The Gold Standard

Feb 21st, 2017
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  1. >You had been having an off week.
  2. >Well, more you've had an off couple months.
  3. >Balancing a job search with your own personal wants as best you can.
  4. >It's not always easy.
  5. >Sometimes you just want to bury your face in a pillow and scream.
  6. >Tonight was one of those nights.
  7. >You had been drinking, cheap wine clinging to your breath.
  8. >Everything felt so unfair.
  9. >The world just seems to be against you.
  10. >You slump down at your computer desk, your haggard eyes glued to the screen.
  11. >"Why do I do this?" you mutter.
  12. >The longer you stare at that damnable screen, the more it hurts.
  13. >So many people with promise, yet here you are.
  14. >Drunk and alone.
  15. >Just waiting for your next fucking chance.
  16. >You feel emptiness in you. Your thoughts echoing in the void.
  17. >It can be over.
  18. >You take one last swig of booze, staggering to your window.
  19. >The window of the shit flat you can hardly afford.
  20. >You look down at the busy street below.
  21. >"This world doesn't need me" you mutter as you squeeze your eyes shut.
  22. >You're falling.
  23. >The sensation is scary, yet serene.
  24. >It's so fast, it's a race to the end.
  25. >Your end.
  26. >You'll hit the ground soon, you know it.
  27. >But, right as you go splat, that's when you woke up.
  28. >Everything felt so different.
  29. >You pondered if this was some afterlife you've found yourself in.
  30. >It's possible, but suicide gets you into hell.
  31. >But you felt just fine.
  32. >You see the grass in front of your face, the vibrant green grass on the ground.
  33. >Your flat wasn't anywhere near plant life, let alone grass this picturesque.
  34. >"Something is weird..." you mutter.
  35. >Your voice.
  36. >It's higher, more smooth, effeminate even.
  37. >The details of your body begin to be more clear.
  38. >Scales, a light golden layer of them cover every bit of your body.
  39. >You run a clawed hand over them.
  40. >So rigid and smooth, it's almost mesmerising.
  41. >And your face.
  42. >You can't see it all, but from the bottom of your vision you can see something.
  43. >A snout.
  44. >It feels so weird, to look at it no matter where you look.
  45. >Yet, even so soon it's starting to feel normal.
  46. >Almost as normal as being nude.
  47. >"What?"
  48. >Your body is only covered by your own scales.
  49. >The sunlight gleams off your skin.
  50. >Did you actually just blush?
  51. >You swish your tail back and forth a bit.
  52. >Tail.
  53. >You decide to focus on that later.
  54. >It's pretty easy to tell what you are.
  55. >Even if you still felt drunk you could tell that you were a dragon.
  56. >Well, a draginesd.
  57. >It made absolutely no sense.
  58. >Was this some dying hallucination?
  59. >Was this hell?
  60. >Did you really make the cut for heaven?
  61. >Your head is starting to hurt from all of this.
  62. >What is going on here?
  63. >You manage to push those thoughts aside, standing up shakily.
  64. >You feel smaller too.
  65. >After a few embarrassing attempts, you can slowly start walking.
  66. >The surroundings...
  67. >The brightness when it was just nighttime...
  68. >Your form...
  69. >Why was this starting to make a little sense?
  70. >Why did it feel familar?
  71. >Walking took some effort at first.
  72. >You had always been so used to being a human.
  73. >No tail to worry about for sure back then.
  74. >You can't help but look back at it as it calmly sways behind you.
  75. >By all means you s hpuld be having something of a mental breakdown.
  76. >Or maybe you were in the middle of one.
  77. >You feel immensely stupid for doing this, but you try pinching yourself.
  78. >Firsty: Scales.
  79. >Second: You wouldn't be dreaming of you fell from a building.
  80. >Or did you jump?
  81. >Now that you're sober both options seem incredibly stupid.
  82. >Isn't hindsight a bitch?
  83. >As you slowly walked, looking back at your tail and staving off an existential crisis, you weren't paying much attention to ahead of you.
  84. >A sharp thud knocks you to the ground. >In the short moments of you fallimg you feel like you did when you went out that window.
  85. >"Do I really need to add vertigo to the list of things wrong with today?" You think as you start picking yourself off the ground.
  86. >Someone is profusely apologizing to you.
  87. >That voice.
  88. >Where do you know that voice?
  89. >You look up, confusion reading at you.
  90. >And then it all hit you.
  91. >It hit you the moment you saw that yellow pony.
  92. >In what seemed like some cruel running joke the universe is playing on you, you fall yet again.
  93. >You, a small dragoness just fainted.
  94. >Fainted in front of what you assumed was a fictional character.
  95. >And things were only just starting to get weird.
  96. >You started to wake up soon after.
  97. >Well, you hoped this was soon after.
  98. >The first thing you noticed was that you were still a Dragon.
  99. >Unless you were pulling some weird Inception stuff, it was safe to say this was 100% no dream.
  100. >The next thing that came to your attention was your surroundings.
  101. >Not outside anymore, and it seems that you were put on a bed.
  102. >Put on a bed by her...
  103. >That had to have been fake, there was no wa-
  104. >"Ah! Y-you're awake!" Exclaimed a very familiar voice.
  105. >Sure enough, a pony ran over.
  106. >No denying it, this was Fluttershy.
  107. >Well, this probably rules out hell too...
  108. >But you are a girl now.
  109. >Okay, maybe this is hell.
  110. >You can't help but chuckle at the thought.
  111. >Then feel really guilty considering she's staring right at you.
  112. >So many weird feelings right now.
  113. >But, either luckily or unluckily, it seemed any prior attraction was just a memory.
  114. >"U-um... hello?" Asks Fluttershy.
  115. >"Huh?" You ask.
  116. >Smooth. You meet an apparently real pony and you zone out on her.
  117. >"A-Are you doing okay? I'm so sorry for running into you!!" She asks, looking down a little.
  118. >"No! It's okay! I ran into you, I should be the one apologizing!" You spit out quickly.
  119. >The apology back and forth went on for a while.
  120. >In the end, it was agreed that both should look where they're walking.
  121. >You never thought apologizing could be so taxing, you wanted to go back to sleep.
  122. >But... Fluttershy is still right there.
  123. >Attraction or not, this isn't something that happens every day.
  124. >Now just what to talk about?
  125. >...
  126. >Literally nothing comes to mind.
  127. >You can't just say "Hi! I'm actually a man! And human!"
  128. >"You uh... never told me your n-name" said Fluttershy politely.
  129. >Leaving the shy one to break the ice, another smooth move.
  130. >Regardless, that's easy enough to share.
  131. >Or it would be if your name fit a golden Dragon.
  132. >Well shit.
  133. >Time to think fast! What's a good name?
  134. >"I uh..." you stammer.
  135. >Here goes nothing.
  136. >"Well, before I ran into you, I woke up outside with... no recollection of anything" you lie.
  137. >Amnesia, now you sound like some stereotypical RPG protagonist, but hey- if it works, it works.
  138. >Fluttershy gasps at the mention of memory loss, instantly burying you in concerned questions.
  139. >"Are you okay?"
  140. >"Is your head hurt?"
  141. >"Can you remember anything at all?"
  142. >And on and on.
  143. >You wince a little as you raise your voice to get her to calm down.
  144. >"I honestly feel fine, save for my mind. The only thing I sort of remember is... what I think is my name..." you manage to say.
  145. >Fluttershy looks at you expectingly.
  146. >In the time since her original question, you did come up with a half decent name.
  147. >In all honesty it was just the name of one of your Pathfinder characters but it would do, especially when considering your scales.
  148. >You nod a little to her, saying "Y-yeah, call me Khoa."
  149. >Well, it was official.
  150. >You were rolling with this.
  151. >Whatever was happening, you had accepted it was in some form reality.
  152. >You've even named the creature you've become.
  153. >Khoa...
  154. >Until you figure things out here, or find a way back- that's you.
  155. >Fluttershy walked over to you, obviously wanting to bring something up.
  156. "Um... K-Khoa? Maybe it would be good to get some fresh air?"
  157. >You stared at her flatly for a minute.
  158. >"Have I been over staying my-" you start to ask before she cuts you off.
  159. "No, no! It's just... it's been a week and you haven't left the bed."
  160. >Wait. What the hell?!
  161. >Have you really been in bed for a week?
  162. >Granted you're not by a window, so you haven't exactly been watching the days pass but still!
  163. >You quickly shoot up from the bed, a look of panic in your eyes.
  164. >"I completely lost track of time!" You stammer out.
  165. >Fluttershy tries calming you down a bit, saying that it's okay and the like.
  166. >But, you're already halfway out the door.
  167. >"I'll be back before night!" You promise heading out.
  168. "O-okay then..."
  169. >It was bright outside, probably midday at the earliest.
  170. >No more time to just lie around all day!
  171. >As you approached the small town you've only seen on a screen before, you knew exactly what you were going to do.
  172. >There was a pony you had to find!
  173. >Maybe she had no part of this at all, but as long as magic was on the table, it couldn't hurt to investigate.
  174. >The town was busier than you expected.
  175. >Then again, you didn't know what to expect any more.
  176. >Reality had thrown itself out the proverbial window.
  177. >You wince, why do you keep dwelling on that?
  178. >That small window is burned in your mind, the stench of cheap alcohol and overflowing trash still clogging your nostrils.
  179. >You really did live in an awful apartment.
  180. >But, was that enough for you to try and kill yourself?
  181. >A bad day is a bad day, sure- but suicide?
  182. >With a small sigh, you try thinking past that, it was just a small piece of this big puzzle.
  183. >You hated puzzles.
  184. >Note to self: quit depressing yourself with metaphors.
  185. >Was that a metaphor?
  186. >The sheer unbelievability of you debating what a metaphor is while you're in Equestria was not lost on you.
  187. >Finally managing to move on from your jumbled thoughts, an important thought hit you.
  188. >You've only seen this place in 2D.
  189. >You have no idea where you're going.
  190. >Sure, you see landmarks but...
  191. >That's not helping!
  192. >You start to breath a little heavily.
  193. >This shouldn't be worrying you as much as it is.
  194. >But man is it worrying you.
  195. >Not just being lost.
  196. >This whole damn situation.
  197. >You've been able to quietly reflect on all of this.
  198. >But now it's really hitting you.
  199. >You're alone.
  200. >You're alone in a fictional world.
  201. >You're alone in a fictional world and you might be dead.
  202. >Tears started welling up in your eyes.
  203. >You started to feel dizzy.
  204. >And that dizziness reminded you of the fall.
  205. >And thinking of that made you more dizzy.
  206. >It was a vicious cycle, a cycle currently ravaging you.
  207. >You needed to sit down, badly.
  208. >In the end you find yourself leaning against a house, hyperventilating.
  209. >This wasn't right, not right at all.
  210. >But, was it ever right to begin with?
  211. >Or did that realization of getting lost just let everything flow?
  212. >You began to sob, sinking lower and lower against the wall.
  213. >After a while, you heard a voice. Male, but not deep at all asking if you were okay.
  214. >You knew this dragon.
  215. S: "Hey! Are you okay?"
  216. >You just had a freak out about being lost in a world that shouldn't exist, you apparently tried killing yourself, and you're a female Dragon. You feel awful.
  217. K: "Y-yeah, I'm okay"
  218. >Close enough.
  219. >You look up, an action you wouldn't have to take if you weren't slouched over.
  220. >Yeah, it's Spike all right.
  221. >In all honesty, this should be great.
  222. >You needed to see Twilight after all.
  223. >The thought of her having any involvement in this was crazy, but you couldn't rule out the possibility.
  224. >But, your gung ho attitude had shriveled up and died, your motivation was shot.
  225. S: "You don't look fine..."
  226. >How observant.
  227. K: "Look, I've had a rough time recently. But it's none of your concern."
  228. >Spike winces a bit, you were being a little harsh.
  229. >You sigh a little, he didn't deserve that, they were just concerned is all.
  230. K: "Sorry, actually, I think you could help a little"
  231. >Spike's face lights up a bit the moment you say that.
  232. >You need to handle this delicately. You're on paper an amnesiac.
  233. >You should know anything about anyone here.
  234. K: "Would you... happen to know anyone proficient in magic?"
  235. >Spike nods eagerly.
  236. K: "Could you lead me to them...?"
  237. >Another eager nod.
  238. K: "Um, thanks. Call me Khoa, by the way."
  239. >You still felt bad, standing up was met by a rush of dizziness.
  240. >But, you needed to keep investigating, right?
  241. S: "And I'm Spike!"
  242. >"Yeah, I know"
  243. K: "Yeah I-"
  244. >Dammit.
  245. S: "You what?"
  246. >Aren't you just so smooth today?
  247. K: "I uh, I like that name!"
  248. >That seemed to be enough of an answer for him.
  249. >The walk was one of your more awkward ones admittedly.
  250. >You still felt pretty out of it from your breakdown.
  251. >And Spike wasn't helping much.
  252. >He was nice and all, but he was very...
  253. >Talkative.
  254. >Your amnesia story helped make a lot of the answers thankfully short.
  255. S: "Are you from around here?"
  256. K: "I don't think so"
  257. S: "What do you know about this place?"
  258. K: "Very. Little."
  259. >Your head was hurting even more.
  260. >You just wanted to crawl back in bed at this point.
  261. >But, you were almost to Twilight, so you kept walking.
  262. >Walking next to Spike was at least a little boost of confidence.
  263. >You were ever so slightly taller.
  264. >Still a girl though.
  265. >A week in and you still hadn't... explored that.
  266. >A weird little observation did run through your head though.
  267. >"I'm naked and nobody cares"
  268. >"I'm naked and /I/ don't care"
  269. >You should really come to terms with being slow on the uptake of things like this.
  270. >One internal debate over your own inattentiveness later you're right where you intended to be.
  271. >Wasn't so hard to get there when you're not having the equivalent of a ‘Nam flashback.
  272. >That and you /did/ have a guide this time.
  273. S: “Here we are! She should be able to help you.”
  274. K: “She?”
  275. >It felt weird having to play dumb to all of this, but it beat having to explain how you know so much about ponies you've never met.
  276. >The fact that your mind didn't go straight to referring to individuals as “people” threw an extra piece onto the garbage fire that was your worries.
  277. >A small piece, but you've become a master of making mountains out of molehills.
  278. S: “Oh! Her name is Twilight Sparkle. She's probably the best person to talk to about magic around. And I'm not just saying that because I live with her.”
  279. >You stifle a little chuckle at his little disclaimer at the end.
  280. K: “Thanks Spike. May I go in?”
  281. >After a quick nod, the two of you headed right in.
  282. >You honestly didn't know what you had expected.
  283. >Normally when you see a main character they're… doing something important.
  284. >But, this wasn't a TV show anymore.
  285. >Was it?
  286. >Shit.
  287. >Add Truman Show Syndrome to your garbage fire.
  288. >Well it didn't /seem/ like a show right now.
  289. >Because Twilight was just sitting around and reading.
  290. >Anti- climactic sure, but that could make things easier.
  291. >Brief introductions led into you and Twilight sitting down to talk with Spike doing something off to the side.
  292. >Twilight was exceptionally nice so far, not that you expected much else.
  293. T: “So, amnesia you say?”
  294. >You nod a little, looking down.
  295. >A part of you thinks that lying isn't going to help things.
  296. >If she had intentionally had a hand in bringing you here, she probably would have said something by now.
  297. >She thinks she's dealing with an amnesiac, not some reality hopping human.
  298. >Does she even know what humans are?
  299. >Reminders of complaints about a certain spin-off film flood your mind upon thinking of that.
  300. >Perhaps it's best you didn't know the answer to that question.
  301. T: “You're obviously not from around here, I've never seen you before in my life.”
  302. >”I've seen you plenty of times.”
  303. K: “Can't say I recognize you either.”
  304. T: “If you're asking me to use magic to fix your memor-”
  305. K: “N-no!”
  306. >Twilight gives you a puzzled look.
  307. >Reel yourself in Khoa.
  308. >You're acting crazy.
  309. >You take a deep breath.
  310. K: “I'm honestly more concerned if my condition could have been spurred on /by/ magic in all honesty.”
  311. T: “So you… don't want your memories back?”
  312. >Why do you feel like you're playing chess and getting your ass royally kicked?
  313. K: “Well, um, I'm more concerned of the implications of it being magic…”
  314. T: “Getting your memory back could probably tell you how it happened!”
  315. >Checkmate.
  316. >What possible reasoning do you have left?
  317. >No rational one that's for sure.
  318. >You need to say something though.
  319. K: “Well, if it was magic… Maybe there was a reason it happened! What if someone intended for this? Wouldn't it anger them?”
  320. T: “I suppose, but this could also be some fluke. No magic involved. No offense but I don't understand your paranoia here.”
  321. >You're not even working to solve this anymore.
  322. >You're trying to not look crazy.
  323. >And it’s not working too well.
  324. >You need to salvage this.
  325. >This is going awful and that's not an option.
  326. >She's your most accessible way to look into causes for this and you're looking like you're insane.
  327. K: “Look, this is a very complicated matter”
  328. T: “I can definitely tell.”
  329. >You sigh a little, you don't see many options.
  330. >Option A: Stick to your guns and come off as a crazy dragon or a fraud.
  331. >Option B: Come clean and come off as a criminally insane dragon.
  332. >Option C: Run away with your tail between your legs.
  333. >Not the most inspiring courses of action.
  334. >But, you needed to do something.
  335. >And soon.
  336. K: “This is more than memory, I can promise you that.”
  337. T: “What do you mean?”
  338. >What /do/ you mean?
  339. K: “Everything has been so crazy. When I haven't been asleep I've been wracking my brain trying to figure everything out. I mean, Spike only met me because I was having a breakdown.”
  340. >Spike looks over eagerly when he heard his name.
  341. >Only to turn back with a sigh when they realized that you weren't asking for their input into things.
  342. T: “Where have you been anyways? You talk as if you've been here for a little bit.”
  343. K: “Do you know Fluttershy? She's been letting me stay with her.”
  344. >Twilight gives a knowing nod.
  345. T: “She did mention making a new friend. A very confused friend.”
  346. K: “That's me alright.”
  347. >You give an awkward chuckle.
  348. T: “Look, I know this is weighing on you, but if you don't want to crack open this memory issue, I don't know how I can help you.”
  349. >You nod, your throat feeling awfully dry.
  350. >”Come on… say something!”
  351. K: “I think... I died.”
  352. T: “Excuse me…?”
  353. >That was /not/ what you had in mind.
  354. >You're an idiot.
  355. >Of everything you could have said, you had to say that.
  356. >Twilight didn't seem to know how to respond, she just sat there.
  357. >Awkward silence blanketed the room.
  358. >Except this blanket was made of asbestos.
  359. >And on fire.
  360. >And you were also on fire.
  361. T: “You… died?”
  362. >Well, there's no taking it back now is there?
  363. >Might as well roll with this mess you've made now.
  364. K: “There was a fall… and it /should/ have killed me.”
  365. T: “And this fall… couldn't it have wiped your memory? The trauma and all?”
  366. >Oh dammit all.
  367. >She's got you there.
  368. K: “I uh, really don't think so.”
  369. T: “Why not then?”
  370. >Yeah Khoa, why not?
  371. >Wait.
  372. >Wait, that's it!
  373. K: “I woke up just outside of town! I'm a clearing!”
  374. T: “And…?”
  375. K: “What did I fall off of? If I lost my memory from the fall, my first memory should be waking up where I fell.”
  376. >Twilight pauses for a bit.
  377. >Not too shabby for working around a giant lie!
  378. T: “Maybe there is something to this after all…”
  379. K: “Did you do anything recently that-”
  380. T: “What? Of course not!”
  381. >She didn't even let you finish before closing off that theory.
  382. >Then who?
  383. >There were some powerful magic users around.
  384. >But Twilight was the most accessible.
  385. >So accessible you had a nervous breakdown getting here.
  386. >This is going to be quite the little adventure.
  387. >The rest of your little meeting went relatively normal.
  388. >Okay, your definition of normal right now is absolutely abnormal, but still.
  389. >It was sort of nice.
  390. >Talk of memory loss and death only served to stress you out, but just talking was good.
  391. >Twilight was mostly introducing you to your surroundings, but it was still nice.
  392. >You honestly couldn't remember the last good conversation you had.
  393. >So that's something good that's come out of this so far.
  394. >Does it outweigh everything else?
  395. >Absolutely not.
  396. >But, for now, you would take it.
  397. >After an hour or so, it was agreed you should head home.
  398. >The way they said home so casually threw you off.
  399. >This isn't your home.
  400. >This is… some fantasy world.
  401. >Despite that, you honestly couldn't argue that you wanted to get back to Fluttershy's.
  402. >It was starting to get late and it had been a long day.
  403. >Sleep sounded fucking great.
  404. >So, after a quick goodbye, Spike led you back.
  405. >You paid close attention to landmarks and the like to ensure you wouldn't repeat the fiasco from today.
  406. >The easy answer had turned out to be wrong, so you'd need to be ready to do some legwork.
  407. >You'll have to be ready.
  408. >This resolve was strange, at least to you.
  409. >Motivation was something you had always lacked.
  410. >You were a pessimist.
  411. >A slacker.
  412. >A looser.
  413. >But, you were doing this.
  414. >You were going to investigate whatever brought you here.
  415. >That's not much like you at all.
  416. >But you didn't exactly mind it.
  417. >You supposed that's another tiny bit of a silver lining.
  418. >As you crawled back into that bed after the walk, you pondered everything again.
  419. >Why are you here?
  420. >Who's to blame?
  421. >Are you alive?
  422. >So far, your nights in Equestria had been dreamless.
  423. >You just slept, nothing special about it.
  424. >But tonight was different.
  425. >You dreamed.
  426. >The first thing of note was you were a dragon in the dream.
  427. >Physically you seemed pretty stuck, sure, but in your dreams?
  428. >You tried to manipulate that, changing details in dreams had never been too hard before.
  429. >But, you just stayed like this.
  430. >Another peculiar part of your situation.
  431. >However, as you looked around, the matter of still being Khoa evaporated.
  432. >You were in your apartment.
  433. >Just seeing the place again sent shivers down your spine.
  434. >It had only been a week but still it was eerie.
  435. >You walked around, everything seeming so much bigger because of your size.
  436. >Everything felt so lucid, so vivid.
  437. >Apart of you thought you were awake.
  438. >You could hear an argument down the hall, smell the horrible dumpsters outside, see the mold…
  439. >Home sweet home.
  440. >One detail you noticed was over on the far wall.
  441. >One very wrong detail.
  442. >Your window was open.
  443. >It was freezing this time of year.
  444. >Besides, opening and closing it would have been risky seeing as how you had cracked it a while back.
  445. >The crack was so bad you had…
  446. >To tape the window shut.
  447. >You were drunk as hell that night, but you remember going towards the window rather well.
  448. >It had been open then too.
  449. >Memories started to swell up from that night.
  450. >The window was open, you went to close it, and…
  451. >Then you were falling.
  452. >Who removed the tape?
  453. >Who opened the window?
  454. >As you walked towards it, you began to shake.
  455. >You were scared.
  456. >But it pulled you closer.
  457. >And closer.
  458. >You couldn't turn back.
  459. >It's just a dream, it's just a dream.
  460. >Your small body is right at the window now.
  461. >You can't stop yourself.
  462. >You're falling again.
  463. >You're screaming.
  464. >And then you were awake.
  465. >And you're crying.
  466. >What the hell was that?
  467. >You've had nightmares before but that was intense.
  468. >You wiped the tears from your eyes, not wanting to alarm Fluttershy if she happens to look over.
  469. >You stand up shakily, taking deep breaths.
  470. >Your window had been opened.
  471. >Why?
  472. >This complicates things.
  473. >Something opened your window.
  474. >You went to go close it and next thing you knew, you were falling.
  475. >But you had been having dark thoughts that night.
  476. >Maybe you did jump? Taking advantage of the window being open?
  477. >But that still didn't explain why it was open.
  478. >You had used duct tape on the window, but in that dream there was no tape at all.
  479. >You weren't positive, but you don't remember seeing tape that night either.
  480. >Where did it go?
  481. >You weren't even that scared anymore just, overloaded.
  482. >You kick the wall in frustration, thankfully it didn't make too much noise.
  483. >Your head was starting to swim again.
  484. >This is just too much to process.
  485. >That's when it hit you.
  486. K: “I need a journal!”
  487. >You had a good memory, but with all that has been going on, you'll need more than just that.
  488. >You looked around the house a bit, Fluttershy was seemingly not home right now, but you didn't focus on that very much.
  489. >You needed to write.
  490. >But, nothing seemed readily available.
  491. >Well, you did know one place to look.
  492. >Trying to move on from the horrible dream you had, you stepped outside.
  493. >Looks like Twilight isn't done helping you yet!
  494. >Walking back to Twilight's was thankfully problem free.
  495. >It seems your memory works best when sandwiches a moment of severe trauma despair.
  496. >So, that's something.
  497. >That or Spike just gave you really good directions.
  498. >It's one or of the other.
  499. >Even better, Twilight was more than willing to give you everything you need to journal.
  500. T: "Going to keep a diary I take it?"
  501. K: "Well, I suppose. It's mostly to organize thoughts, theories, and... memory fragments."
  502. >She nodded, thankfully not pressing more.
  503. >Spilling the beans to Twilight feels too easy to risk.
  504. >You've already managed to screw up and share your death theory.
  505. >But no more!
  506. >Khoa the Dragoness is stepping up her game!
  507. >Who would have thought writing utensils could boost your bravado so much?
  508. >But hey, long strings of defeats warrant celebrating small victories!
  509. >Besides, with how moody you've been lately you'll probably feel bad again soon, so why not live it up?
  510. >You can't avoid letting out a sigh at that fact.
  511. >Feeling bad is a near constant for you.
  512. >Even now it's mucking up your mood!
  513. >In an attempt to get yourself back in a good mood you sit in the corner ri start writing.
  514. >"The Peculiar Case of Khoa"
  515. >Even now you're a fucking nerd.
  516. >Regardless, you keep writing.
  517. >"I'm not me. In some strange happening, I woke up here in Equestria. I had been turned into a dragoness. My scales are golden yellow and my eyes are blu-"
  518. >Focus Khoa, this isn't about your looks.
  519. >This is about unraveling the truth!
  520. >Despite that, you still finish off your little bio.
  521. >"...and although I'm not sure, I think along with a newfound fear of falling I dislike spiders. Just a hunch though. It is no mystery that I most definitely enjoy the heat."
  522. >You knew you were dumping a lot of time into a dumb little bio nobody would ever read.
  523. >But it made you feel good.
  524. >So, you kept writing.
  525. >You feel a light nudge on your shoulder.
  526. T: "Hey, Khoa, it's been over an hour. Just thought I'd let you know you can take that with you."
  527. >It doesn't feel like its been an hour.
  528. >Did writing really just draw you in that much?
  529. >Honestly you sort of blacked out in a way, you weren't totally cognizant of what you were writing.
  530. >You look over your most recent page, wondering what train of thought you were on.
  531. >"I don't understand much of anything. I've never been the brightest. I usually just coast along. That's how I do things. But now I'm taking initiative. Is this teaching me some sort of lesson? I should be annoyed, that all of this is being used as a tool, but I'm more curious. Who wants to take the time to work on me? I'm just-"
  532. >Well, you can never say you delude yourself.
  533. >You've always been your worst critic.
  534. >Sighing, you thumb through the other pages.
  535. >Not a sentence of theory, save for the passing mention of this possibly being a lesson.
  536. >It's all just you.
  537. >Your fears, your joys, your observations of the past week.
  538. >And most notably, not a mention of specific events from before this week.
  539. >Just vague mentions of "before".
  540. >Looks like that wasn't really on your mind.
  541. K: "Twilight?"
  542. T: "Yes Khoa?"
  543. K: "Thanks for letting me use all of this. I feel... relieved."
  544. >That was no lie.
  545. >You had reached a personal serenity in this moment.
  546. >Thoughts of windows and suicide could be on hold.
  547. >This was about you.
  548. >You ran your hand over your leg.
  549. >Feeling your firm scales.
  550. >Knowing deep down they were yours.
  551. >Your next course of action felt obvious.
  552. >This journal was evidence to that.
  553. >You're wearing yourself down.
  554. >It's not like you hate it here.
  555. >You can stay firm in figuring this all out, but also relax a little.
  556. >Get to know the locals outside of what you've watched on a show.
  557. >Have a little fun even.
  558. K: "I should get going now, but, I'll be around again soon!"
  559. T: "For more help?"
  560. >You give a little shrug.
  561. K: "Or just to say hello I suppose."
  563. Part 2:
  565. >You were sitting under a tree, writing lazily.
  566. >It's been a couple weeks, a few weeks you designated as a vacation of sorts.
  567. >You wouldn't exactly call it anything lavish, just you relaxing.
  568. >For starters, you actually spent some time with Fluttershy.
  569. >Most of your first week with her was spent sleeping or just away.
  570. >Which, considering that she's been letting you stay with her all this time was awfully shitty.
  571. >A lot of the time you spent with her was very quiet.
  572. >Going for walks, getting something to eat, just watching clouds.
  573. >It was surprisingly nice.
  574. >You honestly didn't spend much time making friends though, you mostly stuck to Fluttershy and Twilight.
  575. >And you guess Spike counts too.
  576. >You should probably try socializing a bit more in all honesty.
  577. >But right now you have got to make some attempt at working.
  578. >All play and no work makes Khoa a dull dragon.
  579. >Chuckling a bit, you go to start a new paper.
  580. >Might as well try writing down some stuff about your other life.
  581. >"I was human once."
  582. >That's a good start.
  583. >"My name was..."
  584. >Weird, it's not on the tip of your tongue.
  585. >Guess it's because you've been wiring yourself to go by Khoa.
  586. >But, it's not coming to you at all.
  587. >You're actually straining yourself.
  588. >And it's NOT coming.
  589. >You can't remember.
  590. K: "O-oh shit..."
  591. >You can't remember your name.
  592. >Your human name.
  593. >Your male name.
  594. >Your real name.
  595. >It's gone, not in your head.
  596. >Other details of your past life are clear as day, but that is gone.
  597. >Your mind only recognizes Khoa now.
  598. >Which is not good!
  599. >What if this continues?
  600. >What if you're slowly becoming a resident of Ponyville?
  601. >You shudder a little, wondering if you were a character already.
  602. >Are you on the show?
  603. >Questions upon questions.
  604. >You sigh a little, until you figure out this name thing, relaxing would have to take a little break.
  605. >You see a pony approaching you, Fluttershy.
  606. F: "I thought I would find y-you here!"
  607. K: "Y-yeah, right here..."
  608. F: "You p-probably are wondering where I've been disappearing to..."
  609. >Not really the time to focus on this, but she has been going off a lot lately. Like the morning you wanted to start journaling.
  610. >She's been off somewhere.
  611. F: "I have an... interesting friend."
  612. K: "A friend...?"
  613. F: "He's not very popular, but he's been wanting to m-meet you...."
  614. >Wait a second.
  615. >"He"?
  616. >It can't be.
  617. K: "What are they l-like?"
  618. F: "Ah, um... very eccentric?"
  619. >It is isn't it?
  620. F: "Their name is D-Discord."
  621. >You have no idea how to feel.
  622. >Discord was always awesome to you, yeah.
  623. >But now they're /real/.
  624. >This might not end well.
  625. F: "I mentioned your memory issue and they might can help... he's not very t-trustworthy but he listens to me..."
  626. >Your memory issue.
  627. >For once, that sounds like a real issue."
  628. K: "Sounds like I have a friend to make, eh? Just tell me when!"
  629. >Much to your dismay she says.
  630. F: "H-he's not too far off!"
  631. >Oh boy.
  632. >You were trying to psych yourself up for this little meeting, but in all brutal honesty you were terrified.
  633. >Discord was so...
  634. >Discord.
  635. >That was about the most apt way to describe him.
  636. >But here you were, walking towards him.
  637. >At least Fluttershy was with you.
  638. F: "He's right past these trees! If anything comes up, yell for me.
  639. >Oh god no.
  640. K: "S-sounds like a plan."
  641. >If you aren't already dead you're going to did.
  642. >With a deep breath, you cowardly crept into where he was.
  643. >They were just lounging there, a big smirk on their face.
  644. >They looked great in person, but still that did not help your nerves.
  645. D: "Why hello Khoa."
  646. >You wave in reply to their overly happy voice.
  647. D: "Oh don't be shy! I'm quite certain you only forgot your name, not how to speak!"
  648. >"Wait what the FUCK?"
  649. K: "H-huh...?"
  650. >Discord laughs heartily, reaching over just to pay your head.
  651. D: "You came here, and right off the bat started lying to those around here! I'm just helping you not be a liar. Aren't I so noble?"
  652. K: "Wh-why?!"
  653. D: "Because I can! That's all the excuse I need to offer a runt like you!"
  654. K: "Why did you... o-open my window?"
  655. >Discord raises an eyebrow.
  656. D: "What window?"
  657. K: "Don't p-play coy! You did this to me!"
  658. D: "All /I've/ done so far is remove one small memory. I'm proud of my work, not that of others!"
  659. >You went to argue that, but it did make sense, in a way.
  660. D: "But anyways, shall we get to the actual matter at hand?"
  661. >With a sigh, you nod.
  662. D: "You have two sets of memories, one from before and your new ones here, yes?"
  663. >You nod again, and Discord leans in even closer.
  664. D: "Isn't one enough Khoa? Not even I have two sets of memories!"
  665. >This can't be happening.
  666. D: "So, each experience you have here you lose an old memory. I'll count experiences as... let's say moments of any personal or societal reference, is that fair?"
  667. >You find yourself unable to move as he slowly pushes your head up and down.
  668. D: "Good! Now onto Option B!"
  669. K: "Option B...?"
  670. D: "But of course! Why not make things more interesting?"
  671. >You had this awful feeling deep inside you.
  672. >The first option was awful enough.
  673. >Losing yourself just for doing, well anything.
  674. >It made you want to throw up.
  675. >You already can't remember your name and that was shocking enough.
  676. >At what point would you even recognize who you were any more?
  677. K: "Let's hear it then..."
  678. D: "Wonderful! You see, in your situation, you're new to this little community, a complete unknown! Accurate, yes?"
  679. >Another forced nod, courtesy of Discord.
  680. D: "I want you to be my little assistant! Do three easy tasks and I'll never toy with your memories again!"
  681. >Well, that probably won't end well for you, but what can you do at this point?
  682. K: "Will I know these tasks in advance?"
  683. >Discord simply laughs.
  684. >It was worth a shot.
  685. D: "I /probably/ won't make you do anything you'll wind up regretting!"
  686. K: "We both know this probably won't end well for me."
  687. D: "Doesn't that make things all the more interesting?"
  688. K: "I suppose you could call it that."
  689. >Discord moves back a bit, obviously satisfied.
  690. D: "Now then, I assume we should make our little arrangement official, yes?"
  691. >A contract and quill materialized out of thin air.
  692. >The first thing you do is read it over.
  693. K: "Um... this says lifelong servitude."
  694. >The contract burns up almost as fast as it appeared.
  695. D: "Looks like I've got myself a smart one! This should be very interesting! I'm honestly rather excited with this whole deal!"
  696. >The real contract appeared, and you begrudgingly signed it.
  697. >It's going to be hard to investigate with Discord getting three favors from you.
  698. >But it'd be a lot harder if you couldn't even remember what you're investigating.
  699. >Besides, maybe, just maybe he'll let slip some information about you.
  700. >At this point that's about the best silver lining you've got.
  701. >You're just hoping you're missing one right now.
  702. D: "Looks like we're done here!"
  703. K: "Wait!"
  704. >Discord looked over at you again, curious.
  705. D: "Did we have more to discuss? This is normally where you would slowly hobble out, choking back tears!"
  706. K: "Do you... do you know what happened to me?"
  707. >Discord scratched his chin a little, looking up.
  708. D: "I suppose I might know something about your peculiar circumstances."
  709. >Your heart skipped a beat.
  710. >You had a feeling he knew something, even if he wasn't involved.
  711. D: "You want to know, yes?"
  712. >That smirk came back again, he was enjoying this more than you'd like.
  713. >You give a quick nod, this time voluntary.
  714. D: "Then we'd best get along! That's some heavy information, I just can't give that to any old employee!"
  715. >Just to accent that, you suddenly found yourself in a maid uniform.
  716. K: "I get the point Discord. You're powerful and weird! And probably know all sorts of things just based on what you've seen of my mind. But I am not wearing this."
  717. D: "Of course not! Not in town of course. But I think it gives your position a more professional look for our private meetings!"
  718. >He's doing this to fuck with you.
  719. >Probably trying to dig at you not being male anymore.
  720. >He'll probably get bored and forget this outfit even is a thing.
  721. >Right?
  722. D: "Humor me and I can eagerly humor you! It's not that hard Khoa! I'm positive you will know where that tape went!"
  723. >Dammit he's pulling you in.
  724. >You want this.
  725. >You need this.
  726. K: "Then... let's be friends."
  727. D: "It's not that easy! We need to bond! Maybe once you've earned the rights to your memories we can talk."
  728. >So close, yet so far.
  729. >You're standing in a dress, as a dragoness, in the woods, talking to the embodiment of disharmony trying to be his "friend" and to protect your memories.
  730. >You owe them three very vague tasks, that could be just about anything.
  731. >You're going to have to do his bidding no matter what.
  732. >And you have to do more to actually learn anything.
  733. >He must be doing his job right.
  734. >Because this feels like fucking chaos.
  735. >You soon left the little clearing, thankfully the outfit left too.
  736. >You've probably never been so glad to be nude.
  737. >Fluttershy was waiting for you, a big smile on her face.
  738. F: "They weren't too abrasive were they?"
  739. >Causing drama probably wouldn't work out too well for you right now, so as much as you wanted to say he was being awful...
  740. K: "It went... relatively well"
  741. >You didn't.
  742. >The two of you walked back together.
  743. F: "Any luck with your memories?"
  744. K: "He knows something, but... needs time to work on it."
  745. >You swear you can see Discord give you a thumbs up from the corner of your eye.
  746. F: "Oh! That's good! It makes me happy to see him exercise some good will for once."
  747. >"Good will."
  748. >You'd hate to see their bad will then.
  749. >After a while you were back home, but you didn't exactly just want to sit around right now.
  750. >So you went into town.
  751. >You'd gotten a lot better at navigating the town.
  752. >No more freak outs in the middle of the street thankfully.
  753. >Now all you had to worry about was a god-like being extorting you with hints and memories!
  754. >You really have made no progress.
  755. >Your plans for the rest of the day had mostly been to walk around until you got your Discord issues off your mind.
  756. >Although, something did come to mind while you were walking around.
  757. >Your wings.
  758. >They were definitely there, as small as they were.
  759. >It made you wonder if they had any function.
  760. >"Sure, I got into this whole issue by plummeting through the air, let's try it again for /fun/."
  761. >But, now you were very curious.
  762. >Plus either flying or pain could get your mind off of Discord.
  763. >So, you went to find a hill.
  764. >After some "experimenting, you have learned something.
  765. >Equestria dirt tastes as bad as Earth dirt.
  766. >As you lie there, regaining the air that was knocked out of you, you can only wonder what you expected.
  767. >Even if you /can/ fly, you haven't even really flexed those wings before.
  768. >And had absolutely no skill or technique to back yourself up too.
  769. >There was one little upside though.
  770. >You were too busy recognising how stupid you are to be afraid while falling.
  771. >Does this mean you aren't traumatized?
  772. >Or were you lucky this time?
  773. >As you lie there at the base of a luckily small hill, you can't help but feel watched.
  774. >Discord?
  775. >No, he would have found this too humorous just to watch.
  776. >Sighing, you roll over on to your back, and instantly see the culprit.
  777. >There's a pony circling you in the sky.
  778. >When they see you turn over, they fly down.
  779. >You recognize them pretty much instantly.
  780. >Because apparently you /only/ ever meet main characters.
  781. >Rainbow Dash walks over, looking dowm at you and your dead pan face.
  782. R: "Looks like you fell, eh?"
  783. K: "Does it? That's odd. I was going for more of a 'plummeted' look."
  784. >You haven't really had a chance to exercise sarcasm your whole time here, save for in your head.
  785. >But you figured that if anybody wouldn't care, it would be them.
  786. R: "So... we're you trying to... fly off that hill?"
  787. K: "Actually, I was jumping into a pond but it walked away at the last second."
  788. >This was part you just trying to get out your seething passive aggression, living with the nicest pony possible makes one bottle up frustration.
  789. >But also in part you were actually pretty much checked out about now.
  790. >Rainbow Dash chuckled.
  791. R: "Either way, your form was- well nonexistent."
  792. K: "Oh thank you Rainbow Dash, your wisdom knows no bounds."
  793. R: "You know me?"
  794. >Well shit.
  795. >This is why you bottle this stuff up!
  796. >Time to cover your ads.
  797. K: "Doesn't... /everybody/ know who you are?"
  798. >You can see her think for a second.
  799. R: "Good answer!"
  800. >You sit up, thankfully Rainbow Dash had something of an ego.
  801. R: "So, who are /you/ exactly?"
  802. K: "My name is Khoa. I've been here for a few weeks now, and I have retrograde amnesia."
  803. >She cocks her head.
  804. R: "What-tograde?"
  805. K: "I can't remember anything before I got here."
  806. >Recognition washes over her face.
  807. R: "Well, that sucks."
  808. >You nod, a simple but very true statement.
  809. >Sucks even more considering you're fighting just to keep it a lie.
  810. >The two of you sat there for a moment.
  811. >You were honestly shocked she didn't go back to flying almost instantly.
  812. >You guess that means you interest her.
  813. R: "You seem to have forgotten flying along with most everything else."
  814. K: "Pretty much. Oh well, I'm sure stubby legs are a far better mode of moving."
  815. >You chuckle a little, honestly a little disappointed.
  816. >Rainbow Dash seems to be thinking something over.
  817. R: "Well, I'm not sure my flying equates to dragon flying, but I don't think it could hurt to try and help you relearn."
  818. >Well you didn't expect that.
  819. K: "Really?"
  820. R: "Why not? You seem decent enough to hang out with. And flying is /pretty/ great."
  821. K: "Me? Decent enough? I feel so giddy!"
  822. >You both chuckle a little.
  823. >This is nice.
  824. >Save for feigning amnesia, you're pretty much being yourself.
  825. >Fluttershy is sweet, but you have to censor yourself.
  826. >Twilight feels more like the start of a study group than a close friend.
  827. >You like her and all, but you feel so obligated to get something done when around her.
  828. >But right now, even though you just met in the most embarrassing situation, you're having fun.
  829. >Plus flying still sounds really appealing at some indescribable primordial level.
  830. >And Discord hasn't started screwing witj you that much yet.
  831. >Nope, no excuses!
  832. >Not that you really wanted to find one.
  833. K: "But, seriously, I think that could be fun."
  834. R: "Great! Meet me here in... two days!"
  835. K: "Any specific reason why then?"
  836. >She shrugs.
  837. >You both soon leave.
  838. >You finally feel relaxed again.
  839. >Lying in your small but comfortable bed, you tried to sort the mess that were your emotions.
  840. >First off, you had been forced to enter some bizarre contract with Discord- that made you feel shirty.
  841. >But on the other hand, you genuinely enjoyed your time with Rainbow Dash today.
  842. >Why can't emotions just come one at a time?
  843. >All the conflict in your head was exhausting, so it was no wonder that you soon fell asleep.
  844. >You were in a big black void, sitting at what looked like a table.
  845. >Not your normal dream, but it best your free fall nightmare.
  846. >The next thing that was evident was you bring dressed in a rather dainty looking dress.
  847. >How quaint.
  848. >On the other end sat none other than your new employer, Discord.
  849. D: "Rooting around in that human mimd of yours has yielded so many interesting things!"
  850. >You give Discord an inquisitive look.
  851. D: "For example, it seems you were rather proficient at... what did you call it Khoa? 'Collecting unemployment'?"
  852. K: "Fuck you."
  853. >Discord sneers a little, you've taken his bait and you both know it.
  854. D: "You must reach me sometime! I'm dreadfully uneducated in such delicate arts!"
  855. >This sucks.
  856. D: "Honestly the more I pry the more lucky I recognize that I am!"
  857. >You swallow back some bile.
  858. K: "Why's that?"
  859. D: "With a life like yours, I'm surprised you aren't jumping at the bit to forget!"
  860. >Your claws dig into your seat as you grit your teeth.
  861. D: "I mean, where do I begin? Oh and pardon me if I butcher any of your human words!"
  862. >You want to wake up.
  863. D: "High school? College? Signing up for welfare? I hardly know what any of these are yet abd they're all so juicy!"
  864. >You sniff a little, holding back both anger and tears.
  865. >He's not going to make you cry.
  866. D: "Oh! I know where to start this tale! How about with Va-"
  867. K: "SHUT UP! SHUT UP!"
  868. >You know what he's about to say.
  869. >But you can't take it.
  870. >Discord looks you over, studying the discomfort on your face.
  871. D: "Very well. I won't mention /Vanessa/."
  872. >Fuck this.
  873. >You've been dressed up, put into a chair, and are having your whole life be mocked by Discord.
  874. >You want to scream.
  875. D: "You really are squirming Khoa, have I struck a nerve?"
  876. >Their cool, inquisitive demeanor was all the more frustrating.
  877. >He's having no end of fun in tormenting you.
  878. >But you just want this to be over.
  879. K: "Yes you did! You win! You win!"
  880. >Discord frowns at you.
  881. D: "Giving up on our little tea party? Shame! I was going to give you some information for playing along..."
  882. >They never make things easy for you.
  883. >You can leave this awful nightmare, or get information.
  884. >With a sigh, you sit back.
  885. >Pleased by this, Discord then oats your head.
  886. D: "So strong willed. You've already grown since your time as- ah! Best not confuse you by saying a name you don't know."
  887. >You only roll your eyes, you'll probably never get that name back.
  888. D: "I don't get your sour mood here Khoa, looking back on the past is good for you!"
  889. K: "Oh yeah, and I feel /great/."
  890. D: "Good! If your behavior persisted we would have had to talk about a certain woman!"
  891. >He needs to stop mentioning her.
  892. >It's tying your stomach more and and more into knots.
  893. >They don't need to know that.
  894. >Vanessa isn't a name for some one in Ponyville so nobody should know.
  895. >But Discord has rifled through your mind.
  896. >They know.
  897. >They know and that alone is driving you mad.
  898. >He's not even from there but he can insult you.
  899. >Using terms and words he just learned he can deconstruct you.
  900. >Why is he doing this?
  901. >You agreed to help him.
  902. >But he's doing this now.
  903. >You clamp your eyes shut, stinging tears trying to push out.
  904. D: "Come /on/ Khoa! Let go of your past. Isn't it so hard to hear it?"
  905. K: "I-I signed your c-contract! Quit trying to convince me!"
  906. D: "Convince you?"
  907. >He shakes his head a little.
  908. D: "I don't need to convince you of anything. Just reminding you that you're no innocent little victim here. No, no, not in the slightest!"
  909. K: "Then cut the whole 'Let go of your past' shit!"
  910. >Discord smiles at you devioisly.
  911. >What you wouldn't give for a change to punch that face right now.
  912. D: "But it's so fun to make you consider it! You can only blame yourself for being so entertaining! Even now when you're trying to hold back you are a riot!"
  913. >A year wriggles free from your iron grasp.
  914. >You're crying now, in a dream.
  915. >it in part was due to Discord's manhandling of your ego.
  916. >But also tied to /her/.
  917. >That can of worms was one you didn't expect to be opened again.
  918. >Especially not like this.
  919. >You need to do something.
  920. >Discord is just going to keep hammering into you until you snap.
  921. >But you can't give him that satisfaction.
  922. K: "What about... you?"
  923. >Silence for a moment.
  924. D: "Pardon?"
  925. K: "Your life can't be that good either, you know. Lonely for so long... using the misery of other to fill the void..."
  926. >You snivel as you trail off.
  927. >You're just pulling this out of your ads, but at this point it's all you have.
  928. D: "Oh trust me Khoa. I know my social shortcomings. My idea of fun never translates well to others. But /unlike/ you, I can live with it."
  929. >You just sigh.
  930. K: "Why can't /I/ live with it?"
  931. D: "You can't handle it. Even now you're crying like a baby over a name! It's sickeningly funny to watch. Right now, you're burying it, not living with it."
  932. >Is Discord... lecturing you?
  933. >This is probably to just cover his ass while fucking with you.
  934. >But in some twisted way, you get it.
  935. >What the message is.
  936. >You look up, wiping your eyes.
  937. K: 'Thank... you?"
  938. >Discord is already gone.
  939. >You're floating alone now in the void.
  940. >Seeing nothing better to do whole in the dream, you let yourself cry, cry over everything wrong both old and recent.
  941. >You woke up the next morning pretty lost for words.
  942. >Was Discord really using some sort of shock therapy?
  943. >Or was that just tacked on at the end?
  944. >So many questions, questions only be could answer.
  945. >He probably never /would/ answer them anyways.
  946. >At least your "Khoa's a Fuck Up" party left you well rested.
  947. >Rubbing your face you wonder what you should do.
  948. >The mystery of you being here remains a big issue.
  949. >Speaking of, didn't Discord promise to tell you something?
  950. >You sigh, he probably worded it /just/ right to avoid the commitment.
  951. >You didn't expect much anyways from his promises.
  952. >After all that's happened, writing it all down couldn't hurt.
  953. >So, you did just that.
  954. >You even wound up doodling Discord a bit in the margins.
  955. >Granted it didn't look great, but it helped pass the time.
  956. >You get more than a little invested in writing and doodling.
  957. >So much so you didn't catch yourself from writing about something.
  958. >After a bit you look down, actually reading back what you read.
  959. >"Things have been, well, sort of hellish for parts- but I can't say I exactly hate this. I haven't worried about money, about eating, about just about anything I used to. Sure, I have my worries, but they're different. Being Khoa honestly is very-"
  960. >Your face instantly goes flush, and you tear the page up into tiny pieces.
  961. >Did Discord make you write it?
  962. >That would... not make sense.
  963. >Not nearly enough self degradation.
  964. >Your mind must have just ran wild and started spewing this.
  965. >You re-read your other notes to see if anything similar appeared.
  966. >Not really, just reflecting on the insanity of yesterday and some drawings.
  967. >You put aside your journal, thinking about this.
  968. >How happy /are/ you?
  969. >You can't really say in all honesty.
  970. >There was good, there was bad, and there were things that were still shrouded in mystery.
  971. >You've just been thrown into all of this and told to sink or swim.
  972. >A part of you feels like you're sinking.
  973. >But you can't deny you're at least treading water.
  974. >If you could go back to your old life right now, would you?
  975. >Who misses you back there?
  976. >Guilt begins to swell.
  977. >When was the last time you called your mother?
  978. >It's been a while, for sure.
  979. >But now you definitely /can't/.
  980. >There's no way you can contact anyone.
  981. >They have no clue where you are.
  982. >Not many people would give a shit, but at least a few would...
  983. >You throw your covers over yourself.
  984. >You need to sleep in today.
  985. >Sleep to not focus on stuff like that.
  986. >You woke up around midday.
  987. >Your sleep had been thankfully dreamless.
  988. >It probably wasn't the best to sleep away your worries.
  989. >But you're an independent dragon, you can do whatever you want!
  990. >And what you want is to not worry about... everything.
  991. >Getting up, you had the weird desire to look in the mirror.
  992. >You've seen yourself, sure, but you haven't really looked yourself over.
  993. >So, you walk over to a full length mirror and just kind of look.
  994. >There you are!
  995. >This being you was still surreal in a way.
  996. >You're a girl.
  997. >You're a dragon.
  998. >You're going to learn how to fly.
  999. >All surreal.
  1000. >You stick your tongue out, watching your about rear back as you do so.
  1001. >So, so weird.
  1002. >But not bad in all honesty.
  1003. >Physically you felt fine, like you'd always been like this.
  1004. >Save for things like flying, you operate just fine.
  1005. >The more you look yourself over, the more it dawns on you.
  1006. K: "I'm fucking cute..."
  1007. >You have no idea how you should feel about it.
  1008. >The closest you had ever been to cute before was that one Halloween you were dressed up like a princess.
  1009. >You still have unbridled resentment towards your aunt for that stunt.
  1010. >Wait.
  1011. >Is /that/ why Discord has been dressing you up?
  1012. >You let out an agitated groan.
  1013. >He can't even be original in his tormenting!
  1014. >Speaking of that psychopath, he's been uncharacteristically quiet.
  1015. >Sure, you've only known him for a day- but still.
  1016. >He's a nosey shithead.
  1017. >Satisfied with the mirror, you go and sit down on your bed, stubby legs dangling over the edge.
  1018. >Shall you be serious today?
  1019. >Or go and have fun?
  1020. >Both options sounded viable right now.
  1021. >And daylight is burning while you hesitate.
  1022. >In the end you decided to not try anything really serious right now.
  1023. >Learning more would be great, but right now your main lead is Discord.
  1024. >And you'd rather not investigate them right now.
  1025. >So, you've given yourself a day off!
  1026. >To do...
  1027. >Something!
  1028. >Your lesson with Rainbow Dash is tomorrow, so you couldn't really do anything with them today.
  1029. >You could hang out with Fluttershy, but Discord could and probably would come up in your scarce conversation.
  1030. >And you don't really want that.
  1031. >Twilight?
  1032. >You would probably just start working again.
  1033. >Counter intuitive to a day off if you just work through it.
  1034. >Having decided against your social options, you start to think about things to do.
  1035. >Drawing came to mind, you always liked drawing.
  1036. >Well, you didn't like drawing back in high school art- but that's beyond the point.
  1037. >Going for a walk would work too.
  1038. >Being out with nature and your thoughts..
  1039. >Damn, is Fluttershy rubbing off on you?
  1040. >Best to not even consider that possibility.
  1041. >As you ponder this, something does become evident.
  1042. >You haven't really read anything in...
  1043. >Shit three years?
  1044. >You blush, you used to love reading.
  1045. >You used to love a lot of things.
  1046. >No better time to try and get back into it, right?
  1047. >The library was a musky little place.
  1048. >Much like you'd expect from, well, a library.
  1049. >You browse the stacks, looking for anything that catches your eye.
  1050. >"The History of the Winter Wrap Up"
  1051. >"Equestria Through The Ages"
  1052. >"An Incomplete History of Discord"
  1053. >That last one somewhat interests you.
  1054. >Learning more about Discord could be helpful.
  1055. >Then again, do you /want/ to know more about them?
  1056. >You shove the book back on the shelf.
  1057. >Maybe history isn't for you.
  1058. >Then again, what kind of fiction would you even find?
  1059. >You know literally no authors here, so you can't base your choice off who wrote it.
  1060. >Oh well, you'll find something!
  1061. >The fiction section yielded even less for you.
  1062. >Vague titles you had no clue about.
  1063. >Random authors who may or may not be good.
  1064. >Since when had choosing a book been so hard?
  1065. >Since when has choosing /anything/ been so hard?
  1066. >You decide to grab a random novel and go with that!
  1067. >No questions asked!
  1068. >Getting pumped up, you randomly grab one.
  1069. >"Stables of Desire"
  1070. >Oh come the FUCK on.
  1071. >The choice is almost too outlandish.
  1072. >You actually wind up looking around to see if Discord planted it.
  1073. >Doesn't seem that way though.
  1074. >The book looks like one of those romance novels housewives would get at the dollar store.
  1075. >Good to see some things never change.
  1076. >Maybe the plot is good though?
  1077. >Curious, you flip open to the first page.
  1078. >"The only things Glimmer knew in life were absolutes. Her whole life had been a series of others telling her how to live and how to be. But now, now things were going to change."
  1079. >You almost want to laugh at how bloated it feels.
  1080. >You can practically taste the cliche.
  1081. >But... why do you want to read more?
  1082. >Of all of your changes thus far this may be the most shocking.
  1083. >This can not appeal to you, can it?
  1084. >Well, if you put it back, then it will bug you forever.
  1085. >So you can just... check it out to confirm you aren't interested!
  1086. >Yeah! That's it!
  1087. >You hurriedly check it out, tossing some random book in with it to not seen as suspicious.
  1088. >The moment you're done, you practically sprint away, tucking the books under your arm.
  1089. >The things you do for self research!
  1090. >The things you do...
  1091. >The things Glimmer will do...
  1092. K: "Ack!"
  1093. >You want to jump in a hole and die.
  1094. >You also want to read.
  1095. >You have been reading ever since you got home.
  1096. >The sun is starting to set, and you're a good two-thirds of the way through the book.
  1097. >It's so bad.
  1098. >But so /good/.
  1099. >"Shimmer looked over at her lover, sleeping soundly only a few inches away from her. His chest rose and fell slowly, like a roiling wave. She could feel it, that heat again. That heat that drove her here in the first place. Her modesty was melting even more, as a desire to do more than sleep began to grow."
  1100. >Why you're so captivated, you have no idea.
  1101. >You can hate your feminine urges at some other time.
  1102. >Right now you're being /literate/.
  1103. >"He woke up slowly, his gentle yet smooth voice showing hints of confusion. Glimmer took no time in springing into action. She lied right over him, and merely muttered 'take me'."
  1104. >This is trash.
  1105. >Smutty garbage.
  1106. >But its pressing your buttons.
  1107. >It's a feeling you haven't felt in a while.
  1108. >Not since-
  1109. >You shake your head.
  1110. >She's not going to be a part of tonight.
  1111. >Or any other night.
  1112. >The thought pushed you out of your focus for long enough to see Fluttershy was watching you.
  1113. K: "Gah!"
  1114. >You throw the book over, accidentally putting it right in front of her.
  1115. >She's obviously reading the title.
  1116. >You want to die again.
  1117. >Fluttershy looks up, giggling.
  1118. K: "Look... I uh... I was curious..."
  1119. F: "Her first novel is better, but this one had its charms."
  1120. >What?
  1121. K: "What...?"
  1122. >Fluttershy gives you a big innocent smile.
  1123. F: "Good night Khoa, don't stay up too late!"
  1124. >With that she walks off to her room, leaving you with you with so many questions.
  1125. >So, you pick up your book, and get back into it.
  1126. >It's a little weird getting back into it at first after your interruption.
  1127. >But, hey, like Fluttershy said!
  1128. >It did have its charms.
  1129. >You'd hate to admit this, but you stayed up until you finished the book.
  1130. >You honestly aren't sure what time you went to bed, but it was most definitely much later than you should have been up reading trashy romance.
  1131. >But fuck it, if that's what your creature comforts are going to be here, then so be it!
  1132. >If /Fluttershy/ of all ponies reads the stuff, then it can't be too controversial.
  1133. >You know that you're mostly saying that to preserve that pure image of her in your head.
  1134. >It's not working.
  1135. >Despite your late night, you managed to wake up at a reasonable time.
  1136. >Not really early, but you could tell it wasn't noon yet.
  1137. >Your flying lessons with Rainbow Dash are today.
  1138. >Honestly, you're pretty excited.
  1139. >The concept of flying has really rooted itself into your brain, and actually learning would be nice.
  1140. >Why you're so fixated on it, you have no clue, but there are worse things to gravitate to.
  1141. >Like the gripping story of Glimmer and her-
  1142. >You shake your head.
  1143. >You can like it, but you will not become one of those people who live their lives like they're in a romance novel.
  1144. >You're better than that Khoa!
  1145. >Now you may be a woman, but you've got that deep masculine pride in there somewhere!
  1146. >Crammed in there with memories of not being able to afford stuff from the produce isle.
  1147. >"Good times".
  1148. >Fluttershy waves at you as you head out.
  1149. >She knows you read the whole thing.
  1150. >Behind that cute innocent face is boundless cunning.
  1151. >You can feel it.
  1152. >You've seen her true colors.
  1153. >Granted, you probably share those colors now- but still!
  1154. >You don't pretend to be innocent!
  1155. >Okay, she /is/ pretty innocent in most fronts.
  1156. >But not in her literary interests!
  1157. >"You're being an idiot Khoa."
  1158. >"Thank you internal monologue."
  1159. K: "Morning Fluttershy!'
  1160. F: "So, what did you think of the second to last chapter?"
  1161. >She's not even playing coy right now.
  1162. >They genuinely look curious.
  1163. K: "I mean..."
  1164. >And thus began an hour long book talk.
  1165. >It was an hour later you actually left the house.
  1166. >How much conversation can stem from a 356 page soft core romance novel?
  1167. >Much more than you'd think.
  1168. >It still sort of embarrassed you, but at least it gave you a hobby.
  1169. >You would probably go pick up another book, maybe by her, maybe not.
  1170. >But you have plans!
  1171. >A fresh change of pace for you.
  1172. >You head over to that hill, sitting down to wait.
  1173. >It's pretty nice outside.
  1174. >You were in the middle of a pretty harsh winter back before this.
  1175. >Now it felt more like spring or early summer.
  1176. >Which, is good, considering you might be cold blooded.
  1177. >Maybe you should be taking Dragon lessons, not just flying lessons.
  1178. >While still on the subject, you try flapping your wings.
  1179. >They move a little, not a bad start!
  1180. D: "I see you're being very diligent in your search!"
  1181. >A very audible groan escapes your mouth.
  1182. K: "What are you doing here?"
  1183. >Discord shrugs a little, giving that signature shit-eating grin.
  1184. D: "Checking in on my little assistant!"
  1185. K: "Well, I'm fine as you can see. I'm /trying/ to do something for myself."
  1186. >They sarcastically applaud you.
  1187. >In response, you just roll your eyes.
  1188. >His bullshit has gotten old fast.
  1189. D: "Trying to fly though, that's awfully interesting given how you got here."
  1190. K: "The irony doesn't escape me. Wait, how do you know that's what I'm doing?"
  1191. >Discord laughs.
  1192. D: "Did you honestly think I wouldn't check into what you've been doing?"
  1193. >Makes sense in all honesty.
  1194. >You don't really like it, but you can't quite argue it.
  1195. D: "Very interesting that you say some urge pushed you to do this. Very, very interesting!"
  1196. >He's probably just fucking with you again.
  1197. >Right?
  1198. K: "What's that supposed to m-"
  1199. >But he was already gone.
  1200. >Thankfully Rainbow Dash arrived shortly after your unwelcomed visitor.
  1201. R: "Hey! You actually came!"
  1202. K: "Why wouldn't I?"
  1203. R: "Some have a hard time keeping up with me! They can't handle the pressure!"
  1204. >You chuckle a little at her ego.
  1205. >They can back it up, sure, but it was still pretty amusing.
  1206. >The lesson began with you, well, flapping.
  1207. >Lots of flapping.
  1208. >It made sense, you do need to get comfortable using the muscles.
  1209. >But then she tells you to run while flapping.
  1210. >And you're starting to get flashbacks to freshman gym.
  1211. >It seems even this you isn't the athletic type.
  1212. >But, you keep going as best as you can.
  1213. >After about ten minutes you're told to stop.
  1214. >With a sigh of relief, you lay back on the hill.
  1215. R: "You act like you've never used those things in your life!"
  1216. K: "For... all I know... I haven't!"
  1217. >That tired retort is further accented by your wheezing.
  1218. >Your memory loss story has been holding up pretty well.
  1219. >It was easy to just fall back on it now.
  1220. >Rainbow Dash walks over to you, obviously amused by your feeble stamina.
  1221. R: "I have a feeling you're going to take more than a few lessons to even hover a bit!"
  1222. >No sarcastic remark leaves your mouth.
  1223. >Not out of no desire to.
  1224. >But because you decided being able to breath was the smarter course of action.
  1225. >Rainbow Dash was being awfully patient with you.
  1226. >She's always seemed the more hasty, impatient type.
  1227. >But, they're being rather nice about this whole thing.
  1228. >They're giving you some crap too, but it's all in good fun.
  1229. >For some reason, that made you feel off.
  1230. >You liked it, but...
  1231. >Why did it have a hint of regret to it?
  1232. >You push that feeling aside for now, it's not important.
  1233. >At least, you don't think it is.
  1234. >These days it's hard to really tell what's important.
  1235. >It feels like there's two of you constantly vying for power.
  1236. >One who wants answers, and another who wants to relax.
  1237. >You still don't know which is right.
  1238. >Or if either are right.
  1239. >But right now you want to be relaxed Khoa.
  1240. R: "Heey, are you ignoring me?"
  1241. >Rainbow Dash's annoyed voice snaps you out of your little moment of introspection.
  1242. K: "Sorry, sorry, just kind of zoned out there for a bit."
  1243. >The "lesson" didn't have much more teaching in it.
  1244. >In all honesty you probably didn't even expect much in terms of a teacher from Rainbow Dash.
  1245. >The rest of the afternoon mostly was you watching her "demonstrate" techniques.
  1246. >You know she just wants to show off for a bit.
  1247. >But hey, it is pretty entertaining.
  1248. >By late afternoon you're just lying in the grass, staring up at the sky.
  1249. >Neither of you are pretending this is a lesson anymore.
  1250. >You're just hanging out.
  1251. >You do still want to learn how to fly.
  1252. >Archaic urges don't take breaks or stuff like that.
  1253. >But, for now, you're okay with just watching it.
  1254. >Today has been unusually good.
  1255. >A nice conversation with Fluttershy, Hanging out with Rainbow Dash, and even only minor intervention from Discord.
  1256. >It's the simple things you wind up appreciating most it seems.
  1257. >You feel okay about right now.
  1258. >About being here.
  1259. >Threats and mysteries and dread aside, the food was good.
  1260. >Even you could appreciate that.
  1261. >You were so caught up in feeling okay.
  1262. >Thoughts of what the night may entail dont even cross your mind.
  1263. >The day winded down without much incident.
  1264. >It's astounding that you were able to pass this much time just lying there and not feeling bored.
  1265. >You give Rainbow Dash a cheery goodbye, both of you going your separate ways.
  1266. >As you walk, you go to shove your hands into your pockets, only to remember you don't exactly have pants.
  1267. >A small chuckle follows.
  1268. >This is probably the first time you've been amused by your mannerisms.
  1269. >Normally you'd be frustrated, embarrassed, or upset, or all of the above.
  1270. >But this time, you got a little chuckle from it.
  1271. >Fluttershy had turned in already by the time you were home.
  1272. >It was kind of early, but you get the appeal of getting extra sleep.
  1273. >You might actually follow suit.
  1274. >The bed feels soft as ever as you crawl into it.
  1275. >The idea of nightmares crosses your mind again for a moment, now that you're actually in bed.
  1276. >Induced by Discord or natural, you've had a bad track record thus far with dreams.
  1277. >But, you know that you'll be able to brush it off.
  1278. >Discord has thrown bad stuff at you before, why would this be different?
  1279. >Smirking to yourself, you get under your covers.
  1280. >What's the worst that could happen?
  1281. >In your dream you were in bed.
  1282. >That's pretty meta if you say so yourself.
  1283. >But, this was not the bed you've been sleeping in.
  1284. >This is a ratty full sized bed, covered in cheap sheets and crumbs.
  1285. >It's your bed.
  1286. >The shock of it sends you jumping out of it.
  1287. >You fall on your floor, your claws digging into your carpet.
  1288. >Still Khoa it seems.
  1289. >After a brief moment, you compose yourself, rubbing your head.
  1290. K: "Discord? Are you there?"
  1291. >No reply.
  1292. >Curious, you wind up looking around the room.
  1293. >You knew the layout by heart, but it's still surreal just to be back.
  1294. >Even if it is just a dream.
  1295. >There was your old DVD collection.
  1296. >There's your desk.
  1297. >The trash you kept telling yourself you would clean up.
  1298. >All there, right in their places.
  1299. >All of a sudden, your bedroom door opens up.
  1300. >You instinctively look for a place to hide, diving under the bed.
  1301. >Only to remember your bed sits on the ground, not a frame.
  1302. >Fuck your cheap ass furniture.
  1303. >However, your little failed stunt does prove that whoever it was in your dream doesn't see you.
  1304. >Which is a plus.
  1305. >Curious, you pick yourself up, looking over towards the entrance.
  1306. K: "Oh shit."
  1307. >It's you.
  1308. >Not Khoa, but you.
  1309. >Human you.
  1310. >Seeing yourself there was so bizarre.
  1311. >You've seen your reflection, but seeing yourself in complete three dimensions was just so insane.
  1312. >But, there's no way it isn't you.
  1313. >Everything from your messy hair to your ever so slight pudgy stomach.
  1314. >Far from handsome, but it's you all right.
  1315. >As you watch yourself, something becomes painfully obvious.
  1316. K: "Fuck, fuck, fuck..."
  1317. >You look away, you've lived this once and you don't want to see it again.
  1318. >Your human self is wearing that shirt.
  1319. >That shirt you never wore after that day.
  1320. >That day only a few months ago.
  1321. K: "Discord cut this out right now! You promised you wouldn't do this!"
  1322. >Still no reply.
  1323. K: "C'mon! I-I don't need to see this!"
  1324. >Discord would have taunted you by now.
  1325. >Tonight, you're facing your own demons.
  1326. >The old you is lying down in the bed, oblivious to everything.
  1327. >You envy this reflection of your memories so much right now.
  1328. >You envy anybody who wasn't you right now.
  1329. >Because you know what is going to happen.
  1330. >Everything has been somewhat shitty in your human life recently.
  1331. >More so than the average twenty-something's life.
  1332. >And this was a huge part of it.
  1333. >The phone rings.
  1334. >Your old ringtone playing as cheerfully as possible.
  1335. >It makes you want to vomit.
  1336. >That ringtone was just one of a lot things that changed after this day.
  1337. >This day you're being forced to remember.
  1338. >For all the drama you've had recently, this is something you thought might could finally be put behind you.
  1339. >Discord sewed the seeds of that not being the case however.
  1340. >And here it is now.
  1341. >Even though you're not even in the human world right now you can't escape it.
  1342. >Former you picks up the phone.
  1343. A: "Oh hey there!"
  1344. >A pause, waiting for the other person to reply.
  1345. A: "No, no, I'm not busy. Don't have work for a few more hours."
  1346. >They nod a little, a small smile on their face.
  1347. A: "Sure thing, meet you there in a few. Bye Vee."
  1348. >Old you hangs up, getting off the bed.
  1349. >That nickname makes you cringe.
  1350. >You haven't said it since, well, since this day actually happened to you.
  1351. >"Vee."
  1352. >This was going to be a long, long night.
  1353. >All you could do was take deep breaths, and know that it's all a dream.
  1354. >That doesn't mean much, but anything to help yourself feel a little better, right?
  1355. >Right?
  1356. >Soon the old you is ready to leave.
  1357. >You have absolutely no urge to follow them.
  1358. >Yet, the further away the old you gets away from you, the more your surroundings deteriorate.
  1359. >It's a good way to keep you following the path this fucked up dream wants you to take at the very least.
  1360. >So, you begrudgingly went out the door, following yourself.
  1361. K: "The last time I left his place, I didn't use the door..."
  1362. >If you're stuck in this, might as well add to the dark and depressing atmosphere.
  1363. >"Dark and depressing".
  1364. >In retrospect, today was deceptively bright out.
  1365. >It was early autumn, and the sun was shining.
  1366. >But in you mind this day will always be the single most dark in your life.
  1367. >And this apparently includes your own suicide.
  1368. >Suicide?
  1369. >You groan, that whole issue is still so far from being resolved.
  1370. >One horrible thing at a time Khoa, don't want to take on too much at once!
  1371. >Not a single soul notices you as you walk.
  1372. >You were basically Ebeneezer Scrooge peeping in on Bob Cratchet at this point.
  1373. >Oh Dickens novels, even as an English major you can't stand their writing.
  1374. >Well, former English major.
  1375. >Former everything at this point in all honesty.
  1376. >Former man, former human, former college student, former employee.
  1377. >Formerly living?
  1378. >One thing at a time Khoa, one thing at a time...
  1379. >You need to find an Equestrian therapist.
  1380. >Because, for starters, this straight forward approach you're about to take sucks like hell.
  1381. >And it keeps getting closer.
  1382. >Closer and closer as you get closer and closer to that cafe.
  1383. >Closer and closer to her.
  1384. >The cafe is in viewing distance now.
  1385. >You haven't walked past this place in forever.
  1386. >Yet another thing you changed.
  1387. >It's perfectly obvious what is waiting for you in there.
  1388. >What you're going to see and hear.
  1389. >It's also perfectly obvious that there's no turning back.
  1390. >The dream won't let you, no matter how hard you try.
  1391. >All you can do is try to be strong.
  1392. >To man up.
  1393. >Or well, woman up, considering you've been one for a hot minute.
  1394. >Old you walks into that place so confidently.
  1395. >Of course they would, they have nothing but good on their mind.
  1396. >You're the one with the baggage.
  1397. >It's you who has trouble walking that door.
  1398. > The moment you're in, you slide into the first booth next to the door.
  1399. >Furthest away from where you would normally sit.
  1400. >Thankfully the building is small, your boundaries let you keep the distance.
  1401. >Which means you don't have to watch.
  1402. >You don't have to see her, or see any of it.
  1403. >All you have to do is look down.
  1404. >Look at your lap like a good dragon and not see what is happening.
  1405. >You doubt you'll leave your boundaries by the time the dream is over.
  1406. >It never got much further than this that day.
  1407. >From all the way across the cafe you swear you can hear old you in conversation.
  1408. >That lucky fucking bastard.
  1409. >So oblivious, so care free.
  1410. >A part of you wants to get over there and kick your own ass.
  1411. >But what would that even accomplish?
  1412. >You sigh, your frustration is getting the better of you right now.
  1413. >Just keep looking down and it will be over soon.
  1414. >Keep looking down.
  1415. >Don't turn your head.
  1416. >Don't try to listen in.
  1417. >The pain will be minimal if your oblivious.
  1418. >It will be okay.
  1419. >It will be okay.
  1420. >Your breathing is getting rapid and shallow.
  1421. >No doubt you're tossing and turning in your bed right now.
  1422. >It's getting close.
  1423. >It's so close to happening again.
  1424. >Just keep looking down, keep looking down.
  1425. >Keep down.
  1426. >That's all you ever can do isn't it?
  1427. >Stay down.
  1428. >That's what you're good at.
  1429. >So just stay down.
  1430. >You were talking about Kierkegaard when it happened.
  1431. >You were such a fucking nerd back then.
  1432. >Back when you were happy with that.
  1433. >Happy with everything.
  1434. >The two of you had been talking eagerly about the guy, oblivious to the world.
  1435. >You can't take this anymore.
  1436. >You want to bolt out of the cafe, but that isn't possible.
  1437. >But the more you think about it, the less you want to be near the entrance.
  1438. >Without looking towards that corner, you scan the building.
  1439. >That's when it hit you.
  1440. >The staff bathroom.
  1441. >Without a second of hesitation you bolt up, running towards it.
  1442. >You know it's only minutes away.
  1443. >Minutes that are ticking away all to quickly.
  1444. >Throwing yourself in the bathroom, you sink against the door.
  1445. >Just need to wait it out.
  1446. >Wait it out like a storm.
  1447. >You're shaking heavily right now.
  1448. >The door to the cafe probably just opened.
  1449. >You know it did.
  1450. >You know for a fact it fucking did.
  1451. >Bile is rising in your throat.
  1452. >Anger and terror are mixing in you like some fucking awful cocktail.
  1453. >From behind the door you can hear some confused talking.
  1454. >You try and cover your ears.
  1455. >Why is it so loud?
  1456. >Why can't you be alone?
  1457. ?: "___- Down!"
  1458. >The voice.
  1459. >That voice.
  1460. >Even when you can't make out everything it says, you recognize it.
  1461. >It's the worst voice you've ever heard.
  1462. >The voice that ended everything.
  1463. >A muffled bang causes you to wince.
  1464. >It's a matter of moments now.
  1465. >You pray you don't hear it happen.
  1466. >You don't even believe in a god but you're praying you don't hear this.
  1467. >But this cruel dream isn't done being cruel yet.
  1468. >Your old voice rings out clear as day.
  1469. A: "I CAN'T DIE"
  1470. >The fear and desperation makes you sick.
  1471. >You can picture it happening.
  1472. >The moment shit hit the fan, you did the only thing you're good at.
  1473. >Staying down.
  1474. >You stayed down all right.
  1475. >In your haste, you upturned the table.
  1476. >You pushed.
  1477. >You shoved.
  1478. >And that's when the second muffled bang happens.
  1479. >That's when the world ends.
  1480. >That's when she ends.
  1481. >The dream melts away in a blur.
  1482. >The walls around you drip and distort.
  1483. >It's just you now, swimming in the void.
  1484. >You've distracted yourself recently, but it's always going to be like this, isn't it?
  1485. >You alone in darkness.
  1486. >You, a fucking coward.
  1487. >You, a murderer.
  1488. >You, who didn't even have to fire that gun to do it.
  1489. >You, who in your cowardice shoved your best friend out.
  1490. >How do you even recover from that?
  1491. >You don't.
  1492. >You dropped from college.
  1493. >Lost your job.
  1494. >Sunk deeper into depression.
  1495. >Deeper into booze.
  1496. >Further from friends and family.
  1497. >And then, when it all came to a head.
  1498. >You fell.
  1499. >Further and further from your window.
  1500. >You aren't even crying at this point.
  1501. >You feel empty.
  1502. >What's the point?
  1503. >You've been happy recently here.
  1504. >Happy for the first time in ages.
  1505. >But you keep coming back to this.
  1506. >To your demons.
  1507. >They will /never/ go away.
  1508. >You'll just be lying to yourself.
  1509. >Lying and saying you feel good.
  1510. >Even if you do feel good, it will only be for then.
  1511. >You're riding a roller coaster.
  1512. >But the highs are only so high, and the lows are ungodly low.
  1513. >Not that you deserve much better.
  1514. >Not only did you cause all of this, but you've been trying to bury it.
  1515. >Trying to push it to the side.
  1516. >Deep down inside you knew where that tape went.
  1517. >You knew you ripped it off.
  1518. >You don't remember when, but it was you.
  1519. >You jumped.
  1520. >But the moment it didn't end with your death, you tried to bury it.
  1521. >Like you were something special.
  1522. >Like you had been chosen.
  1523. >You played the role of confused amnesiac, all the while trying to move on.
  1524. >But you can't.
  1525. >If you could you would have let Discord wipe your memories.
  1526. >But you didn't.
  1527. >Because you're still a coward.
  1528. >A damned coward who can just stay down and cower.
  1529. >A coward who can have a good day like today to only sink down deep into this.
  1530. >Who thinks they can balance so many things together and pretend it makes sense.
  1531. >But you can't, can you?
  1532. >It's not that easy.
  1533. >Why are you here?
  1534. >Not just in this dream, but, here at all?
  1535. >What makes you so different?
  1536. >Why did what you do bring you here?
  1537. >How does killing yourself get you to fucking Ponyville?
  1538. >Everything was flowing.
  1539. >Your balancing act of playing detective, worrying about Discord, having fun, all of it is over.
  1540. >Right now, you're just with yourself.
  1541. >You're focusing.
  1542. >And you don't know if it's the best thing or the worst thing.
  1543. >Surely something has changed in you.
  1544. >You've been able to have fun here.
  1545. >You've smiled and laughed.
  1546. >Stuff that seemed so foreign to you for months on end since that day.
  1547. >But why?
  1548. K: "What the fuck makes me so special huh?!"
  1549. >You're yelling at yourself.
  1550. >You're yelling at nobody.
  1551. >You're yelling to yell.
  1552. K: "Why me?! I don't deserve any of this! Second chances don't just /happen/ to people! I ruined everything! I killed myself! What about that is so worth redeeming?!"
  1553. >You're still in your dream, locked away in a dark void.
  1554. >A part of you doesn't want to leave.
  1555. >That same part of you that tore that tape off.
  1556. >The part of you that feels wronged by all of this.
  1557. >Your self hatred is raging right now.
  1558. >It's hard to tell if stopping it is right or wrong.
  1559. >It's hard to tell anything anymore.
  1560. >You used to think you were a smart guy, that you were well prepared for the world.
  1561. >But if there's one lesson you've actually learned, it's that you don't know shit.
  1562. K: "Whatever brought me here, I don't need it! I don't even want it!"
  1563. >You're breathing heavily, your nostrils flaring with anger.
  1564. K: "I don't deserve this!"
  1565. >Suddenly, you hear a voice.
  1566. >A very familiar one.
  1567. D: "Well, this is disappointing."
  1568. K: "You son of a bitch!"
  1569. >In your anger, you take a swing at Discord.
  1570. >Of course, they dodge it like it's nothing.
  1571. K: "Were you just watching this whole time?! Are you behind this?"
  1572. D: "I find enjoyment in chaos Khoa, but this isn't chaos. This is pitiful."
  1573. >You stop for a second, not at all what you expected.
  1574. D: "Do you know why I approached you? Why I drafted that little contract with you?"
  1575. >He's not playing around, making any jokes, screwing with you, or anything.
  1576. >He sounds deathly serious.
  1577. >You shake your head.
  1578. D: "You fascinated me. The moment I took a peek in that head of yours I saw so much in there. Your mind was, and still is, a whirlpool of emotions. A complete lack of harmony. I was curious as to what my influence would do to such a mindset, someone already cast into chaos. However, it seems your mind is less aglow as I once thought."
  1579. K: "What does that even mean?!"
  1580. D: "You're falling Khoa. You've been falling ever since you fell. You're spiraling back to where once were, that deep depressive state."
  1581. >You groan.
  1582. K: "What do you /expect/?! You know what I did! What I caused! Why wouldn't I be fucking depressed?"
  1583. D: "Because you're here. You yourself were just yelling about that."
  1584. K: "But it doesn't make any sense! Why would anything save /me/?! A worthless mistake like me?"
  1585. >Discord gets extremely close, an eager grin on his face.
  1586. D: "Exactly!"
  1587. >You can only cock your head in confusion.
  1588. D: "You, a self proclaimed 'fuck up' have been brought from death itself to a world you knew only as fictional! The incomprehensibility of it is well, it's beyond even me!"
  1589. >They sound almost excited by it.
  1590. D: "Are you really going to throw this away? You right now are completely out of whack. Living chaos that's being pulled by two very distinct forces. You've felt it this whole time. And, I don't know about you, but I would revel in learning more about such things."
  1591. >With that, Discord is gone from your dream, leaving you with yourself.
  1592. >Leave it to Discord to make you think about something like this.
  1593. >Discord, the guy who has, for the very short time he's known you, taunted you to no end.
  1594. >But now he's excited by you?
  1595. >He makes no sense.
  1596. >That's probably what he's going for in all honesty, but still, it's annoying.
  1597. >You let out a long, tired sigh.
  1598. >You don't know what to do.
  1599. >There's no denying how awful you feel about yourself, especially at times when you are alone to think about it.
  1600. >But, something brought you here.
  1601. >You've had good times.
  1602. >As much as you want to just throw this away right now, it's hard to just do that.
  1603. >Figures that you wouldn't be able to decide.
  1604. >You chuckle bitterly, you really are a fucking coward.
  1605. >Things are far from over with this.
  1606. >If your dreams keep dishing out shit like this, who knows how things are going to go?
  1607. >But, giving up right now is just wrong.
  1608. >Something apparently thinks highly of you.
  1609. >Enough to look past your shitty self and bring you here.
  1610. >Even if you aren't in this totally for you, knowing why is still on your mind.
  1611. >Looks like you're going back to that balancing act.
  1612. >Trying to live with yourself, but not completely forgiving yourself.
  1613. >It's hard to balance this, but you'll manage.
  1614. >Well, maybe you won't manage.
  1615. >It's too hard to tell.
  1616. >You wish you could say this whole encounter had filled you with some hope for the future.
  1617. >But you can't really say that.
  1618. >There's no victory here tonight, nothing was learned.
  1619. >But, you are going to keep pushing yourself to try.
  1620. >If that means nightmares, Discord, and other shit, then so be it.
  1621. >Your life is so fucked up right now, that in a way this is the new standard.
  1622. >And though you aren't ready to defy any standards.
  1623. >You can still probably live by them, right?
  1624. >You'll certainly try.
  1625. >And if you wind up loving or hating everything in the end, so be it.
  1626. >But until then, you need to keep trying.
  1627. >Trying to balance every single little fucking thing.
  1628. >That's your standard.
  1630. Part 3:
  1631. >You are ???
  1632. >Documents and artifacts are sprawled across your desk haphazardly.
  1633. >You have not the time nor the motivation to clean them.
  1634. >It's been so busy lately.
  1635. >You've always been busy, but recently things have picked up.
  1636. >Your pet project has been yielding more interesting results than you had ever predicted.
  1637. >It's even gotten that fool Discord to actually express interest in something more than base chaos.
  1638. >More than you had hoped for so far in every way.
  1639. >So, needless to say, you were too occupied to /clean/.
  1640. >Right now the subject was fast asleep, no doubt troubling dreams based on how they toss and turn.
  1641. >What you wouldn't give to have a peek inside of those terrors.
  1642. >But, that doesn't matter, what matters is them.
  1643. >How they do, how the adapt.
  1644. >If they adapt.
  1645. >A smirk envelops your face.
  1646. >Your job has always been so fascinating.
  1647. >More now than ever.
  1648. >Big things were brewing, and you were at the forefront of it.
  1649. >Right there, watching it all unfold.
  1650. >It made you giddier than you have ever been in your entire life.
  1651. >You consider ending your observation for the time being, but the subject is beginning to wake up.
  1652. >A few more minutes wouldn't hurt...
  1654. >You are Khoa.
  1655. >That's one thing that is most likely not going to change anytime soon.
  1656. >This morning is a weird medley of feelings.
  1657. >Somehow you feel well rested after last night.
  1658. >How you can feel that way after the hellish trip down memory lane, you have no clue.
  1659. >"You Have No Clue"
  1660. >New personal motto?
  1661. >It's slightly better than "Stay Down".
  1662. >Yeah, well rested or not, you don't exactly still have that good of a view for yourself, huh?
  1663. >It's not even that you don't want to feel good about yourself.
  1664. >You just can't.
  1665. >You can feel good about things around you, that much is obvious.
  1666. >But you lack faith in yourself.
  1667. >With a sigh you grab your journal.
  1668. >Might as well chronicle last night, right?
  1669. >When you turn to your last used page, you see something in handwriting you sure don't recognize.
  1670. >"Task the First"
  1671. >Shit, Discord.
  1672. >"Khoa, my most humble servant. Today is the day you shall fulfill the first of three small and entirely fair requests."
  1673. >Holy fuck he's just as annoying and long winded on paper.
  1674. >"Your task, which I expect completed in its entirely by the end of the day is to-"
  1675. >The writing cuts off.
  1676. K: "Wait... what? What do I have to do?"
  1677. >Out of nowhere Discord jumps out at you.
  1678. >You let out a shrill scream, falling back.
  1679. >Smooth.
  1680. D: "So glad you asked! Your goal is to answer a very simple question!"
  1681. >Once you've regained your composure and made sure you didn't piss yourself, you manage to sit up.
  1682. K: "And that is...?"
  1683. D: "What did Spike do today?"
  1684. >Not... the eldritch, immoral goal you expected.
  1685. K: "What's the catch?"
  1686. >Discord shrugs.
  1687. D: "Maybe you need a friend to keep you from feeling depressed?"
  1688. >You raise an eyebrow.
  1689. D: "Look, if I /told/ you the catch, where would the fun be?"
  1690. >You groan, of course there was going to be a catch.
  1691. >But what can you do?
  1692. >Seeing as how you are on a time limit, you decide to just go head off.
  1693. >Spike was far from your favorite individual in Ponyville.
  1694. >Your initial descriptor was "character", but it just feels weird to call them that.
  1695. >Because, that would make you a character too.
  1696. >The thought makes you shudder a bit as you walk.
  1697. >Best to not dwell on that.
  1698. >Regardless of label, Spike was still low on your rankings.
  1699. >They were just so...
  1700. >Well, it's hard to explain.
  1701. >But, you don't /need/ to rationalize this to yourself.
  1702. >It's not like anyone besides you (and Discord) will see your inner thoughts.
  1703. >Your search for Spike doesn't take very long.
  1704. >He's sitting outside of Twilight's place, looking awfully bored.
  1705. >A part of you just wants to run back to Discord and say "he's doing nothing!", but that probably won't fly.
  1706. >Sighing, you walk over.
  1707. K: "What's going on today Spike?"
  1708. >He looks up, flashing a small smile.
  1709. S: "Khoa! Long time no see!"
  1710. >It's only been a week or two.
  1711. >Granted, it's been pretty deliberate, but still.
  1712. S: "Not much so far... Twilight is busy today."
  1713. K: "That's... a shame!"
  1714. >Of course Discord would send you out on a day where Spike seemingly has no plans.
  1715. >It's practically forcing you to get him to do something with you...
  1716. >"Discord you mother fucker.
  1717. >In your opinion, you needed a medal for what you were about to do.
  1718. >Discord better be happy with this.
  1719. >Because you sure aren't!
  1720. K: "How about... you hang out with me?"
  1721. >You hold back a cringe as you spit it out.
  1722. >Spike's face lights up brighter than the sun.
  1723. S: "Really?! You want?"
  1724. >No.
  1725. K: "S-sure! I mean, there's what, two dragons in town? Might as well get to know each other better."
  1726. >God damn it don't over sell it.
  1727. >You want to just spend a day with him, not form a blood bond.
  1728. S: "Makes sense to me! So... uh, what do you want to do?"
  1729. >All you have in reply is a little shrug.
  1730. S: "Well uh... are you hungry?"
  1731. K: "I might could go for a bite to eat..."
  1732. >Spike nods, pulling something out.
  1733. >A gem?
  1734. >Still smiling, he bites into one.
  1735. >This /does/ make you cringe.
  1736. >It's like those "My Strange Addiction" episodes where some crazy housewife eats rocks or some shit.
  1737. >Even worse, he offers you one.
  1738. K: "I'm uh... I'm really good"
  1739. >They shrug.
  1740. >Another bite.
  1741. >Just the sound of it makes you shudder.
  1742. K: "Why... why do you eat that?"
  1743. S: "Some people think it's because of an inherent addiction dragons have for the magic in them."
  1744. K: "Wait... really?"
  1745. >Spike shrugs.
  1746. S: "I dunno!"
  1747. >That little shit.
  1748. >Looks like he /can/ be deadpan.
  1749. >It's even more annoying than him being overly genuine.
  1750. >You instinctively go to check your watch.
  1751. >But you don't have a watch.
  1752. >This is going to be a very long day.
  1753. >After Spike finishes his little cringe inducing snack, he looks up at you.
  1754. >He's like a retarded little puppy.
  1755. >And Discord just handed you the leash.
  1756. >Well, you can't exactly euthanize this puppy, so...
  1757. >Might as well take it for a walk.
  1758. K: "Wanna go for a walk?"
  1759. S: "Sure! That could be fun!"
  1760. >And so the two of you walk.
  1761. >Two short dragons, walking around town.
  1762. >One obviously having a blast.
  1763. >The other considering if the hell theory was still out of question.
  1764. >You honestly don't know where all your pent up animosity comes from.
  1765. >Sure, they weren't your favorite character from the show by any means.
  1766. >But now you really cannot stand him.
  1767. >Is it some sort of draconian instinct?
  1768. >Maybe you're a territorial breed of dragon?
  1769. >Yes, a short little dragon, the most fierce alpha.
  1770. >But, /something/ had to explain why you hated him so much.
  1771. >You even felt a little guilty about it.
  1772. >A little.
  1773. >At least the weather was nice.
  1774. >You could really get used to this mild summer weather.
  1775. S: "Uh... any luck with your memories?"
  1776. K: "Nope."
  1777. >You both keep walking.
  1778. >The tension is thick.
  1779. >Even Spike seems to notice it.
  1780. >And that's a feat.
  1781. S: "I uh, hear you live with Fluttershy."
  1782. K: "Yep."
  1783. S: "Um... what's that like?"
  1784. K: "It's fine."
  1785. >Spike nods a little, looking down as you walk.
  1786. >The silence stays for a good bit this time.
  1787. >He must have finally got the hint.
  1788. >You take a deep breath, that's good at least.
  1789. >The two of you have left the town limits, you're heading towards the woods.
  1790. >No complaints from him, and none from you.
  1791. >So you both keep going.
  1792. S: "Um... I'm not keeping you from doing anything am I?"
  1793. >Yes, just about anything you want to actually spend your time doing.
  1794. K: "No, no... not really."
  1795. S: "That's... good!"
  1796. >You nod a little.
  1797. >And it goes quiet again.
  1798. >The two of you have made it to a small pond.
  1799. >Seeing an apt place to rest, you sit at the bank.
  1800. >You haven't sunbathed in... ever.
  1801. >But now doesn't seem like a bad time to pick up the habit.
  1802. >Spike sits next to you, just a little too close for comfort.
  1803. >It's quiet for a long while.
  1804. >You're lying there, he's sitting there.
  1805. >Not much else is happening.
  1806. >You don't know how long it took, but he speaks up.
  1807. S: "T-Twilight asked you to baby sit, didn't she?"
  1808. >You sit up.
  1809. K: "Pardon?"
  1810. >They look down a little, frustration painted on their face.
  1811. S: "She asked you to watch me today, didn't she, to keep me company?"
  1812. >Well, /Twilight/ didn't ask you to.
  1813. K: "I can honestly say that she didn't Spike."
  1814. >They look up at you.
  1815. S: "Then why are you even here right now huh?!"
  1816. >It's not a cheery question, or a sad question, but an angry one.
  1817. >It's filled with dejection.
  1818. >And you don't have an answer for it.
  1819. >Not a good one.
  1820. >So you shrug.
  1821. >They groan, burying their face in their hands.
  1822. S: "You obviously don't like me! I've done nothing but be nice and you keep pushing me away!"
  1823. >He makes a valid point.
  1824. >That /is/ all you've done.
  1825. S: "So what is it? Why... why do you hate me?"
  1826. K: "I... I don't hate you."
  1827. >They shake their head.
  1828. S: "Nobody is here but you and me, don't feel like you need to keep up appearances!"
  1829. >Fuck.
  1830. >This went sour fast.
  1831. >Well, more sour than it was.
  1832. >Why /do/ you hate him?
  1833. >There's no denying that you do.
  1834. >But why?
  1835. >He's overly happy, at least on the outside.
  1836. >They're an outsider, but they try and make the best of it.
  1837. >They're in the hopeless pursuit of a relationship, and no matter the constant denial, he doesn't lose hope.
  1838. >None of this is overtly hateable, not really.
  1839. >You sigh a little, rubbing your temple.
  1840. >What is it about him?
  1841. >He's so eager to please, so open to being helpful, that he was trying to put up with /you/.
  1842. >Someone he knows doesn't like him.
  1843. >You think you know why.
  1844. >It doesn't make perfect sense, but, you might just know why.
  1845. >You honestly don't want it to be the truth.
  1846. >But there's no denying the thought crossed your mind and won't leave.
  1847. >"Am I... Jealous?"
  1848. >It's not that farfetched.
  1849. >You've been quite the negative person in recent times.
  1850. >Negative towards the world, towards yourself, towards everything.
  1851. >Your positivity has come in short bursts at best.
  1852. >And you never had this much of a gripe with Spike before now.
  1853. >Could this really be a case of jealousy?
  1854. >Could you really be jealous of /Spike/?
  1855. >Knowing you?
  1856. >Abso-fucking-lutely.
  1857. >You're a self hating, cowardly bitch.
  1858. >Jealous doesn't seem too crazy of a fit.
  1859. >As much as you don't want to admit it.
  1860. >With a long sigh, you get up, looking at Spike.
  1861. K: "It's... you make it look so easy."
  1862. >Spike meets your eyes.
  1863. S: "What's that supposed to mean?"
  1864. >Yeah, what /is/ that supposed to mean?
  1865. K: "Things recently for me have been, far from good. I've tried to stay positive, but it's hard. I don't know how to feel about myself, or about anything... and... and..."
  1866. >Fuck.
  1867. >Why are you saying all of this?
  1868. >To him no less.
  1869. S: "Khoa..."
  1870. >You look down, shame blanketing you.
  1871. >You really have been taking this out on him.
  1872. >Because he has what you don't.
  1873. S: "I know it isn't easy. I'm not the smartest guy around, but I'm not dumb! A lot of ponies find me annoying, even if I don't exactly want them to. Yeah, it gets to me. Makes me question if I'm worth the effort."
  1874. >Why is Spike sounding like you?
  1875. >Like, why does this sound relatable?
  1876. >It really shouldn't.
  1877. >But it sure as hell does.
  1878. S: "I mean, I'm a generally happy dragon, but I'm not blind to some of the looks I get."
  1879. K: "How are you always so... positive about it?"
  1880. >They shrug.
  1881. S: "I suppose a part of me is used to it. I'm pretty different than anypony else around here. Another part of me just, doesn't want to give up. Like, if I stop trying, then I'll definitely never feel any better."
  1882. >That feeling when Spike the Dragon handles issues better than you do.
  1883. >Granted, his self doubt is probably nowhere near the level yours is.
  1884. >But who are you to judge in all honesty.
  1885. K: "Spike. I'm sorry."
  1886. >They look like you just told them Rairity is in heat and looking for exotic partners.
  1887. >A mix of happy with absolute disbelief.
  1888. K: "I think, that I've been channeling a bit of everything that's been fucking with me onto you. And... I'm sorry about that."
  1889. >They give you a big smile.
  1890. S: "Th-that's okay! I understand!"
  1891. >The craziest thing is, he sort of does.
  1892. >At least on some base level, there's some common ground here.
  1893. >It makes you crack a smile too.
  1894. S: "So uh, now that we're done with that... want to go for a swim?"
  1895. K: "Huh?"
  1896. >Spike chuckles.
  1897. S: "Unless you still hate me, I don't see a reason to let a perfectly nice pond go to waste!"
  1898. >You want to say no at first.
  1899. >But you /did/ promise to do something with the little guy.
  1900. >So, you jump in.
  1901. >It's far from the best swim you've ever had.
  1902. >The water is cold, and kind of dirty.
  1903. >You're not entirely used to this body yet, especially in water.
  1904. >Just about every end is the deep end for you.
  1905. >But, it's nice.
  1906. >A solid 8/10.
  1907. >Spike was obviously enjoying himself.
  1908. >Which is good.
  1909. >Being unfair is being unfair.
  1910. >Especially when you were just jealous of their care-free attitude.
  1911. >So it's nice seeing them be okay with everything.
  1912. >The two of you don't spend the whole time swimming.
  1913. >You both sort of bounce between that and relaxing beside the pond.
  1914. >The day bleeds away slowly but surely.
  1915. >Not the hell you expected at all.
  1916. >After a while, you both call it a day and dry off.
  1917. >For you that was standing out in the sun.
  1918. >For Spike, that was rolling in the grass.
  1919. >It got him dry sure, but also a little dirty.
  1920. >Twilight's problem, not yours.
  1921. S: "Today was nice! Well, the second half was..."
  1922. >You chuckle a little, he genuinely made you laugh.
  1923. K: "I'm inclined to agree."
  1924. >They consider something for a moment, looking down.
  1925. >It's obvious they aren't sure if they want to say it.
  1926. >But, then they do.
  1927. S: "We should hang out more sometime!"
  1928. >He's not the bane of your existence anymore.
  1929. >Honestly, that's Discord.
  1930. >But, they aren't exactly the most exciting company.
  1931. >Then again, you've hardly talked.
  1932. >So, you give him the most honest answer you could.
  1933. K: "Maybe, maybe!"
  1934. >And that obviously meant the world to him.
  1935. >The two of you split up, and as soon as he was out of sight, Discord appears.
  1936. D: "Well, what did Spike do today?"
  1937. >You sigh.
  1938. K: "He went swimming."
  1939. D: "And?"
  1940. >You give them a weird look.
  1941. K: "What do you mean 'and'?"
  1942. D: "What did they make today?"
  1943. >You ponder it for a second before sighing yet again.
  1944. K: "A friend?"
  1945. D: "Bingo! Good job! That's one favor down!"
  1946. K: "What's your game here Discord?"
  1947. >They give you a knowing smile.
  1948. D: "Whatever I want it to be!"
  1949. >After that, they disappear.
  1950. >Leaving you to ponder this little "favor" and its meaning.
  1952. >From the notes of ???
  1953. >"Today the subject spent time with another member of its own kind.
  1954. >The meeting was apparently not willing, spurred on by urges by Discord.
  1955. >The nature of the subject and Discord's relationship needs to be investigated further.
  1956. >The two appeared rather cold at first.
  1957. >Mostly thanks to the subject.
  1958. >As expected.
  1959. >However, as the day progressed, so did their willingness to be with each other.
  1960. >The subject seemed quick to accept the other after some exchanges.
  1961. >Sadly I was unable to glean what their conversation was about.
  1962. >But it worked.
  1963. >The subject even bathed with the other individual.
  1964. >Once everything was over, Discord approached the subject briefly before vanishing.
  1965. >Do they know of our operation?
  1966. >Further observations of Discord may be advisable.
  1967. >In conclusion of today's events it seems the subject is adapting well.
  1968. >Even being sociable.
  1969. >Results could not be any better at this stage."
  1970. >End of notes.
  1971. >You're Khoa, and you're feeling alright.
  1972. >Not super great, but alright.
  1973. >You haven't done a lot of much the past couple days.
  1974. >You've just kind of floated by.
  1975. >You read another book...
  1976. >The first one /is/ way better as you found out.
  1977. >You've journaled things.
  1978. >Managed Discord's antics as best as you can.
  1979. >"Flew" with Rainbow Dash some more.
  1980. >And most surprisingly, you've been hanging out with Spike.
  1981. >Twilight is no doubt greatful of that fact.
  1982. >But, jokes aside, he's not half bad company!
  1983. >All in all, you've been having as good a time as possible without neglecting your transgressions.
  1984. >And you sure as hell aren't going to forget that anytime soon.
  1985. >It's still just... raw.
  1986. >Sometimes, when your mind wanders, you wonder what Vanessa would think of this.
  1987. >Knowing her, she would have thought you were adorable.
  1988. >That was Vanessa for you, always looking on the bright side.
  1989. >Before you fucked that up.
  1990. >Like you fuck up most things.
  1991. >That thought does spawn a little idea.
  1992. >Maybe you should get a job.
  1993. >At least you'll be filling your time, right?
  1994. >Might even learn to not fuck something up for once!
  1995. >Now, where would /you/ be able to get a job?
  1996. >You have skills in some select things.
  1997. >Not many of them very applicable here.
  1998. >Or even that useful in general.
  1999. >Maybe you could become a guard?
  2000. >That doesn't take much qualification, right?
  2001. >The idea marinates for a second.
  2002. K: "Haha... as if!"
  2003. >Yeah, not a good idea.
  2004. >Knowing your luck you would be paired with some fast and loose hot head who makes your job harder than it should be.
  2005. >Or, more realistically, your tiny dragon ass gets trampled by the first Stallion you have a confrontation with.
  2006. >Back to the drawing board!
  2007. >Why did you have to be an English major?
  2008. >It's not really helping right now.
  2009. >How do you even apply that to the real world?!
  2010. >College is a sham.
  2011. >Your life is a lie.
  2012. >Thank god you dropped out.
  2013. >You're dismantling the system.
  2014. >Fighting the man!
  2015. >Well, you're more rationalizing horrible life choices.
  2016. >But hey, whatever cognitive dissonance floats your boat.
  2017. >Your sad, leaky, self hating boat.
  2018. >After a while you did manage to get off your ass.
  2019. >Shockingly, actually trying to find a job works better than thinking about trying to find a job.
  2020. >You even managed to secure one!
  2021. >You are now a delivery woman!
  2022. >Yeah, it's not glamorous, but it's something to do with yourself.
  2023. >The Pegasus in charge was more than eager to get you started.
  2024. >Too eager.
  2025. >And that brings you to now, a small bag over your shoulder with some mail to deliver.
  2026. >You've become pretty comfortable navigating the town since this all started.
  2027. >You walk around, handing off letters and packages.
  2028. >Doing actual work feels weird.
  2029. >The last steady job you held was at the university's library.
  2030. >And that went out the window when you dropped out.
  2031. >You just kind of coasted along after that.
  2032. >That sure went well, didn't it?
  2033. >Your pessimism tinged internal monologue is cut short by a shrill voice.
  2034. S: "Hey Khoooa!"
  2035. >Spike runs up to you eagerly.
  2036. K: "Hi Spike."
  2037. >You smirk a bit, waving.
  2038. K: "Twi kick you out again?"
  2039. >He nods.
  2040. K: "Well, I'd love to hang out- but today's my first day at work."
  2041. S: "Aaaw, I understand. Maybe after?"
  2042. >You think it over.
  2043. >You've only got a few deliveries left.
  2044. >And you don't have plans after they're done.
  2045. >So you give a playful little shrug.
  2046. K: "Sure, why not?"
  2047. >The day goes along pretty routinely from there.
  2048. >You pawned off the last on your deliveries, all the while hoping this flying thing pays off so you can start saving time.
  2049. >The Pegasus was elated by your punctual timing.
  2050. >"Elated" must be their default setting or something.
  2051. >After that you met up with Spike and hung out.
  2052. >He's really been growing on you.
  2053. >And seeing as how you were calling him a retarded puppy not too long ago, that's some real growth!
  2054. >Your next shift was pretty similar.
  2055. >Deliver everything and hang out with Spike.
  2056. >Twilight sure does kick him out a lot these days.
  2057. >Or at least, you thought so at first.
  2058. >But now, two weeks into this job you've noticed an odd trend.
  2059. >Every day you come into town for work, Twilight has told Spike to leave.
  2060. >"Told him to leave."
  2061. >You were beginning to suspect she hasn't been doing that at all.
  2062. >It's not that you mind all that much that he wants to hang out.
  2063. >But, why the lie?
  2064. >Now, you can't just assume he's being deceptive.
  2065. >This is Spike you're talking about after all.
  2066. >You need to confirm or deny your suspicions.
  2067. >Detective Khoa is back!
  2068. >... You really have been neglecting your search for answers about your situation.
  2069. >You make a note to try and make some headway on that soon.
  2070. >But now you need to know why a small dragon is possibly being sneaky!
  2071. >Real hard hitting issues!
  2072. >You're finishing up your rounds as usual.
  2073. >Slow mail day today, which by all means is fine by you.
  2074. >Spike approaches you almost perfect on cue.
  2075. >He's gotten /really/ good at your schedule.
  2076. >Hell, he's probably got it more down pact than you do.
  2077. >Flashbacks to excuses for being late reverberate in you for a bit.
  2078. >At least you've got a grossly understanding boss.
  2079. S: "So, looks like you're about done today! Twilight needed me out to work on some project today."
  2080. >What are the odds?
  2081. >You smirk a little, fully knowing how to handle this today.
  2082. K: "Funny that you mention that! I've got one last delivery, and it's for her!"
  2083. >Spike freezes up almost instantly.
  2084. >You have to choke back a laugh at how stunned he is.
  2085. >That little head is no doubt trying to save itself.
  2086. >Not that you'll let that happen!
  2087. S: "I uh... I can take it! You can go get some lunch!"
  2088. >Ooh, not a bad attempt!
  2089. >But not good enough for you!
  2090. K: "Nonsense! We can go together!"
  2091. >Spike is practically dying over there.
  2092. >He is not good at hiding this at all.
  2093. >You pat his head a little, a genuine smile on your face.
  2094. >Damn when was the last time you've messed with someone like this?
  2095. >Not entirely hostile, not entirely innocent, just a little poking!
  2096. >Maybe Discord is rubbing off on you.
  2097. >That's an issue for another day.
  2098. K: "We can go together!"
  2099. S: "S-s-suuure?!"
  2100. >He bounces through like three inflections in that one word alone.
  2101. >With a quick giggle, you begin to lead the way.
  2102. >Spike is walking like someone sentenced to death.
  2103. >It's actually kind of cute in a way.
  2104. >Cute?
  2105. >The thought makes you stop in your tracks for a second.
  2106. >Eh, probably just a base reaction to seeing him like this.
  2107. >The two of you carry on for a good bit, walking slowly to Twilight's place.
  2108. >Just as it seems visible, Spike runs in front of you.
  2109. S: "Um.... st-stop!"
  2110. >Playing along, you stop walking.
  2111. K: "What is it Spike?"
  2112. >They look down at their feet, embarrassed.
  2113. S: "I lied... Twilight hasn't been kicking me out... recently."
  2114. >The tacking on of "recently" makes you chuckle a little.
  2115. S: "I just... I wanted to have an excuse to hang out with you! You're so cool and-"
  2116. K: "No I'm not."
  2117. >Spike gives you a weird look.
  2118. K: "Oh um... You said i was cool. I'm really not."
  2119. S: "You are! Despite having literally no past, youre doing great! You're so... on top of things!"
  2120. >That statement is so grossly false you want to laugh.
  2121. >You are definitely not on top of things right now.
  2122. S: "Plus recently... you've been treating me like... Your equal."
  2123. K: "Aren't you though?"
  2124. >They sigh a little.
  2125. S: "Honestly? I don't know. I look at you and see an independent, strong willed dragon whos taking charge. Then... you've got me the glorified pet."
  2126. >Does Spike really see you like that?
  2127. >Strong and confident?
  2128. >You certainly don't feel that way.
  2129. >But, maybe there is some merit to it?
  2130. >You do feel pretty relaxed around him.
  2131. >You can feel your face flush a little.
  2132. >With scales...?
  2133. >No, not the time to question your anatomy.
  2134. S: "You make me want to... I don't know..."
  2135. K: "Do better?"
  2136. >He nods.
  2137. >You look down a bit.
  2138. >Are you really that influential?
  2139. >It's hard to fathom you being an emotional rock.
  2140. >But... You like it.
  2141. K: "I'm definitely not the most all together dragon around Spike, but I'm glad I can help you try to be better."
  2142. >You flash a genuine smile as you think.
  2143. >Why /are/ you so much more confident around Spike?
  2144. >You felt good enough to try and mess with him today...
  2145. >Something you probably wouldn't do with many others here.
  2146. >Or at all looking at your recent self.
  2147. >It's hard to pinpoint why.
  2148. >So, you stop trying.
  2149. >Or at least try to stop trying.
  2150. K: "Oh shoot! I just remembered. I delivered her letter first! I don't even have it anymore!"
  2151. >Spike looks confused for a moment, before chuckling a bit.
  2152. >You join in too.
  2153. >But, it's not an easy chuckle.
  2154. >The question of why it's so easy to relax around Spike is still looming.
  2155. >You've got butterflies in your stomach.
  2156. >Something is up.
  2157. >And you aren't sure what.
  2158. >Just one more thing for your internal trash fire you suppose.
  2159. >It's at least something small.
  2160. >You /hope/ it's small.
  2161. >It would be a lie to stay this didn't throw off your being with Spike today.
  2162. >Everything you do is tinged with some uneasiness.
  2163. >It's ironic really.
  2164. >Your recognition of being so comfortable around him is making you insanely uncomfortable.
  2165. >Not the outrageous Discord induced uncomfortable.
  2166. >But more the slow, creeping discomfort you find day to day.
  2167. >You can't tell which is worse.
  2168. >Despite this, you manage to keep up a happy facade.
  2169. >The last thing you want is Spike prying right now.
  2170. S: "So, do you ever think you'll get your memories back?"
  2171. >Oh good, one uncomfortable topic to cancel out another!
  2172. K: "I really have no idea. It feels so distant now that it's hard to even say if I can go back."
  2173. >An honest answer, just used in a slightly different context.
  2174. >You have felt detached from your former life, save for dreams and prodding from Discord.
  2175. >Going back is still honestly unimaginable, even if you want to or not.
  2176. S: "Well, you have a life here now!"
  2177. K: "Pardon?"
  2178. S: "Er... Sorry if that came off as insensitive! What I mean is that, if things don't work out- you have all of this!"
  2179. >You smile a little.
  2180. >He makes a valid point.
  2181. >You're bit worried about rent.
  2182. >Have a real job.
  2183. >Things have been relatively calm.
  2184. >You have Spike...
  2185. >"Wait. What?"
  2186. >Did you just...
  2187. >No, no way.
  2188. >Sure, he's a decent friend and all- but he's no better than Fluttershy right?
  2189. >It's been what, two weeks of you not hating him?
  2190. >That does not put him into a category of his own when you think of good things you have.
  2191. >There's no way in hell!
  2192. >You take a big, deep breath.
  2193. K: “Yeah, you're right Spike.”
  2194. >That's a true enough statement.
  2195. >True but also staying away from weird oddly specific feelings.
  2196. >But, this momentary clarity is shattered in one fell swoop.
  2197. >Spike just walks right over and gives you a hug.
  2198. >Not a very big one, but a small friendly hug.
  2199. >And it almost kills you.
  2200. >Your eyes clench shut, you strangle back a gasp.
  2201. >All together, you must look like an idiot.
  2202. >It's just a hug, not even a very special hug.
  2203. >But goddamn you are not taking it that way.
  2204. >After a bit, Spike let's go.
  2205. >That little innocent grin further proves he was just being friendly.
  2206. >But you can't shake this weird feeling.
  2207. >Why do you have a feeling it should have been more?
  2208. >Or is it more that you /want/ it to be more?
  2209. >Nope.
  2210. K: “Ah… um… oh! F-Fluttershy needed me to uh…”
  2211. >You're floundering pretty hard.
  2212. S: “I get it, you're probably tired!”
  2213. >You instantly nod.
  2214. S: “I'll see you around then!”
  2215. >You mumble something as you leave.
  2216. >This is bullshit.
  2217. >This cannot be happening.
  2218. >On your way home, you're greeted by Discord.
  2219. >Because leave it to them to show up at the most inappropriate times.
  2220. D: “Looks like you've had quite the day!”
  2221. >You glare at him.
  2222. K: “Please tell me you're behind this.”
  2223. >Discord chuckles, shaking his head.
  2224. D: “This is /all/ you!”
  2225. >With a groan you look down.
  2226. D: “I wouldn't worry too much, it's natural for the youthful to have certain... urges.”
  2227. K: “Shut up! It's- it's not like that!”
  2228. >Discord scratches his chin, toying with his next response.
  2229. D: “I know my second favor!”
  2230. >Shit.
  2231. D: “It's also pretty easy, given how you've been acting lately, you'll probably thank me! All you have to do is kiss your little friend Spike!”
  2232. K: “Oh come on! There has to be more productive stuff I could do!”
  2233. D: “There are, but productivity is always overshadowed by amusement, and the look on your face tells me this will be highly amusing!”
  2234. >You cannot believe the copious amounts of bullshit being flung upon you.
  2235. >Discord is forcing you to explore feelings you really don't want to explore.
  2236. >Maybe, just maybe, there's something there with Spike, but you don't care.
  2237. >You could do without figuring that out.
  2238. >There's some far more important things on your plate.
  2239. >But no, Discord needs to fuck with you.
  2240. K: “Fine… how long do I have?”
  2241. >A calendar pops out of thin air, Discord squints at it.
  2242. >They mumble to themselves about proper and improper times, crossing out dates and so on.
  2243. >You know this is all just to mess with you, to get you even more flustered.
  2244. >Unfortunately Discord knows what works on you.
  2245. >Finally, Discord circles a date on his calendar.
  2246. >A calendar you're positive they don't actually use.
  2247. D: “You have exactly two weeks! I expect all the details!”
  2248. >Two weeks to kiss Spike.
  2249. >Why the hell is your life turning into some shitty rom-com?
  2250. >No, fuck it.
  2251. >You're not going to just play along.
  2252. K: “There has to be something better I can do! This is asinine! Why do you care so much about me being with Spike?! Two out of three of your precious favors involve me being with him!”
  2253. >Discord yawns a little, either faking it genuinely being bored by your anger.
  2254. D: “Oh. Are you done?”
  2255. >Seeing nothing else to do, you nod.
  2256. D: “Good! Now, seeing that you really are that oblivious, I'll explain it! You are at your core upset about your actions before you came here. These actions are related to a former relationship, right?”
  2257. K: “Well… yes.”
  2258. D: “So, seeing the possibility of a relationship blooming, I just have to see if it would crash and burn, or if you can handle it!”
  2259. K: “Fuck. You.”
  2260. >You cannot believe Discord right now.
  2261. >Okay, it's pretty believable coming from him, but you don't like it.
  2262. >He's using all of this just to get under you scales.
  2263. >Sure, that's what you expected coming in- but using literally what made you attempt suicide is a low blow.
  2264. >Probably the lowest blow you can imagine.
  2265. >And for what?
  2266. >Some convoluted lesson?
  2267. >For a sick joke?
  2268. >You don't really care.
  2269. >Right now all you can think is that a drink would be nice.
  2270. >A drink and someone sealing Discord as a statue again.
  2271. >That would be nice.
  2272. >But you're stuck in this pretty shitty situation.
  2273. >All you can do is play along and try to not give Discord what he wants.
  2274. >Whatever that is.
  2275. >You trudge home after that, feeling overall disgruntled.
  2276. >But, moping around, bitching in your head isn't going to magically change anything.
  2277. >So, you decide to read to get your mind off things.
  2278. >Using your salary, a few cheap books are among the creature comforts you've been able to get yourself.
  2279. >The big thing is saving up to move out right now.
  2280. >Fluttershy has been great, and you're tired of free loading.
  2281. >Not to mention having some real alone time wouldn't hurt.
  2282. >But, you're not even close to that yet, so you just have to keep saving.
  2283. >You randomly grab one of the books piled next to your bed.
  2284. >”Out From The Dragonlands”
  2285. >Oh yeah, when you were buying these you were suggested this one.
  2286. >Might jog your memories or something like that.
  2287. >Although you have absolutely no need to actually jog any memories, it might still be a decent read.
  2288. >It's a travel journal in all honesty.
  2289. >Some unicorn traveled out there and edited then published their journal.
  2290. >So far, it's about what you'd expect.
  2291. >”Wow! How foreign and bizarre!”
  2292. >Seriously, this guy is very easily excited.
  2293. >You almost consider putting it down in favor of something else, but the next section’s title is of interest for you.
  2294. >”Mating Rituals and Courtship.”
  2295. >It’s probably going to be a bit more dry than sexual content you’re used to, but seeing as how you’ve been feeling a little odd recently, it might not hurt to look into it.
  2296. >Reading it over is both reassuring in some ways and worrying in others.
  2297. >Mentions of females going into heat send shivers down your spine, it’s not an image you like in your head.
  2298. >You’ve been horny before, but going into heat just sounds off putting.
  2299. >But, based on symptoms, you don’t /think/ you’re in heat.
  2300. >Then, what the hell is up with you?
  2301. >Frowning a little, you keep reading.
  2302. >No mention of anything quite like the awkward feeling you had around Spike.
  2303. >It’s time to consider this being a crush.
  2304. >Going over the facts, it’s obvious you’ve grown to be fond of the little guy.
  2305. >He’s nice enough, and you don’t have any major issues with him.
  2306. >But would you fuck him?
  2307. >Would you honestly fuck Spike one day?
  2308. >Fuck no!
  2309. >You can’t help but chuckle a little.
  2310. >It’s probably not going to be this cut and dry, but you definitely have no wish to do it with Spike.
  2311. >Which means you won’t be practicing with these egg-bearing hips any time soon.
  2312. >You groan, this author’s cheesy writing is starting to rub off on you.
  2313. >Seriously, fucking /egg-bearing hips/.
  2314. >You shut the book, tossing it to the side.
  2315. >Not really your cup of tea.
  2316. >Still not really tired, you decide to pick up another book to read.
  2317. >Reaching down to your pile, you’re greeted by one of Fluttershy’s suggestions.
  2318. >You smirk a little, happy with your choice.
  2319. >You fall asleep to the chorus of a heavy storm pelting the roof.
  2320. >It’s an almost hypnotic sound, sending you into a lull.
  2321. >You’ve always liked the sound of heavy rain, it’s soothing to you.
  2322. >You’re only halfway through your book, but your eyelids feel so very heavy.
  2323. >In the end, you don’t even manage to mark your page as you slip into a peaceful sleep.
  2324. >However, this is no peaceful night, not really.
  2325. >Despite the quiet comfort you’ve fallen asleep to, not all is so easy.
  2326. >Though most right now are probably in a similar comfortable situation, someone most definitely is not tonight.
  2327. >However, you are not cognisant of such things.
  2328. >At least, you aren’t yet.
  2329. >Easy sleep has been hard to come by for you as of late.
  2330. >And it’s going to be a little while until you have such an easy time like tonight.
  2331. >In the morning, you get ready for your work.
  2332. >Working in the postal service isn’t glamorous, but it’s a nice enough job.
  2333. >Once you’ve bathed and have your bag, you head out, waving to Fluttershy as you leave.
  2334. >Despite the anger and confusion you felt yesterday, your “no-fuck” revelation has greatly helped your mood.
  2335. >When you get into town, a lot of the citizens look unnaturally uneasy.
  2336. >You’re so used to a town of smiling faces and general comfort that it honestly catches you off guard.
  2337. >The closer you get towards the post office, you start seeing more and more worried ponies and guards.
  2338. >Did something happen?
  2339. >You assume it was some sort of quarrel, or at least, you hope so.
  2340. >But, once you’ve made it to the building, any hopes of that are absolutely shattered.
  2341. >There’s your boss, your overly optimistic, always elated boss.
  2342. >But they’re lying outside, not waiting eagerly inside.
  2343. >And… holy shit.
  2344. >Is that blood?
  2345. >You always sort of assumed everything here was still child safe.
  2346. >Then again, you’re able to swear and openly think about sex, so maybe not.
  2347. >But, you had never expected to see /blood/.
  2348. >Definitely not here.
  2349. >You feel dizzy just seeing it, seeing your boss lie there covered in it.
  2350. >A part of you is praying they’re just unconscious.
  2351. >But, you know damn well you don’t see their chest moving up and down.
  2352. >The last time you saw a dead body it was, well, it was /that/ day.
  2353. >Fuck, do not think about shit like that Khoa, you don’t want to make even more of a scene here.
  2354. >You’re shaking as you approach a guard, you have no idea if you’ll even be able to form the words.
  2355. K: “Wh-what… happened?”
  2356. >The guard looks at you.
  2357. >G: “Ah, good, we don't have to go and find you. Now, would you be so kind as to willingly come in for questioning?”
  2358. >Oh shit.
  2359. >Fuck, fuck, fuck.
  2360. >They think you did it, don't they?
  2361. >You, a random dragon with no identity who works for the victim and…
  2362. >Damn, you do sound fucking suspicious.
  2363. >You've been questioned by police before, so in theory this is no different.
  2364. >Such a cozy little interrogation room they have you in right now.
  2365. >As you wait for questions to begin, you start trying to formulate ways to prove your innocence.
  2366. >It'll all come down to who can vouch for you really, you don't have physical evidence.
  2367. >Spike was with you from when you left work until you started heading home.
  2368. >Fluttershy was thankfully home all night.
  2369. >And /somebody/ had to have seen you just walk into town this morning.
  2370. >You bury your face in your hands.
  2371. >This is too much.
  2372. >Why would somebody flat out commit murder here?
  2373. >And why must you look so damn suspicious.
  2374. >D: “Having some trouble there Khoa?”
  2375. >You snap your head to the side, sure enough, Discord.
  2376. >And he's in a fucking suit with a briefcase.
  2377. >D: “Need a lawyer?”
  2378. >You almost start telling him off, but in all honesty, you really fucking do.
  2379. >The next several minutes are the most surreal thing you've experienced in your time here.
  2380. >Discord is arguing with some random guard trying to exonerate you.
  2381. >Over a murder no less.
  2382. >He's pulling out all this evidence, random shit like a casting of your foot print entering town today.
  2383. >Yet, the way he explains everything makes /sense/.
  2384. >Sort of.
  2385. >D: “You see, this is a muddy footprint, which means my client had to have entered down /after/ the rain. There were no footprints leading from town, meaning my client entered this morning! And according to your reports, the body was found before dawn!”
  2386. >The guard looks more uncomfortable than you right now.
  2387. >D: “Shall I go gather testimony from Fluttershy who was with my client all night? Fluttershy is by /far/ one of the most honest ponies I have ever met!”
  2388. >You roll your eyes a little.
  2389. >D: “If the foot fits, you must acquit!”
  2390. >How does he?
  2391. >You shake your head, you don't even want to know.
  2392. >One headache later you're in the middle of being released.
  2393. >You've got to hand it to Discord, he's annoying, but he's got your back.
  2394. >The guards apologize profusely, all the while keeping a close watch on Discord.
  2395. >D: “It's ironic really, that you tried to arrest Khoa here.”
  2396. >Hmm?
  2397. >D: “You nearly arrested the one who's going to solve this case!”
  2398. >What?
  2399. >D: “Oh yes, Khoa here is quite the investigator! A regular detective!”
  2400. >You're about to blow your lid, but Discord flashes three fingers at you.
  2401. >The third favor- goddamn it.
  2402. >The guards seem to be eating this up.
  2403. >Dammit fuck shit God fucking bullshit motherfu-
  2404. >D: “She’ll start immediately!”
  2405. >The guards fucking agree.
  2406. >This can't be happening.
  2407. >You're not a detective!
  2408. >Discord ushers you outside, a smarmy grin on his face.
  2409. K: “A-are we alone?”
  2410. >He nods.
  2412. >D: “I do feel honored you express your vulgar side with me Khoa, I really do.”
  2413. K: “I'm not a detective Discord! I barely fucking passed that fluff forensics class in high school! You can't just expect me to fucking solve a murder!”
  2414. >He pats your head.
  2415. >D: “I'll have some reading prepared for you when you get home!”
  2416. >That's probably not going to help you much.
  2417. >Anybody can read a goddamn book.
  2418. K: “After this, we're done. You fuck off and leave me alone!”
  2419. >D: “You say that now, but I think you'll change your tune soon! Happy reading Khoa!”
  2420. >And with that, they're gone.
  2421. >You almost start heading to work.
  2422. >But that ship has sailed.
  2423. >Sailed into an iceberg.
  2424. >Not seeing much of a reason to stay in town, you make your way back home.
  2425. >It seems like there’s always /something/ to mess with you whenever you’re feeling good.
  2426. >But you’re used to it by now.
  2427. >All you have to do is keep on trying to get through this.
  2428. >The walk is quiet and uneventful thankfully, no interjections from Discord.
  2429. >When you step inside, you’re glad to see Fluttershy not present.
  2430. >You really don’t want to be the one to tell her there was a murder.
  2431. >Murder.
  2432. >It still feels so weird to think about.
  2433. >A murder in Equestria that /you/ have to solve.
  2434. >If your life didn’t already play out like fiction, it sure as hell did now.
  2435. >Going towards your room, you see a large pile of books next to your bed.
  2436. >Along with the books you see a nice, leather bound notebook, and what looks like a tweed jacket and pipe.
  2437. >Very funny jackass.
  2438. >Sighing, you sit down, looking over the journal.
  2439. >Pretty damn nice.
  2440. >Better than what you’ve been using.
  2441. >Might as well get started with this, right?
  2442. >The closest book is a relatively short one, sitting on the leftmost stack.
  2443. >”The Art of Deduction”.
  2444. >Sure, why not?
  2445. >Thus began your research into detective work.
  2446. >You wish you could say it’s easy, that everything just clicks with ease, but that’s just not realistic.
  2447. >Some things are common sense, others will need more thought and time before they fully make sense.
  2448. >That’s the same as with anything you need to learn.
  2449. >But, you don’t have much say in this, so… yeah.
  2450. >You tear through the first book pretty quickly, it’s written well in a way that just flows.
  2451. >In all honesty, it’s a nice read.
  2452. >There’s a note fixed to the inside of the back cover it seems.
  2453. >”Dear Khoa, I assumed you would pick this book first, and hopefully I’m right, because this message is best if you read it when you start all of this. These books are mostly to boost your confidence in the trade, you’ve already got most of what you need. Your mind works differently than any pony’s. You come from a different world, and I think that’s about all you need. - D.”
  2454. >The sappy message makes you roll your eyes.
  2455. >He’s just doing this to fuck with you further.
  2456. >But you won’t fall for that.
  2457. >Determined to make the most of this, you pick up a book on witnesses.
  2458. >And back to reading you go.
  2459. >F: “K-Khoa… there’s been a… d-death today.”
  2460. >You look up, Fluttershy has quietly walked in.
  2461. K: “Yeah, it was my boss, I was there. They brought me in for questioning and everything.”
  2462. >F: “O-oh my! I’m s-sorry you had to go through that Khoa… Um.. what’s with all these new b-books?”
  2463. >You look down at your bed, there’s a good four or five books scattered around you alone, not to mention the big stack Discord left next to your bed.
  2464. K: “I’m… going to solve the murder.”
  2465. >Fluttershy looks at you like she didn’t hear you right.
  2466. K: “Er… Discord managed to figure out I used to do stuff like this, before the accident. He thinks it would be for the best if I tried investigative work now, try and jog my memory. These books are to help me get familiar again.”
  2467. >You wish you could take credit for that lie, but Discord has left quite a few notes in these books all numbered in the order you’ll read them.
  2468. >You’ve even tried taking books with your eyes closed from the stack and you haven’t broken the sequence yet.
  2469. >F: “Oh! That sounds like a g-good idea! Makes sense, seeing how you’re so s-smart.”
  2470. >Now you look at /her/ like you misheard her.
  2471. K: “I’m not that smart, really.”
  2472. >F: “D-don’t be modest Khoa!”
  2473. >Are you being modest?
  2474. >It feels more like she’s being flattering.
  2475. >Either way, you kind of like it.
  2476. >It’s Discord that greets you in the morning.
  2477. >Because /that’s/ what you like to see when you wake up.
  2478. >D: “Good morning detective! How was your research?”
  2479. K: “Fuck off, mornings are rough without coffee, don’t make them even worse.”
  2480. >Shrugging, he thumbs through one of the books you had fallen asleep with.
  2481. >D: “Oh, really jumped right into this, didn’t you? I’d dare say you’ve found a passion!”
  2482. >You would be hasty to argue if it wasn’t at least a little interesting to read about.
  2483. >Putting into practice still scares the shit out of you, but reading has gone well.
  2484. >Reading always goes well, it keeps you out of the action.
  2485. >This is why you never got outside as a kid, shit reasoning like that.
  2486. >Oh well, that’s all in the past anyways.
  2487. >D: “You’d best get going, the guards are waiting with an autopsy report!”
  2488. K: “They can… they do autopsies here?”
  2489. >Discord shrugs a little.
  2490. >D: “Not like what /you’re/ used to, but there is a legal system here Khoa.”
  2491. K: “I just can’t imagine cutting up a pony for an autopsy…”
  2492. >D: “Cutting up? You’re kidding right? We have /magic/ Khoa! We aren’t barbarians!”
  2493. >Bullshit, there’s no coffee.
  2494. >That’s fucking barbaric.
  2495. >You grab your notebook, making a very deliberate point of tossing the tweed jacket on the ground just to spite Discord.
  2496. >D: “Why do you antagonize me so?! What have I done to deserve such cruelties?!”
  2497. >Just don’t even pay him any attention, he craves the attention.
  2498. >Out the door you go, ready to go get this “autopsy” report.
  2499. >Khoa: Shitty Fake Detective.
  2500. >You’re on the case, whether you like it or not.
  2501. >Your boss, well, former boss, was a weird one alright.
  2502. >They were easily excited, and seemed to always be in a good mood.
  2503. >At face value, they seemed utterly forgettable, some background character a lazy animator might use.
  2504. >Kind of like your former co-worker… Derpy.
  2505. >Does this make them a suspect?
  2506. >Did you really just consider if Derpy Hooves was a murderer?
  2507. >This is why you need coffee in the morning kids.
  2508. >You’re fucked up without it.
  2509. >Once in town, you’re greeted by a few members of the guard.
  2510. >They greet you warmly, pointing you towards the castle.
  2511. >Oh shit, you’re going in the castle!
  2512. >You haven’t been in the castle before!
  2513. >Maybe you could meet-
  2514. >No, no, stop acting like a fucking desperate fangirl Khoa.
  2515. >That’s beneath you on so many levels.
  2516. >Well, not too many levels, but at least a couple.
  2517. >You hope.
  2518. >The castle seems quiet today.
  2519. >You can hear every step you make, thanks to your claws clicking against the floors.
  2520. >If you weren't feeling self-conscious already, you sure are now.
  2521. >You're led off to a small room, where a few ponies are gathered.
  2522. >They greet you as /detective/ Khoa.
  2523. >Yay.
  2524. >Not much small talk today, they just!hand you the report.
  2525. >Scanning over it real quick, you don't learn anything overtly important.
  2526. >Body was found before dawn, time of death was probably in the middle of the night, cause of death was blunt force trauma…
  2527. >Seeing this kind of stuff here is still insane.
  2528. K: “Um… have any witnesses come by?”
  2529. >G: “Ahem, we do have /one/ witness.”
  2530. >Hey, that's a start at least.
  2531. >G: “Are you familiar with a pony named Trixie?”
  2532. >Hold back your sarcasm Khoa.
  2533. >Hold back your snide remarks.
  2534. >Hold it back, just smile and shake your head.
  2535. >You've got to be /professional/.
  2536. >One thing that’s obvious about being a detective, there’s a lot of legwork.
  2537. >Go here, go there, talk to them, go pick up this.
  2538. >You can just feel that’s how today is going to go.
  2539. >At least with mail you can route out a quick path, with this you could be sent back and forth across town.
  2540. >Here’s hoping your leads are all going to be in one, conveniently small area.
  2541. >Right now, you’re looking for Trixie.
  2542. >A stuck up, self indulgent, cocky bitch from everything you’ve seen.
  2543. >Should make your interviewing her a real treat.
  2544. >Apparently she’s hanging around town, not doing much of anything right now.
  2545. >Which is great, because you don’t want anything to be mildly straight forward, that would be too /easy/.
  2546. >You sigh, your mood is kind of awful right now.
  2547. >If you’re going to be doing this, you need to at least attempt to be presentable.
  2548. >Deep breaths, calm down, don’t be a bitch.
  2549. >Easy enough in theory.
  2550. >You're not inherently a bitch.
  2551. >Unless you're talking to Discord.
  2552. >You find Trixie loitering around, looking annoyed.
  2553. >Probably because she was told to stay nearby during the investigation or something.
  2554. >Sighing, you approach her.
  2555. K: “Hello mi-”
  2556. >Tr: “What? What do you need from /Trixie/?”
  2557. >The use of third person makes you physically cringe.
  2558. K: “I'm, uh, in charge of the investi-”
  2559. >Tr: “So /you/ are the one limiting Trixie’s movements?! How dare you?! Do you know who I am?!”
  2560. >Sadly, yes.
  2561. >God she's being more egotistical than normal.
  2562. >Fuck it, she wants to play this game, fine.
  2563. K: “I'll be blunt. You're our number one suspect. Now if you would please stop with the theatrics, let's see if you can find a way to save yourself.”
  2564. >The sudden worry on her face makes you feel really good about this.
  2565. >Okay, maybe you are a bitch.
  2566. >Might as well revel in it.
  2567. >Tr: “Tri- er, I had nothing to do with this!”
  2568. >Yeah, she probably didn't.
  2569. K: “That's not what the /other/ witness said.”
  2570. >Just got to hold back your laughter at her worry, and this will all go fine.
  2571. >Tr: “What do you mean other witness?!”
  2572. >Time to start putting your dropped English major to good use and bullshitting a story!
  2573. K: “Well, you see, this other witness saw you enter the post office last night, not too long before the murder!”
  2574. >The look on her face right now is absolutely priceless.
  2575. >A mix of rage and terror that you wish you could take a photo of.
  2576. >Just to fuck with her further, you start writing in your notebook.
  2577. >In all honesty you’re just writing out some questions to ask, but of course, Trixie assumes the absolute worse.
  2578. >Tr: “St-stop writing! I didn’t do anything you idiot!”
  2579. K: “Are you /insulting/ an official investigator?”
  2580. >You are enjoying this /way/ too much.
  2581. >Trixie is trying to find her composure again, taking a deep breath.
  2582. >Tr: “Look, Trixie did /not/ even go in the post office. I saw somepony else last night yes, but if that is your other witness, they lied!”
  2583. K: “What did you see this other individual do then?”
  2584. >It’s time to actually get serious about this, sadly.
  2585. >Tr: “They were just standing outside, in the rain no less!”
  2586. K: “So were you.”
  2587. >Tr: “Well, yes, but, that’s beyond the point!”
  2588. >Whatever.
  2589. K: “Can you at least describe them for me?”
  2590. >Tr: “It was dark, so I couldn’t get any specifics, but, they looked stocky, like a stallion.”
  2591. >Oh perfect, that narrows down about half the population.
  2592. >So /helpful/.
  2593. >Oh well, it’s something, and that’s the extent of Trixie’s usefulness right now.
  2594. K: “Seeya bitch!”
  2595. >Tr: “Pardon?”
  2596. K: “Nothing~”
  2597. >Okay, maybe you’re having more fun with this than you initially thought.
  2598. >Discord seems to be getting the same impression.
  2599. >You can’t tell where he is, but you can definitely hear him right now.
  2600. >D: “Well that’s /one/ way to interrogate a witness. Really had her sweating there!”
  2601. K: “Look, it worked, didn’t it?”
  2602. >D: “Oh I’m not chastising you, if anything I’m impressed! Making up a fake witness /just/ to mess with her? You’re more like me than I thought!”
  2603. K: “We both know that’s absolute bullshit, I’m nothing like you.”
  2604. >D: “Don't sell yourself so short! I'm sure with some cosmetic adjustments, you would be even more like me!
  2605. >You brace yourself for some outlandish change, but nothing seems to happen.
  2606. >D: “Like I'd just /make/ you into a draconequus! Get a grip Khoa!”
  2607. K: “Ugh, why do you keep messing with me?”
  2608. >He doesn’t reply, but you picture him shrugging as he leaves.
  2609. >Just an educated guess.
  2610. >What he sees in you, you have no idea.
  2611. >What you do know is that you wish he /didn’t/ see it.
  2612. >They get too much gratification out of every little thing you do.
  2613. >Hell, you could probably sleep in a way that makes him excited.
  2614. >And with that new, horrifying image in your head you have most likely killed any chances of a decent sleep tonight.
  2615. >Even when it’s just you, he still manages to win.
  2616. >Putting aside the matter of Discord, you decide that you should think over the case.
  2617. >Trixie seemed adamant in the fact that there was a stallion near the post office last night, standing alone.
  2618. >Any further leads would be greatly appreciated right about now, but not much is coming to mind.
  2619. >What could you do, interview ever stallion in town?
  2620. >That’s absolute lunacy to even consider trying.
  2621. >But you’ll have to do something about it, a murder won’t solve itself.
  2622. >Maybe ask around and see if anybody wasn’t at home last night?
  2623. >It’s still you asking randomly, hoping for something, but it does have one advantage.
  2624. >If you just go around asking stallions, you may never get the answer you want.
  2625. >The murderer would most likely lie to you and say they were at home.
  2626. >So, be sure to ask ponies who don’t live alone first.
  2627. >If all goes well, you’ll get your answer without having to comb through every pony you could ever hope to know.
  2628. >You start jotting down a list of all the ponies you’re going to ask, along with writing out a few questions you might want to ask them.
  2629. >As do you so, you’re approached by somepony.
  2630. >As unique their voice is, you don’t even need them to speak before you know they’re one you need to talk with.
  2631. >A: “Howdy, you the new dragon in town, yeah?”
  2632. K: “Um, yeah, my name is Khoa. And you’re… Applejack, right?”
  2633. >She nods, probably assumes that either Twilight, Rainbow Dash, or Fluttershy told you about her.
  2634. >Huh, you’ve met most of the Six at this point.
  2635. >Might need to go pay Rarity and Pinkie a visit eventually.
  2636. K: “It’s funny that you came to talk with me, I had a few questions to ask you.”
  2637. >Looking at her closer, she looks tired.
  2638. >A: “Um, sure, but uh- may I ask you somethin’ first?”
  2639. K: “I see no reason why not, sure.”
  2640. >A: “I heard you’re the one investigatin’ the… well, you know…”
  2641. >You nod.
  2642. >A: “I really do hate to interrupt you but, if you’re at this sorta stuff, could you help me figure out where Mac went?”
  2643. >Well then, that’s something.
  2644. >You were going to /ask/ about Mac, but you didn’t expect anything to actually pop up in doing so.
  2645. >But if Mac is suddenly absent, then maybe, just maybe, something is actually up.
  2646. >Still, this is probably unrelated to the case.
  2647. >At least, you hope so.
  2648. >Big McIntosh.
  2649. >A stallion of very, very few words.
  2650. >When you initially pictured questioning him about this, all you really expected was to get a “nope”.
  2651. >But now you’re trying to figure out why he’s suddenly disappeared.
  2652. >Going missing around the time of a murder looks awfully suspicious.
  2653. >And that’s probably why Applejack came to you.
  2654. >She’s worried about him being assumed guilty, or even worse, /actually/ being guilty.
  2655. >You just need to keep an open, unbiased mind about all of this.
  2656. >As unprofessional you are, you can still recognize the importance of not falling to assumptions for anything this important.
  2657. >If you’re going to be doing this job, you’re not going to half-ass it.
  2658. >It’s not fair to anybody if you do.
  2659. >The sudden feeling of responsibility hits you a little harder than you thought.
  2660. >And you had thought you’d already gotten over the shock.
  2661. >This is on you, all of this.
  2662. >The whole town has their faith in you.
  2663. >It’s a little scary, but also a little exciting.
  2664. >When’s the last time you’ve done anything actually important?
  2665. >Too long, it’s been too long...
  2666. >Based on everything, Mac’s disappearance is definitely something to be concerned over.
  2667. >He's not the kind of guy to leave unannounced.
  2668. >Looking over their home reveals nothing out of place.
  2669. >This feels above your pay grade.
  2670. >Are you even getting paid for this?
  2671. >Not the time for that.
  2672. K: “Alright, I'm just going to be honest with you. This is pretty suspicious…”
  2673. >Applejack sighs.
  2674. >AJ: “I know… but, I'm positive he ain't done nothin’ wrong!”
  2675. >You sincerely hope she's right in this.
  2676. >Hell, this whole time you've been wishing that you'd find out this was a weird accident.
  2677. >Murderers are something you could live without.
  2678. >You don't want to find out they're here too.
  2679. >Rubbing your temple, you try to plan out your next move.
  2680. K: “When did you last see him?”
  2681. >AJ: “Last night, I was half asleep, but when I looked out my window, I saw them leavin’”
  2682. >Timing sounds like it lines up.
  2683. >You, of course, don't tell her that.
  2684. >Minimize the bad news, say it all at once when you have confirmation.
  2685. >From experience, you know that getting it over a long period of time only succeeds in sinking someone lower emotionally.
  2686. >And that's not your plan in this.
  2687. >As much as you hate to do it, you need to leave Applejack.
  2688. >There's no quick or easy answer to her problem.
  2689. >Right now the most you can promise is asking the guards to be on the lookout for him, and that you'll be diligent.
  2690. >AJ: “Are ya alright?”
  2691. >You're shaking right now.
  2692. >The last time you dealt with detectives, you were under investigation for involuntary manslaughter with talk of an accessory to murder charge.
  2693. >All you could think at the time was how fake the detectives sounded.
  2694. >They just wanted results.
  2695. >And now that you're doing this, you're scared of that mentality.
  2696. >How hopeless does she feel right now?
  2697. >How scared is she?
  2698. >Why aren't you helping more?
  2699. >You grit your teeth.
  2700. K: “If you need to talk later, I'll be around town until dusk. Just ask around for me.”
  2701. >She nods, sighing.
  2702. >It's not a sigh of sadness though.
  2703. >It's of relief.
  2704. >Your walk back to town is initially slow.
  2705. >You're trying to figure out everything that's going on, to sort it out.
  2706. >But that's before you see Mac walking in the road.
  2707. >Instantly you run up to them.
  2708. K: “Wh-where have you been?!”
  2709. >The look on their face says it all.
  2710. >No good news here.
  2711. K: “Please tell me you didn't do it…”
  2712. >He shakes his head.
  2713. K: “Well? What happened?”
  2714. >Mac sighs before going into his explanation.
  2715. >M: “Saw it all. Shook me up, so I ran off. Fell asleep, woke up a couple hours ago.”
  2716. >You sigh in relief.
  2717. >He didn't do it, he just got scared.
  2718. >That's something you can relate to.
  2719. >But, not only did he not do it, he saw who did.
  2720. K: “Did you go make a report?”
  2721. >He looks down.
  2722. >M: “Eeyup.”
  2723. >Nodding you start heading off towards the castle.
  2724. >M: “Hey. I'm… sorry.”
  2725. >You hardly register what he says as you bolt off.
  2726. >Ponies have seemingly gone home, the town is uncharacteristically quiet.
  2727. >Seems like they haven't announced who it was yet.
  2728. >As you run up to the castle, you see a familiar face.
  2729. >Twilight.
  2730. >Going to greet her, you instantly notice something is wrong.
  2731. >She's crying.
  2732. K: “Hey! What's wrong…?”
  2733. >She looks over at you.
  2734. >TS: “What did Trixie tell you?”
  2735. >Huh?
  2736. >TS: “You know she doesn't like me right? She… she… she probably…”
  2737. K: “She told me she saw a stallion last night.”
  2738. >You can't gauge the emotion on her face right now.
  2739. >TS: “D-do you know who might have reported something leading to an arrest?”
  2740. K: “I do, but I don't think I'm allowed to say right now.”
  2741. >Her face contorts a bit.
  2742. >TS: “How could you let them arrest Spike?”
  2743. K: “Wait… what?!”
  2744. >TS: “That witness of yours, they said Spike did it. And now they… they…”
  2745. >Twilight starts sobbing again.
  2746. >Stay strong Khoa, stay strong...
  2747. >This isn't the princess of friendship, not yet at least.
  2748. >Right now, she's still just a student.
  2749. >They aren’t nearly as experienced as you knew them at one point.
  2750. >She might not be for a long time, if ever.
  2751. >You’d try to comfort her regardless, but she really needs it now.
  2752. K: “I promise he'll get off of this.”
  2753. >She doesn't look very convinced.
  2754. K: “He's my friend too, and I know he didn't do this. I'm going to find who did.”
  2755. >The strength in your voice comes easier than intended.
  2756. >It just kind of… happens.
  2757. >It happens and it works.
  2758. >You need the strength right now.need to be strong for yourself too.
  2759. >This case is getting more and more bizarre, and you can’t let it swallow you up.
  2760. >Twilight seems to feel a little better, or at the least is trying to look that way.
  2761. K: “I'm going to go see what all went down, okay? I'll keep you posted.”
  2762. >She nods as you head inside.
  2763. >Spike, the little guy you were worried about kissing not even a few days ago is now under arrest for murder of all things.
  2764. >And it’s up to you to figure out why.
  2765. >The story is actually pretty simple, as much as you dislike it.
  2766. >Mac was having trouble sleeping, and decided to take a walk in the rain.
  2767. >Sounds weird enough to fit how he acts, that’s for sure.
  2768. >As he was walking, he wound up near the post office.
  2769. >Looking inside, he saw a struggle between a pony and what looked like a small dragon.
  2770. >As your boss ran out, something hit them in the head, and they stopped moving.
  2771. >That’s when Mac freaked out and ran off.
  2772. >And then in that managed to fall asleep after a while, and was exhausted enough to sleep for a day and a half.
  2773. >You almost called bullshit on that, but you’ve had longer stints of sleep.
  2774. >Initially Mac thought it was you who had done the deed, hardly knowing you and all.
  2775. >But, Discord’s arguments when this all started basically served as proof of your innocence.
  2776. >And that left Spike, the only other individual in town who fits the description.
  2777. >It was dark outside, so Mac couldn’t really make out scale color, so there was no easy way to prove it wasn’t him right now.
  2778. >Spike, although confused, apparently came willingly and calmly.
  2779. >Good, good, anything that makes him seem innocent is really good right now.
  2780. K: “I mean no offence Shining Armor, but I don’t think he did this.”
  2781. >SA: “I don’t like it either, I really don’t, but right now, he’s our only fitting suspect. We need to exercise caution.”
  2782. >You nod, it makes sense.
  2783. >But that’s the worst part, all of this makes sense.
  2784. >For Spike’s sake, this needs to make absolutely no sense.
  2785. >And it’s your job to destroy this theory, bit by bit.
  2786. >Or, if it comes to it, find out why he would have ever done it…
  2787. >Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.
  2788. >You are Spike, and today isn’t going too well.
  2789. >Well, that’s an understatement if you’ve ever heard one.
  2790. >The dungeon is someplace you never expected to spend the night in, but here you are.
  2791. >You can still see Twilight’s face as you’re being led away.
  2792. >It makes you wince, she looked so upset.
  2793. >You hope she doesn’t think you did this.
  2794. >But, who could have done it?
  2795. >From what the guards said, it was a dragon who did it, and Khoa has an alibi, whatever that is.
  2796. >Maybe she can go get you an alibi soon.
  2797. >That would be really nice of her.
  2798. >Lying on your oversized cot, you wonder how they’re doing.
  2799. >She’s working with the guards now from what Twilight told you last night, apparently she used to be some kind of investigator before she lost her memory.
  2800. >She’s so cool…
  2801. >Just as you're thinking about her, Khoa rushes in.
  2802. >K: “Spike! Are you okay?”
  2803. S: “I think I’ve been worse off before.”
  2804. >Khoa chuckles a bit, but it's a strained chuckle.
  2805. >K: “I know you didn't do it Spike.”
  2806. S: “Did you get me an alibi?”
  2807. >Their face scrunches up what looks like confusion.
  2808. >K: “Um, well no… but I'm working on it.”
  2809. >Makes sense to you.
  2810. S: “Well, I have faith in you!”
  2811. >That's no lie, you genuinely think she will figure this out.
  2812. >She's smart, and if she's done this before, you're in good hands!
  2813. >After a while, she leaves, off to keep working.
  2814. >Just gotta have faith in her.
  2815. >It's later that night when you hear a strange scurrying sound outside your cell.
  2816. >When you look up to investigate, you see a dragon.
  2817. >At first you assume it's Khoa, but up on further inspection under the dim light of a lamp, you can tell it's not.
  2818. >Their scales are a light green.
  2819. >Their beady yellow eyes are staring right at you.
  2820. >?: “I-I’m sorry it wound up like this.”
  2821. >What do they mean?
  2822. >?: “It all went w-wrong. All I was supposed to do w-was hurt him. Make h-her take the fall.”
  2823. >They can't be talking about… the murder, can they?
  2824. >Make who take the fall?
  2825. >You don't even need to think about it.
  2826. >Khoa.
  2827. >S: “Why? Why did you do this?”
  2828. >?: “F-for the plan… all apart of the plan…”
  2829. >He's talking like he's insane.
  2830. >?: “Even though you're d-domestic, you deserve an a-apology. Just k-know it's for a greater good.”
  2831. >The small dragon slips away, leaving you confused and scared.
  2832. >What s this greater good?
  2833. >And why did they want to get Khoa in trouble?
  2834. >With all this weighing on you, you do the only rational thing.
  2835. >Call for the guards.
  2836. >They sadly do not believe you.
  2837. >They’re being awfully cold towards you right now, extremely distant.
  2838. >It makes sense though, they think you killed somepony.
  2839. >Doesn’t make it hurt any less though.
  2840. >Once everything has settled, you lie back down in your cot, trying your hardest to fall back asleep.
  2841. >You are Khoa, fresh out of talking with Spike.
  2842. >Last night he swears that he had an encounter with some mystery dragon that was trying to set you up.
  2843. >Not for murder though, but for an assault.
  2844. >Apparently things got out of hand to the point of a death.
  2845. >If what this is true, someone did all of this because of you.
  2846. >The thought makes you shudder.
  2847. >You know that you can’t blame yourself for this, but it still fucking sucks.
  2848. >Doing your best to jot down all the information Spike gave you, you wonder how accurate this is.
  2849. >Spike could have possibly just had a bad dream.
  2850. >Then again, if this is true, that means Spike is innocent.
  2851. >And that means you’re going to pursue this as hard as you can.
  2852. K: “Have there been any new dragons in town recently?”
  2853. >A simple question, often met by guards with “you don’t actually believe that, do you?”.
  2854. >Yes, you do.
  2855. >Spike is a weird little sperg, but he’s not a murderer.
  2856. >And he’s /sure/ as hell not clever enough to spin a yarn about this other dragon.
  2857. >A small, lime green dragon with a stutter.
  2858. >You’ll find them, eventually.
  2859. >Sooner than you thought really, because as you walk around town, you see a small bipedal figure in a cloak.
  2860. >They’re trying to stick to the shadows it seems, but they didn’t seem to be very good at it.
  2861. >Not wanting to cause a scene, you approach as slow as possible.
  2862. >Alas, you’re no master at stealth, you step on a branch and the little guy turns his head instantly.
  2863. >?: “You!”
  2864. >You expected them to run away.
  2865. >Instead, they pounced on you.
  2866. >The wiry little bastard was on top of you in moments.
  2867. >He’s half an inch shorter than you, but he’s stronger by a decent margin.
  2868. >Right as you open your mouth to yell, he forces something down your throat.
  2869. >A potion of some sort, it catches the back of your throat, causing you to sputter and cough.
  2870. >That doesn’t last very long though, because you’re out cold in a matter of moments.
  2871. >When you come to, your head feels like you’ve had too many shots of bourbon.
  2872. >But, you didn’t get any fucking bourbon, you got fucking drugged.
  2873. >You’re tied down to a chair, your bonds obviously tied by someone knowledgeable in doing so.
  2874. >If they flat out wanted you dead, they would have probably just killed you from the get go, so this is a decent sign at the least.
  2875. >Not much of a silver lining though considering you’ve been kidnapped.
  2876. >Speaking of, there's the little shit who caught you.
  2877. K: “Gonna get this shit over with already?”
  2878. >Not even going to try playing nice Khoa the amnesiac detective right now.
  2879. >?: “H-hush! You think you have it b-bad right now?”
  2880. >You shoot him a look.
  2881. >?: “I've b-been forced to leave my home, travel to this h-horrible kingdom, /kill/ somebody, and n-now I have to get f-forceful because they accused the wrong dragon!”
  2882. >Well, that's a confession if you've ever heard one.
  2883. >Now if only you could get out and arrest this fucker.
  2884. >But for now, let's just play the interrogation game.
  2885. K: “Why get me accused anyways? What does that accomplish for you?”
  2886. >?: “Isn't it o-obvious? To ruin your image. Get them to openly h-hate you. But, that didn't w-work.”
  2887. K: “Okay, so you want to fuck up my life, sure, but why dipshit?”
  2888. >?: “The p-plan was to play the support, t-to raise your spirits after you've been cast out. B-bring you willingly to our home.”
  2889. >>29758664
  2890. K: “Oh fuck off!”
  2891. >This little shit wants you to go to the Dragonlands, and thus did for all of this?
  2892. >Unbelievably asinine.
  2893. ?: “N-now we're going to g-go by force. So you f-fuck off…”
  2894. >That's not gonna happen.
  2895. >You don't care why this little shit wants you, you're not going.
  2896. >Seeing that he's botched most of his plans so far, you trust you'll be able to get out of this.
  2897. >Right?
  2898. >He's stronger than you, you know that much.
  2899. >You'll need to get the jump on him if you'll ever have a chance.
  2900. >If you can do that, you’re probably a lot smarter than him, so from there on you’ll be leading this shit show.
  2901. >Fuck since when have you thought like this?
  2902. >This cannot be the same you that cried about being lost in town.
  2903. >But hey, this you is going to fucking get out of here so other you can go back to feeling shitty.
  2904. >But how?
  2905. >Seduction comes to mind.
  2906. >There's not going to be any dignity in this anyways, so why not?
  2907. >Okay, there's plenty of reasons why not.
  2908. >Maybe you're just kind of horny.
  2909. >Yeah, let’s not go with that.
  2910. >You could always ask to go use the bathroom.
  2911. When they turn, you can jump them and…
  2912. >Hope for the best.
  2913. >No clear, strong answers here.
  2914. >But, you've got to at least try.
  2915. K: “I need to take a piss!”
  2916. >They look over at you, glaring.
  2917. K: “I need to /pee/, are you deaf?”
  2918. >Groaning, they undo your bonds.
  2919. >?: “We’re l-leaving soon anyways.”
  2920. >Once you're loose, they brandish a simple dagger.
  2921. >Oh fuck.
  2922. >”No f-funny business!”
  2923. >You want to shove that knife up their ass.
  2924. >Fucking dipshit.
  2925. >Biting your tongue, you slink towards the back of the… cave?
  2926. >Where the hell are you anyways?
  2927. >Doesn't matter where right now though, what matters is the hefty rock on the ground back here.
  2928. >Looks heavy.
  2929. >Good.
  2930. >Picking it up, you try to be as quiet as possible.
  2931. >Slow and steady fucks up the kidnapper…
  2932. >With your big rock in hand you start edging your way closer towards the other dragon.
  2933. >Each step goes as slow as draconianly possible, you keep your claws from hitting the cave floor as much as possible.
  2934. >?: “Wh-what’s taking so lon-”
  2935. >Before they even finish turning, you lob the rock at their face.
  2936. >And with that, the dragon crumples to the ground.
  2937. >Are they unconscious?
  2938. >Holy fuck you did it!
  2939. >A few seconds later, they start to stir however.
  2940. >Holy fuck you’ve fucked up!
  2941. >Thinking fast, you snatch their dagger, holding it to their neck.
  2942. >Their eyes shoot open in shock.
  2943. K: “Hey, no funny business~!”
  2944. >?: “I don’t g-get paid enough for this…”
  2945. K: “Why don’t you just shut up and start walking?”
  2946. >The tables thoroughly flipped, the other dragon can only comply.
  2947. >?: “Asmod will still g-get what he wants you know. It’s only a m-matter of time…”
  2948. >You aren’t really interested in his bullshit right now, he’s a fucking murderer and kidnapper, and it’s time to make him pay.
  2949. >Thankfully the cave isn’t all that far from town after all, you promptly haul his sorry ass off to Shining Armor.
  2950. >They don’t even try to make an excuse, they just confess.
  2951. >It’s only a few minutes later you’re greeted by Spike, who runs up and gives you a big hug.
  2952. >Eh, it doesn’t faze you that much this time.
  2953. >S: “Y-you found him! You saved me! Thank you…!”
  2954. >Without even thinking, he gives you a kiss on the cheek.
  2955. >You’d probably feel more than a little upset over that, if it weren’t for the fact that you’ve officially paid off your debts to Discord.
  2956. >Favor two and three, in one fell swoop.
  2957. >Damn, you’re good.
  2958. >Reflecting on everything, it’s hard to call yourself a detective.
  2959. >The case was hardly a case, in part due to it being such an obvious culprit.
  2960. >Seriously, they really fucked up most, if not everything in this.
  2961. >If they /hadn’t/ fucked up, your old boss wouldn’t be dead though, and you’d be skipping off into the dragonlands.
  2962. >But, he did fuck up, no doubt to the disappointment of this “Asmod”.
  2963. >You write the name down, taking up half a page in your journal.
  2964. >He’s got his eyes on you, and now you’re going to do the same.
  2965. >Whoever the fuck he is.
  2966. >It’s been two weeks since you brought in Skip, the murderer.
  2967. >Since then, you’ve been offered a full position as an official investigator for the kingdom.
  2968. >And… you said yes.
  2969. >The position is mostly an on demand sort of job, they’ll call for you when they need you.
  2970. >You’ve yet to get a case, but it’s something.
  2971. >Speaking of something, apparently somepony in the castle has been whipping up a reward for you.
  2972. >You aren’t sure if what you did warrants any sort of reward, but you aren’t about to say no.
  2973. >D: “Long time no see Inspector!”
  2974. >Discord is visiting you it seems, took him long enough.
  2975. K: “I finished your favors, if you hadn’t noticed.”
  2976. >He nods, smirking.
  2977. >D: “And I’d say everything was mostly a success!”
  2978. K: “How so?”
  2979. >D: “Well, I like you Khoa, that’s an honor I afford to very few, but it’s the truth. Having taken a deep look into your mind, from the get go I knew you could be something special. So, I crafted a most devious way to get you settled in! First, I made you go and be social with a peer, then I sadly failed to get you romantically active, and finally- I pushed you into a career!”
  2980. >You’re not surprised really, Discord has a very unique form of showing affection if your name isn’t Fluttershy.
  2981. K: “Thanks, I guess.”
  2982. >Discord frowns.
  2983. >D: “Not happy? I think I’ve done a pretty bang up job in getting your life in sh-”
  2984. K: “My life isn’t in shape Discord. It’s starting to look better yeah, but, do you honestly think everything is perfect now that I’ve got friends and a job? I’m still who I was, and I still don’t know why I’m here.”
  2985. >He shakes his head a little, disappointed.
  2986. >D: “You’re making progress though, and trust me, I don’t say such candid things lightly. You just need to keep working at finding the truth.”
  2987. >As much as you hate to admit it, when he’s trying to be sentimental, it works pretty decently.
  2988. >From the notes of Asmod.
  2989. >”Absolute failure.
  2990. >That Skip is rotting in a dungeon for how horrendously he botched a simple plan.
  2991. >Lucky for him they locked him up, I would not have been as merciful as those ponies.
  2992. >The plan to bring the subject closer was so simple on paper, but that’s just that- variables out control come up.
  2993. >I’ll need something else, something more poignant.
  2994. >Trying to ruin their current standings has proven… volatile.
  2995. >Besides, recent happenings have only given more results.
  2996. >Perhaps, this was a blessing after all.
  2997. >Still, something new is in order, something better than last time.
  2998. >The end is so close I can taste it.
  2999. >And soon, she will taste it as well.
  3000. >Very, very soon.”
  3002. Part 4:
  3003. >It was almost a better gift than the house.
  3004. >Sure, it's a gift you got for yourself, but that doesn't matter.
  3005. >It's still the perfect gift.
  3006. >Rarity is one talented horse, that's for sure, being able to take your shitty description and make this.
  3007. >Although you called it a “robe”, there's no denying this is a hoodie.
  3008. >A deep, not too strong red color with white text.
  3009. >”Harvard University”.
  3010. >Okay, so you never went to Harvard, but fuck it, what else were you going to commission?
  3011. >After Rarity offered you a free outfit for helping find something for her, this was the first thing that came to mind.
  3012. >Smiling to yourself, you slide the large garment on.
  3013. >It's baggy, just like you requested.
  3014. >Maximum comfy.
  3015. >You instinctively check the pockets for your glasses, only to remember you don't need them anymore.
  3016. >You don't even have them anymore.
  3017. >That was before all this, your eyesight is just fine right now.
  3018. >With a quick sigh, you pull the good on before going to lay down.
  3019. >Naptime.
  3020. >This house of yours is pretty cozy.
  3021. >It's just far out enough that you don't see many visitors, but close enough to town that nothing is too out of the way.
  3022. >It's got a small kitchen, a bathroom, bedroom, all the necessities.
  3023. >If you had to guess, you'd say it's a little smaller than your old apartment.
  3024. >You still aren't totally sure who pulled all the strings necessary to get you this place, but oddly enough- you think it was Discord.
  3025. >The basis of that theory is admittedly weak, but you like to think you know the guy pretty well.
  3026. >He's still a spontaneous, chaotic ass, but he takes care of those he's close to in his own way.
  3027. >This house could be an example of that.
  3028. >After a bit, you're awoken by a knock on your door.
  3029. >Taking a moment to gather yourself, you go to open it.
  3030. >It's… Discord?
  3031. K: “Since when do /you/ knock?”
  3032. >D: “You see, it's been ages since I've forced myself to use door and-”
  3033. K: “Fluttershy asked if you could start knocking, didn't she?”
  3034. >His face flashes to embarrassment, if only for a moment.
  3035. >D: “I just /had/ to make you a detective.”
  3036. >You both know that didn't require detective work to figure out.
  3037. K: “Come on in.”
  3038. >He adjusts his size a bit to fit more comfortably in your small house.
  3039. >Almost instantly you catch their eyes darting around, looking at your stuff.
  3040. >Nosey bastard.
  3041. >It's not like you can prevent him from looking around, so you just sit down and wait for him to get bored.
  3042. >And that's when he grabs your journal.
  3043. >You wince as he does so, but don't stop him.
  3044. >Discord quickly goes through, before looking at you with a smirk.
  3045. >D: “Someone has been busy!”
  3046. >Probably referring to the notes you've been taking recently.
  3047. >If you're going to be an official detective, you want to be good at it.
  3048. >So you've filled your journal with a lot of notes on procedure and the like.
  3049. >D: “Nothing personal in here though, I thought you were a big fan of keeping a diary!”
  3050. K: “I am, and do. I just keep my personal journal separate from my work one.”
  3051. >You open a drawer at your desk, revealing a small lockbox.
  3052. >Discord frowns at the sight of it.
  3053. >D: “Those only open at the owner’s touch.”
  3054. >You can't help but crack a smile at his disappointment.
  3055. >D: “You're /such/ a party pooper!”
  3056. K: “Oh god, don't mention parties…”
  3057. >D: “You got the invite too eh? You better not skip!”
  3058. >It’s Fluttershy’s birthday party in a few days, which on paper doesn't sound bad.
  3059. >But from what you've heard, Pinkie has invited most of the town.
  3060. >Because a shy girl just loves a high profile birthday.
  3061. >D: “I can force you to go, you know.”
  3062. >Yes, you are very aware that you have no real say in the matter.
  3063. >But that doesnt mean you have to like it.
  3064. >Parties and you have never mixed, and seeing as how you very recently worked on a murder case here, people might still be curious.
  3065. >And that means small talk all night, never actually talking with the birthday girl who probably feels as awkward as you, and going home super late.
  3066. >If this were anybody else’s party, you could and probably would, skip in a heart beat.
  3067. >But this is Fluttershy, she took you in.
  3068. >Not to mention Discord’s pathetic crush is going to drive him to force you to come.
  3069. >You're pretty much in checkmate.
  3070. >The party is in a few days, so you have a little time to prepare.
  3071. >Not that it's going to help all that much.
  3072. >You'll just have to make the most of it.
  3073. K: “Did you come here for a reason, or are you just here to fuck with me?”
  3074. >D: “Just a friendly visit Khoa! Don't be so tense!”
  3075. >Sighing a bit, you sit back.
  3076. K: “I don’t try to be so tense, it's just how I am.”
  3077. >Discord smirks, forming an idea.
  3078. >D: “Maybe I can help with that!”
  3079. >Time to panic, he's planning shit.
  3080. >You shoot up, trying to push him outside.
  3081. >He, of course, doesn't make things easy for you.
  3082. >The altercation ends with you lying on your bed, panting heavily.
  3083. >D: “Nothing like a good exercise to loosen the muscles, right~?”
  3084. >That son of a bitch…
  3085. >You can't help but laugh.
  3086. >It’s not long before you’re alone again.
  3087. >You have no real cases right now, don’t have to worry about the party for a couple days, and as the sun begins to set, you know for a fact that visiting anybody in your small network of friends probably won’t be for all that long.
  3088. >Kind of feels like the nights leading up you getting here.
  3089. >Just you with nothing to do, nobody to really go see, just lying there with your own thoughts.
  3090. >It sends a chill down your spine.
  3091. >How much have things really changed for you in all this time?
  3092. >In some regards, a great deal, in others- not so much.
  3093. >There’s no way you could ever deny that you’re happier here, but to what end?
  3094. >Are you really content with everything?
  3095. >Things have been looking up lately, but the threat of things falling all the way back down is stil there.
  3096. >But, that’s to be expected, right?
  3097. >It would be more weird if you /didn’t/ feel off about this, right?
  3098. >You sigh, posing all these questions to yourself isn’t going to do anything.
  3099. >There is one thing you can do though, one thing the you before never really did.
  3100. >Try and take your mind off it.
  3101. >Sure, you can’t blame a guy in a deep depression for not trying to keep his mind off the pain, but you’re not exactly depressed anymore.
  3102. >Scarred, sure, but depressed? Not really.
  3103. >So you might as well be proactive about how shitty you’re starting to feel!
  3104. >Time to find yourself a good book…
  3105. >Might as well finish the series you’ve been working on.
  3106. >This is the fifth book in a series you’ve shamelessly been devouring.
  3107. >It’s probably because it’s the first /dragon/ romance novel you’ve found here.
  3108. >It’s honestly a little sad that you’ve almost finished the whole series, you’ve been reading it in your downtime ever since you moved in.
  3109. >Discord had apparently added them to your collection when your stuff was moved over here.
  3110. >For once, his antics will go on without any protest.
  3111. >”She knew, deep down, that could never go back to that small, sleepy village she had called home for that one blistering summer. Now she was on the road, lost and forlorn.”
  3112. >A depressing start, but based on the tone of the series, it’s a perfect way to start it.
  3113. >You’ll have to let Fluttershy borrow these once you’re finished…
  3114. >Lighting your lamp, you settle in for the night, fully expecting to spend the whole time reading.
  3115. >That’s until you hear a knocking at your door.
  3116. >Not even a few pages in, and you’re already being wrenched away from your book.
  3117. >The injustice of this world knows no bounds.
  3118. >Sighing, you trudge to your front door, cracking it open.
  3119. >It’s Twilight.
  3120. >Your grumpy mood softens a bit, it’s not some random pony asking you to find their hat or something asinine.
  3121. K: “What’s up?”
  3122. >She looks down a bit, like she doesn’t exactly want to spit it out.
  3123. >TS: “Well, uh… I wanted to ask…”
  3124. >C’mon, spit it out, friend or not, you want to get back to reading.
  3125. >TS: “Would you be willing to… take Spike to Fluttershy’s party? Like, you two go together?”
  3126. K: “I’m not interested in Spike, sorry. He’s a good friend but not my ty-”
  3127. >TS: “Not as a date! Just as a friend! Look, Discord is going to be there, and I need to make sure he’s not going to do anything!”
  3128. K: “You think Discord is going to try and mess up /Fluttershy’s/ party?
  3129. >TS: “Well, okay no, it’s just… well... “
  3130. K: “Do you have a date?”
  3131. >Maybe you /have/ gotten good at reading faces recently.
  3132. >Twilight begins to try and formulate a good lie, but you can tell she doesn’t have one.
  3133. >You smirk at her discomfort, deciding you’ll throw her a bone.
  3134. K: “Yeah, I’ll take Spike.”
  3135. >She looks like the weight of the world has been lifted from her shoulders.
  3136. >You chuckle a little at her relief.
  3137. >It’s weird, you’re the one being the good friend and doing her a favor.
  3138. >Normally it would be the other way around, especially when somebody like Twilight is involved.
  3139. K: “Want to come in for a bit? I could probably make some tea or…”
  3140. >It just kind of forces its way out of your mouth.
  3141. >Normally you’d have just seen her off and that’s that.
  3142. >But, you genuinely want to just hang out for a bit.
  3143. >Some analyst or armchair psychologist would probably say it’s you acclimating to your surroundings and accepting it as your new reality.
  3144. >You’re just going to call it trying.
  3145. >Twilight accepts the offer, walking in slowly.
  3146. >TS: “Cozy little place you’ve got here!”
  3147. >Oh smalltalk, the backbone of all awkward conversations.
  3148. >No surprise that it is awkward though, you spend far more time with Spike than you do with her.
  3149. >But, it's not like you two can't get along- it's just the effort hasn't entirely been there.
  3150. K: “Y'know, I'm still shocked by everything that's happened to me recently.”
  3151. >TS: “I would be too, it's a lot to take in. You're taking it immensely well thoigh.”
  3152. >Are you?
  3153. >It doesn't feel like that, it feels like you've been floundering around this whole time.
  3154. >You smile a little, looking down.
  3155. K: “Tea?”
  3156. >TS: “Um, yes please.”
  3157. >You've always been decent at making drinks, although coffee was always more your speed.
  3158. >But the tea here is pretty good, so you make do.
  3159. >You've given up trying to figure out what is engineering and what is enchantment here anymore.
  3160. >All that you know is that you have a
  3161. working stove and that's all that matters.
  3162. >TS: “Do you think you came from one of those nomadic dragon tribes?”
  3163. >You shrug, it's about as good as your answers can be on the matter.
  3164. >TS: “I've been reading up on dragons recently, Out From The Dragonlands, anatomy texts, the works of Asmod and the like…”
  3165. >Hearing that name almost makes you drop the kettle.
  3166. K: “A-Asmod…?”
  3167. >Twilight nods, obviously seeing nothing horribly wrong about the name.
  3168. >TS: “One of the few widely published dragon scholars, of course I'd read his work. A real shame he disappeared before publishing anything further.”
  3169. >Disappeared?
  3170. >That can’t be right, can it?
  3171. K: “Is Asmod a… common name?”
  3172. >Twilight shakes her head.
  3173. >Shit.
  3174. >You rush the tea, bringing it over.
  3175. K: “I might need to borrow those books. Actually, I do, badly.”
  3176. >You manage to convince Twilight to get you the books after she finishes her tea.
  3177. >You're on edge the whole time, just waiting for her to get back.
  3178. >She's back as soon as possible, carting a few large, dusty old books.
  3179. >Helping her set them down, you glance at the title of the last book.
  3180. >”On The Superiority of Dragon-Kind”.
  3181. >Twilight sighs a little, noticing your confusion.
  3182. >TS: “It's general consensus that Asmod’s final work should be disregarded, but I thought it would be worth the read, so i managed to dig up an old copy.”
  3183. >Old is right, it's by far the most banged up book in the small collection.
  3184. >And yet, this small black book fills you with a creeping dread.
  3185. K: “You said you wished he wrote more?”
  3186. >TS: “Controversial does not mean poorly done. I absolutely disagree but there's genius in that mind somewhere.”
  3187. >You open it up to the first page, starting to read.
  3188. >”In all my years, never have I held any equine being with any form of sympathy. They are so radically different that any common ground is practically impossible to reach. And that is, in the most rudimentary terms, why the citizens of Equestria must one day be stamped out from this world.”
  3189. K: “Jeez…”
  3190. >TS: “Some say Asmod went mad, writing this right before his disappearance. Others claim he was mad all along, and simply worked to a point of status before showing his real colors.”
  3191. >Asmod, a mad draconian scholar with a burning hatred towards ponies who disappeared ages ago.
  3192. >Yet, he's not only alive, but manipulating your life.
  3193. K: “I… how was this received?”
  3194. >TS: “Some dragons praised this as his magnum opus, others feared he would spark retaliation from Equestria and cut ties with him… Princess Celestia, well…”
  3195. >You don't even want to ask.
  3196. >But you know she's going to tell anyways.
  3197. >TS: “She's the reason he disappeared…”
  3198. >But he hasn't.
  3199. >He most certainly has not disappeared.
  3200. >Unless some zealot named their child after him, there's no way.
  3201. >Twilight takes note of your distress.
  3202. >TS: “Hey, you look like you've seen a ghost or something.”
  3203. >Been stalked by one more like.
  3204. K: “I… I… I need to talk to Celestia, like, now.”
  3205. >TS: “What? About Asmod? I'm sure she knows more about him, but she's far too busy to give a history lesson.”
  3206. K: “That's just it, this might not be history! Something… something is wrong here…”
  3207. >Twilight frowns, not sure what to do.
  3208. K: “This is really important, trust me.”
  3209. >With a sigh she gets up.
  3210. >TS: “If she's busy right now, we leave, got it?”
  3211. >You nod, heading out.
  3212. >Turns out, she wasn't busy.
  3213. >Twilight opted to wait outside as you walk in nervously.
  3214. >Time for answers hopefully.
  3215. >Something is going on, something bigger than you showing up here.
  3216. >And this may be your first clear answer.
  3217. >You see Celestia, sitting regally at the head of the room.
  3218. >Time to do this.
  3219. >C: “You are the dragon who helped solve that murder recently, yes?”
  3220. >You nod, bowing your body a little just to be safe.
  3221. >C: “Well, thank you very much for that. I’m glad to have someone with your skills helping keep the peace.”
  3222. >It really didn’t take much “skill” to do, but it’s not the time to worry about that.
  3223. K: “This uh, actually does have something to do with that… Your Highness…”
  3224. >C: “Oh?”
  3225. K: “The murderer, he initially tried to pin the murder on me. He mentioned that… somebody would get what they wanted in the end. That somebody, I think you know them… Asmod.”
  3226. >If Celestia had a distinct reaction to the name, she hides it very well, you don’t even notice her face flash with any emotion.
  3227. >C: “Are you sure that is what they said?”
  3228. K: “Absolutely. But to my understanding, you… got rid of them?”
  3229. >C: “Years ago, yes. It was not too long after they published their last work. They had come to me, threatening my kingdom. So, I took action.”
  3230. K: “What did you do?”
  3231. >C: “I sent them away, to a place where he could never harm anypony in Equestria.”
  3232. K: “Where did you take them? Because I am certain they got back.”
  3233. >You have to keep your voice down, trying to hide a slight and growing irritation in your voice.
  3234. >C: “To some pocket reality, a world where it is him and only him. A place without ponies to harm. A place where his mad ravings can echo on forever.”
  3235. >A cruel, absolute punishment, but you know for a fact it isn’t nearly as absolute as one may think.
  3236. K: “I mean no offense, but I will be looking into the possibility of him being here.”
  3237. >C: “As you should if it will help you feel at ease. Just know that I am positive that when I sent him away, that he would not be able to get into Equestria. Nothing should have changed.”
  3238. >You head out, your head swimming with questions and possibilities.
  3239. >Twilight looks over at you, expecting some sort of update on the situation.
  3240. >But you don’t really have one to give.
  3241. K: “Hey, I’ve got some thinking to do, I’ll see you around…”
  3242. >There’s no hiding the exasperation in your voice, just as Twilight can’t hide the worry on her face.
  3243. >She’s a good friend, too good of a friend right now.
  3244. >Don’t let her rope you into talking this over with her, just don’t.
  3245. >Right now you don’t walk to talk about anything until you have something solid.
  3246. >And you know exactly where to get that from.
  3247. >It’s to the dungeons you go, to the very cell Spike had been thrown in when they thought he was the murderer.
  3248. >A different dragon sits there now.
  3249. >Sk: “Wh-what do you want? To g-gloat?”
  3250. K: “Cut it out, I need to talk with you.”
  3251. >The shifty little dragon looks at you, studying you.
  3252. >Sk: “You sound s-serious.”
  3253. K: “I am very serious right now, and I need your assistance.”
  3254. >They sit up, officially interested in what you’re talking about.
  3255. K: “You mentioned Asmod when I took you in, is this /the/ Asmod?”
  3256. >Skip laughs at your question, a genuine, hearty laugh.
  3257. >Sk: “He s-said you’d learn about h-him sooner or later, I suppose it’s s-sooner!”
  3258. >You lean in close, bile rising up in your throat.
  3259. K: “Who is he then? What’s he got to do with me?”
  3260. >Sk: “He is the g-great Asmod Inkclaw, and h-he’s going to purge the world!”
  3261. K: “What does that have to do with me?!”
  3262. >Sk: “Think l-long and hard about it and f-figure it out yourself /h-human/!”
  3263. >The shock on your face is palpable, and it sends Skip into a loud, uproarious laughter that echoes through the dingy dungeon.
  3264. >Your whole body is numb as you slowly trudge back home.
  3265. >What other kind of reaction could you have to this besides overwhelming numbness?
  3266. >Asmod has been a bundle of surprises tonight, but the “human” bit has really thrown you off.
  3267. >How the hell does that little shit know anything about humans, let alone that you were one?
  3268. >Once back in your house, you flop on your bed, face first.
  3269. >That hopeless feeling is welling up again, and you don’t know how to fight it right now.
  3270. >It’s gotten dark outside, and you aren’t in the mood to keep reading.
  3271. >All you can do is hope for a better tomorrow.
  3272. >Yeah, that’s it, you can take a day off tomorrow, and just… do something.
  3273. >And while you’re sitting around, Asmod can keep on working on what he’s planning.
  3274. >You don’t have time to take a day off, not right now.
  3275. >But then again, where do you go from here…?
  3276. K: “Fuuuuuuck!”
  3277. >You have no clue what to do about any of this.
  3278. >Who would?
  3279. >Celestia, but she’s not very talkative about it.
  3280. >Skip, but he’s having too much fun watching you suffer.
  3281. >Asmod, but that’s obviously not an option.
  3282. >Discord?
  3283. >Well… actually he might be worth talking with.
  3284. >But he only comes and talks when he wants to talk.
  3285. >Sighing, you have a feeling you won’t be seeing him until the party in a few days.
  3286. >At least you know for a fact he’s going to be there for his precious Fluttershy.
  3287. >So… time to play the waiting game after all.
  3288. >You wish you could say that in the couple days leading up to the party that you had some big revelation about yourself or the case.
  3289. >But no such luck, shit like that doesn’t just happen over the course of a couple days.
  3290. >So you’ve been sitting around, trying to keep yourself together, waiting for your chance to actually talk with Discord.
  3291. >It could have gone worse, you managed to raise your spirits a little, but you’d have preferred a more immediate talk with Discord to lessen your nerves.
  3292. >Hopefully you’ll be able to squeeze out some from him today.
  3293. >Even if means prying him away from either talking with Fluttershy or playfully terrorizing as many ponies as he can without being noticed.
  3294. >Walking outside to get some breakfast this morning, you noticed something on your front step, a package.
  3295. >Curious, you brought it back in, reading the note.
  3296. >”Darling, I just know you don’t have anything proper to wear to this party, good thing I kept your measurements! Consider it a gift! -Rairity”
  3297. >This should be interesting.
  3298. >Opening up the box, you see a simple red dress.
  3299. >It’s a pretty little number, well made too.
  3300. >You can’t help but blush at your favorable thoughts toward it, or at the desire to wear it.
  3301. >Still kind of hard to believe you’re a female, but in times like this, it feels all too obvious.
  3302. >Not that you mind, it’s just weird how much of a girly girl you can be.
  3303. >As you stand there, you hear a knock on your door.
  3304. >Wait, when was Spike going to come over again?
  3305. >Dammit, you promised you’d be all ready to go when he got here, but you didn’t expect him to come around breakfast time!
  3306. >You look over at your clock, noticing how it’s… a little before noon.
  3307. >Okay, so you slept in, fucking great.
  3308. >Rushing to your bathroom, you start putting the dress on.
  3309. >Fits perfectly, but then again, what did you expect from Rarity's handywork.
  3310. >Thankfully you get it on without a hitch, snag, or tear, and look in the mirror.
  3311. >Well damn.
  3312. >Despite your small frame, there’s no denying you’ve got a decent body.
  3313. >And Rarity had no trouble in making sure your dress showed that off.
  3314. >It’s no flowing gown or loose dress, it’s form fitting and proud of it, while still not feeling tight and constricting.
  3315. >You’re just hoping you don’t give Spike a boner or something.
  3316. >The thought wrestles a genuine little chuckle out of you.
  3317. >Despite the recent shitty turn of events, it’s good to know that you’re going to be in a decent mental state for the party.
  3318. >Once you’ve finished gawking at your dress, you go out to greet Spike.
  3319. >He’s standing there, an eager smile on his face.
  3320. >Twilight apparently got him into a little bow-tie and everything.
  3321. >S: “Hi Khoa! You look good!”
  3322. >You study his face for any sign of arousal, but find none.
  3323. >What is he, gay or something?
  3324. >Wait, you don’t want him to be attracted in the first place!
  3325. >Maybe Discord was right about the sexual hunger of youth…
  3326. >That or you’re a girl who wants to know she’s pretty.
  3327. >Really between a rock and a hard place with this one…
  3328. >You can't tell which is worse!
  3329. >The two of you head out shortly thereafter.
  3330. K: “So, when should we head over to the party?”
  3331. >S: “Whenever really, Pinkie worked all through the night, and everything is all set up.”
  3332. >What?!
  3333. >Based on the plans you heard, this is a massive party, and she’s already set up?
  3334. K: “H-how?”
  3335. >S: “Twilight says that there are some things that no amount of research or magic could ever explain, I think this fits that.”
  3336. >You honestly can’t argue that.
  3337. >It’s a good hour or so before the two of you head over to the party.
  3338. >There’s a few ponies gathered around already, mingling amongst the warzone of streamers and balloons.
  3339. >Jesus fucking christ did Pinkie’s soul explode all over town?
  3340. K: “D-does Fluttershy even like balloons?”
  3341. >Spike gulps, batting aside a swath of balloons blocking his path.
  3342. >S: “I… I sincerely hope so…”
  3343. >Once the two of you have carved your path, you find a table to sit at.
  3344. >A part of you wants to start tying balloons to Spike and see how many it takes for him to start floating away to pass the time.
  3345. >Quite the “Discord-esque” thought.
  3346. >Speaking of, where is that asshole?
  3347. >Looking around, you can’t see him, and by now most party goers present have migrated to the eye of the storm.
  3348. >Probably planning some grand entrance or something.
  3349. >The party slowly stirs to life like the eldritch abomination that it is.
  3350. >Slow at first, but once it gets going, nigh impossible to stop.
  3351. >Ponies everywhere, balloons everywhere, music blaring as loud as can be.
  3352. >They even got Trixie to put on a fucking /magic show/.
  3353. >You don’t know if you should be impressed or horrified.
  3354. >Spike thankfully sacrifices himself to go get you both some punch.
  3355. >Takes him a whole thirty minutes to return, with a crooked bowtie and the gaze of a Vietnam vet.
  3356. >S: “H-here’s your punch…”
  3357. >They hand you a half full glass, no doubt having spilled the rest.
  3358. K: “That bad huh?”
  3359. >S: “Got turned around… wound up in the foal section... “
  3360. >The poor bastard, he deserves a medal.
  3361. K: “I’ll uh… I’ll get the drinks next time…”
  3362. >And it was then you determined that you will not be getting anything else to drink this evening.
  3363. >As everything keep going on, you start to get some curious ponies walk up to you.
  3364. >”Are you the one who solved that crime?”
  3365. >”Oh, a dragon! Cute!”
  3366. >”Are you two a couple?”
  3367. >”Where’s the bathroom?”
  3368. >You shoo them off as best you can, but it’s grating.
  3369. >Spike’s spergy replies don’t help either.
  3370. >S: “We’re a couple of dragons!”
  3371. >Fucking end it all sweet merciful god.
  3372. >Maybe going for a drink run isn’t that bad of an idea.
  3373. >You catch a glimpse of Twilight once during the night.
  3374. >Smirking, you look around for Flash Sentry nearby.
  3375. >However, the only pony you see remotely close to her is… Trixie, fresh off a magic show.
  3376. >Nope, don’t even consider it Khoa.
  3377. >They probably just found each other in the midst of the party and started chatting.
  3378. >That’s all that’s happeneing, no matter what your shitposty brain thinks.
  3379. K: “So uh… Did Twilight mention who her date was tonight?”
  3380. >S: “She has a date?”
  3381. >Well he’s fucking useless right now.
  3382. >Flash Sentry is probably fighting in the Punch Bowl Wars.
  3383. >And besides, if Twilight was lesbian for anybody, it would be Glimmer or some shit.
  3384. >Seeing as how you’re obviously not living in a Season 5 and on universe, that might take a while though.
  3385. >Or, you could stop trying to ship ponies like a sane person Khoa, that’s always an option.
  3386. >F: “Um… K-Khoa?”
  3387. >Looking over, you see Fluttershy has managed to get over towards you.
  3388. K: “Hey! Happy Birthday!”
  3389. >She looks concerned, probably because of how loud and bright the party is.
  3390. >F: “H-have you seen Discord anywhere? Haven’t seen him in a few days, and I know that he was a-anticipating coming to the party…”
  3391. >Red flags have officially been raised.
  3392. K: “I haven’t seen him in a while, besides, if he was going to be with anypony tonight, it would be with you.”
  3393. >She blushes, looking down a little.
  3394. >F: “Oh… I don’t know about t-that, Discord is very sociable…”
  3395. K: “Sure, but on /your/ birthday? I expected him to be next to you all night long, there’s no denying that you’re his favorite pony.”
  3396. >Her blush deepens, and a tiny smile spreads on her face.
  3397. >She’s /glad/ to hear that.
  3398. >Oh god, is this hopeless crush less one sided than you thought?
  3399. >You can worry about this later, right now there’s something far more pressing.
  3400. >Where the hell is Discord?
  3401. >Not just because you need to talk with him, but because this is very unlike him.
  3402. >The flamboyant lord of chaos missing a massive party dedicated to their best friend?
  3403. >That’s just not like them.
  3404. K: “Hey… maybe he slept in, or forgot, or something… I can go try and check…”
  3405. >It’s a shitty excuse to get out of the party, you have no idea where Discord would be, but might as well propose it.
  3406. >F: “I-I would appreciate that…”
  3407. >Taking your chance, you get the hell out of here.
  3408. >Free from the party that has been swallowing your soul all night.
  3409. >Never, ever, let PInkie Pie plan your birthday when it comes up.
  3410. >Your heart won’t be able to take it.
  3411. >Once outside of the party’s perimeter, you half consider just going to bed for the night.
  3412. >You’ve been in town for a while now, and it’s made you tired.
  3413. >But, you did promise Fluttershy you’d look for Discord.
  3414. >Detective Khoa is reluctantly on the case.
  3415. >The town is an eerie sort of quiet, considering the loud amount of noise you just left.
  3416. >For a party that’s been blazing of for hours now, it’s still going on strong.
  3417. >Even as the sun has begun to set, painting the sky a muted orange, you can just hear the party going on in the distance.
  3418. >But everything else is desolate, abandoned.
  3419. >Practically everypony in town is at that party.
  3420. >But not Discord…
  3421. K: “Hey! Discord! Get your ass out here! Fluttershy is worried!”
  3422. >You’re just yelling at the air right now, but for all you know, he could be listening in.
  3423. >Apparently, somebody is listening, because of the deep, throaty laughter echoing nearby.
  3424. >Definitely not Discord’s voice, although he could just be using a fake one to fuck with you.
  3425. ?: “Oh dear, did somebody not show up to that little party today?”
  3426. >The voice is as smooth as honey, despite the apparent age you can hear in it.
  3427. >There’s also a jeering, taunting undertone to it, not much unlike Discord’s, except this feels far less playful.
  3428. >It sends shivers down your spine just to hear it.
  3429. >The source of the voice steps out, practically gliding towards you.
  3430. >In an instant it’s obvious who it is.
  3431. >They’re a large dragon, clad in a rough looking robe.
  3432. >Their scales are a dark obsidian color, so dark that if it were any later in the night you might have had trouble seeing them.
  3433. >Both of their horns seem to have been broken over time, cutting off as jagged nubs of differing lengths.
  3434. >Their eyes, a piercing yellow, look over you analytically, sizing you up.
  3435. >Like he’s trying to learn everything about you without even speaking with you.
  3436. >Their claws are stained black about halfway up, almost as if they’re covered in something.
  3437. >Looks like the surname “Inkclaw” is taken a little literally.
  3438. >Asmod the Mad, in the flesh.
  3439. >As: “I must apologize for the abrupt meeting, I truly intended things to go far smoother than this.”
  3440. K: “Y-you tried to ruin my reputation and… had somebody killed…”
  3441. >He sighs, either genuinely disappointed or very good at faking it.
  3442. >As: “Skip… he tries his best, but they obviously were not equipped for such a sensitive task.”
  3443. >Play things cool, don’t do anything crazy right now Khoa.
  3444. >No matter how much you want to punch him.
  3445. >As: “But that’s beyond the point, I believe you’re looking for a certain deity of chaos, yes?”
  3446. >Sighing, you nod.
  3447. >As: “I must apologize, for he is a little… bogged down at the moment. He was getting awfully nosey in my work, and besides, I needed to test a pet project of mine. I do like experimenting on things you know…”
  3448. K: “Wh-what did you do?”
  3449. >You’re shaking a little right now, and there’s no denying it’s out of fear.
  3450. >Asmod steps forward a bit, relishing in your fear.
  3451. >As: “I’ve been attempting to replicate the power of the Elements of Harmony, purely as a side project for, well, the main goal. And, as the new statue decorating my home would attest to, I’ve succeeded in that goal.”
  3452. >He’s gotta be joking, he has to be.
  3453. >There’s no way that he could have harnessed anything remotely similar to the elements.
  3454. >But, the way he talks, he’s so confident about it.
  3455. >Not to mention it explains Discord’s sudden disappearance.
  3456. >As: “But let’s not dwell on such trivial matters, the former god of chaos is not what I came to speak with you tonight.”
  3457. >Just hearing Asmod refer to Discord as “the former” angers you on a level you can’t even explain.
  3458. >Discord has given you constant shit ever since you got here, showing practically no sign of remorse.
  3459. >But there’s no denying he’s been your guide this whole time.
  3460. >Without Discord, would you have done half the stuff you’ve already done?
  3461. >Definitely not.
  3462. >So, as fucked up as it is, you care about the guy.
  3463. >And now he’s been reduced to a statue, all because he got… too nosey?
  3464. >Oh god, was he looking into how you wound up in Equestria?
  3465. >He had to have been, and that means…
  3466. >This is your fault.
  3467. >The revelation almost topples you over.
  3468. >Not again… not again…
  3469. >Asmod takes note of your reaction.
  3470. >As: “Why, you’re feeling responsible for this, aren’t you?”
  3471. K: “Y-y-you…”
  3472. >As: “That’s one thing that you’ve always been rather affluent in, taking on guilt. Wouldn’t you agree?”
  3473. >The words don’t even come out your mouth any more.
  3474. >As: “No… definitely not ready… I shouldn’t be rushing things, my apologies.”
  3475. >Asmod begins to walk away, intending to leave you in the middle of the road.
  3476. >Your addled mind has no issue in him doing so, but your legs seem to have a different goal.
  3477. >Why are you walking? You don’t want to do this, do you?
  3478. >A part of you must, because you’re following him.
  3479. >It doesn’t even feel like you’re in control, more like something is pushing you along.
  3480. >Left, right, left, right…
  3481. >Right behind Asmod…
  3482. >He notices after a bit.
  3483. >Or perhaps he knew all along and was weighing the options of how to react.
  3484. >Either way, he suddenly turns, whipping his tail around.
  3485. >So much larger than you, his tail careens right into your ribs.
  3486. >The wind is knocked right out of you and you fall onto the ground with a thud.
  3487. >As: “Don’t pretend to be so eager now, when your time comes, you will know.”
  3488. >Even if you had a retort for him, it would have been swallowed up by your pained gasps for air.
  3489. >He’s just standing there, looking down at you.
  3490. >As: “Perhaps… if you are so eager to act, I shall give you a chance to act.”
  3491. >Their gaze turns off to the distance, towards the party.
  3492. >As: “The domestic dragon, I would venture that other than Discord, they are your closest relationship here, yes?”
  3493. >How does he…?
  3494. >You start to sit up, or at least attempt to.
  3495. >As: “Skip will not be in that dungeon for much longer, I can promise you that.”
  3496. >It’s like he’s staring into your soul right now.
  3497. >As: “He may be out already, depending on how quickly he figured out the present I sent him this morning. The moment he comes to me, I will give him a very simple order to redeem himself.”
  3498. >Asmod sneers, relishing on the atmosphere he has created.
  3499. >As: “To kill that domestic dragon in any way he sees fit. Of course, if you can stop him before that… well, perhaps then you’ll be ready.”
  3500. >You don’t know how to react right now, everything is such a blur…
  3501. >As: “Can you act now? Or will you simply watch as another you care about has their life ripped away in front of your eyes?”
  3502. >He knows…
  3503. >He knows about back then…
  3504. >Asmod is walking away now, leaving you with all of this.
  3505. >As: “Time is limited. I suggest you treat this with utmost urgency.”
  3506. >You’re left there to ponder the situation at hand and to nurse a sore rib.
  3507. >Asmod said a lot, none of it good.
  3508. >Discord is… gone.
  3509. >And if what he says is true Spike is in mortal danger.
  3510. >Skip may be lacking in a lot of areas, but he’s killed before, and will do it again.
  3511. >It takes you a moment to get back up on your feet and stable.
  3512. >There’s probably a bruise under all these scales.
  3513. >You could head to the castle and check if Skip has broken out yet.
  3514. >But if he has, you’d have wasted far too much time…
  3515. >No, you have to get to Spike.
  3516. >Grunting, you start to trudge back to the party.
  3517. >Each step with your left foot hurts, it’s not unbearable, but it’s painful.
  3518. >All you can really do is grit your teeth and deal with it.
  3519. >Once you get to Spike, you can hide him away somewhere.
  3520. >Hide him away then get the guards to start searching for Skip…
  3521. >A solid plan, just need to get back to the party…
  3522. >It’s a slow walk, the pain has only just started to subside by the time you reach all the flashing lights of the party.
  3523. >Now just to find Spike.
  3524. >Thank God he’s still sitting at the table, awkwardly looking around.
  3525. K: “Sp-Spike! You need to come with me /now/!”
  3526. >He looks over, a little startled by your tone.
  3527. >Spike doesn’t argue though, he gets up and walks over.
  3528. >S: “What’s going on Khoa?”
  3529. >You almost consider telling him, but you don’t want to worry the guy.
  3530. K: “Nothing… let’s… let’s just go to my house for a bit…”
  3531. >He can hide in a closet until you find a better spot.
  3532. >Either Spike doesn’t comment on it, but your walk is going back to a decent pace.
  3533. >No broken ribs it seems, that’s good.
  3534. >But no time to celebrate that, you’ve got a lot more than that to worry about.
  3535. >Spike will have to lay low until somebody catches Skip and ensures Asmod can’t get to him.
  3536. >That is, if Asmod wasn’t saying all that to intimidate you.
  3537. >It’s possible, but you don’t get the feeling he’s the kind of guy to bluff about anything.
  3538. >He sure didn’t fucking bluff when he knocked you flat on your ass.
  3539. >As if going to this party wasn’t going to shit up your night enough tonight, things have just been getting progressively awful.
  3540. >You feel a twinge of guilt, knowing that you’ll have to tell Fluttershy about Discord.
  3541. >And how it’s your fault that it happened.
  3542. >Once again, something to think about another time.
  3543. >The two of you are quickly outside your house.
  3544. K: “Look… I need you to just kind of… hide for a bit.”
  3545. >S: “Hide? Why?”
  3546. K: “Somebody… well, uh, they are very angry with me- and they intend to take that out on you.”
  3547. >He doesn’t seem to know how to react, not that you can blame him.
  3548. >After a bit, he nods, at least somewhat understanding the situation.
  3549. >You still haven’t mentioned that this involves them wanting to kill him, and you intend to keep it that way.
  3550. >No need to complicate matters.
  3551. >Opening the door to head inside, you notice something off.
  3552. >Did you leave your window open?
  3553. >Before you have time to ponder it further, you’re out cold, thanks to something smashing into your face.
  3554. >The last thing you hear before slipping out it the startled yelp of Spike.
  3555. >When you come to, you’re sitting against the wall of your house.
  3556. >Your head feels like it's been split in two, and that’s not too crazy of a thought considering the method of your assault.
  3557. >Slowly gaining composure, you see Skip sitting casually in a chair, next to a bound and gagged Spike.
  3558. >Sk: “Th-that’s how you knock a dragon out with a r-rock…”
  3559. >Still a smug little twat, some things never change.
  3560. >And your headache doesn’t help that.
  3561. >Sk: “A-Asmod is giving me a chance for redemption, b-but you know th-that. But he d-did offer me a… special route to d-do things.”
  3562. >Skip stands up, stretching as he keeps his eyes glued on you.
  3563. >Sk: “H-he said if I d-do it in a specific way, I’ll have proven mys-self in a w-way I could have never done before.”
  3564. >He produces an ornate knife from beside him as be begins to pace around the room.
  3565. >Sk: “To d-do it front of y-you. A-after all, what could y-you do to stop it?”
  3566. >You haven’t been bound at all.
  3567. >There’s nothing restraining you besides your aching head.
  3568. >But you have a feeling that’s not what he’s talking about.
  3569. >You know for a fact that’s not what he’s talking about.
  3570. >Sk: “Wh-what was that human female called again? A-Asmod has told me the st-story, but I’m foggy on the details.”
  3571. >The dragon cackles as your head droops down in shame.
  3572. >Fuck.
  3573. >That day still haunts you.
  3574. >How could it not?
  3575. >Seeing her die, watching it happen while you hid like a coward.
  3576. >The image is seared in your mind.
  3577. >Nightmares don’t have to be frequent to keep the wounds fresh.
  3578. >Trying to live with is possible, sure, but it’s never gone away.
  3579. >Vanessa.
  3580. >A bright girl with a bright future once, now currently a resident of her own wooden box.
  3581. >She died because of you.
  3582. >Everybody knew that, they never looked at you the same.
  3583. >You couldn’t focus in your studies, you couldn’t do work.
  3584. >Bristol became a prison, a prison of judging eyes.
  3585. >Not that you didn’t agree with them, you know it’s your fault too.
  3586. >You’re probably crying right now.
  3587. >Everything is numb right now.
  3588. >It’s not just her life that you’ve fucked up.
  3589. >Discord got wrapped up into all this because of you- and you see where that got him.
  3590. >And now Spike is going to get killed, all because of you.
  3591. >Khoa, the coward who can’t even stand up for those who care about them.
  3592. >It should have been you who died that day, not Vanessa.
  3593. >She’d be living her life, and nobody here would even have an inkling about this.
  3594. >Things would be peaceful and happy.
  3595. >But they’re not.
  3596. >Because you’re a coward.
  3597. >Sk: “A-as fun as this is to w-watch, I think w-we should get onto the show, yes?”
  3598. >You snivel, looking up.
  3599. >Skip has his knife angled right over Spike’s neck.
  3600. >Spike’s eyes are wide with fear, he’s staring at you pleadingly.
  3601. >His eyes look like her’s when she was about to die.
  3602. >You don’t want to watch this.
  3603. >Last time you watched, and it was awful.
  3604. >Sk: “Wh-what Asmod sees in you, I have n-no clue. It p-pains me to see a creature s-so pitiful call itself a d-dragon.”
  3605. >Skip has basically launched into a monologue at this point, berating you for your cowardice.
  3606. >It’s nothing you haven’t thought of before, more confirmation if anything.
  3607. >He’s not getting “on with the show” really, but it doesn’t matter does it?
  3608. >Maybe not to you right now, but to Spike it does.
  3609. >He’s staring at you, not even blinking.
  3610. >Is this really pleading?
  3611. >His body isn’t shaking, tears aren’t flowing, he’s just staring.
  3612. >Your initial thoughts might have been wrong in regards to what he was thinking...
  3613. >Maybe it’s anger, or acceptance.
  3614. >But, maybe it isn’t.
  3615. >You return his gaze, studying his face.
  3616. >In return, Spike nods at you slightly.
  3617. >Why did he nod?
  3618. >Does he… expect something?
  3619. >Did Vanessa expect something from you that day too?
  3620. >You have no idea, maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.
  3621. >But Spike seems to.
  3622. >And… he’s here, right now.
  3623. >You can’t forgive yourself for what happened back then, not yet.
  3624. >But sitting here and letting it happen again isn’t going to fix that.
  3625. >What can you do though?
  3626. >That doesn’t matter, you have to do something, anything.
  3627. >If you don’t, then you’ll only be adding more regrets to the long list you have.
  3628. >You’ll be letting Skip win.
  3629. >You’ll be letting /Asmod/ win.
  3630. >In the limited time you’ve known them, you’ve learned one key thing about them.
  3631. >They’re fucking scum.
  3632. >Bile is rising in your throat, all your self loathing diverting to something else.
  3633. >Them.
  3634. >These fucking assholes who think they can just walk over anybody because it services them.
  3635. >Dragons who will kill another of their kind just to prove a fucking point.
  3636. >Fuck them.
  3637. >You’ve made mistake after fucking mistake, but those were mistakes.
  3638. >These guys do shit like this on purpose.
  3639. >Fuck them, fuck them, fuck them.
  3640. K: “Fuck you!”
  3641. >Skip loses focus, looking over at you.
  3642. >Taking the opportunity, Spike ducks away, wriggling as best he can in his bindings.
  3643. >Skip goes to try and grab him, but you’re already moving.
  3644. >Tackling Skip, you pin him against the wall.
  3645. >But the slippery bastard pushes back, knocking you down.
  3646. >He seems conflicted, his eyes dart between Spike and your door.
  3647. >Being the coward he is, they run for the door.
  3648. >No, he’s not going to get away.
  3649. >Your rage is carrying you right after him.
  3650. >Looks like you’re just as fast, if not faster than him.
  3651. >Within moments, you’re hot on his tail.
  3652. >Gritting your teeth together, you lunge.
  3653. >Both of you roll for a bit, tumbling together.
  3654. >When you stop rolling, it you who’s on top.
  3655. >The look in his eyes is full of fear.
  3656. >Good.
  3657. >Little shits like this just take and take.
  3658. >Like the asshole at the cafe that day.
  3659. >You feel the bile moving up in your throat again.
  3660. >As you go to yell at them, to just let it all, something different happens.
  3661. >Instead of your angry words, it’s blistering hot fire that comes out.
  3662. >It’s like pressure has been building up in you for ages, and it’s only just now finally getting out.
  3663. >You can only describe the sensation as fucking amazing.
  3664. >Maybe it wasn’t bile rising in your throat after all.
  3665. >You must have passed out shortly thereafter, because when you come to, you’re in bed.
  3666. >Your throat feels raw, not surprising given that you just /yelled/ fire.
  3667. >A glass of water or some tea would be amazing right now...
  3668. >Looking to your side, Twilight and Spike are discussing something.
  3669. >TS: “-and are you sure that she can handle the news?”
  3670. >S: “She’d just be angry if you /didn’t/ tell her and she found out later…”
  3671. >Twilight looks over at you, jumping a little in surprise.
  3672. >TS: “Oh! Khoa! You’re awake! Spike said you went unconscious after… the altercation.”
  3673. >You nod, motioning towards your sink.
  3674. >She quickly fills you a glass of water, only taking a moment to find everything.
  3675. >Gulping down your drink, you can’t help but wonder what the “news” is.
  3676. >Probably nothing good if they’re anxious about telling you.
  3677. >Assuming they were talking about you that is.
  3678. K: “Hey uh… where did Skip go?”
  3679. >And awkward looks all around.
  3680. >So the news is probably about Skip, oh joy.
  3681. >TS: “He uh, well…”
  3682. >S: “He d-died!”
  3683. >Twilight shoots Spike an angry look.
  3684. >The worry on Spike’s face tells you that he just wanted to rip it off like a bandaid.
  3685. >Smart little guy, you’d have been pissed if they tried to hide that.
  3686. K: “He’s… dead?”
  3687. >Looking past Spike’s good call, there’s the fact that you blacked out while attacking Skip and now he’s dead.
  3688. >TS: “It’s true that dragons can resist flames and heat pretty well, but smoke inhalation is something else entirely…”
  3689. >Holy fuck…
  3690. >To hear such a real thing come from her mouth is just like be doused in a bucket of ice water.
  3691. >It’s sobering.
  3692. >But you don’t feel much guilt in this, not really.
  3693. >As shitty as it is, somebody like Skip doesn’t garner much sympathy from you.
  3694. >He’s killed, he was trying to kill again- and all because his boss told him to.
  3695. >Asmod, he’s probably already well aware his lacky is no more.
  3696. >Good, maybe now he won’t fucking toy with you anymore.
  3697. >It’s not likely, but being hopeful is always nice.
  3698. K: “I’m… sorry?”
  3699. >You don’t know what to tell these two.
  3700. >How are they supposed to react to you killing somebody?
  3701. >TS: “It’s okay Khoa… things got out of hand and you were protecting Spike and…”
  3702. >Looks like she’s about to burst into tears.
  3703. >Spike seems to be in decent shape, all things considered.
  3704. >You sigh, today is not going to be a very happy day for anybody.
  3705. K: “Are you two going to be okay? I really need to go see Fluttershy…”
  3706. >Spike nods, shooting a glance at Twilight, who reluctantly follows suit.
  3707. >That little fucking guy deserves a medal for all the shit he’s gone through these past several hours.
  3708. >But right now, you can’t congratulate the little guy, you’ve got some unsavory news to deliver.
  3709. >Fluttershy answers the door, as cheery as ever.
  3710. >She seemed pretty worried last night, but it seems like a good night’s sleep has got her back in a good mood.
  3711. >Probably assumes Discord got busy or something and couldn’t make it last night.
  3712. >You wish things were that innocent and simple.
  3713. >F: “Everything okay Khoa? You don’t look too happy right now.”
  3714. K: “No Fluttershy, everything's not okay.”
  3715. >Frowning a bit, she lets you in, going off into the kitchen to brew some tea for the both of you.
  3716. >As you sit down at the table, you wonder how you should break everything to her.
  3717. >Maybe just take a page out of Spike’s book and let her know without any sugar coating.
  3718. >Then again, Fluttershy is the most sensitive pony you know.
  3719. >You’ll figure something out.
  3720. >After a few minutes, Fluttershy comes over with the tea.
  3721. >You take a big sip before heading to business.
  3722. K: “So, I went to look for Discord like you asked me to.”
  3723. >F: “O-oh? Did you find him?”
  3724. K: “Well uh, no, but I know what… happened to him.”
  3725. >She cocks her head a little, hints of worry on her face.
  3726. K: “Somebody uh… managed to turn him back to stone…”
  3727. >You look down, hoping you weren’t too blunt.
  3728. >Fluttershy doesn’t say anything for a bit, the room is eerily quiet.
  3729. >There are some very faint snivels though, breaking the silence every now and again.
  3730. >You need to say something.
  3731. K: “Hey, I’ve already got a lead on it, so don’t worry too much…”
  3732. >F: “A l-lead?”
  3733. K: “Y-yeah! Uh, I know where to start looking and all that, so I’ll bring him back soon… okay?”
  3734. >There’s no way to tell if that really helped her feel better, but she does nod a little, giving you a small smile.
  3735. >You stay over at her place for a little bit, if only just to comfort her.
  3736. >The matter of everything /else/ that happened last night is not brought up.
  3737. >She won’t want to hear it, and you really don’t want to talk about it.
  3738. >Grizzly matters through and through.
  3739. >Attempted murders, crazy dragons, dead lackeys…
  3740. >It’s hard to imagine this is the same world you’ve been living in.
  3741. >Equestria has seemed like a safe haven from such real matters, but now things are feeling heavier than ever.
  3742. >You never killed anybody back in the human world.
  3743. >The human world, it’s even harder to imagine being there right now.
  3744. >In a way, Equestria feels more real now than that world ever did.
  3745. >You’re /doing/ something here, you’re wrapped up in something.
  3746. >That’s a lot more than you ever did back on Earth, even before that one day.
  3747. >There’s a lot of stuff from back in the human world you regret, but if you could go back… you aren’t sure if you would.
  3748. >You’ve considered this before, but now more than ever do you do you feel more attached to this world than the other one.
  3749. >This is your reality.
  3750. >Something brought you here for a reason, and you think you know why.
  3751. >Redemption.
  3752. >This is your chance to make something of yourself, something you could have never been sitting alone depressed in Rhode Island.
  3753. >Excusing yourself, you get up to leave, saying goodbye to Fluttershy.
  3754. >It’s time to get to work.
  3755. >>29835838
  3756. >It’s on your walk home that you run into him.
  3757. >Asmod slinks out from behind some trees, approaching with a coy smile on his face.
  3758. >As: “I’m rather impressed Khoa, in all honesty I expected Skip to come out victorious last night. I apologize for my rash judgement.”
  3759. >Don’t let his talk get to you, just think of a way to handle this situation and get the upper hand.
  3760. K: “Well, as you can see, I’m more than equipped to handle myself.”
  3761. >As: “Indeed! Seeing you breath fire was absolutely breathtaking you know, that raw anger releasing itself in a blazing inferno…”
  3762. K: “You were… watching that?”
  3763. >He nods, his devious smile twisting further upwards.
  3764. >As: “I watch whenever I have the time to. You have been my main point of study for quite a while now Khoa.”
  3765. >That’s not creepy at all.
  3766. >Not that you expected anything less from this motherfucker.
  3767. >As: “But that is not why I am here today, not entirely anyways. What I came here to do was officially bring this stage of research to a close.”
  3768. >You raise an eyebrow.
  3769. >As: “Ever since you were brought here, I’ve taken it upon myself to watch your growth, to see if you could properly adjust to life as a dragon. I think with the display you put on last night that you have more than proven yourself.”
  3770. K: “Ever since I was brought here? Does that mean you… know how I got here?”
  3771. >As: “But of course! I brought you here after all!”
  3772. K: “That’s impossible. There’s no way a mere dragon can do something like that…”
  3773. >As: “Of course not, even I know the limits of dragon-kind. But it was not merely my power alone that allowed for such a feat. But, to best explain that, I think it would be best if you watched something.”
  3774. >He hands you a small mirror, the glass almost as black as obsidian.
  3775. >As: “Stare into that, and witness the events of nearly fifty years ago.”
  3776. >You look into it, your thoughts clouding as the scene shifts in the mirror.
  3777. >>29835843
  3778. >You are the esteemed Asmod, brought before Princess Celestia in chains.
  3779. >Of course, the populous would be told you approached her in a blind rage, or something along those lines.
  3780. >Anything that makes the story a favorable one.
  3781. >They’ve stripped you of everything, taking your clothes and possessions without any form of grace.
  3782. >You have no doubt they would have removed the ink staining your claws if they had the means to clean it off, just to humiliate you.
  3783. As: “My /esteemed/ princess, you could have just summoned me, I would have made due haste to arrive.”
  3784. >She looks down at you with contempt, before using her damned magic to float something in front of your face.
  3785. >Oh, it’s your most recent publication, how nice.
  3786. As: “If you want me to sign it, I’ll have to be unchained…”
  3787. >C: “Do you honestly expect me to allow such inflammatory words to go unanswered?”
  3788. >Don’t give her any ground in this, play it all as jovial as possible.
  3789. >As much as you hate her and all she stands for, it is best to seem the innocent one of the both of you.
  3790. As: “I merely write what my kind want to read. As you know we dragons strive for riches, and inflammatory sells.”
  3791. >The princess frowns, moving closer to you.
  3792. >C: “We both know this is not true Asmod. I can see the hatred in your eyes.”
  3793. >She’s observant, you can give her that.
  3794. >C: “And such hatred can not exist in my kingdom.”
  3795. As: “Is my execution to be done in the confines of your empire, or may I be sent home to be slaughtered by own kind?”
  3796. >C: “Unlike you, I will not resort to such base violence. I instead will banish you, not from this kingdom, but from this world.”
  3797. >You frown, this is not what you had expected.
  3798. >A large mirror is brought out, pointed right at you.
  3799. As: “Perhaps this other world has others I can conquer, would you take that risk?”
  3800. >No reply.
  3801. >You can feel yourself slipping, losing your very place in reality.
  3802. As: “Long live Celestia the Tyran-”
  3803. >Falling is such a strange sensation, and this fall was perhaps the strangest you have ever felt.
  3804. >Your body feels so different, so foreign.
  3805. >You try to fly, but you can’t feel your wings.
  3806. >They’re gone, they’re gone and you’re falling.
  3807. >Never in your life have you felt such fear.
  3808. >Celestia’s cruel joke, to kill a proud dragon by dropping him from heights.
  3809. >But you don’t die, no.
  3810. >Your impact is hard, but it does not kill you.
  3811. >When you manage to stand, you note how wrong everything feels.
  3812. >Your flesh is exposed, lacking any scales.
  3813. >The feet you’ve walked on for years now burn on the hot ground.
  3814. >The stained claws of your people are gone, stripped of anything remotely draconian.
  3815. >What are you?
  3816. >What has that Celestia done to you?
  3817. >You struggle, but manage to find a reflective surface.
  3818. >Such a strange form you’re in, taller no doubt, but lacking in so many features you were born with.
  3819. >Off in the distance, you see another one of these strange creatures.
  3820. >”Um sir, are you okay? Why are you naked?”
  3821. >Turning, you realize this one is clad in proper clothing.
  3822. >In fact, there are a few of them around you, all of them dressed as well.
  3823. >You are the odd one out it seems.
  3824. >No matter, if you are stuck here, you shall adapt.
  3825. As: “Oh my… I… I can’t seem to remember anything… And my clothes are g-gone…”
  3826. >It’s been ages since you’ve played weak and defenseless.
  3827. >But now is an apt time to dust those skills off.
  3828. >Perhaps something can come of this…
  3829. >Something more fascinating than Equestria could have ever given you...
  3830. >You are Khoa, watching the mirror slowly return to a normal state.
  3831. >As: “From there I would slowly adjust to my strange surroundings. The one thing that stuck with me most was the ingenuity of the human. Their cities rival anything the ponies could make, all without magic.”
  3832. K: “I take it you found a way back?”
  3833. >As: “Lots of time and work was neccesary, but after several years I did manage to return. My means of doing so is the same device that brought you here.”
  3834. >You have to ask, you just have to.
  3835. K: “Why me? What made me so special?”
  3836. >Asmod takes his mirror back, looking down at you.
  3837. >As: “Special? I’d hardly call you special back then. You were, for all extensive purposes a stress test. I knew all along I could bring a human here and they would become a dragon. What was uncertain however was the mental strain it would cause. So I simply found the most emotionally warped and depressed person I saw and chose them. Lucky me for finding a human right about to off thems-”
  3838. K: “Stop…”
  3839. >You're shaking again.
  3840. >All along you were just some test.
  3841. >You didn't expect to be some chosen one or anything, but this?
  3842. >It feels… cheap.
  3843. >Just a way to see if a human mind can take the shock of being a dragon.
  3844. >That's what you are.
  3845. >As: “Don't be upset, you've proven yourself in every possible way! You're a dragon through and through.”
  3846. >It shouldn't bother you this much, but it feels like a cheap shot at your ego.
  3847. >This second chance was nothing more than a trial run.
  3848. >As: “Soon I can bring in more dragons, and build up an army capable of toppling the current regime, thanks to how perfectly you adjusted.”
  3849. >Just a part of his plan, this whole time you've been a pawn.
  3850. >Every step in feeling good about yourself has been validating his work.
  3851. >As: “I can see you are… overwhelmed. That's understandable. In three day’s time I'll bring you to my base of operations and we can work on finishing this. Goodbye for now.”
  3852. >He leaves you with that, an ominous promise.
  3853. >You don't even get any say in it, he's just going to scoop you up and bring you there.
  3854. >Three days until his perfect little test subject gets to witness the next part of his plan.
  3855. >Three days…
  3856. >You walk home, wondering about a lot of things.
  3857. >But most of all you wonder what you should do with yourself.
  3858. >There’s a lot you could do honestly.
  3859. >First, you could go along with what Asmod wants and help usher in a new age of draconian rule.
  3860. >That doesn’t sound appealing in the slightest to you.
  3861. >Asmod is scum and his plans just spell doom for those who have taken care of you since you’ve gotten here.
  3862. >A bit of guilt wells up inside of you, Asmod was using all of this as an experiment, all the things you’ve felt recently were exactly what he wanted.
  3863. >You to grow to like living here.
  3864. >It’s degrading the whole experience to you.
  3865. >Your next option is to confront him.
  3866. >That most definitely would not end well for you, Asmod is so much stronger than you and the element of surprise is practically gone with him being able to constantly watch you.
  3867. >Running away is just as impossible, he can watch your every move as you’re making it.
  3868. >Your mind drifts to the possibility of suicide for a moment.
  3869. >End yourself before he can use you.
  3870. >The very thought makes you cringe.
  3871. >It’s almost funny in a way, the desire for death brought you here- and now you can’t bring yourself to even consider it.
  3872. >Asmod’s plan in this regard worked perfectly.
  3873. >You don’t want to leave.
  3874. >This is your home.
  3875. >Your home.
  3876. >He gave you a home only to hand you a torch and instruct you to burn it to the ground.
  3877. >Could you ever do that?
  3878. >Even if up till this point you’ve been everything Asmod ever wanted you to be, could you do such a thing?
  3879. >You can’t say for sure.
  3880. >It doesn’t take you very long to get back to your house.
  3881. >Although it’s sad to think about, you hardly ever walk back here in a good mood.
  3882. >Something comes by and sours things up before you step through the door.
  3883. >These next few days may be all the time you have left in the world, or at least as a free dragon.
  3884. >Either Asmod cuts you down or you play along with his plans.
  3885. >There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground in all of this.
  3886. >You could try to bargain with him, but you know he won’t budge.
  3887. >The anger and spite he feels is too deeply rooted in him to stop anywhere short of genocide.
  3888. >No matter what you think of, it feels like Asmod has you in checkmate.
  3889. >The best you can feasibly hope for is the horde of dragons he makes turns on him.
  3890. >But that’s just as unlikely as him compromising.
  3891. >Although your time is limited, all you want to do is take a nap right now.
  3892. >Crawling into bed, you close your eyes, waiting for sleep to take you.
  3893. >It comes fairly quickly, but it is not a dreamless sleep.
  3894. >In this dream, you’re sitting in an all too familiar room.
  3895. >Your old apartment.
  3896. >The television is on, ironically tuned to an episode of My Little Pony.
  3897. >You don’t recognize the episode, guess even your dream couldn’t give enough fucks to pull up a real one.
  3898. >Discord is currently on screen, taunting Twilight like he normally does.
  3899. >Or normally /did/, he isn’t doing much of anything anymore.
  3900. >D: “Do you honestly think that just because how they got here was bad that somehow negates any good they’ve done? I expected more from the so called princess of /friendship/!”
  3901. >The line catches your attention, your eyes are fixed to the small screen with an intense focus.
  3902. >Discord turns to face the screen, breaking the fourth wall isn’t entirely out of character after all.
  3903. >D: “It doesn’t matter how you got here, what matters is what you do with that.”
  3904. >It almost shocks you awake when you hear that.
  3905. >There’s no doubt that was directed anywhere but at you.
  3906. >He fucking said “you” for fuck’s sake.
  3907. >Is Discord somehow reaching you in your dreams?
  3908. >No, he would have contacted you days ago if that was the case…
  3909. >Maybe your mind is using him to deliver a message, like your subconscious or some shit?
  3910. >You admittedly never took a Psych course.
  3911. >But still, if this /is/ your mind, that’s kind of fucked up.
  3912. >Looking to Discord for guidance and all is… not normal to say the least.
  3913. >Yet, during all of this, he has been the only one you could openly talk to.
  3914. >Share your past with, even if he would be a dick about it.
  3915. >In some fucked up way, it makes sense your mind would use him to tell you this.
  3916. >The message is almost laughably simple, but it’s one you seemingly neglected.
  3917. >Who the fuck cares how you got here?
  3918. >Doesn’t mean you have to be like them, right?
  3919. >You sure as hell don’t /want/ to work with Asmod.
  3920. >As the dream begins to fade away, you mentally cross working with him off the list of options.
  3921. >Looks like you have some work on your hands.
  3922. >The dream, though a convenient slap in the face to make you come to your senses, gave you no idea on how to actually deal with Asmod.
  3923. >But this isn’t just going to be the next movement of the emotional pendulum you’ve been on this whole time.
  3924. >You’re going to put in all the effort you can muster to end this.
  3925. >It’s scary to think about, downright petrifying, but you have to.
  3926. >The fate of everybody you care about is at stake.
  3927. >Going to Celestia or anybody else right now will only force Asmod into acting hastily and starting his plan.
  3928. >You’re doing this to avoid a bloodbath, not make it happen faster.
  3929. >No, nobody can get involved in this.
  3930. >Just you then, against a genius who can knock you down with a flick of his tail.
  3931. >You don’t like these odds in the slightest.
  3932. >Skip was a challenge enough, and he was around your size.
  3933. >Asmod is huge and smart.
  3934. >But you can’t let yourself get bogged down anymore.
  3935. >God knows you get bogged down easily.
  3936. >Asmod’s talk is enough to bring you down, or at least it was.
  3937. >You can’t let that happen this time, you can’t let him.
  3938. >You have to recognize that he’s spewing bullshit, and that you’re better than that.
  3939. >Easier said than done though.
  3940. >It’s the second of your three days before he comes to get you.
  3941. >In all honesty you don't ķnow what to do with the time.
  3942. >You're so anxious about all of this, you just want it to be over with.
  3943. >You decided you won't say goodbye to anyone.
  3944. >If things go sour it would be best if they didn't know.
  3945. >And if things go well, you'll have only been gone a day.
  3946. >At one point in your waiting around, you come across something.
  3947. >Skip’s knife.
  3948. >He lost it in the scuffle, and it's currently nestled next to a cabinet.
  3949. >It's pretty much the only weapon you have…
  3950. >Hoping Asmod isn't currently watching, you bend over and grab it.
  3951. >You thrust it into your coat pocket without a second thought.
  3952. >It probably won't help much but it's something.
  3953. >The day is quiet.
  3954. >No visitors, nothing happening, it's just you and your thoughts.
  3955. >All your fear, anxiety, anger, everything is just stewing.
  3956. >Things are going to be over soon.
  3957. >Hopefully it's a happy ending.
  3958. >You spend the third day waiting mostly.
  3959. >You're too antsy to do anything else.
  3960. >At one point you tried to read but just couldn't get into it.
  3961. >Not much longer until you try to deal with a powerful threat to the whole world by yourself.
  3962. >And you thought working as a detective was stressful.
  3963. >This is a whole new level of uncomfortable.
  3964. >The thought occurs to you that Discord tried to stop Asmod, or at the very least interfered, and failed.
  3965. >Can you really succeed in what a deity couldn't?
  3966. >It's possible.
  3967. >Asmod at least trusts you, he was no doubt wary of Discord from the get go.
  3968. >Still though, you're glad you can’t run the odds of anything you do working.
  3969. >Late that night you head outside to wait.
  3970. >He’ll probably come soon, especially if he checks on you and sees you waiting.
  3971. >Sure enough, roughly half an hour later he shows up.
  3972. >As: “Are you prepared?”
  3973. >You nod, not uttering a word.
  3974. >He motions for you to follow him, and the two of you begin a quiet trek into the wilderness.
  3975. >There’s no small talk to pass the time, it’s just both of you walking further and further.
  3976. >For you, the moment couldn’t feel more sober, but you can tell Asmod walks with a deep pride in his work.
  3977. >Even if this kills you, seeing the look on his face when you reject everything he’s worked towards might just be worth it.
  3978. >The trek leads you to a large, gnarled cave far out from town.
  3979. >Ominous, but nowhere you would have ever checked if looking for him.
  3980. >You’d expect him to take residence in some palace or something, not a cave.
  3981. >The inside is lit with lamps and candles, giving the whole structure an eerie glow.
  3982. >In the middle of the room, a stone statue sits.
  3983. >You can’t bring yourself to look at it for more than a moment.
  3984. >Beyond that, there’s work tables and shelves, very fitting for a mad scientist.
  3985. >Would he be a scientist? He’s definitely not a mage…
  3986. >It’s not the time to be debating such asinine things though.
  3987. >As: “I am glad you came willingly, it speaks to your growth remarkably. Now then, I’m sure you want to see how I’ve been able to do so much.”
  3988. >Before even giving you a chance to reply, he leads you to the far end of the cave.
  3989. >There, fixed to the wall of the cave, sits a massive mirror.
  3990. >It’s very similar to the smaller one you looked at a few days ago, but you get a strange feeling from this one.
  3991. >As: “I focused this mirror of mine on something very specific, and thus am able to harness that power as I please. It’s not exactly like using it, but this reflection is all I need. Can you tell me what this is reflecting.”
  3992. K: “The Elements of Harmony?”
  3993. >He shakes his head.
  3994. >As: “A good guess, considering what happened to your friend, but not quite right. I’ve focused this mirror on Princess Celestia herself. And, by extension, the things she has access to.”
  3995. K: “How is that even possible?”
  3996. >As: “It’s a product of two worlds, though I left your home world years ago, I didn’t leave empty handed. Then with some enhancements, I was able to make a very basic model of what you see before you. Once I was sure it worked, I was able to freely go back and forth over the past several years and upgrade it.”
  3997. >As: “And now, after many years and lots of planning, we can finally bring in a new age. I’ll need your help of course, these new dragons will be in a position similar to yours, your guidance will mold them into proud dragons such as us.”
  3998. >Your throat is starting to feel dry, it’s going to be time soon.
  3999. >Do or die Khoa.
  4000. >As: “That outfit was a good idea by the way, something familiar for them to latch onto.”
  4001. >Oh right, your Harvard hoodie.
  4002. >There’s a reason you haven’t taken this off in the past couple days, so you’d have to agree it was a “good idea”.
  4003. >Now if only you could stab the knife you’re hiding into his fucking neck…
  4004. >But maybe you don’t have to.
  4005. >There’s another thing you could hit.
  4006. >The mirror.
  4007. >The moment you go to do it, he’s going to be on you though.
  4008. >As: “Come now, I already have an apt first choice.”
  4009. >He gestures towards the mirror, the image ripples before focusing on an average human male sitting in a room.
  4010. >They look happy, not overjoyed, but content.
  4011. >Maybe you’ve gained from this, but they probably won’t.
  4012. >Just looking at this innocent human fills you with all the courage you need.
  4013. K: “I’ll do it Asmod, if you allow me.”
  4014. >He looks a little surprised, but pleased.
  4015. >As: “But of course, that’s showing initiative! Now you just simply-”
  4016. >You’re already walking over towards it.
  4017. >He’s looking at you with eager eyes, his prodigy going to do his work.
  4018. >You know, now that you think of it, you can’t remember him ever using your name.
  4019. >Maybe he said it once, but you sure don’t remember him saying it.
  4020. >Some mentor he is.
  4021. >Not that you ever were behind his shit in the first place.
  4022. >Taking a deep breath, you slowly begin to edge the knife from the pocket.
  4023. >He’s going to notice you.
  4024. >And once he does he will not hesitate to end you.
  4025. >But it’s not dying that scares you, it’s failing.
  4026. >You need to stop this from happening.
  4027. >To cut him off once and for all.
  4028. >If it means you die trying, at least you died doing something important.
  4029. >You got here because you wanted to die anyways, that’s why he chose you.
  4030. >A hopeless soul, a challenge.
  4031. >But now you’ve accepted death again.
  4032. >This time however, you have hope.
  4033. >Things will be better when this is over.
  4034. >You’ll have done something worth something.
  4035. >In some way, you’ll be a hero.
  4036. >Going from wanting to die because you’re depressed to accepting the probability of death but going on anyways because you love the world you’ve found yourself in.
  4037. >That’s some ironic shit.
  4038. >Clenching your eyes shut, you pull the blade out.
  4039. >Without a moment of hesitation you ram it into the mirror.
  4040. >Glass shatters all around you, and Asmod roars in rage.
  4041. >He’s hesitating, the shock of you double crossing him has stunned him.
  4042. >That’s what a bloated ego gets you.
  4043. >Taking your opportunity, you start to run like hell.
  4044. >But Asmod doesn’t stay stunned for long.
  4045. >Before you’re even halfway out the cave he’s grabbed you by the tail, hoisting you up.
  4046. >As: “How /dare/ you?! You take all I’ve done and throw it away! You’ll die like the rest of them, you’ll die!”
  4047. >It’ll be over quickly, you hope.
  4048. >Asmod throws you at the wall, full force.
  4049. >For the first couple moments, things aren’t bad- but then you actually hit the wall.
  4050. >You cry out in pain, crumpling on the floor.
  4051. >Fuck.
  4052. >Asmod trudges over to you, his eyes wide with rage.
  4053. >You close your eyes again, just wanting it to be over.
  4054. >But… it doesn’t happen, instead you hear something else.
  4055. >D: “Now then, can we continue where we left off before you used that gaudy imitation mirror of yours?”
  4056. >A flurry of cartoony sound effects ring out throughout the cave, intermixed with the anguished cries of Asmod.
  4057. >Discord? How is he…?
  4058. >Wait… when you broke the mirror, you technically “broke” what sealed him away.
  4059. >That means…
  4060. >He’s back!
  4061. >If you weren’t in terrible agony, you’d probably jump for joy.
  4062. >You aren’t quite sure when Discord made his way over to you, but you do know he teleported the both of you to a bedroom.
  4063. >He’s standing over you in a nurse’s outfit, shaking his head.
  4064. >Your body is dressed in bandages.
  4065. >D: “Ms. Khoa, shattered ribs are not healthy!”
  4066. >You groan a little.
  4067. K: “Di-Discord? What… what happened?”
  4068. >D: “By my count you broke that mirror and set me free! From there I got to disposing of the garbage stinking up the cave!”
  4069. >That’s… it?’
  4070. K: “So… A-Asmod is gone? Just like that?”
  4071. >Discord nods, a big smile on his face.
  4072. K: “That’s… kind of anticlimactic, don’t you think?”
  4073. >D: “What did you expect? Some big final battle? A battle of brains and brawn? Things don’t really work that way Khoa. You should be glad it ended like it did, if I didn’t get out as quick as I did, you could have been in real trouble!”
  4074. >He’s being so… genuine right now.
  4075. >It’s scary.
  4076. >But, maybe it’s gratitude or something, you did save his ass after all.
  4077. >It’s over, Asmod is dead and unable to work out his plans.
  4078. >And all it took was some broken bones…
  4079. >It’s been a few weeks since your confrontation with Asmod.
  4080. >There were no ceremonies, no parades, no pomp and circumstance.
  4081. >Everything was kept very hush hush.
  4082. >Only you and Discord know the full details of what happened.
  4083. >You told Celestia that the talk of Asmod you heard was actually from a cult of fanatics trying to revive him.
  4084. >She seemed to believe you.
  4085. >It wasn’t worth bringing up the human world and her dumping Asmod there.
  4086. >Thanks to Discord, all your wounds healed quickly and all evidence of Asmod ever returning was wiped away.
  4087. >All evidence except a single blade, the one you used to shatter the mirror.
  4088. >Discord thought it would make a good keepsake for you.
  4089. >You didn’t argue.
  4090. >Things have seemingly gone back to normal.
  4091. >Even Spike doesn’t bring it up anymore.
  4092. >It’s weird, but welcome.
  4093. >In your entire time here, you’ve been living on the edge of normal, never quite getting there.
  4094. >Now though, it feels like you can.
  4095. >Maybe in due time there will be some other crazy event that threatens your peace, but that’s not right now.
  4096. >So, until then, you can finally live your life by a new standard.
  4097. >You’ll be happy, employed, in good company, all of that.
  4098. >Your past can never go away, and it will always be in your mind, but you can live with that.
  4099. >You can live on.
  4100. >And it’s about damn time.
  4101. The End.
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