MLP /rgm/ one-shot: Saint Destruction

Nov 9th, 2020
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  1. > As you press through the crowded aisle to take your seat, you are, as far as anypony else around you knows, just another pegasus spectator.
  2. > There are a few grumbles from the ponies that have to get up to let you move past, but it's an intermission so nopony really minds.
  3. > They'd care more if you and all the other late arrivals with wings were allowed to distractingly fly to their seats instead of walking.
  4. > Finally, you reach the end of the row and find the empty spot, chair Q44, just like it says in your ticket stub.
  5. > Right between a gaggle of drunken young earth pony colts on one side, and a sleepy-looking old griffon cock on the other.
  6. > As you fold down the plushly-covered seat and sit down, you survey the situation.
  7. > You're in the Forum of The Imperator's Palace Casino and Hotel, the enormous indoor arena of one of the largest and most luxurious hotels in Las Pegasus.
  8. > Over a hundred billion bits flow through the slot machines and gaming tables on the casino floor, and the Forum hosts some of the biggest names in entertainment and sport.
  9. > Tonight, all around you, over four thousand other creatures of all kinds are getting ready for the final act in tonight's show, the main event.
  10. > Down in the circular 60-hoof arena, a team of workers are spreading out fresh white sand from a wheelbarrow, while others rake it out to level the surface and to cover up the spots where the last bout left bloodstains.
  11. > It must have been a good one, because the audience is already starting to cheer and stamp, and the announcer hasn't even made an appearance yet.
  13. > The old griffon cock on your left leans over and speaks with a deep, growling voice that resonates with a harsh life full of vice, sin, and regrets.
  14. > "This your first visit to the Forum, da?"
  15. > You nod.
  16. "Yes."
  17. > "... You should not make it your last. There is much to be seen."
  18. > Shooting a glance at the pair of pin-like eyes beneath the great wizened masses of eyebrows, you shake your head.
  19. "I'm only here to get a look my target, Danosh."
  20. > He grunts.
  21. > "If you would open your eyes, tovarisch Blackwatch, you would see there are many 'targets' here. Look, down in the box behind the judges' table..."
  22. > Pointing a clawed hand down towards a small private enclosure just next to the ring, he continues.
  23. > "... There is Luka Venyavich, visiting from higher up in the Griffonstone Bratva. He hasn't come just for the fight; he's here to do the *bizness* as well. With the zebra who sits with his mare together in the box, I think."
  24. > You spot a beaming eagle-headed griffon and a smartly-dressed black-and-grey zebra leaning in together, their lavishly-decorated female partners hanging off to the sides.
  25. > The zebra is a Las Pegasus local, Antoine Jinai.
  26. > A local celebrity, he's managed to launder his drug money into real estate and a number of legitimate businesses.
  27. > And the Zebra community loves him for his public generosity; no chance of getting to him through a snitch -- anyways most of his crew were trusted family members.
  28. > But officer Freamare should be getting some nice, juicy photographs of those two from the other side of the stadium.
  29. > Maybe you'll be able to put something together that will actually stick, but he's not your main concern right now.
  30. "You know my concerns are local. Sorry, but I'm after smaller fish."
  31. > Danosh grunts.
  32. > "Not too small, I hope. Either way, big or small, you will find them here, especially if the fight is for a *title*. Or if they want to play host to their visitors, such as the zebra."
  34. > He must know of Jinai, but he pretends ignorance, canny old bird that he is.
  35. > There's a growing surge of excitement from the crowd as the work crew in the sand-pit disperses and a unicorn colt dressed in a tailcoat walks out to replace them.
  36. > The main house illumination dim, allowing spotlights to highlight just one of the ground-level entrances into the Forum.
  37. > All around you, pegasi, unicorns, earth ponies, griffons, zebras, kirin, minotaurs, dragons, diamond dogs, and more all start to cheer, but they're drowned out by heavy music pumped in through the speakers.
  39. (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure - Awaken [Pillar Men Theme])
  41. > From the lit entrance comes marching a herd of eight minotaurs, decorated head to do with chains, rings, hoops, and loops all of gold.
  42. > The four in front and the two in back carry impressively-long polearms of some kind, the butts of which they bang in unison with the music against the ground as they stride, but it's the big bull in the middle who's the star of the show, wearing glittering metal plates all up his left arm and shoulder and a great girdle across his waist, flexing his muscles and snorting his nostrils, while his assistant behind him holds up a huge two-handed greataxe, clearly the bovine contender's weapon of choice.
  43. > To the adoring cheers of the spectators, the pack heads down to the ring, stepping to the centre and showing off their champion, his weapon, and his suite of six retainers, two of whom, you notice, are cows, each with a pair of great big golden bowls covering their chests.
  44. > Danosh nods his beak, but he's not admiring the golden decorations; those little eyes of his are staring straight at the fighter.
  45. > "Cyka blyat, he's had to cut a lot to make weight for this bout. See how concave his belly is! Usually he fights in the division super-heavyweight. Are you sure you have the right one? Why not this bull instead?"
  46. "I care about results, not looks."
  48. > He chuckles,
  49. > "I suppose it is a good way to think. Well, let's see what happens."
  50. > As the retinue finishes their parade, the drunken earth ponies on your right start to hoot and holler.
  51. > You can't help but notice they're all in matching polo shirts, each of them with a great big pin on their chests.
  52. > One says 'Groom to Be' and the rest say 'Groom Squad'.
  53. > "Here he comes, bro! Wait for his music!"
  54. > "Buck bros I am so hyped for this!"
  55. > "As soon as the music starts, we chug, right bros?"
  56. > "Buck yeah bro! Chug-a-lug! Las Pegasus bachelor part-ayyy!"
  57. > Clutching their cups of beer, they get to their hind hooves.
  58. > When the minotaur and his team retire to his side of the ring, the first entrance music fades out.
  59. > The lack of anything over the speakers is almost deafening, and the crowd starts to go wild with anticipation.
  60. > "Wooooooo!"
  61. > Just as one of the groom's 'squad' joins in the hollering, there's suddenly a high-pitched whine accompanied by a deep throbbing.
  63. (Testament - 'For the Glory Of...', from 'The Formation of Damnation' [2008])
  65. > As heavy-metal guitars scream and drums thunder, lights flash and fireworks erupt from the entrance opposite the minotaur contender.
  66. > The crowd fills the enormous hall with cheers.
  67. > Smoke billows out from the entrance, and just when the fever hits its peak and the music finds its stride, a musclebound, hairless bipedal beast comes sauntering down from out of the mist, completely unescorted but for a group of staff security ponies who move to hold back the throngs of fans surging forward to touch their statuesque hero.
  68. > The reigning 'heavyweight champion of the world' needs no groupies, apparently, nor anypony to carry his weapon, a long, wide-bladed greatsword which he has slung casually over one shoulder, one hand on the large round pommel.
  70. > You look him over, and as impressive as he is physically even when viewed at this distance, you still can't help but feel as though you're missing something.
  71. > Unlike the minotaur, he wears no metal armour, just a heavy belt and some bracers on his forearms.
  72. > He does have a helmet, obscuring most of his face behind a horrible metal visage, and he also wears a great red cape which hangs down to his ankles.
  73. > But you just don't understand how this hairless biped is supposed to take down a minotaur who has two hooves on him for height and who must, concave-bellied weight-cutting or no, still weigh almost half again more than he does.
  74. > But Freamare and Blaze had made the call, and the rest of the team agreed with them.
  75. > He was in the right place, at the right time, and he had the right skills -- or so you would soon see for yourself.
  76. > You were here to confirm just as much as you were here to confront.
  77. > "He enters without a retinue? Interesting. No wonder the *vory* admire him. They like a bird which can fly on his own."
  78. > No retinue, no family, no trainer, and from what Freamare had been able to dig up, very few friends or ties to the community.
  79. > If ever there was the picture of isolation in Equestria, this creature might be it.
  80. > The champion enters the ring, but dispenses with the ritual of standing in the centre of it and visually proclamining his prowess to all around.
  81. > Instead, ignoring the crowds, as his music fades out, he casually stabs the greatsword into the sand, removes his helmet, tossing it to one side, and removes his cape, tossing it to the other.
  82. > Then, he crouches down and wipes his hands with the sand, before posing in front of his sword, hands on the pommel, ready for action.
  84. > The unicorn master-of-ceremonies steps into the centre of the ring, clears his throat, lights up his horn, and then the hall reverberates with his voice.
  85. > "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Imperator's Palace Casino and Hotel, in conjunction with the Equestrian Combat League, proudly present the main event of the evening..."
  86. > He extends a forehoof towards the minotaur.
  87. > "... To my left, officially weighing in at three-hundred and forty-eight pounds, this Minotaur champion, undefeated for over thirty fights in the Tauric Pankratic Federation, from the Republic of Asterion, the Golden Myrmillon, the Bull of Knossos..."
  88. > Boos and cheers mix with each other while the showpony builds the hype.
  89. > "... Auuuuuuuurelioooooooooooos Taaaaaaaaaaaavrooooooooooooooooosss!"
  90. > Aurelios' axe-bearer surrenders the weapon to the contender, who holds it defiantly up in the air to a surge of excitement from the audience, while the polearm-bearing retinue crouch down along the outer edge of their side of the ring, taking up positions of honour guards.
  91. > "... To my right, officially weighing in at two hundred and forty pounds, hailing from parts unknown, calling Las Pegasus his home, the ECL undefeated heavyweight champion of the woooooooooorld... Anonymouuuuuus theeeeeeeee Desss-troyerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"
  92. > The human makes no move except to stare down his opponent, and the crowd goes into a frenzy.
  93. > They came here for blood, and they know they're about to receive.
  94. > Around the ring, four unicorns light up their horns, energizing a translucent dome of magical energy which covers the sandpit.
  95. > Serving the dual purpose of protection for the spectators and a potent spell to prevent permanent injury in the ring, this is the penultimate step before the announcer leaves and the referee starts the match.
  96. > Of course, four unicorns was an excess -- one would be enough, maybe two for a back-up -- but this was as much theatre as it was sport, and four unicorns made for a better show.
  98. > The audience chants along with the announcer's final exhortation.
  99. > "... Llllllllllllllllllllllllllet's get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumblllllllllllllllllllllllle!!!!"
  100. > After that, the unicorn extinguishes his horn and steps out of the ring through a final gap in the protective field, leaving the two opponents facing each other.
  101. > The minotaur huffs and puffs his nostrils, holding his greataxe at the ready.
  102. > The human remains a statue, posed with his blade still in the sand.
  103. > Finally, as all attention is on the ring, a pegasus in a white-and-black striped shirt flutters out into the centre.
  104. > Placing a whistle in his mouth, he extends a forehoof and quickly glances to either side, receiving a nod of acknowledgement from each of the contenders, then he drops the hoof.
  105. > *FWWEEEET!*
  106. > *DING-DING!*
  107. > From the judge's booth, the time-keeper rings his bell twice as well, marking the start of official time.
  108. > Immediately, as the referee retreats to the side, Aurelios advances menacingly on Anon, ready to slash with his axe.
  109. > The human effortlessly draws his sword from the sand, holding it in a low guard, and begins to step towards his left, circling towards the minotaur's unarmoured side.
  110. > You lean forward in your seat to take in the action to come.
  111. > Danosh leans in with you, wrapping a wing around your shoulders.
  112. > "Since you do not know bloodsport like a griffon, let me explain what you see. Look at Aurelios, see how he holds his axe close to his chest instead of raising it up? He wants to begin with light attacks to probe and test..."
  113. > Sure enough, once close enough, the minotaur shoves his arms out in a quick push manoeuvre, but Anonymous quickly steps back to avoid it, brandishing his own sword to ward off a follow-up attack.
  114. > And when the competitors close, Aurelios tries again, this time striking with the pommel for a quicker blow that will make a second attack even quicker.
  116. > This is still easily dodged by the human, who starts, you notice, to bounce back and forth on his feet.
  117. > "... Ah! You have a dancer, tovarisch! That is how the zebras like to fight. The minotaurs hate it; they cannot move so lightly with their bulk. That style is often quite defensive; I am curious to see how he strikes. But why the low guard with such a large sword?"
  118. > The minotaur moves for another shove, this time near the edge of the battlefield, perhaps hoping to get his opponent up against the shield wall, which crackles and flashes at the approach of solid matter.
  119. > This time, however, the human parries the blow with his low-held weapon and gets in close, clinching with his opponent just long enough to dance around the bull's weapon and last-minute attempt at a head-butt, to wind up reversing the posture, with the bull against the magical 'ropes'.
  120. > "... Mudak! Strike! Come on, strike! You have him on the barrier! Strike!"
  121. > Danosh hollers angrily along with the rest of the crowd, craving blood, but the human just slinks back, sword still in the low guard.
  122. > Aurelios snorts out a blast of steam, indignant at the reversal.
  123. > Down in the box, you see the big-shot griffon Venyavich shake his head angrily, while Antoine beside him just grins and nods.
  124. > While the out-of-towner is, like your neighbour, upset at the failure to seize the opportunity, the zebra knows how Anon works.
  125. > It's as Freamare told you: he's not a simple brute, he likes to get into his opponents' heads first.
  126. > 'And only once he's really in there', she said, 'does he give the crowd the bloodbath they want'.
  127. > Brains were not strictly speaking a requirement for the position you had in mind, but a little cunning could go a long way.
  128. > Goading the minotaur, the human flourishes his sword, though he never lets it leave his grasp even for an instant.
  129. > "... Ah! I see! He wants to anger the bull! Well, it is a bold way to fight! Now let us see if the blade works like a red flag."
  131. > With another huff, the minotaur advances, and this time instead of a simple shove or butt-tap he attacks with a wide flat sweep of the great curved axe-blade.
  132. > Anonymous dodges back from the tree-falling blow, raising his blade slightly only to slap it down at the last minute, parrying the axe downwards and putting the minotaur temporarily off-balance.
  133. > Once again, the crowd hollers for blood, but once again the human steps back, allowing his enemy a reprieve.
  134. > Danosh, at least, seems to have wised up to the machinations at hoof.
  135. > "... He must be taking the measure of Aurelios. There's no reason to miss an opportunity like that otherwise. He wants to learn the reaction times. Clever!"
  136. > Even though the opening was obvious, it was still brief, as the minotaur quickly regains his composure, guarded arm forwards, advancing on his foe.
  137. > This time he's through playing, and lifts the axe so the blade is just above his ear.
  138. > That prompts a mirrored response from the human, who lifts his greatsword up to a similar position, in an almost mocking parody of the bull.
  139. > Now the crowd starts to swell again, as if the two raised blades are conducting a symphony of four thousand voices, bringing them to a climax.
  141. (Sega Ages 2500 Vol 5: Golden Axe - 'Death Adder' [2003])
  143. > Anonymous and Aurelios posture, taking steps back and forth, but once again it's the bull who makes the first move, rushing forward and delivering a powerful downward slash.
  144. > "HRAAAH!"
  145. > With a battle-cry and unbelievable speed, Anonymous weaves away from the shattering blow only to shove out with his weapon's guard and ricasso, knocking aside the axe and briefly disrupting its wielder.
  146. > Before the bull can react, he turns sideways and heaves his shoulder down into the minotaur's belly, knocking the wind right out of his opponent.
  147. > As the massive horned beast staggers down to one knee from the heavy blow, the crowd goes wild.
  149. > This time, there's no reprieve, and even as Aurelios tries to recover, Anonymous thrusts the pommel of his sword forward, battering its mass into the minotaur's thick skull with a *CRACK* loud enough to be heard over the screaming crowd.
  150. > Creatures all around you jump out of their seats, and Danosh hauls you up onto your hind hooves as you stare down at the fighting arena.
  151. > While the 'Golden Myrmillon' struggles to raise his axe up in defence, the human pivots to lash out with a side-kick that explodes against the bull's muzzle in a spray of spittle and mucous.
  152. > And then, to the maniacal roars of the Forum audience, Anonymous swiftly swings his greatsword up over his head so swiftly it looks a shining halo of steel, chopping down at the unprotected shoulder before him.
  153. > There's a howl of pain and a fountain of blood before the magical dome around the ring flashes red and billows inwards, drawn like a leech to the injury.
  154. > The referee comes hurtling forwards on his wings, blowing his whistle, shortly before the judges signal the timekeeper to end the match with repeated strikes of the bell that are answered by riotous wails from the crowd.
  156. > Crimson tendrils of magical energy link Aurelios's shoulder to his missing arm, working furiously to repair the damage, and his retainers drop their weapons to rush forward to his assistance, as do several unicorns wearing blue medical coats.
  157. > But all attention is on the human, the still-reigning champion, who slowly, deliberately, raises his bloody sword up high above his head in one hand, glistening with sweat on his hairless body, and now at last deigning to receive the adoration and cheers of his fans.
  158. > Danosh withdraws his wing from your far shoulder, only to seize both of yours in his talons, shaking you with excitement.
  159. > "Ukh ty! Masterfully done! What a fighter, taking the Bull of Knossos in a single round!"
  161. > Laughing as he lets you go, he nods his beaked head eagerly.
  162. > "... Well, I can see why you have interest in this creature. You are certain he will be useful to you?"
  163. > You nod.
  164. "My team thinks he does, and now I do, too."
  165. > The old griffon ponice agent extends a taloned hand in friendship.
  166. > "Then I shall hope that you succeed in recruiting him. Perhaps one day, when the bribe money runs dry or my superiors grow a spine, I may ask to borrow him to go after the likes of Luka Venyavich, instead of contenting myself with picking up the little sardines he feeds us. But for now, I simply follow behind them like a leashed animal."
  167. > The corruption in his homeland was a real shame because Danosh -- properly, Colonel Danoshik of the Ministry of Internal Affairs -- was one of the best ponice you had ever met.
  168. > You shake hooves with the griffon who, if he wasn't only an occasional visitor to Las Pegasus, might easily have become your mentor.
  169. "Good luck, Danosh. I'm not sure if this sport is for me, but let's do it again anyways, next time you're in town."
  170. > He holds up a clawed finger.
  171. > "Da, tovarisch. But you had better *make* this sport your own; the creatures you hunt have made it theirs, and now you wish to hire their champion against them! It is boldness deserving of the ring-of-sand."
  172. > Down in the arena, the announcer re-enters as the unconscious loser is hauled off in a stretcher -- with his severed arm reattached, at least.
  173. > "Ladies and gentlecolts! The winner, by technical knockout, and continuing to reign as the ECL heavyweight champion of the world... Anonymous the Destroyer!"
  174. > Beside you, the groom and his colts are collectively high-hoofing each other.
  175. > "That was wicked awesome! I hear The Destroyer will be signing autographs outside later."
  176. > "Bro the lineup will be insane! But it'll be worth it to shake hooves with him; let's hit the tables until then and see if we can't leave here with some more bits in our saddlebags!"
  178. > "Plus that's how ya get the free drinks bro! Let's go!"
  179. > Abandoning his cape and helmet to the clean-up crew, the star of tonight's show once again slings his greatsword over his shoulder and, with a larger ponice escort this time against the thronging masses of adoring fans, heads back out the way he came, to a somewhat quieter reprise of his entrance music.
  180. > Well, that's that.
  181. > After a few moments scanning the audience, you spot Freamare standing with her camera in one of the rapidly-emptying sections of the theatre.
  182. > The air is already crowded with flying creatures flitting for the nearest exit, but you decide to waste no time, and extend your own to quickly join up with your subordinate.
  183. > Your flight path takes you almost directly over the ring and, in-between dodging other exiting patrons, you glance down.
  184. > That's an awfully big bloodstain in the sand.
  185. > Never mind losing an arm; if not for the protective wards, the minotaur would probably have died from blood loss alone.
  186. > As you come in to land, Freamare wastes no time.
  187. > "Well, captain, what do you think?"
  188. "I'm impressed. Now the question is if he'll accept our offer."
  189. > "Only one way to find out, cap'. Our colt likes to take a shower and cool off for an hour or so before greeting fans outside; but you brought your 'backstage pass', didn't you?"
  190. > With a grin, she pulls her Las Pegasus Ponice officer's badge out of a pocket from her clandestine outfit.
  191. > You nod.
  192. "I did. Let's go talk to the champ. Lead the way."
  193. > With the non-flying crowds by already clearing out, walking is actually the easier way down to the ground-floor competitors' entrances, and you soon reach the champion's entry gate.
  194. > There's no security here, though there will be further in -- and anyways, who'd be foalish enough to want to barge in on the reigning champion of a blood-sport like this?
  196. > Then again, the place *is* full of young colts, cocks, bulls, and other macho masculine creatures, all amply supplied with alcoholic beverages.
  197. > There was a reason that Las Pegasus had a ponice department nearly the size of Manehattan's, with only a third the permanent population.
  198. > This was the city of sin, after all.
  199. > After trotting down a dimly-lit hallway, your hoofsteps echoing against the bare floor and walls, Freamare leads you through a zig-zag of turns until you find yourselves faced with a small group of ponies, griffons, and a minotaur.
  200. > And most of them were wearing Imperator's Palace Casino And Hotel security guard uniforms.
  201. > Backed up by those same guards, a pale unicorn colt with a zebra-esque mane and an expensive cream suit steps up to behold you with an angry glare.
  202. > "Whoa-whoa-whoa, hold up. Public exits are the other way around, ladies. This area is for staff only, sorry."
  203. > Freamare immediately sasses back as she reaches for her badge.
  204. > "Hold the eviction notice, Donny Junior. We've got our gold cards right here."
  205. > You pull out your own as you regard the hostile, excitable unicorn.
  206. > So this is Donald Princebear Junior?
  207. > The famous fight promoter looks in person exactly as he does in posters and press-films.
  208. > Maybe that's just a function of his hairspray.
  209. "I'm Captain Blackwatch of the LPVD, this is officer Freamare. Mister Princebear, we have a few questions for Mister Anonymous."
  210. > The unicorn starts shaking his head.
  211. > "Hey, officers, everything you saw out there tonight was completely, one-hundred-percent, legal in the city of Las Pegasus and fully sanctioned according to Equestrian Combat League rules. I'm not aware of any protests from the Aurelios Tavros team, there's no crime here to investigate, so why don't you leave the champion alone, okay?"
  212. > You don't have a warrant, to either search the place or to arrest anypony.
  214. > That doesn't mean you can be denied access to somepony, but it's always easier to ask politely rather than bully your way in.
  215. "We'd really like to speak to Mister Anonymous right now, Mister Princebear. Your cooperation in this matter would be appreciated."
  216. > Never apologize -- that was one thing you learned on the street.
  217. > Be polite to the public, yes, but never apologize for doing what you were allowed to do.
  218. > Donald's face goes from combative to pleading, and you know you've already won.
  219. > "Ladies, officers, please -- I know it looked like a short fight out there, but the champ needs his recovery time. And he's signing autographs in an hour outside the forum. You wanna come back after that, we'll be happy to accommodate you..."
  220. > Receiving no acknowledgement from either you or officer Freamare, he taps a forehoof against his chest in a final act of desperation.
  221. > "... I'm just looking out for my foal, here. Do I need to call a lawyer?"
  222. > You shake your head.
  223. "Mister Anonymous isn't under arrest. We'd just like to speak with him in private. He'll still be able to greet his fans afterwards."
  224. > With an exasperated sigh bordering on theatrical, he holds up the forehoof in defeat.
  225. > "Okay, okay, one sec..."
  226. > Withdrawing behind a solid wall of beefy imposing casino security guards, he approaches a door marked with a star, taps twice, and pushes it open a crack to stick his muzzle in.
  227. > You can hear his side of the conversation, but all you can make out from inside the room is just dull, deep growls.
  228. > "... Hey, champ? Listen, sorry to bug ya, but I gotta coupla mares out here needin' to speak with ya... No, it's not -- no, they're pegasi. Listen, champ, it's the ponice, they say they just wanna talk for a bit... Yeah, you want me to call a lawyer, maybe? Or I could sit in, if you want... No? ... Okay, you're the boss, champ. We'll be outside."
  230. > Holding the door open, Princebear gives a nod to the security squad, who part ways to allow you both past.
  231. > Then a few steps later, you enter the dressing room of the undefeated worldwide heavyweight champion of full-contact armed combat.
  232. > It's little more than a large, mostly-empty locker room with a padded floor, more commonly used for far less gruesome team sports.
  233. > There's a row of open dressing-cubbies on one side, a bench in the middle, some club chairs and a sofa on the left, and around the corner to the right you can hear a shower just being turned off in a tiled section of the dressing area.
  234. > You spot the champion's cape, belt, boots, helmet, and sword hanging and lying along the bench; the sword, resting in a scabbard up against the wall, too long to fit into the cubicle.
  235. > Then there's the slapping of wet feet, and Anonymous the Destroyer, the large, hairless, monkey-like biped emerges wearing nothing more than a white towel around his waist.
  236. > Wiping his face with another, he regards the two of you with an impassive gaze that's difficult to read.
  237. > He couldn't possibly have expected you, could he?
  238. > You feel like you're being sized up the same way he'd taken the measure of his minotaur opponent.
  239. > After a perturbing silence, he indicates the sofa and easy chairs.
  240. > "Officers. Take a seat."
  241. > It's almost a command; you're really not used to this.
  242. > You know how to deal with *criminals*, regardless of species or size.
  243. > And you have no issues dealing with members of the *public*, even powerful ones.
  244. > But this creature, and your purpose here, was something else entirely.
  245. > You resolve to stick to the basics.
  246. > Freamare goes for one of the club chairs, leaving you with the other, while the hulking mass skin-covered muscle and bone drapes his second towel over his shoulders and sits down right in the centre of the sofa, spreading his muscled arms along the back, enveloping the whole thing.
  248. > That's a power pose if you've ever seen one -- and you had; it was particularly popular with minotaurs.
  249. > You also notice that "The Destroyer's" towel barely reaches past his knees in this position, and your junior officer shoots you a mischievous grin.
  250. > That mare needs to keep her pants on, you swear.
  251. > Clearing your throat, you begin your spiel.
  252. "Mister Anonymous, I'm Captain Blackwatch of the Las Pegasus Ponice Department, and this is officer Freamare. First of all, let me congratulate you on your latest win."
  253. > He takes his time in replying, lazily looking between the two ponies in the room.
  254. > "Thanks."
  255. > Then he fixes his gaze on you.
  256. "I understand you've been a fixture in these events for quite some time."
  257. > He doesn't say a word in reply; you didn't actually ask a question, his record being completely public.
  258. > Well, so much for hoping he'd be chatty.
  259. > Or maybe you just need to break the ice a little more.
  260. > You're trying to get him on your side, after all.
  261. "... And I also understand that you come from another world."
  262. > "Yeah."
  263. > Another monosyllabic response.
  264. "Was this business -- prize-fighting -- your profession there as well?"
  265. > "No."
  266. > Freamare squirms uncomfortably in her seat, leaning forward, eager to take over the action.
  267. > But you're still in command here, still in charge.
  268. > You may be off to a frosty start, but you aren't giving up yet.
  269. > It's not as if you can browbeat a colt who chops off arms for a living; maybe the chit-chat won't work without some context.
  270. > You decide to take the plunge.
  271. "Mister Anonymous, are you acquainted with a griffon cock named Semyon Narkonovich, also known as Simon the Beak or 'Simon Says'?"
  272. > There's the slightest furrowing of the brow on that otherwise hairless face, and another pregnant pause before he replies.
  273. > "He's a local big-shot. Shook hands with him after a fight."
  274. > Technically true, but that's not the whole story.
  276. "We have reason to believe that Simon the Beak attempted to recruit you into his business four months ago."
  277. > The Destroyer is unmoved by your revelation.
  278. > "I don't work for him."
  279. "I didn't say that you did."
  280. > His reply consists of a shrug.
  281. > Slouching slightly into the sofa, he glances over once more at officer Freamare.
  282. > You continue, drawing his attention back to you.
  283. "We'd like to know exactly what Simon said to you."
  284. > Another frown, and he looks away at his fingers, tracing them along the edge of the sofa's arm.
  285. > "Am I under arrest?"
  286. "No."
  287. > "I told you I don't work for him."
  288. > You nod.
  289. "Yes."
  290. > Your own sudden bout of monosyllabism seems to pique his interest, and he looks up again.
  291. > "He wanted me to work for him, said he could pay good bits, said he could help me take my career on the road."
  292. > He looks at you like that's all, so you prompt him to continue.
  293. "And?"
  294. > Anonymous shakes his head.
  295. > "He's a gangster. Everybody knows it. He wanted me to join his crew as hired muscle..."
  296. > This time he pauses, but you know he's not finished.
  297. > "... I said no."
  298. > There's almost a hint of fear in that statement, as if this champion of the fighting ring knew that there were greater monsters than him lurking in Las Pegasus.
  299. "How did Simon reply?"
  300. > "I was polite. He said he looked forward to my fights, and that the offer would remain open, win or lose."
  301. > After having stayed silent for so long, Freamare can't resist throwing a question of her own in at last.
  302. > "Why'd you turn him down? Not enough bits?"
  303. > Anonymous turns his penetrating gaze on her, and there's a sly smile on his face.
  304. > "Plenty of bits. Mares, too -- or hens, cows, or whatever else I wanted. Even drugs."
  305. > Freamare shrugs.
  306. > "Sounds like a good deal."
  307. > The smile disappears.
  308. > "Would you take it?"
  309. > Frowning, Freamare squirms in her seat again.
  310. > "I'm a ponice officer."
  311. > Anonymous nods sideways.
  312. > "I'm a prize-fighter..."
  314. > Then he turns back to you.
  315. > "... I'm legit. I take all comers, I fight every fight. No posse, no affiliations, no magic, no drugs. Pure destruction."
  316. > He utters the last statement slowly, relishing the words.
  317. > But you snap him back to here and now.
  318. "In other words, you didn't want to hurt your reputation."
  319. > "Something like that."
  320. > Having sorted that out, you attack the other important angle.
  321. "What kind of work did Simon want you to do?"
  322. > The prize-fighter narrows his eyes.
  323. > "I told you: muscle. Threatening to beat people up. Actually doing it. Maybe even more."
  324. "Did you have a problem with that?"
  325. > The eyes stay narrow, and now it's the champion's turn to be off-balance.
  326. > He licks his lips and considers for a moment before answering.
  327. > "In the ring, I chop off an arm, it goes right back on. I stab through the heart, it keeps beating. I rip off a guy's head, we joke about it afterwards over drinks in a private room at the club..."
  328. > With a chuckle, he grins.
  329. > "... Tavros told me before the fight he'd hook me up with one of his cows if I beat him. The brunette with the red hair and the two-gallon jugs. Said she was starting to buck and needed breaking in again. Cutting all that weight killed his libido. He said if I got him in the first then she'd be a terror for the trip home, got me to promise I'd do it for him as a consolation prize. You should've seen the grin on his face when they carted him off. He got paid, he can eat what he wants to again, and his cow problem's taken care of too, with no worries about any follow-ups. Best night of his life, he'll say...."
  330. > His expression hardens and he shakes his head.
  331. > "... The things Semyon would've wanted me to do, I wouldn't be hanging out with the victims afterwards. Maybe nobody would ever again."
  333. "So, you see yourself as... a force for good? Even with a ring name like The Destroyer?"
  334. > He crosses his arms in front of his chest, causing his pectoral muscles to bunch up and puff out even more.
  335. > "I'm legitimate, like I said. I give the people what they want, nobody winds up hurt. Easy money..."
  336. > Scrunching up his face a bit, he unfolds his arms and starts to tap at the sofa again.
  337. > "... I'm no saint, but I got a clean conscience."
  338. > Time to break it down.
  339. "A clean conscience, mister Anonymous? You know where the purse for these fights comes from, don't you?"
  340. > He looks up at you, suddenly indignant.
  341. "... Criminals like Semyon. It's a great money-laundering operation for them."
  342. > Anonymous frowns.
  343. > "Some of it's from gambling on the match. It's legal. Tavros had favourable odds, tonight. A lot of people made good bits betting on me."
  344. > Freamare speaks up again, now in her wheelhouse of the technical operations of crime.
  345. > "The criminal betting parlours offer better spreads than the legitimate casinos, and have higher limits. And as many ponies got rich backing you, others lost their horseshoes, some of them with loaned money pushed on them by creatures like Semyon. And crooks like him are often the ones who put up the initial purse money to draw in competitors like Tavros and pay champions like you."
  346. > He doesn't have an answer for that, so you join in and hammer on.
  347. "Semyon's boss was in the audience, tonight. A griffon by the name of Luka Venyavich, visiting from out-of-town. He was sitting in a front-row box next to one of Semyon's partners, Antoine Jinai, a zebra. You can bet they had big money in the match, and regardless of who won, they were going to profit..."
  349. > Anonymous stays silent, so you finish driving the nail.
  350. "... Whichever way you look at it, Mister Anonymous, your work is funded by and profits the criminal enterprises of Las Pegasus. With that money, they turn around and flood the streets with drugs, engage in pony-trafficking operations, and make high-interest loans only to break legs when it doesn't come back."
  351. > You let that sink in, watching for any reaction.
  352. > Ultimately, the only one you get is mild bemusement.
  353. > "I train hard and fight harder, but in the end my business is entertainment. What do you want me to do, pick up my sword and take on the Las Pegasus mafia all by myself? It'd be a bloodbath, but I don't think you'd get the results you want. I don't think I would, either."
  354. > Time for the kicker.
  355. "What we want, Mister the Destroyer, is for you to take Semyon up on his offer of employment."
  356. > The hairless monkey-hulk does a double take.
  357. > "What? You're the ponice. You're recruiting for the mob, now?"
  358. > Now it's your turn to slyly grin.
  359. "When it serves our interests."
  360. > For a hulking brute whose profession involves little more than theatrical butchering, he's clever enough to immediately latch on to your intent.
  361. > "You want me on the inside. As a snitch."
  362. > It's good that he understands, but you have to stop him now before he starts to frame it negatively.
  363. "No, Mister Anonymous. As an undercover deputy of the law, working for the citizens of Las Pegasus to take down a criminal empire."
  364. > He scoffs, crossing his legs and bringing his arms down in front of him.
  365. > "Deputy? I'm no ponice officer."
  366. > Freamare speaks up again.
  367. > "Do you want to be? You'd certainly pass the physical. We can skip the rest."
  368. > He's incredulous, snorting in laughter.
  369. > "Skip the rest? Don't you have to go through training, learn the law, walk the beat?"
  370. > You shake your head.
  371. "Mister Anonymous, you're not from here. Don't you know what constitutes ponice training in Equestria?"
  373. Suggested background music: (Nick Arundel - 'Main Theme', from 'Arkham City' [2011])
  375. > Leaning forward, you continue.
  376. "... It consists of *unlearning* all the things we teach our foals and fillies about being good little ponies and how everypony around them is good, too. We have to teach them that yes, there really are bad creatures and even bad ponies, and that they have to stand up to them. We have to teach them how to be confident in dangerous situations, instead of just running away. We have to teach them to lie, and how to recognize lies. We even have to teach them how to fight..."
  377. > You wave a forehoof in his general direction.
  378. "... I don't think you have any great lessons to learn in any of those subjects. Nothing you couldn't pick up in the field, at any rate."
  379. > He just shakes his head dismissively.
  380. > "Why would I even do this?"
  381. > Freamare seizes on his earlier statements.
  382. > "Because it's what the people would want. Because you want to have a clean conscience. Because you said you aren't a saint, but I bet you'd like to be one."
  383. > Anonymous looks up at her with consternation.
  384. > "Why me, though? I'm not even a pony! I'm not a minotaur or a griffon or anything else from around here either. The crowd may love me, but I still don't fit in."
  385. > You join in the tag-team.
  386. "Because Semyon asked you already. And he targeted you *because* you don't fit in. Organizations like his love outcasts and misfits, because somepony with no other ties can more easily be tied to them..."
  387. > As he sits there, hesitating, you confidently get out of your chair and step up to the creature twice your height and four times your weight.
  389. "... You have no family ties, no childhood friendships, you live in a modest apartment in a cheap neighbourhood. Semyon looks at you and sees an honest colt of few words, a prestige attachment with functional uses too. You are as above suspicion as his own mother, and maybe even more so. You are the right colt, in the right place. And this -- you -- are an opportunity to break his criminal empire that we can't miss..."
  390. > The hairless beast is dumbstruck by your pronouncement.
  391. "... We *need* you. The city of Las Pegasus *needs* you. More than all those cheering fans in the Forum or the lineup of admirers waiting for an autograph."
  392. > He swallows.
  393. > "What's the downside?"
  394. > Freamare immediately chimes in, hopping out of her seat.
  395. > "The pay isn't great, the hours suck, you'll ultimately be under suspicion by both us and them, and when it's all said and done you things will never be the way they were before."
  396. > You try to focus on the positive.
  397. "But you'll have done the city, and Equestria, a great service. And whether you want to keep being a ponice officer or a prize-fighter or just retire from the spotlight altogether, you'll have our full support."
  398. > Anonymous the Destroyer dabs at his face again with his spare towel.
  399. > He looks up at you, scrutinizing your face.
  400. > Then over to Freamare.
  401. > He licks his lips.
  402. > "Let me sleep on it."
  403. > It's not the answer you hoped for, but it may be as good as you can get.
  404. > Anyways, if this conversation gets any louder or goes on any longer, somepony may hear it -- and that would blow everything.
  405. > If this was going to work, it had to be the small-unit detail you had in mind.
  406. "Okay. Don't talk to anypony else about this. I mean it -- no other ponice, either."
  408. > He lifts an eyebrow.
  409. > "How do I contact you?"
  410. > You grin and nod for Freamare to start for the door.
  411. "Take Semyon up on his offer. We'll handle the rest..."
  412. > As you head off, you deliver one final parting phrase over your shoulder.
  413. "... Good night, champion."
  418. (To be continued)
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