Fillies and Monsters

by Solaris Vult

First published

After overhearing the CMC wanting to hunt monsters, Discord gives them and Diamond Tiara a chance in the world of Remnant

One day five fillies are wandering through the forest and slaughter a pack of timberwolves, impressed, the god of chaos offers them a chance to go to a monster-hunting school, little do these fillies know that they are about to enter a world of bloody evolution.

Faced with discrimination, criminals, terrorists, and unending hordes of abominations led by a wicked witch, how will four foals survive? And how will this new team change the world of Remnant?

[Note: I've decided that every 50 likes, I'll release another chapter in a row, instead of following the usual schedule. PS, New chapters every Monday and Friday, since, with how chaotic my current situation is IRL, those are the only times I can upload.]

(Hey! It got featured!)

Chapter 1: Discordant Beginnings

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The timberwolf’s growling was cut short with a sharp kick to the snout, the sheer power behind the strike sending the creature flying backwards, shattering against the trunk of a tree. The second one was pulled apart by the rapid application of pale green telekinesis. The last of the three would have run had it known what happened to the rest of the pack, but it was too busy chasing the little orange pony who was somehow outrunning one of the apex predators of the Everfree, it remained oblivious as furious hooves and wild magic tore it too asunder. All of them didn’t notice the creature that loomed above, like a great serpent, rendered invisible by his powerful magic.

Scootaloo ran up the side of a tree as another timberwolf seemingly emerged from the bush, chasing the filly, the wolf laid itself against the tree’s trunk, Scootaloo kicked out and lept from the tree and glided to the ground as Apple Bloom ran forward and struck the wolf with all her strength, splitting the creature in half and knocking the tree to the ground.

While the two performed this display, yet another wolf lept from the darkness. Sweetie Belle had spent years assisting her sister in their art, and one of the first things she learned was how to use magic to cut fabric into strips. The wolf was bathed in a series of magical pulses that cut through its body, rendering raw wood into cut timbers, and all Sweetie had to do was move to avoid the splinters that scattered across the ground.

Another two timberwolves lept from the darkness… How many were in this pack? And they were running toward the fillies cowering in the center of the destruction. In the comfort of her own mind, Apple Bloom swore as she realized her hoof was firmly stuck into the tree she had knocked over, “Silver, Diamond!”

There was a flash of minty-green light, a dome of energy appeared over the two fillies, one of the wolves rammed itself into the barrier, which suddenly flashed again and collapsed. In a blur, the pegasus of the group lept from another tree and landed on the wolf who had just rammed itself against Sweetie’s barrier, she fell atop the timberwolf’s back and jabbed her hooves against the back of the monster’s neck, while she certainly didn’t have earth pony strength, she could still be pretty scary on her own, particularly when pulling a wolf’s head off its wooden spine.

Sweetie collapsed from the magical exertion, sensing both weakness and a threat, the final timberwolf lept for the fallen unicorn, but a blur of pink caught it in the side and it flew apart. “Woah… Awesome!” Scootaloo shouted.

That was the last of them, any wolves still hiding in wait had realized the futility of their hunt, “We should go before they start reforming… Well, except for the one Sweetie got, I don’t think that one’s getting back up,” A grey and silver filly commented.

“A little help please?” Asked Apple Bloom, who had managed to get her hooves coated in tree sap and tangled in the tree she had barreled over. The others, with the exception of Diamond and Silver Spoon, had rushed to the aid of their friend, Silver was still in more than a little awe and fear, and when it became apparent that Sweetie and Scootaloo weren’t helping as much as they thought they were, Diamond scoffed and marched over to pull Apple Bloom free. Once she was free, she commented, “It’s weird seeing you actually helping for once.”

Diamond gave another scoff and turned to look at the sappy Apple Bloom, “You might be reckless, ignorant, crazy, blank-flanks, but I’m not going to leave you here to get eaten later by whatever other monsters are waiting in these forests.”

The rest smiled while Sweetie, suddenly angry, turned to Diamond and shouted, “Ignorant! I get better grades than you!”

“Sweetie… She just saved you, surely you can forgive an empty insult…” Silver commented.

It was Sweetie Belle’s turn to scoff, but she seemed to accept it. The five fillies started trotting back to town… Luckily, the things the five had gone into the forest to get had been unharmed in the fight. Apple Bloom’s bag full of herbs, spices, and other potion ingredients had suffered the worst, but a little sap wouldn’t hurt the plants. The potions Filthy Rich had ordered from Zecora sat unharmed in Silver Spoon’s bags. And with a little application of Sweetie’s magic to sever the connection from the head to the rest of the wooden body, Scootaloo was now proudly carrying the wooden head of a timberwolf.

The others cringed a bit at the rather grim trophy, but her decapitation of the monster the others had to admit was pretty cool. “That was really cool and awesome!” Scootaloo said, trotting beside Diamond Tiara, “Taking out that timberwolf like you did… I really didn’t think you had it in you to beat up a beast like that.”

Diamond was silent for a second, not really knowing how to take a compliment from these blank-flanks. Silver Spoon cut in, “Of course she can, she’s an earth pony! She can knock down a tree, like you,” She stared at the still sticky Apple Bloom, “if she tried!”

The five continued walking, “Honestly,” Diamond started, “It was kind of… Fun… Hanging out with you girls…” She gave a little chuckle, “I almost wish there were more of them back there.”

“It’s weird seeing you so… Nice,” Said Apple Bloom.

Silver Spoon leaned toward Apple Bloom, “I think she’s just scared of you now,” She said in a loud whisper, smirking.

Diamond turned red and growled at her friend, who only continued smirking. Scootaloo grinned, “we could come back here tomorrow! We can fight more monsters! And” She paused, looking at the wolf head she had on her back, “I can get more trophies to show my parents... Whenever they get back.”

Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle smirked at each other and raised their hooves, turning their head to Diamond Tiara, “You gonna join?” Scootaloo said, raising her hoof with the others. Diamond simply scoffed and turned to trot on, but a look and tap on the flank from Silver Spoon made Diamond sigh and move to raise her hoof with the others… She wouldn’t be shouting “Cutie Mark Crusader: Monster Hunters!”, but she could at least humour the other blank-flank’s antics.

Above, the serpentine creature continued to observe multiple realities at once, but had started to pay attention to his favourite universe, sensing the opportunity for chaos. Sweetie spoke up first, “Unfortunately, tomorrow is a school-day, and I don’t think I’ll have the time to go monster hunting with you.”

Scootaloo sighed, “It would be cool if there was a school for this kind of thing… Imagine going to a school for potion-making, or weapon-making, or monster-hunting!”

Apple Bloom cringed a bit at Scootaloo’s mentioning of their Weapon-Making attempts… Somehow, when trying to make a dagger, she remembered Scootaloo burning down one of the sheds near the barn, and taking a small chunk of the orchard with it… At least Sweetie had made a pretty good halberd.

The time for chaos was now. Behind the fillies came the silky voice of Discord, “A school for monster hunting?”

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon gave startled yelps, Apple Bloom and Sweetie Belle looked sceptical, but Scootaloo suddenly looked even more excited, “Discord!” They all shouted, in voices ranging from horror to hope.

“My favourite little foals…” Discord greeted.

“Is there really a school for monster hunting!” Scootaloo nearly shouted.

“Many… But there’s one, in particular, I think you would enjoy…” Discord smirked… Part of him wished that they had asked for a magic school, that world was in desperate need of chaos, and the world he had in mind was already chaotic… But the chaos his next actions would cause in Equestria was too much to resist, and injecting more chaos into an already chaotic world, as he had learned from long experience, usually started spiralling out of control into something truly glorious.

“Can we go! Can we go! Can we go!” Scootaloo bounced in place.

“Now hold on, you know as well as I do how untrustworthy Discord is,” Apple Bloom cut in, “What’s the catch.”

“Well,” Discord scoffed, “It’s a very dangerous school, full of excitement and adventure, at least in comparison to this place…”

“Danger! Adventure!” Scootaloo started panting.

Sweetie Belle looked deep in thought, “Can I learn magic there,”

Discord mirrored the look of being deep in thought, “Well, yes, for certain definitions of magic, it goes by a different name there, but it is none the less magic… And, it’s a type of magic all four of you can use, not just your horned companion.”

Scootaloo was just bouncing in place, Sweetie Belle started grinning at the idea of learning a new kind of magic, Apple Bloom was less than convinced. “Four?” She said, raising her eyebrow.

“Well, of course, four of you will need to go, that’s just how it works.”

The three fillies turned to look at Diamond, “No, no way,” She said, “This is your kind of craziness… And mom will throw a fit.”

The fillies looked a little disappointed, and turned to Silver Spoon, “No… I’m not some crazy blank-flank monster fighter, I can bearly fight an insect.”

“Oh my little diamond,” Discord purred as he slithered from nowhere to appear behind Diamond Tiara. “But deep down I know how much you hate your mother… I know that this is exactly the kind of chaos a certain little blank-flanked foal wanted in her youth. Before she became shackled to a mark that she didn’t understand.”

Diamond looked flustered and started sputtering for a response. “You destroyed a timberwolf and savoured the feeling of the timbers shattering under your earth-pony strength, a strength you so rarely get to unleash, always keeping your rage at your mother and yourself locked away inside… I can only imagine how good it felt to unleash that rage at a beast such as that wolf. Imagine doing that every day.”

Apple Bloom turned to her friends, “Well if you two are going, I’m coming to… But I’ll need to talk to Applejack first, and you two need to speak with your sisters too.”

“Let me handle that… You’ll be needing these too” The serpentine pseudo-deity said, snapping his fingers and conjuring four boxes and four bags. “You’re a few years too young, even Sweetie, but that can be rectified.”

Scootaloo moved to throw open the box and bag with her name on it, surprised to see the contents of the containers. “Metal bits?” She asked, staring at the box filled with little metal parts, some looked like the blades of knives, and others looked more like clockwork parts, but none of them she recognized asides from the screws and cogs… There were even a few obviously magical gemstones inside the box of parts. Scootaloo noticed that the boxes the others got were far bigger, with Sweetie’s box nearly being her size.

Looking into the bags, they found piles of fabric with the occasional metal plate. “What’s all this,” Diamond said, looking at the strange pink and white armoured dress that looked more like something a diamond dog or abyssinian would wear.

“Looks like you’re all ready… Remember, find a weapons shop or tinkerer to help you with those parts, and cause as much chaos as possible in your glorious quest to become monster hunters!” Discord said, proudly, before snapping his fingers and the four, plus their boxes and bags, all vanished in a blink of light… Leaving behind a dumbfounded Silver Spoon and smug magic snake.

It was night, the dark sky clearly showed that. Sweetie was the first to wake up, still a little dazed from the teleportation. Her body felt weird and she raised her forehoof to the sky in an effort to roll over and get her balance. She felt the grass prick at her body, an odd, somewhat painful, but mostly ticklish sensation, and saw her foreleg, long and pale, but a little more tawny than her normally white coat, and… “What in Celestia’s name!” She shouted, looking at the strange claw-like appendage at the end of her leg.

Scootaloo started to flail around, naked on the grass, and slowly the others came to consciousness. “Discord!” Came the voice of an enraged Apple Bloom. Carefully, Sweetie started to move her body in ways she didn’t think she could before and started to twist around in strange motions that found her sitting, plot firmly on the grassy ground, legs outstretched in front of her, and torso sitting straight up.

Apple Bloom had gotten into a strange position that would have looked normal were she a pony, she stood on both her claw-like forehooves and paw-like hind hooves with an arched back and flank firmly in the air, she stumbled and fell over again. “Bloom!” Sweetie called out, “Remember those pictures I showed you of the Abyssinians and Diamond Dogs, I think we should try to walk like them.”

“Why?” Asked Scootaloo who had managed to get into a similar position.

“Just look at ourselves, whatever Discord turned us into, we’re clearly not supposed to be walking on all four of our legs, think about how Spike walks.”

“That damn dragon-snake!” Apple Bloom muttered as she started to get unsteadily to her pawed hind-hooves.

“Bloom, language.”

“I couldn’t care less about what I say right now, I’ve been turned into a hairless monkey thing.”

Sweetie rolled her eyes but knew exactly how Apple Bloom was feeling right now. Scootaloo had managed to get up by now, and was starting to help Diamond to her hind-hooves, who was muttering something to herself, probably a litany of insults toward “Dumb blank-flanks getting me wrapped up in some strange Discord magic thing, turning me into an abomination and sending me Celestia knows where.”

Now that they had gotten their bearings, Apple Bloom took the chance to analyze their new forms. Sweetie was still the tallest of the group, with pale skin, but still had the same mane and eye colors, her mane extending down to her waist, and she still had her pony ears, sticking up from her head, odd, as to the side of her head was a pair of fleshy growths that also looked vaguely like ears. The fleshy lumps growing from her chest looked almost like the utters of a cow, and she had much longer legs than an abyssinian, but shorter arms than any diamond dog she had ever seen.

Scootaloo was much the same, the shortest of the group certainly, with the shortest mane too, and the fleshy lumps on her chest were nearly non-existent… She didn’t have her pony ears, so it was unclear just how she was hearing the others, her skin was a little more tan, but she still had orange-feathered wings extending from her back, much larger and more like those of a griffon than when she was a pony.

Diamond had a mane that extended past her shoulders but didn’t hold a candle to Sweetie’s grand mass of hair, she too had pony ears. The oddest part was her skin colour, almost stark white, about as white as Sweetie’s pony fur.

Apple Bloom took a look at herself and discovered that she didn’t have her pony ears either, but after patting down her head she discovered the fleshy growths to either side of her head acted as ears, and she still at least had her bow. Her utters were the biggest of the group and played havoc with her balance as she attempted not to stumble forward in this strange body. That was when she discovered two things… First, without hooves, the ground hurt, as her hind-hooves trampled grass, pebbles, and other little debris on the ground. Second, she still had her tail, which she used to help keep her balance.

“What the hell am I!” Yelled Diamond Tiara, “What did you idiotic blank-flanks do to me!”

“This, whatever this is, is Discord’s fault!” Bloom spoke up.

“You were the ones who dragged me into this mess!”

“Girls!” Shouted Sweetie. “We can argue later… First, we need to get somewhere safe, preferably with other ponies… Or whatever lives here, so long as it’s friendly.”

Scootaloo nodded, “We should probably get those things on,” Scootaloo said, pointing to the bags… “They might have ponyshooes in there, and this place hurts my hooves… Plus it’s cold.”

Sweetie was looking around when something in the sky caught her attention. Diamond Tiara ignored her, shouting, “Well… Where in Equestria are we!”

“Uhh… Girls,” Said Sweetie Belle, looking and pointing up. “I don’t think we’re in Equestria anymore.”

The fillies stared upward toward a bright silvery source of light and saw the moon… It was massive, bigger than Luna’s moon, and… Broken… It looked like a shattered glass orb, with little broken chunks floating around. And for what felt like hours, the girls looked up into that massive, broken, terrifying moon. Awe and fear mixing in equal measure at the sight of the slowly drifting fragments.

Chapter 2: Welcome to Remnant

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Diamond had a short but elegant dress coloured white and pink, with some heavy looking high-heeled ponyshooes that were plated in metal, her dress featured a silver breastplate with her cutie mark engraved upon it, one that could be removed and attached with little effort, meaning that she didn’t need to be wearing the armour all the time, and she could simply wear the outfit as a nice dress. She also had a little silver tiara that matched the one she wore in Ponyville, with the exception of being a little flatter and more like a circlet to better fit the head of whatever she was now. Luckily the outfit also came with a silver and blue scarf, a gift from Celestia, or rather Discord, given the chilly air.

Sweetie had a longer, heavier, white coat that was clearly padded, with a fur collar and fur cloak, while the air was chilly, the cloak was a little much and so she left it in her bag, but the dress was nice. Her mane colours trimmed the outfit and a little patch in the shape of a star with a music note in the middle decorated her chest. It almost reminded her of those griffon military uniforms they wore in winter.

Scootaloo had an orange shirt and a thick black short-sleeved jacket with metal plates sewn inside and holes for her wings. She also had some heavy pants with metal plates sewn on and another pair of heavy ponyshooes, around her waist was a spiked belt with a light purple skirt with the symbol of a wing and lightning bolt sewn on. She almost gave off an aura of menace in that jacket and pants, like she was somepony out to beat up someone and rob them, but the cute little skirt nearly ruined the effect.

Apple Bloom had the simplest of their clothing, a sweater with some kind of vest that also felt metal-plated, although unlike Diamond’s gleaming, royal-guard style, breastplate or Scootaloo’s rugged pants, these plates were clearly inside the vest, hidden by the brown cloth. With a simple pair of pants and a hat exactly like her sisters save for the metal emblem of an apple and a heart adorning it like a sheriff’s medal. The most obvious pieces of armour were a pair of bronze ponyshooes for both her sets of legs, hind and fore.

Sweetie Belle was really the only one of them used to wearing clothing, but Discord provided them, they were decent armour, and they got them out of the Celestia damned cold. The thought that Discord had provided them armour was both relieving and at the same time more chilling than the cold air… Equestria had plenty of monsters, but for the most part, the guard could handle them, why would this place have a school dedicated to teaching monster-killing… Couldn’t their own guards handle it? And now they had just been given armour as if Discord was expecting them to be attacked right as they awoke… And the most annoying part, sure, the fillies liked their new armour, but why did Diamond get the best protection!

They took the time getting dressed to inspect the field around them, it was a clearing in the woods not too far from a hill, there was a glow emanating from just beyond. “What do you think, should we head that way?” Asked Sweetie, pointing toward the dim light from just beyond the hill and woods.

“Well, where there’s light, there has to be something producing light, it doesn’t have the orange hue of a fire, so I’m guessing it’s a town or city,” Said Diamond.

“I’d guess the same.”

“It doesn’t matter what’s over there, so long as I find some food,” Apple Bloom muttered.

“I don’t care where we go, so long as it’s not as boring as this place,” Scootaloo said.

“I guess that means we’re in agreement… Come on, we should get moving,” Said Diamond.

“What about those boxes…” Said Apple Bloom, pointing toward the cardboard boxes discord had given them, “I took a peek inside and found all kinds of metal bits, screws, pipes, all that kind of thing, including some papers that looked important.”

Diamond sighed, “All they are is some metal junk… I don’t know why Discord gave them to us, but I don’t want to haul those to… Wherever we’re going.”

Apple Bloom replied, “Discord gave them to us, we can’t just leave it, they’re probably important!”

Diamond replied in turn, “Do you want to carry all that metal for who knows how far.”

Sweetie cut in, “I’ll take a box if that helps, I’ve carried Rarity’s luggage enough that I’ve gotten plenty of practice in hauling boxes,” She moved to the box with her name on it, the largest of the bunch… Back when they were in Equestria, as ponies, the box was nearly the size of a thirteen-year-old filly, and that wasn’t counting its length, it was nearly twice as long as even a fully grown pony. The box was still pretty big but if she set the box on her shoulder and held it with her claws, it wouldn’t be too hard to carry.

Scootaloo nodded and moved to her box, the smallest of the bunch, being just big enough that she could comfortably carry it in her claws. Apple Bloom went to pick up hers and discovered, rather surprisingly, that while being nowhere near as big as Sweetie’s box, hers was somehow the heaviest.

Diamond scoffed, and when they realized that she wasn’t going to be taking her box with her, Scootaloo grabbed it and again was surprised that while easily being three times the size of her package, Diamond’s was somehow the lightest.

Soon they had scaled the hill and saw the source of the glow. “Woah!” Exclaimed Scoots, Apple Bloom looked rather impressed, and Sweetie stared mouth agape. Diamond merely stared, not showing much of a reaction. The city was massive, bigger than Canterlot, bigger than Manehattan even, it stretched all the way from the coast on one side to the mountain on the other, behind that mountain, in the shadows, they could vaguely see what looked like more of the city, but no lights came from over there. At the other end of the city from where they were now, they could see a huge spire overlooking a cliff-face. There was the occasional airship patrolling the skies, not nearly as many as in Cloudsdale or Rainbow Falls, and certainly not as many as Las Pegasus, but they were there, too far away to make out any details about them though.

“Looks like a three or four hour trot… Let’s stop gawking and get there as soon as possible,” Apple Bloom said, breaking the spell the fillies had been under. And so they began their trek, the forest proved sparse enough to easily traverse.

News travels fast in Ponyville, it wasn’t long before everypony in town knew what Silver Spoon had heard and seen, four fillies, the notorious Crusaders and the equally infamous Diamond Tiara, going to a school to hunt monsters, seemingly teleported away by Discord.

School that day was rather quiet. Cheerilee stepped in, “So, apparently Discord,” She said, her voice an amalgamation of all kinds of emotions: Exasperation, relief, disdain, confusion, and worry. “Has decided to send off four certain foals to some other school… One about, ‘fighting monsters’.”

“We know,” Almost the entire class said at once.

“Silver Spoon wouldn’t shut up about it,” A monochromatic grey and dark grey colt said.

“I kinda wish Sweetie didn’t leave,” A brown and rust-coloured colt continued.

“At least we won’t have to deal with Diamond’s brattiness…” A shy platinum and blonde filly continued.

“I kinda feel the same, but Scootaloo was a friend, I don’t like to see her go,” The first colt finished.

Throughout the day, half of the school was happy, the other half sombre, happy to be rid of four forces of destruction and annoyance who had terrorized the school and Ponyville as a whole… But at the same time, those four were good friends to some, and had disappeared without a trace.

In the corner of the playground, a lonely filly sat… Diamond Tiara was her only friend, she was one of the few ponies in the entire world who she could trust… And now she was gone. Silver Spoon wanted to yell out for Discord’s name, wanted to demand that he bring her to Diamond, but she was also scared… Not just about the potential dangers that exist wherever they had been sent, but also Discord’s unpredictability. She wasn’t going to go, she didn’t have the strength or courage to find her one and only friend… Silver started to let tears collect under closed eyes as she heard the other foals play.

“Silver…” Came a voice, that of a colt.

“We know how much Diamond meant to you” Came the sweet and quiet voice of a filly.

“And the crusaders were our friends too,” Another colt spoke up, his voice a little higher-pitched and more energetic.

“So, we’re going to go have a talk with Discord… And we want you to come with us,” The first colt finished.

Silver Spoon opened her eyes and stared, still wet with tears, at the three… None of them were ponies she knew well, one of them she was sure was a filly Diamond and herself had teased and insulted numerous times, but these ponies were willing to help…

We were almost there… We had been walking for a few hours now. The team’s legs were sore, arms heavy from the metal-filled boxes they carried with them, but the glow of the city lights were growing steadily closer. A familiar sound graced the four ears of Sweetie, who immediately recognized the danger… Timberwolf.

She raised her hand to stop, Diamond heard it too and did the same, soon they were sitting there, confused. “Timberwolf,” Sweetie whispered, “I heard its growling, be careful.” A few tense moments passed, and Diamond gasped when she saw a pair of glowing crimson eyes coming from the darkness between the trees.

Sweetie may not have been a pony anymore, she might not have had a horn, but she still had her magic, she could still feel the energies running through her body, and so she reached out with her claws and focused for all her might, and behold, a green barrier flashed into existence around Diamond as the wolf charged…

This was when they realized they were mistaken about what exactly this creature was… This creature wasn’t a timberwolf, this wasn’t a normal wolf, this was some other canine creature. Its stature reminded Sweetie of the Diamond Dogs, this thing bore the torso of an ape, with massive claws, and she could tell from their razor-like talons that these were claws meant for killing, not digging, and it’s head, while undeniably canine, reminding her a bit of Winona, bore a mask of bone engraved with glowing red marks that oozed with malignant magical energies, energies that every pony here could feel in their bones.

The creature’s claws slammed into the barrier and Sweetie felt her magic collapse in on itself with a painful implosion in her mind, it would be a minute or two before she could pull off magic like that again. She fell to the ground, letting out a scream of pain as the spell’s violent assault reacted with the nerves in her skull.

Apple Bloom wasted no time and rushed forward. Leaping, she rammed her forehoof, claw curled into a ball, right into the chest of the wolf-monster. With all her force, her fear, her rage, and the screams of Sweetie Belle backing her fist, it didn’t send the monster flying, it cut through its rather frail flesh and burst out the other side, bronze shoe coated in black and red ichor that started to turn to an acrid black smoke. A little sickened at herself, realizing that she struck with much more force than she had intended, she stared, disgusted at the sludge leaking from the monster’s body.

The wolf wore an expression of astonishment, or at least as astonished as a mindless beast could be, as it went limp and started to dissolve. Apple Bloom ripped her claw from the creature’s chest and turned to see if there were any others approaching. Of course, there were.

“Diamond, watch out!” Called Scootaloo as she tried her usual tactic of running around and harassing the foe, only to trip on nothing, still not used to this strange body, not enough to attempt a wild dash through uneven ground.

Diamond lept to the side as another of these wolf-monsters came charging, she narrowly avoided it’s scything claws, and the monster impacted the ground with a thud, but was quick to recover. Not quick enough it seemed, as Diamond got to her hooves first and stomped over to the creature, a sharp buck to the side keeping it down as she rammed her shooed hind leg over and over again into the creature with her earth-pony strength, horrible snapping and cracking and popping noises came from the beast as Diamond pummeled it’s head into the ground until it started to dissolve into an ebony sludge and noxious fume…

Diamond felt sick for a moment, realizing that she had killed the wolf… She had beaten ponies before, she had hurt, she always felt bad about it afterwards, but she had never truly injured someone, not even broken a bone… Now she had actually killed… But this wasn’t a pony, any creature with a trace of magic in their blood could feel the dark energies flowing off this thing, even as it lay there, dying, boiling into goo and finally into smoke before it dissolved further, back into the magical energies that it had been originally. This creature in truth never actually existed, but was rather an entity of magic… This was something she could kill without regret. Or at least she tried to convince herself of that, but the guilt gnawed at her mind, thus she stood there, staring at the dissolving monster, not knowing what to think.

Another two lept from the shadows, clearly, they were not as cowardly as Timberwolves. Scootaloo was right in their path and had just managed to recover her hoofing. From experience in the Everfree, she knew exactly what to do, she leapt into the air, the air seeming to flow around her and give her that boost she needed, guided by the magic of a pegasus. She considered for a moment trying an old trick Rainbow had once shown her, but this wasn’t the time for experimentation, she could practice that later. The air current reversed and with gravity’s help, she plunged down on to the wolf’s back.

Even in this new body, she didn’t have the weight to hurt the creature just from falling, pegasi were nearly a quarter the weight of any normal pony, even when not using their magic, but she did grab a tight hold on the wolf’s back with her new claws. Brandishing a broken stick she had grabbed from the forest floor, she plunged the wooden stake deep into the monster’s back, drawing black goo from the wound and seeing its glowing red flesh.

Scootaloo savoured the adrenaline as she struck down again and again with her makeshift stake. Scootaloo questioned for a moment her sanity, enjoying the pain she was causing, but she soon remembered that this creature wanted to cause pain and death to her friends, and nothing was going to touch them as long as she had something to say about it. With one final strike, the stake went through the wolf’s neck and it stopped struggling.

Sweetie had gotten back to her hooves, and felt the aching in her head subside, but she still found it hard to concentrate… Scootaloo was busy stabbing one of the malignant wolf-creatures, the others looked paralysed, not moving, staring at the rapidly dissolving bodies of the monsters. There came another growl from the woods, and it lunged at the still form of Diamond.

Sweetie didn’t have much magic left in her for now, that barrier took all she had, and she hadn’t recovered much in the past dozen or so seconds. But she had to do something, so she closed her eyes, raised her arms, and let the power she had in her reach out with the intent to cut. There was a single pulse of green around the wolf’s center torso, and just like that it was bisected, legs and upper torso impacting the ground separately, rolling, and coming to a stop right before the still shocked Diamond.

Everyone stood still for a moment, a little on edge, expecting one or two more to come jumping out from the bush… But nothing happened… Everything was still. Sweetie Belle allowed herself to collapse in exhaustion, a stunned Apple Bloom just sat on the ground, Diamond stared down to where there had once been a monster, and now just pulverized dirt, and Scootaloo fell to her back, panting, and wincing a bit at the pain in her wings as she fell on them.

Everypony sat there for what felt like hours, but in all likelihood, it was merely a few minutes, when there came a noise. A loud whirring, a screech like a demented train engine kicked up to a million, or like a cross between a whistling teapot and yelling griffon. All the ponies got to their hooves, and frantically looked around for the source of the noise, Scootaloo holding her newfound weapon at the ready.

Suddenly, an airship, a rather small one, made from what looked like metal, and somehow flying on the magical energy emitted from the two massive horn-like protrusions on either wing, descended from the sky, looking like a metal oval with a three-finned tail, like a flying fish. A door opened on the side and inside were two bipedal creatures in some kind of armour, one in some metal plate armour not too unlike what the royal guards would wear, except that it seemed made from a grey metal rather than gold, and the other wearing a heavy trenchcoat, looking down at the ponies.

One of the two bipeds gestured to someone out of sight and the craft descended, the conical protrusions, emanating with enough magic for the equestrians to feel, started to decrease in power and rotate, allowing the ship to land smoothly on the ground as a ramp extended from the vessel’s open doorframe, allowing the two bipeds to march out to the ground.

“We saw the smoke and flashes of light from the walls, thought a grimm attack was heading our way…” One said, a stallion, judging from his voice.

“What’s four faunus girls doing out here? Are you with Beacon or one of the combat schools?” The other one, again another male, at least from voice, continued.

“No…” Sweetie spoke up, voice dripping with exhaustion, “We saw the city’s lights and made our way here…”

“Probably survivors from an unmapped settlement…”

Diamond simply nodded, it was clearly the answer they expected, she was hesitant to say anything more, at least until they got a greater understanding of where exactly they were… Faunus, so that’s what these creatures were called.

“Well…” The stallion’s voice spoke of deep regret and pitty, “I’m glad we found you when we did then… We’ll take you into Vale, along with anything you might be carrying, but once you get inside the city, I’m afraid you’ll be on your own.”

“We’ll manage,” Apple Bloom said, getting to her hind-hooves and started lifting the boxes of parts on to the ship, one of the two alien stallions rushing to her aid.

“I can’t believe that you four managed to take out all these grimm yourself, without any weapons no less…” The one in the trenchcoat said before helping Sweetie to her hooves and into the ship.

Discord heard his name spoken, as he always did, but this wasn’t someone using his name in fear, gossip, or ignorance… This was someone calling to him with intent, someone wanted to see him, how interesting… But this was expected. He answered, appearing from his realm of non-reality to greet the pony who had called him. And so he appeared within a shack on the Apple Family’s farm.

A grey filly with a silver mane stood, a look of defiance and courage on her face… Loyalty ran deep in this young mare’s veins, and part of Discord wanted to go back in time and make her the bearer of the Element of Loyalty instead… Perhaps an experiment for another time and another reality. Discord was a little surprised at the three other foals with her, two colts and a filly… Then, a wonderfully chaotic idea ran through his cosmic mind.

Silver Spoon took a step forward, “Discord,” She said, doing an impressive job at hiding the trepidation in her tone, “I-” She paused, “We want to go to Monster-Hunting School…” The other young ponies nodded and gave their affirmations.

Discord couldn’t help a smirk from crossing his features. “It’s a dangerous world out there, I’m positive Diamond and the Crusaders have figured that out first-hoof by now… I’m simply giving you this warning, once.”

Silver Spoon was scared, but nodded her head… Loyalty was very strong in this one indeed… “Very Well,” And with a snap of his fingers four boxes and four bags appeared, and with another finger snap, the four foals and their gifts vanished from this planet.

Chapter 3: Home and Hotel

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“So… Discord,” Twilight said, glaring angrily, “You just sent these four fillies off to some school in another world, for monster-hunting.”

“Well, yes, that’s exactly what I was saying… Well, almost, it’s another planet, not another world, they’re still in the same universe, same galaxy even… Don’t worry, they’ll be fine.”

Six mares simply glared at the draconequus, except for Rainbow Dash who seemed oddly proud. When he found himself summoned into the newly ascended princess’s library, he felt a weight descend upon him, though in all likelihood that was the binding spell that was keeping him bound in a physical form.

“I ain’t worried, Scoot’s a tough little filly,” Said Rainbow.

“What’s all this ‘monster-hunting’ business…” Applejack said incredulously.

“My little Sweetie is all lost in some alien world, how is any of this ok!” Yelled Rarity.

Discord rolled his eyes, “They still have their magic, that’s more than can be said for the rest of that world’s inhabitants…” Twilight raised an eyebrow at that. “Just an idiotic move by two of my idiot cousins…” Discord clarified. Floating up to Twilight and whispering into her ear, “You should have seen the looks on their non-faces when I took some of their power and gave it to a certain pair of mares, about five-thousand eight-hundred years ago now.”

“Still, you shouldn’t have done that,” Fluttershy said, a bit louder than normal, “Discord.”

“It’s not like I did it against their will, they wanted to go to school.”

“I like that Bloom’s getting herself an education, but seriously, what’s all this monster-hunting business,” Applejack continued.

“Just some semi-corporal entities, kinda like ursas, or tantibusi.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide, and Discord realized his mistake, “T-They’re not as dangerous as those examples, they were just the first examples I thought of… See for yourself!” He said, snapping his fingers. In the middle of the library appeared, in a flash of light, a very confused wolf, eyes glowing red and face adorned with a bone-like mask.

Meanwhile, on a distant planet, Professor Port stared, confused, at one of the cages. He was collecting some weaker grimm for the first-year students starting next month, when suddenly one of his Beowolves vanished. Perhaps he should just get a Boarbatusk instead.

Back in Equestria, the wolf stared at the creatures surrounding it, curling up into itself in fear of the magical power these entities radiated, particularly the purple one… And equally confused at the lack of hate in the place it found itself. Rarity fainted at the sight of the beast.

“Discord!” Fluttershy shouted, “You scared the poor thing,” Fluttershy took flight and moved to the massive wolf-creature towering twice the height of the ponies, and started petting it’s black, almost ethereal, fur. The sensation reminding the pegasus of when she had touched Luna’s mane. Twilight’s eyes somehow got wider as she inspected the creature, no doubt sensing the magical energies that comprised it.

“Discord…” Said an annoyed and exasperated Twilight, “Are you sure the foals are ok…”

“Yes, I’m keeping an eye on them, even now…”

Twilight’s horn glowed and she drew a book from a stand, “Give this to Sweetie next chance you get, it’s a list of spells, I was going to teach it to her someday… After all, we won’t be around forever to protect Equestria, and these spells are all ones that I found particularly useful during my friendship quests.” Discord snapped his fingers and the book disappeared.

Fluttershy and Applejack turned to each other, nodded, then turned to Discord, "The girls and I are going to be doing a bit of talking, alone... But later, you'll be needing a serious talking to, Discord," Applejack said.

He was about to leave when he looked out the window and froze. Outside were four ponies. He turned to Twilight, “Can you please dispell that binding spell now.”

The airship passed over the forest on approach to the city. Below, the fillies saw a massive concrete wall, dotted with towers, and occasionally illuminated with bursts of coloured light. “What’s all that?” Asked Apple Bloom.

The stallion in the trenchcoat looked confused for a second then said, “Oh, you mean the Kingdom’s wall, that’s there to keep the grimm at bay, the wall is dotted with machine-gun nests, flamethrowers, and cannon turrets, plus it’s manned by huntsmen and kingdom police at all times… No need to worry about the monsters getting inside the city.”

Apple Bloom nodded. A dozen minutes later, a massive black bird with glowing eyes could be seen approaching the city, there was a flash of light below, and a few moments later the bird exploded in a dozen places at once. Diamond and Bloom stared, shocked, while Scootaloo was clapping, and Sweetie was simply impressed. “Got’em!” The stallion said, “That was the flak-cannons at work.”

The airship started flying lower once it passed over the walls and the fillies got their first true look at the city. “Welcome to Vale,” The stallion in plate armour said. The city was made from huge brick buildings, all of them three to six storeys, like a forest, all of them taller than even the tallest building in Ponyville. The shortest of the structures was even as tall as the town hall. Between the buildings were roads made from some black stone that the fillies couldn’t identify, and ponyless carriages and chariots raced through the streets.

Sweetie was confused at the magical energies she sensed… Back in Equestria, there was so much background magic that everypony was just a blur in the general glow… Only ponies like the Princesses or Twilight really distinguished themselves against the general background. Here, there was very little background magic, and she could make out individual points of magic more clearly. The carriages ran on magic, and there was plenty of magical energy throughout the city, but it was all very dim and felt rather one-dimensional as if the magic being used was only capable of a single basic purpose… She felt some magic from the creatures, the two stallions had very weak fields around their bodies, but she didn’t sense any internal power, they probably couldn’t even use telekinesis.

The airship came to hover over a marked landing pad and set down, the ramp extended and the fillies marched out. “I thank you for coming to the aid of myself and my…” Diamond paused, allowing just a hint of disdain in her voice, “Companions.”

“We’re huntsmen, it’s our job to help people, even if you are faunus.” The trenchcoat-wearing stallion said, “The name’s Night Lark,” He extended his foreleg. Diamond didn’t understand the gesture but knew that it was a symbol of greeting or gratitude, and so extended her foreleg in turn, at which point the stallion grabbed it in his claw and started shaking. An odd feeling Diamond had to admit.

“And you?” She asked, extending her foreleg at the one in plate-armour.

“Aquilla Winchester,” He said, but didn't shake her claw in return... Diamond felt that this was somehow rude, but couldn't really understand why she felt that way.

The other fillies were enraptured by the city, staring and waving their arms through the streetlamps and street-signs that seemed made from light. And staring up in awe of the large buildings, while being somewhat terrified of the carriages that drove by. Diamond went to round up the others before they got into trouble or broke some law that they had no knowledge of.

Back on the ship, Aquilla said, “For faunus, those girls aren’t half bad. Certainly weren’t White-Fang”

Night agreed before continuing, “They were some of the nicest I’ve met… I wonder what village they came from.”

“It doesn’t matter now I suppose,”

The other nodded before the door closed and the ship took off again back to patrolling the borders of the kingdom.

In the void between existence, Discord roamed, in this place his body seemed to glow with a field of rainbow energy, to the point where one would be unable to make out his physical features and would simply see a dragonesque rainbow-coloured snake. He carried the book that Twilight had given him, and with a simple application of his power, he duplicated it, and returned to the physical universe with his two tomes in claw and paw.

Before he gave them to his two favourite unicorns, Discord had tea with Fluttershy scheduled, and he certainly could wait in giving the fillies their gifts… It was, after all, night on Remnant, and they could sleep while Discord relaxed.

When he reappeared, discord was surprised by several things, the least of which being the two other mares present in the cottage. No, the most surprising by far was the beowolf sitting in the corner. “Lusus has been a bit agitated since you brought him here, so I’ll be taking care of him for the time being… It’s a bit strange that he doesn’t seem interested in any of the food I’ve been giving him, but nothing else seems wrong... Although he did seem interested in Angel for some reason,” Fluttershy said.

“You should have seen it when they first met, Lusus kept following Angel around, I was a little worried about him trying to eat the bunny, but he just kept stalking him,” Rainbow cut in.

“I don’t like that beast, it just doesn’t feel right, being around it,” Applejack said.

“Lusus?” Discord asked.

“That’s what Angel called him,” Fluttershy returned, then suddenly looked sad, “I have no idea how to talk to him, normally wolves and dogs are easy to understand, but his speech makes no sense, so I couldn’t ask him his name like I normally do… But I’ll get it in time.”

Applejack and Fluttershy then both rounded on Discord, "So, let's talk about fillies and why it's a bad idea to screw with them... Particularly ours," Said Applejack, stomping a hoof down in emphasis.

“Listen,” Diamond Tiara spoke up once she had gathered the fillies, “We need to find a hotel or inn.”

“Why, I can just sleep right here if I wanted,” Scootaloo offered, sliding on a bench on the side of the road.

“Seriously Scoots,” Apple Bloom replied, “You want to sleep on some street-side bench.”

“Well, it’s not like we have any money,” Sweetie Belle replied.

"And it's not like I haven't done it before," Scootaloo returned.

“I will not spend a single night on some filthy bench!” Diamond shouted, “Blank flanks,” she muttered.

The fillies rolled their eyes as they piled on to the bench, Diamond scoffed, crossed her forelegs, and sat on the concrete ground. They spent a few minutes there, Scootaloo already having fallen asleep, when someone approached. A large stallion, no ears or tail or wings to the fillies surprise, wearing a simple shirt and pants. “What’s a bunch of faunus girls doing out here in the cold?” He asked.

“We don’t exactly have a home or money…” Sweetie answered.

“I see…” He nodded, then pulled something from a pocket on his pants, drawing a few smooth and solid cards painted with different colours, patterns, and numbers, “This should be enough for a day or two.”

Diamond was sceptical, “You have no reason to help us? Why?”

“Diamond!” Sweetie shouted, “Don’t be rude to him.”

The stallion simply sighed, “Faunus have it bad enough, I’m not going to let some girls sleep out here if I can help it.”

Diamond felt the sincerity in the stallion’s voice and accepted the gift. She assumed it was some kind of currency… But cards? Who in the world uses cards for money? “Thank you very much, sir… Umm,”

“Tukson,” He said, “Tukson Gray.”

“Thank you very much Tukson,” She said, shaking the stallion’s claws in what she hoped was a gesture of gratitude… It seemed to have the intended effect as the stallion walked off.

Apple Bloom hopped to her hooves and pulled Scoots with her, “Come on, let’s go find somewhere to sleep, and eat.” The others nodded and began to walk down the sidewalk, looking for a place to stay for the night. They passed numerous unmarked buildings and found the occasional faunus walking down the streets, but the night’s darkness made them seem like shadows against the walls despite the brilliant moonlight.

Soon they saw a sign above the door to a five-storey building, proclaiming “Ember Inn” It was across the street from some building called "From Dust to Dawn", that Sweetie could see was absolutely filled with strange one-dimensional magic she had felt around the city. They steered their way toward the building, and passed through the door, not noticing the “No Faunus” sign on the window.

The innkeeper, an older red-haired mare in a form-fitting red dress, just stared at the girls as they trotted in, sighing before shouting, “No Faunus! Get out!” Each of the girls just stared stunned.

“But you’re-” Sweetie Started

“Get out! I won’t be having White Fang or any of their sympathizers in my town!”

The girls looked at each other, confused. “I don’t really understand, we simply need a place to stay the night,” Diamond began.

“I’m not letting any animals into my inn! For the last time, go!”

“Animals!” Diamond shouted back, marching forward a few steps, “I- Aagh!” Apple Bloom grabbed Diamond by the foreleg and mane and began to pull her back.

“Diamond, we don’t want to get into trouble here, you said that yourself,” Bloom said, as she started to pull diamond away. Scootaloo, who had looked ready to start beating the pulp out of the innkeeper, found herself being dragged away too, Sweetie Belle’s firm grip on her arm not wavering in the least as Scoots lashed out with her wings.

“Let go of me you dirty blank-flanks!”

“Keep those ‘friends’ of yours on a short leash,” The innkeeper said bitterly as the fillies pulled themselves out of the building.

Once they had gotten Diamond and Scootaloo cooled down, a difficult feat for an adult, let alone two fillies, they marched down the street, more than a little angry. “I don’t get it,” Said Apple Bloom, “Wasn’t that mare a faunus too? I mean, she looked just like us… Well, not just like us, but about the same.”

Scootaloo and Sweetie shrugged as they marched on in search of another hotel. Diamond replied, “I couldn’t give a flying feather about that, she called me an animal! Me!”

“Woah, Diamond, language,” Apple Bloom muttered, half-heartedly, as she certainly shared the sentiment. Diamond just growled in response. Somehow, Bloom had ended up being the one to carry all the boxes, and while she could do it with ease, she couldn’t help feeling a bit miffed with the other ponies.

A dozen or so minutes later they saw another place, “The Nightwatch Hotel” it advertised, and the fillies hesitated as they looked for any signs that might deter faunus, but found nothing, and so they stepped inside and found no one at the desk.

“Uhh, hello?” Scootaloo asked to the empty room. It was a pleasant room, it reminded them of the time they spent in a hotel in Canterlot, with the tile floor and stone columns holding up a wooden-reinforced stone ceiling, not quite as polished or resplendent than a Canterlot building, but the carpet was nice.

“Be right there in a moment,” Came a stallion’s voice from a room behind the counter. Soon, the door opened and out stepped someone in a heavy coat over a sweater and jeans. “It’s a bit late for four girls to be wandering the streets… I was about to close up for the night… Can I help you?” He asked.

“Yes,” Said Diamond, burying her anger at the previous innkeeper under a layer of professionalism. “My companions and I need a room for the night. How much will that cost us?”

The stallion nodded and pawed at the scruffy hair around his mouth and chin, “I assume you’ll all be sharing a room?” He asked. The fillies nodded, “Ok,” He continued, “A room costs ten, we also charge extra for each person, another ten per faunus, five per human… So that’ll be about fifty lien for you.”

“What’s with the extra cost for faunus?” Asked Scootaloo.

The stallion shrugged, “I’m not the one who makes the rules, I’m just the cashier and here to take notes on the customers... Just be thankful you aren’t in Atlas.” Diamond nodded, counting the numbers listed on the cards as she pulled them from her pocket, soon she had given over half the stack to the stallion. “Ok, room eighteen is yours for tonight and tomorrow,” He had finished. And with that, the ponies made their way up the stairs and into their room.

Chapter 4: The Gun Girl

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Morning light filtered in through the hotel’s window as the sun rose over Vale. Diamond Tiara was first to wake, and started to move the covers off, she didn’t recognize the strange sensations of her claws grasping at the sheets for a moment, and startled herself for a second as she stared at her new faunus body. The events of the previous day flooded Tiara’s mind and it started to sink in that they were in a completely different world… She wouldn’t see her dad… She wouldn’t see Silver.

She gave a weary sigh, and stopped herself from feeling regret, that, from long experience, only led to bad things. She had slept in her own bed, meanwhile, the moment they got out of their armour, the Crusaders all piled together with copious amounts of blankets and pillows in a giant pile… The pony… No, the person who would be taking care of the room would not be happy, that was for sure. The Crusaders had seemingly stripped the other two beds in the room of their blankets, sheets, and pillows.

All their clothing was lying in a pile off to one side, while Diamond’s dress and armour was neatly folded atop her box of parts… She still didn’t understand why Discord had given them a few boxes of spare parts, but now that she was starting to recover from the litany of shocks the last night had given her, she could now start to think on the matter. As dawn crept over the city, Diamond spent her time looking out the window, studying the world and its people as she did so.

It wasn’t long before the Crusaders woke up, digging themselves from out their mass of pillows and blankets. “Ahh, look at this place!” Scootaloo said, nearly throwing herself over to the window… Luckily the glass had prevented her from throwing herself out the window. Now that it was day, they could make out the city of Vale much more clearly now, and it was nearly as impressive as it had been when they flew out over it aboard the airship. In the distance was that giant spire, and now, with the early morning light shining upon it, they could see the tower had a bunch of smaller spires extending from the top.

Sweetie looked deep in thought as she turned to the others, “We should check out that one shop, From Dust till Dawn… I felt a ton of magic in that place.”

“Yeah! I want to go to that big tower, it looks so awesome from over here!” Scootaloo yelled, pointing at the distant spire.

“I want to learn more about this monster-hunting school… That’s why we’re here after all,” Apple Bloom replied.

The three fillies all clapped their claws and yelled, “Cutie Mark Crusaders: Alien World Explorers!”

Diamond knew what was going to happen next and moved between the fillies and the door, rolling her eyes at the fillies antics. With a raised claw and a scoff, she said, “Stop!”

“What is it now… Diamond Tiara,” Apple Bloom said with disdain.

She gave an exasperated, and a little exaggerated, sigh. “For going on so many adventures into danger, you really aren’t observant, are you… Dumb blank flanks,” The fillies just wore expressions of cluelessness, “Look out that window and tell me what you see, particularly regarding the creatures in this world.”

The fillies did so and Apple Bloom said, “They’re all walking around on two paws?”

Scootaloo continued, “They mostly have drab hair colour?”

Sweetie Belle, for her credit, gave a look of realization and understood what Diamond was getting at. She moved to collect her armour off the floor as Diamond filled in the others, “They’re all wearing clothing… Dad says that, if you want to get ahead in life, you need to understand the place you’re in and how the ponies live. Same goes for this place, if we want to fit in, you should all get into your clothing. We can leave the armoured pieces here, they’ll only slow us down and be uncomfortable, but at least get a shirt and pants on... I’ve not seen anyone else without them.”

The others rolled their eyes and, with a little coercing from Sweetie Belle, they got into their clothing. Diamond didn’t bother with the breastplate, and Apple Bloom left her claw-armour, but Scootaloo kept her jacket and plated pants. Other than what money they still had, they left their stuff in the room, Diamond being the only one to bother to lock the door after they left.

Soon they were walking down the streets of Vale, most people there didn’t so much as look at them, instead being too busy in their own actions. Some gave curious looks, some gave awed looks, and Diamond strained her ears to hear what they were saying about them, mostly they seemed to think that, based on how we were dressed, that we were student huntresses… There were a few that muttered something, generally negative, about faunus, but those whispers were few and far between, and sometimes not even directed at them, but at other people in the morning crowd.

The fillies stared at a stallion who passed, a pair of wolf-like ears extending from his head, and not too long later, noticed a mare with a scaled tail dangling from her plot. Most of the people they saw had nothing like that though, mostly possessing those little flaps of skin to the sides of their faces that acted as ears, and possessing no tails, wings, or extra appendages or growths of any kind… There was a particularly harry mare, but they couldn’t tell if she was one of these animal-people or not. The fillies suddenly became acutely aware of their pony parts, Sweetie’s and Diamond’s ears folding to their skulls, Bloom’s tail tucking between her legs, and Scoot’s wings flaring a bit.

As they walked, Sweetie whispered to Diamond, “So… Are these animal people with their tails and ears and such, the Faunus… What do you suppose the ones who don’t have those things are?”

“If you remember, back in the hotel, the stallion said that there also existed a creature called a Human, I think those other ones are called Humans,” Diamond whispered back.

Soon they had found themselves in front of the store Sweetie had wanted to visit, the sign proudly proclaiming: “From Dust till Dawn” A little, single-storey building extending from the face of a much larger building recessed into the line of structures. The windows had the words “Tools - Cartridges - Scales” on one and “Dust - Crystals - Books” on the other. The top of the building seemed a balcony for the building behind… Apple Bloom, having helped her sister build a barn on numerous occasions, couldn’t help but marvel at the architecture. It looked like somepony had seamlessly crossed the architectural styles of Canterlot and Manehattan. In truth, the entire city gave off that feel.

This close, the feeling of magical energy was not lost on the ponies, and they felt the energy flow through their veins as they got closer. Entering the store, the first thing to catch the ponies attention were the crystals on display, each a different size, shape, and colour. “Ah, you’re a little early, Ru-” There was a pause as the elderly stallion behind the display saw the fillies who entered his shop… “Oh, you weren’t the person I was expecting… None the less, welcome to From Dust till Dawn. Take a moment to browse, I’m sure I have the type, cut, quality, and mass of dust you’ll be needing,” He paused again, “From your clothing, you look perhaps like students, here for Beacon I presume?”

The fillies simply nodded, not really paying attention to the human’s speech, instead, they found themselves enraptured by the magic they felt coming from those simple crystals… Scootaloo found herself staring at the large cylinders filled with powder, it looked, and felt, a lot like Liquid Rainbow… She had only visited the rainbow processing plant once, but the feeling this material gave off was remarkably the same.

Off in a corner, too quietly for anyone else to hear, Sweetie muttered to herself, holding a red crystal in her grasp. “Hmm… Pure magical energy, not linked to a specific creature, tuned to fire, then crystallized, in a similar process to how gems are grown on rock farms, but those do not contain nearly the same concentrations of power… How exactly did they make this?”

Apple Bloom stared at pre-packaged bags of dust, vials of dust, and jars of dust… “I wonder if I could get some of this back to Equestria, I know Zecora and Twilight would just love to get their hooves on some of this…” Apple Bloom quietly said to herself, then her eyes were drawn to the tools section.

Diamond found herself staring at a wall, behind a pane of glass, of strange metal… Things. They proudly proclaimed themselves as dust rounds and came in a variety of sizes from five-millimetre pellets to the heavy looking forty-five-millimetre canisters, and all sizes in between. They were, for the most part, long cylinders, with glass windows that show them to be full of glowing crystalline dust, their ends tapered into cone-like shapes.

The fillies must have spent an hour or so just staring at the magical crystals and their various displays, not even bothering to pick up a magazine, attempt a purchase, or even put something into a bag. The shopkeeper seemed a little perturbed by their behaviour of simply looking at the dust and nothing else, but certainly wasn’t going to interrupt a shopper.

There came the ringing of a bell and the door opened. The shopkeeper turned and the ponies were startled from their revelry by a young mare in a red and black dress and cloak entering the store. “Ah, Ruby, I was wondering when you would be showing up.”

“Hey, Mister White, who’re the others, I’m not used to seeing other customers this early?”

“Just four faunus girls who wandered in here a while ago… I think they’re new students here for Beacon,” He paused, and leaned forward to whisper, “If I’m being honest, they’re creeping me out, all they’ve been doing is staring at the dust and talking to themselves.”

Ruby nodded, looking at Scootaloo who was now licking one of the sample crystals, electricity dust Ruby noted. Scootaloo started to nibble on the end and subsequently dropped the crystal when her body spasmed, her eyes flashing pure white for a second, and lightning sparking from her mouth before the power subsided… Ruby was a little dumbfounded, did she just fuse the dust with her body? The look on the faunus’s face was one of shock, somewhat literally, and a little surprise and awe.

Ruby found herself standing next to the winged girl as she placed the crystal, a little bite taken out of the end, back on its stand. She turned to look at the red-hooded girl. “Uhh,” Ruby began, “Hi-”

“Hey, I’m Scootaloo, and this place is amazing! I’ve never felt so much power in one place before!”

“H-Hey, I’m Ruby, and, yeah, it is one of my favourite stores in town… I make sure to come by often-”

“I can see why, look at all this dust stuff!”

Ruby gave a little chuckle, “It's like you've if you’ve never seen dust before…”

“I haven’t, at least not until today.”

Ruby let surprise show on her face, how had someone never heard of dust? “Wow, where are you from then? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t know what dust was.”

“Oh, Ponyville.”

“Never heard of it, I presume it’s some town outside the kingdoms.”

“Yeah… I guess you could say that.”

“Hmm… You almost look like you come from Vacuo” She simply replied. “Sooooo, what’cha doing here?”

“Oh, just looking around, this is our first day in Vale.”

“Our? You mean your friends over there?”

“Yeah, you should talk to Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom… Don’t mind Diamond though, she can be a bit bossy and mean.”

“You girls have kinda funny names, I like it though… I’m just here to get some rounds for Crescent Rose, and checking the newest editions of my magazines…”

“Cool… I’d get a few things myself, but we don’t exactly have much money… Paying for the hotel took half of what we had, and I don’t know how we’ll make any more.”

Ruby’s eyes went wide… “Come with me then, I’m sure Tai, my dad, won’t mind some guests.”

“T-That’s rather nice of you, but we can manage.”

“I can’t just leave you like that, I want to help people, why not start by getting you somewhere to rest for a while.”

“W-Well, you’ll need to talk to the others first.”

Ruby nodded… “So, is it true that you’re going to Beacon?”

“Beacon, that’s the monster-hunting school, right?”


“Well, duh! Becoming a monster-hunter sounds awesome! We don’t really know how to apply, but I’m sure we’ll find out.”

“Normally people spend years in one of the combat schools, like Signal… I’m going to Signal right now, and I’ll eventually be going to Beacon in two years… Once you graduate, they give you some transcripts that allow you to bypass the entrance exam… Otherwise, you show up, and you have to go through a long and hard series of challenges to prove that you’re strong enough to join, and if you succeed, then you can join without a transcript. I’ve heard though that, while much, much quicker, those exams are hell compared to going to combat school, so most people just spend the time at a combat school... The normal age people get accepted into Signal is fourteen, and the normal age people get accepted into Beacon is seventeen, not that there haven’t been students accepted both younger and older, but usually not by more than a year,” Ruby blurted out.

“Wow… You know a lot about the schools.”

“Well,” Ruby blushed, pausing for a moment, “Well, it has been a dream of mine to become a professional huntress since I was three, of course I’d do some research on the subject.”

Scootaloo had gathered the fillies in the dust rounds isle while Ruby slotted lien cards into a slot in the wall next to the 15mm rounds display, dispensing dozens of the large capsules that she handily deposited into a pocket. Soon Ruby found herself the center of attention by the four faunus girls, a situation she was not prepared for in the least.

One was wearing a big, heavy, furry coat that looked like something an Atlasian general would wear in winter, she was introduced as Sweetie Belle. The girl in the pink dress reminded Ruby of pictures she had seen of the Schnees, if she bleached her hair and dress, she would fit in perfectly, she introduced herself as Diamond Tiara, in a tone that Ruby found a little rude. Finally, the red-head wore a classic sheriffs hat that Ruby found somewhat charming, over an orange sweater she wore a brown kevlar vest that reminded her of the kind the kingdom police would sometimes wear, and was called Apple Bloom.

“Hey girls! This is Ruby, she’s super cool and nice and wants to go to monster-hunting school, just like us!”

“Uhh, hi,” she said, a little more timid than normal in the presence of so many.

“Ruby, you probably know all the great places in this city, you mind if you show us around?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“Umm, sure… Why not,” Ruby gave her best dorky smile. The others looked happy or eager, Diamond rolled her eyes and gave a dismissive scoff, muttering something under her breath that no one caught. With that, they left the store and Ruby started guiding them in the direction of the city square, but first taking a quick detour in the direction of “A Simple Wok” closer to the industrial district, Ruby found that she could really use some noodles right now.

As he sat in Fluttershy's cottage, Discord was pleased… It seemed his little ponies found Little Red Riding Hood a little ahead of schedule… He could put off the filly’s gifts for another day or so, although the copy of the spellbook had already been given to it’s chosen recipient. Applejack had given him a small bag of bits, a little application of magic had transformed them into the chosen currency of Remnant, those silly plastic cards called Lien… Apple Bloom’s gift was a little too material, and silly seeing as they wouldn’t be needing much money now that Red had found them, but some pocket change never hurt anyone.

Speaking of chaos, in the background Angel and Lusus continued their game of hide-and-seek… In hindsight, putting a creature that saught out negativity into the same room as the little rabbit was quite a chaotic mixture, and Discord was very ashamed of himself for not doing it on purpose. The beowolf was now happily, or at least as happily as an entity of pure dark magic could be, chasing the little bunny around. Earlier it had wearily attempted to bite the rabbit, but, being a creature of magic, was more susceptible to magical influence, and watching little Flutters use the stare on the grimm was quite an entertaining show, seeing the fearsome beast of Remnant reduced to a quivering mass of fear and shame.

Still, his plans were moving along nicely, and his other little team of foals were doing quite well too where they had landed. Yes… The coming chaos was going to be far, far more entertaining now. And Discord had taken the first step in showing up those arrogant cousins of his.

Twilight entered the cottage a moment later, saying, "Excuse me, Fluttershy, I'd like to borrow Lusus for a few magical experiments and might need your help, trust me, I don't intend to harm him."

The noodle shop proved Apple Bloom's favourite part of the trip as she downed three whole bowls of the slimy little things in rapid succession, the food was more than a little disgusting to Diamond and Sweetie, but they had still ate, not wanting to insult their new friend by wasting her money on food that was not to be consumed. When voicing their concerns to Ruby, she simply stated, "Don't worry about it, dad makes plenty of money, a little bit of food isn't all that much."

When they were walking down the street after just leaving the City Square, Sweetie asked, “So, Ruby, what do you use all this dust stuff for?”

“Oh, we power our cars, power our buildings, use it to heat and cool our homes, make weapons… Ooh, I have the perfect example right here!” She said, pulling a little white slab with a yellow diamond-shaped button on the center from a pocket on her skirt.

“What’s that thing?” Diamond asked.

She smirked and pressed the button, at which point the device popped open. While it was too weak for the others to feel, Sweetie could feel the magic emanating from the device as it activated, there was a brief flash, and, from the empty space between the two ends of the device, a soft glow of magical energies became a solid screen. “This is my scroll, it has a ton of uses… I can talk to my sis or dad from anywhere in the world, provided they have one of their own, which they do, and I can play games on it, and I can access almost anything on the CCTS network!”

Diamond and Sweetie were studying the device intently, Scootaloo was less than interested, that was until Ruby showed her something she called ‘Kung Fu Ninja Ultimate Slayer Death Battle 2’ when Scootaloo started staring at the screen, yelling at the little figures that danced across the digital battlefield and cheering when one of them had won. Apple Bloom was still looking around at the city but looked a little interested when she said that she could call her sister with it, unfortunately, no answer came from Ruby’s call, a little odd, but nothing Ruby was worried about.

The day passed rather quickly, and night had just recently fallen, and the fillies, still fiddling with Ruby's little device, trying to figure out all the functions, had found themselves trotting down a road in what Ruby had called the “Lower Commercial District”, apparently a place rather close to the industrial district and the river Ozma that cut through the city.

This place gave the fillies the creeps… It didn’t have the nice aesthetic they had come to see from the rest of the city, of stone brick facades and holographic lamps, but rather made from bare concrete and metal pylons, exposed cables running from building to building, delivering magical power, and all reminding the fillies of pictures they had seen of Fillydelphia. With a dark, industrial, and utilitarian feel to it.

They were wandering back to the upper commercial district, back to the dust shop, after spending their second trip to that amazing noodle shop, the memory of which made Apple Bloom drool.

There was a loud boom from somewhere up ahead and a little to the side, punctuated by a brilliant flash of yellow light coming from the windows of one of the buildings, and, following Ruby’s lead, the fillies ran toward the disturbance. They came near a large structure, outside was parked a yellow vehicle of some kind, looking like a very small carriage with no top, just a seat mounted to two wheels. Ruby seemed to recognize the machine and turned her attention to the building’s second-floor windows, where there came another boom, flash of yellow light, and the sound of glass shattering as the windows broke apart and scattered across the street.

Out came flying a man in a suit, a broken weapon of some kind in his grasp, quickly followed by a girl with long yellow hair, about as long as Sweetie’s, wearing a dark tawny jacket with puffy sleeves, a golden-yellow undershirt, and scarf. A belt around her very short black pants seemed the only form of proper armour on her body asides from a pair of big, bulky, gilded bracelets on each arm.

She came crashing down from the second storey into the ground with a mighty thump as boots impacted the street. There was a pause as the fillies stared on in shock, Ruby simply smiled and said, “Yang? Is that you?”

The young woman replied, “Oh, hey, sis!”

“What are you doing here!” Ruby replied, excitedly.

The young woman gave a short sigh, “It’s a long story… Anyway, who’re the others

Neptune Vasilias sat alone in his study… The room was rather dark, with only his workbench providing illumination, where the boy sat with a variety of tools and his half-disassembled weapon. He had just last month graduated from Sanctum, and would be needing his Tri-Hard at peak condition. He had already replaced all the dust crystals and was now working on recalibrating the auto-targeting devices when there came a knock on his door.

With a groan, he got up from his desk, “What does Scarlet want now?” He grumbled, half-heartedly, he liked his friend, he was simply a bit needy and overbearing. He opened the door and was rather surprised at the person on the other side. A faunus judging from her silvery tail that matched her shiny grey braided hair perfectly, a pair of glasses adorning her face. “Hello? Who-”

“You are Neptune Vasilias, correct?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Good,” She smiled, “I’ve heard you’re a master of weapon design and assembly… I have a few schematics and parts I’d like assembled please.”

Chapter 5: The Golden Girl

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“Hello, I am Diamond Tiara Rich, and these are my companions, Sweetie Crumbles Belle, Apple Bloom Macintosh, and Scootaloo Holiday Allgood.” Diamond said, pointing to each pony in turn, the Crusaders each took poses that they no doubt thought was cool, but were simply silly, as their names were called. Diamond scoffed, “Can you three please take this seriously, introductions are important!”

The yellow-haired girl gave a single chuckle and said, “Yang Xiao Long… You all got funny names? Where are you from?”

Ruby cut in, “They’re from some village outside of the kingdoms, they’re here to join Beacon.”

“Sweet, I hope you get in,” She said, shaking Diamond’s hand.

“So, what was that big boom and guy flying out of the window?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Oh, just some wannabe gangsters getting their butts kicked…” Yang replied, “Too bad I didn’t get what I came here for though.”

“Will he be ok?” Asked Sweetie, moving a little closer to the unconscious suited man on the ground, “That looks like a pretty rough hit.”

“He still has his aura, I doubt he’ll even be bruised come morning, but that should at least teach him not to mess with me again…”

Diamond spoke up, “We’re heading back to our hotel to gather our stuff, we only had enough lien to pay for the day, and I will not have anything of mine left behind.”

“Oh, right, that reminds me,” Ruby began, “I was thinking they could spend some time with us and dad, at least until they go off to Beacon… It’s been forever since we last had guests.”

“That’s nice of you Ruby, but I’m sure we can manage on our own,” Apple Bloom said.

“This wouldn’t be the first time we got stuck in a town we bearly know without any money,” Sweetie continued.

“Any friend of Ruby is a friend of mine,” Yang replied, “And it sounds like you girls don’t have anywhere else to stay, so it’s alright with me.”

“Discord!” Rarity shouted, her largest sewing needles all aimed at the chaos god, “You bring my sister right back here this instant!”

Rarity had, at last, reawoke from her faint, and had quickly gathered every needle she owned, even the recently broken ones, and had summoned the chaos god into her home. “As I said before, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” He replied.

With an anguished yell, the unicorn flung all the needles at the deity with as much power as she could muster, they all proceded to pass clean through the creature as if he were a hologram. “You clearly don’t grasp the concept of incorporeality…” The snake said.

With a shout, the unicorn began, “You will bring Sweetie Belle back, you hear me!”

“Please… I’ve already had enough of this from Applejack and Fluttershy… I won’t be sending any more fillies to Remnant, yes, yes, yes. But she’s going to school there, and-”

“I saw that beastly beast you brought in to the library, I won’t have my sister fighting more of those ghastly things!”

“Come on, that thing was a weak one, not even an alpha, it was practically a baby!”

“That was a baby!” Rarity nearly fainted again. Then, with even more rage than before, she grabbed a mirror and levitated it over her head like a bat ready to be swung.

“If it makes you feel any better, here… Now if you excuse me, I believe it’s time for me to get this talk from Rainbow Dash now… Auf Wiedersehen!” With that, Discord vanished in a flash of light, leaving behind a little white device with a diamond-shaped button on the center, painted to look like Rarity’s cutie mark. Enraged, the mare flung the mirror with all her force toward the nearest window.

Soon the two human girls and the fillies found themselves back at the hotel room, the man at the desk helpfully reminding them that their time was almost up. Entering the room, the two humans took notice of the girls’ armour which they quickly began equipping, it was certainly easier than carrying it around. “What’s in those boxes?” Yang asked.

“Oh, just some metal bits, screws, nuts, pipes, and all kinds of metal plates.”

Looking around the room, Ruby turned to the ponies and asked, “Where’re your weapons?”

“Weapons?” Scootaloo asked.

“Yeah, weapons, any good huntsman or huntress has awesome weapons!”

“We really don’t have any weapons,” Sweetie Belle said.

“I have this stick,” Scootaloo said, drawing the same wooden stick she had used back in the forest from a pocket inside her jacket.

“You kept that?” Apple Bloom said, supprised.

“Wait… Really? You don’t have any weapons?” Ruby asked, shocked.

“We really didn’t need any when we got jumped by those black wolf things,” Apple Bloom replied.

“You fought off beowolves without any weapons?” Yang asked, disbelief and astonishment mixing in equal measure in her voice.

“A few days ago I got jumped by an ursa while training and Yang could bearly take it out, even with Ember Celica!” Ruby said.

“Ember Celica?” Apple Bloom asked, confused.

“Ursa!” Sweetie shouted.

Smirking, Yang rolled her hands into fists and her massive golden bracelets extended outward and backwards, revealing a series of red cylinders around her wrist, and a metal tube extending from the front. Meanwhile, yellow armoured plates extended backwards over her arm.

“Woah!” Scootaloo said.

“By Celestia, that’s cool,” Apple Bloom remarked.

Diamond looked closely, intrigued. While Sweetie stared intently at the red cylinders, feeling the magic coming off them.

Yang’s smirk turned into a face-wide grin as she raised her arm and punched the air, eliciting a loud bang, a flash of orange light, and a concussive shockwave that rippled through the room, ruffling the fillies hair. They all jumped back, startled by the sudden burst. As Yang’s arm recoiled, an empty glass shell was ejected from the bracelet’s side, clattering to the ground, the dust inside expended.

“I can’t imagine getting hit with that, think what the blast would do to a person…” Diamond muttered.

Scootaloo yelled, “AWESOME!” She paused, gathering her breath, “Where can I get something like that! That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, I bet it feels awesome to hit something with that, it’s soooooo cool!”

“How are you allowed to carry something like that around? Isn’t it dangerous?” Apple Bloom muttered.

Yang laughed, “Yeah, my little Ember is awesome ain’t she… As for Bloom’s question, normally you need a license to make, sell, or own weapons, but you get one as part of joining a combat school… At least that’s how it is here in Vale, don’t know what the law’s like in Mistral or Vacuo, but I do know that Atlas is a bit harsher about stuff like that.”

“Do you have something cool like that!” Scootaloo turned to Ruby, who was blushing.

“Well, I kinda don’t have Crescent Rose with me right now… It needs one of the rotors replaced, so it’s currently lying in a bunch of pieces back at home.”

“Aww…” Scootaloo sighed.

“Well,” Diamond began, “Sounds like if we want to go to Beacon we better get some weapons of our own… Do you know where we might be able to buy some, and how much they cost?”

Ruby burst out laughing, Yang just chuckled a bit, “If you want the boring stuff!” Ruby replied.

“Sure, pistols and knives and swords you can get at any dusty old weapons shop, but you won’t be wanting any of that,” Yang replied.

“All students at Signal forge their own weapons, the school has an entire wing dedicated to blacksmithing and machining…”

“Yeah, it took a while, but a few weeks of work and I made Celica, and you should see the over-engineered monster, Crescent Rose.”

“When we get back home, I’ll take you out to the shed and we can start working on weapons for you… It looks like you already have plenty of parts,” Ruby finished, gesturing toward the boxes.

A great cyclone of wind disturbed the trees and sparks of electricity filled the sky. From a tree sat a lone blackbird, the crow’s crimson eyes staring out over the plains… In the distance, the mountains of south-east Sanus could be seen looming in the background, along with a winding dirt road that led from Vacuo to Vale. Carried on the wind, the crow heard the sounds of thunder in the distance, and saw the golden bolts of energy striking downward from the rolling clouds… This was no natural phenomenon, as the bolts, three or four, all struck the same place, over and over, followed by the distant crack of gunshots, and a powerful gust of wind that disturbed the leaves, howling like a hoard of apathy.

The crow took flight, realizing something was wrong and flew toward the source of the disturbance. In the distance could be seen a fight that any normal huntsman would awe at. A woman floated in the air, lifted by a column of wind that kicked up dirt and dust, firing a swarm of frozen leaves toward a pair of attackers. As the crow flew with all its might toward the battle, it saw the woman unleash a bolt of fire at another assailant, only to have the attack be thrown back in the form of dozens of shards of glass.

Thrown to the ground, the woman staggered as her foes ran forward, soon engaging in a fast and violent melee. One of the attackers drew a bow and fired a volley of ornate arrows at the brown and white clad woman, each impacted the ground and unleashed a fiery explosion that sent the woman stumbling to the ground, screaming.

The crow flew low to the ground, diving to increase its speed. Another burst of wind scattered the woman’s attackers, followed by bolts of lightning and fire, and the woman retrieved her dropped staff, stumbling to the green-haired girl, who she perceived as the primary threat.

As the crow passed above the ground, it transformed, beak shortening, wings growing longer and losing their feathers, legs turning from scaled bone to human flesh, and torso becoming more like that of a human man as his tail-feathers disappeared into his body.

The woman raised her staff, preparing to impale, but she herself was impaled as an arrow shot through her back, shattering spine and protruding from out the other end with a gout of blood. Still alive and biting back the pain, she lay there, paralyzed, as her assailants drew closer. One equipped a white glove adorned with arcane symbols like those seen on the bone-masks of grimm. And as the gasping woman was held in the arms of her other two foes, the woman in her red dress launched a stream of black ichor from her glove.

The crow-turned-man drew a sword, easily as long as the man was tall, from his back, and charged. Meanwhile, the woman still held captive, face coated in spidery webs of black sludge, screamed in pain. He lept and slashed, cutting the black inky tethers that linked the two women.

Once everything was packed, Ruby and Yang, followed by the ponies, packed themselves on the boat heading to the island of Patch, a sizable landmass not too far from Vale’s shoreline, according to the human sisters. The ship was a little smaller than expected, not much bigger than the schooners vanhoover fishermares used. They loaded their boxes into the cargo bay aboard the little dust-powered paddle-steamer. The front of the vessel had a rotating metal box with big metal tubes sticking out the end, Ruby said that they were there to keep any oceanic grimm at bay.

There were dozens of similar ships entering and leaving port, and the fillies found themselves rather impressed by the size of some. Thus, leading to their disappointment when they found the ship taking them to Patch. With the ear-splitting sound of the ship’s horn, it departed, dust-powered paddles churning the water as it left the Valsian docks, and the city behind. Way off in the distance was the big tower overlooking the city from its position atop the cliff, looming.

As Diamond watched the city go, she couldn’t help but feel that something was watching them from that tower, although she wasn’t sure whether that feeling was good or bad.

Chapter 6: Magical Monsters and Awesome Aura

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On his extra-large custom black scroll, Ozpin rewatched the security camera footage from the Xiong Club. Taiyang’s daughter’s performance was impressive, undoubtedly a valuable addition to Beacon… Another intriguing development was the airship currently en route from Atlas. Ozpin had remembered when James informed him of the Schnee girl’s wish to attend Beacon... Since then, the general had given him the complete list of everyone exiting the kingdom, and now it seemed that the girl was really going through with it… This year was bound to be an interesting one.

There came a beeping noise and Ozpin moved to check the notification… A signal from the Vale Police Department, gunfire had been heard near the north industrial district, suspected terrorist activity. Ozpin allowed his eyes to narrow to slits.

The report from Night Lark was a footnote in the week’s events… Four faunus girls found just outside the walls, survivors from a destroyed unmapped settlement no doubt. He was about to close his scroll and get ready to sleep when there came a text from the one person he didn’t want to hear from at this hour.

He mouthed the words as he read them, “Qrow: Autumn attacked, spine damaged, aura damaged, requesting medical airship.” Ozpin kept his hands steady with great effort as he took another sip from his coffee, trying to not let his rage show… This was going to be a long night.

Morning light shone through the distant trees as the ship came to a stop at the shore of Patch. The fillies stared at the little village, it almost looked like Ponyville, but the structures were mostly brick and concrete, but it carried with it the same familiar feeling. In the distance was a large series of structures behind an ornate brick and concrete wall.

“Welcome to Patch!” Ruby shouted as she hopped in place.

“I like it, feels like home,” Apple Bloom replied as she carried everyone’s boxes off the vessel.

“I’m going to head home and warn dad about our guests,” Said yang, rolling her two-wheeled vehicle off the ship.

“Make sure we have some food waiting for us!” Ruby replied.

“Will do,” Yang retorted, hopping on her vehicle and starting the engine. Before she drove off, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom mounted their boxes to the back of the vehicle, and Yang promised to move them into their shack-turned-workshop. With that, she drove off down a dirt path toward the forest. Scootaloo simply stared at the vehicle in envy as it moved out of sight.

“That over there is Signal,” Ruby said, pointing toward the walled building in the distance.

“You go to school there?” Asked Diamond.

“Yep… Only have two more years, then I can go to Beacon.”

“I kinda wish you could attend with us,” Sweetie Belle replied.

“Come on, let’s go, I want to see what your house is like!” Scootaloo said.

Built into the roots of the Golden Oaks Library was a hidden room, filled with arcane devices and machinery, a cage placed in the center, lined with custom-built arcane sensors. Coming through the door came a purple alicorn, she rushed to different machines, flipping switches and dials, each of the ungodly advanced works of arcane engineering were built and maintained by the mare to a state of perfect functionality.

Magical energies started to fill the room as devices came to life. After throwing on a lab coat and safety goggles, Twilight turned to the door, “It’s ready now, you can bring him in, Fluttershy.”

Carefully, the pegasus lead a collared beowolf into the room, the creature’s fur standing on end, and solid-red eyes scanning the machines, fear evident in body language. When he spotted the cage, the creature shrunk and tried to pull its head back, the collar being the only thing keeping it from bolting out the door.

Fluttershy pulled on the leash, but the monster fought back, “Lusus, get in the cage,” She whispered to the creature, “We aren’t going to hurt you,” But the wolf responded with stronger pulling. “Lusus!” Fluttershy yelled as she was pulled forward and fell to the ground. With anger and magic, Fluttershy floated off the floor and stared into the wolf’s endless eyes. The creature shrunk back, moving slowly away from the pegasus.

She moved between the door and the monster, and Lusus started backing up, away from the pegasus' stare, unknowingly moving itself into the cage, “That’s it Fluttershy, you can stop now,” Twilight said, pulling a lever and closing the cage door. The pegasus closed her eyes and drifted back to the ground, landing without a sound.

“Can I be here for this?”

“I’m sorry, but no…” Twilight replied, “I can’t risk your magical presence interfering with the scan, and the scanners are only calibrated to ignore my presence, not yours.”

Fluttershy nodded in understanding and left the room, closing the door behind her. “I hope this goes better than when I used this on Pinkie,” Twilight muttered to herself. She turned to a cabinet of medical supplies and retrieved a trio of syringes, each had a gemstone on them that cast a stasis spell on the contents of the syringe. “Should only need one, but it’s best to have backups, just in case… This is going to hurt, Lusus.”

She tried to stick the syringe into the monster’s flesh, but it’s skin proved too tough, she pushed it harder and harder, eventually, the syringe’s needle snapped and cracked apart under the telekinetic pressure. Swearing under her breath, she drew a replacement from her cabinet and cast a spell on the tip, “Let’s try this again,” This time, the needle stuck right in without any effort, eliciting a look of confusion, then understanding from the alicorn.

As the needle drew a glowing red ichor from its body, the beast howled in pain and anger, and Twilight winced at the noise, not wanting to cause unnecessary pain to the entity, no matter how dark the magic coming off the being was. “Only two more, then we’re done,” she said in a futile attempt to console the beowolf.

Extracting two more syringes proved equally as unpleasant to the alicorn, but in the end, she had her three vials of ichor. “Ok, now to see what you look like on the inside…” She moved to another lever connected to machines that were further connected to magical sensors. When it was pulled and dials were twisted, the magical energy in the room grew exponentially and the wolf started to growl and howl and whimper.

There came a series of flashes of light from the sensors as they finished charging and started imaging… The wolf howled in pain one last time as the energies penetrated its body and it convulsed, dropping to the floor of the cage, silent. Eyes wide, Twilight rushed toward the lever and pulled it back up with all her might, then slammed her hoof on the emergency discharge button. The magical energy in the room vanished as it was all channelled up the tree by hidden emergency conduits, and out from the tree’s top in a simple beam of light.

She rushed to the cage, but by the time she threw open the door, the beowolf was already evaporating, flesh turning to sludge, sludge to vapour, and vapour to nothingness. Twilight let out a series of profanity that only she, herself, heard, thankfully. Then muttered into her hooves, “Fluttershy’s going to kill me…”

Moments passed, but she soon gained the courage to check the readout. She held back tears, not only from ending the life of Fluttershy’s new friend, but also at the lack of useful data she collected, the imagers had bearly started to map the creature when it evaporated, all it could tell her was that it possessed no skeleton nor internal organs, and she knew, just on simple logic, that it was an incorrect analysis.

With a grunt, she moved over to her samples still lying on the table, “No… This won’t stop me,” She muttered to herself, “Your mysteries I will explain…”

Coming down the trail, the girl and fillies could plainly make out a wooden two-storey cabin with some kind of watchtower extending upward from the structure's roof... Sweetie couldn't help but wonder if that technically made the building three-storey. As they approached, Yang and an older man with yellow hair wearing a vest and shorts came out of a door and waved. “Hey, dad!” Yelled Ruby as she ran up toward the pair.

“Tai, these are those four faunus girls I talked about,” Yang said, pointing to the fillies.

The vested man, Tai as Yang called him, looked at the girls with speculation, “Hmm,” He said, “Yang says you four girls came from somewhere outside the kingdom,”

Diamond nodded, “Yes, sir… My name is Diamond Tiara, and these are Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo Allgood,” She said, pointing out each of the fillies as their names were called, “We don’t really have much money or anywhere to stay, at least until we attend Beacon.”

“Yeah… A story I’m all too familiar with…” Tai began. “Well, come inside, we can have something to eat and you can tell us more about yourselves, let me go get the oven prepped.”

“Yes, I’d greatly enjoy that.”

“Hey, after breakfast, I was thinking we could do some sparring,” Yang began.

“And I should get Crescent Rose all fixed up so we can get started on your weapons,” Ruby continued.

“That sounds great…” Scootaloo said.

“It’ll be a great opportunity to see how strong the average Beacon student is, after all, if this entrance exam is anywhere near as tough as you make it out to be, we need to be the best fighters we can,” Sweetie continued.

“Come, we have the time to get at least one fight in while dad’s cooking,” Yang finished.

With that, the yellow-haired girl led the fillies behind the house. Ruby ran toward the shed that looked to the fillies like a miniaturized version of the Apple Family barn, and inside the Crusaders saw all kind of tools and machines. Atop a workbench was a mass of red-painted metal, that looked like a mechanical claw next to some kind of boxy contraption.

“Let’s start with Bloom, you look nice and strong,” Yang said, “The rest of you better back up.”

The fillies did as told and cleared the area so the two girls could fight, Yang took her gauntlets off and set them to the side as Apple Bloom stood there, confused. “You ready?” She asked.

“Yeah, I guess-” Her words were cut off. Faster than anyone could react, Yang shot forward and rammed her fist right into Bloom’s cheek, sending the girl sprawling to the ground, bleeding from the nose.

“Oh… I-” Yang began, “I thought you were ready…”

“Ow…” Bloom commented, rubbing her cheek, “That hurt… A lot.”

“Why didn’t you block it?”

“How? You were faster than my sister on an apple-bucking day.”

“You could have taken that hit with your aura…” Yang commented.

“What’s an aura?”

Yang wore an expression of disbelief and shock. Ruby popped her head from out the shack to look shocked too and walked over to help the girl up. “Y-You… Don’t know what Aura is?” Ruby asked.

“Should I?”

“No wonder you don’t have a home anymore…” Yang commented, whispering to herself. Only the faunus with extra ears were able to catch her comment.

“How do you expect to go to Beacon without Aura?” Ruby began, “It was the first thing they teach us in combat school.”

“Well, we don’t exactly have a combat school where we come from,” Sweetie replied.

“If Aura is that important, then teach us how to use it!” Scootaloo shouted.

Yang looked thoughtful, “Well, most people think of Aura as an ‘extension of the soul’, much like how a common belief is that a weapon is an 'extension of the body'… I don’t really understand the philosophy about it, but whatever it is, it’s useful as hell.”

“Yeah, just look,” Ruby began, retreating into her shack to retrieve an obscenely sharp bladed tool of some kind, “Watch,” She said, as she jabbed the blade down into her own arm.

For a moment the fillies watch, horrified, expecting her to cut right through her arm and make a bloody mess of herself, but the moment the blade struck her flesh, there was a little shimmer of red energy around the impact point, almost unnoticeable, and she pulled the blade back to reveal the only thing cut was the sleeve of her dress.

“That isn’t the only thing it can do,” Ruby continued, she carefully lowered the blade to her skin and gave a look of deep discomfort as she cut a small gash into her hand, then a moment later, a field of red closed around the cut and it started to fade, the skin stitching itself together and not even leaving a scar, the small cut taking a minute to heal. "The only thing I wish it could do was block out the pain completely, it still hurts when you get hit..."

“Well… When dad’s available, we’ll get him to unlock your Aura and we can get started, until then, I don’t think fighting’s a good idea,” Yang commented.

“Yeah, and now we at least know what you need to train first,” Ruby cheerily retorted.

With that, the girls marched toward a door, intent on showing the fillies around their house.

Chapter 7: The Huntsman's Magic

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She muttered the litany one more time, the line once said to her, the line she had said four times now to four individuals… “For it is in passing that we achieve immortality, through this we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all, infinite in distance and unbound by death, I release your soul, and by my shoulder protect thee.”

Pyrrha stood, staring at the four faunus children, she had just finished unlocking the aura of the short blonde haired one with the golden eyes. They all had spectacular weapons, Neptune’s handiwork no doubt, Pyrrha wouldn't trust anyone else other than herself with Milo and Akouo, and she could tell his style just from a cursory glance... They certainly had the willpower to become huntsmen. But, the thing that both impressed, and to some extent, scared Pyrrha was their aura. They had more power than any other person, human or faunus, she had ever met… Compared to them, her own power, something she had been praised for as a child, seemed insignificant.

As she finished the ritual on the last of the three, the light in her home died down... These four had shown up looking for training, they explained that they wanted to join the huntsmen academies to find friends who had joined not too long ago, they explained how Neptune had told them that she was the best student fighter in all of Anima, possibly in the entire world.

She was surprised at how these four had no prior knowledge of her, nor much knowledge of the huntsmen and huntresses in general... Even more surprising, when she wanted to spar with one of them, to see for herself how strong they were, she found that they didn't even know what Aura was. The most surprising part of these children was the sheer power they possessed, they didn't just shimmer or glow when their aura was unlocked, they burned, they shone light strong enough to cast shadows.

“We should start training, aura and weapons aren’t the only things you need to become great huntsmen and huntresses.”

The girl with silver hair and a silver tail, the one who had introduced herself as Silver Spoon, turned to Pyrrha, “We would hate to take up more of your time, you said that you would be leaving for another kingdom in a few days.”

Pyrrha replied, “Yes, but that just means we have a few days of training, you are clearly new to combat, and I won’t allow you to get yourselves killed on the long trek to Mistral… There are plenty of dangers between Haven and Argus… In many ways, the trek itself is a form of final exam for the students from Sanctum… Come, let’s see if Sanctum is willing to lend us their sparring arena.”

“You’re a huntsman?” Asked Scootaloo. The fillies found themselves sitting at a low table, a sofa on one end, and a few chairs dragged over to provide seating for everyone. The girls’ father, Taiyang, as he introduced himself, had brought in a tray covered in plates of warm bread and cups of fresh tea.

“Ex-Huntsman,” Taiyang replied, “After my team broke apart, I haven’t been taking many missions… I just want to live a peaceful life now, and I don’t want to have a part in Ozpin’s business anymore,” He paused, looking sad, as if some dark memories were clawing at his mind, “But that’s enough about me,” He forced a smile to his face, “I want to hear what you’re stories are.”

The girls looked nervous for a moment before Diamond started saying, “I don’t particularly want to talk about it, but we came from a town called Ponyville.”

“I don’t suppose you’d believe us if I said we were magically sent here by a magic snake?” Apple Bloom said.

“It’s ok if you don’t want to talk about it,” Tai began, “we’ve all had friends and family taken by the grimm.”

There was an awkward pause before Ruby said, “Hey, dad, these girls don’t even have their aura yet, we were thinking you could unlock them.”



“Huh…” He turned to the fillies, “I don’t suppose you girls have ever gone to combat school?”

“No, but we’ve fought plenty of monsters before,” Scootaloo said.

“It was mostly thanks to my magic that we survived,” Sweetie continued.

“Magic?” Tai said, confused and worried. The other girls looked both confused and intrigued.

“Yeah, look,” Sweetie began as she raised her hand, enveloping her loaf of bread in a shimmering field of a pale minty green light. Soon she had raised the bread into the air and started taking bites out of it.

“That’s you’re semblance!” Ruby shouted, awed.

“Semblance?” Sweetie asked, intrigued.

“Yeah, look!” Ruby said, and, in a flurry of red rose petals, she flew around the room, before coming to a stop right behind the girls, putting a hand on Sweetie’s shoulder, a grin on her face. Sweetie dropped her bread as she stared at the speedy human girl.

“Yeah, and whenever I get hit, I can absorb that force and add it to my own next time I hit something,” Yang said.

Tai stared at the girls, “I guess magic might be one way of looking at semblances and aura… Impressive semblance there, I’ve never heard of someone learning how to control their semblance before unlocking their aura, but I guess there’s a first for everything.”

The girls continued eating, discussing Semblances and Aura. Once they were finished, Tai led them all out the back door and out to the yard.

On a lonely cloud in an otherwise cloudless sky a pegasus sat, rainbow mane and tail dangling down over the world below, “Hey Discord…” The mare said, casually, almost disinterestedly.

“Rainbow, Rainbow, Rainbow… I believe it’s your turn to berate me?”

“No… As I said before, Scootaloo’s a tough filly, and I have no doubt she’ll be ok… I just wish I could have said goodbye to her…” She said, somberly. “I wish I could see the awesome adventure she could be going on, right now… I wish I could be there with her.”

Discord smiled, and had to stop himself from just snapping his fingers, no… Not just yet. “Perhaps I could send you there… But, it’s a dangerous world, and you’re a bit old to join the other girls in monster-hunting school.”

With that, discord slithered away into non-reality. Leaving the mare to sit there and think… A few moments passed, then Rainbow dash got to her hooves, popped the cloud with a solid kick, and flew off.

Taiyang placed his hand on Apple Bloom’s chest, the other on her head, “We are the guardians of the world, we bear on our backs the duty of a warrior, and fight the embrace of darkness. Our spirit is our sword and shield, and upon our death we pass into the halls of immortality, I release your soul, and by my shoulder protect thee,” He spoke the litany for the second time in his life, and as he did so, power swelled in both him and his subject.

He was illuminated by a faint yellow shine, Ruby and Yang looked on in awe, but as the ritual finished, the subject of their awe changed, as Apple Bloom started to glow a bright red, not just shimmer, but properly glow, at the ritual’s apex. She seemed to shine like a small red star, brilliant enough that she cast shadows across the yard.

Tai took a step back and stared, eyes wide, “Y-Your aura, I’ve never seen someone that strong…”

“Woah…” Apple Bloom stared at herself, her arms pulsing with power, she almost felt like she was burning, but in a pleasant sort of way, like a reinvigorating sting across her entire body, then the sensation dimmed as her glow receded before she returned to normal.

“Ooooh… Me next!” Scootaloo shouted, bouncing up and down. Soon, a dull purple glow, just as bright as Apple Bloom’s filled the yard, followed by Diamond and a brilliant pink light that shone just a little brighter than the previous two… Finally, it was Sweetie Belle’s turn. Tai was nearly collapsed from exhaustion, his own aura nearly depleted.

Sweetie Belle glowed like a brilliant minty green bonfire, a light so bright that it proved hard to focus on, one could bearly distinguish the person underneath the light, then it too faded, and Tai allowed himself to fall to his knees in exertion. “Wow…” He gasped, “You girls…” He breathed, flickering with a pale orange light, “Are incredibly strong. Not even Summer had that much aura…”

“So… Does this mean we can fight now!” Scootaloo began.

“Hold your horses there,” Yang said, only to receive strange looks in return… “We need to make sure you can control it first… Apple Bloom, come here a moment.”

Apple Bloom did as commanded, “Now, feel that warmth and pressure inside yourself, and try to pull it outward,” Yang continued. Apple Bloom wore a look of concentration for a few moments, but nothing happened…

“D-Did I do it?” She asked.

“Well, only one way to find out,” Yang said as she proceeded to smack Apple Bloom in the gut, and although it carried much less force than her first time getting punched by this woman, she still fell to the ground, gasping. “Nope, didn’t feel anything…”

The others clearly tried doing what Yang told Apple Bloom, but nothing happened at first, that was until Sweetie Belle spoke up, “You mean like this?” She asked, a softest shimmer of green glowing from her body.

“Well, it certainly looks like it,” Yang began, she moved over to Sweetie Belle, who shrunk into herself a bit, bracing for the impact. Yang’s fist hit Sweetie Belle, who did indeed fall over, but this time she didn’t lose her breath, nor feel any pain… In fact, she couldn’t feel anything, the impact and subsequent fall didn’t even register.

She got back to her feet without any effort and stared at herself. She proceeded to smack herself in the gut, only to elicit a wheezing “Ow…”

“Well, at least you understand how to protect yourself… But for all your power, you need to learn to control it a bit better,” Tai said once he had recovered some of his stamina, “As you can see, it’s a bit trickier to block a hit from yourself... Plus, if you're glowing like that all the time, you won't exactly be sneaky.”

Yang, Ruby, and Tai all started giving instructions, and in just an hour, everyone was successfully punching themselves and each-other without the slightest bit of pain or damage. “Ok,” Yang said after a dozen or so minutes of them running around, having fun. “Now, the real training begins… Apple, we still up to a fight?”

“Of course!”

“Well then,” Yang chuckled, “Here I come,” She yelled, punching out at the filly who stood there, ready.

With a set of alchemy tools and a cauldron, a pony with a yellow coat and brown mane, a mare with bright green eyes, went to work… She carefully poured a vial of green liquid into the pot, followed by various other fluids and powders. Soon, the boiling cauldron was wafting blue-coloured smoke into the room.

She retrieved a shard of stone, a soft grey with a hint of blue and green, it shimmered in the light. Steadily, without using her magic, the mare placed the stone into a mortar and pestle, grinding the stone into dust. With the stone safely ground into powder, she poured it into the cauldron.

The room’s lights started to turn a sickly shade of green, and the now turquoise smoke filling the room cast everything in shadows. The brew started to glow as magic roiled inside, and the violent bubbling filled the room with the noise of boiling liquid. Slowly, the magic settled, and the fluid started to turn from green to black, and the room returned to normal… The mare extinguished the flames, and let the cauldron cool.

She had been perfecting the brew for years, and now, at last, here was the perfect sample. She poured the ebony liquid into vials and threw them into a saddlebag, making absolutely sure not to leave a trace of the liquid in the cauldron.

Chapter 8: Training Day

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Needless to say, Yang was shocked when, after skilfully dodging a punch, not a difficult feat by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly something a beginner should know, the young red-head lashed out with her own punch. Yang was ready to block, and she did… What she didn’t expect was to be hit with so much force that she was sent flying backwards, impacting a tree with enough power to split the trunk in half and send the tree falling over. “Woah, damn!” Yang shouted.

She grinned as her eyes turned red, and Apple Bloom raised her fists, ready to block. Yang came charging from the trees and rammed her fist at Apple Bloom, and sent the girl flying backwards, she flashed a bright red as energy rippled across her body, “Agh!” She shouted as she slid to a stop on the ground.

“Ok, I guess it’s Scootaloo’s turn… Bloom, take some time to recover your aura.”

Bloom unsteadily got to her feet and moved out of the way for Scootaloo to take her place. Yang got back into a fighting stance and raised her fists, “Ready?” Yang asked as Scootaloo tried to copy the stance.

“Yeah,” She said.

Yang ran forward ready to throw a simple punch, Scootaloo jumped to the side and tripped, falling over. Yang paused and moved to help Scootaloo back up and start over again, but the filly rolled to the side instead, leapt to her feet, and kicked Yang over. Scootaloo lept back when Yang caught herself and jumped forward, throwing a punch. Scootaloo felt her pegasus magic reach out and she jumped into the air, soaring over Yang, “Good, looks like you know how to aura jump!”

Yang lept into the air after the girl, who raised her hands over her head. Slowly, whisps of white vapour started to collect around her arms and she merged them into a ball of puffy white cloud, then aimed the ball at Yang and punched the cloud with all her might. There was a loud boom as a bolt of lightning struck Yang in the torso, sending her back down to the ground.

Yang staggered to her feet, “That was cheating! You only won because you used your semblance!” Scootaloo fell back to the ground with a thump. “Ok, let’s do this again, no lightning this time…” Yang finished as the two girls readied themselves.

Ruby ignored the sounds of battle going on outside, Yang was giving those faunus girls some lessons, and Ruby had to suppress her desire to go out there and join in on the action… Perhaps in the coming days they could have some two-vs-two fights.

The glare of the dust-powered arc welder was a nice distraction as she reinforced Crescent Rose’s shaft and added a retractable spike to the other end of her scythe. Her weapon was nearly finished as another fight outside wrapped up, she could hear Yang’s voice, “Wow Diamond, you’re strong, you might not be Apple Bloom, but damn… It’s Sweetie’s Turn, and no semblances.”

Ruby didn’t know any of the faunus girls that well yet, but they all seemed nice… She remembered the brilliant light that shone off them as they unlocked their aura, she remembered what it felt like when Qrow unlocked hers, and she remembered when Tai unlocked Yang’s… Those girls were powerful, and despite their lack of combat skill, she knew already that they were going to pass the Beacon entrance exam, once they got a bit of training of course. She couldn’t help but feel some envy, she wanted to go to Beacon too, she wanted to train, she wanted to become a huntress, she wanted to discover what happened to her mom, she wanted to save people, she wanted to kill monsters… She would need to wait two more years.”

Ruby closed her eyes and made an effort to calm herself… She didn’t want to wait, but she would if she had to, for now, she just had to watch from afar. She put the fully repaired Crescent Rose away and turned to the boxes the girls had brought with them. Inside were a mass of mechanical parts, she drew the papers from a folder placed inside each box and gave them a look.

They were schematics, very well done schematics, detailing the four girls weapons… A longsword whose blade could split in half and reveal a dust cannon in the crossguard… A thirty-millimetre autocannon where the barrel could fold down to create a handle and stock retract into the firing chamber to form a hammer… A poleaxe with a dust crystal stuck into the end to act as an aura channelling staff… And a pair of pistols that exclusively used tanks of dust as ammo and had knife-bayonets.

She stared in awe of the designs, they were quite the works of engineering, whoever designed them had an understanding of mechanical design that far surpassed her own… This raised another question in her mind, where did these girls get these patterns… This only added to her growing list of questions, how did these girls survive the trek to Vale from outside the kingdom, and how are they so powerful, why do they not know anything about aura or semblance, how had they never heard of dust before she met them… All questions she would have time for later, now, she set herself to work in assembling the weapons from their schematics.

Princess Celestia retired to her room, as she did every day after day court, exhausted from the endless litany of minor concerns, political manoeuvring, and vain noblemares demanding things from her. She had lived a very, very long time, and had millennia of experience in ruling nations, she had perfected her government through trial and error, creating a perfect society through thousands of years of social and political experimentation, at least as close to perfect as possible… There were very few things that could surprise her.

The news that eight foals had vanished in Ponyville was concerning, but certainly nothing that hasn’t happened before, the surprising part were the reports that, apparently, Discord had sent them to another world. She was going to be talking with the God of Chaos at a later date, for now, her student had scheduled a talk with her.

She felt the magical pressure and heard the popping noise of teleportation and sighed, turning to open the door. “Twilight, I presume you have come to talk to me regarding Discord’s actions?”

Twilight was wearing her shielded labcoat, and she looked as if she hadn’t slept, in a telekinetic grasp she held a pile of papers. “Yes and no,” She replied, pulling a few enchanted syringes from a padded saddlebag, filled with a brightly glowing red liquid.

“W-What is that?” Celestia asked, staring at the blood-like substance, the material practically radiating dark and malignant energies… Energy she had only felt from two other ponies before, Luna, and- “Is it Sombra, has he returned again?!”

“No, my Princess…” Twilight spoke fast, as if worried, “Three days ago now, Discord sent the fillies off to another world, and he also sent a creature from that world here. It wasn’t fully sapient, as far as I can tell, and Fluttershy was quick to take the creature into her care… It was a semi-corporal entity similar to an Ursa, Tantibus, or Windigo, and resembled a large wolf with an ape-like body structure, black etherial fur, and bone-like protrusions across its body, particularly a skull-like mask covered in glowing red markings.”

As Twilight spoke, Celestia became more and more worried, both about the foals in this other world where such creatures existed, but also about the nature of this creature… The more and more she described it, the more it sounded like a creation of Sombra. “The creature appeared mostly docile, but was quick to turn hostile and would require exposure to Fluttershy’s stare, or a long period of isolation, to calm, at least according to Fluttershy… It seemed attracted to her pet, Angel Bunny, for some reason, and for the entire time it stayed at Fluttershy’s cottage, it never ate or drank…”

“Where is this creature, I want to inspect it for myself…” Celestia said.

Twilight sighed. Not a good sign, “I brought the creature into my lab to study it, after taking a blood sample, as you can see here,” She said, levitating up one of the vials, “I put it into a cage lined with custom-made arcane scanners, an upgrade on the kind I used on Pinkie Pie two years ago now…” She suddenly wore a grim expression, “Unfortunately, exposure to magic caused the subject to expire… Fluttershy hasn’t spoken to me since.”

“I see… In that case, may I inspect its remains…”

“Confusingly, and unfortunately, the creature’s body did not remain for long following its termination, the body seemed to rapidly liquefy, the liquid rapidly vaporizing, and the vapour seeming to dissolve into magical energy from there, there is nothing left of the creature apart from the lingering magical energies still saturating my lab.”

There was a pause as Celestia thought. Suddenly, Twilight spoke up, “Fluttershy took pictures of the creature before it’s accidental termination,” She passed a few pictures to the Princess, who closely scrutinized the creature…

“Twilight, these are intriguing discoveries, and I will ask you to keep them to yourself for the time being… I will bring one of the creature’s blood samples to the Royal Canterlot Institute of Magical Biology.”

“Princess,” Twilight began, “I feel an important next step is to find a way to travel to this world without relying on Discord and his… Unpredictable nature… Next time he sends something to this world, I’ll analyze the spell he does it with and see if I can’t isolate the spell matrix.”

“You can do that when I talk with Discord myself on this matter… An alien world is an interesting development, and if it’s populated by these creatures, all the more reason we should investigate it.”

Twilight bowed and left the room. Celestia sighed, she would need to go to the Canterlot Royal Library and gather all the information they have on portal spells… And of course, she would need to go to Tartarus and recover the remnants of Sombra that were uncovered in the Crystal Empire.

Morning light came shining through the windows. All the girls had shared the bed this time, but Diamond still distanced herself as far from the Crusader’s pony-pile as possible, until she somehow got dragged into the middle of it, even if they were all a little bruised from their training yesterday. The girls were bearly awake when there came a familiar voice from a corner of their room, “Enjoying yourself thus far?”

They got up to stare at… Something… It had the vague shape of a human or faunus, but its body had no obvious features asides from the outline of muscles and facial structure, and a pair of mismatched horns growing from its head, one was that of a deer and the other that of a dragon, its body was a glowing shimmering mass of rainbow light with an emphasis on pink.

“D-Discord?” Apple Bloom said.

“You’ve probably never seen me in this form, the humans have, once, but I normally prefer spending time on Equus… Mostly on account of getting as far from my cousins as possible.”

“What do you want with us now?” Diamond asked, bitterly.

“Nothing my dear… I just came to give you some gifts from home… Seeing as you won’t be going back any time soon,” With that, he raised his hand and four objects flashed into reality again… “Sweetie Belle, Twilight asked that I give you a spellbook, filled with all kinds of powerful spells,” He leaned closer, whispering in her ear, “I may have tinkered with the list slightly, after all, you won’t be needing many of the spells on that list, as they were designed for use on your homeworld.”

He then turned to Scootaloo, “You’ll be getting a few other gifts later, for now, Rainbow asked me to give you this wonderbolt medal…”

He turned to Apple Bloom, “A potions kit… Your attempts at alchemy have always been rather chaotic in the past… I wonder what kind of wonderfully chaotic creations you can put together with access to dust.”

And finally, he turned to Diamond, “This was originally meant for Apple Bloom, but she already has a gift and I feel this was a little more fitting for you… Money… I took the liberty of changing it from Bits to Lien.”

Before he vanished in another flash of light, he turned back to Sweetie Belle again, “Oh, and… Be careful who you show that book to… There are some powerful and dangerous people on this world, and we wouldn’t want them to get their hands on magic like that… Anyway! Sayōnara!”

The fillies looked at each-other, confused… Then smiled. They stashed their gifts away for later and moved to get dressed when suddenly there came a knock on their door. “Hey! It took all night, but I put all your weapons together, they’re waiting for you in the shack!” Ruby called out from the hall.

Chapter 9: The First Hunt - Part 1

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Ozpin was in his office, alone, night had just fallen and he sat there, chair swivelled to stare out of the clockface-window, out toward the rising moon… It was a full moon tonight, hiding the scars of the past. The elevator hummed as someone approached, and with a sigh, Ozpin swivelled his chair to face the newcomer.

Out stepped a familiar face, and a face he certainly didn’t expect to see any time soon. “Taiyang? What brings you to Beacon?”

“Hello, Oz… Something… Interesting, has happened,” Ozpin’s eyebrow raised, “See, Ruby and Yang found these four faunus girls who were fleeing after their town was destroyed…”

“Yes, I heard about that from Night Lark, he was the one who found them outside the walls,” Ozpin took a sip from his mug.

“Yeah, I’m letting them stay at Patch for the time being… They say they want to come to Beacon,” Ozpin’s eyebrows raised once again, “At first, I thought they weren’t even going to make it past the entrance exam, they didn’t even know what aura was, they didn’t even know anything about the grimm, other than that they’re dangerous and prevalent… How does someone not know about the grimm!”

“It’s not unheard of, there are those families who believe that ignorance is the best defence against the dangers of the world… I believe there are even a few in the city who have no knowledge of the monsters. Continue.”

“Well… I decided to unlock their auras, to at least give them a chance, and…” Tai sighed, “They have some of the strongest auras I’ve ever seen, stronger than Raven… Stronger than Summer…”

At that, Ozpin’s eyebrows shot up, “All four were that strong? Summer had one of the strongest auras of any huntsmen or huntresses in our generation, not counting myself, of course.”

“Yeah, and it’s not just that… One of the girls, one who introduced herself as Sweetie Belle,” Tai began, “Wierd name,” He muttered under his breath before continuing further, “Apparently had unlocked her semblance before even unlocking her aura… As far as I can tell, it’s some kind of energy-manipulation ability… And it’s a powerful one.”

“Really… I guess this gives Beacon two energy manipulators, I’ve gotten the transcripts from Sanctum and the esteemed Pyrrha Nikos will be joining us,” Ozpin smiled… At least these two will be under his supervision, having such rare and powerful semblances as they do… They would make fine warriors.

“And she isn’t the only one… Apple Bloom has some kind of super-strength, and Scootaloo can seemingly create and control stormclouds, I saw her shoot a bolt of lightning from one she created in her hands… As silly as it sounds, at first I thought she might have been a Maiden.”

Ozpin’s smile faded… No, she wasn’t, that was sure, all the maidens, with the exception of Spring, were accounted for, and he was certain that Spring hadn’t died between now and then, otherwise Qrow would have found her, or someone, even if they were in a remote village, would have reported the disturbance a magical child would cause… None the less, these children, with their odd names, seemed incredibly powerful… He would need to make sure to get them into Beacon, and he would make sure they were all placed on the same team, such a team would be a very powerful weapon against evil, if handled properly.

But, there were plenty of unanswered questions left… He would need to keep a close eye on these children.

A week had passed since the girls found themselves in this strange world, Remnant. The first day had been right after they showed up, awaking in their hotel beds and finding Ruby, and later that night, her sister, Yang… They had from there, boarded a late-night ship to Patch.

The dawn of the second day, they had awoken aboard the ship and moved to Yang and Ruby’s home… There, they met Taiyang Xiao Long, who had unlocked their aura, and they had begun their training in hand-to-hand combat. According to Yang, they were quick learners.

The third day was when they finally got their hands on their weapons… Or, at least, they would have… Yang insisted on them getting more hand-to-hand training before they moved on to weaponized combat, Yang also pointed out that they didn’t have any ammo, and would need to go to the mainland to get dust and bullets. So, that day was spent throwing more punches, and later that night the fillies discovered the human’s taste for meat… Meat was not uncommon in Equestria, not since Griffon cuisine had graced the restaurants of ponykind, Bacon was a favourite for any meat-eater, and Scootaloo said that chicken was to die for, but meat-eaters were still a minority, and so, while Apple Bloom tentatively tried beef, Sweetie Belle shovelled all her meat over to Scootaloo, who was certainly downing more than her share.

The fourth day was when they started more aura control, Ruby showing them how to channel aura into solid objects to increase their durability… Apparently, most of the more complex weapons would simply break if their users tried to use them in battle without channelling their aura into them… Even food could become a weapon if used properly. After they had managed to stick a needle into a plank of wood without damaging the needle, apparently the same method used to teach children in Signal, Yang introduced them to aura jumping and aura running… Apparently, jumping fifteen feet into the air wasn’t something only a pegasus or Pinkie Pie could do, and someone running while using their aura to boost them could prove a challenge to even the fastest pegasus flier.

The fifth day was more of the same, mostly aura control, but the fillies were learning that much quicker than most other students did, so Yang and Ruby both pitched in to train them in hand-to-hand… That was when the fillies discovered that Ruby was nearly just as useless in hand-to-hand combat, and so it suddenly became a five-vs-one battle, as Yang decided to show everyone there what a proper fist-fighter is like. At last, the fillies scored their first victory against the blonde, as Ruby and Scootaloo proved good enough distractions for Apple Bloom to land a crippling blow against Yang.

The sixth day was something new… Melee combat… The fillies were all given crude wooden replicas of their weapons in their melee forms, apparently made by Ruby over the previous days, to give them something a little safer to train with than their actual weapons, as they still had yet to fully control their aura, and certainly didn’t have the years of instinct a student would acquire, learning how to channel and release their power almost subconsciously. Later that day Taiyang left the island to do some shopping back at the mainland, and the girls had a pretty good idea what he was getting.

At last, the seventh day had dawned. The only thing the fillies regretted was not being able to make use of their gifts Discord had given them, between all the training, they never had the free time, and by the time they were finished, they were too exhausted, both physically and mentally, to do anything with the night.

They were sitting in the living room, watching the television, when Tai burst through the door, carrying a sizable bag in his grasp, “I’m back!” He said, “I got plenty of ammo for everyone, and even a few dust rounds to try out.”

Ruby gasped and ran out the door, coming back with the Crusader’s weapons in hand… “Oooh,” The girls all awed, realizing that this was the first time they had ever laid eyes on their own weapons. There was a longsword with little cyan crystals embedded in the pommel and ends of the crossguard, with some kind of cylinder in the center of the guard, and a long blade with a grove running down the middle. The sword’s handle was wrapped in pink cloth that matched Diamond’s hair perfectly, and a large lever extended downward along the handle from the central cylinder. It looked as if the sword were made entirely from silver, with the trigger-lever being gold, and the cylinder being a darker metallic grey.

Diamond lifted the sword, the blade was tremendously heavy, but her earth-pony strength and aura made it seem as light as a feather in her grasp. She pulled down on the trigger and the blade split in half along the grove, moving to each side to make her sword look like an oversized tuning fork, and exposing the cylinder in the middle.

“Those crystals are hard-light dust, I don’t really have much, but the schematics specifically called for it, so I used what samples I had… The stuff’s pretty expensive outside of Atlas.”

Apple Bloom stared in awe of the massive weapon before her, the thing had a thirty-millimetre bore, according to Ruby, which was apparently a bit on the big side for a weapon. Ruby explained that it was built like an oversized assault rifle, with a side-mounted drum magazine, and a trigger set into the back of the weapon, underneath the oddly placed guard and in front of the butt, making it like someone had mounted a stock to the back of what was supposed to be an emplaced weapon. She pulled a lever that doubled as an iron sight, extending down the barrel of the gun, and the stock retracted, the barrel swung downward, and it turned into some kind of hammer, the barrel now the shaft.

Sweetie’s was as simple as they come, it was a halberd… Or, more accurately, a battle-axe with a giant yellow dust crystal mounted on the tip of the shaft like a spearhead. That was when Tai explained how dust could be used as a weapon all on its own, such as being thrown, weaved into clothing, or fused with the body, and not just stuffed inside bullets.

Scootaloo looked at her pistols in glee, they were rather big, with cylinders mounted to their sides, and little knives mounted to their oversized barrels, the barrels covered in holes. “Interesting design,” Scootaloo commented.

“They are designed to exclusively use fire dust as ammo, the holes are there to help with cooling… Aura might prevent physical damage, but it won’t stop your weapons from melting,” Ruby said.

“So, they shoot balls of fire?”

“No, not balls of fire so much as beams of fire… They have three settings, you can either expend the entire dust canister in a single blast that could probably melt straight through a concrete pillar, you can shoot smaller blasts of heat, or you can shoot gouts of flame like a flamethrower… It was actually a pretty fascinating design,” Ruby finished.

The girls lifted their weapons and moved outside to the yard, there, Ruby showed them all how to reload their weapons, and carefully informed them of the dangers of running out of ammo, “Apple Bloom, that cannon of yours only has twenty shots, then you need to reload, so each time you fire, count down from twenty, that’s a good way of making sure you don’t run out right when you’re facing down the claws of an ursa… The rest of your weapons operate on dust, so they’re much harder to predict… Well, except for Diamond’s sword, which has only a single shot before you need to reload.”

The girls stared at this girl, Ruby, who was normally so weird, quirky, and in some ways, shy… Suddenly she sounded like Spitfire giving a lecture to Wonderbolt recruits as she drilled them on weapon maintainance. It came time to test the weapons, both in melee and ranged forms.

Apple Bloom stepped up, aimed the massive rife at a tree, and pulled the trigger. There was a tremendous boom-boom-boom noise, Apple Bloom was thrown on her back and slid across the ground, propelled by the recoil, the tree she was aiming now had three massive holes torn through it, each one large enough to stick a pony foal’s head through. More loud booms followed as Apple Bloom tried to find a way to hold the gun without falling flat on her back, eventually, she just decided that standing and firing didn’t mix well, and opted to crouch and shoot instead.

She pulled the transforming handle and took a grip on the cannon’s barrel, soon Apple Bloom was holding a large hammer in her grasp. She proved equally skilled with it as she did when shooting, flinging herself around with the momentum and inertia involved in swinging such a large and heavy weapon. Eventually, she got the hang of it.

Diamond raised her sword, she swung it around with ease. As she poured some aura into the sword, the little cyan crystals in the blade’s handle changed into a bright pink, and a field of pink energy encased the sword-blade. Diamond stared at the magical energy that shimmered around the sword’s blade, as she swung it around it left a glimmering trail of light in the air for a few moments. Everyone stared in awe as the blade danced around, creating glimmering patterns in the air, Diamond swung it at a tree, and it passed clean through as if it weren't there, it wasn’t so much cutting, as separating the material.

She pulled the lever and the energy field disappeared, the blade split in two, and exposed the central canister, filled with the same orange dust used in Yang’s gauntlets. She pulled the lever again, and, aiming the weapon into the air, it shot off a solid beam of energy straight up.

Sweetie stared at the pink crystals now inhabiting Diamond’s sword, then looked at the large yellow dust-crystal on her halberd. She put her hand on the crystal and poured her own power into it… It turned the same minty green colour as her own magic and glowed a bit brighter as it sparked and crackled. She grinned, as the others looked on in interest, with the exception of Ruby, Yang, and Tai, who all stared at the crackling green crystal with looks of confusion and awe. Sweetie was equally surprised at the magical reaction, but then as she looked at the minty green colour, it made sense…

She raised her halberd and focused on it, closing her eyes, thinking of it as an extension of her arm… It felt, almost like her old horn, as she waved it around. She channelled her aura and magic down the length of the shaft and into the crystal… A spell matrix formed in her mind and-

She opened her eyes to see a shield had formed around her, she changed the spell in her mind and the shield vanished. She raised her halberd and pointed it away from the house and the others, as, from the crystal, a wave of telekinetic force washed out in a cone over the yard, it wasn’t particularly powerful, but it still kicked up dirt, uprooted grass, and sent insects flying. She couldn’t wait to start reading through her spellbook, now that she had a staff to cast with.

When she looked back, the fillies, even Tiara, were clapping. Over the week, she had really warmed up to the Crusaders… Ruby and Yang stared in awe, and Tai was… A little scared, judging from his eyes.

Finally, it was Scootaloo’s turn, she raised her pistols, loaded with fire dust, and pulled the trigger on both… The most surprising part, to her anyway, was the lack of recoil, particularly after seeing Apple Bloom thrown around like that by her cannon, but these were smaller, so it made sense. There was a loud popping-hissing noise from the air as her pistols unleashed beams of heat that boiled the air it passed through. The tree she was aiming at didn’t even catch fire, rather there was a small steam explosion at the point she was aiming, the heat explosively vaporizing the plant matter. Scootaloo twisted a dial on her two pistols, then fired them into the air. They unleashed an impressive torrent of fire.

Yang asked something to her father, no one caught what she said, but everyone noticed Tai’s reaction, “What!”

“Come on dad, it’ll be great training, plus, I want to see them in action!”

“Only if Ruby comes along too.”

“You think I’d miss this!” The red-hooded girl practically shouted.

“Fine, but don’t be out there for more than a few hours.”

The human girls nodded, then Yang turned to the fillies as Ruby ran off to retrieve her scythe, “Come on, get those guns reloaded, we’re going grimm hunting!”

Chapter 10: The First Hunt - Part 2

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Rainbow Dash slid another bolt into the crossbow. Behind, Spitfire watched her, she hadn’t been there a moment ago… But there was no time for that. She bit down on the trigger, and another bolt stuck right into the eye-socket of the dummy. Rainbow Dash slid another bolt into the crossbow.

“Hey, Dash.” Rainbow didn’t respond, instead, she bit down on the trigger again, and a bolt struck the target clean in the heart. “Dash!” Spitfire shouted.

“What…” Dash replied bitterly, loading another enchanted bolt into the crossbow… Magic weaved into the bolts helped them to fly perfectly straight, she wasn’t going to let something like wind or gravity from stopping her from hitting the target.

“Dash… For the past week, I’ve never seen you once for flying practice, you’ve not joined us in any events… You’ve spent all your time in here… What’s wrong?”

“Why do you think something’s wrong… I’m perfectly fine,” She replied, again bitterly, firing another bolt, this time it struck the target clean in the other eye-socket. She slid another bolt into the crossbow.

“You’ve never enjoyed marksmareship training… You’ve never wanted to practice hoof-to-hoof combat… Now it’s the only thing you’re ever doing.”

“What do you think! Has it ever occurred to you that it could be something about how Discord sent Scoots away to some alien world filled with monsters, then says that I can’t go with her because it’s too dangerous!” There was a pause, “Get out of here… You may be my commanding officer, but I don’t care… I have more training to get to.”

Spitfire just nodded and trotted off, trying to argue with Dash when she got like this was a pointless endeavour… Plus, she knew the feelings the rainbow-maned mare was going through right now... At least Discord would make sure the fillies were safe, at least they would come back someday. Rainbow Dash slid another bolt into the crossbow… If she needed to, she would become the deadliest weapon on Equus, if it meant seeing Scootaloo again. She bit down on the trigger, and another bolt struck the dummy’s forehead, perfect aim, despite her target being easily two-hundred meters away, on the other end of the firing range.

Waiting in the forest was a pack of grimm, two ursai, fifteen beowolves, seventeen creeps. Change that to fourteen creeps, as a series of booms rang out through the forest, autocannon shells rending the small grimm to paste, that quickly evaporated in the air. “Damn! Missed quite a few that time,” Said Apple Bloom, her aim thrown off by the recoil, causing many of the shots in her volley of eight to go wild, ripping into the ground or distant trees. Scootaloo was already running from the bush, both her pistols primed. A hissing blast blew a hole in one of the beowolves, and a second hissing blasting a hole in the head of one of the creeps.

One of the ursai turned and roared at Scootaloo, charing, trampling two of the creeps in the process. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom, and a volley of autocannon shells tore into the ursa, tearing a series of holes in its black skin. Diamond lept from off a branch of one of the trees, sword glimmering in hand, and in a single motion beheaded two of the beowolves, a strong kick sending one of the creeps crashing into a tree.

The remaining ursa turned to run, and was caught in the side by a blast of green lightning. Sweetie ran forward, and with her halberd, she cast the cutting spell, a wave of green energy slicing forth and splitting the bear in half. Only ten creeps remained, and twelve beowolves. Sweetie let her axe blade fall and nearly split a beowolf right down the middle, as Scootaloo, running around the confused and enraged horde, let out a gout of fire from one pistol that reduced one beowolf and three more creeps to ash, then she turned and with the other pistol, blasted a beowolf right in the torso. She didn’t see the third beowolf right behind her, who descended and started slashing at her aura with it’s scything claws.

As Scootaloo cried out in pain, Diamond lept and impaled the offending beast with a jab of her sword. Scootaloo, to her surprise, was completely unharmed, asides from the phantom pains that racked her body where gruesome claws tried to tear at her skin. One more beowolf lept at Tiara, but suddenly found itself ramming into a wall of green as Sweetie aimed her staff and cast the shield over the pair of girls. The shield fell a moment later as Sweetie’s magic failed, but that was enough time for Tiara to split her sword blade in half and pull down on the trigger. A brilliant beam of energy launched from the dust-cannon and, in a great flash of golden lightning, the beowolf fell, a meter-wide hole ripped in its torso.

That just left seven more of the wolf-monsters and seven more of the legged snake creatures. Boom-boom-boom, another autocannon volley ripped apart three more creeps, Apple Bloom pausing between shots, trying to keep the recoil under control. That was followed by a blur of red that caught one of the beowolves in the side and split it apart. Yang lept from the trees and started beating a pair of wolves with a rapid series of punches, and Apple Bloom lept out of cover as three creeps ganged up on the machine-gunner who had been decimating them.

With her cannon in hammer form, Apple Bloom rammed it down on one of the creeps, smashing it like it were an insect, the other two lept, but a kick sent one flying, leaving just one more, which started biting at her head and neck and jabbing her with its legs. There was the sound of a gun firing, and a blur of red sliced the offending creep in half, the blur resolved itself into Ruby, her over-engineered monster, as Yang called it when Ruby wasn't listening, in hand. She helped the filly back up as the others finished the fight.

Diamond and Scootaloo had finished up the last of the creeps, with bursts of superheated air, and glimmering fields of magic ripping the creatures to bloody shreds. Sweetie, with more blasts of green lightning, had rendered several of the beowolves dead, and with Yang’s help, the last of the grimm had been dealt with by a single punch to the head.

“That was AWESOME!” Yelled Ruby and Scootaloo in unison.

“Those pistols were amazing, did you see that stream of fire you launched, and when you ran in there and blasted that beowolf right in the chest!’ Ruby shouted.

“You were all spinning around and slashing with that scythe of yours, cutting and slashing and the way you used the recoil was absolutely awesome! So cool!” Scootaloo returned.

“That was enlightening,” Diamond commented, “Certainly exciting.”

“If all monsters are like that, why do you need these fancy huntsman schools?” Apple Bloom said.

“Oh,” Yang commented, “ The grimm on Patch are pretty weak… Hell, back in winter Ruby tore through something like fifty beowolves,” Ruby blushed at this. “Grimm on the mainland are quite a bit tougher… There are some which might be able to shrug off hits from that autocannon.”

“Come, we should return to your house,” Sweetie said.

Research was going slow… Whenever the blood samples of the extraplanetary creature were removed from their stasis syringes, they would immediately begin to vapourize, and no serious experiments, analysis, or research could be done with the substance when it was under stasis, though, observing the vapourization process proved fairly insightful.

Many biologists in Canterlot considered the merits of having Discord bring another specimen for examination, and studying the new subject while under stasis spells… More conventional methods would be employed first though, as the princess Twilight Sparkle’s own research showed, magical energy, in general, proved harmful to the creatures. It was only unfortunate that relying on the god of chaos to provide another sample was not something the scientists were particularly eager to do… The deity was unpredictable at the best of times.

That was also the reason why research into this other world had stalled… Discord proved less than cooperative when Celestia summoned him to Canterlot to give the coordinates of this world so teleportation spells could be used to access it, and explained that, yes, in time he would give her the coordinates, now was not that time. This would, at least, give ponykind time to consider the implications of another world full of life, similar to their own...

And so, Twilight sat alone in her study, just returning home from spending a week working with various scientists in Canterlot. She was having Spike brew her some coffee as she read up on teleportation and portal spells when there came a knock on the door. “Darling, I know you must be busy, but I need your help."

Twilight sighed and put her book away, moving over to the door, “What is it, Rarity?” She asked, sounding a bit more bitter than she intended. She really didn't have the time or energy if it proved just another silly, vain, and empty concern.

“I know you’ve had a rough week, but it’s important… I need you to figure out what this thing does,” She said, pulling out an object wrapped in cloth. “Discord gave it to me, saying that it could help,” She carefully unravelled the cloth and set the little white device on a table. “I need to figure out if this can help me find Sweetie Belle, but I’ve been too afraid to even touch it for as long as I’ve had it, who knows what kind of devilish tricks that serpent could have placed on it, and so I was waiting for you to get back from Canterlot.”

Twilight sighed, “Tomorrow… I need to sleep before I go fucking around with Discord’s crap.”

Rarity gasped, “Language darling!”

“I. Don’t. Care... I'm too tired to care right now.”

Silver Spoon realized that she was actually pretty lucky that she arrived in this world in the late summer, going through this place in the spring or autumn would be painful, and she couldn’t imagine trudging through this place in the winter. A light snow sprinkled the ground and her companions followed her down the trail toward Mistral.

She held her spear at the ready, still wondering about what she should name it as she swung it around absently. Behind her, Button’s sword and shield were mounted safely on his back as he marched onward through the cold. Behind him, Rumble held his water-cooled machine gun at the ready, wings flared, waiting for something to attack… The three had run into far too many monsters on this trip already, and it was only now she realized just how paranoid the grey pegasus could be at times. In the back, Dinky used her musket like a walking stick and simply smiled as they marched ever onward.

Night was going to fall soon, and none of them wanted to sleep in this weather again… At least Pyrrha was kind enough to provide warm sleeping bags. They were all tremendously tired, even if Rumble didn’t admit it.

They felt the cold wind blowing against their bodies and heard some kind of metallic squeaking. In the distance, they saw what looked like some kind of house, and so they drew closer, hoping to find someone that would offer them shelter. But the closer and closer they drew, the more they realized how abandoned it looked…

There were several open buildings that looked like roofed livestock enclosures, but the rooves and fences all looked rotten and broken, torn apart by time, weather, and the abuse of nature. There was some kind of vehicle sitting on the road, coated in rust. The home in the back looked no better, and all the ponies present realized that their chances of finding hospitality in this place was not likely in the least… But Silver didn’t care, she was too tired to care. They craned their heads to look at the sign that read: Brunswick Farms.

“Let’s head inside,” Said Silver Spoon.

“Are you sure, I don’t like this place, there’s some kind of magic here,” Said Dinky.

“Would you rather stay out here and keep walking,” Said Button.

“I’d like to get out of the wilderness and away from monsters for a night,” Said Rumble.

“I think that settles it, Dinky,” Silver replied, “Come on, I’m tired.”

Dinky Hooves shook her head, but followed the other ponies, they were going to find their friends at Haven, and nothing was going to stop them… Any of them…

Chapter 11: The Days After

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Silver Spoon opened the door only to be assaulted with the stench of rotting meat. She saw the figures of two humans in the bed, still clothed, but they didn’t look anything like any human she had encountered as of yet, their skin blackening and growing fetid… These weren’t humans any more, these were the corpses of humans, must have been dead for a while, but certainly not long enough to have desiccated and lost their stench.

She sighed, even with how tired she was, she wasn’t going to stay here, at least until she figured out the cause of these human’s deaths. “It seems I owe Dinky an apology,” she said once she had found the others, starting a fire in the living room. “Clearly, there is something dangerous in this place, as I found two corpses up in the bedroom.” That got everyone’s attention, particularly Rumble, who made a move for his weapon. “I suggest, as horrible as it is out there, that we leave.”

Rumble grumbled something then said, “Well, before we go, there’s something I need to do first.” Rumble’s weapon had the basic shape of a water-cooled machine gun, with a drum magazine, a handle on the back where the trigger rested, and a frame on the middle of the barrel where another handle was mounted, featuring a secondary trigger. Despite having a water jacket, the gun wasn’t filled with water, and Rumble demonstrated this as he marched into a cellar lined with bottles that Silver Spoon could only assume were some kind of alcoholic drink.

He grabbed his respirator mask from his bag, raised his gun, pulled the secondary trigger, and from a second barrel mounted atop the actual machine gun barrel flowed a stream of burning fire dust that soon engulfed the room in flames and set alight the flammable liquids stored inside the bottles, the inferno rising up to the ceiling and setting the building alight. “I was in here earlier, with Button Mash… As we were leaving with what food we found, I heard something coming from the cellar, I’m not getting mauled by monsters in my sleep,” He said, words a little muffled by the rubberized gas mask he wore when using the flamethrower.

Silver Spoon thought his reaction a bit extreme, but certainly well-intentioned. Thus they grabbed their sleeping bags and opted to sleep as far from this place as they could walk.

As the morning light of Celestia’s sun shone through the window, there came a knock at Twilight’s front door… Rarity, most likely. She approached the door and threw it open to see a bright orange pony. It took her a moment to recognize the mare, she had let her mane hang down to the side, rather than the way it normally stuck straight up… Twilight felt a pang of envy at how pretty she looked. “Spitfire?”

“Hey, could you come up to the base with me… See, I think Scootaloo disappearing like that has really messed Rainbow up, and I haven’t been able to help… In fact, I think I’m making it worse.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide, “I had already planned something with Rarity today, but this is way more important, let me just get a few things and I’ll head out, right away!”

“Actually, let’s wait for Rarity to show up too, we can take her with us, and she might be able to help.”

Twilight nodded, “So, what exactly is wrong with Rainbow Dash.”

“She said something about Discord and how he wouldn’t let her go see Scootaloo on account of how dangerous the world she’s on now is… So now she’s been spending all her time training, I can hardly separate her from her crossbow, and she’s ruthless when we try hoof-to-hoof combat… At least she’s actually practising for once, but she’s hardly been sleeping or eating. I found her passed out on the firing range’s floor just two days ago.”

“Yang Xiao Long! Prepare your kingdom for battle!” Ruby shouted through the living room.

“Bring it on!”

“I deploy Mistrallian Shinobi! Looks like I get to sneak past your walls and start assassinating your political figures!”

Four girls were clustered around a tabled covered in maps, models, and rulebooks… While Scootaloo and Apple Bloom trained with Tai outside, the sounds of their weapons echoing through the house. Yang and Ruby took Sweetie Belle and Diamond Tiara and introduced them to The Great War. While Ruby and Yang played their first game on their own, Diamond and Sweetie looked through the rulebook and took plenty of notes.

“Pretty smart sis… But you forget, as the kingdom of Vacuo, I can opt to reroll any attempts at subterfuge!” Four D6 rolled across the table, “And look at that, looks like you’ve only gotten two of my five leaders!”

Ruby smiled, “I’ll reinforce my eastern flank, you can’t counterattack.”

“I believe it’s my turn now,” Diamond said, smiling.

“Yep,” Yang replied, “I’ll try to go easy on you.”

Diamond smirked, “I’ll deploy the Atlesian Stormtrooper Battalions,” At this, Yang smirked and started pulling out what was no doubt a trap card she had set earlier, “Against Mistral’s undefended southern flank.” Yang bore an expression of shock and put her card back down, meanwhile, Ruby sat there, mouth agape.

“I-I, my capitol still has two HP! You won’t be able to finish me off this turn!”

Sweetie Belle was next to smirk, “Sweetie?” Diamond asked.

Sweetie Belle replied, “I deploy the Knights of Vale against Ruby’s exposed northern flank… I believe this means that Mistral capitulates to me… And, as the Kingdom of Vale, I hereby give over control of Mistral to Atlas.”

The entire table turned, aghast, to stare at Diamond Tiara, “I’ll recall the Atlesian Stormtroopers to defend my southern flank, I’ll also set a trap card this turn… And, thanks to my trade route with Vale, I now have full control over the great northern ocean… With that, I can deploy the Atlesian Navy to the northern border of Vacuo.”

Diamond smiled… Ruby was clearly playing to have fun, not to win, and Yang had expected all four kingdoms to be at each other’s throats… Diamond, by having just a single trusted ally in the form of Sweetie Belle and her kingdom of Vale, had turned the game in favour of Atlas almost turn one.

Yang was sputtering, she drew another card, “I used sandstorm to disable the blockade and move the Desert Raiders to attack your eastern flank!”

Diamond simply raised both of her trap cards, Atlesian Smart-Minefield, and Wall-Mounted Artillery. “T-That’s my move!” Yang shouted as she was forced to throw away her Desert Raiders. Sweetie moved her Knights of Vale to invade Vacuo’s south, and Diamond sent her Stormtroopers to Vacuo’s north.

“Rainbow Dash!” Rarity’s voice came from down the hall. Rainbow shook herself awake… She had fallen asleep in the Firing Range again, all of the targets, from the closest to the furthest, were covered in crossbow bolts, not a single one had missed.

“R-Rara? H-Howd you get ere?”

“Twilight and Spitfire hauled me up here, Rainbow, I know you miss Scootaloo, but you can’t do this to yourself…”

“You’re one to talk! Every time something goes wrong, you barricade yourself in your house and shove as much icecream as you can into your mouth!”

“Rainbow Dash!” Came Twilight’s voice.

“Dash,” Said Spitfire, as the two mares raced to catch up with Rarity.

Dash sighed, “Look, girls… I know you’re worried about me, but I’m not going to leave Scootaloo, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, I’m not going to leave any of them alone, I can’t, I can’t leave them, they’re in danger every moment I’m not with them-” Rainbow ranted.

“Rainbow!” Twilight shouted, “We won’t let you punish yourself for nothing!”

“I’m going to find them, and you can’t stop me! None of you!”

“I know that… You think you can go into danger without your friends?” Spitfire said.


“We can’t let you go without us, darling, so, since we can’t stop you, we’re coming with you,” Rarity replied.

“What! No! I can’t endanger you like that!”

Spitfire trotted up and placed a hoof on Rainbow’s back, “I know you think you’re being selfless… But you’re not.”

Rainbow growled, “I’ve made my choice!”

“And now we’re making ours,” The others replied in unison.

Rainbow sighed, but leaned into Spitfire’s embrace, as she started to drift off to sleep again. From behind them came another voice, “That’s what I was hoping you would say.” The serpentine form of Discord came slithering out of the floor.

“Gah!” Yang shouted, “We should have never let them play!”

“You’re just mad because they teamed up on you,” Ruby replied.

They still remembered the scene that played just after Yang was forced to capitulate Vacuo. The two were waiting to see how Diamond’s Atlas and Sweetie’s Vale would fight one another, and who would ultimately win. On Diamond’s turn, she left her kingdoms completely defenceless, a move that had stunned the two girls… The move that stunned them even more was when, during Sweetie Belle’s next turn, she got up from the table, moved over to Diamond, and got down on one knee, saying, “As queen of Vale, I hereby give over my kingdoms and territory over to general Diamond Tiara of Atlas,” And like that, the game was over. When interrogated why she did that by Ruby and Yang, she simply replied, “Why would I keep on fighting… An allied nation had conquered a great portion of the world, both of our kingdoms were now prospering after our people had suffered through years of war, and by unifying our nations, we could ensure a long and peaceful future, rather than further squandering lives and resources on a war that was already over.”

All the girls and Tai had gathered themselves in the living room, “Hey!” Ruby said to her dad, “I’m going over to the mainland tomorrow to get more dust and show the girls around town some more.”

“Yeah!” Apple Bloom said, “I can get some dust rounds for Applebuck!”

“Applebuck?” Sweetie snickered.

“Yeah, every time I pull the trigger it feels like I’m getting bucked in the side, so I’m calling him Applebuck! What are you calling yours?”

“Lapis Luminatus,” Sweetie said.

“Lapa Lumi-Nuts?” Scootaloo replied.

“Lapis Luminatus, it’s ancient Pegasus for: Illuminating Diamond. I’m sure you have a good name for those pistols of yours.”

“Rainbow Flame and Fire Dash!” Scootaloo grinned.

The others stared at her, “Really?” Diamond intoned.

“What!” Scootaloo replied.

“Well, I am naming mine Silverglow, because it’s made from silver, and it glows when I use it… Plus, it’s a wonderful name, unlike Rainbow Flame and Fire Dash,” Diamond replied. “None the less, I would like to try different kinds of dust with Silverglow’s dust cannon.”

“Yeah, and I can get some more fire dust for Rainbow Flame and Fire Dash,” Scootaloo continued.

“Honestly,” Apple Bloom began, “That name’s a bit of a mouthful, why don’t you just call them Fire and Flames.”

Scootaloo looked thoughtful for a moment, then simply replied, “Nah.”

Glynda Goodwitch marched over to the airdocks at the end of Beacon cliff. She intended to spend a nice calm day in the city, away from all the activity going on in Beacon, all the teachers rushing to get everything prepared for the students who would be arriving in just a few short days, right at the beginning of next month. That month would be the last in summer, and Glynda couldn’t help but wish that winter break could arrive already, even though it was still technically the summer break.

A single day away from the chaos going on in the school, a single day away from Ozpin’s secret war, and a single day where she could sit down and rest in a nice restaurant or cafe and not worry about the world falling apart around them. The news that Amber had been attacked was not welcome, particularly now, right as the chaos of trying to get classes started weighing heavily on the minds of the teachers, and it was made all the worse when she had been brought in, spine severed, face scarred, and worst of all, aura damaged… After Ironwood showed up and installed the stasis devices, the scans he made proved everyone’s fears, part of her power was missing.

Glynda sighed as she took a seat aboard the airship and flew off down to the city below.

Chapter 12: Shopping Spree

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Ruby had crafted some holsters for the fillies’ weapons, Scootaloo now had Fire and Flames mounted across her breast by a bandolier she wore underneath her jacket, Both Lapis Luminatus and Applebuck were mounted to their users’ backs, and finally Diamond had chosen to wear Silverglow on her belt like a traditional longsword. Based on the designs, Ruby had also crafted extra clips for the girls to use should they ever need to reload in combat, although only Apple Bloom really needed this as her weapon was the only one that used actual ammo, but she had also made spare dust canisters for Scootaloo’s pistols.

Scootaloo wore her spare canisters on her belt, two for each gun, and Apple Bloom wore her extra ammo-drums on her back alongside Applebuck. Although the girls wanted to go to the dust shop, there was some other shopping needing to be done first, so they all walked off the ship in a line, Ruby leading the way, and the people all around them staring at the girls’ weapons in awe and envy.

Their first stop was someplace called the Games Corner, where Diamond hoped to get her own copy of The Great War, and Ruby could introduce the others to Heroes and Huntsmen and Battlemace Forty-Two-Million.

The four ponies stared at Discord, “Discord, so… You finally going to let me see Scootaloo yet?” Rainbow Dash said, angrily.

“Soon enough… But first, there are a few things I should tell you about this alien world, things the fillies have learned already that I feel you should know too.”

“What are they?” Asked Rarity.

Discord smiled and they all vanished into the realm of non-reality. Here, it was an eternal void of white nothingness, although, in truth, it wasn’t white exactly, as in this realm colour was merely a creation of one’s perceptions. Here, Discord appeared as he did when on Remnant, taking the humanoid form, glowing rainbow-pink, and bearing his mismatched horns atop his head.

Here, the ponies awoke to find themselves in unfamiliar bodies, devoid of fur asides from atop their heads, with arms and legs designed for bipedalism. They all still had their wings, Twilight even had her ears and tail too, although Spitfire and Rainbow Dash only had their wings and nothing else from their original pony forms, and Rarity still had her tail too. Everyone was a little to busy staring at Rainbow’s wings to comment on anything else, her wings were large and looked more aquiline, like that of a griffon, rather than that of a pegasus, and her feathers were a rainbow of colour, just like her hair.

“Awesome!” She said, staring at her new wings, “I hope they stay this way when I’m a pony again!”

“What exactly are we!” Rarity practically shouted.

“Humans!” Discord said, “Well… Mostly, you’re Faunus, a sub-species of Humans, who are the primary inhabitants of the planet Remnant. And to answer your question, my little Rainbow Dash, I can make the changes permanent if you want.”

“Fascinating,” Twilight said, raising her arm and inspecting the claws at the end.

“Anyway, time is chaos, so let’s get on with it…” Discord continued, reaching out a hand that broke into four and from there broke into eight, touching them on the chest and head, although Spitfire and Rarity didn’t like the way he grabbed at the lumps they had on their chest, “Abbera Kadabra, Bibbity Bobbity Boo! Here are some magic words to unlock your aura too!“

With that, the women started glowing, Rarity and Spitfire were brilliant points of cyan and orange light respectively, Rainbow Dash glowed all colours of the rainbow and was noticeably brighter than the other two, who were already glowing like bonfires… But that was nothing compared to Twilight, who glowed like a brilliant purple sun.

“What was that?” Dash said once Discord had retracted his arm.

The girls approached a building labelled: Scroll Workshop. Inside, they found hundreds of scrolls on display. “Remember,” Diamond Tiara began, “Let’s get the cheapest ones we can find, we still need money for dust and ammo.”

“I wonder if we can have them painted to match our hair colours?” Sweetie asked.

“I want mine in rainbow!” Scootaloo shouted.

“Bronze is nice,” Apple Bloom added.

“We can paint them ourselves later,” Ruby continue, “Let’s just get you some so we can call each other when you’re in Beacon.”

“I never thought about painting my scroll… I kinda want a yellow scroll now,” Yang commented.

The girls approached the desk while Ruby and Yang stayed behind, the woman at the desk turned to them, “You look like students, going to Beacon I presume?” She said.

“Yes… Does that matter?” Diamond asked, sceptically.

“Well yeah, all students going to Beacon need their scrolls, that way they can keep track of their aura and call their lockers, we offer a generous discount for students… I heard you talking about scroll colours, and for some extra lien I can have them painted the way you want.”

“How much extra?” Diamond said.

“Just twenty per scroll… The scrolls themselves, the models the students use, cost around five hundred lien, and they’re the cheapest models, but with the discount that’s two hundred per scroll, so that’ll cost you eight hundred and eighty.”

Apple Bloom looked at her money, Discord had given them three thousand lien, Apple Bloom was fairly sure that her sister didn’t actually give Discord that many bits, so Bloom was a little hesitant to use the money, knowing that Discord had probably just made some of it from nothing… But they had already spent around two hundred lien at the game store, so she wasn’t too bothered by it at this point. She handed over the money and they were asked to return in two hours for their custom scrolls.

They were marching down the street, the sun was high in the sky, but was starting to grow a bit lower, when they saw a familiar name on a sign: Tukson’s Book Trade. As they walked in, a familiar voice greeted them, “Welcome to Tukson’s Book Trade, home to every book under the sun.”

“Hello again Tukson,” Diamond said.

“Hello! I didn’t expect to see you again… Uhh, Diamond, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, Diamond Tiara,” She shook the man’s hand, “Thank you, you allowed us to spend the night in a hotel and not on the street,” She turned her head, “Like some people I know,” Staring at Scootlaloo.

Tukson chuckled, “Well, if you ever need anything, my shop’s open.”

The fillies spent the time looking around Tukson’s shop. Sweetie bought a book on dust, a book on aura, a book on the grimm, and a series of novels called: The Man with Two Souls. Scootaloo approached the counter with a pile of comics named: GenLock, and Red VS Blue. Diamond bought a pair of history books, one about the Great War, and the other regarding the kingdoms of Remnant. Apple Bloom didn’t buy anything. With a discount, it all came to a hundred and twenty lien.

As they left, a woman with black hair and a bow walked in, and behind them, they heard Tukson say, “Ah, Blake, welcome back.” With some time to kill before their scrolls were finished, they opted to grab some noodles first, and so they ate as Scootaloo browsed her comics.

Glynda had spent her day calm and relaxed for the first time in months. She had gone to her favourite restaurant and met one of her favourite students at a clothing store in the town square. Next, she had some wonderfully rejuvenating coffee at one of her favourite cafes in town.

Currently, she was sitting in the Crow Bar, watching the news on the holographic display in the corner. There was some strange happenings going on in Mistral, apparently, there had been several huntsmen who had gone on missions and not returned, one or two was to be expected, but this time the casualty count was five. There was the same old news coming out of Vacuo, nothing new ever happened in Vacuo, just bloodshed and violence. In Atlas, general Ironwood revealed some information regarding the development of some new security androids, the AK-200s, saying that the first prototypes were proving successful, and that production models were going to be revealed later in the year.

The news switched back to the Atlesian Regional Student Tournament, and Glynda watched the trainee huntsmen fighting for a few moments before she moved to leave, paying the bartender and offering a generous tip.

Of course, the peace wasn’t destined to last, even with the little bit of alcohol she had in her system, she could hear the sounds of gunfire in the distance. With an angry and weary sigh, she drew her riding crop from its holster on her belt, channelled her aura into her feet, and jumped into the air, landing on the roof of the building. In the distance, she could see someone being chased across the roof of a building by five figures.

She leapt across rooftops to reach them and figure out what was going on, meanwhile she pulled her scroll from her pocket and called Ozpin.

Ruby and the fillies walked into the dust shop right as night had fallen, they all had their scrolls, and Ruby even took the chance to get the one she had painted to match her cloak, Diamond was the only one who had her scroll the standard Atlesian White now. They marched into From Dust till Dawn, what was originally going to be their first stop ended up as their last.

“Mister White!” Ruby said, gleefully.

“Ah, Ruby, I see you brought your new friends too.”

“Yep, we’re here for dust powder and dust rounds… I’ll be needing some thirty-millimetre and fifteen-millimetre rounds, and four half-sized canisters of fire dust…” She turned to Diamond Tiara, “Hey Diamond, what kind of dust do you want for Silverglow?”

“I’d like Electricity, Gravity, and Ice.”

“Two full canisters of electric, gravity, and ice dust.”

The shopkeeper, Mister White as Ruby called him, nodded. “And how many rounds do you want?”

“Three standard clips for Crescent Rose, one gravity clip… So about forty-five standard and fifteen gravity fifteen-millimetre rounds… As for Apple Bloom over here,” She pointed to the redhead, “Do you want any dust rounds, or just the standard?”

“I’ll try high-explosive shells and gravity shells.”

“So forty standard, twenty combustion dust, and twenty gravity dust.”

“A bit on the expensive side today, eh…” White replied, pulling the various full and half-sized canisters from behind the desk, “These are for the dust powder, and I’ll go unlock the ammo dispensers for you.”

“Thank you, sir!” Ruby said.

With that, Ruby and Apple Bloom walked over to the dust rounds isle, as Diamond and Scootaloo went to the wall-mounted powder dispensers. Their weapons already had dust loaded… After seeing how well it worked against the grimm, Diamond had opted to load Silverglow with lightning dust should they be attacked by oceanic grimm on the way to the city, but Ruby had told her how rare such occasions were. Once they had filled their canisters with the chosen dust types, they put them into their pockets and moved to check on the others.

Sweetie Belle was still fascinated by this place, enraptured by the magical energies that radiated from every little dust shard. She found herself in the back of the store, where there were a few sample crystals on display. She looked at a dark blue crystal and focused hard, feeling the magic flow and mingle with her own and that of the environment, she raised her hand and telekinetically lifted the crystal to get a better feel of it… As she did so, the crystal turned the minty green of her magic and aura. “Hey, come check this out!” Came Ruby’s voice from one side of the store, and it broke her concentration. The crystal fell to the ground with a pop.

“Oops…” Sweetie said, placing the crystal back on the stand.

Apple Bloom and Ruby went over to the magazine stand as Ruby pulled out a magazine that read: Weapons Today! And flipped through the pages, showing all the weapon models to the fillies.

“Interesting designs,” Sweetie commented.

“Cool,” Scootaloo said, “But I still like my guns better.”

“I bet Applejack would like that one,” Apple Bloom said, pointing to a page.

Diamond scoffed and turned around, wanting to hurry up their visit and pay for their things already, but that’s when she saw a man in a black suit with a red tie and glasses approach. She placed a hand on Ruby’s shoulder and they all turned around to face the newcomer.

“Alright, kids… Put your hands where I can see them,” He said, drawing a long red sword from a hidden sheath.

“Are you, robbing us?” Ruby said, a little cockily, but mostly confused.

“Yes!” He said.

“Oh…” Ruby replied. Suddenly, all the girls drew their weapons. Applebuck in its hammer form, Silverglow in sword mode, although the energy field wasn’t activated, Diamond didn’t want to kill the man, Scootaloo raised both her pistols at once, and Sweetie simply raised her hand, telekinesis already coming to the front of her mind.

“What the-” Was the man’s only words, staring at Sweetie’s glowing hands, as a wave of magical force sent him flying out the distant window.

Chapter 13: Cutie Mark Crusaders Crime Fighters!

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Roman Torchwick walked into the dust shop, Junior’s gangsters marching alongside. They threw open the door, inspecting the crystals on display and the dust powder in its wall-mounted tube dispensers. The man, dressed in his white suit, Melodic Cudgel in hand, approached the counter, the shopkeeper at the desk, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a dust shop open this late?”

“P-Please, just take my lien and leave,” White said.

“Shhh, calm down, we’re not here for your money… Grab the dust,” He replied, turning to the gangsters who all moved out, pulling dust canisters from their cases and walking over to the dispensers. “Crystals… Burn, uncut.”

As white placed the crystals of fire dust on the table and Torchwick moved them into his pockets, there came some noise from the back, deeper in the store. Suddenly, one of the gangsters, propelled by a wave of green energy, flew out the window. Torchwick growled under his breath and motioned to the others. Three gangsters, armed with autopistols, ran to the back of the store.

A blur of red flew past, taking one of the thieves with it. A girl with a pink bow in her bright red hair ran past, wearing an orange sweater underneath a kevlar vest and padded pants, a hammer in her grasp, and knocked another gangster out the window with a swipe, followed by a girl with purple hair, wielding two pistols, running forward and aiming at a pair of Junior's men.

The two robbers aimed their pistols, but before they could fire, they were hit in the chests by blasts of heat and pressure that burned their clothing and left them screaming in pain, the blasts would have melted metal, but even untrained, people had aura, just not enough to hold up to a proper attack.

The others started running out of the store as two more girls approached, Torchwick noted that they were all faunus. One had a halberd with a large green dust crystal for a spearhead, wearing a heavy greatcoat, and the other wore an elegant dress and carried a longsword with a dust cannon in the crossguard and, just from a cursory glance, he could tell that the sword split in half along the blade… These were trainee huntresses…

He backed out of the store, as some gangsters, braver than their comrades who had fled outside, drew their swords and ran toward the ones with the pistols and hammer. One was hit in the face by a blast of heat that burned off his hair and scorched his skin, leaving him incapacitated. Suddenly the hammer turned into a really big assault rifle, and a loud boom rang through the store, a shell striking one of the gangsters in the side… He was certainly going to have broken ribs when he woke back up.

Torchwick was already outside on the road. The halberd girl had drawn her weapon and fired blasts of green lightning at the fleeing gangsters, and the human in a black dress with the red cloak had swung around on that massive scythe of her’s, slashing down gangsters left and right, not a single one remained conscious… Or at least conscious enough to fight. “You were worth every cent… Truly you were…” He commented under his breath.

Torchwick stared at the faunus girls, all with their brightly coloured hair, a few had puffy tails the same hue, and others had ears… The one with the dual pistols had large orange wings. “Well… Looks like I stumbled into quite the freakshow!” Torchwick commented, “Well, you little pack of animals, I think we can all say it’s been an eventful evening… And as much as I’d love to stick around, I’m afraid this, is where we part ways.”

As he talked the girls huddled into a group, and Torchwick clicked the button on his cane, aiming it at the pack, and firing. An explosive dust crystal launched forth, glimmering like a ruddy orange star as it flew toward the animals all packed together. The one in the coat flung her arms to the side and a glimmering shield of green energy appeared around them, the bolt impacted, exploded, and the shield collapsed, the girl fell to her knees for a second, but then got back to her feet.

Meanwhile, Torchwick ran, finding the nearest ladder and climbing up, escaping from the freakshow he had stumbled into. As he climbed, he drew his scroll, “Cinder dear, I could use some help… I got a few trainee huntresses on my tail.”

Back at the dust shop, Diamond turned to the shopkeeper, “Mind if we apprehend that miscreant?”

He simply replied with a stunned, “Uh…”

“Come on,” Scootaloo said, “Cutie Mark Crusaders Crime Fighters!”

“Cutie Mark Crusaders Crime Fighters!” The other two fillies replied, Diamond simply scoffed as she marched forward with the rest of them toward the building the gangster’s boss had climbed up.

Scootaloo leapt, and by the power of pegasus magic, flew high enough to land safely on the top of the building. Ruby pointed her scythe at the ground, pulled the trigger, and launched herself up to the top. Apple Bloom and Diamond Tiara, by virtue of earth pony strength and aura, lept and landed with hard thuds on the rooftop. Finally, Sweetie propelled herself by pointing her staff-axe toward the ground and letting loose a burst of telekinetic power.

“Hey!” Ruby yelled.

“Get back here you thieving varmint!” Apple Bloom shouted.

Torchwick growled under his breath… “Persistent little mules.” From its position, parked on the rooftop of a smaller neighbouring building, the twin-dust-engine bullhead airship launched upward, spotlights glaring down at the fillies and human girl. Torchwick jumped and climbed into the airship’s cargo hold, “End of the line!” He shouted down at them, holding the crystal of fire dust in his hand, and with a hard toss, he flung it down toward the faunus girls and it exploded, killing them all… Or at least, that’s what should have happened.

The girl with the pink and purple hair and horse ears raised her hand, enveloping both her arm and the crystal currently flying through the air, in a field of green energy. Before Torchwick’s stunned and confused eyes, the crystal turned green and was launched back at him. He reacted just quickly enough to draw his cane and fire at the approaching projectile. The resulting explosion of red and green energy tossed all the girls back and sent the ship off balance, threatening to send them crashing into a building.

Meanwhile, from her position across the street, on the roof of the opposite building, Glynda stared, aghast. She was right about to leap across and shield the girls, but now she just stared… That girl’s semblance must have been some kind of energy manipulation, like polarity or Glynda’s own telekinesis.

Torchwick, thrown around by the shockwave, stumbled into the cockpit, “We got a problem!” He yelled at the woman piloting, his boss, Cinder Fall. The woman growled and her eyes lit up like flares. On her glass slippers, she marched into the cargo bay.

Back down on the rooftop, Apple Bloom raised her autocannon and fired a volley at the bullhead, boom-boom-boom-boom-boom. Most of the shells punched dents into the hull, a few ripped holes in the fuselage and damaged internal components, one punched through the glass in the cabin and flew out the other side, the man inside yelping as he ducked the oncoming fire.

Glynda decided it was time to stop gawking and lept across the street, coming to land on the rooftop with the other girls. “Get out of the way, old lady!” The orange-haired and winged girl shouted, rolling to the side and firing blasts from her dust pistols, the blasts of heat melting through the metal hull of the dropship, molten steel slagging off and falling to the street below like glowing orange rain. Meanwhile, the girl in the greatcoat with the dust-staff-axe, raised the green crystal on her weapon’s end toward the ship, and Glynda, expecting tendrils of vines or a swarm of leaves or some other plant-based attack, judging from the dust’s colour, continued to stare, shocked, when bolts of green lightning struck the bullhead, arcing along its hull.

Cinder stared down at the five girls and one older woman, clearly a huntress, and raised her hand, firing a trio of fireballs down toward the girls. They all rolled into the same spot, together, apart from the huntress who summoned a purple telekinetic shield. From the center of the trainee’s group, the energy manipulator raised both her arms and created a domed shield. Next moment later, a series of explosions tore the roof apart as Cinder demonstrated her semblance.

The huntress dodged the explosion, meanwhile, the girl creating the energy shield collapsed, screaming in pain, as the explosions stole what energy she had in her. The huntress let loose a series of gravity bolts that threw the ship off balance and threatened to crash it again. The one with the scythe and the one with the autocannon fired on the dropship, targeting the woman throwing fireballs and explosions their way. Cinder raised both her arms and tried to block the bullets with her aura, the sniper rounds were easy, flinging off her defensive field, but the autocannon shells were twice the size and carried twice the power, she blocked them, but instead of flinging off in random directions, they dropped to the floor of the bullhead with loud thuds.

Cinder summoned her magical abilities and unleashed a wave of fire down on the offending females. As the one with the pink and white hair raised her sword, the Huntress used her telekinetic semblance to fling the girls away from the tidal wave of superheated air, at the cost of being hit by the brunt of the attack, giving a grunt of pain as her aura withstood such an assault.

“Damn it! Out of ammo!” Shouted the redhead with the autocannon. The purple-haired girl just growled and raised her pistols, but at this range, they did little more than heat the dropship’s hull to red incandescence, then she twisted a dial on one pistol and let loose a beam of heat that melted a hole clean through the back of the bullhead, even at this distance, but luckily it didn’t hit anything critical. Cinder smirked as the dropship’s doors closed and it’s engines swivelled, igniting to full power in an effort to make their escape.

Back on the rooftop, the huntress and the girls glared at the rapidly retreating ship. The pink and white-haired girl, who hadn’t swung her sword once in this fight, simply scoffed and raised her longsword, the blade splitting apart to reveal a miniaturized dust cannon, Glynda glared at the weapon as she pulled down on the trigger and let loose a brilliant beam of golden energy, a blast of electricity, that struck the small airship in one of the engines. The engine sparked and small explosions burst from the vessel’s hull as internal components overloaded and blew themselves apart. It still got away, but from the billowing cloud of smoke pouring from one engine, holes burned and shot into the hull, and all the internal damage it must have suffered, particularly from that last attack, Glynda knew it probably wouldn’t take off again.

Ruby stopped staring at the fleeing vessel and turned to the huntress, “You’re a huntress,” She said in awe, “Can I have your autograph!”

“Oh come on, she wasn’t that good, she bearly did anything at all!” Scootaloo returned.

“She did save us from that wave of magical fire,” Sweetie replied. Glynda raised her eyebrow at the use of the word Magical Fire.

“Whatever… We didn’t need her help to win that fight… If she didn’t send me flying with that telekinesis, I would have had a clear shot at that fiery woman!”

“Who exactly are you five?” Glynda asked.

“Ruby Rose!” One girl cried, still in awe.

“Scootaloo Allgood,” The purple-haired one said, a bit miffed at something, but Glynda couldn’t quite tell what.

“Diamond Tiara,” Said the girl with the cannon-sword, still glaring daggers at the huntress.

“Apple Bloom Macintosh,” The girl with the autocannon said, loading what looked like combustion dust rounds into her cannon’s drum.

“Sweetie Belle, that was some impressive telekinetic work you did,” The one with the dust-staff said, her tone one of neutrality.

“My name is Glynda Goodwitch, and you five are coming with me,” She said, a little bitterly and aggressively, like a disapproving parent.

Chapter 14: The Element of Honesty

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The four ponies had been returned to their original forms, Twilight was bouncing on her hooves, “A new kind of magic, completely unknown to Equestrians! To any creatures on this planet! Imagine the possibilities, all the ways this ability will revolutionize Equestria!”

Discord smirked, “Now… Before I can send you off on your way, you’ll be needing some protection,” He snapped his fingers and three boxes appeared on the ground, “You, my little Twilight, won’t be needing one, but the others will.”

He snapped his fingers and various schematics appeared in folders atop each box, the cutie marks of the respective ponies painted on the folders covers. “What are these?” Spitfire asked.

“Weapon schematics, based on those used in Remnant, Twilight should be able to assemble them.” Twilight was hopping in joy again, and Spitfire was staring at the papers intently.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

“Once you’ve made those fancy pointy-sticks and explosion-controllers, come back, and bring your dragon-servant,” Discord finished before he disappeared.

Ozpin walked into the dark room, illuminated only by the single lamp on the ceiling, and behind the table sat four faunus girls… He knew right away that these must be the four both Night Lark and Taiyang mentioned, he had plenty of experience sensing the auras of others, and these four had a lot of it. One gave off the air of annoyance, although he wasn’t quite sure what exactly it was directed at, perhaps it wasn’t even directed, she just seemed generally annoyed with everything at the moment.

One of them, the one with the pink and purple hair, was studying him as much as he was studying her, a perceptive one indeed, he almost felt as if she could sense his aura, but brushed that off… Only those with actual magic could sense the auras of others without direct contact.

There was another who seemed generally disinterested and unapologetic as if she didn’t even really understand where she was or why she was here and gave off an air of smug arrogance that he had seen drag numerous huntsmen and huntresses to their deaths… He would need to teach her some respect and caution if he was going to make any use out of her as a warrior…

Then there was the one with the red hair… She was glaring at him and glaring hard, she wore a harsh cold stare that put Glynda’s to shame, a look of open hostility on her features, she gave off an air of aggression, at him in particular, and in the first time in a very long time, he felt a little perturbed. He would need to tread carefully around this one.

“Hello,” He began, the redhead just glared a little harder, but at least he caught the attention of the purple-haired and pink-haired girls. “It sounds like you girls had an… Exciting, evening.”

“I guess you can say that,” The redhead retorted.

“I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced, what are your girls’ names?”

“Sweetie Belle.”


“Diamond Tiara.”

Ozpin raised his eyebrows as the red-haired one just shook her head, “I ain’t telling you my name until you tell me yours, and what exactly you are doing down here, with us.”

The one introduced as Diamond Tiara turned her head and growled at the girl, “Bloom… Don’t antagonize him.” Then, the redhead turned her gaze on the girl, who quickly shut her mouth.

Ozpin gave a friendly chuckle, then his expression turned a little sterner… This girl did not like him, and Ozpin didn’t know why, he needed to figure out that reason before he ruined his reputation with the future huntresses. “I’m sure you already know who I am…” That earned a series of head-shakes… “Professor Ozpin,” He continued, that earned looks of confusion, and more glaring from the redhead, certainly not the reaction he expected, “I’m the headmaster of Beacon Academy.”

“The monster-hunting school Ruby was talking about?” Diamond commented.

“I suppose you could call us that.”

“Rather fortuitous then,” Sweetie returned, “We were hoping to join this year.”

“I can see why, you certainly have talent.”

“Thanks, teacher-man,” Scootaloo replied.

He turned to the redhead, “Your name?”

“Apple Bloom,” She said, bitterly.

Ozpin pulled out his scroll and loaded the security camera footage from the street, as well as the video Glynda took of their fight with the criminal and his fiery companion. “So, where did four girls like yourselves learn how to do this?”

Apple Bloom growled and bit her tongue to stop herself from saying something… Ozpin wondered what had merited that reaction, or if the girl was just naturally angry… Or perhaps defensive, and wanted to protect her comrades, that could be a valuable trait. He would need to figure out exactly what it was.

‘Oh, Ruby taught us!” Scootaloo said, proudly.

“I thought as much…” He smiled, “I’ve already talked with the young miss Rose, and I believe she’s easily skilled enough to attend Beacon this year, with her sister.”

“If you’ve already talked with Ruby, why even ask us in the first place, I’m sure you asked her about us, so what’s with a question you already know the answer of?” Bloom said, defensively.

“I simply wanted to confirm for myself, it’s best to be thorough.”

“Will we still be able to take that test and get into Beacon?” Sweetie Belle asked.

“I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to… You did well today, and you have some very impressive semblances, particularly yours, Sweetie Belle… Energy manipulation abilities are rare indeed,” The girl blushed a bit, and Ozpin hoped he had made a good impression on the others, even if Bloom didn’t seem to trust him, “Though, I do have a few questions for you first, normally they would be asked before you take the entrance exam, but I’d like to take this chance to ask them for myself.”

“Just ask then,” Diamond commented.

Ozpin nodded, “You’re names are, unique, where exactly did you come from?”

Apple Bloom had to bite back a reply, then Diamond spoke up, “Ponyville… A small village to the south, as you might have already suspected, there was a grimm attack and we were forced to abandon the settlement… It was all faunus like us, fairly remote and isolated, to protect us from the grimm, and I’m sure we aren’t the only survivors.”

Ozpin nodded, he had already gotten most of that from Ruby, but he was happy to know. “Do you have any family?”

Diamond continued, “Sweetie Belle’s sister is Rarity Belle, there’s Apple Bloom’s sister Applejack, and Scootaloo’s sister Rainbow Dash… Our parents were all taken by the grimm, and I don’t have any surviving family.”

Ozpin nodded, he had expected them not to have much family, large groups didn’t survive for long outside the kingdoms, but he was happy to know that they had siblings who, judging from the way they talked about them, sounded as if they were still alive. Part of him wondered if their shared past would help them get along with those two from Mistral, Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie… He knew they had similar experiences.

“Those were the only important questions... “ He continued, “I believe that is all, remember that the airship for Beacon will depart in two days, do not be late.” He got up and moved to the door, then paused, “Oh, and a word of advice,” He said, leaning back toward the girls. Sweetie Belle’s ears perked up, “You should all choose the white queen pieces.”

Dear Princess Celestia: I have made several interesting discoveries… Upon going to the Wonderbolt HQ for various personal reasons, myself, Rarity Crumbles von Belle, Rainbow Hothoof Dash, and Spitfire Flare Thundershrike, we were approached by Discord, who revealed numerous things regarding the planet that the fillies have been transported to.

Its name is Remnant and it is populated by creatures known as Humans and Faunus. Attached to this letter is a vague sketch I’ve created based on memory, I only saw the female of the species, so I am unable to provide an example of a male of the species, but I’d assume them to be rather similar. They are bipedal, featuring clawed hands and feet, small heads in comparison to the rest of the body, with noticeably smaller ears on the sides of their head, no snout, merely a mouth embedded into the head and a protruding nose, utters on their upper chests, and no fur asides from on the tops of their heads, much like a pony’s mane.

The humans possess no inherent magical ability other than a previously unknown use of magic they refer to as Aura. Aura cannot be used to cast spells like unicorn magic, and instead behaves like the passive abilities demonstrated by earth pony magic… It shields their bodies from harm, and even untrained, can at least stop what would normally be a fatal blow, this comes at the cost of human bodies being far more susceptible to damage than a pony’s body, once they run out of aura, similar to a unicorn overtaxing their magic, they must spend a period of rest before they can use it again… Other uses of aura include augmenting the height they can jump, augmenting their speed, and an ability known as the Semblance.

Semblances seem remarkably similar to a pony’s cutie mark, and generally, are manifested as magical abilities a person can draw upon that are unique to them, much like Fluttershy’s magical stare, and the Apple family’s ability to detect dishonesty.

Discord also provided us with schematics for weapons based on those used in Remnant to defend themselves against monsters. Attached are copies I’ve made of the schematics, I believe the ponies working for the Royal Guard and Wonderbolts would like to take a look at them and design mass-production models, as they are clearly superior to the arms we currently possess, as to be expected from a world where monster-attacks are commonplace.

I am currently assembling Rainbow Dash’s weapon, substituting the dust crystals this device requires, apparently a resource exclusive to Remnant, with the magical gemstones I have stored for experimentation. I feel that we will need to step up gem production if the technology used on Remnant is any indication.

I will be going to this world with Rainbow Dash, Spitfire, and Rarity, I’ll be bringing Spike with me so I can give you updates on my findings. Your faithful student: Twilight Sparkle.

As the fillies left the building, Diamond turned to Apple Bloom, “Why were you so aggressive with that man, he’s the one who decided if we can go to Beacon or not!”

“I don’t trust him, he’s a liar,” Bloom replied.

“How do you know that?” Diamond said.

“She’s the sister of Applejack, the Element of Honesty,” Sweetie replied as if the answer was as obvious as why ponies need to breathe.

“Yeah, if Bloom says someone isn’t to be trusted, you know it.” Scootaloo replied, “He seemed nice enough, if a little suspicious of us.”

“He had some serious power, he’s at least as strong as Twilight,” Sweetie continued, “And it wasn’t just his aura, he felt magical, actually magical, like he was a fellow unicorn.”

“Whatever he was, he certainly wasn’t honest, he felt all kinds of creepy and deceitful,” Bloom replied.

“He’s still the headmaster, so I won’t have you going around challenging him like that,” Diamond stated

“If what Apple Bloom says is true, then keep an eye on that man,” Sweetie replied, “And don’t trust anything he says… It doesn’t mean that you can’t like him, we should at least pretend, but if Apple Bloom says someone’s a liar, then they’re up to no good.”

"Plus, did you notice how he had been spying on us, he had that whole fight right there on the scroll of his!" Bloom almost yelled.

“Yeah, as nice as he was, I’m with Apple Bloom, she says someone’s a liar, I’m not believing them,” Scootaloo continued.

They had made their way outside, Ozpin and Glynda had stayed behind in the room they had been interrogated in. Ruby was waiting for them at the front door of the Vale Police Department. “So, how did it go with Ozpin?” Ruby asked, “I’m getting to go to Beacon this year!” She hopped in joy.

“So are we,” Sweetie Said, “I guess that means you’ll show us to the airship docks in two days,”

“I can’t wait!” Scootaloo hopped into the air.

Apple Bloom walked up to Ruby and whispered into her ear, “I don’t trust that man, and I don’t think you should either.”

“It’s fine, he can be a little creepy and distant at times, but he’s the headmaster of Beacon, one of the youngest headmasters to achieve the title! You can’t get a position like that without being totally awesome and a hero!”

“It’s just a warning,” Apple Bloom said… “But if he starts doing anything shady, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

When they finally got back to the house on Patch, it was approaching midnight. Tai was worried, but after Ruby explained the night’s events, backed up by stories from the other fillies, he couldn’t help but smile approvingly at the girls. But, with all the events that transpired throughout the day, the only thing they wanted to do was sleep, and so Ruby departed to her room, meanwhile the fillies all piled into bed.

All except for Sweetie Belle, her mind was racing, recounting the day’s events, the robbery, the fiery woman who had clearly used magic, actual magic, not dust, not aura, not semblance, but an actual magical ability in that fight, Professor Ozpin and his magical ability, and the way Apple Bloom, the sister of Applejack, Element of Honesty, didn’t trust him… She didn’t sleep, she couldn’t with everything coursing through her mind, particularly that warning Ozpin gave her, about choosing the white queen piece…

That must be a hint of some kind for whatever their entrance exam was going to be, that was the only logical explanation Sweetie could come up with… She sighed, well, now was as good of a time as any, and so she pulled a book she had kept hidden from the others under the bed, a book of spells, given to her by discord. She flipped to the first page, the Light spell.

On one page was the description of the spell, its name, and a history of the spell and its uses, all things she didn’t need to know right now… Instead, her eyes were drawn to the image drawn on the other page, a visualisation of the spell matrix, a circle with all sorts of lines and arcane patterns, one which you formed into your mind and poured your power through, allowing the spell to be cast. She cupped her hands together, focused on the matrix, and summoned a tiny point of light in her grip, bearly a glow stronger than a firefly, but a glow nonetheless…

She would have poured more power into the spell, but didn’t want to wake the others… Encouraged by this success, she flipped the page and inspected the next spell matrix, a spell to temporarily cure motion-sickness, and the next, and the next.

Chapter 15: Happenings on the Other Side

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Midnight Breeze trotted through the streets of Canterlot, green eyes glimmering in the midday sun. He wanted to catch the first train to Ponyville, the news coming out of the small town was too intriguing not to go, even if it did carry some risk. Discord the God of Chaos had sent a hoof-full of ponies to an alien world, the possibilities and implications were too much for him to process at this time, and he was going to need to tell his family, but that would need to wait until he knew more about what he was dealing with.

He was concerned about the reports of alien weaponry being developed for the guard and Wonderbolts, but the new magic these aliens, these humans, possessed was intriguing… And it could be an opportunity, an opportunity to get himself, and his entire family, away from Equestria, away from the baleful gaze of the Princesses, and away from the dangers of simple life.

First though, he would need to see this world for himself, he would need to create a portal to it, an easy feat provided you knew both locations you were connecting, and he would need to blend into this alien realm. As he boarded the train, he wondered exactly how he was going to do this… Dealing with the god of chaos was a risky game, particularly for a pony like himself, but if it was what must be done, he was willing to do it, and he would do it gladly if it meant his future and the future of his children.

They had finally passed the mountains, up here, the snow drifted lightly in the air. Silver Spoon held Diamondlance to her side, one head planted firmly in the ground, the other head sticking straight up in the air. The hills were covered in grass, dotted by marble houses and elegant wooden structures, looking almost like Canterlot were it made by Kirin, there was even a castle built into a mountain from which a waterfall flowed, surrounded by a great marble wall to which the path they were following led up to.

“I think we’ve made it to Mistral,” Dinky said cheerily.

“Almost, looks like we still have a ways to trek,” Rumble replied, pulling Pegasus to his shoulder, and dropping to the ground from his hover.

“Come, let’s get there and get some food,” Button continued. With that, they descended the mountain and pressed onward to the last leg of their journey.

Why did she not have a horn! From the day she was born, she was unwanted… Magic was power, magic was fame and wealth and glory… Magic was how you became a princess, magic was what her parents had, powerful magic, she did not, and so she did not have power, she did not have fame, she did not have wealth, she did not have glory… She didn’t have friends, because she was not allowed to have friends, friends were only given to those who had power, and she did not have power.

Why was she born with these useless appendages? She was born without power, and that made her useless, her parents did not have the time or money for uselessness, and so they kept her locked away, like a prisoner in her own home… She tried to earn respect, she tried to gain power, every day she would form the arcane matrix in her mind, every day she would channel what energy she had in her, but no matter what she did, no magic manifested, no spells were cast, and no power was gained.

She could fly, soar above everyone else, but she was shackled in a cage, flight was an empty power, a pretend power, a unicorn could do the same thing if they were strong enough, pegasi were merely arrogant lessers who claimed a power that rightfully belonged to unicorns. Somehow, one of those arrogant lessers had become a princess, the tale of Princess Cadenza was a hated one in her home, and the name of Princess Cadence was not a name one said without earning a beating, she was fake princess, she bore an empty title, she wasn’t born with power, it was gifted to her by those with real power!

But, even worse, for her parents to give birth to one of those arrogant lessers was not something they would stand for… Over the years, disdain gave way to hatred, hatred to punishments and beatings, beatings to injury, and so she lived a life of misery, her wings had been broken numerous times, but they would always heal, always work once the bones had been set, always be a reminder that she was born with empty, fake, power.

The worst time was when she summoned a cloud and loosed a bolt of lightning from it, she hoped this would make her parents see that she wasn’t useless, that she was some worthless pile of flesh born devoid of magic, but no… It enraged them… That wasn’t a real spell, they told her, that was fake magic created by pretenders who tried to insult the unicorns with their fake powers.

No, that wasn’t the worst thing she had done… She, being a pegasus, could not be kept in a cage, no matter how hard her parents tried, if anyone knew what they had done, the consequences would not be kind. The princess, the most powerful of them all, thought that all ponies were to be treated equal, her parents couldn’t understand such backwards thinking, not when how wrong that idea was should have been clearer to them than anyone else… But none the less, the princesses had allowed such lesser being to be treated just the same as unicon kind, a crime, a heresy in the eyes of her parents.

One night, she snuck out, she flew through the open window and saw the world outside for the first time in her life… Her parents lived far away from town, but for the first time in her life, she flew, and she flew to the town. She flew through the window of a library, she found books on magic, different kinds of magic, magic not used by unicorns, but by the Zebra, and by the Deer, and by the Abyssinians… And so she took the books back home with her, hiding them in her room, and spent her time learning the other kinds of magic in the world, hoping to find some kind of magic she could show her parents to prove her worth.

That was the worst thing she had done, an unforgivable offence, she had brewed a potion… When she was not locked in her room, she was working in the kitchen, the only use she had in the household, and she took some of the ingredients for herself, with them, she brewed a potion in the night, a vial that supposedly could create brilliant blue flames. When she show them to her mother… She was outraged. Magic was energy, it was power in its purest form, to dilute it into the physical, to turn it into a simple brew, a physical object, an entity, a power of the physical world, that was blasphemous, that was to take energy and turn it into a lesser form, that was a perversion of magic.

She watched as all her worldly possessions, not just her books, but what few toys and drawings she had made, were burned… But that didn’t stop her, she wanted power, she wanted to prove her worth, she wanted fame, she wanted glory, she wanted wealth… She wanted to be strong… She wanted to be feared… She wanted to be powerful.

One book survived, a book she had hidden well, the book that held the secrets of Zebra magic, it told of potions that could cure disease, it told of potions that could grow plants, it told of potions that could potions that could help you rest peacefully and dreamlessly, should you be plagued by nightmares… In other words, a sleeping potion.

They broke her body, they tried to break her soul, they must have broken every bone in her wings at once point, they destroyed all her worldly possessions, just for the crime of being born without power, just for the crime of being a failure, something she had no control over… The only role she had in life was to cook, to prepare her parents food, and be given scraps and garbage once they had finished… So she cooked, she brewed the sleeping potion, she poured it into the pot… They had taken what little she had in this world, and so she would take what they valued most, their power.

They ate their soup, drank their wine, pretending that they were Canterlot noblemares, that they had a powerful daughter, a unicorn, an alicorn, that they were the parents of the fabled Twilight Sparkle, that they actually had worth in the world, the worth that they sought through their unicorn magic… The power they would never have again. As they slept, she drew a cleaver from the drawer and hacked at their heads, she didn’t want to kill them, she wanted them to suffer, and know who had made them suffer, and the potion was strong enough to block out the pain, so they would never know what she had done until it was too late, until their powers were lost to them… And so she hacked away, at her mother first, and then her father... And she made sure they would never have children again, that was an even easier task.

She was long gone from that cursed home by the time they awoke, her only regret not being able to hold their horns above them, to mock them, to challenge them to strike her down with their magic, to savour their suffering… But still, even with her parents behind her, she still did not have any true power of her own, only then would her vengeance be complete, only once she had the power they told her she would never posess would she taste true victory… And so she sat, alone, in an abandoned shack far, far from her village.

There came a voice from right behind her, “You’re already a rather chaotic soul… I’m proud.”

She shouted in surprise, and saw the serpentine form from legend slither from the shadows, “Y-You’re Discord!”

“Yes I am, my little filly… I’m surprised you know of me, but I suppose some of those books you had would have at least mentioned me once.”

“You know-”

“I know everything… I know what you want most of all… Kill for kill, eye for eye, blood for blood, all that… And I can help you.”

The filly raised an eyebrow, “You aren’t one to give out gifts… What’s the catch?”

“I desire chaos, and the power you want will cause plenty of chaos, does that count as a catch?”

“What exactly is this power?”

Discord smiled, “Fame, followers, and magic of course!”


“Yes, powerful magic.”

The filly smiled, “I’ll take your magic then…”

Discord smirked, raised his hand, snapped his fingers, and the filly vanished.

When she woke up, she found herself in a forest, the trees casting shadows on the forest floor. She was in a body unfamiliar to her, and she stumbled around, trying to walk on all fours, her furless body draped in tattered rags she used to stave off the northern cold back home, but she still had her disheveled sky-blue mane and large pink-feathered wings.

Through the forest came a voice, “What’s that?” Said a stallion.

“Might be a grimm, be careful…”

The filly tried to move toward the voice, stumbling in her unfamiliar form. Soon she rolled through the bushes and fell to the dirt ground, through tears of pain as the thorns and branches scratched at her frail skin, she saw that she had fell to a road, passing by were a trio of bipedal creature, wearing black under white armored coats and bone-white masks. “Who-” One raised a strange boxy device painted black and red, “A girl?”

“A faunus girl!” One, a mare, shouted, “Look at her wings!”

“She looks abandoned,” One said, shaking his head, “We can’t leave her here.”

Chapter 16: Welcome to Beacon

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Diamond, Sweetie, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom had left to the mainland on their own, Yang was going to be sharing her school supplies with Ruby, but the others didn’t have any and so, the day before the airship set out to Beacon, the girls arrived in order to do some shopping. They had finished and had left the store when they came across a mass of people gathered in the city square. The mass was facing a large white building with a snowflake emblem adorning the door and decorating the large sign that read: Schnee Dust Company. While there were a few humans mixed in with the crowd, the fillies all noticed most of them had animal ears, tails, wings, horns, or other appendages.

Yells of “End our slavery!”, “We’re people too!”, and “Atlas can use machines! Not men!” rang out in the square, many carrying signs that, in paint that looked a little like blood, said similar phrases.

“What’s going on?” Sweetie asked.

“What’s going on!?” One of the humans… Wait, those were snake fangs in his mouth, shouted. “What’s going on! Were you living under a gods damned rock! Those SDC bastards have been treating my family like slaves for generations!”

“What?” Scootaloo asked, shocked.

There came more shouting from the protestors, and the fillies saw a trio of faunus march to the front of the crowd, they wore black suits underneath padded white vests and trenchcoats, bone-white masks adorning their faces, “Faunus of Vale!” shouted their leader, a woman with large deer-like antlers, carrying a large blunt sword that looked more like an oversized meat cleaver. “The Schnees has enslaved and murdered our kind for years! Decades!” The girls, still standing at the back of the crowd, all stared intently as a sinking feeling washed over them, and they started moving to the front of the crowd.

A mixture of cheering, yelling, and animalistic roaring came from the crowd, another of the masked faunus stood up, rabbit ears protruding from a black cowl, “The White Fang will not tolerate their treatment of our kind, and neither should you, any of you!” He raised a grey and red boxy device from his pocket.

The third, another man, smaller and skinnier than the others, clearly much younger, possibly still a teenager raised a larger boxy device that the girls now recognized as some kind of gun, “The humans have proved themselves dangerous, untrustworthy, and unrepentant for their crimes, and so we will punish them for every crime they have dealt to our kind!”

The leader spoke up again, “So, for every single faunus they have killed over the centuries, a human will die! Starting now!” She pointed her sword at the building. The other two raised their firearms and a moment later, pulled the trigger. A volley of bullets shot toward the SDC building, ripping through the glass windows and door with ease and reducing the people barricaded inside to a bloody mess… Or, that’s what would have happened... Instead, a brilliant green barrier erupted in front of the store.

Several shots pinged off the shield, as Sweetie Belle stood in front of the store, running over once the situation took a turn. She fell down to her knees, the force of every bullet impacting the shield threatening to break her concentration. But she held, long enough for the faunus to lower their guns in confusion, Sweetie dispelled the shield and raised her hands toward the two White Fang members with guns, enveloping their firearms in green glows and hurling them out of their grasp and into the air, flying off to land somewhere else in Vale. The other girls ran up to help their friend.

“What are you doing!” Diamond shouted as if scolding a horde of children.

“There are people in there!” Apple Bloom yelled.

“What are we doing! What are you doing! Protecting the humans!” Someone in the crowd shouted.

“Traitors!” Another shouted, “Kill them!”

The leader of the White Fang faunus charged, her sword drawn, Sweetie looked as if she was going to launch another telekinetic attack, but Diamond raised her hand and stepped forward, and Sweetie didn’t retaliate but kept her hands glowing, magic moments away from being summoned into reality. The White Fang member swung her chopper, but Diamond ducked under the attack, and gave a hard punch to the gut, earth pony strength sending the woman flying into the crowd.

A few others looked as if they were going to jump toward the girls, but everyone stopped when the sound of an airship engine and police siren came from somewhere above them. A bullhead airship flew over the square, painted white and black, with the emblem of Vale on its side, and the words: Vale Police Department, right below. Some of the crowd started to disperse, but a few were caught by the huntsmen who lept from the open doors of the small airship.

As the last of the protestors were rounded up, they were checked for weapons… Those who had any were loaded up into the bullhead's cargo bay, those who didn’t were simply let go. The girls were approached by a huntsmen, Sweetie’s hands started to glow, and the man raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, “Hey now!” He said, “We heard what you did, we aren’t here to round you up too.”

Diamond placed a hand on Sweetie’s shoulder, who lowered her arms but kept her magic charged, just in case. “What do you want with us then?” Diamond asked.

“I’m here to thank you on a job well done, we wouldn’t have been able to get here in time if you hadn-”

“Traitors!” One of the remaining faunus shouted, throwing a rock at the girls. The next moment he was thrown to the ground by a police officer. The rock struck Scootaloo in the head, who had summoned her aura just in time to avoid injury.

As the faunus man was dragged away, Sweetie stared at him… She shouldn’t be thanked for this… Everything about this was wrong, she didn’t know exactly why or how, but she knew it was all wrong.

The airship to Beacon was absolutely massive… It was even bigger than the air-yachts that flew over Ponyville from time to time. It’s four large flipper-like wings were folded upward as it rested on the gantry, hundreds of humans and faunus filing into the vessel. It almost looked like a flying fish with the head of a train.

There must have been hundreds of people boarding the vessel, some were most likely friends and family of the students, here to say goodbye to them as they left the airship upon arriving at Beacon, but many many more were the students themselves… From a cursory glance, there must have been seventy or eighty first-years and plenty of older students… Sweetie found herself a little scared of going to school… Even Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns only ever had fifty students at once, and that was total. As they boarded the ship, Diamond stared around, taking note of the other students, what they were wearing, what weapons they had.

Everyone felt the ship lurch into the air as it took off, the clamps holding it to the gantry sliding loose as dust-engines roared to life and the air-fins moved into flight position. A voice came from a speaker somewhere over everyone’s heads, “We have taken flight, next destination is Beacon Aerodocks.”

“I wish Twilight could be here, she’d go nuts over all this,” Apple Bloom commented.

Yang marched over to Ruby and enveloped her in a tight hug, “Oh, I can’t believe my baby sister is going to Beacon with me! This is the best day ever!”

Ruby commented through closed teeth, “Please stop.”

Diamond moved to a window… She had noticed the glass earlier, but when they were landed at the docks the shutters were closed, so she couldn’t get a look at the takeoff process. The shutters slid open and she stared out at the view of Vale. It stretched out across the entire valley, split down the middle by the river Ozma, and broken down into the various districts. The wall stretched out from Mountain Glenn to the bay, separating the grimm infested forest from the safety of Vale.

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom stared at the holographic display depicting the security camera footage just outside From Dust till Dawn, then later switching to a man with bright orange hair, “Two days ago a robbery took place in downtown Vale, while many of the perpetrators were captured by the intervention of five trainee huntresses, the robbery was led by a nefarious criminal: Roman Torchwick, who continues to evade authorities… If you have any information on his whereabouts please contact the Vale police department.”

A boy in a jacket with a simple steel breastplate and pauldrons stood staring out the window, observing the land beneath them. He started to turn pale once he realized how far above the ground they were, and the slight lurch to the side as the ship started to turn didn’t help the situation… Sweetie stared at the boy who started running for the nearest garbage can and raised her arm to stop him.

The boy looked confused and worried for a second as Sweetie placed a hand on his chest and a flash of green washed over him, suddenly colour returned to his face and he held a hand to his head. “Wha-What?”

“Oh, just a simple cure for motion sickness, I learned it a few days ago.”

“Wow… Where do I learn that?”

“I-I’m not sure you can…” Sweetie said, blushing in embarrassment.

The boy looked a little disappointed, but then raised his hand, “Thanks, the name’s Jaune Arc…”

“Sweetie Belle,” Sweetie replied, shaking the boy’s hand.

Scootaloo and Apple Bloom were still staring at the display as it changed to show a white-haired woman named Lisa Lavender, according to the bar at the bottom. “In other news… This Saturday’s Faunus Civil Rights Protest turned dark when members of the White Fang disrupted the ceremony, the intervention of four trainee huntresses, all faunus, the same ones from the robbery the day before, were able to prevent any loss of life,” The image changed to show a video taken from a scroll of Sweetie using her shield spell to block the gunfire, “The once peaceful organisation has now disrupt-” The holographic display flickered out and was replaced by the huntress the girls and Ruby had encountered during their fight with Roman's bullhead.

“Who’s that?” Yang asked as the students aboard the airship all moved toward the projection.

“Hello and welcome to Beacon, my name is Glynda Goodwitch,” The hologram said, “You are among a privileged few who have received the honour of being selected to attend this prestigious academy, our world is experiencing an incredible time of peace, and as future huntsmen and huntresses, it is your duty to uphold it. You have demonstrated the courage needed for such a task, and now it is our turn to provide you with the knowledge and the training to protect our world.” The hologram winked out again.

Scootaloo raised her fist in the air in a gesture of excitement, “Wooh!” She whooped, earning a few looks from some of the other students.

“What’s her problem,” A girl with stark white hair and an equally white dress with a short skirt commented, her hair almost reminding Diamond of Silver Spoon.

“She’s just a little excitable,” Diamond commented, “You’ll get used to it.”

“Doesn’t she know that we’re here to fight monsters, not to have fun!”

“Who says we can’t do both?” She replied, “Personally, I find it rather exciting myself.”

“This is a place for warriors, not children.”

“We’re all children…” Diamond commented. The white girl simply scoffed… And so did Diamond in reply.

Apple Bloom just smiled as she watched Scootaloo jump around excitedly. A woman with equally bright red hair approached the excited filly, “You should calm yourself,” She said, “We’ve not even landed yet.”

“I know, but it’s soooo awesome!” She hopped in place, fluttering her wings. “Hi, I’m Scootaloo, who’re you?” She said, holding still just long enough to offer the woman a hand.

“M-Me?” She looked a bit taken aback, “The name is Pyrrha Nikos, I’ve just arrived from Mistral.

“Cool, nice meeting you,” Scootaloo smiled, and the redhead smiled in reply.

Yang and Ruby approached a window, “Look,” Ruby began, “You can see Signal from up here,” She pointed to the little island off almost on the horizon and the little series of brick buildings, walled courtyards, and towers that comprised her former school, “I guess home isn’t too far after all.”

Yang placed a hand on Ruby’s shoulder, “Beacon’s our home now.”

Apple Bloom continued to smile, happy at seeing everyone else happy, but it didn’t last… She spun around and growled when she felt someone pull at her tail. “Ha,” The tall, muscular, boy began, “I can’t believe they let animals come here.”

Apple Bloom didn’t respond, other than to grab the boy by the neck and give him a warning squeeze, “Don’t let me catch you doing that to me again,” She said, lifting the man almost twice her size into the air with bearly any effort at all, before letting go and dropping him to the floor.

He coughed as he backed away, muttering “Freak,” To himself.

Ruby and Yang watched the scene play out, as well as several others aboard the ship, “Well it was a nice moment while it lasted,” Ruby commented, almost absently.

“I wonder who we’re going to meet,” Yang replied.

“I just hope they’re better than bully boy over there,” Ruby continued.

“Come on, let’s make sure he doesn’t antagonize any of the other girls,” Yang continued, following the large kid.

As she watched the kid wander off, Apple Bloom commented to herself, “Lucky I didn’t throw you out the window…”

Diamond and Sweetie, accompanied by Jaune, moved to another window and watched as the airship approached Beacon Academy, watching the ships below moving to and from the beacon docks, built at the base of the cliff in a lake that formed at the end of the river Ozma, the water pouring in from streams that originated all the way up in Mountain Glenn, flowing through the Emerald Forest. As smaller bullhead airships passed, Diamond stared at the glowing green beacon that was the tower built in the middle of the school, the feeling of someone watching her returning, stronger than ever.

Chapter 17: The First Night

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They marched out of the airship and awed at the massive series of structures that was Beacon Academy, a large tower standing in the center, various pendulums glowing inside. Ruby and Yang had trotted up ahead of the rest, meanwhile, as they disembarked, Apple Bloom found a hand tapping at her shoulder, she turned to see a tall girl with brown hair and a head adorned with rabbit ears, “Hello?” Bloom asked.

“You were that red-haired girl on the news, you were with those others who stopped the White Fang attack yesterday,” She asked in an accent that almost bordered on a Canterlot accent.

“Yeah, so?”

“I wanted to say thanks for standing up to that man back there, on the airship.”

“Who? That jerk who pulled my tail?”

“Yeah, it was impressive, the way you just lifted him off the ground like that.”

Apple Bloom blushed, “Yeah, I guess I am pretty strong, compared to most folks that is…”

“Well, I’m glad to see there are still faunus in the world like you, willing to stand up to humans like him, but still caring enough to stop that horde of White Fang maniacs yesterday.”

“Well, wouldn’t you have done the same?”

“Most faunus are either too scared to stand up for themselves or so crazy they go around slaughtering all the humans they can, I would have stood up to him, but I’m not very good in a fight without my weapon, and I don’t want to be lumped in with the White Fang radicals.”

“Well, the name’s Apple Bloom, good to meet you.”

“Velvet… Velvet Scarlatina.”

Closer to the courtyard, Ruby started hopping around excitedly as she geeked out about all the student’s weapons. The others caught up once she had been dragged away from visually molesting a sword with fire dust crystals in it by Yang. “Easy there little sister, they’re just weapons…”

“Just weapons! They’re an extension of ourselves, a part of us, they’re sooo cool!”

Behind them, Sweetie Belle muttered, “You’re sounding a bit like Scootaloo whenever Dash shows off a new trick.”

Yang chuckled, “Well, why can’t you swoon over your own weapon-”

“I adore my Crescent Rose! But the other ones are cool too, it’s like meeting new people, but better…”

“Well, why don’t you make some new friends of your own, I’m sure you aren’t the only gun nut in this place.”

“Why would I need more friends when I have four new ones right here,” She said, pointing at the fillies.

“Well, having more friends never hurt anyone…” Yang sighed, looked off to a woman in a brown sweater with a brown fur collar and black scarf and beret, waving, “Well, I have some old friends to catch up with, see you girls later.” She waved goodbye as she moved toward some of her old friends. “Hey Coco, haven’t seen you in years, not since you left signal-” Her voice trailed off as she ran away from Ruby.

Ruby sighed. “Welcome to Beacon,” She muttered, as Scootaloo placed a hand on her shoulder. Up above somewhere came the cawing of a crow.

There came a sigh from behind them, “Get out of my way!” And the fillies turned to see a girl with stark white hair in a stark white dress. She marched forward with a trolley of luggage behind her. The girls moved to let her pass, but when trying to do so, Ruby tripped on an uneven flagstone and fell face-first into the pile of white briefcases. Sweetie Belle winced as she stared at those cases, there was dust in there, lots of it, she could feel the familiar magical pressure, and she had enough experience with it to know how volatile it could be at times.

“Rude,” Scootaloo muttered.

“What are you doing!” The girl shouted at Ruby, “Give me that!” She pulled a briefcase from the pile, “You could have blown us all up!”

“Uhh…” Ruby moaned.

“Hey! It’s not her fault that she fell,” Scootaloo returned.

“Do you have any idea the damage she could have caused,” She stared at the girls, before sighing, “Bunch of dumb faunus children… This is dust, mined and purified from the Schnee quarry! Purified! These aren’t your average crystals or powder, they’re much stronger and much more volatile!” Seemingly to illustrate, she pulled a vial from her case.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I don’t know what went wrong, I-” Ruby sputtered.

“You could have gotten us all killed, imagine what could have happened if all these vials and crystals went off at once!” She shook the bottle in the air, and despite the cork, some fine particles of dust crystal started to drift around her, but she didn’t seem to notice as she ranted.

As much as this girl reminded Sweetie of Diamond Tiara, and not in a good way, she couldn’t help but agree, the energy stored in even a single briefcase was devastating should it go off… But at the same time, what kind of idiot would carry around so much volatile material.

“You little brat!” Scootaloo shouted, “You don’t have the right to go yelling at people just because they trip!” She marched up to the girl, who looked shocked at Scootaloo's attitude.

“And what gives you the right to talk to me like that! Do you even know who I am!”

“Should I! All I see is some bratty little girl yelling at a friend, I couldn’t care less about who you are!”

“I am Weiss Schnee! Heiress to the Schnee Dust Company!” She said, waving that vial of fire dust in the air. Scootaloo simply marched up and slapped the vial out of the girl’s hand. As it flew through the air, Sweetie’s eyes went wide, she raised her hands just in time to catch the vial in a telekinetic grip, the dust inside turning minty green in colour.

Weiss and Scootaloo both growled at each other, but both turned to stare at Sweetie, now holding the vial, “Both of you! Shut up!” She yelled, “You nearly just blew us all up!” She held the vial and pointed it toward them both, “So stop fighting before you set off one of these vials!”

Weiss snatched the vial from Sweetie’s hand, before scoffing and marching away, followed by a few butlers pulling her trolley of dust cases. Once they had gotten Ruby back to her feet, the fillies all marched over toward the amphitheatre, a large glass-domed circular room with bleachers around an open stage… It looked to Scootaloo more like the old gladiatorial arena in Cloudsdale than an assembly hall at a school, with a large raised platform in the back with an ornate backdrop.

As they filed in, Yang called from somewhere in the crowd, “Ruby! Over here! I saved you a spot!”

Ruby turned to the Crusaders, “Oh, hey I got to go, I’ll see you after the ceremony,” leaving the fillies to stand in the back. A dozen or so more minutes passed as the last few students found their way into the structure, Jaune was the last to enter and moved to stand next to the fillies.

There was some general chatter throughout the room, “How’s your first day going little sister,” Yang said to Ruby.”

“You mean since you left me with the girls and we got into a fight with a brat.”

“Wow, fighting already?”

“Yeah, she kept on yelling at me and Scootaloo, and it looked like they were legitimately going to draw their weapons before Sweetie stepped in and stopped them.” As they talked, the large wooden doors of the hall closed behind them.

A voice echoed from the stage as Ozpin walked to address the crowd, “I’ll keep this brief…” He said, adjusting his tiny glasses that Diamond knew were simply there to make him look distinguished, as they were way too small to actually be of any use... She had seen numerous Canterlot nobles wear similar. “You have travelled here today in search of knowledge, to hone your craft and acquire new skills, and when you have finished, you plan to dedicate your life to the protection of the people… But I look amongst you and all I see is wasted energy, in need of purpose, direction. You assume knowledge will free you of this, but your time at this school will prove that knowledge can only carry you so far, it is up to you to take the first step.”

As Glynda moved to continue, Scootaloo muttered to herself, “That’s a bit insulting…”

“Demeaning, I agree,” Diamond continued.

Glynda spoke up, “You will gather in the ballroom tonight, tomorrow your initiation begins, be ready. You are dismissed.”

With that, the door opened again and students started filing out, there were still a few hours in the day, and the fillies planned to use that time to explore their new school. “There’s something here,” Sweetie said once they left the building.

“What do you mean?” Asked Apple Bloom.

“Something magical, and powerful, it’s underneath us… Somewhere, it feels like it’s here, but not.”

As she talked Diamond noticed it too, there was a pressure, a tingling feeling, the same feeling that one got when near powerful magic, she had only felt this pressure once before, and that was when Princess Luna showed up for Nightmare Night two years ago… It was somewhere below them, but not, as if the source of the power was everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time.

“Do you think it’s anything we should be concerned about?” Diamond asked.

“No, it seems safe enough, I just wonder exactly what it is…” Sweetie said, pausing, “I’m going to find a library, see if there are any books on Beacon and what we should expect of tomorrow…” She trotted away.

“I’m going to grab something to eat, I’m starved,” Scootaloo muttered, marching off in another direction. Apple Bloom and Diamond nodded, marching off after the filly.

That night, everyone gathered and laid out sleeping bags on the floor of the Ballroom. The Crusaders were already asleep. Yang and Ruby wandered off to talk to some other girl, leaving Diamond alone. She missed her friend, Silver Spoon, she missed her father, she missed the other ponies in Equestria… But she was here now, no time for regret. And so she let herself drift off to sleep.

There was a pressure in the back of her head and an unseen presence in the void behind her, she was in a castle, not a beautiful marble palace like Canterlot, but rather a dark and gloomy bastion, large black spires extending outward over the endless nothingness, a roiling ocean of fog below them, and a dark starless, moonless, sky above her… Eerie rifts opening in the heavens and letting dim pale-blue light through.

There was something here, something powerful, just beyond her perception… This dark gothic castle was a maze, a trap, one she needed to find her way out of, but for what reason she couldn’t fathom. “Luna!” She called into the darkness, only to receive the loud silence in reply…

Silver Spoon had reached Haven, but, to her shock, she couldn’t find them… Not a single one of her friends, not Diamond, not Sweetie, not Scootaloo, none of them… They were somewhere else, perhaps at that school Pyrrha was going to. As she let herself drift off to sleep, she cursed Discord for separating them… She would find them eventually, she wasn’t going to let Diamond go off on her own.

She found herself in a vast and endless expanse of ever-shifting sand. The dunes seemed to move on their own in random patterns, the sky above was a burning white, and she felt nonexistent heat burn at her skin. Nothing in this place felt right, it felt completely alien, and the magical pressure she had sensed earlier was stronger here than ever… She first noticed it as Lionheart gave his speech… There was magic in this place, powerful magic, it reminded her of what she felt whenever Celestia came to visit Ponyville.

And so she wandered in the endless desert.

Apple Bloom couldn’t sleep… That dream, the one of the dark castle in the middle of an endless void, still chilled her bone. Every time she drifted off to sleep in this place, she found that while details changed, for the most part, the dream remained the same… She wasn’t going to get a good nights sleep in Beacon. And so she sat there while everyone else slept. Grunting with the effort, she pulled herself up and found her bags on the raised platform where everyone else’s was, and slowly she retrieved her potion kit… She would need ingredients and a base, like water, and so she snuck out of the room to search the campus for anything that she could use.

Chapter 18: Ready to Launch

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“Wake up lazy butt!” A yell woke Diamond from her strange, alien, dream. “It’s morning! It’s morning! It’s morning! It’s morning!’ A girl in a pink skirt started to dance around the ballroom. Diamond pulled herself up as people started to move to bathrooms or get dressed. Sweetie pulled herself up from her sleeping bag as Diamond said, “I had a really weird dream…” In a dreary half-asleep tone.

“Let me guess,” Sweetie began, “Dark castle in a misty void, the feeling of something powerful right in front of you but just out of sight…”

“How did you?” Diamond muttered.

“Same dream… I wish Luna was here, she might be able to tell us what’s going on… But there will be time to figure out all that later.”

“Yeah, let’s get dressed,” Apple Bloom replied.

“I can’t wait to see what happens next!’ Scootaloo was already pulling off her pyjamas and throwing on her armour, many of the other kids staring at the girl stripping right before them. The other ponies followed and soon were back into their combat gear, uncaring of everyone staring at them naked as they equipped their clothing and armour.

Once everyone had gotten dressed, used the toilet, and brushed their teeth, and eaten, they headed to the locker room to equip their weapons, all except for Scootaloo who had slept with her pistols under her sleeping bag.

The locker room was a large white hall with a thousand of the fancy-looking lockers, the kids were confused about why the roof had portholes in it above every locker. The walls were decorated by blue banners with the emblem of Vale, and some of the supporting columns had ornamental weapons and shields hung on them.

Ruby retrieved her scythe from her locker, Jaune wandered around looking for his locker, and Weiss drew her rapier from her locker. A few students stared at Apple Bloom as lifted Applebuck, the weapon could bearly fit in the locker, even in hammer form. When looking at the dumbfounded expressions of the others, a taller boy with combed back blue hair muttered, “It can’t be that heavy! Hey, faunus girl, let me try that hammer!”

Apple Bloom snickered, “Sure,” And handed Applebuck to him. The kid immediately regretted that decision when he fell forward to the floor trying to heft the weapon’s weight.

Two kids ran past, the loud energetic one that reminded Diamond of Pinkie Pie, and a black-haired kid in a green jacket and white pants. Diamond’s locker was between Weiss’s and the red-haired girl’s lockers, both of whom were looking at Diamond as she retrieved Silverglow. Weiss with a little bit of trepidation, and Pyrrha with interest. She pulled Silverglow’s trigger and loaded the dust cannon with ice dust, once the canister clicked into place, the blade closed back up.

Behind them, Scootaloo was trotting around in circles, “Ugh,” She intoned, “Can we please get ready already!” She already had her pistols mounted to her bandolier and dust canisters on her belt. Sweetie had her Lapis Luminatus in hand, it was too tall to fit into the locker, so last night Ruby promised to modify the shaft to extend and retract when needed, that way not only could she fit it into her locker, but it could also be carried around much easier.

Jaune, once he had retrieved his sword and mounted it to his belt, approached Weiss, “Hey there, Snow Angel, the name’s Jaune Arc.”

“You again?” Weiss replied.

“Nice to meet you, Jaune,” Pyrrha continued.

“So, I’ve been hearing that the teams are made of four students each, so I was thinking that with my amazing skill and you three lovely ladies, we would make a great one, what do you say?”

“Jaune, is it,” Weiss commented, “Do you have any idea who we are?”

“Not in the slightest, Snow Angel,” Jaune replied as Diamond rolled her eyes.

“I am Weiss Schnee, heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, one of the largest producers of dust crystals and powder in the world… And Pyrrha Nikos, who graduated top of her class in Sanctum. I don’t know who the faunus girl is, but I can safely say that you are not in a position to ask either of us to be on your team.”

“I-I guess, not, sorry…”

Pyrrha walked up to the boy and put a hand on his shoulder, “Actually Jaune, I’d think you would make a great leader.”

“No, quite frankly, he wouldn’t…” Diamond commented, “Just look at him, his weapon is practically useless, and so far he hasn’t shown a shred of competence…”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I agree with the faunus girl, his kind of behaviour should not be encouraged!”

“Sounds like Pyrrha’s on board for Team Jaune… Spots are filling up quick, but I could find a place for you,” Jaune turned to Diamond, leaning a bit to close for comfort, “After all, I don’t discriminate.”

Diamond backed up, “Get away from me!” She shouted as she pushed Jaune back, he fell and skidded across the floor.

From a wall-mounted speaker the voice of Glynda said, “Would all first-year students report to Beacon Cliff for initiation, again all first-year students report to Beacon Cliff immediately.”

“It was nice meeting you,” Pyrrha said as she pulled Jaune back to his feet.

“Likewise,” Jaune muttered.

Diamond motioned for the other fillies to follow. Scootaloo was already racing out the door, Sweetie following right behind at a brisk walk, Apple Bloom stuck her cannon to her back, loaded with gravity rounds, she wanted to see what they did. Ruby and Yang helped Jaune and together they all moved outward and toward the cliff.

Ozpin stood at the launchpads built into the cliff, he had spent the last hour fine-tuning the pneumatic mechanisms, providing just the right amount of randomness to thoroughly separate the students, but no so much that they may get lost and die without support… He remembered what happened to Gretchen Rainart a decade ago.

He had also made a few adjustments to specific pads, Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie had arrived together, and he knew that these two had been friends most of their life… He wasn’t about to separate them, and so he would make sure they landed relatively near one another.

The four faunus girls had also arrived together, and they were all rather powerful, if a little unskilled and undertrained, but that could be fixed with time and extra training… Putting them four of them together was going to give him a particularly powerful weapon against darkness, as long as he ensured they survived and stayed together.

It wasn’t long after he finished his modifications that Glynda gave the order and students started arriving. Ozpin pointed them toward their respective pads as used his scroll to double-check the feeds camouflaged camera-drones that James had provided… They would make preventing accidents and observing the student’s actions an infinitely easier task.

Eventually, everyone had arrived. Ozpin and Glynda took their positions overlooking the cliff, and begun the same speech he had repeated for centuries… “For years you have trained to become warriors, and today, your abilities will be evaluated in the Emerald Forest.”

In the back was Angel Pico… Koa Van… Cerule Quinn… Sky Lark… Joan Grey… Cardin Winchester... Dove Bronzewing… and so on. Closer to the front of the line Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie stood on their specially tuned pads. Behind them in the line was the esteemed Pyrrha Nikos, who Ozpin was already keeping an eye on, and in front of the two in the line was Weiss Schnee, another one who chose Beacon over Atlas, he was surprised how many students were flocking to Beacon this year… And this time she was a member of the Schnee family, a part of him hoped that he hadn’t just made another enemy, as he knew that both Winter and Weiss’s actions in becoming huntsmen were against their father’s wishes.

Past them was the young miss Rose and her sister, Yang Xiao Long, both of whom were descendants of STRQ, he hoped they would do just as well as their progenitors… Possibly better, since he couldn’t see either of them betraying him as Raven did… Not that she really held it against the woman, her reasons were valid.

The newcomer, Jaune Arc, stood past the others… His transcripts said that he had graduated from a lesser-known combat school called Tenna, down in the south. Ozpin had spoken to the headmaster of Tenna and confirmed that there was never a student called Jaune in that school… But, he knew the Arc family, and he had trained the boy’s grandfather and great grandfather, so there was no way he was an agent of evil, nor a hopeless boy who would get himself killed by the first grimm he came across, he had potential… So, regardless of his fake transcripts, he allowed the boy in, there was always a need for more huntsmen.

Finally, the last four platforms were taken up by the four mystery girls. They were the most intriguing of all… They had extremely strong auras, and very powerful semblances, enough to be mistaken for maidens, and they were all faunus, faunus didn’t have as strong auras humans generally did, but they were clearly the exception. Ozpin had yet to figure out what kind of creatures they were, they claimed to be horse faunus, and while their ears may resemble those of a horse, they were much too pointy, and one of them had wings, no horse he knew of had wings… Not to mention that their fur and tail colours were unlike any he had seen… But they most likely dyed them along with their hair.

Glynda spoke up, “Now, I’m sure many of you have heard rumours about the assignment of teams… Well, allow us to put an end to your confusion, each of you will be given teammates… Today.”

“These teammates will be with you for the rest of your time here at Beacon,” Ozpin continued, “So it is in your best interest to be paired with someone with whom you can work well. That being said, the first person you make eye contact with after landing will be your partner for the next four years.” Ozpin finished.

It wasn’t an ideal system, there were numerous pairs of people who normally didn’t get along, but the system was created to test those exact people… True huntsmen should be able to work with those who they don’t like or get along with. Not to mention that it was an easy system to rig, like he did here, and he wouldn’t be blamed if the pairings didn’t get along, after all, it’s hard to blame random chance… Or what to them seemed like random chance.

“What!” Ruby yelled. There came some general muttering from the students, and the fillies all nervously looked at one another.

“After you’ve partnered up, make your way to the northern end of the forest. You will meet opposition along the way… Do not hesitate to destroy everything in your path, or you will die. You will be monitored and graded for the duration of your initiation, but our instructors will not intervene. You will find an abandoned temple at the end of the path containing several relics, each pair must choose one and return to the top of the cliff.”

Ozpin had placed the relics a few days ago, and had made sure that none were disturbed since… He missed the old castle down there before that abomination came and ruined it, luckily, it still attracted grimm to the region, making it the ideal testing ground.

“You will guard that item, as well as your standing, and we will grade you appropriately. Are there any questions?”

The Arc boy, as well as the faunus girls all raised their hands, “Headmaster-” Sweetie Belle began.

“Good! Now, take your positions,” He didn’t have time for questions, nor the patience, they would soon get answers to whatever questions they had.

“Uh, sir? I’ve got a question?” Jaune asked. As Glynda pressed the activation key on her scroll and the launch cycle began.

“So, how will we be getting down there exactly?” Apple Bloom asked. More pneumatic launchers set off in the background.

“You will be using your own landing strategy…” Ozpin absently commented. More children were flung into the air as he spoke.

“What’s a landing strategy?” Scootaloo questioned. Meanwhile, Weiss, Pyrrha, Lie, and Nora were all launched into the air.

“You’ll soon figure that out.” Ozpin continued. Yang and Ruby were next to be launched.

“Do you have any parachutes for-” Jaune’s voice suddenly turned into a scream as he was sent hurtling into the air.,

Diamond turned to see the student’s being thrown into the air and her eyes turned wide when she heard the click from right beneath her feet. Suddenly she found herself flying through the air.

A look of realization crossed Scootaloo’s face and she raised her wings as the pad beneath her clicked and sprung forward, sending her into the sky.

Apple Bloom looked as if she were about to jump off the pad, saying “Oh hell-” Before she too found herself in the air, the scream of “Noooooo-” Trailing off into the distance.

Sweetie just slapped herself in the face with her own hand as she was sent flying. As the last of the students trailed off into the air, Ozpin turned and took a sip of his morning coffee.

Chapter 19: Welcome to the Jungle

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Scootaloo was flying through the sky, she was actually flying! Well, not so much flying as falling, but she could feel the wind in her wings and mane, and it felt good… Better than anything she had ever felt before, her pegasus magic surged, and she propelled herself forward on a jet of air. She wasn’t going to gain much height, but she could glide… The others weren’t going to be able to do that. She looked around, spotting Diamond who was tumbling through the air as if she were shot from a cannon.

Scootaloo twisted her wings and the air flowed with them, allowing her to control her movement in the air, she dove toward Diamond and raised her arms, grabbing the girl from her tumble. The extra weight didn’t help her flight, but though she was dropping, and dropping fast, she still had control, and so she twisted between the rapidly approaching trees. She shouted in Diamond’s ears, nearly impossible to hear over the sound of the wind, “Get your aura ready!”

They both glowed as they channelled their aura, finally coming to skid to a halt on the forest floor, completely unharmed. Meanwhile, up above, Apple Bloom had drawn Applebuck from her back, stuck the gun’s stock right into her chest, and pulled the trigger. The flash from the end of her gun was not the bright yellow she had come to know from most firearms but was rather a bright purple flash with a black core, the force knocked the wind out of her, but it slowed her down, so channelling her aura she held down the trigger.

Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom rang over the forest as each shot slowed the girl drastically. The shells impacted the forest floor and large purple-black explosions tore at the ground, ripping craters in the woods, and finally, the girl came to land with an earth-shaking boom in the middle of her crater.

Sweetie raised her poleaxe, channelling magic down its length. The staff started glowing as a shimmering spherical shield appeared around the girl, glowing so brightly that she looked like a falling star. The shield ball rammed into the ground and dug a deep trench before the spell collapsed and Sweetie fell to the ground inside the ditch, gasping for breath.

Scootaloo got to her feet, “We need to find the others,” She muttered, looking to where Sweetie had fallen.

“Agreed,” Diamond replied, activating her sword’s energy field. From behind them came the growl of a bear, Scootaloo proceeded to draw her pistols and fire twin beams of heat in the direction of the growl. The ursa came barreling through the trees, its chest and face badly burnt, swinging its claws at Diamond.

Diamond slashed at the ursa as it’s paw came toward her head, the sword bit into the ursa’s flesh, but it didn’t cut through, and the subsequent blow sent the girl staggering and falling to her back. As the beast lumbered over the fallen form of Diamond, Scootaloo charged and fired off another two blasts at the bear, burning off chunks of flesh and leaving large glowing red wounds in its side.

The creature’s head turned toward Scootaloo as Diamond got her hands on her sword again and stabbed upward, impaling the beast’s neck. It roared in pain as she pulled the blade out and swung it downward, hacking at its neck, pouring black smoke, until she had cut its head off and the creature stopped struggling, starting to vapourize a moment later.

“Yang was right,” Diamond gasped for air, “They are a bit tougher over here.”

Meanwhile, Apple Bloom stood up from where she had landed. The crater wasn’t deep, but the shockwaves caused by the gravity rounds had created a nice clearing where she landed, knocking over smaller trees and saplings, pushing rocks out of the way, and uprooting grass. Spread around the crater were the forms of numerous beowolves, all pulling themselves back up. One roared as it spotted Apple Bloom.

She raised her hammer, and as the first one charged she knocked it into the air. She spun and smacked another one, sending it flying into the forest, and as two more charged, she turned it back into a gun and fired. The shot sent both her and the grimm flying backwards in opposite directions. She impacted a tree and despite her aura, she felt a spike of pain in her back.

She grunted as she transformed her cannon back into a hammer. There were two wolves left. She leapt and smacked one mid-air with her hammer, but as she landed the second one jumped on her, and its claws tore at her aura. She bucked her legs and gave the wolf a hard kick in the gut, dislodging the creature, and sending it tumbling back. She was about to charge and smack it, but a blast of warped ruddy air burned off a chunk of its side and it fell to the ground, dead.

Scootaloo, holding one of her pistols up, followed by Diamond, came through the trees. “Looks like you had some trouble…” Diamond commented.

“I could have taken them… Well, I could have taken them a bit better if I didn’t have these stupid gravity rounds…” As she said that, Apple Bloom turned her hammer back into a cannon and loaded a drum of standard ammo.

“We should find Sweetie, She’s bound to run into monsters too…” Scootaloo replied.

“The professor told us that we need to find the relics… Once we grab Sweetie we need to figure out where this temple he mentioned is,” Diamond continued.

Apple Bloom held her cannon on her shoulder as they trotted off toward Sweetie’s landing point. Meanwhile, Sweetie pulled herself from the ditch she dug with her landing, her magic was nearly gone, absorbing the impact was painful, but she had gotten good at dealing with magical strain over the past week… She wouldn’t be casting spells for a good few minutes though.

She noticed she was alone, there were no animals, no monsters, no people in this part of the forest… The others would have noticed her landing, they would be along shortly, so waiting here was the best course of action.

She waited for a few minutes when she felt a magical presence in the woods and turned to see four glowing eyes, brilliant red… “Perhaps this forest isn’t so empty…” She muttered to herself, drawing her halberd. The beast charged, four glowing eyes behind a bone mask from which a great and gruesome looking rack of antlers extended outward, a four-legged four-hoofed body that looked like a tall and elegant pony, like one of the princesses… Except for the antlers atop its head, the four malevolent eyes, and spikes across it’s bone-plated back.

She raised her weapon’s shaft to block the beast’s charge, catching the creature’s powerful antlers, but it hit like a train, and she could bearly hold her ground against its incredible strength. But, the deer-like monster soon realized its failed attack and leapt backwards, then trotted circles around the girl. Sweetie pointed the end of her poleaxe toward the beast and charged with the intent to impale, but it hopped over the attack, skidded to a halt behind her, and charged, counterattacking.

Sweetie turned just in time to try to block the attack again, but she failed to catch it by the antlers and felt a stabbing pain across her face as one of the spiked ends of its horns caught her. There was no wound, but Ruby was right when she said that aura couldn’t block out all the pain… She realized she was lucky to have an aura, as that last attack would have torn out one of her eyes, and the aura was blocking out some of the pain, so she could only imagine how worse it would have felt had she actually been harmed.

She was pushed to the ground, but rolled out of the way to avoid being trampled. She conjured what magic she still had after her landing and slashed out with the cutting spell, but it didn’t slice the beast apart, rather it simply resulted in a large glowing wound across its chest, enough to get it to back away, but not enough to kill.

The beast charged again and Sweetie held out the tip of her axe like a spear, expecting it to run straight into it and impale itself, but at the last moment it dodged right and kicked out with its hindlegs, meanwhile, Sweetie dodged left but not fast enough to avoid getting kicked in the side and sent tumbling to the ground.

Growling, she slammed her fist into the ground as the grimm-deer prepared to charge again. She let loose with a wave of telekinesis, the magic not directed, not intended to grab, but rather simply meant to push everything away, and it did, knocking the creature over to its side. As it clambered back up, it gave Sweetie enough time to retrieve her dropped poleaxe and aim the dust crystal toward the beast, unleashing a continuous blast of green lightning for a few seconds. The power arced along the deer’s body, made it convulse in an electric seizure, and at last go still, turning to smoke.

Sweetie dropped her axe and fell to her knees, exhaustion taking its toll… A few minutes later there came some rustling in the leaves, and Sweetie, still tired, staggered to her feet, leaning on her axe for support. Out from the woods strode Diamond, followed by Scootaloo and Apple Bloom.

“Could have used your help earlier…”

“Certainly looks that way,” Scootaloo commented, looking at the path of destruction Sweetie’s cannonball landing caused.

“Good… Looks like everyone’s here and unharmed, let’s make our way to this forest temple,” Diamond said, lifting her head as she pointed deeper into the forest, away from Beacon Cliff.

The rest of the girls nodded, “I suppose it’s better than sitting here,” Sweetie retorted. They marched off, spending a few minutes wandering through the woods, Diamond cutting at the forest with her energy sword and clearing a path, whenever the fillies got turned around, it was relatively easy to tell which paths they had gone down before, as Diamond hacked at every tree, every branch, every bush, every vine, and every bramble she came across.

Eventually, Scootaloo grumbled, “We’ve been moving in circles for twenty minutes now.”

“Actually, it’s been seventeen minutes and twenty-five seconds,” Sweetie replied. Every pony looked at her, “What? It’s not like I have anything else to do…” They had just finished clearing up a pair of beowolves that had climbed from the forest. Apple Bloom failed to understand how firearms worked and forgot that, despite changing ammo drums, there was still a gravity round loaded in the chamber, and so when she went to shoot the first beowolf with her cannon, she found herself propelled back into a tree, meanwhile both wolves were sent hurtling backwards by the shell's detonation, smashing into vapour upon hitting the trees.

Scootaloo was lifting the fallen Apple Bloom back to her feet as she grumbled.

“Finding some ruined structure in the middle of this overgrown mess could take hours!” Diamond shouted, “But, it’s what we need to do, so shut up and keep walking…”

“It would be nice if we could get a better look at the forest,” Sweetie commented.

Somewhere up above was the half-screech half-roar of a nevermore. Scootaloo rolled her eyes and sighed, used her pegasus magic, and leapt up to a tree branch. “Scoots, what are you doing?” Apple Bloom asked.

“Getting a better look at the forest…” She replied and she leapt up to another tree branch.

Eventually, the pegasus faunus reached the top of the trees, off in the distance were some stone structures, “Guys, I think I see something, buildings, ruins, way off that way,” She pointed, making sure that the girls on the ground could see her. She paused as she continued looking. Then, she turned her head as she heard a loud scream echo across the sky, flying through the air came the form of a human, unrecognizable at this distance, hurtling toward one of the distant structures. “And I think some other students are in trouble… We should hurry!” She shouted as she leapt back down to the ground, a magical cushion of air allowing her to land safely.

With that, they started running in the direction she had pointed.

Chapter 20: Sleeping in the Abyss

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They had been chased to a ruin built atop a great chasm, below was a misty abyss. Some kind of castle or palace was once built here, large towers connected by stone-arched walkways were constructed over and through the pit, a large cliff wall overlooking everything, atop which more ruined structures were built. The deathstalker crashed its way through the trees as the nevermore circled above, eight students ran toward the tower in the center, hoping to stop the advancing scorpion.

The bird sat atop the largest still standing tower and screeched, meanwhile the advancing scorpion ripped its way through the woods, the students ran. Rocket-propelled grenades flew through the air, exploding mid-air as their timed fuses detonated, forcing the bird from its perch.

Pyrrha and Ren tried to stall the advancing deathstalker, but their guns bearly scratched it’s ancient, thick, and armoured hide. Meanwhile, the bird flew back around, ramming its head into the platform they ran across, splitting the students in half. Nora transformed her grenade launcher into hammer form and sent herself and Jaune over to assist the others in a rather explosive manoeuvre. Their landing sent Blake tumbling into the abyss, but with the help of her Gambol Shroud, she slung herself back to the tower, but not before she landed atop the nevermore and slashed at its back.

The fillies ran through the forest and arrived at a small ruined structure, what must have once been a shrine of some kind. On pedestals were various objects, it wasn’t until they got closer that they recognized them for what they were. “Chess pieces?” Sweetie asked.

“Looks like most of them are gone already,” Diamond noted.

“Let’s just take one and get back,” Scootaloo continued.

Sweetie nodded, marched up, and saw the white queen piece sitting atop its podium… The professor did tell them to take the white queen piece, but she was a little confused as to why there were two, one on opposite ends of the structure. She just shook her head, and grabbed the piece, handing it over to Diamond.

As they moved to return to the cliff, there came a tremendous crashing sound from deeper in the forest, followed by the screech of a nevermore and the sounds of gunfire. “What in tarnation!” Apple Bloom yelled as the earth shook beneath them

“Sounds like some other students are in trouble!” Sweetie yelled.

“Come on!” Scootaloo shouted, already running in the direction of the noise.

Diamond scoffed but was quick to follow. Apple Bloom raised her autocannon while Sweetie started sprinting after the others. They followed the path of destruction through the trees, eventually entering a large overgrown courtyard, they arrived just in time to see Nora fly through the air and smash right into the head of the deathstalker, sending the creature tumbling into the mist below.

Apple Bloom ran up and helped Jaune back to his feet as Scootaloo did the same for Ren. Nora had already gotten back to her feet on her own, and Pyrrha had landed without losing her balance. Diamond and Sweetie caught up and watched the Nevermore circle above as blasts from Yang’s gauntlets flew out through the air.

Ozpin stared at the feed from his scroll, originally he was mostly observing the faunus girls, it seemed they had already formed themselves into a team… But, then the other eight students and their battle with the giant nevermore and ancient deathstalker had distracted him. A brief flash of concern crossed his features when earlier the nevermore collapsed the remains of his old castle, but they were proving coordinated and creative… The Arc boy’s tactical awareness was impressive, and he watched his team send the deathstalker falling into the Emerald Chasm.

He continued to watch as Tai’s daughter leapt into the beak of the nevermore and crashed it into the cliffside, only to be caught by the Schnee girl. Were he in a seat, he would be on its edge, watching as Ruby catapulted herself toward the abominable bird, catching it by the neck, and running up the cliff wall, slicing through its head as she reached the cliff edge.

Impressive… Reckless, there was a whole litany of things that could have gone wrong, and Ozpin knew that miss Rose most likely didn’t have a plan B should one of those things indeed go wrong, it depended on each of the girl’s allies working in perfect synchronicity, but none the less, it was only the second day of school, and they had slain a grimm that would have posed a threat to a single moderately skilled huntsmen.

As Ruby used her semblance to fly back down to rejoin the rest of her comrades, Ozpin watched the bird, corpse streaming black smoke, fall into the chasm. Once it had disappeared into the mist, he thought he saw something… A glimmer of red down in the fog. His hands went cold… No, he killed it! There was no way it could have survived that fall, there was no way it could still be down there all this time!

He shouted, “Glynda!” Glynda turned to face him, her face coated in a look of worry, “Go to the Emerald Chasm and recover the students before they all die!”

“What’s wrong, what is it!” She replied.

“Just go!” Ozpin continued… He should have been more thorough all those centuries ago, he hadn’t killed it… It was still down there, and those fools just dropped a tower on it!

“That was awesome!” Scootaloo and Ruby yelled in unison once they reunited on the other side of the gorge.

“Good job Ruby,” Blake added.

“I told you I could make that shot,” Weiss continued.

“That was sooooo cool, the way you just ran up the cliff, and how you shot yourself forward like that!” Scootaloo was hopping in place.

“Hey! Part of that was my work too!” Weiss retorted.

“Yeah! We taught them a lesson!” Yang shouted, pumping her fist into the air.

“Good work,” Pyrrha complimented, “You were spectacularly brave to leap into the nevermore’s beak like that.”

“Let’s get back to the cliffs, we shouldn’t wait around in these woods for too much longer…” Diamond Tiara said.

“Right,” Ruby agreed.

As they packed up their weapons, they began their return trek, but before they had left the ruins, there was a deep shaking in the ground, and everyone stopped, raising their weapons, expecting another giant monster to appear. But Sweetie, she was more sensitive to magical energies, and what she felt chilled her bones and sent shivers up her spine. “G-Girls…” She began.

Before she could continue, there was a series of gurgling howls from the direction of the chasm, and they could swear they saw a long, black, clawed, hand reach up from the fog and grab the edge of the pit… Then another black tendril reached out from below, this one a bit larger, just large enough that they could make out its three bone-clawed fingers.

Another reached up, then another, and another, in all sorts of sizes, all inky tendrils with claws at their ends, reaching up and grabbing hold to the nearest object, dozens of them, then hundreds of them… Some of the larger black claws, ones large enough to hold an entire person, had glowing red eyes on their palms or arms, some of these eyes moved across its flesh as if they were rocks floating in a river of ink.

Pyrrha drew her weapons, followed soon by the others. Ruby took aim with Crescent Rose and fired at one of the arms, waving in the air. The shot tore a hole clean through the arm and split the hand from the rest of the limb, the hand pouring black smoke as it fell into the abyss, the wounded limb flailing around violently. A howl came from that misty depth, a chorus of voices, hundreds of voices, all in different tones and in different volumes.

Another arm came from the depths, this one was racing toward Ruby, “Get out of the way!” Diamond shouted as she drew her sword, leapt, and slashed off the hand of the offending limb. She continued to slice through the arm, removing chunks of the limb before it retreated back from where it came.

More claws came from below, grabbing on to its surroundings, these ones pulled at the ground and ruins, “Is it trying to pull the cliff down?” Weiss asked, raising her rapier and firing a blast of fire toward one of the offending limbs.

“It’s climbing!” Pyrrha shouted, “Take out the arms!” She raised her rifle and shot the arms until they retreated. Jaune charged and chopped wildly at one of the clawed tentacles, another tendril came up to bat away the boy, but a quick chop from Blake’s cleaver removed the tendril’s hand. Once Jaune had finished cleaving through the arm, he and Blake moved on to the next.

Boom! One of the arms exploded into a black and red mist that soon vanished into the air. “How many of these darn things are there!” Apple Bloom shouted, firing her cannon at another approaching arm. It seemed like every time they destroyed one, another two took their place.

Something loomed in the mist, and steadily it rose upward on its hundreds of arms, a great pillar made of writhing tendrils and mutated flesh… Large bony protrusions stuck out like claws or horns, looking like the spines of a cactus. In the mass one could make out the hooves of horses, the arms of humans, the talons of birds, the paws of wolves and bears, and hundreds of other animal parts. Millions of eyes glowed across its body in a variety of sizes, some were mounted on the heads of various creatures that stuck out from the mutated mass, while others were intertwined with the tendrils, buried in pockets of flesh, or even freely moving around inside the mass.

Heads of various creatures protruded from the thing’s flesh, one looked like the head of a nevermore but split in half down the middle, tendrils of red goo connecting either side, there was a horned skull that leered at the humans, half-buried in the mass, there was the head of a beowolf with only a single cyclopean eye, there was the fanged maw of a deathstalker twitching and biting at nothing. Hundreds of mouths, some attached to the numerous howling, screeching, roaring, and chattering heads, others, like the eyes, were simply fanged maws as part of the mass. In some places, wings protruded from the abomination, some like those of a bird, others more bat-like, and some insectoid.

The students stopped their firing to stare at the thing in awe and horror, this was only the tip of the creature, as the worm-like mass extended downward into the abyss. A few more tendrils shot from the grimm, but it shook the students from their horror, and bullets started flying again. There was a loud boom-boom-boom-boom as Apple Bloom fired her cannon at the creature, the shells punched through its form, some even piercing from out the other side, the wounds billowing black smoke, but the creature didn’t die.

Ruby leapt forward, propelled by her scythe, and chopped off three of this thing’s limbs at once, but more came shooting from out the mass to replace them. Blake fired her pistol at the monster, but the bullets didn’t even register to the abomination. Pyrrha charged forward and impaled one of the hands with her spear, pulling the blade out and slashing downward, splitting the hand from the body, the tendril simply returned to the mass, and Pyrrha continued to fire shot after shot toward the creature’s uncountable eyes.

“We aren’t doing anything to it!” Ren shouted as he slashed away some tentacles that were closing in on him, before firing a volley of rounds toward the creature.

“We need to get in closer!” Jaune shouted, just bearly raising his shield in time to block a black arm that shot toward him.

Ruby growled, “Weiss!” She yelled, “Launch me!”

Weiss didn’t bother arguing, she summoned a black floating circle with a snowflake-like emblem on it in the air, Sweetie stopped firing green lightning toward a tendril to stare at the shape with interest, as Ruby placed her feet on her scythe’s blade and, with the help of Weiss’s glyph, shot herself toward the mass. She yelled as she slashed forward and stuck her scythe deep into its flesh. A thousand mouths of all kinds of creatures screamed in agony as she tore at the beast, but for all the billowing black smoke, it was bearly a flesh wound to the creature, and Ruby now held on to the side of the creature, kept from falling down by her grip on her scythe.

Apple Bloom yelled, “Horseapples!” As she removed her empty drum from her cannon’s side, loading the one with the high-explosive rounds. Nora fired her grenade launcher, keeping some of the tendrils away, but they didn’t have the punch to really damage the creature’s flesh. Apple Bloom aimed toward where some of the tendrils joined with the rest of the creature and fired. Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom! Rang over the ruins as shell after shell struck the abomination, ripping holes in its torso, but these seemed to have just as little effect as everything else… It wasn’t that this thing was armoured, or even particularly tough, simply that there was so much of this creature that it was no different than poking one’s arm with a needle repeatedly, painful but not damaging.

But, they did at least catch its attention. The creature finally turned toward them. Ruby leapt off the beast as it started to twist, pulling her scythe with her, and just bearly grabbed hold of the side of the cliff wall by virtue of her semblance. “Ruby!” Yang yelled, running forward and grabbing the arm of her sister. As she pulled Ruby up, one of the creature’s uncountable arms reached forward and grabbed Ruby’s leg, but a sharp kick from the girl broke its grip. As Ruby and Yang tumbled to the ground, Pyrrha leapt forward and raised her shield, stopping another claw in its pursuit of the girls.

Pyrrha was about to retreat and start shooting when another five tendrils shot toward her, she slashed at one, cutting the hand from the rest of the tendril-like arm, and flung her spear toward another tentacle, impaling the eye in the claw’s palm, and slung her shield toward another, the bladed edge splitting the arm apart, but as she pulled her weapons back to her, another tentacle shot forward, the claw catching her by the neck.

The entire mass began shifting, turning toward them, it lowered its… You couldn’t call it a head, more like a front-end, toward the students atop the cliff. It’s end started to split apart like one would unwind a rope into the individual cords, cords into individual strings, and strings into individual fibres. Revealing a mouth, or at least something similar to a mouth… Deep inside it glowed red, like a furnace, it was more like it opened itself up as if the creature was hollow, its inside lined with more gnashing, biting, foaming, mouths of various creatures. One could, if they strained their eyes, see a single glowing red eye at the very depths of this thing’s core.

While the occasional explosion tore at the worm-like mass or the occasional bullet flew toward the thing’s eyes or mouths, everyone else was too busy fending off its claws, the creature growing more aggressive with its movements, more and more arms flying forth to assault the students. Pyrrha struggled as more clawed arms leapt from the thing’s maw, like abominable tounges, wrapping around her arms and legs, dragging her forward, as the mass lumbered closer to the cliffside… For the first time in a very long time, she felt true fear, she was going to die, ripped apart by its hundreds of mouths.

There was a flash of pale pink, and the tendrils latching on to Pyrrha were severed, turning to vapour. She gasped for breath and collapsed to the ground, “Run! Get the professors!” Diamond shouted at the top of her lungs.

“No! This thing is too powerful for you to fight alone!”

“I’m not going to fight alone.”

A wave of green energy slashed out from Sweetie’s halberd and cut at the side of the writhing thing. It howled as more and more tendrils lashed out from its mass, there must have been thousands of them now, half supporting its weight, while the other half lashed out to attack, these ones though acted more like legs, as it clambered over the edge of the cliff like an oversized millipede, the maw of this creature large enough to swallow the deathstalker they had fought earlier.

Pyrrha could feel her aura, it was weak, running low, she couldn’t fight off this thing for much longer. Diamond raised her sword and in a single stroke severed another dozen tendrils from their host, running forward, now that the creature was clambering across the ground, she slashed up close, cutting apart the faces that bit out at anything that dared come that close. Scootaloo ran up to the monster’s side, twisting the nobs on her pistols and shooting jets of fire that burned the grinning, growling heads that seemed to grow from every inch of the creature. Apple Bloom raised her hammer and smashed in one of the glowing eyes on the beast’s side, the blow hard enough to cause even this colossal thing to budge.

“Apple Bloom! Scootaloo! Keep distracting its tentacles!” Diamond shouted. The two girls nodded, running around the creature, jumping and dodging the tendrils that lashed out, Scootaloo leapt twenty feet into the air, gathered wisps of white vapour around her hands that slowly turned darker and darker, then lowered both her arms toward the creature, unleashing twin bolts of lightning that left large patches of seared grimm-flesh in its wake, she rolled around in the air to dodge the monster’s retaliation.

Apple Bloom raised her cannon and fired shell after shell, a boom-boom-boom tearing tentacles from the monster’s flesh, rending eyes, and shattering the monstrous heads across its body. Diamond was dancing around the fight too, hacking at the limbs that raced toward her. “Sweetie! With me!” She yelled to the girl, who was still shooting blasts of electricity at tendrils. The girl ran up to meet her friend.

“Got a plan to kill this thing!” Sweetie replied.

“We go down its throat and rip it apart from the inside-out.”

“Well, that’s insane… But, it’s bound to be more effective than what we’re doing now!”

With that, they ran forward, dodging the tentacles that rushed to meet them, quick slashes from Diamond’s sword slicing the limbs as they passed. They leapt into the creature’s maw, over the massive teeth that lined its entrance and coming down inside its grotesque mouth. Diamond and Sweetie ran forward to dodge more tendrils that were spawning from the walls, and to avoid being nipped by the sea of monster heads and eyes that this abomination’s throat was.

Diamond smashed the head of a grimm sabre-tooth cat as she ran, meanwhile Sweetie sent a wave of telekinetic force that stunned the heads ahead of them, and kept the tendrils from assaulting them. Eventually, the monster’s throat took a ninety-degree turn downward, signalling where the thing was hunched over the cliffside. “We’re going down!” Sweetie shouted.

With that, Diamond and Sweetie leapt, deeper into the creature, which was now looking more and more like a black and red cave than anything biological. Here, there were fewer limbs and heads and other animal body parts sticking from the walls and floor and ceiling, and more stalagmite-like teeth and claws. Diamond was swinging her sword around wildly as she fell, slicing apart the claws that manifested from the walls.

The bottom was approaching quickly, “Shield!” Diamond called, and Sweetie manifested a green ball of energy around them, the teeth, claws, and arms that extended from the walls helping to slow them down, at the cost of more strain for the unicorn faunus. Then, they came to the bottom.

There, at the bottom of this thing’s throat, was a massive plate of bone, covered in red vein-like markings, featuring a glowing red eye with a yellow iris… They came to a stop with a crash, Sweetie screamed from the pain of a hard landing for the second time today, and collapsed to the floor. Diamond got to her feet, the impact had cracked the bone-like plate, and black smoke poured from the cracks… The entire mass howled in pain, echoing through the tubular body like it was an oversized pipe organ.

Diamond raised her sword and stabbed downward into its eye, the howling reached a crescendo as she stabbed all the way down to the hilt. She pulled the sword’s trigger, and with a painful-sounding squelching noise, her blade split in half, further cutting apart the infernal eye, revealing the dust cannon. She pulled down on the trigger again… The fire dust she had loaded while still in the forest, after using her ice canister on a horde of ursai, filled the cavernous space with fire that burned at her and Sweetie’s aura, but did far, far worse to the creature’s insides. All that fire was channelled upward, from the outside it looked as if the worm had just breathed a blast of flame.

The walls started to billow smoke, and, lifting the still weakened Sweetie to her feet, Diamond yelled, “Get us back up, we need to get out of here!”

“You don’t…” She paused, gasping for breath, “Have to remind me…”

There was a blur of purple, and descending down the throat of the monster came the huntress… Glynda.

Chapter 21: Cold Awakening, Frosty Landing

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Twilight had just finished the final touches to Rainbow Dash’s weapon… It was by far the most complicated, the scope was infinitely harder to assemble due to all the strange silicon-based electronic devices inside, machines that were infinitely more advanced than even the most advanced electronics Equestria had to offer… Even if nothing else came from this whole event, the technological advancements this device, and the things that could be reversed-engineered from it, would cause, was going to change Equestria.

She loaded the pony’s weapons on to her back, all very strange designs, but most likely meant for use with those bipedal bodies. “We all ready?” She said once she marched up the stairs and into the living room of the library, there, sitting on cushions on the floor, were Rainbow Dash, Spitfire, Rarity, and Spike.

“Yes, darling,” Rarity began, “But what exactly are those?” She asked, pointing a hoof toward the weapons.”

“Weapons, weapons I have designed after the blueprints Discord had given me… I would have created them perfectly according to the schematics, but I added some of my own improvements... ” Twilight turned to Rainbow and Spitfire, “I haven’t tested your weapons yet, so while I know they’ll work perfectly, do not under any circumstances point them at anything you don’t want to destroy, I have no idea how powerful they actually are… Spitfire, your weapon I have dubbed the H.E.T.V-1-P.” At Spitfire’s confused look, Twilight clarified, “It’s an acronym for High-Energy Thaumic Vapourizer, Mark-Zero, Zero, One, Prototype… And Rainbow, yours is the H.E.L.R.R-1-P or High-Energy Liquid Rainbow Rifle, Mark-Zero, Zero, One, Prototype.”

Everyone nodded. As they did so, a presence fell upon the room, and slithering from up the stairs came Discord, “Wonderful, and right on time!” Discord said, snapping his fingers and transforming the ponies and dragon into four humans and… A thing. Spike had become a little larger, but was still about the size of a pony foal, his scales were sharper, larger, and his forearms were now merged with a pair of wings. His neck was longer and head smaller, sharper, more like that of a crocodile, so to was his tail, easily three times the length it used to be.

Spike yelled, “W-What am I! What are you!”

“Ah, Spike… I forgot to mention… While ponies don’t exist, at least in the way you understand them on this other world… There is a big old dragon underneath a certain mountain, and I have turned you into a baby version of that thing. Got to blend in with the locals after all...” Discord replied.

Twilight turned to the others, after taking a long, hard, look at spike’s new form. “Oh, yes, about that… Let me do the talking once we encounter other humans or faunus, we don’t want to reveal Equestria before we’ve taken a good long look at this other world and figured out a first-contact protocol.”

“You should also get those clothes on…” Discord continued, “It’s cold where you’re going!”

“Don’t worry, I have an environmental protection spell, but we will take your advice,” Twilight said, raising her hand, glowing a bright purple, and enveloping the others in fields of magic that quickly faded, leaving just the slightest glow, “It should last about five hours with the amount of power I poured into it.”

Rainbow dash moved to her bag and opened it. Inside was a thick coat, lined in fur, coloured like a wonderbolt’s uniform. It went down to her knees and she felt the armour padding on the front and back of the uniform when she slid it over her chest, the collar went all the way to her neck and she didn’t like how it felt on her throat, but wore it anyway. She was pleased to see a wonderbolt medal was already pinned to the front of the coat, as well as a large gold medal shaped like Celestia’s cutie mark, and it came with a rainbow-coloured scarf and thick, black, fur-lined, pants and thick, black, fur-lined, boots. Written on the scarf were the words: Die Rainbow Kampfflieger.

She slung her weapon across her back, it was some kind of long rectangular device with a handle and trigger on the back, just below the stock, and a long cylinder that protruded from the other end of the rectangle, a knife-like thing sticking out from the bottom. On the top of the weapon was a large box with a cylinder through it, much like a telescope but with a cross on its lenses, and a dial on the side, the words: Optical, Night-Vision, Thermal, Thaumic, and X-Ray were underneath a series of switches on the other side of the box. From the bottom of her weapon were a pair of tubes that went to a pair of tanks she mounted to her belt, one filled with a bright yellow liquid, the other with a bright red liquid… Both she recognized as types of liquid rainbow.

Spitfire’s clothing was the most simple of them all, an insulated suit that looked exactly like a wonderbolt suit, but it was also the most armoured, covered in heavy metal plating painted white, with the exception of her right pauldron that had the wonderbolt symbol painted in gold on it. Her weapon was equally odd, it was also a large rectangle, but with cylindrical coils inside an indented area on top, on the bottom was a tank of liquid rainbow connected by tubes and hoses to different parts of the weapon. On the front was a long glass cylinder with a metal rod for a core, extending to a metal cap on the end from which protruded a long spike. Over the coiled part was some kind of rail with sights.

Rarity wore a long white robe with a sash around her waist that matched her mane colour, a golden tiara, and intricate golden and purple designs that looked like twisting fire trimming her outfit. It bore several intricate pieces of gold jewellery, including silver sabatons, greaves, and gauntlets, trimmed with intricate gold designs that took the forms of various diamond shapes. Her dress was held together by pins and broaches that held perfectly cut blue topazes that perfectly resembled her cutie mark, including one on her tiara and ones on the backs of her gauntlet’s hands, those two in particular radiated with magical energies.

On her belt-like sash was a shortsword, a very advanced shortsword. The blade was single-sided, like a thestral falchion, or a kirin katana, but unlike those other two examples, the blade was relatively small, straight, and short, more like that of a knife. The more unique part of the blade was the material it was made of, a transparent cyan crystal, perfectly cut too. It had been the perfect material to receive enchantments, and thus Twilight poured some magic into the blade to drastically increase its durability, making it far harder than steel. Around the base of her blade, right above the crossguard, or rather, lack of a crossguard, was a metal device of some sort. Below that was the handle with a swept hilt that rejoined the handle just below the pommel, said pommel being another blue topaz that looked exactly like the unicorn’s cutie mark.

Twilight’s clothing, was actually armour… Proper armour, not just the armoured boots and gauntlets of Rarity. She wore a bulky plate mail that, upon putting the whole suit on, suddenly felt different… There was magic weaved into this suit, and as she moved her body, she noticed the plates morphing along with her movements, merging and unmerging, flowing like water over her skin, moving in impossible ways as if it existed in more than just the standard three dimensions… It wouldn’t impair her movement at all… But, on the other hoof… Or she supposed she should say hand, it would make her stand out, she needed to place some kind of disguising spell on it. Her armour was some kind of black undersuit with blue armoured plates trimmed in brass, her right pauldron featuring her cutie mark, and left featuring Celestia and Luna’s cutie marks over each other. Amethysts decorated her knees, gorget, and the backs of her hands, the gems glowing with magic… With the light shining in their cores, the gemstones almost looked like eyes. Her gauntlets had sharp brass claws, and her boots featured high brass heels and a pair of spiky decorative claws that made her feet look like those of a raptorial bird. Her armour was covered in intricate brass designs, both spiky and flowly, like barbed vines… If one stared closely at these designs, one would see that they were moving ever so slightly and ever so slowly… Like winding serpents crawling across the ground.

Discord turned to them before speaking, “Anything more anyone wants to say before I send you on your way?”

“No…” Twilight said, looking around the room, after waiting for someone to speak up.

“Good… Now, one last thing, a warning,” Everyone looked nervous as Discord spoke, “This is the last I’m going to help, this is the last I’m going to manipulate and decide the events… From this point on, your actions are your own, and what you do I leave up to you…” Twilight gulped, Discord’s serious face gave way to one of amusement, “Now I’m off to have tea with Fluttershy! Off you go!”

And like that, they vanished.

Twilight was cold… Even behind her spell, she felt the chill in the air, but perhaps that was also because she had the least insulated armour, everyone else got fuzzy furry clothing, and she got the alien plate armour.

The snow was thick in the air and on the ground. Her boots trudged through meter-thick snow as Rainbow Dash and Rarity helped Spitfire from out of a pile of snow she had fallen into, unable to get up. It was the dead of night, Spike was sitting on Twilight’s shoulder, cupping his claw-wings together, breathing fire onto himself for warmth. “W-Where, are we?”

“Somewhere cold… That’s for sure… Reminds me of the Crystal Empire…” Rainbow Dash said, flapping some of the snow from her wings, gliding a little bit off the ground to avoid trudging through the snow, followed by Spitfire who started doing the same thing… Both receiving rather annoyed looks by Rarity, who was forced into a fate of being half-buried in snow.

Then, Twilight made the mistake of looking up… There, in the vast sky, were none of the stars she recognized, nor any celestial objects, but that… That wasn’t the only thing up there. “Sweet Celestia!” Rarity gasped.

“Holy shit…” Spitfire whispered under her breath.

After a period of silence, a stunned Rainbow muttered, “Well… I wonder what Luna would say.”

Twilight wasn’t sure before now… Discord was unpredictable, part of her didn’t believe that there really was another world out there, the monster the creature summoned could have just been one of his creations, he could have sent the fillies to some other part of Equus, he could have just came up with humans off the top of his head… She was careful though, there was the possibility that the serpent had been telling the truth, that was why she agreed to this adventure, that was why she brought her camera with her in her saddlebags, but nothing she could have done to prepare would have prepared her for this… Up there, in the sky, sat the moon, one side shattered into thousands of pieces.

She was excited about the possibility of another world, but now, that excitement turned to fear… She had just thrown herself face-first down the rabbit hole, and if that warning Discord gave was true, there was no turning back.

“I-I” Rarity sputtered, “I didn’t believe it at first…” Spitfire was still swearing under her breath, meanwhile, Rainbow drifted higher into the sky, as if trying to get closer to the shattered moon.

“T-This…” Rainbow began, “This is awesome!” She yelled, “We get to explore a whole new world!” She yelled into the midnight tundra.

“Spike!” Twilight shouted, forgetting he was on her shoulder.

“Quiet down for Celestia’s sake!” Spike replied, holding his wing-claws to his ears, “What!”

“Write a letter to the princesses, now!” She said, allowing her panic to show in her trembling voice. She raised an arm and levitated out a quill and parchment from her saddlebag.

“I’ll try,” Spike muttered, “I don’t think these claws are good for writing.”

“Dear Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, and Prince Shining Armor… It appears Discord was not tricking us regarding the location of the foals from Ponyville, as you had previously suspected. I have made my trip to this other world, and have seen for myself evidence pointing to this being a completely different planet. Just from a cursory examination, I can tell that none of the constellations, celestial bodies, or nebulae visible from Equus is visible from this planet… Even more concerning, this world’s moon appears to be broken, as if a portion of it was blown apart, I am unsure how it even stays in orbit or doesn’t collapse back into an orb, unless powerful magic is involved and I cannot feel it from my current location. I wish Luna were here to inspect the celestial body herself. The location I have landed is sub-temperate, possibly arctic judging from the lack of foliage, snow covers the ground at least a meter deep, and I cannot see any signs of flora or fauna in my immediate vicinity. Luckily, Discord had provided us with clothing befitting of this kind of weather, and I have cast a spell keeping us from environmental harm, unfortunately, the cold is so strong that it’s somehow chilling me, even with my spell in place. The far larger worry for myself and my comrades at the moment is lack of food. We will set out in search of civilisation immediately, and I will continue to report my findings… Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

Spike finished writing down the last letter, even in his unfamiliar body, his claw-writing was decent from years of writing reports. With that, he rolled the scroll up and sent it off with a puff of green flame, the scroll vanishing in a pop of magic. “Well, at least the spell worked,” Spike said.

Spitfire had shaken off the shock of seeing the shattered moon and regained some of her stoic military composure. “Listen up!” She shouted, catching the attention of the ponies present, “Rainbow, grab Rarity and let’s all fly upward until we can get a good aerial look of our surroundings, and make note of any landmarks… From there, we can see if there’s any nearby civilisation, and make our way there.”

Twilight and Rainbow both nodded and took flight, Rainbow reaching down to carry Rarity in her arms. Soon they had taken off, they couldn’t go too high, the higher they went, the colder it got, and they didn’t want to risk dropping Rarity either, but even from just a few dozen meters off the ground, they could see a brightish light on the horizon, “Light, probably fifteen kilometres away, that direction,” Twilight pointed, “Looks white, so unless this planet doesn’t orbit the same kind of star, or has odd atmospheric phenomenon, I’m guessing it’s artificial and not solar.”

“Right, let’s get back to the ground and start trotting,” Spitfire replied.

With that, they floated down, heading in the direction of the light.

Chapter 22: The Element of Magic

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“Lavender Lake… John Brown… Nia Whitemane… Night Shade. The four of you retrieved the black pawn pieces, from now on you will work together as, Team Legend, lead by Lavender Lake.”

Ozpin spoke as, when their names were called, students filed onto the upper platform in the auditorium. It was late in the evening, the sun had set, and the students all had some time to recover from their excursion through the woods, most had returned intact, but more than a few had scratches, cuts, or bruises.

“Joan Grey... Angel Pico… Cerule Quinn… Koa Van. The four of you retrieved the white bishop pieces, from now you will work together as, Team Jack, lead by Joan Grey.”

Already several other teams had been put together, now the fillies waited alongside Ruby, Jaune, and the few others that they had come to know at this school.

“Russel Thrush… Cardin Winchester… Dove Bronzewing… Sky Lark. The four of you retrieved the black bishop pieces, from this day forward you will work together as, Team Cardinal, lead by Cardin Winchester.”

More clapping followed as the newly formed team marched their way off the stage. The fillies eagerly awaited their turn, knowing that they would most likely be on the same team, as they had retrieved, together, the white queen piece. Jaune waved to the others as he, Pyrrha, Nora, and the quiet one all made their way to the stage as Ozpin said their names.

“Jaune Arc… Lie Ren… Pyrrha Nikos… Nora Valkyrie. The four of you retrieved the white rook pieces, from this day forward you will work together as, team Juniper, lead by Jaune Arc.”

Jaune wore a look of confusion as the ever excited Nora hugged the quiet boy next to her, and Pyrrha simply smiled as she knocked the boy over before helping him back up. Ruby was next to wave to the girls as she stepped toward the stage.

“Blake Belladonna… Ruby Rose… Weiss Schnee… And Yang Xiao Long. The four of you retrieved the white knight pieces, from this day forward you will work together as, team Ruby, lead by Ruby Rose.”

Yang ran over to hug her sister, shouting, “I’m so proud of you!” While Weiss looked on in shock, but they made their way off stage to clear room for the last team to be assembled, all while Weiss continued to stare at Ruby. The fillies trotted their way onto the stage, Scootaloo’s wings flapping in excitement, and Apple Bloom’s tail swishing back and forth. Sweetie wore a simple smile while Diamond kept a neutral and reserved look as their names were called.

“And finally… Scootaloo Allgood… Diamond Tiara… Sweetie Belle… And Apple Macintosh. The four of you retrieved the white queen pieces, from this day onward you will work together as, team Trass, lead by…” Sweetie smiled, as Scootaloo and Apple Bloom looked at her, “Diamond Tiara.”

“What?” Apple Bloom muttered. Sweetie’s smile faded as Scootaloo turned to look at the pink-maned girl, who was equally shocked, said shock turned to a look of pride a moment later. They made their way off stage, Ozpin muttering something to himself in the background.

Weiss was angry, for many reasons, but managed to keep herself under control… That was until one tiny little thing sent her over the edge. She had set her things next to her bed in her team’s new dorm room, she was thankful for getting a team of all girls, but that relief was overshadowed by the dunce of a leader they had. She was replacing the fire dust she had expended in the forest, she opened her rapier’s chamber up and pulled out the expended dust cartridges, popping them open, and drawing replacement dust vials from a briefcase.

Strange, plant dust was usually a darker green, this looked more like off-colour wind dust… Wait, she didn’t have any plant dust on her, and she didn’t keep any wind dust in this briefcase. She looked down at the label, Fire Dust… Why was fire dust green, it was never green, sometimes dust would have a slightly different colour than normal, but fire dust was always a shade of red or orange.

This was the one… “Ruby Rose!” Weiss shouted.

“What is it now Weiss,” Ruby said from the bathroom, her voice easily loud enough to penetrate the sound of a running shower.

“What did you do to my dust!”

Ruby peaked her head, dripping with water, around the doorframe, “I didn’t do anything to your dust!”

“Ruby! Get back in the shower!” Weiss yelled, covering her eyes as the naked form of her leader marched into the room, “And don’t get water on the carpet!”

“Fineeee,” Ruby whined.

“Well, someone did something to my fire dust, it’s all green.”

“Green? Like a minty green?” Ruby asked.

“Yes, what did you do to it!”

“I don’t know, ask Sweetie Belle.”

“That faunus girl? What does she have to do with this, you were the one who was messing with my dust yesterday!”

“I don’t know, but whenever she uses her semblance on dust it turns green... I saw her turn a big chunk of electricity dust green.”

Weiss growled in the back of her throat… Of course, it was the faunus girl, it was always the faunus that messed with her life, it was always the faunus that caused trouble... That girl probably screwed up her dust on purpose to mess with the life of a Schnee, they would do anything to insult, assault, harm, and kill her family, all for some stupid idea that they mistreated their kind… Couldn’t they see that they deserved to be treated the way they are for all the violence and death they cause? Couldn’t they just leave her alone!

Twilight crossed over a hill and finally caught a glimpse of the source of the distant light. A city, a cloud city! No… Not a cloud city, there were no clouds, it was a floating landmass, levitating over a much larger city underneath… It reminded her of Rainbow Falls, of both a flying city and surface city interconnected, except liquid rainbow wasn’t flowing from magically enriched clouds. Instead, the city above had a slight blue tint, as the glowing blue lights cast cold colours across the sky, meanwhile, the city below was illuminated orange.

“Woah… How are they doing that, I don’t see any clouds!” Rainbow Dash gasped.

“I don’t think those cables can hold up such a large landmass… And I don’t want to think about how much cloud it would take to keep all that in the air,” Spitfire retorted.

“The magic being used here must be incredible… You wouldn’t know just how hard it is to keep something floating without constant telekinesis,” Rarity commented.

“Levitation enchantments don’t last very long, and are hard to pull off unless one is experienced in telekinetic manipulation…” Twilight was prancing in place, she had disguised her alien armour to look like a simple winter robe with arms, “Look at this, imagine turning all of Canterlot into a flying city like this one! Imagine everything we could do with this magic!”

“Well then,” Rainbow Dash said, “Let’s hurry up, it isn’t getting any warmer out here…”

“One moment, I need to document this!” Twilight said, levitating out her camera and taking several photos of both the city above, the city below, and the shattered moon. “Spike, send a letter to the princesses, and attach these photos,” Twilight commented, passing the dragon the stack of images.

“Already on it!”

“Dear Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, and Princess Mi Amore Cadenza… In my expedition into this alien world, I have come across a type of flying city, similar to Cloudsdale, Las Pegasus, and Rainbow Falls upper districts. Attached to this letter are images of the city, and the city below it, as it appears to have an even larger city below the primary floating landmass. As you will notice, this landmass isn’t held up by clouds, so some kind of magic is most likely involved. The lower city is lit with several orange lights, I presume they are using fire-based illumination, meanwhile, the levitating landmass is illuminated blue, I presume magic-based illumination is in use in the upper city… I as of yet do not know the reason for this discrepancy, perhaps the reason is economic or ability-based, such as a higher concentration of unicorns, or this world’s equivalent, living in the upper city… Attached are also images of this world’s broken moon, I would like Luna to inspect the images and report her thoughts on the subject. Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

Sweetie didn’t want to be in the room right now, Scootaloo was reading her comics, Apple Bloom was in the shower, and Diamond was yelling at everyone for being lazy blank-flanks… And so she sat outside JNPR’s room, hiding from Diamond’s control. Suddenly, the door on the other side of the hall opened, and out stepped the girl in pure white, wearing some kind of short dress.

“Weiss?” Sweetie asked.

She pulled out a vial of dust, green dust, minty green dust… Oh… “What exactly did you do to my dust!” The girl growled, closing the door behind her.

Sweetie instinctively raised her arms to block a blow, “I-I just used a bit of telekinesis on it, I-I don’t really know what it does to the dust, it j-just happens whenever I use my powers on it.”

“Can you reverse it! Can I still use my dust! If it’s unusable you’ll be paying for it!”

“Y-Yes, I think you can still use the dust, I think… Twilight told me once about different kinds of magic, o-of power being bonded to certain ponies… Or, ere, people, b-but I don’t think that’s what I did to your dust, I think it’s just a colour change from exposure to my energy… M-My aura… It should still work fine… Probably…”

“I did not understand a word you just said…” Weiss replied, still angry.

“L-Look…” Sweetie said, waving her hand and floating over the vial. Weiss quickly snatched it out of the air, “I’m not going to hurt it… Just test it.” Reluctantly, Weiss let go of the vial and Sweetie took it in her hand, unplugging the cork and telekinetically raising the dust out of the vial.”

“T-That’s an impressive semblance there,” Weiss said.

“The professors keep calling it energy manipulation, I just call it magic.”

Weiss looked confused, “Don’t be ridiculous, semblances aren’t magic… Where did you get that idea?”

“Well, look…” Sweetie said, snapping her fingers in an imitation of discord. At that, the fire dust started to emit green fire, just tiny little flames around each particulate, but enough to cast a dim green light, and send little yellow-green sparks dancing around in the air… Weiss stared, entranced at something Sweetie couldn’t quite fathom. “W-What is it?”

“The dust, it’s not disappearing, that fire should have only lasted a few seconds before the dust is all used up…”

“Well duh… Sure, there’s energy in the dust, but I’m not actually using that energy, I’m using my own, and simply channelling it through the dust… The way you do things sounds so inefficient.”

“But, how… It’s impossible to use your aura like that!”

Sweetie shrugged, “You want to see some other spells I know?” Weiss raised an eyebrow, but didn’t object, and so Sweetie raised her hand and created a small bubble-shield in her palm. “Shields are kinda tricky, Twilight, a friend of mine, showed me this a while ago, it’s hard, but I’ve gotten the hang of it… The hardest part is making the shield a certain size and shape, luckily there’s some safeties written into the spell-matrix that prevent shields being created inside solid matter, that way I don’t cut something apart or hurt someone.”

“S-Spell matrix?” Weiss asked…

“Yeah, don’t you use them, I’ve seen you make one… By the way, really good work with the matrix, if a bit uncreative, I don’t see why you don’t just make the matrixes in your head and cast the spell without the need for the illusionary glyphs.”

“W-What do you mean? My semblance? What do you know about my semblance!”

“I know that it’s really inefficient… Watch,” With that Sweetie raised her hand and created a simple illusion of light, telekinesis without the force, simply the glow. She twisted her power into a circle, “See this, all matrices, with a few exceptions, are based inside the circle…” She then pulled her power outward, creating a circle within the circle, “Some have two or even three concentric circles, these make the spell more stable, at the cost of increasing the complexity and power requirements…” She dispelled the inner circle but kept the external one, “Next, you need some kind of pattern, this is what gives the structure of the spell, it’s the base of the code you’re going to be putting into the pattern.” With that, a triangle of light appeared within the circle, “Triangles are the most basic, but other people work better with other shapes, Twilight uses a six-pointed star… Rarity, my sister, uses concentric diamonds, and I use hexagrams… But of course, any shape will work.”

Weiss stared, entranced. “That looks just like-”

“Yep,” Sweetie copied Weiss’s glyph to the best of her memory, it wasn’t perfect, but it was close enough to use as a demonstration, “See, you’ve added a lot of unnecessary structure, it’s two concentric circles, inside which is a hexagon, inside another, overcomplicated, hexagon, with six arrow-shapes pointing out from the sides of the outer hexagon, and these bigger pointier arrow shapes facing out of the outer hexagon’s faces… It’s great for really advanced spells, but for simpler abilities, it’s just way too complicated, I can see why you need to create an illusionary representation of it when casting… Keeping all that in your head would be a nightmare.”

“What do you mean? I can’t follow a word you’re saying…”

Sweetie sighed, “I’ll just start from the beginning… Look, where I come from, some pon… People, can share their abilities with these shapes, we call them spell-matrixes.”

“Y-You can share semblances?” Weiss wore a look of confusion and worry… And no small amount of sarcasm, as if she really didn’t believe it.

“I guess you can think of it that way… Now, back to what I was talking about, just try to create a simple hexagon inside the circle…”

Weiss just scoffed, “You’re just crazy, you can’t share semblances, you can’t do magic, you’re just a confused little faunus girl with a rare and powerful semblance that seems magical, at least to you…”

Sweetie just sighed, “You really don’t believe me, even after doing magic yourself…”

“Look…” Weiss just said, “Will my dust work or not…”

Sweetie handed Weiss her vial of green fire dust, “Yep, it should… I think…”

“You think?” Weiss said, unimpressed.


“Well, if it doesn’t work anymore, you’re paying for it…”

“Fine… Just talk to Diamond, she’s in charge now, and that means she’s in charge of the money…”

Weiss walked back to Team RWBY’s room, leaving Sweetie alone in the hall once again, she went over in her mind the strange way the humans and faunus thought of magic… To them, magic wasn’t real, instead, they used Aura and Semblances, obvious uses of magic to a pony, but called them something else… Whatever kind of magic it was, it was certainly less flexible than pony magic, it was more like a unique power, like Fluttershy’s stare, which was a kind of magic, just something more ingrained into a pony… Like a cutie mark… Like a cutie mark… That was one way to think of semblances, like cutie marks…

Sweetie’s train of thought was disrupted when she heard a voice call down from the hall, “Sweetie Belle,” Said Diamond, “It’s time to go to sleep, I will not have you sleeping in for our first day of class… I will not be getting a bad grade thanks to your lazy blank-flank butt!”

Sweetie sighed… Then pulled herself up off the floor.

Chapter 23: First Impressions

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Something was coming, a dark magical presence, rapidly approaching, “Girls, something’s coming!” Twilight shouted to the others. They drew their weapons and started looking around, expecting something to come running through the snow any second. As it got closer, they saw, through the moonlight, the shapes of beasts, looking like oversized cats, with bone-armour.

“Perhaps they’re friendly?” Rarity asked.

Rainbow and Spitfire rolled their eyes and took aim with their weapons. First to fire was Spitfire, her gun glowed a brilliant golden yellow, and made a loud zapping-boom noise, as a bolt of energy blasted forth from the spike at the end, moving so fast it left a trail of light in the air it passed through. One of the cats was hit square in the head, the bolt travelling through its entire body before continuing out the other side, the cat’s entire body glowed a brilliant orange as it dissolved into vapour in an instant, leaving burning orange ashes in the air.

There came a loud whine from Rainbow’s rifle, a moment later followed by a cacophony of tzh-tzh-tzh noises, each burst of noise brought with it a burst of brilliant ruddy light that lanced out in a solid beam, each beam cutting deep through the target, and turning part of the target to softly glowing red ash. She only held down on the trigger for a second, but in that time twenty or thirty separate beams of energy lashed out, ripping dozens of holes in one of the giant cats.

Rainbow looked down at her weapon with awe and appreciation, “Woah… By Celestia…”

“You can awe over your weapon later, more are coming!” Spitfire shouted, taking aim at another bone-cat. Before she could pull the trigger though, a blur of cyan shot past and cut clean through the cat, slicing it in half, Spitfire looked behind her to see Rarity, her shortsword returning to its mistress’s side, held in a pale blue telekinetic field. As Rarity launched her sword at another target, Spitfire took aim and fired off another blast of orange brilliance, again exploding another cat into orange ashes.

Tzh-tzh-tzh-tzh-tzh-tzh-tzh-tzh- Rainbow unleashed another rapid-fire burst of light-beams, this time moving her weapon back and forth, washing her fire over the cats, and cutting down three at once.

Twilight was hopping with joy, “I couldn’t ask for a better test of my design’s abilities!”

“It would be nice if you could help!” Rarity yelled, launching her sword outward at another cat.

Twilight's wings flared and flew upwards into the air, raising her hands, feeling magic flow through them, her arms glowing a brilliant purple, little balls of light manifesting in the palms of her hands, so bright that they looked like miniature suns, and cast the arctic tundra in brilliant purple. She pointed her arms toward the remaining giant cat monsters, all of whom had stopped in their tracks and looked moments away from fleeing.

Twilight opened her eyes, glowing pure white with all the magic flowing through her body at this moment. She lowered her arms, pointing them at the cats, all of whom immediately turned to run. They didn’t get far, as a second later, she let go, and the twin stars of magical energy she had held in her palms flew forth, for the fraction of a second that they passed through the air they resembled falling stars. The blasts impacted the ground… It was a very simple spell, a modification of both telekinesis and a shield, designed by Clover the Second, during the Great Crystal War… It simply required a lot of power to cast, and Twilight had plenty of power, perhaps a bit too much power, as in her excitement, she let a portion of her might as an alicorn flow through into her casting.

The ground shook. From the points where the bolts of magic hit the ground there came great plumes of snow, dirt, and shattered rock, reaching twenty or thirty meters into the air… Were it not for their aura, the ponies below would have had their eardrums exploded and the shrapnel would have torn at their bodies… Only the monsters were harmed, and the explosions tore them to shreds, the pressure wave sent everyone on the ground flying backwards into the snow, and Twilight falling to the ground.

“Oww…” Rainbow whined, pulling herself free from the snow.

“Warn us next time!” Rarity shouted.

As Twilight pulled herself free from the snowy ground, she stared at the crater she had made, a bit embarrassed at letting so much magic into the spell… “S-Sorry, still getting used to my own power…”

“You’ve been an alicorn for, like what, two or three months at this point…” Rainbow said.

“I was excited!” Twilight replied, “Don’t tell me that you haven’t accidentally set off rainbooms when you’re excited… I’ve seen you do it.”

“You could have killed us!” Rarity shouted. They spent the next few minutes picking themselves and their dropped weapons off the ground and shaking them clear of snow. As they were getting ready to depart, Spitfire turned to the others.

“Something’s coming this way…”

“More monsters?” Rainbow asked, readying her auto-blaster.

“I don’t think so,” Spitfire pointed toward a flying shape that was rapidly approaching, easily faster than most pegasi.

Something had exploded off in the tundra… An explosion large enough to set off the seismic sensors in one of the military bases down in Mantle. The explosion was relatively small, but the sensors were calibrated to pick up anything from an exploding artillery shell to a leviathan attack, all to serve as an early warning system… Be it for a grimm attack, mine collapse, or hostile invasion. It served its purpose well, and had stopped several large-scale grimm invasions, and warned the military whenever a dust mine collapsed, helping to scramble paramedics and evacuation crews… But, this warning wasn’t one of those… The size and pattern of the explosion looked more like a cannon on a battleship striking the ground, and so the Atlas military responded.

A single dropship was loaded with the new AK-200 prototypes, if nothing else, it would serve as a good test of the machines before they would be revealed to the public in a few months. The ship flew off from the base and off into the arctic ice-fields. As they approached the crater, they saw four figures in the snow, “Fly us in closer and activate the speakers…” The co-pilot said.

The other soldier nodded and flipped a few switches before descending. Meanwhile, down on the ground, the purple-haired faunus… With both wings and ears… And a tail… Pulled out a strange and archaic-looking camera and took a picture of the dropship, something that caught both the pilots off guard. Picking up the speaker, the pilot said, “Keep your weapons holstered, we’re coming into land…”

The four women… All of whom were faunus, two of them had wings and one more had a purple tail that matched her hair. What were they doing out here? And so well-armed too? Were they huntsmen, if so they were unlicensed… Which was even stranger to consider, when one of them didn’t have a weapon. The four women put away their weapons and came to stand in front of the ship as it came into land, two of them held themselves perfectly straight, as if soldiers, meanwhile the one with the dark purple hair looked bored, and the one with the striped purple hair looked… Excited? "They're probably White Fang, trying to collapse a dust mine with that explosion, be careful," The pilot muttered.

The copilot drew his sidearm as he left the comfort of the dropship and marched out into the cold night, meanwhile the pilot kept his hand on the dropship’s autocannon controls. “Who are you? And what was that explosion we felt?” The copilot shouted at the faunus women.

“That was me,” The one with the purple striped hair said, “I may have poured a bit too much power into an attack when we got confronted by a horde of large cat-like monsters…”

“You… Were confronted by grimm, sabyrs? And survived?”

The girl simply nodded her head, “Yes, my name’s Twilight Sparkle,” And gave a shallow bow.

The soldier didn’t know how to respond, “Umm… Abraham Locke,” Abraham moved back to the ship and pressed a button on his helmet, activating the comms. The woman, Twilight, staring at him intently, “Get the AK’s out here to patrol the area, we’re taking the faunus back to the Atlas Police Department for questioning…”

A door in the back of the ship hissed open and out stepped a series of… Machine-humans, they had the bipedal form of these people, but they were clearly mechanical, with white armoured plates around their legs and arms and torso, with a hairless, faceless, head. Twilight’s eyes went wide, “How did you get these things to articulate so well, where I come from, automatons like these are purely in the theoretical… Look at the movement, does it have some basic form of sapience, or are they given basic commands like most magical constructs, amazing how you blended the magical energies with the electronics, I wonder what kind of spells have gone into constructing this, judging from the blue glow you must be using liquid rainbow as a power source… Although it doesn’t quite feel the same as liquid rainbow, some kind of gemstone based tech like the stuff I have in my lab? Oh, you need to show me how you produce these things!” Twilight was hopping around, looking at the robots from all angles, talking so fast no one could understand a word she was saying.

The copilot raised his pistol, “That’s Atlesian military property ma’am, please step away from it.”

The one with the rainbow hair and wings raised her assault rifle, “Don’t you dare threaten the princess of friendship!”

The orange-haired one leapt in and shoved the weapon downward, “Dash! We don’t want to make enemies of these humans already!”

“No one threatens her, or any of my friends, like that!”

Meanwhile, the dropship’s autocannons turned to face Dash, the tri-barreled weapons already spinning up. The dropship’s speakers came to life again and the pilot shouted, “I said lower your weapons!”

“Rainbow Dash! As your commanding officer, lower your weapon,” The orange-haired and oranged-winged one shouted. Rainbow growled but lowered it anyway, the ship’s autocannon didn’t stop spinning up though.

“Forgive my companions,” The indigo-haired one began, “Twilight can get a little excited at the opportunity of learning something new, and Dash is a bit overprotective of her friends, and a little illogical too… We just want to reach the city over there, it’s rather cold out…”

Twilight had moved back to the group but still stared intently at the machines marching out of the back of the airship. Once they were all out and moving around, the copilot turned back to the women, “I’ll need you to hand over your weapons-”

“You’re not getting my Stormfire!” Rainbow shouted, hugging the rifle tight against her chest.

“You will hand over your weapon, we are the Atlas military, you are in no place to negotiate…” Came the voice of the pilot from inside the dropship.

“Please ma’am,” Abraham said, “You will need to come with us, I do not wish to harm you, but you need to be taken in for questioning…”

“Rainbow!” The orange-haired one replied.

“This is your last warning,” The pilot said from the dropship, “You filthy animals better lower your weapons or I will open fire…”

Abraham pressed the comms button on his helmet and whispered into the microphone, “What? Are you trying to antagonize them!”

“Are you an idiot! These animals are clearly White Fang,” Came the pilot’s voice, “They try to collapse a dust mine, then when we let the AKs go, they try to steal military secrets… And they haven’t dropped their weapons yet, probably just waiting for us to lower our guard so they can stab us in the back… Sloppiest bunch of terrorists I’ve ever seen…”

“Animals!” Shouted the dark-purple haired one, “We’re fighting for our lives out here in the cold, and you ruffians come by and try to arrest us! Worse, you threaten a princess with those alien weapons of yours!”

“Lower your weapon, now!” The pilot shouted over the loudspeaker.

“Rarity, we don’t want to get into a fight already!” Twilight shouted.

Abraham loudly whispered into his helmet’s comms, “Listen! Let’s just take them back to base,”

“I’m not letting these furry freaks anywhere near Atlas… Screw it, just get out of the line of fire,” The pilot replied.

“Argon you racist asshole-” Abraham started to shout into his microphone, but his voice was cut off by the sounds of the rotary cannons clicking into life. He turned to the faunus and shouted a warning, “Everyone! Get down!” And a moment later, the cannons were ready to fire, and all noise was drowned out by the sound of gunfire.

Abraham opened his eyes, expecting the snow to be painted with the blood of the faunus women, their bodyparts scattered everywhere by the tremendous force of the rotary cannon’s dust rounds… Instead, he stared, confused, at a solid purple wall that glittered as the rounds bounced off it.

Chapter 24: Follow the Leader

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The Atlesian Knights raised their rifles, but the rainbow-haired girl was faster, firing off a burst of red beams toward the nearest machine, the beams melting their armour and warping their internal mechanisms. She washed her fire over the hostile knights, meanwhile, Abraham raised his pistol, but before he could understand what just happened, there was a flash of purple, and his body froze solid, not as if he were trapped in ice, but rather, more like lost all feeling in his limbs and torso, rigid as stone… He couldn’t move his arms, he couldn’t feel his legs, his mind was foggy, and all he remembered later was falling over into the snow.

The dropship’s engines roared into life, and as the autocannons continued to fire at the purple barrier, the ship started to rise. Twilight was grunting with the effort, that weapon the ship was using was a whole lot stronger than any crossbow she had blocked, and trying to keep the shield up and cast her stasis spell on the human at the same time was taxing. “Spitfire!” She shouted, “Take out that thing’s weapon!”

Spitfire nodded, raising her vaporizer, firing off a crackling bolt of golden energy toward the dropship’s autocannon. The bolt obliterated the matter it passed through, breaking it down at an atomic level, separating molecules into atoms… It burned clean through the autocannon, and continued on through the hull of the dropship, burning its way out the other end, leaving glowing orange ashes in its wake.

Meanwhile, inside the cockpit, the pilot was panicking, he pulled on the throttle, trying to get the ship up into the air… Whatever kind of weapon the orange featherbrain had used not only destroyed the gatling cannons but had gone clean through the heavy composite armour of the vessel and destroyed many important and sensitive internal components. No matter how hard he pulled back on the throttle, the ship wouldn’t go up. He checked the diagnostics and damage reports, and the collision avoidance mechanisms kept on saying that he was millimetres away from hitting a wall… Walls that were apparently on all sides…

Down on the ground, Twilight struggled to hold the ship in place, she was a good telekinetic, but whatever was propelling that thing was making it hard to hold on… She gasped for breath as she let go of her telekinesis, and the ship, once coated in a glowing purple field, suddenly rocketed off into the air, but, as it did so, one of the engines sparked and burned, little pops signalling internals damaged, and suddenly the ship tumbled in the air before falling back down to the ground with a loud boom, crashing somewhere over the hills…

“Well,” Rarity said, pulling her sword from the neck of one of the automatons… “That could have gone better…”

Twilight got back to her feet, “Let’s grab one of those automatons, I want to inspect them myself... Then, let’s get out of here, more guards are sure to come…”

“What about that Abraham human?” Spitfire asked.

“He should be fine, I cast a stasis spell on him, it’ll keep him asleep while protecting him from the cold… Any human spellcaster can remove the enchantment, it’s a very simple one.”

"If I know anything about the guards, they'll do their hardest to track us down, and with this snow, following hoofprints won't be hard," Rainbow began. "Most of us can fly, but I'm not sure how Rarity can cover her tracks."

"Don't worry darling," Rarity began, "Outside of a princess, you won't find a better matter manipulator."

They still had a few hours before classes, yet Diamond woke the fillies at five in the morning… “What is it?” Scootaloo asked as she was dragged out of her bed.

“At seven-thirty we have lunch, but I want to do some research on our classes and teachers, figure out what we’ll be doing, and how we should prepare…”

Apple Bloom pulled out a few bottles of different coloured liquid, “Plus, I want to test these out!”

“You made some potions?” Sweetie asked.

“Yeah, don’t know what any of them do yet, none of the plants here are the same as back home…”

“Ooh, what’s that one,” Scootaloo said, pointing to the bottle of brightly glowing blue liquid.

“Ice dust and water… Honestly, that one wasn’t even me trying to make a potion, I just wanted some ice yesterday after that big fight, so I put some into water, hoping it would cool it down or something… Instead, it just made this, and I know enough about potions to know that you should never drink an untested potion.” As Apple Bloom talked, Scootaloo grabbed the potion, removed the cork, and started to down the contents… When Apple Bloom was done talking, she turned to see Scootaloo with glowing blue eyes, and ice collecting around her arms. Apple Bloom facepalmed as she just stared at the filly.

Sweetie had already left the room and Diamond was shouting, “Scootaloo! What did Apple Bloom just tell you!” Meanwhile, Scootaloo started to float up into the air, and the room’s temperature suddenly dropped as a powerful wind started to circle around the filly.

Clouds had started to form in the room, puffy, white, and cold… They joined the mini whirlwind forming around Scootaloo as she stared at her arms, veins glowing blue, “This is awesome!” She shouted… Suddenly, the wind wooshed outward, blowing open the windows and scattering the bedsheets and pillows, the clouds dissolved themselves into fluffy white snow and launched outward from the filly, who, in a flash of blue, lost all the energy flowing through her body, and her eyes ceased glowing.

She fell back to the floor with a thump, looking around to see the entire room covered in snow. Apple Bloom pulled herself from the corner, coated in rapidly melting snow, as Scootaloo ran up to her, “That was amazing, is that what it feels like to be a unicorn? I guess I should ask Sweetie that, I was flying! Can you make more, ooh, with different kinds of dust too, I want to shoot lightning from my face!” She shouted, talking so quickly the dazed girl could hardly understand a word.

“Monsters! Daemons! Prowlers of the Night!” The teacher, Professor Port, announced to the room, “Yes, the Creatures of Grimm have many names, but I merely refer to them as prey!”

“Wooh!” Scootaloo whooped, along with a student they recognized from the initiation as Koa Van, up in one of the upper seats. The design was interesting… In all the schools the fillies had ever seen, none had desks set up like bleachers.

“That’s the spirit!” Port replied, “But before we continue… A story… A tale of a young, handsome, man… Me!”

As Port told his story, Sweetie and Diamond listened intently, studying the tale for anything of academic value, Scootaloo was lost in the adventure, cheering and booing along with events in the tale, Apple Bloom was over with Ruby, doodling and sharing notes, while Weiss was growing ever more angry with her team.

Finally, Port finished his tale with the words, “A true huntsman must be honourable, a true huntsman must be dependable, a true huntsman must be strategic, well educated, and wise! So, who among you believe themselves to be the embodiment of these traits?”

Three hands all shot up simultaneously, Weiss, Diamond, and Sweetie. “Good, it seems we have some eager souls in my class…” Port said, still regretting that he couldn’t get a beowolf for his first class… “Now, as much as I’d like each of you to display your abilities, I only have time for one… Perhaps the two members of Team Trass should go together?”

Weiss sat back down in her chair, angry, as Port gestured for Diamond and Sweetie Belle to both stand up, then he pointed to a cage in the corner, “Once you get into your combat gear, let’s test your skills…”

Diamond and Sweetie both left for their lockers and returned not ten minutes later to a class eagerly awaiting their display… As they were away Port told another long and overly dramatic story to the class, as evidenced by the overly ecstatic Scootaloo.

As they stepped down to the classroom’s bottom floor and raised their weapons, Silverglow’s energy field active, and Lapis Luminatus glowing bright with magical energy, the teacher smashed open the lock to the cage and out came charging an abominable boar, “Sweetie! Shield!”

Sweetie Belle charged, the crystalline tip of her halberd sparking with green energy, “Sweetie Belle!” Diamond shouted, rushing forward. Sweetie dodged to the side as the boar charged, launching a bolt of lightning, the bolt hit the boar in the side, but it kept running forward, smashing its tusks into Diamond, sending the girl flying to the back of the classroom, her grip on her sword lost, energy field flickering out and falling to the ground.

“Now what will you do without your weapon?” Port said.

The boar stood atop Diamond, who raised her hands in an attempt to block the blow from the creature’s hooves as it stomped on her. She screamed as its hooves smashed into her face with enough force to break bone should she not have her aura. As the creature reared up for another kick, there was a flash of green, and a minty field of energy materialised around the grimm pig, suddenly the beast was flung into the air, and Sweetie Belle, telekinetically launching her halberd, impaled the monster mid-air, before pulling her weapon back into her hands with her magic.

“Bravo! Bravo! Impressive use of your semblance, a flashy kill...”

Diamond growled as she got back to her feet and went to collect her sword where it lay on the floor, one of the dust crystals cracked. She stared at Sweetie, who, with a look of triumph, returned back to her seat.

“I’m afraid that is all the time we have for today… Remember to cover the reading assignments regarding the different types of grimm and their various sub-classifications… Class dismissed…”

“Early this morning, at approximately 0200 hrs, a small explosion reminiscent of a powerful dust cannon striking the ground was detected in Area-1C, just outside the kingdom’s walls, over one of the larger dust mines operating in that area… It was speculated to be terrorist activity, attempting to collapse the mine, so a dropship loaded with the new AK-200 prototypes was launched to investigate, they have not reported back since and are believed KIA…” Ironwood read out the report… While the terrorist activity part was certainly believable, there was a chance it was the work of an even greater threat… Particularly if what Qrow said was true, if Amber had been attacked, then the likelihood that... she... was setting her sights on Atlas, was growing larger by the second… That was why he gathered the Ace-Ops in the auditorium of Atlas Academy.

“You want us to investigate sir?” Clover spoke up.

“Precisely, head to the last known location of the missing dropship and report your findings… Luckily any tracks the culprits have left should still be fresh, so once you send in your report, continue to track down the perpetrators.”

Everyone gave a salute, then departed, the Ace-Ops heading toward the airship docks, and James back to his office… This was the last thing he needed, he had already made plans to head over to Beacon in two months to assist in the preparations for the Vytal Festival… Oh well, he would just need to wrap this up before he left.

The sun was low in the sky, dawn had passed long ago, but it was far from noon, the mid-morning cold of Atlas was starting to give way to the pleasant chill of a summer’s day, and one by one the Ace-Ops all marched out to the landing pad where an atlesian manta transport was waiting. They filed in, readying their weapons as they took their seats, then the ship took off and flew out into the tundra.

“It’s a bit weird…” Marrow began.

“What?” Harriet replied.

“That we’re being sent out just to apprehend some regular old terrorists.”

“Yeah… That is a bit odd, for huntsmen like us being sent out for something the military should be doing…” Elm continued.

“Whoever these people are, they managed to destroy, or at the very least disable, an armed dropship and the new AK prototypes, the general has good reason to be cautious,” Vine finished.

“Still… Something about this just doesn’t feel right,” Marrow finished.

Chapter 25: Developments of the Technological and the Agricultural

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Massive brick buildings towered over the streets as ponyless carriages zoomed past the humans and faunus walking around on the sidewalks. Twilight was ecstatic, her camera flashed like a human weapon as she captured images of the populace, their vehicles, their homes, and everything else she found interesting. “Twilight, dear, we should really start finding a place to stay,” Rarity muttered.

A man turned to look at them, muttered something under his breath, but turned away a moment later, his gaze chilling the pony’s bones. “This place gives me the creeps…” Rainbow continued, “And it feels so weird, it’s so cold, but so warm at the same time.”

“Yah don’t like it ere!” Another man shouted from a street corner, “We don’t want yah ere either, faunus like you always cause trouble in this city!”

“My dear, I’m afraid we don’t understand,” Rarity began, “We have yet to cause any trouble, back in the tundra, it was the humans who made trouble for us…”

“Oh yes, everything’s always our fault, because you dumb mutts don’t understand your place in this world!”

“Hey!” Rainbow Dash shouted.

Twilight rolled her eyes, raised her arm to block Dash, then pointed a finger toward the man, and with a flash of violet from her fingertip, the man froze solid, mid-speech, and fell over.

“Stasis again?” Spitfire said.

Twilight nodded, “I find it the best way of dealing with drunken ponies…” The group continued onward through the city, looking for something of value, such as a library, store, or hotel of some kind. At a cross in the road, a carriage with a long open back was dropping off what looked like miners or rock farmers of some kind, covered in dust, ash, and soot… All of them had animal parts of some kind.

Twilight was dancing on her feet, “Look at all this, the ponyless carriages, the heating, the lighting, these humans have machines that were only theoretical back home” She moved and approached a human… Wait, no... that human had strange bear-like ears sticking from her? His? They’re head… That was a faunus, wearing a green jacket. “Hey!” She said.

“Hi, what do you need?” The, clearly feminine, faunus asked.

“I was wondering, do you know of any mechanics or engineers living in this city?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, a few, but your best option, particularly if you’re looking for cybernetics, would be Pietro Polendina, he lives down on eighth street, right in the middle of the residential district.”

“Where exactly is this ‘eighth street’, and what exactly are cybernetics?” Twilight asked.

The girl looked surprised for a second, but then grinned as she raised her arm, a contraption made of articulating bits of metal moving in perfect synchronicity, as if it were a real flesh arm. It was plated in various pieces of some strange material similar to ceramic. Twilight’s eyes went wide, “How did you get that to respond to your brain’s commands as if it were actually part of your body, and how does it articulate so well, what’s that material it’s plated in?”

The girl grinned, “Well, I’m sure Pietro can answer all your questions, come on, I’ll show you to his place.”

Professor Peach wore a large round pair of glasses, a pink shirt underneath heavy overalls, and wore daggers around her thighs. Her hair was a pale blonde weaved into a puffy braid, the fillies couldn’t help but envision some ungodly offspring of Applejack and Pinkie Pie. Her classroom was filled with plants of all kinds, and resembled some equally ungodly fusion of a classroom, greenhouse, and garden… It even had a fountain in the back.

“Welcome to my class young huntsmen and huntress-” She paused when she noticed the plants… As Apple Bloom walked into class, the vines started to creep toward her, the trees swayed in her direction, grass grew toward her, and flowers turned to face her.

As the plants gravitated toward the girl’s direction, everyone stared in awe, even as a vine curled itself around the mare’s leg and, like a snake, slithered up her body. She simply stood there and patted the vine on the head, then closed her eyes and suddenly, the plants retreated, returning to the way they once were, vines slithering back to their places, grass dropping down under the weight of their newly grown biomass, and the trees swaying back and forth, as if they still wanted to be near her presence.

Professor Peach got over her shock and started clapping, “Very impressive, your semblance I presume? Some kind of affinity for flora?”

“I guess,” Apple Bloom shrugged, “Plants just like me…” Apple Bloom let a grin pass over her face, “Watch this!” She moved over to one of the trees and planted her fingers in the soil, digging down until she could feel its roots… As she did so, the tree seemed to twist, branches reaching out to their mother. Once she had taken hold of the roots, she let her earth pony magic, powers she rarely needed to call upon, flow openly.

The teacher, the students, and even the other plants watched as the tree grew, twisting upward, limbs reaching outward to brace the ever-expanding plant, its trunk growing larger, leaves turning greener, and more branches sprang from the growing trunk… Soon the uppermost branch of the tree had touched the glass-domed roof, and the glass started cracking as the barrier proved incapable of stopping the tree’s growth. The trunk broke through the glass, somehow without shattering it, simply cracking it, and continued upward, growing larger and larger until a tired-looking Apple Bloom pulled her hands from the dirt and fell to the floor, panting.

“My… Sister,” She said between breaths, “Is a bit better… It’s… How we got… Our farm so big, and… How we keep… Growing apples… So quickly.”

Weiss looked a little angry and… Scared, at the filly. Meanwhile Diamond was shaking her head, muttering, “Showoff…”

“You can do it too…” Apple Bloom said.

“I can,” Diamond replied, “But I’ve never tried before, digging in the dirt is… Unbecoming, of a person, like myself.”

“Well…” Peach spoke up, “Welcome to my class, students… I suppose that was a good welcoming to what we shall be learning… In the wilds, when travelling through a world infested with monsters of all kinds, survival is the goal, and while a big part of that might be combating the creatures of grimm, another part of that is learning the wilds, what is edible should you find yourself in the forest without food, where to find water should you traverse the deserts around Vacuo, how to brave the cold of the north… And, an important part of that survival, is knowing the world around you and the nature that surrounds each and every one of us… I will teach you that very important skill, I will teach you what plants are edible, where you can find water in even the most desolate of deserts, and I will teach you how to brave all kinds of climates thanks to the powers of nature… Shall we begin.”

The teacher trotted over to a chalkboard and began drawing a diagram of a plant that Apple Bloom didn’t recognize, and, once she was done, she explained what it was… A kind of common weed that sprouted around dead trees, one that, when boiled, creates a broth that can help restore one’s aura. While the rest of the class listened intently, took occasional notes, or simply ignored the lecture in boredom, Apple Bloom’s pencil flew across her notebook, writing as fast as thoughts formed in her mind.

She took complete notes of everything the teacher said, she wrote down, in a separate box, questions she would need to ask Peach at a later date, and, taking up a majority of the page, was a growing list of plants, their properties, and how they might be able to be used in potion-making… She was going to need samples.

The manta flew over the target site, Clover stood staring out the window at the scene below. On one side of the hill was a large crater, the distant form of a body lying half-buried in snow lay next to the crater, around the destroyed forms of several AK prototypes. On the other side of the hill was a large trench dug in the ground when a dropship crashed, now half-buried in snow… Even now, hours after it had crashed, it was still spewing smoke from damaged components. The frost around the cockpit was stained a ruddy brown.

“Alright, Vine, Elm, and I will drop next to the dropship’s crash site… Marrow and Hare, you go down to the crater and report your findings.”

Everyone nodded, and as the manta circled around the target locations, the first team jumped down to investigate the crashed dropship, while the aircraft circled around and dropped off the second team down by the crater.

Clover came to a stop on the ground in a puff of snow, he pulled his fishing rod from his back and took cautious steps forward toward the wreckage. In the cockpit was a scene that would traumatise any lesser huntsmen, the dark brown snow was a testament to that, dried, frozen, blood coated every surface, some of it was still a crimson red, even after the hours that had passed… Sitting in the pilot seat, desperately pulling up on the controls, even in death, an atlesian soldier sat, cut to shreds by hundreds of shards of broken glass and impaled through the gut by a long metal rod, neck sliced apart by metal fragments, and legs crushed under the crumpled metal of the cockpit.

Suddenly, there came the voice of Marrow on the comms, “Alpha… We have some good-ish news, and some bad news, come over to the crater and see for yourself…”

“Alright… The crash site requires further investigation though… Just from a cursory glance, I can tell this crash was caused by more than just user error, the crash at that angle and velocity shouldn’t have been lethal, but something had damaged important structural components of the dropship, it looks like it was shot down, but I can’t tell by what kind of weapon… There’s some kind of orange residue around certain components and parts of the ship’s internals look… Melted, for lack of a better term.”

Clover had gone around and forced open the cargo bay door, something had shot at the ship alright, there was a solid line of destruction going through the hull, a good bit of important structural components had been warped apart and electronics were fried, as if a sudden influx of energy somehow bypassed the circuit breakers and fuses and just immolated the wiring.

“Well, as interesting as that sounds… I can guarantee you what we found is far more important,” Harriet came on to the comms.

“Ok, I’m coming…” Clover said, “Vine, Elm… Keep a lookout on the crash site and report if you’ve found anything of note…” With that, Clover trekked his way over to the crater. There, he saw Marrow and Harriet standing over the body of the second atlesian soldier, presumably the copilot, “Cause of death?” He asked.

“Umm…” Marrow began, “We don’t know… We don’t even know if the subject is dead or alive…”

“What?” Clover asked, “Explain.”

“The subject doesn’t have a pulse, heartbeat, lung movement… All signs indicate death, but he’s warm, too warm, even if he were still alive, it’s as if he’s not losing any body heat. Weirder still, he appears frozen solid, not frozen as in cold, but frozen as in non-mobile, it’s as if he were made of iron, his joints are completely locked, his flesh feels as solid as a rock.”

“Get him back to Atlas on the next transport… Any track? Do you have any idea where the perpetrators have gone?”

“That’s the bad news… We’ve identified footprints leading into the snow toward Mantle, two of the four subjects appear to be wearing boots of some kind, one was wearing heels, and the fourth footprint appeared like some large bipedal bird with clawed toes and heels… They go a few dozen meters south-east, then suddenly disappear.”

Trotting through the streets of Ponyville stood a mare, blue mane, grey coat, green eyes. She stepped inside an abandoned house, going to great effort to make sure every window was closed, every door sealed, and that nothing, absolutely nothing, was watching… She raised her horn, and emerald magic swirled around the room, there was nothing hiding from her sight.

Once she was sure she was alone, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Discord…”

Suddenly, there was a magical pressure in the room that the unicorn easily felt, a presence, powerful and ancient, watching her… “I was wondering when the news would reach you, always the schemer…”

“Discord, I’m sure you know what I want.”

“To visit this other world you’ve heard so much about, to find a new home, away from the dangers of this one… Clever, I’ll give you that… Unfortunately for you, I’ve already vowed to no longer interfere with the events that are to unfold…” The voice gave a dark chuckle that chilled even her bones, “But… When have I ever been one to keep promises… Fine, just this once, I’ll make an exception… You’ll even be able to keep your current form, though I suppose ‘form’ doesn’t really matter to you.”

Chapter 26: Three... Two... One... Fight!

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The mare raised her head to the sky… Up there, in the darkness of the night, a moon shone down, but this wasn’t Luna’s moon, this was different, the moon was broken, shattered, pieces drifted through the void above as if it were a broken mirror… Good, this was indeed another world, she reached into her mind and felt a dreadful emptiness… Definitely another world, her connection to the queen, to the hive, was gone.

Not for long… She looked around, she was in some kind of forest, the leaves were a shade of brilliant red, and in the distance, she saw the lights of a city, good… Out of sight, yet close to civilisation, and food… This wasn’t an ideal location, but a more permanent portal could be set up later, for now, she just needed to report her findings, thus, in a field of acidic green magic, the mare drew a small device, resembling a scarab, pulsing with powerful magic. She planted the device on the ground, and with a simple spell, it glowed, a pulse of energy resolving itself into a warped sphere, inside which was the image of her queen.

“Report, were you successful…”

“Yes, my queen…” The mare let the magic surrounding her body go, and in a pulse of green fire, she returned to her true form. “It seems the rumours were indeed true…”

“Good, very good… I shall see this alien world for myself, keep this portal open, I’ll retrieve some more drones and we will set to work finding a location for a proper hive.”

“Yes my queen.” With that, the figure vanished from view. The only things present to witness the creatures that came through the portal a few minutes later were the plants, bugs, and a single, black, crimson-eyed, raven.

The students were surprised when, for their next class, they were taken into the auditorium. Glynda walked out on to the stage and said, “Welcome students, I will be your teacher for your combat classes… These classes will put student against student in friendly sparring matches, it is my hope that the competitive atmosphere of this class will help you all become better fighters in the end… This class also serves another purpose, as many of you know, huntsmen and huntresses do not just fight the creatures of grimm, many of you may find yourselves needing to fight your fellow humans and faunus. Such as chasing down a notorious criminal, or combating bandits in the wild… You will find humans and faunus make far more dangerous foes than the creatures of grimm. However, it is also important that you do not underestimate the monsters of the world, so we may go on field trips into grimm infested territory, or, as some of the second-year students can attest, we may take on some actual assignments later on in the year… So, shall we begin… Who of you wishes to go first?”

In a heartbeat, Scootaloo was jumping up and down, her hands flailing in the air, “Ooh, I want to go!”

“Scootaloo Allgood is it… Very well, anyone want to be her opponent?”

“I’ll do it,” Said a student in the back.

“Dove Bronzewing, very good… Get into your combat equipment, meanwhile, everyone else will sit on the stands,” Glynda gestured to the seats encircling the floor. As Scootaloo dashed off to the girl’s locker room, Apple Bloom stopped her.

“Here, it put it together between classes,” She pulled out a bottle containing a violently glowing yellow fluid.

“Thanks!” Scootaloo replied.

A dozen or so minutes passed and out into the auditorium stepped Dove, dressed in his bronze plated armour and carrying his sword in one hand. Meanwhile, Scootaloo walked out of the locker room in her leather jacket, pistols in hand, potion on her belt, and wings flared. Up above, on holographic displays, it showed the faces of the two combatants above green bars.

“As eager as you are to begin,” Glynda addressed the students, “Let me tell you the rules before you fight… As you can see, those bars represent your aura, your scrolls will have similar displays, they can also connect to the scroll of any other student in Beacon… So, remember to keep track of your aura and the aura of your teammates… Now, when your aura bar turns red, that means you are down to ten-percent or less aura, and that you are disqualified from combat… In a dual between teams, this means you are forbidden from assisting your teammates, and the team that has lost all its members is declared the loser. This is a singles match, so teammates won’t be of concern, just whoever is disqualified first is the loser.”

“Do you understand?” Glynda finished. The two students nodded simultaneously… “Good,” Glynda began moving out of the way of the combatants, “Three… Two… One.” Scootaloo raised both her pistols, meanwhile, Dove pointed his sword directly at the girl, “Begin.”

Almost the exact same second, there came a pop from Dove’s weapon, as a pair of hissing blasts of heat came hurtling toward the boy. Dove screamed and staggered back as he was hit in the chest by the concentrated heat, a trail of plasma from the impact points all the way back to Scootaloo’s pistols dissolving back into gas almost as quickly as it had formed. Meanwhile, Scootaloo shouted as a hard and sharp pain struck her in the shoulder, she glanced down to see a bullet bouncing off her jacket and grunted as she lifted herself back up.

Dove recovered just as quickly and started firing a volley of bullets toward the girl as he marched closer, meanwhile Scootaloo quickly learned to get out of the way of the bullets, and started running around the stage. She raised her guns and fired, one bearly missed the boy and melted part of the wall behind, meanwhile the other passed over the boy’s arm and he dropped his sword. Before Scootaloo could take advantage of the boy’s moment of weakness, Dove dropped and rolled forward, grabbing his sword back into his hand a second later and slashed upward, slashing Scootaloo across the chest.

Scootaloo fell backwards, but, learning from her opponent, rolled out of the way to avoid the blade. She pulled from her belt the potion that Apple Bloom had given her, and in a single motion pulled off the cork and started to down the contents, savouring the electric feeling that flowed through her body. Meanwhile, Dove took his chance to reload, shoving more rounds into the revolving cylinder on his sword.

He looked up to see the girl, electricity flowing across her arms and wings, her eyes glowing a bright golden yellow, and sparks flying from her mouth with each breath. Dove leapt to the side as a stray bolt of lightning flew from the glowing girl, who leapt into the air, leaving behind a trail of ionized gas in her wake. Some of the students on the stands screamed as lightning arced from Scootaloo up across the arena, but were surprised to see force fields blocking the stray bolts from the students.

Scootaloo collected clouds around her arms, meanwhile, Dove raised his sword to fire at the girl, a series of bangs rang forth, but Scootaloo bearly noticed over the energy flowing through her body, then she pointed her arms, humming with energy, toward the boy. There was a flash of light so brilliant the students in the auditorium had to shield their eyes as Dove shouted, his aura dropping by over half in a heartbeat, but he was still in the yellow… That wouldn’t have been so bad for the boy if Scootaloo’s aura had dropped too, but even after her fall back down to the ground after floating so high inside the arena, she was still in the green.

Dove took advantage of Scootaloo’s daze and charged forward stabbing as slashing, but the pain brought the girl back to the present, and she delivered a hard kick to the boy’s crotch as she rolled to recover her dropped pistols. Dove growled as he aimed his sword again and fired at the girl, who screamed as a pair of bullets struck her in the side, but Dove looked down in shock when on the third pull of the trigger, the blade simply clicked.

Scootaloo lifted Flames, she didn’t have the time to go find where the other gun landed, she held her pistol in both hands and aimed, pulling the trigger. From the end of the gun came a torrent of fire dust, glittering as it burned, sending a wave of fire down on Dove. He thrashed, trying to get the dust off his body, as Scootaloo saw where her other pistol, Fire, had landed.

Dove, his armour still burning, charged at the girl and gave a hard kick to her stomach, then stabbed forward with his sword, hitting Scootaloo in the gut. Scootaloo coughed as the wind was knocked out of her, and she aimed her pistol up toward the boy’s face, but it simply clicked as the dust had been expended. Dove loomed over her, still burning, ready to slash downward, when Scootaloo looked at the knife mounted to the end of her pistol and stabbed forward, hitting the boy in the gut too.

Dove was knocked on his back and Scootaloo finally got her other pistol into her hands, she saw the dust that remained in the tank and twisted the knob to the third setting, one she had yet to use in an actual fight until now, the one that used everything still inside the gun in a single blast. Dove had recovered and slashed to the side, Scootaloo falling to the ground, grunting in pain as she fell on her fragile wings.

“Stay down you damn featherbrain!” Dove spat, slamming his boot down on one of Scootaloo’s wings. Scootaloo replied by pointing the end of Fire at the boy’s head, and pulling down on the trigger. There was a loud popping sizzling sound and a buzzer signalled the end of the match. Scootaloo still had half her aura, but Dove’s was now firmly in the red, he sat on the ground, dazed, swearing at the burning sensation that danced over his head as if he just buried his skull in thermite.

Scootaloo ignored all the phantom pain on her shoulder and gut and wing, and leapt upward, hovering for a second as the air in the stadium swirled around her, she let out a loud “Wooh!” and applause and cheering started to rain from the booths, her team celebrating loudest of all. There were several in the students who weren’t cheering, even a few who were booing, particularly Dove’s team, but, none the less, this was the most praise Scootaloo had ever been given, and it filled her heart with a joy unfathomable.

The first day of proper schooling was over… And with it came some rather, unsettling, realization… The Schnees were not the only family with a hereditary semblance… That Apple Bloom girl, a faunus of all things, had one, she had described how her family used their powers on their orchard for generations during lunch. And that Scootaloo girl, how could she handle all that dust in her body, even just a pinch of dust could be painful for someone so young… And that Sweetie Belle girl, she lifted a boarbatusk into the air with little effort, without any gravity dust… At least none Weiss could see… Glynda could probably do it, but Sweetie was just a child, bearly a huntress, from what Ruby had said, she hadn’t even unlocked her aura when she arrived in Vale.

Sweetie Belle, that crazy girl who rambled about magical powers and talked about Weiss’s own semblance like it wasn’t anything special, like it was simple… She had the audacity to call her semblance inefficient! Overcomplicated! As if she could do it better!

There must be some kind of trick, some kind of secret, something that could make sense of this… The Schnees were the only ones with a hereditary semblance, they were the only ones with such a versatile and powerful semblance, she would not be outdone by them, she would not be outdone by animals, those creatures that had attacked and ridiculed her family for years!

She would find it, Weiss would get to the bottom of what kind of trick they were using. And she knew Sweetie Belle was at the center of it all...

Chapter 27: The Hidden Mysteries of Energy and Matter

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It was the middle of the night, yet Sweetie was awake, magic flowing through her body as she practised another page of spellcraft, but sleep was inevitable, and so as she created a flicker of light in her hands, trying to optimise the pattern of the light spell, trying to master her current set of spells before she moved on to the more complicated ones, she fell asleep, lying next to her open tome. What the filly failed to notice was the person standing outside the door, watching through the keyhole as the filly created flickers of light in her palms.

Slowly and silently, the girl in the corridor opened the door and moved to look at the book lying on the floor of the dorm room.

The first proper day of classes was over, and it brought strange omens with it… A silver-eyed girl, several students with powerful and rare semblances, and those odd faunus girls… Perhaps he should have taken those reports from Night and Tai a bit more seriously, Ozpin mused, as he thought of the girls and their powers.

That Scootaloo had a certain affinity for dust, that much was clear, she had injected so much into her body with seemingly no negative side effects, even her aura level remained unchanged when she drank that bottle… If she were secretly using dust, Oz could now understand how her powers could be mistaken for the elemental magic of a maiden. She was still a bit too reckless, but that could be solved in time.

Apple, Ozpin was wrong about her semblance, perhaps her strength was simply a result of her animalistic traits, or perhaps she’s just abnormally strong… Whatever she did to the plants in Peach’s class was clearly some kind of power, manipulation of flora, a hereditary power if the stories she gave about her family were indeed true... In history, there have been several families with hereditary semblances, but most had been lost to time, as far as he knew, the Schnees were the only ones with such a familial connection in over two millennia, it appears he was wrong about that….

Then, there was the purple-and-pink haired girl, the one called Sweetie Belle… Ozpin was wrong about her semblance too, but it’s actual nature illuded him… She certainly had displayed energy manipulation, her energy barriers were proof enough of that, but she had also shown several other strange abilities… She could move physical matter in a similar form to Glynda’s telekinesis, control over both energy and matter, that was magic, no one has ever had such a semblance before… But she couldn’t use magic, what Ozpin saw didn’t look like the elemental powers of a maiden, it must be something else… Perhaps she was one of those kinds of people, those whose semblances revolved around the semblances of others, it wasn’t unheard of for some to have the power to steal other’s powers, and although these kinds of semblances were rare and limited, there is a first time for everything… Perhaps this Sweetie Belle could copy the semblances of others, after seeing Glynda, she could have learned the art of telekinesis, and after encounters with Nikos and Schnee, she easily could have picked up her energy manipulation talents… It wouldn’t explain everything, but it was a start, there was more to that girl, and Ozpin needed to know what, but he would learn in time.

That Diamond girl had yet to do anything spectacular… There was a chance she was the unfortunate one of the group, one without such powerful abilities, but Ozpin knew somehow that such was certainly not the case, she too was powerful, but the man would need to wait a little longer to find out what made her special.

As he trotted down the hall, lost in thought, from the corners of his perception he caught the end of an argument. “-all you’ve been so far is a nuisance…”

“What did I do?”

“That’s just it, you’ve done nothing to earn your position. Back in the forest, you acted like a child and out of everyone those faunus girls are acting more like adults than you!.”

“Weiss, where is this coming from, I thought you wanted to act as a team…”

“Not a team lead by you, I’ve studied and trained, and you have not... Ozpin made a mistake.”

With that, the shape of Weiss Schnee marched down the hallway, a strange book in her hands. Meanwhile, Ruby turned and nearly ran straight into the professor, “Now, I wonder what that was all about?” Ozpin remarked.

Her first few days in this alien world were… Enlightening, to say the very least… When Cozy Glow first appeared in the forests of south-western Sanus, at least that’s what her current companions called the area, she explained to these aliens that she had no memory of how she had gotten there, why she was naked, and why she had no knowledge of humans, faunus, aura, semblance, dust, Remnant, or anything else in the massive list of things she was starting to understand.

“Amnesia, probably some human used a memory-changing semblance on her before throwing her out into the wild for the Grimm…” She overheard these aliens talking when she woke up in the morning following her landing in this world, scraps of black and white cloth serving as a makeshift robe to wear until these… White Fang, as they called themselves, made her something better to wear… Apparently, these creatures, these faunus, had some kind of taboo against nudity, and Cozy Glow could at least somewhat understand that seeing as their skin was so weak, they didn’t possess fur, and their hooves didn’t have the hard bony bottoms of ponies. “Poor girl… At least we came around and saved her before something else found her first.”

“We should get her back to Adam, see if someone in our branch is willing to take care of the child, at least until she can take care of herself… Damn humans, doing something so cruel to a little girl.”

With that, one of these people came into Cozy’s tent, informing her that they needed to pack up, since they were moving somewhere else… Cozy observed as the faunus, with impressive coordination that no doubt came from years of experience, packed up their camp into the backs of these strange ponyless carriages and, when everyone was aboard, moved off into the forest.

Her second day in this strange world was on the road, heading to the leader of these creatures, in central Sanus, near a place called Vale, a capital city of some kind for a nation in this world. Cozy was left alone in the back of a truck, alone with her thoughts, until one of the faunus, a female with the ears of a rabbit atop her head, entered the compartment were the filly lay, next to the disassembled form of a tent, and various crates with the word: Warning - Dust, painted on them.

“Hello…” Cozy said, “What are you doing back here ma’am?”

“Just wanted to check on you… Macfield told me all about how he found you back there in the forest, sound’s rough.”

“I’ll live.”

“Well, you will for now anyway… Want some tea?” The bunny girl said, passing the filly a cup.

Cozy drunk the warm liquid, she had been too afraid at first to ask these creatures for food or water, and the flavour as the tea passed down her dry throat was heaven. “Golly… That’s really good, can I have more?” Cozy asked once she had finished the cup.

“I can make some more for you later, but there is something else I want to talk about…”


With that, the rabbit girl pulled out a boxy grey and red device and offered it to the filly, “Well, if you’re going to be staying with us, you should know how to defend yourself.”

Weiss sat down on her bed… It was a little too much to hope that she wouldn’t be interrupted this night, but that idiot had to get in her way, luckily, she didn’t notice the book she held in her hands. It was untitled, as far as Weiss could tell, the cover was blank aside from a six-pointed star inside a circle covered in markings reminiscent of those Weiss used on her glyphs… The resemblance was uncanny…

She pulled open the cover and stared at the symbol on the first page… It was just like on the cover, a six-pointed star inside a circle outlined in mystical lettering. Underneath it said: “Light. A spell used by unicorns for as long as history can remember, the spell’s original creator has long since been lost to time. Suspected to be one of the first spells created by ponykind, easily as old as telekinesis and ignition.”

Weiss reread the first paragraph over and over again… What are unicorns? How can this book teach magic, it wasn’t even real to begin with! She ignored all the strange gibberish talking about magic, ponies, unicorns, and spells, and skipped straight to a line of mystical letters… That looked promising.

Weiss thought back to what the faunus girl yammered on about back when they met in the hallway last night… Something about writing code into a matrix… Weiss raised her hand and created a glyph. She stared at the alien lettering that encircled her glyph, she never thought about it before, but whenever Winter summoned something, the glyph was different… It also looked different when using time dilation, and, now that she was paying attention, the letters on the glyph were changing, flicking in and out, creating different strings based on what she wanted the glyph to do… She thought about using the glyph as a platform, and the letters changed. She thought about the glyphs as they attracted and repelled, like when she used it during her team’s fight with the giant nevermore, and it changed again. She remembered what her glyphs looked like when she used them to boost someone’s speed, and they changed again.

Weiss also remembered Belle saying something about creating the pattern in her mind, and so, Weiss studied the mysterious letters on the page, imagined the letters on her glyph and replaced them with the ones inside the book… Then, she reached out, like she was using her semblance and… Light.

In the palm of her hand was a glyph, a very small one, in the core of which was a small bead of white light, she poured more power into her semblance, and the light grew brighter, she let go of the power and it dimmed until it vanished…

Raven sat on her bed… Vernal was concerned when she saw the look on her master’s face when she appeared from her portal, but Raven brushed the girl aside and went right into her tent, refusing entry to anyone until further notice… That most of all concerned the young woman.

Raven thought over what she had seen in the Forever Fall forest… She had never imagined it, there was other life out there, humans, faunus, grimm, they weren’t the only creatures in this universe… A flash of white light drawing her attention, a creature, horse-like, but brightly coloured with an enlarged head and small torso, with large humanesque eyes. Said horse creature using a device of some sort, an insect-shaped machine, to create a portal much like Raven’s very own semblance… Then, a series of abominations marching through the gateway, ten in total, similar in shape to the first horse-like creature, but covered in black chitin, with green insectoid eyes, led by a creature that towered over them all, some kind of matriarch, far more in proportion to an actual horse, with a sickly green mane and tail, a wickedly curved and jagged horn protruding from its head…

Raven simply sat on her bed, trying to comprehend the implications… What were those beings doing in this world? How had they found it? How would the people of this world react when they learned what Raven had just learned? And most importantly, what more was there to learn about these creatures? What was their world like? What kind of magic was involved in all this?

A litany of hows, whats, whens, wheres, and whys rolled through her mind as she wondered… Then, one thought came floating to the surface of her scattered, panicked, thoughts… This was perfect…

Raven, ever since learning the truth of Ozpin, of Salem, of the Gods, she had been filled with a sense of hopelessness that she desperately pushed to the back of her mind… Someday, someday soon, Salem would win, there was no defeating her, the only hope for survival was to hide from her, but you could only hide for so long. The idea that there were other worlds out there, filled with life, accessible through some kind of alien magic, that made hiding a far easier prospect…

Raven knew how to get out of Salem’s grasp for good, she could run to this other world, she could bring her tribe with her, and with the spring maiden gone from this world for good, Salem wouldn’t be able to win… The idea was perfect, almost… There was one problem… How would she flee to this other world, and what would she do once she got there… She would need to learn more about these aliens, learn more about their home, and figure out exactly what they wanted, that way Raven could trade for what she desired.

For now, she would watch, and pray that Ozpin never found out about these creatures… Unlikely, very unlikely, but Raven didn’t want her plan jeopardized by that liar, if Ozpin discovered this other world, no doubt he would try to hide the relics and other maidens there, which would bring Salem’s gaze… But that was something that could wait for the future… Right now, she was tired, and needed sleep…

And so, Raven slept.

Chapter 28: The Second Day

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When Twilight entered the building, the first thing she noticed was, of course, the books. By the time Pietro and the panda-eared girl noticed, Twilight had already collected a stack of books, “These are so amazing! So this dust stuff is used to keep your airships and cities afloat, and you use it to power all this electricity-based technology, how is it made exactly? What are its specific properties? How did you discover it? And look at all the machines, I would have never thought of half these things, cybernetics, scrolls, androids, how are they all made? Can I inspect the places where you produce them? Do you use your androids in your factories, oooh, can you use androids on rock farms, do you even have rock farms… You must, I don’t know how else you can produce dust! Oh, and look at your guard’s armour, I’ve never seen materials like these before, what’s plastic?” Twilight babbled, taking faster than anyone could comprehend, hopping in place with her books.

Pietro wore a look of stunned confusion from behind his desk as the others entered, “Ah… Laywind, good to see you again,” He said to the panda-girl, “And uhh… Who are these friends you’ve brought with you?” Looking at the purple-haired faunus woman currently molesting the schematics for a coffee maker.

“Oh, just some faunus new to Mantle… Must be from some other kingdom, they act like they haven’t seen atlesian technology before…”

“Oh, I haven’t, all this is soooo amazing, I can’t wait to tell my teacher about this!” Twilight was hopping in place.

Pietro laughed, “Well my girl, what’s your name?” Looking at the girl’s wings, tail, and ears, “I don’t think I’ve seen a faunus like you before…”

“I’m Twilight Sparkle, it’s great to meet you…”

“Good to meet you too, I’m Pietro-”

“Can I please borrow all these books!”

“I don’t see why not-”

“Oh thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

Twilight began hauling piles of books off to a corner of the room, and eagerly began flipping through them. Rainbow Dash turned to stare at the alicorn-turned-faunus, and Pietro stared at the device mounted to her back. “That’s an impressive weapon you got there, some kind of assault rifle?”

“Oh, yeah! It’s my Stormfire and it’s amazing!” Rainbow Dash hugged the gun, “It’s supposed to use dust, but we didn’t have any where I come from, so we used liquid rainbow instead… My name’s Rainbow Dash.”

“Heh,” Pietro laughed, “I can see how you got your name, with that hair and wings of yours… You really haven’t heard of dust where you come from, and what’s this Liquid Rainbow material…”

Rarity cleared her throat and cut in, “I am Rarity Belle, and I’m afraid we have more important business to deal with than that… See, we’ve come to this place… Mantle, to search for our family, see my younger sister and some of her friends had vanished from our home town and we believe them to be here… Somewhere…”

“Really?” The panda-girl, Laywind, said.

“Hmmm…” Pietro said, “Well, I’ll see what I can do about that, lost kids are always a problem… Do you have any idea where they might have gone?”

“They said something about a monster-hunting school…” Rainbow said.

“Atlas Academy?” Pietro replied. The faunus simply shrugged, “Well… I suppose I could ask James about his students… What were your sibling’s names?”

“Scootaloo Allgood, Sweetie Belle, Diamond Tiara Rich, and Apple Bloom Macintosh,” Rarity continued.

Pietro nodded, “In the meantime, can I have a look at those weapons of yours… They are simply fascinating, just from a cursory glance…” Rainbow looked hesitant and a little insulted, but Rarity convinced Rainbow to let go of her rifle. Pietro stared at the frame and barrel, and took a small sample of the liquid rainbow inside Stormfire’s ammo tanks, then handed it back to the pegasus faunus. “Simply fascinating, I’ve not seen materials like these, it has a case of… Some kind of metal… Rather than the standard plastic case of atlesian weapons, and the gemstones used in its construction don’t feel like dust crystals… Where did you find this?”

“Oh, I made it, with parts generously donated by a… Friend…” Twilight cringed a bit at the last word.

“Oh…” Rarity cut in, “One more thing… We might be staying a while in the city while we look for our family, do you know of anywhere we can stay for the night?”

“Ooh!” Laywind said, “You can stay at my place for a while, I don’t get too many visitors, and you seem like nice people!”

It was breakfast during their second day at school. While over the past few days they had grown accustomed to the strange dreams of dark castles in the void, the fillies still found themselves uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping in this place, yet, none of the other kids seemed to get those dreams… As Sweetie complimented the concept, she nibbled at her chicken… Over the week and a half she had been in this world, the filly had grown a taste for meat. Then, the familiar shape of Weiss came over to her table and turned to stare Sweetie in the eyes.

“What do you want?” She asked.

“Just follow me… I need to show you something…” Weiss replied.

Sweetie grunted, standing up, “Fine, just make it quick, I don’t want my food to get cold…”

“I’m sure you can just reheat it later…”

With that, Sweetie was dragged off, and once they were alone in the halls, Weiss retrieved a book, it’s cover bearing the arcane matrix for telekinesis with a six-pointed star for a base. “Where did you get that?” Sweetie asked.

“That doesn’t matter, where did you get it! How does it work! What is it!”

“Umm… A very long story, most of which I doubt you’ll believe…”

“I’m holding a book that tells me how to use my semblance in ways I’ve never even comprehended! Where did it come from!”

“Well… Umm… I got it from Twilight Sparkle, a good friend of mine.”

“How does it work, last time you talked to me you said something about sharing semblances!”

“Yes… Umm… Back where I come from, we use books like these too, more or less, teach each other how to use certain spells… Or… Erm… Semblances.”

“So, you write down these strange symbols, and with a mental glyph, you can share semblances?”

“That’s what I just said…”

Weiss looked… Confused, a bit conflicted, “That’s insane, impossible!”

“Well, can you do it? Can you use one of the matrixes written down in there?”

Weiss hesitated, but nodded, “Y-Yes.”

“Please, please don’t tell anyone else, I don’t want this to become a big deal…”

Weiss sighed, “Trust me, the last thing I want is for others to get their little paws on this, do you have any idea how powerful this book could be?” She sighed again, “Of course you don’t… Imagine what would happen if the White Fang got this power, or even just simple criminals!”

“C-Can I have my book back?” Sweetie asked.

“On one condition… Make me a copy.”

Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom rang out inside the halls of Beacon’s auditorium, and Lavender Lake slammed into the walls, a buzzer sounding her defeat at the hands of Apple Bloom. The filly cheered as she began loading more HE rounds into Applebuck. “Good work miss Macintosh, but take care with that weapon, a stray round can harm a teammate, or a mission objective, you should know when to and when not to use it, particularly with those combustion rounds.”

With a wave of her crop, Glynda repaired the shattered walls and floors of the auditorium after Apple Bloom shot it all to hell, rending great craters in the structure… Sweetie watched with interest at the spells being used… A modification of the traditional telekinesis, one that allowed the pieces to be fused together once placed properly, much like how pegasi created solid clouds.

“Mister Arc, I believe you should go next,” Glynda turned to Jaune.

“Y-Yes ma’am… Who will be my opponent…”

“Miss Belle… I believe you didn’t get a chance to spar yesterday, will you be willing to go up against mister Arc?”

“Sure… I’m not that good at fighting though…” Sweetie marched off to the lockers for her armour and weapon. Once she returned, she stood, Lapis at her side, staring down the boy, who wore a look of nervousness and anxiety...

“Three… Two… One… Begin.”

Sweetie stood, waiting for Jaune to make the first move, the boy did, drawing his sword and charging… Now what Sweetie expected, normally the battle begun with a barrage from some kind of gun, and she had created the shield spell in her mind, expecting dust blasts, or bullets... As Jaune raised his sword to strike Sweetie, she simply raised her hand, telekinesis forming in her palm, and grabbed the boy by the arm.

He sat there, raised half a meter off the ground by his arm, caught in her grip. She didn’t have the strength to hold him for long, so she poured what power she could manage into flinging the boy across the stadium, and into the far wall. Jaune charged again, this time weaving around as if he could dodge her telekinesis… He was lifted off the ground and flung again.

Jaune charged again, holding his shield out in front of him, and Sweetie cast the shield spell around her. Jaune rammed right into the bubble and fell on his butt, Sweetie used another burst of telekinetic power to fling him into the wall again, cringing at the pain in the boy’s voice…

Sweetie was now just feeling pity for the boy, it was clear to her that he was nothing like the other combatants, he was infinitely worse… She didn’t even use her telekinesis or shield spell the fourth time, instead, she simply raised her hand when Jaune swung his sword and caught the blade. As Jaune struggled to free his sword, Sweetie turned and shouted toward Glynda, “Miss Goodwitch… I think this fight’s a bit unfair.”

That night, as Twilight sat on one of the guest beds in Laywind’s apartment, she poured over the books lent to her by that Pietro human. “Spike, prepare a letter…”

“Come on, it’s midnight…”

“Spike… We need to keep the princesses updated… What if they think we’ve been abducted, or killed by monsters!”

“We’ve been sending them letters every hour!”


“Yes… Mom.”

“Good… Dear Princess Celestia and Princess Luna… This marks the end of my first day in this alien world, we have taken up residence with one Laywind Whitemane in the Kingdom of Atlas, attached to this letter will be a map of this planet and it’s major cities, to my surprise, a majority of this planet is uninhabited as a result of the monsters roaming this world, the Creatures of Grimm, which, as I have suspected, are arcane constructs of an unknown source. The kingdom of Atlas is broken into two major sections, the lower city, the one below the floating landmass that I have told you about previously, is known as Mantle, and is the home of the lower class citizens of this region, meanwhile, the floating landmass, held aloft by something called Gravity Dust, a technology I am currently studying with the aid of this planet’s books, is known as Atlas, and is home to the wealthy elite of this region… I, as of right now, cannot give any more information regarding this planet, unfortunately, but I will continue studying this world while I look for our missing children. Thanks to the assistance of an atlesian engineer and mechanist by the name of Pietro Polendina, I have attained numerous books regarding this world’s technology, and once I have finished reading them, I will be sending the tomes to Equestria for study by pony engineers and sociologists… I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of these creature’s advanced technology, and sincerely believe that these advancements will revolutionize Equestria. The Pietro human has offered to aid us in finding the children, they are believed to be attending a school by the name of Atlas Academy, and in just two weeks this Pietro will be visiting with the headmaster of Atlas Academy in an effort to confirm our suspicions. Your faithful student: Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

Chapter 29: Rounding out the Week - Part 1

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Professor Oobleck raced around the classroom, “Approximately eighty years ago, the year thirty-forty-one, the largest war in recorded history came to an end. The kingdoms of Mantle and Mistral were facing numerous large grimm attacks, and-”

Sweetie Belle and Diamond Tiara took copious notes, the history behind this world was fascinating, even if the professor didn’t stop to elaborate on what he just said, and they had their pens race across the paper in an effort to keep up. Apple Bloom was generally disinterested, she had given up trying to follow the professor’s lecture and simply trusted that her teammates would gather any important information. Scootaloo was still goofing off with Ruby in the background.

Once he paused for a second, Diamond raised her arm “Excuse me, but you never mentioned the reason exactly why the faunus were aiding the Kingdom of Vale during the second year of the war…”

The rumbling trucks started to slow, and Cozy Glow got to her aching feet, holding her pistol in her hands, “What’s going on,” She called into the cab, “Another grimm attack?”

“Nope,” The driver’s voice called from up ahead, “We’re here…”

The white fang started to dismount from their trucks and retrieving their camping equipment. The feeling of the bumpy road below racing past had been the filly’s constant companion throughout the past two days, and walking around on solid ground again felt utterly alien.

There were a series of large canvas tents, a standard bearing the flag of the white fang, a firing range for those strange weapons the faunus carried, and dozens of masked faunus milling about, setting up more tents. Out of one tent, the largest, came a faunus stallion in a black suit of some kind, a sword on his belt, and an ornate bone-mask with red twisting designs, a pair of black horns jutting from his crimson hair… Cozy couldn’t help but imagine that Tirek creature some of her books mentioned.

Ironwood wasn’t happy… That was clear. “Forgive us general… We tried to track where the perpetrators went, but it’s not just the tracks… There is absolutely no sign where they went, it’s likely that they went into Mantle, but it’s not guaranteed, and even if we did know that they entered the city, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to find them before they cause some other incident, mostly on account of not knowing anything about them.”

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention… You will continue to search Mantle and the surrounding tundra for the next few months, if you haven’t found any sign of these criminals until then, we’ll just pretend this never happened…” Ironwood replied to Clover… Damn, this was a problem, he’ll just have to keep the Ace Ops in Atlas until after the Tournament…

“Yes, sir…” Clover replied.

“One last thing Clover…” Ironwood continued, “If you catch the targets, bring them directly to me… Even if I’m in Vale at the time.”

“Yes, sir…”


Professor Peach handed out tests to each of the kids in class, and while they worked away on the fourth or fifth questions on their tests, Apple Bloom had already finished the whole thing, and had retrieved some potion making supplies from her bag. She pulled some of those weeds that could, if mashed into a paste, help with repairing wounds, and mixed them together in boiling water with the extract from the plant that, when ingested, would speed up one’s aura recovery. As she did this, she poured a bit of her earth-pony magic into the plant matter as they were ground and boiled.

The trees in the room swayed toward the filly, and the plants started to gravitate in her direction, but this went unnoticed by the students as they continued working on their tests. All the while Apple Bloom brewed her potions. Condensing the vapours coming off the boiling plant-water and putting the ever so softly glowing green liquid into a glass bottle.

Twilight approached a building, it advertised itself as: Atlastec Scrolls, and she wandered her way in, the woman at the counter glared at her, but, unlike some of the other humans she had encountered in this town, didn’t refuse her from the store… The discrimination she had already come across in just a few days had been unsettling, sure, while most ponies had a distaste for other creatures for their various differences, there were few for example in Canterlot who would not willingly approach a griffon, seeing as they are predators that could easily tear apart and eat a pony, even the most discriminatory of ponies were at least polite to others… It appeared that the humans were far more aggressive in their disdain for the Faunus, which struck Twilight as particularly odd, as they seemed far more similar than, say, a hippogriff and a dragon.

She had to suppress her excitement and keep her exponentially growing list of questions in the back of her mind, that more than anything made the humans wary of her. She approached the counter and said, “I would like five of your best Scrolls please…”

“Seven-thousand and five-hundred lien…”

Twilight nodded… The currency these humans used seemed particularly strange in her eyes… The flimsy cards made from that plastic material the humans synthesized from different chemicals seemed so… Fragile, surely a metal coin, like an Equestrian Bit, would be far safer to handle, less prone to being lost or destroyed. Last night, Celestia had sent her a letter, with it came several hundred gold bits from the Canterlot treasury to fund her expedition, and so she drew a bag from her pocket and said, “I don’t have any lien, but I’m sure this will suffice.”

The woman at the counter looked skeptical, but then Twilight dropped the heavy coin of solid gold on the counter, and with a loud thump of heavy metal, it gleamed in the electronic light. The woman’s eyes went wide when she saw the chunk of rare metal, and, just taking two from the hundred-bit bag, went to retrieve the scrolls for this strange, wealthy, faunus woman.

Once she returned to the apartment, she had Spike send one of the scrolls to the princesses.


A young man was walking down an alley in north Vale, taking a shortcut back to his home, it was the early morning, the sun had yet to rise, and in the lamplight he thought he saw a sliver of green light in the shadows, but dismissed it as a lost canister of dust or a stray piece of electronics.

He power-walked further into the darkness, wanting to get home before his wife woke up, but a strange presence behind him sent chills up his spine… He turned, seeing in the shadows a pair of acid-green eyes, large and round, like those of an insect. He staggered back preparing to run as the creature approached, a being, with a large head atop a disproportionately small body, all made from black chitin, muzzle filled with a pair of venomous fangs and fly-like wings flaring from a beetle’s shell on it’s equine body, the creature coming up to his chest in height.

From a wickedly curved and gnarled horn, the creature unleashed a wave of green energy that made the man’s body freeze in place, and he watched, unable to open his mouth to scream, as the insect-horse suddenly burst into green flames and transformed into a perfect replica of the man.

“I’m afraid I don’t have the best news for you all…” Pietro said as he marched into the clinic on his legged chair, something that Twilight spent hours fawning over, the first time she saw it… “Looks like Ironwood’s too busy with the preparations for the Vytal Festival, I won’t be able to talk with him about your missing siblings until three months from now, at the very least…”

Rarity and Rainbow Dash scowled, Spitfire muttered something about bureaucracy, but Twilight looked curious, and part of Pietro was afraid he had just started the girl on another crazy rant… “What’s the Vytal Festival?”

“Oh, you don’t know?” Everyone shook their heads. “Well, eighty years ago the great war came to an end, the peace negotiations were on the island of Vytal, just off the northern coast of Sanus… Since then, to celebrate the end of a great and terrible war, every two years, one of the kingdoms around the world hosts a great tournament, where our fighters can duel each other for the fame and glory of their kingdom…”

“Fascinating, a human holiday… The celebration of peace following the end of a great war, similar to Nightmare Night back home! You need to tell me more about this event, I’d love to see it for myself, when is it happening?” Twilight was starting to dance in place again.

“Oh, umm… Well, last year the kingdom of Mistral was the victor, thanks to the efforts of Team Indigo,”

“Wait! Pause… Spike!” Twilight said… Then, crawling from those bags she wore around her waist came a… Thing, looking like an elongated lizard with a pair of bat-like wings and clawed hind legs with a long serpentine tail and sharp snake-like head.

“W-What in the world is that thing?” Pietro said, “Some kind of pet lizard? I’ve not seen one with wings like that…”

“Hey! I’m not a pet!” Spike replied, angry.

“I-It can speak?”

“Of course I can speak!”

“I-I… What… In all my life I never-”

“I can tell you about Spike later…” Twilight said, “Spike record this information please…”

As the fillies learned on their first day, the last two days of the school week, Wednesday and Thursday, were both rather unique, as opposed to the standard schedule, the half of the day following lunch were both dedicated to particular classes. Ann Greene began her class by instructing the children, of all things, to play a game of hide-and-seek… This proved to be more intense than any game of hide-and-seek the fillies had ever experienced before, as the whole school was involved, every student was instructed to hide somewhere in the school, and the teachers would be searching for them. Credit was determined by how long one managed to stay hidden.

Apple Bloom and Diamond were found within the first few dozen minutes… Apparently hiding under one’s bed was not a very good hiding place, at least they did better than Jaune. Hours passed, and slowly, one by one, the captured students were brought toward the courtyard where they had been gathered at the start of the class… Sweetie didn’t fare too much better than Bloom or Tiara, but she at least had hidden herself in the bushes near Beacon Cliff, and thus had lasted a good half and hour longer than her teammates… Scootaloo was one of the last to be rounded up, apparently jumping up to hide atop a cloud floating above the school, one she created using her magic and had used some wind dust to launch herself and her cloud p into the sky… It was, of all things, a nevermore flying by to attack the hiding filly that revealed her location.

Toward the end of the day, Nia Whitemane and Pyrrha Nikos were brought in, and no one else was dragged back after them… Sweetie noticed that Blake was never found.


Team Sunbird trotted into the combat arena, a large square building that they had gotten plenty of experience inside over the past few days. It was constructed out of wood and plaster, like much of the buildings in Mistral, Lionheart was watching the students intently as they gathered on the bleachers on the sides of the building as, from the other side of the arena, Team Sun approached…

The countdown began, and the two teams prepared themselves… Sun leaning on his gunchuck-staff, much like how Silver dug the bottom spearhead of Diamondlance into the ground. Silver Spoon had gotten good with her spear, it was a long silver polearm with both a revolving firearm and glaive head on either end of the weapon, the two triggers on her spear’s handle fired the front and back guns respectively.

Sage raised his massive greatsword into the sky, as Rumble flapped his wings, floating a meter off the ground, taking aim with Pegasus, a water-cooled machine gun, the water jacket filled with fire-dust that could be launched from a nozzle above the barrel.

Scarlet took aim with his pistol as he drew his cutlass. Button Mash replied by drawing his sword and shield, his sword featuring a pistol built into the guard, and his shield transforming into a shotgun.

Finally, Neptune took aim with his energy rifle, as Dinky took aim with her musket… Unlike the other weapons, it didn’t fire bullets, but rather a drum of dust mounted to the side fed dust powder right into the firing chamber.

Lionheart finished his countdown with a cry of, “Begin!” and with that, the two teams fought.

Ironwood let out a weary sigh as he was dragged into a hospital… “What is it now… I already have enough to worry about…” He said as he was led into an immaculate white ceramic-plated room, inside which two surgery tables were laid out in the center, atop which were the naked forms of two men.

“Sir… One of these two was a soldier by the name of Abraham Locke, the other is a citizen of Mantle by the name Leo Cathedral, one was found at the site of a large crater out in the tundra, the other on the side of fifth street in downtown Mantle.”

A sinking feeling arose in Ironwood’s stomach, something related to the incident no doubt… “What is it?” He asked the doctor.

“They were originally mistaken for dead, but, when they were being taken to the morgue, a more thorough examination revealed that to not be entirely true… They seem to be in a state of… Suspended animation… For lack of a better term.”

“They’re in stasis?”

“Yes and no… It’s nothing like the stasis devices we have access to, this something different… They don’t have a pulse, they don’t breathe, we don’t even see any neural activity, for all definitions of the word, they’re dead, except they still produce body heat, and even make slight movements, as if they’re bodies are still sending electrical impulses to their muscles… It takes a considerable amount of force to move their bodies… The best analogy I can come up with compares them to metal mannequins with rusted joints.

“Have you tried a more invasive inspection?”

“After all our scanners concluded that they were dead, we tried cutting them open… A simple scalpel had minimal effect… As if their flesh was as hard as stone… We tried a bonesaw, but we bearly cut the skin… Eventually, we moved to dust augmented circular saw, and that’s when the more… Unsettling, discoveries were made.”

“Such as?”

“Well, their blood isn’t just stagnant, it’s sold… Not frozen, but solid… Observe.” The man drew a saw from a desk and proceeded to remove the arm of the Mantle citizen, and raise it up… There, blood could be seen in the exposed arteries and veins, but it didn’t flow out at all, it was merely stuck there as if it was painted on… This had to be some kind of magic, some kind of strange alien trick created by Salem, something! “The good news,” The doctor began, “We can cut them up all we like and as long as we put them back together properly, they won’t be harmed permanently. The comment drew Ironwood’s eyes to the numerous sewn up scars along the two men’s chests and limbs.

“Do you think there’s any way we can remove whatever is doing this?”

“I’m guessing it’s the work of someone’s semblance, so there’s no way to know for sure… We’ll try bringing in some people who might be able to help, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to undo it unless we force the perpetrator to undo the damage… Even then, some semblances aren’t able to undo their effects.”

“I understand… Keep on studying them, I want a full report later this week, if you are unable to undo the effects, keep them safely in storage, I don’t want these subjects dying if at all possible.”

Harold’s class took place inside the workshop, and each of the fillies were instructed to lay out their weapons atop the workbenches, and the teacher inspected everyone’s weapons as the students show off their functions… It was a fascinating class.

That Nora girl watched with interest as Apple Bloom showed off her autocannon in hammer form, and Apple Bloom realized that, in her whole time at this school, she had yet to use Applebuck as a hammer during a sparring class… Well, there was really no point to it, it wasn’t as strong in that form, and what kind of idiot would fight close up when you could engage at range, particularly when fighting monsters, none of the grimm Apple Bloom had seen were particularly good at ranged combat.

Sweetie Belle explained how she channelled her energy through the dust crystal at the end of her halberd rather than using the energy inside the dust, therefore preventing the dust from being used up, to a rather confused professor and entire class.

Scootaloo’s pistols had a glaring flaw, one she realized all the way back during her fight with Dove, and that was they chewed through ammo, and didn’t have a good melee attack, the professor gave some comments to her about needing better bayonets on her pistols, and pointed to Ren’s guns as another example of a student who needed a better melee weapon.

Diamond looked at the cracked crystal on the guard of her sword… Her sword’s energy field still worked perfectly, but she hated that crack, and so she drew a small crystal of red dust and set it, giving the remnants of her cracked hard-light dust crystal to Apple Bloom, perhaps she could make another dust potion from it… Diamond cringed at the way the pink and red clashed with each other, but ignored it, red was the only kind of crystal she had on hand at this time.

Diamond was surprised when she went to test her repairs… The moment she let her magic flow into the sword, the red crystal turned pink to match the others, and now, her blade was not only wreathed in a field of light, but also a twisting blaze of pink flames.

It was late, Twilight was sitting on her bed, playing with all the different settings her scroll had, when Rarity approached… “What is it?” The alicorn faunus asked.

“Well, I realize that we never checked the machine Discord gave us back in Ponyville…”

“I asked Pietro about it, he just said it was an old scroll, not much else unique about it, so I’ve just been keeping it in my bag, don’t really know what to do with it now that we all have our own scrolls…”

“I also had another question…” Rarity said, “Do you remember when you used those stasis spells on that guard and the drunken loudmouth a few days ago?”

“Yeah?” Twilight asked.

“Well, what exactly was that spell you used… I’ve not seen a spell like that before…”

“Oh, it’s very simple… The basic pattern was created by Starswirl the Bearded, as you know he was a master of time manipulation, the original idea behind the spell was to freeze a target in time, and while it succeeded… The time flowing around them meant that they couldn’t be interacted with, they would simply stand there, frozen in time, unable to be moved, unable to be harmed, unable to be affected by anything other than magic… I changed that spell around a bit so that way each individual cell of a target was frozen but not the individual itself, that way the target could be moved around and affected by others while being perfectly preserved… I was going to suggest it to the princess for use in the field of medicine before this whole Discord this happened.”

“Intriguing…” Rarity said… “Can you teach it to me?”

Chapter 30: Rounding out the Week - Part 2

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Celestia woke in the morning, stunned by what she saw in her chambers… A pile of scrolls, no doubt delivered by Twilight, most were accompanied by different items or photos, including a pile of mechanical parts that looked vaguely like an abyssinian, and a mound of large books…

Celestia pulled herself out of bed and set to work on the scrolls… Luckily they were numbered. She had bearly begun on the first scroll when Luna came barging in, “Sister! When I returned from the dream realm this morning, I found myself buried in scrolls!”

“Yes, according to this Twilight has convinced Discord to send her to this alien world we were discussing…”

“Really?” Luna noticed the scrolls piled around her sister’s room, including the numerous photos and trinkets, and the mechanical diamond dog skeleton in the corner.

“Yes…” Celestia sighed, “Bring the ones Twilight has sent you, and we’ll go over them together, it might be a good idea to contact Cadance…”

“Of course…” With that, Luna left for her scrolls while Celestia raised the sun. When she returned, the two read through the first scroll together, documenting how Twilight had landed on this alien world and where they were. The photos showed a snowy tundra in the middle of the night, not a single piece of vegetation in sight, it reminded the two of the Crystal Empire.

Celestia’s eyebrows raised at the sight of a cloud city without any clouds supporting it, the landmass was truly massive and tethered to the ground by large cables… Celestia wondered about what Canterlot would be like if it could fly. The monsters that assaulted her student and her friends looked equally alien as everything else, but the pictures of the mares as these alien creatures were fascinating.

Both princesses were disappointed to hear that their first interaction with these aliens was a fight with their guards, but luckily there were only two living among them, the rest were some kind of alien automaton, one that Celestia realized was now sitting, dead, in the corner of the room. “Luna, please send that… Thing, to the Canterlot Institute of Engineering…” Luna nodded and teleported the device and an attached letter before returning to scroll reading.

They were impressed by the city, Mantle, it was apparently called, but were a bit perturbed by how rude the aliens were to their ponies… It was clear that these creatures wouldn’t be as welcoming as a fellow pony empire, and should instead be treated like an empire of dragons or griffons…

The clinic the ponies found themselves in was equally fascinating as everything else, but the thing that really attracted the ponies eyes was the picture of this Laywind Whitemane and her mechanical arm, that was infinitely more advanced than any prosthetic currently available to ponykind, the thing functioned like a flesh and blood arm according to Twilight’s discoveries.

Luna cringed a bit at the pictures of the shattered moon, “If I ever figure out what kind of villain did this!” Luna began to shout, but Celestia calmed her sister down.

“Whenever we get a chance to travel to this alien world, you have my full permission to attempt to fix the damage to this world’s moon… Come, there’s much to do today.”

Gathered around the table were a dozen of the most important ponies in all of Equestria… The three princesses and the prince of the Crystal Empire, Celestia, Luna, Cadenza, and Shining Armour… Next to Shining was the captain of the Crystal Empire’s royal guard, one Flash Sentry, and the new captain of the Equestrian royal guard, one Silver Sable. There was the trio of scientists that ran the three largest schools of science in Equestria, the Royal Canterlot Institute of Magical Biology, the Canterlot Institute of Engineering, and the Equestrian Royal Institute of Physics and Thaumaturgy… One Doctor Rick, Professor Wolfram, and Academician Valence. Prince Blueblood, royal ambassador of Equestria was sitting on the other side of the table, followed by Fleur-De-Lis, keeper of the treasury, and her husband Fancy Pants. The dragon lord was unable to make it, but sent his daughter, one Princess Ember, in his place, next to her was also Queen Gwendolyn the eighth of Griffonstone, a name that made Celestia uncomfortable, but not due to this particularly Gwendolyn’s actions, but rather the actions of her distant predecessor. Grand Sorceress Catrina of Abyssinia was standing in for the king and queen, and finally, both King Aspen and Kaiser Erebus had both managed to make it in person, the deer and zebra sitting next to one another.

“I’m glad most of you could make it today,” Celestia began… She was wearing her most resplendent and, admittedly, gaudy dress, to emphasize the importance of this meeting. The magic weaved into it made it glow and flow like her own mane, and the golden circlets around her head and neck glowed like molten metal, resembling a halo. She didn’t really like the dress, as it only fed the cults who worshipped her like a deity, but it was certainly intimidating.

“I don’t see what could possibly be so important to drag me out to this pony place!” Princess Ember began, “Umm…” She blushed in embracement as a look of fear crossed her face, “Forgive me, Princess…”

“Mind your tongue, dragon, you are in the presence of the most powerful creatures in this world and their representatives… Not since the days of the Great Crystal War, and the Lunar Insurrection, have we all been gathered together in this place at once…” King Aspen said, “It is a shame though that empress of the kirin could not attend…”

Celestia rolled her eyes, today was going to be a long day… “Listen… As some of you may have heard, there was an incident involving Discord…” That got the room’s attention.

“What has the serpent-king done this time,” Catrina said.

“Sent several ponies, most of whom were fillies, to an alien world…”

A silence fell over the room, many of the creatures present bearing stunned looks, “A-Another world? You mean another realm, such as the realm of dreams!” The Academician began. “Or perhaps the realm on the other side of the Mirror-Gate, the one Princess Twilight had visited?”

“No…” Luna said, “Not another universe, another planet, one in our very own galaxy…”

“Intriguing…” Professor Wolfram replied.

“That’s insane! My sorcerers have gazed at all the planets in our solar system, not one possesses an environment conducive to life, those ponies would have surely died!” Catrina said.

“As I said…” Luna continued, “Not in our solar system, another planet in some completely different region of space… Surely you’re aware of the theories that there could be other planets orbiting distant stars?”

“It seems those theories have been proven,” Aspen said. “Is there any way to create a portal to this other planet?”

“Perhaps we could try to copy or reprogram the Mirror-Gate?” Academician Valence said.

“Perhaps, but before we figure out how to travel to this universe, I believe we should share some of the information we have on this other planet… My own student, the Princess of Friendship, has travelled to this realm and taken ample documentation thus far…”

“Does this have anything to do with the mechanical abomination you teleported into my office this morning? Or those strange weapon designs you sent to our institute a few days ago?” Wolfram said.

Rick was simply looking smug, he had already been informed of this other world when he was given the samples of the wolf-creature, not much information had been gleaned from their studies, but they had yet to test exposure to the magical remains of King Sombra.

“Yes,” Luna said, “That… Device… Was a kind of automaton, apparently used as guards by the inhabitants of this alien world…”

“W-Wait?” Rick said, “You’re tellin’ me that this world has creatures living on it, smart creatures not home to Equus…”

“Interesting,” King Aspen said.

The Kaiser of the zebras had been silent this entire time, but he was clearly just as shocked as everyone else, “T-The star-kin? They’re real?”

“No,” Luna said, “I do not believe these creatures to be the mythical Star-Kin, we have photos of the inhabitants of this world… Apparently called Remnant by their inhabitants…”

“Show me!” The zebra said.

With that, Luna retrieved a projector, and began showing the photos from the alien world, starting with the picture of the ponies-turned-faunus… “Discord was kind enough to transform our ponies into the natives of this planet, creatures known as Faunus, they still bear some of their pony parts, but here you can see their basic body shapes.”

“They look a lot like my kind… Fascinating, a planet of bipeds…” Catrina said.

“They don’t appear to bear any fur, how do they survive the cold, the planet looks rather frozen…” Aspen said.

The next slide showed the shattered moon, and that drew the attention of everyone, exclamations and swearing filled the room as everyone stared, horrified, at the broken moon, even Luna, who had already seen the image.

Then the image of the floating city was brought up. “A flying city, I thought only pegasi could create such structures?” Gwendolyn said.

“No clouds?” Flash Sentry said, “How’s that possible?”

“It’s… Massive…” Ember said.

“Imagine the wealth these creatures possess…” Fancy Pants continued.

Then there came the pictures from inside the city of Mantle, and everyone was mostly enthralled by the technology shown, particularly when Celestia explained what Twilight had told her in the letters, everyone imagining what such devices would do for their kingdoms, Catrina seemed less than impressed with the ponyless carriages, explaining how Abyssinia had steam-powered carriages already, but on the other side, Flash Sentry and Gwendolyn were wondering if those carriages could be modified for flight. The swarms of small airships overhead interested the land-locked creatures in the room, Particularly Aspen and Erebus. The images of the automatons had drawn lustful gazes from Wolfram, and the technology in general interested the scientifically minded in the room.

Finally, the image of the alien female with her mechanical arm was shown… Everyone was amazed at how such an advanced prosthetic could be produced, and Rick was happy to have a close-up image of an actual alien.

Celestia, though aeons of experience, already knew what everyone was thinking… Gwendolyn’s kingdom was in shambles, famine and economic devastation had crippled the kingdom of the Griffons, even the capital of what was once such a great empire, Griffonstone itself, was a shadow of its former glory… The very idea of the technology proposed, such as automatons, could solve their hunger and finally lead to industrialisation in the northern kingdom, and to an economic revolution for griffonkind.

The dragons had always baulked at the idea of technological advancement, they were already the apex predators of this world, they had no need for spears or crossbows, they had their claws and teeth and breath, and they had no need for architecture, the mountains and rocky plains were all the shelter they needed… But, clearly, Ember was starting to rethink dragon culture.

The abyssinians were the exact opposite of dragonkind, survival was difficult in the southern deserts, and so they advanced faster than most others, they built their steam-chariots and clockwork airships, but those paled in comparison to the machines shown here… The weaponry also attracted the cat’s eye, they bordered the domain of the Storm King, and while the lord of the diamond dogs had yet to make a move, it was clear the peace between their two nations wouldn’t last, particularly after Eris Archipelago was subjugated nearly two decades ago… Celestia had wanted to launch a military campaign to liberate the islands, but she didn’t want to alienate the diamond dogs living in Equestria, nor go to war with the Storm King.

To a deer, magic was all that mattered, but the machines shown here surpassed most spells the fawns of Aspen’s kingdom could master… Erebus was clearly more focused on the aliens themselves… Zebrakind was a pious bunch, with strange superstitions, said superstition nearly leading to a war with ponykind a few years ago, back when Luna first returned to Equestria, luckily, Erebus’s predecessor, the rather fanatical Kaiser Hades, had died in an accident, and while Celestia had her own suspicions of Hades’ death, the young Erebus had done his best to quell the more fanatical parts of his own people… These revelations, that the creatures of Equus were not alone in the universe, would lead to radical changes in zebra society.

What this would mean for Equestria? It was still too early to say… Once the discussions were over, Aspen and Catrina simply teleported back to their homelands, Gwen and Ember flew off, and Erebus was left to take a carriage back to the zebra lands. Eventually, Fleur and Fancy started to wander off, leaving Celestia alone with the scientists and the guards, “One last thing,” She said before she allowed them to leave. The princess raised her horn and summoned a pile of books, “These are tomes from the alien planet that my student managed to acquire, I want you to study them…” The three scientists nodded and left.


The ponies sat around the table, gathered for another, smaller, meeting, this time the only attendants were Princess Luna, Professor Wolfram, Soarin Cloudlash, Flash Sentry, and Silver Sable… Just from the collection of ponies, any onlookers, of which there were none, as this was held in a private chamber, would have instantly understood the nature of this meeting.

Wolfram pulled out a stack of papers, “These are some, rather rudimentary, designs based on the weapons designs Princess Twilight Sparkle sent us, as well as the images captured from the alien world… As soon as I got my hooves on the designs, I ordered half my staff to work on them, and so we should have the first functional prototypes completed within a few days…”

“Good, may we have a look at the designs?” Silver said.

“Yes...They don’t have an official name yet, but until we actually build one and test it, they will be designated the PMEW-01…”

With that, Wolfram gave the schematics to the ponies present, a large boxy contraption, mounted by a swivel mount to a saddle, a hose out the back connecting it to a back-mounted device loaded with liquid rainbow and powered by bottled lightning, out of the front of the weapon was a long, ringed, metal barrel with a horn-like point at the tip.

Most of the ponies there stared at the designs in confusion, bearly to understand what each of the symbols and markings were supposed to represent, “Fascinating,” Luna spoke up, “You use some kind of electrically-operated pump to suck up the liquid rainbow from the tanks on the back, then you break down the rainbow and convert it back into magical energy, channelling it down the rod like a unicorn would channel energy down a horn, finally releasing a disintegration spell out the end… I believe it would be more efficient if the spike at the end were made from pure silver and the rings around the barrel were copper… You should also place some safety runes inside the device to prevent the spells from damaging the weapon itself…”

“Exactly what my unicorn consultants said,” Wolfram replied, “They helped with the more arcane parts of the design… “

“Well, that all sounds interesting…” Flash Sentry began, “But what exactly does it do…”

“Weren’t you listening?” Sable said, “It uses liquid rainbow to cast a beam-disintegration spell out the end with the aid of various spell matrixes imprinted on the rings on the barrel.”

“This is the future of warfare, with this, anyone can bring the destructive power of a trained battlemage…” Soarin said.

“The best part,” Wolfram began, “The amount of power put into the spell is directly proportional to the amount of liquid rainbow pumped into the conversion chamber, that means that we can directly control how powerful a given casting is, and increasing the size of the design means a drastically more destructive spell… Of course, that comes with its own problems, but those can be solved.”

Wolfram pulled out other schematics, “These ones are a little more experimental, but I feel they should also bring drastic changes to the equipment we give our guards…”

Everyone went over the papers before Luna said, “And, what about armour, before we design these weapons, we want a way to keep ponies alive should these weapons fall into our foe’s hooves…”

“Until we get a chance to test the final design, I’m afraid any attempts at making armour would be a waste of time since we wouldn’t know exactly know what such a suit would require to properly protect a pony…”

Flash Sentry nodded, “Speaking of which, let’s keep this discreet, we don’t want the changelings or diamond dogs learning of these advances for as long as we can help it…”

“Although,” Sable added, “Once the weapons have been tested and are ready for production, I want enough of them to fully equip the Canterlot Guards in the event of another hostile attack…”


Unicorns marched up and down the mineshaft, casting spells that revealed where the buried gems rested, and the workers followed, digging at the stone with their hooves and picks, prying the gems from the walls. The mine seemingly went on forever, breaking through several gem-filled caverns. The larger caverns were filled with forests of massive crystal spires, ones that had to be cut down into more manageable chunks before they could be moved.

Hauling teams moved carts of gems back to the surface, and the unicorns cast spells to keep the air clean of stone dust and suck fresh air in from above… Limestone marched up and down the length of the mine… She wanted to go back home, she missed her family, perhaps in a few months, but working here paid well, and Celestia knows she needed the bits… At least she was promoted to the boss of this Celestia damned place, and that meant she didn’t need to raise a pickaxe again for her time here.

There came the sound of galloping hooves from the path that led back up to the surface. A stallion approached the mare, “Limestone ma’am,”

“What is it!” She shouted, “If it’s Quartz breaking his Celestia-damned legs again that bastard will have more to worry about than broken bones!”

“N-No ma’am,” The stallion, standing a whole head taller than the mare, shrunk back at her gaze, “R-Representatives from Canterlot, they say that they have a message from the princess…”

Limestone growled, “Well! What are you waiting for! Get your sorry ass back to work!”

“Y-Yes ma’am…” The stallion galloped off as Limestone marched up to the surface to talk with these ponies…

The smog and gloom of Fillydelphia eclipsed the horizon, the mine was built just outside the city, and practically right on top of the railroad tracks heading into the bastion of industrialisation that was Fillydelphia. Outside, dozens of ponies were taking the carts full of gems and sorting them, then loading the sorted gems into hoppers to be later loaded on the trains. In all the bare brick structures and metal scaffolding, the thing that stood out the most was the chariot sitting just outside the mine entrance… It was elegant, gilded, and bearing the symbol of the sun… A chariot from Canterlot…

“What do you want?” Limestone bitterly asked the unicorn who marched from the back of the chariot… “Here to shut us down?”

“Just the opposite… Celestia has decreed that all gem mines are now government property and expects to double productivity within the next year…”

Limestone wanted to laugh, “You’re kidding, I’m working these mares to death and you want us to double productivity!”

“You will be funded directly from Canterlot… The details are here,” The unicorn raised a sheet of paper, bearing the stamp of approval from both Celestia, Luna, and the Canterlot Institute of Engineering… As they talked, several more chariots landed, the much larger kind meant to carry cargo, and they started unloading tools… No, not just tools, magical tools… Pickaxes with gemstones embedded in the heads, and hammers with runes inscribed into their shafts, there was even a box of wands for the unicorns…

“What is all this? What’s going on?”

“It’s all on paper, some kind of development project, we need to double gem production by hearths warming…”

Limestone growled… There went any chance of getting home for the holidays, and with it, the chance to quit this job any time soon...

Clouds, charged with magical energy, were pumped into an arcane compressor, and from there into a distillation column, in the end, coming out as a thick translucent glowing liquid… The process was relatively simple but dangerous to any pony not wearing copious amounts of magical energy protection. Thus, in his T-Hazmat suit, Warm Front watched the machines churning, making sure that nothing leaked and magically irradiated the entire facility.

Warm Front adored the simplicity of the process, yet its theoretical intricacy… The whole idea was far more complicated than one observing the process would think, first the unicorns would pour magical energy into the clouds, not actually casting any spells, but simply charging them with enough magic to cause severe magical energy poisoning to anyone without protection, then the clouds were compressed into magically charged water, and boiled, resulting in slightly irradiated steam, and pure, liquified, magical energy, or Liquid Rainbow.

There were many ways the process could work… You could grind up magically charged gemstones and mix them with a fluid, then remove the gemstone chunks and boil away the fluid, or you could extract the blood of a magical creature and boil away the plasma, leaving the energy, but, the most efficient way was charging the water, far less wasteful than the other methods, as the steam could be recycled into another cloud for the process….

Warm Front just sat there, observing, as liquid rainbow was pumped out of the distillation device and flowed on to the radiation cleansers, which would soak up any excess magical energies and render the fluid, more or less, safe to pony life.

There came the sound of a door opening and Warm Front turned to see several ponies in T-Hazmat suits marching up, adorned with the symbol of the sun… What did Canterlot want with the weather factory?

He got his answer later that day, when it was revealed to the workers that they had been told that the government was taking full control over liquid rainbow production and that they were expected to double production by hearths warming, and that eighty percent of the facility’s product was to be stored in metal drums and shipped off to Canterlot… Why would Canterlot need this much Liquid Rainbow? Warm Front thought to himself as he realized he probably wouldn’t get a day off of work for the next few months...


Luna watched as Soarin marched out to the firing range. The testing was hosted inside the Wonderbolt’s HQ to help limit who was allowed to observe the experimental weaponry… Sable and Wolfram had both needed to be pulled up on a chariot, one which Luna pulled herself.

The Beam Caster as Wolfram had named it, was just as bulky as the schematics showed, and Luna was excited to see what it could do. These tests would need to be repeated once the Immolator and Disintegrator were complete, luckily, the Beam Caster was the top priority and finished within only a day… Well, the prototype at the very least was, the final version would need to wait a bit longer.

Soarin aimed the device and bit down on the mouth-handle, there was a loud whine as the pumps inside the weapon sucked liquid rainbow into the machine, then, the barrels started to dance with magenta lightning, half a second later there was a loud zapping-burst noise and a blast of pink energy flashed across the eyes of everyone inside the room, melting a hole through the target, and a portion of the wall behind. Then, a half a second later, still biting down on the trigger, another burst of energy launched forth, and another, and another.

Luna stared, surprised, two shots a second, not even the best repeating crossbows could compare...

Chapter 31: Friends

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The fillies awoke from the same gloomy dream with Diamond shouting, “Get up! Get dressed! Only two hours until classes!” With that, Scootaloo and Apple Bloom followed their orders to the letter, meanwhile, Sweetie Belle still sat on her bed, only moving when Diamond pulled her off. As the girls got dressed in their uniforms, Sweetie had a brief argument with Diamond, before she did the same.

They headed to breakfast, this early, most students had yet to awake, but there, sitting in one corner, was a single team, Juniper. With that, the fillies headed over to sit next to them, “What are yall’ doin’ up this early…” Apple Bloom asked.

“Oh, just wanted to get some training done before class, Jaune needs it,” Pyrrha said.

“No, I don’t!” The boy replied.

“Yeah, you really do…” The red-headed girl, Nora, the fillies remembered from the team formation ceremony, commented.

“Well, mind if we sit next to you?” Scootaloo replied.

“Not at all… I’d love it if you joined…” Pyrrha said. With that, the fillies took their seats, Pyrrha eyeing their strange tails and ears and wings… “Odd…” Pyrrha muttered to herself.

“What?” Apple Bloom asked, her mouth full of apples already.

“Oh… Nothing… You just reminded me of a few faunus I had encountered back in Argus…”

As they ate, other students started to march into the dining room, Ruby took their seats on the other side of Juniper, Coffee was on the far side of the building, and Cardinal sat on the row of seats just next to Juniper, radiating an aura of uncomfort, possibly due to the way some of them were glaring at the fillies, particularly Dove at Scootaloo and Cardin at Apple Bloom…

They were muttering something to themselves, only the ones with extra ears caught their conversation, and Diamond glared back… They were going to be trouble, they would need to be dealt with sooner or later, but she didn’t know just how yet…

“I can’t believe Pyrrha Nikos associates herself with them…”

“Be quiet, I think the four-ears can hear us…”

Bang! Bang! Bang! A trio of gunshots filled the auditorium, and Glynda sighed as the buzzer sounded as the Arc boy’s aura dropped again… Koa stood on the other end of the stadium, semi-auto rifle in hand, loading new dust shells into it, as Jaune, still stuck to the floor by blobs of ice, tried to pull himself free, and groaned when he saw the patches of paint on his shield that had been burned away… It wouldn’t be until Saturday he could get that fixed…

“Koa Van is the victor of the match… Jaune Arc, you let yourself get immobilized by your foe in the first seconds of combat… Please remember that mobility is the key to survival on the battlefield, it is better to avoid getting hit than relying on your aura to protect you…”

Glynda looked around and scanned the audience… Jaune’s team were concerned for their friend, Koa’s team were congratulating their teammate, and Glynda’s eyes locked with the strange faunus children, they had, thus far, won every sparring match over the past week, but, they were going up against some of the weaker teams… Time to give them a challenge and see just how good they actually were…

“Well, we have time for one more sparring match, will miss Bloom be willing to join us?”

“Sure!” Apple Bloom replied from her seat, and she marched off to get into her combat gear… Then Glynda turned to the rest of the auditorium, now… Who would be a good challenge for the young horse-girl?

Apple Bloom returned to the stadium/atrium in her kevlar-padded sweater, cowpony hat, and plated jeans… Applebuck held firmly in her grasp, HE rounds loaded… Out into the field marched the red-headed girl, Nora, some strange cylindrical gun in her hand… It looked like it shot even bigger shells than Applebuck, and Apple Bloom had been shot more than enough to know that she didn’t want to get hit by that thing…

The battle began, and there was a loud POOMP! And Apple Bloom dodged to the side, the shell fired from Nora’s weapon struck the ground and exploded, a large pink blast that crackled with electricity… The explosion shocked Apple Bloom, in more ways than one, and the pressure sent her sprawling to the ground.

She pulled herself up and saw the girl, now holding a hammer, charging right at her… Apple Bloom picked up Applebuck, grabbing it by the handle, and transforming it into a hammer too. She stood there, pouring her aura into her weapon, and held it firm as Nora smashed into her, the force behind that strike was amazing, but Apple Bloom held her ground. Nora wore a look of shock at seeing Apple Bloom was still standing, and the earth-pony faunus replied by giving Nora a hard kick to the chest, which sent her sprawling backwards, but not flying into the wall as Apple Bloom expected.

Bloom turned her weapon back into a cannon and fired a barrage at Nora, who leapt out of the way, and, raising her hammer, struck one of the cannon shells like a golf ball and sent it flying back to Apple Bloom. The struck round smashed into Apple Bloom’s gut, and while it didn’t carry anywhere near the same force as it would have, it still knocked her to the ground.

Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were cheering, and a quick glance to her scroll told Apple that, already, her aura was in the yellow… Apple Bloom got back up, and reloaded her cannon, but, in that time Nora had already dashed behind the faunus girl, and right as the first round clicked into the chamber, Apple Bloom was smashed to the side and into the wall by a hard strike.

Bloom was stunned by the strike for a few moments, but regained her senses just quickly enough to duck to the side and avoid another bomb being flung at her from Nora’s weapon. The blast made her body ache, and electricity arced through her flesh, making her muscles spasm, but she got to her feet and aimed Applebuck, swaying slightly… She fired a burst… It was in that moment she realized she never bothered to check what kind of dust rounds she had loaded…

The recoil sent Apple Bloom flying across the arena and smashing into another wall, knocking off a bit of her aura. Three purple streaks shot to Nora, each of them detonating around her in large black explosions that flung the girl up into the air, and sent shockwaves throughout the entire room… But, to Apple Bloom’s amazement, instead of falling to the ground in pain, Nora caught her cannon mid-air, turned it into a hammer, pulled the trigger, and flew toward the kneeling pony-faunus like a pink comet.

Apple Bloom only had a few moments to process shock before Nora rammed into her… Apple Bloom was slammed further into the wall, making an impressive series of cracks, and sparking as electrical conduits inside the wall were damaged. Apple coughed as she opened her eyes, Nora standing right in front of her, keeping her pinned to the wall with her hammer. Bloom grunted, grabbing Nora’s hammer, and ripping it from the girl’s grasp, then kicking Nora hard in the gut, flinging her across the stadium, as she followed that up by throwing Nora's hammer back at the orange-haired girl.

Apple Bloom paused to look up and see that her aura was now a little lower than half… She spat, and ran to find where her autocannon had fallen. Meanwhile, Nora had gotten back to her feet, and was firing a barrage of grenades toward the filly. Apple Bloom rolled to dodge them, and found her autocannon, right as Nora’s grenade launcher clicked empty… As the girl was reloading, Apple smirked, unclicked the gravity dust rounds, and loaded her cannon with electricity rounds, “Hey! Nora!” She shouted to get the girl’s attention, then as Nora looked up at Apple Bloom’s cannon, a BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM noise filled the air.

Nora was sent flying into the wall as the rounds burst as they hit the girl, exploding with little yellow and pink blasts. Nora’s aura was now down to half, the odds a bit more evened… Or, at least that was what Apple Bloom thought at the time, right before, from the cloud of smoke where Nora was sitting, a pink blur flew out and smacked Apple Bloom like a cannonball, smashing her, again, into the wall… The first thing Apple Bloom heard after the ringing in her ears had cleared up, was the sound of the buzzer signalling her defeat.

Once the sparring class was let out, Ruby approached Sweetie Belle, “Hey! Sweetie! Want to come over to my dorm and play video games!” Ruby was jumping up and down.

Sweetie stared at her, “Yeah sounds fun!” She replied, “You want to come too?” She turned to ask her teammates.

Diamond shook her head, Apple Bloom was nowhere to be found, and Scootaloo simply replied, “Yeah, sorry I kinda promised Yang that we could do some shopping tonight, need to get more dust.”

With that, a slightly disappointed Sweetie walked off with Ruby, finding their way quickly to their dorm… Sweetie was amazed at how messy it was, and how unsafe the bunk beds looked… Blake was sitting up on the top bunk of the leftmost bed, reading a book. “So, what did you have in mind?” Sweetie asked Ruby.

“Got your scroll?”

“Yeah? Why?”

“Watch,” Ruby took hold of Sweetie’s scroll, “What’s your CCTS password?”

“Oh, rarityvonBelle1…”

Sweetie watched as Ruby tinkered with her scroll then, once whatever she had just downloaded had finished being downloaded, the whole concept of downloading things from datastores still a bit alien to the faunus girl, Ruby handed Sweetie back her scroll, “Look!” She exclaimed, as the scroll connected to the device they had sitting on a table, and a bunch of buttons appeared on the scroll’s screen, “You can use it as a controller…”

“H-How do you play?” Sweetie asked, as Ruby pressed a few buttons and loaded up the game on the holographic display.

“Oh, it’s real simple, you use those buttons to move, and those buttons to perform actions, watch…” She said as she started to play through the game.

It was late, the sun was setting over Beacon, and a blonde boy sat alone in the dining hall… Most everyone else was training or being tutored by their teachers at this hour. But Jaune, Jaune was eating some apples and crackers. That was until the door opened and in walked Apple Bloom, “Hey, Jaune…”

“Oh, hey, Bloom, don’t think we’ve talked much.”

“Umm… Saw you in sparring class…” Jaune moaned and slammed his head against the table as Apple spoke, “You were… Ok…”

“Uhhh… I can’t even beat the guy with the second-lowest score…”

“Hey… You just need a bit of practice, we weren’t that good when we came to Vale…”

“You lived outside of the walls, you probably got attacked every day…”

“Well… To be honest, live back in Ponyville was, kinda boring… Mostly just farm work…” Jaune was silent for a minute, and Apple Bloom moved up to him, “Hey, want a bit of sparring?”

“You’re just going to win… Going to beat me up so you can get revenge on Nora...”

“Now why in the world would you think that... I’ll go easy on you… Promise… Come on Jaune…” She mutters, lifting Jaune from his seat. Hesitantly, Jaune followed Apple Bloom to one of the empty classrooms. It was Port’s classroom, and the two moved to the little arena that was at the bottom of the miniature auditorium.

Jaune stood uneasily, gripping his sword… Apple Bloom turned, she dropped Applebuck to the floor with a loud thunk that left the tile cracked. “Oops…” She muttered… “Ok, Jaune… Hit me…”


“Just do it, stab me, jab me as hard as you can!”

“O-Ok…” He said, raising his sword and charging… He lunged… Apple Bloom hadn’t been fighting for long, only about two weeks at this point, but she could already see just how easy Jaune’s strike would be to deflect, he was just charging, she could have batted the sword out of his hands, or leapt, or ducked, or kicked… But, instead, Apple Bloom stood her ground and let the boy’s sword strike her… With a shout, Jaune’s sword sparked against Bloom’s aura, she let out a grunt… The boy was surprisingly strong. “B-Bloom, did I hurt you?” He asked, dropping his sword when Apple Bloom grunted.

“No, that was actually pretty good, but predictable…”


“Watch, do it again…”

“You sure?”

“Just do it!”

“Ok…” Jaune muttered, picking up his sword, and moving to stab Apple Bloom again… This time, Apple Bloom batted the sword out of his grip, it clattered against the ground, and Jaune slammed into Apple Bloom, who caught the boy.

“See what I mean… Come on, let’s do it again, this time, try to do something else.”

Jaune muttered something under his breath, and moved to pick up his sword, “I don’t need your help…”

Apple Bloom sighed, “Yeah, you do…”

“No I don’t!”

Apple Bloom didn’t bother responding, she simply approached the boy and gave him a hearty slap… One that sent him sprawling to the ground. “Yeah… You do.”

Jaune coughed, “If I can’t do this on my own, what good am I?”

“Sit…” Apple Bloom said, putting a hand on Jaune’s shoulder, and pushing him down, forcing him to sit, “You know my sister said the exact same thing…”

“I don’t need a lecture,” He struggled, trying to get back up, but Apple Bloom’s grip on his shoulder was nigh unbreakable…

“This was a few years back, it was Applebuck Season, time to harvest... She said she didn’t need any help, but she ran herself ragged trying to harvest every apple in the orchard herself…”

“What does that have to do with fighting? And what kind of idiot would try and harvest an entire orchard themselves?”

“That’s exactly what I’m sayin’... She didn’t accept any help, and she caused a whole lot of trouble for her friends, all because she was too stubborn…”

“I’m not being stubborn, I just don’t want to be a burden…”

“By not accepting my helpin’ you’re being a burden, a burden to yourself, let me help you, so you can help your team…”

“Why do you want to help me? We aren’t even on the same team…”

“Because you’re a friend, we’re supposed to help each other, and plus, isn’t everyone supposed to work together against those monsters out there…” Jaune was silent, “Come on… Hit me again,” She said, pulling Jaune to his feet…

Jaune staggered for a second, then raised his sword, “O-Ok... Ok.”

Chapter 32: Red Feathers

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Green magic sparked away in a dark cave, cutting at a stone, a spire of black crystal… The crystal was very powerful, and, in it is presence, no pony sorcerer, nor abyssinian mage, not even a god of chaos, could warp reality, as it anchored reality… Its origin is unclear to most, but the Queen knew some of it, the ancient dark lord Sombra was the one who created this, a binding spell given physical form… But it wasn’t perfect, no spell ever was, and long ago the Changelings knew of its flaw…

Humans… Thought the Queen… She had seen the other world, somewhere across the infinite void above, there lay another world, one that she herself had seen, and one populated by creatures of limited magical potential… They were the perfect prey, they could not defend themselves against the Changeling’s spells… But there was a problem, a big problem, these creatures had made up for their lack of magic by using machines far in advance of those used by ponykind… But these machines ran on magic, Dust they called it, magic given physical form, much like the crystal that lay before her.

So, in that dark cave, the changelings sliced at the stone, chopping it into fragments and moulding those fragments into new shapes…

The day began with Diamond forcing everyone out of bed, much to the annoyance of the other fillies… Except for Scootaloo, she was already awake, and this earned a compliment from Diamond Tiara… In truth, Scootaloo had little sleep, “I wonder if you have any clue where I am, Dash…” She muttered to herself as she stared herself in the face in the mirror right after brushing her teeth…

She loaded up her pistols and trotted off to class, she didn’t want to dwell on her friends back, who knows where, if she did, she would miss them, if she missed them…

Swords clashed, a burning streak of pink, it carried itself with precision and elegance, yet a wicked ferocity… Each slash sent burning waves of energy that rippled across Lavender’s aura, her silvery field of magic shattering apart under the arcane assault… With that, a buzzer sounded, and a Diamond Tiara, huffing a bit with exertion, sheathed her sword. “W-Wow, you’re strong and fast…” Lavender commented, “And that sword of yours decimated my aura, how does it work?”

Diamond scoffed, “You don’t need to know that…” She commented, walking off toward the locker room to get back into her school clothes, silvery armour glinting and glimmering under the lights of the auditorium

“Hmm…” Glynda commented, “We have time for another match before class is over, who wants to join?”

“Ooh! Can I go!” A voice sounded from team RWBY’s stand.

“Miss Rose, very well, who will be your partner?”

“I’ll give it a shot!” Scootaloo replied.

“Miss Allgood… Very well, ready yourselves…”

As Scootaloo got up from her seat, Apple Bloom quietly passed her a potion of fire dust and a few fire crystals… She put these on her belt as she walked into the locker rooms and put on her leather jacket. Finally, she stepped out, ready to fight. “Hiya Ruby!” Scootaloo said, waving.

“Hey, Scoots! Ready?” Ruby grinned, mounting a foot on her scythe blade.

Scootaloo grinned back, “Of course!” She replied.

“Three-” Glynda was cut off by the sound of Scootaloo dashing forward, and the sound of Cresent Rose firing.

Ruby leapt into the air, and Scootaloo replied by filling the air with fire, both pistols set to flamethrower mode… The filly rolled out of the way of the falling particles of burning fire dust, and Ruby dodged, transforming into a swirling vortex of rose petals that raced around the building. Scootaloo jumped into the air and fired her pistols, clicking them to blast mode. Each shot melted part of the stadium wall, or flickered off of the dust shields… Ruby was fast, but one shot grazed her, pulling her out of her swarm with a yelp…

Ruby growled as she fell and twirled her scythe around, firing mid-air and moving to intercept the falling Scootaloo. The pony faunus reached to her belt for the fire crystal and crushed it into dust powder with her hand, using her pegasus magic, she summoned a magical cloud and interwove the dust with the vapour, creating a swirling cloud of fire upon which she stood, much to the surprise of Glynda. Ruby was stopped by blasts of flaming cloud that shot her way, as she twirled her scythe to cut the clouds apart before they could burn her, but this threw her path off, and so she rolled to a stop on the ground.

Scootaloo then took the time to chug the dust potion. Fire erupted around her hands and eyes, and the feathers on her back caught flame like those of a phoenix… She swirled the burning clouds around her body. Ruby aimed up her scythe and Scootaloo moved out of the way before she fired, making sure not to get hit by one of those shots.

Scootaloo let loose balls of flame from her hands that exploded into cyclones of fire when they hit, but Ruby transformed into rose petals again, and, as she flew through the air, she fired again and again. Scootaloo turned just in time, and the first bullet simply grazed her, and though her aura was more than enough to stop the bullet, it hurt… Scootaloo grunted and unleashed burning rays of fire at Ruby, who moved around them with rose-like grace… Scootaloo like a burning star, and Ruby like a space-flying falcon, dodging bursts and flares.

Finally, Scootaloo got tired of trying to swat the crimson fly out of the air, and unleashed a burst of fire in all directions that consumed the last of the dust energy flowing through her veins, and Ruby fell to the ground, screaming from the little fires on her hood and cape… She rolled to the ground, and stared up… Scootaloo involuntarily let go of her pegasus magic, and the cloud holding her aloft broke apart, and she tumbled violently to the ground with a hard smack that cut off a chunk of her aura. “Owww…”

Ruby grinned and raised her sniper rifle… A BANG! BANG! BANG! Rang out, and three shells struck the stunned Scootaloo, she yelped in pain as each shot signalled the loss of a sizeable chunk of her aura… She growled, raised her pistols, and ran toward Ruby, letting loose a torrent of fire, running through the flames she was creating with her pistols, which slowly wore at her aura as burning flecks of crystal stuck to her skin.

Ruby grinned, and, right as Scootaloo ran into range, she leapt over the girl, and Scootaloo had a moment to process shock right before Crescent Rose’s blade struck her in the side. She tumbled to the ground, and the buzzer sounded, signalling Scootaloo’s defeat.

“Owwwwwww…” She muttered as she lay still on the ground. Ruby walked over to her, reaching out a hand.

“That was pretty cool…” Scootaloo took Ruby’s hand, “That cloud semblance of yours is awesome!”

“Heh…” Scootaloo chuckled, “That’s nothin’”

“Well… Wanna go play some video games later?”

“Hell yeah!”

Sweetie was sitting in the corner, taking a break from sparring to read her book. She flipped the page as, somehow, without making a noise, Blake walked into the room, “O-Oh, didn’t expect anyone else to be here…”

“No, it’s fine, come in…”

They were in the ballroom, it was all quiet, save for the turning of the pages. Blake nodded and moved to the other side of the room and drew a book from her bag… She flicked the pages too, and quietly, for what felt like the longest time, the two simply sat and read. Finally, Blake’s eyes flicked up from the page she was reading and stared at Sweetie, and at the book she held, “What is that?” Blake asked.

“The Man with Two Souls?” Sweetie replied.

Blake was silent for a moment, “I’m reading that too, what page are you on?”


“I’m on two-forty-one.”

Sweetie smiled, “Well, you’re going to love the next chapter then…”

“Well don’t spoil it.”

“I wasn’t going to.”

A few minutes passed, and Blake flicked her eyes, “Must be hard to be a faunus…”

“I don’t think so…”


“I’ve seen that some people are mean to us, but I don’t care, they’re just bad people, and I don’t worry about it…”

“But, what if someone tried to hurt you?”

“I’d talk to them, and if they tried, I’d defend myself... “

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“No… Should I?”

Blake didn’t know how to answer… And so they sat quietly, reading...

“Luna… What is the meaning of this?” Celestia growled, holding a newspaper… Luna cringed a bit at the sight of the headline: Gem Workers on Strike! Canterlot seizes Rainbow Production!

Luna stood up straight and stared at Celestia, “Yes, I gave the order that all facilities that produce gemstones and liquid rainbow are now government property…”

“Why... Yes, these are valuable resources, but, did you consider the effect this would have on the populace? Let alone our global reputation!”

Luna smiled, “Yes, I did consider these things dear sister…” Luna closed her eyes and summoned an illusion, showing a map of Equus. “I have sent Fleur to deal with the strike problem, she will ensure that the workers are paid thrice their current wages.”

“Where exactly will these funds come from? Our own treasury? We don’t want to raise tax-”

“Yes, they are coming out of the treasury…” Luna replied, to a baffled Celestia.

“How long do you intend to keep this policy, and why did you not discuss it with me!”

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t have the time…” With that, the illusory map zoomed in on Diamond Dog territory, “Look… With the discovery of all this new technology, the demands of our industry will drastically change, and that means that new resources will need to be prioritized, we can cut funding to bronze and gold production, our guard certainly won’t be needing them any more…”

“The Kingdom of Equestria isn’t at war-”

“Are you sure about that?” Luna pointed a hoof to the symbol on the map, “Last time our enemies attacked, Canterlot was nearly subjugated by Hive Chrysalis…”

“She caught us by surprise!”

“Did she? Her changeling army had surrounded the city, shouldn’t a guard have seen something?”

“We had gotten the warning ahead of time…”

“That… As my Night Guards have discovered, was a distraction, a ploy to focus our defence on the castle itself, and to make us believe that it was Princess Cadenza herself who was the target, not Canterlot as a whole… The guard who gave that warning is not in the official records, and he vanished after the conflict…” Celestia was about to reply, but Luna tapped her hoof against the floor, directing the Princess’s gaze back toward the symbol on the map… The twin fangs, the flag of the Diamond Dogs.

“The Storm King-”

“The Storm King has already conquered the Aris archipelago nearly a decade and a half ago, he is an opportunist, his army may be resting for now, but I know his type, he will not rest until the world is under his dominion…” Luna and Celestia’s eyes were both drawn to the nearest neighbour of the Storm Kingdom, Abyssinia…

Celestia sighed, “Yes, I see your point, but is this kind of rapid militarization really necessary-”

“A thousand years of peace have made your military soft, undisciplined, and unorganized… I wouldn’t be surprised if a simple party or offer of cake could distract them from their duty, by the moon, the Wonderbolts spend more time putting on shows than patrolling Equestria’s airspace! I even looked at the guard’s record, you don’t even bother to put guards around the gates of Tartarus anymore! For all we know, a prisoner could have escaped!”

“Yes, yes… I know, I see your point, Luna… But you should have consulted me on this decision, how do you intend to offset this rise in wages, our treasury would eventually run dry.”

“Well, my sister… We have new technologies, new weapons… We are at the forefront of a great technological leap… No doubt these new magics and techniques will expand to many new fields than just the militaristic, and even then, we stand to make quite the profit… The Diamond Dogs are threatening Abyssinia and the monarchs of the nation are quite scared of an invasion from the Storm King, we can sell them Equestrian weaponry, I’m sure that will more than off-put any debt we would gather…”

Celestia looked deep in thought for a second, “My, that is a good plan, I didn’t know you were such a shrewd business pony…”

Luna smirked, “I get it from my sister…”

Chapter 33: Golden-Yellow

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The door to JNPR’s dorm opened, and in walked Jaune, a little bruised, exhausted, and worn out, this wasn’t the first time, Jaune had been coming in late for a little under a week now, but never as hurt as this… “Jaune! What happened!” Pyrrha shouted, concern flickering in her eyes…

“Oh, umm…” Jaune said, flustered, “Just did a bit of late training, trying to get better…”

“Why are you all bruised up!”

“Oh, my aura just broke right as we were doing hand-to-hand combat… I-It’s fine…”

“Did Cardin do this?”

“O-Oh, no, not at all… Apple Bloom… We’ve been training together, she’s really strong…”

Pyrrha was silent, happy that Jaune was finally taking his training seriously, then she paused, “Well, you should get some rest then, perhaps I can come along tomorrow to help with your training,” She smiled, although, she also wanted to make sure this wasn’t some excuse.

“Sure…” Jaune yawned, “Well I’m off to the shower…”

“Good night, Jaune,” Pyrrha muttered.

The first shipment had come in yesterday, gemstones, gleaming and refined, as well as the highest-quality metals and some liquid rainbow… Ponies, mostly unicorns, but many other earth ponies as well, worked the machinery… Fillydelphia was the industrial bastion of ponykind, a metropolis of industry, surrounded by pegasi-populated cloud banks that kept the pollution centralized on the city itself, and so it could not contaminate the countryside. Built so that the rest of the kingdom could enjoy the fruits of industry, such as railways and mass production, without tainting the land with factories and smog.

New orders had come in, nearly a week ago now, that new weapons were being developed for the Equestrian Guard… The spear and crossbow production facilities were to be remodelled to produce these new weapons. With the best mages and an army for workers, it still took four days to rig the equipment to stamp and shape metal according to the new blueprints, they were extremely intricate and filled with arcane machinery… Still, by the end of the fifth day, they were ready to produce the shells of the weapon, the actual assembly would need to be done by hoof, or preferably, by horn.

Finally, a worker, a young unicorn called Party Favor, shifted the last gemstone into place, and magically imprinted into the frame, the numbers “0001”

Dawn broke through the curtains, it was their day off, and both Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle wanted to lay in bed and do nothing, then came the dreaded shout “Get up blank-flanks! We need to get more training in today!”

“Uhh… Ah-” Came a shout from Scootaloo’s bed, as Diamond pulled her out of bed, dumping the filly on the floor. Sweetie was already getting up and putting on her armoured coat, “H-Hey… Where’s Apple Bloom?” Scootaloo muttered.

“I don’t know, but at least she’s more active than you lot…” Diamond scoffed, picking up her sword and running her finger along the edge, feeling her aura tingle at the sensation. “Come on, today, the auditorium is open all day for anyone who wants some more training…” She muttered… The rest of the team, minus Apple Bloom of course, wandered down to the auditorium, where, Jaune had just walked out into the field, Cardin on the other side of the room.

On the count of three, Cardin charged, mace, burning with fire dust, smashed into Jaune’s shield, but, Jaune knew what to do here, thanks to Apple Bloom. Once he blocked the strike, he lunged forward, stabbing at Cardin’s head, who narrowly avoided the strike, and Jaune backed away, not wanting to push forward and risk a counter-attack. Then, Cardin stepped forward, swinging his mace downward, and Jaune leapt out of the way, slashing as he did so, but his sword only pinged off Cardin’s plate armour.

Cardin twirled around and smashed Jaune in the back of the head, slamming him into the ground, and causing his body to shimmer for a bit with white light, but Jaune got back up quickly, and rammed forward, shield-bashing Cardin hard. The bulkier kid could have taken it, had he a lower center of gravity, but, with his stance the way it was, she was shoved to the ground… Cardin lurched back up, Jaune still atop him, and shoving him off. Jaune crouched, holding his shield in front of him, and, as if smacking a golf-ball, Cardin slammed his mace against Jaune’s shield, sending him sprawling across the ground, panting, but he got back up.

Cardin cockily walked toward the boy, and Jaune readied himself to charge… He did so, slashing downward, but Cardin moved out of the way, but, after getting kicked in the ass by Apple Bloom, he knew what to do, and raised his shield behind him, which blocked Cardin’s counter-attack… He would have been thrown through the air if it weren’t for that, but, it did knock him to the floor, and he lost his grip on his shield, hand hurting too much.

Cardin gave him a solid kick to the chest, muttering, “This is the part where you lose.”

Jaune growled and shoved his sword at Cardin’s unarmored groin. Cardin shouted and kicked Jaune in the chest again before staggering off, and Jaune rolled out of the way of Cardin’s next mace strike… Jaune got back to his feet, but not quickly enough, as another slam of Cardin’s mace against his chest knocked Jaune over again… This time, he lost his grip on his sword, and Cardin slammed his boot into Jaune’s crotch this time, raising his mace above his head.

The buzzer sounded, and Glynda’s voice spoke as the lights returned to normal “Cardin, that’s enough,” She walked on to the stage as Cardin stared at the teacher, then backed away, “Students, as you can see, Mr.Arc’s aura has now dropped into the red, in a tournament-style duel, this would indicate that Jaune is no longer fit for battle and that the official may call the match…” Glynda paused for a second, “Mister Arc, you should gauge your aura more often, but, I do applaud your focus on defensive combat, you have been doing much better these past few days…”

Cardin grunted and walked off the stage.

Jaune and Pyrrha walked out into a courtyard, Jaune had just come from an impromptu training session with Cardin, and his aura was still recovering... Here, Apple Bloom was standing, “Hi Jaune! Hi Pyrrha!” Apple Bloom waved, “Ready for your training…”

“Yeah…” Jaune mutters, drawing his sword and shield.

“Three… Two…” Apple muttered as Pyrrha watched, a smile on her face, seeing Jaune make friends and train. “One.” Apple Bloom lunged at Jaune, who raised his shield to block her strike, Apple Bloom wasn’t carrying her hammer, and simply smacked the shield with her fists, but it was enough to stagger the boy, and he nearly lost grip on his shield, but he held it fast. Jaune swung his sword, slashing at the air where Apple Bloom stood, but she had already jumped out of the way of the slash, and Jaune pressed forward, slashing some more. Apple Bloom moved to kick Jaune in the gut, but, seeing this, Jaune lowered his shield, and, while he was unharmed, he was knocked back a good dozen meters, landing on the ground with a thump, but he got right back to it.

Pyrrha was watching, impressed with how far Jaune had come in just a few days. He slashed at Apple Bloom’s chest, and managed to clip her gut, sparking off a bit of orange-red aura, but Apple Bloom retaliated with a punch to Jaune’s chest that knocked him to the ground, “You left yourself open there… Remember, don’t attack if you’re leaving yourself open to attack… That was something Yang drilled into us over and over again…”

“Y-Yeah…” Jaune coughed, “Ahhh!” He shouted as he charged and slashed again.

After a short battle that ended with Jaune getting knocked to the ground, Pyrrha chimed in, “Breakfast will be starting in an hour, afterwards, Apple Bloom, would you mind partaking in some hand-to-hand combat with me?”

“Sure, I was getting tired anyway….”

“Uhh…” Jaune moaned as he got to his feet, “D-Did someone say something about food…”

Pyrrha laughed, but Apple Bloom simply gave Jaune a pat on the back, and together, the three of them walked off to the dining hall. There were a few other students present, all sitting and eating, more would be filtering in soon… Apple Bloom saw a pale-skinned arm in a fluffy coat waving to her and she waved to Jaune and Pyrrha as she walked over to sit with her team.

“Ah, Apple Bloom, I wonder where you were, not slacking off or neglecting your studies I presume?” Diamond said.

“No, I’ve been helping Jaune out…”

Diamond scoffed, “Assisting our opponents… Typical blank flank behaviour…” She muttered under her breath.

“It isn’t a competition you know…” Apple Bloom muttered.

There was a long pause as everyone simply ate, then Diamond said to her team, “I have taken the time to read through our syllabus for the year.”

“Y-Year?” Apple Bloom muttered, “Discord never said we would be staying here for a year!”

“Isn’t it obvious, that dreaded snake hasn’t shown up again since three weeks ago… And we did want to go to a monster-hunting school…”

“B-But, Rarity!” Sweetie Belle almost shouts.

“And Rainbow Dash, I wonder if they even know why we’re gone!” Scootaloo shouts.

“Silver Spoon would have told them, she’s still back in Ponyville…” Diamond informs them…

Apple Bloom was silent, she had never been away from her family this long, ever… She almost felt like crying, now that the realization was starting to sink in… They would be here for a long time… Finally, she spoke, “S-Sweetie, a-are there any spells in that book that tell you how to send messages, t-the way Spike does?”

“I-I’ll check, once lunch is over…” Sweetie mutters.

Diamond continues, undeterred, “Starting tomorrow, we’ll be having field trips and team sparring exercises every week, leading up to next month when something called the ‘Vytal Festival’ happens… Apparently, there will be a tournament between a chosen number of teams from each of the kingdoms of Remnant… So yes, Apple Bloom, they are our opponents…”

Apple Bloom looked over at Diamond, “I’m still helping Jaune, he needs the help…”

Diamond scoffed, again, “I am the leader, and you do what I say, you are not allowed to assist the competition…”

“You ain’t my leader!”

Right as it looked like Diamond was going to draw her sword, Sweetie chimed in, “Stop it! Both of you!” She shouted, “Ahhh! I can’t stand this right now!” She slammed her face into the table, hard enough it made her pale pink aura shimmer around her head. “Oooooh…” She muttered into the table.

Everyone was quiet after that… And slowly, the dining hall started to fill with students, none of whom were really paying attention to one another… Nora was muttering some kind of story to her team, and team RWBY, the only part TASS caught was Nora shouting “Dozens of them!” from over in their corner of the hall… Most of team CFVY was nowhere to be seen, probably getting more training done, except for the bunny-eared girl, Velvet if Apple Bloom remembered correctly, who was all alone. Koa was laughing with some of his senior friends up on the other end of TASS’s table, meanwhile, Lavender and her team were off playing chess while eating, and Cardin’s team had just entered from the cafeteria, carrying their trays of food and sitting down.

Then, after a few seconds, some laughter caught some of the student’s attention, namely Cardin moving toward a girl with bunny-ears and making fun of her. Sweetie was reading through some books, Diamond didn’t care, and Scootaloo was lost in a daydream, not noticing… But Apple Bloom noticed and stared disapprovingly at Cardin, and his team’s, antics.

A few moments later there came a shout of “We’ll break his legs!” From Nora, of course, but Apple Bloom was still staring at Cardin, who clearly didn’t notice the faunus staring him down.

“Ooww, that hurts! Please stop!” Velvet shouted, and Apple Bloom practically lept from her chair, marching over to Cardin, who had seized the girl’s ears and tugged on them, hard.

“I told you it was re-” Cardin began, then he turned around, staring straight into the face of the, rather short, but still intimidating Apple Bloom, growling. “What do you want, mule-face…” Cardin spat.

“I told you, back on the ship, that I shouldn’t be catchin’ you doing somethin’ like that.”

“What are you going to-” Cardin began… Then, a punch to the gut sent him flying back, and skidding across the floor, breaking tile. He growled and got back to his feet, but Apple Bloom was already dashing toward him, rage in her eyes. She grabbed Cardin by the neck, hoisting him up, squeezing so hard his crimson aura was sparking violently where her fingers touched his flesh. Cardin tried to choke out an insult, or possibly a plea for mercy, but then Apple Bloom ran as fast as she could, and slammed him hard against a wall, hard enough that his aura shimmered, then broke. “G-Gah! What the-” Cardin began, now that Apple Bloom’s grip had loosened ever so slightly, but, his words were cut off by a punch to the side of his face, a light punch, Apple Bloom didn’t want to kill a student, but there still came the sound of bones cracking, and Cardin coughed up some blood on to Apple Bloom’s sweater.

Behind her, the door slammed open, and Glynda yelled across the room, “Miss Macintosh!” The voice made Apple Bloom drop Cardin to the floor, who was still coughing and bleeding, “Come with me this instant young lady!” And Apple Bloom felt magic wrap around her body, as a purple field suddenly pulled her back toward the door.

Celestia stood atop a podium, overlooking all of Cannterlot… Thousands of ponies were lined up, a great speech was scheduled for today, and many who had heard the rumours coming from Ponyville, Fillydelphia, and the scientific institutes of Canterlot, all had some vague idea of what it was about…

Celestia’s guards had strange weapons mounted to saddles, like spears, but shorter, mounted to boxy bases, glowing with energy. Luna was there too, as well as Fleur, but it was the princess of the sun who took center stage, her mane gleaming with light… She had even moved the sun behind her, shining light down on the ponies in Canterlot, to emphasize how important this speech was to be, for, undoubtedly, this would change the fate of ponykind… And not just ponykind, but all of Equus, even the fates of other planets…

“Ponies of Equestria and beyond, I am Princess Celestia of the Sun, the Morningstar, as was my title in the ancient days!” She shouted, and all the ponies below cheered, “Simmer down my little ponies! For what I have to say is important, and is something all of you need to hear and understand… The rumours from Ponyville, of Discord, the lord of chaos, sending ponies to another world, are indeed true… But there is more to this story than that! This other world is populated by beings known as Humans and Faunus, beings as intelligent as us, my dear ponies.” She paused to let the gravity and implications of what she just said sink in, “This has answered a question that has plagued ponykind since the days of Starswirl the Bearded, that we, as sapient creatures, are not unique to this world… For this other world is not one behind the veil of time and space, existing in another plane, or universe… Indeed, these creatures dwell in our very own universe, our own galaxy even... And there may be many more worlds out there bearing such life.”

Luna conjured an illusion, showing the pictures taken from the alien world, as Celestia continued, “These images were captured by our very own Princess Twilight Sparkle, who has journeyed to this world with the help of Discord… But, the god of chaos will not assist me any further, so, I will make it the top priority of all Equestria, to find this other world, and I hope the other nations of our beautiful planet will assist us…” She paused for a second, “I know many of you have been wondering about the government’s seizure of the gem mines and liquid rainbow production, and rest assured, all workers of such institutions will be receiving triple wages, for their work will be critical in our upcoming future.

Luna dispelled her illusion and walked up to the podium, her turn to talk, “We have done this because those resources will be important in finding and venturing to this other world, as portals will undoubtedly need to be constructed… But, we ask all able unicorns to offer their arcane skills to the discovery of this other world, we know that its moon is damaged, and we know what kind of star it orbits, but it will still take a lot of time and effort to identify this star, so we may teleport to it…”

Celestia continued talking, “Establishing a link between our worlds is crucial, to get these ponies back to their homeworld, and to further our understanding of the universe…” She finished, and suddenly, every pony cheered, as whispers spread through the crowd, wondering what these aliens were like, what profit could be made through interplanetary trading, and, the more cynical ponies were wondering if a war would come between the two worlds.

Finally, Celestia walked back into the castle…

Chapter 34: An Apple in the Woods

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Above, the trees swayed in the midnight breeze, the shattered moon having turned, facing the world below, like a gaping maw… Grasses bent as hooves came clopping down the path, these were not the hooves of horses, but rather, they were black, spiked and gnarled chitin. A small pack of Changelings, turquoise eyes glowing in the dark… The ponies had discovered something, the agents, hiding in Canterlot had gotten word that Celestia, the queen of the sun itself, had discovered the existence of the world that Chrysalis now walked on… It was an unpleasant turn of events, but one Chrysalis had planned for. She kept the poison she brewed almost a month ago, now safely inside her, the vials morphed into her flesh… She couldn’t use them on the princesses now… But, they were still of use, she had spent too much time working on them.

The Changelings were not safe on Equus, and they were not secure here… Chrysalis needed to build her hive, and soon… But where... that was a question she was now wandering the woods to find. Her agents in the human city had discovered just how wild and unclaimed this world was, they only had four kingdoms, four major cities, but that didn’t change how scary these creatures were, they had alien weapons far beyond what ponykind used, and Chrysalis had second thoughts about coming here, but, there was no turning back now… She needed to find somewhere isolated, somewhere where no human or faunus lived...

As she trekked through the woods, there came the sound of wolves growling, and Chrysalis’ guards raised their black-stone spears, long chitinous poles with blades of black eldritch crystal. A wolf jumped at the queen, burning with black smoke and glowing red eyes, Chrysalis was unimpressed… The Queen glanced at her guards, ordering them, without a single word, to back away and leave this to her… It was time to show her superiority…

Chrysalis drew her sword, this one too made from black crystal and chitin, but studded with glowing green gems that dripped with an etherial liquid. The wolf stared at it, fear glinting in its crimson eyes. It looked as if it was going to run, but a blast of acid-green lightning struck it in the chest and it fell over, howling in pain… The other eyes, watching from the dark, backed away a bit, as Chrysalis stabbed her blade downward, the wolf simply dissolving into nothing in an instant when the black crystal touched its flesh, the crystals in the blade, a fusion of human dust and changeling magic bled with eldritch acids, killing the grass in an instant, and leaving the dirt blackened and dead.

Chrysalis stared the other wolves, hiding in the dark, straight in their eyes… Then, with a flick of her horn, green fields erupted around the wolven figures, dragging them forward in telekinesis, whimpering. Chrysalis inspected the wolves, holding them in the air, helpless… Then, approaching one, she opened her mouth, fangs dripping with saliva, as she sucked. Red energies flowed from the wolf-creature, changing green as they flowed into the Queen’s maw,

The wolf-creature cringed as its dark energy was drained, slowly, the wolf started to dissolve into smoke that too flowed into Chrysalis, until nothing remained of the beast… “Ahhh,” the Queen sighed, “Magic, pure, dark, and raw… Untainted by emotion, powerful magic too… Yes…” She muttered, going to the second wolf and sucking it from existence too, “So these are the creatures of grimm those humans are so afraid of, arcane spectres, magical constructs, dark energy given form…” She continued as she drained another wolf, “But such creatures couldn’t have been created from nothing, you were summoned, created by some force…” She absorbed another beowolf into her… “Where might you have come from then?”

Cardin and Apple Bloom were absent for most of the day off, Cardin’s jaw had been shattered, and a medical expert, a huntsman with a healing semblance, was caring for him… Meanwhile, Apple Bloom had been dragged off by Glynda for talking to in Ozpin’s office.

The elevator dinged, and out stepped the teacher and her student, Glynda wore a look of fury on her face, and Apple Bloom was scowling. “Unbelievable!” Glynda began, “Young lady, do you have any idea what you could have done!”

“That Cardin was hurtin’ another student!”

“You broke a student’s jaw!”

“He deserved it, after all the bullyin’ he was doin’”

“He is your classmate!”

“He’s a pile of horseapples, I’ve seen him goin’ after Jaune and Ruby… Hell, he went after me once!”

“That does not excuse your actions!”

“Silence! Both of you!” Ozpin shouted, he gave a sigh, then turned to Glynda, “Could you explain what happened?”

“Y-Yes, sir… This student-” She said with disdain, pointing at Apple Bloom, “Broke Cardin Winchester’s jaw.”

“He was hurting that Velvet girl after I had warned him about doin’ such in the ship…”

“That does not change the fact that you severely injured him, and could have killed him!”

Ozpin gave a grave sigh as they continued to argue… That Apple Bloom girl was fiercely loyal, that was evident… If what they were both going on about was true, then clearly she didn’t hesitate to harm others if it means protecting those she viewed as friends, even if they are subjected to something as minor as teasing… She was going to become a problem if this kept up… “Miss Macintosh… Or do you prefer Miss Bloom…” Ozpin began, “I applaud your haste to take action when you see your friends in danger, but you shouldn’t have been so… Aggressive… Your friends were only being subjected to some light teasing, you didn’t have to break a student’s jaw over this… If one of my friends was in danger, I’d rush to help too,” That line seemed to have made Apple Bloom’s tail twitch, “But, I would take the appropriate action, not overreact, as you did…”

Apple Bloom scoffed, “I ain’t about to let someone like Cardin go off the hook for what he did, gettin’ hurt like that will teach him his lesson…” She paused for a second, eyeing Ozpin, “And, I ain’t about to take advice from a liar.”

That last line took Ozpin by surprise, he bent the truth, he lied, sometimes, but why in the world would this little girl know that? Then Glynda’s voice broke Ozpin’s train of thought, “You little brat! You will be receiving detention this week, if there are no more incidents I may reconsider… As it stands, your loyalty and dedication to your friends is commendable, but, harming another student crosses a line…”

The next day began a bit differently, when Glynda ordered all the students to gather in the auditorium, and this time not for combat training… She said something about going into a forest, no one was really paying much attention, except for Sweetie Belle and Diamond Tiara… Then, they were all told to pack and gather at the northern end of the school grounds. Apple Bloom got into her armour, stuck Applebuck to her back, and walked off to the gathering crowd of first-year students…

An hour later, Apple Bloom was stunned, the leaves were red, and drifting down like they were in eternal autumn, but, at the same rate the leaves fell, they grew back, coating the forest floor in crimson, the leaves dissolving into the ground rather quickly… There was magic here, she could feel the fuzzy and tingling feeling that came from being around a unicorn casting spells… It made her fingers numb, and her headache ever so slightly… As she passed trees, they bent toward her, falling leaves floated in her direction and the trees she passed seem to grow ever so slightly taller and larger…

Glynda spoke up, “Yes, the forest of Forever Fall is indeed beautiful, but we are not here to sight-see. Professor Peach has asked that you collect a jar’s worth of red sap from the trees deep within this forest, and I am here to make sure that none of you dies while doing so… It also provides an excellent example of what fieldwork may be for some of you… The forest is full of the creatures of grimm, so make sure to stay together in teams… At four o’clock, we will return to the school grounds…”

Glynda continued talking… Apple Bloom was in the back of her team, and behind her was Cardin, face still a bit swelling and puffy, but his jaw had healed quickly… He kept his eyes on Apple Bloom’s back, and the girl was very, very, uncomfortable… But she pressed on, that jerk had learned his lesson…

Soon, they arrived at the grove Glynda was talking about… The magical energy here was stronger than in the rest of the forest, some kind of powerful spell was once cast here, that was obvious, clearly the cause of why the forest was so red… But, Apple Bloom didn’t quite understand it, Sweetie was clearly just as intrigued, as she walked around, looking at things that Apple Bloom couldn’t see with her earth-pony senses…

“Umm, miss Goodwitch, what happened here?” Sweetie asked Glynda, “Why is the forest so, weird…”

Glynda was a bit confused for a second, then replied, “Oh, I’m not sure about the details, but a few hundred years ago, there was a great battle here… Some fairytales talk about the Fall Maiden, but I believe that a warrior with a powerful semblance did something to the forest, for what reason, I’m not sure, but it does give the place an uncanny feeling…”

Sweetie looked deep in thought, but quickly returned to the task at hand, using a quick cutting spell to slice into the tree and start drawing the sap out with telekinesis… Scootaloo jabbed the blade on the end of her weapon into the tree and waited for the gooey stuff to drip into her jar. Apple Bloom walked up to a tree and placed a hand on it, instantly it started to grow ever so slightly faster, and she felt magic flowing through the wood, she felt the sap inside… She backed away and gave a hard kick to the tree’s trunk… The tree shook, and from where her boot slammed into the wood, it started to bleed sap, she placed her jar under the leak, and gathered the goo.

Everyone else was using their weapons, or getting the help of their team-mates… All except for Cardin, who stared at Apple Bloom, eyeing her angrily… In the distance, somewhere off in another part of the forest, there came the crack of gunfire, silenced a moment later with the shout “Everything’s fine, just a small beowolf!” And the forest returned to normal.

Apple Bloom, once handing her jar over to Sweetie Belle, who was keeping track of everyone’s jars, started to wander around the forest, following the magic in the air, trying to find where it was strongest… She didn’t notice the footsteps behind her… Once she was away from the group, a gun fired, and Apple Bloom felt a bullet slam into her back, she yelped, but drew her cannon… As she did, someone ran out of the woods and slashed at her with a pair of swords. Apple Bloom parried by slamming the guy in the head with the butt of her cannon, before pulling down on the lever and turning it into a hammer… The guy had rolled out of the way and stood back up before Apple Bloom could smash him like a nail.

Russel Thrush, holding his swords in his hand, they both burst into flames as the dust in their base activated, but Apple Bloom blocked the strike with the handle of her hammer and batted the boy to the side. She turned as another gunshot sounded from the woods, but narrowly avoided being hit by Dove, who stayed in the bush. Sky Lark burst out a moment later, charging her down with his halberd, but Apple Bloom dodged the thrust, grabbed his weapon’s shaft, and tossed it, with Sky still holding on, over her head… He fell down behind her with a thump, but a sharp pain from behind her reminded the girl of the other threats, as Russel sabbed at Apple Bloom, who gave him a hard kick to the face, making the aura around his head spark, meanwhile another gunshot came from behind her, and she nearly fell over as a bullet hit her in the back of the head.

Apple Bloom turned around, raised Apple Buck, and fired a trio of rounds at Dove, who dodged the first two, but the last shell struck him in the torso… There was a flash of pale orange light, and Dove fell over, aura broken. But, Sky raised his halberd and slammed the blade down on Apple Bloom’s shoulder, who screamed in pain as her own red aura shimmered, not broken, but a warning noise from her scroll told her that she was in danger…

She grabbed Sky’s weapon, but the boy let go this time, as his halberd was thrown into a tree, getting quite stuck in the wood. Sky backed away, as Apple Bloom angrily approached, and punched him several times in the gut… A plale blue shimmer overtook him, and she fell to the ground as a good, hard, earth pony kick to the gut broke his aura.

Russel got up, and jabbed at Apple Bloom’s back again, but aside from a small little sting, he didn’t get far, before Apple Bloom knocked him to the side with her hammer, batting the boy to the ground, his aura sparking in a pale greenish-blue. Then, when the fight seemed over, Cardin leapt from the woods and slammed Apple Bloom in the gut with his mace, the girl’s aura sparkling red before she collapsed, aura broken…

Cardin slammed a boot into Apple Bloom’s chest, and she coughed, the wind blown out of her by the strike. Cardin spoke, voice in pain from his still-healing jaw, “That was for breaking my face!” He stomped down on her chest again, this time Apple Bloom felt a jab of sharp pain in her chest, “That was for that little birdie pal of yours beating Dove!” He kicked her in the jaw, nearly knocking the girl out, “And that was for making me look bad on the ship!”

Cardin reached down, and lifted Apple Bloom into the air by her neck, “I think it’s only fair, after you broke my jaw, that I break some of your bones…”

Back in the glade, the sounds of gunfire echoed from a little bit to the east, followed by the sounds of swords clashing against metal, and the sound of a cannon… “What’s going on over there!?” Asked a worried Pyrrha.

“Isn’t that the way Apple wandered?” Blake asked.

“I’ll go check it out…” Jaune said, drawing his sword.

“Be careful,” Pyrrha muttered, “I’m coming with you…”

Together, the two wandered over to the disturbance, coming to a small field… There, Cardin’s team laid unconscious, with Cardin holding Apple Bloom by the neck, no one clearly heard what was being said, but Jaune was quick to act, charging forward, shouting “Let her go!” Sword raised.

Cardin dropped Apple Bloom, but didn’t react fast enough to block Jaune’s strike, as he jammed his sword between plates of armour, the sheer force behind his strike knocking Cardin to the ground. “Gah!” Cardin shouted, “Get off of me you little shit!” He pushed forward, knocking Jaune to his butt. Cardin got back to his feet and raised his mace into the sky, ready to throw it down on Jaune, but he was suddenly thrown to the side, right as a spear struck Cardin’s chest and knocked him down again…

“Jaune, go get Glynda!” Pyrrha shouted.

“G-Got it!” Jaune replies, running to find the teacher.

“Apple Bloom, what happened…”

Apple Bloom was on the ground, coughing up blood, “T-That jerk… Ahh… He and his team beat me up…” She spat out some more blood, “I-I think, they broke something…” Cardin meanwhile, tried to get back to his feet, but his armour felt heavy, immobile, as if something was holding him down, he tried to wiggle free, but every single piece of metal on his body was forcing him still, he continued to shout obscenities at the two girls next to him, until Jaune returned with a very angry Glynda…

Sweetie Belle was tired of sitting around, holding on to her team’s sap… Apple Bloom and Scootaloo had both wandered off… She turned to Diamond, “I’m going to go exploring a bit, mind looking after the sap?”

Diamond scoffed, “Yes, just leave me with all the sap and go wandering off like the others, damn blank flank…” She paused, “Actually, on second thought, you would probably just break it, go off and do whatever you Cutie Mark Crusaders do…”

Sweetie nodded, got to her feet, and wandered into the forest… It wasn’t long before some little thing caught her attention… She wasn’t quite sure what it was, just a strange feeling in the back of her head, like a little tingle, something magical, a different kind of magic than the nearly overpowering magic of this place, something that was different enough to stand out… It almost felt… Familiar…

She found herself in a small clearing when a little shape among the grass and fallen leaves caught her attention… Like a pebble, a little smooth black shape… She first thought it was a rock, but, when she saw it, it was like a little piece of black carved bone, shaped like a scarab. It tingled with magic in her hands, but she couldn’t quite tell what it was, the design was somehow familiar, but she couldn’t place it…

She stared at the shape a little longer, then, not wanting to get lost or left behind, placed it into her pocket, and forgot about it…

Chapter 35: Murder, Unkindness, Conspiracy

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One of the Queen’s servants brought her a map, and on that map was something very intriguing… A massive chunk of the map was marked as “Grimm-Infested”, and seemed to cover a large portion of the city, everything past a mountain to the south-east… The trip around the mountain was easy, turning into a flock of birds, the entire pack of changelings got a good look at the ruined city below… Massive towers of stone and rusting metal, food stalking the streets, once or twice one would hear the sound of a human weapon, but it was always far off, and toward the populated city.

“Down, we will search the ground…” Chrysalis telepathically said to her drones, following her in a massive flying-V, as any other flock would. They dove down as one, changing shape again, this time into a pack of dogs, to hide among the rubble. The first day was spent resting in the ruins… The Queen had taken shelter on the top floor of a ruined tower, giving her an impressive view of the ruins, and the distant form of the populated city, just visible over the hills and distant wall.

That night, a pair of drones were exploring the roads when they saw, on the side of the road, what looked like a stairwell going down into the ground… It had been bolted shut with plates of metal that looked worn and scratched, covered in claw-marks and dents. They approached, and knocked, it didn’t budge, but it did make a hollow bang. One of the two raised his horn and shot a beam of yellowish-green magic that ate through the metal like an acid. The plate fell away, and with a hollow boom, it revealed a tunnel going down into darkness… The Queen was informed, and the next day, she, and several others, trotted down the shadowy corridor, magic lighting their way…

It went down for what felt like an eternity, but at last, they found themselves at a door, welded shut. Another ray of magic had cut this door free too, and it revealed a great and empty darkness beyond. Chrysalis trotted forward into that great darkness, and a few meters away from the door, nearly tripped and fell on a ledge. She channelled more power into her horn, illuminating what quickly revealed itself to be a massive cavern, the ceiling held up by massive metal pillars, and the entire cavern filled with structures just as massive as the ones on the surface. These ones too had fallen into disrepair, and the smell of ancient decay, at least three or four decades old, lingered in the air, like a dusty blanket of bone, smothering all other scents.

Finally, after looking down for a few minutes, taking in the cavern in its entirety, and the hundreds of little black shapes below, like swarming magical ants, like little pockets of savoury food, Chrysalis turned, “Builder-drones, to me! This will be our new hive!”

A middle-aged stallion was trotting down the roads of Dodge City. His basket of oranges was fresh, and he could smell their sweet sents in his nostrils. It was late, but most ponies were still awake, he wanted to get home and hoped to surprise his children… It wasn’t every day he could afford to bake his orange-cake.

The streets were misty, and something about the night put him on edge, the sky was darker than normal… Wanting to get home quicker, he ducked into an alley… That was when a tinking of metal on stone echoed down the streets, and he nearly dropped the basket in shock… It was just a can, the wind must have knocked it to the ground…

Right as he turned to continue walking forward, he stopped, letting out a choked whinny. The cloaked figure before him let out a misty breath… “Very sorry, heh heh…” He began, stalling, trying to think of a way to get past the creepy figure, but not wanting to be rude, lest the figure takes it as an insult. “You came out of nowhere.”

The figure stood… Its shape was a little odd, at least to the pony’s eyes… It didn’t look quite like a normal pony. It started to talk in a raspy, withered voice, drawing the words out, “Is he friend, or is he foe… The pony wonders.” The stallion started to back away, a little confused and scared of the hooded figure even more now… Under its robe, he started to get glimpses of red, black, and white fur, around a skinny and withered shape. “I can assure you, I am no… Friend…” He drew forward a bit and revealed a monkey-like face and a clawed forehoof, the stallion wanted to run… It clearly wasn’t a pony, and it wasn’t friendly… But he didn’t know how to get away from it, trapped in the alley as he was… Should he call for help? Should he run? Should he fight? The figure continued talking as the pony pondered this, “I am lord Tirek!”

The pony’s horn ached, his body growing tense, and mind fogging as the tingling of a spell being cast from his own horn, but not one he was casting himself, flooded his mind, “And I will take what should have been mine, long ago…” This Tirek finished, as the stallion’s body started to go numb. A few moments later, there was no feeling left in his body, and he collapsed, dropping his basket and falling to the floor… He looked up through clouded eyes to see the figure’s eyes glow a horrifying yellow, and bulk larger than he did previously, before the pony passed out.

BANG! BANG! BANG! Sounded across the forest, a bear-monster had wandered into camp, and with a shout of “Ursa!”, The faunus got their guns and started shooting… The kick of her pistol made her hands numb, but Cozy enjoyed it, with this little device she had the power to destroy a living creature. She took aim, pointing the barrel right at the eye of the bear, and pulled the trigger one last time… A pellet of metal whizzed through the air and punctured the bear’s eye, it collapsed and dissolved into smoke.

“Great shot!” One of the White Fang members commented.

Cozy could hardly see out of the mask, it was honestly annoying, but it made her fit in, so she wore it… The clothing, on the other hand, was nice, warm, padded. “Golly, that thing was scary, thanks… Couldn’t have done it without you…” She said, bring polite, but, to some extent, meaning it… She wouldn’t have survived the first monster she came across if it weren’t for these faunus… She would, in time, rise the ranks of this White Fang organisation, at the very least, that was her plan. But plans change, and she would need to change too, she needed magic. She had talked about magic to her companions, but they seemed to think it didn’t exist, even if their aura was a blatant use of magic.

She put her pistol on her belt, and returned to the center of camp… The story of how her mind was damaged by a human’s semblance, and how she found herself in the woods without any memory at all, had spread around the camp and had earned her much pity. She didn’t like the pity, but she would use it to her advantage.

As she was drinking a bowl of soup, watching the others… In the distance, a trio of people, humans, she thought, as they didn’t have any obvious animal parts, and they were wearing strange clothing, approached. One was carrying a pair of swords, the other two, if they had weapons, weren’t showing them… Instead, they carried briefcases on their backs.

“Uhh, Adam!” She shouted, getting the attention of the leader.

Adam heard the girl, and walked out of his tent… He was not a nice person, and not easy to manipulate, Cozy learned this quicky, but, his anger could be used, he would come if called, if only to yell at the person for interrupting him. She heard a growl from his tent, then a “What could be so important to interrupt-” The moment he saw the trio approaching, he stood up a bit straighter, and shouted, “What are you doing back here!”

“Adam…” The woman in the red dress purred, “We could have gone to anyone for help, but we chose you…” She continued, “Our offer still stands.”

“I’ve already told you to leave.”

Cozy was curious, what did this woman want? One of the two accompanying the leader of this trio drew a pair of pistols at the same time Adam drew his sword. “Our plan will be beneficial for both of us…” The woman continued.

“I’ll say it one last time, leave…”

The woman smirked, “Or one of us…” She threw down her swords and raised an arm, fire swirling around it in a clearly magical way, a way that intrigued Cozy… Adam growled, and charged, at the same time the woman launched a blast of fire. The faunus man dodged to the side and moved to slash the woman, who created a blade of glass in her other hand, blocking Adam’s sword. The green-haired girl looked as if she was about to join the fight when the woman gestured to her with her fire-wreathed hand. “Stop.”

Adam kept up the attack slashing again and again, but the woman blocked each strike with her glass blade. “Stop it! Both of you!” Cozy yelled, shooting her pistol into the air.

Her tone shocked all four of the people present, and the boy with the silver hair turned and said, “What do you want, kid…”

Cozy growled, “Have all of you lost your minds!” She screeched, “Look, Adam,” Her voice returned to its sickeningly sweet tone, “How, effective, has your little organization been lately, you aren’t sweeping the humans away with a grand army, are you? You are just a pack of thugs, robbing stores and getting picked off by monsters…” She turned, “And you, I have no idea what a group of humans would want with us, but you’re powerful!” She stared at the swirling fire around the woman’s arm, “And clearly, you’re offering that power, and isn’t power something that everyone needs…” She purred.

The woman smirked, “It looks like the child is smarter than you, Adam…” She snapped her fingers and unleashed a blast of fire behind her… Her two allies picked up their cases, planting them on the ground and revealing dust, and money… Lots of it.

Smoke rose into the sky from the cold-iron mills, blotting out Celestia’s light… The island would rival the pony-city Fillydelphia, and the diamond dogs would get back the ancient land that was taken from them… Thousands of the largest and strongest of the diamond dogs marched through the streets, armed with cold-iron bidents, and armoured with cold-iron plate mail. The metal didn’t destroy magic, like the Changeling’s dark-stone, but it was certainly magic resistant, but that made it hard to produce, and it had taken decades to build this army, and decades still to recover from the losses from the dog’s pyrrhic victory over the Arisian Hippogriffs…

Apefang the White, as he was called as a child for his monkey-like face that stood out among his diamond dog kin, stood atop his tower, overlooking his island-kingdom. Airships circled the shore, wood and iron weaved together, powered by magical engines that spewed acrid fumes into the air, no doubt returning from another raid, laden with gemstones to fuel the demands of his kingdom’s industry.

His tower was made from hewn black stone, carved into sharp and grand shapes, arches and buttresses arced off in magnificent ways… It was a mirror to the tower built in the far north, in the middle of the Crystal Empire… The twin to Sombra’s spire, back when he and the diamond dogs were allied in the first crystal war. The two towers, one in the north, one in the south, armies descending to destroy the foes of the two great kings… But that was aeons ago, and Apefang wasn’t alive back then to see the glory days of the diamond dogs, but that great empire he would restore.

There came a knock on his door, “Enter…” He said. The door was bulky and metal… Gears clicked, chains rattled, and his door slid open. The clinking of four legs on the cold stone floor told him who had entered, he had no need to turn. “Tempest, how did the most recent raid go…”

“Very good, sir, but it seems that the griffons are starting to increase the guards on their shipments to Abyssinia, last attack we encountered a few dragons alongside their ships,” The purple pony responded, voice devoid of emotion.

The Storm King sat silent for a second, “Go, command the violet fleet, we will be assaulting Abyssinia…”

“So soon?”

“We’ll need their industry, and we can’t afford to wait longer, our raids haven’t gone unnoticed, and we can’t let them make allies with the Griffons or Dragons… Or worse, the Ponies…”

“Yes sir…” Tempest finished, turning and moving out of the tower.

An hour later, he watched as airships rose from their gantries and turned to the north-east. Flying the twin-fanged banner of Storm Kingdom…

A gilded chariot bearing a symbol of the sun flew over the clouds, it was a long journey, days, and the pegasi had to stop several times… But Celestia didn’t want to take the trip herself, as easy as it would have been… She needed to keep up her appearances, and doing things herself made her guards feel weak. Her chariot pullers took pride in their job, and she wouldn’t take that away from them, even if it would have been much quicker.

The Hidden City was… Well… Hidden. And they flew over the jungle, searching the ground for any sign of the reclusive kingdom… Even a tiny border village would do. That’s when Celestia’s eyes saw a tiny orange shape moving across the
ground, looking up at her, “Land…” She said to her chariot pullers, who obliged, and swooped down. They were over a large meadow, not far from the Peaks of Peril, which marked the westernmost border of the Hidden Kingdom.

The chariot came in for a landing, bending the flowers and grasses below… Finally, it skidded to a halt on the cliffside. Celestia dismounted her chariot and walked to greet the orange-maned kirin that was standing before her. “Hello there, kirin, I would like directions to the capital of your kingdom…”

The kirin was silent for a second, “Umm… Hello, I am Princess Celestia, ruler of Ponykind, the Morningstar, as I was known to the Griffons and Diamond dogs…” She paused, still silence, “What’s your name?”

The kirin then laughed, “Hahaha, Hi! I’m Autumn Blaze, I’m from the town of Orchi, over that way,” She talked quickly, pointing a hoof, “You won’t find much help over there I’m afraid, they’re all real quiet… It’s an honour to meet you, you’re as big as the town’s leader, unfortunately, I don’t know where the capital is, I’ve lived my entire life around here, it’s been years since I’ve had someone to talk to, I hope you don’t mind, ooh! Do you like tea, I can brew some up for you, it’s a long way from the pony-lands, I don’t quite know how far, but it must be very far. You have wings, and a horn, it’s all pointy, not like mine, that’s cool, I bet you can use a pointy horn for a lot more than this ol’ thing, looks like your friends are tired, should I get them some tea too, ooh, they also have wings, like birds… I wish I had wings, like those, they must be soooo warm…”

The kirin continued on like this for minutes, but Celestia simply sat there, letting the talkative little creature babble her heart out… It would be nice to spend some time out here, she thought, as she looked around the beautiful fields, but she really needed to see the Empress, so she waited for the Kirin to finish her babbling before walking off in the direction of her village, leaving her guards behind.

Chapter 36: Atlesian Nights

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It was Laywind’s birthday, and as such, the entire family gathered in their apartment… It was a nice little home made from brick, the Equestrians had been staying there for a few weeks now, clearly, Laywind’s family was concerned about needing to feed four new guests, but it turned out to be the other way around, as the Equestrians were the ones buying the Laywinds their groceries… Those bits that Celestia gave Twilight were particularly valuable in Mantle, gold was apparently a rare element, and Twilight now had thousands upon thousands of Lien, those strange cards that the humans and faunus used as currency, and Rarity wouldn’t let the relatively poor family go uncompensated for all the trouble of providing the ponies shelter.

Everyone gathered in the living room, there was a modest cake with eighteen candles atop it. The panda-eared girl sat in her chair, blowing out the candles and handing slices of cake to everyone… It certainly wasn’t as sweet as anything from Equestria, but it was good none the less. Even Pietro was here, a good friend of the family apparently. In the corner, Rarity was sitting with the scientist, “Any news about my sister?” She asked, quietly.

“I’m sorry, I visited Atlas Academy yesterday, but there were no students under those names…”

Rarity looked a little sad, but Pietro said, “Are you sure your siblings went to Atlas?”

“Where else would they have gone, they said they were going to a monster-fighting school…”

“Well, Atlas is only one of four huntsman academies… They could have gone to beacon or haven, it’s unlikely but possible…”

That caught Twilight’s attention, who was still wearing her armour disguised as simple worker’s clothes. “There are other schools?” Spike was on Twilight’s shoulder but hidden under an invisibility spell…

“Well, yes… One in each kingdom,”

“Spike, write this down…” She said, waving her hand and causing Spike to appear… Everyone gasped and looked at the creature on her shoulder, who was pulling out a piece of paper.

“W-What is that thing?” One of Laywind’s siblings said.

“Oh, Spike, he’s… Uhh…” She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, but quickly came up with an explanation, “He’s my semblance, I can summon him to do stuff for me, he’s just an extension of my aura, and not actually alive.” Spike, understanding the need to keep a low profile, didn’t respond, as much as he wanted to.

“That’s a fascinating ability, I’ve never heard of such a semblance before,” Pietro said.

Rarity chimed in, “Pietro, what was that you were saying about the other schools…”

“Ah, yes, there is one in each kingdom, it is possible that they’re in Beacon or Haven…”

“Can you look into those schools, see if any of our siblings are over there?”

“It would be hard, I’d have to visit the CCTS, meaning I’d need to schedule another visit to Atlas, it will take another week or so…”

Twilight frowned, “Can we go see this Atlas Academy ourselves…”

“Perhaps, I’ll talk to the deputy headmaster, unfortunately, Ironwood is busy…”

Raven sat in her tent, cleaning her sword… Her last raid went poorly, the villagers were well-armed and had huntsmen with them… Not all of her tribe made it out alive… The idea of the other planet loomed in her mind. Unfortunately, she had lost track of the aliens just after they first arrived… Well, they are shapeshifters.


Oh, those “aliens”, they’re shapeshifters, looking for a new home after their old one became too dangerous for them, they were enemies of a powerful nation, you see…

W-What is this, why was she thinking these things…

My dear little survivalist, you are not the one thinking these things… I’ve been watching you for a while, and I figured this would be the best way of getting your attention… If I came as a human or faunus, you might just try and kill me…

Who are you, then? How are you doing this… And what do you mean… Raven, for the first time in a long while, was scared… Someone, or something, was talking to her inside her own head…

You know I can hear your thoughts… I prefer the name Discord, but I have many names… The God of Chaos, The Great Serpent, The Trickster, The Fifth Sage, The Lord of Clowns… None you would know of though… I have been absent from this world for a very, very, long time.


You already know of my cousins, brothers they were, light and darkness… The voice in Raven’s head chuckled.

Y-Your one of them! How! T-They left Remnant!

They did, one of them is currently on the planet he calls Nikomyre, the other I think is sitting around a black hole, experimenting with the development of life around one of the most hostile of environments… But me, I prefer the planet Equus, but I have a bit of an interest in your world too…

What do you want with my world then… Raven was- She didn’t want this creature to know her thoughts, she tried to clear her mind…

A clever little human you are… I won’t tell you my plan for this world, yet… But you will play an important part in that plan… Most of it is set in motion, in fact, those aliens you saw, the Changelings, are another piece of that plan, and one of the more important pieces too… But, I can’t let you play around with that piece, lest you throw my scheme out of alignment…

W-What are you doing with me then… I don’t like schemers...I don’t like liars and puppeteers, particularly ones that try to tell me what to do.

Well, my plan is far from malevolent, in fact, it will save your little planet from a lot of destruction and devastation, and have effects that will ripple throughout the universe, changing the fate of this galaxy forever… But, explaining myself is not the reason I have come to you… No, no, no… It’s to offer you something, a chance to escape the gaze of our little wicked witch… You want to go to another world, don’t you?

What does sending me and my tribe to another world do for you, I’m not about to make a deal unless I know what I’m getting into…

I will send you, and your tribe, to another planet, a populated planet, where you might be free… And, in doing so, you will cause plenty of chaos on this world, and I get you, a very unpredictable variable, away from my plans for this world… What do you say?

Raven didn’t want to trust this thing- No, no, don’t let it read your mind… Fine, I’ll take the deal, but let me see where you’re sending me, and prove to me that it’s another world…

Very well… With that, Raven’s mind was flooded with images of a snowy landscape, high in the mountains, it was night, and the moon above was full, uncracked, and the sky was a little more purple than the nights on Remnant.

Fine, send me there, but take my tribe first! Raven thought, she instantly supressed her thoughts, she forgot that this being could read her mind, and she wanted to think about it first, but, with a bit of horror, she realized she accidentally took the deal too soon…

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light and her entire camp, along with herself, was now sitting in the cold mountainside… Raven opened her eyes, she was still in her tent… Everything was, clearer, cleaner, brighter… She felt a strange pressure on the top of her head, and she felt something swaying behind her. She didn’t feel cold in the least bit, instead, she felt hot, very hot, like she had a furnace inside her like she was burning, but it didn’t hurt… It felt good… She had a sudden craving for salad and fruit and the taste of iron.

She tried to get to her feet, but she stumbled forward, like her center of mass was different, looking down, she saw her- “W-What!” She shouted. She had hooves! Like those of a deer, hard, cloven, and… Red… Her hooves were red, her fur black… She screamed, tried to scrabble to her feet and get out of her tent, to see what became of her tribe… She hobbled over to the tent’s flap, there was plenty of shouts and screams from outside, she almost wanted to go outside as a raven, but she would rather see her tribe in person.

Outside, it was a chaos of all sorts of creatures, but from their clothing, morphed to fit their new forms, and their weapons scattered across the ground, she could tell these were her people… Some were horses, colourful and oddly proportioned horses, some with horns and some with wings… Some looked like giant birds with the bodies of cats, and others were reptilian, with massive bat-wings and scaley bodies. Shay had turned into a giant ape-like dog!

Everyone turned to see who stepped out of the camp, or at least turned as best as they could, many couldn’t stand, and those who could were uneasy on their new legs… A familiar voice spoke up, “R-Raven? What’s happening! W-What are we! What are you!” It came from a… Bird-Horse of some kind, it… No... Her body was covered in pale brown feathers with a mane of two-toned greenish and yellowish hair and pale blue eyes… She wasn’t the same thing as the bird-cat things, she was skinnier, taller, and her back-legs looked more like those of a horse… But it was her clothing and voice that gave her away…

“V-Vernal?” Raven was angry, whatever was talking to her just turned her entire tribe into a pack of aliens! She felt fury building inside her, it seemed to come naturally, and pushed out any other emotions with supernatural speed… She was burning with rage, she was hot, and growing hotter, but it felt nice, her entire body now felt like a furnace, not just her stomach… She swore she saw purplish, bluish, and reddish flames dancing around her…

Everyone took a step back, or at least tried too, except for Vernal, who simply said, “R-Raven, you’re on fire!”

The ponies left the apartment and wandered down the streets of Mantle, with all the asking around for their siblings, none of them really had time to appreciate the city, and even Twilight kept herself under control when she saw a bookstore, but now, tired of asking around and spending weeks searching the city for the CMC, everyone needed a drink… They found their way to a bar and grill, it apparently didn’t serve faunus according to the sign out front, but a simple illusion spell took care of that… They all walked in and took their seats.

“And what can I order for you today,” Asks the bartender.

“Got any apple cider?” Dash perked up.

“Sure, hard or soft?”

“Hard please…” Dash continued.

“Sure thing… What about you?”

Rarity looked deep in thought, she wasn’t the biggest fan of alcohol, but right now, it was certainly welcome, “Some wine please.” She said.

Twilight said, “Milk, please, I don’t like alcohol… Make that chocolate milk…”

Spitfire finished by saying, “I’ll take root beer and an order of…” She glanced at the menu, “I’ll try this ‘fish and chips’ stuff…”

“One root beer, and the fish and chips.” He finished and walked off.

They sat, waiting for their drinks. Rarity pulled out that strange scroll that Discord had given her while they were waiting. “Uhh, are you sure that’s a good idea?” Asked Dash.

“We’ve been searching all over town, and we have yet to find a single clue about where that horrid snake sent my Sweetie…”

“But, do you think he would actually put something useful in there… Odds are it’s a trap…”

Rarity popped the scroll open and clicked the start button, it lit up, and Discord’s voice came through, “Hello, Rarity, if everything is going the way I planned, you’re already in Remnant, in the city of Mantle… Well, congratulations on finally opening up this little trinket, it will self-destruct in a few minutes, but, rest assured that your sister, and all of her little friends, are same and sound, for the time being anyway… She is currently attending Beacon Academy down south in the city of Vale… Well, I’m off to talk to Fluttershy...”

With that, the scroll snapped in half and fell to the floor, sparking and dead… “Well… That was, interesting…” Spitfire said.

“D-Do you think Discord is actually telling the truth?” Twilight said

“Only one way to find out… Where’s this Vale…” Dash said.

“Somewhere to the south, across the ocean,” Twilight muttered.

“What are we waiting for!” Rarity shouted, “My sister could be in danger!”

“Rarity! Discord wouldn’t let the foals be harmed, he isn’t evil… Plus, we need to order a trip on an airship or boat to get there…”

As they discussed what they were going to do next, suddenly, an alarm sounded, a loud shrieking thing. “Grimm attack!” One of the humans shouted. The four ponies shared a look and abandoned their lunch, running out into the street. Twilight let the illusions around her drop, and everyone stared at the four, their faunus parts suddenly visible, particularly Twilight, with alien armour.

They ran out into the street and saw that the wall in the distance was being scaled by a massive horde of wolf-like creatures, accompanied by birds and a giant millipede. The strange creatures were advancing, and they kept coming despite the guards, and their automaton’s attempts to hold them off…

Rainbow Dash was the first to react, unslinging her gun, she took the thing everywhere she went, and flapping her wings, taking off, all while firing her assault rifle into the advancing horde, ripping through them with amazing efficiency, as each shot hit their mark and caused the monsters to dissolve into crimson dust.

The nevermores were quick to turn on the flying foe, and Rainbow soon found herself in a dogfight, firing behind her as the birds chased her down. Meanwhile, with the horde of beowolves advancing, Rarity, her weapon left behind at Pietro’s shop, picked up a nearby metal rod in her telekinesis and launched it toward the monsters… It was long, and guided by magic, it hit its target perfectly, impaling three wolves in a single strike, and with a back-stroke, it returned to Rarity’s hands, she quickly applied a cutting spell, sharpening the rod into a giant spike, and firing it off again, zipping through the horde like a sewing needle through fabric.

That giant millipede was advancing, and the weapons used by the Atlas guards didn’t seem to work on that thing’s tough hide and bone-plates. Twilight ran forward, knocking away the wolves that came at her with blasts of telekinesis or magical beams. The giant grim growled into her face, and she replied, trusting Rarity to hold off the wolves while she raised her arms and lifted the beast into the air with her magic… It was rough, it kept moving and weighed more than she cared to guess, but with a burst of magical force, she launched the thing into the air, and let loose her magical explosion spell… The ball of energy zipped through the air like a purple comet and, in a giant blast of purple magic, the creature was obliterated.

Rainbow zipped through the air, now on the offensive, leaping atop one of the birds and putting a dozen shots through its head, right before flying off in a rainbow streak and zipping past another nevermore, putting a few shots into its side, as she flew across the sky, occasionally flying down and ripping the land-based grimm apart in strafing runs.

Rarity was wielding her giant needle with precision, and stabbed through one of the birds trying to catch Rainbow from behind, before striking downward and impaling a large cat-monster that was trying to climb up the wall.

Twilight was firing bolts of purple lightning that blew the grimm apart, and let loose with an overcharged cutting spell that sliced an entire score of beowolves in half, and even cutting into the wall behind. It was over in a heartbeat, and the last of the monsters were cleaned up by the guards and their machines. One of them muttered, “It’s been a while since we last got an attack that big, why didn’t the fleet help?”

“They’re all heading to Vale, if we still had mantas and dropships on standby, that giant centinel wouldn’t have gotten this close…”

The people filed out of their homes and businesses, cheering for the four, despite their faunus nature, for saving them from the horde. One young man ran forward and said, “T-Thank you so much, I saw the whole thing from my window, the way you lifted that giant grimm into the air was amazing!”

“Oh, umm, thanks…” Twilight said, laughing a bit, but everyone was captivated by her armour, moving around in alien ways, ways that shouldn’t be possible for any physical material…

A pair of guards were staring at the four, “That was amazing, what kind of semblance is that? Who are those faunus girls?”

“I don’t know, huntsmen I’d guess, check their licenses…”

Clover was standing out in the tundra, looking for any sign of the targets… It had been two weeks now, and they had yet to find any sign of the culprits… Marrow and Harriet were following him as he trekked through the snow, Vine and Elm staying behind in the manta. Suddenly, he got a message over the comms… “This is Private-First Class Terra Cel, fifth regiment, Mantle guard, we got unlicensed huntsmen in this area, I have standing orders to send any disturbances your way, apologies if this was an inopportune time…”

“Acknowledged, Private First-Class, we are en route…”

Marrow turned to Clover, “Any leads on who we’re looking for?”

“Perhaps, at the very least, it’s something, a few unlicensed huntsmen, not a big problem if it weren’t for the Vytal Festival and our current mission…”

“I’ll call Elm and Vine…” Hare said.

The sun beat hard down on the desert but in the shadow of the oasis-jungle, sheltered from Celestia’s sun by the tropical mountains and greenery, it was a serene place… Massive sandstone pyramids, and the sound of churning steam engines, seemed to encapsulate the oasis, technology and nature blended in an odd way… Every building was made from heavy sandstone blocks, water wheels churned the rivers, and smoke-stacks rose above the palm-trees, everything decorated with gold inlays, red and blue fabrics, and hundreds of the tall and slender Abyssinians walked through the streets, wearing beautiful and colourful robes with golden jewellery. Small airships flew overhead, brass and gold cogs clicking, propellers whirring…

Half a week ago, a pony chariot showed up and flew right to the top of the largest pyramid… It arrived with metal crates and piles of papers, it left with piles of gold and jewels… The cats below wondering what kind of deal was struck… Now, a few of the royal guards, instead of their ankh-decorated shields and glimmering khopeshes, were now carrying short, spear-like devices, with some kind of dish on the end and with all sorts of levers and buttons, crackling with electricity…

Today, though, smoke was seen on the southern horizons, over the sea, something was approaching and it came with the sound of thunder...

Chapter 37: The Clash of Thunder and Lightning

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“Since you’re so forthcoming with your technology, I suppose I should be too…” The Kaiser said, walking up to Luna and motioning her to follow… They moved down, below the imperial palace… The deal had already been struck, a dozen of the experimental beam-casters and their schematics in exchange for a sizeable sum of gold, gems, and coal. The gold and gems would go a long way in securing the economy of Equestria, they could be redistributed to all the workers working overtime to aid the nation in its new industrial revolution, and the coal had its uses, although the coal industry was a dying one, ever since the diplomatic tensions between Equestria and the zebra grew unstable during the last years of Kaiser Hades’ reign, Celestia had started to phase out the use of coal and replace it with liquid rainbow, but of course, that was a project all of its own, and one that was still not yet fully completed, the trains still ran on coal, and many of the mills in Fillydelphia still used vast sums of the rock, particularly in steel manufacturing.

They went down flight upon flight of stairs, they were far, far, underground… They passed into some kind of lab, it didn’t look zebra in nature, in fact, it reminded her of- Suddenly, Luna’s train of thought was disrupted as Kaiser Erebus began, “My predecessor, Kaiser Hades, he had plans to invade Equestria for some time, even before you returned and sturred up the church against your nation, luckily, he perished before his plans could be set into motion, and I have managed to calm the worst of the zealots, but there is still plenty of anti-Equestrian sentiment, but I’m sure this trade deal will go a long way in calming that, I can emphasize that, if your kind were truely enemies, why would you give us your weapons…”

Luna nodded in understanding, and Erebus continued, “The former kaiser had been designing all sorts of weapons to wield against you, I had many of the old scientists locked away, a few, even executed…”

“What would warrant such treatment, other than their questionable loyalty and access to weaponry, that is…”

“You have given me your trust, giving me your experimental weaponry, so I shall give you the same…” He said as the two arrived at a door marked “Balefire Breeder Pool” painted over ancient words that Luna could bearly recognize as “La-u-ae H-ve An-ma-o-s Phy-i-s -es-arc- I-st-itu-e”

Abyssinia was rapidly approaching, a surgical strike on their shoreline capital… Tempest watched the city, grand sandstone pyramids, and brick buildings, covered with copper and brass pipes that churned steam to their machinery.

The smoke billowing from their airship formed an ominous cloud-bank, and Tempest ordered the ships to slow, they would emerge from the clouds, let the Abyssinians think it was just a simple storm approaching.

“Looks like the cat’s airships are turning in our direction…” Grubber muttered.

Tempest didn’t bother with responding to the little hyena’s mutterings, he was an imbecile, only caring about when he was going to get his next meal… Then, his words finally registered in Tempest’s mind, and she slapped the spyglass from the little diamond dog’s paws, “What!” She shouted, “They couldn’t have known that we were coming!”

She turned the spyglass on the approaching ships, it was hard to see at this distance, but she could make out the vague shapes of the cat’s guards aboard the vessels, and a magical glow coming from the bow of the head vessel. “Scryers!” She shouted, “They know we’re here, everydog! To your battle-stations!”

The next few minutes were chaos as the diamond dog soldiers rushed to the harpoon-launchers and prepared to board the enemy ships. Tempest charged her horn, ready to unleash a blast of magical lighting toward the abyssinian capital ship.

Tempest stared in shock as her spell was deflected, there was a powerful magic-user aboard that ship, no doubt the one who saw them approaching with their scrying… Then, flashes of white shone from the deck. “Take cover!” She shouted, realizing a spell must have been flung back at them, then, before anyone registered the order, blazing bolts of white energy ripped through the ship, burning clean through wood and slagging metal. Tempest ducked, and held her hooves to her ears until the flashing subsided… She looked up, and when she opened her eyes she was greeted with the sight of Grubber, half of his face missing, blown off, his seared brain visible behind a melted skull.

She jumped back to her hooves, “Harpooners! Fire! Now!” She looked around and saw just what happened to the ship, the massive balloon above was dotted with singed holes, the wooden deck was spotted with hoof-sized breaches that cindered and sparked, and a hoof-full of diamond dogs lay wounded, luckily, their cold-iron armour held up against the magical attack, but that didn’t do much for those unlucky few who were struck between their armoured plates.

The harpoons fired a moment later, at least those that weren’t too damaged… The bolts flew forth and struck the hostile vessel, reeling it in.

In the heat of the glistening sun, the clicking from her brass pocket watch was soothing to Catrina… She was in her full battle-decorum, an enchanted brass-plated cuirass underneath a red and gold robe, her belt decorated with magical trinkets and fetishes. The pocket watch was one of these, it was no normal clock, as it was decorated with arcane symbols and sigils, there was one crystal-tipped hand and it pointed to the bank of dark clouds ahead… The watch’s head showed, in a small clear orb of crystal, the image of a purple pony commanding scores of dogs as they rushed to their stations aboard their vessels...

“It seems they’ve caught on, I was hoping that they wouldn’t suspect that we knew of them for a while longer…” She sighed, “Well, the game is about to unfold,” She snapped the watch closed, ending the scrying spell, “Battle stations!” She finished, shouting as the air-sailors rushed into action. “Sarcophagus guard! To me!”

The sarcophagus guard were the king and queen’s royal guards and armed with the new gemspark-arquebuses… It was a shame that they didn’t have the time to arm everyone with such weapons… Catrina saw, right before closing her scrying watch, the unicorn charging a spell aboard the enemy ship, thus, she raised another trinket, a silver ankh studded with rubies, and pointed it toward the hostile cloud bank… There was a loud, thunderous, bang, and a flash of light from inside the clouds, a bolt of magical energy soon emerging and flying at the abyssinian airship with amazing speed… The gems on her trinket glowed, and the spell stopped mid-air as it struck a magical shield, sparking, only a few inches from hitting its target when it dissipated.

The silver ankh melted in her grasp, falling and splattering molten metal across the floor, that quickly cooled, the broken pieces of the rubies set into the metal sticking out of the sterling blob. Catrina sighed, “A shame, it takes so long to make those…” She drew a wand from a holster and pointed it toward the hostile ship starting to emerge from the clouds, “Let us return the favour! Fire!”

There were dozens of small cracking noises as the guard fired their arquebuses, bolts of white magic sailing forth and flashing against the hull of the hostile vessel… That was followed by the noise of the weapons being reloaded, as the cats cracked open the breaches of their weapons and slid bottles of lighting into a compartment, removing the dead, empty, glass vials that were inside previously.

A series of metal rods shot from the enemy vessel, flying to strike their ship, wich they did, rocking the vessel and throwing some of the sailors off-balance, one or two unfortunates stumbled off the railing and fell off the ship with chilling screams. “We’ve been struck, harpoons!” A sailor shouted, “Should we try and cut them!”

“No, let us take the fight to them!” She shouted, and leapt forward, off the bow, and on to one of the metal cables linking the two ships… The sarcophagus guard followed, despite their heavy gold-coated, armour, they moved with cat-like grace as they sprinted across the cable, many pausing as they got closer to the ship, taking aim with their arquebuses to snipe the ship’s crew, trying to unhook the cable before they were boarded.

Catrina leapt to the deck of the ship and channelling magic down the length of her arm, punched right through a diamond dog’s chest, leaping out of the way as a bolt of multicoloured lightning nearly struck her in the side. The rest of the guards had made it to the ship, and, while some in the back loaded their weapons, many others drew their khopeshes and charged, the diamond dogs raised shields and bidents. The dogs had range, while the cats had speed, they ducked around the jabs and slashed at the cracks between their armour with their swords. It was a bloody show, as some abyssinians didn’t dodge in time and got pinned by the dog’s spears, but for each abyssinian lost, the dogs lost five, either to the hacking and slashing of the cats in melee or the arquebusiers firing the occasional magical blast.

The pony leapt over a bleeding diamond dog and launched a lightning bolt at an abyssinian arquebusier who was subsequently fired in her own armour and dropped dead with the smell of burned flesh. The pony turned, and narrowly avoided a stunning spell from the paws of Catrina. She turned, saying “Catrina, the wicked witch of the south, I’ve heard a lot about you…”

“I’m glad you know of me, but forgive me for not having the time for an autograph,” She replied, waving her wand at the unicorn, shouting “Samekh!” And launching another spell at the pony, who leapt out of the way, the spell sailing past and striking one of the abyssinian guards, who suddenly went stiff, then, without any way to keep his balance, fell overboard.

Catrina growled as the pony leapt across the battlefield, dodging the sorceress’s spells, the pony replied with blasts of lightning that Catrina either dodged, or raised another ankh charm to block, but she was slowly running out of charms, as they could only sustain three or four spells before melting. The pony finally stopped and stood still, Catrina fired a spell at her, but the pony fired another spell back, the two cancelling each-other out and causing a magical pulse that knocked everyone to the ground, some cats and dogs getting knocked overboard.

The pony got back to her hooves and Catrina scrambled back up, but, the pony didn’t notice that the last of her diamond dog allies was just slain by an arquebusier, and turned to see a cat looming over her, right before knocking her to the ground with the butt of his arquebus. Catrina approached, and screamed another “Samekh!” Pointing her wand right at the horse’s head, making her go stiff and unresponsive.

“She’s still alive,” Catrina said, “Take her back to the ship, I’ll question her personally once the battle is over.”

“It would be easier to kill her and be done with it…” The guard replied.

“Weapons and tactics and the bravery of warriors are only a part of how you win a war, information is one too, we will get what we can out of her, then give her off to her kin, the pony’s princesses will know what to do with her…”

“By your leave, ma’am,” The guard replied, taking hold of the pony and marching back on to the cable, running back to the flagship, the battle was far from over, and more enemy ships were emerging from the clouds… Catrina cleaned the blood off her claws, then gestured to the surviving abyssinian guards to follow her and she blasted down the door leading deeper into the vessel. Cackling, she yelled, “I know spells of such power that you, pathetic little mutts, can never hope to compete!” Before charging down into the hull, magical power flowing around her body.

Another pony fell unconscious, his magical energy drained away… Tirek now loomed twice the size of a stallion, he was getting bigger, and more powerful, but his actions were starting to be noticed, there were more guards around every corner, and he had to be careful not to get outnumbered if one saw him. Surely, the news of his return was sure to reach the princesses soon.

A trio of guards had seen him, and one turned the corner, pointing a spear at the beast, “Stop right there, criminal scum!” He shouted, only to drop the spear as his energy was drained away… Soon, he might be able to draw power from more than just the unicorns...

The mountain, surrounded by a verdant jungle and glimmering lakes, loomed before Celestia as her chariot raced through the sky… That town she passed through had placed a peculiar curse on itself, one that made the creatures there silent and emotionless… Celestia dispelled the curse with ease, but she was positive the moment she left, they would simply curse themselves again… At least she got the location of the Hidden City from the village leader, and she had picked up a passenger.

It was clear to see that the little kirin was dreadfully lonely, particularly after getting banished from her village, and while there was little Celestia could do for the town, she could at least ask this Autumn Blaze if she wanted to be delivered to the Hidden City, where she was bound to find other, more talkative, kirin… She agreed and spent the entire trip chatting to Celestia about what life was like in their respective kingdoms.

They flew into a large cave, no doubt a volcanic channel, and passed right under the glittering roof, lined with crystals, and then out into the main volcanic tunnel, extending down for miles and miles into the earth… It reminded Celestia of her time visiting the dragon lands… The buildings were built into the rock walls, made from volcanic basalt and reminded her of the ancient Neighponeese before they were integrated into the Kingdom of Equestria. Carved tunnels led to different parts of the city, some natural and others dug out by the kirin over their centuries of isolation.

Everything was lit by the crystals in the ceiling and walls, it all glittered a magnificent array of colors, and Celestia knew she would need to give Rarity a vacation here one of these days. Finally, the chariot came to land in an alcove with a massive, gold and crystal decorated palace, Autumn was told to stay in the chariot, and Celestia walked on to the platform in her glittering gala dress, something she chose to wear when engaging in diplomacy, as it gave her the impression of wealth and splendor, and reminded everyone of her power, while not being intentionally intimidating, which could make her come off like a tyrant.

Finally, a few knights in their plated armor, and a kirin monk, walked out to greet the newcomer, surprised to see a pony in their kingdom, a kingdom they had kept hidden from the world for the past one and a half thousand years. But, it was about time they returned to the scene, particularly with recent events… She was going to do her best to convince the empress to open her borders and engage with the empires around her… And so, with an odd solemness falling over her… Celestia wandered into the Empress’ domain.

Chapter 38: Shadows on the Cave Wall

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Luna sat there, with Erebus, in a dark room that she had vague memories of from aeons ago… It looked different, both from the ravages of time, and the Zebra’s remodeling, but the important things were still here, the balcony, with its gaping hole, the dent in the wall, the hole in the floor, even the scorch marks… The final details of the trade agreement were done, in addition to the agreed-upon payment, the Kaiser would, unofficially, give Equestria samples of Balefire, the Pink-Agent, and their experimental talismans. Finally, Erebus spoke, “Princess Luna, what do you know of Zebra religion…”

“Depends on what part you’re talking about, the rituals, the history, the genealogy…”

“We both know what part I’m talking about, now is not the time for jokes, Princess… I’m sure you realize that…”

“Yes, I do… Regarding the Star-Kin, you have myths that say that the stars are cruel, evil, and malevolent things, that bend the world around them, that give you the tools needed to destroy yourselves. Yes, I know about your Star-Kin, I was going to do a bit of research into them myself… Why do you ask?”

“I have discovered something… The reason why I dragged you down to this particular building…”

“Do you know what happened here?”

“Not all of it, but I know you were here, and I know that the myths about the Old-Masters are true, and I know that Magnus, Blazeswirl, Archon, and the other planets orbiting Celestia’s sun weren’t always around… We used to be in a small pocket-world, didn’t we…”

“Yes… Then, something changed, I remember when it happened, only a few weeks after we earned our titles… Suddenly, the universe was bigger… And the stars were real things, distant, but real…”

“Yes… I want to know what caused that, I want to know how…”

“That is a question I’ve always wondered myself…”

“I have a theory. Are you familiar with passage Celestial 1:10, from the Book of the Stars…”

“Of the four great stars only two remained, the father dead and the traitor imprisoned, below was the world, lone and in ruin, and those baleful stars left the old world in ruin to give birth to the new,” Luna said, whispering.

“Yes… I was never that religious, but I have talked to many theologians, and they believe that we are living in the new world, created by the stars after the old was destroyed, leaving behind these two others, the Father and the Traitor… I never believed any of it, but now I know that there is some truth to that story… The final proof I needed was the discovery of this other world, somewhere else in the universe… I know that the preachers are wrong, we are living in the old world, and those two stars left our world behind to create this other planet…”

Celestia had just finished talking to the empress of the kirin and it went much better than she expected, she had worked out a simple trade deal, and her words seem to have swayed the empress, making her consider the idea of opening her borders and finally becoming a player in the game of global politics… She was looking out of a window, memorizing the Hidden City in the event that she would need to return via teleportation… That was when a message appeared, and for once, it wasn’t from her student… It bore the symbol of the Wonderbolts and was clearly sent by unicorn magic, not dragon magic.

She opened the scroll and dropped it when she saw the first word written on the parchment... Tirek. “You, maid!” She pointed at the Kirin maid who had just walked in and was serving her tea, “Inform the empress there is an emergency in my homeland and that I am needed right away, give her this scroll, it was addressed to me, but I’m sure she will understand…”

“Y-Yes Prin-”

There was a loud pop, and Celestia vanished in a burst of golden light, but not before passing the scroll to Luna.

Tirek loomed over the ponies, the guards had their spears raised, but by this point, his skin was tough enough to bat them away without a paper-cut. Many ran, but he grabbed them in infernal telekinesis, sucking the magical energy from them, dropping them to the ground. “Lord Tirek!” Shouted a voice, loud, angry, commanding, and regal… A voice that seemed to boom across the sky, and echoed from the sun above.

From the sun approached the shape of an alicorn, surrounded by pegasi, an entire company of wonderbolts. The ponies planted their hooves on the ground, Celestia in their center, the pegasi raised strange boxy contraptions that looked like magical spears. “Tirek, I am giving you one-”

“Celestia! To think that I went through so much trouble to find you, only to have you deliver yourself to me.”

“Tirek!” Celestia’s voice bore rage and power behind it, “I am giving you only once chance to surrender, to return the magic you stole and come peacefully… If you do, I vow to give you a comfortable existence… If you don’t-”

“What!? You’ll kill me!” Tirek laughed, “Celestia, even if you could, you wouldn’t, your ponies are too soft, you were once a great warrior, now look at you, reduced to a common monarch, unwilling to get your hooved dirty!”

“I’ve heard enough, Wonderbolts!” The ponies raised their strange spears, sparkling with magic.

“What, you think those little weapons can harm me! My skin is harder than dragon-hide! My flesh is resistant to all magic!”


There was a sudden tzut-tzut-tzut-tzut-tzut noise as magical blasts of light struck Tirek, he was boasting, but only a little, as the beams simply burned his outer skin, not melting through him as they should have. The monster growled and rushed forward, the pegasi backed up, keeping up their fire, Tirek blocked his face from the burning light, not wanting his more vulnerable eyes or mouth hurt.

Celestia built an orb of magic on her horn and launched it at Tirek, who batted the offending sphere away, it was deflected, struck the ground, and melted the earth to orange magma. The monster rushed forward, but not being able to see his attackers clearly, couldn’t get them in a telekinetic grasp… He waved a curtain of force through the air, all the pegasi dodged, and Celestia teleported out of its arc, but one pony was caught, the telekinesis wrapping around him, dragging the pegasus stallion to Tirek, who consumed his energy, then he was flung into the air, but caught by another wonderbolt before he could fall to the earth and get injured or killed from the impact.

Celestia launched another arcane blast at Tirek, one hit home and badly burned his shoulder, he shouted “Celestia!” In anger, and reached out in the direction the blast came from, but Celestia had already gotten out of the way. There came another pop up above, and the unmistakable feeling of her sister’s teleportation…

“Luna!” She said.

“Care for some assistance?” She said. She was flying, wearing the dress she wore for diplomatic missions, and in a telekinetic field, she carried a strange orb… It was no larger than a pony’s hoof, but it glowed a bright green and seemed to contain some kind of liquid, bubbling, and swirling in mesmerizing patterns with different shades of greens, yellows, and purples.

“This monster is magical resistant! Some help would be nice…”

She suddenly shouted in the royal Canterlot voice, “All ponies, retreat, flee from the immediate vicinity of this beast, I will handle this mysef..” She turned to Celestia, voice back to normal, “You should go too,”

“What do you have planned?”

“Just a gift from our Zebra allies…” She smirked.

Celestia nodded and teleported a safe distance away, Luna used the application of a spell she hadn’t used in aeons to propel herself fast away from the monster, Tirek, bending gravity around her. Celestia frowned at seeing the spell in use. Tirek yelled as he saw everyone flying away from him, he growled at Luna, who simply launched the orb at him with terrifying speed.

Tirek raised his hand to catch the orb, but his telekinesis couldn’t slow it down, and the moment it rammed into his palm, there was a great blast of green fire, accompanied by a rapid implosion and explosion, the screeching noise hurt everypony’s ears, and they were nearly blinded by the fierce green light.

The dust cleared, at first, all that could be heard was a bone-chilling and gurgling scream of agony, and green light from deep within the dust cloud. As the dust was blown away, Tirek still stood, but he was missing an arm and leg, most of his torso was missing, his body looked like it had gone through a meat-grinder, and he was wreathed in green flame, clawing at his eyes and trying to put the flames out, eventually though, his screaming died out, and he fell to the ground… The immediate area around his body was still burning.

Celestia looked shocked, and stared at Luna, concern on her face, “W-What was that thing?” As the twitching body of Tirek finally ceased, there was a burst of magical energy, and orbs of power shot out of his wounds, flying off, no doubt to the ponies who had their magic stolen.

Luna turned to Celestia, “We need to talk…”

The camp was moved to somewhere a little warmer once everyone got used to moving around in their bodies, it was… Odd… Trying to walk on all fours, but Raven quickly got used to it. The trek down the mountain was harrowing, the creatures with wings wanted to try flying, but Raven wouldn’t let them, flying was difficult, as she learned her first day after receiving Ozpin’s “blessing”...

Soon, they passed from the frigid mountaintop and found themselves on some rocky highlands, with a light padding of snow… In the distance, to what Raven guessed was the south, was a beautiful and strange landscape. It was grassy fields and boreal forests as far as the eye could see, if one looked to the horizon, they could see the faint shape of a city on what looked like the shore, near an ocean… “W-What exactly happened?” One of the bandits asked

“I-I don’t know, something, or someone, sent us here… It’s clearly not Remnant,” Raven said, she had calmed down, and her fur was no longer on fire. “Something magical…”

Vernal looked a little concerned but nodded, and they continued marching down the mountainside until they found a place they could set up their tents. It was a little outcropping near a cave, perfect shelter, and they saw what they thought was a road not too far off, into the woods.

As they set up their camp, Raven heard a noise coming from within the cave, and saw a faint light deep within, “Stay here, I’ll investigate,” She said, trying to use her hooves and mouth to mount Omen on her side, finally, Vernal had to come over and use her claws to help… Raven didn’t have any idea how she was going to use the sword in her new body, or where they were going to find dust rounds for their weapons, but that would be a question for later.

She walked into the mountain, weary of the shadows on the walls, when she turned a corner and saw a giant reptilian creature sleeping on a mound of gold and gemstones, fire was smoking from its nose, and large bat-like wings clung to its side, it almost reminded her of some of her tribe members. It wasn’t Grimm, at the very least, but she wasn’t about to let this thing live… She tried to draw her sword with her mouth, but it was a futile effort particularly with how large it was in comparison to her new form…

Omen’s handle clattered to the ground, and that noise caused the beast to twitch… She froze, as one of the wings of the creature batted out, and it raised its head, opening its eyes, “P-Pony, why are you here, in my cave…” It grumbled, its eyes saw the sword on the ground, and it muttered, in a grim and angry voice, “Trying to take my gold… Are you?”

Raven backed away as the lizard pointed its massive mouth at her, she saw a bright, hot, orange glow coming from within the beast, and, not knowing what else to do, she drew upon her magical powers, eyes erupting with red flames… She raised a hoof toward the beast and shot a blast of cold into it… It reeled back and coughed, moving its claws to its throat and screeching in pain, Raven ran as best she could, back out, “Need some help!” She shouted to her camp, who were already gathering up their weapons in what appendages they could once they heard the screech.

The lizard creature came out of the cave a moment later and towered over the different animals, suddenly, bullets filled the air, punching through its scales and ripping into its flesh, it howled in pain. Her eyes still glowing with the power of the maiden, Raven floated into the air and shot blasts of lightning at the beast, finally it collapsed, dead… But one bandit made sure to stab it in the head with her spear, just to make sure, though this thing’s scales proved harder than expected.

“Well… Looks like meat’s back on the menu boys…” Raven said, then smirked, “And, we hit the jackpot,” She finished, remembering the pile of gold inside the beast’s cave.

Chapter 39: Detainment

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Four ponies-turned-faunus were walking through the warmed streets of Mantle, chatting to one another by the glow of the heating vents, one was carefully licking at an icecream cone, another was bragging about how she took down five nevermores in just a few minutes, the other two were politely following behind… The only one who had her weapon was the rainbow-haired one, the other girl, wearing glasses under a heavy robe that seemed just a little off to anyone who stared too hard at it, seeming to ignore the flow of the wind and cast strange shadows, not that people were paying any attention to them, other than the two on the roof of the nearby building.

Both had their weapons on their backs, one tall, thin, pale, and calm… The other large, tan, and muscular. They had reinforcements if they needed them, but between the two, they had no doubt they could capture a few unlicensed huntsmen. They both pulled a pair of gravity bolas from their equipment belts and took careful aim at the people below, “Three…” Vine began.

“Two…” Elm continued.

On the count of one, both flung their weapons at the targets, followed quickly by tossing their second set at the others… From hearing of the purple-haired one’s abilities… They targeted her, and the one with the weapon first.

Spitfire listened to the conversation, but a wooshing noise caught her attention, four purple balls twirling through the air, followed by another four, were heading their way... She had just seen them when one set struck Twilight and Rainbow dash, wrapping around them and rendering them immobile.

Spitfire leapt out of the way of the one heading toward her, long military training had rendered her reflexes impeccable, and her pegasus agility allowed her to dodge the thrown weapon with ease. Rarity had a much more, unicornish, way of dealing with a thrown object… The balls stopped mid-air, glowing in a pale blue field, then flung back the way they came.

Twilight growled, and, feeling the magical energy right behind her, no doubt what was holding the device around her torso, she let her illusion drop and fed magic into the dust crystals inside the metal spheroids… There was a loud popping-snapping noise, a flash of violet light from the balls, and they both cracked, going inert, and falling away.

Twilight turned to destroy the devices holding Rainbow still, while the other two kept on the lookout for whatever attacked them…

Meanwhile, on the top of the apartment, Vine stood, shocked, to see his own bolas sent flying back at him, he leapt, using his semblance to avoid the attack, he stretched up into the air and shot a vine-arm at the woman who sent his bolas back at him… Rarity was struck to the ground by a magic arm, glowing a bright gold, she felt the magic coursing through it, it wasn’t too different than telekinesis, and Rarity was good with telekinesis… She planted her arm on the magical limb holding her to the ground and pumped her own power into the limb.

Vine suddenly felt his arm tingle, and a blue light spread up his vine-arm at a rapid pace… Finally, his semblance seemed to shatter, and he fell to the ground, his arm numb, he reached out with his other hand to prevent himself from smashing into the ground, meanwhile, Elm had already jumped down to the street below.

Rarity grabbed some rocks from the street and flung them far up into the air… A woman, large and carrying a massive hammer, smashed down into the street, Rainbow had already been freed and flew up into the sky, readying her assault rifle and taking aim, but, the magic-hands guy grabbed Rainbow from behind and started to pull her toward him, but a slash of purple magic severed the arcane limb, and the pale man recoiled in pain, clenching his arm.

Right as the hammer woman charged the group, Rarity conjured a magical shield, she wasn’t good with it, but Twilight, seeing the woman with the hammer about to strike, poured her power into the shield too, their magical auras combining to form a bright indigo colour, the woman’s hammer struck the shield, Rarity screwed her eyes shut and let out a grunt of pain, but Twilight held… Then, the rocks Rarity had chucked into the air came falling down like a hail of razor-sharp fragments.

The hammer woman tried to shield herself with her hammer, but some still struck her, falling so fast they made tiny craters in the ground and many caused yellow sparks to shine off the woman’s flesh. Once the hail had stopped, Twilight dispelled the shield in an explosion of force, but the woman stayed rooted to the ground with some strange spell on her feet.

A magical arm reached out for Spitfire, but the moment Twilight turned, the pale man pulled his arm back, and leapt into the air on golden feet, grabbing nearby chunks of rock and flinging them at the ponies, but, with two telekinetics, the rock attacks where sent back at the man throwing them…

Elm ran from these powerful huntresses, and climbed up a nearby building, once on the roof, she took aim with her rocket launcher… The rainbow-haired girl aimed up with her assault rifle at Vine, and dozens of blasts of light struck the man, he grunted, but they weren’t particularly powerful, there were a lot of them though, and each took a chunk of his already damaged aura. Elm targeted the woman, the one who shot the rocks into the air and had deflected every attack Vine threw at her.

Rarity, seeing the trails of smoke and fire heading her way, raised a hand and caught the things that had been shot at her, they were little metal canisters, with pointed heads and fiery tails, much like metal fireworks… She had worked with gold and silver plenty, and the metal these things were made from wasn’t too different, she pulled and twisted, warping the metal and twisting it into strange shapes… There was magic inside, those dust crystals that the humans used for everything, but she was good with magic, and while certainly not Twilight, who was currently flying up into the air to fight that chalky human stallion, she twisted the dust, changing its properties into something a little more flashy and beautiful…

Elm froze as she saw her rockets frozen in mid-air, then warp into strange and complex patterns, finally forming into the shape of a tall and elegant golden horse with a crystal horn and wings, glowing with pale blue energy… She ducked as that horse statue was sent in her direction, but the thing exploded into a flash of light and cold that stunned her... when she opened her eyes, she was buried up to her neck in ice, and the side of the building she was standing atop was covered in a sheet of frost.

The purple and pink haired woman flew up on glowing purple wings and grabbed Vine in a field of violet energy that felt a lot like his own semblance, then the woman moved one of her arms out and snapped a finger, suddenly his limbs stiffened, he couldn’t move a muscle in his body, and he blacked out.

Roman Torchwick was standing in a warehouse in the west side of Vale, not too far from the docks, he looked at his scroll… New orders from Cinder? On the holographic display it said something about the White Fang. He picked up the device to inspect it closer, “RT, WF queen’s pawns, Crystal, SBS, Atlas, intercept. WF assist.”

Roman looked at the screen a bit closer… He didn’t like the idea of working with those animals, but if that’s what Cinder wanted… He sighed, there was a second message, a few lines of coordinates, one was the dust shipment coming in from Atlas, no doubt the other was the rendezvous location where he would meet the White Fang.

He sat up, took his cane in his hand, and wandered to his airship parked just outside the warehouse… The repairs from when those faunus foals scrapped the thing were a pain in the ass, it needed a new engine, and all that came right out from his pocket… Whatever, once that atlesian dust shipment was his, he would have more than enough money to make up for that, Cinder’s plan, something about sewing fear, would be a step closer, and, of course, she would take a large chunk of the profit for whatever her master wanted…

He sighed, almost lamenting his situation, as he walked into the cargo hold. “Take us up, we’re heading here!” He said to the pilot, a small girl with pink, white, and brown hair and eyes, showing her the coordinates on the scroll.

Blake was quietly reading a book in the empty hall, next to her was Sweetie Belle, reading the same book… It had become a bit of a habit, ever since they first discovered that they were both literature fans. Blake sped up a bit in her reading to catch up to the faunus girl, that way they could read and share their opinions and reactions to the events of the book, both at the same time. Sweetie muttered something, “Well, that was dumb on her part…”

“Yeah,” Blake chuckled a bit, “Well, let’s hope she doesn’t do more dumb things in the future, she nearly exposed Osely’s secret…” Blake’s mind thought it funny how the protagonist of The Man with Two Souls was so similar to Ozpin… But, the sound of Sweetie closing her book caught Blake’s attention.

“Well, that’s the end of chapter thirty-nine,” She muttered, “I’m tired, want to pause here?” She said.

“Sure…” Blake muttered… “And,” She paused, “How’s Apple Bloom doing, I hear she got in trouble with Cardin’s team…”

“O-Oh, yeah, a broken rib and cracked arm, she’ll be fine though, only a few days of keeping her aura strong should do the trick, at least that’s what the nurse said, I’ve been helping her too, with my semblance, but I’m not really that good with healing…”

“At least Cardin’s team were given detention for the whole month, and refused entry into the tournament… I guess that means another team will just have to take their place,” She said, looking up at the girl.

“Hmm…” Sweetie said, “That tournament thing sounds fun… But I’ll need to talk to Diamond about it.”

“Yeah… I-” She paused for a second, “It must be hard to be a faunus, constantly persecuted the way you are…”

“I don’t think so… Sure, plenty of humans are mean to us, but those people are all just piles of ponyfeathers, just ignore them, and if you can’t, just fight back…”

“But aren’t you afraid of being labeled a threat because of that, just look at the White Fang…”

“Sure, there are bad faunus too, there are bad people in the world, that I know quite well…” She muttered darkly, flashes of the changelings in Canterlot coming to mind, seeing those ponies killed, seeing those ponies fight back and kill the changelings… Scootaloo didn’t want to talk about it, and Applejack had spent weeks consoling Apple Bloom after that, but Sweetie was a big foal, and while it was scary, terrifying, she didn’t let it worry her… She was a big foal, she was a big foal, she was a big foal… She wasn’t going to let the memory get to her…

Seeing Sweetie’s expression, Blake stood up, concern on her face, as she walked up and said, “I-I’ve seen some bad stuff too, if you want to talk about it-”

“N-No, I’m a big foal, I can take it…”

Blake frowned, “Still…” Blake was impressed with this girl, she seemed to young and naive, but at the same time, that innocence seemed to be her greatest strength, Blake could never imagine what it must be like, to so simply ignore all the hate she must have gone through, being a faunus in a distant village outside of the kingdoms, where people, constantly worried about grimm attacks and burdened by a life of farming and trade, tended to be far more discriminatory.

Sweetie turned her mind to Diamond, Silver Spoon, Luna… “But,” She said, resolutely, “I also believe that the worst monster can be redeemed, I know plenty of pon- people, who came back from being evil… These White Fang, these bad humans, I know they can change…. I-” She paused, “I just don’t know how…”

Blake smiled, “Well… That’s the question, isn’t it…” She turned and waved to Sweetie as she walked back to the dorm, Sweetie walked out another way, not wanting the awkwardness of ending their conversation and leaving the same way.

Elm felt the ice around her warm, then dissipate and give way to a cold wetness and a soft pressure across her entire body that tingled slightly… She opened her eyes, weary, with vague memories from the fight beforehand slowly becoming clearer in her mind… She saw a woman, a faunus, with purple and pink hair, a pair of glasses, and a long set of robes for the cold… Her hand was glowing with violet energy, and the word was covered in a light violet haze.

Elm muttered, finding it hard to open her mouth with the pressure all around her, “W-What do you want!”

“We just want to know why you attacked us…” The woman muttered.

“W-Why? You’re unlicensed huntsmen.”

“We’re not huntsmen?” Another voice said, this one coming from a rainbow haired woman with a large set of rainbow-feathered wings.

“Y-You’re not? Then why are you carrying weapons, why did you go to help fight off the grimm?”

“I didn’t think you needed a license to protect people…” Another faunus woman said in a disapproving tone, coming from a girl with pale skin, and dark indigo hair.

“Well, who sent you?” The first one continued.

“Why should I tell you that!”

“To get this whole thing sorted, if we apparently need these licenses, then we will simply get them…”

“G-General Ironwood…” Vine said… He was held in a blue field coming from the pale faunus girl, “He gave us orders to search for the ones responsible for a large explosion detected out in the tundra, believed to be terrorist activity…”

“Vine!” Elm shouted, “Do not give these dissidents information!”

“Oh, that would be us,” The purple one said, “I umm…” She blushed, “I might have put a bit too much power into my semblance and blew up some, Grimm, I believe you call them… Oh, then these guards showed up and attacked us, I put one to sleep, I… Umm, don’t know what happened to the other.”

Elm’s face wore a look of shock, she tried to move her arm to touch her comms earpiece, trying to call for reinforcements, but the field around her was simply too strong... Vine said, “Then, we have orders to arrest you.”

“Hmm… I don’t think we did anything wrong, I’m sure if we talk to this Ironwood, we can get everything sorted!”

“You’ll have plenty of chances to talk to him in prison…” Came a voice from behind everyone, a voice Elm and Vine recognized. Clover launched his fishing rod forward and wrapped the hook around the hooded girl with violet hair, it shocked her, and the field holding Elm vanished.

Elm rushed forward and moved to slam her hammer into the one holding Vine in that strange semblance, but she turned and a blue field erupted around her hammer, and it didn’t budge… Then there was a shout of “Stay!” and the field around Elm’s hammer dissipated as the pale indigo-haired woman froze solid.

The rainbow girl leapt into the air on her rainbow wings, and Vine raised his arms to grab the woman out of the sky, but she was fast, fast enough to give Harriet a run for her money, and in a streak of multicolored light, she flew off. Vine swore under his breath, but the final woman, the one with orange hair and orange wings, who had been silent this whole time didn’t even move to do anything… She simply crossed her arms and sighed, muttering something under her breath as Clover walked forward and placed the gravity bolas around her hands.

Vine said, “Careful with the purple-haired one,” Pointing at the girl in the robe who was currently wrapped in Clover’s cable, staying quiet but carrying a disgruntled look, “She did something to the gravity bolas, she was caught for a period of time, but broke free…”

“Hmm…” Clover said, “Some more conventional handcuffs then,” He finished, drawing some spare metal cable from his belt, used whenever his fishing rod broke.

Chapter 40: Humans and Faunus

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Twelve people were walking down the streets of Vale… From the moment they woke up, the fillies could tell this was a special day, first of off, it was a day off, a Friday off, something different, something that only happened back in Equestria when it was a holiday, like Nightmare Night, the Summer Sun Celebration, Crystal Day, Aquillianina… Although that last holiday was more a griffon tradition, there was still plenty of pegasi who celebrated it.

Then, Team RWBY and Team JNPR offered to take Team TASS down to Vale, and a quick vacation was welcome, so obviously, the fillies obliged… When they came down into the town, taking the long way down, not wanting to bother the airship pilots, the first thing everyone noticed were the balloons, banners, and a general cheery mood that permeated the city. “What’s going on?” Asked Apple Bloom, torso still bandaged from her broken rib.

“The Vytal Festival,” Weiss replied, “A festival dedicated to the cultures of the world,” She continued, “It’s a biyearly celebration marking the end of the great war.”

“Isn’t that still two weeks away…” Diamond muttered, remembering the syllabus she had gotten.

“Yes, but, it’s one of the largest celebrations in the world, preparations always happen ahead of time to ensure that everything is ready… Amity Colosseum will need to be dragged all the way from Atlas, huntsmen will need time to practice, and people from all over the world will be sailing or flying to the chosen kingdom, all of those things with take time, lots of time, and that isn’t even counting the economics or the logistics that go into this event, it’s all simply breathtaking, the amount of organization, that is why we’re preparing so early.”

“Well, where are you taking us?” Scootaloo said to Weiss.

“Myself, and my team, are heading to the docks to welcome the students sailing in from other kingdoms, I hear several have arrived by airship already, but I want to see and greet all the new students…”

“I’m going out to grab some dust, it’s all on sale,” Pyrrha said.

“Yeah, and I’m taking the chance to check out my favourite pizza place!” Jaune said, excitedly.

“I think I’m going with Jaune…” Apple Bloom said.

“And I’m going with Pyrrha, could be a good chance to pick up more dust for Rainbow and Dash,” She said holding up her pistols, “And I can get some of that hard-light dust…”

Blake and Sweetie were ignoring everyone else, and chatting about books. Blake began, “So, what are some of the books from your town, you mentioned yesterday that your village had completely different books than the ones here, you never even heard of any of the books I showed you.”

“Oh, well, let’s see… There’s Daring Do, a story about a faunus who goes into grimm infested jungles and ancient temples to recover ancient artefacts and fight her nemesis, a criminal called-” Sweetie and Blake continued on, while everyone else still walked on… First Jaune and Apple Bloom wandered off, followed by Pyrrha and Scootaloo, then Ren and Nora left the group until it was just team RWBY and half of team TASS.

“Why are we visiting these stupid docks?” Yang muttered.

“They smell like fish…” Ruby whined.

“Didn’t you hear a word of what I said…” Weiss replied, annoyed.

“Umm… No, I was mostly ignoring you…” Yang continued.

Weiss scoffed and watched as a ship started to sail into the port and dock, slowly, at one of the piers. Sweetie was distracted by her conversation with Blake by a man walking past, Blake took this as a sign that their conversation had ended and turned to answer Yang’s question, “She wants to spy on the newcomers, to make sure she has the upper hand in the tournament…”

As Weiss replied to Blake’s comment, Diamond realized she should do the same, and watched the ship intently, seeing if any of the people, or cargo, being unloaded were anything she should make mental notes of. Meanwhile, Sweetie was interested in a man walking by, he was tall, taller than most she had seen, and he had bright green eyes, that almost glowed, along with hair so black it almost looked blue… He was carrying boxes of sugar, nothing but sugar, but that wasn’t what caught her attention, it was, instead, the strange magic swirling around him… He was veiled in a field of green magic, that was different than his aura, this was something else, something she had seen before, but she couldn’t quite place it…

Quietly, Weiss snuck up beside Sweetie, then, whispering into her ear, she said, “So, have that weird semblance-book done yet?”

“I’m working on it, should be done soon, it takes a long time to copy an entire book by hand…” She retorted, in truth, she wasn’t copying it down by hand, she simply used a spell Rarity had taught her, one the copies patterns, using it to copy the book page by page, the actual reason it was taking so long was so she could look over each page herself and make sure that there was nothing in there too dangerous for Weiss to try.

She muttered, “Typical faunus, so slow…”

“What’s your problem…” Blake replied, Weiss last comment loud enough for Blake to hear.

“My problem,” She replied, “I just do care for faunus, particularly those criminally insane enough to join the White Fang.”

“Team Trass are not evil, they are your friends.”

“Blake’s right, I’ve known them since they first came to Vale,” Ruby muttered.

“And, the White Fang are hardly a bunch of psychopaths, they are a collection of misguided faunus.”

“Misguided-” Weiss and Blake continued bickering, but Diamond was keeping a close eye on the ship, a minute or two later a yellow-haired young man leapt out of a barrel of bananas being unloaded from the cargo hold and one of the workers yelled, “Stop that faunus! You no-good stowaway!”

Everyone turned to see the man, now hanging from a lampost by a yellow-furred tail, eating a banana, “Hey! A no-good stowaway would have been caught, I’m a great stowaway!”

A police officer moved up to the lampost, “Hey, get down from there this instant…” When the man threw the banana peel at the officer’s face and leapt, running down the docks, toward the street… He turned the corner, running down the road, and right as he was passing the group, winking at Blake, Diamond raised her sword, and the monkey faunus ran right into the blade.

He fell down with an “Oww…” And the police officer caught up, pulling some handcuffs from his belt and cuffing the monkey as everyone watched.

“What was that for?” Blake asked Diamond.

“He clearly broke the law, I just simply took my chance to stop him…”

“Thank you!” Weiss replied, “I can’t believe I’m saying that to a faunus,” She muttered, too quietly to be heard by anyone except for the four-eared faunus, and Blake.

Blake wore a look of anger and moved over to Weiss, meanwhile, the monkey faunus was being dragged away by the police, saying, “Umm, I can explain, I’m actually a trainee huntsman, when the rest of my team gets here-” He trailed off.

Blake and Weiss continued to argue in the background, but, as this was going on, Diamond was surprised to see one of the police officers walk up to her, “Thank you for the help,” He said.

“It wasn’t a problem, I’m glad to help… Even if some people are too lazy to do so,” She said, eyeing Sweetie.

“Don’t mention it.”

“What’s going to happen to that monkey guy?” Sweetie asked.

“Not much, he’ll probably just get fined, and perhaps a few days in jail, so long as he doesn’t have anything else on his record…”

“Good to hear,” Sweetie finished.

The moment was slightly ruined by Blake and Weiss arguing in the background. Ruby and Yang turned to the others, “Come on, let’s go get some ice cream or something while those carry on,” Ruby said.

“Good idea,” Sweetie said.

“I’ll stay here,” Diamond finished.

After returning from getting a snack, Sweetie passed a girl with red hair, and a green and white dress… What confused her the most was the girl’s aura… Being a unicorn, she could feel magic, and if she concentrated, she could see its glow, this person had, like most, a translucent field around them, their aura, marked a bright green for her, but she also had the hard, pure, colour of enchanted crystals, or in this case, dust, all inside her, like a maze of veins… She continued staring, the girl oblivious, until she passed out of sight.

Penny had just arrived in Vale yesterday, it reminded her a lot of Mantle, but warmer, cleaner, and more… Friendly… Yes, that was the word she was looking for, friendly. She nearly tripped or ran into someone, her eyes darting between all the buildings, and she waved at everyone who passed… The tournament was still some time away, and Ironwood wouldn’t be arriving for another half a week, those ships were real slow when on low-power mode, but no one wanted to waste dust unless it was necessary, and she could see the logic in that, she had a lot of dust inside her too.

She walked past two girls, huntresses, chatting about something, one with bright pink and purple hair wearing a heavy white coat, and the other with black hair and a black and red dress with a combat skirt, then, walking past the docks, she overheard two young women fighting, arguing about something, she didn’t like it, why did they argue, and about what? As she listened, she realized it had something to do with faunus, but she still didn’t understand what was the problem… But, she continued walking, Ironwood didn’t like it when she chatted with strangers…

Sweetie Belle was sitting outside, in the hall… Night had just fallen, from what she heard, Weiss and Blake had been arguing all day. And, the little faunus didn’t want to deal with Diamond Tiara… Not when she should have been the leader. She was reading through her spellbook for the first time in a few days, flipping through the pages… Her eyes settled on one of the most complicated matrixes she had ever seen, five consecutive circles with a triangular overlay, a pentagonal core, and a nearly fractal interlacing pattern, the amount of arcane code was hard to comprehend, and several parts of that code could be modified.

After spending a few minutes just staring at the code and trying to make sense of it, Sweetie realized that the null parts were coordinates, memory manipulation spells linked to a spacial manipulation spell, a start and exit point, as well as several safeties, a location blockage integer, more and more lines having to do with spacial manipulation, the complexity, was beyond what she could easily process… And having to keep all that info in your mind a once, even for a brief period, would be taxing, plus, the magical toll on having to manipulate space in such a way…

But, curiosity took a hold of her, and she tried to memorize the shapes, she had already memorized the basic orientation of the circles, the triangle, which she had replaced with a hexagram to lend more stability to the spell, as well as make it easier on herself, and the pentagonal core when there was a sound of a door opening far down the hall, and the sound of boots running on the carpeted floor.

She looked up from her book to see a black shape run past her, and the voice of Ruby, far down the hall, shouting “Blake! Come back!”

Sweetie leapt to her feet, put the book away, and ran after her, saying “Blake! Blake! What’s wrong!”

“Leave me alone!” She retorted and seemed to run faster. Sweetie wasn’t going to catch up with her… That hallway led to the outer doors which opened up into the courtyard… She guessed at the general location, planting it firmly into the arcane code, then put herself as the start point, she wasn’t going to be able to remember the interlacing pattern, but she could guess… The code was planted in her mind by her attempts to understand it, and the safety lines would ensure that if anything went wrong, the spell would fail… Thus, she put the matrix together into her mind, and pushed.

There was a flash of green light, the loud pop of air displacement, and she vanished.


Blake ran down the hall. That damn slip-up! She wouldn’t be able to return now, now that the whole school would know what she is, she leapt down the stairs five steps at a time, thinking of that time she slid down the hillside, on to the SDC train. With a slam, she got to the ground floor and turned to see the door to the courtyard… Rushing forward, she threw the doors open, and right as she stepped outside, there was a flash of light.

Appearing right in front of her was Sweetie Belle, she sparked green for a second and moaned as she fell over, aura broken. “S-Sweetie!” Blake said, concern in her voice, but also a good amount of fear.

Sweetie pulled herself back up, “S-Something went wrong, didn’t get the interlacing right, b-but, my aura kept me alive…” She said, coughing, “Blake, what’s wrong.”

“I-I don’t want to talk about it, I can’t talk about it…” Blake tried to move, to run away, but pressure on her legs held her still, green bands of energy wrapped around her ankles, they broke the moment Blake kicked out with as much strength as she could, and Sweetie fell to the ground, coughing from more exertion.

Blake looked guilty for a second, then made to run again, when a voice behind her caused her to freeze in her tracks, “Blake!’ It was Ruby. She ran out into the courtyard, quickly followed by Yang and Weiss… Blake couldn’t escape now. “S-Sweetie?” She said, looking at the injured Sweetie Belle.”

“Blake Belladonna, did you do that!” Weiss said, angry.

“N-NO!” Sweetie corrected, “Blake didn’t do anything wrong, It was a mistake on my part, I got something wrong when…” A fit of coughing interrupted Sweetie for a second before she continued, “Uhh, I got something wrong when I used my semblance...”

Everyone was confused, why was Sweetie’s semblance so, versatile… Only Weiss had some of an understanding, but that wasn’t important at the moment, “Blake, what’s wrong, you can trust us,” Yang said.

“I-I…” Blake tried to say, before kneeling down and crying…

“It’s ok,” Sweetie said, moving up to give Blake a hug, “You can tell us, whatever it is we will understand.”

“R-Really…” Blake said in a sad, pathetic, voice.

“Yes, isn’t that right, Weiss…” Ruby replied, staring at the girl in white with a harsh glare, who simply scoffed and crossed her arms. Ruby rolled her eyes.

Blake cautiously began, “S-So, you want to know more about me?”

Chapter 41: Virtues and Elements

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In the beginning… There was nothing, then the Father created the universe… It was a small universe, as Father was only so powerful, only a single world, with two moons, and a ring… These were all the planetoids in this little universe… Then, Father died. Father died to give his planet life, intelligent life, but Father was a complicated entity, and not all of him flowed into his creations… He had three children, three powerful, magical entities that could shape the universe to his will, two of them vowed to continue their Father’s legacy, and created the rest of the universe, separate from Father’s sphere of space, done out of respect for their creator… But the third, he simply stayed around Father’s planet, he didn’t like his own existence, he was entropy, he was Father’s desire to not exist given form, and his goal was to return the universe to entropic chaos from whence it came. He failed… He failed because Father had given his mortal creations the means to change the universe, six magical artefacts… And these were able to change this being, his memory wasn’t erased forever, it came back, but he was a different being now, closer to the mortal kind.

When the third child was turned into a semi-mortal entity, around the same time there was much death and destruction on the Father’s world, and with that, most of the Father’s remnants were destroyed, so Father tried to reform himself, to return, but this was interrupted… Thus, the third child was given the title Traitor, as he was the one who set that chain of events into motion, given this title by his former brothers, who had sensed Father’s permanent death… Seeing no reason to keep the pocket world separate from their own, the two children warped it into their universe...

Those relics, those artefacts that could change reality, those eventually took on special properties by their users and were given the name of Elements… Each based on a virtue. But there are many virtues...

Diamond was lying in her bed, it was a long day, longer still after all that racket outside, with Blake and her teammates arguing, first from their room, then from outside… She was tired, she just wanted to sleep, perhaps then she would stop thinking about her one friend, the one friend who she left behind… Where are you, Silver Spoon, do you miss me? Repeated in her head over and over again, she hated Equestria, she hated living with her family, here she was free from that Celestia-Damned mother of hers, even her father wasn’t the best pony to be in the same room with, even if he was far more tolerable… But, going away from that took her away from her only friend… She just wanted to get through school now, she just wanted to complete it as best as possible so she could return to her world and finally see her friend again, she just hoped that those idiots she called teammates wouldn’t get in the way of that… Slowly, Diamond drifted off to sleep… She had dreamt the same dream for weeks now, wandering in a dark castle in the middle of the void.

Leadership doubted in the comfort of her bed….

Sweetie Belle was sitting in the hospital bed, she was perfectly fine, her aura protected her from the worst of the faulty teleportation, but she would rather sleep here than with that pile of ponyfeathers she called a leader… She somewhat wished she ended up on a team with Ruby, Yang, and Blake… At least there she would be the obvious choice for leader, and she wouldn’t be stuck with a pony she hated… She opened up her spellbook, wanting to get her mind off Diamond, and returned to figuring out the teleport spell. After hours of sleepless study, she was getting no closer to comprehending the spell’s interlacing, it was an important part, as it made sure everything was connected, and the magical code was in the right order, acting as a moderator for the energy and keeping the spell stable… Last time, the safeties activated too late to ensure a safe teleportation, but no matter how hard she studied that part of the spell, it didn’t seem correct… Getting tired, she decided simply to lay back down and study the spell some more tomorrow… But then, she flipped the page, and saw another rather complicated spell pattern, but one with far less intricacy, as it didn’t deal with the translation of physical material, but rather with one’s consciousness… Haycartes' Method.

Sorcery learned her secrets by the light of the moon.

Apple Bloom was on the roof, a nice, quiet place, where they could train in peace… She let Jaune raise his sword, he charged, he was getting faster and stronger, she retaliated, putting only a portion of her strength into her punches, he dodged quite a few strikes and blocked one with his shield, and he knew when to counterattack. Apple Bloom missed a punch, and Jaune replied by thrusting his sword into her chest… Apple Bloom gave a pained grunt and fell back, hissing at the pain in her chest. Jaune rushed to her aid, realizing that he hit her in the same place Cardin did. Apple Bloom gritted her teeth, she was going to get that piece of crap back for that, somehow, without getting into more trouble…

Determination vowed vengeance for herself and her friends.

Scootaloo sat on the roof, somewhere else she heard the clash of fists and swords, someone getting a late-night training session done. Up above, she saw the stars, glittering… Somewhere, around one of them, was her home, her aunts, her parents, her Rainbow Dash. She was always alone, her parents were never around, she tended to avoid her aunts, but this was the first time she was so far from Rainbow, in truth, she always had a crush on that mare… She would fully admit that, not to her of course, the embarrassment would kill her, but none the less… Does Rainbow even know where she is right now, does she even care that her biggest fan and admirer was gone… Of course she does, silly filly, Scootaloo thought to herself… But that little doubt gnawed at the back of her mind… She closed her eyes, and, wordlessly said up into the sky; Celestia… Luna… Please, tell me that Rainbow Dash is safe, tell Rainbow that I’m safe, let us see each other again, some time, it doesn’t have to be soon, but some time, don’t let me get killed out here, in this strange and alien world...

Camaraderie prayed to the stars above.

Ruby sat in the corner of the room, to anyone else, they would think she was sleeping peacefully in her seat, but she wasn’t she was deep in thought… Visions, blurry memories, ones she bearly remembered, bubbled to the front of her mind… She did this, every night, trying to conjure up visions of her mother, but she could never form them… She knew what her mother looked like, she had seen pictures, but she wanted to know what happened. Why did you go off and die like that, she wondered… It was that question that sent her to Beacon, but now that she was here, she was no closer to the truth than when she wasn’t. She had even asked Glynda, but while she knew Summer, she didn’t have any answers… One day, one day she would figure out, but until then, she would train, she would become a huntress, hopefully, so she could figure out the truth, but even if that wasn’t possible, she would, at the very least, fight and die so others wouldn’t have to, she would protect people, that way no one else would lose their mothers and fathers.

Purity sat in the darkness and questioned her future and past.

Weiss was reading what, to anyone else, would look like a folder of papers, but, in reality, it was much stranger… That Sweetie girl had given it to her when they returned to Beacon after that little excursion to Vale, and the contents of its pages had her confused and interested… She practised that telekinesis that Sweetie used all the time, even in class, writing with that strange green field… Weiss focused, formed the shape of the glyph in her head, and willed a pen she had lying on the bed with her to rise. A pale field of bluish-white formed around it, and it slowly started to rise, but it was hard, keeping the mental image of that glyph while pumping her aura into it, then, her concentration broke, and the pen dropped. She sighed, and tried again, but found her mind wandering… She wanted to be team leader, that much was true, but, seeing as that idiot had taken her place, she would just have to make do… She just hoped, at the very least, through trial and error, that Ruby girl would become a good leader. But, the thing that really intruded on her mind was that girl, Sweetie, what exactly was she, and why did she have this strange book… Her mind wandered all over the place, forming up crazy theories, perhaps she was one of those legendary Maidens, she didn’t look thousands of years old, nor did Weiss believe in that stuff any more, but she knew that legends and stories started somewhere, or perhaps Sweetie just had a better grasp of what a semblance was than even the atlesian science department, unlikely though… Hell, she could be some strange alien creature from another world disguised as a faunus, but that was stupid… Sitting there, in the corner of her bed, she pondered, but not finding any answers, all the questions pushing all the stuff about Blake to the back.

Defiance wonders by the light of her soul.

Blake was curled up in the corner of her bed, she just woken up and it was the very earliest hours of the morning, the echos of gunfire and screams still haunted her dreams, fears of failure, fears of that mask, pale white, fears of the White Fang, and that black suit and crimson blade, hunting for her… She was frozen, wanting to run, to flee Beacon, but she knew that they would stop her… Her eyes wandered to the other bed, with Ruby up top and Weiss on the bottom, both were sleeping peacefully, Weiss with a pile of papers in her hands… But how long would that last… Weiss had accepted her, even if she was White Fang, Ruby was one of the few people Blake would consider a good friend, well, other than that Sweetie Belle, but she was a fellow faunus, Ruby was human… Then, there was the sound of someone shifting up above, and a flowing curtain of yellow hair fell over the side of the bed… And, of course, Yang… She felt cold inside… The White Fang was bound to come, sooner or later, Adam, she knew, at the very least, was after her. So, how long would it all stay happy, could she protect her friends from what was her problem, and her’s alone.

Justice fears her past failings.

Yang was only half-asleep… In that restful period where you’re conscious, but you have yet to open your eyes or move out of bed, when you’re still somewhat in a dream and what you envision in your mind is far more vivid. She lay there, flexing the muscles in her arms just a bit, imagining punching a whole team from Mistral into submission, going on to the final round of the tournament like she had seen on the holovision. She stands there, her team, her sister, by her side, Ruby hugging her tightly as she holds victory in her grasp, the entire stadium cheering, Vale victorious… The look in her sister and dad’s eye when she finally wins… She used this vision of a potential future to push away the questions she had about her mother, and it worked, she tasted victory, if she could at least see her sister happy, she could live without the answer to that mystery.

Strength dreams of glory and might and the joy of family.

The sun was just starting to rise over the day… Classes would start back up in only three days, despite that, Jaune raised his sword and swung at a holographic training dummy, that of a beowolf… He sliced its digital head clean off in a swing, and for the first time in a while… He felt good. Next time Cardin came after him, he was going to give him a piece of his mind, and a sword to back it up… He hoped so, he hoped that he would get back at that jerk for what he did to Apple Bloom...

Willpower endures the blows of mediocrity to rise above it.

Pyrrha sat on her bed, watching the sunrise… Nora and Ren were still sleeping, Jaune was in the yard below, training, and it brought a smile to her face, seeing that little boy getting stronger… She pulled out her own weapon and whetstone and started quietly sharpening it, she would need to keep herself in top condition too, particularly if she wanted to graduate and become a great warrior… Just thinking that though conjured up memories about her life in Argus, about being forced into Sanctum the moment she came of age by her father, her wish, as a child, to be a cook or musician, and how she practised with her harp when she was given free time, not that she had much, as she was constantly training, constantly fighting… No one would beat her, that was what her father wanted, no she would be invincible… Soon she found the little scraping against the stone to slowly form a tune, and she hummed along, the tool becoming an instrument… She was free now, she didn’t have to train, she could buy a harp at a store, one was sure to sell one… But what would her father say, what would her fans think, giving up the life of a warrior for one of music… No, that wasn’t what she was going to be, even if she wanted it… Her eyes wandered back out to the yard where Jaune was training… If only she was born in the lowlands of Mistral, in the rural farming towns, if only she was Jaune, living a life where one could rest safely, knowing that tomorrow won’t bring combat, blood, and potentially, death. She closed her eyes, and sound of metal on stone stopped.

Sacrifice recollects on dreams shattered and a forgotten future.

Silver Spoon was still asleep… Every night, since the moment she came to this school, all her dreams were the same, wandering some vast and empty desert… She had asked the other students, but they always had different dreams, often strange. She knew, just from the existence of Princess Luna, that ponies had a different relationship to dreams than most other creatures, and she wondered what about this place caused such a thing. The desert was vast, but not hot, it was rather cool, but bright, with the unrelenting sky a pure and blinding white… But, off in the distance, something, a glint of gold, caught her attention… She had wandered the dream realm for some time now, and sometimes, she would see a shape in the distance, but she would always be woken up before she got to it… Now, once again, she marched toward that strange shape, and it slowly resolved itself. It was a door, an ornate golden door, with a series of stone steps leading up to it from a stone monolith. But, it wasn’t the strange gateway, standing all alone, with no building to lead into or out of, that caught her eye, rather it was the glass orb encased in a framework of polished gold that she was most attracted to… The orb floated off its plinth, glowing with a soft blue light… She took the strange thing in her hands, it was light, almost weightless… Then, a moment later, she opened her eyes and saw the canvase, plaster, and wood walls of her dorm room, the rest of her team lying on nicely constructed bunks. Something was poking into her hand, and she opened her palm to see the strange trinket from her dreams, as small as a toy, resting in the hands… Once she opened them, it grew to the size of her head, luckily, no one else was awake to see this… She focused, and it grew smaller, without thinking, she stuffed it into a backpack and then went to go get dressed for the morning.

Dreams uncover secrets not meant for her eyes.

The vehicle was surprisingly smooth, smoother even than a pegasus chariot, when in one of those you could feel the wind on your mane, and your inertia being thrown around as you moved up and down and side to side… Here, you felt nothing, as if the clouds passing by were merely an image on a screen. Twilight was cuffed, a hard metal cuff without any dust inside it… The others, Rarity and Spitfire, were both cuffed but with those weird gravity-bolas, she remembered those agents calling them. They were clearly being taken someplace far, far, away… The trip had taken all night, but she could see the shape of a large, metal, and quite frankly, scary-looking airship ahead. She could easily escape, the cuffs were just metal, and had no magical dampening properties to it, even if they were cold-iron, like the rings used on unicorn prisoners, she would still be able to channel her powers, just not with any real precision. But, she waited, she didn’t have much of a plan to escape, although she was sure she could come up with one, she wanted to talk this out with whoever was in charge, and surely, aboard that airship was some form of authority… Whoever this “General Ironwood” was, she was certainly powerful, and she had managed to convince Spike to say hidden the entire time, Rainbow wasn’t aboard the vehicle though, Twilight wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Magic stalls as the rings of cause and effect twirl around in an unseen dance.

Rainbow ran through the doorway, “Spike!” She yelled at the top of her lungs, the whole of the Laywind family was away, and it was easy to sneak in through a window left open. Spike was nowhere to be found, she cursed under her breath, then left the way she came, flying through the window, out into the cold Atlesian air… She would find her friends, she wouldn’t abandon them, let them get captured… After briefly swooping into Pietro’s shop, the man just getting off a call with his daughter, she got the name and location of where this “Princess Ironwood” or whatever she was called, was heading to, she was undoubtedly the one in charge, and the one who would have her friends all locked up… She would break them out, she would save them… With a beat of her wings, she shot off southward, a sonic boom following behind her, soon followed by a rainboom, as coloured lights danced across the ocean, a distant halo of light being seen in the early morning by the citizens of Atlas.

Loyalty protects, charging into battle to save those closest to her

Ozpin was sitting in his seat, the sun had yet to rise, and he flipped through the messages in his scroll… He was thinking of those girls, those faunus… Sweetie Belle with her strange semblance, and Apple Bloom with her incredible strength, despite her semblance being something else, that control over plants… But, his mind was derailed when he saw a new message appear on his scroll… Qrow… “The Queen has pawns…” His hands grew cold, he knew what that meant, there was an infiltrator, a servant of the Queen, here in Vale… He gave a sigh, it was very likely that she would set her sights on the city, just as one of the greatest holidays in this world was about to unfold… He would need to be vigilant, luckily, Ironwood had similar concerns, and he knew the general was only a few days away. He just hoped everyone would go peacefully…

Corrupted Kindness worries about his friends and foes alike.

Qrow set the glass on the table, slamming his lien down on the table and drunkenly wandering out of the bar… He put his scroll away, message to Ozpin had finally sent… He had been hanging around Mistral for the past few weeks, trying to catch the trail of those who attacked Amber, but the trail was hard to catch, not surprising though, this was one of her agents after all… But, no one, not even she, was perfect… And rumours had spread, just going off of what Qrow knew of this person, her semblance and clothing and hair colour, he had picked up this agent’s trail and knew that she had been going back and forth from Vale and Mistral frequently, and, knowing about the upcoming tournament, and Ozpin’s current headquarters, it wasn’t hard to figure out where the Queen’s pawn was to strike next. So, he walked down an alley, and a small blackbird was all that left… Heading west on the wind.

Luck returns to his true friends and family.

Ironwood stood on the bridge of his flagship, B-2, and watched the waves of the north ocean, glaciers floating on the sea, when a beep from his console told him of an arriving vessel, a manta-class AAC… He pressed the button, authorizing it to land in bay three… He had a very good idea of what that was, no doubt those terrorists that his Ace Ops had captured… He turned and walked to the door to greet his new prisoners.

Corrupted Loyalty defends his kingdom at all costs.

Penny walked into the CCTS tower, asking to make a call to “Pietro Polendia’s clinic in Atlas.” Once she walked over to the terminal the AI teller had sent her to, she sat down, and a second or two later, the monitor turned on, showing the face of her father, as happy as ever. She began, talking about her time in the city, and how strange everything was, all the unique people, and the wonderful weather… Talking on and on about all the things she had never seen before in her short life.

Empathy rejoices in the simple act of life.

Snow was heavy in the air, and a rock that had fallen on the track presented a mighty inconvenient obstacle for the Friendship Express… The engineer had to wonder how a rock had fallen onto the track when the nearby mountain was still too far away to be causing landslides. The passengers inside wondered why the train stopped, that was when there was a scream from the back of the train, and the door was smashed down, in walked a menagerie of creatures, dragon, diamond dog, hippogriff, led by a strange pony, with the hooves of a deer, shiny crimson scales on its back, a bright red and curly mane, and a crimson horn that looked more branched, like the antlers of a deer… Her black coat shined in the evening light, and she drew a sword, mounted awkwardly to her hoof, blade made of glimmering magical crystal, while the ponies handed over their valuables, that didn’t save their lives.

Corrupted Hope ends the lives of others so she may persist.

The sun had just set, made so by magic, the night was her sister’s domain, so with nothing else to do for the day, the Princess walked back into her chambers and drew up another scroll sent by her student… The read was fascinating, an explanation of something called “Atlas Academy” and the huntsmen who were trained there… Of how these warriors were trained to combat the monsters of their world and used this strange “Aura” magic and made their own weapons for the job, each unique in its own way… Celestia pondered, and her eyes wandered to her poleaxe, sitting in the corner of the room, a weapon she hadn’t used in hundreds of years… She lifted it, moved it around in her magic, and felt a nice feeling of remembrance wash over her as she reflected the ages long ago when she too was a warrior. She muttered to herself, then, made an appointment with the engineer, Wolfram, to talk about some upgrades.

Light remembered her past victories and prepares for the battles of the future.

Luna had finished her job, the last pony in the ream had been checked for nightmares, with all the new developments going on, there were a few more than the weeks before, but that only meant more fun to be had, slaying the phantoms that crawled in the back of a pony’s mind… But, alas, it was time for her to face her own phantom… And so, Luna crawled into her bed, and closed her eyes, getting what sleep she could… Not that she wanted it, she didn’t deserve to sleep peacefully, and her dreams were never peaceful, she had made sure of that, she would always remember what she did wrong so she could ensure it would never happen again… There, in the world of her mind, she sat, waiting for the astral beast to make its move… Around her, she saw Ponyville, she saw the ponies she loved so dearly ever since that first Nightmare Night, when she first bestowed this curse upon herself… She heard the howling of a beast, coming from her own flesh, and she could only watch as she descended on the ponies she loved, and, the Tantibus controlling her actions, she leapt upon her friends and subjects, and ripped them to shreds with claws and teeth, not resting until every one rested dead at her hooves.

Darkness wills herself to suffer so she may never forget her failings.

The bullhead sailed through the air on its magical engines, humming loudly, finally, it came to land and the doors slid open… That strange and pompous human, with the black hat, white suit, and bright orange hair that wouldn’t look abnormal on any pony, walked past the blue-haired White Fang girl, shouting half-insults at the faunus around him… It was some kind of dock, with dozens of massive containers with the logo SDC printed on the side. The tow cables were retrieved and the airships were hooked up, ready to carry off the cargo… Cozy Glow just watched, and held her pistol at the ready should anyone come and see what they were doing… She needed a way to become the one in charge of this little organization, she needed to find her power… As she looked around, a human, almost as short as she was, walked past her, with brown and pink hair, a white suit, and eyes that always seemed to swap colours… Cozy and this girl looked each other in the eyes for a moment, then she retreated back into the cockpit.

Corrupted Beauty schemes and plots for power, waiting for her chance to strike.

Cinder, scroll in hand, sitting in an old warehouse on the other side of Vale, smiled as she heard that their plan to steal that atlesian shipment went off without a hitch, she clicked her scroll closed… She was going to talk about the next phase of her plan with Roman in person… They had sewn enough fear with all their heists, a rise in crime rate always put the people on edge, and it had made her a nice profit, not that she cared about the money, but it was useful, bribery could get a person far… Now, it was time to advance, now that the festival was starting in just a few weeks… And that meant it was time to lure in some grimm attacks… She turned, looking at her two minions, Emerald and Mercury, and got to her feet, walking out of the building, the two following behind…

Corrupted Magic proceeds with dark plans for the arcane.

The pit was complete, at last, it had taken a lot of sugars, and plant matter had only so much glucose in it… This wasn’t Equestria where the sweets flowed freely, and so it was hard to find enough to complete even this small portion of the hive, but now that it was done, they could really get started… Chrysalis turned to her subjects, all gathered below her, in the caves beneath Mountain Glenn… “Fly! Gather all the sugars you can, bring them back to me so we make chitin for our hive! Bring it back so we may breed more of our kind! And capture as many of those monsters you can find, so we may feast on their magic.” As her words died out, every member of the hive, driven both by loyalty and the slight influence of the Queen’s will, flew from the cracks of the ceiling, off into the sky, becoming birds with flashes of green… Off to collect so the hive may grow.

Unity builds and fortifies for future conquest.

Sitting on her throne of black and violet crystal, the Queen saw through the eyes of the seer she had at her disposal, into the office of a man who was once one of Ozpin’s most trusted… A very good and obedient tool he was… But, the news was somewhat worrying, four students, powerful, with semblances so very rare, had become students at Haven… A potential problem, and so, with a simple command, the Queen told the lion to deal with them, one way or another, send them on a mission they shouldn’t return from, and if they do, send them to the tournament, where they will die to her pawn’s scheme.

Corrupted Generosity plots the downfall of kingdoms.

And Chaos… Chaos moves ever onward.

Chapter 42: Swirling Shadows

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Bags of sugar, some bough, some stolen, were dragged down the stairs and into the cavernous city below… Already, one block of the city had an eerie green glow to it, the buildings, once hollow ruins, now were slowly being covered in chitinous growths… The creatures holding on to the bags of sugar burst into green flames and took the shape of changelings, using their wings to fly as they carried the bags, each weighing dozens of kilos, and flew down to hover over a pit, filled with water that glowed a bright green by the magic flowing through it. They cut the bags open and dropped the sugars into the pit, before tossing the bags away in a growing trash pile.

Some of the enchanted water was being syphoned off by vein-like tubes of artificial flesh, and into separate, smaller, pools. Off in once sector of the hive, changeling biomancers were drawing the chemicals from the pool and transforming it into chitin, bioplasma, and pseudoflesh which that merged with the walls of the abandoned buildings, expanding the hive. If sugars couldn’t be obtained, the changelings came back with coal, plant matter, animal carcases, algae, petroleum, and whatever form of biomass they could obtain, still, glucose and sucrose was the highest priority.

In one of the reservoirs that was being filled with the biomass, a changeling dumped canisters and crystals of the human dust, it swirled and made the liquid turn an even brighter green and go opaque, a few spells were added to the mixture, and it was then pumped into another fleshy tube to be distributed to the cells of the growing hive-form… The hive was a living creature, a chitinous shell with flesh and blood, with the Queen acting as the brain of the artificial bioform, able to control the being…

Slowly, the veins and arteries of the fleshy creature, all extending from the pool of dilute biomass that acted as its heart, glowed a bright green that could even be seen through the chitin shell of the beast. Then, large green crystals grew all around the expanding hive, acid dust…

Chrysalis lead a changeling to one of the pools of biomatter, “Get in…” She said.

“Y-Yes, my queen,” The organism took a few hesitant steps, then she walked into the pool until she was fully submerged, eyes screwed shut, the queen wouldn’t waste the life of a changeling unless she had to, she wouldn’t drown.

Chrysalis raised her horn and weaved her magic into the pool, changelings, like all organisms, were comprised of hydrocarbons, and Chrysalis was a master of biomancy, it was the reason she was queen… She felt the flesh of her subject, she felt the atoms of hydrogen and carbon and phosphorus and oxygen, in both the water and the creature inside that water… She pulled and pushed, moulding those atoms like clay, nothing happened at first, but slowly, the changeling’s legs grew longer, as biomass was added to them, and her neck grew out, her wings grew larger, but her horn shrunk, as biomass was taken from it… Chrysalis changed the structure of her subject’s eyes, like a hybrid of an eagle and cat’s eyes, and grew a pair of long and sensitive antennae from the sides of the subject’s head.

When that changeling stepped out of the pool, she was a different organism than when she entered, she blinked, her eyelids now sideways, Chrysalis nodded, “Good, now, breed,” She said, commanding the organism to procreate, the changeling gladly accepted the order and marched off to the recently constructed breeding pit… In Equestria, it was necessary to limit the breeding potential of the hive, and the queen enforced this by lowering fertility and increasing the time it took for changeling larvae to develop, now she had reversed those changes, numbers were needed, and with her mastery over changeling biology, she was able to give her subjects a nearly three-hundred precent fertility rate, and increased the speed of changeling development, it would only be a few weeks until she had completely rebuilt the hive, only a month until their numbers will octuple. The new changeling subspecies, their eyes and antennae, would be Chrysalis’ scouts, able to fly much higher and expend less energy with their larger wings, and able to see and smell and feel much further…

Chrysalis then turned, she was running low on magic after that last transfiguration, but there was still more work to be done in the hive, tomorrow she would need to create the first of her new warrior breeds that she had planned, and, perhaps those symbiote bioforms she had designed would be a welcome addition… She summoned orbs of flesh, miniature brains, that she used to store information, and inspected the memories planted in them, these contained all her plans.

She inspected the symbiote plans… The humans had their airships and automobiles and other advanced forms of transportation, the changelings had none of those things, and Chrysalis knew how helpful such machines would be, so, she had come up with large, brainless, organisms, that a changeling could merge into and act as the brain of that organism for a given period of time, some were designed to haul biomass in giant vacuoles, while others could carry changelings, or food subjects, in pods. Some were combat bioforms, with dust crystals embedded into their flesh, or giant horns that could cast spells. One design she liked, a massive being, standing on three legs that each towered dozens of metres into the air, and had dust-ejectors built into its back, that could fire dust crystals down on targets, and a horn built into a rotating, eye-like, organ located in the front of the creature, to act as a spellcasting turret. Yes, that would be her next creation… But first, she needed to replenish her magic…

Already, dozens of humans and faunus had been captured and replaced, most were stored in pods so their magic may be syphoned to the lesser bioforms, but those creatures, the grimm, were a far better source of magic, unfortunately, they didn’t have physical bodies, so they couldn’t be harvested, simply consumed, luckily, they seemed to be everywhere, and this cave, in particular, had thousands of the grimm… Many were stored in pods themselves to be saved for later, but, no matter how many they consumed or captured, more seemed to come crawling out of the caves… Chrysalis needed to know where those organisms came from...

Sweetie Belle had a book in her hands, Tukson just walked out into the back to deal with some inventory, the moment he left, Sweetie but the book back on the shelf, open to the page she was inspecting, and channelled her magic into the book… A moment later, Sweetie disappeared, and a little drawing of her manifested inside the pages. She hummed to herself as she walked along the words, danced across the pages, and felt her form soak up the information the book provided, she didn’t need to read the words to get at their meaning, she simply needed to sit there, observe a bit, and soak up the knowledge stored within the pages… The book was talking to her, not in any comprehensible language, not in any language at all other than pure information, the language of magic.

Despite her mind being loaded with the contents of the book, Sweetie could still perceive the world outside, she could hear the noise of Tukson unpacking boxes in the back, she could see the entire store from her perch on the shelf, even if she flew off to another page in a different part of the book, “Huh, this would make a great way to spy on ponies…” Sweetie quietly muttered to herself, luckily no one was present to notice the fact that the book had just talked.

Outside, Sweetie could see through the windows that two figures were approaching the store… The bell ringed as a woman, dark-skinned and green-haired, wandered in, by her clothing and the pistols strapped to her back she looked like a trainee huntress. She was quickly followed by a similarly huntmanesque boy, with silver hair and pale skin. The boy went off to inspect some books as the girl approached the counter, ringing the bell.

“Be right there!” Tukson shouted from the back room, he walked in, carrying a large stack of books, “Welcome to Tukson’s book trade, home to every book under the sun…” He paused as he put down his load, “How may…” He paused again, taking in the customers, to Sweetie, he seemed suddenly a bit suspicious of these newcomers, “How may I help you.”

“Just browsing!” The boy said from a corner of the shop.

“I was wondering,” The green-haired girl began, “Do you have any copies of the Theif and the Butcher…”

“Yes, we do.”

“That’s great!”

“Would you… Like a copy?”

“No, just wondering.”

In the back, the boy slammed the book he was inspecting closed, and something in Tukson’s stance shifted, he stared, suspiciously, at the customers. Sweetie felt worried, and although she was currently just a magical consciousness inhabiting a book, she felt herself go cold. “Oh, what about Violet’s Garden, in paperback?”

“He’s got it, hardback too…” The boy muttered from the corner.

“Ooh, options are nice…”

“Eeh,” The boy continued, slamming the book down, “No pictures… Hey? Have any comics?”

“Near the front…” Tukson said, his voice carrying a feeling of aggression, and Sweetie found magic was slowly building around her.

“Oh! No, wait,” The girl began, in a loud voice that lowered to a threatening half-whisper, “What about, Third Crusade…”

Something in Tukson’s stance changed again, and he flinched, eyeing the customers, he replied, “Umm… I… Don’t believe we carry that one…”

“Oh,” The silvery boy said.

“What was this place called again?” The smirking girl continued.

“Tukson’s Book Trade…”

“And, you’re Tukson?”

“That’s right...”

“So, I take it, you’re the one who came up with the catchphrase.”


The boy in the back moved over a bit as he said, “And, what was it again?”

Tukson sighed, “Tukson’s Book Trade, home to every book under the sun…”

“Except, the Third Crusade…”

“It’s just a catchphrase…”

“It’s false advertising!”

“You shouldn’t make a promise you can’t keep, Tukson…” The girl began. In the back, the boy started messing with a control on the wall that slowly dimmed the room and blacked out the windows, Sweetie had a bad feeling about this, but decided to wait it out… She was just glad that Scootaloo and Apple Bloom had refused to come along since they would have already attacked these creeps… “I hear, you’re planning on leaving, moving all the way to Vacuo, your brothers in the White Fang wouldn’t be happy to hear that, and neither are we… You know who we are, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Tukson replied, shaking just a bit… The girl backed away from the counter, but Tukson didn’t seem to notice this as he kept his eyes still stuck on the space where the girl was previously standing, Sweetie saw some kind of greenish fuzz in the air where the girl used to be standing, and she got the feeling that some kind of illusion was being cast, a poor illusion though, as even a novice illusionist back in Equestria wouldn’t have let any of the magical energy leak out in such an obvious way.

“And, you know why we’re here?”

“Yes…” He replied, grimly, and Sweetie felt the atmosphere turn sinister, she was still watching the display from her position inside the book, the animated girl was standing in the print, raising Lapis Luminatus from its position on her back. As Tukson replied, his eyes darted across the room and spotted the girl in the book, he was confused for a split second, then suddenly relieved as he saw the halberd-drawing pointed right at the figures in the room. His sudden confidence seemed to, ever so slightly, take the customers aback.

“So,” The girl said, “Are you going to fight back?”

“I don’t have to…” Tukson finished, his reply seemed not to be what either of the two expected, but they didn’t have any time to reply, as there was a sudden flash of minty green from the book, and it unleashed a brilliant bolt of lightning right at the girl, who was suddenly thrown across the room with a scream and smashed into the bookcase.

The boy turned to spot Sweetie Belle appearing from the book, right as Tukson jumped him and knocked him to the ground, the boy tried to punch and kick back, but Tukson had him pinned. The girl got back up from the bookcase and drew her pistols, but they were both suddenly captured in fields of green and thrown across the room out of her hands, Sweetie leapt on her and kicked her to the ground.

The boy gave a harsh kick and knocked Tukson to the ground, the kick sounding like a gunshot, and Tukson shined with a brown field that vanished a moment later… Then, the boy turned and ran, leaping out the door… Sweetie’s vision suddenly blurred with emerald-green light and she was stunned for a second, the world blurry as someone tried to cast an illusion spell on her, she replied with a wave of magical force in all direction, she heard the windows shatter, and books go flying everywhere, and when her vision cleared, she saw that she had kocked the girl out of the window, who bore a look of anger, quickly turning to worry, as she saw all the people staring at her, she then ran out of sight…

Tukson gave a grunt from where he lay on the floor. “Oww… Q-Quick thinking, didn’t know you could hide in books like that, but thanks for saving me.”

“No problem, sorry about trashing your bookstore…”

“This place was going to be trashed anyway once I was done with it…”

“Who were they, they clearly weren’t thieves…”

“N-None of your, concern, just help me clean this place up, and when the police come, help with whatever you can…”

Sweetie’s eyes gazed the room, she didn’t know how police here in Vale handled things, but she knew how the Equestrian police worked, and she raised the discarded pistols using her telekinesis, being careful not to tamper with the evidence any more than necessary, placing them into a plastic bag to protect it.

After that, she helped Tukson to his feet and started sweeping around the room with her magic, putting books back into place.

Chapter 43: Authorities

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This had the potential to be quite the political nightmare, luckily, it wasn’t… Shining Armor led a team of crystal guards and trained battlemages along the rail line, the Friendship Express had departed from the Crystal Empire three days ago, but had yet to arrive in Equestria, the demi-legion crossed the borders only a few hours ago in their trek, and were well on the Equestrian side of the Crystal Mountains, it was Shining’s experience that nations didn’t like the military of another nation inside their own territory, but the ponies aboard that train were mostly Crystal Empire citizens… Were this any two other nations, it would have been a mess. But, this was the Kingdom of Equestria and the Crystal Empire, and with Cadenza on the Crystal Throne, and Celestia in the marble palace that was Canterlot Castle, aunt and niece, both on good standing with one another, and Shining was a former captain of the Solar Legions, the royal-royal guards… Thus, the crystal guard had free reign to conduct the search of their citizens, and a quick scroll to Celestia had given him the assistance of a Wonderbolt team.

The pegasi had identified the train, wrecked in a gorge about two kilometres from the base of the easternmost tip of the mountain range. Shining and his guards quickly approached, the battlemages clearing the path and keeping them free of dangerous animals. Unbeknownst to them, above, a black phoenix, a rare breed, not native to this region, was watching them.

When the guards reached the ruined form of the train, they were stunned… Many ponies lay dead, both equestrian natives and crystal ponies, the train’s engine was ruined, it looked like a dragon had used it for target practice, melted and fused to the track. Another thing, everything of value had been looted, gems had been ripped from clothing, every single bit had been taken, even the gold inlays on the train’s cars had been removed. There were two possibilities.

Shining Armor, once he was done inspecting the massacre, turned to one of the battlemages, “This was either the work of diamond dogs or dragons, get me a list of all the passengers on this train and count the bodies, identifiable or otherwise… Diamond dogs tend to take prisoners rather than outright slaughter… And contact the wonderbolts, have them patrol the mountains and search for any dragon caves, but keep out of sight, we don’t want the dragon to come down on us next…”

The battlemage nodded and sent his telepathic messages. Soon, the pegasi started putting together some cloud cover, meanwhile, the phoenix swerved back toward the mountains. Only thirty minutes later, one of the wonderbolts, Blaze, returned with word of a cave on the nearby mountain.

“Manta-2-3, you are cleared for landing in hangar bay three, over.”

Twilight, Rarity, and Spitfire were in the back of the airship, cuffed, flying to a much, much, larger airship, currently flying over the ocean, night had just fallen and the ship, covered in blinking lights and windows, glowed in a beautiful and ominous way as they approached. Despite being cuffed, the only one really impaired was Spitfire, Twilight could snap the little metal thing holding her bound with a flick of her wrist… A superheating spell to melt the cuffs off, or a tiny forcefield to slice them clean in half, or even just some strong telekinesis… Rarity on the other hoof was a master of matter manipulation, particularly with minerals and metals. But, Twilight had told them both to stay put and let her handle this, there was no reason to get into another fight.

A door on the big airship opened and they came to land in an immaculate hangar made from white metals, ceramics, and plastics. Then the door on their airship popped open, and they were ushered out by human guards and a pair of automatons… Standing there in the bay was an important-looking human stallion, the man was large, with black hair, a shaven face, and wearing a white coat and white pants over a black and navy blue undershirt and red tie.

“You there, bring them to me…” The man said.

“Yes sir!” A human guard responded, and starting guiding the ponies to the man.

“They will stay in confinement cells two through four for the time being, until we’ve arrived in Vale, at the very least.”

The pony faunus weren’t happy about the mention of those confinement cells, and Twilight moved up to the man, not bothering to notice the weapons pointed at her, “I would like to talk to your leader,”

“You are talking to the leader,” The man informed her, “I am General James Ironwood.”

Twilight stood up a bit straighter, “General James Ironwood, I am Twilight Sparkle, and I would like to sincerely apologize for whatever wrongdoings myself and my comrades have done.”

“You are responsible for several charges of destruction of military property, the murder of at least one soldier, possibly another and a civilian, and combatting the grimm without a license…”

Spitfire and Rarity looked shocked, but let Twilight continue talking, “I’m not sure what you mean by these murders, and we attacked your automatons in self-defence, they shot first.”

“Even if you had proof that you weren’t the instigator of those attacks, that still doesn’t excuse you of killing a soldier…”

“Who, may I ask, did I kill…”

“Argon Actin, private first-class. And, depending on if you are capable of reversing their condition, one Abraham Locke, also a private first-class, and a civilian named Jhon Mann.”

“Abraham?” Twilight said, trying to remember the name, “Oh yes, him, I’m surprised you haven’t already undone his condition, it is a complicated stasis to apply, but a relatively simple one to dispell.”

Ironwood stood there, thinking for a moment, then turned back to Twilight, “Very well, your friends will need to be escorted to their cells, but you will come with me to the medical bay, we brought the subjects aboard the ship in hopes that someone from Vale might have a way of undoing the condition.”

Twilight nodded, “Then, you can receive testimony from this Abraham guard about our innocence in the battle, as he can prove that he shot first.”

“We will see about that…” Ironwood replied and motioned for Twilight to follow, meanwhile, Rarity and Spitfire were taken off to another part of the ship.

Celestia stood in one of her many, many, private workspaces… Being immortal certainly had its perks, it also had several downsides… The first of which was boredom, Celestia had done a little bit of everything by this time, and most activities bored her, but she took it stoically, and would occasionally find joy in an activity she had forgotten about. Thus, she had an entire wing of the castle dedicated to whatever she wanted at the time, thus, for the first time in a dozen centuries, she opened up the forge room… This was a miniature smithy, with all the tools she needed, of course, she didn’t need many of these things, she could just use her magic to shape the parts to her will, but it was fun to do things the earth-pony way sometimes.

Raven landed with a poof of fire, transforming back from this strange new species of bird, into a the fiery horse she had been for the past few days. “Everyone, pack up and start moving as quickly as possible, they’ve found us-” She said, then, suddenly down in the forest below, there was a loud pop, accompanied by a flash of pinkish light, then, an orb of energy started to fly right at the camp, “Incoming!” She finished.

Everyone scrambled, and when the blast struck the ground, it went off in an explosion of energy that left a tent liquified, turned into glowing pinkish goo, what the hell kind of weapon was that! From what she had seen, these pony-creatures didn’t have anything more advanced than a crossbow!

There were more flashes from down below, and a series of orbs started flying toward them in all sorts of colors, Raven ran forward and summoned the powers of the earth and pulled the rock-wall of the cave over them, sealing them all inside, there was the sound of explosions just beyond the rock-wall and some parts of the newly formed surface started to glow, but they all backed away, deeper into the cave, “I’ll carve a new way out, everyone, gather what you can and follow me, we’re heading north! They won’t follow us into the tundra!” She had spent those days scouting out the immediate area, and knew that, to the north, was an icy wasteland, and she hadn’t seen any cities out that way, of course, food was going to be hard to find, but it was better than getting captured or killed.

Once everyone had grabbed what gold and gems they could carry, Raven led them to the back of the cave and started tunneling.

One of the pegasi had spotted an encampment on the cliff, and through the eyes of the pegasus, the telepathy specialist knew exactly where that camp was, with a shout, he called all the battlemages into teams of three, “Prepare liquefaction spells, fire at a distance of one-point-two kilometeres, east-north-east, fifteen degrees!”

The battlemages did as ordered, grouping up, putting their horns together, and charing spells… It was well documented that comunal spellcasting worked better between ponies of similar or same magical aura color, so they were grouped by color, the pink-team was ordered to fire first to act as a rangefinder, that way the telepath could see if he had misjudged the range or bearing of the target, but the first blast was right on target, so, next he ordered the rest of the demi-legion to fire at once while the regular guards worked their way to the mountain.

There was a spike of magical energy from the cliffside, and it seemed that the brigands, or at least, the guards assumed it was brigands, had set up a shield of some kind, and through the eyes of the pegasi scouts, the telepath noticed a rock barrier. The magical artillery was ordered to keep casting, and eventually batter down the wall, there was no way the bandits could escape, they had trapped themselves in the mountain…

When the guard got there, the rock shield, and most of the cliffside, was not much more than glowing gooified rock. They carefully trudged through the pools of goo until they got into the cave, there was plenty of gold, it was certainly a dragon cave once upon a time, although there wasn’t much left other than bloody dragon bones, and, when the reached the back of the cave, Shining Armor was furious to discover that the bandits had escaped through the mountainside, although, that was a possibility, if they had a geomancer that was capable of throwing up that rock shield. Worse, they were heading toward the Crystal Empire.

“Princess Luna,” An abyssinian soldier in his gold-coated and luxurious armor said, approaching the princess… It had been a while since she had last seen one.

“Approach, what is your business…”

“The Storm King’s forces attacked our capital approximately five days ago, we have held them off and have reinforced the guard along our borders, in preparation for another assault,”

“Are you asking for Equestria’s assistance?”

“No, Princess, we have come to give you a gift, in fact… You can consider it a bit extra, on top of the new weapon prototypes you had given us that helped secure our victory…”

Princess Luna raised an eyebrow, very well, what is it?”

Then, in was dragged a pony, she was beaten, and had plenty of injuries, many recent, some old, including a broken horn… She was a bit larger than the average pony, and had been chained up and gagged. Luna looked curiously at the pony. “This is one of the Storm King’s generals, she was scheduled for execution, but the Grand Sorceress and the King had both insisted we give her over to your for judgment, she was one of your citizens, after all…”

“Thank you, we will deal with this traitor… You may leave.”

“Very well, Princess…” The abyssinian gave a short bow and walked off, along with the two cats in robes who had dragged the pony in.

Chapter 44: Intruder Alert.

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Twilight was led down various corridors, her eyes taking in all the machinery and the magical dust used to power it until she came to what she could recognize as a medical wing… Here, two people were laid out on medical beds, there were surgical scars from where they had been cut apart, Twilight was a bit conflicted, on one hand, that was the purpose of the spell, to allow people to be cut up and not suffer any permanent harm, on the other, did these humans really know what the spell did, were they willing to risk their subjects in such a way?

Ironwood pointed to one of the incapacitated men, “Can you revive him, he was found at the site of the battle and might be able to shed some light on your guilt or innocence.”

Twilight nodded, pulled her magic forward and twisted, breaking the enchantment placed over the man. He woke with a gasp, and looked around, confused, “W-What, where?”

“Abraham Locke, you were placed in a form of suspended animation, you are currently aboard the AABS blue-two…”

“G-General Ironwood, sir,” The man said, saluting, despite the numbness in his body.

“Tell me, what happened at the site of the explosion…”

“Yes, sir… After the seismic alarms went off, myself, private first-class Argon Actin, and a dozen or so AK-200 Prototypes were deployed to investigate. There, we saw four faunus, assumed to be White Fang, or possibly unlicensed huntsmen, we landed. The AKs were activated and we tried to take the subjects aboard the ship, there was a disagreement when we tried to confiscate their weapons, and Argon, without orders, opened fire on the targets assuming them hostile. The AKs, following their programming, opened fire, but one of the faunus had a powerful shield semblance and had blocked both the AK’s fire and the dropship’s rotary autocannons. After that, I blacked out.”

“Yes, that was my doing,” Twilight walked up, “It was the most effective way of ending the conflict without harm, after that, the ‘dropship’ you call it, launched off into the air and I tried to hold it still with my semblance, I was hoping to disable that thing’s engines so we would board and place this ‘Argon Actin’ into stasis as well… Unfortunately, we had only damaged one of the engines when I was unable to keep my hold on the vessel, and it flew off into the air, with a damaged engine it couldn’t fly properly and it crashed, I am unsure what happened to Argon…” Twilight punctuated her words by casting a spell that projected an illusion of the events, taken from her own memory.

“From what the Ace Ops have informed me, Argon was killed when the dropship crashed.”

Twilight suddenly looked shocked, appalled, and apologetic, “I-I didn’t know that would happen, I-I”

Ironwood was unsure if she was being sincere, but testimony, combined with that hologram of the events, was proof enough, although, the hologram could have been faked… Ironwood suddenly found himself conflicted, unsure of this woman’s innocence or not… In any case, it was evident that they were not the aggressors, and that Argon had acted without orders. He sighed, “While I still am unsure if you’re being sincere or that the vision you showed me was genuine or not, this does clear you of the ‘destruction of military property’ and of the other two potential murders, as for Argon, I will count that as accidental manslaughter for the time being. Once we land in Vale, you and your friends can go free, but you will be monitored, any further breaking of the law will have serious consequences and you are not permitted to return to the Kingdom of Atlas, is that clear…”

“Yes, sir, we were planning on moving to Vale anyway, as our relatives are currently enrolled in Beacon Academy, at least according to a friend of ours…” She placed a bit of disdain on the word ‘Friend’, and Ironwood raised an eyebrow.

“Very well, once you remove the stasis on the other subject, you and your friends will be escorted to some spare quarters and locked in there for the remainder of the trip. The only time you will be permitted to leave these quarters is during lunch at twelve-o-clock on the dot, afterwards, you will be escorted back to your quarters under guard until we land… Is that clear.”

“Understood,” Twilight sighed, she didn’t like the treatment, but understood why the general was doing this… That was when an alarm sounded across the ship, so loud it hurt her pony ears.

Rainbow was soaring through the sky on a trail of multicoloured light flowing from her rainbow-feathered wings. She saw an airship in the distance, an angular and blocky thing, there were three of them, accompanied by a fleet of smaller vehicles… How would he find which one her friends were aboard? She didn’t have time to waste looking around, and she was going to be spotted for sure with her rainbow trail, so she headed toward the one in the front, figuring that, if her friends weren’t aboard it, then, at least, she would find whoever was in charge and beat the shit out of her until she told her where her friend were.

There came flashes of light from some of the vessels, and blasts of energy started flying in her direction, Rainbow swerved, ducking under and around the streams of magical energy with all the speed of the rainboom behind her, and all the manoeuvrability of a hummingbird. She streaked toward the forward ship, the blasts of energy stopped and were replaced by swarms of metal pellets flying through the air like a swarm of angry flies, streaking bright orange through the air.

She flew up to a window, holding her gun backwards in front of her, ready to slam the stock into the glass… It had been designed to survive bullets, cannon shells, and dust blasts, but not a faunus, with full aura, travelling at mach-twelve. The glass caved and she shattered through the window, time seeming to travel in slow-motion to the experienced senses of Rainbow. There were dozens of human guards inside the room, and Rainbow raised a leg as she flew through the air, slamming her boot right into the head of one of the guards, as she did this, she twirled her rifle around and fired a burst into another guard, both of them shimmered and their auras broke in the same second.

A turret popped out of the roof, and suddenly the ship went red as a piercing alarm sounded, but Rainbow ignored these things, leaping off the first guard and twirling through the air, dodging every shot sent her way, and kicking another guard to the ground. The targeting systems in her rifle latched on to three other guards on the other side of the room, all raising their rifles, and she fired a dozen blasts at each of them, all three falling to the ground unconscious from the shock of their auras breaking.

The turret locked on to the rainbow pegasus faunus and fired a dozen rounds at her in half a second, but Rainbow was fast and rolled out of the way, leaping up into the air and twirling around behind the turret, jabbing the machine with the bayonet of her rifle, causing it to spark, crackle, and die. Then, in a fluid motion, she fell back down to the ground and fired off another few bursts at the two remaining guards on the other side of the room…

There were two doors, one on either side of the room, Rainbow had done this before in training and knew that both presented dangers… She rushed over to one and planted a canister of dust on it in such a way that opening the door would cush the canister and cause an explosion, then ran over to the other door, heading deeper into the ship, Rainbow slammed the door console only for it to say “Access Denied” in a mechanical voice. She huffed and moved her free hand around, summoning a stormcloud… She spent a few minutes doing this, charging the cloud with as much energy as she could manage, and with all the magic being given off by the giant airship, she had plenty of energy at her disposal, finally, she gave it a hard punch and a blast of lightning shot forth and toward the door.

The door exploded inward, half-melted, and crushed a guard who was on the other side, he was still alive, but his aura collapsed… There were more guards on the other side and they started wildly opening fire, Rainbow dodged to the side and tossed another dust canister into the room, it exploded in a burst of fire and the guards all fell down, singed and unconscious. Rainbow did the same thundercloud trick to blow open the next door and more ceiling turrets turned to greet her. They started to fire, and Rainbow replied, a few bullets pinged off the woman, but her rainbow-shimmering aura held firm, and driven by adrenaline, she was nigh immune to pain. The turrets exploded as they were struck by blasts of energy from Rainbow’s rifle.

She was in some kind of corridor, and saw signs for the crew quarters, engineering, bridge, and confinement cells… Figuring that her friends would be in the confinement cells, she summoned another thundercloud in her hands and blew the door down, rushing down a flight of stairs. There was, of course, another door, so she blew it up too. All the sound she was making was alerting guards all around, but that actually worked to Rainbow’s favour, as none of the human soldiers wanted to engage with a crazed faunus that moved with supernatural speed and agility, and could summon blasts of lightning that could blow down doors, so, watching the security camera feeds, they decided to activate the AKs.

Rainbow made it to the confinement cells when there came a loud and ominous mechanical voice, “Intruder, identify yourself,” Dash replied to the machine by running forward faster than the machines could track and slamming it to the ground with a smack of her gun’s stock, bashing the face-plate in, and causing the machine to die with a cybernetic seizure. A few others rushed forward with swords on their hands, meanwhile a few more had rotary guns extend from their hands. Rainbow made short work of the machines, moving faster than their guns could track and dodging around their swipes with ease. All while keeping up her firing, shots burning clean through the automatons… Soon, the room was cleared.

“What in Celestia’s name is going on out there!” Came a voice from one of the cells, and Rainbow recognized it.


“Rainbow!” Shouted Spitfire from the cell next to Rarity’s… The cells were tiny rooms, almost too small for a person to reasonably fit, set into the wall. There was a blue glow around one of the doors, and the material of the door seemed to liquefy and bend, changing into strange and alien shapes before settling into an elegantly built golden door like the kind in Canterlot, but metal rather than wood, and Rarity elegantly walked out, eying the destroyed mechancial forms, out of Rarity’s cell stepped Spitfire, Rarity had apparently carved a tunnel between their two cells while they were waiting.

“Come one guys! Where’s Twilight, we need to run!” Rainbow shouted, “You should all get to that big room with all the windows, that’s how I came in, I’m going to go to the engine room and blow this entire place to hell before meeting up with you! If they think I’m just going to let them take you and-”

“Rainbow!” Spitfire shouted, “Settle down, last I heard, Twilight was taken up to the medical wing.”

Rainbow suddenly looked worried as visions of her friend getting tortured to death came to mind and she ran back up the stairs faster than anyone could follow. She blew down another door and ran deeper into the ship, but she didn’t see any signs for the medical rooms… She blew her way into another corridor and just in front of her was another guard, he tried to pull a small weapon from his belt as Rainbow rushed forward and grabbed him by the neck, slamming him against the far wall and shouting into his face at the top of her lungs “Where is the princess! What are you savages doing to her!”

The guard, in a high-pitched, choked, and panicking voice stuttered, “I-Ah-I don’t k-know what you’re t-talking about!” He gave a choked scream as Rainbow pulled back and slammed him into the wall again, this time his aura broke and Rainbow squeezed tighter, easily bruising his neck and go silent as he couldn’t breathe.

She shouted the question into his face again, “The princess! Where is she! TELL ME YOU BASTARD!”

A door to her side slid open, and Rainbow dropped the man, spinning around and firing her rifle, only to pause when she saw a shimmering purple shield, “Twilight, I came to save-”

“Rainbow Dash! What are you doing!” A very, very, angry Twilight replied, standing next to a tall human stallion who was pointing a pistol at Rainbow, but at that moment, Rainbow could only assume the man was threatening Twilight, she rushed forward and kicked the man so hard he flew back down the corridor and slammed into the far wall, shimmering purple. “Rainbow!” The horrified Twilight said before Rainbow blacked out, feeling a stasis spell overtake her body.

She passed out with a choked cry of, “I-I came to… Save… You…”

Cinder was angry, Cinder was very angry… That was evident. “So, you failed to eliminate the runaway, and on top of that, got yourself seen by a beacon student, and now the police are after you…”

“F-Forgive us, ma’am, it won’t happen again…” Emerald said.

Mercury was just as angry, that was evident in his voice, and he simply grunted in response.

Cinder rolled her eyes, “Make sure of that… Now, getting into Beacon is going to be a damn nightmare…” She sighed.

They were inside an abandoned warehouse, not so abandoned anymore, not that the White Fang had moved in… There was a bullhead being unloaded with a recent haul of dust, and White Fang goons were flocking around like rats… Cinder had just finished talking with Torchwick when her disciples came in and gave unwelcome news. Cinder turned in her seat and gestured to the girl in the corner, “Neo,” Her eyes then wandered to that strange White Fang girl, she had seen her in training and she was good, plus, there was just something about her that intrigued Cinder, she was unsure how trustworthy the girl was, but she would do, now that it would be too dangerous to bring Emerald and Mercury with her… She pointed toward the White Fang girl, “And you, what’s your name!”

“Cozy Glow, ma’am…”

“You two, with me.”

Chapter 45: Beasts Within, Beasts Without.

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Team RWBY, JNPR, and TASS walked into the library, both Ruby and Sweetie Belle had brought their copies of the board game… There was a moment when they both started unpacking the board, then Sweetie glanced at Ruby, “Hey, we have two sets…”

“Yeah?” Ruby replied, “So?”

“So, how about we all play together?”

“But, they’re only four kingdoms…”

Sweetie glanced at her own cards, miniatures, and board, then smirked, “Not any more!” Ruby took a moment to process the idea in her head, then smirked… About five minutes later, and after much discussion with their teams, the two boards had been stuck together, and the eight players gathered around the table… Ruby was playing the kingdom of Vale, Weiss was Atlas, Yang was Mistral, Blake was Vacuo, meanwhile, Sweetie was playing the kingdom of Equestria, one she had apparently made up, and gathered up half of the cards and pieces from the Vale and Atlas sets. Diamond was playing the kingdom of Grimm and decided to challenge herself by not making allies and only using the cards and pieces related to the grimm. Apple Bloom was the kingdom of Chrysalis, again, another thing she came up with, with half the cards and pieces from Mistral, and the other half from Vacuo, lots of them related to spying and subterfuge, again challenging herself, playing something she wasn’t used to. Finally, Scootaloo was playing the White Fang and using only cards or pieces related to faunus, all gathered from different sets.

As was customary, Atlas went first.

Ozpin watched out the window in his office as a trio of atlesian battleships approached, all of them floated just beyond the window, hovering over the city, from beside him, Glynda muttered, “Well, Ironwood certainly likes bringing his work wherever he travels.”

“Running an academy and military makes him a busy man, but yes, those are a bit of an eyesore…”

The elevator dinged, and in stepped the general, a little tired looking, “Good morning, Professor…” The general sighed, “I had a bit of trouble while travelling here…”

Ozpin raised his eye, “I understand that travel between kingdoms has grown increasingly difficult, what kind of trouble?”

“Just four faunus women, I mistook them for White Fang at first, there was a bit of a mess, it’s all cleaned up now, but I have had a rough night…”

Twilight, Rainbow Dash, Spitfire, and Rarity were all dragged into a room, they were seated at a table with particularly fancy chairs, and all the ponies present could feel magical energy flowing through the table, chairs, walls, and a particularly notable machine on said table… A box, plastic, ceramic, and metal, studded with wires and dials and a display screen… A lie detector, Twilight realized, this room was remarkably similar to the interrogation rooms in the Canterlot dungeons, and while Unicorns were used for the lie-detecting, Twilight knew that these humans had only the vaguest understanding of their own magic… At least Applejack wasn’t here, but Twilight really hoped that Rainbow didn’t say anything stupid. The note Princess Celestia sent her a few days ago emphasized that she wanted Twilight and her party to stay inconspicuous until the planet had been identified and a portal set up… Well, there was still a chance she could salvage the situation…

As she sat down, Twilight reached out with her magic, suppressing the magical glow around her hand until it was nearly invisible while scanning the machine thoroughly… It wasn’t long until the general followed them in, but in that ten-minute wait she had a rudimentary understanding of how the mechanical lie-detector worked and felt she could mimic whatever signals she wanted… Hopefully.

“Let’s begin… Miss, Twilight Sparkle… Is that your real name…”

“Yes, it is… My full title is Princess Twilight Light Sparkle the first of Ponyville…” She wasn’t lying and didn’t need to tinker with the machine, this gave her a bit of time to see the thing in action, and she was suddenly a bit more confident that she could mimic that response should it prove necessary.

“Odd name, but you are an odd pack of faunus, you call yourself ‘Princess’ what does that entail…”

“I am the leader of my village, that is the title we use,” It was only a partial lie, Mayor Mare was the one in charge, but ever since she first set hoof in Ponyville, she certainly had some amount of political power, that was only bolstered by her ascension, she could tell the Mayor what to do if she wanted to. Clearly, the lie detector didn’t catch this, but she kept her magical grip on the device.

The general nodded and turned to Rainbow, “Your name?”

“Trainee-Private Rainbow Dash, sir!” Rainbow saluted, her training in the wonderbolts kicked in, this wasn’t the first time she was in trouble.


“Yes, Wonderbolts, eighth training wing.”

Ironwood nodded, “You aren’t Atlesian military, are these ‘Wonderbolts’ what you call your local militia.”

“Yes, sir.”

Twilight pressed her magic around the machine, Rainbow wasn’t good at lying, but the quick application of magic had simply made the device loop the last ten seconds of readings from the mare. Ironwood walked over to Rarity next, “And you?”

“Miss Rarity Crumbles Belle Von Canterbelle,”

“Long title.”

“My family are the direct descendants of Clover Belle, we are minor nobility.”

Ironwood nodded and continued over to Spitfire, “And finally, who are you…”

“Brigadier General Spitfire Flare Thundershrike, the CO of Trainee Rainbow Dash, Wonderbolts.”

Ironwood nodded. “So, where do you four come from.”

“Ponyville,” Rarity replied.

“Where is this Ponyville?”

Twilight squeezed down on her magic and made the device loop as she spoke, “It is to the south-west, past the ocean, it had been destroyed in a grimm attack…”

“And why did you come to Atlas?”

Rainbow began, “We’re looking for our friends and family.”

Ironwood nodded, pleased with the answer, and the readout from the lie detector… These faunus clearly weren’t working for Her, but, he still needed to figure some things out, so he turned and said, “Alright, now, tell me, all of you, what happened back in the tundra outside Mantle?”

“Those four came to Atlas looking for their friends and family and will be released into Vale tomorrow night after a bit of last-minute interrogation and once the damages they did to my ship have been repaired… That Rarity Belle has a fascinating semblance, she has been helping repair the damages.”

Ozpin raised an eyebrow at the name, “Interesting, one of the more notable students we’ve had this year is a girl by the name of Sweetie Crumbles Belle…”


“Most likely…”

Chrysalis led her swarm down the streets of the ruined mountain city, following where the highest concentration of the magical monsters was, letting her swarm feast on the beasts as they passed, she didn’t need that energy, she was going to eat whatever was creating these entities… She eventually found herself walking down some kind of underground railroad filled with ancient mining equipment… There was a strange glowing in the walls, channels of dust she realized, veins reaching through the earth, and several crystals were growing from these veins.

There were black pools on the ground, a viscous fluid, magically powerful… From one, a black arm reached from the smoking blackness and clawed its way to the surface. Chrysalis scoffed and rammed her sword down into the beast’s head, and it simply popped into non-existence… As Chrysalis’ sword fell into the black muck, it was seemingly dragged downward and she used a bit more power to hold it still as the muck bubbled and smoked around the crystalline blade, wrapping around it and seeming to seep into the crystal, it was only a few seconds before the entire puddle had vanished, absorbed by the blade… “Magic, concentrated, liquified, dark magic… Not too different than the pony’s Liquid Rainbow…”

She eyed another pool, “Drone, drink it,” She said, and one of her droned obeyed, dipping herself into the fluid, at which point it shot forth and dragged the creature down into the pool, where her chitin shell and horn changed to a bone-white, her eyes went a bright red, and a strange blackness overtook her flesh… She snarled as she thrashed in pain and came clawing to the surface. A second later, she was impaled on the end of Chrysalis’ sword… Instead of simply popping like the other creatures, black fluid flowed from the open wound and was sucked into the sword, drawing the alien magic from the drone’s flesh... Then, she was tossed to the ground, dead, “Scan her body for any remains of dark magic, if she is clean, toss her body back into the biomass pool…”

The changelings nodded and did their duty, Chrysalis opened her mouth and drew a tendril of magic from the pool. It was thick with magical power, and she could feel her reserve of energy fill, and continue to draw in more power, beyond what she once thought was possible… The pool drained and vanished, and Chrysalis could already feel herself stronger. She smirked, there were plenty of these pools, plenty of power for her hive, but the cave went deeper, there was more…

Magic grew heavy in the air, an eerie electrical feeling that flowed over the flesh of every changeling accompanying the queen. They passed through more monster-filled corridors, these ones looking like natural caves rather than the tunnels the builders of this ruin were constructing. Then, they opened up into a massive cavern… It was a huge underground lake, a pool of black magic, inside which was the shape of a deformed dragon made from stone… No, not made of stone, coated in stone, she realized as she felt the power radiating from the beast, the space bearly large enough to contain its bulk, and it was surrounded by a massive swarm of alien monsters.

Chrysalis’s horn glowed, she dare not use her sword here and risk wasting such magical power… The horde howled and ran toward her, a beam of acid-green magic met the approaching beasts and rendered them into smoke, at the same time, her changelings charged, gripping into the bears and wolves and sucking their power, causing the beasts to dissolve as they were consumed. It was a matter of minutes until the room was cleared, leaving just the dragon and the pool.

Chrysalis licked her lips with her serpentine tounge and approached the stone form of the dragon, lifting a rock from the wall and cutting it into a spike, she jabbed it into the rock and it split, showing black flesh and white scales beneath, Chrysalis opened her mouth and started to suck… The dragon’s power flowed into her, it quickly outdid the amount of energy she got from those magical pools, and grew exponentially, it was so much she felt the power mutating her body and she loved it, she continued to draw energy from the creature, that was now very much awake and howling in pain, unable to move as it was killed, its being syphoned off to fuel the queen’s growing power… Her eyes glowed a brilliant green and she felt her body grow larger, spikes of chitin jut off from her hide and wings extend, bigger and bigger, her body making room for all the new energy. Her horn extended and started to glow with a faint corona of energy.

“I can’t believe she won, again!” Yang shouted, walking into her room, a smirking Sweetie Belle looking at her with pride as she wandered off to her own dorm, nearly running right into the tall black-haired girl and her two companions, a blue-haired and pink-winged faunus that was cheerily bouncing along, and a shorter woman with brown hair and green eyes who was quietly smirking.

“You’re just mad because Mistral was the second kingdom to fall, but Vale got taken over by Chrysalis practically in the first turn!” Ruby replied.

Weiss was beaming with pride, “I can believe I almost won, and this is the first time I ever played…”

“Wow, Weiss smiling, that’s a first,” Yang muttered.

“How dare you!” Weiss replied, flipping to annoyance in a moment, Ruby was just laughing… Sitting on her bed, Blake smiled… For the first time in a very long time, she was happy, properly happy, and she wanted to stay happy for as long as possible… So she just sat there, watching her team, her friends, talking and laughing and being together, and she smiled too.

The White Fang scout walked past the abandoned buildings, uneasy like he was being watched… There weren’t many grimm around, which was more than just strange given where he was. He pressed his comms, “This is scout Baenar, this area is clear…” He said, suppressing the shaking in his voice, expecting an alpha beowolf or ursa major to come running down the street any minute now, but it was all silent, not a single noise to be heard, even the wind was dead. All dead, save for the eyes looking down on him from the ruined towers, a baleful green, waiting for the chance to strike… The last thing the other scouts heard of him was his sudden scream from the comms before it went dead, and the other masked faunus came rushing to his aid, amazed and relieved to see him unharmed, putting his mask back on, saying that he was surprised by a small beowolf and that he lost his weapon trying to fight it off… Little did the other scouts know that Baenar didn’t have green eyes.

Chapter 46: New Arrivals

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“Uhh… Hey, Neptune, Sage, Scarlet…” The young man said, his hands cuffed, being dragged out of the, rather comfortable-looking to be honest, prison cell at the police officer. Neptune just looked on in disappointment.

“This is the sixth time we’ve had to bail you out of prison, have you no decency, Sun,” Sage commented.

“Hey, it ain’t my fault I got caught!”

“It is your fault that you left without us…” Neptune commented.

“I was just sick and tired of all the packing, I wanted to see what Vale was like, plus, ships are fun…”

“Come on, get him uncuffed already…” Scarlet said to the police officer, who obliged, and undid the monkey-faunus’ hands. “Now, let’s go get something to eat, I’m absolutely famished.”

“Ditto,” Neptune and Sun said in unison.

As they left the prison, one of the guards watched them, eyes green behind his sunglasses.

“A dance?”

“A school dance to celebrate the beginning of the Vytal Festival, it’s only two weeks away…”

“That still seems a bit early for a celebration, don’t you think?”

Sweetie and Weiss were sitting in the ballroom, going over the plans for the dance, it was always set up a few days in advanced, team CFVY was supposed to be setting it up, but they had just been called away for a mission. “You want us to help set it up?” Sweetie asked.

“Precisely, you’re semblance would be wonderfully useful for helping set everything up…”

Sweetie looked a little confused, “Pinkie said I wasn’t allowed to help with parties since that one time I tried baking a cake…”

“It’s just a dance, and the rest of your team would surely be of help…”

Sweetie thought about it for a second, then stood up and walked off to her dorm, saying “I’ll go talk to Diamond about it.”

As Sweetie left, Weiss drew out her sheaf of papers and studied them… Telekinesis was the paper she opened upon, showing a very simple series of lines and circles with a line of text circling the matrix. With some help from Sweetie, what she originally went to see the girl about before talk of the dance had come up, she had a basic understanding of what the words meant… “Convert energy:chemical=subject:caster>targeted object=kenetic, force=gravity-2, hold location=0,0,0,” She muttered, cementing the letters in her mind… It reminded the girl of computer programing, and she wondered if semblances were simply that, lines of programming in a person… But, she let go of that train of thought as she reached out, feeling the chemical energy from her own body being drawn out and latching on to the object she wanted to lift, pulling it upward against the pull of gravity and holding it still in a location…

Those numbers, at the end of the code, Sweetie had explained, represented where you wanted to move the object, it was hard at first, but everyone where she lived quickly got used to changing those numbers almost as fast as they could think… Weiss changed one of the zeros into a one, and the coffee cup, in a whitish-blue field, jutted upward a centimetre.

“Why hasn’t Atlas figured this out yet… How did this elusive village of faunus figure out how to use semblance in such a way…” Weiss thought to herself, muttering quietly under her breath…

The mass of magically infused crystal lenses, the arrays of scrying spells, the shell of steel… The immense construction was built into the mountain with a full view of the sky above. Pegasi weather teams had been moved in to clear the sky of any clouds, vapours, or dust particulate, and unicorns cast spells into the air that kept it clear… The megascope, as some had come to call it, was only one of a dozen or so of these monstrous constructions, but it was still amazing to be the one to operate such a device.

The megascope was a kind of powerful telescope, even if that was an astonishing oversimplification of the arcane function. If it could be aimed at the horizon, it would be able to see in clear and sharp detail an individual virus on the tip of a fine needle, hundreds of kilometres away. Aimed into the sky, it was perfect for mapping distant planets and celestial bodies, even things at the other end of the galaxy were only reduced to fuzzyish pictures, rather than completely unidentifiable… The machine was the work of decades of intricate spellcasting to get those crystal mirrors and the scrying magic within them perfect.

It was a point of pride that someone so young, only recently graduated from the academy of physics in Canterlot, was assisting the lead scientist in this investigation, and in such an amazing work of science and arcana. Star Tracker sat on his rump, quill in his teeth, writing down whatever his master, the pony operating the megascope, said to.

On the low table, Star Tracker continued to look through the photos sent from Canterlot, from the surface of some distant planet, it showed views of the night sky on the alien world, and of the alien world’s moon, cracked and drifting in pieces, it disturbed the young astrophysicist. But, at least it was a noticeable landmark, and certainly the kind of thing easily seen through the megascope.

From behind him, the lead scientist, a mare called Oculus, a unicorn, said, directly into Star Tracker’s mind through the use of some telepathic spell, “No, no, mark off Solar-77, I can’t find anything around that star, none of the planets match the profile…” Star Tracker unconsciously nodded and flicked over to another piece of paper, making off another name on the list of stars with known planetoids around them… It wasn’t the most thrilling work, but at least he wasn’t one of those ponies going over the records to see if there had been any mention of a planet with a broken moon in one of the megascope’s previous observations of the sky… Going through all those books must be such a chore.

He flicked his eyes back to the photos, making a small “Hmm…” His eyes were drawn to one slightly brighter than average star in the sky of that distant planet, it was green… There were very few green stars in the galaxy, but there were a hoof-full, glowing green due to some unknown magical phenomenon, one that simple observation hadn’t shed any light on… But, that green star was right next to two others, a red and orange star that seemed to be touching, a binary star… Red and orange binary, relatively near a green star… It stuck some familiarity with the colt, and he went over to some of the star charts he had…

“Red and orange binary, if the general location is where I think it is, it must be… That’s Blastlight’s Star, in the northern hemisphere, but the green, there isn’t a green star next to Blastlight’s Star, unless… No, it must be Blastlight, there aren’t any other red-orange binaries in close proximity to a green star, but, Ather-12 isn’t that close to Blastlight, it’s eighty degrees to the north-west…”

He pondered this for a moment, his train of thought temporarily disrupted by Oculus calling into his mind again, saying “Mark off Ather-91,” But then, a few moments later, he face-hoofed.

“Of course an alien planet wouldn’t have the same line of sight of the stars that we have… It must be facing those two stars in such a way to make them look like they’re next to each other… And, it clearly orbits the same kind of star as Celestia’s Sun…” He paused, pulling out a calculator and doing some quick triangulation, then stood and trotted over to Oculus, “I think I have something!”

The room was a bit small, but Cozy found it, well, cozy… She was sitting on the edge of the bed watching her new companions, Neo, the colourful human, was quiet, and simply sitting on her bed, sharpening a large steel needle… Cinder, a tall human with a dark mane and bright yellowish-orange eyes was glaring at her… They had just settled in from their trot over from the White Fang’s hideout, this Beacon place was interesting, there was an odd magical pressure, and a feeling of unease that the filly quickly got used to.

“I’m curious,” Cinder began, staring at the foal, her eyes drilling into the filly’s soul, she returned the stare, and Cinder flinched, just a tiny thing, but one that Cozy could notice… “What do you want, why did you join the White Fang…” Cinder said, intrigued by the girl, those little pale pink eyes held dark anger and pressure behind them that made Cinder uncomfortable.

“Why are you asking…” Cozy began, “Want to know if you can trust me? Want to know how much of an asset I will be to your little quest, whatever that is…”

Cinder paused, as much as this little girl looked like an innocent child, every word, every movement, screamed to the woman’s heightened senses that she was in the presence of a predatory beast. “Yes,” Cinder answered truthfully, knowing that trying to dodge the question or lie wouldn’t go over well with this monstrous child.

“Well, I want to know what exactly this plan of yours is… And how it will benefit me…”

Cinder was silent for a second, Neo was looking at them both, and Cinder sighed, “I… I am working for a powerful being, and she wants four, powerful, items hidden in the schools, Beacon is our first target… These items, these Relics, are locked behind doors that can only be opened by a kind of special power… I have some of that power, but not all of it, and that's what I’m working to get… The being I am working for is very, very powerful, and I’m sure that no matter what you want she can grant you it, if you do well and please her.”

Cozy smirked, “My family hated me, I didn’t have power, I didn’t have strength, and that’s what they prized above all… So, I’ve come to get my power, to get the strength that was stolen from me at birth… Can this person grant me that?”

Cinder smirked, “That’s exactly what I want, and yes, yes she can…”

Cozy’s smirk turned into a sickly sweet smile that would both melt the heart, melt it until it burned a hole through the person and left them a smoking corpse, “Golly, I better work hard then…” She opened her eyes which somehow drilled into Cinder’s soul, “So, what do we do first…”

Cinder turned and pulled out her scroll, “Well, first Neo here needs to get into the CCTS Tower during the prom, meanwhile, you and I need to work on setting up a grimm attack on the city, more fear means it will be all the easier to set up attacks in the future, and the more attacks, the less guards there will be to the power, and the Relic…” She paused as she saw something on her scroll pop up, “Hm… Seems like Mountain Glenn is a bust, none of the scouts I’ve sent in have come back, I didn’t know it was that dangerous… Guess we’ll need to find another vulnerability, another place to hit the city from…”

The shifting green and purple clouds below had become a common sight after the first month, now Diamond settled herself by trying to map the strange dream… She had discovered that anything she had on her body when she slept, she had with her inside the dream, so, she had brought a scrap of paper and was starting to map the shifting corridors and labyrinthine maze of the dreamscape, soon, she also brought a marker, and scribbled on the walls to help orient herself in the dream, putting a large pink dot on the ground where she began… Her first few maps needed to be scrapped after she discovered that she didn’t appear in the same place every time she slept. “What’s causing all this, why is the dream realm so, stable, here…” She thought, but those were questions better left to a unicorn, and Sweetie certainly didn’t have any useful answers.

The corridors twisted and turned and she had made quite the map, but there was more, always more, the maze seemed to go on forever… Then, she spotted a door, a large gilded door set into the obsidian walls… “That’s new…” She quickly marked it on the map, and continued to trot around until she came to wakefulness, examining the newly marked map sitting in her hands when the rays of morning came into her room.

Chapter 47: Road to Union

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This day marked the start of group combat lessons, teams vs teams… Sometimes, it would just be two or three team members, sometimes it would be multiple teams, sometimes it would be students from different teams mixed and matched together, all fighting alongside each-other against other teams, team members, or mixed students. “The purpose of this training is to bolster your ability to work together, even with other students not of the same team, to fight together, to learn the strengths of your allies,” Glynda said at the start of the day’s sparring matches, in that lecturing tone she always wore.

“Hope you won’t go easy on us…” Scootaloo muttered.

“We will not, Scootaloo, I hope you know that I have never been defeated in a fight, even in my childhood” Pyrrha replied. She didn’t like bragging about that, particularly since she had been forced into a life of combat, but her foes deserved warning, she wasn’t going to lose.

The two teams were on either side of the auditorium, JNPR and TASS all had their weapons ready, other than Scootaloo, who was carrying a bottle glowing a pale blue. There was a countdown, and the moment Glynda said “Go” the two teams leapt into action.

Pyrrha rushed forward with her spear at Scootaloo, but a shimmering green field appeared before she could score a hit, blocking the warrioress, and she leapt backwards before she could be counterattacked. Jaune rushed forward with his sword, slashing downward but his strike was blocked by Diamond, who raised her blade, wreathed in pink flames. Nora lunged forward with her hammer, swinging wildly at Apple Bloom, but before she could land a hit, blasts of fire struck the girl on the side and she tumbled down, quickly getting back up and chasing after her attacker, Scootaloo, who had run up a wall and was gliding on her smaller-than-average wings, and firing down on everyone below.

Jaune was swept off his feet by a slash from Diamond, going at his legs, the boy fell to the ground, and Diamond raised her sword to stab downward, but Jaune moved his shield to his chest, then Diamond gave a grunt as a swarm of pistol rounds struck her in the back, and she turned to Ren, who had somehow moved behind her. There then came a large chain of explosions as Apple Bloom opened fire on Pyrrha, who was moving around, somehow dodging each of the explosive metal shells, Sweetie noticed a slight glimmer of black magic manifesting around each of the cannon rounds the moment they were fired.

Sweetie launched herself after Pyrrha, running across the ground to meet her foe, but was intercepted by Nora, who swung at just the right time to send the girl flying across the auditorium, and right into Diamond, who was relentlessly swinging at Ren, who was backing away, on the defensive from Diamond’s aggressive tactics. The two fell to the ground in a pile, their long pink hair getting tangled together, and Diamond’s sword poking into Sweetie’s breasts as Sweetie’s halberd was resting painfully on Diamond’s head, “Get off of me you brat!” Diamond shouted, using her supernatural strength to lift Sweetie off of her and throw her to the ground, “Help me with this speedy little-” She said, staring at Ren who was reloading his pistols.

“You don’t get to tell me what to do!” Sweetie angrily replied, right before Nora rushed forward and Sweetie summoned an arcane sphere around herself. Diamond scoffed and was about to respond, but she was cut off by a jab of pain as Ren had run up and started slashing at her with his knife-blades.

Scootaloo downed the potion, and her body started to shimmer as if light was bending around her in odd ways, Pyrrha launched her spear at the filly, seeing that she had just boosted herself with dust, but the weapon simply bounced off her lambent and iridescent skin without taking anything from her aura… Scootaloo leapt into the air and the fields around her arms started to glow a bit brighter, and Pyrrha took a defensive stance. There came a flurry of pink explosions as Nora launched grenades at the floating figure, but Scootaloo ignored these strikes, the pressure seeming to flow around her body without affecting her.

Apple Bloom took the chance to lunge and uppercut Nora with a twirl of Applebuck in its hammer form, and Nora was sent tumbling into the sky, smacking into the ceiling and coming to land in a crater, aura shimmering, then breaking. A buzzer sounded, and Glynda used her semblance to lift the unconscious girl out of the battle before she could be harmed by the fight.

Jaune got back to his feet and leapt, grabbing a hold of Scootaloo’s feet and dragging her down, but a shimmering field of energy, a plane of blue light, appeared below her before she could fall down to the ground, Scootaloo kicked Jaune off and started to jump around, creating more platforms and firing down at JNPR with her pistols.

Diamond leapt at Ren and slashed, but the boy was simply too fast, he leapt over Diamond’s back, stabbing her in the shoulders along the way, but was suddenly encapsulated in a minty field of energy and slammed to the other side of the room by telekinetic pressure, “He’s mine!” Diamond shouted as she ran at Ren, glaring at Sweetie Belle, who was next to scoff, but her reply was cut off by a crimson spear flying out and striking her in the side. Sweetie then turned her attention to Pyrrha, who was using her shield to block Scootaloo’s bursts of fire.

A series of hexagonal planes appeared next to Scootaloo, and she raised her hand and flicked them forward like thrown frisbees, they stuck into the ground, edges monomolecular-sharp, then disappeared as she failed to hit her target, Jaune, who raised his shield, which now had an impressive gash in it from one of the hard-light weapons. Scootaloo felt something crackle against the hard-light field around her body, and she turned to see Ren, dodging cannon shells.

Apple Bloom turned her cannon to track the agile Ren, but every time she had the boy in her ironsights, he leapt out of the gun’s way, another AP shell blasting a hole in the wall and kicking up dust and stone chips. Ren then flipped backwards, avoiding another shot, and wrapping his legs around Diamond’s head, the girl chasing the boy down. Ren then, in a fluid motion flipped forward and slammed Diamond’s head into the ground, stabbing down at the back of her neck with the blades of his knives… Apple Bloom fired, and Ren leapt, moving out of the way of the shell, which struck the dazed Diamond, who coughed and fell to the ground, pale pink field breaking, knocking the girl unconscious. “Crap…” Apple Bloom muttered to herself, “She’s going to be angry about that…”

Pyrrha leapt, throwing her shield at Sweetie Belle the same time she launched her spear at Scootaloo. The shield was caught in a Sweetie Belle’s telekinesis and launched back, but Pyrrha was quick, and expected this, jumping on her flying shield and kicking out, Scootaloo blocked the spear, summoning a field of hard-light, but the moment she dropped the field when the spear flicked back to its mistress’s hand, the shield, flung by Sweetie and redirected by Pyrrha, slammed into Scootaloo’s head and knocked her off her platform, she fell to the ground, her body flickering with both the colour of her aura and the colour of hard-light dust, as her aura shattered.

Jaune ran forward at Apple Bloom, who turned her cannon back into a hammer and swung Jaune like a golf ball, who hit one of the auditorium’s walls and passed out, white energy dancing along his body as his aura broke. But Ren was right behind and leapt on Apple Bloom, who tried to fend him off with her hammer. A blast of verdant lightning struck Ren and arced along Apple Bloom’s torso, the two cried out in pain, then both collapsed, aura broken.

Pyrrha flung both her spear and shield at Sweetie at the same time, both were caught in telekinetic fields, but Pyrrha herself also charged forward… Although it was difficult, Sweetie’s attunement to magic saw the black fields, almost telekinesis-like, around Pyrrha’s hands, and her weapons. Sweetie felt something pulling on the things she had in her telekinesis, and extended her fields of force to encompass the running girl, but, between Pyrrha’s attempts to wrench her weapons free from Sweetie’s grasp, and trying to hold three things at once, the magic collapsed, and she fell over, Pyrrha drew her shield and spear back to her, and Sweetie raised her halberd to block, but Pyrrha slammed into her, shield-first, then jabbed at the girl’s torso, her blade moving between the gaps in Sweetie’s defences… Sweetie reached for the spell matrix, and a loud pop accompanied by a flash of light illuminated the auditorium, and the girl appeared on the other side of the room.

Sweetie conjured a trio of magical blasts, hot and crackling with green lightning. Pyrrha was confused for a second, but turned and raised her shield right as the magic missiles flicked out, and she deftly blocked the blasts, Sweetie raised her halberd and charged, screaming at the top of her lungs, but she felt force pulling on her halberd’s metal head and before she could get a taste of the spell to disrupt it, her weapon moved, just enough to miss, and Pyrrha slammed her shield into Sweetie’s chest, she coughed, her body flickered, her aura broke, and she fell over, a buzzer sounding her defeat.

The small airship, the same kind of vehicle that the four had destroyed, a dropship the humans called it, came to a landing, and Twilight, followed by the rest of her friends, left the bay and walked out to the streets of Vale… The sun was bright in the sky, the city was impressive, not quite as developed as Mantle, and especially not anything like the glimpses of Atlas the women had seen, but impressive nonetheless, “Come on, to this Beacon place, I don’t want to waste another minute separated from my Sweetie Belle,” Rarity said, urging the others to follow, Rainbow nodded, flying next to them, drawing stares from a few of the other humans and faunus around, wondering just how someone could hover in place like that, she certainly wasn’t flapping her wings fast enough for flight.

Twilight walked up to a stranger on the street, a large man with neatly combed black hair, “Hello sir, we were wondering where Beacon Academy is?”

“It’s just up there,” He said, pointing to the giant tower overlooking the city from the cliffside, “You need to take an airship or go down that road there until you come to a road going up the mountains, but that’s a much longer journey.”

“Thank you, good sir,” Twilight replied.

“No need to thank me, come by my store if you’re interested, Tukson’s Book Trade.”

“Books?” Twilight perked up a bit.

“Oh boy…” Rainbow Dash commented from the back of the group.

“This is Gold-1, coming around, engaging target…” Soarin muttered into the telepathic communications device in his helmet… He didn’t like flying with a helmet, nor armour, the entire thing felt wrong, he was too heavy, too bulky, and the tubular device mounted to his belly didn’t help… There was a fwoosh, and he felt something stab into his wing, he expected a burning pain and to tumbling out of the sy, either hearing his spine crack as he smacked into the ground or a sudden flash of green, a burning pain, then nothing… But there was no pain, just a slight ache. As he tumbled, he caught himself, and spun back upright… “Could have used some training beforehand…” He muttered sourly, but he took back that thought about not wanting armour.

Crossbow bolts were whizzing through the air, fried from the shapes of large, white-furred, and armour-clad diamond dogs aboard airships. Other wonderbolts were engaging the flagship of this little splinter-fleet, it was always best when a leader could be captured, but the ship he was flying toward had nothing of interest, and it would be better destroyed.

The cylinder between his legs was… Uncomfortable, in more ways than one. The thing was large, and standing with it under him on the ground would have been annoying, let alone walking… Flying with it though, the thing screwed with his balance in the worst possible way, and it felt, strange, eerie, like standing next to a cage filled with angry, rabid, hungry timberwolves.

He was right on target, and squeezed down on the mouth bit… There was a soft click, followed by a louder snap, and he felt a weight on his underside disappear. The cylinder fell free, seeming to float just beneath the pegasus. Then, there was a loud whoosh, and the cylinder shot forth on a trail of fire… He turned, knowing that he didn’t want to be anywhere near that thing when it hit the airship.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the ship bloom into a brilliant green light, then he felt the shockwave and ear-splitting boom wash over him… When he turned around, the ship had been nearly bisected, burning with acidic green fire, and splintering apart. Dogs threw themselves from the sides, screaming, burning, or panicked. He could faintly hear one shout “By the eyes or Orgon, retreat!”

He turned back, flying to the Abyssinian base.

Luna was watching over the arcane image of the battlefield, helpfully projected from chariot-riding battlemages, using scrying spells to inspect the combat both on the surface and in the air… Three Abyssinian airships, complete with the best soldiers the empire could muster, supported by two full companies of wonderbolts, with all the new weaponry Equestria could field, and several scout detachments. Luna was in her element and felt joy as she sent and received telepathic orders. There was a bloom of green fire, and a balefire torpedo struck its target, sending the Storm King’s vessel plummeting to the ground. She felt a spike of panic when she saw where the ship was going to fall, and quickly told her soldiers on the ground to run, not that they needed any orders to do so… There came a few flashes, and the eerie feeling of complex spells being cast, and the teleporters attached to the scout detachments successfully warped the ponies away from the falling ship, which shattered into broken metal and wood, some of which sizzled as chunks, burning with eldritch fire, splashed into the water.

Mount Aris was a smoking ruin… Luna had to wonder what the Storm King had done with the lonely little archipelago, but she was a little disappointed to see that he had simply left it, not even bothering to do much other than posting a few airship gantries around the southern end of the isle. “Let us hope the hippogriffs are somewhere watching the performance, wouldn’t want them to mistake us for invaders…” Came the voice of Catrina, the sorceress watching the battle unfold alongside the alicorn… The voice made Luna hesitate for a moment, it was horribly familiar, reminding her of ancient times...

“Yes… Let us also hope that the war with the Storm King will be a swift one, my sister demanded that, at the very least, our world should be in peace before we make contact with this alien one…”

“Is that why you demanded that you assist with the conflict, or is there more you stand to gain from this,” Catrina smirked, giving Luna a knowing look…

Luna sighed, “It’s going to take time and resources to repair the damage the Storm King has done to this island, and most of all, money… It could very well be Griffonstone all over again… I want to help these creatures, and not leave them in three hundred years of poverty thanks to dealing with the aftermath of a silly war…” Luna let a little bit of anger slip into her words, and could see Catrina flinch… Someone as well read as her must be well acquainted with ancient stories, obscure history, and forbidden lore, she almost smirked at how terrified the cat was, standing in the presence of someone as powerful as the princess of the night. “If I had my way, I’d simply annex them, the griffons too, it would be better if we could all work together, and not be divided into these little nation-states… My sister wouldn’t agree, but my sister refuses to offer aid to those who need it,” More anger crept into Luna’s voice, her body went taught, and gravity started to fluctuate, as, out of the corner of her eye, Luna saw pebbles raising into the air, and the fur on the cat’s body rise ever so slightly, “My sister would give those creatures freedom, but at the cost of their livelihood, what kind of ruler is so-” She sighed, and everything returned to normal, “Forgive me, I let myself go a bit…”

Catrina was clearly horrified at Luna, but hid it well, her voice trembled only slightly, enough that someone not as versed in diplomacy as Luna wouldn’t have noticed, “Yes, well, I’m sure if Abyssinia fell under Equestria’s rule, the King and Queen would be sorely angered, it’s as if you insulted their ability to lead and govern…”

“What are your feelings on the subject?” Luna raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t care who commands me, I simply care about my books, and my spells, and my enchantments… I work to learn and spread my teachings, I don’t care who learns them or for what purpose…”

Luna didn’t respond, but turned back to the map of the battlefield… There came a voice in her had, informing her that the admiral of this little airfleet had been captured, and the rest of the airships were turning away… Good… Looks like the battle is neatly wrapped up, that display with the balefire torpedo was sure to give the fleets second thoughts about attacking again… Now, all that needs to be done is to find where the Hippogriffs are hiding.

Chapter 48: A Needle Through the Dark

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The four adult ponies turned faunus trotted up the cliffside… The school, Beacon, was in the distance… By this time it was late noon. The sun was in the sky, moving rather oddly compared to what Twilight was used to. She was never able to get a good look at it back in Mantle, but she knew something odd was going on with the sun, it moved in a perfectly smooth arc, never going any faster nor slower, rather than the rapid sunsets and sunrises Equestria experience… Weirder still, sometimes the moon, that ghastly shattered thing, was in the sky while the sun was still up…

As they walked up to the cliff, they saw someone marching down to greet them… A tall, presumably human, stallion, with a silver mane and the bland skin that the ponies had come to expect from these creatures. He held a mug of something, and took occasional sips, walking down with a cane from which Twilight felt a slight arcane pressure.

“Interesting,” The man said as he saw them, “I heard that four adults were walking up the cliffside passage, even most students don’t take this route… What’s you’re business here?” He asked, almost like he already knew the answer… His eyes scanned the ponies’ wings and horns, particularly twilight, who had both a horn, wings, and tail, an oddity among faunus… Something that had certainly drawn attention from other people before, but not the same level of intrigue this man was showing.

“Hello, good sir, I am miss Rarity Belle, and these are my friends-” Rarity said, before listing off the different ponies, the man smiled, and stared a little harder at Twilight as her cloak ever so faintly shimmered.

“I presume you are related to those four students that appeared here around a month and a half ago?”


“Yes, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo Allgood, Diamon-”

“Scoots is here!” Rainbow almost screeched, jumping into the air on her wings and hovering, ready to bolt toward the school, were she not stopped by a telekinetic field that suddenly engulfed her.

“Rainbow!” Twilight said in a harsh tone, “Do not make another mess for ourselves, let’s talk to this man first…”

“That winged friend of yours is certainly brash… I am professor Ozpin, I am Beacon’s headmaster…”

“A pleasure to meet you… May we enter this fine establishment of yours to see our family?” Rarity continued.

“Certainly, but I have a few questions I’d like to ask you first, regarding you and your family… Accompany me to my office…”

“Of course…”

“Alright, everyone remembers their roles?” Cinder’s voice was as calm as ever, but a deadly seriousness painted her words, there was to be no failure… The room was cast in crimson light as the sun set on the horizon, and painted Vale in the colours of the rapidly approaching autumn… It was the last day of summer, and fall was quite literally on the horizon. Cozy Glow nodded… Sure she wasn’t doing this for Cinder, she really didn’t trust her, but she was the route to getting the power that the pegasus deserved, one way or the other… She would just need to play along for now.

The workshop classes were a big help, even if she couldn’t bring a weapon to them other than her white fang pistol, something that Cinder had told her to keep hidden from the other students, but with some help from the quiet Neo, and a little of bit of asking around the school, Cozy Glow now had an intricate little device on her wrist… At first glance, one would assume it to be merely an armoured bracelet, made from silver and brass with a rook decorating the top...

Neo nodded, the girl never said a word, but she was easy to figure out. “Just remember, wait for my signal, don’t do anything before then…” Cinder continued, and Neo simply nodded again. Cinder turned, eyes burning a golden-orange in the sunset, “And you, Cozy Glow, remember what to do?” As Cinder talked, Cozy snapped her thumb and index fighter together, there was a little click as a scalpel blade sprung from inside her bracelet.

Cozy nodded as well, “Yep! But I do have a question, miss Cinder?” Cozy then snapped her thumb and middle finger together, and another click sounded as a tiny gun-barrel popped out of the bracelet, right next to the blade.

“What,” She said bitterly, “I thought we already went over all the details…” Cozy snapped her thumb and ring finger, and a tiny injector-needle flicked out.

“Won’t the teachers get suspicious if I disappear for a few days?”

“Neo will be taking your place for the time being, let me handle those details, I just need you to run overwatch tonight, after that, meet up with Emerald and Mercury in the industrial district…”

“Alright,” Cozy replied, her tone as sickly sweet as ever. Cozy snapped her thumb and pinkie finger, and her bracelet returned to what it normally was, a simple if ornate, bracelet.

With that, everyone stood up and got into their prom dresses. All except Neo, who, after a wave of magical energy that only bearly registered to the pegasus, she was suddenly dressed in an elegant white and pink gown.

The queen, taller, stronger, and radiating energy, eyes glowing their acid-green, watched as another wolf-monster crawled its way out of the pool… The thing seemed to continuously produce the beasts, and it was wonderful for both food and training...

Ocellus, heavily pregnant with her third batch of the new scout-strain changelings, flew around the room, dodging the quills of the small blackbirds who continuously pressed her. After tucking her wings in and flying through a series of rock formations, she landed back on the ground, huffing, having successfully escaped pursuit. Those creatures behaved strangely, they seemed attracted to humans and faunus, with a supernatural ability to perceive their presence… But, Changelings seemed an exception to whatever sense they have, just getting out of sight was enough to evade them.

“Very good, my offspring… Return to the hive, we must test the warrior strains…”

“Yes, you’re majesty…” Ocellus replied and walked off back into the growing expanse of the hive. It was expanding faster than Chrysalis could have hoped, already most of the underground city was taken over by flesh and chitin, even many of the offshoot tunnels were starting to be assimilated. This tunnel already had green veins pulsing through the walls, and black chitinous outcroppings growing from the stone… One path, an underground railroad of some kind, with ancient trains completely unlike what Chrysalis had seen in Equestria, was now Chrysalis’ new biomancy workshop… From there, she dragged her new species into this pit to be tested.

In, through the cave entrance, walked a six-legged changeling, the front two legs were large scythe-like spikes of chitin, and dust crystals, bright green and filled with baleful magical energies, grew from her back, four bluish-green eyes scanning her surroundings as the first wolf-monsters charged… “Mistress…” A voice said from behind the Queen.

“What is it, Pharynx?” The queen said, never taking her eyes off of the gruesome scene below her.

“I am your best general, why wasn’t I given the honour of a new body yet!” He said, angry.

“Three reasons, my dear… One, you are one of my best mating stock, and I need you to produce more of the baseline changeling…” If a creature as ferocious and angry as Pharynx could look flustered, he came close at those words, “Second, you are male, and so wouldn’t be able to breed new members of your strain… And third, I have something, special, planned for you…”

“What is it, my Queen… I’m tired of waiting, building, and breeding… I need to fight!”

“You will see…”

Below, in the pool-filled chamber, the last of the wolf-like beasts howled in pain as it was mercilessly torn apart by the warrior changeling, surrounded by the disintegrating bodies of more than a hundred of monsters of all shapes and sizes. Screeching in insectoid chattering as it sliced the head of the wolf’s body with a single swipe of its pincers.

“Come on ponies! Let’s get this party started!” Scootaloo was bouncing in joy as the music began. The people, humans and faunus, started dancing to the beat, while many sat, talked, ate, drank, or generally socialized. In one corner, Jaune, Ruby, and Diamond were sitting around the punch bowl, while Ozpin watched everyone, a little dour, as usual.

“Hey, Jaune,” Apple Bloom said, walking up to the boy.

“Hey, Apple…”

“Wanna dance, I can show you some of the moves my sister showed me!”

“Umm, no it’s fine,” Jaune feebly replied, but it was no use, as he was dragged away by Apple Bloom.

“Come on, let’s go, don’t waste the night sitting around here!”

While, in another corner, Sweetie Belle leaned over in her seat to look at Weiss, “I’m surprised.”

“Suprised?” Weiss replied.

“Well, you seem so popular, I thought you of all people would have a partner to dance with?”

“Well, I don’t,” She replied, bitterly.

“Come on…” Sweetie said, a little resigned.


“Let’s dance!”

Weiss huffed, “I don’t need pity from you…”

“It’s a party, have some fun, and cheer up once in a while…”

“Cheer up!” Weiss said, insulted.

“Like this,” Sweetie continued, grabbing Weiss’ hand and pulling her into a waltz.

Over by his corner of the room, Ozpin was deep in thought… Talking to the parents of the faunus girls had yielded some information, both extremely valuable and amazingly useless. It mostly just confirmed what Ozpin already knew about the girls, but it did confirm that they had no connection to Salem, even if that Twilight woman felt… A little odd, to say the least… They were evidently powerful and had similar semblances to the girls, mostly energy manipulation, but there was more to that power, he couldn’t quite place what yet, but it was unique, much like Ruby Rose’s semblance, which was plainly more than simply a speed boost.

At least he could talk to James next chance he got, he would have some more to show, given how long those women were under his supervision. It was a shame he turned down the invitation to the prom...

As Yang, Blake, and Sun all got together and started chatting, from a balcony, Cinder, watching the display, placed a hand on the hidden headset and spoke, “Looks like all the dancers have partners, you can begin…”

The guard watched the ballroom on the other side of the courtyard, the lights and sounds, one hell of a party was going on in there, and he felt a little disappointed that he was stuck guarding the CCTS… No one would be dumb enough to try and attack it, let alone now of all times...

He turned, shocked by the person standing in front of him, “Oh, shift change already?” he asked. The other guard, one of green-team, female, simply nodded, didn’t say a word. The guard replied with an “Alright, all yours…” As he walked down the path and to a nice meal for the night… Meanwhile, behind him, and unbeknownst to him, the woman smartly trotted into the building… Eyes pink and white behind that helmet.

Scootaloo had just downed her cup of punch when there came a noise from the door… Another latecomer, it seems… She turned, and dropped her cup, “R-Rainbow?” She stuttered… Sweetie Belle turned and her eyes went wide at the sight of her sister, and the other two walked up, less shocked, but none the less happy… The four were unmistakable, the way the purple-haired one’s mane seemed to shine with traces of light, and the rainbow-feathered wings, and the luscious indigo hair and tail along with the most radiant white dress.

“Sweetie!” Rarity cried in joy and ran up to hug her sister, “I was so worried about you.

“Come on, I knew they were fine!” Rainbow muttered.

“Well, that isn’t true,” Spitfire snickered.

“Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, glad to see my girls safe,” Twilight replied, bending down to give them a hug, but Scootaloo had her eyes only for Rainbow Dash. The entire scene caught the attention of the other humans and faunus in the room. And in the back Ozpin stared in interest as he watched the girls introduce their family to their friends.

Chapter 49: The Storm King's General

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Celestia sat on her throne, sipping tea as she read through the report sent from one “Startracker”... Evidently, this pony had discovered the location of the alien world, Remnant, but the bigger question that lingered on the alicorn’s mind was far more pressing… How to get there safely? Teleportation might work, but the spell had a limited range, to go that distance, thousands of light-years, it would take an excessive amount of magical power, more than any single unicorn, or even alicorn, could muster themselves… If only there was a way to amplify the power of a spell, like some kind of mega-spell... The bigger problem though was accuracy, teleportation spells could go wrong… If you wanted to teleport a space of ten kilometres, you could end up one kilometre to the north, south, east, west, up, or down of where you wanted to end up, luckily the safeties installed in the spell matrix would prevent you from appearing within solid matter, but momentum is conserved in the jump… The galaxy was always spinning, and to travel from one end of it to another… Celestia had a horrible vision of herself and her guards teleporting to Remnant only to be flung into space, or fly at billions of meters per second right into the ground… No, in order to be safe, they would need to teleport far above the planet, and have some kind of telekinetic field stopping their momentum… An airship perhaps? One built to travel outside of the atmosphere, teleporting high in the orbit of Remnant?

Celestia’s train of thought was disrupted by the sound of a guardsmare entering the throne room, she gave a small sigh, too quite for the mare to hear, “Greetings… Uhh… Silver… Something, what do you have to report?”

“It’s Silver Sable… And, an Abyssinian delegate approached Canterlot bearing one of the Storm King’s generals, who had been captured in the southern front… She’s a pony, your Highness….”

“A pony?” Celestia’s eyebrow raised, “Very well, where is this pony, I wish to speak with her…”

“Currently in the Canterlot Dungeons… I’ll show you to her cell…”

“I can’t believe it, you’re here!” Scootaloo shouted in glee, running up and giving Rainbow a big hug, “Come on, I need to show you to my friends, this way!” The filly said, pulling Rainbow along by her arm… Twilight was talking to Sweetie Belle, talking about semblances and books and abilities and powers, most of everyone around them couldn’t really figure out what they were really talking about, meanwhile Sweetie’s sister, Rarity, was talking to the teachers and staff about the girl’s education and the safety standards of the school. Spitfire was talking to Apple Bloom, explaining how Applejack couldn’t come along, as she was needed back at the farm, much to the girl’s disappointment.

Up on the balcony, Cinder was watching… There was something about these new four… They were powerful, their bodies emanated energy, but there was more to them than that… That one, that Twilight, there was something about her, she felt… Off… She felt like a massive dust crystal, like an entire mine’s worth of dust energy held in a human… Or, Faunus, form… Like any moment she could explode with power… She felt magical, almost like a maiden… But no, she couldn’t be one, the other headmasters kept track of their pets… Unless… Unless she Spring…

Cinder turned, looking at Emerald, displayed on her scroll, sitting in Adam’s camp “Gald you could answer, but something has changed…”

“What is it?”

“That woman… That Twilight faunus…” She pointed her scroll at the faunus, “Keep a close eye on her, she’s powerful, and potentially a threat to our master’s plan... “

“Y-You think she’s…”

“Yes, I do… Be subtle,”

“Yes Ma’am…” And with that, Emerald walked off, and Cinder put away her scroll, wiping its call history, just to be safe.

There was the sound of metal on stone, the characteristic clip-clop of a pony in armour, walking down the hall… Was it the guard, did they have the key? Even if they did, how was she could to get out of here, her horn couldn’t move things, and she certainly couldn’t break out… Despite the fact that they couldn’t fit a dampening ring on her nub, her magic was none the less useless in the cell, the stone was enchanted, and the bars made from cold iron, magic had no effect on them…

As the pony figure stepped into view, Tempest’s veins turned to ice as she looked at the tall and prestigious figure, white fur and white feathers, her head topped with the longest horn she had ever seen, mane and tail hair glowing an aurora of colours and passing through space with little regard for gravity or wind, even the fur around her body was glowing very faintly with warm light.

“C-Celestia!” Tempest stuttered, backing to the corner of her cell… Was she going to be immolated? Turned to ash in a millisecond, or vaporized in half that time… Or would the princess just slowly roast her alive, turning the cell into an oven… Or just lop off her head with a slice of magical energy, if her horn wasn’t already useless, she would cast a shield around her, and pray that this goddess among ponies wouldn’t take it from her…

“You… I remember you… Fizzlepop wasn’t it, you were at my school…”

“Y-You remember?”

“Yes I do… I remember all my students, why did you leave?” Celestia muttered although she needed no answer, just one look at that stump of a horn told her everything.

“S-Stop looking down on me! I-I can’t stand your pity, not from you!” Anger started to take a hold of the mare, how dare she be belittled by the princess, she wasn’t weak, she wasn’t worthless!


“That’s not my name!”

“Y-Yes, of course…” Celestia said solemnly, her voice becoming harder, “Tempest… You should know that there is no power in the world that can remake a unicorn’s horn.” That was a partial lie, the princess knew, being elevated to an Alicorn could do it, but that was a power few, very few, possessed… Herself, Discord, and the long-dead Grogar… Certainly not the Storm King, he was a Diamond Dog, even if he knew such ancient biomancy, and had a sample of Alicorn DNA, he would never have the magical ability.

“I-I… If that’s true… What… How am I-”

“You are a warrior Tempest, you are still worthwhile, and you have the willpower to rise up from this… And… If what my student has discovered is true… You may find another way to wield true magic again…”

“Really?” Her voice was filled with both hope and terror.

“I will give you a choice, Tempest… Join me on a very special project I am undertaking, or stay in this cell.”

It didn’t take much convincing…

“Now boarding, Mistral, flight 121, departing in one hour,” A voice echoed off the walls of the Vale Gantries, the crowd boarding the airship heading to this other city, Mistral, began moving… There were two other lines, one heading to a city called Atlas, and another to a city called Vacuo… Six people each waited in their respective lines, six people clad in normal street attire, skin and hair a variety of colours, but each wore the same green eyes, they glanced at each other, the palms of their hands, hidden when they put them into their pockets, glowed with the slightest bit of light as they stared into each other’s eyes… Slowly, the six sitting in line for Mistral began walking, the others stayed behind in their lines, they were patient…

As the group boarded the flight to Mistral, they simply sat back and stared out the windows of the airship, watching as the city slowly got further and further away, most kept scanning the area, committing it all to memory, while one simply stared intently at the base of a large mountain, a ruined city dotting its foothills… The woman’s eyes glowing a little brighter than the others, not that anyone would notice. As she sent all that her companions were seeing back to her master, like a living antenna.

“This is Jaune Arc, he’s nice… If a little weak.”

“H-Hey!” Jaune said, “I am not weak!” The boy retorted, only to fall over with the tiniest jab from Scootaloo’s arm.

“Yeah, he’s not won a single sparring match, not yet anyway, but I’m helping him!” Apple Bloom said.

“I see,” Rarity said, “He does look like a fine young human,” Rarity said.

“Jaune, this is my sister, Rarity!” Sweetie said, and the two shook hands. Meanwhile, a red blur moved across the room and stopped next to Rainbow Dash.

“Hey, I love your hair!” Ruby said.

“Heh, you’re pretty fast, aren’t cha’” Rainbow muttered, looking down at Ruby, “I bet I’m faster though.”

“I doubt, with my semblance, I am the fastest huntress in the school!”

“I’m the fastest faunus back home, you could never beat me…”

“You want to bet!”

“Calm down girls, this is a party, let’s not turn it into a race, not with you’re power,” Spitfire came over and said, staring intently at Rainbow Dash, the last thing she needed was for Rainbow to create a sonic rainboom inside the building.

“Hmm, they are a rowdy bunch,” Twilight said, looking at the group having fun and introducing one another.

“I know, how tasteless…” A human girl said, suddenly standing next to Twilight, her skin the palest the mare had seen, and hair stark white.

“I normally don’t mind, but I don’t want them getting carried away while armed… Is everyone constantly carrying weapons around in this school… Seems like a safety hazard.”

“I’ve tried to teach Ruby trigger discipline, and Yang’s even worse… But we have our aura…”

“Yes, very unique ability, most Po- People back in my home didn’t have that ability…”

“Odd… I thought everyone knew about Aura…”

“I’m not from around here exactly, we didn’t know much about the outside world back in my town…”

“I see… Well, I’m Weiss Schnee, a pleasure to meet you…”

“Twilight,” The mare said, reaching out and shaking the girl’s hand.

A single woman, dressed in the standard Atlesian Guard armour walked into the room, large and circular, filled with holographic monitors and desks, there were cameras, but while in the elevator, she pulled out a scroll, jacked it into the elevator’s security hatch, and let the automated program do its thing… “Handy” She thought, even if she didn’t, or couldn’t, say it out loud. Now any surveillance shouldn’t be a problem. But she still didn’t have the password to the CCTS, not that it was too big of a problem, just something she would need a bit more time to work around.

She sat down on one of the seats and hooked the scroll into the desk… A minute, then two, then ten passed… Soon, once the program had so conveniently figured out the password, she was in, and the room lit up with holographic green displays. It was only a matter of seconds to upload… And only a matter of seconds to disable everything and leave without anyone the wiser…

Chapter 50: The Black Rider

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Silver Spoon walked down the path, her spear raised, searching… Behind her, the rest of team SBRD followed, they too had their weapons raised, ready for anything… Except for Dinky.

“This is sooo exciting!” She cheered, “I can’t believe we’re going on a proper mission!”

“Just be careful,” Rumble added, the headmaster did say that this mission could be dangerous.

“Oh, I’m sure he was just being careful, it’s not like he would purposely send us off into danger…”

“I don’t know, I don’t like him, he’s too… I don’t know…”

“Hold!” Silver said, “Beowolf, right ahead…” Indeed there, a few dozen meters or so ahead, was a beowolf, sniffing down the trail. Dinky smiled, moving and planting her musket into the ground, taking aim, and firing… There was a concussive blast and a solid beam of brilliant pink light, and it struck the wolf clean on its head, the rest of the body dissolving quickly behind. A few more of the wolf-creatures came barging out of the forest, and Rumble took flight, firing down on them with his machine gun.

One leapt at Silver Spoon only to get a spear through the gut, the pony then twirled it around and stuck the other end through a beowolf trying to sneak up behind her. Button bashed a wolf hard in the head with his shield, then stuck the barrel of his shotgun into its gut, another wolf jumped at him, and quickly he turned his shotgun into a sword and slashed off the head of the offending beast. Dinky blocked a wolf’s strike with her gun’s barrel, then twirled it around, giving it a hard bash with its butt, then stabbing it through the neck with her bayonet. A few more came leaping out of the woods, and Silver Spoon pulled a lever on her spear and its blade split apart to reveal a dust crystal, and from that crystal, a beam of pale blue lashed out and froze the approaching wolves in their place, encasing them in ice and freezing the ground around where it struck.

“That’s that last of them…” Button Mash said as he pulled his sword from the chest of one last wolf.

“For now… Come on, we need to get to this village,” Silver Spoon continued.

The others followed along, heading down the road, soon they approached a bend in the road, one heading up the mountains, and another path going down into a valley… The signs said “Higanbana” and “Kuroyuri” Respectively.

Silver Spoon gestured for everyone to follow as she headed down the path into the valley and toward Kuroyuri, “Come on fillies, let’s get there quickly, we don’t want to keep the Headmaster waiting, once we’ve scouted out the village as he requested, let us head back as soon as possible.”

The four trotted down into the valley, looking around carefully as they saw the whitewashed walls of the village and the ruined figures of buildings just behind. They walked carefully through the gates, everyone on guard. Eventually, they came to the center of town, a large tree and what once must have been a tower of some kind. “Alright ponies, as Headmaster Lionheart said, let us search the village for anything of value, spend a few days scouting the area and seeing if it’s safe to resettle, and return to report our findings,” Silver Spoon announced.

Everyone nodded and marched off into the village, being careful to check every little detail, and watching to see if any monsters still inhabited the ruin. Silver Spoon, as she walked through the streets, marching over a bridge that sat over a small waterway, clutched her “lucky charm”, the strange thing that had appeared in her dream and came with her back into the real world… She felt a strange sense of calm and safety when she held that little lamp in her grasp, she mostly left it in her bag, but recently had started wearing it around her belt.

An hour or so passed, with nothing breaking the eerie silence… Then, there was a shout, the sound of a gun going off, and an unearthly howl that sent chills down the filly’s spine.

An older man walked into the inn, in this part of southern Anima, newcomers to their village were not uncommon, as many passed this way heading to Mistral from the sea. The older man had darker skin, white hair, and bright green eyes. A small pouch dangled from his belt, and he gave off a bit of an uncomfortable aura to those around him, but most just ignored this, strange kinds came and went all the time.

He went up into a corner of the building and simply watched, this was his assignment… He blended into the shadows, none would find him unless they tried, and no one here had any reason to suspect him… But he would need a new disguise if he wanted to blend in further… Strangers were always suspicious. A waitress walked past, and he made his move.

Dinky raised her spear when she heard the clip-clopping of hooves on stone, at first instinct told her it must be another pony, but no, she realized, there weren’t any ponies around here… A figure walked around the corner, it looked almost like a human riding a pony, but no, this thing was bigger and more horrid than any pony she had ever seen… It reminded her of old pictures of the shadow-king, Sombra, from her textbooks… Black fur moved around in an unfelt wind, a skull growing out of the stallion’s head, glowing with evil crimson eyes that stared into her soul, the man was merged with the horse, the top half of its body had rib bones showing, and a twisted skull-mask adorned its head decorated with a pair of large twisted horns.

A few weeks ago, Dinky would have screamed, and possibly wet herself… Now though… She drew her musket and fired at the beast, the dust-blast smacking hard into its side, but doing little, only causing a small puff of smoke to escape. The beast gave a loud howl, and galloped toward the offending huntress, arms flailing behind it. “Help!” Dinky shouted, and it wasn’t long before the figure of Rumble rose over the ruined buildings and started firing down at the dark horse-man.

The burning bullets did little to stop the thing’s advance, most just uselessly burying themselves into its flesh, some plinking off the bone where they hit. But it did catch the thing’s attention, and it threw its arms toward the offending pegasus faunus, who carefully ducked out of the way.

From an alley leapt Button Mash, who planted his shield firmly into the ground and started firing buckshot at the beast, which again, had little effect against its hardened hide. But next down that alley came Silver Spoon who flung herself at the creature, spear gleaming in the light of the setting sun. She came down hard on to the thing’s back and her spear went right through the abominable pony’s flank and out the other side. The man-figure gave a howl of pain, and gave Silver a hard buck, she was flung backwards, but kept a strong grasp on her spear, fueled with all her earth-pony strength, and doing so, as she was kicked away, she tore a chunk out of the beast’s hindquarters.

This only seemed to enrage the creature, as it turned around and charged the offending girl, but Button leapt forward and blocked the thing’s charge with his shield, the creature’s incredible weight and strength no match for that of an earth pony… With a thrust forward, Button bashed the creature away, and Rumble made his move, descending from above and blanketing the creature in a blast of fire from his machine-gun-turned-flamethrower. The beast gave a howl of pain as it got back to its hooves, and from its mouth it gave a high-pitched whine that seemed to grow with every second, piercing the ears of everyone present.

Then, its arms lashed forward and grabbed Button, flinging him up into the air and down into the ground, but as the creature lashed at the colt, it paid no attention to the filly sneaking up behind… Dinky slammed her musket’s bayonet into its side, then fired her newly loaded gun a point-blank, there was a flash of light from inside the creature as the blast tore deep into its flesh, but soon the monster turned and lashed out its arm at Dinky, picking her up and slamming her hard into the wall… She didn’t have the durability of an Earth Pony, and her aura shattered with this hit, and she screamed as she was pushed hard into the wall. Then Button charged forward and with a slash of his sword, earth-pony strength behind it, cut off the monster’s offending limb, which dropped Dinky and wiggled around like a headless snake before vaporizing.

Rumble continued to circle around, blasting it from above with a hail of incendiary bullets. This kept the creature’s attention away from Button and it attacked with its good arm at the flying colt, who again, ducked out of the way, and in a flash of speed, Silver Spoon leapt forward, a beam of ice dust launching forth from her spear and freezing the monster’s other arm solid, which fell and shattered into pieces that quickly dissolved.

The monster howled a piercing scream once again and charged at Button, who blocked its attack with his shield and gave it a blast of buckshot into the chest of the humanoid figure, tearing apart bone from point-blank and ripping holes in it. But again, this grimm, with seeming limitless fury, threw a flurry of bucks at the colt, who braced himself against the onslaught, but with each strike, his aura drained, then broke, and he was sent toppling to the ground, but before the monster could stomp down on him, Rumble flew downward and grabbed his friend, putting him safely on the roof of a building, before returning to his strafing runs and flamethrower dive-bombing. The creature, enraged, turned to the other landbound target, Silver Spoon, who braced herself…

The monster charged, if whatever twisted mind this thing held was thinking clearly, it would have realized that charging a spear was a bad idea, but overcome with rage and pain, it ran right into that gleaming silver spear… The spear penetrated the horse part’s chest, running the thing through from breast to tail-root, it gave one final howl, its head leaning in to scream right into the girl’s face, before it fell limp and started to dissolve… Silver Spoon pulled her spear from the thing, then rushed to tend to her injured comrades.

Team TASS was getting ready, everyone had double, then triple-checked their gear at Diamond Tiara’s insistence. From the room next to them, they heard Ruby’s high-pitched scream of “Zwei!” and Diamond rolled her eyes at whatever imagined antics the girls over there were getting into. Apple Bloom was calibrating the sights on her Applebuck, and wondering what kind of ammo to bring, Scootaloo was trying to figure out a way to make her pistols more dust-efficient, she didn’t want to run out of ammo again, and Sweetie was on the bed, inside her spellbook, literally. After a few more minutes, Sweetie rose out of her book as the book manifestation spell ended. Then, picking up her weapon, turned to her team and simply said, “Everyone ready?”

Everyone nodded, and Diamond muttered “Of course, I was just waiting on you to finish up in there… Blank flanks…” She huffed. Then everyone marched single-file out of the door and down the halls, arriving in the auditorium.

Ozpin was standing on the stage, next to Glynda, who spoke, “Professor Ozpin would like to share a few words before we begin…”

The professor turned to the microphone and began speaking, “Today we stand together, united-” as he began one of his speeches, the girls looked around, waiting for whatever this mission thing was going to be… Ruby and her team were excited, Jaune and his were at the very least semi-professional, standing at attention, Scootaloo was listening to the professor’s words avidly, Apple Bloom was giving the professor a bit of suspicion, as normal, Sweetie was seemingly meditating, and Diamond was standing stock still, listening to the professor’s words like she was a guard listening to her commander. As he finished up with a “but this bond cannot exist without effort. Which is why today, while the rest of the world celebrates peace, huntsmen and huntress, as first-year students, you will be tasked with shadowing a professional huntsman or huntress on a mission, some of you may be taken out of the kingdom for several days, others may work within the walls for the rest of the week, but no matter which path you choose, remember to be safe, remember your training, and remember to do your very best.” Various holographic displays appeared on the walls, once the speech was over, everyone rushed to the displays to assign themselves to various jobs.

RWBY took a “Perimeter Defense” job, SSSN took a “Criminal Bounty” job, JNPR a “Village Security” job, and Diamond spent a few dozen minutes or so looking over the jobs, trying to find one that seemed the most dangerous, one that would giver her the most credit. Finally, she settled on a “Search and Destroy” job… As she did this, Apple Bloom was keeping her eyes on Ozpin, who was keeping his eyes on team TASS and doing something on his scroll…

Lionheart was cautiously optimistic as he watched from Mistral’s CCT tower… A day had passed, and already many students were returning from their jobs, but still no sign of that strange and powerful team of students that he had so feared… They were powerful, undefeated in their sparring matches, and used abilities that, if he didn’t know better, he would almost think them the power of a maiden… They were a danger to his master’s plan…

Then, he felt a sinking feeling as he saw the four of them joyfully skip back into the school grounds, triumphant… No… No, no, no, no! They were supposed to die! They looked too happy to have fled from that monstrous grimm, they must have defeated it! How! How did they stop that thing, it had destroyed dozens of villages out that way, for years! It was the monster huntsmen went after if they wanted to die! And they-

His blood went cold… He had to report this to Salem, but… But… He failed, he was supposed to get rid of this threat to his plan! Shakily, he trotted over to that hidden room in his office, and stared mournfully at that abominable globe floating there, “M-Mistress… I-I have news to report…”

A man walked into the inn, this one wearing a large trenchcoat and wearing some kind of harness with devices on his wrist… A huntsman of some kind… He went around, asking questions until he approached a waitress… “Hello my dear,” he gave a creepy giggle, one that most would flinch at, but one this waitress seemed to simply ignore, “I am looking for someone, and I am willing to pay handsomely for information…”

The waitress smiled and equally eerie grin, “Yes, of course… Who exactly are you looking for…” The man led the woman off into a back room to discuss their deal, only one walked out. He had certainly got the information he needed.

Chapter 51: Outside the Kingdom Part 1

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The fillies ran down the courtyard, following the rather rotund male, one Professor Port. Twilight and her friends watched them go, heading toward the small airship, apparently called a bullhead. “Be safe!” Rarity shouted, and Rainbow had to be physically restrained from following after them… The professor, Ozpin, had allowed them to watch the morning’s ceremony from the seats up on the walls of the auditorium. This all didn’t sit right with the mare, wasn’t this professor just sending these children into danger!

The airship took off, and lazily started to fly away, slow at first, with growing speed, toward the south.

“Come on girls, let’s go get something to eat…” Spitfire said.

“I agree… Let us tour the city while we can, it’s a wonderful town, less dreary than that Mantle place,” Rarity began.

Twilight and Rainbow reluctantly nodded, then followed after the two, Twilight, still worried about the fillies, started to fiddle with her scroll… The device was so interesting, she had taken it apart and put it together repeatedly, analyzed all of its inner workings, and had customized it to her liking, once she knew what everything did… The idea of using tiny switches, almost too small to see, even with magic, to create a predictive device, an immensely powerful calculator that, with simple binary computation, could create all these fascinating displays and do such incredible things, all without magic, purely electronic, save for the holographic display, the result of dust crystals embedded within the sides. And that was before she got into it and started to add her own touches… The thing now ran far faster, taking much less time to do complicated calculations, as she integrated some spells into the components… She was idly removing one of the plastic plates again to look inside when she spotted the antenna…

This tiny thing was capable of sending electromagnetic signals across vast distances with the aid of something called the CCTS… It was similar to telepathy, but using electromagnetism rather than pulses of arcane energy, and was limited to the speed of light, plus, without a similar electronic device wired into a brain, it could only communicate between other machines…

While Twilight was deep in thought, the ponies had walked down from Beacon Cliff and were now taking the path into town… Soon they came to a small restaurant, a place called the “Crow Bar”, and each had sat down and started to order, Rainbow nudged Twilight in the side to distract her, and she looked up and placed a simple order for a sandwich.

The bartender was looking curiously at Twilight’s scroll, which was now floating in five pieces by her side as she was in the middle of removing the antenna to get a better look at how the thing operated, the book she had gotten on the subject of scrolls back when she was in Atlas was certainly a help. Once the bartender went back to prepare food, she continued her analyzation of the device.

“A loop of copper wire there, a rod of iron there, forming an electromagnet, tied into a small conductive rod, acting as a radiation emitter, tied into wires that sent pulses of energy to the device in time with signals from the central processor…” She looked between her book and the scroll’s parts… Now… If only there was a way… Yes… Electricity into magical energy, there was a way to do that, but… No, I don’t have a piece of white sapphire, but… But Dust is magically conductive enough, if I can just…

Her sandwich came as she was removing a dust crystal from her bag and was changing its size, shape, and colour, as she inscribed arcane runes and spell matrices into it, then removed the electromagnet from the antenna and replaced it with the crystal, welding the wires back into place, an action that confused and amazed the bartender. She levitated the food to her mouth as her focus was entirely consumed by her actions… Replacing the crude electronics with arcane devices was something she had already done plenty of times to her scroll, the battery, for example, was now a lump of enchanted topaz, capable of lasting an entire decade on a full charge.

She perfectly reassembled the device, welding and snapping the plates back together, and let the device reboot. “What did you do to it this time?” Rainbow muttered.

“Replaced the antenna with a lump of energized and engraved crystal, it should work on both electromagnetic and arcane signals now…”

“Booooring…” Rainbow replied, and returned to drinking her cider.

Twilight scoffed and opened her scroll, the display now a purple hologram showing a hexagram with Equestrian lettering along the side. She brought up her hand and started to rotate the hexagram, the device talking to her in her own voice, a voice no one else could hear, as it was broadcast directly into her mind, she went to the call function and started to input a set of magical coordinates, one that she had drilled into Spike’s mind when he was first taught the matter transference spell.

The screen flashed, and in Twilight’s head, she heard a slight gasp of surprise and joy in a familiar voice, “Twilight! I can’t believe it, you’ve found a way to contact me, I would think the amount of magical energy to even send a telepathy signal this distance would be far beyond you…”

Twilight smiled, and subvocalized, “No, Princess, I am not using a telepathy spell, I found a way to use electrical energy to fuel a spell matrix and am currently using a machine to augment my telepathy… Plus, it’s not that complicated a spell to begin with, and doesn’t take much power at all, even at this distance...” Even though the telepathy, she could feel Celestia give a wide grin, and could faintly feel the princess trotting in place.

“Perfect timing then… I am currently researching the exact same thing! I am trying to figure out a way to use a teleport spell to reach Remnant, but the power levels…” The princess trailed off, her thoughts filled with complex mathematics.

“Well, I can help with that… Teleportation is my speciality!”

“Yes…” Celestia paused, clearly thinking of something, then her mental tone shifted, back to one of joy rather than the monotone thoughts of a pony deep in thought… “But before we get to that, can you share optical and auditory data! I want to see what this world is like!”

Twilight smirked, and spent the rest of the day silent, just looking and hearing, as she let the girls drag her around Vale, sending everything she saw, heard, and felt through to the Princess.

“Our first mission!” Scootaloo was hopping in place and squeed as she waved bye to Rainbow Dash and got aboard the airship. She then nearly fell over as the ship lurched for takeoff…

“Careful there, Scoots, don’t want to go jumpin’ out yet,” Apple Bloom muttered, grabbing a hold on the handrail.

Sweetie was quickly brushing up on the newest spells she had learned, flicking through the pages of her spellbook, and Diamond had an air of intensity around her, something that somewhat unnerved everyone…

“What exactly is our mission?” Sweetie asked, “The job details weren’t exactly clear on specifics…”

“Good question!” The professor, Port, said… In his normal jolly tone, he began, “There have been reports of disappearances and increased grimm activity toward the south-east, we are going there to sweep the area clean of threats, and search for the cause of the increased grimm presence…”

The airship jerked and swayed as they turned in the air, the hatches closed, preventing the fillies from seeing where exactly they were heading, but eventually, after what seemed like forever, it started to slow and descend, finally coming to a halt. The hatches opened, and Port gestured for them to jump.

The fillies nodded and leapt, landing on the leaf floor, the airship then took off behind them, vanishing back the way they came… They were in a forest, dark and green, like the Emerald Forest, but this one held a much eerie feeling to it… In the distance, visible over the treetops, was a mountain, with the vague shapes of ruins sticking out from behind… Everything over there seemed dreary and grey.

Luna stared down the griffons in front of her… There were five of them, representatives from Griffonstone’s version of the royal guard, on loan to the princess in accordance with the plan herself and the various leaders of the world had agreed upon. Each of the nations of Equus were going to send a squad of their own guards to join the princess in making contact with the aliens, both as a cultural exchange and as a way of silencing the sceptics, as many still believed this alien world, Remnant, was simply a hoax… And, it was always nice to bring some warriors along, Celestia was the thinker, but Luna was the warrior, and it felt good to have fellow warriors at her side.

The leader, a griffon whose black and green plate-mail was marked out with gold rather than the silver trim of the others, and who wore a long black and white cape, stepped forward, “I am captain Talos of the Winged Hussars, 1st regiment, the Ravenwing… With me are captain Ralof and captain Aela, of the 2nd and 3rd regiments of the Winged Hussars.”

The princess eyed their extravagant armour, despite its fancy gold and silver trim and it’s lustrous black, white, and green paint, this was no parade ground uniform, this was real armour, she could spot the dents, scrapes, and scratches, even if the armour had recently been cleaned and repainted, her eyes made out the signs of battle, and a smile crossed her face… These were nothing like the useless figureheads that made up her sister’s royal guard, these were proper soldiers, they had seen bloodshed before… “Greetings,” She gave a polite nod, “I’m sure you have already been briefed on your reasons for being here, but allow me to recount it for you… You will be accompanying my guards to the alien world when my sister has figured out a way to travel to this world, both as representatives as Griffonstone and as Equus as a whole… Your secondary purpose is to act as bodyguards, we know this world is filled with dangerous creatures and expect you to be vigilant in defending the lives of your fellow-creatures, and any humans we encounter, we do not want to be held accountable for any diplomatic screw-ups…”

“Yes, Princess!” They all said in unison as the princess led them deeper into Canterlot Castle.

“First, though,” She said, as she led them into the Canterlot Armory, one filled with swords, spears, crossbows, and other older instruments of war, now filled with barrels of liquid rainbow, drums of gemstones, and the various magical energy weapons that had been designed and assembled over the weeks. “There are two things I must show you… First, the new weapons my kingdom has developed from alien technology, and a new magical ability that we have discovered from my sister’s student’s interactions with the aliens… Something known as an ‘aura””

Chapter 52: Outside the Kingdom Part 2

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The Razorhorn lept, eyes red with fury, and with a slice of her halberd, the deer-like grim was cleaved in half, “That’s three of the big ones, for me!” Sweetie Belle shouted gleefully, her body filling with arcane energy as she thrust her halberd out toward another group of beowolves preparing to leap upon the team, the resulting explosion sent rapidly dissolving arcana in all directions, along with a flurry of rock-shards that the girls’ aura more than accounted for. Scootaloo’s twin pistols unleashed jets of fire upon the growling horde that had attacked them from behind, blocking off the threat while Apple Bloom’s ‘bang bang bang’ of her autocannon tore apart the Alpha that had leapt toward Port.

“Good work miss Bloom,” Port said in his normal bombastic tone, raising his blunderbuss and firing into the Beowolf horde.

“Giant Nevermore, up on the ridge!” Diamond pointed out, raising her sword, pulling the trigger, and unleashing a beam of fire dust that immolated the bird out of the sky. Meanwhile, Sweetie twirled her halberd around, forming a minty green circle of magic energy, with arcane runes and thaumic matrices quickly filling in the circle, there was a pulse that made all the people flinch, and the Grimm halt, stunned, right before a dozen crisscrossing beams of magical light launched from the glyph and turned the Grimm in front of the girl into greenish ash.

“Weiss’ casting methods, while a little cruder, were certainly more effective and energy-efficient,” Sweetie thought to herself as she pulled her axe blade from the head of the final abomination. “And that’s the last of them, for now…” She said.

“We still need to press forward,” Port said, “We’re getting close.”

“Was it just me, or was there something… Weird, about these Grimm… They were, weaker than normal, I’ve fought plenty since we got here, but these ones, they just break apart at the tiniest touch…” Apple Bloom muttered.

“Nah, it’s not that they’re weak, it’s that we’re too badass!” Scootaloo said, cleaning the unignited dust from the end of her pistols.

“Miss Allgood!” Port scolded upon hearing Scootaloo’s swearing, which made the girl blush in embarrassment in letting that slip out. “But miss Bloom is right… There was something off about these Grimm…”

“Come on, let’s not waste any more time, forward, we need to fight what is attracting all these monsters!” Announced Diamond. They had left the forest behind a few hours ago, and were trekking up the back-side of what the professor had informed them was “Mountain Glenn”, it was a dreary and desolate place, the hard rock wall was barren of life, and there was a strange odor in the air, like molten sugar, the kind of scent that a burned and dead beehive made. It gave Sweetie some unpleasant memories of the Canterlot Invasion… But she shook those aside as they climbed the hills… The path was leading up into a distant cave that they saw from the ground, it would make good shelter for the rapidly-approaching night, and with the increasing density of Grimm, it also seemed likely that their goal, whatever that may be, was in that direction as well.

Scootaloo muttered something about “I never really thought about it before, but how does the sun rise and set without a princess to guide it” but no one paid her much attention as she marched on behind, keeping watch for any more attacks from the rear.

The mountain was cast in a ruddy orange light as the sun finally sank, and they reached the mouth of the cave, it was empty, completely empty, surprisingly empty… They quickly dropped their packs and set up a campsite… They could be here for a long time trying to find, whatever it was they were trying to find. Port took first watch, the fillies suspected he felt a little disappointed by the fact that they had demolished every Grimm pack they came across and wanted to regain some pride by guarding them, Scootaloo and Sweetie laughed a quiet laugh about this as they tried to sleep… Everyone else, the two earth faunus and the single pegasus faunus, quickly fell asleep, but Sweetie found it hard… How did they not sense that? That strange energy? Every moment since they landed the girl had felt a dark shadow looming over them, some arcane energy that made her hair tingle and hands shake ever so slightly. She busied herself trying to modify some arcane formulae in her mind.

Morning came all too slowly, and Scootaloo shook them awake, “Morning time, we need to keep searching, I killed a small grimm-rabbit, but nothing more came at us…” She yawned. And soon the campsite was packed, and they continued deeper into the cave.

“We need to turn back! It’s getting colder again!”

“Keep moving, I know I saw a cave this way, we can rest when we get there!”

“No matter where we go, it always just gets colder, I swear, it’s like the cold is following us!”

This place was filled with snow and ice, it wasn’t that bad earlier, but over the days, even if they stayed in the same place, it was just getting colder and colder. Raven swore under her fiery breath, she was the only source of warmth and the few who remained with her and Vernal were huddled around their leader as they trotted sullenly through the icy land… But her fire was slowly dying... They just needed to get to that cave. In the distance, they saw a mountain that had a few arboreal plants growing around it, a good sign that it was warmer in that direction, but now, every second, it seemed to grow colder and colder.

“I swear there’s something moving up there, it’s like a cloud but alive…” Vernal muttered, gazing upward, her feathers standing on-end, even with ice crystals growing on their ends.

“Whatever it is, ignore it, we just need to find shelter…” It took hours, but they crested the final hill and found themselves at the base of the mountain, “Let’s get up there, Sera, see if you-” Raven paused, looking at the remains of her party… When they ran from their old hideout, they were seventy-eight in number, now they were only two, Raven, and Vernal, “Where’s Sera?”

“Lost her five miles back, I tried to tell you… But you just kept walking.”

Raven growled, “We need to go back, we can’t-” There was a shriek from above, some ghastly and raspy howl, like icy wind and the screams of the dead, Vernal was right, there were shapes moving in the clouds and snow, ghost-like horses, vague and blurry though they may be, Raven said something bitter under her breath.

“We can’t go back, we need to find shelter!”

“Y-You’re right.” Raven quickly morphed into a bird and flew up into those haunted clouds, following the side of the mountain, Vernal followed, beating her large gull-like wings.

The team found their way through cracks and tunnels, the cave was winding going deeper into the hills, there was a beowolf now and again, but for the most part, Grimm had deserted it.

“Odd, normally the Creatures of Grimm thrive in this kind of environment… I wonder what made them leave?” Port muttered.

“It could be that strange energy…” Sweetie Muttered, the others nodded, except Port.

“What energy?” Port asked.

“You can’t feel it, there’s some kind of force echoing throughout the cave, like… Well, I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just something us unic- Umm, us faunus can feel… Well, at least I can.” There was more to it than that, the strange lights she saw, or, more accurately, the absence of light, this place was devoid of background magic, she had been a bit more careful with her energy use, she couldn’t just absorb it from the environment like every foal instinctively did… It was a bit disorienting, no doubt the others would start to feel it when they ran out of magic… “I’d also be careful about being hit, something tells me that you won’t really be able to regenerate Aura down here…” Port looked a little confused about that comment, but the others looked at one-another in realization.

“Interesting, that could be what has forced the Grimm out of this cave… Point the way.”

Sweetie nodded, soon she was going on ahead, clearing the path of any Grimm that remained, but they were weaker, much weaker than they should be, and scared, behaving less like aggressive monsters, and more like wary animals, attacking only when the girls got too close. An hour later of descending deeper and deeper, the air starting to get a bit thin, they got jumped by a Taijitu, The serpent bursting out of the wall, but it was more skeletal than the ones they’ve seen before, withered, sick… Like it was severely malnourished, and veins could be seen bulging from within it’s grimm-flesh.

Sweetie jumped forward, Apple Bloom taking aim with her autocannon, Sweetie was knocked out of the way as the serpent rushed forward, ignoring the girl, it rushed down Apple Bloom, who fired a moment too late, the snake knocking her to the ground and her shells cutting a line in the cavern ceiling… The grimm ignored her too, simply bolting for the exit, slithering up the cavern with surprising speed. “What in Remnant?” Port said, but, the very next moment, the ceiling collapsed.

There was a horrible cracking sound followed by crashing as the rocks came down, Sweetie stuck on the other side, her friends trapped in the darkness behind the slide, “You ok back there!” Came Scootaloo’s voice.

“Y-Yeah, just, a lot of dust, and not the magical energetic kind…” Sweetie said between coughs.

“What’s going on, I can’t see a thing!” Port said, his normal bombastic composure compromised by the string of surprises and strange events.

“We’re coming Sweetie, just give me a minute to move these rocks around,” Apple Bloom said, already the sound of Apple moving up and digging at the rocks. Followed by a sigh and some muttering from Diamond as she went to work digging as well.

“A-alright…” Sweetie muttered.

The lack of magic was more complete this deep in the cave, and Sweetie started to slowly wander down the path while the others were clearing the path. She began down a wide circle and an eerie green light started to fill the tunnel, in the end, she found some kind of room, it couldn’t have been formed naturally, something had carved it out… In the middle was a pool of black liquid, and a tendril of black chitin snaking down from the roof and dipping itself in the pool… The lack of energy was less obvious here, the magic was being sucked up into that tendril, leaving the area barren of energy. Sweetie reached out, and touched the pool with the tip of her finger, giving a yelp as it burned away her skin. She clutched the finger before casting a small healing spell, growing new, healthy, skin and stitching it back to her flesh.

At this disturbance, the pool rippled and then rippled some more as something started to move out of it, a bone-white claw, followed by a withered, sickly, black arm… Soon, half of a beowolf had pulled itself out of the ooze, specifically half, the other half was withered to the point of being useless, it’s hind legs unresponsive and dead, it’s tighs skeletal, and it’s tail merely a boney-nub. Its arms were rotting away before the girl’s eyes, breaking up at the slightest cut from the stony soil, spilling half-coagulated black ooze on the ground, its face was nearly melted together, teeth fused to teeth, jaw sealed to skull, and half it’s grimm bone mask missing, giving the appearance of a rotten corpse of a Beowolf than an actual Beowolf.

Sweetie, desensitized to Grimm over the weeks at Beacon, still backed away in horror at this thing, clearly in horrible pain, but unable to scream, only gargle with its half-formed insides. The girl poked at it with the end of her halberd, which caused the thing to flail in pain, she pushed it back into the pool where it thrashed, eventually touching and sticking to the green-glowing tendril, where it continued to gargle in pain as it was slowly sucked into the tendril like morning dew evaporating in the sunlight. The entire sight horrifying.

Sweetie tried to regain composure by analyzing the behaviour of the ooze and tendril, trying to figure out their nature using the more logical part of her brain, blocking out the horror still petrifying the other half. “T-This tendril… It’s absorbing magic, but where is it going,” She muttered to herself, “It couldn’t have stored all the power in this area by itself, there must be a bigger reservoir of power somewhere else…” She then crouched, taking a better look at the ooze, waving a hand in front of it, but not touching it, feeling her own power skitter across the surface as some other, darker, magic interfered with attempts to grab a sample in telekinesis. “The pool is magical too, very magical… Perhaps if I just…” She boosted her aura from her own internal magic energy and extended it outward, just like Pyrrah had shown her, then move that field into the pool… There was resistance at first, and it manifested as a cold burning pain across her body, but quickly vanished as a minty glow flushed through the pool, spreading like ink in water until the entire pool was attuned to her power.

She let go of the energy, and the pool started to rapidly evaporate just like the Grimm, turning from solid matter, back into magical energy, rapidly filling the area with the euphoric feeling of energy, at least to a unicorn separated from such power for so long. The tendril tried to absorb the power, but Sweetie grabbed on to the end, feeling it trying to drain her of her own magic, but with a strong pull, she cracked off the tendril’s end, causing it to wither and die, bleeding green ooze down into what remained of the now dissipated pool.

A few minutes later, the others broke into the room, “What happened down here?” Apple Bloom said.

“Something… Weird, there was a pool of thick black liquid” Port’s eyes went a bit wide as Sweetie talked, “And also some kind of vine or root growing out of the roof,” She pointed to what remained of the tendril, “I think it was drinking up the liquid, why I don’t know. But it’s all gone now.”

“I-” Port paused, “I suppose that’s good news… Yeah, good work, that was most likely the source of the Grimm in this area, come, let’s find those grimm that escaped us and make sure this area is clear before we depart.” Port was clearly confused and worried about something, but the rest agreed.

“The wind is too strong, we need to head back down the mountain, find shelter low down!” Vernal shouted, her wings violently flapping against the breeze… But to Raven’s senses, she could tell this was no natural gale, it circled the peak of the mountain, and the cave, like someone had put a series of fans around it, powerful ones… Some kind of magic was involved.

Raven dived to the surface, stumbling as she landed on her hind legs, and falling flat into the snow before stumbling back to four. “We’re getting up that hill, we’re going to have to climb,”

Vernal didn’t reply as she dove downward and again, still not used to her new body, crashed into the snow, but quickly regained her footing… Hoofing? Clawing? And started to follow Raven as she struggled up the rocky protrusions around the peak. Vernal quickly caught up, claws being superior to hooves in this instance, and helped Raven up. It took another half an hour of climbing only to make it a half a dozen meters, but soon they reached the cave top… The storm above had grown worse, from a flurry to a full snowstorm… There were things living in that storm, very real and very alive, no doubt about it, the sooner they got into the cave, the safer they would be.

They were up on the ledge, freezing their tails off, but alive at least… Raven would have sighed in relief had another obstacle come in her way… She trotted forward but slammed against an invisible barrier, as she ran a hoof against it, it resonated with yellowish energy, and standing-stones in front of the cave glowed brightly as the shield became visible. She slammed a hoof against the barrier, enraged to have come so far for nothing.

“L-Let’s go…” Vernal whispered, shivering, ice clinging to her legs and beak, wings stiff.

“No! No! No!” Raven screamed, “I will not die out here in the cold!” She let her maiden power flow through her body, eyes burning, not just with that arcane fire that she summoned upon being enraged, but also with the energy of Spring empowering her, she raised into the air, and called down twin bolts of lighting to strike the standing stones, the bolts powerful enough to bludgeon their way past the shield and split the rock apart, which sent sparks of energy flowing out of the enchanted stones and arcing in random directions, one very nearly striking Raven, another hitting Vernal in the leg, causing her aura to collapse completely, and leaving a nasty burn on her forearm… Foreleg… “Vernal!” the realization of what she had done shocked Raven out of her anger, and she swopped down to help. She ripped a part of her kimono and used it to bandage the leg, using some snow to help ease the burning, Vernal hissing in pain at the sudden cold. “Let’s get you inside… I don’t want to be alone in this frozen hell…”

Inside the cave was a pedestal featuring some old and cracked bell, coated completely in the green of tarnished and rusted copper. Raven called upon her maiden powers once again, and bent the winds to cause a rock slide and seal the two in the cave, away from the horrors outside, just enough space between the fallen stones to let air in.

Chapter 53: Research and Development

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“And… Cut!” The overseer shouted, and the ear-piercing whine ceased, “Shut it down, check the fuel levels and thrust-to-weight ratio.”

A unicorn marched up and did a detailed inspection of the machine with her magic, a pegasus flew up to check the fuel gauge, there was no time to set up scaffolding for other ponies to check it, and various other pony scientists were calculating the results they got from the sensory spells placed upon the device…

Celestia had came just a few days ago and announced her plan to create an airship capable of leaving Equus’ atmosphere… The entire engineering staff of the Canterlot Institute of Engineering was called, and in just a few hours they had written up half a dozen plans for ships capable of travelling and supporting life in a perfect vacuum… Of course, Life Support was the easy part, magic shields, if properly maintained, could keep a stable atmosphere inside a vessel, regardless of external forces, and that could be further assisted by making the vessel air-tight to begin with, the shields simply a backup. Air recycling was easy enough with magic, and as long as you brought enough food and water, health shouldn’t be much of a concern…

Gravity was evidently neutralized inside the void… This came as a shock to much of the science team, who cared little about what was beyond Equus, they knew it was a perfect void, and that Celestia’s sun wasn’t the only sun out there, and any pegasus knows that it gets colder and the air gets thinner the higher you get, eventually reaching a heatless void, but only those specialized in the field of void-study know any more… The Overseer, a mare, one “Ringclicker” had talked to voidologists before, and knew a bit of this already… Still though, gravity spells could make up for the lack of gravity… The big problem, and the one that they were still experimenting with, was thrust… Conventional propellers wouldn’t work in the void, and rockets were too fuel-hungry, hard to replace, and dangerous… Something else would be needed.

Again… The magic came to their rescue… “We’re reading a ratio of… 75.2, with a fuel consumption rate of 15 gallons per hour… Honestly, and engine of this size would be more than enough to get a conventional airship off the ground. Increasing the surface area of the central telekinetic receptacle would increase efficiency though… But, building a bigger one for even more delta-v shouldn’t be too difficult…”

“Good, send this data to the Princesses…” The stallion simply bowed and walked out of the room. Down below, engineers were inspecting the Telekinetic Engine for any damage received in its test run… The concept was simple, the engine would exert telekinetic force on itself, pushing itself forward, this required an ungodly amount of magical energy, supplied in the form of liquid rainbow pumped into its core. The thing looked like a large dodecahedron suspended between two horn-shaped devices mounted to cubes covered in tubes and wires. It was sensitive equipment, but enough padding, armor, and some extra reinforcement should keep the device secure for extended use inside an airship… But, there would be a lot more to go before a proper void-ship was ready for development.

“Princess Twilight’s Grimm Research Log, Day one,” Twilight was speaking into her scroll, recording audio and visual data, meanwhile Celestia watched from the other side, connected telepathically to the arcane machinery within the device.

“D-Darling, could we please hurry this up… I can’t hold this, thing, for much longer…” Rarity commented, her arms glowing brightly with cyan energy, a telekinetic field holding a beowolf completely still, meanwhile Rainbow and Spitfire had their guns raised, just in case.

“Yes, of course, today we have gone on a small expedition to Remnant’s ‘Emerald Forest’ just off Beacon, a Huntsman Academy’s, campus. And have acquired a live Creature of Grimm, classification Beowolf, to study… It has been noted by the locals that the Creatures of Grimm vaporize upon death, and significant damage to the creature’s body leads to death, they do not appear to have internal organs or cellular structure, meaning they are most likely a being of arcane origin, and damage to their body disrupts their coherency, similar to Ursas and Windigos.”

“Darling… Please, this hurts…”

“Yeah Twi, all this egghead stuff is boring.”

“Pardon my companions, Princess and/or Researcher and/or future Thaumibiology Student… But documentation is important… Now, the locals have observed that the Grimm do not appear sapient, at least for the majority of their species, but it has been observed that they do develop increased cognitive capabilities the older a given specimen is… For the most part they are aggressive and unreasonable, attacking other lifeforms, particularly sapient ones, such as the local Humans and Faunus, and these assaults do not appear to be for sustenance or territory, simply an aggressive nature toward other lifeforms. My first attempt at studying these creatures led to the expiration of the subject, as the scanning spells I applied seemed to disrupt the entity, leading to death… However, the local’s research on the subject has given me a good understanding of what I did wrong in my first attempt, see: Appendix A-1.”

Twilight walked up to the beowolf, holding her scroll in a telekinetic field, “The locals have a poor understanding of magic, and so have not the methods or proper tools for stabilizing and analyzing such entities, thus there is little material to assist me in that field… But explaining the unexplainable is a goal of a scientist,” Twilight drew an enchanted syringe and gestured Rarity to flip the creature over on it’s back, slowly lowering it onto the portable surgical table Twilight had acquired… How she got it the others never got a straight answer from her. The telekinetic field was dropped with a sigh from Rarity, and the enchantments Twilight placed upon the table kicked in, binding the monster to the table’s surface, unable to move. “For being a sub-sapient entity, the Grimm shows a remarkably good simulacrum of fear,” Twilight commented as she lowered the needle into the helpless beowolf.

Salem sat on her bone throne, her private Seer sitting on her table, it’s razor tendrils wrapped around its bulbous crystalline brain. She wasn’t fully connected to the Grimm, but she could still feel their presence around the world, and something weird had happened in Mountain Glenn… Once the most powerful source of grimm in the area, now it was devoid of Grimm… Something had happened, whenever she focused her mind to that part of the planet, her brain felt numb, empty, devoid of all energy… Something was sucking away the world’s magic in that region, and it worried her… The assault of Beacon was in jepordy, but her plan would still continue, there were still plenty of Grimm in the surrounding area, and she could just send more… She had already commanded plenty of the grimm from the surrounding hills and mountains to congregate in a thousand-mile circle around Vale, and she was even starting to drain the areas south of Vale, she may even need to command a migration of Grimm away from Vacuo to support their numbers in Vale to make up for this loss.

As she sat there, thinking… There came another strange disturbance, the presence of another mind… The Seer’s red glow turned violet, and a voice came from the ball, young and female, clearly excited, “I did it! The Grimm appears to be part of a pseudo-hive-mind, sharing thoughts with others of it’s kind, I have just hijacked the arcane signal… Wait, something’s wrong, the subject is-” Then the Seer’s red colouration returned.

Salem sat there, for the first time in thousands of years, she was confused… “What was that!’ She demanded of her Seer, but it was unresponsive, in anger she slapped the sphere, which slammed into the window, smashing a hole and falling down into the wasteland below… Who or what, aside from herself, has the ability to access a Seer… Was that Ozma? No, it couldn’t be, never in any of his forms has he been female, and Ozpin was still very much alive… A maiden perhaps, only someone with magical power could interface with the Grimm, but that would be impossible, the Maiden’s light magic was at odds with the dark power of the Grimm, just trying to do that would kill the Seer… Something bigger, and far stranger was going on… She could feel the start of a headache trying to think of what possibly could have taken hold of her Seer.

The door to her throne room opened, and Salem almost sighed a breath of relief, “Tyrian, you have returned…”

“Yes, your majesty, I have, and I have some good news for you…”

“Remember, we want their industry intact, minimize collateral damage! Luna’s orders!” Talos shouted as he swooped down, gouging out the neck of a diamond dog soldier with his griffon talons, before firing down the street with his beam repeater… The thing was a modification on the pony’s beam casters, built for griffons to use, and while it felt a lot like a crossbow, each shot turned a diamond dog into a pile of glowing ash.

An Abyssinian Airship fired a broadside into the hull of a retreating airship, and abyssinian guards and sorcerers were moving to secure factories from the dog’s hands… Meanwhile, on the shores, seaponies leapt from the foam, transforming into hippogriffs wearing the livery of Princess Luna, and descended upon the surprised diamond dog horde, pony energy weapons in claw, and the diamond dog’s spears simply bounced off some kind of glittering magical field that the enemy forces all bore.

Up above, a volley of Balefire Torpedos stuck a diamond dog airship, sending it crashing into the ocean in a blaze of green fire, and the wonderbolts circled around, firing bursts of glowing magical spheres, exploding on impact, into the streets below… Meanwhile, inside the grand spire, the Tower of Storms, the Storm King watched on in mounting horror as his island was besieged… The cold-iron armor that his soldiers wore was doing little to shield his dogs from those new magical weapons, how did the ponies develop such technology, and those magical shields they all bore, and now it was an alliance of Griffons, Ponies, Abyssinians, and Hippogriffs all attacking at once, he would need to run. He turned, taking his crystal ball and staff with him, heading toward the door, there was the sound of fighting just outside, and he froze… Then the door opened, and a familiar face greeted him.

“Tempest Shadow, where have you been, I need you to get me out of here-”

The unicorn stood there, her horn replaced with a mass of crystal and metal that glowed a rainbow of hues, her armor white and gold, bearing the sun upon its breastplate, she was accompanied by a pair of royal guards, magical beam-guns pointed at the lord of dogs. “Storm King, sir, may we discuss the terms of your surrender…”

“The Storm King has surrendered, the remaining resistance on the island is being put down by the Hippogriff garrison, the cold-iron forges are ours, and the war should come to a swift end shortly…”

“That is good news Luna,” Celestia responded, the reverse-engineered scroll she carried proved quite effective at long-range data transmission, and she marvelled at how such a small device could allow her to communicate with her sister, thousands upon thousands of kilometers south. “At least the war is over… Now we can focus on developing our diplomatic relations with Remnant. I want you to return to Canterlot as soon as the island is stable, Tempest will be acting governor in our stead.”

“Yes sister.” With that, Luna cut her connection.

“So much death…” Celestia muttered under her breath… War was abhorrent, but unavoidable at time, and sometimes even necessary… If only the Storm King surrendered after his defeat in Abyssinia. But she quickly turned her mind to other matters, reconnecting with Twilight on Remnant, “Was your experiment successful?”

“Yes, and no…” Twilight replied. “After I had taken samples of the Grimm’s flesh, now safely stored in stasis, and analyzed the magical signature the creature gives off, I discovered that the creatures are linked in a kind of pseudo-hive-mind, in which they are capable of sharing sensory data and memory between any two given individuals of their species… I was able to intercept this link, and for a very brief time I had linked myself to every single individual of their species on the entire planet!” Twilight was clearly excited, but that last part worried Celestia.

“Are you ok? Linking minds in a strenuous process…”

“Yes, I am, the Grimm’s consciousness is basic enough that it proved a very simple task to prevent my mind from being overtaken by their will. Unfortunately, without this link, the subject expired, I am currently searching for another to continue my work.”

“Very well, remember, these entities are highly aggressive and dangerous, be careful.”

“We will, your majesty.”

Meanwhile, on Remnant, Twilight continued exploring the forest, coming across various old human ruins, and eventually, a cave in which a light shone. Curiosity took hold, and she followed the light deeper into the cave. “What is that?” Rainbow said.

“I don’t much care for the look of it, who uses that shade of red!” Rarity exclaimed.

“Fascinating…” Twilight said. In the center of the cave was a strange canister-like device, and various cages surrounded it, bearing an ‘M” logo.

Chapter 54: Healers and Killers

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Damn Vernal, damn Raven, damn this icy hell, damn this whole weird world… And above all else, damn this hideous dog-body, Shay continued marching through waist-high snow, luckily he wasn’t one of the things that walked on all fours, but his comparatively small legs were not built for this weather, at least his thick brown fur meant the cold got to him slower than others, but he continued to fall face-first into the snow upon tripping on a shard of ice or rocky protrusion. North-west, as far as he could tell from the sun, was the general direction he was heading, away from Raven and Vernal’s trek along the mountains… He had passed into a thick arctic valley, not a single bit of plant life could be seen, nothing but glacial fields and hilly snow-mounds as far as the eye could see… He thought he could vaguely see some shining light in the distance, and although he had no clue what it could be, he headed toward it regardless. “At least I won’t die of thirst out here,” He said bitterly, his voice a little raspier and gruffer than back on Remnant.

At first, he hoped to find some hopelessly lost rabbit or bird, but nothing living was out in this icy plane, even if he did find something, his pistol was out of bullets, and he didn’t have anything, not even a speck of fire dust, to cook with. He now questioned whether leaving the group was a good idea… There was still time to find his way back into the mountains, even if it would be nightfall by the time he got back, and right now the sun was the only thing keeping him from freezing to death, his aura had long drained away, and without rest, it wouldn’t regenerate.

Right as he was about to turn around, the snow around him shifted, he thought he heard something moving… His hungry mind raced, and he figured there must be some burrowing creature beneath the snow, eating raw food didn’t sound appealing, but now, anything would do… He leapt forward, jumping on the next shifting patch of snow, but the next thing he knew, he was lying on his back… Something had knocked him in the jaw, hard… Suddenly, all around him, emerging from cloaks made of some shimmering cloth that matched the shape and texture of the snowy earth perfectly, came horses, the same small and misshapen horses that some of his tribe had been turned into, but these ones bore heavy silver and chrome colored armor that matched the white and dull blues of the snow plains. They raised crystalline devices, weapons of some kind, mounted to saddles. “Halt, you are illegally trespassing on the borders of the Crystal Empire, state your purpose Diamond Dog.”

“D-Diamond?” The comment caught Shay off guard, he didn’t look like a diamond, he certainly didn’t have any with him, even if he really wished he did, but he quickly shook off the thought, “I-I’m just cold, and hungry, please, do you have any food, there are horses like you out here, there must be a village or town…”

One of the guards pulled out a scroll, not a fancy digital holographic one, just an ancient paper scroll, and said “Sir, the description matches, he is one of the bandits seen around the Crystal Mountains, wanted for murder, robbery, and destruction of government property.”

A lump formed in Shay’s throat, and the leader-horse replied, “Alright, get some rope, let’s take him to the Princess… See if he knows where the rest of these bandits are...:” Next thing he knew, his arms and legs were tied up, he was given a bowl of warm soup that he was deeply thankful for, even if he was a prisoner. He was loaded into a cart and hauled by a pair of soldier-horses… He was unsure how these horses, ponies they called themselves, did it, but they trotted along the snow as if it was solid rock, even the cart didn’t dig into the frost, but rather rolled across the surface as if it was completely solid. Hours passed, the sun started to set, the sky getting ever so darker, but on the horizon, a solid spire of crystal started to rise from the hills, the entire structure looking like a luminescent needle of pure diamond, and it indeed was luminescent, it glowed as the sky darkened, lighting the clouds above.

As they got even closer, he was amazed to see horses trotting around, some in armor, some in clothing, many simply naked, walking around crystalline buildings, how they made these things was beyond him, and suddenly he realized that perhaps diamonds weren’t so valuable after all… The thing that really amazed him though, was the grass… All around the spire, in a massive circle, there was fresh and warm grass growing, with fruit-trees dotting the fields, some otherworldly warmth passed over him as he crossed through a gate, a pair of massive amethysts jutting from the earth, and at that moment he felt like he was back in the south of Mistral, rather than an icy and alien hell.

His legs were unbound, and he was hauled upright, standing on the ground felt strange after being in the back of the cart for so long, but he was pushed forward and started walking, quickly marching toward the base of the crystal spire, then up a flight of stairs into said tower, passing by beautiful rooms and luxurious halls… Shay briefly fantasized in living in such a place, even the rugs and tapestries were made from crystals woven into long threads.

Eventually, he was brought before a door, and his wrists were unbound, “Bow to her majesty, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza,” The guard told him, and then the door opened… What he saw was the strangest thing he had ever encountered in his entire life… The throne room was as expected, crystalline and radiant… What he didn’t expect was an aggressively pink horse, twice the size of every other horse he had encountered, with wings on its back and a horn on its head, staring him down.

It was warmer in the cave, but still, their legs and hooves felt numb. “This is the last of my private rations,” Raven muttered, pulling a bag of nuts and dried meats from her kimono.

“You have it…”

“No, I don’t want to watch you starve,” Raven said weakly, she spilled the bag on the ground, and divided it between the two, “You can have all the meat, it doesn’t taste as good in this new body.”

The two grazed on what they could, but they were still deadly hungry afterwards, “I suppose that’s the last taste of home we’ll ever get, we’ll need to find some alien food from here on, though that big lizard thing was tasty…”

“You stay, and rest that burn, I’ll explore the mountain, see if there’s anything edible around.” Raven moved up to the rocks blocking the cave’s mouth and pushed them aside, stepping out into a cold morning… The clouds and swirling creatures above had gone for now, the sun was shining. She looked down the hills, then stood stock still in shock… She ran back inside, “They found us!”

Up the mountain marched a quarter-legion of guards, no more, as the mountain was perilous enough without trying to march a full army over it, Cadance flew overhead, circling the mountain, the winds were strong and magical, someone had enchanted the peak with an everlasting cyclone, but she was an Alicorn and her power surpassed whatever ancient sorcerer had done this spell, she flew to protect her soldiers from the wind, redirecting the gusts with great telekinetic fields.

Clouds grew overhead with unnatural speed, and the wind started to blow faster… Out of the cave mouth flew a kirin, Cadence had never seen one in her life before, and they looked strange to her, but she knew what she was seeing, the creature was flying without wings, magic keeping it aloft, the kirin summoned forth bolts of arcane lightning and fire, raining them down upon the guards, but Shining Armor was down there, his speciality were wards and spells of protection, the quarter legion continued unharmed under Shining’s shields.

Cadence flew up to face the Kirin, “You have committed crimes against my kingdom and my ponies, surrender and you may be unharmed.” The kirin didn’t listen, jetting forward and drawing a blade with her hoof, charging the princess. The long curved sword was made from magically active crystal, and it took only the tiniest spark of her horn to shatter the blade long before it reached her, and the Kirin backed away, then fired a pair of blue fireballs. Cadence summoned forth a pair of boulders from the ground below and shielded herself from the fire, flinging the two at her attacker.

She sliced one boulder in half and dodged out of the way of the second, moving faster than any pegasus, but with less grace and stability, her sword now had a new blade, once again made from crystal, but different in color and magical signature, Cadence used her geomancy to shatter the crystal, and this time she collected the shards and sent them flying toward her attacker, the storm of razor fragments causing the kirin to grunt, and sparks of magical energy to fly from her body, but the kirin was otherwise unharmed. “I will not die!” The kirin shouted.

“Surrender, and no one will die today!” Cadence replied.

As the two battled in the sky, crystals, fire, and lightning arcing between them, Shining Armor continued his march up the mountain, it was rough and the winds nearly threw them off the cliffside, but soon, they crested the peak. The soldiers marched into the cave and found only one bandit within, a hippogriff, holding a wounded leg, the only other thing of note was a paper bag on the ground and a rusted copper bell. “Capture here, confiscate everything else.”

“Including the bag sir?”

“Yes, including the bag…”

The guard marched up and surrounded Vernal, “I-’ll come peacefully, just don’t hurt Raven.”

“Wh-” Oh, Raven must be the Kirin, Shining realized, then he gave a slight chuckle, “You clearly haven’t met the princess, she’ll be fine.”

Shining and the guards led the Hippogriff out of the cave, carrying the bell inside the paper bag. “Surrender, we have your accomplice!” Shining shouted, and that caught the Kirin’s attention.

Raven paused for a second, “Vernal!” And then at that moment of hesitation, Cadance fired a nerve-blocker spell, artificially paralyzing the Kirin from the neck-down and flying to catch her as she fell from the sky. In less than ten minutes, Vernal and Raven were both tied up and being carried down the mountains, when they came to the foothills, they saw a large chariot and a few smaller ones, standing next to it was a dog… No… Not just any dog, “Shay!” Raven shouted. The dog started to back away at hearing Raven’s voice, the woman-turned-kirin realized what happened in an instant, “You sold us out!”

“I- I didn’t have a choice, boss!”

“You betrayed the tribe!” They were all thrown into the back of the larger chariot and as the other horse-soldiers mounted their chariots, the tall pink one bent down over Vernal and started to remove her bandages, “What are you doing?” Raven said angrily.

“I’m not going to hurt her… I’m a healer, one of the best in Equestria, and the only medical mage you’ll find in the Crystal Empire,” She gave a chuckle, “You wouldn’t believe how long my list of ponies needing my aid is…” Raven watched, not quite understanding what was happening, some kind of magic she guessed. Vernal showed no signs of pain as flesh was stripped away, energy glowed within the wound, and new flesh was grown out to replaced the damaged tissue, finally, skin was melded together over the meat and her leg, while featherless, was unharmed. “It will be sore for a few days, don’t strain yourself too much… You were very lucky I found you, it was starting to become infected.”

“What are you going to do with us?” Raven said.

“Do not worry, I believe everyone deserves a second chance, so I won’t have you executed, yet, but you still committed severe crimes against my ponies, and I will not take that lightly… Be thankful that you ended up in the Crystal Empire, and not in Equestria… My aunt, and in particular, her sister, are not as merciful as I.”

With that, the horned and winged pony mounted herself to the chariot and took flight, and Raven was amazed as the chariot flew up into the cold air with little effort, flying off to some pony-city, caught like rats in the care of aliens. “I’m sorry…” Raven said.

Vernal raised an ear, “Hmm?”

“I’m sorry for dragging you into this… I… I wish the power of the Maiden never came to me. I wish there was some way I could get rid of it…”

Chapter 55: Breach

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“Yep, everything is ready miss Cinder! Torchwick’s been awful helpful, and those White Fang guys too, we’ve managed to attract plenty of grimm from Forever Fall, and we’re just waiting on your word to let them in!”

“Good, you should return to Beacon, some of the professors may start to question your absence, Neo has been doubling for you from time to time, but it would still reflect poorly on us if you don’t come back soon.”

“Roger that!” Cozy Glow gave a salute and closed her scroll and took a secret route into Vale, quickly finding the airship docks and arriving at Beacon. Once there, Cinder dragged her away into the Emerald Forest… They passed into a cave and then out into a glade dotted with ancient ruins of whatever kingdom had once stood here before Vale. She was led into one of the ruins, and froze upon seeing it teeming with hundreds of grimm… They all turned to face the newcomers, but Cinder snapped her fingers, and they all stood still, pausing. Cinder then turned to Cozy.

“Semblance is a power unique to each individual, even if some can have very similar semblances, no two living people may have the exact same… This, unfortunately, means that there is no single training method that works to bring your semblance out, but stress is normally a factor,” Cinder was pacing, her glass slippers clinking against the floor as she walked in circles around Cozy. The girl had been going through plenty of Aura training with the White Fang, and some with Cinder. She smiled at this idea, some kind of personal ability, some power wholey her own… Cinder was surprised when she said that she hadn’t unlocked hers yet, and for a second it was clear what she was questioning whether bringing a little girl with barely any power into here schemes was a good idea, but, she also recognized the burning lust for power, murderous intent, and deadly seriousness in the girl’s pale red eyes, it matched Cinder’s perfectly, and that, at a very deep and instinctual level, frightened Cinder.

“Neo will be monitoring your Aura, and we will pull you out if it gets too low, but do not think us saving you is for your sake, you belong to me, and I won’t stop until you are as useful as possible to my master’s plans… Understood…” Cinder continued, and Cozy nodded… But if Cinder really thought that Cozy belonged to anyone she was sorely mistaken, Cozy would still follow along, for now, though.

With that, the other two left the ruin and closed the door behind them, leaving Cozy alone in the darkness only lit by hundreds of glowing red eyes.

Marrow’s tail was wagging and he didn’t care. Himself, Clover, and Harriet were walking through the streets of Vale, an early autumn breeze was passing through the sky and the young faunus was gorging himself on a massive apple pie. “I love this place, can’t believe we didn’t visit Vale sooner!”

“It’s a little, rural, compared to Atlas, hell, even compared to Mantle, but I’ll give it this, it is warmer… At least the food is good,” Harriet muttered, drinking some soda.

“Don’t get too full, remember, we’re her to provide security for the Vytal Festival,” Clover chimed in.

“Yeah, like anyone’s going to be mad enough at some stupid sparring match to attract the Grimm…”



The three continued down the street… Then there came a loud, concussive, “BOOM” followed by the sound of something collapsing, and screams, they turned and swore, looking north, toward the growing plume of dust and smoke. Clover acted first.

“This is Clover, all Atlesian Military personnel, to the perimeter wall, we have a breach! North sector!”

“Well, there goes the fifth one today…” Twilight looked downcast at the rapidly dissolving form of another expired Grimm on the surgical table, she had been trying to reconnect to the grimm mental link to see what she could examine, but her attempts had been unsuccessful “I don’t get it, what am I doing wrong! How did I get into it the first time, but not any other times!”

“I don’t know darling, but it’s getting dreadfully boring just sitting around and watching you work…”

“Boring!” Twilight shouted, “This is amazing, these grimm are unlike any other lifeform I’ve seen, well, except for Ursas and Windigos, but I’ve never had the chance to study any of them up-close like this!”

“Look, Twi, I know how much you love this stuff, but, next time, could you please leave us out of this…” Rainbow muttered.

“Heh,” Spitfire began, “At least it isn’t as bad as trying to babysit you all the time…

“Hey!” Dash exclaimed. Then, everyone’s attention was caught when the cylinder in the middle of the room started to glow red, and alarms started to whine. “Umm, what’s that?”

“Some kind of alarm, something has gone wrong somewhere,” Spitfire quickly deduced, “Come on, we need to get back to the city!”

“But, the experiment!” Twi continued.

“Listen, Twilight, we can continue this some other time…” Rarity finished.

A massive explosion rocked the wall, rending down part of the outer defensive line, panic spread rapidly, and grimm started to pour through the defences, White Fang, mastering their emotions, grappled the walls and descended just far enough away to not attract the grimm’s attention, and they began an assault on the city, stolen Paladin Prototypes firing rockets and autocannons into the crowd and foot-soldiers quickly marching up and drawing pistols, SMGs, and machetes on any humans and faunus they came across, but quickly they met resistance, atlesian guards made firing lines and started evacuating civilians, then huntsmen arrived.

An airship quickly dropped off a group of students into the grimm’s assault, then dropped another group into the White Fang’s charge. Pyrrha’s spear flew into the chest of an ursa and she slammed into the ground, crushing a creep under her feet, slashing a beowolf with her shield, before picking her spear up and charging into battle again. Nora’s hammer smashed the head of a deathstalker in and in just two movements she smashed another dozen grimm in a circle around her. Jaune fell right on to the back of a Beowolf Alpha, his sword slicing its head off, even if it was mostly by mistake. And Ren staying in the airship, providing fire support from above with a flurry of machinepistol shots.

Then, Clover, Harriet, and Marrow arrived. Marrow leapt against a Paladin, chainblade cleaving its arm off as a trail of lightning flew across the battle and leaving stunned and concussed white fang infantry on the ground, finally, Clover hooked open the hatch of another Paladin Mech, pulling the driver out and taking control for himself, “Good, standard Paladin prototype,” He said, “Nice to see that the White Fang didn’t mess with it too much.”

Up on the wall, Emerald and Mercury watched the carnage, “Remember the plan…” Both had dyed and redone their hair, used contacts to change their eye color, and had a change in wardrobe, neither should be recognized by the authorities. Then, they leapt forward, Mercury kicking an Ursa Major to the ground, and Emerald slashing up a horde of creeps.

The shadow of an Atlesian airship passed overhead, autocannons ripping through both groups of invaders and dropping combat androids into the fray, meanwhile, from another Vale airship, Coco let loose a volley of minigun rounds into the attacking grimm before dropping Fox and Yatsu into the horde. Sun leapt around a King Taijitu, light-clones holding down one head while he firing shotguns point-blank into the other head’s eye, and Neptune sliced off the tail of an attacking Deathstalker with his glaive.

“Looks like some trouble’s gone down while we were away!” Port said bombastically.

“Alright, Blank-Flanks, Apple Bloom stays aboard the airship and provide support, Scootaloo, Sweetie, you’re with me!” Diamond said before leaping off the ship as it dived low, Apple Bloom fired high-explosive shells into the attacking grimm, ripping apart the largest targets as the others took on the small-fry. Diamond’s sword effortlessly cleaved a pair of beowolves apart as if they were paper, before firing her beam-cannon into a giant nevermore overhead.

Scootaloo glided down, wings outstretched, bathing everything below her in fire, creating an updraft that kept her aloft… “Not quite flying, but I could get used to this!” She shouted in glee before diving down and putting a heat-blast through the head of an Ursa Major.

Sweetie’s halberd cleaved a deathstalker’s head apart, and she turned, spotting the same King Taijitu that Sun had been holding down, now broken free from the light-clones’ grasp and moving to strike the young faunus on its other head. Sweetie drew a simple arcane circle and let loose a wave of minty fire that immolated the other head, dropping to the ground before the creature evaporated completely. “Thanks for the assist, but I got it!” Sun replied. Sweetie scoffed before casting a shield around herself and leaping into a small pack of creeps.

“Remember, don’t kill anyone unless absolutely necessary!” Twilight shouted, holding Rarity next to her in violet telekinesis, Rainbow and Spitfire to either side, as they flew toward the White Fang’s assault.

“Speak for yourself, I saw them shooting up those civilians, they need to pay!” Rainbow replied.

“Yeah, Twi, let the military ponies handle this…” Spitfire continued.

“I for one agree with Twiligh-” Rarity began, then screamed as they dived to avoid an incoming Nevermore, which was promptly hit with rockets from the Atlesian gunships. Rarity was dropped, but she quickly righted herself with telekinesis and came to a safe landing after casting a featherfall spell on herself, she quickly drew her sword and started knocking her attackers unconscious with the dull side, Rarity prayed she didn’t hit them too hard. One charged at her with a blade, but she pulled it from his grasp with her telekinesis and then gave him a hard kick to the chest, another drew an SMG on her and fired a volley, but Rarity turned and grabbed the bullets in a telekinetic field, sending them flying back at the girl who fired them. Then, a purple blast of telekinetic energy sent another machete-wielding goon flying backwards and Rarity turned, expecting to see Twilight, but seeing an impeccably dressed human mare with a blonde mane and wielding a crop standing just behind her.

“Another telekinetic, I thought I was the only one,” she began.

“Please darling,” Rarity chuckled, turning around and grabbing the guy trying to sneak up behind her, “I am one of the best where I come from,” before flinging the faunus through the second floor of a building.

Rainbow and Spitfire landed together, facing a dozen hostiles, and raised their magical-energy weapons, the White Fang did the same, but a burst of orange-hot energy, turning one of the largest goons into a pile of burning ash in an instant made them reconsider, and a volley of multihued light beams from Rainbow Dash made them flee.

Up above, Twilight was hovering between both battlefields, watching the huntsmen starting to push back their respective foes, she summoned twin magic circles with her hands and from them fired dozens of magic missiles that relentlessly chased their targets, raining from the sky like purple streaks that annihilated grimm and broke the white fang’s aura in an instant. It didn’t take long for the assault to turn into a rout. Below, Rarity and Glynda moved up and repaired the wall while Twilight and Sweetie Belle combined their powers to create a magic shield around the breach to prevent any grimm from disrupting the repairs. Afterwards, Glynda couldn’t take her mind off the image of Twilight, hovering in the sky like a purple star, strange glyphs hovering around her, unleashing blasts of energy.

“It’s over Torchwick!” Scootaloo said, holding a pistol to his head.

“I can’t believe you caught me,” He said, sarcastically. Both were standing atop the wall, an atlesian airship parking on the landing pad as he was dragged away by some guards.

Then, another airship came to land, and out stepped Oobleck and team RWBY, “Hey! You didn’t save any bad guys for us!” Ruby shouted.

“Ruby, please, be thankful that this mess was cleaned up nice a quick, without need of us…” Weiss replied.

“Aww, but it would have been soooo cool, saving Vale from a grimm attack.”

“It wasn’t just the Grimm though, I’ve not seen the White Fang this bold before…” Blake continued.

“Well, hey, be thankful that we were here to clean the mess up for you!” Jaune said, looking proud of himself.

“Yeah, we will…” Yang said, sharing Ruby’s disappointment.

Raven was dragged before a crystalline throne, various ponies filled the room. Vernal and Shay were brought in just after her, but Raven was quick to notice that she was the only one of the three who was cuffed. The Princess, Cadence, marched forward and drew a scroll then began reading from it… “First, regarding the damages done to the Boreal Express, you will be expected to pay seventy-five thousand bits to cover the materials and labour needed to construct a new train, in addition, you will be expected to assist in the construction effort, every hour of labour will reduce your debt however you will still be expected to pay for materials.”

Raven felt a lump form in her stomach… She wasn’t sure how much exactly that was, but that sounded like a lot of money… That wasn’t the worst she was going to face though, she knew that. “Next… The murders… First, you must pay fifty-thousand bits to each of the families of the dead, coming to a total of two-million four-hundred thousand. Next, you must issue formal apologies to the families of the dead in person, that only covers those who live in the Crystal Empire, as several lived in Northern Equestria, and those you will send letters too. You will have an enchantment placed upon you that will prevent you from leaving the Crystal City, the spell shall cause extreme pain and unconsciousness should you attempt to pass beyond the effect of the Crystal Heart, you will be under close supervision during this time, and will stay in the Crystal Catacombs beneath the Crystal Tower, allowed out only for food and recreation until all debt is paid.”

Raven’s head slumped… She was going to be stuck in this strange city for a long time, at least she was safe from Salem, but the hard labour didn’t sound fun… Nor did speaking to all those ponies… “As you, Raven Branwen, were the leader of your brigands, you alone shall be punished, Vernal Aelaes and Shay Mann will not be expected to do the same… However, this final punishment applies to all present… Under no circumstances will you commit another crime for the remainder of your lives, if any here commit an act of theft, Raven Branwen will have her debt tripled and each of you will be expected to pay the same, in addition, if any of you commit an act of murder, you will all be banished into the tundra, where you will undoubtedly suffer a very slow and painful death at the hands of the cold… Do I make myself clear…” The tone in the she-pony’s voice had turned deadly serious, and Raven simply nodded. “Finally, once Raven’s debt has been paid, you will all be deported back to your homelands, Raven to the Hidden City under the reign of Fire-Lord Frostfyre and Empress Midnight Torch, Vernal to Mount Aris under the reign of Princess Luna of Equestria and Queen Novo, and Shay to the Isle of Storms now under the reign of acting Viceroy Tempest Shadow, serving in the stead of Princess Celestia of Equestria.”

The other two were suddenly struck with worry… They knew nothing of this strange world, how could they be expected to survive in alien nations with alien customs? For the first time in much of her life, Raven felt guilty as she stared back at Vernal and Shay, knowing that this could very well be the last time she would see any other members of the tribe.

The door opened, and Cinder and Neo were surprised at what they saw… The ruin was now completely devoid of Grimm, not a single one remained… And, stranger still, there was no sign of Cozy…

“Where did she go!” Cinder said, surprised and angry.

“Right here…” Came the sickly sweet voice of Cozy, and both Cinder and Neo turned, eyes wide, as they saw Cozy appear from nowhere, her brass claw smoking with the remains of a grimm, then, the girl glowed red before vanishing again.

“Invisibility?” Cinder asked.

“You could say that,” Cozy’s voice chilled Cinder to the bone as she turned and saw the girl only millimeters behind her.

“Alright, I can work with this…” Cinder said once she got over the initial fear.

Cozy smiled, keeping the true nature of her new abilities to herself…

Chapter 56: Tournament Preparations

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Team RWBY sat in their dorms, watching Amity slowly fly closer and closer, eventually taking its spot over the fairgrounds.

“I can’t believe the tournament is only a few days away!” Ruby was bouncing off the walls with joy.

“Settle down there little sis’ we got to visit home first,” Yang said, “Dad wants to see us off before he goes on his first mission in years…”

“Yeah, but imagine, us winning the tournament, getting a load of money, and best of all, showing how awesome we are!” Ruby continued bouncing.

“Honestly, Ruby, you should really be training,” Weiss continued.

“Well, I think that Grimm attack last week was training enough,” Blake continued, “Can’t believe the White Fang would do something like that…” She muttered under her breath.

“Well, put all that behind you, and look forward to how fun the tournament is going to be!” Yang said.

Jaune was sharpening his sword, “Jaune,” Pyrrha began, “I don’t think-”

“Are you ready for the big fight!” Nora shouted, standing atop the bed, holding her hammer high, “Here comes Team JNPR! Winners of the Vytal Festival Tournament!” She leapt from the bed.

“Nora, no!” Pyrrha began, and caught Nora’s hammer mid-air before she smashed another hole in the floor.

Ren was smiling, simply watching the antics. “You know, I can’t believe I managed to take down five beowolves during that grimm attack,” Jaune said.

“We know, you won’t shut up about it, this is the fifth time today you’ve told us… A beowolf, isn’t that scary…” Ren muttered.

“Hey, I once saw you get beaten up by one!”

“That was an Alpha… There’s a difference…”

Coco made sure the ammo feed on her minigun wasn’t jammed and oiled her primary and auxiliary motors. “Do you think I should take a few more pics of those faunus girl’s weapons, that Apple Bloom has quite the cannon…” Velvet said.

“Just don’t draw attention to yourself,” Yatsu said.

“I know!” Velvet’s ears perked.

“Velvet, could you hand me that six-sided bolt wrench…” Coco said.

“Oh, sure…”

Fox was downcast, sharpening his blades, “That grimm attack has me worried,” he began, “Would the White Fang dare to attack during the tournament itself?”

“No need to worry, the Kingdom’s Defenses have been reinforced since then, and we have Atlas providing support, there is nothing we need to fear,” Yatsu said.

“Those Atlas ships are a bit worrying though… Is that much security really necessary?” Velvet muttered under her breath.

Cardin sat, watching Dove and Sky fight in the dorm, “Come on, we need to win this!” Cardin shouted, “Keep fighting, if I’m going to get my reputation back, we’re going to need to win this tournament!”

“Cardin, we’ve been practising constantly, every day, all day, for weeks!” Dove shouted.

“Oh, you’re tired… Come here, I’ll show you how to fight!” Cardin shouted, getting out of his chair and raising his mace, Dove raised his sword to block but was smashed to the ground. “Now come on, I need to see you fight, if we’re going to win the tournament, I need you all to be as strong, as tough, as ready as possible, now fight!”

“Ready, blank flanks?” Diamond was staring at them… This tournament was intriguing, she would need to win it if she was to cement her reputation here… That would show that bitter mare she called a mother…

“Could ya’ stop callin’ us that, we’ve been friends for, like, what, three or four months now…” Apple Bloom said, lifting Applebuck to her shoulder, “And yeah, I’m ready…”

“Almost,” Sweetie said, slamming her spellbook closed with a thump, “I’ve just finished the Lightning Storm spell, but I still need to test it, make sure there aren’t any faults in my matrix…”

“I’m good to go!” Scootaloo said a bandolier of dust-potions on her chest, “I got five fire flasks, two acid flasks, two hard-light flasks, eight lightning flasks, three wind flasks, two water flasks, two ice flasks, one rock flask, one-”

“We get it, I already gave Diamond the list of potions I put together, it was expensive…” Apple muttered.

“Oh, you did?”

“Enough!” Diamond shouted, “Let’s just get to the training yard… Sweetie, you can practice your unicorn stuff when we get there…”

“Alright… Still can’t believe you’re out leader…” Sweetie muttered under her breath.

“Come on Neptune, hit me already!”

“But… The water…”

Sun was standing on the pier, the smell of fish wafting through the Vale Fishery, Neptune was standing in front of him, at the very end of the wooden scaffold, the smallest gust of wind could push him off and into the water.

“Come on Neptune…” Sun shouted, marching forward, both his nunchucks twirling around, “If you don’t get past me, I’ll just smack you off the edge,”

“No! Please!”

“Hit me already!”

On another pier, far enough away that they wouldn’t get hit if some fighting broke out, Sage and Scarlet watching in mounting disappointment… All the way to the point where Neptune was smacked in the gut and fell off, screaming, as he fell into the water.

“You want to get him?” Asked Scarlet.

“It’s funnier just to watch…” Replied Sage.

The airship shook, its engines warming up for takeoff, Silver Spoon led her group of fillies, spear in hand, as she triumphantly marched into the airship…

“Why are we going to some stupid game again?” Rumble muttered.

“I doubt Diamond and those blank-flank idiots will be able to resist the chance to fight in a big tournament like this, it’s where we’re most likely to find them…” Silver replied.

“Yeah, plus, it’ll be tons of fun, like hoof-fighters, back home!” Button said.

“You have a strange idea of fun…” Dinky replied. “Still, let us try our best,” She said, scrolling through her spellbook.

“Look, Bolin, Vale!” Reese said, standing on the deck of the ship, “Been a while, huh?”

“It has certainly changed since I was last here,” Bolin replied, “Anyway, I’ve come to get you, Nadir and Arslan have prepared a breakfast for us, we’ll need our strength for the coming tournament…”

With that, Reese followed her friend down into the galley, where a few other teams from Mistral were gathered, Reese and Bolin came to sit with the rest of team ABRN. Nadir walked in, carrying plates of curry and some rice balls, but Reese noticed them getting looks from team RUJA.

“Ignore them,” Arslan muttered, “Raj is just being a creep, like always, and the others aren’t that better either.”

“I mean, Judy is kinda cute,” Nadir said between a bite of a rice ball.

“Judy’s mean, you should see her in our sparring sessions,” Reese replied.

“Did you see the look on Arlost’s face when she got her ass beat by the Silver Spoon girl, priceless…” Bolin laughed.

“Seems like Lionheart has it in for SBRD, no clue why…”

“I guess that’s why they chose to take an airship over getting stuck in this piece of driftwood with us…” Arslan continued.

“Come on Kobalt! Don’t lag behind!” Neon was bubblier than normal, zipping and darting around the airship gantry.

“It would help if you didn’t unload all your luggage one me!” Kobalt whined.

Flint continued his slow strut to the airship, “Come on, Ko, it will serve as a nice bit of exercise before the tournament…”

“Yeah, plus, Ivori is being lazy, like normal…” Neon muttered.

“Hey!” The voice of Ivori echoed from the other end of the gantry.

The sun was just starting to rise above Atlas’ spires, illuminating the gantries in the ruddy pale light of dawn, and so FNKI boarded the ship bound for Vale.

Penny sat, calmly enjoying a sandwich as she watched the airships flying in from Atlas… Team NIGT arrived, and she waved, then Team GEMN, then Team FNKI, who were the only ones actually waved back, then Team ZINC, who Penny did not wave to, as she found them rather mean to her and her teammates… Finally, one landed on the pad she was sitting on. “Hey guys!” She smiled and waved joyfully.

“Penny, I hope you’ve not been in too much trouble without us…” Ciel replied as she led Igor and Niagara out of the airship.

“Not at all miss Ciel! I’ve been on my best behaviour.”

“I find that extremely difficult to believe,” Igor said.

“Agreed…” Niagara continued.

“But, look at us now! Team PINC is back together and ready for this tournament! I cannot wait to show you all the strange things I’ve seen in Vale! It’s all so amazing!”

“Hey! Sun! Is that you! Man has it been ages!” Brawnz shouted from the side of the ship as it came to port, “Hey, you still owe me a drink!”

“Oh, hey, Brawnz! How’s team BRNZ doing, I hear May-” Sun said, stopping as he was trying to fish Neptune out of the water, Neptune swore as he fell back into the salty blue he hated so much.

“May what?” May said as she walked out and stared down Sun.”

“Oh… Uh… Nothing, I said nothing, I didn’t say anything, I just-” Sun continued, then tripped as he was backing away and fell right into the water, right on top of Neptune.

Brawnz chuckled as she ship finally came to a stop, “Hey, Onyx, it’s Sun!”

“No way, dude!” Onyx replied as he marched out, “Hey Sun, it’s been ages, how’s Mistral treating you… Hey, Yan, Curie, Nalar, it’s your old Team Leader! Back when you were Team SYNC” Onyx shouted as he lead the rest of Team ONYC out to meet their old friend.

NDGO sat quietly as they watched out the windows of the airship, bound for Vale, “I hear it’s a whole lot cooler than Vacuo,” Gwen began.

“Yeah, but I don’t much like the lack of sand, going to be hard for me to kick up a nice storm with ol’ Salkila,” Dew said, polishing her spear.

“I just hope Sun ain’t there…” Octavia muttered.

Cozy stood on the balcony, overlooking Vale, “Remember the plan?” Cinder said as she walked up behind the young fanuns.

“Absolutely,” She smiled, “Although, I don’t see how this will help, if the goal is just mass panic, wouldn’t have the big ol’ attack last week been enough?”

“No, that was just the start of the panic I intend to spread, you’ll see little girl, you’ll see… Now, I need to go fabricate some fake IDs for Neo and Mercury, do not screw up your part…”

“Trust me, I won’t.”


With that, Cinder walked off, and Cozy was left alone… She opened her aura, feeling power building around her, wrapping around her, she shimmered red before disappearing completely… Suddenly, the world turned dark, twisted, and alien. Vale, down below, was a misty and hazy mess of ruins intertwined with shadowy forests… Small flickers of light shone below, the active minds of those walking through the streets… Up above her, Beacon stood, a shadowy mess of castles, spires, keeps, and towers, intertwined together… There was a strange power glittering below that dark fortress, but Cozy turned her mind from it, she had already inspected that when messing around with her new power, but it seemed whatever that source of energy was, it was currently beyond her reach. She spread her wings and dove from Beacon’s docks, flying down into Vale, she could hear the thoughts of the ghosts of people she passed but paid them no heed, it was fun hearing the internal thoughts of others, but she didn’t need these rabble’s secrets just yet… She flew through buildings, solid matter meaning nothing to her in this state, those who she hit as she flew felt nothing, just a cool breeze and a chill down their spine like a ghost had just passed through them.

Cozy flew up toward Amity, passing through the walls as if they didn’t exist… If someone saw her in this form, they would simply she a mass of inky blackness dotted with crimson stars bent into the vague shape of a pony faunus. She heard the thoughts of the workers and maintenance crew, and used them to navigate… She was looking for the central control room, she quickly found it, passing through the walls and into the room… It was fortunately empty, and so she pulled herself out of that shadow-reality, shimmering once again into the real world, rather than the universe of the mind, and placed a scroll into a slot inside the control room, it’s screen briefly lit up red, showing the image of a black queen chess piece, before turning off again.

Chapter 57: The First Battle

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“What do you think, sister?” Luna walked in, she was wearing banded metal armor across her whole body, minus her head, it was made of a glittering, slightly iridescent, bluish-tinged metal, over which she wore a leather jacket and a blue and red cloak with her cutie mark on the back, her tail and mane were extra shiny and flowing, beside her floated a dual-headed lance, with a spiral groove going along both heads that make it look like a pair of horns, or possibly drills, attached to each-other, made from the same shimmering alien metal, on her face was the silliest pair of sunglasses Celestia had ever seen a pony wear. To her magically-attuned senses, she didn’t even need to look much further to see the myriad of enchantments, wards, and spells placed upon her weapon and armor, the thing could probably absorb everything even a pony as powerful as herself could launch at it, then send it all back with reflecting hexes, one would need to be careful not to harm themselves attempting to attack her sister… Still looked silly in Celestia’s eyes…

Herself on the other hoof, trotted into the throne room wearing a gilded suit of armor, hoof-spans thick in some places, with gargantuan pauldrons that felt no lighter than cloth, all of it made from a gold-like metal that seemed to shimmer from light within, across it were carved the faces of her pupil and her friends, the cutie marks of her family, Canterlot heraldry, the symbol of her guard, her own cutie mark, bas reliefs of phoenixes and eagles, and a twin-headed alicorn on the breastplate, even her tail and neck and horn was coated in gilded armor plates, each as thick as the base of a unicorn’s horn, and reinforced further with magic. Around her head was a golden halo, hovering in brilliant telekinesis and enchanted with all kinds of spells to shield her head without limiting her view, like a normal helmet… It was more a work of art than armor, but one would be mistaken for thinking such armor was ceremonial, it would take a heat far hotter than even Celestia’s own sun to melt it, and even having the whole of the crystal mountains dropped upon it wouldn’t be enough to put the slightest scratch or deformation into it. At her side was a spear, equally ornate and golden, with a blade longer than her own tail, monomolecular in sharpness, and with a large forty-millimeter rapid-fire cannon built into the spearshaft, but both ponies possessed a far more powerful weapon with their horns, they doubted, even if they were to be attacked by the largest and most ferocious of monsters upon landing in this alien world, that anything more would be needed… Even Discord would find it hard to defeat them now, if they had this back when he first took over, there wouldn’t be much of a need for the elements...

The two simply stared at one-another for a few moments, before both burst out laughing “You look absurd!” They both shouted in unison. After the two finished laughing, Celestia drew a chest from a teleportation spell, “I suppose I should slim down my armor a bit, and the halo is overkill, I admit, I’ll reduce it to a simple crown then, and the pauldrons are too thick, they need to be cut down… But still, as a proof of concept, it serves its function well…” She then paused, “As for you sister, I have brought this,” The chest opened, and Luna stared, jaw open and eyes wide in shock.

“Is that… Really… You kept it?”

“I have indeed, it would be foolish to waste it, I had Twilight purge the dark magic within about two months ago now, I had been refurbishing it since, and with the recent developments regarding Remnant, I have also vastly improved it” Out from the chest she drew a coat of silver mail, and plate armor colored the darkest black, the deepest blue, and the lustrous silver, including a silver crown and tail-plate, the full suit was a marvel to behold… Nightmare Moon’s armor, cleaned, polished, reforged, and improved.

A moment later, there was a loud clang, and the door to the throne opened, “Forgive me, I am late, I had some problems to deal with in my homeland…” Cadence paused as she caught sight of Luna and Celestia, then she started laughing, “What in Gusty the Great’s name are you two wearing!” She exclaimed.

Twilight took a seat on the arena, this Amity Colosseum was a marvel to behold, an impressive example of human engineering… She briefly wondered if next year, or the year after, they could host the Friendship Games in this amazing building, she was also quick to note the intricate magic worked into the building, the humans certainly didn’t know it, but the telekinetic power in that lifter crystal holding the building off the ground was impressive, although the shielding could still use some work... “Hope this isn’t as lame as watching Wonderbolt recruits…” Rainbow Dash muttered from her seat beside Twilight’s.

“I just hope none of the humans get too hurt in these games…” Rarity said.

“Our fillies will be down there, soon enough, let’s make sure we’re here for 'em’,” Spitfire continued.

The announcers, two of the teachers from Beacon, the ponies noticed, began “Welcome ladies and gentlemen, faunus as well, to the Vytal Festival Tournament!” As the announcers continued their speech, going over the rules and organization, something Twilight was paying close attention to, she pulled her scroll from a pocket in her armor, still hidden under illusions, and turned on the broadcasting, back in Equestria, Luna, Celestia, and Cadence were watching the show from an enchanted crystal, displaying the scroll’s feed across the castle floor. “And so, our first contestants, Team RWBY of Beacon vs Team VDNT of Shade!”

“Makes you wonder about the human’s culture that their world-wide sport is gladiatorial combat…” Twilight mused.

Down on the field, both teams walked in, and then the floor broke apart, several platforms, with artificial landscapes, rising into place… City and Forest. In the crowd, Scootaloo howled “Go get em’ Ruby!”

“I hope Weiss remembers those spells I taught her…” Sweetie Belle muttered.

“I simply hope we do not have to fight RWBY at some point in the future, they are capable fighters, and I don’t trust you blank flanks to deal with them…”

“Chill out Diamond, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses…” Apple Bloom replied.

“It does to me, we are the first ponies on Remnant, we need to show ourselves to be strong and capable, it would be an insult to Equestria if the first all-pony team were to lose…”

Ruby lept into action, bounding off into the air from a shot of Crescent Rose, and coming down in a flurry of slashes, Yang fired a volley of blasts from her fists, Blake disappeared from sight, and Weiss… She stuck her sword into the ground and raised her hands, a pale blue glow forming on her fingertips, and she pulled chunks of rubble from the city terrain and flung them at her foes with all her might, then she telekinetically gripped her rapier again and bounded off arcane platforms she had summoned, firing bolts of energy from the tip of her sword at the foes below, taking everyone by surprise. Weiss raised an arm and felt an icy wind form around the tips of her fingers, then lowering it, she shot a frozen blast toward a member of Team VDNT, knocking her aura below the level and bringing her opponents down by a team member.

Weiss was whispering to herself… “Remember the patterns, pull the energy from the environment, release.” As she did, she bounded off another transparent platform, she focused energy into her sword, she felt her aura acting as a conductor for the forces around her… That book of Sweetie’s was certainly something, if this was what her tribe of faunus was capable of- There was a crack and a burst of blue lighting shot from Weiss’ blade, striking another member of Team VDNT, Ruby had already dealt with another one, this meant there were only two left… Weiss focused her energy, thinking of the exact spot she wanted to appear, hold that energy, compress it, make it fold around you, then imagine yourself standing there… She closed her eyes, envisioning patterns in her mind while holding a crystal-clear image of her destination, run that compressed energy through the pattern, and-

With a concussive pop, Weiss snapped out of existence and appeared again behind her final opponent, the force of her arrival knocking him to the ground, there was a massive gasp from the audience. In the tower, Ozpin dropped his coffee, spilling it across the ground as he was unable to do anything else other than stare in shock. Weiss, down on the field, unaware of what her show of power was causing, simply summoned two walls of telekinetic force and smashed her final foe between them, causing just enough damage to knock his aura out.

“That’s magic, not just dust or semblance, actual magic!” Dinky was amazed, Silver Spoon had to calm her down upon seeing the Beacon student’s display.

Up in the stands, far behind the crowds, with a good view of everything, Cinder was actually taken by surprise… The Schnee girl, her, she had the power? This would mean a serious change in plans, very serious. Cinder stood and gestured to the three standing next to her, Cozy, Nyan, and Arbalest, the aliases chosen for Neo and Mercury, all nodded, realizing what must be going on.

Ruby, Yang, and Blake all stared at Weiss, dumbfounded, “Alright, when were you going to tell us you could do that?!” Yang said, shocked.

“That was… Terrifying…” Blake added.

“That was awesome!” Ruby was jumping around, “How did you do all that without glyphs!”

Glynda had seen everything from the stadium, suddenly worried, and very confused, she ignored Ozpin’s urgent call, already rushing to Beacon Tower… That was more than maiden power, she just, vanished, and reappeared!

Ironwood, from his airship, had also seen everything and stood stock-still, a chill, colder than Atlas winter, in his blood… Then, turning, he said, “Go quietly, don’t let anyone spot you, find the Schnee girl tonight and bring her to Beacon tower!” He paused, “Also, get one of the mantas ready for me, that’s an order!” And Clover, standing behind him, nodded.

Cinder barely dodged a guard as she brought her teammates into a storage closet in the maintenance section of Amity, “That was magic, she had-” Cinder’s heart was racing, there were no glyphs involved, and no dust, dust at least glinted as it was unleashed into the air, or could be seen in a user’s clothes or veins, this was magic, maiden power… “We need to change our plans,” She said, turning to the others, who all suddenly understood the severity of the situation.”

A robed and masked man, standing atop Amity, stared down at the events below. All records showed that humans haven’t had this kind of magical ability in eons, there were only two who had that level of magical ability… This was worrying… It wasn’t anything compared to the power his queen possessed, but if there were more of these humans- He turned, and in a burst of acid-green fire, vanished.

Twilight clapped, an amazing display of magical power, she recognized those spells… Machoof’s five-fold telekinetic barrier spell, Siegfried’s arcane-lighting channeling spell, and Twilight’s very own style of teleportation, as well as basic telekinesis, but with a level of power that was impressive for any creature her age, let alone a human… That was most definitely Sweetie Belle’s teachings.

From Twilight’s scroll, Luna’s voice came, barely audible to Twilight over the roar of the crowd “My my, seems these humans have some level of magical ability after all,” Luna smiled, looking through the hologram at the stadium below.

“Humans and Faunus are certainly impressive, especially in their technology,” Celestia said, admiring the red-cloaked girl’s scythe.

“I wonder if there are any humans who have alicorn-levels of power?” Cadence mused.

“I don’t think so, otherwise they would have annihilated those horrible grimm-creatures,” Celestia responded.

“Sand, coarse, rough, getting everywhere!” Tyran groaned as he trudged through the sand, in the distance was Shade Academy, the massive sandstone structure barely a shimmer on the horizon, “I will not fail you, your majesty…” He said to himself, “I always hated the deserts, nothing like the swamps back home… So dry…” This was the perfect time to strike, all those human and faunus students away to fight one-another in some silly holiday, the teachers distracted with their fascinating if silly devices, watching the tournament from afar, he wouldn’t fail his queen… He was given this mission, he would not fail it.

Salem’s smile vanished, replaced with a small frown, “That is something new…”