammer with a loud thud echoing out in the empty building.

“Who or what are you?” Rex peered at the thing, reaching for his glasses.

I am the Spirit of Balance, although that is a lie that I must endure until you have learned of my true nature,” it spoke to Rex before moving around to look at each of them.

“Care to tell us what is going on?” Xvital asked, shifting on the spot while looking around.

I am here to inform you of your destiny and your fate. You were all chosen to carry out the work that your predecessors did and inherit my Elements,” the spirit said with a stern look on its face. “Some of you will come to your Element with ease, some will simply just need to stop suppressing them. For some, you will need to halt your actions as you are preventing your Element from awakening, and the last Element will only show itself when the others have been brought to the fore.

“Okay, that’s good and all, but why don’t you tell us a bit more, like what these Elements are or who you are,” Wind Breaker fowned, flexing his wings.

Because I am no longer who I was once and now am of Balance,” the spirit told the griffon. “I am already being pulled to our mutual foe, whom I must inform of your presence. If I were to tell you more, I would be forced to aid them in equal amount, and they are far more able to strike you in a lethal fashion than you possess a chance of defeating them currently with only one Element.

“Wait, foe?” Night asked, stepping forwards. “Is Page in danger?”

You are all in danger until you vanquish this threat; it will be allowed to take control of this nation’s might due to the aid I have given you,” the spirit of Balance turned its head from Night to look at all of them. “Now go; go forth in my former name and bring back unity to this land!” It shouted the last bit even louder then the rest of its conversation, with the walls actually catching on fire as it exploded into a ball of light!

“Oh shit, we need to get out of here now!” Xvital shouted, directing them towards what Page believed to be the front door.

As she ran outside, Page knew her life was going to get a lot more complicated.

Chapter Ten: ???

View Online

Chapter Ten

???

It was in the sealed chamber with the prisoner when the spirit of Balance arrived. It glared at the intruder.

"What are you doing here?" The snarl caused the spirit to frown back.

"I am no longer what I was once, but now of Balance until I am restored," the spirit spoke, its purity causing minor discomfort. "As such, I am forced to aid you as I aided them."

It blinked before an ugly expression appeared. "Impossible and you know the reason why!"

"I give my advice to you; it is your decision to take it or let it rest," the spirit said, shaking its head. "My duty is do-"

"So they have started their return, with Kindness as the first?” the being mused to itself, looking satisfied upon seeing how much this angered the spirit of Balance. "I suppose I should nip this in the bud before they become a problem for me and I do suppose I should see how the world has fared since my last venture upwards. So thank you, spirit of Balance, for all of your aid."

"I care not for your thanks," the spirit hissed.

"I know." A cackle of laughter was the only response, with the spirit vanishing as the sound echoed in the room. Preparing to send itself upwards, it turned to the prisoner and said, "Beware Elements, for I am coming and there is nothing you can do to stop me."

Chapter Eleven: Rex, Wind Breaker

View Online

Chapter Eleven

Rex

As he and his new associates fled the quickly spreading fire, Rex pondered exactly what the blazing cracked quartz he had been thinking in agreeing to join their expedition that was founded on instincts instead of facts, despite this mystical adventure being the result of said instincts...

Regardless, he pulled the door open, a bit too hard as it came off its hinges, but that was besides the point. He waved Xvital, Wind Breaker and Vix-Lei through with the young couple running in tandem, Night Blade with his attention solely on Page Turner and almost running him over as a result.

Biting back a rather scathing remark, Rex lifted his arm to his muzzle as the fire continued to grow at an unnatural rate, although fires caused by aether related sources were never to be treated as normal from his long experience with the materials.

Coughing into his arm, he dropped the door and rushed forwards into the clear mountain air with the flames licking at his tail, ploughing his head straight into the coughing griffon’s side which caused the latter to collapse into Xvital, who seemed to be trying to cough out a hairball by the sounds of things.

Vix-Lei seemingly healed herself by spitting out a large wad of spit onto the ground with only the need to rub her throat as a consequence. Page Turner was the only one unharmed by the inferno, but her attention was turned to Night Blade, who was suffering the worst due his nocturnal based eyesight reeling from the brightness of the current event. The mare was using her magic to dab at his eyes with water gathered from a nearby rain collector and a handkerchief with the Blade family insignia on the corner.

“Is everyone else okay?” Rex grumbled from Wind Breaker’s side, the griffon’s plumage surprisingly comfortable and he had to remind himself it would be improper to linger and pushed himself upright.

“Define okay, Rexy, because I can’t think all that straight,” Vix-Lei whined, running a hand through her hair. Sharing a look with Wind Breaker that said both of them were thinking the same retort, Rex reminded himself that as the tallest member, she was the closest to the smoke and thus the one that they should be most worried about.

“I’m mostly okay besides you barging into my side and landing on her.” Wind Breaker ran a talon to his saddlepacks, and let out a sigh as he felt the contents were no doubt intact. “You okay Xvital?”

“You’re heavy,” she grumbled, using all three hands to push the griffon off of her which elicited a squawk of surprise from him. “You two?”

“I’m fine, but Night’s eyes…” Page muttered, her necklace dangling over the new gold necklace with the light green open book matching her cutiemark.

“I’ll be fine in time, Page.” The fact that the nox pony responded with his eyes shut tight did nothing to ease her worries.

“You there, what the blazes is going on?” a couple of guards appeared, with the sky being filled with smoke. Proving to be of her character, Vix-Lei found the remark funny and let out a chuckle. “Do you have any idea about the fire and are you alright?”

“Yeah, we’re mostly okay,” Vix-Lei said while pointedly ignoring Wind Breaker, Xvital and his frantic pleading at her to be quiet. “We saw this really sketchy unicorn stallion in there, right?”

“Yeah,” Page seemingly picked up on what Vix-Lei was planning. “He seemed to be very nasty minded, what with that pocket knife he flashed around.”

“Yes, and I heard a lot of rather anti governmental comments from, what was his name again?” Night Blade turned his head to Xvital while his eyes were shut.

“Sharp Point,” Xvital said while looking at the ground. “He said it while swinging that switchblade in his dirty grey magic.”

“And he had pale green eyes with a pale brown coat and darker brown mane,” Rex added, feeling good at this deception and getting some retribution against the individual. “Seemed to have some issues with us, for some odd reason, and tried to set the building on fire while we were in there!”

The guards looked at each of them before turning to face a seemingly sick griffon by how much he was squirming. “Is everything okay son?” the other guard asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, everything is good!” Wind Breaker shouted, causing everyone to wince as it was very clear that it was ingenuous which ran counter to the lie they had been building. He then started to cough, rubbing his throat. “Everything good, everything true, nothing wrong!” He all but hacked the last words, breaking down into the most believable coughing fit Rex had ever seen.

“As you can see, our pal isn’t that well, so we should mosey on outta here,” Vix-Lei said, while slapping Wind Breaker’s back and guiding them down a nearby alleyway.

“Might as well, this fire isn’t going out easily and you should get further back,” the first guard said, dismissing them with a wave of his wing.

“Thank you sir, buh-bye!” Vix-Lei smiled as she began to push the still coughing griffon down the alleyway with everyone else following them, Xvital quickly leaping ahead to take the lead and Night seemed to recover enough to follow in the rear, although he had to squint a lot. Once they had made their way deep into the alley, they let out a sigh of relief.

“Okay, that happened,” Vix-Lei said as she leaned against a wall. “Now what?”

“We keep moving,” Xvital said, reaching into her pack and pulling out a map. “I’m not sure if you were listening but that thing spoke of this foe as being very lethal and in control of the nation’s might. ¡Así que para mantener nuestras pieles enteras, creo que deberíamos salir muy rápidamente mientras todavía podemos!"

Everyone gave her a blank look, with Xvital sighing into her hand.

“She said in order to keep ourselves in one piece, we should do our best to get out of Canterlot while that is still an option for us,” Rex answered, getting surprised looks. “What, it’s just another language. Or do you have trouble imaging a diamond dog understanding more than a few words?”

“What? No,” Page said, walking over to place a hoof on his shoulder. “It’s just how fast you understood it; I’m a librarian of the Great Library and even I have trouble translating languages as fast as you do.”

“I wish I had that knowledge,” Wind Breaker groaned, still massaging his throat. “Could find so many more jobs if I knew how to speak another language.”

“Yes yes Burroñeso is cool, but I think we're getting sidetracked about getting the whole fleeing for our lives,” Xvital said with an annoyed tone. “Now I’ve got some escape plans and-”

“Why would you need escape plans?” Wind Breaker asked, tilting his head as he proposed a very serious inquest to Xvital’s character.

“Really?” Xvital snapped, moving to glare at him. “That’s the most serious question you have?”

“The only type of people I know that need an escape plan are those of questionable nature,” Rex added in, causing the ahuizotl to let out a strangled cry with very foul language in Burroñeso leaving her mouth before she stopped and collected herself.

Holding out her hand, she said, “Okay, yes, I may be a bit of a con-artist but-”

“So that was why you wished to learn where the Grand Library was,” Night interrupted her with the ahuizotl glaring at the nox pony.

“Look, I-”

“You were going to steal from the Great Library?!” Page gasped loudly, a hoof to her chest.

That started off a massive argument from the couple and the admitted criminal, with Wind Breaker and Rex doing their best to shut down the argument with their own opinions.

It was all quickly brought to halt when a high pitched whistle caused them all to cover their ears in pain, with Vix-Lei moving her fingers out of her mouth.

“First my eyes, now my ears,” Night muttered with his hooves covering his tufted ears.

“Okay, everyone calm down,” Vix-Lei snapped, twirling her hammer in her hands, although which one Rex was not sure as they were both exactly the same, a fact he only noticed now. “Okay, the jungle cat doesn’t have the best track record but who does? She also said she has a plan for us to get out of here, and as I like being alive, I say we listen to her.”

“Thank you,” Xvital said, flashing a grin before holding out the map, revealing that it was a top down view of Canterlot of its entirety. She showed them a path from their current location down to the Lower West. “I know of a few sub guardhouses that won’t ask too many question provided we bribe them and we can get out of Canterlot easily within a few-”

“Wait, I can’t go!” Wind Breaker said with concern on his face. “I’m a Hatchery Griffon; they’ll track me down in an instant if we leave- hell, they could track me now!”

“Dammit,” Xvital hissed, rolling up the map and bending it before let out a very annoyed sigh. “Okay, we have to make a massive detour to the East side, as I know someone that can remove the tracker on you.”

“Wait, really?” Wind Breaker looked like an excited chick right then, eyes wide with his coat and plumage standing upright.

“I think, to be fair,” Xvital said, pacing back and forth. “They’re known for being the best I.D. forgers; if they can’t get Hatchery griffons out then I’d be surprised to all hell.”

“So once we get to this corrupt guardhouse, pay them off, how well we get from here to… where in the East?” Night asked, blinking as he slowly cracked his golden eyes open a bit more.

“It’s the in the East-South Quarter; the Lowest to be exact,” Xvital said, which made them all wince. That would require them to basically travel the entire circumference of Canterlot and to the exact opposite of where they were while being targeted by this foe that entity called Balance warned them of. “It’s really out of the way, I know, but if you need a clean set of papers, they’re the ones to go to and they’ll stay quiet about us.”

“How can you be so certain of their silence?” Rex asked, as the group finally began to move forward. “Because if our foe does become in charge of the power of the Equestrian government, I can foresee large bounties on our heads.”

“Because it would be horrid business practice,” Xvital said, leading them through the winding backways. “They have dirt on everyone and everyone is aware of their practice. If someone squeals on them, everyone goes up and everyone will know who talked and… trust me there will be blood to pay.”

“That makes sense,” Vix-Lei said with a grin on her face. “Notaur will break the peace because I’m fairly sure there’s no way to teleport from Canterlot to the frontiers, right?”

“Pfft,” Xvital shook her head, smiling back. “That’s not far enough; you’d need to hide in Manechuria to be at least somewhat safe because again, a big part of the black market relies on them, and they reach across Equestria, the Cuanmiztl Kingdom, the Minos Islands and a few other lands.”

“You seem to know a great deal about this underworld,” Night said before looking at Rex and blushing slightly, running his right wing over his face. “No offense.”

“None taken,” Rex said, pleasantly surprised that somedog was actually considerate enough to remember the Under existed. They were almost at the end of the alleyway with the sun in their face when the ahuizotless’s eyes went wide.

Shit,” Xvital swore before pouncing on Night. “Give me that now!”

“What the blazing moon are you doing,” Night swore, staggering as she held his right wing out forcefully. “Let go of me!”

“Your signet ring; we need to get rid of it!” Xvital snapped, placing her head next to his face. “It stands out like a Cipactli at a seapony family reunion!”

Baring his teeth, Night pushed her off of him and eased the ring off of his wing and placed it in his saddlebag, flexing his wing and glaring darkly at Xvital.

“You could have asked,” Page Turner said, eyes narrowed. “Instead of tackling him, you know.”

“I overreacted, sue me,” Xvital shot back before running a hand through her hair. “I’m sorry, but this whole threat on my life has got me pretty rattled. I’m kinda used to not worrying about my life, you know?”

“Yes, I do,” Page Turner said. Rex turned his head as Wind Breaker got into another coughing fit, which he resolved by taking out a bottle from his bags and started to drink heavily from it.

Wind Breaker finished off the bottle before placing back into his pack and pulled back as everyone was looking at him. “What? I get money back if I bring in the bottle…”

“Is this going to be a recurring problem?” Rex asked, turning to the griffon with a raised eyebrow. “We will not need to worry about an intoxicated griffon stumbling about when stealth would be preferable?”

“I don’t have a drinking problem,” Wind Breaker coughed rubbing his throat. He then let out a sigh. “I just need to get buzzed to be fine.”

“Tch,” Night snorted, rolling his eyes. “This is serious, and I’d rather not have my life in the hooves of somepony who cannot stand upright.”

“As I said, you plot, I just need to be buzzed and I’ll be fine,” Wind Breaker snapped as he walked ahead of them talon in front of talon in front of paw in a straight line. “See? I’m good.” He had the unfortunate luck to let out a hiccup right then.

“That does not fill me with any confidence, to be fair,” Rex said with Xvital, Vix-Lei and Page Turner sharing nods of agreement. “Perhaps you can moderate your alcohol consumption?”

“I don’t need to do so,” Wind Breaker said rubbing his throat before glaring off to the side. “I don’t need to change myself,” he muttered angrily to himself, rubbing his throat again.

“Look Wind,” Xvital hopped over to the griffon. ”We’re going to need to be able to move quickly and we can’t do that if you are passed out drunk. Frankly, I’d be really at ease if you tossed the whole damn thing away but I can’t do that to an addict.”

“I’m not an add-!” Wind Breaker tried to shout but was quieted by the minotaur placing her hand over his beak.

“Hey, look, we can hash out your drinking problems you might have later,” she ignored the glare from the griffon but kept a tight enough grip to keep him from saying anything. “But Xvital’s right; we need to get going as soon as we can, and we don’t want to get any more attention than a drunken griffon, a thieving ahuizotl, a grumpy grump bat pony, a non-nerdy librarian unicorn, a smarty vest double d and a very strong minotaur all together already does.”

Everyone gave her a flat look with Page muttering about if she should take that as an insult or not and Wind Breaker pulling away and starting to rub his beak.

“Okaaay, annoying point made, shall we move on?” Night asked, tilting his head towards the exit of the alley.

With a series of agreement sounds and Xvital leading the group once more, they finally left the alley.

Wind Breaker

“So...what is the plan?” he asked, clicking his beak to get some more feeling back into it. That minotaur was strong; he wanted to go check a mirror to make sure it wasn’t cracked or something.

“Well, we need to get to the West-North Quarter and get to one of the sub gates, probably on Pants Street as it is almost always a sure thing to be ignored by guards.”

“A shameful fate for one of the Warrior’s greatest devotees,” Night said, shaking his head, telling Wind Breaker that the pony was one of the few nobles that didn’t follow the Lady. He was still squinting his eyes when the diamond dog next to him pulled out a squat jar from a pocket on his vest and hoofed it over, saying it was a nice cream that would dull the pain for his eyes.

“As I was saying, we go through a subgate, go near Cantagel Canal, find a good place to cross it, continue to make our way to the East-South Quarter, get out of Canterlot, and then figure out what we need to do next.”

“That’s it?” Wind Breaker asked, tilting his head at her as Night returned the jar to Rex, muttering his thanks. “I mean, how will we pay off the guard, or manage to get through the Middle and Lower for however long it takes us to get through them? Or what we should do when, you know, we get out of Canterlot?"

“I'm going to guess Night has enough money on him so we can use that to bribe the guard, we move during the day as long as we are in the Middle and then the night in the Lower, we use what money we have left to pay off the forger, we get out of Canterlot and try to get more of those Element things to pop up, and then deal with that big bad thing after us,” Xvital said as she used her tail hand to tap Page’s necklace. “You should really hide that, it stands out far too much.”

As she took it off and placed it in Night’s bag, she flicked her eyes at the ahuitzotl. “Wouldn’t it be better if we go in the night until we get out of Canterlot?”

“No as they’d be expecting that and it would be more suspicious for… whatever we call ourselves to be out at night trying not to attract attention,” she shook her head, turning to get onto Pants Street. “Middle ponies want to seem like Upper ponies, so they’ll not mention anything unusual as long as we look like we should be there. The Lower doesn’t care from what I heard, just enough to protect their own and having a bunch of us wandering about in the day would attract attention which might get attention dragged onto others and they wouldn’t like that so they’d take precautions.”

“Makes sense,” Vix-Lei said after a period of time before slightly bumping into Page Turner with a smile on her face. “So can you explain what that necklace thing was? I mean, it kinda appeared when you kissed that little buggy, right Windy?”

“Oh,” Page’s blinked before turning to look at him, with Wind Breaker shooting a glare at Vix-Lei before nodding to confirm what she said. “Well, according to Balance and Fluttershy, it’s the Element of Kindness as I’m the new Bearer of Kindness.”

“Who’s Fluttershy?” Night asked her, shaking his hoof as he had stepped into a rotten veggie. It seemed that Xvital was right about this street being abandoned, with all the littering and the amount of graffiti. Wind Breaker had to stifle a snicker when Night went all wide eyed as they passed a particularly trashed statue of the famous Pants general of the Elite Fifty that was with King Blueblood when the royal stallion killed Chrysalis.

“She’s the Stern Warden,” Page said with a bit of a twitch in her voice. “Kinda, I mean. Balance told me that she never liked the title as it made her seem scarier than she really was.”

“But wasn’t she the one that trapped a demon into the body of bunny?” Vix-Lei asked with disbelief in her voice.

“You actually believe that story?” Page asked with a giggle in her mouth. “I mean, it is in most of the stories of the Stern Ward-Fluttershy but I can’t just believe it and I don’t bother to tell it to the foals I read to as it is too ridiculous. I mean, a demon bunny named Angel?” That caused her and everyone to laugh a bit.

“Okay, fair enough Pagy,” Vix-Lei said stretching her arms above her head, with Wind noticing that she had some muscle mass on her. He was briefly curious to how strong she was when the next thing the minotaur said caused his brain to skip a step. “So does that mean we’re the new Virtuous Six?”

Everypony froze at that with the fact that they were the new demi-deities dropped in their laps so roughly.

Finally, Rex spoke up. “If I were one to wager, I would place diamonds to anything that you Night Blade are to be the new Warrior.”

“Thank you, Rex,” Night said weakly as he bit his lip.

“And I’d think you’d be the new Magi of the Stars, Rex, because how smart you are,” Wind said, wondering which of them he would one end up replacing.

“A kind statement but one I highly doubt as I do not possess any magic beyond the background magic that you, Vix-Lei and Xvital have,” Rex then tilted his head. “I am quite curious to who will fill that role as I am more than certain that simply possessing the most magic is not the requirement.”

“Well, maybe you’re the Wise Oracle?” Vix-Lei asked with a bit of a laugh. “And here’s to think most of the ‘taurs back home thought I’d never amount to anything.”

“I’d rather wait to celebrate until we have got through the gatehouse,” Xvital said, casting a look over her shoulder, picking up a coin with her tail hand. “Although, I’m kinda curious if it would wrong for me to try and exploit the whole religious system if we did become recognized as the new Virtues…”

“I think profiting off of a religion is a definition of wrong,” Wind Breaker said with Page frowning. Was she actually thinking of it?

“Not if you’re the Stallion of Dedication,” Vix-Lei said twirling her hammer again. “I think you could weasel it out that you were just following your former Element thingy.”

“Now there’s an idea,” Xvital grinned as she licked her lips with Wind Breaker rolling his eyes. ”And I’m sure that they can’t have a Hatchery Griffon be one of their Virtues. You might just be able to guilt them out of paying your debt off.”

“I don’t know, they might hold the whole breaking the tracker against me,” Wind Breaker said with a shrug, not truly believing the government would just give him a blank pass.

“Well as Xital said, we should wait until we get past the gatehouse and a bit further in the MIddle before patting ourselves on the back,” Night said as he reached for his saddlebag as they had reached the gatehouse at the end of Pants Street. “I feel that I am going to regret giving my wealth to an admitted thief but I suppose it would be better if you had the money to bribe the guard?”

“I’d be offended if it weren’t true,” Xvital said absentmindedly as she went through the bag and pocketing the money. “So guys, let me do the talking and we should be fine.”

Chapter Twelve: Xvital

View Online

Chapter Twelve

Xvital

Xvital tossed the near empty bag back to Night and did her best to calm herself before approaching the gatehouse. It looked like it hadn’t seen a coin in years; the bricks of the main building were very chipped and cracked, the wooden gate seemed rotten with the metal bars covered with rust and there were no guards patrolling on the walls. They might even get lucky with having the entire gatehouse being abandoned!

Although, she would have to return Night’s money if that was the case…

Walking up to the door to the antechamber, she bit her lip and reached out to knock on it when she stopped and blessed her amazing luck.

What she saw made her smile; there was someone sleeping in there with the door opened just enough for the guard to look to see outside if he was awake.

“Oh this is too easy,” Xvital chuckled as she held the door steady with her left hand and brought her right and tail hand crashing into the door, causing the guard to jump out of his chair, eyes darting every which way as he levitated his sword and started to swing it around. She would have been more worried if he had taken it out of the sheath…

“Who’s there?!” he shouted, trying to fix his helmet and straighten his armour at the same time.

“Whoa whoa whoa, easy there buddy,” Xvital said with a concerned tone. “There’s no fire,” she bit back an annoyed growl when Wind Breaker started to cough again. “Well, there’s one fire but it’s taken care of. We, me and my....” the word escaped Xvital with her floundering until she remembered what Rex had said. “Associates, we want to get to the Middle.”

“Look missy, you might not know this but if there’s a fire, then I need to check in if I have to keep the Upper-Middle-Second-Cadenza-To-Magi-Gate open or not.” He let out a huff and shook his head as he made his way over to the desk that held the notebooks that were attached to the main military system that gave out the daily orders.

“Wait a moment, Sir...” Xvital moved in front of the guard, reaching out for the small bag of cash she had made from Night’s stash.

“Regal Pants, descendent of the great general Pants who accompanied King Blueblood the Great when he avenged our goddesses by slaying that whore bug creature.”

“Who could have doubted that,” Night said, trotting into the room. “I thought I had heard you Regal; I wondered where you went to.”

“Night you bloody bastard!” Regal exclaimed as he walked over to pull Night into an embrace, with Night clearly hiding an annoyed look on his face. “What is the number one dullest in the entire West doing in this dump?”

“What the ahuitzotl said, we simply want to get to the Middle,” Night said flashing a fanged smile. “And if you could make it so that no one knows we were here, it would be truly grand.”

“I don’t know Night, what’s in it for me?” Regal asked with open greed in his eyes.

“Well for starters, I know that the next city tournament is coming up and the team for the West could use you.”

“As a watercolt, no thanks,” Regal snorted, eyeing his desk again, but Night quickly stepped in front of him.

“What do you want, then?” Night asked sharply, giving a pointed glare that instead of causing the guard to throw them out got the unicorn scheming more.

“Second chair, after you,” Regal said before looking at Xvital and chuckled. “The guy would have a fit if I tried to take his spot.”

“I am right here,” Night hissed. “And I will see what I can do Regal, once I am back at the gym.”

Regal looked at Night and then grinned. “I want you to write a note saying that you’ll give me your sword if you don’t.”

“You greedy little second rate hack,” Night growled, stalking forwards.

Relax Night,” Regal laughed as he shook his head. “It’s not like I’m asking for a date with that mare of yours… although she seems likely to be a fun night.” His snickering was quickly stopped by the sheer murderous look on Night’s face and he paled ever so slightly, a real feat on his white coat. “Of course, I’m sure you’d kill me if I tried that again…”

“Why don’t you just trust my word to have you in the second chair and you will not need to explain how you were assaulted in a dead end guardhouse all by yourself.”

“Yeah, I will go do that,” Regal said, looking every way except at Night or Xvital. She stared at the unicorn before letting out an exasperated grunt.

“Well?” she asked.

“What?” he snapped before looking over at Night and wilted under the glare. “I mean, yes noble visitor?”

With an unamused snort, she rolled her eyes and pointed with her tail hand towards the gate, tossing the coin bag to Night. “Can you open that up?”

“Oh, right,” Regal said, walking over to the portcullis and began to rise it up, eyebrows raising as he noticed all the unusual species walking past. “You’ve got some interesting new... well not that as you’re the king of antisocial.”

“And you are still the prince of incompetency, Regal,” Night fired back, strolling past Xvital. “If you let down the West again, I will see to it that you are trained properly, and I will do it myself.”

Gulping, the unicorn all but pushed her through to the Middle, the iron wall almost slamming onto her tail hand as a result of Regal’s desire to avoid Night’s offer.

They all walked down the main road until they were out of sight of the gatehouse before ducking into the alleyway and letting out a sigh of relief.

“Well that was easy,” Vix-Lei grinned, looking to pat Night on the back.

Xvital was going to do the proper thing and yell at him.

“What the Tartarus were you thinking?” she growled at him, the batpony looking at her with a frown on his face.

“I was dealing with the situation as I knew the stallion and-”

“And that should have been a advertencia para que te callaras y te alejes de aquí ahora que nos va a cazar el gobierno!!”

Everyone looked at her, with Xvital realizing she’d slipped into Burroñeso again.

The minotaur turned to the diamond dog and asked, “What did the kitty cat say?”

“She said it was a red flag and that Night should have remained silent and hidden due to when our foe takes over the government they will be able to deploy the means to chase after us, and it would be prudent to give them as few leads as possible.” He then turned and looked sharply at her. “Además, Xvital, tengo que saber si este mercado negro en el que estas tiene negocios con Dragones Manechurianos ya que estaría muy inconfortable con eso.”

“Que-no!” Xvital shouted, insulted at this line of questioning. “No soy tan estúpido para involucrarme con esas criaturas, Rex.”

“Solo me aseguro,” the diamond dog said with a sigh of relief before noticing that everyone was staring at them. “Sorry, just inquiring something of Xvital, nothing to be overtly concerned with.”

“Right...” Wind Breaker said before turning to face Night. “Still, she was right, it was a very dumb move. I mean what if that Regal guy decides to get back at you and tells his higher ups about us?”

“Because I know how petty Regal is and how much he’d love to strut on a grand stage such as a summit of Canterlots’ best and I know that his attention will be elsewhere shortly. I saw on his desk there was a black message and he only has his father left so he will have to deal with a funeral and managing the transfer of power into being the new Lord of the Pants Family.”

“I guess that’s a lucky break,” Xvital said, biting her lip, looking around this alley they had ducked into. It was still near the wall separating the Upper and Middle but it looked and smelled like a proper alley. Middle ponies might want to be Upper ponies but they dumped their crap like anyone else.

It smelt worse than the deepest part of the Cuanmiztl Kingdom!

Okay, she might be exaggerating just a bit…

“So what’s the plan now?” Wind Breaker asked, tilting his head and blinking his different coloured eyes at her.

“Same as before. We need to get into the Middle proper of this quarter, get some info about the North to see where we can cross over. Then once we get across that river-”

“Canal,” Rex said before clearing his throat. “Once we get to the East, I will be able to provide greater aid as that is where my workshop is and we should be able to get supplies.”

“Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t that be dangerous as this mysterious foe will be chasing us? Isn’t that what you just told me?” Although Night whined, he did bring up a good point.

“Due to the fact that I am not an equine, purchasing my own laboratory required using proxies to ensure a much fairer price,” Rex fixed a glaze on the noble. “It is mine in all but legal recognition… Still have to pay the ruby taxes despite the fact.” He grumbled the last bit, rolling his eyes.
“So that’s how we’ll do things, Nighty,” Vix-Lei chimed, patting him on the back. “So how will we do this; split in teams of three and go out looking for dirt?”

“Yeah,” Xvital said holding out the map, tapping the location of a safe house. “At fourish, we will head there; everyone can see the street?” She looked over her shoulder to see all of them nod in agreement.

“Back street, I assume?” Page asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yup,” Xvital rolled up the map and tucked it into her pack. “Vix-Lei, you’re with me; Night, you’re going with Rex and-”

“No,” Night glared at her, stepping closer to her. “I’m going with Page to make sure she is safe.”

“What, you don’t think I could back her up?” Wind growled at the stallion, Xvital facepalming at this idiocy.

“Considering the first incident I have with you is being drunk…” Night drawled out, causing the griffon to puff out his coat as if he was about to leap and attack.

Thankfully, Vix-Lei stepped in. “Whoa there guys, enough of the horn measuring okay? You’re both very pretty and I’m sure the kitty cat had a reason for setting us up like this.”

“Yeah, because I trust Rex to have a clear head but he’ll need someone to give him some clout and frankly Night, you look like you’re about to go off on someone,” Xvital said with Night rolling his eyes with a heavy snort. “Page has a nice enough nature so I’m willing to bet that others will tell her stuff with Wind here acting as a deterrent.”

That wasn’t the real reason; as Xvital didn’t trust Night alone and she didn’t know enough about his relationship with Page to know how well she controlled him. Thus she wanted one of the group that she did trust to keep an eye on him.

“So about this?” Vix-Lei said, twirling her hammer around in a way that let her scoop Night up. With quick movement of her arms and a very high pitch squeak of surprise from the batpony, Vix-Lei decided to push her luck further by ruffling his mane. “Me and Nighty form team one, Rexy and Pagey team numero duo, and you and Windy form the third duo? How does that sound?”

Please put me down...

That got a round of chuckles from everyone but Night. Xvital couldn’t see any real-

“Sounds find to me,” Page said, walking over to the dangling stallion. “I’ll be fine as I do have magic to defend myself, Night.” She then used that magic to beep his nose with the colt letting out another squeak, blushing.

“Okay, if we’re all done being silly,” Xvital said, looking at Vix-Lei who nodded her head and placed Night down who had a scowl plastered across his face. “Let’s get going.”

Chapter Thirteen: Wind Breaker, Page Turner, Vix-Lei

View Online

Chapter Thirteen

Wind Breaker

Shaking his head, Wind tilted his head to look at Xvital who was engaged in some idle chitchat while he perused the drink options in this second rate barshop at the counter with the bartender serving another customer.

It might look all fancy but from the cups of booze they passed by he could smell it was already distilled and watered down and their marketed stuff would be as bad.

Still, he had made several Cadenzas by returning his empty bottles and got complimented on his good taste. Which was an old trade tactic to try and get him to buy stuff.

“So buddy,” the bartender, one Tipsy Tray, looked at him with a glint in her eyes… which wasn’t hard as the pegasus mare was a Crystal pony. “What brings a cute griffon and his special lady to place like this on the Honour Festival?”

Puffing out in surprise, Wind Breaker turned to look at Xvital who was in the middle of an arm wrestling match while shouting in Burroñeso with the earth pony yelling back in Hosstrian before looking at the mare. “She’s not my special lady,” Wind said slowly, blinking his blue and gold eyes at the pony. “And we’re just passing through the West-North to get to North without too much trouble.”

“Ah, well if you two love birds,” the mare giggled to herself when he tried to protest this. “Want to get to North without too much fanfare, I’d poke around Blas Bridge. I mean, you’re normally not allowed but -”

“OH SI!!” Xvital shouted, startling everypony in the room. “En tu cara!!

"Verdammte bekloppte Dschungelkatze," the earth pony grumbled in Hosstrian, rubbing his arm. "Dafür, dass du kein Erdponnie bist, bist du sehr stark... und ich kann gar nicht verstehen was du sagst."

“Que?” Xvital blinked in confusion. “Pero que estas diciendo? Te estas queja-oh hola Wind Bre- sorry, Wind Breaker,” Xvital said as she walked over to him, punching him in the arm. “Not drinking too much, I hope?”

“No, nothing yet,” Wind Breaker winced, rubbing his arm. “You have fun?”

“Si,” Xvital grinned before slapping him on the back and moving him away from the counter. “Come on, we’ve got to get moving if we want to meet your parents in time.”

“But I thought…” the mare said, blinking her eyes as Xvital dragged him out of the bar and forced him on a steady walk outside into the bustling roadway. Xvital kept guiding him along the streets and it was only after they passed a couple of blocks did she finally stop.

“So, you learn anything useful because I didn’t,” Xvital said with a huff, looking around to see if they were being overheard.

“Not really,” Wind Breaker said as he began to walk again with the ahuizotl at his side. “Something about the Blas Bridge being used as a good way at not getting seen.”

“Huh, we should take a look at that before going to see the others,” Xvital said as she pulled out her map and started to trace it with her tail hand. Turning her head to look up at the street sign, she then looked at her map again. “It should be a few blocks down from where we are… and now that I say it, I don’t think we should poke around there as we kinda stick out like a sloth in the badlands.”

“Speaking of…” WInd Breaker looked at the self-admitted thief with a tilt of his head. “As we’re going to be stuck on this journey thing with each other, mind telling me a bit more about you? Beyond the whole thief-”

“Ah yeah, yeah, keep your beak shut about that,” Xvital hissed at him, eyes darting around. “We’re in a crowded place with a ton of ponies that want to be snobbish; all it takes is one sap that decides to speak to a police officer and we’re screwed.”

“I get it,” Wind Breaker huffed at her, his feathers ruffled at her lecturing tone. He then twisted his head sideways to look at her. “So do you mind sharing?”

“Well, I was born in the outskirts of our capital city,” Xvital started, rubbing her chin with her tail hand. “Its name was… well, it’d translate roughly as ‘among the prickly pears growing in the rocks’. We were on an island surrounded by a very large lake, connected to some other ones. It looked a lot like this city, actually, except for being on an island instead of on a mountain. My family wasn’t from the richer part of society,” she said with a sigh. “Hell, we shared the house I grew up with a few other families and I’m kinda not sure who my family was back then. Still not sure if Maxtla is my actual brother or not and mom could never really be bothered bothered to tell me beyond the ‘Oh, Xvital, family is those close to you’ line whenever I asked,” Xvital said rolling her eyes and hugging herself. “If you can’t imagine, that didn’t imprint a good concept of home and belonging in me and so when I was old enough to be on my own, I walked out one day and never really looked back.”

“Yikes,” Wind Breaker pulled back, surprised to hear somepony had as near a crappy foalhood as he did.

“Yah, not the smartest of ideas for a young girl like me striking out there, to make it on her own but I managed to get lucky enough to find someone to teach me how to survive and my craft.”

“Of steal-”

“Of calligraphy,” she said, placing a finger over his beak with her tail hand. “But I learned how to really copy books from Machtia. She was… a kinda second mother to me, I guess. Taught me everything I really know; how to make a living, how to make money last, really prepared me to live on my own. I should visit her one day, just to get in touch. Maybe after all this is done with I’ll head over there to see her.” Xvital smiled to herself before tilting her head down to look at him. “What about you?”

“Not much to write home about,” Wind Breaker shrugged his shoulders, following her around a bend, taking an apple she nicked from a stand with her tail hand and bit into it with his beak. “I grew up in the Caring Sisters of the Virtues Hatchery; full of other griffons unlucky enough to be born here. I was picked on due to my height and… other stuff,” he trailed off, no desire to get into his other issue. But she was giving him a look that demanded some form of answer and he wasn’t sure how to tell her about everything-

“Your drinking, right?”

“Yeah,” he coughed, rubbing his throat. “It was a typical experience from what I’ve heard; taught how speak properly, act properly, look properly, even wal-”

Look properly?” Xvital tilted her head, causing Wind Breaker to hiss as he let that part of his foalhood slip out.

“Yeah,” he said scratching the back of his head. “My plumage isn’t what they considered… pony prefered. Had to dye my feathers to a brighter colour before I was let outside to work off my debt,” he sighed, dropping his head a bit. “Had to put it on my debt…”

“Wow, that’s incredibly stupid,” Xvital snorted as she filched more food and placed it into his saddlebag. While he wasn’t too keen on stealing, he understood that they would be on the run soon and stocking up on food now would be good. “How much is your debt anyways?”

“About fifty to seventy thousand Lunas,” Wind Breaker replied. “I haven’t really looked at my debt in a bit so I’m not exactly sure at the moment.”

“Fifty to seventy thousand Lunas?” Xvital squeaked out, stumbling a bit as her eyes went wide. “How did you, I mean it’s cincuenta a setenta mil Lunas!!

“Yeah, but it’s not a real big debt,” Wind Breaker gave her an odd look, guessing what she said. “I mean, the Hatchery isn’t cheap, and I’ve got to pay them back for housing me, feeding me and so on. That’s like thirty thousand right there. And there is my parents’ debt I inherited and the interest of my debt isn’t cheap.”

“I...” Xvital took a seat at a bench, with Wind Breaker joining her. She waved down a passing waiter and took a glass of water, tossing a Cadenza to her. “...any ideas to pay off that debt?”

“Pretty much the plan that everypo-griffin has; work up a nest egg while paying off our interest and take part of the many offered programs that hook you up with another Hatchery griffon. For about... twenty thousand Cadenzas from one partner’s debt, they will take that out for each foal you give back to the Hatchery for who brings the foal over,” Wind Breaker let out a sigh. “It’s a nasty catch, really designed to prevent any family from forming.”

“Wow, that’s a really nasty system,” Xvital said, reaching into his saddle bag again and pulled out his bottle of Château Margaux. “Here, let’s take a shot; I need it after hearing that... We’ll work on getting you on the wagon later.”

“Not with that bottle, you’re not,” Wind Breaker hissed, take the bottle back. “That’s for celebrating big stuff,” he huffed, putting it back into his bag before pulling out another bottle and two of his tumblers. “Here, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly, okay?”

“Sounds good to me,” she said, taking the bottle from him and began to pour drinks for the both of them. “To you, and the crappy system Equestria has,” she toasted him, holding the glass.

“And to you, for having the guts to leave a crummy home,” Wind Breaker clinked his glass with hers and threw back the drink, wiggling as the alcohol ran down his throat.

“Wow, this is some strong stuff,” Xvital chuckled after she thumped her chest. “I mean, wow, how the hell aren’t you drunk all the time if you have this so often?”

“One, I don’t and two, I’ve got a good metabolism,” Wind Breaker grinned as he packed away his bottle and tumblers. “Come, let’s get going, maybe the others have got something that we can use.”

Page Turner

“We thank you kindly,” Rex said, bowing his head slightly to the merchants as Page took the groceries and went to place them in her new saddlebags before Rex turned around and tutted. “What kind of gentledog would I be if I did not take those parcels, miss Turner?”

“Thank you very much, Rex,” she said with a soft smile on her lips. It had been a real pleasure to be around the diamond dog as he had a way of talking with others that tended to put them at ease… after they got over the fact he was a diamond dog. They had learned that there was a real general sense of ease near some of the bridges and they were notably lax in screening those passing by. They might be able to get past without resorting to crossing at night, but it would need to be done quickly as whatever was after them would clamp down and they would have their backs to the Cantagel Canal. And then their quest would be over for good.

She let out a small whine, thinking of her Element tucked away in Night’s saddlebag. Learning that she was connected to the Stern Ward-Fluttershy and the Virtuous Six was still unnerving. It promised so much unwanted attention and she certainly didn’t want to be looked upon by others. She just wanted to be back in the Great Library where only a hoofful knew about her but she couldn’t go back. Others needed her and if Balance was right, the whole world would need them to protect them from this foe.

“Are you well Page?” Rex asked tilting his head.

“Yes, I am,” Page blushed as they turned the corner. “It was just what happened this morning, is all.”

“Ah yes, such information would be jarring to anyone,” Rex chimed in reassuringly. “But then again, the others and I are in the same situation as you are in and we will have each other for support.”

“That is true,” Page laughed to herself before shaking her head. “Still, there is so much we don’t know…”

“The first step to acquiring knowledge is learning how to ask the correct question,” Rex replied with a wry smile on his face.

“Such as why a diamond dog is in Canterlot or why he doesn’t have a pack collar?” she asked raising an eyebrow.

Ah,” Resx said shortly before letting out an amused snort. “I suppose I did walk into this line of questioning and I cannot be surprised that a ward of the Great Library would know of the importance of a diamond dog’s collar,” his ear twitched and a shadow of a smile graced his face. “Or lack of one in my case.”

“I did come across the fact that every diamond dog that is born is given a collar unique to their pack to show that they belong,” Page said, tapping her chin as she tried to recall all she knew abou diamond dogs.

“Close; a pup is given a collar when they come of age and they are expected to become an active member of the pack,” he explained. “As I learned, that does not include those who questions a fair deal of everyday occurrences. I was shunned due to my inquisitive nature and I was adept enough to realize that I was incurring enough animosity that I should make my departure before things became hostile.” Rex let out a sigh, shaking his head. “It seems I was a bit tardy as my pack leader exiled me for being the weak member of the pack. I was forced to leave my home, my pack and everything I knew for the Upside, I mean, Canterlot.”

“That’s awful,” Page placed a hoof on her barrel as she tried to think of what to say or do to comfort Rex.

“I thank you for your sympathy but to be honest, it was the best thing to occur for me,” Rex shrugged his shoulders. “I was limited in the Under, but once I came up into Canterlot I was able to fully expand my interests and achieve so much more than what I could have with my old pack. While I do miss my old pack from time to time, I am quite content with where I am in life, with a few further ambitions in mind,” Rex then tilted his head and let out another small sigh. “Or was, as the case with our mutual foe no doubt is going to put some attention onto my businesses and my partners. I do hope they are okay.”

“I am sure they will be fine,” Page said, moving to hug him which Rex accepted graciously.

“Thank you, miss Page Turner,” Rex said honestly enough as they parted. “So as we are exchanging our origins, would you be inclined to share your own? From what I gathered, you are of the Great Library, yes?”

“Yes; I am a ward of the Great Library,” Page said bopping her head. “I was left on the doorsteps because my mother knew I would have an easier life there. I was raised by the Matron Hush Tone and the other librarians who taught me everything I know and…” Page gave a shrug of her shoulders, not sure if she should elaborate further while in public. She then chuckled, rubbing the back of her head. “It’s odd that one can sum up their life so easily…”

“I am sure that this is just the cliff notes, Page Turner,” Rex said with a smile on his face before frowning. “Are you sad that you never knew your mother?”

“No,” Page Turner said, shaking her head. “I mean kinda…” she bit her lip as some words slipped out of her mouth. “It’s complicated,” she said desperately to end her rambling.

“How so?” Rex tilted his head, missing her frantic tone. “Did you ever meet her?”

“No, but I know of her and again, it’s complicated.” Page then flashed him a pleading look. “Can you please not bring it up again?”

“Of course,” Rex said, filling her with relief. She wasn’t sure why she slipped there but she felt she could trust Rex not to bring it up again. “I am sure that you have your reasons and that they are reasonable.”

Thank you,” Page Turner said with a grateful smile on her face before looking at a clock. “We should start heading to the place, Rex.”

With a tip of his head for an agreement, the two of them began to make their way to the safehouse.

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei was so bored! She had thought being on a mission chosen by the gods, wrong pantheon notwithstanding, would be amazing and full of cool stuff!

Not watching Mr Grumpy Hooves talk to old buzzards that looked like they should be in some home for old folk! What was worse was that Nighty looked super young compared to them and she was sure that they’d get carded or something and then this big baddie would know where they were and what they were doing!

It was also super lame that Night hadn’t said a word to her since they broke off into their small groups and was acting like he didn't know her or that they were on the same team! If she wanted to be ignored by dull snooty people, she could have stayed home in Ledra and worked with her dad with the other shipyard masters of the Minos Islands.

She was so close to just telling Nighty that-

“Come, let’s go,” Nighty said, appearing at her table, tilting with his head that they should make a move to the doors. He didn’t even wait for her. With a snort, Vix-Lei pushed herself upright from the chair and followed him outside, her fingers twitching to spin Lady Kabonk, but she knew she couldn’t do that in this tightly packed place.

“So what dirt did we get?” she asked as she nudged him slightly, causing him to put on that grumpy face of his.

“What I learned is that the Captain of the Cadenza Guards, the Magi Supreme of the Magi-of-the-Stars Guards, the Holy Corona of the Celestia Guards and the Full Moon of the Luna Guards were summoned to the Upper for an emergency meeting with the Captain General of the Royal Guards,” Nighty said with narrow eyes but she could tell he was worried. She was worried; those were the five big cheeses of the ponies military and she’d heard horror stories about the Cap-

“Shitshitshit,” she swore, causing the ponies aound her to panic and Nighty to start and draw his sword. “What if the Captain General is the one that Balance spoke about?”

If that is the case,” Nighty said, biting his lip. “We’re all dead... Maybe.” He tilted his head. “It will take time for them all to travel to the Top and pass down ord-” he then froze, looking past her. Turning around, she also froze on the spot, with a ton of other ponies moving to the side to let the ponies of the Questioning Order pass by. They walked by wearing their blank white masks and tilting their heads from side to side with their changeling lamp detector emitting a green light floating in the middle of them, with everypony doing their best to stay still and look but not look at them passing by.

She felt her heart race as the duo went past them, with Nighty trotting on the spot and she doing her best not to spin her hammers in a fit of nerves. One of them tilted their head to look at her, then at its lamp before moving onwards. It was not soon enough when they turned the corner and everyone let out a sigh of relief and got back to celebrating their festival. Nighty turned to her with a raised eyebrow.

“I am surprised you were quiet for when they went past,” he said with a hint of a smirk finally on his face.

Rolling her eyes, Vix-Lei stretched her arms behind her head. “We’ve got them in the Minos Islands too, you know, and trust me, I’m not stupid enough to go blab when they’re around.” She shuddered. "Besides, they give me the creeps."

“They give everypony the creeps,” Nighty snorted, walking the opposite direction from them. “With their blank face masks, being completely quiet all the time and their zealous nature against the slightest thing out of the norm, nopony would ever want to mess with them.” He then frowned and looked at her. “They expect there are changelings in your islands?”

“We get a lot of travelers in Ledra, and you ponies are the most common guys out there,” Vix-Lei shrugged. “I know that dad had to cater to the Order’s ships a few times, and they always search the entire island, including our temples.” She bit her lip, remembering how much she hated it when she saw them go into Comus’s temple but it was far better to let them to have their way then have them think a ’taur was hiding a changeling. Things got bloody and scary fast when they thought they had sometaur covering for a changeling, and Thera was what happened when they did find a ’taur hiding some changlines. “Very uncool.”

Nighty let out a huff, going all quiet again. Vix-Lei frowned, wondering what it would take for him to talk to her. “No way that they’re our foe, right?”

“I doubt anypony would be able to tell the difference,” he shot back, no doubt rolling his eyes at her.

“Let’s just hope we don’t have to cross paths with them on our quest, eh?” Vix-Lei said while bumping into him, Nighty too short for her to bump shoulders. All ponies were so damn short; thankfully they had made sure that everyone could use their doors and stuff so she wouldn’t have to crouch when getting inside of places.

Your quest,” he snapped, looking up at her sharply. “I’m only doing this because Page is being threatened by this foe.”

Vix-Lei blinked before shaking her head. Speaking softly, she told him, “You really love her, don’t ya?”

Nighty stopped walking and looked at her without his usual frowny face and had an actual smile on his face. “She means the world to me; there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her.” Nighty then chuckled softly, shaking his head back and forth. “I am so lucky to have her; I don’t know what I would do without her by my side or where I would be without ever meeting her.”

“May I be as lucky as you two one day,” she said, hoping to find her special sometaur one day; he would have the biggest horns and heart ever... okay, his horn size wasn’t that important but still she wanted something bigger than an unicorn dammit!

“I hope so too, Vix-Lei,” Nighty said, the first time he actually used her name. “Come, we should head back.”

Tilting her head in agreement, Vix-Lei began to spin Lady Kabonk lazily in the air above her. Maybe things would be good after all.

Chapter Fourteen: Regal Pants, Gentle Step

View Online

Chapter Fourteen

Regal Pants

It had been chaos since Regal got that black message telling him that his father, Aurum Pants, had passed away. He had locked Upper-Middle-Second-Cadenza-To-Magi-Gate down, sealing it with the seal spell of the day, sending off a message to his squadmates that were enjoying the Honour Festival to return to the guardhouse before locking the door to the guardhouse itself before running to his family manor to deal with his father’s death.

His family servants were busy dealing with the countless messages appearing with a number of ponies arriving to either give their condolences or press him on matters his father left lying around when Regal finally reached his family's mansion. Those damn sharks hounded him for details and payment as he bounded each step up to his father’s chamber, with the doctors still milling around, waiting for him.

Regal pushed them to the side, tears in his eyes as he forced the door open to see his father lying in his bed. Regal could understand the term resting at peace now, the lines of stress and life washed away from his father’s face. He seemed so serene, and no doubt was with mother in fields of Elysium with the rest of their departed family.

Leaning to kiss his father’s forehead while saying the prayers of the Lady and the Holy Celestia and Luna, Regal allowed himself a moment more to mourn in public before collecting himself. He had to deal with the transfer of power from one Head of the house to another as well as plan a funeral. He began barking orders to his servants to pay the doctors and send them on their way, he told the solicitors and debt collectors he would tend to them later, he thanked those coming to pay their respects, he began to leaf through the telegraph book and the papers they had kept when his mother had died to see if the ponies who took care of the funeral procedures could do the same on such short notice as well as being on the Honour Festival.

It was a blur of events for Regal, his mind leaping from one detail to the next when there was a sudden hammering on the downstairs door. He frowned, looking to his servant for an answer as there shouldn’t be anypony able to knock that loudly. Before the maid could answer or Regal could ask her, the doors opened up and he heard the precise sound marching hooves. Walking to the landing, he saw two plain clothes guards the pins indicating they were both lieutenants stalk into the foyer, scan the room before locking onto him.

They both teleported to his side, a warning bell ringing in his head as one of them, the mare, was an earth pony and even for a lieutenant, that was a highly specialized spell for them to have on command like that.

The stallion guard turned to face him and inquired, not asked, but inquired, “Sergeant Regal Pants in search of the Upper-Middle-Second-Cadenza-To-Magi-Gate.”

“Yes…” he blinked, wondering what they were doing here. “Can I help you…”

“Yes,” the mare said sharply. “You can come with us cooperatively for questioning or you can come with us with a thaumic restraint for questioning.”

Regal bristled at this, an angry retort building in his mouth before the stallion narrowed his eyes and spoke again. “You are currently in a severe amount of trouble, Sergeant Pants. The Captain is to interrogate you for information and you are to report to the interrogation office shortly. Now again, how do you wish to appear before the Captain?”

“I am preparing my father’s funeral here,” Regal snapped. “If you can inform me what you wish to know, I can prepare a report for the Captain afterwards.”

“You seem to be under the impression you can chose to not attend your interrogation,” the mare said. “We understand that you are currently grieving and in fact we were giving you a kindness by offering to bring you in under your own volition.“

“I… thank you?” he said, blinking in confusion. Apparently, they took that as his consent as he was suddenly whisked away from his family manor and into a small room with a table, chair in front of him, a chair on the opposite side and an obvious one way mirror to his right. Looking behind him there was a door and there was one across of it. With little else to do, he took the seat next to him and sat down, eyeing the room with his ears popping.

Regal frowned, surprised that this happened. He knew he lived high on the mountain, but he had to be even higher than normal for his ears to pop and the Captain of the Cadenza Guards Offices were in the Middle. In fact, the only the Captains’ Office that were this high was the-

“Oh sweet fucking Luna,” he swore as his eyes went wide as he realized exactly which Captain those two Guards were talking about. He was about to stand up when the door across of him opened up and in walked Captain-General Gentle Step of the Royal Guards.

She was dressed in full proper service armour polished to a regulation gleam with a sword in a sheath attached to both of her croupieres. She stalked up to the table in a tempo that made the elites of the Cadenza Guards look like recruits scrambling about before halting directly in front of the table. She then reached up with both of her forehooves and took off her royal purple helmet and placed it down perfectly centered on the table to the right of her.

Gentle Step seemed to be more of a lump of mass in a pony shape as opposed to being a pony. Her snout was blunt with three scars trailing down to the let side of her mouth, her body muscle mass seemed to belong to an earth pony that had trained themselves to the cusp of being unhealthy opposed to a unicorn. Her dull blond mane was cut short as the books required them to be but something seemed off as no Guard was that much of a stickler for regulation. Captain Standing Wall was lax on the Cadenza Guards and the Celestial Guards were the worst with Holy Corona Blazen Sun being their excuse to get away with bizarre mane styles. Looking at the Captain General, there seemed to be not an ounce of a pony present, just something made of Dragon Steel with a dusty yellow coat of fur and her eyes-

Regal froze at her glare, seeing her put such disdain and cold fury in those grey eyes of hers. Her face might be neutral and calm at the moment but her eyes caused his legs to shake and his mouth to tremble.

Standing to what he hoped was a proper enough attention, he snapped a salute to her and began to say, “Sergeant Regal-”

“I did not give you leave to speak or stand, sergeant Pants,” she said in a calm, emotionless tone but her eyes narrowed a fraction and he had to bite back a quake of fear from escaping his lips. Legs quivering, he retook his seat that made a ton of scraping noises while the Captain General took her seat opposite of him in a proper manner that made no noise.

“Ma’am, I-”

“I am your superior officer, not your acquaintance,” Gentle Step said as she reached into a satchel and placed down seven folders in what he was willing to wager was perfect equal distance from each other. “However, given the severity of your transgressions, you may say and do whatever you wish as you cannot possibly worsen your current situation.”

That was a trap, he knew that much. Best thing was to keep his mouth shut unless asked a question. She waited ten seconds, staring at him intently before retrieving the central folder and opened it up.

“Today, when you were sleeping during your shift of the policing of the Upper Canterlot to Middle Canterlot Second Mi Amore Cadenza To Magi of the Stars Gatehouse, there were two messages transmitted to your desk that you ignored in favour of focusing solely on the death alert of your father after you were awakened by Xvital, Night Blade, Wind Breaker, Page Turner, Rex and Vix-Lei,” she said as she placed two telegrams that had the seal of the Captain-General on one and the fire department of the district his Gatehouse was in on the other. The latter was a standard shut down order after an arson was committed to keep those who did the deed from fleeing but the other one…

Regal opened his mouth to say he didn’t understand why he saw Night’s name there but caught himself in time as the Captain General was judging him. Wisely, he shut it and simply lifted the telegram from the Captain General and saw it was high authority sealment of all gatehouses in the West to prevent Night and his group from passing. Let alone the fact that this order was reserved for the most serious of crimes and Night was involved, he had let all of them pass through his gate…

Gulping loudly, he placed the telegram back down as he began to understand exactly how screwed he was. He looked at her, with excuses running through his head and his mouth opening and closing, as some part of his mind told him that the Captain General still had not given him permission to speak and she would be angry if he spoke now.

“I understand quite a number of things here, sergeant,” she said, her eyes boring into him. “I understand when this breach of protocol occurred, I know who exactly is at fault for allowing these individuals,” she gestured to each folder as they opened up and showed information on Night and each of his group’s member. “To pass through a complete blockade. I know where they escaped into the Middle but two things I do not know is the what and the why. I want to know what was said to you that allowed you to pass them through without running a background check on them and why you would do this. Inform me.”

Regal felt his heart began to race truly now, as he knew exactly what the answer was but he was terrified for what her reaction for it would be.

Apparently he took too long because Captain General Gentle Step narrowed her eyes fully now, the full might of her disapproving glare focused on him, standing upright. “Perhaps I was not clear or coherent enough. I told you to inform me what made you betray your training and your oaths to office. There might be a need to overhaul how the Cadenza Guards are trained if you are the norm and not the exception. Again, inform me what was promised to you that made you turn turncoat sergeant Pants or I will retrieve the information through spells that can be either painless or painful. The punishments will be worse if you force me to use those spells and I-”

“Night promised me second chair!” he shouted, his fears getting the better of him. He saw her look at him, eyes slightly narrowed before he spat out, “Ma’a-sir!” She was still looking at him, his explanation not enough. “For the upcoming tournament of swordponyship of the core districts, sir. Night Blade is the captain of the team of the West and he promised me I would be the second pony after him… sir,” Regal said with his body doing its best not to tremble with the Captain General simply looking at him before she closed up all the folders, placed them into her satchel and then looked at him.

“So if I am to understand you correctly, you betrayed all that you trained for and swore oaths of loyalty to for a tournament that you yourself are ineligible to enter due to your professional training,” Captain General Gentle Step said in her steady voice which made the guilt he was feeling even worse. “When you become a guard and wear the armour, you cease being the pony. You are one of many, the individual nonexistent because it takes one guard acting on their own intention for the entire system to fall apart. You put aside what is Regal Pants and become a Guard of Equestria when you don that armour. Your life is inconsequential to those you are charged with protecting: the citizens of this city. Your reward is not the financial payment given to you but knowing that countless ponies and citizens are alive because of what you did. By indulging in your own desires and being negligent in your tasks of reading simple telegrams, you have put untold number of lives at risk. Do you understand the ramifications of what you have done today may be the reason why ponies might die for years to come, that the end result of you sleeping through your duties and failing to follow through with your tasks may be the destruction of everything we have built up, that your actions might be the one that spells the end of Equestria itself?” Even though she asked him a question, he knew that she did not want him to answer her. She wanted to him to understand how fully he’d messed up, slamming into him the full width of his actions might have onto others. “You are near incompetent but you did not act with purposeful malice. You will report to the Lower Canterlot Cadenza Guardhouse for retraining and you will be stationed there until such time it is determined that you have learned how to be a proper Guard.”

“But that’s the Lower, I can’t go-” Regal stopped himself from speaking any further but the damage was done and the Captain General had now looked at him, raising an eyebrow and was leaning across the table. She stared into him before speaking with a hint of hardness in her voice.

“Congratulations, you have just proved me wrong, there was something that you could say that would make your situation worse,” Captain General Gentle Step said to him, reminding him that she came from the Lower South. In fact, when she was born, the room caved in and she had been born in what was called the Lowest. Unlike others that came from the Lower, she had been proud of where she had come from and even owned a house down there that remained untouched by the dangerous criminal activity that lived nearby. Mainly because no one was crazy enough to risk drawing her wrath down on them, not after she had singlehandedly busted an entire drug ring that had broken a step on her porch when running through her backyard. “Give me one reason to why I should not take you through the door I came through and toss you out a window.”

Regal paused to think for all of five seconds before he had an answer. “A wise pony told me that when you become a Guard, you put the pony you are aside.”

The Captain General looked at him for five seconds before softening her eyes which was like a weight off his back. “You demonstrate the boldness to use my own words against me which implies you have the ability to think and act beyond your training. You might possess some potential after all.” She then stood up with her magic placing her helmet back onto her head. “You will report to the Lower Canterlot Cadenza Guardhouse for your retraining in three days; that should be sufficient enough time to put your affairs in order regarding the death of your father.”

“Sir,” Regal stood up, finding himself in his cleanest attention formation he had ever done with a hoof pressed to his head in salute. “I need only the end of the day to finish the paperwork for my father’s funeral; once I am finished with my retraining I can attend to my family’s duty and obligations personally.”

“Very well, sergeant Pants,” she said, returning the salute. “Go through the door behind you and there will be a pony to teleport you back into your family’s manor. We will contacting you regarding several questions about Night Blade and Page Turner in the future.”

“Understood, sir,” Regal replied, standing rock still.

“Dismissed,” she said as she fixed the straps for her helmet. Regal turned around and marched for the door, his chest swelling with pride and assertion that he had done the right thing today and he was on the right track.

Gentle Step

Gentle Step did not wait for the sergeant to leave, already marching to the door where the rest of the Captains were waiting. Pants had some merit to him, they would just need to break it out of him properly this time. Standing Wall needed to revise her training method to avoid situations where potentially good Guards were allowed to fall in such solvency and-

“So what’s your take, Steps?” Full Moon Sweet Surprise asked her, her voice full of pep and energy. She had removed her midnight blue helmet and was spinning it counterclockwise with her magic, her way of acting bored. If she had been spinning it clockwise, then she would be actually bored and not paying any attention. Sweet Surprise was aptly named; she may act like such a fool at times and that was part of her nature to be easy going, but only an idiot would think that the mare who held back a demon incursion on her own without her armour for several days before getting reinforced to take a five minute break before jumping back into the fray was a no brain ditz of a unicorn.

Still, she could curb her playfulness just a bit…

“No doubt what you all saw,” she told her Captains, her eyes lingering briefly on Standing Wall, the earth pony more frustrated than she was at the entire situation. “Just made the mistake of passing the bit along when he should be focused on the job.” Standing Wall bristled at this, her coat standing on end. “This is no remark on your standard of training, Standing Wall.”

“Agreed,” Blazen Sun said, stroking his barrel length beard. “Ever since you and that squad of your Guards took on that mob of thousand strong minotaurs and came out with three hundred minotaurs marching in perfect formation to a Royal Guard stronghold without losing a single of your squad, no pony doubts your ability to train ponies.”

“Thank you,” she nodded her head to the the Holy Corona, a brief smile on her face before turning to face Gentle Step again. “You were saying, Gentle Step?”

“On Pants? The matter is resolved,” she said, eyes flickering over them once more, to impart how serious she was. “On the matter of these six individuals, the situation require our immediate attention.”

“What is the charge against these six characters?” Magi Supreme Violet Lulamoon said, arching an eyebrow at her. The mare was direct to the point of being near insolent, but she was cutting through the clutter to get to the heart of the matter. She was a hammer that would break into anything that threatened Canterlot and there was a reason that her family had a trend of ascending to the position of Magi Supreme and that no enemy had ever managed to invaded by the Northern district.

“Treason and plans to commit regicide,” she said, causing the four Captains to hiss in surprise and anger.

“It is one thing to be against the monarchy, but it is another thing to try and topple a government as large as ours,” Blazen Sun grumbled darkly. “In my youth, they would simply protest before the palace, not try and burn it to the ground.”

“In your youth, the Goddesses would be there to put a stop to such things,” Sweet Surprise smirked to the Holy Corona which got the stallion to smile briefly; such as their relationship was that the mare could tease the hundred thirty year old about his age in these times without it being inappropriate. “In anycase, I do not see any of these kids being traitors or kingslayers. The unicorn is a librarian, the batpony is a hierarchised noble who is either around the Great Library or the gym, the griffon is a Hatchery griffon with his vice being alcohol, the diamond dog is a shop owner that applied and passed for citizenship in Equestria and the minotaur is the daughter of the shipyard master of Ledra. The only unknown we have is the ahuizotl, but we have no connection between her and the rest of them; in fact, the diamond dog lives in the East and neither the unicorn, bat pony, griffon or diamond dog has traveled outside of their distracts before today.”

“She is correct, Step,” Blazen Sun said, stroking his beard the entire length, his tell of uncertainty and due to his long tenure in office, the other Captains tended to listen to him. Of course, that tended to happen when you spent several years in a war zone with dragons and discovering you could in fact set a dragon on fire and cause one to explode. He had broken the dragon’s morale when he had killed Garble the dragon all those years ago and was the main reason why the dragons today did not dare attack Equestria. “What proof do we have for such accusations?”

“Turner has access to all sorts of information, including texts about revolutions and how a few toppled governments in the past which she had been cataloging recently. Blade is an accomplished swordspony that does not have any Guard training to the point he fights in the unicorn bracket of his tournaments and is strongly attached to Turner, more than likely to the point he would follow her in whatever course she takes. Tell me one Hatchery griffon that does not have issues with the government and I will have several bridges in North Canterlot to sell you. Rex is highly intelligent and an accomplished alchemist with a possible dangerous arsenal on his person. Vix-Lei is an admitted unknown but one does not travel all the way west from the Minos Islands for no reason and I do not believe she traveled here to entertain others without bothering to do the proper paperwork.” She took a breath, then continued.

“Xvital is the most suspicious of them all, as there is so little on her. The way she turned her body for the photographs when the police took them in for that fight last night indicates she was trying to shelter her identity, and my guards have interviewed several ponies celebrating the Honour festival near where she, Rex, Breaker and Vix-Lei were all attending the same inn and side by side no less. All of them reported that she avoided having her picture taken.” Gentle Step lit her horn and projected what the Guards gathered for her that was an overlay of the Western district. “This is where they were arrested and held for the night alone,” she tapped with her magic before tapping another place. “This is the former Museum of Victory. And this is the path they took to reach the museum.” She traced out a very complex pathway, with the Captains frowning at the twists and turns. “They met at least twice under suspicious situations and the latest one involved the arson as a means to cover their escape. In addition, after conducting a search of their residents in the hotel, Blade mansion and the Great Library produce odd documents indicating a connection.” She watched them open their folders to look at the nearly destroyed papers that had been found bearing each of their handwriting. “While they might not be the true leaders of this conspiracy, it is evident they are part of one or know of one that has plans to assassinate the king.”

There was a clutter of agreement from her Captains with the Magi Supreme speaking first. “So what is our approach?”

“Wanted posters for them alive and rewards for information on them,” Gentle said, with them giving her a curious look. “Alive will get them scared and running to their allies. Dead will put them on guard and has the potential of forcing them to fight back for their lives and have them get their taste for blood.”

“And if they are as dangerous as you suggest, we do not want them use to killing,” Blazen Sun said, narrowing his eyes and standing still. “Any indication to their current location?”

“They are in Canterlot West-North, heading to North properly,” her eyes flicked over to the unicorn charged with the protection of the Northern district and the farms beyond the city limits. “I have several Inspectors inbound there; if we can get just one of them to fold, we can get the other five. They have been told to do what they feel will get Breaker to turn on them and fulfill any promise they give him and your Guards are to support the Inspectors when they locate Breaker. If they do manage to get out of the North district or Middle Canterlot, we will double the Guard presence along the gatehouses and reconvene to go over our plans to contain them. As it stands now, I want half a squad’s worth back into all one hundred fifty six gatehouses as well as a team of engineers to inspect the walls to make sure there are no gaps. The Upper Canterlot Barrier to the summit and palace is barred to all those without proper paperwork and those we trust implicitly,” she watched her Captain nod at this. “Any questions?” They kept silent, telling her that they knew what was required of them and needed no further instructions. “Dismissed then,” she said, saluting them all, each of her Captains returning one back.

“Well, I guess I need to tell my Guards to stop celebrating and get back to work,” Sweet Surprise said, placing her helmet back on, with a grin on her face. The ghost white unicorn walked to the window and tipped her head. “Until later guys,” she said before jumping out of the window. A few seconds later, she flew past them on magically constructed bat pony wings with a laugh escaping her lips. Violet Lulamoon rolled her eyes, the pieces of her star speckled armour briefly clacking against each other as she simply teleported away. Standing Wall tilted her head downwards, focusing on her earth pony magic before the ground swallowed her whole and began to transport her to the Western district and showing that while there had been a rise in hollow ponies being born, there was an abundance of talented ponies being born as counterbalance.

“My, you youngsters and your exits,” Blazen chuckled, causing Gentle to raise an eyebrow. “You do simply do not know how to do it with style.” He then teleported away, with the afterimage of the holy sunburst hovering in the air. It was just bright enough to be annoying on the eyes and Gentle saw that he had burned the sigil of Equestria into the floor with the words Equestria pro rege, defendimus finem written around it.

She frowned at this, knowing it would take the cleaning crew hours to scrub it out. Her eyes flicked back up and waited several seconds before speaking to the last occupant of the room. They stepped forwards, bowing their head slightly. “And what are my orders?”

“As always, you are to act as my backup,” Gentle said. “I do not know their capability but if they are to escape the city limits, they will no doubt circle to the West. The North is too flat and well defended, the East will end with the sea and there is no chance they can get to the Minos Islands before my navy Guards can capture them. The South will lead them to the badlands and that leaves the most underdeveloped and unsettled West for them to flee. They have both the griffon lands and Cuanmiztl Kingdom to run and hide in but they wouldn’t dare harbor wanted criminals from us. So if they get out of the city, I want you and yours to capture them and bring them in.”

“Understood,” the other said, nodding its head. “Standard procedure?”

“Of course,” she answered. “These six threaten my city and I will not tolerate this. If they fail, you will not, understand?” She barked out, the figure opposite of her flinching before standing still.

“Your will be done,” was the reply before they vanished, leaving Gentle Step alone. She then walked over to the open window and looked down at her view of the entire city of Canterlot. This was hers and she would let nothing harm it.

Closing the window, she turned around and began to march to her office with so many things that needed to be seen to before it was too late.

Chapter Fifthteen: Vix-Lei

View Online

Chapter Fifteen

Vix-Lei

It was late by the she and Nighty made it back to hideout, with the batpony in a somewhat good mood. He was a bit bummed by being late but now that they were here, Nighty could see Pagey and be all happy like.

Standing in front of the doorway, Vix-Lei reached up for the hidden latches and tugged the door open. Xvitaly had said it was hard to op-wait, Xvitaly didn’t sound right...

Scratching her chin to think of a proper nickname for the jungle kitty cat, she waved Nighty through the doorway before closing behind her. She then turned around in the pitch black room, wondering how they’d get to where the rest were hid-

“This way,” Nighty said from her waist, his hoofy steps all confident and assured. “I’m assuming you cannot see?”

“You know what they say about assuming, eh Nighty?” She could hear the glare he was giving her and in a weak chuckle, she rubbed the back of her head with her horns just scraping the ceiling. “But nah, I can’t see anything.”

“Hmm,” Nighty grunted before reaching out with his wing. With him going all grumpy again, Vix-Lei saw that she just needed to hit him up with a better joke as she followed him through the hideout that she had to duck through after hitting her head on some old signs.

“Careful there Nighty, almost scruffed my pretty nose there with that one,” she bumped into him, pretty sure that he wasn’t doing it on purpose. The fact he was still quiet didn’t really calm her worries…

Finally, Nighty stopped in front of what should be a door, with Vix-Lei reaching out for the handle. Opening it up to see light at last, Vix-Lei could see the rest of the gang all waiting there for them through her squinting black eyes.

“‘Sup guys,” she said as Nighty went right past her and to his marefriend, closing the door behind her.

“That’s odd,” Xvit-no, that didn’t sound right either, said as she tilted her head at some odd box in the corner of the ceiling. “The alarm for the entrance didn’t go off…”

“Well I know I pulled that door open so…” Vix-Lei shrugged as the kitty-cat and double d shared looks with each other. “What?”

“Nothing,” Rexy said as he sat next to Windy. “Just that the door was connected to a very complex mechanism to prevent a random passerby from achieving what you just did.”

“Well I am a bit stronger then most ’taurs,” she shrugged again as she plopped down next to Xvital. “So what’s the scoop?”

“Well, Breaker and I learned that there is a bridge we could use, the Balas Bridge, as our way to get to the other side of the North,” Xvital said as she passed an apple over to her.

“And we learned that most of the Guards don’t really screen those going on the bridges,” Pagey said, reaching in NIghty’s back and pulling out her Element thingy, and putting it back around her neck. “So we could get past them without too much trouble.” She then beamed, tilting her head at the large packs of stuff in the corner. “We also stocked up on supplies.”

“While that is good, Page,” Nighty said softly, his eyes slowly moving away from the unicorn to the rest of them. “We learned that the Captains were all recalled to the top for an emergency meeting which means what Vix-Lei thinks, that our enemy is Captain General Gentle Step, could very well be true. We don’t have long to get out of here before Magi of the Stars Guards comes after us. We should head out immediately.”

“Are you nuts?” Windy scoffed at him. “They want us to be jumpy and acting like an idiot will get us caught.”

“Excuse me, but how is avoiding being captured by highly trained magical Guards an idiotic idea?” Nighty snapped at the griffon, the two of them glaring at each other.

“Because Xvital said it would be a stupid idea to go blundering out at night, Nighty, and we would stick out like a sore claw!” Windy shouted back.

“Well forgive me for having somepony that I care about and would like having her deal with Guards, unlike others,” Nighty sneered directly into Windy’s face, the two about knock horns.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Vix-Lei jumped into the middle of them, swinging Lady Kabonk across the back of both their heads. “I can see you two totally want to have your which-dick-is-bigger contest that all you guys have but seriously, leave the fool acting to an expert like me okay?”

She paused, realizing what she just said with her cheeks starting to darken with embarrassment. The room was quiet for a few seconds before Pagey began to snicker, covering her mouth with her hoof. That was the kicker, with Rexy doing his best to cover his guffawing and Xvital biting on her tail hand. Windy and Night were both looking at her before facing each other and began to chuckle a bit, seeing how silly they were acting. Sure they weren’t buddies yet but at least they weren’t fighting anymore. With a giggle coming out of her mouth, Vix-Lei closed her eyes for a second and found herself somewhere very different when she opened them.

Directly in front of her was a gingerbread house thingy. Tilting her head at the oddness of this and despite the stories of evil witches and things living in these buildings, she felt that going inside of the building she had just been teleported to was a good idea.

Walking over to the door with her hand on the doorknob, she peered inside the pitch black room. “Hello?” she called out, turning her head from side to side.

SURPRISE!” A hyper voice called out as something gooey and tasty smacked her into the face. “Welcome to your Congratulation-On-Awakening-Your-Element-Vix-Lei party!”

Licking what had to be cake into her mouth while wiping away the bits from her face, she could see an entire bakery had been decked in party favours over everything with a massive manner that said Congratulations on Awakening your Element Vix Lei in colourful letters over the counter and a pink pony with poofy pink hair on top of a barrel thingy, with the biggest smile she’d ever seen on a pony’s face. Vix-Lei smirked and let out a laugh, shaking her head. “That was awesome! And that cake,” she pulled some off her horns and shoved in her mouth. “The best I’ve ever had!”

Thank you, it’s been over a thousand years since I’ve thrown a party for another pony but I still know what a pony or minotaur wants for their cake!” The pony pronked over to her with her hoof held up for a high five, which she of course returned with a hard smack. The pink earth pony simply took it and giggled back at her. “Soooo, you know who I am, right?”

Vix-Lei tilted her head at the bright blue eyes looking at her. Saving for the mane not being completely flat and the attitude being completely the opposite from what she knew of the ponies’ mythos, she could still tell who this was. “You’re the Wise Oracle, right?”

The mare seemed to deflate a bit, even her mane seemed to droop, before saying, “Yeah, that’s what they call me nowadays but way back then, I was known as the premiere party planner of Ponyville, Pinkamena Diane Pie, or Pinkie Pie for short!” She perked straight up, bouncing like a spring which caused Vix-Lei to giggle again. “Annnnd I think you know what our Element is, eh?” Her smile grew as she appeared on Lady Kabonk, reaching over to nom on some cake.

“Actually,” Vix-Lei scratched her head, her fingers brushing against some cake. She really hoped that she wouldn’t need to take a shower when she got back. “Kinda lost here, sorry,” she said with a nervous giggle.

“It’s okay, Vixy,” Pinkie Pie said, her name already rhyming, with an air of fake wisdom played up. “Our Element is one that’s not really understood but it’s very important. We’re there to make sure that the others don’t get so serious that they’ll snap when all the stuff that the baddies throw at them makes them go cuckoo. And what’s the best way to take edge off in a dangerous situation?” she asked, somehow dressed in a teacher’s outfit and tapping at chalkboard across the room.

“Well duh, you use laughter,” Vix-Lei said rolling her eyes and missing the second cake thrown at her face and then something not cake like hitting into her gut.

“You got it!” Pinkie Pie cheered, with Vix-Lei seeing a second banner saying Congratulations on figuring out our Element. “Of course, you need some help in using laughter properly.” Her tone shifted, the weight on her stomach shifting off of her.

“Come again?” Vix-Lei shifting onto her backside with her tail flicking behind her.

“While you are in touch with our Element, Vixy, you need to learn that sometimes laughter isn’t the answer to the problem,” Pinkie said with her mane falling flat against her head, her eyes hard all of a sudden. “I know you known this; it’s why you left Ledra because your jokes annoyed everytaur there that you had to leave, not because they were all boring. And if you don’t learn how to tell the difference between a funny joke and a mean joke, the rest of yours won’t like you for much longer.”

Vix-Lei let out a sigh, wrapping her arms around herself. “It’s hard,” she muttered softly. “I mean, I know I’m not the brightest ’taur around, and sometimes it’s hard to talk to others so making jokes is easiest way to the break the ice and I don’t always think through and…”

“Silly filly,” Pinkie Pie said, pulling her into a hug. “Laughter wouldn’t be so important if it were easy; you have to learn what makes others tick so you know how to make them happy as well as when to be serious so they know that they can always count on you and not dismiss you for being useless or insensitive. Laughter is a tough balance act, but the reward is having everypony smiling and happy and laughing with you.”

“Thanks,” Vix-Lei said, pulling the pony into a hug before sighing. “I guess I need to cut back on the jokes with the others, as I can kinda tell that Rexy and the others don’t like me that much?”

“Yup,” Pinkie said, nodding her head. “But I am sure that you will do fine from now on and that’s Pinkie Promise you can take to the bank.”

Laughing, Vix-Lei pulled her into another hug. “Thanks again, Pinkie,” she said before smiling for real. “For everything, I mean, I-”

“It’s okay, I understand,” Pinkie said before shooing her away with her hooves. “Now it’s time for you to wake up, okay?”

“Okay,” Vix-Lei said, nodding her head and closing her eyes, opening to see herself back in the hideout with the rest of the gang looking worried at her. She was confident that now things were going to be totally awesome, with the gold necklace of a hammer around her neck being her witness.

Chapter Sixteen: Xvital

View Online

Chapter Sixteen

Xvital

“Are you well, Vix-Lei?” Rex asked as the minotaur sat up after she had fainted.

“I’m good, Rexy-I mean, Rex,” she blushed, rubbing her hair out of her face. “Sorry ‘bout that; seemed I needed to be talked to by your demi-goddess to get some sense into my noggin.”

“Must have been a very long talk,” Wind muttered his breath with Night snorting in agreement before the two glared at each other. The two were still butting heads, but at least it had cooled down for now.

“Eh, long enough,” Vix-Lei shrugged, with her Element shifting around her chest. “Pinkie was clear enough for me to understand what I was doing wrong.”

“Pinkie?” Xvital asked, tilting her head as she tried to place which of the Virtues she was talking about.

“The Wise Oracle, though her name is really Pinkamena Diane Pie but she likes Pinkie Pie a lot more,” Vix-Lei tilted her head. “Didn’t seem all that jazzed by being called the Wise Oracle; didn’t yours not like her name too Page?”

“No, Fluttershy told me she didn’t like it at all,” Page Turner said, the unicorn nuzzling against Night Blade. “So what is your Element?”

“Laughter, and trust me, if I knew that’s how your demigoddess really acted, I might convert,” Vix-Lei snorted before looking around the room with caution in her eyes.

“Actually, the Virtues themselves were never officially deified; they were considered to be the Twin Goddess Princesses’ elite warriors who were only brought together in times of crisis,” Rex said, once again proving to be a fountain of wisdom. “Only Mi Amore Cadenza was considered a demigoddess that was to marry a mortal pony before the unpleasantness with the Changelings occurred.”

“Yes, Shining Armor was to be the Consort of Love before Chrysalis killed them all,” Page Turner said causing Rex to face her with confusion on her face. “I grew up in the Great Library and I heard and learned a great deal,” she said as an answer that seemed to satisfy him.

“So what does that mean, Laughter?” Xvital asked as Vix-Lei began to feel her head for some reason. “How was that a weapon? For that matter, what about Kindness? I mean, you can’t stab someone with kindness, right?”

“Well, Pinkie told me that we act like the ones to make sure you guys don’t get too serious, you know, being the sane one?”

“Well, that’s reassuring,” Night grumbled.

“And mine, Night, is to make sure we stay acting morally right,” Page said fixing a glare at Night who winced and muttered an apology at Vix-Lei.

“That’s all good but how are they going to stop anyone?” Xvital said with none of them giving her an answer. “Look, I don’t know how you two got your Elements but-”

“I got mine by making all of you laugh,” Vix-Lei said before looking at Page. “And I am sure she got hers by being nice or kind to that changeling?”

“I suppose,” Page said looking a bit nervous. “Does that mean we need to act a certain way to get the rest going?”

“I don’t think so, Page,” Rex said, pulling out a notebook. “Balance said simply that we need to be true to ourselves; if we were to force it, I highly doubt it would register for our Elements.”

“And don’t forget what it said about the last one,” Wind Breaker chirped in. “The last one will only come in after we got the rest?”

“Yes, so one of us isn’t going to get our Element by a random act,” Xvital said with a huff. “On on hand, if we keep things up, we should be good by the end of the week.”

“But on the other hoof, I doubt we’ll be that lucky,” Night said glumly.

“Right guys, change of topics but what are our plans to get out of Canterlot?” Vix-Lei asked, squatting down beside her with one of her hammers almost poking her in the face. “Don’t worry, that’s Lady Kabonk, my fluffy hammer.” Vix-Lei reached up and squeezed the hammer head before brushing her hand on her blue, yellow and white skirt. “Senior Hardhead is the other one.”

“Good to know,” Xvital said to herself, eyeing them both. They were near identical even to her appraising eye and she prided herself in picking apart details-it was how she passed counterfeit books and stuff over the years and not getting caught by the cops. “And… I guess the plan is to risk the bridge; if Night’s right about the Captains, then the Guards are going to be breathing down our necks in no time. And if you are right about the Bane of Tartarus being our foe, then we need to move fast.

Everyone winced at that; while all officers made Xvital uneasy, knowing at that Gentle Step was after them was downright nerve wracking. The only thing that could rattle her more was if he showed his head- she was nowhere ready to deal with that!

“So we’re going to use the Blas Bridge?” Wind Breaker asked.

“Yeah, and we’re going to go now,” Xvital said, her ears flicking. “It’s dark so we’ll blend in with our dark coats, people are still celebrating so there will be a crowd to cover us, and it will take time for the Guards to get their act together and cover all the bridges.”

“Once we get to the other side of the Cantagel Canal, I do believe I can aid in our departure from Canterlot; I live in the East and while I do not partake in such activities, I was observant in listening to what my former pack and my neighbours mentioned about the defense structures of the East. There are a number of holes that the Celestia Guards do not know about,” Rex said. “After that, I do believe we will have an easy way to your doctor Xvital?”

“Docto-oh yeah, I get ya,” Xvital said with a grin on her face. “Operates out of a temple dedicated to Luna.”

“Well that isn’t sacrilegious or anything,” Page said with a frown before shaking her head. “So what do we do if we get cornered or the Guards spot us?”

“We’re going to work in teams again; Night, you are with Page this time and Wind, you’re still with me,” Xvital said, watching Night perk up at this. “Night, I trust you can protect her with your life, and Wind, you’re mobile with your wings. Rex, you’ve got your potions, right?”

“Yes I do and in fact,” Rex reached into a pocket before pulling out pieces of cloth. “In case another of my smoke potions goes off or I need to use a sensory potion, press this against your face and you will be fine.”

“What about if you use something will blind us?” Night raised an eyebrow. “My eyes can’t really take flashes of light all that well.”

“I am well aware of such facts, Night Blade, and again, my handkerchiefs will protect you,” Rex said with a bit of growl in his voice.

“Okay, focus here,” Xvital snapped her fingers to drag their attention back her. “We want to move quickly and quietly but we should be ready to hit back hard and then dash away. May I?” Xvital asked, reaching out for Vix-Lei’s real hammer which Vix-Lei pulled out with her hand. Nearly toppling over from the sudden weight of it, Xvital couldn’t help herself from squeaking as she used all three hands to hold it upright. “Santo dios, como carajos agarras esto con una mano‽”

Everyone turned their heads to Rex who simply coughed before saying, “She is inquiring how you are able to lift that hammer single pawedly.”

“Ah,” Vix-Lei plucked her hammer up before sliding it back into the sheath on her back. “I’m just a bit stronger then most, is all.”

“Okay, with Vix-Lei’s hammer power, Page’s magic and Rex’s potions, we have heavy hitters, with Night and me being good at close combat, right Night?”

“I am the captain of the West team for the swordponyship tournaments for a very good reason,” Night said with a bit of pride in his voice.

“What about me,” Wind asked, leaning close to her. “How do I figure into all of this?”

Xvital sighed, shaking her head. “Do you have any weapons on you, ever used anything beyond your claws?”

“Well no, but-” Wind Breaker began before Night cut in.

“Then you’re pretty much dead weight,” he said in a snide tone that made Xvital sigh in frustration. “The Guards are trained to fight ponies and griffons, and having nothing to defend yourself puts you and the rest of us in serious danger.”

“I’m sorry, but buying and wasting my time with a sword or some crap like that doesn’t help me with my debts; unlike some ponies, I have obligations and responsibilities to see to.”

“Okay, enough you two,” Xvital snapped, glaring at Night before looking around the room. “Maybe you can pick up a pole and use it as a stick or something.”

“I wouldn’t advise that,” Rex said as he began to go through all the bags, waving Night to give him his, and began to reorganize things. “It would look suspicious to start with and secondly, how would he carry it?”

“Dammit, you’re right,” Xvital groaned into her hand. “And it doesn’t help you’re like half the size of normal griffons.”

“Hey, from what I’ve heard, most of the griffons here are from the high mountain regions back in the griffon lands, so I’m just from another area I guess,” Wind shrugged his shoulders. “And I’m not that short.”

“Regardless of the fact, Night is correct you could be a liability,” Rex interjected, moving the food he and Page got into another bag after muttering to himself. “In any case, fighting should be our lowest concern and my goodness you have a lot of expensive wines, Wind Breaker.”

“Yeah, and I am not leaving them behind,” he growled, eyeing his pack. “Took me a long time and a lot of money to get some of them and I haven’t even had some of them yet!”

“While that is all good, I-”

“Let him keep his wine and booze, Rex,” Xvital said, taking charge again. “He sold a number of bottles when we were out and we’re not ready to deal with a griffon getting onto the wagon.”

“How many times do I have to say that I am not an alcoholic?” Wind’s grumbling broke off a fit of coughing with him rubbing his throat at the end.

“It would help me believe you if you were to pour all your alcohol down the drain,” Night snarked at the fuming griffon, who seemed ready to lunge at the batpony at this point.

“Night, stop that,” Page swatted at him before turning to face Wind Breaker. “I am sure you have your reasons and while I can smell the alcohol from here, you seem to be functionally pretty well.”

“Well yeah, I only drink to get buzzed,” Wind Breaker said as he leaned backwards. "There was a job I was doing a few years ago, where a couple of other griffons and I had been hired to redo the surfaces on the roof of an apartment building. While we were working, some earth pony wandered out of the roof access a few buildings over… and we realized too late that he was so smashed off his plot, he'd forgotten he wasn’t a pegasus and was trying to fly." Wind Breaker closed his eyes. "Between how fast he went and how far away we were, none of us could have caught him before he jumped off the roof. One of the others actually tried to catch him as he was falling, but he didn't get close." The griffon sounded solemn as he remembered what happened next. "That pony fell almost eighty feet straight down, and shattered all four legs when he landed. If one of the unicorns below hadn't managed to cast a cushioning spell on the ground at the last minute, the impact probably would have killed him, even with his natural durability. Last I’ve heard is that the pony is completely wheel bound now and you know how little Canterlot is handicap accessible."

The others all winced, and Night Blade had an apologetic look on his face.

"Even before that, I never drank enough to get more than a buzz, and after that, I had all the more reason not to do it. Even without the laws against public intoxication," Wind Breaker concluded.

Night gave him a look before tilting his head. "Sorry,” he said plainly, eyes looking to the side.

"It's not your fault, you didn’t know," Wind Breaker told him. "Besides, I heard he sobered up for good after that. Hasn't touched a drop since, according to one of the guys he used to drink with."

“That’s no surprise,” Vix-Lei let out a soft whistle before she glanced at the two. “So you two good now?”

Both of them looked at each other for a moment before shaking their heads. “I honestly doubt it, to be honest,” Night said. “I know you won’t be blind stinking drunk and put Page in danger but I still can’t bring myself to trust you and…”

“Yeah, and you are still a spoiled noble brat that I just want to punch in the face,” Wind Breaker replied while running a claw down the back of his head.

“Okay, if you two are finally done,” Xvital looked at the two of them, really hoping she’d get them to put their grudge away for good in the near future. “Let’s get ready with the plan, shall we? We don’t have long, so let’s get this done quickly and smartly.”

Pulling up the map of Middle North, she began to brainstorm with the rest circling around her to pitch ideas and notions to how exactly they were going to fool the Magi of the Star Guards along the bridge that housed the machines that powered the entire city.

Chapter Seventeen: Rex, Night Blade, Wind Breaker

View Online

Chapter Seventeen

Rex

Rex looked at the Blas Bridge and had to admit; the Equestrians did not do things at half measures. It was simply massive; taking up what would be an entire city block in the middle of the Cantagel Canal was a masterfully crafted structure with symbols of their goddesses, demi-goddess and the Virtues-the Elements, Rex mentally corrected himself- worked into the side of it. The Cowl of the Stern Warden, the Veil of the Wise Oracle and the Sea of Stars of the Magi of Stars were all under the Holy Sun and Holy Moon with the Twin Goddess-Princesses standing as tall statues. On the other side would be the symbols of the Lady, the Stallion of Dedication and the Warrior with a statue of the Magi of Stars standing, although a bit shorter than the goddess-princesses. On the walls facing the water were murals depicting scenes of Equestria’s history; the war with the Changelings, the war to reclaim the Crystal Dominance and other major victories with a dash of peaceful scenes. Rex wondered if he would ever get a chance to see the famous incomplete mural of the Six Tribes of Equestria in unity with the Fourth Tribe left undetailed.

“How are you doing, Vix-Lei?” Rex asked his companion, keeping his head forward as they walked in the crowd of ponies wishing to cross the water. Just a few paces back was Xvital and Wind Breaker and just ahead, he could see Night Blade and Page Turner chatting to each other. If things were to go as planned, Page Turner would spot something on the Blas Bridge and they would begin crossing. After that, Wind Breaker would fly overhead with a parcel to deliver and Xvital a message to give, her handwriting impressive and a near match to the typed Guard script. It would then be their turn to get past the checkpoint, with Vix-Lei posing as a mechanic and he her assistant. The fact that she had the actual tools for the trade helped a fair deal as well as that she knew more than he did about how machines worked.

“‘M good, Rex,” she said softly, her eyes darting around and squinting a greal deal. Out of the six of them, she was the only one without nocturnal eyesight. The fact that Page could see in the dark was a pleasant surprise but that made Vix-Lei the weak link for the moment and his responsibility. “Just kinda nervous,” she said, fidgeting and doing her best not to reach for her hammers, the duo of them covered up with a cloak to hide their heads and act as excess mass.

“As long we follow the plan, we should be…” he trailed off, his ear twitching as he saw both Night and Page being ushered into the power generator plant with the other travellers by the Magi of the Star Guards instead of the sidewalk along the outside of the generator building. This was against the plan; they had agreed to go on the public sidewalks as it was far safer.

They might have to abort the plan and tr- Wind Breaker flew past them, before being told to land by a pegasi crew and proceed by going inside. Xvital simply ignored Wind Breaker and talked to a rather tasty looking crystal unicorn Guard. While he had always heard stories from his former pack and other diamond dogs about crystal ponies tasting divine, he never knew of a diamond dog that ate one and he would never try as it would hideously illegal, immoral and indecent. Still, diamond dogs and dragons were forbidden in the Crystal Dominance for a reason...

Vix-Lei took a series of short breaths before walking confidently to another Guard as Xvital began to curse wildly in Burroñeso, the Guard handling her telling the ahuizotless to calm down with Wind Breaker sliding in ahead of them.

“Hello there,” Vix-Lei chirped, waving to the Guard that nodded them over. “We’re-”

This way ma’am,” the Guard barked sharply, causing Vix-Lei to fold slightly as she no doubt had a masterpiece of a story prepared to tell the Guard. “And you too, sir,” the Guard flicked his eyes at him, causing Rex to blink in concern as they followed the Guard through the doors.

Still, they were getting through the generator station, with a number of civilians looking down in awe at the machines powering their city. He longed to pull out his dog-eared notebook, and take notes of the magic and science crafted turbines but he could not as Vix-Lei suddenly grabbed his arm tightly as she tipped forwards as if she’d tripped.

“Sorry about that,” she chuckled loudly, before whispering into his ear. “This is a trap.”

“It’s okay,” he chuckled, patting her on the side before whispering back. “What do you mean?”

“The generators are running on low,” Vix-Lei said, her eyes darting around nervously. “And everytaur is being moved into secluded areas…”

“Topaz, you are correct,” Rex swore, seeing how broken up they getting from the rest of the group and other people; he could just smell Wind Breaker’s and Xvital’s scents, Night Blade and Page Turner’s being too distant for him to pick out. It seemed that they would need to fall onto their backup plan of fighting to get away. “Are you ready for this Vix-Lei,” he asked as he reached for a smoke potion inside his vest pocket.

“Yeah,” she whispered back with the Guard turning to face them with a frown on his face. “I hope the others are ready...” She then reached behind her, tying the handkerchief he had given the minotaur before around her face first and then pulled out one of her hammers, hopefully the real one. Rex mirrored the action of tying the handkerchief around his face before reaching into his pocket and pulling a smoke potion. “FIRE IN THE HOLE, THERE IS A NUTTER HERE!” Vix-Lei shouted loudly, causing the Guard to flinch in surprise and those nearby to scan the area around them in sudden tense battle formation. Rex had to smirk to himself; she knew how to use a crowd fairly well.

Tossing the potion, Rex threw himself forwards with Vix-Lei, both them determined to make their way to the other end of the power station, where the doors to their side of the canal would be and hopefully the rest of the team would be there with them.

Night Blade

As soon as he heard Vix-Lei’s shouting, Night knew things had went to pot. Drawing Determined Point, he felt Page tie the cloth the diamond dog gave him around his mouth with her magic as he took in the situation. The Magi of Stars Guards were telling them to stand down but Night felt no inclination to listen to them as a unicorn Guard swept in her sword to knock his away.

Rolling his eyes as he locked his sword into her and flicked to the side, he felt Page jump onto his back as he threw himself over the side and down into the rows of generators. Snapping his wings out, he flew to the underside of the walkway before landing in the middle of a row of large metal spiny things, his coat standing on edge. Blinking, he heard a large amount of shouting and coughing as smoke filled the room; Rex’s smoke potion and his handkerchief actually working.

“Careful Night,” Page hissed as she slid off his back. “Those are capacitors; if you hit it with your sword, you will be electrocuted.”

“Thanks Page,” Night said as he put away his sword, his eyes darting around as Guards came down to their level holding wasters, no doubt filled with heavy material to make up for the non-lethality of it. If he or Page were to get hit by one, it would more or less numb the entire area with deep bruising.

It would be a concern if his talent were not swordplay and Page did not have magic. As one came down to strike his wing, he rolled to the other side while tucking his wing in and pushing off the ground ever so slightly to land on top of the waster. Using the momentary surprise and confusion by the Guard to grab the weapon and pushing himself forwards by pushing off the ground with three legs and flapping his wings, Night managed to close the distance enough so he could jab the end into the Guard’s protected throat while bringing his wing to strike the other Guard’s helmet at the temple with Page using her magic to slam the ears of another Guard at the same time.

The Guards on the ground were still rolling on the ground in pain, Night hoping the others could make their way though as he was not going to put Page in danger by going to try and find them and leave her alone. Even now, he could hear Xvital, Wind Breaker and the others land, his ears flicking as he picked up their voices.

He and Page dashed through the machinery, hearing the buzz coming from the capacitor things that they danced through. Glancing behind him, he could see other Guards begin to descend to their level, taking their time to land carefully between the power generators.

Except for one; a Guard’s hindleg brushed against one of them and there was a sudden flash of light and shout of pain. Wrinkling his nose as he smelled charred metal and burnt flesh, Night pushed Page forwards to the other side, hoping they could find an exit.

That’s when the lights went out.

Wind Breaker

Wind wasn’t sure what Xvital was saying over and over again, but it was either shit or fuck. He couldn’t fault her; this was insane! What were they thinking trying to do this, get past trained Guards across a highly known bridge? They should have just gone the oth-

“Whoa!” he shouted, jumping backwards as a Guard swung their wooden swords at him, barely avoiding crashing into the metal towers. He then flew upwards to go into a quick dive to tackle the Guard. They wrestled briefly and while the Guard might have training on their side, but Wind Breaker was a griffon and they were the ancient predator of the ponies. Punching the Guard hard in the face, he reached over and grabbed something on the pony’s back. Dropping the Guard, he found Xvital at his side with a Guard held by her tailhoof before throwing them to the ground.

“Una ballesta? En serio?” she said and while he couldn’t understand her, he had a feeling he knew exactly what she meant by the look she had on her face.

“It’s the best I could find,” he snapped at her, picking up the quiver and slinging it over his back.

“Siquiera puedes usar una ballesta-, I mean, can you even use that thing?” she asked him as they continued to move forwards, forcing their way through the Guards.

“I’m pretty sure-” he broke off, both Xvital and him diving to different sides as a massive earth pony Guard ran straight towards them, with the lights shutting off and plunging them into total darkness. Wind Breaker froze, waiting for his eyes to adapt to the darkness when he heard a voice he knew call out.

“Everypony stop,” Fair Scales shouted, the Inspector standing tall on the upper floor. “Wind Breaker, listen to me; turn yourself in now and you will not be in trouble. I’ve been promised by the Captain General to give you anything and I have a very good deal for you.”

Wind Breaker felt his breath quicken as he heard Fair Scales speak. He was the Inspector that kept in touch with griffons from his Hatchery and Fair Scales was good. If he promised something to a griffon, he made damn sure it was delivered and he somewhat actually cared about the griffons he knew.

“Your debt will be gone, you will have access to your parent’s records, you will not be charged for aiding these traitors and you will be recognized as a free citizen,” Fair Scale’s deal caused Wind Breaker to nearly bow over.

Rubbing his throat, he tightened his grip on his crossbow and said, “I’ll never get a better deal than this,” drawing the attention of the Inspector and the other Guards to him.

“That is true Wind, and I know you are a smart griffon,” Fair Scales said, pleading with him. “Come with me and we can make everything alright again.”

Wind curled his talons and felt some tears sting his cheeks; he knew that Fair Scales wasn’t lying to him but he also knew that what the spirit of Balance said was true and he couldn’t just turn his back on it.

“I’m sorry Fair Scales, but I can’t,” he said, loading his crossbow, his eyes closed. He then fired the bolt into the metal tower, causing a very loud grating sound before there was a loud booming sound.

When he opened his eyes, he was on a dirt path in front of an old fashioned sign saying this was an apple farm with thudding sounds. Tilting his head in confusion, he walked down the path, following the noise he was hearing. He walked into the rows of apple trees before stopping to look at the apples.

...he could always offer to work for the price of it, he thought to himself as he pulled an apple off a tree and took a bite of it before pulling back in surprise.

“Yeah, mah apples are plenty tasty; not like how my kin does it nowadays,” a voice chuckled from in front of him. “Say, can ya’ll do me a favour; if ya ever run into one, can ya tell them that their entire family is spinning in their graves with how they’re all ruining our family’s good name?”

“Uhhhh,” Wind Breaker blinked in confusion to who this orange earth pony was; he felt that he knew who the Virtues were fairly well and she didn’t match any of the- The mare then brushed some sweat off her head before putting the easily recognizable holy symbol onto her head. “You’re the Stallion of Dedication!” he shouted, pointing a claw at her.

The mare just looked at him. She kept the look on him long enough for him to blush and pull back his arm and start to scratch the back of his head. “Ummm…”

“Do Ah look like a stallion, partner?” she huffed at him, with Wind Breaker wincing guilty. “Damn fools mistook mah brother for me and got stuck with that darn title for the last thousand years,” she pawed the ground, grunting in annoyance. “Ya’ll can’t imagine how much she bugs me, the darn varmint.”

“Eh, no?” Wind Breaker scratched the back of his head more. “As I can’t really call you... that, what can I call you, ma’am?”

“Shucks, sugarcube, Ah haven’t even introduce mahself yet.” She then trotted over to him and shook his talon. “Mah name is Applejack from the Apple clan, and welcome to the Sweet Apple Acres.” Wind Breaker noticed the amount of pride in her voice before he saw her deflate a bit. “Well, it ain’t the real one; that’s long gone. This here is mah paradise, with mah family stepping out so we can talk, Wind Breaker.”

“This is some paradise, Applejack,” he said, taking a deep breath of the fresh country air and felt himself unwind slightly. He took a sniff and found himself looking at another apple.

“Go for it, Wind Breaker,” Applejack said with a smirk on her face, clearly pleased at how hooked he became after one apple. “We’re still going to have our little chat.”

Wind Breaker made a weak sound as he bit into the apple, wondering what she wanted to talk ab-

“Ya know what the issue is, Wind Breaker,” Applejack said softly, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “Ya drinking is serious and no one wants ya to get sick ‘cause of it.”

Wind Breaker was about to protest this but let out a sigh. “Yah,” he said, sitting down on the ground. “I guess I do have a problem, but it’s not my fault.”

“Yeah, I know and trust me, Ah’m mighty pissed,” Applejack snorted. “Ah mean, who the buck decides that the best way to deal with foals fighting is to give one some booze‽

“Hey, I had problems keeping my beak shut and to them, that was the best way for me to fudge the truth,” Wind Breaker said weakly before hunkering lower. “Was given my first bottle when I was nine and I haven’t been able to stop drinking since.”

“Ah know and if we were still alive, trust me partner, we would have words with them folks that run your Hatchery,” Applejack said, pulling Wind Breaker into a hug which he returned, with tears running down their faces. “What happened to you and them other griffons ain’t right.”

“So what is my Element?” Wind Breaker asked after a period of time had passed.

“Ya know what it is,” Applejack patted his arm. “It’s that thing that you’ve always had ‘trouble’ with.”

“Truth?” Wind Breaker asked, tilting his head.

Honesty,” she clarified. “We keep the rest honest by being honest.”

“I see…” Wind Breaker nodding his head. “Look Applejack, I’ll try to get and stay sober.”

“That’s good and ya should stop being a living lie detector,” Applejack snorted at his confusion. “Yah were close to our Element from the get go; that addiction of yours just muddled it elsewhere.”

“Ah, I guess that makes sense,” Wind Breaker said, a smile breaking out on his face. “Anything else I need to know?”

“Yeah but Ah can’t say ‘cause Balance would be forced to release somethin’ even worse than what you lot are dealing with now and trust me, you ain’t ready for that rattlesnake,” Applejack shuddered before looking serious at him, her eyes glassing over. “If you force her to inform you of what the former Honesty is referring to, the monster I would be forced to let free would End this world.”

Wind felt his feather and fur bristle at this, a stab of absolute dread and fear pulling at his heart and he could faintly hear what seemed like laughter…

“It is time for you to return to the world of the living, Wind Breaker,” Balance said, using Applejack’s body to tap his forehead with his eyes closing in reflex.

Opening his eyes again, he saw an empty room, with the door in front of him opening up.

Chapter Eighteen: ???

View Online

Chapter Eighteen

???

It hissed through its host in anger, sensing that three Elements had Awoken in less than a day. It was galled that the only Power was that could defeat it was so close to being reformed.

“Balance,” it snarled through its host lips, causing the spirit to form. It was not far away, no doubt wishing to keep on eye on it. “You have been cheating, admit it.”

“Do you have proof?” Balanced asked just as sharply. “I already gave you leave to create that evidence to fool your hosts’ Captains to balance the advice I gave to my Elements that they should flee you.”

“Bah,” it snorted, shaking its host head, looking down the city of Canterlot from the very top of the mountain. It was darkened by the energies that powered the lights being extinguished by that fearsome explosion earlier. “I have neither the time nor energy to call in a Court to judge your guilt; not while those six Elements are still around and left unattended and alive.”

“A high claim for you to make; what makes you so sure that a Court will fall in your favour?” Balance raised an eyebrow, no doubt still waiting for a chance to aid its Elements.

“Because I fulfill my Purpose through my actions, while you leave your Duties unattended in this foolish attempt to restore yourself,” it said, scoffing at the spirit.

“Yet while we speak, half of my Elements have Awakened and I have no doubt the others will follow in due course,” Balance countered.

“And yet you know that it will be doomed to failure regardless of what they do,” it grinned, growing fangs on its host’s face. “And if you tell them why, you will be forced to aid me so greatly that it would as if you opened a door right to them while they were all asleep for me to kill them all.”

Balance simply glared at it, smouldering in rage but unable to do a thing. For a long time, it said nothing and then vanished, no doubt retreating to wherever it had claimed as its lair. Making sure Balance was gone, it removed the fangs from its host and turned to address its Captains; more was needed to get the Elements under its control before they got too powerful or out the reach of its host’s incredible reach. Still, Balance’s weakness was that it required six to perform its true power and if it removed just one, Balance would fail.

All it would take is one to fall and then it would win.

Chapter Nineteen: Vix-Lei, Rex, Xvital

View Online

Chapter Nineteen

Vix-Lei

“Whoa there,” Vix-Lei said as Wind Breaker started to move. “Take it easy, Wind, you’ve been out for a bit.”

“Excuse me?” the griffon asked, rubbing his head and his blue eye. “What are you talking about Vix-Lei?”

“You were out like a light after you blew up the whole place, buddy,” Vix-Lei walked over and patted him on the back, checking if he was okay like Rex taught her and the rest of them. “Lucky that Page was there to pull your butt out of there.”

“What?” Wind blinked with his eyes going, starting to push himself upright from the mattress he was on.

“Yes; the bolt you fired and the location on the capacitor you struck caused a chain reaction that destroyed the power station in a spectacular fiery fashion,” Rex said, walking in with the rest of the gang behind him and going straight to the griffon. He leaned his head in to check the griffon’s wings, holding a bottle of his healing salve and began placing some on the griffon’s back. “It was an incredible diversion; the Guards abandon their attention on us to saving as many as people as they could, although I must admit I do not feel comfortable with the cost of our freedom came at.”

There was a mutter of agreement from Night, Page and Xvital with Wind scoffing and rolling his eyes. He pushed himself upright fully, wincing a bit before looking at Rex. “Trust me, killing people is the last thing I want to do,” he then groaned, rubbing his eyes before letting his talon fall to his necklace. “Huh,” he said as he felt his Element. “So I guess that talk with Applejack did happen.”

“Who?” Night asked, tilting his head.

“She’s the Stallion of Dedication and she told me that my Ele-”

"Wait - the Stallion of Dedication is actually a mare?” Page asked, eyes wide.

"She is," Wind Breaker confirmed. "And - oh, drat." He snapped his talons.

"What?" Xvital asked.

"She said ponies mixed up she and her brother," Wind Breaker said. "In all the excitement, I forgot to ask her what his name was. Now it's going to drive me crazy, wondering about that."

"Hey, don't worry about it," Vix-Lei told him. "Maybe one of the other Elements knows. Night, Rex or Xvital, whichever one comes next, can you guys ask their predecessor about it when your turn." She shrugged at their faces. "Hey, at least it couldn't hurt to ask, right?"

“Right…” Xvital trailed off, before turning to face Wind Breaker, looking at his crossbow gem necklace Element. “You were saying what your Element was?”

“Yah,” Wind nodded his head. “We’re Honesty; she told me that we keep you guys honest by being honest… and,” Wind sighed and gripped his arm tightly while looking at the ground. “That means I need to admit I do have a drinking problem…”

Finally,” Night grumbled under his breath, no doubt rolling his eyes. Vix-Lei was about to lecture him when Wind snapped back.

“Yeah, it’s hard to break when you were forced to start drinking when you’re nine,” Wind growled at Night who held his glare.

“If you expect me to apologize for insulting you on something that I had no idea on…” Night began before Xvital stepped in between them, holding her hands out.

“Okay, cool it you two,” she said, looking at Night. “Wind I… is this really the standard procedure of how your Hatcheries work?”

“Well kinda,” Wind scratched the back of his head. “I mean, the Upper Canterlot Hatcheries are better than the Lower Canterlot Hatcheries; I mean they never beat us or anything…”

“No doubt because in Upper Canterlot, such things would be noticed and reported,” Rex snorted in anger. “That would be bad for business.”

“And didn’t you tell me that you had to dye your feathers and coat into more pleasing, pony colours?” Xvital asked.

“Well, yes, but they never starved us or anything,” Wind Breaker said in a nervous tone. “They gave us big meals for breakfast and dinner, guys.”

“No doubt so you would have energy to do stuff for them,” Rex snapped again with Wind folding in response. Page simply walked over to him and stared him in the face.

“Why do you keep defending them Wind Breaker?” she asked, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “The Hatchery system is designed to break the griffon in you so why are you so protective of them?”

“I… I don’t know, maybe it’s because they were the ones that raised me?” Wind sighed, nuzzling against her, with tears going down his face. “Fuck, I don’t even know what my griffon name would have been if I’d been born a free griffon.”

“While all of this is no doubt very important to you,” Night said loudly. “We should keep on moving now that you are awake.”

Vix-Lei shook her head at Night’s delivery; he was right on the mark but he really needed to work on his pitch. Still, sometaur needed to make sure they didn’t kill each other and that fell to her.

“Well Nighty,” she said, wincing internally as she slipped into her nickname habit and Night wasn’t ready to be called Nighty yet. “We need to make sure that Wind Breaker here can walk around and stuff first.”

“Where are we, by the way?” Wind asked, leaning on Page to push himself upright.

“We’re near the East side and a lot lower,” Xvital said, handing over Wind’s bag and crossbow. “We’ve got a lot of cover now that you took out the lights and the city is still in a bit of a panic. It will be a long time until they fix the generators and clear up the mess and get everything fixed up.”

Wind made a little squeaking noise at hearing that, eyes bulging a bit. “Yeah,” Vix-Lei said, running a hand through her hair. “We’ve got quite the bounty put on our heads because of that stunt.”

“Just wonderful,” Wind muttered as he reached for the quiver full of bolts, and put it around his back, then reached for his pack. “Huh, it seems like none of my bottles broke…”

“A true shame,” Night said, causing everyone to look at him. He then shot a look at everytaur and said, “He said he was an alcoholic; wouldn’t it be good for Wind Breaker if he did not have access to his bottles?”

“There are better ways of saying that, Night,” Page said, looking at Night sternly and causing the bat pony to fold.

“Besides, I bet we could get some good money out of some of these now, since I’m not going to need them anymore,” Wind Breaker added.

“Perhaps, but let us sell them once we are out of Canterlot,” Rex said as he walked over to the door. “For now, let us move on; I am familiar with this location and we should be able to reach a safer place to rest before we move onwards to Xvital’s doctor in the East-South Quarter.”

With that, everytaur began to head out with Vix-Lei last to leave the room.

Rex

It was pitch black when his makeshift pack left the storage room, and Rex had to rely on his nose to sniff out any approaching individuals due his eyes not yet adapting to the darkness. He knew these streets a bit better than he had admitted to them; he’d spent some time wandering around to find a place to work after he left the Under before settling in the lower parts of the Middle East of Canterlot. It was not his exact preferred location to settle himself in for his livelihood as Equestrians had the notion that the higher one was, the more one was privileged.

Casting his eyes to the left, he could see the lip of the Middle Wall, telling him that they were closing on the halfway mark of the Middle district which meant they were making excellent time. Looking down, he still saw that the tiles were that of the North-decorated with the holy symbol of the Magi of Stars. It would be some time before they became mixed with that of Celestia’s symbol, the sun. Once they encountered that, they would be marginally safer.

“Say Rex,” Vix-Lei called out to him, causing him to flick an ear. “You came from the Under, right?”

“That is correct,” he answered the minotaur, continuously surprised by the depth she possessed and ashamed of his earlier dismissal of her. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, if you got here from there, can’t we use the same pathways to get out?” Her question caused him to pause and think about it, with the rest of them to pull around them.

“If I were still part of my pack, I would say we could but not now,” Rex shook his head. “They would bar us entrance and no doubt kick up such a fuss that the Guards would notice and that would defeat the purpose of us moving as silently as possible.”

“Can’t you just slap one on?” Vix-Lei asked, with actual confusion on her face so he did not blame her ignorance.

“No I cannot; they would be aware of it being a fake as a collar is a very intricately designed item for each pack and I could not in good conscious wear one belonging to another pack; it would be the same if you were to wear a symbol of Ashur instead of one of your own culture’s deities, Vix-Lei.”

She gasped as she placed a paw on her skirt, and swore in her native language of Greco. She then shook her head and said, “Okay, I got it.”

“Okay, with that idea useless, shall we move on as I don’t want to-” Night began only to stop as he tilted his head towards the summit with everyone else turning their heads upwards as they felt a great buildup of magic.

My dear citizens, I Blazen Sun, the Holy Cornea of Her Grace Celestia, have been given permission of Full Moon Sweet Surprise of Her Grace Luna to turn this unplanned night into day,” a voice boomed out from everywhere before a massive fireball flew into the sky and a miniature sun was created. “Know that we, the Captains of Equestria, will not abandon you our citizens and those responsible, the traitorous six, shall be found and held accountable for their heinous crimes!

Rex shared a look with everyone, no doubt feeling terrified at this declaration. Save for Xvital who seemed delighted for some reason.

“This is great,” she said to everyone. “Look, it’s still the middle of the night and he has to be at the top of this mountain to keep that mini sun up there so he can’t be down here.”

“She’s right,” Rex snapped his fingers. “We need to pick up the pace if we are to get into the East without too much attention.”

“This is getting really dangerous,” Page muttered to herself, with Night nuzzling her and standing by her side. No doubt it would be Wind Breaker and Vix-Lei as the tie-breakers as if Page Turner was against this, Night Blade would follow her regardless of whether or not it was the wrong decision. “But I don’t see how else we can get out of Canterlot safely.”

“Are you sure, Page?” Night asked, tilting his head, looking at her with concern. Rex felt his ears flicker at this; Night seemed to be unconcerned about the rest of them, something that in a proper pack would be discouraged. Still, he found himself as the beta to Xvital’s alpha status in their group and thus it should be her that should say something.

“Well, if Xvital and Rex say we should go now, I believe we should do what they tell us,” Page said, nuzzling him.

“Well then,” Night said turning to them. “Let’s move on.”

Xvital

Xvital let out a snort at Night’s turn around. She found herself trusting him less and less with each passing moment; how she could use him if kept acting like a love blinded idiot? “Whatever,” she said, tilting her head at Rex to go on. He had really proved himself to be a good number two; he was someone that she could trust to do what was needed and lead the rest of them if she wasn’t there. “Go on Rex,” she said, rubbing her arms before looking at Wind Breaker. “Wait, Wind, your Element.”

He blinked before widening his eyes and removed his Element and placed it in his pack. He then nodded at them to move on, with Xvital reevaluating her opinion on Wind Breaker; he could do some damage with that crossbow if he spent some time training and when she got him sober, he would no doubt be an even better shot. He’d also proved he was somewhat reasonable by admitting he had an addiction and made promises to work on it.

He would just need to actually do it but still it was a major step up from before with him denying his problem. If only she could get that stupid noble to shape up.

“Are you okay?” Page asked her, making Xvital realize that she was grinding her teeth.

“Yeah, just thinking about stuff,” she said, brushing off Page. The unicorn was a lot more handy in fights than she first thought a librarian could do, but she could really fire up shields and blast away ponies. She smirked to herself; these girls she found really knew how to handle themselves and that was always good in her books. Fuck, looking at Vix-Lei and her damn warhammer, and most people would have to think twice. “You know, for the most part, we did pretty good back there.” She let her gaze linger on Night who saw it and snorted.

“What is that suppose to mean, Xvital,” he glared at her, fixing his slitted eyes at her. “Out of everypony here, save for Vix-Lei, I am the only one with actual training in how to fight.”

“Yeah, with a sword,” she rolled her eyes. “Which is good and all but unless you are willing to kill, you’re going to be pulling your punches and hesitating which could get the rest of us in real trouble. So unless you’re ready to kill, I-”

“I did kill somepony tonight,” Night snapped at her, causing the ahuizotless to do a double take. “When they were chasing Page and I, I brought the waster-”

“The what?” Wind Breaker asked, getting an exasperated look from Night.

“The wooden sword they were using against us,” he said in a very annoyed tone, rolling his eyes. “As I was saying, when they were chasing us, I brought the edge of the weapon against a Guard’s neck hard enough to hear the bone break. I…” he stopped all of a sudden, licking his lips and began to pant. “I… I killed somepony.”

Wow, she felt like a complete dick now… Still, they didn’t need Night to freak out now, they needed to move o-

“Are you okay Night?” Page asked him, placing a hoof on his back.

“I don’t think it’s the fact I killed somepony that’s bothering me, but the fact I am okay with it that’s getting to me,” he paused and looked at his talent emblem, as if he was seeing it for the first time. Xvital didn’t quite understand the ponies’ butt destiny thing but this was clearly something that only ponies could deal with. Still, he could deal with his freakout later, once they were all safe and sound.

“Look, I was wrong but we need to get indoors before we get a lot of Guards after our tails,” this got her dirty looks from both Night and Page but she wasn’t that phased by it as she’d seen worse when she was younger. “I think I see an inn sign up ahead so once Night pays the innkeeper off heavily to stay quiet, we can plan our next steps in relative peace. Unless you’ve got a problem with that Night?”

Night just glared at her, baring his fangs for a moment before shaking his head and saying, “No.”

“Good,” she reached over and patted him on the head before tilting her head at the rest of the crew to move on. “I for one, am looking to a nice bed for once; been stuck in jail last night and man do those benches leave a lot to be desired, eh?”

That got her a few chuckles from Wind Breaker and Vix-Lei, with Rex nodding his head and Page smiling. Only Night was still frowning but four out of five wasn’t bad and he seemed to be the stick in the mud type of guy. She might ask Page what his deal was later on but first things first, they needed to see if that inn was actually an inn.

Chapter Twenty: Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Twenty

Night Blade

Night supposed they were lucky that Xvital was correct that this was an inn, with a very old mare running the place.

The ahuizotless had then pushed him forwards to do the business of bribing this old mare. He supposed she was what passed for a normal grandmare as he never knew his grandparents save for when he just a little colt.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, going into his best soothing voice, drawing her attention to him. All those enunciation lessons were paying off as she seemed to be at ease with him or something along those lines. “My associates and I were wondering if we could book a room for the night at the very least,” he gestured with a tilt of his head towards Page and the rest of them while reaching into his saddlebag and pulling out his bag of coin. With her looking at him sharply, he moved a few Lunas forward. “And we would appreciate that if you were to forget we here…” Night felt very foolish all of a sudden, he had no idea what he was doing and he was almost certain that Xvital had done this on purpose to make him look like an idiot. Licking his lips, he fought the urge to look back for support, but he began to sweat as she continued to look at him. He began to fidget on the spot as she slowly picked up a coin and tapped it on the edge of the counter before pulling out an official coin checker from the Flim-Flam Corporation and began to test his currency.

When it passed, she was very surprised and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Did you kids have anything to do with that blackout?”

“A few more Lunas says we did not and we were in fact here, lamenting on the fact that those darn irredeemable kids look so much like us,” Xvital said, appearing by his side, pushing more of his money towards the mare. “Don’t worry,” she said, patting him on the head again like he was some stupid foal. “I’ve got this.”

Doing his best not to snarl at her, he felt himself pushed to the wayside as Xvital took over the negotiations with the con-artist once more taking control of his finances. He was further pushed to the side with Rex joining her at the counter. Turning away in discomfort and not trusting himself fully to keep himself quiet, Night saw Vix-Lei and Wind Breaker talking to each other and not even looking at him.

He was once again wondering why he was putting himself through this when Page came up to him and nuzzled him. “Are you okay?”

“Y-yeah,” he muttered the lie, breathing in her scent and taking in some reassurance in her presence. “I’m still…” he paused, wondering if he should tell her about how he was feeling right now but couldn’t bring himself to worry about it. “What happened at the bridge, Page…” he trailed off, causing her to nuzzle him again before pulling him into a deep hug.

“How are you dealing with that,” she asked, looking at the mare that ran this inn, with Xvital dealing with more of his money away as if she didn’t care that it wasn’t hers to throw away.

“I’m…” he paused again, running his fangs over his lip as he thought of what he done tonight. He had killed somepony. He took a life. Sure, Crooked was a Royal Guard and something that the Captain General did was make sure her Guards could and would kill to defend other ponies’ lives, but he was just a civilian. And he couldn’t just talk to his older brother; Crooked was out on patrol and he was on the lam because of this Balance business. And there was the age difference; he might as well as ask his nephew Striking Blade. Last he heard, he was just accepted into the Royal Guards but Night never got along with Striking as they were too close in age, with Striking always preening over the fact he was a year older than him. “I am not sure…”

Please talk to me,” Page rubbed his face with her hoof. “I don’t like seeing you this way, Nighty.”

“Thank you Page,” he said, leaning to kiss her cheek when he felt something clamp down onto his shoulder.

“Come guys,” Wind Breaker said, tilting his head. “Xvital got us rooms; one for the colts and one for the mares. We can talk with each other in a room, but we’re not to close doors and we’ve to close up in about in twenty minutes.”

“That seems pretty harsh,” Night said, annoyed at the griffon interrupting his time with Page.

“Are you kidding me? I’d wish got this lucky at my Hatchery,” Wind Breaker rolled his eyes at him. “I mean, they’ve got enough beds here so we don’t need to rotate and we’ve got doors for privacy.”

“If that’s what you call impressive,” Night rolled his eyes back at the griffon; Wind Breaker might find all this a step up from what he was used to, this was a true experience for somepony like him and he wasn’t complaining about it.

“Well excuse me for not being a privileged rich pony,” Wind Breaker grumbled. “Not everypony is born with a silver spoon shoved up their ass.”

HEY!” Night snapped, ready to beat the griffon down when Xvital jumped into the middle of them.

“Knock it off Night,” she glared into his face. “We had to spend a lot of money to get some rooms here so don’t mess it up for the rest of us, alright?

Me?” Night snorted, barely holding back his outrage.

“Yes, you,” she swatted his nose before turning to the owner and apologizing for his bad behaviour.

Night rolled his eyes at this, snorting at how arrogant she was. “Did you save any of my cash, Xvital?”

She gave him a dirty look, as if he was being a brat or something like that before tossing him his greatly reduced coin bag. “You’re welcome,” she shot back at him with the two of them staring each other down. Thankfully, Page stepped in the middle and told them both to cool it before turning to Rex and asking him where their rooms were.

Following the diamond dog up the stairs at the end of everyone else, Night paused to look at the mare at the counter. He wasn’t sure how much he could trust her if a large bounty on their heads appeared if she was bought out so easily…

“Night?” Page asked him, the only one still on the landing with the rest of them walking into their rooms.

“I am coming, Page,” he said, trotting up the steps and following her into the room where the rest of them were waiting. Wind Breaker and Rex were already resting on the two beds with a cot remaining for him, but Vix-Lei and Xvital were sitting on it, causing it to sag and stretching it out, promising Night would have no chance of a good night’s sleep. He paused at the threshold, wondering if he should take the initiative and begin the conversat-

“Good, you’re here,” Xvital said, while rolling her eyes at him. “Okay, we didn’t get a real chance to talk about stuff, but Wind, did your… whatever you wanna call it, tell you anything useful, like who or what are we up against?”

“No, but both she and Balance kinda hinted that there’s something worse out there, and they seemed scared. They refused to even tell me a single bit more ‘cause according to them, it would defeat us in no time flat with only three Elements and it would end the world,” Wind shuddered at the word end before he reached into his pack and took a swig from a bottle before any of them could blink. “And from how Balance said it, it seemed like the end that is, you know, the end of the world.”

Wonderful,” Night muttered, rubbing his face. “Not only do we have this current unknown enemy to deal with but we have this end of the world monster looming over our head now,” Night paused and looked at the griffon. “Also, didn’t you say you were going to quit drinking?”

“First off, knowing that end-of-the-world-monsters exist is drink worthy,” Wind held up a single talon that Night knew was a rude gesture. “Secondly, whatever it is, it’s sealed away for now; at least, that’s the impression I got. That means we don’t have to deal with it for a good long while. But we know it exists, so we won’t be surprised when it pops up, if it does.”

“Here here,” Xvital said, patting Wind on the back before rummaging into the griffon’s pack with her tailhoof and pulling out tumblers. “Pour us something good Wind Breaker ‘cause I don’t want to have to deal with the fact that whatever Balance is and one of your greatest warriors are terrified of something while I’m sober.”

Wind obliged her, pouring out amount of alcohol for each of them, with the ahuizotless passing him one last. Night wasn’t sure if he should drink some; he had never had a drink before and…

“Shouldn’t one of us be sober?” Night asked with Wind snorting at him, using his wing to cover his beak.

“Dude, you can’t get drunk on a single shot,” Wind continued to laugh at him with Night’s face heating up as the others laughing at him. “But if you want to be the sober on-”

Night bared his fangs before grabbing the glass with his wing and throwing it down his throat. It burned the entire way down but it got Wind to shut up.

“Okay, I was going to toast us…” Xvital trailed off, making Night feel like a fool again. The griffon grumbled, took his glass away and poured him another before passing it back to him.

“Now Night, wait until I say some words and we clink our glasses, okay?” she said, treating him as if he was the alcoholic. He was about to tell her to stuff it when Page placed a hoof onto his back and shot him a smile, which made Night stop and take a deep breath. “Okay, here goes,” she said as the ahuizotless stood up. “To us; three Elements down in one day and may whatever is after us kiss our furry ass because we’re going to win!”

“Here here,” everypony said, moving their glasses into the middle for a clink before drinking down the alcohol.

“So what are our plans, Xvital,” he asked, the ahuizotless being their de facto leader.

“Same as before; figure out how to get the other Elements, escape from Canterlot and defeat this enemy of ours,” Xvital said before pouring herself another glass of the alcohol. “Page, Rex, do you have any idea who our baddie is?”

“Not really,” Page said, tapping her chin. “Beyond the enemies we do know of the Virtuous Six, or the Elements, most of them were mortal. The Blue Sorceress, the Griffon Scourge, the All Seeing Pegasus of Thunder, the Trio Wood Nymphs and their fearless followers, all mortal or mortalish. They’re all dead, the enemies of the Virtues.”

“The longest-lived one that I can think of are the dragons as there was some conflict between them and the Magi of Stars, but thanks to Blazen Sun no dragon would dare cross the borders for conquest,” Rex said, shaking a bit. “I saw him practice his magic once in the Celestia Guardhouse, and I learned that his style is not fire but solar magic. As in, manipulating magic that creates objects akin to the sun without harming the location or anyone there; implying immense control and restraint. And to go back onto the matter at paw, I don’t see how a dragon could control the Equestrian government without anyone being the wiser.”

“If only more of the Scrolls of the Magi of Stars still existed,” Night sighed before looking at Xvital. “As you were there to steal some sacred text, do you know where we could some more that might shed a light into matters?”

Xvital let out a huff before grabbing the bottle and taking a long swig. “No; trust me, if there was place beyond the capital of the most powerful nation on the world that had the most coveted pieces of paper for me to steal, I’d be there.”

“So little is actually known about those six,” Rex said with a sigh. “The fact that the names that ponies worship them by are wrong themselves speak of how little we can trust anything beyond what we are told by them. And even then, they won’t tell us much due to Balance being forced to aid our foe.”

“Wait, do you think it already did so?” Night said, moving onto the bed that Rex had claimed for himself. “I mean, didn’t Balance tell us to run? Couldn’t it go after our families now, to make us surrender?”

“Shit, he’s right,” Vix-Lei swore before groaning. “As if my dad wasn’t embarrassed by me already…”

“One problem with that Night is that I’m a Hatchery griffon, Page is a ward of the Great Library I’m guessing and Rex doesn’t have a family to go back to, right?” Wind broke his sneer to look at Rex with actual concern that he might have offended the diamond dog.

“Yes, but-”

And I’m not very close to my mom; hell I don’t have a clue who my dad is,” Xvital said, shrugging her shoulders. “What’s more likely is that whoever our foe is took control of the Captain General-I’m pretty sure we can all agree that’s who is behind everything, right?- and created some fake evidence to set us up, make us out to be Public Enemy Number One. So we need to figure out how to get the last three Elements and-”

“Two,” Rex said, cutting Night off from what he was about to point out. “As Balance said, the last one will appear when we have the other five first. And... well, I do not know which of the Virtues Xvital, Night and I will be, considering that the majority of what is believed to be true of the Virtues is in fact false and so we cannot rely on using what the Scrolls say.”

“Yeah, there goes that security net,” Vix-Lei grumbled before yawning into her fist. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m really drained from this entire crazy day.”

“I think we could all use some sleep; I’m not saying anything new and I think I’m repeating myself,” Xvital yawned as well before stretching out. “Unless anyone has important stuff that we need to talk about, I think we can call it a night.”

Night felt his throat tighten. She said that they could talk about what he had done tonight, when he killed somepony, but at the same moment he felt that they wouldn’t care to waste time on him, that they would push him to the side like everypony else in his life and he was tired too. Besides, he could talk to Page about it tomorrow and she’d know what to say to help him.

Staying quiet, he watched Xvital not even glance at him as she hopped off his cot with Vix-Lei and Page joining at her the doorway. “We will need to do shifts; I’m not sure about you guys, but I don’t trust that granny downstairs; if she accepts our bribe, what’s to say she won’t turn us in for a reward? Night, you go first for guys and I’ll take the first for us girls.”

Before Night could even say a word, Xvital closed the door on them, plunging them into darkness. Doing his best not to panic at the fact he didn’t even know where Page was staying, he settled onto his cot-it was almost to the floor now thanks to Vix-Lei and Xvital sitting on it- and pulled his sword out.

He looked at the blade for a long time, his ears flickering at every sound as he waited for the time to pass. He heard Rex and Wind fall asleep fast, leaving him all alone.

He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep but his dreams were full of him using Determined Point on faceless enemies, being covered in blood and he completely at peace. Everytime he woke up that night, he was covered in sweat before he forced himself back to making sure that no pony was coming after them. Because if something happened to them, then he would be forced to aid them when Page might need his help. And as long as he drew breath, he would make damn sure nothing ever hurt her.

Chapter Eleven Omake!

View Online

Chapter 11 - Omake; by Anon e Mouse Jr.

"But wasn’t she the one that trapped a demon into the body of bunny?" Vix-Lei asked with disbelief in her voice.

"You actually believe that story?" Page asked with a giggle in her mouth. "I mean, it is in most of the stories of the Stern Ward-Fluttershy but I can’t just believe it and I don’t bother to tell it to the foals I read to as it is too ridiculous. I mean, a demon bunny named Angel?" That caused her and everyone to laugh a bit.

"Actually, it’s at least partially accurate," a voice said from one side.

The six froze, then turned to see a dark figure leaning up against a wall. In an instant, Night Blade had his sword out (despite his sight not being what it should be), and the others were looking suspicious.

"Who… who are you?" Page stammered.

"Relax," the figure said with a wave of its hands, stepping out into the light. "I’m not your enemy. Nor am I working with Balance, though I am aware of it."

Now that he was in full view, Page gasped as the sight of the being. He was tall, wearing what appeared to be a black and silver armor. His head resembled a skull, with large, smokey black eyes, which Wind Breaker would later tell them were made up of hundreds of tiny facets. He wore a white scarf around his neck, and a white fedora.

"The fact of the matter is," the figure said, "Fluttershy did own a pet named Angel Bunny. He was stubborn, cranky and generally ill-tempered. But he was not a demon in any way, shape or form. Just a normal, badly-behaved white rabbit."

"How do you know?" Xvital asked, still cautious.

"Let's just say I know a great deal about the past." The figure, though they couldn't tell it, was smiling under his helmet. As he waved a hand, the air behind him turned into an almost reflective surface, and he turned toward it.

"Wait!" Page called. "You never told us who you were!"

The figure tilted his head. "To quote one of my brethren... I'm just a passing-through Kamen Rider."

Then he stepped through the reflective surface, and was gone, the air returning to normal behind him.

The six exchanged glances.

"Well," Vix-Lei managed. "That happened."

She stretched her well-muscled arms above her head. "So does this mean we’re the new Virtuous Six?"

Wind Breaker's brain skipped a step, and everyone else froze as it hit them.

Chapter Twenty One: Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Twenty One

Page Turner

Page turned her head to look at the door for the colts closing, hoping that Night would be okay. He was really struggling to keep it together and she knew that Night wasn’t the type to ask random people for help.

Walking with only candles for their light source as the false sun was quite bright even with the blinds drawn, Page looked at the ahuizotless and frowned.

“Xvital,” she began, only for the ahuizotless to hush her.

“Wait until we get into our room, okay?” she said, reaching into her pack to fish out a key. “I could really use a nice bed and a good night's sleep.”

“Ditto,” Vix-Lei yawned again, making Page feel tired as well. “I hope you don’t mind but I’m taking the bed.”

“Of course not,” Page said, shaking her head. “You’re much larger than me and you’d be completely uncomfortable on the cot.” She then turned her head to Xvital as she opened the door. “Same for you, Xvital,“ she said.

“Right,” Xvital said as she dropped her pack into the corner of the room before hopping onto a bed, curling up on it as a cat would do with her tail curling around her body. “So what is it?”

“Why did you make Night do the first shift? He was still a bit shaken about the fact he killed somepony tonight,” Page said, getting comfortable on the cot after she removed her bags.

“Well, first off, I didn’t know that about Night; he didn’t say anything about it,” Xvital said, flicking her left ear. “If he did, I’d have asked Rex to take first shift. And secondly… look, Wind just woke up from his Element nap thing after blowing up that power plant and Rex spent a lot of that time making sure Wind was okay and we knew how to treat each other in the future. I thought it’d be best to give them a break and Night is a bat pony; doesn’t he have great night vision and good hearing?”

“Well yes, but,” Page said only for Vix-Lei to speak up after she placed her hammers to the side.

“Night’s a big boy and he only has an hour to stay awake,” the minotaur said, rubbing her eye. “Once he’s got some sleep, he’ll be good. Now to the important question girls,” Vix-Lei leaned forwards, with Xvital making a mewing sound in confusion. “Who’s doing first watch for us? Rock, paper, scissors?”
“First off, I have hooves,” Page said with a chuckle, shaking her head at Vix-Lei. “And didn’t Xvital say she’ll take the first shift?”

“But I just got comfy,” she pouted, detangling herself and moving to stand by the door. “Page, you’ve got the Element of Kindness, right? So why don’t you be kind for me and take my shift?”

“That may be true, but I am not going to deny myself some goodnight sleep,” Page lied, sticking out her tongue while Vix-Lei giggled at Xvital’s pouting. While Page was certain the mare downstairs wasn’t a threat, she knew that Night wasn’t doing that well and there was nothing she could do about it. Rather than worry and fret for an hour while being unable to go help her coltfriend, she would take the chance to recharge herself and be ready to deal with a similarly refreshed Night Blade in the morning. It wasn’t the option she liked, but if she played her hoof too much, the others might get wise about her. She was already cautious of Rex being so smart and now that Wind Breaker had told them he had the Element of Honesty, she was going to make double sure that her secrets stayed secrets.

Still, it was quite late and before her stomach decided to grumble for supper, she tied off her magic and crawled onto the cot. Pulling the blanket over herself, she found herself taken away to Her Grace Luna’s realm of dreams in seconds, though it was not easy sleeping as her dreams were unsettling, though when Xvital woke her up for her shift Page could not remember any of them.


It was early in the morning when they all piled into the colts room, with Night drooping over his cot and yawning widely. It was Wind Breaker that told them what happened.

“Night here kept dozing off for his shift and he wasn’t sure what the time was so he kept at it,” Wind Breaker reached over to lightly punch Night in his foreleg, with Night just glaring at the griffon. “I finally caught on when he fell out of the cot and on his face and woke us up.”

Thank you for sharing, Wind Breaker,” Night snarked through a yawn, his wings fluttering a bit before pulling them against his sides. “I also did not have a good night’s sleep.”

“Likewise Night Blade.” Rex said, shaking his head. “Although I cannot remember my dreams, they were unpleasant…”

“...same here,” Page said, with everyone else nodding their heads. “Does anyone remember them?”

“Y-yes,” Night said before nuzzling her. “I don’t want to talk about it…” Page nuzzled back, before looking at everyone who was now silent.

“Look, I will go get some food and then we’ll plan out what we do today, okay?” she asked as she got up, causing Night to faceplant onto the cot.

“Be careful, there might be some Guards lurking around,” Xvital said, with Night forcing himself upright with concern on his face. Page simply shook her head, and covered Night with the blanket, using her magic.

“I will be fine and you get some rest, Night,” she said as she stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her.

Looking into a nearby mirror and taking the time to fix her appearance a bit, smiling as she liked what she saw and trotted down the stairs to see the owner looking straight at her. The room was empty which meant they could talk freely.

“I trust your rest was good,” she asked, bowing her head slightly.

“The rest was impeccable,” Page replied with the owner flashing her a smile and called out to her waitress to bring the food over for her and her entire group. “How much do I owe you,” she asked as the food platters piled up in front of Page, with her mouth watering a bit at the smell of it.

“Nothing at all,” the owner of the inn said, shaking her head as she placed a small bag of coins over to her. “This is your bat pony’s money from last night. Take it; I don’t need it and I feel you will.”

“Thank you,” she said, pushing the money into her saddlebag, wondering how she would spin this without raising suspicion from the rest of the group.

“If I may ask,” the old mare began before Page cut her off with a sharp No. The elder of the two tsked, shaking her head. “If you will have my opinion-”

“I thank you, but no,” Page repeated herself sternly before flashing a smile at her. “Don’t get me wrong, I have thought of it with Nighty in the past but no.” Reaching with her magic to grab the food, the door to the inn opened up and two Celestia Guards walked in. Page’s heart skipped a beat as they walked right up the counter and one of the stallions said, “Excuse me, ma’ams, but we need to ask if there was a group of individuals seeking to stay here last night.” The other Guard produced a wanted picture for each of them, with her and Night’s cutie mark and talent emblem on their posters, with a bounty of fifty Lunas for information for each of them and ten Celestias in aiding their capture. “Have you, or your other guests seen them?”

“No, not at all,” the inn owner said, shaking her head. “This dearie and her order are my only guests this week, despite yesterday being the Honour Festival,” she sighed, shaking her head. “I will keep these posters up so my workers can look out for them, dear sirs.”

“Thank you very much, ma’am,” the Guard said, turning to face the deactivated changeling detector light. With a tilt of his head, his horn glowed a light orange and the detector activated, flashing and removing all changeling magic in the inn. He then turned to Page and placed a copy of the wanted pictures into her saddlebag. “Just take some so you and your order can refer to it, ma’am.”

“Thank you,” Page said with a smile forced onto her face, picking up the food. “Have a good day, good sirs.” She then started to walk up the stairs when a Guard called out to her to stop where she was. Stifling a yelp of fear, Page turned her head to look at the unicorn Guard just below her. “Yes sir?”

“The Old Stallion would have our hides if he knew we let a mare carry all that food upstairs by herself,” he chuckled, his magic reaching out to take some of the plates from her.

“Damn right he would, Glasses,” the other Guard laughed, smiling up at Page. “Blazen Sun might be the Bane of Dragons and goes after rogue dragons for kicks at times but damn is he really ruthless for when it comes to us having proper manners. I mean, remember the time those cadets walked past those old mares when it rained the day before and everything was muddy?”

“He was furious, gave the whole Middle division the riot act and went on about what it meant to be a Celestia Guard?” Glasses chuckled a bit more. “And how he threatened to make Captain General Gentle Step, the Bane of Tartarus, seem like Full Moon Sweet Surprise in when it came to Guard protocol?”

Both of the Guards shuddered at that; Page understanding completely due to how brutal Captain General Gentle Step was reported to be when it came to how her Guards were to act. She then found the Guard looking at her, waiting for her permission to aid her.

“Thank you, dear sirs, but no, I am quite fine,” she said, flashing a smile at them. “Have a good day.” She bowed her head, walking up the stairs with the Guard walking out of the inn. She halted for a moment as she reached the door and looked into the mirror. Pausing to fix her appearance again, she opened the door to see that everyone was awake, with Night stirring and looking right at her. “I’ve good news and some bad news, everyone,” she said as she closed the door behind her and placed the food on the middle of the floor. Everyone more or less shrugged at this and joined her on the ground as there was no other place to eat all together. She smiled as she felt Night’s warmth as he cuddled up next to her, hungrily eyeing the pitcher of mango juice the inn had included with their breakfast of eggs, pancakes, fruits and gems.

“So what’s the good news?” Xvital asked as she took some of the pancakes with a fork and began to eat, with everyone grabbing some to eat or drink, Night practically latching onto the mango juice.

“The good news is that all of this food is free, the inn owner gave me a refund for some reason, and the bad news is that there is a large bounty on our heads with fifty Lunas apiece for information on us… so does anyone want some syrup?” she asked with a wide, worried grin on her face and hoping that they wouldn’t be too shocked.

“Wut,” Wind Breaker squeaked out, the eggs he was eating hanging out of his beak. “Fifty Lunas for information? Apiece‽

“Ye… yes,” she said, pulling out the posters and gave them to Xvital to look at while taking some of the eggs for herself. “They do want us alive. So that is good, right?”

“If only for our foe to do away with us later on in private,” Rex said, taking some of the diamonds that the owner had provided for them, eating them as easily as Vix-Lei was eating her salad. “This is far from optimal… how do we know the owner will not turn us in?”

“How do we know this food isn’t tainted to knock us out?” Vix-Lei asked, looking at the food on her plate cautiously, Night pausing in his third glass of mango juice halfway to his lips.

She gave me the posters,” Page said while looking at Wind Breaker. “Trust me, I know this food is good and we can trust her.”

“If you say you trust her, Page, I trust her,” Night said, nuzzling against her.

“I guess it wouldn’t make sense for her to warn us…” Xvital said, scratching her head with her tail hand. “Especially as it says we’re dangerous,” she said as she gave the posters to Rex. “Even says we killed a few Guards…”

Night blanched at this, with Page shooting a look at the ahuizotless. “Yes,” Rex said as he peered at Wind Breaker’s poster. “Night Blade is not the only one wanted for the murder of a Guard.”

“What?” Wind asked in a small voice, reaching for the poster.

“Yes, that explosion you caused did cause the death of a couple of Magi of Stars Guards, it seems,” Rex said softly, fiddling with his vest. “How are you handling this, Wind Breaker?”

“I.... what, I don’t know how to feel about this,” Wind said with everyone looking at him with concern, except for Night who was doing his utmost not to growl at the griffon. “I mean, I know that Night is okay with killing others, but I’m not!”

Page pushed her hoof down on Night’s back to keep him in place, and shooting a look at Xvital to say something.

“Didn’t Nighty say he was still messed up ‘bout the fact he killed some guy?” Vix-Lei asked, looking at Night.

“Yes,” Night said, face still red as he did his best to calm himself. “Well, kinda,” he stammered, looking off to the side. “What got to me was that I was okay with it; I never killed somepony before and-”

“Look,” Xvital cut in, leaning into the middle of them. “I don’t think any of us have killed anyone before but we can’t let ourselves crack up and get nabbed by the Guards.”

“Yeah,” Vix-Lei said, reaching over to pat Night on the back. “We can worry about the mind crap afterwards, right?”

“Ye-yeah,” Night lied, nuzzling into Page for comfort and assurance. “I’m good.”

“Same…” Wind said as well, looking nervous. “But Page, can I ask you something that’s been bugging me?”

Page felt her blood go cold but she calmed herself and said, “Of course.”

“I mean, I’ve seen you do some pretty crazy stuff, and you’re a librarian,” Wind said, causing everyone to look at her with Page’s heart thundering in her ears. “I’m just curious; are you a flare?”

Page felt a wave of relief flow through her; of all the things he could have asked her, it was this. “Oh no,” she giggled, shaking her head. “I’m not a flare pony, just a bit more talented than most; I mean, you wouldn’t believe how well you developed your telekinesis when you need to put books away on shelves three times your height and your personal flying machine isn’t around.” Page nuzzled Night’s face with him putting on a playful pout, causing everyone to laugh.

“Excuse me,” Vix-Lei said through her giggles, looking at her. “But what’s a flare?”

“Well, that’s just a pony who’s really magically talented,” Page said, remembering the medical books she had read a while back. “Basically, there are about three types of magic levels; hollow, normal and flare. Hollow ponies - heh, the term is actually Thaumatic Viduatus - are ponies who are born with no magic whatsoever, although a number of them actually have Scootaloo disorder, or Thaumatic Moratus, and just didn’t develop their magic until they were into their adulthood. There are two types of flare, Brevis Soluti Flares and Dum Soluti Flares. The first are ponies that peak really early before burning out their magic ability and the other...” Page trailed off, remembering exactly what they were up against.

“The other are ponies who do not burn out and only continue to get stronger over time,” Rex said with a worried sigh. “All of the Captains are Dum Soluti Flares, with the Captain General being the strongest one to date; only a few of the past Magi Supremes have ever come close to eclipsing her in the records.”

“Aren’t you guys overblowing this Gentle Trot?” Vix-Lei asked, looking around the room. “I mean, those stories of her breaking out of Tartarus is just horn bragging, right?”

“No,” Night said, shaking his head. “My brother and nephew are both in the Royal Guards, and due to how close my family is to the military due to our mines, I can attest that the stories about her are true.”

“So you mean the story about how she was just a Guard for five days before she went into Tartarus, spent five days in there, then came out of γαμημένος Τάρταρος ζωντανός είναι αλήθεια‽

Page found herself turning to face Rex for translations as she did not speak Greco.

“Yes and the others cannot understand you right now,” Rex said before looking at Night. “Is it not also true that she was promoted to the position of Captain General because of this incident?”

“It is,” Night bobbed his head after taking another sip from his glass of mango juice. “From what I’ve heard, they figure that anypony that can deal with all the crap that comes with Tartarus and walk out with just a scar on her face and two of her fellow Guards deserves to be the new Captain General.”

Vix-Lei’s eyes bulged a bit, before she began to swear in Greco, walking around the room while Xvital turned to face Night Blade. “What about the rest of them? I know about Gentle Step due to stories those like me like to share and scare each other with.”

“They are all Dum Soluti Flares to start. Magi Supreme Violet Lulamoon is an expert thaumatic artificer and revolutionized the Guard’s armour protection spells. Captain Standing Wall is not only the Bane of Minotaurs, she’s also the strongest Earth pony mage known to have ever lived and is constantly redefining that field of magic. Holy Corona Blazen Sun is the Bane of Dragons after setting one on fire and causing it to explode when he was our age, is able to create a miniature sun and he has held his position the longest than any Captain. Full Moon Sweet Surprise has been recorded to being able to hold back a demon incursion on her own, a master tactician due to her reportedly unpredictable nature and high intelligence level and is adept at approved transformation magic - she may be a unicorn, but when she grows her wings, I’ve heard that she flies better than most nox or pegasus ponies,” Night said, taking a forkful of the pancakes into his mouth before speaking again. “And of course, Captain General Gentle Step is stronger than them, so there’s that. I’ve heard that she’s been pushing for approval to let her Guards train in Tartarus to give them proper experience in dealing with demons.”

"Violet Lulamoon is also a published author," Page added. "She wrote a book called A Free Inquiry into the Properties of Magic Amulets when she was younger, before she became a Captain." She blushed. "I read the Grand Library's copy when I was still a filly and thought it was quite fascinating. Especially that one amulet she mentioned that shone a light that could pierce through magical mists or shadows when used properly - she mentioned how it was once used to get through a mist barrier sealing off an entire town when she was just a lieutenant."

“Great, just great,” Vix-Lei groaned as she sat down and drank straight from the pitcher of mango juice, much to Night’s displeasure. “We have what amounts to freaking Heracles with the power of all the gods into five ponies with something that is tricking them into thinking we're the bad guys!” She took another gulp from the pitcher and finished it off, giving Night’s glass a hungry look. Her coltfriend simply took his glass and drank it down in one shot, coughing as it went down the wrong pipe.

“But we have half of what Balance said we need to beat whoever is controlling them,” Xvital said while taking another pancake. “So again guys, we just need to make a plan to get out of Canterlot and we should be good.”

“We start by getting the tracker out of me,” Wind Breaker reminded them. “That’s why we’re heading to the East-South Quarter, after all.”

“To find this doctor of yours,” Rex added, pouring some sapphires he’d crushed into his coffee and taking a long sip from it. “That operates in a temple towards the goddess Luna,” he said with a bit of distaste.

“You don’t believe in the goddesses, Rex?” Page Turner asked, the question slipping out of her mouth.

“No offense to you, Night Blade and Wind Breaker, but no I do not believe in such mythologies. They might have existed at one point, no doubt now with the existence of the Virtuous Six being proven without doubt, but as their stories were exaggerated, such fabrications occurred to the original Celestia and Luna,” Rex said, leaning inwards with his tail wagging as he was enjoying himself that he could speak his views. “Everything that they were credited as being able to do can be explained by science. There are telescopes being crafted in northern Bitaly now that will be able to see the orbit of the moon and prove that there is no thaumatic manipulation moving the celestial body,” Rex tilted his head upright. “Everything can be explained with logic; magic is just the excuse word that the masses use when they are unable to properly understand something. Thaumatology may seem like magic due to its wide reaching capabilities but it can be taught and understood; that’s why there is the Academy, to teach young minds about the science of thaumatology!” Rex barked, showing more passion than any of them had ever heard from the diamond dog before.

Vix-Lei blinked before shaking her head, and leaning forwards with her head propped up by her fist. “So what’s your beef with them, Rex?”

“Nothing… save for the fact that they have rejected my application to be their alchemy professor based on the fact I am not a true Equestrian and thus could not have the proper understanding in how to make alchemic potions or teach others in how do alchemy,” Rex grumbled.

“Eh, screw them Rex,” Xvital shrugged her shoulders while picking up an apple with her tail hand before pausing to look at it and wrinkle her nose, no doubt an Apple Clan product. Dropping the apple onto the tray, she picked up a papaya and held it to her mouth. “You know you’re good, that should be good enough.”

“While self acknowledgement is good and all, it does help the soul to know you are recognized for your deeds and I do wish to teach others what I know.” Rex let out a sigh, shaking his head. “And while it is not your library, Page Turner, the Academy's library has a wealth of knowledge that can truly help me expand on my knowledge.”

“Then perhaps you need to try elsewhere, Rex,” Xvital said as she took a bite of her papaya. “Back home in Tenochtitlan, there’s always room for another alchemist in the royal palace and they will take whatever they can get.”

“Do you think you could get me an appointment once this is all done?”

No!” Xvital shouted before coughing and looking off to the side with her cheeks darkening with embarrassment. “Sorry but no, I cannot go there - too many people know me and I am not ready to deal with all that mess.” She then sighed with sadness and looked at her left hand, flicking her fingers.

“Don’t worry,” Page said with a smile, doing her best to ease the tension in the room. “I don’t think we’ll head there unless things get really bad.” She then turned her attention to everyone in the room. “I think our plans, whatever they are, should begin with finishing our breakfast.”

With everyone grinning in agreement, they began to finish off the hearty breakfast with gusto, all well aware that things were only going to get more dangerous as time went on.

Chapter Twenty Two: Rex

View Online

Chapter Twenty-Two

Rex

After they had finished the meal and Page stacked the plates in preparedness to bring them back downstairs, Xvital had turned to face him and asked, “So you live in this area, right?”

“Almost,” he replied. “I actually live a far distance away but I do know this area somewhat well as there is the entrance to the Under.” He took another drink from his coffee, sighing in delight, before facing her properly again. “As I mentioned before, I know of a few locations down the way that we could use as a means to passing into the Lower.”

“I’m sensing a but coming along,” Wind Breaker said, being very astute to the situation.

“Correct,” Rex replied. “There are a number of ways we could enter the Lower; either the passageways from the Under as well as a few less than wholesome means of entrances via weaknesses of the Wall.”

You know some smuggler tunnels, Rex?” Xvital’s grin grew as she giggled at his flustering and attempts to correct himself. “I didn’t expect you to know of them; you strike me as a real goodie guy despite-” she froze, her face darkening with a blush.

“Despite what; that I am a Diamond Dog?” Rex flicked his ears, frowning at her. He thought her better than this and he was deeply insulted.

“Well to be fair Rexy, you do look a bit gruff and menacing,” Vix-Lei chuckled before leaning over to lightly smack his side. “But anyone that deals with ya for a bit knows that you’re just a mixture of a big softie and a total egghead. Totally surprising that you know of naughty ways in and out of this city.”

“Yeah,” Xvital rubbed the back of her head, no doubt struggling to rethink of how she would address him again. “As was I saying, what are the drawbacks?”

“The tunnels would require us interacting with more Diamond Dogs and as I said before I cannot return there lest we encounter my former pack. The other option is that we move onwards past several gatehouses to where there is a… passageway for those that wish to remain unaware by the law,” he coughed, ears flicking as he was forced to address about the lss wholesome knowledge he had in traveling from the Middle to the Lower.

“Okay, how bad would it be if they, your old pack, saw you? I know that you said they’d kick up a fuss but how bad would it be; you think we could just bribe them or something?” Xvital asked him, leaning over and looking at him with a steady eye connection.

“To put it bluntly, they hate my guts,” Rex said dryly. “Leaving your pack is one of the worst things a Diamond Dog can do and being forced out is even worse than that. They would see it as me attempting to return to the pack and they would kill me for it. The only way I could be left alone in the Under is to invalidate their reasoning for forcing me out of the pack."

“And I guess a bit of arson doesn’t help?” Wind Breaker asked, reminding him of the fire that had occurred in the old Museum of Victory that the government was accusing of them of committing. Although how they could convince anyone that it was really the spirit of Balance was beyond him for the moment and thus Rex knew he would be stuck with that charge for a long time to come.

“No, ironically enough, they know that if I were to start to commit arson, it would be far more destructive due to my alchemic knowledge and would in fact see this as another example of my weakness that I did not do all that I could do.”

“That seems,” Night began, with the young noble obviously thinking of a proper way to voice the idiocy of it.

“Completely inane?” Rex offered before letting out a short annoyed bark. “It is, Night Blade. But again, I am happy with my life as it is. Or was as this recent development has caused an unexpected change.”

“So I guess we’re going to use these smuggler tunnels then?” Xvital said, eyeing everyone in the room.

“We don’t have much choice,” Page said after she finished stacking up the dishes. “We can’t use the gatehouses since we’re wanted criminals now, and we can’t use the Under because of Rex’s history there. The tunnels are the only option left.”

“How far are they?” Xvital asked him, pulling out her map as Rex walked over to examine it and began to locate where they were exactly and where the nearest tunnel entrance was before tapping a location. “That’s not that far, maybe a few hours’ walk.”

“Is that counting how much sneaking along we will have to do?” Rex inquired, causing her eyes to widen and let out a tiny curse.

“Shit, you’re right.” she groaned, rubbing her face with her tail paw. “It’s going to be a nightmare and I doubt that either you or Page could disguise us.” She flicked her eyes to Page. “You said the owner gave you some of the money back, right? Maybe we can buy some stuff to hide us from her.”

Rex heard Night let out a tiny snort at that. “Perhaps,” he said, “You should ask Night Blade for permission to use those funds, given it was his money originally.” He turned to Page. “I mean no offense to you, of course.”

“None taken,” Page replied with a smile gracing her face no doubt grateful that someone had spoken up for the nox pony. Rex knew how a pack worked and while Xvital was the alpha, she clearly needed help to make sure that she did not cause divisions within their pack.

Night shot a surprised look to him, with Xvital frowning before shaking her head. “It amounts to the same in the end; we’re in this together.” Night simply grunted at that, saying nothing to which Xvital let out an annoyed sigh. “You know what, fine, I’ll prove that I’m not full of shit. Everyone, dump your cash in the center right now; we’ll pool what we’ve got together, okay?” She started this by reaching into her pack and pulling out her coin bag and upending it into the middle of the floor. Rex was taken aback by this action although Vix-Lei joining first did not surprise him, even if some of the contents did.

"Why do you have that in your coin bag?" he asked.

"Emergencies," Vix-Lei replied, pulling the large rubber lizard that had prompted the question out of the pile of coins and stuffing it back into her pack.

"Do I even want to know what sort of emergency would require it?"

"Probably not," the minotaur admitted with a blush on her cheeks. “Though knowing our luck, we’ll need it before this is over.”

“Ah.” Pulling his own coin bag out, Rex added its contents to the pile. Page followed his example, and then Wind Breaker. Finally, though he grumbled about it somewhat, Night Blade emptied his bag and the one Page had given back to him. The ahuizotless then swept it all towards Rex.

“Care to split up the cash into proper amounts for us to carry?” she asked him as she moved to sit down on a bed, wrapping her tail around herself. “You did a good job with how you did with the supplies...”

Rex nodded his head and was quickly aware of what Xvital had done. While most would not be able to tell who had owned the coinage before Xvital had pushed them together, Rex had learned to grow a fine eye working in his lab lest he blow himself up again.

Night, by far, had the most money and he would actually come away from this poorer while everyone else would gain a profit from this. Judging how Night’s face was, he was well aware of this fact and that he could not say a word about it without seeming extremely petty. If this was Xvital’s plan to fire him up once more, it was a good one as Night had no way to save face without biting his tongue again. Rex did not like being a part of this trickery but there was always the chance that Xvital had no real malice and he was just imagining this.

In any case, he quickly counted how much they had - seventy-two Cadenzas, several didrachms and about the same amount of reales and escudos - and began to divide it up. They couldn’t use the didrachms, reales and escudos - nearly no place in Canterlot would take them in and those that would would undoubtedly be watched by the government if they were foolish enough to shop there. Rex then began to pack their money away into the different bags and sliding the foreign currency into the spare bag.

Passing each bag to the group, Rex saw Xvital flash a look directed at Night that spoke volumes and Night clearly saw it by how his body posture shifted. He wasn’t sure it was a good thing or not that no one else saw it, but either way, it concerned him.

“The question remains,” he said. “How to get to the tunnels without being seen.”

“Yeah, ‘cause trying to be subtle with coats and stuff will get us caught in a hurry,” Vix-Lei put in. “Believe me, the more subtle you try to be, the more suspicious you look.”

“So what, we go in as is?” Wind asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Believe or not, act like you belong somewhere and you can bullshit almost anything,” Xvital said before looking at Vix-Lei sheepishly. “Sorry about that.”

“No probs,” Vix-Lei replied. “If you don’t mind me doing the same, eh kitty cat cat?” The minotaur ended that with a grin that put a smile on Rex’s face; it seemed that Vix-Lei was able to puncture Xvital’s bravado without causing a major incident.

“Okay, I got it,” Xvital said with a smile on her own face. “Look guys, we’ll figure out how we’ll get there somehow.”

“Rex, can you help me please?” Page asked as she lifted the plates, looking straight at him. Rex was thrown by this as she did not ask Night but he simply moved onwards, picking up some of the other dishes with one paw as he opened the door with the other. “We will be back once we are done and hopefully have some better ideas.”

With that said, the two of them left the room and began going downstairs, Rex staying on the side of the railing as it was only proper to do. Smiling to himself, he found her to be a very nice and kind soul; so eager to be helpful to others even with things that did not require more than one doing. It was obvious why she had obtained the Element of Kindness and she would be very good for the group.

Wagging his tail as he stopped at the bottom of the landing to wait for her, with the unicorn smiling and giggling at his gentledog behaviour.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” Page said to the owner, the mare flicking her eyes in a disinterested fashion. “We just finished the wonderful breakfast you provided us and we would like to be helpful and bring the dishes back.”

The mare simply grunted and tilted her head towards the backroom. With a shrug of his shoulders, Rex simply walked forwards into the kitchen, making sure to hold the door open for her. He frowned as the kitchen was empty, the pantry door open and food cooking in the oven. Placing the dishes by the sink, he took a deep breath to take in the smell of the kitchen, the bread cooking in the ovens, the eggs boiling on a stove, the frying hash browns, the smell of freshly moved dirt… wait, what?

Following the scent of the moved dirt, he walked over to the pantry and knelt down near the floor. As his eyes were meant for near darkness, he could see the outlines of a trap door fairly well. Without so much a thought for properness, he slid his claws into it and popped it open, seeing that there was a tunnel that seemingly ran straight down the street. Turning his head, he saw Page hovering over his shoulder, smiling just as broadly as he was. “I’ll go get the others, you go check how far this goes Rex.”

“Absolutely,” he replied as he walked her back to the door, watching Page mention how she needed to go get some dishes that they had forgotten. Rex was about to close the door behind him when he heard a gasp from a familiar voice.

Boss?” He turned around to see Connection and Mixture trot into the inn, looking at him with shock and awe. “Is that you?” Secured continued to ask him, her eyes wide as Mixture snapped a look at the inn owner who simply rolled her eyes and walked away.

“Magic Mixture, Secured Connection, what are you two doing here?” he asked his employees, moving to embrace them.

“We just finished talking to the Guards about you,” Mixture said, smiling at him as the white and yellow-patched stallion pulled back from the hug. “About how you, out of all people, are wanted for treason.”

“We told them that you’re too straight-laced to do even the most minor of crimes,” Secured rolled her eyes. “And finally the Guards finally let us go and dropped us off in the East. We just came here to get some food before heading back to the lab and figuring out how to clear your name.” The teal mare tilted her head as if to gesture him to follow the pair out of the inn.

“Magic, Secured, I cannot come with you,” he said in a soft tone, ears flicking as he heard Page lead the rest of them down the stairs. “Trust me when I say this, although the charges are accurate, I - nay, we - are innocent. Xvital,” Rex tilted his head upwards as he waved the ahuizotless over. “There is a tunnel that I am sure we can use to make our escape.”

“Got it,” Xvital replied, pulling herself into the kitchen with Vix-Lei right behind her. Wind Breaker peered around, keeping an eye out for the owner before walking in with Night covering Page’s entrance into the room.

“Rex, this isn’t like you,” Secured said, patting his arm, almost pulling him with her. “Come with us, let us go to the Guards and explain everything to them. Safe and reasonable; that’s what you taught us when you took us on as your students!”

“Connects is right,” Mixture said, pleading to him with his big brown eyes. “Come with us; don’t throw your life’s work away.”

“I am sorry, but this is something I must do,” Rex said in a soft whimper before shaking his head. “Regardless of what happens, rest assured I took measures to take care of you two in case something were to happen to me.” Rex held up a finger to silence his two employees who were also struggling to make a life together as he fished into his vest for it. Pulling out a number of vials, potions, a few bits of emeralds and other odds and ends, he finally retrieved the sealed envelope that had his address on it. “This letter,” he said quietly, “Will transfer ownership of the lab and shop over to you two as soon as you mail it.”

“Rex!” they both shouted, eyes going wide. “This is too much, way too much.” Connection blubbered with Mixture patting her back, still obviously in shock.

“We can’t take this from you; you built your lab from the ground up,” Mixture said. “It’s your life’s work…”

“And it is yours now,” Rex said firmly. “I have taught you a great deal, and I know you are both more than worthy of claiming it.” He bowed, holding out the letter. “I am proud to call you my students and-” his sentence was cut off as they took hold of the letter, his eyes going dark.


Rex opened his eyes to find himself in front of a tall, colorful building. Studying it, he noted the decorative pillars and the rather… fancy overhang that surrounded it.

While the area around the building seemed pleasant enough, with its grass and trees, he could see no other signs of life. Contemplating for a moment, he stepped forward and opened the door of the building. A small bell tinkled overhead as he stepped into the shop.

Studying its interior, he saw several mirrors, a number of displays that bore somewhat of a resemblance to the outside of the building, a set of ponyquins wearing some of the fanciest, and yet most tasteful pony-style dresses he had ever seen, and a rack of similar dresses off to one side.

“Hello?” he called.

“Just a moment, darling,” a voice with an almost musical quality to it called out from above. Moments later, a white unicorn mare trotted down the staircase, her elegantly styled violet mane almost bouncing as she joined him.

“Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where every garment is chic, unique, and magnifique.” She eyed his vest with an expert analyzing eye. “Though I see you already have excellent taste in outfits, my good sir.”

“Thank you, ma’am,” Rex said as he took her hoof to place a kiss on it. “While I would wager that you are the Lady, recent events have alerted me of the error of assuming that it is your actual name.”

“You would be quite correct, my good sir,” the unicorn replied with a smile. “Rarity Belle is my name, but you may call me Rarity.”

“A pleasure to meet you then, Rarity,” Rex said, bowing his head slightly. “From how I have heard of Page Turner, Vix-Lei and Wind Breaker, may I assume that you have negative feelings towards your title?”

“To a degree,” Rarity replied as she walked over to the backroom of her shop which was, not surprisingly, her workshop. “While I was alive, it had been a goal of mine to marry a prince and become one of the noble elites of Canterlot. Now that I have seen how my identity has been altered to prompt a sense of elitism along with giving charity to the less fortunate is a bit off putting, especially how often the charity is a token effort,” she let out a tiny sigh, shaking her head. “Regardless, our Element is still present with how they remembered me, and I suppose I should be grateful for that.”

“Ah,” Rex’s eyes widen at that nugget of information. “So our Element is generosity then?”

Rarity smile turn into a smirk. “The girls and I were betting who would guess their Element first and you, Rex, just helped me win.”

“Glad to be of service,” Rex chuckled at this, feeling as good as diamonds. “May I inquire how does our Element relate to the group?”

“You may,” Rarity said with a smile. “And to answer your question, we are possessed of an open heart that desires the greatest good for others. We understand others and inspire them with our selflessness as you did by giving your two students not only your lab and shop but the means for them to start their life as a couple.” She sighed happily. “Do pass on my best wishes to them, darling - for a long and happy life together, with many generations of young ones to bring joy into their lives.” She smiled wistfully. “Alas, the only young one in my life was my own little sister… but she was, and still is, a joy and a treasure.”

Rex nodded. “I see, and I’ll make sure to pass on your message.” Then he quirked his head before snapping his claws. “Speaking of siblings, I know that Applejack had an older brother-”

“Oh yes,” Rarity purred, a faint blush racing across her face. “Big, tall, strong, silent hunk of a stallion. He was the desire of a lot of mares back then and even a few colts. Of course, I could never go after him as it would not be proper, but ooh was he handsome!” She sighed happily, before turning serious again. “Regrettably, it is not my place to inform you of his identity just yet, but I can promise that you will have an answer to your question before this is all over, darling. And other questions you might have about any of our siblings, both the elder and the younger.” She looked up. “And now, equally regrettably, it is time for you to go… your companions, and your students, are waiting.”

She pressed a hoof against his snout, and for a moment, there was nothing.


When he opened his eyes again, he found himself on the floor of the kitchen’s inn, seven concerned faces looking down at him. “You all right, boss?” Mixture asked, a concerned tone in his voice. “You just blacked out there-”

“I’m very well, thank you,” Rex replied as he got to his feet. “Better than I was before, in fact.” Reaching a paw to his neck, he found what he was expecting: a golden necklace, with a violet gem in the shape of a potion bottle in the middle. Secured Connection immediately noticed it too.

“Boss? What is that?” she asked nervously. “And where… did it come from?”

Rex sighed. “That is a long story, and not one I have time for at the moment,” he said. “We must be away, and quickly.”

Mixture and Connection both shared a look before pulling him into a hug. “Be careful, Boss,” Mixture said before letting go. “Come Connects, we need to get out of here; no doubt the Guards are watching us to see if we run into you and we won’t let that happen.”

“You take care of him,” Connection said, looking at his new pack before leaning over to place a kiss on his cheek. “Be safe.”

Smiling at her kindness, Rex hugged her once more before walking to the pantry with the hidden trapdoor open, walking down the steps into the darkness with Xvital on his tail, Page Turner and Night Blade following her, Wind Breaker behind the couple and Vix-Lei bringing up the rear. Rex turned to see the minotaur reach up and lower the door down on them, plunging them into darkness.

Chapter Twenty Three: Wind Breaker

View Online

Chapter Twenty Three

Wind Breaker

Wind Breaker grumbled as he stepped forwards, trying to look past Night’s rump to see where the tunnel was going as well as keep ahead of Vix-Lei’s horns.

“Hey Windy, you don’t have any room to whine,” Vix-Lei huffed from behind him, squatting low as she moved forwards, using her hands on the walls to steady herself again. “You guys can just walk all normal like; I’ve got actual legs and ΓΑΜΩ!” She swore again, sitting down on her butt as she went to pull her horns out of the ceiling again. “Wind, Δώσε μου το ποτό σου τώρα!

“Uh… Rex?” Wind slowly turned his head away from the fuming minotaur. “What did she sa-Gah!” He squawked as he was nearly pulled off his talons and paws when Vix-Lei, after freeing herself, tugged his saddle bag open, pulled out one of his bottles and started to chug it down. His wings snapped open and he had to bite back a snarl of pain as his wingtips hit the edge of the tunnel.

“I believe,” Night snarked at him, no doubt grinning on his stupid face, “She was saying that she wanted one of your drinks.”

Geeze, I would have never guessed that, Night,” Wind Breaker grumbled as he turned his head to check his bag and which bottle she took. He let out a sigh as it was just one of his lighter ones, no big loss there. “You okay Vix-Lei?”

“Yeah,” she grumbled, corking his bottle and placing it back into his bag. “Just really not a fan of all this cave walking; don’t get me wrong, I love a good maze as much as the next ’taur but I like to be able to walk.”

“Hey, do you think I like this?” Wind said to her. “I hate being underground.”

“Likewise,” Night said, fluttering his wings. “I cannot recall a single winged being that enjoys the lack of air on their wings.”

“Except for changelings,” Rex said from ahead, sniffing the way forwards. “They are quite fine with tunnels and the dark while most equines are not.”

“Huh, I didn't know that,” Xvital said as she padded her way behind Rex on all fours, with seemingly no effort at all. Wind Breaker would have killed for that in the past; being able to shift from walking on all fours like he always did to walking upright like Vix-Lei and holding it for a long time without getting a massive cramp in the back looked like a very useful ability.

“At least this is an artificial tunnel and doesn’t have any odd enchantments like some of the natural caves I’ve read about,” Page said from next to Night Blade. “Some of the stories I’ve heard tell about caves that can shift around on you when you least expect it or will try to fool you with optical illusions. And I think I heard about one that had a cursed pool that would pull you under and trap you if you touched it. But I did a scan when we first came down here, and this tunnel just has the same ambient magic as the surface - nothing dangerous to worry about.”

“That’s good to know,” Vix-Lei replied as she ducked her head again. “But I still wish they were a little taller.” She looked contemplative for a moment. “And I think I’ve heard the one about the shifting maze before. Didn’t sometaur get out of it by using a ball of enchanted string? Or was it a youngster with clear sight that could find the right path?”

“I’ve heard it both ways,” Page answered back. “Some of the older stories changed as they were retold, and nopony’s quite sure which version came first.”

Vix-Lei nodded. “That’s happened back in my home country too. I think it’s pretty much universal, actually.”

Wind Breaker smiled as the two females chatted back and forth. After everything they’d been through, their amiable talk was a breath of fresh air, and it helped keep the mood light as they continued onward.

“Say Rexy,” Vix-Lei called up from behind him, causing Wind Breaker to jump forwards a bit as she tilted her head downwards, his tail wrapping around his leg. “You’re the smart one here; do you know?”

“Sadly I do not and I have not had much inclination to research on such topics,” Rex said, tilting his head as he stopped walking. “Although discovering how the tunnel can shift on itself would be fascinating…”

“Speaking of fascinating,” Xvital began to speak before turning her head around to look at him. “Hey Wind, got any water in there?”

Wind Breaker had to blink and think about that. “Um… I’m not actually sure,” he blushed as he reached into his saddlebags to see if he actually carried the stuff. Wind Breaker did his best not to growl at Night when he heard the colt snicker something to Page and finally pulled out a sloshing canteen of what he hopped was water. “Here is some, I think…” he held it out, and Xvital quickly claimed it with her tail hand, bringing it around to drink. She wrinkled her nose, telling him it was either stale water or something else.

“Thanks Windy,” Xvital grimaced as she wiped her mouth before she moved her attention back to the diamond dog. “So Rex; care to share with the rest of us what your Element thing is?”

“Ah, yes,” Rex said, puffing his chest out a bit. Wind Breaker could tell the diamond dog was doing it due being around other griffons his entire life. “When I contacted my Virtue, the Lady, she informed me of two matters; that her real identity is Rarity Belle and that the Element we share is that of Generosity; we desire the greatest good for others, understanding and inspiring them with our selflessness.” He smiled, proud of himself. “Some of what she said actually reminds me of what your people would call agapé, Vix-Lei. The selfless love of one person for another, not born out of a desire to possess but from an open heart and desiring the best for others.”

Vix-Lei let out a low whistle. “Wow. That is a good one.”

“It sure is,” Wind Breaker said in awe. “Though, wouldn’t anything to do with love fall under the purview of Mi Amore Cadenza?”

“There may be some overlap of the two,” Rex acknowledged. “But as I recall, her purview was primarily that of romantic love, or eros.” He contemplated. “Oh - that reminds me. Wind Breaker, I asked Rarity about Applejack’s brother for you, but unfortunately I couldn’t get a name. She did promise we would find out before this was all over though. She also mentioned that she had a younger sister, whom she cared about quite dearly. And from what she said, I suspect that others of the Virtues also had siblings we will learn about at some point.”

“Really?” Vix-Lei’s ears perked up. “Cool.”

“Wait, was her name Belle?” Page asked, causing everypony to look at her. “I know of a noble family called the Belles; they helped me start my children reading project at the Great Library with their donation… and the priests of the Lady endorsed it...” Page trailed off, deep in thought.

“And the inn where Xvital, Wind Breaker, Vix-Lei and I were staying at was called the Carousel Boutique,” Rex said in awed tone. The diamond dog then blinked when he noticed everypony was staring at him. “That was the establishment that Rarity owned back a thousand years ago.”

“Okay, everyone stop for a moment,” Xvital said, settling down on the ground, causing everypony to do the same, with Vix-Lei grumbling behind him again and no doubt rubbing her odd legs. “What are the odds that we four would stay at an inn that has the same name as one of the businesses run by one of the Virtues all those years ago?”

“And that I would meet one of their descendants so many years ago?” Page said, nuzzling against Night.

“Two, actually,” Night said, wrapping a wing around her. “There is Polished Apple as well, didn’t yours say that her descendants pissed her off?” Night turned his head toward Wind Breaker, who nodded his head.

“That’s really odd; I mean, what are the odds Rex?” Xvital asked, rolling her head.

“Not great, I would imagine.” Rex said, rubbing his chin. “The Apples are quite numerous, I know, but I am not sure how great the chances are with the Belles as I don’t know anything of them.”

“Quite low,” Night said, shifting on his hooves. “The Belles are an incredibly small and minor noble family; they exist in a very small enclave in the West. And there are a lot of minor noble families in the West; my family is one of only a hoofful of major families that actually live in that area of Canterlot.”

“Perhaps there is a Spirit of Fate that has been nudging things,” Vix-Lei suggested. “Given a spirit of Balance exists…” she shrugged, doing her best not to overdo it. “It’s a possibility.”

“Perhaps it is Balance that’s doing it?” Wind Breaker suggested.

“But that would mean it would have been aiding the foe for some time,” Rex said, causing everypony to frown.

“If it has, then we’ll just have to be even more careful than before,” Xvital said firmly before forcing a smile onto her face. “But going back to what you were saying about family members…”

Vix-Lei raised a hand before grumbling as she grazed the ceiling of the tunnel again. “Now I’m wondering if any of us might have met some of their other relatives without knowing it,” she commented. “I’ll have to keep an eye out for anytaur with the Pie name - if they’re anything like Pinkie, they’re probably a real hoot.”

“And these Elements; they only really popped up when you guys did something related to it,” Xvital said. “Page spoke to that changeling mare we saved, Vix-Lei got us all to laugh, Wind…”

“I told the truth to Fair Scales about what I wanted,” Wind Breaker said before nodding his head at Rex. “And you got yours by giving your shop up.”

“Kindness, Laughter, Honesty and Generosity,” Page said. “That means your Element or Night’s is next when you do something related to your Element, something really meaningful.”

That’s why Applejack wouldn’t tell me anything,” Wind Breaker snapped his talons. “What we do has to have some sort of deep purpose on our end, or it won’t count.”

“That’s incredibly important information Wind,” Night said in his sharp noble voice. “Anything else you neglected to tell us?”

Wind Breaker scratched his chin. “Not that I can think of. I already told you what she warned me about - that thing that’s even worse than what we’re dealing with now, that Balance would have to let out if she gave me too much information right then. But that’s it, really.”

“Right, thanks for bringing that up Night,” Xvital snorted, rolling her eyes. “Really helps me at night to know what we’re dealing with is not the worst thing out there and it could End the world.”

Wind Breaker saw the batpony’s coat bristle at that comment but instead of biting back, he simply glared at her.

“Look guys,” Vix-Lei said from behind them in a soft voice. “I have no idea what the last two are, but considering how easily it took us to get ours, it should be child’s play for you two to get your Elements. You just need to be yourselves and we’ll defeat this baddie before the week is over.”

“So Xvital will get hers for her leadership and Night for his…” Wind Breaker trailed off, the joke in his mouth dying as soon as he saw the glare, realizing he might be overdoing it for the touchy colt. “Whatever the Element is; we’ve seen them being off from what the Virtues were known for. The Stern Warden was known for being, well you know, stern not kind. The Wise Oracle was known for her master planning due to ability to see the future but Pinkie was a real jokester from what Vix-Lei is saying. The Stallion of Dedication was known for being dedicated to a single task, not being a honest pony… as well as a mare,” Wind said, scratching his head. “And the Lady, the whole generosity thing is just a thing tacked on for nobles to ease their guilt when they see poor.” Wind couldn’t help himself but glare at Night, remembering how every six weeks the priests of the Lady would give their donation to the Hatchery that was more or less just the basics and no real thought was put into it. “So while the Warrior was known for leading her thunder warriors into battle and the Magi of Stars was known for being close to goddess Celestia and being the most powerful unicorn in history, I’d be really surprise if their Elements were for Fighting and Magic.”

“So something twisted off of fighting and… Leadership?” Xvital ventured. “It can’t be magic because I don’t have magic and Night’s a bat pony.”

“I do have magic, but it’s subtle compared to unicorn magic,” Night said at her, his fangs poking out before he gulped and looked away. “But you’re no doubt correct; if magic were an Element it would have been either Page or Rex who are magically talented… and I have to admit, you’re going to be the Magi of Stars’ heir because in all the stories, and this is with the scrolls of the Magi of Stars always having her as the leader of her group which I am not.”

“Geeze, couldn’t say that a bit nicer, eh?” Xvital said with a huff and a roll of her eyes. “But yeah, I guess if things are going to line up like that, it doesn’t leave much room to imagine which ones we’re going to be heirs of Night. But whatever yours is, I guess your sword fighting won’t be worth much to getting your Element.”

Night seemed that he was about to say something when Rex spoke first, “Definitely not as the spark to gain your Element, Night. Whatever the Warrior was like in life must be something other than fighting and you have to be capable of acting like her, just on a greater scale.”

“And I feel safe knowing that I’ve got you watching my back,” Page said, nuzzling him which seemed to calm him down again.

“Yeah, if we need someone taken care of, we’ll just shove them in front of you Night,” Xvital chuckled as they began to move again, with Night’s face dropping again, his tail flickering angrily. “How much further do you think Rex?”

“I am not sure but I do believe I see a bend up ahead and Vix-Lei should appreciate this as it seems to slope downwards,” Rex said with Vix-Lei letting out a sigh of relief.

“Thank the gods,” she groaned. “Next time, we’re going through something makes you guys walk all funny like for a while."

“And how are you going to do that, Vix-Lei,” Xvital called from the front. “Make us dance? ‘Cause that would only hit Page, NIght and Wind as me and Rex can easily shift back and forth.”

“Shuddup and let a girl dream, okay?” Vix-Lei pouted playfully. “I’ll think of something to make you all suffer the agony of cramped legs.”

That got everypony laughing, Wind covering his beak with his right wing to hold back his guffawing.

After Page got her laughter under control, she turned to face the minotaur. “If it is that bad, we can take a longer break.”

“Nah, I’m okay and the slope should make things easier on me,” she said, shaking her head and letting out a yelp of pain as she hit her head again. “Damn it…”

Wind Breaker just rolled his eyes and focused on walking forwards, doing his best not to stumble as they walked on the downward slope as the last thing he wanted to do was crash into Night and knock everypony over into a big mess.

Finally Rex called out a halt after a period of time of walking, with everypony crowding around him. The diamond dog then waved them back and pointed upwards to a dangling cord and placed a finger to his lips.

He then tapped Xvital to come forwards as the cord was just tall enough to be out his reach. Xvital rolled her eyes and used her tail hoof to pull it down with a staircase extending downwards, almost on top of them. Everypony squawked out in surprise as Page backed into Night, which caused the batpony to crash into him and caused Wind to smack his head into Vix-Lei’s lower region.

“Hey, watch it Windy,” Vix-Lei growled, trying to shove everypony off of her but finding no purchase. “We just met and all, but buy a girl a drink first… and I expect a good one from you considering how much you’ve got in your pack.”

“Again, aren’t you trying to stop drinking?” Night grumbled from his chest, trying to push himself off. Then he paused. “Wow, these feathers are really comfortable.”

“Thank you,” Wind Breaker grumbled back as he tried to struggle to his talons, Night and Page heavier than what he expected. “I use an imported shampoo from the Windy Whistles line, based in Cloudsdale mountains.”

“Once this is over I might just mention this to Mother; she is always looking for new business expansions,” Night said as Page hopped off the batpony and Night extended his wings to push himself forwards. Which was a lot better than the other option to push his hooves downward to give him a lift, considering where Night’s hooves were…

“Off you go,” Vix-Lei said as she shoved Wind Breaker off of her, with him nearly crashing into Night’s plot, his beak grazing the colt’s tail with Night jumping in surprise. “Rex, Xvital, want to move upwards so we can get out of the blasted tunnel already?”

With a nod of his head, Rex began to climb up the stairs, with the ahuizotless following behind the diamond dog. Page and Night came behind them, with Wind Breaker next and heading up the steps as fast he could. At the very back of the line, Vix-Lei muttered how happy she was that she could now stand upright.

Wind Breaker had no idea where they were, but by how much Rex’s tail was wagging, it could only mean good things.

Chapter Twenty Four: Vix-Lei, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Twenty Four

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei let out a sigh as she stood up in this thankfully tall room, stretching her arms up above her head as far as she could and rolling her head back and forth to get the kinks out of her neck before glancing to see what got everytaur’s attention.

“What do you see Rexy?” she asked as she walked towards the door where they were all standing in front of before almost falling over. “Whoa!” she shouted, placing a hand on the wall to steady herself.

“You okay Vix-Lei?” Page asked her, turning around to face her first.

“Yeah just need to get some feeling back into my legs,” she waved them off, sitting down on a nearby box and started to rub her right leg. She really hated how ponies never had proper chairs for ’taurs and how she had to perch on the box to make sure her skirt still covered herself which really was a pain in the ass considering how sore her ass was.

Why pants never took off was beyond her but the next chance she got she was going to buy herself some.

Rubbing her left leg as best as she could, she forced herself upright and walked over to the door Rex opened and saw shaded daylight. Turning her head in confusion to Rex, she was about to ask him what could get him so excited when Night leaned his head against her waist and let out a gasp.

“We’re in the Lower East-South Quarter!” he almost shouted before he dropped low and darted his head around in case anytaur heard him.

“How can you even tell?” Vix-Lei asked him in a hushed tone as she squirmed her way around Night, eyeing the buildings with a frown. They were all slapdash, haphazard and rundown; she wasn’t talented in building stuff but it still bothered her and stirred an itch in her to knock them down and build them proper like.

“Look at the tiles on the ground, see how they are a mixture of the sun and moon?” Night said, pointing at the cracked tiles on the ground. “They only mix when you get into the Quarters. The West-South has the heart mixed with Luna’s moon and the Quarters with the North have the Magi’s symbol.”

“Neat, never noticed that.” Vix-Lei squatted down to look at it, seeing the sunburst cut diagonally with the full moon on the other end. She ran her fingers over the tile in front of her and shook her head; despite how unkempt these streets were, even worse than those back up top in the West-North, each of these tiles had been detailed with care and they weren’t made en masse as they were not the same design over and over again. She let out a low whistle as this was the kind of work that would get you high praising back in the Minos lslands. Hell, if she was half this talented, her father would have overlooked all of her quote unquote eccentricities and not have dismissed her as a mindless girl. “How old are these tiles, by the way?”

“I do believe that these were first set when the city of Canterlot expanded downwards from the original city limits in the West,” Rex said as he rubbed his paw along the ground. “But I have no idea as to their exact date.”

“This is neat and all but do we have any idea where we are?” Xvital asked, looking up at the sky, almost blocked by all the clotheslines, power lines and other things that ran between the buildings.

“I do not know Xvital as I never strayed into the Lower East-South Quarter before,” Rex turned to face Night, Page and Wind. “Have any of you ever been in the Lower East-South Quarter?”

“Never,” Page shook her head with Wind and Night shaking their heads, looking down the street with frowns on their faces. “I’ve stayed in the Upper West my entire life.”

“Same here; never left the Upper West at all,” Wind said, shuffling on his feet and turning his head towards Night. “You?”

“I sometimes travelled with Father and Mother on their business trips to other cities when I was younger but I was told to keep within my cabin most of the time and I was to stay by my nannies’ sides when I did go out,” Night said a soft tone, looking down the twisting streets with a deeper frown on his face.

Whatever was bugging him was also bugging Wind as the griffon didn’t take the chance to rib the bat pony which Vix-Lei was positive he would have done due to their little horn contest still not being resolved. Seriously, when would they finally get it out their systems?

“You guys okay?” Vix-Lei asked, causing the three to jump a bit before staring down the street again.

“I think so,” Wind said while he was fluttering his wings, which Vix-Lei guessed was his way of wringle his fingers. “I just don’t know why looking down this street has me so antsy.”

“I have a theory to why,” Rex said as they began to move to what looked like an alleyway but turned out to be entrance to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Quickly pulling away from that to keep eyes off of them, Rex pulled them into a proper alley, where he finished what he was saying. “The Upper has all of their streets planned out in neat, perfect lines and you are used to it, correct?”

“Well, yes; that’s where we lived for our entires lives,” Page said with a frown in her voice.

“I get it,” Vix-Lei snapped her fingers. “If you’re used to one thing your entire life, then something completely opposite would mess with ya guys, right?”

Rex blinked at her in surprise before saying, “That’s my thoughts exactly, Vix-Lei.”

“Whatever the reason is guys,” Xvital said, drawing their attention to the ahuizotless. “We need to figure out where exactly we are right now… and I’ve got a plan.” She then wrapped her tail hand around Night and tugged him over as she began to ruffle his coat and mane.

“Hey, what the!” Night tried to shout, but was silenced when Xvital slapped her tail hand over his mouth.

“Shut it, we’re trying to stay unnoticed,” she hissed before letting go of him. “There we go; you look like a drunk now; all you need is to borrow one of Wind’s bottles and you can fake being a tourist and get us directions.”

Night glared at her, huffing and puffing his chest out. “Why don’t you do this, Xvital?”

“Because I stand out, I’m unique, and you’re not,” she said, pushing a finger into his chest. “Rex is a diamond dog; you don’t see them walking around. Wind Breaker is a lot smaller than most griffins -” “Hey!” “And he has different coloured eyes. Vix-Lei is a freaking minotaur with two massive hammers on her back. And Page Turner is an unicorn, again something that stands out. You’re just a batpony and thus the most unremarkable-looking of us. So do this for the group, okay?”

NIght’s coat bristled, giving him an even shaggier look now before he stormed his way over to Wind Breaker’s saddle bag and grabbed a bottle out from it. He shot a look at Wind as if he was going to say something before he shook his head and went out of the alley. Page narrowed her eyes at Xvital, shooting her a very dirty look which she saw.

“Hey, I was doing my best to optimize everyone here; you do stand out with your yellow coat and green mane and Night has very common batpony colours. He won’t stand out and if shit does go down, he can defend himself far better than any of us,” Xvital said with her hands up. “I’m not that much of a bitch.”

Page simply turned her nose up at this, and went to sit by the entrance of the alley as if to wait for Night come back.

Night Blade

Night huffed as he placed the bottle to his lips and began doing his best to act like a drunk. He had little to no idea what he was doing and he had no idea why Xvital was making him do this beyond the fact that she hated him for some reason.

Still, the last thing he wanted was to have her bitch at him for not helping out so he had to try… or deal with her yelling at him for failing to figure out where they were.

He let out a sigh before shaking his head, wondering what he was doing? Talking to others, asking for help, this wasn’t his strength at all. Was this her plan from the get-go, humiliate him and force him to go back to her empty-hoofed and admit he couldn’t do this sort of thing?

Using his wing to uncork the bottle, Night was about to drink from it when somepony called out to him.

“Isn’t it a bit early to start drinking,” a light blue pegasus mare with a white mane called out to him, flashing him a concerned smile. She walked over to him and moved to sit down next to him.

“Yeah,” Night said, nodding his head before holding the bottle up. “I’m just holding this for somepony.”

“I believe you, you don’t seem the drinking type,” she chuckled softly. “My name is Sound Mind and I work with ponies that need somepony to talk to, and I can usually tell who those ponies are.” She twisted her flanks to show off her reclining couch cutie mark which Night had to chuckle at. “So do you want to chat?”

“I thank you but don’t you need to be somewhere?” Night shuffled on his hooves; despite how much he wanted to trust her and talk to her, he couldn’t do that as it would put Page in danger.

“Not really; due to the blackout that happened yesterday I had to cancel most of my appointments today for safety reasons but my wife was kind enough to get me an opening in one of the hospitals in the Lower so I can help out today,” Sound smiled at him. “So can I help you out?”

“Thank you, but…” Night began to dismiss her when he stood up with a start. “Actually, I could use a bit of help with figuring out where I am right now.”

She looked at him before a smirk broke out on her face. “I don’t believe you are asking me to help that way; got lost in the literal sense?”

Night let out a little laugh and smiled, nodding his head. “How could you tell?”

“Trust me, I know ponies with greater poker faces than yours; I’ve had to learn how really read faces when my wife is up to no good and is doing her best to hide the fact,” she chuckled to herself, placing a hoof to her chest. “I mean, for a week she was acting all normal like but there was something off so I chipped away and found out that she caused a minor flood in my study and was doing her best to replace all the damaged books without me noticing.” Leaning in close, she said through her laughter. “Needless to say she slept on the couch for a week after that little number.”

Snorting, Night managed to ask her, “Were they important books that got her in trouble?”

“Oh goodness no,” she said, pawing the air with her hoof. “The fact she tried to hide it from me was what got her banished from the bedroom.”

Snickering, Night shook head, feeling the knot in his chest loosen up a bit. Maybe....

“Here you go, young stallion,” she said as she gave him a map of the East-South Quarter before hoofing over a card. “And please take my card; just in case you ever want to talk, okay?”

“Thank you,” Night said, taking both and placing them into his saddlebag. “Have a good day ma’am and give your wife my thanks for letting us meet.”

“I will do so, young stallion,” she smiled, bobbing her head and Night could have sworn he saw two wedding bands on her wing. “It will be quite the topic when I get home to my partners. Have a good day!” She said over her shoulder, walking off with a happy whistle on her lips.

With a big smile on his face, Night went back to where the others were waiting, dropping the bottle into the garbage as he didn’t need it and Wind Breaker didn’t need the temptation- if they weren’t going to get the griffon sober, then Night would do what he could to help, even if it would get him nothing but grief and another round of everypony shitting on him.

Night let out a sigh, his good mood already gone as the knot in his chest began to tighten again. Shaking his head, Night forced his way forwards. The sooner he was done with all this, the sooner he and Page could be safe again.

Chapter Twenty Four Omake

View Online

Chapter 24 - Omake; by Anon e Mouse Jr.

Ahead of him, the air suddenly began to turn into a reflective surface, and a familiar face stepped out.

Night Blade stepped back in surprise. “You!”

The skull-faced figure raised his hands. “Peace,” he said. “As I said before, I’m not your enemy. But I am here to help you.” Gesturing towards a nearby bench, he settled down on it. After a moment’s hesitation, Night Blade joined him.

For a moment, the newcomer said nothing. Then he looked at Night Blade. “You,” he said quietly, “Are a young man with a problem. You don’t feel appreciated by your companions, or anyone other than your lady love. Am I right?”

Night Blade almost reared back in surprise. “Yes,” he said hesitantly.

“Well, the truth is… you are a vital part of this group. You all are. Without the bonds that the six of you share, your enemy would win in a heartbeat.” He sighed. “You may have your differences, but so did the original Bearers. And yet their bonds were the key to saving Equestria on more than one occasion.”

“Really,” Night Blade asked doubtfully. “As I recall, they were only brought together in times of need.”

“That is an utter falsehood,” the figure said sharply. “They were very close. Both emotionally and physically - they actually all lived in the same town for a time, some longer than others. But we’re getting away from the main point.” He almost jabbed a finger at Night Blade. “You are a good pony, and your personal talent has already proven very helpful in this mission. Despite what Xvital thinks, I have no doubt that your abilities will be of great aid again in the future. Maybe not in direct relation to the Element you represent, but still, very useful.”

Rising, he gave Night Blade a look. “One more thing - do not allow yourself to be fooled by outer appearances. Your enemy has a talent for illusions, using them to fool their enemies in the past. But even when they aren’t the one responsible… well, trust me on this: not everything is as it seems.”

Night Blade nodded. “I will keep that in mind.”

The figure smiled. “Good.” Waving a hand, he watched as the air turned reflective again.

“One more thing,” Night Blade called. “I know what you called yourself before, but do you have an actual name I could use?”

The figure smiled under his helmet. “Call me Reel. Heir to the powers of Sokichi Narumi, the original Kamen Rider Skull.”

With that, he stepped through the reflective surface and was gone.

Chapter Twenty Five: Xvital

View Online

Chapter Twenty-Five

Xvital

Xvital huffed as she waited for Night to show up; how long did it take for a guy to ask for directions? She was sorely tempted to go out and get the directions herself.

“I am back everypony,” Night said, walking back into the alley. “And I got-”

“Hey, where's my booze?” Wind said storming his way forwards to the bat pony.

“I threw it out Wind Breaker,” Night snapped at the griffon. “Now as I was saying-”

“What the hell Night, that wasn’t yours to toss away,” Xvital said as she pulled herself directly in front of him.

Excuse me, but--”

“No buts,” she leaned down to stare him directly in the eyes. “Look Night, Wind has an alcohol problem and we can’t have you go acting on your own ideas in how to deal with it. I mean, he said he was going to sell those bottles; that’s one less we can get cash for later on. I don’t know why you didn’t think things through Night,” she growled into her hand; Night had just made dealing with a sobering Wind Breaker that much more possibly problematic. “Did you at least remember to do what you went out for?”

NIght just deepened his glare at her before tilting his head upwards. “I got directions,” he barked at her. He then shoved a small booklet into her hands before walking over to Page, pushing Wind Breaker hard out of his way. Nearby, Vix-Lei winced and Rex shook his head. Page just whispered something to Night and the batpony seemed like he was starting to calm down, his body starting to deflate.

Shaking her head at how unstable and rude of a partner Night was turning out to be, Xvital opened the booklet and began to study the map, looking up at the street sign to get herself situated.

“-owe me a bottle, Night,” she flicked an ear, hearing the tail end of Wind grumbling something under his beak. Great, having Wind seeing conflict and a reason to spite drink Night would only make Wind take longer to sober up.

“Okay everyone, I have an idea where we need to go,” she announced, folding up the map and putting it into her bag. She then began to lead them out of the alley, with Night taking the rear. “It should be a number of blocks down the way with some twists and turns. We should be fine if no one get lost or mixed up.” She looked at them, eyes lingering on Night. As he was in the back, it was his job to make sure that they didn’t get lost or separated.

Of course, Night just glowered at her.

Ass.

She continued down the street, pausing at every intercross to make sure she was going the right way, taking a massive detour when they went past the shipyard. She was sure that they couldn’t be spotted from the skimmers but she wasn’t going to take the risk and the shipyard would be one of the few open areas in the highly packed Lower so their chance at being caught would be even greater. Vix-Lei looked a little wistful when they turned away from it, but said nothing.

Xvital made sure she kept an eye on the crowd they passed, muttering prayers that no one tried to turn them in. Her skin tingling whenever someone looked at them too long, her tail flicking as she felt the urge to bring out her knife to defend herself. She also had to bite back a snarl as she stepped into garbage again, with her doing her best to shake off the sludge off her fingers for a fif-

“Hey kitty cat,” Vix-Lei called out, reaching out to tap her shoulders. “Don’t know about you, but I think we could do for a break. Get some lunch, you know?” As soon as the minotaur mentioned that, her stomach started to grumble loudly.

With a sigh, Xvital pulled them off to the side, into an alley and began to root around her pack for some food with everyone else doing the same. Rex had packed the bags perfectly, somehow guessing each of their preferences correctly, the bits of dried fish going down her mouth greedily with the diamond dog eating some of his gems with ease. Xvital blinked, wondering how sharp his teeth had to be able to eat gems. She found herself running over her own teeth, and her eyes darting over to Night’s fangs, the bat pony savagely sucking away at a mango and tilted her head. She’d always thought bat ponies eating like that - tearing a hole in their food to suck out the juices, which were not usually from fruit - was just a stereotype, but here was Night eating like a character from the creepy stories that were so not allowed to ever be seen by a bat pony.

“Everyone good?” she asked after they were done eating, getting nods from all of them, wiping her hands clean on herself. “Then let’s go, I think we should be there shortly; this area seems to be somewhat familiar…”

She continued to lead them down the streets, a smile breaking out on her face as the streets became very familiar. Padding on all four of her hands, she turned the corner to see the temple to Luna.

It was like almost any other temple to the pony goddesses: a massive domed structure that took up an entire city block, its second floor consisted of recessed walls that ultimately gave way to a retractable roof, designed so that ponies could view the goddess’ holy celestial body and whisper prayers unto it and their goddess during times of worship. Like all other temples to Luna, it had been decorated with symbols and icons towards the moon goddess, with small nods towards Celestia and the sun. It was the same with the sun goddess temples - the ponies had said each sister loved the other and would have been saddened if the other was not included in some way.

Of course, this temple had seen far better days. All the silver and gems were long gone, the paint chipped away to show the bare stone and the temple as a whole was in a state of disrepair with most of its windows boarded up and the few intact stained glass panes dirty with grime. The temple’s roof had a lot of rust stains on it, a few of the plates having gone missing and been replaced with makeshift water traps. The sides of the temple’s walls were covered with discarded garbage, both scattered freely or in bags, but what was really surprising was that ponies continued going into the temple with priests of Luna welcoming them in. How this place was still considered a proper temple was beyond Xvital.

“This is it,” she told them, walking towards the acolytes that were welcoming the visitors in. She tilted her head up to them and said, “We need to see Father Evergreen Road about some business down below.” She paused as she stared at the two young ponies, one a light green earth pony and the other a steel grey unicorn, sharing an uneasy look between them. “It’s urgent.”

“Look miss,” one of them said, raising a hoof. “The father is quite busy at the moment and-”

“Xvital, is that you?” an old, friendly voice suddenly called. An elderly unicorn wearing a fraying priest cloak of Luna appeared from the entranceway and trotted over to her. “Come in, please don’t stay out longer than you must.” He waved them inside, tutting like an old man would do, keeping the act up so well that Xvital almost believed him. He began to ask her general questions as they moved through the temple’s ground floor, with him waving off the acolytes to tend to the other attendees as they reached the staircase. As soon as they were in the small stairwell, Evergreen dropped the act and narrowed his eyes at her. “You better fucking pray to your damn gods that you were not followed,” he snapped, shaking his head. “You nearly gave me a damn heart attack when you showed up with that big of a bounty on your head. The last thing I need is Sweet’s Guards pawing around here.”

Please, I’m no rookie,” Xvital huffed and rolling her eyes. “Besides, don’t you have enough cash on hand to pay off the Guards?”

“Ah I wish,” he sighed, shaking his head as he lead them down to his true workplace. “Times are hard and money is tight. I had to sell a lot of this place’s books and finery to pay down my gambling tab and the mares and drinks are not cheap, not the good ones at least and I do not drink or screw second rate crap.”

Xvital turned her head in time to see Page staring in shock at him, her mouth opening and closing before she said, “You must be the most corrupt priest I have ever seen.”

“Now see here,” Evergreen said in a sharp voice. “I am not a corrupt priest; I am a fraud priest.” He chuckled, leaning on the magically locked door as he always amused telling his story. “I just came here, put on the robe and these idiots thought I was a priest!” He let out a bray of laughter, trying to steady himself so he could open the door. “Best racket I’ve got into and nopony can touch me! I mean, if the Guards ever get wind of me, I’ll just claim that sanctuary bullshit and stay put and those two idiot foals upstairs won’t say shit to the Holy Moon order because of the dirt I have on them.” Night’s jaw dropped, shock clean in his face. Which, of course, Evergreen saw as a means to push his luck, the old alcoholic womanizing gambling blasphemous piece of shit. “What, too offensive in your goddess’s place among us mere mortals?” He flicked his eyes at her as he finally opened the door and stepped into his office. He used his magic to summon a bottle of rebranded cheap booze that he always bought and poured it into a cup that she knew that was suppose to be used for high holidays only. “So Xvital, two points of order before we move on,” he said as he took a long drink. “One, did you get me those sacred texts? My buyers are getting really antsy for an answer and I don’t want to have to explain to them that the mare I blew up their plots couldn’t deliver the goods. Two, care to tell me why the fuck did you not wait for night time?”

“First off, no, I didn’t get them,” Xvital growled. “Due to circumstances beyond my control. Second, we’re here for certain other reasons.” She jerked a thumb at Wind Breaker who was inspecting several of the fake father’s bottles of alcohol. “He needs a tracker out so we can get the Mictlan out of this city and away from something nasty and the ponies it’s manipulating. Up to and including the Guards.” She gave him a pointed look. “And it’s after us specifically, so the sooner we’re done here, the less likely it is that you’ll get caught up in this. Comprendé?

He looked at her with a raised eyebrow before letting out a huff and went behind his desk and began to root around for something. “I’m not doing this for free,” he said, placing a thick book down onto the top of the desk, causing Wind Breaker to gasp loudly. “Oh stop your gasping; these Master Ledgers aren’t that hard to come by if you know what you’re doing. Or removing those master Tracers spells on you,” he scoffed angrily, hinting at his past. No one know of his exact past but he knew a lot of stuff that came from the top of the government.

“I’ll give you thirty six Lunas,” she said, her tail hand dipping into her pack.

He snorted at her, shaking his head. “No dice, Xvital,” he said. “This is big stuff, removing a griffon’s Tracker spell without setting off the alarms. I want something bigger, like those scrolls you said you could steal.”

Xvital felt a glare directed at her back, with Page almost growling at her. “Well again, I didn’t get a chance to steal anything. And with what’s after us, including the Guards…”

“And I can toss you out and deny any connection between you and me and if you do squeal on me, I will make you squeal in pain,” he snarled at her, leaning heavily on the desk with his horn glowing. “Now make it worth my while or-” he froze, tilting his head. “You four; open your bags now.” Turning around, she saw that he was looking at Page Turner, Vix-Lei, Wind Breaker and Rex.

No, they’re not for sale,” Xvital said crossing her arms.

“Be quiet, filly,” he snapped, his voice shifting from his usual con-like tone into something much sharper which startled her. “Let me see those things.”

With a frown on their faces, the four of them took out their Elements and placed it on the desk. At the sound of metal brushing against something, she turned her head to see that Night had drawn his sword but was holding it against his side so it looked like it was still in its sheath.

He took out one of those gem examinater things, placed it under his eye and began to turn the Elements around, muttering things under his breath.

He was examining them all, spending almost ten minutes looking at each of them while writing things down. He finally stopped, pushed the Elements back to them and took out the eye thingy. He then took a drink from the bottle itself before he spoke. “Xvital, where did you find these… things? They are unlike anything I have seen in the past and while I am no Violet Lulamoon, even I can tell they’ve got enormous potential stored in them.”

“It’s all tied to this nasty thing after us, Evergreen,” she said, leaning across the table and handing back the Elements to the group with her tail hand. “It’s very complicated and we’ve got two more to get and-”

“Okay, here’s the deal,” he said, tapping the desk. “Once you’ve got the rest of them, come back to show me.”

“This isn’t like you,” Xvital said slowly. “Not that I am complaining, but you usually jump at the chance to make money.”

“This is worth more than just money,” he said before shaking his head and jabbing a hoof into her chest. “Never tell anypony I just said that.”

“Fine, you’ve got yourself a deal,” she spat into her hand and held it out towards him. He spat into his hoof and they shook on it.

“Good,” he then tilted his head at Wind Breaker who was placing his Element back into his bag. “You, come here now.”

Wind Breaker gulped and walked over to the old pony who plucked a handful of feathers off his chest. “OW!” Wind shouted, flapping his wings and rubbing his chest in pain. “What the fu-

“Shut it colt,” he snapped as he held the feathers up in his magic before he began to look through his book. “What is your name?”

“Uh, Wind Breaker,” the griffon said as he settled on all fours. “Why the fu-”

“Do you know how to remove a Tracker spell?” he snapped, causing Wind to fold backwards. “No? Then shut up and let me get to work!” He then began to look through the book again, muttering to himself. “Go upstairs and stay out of sight, I’ll call you down when I’m ready.”

Wind Breaker glanced at Xvital, who nodded and headed for the door. With the others behind her, she led them out and into the back of the sanctuary.

“Are you sure we can trust this… person?” Night Blade asked as he sheathed his sword before settling down.

“About as far as I could throw Vix-Lei,” Xvital muttered. “But he knows his stuff. Right now, this is our best shot.” She sighed. “Once we’re done here, our next stop is as far away from this city as possible. We should be safe then. I hope.”

Night Blade frowned, but nodded. “How long will this take?”

“Hopefully no more than half an hour.” She sighed. “We’ll find out.”

Everyone nodded, and then settled in to wait.

Omake

View Online

Omake by Evilhumour

Evergreen Road was drunk. Not drunk after have a few beers drunk, not pouring back a number of vodkas after watching the game and winning drunk, but pure out, blind as bat drunk, drunk enough that he would screw his own mother if she showed him her plot drunk, drunk enough to believe that the scowling alicorn in front of him was actually the made up Luna dru-

“You are abhorrent,” the alcoholic mirage hissed at him. “You claim to be a priest of mine and th-”

“Ah shut your noise hole, ya damn filly,” he grumbled, eying her body with a grin on his face. “For a pretty slut, you’ve got to work on your sale's pitch. For a free screw, I could give you some pointers and get ya in the right direction,” he said, walking over the wide-mouthed mare and imagining how good she would be. “So what do you say, sweet thing?”

He slapped her flanks and then everything went loud.

Addendum; by Anon e Mouse Jr.

With a loud gasp, Evergreen Road shot bolt upright on his couch. For a moment, he sat there, trying to calm his racing heart, and finally succeeded, then studied the bottle he’d been drinking from the night before.

“Either that was a bad batch, or a really good one,” he muttered to himself as he trotted off to the bathroom, where he glanced into the mirror and got the second surprise of his day.

There, on the side of his face, was an odd u-shaped mark, almost as if he had been slapped by a hoof. But in the very center of it was the image of a crescent moon.

And not knowing quite why, he shivered in fear and put down his bottle.

Chapter Twenty Six: Wind Breaker, Sweet Surprise, ???

View Online

Chapter Twenty Six

Wind Breaker

Wind Breaker found himself unable to sit still, his tail flicking back and forth uneasily as he clutched his Ledger tightly in his talons. He sighed, trying to calm himself down and take his mind off things, glancing around to see the rest of them wandering around the room. Vix-Lei was staring at several of the few intact statues of Luna, Rex was frowning at a faded map of Her holy stars, Xvital was hanging over by the door, Night was flipping through the few remaining holy books and Page was sitting right next to him.

She smiled at him, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “You okay?” she asked gently.

“I’m not sure,” Wind Breaker said, shifting uncomfortably. “I mean, what that fake priest is doing… it’s just...” Wind Breaker rolled a talon in the air, trying to find the right words. “I don’t even know how to say I feel about this. This is something every Hatchery griffon dreams for and…” He let out a sigh, dropping and shaking his head. “I’m just rambling; you cannot understand what it’s like to have your freedom continuously out of your reach your entire life and suddenly have it thrown into your face.”

Page looked at him and her eyes softened, a sad smile on her face. “Trust me, Wind Breaker, I know exactly how you feel and I understand what you are going through.”

Strangely enough, Wind Breaker found himself believing her and he smiled back at her. He then flicked his eyes towards Night. The bat pony was glaring at him but was keeping quiet and keeping his distance. Either Night trusted him with Page or he knew that Page would be angry with the noble if he did something to get between them.

Probably the latter…

“So what are you going to do with your Ledger?”

Her question caused him to pause and he looked down at his book, surprised at how tightly he was clutching it to his chest. He tried to imagine himself letting go of the book for good and for some reason, it churned his stomach and made him clutch it tighter to his chest. It made no sense; the blasted thing said that he wasn’t a free griffon, that his life wasn’t his own, that he owed the government an unpayable debt but he could not give it up.

She leaned over to hug him, rubbing his side. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” she said softly, making him aware that he was letting out small whimpers. “You don’t need to give it up if it bothers you that much, Wind Breaker.”

“It’s okay, you didn’t mean it,” Wind Breaker said, pulling out of the hug, feeling his cheeks heat up. “And besides… I think I will keep it, to remember where I came from, you know?” The lie was obvious and his throat was burning from it. He took a bottle from his bag and drank from it, making the pain go away. Then he paused and looked at what he had done and the looks he was getting from everypony. “I’ll be going sober tomorrow, I promise… I swear.”

Night just rolled his eyes and shook his head, then turned away in disgust.

Well, that was one person Wind Breaker couldn’t count on for help to kick his drinking habit…

“Well, if you don’t mind…” Page said as she gently took the bottle with her magic and held it almost horizontally over a potted plant. “May I?” With a tilt of his head, Page poured out the bottle, slowly. Wind Breaker felt his chest tighten at the sight and he had to turn his head away. “Wait, Wind? I think you should finish this.” Page held the bottle to him and Wind Breaker knew she didn’t mean he was to drink it. Wind Breaker took the bottle and held it over the plant, and found his talon shaking.

He could do this, he could do this. Just tip his talon over and he would have -

“What are you doing‽” a voice cause him to jump, fumbling the bottle and wincing it as bounced on the plant’s pot and rolling on the ground. Turning his head, he saw the unicorn sub priest storm into the room, grab the bottle and waggle it in his face. “Were you emptying your foul vice into that plant?”

“Um, I, uh” Wind Breaker stammered, feeling small now. “I-”

“Bad enough that fraud is tainting this temple, but I will not allow others to think they can do the same, mister!” the unicorn jabbed a hoof into his chest, causing Wind Breaker to pull back in intimidation. “I am half of mind to report you-”

“Hey now, you don’t understand the whole situation,” Vix-Lei said, placing a hand on the unicorn’s shoulder. “You see Windy here has a bit of a booze problem and was trying to kick the habit.”

“Really?” the unicorn tilted his head before bowing slightly. “My apologies then; if how touchy Evergreen can get when he runs out of his liquid vice, then I can only imagine how hard it was for you to do that act.” The unicorn placed a hoof on his shoulder. “On behalf of Her Grace Luna, I will pray for your success.”

“Thank you,” Wind Breaker said gratefully, a smile growing on his beak. “I will do my best.”

“So what brings you here?” Night asked, closing the book and placing it back down.

The unicorn looked at Xvial briefly before coughing and saying, “I just wanted to see how Evergreen’s… guests were doing.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not that kind of thief,” Xvital scoffed, rolling her eyes. “I may fake documents and steal stuff here and there but not from temples and holy sites. That ain’t right.”

“I never said such a thing, ma’am,” the unicorn said smoothly. “If any of you need anything, please do not hesitate to ask for either Rolling Brook or myself, Clear Prattle.”

“We thank you,” Night Blade said, bowing his head. “May Her stars forever shine down on you and your fellow acolyte.”

“And may She guide you and your fellows in your journey, Lord Blade,” the unicorn said, causing Night to shift around a tiny bit. The unicorn saw that and said, “Your group is wanted and the Guards are doing their best to find you. As an acolyte of Her Grace, it is our duty to shelter everyone that comes to our doors.”

“Ah, thank you,” Xvital said cautiously, clearly uncertain of how exactly to deal with this. “But I think we’re good for now.”

“As you say, ma’am, I have a service to attend to as Evergreen is busy with his other duties,” the unicorn bobbed his head and turned to walk away. “If you wish to donate your bottles to fight your demons, Wind Breaker, I will be happy to assist you.”

“Thank you but…” Wind Breaker trailed off, not sure of what his exact reason for protesting was.

“I understand, as it is said one must be ready to face their demons lest they be overwhelmed by them,” Clear Prattle said in a holy tone as he left the room, closing the door behind him.

“Well that happened,” Rex said with a slight resistence in his voice. “Prattle and his fellow seem to be somewhat competent and legitimate…”

“What do you mean Rex?” Page asked the diamond dog. “He seemed to be rather genuine in his beliefs.”

“Be as it may, Evergreen could not have sold this star chart without raising eyebrows and he should have realized this map is fake,” Rex gestured to the map with Night walking over to it and frowning as he studied it before muttering a curse. “You no doubt see it as well, right Night Blade?”

“Yes, I can see it,” Night said as he tapped the map before he looked at Rex. “Is there anything you don’t know?”

“Perhaps, but I strongly doubt it,” Rex said with a small grin on his face that got everypony laughing for some reason.


Wind Breaker had started to doze off when Evergreen came into the room, startling everypony awake.

“Come, now,” he barked. He looked very agitated, his robe more ruffled than before. “I had to do a lot of preparation for you and I’m not going to let it cut in on my personal time or have to explain to those idiots why am I late for this night’s service.”

“You mean you can do it for me?” Wind Breaker asked as he got to his talons and paws.

“Of course I can do it, you damn colt,” he grumbled, already trotting back to the staircase. “As I just said, it took a lot of preparations and I can’t be drunk as I could very easily fuck this up if I wasn’t thinking clearly and get the Guards breaking down my door.”

“Okay?” Wind Breaker said, unsure how to take all this. He was really doubting that Xvital was right to trust this guy.

“Do you want to be a Hatchery griffon for the rest of your damn life?” Evergreen barked. “Now come on!” As he angrily stalked to the stairs, Wind Breaker gave one final look around the room, and with the others right behind him, followed him down to his office to see that Evergreen was not kidding about needing to do some serious preparations. The desk was gone and the entire floor was covered in chalk markings that looked like serious arcane stuff with a circle in the middle. “Good, now you stand in the centre and you lot stay out of the way.”

Wind Breaker tilted his head to look at Rex, who nodded his head, before moving into the centre of the room where a circle large enough for him to stand in had been drawn. “Okay, now wha-”

“You, unicorn mare,” Evergreen snapped from the far side of the room. “Take his bag; that crazy artifact he and the rest of your lot have somehow gotten your hooves on could seriously interfere in this procedure if it’s within the array, so take it and stand against the wall. Now.”

With a tiny huff of annoyance from Page, Wind Breaker found his saddle bag lifted off his back and suddenly felt very bare.

“Eyes on me, you colt,” Evergreen barked again, dragging his attention back to the unicorn. “Now don’t move or I will turn your legs to stone to keep you still.”

Wind Breaker watched his horn start to glow a dark red before it began to settle over him. He began to get a bit worried as Evergreen tilted his head from side to side, grunting a bit louder each time and the outer parts of the arcane magic circle started to glow and let out an odd sounding hum.

Wind Breaker felt sweat beginning to roll down his body, his wings twitching to open and his tail flicking between his hind legs. He found himself staring at a bead of sweat that was sliding down his beak, causing him to itch something terrible. As each second passed, the urge to wipe it away grew worse and worse and he found his will to stay still harder and harder to maintain and he was wondering if Evergreen was just bull-

“Okay, we’re done,” Evergreen said, causing Wind Breaker to jerk his head upwards. He was about to ask if he could move when Evergreen slammed the back door open and began to try and drag his desk in before getting it stuck halfway and giving up. With a grunt, the fraudulent priest grabbed a bottle from the desk, and started to chug it down completely. Finishing the bottle off and tossing it into a corner where it crashed into several pieces, he said to them, “You can leave now.”

“It’s done, I’m… free?” Wind Breaker asked. “Just like that?”

Yes, just like that,” Evergreen snapped. “Figuring out and setting up the exact array to disable all those alarm spells was the hardest part. Casting it wasn’t that difficult. And now, I’d appreciate it if you’d all get out of here as I have a mass to lead that are all scared because of you idiots blowing up the power station.” Giving them a dirty look, he snagged another bottle from his tilted desk and began to chug it down.

Wind Breaker considered saying something, but felt a hoof on his shoulder, and saw it was Page’s. “Come on, let’s go,” she said softly.

Wind Breaker nodded, and stepped out of the array. As his saddle bags settled onto his back again, he gave Page a nod of thanks, and then headed for the door.

He could feel Night Blade’s glare burning into his back, but he didn’t care. He was free.

Minutes later, as the six of them stood by the temple’s door, Vix-Lei looked around in the darkening sky. “So, which way do we go?” she asked. “Besides out of this city.”

“Down,” Xvital tilted her head as she began to walk down the street. “There have to be a few gatehouses that we can slip by.”

“I don’t think we should go that way,” Page said softly but with enough presence to cause everypony to pause. She tilted her head towards a couple of ponies with cloaks on standing near the far end of the temple block. “I can’t say why exactly, but I have a feeling that they’re with the Guards.”

Xvital frowned and began to take a step backwards. “I think you’re right,” she said as the two ponies began to walk over to them. “Come, let’s go guys.” She beagan to push them back up the street.

“And where, pray tell, are you going?” a voice from behind called out to them, causing to halt in place. Turning around, they saw one of the two ponies’ body change and become a white mare in very fancy looking armour with the other.

“Oh shit,” NIght swore backing up in fright. “The Full Moon.”

“Yes, and you are all coming with me right now,” she said, walking closer to them with her horn glowing.

“You know, there’s a saying in my homeland that would be rather appropriate right now,” Vix-Lei said nervously as she looked at Rex, who had a hoof in his vest.

“What’s that?”

CHEESE IT!” Scooping up Rex, she started running, the others hot on her heels. Wind Breaker had enough time to realize what Rex was doing with that bottle in his hoof and grabbed the scarf before a massive amount of smoke began to blossom out with the Guards behind them coughing loudly.

Sweet Surprise

Sweet Surprise was cursing herself for dismissing the diamond dog as a low threat, even after the report on the alchemist. Using her magic to cause a miniature whirlwind to blow the smoke into small enough parts to dissipate the effects of smoke bomb, she saw that the six wanted criminals had already bolted up the street.

“In pursuit of six Bolters, going up Lower Temple Drive,” she said into her helmet’s shortwave communication spell that was connected to her Guard’s helmets as she began to use her magic to increase her endurance to mimic Earth pony biology as to close the head start they got on her. “Box them in on White Shine Avenue.”

Sweet Surprise ignored the yes ma’ams she got from her Guards, calling out the streets they were taking and smiled to herself as they were close to a dead end known as the shipyard. Even if they stole a ship, there was no way they could get away with as her Guards would be able to surround them and force them down.

Still, Gentle Step had said to use caution in dealing with them and she’d be the idiot ponies thought she was if she were to ignore the advice the young Captain General offered.

Sweet Surprise had reached out with her magic to delay the six when she felt something odd; she could sense several items on four of them that were drenched in magic. She had never encountered anything like them before and she had helped Violet with some pretty unusual artifacts in the past; the elder unicorn was far more experienced as it was her special talent , but Sweet Surprise had seen some odd ones in her time too and whatever these were dwarfed anything she had seen in her life. And if she right, they were mostly dormant with only a trickle of their true power active.

She had been concerned in how heavy hoofed Gentle was being in regards to these foals; she was very cautious in believing they were all part of some sort of secret cabal with the goal to overthrow the government but this had brought more weight to the claims that they were dangerous traitors.

Whatever the truth about their actual allegiances was, Sweet had a duty to apprehend them for the death of several of Violet’s Guards at the very least and she would do that right now as her Guards managed to herd them into the shipyard, with the minotaur using her hammer to knock down the cobblestone and iron sign saying Lower Canterlot Shipyard to block her path.

She pulled it apart and tossed the pieces to the side with several squads of her Guards behind her, but it cost her precious seconds as they were aboard a ship, with the minotaur in the pilot seat of a skimmer.

With a flick of her hoof to break up and get into other skimmers with Sweet Surprise jumping into one herself, she saw several of Guards take to the air to overshadow the minotaur driving downwards‽

Sweet Surprise blinked in surprise, with the minotaur speeding down the takeoff platform. She then cursed herself for being distracted and chased after her, with three skimmers following her, the ones in the air no longer available due to the time it would take for them to rejoin the chase.

Bracing herself as she guided the miniature airship off the platform, Sweet Surprise saw the tail end of the minotaur’s ship turn around the corner as she hit the ground. Pushing on the acceleration lever to make up ground, she muttered curses in her head for missing the fact that the daughter of a shipyard master of the world’s capital country of airship production would be proficient in their usage.

“Ma’am, we see them heading towards Bearing Street,” Eagle Sight said, one of her ponies in the skimmers that were in the sky. “Quicksilver and I are making quick descents to box them in.”

“Affirmative,” she said, pushing the airship even faster as they skimmed over the street, with ponies screaming and jumping out the way.

A smile started to break out on her face despite the fact she had yet to capture them even though they were directly in front of her and the distance was closing fast. The minotaur tried to shake her off and trying to turn down another street when Sweet Surprise snapped a shield up to block that area off, causing minor collateral damage, forcing back into Bearing Street and a dead end as there was no ways forwards past the low fence and the two story quaint house that looked very famila-

The minotaur then reminded Sweet Surprise that these things they were driving were airships as she rotated the propulsion jet several degrees upwards which let her hit the fence and then ride the roof as a ramp!

Sweet Surprise had no time to replicate the act, spinning to the side and snapped up a shield to stop herself from crashing into Eagle Sight’s skimmer although her skimmer hit the shield hard, killing the engine completely and destroying the body of the skimmer. She had her head pointed in the right direction to see the first skimmer behind her try and copy what the minotaur only to miss the subtle adjustment the minotaur did and hit the fence only to slam into the roof the house with the other skimmer spinning out of control and destroying the fence, hitting the well kept lawn and digging up a fair deal as it spun in a circle before Steady Line managed to cut the engine.

Eagle Sight opened his mouth to say something but Sweet Surprise was not going to let the six get away this easily. “After them now!” she barked, using her magic to take control of the skimmer, forcing it down the street with Eagle Sight wisely moving out the way and letting her take the pilot seat as she forced the ship to its limit as she matched each twist and turn that the minotaur made, an angry scowl on her face as they continued to stay just out of reach and the diamond dog was mocking her by sticking his head off the side and having a wide smile on his face, sticking his tongue out her.

Still it would end shortly as they were getting close to the Wall and she had Guards on it that would be able to halt their skimmer.

With another sharp turn that threatened to capsize Sweet Surprise’s skimmer, she saw the Wall directly in front of her with the Gatehouse of the South looming directly in front of them.

“Every Guard,” she shouted, booming her voice out across the Lower with her magic. “Stop those HOLY FUCK!” She swore as the minotaur nearly came to a complete stop, turned the jet propulsion with such finary that it managed to send her skimmer directly upwards before cutting the engine and-

“SWEETSURPRISETHEWALL!” Eagle Sight shouted, causing Sweet Surprise to look up in time to see the Wall approaching incredibly fast.

SHITFUCKBAIL!” she swore, throwing herself out of the skimmer, rolling across the ground, only for it to disappear on her and suddenly be plunged into something liquidy. On instinct, Sweet Surprise turned herself into a seapony to allow herself to be able to breath the water in safely only to spit out the foul tasting water, floundering as she tried to get herself properly oriented.

All of a sudden a pair of hooves reached under her forelegs and dragged her upright. Shaking her head, she saw a pony wearing a rebreather mask, a thick bodysuit that had the sewage maintenance symbol on his chest…

Oh FUCK NO!

With a snarl on her face, she regrew her lower body and a pair of wings as she exploded out of the sewers and hovered briefly over the Wall before spotting the speeding skimmer in the distance. She was in no mood to care about catching them in perfect condition anymore, and began to throw bolts of magic at them to knock them out of the damn airship, with them managing to avoid the first few bolts before she finally caused them to overturn and the skimmer to crash into the tree line.

“Okay you little fuckers, NO one makes a fool out of me and gets away with-” she paused as she landed in front of the totaled skimmer and quickly saw that there was no one in or around it, which meant they had bolted on her.

A snarl was building in her throat when she felt somepony teleport right behind her.

There you are Sweet Surprise,” Gentle Step said in her infuriating stoic voice. “I hope you can explain a number of things, such as the reason why there is a skimmer lodged into the roof of my house.”

“The damn traitors led me and my Guards on a fucking chase through the Lower, and totally humiliated us!” Sweet Surprise snarled, pawing the ground.

“So that is the reason why there is a skimmer lodged into my roof and my lawn is completely dug up?”

“Oh shove it with your fucking house and your fucking lawn,” Sweet Surprise jabbed a hoof into the Captain General’s chestplate. “They are getting further away each second and you’re not worried about this.” Sweet Surprise noticed how calm Gentle Step was being by her standards. “Which means you have something already planned.”

“Correct,” the younger mare said. “I already have several agents herding them into an ambush and keeping an eye on them, both to see where they are heading and to see where the rest of their treasonous organization is.”

“I see,” Sweet Surprise felt her heart begin to slow down, understanding her superior’s reason for her to stay put. “Anything else?”

“Yes, go clean yourself as you smell worse than demon shit,” Gentle Step said in her normal emotionless voice, with her broken nose wrinkling, her way of fanning away the stench.

“Ah,” Sweet Surprise said, licking her lips and instantly regretting it. “I will pop into the Lower Guardhouse and shower off there.”

“Absolutely not,” Gentle Step said, taking a step backwards. “I will not have you foul up the Guardhouse. Go home and clean yourself there.”

“But I can’t,” Sweet Surprise began to sputter, her heart starting to race. “I-I, I have to use the Guardhouse.”

“No you do not,” Gentle Step said calmly, taking another step backwards. “Now I am ordering you to go to your home, clean yourself and your gear there, send me a report on today’s events and then come in tomorrow ready to perform your duties.” Gentle Step gave her no chance to try and counter this by teleporting away, leaving Sweet Surprise alone.

With a whine and light pawing the ground, the unicorn muttered to herself, “Hot Rod and Sound Mind are going to kill me when they find out I tracked sewage into the house.” Then she looked around. “Maybe somepony around here has a hose I can borrow…” she tapped her chin in thought before wincing, shaking her hoof and teleporting back into Canterlot.

???

They were standing in the dark forest, the six of them, when their leader got the message from Canterlot.

“It seems,” he said as he read the letter to himself before breaking out into a grin. “That we have our orders to capture several individuals. The Guards are directing them towards us as we speak.” He hoofed out pictures of the six they needed to capture.

“How are we to do this,” one of the dark skinned figures asked with a chuckle, already aware of what the answer would be.

“Same as always,” their leader said confidently as he took his pony form. “Once they reach Sunny Town, we will capture them.”

“Got it Gladstone,” one of them said causing the rest of them to laugh, each one of the dark figures taking on their pony forms.

Chapter Twenty Seven: Rex

View Online

Chapter Twenty Seven

Rex

The pack finally took a break in their rapid departure after bailing from the XJ-6 skimmer, deep in the Outer Everfree Forest region with everyone panting heavily.

"Don't take this personally, Vix-Lei" Wind Breaker gasped as he tried to catch his breath as he leaned against a strong oak tree. "But who the fuck taught you how to drive like that‽"

Vix-Lei grinned rather proudly as she swept a few hairs out of her face, leaning against a tree. "I learned from some of my dad's employees; he’s the shipyard master of Ledra," she explained before letting out a small shout, trotting forwards before limbering up her arms. "And most of them worked part time driving passenger chariots when they were in college so they knew how to do all kinds of sick turns! Besides, what kind of shipyard calf would I be if I didn’t take a few on joyrides every now and then?"

Xvital looked greener than normal, letting out a pained purring sound as she rubbed her stomach. "That explains a lot."

“It was rather chaotic,” Rex said as he reached into his bag to retrieve some water.

“I doubt you found it too rough, Rex,” Page said with a chuckle as she and Night Blade sat down beside each other, the latter pulling out a carton of mango juice. “You seemed to be enjoying it a lot; sticking your head off the side with your tongue waggling in the air and barking with joy.”

“I most certainly did not do that,” Rex was insulted that Page Turner would make up such a baseless lie about hi-

“Yes you did, Rex,” Night said with a bit of laughter as he jabbed a straw into the hole in the carton that he made with his fang. “It was pretty funny to see.”

“Not cool Night,” Xvital said sharply as she took the carton of mango juice, twisted the top off and drank it down. “To make fun of others; we need to work together here.”

Rex winced as he saw Night glare angrily at her but kept quiet on the matter. They would need to address this in the fut-

“And you were no better Xvital,” Vix-Lei said as she reached into her pack for some her grapes. “I distinctly remember how you wrapped yourself around my chair, whining and groaning, kitty cat.”

Xvital let out a bit of a chuckle as a blush spread across her face. “Yeah, I tend not to do well on airships and with how crazy you drove…”

“Knocked off a couple of your lives?” Wind Breaker offered which caused everyone except for Night to start laughing at the joke, the nox pony simply scowling off to the side.

“Yeah, maybe,” she said, scratching the back of her head. “But I can just steal them back and then some.” She then yawned, shaking her head. “Is it just me or is anyone else tired?”

“Yeah,” Wind Breaker said, yawning like a bird would do, stretching his neck out. “It is pretty late…”

“It has been a long day,” Rex commented. “For all of us.” He looked around. “I would advise that we sleep in shifts again, especially given where we are. The Everfree’s Deep Woods may be some distance from here, but even the Outer Forest has its dangers.”

“I will take the first shift,” Night said a bit eagerly, starting perk up again.

“No; you kept falling asleep last night,” Xvital said curtly. “Wind Breaker, you’re up first, then Vix-Lei, then Rex, then Page, then me and then you Night.”

“I had a hard time staying awake because I was dealing with the fact that I killed somepony yesterday,” Night snapped back, his coat bristling out in anger.

“And didn’t you say you were fine?” Xvital countered. “And yet you obviously weren’t.”

Night began to sputter, struggling to explain himself before scoffing loudly and storming off to the edge of the group, pawing the ground and flicking his wings angrily. Rex was about to say something when he heard Wind Breaker let out a loud amused snort that he quickly tried to hide under a cough. By the glare Night was giving the griffon, he heard it and was about to do something when Page walked over to him and began to soothe him down.

“Rex, can you start a fire?” Xvital asked him, causing Rex to blink in surprise before he reached into his vest and pulled out a firestarter.

“Stand back everyone,” he said after Vix-Lei and he had finished making a firepit. “I do not wish to set any of you on fire.”

“Even me?” Vix-Lei asked in a cheerful tone, batting her eyes at him.

“Well now,” Rex said, tapping his chin. “That is an interesting proposition.”

“Heh, good one Rex,” Vix-Lei patted him in the arm, although her smile began to falter when Rex kept silent and his own grin up, “Rexy? You’re joking, right?”

“I might be. I might not be.” Rex kept up his grin as he used his firestarter in the pit. “After all, as one of my former packmates once said, There is no problem that cannot be solved with copious amounts of fire.

That’s a bit worrying,” Xvital said with a smirk on her face as the pack started to huddle around the fire, with Xvital running up the tree to set up a sort of funnel for the smoke to dissipate in a way that would not show their location.

“Rufus always was a bit strange,” Rex replied. “But I must admit, his methods came in very useful when we had to deal with an infestation of Scorpios a few years back. How a swarm of arachnid starbeasts ended up in our tunnels, we’ll never know.”

“I didn’t even know that arachnid starbeasts still existed,” Page said as she looked at Night who was slowly walking over to join them, staying on the far edge of the circle from Xvital and Wind Breaker. “You didn’t kill them, did you?”

“It was a very tough sell to my former pack, but after I informed them that we could make some profit by working in unison with Canterlot to herd them into a new location, they were very much agreeable in my suggestions.”

“It’s good you managed to save a few of them but what I’ve heard is that they’re dying off faster than they can breed them,” Vix-Lei said, shaking her head sadly. “There used to be a whole herd of Taurus Major and Minor living on Ledra before their stars simply started to dim and they just died. I think there’s about twenty or so left.”

“Do you believe that theory, that we’re entering an age of no magic, is the cause?” Night asked cautiously, wrapping a wing around Page.

“I don’t know, I don’t have access to magic myself,” Vix-Lei said with a shrug. “Rex?”

“It is a valid theory, with how many ponies are born with either no arcane abilities or have theirs burn out quickly as well as the fact that more are registering with below average levels of arcane access,” he said as he looked into the fire. “I cannot help but wonder if we might find the answer in the course of our travels. The exact source of magic is something I have always wondered about.”

“You among several hundreds others,” Page said as she began to set up a small cooking pot over the fire. “Along with the lost city of the Virtues, ponies have spent ages searching for it.”

“And we might be a bit too busy heading for the frontiers to go out searching for lost cities or the secret source of all magic,” Xvital said as she began to stir in some food into the pot.

“The frontiers?” Night asked in surprise and with a bit of fright in his voice.

“Yeah; it might be a bit far away but it’s lawless neutral land and Equestria won’t be able to touch us,” Xvital added as she continued to prepare their dinner. “You can take however much time you need to get your Element going once we’re there Night.”

Night simply huffed, rolling his eyes again before nuzzling against Page again. “And then you can somehow find yours.”

Xvital raised an eyebrow at this, but thankfully didn’t take the bait, just focusing on making a stew that smelt wonderful. “The slop is almost ready; it’s Pozole, something from back home that even I can cook.” She shrugged. “Normally it’s got meat in it, but since I’m cooking for ponies, I can use beans instead.”

“I don’t mind meat in my meals; Night has given me his meat in the past and I really liked it,” Page said before blushing horribly as she realized what she’d just said out loud.

“Oh don’t stop now, girl,” Vix-Lei grinned as she took her bowl of Pozole. “Tell us more about Night sharing his meat with you.”

Page facehoofed. “Not. That. Kind of meat,” she hissed. “I’m not even-never mind, not getting into that one,” she said a bit sharply, taking her bowl with her magic a tad roughly before shoving a bowl into Night’s hooves and placing a spoon into his mouth. “And don’t you start.”

Night just chuckled and rolled his eyes before reaching with a wing to take the spoon out of his mouth. “Spicy meat,” he said before squeaking as Page used her spoon to boop his nose.

“Spicy meat?” Vix-Lei asked, tilting her head, a smile threatening to break out again.

“She loves spicy foods,” Night said as he took a spoon of the dish into his mouth. “I swear that she would eat one of your insane peppers, what is it called, Phantom Pepper, and be as happy as could be.”

Rex turned to see Page blush at the same time Xvital shook her head in disbelief. “You’re joking, no pony would be willing to eat that; Mictlan, not even I would eat that on a bet.”

Page shrugged nonchalantly. “I have a very strong stomach and tolerance for heat. I have had red habaneros before, after all.”

“Strong?” Xvital shook her head again. “You sure you weren’t forged and not born?”

“One hundred percent organic, I promise,” Page told her before she dug into her bowl again. “This is good, by the way. Could use just a bit more kick.”

Xvital shook her head once more before saying, “You’re fucking loco and I like it.” She then laughed and patted Page on the back with her tail hand.

“You’d probably love Barricade’s chili then,” Wind Breaker commented. “He worked at the Hatchery, and put a lot of spices into his cooking. I had his Special Five-Alarm Chili once and almost burned my beak off until somepony gave me a bucket of ice to help.” He shuddered at the memory.

Page grinned. “Sounds delicious.”

Night Blade almost snorted into his bowl, but even he looked amused by her remark.

Nearby, Vix-Lei finished her own bowl and set it aside with a yawn. “As much fun as this is, I’m ready to hit the sack,” she said. “And that ground looks very inviting to me.”

“My apologies but I forgot to purchase some basic camping gear,” Rex said honestly enough but Vix-Lei shook her head.

“Nah, it just means I have to sleep a bit differently as I am wearing a skirt here, guys, and I do have some decency,” Vix-Lei said as she leaned against a tree, removing her hammers and their carriers from her back.

“From your jokes before, it’s a bit hard to believe,” Wind Breaker said as he placed his bowl to the side, with everyone in the pack laughing at the joke save Night who was studying Xvital’s reaction with a frown on his face.

“Fair enough, Windy,” Vix-Lei said, biting back a yawn. “To be honest, I tend to use my bad material when I meet new people; bad habit of mine. Sorry if I offended any of ya beforehand…” she trailed off, becoming uncharacteristically quiet.

“It is alright,” Rex said, doing his best to ease her worries. “It is how you are, Vix-Lei and I do not hold it against you.” That caused the rest of them to chime in with the minotaur smiling in relief.

She thanked them before letting out a yawn and shaking her head. “G’night, guys.” With that, she flopped down against the tree and was snoring in seconds.

“I think Vix-Lei has the right idea,” Night said as he gave Page a kiss on the cheek before trotting off to the edge of the clearing and hunkering down against a tree, placing his pack and sword within reach. Page kept her eyes on the nox pony until he was asleep; she then turned to look at Xvital.

“Okay, why did you make Night go last? He wanted to help,” Page said, with her eyes narrowed.

“Because he had a rough night last night and he’s still not one hundred percent?” Xvital offered. “I wasn’t going to put him through another early shift and I want him,” Xvital tilted her head towards Night. “To have a good night’s rest.” Xvital held up her hands in defense. “Like I said before, I’m not a complete bitch and I am trying to make sure this crew of ours can actually last.” Xvital then let out a yawn, took up her bowl and the rest of the pack’s and placed them back into her pack. She then climbed onto a tree branch and settled into the crook of the branch, curling up against the tree’s trunk.

Giving her a last look, Page sighed and went over to join Night Blade, snuggling up next to him as the nox pony, who may not have been as asleep as Rex had thought, lifted a wing for her to get under. On the other paw, Night was snoring away, so it may have just been a reflex, the Diamond Dog reflected.

Rex turned to face Wind Breaker, with indecision and nervousness on the griffon's face as he began to break down the fire. “Will you be alright Wind Breaker?”

“Yeah,” Wind Breaker replied. “No problem.” He still sounded nervous and he was rubbing his throat as it was his tell.

Studying him, Rex made up his mind and pulled an object out of his vest. “Here.”

Wind Breaker took the object, and looked at it in confusion. “What is this?”

“An alarm,” Rex replied. “If something dangerous actually enters the clearing, press the button and you’ll make enough noise to wake even the deepest of sleepers, so only use it in the most dire of emergencies.” He sighed. “I wish I had thought to bring one of my other projects with me, but I wasn’t expecting I’d need to set up proximity wards when we set off.” He shook his head. “I know the runes to make them, and there’s plenty of wood around here. Maybe I can carve some tomorrow and have Page enchant them when we have some time to rest again.”

Wind Breaker nodded. “Sounds like a plan. Thanks, Rex.”

“You’re welcome, Wind Breaker.” As he finished covering the firepit, he looked around. “I will see you in the morning.”

Wind Breaker nodded, and Rex went off to find his own corner of the clearing to rest in for the night.


Rex awoke to find the pack in the midst of Xvital and Vix-Lei preparing the morning meal, with Page just starting to stir.

Which left Night and Wind Breaker unaccounted for…

He turned in his head in time to hear Night snort in amusement.

What?” Wind Breaker snapped at the nox pony. The two of them were standing off to the side and both had their weapons out as to practice. Night seemed to have done more practice as he was as covered in sweat as Wind Breaker was fresh as rubies. He was holding his new crossbow with a single talon and aiming it at a tree.

“You’re doing it completely wrong with that crossbow,” Night said as he moved through a sword kata.

“Have you ever used one Night?” Wind Breaker snapped, turning to face Night with the nox pony hissing and leaping out of the range.

“Well, no, but,” Night started to say when Wind Breaker interrupted him.

“Then shut up and let me do my thing,” the griffon said before pulling the trigger and, without any surprise, the shot went wide as Wind Breaker recoiled in pain, beginning to curse as he dropped his crossbow and began clutching his talon to his chest.

Night simply rolled his eyes as everyone else went to Wind Breaker’s side with a still sleepy Page blinking in confusion as the noise woke her up. “As I was trying to inform you, you were holding it with one hoof while it is clearly a two hoof crossbow. Also your stance was terrible, no way to properly brace yourself from the recoil and-”

“You didn’t think to tell me before I fucked up my talon, you ass‽” Wind Breaker growled as he got to his feet.

“I would have if you hadn’t cut me off!” Night Blade snapped back.

“Hey, knock it off,” Xvital snapped as she jumped in the middle of them, glaring hard at Night. “If you two,” her attention was still focused on NIght, with the slimmest of looks directed at Wind Breaker. “Hadn’t noticed we’re on the run and we need to keep quiet, you understand?” she practically growled the last bit before turning her head at him. “Rex, can you check out Wind’s talon? Make sure it’s not broken or anything?”

“Yes, of course,” Rex said almost by reflex, walking over to inspect the griffon’s talon and hoping that-

“NIght, go find that bolt and bring it back,” Xvital said as she went back to the pot, causing Rex to wince as she did the one thing he had believed she knew better to do.

“What no!” Night snorted, shaking his head. “Why the hell should I?”

“Because one, I said so, and two, you’re the only one doing something completely pointless; me and Vix-Lei are making breakfast, Rex is making sure Wind Breaker is fine and Page just woke up. So go get it Night.”

“Wind can get it himself, the fu-”

Night,” Page said as she moved directly in front of him, placing a hoof on his chest and no doubt giving him a look as Night began to calm down, his hard breathing beginning to fade. She then turned to Xvital and with her magic, dropped the bolt into her hand. “Here is the bolt.”

Xvital simply rolled her eyes as she placed it into Wind Breaker’s pack. “Thanks Page,” she flashed a genuine smile at the mare which got Night growling again before the nox pony walked the very edge of the clearing to do more of his sword kata, venting out his anger. Rex wanted to talk to either Night or Xvital, but he had his paws occupied with dealing with Wind ‘s talon. It seemed that Night was right about Wind Breaker having a poor stance and the danger of using one talon, as Rex was forced to use several of his stronger healing remedies.

Hissing in pain as Rex finished applying his medicine and bandaged the talon, Wind Breaker gave him a look of gratitude. “Thanks, Rex.”

“It was no problem,” Rex told him as he packed up his supplies. “But perhaps in the future, if somedog is trying to warn you about something, you might want to listen.”

Wind Breaker sighed. “In hindsight, you’re right. But I can’t help it, Night just…” he shook his head in frustration. “He just pisses me off, you know? I can’t help but get mad every time he opens his big mouth!”

“I know the feeling,” Rex replied dryly. “I felt the same way about somedog from a rival pack. But even if they do make you angry, losing control like that is a good way to get yourself in a lot of trouble.” He gestured to the bandaged talon. “Case in point.”

Wind Breaker nodded. “I see what you mean.”

“At any rate, keep the bandages on for now. It’ll take a few days, even with my medicines, but you’ll be healed up soon enough.”

“I appreciate that,” Wind Breaker told him. “Hopefully I won’t have to use it until then.”

“If a certain more superstitious member of my former pack was here, he’d say you just guaranteed we’ll run into trouble.”

“Ah, crap,” Wind Breaker then grinned. “Thankfully, my vice is drinking, not gambling so I don’t know the odds against us.”

“I say it’s a wash since we acknowledge it,” Vix-Lei piped up from the campfire. “I might not roll the dice but I do know about comedic timing and junk.” She then turned around and waved them over. “Come on, guys. Breakfast is ready.”

Rex walked with Wind Breaker back to the firepit and taking a seat next to the griffon with the nox pony remaining on the outside of the group. He seemed like he was trying to avoid them but thankfully Vix-Lei was smart as sapphires and loudly called him over. “Come Night, I made Strapatsada!”

Eyeing the dish as he came over, Night Blade took a bite from the offered spoon, then looked at her in surprise. “How did you get fresh eggs out here?”

“Picked up a batch in a container with a cooling spell on it a few days ago,” Vix-Lei explained as she took a serving and gave it to Night. “Unfortunately, that was the last of them, but it’s worth it.”

“It is good,” Night Blade replied after he took a second bite, a small smile gracing his face. It was brief but the minotaur saw it and gave one back.

“Hey now, you can actually smile, Nighty,” she grinned as she began to serve up bowls to everyone else. “Can I see it again? Please?” Night, for once, seemed to be in high spirits and responded by forcing an all too wide smile on his face, showing off his fangs and sharper teeth in a frightening way. “Okay, that’s a bit much,” she giggled, shaking her head.

Night continued to smile.

“Okay, Night, you can stop now,” her giggles began to slow down but she was still smiling.

Night smiled even bigger than before, leaning towards her.

“Night, stop it,” Vix-Lei pleaded playfully, pushing him back lightly before turning to Page Turner. “Page, make him stahp.”

Page shrugged. “All right.” Then, her horn and snout glowing, she lunged.

A moment later, Night Blade was recoiling. “Gah, Page; That was my ear you just froze!” he whined as he rubbed a hoof along it.

Page smirked at him. “But it got your attention, didn’t it?”

“True. But honestly, was the cold nose in the ear really necessary?”

“Yes.” She smirked again. “Yes, it was.”

Sighing and brushing his fur down, Night Blade turned his attention back to his food. “You know you’re the only one I’d ever let get away with doing that to me,” he grumbled before taking his next bite.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she told him before digging into her own bowl.

It was almost fifteen minutes later when the group had finished eating and disassembling their camp, and Vix-Lei stretched. “So, I know we’re going west,” she remarked. “But do you have any destinations in particular?”

“One,” Xvital replied as she pulled a map out. “There’s a small settlement on the western edge of the forest - it’s called Sunny Town. We should make it there by nightfall.”

“I’ve heard of that place,” Page said thoughtfully. “I think the founders were devotees of the Goddess Celestia, but eventually something happened and they wound up moving on. Now it’s just a quiet town, with no more than a dozen or so residents. It should be safe.”

“Then let us get moving,” Rex said, hoisting his pack onto his shoulders. “We have a long road ahead of us.”

The others nodded, and with their destination firmly in mind, headed west. Vix-Lei hummed quietly under her breath as she brought up the rear, a tune Rex recognized as one from his own puppy-hood.

The greatest adventure does indeed lie ahead, he thought to himself.

Chapter Twenty Eight: Vix-Lei, Page Turner, Wind Breaker, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Twenty Eight

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei quickly learned that distance on a map was not a steady thing when travelling through the backwoods. Steep ditches that had caught Night and Page by surprise and sent them tumbling down the sides, thick spots of growth that had forced her and Wind Breaker to wiggle around the trees that had grown far more closely together than in any normal forest, and then there was the hidden swamp that had caught them all by surprise. Even Xvital wasn’t amused when she’d fallen in, and she was waterproof! She was still a cat, she guessed.

After that little bath, they had called a halt to dry themselves off, with both her and Rex refusing to move on in wet clothes. While sitting around and doing nothing for an hour or two, they did get to see Night as a big ball of fur, which sent Windy into a fit of laughter… only for Night to then push the griffon back into the swamp. When he had resurfaced and shaken the water off himself, it had taken one of Page’s shields to keep all of them, especially Night Blade, from being drenched all over again.

After they finally got dried, it was noon and tummys were rumbling. And it seemed that Night had drafted Page to make lunch, proudly boasting that she was the best cook he knew despite her tendency to spice things up a tad.

Vix-Lei had to admit that the salad was very good and that Night was right to stop her from adding any more spice. Thank the gods that Rex had the foresight to filter the water from the swamp so they would have something on hand to drink, both during their meal and the rest of their trip or their mouths would have had burned. Night had not been joking about her love of spices; if anything, he had been understating it. Xvital had already made plans to make some rigged bets with Page eating spicy peppers when they got to the frontiers, and Page was looking very eager to try some of the more insane ones as she had been forbidden by the matron from growing them so as long as she was in Canterlot.

“With the kinds you like? You are going to love the Dragon’s Breath peppers,” Xvital told her. “They were named that for a reason.”

Page’s eyes widened at that with her tail wagging in excitement and Night letting out a minor groan. “Remind me to have a mountain between us when you try one,” he said. “If only so it can act as a fire shield.”

Page just smirked. “Don’t worry,” she promised. “I’ll make sure to be looking away from you when I have it.”

Night Blade sighed again. “I have heard that one in the past,” he snarked. “Then you decide to be all kissy and I have to live like a seapony for a week.”

Vix-Lei cracked up at that, while Rex just shook his head in a resigned manner. “Entertaining as this is,” he commented, “We should probably be moving on again. I believe our clothes are dry now.”

Page pouted at him, but gave no argument as they began packing up their things again, with Vix-Lei putting her now dry skirt into her pack, Rex sliding his vest back on and checking on Wind’s hand bird thing... whatever it was called. Very soon they were on their way again, staying to the rim of the swamp with Xvital leading the way by climbing the trees to get a sense of where they were.

They began to break into small talk; namely she took it upon herself to make some conversation happen. “So Nighty, that sword of yours,” she tilted her head towards the bat pony. “It has a name, right?” She’d be surprised as all Tartarus if it didn’t as Night seemed to be one of those serious fighter types that would name their weapons. Not like her who had done it on a whim and kept at it.

“Yes, it’s called Determined Point,” he said, sliding his short sword out of its sheath and spinning it in the air before holding it horizontally across his chest. “It was a gift, of sorts, from my brother Deep Blade for my tenth birthday and actually helped me get my talent emblem. It has been in the Blade family for a long time and it was the youngest Blade that got it, to prove that they can match the elder Blade.” Night let a small sigh out before shaking his head. “And yours?”

Ah, finally! “This here is Lady Kabonk, my fun hammer,” she said, flicking out her squeaky hammer and doing a small spin with it overhead as not to hit anytaur. “And this is Senor Hardhead, my hammer hammer.” Holding her other hammer in her good hand, she smacked a tree at random, causing an ahuiztoless to fall out of it with a shout that was certainly profanity before she landed on all five hands. “Just in case I really need to bonk some heads.”

“Why don’t you just pick them up and toss them across Canterlot mountain?” Xvital snarked as she dusted herself off.

“Eh, that means I have to get in close to pick sometaur up, spend time winding up for the throw and then judge how high the arc needs to be,” Vix-Lei shook her head. “Not worth the effort.”

“What is worrying is that I strongly believe you are not joking here, Vix-Lei,” Rex said, taking a step backwards as she spun her hammers in small circles.

“I’ll never say,” she grinned and winked at the diamond dog before looking at Xvital. “You named your dagger?”

“Nah, not my thing,” Xvital shrugged as she walked with them on the ground. “I’m not exactly the most creative when it comes to names - I’d probably just call it something like Edge and my knuckle busters Lefty and Righty.”

“I see; you got any ideas for yours, Windy?” Vix-Lei asked the griffon who blinked before tilting his head in thought.

“Not really,” he said slowly as he tilted his head to look at his crossbow and bolts. “I haven’t really thought of it. Any ideas?”

Both she and Night scoffed at this, shaking their heads. “Windy, it doesn’t work that way,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“It has to be either you or the original owner that names your weapon,” Night said, flashing a small smile at her, no doubt feeling good about this.

“He asked for ideas, guys, not excuses,” Xvital said with a playful grunt but Night proved to be his grumpy self and missed the joke… but Xvital also proved to be her usual oblivious self to miss that Night wasn’t a jokey type of guy.

Night grumbled again but some things you just couldn’t fix right away. Getting him to loosen up was something she was so going to get done.

Page Turner

As it turned out, Xvital’s estimates had been way off, and as the sun set, they found themselves making camp again in the ruins of some old town. Both Wind and Night were given straws to see who would make their supper, with the griffon losing the draw. And it was for the better as Night only knew how to make the bare basics of breakfast, let alone a dinner meal for six.

Wind had made a pasta dish with a lot of seasoning from his various wine bottles which actually tasted quite good; although the fact that Wind tasted the sauce far too often was worrying and she wondered if she would need to take a bit more drastic steps in helping him get off the habit. She just wished she’d read more about this sort of thing…

Xvital hadn’t changed up the shift roster nor did anyone really ask to move ahead of someone else. She could tell Night wasn’t going to offer his help again due to how it went last time and it would be wrong of her to try and coddle him by going right before him.

When it was finally morning again and Night had made his simplistic sandwich breakfast, Wind Breaker had scoffed at how easy Night was going. His words started off another fight which had led to Xvital stepping in again against Night which left the nox pony in a foul mood again.

If we’re meant to be the new Virtues, Page thought to herself as she watched this, no wonder the old ones barely interacted with each other beyond the quests and missions that the goddesses gave them.

A few hours after they broke down camp and were on their way again, Xvital scampered down the treetops to tell them that they’d finally found a normal road.

“About time,” Vix-Lei said as she leaned against a tree and bent a leg upwards to rub her hoof as the rest of them meandered around, with Wind Breaker and Night before saying they were going to scout ahead. “My dooohoofs are killing me,” she giggled, looking nervously at Rex who simply rolled his eyes to show he took no ill will from it.

“Hey, guys, I think I found something,” Night called out, trotting back from the forest section he was investigating. “Xvital, is there one of your kind’s hideouts nearby?”

“No, why, what did you find?” Xvital asked as she loped past Night and down where he came from.

“It looks to be some sort of hidden bunker; it was covered by grass and vegetations; I almost dismissed it as a hill when I accidently put my hoof through the roof,” Night said as he took the lead from Xvital, with everypony right behind them. After a few minutes of walking through the forest with NIght on edge to find the hidden bunker again, they reached a clearing in the forest to see the false hill. “This side,” Night said, taking them around the hill to a sheer wall of creeper vines. He began tapping the side of it with sounding like wood. “You hear that, right? That’s not dirt,” he said taking a step backwards, examining the wall.

“Yeah,” Xvital said with a distracted voice as she began to tug the creep vine down to show an old fashioned cottage wall. “If that’s here then that must mean..” she said as she sauntered to the middle of the hill and tugged the vine down to reveal a door. She then turned to look at them and shrugged her shoulders. “Normally I don’t go poking my head into abandoned, lost places like this but after the week I’ve been having, I don’t see how things could get weirder.”

Placing her hand on the doorknob and with a grunt as she forced open the door with her shoulder, they walked into what seemed to be a den of some sorts that dust covered white sheets over everything.

Page couldn’t place her hoof on it but she swore she had been here before but that was impo-

She froze as she turned her head to see a very familiar looking shape in what had to be the living room. With her horn glowing to remove the sheet, she saw an extremely familiar looking couch that was in the exact same spot.

“No, no no,” Page said in awe she removed more and more sheets, using her magic to rearrange the furniture and let out a gasp of shock and awe. “It can’t be,” she whispered softly, turning her head to see Night was behind her, supporting her.

“What is it, Page, what’s wrong?” he asked her, eyes darting around for any hidden danger.

“I was here before, when I talked to the Stern Warden, I mean Fluttershy,” Page said as she turned to face the rest of them. “This was her house, guys, do you know what this means?

“I do believe it means we have discovered the lost city of the Virtues,” Rex said in wonder, looking around the cottage. “This is the discovery of the century.”

“Think of all the stuff I could sell on the market; genuine artifacts from the city of the Virtues,” Xvital said, eyeing some of the belongings of the late Fluttershy.

“Only issue, beyond the morality of it, is how you will able to prove it,” Night pointed out, causing the ahuizotless to pout.

“You are not selling Fluttershy’s things, regardless,” Page said sternly as she gave Xvital a look. “This place… this is history come to life.” She looked around. “Besides, I don’t know if she has any relatives still alive today, but if she does, this would all rightfully belong to them.”

“Gah, if the Magi of Stars had relatives, would you return all of the Lost Scrolls to them,” Xvital asked with a bit of snark in her voice.

“Yes, actually,” Page said with a smile on her face as she began to dust the room before blushing as she realized what she was doing. Working too long in the Great Library had made her into an instant cleanup mindest. “It is the right thing to do.”

Xvital scoffed as she walked into the kitchen before turning around as she sat down on the couch with a plop, sending out a massive wave of dust up. “Okay, here is the plan guys; half of us are going to go into Sunny Town and pick up supplies while the rest of stay here and see if we can find anything about the Elements.”

“Sounds good,” Vix-Lei as she picked up an old trinket. “So who’s going?”

“Rex, Wind and…” she paused, rubbing her chin with her tailhand. “Night, tag along with, okay?”

Night flashed her a suspicious look before turning to face Page. “Will you be okay, Page?”

“Yes, NIght, of course I will be okay,” she said softly, pulling him into a kiss on the lips to ease his worries.

“Come along, gentledogs,” Rex said as he retrieved the map from Xvital. “Let us head out so we can be back here shortly.”

As soon as the guys were gone, Page turned to Xvital who already had her hands up.

“Rex is the smartest of us, so I can expect him to get us a good deal. Wind is a griffon and won’t cause too many head turns like Vix-Lei would get, and I’m giving Night something to do which should make him and you happy, right?”

Page looked up at her before sighing and nodding her head. “Yes, Xvital, but maybe you could have told Night this?”

Xvital scoffed, shaking her head as she began to root around the room. “Please, Night doesn’t seem the kind of pony to like pity so if I told him, he’d just get pissy again.”

“Yeah, no offense Page,” Vix-Lei said as she squatted low to check out some of the drawers. “But I can kinda see Night not being the type of calf that likes to know he wasn’t picked last to spare his feelings.”

Page sighed, knowing full well that they were both correct about this. With nothing she could do about Night, Xvital or those watching them outside the cottage at the moment, Page simply joined in the rummaging of the cottage to see if they could find anything that would be able to help them.

Wind Breaker

It wasn’t that long of a walk, once they found their way to the road. Wind Breaker had to admit it was kinda nice being out in the wilderness, being completely free and unattached from everything. He hadn’t had much time to really think about it but he was free now; he might still have his debt but the government couldn’t track him down anymore and force him to pay it back.

He could do anything he wanted to do, go almost anywhere he wanted to, and if Xvital was willing to help him, he could become anypony he wanted to be. He just wanted to fly up in the air and shout out in joy but that wouldn’t be too smart and could get them caught.

“So how will we do this, Rex?” Night asked, causing Wind Breaker to look over to the bat pony. He wasn’t sure whose idea it was exactly it have Rex walk in the middle of them but it was a good idea.

“Simplicity should be our main goal with minimal interactions so we are not spotted and information is passed to Canterlot,” the diamond dog said before tilting his head, flicking an ear. “With that said though, we should spend some time gathering information which means…” He trailed off, turning his head to look at him.

“What, Rex?” Wind Breaker asked, feeling a bit nervous. “What is it?”

“The best way I know of to gather information is to go the location where the lips would be the most loose,” Rex said with Night letting out a tiny hiss.

“What, where?” Wind Breaker asked, feeling his face heat up a bit as Night was preening over the fact he knew what Rex was talking about and Wind Breaker didn’t.

“He is speaking of a bar,” Night sniped at him, shaking his head. “Which is a stupid idea because you have your addiction and we don’t need you to get into a drunken state.”

“Hey, I said I don’t drink to that state!” Wind Breaker said, almost jumping over Rex to get at Night but the diamond dog was having none of it.

“Behave,” Rex growled at them, holding them both back. “We need to work together in this town which means we cannot fight amongst ourselves. Wind Breaker, I trust you to not overindulge yourself and Night Blade, I trust you that you will supply excellent support in case something does happen as well as be able to converse with the ponies of Sunny Town as you have been no doubt been taught how to talk to others?”

“Ye-yes,” Night said skittishly all of a sudden, looking away from Rex. “I’m sure I can do that...”

Wind Breaker raised an eyebrow at Night losing all of his confidence out of the blue, but felt it wasn’t worth poking that hornet's nest.

“Good,” Rex said, wagging his short tail. “Now let us be on with it; we are here.”

Turning his head, Wind Breaker saw that they were in a tiny town. There were a few buildings laid out in a small sprawl from the road with a lot of them two stories tall which made Wind Breaker think the ponies here lived above their shops or in the back of them.

He could spy an inn, a general store, a small police station, a healer’s place and a few other very non descript buildings. There were a few ponies walking around, giving them welcoming nods and friendly smiles as they made their way into the town. It didn’t seem like that these ponies were aware of who they were which was good. Maybe they were safe from Canterlot and the monster that took over Gentle Step.

“Come on, let us see what we can learn,” Rex said with a smile on his face that was matched by the one his beak and Night’s face. “I have a good feeling about this.”

Trotting down the road with the three of them smiling and greeting the Sunny Town ponies like they were old chums, Night held the door open at the inn for Rex and him before they walked over to the bar.

“Hello there, cuties,” a mare with a white coat and an orange mane said next to a stallion with an orange coat and a blue mane. “I’m Starlet and this is Roneo; we own this inn and I’ll be your server today.”

“So best to tell her your poison now or she will get creative,” Roneo chuckled, nuzzling the mare who batted him away playfully and told him to stop with just as much mirth as before.

“Then again, she does do good work on the fly, with our dear Starlet being a foremost barmare,” a third pony said walking up beside them. He had a brown coat and an orange mane, and held out his hoof to Night. “Hello gentleponys, my name is Gladstone and it is a pleasure to meet new ponies in our dear little community.”

“It is nice to meet you as well,” Night said, smiling broadly at this stallion, shaking his hoof. “This is Wind Breaker and Rex; we’re new here.”

“We hope you like it, mister Blade,” Gladstone said, patting Night on the back.

“Light Ciders for me and them,” Wind Breaker said with something tickling the back of his head but he couldn’t place his talon on it.

“Coming right up,” Starlet said with a smile before disappearing behind the bar to fetch the drinks. “So what brings you three out here?”

“Not much,” Night said, still smiling. “We’re just travelling outwards, right guys?” He bobbed his head at Rex and Wind Breaker before taking the offered drink. “Thank you, Starlet.”

“Likewise,“ Rex said before holding the bottle out to Night and Wind Breaker to clink it. “Cheers.”

“Cheers,” both Night and Wind Breaker said and taking sips of it.

Instantly the blood in Wind Breaker chilled and he looked at Rex and Night Blade. “Guys, we need to get out here,” he whispered under his breath as soon as they were alone. “This isn’t Cider and she claimed to be a barpony.”

“Come on Wind, just because she got the drinks wrong doesn’t mean we’re in danger,” Night said in a low voice, shaking his head and taking another long drink from his bottle.

“Night, you are smiling, in a good mood, and we’re actually getting along,” Wind hissed, feeling his heart race as he began to feel something like intoxication. Curling his talons up to fight it back, he pressed the issue. “And that Gladstone knew your name.”

Night and Rex froze, with the both of them putting their bottles down. “Shit,” Night swore, looking nervous. “You’re right. Let’s get out of here, now,” he said as he pushed himself away from the counter, with Rex and Wind Breaker right behind him.

“And here we were hoping that you three would be staying a while longer,” Gladstone said with Starlet and Roneo on either side of him. They then shed their pony bodies to reveal darker forms and Wind Breaker knew that things had just gotten a lot worse.

Page Turner

They had spent a good twenty minutes exploring the first floor before coming to the conclusion that any documents would have faded long ago and that the second floor was not to be tempted as it would cave in and that they should begin to settle in for the night.

As she finished unpacking her pack, there was a knock on the cottage door. Xvital and Vix-Lei tilted their heads as it was far too early for the others to show up.

“Who could that be?” Vix-Lei mused out loud, shifting on her hooves. “Ain’t this place really out there and not known?”

“By all the dust, yeah,” Xvital rubbed her nose as the person on the other side of the door knocked again.

“Do you think we should answer it?” Page asked hopefully as she getting tired of this.

“I don’t-” Xvital began but Page decided to use her magic to open the door to settle the matter. Instantly, three ponies walked into room; they were three earth ponies with two mares and one stallion. The stallion had a grey coat and a black mane, while the first mare had a light grey coat and a dark red mane and the second had a green coat and a mossy green mane.

“Hello there,” the stallion said, flashing a far too wide smile. “My name is Grey Hoof, these are my companions Mitta and Three Leaf, and you three, Xvital, Vix-Lei and Page Turner are coming with us.”

“What makes you think that’s going to happen?” Vix-Lei asked as she pulled out Senor Hardhead only for Mitta to grow a dark horn and hit her with a bolt of green magic, with Three Leaf doing the same to Xvital. Grey Hoof tried to do the same to her but Page was in no mood for it.

“Alright, who are you three?” She snapped as she saw them drop their disguises and found herself frowning even more. “What manner of changelings possesses that kind of armour?” She demanded, already angry at what the answer could only be.

“I don’t think you know exactly how much trouble you are in, criminal,” Grey Hoof, or whatever his name was, narrowed his eyes. “Who are you to demand such things?” he glowered, but kept the two nymphs in line behind him from advancing.

Page dropped her own disguise with their eyes going wide as she let her connection to the hive reach outwards towards them. “I am Lamella,” she snarled as she was proven correct to who they were, or who they were descendants of. “Now tell me, who you are and what is going on, now,” she barked, unable to keep her anger at bay.

“I-” the drone stuttered in complete shock. “M-”

No,” Page stalked forwards, her wings buzzing in fury. “You do not have the right to say that, none of you traitors do!”

“High talk coming from someling like yo-” the nymph called Mitta was silenced when Grey Hoof used his magic to clap her mouth shut.

“Ruby Shell, silence,” the drone snapped at the nymph before turning to face Page, bowing his head slightly. “I am Captain Memorizing Gaze, Secret Protector of the Hidden Guards, as was my father and his father before him,” he said in a clear tone, matching her eyes.

“So that was what your ancestors got for betraying Queen Chrysalis to the ponies and damning the entire Hive to extinction?” Page could not keep the bitterness out of her voice; if there was somepony that she could blame for the current state of the changelings, it was them.

“My ancestors betrayed a Queen that launched a suicidal invasion that not only failed as all the generals said it would, but one that refused to try and pacify the mourning and vengeful Equestrians,” he said just as hotly back into her face, showing he had some spine in him. “You know that Chrysalis was planning on using her child as a means to claim the throne of Equestria in some twisted fashion. You know that it would have resulted in a direct war to kill us all off. They did what they felt was right to save our race at the cost of being exiled from the Hive.”

“And thanks to them, we had a thousand years to enjoy our Hive’s slow death instead of a bloody fucking quick end ,” Page snorted, shaking her head. She then forced herself to stop and control herself; it would do her no good to just feed into this ugly shouting match. The emotions were turning vile and she didn’t want to be left gagging for a month because of this drone. She looked at Vix-Lei and Xvital and turned her attention back on the drone, eyes narrowed. “Are they going to be fine?”

“Of course Lamella,” his usage of her real name caused Page’s chitin to itch and the urge to smack him across the face rose. “Standard minor knockout spells; we were going to place you three into cocoons to bring you back to Canterlot.” He then blinked and peered at her. “What is going on here, Lamella?”

“First off, do not call me that, you, of all changelings - especially given what you and your two brothers were meant to be for the Hive - have the least right to address me like that,” Page snapped before she shoved her anger back down. “And…” she stopped, getting her head in order to properly explain all this to him. “We, the six of us, were contacted by a spirit called Balance that told us some evil creature has taken over control of the government. It also told us we’re the latest bearers of its Elements that the Virtuous Six had and we’re currently on a quest to get the last two awakened so we can stop Gentle Step, who we believe that this creature has overtaken.” Page then realized how utterly insane and stupid it sounded when she said it like that.

“Normally, I would dismiss such accusations out of hoof,” Memorizing said with a roll of his eyes, causing Page’s blood to simmer again. “But as it is coming from you, I will keep an eye on her. If she really has been subverted, I will take proper measures to stop her. Know that you will have the full support from the Hidden Guards if you cross paths with my Guards in the future, no matter what happens.”

“Good,” Page said, refusing every instinct telling her to thank him; her anger at the offspring of their Hive’s greatest traitors too great to overcome at the moment even if he was risking a lot on his end.

His guards looked like they wanted to ask her that question but Memorizing simply looked at them and they straightened up as proper Guards should do. That was good as getting that question from regular changelings was bad enough; having it from them would just set her off again and she wouldn’t be able to control her anger this time.

“Until next time, La-Page Turner,” he said, bowing his head again as they began to leave the cottage with Page holding her breath until the door was closed.

With a loud sigh, she rested her head against the door as she tried to get her emotions in order. She felt her heart racing and her mind trying to point out something she was missing but she couldn’t place her hoof on it...

“So you’re a changeling?” Vix-Lei’s voice from behind her caused Page to yelp and jump in the air. “Makes a ton of sense, eh kitty cat?”

“Oh yeah,” Xvital groaned as she propped herself up on the sofa’s arm. “One thing though-ooo, nope, not standing up right now,” the ahuizotless whimpered as she slid back onto her butt. “Why didn’t you guys tell us about this?”

“Wha-I-huh‽” Page squeaked, her wings flickering out in confusion. “You girls aren’t… you know?” She gestured to her face, aware that she was still in her true changeling form.

“What are you talking oh nopity nope nope,” Vix-Lei grabbed the wall to lower herself back down, with her other hand holding her stomach. “What are you talking about Page; the fact that you’re a changeling?” She asked in true confusion, turning to Xvital for some support.

“Yeah; I don’t get it; I mean I’ve got no beef with you changelings,” Xvital waved her tail hand dismissively. “I don’t think Vix-Lei has any problems with you either, right?”

“Noooope,” the minotaur said shaking her head. “I mean, I guess I can see why you’d be so surprised with what you living in the second most anti-changeling city in the whole world.”

“I-I-I,” Page was desperately trying to get a grasp on this situation but Xvital came in again.

“So why didn’t you two tell us about it; I mean it could have really helped us out if we knew you could sense people's emotions like a Timber Wolf does for blood.”

“Because revealing that I’m a changeling-pony halfbreed is extremely dangerous for me to do and what do you mean you two?” Page frowned at this, wondering who this second person was.

“You and Night, who else?” Xvital snorted in annoyance with Page doing her best not to blush at the comment.

Unfortunately for her, both the minotaur and ahuizotless saw it and gasped.

“You haven’t told him‽” Vix-Lei practically shouted, with Page doing her best to hush her as if Night could hear her somehow.

“No, he doesn’t know I’m part changeling!” Page shot back with Xvital stirring again.

“How is that even possible, aren’t you two dating?” Xvital asked her with shock written across her face.

“Again, telling people that I am part changeling would be extremely dangerous for me, and I don't know how Night would react if he were to find out.”

“Are you kidding me?” Vix-Lei laughed, shaking her head. “You’ve got him wrapped around your little… er, that phrase doesn’t work if you don’t got fingers.”

“What she is trying to say is that you really don’t need to able to taste emotions to see how much that colt loves you,” Xvital said shaking her head. “I mean, I am no changeling and even I can see how much he loves you that the idea of him rejecting you is loco.”

“Look, girls, I appreciate all the advice, but please, I need some air right now.”

“You should tell him the truth,” Xvital said, tipping her head forwards.

“You’re crazy, I don’t even know how to tell-” she was cut off as the door opened, revealing a familiar face staring at her. “Night?” she squeaked in surprise.

She felt a wave of emotions from him, all too overwhelming and too quick for her to pick apart but then Night settled on rage, seething rage and hatred. With a curl of his lips forming a snarl and eyes narrowed, he hissed a single word at her.

Monster.

Night Blade

Night was doing his hardest to fight back the effects of the damn booze and these damn changelings, focusing on his anger to push away all the happiness that the changelings were no doubt pumping him with. Rex had stopped reaching for his pockets in the off chance he’d blow them up, and Wind was doing a good job at using the bar stool to swat them away.

He never thought he’d be happy that Wind Breaker knew his booze that well to spot the fake. He pulled out his sword and was doing his best to fight back, causing the changeling to dance back. Wind had grabbed a bar stool and thrown it as his changeling before tackling it over to prevent it from using its magic on him. Rex had also gone for close fighting, jumping on its back and the changeling doing its best to buck him off.

While Night might be expected to be at something of a disadvantage fighting something that had magic, he was good at fighting unicorns. Using his wings to take to the air and get behind it, he could see the changeling was really getting frustrated, its magic swipes becoming clumsy. Soon he’d be able to disarm it and help Rex or Wind Breaker.

All of a sudden, the changeling in front of him stopped and tilted its head. Night froze, his sword hesitating from completing its strike to knock the changeling unconscious.

“What is it,” the changeling dealing with Wind, Starlet, hissed at his changeling. “This griffon may be a shrimp but fucking dammit is he weighty!”

Roneo, or whatever its real name was, tilted its head towards the changeling dealing with Rex before the two changelings stopped. “Well that happened,” Gladstone said with a huff.

“What is going on here?” Night growled, eyeing the oddly dressed changelings. He never knew a changeling could have stuff, let alone armour that seemed well kept…

“We’ve got orders, Nighty,” his changeling grinned. “Our leader just finished dealing with your mares,” they snickered at this, with the blood draining from Night’s face. “We don’t need to deal with you three anymore.”

They might have said more, but Night wasn’t there, he was already out of the bar and flying as hard as he could back to where Page was. This was his greatest nightmare coming true and he was cursing himself for thinking he could trust Xvital or Vix-Lei to keep Page safe. He wasn’t sure what Wind was squawking, he didn’t care, he just had to make sure Page was safe.

He never flew faster in his life and yet he felt he was moving at a snail's pace, hating himself for not training his wing muscles in the past. He could feel his heart screaming in his chest with horrible things that they were doing to Page flashing through his head.

He just needed to go faster, faster, faster!

Finally he reached the cottage, almost crashing into the ground as he landed, desperate to make sure Page was safe. He could hear her voice, with his heart beginning to slow as he reached for the already turning doorknob.

“You’re crazy, I don’t even know how to tell,” the door opened and he saw a changeling wearing Page’s necklace and her Element stare at him, her blue eyes widening in surprise. “Night?” it squeaked in surprise.

Night felt his heart drop at this before he realized that this is what those fucking changelings meant, that they had taken Page and were stupid enough to try and fake being her.

Monster,” he hissed with all the rage he could muster before he tackled it through the doorway and smashed it into the coffee table, bringing his hoof into its face again and again. “WHERE IS SHE‽ he roared as he smashed its face, Night’s rage building as it dared to try pull away. He slapped its hooves away, grabbed its head and slammed it into ground. “I SAID, WHERE IS SHE” he shouted again, snapping his wing out as he was dimly aware of someone behind him. The tumble and pain noise told him that it was dealt with for the moment, Night wrapped his hooves around its neck and started to squeeze. “I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU DO NOT TELL ME WHERE I CAN FIND MY LOVE PAGE TURNER!

He felt it try to reach for his neck and Night’s rage was at its peak now. He brought his hoof up to smash its skull in when he noticed that it was his own necklace dragging him down, tugging at his neck.

That… that didn’t make sense. The only way for it work like that would be…

Night looked at the changeling he was on and suddenly, everything about Page made perfect sense. Why she refused to ever see a doctor, why she was good with foals, why she was so pleasant and happy all the time, why that changeling came back to her in Canterlot, and so many more things fell into place. In the next second, his rage-narrowed vision cleared up and he saw Xvital and Vix-Lei cowering in fear in the corners, Wind Breaker was gasping for breath behind him with Rex standing over him and under him was… was… was...

Night’s entire body began to tremble as his mind slowly made the connections he did not want to. Looking at his hooves covered in blood, in her blood, he let out in a tiny whisper, “My goddesses, what have I done?

Chapter Twenty Nine: ???

View Online

Chapter Twenty Nine

???

It stared down at its city, Canterlot.

It was its city; through the host it claimed the city had become its new domain.

It was not worried, not truly. Four of the six Elements had awoken; Kindness, Laughter, Honesty and Generosity were on the field. It was not worried about Loyalty or Magic as both it and Balance knew it would be pointless in the end, it already had victory assured.

It was not a fool, however and that was the reason it was going to see to their deaths. Leaving a thing like Balance alone would be asking for trouble. Hence why it taken this host primarily so it could control the Captains of Canterlot.

“The six traitors are still loose,” it said through its host, matching the manner of speech perfectly. No need to alarm the Captains; while they were powerful and they were no match for it, they and their Guards would pose most vexing to kill and would lead to no end of revolts and resistance groups. “I have thought long on this matter and I have decided that the time has come for the Guards to meet the changing times and use these powerful creatures.” It turned its host’s head to the side and revealed what ponies of this age called Manechurian Dragons. “You are all as aware of how dangerous these creatures are as I am and while we have done our best to keep them out of Canterlot and Equestria, we cannot be stagnant when the world is moving forwards.”

“They are still very clumsy and dangerous for their handler,” the stallion in gold muttered. “I could not in good conscience allow my Guards near them, sir.”

“I understand your complaints and I agree with you.” It truly did believe these words, one of the few things that were not lies it had peddled to the Captains. In Ages past, Manechurian Dragons had elegance, simplicity, grace and a terrible killing power that those who lived in those times had perfected to their destruction. Of course, like their true name, knowledge of what they could do was lost to time but nothing was truly lost to Time and others who had a Role and Purpose related to death, destruction, pain and sorrow like it had. “I have ponies working on refining them, perfecting their power. Once it is done, you will use them to hunt down the six and bring them in, killing them if need be.”

The Captains looked at the host before nodding and leaving to address their Guards about their new tasks, leaving it alone with its host.

It turned the host’s head to look down at its city and smiled.

Victory was assured; now it was just a matter of bringing everything together.

Chapter Thirty: Xvital, Night Blade, Wind Breaker, Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Thirty

Xvital

It had been thirty minutes since that chaos had happened and Xvital had no idea what she should be doing.

Vix-Lei was sitting in the corner of the room, staying every quiet and glancing at everyone in the rest of the room every once in a while.

Wind Breaker had parked himself against the side of the kitchen door, holding an ice pack against his throat, an ugly bruise forming from where Night had smashed his wing against it.

Rex was tending to Page inside the kitchen, and the last they’d seen of the diamond dog was him looking very flustered which worried Xvital greatly.

And Night… he had barely moved an inch from where it happened, muttering softly to himself and shaking ever so slightly. It was really scary and she had no idea what she should be doing or saying.

She was the leader of this damn crew and she should be doing something, anything. She wished that Vix-Lei would make a joke or something, anything to end the silence.

Suddenly, there was a scraping as Night got to his hooves, his voice becoming clearer.

“I… I have to see her,” he said distractedly, licking his lips as he swayed on his hooves.

Maybe this would be what they-

No.”

Xvital shared a look with Vix-Lei, both looking worried as Wind Breaker shifted around and stood upright.

“What did you say to me, I have to see her,” Night said, narrowing his eyes.

“I,” Wind gasped for air, rubbing his throat. “Said… no...”

Night growled, pawing the ground. “What gives you the right to say that to me, Breaker?” he spat out.

“I… don’t… want… you hurting... her again..” Wind tilted his head forwards, a similar furious look on his face. “Blade.” he spat out, dropping the ice pack on the ground.

“How dare you, you piece of garbage!” Night shouted. “I would never hurt Page!”

“Then why… did you... beat her...Blade?” Wind sneered at Night, with the bat pony trotting angrily on the spot.

“It was a horrific mistake, you asshole!” Night yelled back. “I would have never intentionally hurt Page Turner; I love her, something you as a Hatchery griffon will never know!”

“Fuck you!” Wind Breaker snapped back, clawing the ground. “At least... I am not an… antisocial loser who… no doubts has mommy and daddy take care of all… of your little accidents.”

Night narrowed his eyes and spoke very calmly. “What are you implying, griffon?” he said the word griffon as if it were a slur.

“You never hitting Page?” Wind let out an ugly chuckle. “Two words, Blade. Bull… shit.”

Night stood still before letting out a feral sounding snarl. “You worthless piece of trash, no wonder your parents gave you up when you were born; take that back or else.”

“Or I will have an,” Wind spat out, his face as furious as Night’s was. “Accident?

That was it; both Wind Breaker and Night Blade threw themselves at each other, with Vix-Lei and Xvital reacting just as quickly. Vix-Lei had Wind Breaker pinned to her chest with Señor Hardhead held across his chest and Xvital using her arms and tail to hold Night back.

Xvital glared at Wind Breaker, furious that he would actually do something so stupid as to provoke Night like this. They didn’t need this shit right now. She waited for Wind Breaker to acknowledge her; he looked at her before nodding his head and shifting his eyes downward in guilt.

Good, that was settled. Now to deal with Night.

“Look Night, this stupid fighting of yours, it has to stop and-”

Night all of a sudden made this weird angry growling sound before pushing out of her grip

“Fuck this and fuck you, I have had enough,” Night shouted in her face, jabbing a hoof into her chest. “I have put up with you blaming me for every fucking thing that has gone wrong, you treating me like utter shit for no fucking reason and I kept my mouth shut for some unknown reason. But fuck you, you fucking bitch, I have made the worst mistake in my life and when I am trying to make up for it, that asshole is trying to stop me and you are blaming me for this…” He shook his head before glaring at her, baring his fangs at her. “I don’t know or fucking care what your life was like before all this shit began but I had one! It might not have been the best life but it was mine! And you forced me to throw it all away and yet you still fucking mock me at every fucking turn and…” He shoved her to the side and stormed towards the door. “I,” he snarled, “Have had. Enough. Of YOU!” Whirling around, he stalked towards the edge of the clearing. “I’m done with this… with all of this. Fuck Balance, and its damn quest. I quit!

And before anyone could say a word, he’d spread his wings and flew off.

Xvital was left speechless at this, her mind racing in how to get him back here and, hopefully, back to his senses.

“He’s right,” Wind Breaker spat out.

“Oh no, you do not get to say that,” Xvital growled, almost pouncing him over. “Tu no puedes cambiar de lados asi de repente! Tengo que aguantarlos a ustedes dos idiotas pelando todo el puto tiempo y tu no puedes saltar en su defensa asi como asi!”

Wind Breaker blinked in confusion at her before she realized she’d lapsed into Burroñeso again.

“I said, you idiota, why the fuck are you taking his side now!” Xvital glared hard at him. “What, do you like him now? You two fri-”

Fuck no, I hate the fucker!” Wind hissed in pain, rubbing his throat before glaring at her. “But he was right that you usually blamed him for everything.”

“No I didn’t!”

Yes, you did, Xvital,” Vix-Lei said, walking towards her. “You always treated like him shit, mocking him to his face, being a real bit-”

“I DIDN’T do that!” Xvital shouted, shocked as hell that they were making up this crap about the little nutball. “I treated him like I would treat the rest of you assholes!”

“Enough,” Rex growled as he stepped out of the kitchen, cleaning his paws with a towel. “I have witnessed you treating Night poorly for some time and I have been meaning to have a chat with you about it.”

Xvital snorted and was about to rip into Rex when something dark behind shoved him out of the way.

Page looked like shit; while Rex had done his best to bandage her, her entire face was still battered and bruised from where she had been struck, with one eye swollen shut, and she stank of healing ointment.

But despite all that, she seemed to be very much aware of what was going on and looked mighty pissed, with how her wings were buzzing around and the fact she was baring her fangs. She began to walk into the living room, hissing in pain and stumbling a bit but she shook her head when Rex went to support her.

“Dammit Xvital, what happened between you and Night?” Page growled, placing a holed hoof against her face. “Tell me exactly what you said to get him to leave like that.”

“I didn’t say anything wrong!” Xvital snapped back. “Look, I told that we didn’t need him and Wind fighting every five damn-”

“No you did not,” Vix-Lei said. “Well, you might have wanted to say it, but all you got out was telling Night his fighting was stupid and he had to stop before he left.”

“Celestia and Luna dammit,” Page swore before leaning on the sofa for stability. “Look, it might not be clear to you but Night has several issues-” Wind seemed like he was about to open his mouth but Page just glared him down. “One of them is ponies telling him what he has to do; it came from his parents saying no to him.”

Xvital let out an annoyed grunt and rolled her eyes. “Oh please, he’s a noble brat; getting told no is just-”

No Night, I cannot come out and play with you, I am far too busy,” Page stalked in close. “No Night, I cannot read a bedtime story to you, your father and I are both too tired and we need to get up early tomorrow. No Night, you cannot go out to Regal’s birthday party, we are having several important business guests today and you must be on your best behaviour. No Night, you must see to Striking Blade while your brother is visiting us, we can have your birthday dinner on the weekend. Night, stop acting like a child; it is just your birthday; we stopped giving out gifts and really celebrating them years ago,” Page stopped and glared into Xvital’s eyes. “This was all before he was ten. And then there was his talentmitzvah…” she grumbled, shaking her head.

Vix-Lei’s jaw dropped. “Holy ΓΑΜΩ what is wrong with his parents‽” she exclaimed. “I mean, my dad and I may not get on the best, but at least I’ve always known that he cares about me! Sounds like your guy never even knew that much!

“They were in their late fifties when he was born and as Night told me, they were all ready to go into early retirement when Night’s mom got the news,” Page sighed, still throwing her a heated glare. “They were suddenly required by social customs to go back to work, and with their other kids all grown up, they didn’t really shift back from adult kid relationship to kid kid relationship. Celestia knows that was proven at his talentmitzvah…”

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” Rex said tentatively, the diamond dog looking everywhere but at her.

“Let’s just say it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Night and he pretty much gave up on them. He has got a lot better; he has been calmer and well balanced since then,” Page rubbed her face and winced before tilting her head at Xvital again. “Until today…”

“Hey,” Xvital snapped, feeling her heart race. “How was I supposed to know this? Fuck, if I knew that telling him what the fuck to do would cause him to flip out, I would have not told him what the fuck to do like that!

“Oh, what were we supposed to do, just blurt it out?” Page rolled her eyes before jabbing a hoof into her chest. “‘Oh hi, this is Night Blade, the youngest member of the Blade family and has a shitton of issues and almost no self confidence, how do you do‽’”

“Well of course not but come the -” Xvital began to fight back when she felt someone push her backward. Looking up, she saw Vix-Lei had stepped in between them, using her hammers to push them apart.

“Both of you; stop it with your bitchfest,” Vix-Lei glared at the unicorn-changeling mare. “Page, take a moment to breath and calm the Tartarus down. Xvital, stop trying to defend yourself and admit you’re wrong here and you treated Night like utter shit for some reason.”

Fine, I might have treated Night poorly for some reason, the Mictlan if I know why that freakin’ nutcase bothered me so badly,” Xvital huffed, rolling her eyes.

“Did you ever interact with a noble ahuizotl in the past, Xvital?” Page asked her a cold tone. “One that really treated you poorly?”

“Yeah,” Xvital said, thinking of Chantico, how terrible she treated her because Xvital was with… Xvital froze, feeling her blood run cold. Chantico had always nitpicked whatever she did, finding ways to make her feel like she was nothing, less than nothing. “Dios mío, ¿qué he hecho?” she muttered to herself as a wave of shame, regret and horror run through her, reliving what should have been her most special day that she had ruined with her damn logic.

“I thought so,” Page said coldly. Xvital was confused for a second in how Page understood her when she realized she was talking about feeling her emotions. “Perhaps now you understand how you made Night feel the entire time?”

With her head hanging low, Xvital felt the absolute worst for the second time in her life and for the second time in her life began to cry.

“I already have an idea in how to find Night,” Page said sharply, taking control of the situation. “Find my love, Night Blade.” She said into her necklace with nothing happening. The changeling-unicorn frowned and held out her necklace and said again, “Find my love, Night Blade.” Still nothing happened. “Find my love Night Blade find my love Night Blade find my love Night Blade Rex why isn’t it working‽”

Rex stepped over to Page or whatever her real name was and picked up necklace and examined it with his special glasses and winced for some reason. “It is working as intended, Page Turner, but-”

“But what?” she snapped, glaring down at Rex.

“Page, or whatever your true name is-”

“Look, my mom, my birth mom named me Lamella Armor the Tenth, but Hush Tone named me Page Turner and I am Page Turner,” she hissed before she forced herself backwards. “So Rex, can you please tell me why it is not working?”

“Page, do you still love Night?”

The question caused Xvital to snap her head upwards and she was able to see the shock on the changeling-unicorn hybrid's face.

“What kind of question is that? What happened was a mistake, Rex,” Page said while she began to look fidgety.

“I understand that but Page, do you still love him?” Rex pressed the issue with Page beginning to look very panicky.

“I.. I” she stammered, stumbling backwards before hitting the wall behind her. “I don’t know…”

Night Blade

Twack

Twack

Twack

Skirrrch

Night bit his lip hard as his messed up this fucking simple exercise again, his sword stuck in the tree he was practicing on. He did not stop biting until he felt the iron taste of blood, the liquid in his mouth causing his stomach to quiver in revolusion.

As with the other times, he did not try and hold back, forcing his body to dry heave again and sending him to the ground as the weak idiot he was. The pain his gut was in did nothing to take away the agony that was going through his head as his mind forced him to relive that moment he had attacked Page.

Fresh tears ran down his face as he rolled around in this dirty isolated hill in the center of the forest as the guilt of what he had done to the mare he loved promised to break him mentally but refused to send him insane and thus leave him with the consequences of his action.

It was better; losing his mind was the coward's way out and he was not a cowa….

“Ah fuck, who am I kidding?” Night sobbed to himself, holding his barrel tightly. “I’m not anything good or noble…”

“This we agree upon,” a voice from behind, a voice Night knew, a voice that Night knew was truly responsible for what happened to Page. With a growl, he spun up from the ground, grabbing his sword and went for horizontal slash to make the real villain pay. Only for Balance to step out of his reach and backhoof Night as he made his turn. “You are a failure for test after test after test, you failed. Every test I put forth for you and you failed all of them.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Night spat as he stumbled to his hooves. “I don’t care about you or your stupid Elements, you fucking bastard!” He forced himself to do a diagonal slice against the spirit, only for it to move out of the way again and bring its hoof down on his neck.

Again you fail a simple test,” Balance shouted at him, keeping pressure on Night’s neck as it kicked away his sword. “So much hangs in the balance and it could all fall to ruin and failure because of you!

“I don’t ca-” Night’s words were choked out of him as Balance increased its pressure on his neck.

“I do not care what you think, Night. You were chosen for this Duty long before you were born, you were born to perform this Duty and yet because of your selfishness and self centeredness, everything could be lost!” Balance roared into his head, the pressure on his neck never changing. “I am running out of tests to give to you for you to awaken your Element, Night, and either you will be one more step into saving this word or be the one that damns it to Tartarus!”

The weight on his neck shifted and doing his best to force his body not to gasp for air and further his own deserved punishment, Night managed to croak out. “But Page…”

Balance grabbed him and threw him across the hill, crashing through several trees before hitting the ground and coming to a stop just before the lip of the hill. Night was not given a second to catch his breath before Balance crashed down onto him, a hoof pressing onto his ribs.

Again, you fail a simplistic test,” Balance said, making Night feel as worthless as he did back home. “One that could have been enough for you to awaken your Element but again your selfish nature comes first!” Balance loomed in close, staring Night directly in the eyes. “Now listen closely to me, for this will be your final test and you will not speak until I am finished.” It then dragged Night upwards and tilted his head in one direction. “That way you will find your nephew in patrol. If you go to him, he will aid you in your return to Canterlot. In time, you will be able to put this entire thing behind you and return to the life you once had.” It then forcefully turned his head another direction. “This way is where the rest of the Elements are. They are currently walking into danger and while they will receive aid soon, they will not get it without suffering.”

The notion of Page being in danger almost caused his heart to leap into his mouth but before he could even think to ask what kind of danger, Balance continued its speech. “Know this, because of your actions, your assault against Kindness itself, Page Turner will never love you as she once did. Because of what you did, the love you two had is gone and will never be as it was once and you coming to the Elements’ aid will not bring it back.”

Night froze at that; hearing that Page no longer loved him, that there was no way for him to fix things was almost too much for him to take. He began to shake at the very idea that she now hated him, the one person he knew that actually loved him for him, his entire body beginning to break down at this.

“One way, you will get everything you ever wanted, the other you will regain all that you lost.” Balance said as it moved off his chest. “It is your choice, Night Blade. This is my final test unto you.”

And then, Balance was gone.

Night stared at the ground, letting the words eat at him, the guilt of his actions eating away at him even more.

She no longer loved him.

He was so tired, tired from everything. He knew that he and Striking Blade didn’t get along but the fact that his older nephew could help him...

She didn't love him anymore.

He didn’t care anymore, going with them had ruined his life. He was so tired, so very tired.

He was out of his depth, he didn’t know what to do. He just wanted somepony to take charge of things, to let somepony else worry about things. He was tired of ponies yelling at him, hating him for no reason. He would rather be neglected like before than deal with all this trouble. He owed Xvital, Rex, Vix-Lei, Wind Breaker and her nothing. He could easily do it, he just had to fly off in that direction and find Striking and then everything would be taken care of. He could go back home, crawl under his blankets and pretend this never happened. His parents might even recognize that he existed after all this! Despite how much he hated them, this is what he always wanted and he could get everything he lost.

He grabbed his sword and started beating his tired wings, lifting himself clumsily into the sky - he could punish himself for it later and began to fly to where his nephew was.

They will be in danger, they will receive aid but they will suffer.

The memory of what Balance said struck him out of the sky, crashing back into the hilltop that stood as an island from the rest of the landscape.

He could see Vix-Lei and Rex being attacked by some horrific creature in his head, unable to defeat it.

“I don’t care; they don’t care about me,” he muttered to himself, pawing the ground with his eyes shut tight.

He saw Wind Breaker and Xvital fighting some monstrosity, so close to death.

“I don’t care about them, they’ve always hated me,” he whispered to himself, tears threatening to escape his eyes as he dug up the ground, biting his lip hard enough to pierce through the flesh. The pain, for once, wasn’t helping him.

He saw her in danger, something threatening her.

“She hates me, I attacked her and she hates me,” he shouted, sobbing hard enough for his chest to hurt. “Why do I have to keep on suffering‽ Why is it always me‽ Why why why‽” he shouted to the heavens, breaking down as he began to throw everything within reach. “Why can’t I ever be happy‽ Why, what have I done so wrong‽” He wanted to claw his face off, he wanted to die - maybe that way he could be happy, with no one always angry at him.

Through his tears, Night spotted something glittering in front of him and without knowing why, he was drawn to it. Stumbling forwards, his legs weak because he was weak and he had battered the legs for being weak before, he found it was his signet ring. It had escaped his pack after it was put in there when they were still in Canterlot. He stared at it, remembering what it meant, what it said he was.

Suddenly, he knew exactly what he had to do. Dropping the ring on the ground and grabbing his sword, Night did his best to stifle everything he was feeling as he flew off in the sky, his resolve firm.

Xvital

“Is everything packed up, Rex?” Page asked sharply, causing the ahuizotless to flinch. The dressing down she’d gotten from Page still stung, with the weight of what had happened still heavy on her and how much she had fucked up. She couldn’t believe that she had been transplanting her views on Chantico onto Night but it made too much damn sense and she felt like utter shit for it.

“Yes,” Rex said uncertainly, clearly uncomfortable with the shift of power between her and Page. “Wind, how is your throat?”

“Better,” he rasped, wincing in pain and rubbed his throat. “I can talk… in bigger bursts now.”

“That will have to do,” Rex said bobbing his head and turning to face Vix-Lei, who was starting to perk up since the… dammit, she wasn’t sure what to call what had happened. “Are you alright, Vix-Lei?”

“Ye-yeah, right as could be,” she flashed them a weak smile that the minotaur was clearly forcing onto her face. She then shook her head and put on a proper smile which was actually comforting. “Come on guys, let’s go get that batty bat of ours back.” Her eyes immediately fell, worried if she was overdoing it again as when they first met.

“Yes, let’s go,” Page said, fluttering her wings briefly as she opened the door. Her bruised chitin was healing up nicely with her magic and Rex’s healing potions, although she still had a nasty black eye and was wincing every once in awhile. Page told them it came at her being unable to go back to her unicorn skin for a while, although she still had her cutie mark on her backside.

Stepping outside last, Xvital flicked her ears as she looked around the area before she found herself glancing at Page for guidance. She could understand why Page had kept quiet about the entire matter but seriously, with Page being able to sense emotions and thus other people, they could have breezed through Canterlot without a single headache!

She then felt a wave of guilt for thinking that and saw Page’s ears twitch all of a sudden and quickly glanced towards her.

Wait a second, Xvital thought to herself, frowning. “Page, are you reading my emotions?”

“Well it’s hard not to when you’re broadcasting like that,” Page snapped as she turned around to face her, hissing briefly before letting out a sigh and rubbing her face with her hoof. “I’m sorry, I am just still very shaken up by what happened.” Shaking her head, her cheeks were dark with embarrassment. “Besides, a lot of people don’t realize it, but it’s actually harder for us to block out others’ emotions than it is to deliberately sense them, especially when they are high.”

“High?” Rex asked, tilting his head. He already had his notebook out and was scribbling down facts.

“Yes, that’s how we describe them; when someone is really emitting an emotion, like depression level sadness, wedding level love, all of your sour-tasting guilt, it becomes near impossible to just ignore. Especially when you get a jolt of it, I can taste it in the back of my… well, not mouth exactly but it’s close enough to feel like it’s in the back of my mouth and no amount of water will wash it out.”

“Is there anything we can do to help you out?” Vix-Lei asked, scratching her head. “Like try to not feel it or whatever?”

No, please, don’t do that,” Page said with real desperation in her voice. “Blocking an emotion only creates a backlog that can send a wave of it down my throat later on and then I’d have to deal with everything tasting sour for at least a few weeks. Just do what you need to do to move on if you want to help.”

“Okay,” Xvital said softly, with Page looking at her, making her feel guilty again. Page sighed, shaking her head before rolling her eyes and walking forwards again. This made Xvital frown; while she felt horrible about what she did, Page was taking advantage of the situation. “One more thing; why are you being so… aggressive all of a sudden? Beyond the obvious, of course.”

“Because I don’t need to watch what I say or act anymore as you know that I’m a halfling now,” Page snapped back before a tiny smile appeared on her face. “You know, despite how horrible it came out, I feel so good that I don’t have to hesitate over everything I do or say to make sure I’m not caught by other people. And by the way, I had to deal with your bitter annoyance for Night this entire time and be careful not to let it slip why I wanted you to make nice with him beyond the fact he was my coltfriend.” Page let out a sigh before shaking her head again. “I’m sorry for all this snapping and bitching I am doing but it feels so good to get this off my chest.”

“It’s okay,” Vix-Lei smiled, patting Page between her wings. “Yah can’t be good all the time and there needs to be times when you need to be an ass to make sure your head doesn’t explode from keeping in all your assholiness inside.”

Everyone snorted at that, with Wind wincing and rubbing his throat again. Xvital felt a bit more confident about herself again, and turned to look at Rex. “So you made the charms that let Page and Night find each other and I know that Page’s doesn’t work anymore but isn’t there a way you could use it to find Night?”

“I suppose I could but it would take a lot of time as I do not have access to all the resources on paw and to be honest,” he said with a twinkle in his eye before his face fell. “I do not like the notion of leaving Night alone for a longer period of time than already necessary.”

Xvital flinched at that, the unspoken worry that Night would kill himself hanging over their heads and it would be her fault that if he did so.

“Hate to be… that guy,” Wind wheezed a bit less than before, eyeing the rest of them. “But what then? I don’t think he’ll rejoin us, and... what are we to do about the whole Element thing? He still has one and...” Wind trailed off, reminding them of that fact too. Xvital wasn’t sure she wanted Night back with them but she didn’t want his death on her shoulders either.

“Look, we’ll deal with that once we get there,” Xvital said as she walked near the front of the group. “We’ll head for the town and ask for help there; do you think we can get those changelings to help us?”

“No,” Page said shaking her head in the negative. “Memorizing Gaze, their leader, told me he needs to keep up appearances in Canterlot and report back to Gentle Step. He said he’d keep an eye on her for us and I can’t ask him or his Guards to turn around for Night.”

“It is still astounding that they actually have changelings working with the government,” Rex said, shaking his head. “I would have thought that with changelings in tandem with the Guards that they would have found your Queen ages ago, Page Turner.”

“They’re not with the hive; I couldn’t sense them until they were in my face, and besides, no changeling would ever give up the Queen, not even Memorizing would do so if ordered to,” Page said hotly. “It has been a thousand years and the Queen has never been given up; and they have tried to break completely broken changelings to give her up. It turns out that threatening our Queen is a good way to rebuild a changeling in an instant, causes them to regain their courage and spirit.” Page chuckled as they walked through the forest.

“What would happen, Pagey, if some bug-changeling gave up the Queen?” Vix-Lei asked, spinning Lady Kabonk around.

“It would be the end of our changeling hive,” Page said simply. “There is something called the Three Pillars that keep a changeling hive going; the Queen, the Hivemind Body, and the Sages of the Past. When Equestria attacked Queen Chrysalis, they timed their attacks on the two other pillars before going after her, to maximize the chaos with the death of the Hivemind Body and the Sages of the Past. From what I have heard, the Queen could alter some changelings to recreate the Hivemind Body and train new Sages of the Past but it would alert the Equestrians and…” Page trailed off, but it was clear what she hinting at.

“By end, you mean,” Wind waved his talon in the air as they walked into a massive clearing.

“I meant what I said,” Page said, turning her black head to look at Wind Breaker. “The death of the Queen would cost us everything. We would be changelings in looks only, because we couldn’t transform, or taste emotions… even our ability to use magic would probably be lost if she were to die.”

“That’s horrific,” Rex barked in genuine terror. “Do the ponies know of this cause and effect?”

“I… I don’t know,” Page stuttered, causing Xvital to raise an eyebrow. She wasn’t sure if the changeling-pony was lying or not, but before she could prod further, she saw Page’s head snap around and her ears flick around. Taking a sniff in the air, she said softly, “We’re not alone and there are a lot of angry people around.”

“That you are, you buggy bitch,” a somewhat familiar voice sneered as a dirty pale brown unicorn pony stepped out with a whole bunch of ponies of different tribes right behind him. “And I am going to enjoy this, you ugly bug bitch.”

As Vix-Lei reached for one of her hammers, Xvital heard a sharp cry as several of the group’s unicorns suddenly charged up their horns, and yanked both hammers away from her. At the same time, several massive, bulky Earth Ponies charged at her and began forcing her to the ground, despite her best efforts to resist. Nearby, Wind Breaker let out a screech as he was dive-bombed by a group of pegasi, one ripping his crossbow and saddlebags away while the others tackled him. As another two grabbed Xvital herself, yet another Earth Pony pounced on Rex, knocking him onto his back and pressing a heavy hoof against his chest. As she struggled against her captors, Xvital saw a dirty gray aura seize Page, and quickly realized the creep in charge was dragging her closer to him as the changeling-unicorn hybrid tried to struggle out of his grip.

“Remember me, buggy bitch?” he sneered as held Page very close to him, his magic around her neck. “You and your broken pegasus bastard nearly got me napped for burning that place down, you bitch,” he squeezed with his magic until she let out a squawk of pain, causing him to laugh. “But now it is you fuckers that the government wants and from what I’ve heard, they’ll be happy with just one of you fuckers alive when we collect the bounty.” The look on his face was told Xvital exactly what that monster was planning and by the horrified look on Page’s face, she knew it too. “Kill the rest of them while I take care of this buggy bitch,” he shouted over his shoulder as he began to drag Page away but Xvital’s view was blocked by a pony holding a sword in his hooves.

Her heart began to race as the pony held the sword above her head with the two ponies holding her steady despite her best effort to struggle away. She didn’t want to die like this but she didn't see any way out. He was about to bring the sword down and she shut her eyes, and felt something warm splattering over her.

But she wasn’t dead...

Opening her eyes, Xvital saw the glint of a sword in her face with the pony in front of her looking completely surprised at the sword in his chest. Before any of them could comprehend what was going on, the sword was pulled out and her would be killer knocked over with Night swinging his sword down diagonally, slicing the neck open of the pony on her left and slicing the guts of the one on her right. He then spun around, kicking the dropped sword towards her as he lept after the pony on Rex, with Vix-Lei up and roaring as the minotaur was tossing ponies around with no problem. Page had vanished for a second before reappearing, using her magic to smash those of whatshisname’s gang on Wind Breaker off of the griffon.

Xvital was lost in what she should do, holding the sword clumsily in her paw - she let out a yelp as someone came at her, swinging the sword as best as she could. Stumbling backwards over the dying ponies, Xvital saw the pony hold a small dagger overhead before a sword jabbed out of their neck and fell over, choking on their blood. Night gave her a worried look before he threw himself back into the brawl, with Xvital aware that she might have to take lives to survive through this. Looking at the growing fight, she could see that Wind Breaker and Rex were side by side, Vix-Lei was smashing through ponies with a pony, and that Page was alone.

What she saw next took her breath away; there was an earth pony creeping up on Wind Breaker, with the griffon having no clue to what was about to happen and both her and Night could see this. She knew that there was no way she could get to Wind in time but Night could which meant he had a choice between changeling-unicorn and the griffon.

Night let out a wordless shout as he flew past Page and tackled the pony over, biting his neck ou-

Xvital let out a shout as a pegasus tried to do a dive attack, swinging the sword upwards and having blood splash down on her before the body hit her.

Shoving it off of her, Xvital forced herself to stop thinking and start fighting.

Wind Breaker

The griffon jumped as he saw Night tackle and rip the throat out of somepony sneaking up on him, the bat pony flashing a look of concern at him.

“Night, duck!” he shouted as he took his crossbow with both of his talons and fired at the pony sneaking up on Night. Thanking the Goddesses that Night actually listened, Wind Breaker managed to nail the fucker in the face. Standing back upright, Night and Wind Breaker shared a look of understanding and nodding at each other before focusing on their fights.

He was glad Night was back and just not because he was able to deal with a lot of the bastards. He was actually glad to see he was okay and he found himself really worried that something bad could happen to Night or the rest of the guys.

“Fire in the hole,” Rex shouted beside him, throwing a bottle over his shoulder and into the mass of their enemies with a sudden wave of heat smashing into them, making Wind Breaker glad they had this wall of rock as cover. The diamond dog turned to him and asked, “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Wind Breaker shouted, moving himself in a proper stance, remembering what Night said before. “Nailing a lot of them,” he said with a smirk on his face as he began to poke his head out. “I think we can win th-”

BOOM

Wind threw himself backwards as what sounded like lightning went off next to his head, part of the rockwall exploding.

“What the fuck was that” he shouted, holding his head.

“They have a Manechurian Dragon,” Rex whispered softly.

“They’ve got a dragon?” Wind Breaker asked, about to look around for the scaly bastard when Rex dragged him back down.

“They’ve got a fucking Manechurian Dragon!” Rex swore as he shouted in a gruff voice, his usual calm and scholarly manner of speaking gone. “Do you have any fucking idea of how dangerous one is?!”

“No?” he said in a timid voice as Rex forced him low, although Wind Breaker kept his eyes upwards. “I’ve heard how dangerous dragons could be but…”

WIth an annoyed growl as another explosion went off, Rex growled into his ear, “Manechurian Dragons are not dragons!” he then scanned the sky before grabbing and tilting his head upwards and pointed at a pegasus holding a strange metal tube oddly as she began to stuff something in one end. “That is a Manechurian Dragon; it is a dangerous weapon that fires metal at very fast speeds; rips insides apart and packs very strong punch.” Rex growled the last of his words, which only worried Wind Breaker more to see the smartest of them act like this.

Before Rex could stop him or he could think better of this, Wind Breaker took to the sky and began to wrestle with the pegasus. He wrapped his talons along the metal part of the Manechurian Dragon, struggling to get hold of it before the pony could use it again. He wasn’t sure how he could fight this pony, with the pegasus doing her best to bash his beak with her head.

Without even being aware of how the switch came about, Wind Breaker remembered that he was a griffon and that they used to be predators to ponies. Falling into some ancient instinct, he darted his beak forwards and snatched one of the eyeballs out of her face and gobbled it down.

It was instantly effective; the pegasus mare screamed in pain and let go of the Manechurian Dragon, crashing into the ground as she stopped flying. She did not stop screaming in pain, however.

Landing next to Rex with the weapon in his talons, Wind Breaker began to retch as he realized that he just ate somepony’s eyeball while Rex took the Manechurian Dragon and snapped it in half.

“That was completely insane Wind Breaker,” Rex said, eyeing him with concern as he dropped the parts of the strange weapon on the ground and started throwing more of his potions at the attacking ponies. “Are you well enough to continue or should we draw backwards?”

“I’m good,” Wind Breaker said as he picked up his crossbow, loaded a bolt and sent a charging Earth pony hooves over tail. “Let’s end this.”

Xvital

She took a step backwards as the fight slowed down enough for her to do so, panting for air. She had managed to get her knuckle dusters on and was doing her best to help out. Xvital was still very uneasy with killing but she had already done the deed and it was starting to get easier; especially when it came down to either her living or her not living at the end.

She felt a gust of air overhead as Night flew by and knocked over an Earth pony while stabbing them in the gut.

“You okay?” Night asked her, scanning the battlefield with his back to her.

“I think so,” Xvital said as she looked him over. He had a number of cuts on him along with a lot of blood from the ponies he had been killing. Xvital was so glad that he was on their side; Night was probably the only reason why they were still alive. “You think we can win this?”

“No,” Night said curtly, causing the ahuizotless to gulp as she was aware of how big whatshisname’s gang really was. “But Balance told me help would be near.”

Xvital took this in before working on how to use it for their benefits. Rex and Wind were fighting back to back - no way she could get one of them out. Vix-Lei was in her own little world of combat like Night - trying to take either of them out of it could be deadly for the minotaur or bat pony. Xvital couldn’t go herself - it didn’t feel right for her to leave the gang like that. Which left Page.

“Page has to get the help,” Xvital said, looking at the mare holding back several attackers with strong shields that the librarian was using to knock them around at the same time. Night looked at her and nodded; the two of them agreeing on the plan without any words said.

The two promptly charged at the attackers, Night knocking down the two fliers while Xvital pounced on and cut the neck of the unicorn. Moving her shield around, Page looked at them with a tiny bit of confusion.

“Night said that Balance said that there’s help nearby,” Xvital said as she turned her focus back to the fight. “Go and see if you can find it.”

“I-” Xvital risked turning her head backwards to see Night and Page share a look before Night turned away and leapt after another pony. “Got it.” Page said, her necklaces swaying slightly before she turned the other direction and darted into the forest.

Page Turner

Seeing Night like that had been rough; she wanted to say something to him but she didn’t know what. It wasn’t helping that he was feeling that empty; she’d heard that only those past depression would be like this and it worried her.

Promising herself she would talk to him about this once all of this was over with, she flicked her ears as she heard and felt several ponies nearby.

“Hey, is somepony out there?” she called out as she ran towards them. “We need some help, me and my fri-” The words died in her mouth as she found herself in front of almost a dozen ponies in cloaks and blank white masks, the infamous Questioning Order, standing right in of her and she was not disguised as her normal self.

Already, one had a sword out ready to kill her.

Night Blade

With his attention focused on Page fleeing through the forest for safety a tiny bit longer, he turned his attention back to the battle-

He let out a hiss of pain as some pony used a modified kusarigama with an extra blade attached to it. It was holding him by his right wing, digging into the membrane and the pony no doubt using it try and hold him back, thinking at Night would panic and flee thus tearing his wing up more.

Unfortunately for the pony, Night did the exact opposite and flew towards them, with the stallion’s eyes widening up as Night closed the distance and smashed the pony’s windpipe. Shifting his wing a bit to ease the pain, he had all of three seconds to react when somepony used Vix-Lei’s real hammer to smash him in the side and send him rolling across the ground until he crashed into a body.

Wheezing in pain, he was looking upright when he heard the whistle of a blade coming towards him.

He raised Determined Point to block the attack but it was sloppy and weak. He let out a wince of pain as his sword broke in half, bits of the metal cut his face and blinded him in his right eye.

“I don’t get why you’re here, you fucking bat bastard,” Sharp Point growled at him, holding a sword over his head. “And I don’t fucking care as you and the rest of them are dead.

“I’ll die before I let you harm any of them!” Night snapped back, his good eye closing as the blade fell.

When he opened his eyes up, Night Blade knew he was dead and in Tartarus.

Chapter Thirty One: Night Blade, Page Turner

View Online

Chapter Thirty One

Night Blade

Night knew he was dead and in Tartarus.

He had to be there; it was the only thing that made sense. He was alone on a cloud in the middle of the sky in the day; it was the exact opposite of what the priests had told him that Her Grace Luna had gifted to her special ponies.

And he knew he deserved this, this lonely hell all by himself.

Curling up on the cloud for the little comfort he knew that was going to be gone soon, he did his best not be sad because he deserved this for all the wrong he did, he forced himself not to whimper and cry...

All of a sudden there was a flash of light and colours followed by a loud bang, rocking the cloud he was on. Before he knew what was happening, there was a scruffy feminine voice shouting at him, “About time you got here!”

Standing before him was the Warrior, albeit without her famous thunder forged armour. He still recognized her multicoloured mane, her sky blue wings and her lightning bolt cutie mark but this didn’t make any sense.

“Why are you in Tartarus?” he asked, shuffling backwards as she came to land on his cloud. He was about to take off when she let out a surprised noise, causing him to flinch and stay in place.

Tartarus?” she asked him, looking around before scoffing and reaching out to him. “Nah, this isn’t Tartarus; this here is my paradise; just told everypony to bug off while we talk.”

“Why would you want to talk to me?” Night turned his head away.

“Because we share the same Element, Nighty?” she said, walking closer to him and Night could not stop himself from flinching away from her. “What’s wrong with you?”

Night kept quiet, unsure how to answer her question when she tilted her head and let out a hiss. “Oh buck me,” she swore archaically before reaching over to grab him and hold him close against her. “I’m so sorry; I should have really checked your head out before coming to talk with you.”

Night did not fight back against her as he deserved whatever punishment she deemed appropriate.

“I’m giving you a hug, you numbskull,” she said with a bit of hostility before wincing for some reason and saying, “Sorry about that. Still not really used to this whole mentor thing, Night and I’m so sorry.”

“What for?” the words slipped out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

“For everything, dude,” the Warrior said. “I mean, I just saw what you went through and I can relate, kinda, and I’m so sorry for you.” She went to hug him again but Night managed to pull away and sit down on the edge of the cloud. She was staring at him before shaking her head and sat beside him. “Look Night, I might not have the- have had, dammit Rainbow Dash, you’ve been dead for a thousand years, you’d think you could get the tense right,” she groaned into her hoof before flashing him an awkward smile. “As I was saying, I might not have had the same kind of parents as you did; mine were too into me and yours aren’t but I do get it.”

“You can’t,” he muttered, turning his head away. “Mine never cared about me; I was an inconvenience from the day I was born; my parents didn’t want another kid. Can’t blame them, considering they gave birth to me.”

“That’s bogus!” the Warrior shouted. “Look Night, parents might not always show it, but they do care. I mean, your cutie mit-Oh!” She gasped, taking a step backwards.

“I guess you saw my talentmitzvah,” Night grumbled before accepting what he had been told back then. “Father was right; such a selfish brat to want a party for myself, to have gifts, to have kids to play with,” he let out a tiny chuckle, shaking his head slightly. “It fits; after all, Balance said I was going to be the one that fucks up the world because of my selfishness and self-centeredness and even though I’m dead, it’s about time I took some responsibility.”

Dude,” the Warrior said, shaking her head as she knelt down to nuzzle him. “That’s not what Balance meant and it’s totally not healthy to think like that.” She sighed, sitting next to him and wrapping a wing around him to pull him close. “I-no, I’m not letting you take control of my body, you want to talk to him, get your flanks here yourself!” she growled at the sky before turning her head to nuzzle him. “Look Night, what you were put through, what that plothead said to you? It was completely harsh and totally horsefeathers.”

“She is correct,” Balance said, appearing in front of them. “What I said and did was what I felt was needed to help you awaken your Element but as the previous Element said, the manner in how I did so was a bit heavy hoofed.”

Horsefeathers,” the Warrior shouted, jabbing a hoof into Balance’s chest. “I know you’re part AJ in there, so be honest.” Balance looked flustered before turning its head to Night.

“When I spoke of your selfishness and self centeredness, I was referring to your love for Kindness,” Balance said, causing Night’s ears to flick. “Your devotion to her was preventing your Element from being awakened and it was necessary that your devotion was broken so the connection to the others Elements would be made.” It then placed a hoof under Night’s chin and tilted his head upwards. “If Love were an Element of mine, it would have awoken the moment you met the others and it would have eclipsed the rest.”

Night began to feel his heart flutter before he squashed it, remembering what he did. “I still deserve Tartarus; I attacked Page and nearly killed her.”

“Look, Night, that was terrible, I agree with you,” the Warrior said, patting his side. “And as much as I don’t want to agree with that plothead, it was kinda needed to get our Element awakened. Ours isn’t the easiest to get going; unlike the others, Loyalty needs a personal sacrifice or a meaningful vow to awaken. For me, I had to give up a shot to become a top athlete to help the girls to show that I cared for them more than I did for myself. You did it by coming back, saving and promising to protect them.”

Night let out a tiny sigh before shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter; they still hate me and once this dumb fight is over, everything will go back to how it was, only I will be alone.” He curled up tightly and said in a low whisper. “As I deserve…

“Night, look, you are a good pony and you do not deserve Tartarus,” the Warrior said before shaking her head. “I wish I could get Flutters here; she was better at this emotional stuff.”

“I’m not a good pony!” Night shouted, pushing himself upright and unable to hold back his tears. “I’ve killed so many ponies in the last few days and I’ve not felt a single ounce of guilt or shame! I nearly killed the mare I loved and drove away the one person that cared for me! I nearly destroyed the world because I couldn’t care about other people! I nearly fucked over everything when I was tempted to run back home! How is that a good pony‽ TELL ME HOW I AM A GOOD PONY‽” he shouted with his chest heaving before he collapsed, crying uncontrollably. “I’m such a horrible, horrible pony.”

“You’re not,” the Warrior said, forcing him to meet her eyes. “Night, I admire the strength and dedication you have. I wish I could have been as awesome as you are when you fight for your guys. Hell, you deserve this stupid Warrior title more than I do. The only reason I have it is because Blueblood thought I was actually a Wonderbolt and got my info all messed up like he did with the rest of the girls.”

Night looked at her in surprise. “What’s a… Wonderbolt?”

“Only the most awesome stunt fliers ever! Well, except yours truly, Rainbow Dash,” she preened herself. “I wanted to join them so badly from the time I was a filly… you should have seen some of what they pulled off in their airshows. Really wish I could have actually become a Wonderbolt or earned that stupid title when I was alive, it would have been so epic!” She grinned widely to herself before shaking her head and looking at him again. “But back to what I was saying, Night just because what you did was not good does not make you a bad pony. For us, our Element, Loyalty, is meant to protect the others from danger and you really proved it. Besides, you care about them and you know what you did was wrong; as long as you don’t forget those two things, you will still be a good pony.”

“I...” Night started to stammer.

“And remember this, Night,” Balance said. “While what I said about the love between you and Page Turner no longer being the same is true, know that very little remains the same throughout life. Everything changes and grows over time, and the love between you two has changed from it once was.”

“You mean she might love me again?” Night couldn’t help himself from being hopeful.

“I cannot say,” Balance said while placing a hoof on his shoulder. “But I do have hope for you two to make amends.”

Night felt himself begin to feel better but he couldn’t hold onto it. “I still don’t believe I don’t deserve Tartarus…”

“I Pinkie Promise you don’t deserve that Night,” the Wa-Rainbow Dash said before performing some bizarre ritual. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” She then blinked at him and had a faint blush on her face. “It’s a real super-binding promise from Pinkie that you cannot ever break and trust me, I don’t plan on getting her after me for breaking one of her promises. She’s scary when she just thinks you’ve broken a Pinkie Promise, and I never want to see what would happen if somepony broke one for real.”

“Okay?” Night said, tilting his head.

“Trust me Night, you’re on the right track,” she said before shaking her head. “Sucks you’re about to go back ‘cause it’d be totally awesome to show you what a Sonic Rainboom is.”

“A Sonic what?

“Oh come on,” she said turning to Balance. “Can’t I stay a bit longer to show him?”

Balance shook its head before looking at Night and saying, “It is time to for you wake up and… I am sorry for how this had to happen.”

Night blinked his eyes in confusion.


And opened one eye while feeling tremendous pain over his entire body.

Letting out a groan as vision started to come back, he tried to push himself upright when he heard a clash of voices saying his name.

“Hey, Nighty’s up!” Vix-Lei.

“How fortunate that Night is awake at last.” Rex.

“Glad to see you’re finally back, Night.” Wind Breaker.

“Night’s too tough to go down that easily, Wind.” Xvital.

“Night, you’re awake, how do you feel?” Page.

His heart began to race as he took them all in; they were in a large room that had a couple of beds at the far end on the left side which he guessed had the same number beds on the right side. Vix-Lei was nearby, sitting on a window bench sill, her face and arms bandaged up with new straps and holsters running across her chest to hold her hammers in place. Rex was sitting a table, reading a book before closing it to face him with a smile on his face. His vest had been patched slightly, but it was recently cleaned from how fresh it seemed to be. Wind Breaker walked over in his field of vision and he seemed to be more or less the same, although he now had a proper carrying case for his crossbow. His talon was still bandaged up with a few other patches on him. Xvital was sitting across from Rex and she was as roughed up as the rest of them but for some reason couldn’t meet his eyes. Page appeared very close to him, leaning over his blind spot, and she looked like her unicorn self, hiding any injuries.

“How are you all?” he asked trying to shift upwards before Page tsked and pushed him back down.

We’re fine,” Page said with a slight hiss as she looked him over. “How are you feeling? It’s been a couple of days since that fight and this is the first time you’ve been awake.”

“I feel like a dragon punched me in the gut,” Night groaned, every action feeling like his muscles were on fire.

“Well that does happen when sometaur hits you with Señor Hardhead,” Vix-Lei said with a hint of growl, causing Night to turn his head in surprise. “So not cool with that,” she said as she pulled out the hammer. “Only meant to smack those who try something funny, not those who are trying to save my ass.”

“A person has to be crazy to try something funny with you,” Night snarked before wincing in pain.

“Eh, you never know, sometaurs find me truly alluring,” Vix-Lei puffed her mane up before breaking down in laughter.

“I do suppose that there is someone for everyone,” Rex said with a grin. “So you might have some luck after all, Vix-Lei.”

“Ooo, nice one, Rex,” Vix-Lei continued to giggle.

“I am glad to hear that you are all okay,” Night said, smiling as he reached a hoof up to caress Page’s cheek.

Only for her to pull away.

Suddenly, the pain his heart was in was a lot worse than pain his body was in.

Night tried to turn his head to the side but Page gripped him and turned him to face her. “Listen Night, we need to talk,” she said, holding him steady with her eyes and forcing him to meet them. “I do not blame you for what happened back in Fluttershy’s cottage; I could feel your confusion, worry and fear that something had happened to me and the only reason you attacked me was because you thought I was an imposter. I should have told you the truth years ago, that is my fault, not yours.” She stared into his face before letting out a sigh and turning away. “I still love you and I do forgive you for what happened, but I cannot forget it and I need some time to process it all. For now, I think we should take a break from each other until… until we’re ready to try again.”

He felt his heart crushed by this but it was better than what he deserved. With a sigh, he nodded his head before flicking his eyes at her.

“Page, there is one thing I’d like to ask of you,” he said, hoping she would let him have this.

“Yes Night?” she asked cautiously.

“Can I see what you really look like?”

Page Turner

Out of all the things Night could have asked her, she had not expected this. The bat pony, still heavily bandaged up and in pain after two days of resting, looked straight at her with his one good eye.

With a bit of unease of transforming to her true state in public, Page let her unicorn self fade away to show her chitin and holed body, with her crooked horn replacing her straight unicorn horn and her wings buzzing slightly, only her Cutie Mark not changing.

All of this was in front of Night Blade and she felt a stab of fear of how Night would react to the real her.

He looked at her, eying her up and down and the love in his heart for her had not changed at all. She felt her breath catch at this; it didn’t matter to Night who she really was or what she looked like and despite just temporarily breaking up with him, he still loved her just as strongly as before.

She had been an idiot not to tell him years ago; he didn’t care! This was pure love in its finest and it was directed solely to her.

Night then smiled at her and said, “Thank you, Page.” He then turned his head towards Xvital, the smile still on his face. “So can somepony tell where we are and what’s wrong with my eye?”

“Your eye, Night,” Rex began, carefully avoiding that hornet's nest for the moment. “Like the rest of you is still recovering from the fight with Sharp Point. Your wing’s membrane should be fine in about a week but it is recommended that you do not fly with it as the membrane will still be very delicate. Your ribs are tender as well, so you should avoid strenuous movement and rest as much as possible.”

“And my eye?” Night said, trying to sit up again with Page about to push him back down before letting out a sigh. Holding him still with her magic, she rearranged the pillows so he could sit up without putting too much strain on his body before letting go. “And again, where are we?”

“Your eye was their top concern when they came to rescue us, but it should be fine with only light scarring on it and your eyelid,” Rex said, looking to the side of the room they had been locked in before he gathered his strength. “And-”

“Before we go over that little fun business,” Xvital said, cutting in. “Your Element, Night, what is it?”

Night blinked before reaching for the red sword-shaped gem in the familiar gold necklace around all their necks except for Xvital. He looked surprised at it before tilting his head back up at them. “Rainbow Dash, the Warrior, told me that it’s Loyalty. That we defend and protect the rest of you from danger.”

“Huh,” Wind Breaker said, tilting his head. “Makes sense to me; can’t see any of us as the big guy beside you or Vix-Lei.”

“Yeah,” Vix-Lei blushed as she scratched the back of her head. “Not sure how much you saw Night, but I kinda… tapped into my roots as it were.”

“I remember seeing you use a pony as a makeshift hammer, Vix-Lei,” Night said in a deadpan voice with a smirk on his face that made Page giggle. “Not sure how I feel about being equated to a pissed off minotaur…”

“Better than a failed griffon,” Wind Breaker said with a huff. “Had a bit of raw flesh during the fight and I kinda puked my guts up.”

“When did you eat raw flesh during the fight, Wind Breaker?” Night asked, blinking in confusion.

“Trust me, you do not wish to know Night,” Rex said, shaking a bit in revulsion. Page wasn’t sure what Wind Breaker ate exactly but she had a very good idea of what it was and she was in no rush to confirm it.

“Okay…” Night trailed off before looking back at her. “Can someone please tell me where we are and who saved us?”

Page let out a tiny sigh before saying, “We are in a Questioning Order stronghold as it was them that saved us, Night.”

He began to laugh before wincing in pain, holding his sides. “Okay, good joke but seriously, what happened?”

“She’s not lying, Night,” Wind Breaker said, causing Night to blink and sit up straighter. “They really did come and save us and we’re really in one of their strongholds. One of them is watching is right now.” He tilted his head to the window, and when Night was looking at it, Vix-Lei opened it to reveal a Questioning Order pony in the room across the courtyard, holding an armed crossbow of their own, pointed straight at their window. Vix-Lei smiled and waved at the pony who, still surprisingly, waved back at them. The minotaur then closed the window, leaving Night pale with fright now.

“And they actually helped you, Page?” Night asked her, feeling terrified. “Weren’t you without your unicorn form when you ran into the forest?”

“Yes,” Page said, rubbing her hooves together, her heart racing at the memory of it. “One of them was about to kill me when another one stopped them and pointed at my Element. Then they ran past me with one staying behind to watch over me.”

“Yeah and it was not pretty when they came in,” Xvital said with a shudder. “I think we’ll have nightmares of that for a long time.”

Vix-Lei, Rex and Wind Breaker all nodded their heads, with Page feeling a bit queasy at what little they told her of what happened and how scared they were feeling.

“Okay, while I am now properly terrified,” Night said, licking his lip and wincing at the ointments used to patch his mouth up - how he got holes in his mouth like that in the fight was beyond them but thankfully, the Order had been able to treat all of their injuries, even hers. Although they had been very reluctant to touch her considering she was what the Order said they were to kill on sight. “Do we have any idea why they helped us or recognized what the Elements are?”

“No, they have said nothing to us, obviously,” Rex said as he reached into his vest for that note the Order gave them. “This has been the only instruction to us; that we are not to leave the room or…” Rex trailed off, handing the note to Night who looked at it briefly before gulping loudly.

“They’ll kill us,” Night said in a soft voice as he put down the note that had very basic drawings of them staying on one side of the door and one below it showing them in pieces on the other side of the door.

Actually,” Rex coughed as he picked the note up and tapped it to show Night how pragmatic the Order was. “From examining the note, none of us are actually dead but more or less immobilized. So whatever they want from us, they are willing to cripple us to make us compliant.”

“Oh that’s just lovely,” Night snarked, rolling his eye before wincing in pain. “So Xvital, what’s the plan?”

“Honestly?” the ahuizotless said as she sat on the edge of the bed. “We wait to see what they want and go from there; we are in no position to try anything, not even if you were in top form.”

“That’s not really reassuring, Xvital,” Night said as he tried to get up again with Page using her magic to hold him down. Night frowned at her but she would not budge on this; the bat pony was still very injured and moving around was not ideal. “So this threat is the only thing they’ve done to you guys?”

“Besides bringing us food, no,” Wind Breaker said, shaking his head. “I mean, they did give us some new stuff for our weapons and junk, but they’ve just left alone for the most part.”

Page flicked her ears and couldn’t help herself from turning her head to the side as she felt some very angry ponies marching towards them. Xvital and the rest, now aware of her ability to sense ponies through their emotions, were using her as an early alert system.

Tensing up, they saw the door slammed open and three ponies of the Order stormed their way in. They turned their heads towards Night and made a series of gestures of their language. Of course, Page had no idea what they were saying as the Order was very touchy about outsiders learning their secret language but she could guess that they were asking about Night.

“He’s awake now,” Xvital said, stepping in front of them. “And he seems to be mostly okay. So can you now tell us what’s going on?” She glared at them before the ahuizotless took a step backwards and said, “Please?

They made another series of hoof gestures and Page couldn’t help but glance over to Rex for a translation even though he didn’t know what they were saying. Page was at a loss in how they were going to deal with the Order when Xvital let out squawks of pain.

Turning her head around, she saw Xvital being spanked of all things by one of the Order ponies’ magic before they tossed her down and made an angry set of hoof gestures.

“Hey, what the fuck do you think you are doing?” Night shouted, forcing himself out of the bed before falling onto the ground, with Vix-Lei picking him up as Wind Breaker grabbed and loaded his crossbow to point it at them and Rex had his paws in his pockets. Page was about gather her magic when Xvital shouted.

“Guys, stop,” she said as she got to her feet. “I… mierda, eso dolió,” she groaned before glaring at the ponies. “How did you know?” They made another series of gestures at Xvital who let out an annoyed growl when they were done. “Of course I’d do something as stupid as mouth the words.” Xvital winced and rubbed her backside. “Did you really have to spank me?” This got her a series of short gesture which made Xvital roll her eyes. “If that’s the case, I’d hate to see how you treat one of your own.”

“Xvital, you actually know their language?” Rex said with a hint of jealousy in his voice.

“Yeah, I do; they got a bit miffed when they realized I knew what they were saying and decided to give me a light version of their punishment for a misbehaving student,” Xvital scoffed and rolled her eyes again. “So can you now tell us what the hell is actually going on?”

The lead pony of the trio somehow glared at them through their mask before making a set of gestures.

“So you know about the Elements?” Xvital said as soon as they finished making their gestures. “And that’s why you didn’t hurt Pa-gah!” She held the space between her ears as the lead Order pony smacked her there before making a series of harsh gestures. “Up yours, I’m not calling her that.”

The lead pony shook their head before making more gestures for Xvital to translate. “You’re kidding, right?

“What is it, Xvital?” Rex said as he looked up from NIght, the diamond dog briefly examining Night after Vix-Lei put him back onto the bed.

“They are saying they will help us only on a condition; that we have each to tell them a big secret before they’ll say anything,” Xvital said with an annoyed grunt. “This is completely loco and-”

“I will go first,” Page said, walking around the bed to stand in front of the ponies that would normally be killing her on the spot. “Will you please create a sound proof spell before I tell you my secret?”

The ponies of the Order tilted their head down at her before snapping up the spell.

She glared at them, feeling a sense of pride of her race that she had not felt in a very long time, not since she learned who her mother exactly was and the duty she had to live up to. "My pony name is Page Turner. But I was born Lamella Armor the Tenth,” she said, pausing before continuing to say, “And I am the heir to the throne of the Badlands Changeling Hive as of fifteen years ago, its Queen and sole remaining Pillar of my hive."

The effect was immediate; all three of them were shocked and the spell even wavered for a moment. The lead pony then slammed down a wall to block the view of the group behind her and leaned forwards, lifting their mask ever so slightly so their mouth was visible. “If you are lying,” the pony, an incredibly young sounding stallion, hissed at her.

No changeling would dare make such a claim to one of your kind, you know this as well as I do,” Page hissed back, causing the Order pony to glare at her through the eye holes of his mask. After a long period of time, he slammed his mask back down, lifted his spells and pointed her to go back to Night’s side. He then made some gestures towards Xvital before walking out with the other Order poneis and slamming the door behind them.

“What the fuck did you say to them, Page?” Xvital swore as the ahuizotless pulled her close and began to look her over.

“A secret,” she replied as she broke out of Xvital’s grip. “One that I would kinda like to keep my own…” She trailed off, looking at the rest of them before realizing that she was about repeat the same mistake as before. “I-”

“It’s okay Page, you don’t need to tell us,” Vix-Lei said, shaking her head.

“Yeah, everypony is allowed their secrets, right?” Wind Breaker said as he looked to Rex, who nodded his head.

“Page if you don’t think you need to tell us, I trust you have a good reason,” Night said, smiling at her.

Page let out a sigh of relief; she was not ready to share the actual truth about just yet. It had been an act of desperation and recklessness to tell the Questioning Order, who had it as part of their mandate to kill her for what her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother Chrysalis did, who she really was but it was the only big secret she had and the thought of telling other people made her chitin crawl.

Thank you guys for not pushing,” she smiled at them before looking at Xvital. “So what did they say before they left?”

“That whatever you told them was big enough that they had to talk to their leaders for advice,” Xvital said. “Now all we have to do is wait for them to come ba-”

The door slammed open again with a dozen or so Order ponies stormed into the room, with them gesturing at Xvital. The ahuizotless’s eyes went wide and began to say things under her breath in her native language.

“What, what did they say, kitty cat,” Vix-Lei ask as she reached for her hammer.

“That we are to come with them to the Crystal Dominance; apparently whatever Page said was worth more than six secrets,” Xvital turned to face them with an awed look on her face. “It was worth enough for them to take us to where they’ve been keeping my Element.”

Chapter Thirty Two: Wind Breaker, Vix-Lei

View Online

Chapter Thirty Two

Wind Breaker

After Xvital’s little announcement, the Order ponies began throwing cloaks and then gesturing at the six to follow them.

“Um,” Wind Breaker began as he struggled to put the cloak over himself - it was way too small for his griffon’s body. “Why exactly do we need this?” He was still scared of the ponies; the horror stories he heard from them the Hatchery of what they had done was very disturbing, both on and off the battlefield. Beyond their complete hatred for changelings, they also made sure that none could get inside their Order by never taking off their masks, revealing what they really looked like or sounded like or what Tribe they were.

Wind Breaker remembered one story he’d heard, way back when the Order first started up and had proved themselves to have avoided an infiltration by any changelings. They had assembled in a massive square and had the Guards surrounding them before randomly killing one of their own until the Guards were satisfied while never making a sound or flinching from seeing the pony next to them killed. Only after who knows how many of the Order ponies were executed and then examined did the Guards stop. Then the Questioning Order demanded that the square be renamed the Proving Field and the surrounding area in the Crystal Dominance made into their headquarters.

According to legend, King Blueblood couldn’t agree fast enough before making tracks back to Canterlot.

The Order ponies made some of their hoof gestures at Xvital and while they began to look somewhat similar to what he had seen before, Wind Breaker had no desire to piss them off further by learning their language by accident.

Xvital began to repeat what they were saying under her breath before turning to face them. “While they are taking us clear across the countryside, we’re still wanted fugitives and they won’t like to… wait, can you repeat that because I think you just said you don’t want to have to kill a dozen or so Royal Guards?”

Night took a sharp intake of air; didn’t he have family in the Royal Guards?

The pony in charge of the Order nodded their head.

“You’re crazy if you think you could kill Royal Guards and get away with it,” Night hissed in anger and then in pain as he tried to pull the cloak around his body, clearly moving something that was still banged the Tartarus up. Page took a step forwards to help him but Night shook his head; which was right. From what Wind Breaker could tell of Night, it would be something of a matter of pride to do this himself. Muttering and grumbling, the bat pony managed to get the cloak around his body before letting out a sigh as he looked at his right wing, which was bandaged and slathered with ointment. Again Wind Breaker found himself emphasizing with the sword pony. Even though he didn’t fly that often, being forcibly grounded was something that would send him around the bend.

They made a series of gestures at Xvital whose eyes began to grow wide before she suddenly shouted, “Okay, enough, I don’t want to have that or- Night please don’t ask me to repeat it.”

“Okay…. huh?” Night turned his head to see one of them present a book to him. With an annoyed grunt, he took it with his left wing and read the title, “The Unofficial Record of Confrontations between the Questioning Order of Celestia and the Equestrian Guards.” Night blinked as he took in what he just said. “Is this actually true?”

The pony just nodded their head and then patted Night on the head; the batpony started to snarl, but Wind Breaker stepped forwards and shook his head at Night, to tell him it was not worth it. “Oi, I’m the only one that can treat him like that,” he growled at the pony. In an instant, he felt the tension in the room growing, only for it to calm again when the leader of the Order ponies grabbed the one who had handed over the book, created a shield around them and then, by Wind Breaker’s best guess, read them the riot act before dropping the shield again.

The Order pony was standing sheepishly and began to do some hoof gestures before the leader smacked them across the back of the head. The pony then reached for the bottom of their mask and lifted it slightly enough for their lips to show.

“I am sorry,” the voice, a middle-aged sounding mare, spoke at Night before re-lowering her mask on her face and turning to glare at Page.

What did she have to do - oh right, Page was a changeling and the Order hated them for killing the Goddesses.

“So as my associate was inquiring,” Rex chimed in, almost drowning in his cloak, growling in frustration as he tried to wear it properly. “Where exactly are we heading?”

Xvital watched them gesture and began to translate for them. “They’re taking us to their headquarters in the Crystal Dominance - it’s where they’ve kept the last Element all these years and,” her eyes flicked wide for a second and Wind Breaker could see that the leader fumbled for a second. “Another item from the old Canterlot castle that was destroyed when…” Xvital trailed off a second, looking at Page.

She sighed, shaking her head. “Let me guess, when the changelings attacked and invaded the wedding of the demi-goddess Mi Amore Cadenza and her consort; am I right?”

This made the tension in the room even worse before the leader of the Order signaled at the six to follow them out of room and down a long hallway in single file with Xvital in the front, Night immediately behind her, and himself behind the bat pony. Glancing behind, he saw Rex fall into step behind him, Page following next, and finally Vix-Lei taking up the rear, while a gaggle of the Order ponies took up both ends to keep them herded in. Wind Breaker couldn’t help but wince as he saw Night hobble around, the sharp intakes of pain every time he took a step.

Night didn’t complain even once, although he seemed to growl at the stairs before he started to climb them. Given his injuries, Wind Breaker couldn’t blame him. Especially given how many they had to climb, by the looks of it, and it was spiraling to the right which was where most of Night’s injuries were.

They finally reached their destination on the roof of the stronghold after climbing several stories straight upwards, with Wind Breaker spreading his wings out to take in the air as it flew past him. It wasn’t often that he was this high up and had no building to block the flow of the wind. Turning his head, he could see Page doing the same thing with her wings with a small smile on her face. With her needing to hide all the time, it must have been a very long time since she’d last really had a chance to do this, he thought to himself.

“Fucking Tartarus,” Night grunted as he had his left wing out and was trying to do same with his other wing by instinct, only to remember it was bound up against his side. He glared at his damaged wing, tucked his left wing back in, tilted his head upwards and gasped. “Whoa!

Wind Breaker turned his head to see a simply massive airship hovering in the air, with a column of mist filled with ever-shifting forms painted on the decorative sails with a ton of Order ponies bustling underneath it in complete silence as they loaded stuff on it.

“Whoa doesn’t even cover it, Nighty,” Vix-Lei said with awe in her voice. “This is a customized V-2 zeppelin, with sometaur having a flare for the old water ship style.You can even see the individualized craftsmanship on the hull of it.” The minotaur walked over to it and stood on the tips of her hooves to see the underside of it. “I think this came from the Ledra docks, people.”

Xvital let out a low whistle. “That is impressive… and you say your dad works with these kinds of ships?”

“He certainly does; my family has been working on airships for ages,” Vix-Lei said proudly. “I think my granddaddy worked on this ship, I’m pretty sure I see his trademark on it.” She went to examine it closer but she was stopped by an Order pony grabbing her arm and shaking their head in the negative. “Party pooper,” she pouted before shaking her head. “At the very least, you’ve got to let me drive this beauty.” This got all of them shaking their heads and several actually backing up. “What, what’s wrong?”

One of them held out a newspaper clip of a skimm-wait, it was them!

“Wait sometaur took a picture of that?” Vix-Lei shook her head. “Oh crap, my dad is going to kill me when he sees this! Wait, how did anytaur take a picture of us? I reckon we’re going too fast for it actually happen.”

“Well, they did manage to get a picture of u…” Rex began to trail off as he looked at the picture and began to growl loudly and tried to snatch it from the Order pony, only for them to snatch it back and give it to the minotaur. Vix-Lei looked at the picture closely and began to laugh, before giving it over to Xvital who started to giggle.

“Well Rex,” she said as she gave it over to him so he could see what was so funny. “I guess you are proven wrong after all.”

Wind Breaker looked at the picture and tilted it so that Night and Page could see, with the diamond dog grumbling off to the side as the Order ponies began to load the air- OH!

Wind Breaker couldn’t hold back his laughter at seeing Rex, of all people, with a big goofy grin on his face as he leaned across the side of the skimmer with his tongue sticking out and a somehow visible line of drool leaving his mouth.

“That is certainly falsified as I did not do that,” Rex grumbled with his arms across his chest, although there was a faint smile on his face. “The photograph must have been doctored to slander my good reputation!”

“...Rex, you do remember that we are currently Equestria’s most wanted,” Page said softly as she did her best to stifle her laughter. “Our reputations are at the absolute lowest until we deal with this enemy of ours.”

“Right, thank you for reminding me of that Page,” Night grumbled as he put a hoof on the rope ladder and tried to climb it but his body was holding him back. “Although I might be able to get away with it; I haven’t seen myself yet but I don’t think I look like me anymore…” he stopped and let out a sad sigh.

“You’ve picked up one scar,” Wind Breaker told him, trying to get some sense into him. “And bandages, but you won’t have them forever. One scar is hardly going to make you look different enough to not get recognized.”

Night Blade shot him a look, but the griffon just shrugged. “Just telling it like it is,” he said. “Besides, look at Page; just because you change your outside doesn’t mean who you are inside is going to be different.”

Night Blade’s face reddened. “I… see your point,” he admitted. “Thank you.” There was a brief moment of awkward silence as the Order finished loading their ship up before Night coughed and looked to the side. “One scar?” he asked, rubbing the cloth covering his face.

“Yes, Night,” Rex said as he walked over to him. “From what I was able to observe of it, while your eye is fine, there will be some scarring on your eyelid and eye.”

Night paled at that, his ears folding backwards before he coughed again and made his face all noble-like before turning to face one of the Order ponies that was using their magic to load the ship. “Excuse me, but in my current state, I cannot climb abo-”

The Order pony seemed to glare at Night and was about to make some gesture before Night continued to speak. “My family is responsible for providing a great deal of your metal-based supplies, and once this is all over I will do what I can to increase our support of your Order at decreased price.”

This got the lead pony’s attention and after a series of fierce hoof gestures, the Order had retracted the rope ladder and extended a sheet of wood outwards.

Nicely done, Nighty,” Vix-Lei said as she patted him on the back only to wince as Night let out hiss of pain. “Oops… sorry about that,” she apologized with a weak giggle. “Really didn’t mean to get you hurt again.”

“I’m fine,” he said through clenched teeth, doing his best to steady his legs. “Just… give me a mome-”

“Okay, got it,” Xvital said, causing Wind Breaker to look away from the bat pony. “Night, they want you to go to the infirmary to check on your injuries once we’re up on that… ship,” she let out a tiny yowl, reminding Wind Breaker of how much she hated how Vix-Lei flew the skimmer. “Vix-Lei, they want you to go with him.”

Vix-Lei

“No problem, kitty catty,” she tipped her head as she began to look at the airship again, aching to explore it, run her hands over the generators that were providing the lift, hear all the engines humming including the massive turbofan in the center of the airship, climb the masts to see the view from crow’s nest… She smiled at the thought.

But she had to make sure Nighty was okay first before she even attempted anything she just thought of. “Come Nighty, I think I know where it is…” she said as she walked up the red oak gangplank and onto the deck with bustling airponies. “This seems to a real standard model so if I am right…” she said as she kept a hand on Night’s side as she walked over to the entrance of the hold at midship and trotted down the steps, ignoring any of Order gesturing at her. “Ah, there it is, Nighty!” she said, pointing at the door.

“How can you possibly tell Vix-Lei?” Night asked, tilting his head so he could see her with his one good peeper.

“The nose knows,” she tapped her snout. “I can smell all that medical stuff.” She waved her hand and went to knock on the door. There was a clatter from inside and after a few seconds, the door opened up to show another Order pony tilting their head up at her before looking at Night.

They then waved them in and pointed at the examination bed built into the side of the room. Night let out a tiny sigh as he walked over to it and started to pull himself onto it, only for the doc to stop him and point at her, then at Nighty and then back at the table.

She blinked in confusion before realizing why they wanted her here instead of Xvital who could actually tell what they were saying. With as much grace as she could muster, she lifted Night up and placed him on the bed with the guy stopping his squeaking as soon as he put two and two together.

The Order guy then tried to wave her away but Vix-Lei simply leaned against the door and began to tap Lady Kabonk against the side of the wall.

The doc simply stared at her before shaking their head and beginning to examine Nighty, starting by pulling back the bandages around his side. Vix-Lei let out a hiss as she saw it was all red; at her reaction, Night promptly tried to turn his head around to examine it himself, but the doc booped his nose and made a gesture that even she could tell meant stay still. The doc then took a washcloth and began to wipe away all the blood on his side.

“Damn Night,” she swore as she did her best not to hover the doc. “Why didn’t you say something? That looks rough.”

“Because it didn’t hurOW!” Night hissed as the doc sprinkled some disinfectant alcohol on the spot and began to re-stitch the wound. “Some warGrrk!” Night sputtered as the doc shoved a bar of rubber into his mouth before returning to their work. With his mouth full, he turned and glared, but the doc ignored it and wrapped up the wound in new bandages. The doc then began to prod and poke the other injuries, wrapping them up after cleaning and re-stitching. Night made a lot of angry squeaking sounds as the doc held out his wing and boop instructed him to hold it out straight. They held a light over the scabbing wounds and brought some ointment over, spreading it over Night’s wing.

Seemed Night was fibbing a bit as he let out a sigh of relief with the spread; even his body was relaxing out and his tail was all waggy. The doc then folded the wing back to Night’s side and reached for Night’s face.

Nighty flinched, trying to say something but the rubber in his mouth was really preventing him from doing anything but squeakies. The doc booped Night’s nose again and then started to unwrap the bandages around Night’s face and Vix-Lei couldn’t help herself. She had to see how cool Night’s scar was.

Finally, after a while, the doc had finished unwrapping Night’s face and Vix-Lei took in a sharp breath of air and was impressed with what magic was capable of doing. I mean, you couldn’t even tell the eyelid was magicked back together, she thought to herself as she eyed the wavering scar downwards. Night looked at her all of a sudden with a manic and nervous look in his left eye, making more squeaky noises for some reason while the doc was getting very annoyed at him squirming around. The doc finally settled Night by pushing him flat on the table and smacking his nose before reaching for a small medical flashlight and forcing Night’s eyelid open with their teal coloured magic.

Vix-Lei had a few seconds to see the eye before the light made it shrink but she could see jagged lines all across the eyeball. How the Tartarus did they thi-

She almost did a double take as Night was actually able to somewhat follow that standard eye test thingy, following the hoof with his right eye before making wincing sounds and shutting the eye tightly as he tried to rub at it with his hoof.

The Order pony stopped him and used their magic to search for something in the draw-Oh wait, she knew exactly what the doc was looking for and she had it in her pack for just such emergencies. Fumbling around until she reached her emergency case, she pulled out the eyepatch to both the doc’s and Night’s confusion.

“What? You never know when you might need an eyepatch,” Vix-Lei said as she gave the eyepatch over to the doc who put it on Night.

Night tried to say something no doubt in his usual posh voice but couldn’t due to the gag. The doc tilted their head at this before using their magic to pry Night’s mouth open wider and yank the long rubber out of him. “Thank you,” Night said, rubbing his jaw before looking at her. “As I was saying, be that as it may, why do you have an eyepatch made for a pony’s eye?”

“Ah, you see…”

Chapter Thirty Three: Rex, Wind Breaker

View Online

Chapter Thirty Three

Rex

Rex was doing his best not to pace in the cabin they had been directed into after Vix-Lei wandered off with Night. Xvital had already claimed her bunk that was built into the side that was close to the floor, with the ahuizotless making a barrier of blankets and pillows and muttering how much this sucked. Page had taken the top bunk, and was doing her best to stay out of sight, no doubt to ease both her and the Order’s distrust of each other. Wind Breaker was on the bunk on the other side, with his own mini nest built up but he did have his crossbow within reach and fully loaded.

“Do you think we should do something, Xvital?” Page asked with a nervous chirp, back in her unicorn form. “They have been gone for a while…”

“I don’t know,” Xvital muttered with a groan as the ship rocked a bit. “Vix-Lei and Night are our heavy hitters and even with Night ooooo,” she whined, dipping into her bedframe before groaning under her breathe. “Even with Night being injured like that, I doubt he’d be unable to fight.”

“He doesn’t have his sword anymore,” Wind Breaker muttered as he wiggled his way out and leapt down from the bunk with his natural catlike grace. “Say Page,” he tilted his head up at her as he took a bottle out from his pack and began to uncork it. “Isn’t there a pony disease that comes up when you cannot do something related to your special talent?”

“Well yes, there is a risk for special talent failure, but it’s not a disease per se,” Page replied. “It’s more of an… emotional breakdown.” She shook her head. “Besides, I strongly doubt that just swordplay is Night’s special talent. I have known him for a long time and I am fairly certain it is fighting in general that is his special talent - he’s very good with his sword, though it’s far from the only combat method he knows. There is a reason he fights unicorns in sword tournaments and wins.”

“Holy fuck, you’re not kidding us, are you?” Wind Breaker swore, only to swear more when Page made it clear that she was not lying. “Still, he is in no shape to fight.”

“Not physically,” Xvital snarked before a lurch in the ship punished her.

Rex turned his head to see Wind Breaker flinch and no doubt feel a stab of guilt. “Well, we can figure some-”

“Vix-Lei, you can put me down, I can walk by myself.” Night’s voice carried from outside. “I did it before.”

“Yeah, and they got annoyed at us, Nighty and we’re almost here, so tough it out a bit more, okay?” Vix-Lei said. “Now it’s time to-”

“Oh please don’t say it,” Night whined.

“It’s time to carry you over the threshold, Nighty,” Vix-Lei cooed as she opened the door with her hoof and walked into the room carrying Night bridal style with said pony grumbling and pouting the entire time. Wind Breaker was bowled over in laughter while Page snickered from her bunk and even Rex couldn't stop himself from some laughter. Xvital was smirking from her own bunk only to let out a surprised grunt when Vix-Lei looked up at her.

“What?”

“Night needs a bed to rest in and so you mind getting up and out?”

“No, my bed,” Xvital said with a bit of playful pout.

“Okay, hold this bat pony,” she said as she placed Night on Wind Breaker’s back, causing the griffon to squawk out in surprise and the nox pony to squeak as well. Rex then noticed Wind Breaker was quite able to support Night with both of them clearly surprised at their close proximity with each other. “Okay, scat, move on.” Vix-Lei began to try shoo Xvital out of the bed with the ahuizotless hissing and grumbling. She actually began to swipe at Vix-Lei who tried to get close to the bed, even arching her back and switching her tail. Vix-Lei seemed to be getting into it, with her snorting and grunting like a bull.

It came to a head when Vix-Lei pulled out her toy hammer, spun it in the air and then lashed out faster than Rex could react, the minotaur booped Xvital’s nose with her hammer saying, “Boop.”

There was a short period of silence in the room before they were all shaking with laughter.

“Vix-Lei, please don’t make me laugh like that again,” Night whined through his snickers. “I don’t think my sides could take it.”

“Yeah, they’d probably open up again if you laughed any more,” Vix-Lei said as she picked Night up and walked over to the empty bed that Xvital had left. “And you’d have to go back to that doc with the... bridle? Is that what it’s called?”

“Whoa, back up there a second,” Page said as she flew down and looked at the nox pony who was settling into the nest that Xvital made. “Open up again‽ You mean to tell us you were bleeding the entire time and you didn't say anything about it‽”

“To be fair and honest here, I completely missed it until they told me,” Night Blade said to them, with Vix-Lei nodding her head to back up his claims. “And they made sure I wasn’t going to bleed out again by putting in new stitches.”

“Okay, now explain why you had a bridle in your mouth,” Wind Breaker chuckled as Night Blade began to blush and turn away.

“It wasn’t that kind of bridle, Wind,” the nox pony said, pawing the bed. “The examination was a bit painful, but they forced that damned mouth prop on me so I wouldn’t scream or bite my tongue off. It tasted awful and I need something to wash out the taste so gimme.” Night tried to reach for the bottle that Wind Breaker was holding out but Rex decided to step in before Night made it worse for himself.

“How about something that will not spread the taste around; Wind Breaker do you have anything cream-like?” Rex asked the griffon who began to root around his pack. They truly needed to work on getting Wind Breaker on a proper plan to wean him of his addiction.

“Got some advocaat,” the griffon finally said as he pulled a bottle out. “Not one of my favorites for straight-up drinking, but someone gave me a bottle a while back and recommended putting it on waffles or using it in some kinds of desserts. It’s thick enough that it should do the trick.” Pouring a small shot glass, he handed it to Night Blade who began to drink it. “Better?”

“Yeah,” Night said while making a face from the drink, shaking his head and sticking his tongue out. “That was terrible tasting advoca, adve… however you say it.”

“Well I haven’t had time to have the cooling spells that keep my drink cools replaced, so I guess my advocaat will be a bit ooooo,” Wind Breaker trailed off, eyes going wide as he suddenly felt around his pack with fierceness. “No no no, they’re all getting warm!” he said with a loud groan, even starting to panic before he looked at Page. “Can you renew the spells?”

“Yes and no,” Page said, placing a hoof on his shoulder. “While I could try and renew the spell, I think it would be better if I did not as to help you get over your addiction.”

“Oh yeah, now it’s the time for that crap,” Wind Breaker huffed as tossed his pack to the side of the room. “Right when we are dealing with the most batshit insane group of ponies ever.”

“Hey Wind, you’re not the only one in this group and unlike you, I get really sick on airships,” Xvital snapped as she was now on the lower bunkbed in the middle of the room. “So suck it up; you knew that this was going to come sooner or later.”

“Yeah, but I thought it was going to be my choice,” Wind Breaker huffed as he reached for the bottle he already had out and took a drink from it. “Fucking hate warm beer.”

Xvital let out a snort before groaning and holding her stomach. “Look Wind, you-”

Whatever she was about to say was cut off when the door slammed open and an Order member began to do some of their hoof language. Rex was doing his best to look away as to avoid from observing their language and by extension learning how they communicated in public. He did not trust himself to keep the knowledge secret and was rather averse to dealing with their wrath.

They made a series of gestures at Xvital who was holding her head up with all three of her hands before letting out an annoyed groan. “You have to be kidding me.”

“What did they say, Xvital?” Rex asked her as he sat down on the bunk under Wind Breaker’s.

“That this isn’t a charity and they expect us to do some chores,” Xvital groaned as she got to her feet before swaying and holding her stomach.

“Okay, what do you want me to do?” Night said before the Order member shook their head and made a sharp downward gesture with their hoof that was clear in the message.

“Yeah, they don’t want you moving around Night,” Xvital said before blinking at the Order member before sighing and shaking her head. “I am not saying that you-”

“Let me guess,” Page said as she stepped towards the Order member, the latter squatting down and tilting their head at her as if they were planning on charging her. “You don’t want me doing anything as you believe I am completely untrustworthy to do any work as I might sabotage it?”

To their credit, the Order member nodded their head before making more hoof gestures which made Xvital frown angrily. “They also want to lock you into a small room; they don’t want to do it here as Night might reopen his wounds and they’d need to spend valuable time unlocking the door to help him.”

Page rolled her eyes before sighing. “Regardless of what I want or say, you are going to lock me up, aren’t you?”

The Order member nodded their head again and was about to sign something else but Page continued. “And since your Order knew what this was,” she lifted her green gem Element. “You will not do anything to me.”

The Order member froze before moving their head in an odd fashion, almost akin to a pony swearing but they were completely silent.

The cloaked being then turned on the spot before storming out of the room and slamming the door shut behind them.

“Was that the best of ideas, Page?” Rex asked as he fidgeted with his violet gem Element. “Should we really be antagonizing them?”

“Of course not, Rex,” Page said with a confident smile. “But I will be damned if I am going to be bullied like that.”

“I just hope that this doesn’t come back to bite us,” Wind Breaker grumbled as he went back to his bunk, nursing his bottle angrily. “Remember, they were willing to cripple us beforehand and I doubt that they’ll just forget about that.”

“I actually doubt that Wind,” Night said as he reached into the pack he had been given and pulled out the book he been given previously. “They considered themselves to be followers of Her Grace Celestia and while she wasn’t the Magi of Stars’ teacher, she and the other Elements did report to her. The Order knows something of the Elements and how important they must have been to not kill Page. Whatever they actually do, these Elements, the Order isn’t going to take the chance if anything happens to us before we do what we are supposed to do.”

“And once we do, I highly doubt the Elements would fade away,” Rex conjectured. “So this all might be them being extremely prejudiced with no actual tangible threat behind them.”

“So do we agree to help them or not?” Wind Breaker asked with a hint of slur in his voice.

“I don’t think we should be pushing our luck guys,” VIx-Lei said she hopped onto the bunk atop of Xvital’s, causing the ahuizotless to mewl in surprise as the bed frame sunk down close to her and a further louder one as she nearly kissed Vix-Lei’s dangling hooves when she tried to roll out of the bed. “Oops, sorry about that, kitty cat.”

“Would it be wrong of me to assume that you are in favour of this to work on this ship?” Rex inquired with a grin on his face.

“Not going to lie; I so want to hijack this ship and see what she can really do,” Vix-Lei said with her usual smile, chuckling a bit as she kicked her hooves out. “They’re barely making these engines purr.”

“It can go faster‽” Xvital whined as she stuck her head under the pillows. “I hate airships.”

“And you’ll be good never to say that again in front of me or I will do my best to make you love airships, Xvital,” Vix-Lei replied, the feline whimpering in fear in response.

Before anything else was said, there was a loud knock on the door followed by an Order member walking in, before making signs at Xvital.

“One second, let me see what you are saying,” Xvital said as she pulled herself upright. “Okay, do it again?

The Order member seemed to glare at her before repeating their signs with Xvital watching intently.

“Good news Page, you’re working in the kitchen,” Xvital said with a roll of her eyes. “I’m working on cleanup; apparently they figure if I am going to puke, I might as well clean it up.” She flicked her eyes towards Wind Breaker and himself. “Wind, you’re taking lookout positions due to your eyesight and Rex, you’re on logbook duty.”

“Sounds fine-hey!” The Order member stormed towards Wind Breaker, grabbed the bottle, opened the window and tipped it upside down before handing the empty bottle back to the griffon.

“Yeah, they’ve got a no drinking before a shift rule, Wind,” Xvital said as she got to her feet. “Vix-Lei due to your knowledge, they want you wherever they need you and Night, they’re going to move you to the top so you’re not stuck here the entire time. They’ll move you and us back down once we get near the borders.”

The nox pony merely grunted in acceptance, while Vix-Lei had a very excited expression on her face and looked like she was barely holding back a squeal of delight.

“So,” Xvital concluded. “We have our assignments. Vix-Lei, they want you and Rex on the bridge first; Wind Breaker, you’re up top.”

Vix-Lei gave her an enthusiastic salute. “Aye-aye, kitty-cat! Come on, Rex, we’ve got ourselves an assignment.”

Rex nodded and quickly walked along behind her. “You really do know your way around a ship like this, don’t you?” he asked as they traversed the halls of the airship.

"Yeah," Vix-Lei commented as she put both arms behind her head. "This one reminds me of one of my dad's greatest creations, actually. The Destiny Explorer. She was his pride and joy... made several trips all the way to the South Pole and back, believe it or not."

"Really?" Rex gave her an interested look. "That is impressive."

“I’ll say. I got to know every inch of her when we were building her… this one’s practically her twin.” She beamed as she traced her fingers across the ceiling. “Of course, given this Order’s love for secrecy, I doubt they gave her a name… still, they seem to be treating her well. Point in their favor, at least by my reckoning.”

“Still this should be quite the treat for you, I wager,” Rex said. “You could continue your family’s tradition by working here.”

“Well Rexy if I were to do that, I’d be back home with my family working to create one of these beautiful queens,” Vix-Lei said with a small, happy but sad sigh. “Instead I was the less focused one, too much on the jokes and that kind of stuff…” she trailed off before leaning against one of the arches and letting a tired sounding sigh, rubbing her eyes. “By the gods, I left home without so much a note. I can’t help but think how much they were freaking out about that to find out I’m now a wanted criminal and that stupid picture isn’t going to make things better.”

“I don’t believe we have heard you talk much about your homelife,” Rex said as looked at her with concern. “We do know that Night, Wind Breaker and myself did not have the most ideal youths but…”

“Eh, it was pretty good,” Vix-Lei said as she shrugged her shoulder, seemingly past her moment of sadness. She took a few steps forwards before halting. “Huh, that’s odd; Page and Xvital both had pretty good childhoods, right?” She waited for him to nod before speaking again. “Three of us did have a good childhood and three of us didn’t. And three of us can fly and three of us can’t. Three of us walk on all fours and three of us walk on just two legs. Hey, three of us are guys and three of us are chicks.”

Rex blinked at this revelation, marveling at how much they did have in common was split directly in half and what it meant for them all. “Well there are a few things that are not balanced; Night is the only noble of us, unless you count as one.”

“Nah,” Vix-Lei scoffed, shaking her head. “No noble titles for my family - we’re just civilians and some of the best shipwrights in the Minos Islands.”

“Ah.” Rex contemplated for a moment. “There is also the matter of our species - from what we know, the original Bearers were all ponies, and we have seen two pegasi, two earth ponies and one unicorn, as well as the Magi of Stars, who was supposed to be the most powerful unicorn who ever lived. Yet only two of our group are ponies, and Night Blade and Page Turner are of different tribes. And the rest of us are different species entirely.”

“Hey, it was just a thought,” Vix-Lei told him. “But you’ve got to admit, it is a pretty big coincidence. And coincidences are one of the two things my dad and I have never believed in.”

“Oh? What’s the other?”

“Kallikantzaros. These little goblin-thingies that are supposed to lurk underground. And no, they’re not based off your species.”

Rex blinked. “I see. Well, I’ll do my part to see if I spontaneously become an equine,” he chirped with Vix-Lei laughing at his little joke, climbing the steps out of the hold and onto the deck and towards the bridge. To see what they wanted of he and Vix-Lei with the minotaur almost skipping ahead, the delight obvious in her mannerisms. He found himself smiling at the sight, but it calmed slightly when he began to wonder how long they’d be on the airship.

Good things come to those who wait, he reminded himself as he followed her. And Xvital’s Element is certainly one of those.

Wind Breaker

It had been several days since they had been on board this damn ship and he hadn’t been allowed a single drop of alcohol.

If this was what sobriety was, it was highly overrated crap. He was twitchy, he had headaches all the time and he found himself barely holding back from snapping at the others and these annoying Order jerks.

How the hell was he suppose to tell what they wanted when they refused to talk to him and got angry when he tried to learn what they were saying?

At least the rest of the group was doing okay; the Order ponies had not been too keen on eating what Page made at first but were eventually won over after they saw none of them suddenly dying after eating it themselves later on. Apparently, their dinner time was one of the few times that they went without their masks and none of them were allowed to see what the Order members looked or sounded like.

Rex had taken to his new job as almost as happily as Vix-Lei. She was having a fucking blast doing everything and anything the Order told her to do. She even got them to laugh, in a way. Turned out their masks blocked all sounds they made; it had been really freaky to see them throw their heads back in silent laughter.

On the other hoof, Xvital didn’t seem too happy with her duties nor was the Order. She’d predicted correctly that she’d be sick and more than once, she had run to the side of the airship to barf her guts out. She didn’t always make it to the side of the boat and she spent so much time complaining as she cleaned that up.

Night Blade, however, had been surprisingly even-tempered; the batpony had spent most of his time merely craning his head around, trying to get a good look at the areas they were flying over while he was resting on the upper decks and recovering from his injuries. He hadn’t sniped at Wind Breaker once during the journey, much to the griffon’s astonishment.

Then again, with everything he’s been through, who can blame him? Wind Breaker thought to himself. It might just be his upbringing that kept him really all quiet and still. If he was willing to gamble, not that those damn asshole would let him bet, Night was doing his best not to go crazy. He had noticed Night’s hooves flick around a couple of times and he had tried to move during the first few days before the Order forced him back into his chair and gave him a glass of water before leaving. After that, Night hadn’t tried to move once.

Wind Breaker let out a sigh as he remembered the times at the Hatchery when the sisters didn’t have time for all of them and ignored about half of them and yet still expected well behaved griffons. Some of them played with each other but Wind Breaker hadn’t had much luck with how much Diamond Back teased him and how weird it was, now that he thought of it…

Still, he and Night didn’t really get together and both knew that any attempt to talk would just be weird.

“I have to ask,” Night Blade said as he suddenly walked past him. “Just out of curiosity. What did you say that stuff you gave me was called again?”

Advocaat,” Wind Breaker said as he began to stand by the pony. “The name means ‘lawyer’, believe it or not - at least, that’s what the guy told me. I guess it was their preferred drink where this stuff was made. ‘s got brandy and some other stuff in it.”

“Ah.” The batpony nodded his head. “Despite all the work I did with my tutors, I never got a hoof on languages.”

“Eh, I only learned what I needed to get my drinks or get other jobs,” Wind Breaker sat beside Night. “I’m only semi fluent in a few languages and what I do know beyond what booze to order is how to swear.”

“That is always good, I suppose,” Night said dryly before letting out a sigh. “I am not sure if you have the seen the papers recently…”

“Nah, I haven’t touched them since I don’t need to find a job,” Wind Breaker said with a roll of his eyes before looking at Night. “Why, what’s wrong?”

Night let out another sigh before reaching under the chair and pulling out a couple of newspapers. He shifted through them, using his right hoof as it was almost done healing up, and gave Wind Breaker one of them. Wind Breaker blinked at it, seeing it was only three days old and looking at the headli-

“Oh fuck me!” he swore as he saw a photograph of where they’d fought Sharp Point, the ground still dug up, with the headline saying ‘The Traitorous Six Strike Again’. He began to read it and his face paled as he read the article of how Sharp Point, the fucker still alive somehow despite being knocked clear across the field by the Order pony that saved Night, and his ‘fellow’ mercenaries had tried to apprehend them before the Order showed up. His face paled further as he read about everything they did to fight back, even listing the fact that he had ripped out an eye and ate it before puking it up. He winced at the title they gave Night; the Butcher of the Everfree Forest and-

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad,” Night said, rubbing his ear. “They pieced together what we did to survive and that motherfucker told them Page is a changeling. No matter what happens afterwards, her life is ruined.” Night snorted before looking up at him, still wearing the eyepatch, he hadn’t taken it off to see his eye yet. “You too; they’re calling you a throwback from the ancient times after what you did to that one mare. Though from what Rex told me about why you did it, I can understand your reasons considering all I did,” Night said with a louder snort, running his tongue over his fangs. “I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to our old lives; sweet fuck, I’ve a massive kill count now, a whatchamacallit name and I’ve been scarred up,” Night turned his head to look at him again. “You know, I’m kinda jealous of you, Wind.”

“What really,” WInd Breaker snorted at this. “What is so great about my life that you are jealous of it?”

“You live it,” Night said as he pushed himself upright. “Look, the bulk of my life was simply to exist; there was so little expected of me to do beyond not embarrassing the family name that I just moved through the days when I wasn’t doing contests, tournaments, or being with Page. I didn’t even know what life was like and… despite how insane things have become, this is has been the highlight of my life; this stupid adventure and meeting you guys.” Night said with a smile on his face, tapping his necklace.

Wind Breaker let out a groan, rolling his eyes as he rubbed the back of his neck. “And now here comes the awkward part where I say I’m kinda jealous of you. I mean, I get you have issues with your parents but at least you know who they are. And you had a home with your own room. I mean, I lived with about a dozen or so other griffons growing up and from the ground running I had to be working to pay back the Hatchery. Don’t tell anyone this, but I always dreamed of my parents coming for me and being actual royalty and they were going to take me back home.”

“I read in a book once that we always wish for what we do not have, only to discover that the grass was always green from where you stood,” Night said before turning to face him. “Wind, for everything that’s happened between us-”

“Yeah, I know,” Wind Breaker said, cutting him to spare the guy’s pride. “Likewise.”

Holding out his hoof, Night looked at him to see if he would return the gesture. Wind Breaker smiled as he bumped hooves with the other stallion, smiling back at him.

“We good now?” he asked Night, feeling a weight off his back.

“Yeah, we’re good... until one of us does something stupid,” Night snorted as he shook his head.

“And if it’s you, I’ll be sure to smack you out of it, you noble idiot,” Wind Breaker said, wrapping a wing around his non-injured side.

“And I’ll be positive to do the same if the situation is reversed, peasant,” Night said in an over the top posh accent, with an arm wrapped around his neck in a loose choke hold. Wind Breaker could tell Night was barely holding his laughter back and it suddenly became a game to see who could hold the longest. “You know Wind, beside Page, you guys are really the first people I can call fri-”

“Oh not again!” Xvital’s whining voice from behind caused to them pull back in surprise as she stormed over to them, looking a tad less green than usual. “Look you two, I had hoped you two would put away your differences-”

“Xvital,” Night began to speak, moving to stand with a bit of a stumble and Wind Breaker helped him by flexing his wing out so Night had a soft support wall.

“No, let me finish,” she snapped, walking over to jab a finger into both of their chests. “I had hoped you two would stop your fighting, put away your differences and-”

“We already did,” Wind Breaker said with the ahuizotless barely paying any attention.

“And apologize to each oth- wait what?”

“We did that too,” Night chimed in, flashing her his wide smile that showed his fangs off.

“When did this happen?” she asked, tilting her head in surprise.

“Just a few seconds ago,” Wind Breaker said, doing his best not to laugh at the faces she was making.

“And you just cut into our guy bonding time,” Night said cheekily, flashing him a quick look that screamed play along.

“Night just promised to give me pointers in how to use my crossbow,” Wind Breaker said before tilting his head to the side. “You still up for it?”

“Not like I have anything else to do, Wind,” Night said as the two of walked off to the small area that had been sectioned off as a training hall.

“Oh sure, make me the bad guy here, you jerks!” Even though she was shouting at them, Wind Breaker could hear the amusement in her voice.

“You are a self proclaimed con artist, so you did that yourself!” NIght shouted back, with Wind Breaker letting out guffaws of laughter as he saw Xvital actually blush at this.


Some hours later, the six were gathered in their cabin once more. The room had changed since they’d first begun the voyage; now there was a large mirror in a gilded frame hanging on one wall, allowing them plenty of room to see it without crowding one another.

“According to their leader,” Xvital explained, “They can’t let us be seen by the local authorities. But apparently, they decided we should be able to see out when we arrive. So they set this up to give us a good view.”

Page examined the mirror closely for a moment. “Very impressive work,” she murmured as she drew back. “I’ve seen scrying mirrors like these before, and the enchantment is incredibly difficult.”

“I have heard the same,” Rex commented. “There have been efforts to create smaller and more portable versions, but it’s a long and complicated process. The closest they’ve come are the shortwave communications spells used in the helmets of the Guard branches, but those are audio only, no visuals.”

“Such things would come in very handy,” Night put in. “But - look!” He pointed, prompting the entire group to stare at the scrying mirror and at the sweeping vista it now displayed before them. What they saw was a massive city of crystal buildings, including an enormous palace at the very center.

“Well,” Xvital finally said in awe. “Here it is. The Crystal Dominance.”

Chapter Thirty Four: Gentle Step

View Online

Chapter Thirty Four

Gentle Step

The Captain General stared across the battlefield and frowned. This was not what she had expected of those six individuals. All of her reports and information on them told her that they were civilians with minimal combat training. Two with weapons, yes, but only in self defense and nothing to this extreme. The sheer depravity they had sunk to was only something she had read of happening in the frontier lands or seen during her five months in Tartarus.

Then again, she thought to herself as she lifted a shard of the banded steel from the Blade’s mine in the badlands and examined it. The fact the mare of the group was actually a changeling proved her sources were flawed.

What was not flawed was the fact that idiot Sharp Point had been telling the truth about how the Questioning Order of Celestia had saved them while knowing that one of them was a changeling. She had never been one for the Questioning Order and the fact that they had moved against Equestria gave her an opportunity to squash the Order and those six once and for all.

Chapter Thirty Five: Page Turner, Rex, Xvital

View Online

Chapter Thirty Five

Page Turner

Page had to do her best not to panic as they were suddenly ushered into a space underneath the cabin they had been living in for the past week but she was very scared being here in the Crystal Dominance.

“Hey, you doing okay, Pagey?” Vix-Lei ask as she sat down in a strange looking chair that actually seemed to work for her backward jointed legs.

“Can’t imagine that she’s overjoyed being here,” Xvital said with a bucket in her lap. She was curled up against a corner of the hidden hold that Vix-Lei had so casually revealed by reaching under the shil of one of the bunks to hit a switch. Not even the Order had known of this place and after having Vix-Lei write down a list of other possible hidden catches, they had shoved them into this dark place and closed the lid on them. “The capital of the anti-changeling feelings in the world? It would be like Vix-Lei going to Roam or something.”

Hey, don’t joke about that!” Vix-Lei hissed. “We left the Roamane Empire, we did not give it up to those damn ponies.”

“I sense that this is a sensitive issue for you?”

“One of these days, we minotaurs will retake Roam and restore the proper Roamane Empire and all the old borders,” she snorted, tilting her head to the side.

“I am fairly certain those in Prance, Bitaly, Cataballon, the Griffish Isles, Germane, Aneighzighen and a hooffull of others nations would have some words about that,” Night said, rolling his golden eye in the dark.

“How do you know the old kingdoms? I mean, Prance, Bitaly, Cataballon, the Griffish Isles and Germane are the known ones, but Aneighzighen?” Vix-Lei leaned towards him with Night shifting uncomfortably.

“It was part of my history lessons… and I used to attend to some board games that dealt with the past,” Night chuckled a bit nervously, tapping his hooves together. “Used to be Byzantion and just flatten the others by relying on how good they are from the get go and reforge the Roamane Empire without any real struggle. They got annoyed at me and told me buzz off for a while… and I never went back.” He let out a tiny sigh, rubbing the back of his neck.

“So you’re a history nerd that used to scum a board game,” Wind chuckled as he patted Night on the back with his wing. “Big deal. Or are you worried that your tough guy image is going to be ruined when it comes out that you hung out with nerds?”

“Oh please, as if those in my old team for the sword tournament need anything else to mock me with; my temper, my high standards, my glares... this is mild compared to all that and they know I’ve got enough dirt on them if they try anything.”

“Besides, with your little Butcher of the Everfree Forest name going on, I doubt they’d be stupid enough to mock you on like those nerd games,” Wind snarked. Night responded by rolling his eye and jabbing Wind in the gut playfully.

“As amusing and comforting to see you two are finally getting along,” Rex said with a chuckle before looking at her. “I do believe we are getting off topic here and neglecting Page’s wellbeing.”

“Oh no, please keep on talking about other stuff; I am perfectly fine blending in the background,” Page said with a weak chuckle. “I am being honest here; as a changeling,” how odd it was to admit out loud in public. “We rarely do well being dragged into the spotlight. Part of our nature is to be on the edge of things, to blend in and avoid being seen. And we are going to be landing in the capital where they make it their business to find and kill changelings ever since the world drove Sombra back here and killed him.”

“Say guys,” Vix-Lei said as she leaned across her chair. “Do you think our foe could be him? I mean, he came back once already after the gods and goddesses banished him and the Crystal Dominance away. What’s to say he didn’t sneak away a slice of himself and wait until he was strong enough to come back?”

“Considering it took the entire world working in unison to drive his empire back to this city state, it’s a fairly horrific prospect that we could be responsible to do what took almost a decade to accomplish in the past,” Rex said as he reached into Wind’s pack and took out a bottle and began to drink straight from the stout. “While I am an atheist, we would need divine help to deal with him.”

“Uh Night,” Wind began with Night shaking his head.

“We didn’t run many matches with the Crystal World War table set; it was near impossible for any of us to defeat the guy playing as him and it wasn’t that much fun,” Night said with a shudder.

“Well with that terrifying thought in mind,” Xvital groaned as she emptied her stomach again. “We don’t know anything and I don’t think we should scare ourselves silly with that kind of speculation.” She sighed. “Whatever we’re up against… we’ll beat it.”

“And we’ll be sure to take care of each other,” Page said, doing her best to calm her racing heart.

“Hey guys, I think we’re landing,” Vix-Lei said, tilting her head. “I can hear the engines slowing down.”

“Oh thank the gods, this craaa-” Xvital trailed off, shooting worried looks at the minotaur who was thumbing her hammer before coughing into her tail hand. “This fine airship, one of the best I have ever ridden!”

“You saying I’m a bad pilot, Xvital?” Vix-Lei asked softly as she had one of her hammers on her lap, with Xvital mewing in fright.

“Uhhhhh,” she began to gulp and look around for support but thankfully Vix-Lei couldn’t keep her straight face anymore and was about to laugh when there was a loud thud above their heads. She instantly ceased her actions and waited as metal on wood echoed out above their head; no doubt the Crystal Guards examining the ship.

Page, along with the rest of them waited in complete silence as the Guards shuffled around the room before pausing. “No disrespects, revered ones,” the Guard above her head said, sending a wave of dust at them. Before Page could even wrinkle her nose, Xvital had reached out with her tail hand and clamped down, even going as far to plug her nostrils with her fingers. “But why do you have an examination mirror in this room?” There was a long pause before the Guard spoke again. “I see. And if you have any information on the Traitorous Six, please do not hesitate to contact us.”

One of the other Guards spoke softly, “Or not.

There was a sudden loud smack and the clatter of metal on the ground, with the whimpering of the second Guard.

“Revered ones; Ardent Daffodil spoke out of place,” the first Guard said in a submissive tone. “She did not mean to imply anything against the Equestrian gover-”

There was another loud smack and the sound of a Guard hitting the floor. There was another long stretch of silence, pockmarked by what seemed like the Order forcing the Guard back down.

“I understand, revered ones,” the first Guard said with a slight slur to his voice. “My thanks to you for correcting my errors; I serve all of Equestria, not just the Crystal Dominance for they are one.” Page did her best not to jump when a drop of blood fell onto her head, telling her the reason for the slur. Her ears flicked as the Guard dragged himself to his hooves before the other Guard was dragged up. “We are done here, revered ones. We are thankful for your time and… your lessons,” the last words sounded like it was dragged out by force.

The Guards then began to walk out of the room with the Order ponies staying put, tapping the top of the hold twice before leaving.

After a period of time passed, Xvital moved her tail hand off and out of her nose, muttering a soft apology. Wind Breaker looked around the room before he asked, “You think we're safe?”

“I guess so,” Vix-Lei said as she peered upwards. “Rex, you hear anything up there?”

“There are no ponies around that I can hear,” the Diamond Dog replied. “However, I would wait until one of the Order members comes back-” He froze, and sniffed. “And I think I hear one now.”

“You sure it’s an Order member?” Wind Breaker asked.

“Almost positive,” Rex replied. “I recognize the sound of this one’s footstep.”

The others turned to give him startled looks, but before anypony could say anything, the hatch opened, revealing a cloaked figure in the Order’s distinctive cloak and mask, making a gesture with one hoof that anypony could recognize as ‘Come here’.

Carefully, they climbed their way out of the hold, Vix-Lei bringing up the rear just in case, and were soon standing in their room. “So, now what?” the minotaur asked.

The Order member made a series of gestures, and Xvital nodded. “We’re clear,” she reported. “The Crystal Guards have left the ship, and this landing pad. We still have to get dressed before we can leave though.” She accepted the cloak and mask that the Order member was holding, with the others taking their own cloaks and masks. In minutes, they were ready to go with Xvital taking the lead again with Wind Breaker right behind her. Night followed the griffon with Page walking behind him as he was a bit shaky due to seeing out of only one eye. Rex was behind her and of course Vix-Lei took up the rear.

The Order was forcing them to move quickly as they certainly did not look like Order members, walking up the hallways of the ship before reaching the deck to see that they were on the upper levels of what was once the palace of the Crystal Empire, now refitted to serve the order. Of course, they Order hadn’t dared change a single thing about it due to the sheer historical value as well as the fact that there were fragments of a legend noted from the Goddess Celestia herself telling of lost treasure, a gem crafted in the form of a heart, within the grounds that would restore the empire to its former glory; not with the native crystal ponies throwing a huge fit about it that not even the Order tried to fight against.

And from what the legends her tribe had managed to pass onto her, if the Crystal Heart was ever found, then Equestria would find itself at war with a nation that would not be subjugated again by an outside force with the crystal pony tribe only accepting a God or Goddess of Love on their throne.

But there was no way she was telling them that; too many questions would be raised and she would be risking the lives of the brave few changelings that lived up here searching for the Crystal Heart if she so much as hinted that she knew about the gem.

Still, they followed them into the former palace, down the staircases with the feeling of hatred directed straight at her causing the halfbreed to flinch and draw onto the love that Night had in his heart to keep herself from transforming back to her true self. To her relief, Night didn’t even flinch although she was given a look by one of the Order ponies that caused her to trot a bit faster. They were going lower now, and Page felt some sort of shift and by referencing where her changelings were, she realized that they were underground and going deeper by the minute. Page did her best to soothe the changelings she brushed across with her mind but did not dare send a message off in case the Order had the means to detect the hivemind. They were delighted to be touch with her, that much was obvious but they were also full of anxiety for her safety. The Goddesses and the Enteral Swarm forbid that they learned that she was deep in the headquarters of the Questioning Order or they might do something completely foolish like trying to attack the Order to rescue her.

Finally, almost after an hour of walking did their guide finally stop before a single ordinary looking door with a single Order standing guard in front of it. Their guide made a series of signs at the guard before they nodded and stepped to the side with the guide making a short number of hoof signs and giving her a sheet of papers before waving them in.

Xvital seemed to perk up, a flash of excitement in the ahuizotless making Page wince a bit, before she scampered in with Wind Break and the rest of them following her inside of the massive storage room, the Order ponies slamming the door shut behind them. In an instant, all of them removed those itchy robes and the confining masks and tossed them to the floor, with Page folding them up with her magic and placing them to the side.

“So Xvital, what got you so exci-” Wind began, only for Xvital to let out a squee and spun on her feet.

“Do you know where we are‽” Xvital let out another giggle before rubbing her hands together. “We’re in their treasure room! All the stuff they’ve ever gathered or found is right here! Oh the stuff I could sell would set me up for life!

She let out what seemed to be a cackle before Rex coughed and said, “Are we not here for your Element?”

“Ah, yes,” Xvital said, blinking as she began to calm down. “About that… when they told us about having my Element, they revealed that they had three items from the old castle before changing it to two,” Xvital said as she examined the vast rows of crates. “Shit, how are we going to find it in all this?”

“Well Xvital,” Page said as she examined the papers and saw it was an inventory list. “We can use this magical thing called a log to see where your Element is being stored.”

“I highly doubt that they would actually list the Element of… whatever the Magi of Stars had, Page Turner,” Rex said as he took a step towards the crates.

“Well, yes,” Page said with a bit of a titter, frowning as she flipped the pages. “But that just means we can examine each crate cache to see what should not be there and-”

“That could take hours. I say we just look around and see what we can find,” Wind said, shrugging his shoulders.

“That sounds good to me, Wind Breaker,” Rex said, nodding his head.

“Ditto,” Vix-Lei said as she tilted her head as she looked around the room.

“Well guys, I say Page here has the right idea,” Xvital said, pulling her into a sideways hug. “What about you Night?”

“I’m for looking around,” Night said, causing Page to do a double take and Night noticed her surprise. “What? First off, this place is simply massive and it would take a long time to search it all. I highly doubt they’ll let us out until we find it and the way that these Elements work, it will show up when it wants to show up. And secondly, I want depth perception back and this damn eyepatch off.” Night grumbled as he reached for the fabric covering his eyes and tugged it off his face, blinking his scarred eyelid before he managed to keep it op-

“Oh my,” Page placed her hoof on her mouth as she saw at last how his eye looked. The Order’s treatment had repaired the worst of the damage; while the pupil had faded somewhat, she could still see the narrowest trace of a line across the eye itself, matching the line she had seen across his eyelid when he first uncovered it.

“Night, can you see?” she asked faintly.

“Of course I can, Page,” he said, blinking in confusion with everyone wincing except Vix-Lei who seemed to be impressed by it, of all things! “Why, is it that bad?”

“Uh…” Wind trailed off before coughing and turning his head to Rex. “Rex, do you have happen to have a mirror on you?”

“I, er, um,” Rex fumbled as he both spoke and searched his vest for one. “Yes, mirror. I have a mirror. Here.”

Night blinked and took it with his right wing and held it to his face and then froze. He blinked his eyelid a couple of times before holding it open, examining his eye. After a moment of licking his lips, Night said, “This will take some time getting used to.” He then turned to Rex to return the mirror and thanked him. “So… shall we get going?”

“Yeah,” Vix-Lei said as she began to walk off, then stopped and glanced over her shoulder at him. “Oh - can I have that patch back, since you’re done with it? Never know when I’ll need it again.”

Night Blade nodded, hoofing the patch over to her, and watched as she tucked it into her pack. Page glanced at him as he walked in her direction. “Have it back?” she asked him.

“Apparently pony-sized eyepatches are among her emergency supplies,” Night Blade replied. “I didn’t ask why, trust me on this one.”

Page shook her head, a faint smile on her face. “I wonder what else she carries,” she commented.

“If it’s anything like that lizard, I’m not sure I want to know,” Night told her, prompting a nicker of amusement.

After a moment, she shook her head, and levitated the inventory list back into view, flicking her eyes at the sign indicating which crate cache this was. “Let’s see where we are…”

“Uh Page,” Xvital said, causing Page to frown, losing her place.

“Not now,” Page shushed as she looked over the papers again to get her place.

“This is kinda important,” Xvital said, causing Page to lose her place again.

What is it, Xvital?” Page snapped as she turned her head to look at Xvital and- “They already left, didn’t they?”

“Yeah,” Xvital admitted. “They did.”

The unicorn-changeling mare pouted. “Well that’s just great; I thought at least Night would stay here.”

“Why, because you two dated?” Xvital gave her an odd look. “You’re the one who said you wanted space; you can’t blame him for doing what you asked him to. And besides, he said he wanted to go look around instead of this list review thing.”

Page just snorted and rolled up the paper to bap Xvital’s nose. “Don’t bring logic into this missy, he could have listened to me.”

Xvital just laughed at her with Page’s face burning up embarrassment as she stalked over to the first cache and began to examine what was there and what wasn’t.

Rex

It had been quite some time since they entered this treasure room of relics from the past that the Order had collected and he had been taking notes after notes from what he saw. This was the first time that anyone had seen these artifacts; the crystals on the moon, he was the first Diamond Dog in the Crystal Dominance in almost a millennium, not since the world banded together to depose the tyrant Sombra.

He was glad to be alone right now due to what his instincts were telling him being around the room made of crystals. Licking his lips as his stomach growled, he did his best to suppress his growing hunger despite how much his mouth was salivating and his teeth begged him to start eating this delicious forgotten looking place.

Shaking his head, he ran his fingers along the wall and let out a bit of low bark of surprise as hand clip a loose brick of stone and knocked it down. Turning his head, he saw something reflective inside. Tilting, he pulled out what appeared to be a clear crystalline object fashioned in the shape of a heart.

Rex turned back and forth in his paws and let out a bark of laughter. It was clearly fashioned in the shape of the old heraldry of the Crystal Empire and while he was fully aware of the old legends, this clearly had to be a replication of the fabled totem that some child that placed in here before the palace had been renovated to fit the Order's needs. Placing the faux Crystal Heart back into its hold and the brick over it, he turned his head as he noticed something very odd on the ground.

It was a long piece of cloth but the way it was laying on the ground bothered him. His eyes flicked to the standing horseshoe-shaped mirror, barely skipping over the small gems that decorated its rim. As he studied it, he realized what was wrong about this whole thing: beyond how the cloth must have fallen off of it in a windless room, it wasn’t crumpled up in front of the mirror but as if something had pushed it off to the side.

Yes that was it… although not quite right. The folds of the fabric were the wrong way for someone to have pushed it to the ground. Walking around it, with his back to the mirror, he saw that it was as if someone had come through the mirror and done the deed. How the deed was done was beyond him as there was nothing behind the mirror that could as act as a back door and this was further proven when he tapped the back of the mirror and saw it was solid.

“How very peculiar,” Rex said as he tapped his chin as he looked at the mirror and wondering where this mirror came from and tried to recall any legend that involved an odd looking mirror.

Xvital

Xvital so regretted agreeing with Page to look for her Element this way; it was so boring!

The mare had her going through each box, forcing her to pry open the lid for each one, peering into it and then sealing it back up without taking anything from the crates.

“Come on Page,” Xvital whined. “Can’t I take just a little something?”

“No,” Page replied. “Now come on, we’re almost halfway done.”

“Gah, you’re no fun,” Xvital pouted as she took a drink from her canteen. “This place has so much stuff and we could make so much money off it.”

“Well Xvital,” Page said as she ticked off a page and flipped to the next one, trotting to the next stack of crates. “We have gotten this far without needing to spend much of anything and I don’t see us winding up in a situation where we’ll suddenly need a lot of cash.”

“Oh come on, that’s what poor people say,” Xvital snorted with Page shooting a very librarianish look at her that made her wince. “Uh… sorry?”

Thank you,” Page chirped as she stood in front of a very large box. “Open this one, please. It should contain the armor of one… Quick Thought, a pony who was tricked and turned into a wolf for a while, until he figured out how to make the pony who did it change him back.”

“Oh come on, that was just a leg-” Xvital trailed off as she saw the armor of a pony and with a quick poke, it had shifted into that a wolf. “Well, I guess that legend is true.”

“And no Xvital, you cannot take it and sell it to the highest bidder,” Page snarked at her, causing Xvital to flush and sputter.

“I wouldn’t do that, Page Turner,” Xvital pouted.

“Mainly because you couldn’t actually carry it out?” Page asked, raising an eyebrow as she opened up a crate and studied the contents, then checked her list and covered her mouth. “Okay, no.”

“Why, what is it?” Xvital asked curiously.

“An enchanted frying pan,” Page said disgustedly. “If the rightful owner hits somepony with it, it turns them into a giant poached egg. If anypony other than the rightful owner tries to use it, it turns them into a giant poached egg.”

“Yeah, definitely not,” Xvital said, lifting the lid back onto the crate. “That’s just freaky. And dangerous. Who in Equestria would create such a thing anyway?”

“A very, very poor magician,” Page replied. “And it doesn’t help that he missed his intended target - he tripped over something when tried to cast the spell. Not only did it not give him the effect he wanted, he enchanted his wife’s best frying pan instead of the Masamane sword he was aiming for.”

“He was trying to enchant a Masamane sword?” Xvital’s eyes widened. “What kind of idiot messes with his swords? I thought he destroyed them all and this joker almost wasted one with his botched spell? What kind of effect was he going for anyway?”

“Nopony knows,” Page replied as she studied her list. “He never told anypony, except possibly his wife, and she never said anything. Because she became a giant poached egg, and that’s how he found out about that part of the spell.”

“You ponies and your magic can get pretty messed up,” Xvital said as they turned the corner to check out the other boxes when they spotted Night and Wind approaching an armoury full of weapons.

They were both clearly examining the items there instead of looking for her Element, with Night holding a small dagger and Wind holding up a simple looking bow.

Then Night flashed a look at Wind, making sure the griffon saw what he was doing and picked up a longer knife. Wind raised an eyebrow at this and picked up a slightly longer bow. Night responded by grabbing a gladius, while Wind found a longbow. Night then reached for an Assegai while Wind grabbed for a very large gastraphetes, and Night promptly found an even bigger sword. In response, Wind found a massive ironwood bow, only to see Night Blade now carrying a curved sword that was even longer than his body. The two stared at one another, perfectly still.

“Ooo, what’s that?” Vix-Lei cooed, walking past them with a massive hammer with the head as big as she was in her hands. “You want me to take you with me? Oh I don’t know; you are a very pretty hammer but I just don’t know how Lady Kabonk and Señor Hardhead would feel about it. Oh now, don’t be worried, I am sure everyone will like you just fine,” Vix-Lei continued to say as she walked out of view, still stroking that insanely large hammer she found. Turning her head back to Night and Wind, Xvital could see both of them were laughing their heads off, leaning on each other for support.

“Oh my,” Wind Breaker gasped. “Can you believe - gah!” He broke off to laugh some more. “Ah, I needed that…”

“I quite agree,” Night Blade chortled as well as making these high pitched squeaks . “Really, how could one even use such a thing as this?” He lifted his last sword, and shook his head. “Completely impractical, yet… who in the world ever thought making something so big was a good idea?”

“I don’t know,” Wind Breaker said as he studied his last weapon. “I think I heard a story about a guy with a bow this long and hard - oh hah hah,” he snarked when he saw Night Blade’s expression. “But seriously, I think he was a minotaur or something, and held this contest to prove he was the strongest of them all, because none of the other minotaurs who tried could even bend it to string it, let alone fire the dang thing. Either that or it was to prove his identity, because he was the only one who could ever string and fire it.”

“Really?” Night Blade gave him an interested look. “Where did you hear about that?”

“It was something about ‘The longest journey’, I think. It was back before I could fly, at any rate, so I really don’t remember much else. Just that he had a lot of adventures at sea.”

“I’ll have to see if I can find it myself someday then,” Night Blade told him.

“If you do, let me know so I can read it too,” the griffon replied. “Because now I want to know if I’m remembering parts of it right.”

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Night Blade said as he started hanging weapons up again and studying them, seeing if there were any that would actually suit him.

As he looked over the swords again, Xvital turned her head to Page and just smirked. “What an insane group we are, eh?”

“I doubt there has ever been a group like ours, Xvitall,” Page said as she stared at Night with a happy sigh. Speaking of…

“Say Page, something I’ve been meaning to ask you; are you feeding okay due you and Night no longer being together?”

Page jerked at this, going back to her changeling self in surprise before looking at her with a blush on her face. “I uh,” she fumbled for words for a little bit before smiling. “I am doing quite fine; with the residual love that Night has, that blender and you guys are feeding me just fine.”

“Blender?” Xvital blinked at the odd word.

“Oh that’s we call someone that can blend two emotions together,” Page said. “Neither emotion is greater than the other; they’re a perfectly equal mix. It’s incredibly rare but Night is perfect at doing anger and love and those two rarely mix well.”

“Really?” Xvital tilted her head at this, interested to know more.

“Oh yes, love is just the sweetest, most fulfilling emotion you can ever taste and anger is a fiery, spicy emotion and can easily leave a burnt taste in your mouth if you take too much in,” Page said, closing her eyes. “But Night is just able to hit that sweet spot in mixing those two emotions naturally whenever he duels and then…” she let out a soft moan and began fanning herself.

Xvital stared at her for a few seconds before she cracked a smile. “So I guess we now know why you like spicy stuff then, eh?”

Xvital!” Page squeaked with embarrassment, looking to see if Night had heard them.

“Let me guess; you were always thinking of yourself as a damsel in distress with Night being your knight in shining armor to protect you, right?”

Page just glowered at her, her face heating up and telling Xvital she was right on the money. The ahuizotless started laughing at the mare’s expression, but suddenly yelped as Page gave her a telekinetic push, just enough to knock her off balance. Flailing her arms, she fell back into one crate, feeling something sharp suddenly jabbing her in the side, letting out a screech. “Yeeoww!

At the sudden cry of pain, Page gasped, holding a hoof to her mouth before rushing over to her. “I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to push you that hard-”

As Night, Wind Breaker and Vix-Lei hurried over as well, Xvital shook her head. “It wasn’t what you did, it was something I landed on.” Shifting around, she managed to clamber back over the edge of the crate and dusted herself off. “I’m okay, I’m okay.”

“If you’re sure…” Page murmured.

“I’m sure.” Checking herself one last time, Xvital reached into the crate. “What the heck is this thing anyway?” she wondered aloud as she picked up the object that had poked her in the side. Studying it, she frowned as she saw the sharp edge that had done the poking; it looked something like a broken gem of some shape, attached to a warped almost horseshoe-like piece of metal. The entire thing was bent and tarnished, and she curled up her lip in disgust for some reason. But at the same time, something within her yearned at her to put it on her head, that her entire life was leading up to this moment.

“Is that your Element?” Page asked her. “It looks… wrong.”

“Yeah, I think so,” Xvital said as she turned it around in her hands, running her thumbs over the broken centerpiece with a low hiss. That felt incredibly wrong for some reason but she could not place her finger on why. “Well, I guess I should put it on and talk to the Magi of Stars? See what’s going on?”

Xvital saw Page, Wind, Night and Vix-Lei give her encouraging nods and that was enough for her. Twisting the Element around so it would go on her head the right way, she began lowering it onto her head when it was suddenly yanked out of her hands.

“What the fuck?” she swore as a red and yellow maned unicorn mare dashed past them. “Hey, you!”

Night dove at the amber coated mare but she simply used her magic to push him to the side, jumping off Wind’s face as the griffon tried to copy him. Page let out a vicious sounding hiss, spreading her wings out wide as she created a bubble around the mare but whoever she was seemed unfazed and simply teleported out of it and continued in her mad dash.

“Oh no you don’t!” Vix-Lei shouted as she dropped the massive warhammer she had found onto the ground that caused everything to jump and took a swing at her with her fake hammer at the mare. The thief simply used her opal-green magic to pull several crates down onto Vix-Lei, causing the minotaur to let out a stream of curses in her native language.

“Stop!” Xvital called as she, Page, Night and Wind Breaker chased after her.

“Xvital, what is goin-WHOA!” Rex let out a yelp as the mystery mare almost ran him over and nearly caused a nasty pile up.

Glancing back, the unicorn gave her a nasty smile, before turning away and running towards an odd-looking mirror. As she reached it, instead of stopping, she ran through it, leaving only a ripple behind.

Stopping just short of the mirror, Xvital gaped in astonishment as she and the rest of them stopped short in front of the mirror. “Okay, what the fuck just hap-GAH!” she shouted as she was suddenly shoved forwards by a furious Vix-Lei and found herself suddenly flying into the mirror itself!

There was a whirling motion…

A flash of odd colors surrounding her…

And then a ton of weight on her back with the groans of the rest of the crew.

“Where is that little skank that dropped that shit on me, I’ll smash her faceeee...!” Vix-Lei’s shouting came to an abrupt end. “Uh guys, anytaur else see this or is it just me?”

“Seeing what, Vix-L- Oh my!” Rex exclaimed.

“What in Equis is going on?” Wind Breaker said in awe with Night and Page letting out gasps.

Pushing herself upright to her knees, Xvital rolled her eyes and asked, “What are you guys talking abo-” she stopped as she saw hand was no longer covered in fur but was now light purple-blue skin.

“Guys,” Vix-Lei said in a shaky voice, causing everyone to stare at her and recoil at how much she had suddenly changed. “I don’t think we’re in Equestria anymore…”

Chapter Thirty Six: Vix-Lei, Rex

View Online

Chapter Thirty-Six

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei and the rest of them took a moment to examine themselves as for some reason they’d all become some sort of weird minotaurs.

“What the fuck happened to us?” That was Xvital; the former kitty cat was now a bit taller than before; her dark blue hair was cropped short in the back, and her skin was a mixture of purple and blue. She was wearing an open tan yellow jacket over a soft green top and wearing some black pants with white worn shoes on her feet.

“I don’t know but I am not too fond of not having my wings,” Looking to the right of her had to be Nighty who was twisting around, trying to see his back. He had the same light gray-coloured skin, the same scar over his eye, and the same windblown hair, but now he was wearing a dark red formal looking jacket, with a badge that had a silver sword over a black background on its right breast, over a white collared shirt and black tie. He was also wearing polished black shoes and corduroy pants. And he was not happy, if the normal grumpy look on his face was anything to go by.

“Nor me,” Windy grumbled as he patted his sides of his reddish-gold jacket. “Not only are my wings gone but my crossbow and my booze are missing too!” He slammed his orangish-pink hands onto his faded blue pants and kicked the ground with well-worn looking yellow shoes.

“But you were abstaining from drinking, correct?” Rexy asked and somehow she knew that this was the perfect outfit for him. He had his normal vest but it was over a high-neck blue shirt with loose sleeves and sharp dark gray pants with white and black casual-looking shoes, though in somewhat better shape than Windy’s slightly worn ones.

“Uh…” Wind trailed off, his face heating up with embarrassment as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Wind Breaker,” Page hissed at him. She looked very much a librarian would; she was wearing a dark green blazer over a white blouse and a blue-green skirt. Her skin was the same yellow as her pony self’s fur, she had her light green hair all combed up, and her shoes were tiny things on her feet. “You were doing so well.”

“Hey, I’ve been on the stuff for so long, it’s hard to get out of the habit all at once!” Wind Breaker protested.

Page crossed her arms and tapped one foot, giving him a look. “I can understand that. But it’s a habit you need to get out of… the withdrawal will be hard, but we’re here to help you.”

Wind Breaker smiled faintly. “Yeah… thanks.”

“As good as this is guys,” Vix-Lei said as she took a weak stop forwards-why were her legs so weird now? She was wearing her normal skirt over some short dark red pants and had a white top on her chest, something that was a bit odd after going without for so long. “Shouldn't we figured out where we are or what’s…” She trailed off and then did a double-take, and looked down to make sure her eyes weren’t fooling her. But they weren’t.

“EE-YES!” Vix-Lei whooped as she gazed at the lower half of her body. “I have actual pants now!”

Then she caught the odd looks everytaur else was giving her and blushed, brushing her bluish-black hair back and wincing at the lack of her horns. “Eh-heh… sorry.”

“Beyond the obvious,” Rex said as he glanced around the clearing they were in. “It seems that this mirror has transported us to somewhere very different than what we are used to.”

“A school if that name’s anything to go by,” Vix-Lei said, pointing at the massive building behind them. “See? Canterlot High School. Says it on the sign right over the doors.”

“Would explain all the kids around,” Xvital said as she shuffled around with Vix-Lei now noticing all the kids with backpacks looking at them. “I think we should get moving and out of the open - people are looking at us.”

“You think they’d mind a group of strangers coming in to look around?” Wind Breaker asked.

“That depends,” Page replied. “If this is a school though…” she looked thoughtful. “I wonder where their library is.”

“I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” Night Blade told her. “In the meantime, Xvital is right, and I can’t believe I just said that,” he added with a groan. “We need to get moving.” Taking a step, he swayed. “Or… trying to move.”

“It’s hard enough having these long legs and no wings for support,” Wind Breaker grumbled as he walked stiffly. “I can’t believe how much my tail actually helped to keep my balance.”

“It’s not that hard,” Page said as she walked around with a smile on her face.

“Speak for yourself,” Vix-Lei said as she tried to walk but her legs were just wrong now! She wasn’t suppose to be able to see her kneecaps, and there was something she never would have imagined anytaur ever thinking! “You’re used to changing into new shapes.”

“Actually…” Page said with a blush on her face. “My unicorn self is pretty much the most I know; I could add wings or pretend to be an Earth Pony but other than that…”

“Again, we should get moving and figure out how we are going to get my Element back,” Xvital said, causing Vix-Lei to feel her neck and was relieved to discover the familiar metal of her Element, with the others doing the same. “Also figure out who that mare was. And we should probably try to keep as out of sight at possible. Bad enough all those kids are looking at us,” she grumbled. “I’m sure we don’t look suspicious at all just standing around like this. Come, let’s go find a place we can claim as a base and observe the people here to find out who took my Element and make plans to get it back from here.”

“Or…” Vix-Lei said, cutting off the former kitty cat. “We can just go inside, talk to the people that run this place and get help that way.”

“That makes a terrifying amount of sense,” Rex said, blinking in actual concern although she could see the smirk on Rex’s’ face. She wasn’t that bad! “Shall we head on then and see whom is the principal of this school?”

“...Yeah,” Xvital finally said. “All right. Let’s go.”

“Wait!” Page suddenly shouted. “I just thought of something.” Turning around, she pressed a hand against the base of the statue they were standing in front of, and sighed in relief as she saw one hand go through it. “Whatever this is, I’m pretty sure it takes us back to Equestria.” She looked at Xvital. “Wait up for me, will you? I’ll be back in just a moment, I just need to make sure.” And with that, she ran through the statue, leaving five blinking companions to stare after her.

“Why do I have the feeling there’s something more going on here than we know?” Wind Breaker asked.

“Whatever it is, I am certain Page will inform us if we need to know,” Rex said. “And when she’s ready to tell us.”

A minute later, Page emerged, looking as she had the first time. “Right, that’s all settled. So!” She clapped her hands together. “Let’s go.”

As the six headed for the doors and began to climb the stairs at the front of the building, Vix-Lei noticed Night Blade stumble a bit as he started up them, only for Page to catch him. She blushed a bit, before guiding his hand to the railing, and continued on. Night nodded in thanks, then furrowed his forehead as he kept going, watching the stairs carefully.

Once inside, Vix-Lei stopped, eyes widening as she looked at one of the display cases off to the side. “Wow!” she said, as she studied her reflection. “I am ripped here!”

Wind Breaker snorted in amusement as he studied his own reflection. “And I don’t look too bad either,” he commented. “The face is a lot flatter than I’m used to, but from the looks of things, that’s normal for this species. Whatever it is,” he then frowned and ran a finger inside his mouth. “And I’ve got teeth now. Weird.”

“They are completely inefficient for eating anything tougher than meat,” Rex complained after he ran his tongue over his teeth.

“Come on, admire yourselves later,” Xvital said impatiently as she flexed her fingers and looked longingly at her butt. “We need to get-”

Just then, a bell rang, and students began pouring into the halls from every doorway.

“Moving,” the former ahuizotless said with a groan as they stepped to the side as students began to go to their next classes. She tried to call some of them out but only got brushed off “Screw this...” she grumbled as she grabbed a blonde haired girl with some cool looking eyes and was noshing on a muffin. “Hey, can you point us to whoever’s in charge?”

“Uh sure,” she said in a soft voice, with just a hint of a north Manehatten accent, pointing off in a direction. “Principal Celestia and Vice Principal Luna’s offices are down that way.” She then promptly walked off to her class.

Three sets of eyes immediately widened. “Did she say…” Page managed, “Principal Celestia?”

And Vice Principal Luna‽” Night almost shouted but was smart enough not to do that in a school. People might come out and think they were just some kids playing hooky or something.

Wind’s own eyes were wide. “Either we heard that wrong, or something is definitely odd about this place,” he said faintly. “Or…”

“I believe it is this place,” Rex said sharply. “While I do not believe that they were goddesses, your rulers were noted to be kind and just ponies. I cannot begin to imagine them choosing to spend a thousand years in this place instead of returning back to Canterlot… our Canterlot...”

“Hey!” a voice rang out, and Vix-Lei turned to see another student looking at them, this one with blue hair and a black jacket. “Shouldn’t you be heading for… class…” the boy’s eyes widened as he stared directly at Nighty. “Um…”

“Yes?” Night arched an eyebrow at him. “Can I help you?”

“Yeah… listen, are you from Crystal Prep or something?”

“Crystal what?” Night looked confused. “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“It’s another school, and for a moment there your outfit kinda looked like their uniforms.” The boy grinned sheepishly. “Guess not, if you’ve never heard of them.”

“No, I can’t say I have,” Night said. “I’m Night Blade, by the way.”

“Flash Sentry.” The boy stuck out his hand. “By the way, cool scar.”

“Oh… thank you.” Night Blade shook his hand somewhat hesitantly.

“Anyway, I gotta get to class. See ya around!” Flash waved, then dashed off.

“Nice guy,” Vix-Lei commented as she watched him go. “So, guess we’d better get going.”

Xvital nodded, then started walking in the direction the blonde girl had pointed.


“So this it,” Page said several minutes later as she looked at the door that said Principal Celestia written on the glass screen. “How should we do this?”

“I’ve got this,” Vix-Lei said confidently.

“...I believe I should do this, no offense Vix-Lei,” Rex said.

“Yeah, me too.” Wind Breaker added in with Night Blade and Xvital agreeing quickly and Page nodding her head.

Nah, trust me guys,” she grinned impishly as she opened the door to see a woman with pinkish-white skin and long flowing hair in a mix of light bluish-green and pink, dressed in a yellow business jacket with a sun-shaped pin on its collar, working away at a desk.

She tilted her head up at them walking into her office, but before she could get a word in, Vix-Lei continued to speak. “Hello, I’m Vix-Lei,” she reached over to pull Night over. “This here is Night Blade and that’s Page Turner. The guy with the vest is Rex and the one with the wind jacket is Wind Breaker,” she paused only to grab the former ahuizotless and drag her forwards. “And this is poor Xvital; while we were passing your wonderful school, some mean girl ran past her and stole a very near and dear family heirloom and dashed inside. We were really hoping that you can help us get it back before we have to continue on our journey.”

The woman gazed up at them. “I see. And could you possibly describe this heirloom of yours?”

“Well, it’s this kind of horseshoe-shaped tiara,” Xvital said. “A little warped, and it had a broken gem on the top. And it’s really important that I get it back.”

“I see. And the girl who stole it?”

“Well, she was… amber, and her hair was red and yellow,” Xvital said as she glanced around the room. “And she had a really nasty look on her face…” Her own face paled, and she pointed. “Just… like… that one.”

Principal Celestia looked where she was pointing, and raised an eyebrow. “Is that the girl you say stole your heirloom?”

Yes! That’s her exactly!” Xvital looked at the framed pictures on the principal’s wall, each showing a girl who was clearly the unicorn mare they’d seen before, but in a form resembling their own current ones and wearing a fancy-looking dress and a crown. “Though she wasn’t wearing that kind of outfit when I saw her…”

“I’m not surprised.” Principal Celestia sighed as she sat back. “Sunset Shimmer is one of my… problem students. Earlier this morning I caught her running across the grounds. But she wasn’t holding anything warped and bent. In fact, except for the jewel on top being broken, the crown she had looked exactly like it did before she must have stolen it from my sister’s office.” She shook her head. “Why Sunset felt the need to steal the Fall Formal crown when she could have won it fair and square is beyond me.”

“Um… won?” Xvital blinked. “And what’s a Fall Formal?”

“The Fall Formal is our annual fall dance,” Principal Celestia explained. “It’s also the first of three that we hold at Canterlot High each year, along with the Spring Fling and, for students who are about to graduate, the Senior Prom.” Standing up and crossing her arms behind her back, she walked over to look at the portraits.

“I still don’t understand the won part,” Vix-Lei commented. “Could you explain that?”

“Certainly.” Principal Celestia turned to face them. “Canterlot High has a long-running tradition of electing a Princess for every Fall Formal and Spring Fling. One or more students will sign up to run, and then their classmates vote for whomever they choose to support. The winner of the election receives a special crown for their efforts.” Her eyes moved back to the portraits, and she began to pace. “A year and a half ago, Sunset Shimmer moved to Canterlot in the middle of the school year. At first, she seemed the perfect student: talented, driven and, soon, very popular. She joined the school newspaper and quickly worked her way to the top. Then she put her name in for Princess of the Spring Fling and won in a landslide. But after that… I began to see what kind of person she really was.”

“What do you mean?” Night asked.

Principal Celestia sighed. “By all rights, I shouldn’t be telling you this. But I’ve long learned that sometimes, I need to go with my gut instincts, and they tell me that the six of you are good people who can do something about this.”

“We’re listening,” Page said. There was an odd look in her eye now.

“Very well.” Principal Celestia began to pace again. “The first signs I had of trouble were when five of my students, who had become quite close in the first half of their freshman year, all of a sudden stopped talking to one another around the time of Sunset’s first Spring Fling. I was worried, and found out Sunset had interviewed each of them for the paper a few weeks after she arrived. Not long after that, a series of events happened that caused them to break apart. Once I figured that out, I began to watch her interactions with the other students more closely. I saw her making seemingly friendly comments to others, but when I ran her words over in my head, I realized they were carefully phrased to create confusion and self-doubt in the listener.”

Rex nodded. “A typical strategy among the cruelest of beings, though one that requires a brilliant mind to successfully pull it off.” He sighed. “Unfortunately, I too have encountered such methods in my time.”

Principal Celestia nodded. “It was all too effective, I’m afraid. Gradually, she managed to break as many ties between the other students as possible, using such methods. Still, she won a second crown at last year’s Fall Formal. Since then, there have been other, more blatant acts of cruelty against some of the other students, but I could never pin those on her. In the end, without physical proof, there was nothing I could do, other than advise those students who had been affected to see the guidance counselors.”

“That’s horrible,” Page breathed. “And nobody can stand up to her?”

Principal Celestia nodded. “The damage has been done, I’m afraid. This school is divided by her actions. A few have tried to make it better, but their efforts fail when some horrible event happens to them. Poor miss Belle tried to run for Princess of at last year’s Spring Fling, but wound up publicly humiliated after someone anonymously posted a video of her… well.” She cleared her throat. “Suffice to say it was enough to make her drop out, and Sunset Shimmer won the crown again.”

Night clenched his fists and scowled, his new scar making him a bit more scary than normal. “That is despicable,” he said.

“I quite agree,” Principal Celestia told him. “And after that event, everyone has been too afraid to try to run this fall, even the older students. If I could get physical proof that she was responsible, I could have her banned from ever running again, but we haven’t been able to confirm anything. Despite her… poor reputation.”

“You can’t confirm…” Xvital’s jaw dropped. “But you just said, she stole the crown from your sister’s office! You caught her with it in her hands! How is that not proof‽”

“Because we also found a second crown in the office after I brought back the one I caught her with.” Principal Celestia stopped for a moment and fixed her with a firm gaze. “My sister and I are sure Sunset Shimmer was up to some tomfoolery with them, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of this… but until we do, we can’t take any action against her. As a precaution, of course, both crowns are going to stay locked up until the dance the night after tomorrow.”

Looking at Xvital, Principal Celestia’s expression changed. “If we can confirm the one she had today was taken from you, of course, we’ll gladly give it back.” She returned to her desk. “In the meantime, why don’t you all have a look around our school, see what you think. CHS could always use some new teacher’s assistants, if you’re interested in jobs here. You certainly look mature and old enough for it.” There was a faint but mysterious smile on her face.

“I-yeah, I think we’ll do that, at least until we get things sorted out here,” Xvital managed. “And I think Page here wants to see your school’s library…?”

“Top floor, directly across from the school’s entrance. My sister should actually be in there right now, so you can give her this for me, and she’ll help you get your paperwork settled.” Jotting a quick note down, she passed it to Page, who accepted it. “Enjoy yourselves.” She smiled again, then turned back to her own paperwork.

The six exchanged glances, then stepped outside. “Now what do we do?” Wind Breaker finally asked.

“We look around,” Page said. “We find out where Sunset Shimmer is now. And we get some answers. Like who she really is, why she stole the Element and how she knew to steal it.”

“Mm-hmm.” The others nodded. With Page in the lead, they were soon on their way to the library.

As they walked down the hall, each looking around, Vix-Lei’s eyes suddenly passed over a tall, box-like thing against one wall. "Wonder what that thing is…" she mused. Then she got a better look. "Ooh! Food!" She turned to the others. "I don't know about you, but I could use a snack." Then she studied the machine and frowned. "Hmm… how do you get them out though?" She pressed a button. "Nope, that didn't do it." Then she pressed another. "Not that one either…"

"Ahem."

Turning around, the group saw a girl with blue skin, two-toned gray hair and a blue jacket over a purple shirt and a skirt of the same colour with a star-tipped wand on it; she also wore tall boots the same color of her coat. "If you don't mind moving out of the way," she declared, holding up a coin. "The Great! And Powerful Trrrixie! Needs some peanut-butter crackers."

Stepping aside, Vix-Lei watched as she slid the coin into a slot on the machine, then pressed a button, causing a small package to fall to the bottom of the machine. Taking it, the odd girl flounced off, contentedly humming.

"… Well, that happened," Xvital managed. "And I don't know about you, but I got a good look at that coin she had. Other than the shape, it didn't look a thing like any of our money." She looked pensive. "Which means we're going to have a problem around here. So we may need to take those jobs."

"Aww…" Vix-Lei looked at the machine in dismay. "No snacks here?"

"Not from that thing, at least," Xvital told her. "Until we can find out more information, at least. And maybe some of the local cash."

“So I am back to work, yay,” Wind Breaker grumbled.

“At least it’s for a good cause this time and not just because of some messed up laws,” Page said as she put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“There is that,” Wind sighed as they walked up the stairs, all of them getting more used to having these weird legs.

Rex

Finally reaching the library after climbing all the stairs, Page’s eyes widened in delight. “This place is amazing,” she whispered.

Rex noticed that Night was smiling at her reaction. “It certainly is,” he agreed. “But where is…”

Just then, there was a loud noise in one corner of the room, and all eyes turned towards it. Moments later, three skulking boys came out from behind one of the shelves, and none of them were very happy, by the looks of things.

“You three,” a female voice said, "are in so much trouble.” The woman who followed them out was a little shorter than Principal Celestia, and had the same long, flowing hair, albeit in shades of blue instead of the other woman’s green and pink. She was dressed a little more casually, wearing a short-sleeved top, dark pants and heeled shoes, and the expression on her face told them she was not happy. “You’ll be having detention with Mr. Doodle for the next two weeks, understand?”

“Yes, Ms. Luna,” the trio chorused. As they made their way out of the library, Rex watched them go.

“Something wrong?” Xvital asked him quietly.

Rex frowned. “There is just something… familiar about those three,” he muttered to himself.

“Excuse me.”

Rex looked up to see the woman standing in front of them. “Can I help you?”

“Normally, I’d be the one to ask that,” the woman replied dryly. “I don’t remember seeing you six around here before. And believe me, I know all our students.”

Page stepped forward. “We’re not exactly students, ma’am,” she said. “Are you Vice-Principal Luna?”

“I am,” Luna replied. “And you are…”

“Page Turner. Your sister asked us to give you this,” she held out the note.

Taking it, Luna read it quickly, and her eyes widened, before she smiled at them. “Well. This is a pleasant surprise.”

“For us too,” Page replied. “I wasn’t expecting your sister to make us the offer, but… well, she did, and we accepted.”

“And I’m glad you did,” Luna said. “Follow me.” Leading them over to a round table with some odd devices on it, she sat down and began to work. Rex, studying the device, noticed that one of them appeared to be covered in buttons, each marked with a letter of some sort of alphabet or another symbol. The other looked like a framed piece of glass, but as Luna tapped some of the buttons, odd-looking images appeared on the glass. Finally, she hit another button, and Rex heard a whirring noise. Turning, he saw another odd device, appearing to be a large gray rectangle, about the same height as the table, with some trays sticking out of its sides and spitting out pieces of paper.

Luna typed another sequence into the machine, and the glass went blank before she got up to collect the papers. “Here,” she said as she handed them out. “You’ll need to fill these out, and then I’ll need to file them before you can start work, but that shouldn’t take too long. Just bring them to me in my office when you’re done, and I’ll get you your assignments.” She paused. “You do know where my office is, don’t you?”

“We know where the Principal’s office is,” Rex said. “And I believe one of your students said your office was the same way?”

Luna nodded. “My office is just a few doors down from Celestia’s. I’ll see you when you’re done with these. If you have any questions, Ms. Cheerilee will answer them.” She pointed to another woman in a green flower-patterned dress who had been shelving books.

Nodding, the six set to work.


Nearly half an hour later, all six had filled out their paperwork, and were looking over the tasks they’d been assigned. “So, what have you guys been assigned?” Xvital asked. “I’ll be assisting Ms. Safari in Spanish class.”

“In what now?” Vix-Lei asked.

Xvital shrugged. “Apparently, that’s what they call Burroñeso in this world.”

“Should be right up your alley then,” Vix-Lei said with a grin. “Me, I’m doing shop class - they’re doing a lot of woodworking this semester.” She grinned even wider. “Time to do my family proud.”

Page smiled. “Well, I’m in the library. Ms. Cheerilee was so glad to have someone filling in for when she has to teach her regular classes.”

“That is no surprise,” Night Blade commented. “I, on the other hand…” He studied his sheet. “Will be in gym.”

“Well, I’m helping out in the drama department,” Wind Breaker said. “Apparently they’ve started casting for some big play called The Heart That Stays True.” He made a face. “Sounds like a romance. Anyway, they need me to help with some of the props and sets.” He shrugged. “Should be fun. I’ve actually done that kind of thing before, so I have the experience.”

“Quite,” Rex said. “And from this, Professor Neigh has asked for me to help in his science classes.”

“Now that’s right up your alley,” Vix-Lei said. “So. Guess we’re off.”

Page nodded. “We’ll meet again after classes end.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Xvital said. “Until then.”

And with that, they set out.

Chapter Thirty Seven: Page Turner, Vix-Lei, Wind Breaker, Rex, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Thirty Seven

Page Turner

“Thank you, come again!”

The gray-skinned girl nodded as she adjusted her bowtie. “You are very welcome, Miss Turner.” Picking up her book and cello case, she left the library, and Page watched her go, a smile on her face.

It had been quiet most of the time since she’d started working in the library; Miss Cheerilee had finished putting away all but a few stacks of books, which she’d handled easily - apparently, this world used the same Dewhoof Decimal System as Equestria, though it went by a different name from the looks of things. The girl, one Octavia Melody, had been the only one to come in since then, so she’d had plenty of time to finish the shelving. There had been some confusion when she had to handle the school’s ‘computers’, as they were apparently called, but Octavia had been very happy to help her with those. She’d been a little surprised when Page admitted to having never used one before, but this had worn off quickly.

As she turned to go back to looking around, she felt something bump into the back of her leg, and turned to look down. “Huh?”

It was a small white rabbit, which looked up at her with a confused look on its face.

“Where’d you come from, little guy?” she asked, reaching out to pick the animal up. The rabbit just twitched its nose, then settled into her arms as she began stroking its back.

“Oh!” a soft voice suddenly squeaked. “Angel, come back here!”

A moment later, a willowy figure came around the corner, and Page’s eyes widened. The girl looking at her had long, pink hair, yellow skin, blue eyes and an equally startled look on her face. “I… I’m sorry, miss! I know I’m not supposed to have animals on campus, but… but…”

Page smiled. “It’s okay, miss…”

“Oh. Um, I’m Fluttershy,” the girl said, reaching out to take the rabbit. Page reluctantly handed him over, and watched as Fluttershy began fussing over her pet. “Thank you so much, for finding Angel.”

“It’s no problem,” Page said, even as her thoughts whirled. How is this possible? she thought to herself. “He’s a cute little fellow.”

“Thank you,” Fluttershy said softly, smiling back. Then her eyes turned to her rabbit. “Now, you know you’re not supposed to run off like that,” she scolded the bunny lightly. “You might run into someone who could get you into a lot of trouble!”

Angel just twitched his nose at her, then hopped into her backpack.

Fluttershy blushed a little, then looked at Page. “Say, I never got your name.”

“It’s Page Turner,” Page told her. “I’m helping out in the library for a few days.”

“Oh! Well, nice to meet you! And good luck!” Turning, Fluttershy ran back around the corner, leaving the Changeling hybrid-turned-human to look contemplative.

If she’s here… I wonder if the others are too? she thought to herself. I need to tell the others as soon as I can.

Vix-Lei

“Unnggg…”

Vix-Lei stared at the boy in front of her, who was just as muscular as she was.

Class had started rather well, as the teacher, a burly looking fellow named Iron Will, had introduced her to the students as his new assistant. Then they’d started their individual projects which she had examined as each started work. Some of them were making bowls that looked pretty elaborate, a few were doing cutting boards that required her to stop them from maiming themselves, and at least one student was working on what looked like a bench, although that was up to interpretation. There were a few others huddled around one corner of the room, who looked to be discussing blueprints for something that she couldn’t quite make out.

Finally, after one of the students had finished for the day and put his bowls and other equipment away, he had stopped in front of her, and given her an even look. Then he started flexing.

Vix-Lei grinned, and started flexing back to the amusement of a few of the students as well as the teacher.

As the two flexed at one another, the rest of the students, who had also finished putting their projects away, started watching. Finally, the boy grunted and with a loud “YEAH!”, stuck out his hand. “That was awesome!

Vix-Lei grinned. “That’s what I was gonna say!”

The boy grinned back as they shook hands. “I’m Bulk Biceps, ma’am.”

“Vix-Lei, but you already know that.”

“YEAH!”

Just then, the bell rang, signalling the end of class.

“Aww man…” Bulk groaned. Then his face brightened. “SEE YOU NEXT CLASS!”

“Looking forward to it, Bulky!” Vix-Lei gave him a friendly slap on the back, causing him to stumble a bit before he grabbed his stuff and took off.

As the other students followed him out the door, Vix-Lei grinned even wider. “I knew I was going to like this gig,” she remarked to notaur in particular.

“No kidding!” a voice chimed in from behind her. “That was the absolutest, funnest and funniest thing I’ve seen in this class this whole year! Popcorn?”

Vix-Lei turned to see the person talking to her, and did a double-take.

The first thing she saw was a familiar, pink poofy hairstyle.

The second was a grin bigger than hers and Bulky’s put together.

And the third was the box that the girl was holding as she munched.

“Uh… when did you get in here?” she asked, dumbfounded. “And how did I not see you before?”

The girl with the popcorn appeared to grin even wider, if that was even physically possible. But before she could speak, another voice interjected. “She’s Pinkie Pie. She does that.”

“Yuppers!” Pinkie grinned. “Thanks, Mr. Will! Anyway, I gotta get to study hall... Ms. Harshwinny is a real stickler when it comes to being on time…” Her hair deflated just a tad, then she grinned again and bounced out of the room.

“That Pinkie…” Mr. Will sighed. “She’s one of Iron Will’s best students, but he’ll never understand her.” There was a smile on his face as he said it though, and Vix-Lei nodded.

“She seems like a nice girl,” she commented.

“Oh, she is,” he said. “One of the happiest kids in this school. Almost everyone likes her; even the ones who keep to themselves most of the time will smile when she’s in the room. She even made Mr. Doodle smile once, and he’s one of the grumpiest people Iron Will knows. Ahem.” He coughed. “You didn’t hear that from Iron Will though.”

“Somehow, that does not surprise me,” Vix-Lei chuckled. “And aye-aye, captain!” She threw him a salute, which got her a chuckle in return.

“By the way, thanks for the great job you did in here today.”

“Why, thank you, kind sir,” Vix-Lei did a small bow before turning around and heading off to find the guys to tell them about finding Pinkie Pie. Whatever this place was; something was beyond weird beyond the already weirdness.

Wind Breaker

Wind Breaker shifted the tools on his back again as he walked down the hall. “You’d think they could have at least sent somepo-er, someone with me,” he grumbled to himself. “Ah well.”

Things had gone well in the classroom where they were building the sets beyond the few odd looks he got from the female students, until the drama teacher had sent Wind Breaker to fetch a couple of tools from one of the storage rooms. Now he was on his way back.

Suddenly, another student rounded the corner in front of him, and Wind Breaker, trying to step out of their way, inadvertently smacked right into them. “Ow!”

Then, seeing the look the student was giving him, his face reddened. “Sorry about that… you all right?”

The boy nodded. “Eeyup.” Stepping around Wind Breaker, he continued on his way, leaving the griffon-turned-human to scratch his head.

“Okay then…” He blinked. “Is he always like that?” he wondered aloud.

“Sure as shootin’ is,” a feminine voice with a distinctive twang to it said as a girl rounded the same corner as the boy. Wind Breaker’s blood ran cold; he knew that voice!

Then the girl lowered the boxes she was carrying, and Wind Breaker’s jaw dropped. The skin might be a different color, but she had the same hair, the same hat and the same expression on her face.

“Name’s Applejack,” she said as she shifted the boxes. “Er… I’d offer to shake hands, but I’m a little preoccupied right now.”

“It’s no problem,” Wind Breaker said faintly. “I’m Wind Breaker.”

Applejack blinked. “Your folks named you after a coat?”

Wind Breaker blinked back. “A what?”

“A coat, you know, like the kind you’re wearing?”

“A-” Wind Breaker facepalmed as it hit him. “I can’t believe I never got that,” he sighed. Actually, I never knew there was a type of coat called a windbreaker, he thought to himself. “Almost everyone who hears my name makes the obvious crude jokes.”

“Well, that ain’t right,” Applejack said firmly. “So, where you off to? Ah ain’t seen you here in school before.”

“I’m one of the new teacher’s assistants they just hired, actually,” Wind Breaker told her. “They’ve got me helping the drama club out right now.”

Applejack smiled. “Well, that sure is a good thing of you,” she said. “Mah little sister and a couple of her yearmates are looking to try out for that next semester.”

“Well, I hope they enjoy themselves.” Wind Breaker smiled back. Then, something occurred to him. “Say, that boy from before… is he your brother?”

“Yep,” Applejack said. “Name’s Big McIntosh, but we just call him Big Mac. He doesn’t talk much now, but if you ever need someone to listen to, he’s your guy.” She shifted her load again. “Well, Ah hate to run, but Ah got to get this stuff down to the gym. See ya around!” She tipped her head, then continued on her way.

Wind Breaker watched her go, and shook his head. Well, there’s one question answered, he thought to himself.

And now I have a bunch more in its place.

Making a mental note to tell the others about this, he headed back to the drama club’s room, thoughts whirling in his mind.

Rex

“Well class, does anyone know the answer?” Professor Bill Neigh asked. “Miss Bloom, how about you? Do you know the difference between lava and magma?”

“Um, magma is what it’s called when it’s still under the ground, lava is what it’s called when it’s come out of a volcano and is on the surface?” the red-headed girl asked hesitantly.

“That is correct!” Professor Neigh exclaimed. Just then, the bell rang, and he looked up in surprise. “Well, remember your homework tonight, kids. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some square roots to calculate. See ya!"

With that, he dashed out of the room, with several students following him. In the back, Rex smiled from his own seat. This had been a most entertaining class to observe.

“Excuse me?” a small voice asked. Looking up, Rex saw three girls, one of whom had given the answer to the professor’s question, a second who had white skin and two shades of grayish pink hair, and a third with orange skin and cerise hair, and was carrying a helmet under one arm. “Thanks for the help you gave us with those worksheets earlier, Mr. Rex,” the one with the pink hair said.

“Please, just call me Rex,” the former Diamond Dog said smoothly, already mentally prepared for this and what could come next. “And it was no trouble at all, miss Belle.”

The girl made a face. “That’s Sweetie Belle,” she said. “Miss Belle is my sister. Though she prefers Rarity.”

“Of course,” Rex replied. “I look forward to meeting her.”

Sweetie Belle smiled. “I’m sure she’d love to meet you too,” she said. “In fact, there she is!” She pointed toward the door, where a tall, white-skinned girl with a familiar-looking hairstyle was standing, a pleasant smile on her face.

“Ah,” Rex said as he stood. “So you are young Sweetie Belle’s sister.”

The girl nodded as she walked in. “I am indeed,” she said. “And you must be Professor Neigh’s new assistant. He couldn’t stop raving about you when he passed me in the halls.”

“Quite,” Rex replied. “He does seem a bit… eccentric, but the man is also a genius.”

“That he is,” Rarity replied. “Oh,” she added as she saw the three girls still standing there. “You should probably run along now,” she told them.

“All right…” Sweetie Belle grumbled. Then her eyes brightened. “Hey, let’s go back to the library and check on our video again!” she said excitedly.

The other two cheered in excitement, and quickly dashed out into the halls after her.

Watching them go, Rarity sighed. “Those three…” she said. “I love my sister dearly, but she can get so excited over the silliest things sometimes.”

“All young ones are like that at times,” Rex replied. “I may not have had any siblings of my own, but there were enough who did in my neighborhood that I became quite acquainted with the notion of what it was like.”

“You do seem rather suited for working with them,” Rarity replied. “Have you been in the teaching profession long?”

“To some extent,” Rex answered. “Usually with smaller groups, rather than a class this size. But I do love to see them learn.”

Rarity laughed, a light one that reminded him of bells ringing. “Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place,” she said. “Now, I’m afraid I must be off. I have one more class to get to today… ta-ta!”

With that, she headed out the door, leaving Rex to contemplate matters. Professor Neigh had no more classes that day, and had told him he was free to look around the school for the last period. Perhaps he could get some other answers this way?

Heading into the halls, Rex headed for the cafeteria; while he might not be able to meet everyone in that room, he knew that he would at least find Vix-Lei there due to the free food that staff were promised.

Night Blade

Night had not been too thrilled by landing this assignment for a number of reasons; namely that few took him seriously from the beginning and it was hampering his ability to do his job. Mr. Spearhead himself almost refused to let him help out until Night proved himself capable by outrunning the teacher around the soccer field going backwards.

From there, the teacher was a bit more forthcoming and most of the students began to respect and listen to him some degree; listening to his advice in proper exercise and breathing techniques that he usually did with his fellows ponies in the West sword team as well as proving to be a somewhat decent referee for their game.

Blowing the whistle as he saw what had been told to him was an illegal move, he braced himself for one of the more problematic students.

“Oh come on, what now!” Rainbow Dash shouted at him, the girl scowling angrily at him. He had been surprised to see her here and was a bit taken back by seeing the humanized Virtue he spent his life living up to but he quickly learned to differentiate the two by how this girl acted.

“You were charging directly at Miss Winds, Miss Dash,” Night said dryly, causing the girl to groan loudly. Night did his best not to show how annoyed he was and followed up by trying to ease her ego slightly. “You may be one of the better players here-”

“Well duh, I am the captain of the soccer team and every other team here!”

It was harder to repress his annoyance now an Night did a small count of five before continuing on, “As I was saying, Miss Dash, as a player, you have abided by all the rules, even moreso as the captain. In fact, as captain of your team, you have to set the example of what is and what is not acceptable and flaunting the rules is not acceptable.”

“Oh yeah,” she taunted him, with the rest of the students watching and wincing at her mouthing off. “What would a stuffed shirt like you know about that?”

Doing his best to quell his desire to knock some sense into her, he calmly replied, “I happen to be the captain of my dueling team back home and-”

“Hah, yeah right,” Dash snorted at him with Mr. Spearhead about to step in when Night shook his head. An overconfident fool like her would only listen if proven wrong. “Come on-”

“Race me,” Night said as he loosened up while doing his best to hide the pain in his side, although he had made no attempt to hide the fact he was injured. Even told Mr. Spearhead about it after their race and let him feel the stitches in his side. “As I do not have my equipment with me at the moment,” the sword he had found in the Order’s treasure room had vanished on him and he highly doubted that they would let children this immature use real metal blades on each other. “I would like to be able to prove to you that I am aware of what I am trying to teach you as I have been doing this far longer than you.”

“But dude,” Dash said, only to get a glare by the teacher. “Uh Mister Blade dude, aren’t you, like injured?” She and the other students had been present when Mr. Spearhead had let out a curse after feeling the amount of stitches in his side.

“Yes I am, Miss Dash,” Night said as he removed his jacket and tie, giving both to a Miss Hooves to hold onto. “But that is neither here or there; are you going to listen to me finally or are you going to try and prove you are better than me?”

Dash glared at him and Night realized he had just stoked her ego by admitting he was injured and that he could still take her on.

“You’re on, dude… er, sir,” Dash said as she jogged over to him, with Night finishing his warmup. “Where to?”

Night pointed at the tree at the far end of the field as he walked towards the school itself, with her frowning. “A simple enough run from here to there, Miss Dash,” he said as he braced himself against the wall. Any attempt to talk her out this would only spur her on more and NIght had no desire to hear whining. Waiting for her to get into position next to him, he turned to the teacher and asked him to count them down.

Mr. Spearhead nodded. “Five, four, three, two, one!” He blew his whistle.

Both of them were off, with Dash predictability putting in a lot of effort from the start to get a good lead on him. Night relied on his years of training that had transferred over into this new body to maintain a steady heavy run that quickly ate up the ground when Dash began to burn through her initial burst as well as when she looked back to see how far he was.

That is a rookie’s mistake, Miss Dash,” he lectured her as he caught up to her, feeling a small stab of enjoyment at her startled and simultaneously annoyed expression. “As it is very hard to move forwards if you are looking backwards.” He heard her grunt in frustration as he overtook her and he had to really bit his lip not to laugh at her wasting even more energy to try and take back the lead.

His smile quickly turned in a grimace as they reached the tree line as a sharp jolt of pain hit his side. Immediately Night slowed down his speed and placed a hand on his stitched-up side, frowning as he felt his warm blood.

“Ha, I knew you were full of hot ai-are you okay‽” Dash quickly dropped her cocky attitude when she saw him brace himself against a tree and begin to sit down, holding his side.

“I will be fine if you get Mr. Spearhead,” Night grunted as another stab of pain hit him as he turned the wrong way. “Go now!

“Here, let me help you down, sir,” Dash said with panic in her voice, reaching out to steady him by placing her hand on his arm.


Night blinked as he found himself suddenly on a cloud in the middle of the sky, the pain in his side go-

Gah! What the fuck’s going on‽” Dash shouted, causing Night to spin around to see the blue skinned girl panicking on his cloud, holding her arms to the side, legs arched up and her eyes darting around.

“Miss Dash, are you ok-”

“Holy fuck, what the fuck are you‽” she shouted at him before looking down and letting out another piercing shriek that caused him to fold his ears. “What the fuck happened to my clothes‽”

“Miss Dash, please calm do-” SLAP

“Son of a fucking bitch,” Night swore, his vision blurry for a moment before he focused his attention back the girl who just slapped him. “What the Tartarus was that fo-” SLAP

“Stop looking at me, you fucking perverted horse thing!” she shouted loudly again, causing his ears to lay flat against his head, only for her to reach out and slap him again.

“By the Stars, will you stop hitting me‽” Night swore as he held up a wing to hold off the blows, with the girl only smacking his recently healed wing hard enough to cause minor tears.

Not until you tell me what the fuck is going on here and give me my clothes back, you fucking perverted asshole!”

Night tried to think of something to say, but with her continuous slapping and the fact he was almost at the edge of the cloud, he was unable to come up with anything coherent.

There was a sudden flash of multicolored light and a bang of sound, with a familiar raspy voice landing in the middle of them calling, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Everypony, chill out for a second!”

“What the hell are yo--”

“I’m you Dash. Well, kinda,” the mare said, with Night lowering his wi- “Keep it up buster; at least until I got her settled.”

“Can you please tell me what is going on here‽ That pervert wouldn’t say anything!”

“Hey, I am no per-”

“Shut it Night,” the mare said. “Look Dash, Night; I can explain what’s going on, Balance told me enough to help you and the others through this bit.”

“Who the hell is Balance and where are my clothes‽”

“Geeze, one second, let me go ask for some help with this mind conjuring stuff,” she huffed to herself, shuffling on the cloud. “I can just hear them now; Golly Dash, you’ve been dead for almost a thousand years and you still haven’t mastered making stuff up in your paradise?” She let out a groan before going dead still.

“...did the pony me just say she’s been dead for almost a thousand years?”

“If I say anything, will you try and hit me again?”

“Probably.”

“In my defense, Miss Dash,” Night said with all the snark he could muster. “From where we hail from, most don’t put much stock in clothes.”

“...still a pervert for gawking at me,” she grumbled at him.

“Believe me, Miss Dash, when I say you do nothing for me. I am attracted to only one pony, and you are not her.” Night huffed before letting out a sigh as he saw his wing had holes in it again. “Fucking dammit; I hope to the Goddesses this doesn’t mean I can’t fly again for another week or so.”

“Another week?”

“Yes, my group and I were caught in a fight with a racist unicorn that had a grudge against us for blaming him for burning down an old museum. In that fight, my wing got all cut up, a hammer smashed the ribs on my side and I got the scar on my eye.”

“...the fuck is going on with you people‽”

“Honestly? Possible end of the world stuff with the most powerful unicorn in our lifetime possessed by something that is after us because we’re apparently the only ones that can stop it.”

Night heard her gulp before a brief moment of silence. “And her?

“That is… well you,” Night said, shrugging his shoulders. “Only she and a few other mares named Rarity Belle, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy and some other mare lived a thousand years ago who were the elites of our goddess-princesses before they were all killed during the wedding for the demi-love goddess when creatures called changelings invaded the wedding and their leader blew up the castle they were all in.”

There was another long pause before Dash spoke to him again. “Well, I used to know those girls; maybe your guys and we can help each other? I mean, why are you even here teaching at my school when you’re dealing with your end-of-the-world-crisis?”

“Because somepony named Sunset Shimmer stole the last Element we need to somehow defeat our enemy and save the world,” Night replied.

“Wait, she’s involved?” Dash let out a surprised noise before chuckling smugly. “Count me in; anything to knock her down a peg or ten.”

“ ‘k, I’m back,” the mare Dash’s sudden input caused them both to jolt back, with Night’s wing dropping, only for him to snap it back up. “Had to agree to a lot of fittings for dresses but…” she paused before letting out an annoyed groan. “You’re kidding me, I just agreed to several years of dress fittings and you just did my entire job of explaining stuff to her‽”

“...Not everything as I am still buck naked here,” Dash said with such dryness that Night couldn’t help himself from snickering.

“You just think of something basic to you to maintain it,” the mare Dash groaned into her hoof. “Anything more complex will require you being focused on it all the time and poof it will go the moment you lose your concentration.”

“Something basic, huh?” the human said before chuckling to herself. “Well this cloud does feel like my bed-okay, that’s cool.” Night turned his head to see that he was now in a floating bedroom in the sky, sitting on the edge of a bed. “And I’ve got clothes on!”

“Yeah, it wasn’t that hard to peek into your mind considering you’re a back up Element and pull out this scene to make you more comfortable human me,” the mare Dash grinned. “And since it is night,” both of the mares grinned at that little pun.

“I’d be wearing my PJs!” The human girl, wearing a very large shirt, held her hand out which the mare instantly smacked with her hoof. “Awesome!

“If you could do this from the start, Dash,” Night said as she sat down on the edge of the bed. “Why didn’t you?”

This caused the pegasus to stare at him for a few seconds before flying off the bed and beginning to smack her head against the wall.

“Wait a tic, did you just call me a back up Element?” the human Dash asked as she leaned across the bed to look at the swearing mare.

“What did you mean by that, Dash?” Night asked as he walked to the edge of the bed.

“Get the rest of the Elements together and we’ll talk again then; I can’t keep you two here much longer,” Dash said as she continued to smack her head against the wall. “Just don’t touch each other again, okay? And the same goes for the rest of you.”

“All right,” Night Blade said. “And how do we get back to where we were?”

“That’s simple.” She stuck her face in his. “WAKE UP!


In an instant, Night Blade’s eyes snapped open, and he found himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. “Where…”

“You, Mr. Blade, are in the nurse’s office,” a sharp-toned voice said as a white-skinned woman, her pink hair partially done up in a bun and an unusual-looking hat on her head. She clucked her tongue. “I cannot believe you were so foolish as to go running like that and pull your stitches! Fortunately, I was able to redo them for you. But don’t go pulling anything like that again, not until you’re fully healed!”

“Believe me, if I can help it, I won’t,” Night Blade grunted as he rubbed his right eye. He glanced around. “Miss Dash - is she here too?”

“In the bed across the room,” the woman said. “And it sounds like she just woke up too.”

“Yeah,” Dash’s voice said. “I’m here.” Before the nurse could react, she was up and out of her bed. “Mr. Blade? Did all that really happen?”

“Yes,” Night Blade said. “It did.”

“Oh. Goody.” Rainbow Dash sighed. “So, now what?”

“Now, you get yourself back into bed, young lady!” The nurse gave her a stern look.

“Aww…” Rainbow Dash groaned.

“Don’t aww me,” the nurse huffed. “You’re lucky we aren’t calling your parents about this! Yet.”

Rainbow Dash cringed, and Night Blade wondered what that was all about.

Several minutes later, Nurse Redheart had given them both a full examination, and pronounced them ready to leave. “But don’t strain yourself, Mr. Blade,” she said. “I cannot stress how important that is.”

“I understand,” Night said as he put his jacket back on while stuffing his tie into his pocket; they were hard enough to do with hooves and he wasn’t even sure how to use these fingers to mimic that headache. “I recently just got cleared up after a sparring match that left me like this; I have no desire to wait more time before I can train again properly.”

“Well, you’ll have to wait at least a while before you start,” she huffed. “Honestly…”

Night Blade sighed as he left her office, Rainbow Dash right behind him. Page was waiting outside, a look of concern on her face. “Are you all right?”

“I’ve been better,” Night replied. “But we need to talk,” he said, tilting his head at the girl behind him. “All of us; have you see-”

“I have indeed seen her,” Page said sharply, looking at Rainbow Dash. “Do you have any way to contact people named Fluttershy, Rarity Belle, Applejack and Pinkie Pie?”

“Yah I can call them,” she said, pulling out a small square object from her pocket before pausing. “If a teacher asks, you let me use my phone for an emergency, okay?”

“Just contact them,” Night groaned, squeezing the bridge of his nose before feeling his stomach rumble.

“Tell them to meet us in the lunchroom; that’s where Xvital and the rest are already waiting for us,” Page said as she looked at Night. “We’ll meet you there; they’re serving up a taco buffet. I hope that they put some extra kick into some of it.”

“Gotcha,” Rainbow Dash said as she began tapping the object and talking into it before pausing. “Wait, did she just say-”

“Just do it already!”

“Jerk.”

This was why I hate working with kids, Night thought to himself as Rainbow Dash talked away on her phone. So damn lippy!

Chapter Thirty Eight: Vix-Lei, Sunset Shimmer

View Online

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Vix-Lei

“Do you think you have enough there, Vix-Lei?” Wind asked her, tapping a fork against his tray with only one taco on the plate.

“Oh please,” she said, rolling her eyes as she polished another one away. “One, I’m a growing girl and two, I’m pretty sure that we need to be worried about Page here.”

“What, what did I do?” the girl asked, blinking innocently enough.

“Le pusiste suficiente salsa picante para quemar varios muros,” Xvital sighed as she stabbed her salad with her fork again.

“Well she did say she enjoys spicy food,” Rex said with a smirk on his face. “And you’re speaking in your native language again.”

“Justo ahora, ya no me importa, Rex” Xvital groaned, rubbing her temples. “He tenido que lidiar con tantos niños que no podían siquiera hablar el lenguaje, y creían que eran tan inteligentes que yo no podría escucharlos hablar de lo sensual que soy.”

“Well,” Rex coughed for some reason, blushing due to whatever Xvital said. “If I am correct, this is a time where hormones play a factor as the body matures into adulthood and they were reacting to what their bodies are telling them.”

“Yah, and I think a lot of these kids are dealing with puberty and just find that you’re sometaur exotic,” Vix-Lei added in with Rex giving her a flat look.

“Well that would explain the looks I was getting today,” Wind said as he took a bit of his taco. “I wonder about Nig-”

No,” Night said as he sat down in a huff. “I had to deal with girls that had egos the size of a bloody city block that thought it would be a good idea to question everything I said.”

“Well to be fair…” a girl with her hair done up like a rainbow said as she sat down with them, only to trail off when Night gave her a look. “Hehe, I’ll be quiet.” she chuckled awkwardly, nibbling on her taco.

“So I guess you’re Rainbow Dash?” Vix-Lei said as she leaned across the entire table to shake the girl’s hand, causing everyone to give her grief about going into their plates. “Nice to meet you squirt; Page here told me you have some idea of what’s going on?”

Dash simply whimpered as Vix-Lei put a bit of pressure into her handshake, with Wind Breaker and Xvital pushing her back to her spot. “Er, kinda,” she flexed her hand a bit before looking at Night and blushing. “I spoke to Mr. Blade here when we went into that weird world and I appeared na-” Night coughed loudly, causing the girl to yip before going all quiet and even more blushy.

“Yes, apparently our Rainbow Dash told me that she,” Night pointed at the girl with his fork and then tilted his head at the four other girls walking towards their table. “And they are back up Elements.” Night was about to take a bite of his taco before he paused and looked at Wind and Rex. “Also, don’t touch your own Element’s counterpart unless you want to drag them into the Virtues’ Paradises.”

“Care to tell us why, Night Blade?” Rex asked with a tilt of his head.

“No I do not,” Night said with an annoyed huff and bit into his taco as the girls were about to come up to their table. “Suffice to say, I cannot touch her without being dragged into that place, and the same goes for each of you and your respective predecessor’s counterpart. Though given that Vix-Lei was able to shake her hand without being affected,” he added as he gestured to Rainbow Dash, “I would presume that each of us can safely have physical contact with anyone other than the one sharing our respective Element.”

“Yeah, and I don’t know how they’ll take appearing all naked in front of some strange horse things,” Rainbow Dash said causing all of them to do a double-take with Vix-Lei doing her best not to burst out in laughter.

Night sighed and facepalmed. “I was trying to avoid mentioning that part,” he growled.

“Mention what, partner?” a girl wearing a cool hat asked Night only for the former bat pony to glare at her. “Uh sor-”

“Oh please don’t mind Night,” Page said as she waved the rest of the girls to sit down. “He can be a bit grumpy at times but he’s a real softie at heart.”

“Oh thanks for the compliment, Page,” Night grumbled as he bit into his taco. Page just giggled slightly, then turned back to the others.

“We know your names,” she said as she looked at each of them in turn. “And each of you knows at least one of us. But for those who don’t… I’m Page Turner, this is Night Blade,” she gestured to him. “These are Wind Breaker-”

“And I’ve heard all the jokes,” Wind Breaker added. “Though the one about being named for a coat is new on me.” He winked at Applejack, who grinned back.

“Vix-Lei-”

“Hiya!” Vix-Lei waved.

“Xvital-”

The kitty-catty-turned-human nodded her head and muttered a greeting in her fancy language.

“And Rex.”

“Charmed,” Rex said, bowing to them. “And I must say, Miss Rarity, it is a pleasure to see you again.”

“I would say the same about you,” Rarity replied as she fluttered her eyelashes at him and smiled.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “So, what’re we here for anyway?” She gave Rainbow Dash a dirty look. “Ah haven’t willingly spent time with her in over a year after what she did.”

“Hey, you’re the one who canceled on me!” Rainbow Dash protested.

“Ah did no such thing!”

FWEET!

Both girls looked up to see Vix-Lei giving them a look. “Break it up, you two. Normally I’m all for a big brawl, but this is a school, and you’re supposed to be behaving yourselves.”

Applejack’s face reddened. “You’re right. Sorry.”

Anyway.” She looked around. “From what we’ve heard, all this trouble between you girls started after some interview with Sunset Shimmer.”

Rainbow Dash slammed one fist into her other hand. “Hey, that’s right! Mr. Blade here said she was involved…”

“Involved in what, darling?” Rarity asked. “As I recall, we just… stopped spending time together. In part because she doesn’t appreciate it when I offer to help…” She pointed at Pinkie. “Every time I volunteer to help with the decorations at a school function, I get an e-mail from Pinkie Pie saying she has plenty of volunteers! And then I find out she's done everything herself.”

Pinkie gave her a confused look. “I never sent you any e-mails!”

Rarity blinked at her. “You… didn’t?”

“No!” Pinkie then turned to Fluttershy. “And Fluttershy stopped talking to me because she didn’t appreciate that party I threw for her!”

“I was trying to have a silent auction for the animal shelter, but you brought all sorts of fireworks and noisemakers,” Fluttershy said, with a touch of bitterness in her voice. “It was supposed to be a serious event, and you ruined it!”

“But you’re the one who texted me and asked me to make it a big party!” Pinkie protested. She scratched her head. “Come to think of it, that was a little odd, considering how you feel about loud noises…”

“You don’t suppose it was Sunset Shimmer who sent those texts and e-mails, do you?” Wind Breaker spoke up. “Er… whatever those are.”

“That would make a lot of sense,” Applejack said thoughtfully. “Did you get some kind of message that was supposedly from me, Dash?”

“Yeah! It said the date for your bake sale had been moved!” Rainbow Dash’s eyes widened. “It… didn’t get moved, did it?”

“No, it did not.” Applejack sighed. “Suddenly, Ah feel like a world-class idiot for doubting you.”

“Yeah…” Rainbow Dash looked sheepish. “Guess I should have actually called you to make sure.”

“So now we know she was trying to split us up,” Fluttershy said softly. “But… why?”

“Because she’s a jerk?” Rainbow Dash suggested.

Rex shook his head. “There has to be something more,” he said. “Such as how she knew about your connection to our predecessors, or why she cared.” He frowned. “For that matter, we still need to figure out how she even knew about Equestria and the Elements in the first place.”

“Ah’m still confused about all that,” Applejack said. “What do you mean, predecessors? What’s this Equestria and Elements talk about?”

“That is a very long story,” Rex replied. “And it starts with the fact that of the six of us, not a one was born human. We are from an alternate dimension, one that is home to multiple sapient species. And, based on my observations, it appears that many of the residents of this world are very much like the ponies who lived over a thousand years before our time.”

Applejack blinked. “Whoa.”

“So you mean there’s an entire land full of magical ponies and pony princesses and you’re all the only ones who can save it but Sunset Shimmer stole your magical crown and now you’ve got to get it back before it’s too late?” Pinkie asked.

Everyone stared at her.

“What?” she asked.

Rex was the first to regain his composure. “That is… mostly accurate,” he said. “Except for the fact that there have not been any true Princesses since… well, since the day of the Changeling Invasion, when all three of Equestria’s Princesses died.” He sounded grim. “Along with your counterparts.”

Pinkie’s hair deflated at that. “I’m… dead?” she whimpered.

“But not gone,” Vix-Lei clarified. “I met the other Pinkie Pie - well, her spirit. She’s doing real well in her paradise in the Elysium Fields, just as happy as a clam.” She paused. “I never did understand that expression… clams aren’t generally happy, ya know? But she’s just as perky and playful as you, and I think she’s having a lot of fun there. Wish I could have hung around for more of that party she threw me after I awakened her old Element of Laughter.”

Pinkie’s hair poofed back up. “Well, if she’s happy, then I’m happy!” she chirped.

“That’s the spirit!” Vix-Lei reached out to clap her on the back, then remembered what the batty-bat had said and thought better of it. “Er, pun not intended.”

“Hey, quick question; was there a sixth member of your little group?” Xvital asked, only to get them looking at her in confusion before shaking their heads in the negative. “Dammit- wait, do they have the same buttmarks that the Virtues have on their clothes?” Xvital turned to face them, with the girls blinking in confusion at the buttmark comment. Vix-Lei nodded with the rest of them, causing Xvital to grin. “Good,” she said as she pulled out a piece of paper and jerked herself to the side before sighing. “Really miss my tailhand…” With a sigh, Xvital used her normal hands to sketch the symbol of the Magi of Stars. “Know anyone with this on them?”

Pinkie studied it. “I think I saw that on this girl who was out in the city and had this cute little purple puppy dog with her,” she said. “But that was a long time ago, so she might not be there anymore. She kinda looked like she was just visiting anyway.”

Xvital snapped her fingers. “Drat,” she grumbled. “So nobody in this school…”

“Nope!” Pinkie shook her head.

“Well, so much for that,” Xvital sighed.

“Um, excuse me,” Fluttershy said. “But you said something about an… Element of Laughter?”

“Right,” Vix-Lei agreed. “Well, apparently, the six Virtues - that’s what they call ‘em, your other pony versions - all had these special traits that they represented. Pinkie’s and mine is Laughter - we keep the others’ spirits up.”

“And our Element, Fluttershy, is Kindness,” Page said as she gave the girl a gentle smile. “We act as the moral guidance to our group.”

“Honesty,” Wind Breaker threw in. “That’s yours and mine, Applejack. We keep the others honest by staying honest ourselves. And with ourselves, which I had a real problem with for a while,” he said embarrassedly.

“Yours, Miss Rarity,” Rex said. “Is generosity. You and I have a natural understanding of people, and we inspire them with our selflessness.” Vix-Lei saw her eyes light up at that.

“And our Element, the one that, regrettably, took the longest to earn…” Night Blade sighed. “Suffice to say, it took quite the kick in the head for me to realize it was Loyalty. You and I, Miss Dash, are the ones who defend and protect the rest of our group, even at cost to ourselves.” He tapped the tray with his fork, causing Vix-Lei to frown; she thought he was all good now. “Case in point, what happened to my wings… not to mention my sides and my eye.”

“You mean, that scar up there…” Fluttershy’s own eyes widened.

“Came when I was fighting that-er, blasted bigot Sharp Point.” Night Blade nodded. “And he broke my sword too… still need to find a proper replacement when we get back,” he grumbled. “I was just about to take down a really good one and get a better look at it when this whole mess with Sunset Shimmer began… hopefully it’ll still be there when we get back.”

“Whoa.” Rainbow Dash looked at him. “You weren’t kidding when you said you were captain of a dueling team, were you?”

“No, I was not,” Night Blade replied. “Though I have found myself doing more serious, life-or-death sword fighting since the day I met everypo-body else besides Page than I have in my entire life before that.”

Fluttershy shivered. “Sounds scary…”

“It is not an experience I would like to go through again, to say the least,” Night Blade said. “But I believe we are getting somewhat off track. We still need answers from Sunset Shimmer.” He gestured to the girl in question, who was sitting alone at one table off to the side, though a pair of shorter boys were a few tables away and seemed to be keeping an eye on her.

“Don’t worry, I got this,” Vix-Lei grinned, causing the human versions of the Virtues to share confused looks while everyone else at the table paled slightly. She cupped her mouth and shouted at the top of her lungs, “HEY SUNSET SHIMMER, OVER HERE!” Every student, including Sunset, turned their heads to Vix-Lei and then to Sunset to see how she would react. “COME ON OVER SUNSET SHIMMER, WE WANT TO TALK TO YOU!” More students were looking at Sunset, who was now blushing and squirming on the spot. “I WON’T STOP ASKING YOU TO COME OVER SUNSET SHIMMER, SO YOU BEST COME ON OVER SUNSET SHIMMER!

That caused the girl, face red with embarrassment, to storm over to the table, with her lunch tray clutched tightly in her hands.

"All right," she growled. "You got me over here, now what do you want?"

"Answers," Xvital said. "For starters, how did you know about my Element? And that portal?"

Sunset snorted. "You mean, she didn't tell you?"

Xvital exchanged glances with the others. "She who?"

"You know, my old teacher!" Sunset glared. "Don't tell me, she's still keeping secrets, even from the servants she's sending into another world to save her oh-so-precious other student's crown." She looked disgusted. "And of course she wouldn't dare send her prized little pupil after me."

Xvital gave her a look. "Sunset Shimmer, I have no idea what you're talking about. We are nobody's servants, and that is my crown." She sighed. "Or at least, it's going to be mine."

Sunset gave a sharp laugh. "Really. You. You don't even have any magic, what makes you think you're worthy of the greatest magical artifact of all?"

"Well, it is one of a set," Vix-Lei pointed out. "And the rest of us have ours already, so... she's kinda the only one left to get it."

Sunset's eyes widened for a moment, then turned back to a scowl. "You're lying," she said. "I know who the Elements of Harmony belong to, and it's not any of you."

"Maybe we're not the original owners," Page said. "But we inherited them all fairly."

"Of course you're not the original owners," Sunset snapped. "They couldn't use the Elements after what happened. But you're not their successors either - you're nothing like those girls." She pointed to the five students, who all looked rather confused. "And four of you aren’t even ponies! So you can't possibly have inherited them."

Xvital blinked. "Wait, are you saying someone else had these Elements before the Virtues we know?"

"Virtues? What the buck are you-" Sunset Shimmer froze. "You're not kidding, are you," she breathed. "You really have no idea about these things' history. But how could you not know? Why wouldn't she tell you?"

"We know they belonged to the six Virtues before the big blowup in Canterlot all those years ago, and we've been chosen to inherit them now," Wind Breaker said. "Not sure how they got them in the first place though."

Sunset glared at him. "What big blowup?" she hissed.

"Um, the one that killed the goddesses and Virtues and a lot of others?" Wind Breaker said.

"Killed-" Sunset sat back in her chair. "Oh dear Celestia," she said in shock. "How long was I gone?"

Page looked at her curiously. "Gone?"

"I believe," Rex said quietly. "That the young lady here is not originally of this world. You were born and raised in Equestria, weren't you?" he asked Sunset.

"I was," Sunset admitted. "I was Princess Celestia's personal student, until she decided I wasn't worthy." She looked angry and disgusted. "So I came here to prove what a mistake she was making, so one day I could come back and show her. And now that I've got the crown, I can!"

"I'm afraid that won't be happening," Rex said gently. "You see, your princess has been dead for a thousand years."

Sunset's jaw dropped. "A thousand years‽" She shook her head. "No, that's... that's not possible! She can’t be dead!" There was a sudden tremble in her voice as she stood up. "... I need to be somewhere else." Abandoning her tray, she stalked off.

"Well," Rex finally said. "That went..."

"Unexpectedly?" Page sighed. "I'll say."

For a moment, there was silence, as the eleven sat there, lost in their thoughts. It was Applejack who finally spoke up. “Something she said is botherin’ me,” she remarked thoughtfully. “This place - Equestria. Pinkie says it’s a land of magical ponies. But Sunset Shimmer says four of you ain’t ponies.”

“And I said that Equestria is home to multiple sapient species,” Rex replied. “Sunset Shimmer is right, four of us were never ponies. But we are native to that world.”

“I know he’s one,” Rainbow Dash said as she looked at Night Blade. “Though, he’s some kind of weird bat-winged pony…”

“The correct term is Nox pony,” Night Blade said, an unpleasant look on his face. "We are kin to Pegasi, like yourself - or rather, like your counterpart."

"Cool beans." Rainbow Dash shrugged.

"Um, what about you?" Fluttershy asked Page.

"Unicorn pony," Page said. "Well, technically, unicorn of mixed heritage. But I identify more with my father's unicorn side. My mother's ancestors were... well, not the nicest."

"Minotaur," Vix-Lei put in. "And I think one of your classmates must have been one too. That Bulk Biceps... what a guy!" She grinned.

“Griffon,” Wind Breaker spoke up, looking at Applejack. “Grew up among ponies, so I have more in common with them than my own species… at least, most of the time.” He shuddered. “Don’t ask - it was in that same battle where Night Blade here got his scar and it’s not something I like to remember.”

“And what variety of being are you?” Rarity asked Rex. “I am certain that whatever species you were, you were quite the fine, handsome specimen.”

“I am a Diamond Dog,” Rex replied. “Albeit one of greater intelligence and sophistication than most of my kindred. I hate to speak ill of them, but suffice to say that most of my species is... well, more brawn than brain.”

“Oh my.” Rarity looked at him longingly. “Well, Diamond Dog or not, you are truly a noble fellow, and I sincerely wish there were more gentlemen like you in this world.” She sighed happily.

Snorting for a moment, Applejack turned to Xvital. “How about you?”

"Oh, I’m an Ahuizotl," Xvital said.

"Ah-hwee-what-zel?" Rainbow Dash scratched her head. "What the heck kind of critter is that?"

Ah-hwee-zot-el,” Xvital repeated. “We’re something like dogs, something like jaguars, something like otters and something like a monkey all rolled up into one.”

“Huh. Weird,” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug. “Sounds cool though.”

“Wait!” Fluttershy blinked. “Vix-Lei, if you’re a minotaur… why are you eating beef?” She sounded horrified.

Vix-Lei shrugged. “Because it’s what they had, and it’s good?”

“But it’s… cow,” she whimpered. “And… minotaurs are part cow.”

Vix-Lei blinked. “You mean that old legend?” She sighed. “Minotaurs may have some bovine ancestry, but we’re different enough that it doesn’t make much difference. Besides, these things aren’t sapient, are they?”

“Well, no…”

“Then it’s no big deal.” She went back to her taco. “Besides, we’re all omnivores… though based on how he was eating back in Equestria, I think Nighty here’s mostly a fruitivore.”

“That’s frugivore,” Page corrected her. “And no, he’s not. He just really loves his mangos.”

“I am sitting right here, you know,” Nighty said grumpily. “Though I will admit to a special fondness for mango, yes.”

“Told you,” Page snarked at him, causing the girls to giggle.

“Ah guess you two are an item?” Applejack asked.

“I would guess so, you two would make a cute couple,” Rarity said, adding to the pile of awkwardness.

“We… were,” Page said reluctantly. “We’re kind of taking a break.” She looked at Night Blade. “I’d rather not talk about it though.”

“Come on, tell us,” Rainbow Dash grinned and went to elbow Night only to stop herself. “What, did you forget her birthday or something?”

No,” he replied sharply. “It was a very bad day for both of us, and not something I want to talk about.”

“Maybe we can help, if that’s okay,” Fluttershy offered. “If… if you want some help…”

“Yeah!” Pinkie said brightly. “It can’t be that bad, it’s not like he hit her.”

Page winced instinctively, and Pinkie’s eyes widened. She looked like she was about to say something incredibly loud, when Applejack put a hand over her mouth. “Ifn’ you want to keep it between the two of you, I’ll understand,” she said firmly. “But we’re here whenever you want to talk.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Page said. “But really, we just need some time to work this out on our own.” She sighed. “Thank you though.”

“Uh… okay.” Rainbow Dash sat back and looked around. “So… what’s the plan for dealing with Shimmer?”

Xvital sat up straight. “Honestly, we don’t have one yet,” she said. “The key thing is getting my Element back. We talked to Principal Celestia about it - she caught Sunset with my Element and confiscated it, since she thought it was the Fall Formal Princess crown. She knows it’s not now, but still, she can’t give it back just yet.” She tapped her fingers against her chin. “If we can get proof that it was definitely stolen from me, then your principal will give it back, but I have no idea how to do that.”

“Maybe we can get her to confess on tape?” Rainbow Dash suggested.

“Nah, she’s too clever for that,” Applejack dismissed it. “Think Snips and Snails would be willing to talk if we had this guy prove he was scarier than Sunset?” She gestured to Night Blade.

“If I knew who you were talking about, I might consider it,” Night Blade said.

“Those two,” Applejack pointed to the shorter boys who had been watching Sunset earlier. “They’re kind of her pet goons. Do all kinds of dirty work for her. Ah bet you could intimidate them somethin’ fierce.”

“Yes…” Rarity scowled. “And I am certain those two are the ones responsible for that debacle last spring… on her orders.”

Rex looked at her. “So you were the one who ran against Sunset Shimmer for the Spring Fling… I suspected as much, after what Principal Celestia told us.” He bowed. “My sincerest condolences over what must have happened to you, my lady.”

“Why thank you, kind sir,” Rarity would have curtsied at him if she had been standing. “It means so much to me to have someone care... besides Fluttershy that is, since she was there to support me after that fiasco.” She smiled at the other girl.

Fluttershy blushed. “It was no problem,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be treated like that…”

“Whatever we do, it has to be before the dance,” Page said. “Principal Celestia said that was the night after tomorrow. So we have two-and-a-half days to figure this out.”

Just then, the bell rang.

“And that sound means that school is out for the day.” Applejack stretched. “Ah hate to up and leave it like this, but Ah got to get back to the farm and do mah homework and afternoon chores. Think we could meet up somewhere later on?”

“Ooh! Ooh! We can all meet up at my place!” Pinkie exclaimed. “It can be a big sleepover for twelve!”

“Twelve?” Night Blade looked at her. “I think your math is a bit off, Miss Pie.”

“Nah, it’s just fine,” Pinkie said dismissively. “It’s all of us, that’s eleven. And then there’s my big sister Maud, she’s number twelve!”

“I see.” Page looked at the others. “Well, I suppose we should get going. The rest of us have a little more paperwork to fill out before we can leave for the day.”

“Alrighty!” Pinkie scribbled something down on a sheet of paper. “Here’s my address. Gotta fly!” Grabbing up her things, she dashed out the door.

“Yeah, and I’ve got track this afternoon.” Rainbow Dash nodded. “Cool hanging with ya, Mr. Blade.” She also headed for the door.

Applejack waved as she grabbed her own things and left, and Fluttershy nodded shyly before picking up her bag and also departing. A small white paw stuck itself out of her bag and waved as she did so.

“I fear I too must be off,” Rarity said with a sigh. “Sweetie Belle will be waiting for me to give her a ride home. I shall see you all tonight, good sirs and madams.” With a curtsy, she left.

Page looked at the others. “Well, we need to get to Vice-Principal Luna’s office,” she said. “Paperwork waits for no one, unfortunately.”

There was a round of nods, and the six stood up, taking their trash with them on the way out.

Sunset Shimmer

How dare they. How dare they!

Sunset stalked along the sidewalk, heading back to her small apartment, an angry expression on her face. This was supposed to be my hour of triumph! I was going to take that crown and show Princess Celestia how big a mistake she made forcing me out… and then these amateurs show up claiming she’s been dead for a thousand years and they’re the new Bearers!

Years of experience had taught Sunset how to read people, to know if they were lying or telling the truth - a learned version of what the Element of Honesty was said to grant its user. She had listened to those interlopers, and much as she hated to admit it, she had understood that they were telling the truth, every word of it.

Well. She stalked onwards. If Celestia is dead, and so is that little brat she tried to replace me with… then there’s only one thing to do.

I’m going to get that crown back. I’m going back to Equestria. And I’m going to prove to the whole world what Celestia’s rightful heir can do when she has the power she was denied.

A grim smile forced its way onto her face. And then nobody will ever hold me back ever again.

Chapter Thirty Nine: Xvital, Wind Breaker, Page Turner, Vix-Lei, Rex, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Thirty Nine

Xvital

Whatever I was expecting from the Pie home, Xvital reflected, this was clearly not it.

For some reason, possibly based on what Vix-Lei had described after getting her Element, she’d figured that Pinkie lived in a massive gingerbread house covered in frosting and candy. Instead, the home was a two-story building which appeared to be very much like the other houses around it. The inside was also very ordinary. There were some distinctly homely touches though, and Pinkie was babbling on about them at a mile a minute.

“And that’s my oldest sister Limestone, who’s off at college now and wants to run her own mining company some day,” Pinkie said as she pointed to one picture. “This one’s my Mom and Dad - they’re off visiting our cousins in Rockville this week, and they took my little twin sister Marble with them, ‘cause she likes the quiet out there. And that’s me and Maud, my second-oldest-sister who’s getting her degree in rock science! She’s so lucky her college is close enough to home that she can just drive there from here every day...”

Xvital stifled a snicker. She and the others had met Maud Pie when they first arrived at the house, and she could still remember Vix-Lei’s reaction...

”Well, here we are,” Xvital said as she studied the house. As she reached out to knock on the door, it unexpectedly opened, revealing a stone-faced older girl, who looked to be as calm and collected as Pinkie was cheery and excitable.

“Come on in,” she said in a dull monotone voice. “Pinkie is upstairs, and she has Applejack with her. The others should be here soon.”

“Um, okay.” The group followed her in, and glanced around. “Nice place,” Xvital commented.

“It suits our needs,” Maud replied in the same deadpan tone. “All seven of us.”

“Seven?” Page glanced around. “Wow… I didn’t know Pinkie had so many siblings.”

“She only has three,” Maud replied. “Plus our parents.”

“So who’s the seventh?” Vix-Lei asked, curious.

Reaching into her pocket, Maud pulled out a small pebble. “This is the seventh,” she said. “His name is Boulder. He’s been my companion for years.” Returning the pebble to her pocket, she headed for the stairs. “I’ll tell Pinkie you’re here.”

When Maud had disappeared, the group exchanged glances. “So,” Vix-Lei finally said. “Remember when I said we'd have to keep an eye out for any of Pinkie's relatives, because they'd probably be a real hoot?"

"Yes," Xvital replied.

Vix-Lei grinned. "I was right."

Shaking her head and sighing, Xvital couldn’t help but smile. Something told her this was definitely going to be a night to remember.

Still they were lucky that they had a place to sleep for the night and the next few days and the ability to clean themselves up. It had been several days since she had last washed up and she had to stink something fierce. So after taking a towel and borrowing some of Maud’s clothes to wear to bed, she had taken a nice long shower, followed by Page and then getting an earful of Vix-Lei singing loudly off key. Then the guys had taken their showers and caused more than one laugh fest at the sight of them dressed up in Igneous Rock Pie’s formal bedware, with only Night come the closest to being the proper size and it was still big on the guy.

“So,” Xvital said as she squatted down near the rest of the crew and girls, sitting on an airbed that Pinkie Pie had seemingly pulled out of her hair. “Believe it or not, I have never attended one of these sleepover thingies, so what’s the plan?”

Pinkie glanced around. “Business first,” she said in an unusually serious tone. Then she grinned. “Then we’re going to have all kinds of fun! S’mores, and scary stories, and pillow fights and mmph!”

“So, how are we going to do this?” Rainbow Dash asked, managing to stop Pinkie Pie for a moment.

Page considered. “I think, considering what happened when you grabbed Night’s arm the last time, we should all be laying down next to one another, then hold hands. That should do it.”

“Right.” Sighing, Rainbow Dash squirmed off to Night Blade’s side, making sure there was plenty of distance between them, but still close enough that she could reach him. The others followed suit. When they were settled, Rainbow Dash looked up. “Okay, here goes nothing…”

Then, taking a deep breath, each of the girls reached out and clasped hands with their partner, closing their eyes.

Watching them, Xvital glanced over at Maud. “Well, since they’re all off in the other world, guess that leaves just you and me.” She looked around for a moment. “So, what’s up?”

“The ceiling,” Maud deadpanned.

“Rrright.” Xvital then decided to act on an impulse and touched Maud’s shoulder, only to get a blank look. “Hey, worth a shot.”

“Believe me, if I had pony magic like my sister’s counterpart, it would involve rocks.” Maud gave her a deadpan gaze. “All the rocks. Speaking of; I will order the pizza.”

“Works for me.” Xvital suddenly did a double-take. “Wait, how did you…”

“Pinkie tells me everything,” Maud said. “We’re very close.”

“Gotcha.”

Wind Breaker

Wind Breaker opened his eyes to see that he was back on the farm that Apple-

“Gosh, this is like the farm back home,” Applejack said from behind him, causing him to turn slightly before remembering the big issue about clothing and kept himself facing forwards to be polite. “Darnit, Ah am all bare… but Ah still got mah hat on.” Wind Breaker snickered at that, with Applejack laughing too. “Ya’ll said that I just need to wait for mah pony self to make that place ah’d be decen… wow.”

“Wow what?” Wind Breaker asked, shuffling on the spot with his wings pressing into his side.

“Ya’ll said you’re a griffon but Ah thought they were bigger.”

“I’m from a more compact breed of griffons, okay?”

“Hey,Ah didn’t mean nothing by it, sugarcube,” Applejack said as she walked up to him and patted his neck, causing him to let out some small sound. “Ah was just saying it as Ah saw it-did you just coo like a bird?”

“...no?”

Wind Breaker took in a sharp breath of air as he felt her hands on his neck again, scratching in all the right spots, with more coos escaping his mouth and he even found himself falling to the ground and rolling onto his back as he began to purr now, legs tucked in as his tail swished around.

“Lands sake’s Wind Breaker, you’is a big kitty, aren’t ya?” Applejack’s laughter caused him to snap out of his bliss-like state and his face beet red as he saw it was the pony Applejack.

Shuffling back onto his paws and talons, Wind Breaker grumbled loudly with his face reddening ever harder, “This never happened, okay?”

“Well you know me, sugarcube, Ah won’t say nothin’ but Ah can’t keep a secret if somepony ask me,” the pony her said snickering with the human girl leaning on his side. “Hiya Applejack,” the pony tipped her hat at the human version of her.

“Hiya yourself,” she said, her fingers running across his side. “Nice hat.”

“You too,” the orange Earth Pony replied. “Ya’ll give me a second and Ah’ll get you all proper like.”

“Much obliged,” the human Applejack said, tracing her finger over his sides and making Wind Breaker think of other thoughts that would have him stuck squatting low. “So what’s this about me being a backup Element?”

“Erm.” Wind Breaker looked at the pony version. “You’d know better; Night Blade just said the Equestrian version of Rainbow Dash called her counterpart a backup Element and that she promised to explain when we were all here. I have no idea what it means.”

“Well shucks.” Pony Applejack sat back. “First, let’s get some clothes on you,” she said to her counterpart. “We can make things look different around here with just a thought,” she said. “So ifn’ ya think of your normal clothes - nothing super fancy, just the basics - it’ll appear.”

Human Applejack thought for a minute. “Like this?”

In an instant she had her usual outfit back on, and Pony Applejack beamed. “That’s it exactly,” she said in an admiring tone. “Now that’s done, let’s go see the res-”

BOOM

GAAAAAAAH!

Applejack, Applejack and Wind Breaker turned their head to see a blur of light that slowed to reveal a rainbow-maned pegasus who, Wind Breaker mused, must have been the Equestrian Rainbow Dash, with the human Rainbow Dash on her back and dragging Night Blade behind them. “That was not necessary!” Night Blade practically shrieked. “I thought Vix-Lei’s driving was bad, but you, young lady, take the cake!” He paused. “And I cannot believe I just said that to to the mare I have looked up to and admired my whole life!”

“Heh,” Pony Rainbow Dash chuckled. “What can I say, speed’s my thing. ‘S how I got my Cutie Mark, after all.”

“If you got it for going at speeds like that, no wonder you’re so awesome,” the human Rainbow Dash grinned. “By the way, what’s a Cutie Mark?”

“We’ll explain when we’re all together,” the Equestrian Applejack said, cutting off whatever the pony Rainbow Dash was about to say. “Now, where are the others…”

Page Turner

Page opened her eyes, and saw, to her relief, that she was in her unicorn form instead of her birth one.

Then, behind her, she heard a small eep. Freezing for a moment, she slowly turned around to see… a fully dressed Fluttershy, who must have somehow figured out the trick that Night Blade had told the rest of the Equestrian natives about on her own.

Right now, a tiny squeak was emanating from the girl, and getting slightly louder by the moment. Then, a full-blown squee of delight burst forth, and the girl swept Page up into an incredibly tight cuddle.

“Ohmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmygoodness!” Fluttershy cried out as she hugged Page close. “You’re so absolutely adorable! And so pretty! And-”

“And… needing to breathe,” Page gasped.

Fluttershy suddenly let go and backed off. “OhmygoodnessohmygoodnessohmyIamsosorry!” she exclaimed. “You’re not hurt, are you? I didn’t mean-”

Fluttershy.” Page held up a hoof. “I am fine.” She sighed as she caught her breath. “And I’m sorry if I upset you there.”

“It’s… it’s okay,” Fluttershy whimpered. “I… I can’t believe I did that to a teacher!

Page smiled. “No harm done,” she reassured the girl. “And this stays between us, I promise.” Then she looked around. “By the way, what do you think of this place?”

Fluttershy looked around to see the same charming little cottage Page had been in twice before. “Oh my! It’s lovely!

“Thank you,” said another shy-sounding voice. “I try to make it as homey and welcoming as possible.”

Two sets of eyes widened as a butter-yellow pegasus with a soft pink mane and tail carefully entered the room. “Would you like some tea?” she asked softly.

“That would be wonderful,” Page said with a smile. Guiding her human companion over with her as she settled down onto the couch, she happily accepted a cup from the pony Fluttershy who was now across from them. “And it’s nice to talk to you in person at last,” she said.

“Oh, I know.” The butter-yellow pegasus smiled. “Now that I’ve had time to get used to you, I’m glad to be able to talk to you too.” Her eyes flickered to the human Fluttershy. “And you too,” she added. “How’s your little Angel?”

“He’s just fine,” the teenage girl said with a smile. “And I think he really likes Page. He doesn’t usually act so well-behaved around strangers…”

“My Angel was the same way,” Pony Fluttershy answered. “But when he lost me… it really affected him.” She smiled sadly.

Page stared at her. “You mean… the legends were true?” she whispered. “You really did have a de-er, bunny named Angel?”

“You can say demon,” the pony Fluttershy said quietly. “I’ve had a long time to get used to what ponies were saying about me and him.” She smiled sadly. “But Angel was never a true demon. He was a normal bunny who just had a bad temper most of the time.”

“Oh.” Page breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry,” she apologized. “After everything we’ve been through, I should have known that wasn’t right. But old habits die hard, I guess.”

“I understand.” Pony Fluttershy smiled sadly. “I still have a hard time getting used to new ponies… but I’m still so glad to get to know both of you,” she said as she looked at the two.

Page sat there quietly, sipping her tea. Then, she remembered something. “Oh - when we were in the forest,” she said. “We found your old cottage. I hope you don’t mind us using it for a little while.”

“Not at all,” Pony Fluttershy said. “I’m amazed it’s still there after a thousand years, even with the protection spells that our families had put on it.”

“That would explain a lot,” Page said thoughtfully. “And - do you still have family in Equestria?” she asked hopefully.

“Yes, actually,” Pony Fluttershy replied. “After what happened to me, Zephyr really cleaned up his act and took responsibility for himself…”

“Zephyr Breeze?” Human Fluttershy’s eyes widened. “My little brother? He’s…”

“He was so lazy,” Pony Fluttershy sighed. “But when he lost me… oh, I wish I could have been there to help him become a better pony.” She smiled sadly. “He took in Angel and all the rest of my critters after what happened, and even if he couldn’t understand them the way I did, it really helped him learn more about himself.”

“That’s good.” Human Fluttershy rested a hand on her counterpart’s shoulder. “I wish my Zephyr would learn to stick with one thing…”

“He’ll get it in time,” Pony Fluttershy said reassuringly. “He’s a lot younger than my Zephyr was; he has a lot more living to do.”

Human Fluttershy just smiled, and Page felt her heart warm at the sight.

Vix-Lei

Looking around the streets of the town, Vix-Lei let out a long, low whistle. “You know, this place still looks amazing,” she said as she turned to the tall, gingerbread-looking building she was in front of.

“Yeah!” Pinkie exclaimed as she stood next to the minotaur. “I wish our Sweet Shoppe was as totally awesome-looking as this Sweet Shoppe!”

“Actually, it’s called Sugarcube Corner here,” said a voice next to her. Vix-Lei looked down to see a familiar pink poofy pony. “But I know what you mean.”

“Pinkie!” the human Pinkie exclaimed, and promptly leaned down to hug her counterpart, who hugged her back.

“So, how’s the family doing?” Pony Pinkie asked. “How’s Maud doing at her Rocktorate?”

“Oh, they’re just great, and she’s doing a great job! Is your Marble still just the cutest, shyest little thing ever?”

“Absotively posilutely! Is your Limestone still a grumpy-grump that you love anyway ‘cause she’s family and you know she doesn’t really mean it when she’s grumpy at you?”

“Don’cha know it!” The two Pinkies burst out laughing, and Vix-Lei smiled at the sight.

“So! Come on in, and I’ll get you a snack!” Pony Pinkie pronked into the building, and Vix-Lei followed her, a big grin on her face. “This way, please!”

Inside, the human Pinkie gasped in delight. “This is amazing,” she breathed. “And you get to spend all of Eternity here?”

“I get to spend it wherever I want,” Pony Pinkie explained. “But this… this is my second home, outside of the family farm in Rockville. It’s where I lived, where I worked…” she grinned. “Where I do all my best baking! Cupcake?”

Human Pinkie happily accepted one, swallowing it whole, then grinned. “Mm… spicy!”

Then she proceeded to breathe fire all over Vix-Lei.

When the minotaur finally blinked, she gave the pony Pinkie a look. “Okay, what was in that cupcake?”

“My favorite red Tabasco Sauce filling,” Pony Pinkie replied.

“Sounds like you and Page would get along just fine then,” Vix-Lei replied with a grin.

Both Pinkies giggled in response, and Vix-Lei smiled. “So, what now?”

“Well, we could sit and eat cupcakes…” Pony Pinkie held one up. “Or, we could go over to meet with the others!”

“How about we take a tray over?”

“Works for me!”

Rex

“Really?” Rex looked at the human Rarity with interest. “You work in a shop like this one?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Rarity beamed as she looked up to study the Carousel Boutique that Rex had visited once before. “It’s not quite the same on the outside, and of course I’m not the owner… not yet, at any rate. But the name is the same, and we do produce the most charming outfits for our customers!”

“I can imagine,” Rex replied as he studied her outfit. Rarity had forgone her normal clothing upon arriving in this place in favor of a beautiful crystal-blue outfit with tall white boots, which had large diamonds near the top. “I believe you and your counterpart will get along quite splendidly.”

“Oh, I do hope so,” Rarity replied. “And I must say, you are quite the handsome fellow yourself like this! Ah… if only we could stay in one world together…”

“I appreciate the compliment, Miss Belle,” Rex replied with a smile. “Sadly, I believe that between the world differences and the age differences, it would never work out between us.”

“Too true,” Rarity replied. “Shall we go in though?”

Rex nodded, and held the door for her as she entered. Inside, they found the same lovely white unicorn he had met on his last visit.

“Oh my,” the unicorn Rarity breathed. “My darling, you look absolutely fabulous!

“Why thank you,” the human Rarity replied. “And you are the most lovely, breathtaking creature I have ever laid eyes on!”

Unicorn Rarity beamed at the compliment, and then began to show her counterpart around, with Rex following them as they studied the work room and the more private areas.

“And up here is where my little sister stayed when she was visiting,” pony Rarity was saying as she gestured to one room. “She still visits every now and then, but… ah, she has her own life in this afterlife, her own little home.”

“Oh, I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like without Sweetie Belle dropping in at least once a week,” the human Rarity replied. “She drives me up the wall at times, but she’s such a dear, and I do love her so…”

“Believe me, I know exactly how you feel,” the unicorn Rarity replied. “Ah… children do grow up eventually though… I suppose all of us had family that had to grow up some when they lost us.”

“Quite,” the human Rarity replied. “But at such a young age… I can’t begin to imagine what that was like!”

“It was an experience, I can tell you,” the unicorn Rarity replied back.

Watching the two girls chatting back and forth, Rex couldn’t help but smile sadly as he thought of his own former pack, and of his former students in Canterlot. Hopefully, he thought, When this is all over I can reconnect with them.

Night Blade

“Well this is a familiar sight,” Night Blade mused as he once again found himself atop a cloud, the human Rainbow Dash next to him (thankfully clothed this time and not slapping him).

“Yeah, but that’s not!” Rainbow Dash pointed towards a very large cloud structure nearby, and Night Blade’s breath caught in his throat as he tried to grasp what he was seeing.

It was an enormous three-story building made entirely out of clouds. There were fancy pillars, multiple doors and windows, and - were those rainbow waterfalls‽

“How in Equestria… what kind of place is that?” Night Blade finally managed. “And how did they even make it?”

“With clouds, duh,” a familiar voice said behind him, making Night Blade almost jump out of his coat. When he had managed to get ahold of himself and turn around, he saw the pony Rainbow Dash standing next to her human self, and was grinning wide enough that he was surprised it could fit on her face. “That’s my old Cloudiminium, the one I lived in over Ponyville. Thought I’d show it off a bit this visit.”

“Indeed,” Night Blade said as he regained his composure. “I haven’t seen a place like this… outside of the history books!”

“Yeah, side effect of things from way back when,” Rainbow Dash sighed. “Back then, this place was still pretty awesome, but you should have seen Cloudsdale in its heyday… an entire city made entirely out of clouds!”

“That sounds freaking AWESOME!” the human Rainbow Dash practically shrieked. “Oh I wish I could live in a place like that!”

“Maybe one day you’ll get a chance,” the pony Rainbow Dash said. “But for now, we need to round up the rest of the girls - Applejack promised we could meet up at her place.”

“And how are we going to get there?” Night Blade asked.

“Simple. You, climb on my back.” She gestured to the human Rainbow Dash, who complied. “You, grab my tail and hang on to your tail… this is going to be one wild ride!”

“I immediately regret this decision,” Night Blade muttered as he took hold of Rainbow Dash’s tail with his mouth.

“And here we goooooooooooo!!!” In a shot, they were off.


Even if he lived to be a hundred, Night Blade promised himself, he would never forget this experience.

Rainbow Dash was flying at incredible speeds, and the air was moving past him at a faster rate than he’d ever thought possible. Then, his eyes widened. Was that a… mach cone forming around them‽

Then all he knew was a thunderous sound and a wave of multi-colored light as Rainbow Dash proceeded to break the sound barrier.

GAAAAAAAH!

As the trio slowed down over what looked like a large farm of some kind, Night Blade caught a glimpse of Wind Breaker and two other forms next to him as Rainbow Dash landed. Letting go of her tail, the nox pony staggered away. “That was not necessary!” he practically shrieked as he tried to calm his quaking knees. “I thought Vix-Lei’s driving was bad, but you, young lady, take the cake!” He paused. “And I cannot believe I just said that to to the mare I have looked up to and admired my whole life!”

“Heh,” Pony Rainbow Dash chuckled as the human Rainbow Dash climbed off her back. “What can I say, speed’s my thing. ‘S how I got my Cutie Mark, after all.”

“If you got it for going at speeds like that, no wonder you’re so awesome,” the human Rainbow Dash grinned. “By the way, what’s a Cutie Mark?”

“We’ll explain when we’re all together,” the Equestrian Applejack suddenly said. “Now, where are the others…”

Pronk pronk pronk

Looking over, Night Blade saw a pink Earth pony with a rather poofy mane and tail bouncing up, the human Pinkie Pie on her back, while Vix-Lei trotted after them carrying a box. “We’re he-eere!” the two Pinkies exclaimed.

“And so are we,” another voice called as Page, a yellow pegasus who must have been the Equestrian Fluttershy, and the human Fluttershy walked up at a more sedate pace. Behind them, a white unicorn followed, along with the human Rarity in a dress Night Blade had never seen, and Rex right behind them, an amused look on the Diamond Dog’s face. As the ten looked around, Page spotted Night Blade and was barely able to restrain herself from rushing up to him. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“He’s fine,” the pony Rainbow Dash waved it off. “Just experienced his first Sonic Rainboom up close and personal.”

“Is that what that was called?” the human Rainbow Dash asked. “Sweet!”

“Yeah, I’ve been doin’ em on and off since I was a little filly,” the pegasus waved it off. “Saved four lives with it the second time I pulled one off.”

“Yes, including mine,” the unicorn Rarity replied. “And believe me, I am still grateful that you managed it to this day.”

Pony Rainbow Dash smiled. “No problem, Rares. I just wish I could have done more for us the day we… well. You know.”

“It was not your fault,” Pony Fluttershy said firmly as she walked up to Page. “It was that Chrysalis who was responsible. Um…” She whispered something in Page’s ear, causing the unicorn’s face to whiten, then smile at her.

“Thanks, Fluttershy,” she said with a faint smile. “I needed that.”

Night Blade raised an eyebrow, wondering what Fluttershy had said, but waved it off. Page would tell them when she was ready.

“So, howzabout we take this inside?” the pony Applejack said. “Just follow me.”

Leading them towards a large red farmhouse, she guided them into the living room. Once everyone else was settled in, she found a seat for herself. “So. What do you need to know?”

“First off, besides Sunset Shimmer, who and what are we up against?” Wind Breaker asked.

Applejack sighed. “I was afraid you’d ask that,” she said. “And the truth is, we’re plumb not allowed to say. If we told you, that thing would wind up getting a lot of information that we can’t afford to let it have.”

Wind Breaker sat back, disappointed. “Well, it was worth a shot,” he grumbled.

“An’ before you ask, we can’t say who the sixth member of our little team was neither,” Applejack added. “You’re right on the money that she was a unicorn, and those statues of us got her Cutie Mark right, but that’s all we can confirm.”

Wind Breaker snapped his talons. “Drat.”

“What I want to know,” the human Rainbow Dash spoke up, “Is what was with you calling us backup Elements?”

“Well…” Applejack looked around. “Rarity, you want to take this one?”

“Certainly, darling.” The white unicorn gazed at her counterpart. “From what we have been told, the two worlds are… not quite reflections of one another, but underwent a form of parallel development, due to the two worlds being linked almost from the moment of Creation. Many from our time have counterparts on that side, such as the five of us. While we are still two separate beings, we are intrinsically bound together due to being Elements of Harmony and as such, the bond we have with one another, and by extension the Elements themselves, would be as powerful as the bond you have with the Elements. In short… should something happen to any of the five of you, or to Xvital, our five counterparts and one… other, are the last hope that either of these worlds have at the moment.” She sighed. “Of course, given what kind of being we are dealing with, if anything happens to all of you, both worlds are more or less doomed.”

“It takes Harmony a really long time to come back together and we don’t have another thousand years to wait,” Pinkie said sadly. “Which is why it’s up to you to end this and save the world.” Night Blade noticed Rex’s ears twitching, but the Diamond Dog stayed silent.

“Yikes,” Vix-Lei said. “That’s… scary.” Her face turned serious. “But don’t worry, girls. We’re going to stop this thing, no matter what.”

“First we have to get the last Element back,” Page reminded them. “Which means showing Sunset Shimmer for what she is.” She sighed. “You’d think a student of one of the goddesses would be more like you girls.”

“Sunset Shimmer is not beyond saving,” Applejack said firmly. “She’s in a really bad place now, but so were some others we knew, and look how they turned out. Heck, look at that Trixie - went from a braggin’ showmare who got herself blamed for bringin’ that Ursa Minor to Ponyville, to somepony who vowed to honor the mare that saved her life once. And look at what her descendents have done!” She grinned. “One of them’s commandin’ the guards named after that same mare!”

Five faces looked around in surprise. “Do you mean…” Page asked. “Violet Lulamoon is descended from one of your old enemies?”

“Sure is!” Applejack grinned. “Well, enemy isn’t the right word for her. But Trixie’s right proud of little Violet for it.”

“Stars above,” Page breathed. “She’s the Blue Sorceress from the legends, isn’t she. And she was just a showmare‽

“Yes, she was,” Rarity replied. “A particularly obnoxious one, but she was indeed.”

Vix-Lei suddenly sat bolt upright. “The same Trixie who showed us how to operate that vending machine? Or… her counterpart?”

“Eeyup. Trixie Lulamoon, one and the same,” Applejack said with a nod. “And by the way, a lot of our so-called ‘enemies’? Weren’t really enemies at all. Heck, three of ‘em were our little sisters!”

“We really did get a lot of the histories wrong, didn’t we,” Night Blade said. “All right. Who were these supposed enemies?”

“Well, most of the history you know came from Blueblood,” Rarity said in a somewhat disparaging tone. “You may view him as a hero, and in many ways he was… but not until after we died and he killed Chrysalis. The first time I met him… ooooh!” She shuddered angrily. “But that’s… personal, and he improved afterward. Even if he did get a lot of facts wrong, since it was all second-hoof knowledge to him and he didn’t really understand some of it.”

“So who were these people, anyway?” Wind Breaker asked. “Like that Griffon Scourge - I’ve always wondered about that one. For… well, obvious reasons.” He gestured to his plumage.

“Her name was Gilda, and she and I went to Flight Camp back in the day,” Rainbow Dash said. “Of course, the last time she came to visit me, she turned out to be a big jerk… not a monster by any means, and after I died I found out what her hometown was like, so I can’t blame her. But still, she didn’t have to be so rude to Pinkie and everypony else.”

“And those ‘Trio Wood Nymphs’ were just three little fillies who got into a lot of mishaps,” Fluttershy said. “I foalsat for them a few times… Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were the sweetest little things, even if they were more than a little rambunctious at times. And they did tend to get into the tree sap more often than they should, but always by accident.”

Both Applejacks and Raritys shared a look and laughed at the last quip, making Night raise an eyebrow at how often was often.

“So who were their fearless followers, if I dare ask?” Rex spoke up.

“Oh, they were just a couple of mares who ran the local flower shop,” Pinkie said. “Daisy, Roseluck and Lily Valley always freaked out when anything went even the slightest bit wrong!”

Those three were the fearless followers?” Night couldn’t help himself from interrupting. “I dealt with them today and they practically fainted when I blinked at them!” He fell onto his back snickering loudly.

Pinkie joined in. “Yeah, you should have seen them panicking!” She raised her hooves. “The horror, the horror!

The other girls burst out laughing too, but after a few minutes, calmed down. “And then we have the All-Seeing Pegasus of Thunder,” Rainbow Dash said. “You’ve actually met her too, by the way. Her name’s Derpy Hooves.”

Night Blade raised his eyebrow yet again. “Derpy… Hooves… the same one who held my coat when your counterpart and I were having our race?”

“That’s the one!”

“She’s really one of the sweetest, most loving mares I know,” Fluttershy spoke up. “Had the cutest little filly, and her older daughter was so nice and friendly too… and she always tried to do her best, even if she was a bit… eh-hem. Clumsy.”

“So how did she get the nickname?” Vix-Lei asked. “I mean, if she’s the same one with the odd eyes who pointed us to Principal Celestia’s office, I can get the all-seeing part. But where’d the thunder part come from?”

“Eh, that was an accident she had one day,” Rainbow Dash said. “She was bouncing on a cloud and shocked me one time. And then she shocked herself a few times, fell off the cloud and accidentally knocked down part of a building with her butt.”

“Ouch.” Wind Breaker shuddered. “I got hit by lightning once - not fun at all.”

“Yeah, pegasi don’t like it either,” Rainbow Dash replied. “I forgave her for it - it was an accident, and she’s a good mare at heart.”

“Having met her human counterpart, I can believe that,” Rex spoke up. “But now, I have another question.”

All eyes turned to him, and he continued. “You speak of Harmony,” he said. “And so did Sunset Shimmer. Yet, we have been told that these Elements were of Balance.” He paused for a moment. “Something is obviously changed here, and I want to know what.”

The five mares looked at one another nervously. “Well…” Applejack started.

“The thing is,” Rarity added.

“Spirits are weird,” Pinkie concluded. “They have their own rules, and one of the less-fun rules is that sometimes, those connected to them have to figure out the tricky answers on their own.”

“Pinkie is right,” Fluttershy added. “We can’t tell you directly. Not yet, at least.”

Vix-Lei sat back and thought at this. “Harmony, Balance…” she murmured. “Hey Rexy, ain’t they homonyms?”

“I believe you mean synonyms,” Rex said thoughtfully. “And yes, they do seem very similar…” He froze. “By the crystals on the moon,” he exclaimed. “Balance and Harmony are two identities of the same spirit, aren’t they?”

“Just like the legends say about my people and their gods,” Vix-Lei exclaimed as she realized what he was talking about. “Both ‘taurs and gods used to be somewhat wilder, but when minotaur society became more disciplined and militaristic, so did the gods, and most of ‘em even took new names to reflect it! That’s it, isn’t it!” she cried. “That’s what happened to Harmony - when you all died, it took a new form suited for a new mission! It became Balance!”

“If that’s the case, then what is the mission?” Wind Breaker asked. “Or would that be a no no question too?”

“If we told you that, Balance would have to bring your baddy to where you are and free the one you aren’t ready for,” Pinkie said. “But we can say… by the time you finish the mission, you’ll know what it is.”

Night Blade nodded. “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said. “But we still have to figure out how to get Xvital’s intended Element back. How do we get the proof about Sunset Shimmer having stolen it?”

“That’s the sixty-million-bit question, ain’t it?” Applejack said. She sighed. “That mare is really screwed up right now, but like Ah said before, she’s not beyond savin’. She’s going to need you five to help guide her along the right path,” she said to her counterpart and the other human girls. “It’ll take some hard work, but in the long run, it’ll be worth it, I guarantee.”

“And then you can invite her to all your fun parties!” Pony Pinkie exclaimed to her counterpart.

“I can’t wait!” Human Pinkie cheered.

“Just remember one thing,” Rarity said. “Nopony is perfect. When somepony underestimates you, or even themselves, they make mistakes. And sometimes, those mistakes are big.” She smiled mysteriously. “Believe me, I’ve experienced both ends of that… like those crazy Diamond Dogs that once tried to kidnap me, or when I let my pride in a set of magic-made wings get the better of me and nearly fell out of the sky…” She gazed at her Rainbow Dash, who let out a slight chuckle.

“Would those Diamond Dogs by chance have been named… Fido, Spot and Rover?” the human Rarity asked.

“Why yes!” her counterpart exclaimed. “You know them?”

“Know them? I passed them on their way to detention this afternoon!” The human Rarity sighed. “Alas, those three… they always get into such trouble around school…”

Rex straightened up. “Did they, by any chance, get assigned that detention for misbehaving in the library earlier today?”

“I think so,” Rarity said. “Why?”

“Because that would explain why they felt so familiar,” Rex said. “If those boys I saw receiving detention from Vice-Principal Luna were the human counterparts of some Diamond Dogs…” he shook his head. “No wonder I got such a funny feeling around them.”

“Well, that’s another mystery solved,” Page said. “Now what?”

“I believe,” the unicorn Rarity said, “That it is time for you to go.”

“Wait!” the human Rainbow Dash suddenly spoke up. “Just one more thing.” She turned to her counterpart. “What’s that Cutie Mark thing you mentioned earlier?”

The pegasus Rainbow Dash smiled. “It’s a part of every pony’s magic,” she said. “When we discover our special talent, the thing that gives us our purpose in life, a special symbol forms on our flanks. It’s kind of a coming-of-age thing. All types of ponies get them.”

“Cooool,” the human Rainbow said. “And yours is for speed?”

“Got it the first time I broke the sound barrier and did a Sonic Rainboom,” her counterpart confirmed.

“I got mine when I was able to calm some scared animals,” the pony Fluttershy added. “And I’d never even seen a wild animal before in my life.”

“Realized I didn’t belong in the big city, came home to Sweet Apple Acres and knew it was where I belonged,” Pony Applejack chimed in. “And there it was.”

I followed my horn to this enormous rock that turned out to be full of the most beautiful gems I had ever seen,” Pony Rarity added. “When I used them on the costumes I was making for a school play… my Cutie Mark came in, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life!”

"And I got mine when I saw something that made me so happy, I wanted to spread happiness to everypony around! So I threw a big party for my family, and made them so happy... and that's how my Cutie Mark came in!" Pinkie exclaimed.

“How about you?” the human Rainbow Dash asked Night Blade. “What’s your story?”

“Well…” Night Blade started. “The truth is, times have changed. Stallions such as myself no longer refer to our signs as ‘Cutie Marks’. We call them Talent Emblems - somepony decided it sounded more dignified. Mares still use the old term though.”

“So how’d you get it?”

“I proved myself capable of matching my older brother Deep Blade in swordplay,” Night Blade replied. “Fighting, especially swordfighting, is my talent.”

Both Rainbow Dashes let out a whistle of appreciation. “We didn’t have many weapons specialists back in our time,” the pegasus said. “Equestria was mostly at peace. Except for those three big times, and those were… well, freak incidents.”

“What about you?” Rarity asked Page. “Since you are the only other one of your group with a Cutie Mark.”

Page smiled. “I was a foundling at the Great Library,” she said. “It was founded in memory of the Magi of Stars, whom we remembered as the patron saint of knowledge.”

Nearby, the pony Applejack barely stifled a snort of laughter. “Go on,” she said.

“Well, the Great Library takes in orphans and helps them find their calling in life,” Page said. “I discovered mine when I helped this silly little colt to find and get a book he was after… and my Cutie Mark came in for it. It means that helping others in the pursuit of knowledge is what I do best.”

The five mares smiled at one another. “That’s some talent,” Applejack said approvingly. “She would definitely be proud.”

Page bowed. “Thank you,” she said.

“Just telling the truth,” Applejack said. “And now, the sad truth is, y’all need to be getting back to your own side of things. We’ll see you again someday… no telling when, but it’ll happen, Ah promise.”

The ten visitors backed away. “In which case,” Page said. “It was an honor to meet all of you. I don’t think any of us will ever forget this day.”

“Us neither,” the five mares said.

“Bye! Good luck!” Pony Pinkie cheered as the ten closed their eyes. Then she dashed up to Vix-Lei and whispered something in her ear, moments before the minotaur vanished.


Opening his eyes again, Night Blade saw he was once again in Pinkie’s living room. “That was an interesting experience,” he said to himself.

“No kiddin’,” Applejack agreed as she sat up next to Wind Breaker. “Nobody’d ever believe me if I said a word of it.”

“But we gained a great deal of information,” Rex pointed out from his own spot. “I do believe, all in all, it was a successful night.”

“Yeah! And now we can have our fun times!” Pinkie explained as she popped up.

“Can’t wait,” Maud’s deadpan voice chimed in.

Next to her, Xvital looked around. “Something tells me I’m missing one humdinger of a story,” she said. “So. Care to fill us in over dinner?”

Ten stomachs suddenly rumbled, and ten faces promptly blushed.

Several minutes later, the group were again seated, and many had plates full of pizza, taking turns eating and explaining.

“So that’s it,” Vix-Lei concluded. “We still don’t know who or what we’re up against on the other side, but we know a lot more about this whole thing than we did before.” She grinned. “And I still can’t believe what the pony Pinkie told me right before we left.”

“Oh? What’s that?” Page asked curiously.

“Bulk Biceps, that guy from shop class?” She shook her head. “Turns out I was off about him being a minotaur. Pinkie told me about the other him from ancient Equestria, and how he’s a pony. And not just any pony - the biggest, muscliest pegasus to ever live!”

Night Blade stared. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope.” Vix-Lei grinned. “He’s a flier. Not the fastest, or too good at endurance, but he could lift just about anything he wanted.”

“Oh my,” Rarity held a hand over her mouth. “Well, I can certainly believe the lifting part.”

“Yeah.” Vix-Lei chomped down on another piece of pizza. “He’s still a cool guy though.”

“So I’ve seen,” Maud said. When the group turned to look at her, she gave them her usual look. “He helped Pinkie set up her last surprise party for me. It was rock-themed.”

“Why am I not surprised?” Wind Breaker asked with a chuckle.

Chapter Forty: Rex, Sunset Shimmer, Vix-Lei, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Forty

Rex

The next morning, things went about as they usually did at the Pie home, according to Maud. That is to say, Pinkie staggered out of her room in a half-awake state and did not truly awaken until after her first cup of coffee, which Maud had prepared first thing when she came down a short while earlier.

Ten seconds after downing the cup, Pinkie was her usual perky self, and Rex was rather amused at the sudden switch.

“Ah swear,” Applejack said as she nursed her own, decidedly non-caffeinated drink. “Ah don’t know how she can drink that stuff.”

“Neither can our parents,” Maud remarked. “Pinkie’s the only one in the house who drinks it.”

“I see… I am just glad you had my preferred beverage on hand,” Night Blade commented. “Do you always keep mango juice around?”

“Not usually,” Maud told him as she took up the food Page was fixing, the other woman having been up before any of them, though both Applejack and Vix-Lei had been mere minutes behind her, and Maud a few minutes after them. “But Pinkie insisted on getting some a few days ago. She said we’d need it. And when Pinkie says we need something on hand, we believe her.”

“Really,” Rex said as he accepted the plate Maud now handed him. “Does she do such things often?”

“Only when it’s important,” Maud replied, before turning back to the stove.

One by one, the other girls (and one boy) drifted into the kitchen, Vix-Lei joining them last of all - as the form-changed minotaur explained, she had gone out to get some exercise while breakfast was preparing, then grabbed a quick shower after her workout. Fortunately, Maud and Page had made enough food to feed a small army, so there was plenty left for even a hungry ex-minotaur.

After breakfast, there was the matter of getting all of them to school on time. Fortunately, between Maud’s car and both Rarity and Applejack having driven themselves to the Pie home the night before (Fluttershy had instead gotten a lift from her mother and stopped to pick up Rainbow Dash on the way), there was enough space for everyone. Soon enough, all of them were back at Canterlot High, Rex eyeing the Wondercolts statue and wondering what event could have connected it to the mirror that had brought them all to this world. He also wondered if would he ever have the chance to study the mirror and unravel its secrets.

As they entered the building, Rex felt a chill running down his spine. Spinning around, he caught a glimpse of… something, but whatever it was, it was gone.

“You okay, Rexy?” Vix-Lei asked, sounding concerned.

“I am,” Rex replied. “But I had the strangest feeling, as if we were being watched.”

Vix-Lei nodded. “Well, who or whatever it was, they’re no match for us.”

“Thank you,” Rex replied.

Still, as he headed for Professor Neigh’s class, he couldn’t help but suspect this was only the beginning.

Sunset Shimmer

Ducking behind the corner of the building, Sunset cursed to herself. That had been too close… and of all of them, she should have expected that triple-blasted Diamond Dog to pick up on her scent!

Taking a moment to compose herself, she headed for the spot where her two henches were waiting. Snips and Snails barely had two brain cells between them, in her experience, but they were good at following orders, and that’s what mattered to her.

“So, are you clear on your orders?” she half-asked, half-growled at them.

“Mm-hmm!” The two boys nodded.

“Good. Now, don’t screw this up!”

The boys nodded again, then ran off.

Watching them go, Sunset smirked. To Tartarus with waiting for the dance, she was going to get her crown now.

And when I do, she mentally growled as she headed for her own first class of the day, Before I go back to Equestria… I will make those fools tell me exactly what happened to Celestia and the others. And if her murderer is still alive… I will make. Them. Pay.

Vix-Lei

Later that day, Vix-Lei was walking down the hall when she felt something crash into her, and looked down to see two younger students, one with orange hair and one with green.

“Hey, where’s the fire, boys?” she jokingly asked them before frowning. “‘Cause seriously, there’s a ‘No running in the halls’ policy around here.”

“Sorry, Miss Vix-Lei!” the two chorused, before heading off at a somewhat slower pace.

Watching them go, Vix-Lei frowned again. Something’s not right here, she thought to herself. Aren’t those two the ones Applejack warned us about?

She was no Double D, but even she could smell a rat. Changing directions, she headed after the boys, who seemed to be in even more of a hurry once they thought they were out of her sight.

“Whoa!” another student cried out as she brushed past him. “Hey - is something up?”

Vix-Lei turned to him. “You could say that,” she said. “I think we’ve got a situation, and I could use a second set of eyes to prove it. Care to help?”

“Sure.” The boy immediately started hurrying along after her. “So, what’s up?”

“Those two,” she told him, gesturing after the boys who were rounding the corner ahead of them.

“Snips and Snails?” The boy with her frowned, then groaned. “Don’t tell me… Sunset’s up to something again.”

“That’s what I think,” Vix-Lei told him. “I take it you know of her?”

Know of her? I used to date her! Until I figured out what kind of person she really was.” The boy sighed. “After last spring, I really should have seen it… but I hung on for the summer. When we got back and I saw how she was treating those three other girls though, that was it. Seriously, who harasses a couple of freshman like that?”

“A jerk,” Vix-Lei said. Rounding the corner, she frowned. “Now where did those two get to…” she wondered as she realized the pair were nowhere to be seen.

“There!” her companion said. “That door!”

“Right.” Vix-Lei headed for it, and opened it. “Caught you red-handed!”

Inside, Sunset Shimmer froze, moments before she could take hold of the crown Snips was holding out to her. “You fools!” she seethed. “You let her follow you!”

“Sunset…” the boy with Vix-Lei stepped in behind her, his eyes widening as he saw what she was doing. “Why?”

“Flash?” Sunset stared. “What are you doing with her?”

“What a Canterlot Wondercolt should be doing,” Flash said firmly. “We watch out for one another. What I don’t get is what you’re doing. What’s so important about that crown that you had to have those two steal it for you?”

“That’s none of your business,” Sunset hissed as she tried to swipe the crown from Snips, only for him to back off, a sudden look of fright on his face. “I told you to give me that crown, Snips.”

“Um, boss-lady?” Snips pointed towards Vix-Lei, his voice almost a high-pitched squeak. “They’re not alone…”

Sunset looked up and saw that he was right. Vix-Lei and Flash had stepped into the room, but there were now three others in the doorway.

“Sunset Shimmer.” The tallest one stepped into the room. “I can’t believe you.”

“Somehow, I can,” Night Blade added as he followed her in, Wind Breaker right behind him. “We were warned about these two,” he added. “And when I saw them hiding behind the gym earlier, I had a feeling they were up to no good.”

“Which is why you sent me to get her,” Wind Breaker added, gesturing. “Though it looks like we weren’t the only ones who decided to have some backup. How’d you wind up in here, Vix-Lei?”

“Caught ‘em running in the halls and thought they were acting a little suspicious,” Vix-Lei replied.

“It’s a good thing too,” Principal Celestia replied as she stepped between Snips and Sunset. “I don’t know what you were thinking today, young lady,” she said quietly. “But it has cost you dearly. You are banned from the Fall Formal, and all other dances, for the rest of your time at this school, unless I see a serious change in your attitude! And you are officially suspended for the next month. Report to my sister’s office, now. Night Blade, if you would escort her?”

Sunset glared at her, then at the others. “You had one job to do,” she growled at Snips, still hiding behind the principal. “And you messed it up.” With that, she headed for the door, Night Blade right behind her. Before she left the room, she turned back one last time. "One way or another," she hissed. "I am going to get that crown." With that, she stalked off.

Principal Celestia sighed. “She had such promise,” she said. “I really, really thought she was smarter. And now this. Why?”

A noise behind her reminded her she was not alone, and she turned, giving Snips and Snails a stern look. “Don’t think you’re off the hook for this little matter,” she told them. “You two are suspended as well, for the same amount of time. And I will be personally informing your parents about this.” She paused. “I’d tell Sunset’s parents too, if she wasn’t living on her own,” she said. “And I’ll be taking those crowns now.”

Sheepishly, the two boys handed over the crowns, one damaged, one not. Examining them, Principal Celestia turned to Vix-Lei and Wind Breaker. “You can tell miss Xvital that I will personally return her property at the dance tomorrow evening,” she said. “As part of a formal apology to her on this school’s part. All of you are invited, of course - we could always use a few more chaperones,” she added.

“We’ll make sure she gets the message,” Vix-Lei promised.

Principal Celestia nodded. “You two are coming to my office,” she said to Snips and Snails. “And Mr. Sentry? I appreciate your helping in this matter, but I believe you should be getting to your next class now.”

Flash gave her a friendly wave. “On it, ma’am.”

“Thanks for the help!” Vix-Lei called as he left.

As Principal Celestia followed him, Snips and Snails in tow, Vix-Lei looked at Wind Breaker. “Well, that was easier than expected,” she remarked.

“Yeah,” Wind Breaker said. “Too easy. Maybe Rex is rubbing off on me - and no comments, please, I’ve heard enough crude jokes since I came here to last a lifetime - but I have a feeling this isn’t the end of it.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Vix-Lei admitted. “So now what?”

“Now I think you need to get back to class, and I need to head back to the drama room,” Wind Breaker said. “Catch you for last period lunch?”

“You know it, bow-boy.”

Night Blade

“Ooh!” Rarity squealed in delight at the boutique that afternoon. “And you want me to prepare your outfits?”

Night Blade nodded. “As… used to this outfit as I am becoming,” he said, “Somehow I think the others and I are going to need something a little different for this dance. And from what we know of your skills, I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else.”

“Then I know just the thing for you!” Rarity exclaimed as she rushed off. “Be right back!”

Vix-Lei grinned as she watched the girl go. “You know, I think we’re going to have a really good time tomorrow night,” she remarked. “I’ve only ever been to one or two of these things when Dad insisted on bringing me along, but they were all stuffy and formal. And everytaur spent the whole night talking business!” She sounded rather incredulous. “This time we’re going to get to hang out around with some people more like me, ya know? It’s gonna be real fun!”

“While I too expect that a dance aimed at a younger generation is going to be quite different from the balls I have attended before, I must agree with you,” Night Blade remarked. “We should be able to relax and enjoy ourselves for a night, and I am quite looking forward to it.”

“As long as I don’t have to serve, I’ll be happy,” Wind Breaker said as he studied something on one of the shelves. “I’ve done a few jobs like that in the past.” He muttered something under his breath, causing Night Blade to give him a look, but said nothing.

“If anyone does spike the punch,” Rex said, “They will be in serious trouble.”

Wind Breaker did a double-take. “Wait, how did you-”

“My ears may look different in this world, but my hearing is sharp as ever,” Rex replied. “How this is possible, I am not sure.”

Wind Breaker sighed. “One of these days, I am going to get over this addiction, and then none of you will be able to hold it over me anymore,” he grumbled.

“Your liver will thank you,” Xvital replied. “Me, I’m just looking forward to getting that crown back when this is all over.”

“I’m kind of looking forward to going back to Equestria too,” Page admitted. “But I’ll miss the library here. And the girls...”

“Yeah, you and Fluttershy have really bonded, haven’t you?” Vix-Lei asked. “I’ve been having a blast hanging around Pinkie. The whole no-touching thing is wearing a little thin - I mean, I can’t even give her a high-five! But other than that, this place is great.”

“I can agree with that,” Night Blade said. “No Guards breathing down our necks, no restrictive parental expectations… but I miss my wings.”

“I can’t blame ya,” Rainbow Dash said from her own corner. “I wish I had some. After what the other me pulled off in that other world? That was so freaking awesome.

Night Blade did a double-take as he suddenly realized they weren’t alone. “When did you get in here?”

“A few minutes ago,” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug. “Gotta get ready for the big dance. The others should be here soon.” A bell tinkled over the shop’s door. “And there they are now.”

Moments later, four other girls crowded into the room, one of them promptly taking a seat in one corner. “Hey,” Maud waved.

“Hey yourself,” Vix-Lei said. “What brings you here?”

“Pinkie insisted.” Maud gestured to her sister. “I have my dress already, but she told me she wanted me to come in with her anyway.”

“So you could see me in mine!” Pinkie said with a giggle.

Xvital blinked. “Wait, you’re coming to the dance too?”

“Pinkie invited me,” Maud said nonchalantly. “You’re allowed to do that sometimes. And I did go to Canterlot High before.”

“Ah,” Xvital nodded. “Well…”

Whatever she was about to say was cut off as Rarity entered with a rack full of outfits, and the group began trying them out.

“Sometimes, I really don’t understand all of this,” Wind Breaker muttered as he examined a row of suit jackets. “Of course, it probably doesn’t help that we really don’t wear clothes that much in Equestria, outside of fancy get-togethers. And given how rarely I wound up at one…” he shook his head. “Fur and feathers were usually enough for me.”

Nearby, Vix-Lei was studying another rack of items. “Speak for yourself,” she remarked. “We ‘taurs may have fur, but I happen to like the idea of being more covered up in some areas… Ooh! These look good,” she remarked as she pulled out a pair of pants.

Rarity took one look and let out a gasp. “Darling, are you sure you wouldn’t prefer something more like… this?” And she held up a large dress.

Vix-Lei shook her head. “I appreciate the offer, but fancy dresses have never really been my thing,” she said. “Skirts at most. And for a world like this, I’m going with pants as long as I can.” She looked thoughtful. “I wonder if I could carry a couple of pairs back to Equestria?”

“Even if you did, they wouldn’t suit your legs there,” Rex commented as he selected a vest. “Though I can understand your attachment to the idea. I myself never feel quite comfortable without one of these.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Vix-Lei conceded. “Really wish I knew a good place to pick up some on the other side.”

“If we have time and can find a shop where the owners won’t immediately call the Guards on us, I am sure we can get you some,” Night Blade responded as he studied the jacket Rarity had brought him, smiling with approval. “Oh, thank you for this,” he said to her. “That emblem is just perfect.”

“You are very welcome, sir,” Rarity said proudly.

“Ahah!” Vix-Lei suddenly exclaimed as she pulled something out. “Now this looks cool!” She held up a long black duster and grinned. “What do you think? Is it me?”

Rainbow Dash took one look and started laughing. “Absolutely, Mrs. Anderson!

Vix-Lei looked confused. “Uh…”

“It looks like the hero’s costume from one of her favorite action movies,” Applejack put in as she tried on a dress. “You’d probably like it if we had time to watch it.”

“Then I’m definitely keeping it!” Vix-Lei grinned. “Now I just need a shirt…”

Elsewhere, Rex had finished choosing his own outfit, with the red patterned vest he had found over a black shirt, black leather pants and boots, and Rarity was practically gushing over it. “That looks absolutely stunning on you, good sir!”

“Yes, it does, doesn’t it?” Rex asked as he admired himself in the mirror. “Refined, yet not too pretentious…”

“Nice outfit, but I kinda get the feeling you should have a coat sort of like mine to go with it,” Vix-Lei remarked.

“Thank you, but no,” Rex replied. “This suits me just fine as is.”

As Night Blade and Wind Breaker finished donning their own outfits, Night Blade wearing a black tuxedo, white shirt and red cummerbund and tie while Wind Breaker had settled on a similar but not as fancy outfit in mostly tan, they turned to see the girls had chosen some very interesting looking dresses. True to their names, Rainbow Dash had rainbow patterns on the top of her dress, while Applejack had selected one in blue with apple patterns along its bottom edge and was wearing a slightly fancier version of her usual hat.

Pinkie, on the other hoof, had a mix of pink, purple and blue on her dress, a yellow bow around the middle, and a tiny blue top hat atop her poofy hair; how it stayed on was something Night Blade still couldn’t understand. Fluttershy had a blue layer on over a lengthy yellow skirt, and Rarity’s crystalline looking dress had obviously been inspired by the outfit she had dreamed up for their visit to the other world. Either that, or she had based it on what she was already planning to wear for the dance.

Then Night Blade’s eyes turned to Page and Xvital, and his jaw dropped. While Xvital’s knee-length red dress looked rather well on her, Page was positively gorgeous. The dress Rarity had found for her was somewhat old-fashioned (at least, that’s what he would be told later), with poofy upper sleeves and tighter lower ones, and a long skirt that almost reached her ankles. The entire outfit was a mix of lighter and darker green, accentuating her natural beauty. Finally, she had chosen to wear her Element, its golden color contrasting against her dress’s green. She was the most beautiful being Night Blade had ever seen, and he was obviously not the only one who thought so, judging by Wind Breaker’s own similar reaction.

“Wow,” the other man breathed. “If she were my own species… and not already taken,” he added with a glance at Night Blade. “I’d ask her out in a heartbeat.”

Night Blade felt a twinge of annoyance, but pushed it down. “Given our current… circumstances,” he said both quietly and stiffly. “You have my permission to share a dance with her tomorrow night, if she so agrees.”

Page raised an eyebrow at this, causing Night to gulp as she stalked her way towards him. “He has your permission to dance with me?” she asked sharply.

“We may be separated, but I believe part of his reason for holding back would be because he does not wish to get on my bad side for dancing with the only mare I have ever cared for,” Night Blade said. “I am simply reassuring him that no, he will not be angering or offending me if he asks you.”

Page nodded, somewhat calmly, though she still had a fierce stare on her face. “Good.”

As she returned to the other side of the room, Wind Breaker nodded. “Thanks,” he said quietly. “Dodged an arrow there, didn’t you?”

“I meant every word, Wind Breaker,” Night Blade replied equally quietly. “If you ask and she accepts, feel free to enjoy yourself without fear of reprisal… unless you manage to offend her somehow, then there will be trouble. And if there’s anything left after Page is done with you, I call second dibs, and I expect the rest of our group will be right behind me.”

“Gotcha.” Wind Breaker nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. “I won’t do anything to offend her on purpose, I swear.”

“Then we have an accord.”

That settled, the eleven began removing their outfits and setting them aside for the following night.

Chapter Forty One: Night Blade, Xvital

View Online

Chapter Forty-One

Night Blade

A day later, Night Blade stood to one side of the gym, doing his best to avoid looking at the female students who were eyeing him with bright smiles. I will have to have words with Flash about his choice in music, he thought to himself as he fingered his Element, which Pinkie had insisted he and the others should wear for the big event. These girls seem to have taken the lyrics from one of his songs to heart. Every girl here is indeed crazy about a sharp dressed man... and unfortunately that man is me.

At least the rest of the students were out having fun on the dance floor, moving their bodies to the music supplied by Flash's band, Flash Drive. Flash himself had taken a break from performing to join Vix-Lei and Bulk Biceps on the dance floor - and how the transformed minotaur managed to evenly dance with both of them at the same time he still didn't know. He also wasn't sure why Bulk had chosen to wear a pink suit of all things, but Vix-Lei seemed to like it.

The five human Bearers were having a good time as well, from what he could see. Pinkie and Maud were doing a surprisingly good tango across the dance floor, the latter wearing a floor-length blue gown covered in lighter blue spots that Rarity had immediately swooned over when she had first seen it earlier that evening, calling it "absolutely gorgeous". Applejack was doing some kind of bouncy dance as her brother seemed to be walking in place in front of her, Rainbow Dash seemed to be just standing in one place and shaking her body as a small crowd of boys cheered, and Rarity had found a dance partner of her own, some boy that Night Blade didn't recognize. Fluttershy was mostly staying off to one side, but she seemed to be having a rather lively conversation with a green-haired boy in a brown suit and a pin with an unfamiliar green triangular symbol. Sandalwood, Night Blade thought his name was.

Xvital, in the meantime, had also settled off to one side of the room, sipping a glass of punch and keeping an eye on a couple of students who seemed to be heading for the exit with some... illicit intentions in mind, until they realized they'd caught her eye and headed back towards the dance floor.

Night Blade's eyes drifted to Page, who was out dancing with Rex, the two appearing to be rather enjoying themselves. A minute later, as the song changed, Rex gracefully let Wind Breaker cut in, dancing away with the other man's previous partner - a girl with straight green hair, a red and black dress and a musical note of some kind on her necklace - as Wind Breaker and Page happily began dancing together.

Suddenly, he felt himself pulled onto the floor as a familiar blonde giggled. "Dance with me!" she exclaimed.

"I- I shouldn't," he tried to say. But Derpy ignored his protests, and soon the two were sweeping around the dance floor. Sighing, Night Blade tried to relax, until suddenly he felt too many fingers grasping one hand, and looked down to see he was now in front of a startled Page. Looking over, he saw Wind Breaker and Derpy dance away, the blonde girl winking at them before she and Wind Breaker disappeared into the crowd.

"Well," he managed. "This was unexpected."

"Yes," Page agreed, looking in the direction the other two had gone off in. "We have so been set up."

"Quite." Night Blade tried to hide his pained expression. "What I would like to know is when they set it up."

"With this crowd, who knows?" Page sighed. "Though... since they went to all this trouble, we should probably dance."

"Certainly." As the nox pony-turned-human and Page began twirling around the dance floor, she looked somewhat distant, and finally sighed. "Night..."

"Don't." Night Blade looked at her. "Let's just... not think about that, please? It was the worst mistake of my life, and if I knew then what I knew now, I never would have done it."

"All right." Page still looked troubled. "You know, he said the longer I kept quiet, the more the fallout would be."

"He who?"

"Balance, when I first got my Element." She sighed. "I should have listened to him..."

"And I should have kept better hold of my temper that day," Night Blade replied. "But we can't change the past. We can only work towards the future."

"You're right." A faint smile appeared on her face. "And once this whole... situation... is over, both here and in Equestria... well, maybe we can start over."

"I think I'd like that," Night Blade agreed.

Suddenly, something tapped him on the back and he looked to see a shorter girl with wide eyes and long pink hair in a shade almost identical to Pinkie's, but in a style rather different from either hers or Fluttershy's. She wore fuzzy pink boots, a white shirt with a pink heart on it, and a blue skirt. Once she had caught their attention, she held up her hands, and smiled shyly.

Page smiled back. "Have fun, you two."

"Puchuu!" the girl squeaked, shaking her head. She pointed to Page.

"You want both of us?" Page asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Mmm!"

"Okay." Page smiled, and took one of the girl's hands, while Night Blade took her other. This made the girl's smile grow even wider, and very soon all three of them were quite happily twirling around the dance floor.

After several minutes of this, the girl finally let go, and gave them another big smile before wandering into the crowd.

"Is it just me, or did she seem to be a little young for this school?" Page asked as she took Night Blade's free hand again.

"It's not just you," Night Blade said. "But she seemed nice enough."

"Yes," Page smiled. "She did."

Xvital

Meanwhile, in her side of the room, Xvital took another sip of her punch and smiled. At least Night and Page are doing better, she thought to herself. Wonder who the kid was though.

Her musings were interrupted as the music faded out, and she started looking towards the front of the room to see the start of what she'd been expecting, as Principal Celestia, still wearing her normal business outfit, stepped onto the stage.

"Attention! Attention, everyone!" the older woman called, as the students looked up toward her. "First of all, I would like to thank this year's Fall Formal Planning Committee for all their hard work."

Xvital silently raised her glass. She could agree on that - the gym looked great.

"Second," Principal Celestia continued, "It is my sad duty to report that there will be no Fall Formal Princess this year."

Whispers of "Huh?" and "What?" filled the room, and Principal Celestia waited for them to settle back down before she continued speaking. "The reason for that is because there was only one candidate for it this year, who was... disqualified yesterday due to a serious breach in school rules. Nobody else has stepped forward to run in her place. However!" She raised a hand. "That does not mean we are not handing out the crown."

Whispers again filled the room for a moment, and again Principal Celestia spoke. "Would our new assistant teachers please approach the podium?"

Xvital stepped up, the others right behind her. "Here, ma'am."

"Thank you, Miss Xvital." Principal Celestia looked to the students. "We have discovered that our only candidate for Fall Formal Princess, Sunset Shimmer, had in fact stolen a near-replica of our Fall Formal crown from Miss Xvital as she and her companions were passing by the school two days ago. On behalf of everyone at CHS, I would like to apologize for her behavior, and to return what is rightfully yours."

Doing her best to act poised as she walked on stage, Xvital smiled as she accepted the crown. "Thank you, Principal Celestia," she said. "And everyone, for all you've done to make us feel welcome these last few days."

Just then, there was a loud commotion outside, and a student dashed in. "Principal Celestia! It's Sunset Shimmer! She's outside, and... well, come see for yourself!"

Xvital and the others exchanged glances. "We'd better go," she said. "Sunset's got to be doing this to get my crown again."

"Then it is up to us to foil whatever she's up to," Rex said.

Grinning, Vix-Lei pumped one arm excitedly. “So come on! Let’s go give Sunset Shimmer the foiling of her life!”

”… Make a note: 'foiling' doesn't sound very intimidating,” Night Blade said dryly.

Still grinning, Vix-Lei made a face at him, causing the others to laugh. Then they rushed outside, with several students, Principal Celestia and Vice-Principal Luna right after them.

Outside, Sunset was waiting, carrying a large sledgehammer. Snips and Snails, looking somewhat nervous, were right behind her. "I see you've come with my crown," she said. "Good. I won't have to smash this then." She gestured to the Wondercolts statue. "This is your only way home, you know. I could so easily cut it off in an instant... but I'd rather not. So give me the crown, now."

"Sunset, why are you doing this‽" a voice suddenly cried out. Flash Sentry, who had been part of the crowd, stepped forward. "This isn't you."

"Isn't it?" Sunset glared. "You never really understood me, did you? I came here because my teacher decided I wasn't worthy. I came here to prove her wrong. And now those six are trying to deny me my destiny!"

Flash looked back to them in confusion. "Miss Vix-Lei, what is she talking about?"

"It's simple," Xvital said before Vix-Lei could open her mouth. "Sunset Shimmer is originally from an alternate dimension. So are we. And we came here to get back the artifact she stole from me."

"That crown is rightfully mine," Sunset snapped. "If anyone's the thief, it's you."

"Not this time," Xvital shot back. "I was chosen. We all were. Not you."

"Oh, really?" Sunset's face turned ugly. "Well who or whatever chose you chose wrong. And I'm going to prove it! Get them!"

With what they obviously thought were threatening battle cries, Snips and Snails charged, and Vix-Lei, with a whirl of her coat, dodged them. “What I wouldn’t give to have Lady Kabonk right now!” she complained.

“Hold it right there you two!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed as she ran between the pair and Xvital, their obvious target, only to be knocked on her back when they held out their arms and slammed into her. “Hey!” she yelled as she fell to the ground.

“Go long!” Xvital called as she tossed the crown towards Principal Celestia, only for Snails to leap and intercept it. Tossing it back to Snips, he let out a cry of dismay as Applejack caught it with her lasso (and how she’d managed to keep that hidden in her dress, Xvital didn’t know), sending it flying back towards the school and towards the Principals. Unfortunately, it didn’t reach them; instead, there was a loud smack of metal against flesh as the crown’s trajectory took it somewhere else.

Right into Sunset Shimmer’s face.

Seizing hold of the crown, Sunset glared. “That hurt,” she snapped. “But it doesn’t matter. At last, the Element of Magic is mine!” And with that, she lowered it onto her head.

Instantly, there was a flash of light…

And then a cyan column of pure magic began lifting Sunset into the air. Inside, enveloped in black flames, they could see a metamorphosis happening, and when the flames and light cleared, there was a horrific sight before them.

Sunset Shimmer was now taller, her amber skin turned to red, her hands turned into claws and a pair of red and black bat-like wings on her back. Her hair had become literal fire, and had extended down her back in a form somewhat resembling a pony’s tail. Instead of her normal clothes, she now wore a flaming skirt and black top. She gasped in delight as she saw her new form, revealing glittering fangs.

“Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah!” the now transformed girl cackled. Then she turned and blasted Snips and Snails, instantly transforming them into blue and orange creatures similar to herself.

You two will do for starters,” she said. “Now I just need to build up the rest of my army… beginning with them!” She gestured to the two stunned women at the door.

“Sunset Shimmer, I don’t know why you’re doing this, but it has to stop, now!” Principal Celestia called to the girl.

Sunset snorted. “Oh please, like you’re one to talk. It’s what your counterpart did that caused this in the first place!”

Luna and Celestia exchanged glances. “I don’t understand,” the elder sister said. “What counterpart? What are you talking about?”

“It’s simple,” Sunset replied, a nasty smirk on her face. “Each and every one of you here has a version of you in that other world I came from. Your counterpart was its ruler! And I was her prized student! But then she forced me out… just like she did her own sister. Oh, sure there was the little matter of dear Luna falling under some terrible curse that made her into a monster… but when I got too close to becoming an alicorn like them, she decided I wasn’t worthy! She, who already had three Elements and dared take the powers of the rest from her only family and use them to imprison her!” She curled her lip. “But they got the last laugh… the Elements themselves decided she wasn’t worthy after she turned them against the only other pony who could use their power, and went away for a millennium. Then they found new Bearers… and if not for her ego, I would have been one of those Bearers!”

Principal Celestia’s mouth was open in shock. “That’s…” she turned to look at Luna. “How could I… could she have done such a thing to you?”

“It wasn’t you, sister,” Luna said firmly as she rested her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “Or me. It was a different person from either of us.” She gazed up at Sunset Shimmer. “And I suspect our wayward student is letting her own ego distort the facts.”

“Oh really? And I suppose you know better?” Sunset gave her an ugly look. “I grew up in Equestria; I know the legends better than anyone here! And now, thanks to these six, I know that your other, and hers as well, are both dead!

Luna stared at her in horror, but Sunset ignored her. “And now,” she snapped. “It’s time for me to go home… to take what should have been mine all along!”

“Not if we can help it,” Rainbow Dash suddenly said as she stepped in front of the two women.

“You fool,” Sunset snarled. "You are not going to stop me. Not this time! I am going back to Equestria... I am going to show them why I am the rightful heir to Celestia’s throne! And I am going to find the one who killed my teacher and rip their stinking heart out with my bare hooves!"

Page stepped forward. "No, you won't," she said quietly. "Because Chrysalis is already dead. She has been for close to a thousand years. After..." she closed her eyes for a moment. "After King Blueblood the Great took her head and avenged everypony who died because of her."

"Blueblood? That ridiculous fool?" Sunset snarled again. "He couldn't even swat a fly, let alone avenge the greatest pony who ever lived!"

"He did," Page said. "Equestria may have lost its innocence at the end of that war... but we gained a great leader."

“Bah!” Sunset spat. “He was worthless, and we all know it.”

“Hey, Ah may not know much about who or what yer talkin’ about, but I’m not about to let you insult a hero like that,” Applejack interrupted, stepping up beside Rainbow Dash.

“And neither will I!” Rarity added as she joined them.

“Me neither!” Pinkie Pie called.

“Or… m-m-me,” Fluttershy said nervously as she and Pinkie both ran up to the others.

“Fools,” Sunset snarled. “If that’s what you feel… then burn!” Conjuring up a massive ball of flame, she threw it at the five girls.

Instantly, there was a flash of light, as the five were enveloped in a glittering magenta energy.

Looks of confusion were evident all around, but none were more surprised than Sunset Shimmer herself. "What... what's happening‽ she cried.

"Of course!" Xvital's eyes lit up. "You said it yourself, these things don't like it when someone tries to use them against one of their wielders! And you just tried to turn one against the local Bearers of the other five. I'm guessing they really don't like that... so they're all turning their powers back against you!" She grinned. "The powers of... Honesty!"

The crossbow-shaped gem on Wind Breaker's Element lit up, pouring energy over Applejack as she began to grow pony ears, her hair extending down until it matched the shape of her pony self's tail.

"Kindness!"

Page's book-shaped gem glowed as Fluttershy's own pony ears formed, and her hair mimicked her pony self's tail, but a set of wings also appeared on her back.

"Laughter!"

The hammer-shaped gem around Vix-Lei's necklace did its thing, and Pinkie's ears grew as her already poofy hair extended into an equally poofy tail.

"Generosity!"

Rex's potion bottle gem gave its energy to Rarity as her ears and mane-tail formed; she also developed a tiny nub of a horn on her forehead.

"Loyalty!"

The red sword-shaped gem on Night Blade's element shot Rainbow Dash, giving her the same wings and pony ears as Fluttershy, albeit in her own colors, and her messy rainbow mane extended into an equally messy rainbow-colored tail.

"And now, they're going to show you what a mistake you've made here tonight," Xvital concluded. "Girls? Sic 'er."

Five girls nodded, and as they began to levitate into the sky, energies surrounding them, a bolt of multi-colored light struck Sunset Shimmer, racing around her at speeds faster than anyone could make out. Two smaller bolts shot out and struck Snips and Snails, and in an instant, the two boys were on the ground, back to normal.

As a loud piercing scream emitted from the rainbow, it faded… leaving only a massive crater…

And Sunset Shimmer, her form back to normal save for the bruises on her face, the disheveled hair and the tears streaming from her eyes. “What… what have I done‽” she whimpered.

Xvital stepped forward. “You tried to play with forces you couldn’t understand,” she said. “And they turned on you.”

“I… I am so sorry,” Sunset cried.

“We’re not the ones you have to apologize to,” Page said firmly but kindly. “They are.” She gestured to the other staff and students, including five still transformed girls.

Looking up at the others, Sunset’s eyes widened. “Can… can you ever forgive me?”

Applejack was the first to step forward. “Aww shoot,” she said. “‘Course we can! Long as you promise to never act like that again!”

“I promise, I promise!”

“Then we can forgive you.” Applejack held out a hand, pulling Sunset out of her crater.

Nearby, Principal Celestia coughed. “But you’re still suspended,” she said. “Given what you’ve told us, I think we can understand the… extenuating circumstances. But rules are rules.”

Sunset nodded. “I know.”

Behind them, Xvital turned to the others. “I think it’s about time for us to go,” she said quietly.

“WAIT!” a familiar voice called, as Bulk Biceps ran up, looking at Vix-Lei. “Can we have… one more dance?” he asked.

“I think we can arrange that,” Vix-Lei said, eyeing him with a friendly smirk. “Whadda ya say, guys?”

Xvital held one hand against the back of her head, but smiled. “Sure.”

Chapter Forty Two: Page Turner, Xvital, ???

View Online

Chapter Forty-Two

Page Turner

An hour later, a small army of students and staff were standing just outside the Wondercolts statue. Sunset Shimmer was not among them; she had been taken to the nurse’s office to lay down, and Flash had eschewed attending the rest of the dance in favor of sitting with her.

“So you promise you’ll watch after her?” Page asked Fluttershy and the other girls.

Fluttershy nodded. “We will.”

Nearby, Vix-Lei, who (along with the rest of the group) had changed back into her normal clothing, was clapping Bulk Biceps on the back. “Gonna miss you, big guy.”

“YEAH! I-I mean, I’ll miss you too.” The husky boy laughed sheepishly.

“Don’t worry! Maud an’ me will help make sure he never forgets you!” Pinkie exclaimed. Maud, who was standing next to her, nodded silently.

“Rarity, it has been an honor to meet you,” Rex said nearby. “And your little sister too.” He pulled the smaller girl, who was standing by them, into a hug that she happily accepted.

“Ah’ll miss ya too, ya big kitty-cat,” Applejack said teasingly to Wind Breaker, who let out something that sounded like a combination of a snort and a cough at her words. “Don’t forget, you’ll always be welcome at our farm.”

“I’ll remember,” he told her. “And if we can ever come back here… well, I’ll make sure to drop by.”

Applejack beamed at that.

In a different part of the courtyard, Night Blade was saying his goodbyes to Rainbow Dash and Derpy. “It has been an honor to get to know you both,” he said.

“And it was nice to meet you too!” Derpy said with a smile.

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash put in. “Just wish I could keep these wings...”

“Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem for you,” Night Blade replied. “As fast as you run, you already fly.”

“Heh!” Rainbow Dash smiled. “Sure do.”

“Then I guess this is goodbye,” Xvital said, letting out a sad half-sigh. “Annoying as it was having to deal with several hormone-driven teenagers who were ogling me all the time… this place has really grown on me.”

“It does that,” Principal Celestia said. “And now, I believe this is yours.” She handed Xvital the box containing her crown, which the older woman had picked up in the aftermath of the battle with Sunset Shimmer. Opening it to see the crown, its gem still broken but somehow… less so than before, Xvital smiled.

“Thank you,” she said. “For everything.”

Reluctantly, the six stepped away from the people they had grown attached to, and after one final look around they stepped, one by one, into the portal. Page was the last to go, but before she left, she turned to Principal Celestia. “By the way,” she added. “If you ever run into a man named Shining Armor… tell him that Page Turner says hello, and wishes he and Mi Amore Cadenza all the best.”

Then she was gone, and with them the ears, wings and tails, to the dismay of the five.

Standing further back, Principal Celestia looked to her sister. “Do you know who she’s talking about?”

“I’m pretty sure I do,” Luna said thoughtfully. “But how did she know about Dean Cadance and her boyfriend?”

Celestia just shrugged.

Xvital

Taking a step forwards, Xvital let out a yelp as her footing suddenly gave way and the box holding her crown almost slipped from her hands. With a snarl, she dove after it with her ears flicking as she heard the rest of her the crew come in after her.

“Whoa boy, we’re back and I’ve got my hammer back!” Vix-Lei shouted from behind her and slapped her hard on the back just as Xvital started to get up, sending her sprawling to the wooden floor.

“And we are all back to normal,” Rex said as he walked up past her. “I do believe you should move, Xvital.”

“Nah, you don’t sa-GAH!” her snarking was cut off as someone fuzzy slammed into her back with a high pitched squeak that either belonged to Wind or Night.

“Whoa there, Windy,” Vix-Lei said from her other side. “Get a room before you two start at the very least, unless you are into that kind of thing.”

“Oh har har,” Wind sniped from her back, pushing onto her back with his talons. “Very funny, I forgot to lau-whoa watch it Night!” the griffon shouted as the bat pony pushed him back into her with Night’s own high pitched squeaks coming out now.

“Something very soft and fluffy,” Night said from above her. “Must be Wind Breaker.”

“Yeah, very cute but can you all get off of me now!” Xvital shouted as she struggled to get out from under them.

“Oh my, am I interrupting something here?” Page asked cooly and Xvital could hear her snickering at her.

With a snarl, Xvital used her tailhand to shove them off her, then rolled onto her back and grabbed a wooden object to hoist herself upwards. Looking around, Xvital could see beyond the fact they were on a moving room that they were in a cluttered room with just enough space for them to move around in. “Okay, why are we on a ship all of a sudden?”

“That is a good question,” Rex said, tilting his head before looking at the door. “Shall we go investigate?”

Nodding her head and tucking the box holding her crown under her arm, Xvital walked unsteadily towards the door and opened it find herself blasted by wind, to her great shock. Looking around with an arm to create a windshield in front of her face, Xvital let the others step around her, she saw that they were on a fast moving airship and-

“Thank the Goddesses you are back,” a female voice called out from behind and above her, with Xvital turning around to see an unicorn mare at the controls glaring down at them. “Have you retrieved your Element, ahuizotless?”

“Uh, who are yo-”

“It does not matter who I am,” the mare snapped, holding the wheel tightly with her hooves. “It just matters if that the Order I gave my life to’s sacrifice was worth it.”

“What sacrifice?” Page asked only for the mare to spit at her.

“Like you care, changeling,” the mare said hotly, ignoring the angry face that Night was giving her. “The Order knew of the mare on the other side and her purpose, and that your foe was gathering its strength to attack you. We could not allow that to pass so we decided that the best way to distract the foe was to present it with one that it could not ignore.”

“What are you talking about?” Wind Breaker asked, frowning as he moved to climb the staircase.

“Your foe took over the Equestrian government to stop you and the Order forced its hoof by starting the Crystal Dominance Rebellion.”

“Crystal Dominance Rebellion?” Rex asked slowly before he turned his head to see smoke in the distance. Considering how fast they were going and that they were nearly out of the frozen landscape, it had to mean the fire was massive. “What have you people done?”

“As I said, Diamond Dog,” the mare said just as acidly as before. “We forced the military arm of the government to focus on the fifth’s tribe cry for freedom and their independence as a separate nation once more. We facilitated this by having the entire Order attack the Royal Guard to halt their attempts to bring peace and order at the cost of having the Order torn apart by the Captain General and her Guards.”

“Did you kill any nox ponies?”

Your clan still lives, Blade,” the mare kept her attention on guiding her airship, adjusting the wheel ever so slightly. “The Captain General does not trust Crooked Blade or Striking Blade as you are the enemy to them and those two could be compromised due to having sympathies for somepony like you.”

“Hey, you don’t need to be a bitch about all this,” Vix-Lei said hotly, waking up the steps while swinging Señor Hardhead around in small circles. “And don’t think you can scare me so easily-my family knows I’m nuts.”

“Your false bravado is annoying, minotaur,” the mare said shortly before turning her head back towards Xvital. “Did you get your Element, yes or no?”

“I got it right here,” Xvital snapped, holding out the box that held her crown.

“Good; now put it on, talk to the Magi of Stars and learn how we can defeat our foe,” the mare snapped.

With a snort, Xvital opened the box and took out the still broken looking Element of Magic. Without so much a second thought, she closed her eyes as she put the crown on her head.


Xvital opened her eyes and found herself in a library, in all things, with books of all sizes on rows of bookshelves.

This is it, Xvital thought to herself as she looked around, my turn.

The Magi of Stars hadn’t shown up yet but according to the rest of the crew, the Elements had all taken their time to show up.

Although… something felt off. She couldn’t place her finger on it, something very important. Whatever it was caused her fur to arch upwards, her tail swishing uneasily as she slowly looked around for whatever was setting her of-

The books were wrong.

The Magi of Stars was reported to have been the wisest mare of her time and kept her records in perfect order.

If that were the case, then why were all the books seemingly out of order, the sizes not matching its neighbour?

Without knowing why, she reached out for one book and pulled it out.

Trying to steel herself, she opened the book.

The white winged unicorn was glaring at her Why wouldn’t she She had failed horrifically Terrible Terrible TERRIBLE TERRIBLETERRIBLE

With a yelp, Xvital dropped the book with her hand burning as if the book was made of fire.

With a shudder she saw that the book hadn’t reached the floor but instead vanished, back in the shelf.

Something was really wrong he-

Snapping her head off to the side, she saw that a door opened up on its own. With little to nothing better to do, she slowly walked over to the doorway.

Looking down the doorway, she saw it led to the basement and it was pitch black. The darkest black she had ever seen, pure darkness with no light ever reaching it, beyond darkness itself. She had never been scared of the dark when she was little, but she was doing all she could not to shake looking down those steps.

She knew, without doubt, if she went down there, she would never come back up again, that she would be worse than dead, that-

The blackness moved and Xvital let out a cry of fear, bolting up the staircase from childhood instincts telling her that a monster was behind her.

She ran up the stairs as fast as she could with thud thud thud thud thud thud behind her, slow and methodical in the chase, knowing it had all the time in the world.

Xvital dared not look backwards because she knew that it would be all the monster needed to get her. But something was wrong, it was getting harder and harder, the steps getting bigger and bigger-

No, she was getting smaller and smaller, younger and younger.

She heard the monster cackle behind her, the thud thud thud getting louder and deeper. She let out a squeak of terror, the stairs never ending, she would be here until she tripped and the monster would have her and then-

With a cry of surprise, she fell over onto the landing and saw an open doorway.

Safety.

Scrambling on her small hands and feet, she barreled into the room, pushing the door shut behind her.

Just before she did so, she could see the top of the monster, the strands of its fur causing her to flinch in soul terror.

With her heart screaming in her chest, she turned to look in the room she had fled into.

It was a mishmash; half a child’s bedroom and half… she didn’t even know what to call it. MIxed with toys, wooden blocks and a simple bed were tainted photographs over every inch of the walls. Tainted in the way that the pictures of the ponies were totally warped and distorted to the point she couldn’t even tell a thing about the pony, and they were painful to look at, her head starting to pound as she gazed at a group shot of six ponies yet had all six ponies features burned and blurred to an unrecognizable horror.

“Hi there,” she jumped in surprise as a donkey filly waved to her from a small building made from books. “It’s been a long time since I have seen another pony here.” The filly then winced in pain, holding a hoof to her head, whimpering in pain that no creature had any right to be in, especially not one as young as this kid. And like a switch, she was back to smiling at her as if nothing had happened. “I’m Smarty Pants and what’s your name?”

“Xvital,” she responded without thinking. “What are you doing here alone?”

“I.I..I,” she whimpered in the same agonizing pain as before, smacking her head hard as she tried to answer Xvital.

The ahuizotless wanted to comfort her, wanted to protect her but she had to figure out what was going on, where the Magi of Stars w-

“You have to hide!” Smarty Pants cried, eyes wide in fright. Before Xvital could respond, she felt her entire body go numb, unable to move a single part of herself, unable to blink or anything.

Not even breathe.

She was thrown, thrown to the other toys and stuffed creatures with Smarty Pants cowering in fear.

The door exploded a second later as the monster filled the room. The bed ripped itself apart from the inside out, the toys rotted and let out something foul smelling, and books burned themselves in an instant in a hideous burst of fire.

Smarty Pants was left the center of a horrid mess, with Xvital just out of sight of the monster but able to see everything.

“Hello worm,” the monster sneered, smashing the back of its limb into Smarty Pant’s face, sending the filly into the wall with an ugly crack of bone, both from the smack and the crash into the wall. “How are we today?”

Sobbing in pain and terror, the donkey lifted its bloody head upright, the jaw covered in blood, teeth falling to the ground, and bones sticking out of purple fur.

Wait, purple fur?

Suddenly, the monster snapped its head towards Xvital and growled in fury before chortling with glee.

“Oh what luck I have to have you here, all helpless and prime to be destroyed,” it spat acid onto the floor, stalking closer to Xvital.

NOOOOOOOOOO!” Balance shouted, breaking everything before Xvital’s eyes.

She closed them for an instant and got a brief look into the locked mind of Smarty Pants. What she saw stole her breath away, it had changed everything they thought they knew, this would upend their plans completely.

She said the two words of what she had learned peaking into that mind, over and over again as to keep herself from forgetting this revelation that would dwarf everything they had gone through, even seeing the alternative world.

“She’s alive.”

???

It stumbled as Balance threw it from the prisoner’s mind, seeking to reestablish its control over its host.

A smile broke across its face and laughter spilled out of its mouth. “Oh Balance, that will cost you dearly. Now tell me where they are.”

Balance was furious but it was forced to comply, the Rules and Powers that governed its current state binding it to give aid after it had sided with the last Element so bluntly.

Grinning beyond the host as not to arouse suspicions with those watching its host, it directed the host’s body to inform the others in this government to know the new scale.

The prince-king would be forced to comply; it didn’t care about the war that was to come if the prince-king choose to allow the armies of these ponies into his precious lands or not to find those-

No, it had a far better plan. It would continue the plan to have the prince-king visit the ponies’ land and then force the matter, with the prince-king having no idea or way to prepare himself for the war that was to come for harbouring those accursed Elements in his lands, knowingly or unknowingly. It would force the issue with the threat of war, and it would make this land’s king and captains destroy the world over if it would bring the Elements to heel even if they were no true threat with the prisoner being contained under enough spells that Tartarus himself would have deemed fit only for those of the greatest of crimes, the crimes that tainted the soul beyond measurement, a shade before those in the First Pit.

Yet, it had not attained and maintained its mantle, Role and Purpose throughout these years by leaving matters unattended. As soon as it had one of these blasted Elements under its control, then it would be able to rest.

Victory was so close and soon this would be all over.

Chapter Forty Three: Xvital, Rex, Tizoc

View Online

Chapter Forty-Three

Xvital

"Esta viva, Esta viva, Esta viva,” Xvital muttered to herself, rocking back and forth in complete darkness, struggling to get to her feet. There were hurried voices around her but Xvital couldn’t open her eyes or see what was happening. She felt hands on her shoulders, holding her down and she wouldn’t be captured like that!

“Xvital, calmate,” a familiar voice barked at her, a voice she knew. “Soy yo, Rex.”

Rex!” she shouted, snapping her eyes open at last and saw the diamond dog off to the side, looking down at her. She lunged up and pulled him close to her chest. “Oh gracias a los dioses Rex,” she cried into his shoulder, her heart racing. “Rex, ella está viva!

“Si, lo se,” he told her soothingly, rubbing her back. “Y tu al fin despertaste.”

She cried into his shoulder for a bit longer before she managed to collect herself, looked up at him and said, “Gracias, Rex.” She then tilted her head, blinking in confusion. “Despierta? De que hablas?”

“Has dormido por dos semanas, Xvital,” Rex said, causing her to bolt upwards.

“Dos semanas‽” she shouted, causing more voices to suddenly make themselves known.

“Xvital‽” two female voices cried with Page poking her changeling head into her room and Vix-Lei pushing the mare aside to pull her into a hug.

“Thank the gods you’re okay!” the minotaur shouted as she did her best to squeeze her in half.

“Aire! Necesito aire!” Xvital squeaked with Vix-Lei blinking in confusion at her.

“Vix-Lei, please don’t make Xvital unconscious again,” Rex said as he tried his best to push them apart.

“Oh shit, sorry,” Vix-Lei said as she let her go and Xvital started gasping for air.

“Esta bien, esta bien,” Xvital said, rubbing her side. Yo-

“Hey, you’re up,” Wind Breaker said, poking his head into the room with Night shoving to get inside too.

“How are you-”

“Necesito aire! Muy apretado!” Xvital cried again, feeling claustrophobic all of a sudden as she shoved her way towards the door. Thankfully, they got out of her way, with Night and Wind Breaker pulling their heads out. With heavy panting, Xvital found herself almost stumbling immediately as she left the room only to be caught by Night Blade, using himself as a brace.

“Careful, Xvital,” he cautioned as she gripped his side to push herself upright. “The first step is a bit of a doozy if you are not looking out for it.”

“G-Gracias, Night,” she stammered as she patted his side and looked behind her to see a medium size wagon with everyone else exiting it. Turning her head to the side, she saw some familiar beech trees and everything smelt like home “Que-”

“Xvital,” Rex said as he walked up to her. “You are speaking Burroñeso and the others cannot understand you.”

“Perd-” Xvital shook her head. “Sorry; it’s just that…” Xvital let out a shudder, leaning against a tree before letting gravity drop her to her butt. “What happened?

“You tell us,” Page said as she moved to her side and nuzzled her. “You put on your Element, you cried out in pain and we couldn’t wake you up at all. Dazzling Prism took us near the border, and gave Night his choice of a new sword from the armory before leaving us to bring the relics from the Order to a safe place. We’ve been taking care of you since, moving away from Equestria and…” Page trailed off before gazing at her with a steady look. “What happened? Rex told us he felt some odd magic when you put your element on but that’s all we know.” Xvital blinked as she saw the rest of them sit down in a circle, and Vix-Lei dragging the wagon over to the side before joining them.

“I-” Xvital tried to begin but what she saw caused her to wince. She waved them back and forced herself to tell them what happened. “When I put it on…” she blinked, looking at Rex for where her Element was but he apparently knew what she was thinking and told her it was safe in the wagon. Muttering thanks to him, Xvital began again. “When I put it on, I was in this library place… only it was wrong. The books, they didn’t match you see and when I opened one up, I saw this white winged unicorn - it must have been Celestia - glaring down at me and I felt a wave of terror, shame and guilt and other crap,” Xvital said as she rocked a bit. “Then this door opened up to the basement and whatever was down there would have killed me. And then some sort of monster chased me up the stairs and I turned into a kid and then I saw her in this mad room. It was like a mixture of a kid’s bedroom with something out of a horror novel.” Xvital paused to gather some air before continuing. “Guys; the Magi of Stars? Something’s very wrong with her; she’s not the unicorn we all know but some donkey girl called Smarty Pants and she seems to be really messed up in the head. And that monster I told you about smashed into the room and began to smack around the girl around before it spotted me,” Xvital froze as she recalled what it said. “It knew who I was and I’m sure that it is our foe. Balance saved my tail there but guys? She’s still alive!”

That caused everyone to gasp with Page going stock still.

“Come on,” Vix-Lei scoffed, shaking her head. “That’s impossi-

“Are you sure,” Page shouted at her, causing Xvital to jump. “Are you fucking sure about this‽” She began to pant angrily, walking back and forth in tight circles.

“I-” Xvital stammered, shocked by the ferocity that Page was suddenly forcing onto her.

Yes or no, Xvital!” she yelled into her face. “Do you know what it means if she is actually still alive‽ It means that this motherfucker captured her on the day of Cadanza’s wedding and that it used my hive as scapegoats! That every fucking thing that has happened to my goddessesdamn hive was because of it and we were innocent the entire TIME!” Page let out a shout of anger before turning her head at a tree and blasting it with her magic.

There was only the sound of Page’s heavy panting as her chest rose and fell, glaring angrily at the ground. No one seemed to be willing to speak, with Vix-Lei shooting nervous looks around the circle.

“If this is true,” Rex said quietly. “It means that whatever creature we are up against is far older and more dangerous than we previously suspected.” He sat back. “It is also clear what our next goal is. I believe I could make a modified charm to locate the both the Magi of Stars and our foe with the proper ingredients. We must then return to Equestria and find where the Magi of Stars is being held… and rescue her. ”

“On our own?” Vix-Lei shook her head. “I hate to disagree here guys, but… if we’re going up against something like that, I think we’re going to need some backup. What’s left of the Order might be working to distract the Guards with their rebellion in the Crystal Dominance, but there are still plenty of Guards in Canterlot beyond you know, that thing that has not only the Captain General under its control and the Magi of Stars. We’re going to need practically another whole army to handle them while we search for our little donkey-corn.” She turned thoughtful for a moment. “Wish we’d brought Sunset back with us - she probably would have been a big help.”

“She’s where she needs to be,” Wind Breaker replied. “Though if there were a way to keep in touch with her from this side, I think it would have come in very useful now.” He sighed. “And speaking of where, I think we need to tell Xvital just where we’ve ended up besides away from Equestria.”

“You’re right,” Night said, bowing his head but refusing to look at her directly.

Xvital looked suspiciously at him, then glanced around at the others, all of whom had somewhat guilty looks on their faces. “Okay, what’s going on?”

“The truth is, none of us know much about ahuizotl biology,” Wind Breaker said, with Rex looking guiltier at this. “And when you suddenly went comatose like you did… well, we decided we should go find somepony who would know. And the best place we could think of to find that kind of help is down here.”

Xvital had a sneaking suspicion she knew what he meant, but chose to ask it anyway. “Guys. Where. Are. We?

“We’re… in the Cuanmiztl Kingdom, Paraíso Valley,” Wind Breaker admitted. “Heading for the capital city to find a doctor.”

Her heart began to hammer inside her chest and she began to shake. “No no no, mierda, yo no puedo estar aquí,” she stammered.

“Xvital, your criminal past aside, it was a risk we had to take,” Rex said. “And you are speaking Burroñeso again.”

“Me importa una puta mierda,” she snapped as she got to her feet. “No puedo estar aqui y-” she froze as she thought she heard something. “Escucharon eso?” she asked them and while only Rex could understand her, they all seemed to be listening for something now.

“Yes…” Page said, tilting her head as she flicked back to her unicorn form. “But it seems to be very happy.”

It was at that point something exploded from the bush and tackled her over, with its head over her face and Xvital was unable to stop its attack.

Rex

When the object tackled over Xvital, everyone leapt to their feet to help her out.

Night had drawn his Masamane blade with Wind Breaker drawing his crossbow and loading a bolt. Vix-Lei was snorting in anger as she flicked out Señor Hardhead and held it shorthand with Page’s horn glowing as she prepared some spell. Rex cursed himself for not having a potion he could use that would deal with whatever was on top of the ahuizotless without harming Xvital who seemed to be laughing.

“Wut?” Vix-Lei blinked as they all took a second to see that it was a timber wolf that was on top of Xvital and was slobbering her with its tongue.

“Xolo, bajate de mí, tu gran leño,” she laughed, struggling to push the timber wolf, constructed of beech wood, off her but it simply continue to bathe her face. “Vamos, dejame levantarme chica,” Xvital said as she tapped the side of the false canine which seemed to be the trick to free herself from the overly affectionate beast. Xvital then sat up and held the timber wolf’s head in her hands, shaking its head as she would do for any normal dog. “Asi que por que estas aqui, chica?” Xvital said with just the same amount of love as before only to trail off with eyes going wide. “Oh mierda, si tu estas aqui, entonces el esta-”

“Xolo, donde fuiste?” a voice with the same accent as Xvital called out, with their ahuizotless freezing on the spot as a male ahuizotl walked out of the bush with a couple more right behind him. The newcomer froze as he saw Xvital, with his mouth hanging low. He didn’t even seem to notice that his pet had bounded over to him. “Xvital… Eres tu?” he asked softly as he walked over to Xvital who seemed to shrink from him.

With a weak and nervous chuckle, Xvital looked at the ground, saying, “Hola Tizoc.”

“Wait a moment,” Night Blade said with his eyes going wide in fright. “You’re Tizoc? The Prince-King of the Cuanmiztl Kingdom‽” he squeaked with reasonable fear.

“Si, lo soy, joven Blade,” he said courtly, causing Night Blade to tremble a bit before the nox pony settled himself. “Xvital,” he said turning back to her. “No puedo creer que seas tu...” he sighed, shaking his head. “Antes de continuar, debo saber; principalmente por que! His sudden shouting caused Xvital to flinch.

“Puedo explicarlo, lo prometo,” Xvital said quickly and brushing her hair out of her face. “Bien, escucha, mientras nos encontrabamos en Equestria, habia esta cosa espiritosa que-”

“No me refiero a tu recompenza internazional, Xvital,” Tizoc said sharply as he stood in front of her. “Tu ya sabes de que hablo,” he said with a bit of sternness in his voice as he held her hands.

“Hey Rexy,” Vix-Lei whispered loudly in his ear, causing him to jump. “Care to tell us what they’re saying.” Rex blinked as he saw that they were all looking at him for translations.

“Tizoc is inquiring something about his and Xvital’s past,” Rex hissed back as he tried to pay attention to their conversation, Xvital being really shy all of a sudden.

“Tizy,” Xvital said with a blush on her face, eyes on the ground. “Eso es muy complicado; quiero decir, hay mucho de mi que no conoces.”

“She is telling him that there is a lot of her past he does not know.”

“Xy, nunca me importó tu pasado,” Tizoc said in a soothing tone. “Nunca me importó que fueras ladrona, solo quiero saber porq-”

“Espera, que dijiste?” Xvital said, snapping her eyes at him. “Tu sabías‽

“He said her past never bothered him, that he knew she was a thief and Xvital is quite surprised by the fact.”

“Pues si, yo sabía sobre tu pasado, Xy,” Tizoc said as he began to back up as Xvital began to stalk towards him. Notably his guards did not seem all too concern about this; standing still with their spears pointed straight up with their faces composed. “Nunca fuiste tan buena escondiendo secretos y-”

He was cut off as Xvital began to hit him. “Lo supiste todo el tiempo y nunca dijiste nada, maldito imbecil‽” she growled as she began to shove him backwards. “Sabes lo estresante que era pretender ser así, siempre preocupándome que tu descubrieras mi pasado y tu siempre supiste‽” She pushed him to the ground, continuing to smack him with her hands with the prince-king holding his arms up to defend himself. POR QUE nunca dijiste nada‽

“Creía que era como la biblioteca, Xy, pero creí que habías aprendido esta vez,” Tizoc said with a sly smile on his face. Xvital groaned heavily, smacked him across the head and leaned against him.

“Nunca lo vas a olvidar, verdad?” Xvital grumbled with a pout on her face.

Jamas, Xy,” Tizoc said while rubbing the side of her face.

“He said-”

“We can guess Rexy,” Vix-Lei hushed him.

“Entonces me dirás por que te fuiste?” Tizoc asked as he propped himself on his elbows.

“He is asking why she left again.”

“Mira Tizoc, esto es muy complicado y te juro que si sigues traduciendo lo que decimos Rex te JURO que te opero las bolas con una cuchara.

“She is saying it is very complicated and… oh,” Rex blinked and blushed, stammering off as he realized the threat leveled against him. He saw that the rest of the pack was looking at him in confusion but he simply mouthed later as he did not wish to take the risk of calling her bluff.

Por favor, Xy, Necesito saber la raz-” Tizoc pleaded with her once again.

“Fue Chantico, vale?” Xvital said with a snap, looking guilty.

Ah,” Tizoc tapping the ground. “Siempre sospeché que ella había tenido que ver con eso pero ambos sabemos que ella nunca admitiría nada.”

“Si, ella siempre pue una gran perrr-” Xvital began to trail off as she began to blush heavily.

“Xy, puedes llamar perra a mi mama. Confia en mi, la conozco mas que tu,” Tizoc said with Rex getting a wider idea of their exact relationship. “Entonces me dejarás y me vas a presentar a tus compañeros?”

“Oh si, lo siento,” Xvital giggled before rolling to the side and began to lift herself up upright with a bit of a stagger. Both Tizoc and Xolo helped her up, with the prince-king holding her arm and the timber wolf bounding to her side to act as brace.“Gracias,” she smiled at the two before turning her head to the pack. “Tizoc, ellos son Wind Breaker, Rex, Night Blade, Page Turner and Vix-Lei,” she said as gestured to each of them before moving her hand to Tizoc. “Chicos, el es-” she stopped herself, taking a deep breath of air. “Guys, this is…” she hesitated again, chewing her lip. “This is Tizoc, the Prince-King of the Cuanmiztl Kingdom and…” she trailed off again, her face reddening up.

I was her groom to be before she left on our wedding day,” Tizoc said as he placed her hands on her shoulders, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “Apparently my mother the dowager queen had convinced Xy here to run away just a few hours before we would say our vows.”

“Wait, is all that true, kitty cat‽” Vix-Lei shouted as she stepped close to the ahuizotless with the guards that came with Tizoc stepping forwards now.

“Yes - my mother has a certain view of who is allowed to marry me,” Tizoc said as he waved his guards back with his tail hand. “And yes, Xy here,” he pinched her cheeks causing Xvital to grumble and swat away his hand with a blush on her face. “Was to give me the greatest joy and honour of allowing me to be her husband.”

Tonto alagador,” Xvital grumbled under her breath, blushing harder.

“Y me amas por eso, Xy,” Tizoc said in teasing tone before looking at them again. “So can someone please tell me the whole truth of the matter and what I can do to help?”

“Espera, que?” Xvital turning her head towards Tizoc. “A que te refieres?”

“Well Xy, whatever you are mixed up in, I want to help you and your new companions in anyway I can,” Tizoc said with complete confidence.

“But… you know about the bounty on us, right?” Xvital said with confusion in her voice.

“Of course I do,” Tizoc said as he held her hands, caressing her face with his tail hand before kneeling down with his tail hand reaching into a pouch he had around his waist. “I also have complete and utter faith in you and I am still willing to stand by you, Xvital, no matter what happens. Sickness and health, bad times and good times, I will never leave your side and I will always be willing to lay down my life for yours, my beautiful flower,” he pulled something from his pouch that caused everyone to gasp with Xvital pressing her hands to face. “I have always kept this on me just in case I met you again, so I can ask the most important question in my life again.” Holding out the engagement ring with simply salivating flawless diamond, Tizoc said, “Xvital, will you marry me?”

Xvital was left speechless, shaking her head in disbelief before saying in a very soft voice, “Of course, you damn incorrigible bastard,” before pulling his head upwards into a powerful kiss. Rex and the rest of the pack could not hold back their own signs of joy at this wonderful news; Rex himself was beaming alongside Night Blade and Wind Breaker with Vix-Lei d’awwing loudly and Page letting out a hiccup as she transformed back into her natural changeling form.

Everyone turned to face the now blushing changeling hybrid who was pawing the ground. “Sorry,” she said with a hint of a squeak in her voice. “But that was really filled with love and it kinda overcame me…”

Tizoc simply chuckled as he put the ring on Xvital’s finger and pulled her closer with his arms. “Xy, you never cease to make everything more interesting, do you?”

“Oh shut up,” Xvital said, swatting him playfully.

Tizoc

It had been a few hours since they had retired to his cottage, with Xvital and the girls making a beeline for the showers and leaving the three guys to explain everything to him. While he was a bit hesitant to trust them, Xvital seemed to trust them and that was good enough for him. And the story they were telling him…

“That is quite worrisome, mister Blade,” he responded to what the nox pony told him, finishing their tale. “But it does explain the current behaviour of the Equestrian government.”

“I still say you are crazy for just believing us,” Xvital muttered from his side, rubbing a towel along her hair with Xolo sprawled out on her lap.

“Oh hush,” he told her with a smile on his face, causing her to blush. “Do I need to do another romantic gesture Xy?”

No,” she grumbled, pulling Xolo closer to herself with his faithful guard dog happily licking her hands.

“Come on, kitty cat,” Vix-Lei said as she sat down on the chairs he had his servants bring out just for her kind. “Don’t be a downer. With Tizy’s help here, we actually stand a chance at beating our foe.”

“No we do not,” Tizoc said, shaking his head. “Not directly at least. And I cannot bring my army to bear without any concrete evidence in any case.”

“So what are we going to do?” the valley griffon asked as he ate some of the food his chefs prepared for them.

“Well, we should wait for Rex to see if those tracers work,” Page Turner said as she walked into the room, who really was a changeling, eyeing his guards cautiously. He couldn’t blame the dear for her fears; while his people had no true bias against her kind, he still represented authority and that must make it hard for her to accept that she was safe here.

“If anyone could do it, it is Rex,” the young Blade said with confidence, polishing his sword. His bodyguards were a bit uncomfortable with having the Butcher of the Everfree Forest tend to his weapon like that near him but Tizoc trusted Xvital when she said the young Blade was safe.

“Speaking of,” Rex said as the Diamond Dog walked into from the laboratory with a number of different compasses. “I was correct in my theory that they were auras belonging to individuals and I was able to perform the necessary alchemical transformation with Page’s assistance.” He separated the compasses into two piles. Gesutiring the compasses with purple arrows pointing in the direction of Equestria. “These are connected to a normal, albeit powerful, individual.” He then coughed and tapped the other pile with pitch black arrows pointing in same direction. Tizoc let out a hiss at the sight of it, his fur bristling for some reason he could not place his finger on and that worried him. “This belongs to our foe and to be completely honest, the aura is like nothing I have ever seen before and it truly scares me.”

“Hey, I’ve got no magic and that thing makes me want to smash it with my hammer,” Vix-Lei said with a snort.

“Be as that may,” Tizoc said as he sought to bring some order back into this discussion. “We have the means to locate the Magi of Stars and this foe. What we need to do is make a plan that is more than just make it up as you go.” He got swatted by Xvital for that little barb but he could tell she moving into her more serious mode, pushing Xolo off her lap and leaning across the table. She was already taking charge, detailing out a plan that actually involved him which made him smile; his Xy wasn’t putting him on some high platform and was treating him like an equal partner.

He could not wait until they were finally married.

Chapter Forty Four: Page Turner, Night Blade, Wind Breaker, Vix-Lei, Rex, Xvital, Gentle Step

View Online

Chapter Forty Four

Page Turner

It was odd to be back in Canterlot after being away for so long. The sound and smells of the bustling city were almost overwhelming her but at the same time, it felt so natural and right. She felt like she was home.

She could also feel both the edges of the minds of her hive’s changelings nearby and the rest of the group in the hivemind she’d created for them. Such a mental link was not easy to pull off with non-Changelings, but she had managed. However, some of them were still not quite used to communicating through the link.

Man, this is still very weird, Vix-Lei thought-yelled again with Page doing her best not to show her wince while she was walking around the crowd waiting to greet Tizoc and the rest of the host from the Cuanmiztl Kingdom.

Not so loud, she chided the minotaur who was standing near the back of the crowd and leaning against a building. She could feel the rest of the group begin to turn their heads to them and she had to hold back a sigh coming from both her lips and her mind. Don’t turn around to look at each other when you use the hivemind!

Well sorry Page but I agree with her, this is still very weird! Wind Breaker snarked at her through the hivemind, surprisingly coherent and steady despite having fallen off the wagon and spent the day before drinking with Xvital. The griffon was pretending to do some janitor work, pushing a broom around.

Rolling her eyes and letting out an internal snort while she kept her face the same, she knew that she could count on Rex and Ni-

I can’t help but agree Wind, Night thought with a grumble, standing in the crowd too, a fair distance away from her. He was wearing a cloak to hide his wings and his sword and glasses to hide his scar. Having magic that lets me fly is enough; I don’t need to have this thing that feels like it is pushing on the side of my head.

Page couldn’t help herself from frowning outwardly and had to remind herself that she couldn’t keep on expecting Night to agree with her on everything anymore. It wasn’t fair to him, no matter how annoying it was.

I must admit that this whole process is still a bit unsettling despite how much we practiced Page Turner, Rex, her last hope for some reasonable backup from the group said. Still, I hope you are doing well with all this Xvital, Rex directed his thought towards the ahuizotless. Unsurprisingly the Diamond Dog had grasped onto the concept the fastest and was able to act like a drone with a few months practice under their belt.

There was a delay before Page felt a Yeah from Xvital along with some grumbling that she couldn’t keep to herself. Xvital was stuck with the rest of Tizoc’s guards, pretending to be one as it was the only way she could blend in and partly due to Tizoc wishing her to be safe with his personal soldiers able to protect her if things were to go wrong.

If she didn’t have Night’s love to sustain her, their love would be a perfect replacement. She still smiled to herself when she thought of that love filled proposal some days before.

She had to admit they were a very cute couple; Tizoc taking time out of his speech rehearsals for the meeting with King Well Banded to be with Xvital as she dealt with her airsickness, spending hours in her cabin and holding her hand while she emptied her stomach into the toilet bowl. It was so romantic.

Dammit this armor is really heavy, Xvital thought out loud in the hivemind, causing Page to send off a tsk. Shit, sorry guys.

It is okay, Page comforted her. Not everyling can get the hang of using the hivemind without the hivemind body and you just started using it yourself without being a changeling.

Yeah, yeah, kindness comforting bullshit. Xvital grumbled loudly in her makeshift hivemind.

Everyone, please calm down and focus, Tizoc reprimanded them. Page had been a bit hesitant to drag him into the hivemind but Tizoc had done far more than his fair share to help them get back into Canterlot and he was putting his entire kingdom on the line for them. The least they could do was allow him to play a greater role into their attempt to find the Magi of Stars as well as get confirmation that their foe was the Captain General.

Page stared at the compasses Rex had made, still marveling at the skill the Diamond Dog had shown in creating them and other items… such as the necklace she had tucked away in her pack, or the other things he’d demonstrated, like the portable proximity wards he’d carved and set up, with her help for casting the actual spell, during their trip south. Or that… other device he’d made. She gave a silent nicker of amusement at the memory of how they’d been told about it…

"So," Xvital had said as they were preparing for their return to Canterlot over a command table with notes they had been making on their plan covering the surface. Tizoc had boldly pulled Xvital onto the same chair he was sitting and after a fierce blush and playful smacking, Xvital had moved onto the matter at hoof while sitting on Tizoc’s lap. "Let's recap. We have our weapons, our trackers..."

"Our noisemaker," Wind Breaker added.

Several faces, including Page’s looked at him and he shrugged. "When we were camping in the outer Everfree, Rex gave me an alarm that would wake everypony up in case of emergencies. I've been holding onto it ever since."

"Ah." Rex nodded. "That little item. I had hoped you still had it on you."

"And you think this might be useful?" Night Blade said doubtfully.

"The alarm’s highest setting is loud enough that if he had needed to use it, they probably would have heard it on the outskirts of Canterlot," Rex explained. "It was designed with the expectation that it could not only awaken large groups, but also startle and disorient those who were attempting to attack them." He looked at Wind Breaker. “If you would bring it out, I can demonstrate one of the lower settings.”

The griffon nodded, and rummaged in his pack for a moment. “Here you go.”

Taking the device, Rex adjusted something on it. “It’s ready… but I would advise that you all cover your ears. Even at its lowest, this is going to be loud.”

Tizoc had waved over a servant and informed them to warn the captain about this sudden testing of noise.

Once everyone had done so, Rex pressed the button with his head turned to the side.

''BWAAAAAAAAAH!!!!''

When the noise had faded, everyone lowered their hands, hooves or talons. Vix-Lei had a big smile on her face.

“Reminds me of home!” she said brightly. “It’s just like the foghorns we have set up at the shipyards!”

“That was the idea,” Rex replied a bit loudly. “And as I said, this was the lowest setting. The highest is… considerably moreso.”

"I believe you and you do not need to prove your work, Rex," a somewhat shaken Night Blade replied.

Shaking her head, Page looked the tracker again and paled a bit. While they were close to the Magi of Stars - she was somewhere in the West, possibly near the old Castle grounds - their foe was a lot closer and getting closer by the minute.

The sooner they got through this little meet and greet between Tizoc and King Well Banded, the better. Once they got past this little publicity stunt between nations and were certain that Tizoc was safe, they could begin a proper search for the Magi of Stars.

Page couldn’t help but flinch as her tracker for their foe began to throb and doing a quick peek through the group’s eyes and ignoring their initial protests, she was able to pinpoint that their foe was with the open carriage entourage carrying the king.

It is there, somewhere with the king, Page told them.

I don’t see the Captain General, Rex said from his perch on top of a building. All I see are Royal Guards.

She is the Captain General, Night thought back. She is the strongest unicorn and she fought her way out of Tartarus. If anypony can hide in plain sight, it would be her.

Sssh, I am trying to focus here, Xvital and Tizoc thought at them at the same time, and Page couldn’t help but smile at that little accident. I need to focus on doing this just right. They did it again!

Page had to resist every instinct inside of her to squee and clap her hooves; this was so adorable and full of love.

Hey, what’s this thing I’m feeling? Vix-Lei’s question caused Page to jump a bit, her face blushing as the rest of them chimed in confusion.

Sorry guys, Page said, mortified that she had slipped in her love feeding in front of the group. That was what love tasted like and with how Xvital and Tizoc been acting, I’ve kinda been binging a tiny bit.

Huh, so that is what love tastes like… Rex thought in amusement.

Just like mangos... Night trailed off in his head with the rest about to argue on what they tasted.

No, not exactly, Page told them as she watched the carriage pull up to the stage where Tizoc, Xvital and his guards were all standing. It is both sweet-tasting and your favourite thing to eat.

Ah, so that is why I am tasting Xy right now… Tizoc thought brazenly as Xvital began sputtering in the middle of the guards in response.

Besides the fact punching you right now would blow our cover, I can’t be that angry with you because… Xvital trailed off with a mental blush, telling Page exactly what the ahuizotless was tasting.

Tizoc didn’t think anything back but he was now sporting a massive grin on his face that he carried well.

The ahuizotl prince-king was standing tall and confident on the stage. He had his taupe outer coat and russet inner coat washed and groomed well, wearing his simplest crown and golden armbands and holding his ivory scepter with his tail hand. With his silver eyes, he looked over the entire crowd brought out to see the two monarchs greet each other.

Still, where was the Captain General? From what they knew, she wasn’t one to hide herself. According to Night’s family stories about the mare; she would be the first one on the battlefield to face a foe directly, that her dealing with demons made her deadly direct to anyone she deemed a threat.

She should be here so where was she…

Something was very wrong…

She watched as the earth pony king walk onto the stage and reached to embrace Tizoc and something began to trickle into her head.

“Saludos, Principe-Rey Tizoc,” Well Banded said in flawless Burroñeso.

She began to cast a special spell that would let her see magic auras.

“And to you as well, King Well Banded,” Tizoc said bowing his head, holding the earth pony close to his chest. “I hope all is well.” He said, patting the pony’s side.

She felt the spell grow into her eyes.

“I am,” he said, beginning to trail off.

Page finished the spell and opened her eyes. She saw the small magical aura of everypony in front of her and-

She let out a gasp as she saw it, their enemy!

Six long, black tendril-like necks stretched out from its host and they were staring into each of the group’s faces.

It was coming straight from Well Banded’s body, his own aura encompassed by the thick black aura and the head that was staring at her, its jaw pulled back to show row after row after row of sharp teeth like daggers all around the throat as it sneered at her before moving its lips at her to form three words.

I

SEE

YOU

OHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCK Page screamed to herself before yelling at the group. It’s the king! HE IS THE HOST! AND HE KNOWS WE’RE HERE!

“However, you and your cohorts are all under arrest for aiding six known traitors,” Well Banded snapped, shoving Tizoc to the ground and standing on top of the startled ahuizotl. “GUARDS, SEIZE THEM!!”

We need to run NOW! Page roared to them.

She was already turning around when Rex reached into his vest and brought out his specialized alarm clock and set it to max before hitting the button.

''BWAAAAAAAAAH!!!''

Everyone within hearing range promptly dropped to the ground, their hooves covering their ears in pain as an extreme version of a foghorn was sounded, shattering nearby windows. Luckily for them, Rex had prepared for this and given them earplugs as to not be affected by the sheer volume.

Page was thundering down the street, with her heart screaming in her ears. She reached out for Memorizing Gaze, her own feelings regarding the traitor be damned.

Memorizing!

Lamella? She could feel him jump in surprise, turning his head towards her. I mean, Page Tur-

Not now! she snapped at him, thundering down an ally with the sounds of an angry mob beginning to form. We were wrong! It’s King Well Banded that is the threat and he knows we are here and is after us!

There was a second of delay before Memorizing responded. We are in the Lower East, moving to the Top as fast as we can. I will get Gent’s help and we will be able to help you.

Stay safe

Watch your back

We’re counting on you

Good luck

Be careful, my queen

Page nearly stumbled as she heard that blurted across the hivemind, with everyone at the group freezing at her second secret being exposed.

RUBY SHELL! Memorizing’s mental voice roared.

Sorry sir, sorry my que-I MEAN Lamella! the nymph stuttered in the hivemind.

Page didn’t have the time to console the nymph, she had to esca-

Huh, that makes sense, Vix-Lei thought with flippancy causing Page to blink.

Yeah, not that surprised, Wind Breaker thought with everyone else chiming in.

Doesn’t change who she is, guys, Night thought out with a grunt.

Page couldn’t believe or deal with this right now as she heard several Guards right behind her. Turning the corner, Page saw a huge gathering of her changelings and she finally froze in her running.

She knew she hadn’t been the best queen; for the princess's sake, she had planned to be the last queen of her hive and refused to ever become intimate and produce an heir. All of her changelings always asked her if she would change her mind and she knew that some of her changelings were not happy with her seemingly selfish desires to stop the horrible treatment of her hive by ending her hive.

They looked at her and in unison the majority transformed into her unicorn form, while some became pegasi and all of them burst out in every direction. Page turned back into her normal self as the Guards stormed the place.

She smiled to herself; thanks to their kindness, she could escape.

Night Blade

Shaking his head from the ringing of that damn clock and learning about Page’s other secret, Night saw that a lot of the Royal and Cadenza Guards were beginning to spill out towards where the rest of the group was heading.

That was not going to happen.

Tossing the cloak to the side as well as his glasses, Night began to use his reputation for some good.

Aaaaaaaah!

The air was split by a loud, violent bull-like bellowing as he charged a group of Guards, drawing both sword and sheath as he began swinging the two, somehow managing to avoid dealing out fatal blows this time. Yet his frenzy was sufficient to ward off those who came too close to him, and he could hear at least one voice shouting “He’s gone berserk!”

That was exactly the reaction he was hoping for as he disarmed more and more Guards and drawing more attention to himself.

“Wait a minute, that’s Night!” Night paused midswing as he heard and saw Regal Pants in front of him. “Holy fuck, it is you!” Regal paused to look him over. “What happened? Is everything they’re saying about you true?”

“Kinda,” Night said as he leaped over the unicorn to punch down a Guard while he parried another Guard with his sheath. “We’re not the true threat here and we’re trying to save Equestria and the world.” He let out a hiss of frustration as a couple of unicorn Royal Guards were trying to use their magic to steal his sword and sheath. That was some of the lowest tricks a unicorn could do in a fight and Night had little options to fight it.

He was properly surprised when Regal used his shoulder to knock down one of the Guards while blasting the other with his magic. The noble unicorn then turned to his stunned looking Guards and said, “I know this looks but I know this pony,” Regal gestured to him. “He may be one of the surliest assholes that ever existed but he wouldn’t attack unless it is absolutely necessary.” Night saw some of the Cadenza Guards share uneasy looks while the Royal Guards just seemed furious. “The Captain General once told me that we have to move past the pony and be the Guard to protect everypony. And right now, my instincts are telling me that he is doing his best to save lives.”

That seemed to do the trick as the Cadenza Guards turned around and created a wall between Night and the Royal Guards.

“Go Night, we’ll hold them back,” Regal said, snapping up a shield as the Royal Guards tried to press inwards.

Night Blade nodded. “I won’t forget this.”

“Me neither,” Regal said as he fired a quick bolt at one of the Royal Guards trying to press the attack. “Go!

Nodding, Night Blade turn and fled, grateful for the loyalty of trust that Regal placed in him.

Wind Breaker

Wind Breaker had dropped the broom as soon as he heard Page yell at them to run, wincing as he heard that damn noisemaker go off. He was certain several of his bottle broke from it going off judging by all the broken windows and what Page and that changeling revealed just caused Wind Breaker’s eyes to widen a bit before realizing how obvious it was and told her as such.

How Page managed to run and think-talk at the same time was beyond him; must be a changeling thing. Shaking his head, he turned around the corner, only to smash into somepo-no-griffon!

“Windy, is that you‽” Of all griffons he had to run into, why did it have to be his old bully from the Hatchery Diamond Back? The large griffon gripped him the shoulder and lifted him up in the air a tiny bit. “By the Goddesses, it is you! What the Tartarus is going on?”

“Diamond look,” Wind Breaker said as he heard the Guards coming up behind them. “Me and my group are on right side and I can’t get caught right now!”

Diamond Back looked at him and suddenly threw him into a doorway and slammed it shut on him. Wind Breaker was about to yell at him for this when Diamond Back suddenly started to shout. “Motherfucking asshole!

Wind Breaker froze at this and stiffened as he heard other voices right outside his door. “Citizen, have you seen a griffon with sleet gray plumage and a reddish gold coat, one blue eye and one gold eye?”

“Yeah, I saw him,” Diamond Back sneered. “The bastard just ran past me and shoved me into the wall! He went that way!”

“Equestria thanks you!” another voice said before there was sound of departing clattering hooves.

Wind Breaker waited for the hooves to vanish completely when the door was opened and Diamond Back pulled him out.

Wind Breaker stared up at him and tried to say something. “Diamond, I-”

“You are a lot of things, Windy but you’re not one to lie ever,” Diamond Back said sternly. “If you say the sky is green then my eyesight has to be broken. If you say you need to get past the guards, I believe you.”

Wind Breaker was touched by this. He never thought his old bully would be this-

“Also, I’d never forgive myself if I let this chance pass by again,” Diamond Back said before he grabbed Wind Breaker’s neck and pulled him into a powerful kiss HOLY TARTARUS DIAMOND BACK WAS KISSING HIM!!!

After far too long, Diamond Back broke the kiss off and looked down at him with a smile. “I’ve wanted to do that for so long, Windy,” he said as he leaned down to nuzzle him, Wind Breaker too startled to actually move. “Be safe, okay?”

Wind Breaker simply nodded his head as he put one talon in front of a paw as he continued to escape, replaying everything his bully had done with this new revelation.

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei huffed steadily as she ran down one of the streets of Canterlot. Even after Page had given the order to run, the minotaur had lingered for just a minute or so, long enough to catch Night Blade’s bellowing as he charged into battle. She shook her head in amusement; if she hadn’t seen him throw back his head as he let out that noise, she’d have sworn it came from a male ’taur!

Still, she knew she had to get as far away from the pony king - their enemy, she reminded herself - as possible. Turning, she ducked down one street, but she could still hear some of the Guards yelling right behind her. So she kept going.

And going.

And going.

Finally, when she had run far enough and could see that she’d finally lost the Guards, she heaved a sigh of relief and stepped around a corner into what looked like an alley.

And smacked right into sometaur who was very, very large.

Oof!” the figure grunted as they stepped back. “Hey, watch where you’re-” Suddenly, they stopped and gasped in recognition. “Vix-Lei‽

Vix-Lei’s own eyes widened as she finally took in the view. “Herakles‽

“Big sis!” the other minotaur exclaimed. “How the heck are ya?” He turned around. “Hey, little bro! Why didn’t you tell me she was the one we were waiting here for?”

“Why ruin the surprise?” another voice answered. Stepping out of the shadows, the slightly smaller minotaur adjusted his tie. “Good to see you again, Vix-Lei.”

“Good to see you too, Argus,” Vix-Lei managed. “What… how… why are you two here‽

“We were invited,” another minotaur stated as he also stepped out of the shadows. “Not long after your little… escapade with that XJ-6, King Well Banded contacted the embassy and asked that they call in Father and some of the other shipmasters for a conference, to discuss expanding Equestria’s air force. But after what had happened, he suspected something might be up, so he chose the three of us to accompany him. Myself for my diplomatic expertise, Herakles for his muscles, and Argus because of his eye for detail.”

“Ah, you always know how to flatter a ’taur, Eusebios,” Herakles teased his younger brother as he flexed an arm. “But seriously, how are ya, sis? Besides being one of Equestria’s Most Wanted, that is.”

“Well, there’ve been a few rough patches, but in general I’ve had a blast,” Vix-Lei admitted.

Suddenly, there was a loud BOOM! a few blocks away, and Argus sighed. “Don’t worry, they won’t make it this far over,” he said. “I can see them, and they should be running into some other trouble right…”

Just then, there was a loud CRASH.

“Now,” Argus concluded. “I see the Guards haven’t improved their ability to avoid obstacles the size of buildings since they tried and failed to catch you the last time.”

Vix-Lei covered her face. “So you did see that newspaper article,” she moaned.

Saw it? I’ve got it framed and hanging on my wall!” Herakles chuckled. “Seriously sis, I know comedy’s your thing, even if some of it’s not that great. But that time… well, that time you were funny without even trying!”

Vix-Lei gave him a dirty look, but then smiled. “Yeah, I’ve been learning,” she said. “Toned down the stuff that gets on people’s nerves and getting back to what ’taurs and ponies and every other species really thinks is funny.”

“Knew you could do it, big sis,” Herakles said, winking at her. “So, what’s all this mess with the Guards chasing you about, anyway?”

“I’m one of a group of six who’ve been chosen to save the world,” Vix-Lei said with a shrug. “Starting by dealing with that freaky thing possessing the pony king.”

The three brothers exchanged glances. “You’re… not joking about this, are you?” Eusebios asked hesitantly.

“Not this time,” Vix-Lei told him.

“Well. That certainly explains why Dad was getting an uneasy feeling around him the other day,” Herakles said. “And why he and the other shipmasters are holed up in the embassy for a private meeting now.”

“Then he’s safe?” Vix-Lei asked.

“Absolutely. Our ancestors built that embassy personally; it’s the most fortified building in all of Canterlot next to the castle at the very top,” Eusebios said. “Normally, I’d recommend taking you back until this whole mess is over. But since you’re needed out here… I wish you good luck.” He stepped back.

“Watch the skies,” Argus added.

“And give him a couple of good whacks for me,” Herakles said, then rummaged around in his pack for a moment, coming up with something. “Heck, give him a couple of good wax while you’re at it!” He held out a pair of candles.

“How long have you been carrying those?” Vix-Lei demanded, a smirk on her face.

“Long enough,” Herakles answered, smirking back. “I’ve got more stuff too - you never know what you’ll need or when you’ll need ‘em.”

Vix-Lei clasped her hands together. “I have taught you well, big little brother. The laughter is strong in you.”

“And don’t you forget it!” Herakles told her with a grin.

“Never,” Vix-Lei replied. “Now, much as I’d love to stick around and chat…”

“You have important business to tend to,” Eusebios said. He eyed her critically, looking straight at her hammer straps that went across her chest. “Start by putting a shirt on again, would you? Mother may be back in Ledra with the rest of our brothers, but she saw the chase photos too… and she’s not happy about you running around without a top like you were a sailor. In fact, if Father hadn’t persuaded her to stay at home with Baltsaros, Marinos, Pyrrhus and Yanni so she could ride herd on the rest of his work crew, she’d be here tanning your hide over it. Again.

Vix-Lei groaned, so not looking forward to the horror that was one of her mom’s lectures. “Now I really wish I’d kept the outfit from that other world when we got back here…”

“Other world?” Herakles looked at her curiously.

“Long story, and I promise I’ll explain when this is all over,” Vix-Lei told him. “But now I really do need to get going.”

“Looking forward to it then, big sis! And the story of how you kicked this bad guy’s butt!” Herakles grinned.

“The same goes for me,” Argus put in.

Eusebios nodded. “And myself. Now go, sister. Make our family proud.”

Vix-Lei threw him a salute, then disappeared further down the alley, hopping over a tall fence at the far end.

The three brothers, watching her go, smiled. “Gods be with you, sis,” Herakles whispered. “Gods be with you.”

Rex

On the positive side, Rex thought to himself as he ducked under a hanging line, At least we are not up against one of the strongest unicorns in living history. On the negative side, that monster is bad enough even without the powers of a Dum Soluti.

He had managed to get a great deal further away from the initial meeting area in a short amount of time, while staying in the West, following his compass towards the Magi of Stars. He could only hope the others made it to her as well.

Suddenly, his ears twitched as he detected a faint movement behind him and ducked off to one side, burrowing under a pile of junk that had been swept out of the streets.

Just a minute later, he heard footsteps. “Me Snarl certain somedog was here!” a voice reported.

“And I’m certain you’re right,” another voice replied, causing Rex’s blood to run cold and the hackles to stand up on the back of his neck. There was a sniffing sound. “Somedog is here, and I know that scent like the back of my paw.”

“You Jeb smelling yourself?” the first voice asked in a confused tone, before letting out a yipe as there was a loud smacking noise.

“You Snarl are an idiot, and that’s saying something,” the second voice grunted. “Now… I know he’s here somewhere…”

And that’s when a familiar face poked its way into Rex’s hiding spot. “Hello, Rex,” the other Diamond Dog said. “Long time no see.”

Rex sighed. “Hello, Jeb,” he said. “I suppose there’s no point in hiding anymore.”

“You got that right,” Jeb said before pulling back so Rex could uncover himself. Once he had a clear view, he looked around.

“Snarl, Slash, Slug, and Scorn,” he said quietly, recognizing each of the other four Diamond Dogs accompanying his former pack leader, who had backed away and smoothed his short red coat. “I’m surprised to see you all up here.”

“Me Slug surprised you not making tracks,” the grouchiest Diamond Dog retorted, a tan individual with a broad, well-shaped face, stated. “You made enough running from our pack last time.”

“I did not run,” Rex replied quietly. “I may have been exiled, but I did so with dignity.”

Another Diamond Dog, this one much taller with a square jaw and a solid black coat, snorted. “Me Scorn say-”

Enough,” Jeb boomed, cutting him. “Rex, we aren’t in the tunnels, so technically I got no right to pursue you. But with recent events, I have to wonder…” He leaned in closely. “Rumors are saying that you and some others are wanted for plotting regicide.”

“That is an utter falsehood spread by the creature possessing Equestria’s king,” Rex replied. “Admittedly, it is our enemy, but we bear no ill will against King Well Banded himself. Just the thing controlling him.”

The five Diamond Dogs reacted with instant surprise, and began muttering amongst themselves. “Me Snarl not hear of this,” the shortest and skinniest of them said, sticking his pointed face in Rex’s direction. “When this happen?”

“Several weeks ago,” Jeb said. “Where’ve you been, underground?” He paused. “Oh wait.”

The last Diamond Dog, who was black and tan with a thick coat, let out a bellowing laugh. “Me Slash love it when you say things like that!”

Jeb snorted. “So you’re up against the king because he’s possessed, you say.”

“I am,” Rex replied. “Now if you will excuse me, I must go. My new pack and I have somewhere we need to be, and the fate of all Equestria is at stake.”

“Steak? Where?” Slug shouted.

Jeb smacked him. “Shut yer yap, ya bonehead,” he told the other Diamond Dog before turning back to Rex. “The fate of all Equestria… well, if that’s the case, yer gonna need some help. And what better help than the biggest and best distraction we can come up with?”

“And what might that be?” Rex asked.

“Here.” Jeb pulled a jar from his vest. “We traded some stuff for this… and we got a fair amount of it stashed away. With this flamin’ gel and some of the explosives we got, we can make a big enough flame and boom to make even Rufus happy. Should be a suitable distraction to draw all the Guards away, idn’t it?”

“That is… very generous of you,” Rex managed. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Me Scorn say you could say thank you,” the tallest Diamond Dog contributed.

Rex smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “All of you.”

Xvital

She had let out a hiss as the guards around her created a barrier between her and Tizoc with that creature standing on her Tizy!

"¡Señora, tienes que correr!" a guard snapped at her as they tried to push back the Royal Guards to to get Tizoc’s side as Banded was quickly being aided in securing her husband to be in handcuff.

"A la mierda; necesito ayudar a Tizoc!" she snapped back, shifting on her feet as she slipped on her knuckle busters and drew her knife. She could see the Guards drag him away, with her special someone bound and cuffed!

"Nos ordenó que nos aseguráramos de que está a salvo, señora," the guard said as he raised a shield to block a sword swing. "¡Ahora corre! ¡Corre para que puedas luchar otro día! ¡Equestria no se saldrá con esto!"

I will be safe Xvital, they cannot physically harm me without setting the world against them, Tizoc told her through the mind shared thing. Xvital, please, get out while you still can.

With a snarl, Xvital had no other choice but turn her back and race towards their airship. As much as she might hate airships, it was still sovereign territory of their lands and it would be a true declaration of war if they tried to board the ship and take her away.

As she ran, a small group of Tizoc’s guards broke off and formed a circle around her. It was a pointless gesture as the Royal Guards pounced on the broken army formation with the unicorns picking off her guards one by one.

Tossing her borrowed guard armour at the Royal Guards as a means of distraction as well as lighten her load, she knew all she had to do was turn the corner and she’d be sa-

“Hello, Element,” Well Banded said to her, smiling far too widely for any creature. “You’re coming with me.”

He, or it, then spun around and kicked her in the face, knocking her out.

Gentle Step

Gentle Step was in the middle of a chaotic conference room with her Guards running around to report the latest news coming in from the city and it was tasking her incredible resolve not to show any sign of frustration at her inability to leave the room. She hated being stuck in her offices while her city was under siege from varied enemies.

Not only were traitorous six back inside Canterlot, the fact that the ahuizotls had betrayed almost a thousand years of trust and loyalty between the two nations by supporting a group that were aligned to kill their king and topple their government.

She remembered everything she’d read about Tizoc; a clear connection to Xvital as they were once about to marry before the forgery-based con artist had left on their wedding day. It was odd that she had left the wedding ring behind as it was worth a medium size fortune.

Gentle Step frowned to herself; a number of things were off about this entire case and the were bothering her as things did not add up to a proper answer. There must be something she was missing-

Her ear flicked as she heard the clatter of hooves outside her office and she had half drawn both Justice and Protector when her door exploded open to reveal her Captain Memorizing Gaze running inside.

“Sir, the traitor six have been framed by an entity that is possessing the king due to the fact the six of them are the only ones capable of defeating it,” he said in a clear voice with all of her Guards staring open-mouthed at him.

It took her a second to process what he said, but she had known Mems since they were foals and he had never once lied to her about anything, so she was convinced that this was actuality of the situation. “Understo-”

“Changeling!” Clear Vision shouted, the unicorn mare horn’s glowing as she prepared a spell.

“Stand down,” she barked at the Guard before turning to her Captain. “Do you know where the six are?”

“I have a -”

“Sir, that is a changeling in Guard armour!” Clear Vision protested with the other Guards beginning to back away as Gentle noticeably narrowed her eyes and snorted.

“Memorizing Gaze is one of the six Captains of Canterlot and is the Captain of the Secret Protectors. You will show him proper respect,” Gentle Step informed the mare before turning back to Memorizing Gaze. “Do you know where any of them are currently located?”

“Yes,” Memorizing Gaze tilted his long muzzle upwards with his shimmering blue eyes narrowed to a slint. “In the Gem Room.”

Gentle Step accepted this and teleported everypony in the room to the door that led to the room. Instantly, she could see the security features of the room were activated and she frowned at this. Only if the capital was invaded were they to be activated and only as a means of last resort to save the royal family by teleporting the entire room to a random location even she wasn’t privileged to know.

Even more troubling, she could see the king standing up in the middle of the room over several individuals. He had been in the Middle West of Canterlot according to her latest reports and there was no possible way for him to have traversed the distance that quickly.

Seeing that Memorizing Gaze was proven correct about the king being not himself, she turned her Guards and said to them, “Send messages to each of the Captains to be on high alert; activation of the Shining Armor Shield may be imminent. I want a team of our best enchantment breakers here now to open these doors and the janitorial staff that are assigned to the room.”

“Sir?” one of her Guards asked her as the rest did as she ordered.

“They have to clean the room on a regular basis and you cannot honestly tell me that there is no pony that would not try to show their special somepony this view. They would need to take the keys to this office and must know how to deactivate the protection spells in case something went wrong.”

“Understood, sir,” the Guard saluted her, leaving her alone with just a small squad of Guards and Mems, leaving them alone to look into the ro-.

“Gents,” Memorizing hissed his old foalhood nickname for; a sign and signal that something was deadly wrong. “Vision of pure sight, the tenth level, now.

She did as she was told and froze. She could see the blinding pure light that Sweet Surprise reported coming from the stirring individuals on the ground as well as the swirling dark mass that was inhabiting her king. But it was the aura of the dark mass that caused her to pause which made her Guards let out small snorts of worry and fear.

“It’s not demonic,” she said in a hushed, awed tone. “It’s divine.”

Chapter Forty Five: Wind Breaker, Page Turner, Rex, Vix-Lei, Night Blade

View Online

Chapter Forty Five

Wind Breaker

Groaning in pain, Wind Breaker pushed himself onto his talons, wincing as there was a nasty scraping sound against the floor that made his aching head feel even worse.

He hadn’t felt this bad in a long time when he had really binged badly and he knew he hadn’t been drinking.

In fact, he had been running away when something heavy smashed into his head…

“Ah, you are all awake,” somepony cooed at him, causing Wind Breaker to snap his eyes open to see that he and the rest of the group were in a glass sphere like room. Standing in front of them was King Well Banded but…

“Whom, or what, are you?” Rex barked at the earth pony who was just chuckling at them. It sounded like talons dragged down a chalkboard only worse somehow.

“Very well, I suppose I could honour a last request of sorts,” Well Banded said before his voice began to change into something more ambiguous; darker but with a hint of lightness to it. “I am The Nightmare, the Bearer of the Mantle of Bad Dreams and my Role and Purpose is scare those who stray back onto the right path.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” Vix-Lei snarked as she slowly got to her hooves, with Page and Night standing up. Only Xvital was still on the ground and something was wro-

“Oh you understand so little, Laughter,” it laughed again. “Everything that we have done has caused fear and terror in the masses’ dreams; I have been doing my very best work of late to ensure that the nightmares received by all of you, be you ponies, minotaurs, changelings, diamond dogs, griffons, ahuizotls, dragons, yaks or others, are very effective. Is that not right, Loyalty?” Wind Breaker looked over at Night who seemed to be spooked by this before the bat pony managed to shove it down. “In any case, it matters not for you have lost before you even began your pathetic attempts to stop me. I hold Magic and soon enough, this Age will pass into another and with Magic failing to do their Duties, there will be no magic in the Age to come and it will be gone from this world for a very long time.”

“You bastard,” Page hissed, flaring her bug wings.

“Tsk tsk Kindness,” the Nightmare said as it stalked closer to them with shadows forming on its head that resembled a horn. “And here I am performing your Duties and bestowing an act of kindness on you all that falls in the realm of the Lady of Dreams.” It then laughed, showing shadow fangs. “She will be furious to learn what I am planning to her second Heirs.”

Before any of them could react, there was a burst of brilliant light from its fake horn, and Wind Breaker suddenly needed to do a break in midair as he got a wave of confusion. Landing on a cloud, he frowned at the sight of the mountainous landscape of the ancestral kingdom of Griffonstone - far different from the more forested Griffish Isles where some of his cousins lived - below. This was his home, of course, but something was off from it, something very important. It was on the tip of his tongue and he would need just a second to figure it-

“Wind Breaker, are you okay?” a female voice called out to him from behind.

“Yeah mom,” he said instinctively as he tried to figure out why his throat was burning so badly all of a sudden. It couldn’t because of a bad drink; he never touched the stuff and had no plans to start drinking.

What was going on?

Page Turner

With a soft chirp, Page looked out over the herd of foals waiting for her. “Hello, little ones,” she said happily.

“Good morning, Miss Turner!” they all replied, their own faces beaming.

“What story are you going to read us today?” one asked eagerly.

Page smiled. “How about the day Queen Chrysalis the Gentle first met with Prince Shining Armor the Valiant and Princess Cadance the Radiant?”

“Yeah!” the foals cheered, and Page smiled back as she drew the scroll from the shelves and began to read.

About half an hour later, she had finished the story, and smiled as most of her audience came up to thank her before leaving.

Finally, the last one silently flew down and gave her a friendly nuzzle. “I see another storytime went well,” he remarked.

Page nuzzled her husband back. “They always do,” she said happily. “That one’s always been one of my favorites too…”

“I can understand,” Night Blade said with a chuckle. “After all, why wouldn’t you love the story of how your ancestors got together and brought peace and happiness to an entire race?”

Page beamed. “And that peace and happiness has lasted for generations,” she said. “Which reminds me, are you ready for the royal banquet tonight? Mother has really been looking forward to it, and of course you and I will be accompanying her…”

“Absolutely,” Night Blade replied. “Mother and Father will be there as well. You know, they still can’t stop bragging to the other noble families about how their son snagged the Changeling Princess… won’t listen when I say it was love at first sight for both of us!” He chuckled.

Page smiled back. “And it was one of the happiest days of my life,” she said with a dreamy sigh. “Right up there with our wedding…”

Night Blade nuzzled her again, and she smiled as she felt his love flow into her.

Rex

“Professor Rex, is everything okay?” one of his students asked him with concern as Rex paused in writing in the last formulae on the chalkboard.

“Yes, everything is fine,” Rex replied in a distracted tone, tapping the chalkboard as he tried to dissect what was bothering him. It could not be his upcoming conference where he would show and demonstrate his latest alchemical creation to the rest of the Academy’s staff as well as experts across the globe, he had been preparing for that for months. He was about to call his class back to session when something trickled into his head that he could not explain. Pausing, he turned to his students and leaned onto his desk. “Actually, there is something that I wish to inquire.”

“What is it sir?”

Rex knew that something was amiss, he just needed to figure out what.

Vix-Lei

“Fillies and gentlecolts, griffons and griffettes, dogs, dragons, my lords and lady minotaurs, and every other species represented here, please put your hands, paws, hooves or what have you for our very special host… Vix-Lei!

There was a loud cheering as Vix-Lei stepped out onto the stage, waving to the audience. “Thank you so much!” she exclaimed. “It is great to be here in the nation’s capital!”

As the audience began to calm down, Vix-Lei grinned. “Wow. It is so great to be here. And I’d like to apologize to some of the locals, ‘cause I am pretty sure I scared the living daylights out of some of them on my way to this here theater.”

She looked out at the audience. “See, I flew all the way here from Ledra today… and there are some griffons and pegasi who will vouch for that, ‘cause I went right through an entire flock of ‘em this morning. And I tell you, one minute they were flying all together, then woosh!” She clapped her hands together. “My skimmer and I went right past ‘em. Left ‘em in the dust. Pretty good trick considering we were flying over a lake!”

There was more laughter, and she grinned. “Now, this skimmer, I’d tricked it up real good. When I say it goes fast, I mean fast. Faster than the speed of dark. I set it up at the start of this well-lit tunnel, almost a mile long. Then sometaur hit the switch, and by the time the lights were out - and believe you me, they all went out at the very same instant - that skimmer and I were already at the other end.”

More laughter, and Vix-Lei’s smile grew even wider as she continued her routine, finally coming to the end. “Thanks so much, everybody! Good night!”

As she left the stage, still smiling and waving, she headed for her dressing room. Now was her absolute favorite part of the show, and sure enough, a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door.

“Come in!” she called. A moment later, nine familiar faces crowded in, and she beamed. “So, how was the show tonight?”

“Wonderful as always, honey,” her mother told her with a proud smile.

“Yeah, you were really knockin’ em dead out there!” Herakles chimed in.

Vix-Lei looked to the next ’taur. “Dad?”

Shipmaster Petros, the most well-respected minotaur in all the Minos Islands, smiled. “You were great, Vix-Lei. I’m so proud of you.”

Tears of joy sprang from her eyes. “Thanks, Daddy.” Standing up, she moved to give him a hug, one he happily returned.

Something was niggling at her, but she shrugged it off. This was her and her family’s time to celebrate.

Night Blade

Night Blade opened his eyes as he woke up in his luxurious cloud bed next to his wife Page Turner.

Tilting his head, Night managed to pull himself out from under her hollow hoof and went to the window.

They were in the Blade manor in the badlands; this was his barony that his parents gave to them as a wedding gift; it was his inheritance after all but both mom and dad decided that they needed a place to live. It was done on the catch, however, that they fill the place with as many foals as they could and soon as they could.

He looked down the street and saw a number of his workers pass by the front gates, waving up to him. It had taken a while to prove himself to them but they had come to like him as a good and fair boss.

“Good morning, love,” Page said as she walked to his side, placing a kiss on his cheek. “How are we today?” Night closed his eyes, holding them tight. She noticed this immediately and went to console him. “Nighty, is something wrong?"

“Everything is just perfect,” he said with a low tone before turning around and wrapping his hooves around her neck, strangling her. Night ignored her protest with his heart hardening at what he had to do.

Wincing in pain, he heard the neck snap before he heard the mocking laughter.

“Well well well, I did not expect you to awake first Loyalty,” the Nightmare grinned at him while Night felt nothing but pure hatred for this monster. “Tell me, how did you know the dream was false?”

“You made me happy,” Night snapped, drawing his sword. “I don’t deserve that, not now and not ever. Not after what I did to Page; I deserve Tartarus for it!”

“Perhaps; you will find out after I kill you,” the Nightmare said, narrowing its head towards Night. “The Judge rarely accepts any excuse for a crime and you have committed several serious crimes. I wonder how long you will suff-” it let out a snarl of pain as a bolt slammed into its side.

“Night, once we deal with this fucker, we’re going to have some serious talks,” Wind snorted as he loaded another bolt and prepared to fire it at their foe.

“If you live that long, Honesty, which I strongly doubt,” the Nightmare said as its body shifted the bolt out of its side and let it fall to the ground. “If you will allow an ancient soul that cannot even remember if it is Lord or Lady of Nightmares; my dream unto you failed because you couldn’t believe the lie that you had no addiction; that you had a family that loved you and a person to call mom, correct?”

Night saw with worry that the Nightmare was able to get under Wind’s skin and cause the griffon to make a deadly mistake.

Thankfully everyone forgot about the minotaur in the room and the fact that she had a warhammer.

“That’s such a bad joke I forgot to laugh,” Vix-Lei snorted as she swung Señor Hardhead into its side, knocking it across the room. “As is messing with these guys while I’m still around.”

Laughter,” the Nightmare spat angrily as it rose to its hooves. “Out of all the Elements, I hate yours the most. Always unpredictable and bothersome, no matter who Laughter is. Nor the fact that tricking you is akin to fooling Honesty!”

“Hey, what can I say? You can’t fool a fool,” Vix-Lei said with a grin on her face. “Your little paradise was good except for that fact I was topless and my mom didn’t complain once about it! That ain’t right, no matter what’s going on!”

The Nightmare let out a low roar at this before narrowing its head and firing off a spell at the minotaur only for Page’s shield to snap into place to protect her.

Kindness!” the Nightmare snarled as it saw her. “How did you get out of your dream‽”

“Easy,” Page shot back. “You may have created a wonderful world for me, but you made a very big mistake.” She bared her fangs. “You forgot why I’m the current Queen of my hive.”

“And what is that, pray tell?” the Nightmare glared.

“I am like my mother before me; she abandoned me to the elders of our hive so I would live a normal life while I was to prepare for becoming the Queen before she killed herself as the suffering of our hive was too great for her,” Page said as she began to weave a spell of her own. “I am nothing like that damn coward who will leave her daughter an impossible mission to care for my changelings. I vowed to be the last Queen of the Badlands hive due to the endless abuse and hatred thrown at them. Hatred because of you!” Page screamed as she let loose a bolt of magic at the creature.

“Yes,” the Nightmare said as it dove out of the way, a grin forming on its face. “Chrysalis proved to be the perfect scapegoat with her suicidal idea to invade Equestria. Then again, all those nightmares she was having of her hive wilting away did play some part in her decisions all those years ago.”

NIght’s heart wrenched itself into a knot as Page froze at this revelation, her eyes going wide, her lips trembling and her horn going out with her shield vanishing. Night realized what was happening after his body was already moving to push Page out of the way, feeling the end of his tail being singed by the ball of fire that the Nightmare sent flying past. He crashed poorly into her, their limbs getting tangled up as they tried to stand up with the Nightmare throwing its head back in deep laughter.

“I forgot how much fun it was to torment mortals that I have not broken completely already; it gives me fresh ideas in what new nightmares I can bring the world,” it said with a happy sigh before roaring out in pain as it briefly caught on fire.

“Such as being burned alive, you abomination?” Rex growled viciously as took another bottle from his vest. “And in case you are curious to how I escaped mine, you made the error of leaving too many details out. It was simple deduction when I could not recall all the steps that I took to become a professor at the Academy.”

“A mistake on my part Generosity; one does not normally pick away at their lives like you do,” the Nightmare spat, shaking the flames off its body. “How sad it must be that you would look for reasons why things are not what you always wished for and latched onto explanation that made your life a lie.”

“The only lie here is that you think you will win, right Xvital?” Night risked a look at the ahuizotless only to freeze as she had vanished.

“Ah dear Loyalty,” the Nightmare said from in front of him, nose to nose. “I told you I had Magic and you were all doomed from the start to fail.” The Nightmare then slammed a shield into Night’s barrel and sent him flying backwards. “Now comes the fun part where I get to kill all of you and Magic gets to watch it happen for all eternity.”

Night lifted his head in time to see Rex lob a smoke potion at the Nightmare at the same time Page created another shield to protect him with Vix-Lei moving a desk into makeshift barrier and Wind Breaker bracing him on it to shoot at the Nightmare, with it growling as it was forced to back up.

“I think not,” Rex growled as Night got to his hooves and redrew his blade.

And the battle was on.

Chapter Forty Six: Rex, Vix-Lei, Wind Breaker, Page Turner, The Nightmare, Night Blade.

View Online

Chapter Forty-Six

Rex

With his second smoke potion covering their front for a moment, Rex quickly raced over to the rest of the pack while Night bounded over the overturned desk to slam his sword into the aether constructed blade that the Nightmare created, blocking the creature’s swing and beginning to force to it backwards.

Once more, Rex found himself lamenting the fact he lacked the means to do anything more effective while the rest of the pack was-

“Hey Rex, do you hear that?” Vix-Lei asked him as she crouched behind the desk as Night flew past them with the Nightmare slashing in the air. Rex tilted his head and looked to see a door with a couple of equines standing on the other side.

Racing down to the door, he saw the Captain General, a few Royal Guards and a tall drone in Guard armour that had to be Memorizing Gaze on the other side.

“Rex the diamond dog,” the Captain General said to him, exuding authority in her voice alone. “Are you five well?”

“As well as we can be,” Rex said as Page flew around Night, creating a shield for him, only for her to spin to the side as the Nightmare went after her with waves of ice shards in the air.

“What are your plans to defeat that creature?” she inquired as she examined the doorway with her horn glowing. “We expect to be through within ten minutes at the very earliest.”

“While we were fleeing your Guards, we travelled to an alternate world where we saw the effects of the Elements purify a mare named Sunset Shimmer,” Rex replied. “These Elements are a set; while five were able to produce a rather… impressive effect, I am positive that it will take all six of them to defeat the Nightmare. Which means we need to find Xvital.”

“Did you say Sunse-” Memorizing began only for the Captain General to interrupt him.

“Ignore the prophecy; we have more pressing matters at hoof,” the mare said before turning to her Royal Guards. “Gather the ahuizotless’s belongings we confiscated; I will be performing a high powerful tracker to fi-GET DOWN!

Rex dropped to the ground as something smashed into the door.

“Tsk tsk Generosity,” the Nightmare said as it slid up to his side with a hoof raised to smash his face in. “You are neglecting me.” Rex raised his arms in time to deflect the worst of the blow, sliding backwards only for him to crash into something familiarly soft and cozy. Grunting in pain, both Rex and Wind Breaker struggled to get to their feet as the Nightmare began to stalk towards them, wings forming on its sides. “If only you had kept that firearm, you might have had lasted a bit longer. Your kind has yet to scratch the true depth of what - what do they call them again, ah yes, Manechurian Dragons - can do. Not enough to banish me, of course, but with enough force could make me find another host.” It then turned its head towards the Captain General. “But of course you would need to destroy my host first and I doubt regicide is something you can justify.”

The Captain General must have said something that amused the Nightmare because it threw its head back and laughed. “Ah, your loyalty is really touching,” it said as a wave of air smashed Night, Page and Vix-Lei into the wall. “Once I kill these children, I must ask why Balance did not choose you Captains; such a better fit than these failures.”

“We are many things,” Rex grunted. “But failures are not among them!” He smirked, moments before there was a sudden shout, and then something very large and heavy came hurtling towards them.

Vix-Lei

“Hey Nightmare,” Vix-Lei shouted as she stood in front of a toppled filing cabinet with Señor Hardhead in her hands. “Heads up!” she shouted as she smashed the cabinet with her hammer and sent it crashing into the Nightmare’s side.

You!” the Nightmare roared as it barely managed to raise a shield in time. “I should have just killed you from the start!”

“You’ll find a ’taur like me isn’t so easy to kill!” Vix-Lei taunted it, spinning her hammers. “Come get some!”

A black spear of energy was the Nightmare’s answer, which Vix-Lei narrowly dodged. “Whoa!”

There was a flash, and the Nightmare gawked. “What-”

Another flash, and it hissed as one of its false wings began, impossibly, to bleed.

Wind Breaker

From where he was still laying, Wind Breaker watched as tendrils of shadow shot out and their enemy’s wing began to reattach itself. “Fuck,” he heard Night Blade mutter. “I knew I should have pressed the attack.”

“You should have indeed, Loyalty,” the creature snapped. “You won’t get a second chance.”

Then it lashed out with another spear, impaling Night Blade’s own wing and evoking a cry of pain from him.

“I wonder how long it will take you to bleed out?” it wondered, a malicious smirk spreading out on its face. “Let’s find out, shall we?”

Oh no ya don’t!” Wind Breaker roared, bringing up his crossbow and firing a shot at the creature possessing their King.

Unfortunately, a wall of shadow rose to deflect the bolt. “Foolish griffon! You’ll never defeat me with that toy!”

“Then how about this one?

Vix-Lei

Vix-Lei frowned as she watched Night Blade and Wind Breaker making the attacks that she had started. Then, as the Nightmare taunted Wind Breaker about his crossbow, she decided to get its attention. “Then how about this one?

Pulling something out of her side pouch, she reared back and hurled it at the Nightmare, beaning it on the back of the head and causing it to frown as it picked up the object to examine it.

“A rubber lizard?” it wondered aloud.

Then a desk hit it in the back of the head, exploding on contact.

The creature snarled as it was knocked forward, then lashed out behind itself to attack the minotaur.

It met a massive shield instead.

Page Turner

“My turn,” Page whispered as she faced the monster that had captured them, the fiend responsible for so many deaths… including her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, and so many other ponies and changelings.

“You wish to face me in a battle of shields?” the Nightmare laughed. “Don’t be foolish, child… I am so far beyond anything you could-”

It was cut off by a circular disc slamming it in the face. “You may use shields,” Page growled. “But I was born for them!”

“Then let’s see how skilled you really are Kindness,” the Nightmare hissed as it and Page began to circle one another. “Show me you can live up to the name Armor!”

Page answered by launching a multitude of energy shields at their enemy.

“Hah!” The Nightmare gloated. “Really? Is that the best you can do? That was pathetic! Even that fool Shining-”

It was cut off as an even bigger shield smacked it in the face. “Shining Armor was a great stallion,” Page snapped. “And I will not have you disparaging him like that!”

“Shining Armor was a weak-minded slave to emotions who allowed Chrysalis to take advantage of him!” the Nightmare shouted back as it blocked her next energy volley. “He was so eager to hop into bed with her… never once thinking something was wrong about his dear, precious Cadance being so eager to sleep with him before the wedding! And that’s how it all began, you know… if he hadn’t slept with her, Lamella Armor the First wouldn’t have been born… and you wouldn’t be here today! How does that make you feel, knowing how your line came about?”

“Shining Armor wasn’t perfect, but he was family,” Page snarled, deflecting the Nightmare’s next attack. “And as disgusted as I am with what Chrysalis did to him, that’s nothing compared to how utterly I despise you for what you did to everypony!

“Feel this!” A flock of shadowy bats shot out from the Nightmare’s false wings, and swarmed the domed shield Page had instantly erected. Then, as they slammed against it repeatedly, they exploded.

With a cry of pain as her shield shattered, Page fell to the ground, unmoving.

Wind Breaker

“Page!” Wind Breaker shouted. Without thinking, he fired his crossbow straight at the Nightmare, while Night Blade rushed out to pull the mare he loved to safety.

“Cover me!” the other stallion yelled, and Wind Breaker nodded, leaping into the air with some slight difficulty before he began circling the room from above.

Something flew past his head, and he let out an awk of surprise when he realized it had come from behind him. Then he felt the extra weight on his back, and things suddenly became clear.

“My apologies,” Rex sounded somewhat breathless. “But I needed a better vantage point from which to strike.”

“No problem,” Wind Breaker managed as he continued circling. “You coulda warned me you were going to hop on though.”

“I’ll try to do so in the future,” Rex replied dryly before throwing another of his potion bottles, then took hold of Wind Breaker as the griffon jinked left, avoiding a bolt from the Nightmare.

They continued in this manner for some minutes, Rex throwing his bottles and Wind Breaker adding his own shots periodically, before one of his companion’s smoke bombs hit the Nightmare.

“We need to land!” Rex called from behind him, and Wind Breaker, his talons full of crossbow, nodded. Grunting as Rex squeezed his side tighter, he headed for the ground and found himself next to Vix-Lei who was pressing the rag that blocked out Rex’s smoke. Wind Breaker found himself coughing for air under the sheer thickness of it and he fumbled to get the rag pressed against his beak.

“Damnation; only one of the fire potions that Jeb gave me left…” the diamond dog that was on his back grumbled loudly.

“Fire, fire, fire,” Vix-Lei muttered to herself before breaking out into a massive grin. “Rex, I have a crazy idea.”

“Sometimes, crazy works,” Rex replied. “Tell me.”

Vix-Lei did, and alarmingly, Rex's tail began to wag fiercely while Wind Breaker acted far more reasonable and just gulped at Vix-Lei’s insane plan.

The Nightmare

It hissed and growled as it tried to displace the damnable smoke from the room but Generosity's tricks were confoundingly hard to dispel.

These Elements were beginning to prove themselves a true nuisance and it was beginning to regret not killing them and placing them into that false dream realm to mock the Lady of Dreams for when it reneged on the plan to merge their two Powers into one. Still, Magic was under its control and it could not lo-

Suddenly there were twin bursts of flames and Laughter was charging down at it while screaming a minotaur warcry as both of Laughter’s hammers were on fire.

It knew that Laughter carried a fake hammer and thus one was a decoy to distract it. The NIghtmare eyed the hammers as the minotaur raced towards it and threw one hammer.

The Nightmare instantly deflected it with a shield and sent it into the dragon glass steel windows where the hammer exploded into bits of fluff with thin spider web cracks on the near unbreakable window. The Nightmare froze at this, wondering how strong the minotaur was when it realized it had taken its attention away from Laughter who was now leaping into position to send its real hammer into an uppercut blow using both of its arms to power the swing.

The Nightmare was only able to create a shield at the last second but it was too late as the hammer connected to the chin of its host, causing the Nightmare to fly backwards and crash into the wall as it was forced to quickly heal the broken skull of its host, gasping for air and fighting back actual pain.

Night Blade

Night’s eyes went wide as Vix-Lei managed to send the Nightmare into the wall and seemingly defeat the Power, with the minotaur on the ground and holding her right arm, the broken remains of Señor Hardhead around her.

“Vix-Lei!” Page shouted as she flew down beside her, with Wind Breaker landing beside her and Rex hopping off the griffon’s back. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, totally,” she said in a weak voice, still on the ground and holding her bloody arm. “Just one question, guys; how bad is it to see bone sticking out?” She chuckled as she gripped her right arm right tighter to stem the blood with the white shine of her arm’s bone sticking out. “Just curious as I can’t feel anything and I want to know how badly I should be freaking out right now. ’Cause I think it should be a lot, to be honest.”

“Rest assured Vix-Lei that once we are safe and you are treated, I will inform you then how badly you should be panicking,” Rex said as he looked over the massive injury, clearly at a loss in how to begin.

“Thanks Rexy for always being a comforti-” Vix-Lei began before a roar forced them all backwards.

ENOUGH!!!” the Nightmare bellowed as it forced them to the ground with its dark tendrils, holding their bodies down but leaving their head up to watch it. “I AM ANCIENT. I HAVE SEEN EMPIRES FALL, CIVILIZATIONS PASS BY AND AGES COME AND GO. I HAVE SEEN THE RISE AND FALL OF COUNTLESS RACES AND I SURVIVED THEM ALL! I WILL NOT BE MOCKED IN THE MANNER ANYMORE! YOU WILL ALL DIE NOW AND YOUR PRECIOUS XVITAL WILL WATCH ALL OF YOU DIE HORRIBLE AGONIZING DEATHS, UNABLE TO SAVE HER FRIENDS!” It screamed at them, raising five swords made out of darkness, stalking towards them. TIME FOR YOUR ENDLESS SUFFERING TO BEGI” it froze in place, eyes going wide as it snapped its head in such a manner that would have killed a mortal creature. “No,” the Nightmare whispered to itself before screaming out in even greater anger, the room shaking in its outburst. “No, no, NONONONO!!!” The Nightmare whipped its head back, foaming at the mouth with a snarl that held far too many teeth. “THIS IS IT, YOU WILL ALL DIE NOW!” it screamed as it lifted the five swords over each of their necks.

“Hey you,” a voice called out from behind the Nightmare, with a dark bluish-purple hand reaching pull the Nightmare around. “Get the fuck away from my friends,” Xvital said before punching the Nightmare in the face with her glowing violet knuckle buster, a colour that matched the fully restored crown that was the Element of Magic now resting on her head.

Chapter Forty Seven: Smarty Pants

View Online

Chapter Forty-Seven

Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants was at a loss at what to do. The Monster had appeared suddenly with the strange looking filly before the Monster threw it into the Punishment Chair and forced the filly named Xvital to watch the Monster do its monster’s duties that it loved to show off to Smarty Pants when she was naughty.

The Monster was very angry fighting those strangers who seemed to be close to defeating the Monster but Smarty Pants knew that it was impossible. Nothing could defeat the Monster, she knew th-

Smarty Pants held her head in pain as thoughtsheshouldnothavewereinherheadandsomethingwassuqeezingherheadtogetitout.

Xvital was whimpering as the Monster hit the five strangers around and Smarty Pants was doing her best to comfort her but the Monster was too strong and-

She whimpered at the cruel words the Monster was saying, the loud voice hurting her ears.

“You will all die now!” the monster sneered, throwing back the head of the pony whose body the monster was using to hurt the other ponies. “And your precious Xvital will watch all of you die horrible agonizing deaths, unable to save her FRIENDS!

Smarty Pants froze at that word. Friends. Friends. FriendsfriendsfriendsfriendsfriendsfriendsFRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDS!

Ipekenpiiaplpjekacybiealrerltaabowrdhsnirttylefuhs

Those words-NO!

ipekenpii aplpjekac biealrerlt aabowrdhsni rttylefuhs

Those words, they meant something, something big, something important something bigimportant very bigimportant whycouldn’tsherememberwhattheywereandwhytheywereimportantWHYWHYWHYWHYWHY

Smarty Pants began to feel herself begin to forget but no, she would not forget, not forget, she would remember she would remember she would remember SHE WOULD REMEMBER!!!

With a cry of pain, she began to remember life before the monster; she remembered living in the room of books below, meeting ponies, knowing ponies, KNOWINGPONIESKNOWINGPONIESSHEKNEWPONIESSOWHYSHECOULDN’TSHEREMEMBERTHESEPONIES

She looked up at the view of the five facing the monster and she saw them turn into a pink pony orange pony white pony blue pony yellow pony-she knew this scene she lived through this before when they when they when they when they fought the monster and won.

She knew them, she KNEW THESE PONIES AND SHE KNEW THEM!

PINKIE PIE APPLEJACK RARITY BELLE RAINBOW DASH FLUTTERSHY

With a cry of utter pain, she felt chains holding her mind back shatter, like twigs on the sun, exploding as she recalled all the time she spent with her friends, every moment ringing so sharply in her head it felt like her ears would bleed, so clearly that she would go blind, so perfectly detailed that she….

Smarty Pants placed her hooves onto her head as the master chain, the chain that held her true self back shatter as all of her memories screamed back into place, her body exploding with raw thaumatic might. Her body grew to towering heights, her horn spiraling far enough to scrape the sky, wings soaring out to claim the heavens as their own, her mane the very heart of Magic itself blazing in lights and colours never known to exist and never to exist again.

Lifting her head, Smarty Pants died as the last of the donkey filly lie fell away and she reclaimed her true name, saying it for the first time in a thousand years.

“I am,” she said softly before claiming the very air to proclaim her return, to make the very fabric of Reality itself take notice of this moment, all the Powers were to witness her rebirth.

TWILIGHT SPARKLE

Tilting her head downwards to Xvital, she unmade the chains holding her Heiress without thought; the bonds of her prison falling beneath her might to actually bring forth a tiny fulcrum of truth to the fore.

With a flicker of her will, she healed the ahuizotless’s wounds and forced Xvital to face her.

“The sum of the parts are greater than the whole,” Twilight Sparkle stated. “Honesty without Kindness to soften its words begets resentment, Kindness without Generosity leads to the endless abuse of the good nature until nothing is left. Without Loyalty to temper it, Laughter will be seen as cruel and splinter all to the winds. Without Honesty, there can be no Loyalty as lies and secrets are the only things that can kill Loyalty. Without Laughter to bring matters into perspective, Generosity becomes a self-harming system without end.” Twilight reached for their crown, and placed it on Xvital’s head, the Starburst of Magic changing colours from magenta to violet. “Magic is the Element that balances the others; it is the balance that provides a bridge so that Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity and Loyalty will work in harmony and bring forth the true power of the Elements. Go now and save your fellow Elements from the Nightmare.” Twilight Sparkle then leaned down her horn onto Xvital’s soul and bestowed two boons. She gave her heir a snippet of her knowledge and powers so she could face their imprisoner within the moment and she also gave Xvital’s soul a push as to kick off her own magic abilities.

Xvital did not insult either of them by asking a question; she knew what she must do and did it, teleporting away to face the Nightmare and her destiny.

Twilight Sparkle was now alone and for the first time in a thousand years, she interacted with the mortal realm directly. Looking down, she saw her own skeleton with broken chains that were still melting, the bones engraved with countless spells, wards, runes and the like to keep Death away.

But no creature, no matter how powerful or mighty they may be, not even the Creators themselves, could deny Death what it was due.

It had many names; the Pale Pony, the Grim Reaper, the Collector of Souls, the Final Answer, the Great Equalizer, the Unbarginable Griffon, the Reclaimer of Final Breaths, the Stealer of Souls, the Defeater of Empires, the Swallower of Oceans, the Thief of Years, the Ultimate Reality, the Harvester of Souls, the Keeper of the Keys at the End of the Universe, one of the Four Harbingers of Apocalypse, the Terror of the Grave, the Proclaimed First and Final Soul of Creation, and so many more names lost to time itself.

For most Death was an undefeatable terror, its visage capable of breaking any mortal’s will arrogant to believe them able to match its horrifying gaze of unnatural fire in its skull glaring out of its eye sockets. Its reach was beyond the stars themselves and was faster than any mortal alive, its hood and scythe imprinted into all minds of where true horror came from.

However, even in death, there were exceptions. For those who died without sin, the young or simple minded, Death’s fearsome appearance was softened, its scythe absent and eyes’ glow was dulled and it took those to their final Judgement with softness and tenderness.

And there were exceptions. To those who suffered needlessly and were kept past their time, to those who had lost so much, to those who had been pushed beyond into the ground and yet kept their souls pure, Death did more than simply soften its body. It took the time to bring true comfort to those unlucky but blazing, righteous souls for they were what the Creators had always hoped mortals would achieve in their tenure of life.

Twilight Sparkle was an exception unto herself; being the exception to the exception and being a soul who had been part of a Role and Purpose and would have been a Power unto herself if fate had been allowed to go as it was intended. She had been part of Harmony and should have been Magic and during her tenures of life, she had fulfilled her Purpose, Role and Duties without fail.

So when Death came for Twilight, Death took the appearance of kindly old grandfather. Smiling with love and kindness, he stood protectively by her side and took her beyond the realm of mortals and into Tartarus for her final journey. Almost all souls would be directed to Charon, the Ferryman, who would take the souls to the banks of the damned, where they would go to Judgement to learn of their fate. The line was endlessly long for all were allowed to make their case to the Judge of Judges, to plead for leniency and mercy for their actions, true sins and doubts of deeds spoken by the soul. Only the truly innocent and the truly guilty would stay silent, assured in how they acted in life would be clear to the Judge and give them passage to Elysium. Those found guilty of sins and continued to deny their deeds would be condemned to the tortures of Tartarus until such time their crimes had received the proper punishment and the soul understood the weight of their crimes. Those who had lived proper lives would go onto and enjoy their paradise that they earned.

A part of giving their soul over to a Purpose to become a Power was that a deal was made to those who gave themselves this highest of callings. To those who fulfilled their Purpose and Role, saw that their Duties and Obligations were fulfilled, that they did not abuse their position and mantles were allowed to pass the Judge without Judgement. Even those who had the darkest of Purposes and bleakest of Roles, who created untold graves and slew uncountable lives were promised paradise and was given to them when their services were at an end.

Death brought Twilight to the edge of Elysium, the Guardians of paradise turning what passed for heads down at Death and Twilight. It was not often that Death brought a soul directly to the final destination and it deserved notice.

Twilight Sparkle looked into paradise and what she saw made her legs fold. On the other side was her family and friends, all eager and overjoyed to see her once more.

Her mom and dad were crying with joy, her brother and his wife-to-be standing next to them and smiling brightly with her draconic brother/son standing tall on the white stallion’s back. Behind them were people that she knew from Ponyville and Canterlot, friends she never had the chance to know but all cheering at her arrival.

And straight in front of her were her five best friends. Applejack was crying with joy and trying to hide the fact with her hat. Rainbow Dash was twitching with joy, acting like a hummingbird with a wide grin on her face. Rarity was dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, her own grin speaking volumes. Fluttershy was simply smiling broadly, with her pet bunny rabbit perched on her head. And of course, Pinkie Pie was bouncing faster than the eye could follow and before anyone could process the thought, a massive banner saying Welcome home Twilight!!! was in the air and everyone had a party hat on their heads, with the Guardians sharing looks of confusion and Death’s eyes rolling up to the hat on its head.

Twilight Sparkle walked close to the edge of Elysium and raised a hoof before she crossed the barrier. She looked backwards, back into the mortal realm. She thought of what Xvital and her friends were going to face, with the Nightmare being a terrifying foe that managed to kill her friends, trap and torture her for a thousand years, and did what it did to the princesses. She thought of what they could be facing, the monsters that Twilight and her friends left undefeated. She thought of all the hardships they could face and how much she could do to help and aid them.

She thought of all the good she could do and a tiny part of her screamed to turn around, reject paradise for there was still so much to do. A tiny part of herself felt the need to be the princess of friendship was she destined to be and help the new generation of Elements.

It was a tiny part of herself and only a tiny part. The rest of herself was tired from all the pain and suffering she had endured, that she had done all that was required of her. She was due her paradise and her reward for fulfilling what had been asked of her.

Without looking backwards ever again, Twilight stepped forwards and joined her friends and family, took part of the party that prepared for her.

And at long last, Twilight was finally able to rest in peace.

Chapter Forty Eight: Xvital, Night Blade, Page Turner, Wind Breaker, Vix-Lei, Rex, the Nightmare, Balance

View Online

Chapter Forty-Eight

Xvital

Xvital didn’t stop punching the Nightmare backwards until it flew to the side, giving her a chance to catch her breath. Wriggling her fingers, she went to help the guys up with Vix-Lei struggling to get to her feet-holy fuck, what the Mictlan happened to her arm

“Xvital, you’re back!” Page said as she helped Night to his hooves, his wing bleeding.

“And you got your Element to work,” Rex said as he did his best to support Vix-Lei with Wind Breaker taking the brunt of it.

“And she’s got-sweet goddess, you’re heavy Vix-Lei,” Wind Breaker panted.

Such a charmer Windy,” Vix-Lei grimaced as she clearly felt the pain in her arm again. “Muscle and bones are a lot denser than you’d think for my kind, and they weigh a lot more too ‘cause of it.”

“That would explain it,” Wind Breaker said as Vix-Lei finally made it up, still grimacing as she held her arm. “So now what do we do?”

“DOWN!” Xvital shouted as she created a shield to hold back the Nightmare, still not sure how she did that. All this magic stuff was still very new and confusing and it didn’t help that she did stuff like that without meaning to…

Night Blade

“You think because you have your Element you have won‽” the Nightmare roared as it tried to smash through the shield. “I have lived longer than Equestria itself, and witnessed countless Bearers die! I have killed magical armies greater than you children! I have toppled grandstanding empires for daring to mock me! You are nothing compared to me, less than nothing, less than dirt and you will die!

“That might be true, but if it is, then that must mean you had to have failed every time,” Night spat. In response, the Nightmare howled in rage as it finally managed to crash the shield open. Thankfully, they all scattered to the side safely with only Vix-Lei wobbling. “There is no record of you in any of the histories I have ever read.”

“Of course not,” the Nightmare spat back. “I wiped all traces of myself from them; no sense in letting anypony have any chance of knowing what they were facing. Dreams and Nightmares are defeated with knowledge; knowledge is power and power I alone shall have! If Chrysalis knew how to interpret the nightmares I gave her, she would have made peace with the Lady of the Day instead of trying to conquer the land. The Lady of the Day knew what her dreams of the Setting Sun meant;” it chuckled, pressing a hoof against its chest. “There was a reason why she had to send the Setting Sun away. That was a little present from me and some other Champions of Chaos to the Champion of Order. It is a tragedy that the unicorn fled these lands before placing the Element on its head and it only affected a few instead of causing this kingdom to tear itself apart.”

Page Turner

Page gasped in horror at the Nightmare’s words. “So it was you who…” she trailed off.

“Yes, it was me and others,” the Nightmare agreed. “Sadly your Opposite was not among them, but then again, he does tend to go to extremes that make it hard for the rest of my kind to do our Duties.” The Nightmare then threw down a wave of crackling electricity, causing them to dash away again. “Save for me, of course. Nightmares go well with your Opposite. He inspires me and I inspire him.”

“You’re horrid,” Page snarled in disgust.

“I am Nightmare!” it shouted, the strength of its voice slamming them backwards. “I have known Fear intimately and in all its forms! I have seen countless terrors in my tenure of life, witnessed endless abominations from countless Pits of Tartarus and observed the tortures the demons apply to the guilty and sinful; I have encountered things that are so frightening that the merest glimpse would cause a mortal’s mind to break from sheer panic and their hearts to explode from the rush of fear that such a view brought on! And I have grown all the stronger from such a meeting every time! I have helped steer countless back to the righteous path, scared untold billions of billions away from their foul designs, I have saved more lives than you could count in all your lifetimes put together! I have crushed my foes, destroyed countless of my Opposites in the past, I have driven all who stood against me into oblivion.”

Wind Breaker

“But as you said,” Wind Breaker growled as he snapped his wings open to act like a windbreak for the rest of the guys, them beginning to get footing once more. “Knowledge is your power and so is fear, but knowing the fear is the first step to defeating it!” He grinned. “And it just so happens that part of Honesty is Facts... or Knowledge. Which, as you well know, happens to be my department. And while you’re telling the truth now… I can tell that you’ve left out a crucial piece of information: you’ve overstepped your bounds with what you’ve done here. Scaring others back onto the straight and narrow way is one thing, but you’ve been trying to control the world and cut off one of its great Powers. And that is a crime against your Purpose I’m willing to bet.”

HOW DARE YOU!” the Nightmare bellowed. “I HAVE HELD TRUE TO MY ROLE FOR LONGER THAN YOUR RACE HAS EXISTED! I HAVE EXISTED LONGER THAN THIS PLANET AND ALL THE CELESTIAL BODIES AROUND IT! I HAVE TRAVELLED THROUGHOUT THE COSMOS AND KEPT TRUE TO MY ROLE AND PURPOSE! YOU ARE NOTHING BUT UPSTART BRATS DABBLING IN THINGS BEYOND YOUR RECKONING!

Vix-Lei

“But we’re not the ones throwing a tantrum like a little child when we’re called out on what we’ve done wrong,” Vix-Lei snarked through the pain, doing what she did best and piss off others until they lost control. “That’s you-”

She was cut off as the Nightmare flung a bolt of power towards her, close enough that it singed her hair.

I will make YOUR suffering ESPECIALLY painful,” the Nightmare snarled as it created a row of jagged spikes that caused her to jump around and jostle her arm. “I will drive every last member of your little family to the slowest and most painful deaths I can imagine, deaths that will last for thousands of years for every transgression in life, big and small… and you will witness every. Last. Second. Of it.”

Rex

“No, you won’t,” Rex stated calmly. “Because you’re going to fall. Here, and now.” He had nothing left to throw but he would not let this creature harm those he considered kin, those he considered his friends.

“He’s right,” Xvital stated. “You may be big, and powerful, and all that. But at the same time… you’re weak. You’re predictable. You’ve lost every time in the past, your own words! We will defeat you, and end the darkness you’ve brought on this world and others.”

“You say that again and again, and yet you have nothing,” it barked at them. “One Sixth of your full Power and you posses powers you do not even understand, Magic. Powers gifted unto you by that worm. If you had even a hint of her true magnificence, you might come close to scratching me but you have neither that or time on your side.”

“I might not understand this magic, but you know what?” Xvital said as she seemed to focus onto something before snapping her eyes open. “I have them! She waved her tailhand at them. “Wind’s honesty saved our asses more times than I can count, Page’s kindness helped stop us from killing each other, Vix-Lei’s laughter helped us stay sane, Rex’s generosity and selflessness inspired us all during our travels, and Night’s loyalty to us after all the shit we tossed at him is just inspiring. That’s what I put my faith in, that’s where my magic comes. It comes from my friends and you know what?” Xvital said as she and the rest of them began to rise in the air. “Friendship is magic!” she shouted as a wave of pure power surged from her and rest of them with the Nightmare’s eyes going wide for a split second before it sneered at them.

The Nightmare

BAH! the Nightmare snorted in anger as time began to slow down to mere seconds, Time halting things so this moment would play out without interference from outside forces. “You truly think that this will stop me‽ I have endured countless blasts from Harmony and while it is a greater Power than me, its greatest weakness is in its inability to kill! I will return in time and I will seek my revenge on you and your kin!” It screamed at the Elements before eying the figure forming in the swirl of colours. “Thus brings back Harmony and the new age, with the first performance of your Duties in a thousand years,” the Nightmare said in a mocking tone, bowing in kind.

“While you are correct that the Rainbow of Harmony will restore Harmony,” the creature said. “I am still Balance.

For the first time in a very long time, the Nightmare felt a stab of fear in its gut.

“Nightmare, you have killed countless souls in your long life; you have unjustifiably targeted this land and their leaders and their people,” Balance said the colours began to reach a pitch where they became painful to look at but the Nightmare was forced to stare into it as true dread crept into its soul. “As Balance, I shall even scales against all your crimes with dragging you to Tartarus.”

“No, no no no!” the Nightmare shouted in fear, trying to flee its host as it finally realized Balance’s true plans. But it was too late, as the Rainbow of Harmony smashed into its host and out the windows, sending magic back into the lands as Balance dragged the Nightmare away from the mortal realm and forcibly into Tartarus.

The Nightmare was powerful but this was another Power, a greater Power, enacting its Duties. It was powerless as it broke through the barriers of Tartarus, setting off all the ancient alarms as Balance dragged the Nightmare over the river of the damned and past the Courtroom of the Judge. The Nightmare’s fears only grew as the Balance made its way to the older parts of Tartarus, the ancient sections that were not created to fit the needs of the sinful mortals but were there originally, the true sections of Tartarus.

The Nightmare’s nonexistent heart began to thunder as Balance brought them to the First Pit. It was created before time was even a concept, before life existed, before death existed. It was created to hold back Abominations, Horrors, Monsters and an endless swarm of Creatures whose very existence proved a threat to Creation itself. They had been sealed away in the First War, the war between the Creators and these Aberrations to Existence, and they would remain there for all Time. They were locked away for if they ever got a microschism of freedom, all life in Reality would surely perish.

The Nightmare looked up at Balance, trying to understand why they were here. Even the True Demons, the ones made by the Creators to staff this realm, did not travel here willingly and this was not something the Nightmare would inflict on its worst foe.

“Nightmare,” Balance said with ringing bells and trumpets blowing in its voice. “It is time for you to receive your punishment,” it declared and it took the Nightmare a second to realize what Balance was planning and true terror and horror set into its heart. The Nightmare began to plead and beg, screaming at Balance that it could not do this, it was breaking core Rules, it was against the concept of Harmony itself!

Its pleas fell on deaf ears as Balance used its power to reach into the Nightmare and pull its soul away from its Power, separating the being that had been the Nightmare for countless eons from all its power. Balance released the Power, allowing it to go back to Death, its true Master while holding the soul above the Pit.

The being that had been the Nightmare looked up in complete soul terror and then screamed as Balance dropped it into the center of the Pit, screamed as the soul fell into the midst of Monsters, Creatures and Abominations, all hungry for something of Reality. The soul would be screaming until Time ended for there was no time in the Pit, there was no death in the Pit, there was to be only endless suffering for the soul that was once Nightmare and every moment would be spent screaming in fear.

Balance

Balance watched the soul that had been the Nightmare fall into the First Pit, a ghost of a smile on its face. At long last, after almost a thousand years, their plan had finally come to fruition and it was able to return to its true form without worrying about that snake in the grass striking at them again.

Balance closed its eyes and Harmony opened them.

It took Harmony a moment to review all the actions Balance had done and frowned. While this had been the ultimate goal a millennium ago, the ultimate removal of Nightmare’s ability to strike at its Elements, Harmony could not find itself agreeing with Balance’s actions.

Beyond the obvious Rules Balance had broken, Balance had stretched what its Duties were to the point of breaking. It had delayed Night’s birth by twenty years so their future Loyalty would be of the same age as the rest of them at the cost the Blade family being unable to connect with each other. It had caused Rex to be chased out of his pack so he would meet the other Elements and away from his destiny to uniting the packs under a single leadership that would see the diamond dogs respected for the first time in years. Balance had caused Wind Breaker’s mother, who had managed to escape Equestria and the Hatchery system and return to the Griffish Isles, to lose her firstborn child as Wind Breaker was snatched away when he was born and brought to places that would eventually see his return to Canterlot and their Hatchery system, an action deemed necessary as the free born griffon would have never travelled to Canterlot and met the others, depriving them of Honesty. It had encouraged Lamella Armor the Ninth to abandon her daughter to the care of her Hive’s Elders, rather than try to raise the next Queen herself, the Queen who would have been the one to finally make peace with the Equestrians. Balance had caused many sleepless nights to create tension in Vix-Lei’s family, finally driving the would have been shipmistress of all of the Minos Islands Kingdom from that fate and into one being of its Elements. Balance had spoke