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Bound by a book.(Update, Oct 17th)

shukaku20 Mar 28th, 2013 2,916 Never
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  1. *Clang!*
  2. >A heavy caliber sniper round crashes against the steel wall next to you as you duck behind it.
  3. >'Why the hell did the higher ups think that you wouldn't need a full sized gun for this mission?'
  4. >'And why the hell did they sent you to this camp in the middle of god knows where, just to steal a book.'
  5. >Patting your hidden breast pocket, you feel the book there and sigh.
  6. >The ghillie suit was great for getting in, but now that you had been spotted, you stick out like a sore thumb.
  7. >Heavy footsteps approach rapidly, and you draw your combat knife, the only usable weapon you have. Your silenced Usp.45 having ran out of bullets long ago.
  8. >In your other hand, you grab the book.
  9. >'Heck, maybe it will keep them from firing.'
  10. >'Well, if I'm going to die, I might as well know what I was stealing.'
  11. >Flipping open the book, you immediately notice the hieroglyphic looking script.
  12. >As you read it, the symbols begin moving, crawling up your hands and arms.
  13. >In surprise, you try and throw the book away, but you're completely immobilized.
  14. >You feel the letters crawling over the last of your body, before they all flare white, blinding you.
  15. >After a moment, your vision clears, and you regain control of your body.
  16. >Your first reaction is to immediately throw the book on the ground, where it bounces slightly, and you notice something odd.
  17. >The pages are all blank.
  18. >Kneeling, you use your knife to flip a few pages and they’re all the same, blank.
  19. >Flipping it closed, you can tell it's the same book by its blue bound cover.
  20. >Nothing on the cover, spine or back.
  21. >Gingerly picking it up, nothing happens, so you stow it back in it’s pocket.
  22. >Looking around, you are stumped as to where you are, beside the forest.
  23. >The trees are different compared to any you have seen before.
  24. >Sunlight begins fading, and you put on your night vision enhancing goggles.
  25. >Immediately, you begin to search for somewhere to set up camp, when interrupted by a female scream for help.
  26. >'I can camp later; for now, duty calls.'
  27. >You easily weave between trees, as you sprint in the direction the scream came from.
  28. >A light source glows ahead, and you lower your goggles to your neck.
  29. >Slowing your approach, you sink next to a bush, and crawl forward.
  30. >The light turns out to be a campfire in the middle of some sort of tribal encampment.
  31. >The tribals themselves appear to be small zebras?  Striped ponies maybe?
  32. >To the side is another pony: a tan coated one, bound to a pole with ropes
  33. >One of the huts opens, and out walks a zebra with a large headdress, more than likely the chieftain.
  34. >It approaches the bound pony; the rest of the tribe in tow.
  35. >C"Tan one, you are to be sacrificed to the Forest God."
  36. >T"Then just do it already, instead of leaving me tied up here."
  37. >C"You outsiders are so ignorant it's infuriating. First, we must perform the marking ritual to let the Forest God know you are sacrificed by my tribe."
  38. >Your knife is in hand, and you begin creeping forward.
  39. >T"What is this "marking ritual"?"
  40. >C"Ah, it is simple. You'll be mounted by all the tribe’s stallions, and they will fill you up with their seed."
  41. >This triggers an immediate response from you, and you stand up, grabbing the nearest armed zebra.
  42. >Slitting its throat in one swift motion, you make sure to pull its head back, so the blood fountains over the others.
  43. >The zebras all look at you and scream; the Chieftain yelling "Bush Demon!"
  44. >You roar ferociously at the zebras, causing them to panic and run as you make your way over to the bound pony, who is shaking in fear.
  45. >Her eyes are on your knife as you approach, and as soon as you're next to her, she begins fighting her bindings.
  46. >The zebras have all vanished into the woods, so you kneel down in front of her, sheathing your knife and holding out your hands.
  47. "Don't worry, I don't intend to hurt you. You can call me Anonymous, or Anon for short, I guess."
  48. >T"I might be more willing to talk to the monster who just killed a zebra if it untied me."
  49. >With a sigh, you undo the knots, and coil up the rope.
  50. >The pony flexes her wings...
  51. >'Guess I missed them, she must be a Pegasus or something.  Must have been some serious mumbo jumbo in that book. It's taken me to a land of talking mythical equines.'
  52. >D"I suppose I should thank you. My name is Daring Do, adventurer extraordinaire."
  53. "I'm called Anonymous, and I suppose I would be a spy, an assassin, or thief, depending on the job."
  54. >She walks around you a moment, before asking, "What exactly are you? I've seen a lot of species in my travels, and I've never seen anything like you."
  55. "I'm a human. Haven't you seen one before?"
  56. >Daring flies up to your face, and looks closely at you.
  57. >"There's no way you are human.  They're usually pinkish or brown. And like a hairless monkey not a plant beast like you. Not to mention they died of thousands of years ago, before the birth of the current princesses; Celestia and Luna."
  58. >You laugh for a moment.
  59. "Trust me, I am human. I can prove it later, but for now, we should leave before the zebras get back."
  60. >"Fine, just let me grab a torch first."
  61. "No, it would just reveal our movements. Stick close to me, and I will lead."
  62. >She looks at you skeptically for a moment, but nods and you both make your way into the jungle.
  63. >Pulling up your goggles, the night time scenery becomes visible, and you start moving.
  64. >Daring follows behind as best she can, but you hear her uttering faint curses as she stumbles on roots and such.
  65. >Turning back you reach down and pick her up, carrying her in a similar manner to a large dog.
  66. >"Hey! I was fine on my own."
  67. "No, you weren't. You were making enough noise to wake the dead. This way, we will be able to move faster."
  68. >If it weren't for the fact that you can't see colors will wearing the goggles, you would notice the blush on Daring's cheeks.
  69. >"Fine. How much further till we can set up camp?"
  70. >Closing your eyes, you listen and pick up the faint sounds of the creek.
  71. "Here should be fine. I'm assuming you can fly with those wings?"
  72. >"Duh, why else would I have them?"
  73. "Just asking so I don't have to carry you as I climb into the tree to sleep."
  74. >"You're going to sleep in a tree?"
  75. "And so are you, unless you want to sleep with all the bugs on the ground."
  76. >You see her shudder a bit, and you smile.
  77. >"Fine."
  78. >Scaling the tree is no problem, and Daring flies up next to you.
  79. >Once you're both "comfortable" she looks over at you.
  80. >"How are you going to prove you're human?"
  81. "Tomorrow. For tonight, we sleep."
  82. >Pulling your goggles down onto your neck, you rest your hand on your knife and enter the soldiers state of mind that lets you sleep anywhere.
  83.  
  84.  
  85. >Even with the time shift in this world, your body wakes you minutes before sunrise.
  86. >A few branches over, you see Daring slowly rising as well.
  87. "Hey, Daring, Time to get moving."
  88. >D"*Yawn* Yeah, I know. Gotta move before they start searching."
  89. "I guess like you're smarter than you look."
  90. >She glares at you, and you smile under your face cover.
  91. >D"They only caught me because they put traps up all over the tomb I was exploring."
  92. >Dropping from the low branch, you bend and absorb the impact as you touch down.
  93. "Which way is it to the nearest town?" you ask, watching as she flies down off her branch.
  94. >D"Why? I still didn't finish the tomb, we can't go back so soon. I would be a laughing stock."
  95. "Well, if we don't go back, you will be a starved corpse, since I'm pretty sure they took everything you had when they captured you."
  96. >D"That doesn't matter, it's pride. Without it, I'm just another pegasus."
  97. >Pulling a cigarette from the metal carton you carry, you light it with a flick of your lighter before pulling down your face cover.
  98. >Taking a long draw, you let the smoke burn away some of the annoyance you feel at this stubborn pegasus, before letting it out.
  99. "Well, your other option is to take your stuff back from the zebras."
  100. >D"Of course that's what we're going to do. Besides, they have my hat, and I can't let them get away with that."
  101. "We nothing. I'm heading to the nearest town. You can do what you want."
  102. >Finishing the last of your cigarette, you grind the tip against your knife before stuffing the butt in one of your suit’s many pockets.
  103. "Good luck getting your stuff back," you say, turning in the direction you heard water from last night.
  104. >Her hooves grab your shoulder, pulling you back.
  105. >D"You can't just leave me here! You saved me, and now you have to finish the job."
  106. "What job? I'm not being paid by you. In fact, I have some other important information to find, like how to get back so I CAN get paid."
  107. >She looks around, trying to find something to keep you here.
  108. >D"Fine, you want to be paid, I'll pay you for your services when I get the treasure and sell it."
  109. >Eyeing her up, you sigh.
  110. "Forty percent, and you've got my services.
  111. >D"FORTY PERCENT! No way. Twenty five percent."
  112. "I'm not the one who's needing help," you say with a shrug, before starting to walk away.
  113. >She looks back in the direction of the zebra camp, and says, "Fine, how's thirty-five percent?"
  114. "Hmmmnnn... It'll do. Now, If we are going back to get your stuff, we are going to need to use stealth, my specialty."
  115. >D"You're a big, green plant thing, how are you supposed to be sneaky?"
  116. "I already told you, I'm not a plant thing, I'm a human."
  117. >D"And I told you to prove it."
  118. >Pulling off your hood, you partially detach the suit, revealing your under clothes and skin.
  119. >D"So you are a human! No way, that's totally awesome!" she exclaims, looking at you from a bunch of angles.
  120. "You done, or do you not want your stuff back?"
  121. >Coming to an instant stop, she hovers in front of you, barely flapping her wings.
  122. >D"Right, so what's the plan? Stealthily set the tents on fire to distract them? You sneak up and scare them so I can grab my things?"
  123. "You wait here while I get your stuff."
  124. >She gives a groan, dropping to the ground.
  125. >D"Oh come on, you don't think I can do it? I've snuck past enchanted statue guardians, a couple zebras are nothing."
  126. >Reflexively reaching for another cigarette, you stop yourself, settling instead to clench a fist.
  127. "This isn't up for debate. You hired me, and I'm going to do my job. Now sit back and wait," you snap.
  128. >D"Fine..."
  129. >Pulling your mask back up, you start off back towards the zebra village.
  130. >In the daylight, it is easier to find your way, and as the sounds of people, or rather zebras are heard, you start slowing and lowering yourself.
  131. >By the time you reach the edge of the village, you are prone on the ground, scootching along like creeping vines.
  132. >Crawling into the bush you were in last night, you take a few minutes to observe the inhabitants.
  133. >They are all apprehensive, always eyeing the woods, and after what you did, they have every reason to be.
  134. >After a spotting the chieftain exit a tent, you start edging around the camp.
  135. >The chieftain's tent is near an edge, meaning your job is much easier.
  136. "Alright, time to get to work."
  137. >Edging into the open, you burst sprint across the small distance between the trees and the tent.
  138. >Freezing the moment you touch the canvas, you strain to hear any sort of reaction from any of the zebras.
  139. >With not a stray peep to be heard, you pull up the bottom of the tent and slip inside.
  140. >Knife at the ready, you focus on adjusting to the dim light inside the tent.
  141. >Inside is about what you'd expect from a tribal from Africa, tiki masks and totems, powders and potions.
  142. >One thing sticks out, a leather looking backpack and a hat.
  143. >Grabbing these, you slide back under the tent wall, and run straight to the woods.
  144. >Again, you pause to listen for any changes, but your presence here remains undetected.
  145. >Crawling low, you blend into the greenery and make your way back to where you left Daring Do.
  146. >Bringing out your portable binocular, you scan for the pegasus, and see her looking rather bored on a log.
  147. >Sneaking up behind her, you grab hold around her neck, making her jump and spread her wings in panic.
  148. "You need to be more aware of your surroundings," you say, letting go.
  149. >D"Celestia damn it. Anonymous, what the buck was that?"
  150. "Like I said, you need to be more perceptive. What if I was one of the zebras? You'd be right back where you started, or possibly worse."
  151. >Pushing you away, she flits back and asks, "Where's my stuff?"
  152. >Tossing her the bag and hat, you see her quickly dig inside, pulling out a green vest and putting it on.
  153. >D"Good, they didn't mess with it."
  154. >Flipping the hat onto her head, she gives you a cocky smile, before saying "I'm ready to go, lets get to the tomb."
  155. "Yeah, let’s go," you sigh as you cross your arms.
  156. >You watch as she pulls a map and a compass from her bag, laying them on the ground.
  157. >D"Let's see... If that is here, and..."
  158. >While you relax against the log, she works with the map, before rolling it up.
  159. >As she loads it into her bag, she says, "It's this way to the tomb," while indicating a direction.
  160. >Enthusiastically tugging at your suit, she starts dragging you along.
  161. "*Sigh* I'm going, you crazy magic pony pegasus thing."
  162. >She punches you in the shoulder, before flying ahead.
  163. >D"Whatever, you extinct monkey plant monster."
  164.  
  165. ~~~~~
  166.  
  167. "Hey, Twilight, how's it going?" you ask, floating into the library.
  168. >The purple unicorn looks up from her list, and over at you.
  169. >"Hello Rainbow Dash, what brings you here today?"
  170. "Just returning this Daring Do book, and wondering when the next is coming out."
  171. >Twilight levitates away the book as you pull it from your saddlebag, setting it on a shelf.
  172. >"I know, the author really left us on a good cliffhanger, with that zebra trap."
  173. "Yeah, I wonder how she's gonna get out of this one?"
  174. >"If you're not doing anything, do you want to talk about it while I finish cataloging the books here? I'm nearly done so it shouldn't be long."
  175. >Looking over at the clock, you nod.
  176. "Sure. How about we head to Sugarcube corner for lunch after, since it's getting close to that time."
  177. >For a while, you and Twilight share your favourite parts of the book, as well as little things that irked you.
  178. "Man, I swear, they keep mentioning those extinct things, humans, but they never do anything with it. I bet it's leading up to something big."
  179. >"I don't know, Dash. Even with the descriptions, it seems like they just want some sort of background filler for a lot of these tombs."
  180. >She suddenly stops checking the shelf, instead focusing on her list.
  181. >"This isn't right, there shouldn't be a book here..."
  182. >She pulls out a blue bound book with nothing on it.
  183. >Opening it, her brow furrows.
  184. >"Dash, you might want to see this."
  185. >Flying over, you look into the book, and what lies within catches your eye immediately.
  186. "Is this... the next Daring Do book?"
  187. >"I don't know, let me read it."
  188. >"Ropes snapping around her wings and legs, Daring found herself yanked to the ground."
  189. >"'Foolish outsider,' the Zebra laughs, 'you think you can enter our territory like that, Hah!'"
  190. >"The ropes tighten, and more are wrapped around her, beyond even her skill to escape."
  191. "Oh wow, I think this is!"
  192. >The two of you continue reading, intent on the unfolding story.
  193. >"Her horrendous fate seemingly sealed, Daring looks around, for anything that might save her."
  194. >"A sudden cry goes out, and at the edge of the forest, one of the guard zebras is dropped, its throat ripped out by a tall plant looking monster."
  195. >"The creature lets out a tremendous roar, sending the zebras running to the four winds."
  196. >"It stalks towards her, its massive form moving slowly, but deliberately."
  197. >"'Do not worry, I don't intend to hurt you.' it says in a deep male voice 'You can call me Anonymous, or Anon for short, I guess.'"
  198. >"'I might be more willing to talk to the thing that just mercilessly killed a zebra if it untied me,' she says, eyeing it up."
  199. >"The thing undoes the rope with its fingered hands, coiling it up."
  200. >"'I suppose I should thank you. My name is Daring Do, adventurer extraordinaire.' she says as she stretches her stiff wings."
  201. >"The thing stands tall, putting away the rope, 'I'm called Anonymous, and I suppose I would be a spy, an assassin, or thief, depending on the job.'"
  202. "Oh man, I did NOT see that coming!"
  203. >Twilight reads on, and you are spellbound by this new development.
  204. >"Stumbling in the darkness, Daring does her best to follow this 'human', even though he moves as if it was broad daylight."
  205. >"He suddenly stops, turns around and picks her up, much to her surprise."
  206. >"She can't help but blush, since it's been since childhood that she has been carried, or even been in close contact with anyp0ny, even if it's not a pony."
  207. >"'I was doing just fine' she huffs, and Anonymous replies with 'No, you weren't. You were making enough noise to wake the dead. This way we will be able to move faster.'"
  208. >"After a short walk, he stops, and looks to a tree for rest."
  209. "Aw man, I wonder if he's gonna be a sidekick for her next adventure."
  210. >"I'm curious as well, lets keep going," Twilight says, before flipping the page.
  211. >"Huh...? There's nothing here? It shouldn't be..."
  212. "Aw, just when it it was getting good..."
  213. >"I'll keep an eye on this book, perhaps it is somep0ny's fanfiction or something."
  214. "Alright, well, let's head for lunch."
  215. >Stowing the book in a saddlebag, Twilight follows you outside and into Ponyville.
  216.  
  217. Chapter 2
  218.  
  219.  
  220. "Damn it Daring, are you sure it's this way? We've been walking for hours."
  221. >"Of course it's this way, I was there before, I just got brought really far back by the zebras."
  222. "How would you know? All these trees look the same, and it's not like a GPS or any of my normal tools will work."
  223. >Turning back to you, she gives you an annoyed stare.
  224. >"Look, I know where I'm going, even if you are lost without this GPS thing."
  225. >She takes to the air, flying higher than the trees to get a look around.
  226. >"Ah! There it is!" she exclaims, tilting down into a dive, quickly vanishing from sight.
  227. "Oh, come on..." you sigh, before trudging after the mare.
  228. >Forcing through the thick green foliage, you try to keep an eye on Daring Do, who's flying overhead.
  229. >"Hurry up, we're almost there!" she calls down before taking off in a tan and grey streak.
  230. >After a bit more struggling, you finally break out of the trees and vines and into what looks like a ruined courtyard.
  231. >"The entrance is hidden here. Follow me," Daring calls, slipping behind a crumbling pillar.
  232. >Crossing the overgrown flagstone grounds, you duck around the same pillar as your current employer.
  233. >Part of the ground is missing here, cavernous darkness the only thing visible below.
  234. >"Come on Anonymous, we gotta get through here before the zebras decide to come back."
  235. "Don't get your panties in a knot, I'm coming."
  236. >"I can't tell if that's an insult, so I'll just assume it isn't. Now come on, I'm not paying you to lag behind."
  237. >Dropping down into the hole, it takes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting.
  238. >A long, torch-lit hallway stretches both in front and behind you, Daring visible in one direction.
  239. >"Keep an eye out for traps, those zebras left tons down here."
  240. "I know what to look out for, I'm not a rookie, remember?"
  241. >"Pffft, you've probably never done an actual tomb raid, have you?"
  242. "No, but I've snuck through enough booby trapped camps to know not to fall for any sort of trap."
  243. >Giving you a questioning look, she sighs and turns down the tunnel.
  244. >"I'm not even going to ask."
  245. >Walking along the hallway, you notice it has a faint curve to it, and that all the torches line the side opposite the curve.
  246. >Ahead of you, Daring slows down, and you speed up to catch up to her.
  247. >"This is where I was caught. They had a really fine net across the hall, and I didn't see it."
  248. >Gingerly reaching forward, you advance until you feel fine, but strong cords against your palm.
  249. "Yeah, it's still here. How did you get caught in this though? Were you running or something?"
  250. >"Hey, you'd be running too if you were being chased by half a dozen angry zebras with spears!"
  251. "No, I wouldn't." Taking your knife from its sheath, you start cutting the lines. "I would have killed them with my knife and pistol, or bare hands, if need be."
  252. >With the way clear, you gesture through as Daring rolls her eyes.
  253. >"So quick to resort to violence... No wonder your kind went extinct thousands of years ago."
  254. "In your world, maybe. In mine, we're the only sentient species and we live pretty much everywhere on the planet."
  255. >Sliding through the net after Daring, you continue on slowly, all of this new territory for her.
  256. >Half an hour passes, walking down the path and the only thing you notice is the curve is slowly getting sharper.
  257. >"Wow, how long is this path?"
  258. "If my guess is correct, pretty long. I'm sure you've noticed the curve in the wall."
  259. >"Yeah. Wait... this whole thing is a giant spiral! They made it so it would take forever to get to the middle."
  260. "And it probably means that there is some sort of shortcut through a wall somewhere."
  261. >Rapping your knuckles on the wall, Daring does the same with a hoof.
  262. >No matter where you tap, it sounds out with a sort of hollow echo.
  263. "It sounds hollow here."
  264. >"Here as well!" she replies from several feet away.
  265. >Stepping back, you stare at the wall, one hand scratching your chin.
  266. "I wonder..."
  267. >Shifting your weight, you give the wall a solid kick, dust and dirt falling from the roof.
  268. >"What are you doing! You’re going to bring this whole place down on us!"
  269. "If we cut through, I think we can jump through a couple loops, till we get closer to the middle."
  270. >"I get that, but you don't go bucking the wall."
  271. "Fine, I'll remove them by hand."
  272. >Digging in your pockets, you pull out what tools you still have: Your knife and gun, barely half a pound of C4 and a few remote detonators. Ten cigarettes, your lighter and a pen make up the contents of the last few pockets.
  273. >The book is still in its place and your enhancement goggles are around your neck.
  274. "Ugh, I really don't want to dull my knife like this, but it's our only safe option."
  275. >"Hey, think of it like this: when we get out with the treasure, you'll be able to buy dozens of new knifes."
  276. >With a sigh, you put everything back, and turn to the wall, knife in hand.
  277. >The first few strikes leave you surprised as the mortar between the blocks crumble with almost no effort.
  278. >Working one block loose, you carefully work it out.
  279. >After the first, it's a simple means to weaken and remove enough to make a hole large enough for you.
  280. >"Hey, what kind of knife is that? I've never seen one remain so sharp after cutting through mortar like that."
  281. "It's just a tempered steel knife, standard issue."
  282. >"Steel?"
  283. "Don't tell me... What do you use for your tools? Iron? Copper? Bronze?"
  284. >"Flint and gold mostly. Only rich ponies can afford iron and bronze."
  285. >Letting out a sigh, you shake your head and climb through the hole.
  286. "I'm not going to question how one of the rarer metals from my home is so common here, or why you use what is essentially one of the softest metal available for your tools."
  287. >"So what do you use?"
  288. "Steel, mainly, though we do use copper, silver and gold for some things."
  289. >"Again with this steel, how do you get it?" she asks as you start on the second wall.
  290. "It's just extremely refined iron, or something like that, I don't know the specifics."
  291. >"So what about silver and gold, what do you use those for?"
  292. "Look, I can answer these questions later. Now, can you please be quiet while I cut us through?"
  293. >She huffs, before sitting down, letting you work in silence.
  294. >The next two walls open quickly, and the curve has become quite pronounced.
  295. "What do you think, Daring? Should we cut through again, or should we try and walk around?"
  296. >"Why not both? I can walk around, while you cut through and we can see which is faster. It'll also show how close we are to the middle."
  297. "Not a bad idea. Alright, lets go."
  298. >She starts off down the direction of the center, and you start digging into the weak mortar between the bricks.
  299. >About halfway into the wall, you hear something bouncing down the empty halls.
  300. >Voices.
  301. >Multiple voices coming from behind you.
  302. >Speeding up your progress, you quickly cut through, and Daring comes around the bend at just the same moment.
  303. "We might have a problem. Sounds like someone else is trying to get to the middle of this tomb, and they aren't far behind us."
  304. >"Buck, I bet it's Lord Richtor and his cronies. I bet he even paid the zebras to stop me."
  305. "Want me to 'stop' him, boss? I'll only up your charge to forty percent."
  306. >For barely a moment, you can see her considering it, but she shakes her head.
  307. >"No, I couldn't stand being an accomplice to murder."
  308. "It's not murder if it's an 'accident', and trust me, I'm skilled in this kind of thing."
  309. >"The answer is still no. Let's just get moving."
  310. >Following after her, you start sprinting around the spirals, sand and dirt send flying by your steps.
  311. >There are sudden shouts from down the cut tunnel, hastening your speed.
  312. >The spiral grows ever tighter, and suddenly there is a sharp turn into a small hall.
  313. >Bursting down the hall, you skid to a halt, just in front of a black hole in the floor.
  314. "Shit, what now, Daring?"
  315. >She drops down, her wings letting her glide into the darkness.
  316. "Of course..."
  317. >Pulling up your night vision enhancement goggles, you stare down into the darkness a moment, looking for some way down.
  318. >The drop isn't huge, maybe a good thirty feet to the floor.
  319. >Taking the goggles off, you grab the rope you took from the zebras and tie one end around a torch bracket.
  320. >Going down, hand over hand, you feel the bracket creak and shift, and just before you reach the end of the rope, it comes loose, dropping you about eight feet to the sandy ground.
  321. >Daring is already a ways ahead, and from above, you hear the voices again, closer this time.
  322. >Stomping out the smoldering torch, you run after her, pulling your goggles back up again.
  323. >You're able to get a faint idea of what the surroundings look like before you are run down another tunnel.
  324. >The room you left was similar to a entryway in a castle, except underground.
  325. >To your left and right, stone statues of rearing ponies line the hall, causing you some unease.
  326. "Fuck, Daring, you gotta slow down," you mutter under your breath, ticked off at being left behind.
  327. >The hallway nears an end, the room ahead lit in a faint, red light.
  328. >A shadow sits in the doorway, an appendage motioning you to come.
  329. >"We got a problem here, Anonymous."
  330. >Entering the room, you are inclined to agree.
  331. >A wide chasm blocks your path, the red light turning out to be a river of molten lava.
  332. "I don't think we have any way for me to cross. You go on ahead, I'll wait for the guys following to make a way for me."
  333. >"How? There's no way they are going to agree to make a bridge for you or anything."
  334. "They don't have to. I hide here, and after they cross, I follow after."
  335. >Her skepticism shows, and the sounds from behind you start getting closer.
  336. "Or, I could just get rid of them, take their stuff and get across."
  337. >"No, I think you can wait for them to cross. Just, try and find a way to pass them and catch up to me."
  338. >She takes to the air, and you take to the wall, curling up.
  339. >With a glance back at you, she vanishes across the chasm, and into the rooms beyond.
  340. >Several minutes pass, and a group of ponies enter the room.
  341. >The head stallion, a blue coated unicorn with a brown mane, looks at the gap in displeasure.
  342. >"This temple must have been made by pegasii, with all these advantages they get. At this rate, Daring will get hold of the treasure before us."
  343. >One of the others, a non-descript pony asks, "So, how do we get across boss?"
  344. >"You have the rope, correct?"
  345. >A long rope comes out of the ponys pack, and the unicorn, who you assume to be Lord Richtor, moves over to it.
  346. >The rope starts glowing, along with his horn and it starts moving, attaching to the far side.
  347. >"Now, we cross carefully."
  348. >One of his thug ponys starts across, and after a minute, he is across.
  349. >Richtor and the other thug follow immediately after, and you are alone in the room again, but this time, with a way across.
  350. >A check to make sure nothing will fall out, and you take hold of the rope.
  351. >Worming your way across, you can't help but feel nervous, certain death looming below.
  352. >Reaching the other side, you pull yourself up, looking back over the chasm.
  353. "I better get paid damn well for this."
  354. >Darkness settling back in as you proceed down the tunnel, you opt to pull up your goggles, which only marginally help.
  355. >Running as fast, but silently as possible, you pay little attention to the carvings on the walls.
  356. >Underfoot, a panel lets out a small click, and you dive to the ground, a barrage of arrows flying overhead.
  357. "Damn it, stupid tomb traps."
  358. >Getting back to your feet, you start running again, faint sounds coming from in front of you.
  359. >Slowing as you approach, you start picking up words here and there.
  360. >"... Miss Do,... Map..."
  361. >There is a light ahead, the doorway partly blocked by who you assume are the thugs.
  362. >Crouching slightly, you close in on the thugs.
  363. >Maybe fifteen feet behind the thugs, you can see into the room, and at the far end is Daring, surrounded by a glowing bubble.
  364. >"I'm going to have to decline your offer, since you obviously are at the disadvantage here."
  365. >With a laugh, Richtor, calls back "I thought you were smarter than this, Miss Do. We have you cornered, you cannot escape. At least, not unless you agree to my terms."
  366. >"I'm not the one in the bad position, since I'm not surrounded and alone."
  367. >Rushing forward, you take hold of both thugs heads and swing them together, making them crumple into an unconscious heap.
  368. >You can't help but smile as Richtor turns to look at you, absolute horror forming.
  369. >"You're just lucky I'm not letting my demon kill things. At least, for now."
  370. >Richtor does the only thing he can do, which is faint and fall over.
  371. >The bubble fades, and Daring flaps over.
  372. >"Took you long enough, Anonymous."
  373. "You're just lucky I made it in time."
  374. >"Whatever."
  375. >She starts digging in Richtor’s bags, before pulling out a few scraps of parchment.
  376. >"Aha, I knew he'd bring it."
  377. "What's that?"
  378. >"Part of the map to the fabled lost human city."
  379. "Okay, so what about the treasure? A piece of paper isn't going to pay me."
  380. >She gestures behind her, where you see a stone box with symbols and several holes on it.
  381. >"Well, if you can unlock that, there might be something inside. I hate leaving any treasures behind, but without the right tools, only unicorns can open those."
  382. >Stepping over to it, you analyze the holes, four of them in the shape of a square, each an inch from the other.
  383. "So, do you have any idea how these work?"
  384. >"There's four buttons, one in each hole and you have to press them in the right order. The other problem is it's hard to hit the buttons, since they're at weird angles."
  385. "Is that so. Let see, four buttons, twenty four combinations, shouldn't be too hard."
  386. >Index and ring fingers from each hands into the holes, you start probing around for the buttons.
  387. >Left ring and right index find the buttons, so you pull out and adjust your hands.
  388. >Now, your right thumb and index fingers are in the right side, and your left middle and pinkie are in the left.
  389. >Some more probing, and you find all the buttons.
  390. "Now, how do I reset if I get the order wrong?"
  391. >"It's automatic. Just, hurry up, I don't know how much time we have here."
  392. >Pushing in the first combination, nothing happens, and ten seconds later, there is a click as it resets.
  393. >Seven more combinations, and there is a different click, and the top cracks open.
  394. >Pulling your fingers out of the holes, you peer inside the box, Daring flying over as well.
  395. >"Aw yeah! This is some high quality stuff!"
  396. >She pulls out a bronze pony helmet, as well as some coins and a knife.
  397. "Well, You got your treasure, now we gotta go and sell this so you can pay me."
  398. >Just as you are about to close the box, you see something in the bottom, mixed in with some sand and dust.
  399. >Reaching in, you brush the dirt aside, and your jaw almost drops.
  400. >Quickly palming what you found, you shut the box and slide your hands into your pockets.
  401. >"What's up, did you find anything?"
  402. "Nah, I just thought I saw something. Let's get out of here."
  403. >Walking past the unconscious ponies, you pause a moment.
  404. "I have to ask, what was with that bubble thing?"
  405. >"It was magic, duh. You didn't know unicorns can use magic?"
  406. >You don't respond, instead pulling a cigarette from the case and light it up.
  407. >Walking down the path back, you let the life shortening smoke calm you down, Daring sprinting to catch up.
  408. >"Hey, what is that? You lit one before, and another now."
  409. "Cigarette, helps me calm down."
  410. >"Why? There's been nothing wrong."
  411. "There's been more wrong in the past two days or so then I have dealt with in the last two years."
  412. >She opens her mouth to say something, but is stops when you finish the cigarette and flick the butt into the lava chasm.
  413. >"I'll go ahead a bit."
  414. >Crossing the chasm and heading into the darkness, Daring goes on ahead again, and you start across the tensioned rope.
  415. >Hand over hand, you cross, dropping down on the other side, and starting after your employer.
  416. >Down the statue hall, and to the room with the hole in the roof.
  417. >Rather thoughtfully, she has already taken the rope and hooked it up to the room above, and is waiting on your level.
  418. >Or the rope was left behind by Richtor and his thugs.
  419. >Either way works for you.
  420. >"Lets get out of here."
  421. "Do you think you could help hold the rope at the top? Last time, it snapped the bracket out."
  422. >"Don't worry, I checked it. It'll be able to hold even you."
  423. >Scaling the rope takes a little work, since it's not knotted in any way to ease climbing.
  424. "Stupid magic for climbing ropes and shit." you mutter to yourself, inching your way up.
  425. >Pulling yourself up the ledge and into the spiraling tunnel, you look at the rope.
  426. >"Just leave it, it's not like they will be waking up anytime soon."
  427. "Whatever, boss."
  428. >"That's right, I am your boss right now, and you have to do what I want you to."
  429. "Not really. I have to help you get the treasure and get out. That was our contract, nothing more."
  430. >With a disappointed huff, she heads into the spiraling tunnel, you following behind.
  431. >As you squeeze through the holes, Daring speaks up.
  432. >"Hey, once your job with me is done, what do you plan on doing?"
  433. "I'm probably going to the nearest big city, or the capital, if possible. Find out if I can locate a way home, or if not, look for work."
  434. >"Since I'm headed to Canterlot, the place with the best marketplace for these things, and the capital, why don't we go together."
  435. "Well, I'm only getting paid once you sell this stuff, so I don't see that I have a choice."
  436. >"You should also remember, your kind is extinct here, so if a human just starts walking around, things aren't going to work out well."
  437. "So you're saying I have to rely on you to get anything done?"
  438. >"No, just... well, kinda. If I can get you in to see the princess or somep0ny important, and they give you immunity or some other form of safety, you should be fine on your own afterwards."
  439. >Back in the hallway, you can see the last of the sunlight fading through the hole in the ceiling.
  440. "I guess having some safety in a strange land is always a good thing. I suppose we can work together a bit longer."
  441. >She helps pull you up through the hole, and the two of you are soon off to find a hidden place to set up camp for the night.
  442. >Hidden in a tree, the last bits of sunlight fading and Daring asleep on her branch, you reach into your pocket and pull out your loot.
  443. "There's no way..."
  444. >In your hand, you hold a pair of bullets, .45 caliber by the looks of it.
  445. >Ejecting the magazine from your pistol, you carefully slide the bullets in.
  446. >They fit perfectly.
  447. "Fucking magic."
  448. >Clicking the magazine back into place, you chamber the first round by pulling back the slide.
  449. >Slightly better armed now, you feel safer as you drift to sleep as well.
  450.  
  451. ~~~~~
  452.  
  453. >Sunlight pours into your cloud house, waking you within moments of dawn.
  454. "*Yawn* Why do you have to raise the sun so early, Celestia?" you groan, shaking out your cyan wings.
  455. >Trundling downstairs, you head for the kitchen to eat.
  456. >Munching on a piece of toast, you mind starts to wander to the dreams you had last night.
  457. >Awesome, action packed scenes of Daring, yourself and this plant/human thing, Anonymous.
  458. "That would be so cool, but it'll never happen. It's just a story, after all."
  459. >Not having any work today, you head straight for your couch and flop down.
  460. >The most recent Daring Do book sits on your coffee table, but it doesn’t draw your interest.
  461. "Buck, I wonder who wrote that start, it was really good."
  462. "If I found them, I'd get them to write more."
  463. >Mulling over who might have been writing that, you miss the first couple knocks at your door.
  464. >"HEY RAINBOW! OPEN UP!" Twilights excited voice calls in, shaking you from your thoughts.
  465. "Geez Twi, with you calling like that, I'd almost guess that Celestia disowned you as her student," you say, trotting over and opening the door.
  466. >The moment the door opens, your face is assaulted by a glowing purple book.
  467. >"Look! There's more now!"
  468. >Pushing it back, you can quite clearly see Chapter 2 written in bold text at the top of the page.
  469. "Why didn't you say so! Lets get started!"
  470. >Quickly flying behind her, you start shoving her towards your couch, before shooting to the kitchen.
  471. "Snacks, snacks... Ah, here we go!"
  472. >Pulling out a bag of hay chips, you dash back to the couch and drop in next to Twilight.
  473. >"Don't worry, I haven't read ahead, I know how much you want to read this as well."
  474. "Well, don't keep me waiting, lets get reading!"
  475. >Twilight lets out a small laugh, and you turn to her, confused.
  476. "What?"
  477. >"You sounded just like an *snicker* egghead just then."
  478. >Giving her your coldest stare, it only lasts a moment before you realize how true her statement is.
  479. "Ha ha, I guess you're right."
  480. >Flipping open the book, Twilight finds the start of chapter 2, and starts reading.
  481. >"The early morning sunlight cuts through the trees, helping to rouse her, along with Anonymous's voice."
  482. >"'Yeah, I know. Gotta get moving before they start searching' she mutters, rubbing sleep from her eyes."
  483. >"'You're smarter than you look.' is Anonymous's quick reply."
  484. "Wow, a little full of himself, isn't he?"
  485. >"Reminds me a bit of you, Dash."
  486. "Whatever, keep reading."
  487. >"Anonymous pulls a strange white and yellow tube from a small metal box, and lights the end on fire with another metal thing."
  488. >"'Well, your other option is to take your stuff back from the zebras.'"
  489. >"This throws Daring for a bit of a loop. On one hoof, she could likely succeed in getting her stuff back, but on the other hoof, if she was caught..."
  490. >"'Of course that's what we're going to do.' Daring exclaims 'Besides, they have my hat, and I can't let them get away with that.'"
  491. >"Turning away, Anonymous starts walking, 'We nothing. I'm heading to the nearest town. You can do what you want.'"
  492. >"In the blink of an eye, she grabs his shoulders and pulls him back 'You can't just leave me here! You saved me, and now you have to finish the job.'"
  493. "I dunno, this is starting to sound a little out of character for Daring Do."
  494. >"Not really. She realized she needs help, and so she is trying to get Anonymous to help."
  495. "Hmmnnn, I dunno. Still seems a little fishy to me."
  496. >"Lets just keep going."
  497. >"Behind the crumbling column, the entrance to the depths remain, and she takes the lead, Anonymous following behind."
  498. >"Reaching the barely visible net, she lets Anonymous catch up."
  499. >"As he feels the net, he says, 'How did you get caught in this though? Were you running or something?'"
  500. >"'Hey, you'd be running too if you were being chased by half a dozen angry zebras with spears.'"
  501. >"'No, I wouldn't,' he pulls a knife from inside his planty mass and starts cutting the lines, 'I would have killed them with my knife and pistol, or bare hands, if need be.'"
  502. "Ugh, they are taking humans soooo out of character," you groan, rolling your eyes.
  503. >"I'm not so sure, Dash. You have to remember, they portrayed this guy as a thief, an assassin and a spy. I'm pretty sure he would act like that in such a situation."
  504. "I just hope nothing happens to Daring. I've seen far too many fan fictions that have something horrible and stupid happen to Daring just for the sake of making a story more emotional."
  505. >Twilight gives a faintly sheepish grin, before turning back to the book.
  506. >"Rushing down the hallway, Daring comes out into the treasure room, a small light bearing down on a small stand."
  507. >"Under a glass dome, lies a scrap of paper covered in a strange material, just like the others."
  508. >"As she picks it up, a bubble forms around her, and a sneering voice comes from the hallway."
  509. >"'Miss Do, if you would be so kind as to relinquish the map fragment, we can solve this without violence.'"
  510. >"Slowly turning, Daring rolls her eyes at the stallion, 'Lord Richtor, you should know by now that I don’t give things up so easy.'"
  511. "Oh great, this scum bag again. Can't they create some sort of new villain?"
  512. >"You're looking at him too shallow, Dash. He's actually interesting if you look at his back-story and interactions without prejudice."
  513. "You look at it your way, Twilight, I'll look at it my own way."
  514. >Twilight turns back to the book and continues.
  515. >"Her gaze continually focusing on the blackness behind them, Daring spots the shadows move, and she smiles."
  516. >"'I'm going to have to decline your offer, since you obviously are at the disadvantage here.'"
  517. >"With a laugh, Richtor, calls back 'I thought you were smarter than this, miss Do. We have you cornered, you cannot escape. At least, not unless you agree to my terms.'"
  518. >"'I'm not the one in the bad position, since I'm not surrounded and alone.'"
  519. >"In a feat of strength, Anonymous knocks out both thugs with a single movement, crashing their heads together."
  520. >"Richtor faints, seeing the imposing form of Anonymous standing over him, and his containment spell fades."
  521. "Hah, serves that jerk right."
  522. >"I don't think I would faint, seeing a giant plant thing."
  523. "You're an Element of Harmony; Fluttershy would probably be the only one of us be afraid of something like that."
  524. >"Well, I suppose with what she said, I can see how he might faint, but aren't adventures supposed to be braver."
  525. "He's not a real adventurer like Daring."
  526. >Reading through the rest of the chapter, you and Twilight finish up the chips and discuss much more about Anonymous.
  527. >"Well, hopefully there will be more tomorrow, so we can do this every day."
  528. "Yeah, though I wonder why only one chapter appears at a time?"
  529. >"Magic, maybe? According to Star Swirl, there are countless different..."
  530. "Blah blah, cut to the point."
  531. >"This book might be recording something happening as it happens in another dimension."
  532. "So Daring Do is real?"
  533. >"Maybe, like I said, it's a possibility."
  534. "Hey, do you think, maybe... you could..."
  535. >"No Dash, I'm not finding a way to send you to that world, even if it exists."
  536. >Letting out a sigh, you lean back, staring at the ceiling.
  537. "That would be so cool..."
  538.  
  539. Chapter 3
  540.  
  541. >Faint cursing and stumbling rouses you from your light sleep and you pull up your night vision enhancing goggles, the world coming into view.
  542. >A bright spot in the distance marks who you guess is Richtor and his thugs, struggling in the darkness.
  543. >Watching the light approach, you pull your pistol from its holster.
  544. >About a hundred feet away, the light stops, but the sound of an approaching pony doesn't.
  545. >A smaller glow approaches with this pony, barely visible, even enhanced.
  546. >Minutes tick by, but your vigilance never fades, and soon the light reveals, as you suspected, Richtor.
  547. "Stop where you are, state your business or leave, or you may find yourself with a hole in the head."
  548. >Obviously startled by your sudden statement, he stumbles back a step, before looking in your direction.
  549. >"I came to speak with you, Demon. I wish to purchase your services."
  550. "Is that so. Find me when my current contract is done, and we may be able to make a deal."
  551. >"Can't you just break your contract with her, and work for me?"
  552. "No, it's bad for business. Breaking a contract and leaving on a bad note just make future business more difficult."
  553. >He starts suddenly digging in his bag, and you cock the hammer back with an audible click.
  554. >The sound makes him freeze, and rightly so.
  555. "If I were you, I'd walk away slowly. I'm not supposed to kill, but I have few reservations for doing it."
  556. >"Fair enough. I just wish to leave you with this. If you want work, come to this party of mine and I will gladly contract you."
  557. >He drops a paper envelope and starts walking away, the glow of his magic traveling towards the larger torch glow.
  558. >Dropping from your branch, you crouch and roll to absorb the impact as well as muffle the sound with your suit.
  559. >Putting away your pistol and pulling out your knife, you gingerly tap the letter checking for any sort of trap.
  560. >When nothing happens, you pick it up and stow it away in a pocket before climbing back up your tree.
  561. >You watch the light for several minutes, watching its movement, or lack thereof in this case, until it goes out, and you finally get to sleep again.
  562.  
  563. >Just like yesterday, your body wakes you moments before dawn, and you stretch out the stiffness with a few soft pops.
  564. >Daring rises as well, stretching like a cat.
  565. "Which way is it to town, Daring? I'm just about out of rations, and I'd rather not have to hunt around here, not knowing what is sentient."
  566. >"Hold you humans, lemme check my map."
  567. "Hold your...' giving a sigh, you shake your head and drop down from the tree.
  568. >Daring follows soon after, rolling up her map.
  569. >"We have to go that way," she points back towards the ruins, and right across where Richtor set up camp, "and from the ruins, it should be a straight trip back to town."
  570. "One problem with that. Richtor is that way; I saw him and his goons setting up camp."
  571. >"How? When?"
  572. "With my eyes, last night."
  573. >"I figured that out myself, I was... Whatever, lets just go. I'm not going to question your strange human powers."
  574. >Taking to the air, she starts on a curve that will lead around Richtor's camp and end at the ruins.
  575. >Following close behind in the brush, you keep a constant eye out for any signs of trouble or lunch, the last of your rations going to breakfast.
  576. >For being this deep in a forest, it is alarmingly quiet, not even the songs of birds to break the monotonous sounds of leaves rustling in the breeze.
  577. >Passing within a hundred feet of where Richtor set up camp, you can hear the sound of them getting ready to leave as well.
  578. "Looks like we have to move," you mutter yourself, picking up the pace.
  579. >Overhead, you see Daring start to fall behind, and you give a whistle to get her attention.
  580. >She swoops in low, and just as she gets within quiet talking range, there come excited cries from Richtor's camp.
  581. "Damn it, looks like they heard. We need to move, fast."
  582. >"Well it was your idea to call me down."
  583. "Whatever, we can argue this later, for now, we have to move."
  584. >"Argue what later? It's obviously your fault."
  585. "Just shut up and fly."
  586. >With an audible huff, she picks up the pace, and you speed up as well, rushing to the ruins.
  587. >Entering the open, you grab hold of Daring and drag her into the entrance of the ruins.
  588. >"What the mpphggh," she snaps before you cover her mouth with a hand.
  589. >Hidden in the shadows, you carefully peek around the corner, Daring held tight to your body.
  590. >After only a moment, Richtor and his thugs arrive, before reorienting.
  591. >"This way, boys, we can't let her get too far, or else."
  592. >Without any delay, they take off again in the direction of town, as far as you can guess.
  593. >Another minute's wait, and you let go of Daring, who flaps up to your face.
  594. >"What's wrong with you? Why did you let them get ahead of us?"
  595. "This is a game of cat and mouse, or should I say, we are being hunted, and they are hunting us.
  596. In this situation, since we are being hunted, isn't it advantageous to be in the position of the hunter?"
  597. >"I have no clue what you are talking about."
  598. "They are looking for us ahead of them. We are behind them now. They have no way to keep tabs on us, but we can easily track them."
  599. >A hoof on her chin, Daring lands to think, "Okay, I kinda get it, but won't he realize we aren't ahead of him when he reaches town?"
  600. "Well, we don't have to go to town, do we? Just get on the train to this Canterplace, and we're fine, right?"
  601. >"Just what are you suggesting?"
  602. "Ever jumped onto a moving train?"
  603.  
  604. >"This is wrong! This is so very wrong!" Daring exclaims, running alongside you after the train.
  605. >With a leap, you grab the rail on the caboose, hauling yourself up onto the train.
  606. "Come on Daring, haven't you always wanted to do something like this?"
  607. >"No, since I'm not crazy like you!" she snaps back, jumping on as well.
  608. "I love doing that. It makes me feel like an action hero from the movies, even though my job is a bit more real than what they do."
  609. >"You... I don't know what I'm going to do with you. One moment you are a super serious spy hunter, and the next, you are like a foal, acting like their hero."
  610. "Hey, just because my job is a little grim at times doesn't mean I can't have fun doing it. Would you still be an adventurer if you hated doing it?"
  611. >She chooses not to respond, and you start climbing onto the roof of the train, much to her confusion.
  612. >"Why..."
  613. "It's the last place anyone looks, since it's so blatantly obvious; and besides, even if they do see me, I'll just look like a loose branch or something that got caught on the train."
  614. >Shaking her head, Daring lays down on the back railing as you reach the roof and hunker down.
  615. >There is plenty to hold on to, and the train isn't moving extremely fast so the wind is tolerable, meaning you have no problems sticking on.
  616. >For added safety, you tie a rope off to a metal eye on the train, and the other end around your waist.
  617. >Several hours pass as the train rumbles along its track, heading towards what you can only describe as a castle designed by little girls hanging off the side of a mountain.
  618. >Your presence has definitely been noted; as you have seen a few ponies stick their heads out to check the train.
  619. >Daring, by hook or by crook, has somehow managed to avoid detection, and is currently napping away, hat pulled down over her eyes.
  620. >Tilting up to travel the slope of the mountain, the train shows no signs of slowing, and you can only chalk it up to being magic.
  621. >Signs of civilization start showing and you start looking for somewhere to get off.
  622. >A faint hissing starts coming from the train as it slows, a station clearly visible ahead.
  623. >It's design is a mix of old west shaping, combined with a more modern paint job, so it matches the surroundings.
  624. >The best part is that there's an overhang to shade the ponies waiting for the train, and it looks strong enough to hold your weight.
  625. >Undoing the rope, you prepare to dismount the moment the train stops.
  626. >The hissing reaches a climax, before shutting off as the train comes to a full stop.
  627. >Leaping the small gap between train and overhang, you wince as you land with a loud thump; each step towards the roof the station accompanied by another.
  628. >On the relative safety of the station roof, you quickly search for a way down, while remaining hidden from view.
  629. >Dropping down into a back alley, you hear an all too familiar voice pass by.
  630. >"You check all the cars, correct?" Richtor asks, presumably directed at one of his henchmen.
  631. >"Yea, there was no sign of that pegasus, or the demon."
  632. >"Very well, just keep an eye out for them, I have an important job I wish to hire that demon for."
  633. >The voices move on, but his words remain.
  634. "If it's an important job; that means it'll pay well."
  635. >Thoughts of a fat paycheque float in your head as you search for Daring Do, who should be off the train by now.
  636. >"Hey, Demon, watcha lookin for?"
  637. >Spinning around, you come face to face with Daring, who is sporting a rather arrogant smile.
  638. "Damn it, you realized something bad may have happened to you if I wasn't actively looking for you."
  639. >"Oh yes, mister big scary plant human."
  640. "You've seen what I can do, so I don't know why you are antagonizing me."
  641. >"Because I can. You won't get paid without me, and you won't be safe without me."
  642. "If I get rid of you, I get all the profits. Also, I'm wanted by so many countries back home, another one on the list is like a drop in the bucket."
  643. >A small scrunch appears on her nose, and she says, "You're no fun."
  644. "I'm not paid to be fun, or at least, not normally."
  645. >"Uh..."
  646. "Lets just go."
  647. >"But we can't. We have to find some way to get you to see Celestia without causing a massive panic first."
  648. "You have a place we can stay here, right? We just go there first, you arrange the meeting, and then I can come after, or they can come there or whatever."
  649. >"That, that just might work. Follow me, my place is this way."
  650. >Without a second thought, Daring takes off into the streets, not considering that you can't follow.
  651. "Ugh, what is it with all my employers being completely oblivious recently..."
  652. >Doing the only thing that comes to mind, you scale the nearest building, and sight Daring's path.
  653. "Looks like I'm going to have to do this the hard way..."
  654. >Taking a momentary step back, you run straight at the next building, vaulting across the rooftops.
  655. >Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, you move as effectively as you can, but you know you are seen.
  656. >Why else would there be faint screams and running hooves.
  657. "Maybe there is some famous pony in town... Ah who am I kidding, I need to hide, and fast."
  658. >Looking around, you realize your second problem.
  659. >How the fuck are you going to hide as a giant plant?
  660. "Sometimes, I hate this suit..."
  661. >Dropping down from the roof of the building you are on, you climb a tree in what you assume to be a back yard.
  662. "How short sighted can you get, Daring," you curse under your breath, awkwardly wedged into the upper branches of the tree.
  663. >For the second time today, you try to nap, but you are interrupted rather quickly.
  664. >"Um, mister plant monster, could you maybe get out of my tree?"
  665. >Looking down, you see a pony looking up at you, both fear and anger in their eyes.
  666. "Ugh, this plan is getting better and better..." you say inaudibly
  667. "Don't try anything, don't call the cops or whatever you ponies have, and I will leave and no one will get hurt, okay?"
  668. >With a small thump, you hit the ground, and look over at the pony.
  669. >Besides looking terrified to high hell, they show no signs of running.
  670. >With a running start, you hop a fence, and continue along behind the houses.
  671. >Your brief run comes to an end though, as a high stone wall blocks your path, unless you want to walk on the streets.
  672. "Guess there's only one way to go now, and that's up..."
  673. >The wall, while solidly built, also has large gaps between the bricks, making the possibility of scaling it acceptable.
  674. >Knife in one hand, you probe the mortar, and it proves to be just as weak as the stuff in the tomb.
  675. >For the second time it far too short a time, your knife is being used for a purpose far aside from what it is supposed to be used for.
  676. >Scaling the wall, you can't help but feel like an action hero again, sneaking into a highly guarded base.
  677. >Little did you know how accurate that statement was.
  678. >Reaching the top, you struggle to maintain your grip as you drop over the other side.
  679. >There is a roof not to far below this side, and you drop down, rolling to try and minimize the thump.
  680. >It works, but not well enough.
  681. >Before you can plan your next move, swarms of armored ponies come streaming out of the building, several pegasii taking to the air to block off any escape routes.
  682. "This day just keeps getting better and better..."
  683. >Looking all around, you search for some way past, but all the exits are fairly well guarded.
  684. >Two rounds, a knife, and not a lot of hope.
  685. >"S..Stay where you are, monster." One of the ponies says, approaching slowly.
  686. "I seek no quarrel with you or your kind, I seek only to find the one who summoned me. Let me pass, and none shall be harmed."
  687. >The pony who addressed you looks around, as if seeking some kind of answer from a superior.
  688. "If you refuse, well..."
  689. >Taking a step forward, several shift back uncomfortably.
  690. >"Don't back down men. This thing is bluffing, there is no way it is a demon or any other kind of summon."
  691. >A unicorn with more advanced armor steps forward, puffing his chest out.
  692. >The appearance of this pony stirs a little confidence into the others, and you slowly reach for your pistol.
  693. "Are you willing to risk your life on that? From here, I could kill you in a second."
  694. >"It's bluffing, nothing is that fast."
  695. >In a fluid motion, you draw, aim and fire, one of your two rounds punching a hole clean through his ear.
  696. "If you don't let me go, the next is through your head.
  697. >Your words hang in the air, all the ponies stunned, including the captain; that is, until the pain hits.
  698. >He drops to the ground, grabbing his injured ear and screaming bloody murder, several other ponies rushing to his side.
  699. >This time, when you step forward, all the ponies give you a wide berth, moving out of your path.
  700. >You encounter no resistance as you step out the main gate and into the streets, where you promptly let out a sigh of relief.
  701. >The street is much less populated in this area, and only a few notice your presence before you vanish into the alleyways.
  702. >After a little traveling, you find a park as the sun starts to set, and you find another tree to hide in.
  703. "I should never have agreed to help Daring Do..."
  704. >Just before you can fall asleep, you hear a familiar voice calling out, "Anonymous? Are you around?"
  705. >For a moment, you are tempted to do nothing, but you've come this far, so you might as well finish and get paid.
  706. "Yeah, I'm here."
  707. >"Dude, what the buck have you been doing? I've been hearing rumors about there being a monster in town since we got here, and just now there was a bunch of guards announcing that the summoner of a plant demon is supposed to find it and get rid of it."
  708. >With a smirk, you reach out and tip her hat off her head.
  709. "So, did you go off bragging how you were the summoner? Or would that hurt your image?"
  710. >"That would probably get me arrested. I heard you used some crazy magic to almost kill the captain as a warning. What were you doing?"
  711. "I was trying to follow you and stay out of sight, but how was I supposed to do that when you wandered through the busy streets?"
  712. >"Aren't you supposed to be good with this kind of thing, sneaking around and what not."
  713. "I can do that in human towns, sure, but if you didn't notice, I stick out horribly here."
  714. >"No, I hadn't noticed," she replies, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
  715. "Sarcasm won't get you anywhere with me, so stuff it and let's go. I'm getting tired of hiding."
  716. >She awkwardly scuffs a hoof on the ground, before saying, "There's a bit of a problem with that. She isn't available today or tomorrow, since she has a party to attend."
  717. "Let me guess, a party hosted by Richtor?" you ask, scooping her hat up and setting it back on her head.
  718. >"How did you...?"
  719. "The same way I nearly killed the guard captain. Magic."
  720. >With a look of disbelief, she sighs before turning and starting away.
  721. >"Whatever, lets just get going. Come on, my place is this way."
  722. >Following her through the now darkening streets, she sticks to back alleys this time, actually letting you move unimpeded.
  723. >That, and almost every pony you see runs away.
  724. >Well, things could be worse...
  725. >"Hey, you. Demon. I have a score to settle with you."
  726. "Fuck."
  727. >Turning around, you face the rather pissed off looking pony guard captain.
  728. "Let me guess, you want a hole in your other ear to balance it off?"
  729. >"Ha ha, very funny. Boys, surround them."
  730. "Any restrictions, boss?" you ask Daring, who has backed against you.
  731. >"Protect me, try and avoid killing, you know, the usual."
  732. >With a grin hidden under your facemask, you run and vault the first pony, and before he can react, you spin and deliver a hard kick right in the groin.
  733. >His reaction makes even you wince, and just to be safe, you give him a few more kicks in the same spot.
  734. >The captain and his other guards are stunned, once again, and as you start towards the next one, they start backing away.
  735. >This time though, they don't run, but group up, letting Daring move behind you again.
  736. >"That was just wrong, but feel free to deal with the rest of them like that; if you want."
  737. "You hear that boys, I hope none of you want to reproduce again."
  738. >All of them glance nervously between each other and at the twitching stallion on the ground, before running away, leaving the captain alone.
  739. "Now as for you, I think you should run while I'm still willing to forgive and forget."
  740. >"You'll regret this!" He yells as he turns tail and runs.
  741. >Turning your attention back to the unconscious but twitching pony, you lift him onto your shoulders.
  742. "Where's the nearest safe place to drop him off?"
  743. >"You did THAT to him, and you are concerned for his safety? I doubt I will ever understand you."
  744. "Not helping."
  745. >"It's this way. We can drop him off at a guard post on the way to my place."
  746. >Groaning slightly under the weight of the guard, you trudge along after Daring, and at the guard station, you drop him off without detection.
  747. >The rest of the trip is quiet, and you soon arrive at a small mansion near the castle.
  748. "Don't tell me you live here..."
  749. >"Yeah, why? I've made so much money doing adventuring, I could retire if I wanted, but I keep adventuring because I love it."
  750. "I get that, but why the huge house? With your kind of work, you must not get much time here."
  751. >"That may be true, but if you have to spend every night in trees or tents, your performance starts to suffer."
  752. >Giving a stretch, you hear your bones creak a bit, and nod in agreement.
  753. "It's been awhile for me too. Can't wait to hit the hay in a real bed."
  754. >Opening the main door, she waves around.
  755. >"Welcome to my mansion. Bathroom is on the second floor, second door from the right. Your room for tonight is at the end of the hall."
  756. "Alright. I'll probably see you in the morning."
  757. >"Probably?"
  758. "No guarantees. This world is filled with so much magic and mumbo jumbo, I wouldn't be surprised if I got sent right back home tonight."
  759. >"Again, I doubt I will ever understand you, but whatever, see you in the morning."
  760. >Heading straight for the room, you ignore the faint grumbles of your stomach and strip down before flopping out on the bed.
  761. >For the first time in days, you don't have to worry about something coming in the night, and can actually get a good, deep night's sleep.
  762.  
  763. ~~~~~
  764.  
  765. >Having finished your weather duties, you sit on a small cloud and debate what to do.
  766. >On one hoof, the weather is perfect for training, almost no stray breezes or strange updrafts.
  767. >While on the other hoof, the book may have updated, meaning you can had to Twilight's place, since it's her turn to host.
  768. >"Rainbow, are you up there?" Twilight's voice calls out, and you lean back, looking over the edge of the cloud.
  769. "Hey, Twilight, what's up?"
  770. >"Are you ready for todays chapter? I didn't read it, but if yesterday was any measure, we might get to see what happens when Anonymous enters a town."
  771. "Yeah I'm ready, just give me a few minutes to get some practice in, and I'll be right over."
  772. >With a nod, she heads back to her house, and you start your pre-flight stretches.
  773. >As you work loose your muscles, you think to yourself, 'I wonder if Daring does stretches like this? What about Anonymous, does he stretch? Does he watch Daring stretch?'
  774. >A naughty image flashes in your head, and you lose your footing mid stretch, flopping onto your belly.
  775. "Uh... did I just think that..."
  776. "There's no way Daring would, I mean, I'm not that kind of fan that wants her to..."
  777. >And yet, the image returns, Daring face down, plot up, just like you when stretching, and her tail waving aside at Anonymous.
  778. >Shaking your head to try and clear it, you try and take off, but your wings just stick out, stiff.
  779. "Stupid wingboners..."
  780. >With a little coaxing and a few mild curses, you get your wings back down and ready to fly.
  781. >Taking to the air, your wings don't quite respond perfectly, some of the stiffness remaining.
  782. "Looks like I won't be getting any practice in today," you sigh, angling down towards Twilight's house.
  783. >A perfect landing, and you trot inside, ignoring the 'closed for lunch' sign on the door.
  784. >Twilight quickly closes and shoves aside a notebook as you enter, hiding it away.
  785. >"Hey Rainbow, you're early. You usually take at least ten minutes to do practice, but it's hardly been five."
  786. "Something came up that stopped me. It's not a big deal though, I can just practice later."
  787. >"Alright. Do you want to read this time, or should I keep reading like usual?"
  788. "You should read, your better with the words than I am."
  789. >"I guess that's true, but you should try sometime. Who knows, you might like doing it."
  790. >From on the table, she levitates the now familiar blue book, and opens it.
  791. >"Let's see... Ah, here we are."
  792. >"Daring's dreams that night are filled with strange voices, saying things that make no sense."
  793. >"'Make a deal. A bad note. Few reservations. Contract you.'"
  794. >"As she shakes herself awake, she finds Anonymous awake already, once again."
  795. >"Stretching to help loosen up, she hears him ask 'Which way is it to town, Daring?'"
  796. "Oh great, just some boring filler."
  797. >"I disagree Dash, those voices probably mean something. Maybe Anonymous met somep0ny during the night, and her mind let her hear snippets."
  798. "Who would Anonymous meet with? The only other ponies out there are... You don't think he's a traitor, do you?"
  799. >"Something tells me no because of the way he has acted. He shows little knowledge that is common in Equestria, so something may have brought him there suddenly."
  800. "Well, let's continue and see."
  801. >"Reaching the ruins in moments, Daring swoops down, only to be suddenly grabbed and dragged behind a column by Anonymous."
  802. >"Struggling to free herself, she quiets as Rictor and his goons appear, and after they head for the town, Anonymous releases her."
  803. >"'What's wrong with you? Why did you let them get ahead of us?'"
  804. >"Anonymous turns a dangerous looking smile on her, 'This is a game of cat and mouse, or should I say, we are being hunted, and they are hunting us. In this situation, since we are being hunted, isn't it advantageous to be in the position of the hunter?'"
  805. >"'I have no clue what you are talking about.'"
  806. >"'They are looking for us ahead of them. We are behind them now. They have no way to keep tabs on us, but we can easily track them.'"
  807. >After some contemplation, Daring says, "Okay, I kinda get it, but won't he realize we aren't ahead of him when he reaches town?"
  808. >""Well, we don't have to go to town, do we? Just get on the train to this Canterplace, and we're fine, right?'"
  809. >"'Just what are you suggesting?'"
  810. >"Again, he gives her that dangerous looking smile, 'Ever jumped onto a moving train?'"
  811. "Are they seriously going to do that!?"
  812. >"I think so. Surprisingly, this is actually a first for Daring, she's never been on the outside of a moving train."
  813. "Well, it's strange, that's for sure; then again, this whole book is strange."
  814. >"You can say that again, now where were we..."
  815. >"Searching around the building for Anonymous, Daring finds him in the back alley, searching as well.
  816. >"'Hey Daring, lets get going.'"
  817. >"'But we can't. We have to find some way to get you to see Celestia without causing a massive panic first.' she replies, and Anonymous nods before resting a hand on his chin."
  818. >"'You have a place we can stay here, right? We just go there first, you arrange the meeting, and then I can come after, or they can come there or whatever.'"
  819. >"'That, that just might work,' Daring says, seeing the logic in his solution, 'Follow me, my place is this way.'"
  820. >"Taking to the streets, Daring forgets that Anonymous can't follow her just long enough that when she heads back, he is already gone."
  821. >"For over an hour, she searches, with no sign of him except a rumor that started about fifteen minutes into her search."
  822. >"Apparently, there was a monster roaming the city, heading straight for the castle."
  823. >"Just as she is about to give up and head for home, guards call for attention at many of the street corners."
  824. >"What they say shocks her, but at the same time, she isn't truly surprised."
  825. >"Their message goes 'To the summoner of the plant demon, please find and deal with it immediately.'"
  826. >"Several ponies start asking questions, and Daring edges closer to listen in."
  827. >"'What happened? Why is there a demon in the city?' these are the common questions, and the answers vary."
  828. >"'It injured one of the guards. It injured an innocent pony. It attacked the captain. Nop0ny knows how it got in or why'"
  829. >"With this new information, Daring renews her search."
  830. >"The sun just having set, she finally finds him in a park."
  831. "Wait, before we read the next part, what do you think happened?"
  832. >Setting the book down, Twilight places a hoof on her chin as she thinks.
  833. "I don't think anything the guards said is true, or at least, not entirely. Anonymous may be portrayed as kind if violent, but I don't think he'd attack unprovoked."
  834. >"That's kind of what I was thinking, but I think Anonymous did end up attacking somep0ny, but it was probably self defence or provocation."
  835. >"There's no reason for the guards to be spreading this information otherwise, unless there was some sort of threat to everyp0ny."
  836. >Picking up the book again, she starts up where she left off.
  837. >"As they near her house, a voice calls out, 'Hey, you. Demon. I have a score to settle with you.'"
  838. >"Turning around, Anonymous and Daring turn to face the rather pissed off looking pony guard captain."
  839. >"'Fuck,' Anonymous curses, before smirking a bit.
  840. >"'Let me guess, you want a hole in your other ear to balance it off?'"
  841. >"Taking a close look, Daring can see a bandage wrapped around one of the captains ears."
  842. >"'Ha ha, very funny. Boys, surround them.'"
  843. >"'Any restrictions, boss?' Anonymous asks as she backs against him."
  844. >"'Protect me, try and avoid killing, you know, the usual.'"
  845. >"His facemask contorts as he grins, and he  runs and vaults the first pony before he spinning and delivering a hard kick right in the groin.
  846. >"Everypony winces, and she can only watch as Anonymous gives him a few more kicks in the same spot."
  847. "That's just...
  848. >"I know..."
  849. >Both of you shudder, before reading on.
  850. >"Opening the front door to her mansion, Daring motions Anonymous inside."
  851. >"'Bathroom is on the second floor, second door from the right. Your room for tonight is at the end of the hall.'"
  852. >"'Alright. I'll probably see you in the morning,' he replies, starting up the stairs."
  853. >"'Probably?'"
  854. >"'No guarantees. This world is filled with so much magic and mumbo jumbo, I wouldn't be surprised if I got sent right back home tonight.'"
  855. >"'Again, I doubt I will ever understand you, but whatever, see you in the morning.'"
  856. >"Heading to her room, Daring thinks on what Anonymous said, as well as everything that happened today."
  857. >"With a tired sigh, she strips off her vest and hat before jumping into her cushy cloud bed and drifting to sleep."
  858. >Flipping to the next page, Twilight finds it blank and sets the book down.
  859. >"That was pretty interesting, but I have the feeling it was more of a setup chapter."
  860. "I agree. It could have used more action, maybe if it had covered Anonymous's side of things it would have been better, but still..."
  861. >"What happened with the captain, I wonder? Anonymous said he used some kind of magic, but not many spells are able to get past a captains shielding spells."
  862. "TWilight, you better not be thinking that your brother is the captain in the book. Not only does the one in the book speak different, if he was there, wouldn't that mean you are there as well?"
  863. >"I suppose you're right... Still, I wonder if they will show anything about the spell."
  864. "They probably will. I'm only guessing, but with another piece of the map to the city of the humans, the may encounter some dangerous things, and Anonymous will have to use his magic to defeat them."
  865. "You won't be able to learn the spell though, or at least, I don't think you will be able to, since the book is supposed to be only teen rated, and a spell like that would be stored in forbidden areas."
  866. >"I wonder if Celestia has the spell..."
  867. "Why don't you ask her? I need to get going anyways, if I want to get some practice in today."
  868. >"Bye Dash, see you tomorrow."
  869. "Cya," you say, stepping out the door, ready to spend the rest of the day practicing.
  870.  
  871.  
  872. Chapter 4
  873.  
  874. >Before the sunlight can reach your eyes, you're already awake and stretching.
  875. >Pulling up your underclothes, you grab your suit and head for the bathroom.
  876. >There's no answer when you knock, so you head in and close the door behind you.
  877. >White porcelain gleams from every corner of the room, your attention immediately drawn to a shower/tub/sauna combo that's large, even for you.
  878. "This... this I can work with."
  879. >Dressed in only your birthday suit, you crank both knobs and a stream of hot water pours from the nozzle.
  880. >Despite its size, the room quickly fills with steam as you soak in the hot water.
  881. "This is definitely first on my list to get here; oh god this is nice."
  882. >All the stress and craziness of the past few days melts away like an ice cube in summer.
  883. >With a twist of the knobs, the stream of water stops, and you step out onto a bathmat.
  884. >Grabbing a towel, you start drying off your head when you hear the door open.
  885. >The ensuing silence and awkwardness could be cut with a knife, until you throw the towel right into Daring's face.
  886. "Get out! Don't you ponies know how to knock?!"
  887. >Backing out, she slams the door before yelling back, "Sorry! It's not often I have guests, and I was a bit out of it. I didn't see anything anyways!"
  888. >Using another towel, you quickly dry off and put on everything but the ghillie suit.
  889. >Just before opening the door, you pause.
  890. >'I wonder what she knows about human customs..."
  891. >A smile forms as and idea does, and you quickly hide it before turning the knob.
  892. >"Hey, I said I was sorry," Daring says as you push past her and down the hall.
  893. >Wandering into the kitchen, you start preparing everything for your plan.
  894. >Breakfast is on the table as you hear the sound of Daring's hooves coming down the stairs.
  895. >Bowing as she enters, you motion to the table.
  896. "Breakfast is ready, dear."
  897. >"Umm... Thanks?"
  898. >As she sits, you bring over a glass and a pitcher of juice, which you pour for her.
  899. >"Not to be unappreciative, but what is all this?"
  900. >'Time for revenge'
  901. "Is it wrong for a husband to care for his wife?"
  902. >"No, its just... WAIT WHAT?!"
  903. "Is it wrong for a husband to care for his wife?"
  904. >"I got that, but what are you saying?"
  905. "You're now my wife. Human law dictates that a human must marry the first of the opposite gender to see them naked."
  906. >"You mean I..."
  907. "Yes, when you walked in, you became married to me the moment you saw my naked body."
  908. >"I can't!" she exclaims, hooves grabbing her hair, "How will I be able to work? I can't be tied down. And what would others think, me being married to a..."
  909. >Pacing around the room in a panic, she looks everywhere, looking for someway out.
  910. >"Can't we just, get divorced or something?"
  911. "Humans always marry till death do us part," you say, containing your laughter, "The only way to break the marriage would be for one of us to die."
  912. >"I can't... I can't ask you to die, it's too selfish..."
  913. "There's another thing..."
  914. >Taking on a solemn look, you see Daring look at you, before becoming nervous.
  915. >"I'm afraid to ask, but what?"
  916. "We must consummate our marriage."
  917. >"How...?"
  918. "Sex."
  919. >"uh..."
  920. "You know, bump uglies? Grind groins? Horizontal tango? Inset tab A into slot B?"
  921. >"I... AAAAAAGHH!!!!!!!"
  922. >With a loud scream, she runs out of the room at top speed, and you let your laughter overtake you.
  923. >Leaning against the counter, you clutch your sides as they start to cramp.
  924. "Oh god, that's too good. I can't believe she bought it!"
  925. >Still suffering some giggles, you pull out stuff for your own breakfast, and start preparing it.
  926. >Setting a pan to heat, you start mixing some pancake mix, while cutting and juicing an orange.
  927. >As you pout the batter, Daring slinks back in, wings drooping.
  928. >"Okay, I'm ready... we can *gulp* consummate our marriage."
  929. "That was quick. I kind of hoped you would be stewing over it longer."
  930. >"Huh?"
  931. >She looks up at you, and the grin on your face.
  932. >"YOU WERE BUCKING WITH ME!"
  933. "Yep, and you bought it, hook, line and sinker."
  934. >Red fills her features, and you could almost see smoke coming from her ears, before she flys at you.
  935. >"I'M GOING TO GET YOU, YOU JERK!"
  936. >Avoiding her charge, you grab her by the sides before she crashes into your breakfast and the hot pan.
  937. "Consider it payback for making me go through all that shit yesterday."
  938. >Squirming out of your grasp, she hovers there for a moment, before slapping you.
  939. >"Fine, we're even."
  940. >After flipping your pancakes before they burn, you switch gears to business mode, and sit down.
  941. "So, what are our plans for today?"
  942. >Sighing, Daring takes a seat across from you, "Well, I'm going to sell off the artefacts we found so I can pay you, and then I'll try to figure out how to get in to Richtor's party."
  943. "Not much for me to do then, huh... I guess I can do a once over on my gear, make sure everything is working."
  944. >"Just don't make a mess or get seen by any of the neighbours; I'm already in enough trouble with having you here and with what you did to the guards."
  945. "Hey, I gave them an option, and they forced my hand."
  946. >"You still attacked and injured the captain of the guards, as well as what you did to that other guard..."
  947. >Rising, you tend to your pancakes and set them on the table.
  948. "Since we have time, there are a few questions I want to ask."
  949. >"I guess I can answer a few before heading out, what do you want to know?"
  950. "What are the main powers on this planet?"
  951. >"Main powers? You mean like magic, or the big armies or something?"
  952. "How about this. What are the largest, both in size and population, countries on this planet?"
  953. >"Well, you have us, the ponies. There are also the minotaurs and Gryphons. These three are the largest organized populations, but there are a bunch of others that are more tribal or nomadic."
  954. "Are there any conflicts going on? Wars, open or otherwise?"
  955. >"You're looking for work, aren't you? There aren't any open wars at this time, but that doesn't mean there aren’t tensions between the nations."
  956. >Seeing your smile, she adds, "And no, I'm pretty sure Princess Celestia is not going to hire for anything like that."
  957. "Fine. I guess the most pressing question I have is, what is the value of money?"
  958. >"Huh? A bit is worth a bit, how would it be worth anything different?"
  959. "But what is a bit worth? What can it buy you? What kind of prices are houses or other common things?"
  960. >"I suppose it depends on what you're looking for, but the average house will cost about two to three thousand bits."
  961. "How about our relics? What kind of cash are we looking at for them?"
  962. >Putting a hoof to her chin, she mutters, "Lets see..."
  963. >"The coins will be an easy sell, maybe 200 for the lot. The helmet and knife will need appraisal, but helmets like that tend to go for around 350."
  964. >"Depending on what the knife is made of, it may go for only 10 bits, or shoot up to near a thousand. Hell, if we're lucky, and it's human crafted, it may break 1500."
  965. "I'm guessing it's not going to sell right away then, will it?"
  966. >"If we get a middleman, we may not make as much, but we can get paid right away."
  967. >Tallying it up in your mind, you start figuring out your cut.
  968. "So, say the knife makes four hundred, that's about 950 total, and thirty five percent of that means I'm getting about 340 to 350 bits."
  969. >"You're just lucky I'm letting you have such a big cut."
  970. "And you're lucky I was not only there to save your sorry ass twice, but unlock that chest for treasure you are actually willing to sell."
  971. >"Have I told you how much of a pain you are?"
  972. "Yes, but I don't care."
  973. >Smirking, you stuff a pancake into your mouth while she watches.
  974. >Turning to the mostly uneaten plate of her breakfast, she sighs and starts eating.
  975. >Breakfast is quickly done, and Daring takes off with her bag of loot, leaving you all alone in a giant mansion made for tiny horses.
  976. "This is gonna be fun."
  977. ~Two hours later~
  978. "This is boring as fuck..."
  979. >Drifting through the building, you bemoan the lack of things to do.
  980. >Besides a small library, which you can't read any of, there is practically nothing in the way of entertainment, and after cleaning your gun, making several small statues out of C4 and general cleaning and maintenance on your suit, you were bored out of your mind.
  981. >With nothing to do inside, you turn your attention to the other aspect of her mansion.
  982. >It's yard.
  983. >With your suit on, you slip out the back door, and drop to the ground.
  984. >Crawling across the grass, you hear a happy whistling in the distance and turn towards it.
  985. >Nearing the fence, you curl up into bush mode, and peer over the low fence.
  986. >Across it, you see a pony in a maid outfit hanging clothes on a line.
  987. >The tune she is whistling has a simple and repetitive rhythm, and you easily start mimicking it.
  988. >She stops whistling, and you drop to the ground and stop as well.
  989. >"Hello? Is anyp0ny there?" she calls out, presumably looking around.
  990. >"I must have been hearing things."
  991. >Her whistling resumes, and you quickly start whistling along again.
  992. >Moments later, she stops again and says, "Please, if anyp0ny is out there, stop hiding."
  993. "I'm not hiding," you whisper, your voice carrying on the breeze, 'I'm right behind you."
  994. >You hear her jump and spin around, before letting out a scared gasp.
  995. >"That's not funny, show yourself!"
  996. "You can't see me?" you ask, feigning surprise while still speaking in your low, airy voice.
  997. >"N... no, so stop hiding."
  998. "But I'm right in front of you."
  999. >"That means... You're a GHOST!!!"
  1000. >Screaming her head off, she runs towards the mansion, while you roll on the ground laughing.
  1001. >Peeking over the fence, all you see is the fleeing tail of the maid before it vanishes around the side of the house.
  1002. "What else can I do out here?"
  1003. >As it turns out, not much, so after some lazing about in the sun, you return inside for lunch.
  1004. >Lunch itself consists of a vegetarian sandwich and a glass of milk.
  1005. >With nothing to do today, and likely a lot to do tonight, you do the only logical thing.
  1006. >Nap.
  1007. >Laying out on the couch, you quickly fall asleep, not to be woken until near sundown as Daring arrives back.
  1008. >Her somewhat brash tone brings you to wakefulness as she closes the door behind her.
  1009. >"Hey! Anon! Are you here?"
  1010. "*Yawn* Yeah, I'm still here. Bored."
  1011. >She pokes her head into the living room, where she sees you rising from the couch.
  1012. >"Did you nap all day?"
  1013. "Didn't have much choice. This place is boring."
  1014. >"Is not. You just don't have any sense of taste. You obviously can't enjoy the finer books that fill my library."
  1015. "No, I just can't read your pony language. All I got done today was some minor maintenance and I scared the pants off your neighbour’s maid."
  1016. >"YOU DID WHAT!"
  1017. "Ah don't worry about it. I wasn't seen or anything."
  1018. >"That doesn't matter. She's a really nice mare and doesn't deserve having to put up with your stupid sense of humour."
  1019. "Fine, I'll leave her alone," you say, waving her off, "and if you're so tired of me, why don't you just pay me and I can be on my way."
  1020. >Tossing you a bag, she says, "That's your cut, but you can't leave just yet. There is still half of the deal to take care of."
  1021. "I can take care of that on my own, and even if I don't it's better for my line of work not to be affiliated with anything."
  1022. >"I still say you're not going to find much in the way of work here. nop0ny needs a thief or an assassin."
  1023. "Don't they? You've never had a neighbour you wished would just disappear? You’ve never seen a cheating husband or wife? There's never been something that you've wanted badly, but could never get?"
  1024. >Watching your words sink into her head, you pull open the bag.
  1025. >Gold coins by the dozen sparkle back at you, and you pull one out.
  1026. "All it takes is a few of these," your thumb sends the coin tumbling through the air, "and all those problems can..."
  1027. >Catching the coin, you send it down your sleeve with a little sleight of hand, and reveal your empty palm, "...disappear."
  1028. >While this information spins in her head, you step out into the main entrance, ghillie suit draped over your shoulder.
  1029. "Now, how am I going to get to that party...?"
  1030. >While it would be easier to travel without your suit, you can't leave it behind since you may not come back.
  1031. >Part way through pulling the suit on, the blue book that brought you here falls from its pocket.
  1032. >Grabbing it by a cover, the pages open and reveal symbols and letters written on some of the pages.
  1033. >Your first instinct is to drop it, and as it hits the ground, you see it's only fractionally filled.
  1034. >Gingerly touching it, nothing happens and at the same time, Daring walks in.
  1035. >"What's that? Some kind of journal?"
  1036. "To tell you the truth, I have no idea what it is. All I know is it's the the that brought me to this place."
  1037. >"So it must be some kind of magical artifact. I bet you could sell it for a ton."
  1038. >Flipping it closed, you stow it in its pocket.
  1039. "I'd rather not, since if I can get this back home, I'll be rolling in more money than you."
  1040. >She looks at you sceptically, before shrugging and turning towards her kitchen.
  1041. >"I'm making dinner, you want anything?"
  1042. "Nah. Cya Daring."
  1043. >Opening the front door, you're about to step out when Daring grabs your shoulder.
  1044. >"Hey! Where are you going?"
  1045. "Out contract is complete, I've got no reason to stick around anymore."
  1046. >"Yeah, but..."
  1047. "Look, as of this moment, anything I do will not reflect on you, so I could go and steal the crown of the princess and you would be fine. Besides, I have an appointment to keep."
  1048. >Pulling her hoof off, you start out across her lawn, before jumping her fence.
  1049. >Darkness has rolled in, and the streets are mostly unlit, the only light being from the moon and the occasional house that is close to the road.
  1050. >Bringing your facemask up to cover your mouth and nose, you set your goggles on, and the dim street comes into clarity.
  1051. "Now, if I were a rich guy, where would I throw a party...?"
  1052. >Searching around, you find a three story building with a good view of the city, and after some climbing, you pull yourself up onto the roof.
  1053. >Almost like a map, the city is layed out in front of you, and with your goggles on, you can pick out bright spots where there are a lot of lights.
  1054. >There are countless small blips, but only a few large ones, and of these, there is one in particular that looks promising.
  1055. >From this distance, it's impossible to make out its shape, but the light is going up, so it's likely that it's a glass ceiling over a ballroom.
  1056. "And that's where I'm heading first."
  1057. >It takes a while to climb down, but safely on the ground, you start running towards your objective.
  1058. >The streets are practically dead, and what few ponies that get in your path are easily avoided by taking back alleys and by cutting across yards.
  1059. >As you leave teh residential area and head into a more comercial area, the streets become a little more active, so like yesterday, you take to the back alleys.
  1060. >All too soon, you loose sight of your target, and so, you climb to the roof of what looks like a donut shop.
  1061. >With the higher levels of ambient light here, finding the building is a little tougher, but after a moments search, you spot it again.
  1062. >Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, you close in on the building, a low, long theater, judging by the exterior.
  1063. >And from all the golden and black armored ponys around, you probably have the right place.
  1064. "Of course, after what I did before, I'm probably not going to get in just by walking up to the front door."
  1065. "Time to get creative."
  1066. >The theater is way to far to jump, so after climbing down carefully, you sprint across the street and dive quietly into a bush.
  1067. >Hoofsteps approach, and with them come a pair of voices.
  1068. >"Can you believe this, be afraid of bushes, they might be a demon."
  1069. >"I agree. That stupid day captain probably got his ear shot off by scaring some rookie recruit or something."
  1070. >The first voice laughs, and both the sounds of hoofsteps and their laughter starts to move away.
  1071. >When you can barely make out the sound of their voices, you poke your head above the bush and look around.
  1072. >It's a straight shot to the building, about 50 feet in the open, before there's another bush against the building.
  1073. >A bright light in the distance reveals the patrol that passed by, and there is no sign of another coming.
  1074. >Staying low, you run across the yard and lower quietly into the bush.
  1075. >Upon examination, the wall has plenty of handholds due to its intricate surface patterns, meaning climbing will be easy.
  1076. >Climbing without getting seen, on the other hand...
  1077. "Only one way to find out."
  1078. >A quick glance around to make sure there are no guards that can see you, you begin the process of climbing up the wall.
  1079. >About halfway up, you get the oportunity to glance in a window, and as you suspected, there is a large party going on.
  1080. >Amidst the crowds, one pony in particular catches your eyes, a tall pony with a horn and wings.
  1081. >Not only that, it's mane seems to be made out of easter themed space.
  1082. >In the moment you start climbing again, you could swear the pony caught your eyes, but nothing changes as you make your way to the roof.
  1083. >Peering over the edge, you see several guards around, watching the sky.
  1084. >None are watching the roof, and you climb over the edge and drop down low.
  1085. >Crawling across the roof, you head for the massive square window in the middle.
  1086. >The guards shift around every once in a while, and every time they do, you freeze.
  1087. >Finally reaching the window, you peer over it.
  1088. >From the edge, you can barely see into the room, some kind of curtain blocking part of it.
  1089. >Slowly edging further out, you get to see past the curtain, and you notice you are almost directly on top of the white pony.
  1090. >Any thoughts you may have had are interupted as you hear a loud *CRACK!*
  1091.  
  1092. ~~~~~
  1093.  
  1094. >Another day, and hopefully another chapter of that new Daring Do book.
  1095. >With no work today, you find yourself lazing about your house with nothing to do.
  1096. >Lying on your sofa, you let your mind wander, since it's not a good day for working out.
  1097. >Today being your day to host, you contemplate what to do, when you hear a bit of a commotion down below.
  1098. >Peering out over the edge of your cloud house, you see a number of gold armored guards landing.
  1099. "Boring..." you say, and just as you are about to head back inside, you see their destination.
  1100. >They are all headed directly to the Library.
  1101. "It couldn't... Nah."
  1102. >Back inside, you flop down on your couch, but the thought of those guards heading towards the library keeps nagging at your mind.
  1103. "I know it's nothing, but it can't hurt to check, right?"
  1104. >Hopping down, you fly straight to the library and walk in.
  1105. >"It doesn't seem to be here," one of the guards says, turning to the others.
  1106. >Each one turns back from the bookshelf they were looking at, and another says, "It has to be. It's been in every other library."
  1107. >"Keep looking men."
  1108. >Twilight, upon hearing this asks, "What book are you looking for? I know where every book in this library is."
  1109. >"It's not titled. A blue book. Unless you have organized the shelves recently, you probably haven't seen it."
  1110. >"Ah, that book," Twilight comments, running up the stairs, "I've been keeping it under magical observation, since it appeared without anyp0ny putting it there."
  1111. >Several guards follow her up the stairs, and you stop at their base.
  1112. >"Wait, you can't take that," you hear Twilight calls out, "If you move it, the spell will fail."
  1113. >"We have orders from Celestia to recover all the copies."
  1114. >"And I am Celestia's student," she retorts, "as well as the most magically gifted unicorn of this age and the Element of Magic. As such, I have been studying this book, and it's tie with multidimensional magic."
  1115. >There is no immediate response from the guards, but you can feel the tension in the air.
  1116. >"If you want, I can send a letter to Celestia right now for permission."
  1117. >Another pause, before one of the guards replies, "No, I can see the book is in good hooves. But you must make sure the book remains out of public hooves."
  1118. >"Of course. Have a nice day."
  1119. >The guards file past, and as Twilight comes down the stairs, you wrap her up in a hug.
  1120. "Twilight, if I wasn't straight, I'd kiss you and more."
  1121. >"I'm... glad? I wasn't lying though, I have been studying the book."
  1122. >Pushing her back up the stairs, you head for her room.
  1123. "What have you found out? Is it real? Are Daring and Anonymous real?"
  1124. >"Nothing much yet. There are traces of dimensional magic, but it could just be something writing the stories across dimensions."
  1125. "But it's possible they're real, right?"
  1126. >"I suppose."
  1127. >Scuffing your hoof on the ground, you glance at the book.
  1128. "So... uh..."
  1129. >"Sure, we can read the new stuff now," she says with a smile.
  1130. "Alright!" you exclaim, jumping onto her bed, "Lets get this started!"
  1131. >Her horn glows purple, and the spells around the book fade.
  1132. >Levitating it up, she climbs beside you and opens the book.
  1133. >"Let's see, Chapter 4."
  1134. >"The early morning sun greets her, as it has for all her life."
  1135. >"After some early morning stretches, she walks down the hall for a morning shower."
  1136. >"Still half asleep, she pushes open the door only to see Anonymous, standing before her, completely naked."
  1137. >"Before she can react, but far too late to not see everything, he throws his towel into her face, yelling 'Get out! Don't you ponies know how to knock?!'"
  1138. >Unable to contain it, you start giggling like mad, and Twilight joins in.
  1139. "Oh god that's..."
  1140. >"I can only imagine..."
  1141. >Stifling her laughter, Twilight continues.
  1142. >"Having washed herself as clean as she can, Daring heads down to the kitchen, where she finds Anonymous with a plate of breakfast ready."
  1143. >"He bows as she enters, motioning to the table."
  1144. >"'Breakfast is ready, dear,' he says, to which she can only reply, 'Umm... Thanks?'."
  1145. >"As she sits, he brings over a glass and a pitcher of juice, which he pours for her."
  1146. >"'Not to be unappreciative, but what is all this?' she asks, motioning to everything."
  1147. >"'Is it wrong for a husband to care for his wife?' he replies..."
  1148. "WHAT!!! They're married!?!?!"
  1149. >"They shouldn't... they can't. Let's read, maybe it'll explain..."
  1150. >"'You're now my wife,' Anonymous explains, 'Human law dictates that a human must marry the first of the opposite gender to see them naked.'"
  1151. >"'You mean I...'"
  1152. >"'Yes, when you walked in, you became married to me the moment you saw my naked body.'"
  1153. >"'I can't!' she exclaims, hooves grabbing her mane, 'How will I be able to work? I can't be tied down. And what would others think, me being married to a...'"
  1154. >"Pacing around the room in a panic, she looks everywhere, looking for someway out."
  1155. >"'Can't we just, get divorced or something?'"
  1156. >"'Humans always marry till death do us part,' Anonymous says, his face showing no signs of lying, 'The only way to break the marriage would be for one of us to die.'"
  1157. >"'I can't...' Daring says, shaking her head, 'I can't ask you to die, it's too selfish...'"
  1158. >"'There's another thing...'"
  1159. >"His face takes on a solemn look, Daring looking at him, before becoming nervous."
  1160. >"'I'm afraid to ask, but what?'"
  1161. >"'We must consummate our marriage.'"
  1162. >"'How...?'"
  1163. "Dear Celestia, I can't tell if I want to know."
  1164. >Unable to look away, Twilight reads the next line and cringes.
  1165. >"I agree, you don't want to know."
  1166. "What is it?"
  1167. >"Sex."
  1168. "Uh..."
  1169. >"That's exactly Daring's reaction."
  1170. >"'Uh...' is the only coherent thing Daring can say, and Anonymous takes this as confusion."
  1171. >"'You know, bump uglies? Grind groins? Horizontal tango? Inset tab A into slot B?' he adds, trying to alleviate her confusion."
  1172. >"With a scream, Daring runs to her room, mind swamped by thousands of thoughts."
  1173. >"After some time, she comes to a conclusion, and slowly makes her way downstairs."
  1174. "Umm... Twilight, maybe we should stop here. I have the feeling this is somep0nys cheap sexfic."
  1175. >"I'll stop if anything starts. We still don't know if anything is true yet."
  1176. "Fine, just... I don't want Daring Do ruined for me because of some cheap, human porn."
  1177. >"Who knows, maybe if there is some, it will be better than most of the stuff out there, since a lot of that isn't consensual; and as far as I know, there isn't any human stuff out there."
  1178. "Well, who would want some giant monkey looking thing cumming inside them?"
  1179. >"I dunno, this Anonymous doesn't seem like that bad of a guy..."
  1180. "Just be quiet and read."
  1181. >"Fine."
  1182. >"Stepping into the kitchen, Daring says, 'Okay, I'm ready... we can *gulp* consummate our marriage.'"
  1183. >"'That was quick. I kind of hoped you would be stewing over it longer.'"
  1184. >"Stunned by his response, Daring can only manage a half intelligible, 'Huh?'"
  1185. >"She looks up at him, and the grin on his face."
  1186. >"'YOU WERE BUCKING WITH ME!'"
  1187. >"'Yep, and you bought it, hook, line and sinker.'"
  1188. "Thank Celestia!" you exclaim, "I was almost freaking out!"
  1189. >"Whoever is writing this sure knows how to hook a reader."
  1190. *!$@ 4th wall breaking here. I just want to say that I am not intending this as any sort of self satisfaction or anything like that. I'm just playing the characters as they would likely react, based on the headcanon I have of them for this story(Which will be revealed more later) @$!*
  1191. "I'll say. I seriously thought they were going to make Anonymous and Daring have sex, just like that."
  1192. >"They're definitely playing the 'human' angle really well, since not much is know about them. From book seven, we know they always wear clothing, so this whole 'must marry the first to see them naked' thing played with it well."
  1193. "Keep going, lets see what happens."
  1194. >"With her loot in her bag, Daring heads out to her usual contacts to get them processed."
  1195. >"Meanwhile, back at her house, Anonymous is bored out of his mind, unable to even read the books in her personal library due to his inability to read Equestrian."
  1196. >"Having fully explored the inside of her house, he explores her yard, where he finds a maid working, over the fence in the neighbour’s yard."
  1197. >"She is whistling a tune with a simple and repetitive rhythm, and he easily start mimicking it."
  1198. >"She stops whistling, and he drops to the ground and stops as well."
  1199. >"'Hello? Is anyp0ny there?' she calls out, looking around."
  1200. >"After a moment, she says, 'I must have been hearing things,' and resumes her work."
  1201. >"Her whistling resumes as well, and Anonymous quickly start whistling along again."
  1202. >"Moments later, she stops again and says, 'Please, if anyp0ny is out there, stop hiding.'"
  1203. >"'I'm not hiding,' he whispers, his voice carrying on the breeze, 'I'm right behind you.'"
  1204. >"She jumps and spins around, before letting out a scared gasp."
  1205. >"'That's not funny, show yourself!'"
  1206. >"'You can't see me?' he asks, feigning surprise while still speaking in a low, airy voice."
  1207. >"'N... no, so stop hiding.'"
  1208. >"'But I'm right in front of you.'"
  1209. >"That means... You're a GHOST!!!"
  1210. >"Screaming her head off, she runs towards the mansion, while Anonymous rolls on the ground laughing."
  1211. "Well, I would have done a better prank, but that's not bad."
  1212. >"It wasn't very nice though."
  1213. "What would you do then, in his position?"
  1214. >"I would have tried to befriend her, so I could have somep0ny to talk to."
  1215. "But he's a "demon" remember. It's not like she'll just say okay, and they all lived happily ever after."
  1216. >"Okay, I see your point."
  1217. >"Tossing Anonymous his bag of bits, she says, 'That's your cut, but you can't leave just yet. There is still half of the deal to take care of.'"
  1218. >"'I can take care of that on my own, and even if I don't it's better for my line of work not to be affiliated with anything.'"
  1219. >"'I still say you're not going to find much in the way of work here. nop0ny needs a thief or an assassin,' Daring points out."
  1220. >"'Don't they?' he asks, 'You've never had a neighbour you wished would just disappear? You’ve never seen a cheating husband or wife? There's never been something that you've wanted badly, but could never get?'"
  1221. >"As what he says sinks in he pulls open the bag."
  1222. >"Pulling one out, he shows it to her."
  1223. >"'All it takes is a few of these,' with a flick, he sends the coin tumbling through the air, 'and all those problems can...'"
  1224. >"Catching the coin, it vanishes as he reveals his empty palm, '...disappear.'"
  1225. "He's got a point... As much as it's wrong, there are all sorts of ponies out there."
  1226. >"Yes, but most wouldn't resort to assassination; I don't think."
  1227. >"Halfway up the wall, Anonymous glances in a window, and as he suspected, there is a large party going on."
  1228. >"Amidst the crowds, one pony in particular catches his eye, a tall pony with a horn and wings."
  1229. >"Not only that, it's mane seems blows in a non-existant breeze."
  1230. "That has to be Celestia."
  1231. >"Not necessarily, it could be Luna, since there is no description of colors."
  1232. >"As he starts climbing again, their eyes seem to meet, but nothing changes as he makes his way to the roof."
  1233. >"All over the roof are guards watching the sky, and staying low to the ground, he avoids detection as he heads for a massive square window in the middle."
  1234. >"Slowly edging out on the window, he looks inside and notices he is almost directly on top of the white pony."
  1235. >"His progress is halted by a massive *CRACK!*"
  1236. >"And that's it..."
  1237. "CELESTIA DAMN IT!! Right when it was getting good."
  1238. >"We'll just have to wait until tomorrow for the next stuff."
  1239. >Flopping back, you stare at the ceiling.
  1240. "I kind of wish this was just a finished book, so we don't have to wait for stuff."
  1241. >"Hmm..." is the reply you get from Twilight, as she skims back over the chapter.
  1242. >"There was something here, I think we missed it the first time..."
  1243. "Where?" you ask, fying and floating above her head.
  1244. >"Ah! Here!"
  1245. >"Stepping into the main hall, she sees Anonymous picking up a blue bound book with no writing on its cover."
  1246. >"'What's that? Some kind of journal?'"
  1247. >"'To tell you the truth, I have no idea what it is. All I know is it's the the that brought me to this place.'"
  1248. "It's the book..."
  1249. >"It may be... I must report this to Celestia right away. If that book brought him to Darings world, who knows what all these will do."
  1250. "Just make sure you get to keep this copy. If Anonymous's book is the main one, it may bring him to another, so he will end up either here, or safely in Canterlot."
  1251. >"It's still just a theory, Dash. I will tell Celestia to keep them in a larger room though."
  1252. >Flying towards the staircase, you wave goodbye to Twilight before drifting down.
  1253. "I'll see you tomorrow Twi, and I'll bring snacks next time."
  1254. >"Ok, take care Rainbow."
  1255. >Outside, you head straight for your house, mind filled with what will happen next.
  1256.  
  1257.  
  1258. Chapter 5
  1259.  
  1260. >The window below you cracks then shatters, alerting the guards, and dropping you into open air.
  1261. >Instinctively reaching out, you grab hold of the curtain around the window and hold tight.
  1262. >Bolts snap as they come free of the ceiling and with each one you feel your fall slowed a bit.
  1263. >A bubble like from back in the tomb surrounds the pony, and as your feet touch the ground, you release the curtain.
  1264. "Sorry for, dropping in like this, I couldn't get that front door open," you say, dusting some of the glass shards off your clothes.
  1265. >Any sort of reaction you would have gotten from the cheap joke is hidden as you are surrounded by guards coming in from above and around the room.
  1266. >Spears point towards your face, all of them way too close.
  1267. >"Hold! He's a guest!" a familiar voice calls out, and you see Richtor push through the crowd.
  1268. "Richtor, It's good to see you well. Could you get these guys off of me?"
  1269. >He pushes aside some guards, and motions you over to a table, where some small snacks and drinks sit.
  1270. >Floating up a glass of red wine to your hand, he lifts one himself.
  1271. >"I must say, I was getting worried you weren't going to show."
  1272. "Well, I ran into a few little problems. This world is a first for me, so I have no idea how to read your language, though the spoken one matches one of the tongues I know."
  1273. >"You speak as though you were summoned here, yet I sense no magic from you," the large white pony interjects, stepping over.
  1274. >Quirking an eyebrow at her voice, she adds, "I mean no offence. My name is Celestia, Princess of this land, and you are?"
  1275. "Ah, I suppose I haven't introduced myself to you either, Richtor. Anonymous, Mercenary for hire, at your service."
  1276. >"So the rumours of you being a demon are false?" Celestia asks, taking a seat next to Richtor.
  1277. "Hmnn..." you muse, swirling the wine in your glass, "I suppose it depends on your definition of demon."
  1278. >Taking a deep sip, you swirl the soft alcohol over your mouth before downing the glass.
  1279. >Idly sipping at her own glass, Celestia asks, "What brings you to Canterlot, Anonymous? I try not to think somep0ny needed your services here."
  1280. "I'm here solely because my prior contractor needed to come here so I could be paid. Besides that, I have little purpose here but to find new work, be that body guarding, item acquisition or otherwise."
  1281. >"Item acquisition?" Richtor asks, leaning over.
  1282. "Finding lost things, gathering hard to obtain things and for lack of a better term, stealing, that kind of thing."
  1283. >"What about the job that brought you here? What was that?" Celestia asks, obviously uncomfortable at your list.
  1284. "I was a bodyguard for a pegasus named Daring Do," you say, before looking over at Richtor, "much to Richtor's annoyance, I may add."
  1285. >"Yes, I was rather peeved that you and your boss took not only the map fragment, but emptied the four point chest and "acquired" my fragments of the map as well."
  1286. >You can feel Celestia's gaze on your back, and you raise your hands defensively.
  1287. "I only opened the chest. I had assumed you and Daring had some sort of running agreement about those pieces."
  1288. >Celestia's gaze lessens, and you pick up a second glass of wine while Richtor fumes slightly.
  1289. >"If I may ask, what are these map fragments of?" Celestia asks, showing genuine interest.
  1290. >Richtor glances away, so Celestia turns her gaze on you.
  1291. "I'm new here, as I've said, so I'm not entirely sure. According to Daring, they're fragments that will lead to a lost human city."
  1292. >A sigh sounds from Richtor, and Celestia's look of interest increases.
  1293. "I don't believe it though, we never really bothered hiding much."
  1294. >A silence spreads from around you, the sounds of the party turning into muted whispers.
  1295. >"That means..."
  1296. >"Is he really?"
  1297. >"There's no way..."
  1298. >"IT can't be, they're all..."
  1299. >All the whispers reach you, but you pay them no heed, being far more interested in Celestia and Richtor's reactions.
  1300. >Both show a distinct mix of shock, combined with a sort of "the last piece of the puzzle" type look.
  1301. >"I had suspected something, but to be a human..." Richtor muses quietly while staring deep into his glass of wine, as if it contained the answers he sought.
  1302. >Your own contains none, as you finish it off before setting the empty glass back on the table.
  1303. "Not to change the subject, but isn't this supposed to be a party? We can deal with all the formal stuff later."
  1304. >"He's right," Celestia comments, "Come, let us get back to the party."
  1305.  
  1306. ~~~~~
  1307.  
  1308. "Celestia damn it, where is he!" you exclaim angrily while flying around town.
  1309. "Knowing him, he's probably robbed some poor pony blind by now."
  1310. >Ducking into every park and tree, you search for Anonymous, wherever he may be.
  1311. >With no sign of him in the residential area, you head for the commercial district.
  1312. >Here, there are less places to hide, but more places to rob, and considering everything he has said, gathering some money is likely his first concern.
  1313. "That, or acting like an action hero."
  1314. >Gaining some altitude, you look around, until you see a building with a mass amount of royal guards on the roof.
  1315. >Getting closer, you see a broken window on the roof, and you nearly stop beating your wings.
  1316. "He didn't..."
  1317. >Against your better judgement, you fly over, landing several streets away and continuing on hoof.
  1318. >Cobblestones clack against your hooves, and you round the corner to the theatre.
  1319. >Your approach is noted by guards, and a pair immediately fly over and land in front of you.
  1320. >"Hold, this area is off limits."
  1321. "Why?" you ask, dreading the answer.
  1322. >"Not only is there the Princess here, there is also an extinct being, and both must remain protected."
  1323. "Might that extinct being be a large, green plant looking thing that is actually a human named Anonymous?"
  1324. >"Yes, how did you know?"
  1325. "This may sound strange, but I'm the one who summoned him here, to this world. If you don't believe me, bring him out to the doorway and show me to him."
  1326. >"Why?"
  1327. "I need to make sure he hasn't done anything stupid, even though our contract ended."
  1328. >One guard turns to the other and nods, before flying back to the building.
  1329. >"Follow me."
  1330. >He takes you only a short distance, just to the sidewalk in front of the main entrance.
  1331. >After a minutes wait, the door to the hall opens, and you see a large shape fill it.
  1332. >"Yeah, I know her, she's my old boss," you hear him say, and the guards nod in acknowledgement.
  1333. "So, can I go in?" you ask the guard next to you.
  1334. >"You'll have to get permission from the host, but you can go to the door to talk with Anonymous, if you wish."
  1335. >Following these rules, you head up the path but stop at the door.
  1336. "Hey Anonymous, how'd you get into such a fancy party?"
  1337. >"Wasn't hard. I figured I might as well drop in to meet some of my potential future employers."
  1338. >You nod, and a silence permeates the air for a while.
  1339. "So... uh, whose party is this?" you ask, motioning to the building.
  1340. >"Richtor's."
  1341. "That so..." you reply before it clicks, and you shout out, "WHAT!!!"
  1342. >"It's Richtors party, and Celestia is here, along will a number of other wealthy ponies, so I'm covering my bases of future employment."
  1343. >Behind him, you see the aforementioned host step forward, a smug grin on his face.
  1344. >"Good evening, Miss Do, how are you, this fine evening?"
  1345. "I'll be much better when you give Anonymous back to me," you retort with clenched teeth.
  1346. >A huff comes from Anonymous, and he turns away.
  1347. >"I don't remember belonging to you, nor do I belong to Richtor here."
  1348. >Before you can say anything more, he heads off back into the party, Richtor giving you one final smirk before heading in as well.
  1349. >With barely contained rage, you turn as well and storm off down the dark streets.
  1350.  
  1351. ~~~~~
  1352.  
  1353. >Turning to Richtor, you can't help but laugh.
  1354. "Oh man, did you see how badly her feathers were ruffled at that!"
  1355. >"I know, it was simply hilarious to get back at her like that," he agrees, laughing along side you.
  1356. "You know, you aren't half bad, Richtor. I guess I had you pegged wrong."
  1357. >"Pegged? I seriously hope you aren't inferring I enjoy..."
  1358. "No, it means I had thought you were different than what you actually are."
  1359. >Nodding, he says, "Ah, some of your human vernacular."
  1360. "Yeah, something like that."
  1361. >Back in the main hall, you find the party has started to wind down somewhat, couples and singles heading out occasionally.
  1362. >Celestia herself walks over, a slice of cake on a plate floating beside her.
  1363. >"Richtor, Anonymous, as much fun as this has been, I must return to the palace. I hope you can stop by some time, Anonymous, I would love to learn more about you humans and your culture."
  1364. "I'd be honoured to, Princess, but... er..."
  1365. >You glance up at the window, and she lets out a laugh.
  1366. >"I'll make sure the guards let you pass, so you don't have to sneak in."
  1367. "Thanks. I can't imagine how much more one of the castle windows would cost to replace, compared to this one."
  1368. >"Yes, speaking of, will you be paying to replace this one?" Richtor asks, as Celestia heads for the door.
  1369. "I can, I hope.  It’s always a good idea to leave potential employers with a good image, even if it comes after a bad one."
  1370. >Pulling your bag of bits from your suit, you pour some out into your palm.
  1371. "How much is needed? I trust you can judge how much is needed fairly."
  1372. >Sifting through the coins, he takes a small group, saying, "This should cover it."
  1373. >With the remainder put back, you stow the bag away and look around.
  1374. >Few ponies remain, so you take a seat and motion Richtor to do the same.
  1375. "So, I hear you had a rather important job for me?" you ask, a sly smile forming.
  1376. >"You certainly are good at your job," he sighs, before nodding, "Yeah, I have a job for you."
  1377. >"I'd like for you to "obtain" my pieces of the map back, and hers."
  1378. "A little payback, huh? Yeah, I can handle that."
  1379. >Your confident grin spreads to him, and he nods happily.
  1380. >"I'll make sure you are well rewarded for this."
  1381. >He holds out a hoof and taking it, you give a firm shake, sealing the deal.
  1382. "I should probably get back to her place soon, do a little damage control and start scouting for the fragments."
  1383. >"Of course, of course. Do take care though; I hear she can get quite... temperamental when angry."
  1384. >With a mock salute, you wave goodbye and head out the main door and into the night.
  1385. >Finding your way back to Daring's house takes a little time, but like before, climbing buildings for a birds eye, or would that be pegasus eye, view always helps.
  1386. >Either way, you find yourself standing in front of Daring's door at what you would guess to be around two in the morning.
  1387. >Even though you don't have any serious connection to this house, you can't help but feel like a teen that snuck out at night.
  1388. >Knocking on the door, you are surprised as Daring answers almost right away, looking at you rather peeved.
  1389. >"And what do you think YOU are doing back here?" she asks, tapping a hoof on the ground.
  1390. "My plans with "Lord Dicktor" fell through. He just wanted me there to show off or some shit. I did get to meet Celestia, and she wants me to visit some time, so I have a green light with the guards."
  1391. >"So? It still doesn't explain why you are back here."
  1392. >Letting out a sigh, you turn and lean against the house.
  1393. "Do I need a reason to visit a friend? And besides, you seemed pretty intent on getting me back here; do you have a crush on me or something?"
  1394. >"Nah, I just didn't want Richtor getting his grubby little hooves on you, considering how valuable a treasure hunting asset you are."
  1395. >Feigning a hurt look, you step away from her.
  1396. "Is that all I am, a treasure hunting asset?"
  1397. >"Of course not, but just think about it. You are human, so you have an innate bonus for getting into the human locks and stuff, plus your twice as big as a pony, really strong and you come with advanced gear and magic."
  1398. >"You're worth like, more than half a dozen of those thugs Richtor always has with him, not to mention you have your... other skills..."
  1399. >Seeing her discomfort at the mention of your profession's skills makes you grin a bit.
  1400. "Yes, I'm quite certain those zebras won't be forgetting them any time soon, either."
  1401. >She cringes at the mention of the zebras, though you aren't sure if it because of what you did, or if's because of what would have happened to her had you not come.
  1402. >Either way, she shakes her head clear, before motioning you inside.
  1403. >"Since you've got no work, how about you help me decipher this map, since it is supposed to lead to a human city."
  1404. "Sure," you reply with a shrug, at the same time, internally cheering, "Like you said, it's not like I've got much else to do now."
  1405. >Leading you into the living room, she shows you a small table where numerous scraps of laminated paper lie.
  1406. >"I think I've got them set out in the proper spots, but I can't make heads or tails of it."
  1407. >Focusing on one piece, you stare at the words written on it.
  1408. "It's written in Latin, I believe. Unfortunately, I know very little of it, but a few things are jumping out at me."
  1409. "Here," you indicate one piece, "and here," pointing to another, "There is the word Equus, which translates as Equine."
  1410. "This one here," pointing back at the first, "Is paired with Sol, or sun."
  1411. >"It must be talking about Celestia," Daring says, and you look at her confused.
  1412. >"Ugh, right, you don't know all this stuff. Celestia raises the sun and the moon, though legends say she had a sister to handle the moon before."
  1413. "Okay... well, Over here, I see Ignis, meaning fire, and Aqua, for water."
  1414. "This looks like it means earth, so this fourth would be air."
  1415. >"Yeah, the four basic elements, so?"
  1416. >Taking a step back, something strikes you as off.
  1417. "Something about the way these are laid out, it doesn't quite add up."
  1418. >Daring floats up beside you, looking down.
  1419. >"Yeah, I kinda see what you mean. With what you said, it seems like the words are in the wrong spots."
  1420. "Maybe if I..."
  1421. >Reaching down to move a piece, the moment your fingers touch the plastic, it vanishes, along with the covers on the rest.
  1422. >Before you can react, the pieces start to glow, the edges fusing together.
  1423. >"A... Anonymous, what did you do?"
  1424. "I don't know," you say, retracting your hand as the map forms into a single piece, the inks starting to shift.
  1425. >You and Daring just watch as the map completely re-arranges itself, words and symbols sliding across its surface like skaters on ice.
  1426. >Slowly, all the symbols and words come to a stop, and you are immediately drawn to the words written around the edge.
  1427. "It says Homo Sapiens here, that's human, but I can't make out anything else that's new."
  1428. >"Maybe... maybe it was designed to re-merge when a human touched it."
  1429. "Could be..."
  1430. >"Hey, isn't this the thing that meant sun and equine?" Daring asks, pointing to a script by a mountain.
  1431. "Yeah, you don't think...?"
  1432. >"It could indicate Canterlot, and if this," she points to what looks like a cloud, "is equine and air, it could be Cloudsdale."
  1433. >Running out of the room, Daring shoots up the stairs and you wait for her return.
  1434. >When she does, she comes with a rolled up map, which she lays down beside the other.
  1435. "Do you think you can use this map?"
  1436. >A confident grin spreads across her face, and she answers, "Yeah, I can use this."
  1437. >"What do you say to one more job Anon, a fifty fifty split of the entire lost human city?"
  1438. >Richtor's deal pops into your head for a moment, but the thought of the payoff erases all doubt from your mind.
  1439. "I'd say you just got yourself a partner, partner."
  1440.  
  1441. ~~~~~
  1442.  
  1443. >Your quill flies across the page, suspended by your magic as you write your tale.
  1444. "Anonymous's dashing form dives in front of Daring, the arrow meant for her instead burying itself deep in his shoulder."
  1445. >The purple aura drags it over to the inkpot to refill, when you feel your magic sensor surrounding the book trip.
  1446. >With a clatter, the feather drops as you sprint to your room, data pouring out of the sensors.
  1447. >Foot after foot of paper comes out, each page carrying several hundred words of info.
  1448. >Grabbing the start, you start reading, when all of a sudden the info stops coming, whatever magic was there vanishing.
  1449. >Regardless, you have reams of information to go through, but...
  1450. >The light flickering downstairs draws your attention, and the tale of Anonymous and Daring you were writing.
  1451. >Neither is going anywhere, and after a moments consideration, you stack the data and head back to the desk.
  1452. >The quill one again resumes its flurry of activity as you direct it with your magic.
  1453. "Even injured, Anonymous fires off his most powerful spell, the assassin's now lifeless body falling from the rooftop."
  1454. >A smile forms as you imagine and write Daring rushing to her partners side as he sits up, pulling the arrow from his body.
  1455. >Down to the smallest detail, you describe how she nuzzles against him in concern before her tongue begins licking and cleaning his wound.
  1456. "His hand pulls her face up, his lips taking hers and her senses are filled with his taste, his smell, his texture."
  1457. >Trying to describe the feeling of his hand running down her back, you draw on your experience with Spike, but imagine everything to be softer, more... sensual.
  1458. "Even against her delicate wings, his hands are as soft as a newborn foals skin, and as they continue to roam down, a moan escapes her throat."
  1459. >Pausing a moment to let the ink dry, you look at what you have written.
  1460. >Taking a deep breath, you set the quill to be cleaned, close the ink pot and stack the dried pages.
  1461. >Sixty four pages so far, and it's already a whirlwind adventure of Daring being forced to experience some of the dark underside of pony life thanks to Anonymous.
  1462. >You've even got a cover made for it already, featuring Daring and Anon sneaking down a dark alley, eyes everywhere, watching them.
  1463. >You can't quite decide on a title though, but you're thinking something like "Daring and Anon, a Light in the Darkness."
  1464. >Setting the pages in your secret vault to finish drying, and to keep them away from peeking eyes, you head back to your room before diving into bed.
  1465. >Night passes in a flash, and you rise bright and early, ready to delve into the data from last night.
  1466. >A cup of tea at the ready, and you start going over the information.
  1467. >Page after page, you see lines of dimensional magic, as you suspected, mixed with what looks like instructional magic, but in a language unknown to you.
  1468. >Focusing on what you can read, the dimensional magic, you find subtle irregularities in it, like it isn't all coming from one source.
  1469. >Jotting everything you can on a notepad, you start comparing the readings.
  1470. "As I thought, there are multiple sources, but they're both sending the same information. Why...?"
  1471. >After taking a sip of tea and a deep breath, you arrange the notes around you and focus on a scrying spell.
  1472. >Energies swirl around you as you gather the necessary magic for the spell, and slowly the black of your minds eye shifts to grey.
  1473. >As the spell releases, you catch a momentary glimpse of Anonymous, asleep in a bed before you snap back to reality.
  1474. >Your notes have scattered to the four corners of the room, the data sheet draped over your bed and half the floor.
  1475. >Thankfully the book remains in its spell, unharmed, but a rather worried looking Spike peeks up at you from the top step.
  1476. >"What happened up here?"
  1477. "I... I think I may have overdone a spell just a tad."
  1478. >There is a creak, before one of the bookshelves in your room falls over, scattering its contents all over the floor.
  1479. "Okay... maybe a little more than just a tad," you amend, embarrassment quite prominent on your face.
  1480. >"Well I'll help you clean up before Dash stops by."
  1481. "Thanks Spike, and I'll have to send a letter to Celestia later."
  1482. >Together, you get the bookshelf upright and you start shelving the books while Spike gathers your papers.
  1483. >Just over halfway done, there is a knock at the door downstairs.
  1484. >"Hey Twilight, you awake? I heard an explosion come from this way," Dash's voice calls, bouncing up the stairs.
  1485. "Yeah, I'm here, come in; I'm just cleaning up a bit of a mess."
  1486. >The downstairs door opens then closes as Dash enters.
  1487. >Rushing to correctly shelve the rest of the books, you see Dash's head pop up the stairs.
  1488. >"Wow, what happened here?"
  1489. "I uses a scrying spell, but I guess it used a little too much energy."
  1490. >Picking up some of the books, Dash starts gathering them for you, before asking, "What's a scrying spell?"
  1491. "It lets you see ponies or places that are far away."
  1492. >Dash nods, zooming around and gathering more books, until she suddenly stops in mid air as a thought hits her.
  1493. >"You were scrying Daring Do, weren't you!" she exclaims, flying up in front of your face."
  1494. "No, I wasn't. I was trying to scry some dimensional co-ordinates I got from analyzing the book."
  1495. >"And!?!?!"
  1496. "I saw..." you start, before a blush starts to creep up on you, and you see Dash's smile grow.
  1497. >"You saw Anonymous, right?"
  1498. >Making a small nod, you feel Dashes hooves grab yours before swinging you around.
  1499. >"They're real! I knew it! This is awesome!" she calls out, pure joy written across her face.
  1500. >Her excitement is contagious, and you seen find yourself smiling along with her, until you hear Spike make a loud, cough.
  1501. >"I hate to break up the party, but this mess won't clean itself."
  1502. "Right, sorry," you say, and Dash nods, before heading to collect the last of the books.
  1503. >Soon, everything is back in place, and Dash is looking at you excitedly.
  1504. >"So this means everything we've been reading is true! Daring Do, Anonymous, Richtor, they're all real!" she exclaims, letting out a girlish *squee*.
  1505. >Spike pokes a finger in his mouth, faking gagging, before heading downstairs.
  1506. >"There's new stuff right? In the book?"
  1507. "Yeah, it appeared just after midnight. You want to read it so early?"
  1508. >"I'm already here, so why not?" she replies, jumping onto your bed.
  1509. >Removing the spells from the book, you lower it to the bed in front of her.
  1510. "Okay, but this time, I want you to read."
  1511. >For a moment, it looks like she is going to complain, but she huffs and replies, "Fine."
  1512. >"The window below him cracks then shatters, alerting both the guards and the partygoers, and he starts falling into the room."
  1513. >"With cat like reflexes, he reaches out and grabs hold of a curtain around the window and holds tight."
  1514. >"Bolts snap as they come free of the ceiling and with each one, his fall is slowed a bit."
  1515. >"A shield spell like from back in the tomb surrounds the winged and horned pony, and as his feet touch the ground, he releases the curtain."
  1516. >"'Sorry for, dropping in like this, I couldn't get that front door open,' he says, dusting some of the glass shards off his clothing."
  1517. >Both Dash and you can barely contain a snicker at Anonymous's bad pun, even though his descent was undeniably cool.
  1518. >"Oh that's bad; I can't believe he made that joke."
  1519. "I know, but it was kinda appropriate."
  1520. >Turning back to the book, Dash continues, "'Richtor, It's good to see you well. Could you get these guys off of me?'"
  1521. >"He pushes aside some guards, and motions Anonymous over to a table, where some small snacks and drinks sit."
  1522. >"Floating up a glass of red wine to Anon's hand, he lifts one himself."
  1523. >"'I must say, I was getting worried you weren't going to show.'"
  1524. >"'Well, I ran into a few little problems,' Anonymous says, examining his dring, 'this world is a first for me, so I have no idea how to read your language, though the spoken one matches one of the tongues I know.'"
  1525. >"'You speak as though you were summoned here, yet I sense no magic from you,' Celestia interjects, stepping over."
  1526. "So it is Celestia."
  1527. >"I guess so. Maybe this is all pre Nightmare Moon's return."
  1528. "Or maybe there never was Luna in this world."
  1529. >"Who knows," She says with a shrug, "'Celestia damn it, where is he!' Daring exclaims angrily while flying around town."
  1530. >"'Knowing him, he's probably robbed some poor pony blind by now.'"
  1531. >"Ducking into every park and tree, she searches for Anonymous, wherever he may be."
  1532. >"With no sign of him in the residential area, Daring heads for the commercial district until she sees a building with a mass amount of royal guards on the roof."
  1533. >"Getting closer, she spots a broken window on the roof, and nearly stops beating her wings.
  1534. >"'He didn't...'"
  1535. "He did," you reply.
  1536. >"He certainly did, and I think it was a smashing entrance."
  1537. "Ugh... that was as bad as Anon's joke."
  1538. >Dash chuckles a bit before reading on.
  1539. >"Behind him, she sees the aforementioned host step forward, a smug grin on his face."
  1540. >"'Good evening, Miss Do, how are you, this fine evening?' Richtor asks, feigning interest."
  1541. >"'I'll be much better when you give Anonymous back to me,' Daring retorts with clenched teeth."
  1542. >"A huff comes from Anonymous, and he turns away."
  1543. >"'I don't remember belonging to you, nor do I belong to Richtor here.'"
  1544. >"Before you can say anything more, he heads off back into the party, Richtor giving you one final smirk before heading in as well."
  1545. "Ouch, she certainly dropped the ball there."
  1546. >"I know, but Richtor was a little bit of a dick there."
  1547. "He did play her anger well though, and got the result he wanted."
  1548. >"Flying home, Daring finds herself getting more and more aggravated, realising she played right into Richtor's hooves there."
  1549. >"She retains enough control to not kick her door in, and she heads straight to her room.
  1550. >"From their hiding place, she pulls out the map fragments, including the new one, and takes them to the living room.
  1551. >"Laying them out on the table, she starts playing with their positions, till a knock on the door less than an hour later draws her away."
  1552. "Wait, stop here a moment," you say, pulling the book away and turning it face down.
  1553. >"What's up?"
  1554. "Who do you think is at the door? I bet it's just Anonymous because something went wrong with Richtor's party."
  1555. >"It's obviously going to be Anonymous, but I bet he's with Richtor and some thugs who are going to capture Daring and take the map."
  1556. "Either way, it's going to be interesting," you say, lifting the book back up for Dash.
  1557. >"'And what do you think YOU are doing back here?' Daring asks, tapping a hoof on the ground."
  1558. >"'My plans with "Lord Dicktor" fell through.' Anonymous replies, 'he just wanted me there to show off or some shit. I did get to meet Celestia, and she wants me to visit some time, so I have a green light with the guards.'"
  1559. "Looks like I was right."
  1560. >"Whatever. It still might change though, we didn't see much of what happened at the party."
  1561. >"'Since you've got no work, how about you help me decipher this map, since it is supposed to lead to a human city.' Daring asks, stepping back."
  1562. >"'Sure,' he replies with a shrug, 'like you said, it's not like I've got much else to do now.'"
  1563. >"Leading him into the living room, she shows the small table where numerous scraps of the map lie."
  1564. >"'I think I've got them set out in the proper spots, but I can't make heads or tails of it.'"
  1565. >"Focusing on one piece, Anon stares at the words written on it."
  1566. >"'It's written in Latin, I believe. Unfortunately, I know very little of it, but a few things are jumping out at me.'"
  1567. "Latin? I've never heard of that language."
  1568. >"Maybe it's a human language."
  1569. >"'Maybe if I...'"
  1570. >"Reaching down to move a piece, the moment his fingers touch the transparent cover, it vanishes, along with the covers on the rest."
  1571. >"Before they can react, the pieces start to glow, the edges fusing together."
  1572. >"'A... Anonymous, what did you do?' Daring stutters, taking a half step back."
  1573. >"'I don't know,' he says, retracting his hand as the map forms into a single piece, the inks starting to shift."
  1574. >"Him and Daring just watch as the map completely re-arranges itself, words and symbols sliding across its surface like skaters on ice."
  1575. >"Slowly, all the symbols and words come to a stop, and his attention is immediately drawn to the words written around the edge."
  1576. "A magical map that only works for humans! Daring and Richtor could have never figured it out, since it never showed anything."
  1577. >"Pffft, Richtor may not be able to, but Daring would have figured it out, no question."
  1578. "No, I think Richtor would have had a better chance, being a unicorn and all."
  1579. >"Don't you dare spout some sort of unicorn master race bullshit, we all know the three races are equal."
  1580. "Of course, but If Richtor were to learn how to dispel, he could maybe get the map to work, while Daring would have to find somepony to do it for her."
  1581. >Dash quiets for a moment, before turning back to the book.
  1582. >"'What do you say to one more job Anon, a fifty fifty split of the entire lost human city?'"
  1583. >"Anonymous ponders the deal a moment, before holding out a hand.
  1584. >"'I'd say you just got yourself a partner, partner.'"
  1585. >Closing the book, Dash says, "And that's the end of the chapter."
  1586. "See, reading it out loud isn't too bad."
  1587. >"I guess not," Rainbow replies, passing the book back.
  1588. >Floating it over to its place, you set up the wards and sensors while Dash does a few stretches.
  1589. >"So... is there some way to contact Daring or Anon?"
  1590. >Pausing a moment, you consider what happened when you tried to scry them.
  1591. "No, it's probably impossible."
  1592. >With a sigh and a nod, she says, "Okay. I guess I'll see you later or tomorrow."
  1593. >Reaching out, you stop her with a hoof.
  1594. "Hey, do you want to help me explain everything to Celestia. I know you're a bigger fan of the books, and you should be able to help me explain things."
  1595. >A smirk climbs her face, and she replies, "Sure."
  1596. >Pulling out a long roll of parchment, you and Dash start a letter explaining everything you know to Celestia.
  1597.  
  1598.  
  1599. Chapter 6
  1600.  
  1601. >This morning passes without incident, Daring snagging the bathroom before you, so you prepare breakfast.
  1602. >When Daring trots into the kitchen/dining room, you notice a particular spring in her step.
  1603. "Somebody looks excited this morning," you comment as you pass, headed for a shower.
  1604. >"I'm just raring to go, I mean, we are going to find THE lost city of the humans. It's like the greatest dream of every adventurer."
  1605. >She starts whistling a tune as she starts on breakfast, and you slip up the stairs.
  1606. >A puff of steam blows past you as you open the door, and you shut it behind you.
  1607. >Stripping down, you practically dive into the shower, the hot water draining off last nights sweat and dust.
  1608. >Mid shower, you look over at your undersuit and contemplate washing it, but decide against it.
  1609. >Thanks to your job, the suit is odour neutralizing and semi self cleaning, so sweat and other liquids are quickly whisked out of the material.
  1610. "I'm pretty sure walking around naked would be frowned upon for me anyways."
  1611. >Shutting off the water, you step out of the shower and grab a fluffy white towel to dry off with.
  1612. >You're not entirely sure what they're made of, but they're damn soft, almost like drying yourself off with a rectangle made of the fluffiest puppies known to mankind.
  1613. >And boner you may have had was just killed off by that thought, and you quickly finish and hang the towel to dry.
  1614. >Slipping on your undersuit, you grab you ghillie suit and carry it with you down to the main hall.
  1615. >Daring is there waiting for you, and a glance into the kitchen reveals everything has been tidied.
  1616. >"Ready to go grab supplies?"
  1617. "Yeah, but... is it safe for me to go out? I'm a "Demon" remember"
  1618. >Pulling a newspaper out of her saddlebag, Daring shows you the headline
  1619. >*Rumoured Demon actually a Human.*
  1620. >"Not so much a secret anymore, but it means you'll probably be getting a LOT of attention."
  1621. "Oh great," you sigh, your shoulders drooping.
  1622. >"Hey, cheer up. It's going to mean all kinds of free stuff."
  1623. >Shaking your head, you pat Daring on the shoulder.
  1624. "It's also going to mean Richtor is going to hear about everything really quickly."
  1625. >Considering this for a moment, she lets out a simple, "Buck..."
  1626. >Digging in your pocket, you pull out a cigarette and stick it in your mouth.
  1627. >Stepping outside, Daring follows you and you light the cancer stick.
  1628. "Hmnn... What can we do to avoid this..."
  1629. >"I dunno, maybe you can wait behind while I get stuff?"
  1630. "Nah," you say, waving a hand dismissively, "I'd rather not have you get the foodstuffs and accidentaly cut out part of my diet."
  1631. >Taking a puff of smoke, you let it rise slowly out.
  1632. "How about this, you can go and get foods along with whatever you need, and I'll look around for things that may be useful."
  1633. >"But what about your diet?"
  1634. "I can eat bread products, fruits, veggies, dairy and meat. All the groups are important, but you can substitute beans or nuts for the meat."
  1635. >"Alright, I'll get your stuff, but you better come back with some good stuff as well."
  1636. >Nodding, you extinguish the tip of your cigarette before sliding it back in the case.
  1637. >Daring leaves first, and after giving her a fifty count, you head out as well, but down a different road.
  1638. >Her prediction rings true, since as soon as you get out into the main streets, you become a great center of attention.
  1639. >Before you even make it to shops, ponies are stopping to stare at you, many too afraid to come near, others getting uncomfortably close.
  1640. >This lessens as you get to the marketplace, as the shopkeepers call for you to try their wares, but they usually give up quickly when you show no interest.
  1641. >Scanning the stalls and shop fronts, you see little of interest, until you come across what looks like an antique shop.
  1642. >What immediately catches your eye in the window is the firing mechanism and trigger from a high calibre revolver.
  1643. >Ducking inside the shop, you notice several ponies trying to watch through the front window without it looking like they are.
  1644. >"Welcome to my shop, honoured human, is there anything I can help you find?"
  1645. "Judging from what I saw in the window, you carry some human artifacts, correct?"
  1646. >The shopkeepers smile grows and he nods.
  1647. >"Yes, I have a very extensive stock, from bits and pieces to human art."
  1648. "I see. I hope you don't mind if I browse a while?"
  1649. >"No, not at all; take as much time as you like."
  1650. >Heading back to the front, you examine the shelves along the way, and as the shopkeeper said, there are all sorts of artifacts, both human and not.
  1651. >The first object to catch your attention is a slightly rusty skeleton stock.
  1652. >Most of the rust damage seems fairly superficial, and you take it to the counter.
  1653. "Would you mind if I set the things I find here? I didn't think to bring a basket or anything to carry much in with me."
  1654. >"Please do. Anything to help a customer."
  1655. >Setting the stock down, you walk back past where you found the stock and around to the next aisle.
  1656. >A few pieces catch your eye here, but under scrutiny, they are either missing crucial parts or damaged in a major way.
  1657. >In the third aisle, you find a bin filled with bullets of all sorts of sizes.
  1658. >Carefully sifting through, you find five more regular .45's and one that has a skull engraved on the bullet.
  1659. >Just past the bin, you find a number of tubes, and peering down one, you see the distinct marks of rifling.
  1660. >Setting the bullets down a moment, you examine each one, comparing the calibers and conditions before settling on a long, .308 rifle barrel.
  1661. >Back in the ammunition bin, you find only three rounds to match the tube, and you bring them, the tube and the .45's to the front.
  1662. >For the third time you head out into the aisles, this time, you are in the last one on the far side.
  1663. >Again, there are a few mechanisms, but they are all damaged or missing key components, drawing you back to the revolver firing mechanism.
  1664. >The handle looks as though it was snapped off, and the drum and barrel part are missing, but everything seems to be there, and after a pull of the trigger, you can confirm everything works.
  1665. >Picking this part up as well, you bring it to the counter, where the shopkeeper is waiting patiently.
  1666. >"Is this all?" he asks, a piece of paper with some numbers on it sitting out already.
  1667. "Yes, unless you have other things you'd be willing to show me."
  1668. >Thinking for a moment, the shopkeeper says, "Perhaps. I'd be willing to offer you a small discount if you help identify a few things I have in the back."
  1669. "I'll help if I can."
  1670. >He opens a door, and heads inside, motioning you to follow.
  1671. >In the back, you see he has a workshop along with all sorts of objects hanging off walls.
  1672. >Stepping over to the work bench, he pulls out three objects.
  1673. >The first you recognize almost instantly, since you have one in your pocket right now.
  1674. "This here is a lighter," you say, flipping open the metal cap, and after giving the sparker and button a few runs, you add, "and it looks in working condition, except it's out of fuel."
  1675. >Pulling out your own, you give a flick to show how it works, and the pony nods.
  1676. >"That's what I assumed it to be, though knowing all the parts are there makes it a fair bit more valuable. What kind of fuel does it use though?"
  1677. "I couldn't say specifically, but any flammable liquid that turns to gas at low temperatures should work, and you just fill it with a fine needle through here."
  1678. >Showing the refill hole, he nods and takes it back while you pick up the second object.
  1679. >It takes a bit longer to recognize the second object, considering several parts are missing, but after a few gentle turns of a gear, you hear a car sound.
  1680. >The sound makes the pony jump, and you chuckle a bit.
  1681. "It's part of a toy, and most of it looks to be here. It'd take a little work, but what it's supposed to be is a car, a sort of self powered carriage."
  1682. >"Hmnnn, well, it's unfortunate it's not all intact, but I suppose a toymaker may take interest in it, so I could put a fair price on it."
  1683. >With the third and final object in hand, you find yourself stumped.
  1684. >It has several moving parts, but so much seems to be missing as to make it unidentifiable.
  1685. >Running through every machine you can think of, you try and imagine where this strange bit of gears and rods would go.
  1686. "I'm sorry, but I have no idea what this third one is from."
  1687. >"Well, is it human in origin?"
  1688. "I do believe so, from the tooling marks I can see, I would have to say it is."
  1689. >"That's better than nothing, I guess," the shop keeper says, taking the part back.
  1690. >Motioning you can to the front, he does a few calculations on the paper.
  1691. >"So, your total before the discount is 217 bits, but I'll knock that down to 190, since you saved me a fair bit of work."
  1692. "Alright, that seems fair," you say with a nod, pulling up your bag of coins.
  1693. "As much as I don't like saying this, I can't read your language or numbers, so if you would be willing to help with the money, I'd be grateful."
  1694. >"Of course, it's no problem at all. So much must have changed, since humans were last here, it's no surprise you can't understand. Here, I'll show you the different coins so you can do it next time."
  1695. >With the shopkeepers help, you pay for your purchase and learn the differences and values of each coin, before stowing your purchases away and waving goodbye as you head out.
  1696. >While looking for a hardware or repair shop, you spot a pony selling kitchen stuff, mostly metal, and you get an idea.
  1697. >Picking out a fair sized metal funnel, you pay for it and continue on, another object on your list to buy.
  1698. >Since ponies don't have flashlights, it should be fairly easy to modify a lantern and a funnel to make a crude one.
  1699. >The sun is nearing its peak before you find a hardware store, and much to your surprise, the place is fairly small.
  1700. >Half an hour and sixty three bits later, you have everything except the lantern, and your "wallet" is feeling pretty light.
  1701. >Picking up a cheap, kerosene type lantern and some fuel at your last stop, you stop for directions to the rich side of town.
  1702. >Without a working watch, you assume the time to be about 1:30 as you find yourself outside Daring's house.
  1703. >Sitting on the path in front of her door, you pull out your purchases and your pistol.
  1704. >The magazine slides out and into your hand, completely empty, since the only round is currently chambered.
  1705. >Each of the .45 bullets fits in perfectly, and as you pick up the last, the skull marked one, you pause.
  1706. >Something feels different about it, but since you only have one, you decide against putting it in.
  1707. >With a click, the magazine is put back in place, and you holster the pistol.
  1708. >Very little of the rifle barrel's original attachment points remain, but after some finagling, nails and tape, you have it attached to the revolver firing mechanism so it can be aligned with the hammer as well as tilted up to load.
  1709. >Putting a bullet in the end of the barrel, the little rim at the back keeps it from sliding in, and tilting the barrel back, you lock it into place with another nail.
  1710. >Everything seems to fit, so with a whole lot more tape, you attach your stock to the end of the firing mechanism, and you have yourself a single shot rifle that may or may not fall apart the first time you use it.
  1711. "Well, it's better than nothing."
  1712. >"I'd say that's about nothing," Daring calls out from the gate, trotting up with fully loaded bags.
  1713. "That shows how little you know about human tech. It may be far from perfect, but this thing could kill a bear from over five hundred feet away, easy."
  1714. >"That thing is a weapon? it looks like a strange club to me."
  1715. >Sliding out your locking nail, you pull out the .308 round and hold it up.
  1716. "Well, without the right sized things like this, it may as well be a club."
  1717. >"I'm guessing you have more than just one then, right?"
  1718. "Yeah, I found three of the right size, and I snagged some for a different one I have."
  1719. >"So you spent a bunch of time and bits making a weapon? I thought I told you to get useful things."
  1720. >Sighting down the barrel, you aim it straight at Daring.
  1721. "Trust me, in my hands, this is worth more than a dozen fully armed guards."
  1722. >You see her squirm nervously, facing down the business end of your new gun, and you lower it and start making it a sling out of twine.
  1723. >She remains silent for a time, seemingly too nervous to say anything until you finish up the sling.
  1724. >"So... are you ready to go?"
  1725. "Yeah, how about you?"
  1726. >With a nod, she heads up and locks her door.
  1727. "Do you have it with you?"
  1728. >"Of course. I also snagged us tickets to the town nearest it."
  1729. >As she pulls out the tickets, you reach out and snag one.
  1730. "We should board separately, since I have a feeling Richtor has his eyes on us."
  1731. >Sighing, she agrees and starts off before calling, "The train leaves in one hour, so don't miss it."
  1732. "I won't."
  1733. >She disappears from view, and you pull out the funnel you picked up.
  1734. >Being made of tin, you can, with some ease, cut into it with your knife, and once it has split enough, you remove the cover on your lantern.
  1735. >Setting the funnel around the wick, you clamp it down as much as you can before re-covering the lantern.
  1736. >Strapping it to your suit proves fairly simple, and with all your tools put away, you rise and head out towards the station.
  1737. >Avoiding the marketplace this time, you still encounter many ponies who want to stop you to talk, but they are quickly dismissed as you say you have a train to catch.
  1738. >As you travel, you have the distinct feeling of someone watching you, but with all the attention, it's to be expected.
  1739. >"Last call!" a conductor calls out at the train ahead, and you break into a sprint.
  1740. >He obviously sees you, and handing him your ticket, he nods and welcomes you aboard.
  1741. >Inside, you search for an empty room, finding one near the back of the train.
  1742. >The seats are hardly built for someone your size, but you manage to squeeze into one.
  1743. >Quiet whispers come from outside the door, more than likely curious ponies.
  1744. >A cart comes into view, and the whispers vanish before the door is opened and a pony steps into the room, cart behind them.
  1745. >"Is there anything I can get you sir? Food? Beverages?"
  1746. "Nothing right now, thank you though."
  1747. >With a slight bow, the pony leaves and the cart rolls by.
  1748. >Soon, a whistle sounds, and the train makes a small lurch as it starts moving.
  1749. >It starts down the mountain, yet even though your equilibrium knows you are at an angle, your body feels like it is traveling horizontally.
  1750. >Having exactly jack shit all to do, you pull out your glob of c4 and start messing with it.
  1751. >This quickly bores you, so you pull out your extra nails and tape.
  1752. >After a few failed prototypes, you manage to whip up a few workable caltrops.
  1753. >Tying these together with a short length of twine, you hook them onto your suit.
  1754. >Without having any way to measure time, you look outside to see the train rolling across a field.
  1755. >Huge expanses of green fly by, a small brown line that is a road splitting the sea of grass.
  1756. >Behind you, the cabin door opens, and you spin to see Daring standing there, bags and all.
  1757. >"Did you have to take a cabin at the back of the train? I had to go through like, two dining cars and two dozen other cars to get to this one."
  1758. "It was open and empty, so I figured it would work."
  1759. >She hops up onto one of the benches and sheds her bags.
  1760. >"So, what do you think of the trains?"
  1761. "Not bad. Plenty of faster ways to go, but this is pretty good."
  1762. >"Faster? This is pretty much the fastest way to travel in Equestria."
  1763. "Yeah, I can see that, but humans, we have many ways. Supersonic jets, passenger planes, bullet trains, hell, most cars are faster than this."
  1764. >"Supersonic? Jets? Planes?"
  1765. "Planes and jets are machines we use to fly in the sky. Supersonic jets fly faster than the speed of sound."
  1766. >You can see Daring is flat out stunned by your response, so you drop down into one of the seats again and try to get comfortable.
  1767.  
  1768. ~~~~~
  1769.  
  1770. >"Boss, we got a problem."
  1771. >Turning to the hired thug who addressed you, you set your saddlebag on your back.
  1772. "I know. Anonymous and Daring Do have left Canterlot."
  1773. >"What are we going to do about it?"
  1774. "Easy, we catch up and take the map."
  1775. >"The map?"
  1776. "Ugh, you must pay more attention to things," you snap, turning away.
  1777. "I hired, or at least, I had hired Anonymous to steal the fragments of the map to the lost human city."
  1778. "Between Daring and I, we had all nine fragments, and I have a feeling Daring got him to assemble the map, and offered him a good portion of the city's value."
  1779. >"Okay, but boss, they got a head start and they have the map. How are we supposed to catch up?"
  1780. "There's only one city on the track they took. If we take my airship, we can take a direct route there and beat them."
  1781. >The thug salutes, before running off to gather the others.
  1782. >Staring at the map, you feel a grin form and you grab your favourite coat.
  1783. "The hunt is on."
  1784.  
  1785. ~~~~~
  1786.  
  1787. >Anxious to read the new chapter with Twilight, you speed through your day's work, much to your boss's pleasure.
  1788. >Sure, you may not always be the most efficient worker, but you always get the weather cleared on time.
  1789. >After grabbing snacks and drinks from your house, you rush to Twilight's Library, just as the clock strikes eleven.
  1790. >Slipping inside, you are greeted instantly by a very excited Twilight, who magically drags you to her room.
  1791. >"I got a letter back from Celestia already," she says, pulling out a scroll.
  1792. >"Dear Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash."
  1793. >"Thank you for not only working to track and solve this problem, but doing such a history check as well."
  1794. >"The facts about humans you two provided should ease any issues that may arrive if Twilight's theory proves true."
  1795. >"Please continue your work, and report everything you find."
  1796. >"Sincerely, Princess Celestia."
  1797. "Cool, so we have the princess’s permission to keep reading."
  1798. >"As long as we continue to send reports, yes."
  1799. "I think that calls for a drink," you say, pulling out a pair of beers.
  1800. >Twilight facehooves and you shrug, before cracking one open and starting on it.
  1801. >"It's like, eleven in the morning; it's hardly an appropriate time for drinking."
  1802. "You don't have to have any, and besides, it's just one drink."
  1803. >Digging in your bag, Twilight pulls out a bottle of pink fizz for herself, before heading for the book.
  1804. >You watch as she drops the wards and floats the book off its stand.
  1805. "Alright, lets see how Daring and Anon's quest for the lost human city starts!"
  1806. >Opening the book, Twilight flips through to the new chapter.
  1807. >"Rising early, Daring jumps into the shower before Anon is even awake."
  1808. >"After finishing, she heads downstairs, where she finds Anon has breakfast set up, and he heads for the shower."
  1809. >"As if they planned it, Anon comes down as she finishes cleaning up after breakfast, the pair meeting in the hallway."
  1810. "Well, this was a far less embarrassing morning compared to last time."
  1811. >"Yeah, but with a start like this, I can't see much happening in the chapter."
  1812. "There are always ones like this though. It sets up a little dramatic tension, and something big gets revealed at the end to hook you."
  1813. >Twilight simply hums and nods, turning back to the book.
  1814. >"'Hmnn... What can we do to avoid this...' Anonymous muses, considering the effects of this newspaper article."
  1815. >"'I dunno, maybe you can wait behind while I get stuff?'"
  1816. >"'Nah,' he says, waving a hand dismissively, 'I'd rather not have you get the foodstuffs and accidently cut out part of my diet.'"
  1817. >"A puff of smoke floats out of his mouth and it slowly rises up."
  1818. >"'How about this, you can go and get foods along with whatever you need, and I'll look around for things that may be useful.'"
  1819. >"'But what about your diet?'"
  1820. >"'I can eat bread products, fruits, veggies, dairy and meat. All the groups are important, but you can substitute beans or nuts for the meat.'"
  1821. "Huh, I can't say I'm surprised humans eat meat."
  1822. >"It's something important for our report, that's for sure."
  1823. "That whole list is. You notice he doesn't say anything about hay or grass or flowers, maybe they're poisonous or something to him."
  1824. >"Well, we shouldn't go making assumptions, but that's a valid point. I'll write it down."
  1825. >Pulling out a scroll, Twilight starts up a letter, writing down a standard greeting before immediately jumping into Anon's dietary needs.
  1826. "I wonder what kinds of meats he eats?"
  1827. >A sudden thought strikes you, and you reel back.
  1828. "What if he eats pony meat!"
  1829. >"He probably doesn't, otherwise he would have done something with the zebra."
  1830. "I guess, just put a little note about it or something."
  1831. >She adds it, and picks up the book.
  1832. >"With the tickets and food purchased, she passes back through the market, rumours and whispers reaching her ears."
  1833. >"All speak of the human, Anonymous, and where they saw him, or how they felt when they saw him."
  1834. >"Reaching her house, she sees him sitting out front, a strange looking thing in his hands."
  1835. >"'Well, it's better than nothing,' he says, testing some of its fittings."
  1836. >"'I'd say that's about nothing,' she calls out from the gate, trotting up with fully loaded bags."
  1837. >"'That shows how little you know about human tech. It may be far from perfect, but this thing could kill a bear from over five hundred feet away, easy.' he brags,"
  1838. "That... I think we better report that too."
  1839. >"I agree," Twilight replies, writing on the scroll, "He has dangerous weapons, and should be considered an orange level threat, should he be angered or aggressive."
  1840. "Orange level?"
  1841. >"A danger to many ponies at the same time, or a life threatening danger."
  1842. "What's red level?"
  1843. >"A Discord level enemy."
  1844. >Both of you shudder at the thought of foes like that, since you were always the ones to fight them.
  1845. >"As she pulls out the tickets, he reaches out and snags one."
  1846. >"'We should board separately,' he suggests, 'since I have a feeling Richtor has his eyes on us.'"
  1847. >"Sighing, Daring agrees and starts off before calling, 'The train leaves in one hour, so don't miss it.'"
  1848. >"'I won't,' he calls back, and Daring sets off for the station alone."
  1849. "Hey, I don't remember it mentioning where they were going."
  1850. >"Neither do I. Maybe it's supposed to be a big surprise."
  1851. "Lets see!"
  1852. >"'Did you have to take a cabin at the back of the train? I had to go through like, two dining cars and two dozen other cars to get to this one,' Daring complains, entering Anon's car"
  1853. >"'It was open and empty, so I figured it would work.'"
  1854. >"She hops up onto one of the benches and sheds her bags."
  1855. >"'So, what do you think of the trains?'"
  1856. >"'Not bad. Plenty of faster ways to go, but this is pretty good.'"
  1857. >"'Faster?' Daring asks, confused, 'This is pretty much the fastest way to travel in Equestria.'"
  1858. >"'Yeah, I can see that, but humans, we have many ways. Supersonic jets, passenger planes, bullet trains, hell, most cars are faster than this.'"
  1859. >"'Supersonic? Jets? Planes?'"
  1860. >"'Planes and jets are machines we use to fly in the sky. Supersonic jets fly faster than the speed of sound.'"
  1861. "Humans have machines that can make them sonic rainboom!" you exclaim.
  1862. >"Apparently... It's incredible to think of though, machines that can carry humans through the sky faster than a train."
  1863. >Scribbling down more in her letter, you mentally drool, trying to imagine what the machines might look like.
  1864. >"Equestria to Dash, are you in there? We need to finish the chapter."
  1865. "Oh, yeah, keep reading."
  1866. >"'Between Daring and I, we had all nine fragments, and I have a feeling Daring got him to assemble the map, and offered him a good portion of the city's value.'"
  1867. >"'Okay, but boss, they got a head start and they have the map. How are we supposed to catch up?'"
  1868. >"'There's only one city on the track they took. If we take my airship, we can take a direct route there and beat them.'"
  1869. >"The thug salutes, before running off to gather the others."
  1870. >"Staring at the map, a grin forms on Richtor's face and he grabs his favourite coat."
  1871. >"'The hunt is on,’ he declares to nop0ny."
  1872. >"Their destination. Ponyville."
  1873. "NO WAY!" you shout out, shooting onto Twilight's back, staring at the book, "No bucking way, they are actually going here!"
  1874. >As excited as you are, Twilight closes the book and sets it aside, practically bouncing like Pinkie.
  1875. >"I can't believe it! They're coming here, and if they teleport with the book, it means..."
  1876. "They're going to appear here!" you exclaim, finishing her sentence.
  1877. >"Oh, there's so much I want to ask them, what should I ask first?! *Gasp* I have nothing proper to feed Anonymous! If he comes, I can't just let him starve!"
  1878. "Dude, calm down," you say, grabbing your panicking friend's face, "It's not like they are coming "here", they are going to Ponyville in their world."
  1879. >Twilight starts taking deep breaths, and you let her go.
  1880. >"Thanks, its just... Wow, if they were to appear here, I mean..."
  1881. "I know what you're talking about, I'd probably have a fangasm, as embarrassing as that is."
  1882. >"Me too Dash."
  1883. >Both of you stare at the book, as if willing it to create the next chapter, when something makes Twilight's eyes grow.
  1884. >"I just realized something! The world in the book and our world, they don't exactly line up, time wise."
  1885. "Huh?"
  1886. >"Let me explain."
  1887. >She pulls out a chalkboard, and starts drawing.
  1888. >"Say this line represents time here, and each of these little ticks is a day."
  1889. >Drawing a second line beside it, she draws more ticks, but these ones are spread out seemingly randomly.
  1890. >"Now assume this line is Daring's world. Our days and nights don't match up, even though they likely run the same length of time."
  1891. >"This variance is likely caused by fluctuations in the aether between our worlds..."
  1892. "And in plain Equestrian for the rest of us, Egghead?"
  1893. >"Our days and their days don't line up because the stuff between our dimensions is shifting constantly."
  1894. "Huh. Well, I guess I should get going, unless you have anything else you want to do with me right now."
  1895. >She waves a hoof dismissively, intently focused on her letter.
  1896. >Taking off out the door, you head for home when you realize you forgot your bag.
  1897. >Pulling a quick 180, you head back to the Library and land just outside.
  1898. >The door opens silently, and across the room, you see Twilight at a desk.
  1899. "Hey Twi, just grabbing my bag," you say, and she lets out a loud squeak, before scrambling to cover whatever it is she is doing."
  1900. >"D... Dash, yeah, its just upstairs."
  1901. >Snagging your bag, you fly over to see what she is doing, and she dives onto the papers littering her desk.
  1902. >"Don't look! It's not done!"
  1903. "Okay... I wasn't going to..."
  1904. >Walking back towards the door, you are about to step outside when Twilight calls out, "Wait!"
  1905. >You can see her shifting nervously as you turn to face her, before looking at her hooves.
  1906. >"Do you... uh... would it be weird if I was..."
  1907. >She keeps biting her lip and looking around anxiously, never focusing on you for very long.
  1908. "If you can't say it, you don't have to."
  1909. >"I have to... at least, I have to tell you..."
  1910. >Waiting patiently, you watch her take a long, deep breath, before sitting down and looking right at you.
  1911. >"Would it be weird if I was writing a fanfiction about Daring and Anonymous?"
  1912. >Immediately upon saying this, she cringes back, and looks down.
  1913. "Not really. I wouldn't do it, but that's because my writing sucks, but if anyp0ny can do a good job with it, it's you."
  1914. >"Even if it has... ummm *Mumble mumble*"
  1915. "Has what?"
  1916. >Her cheeks are a vivid red as she replies, "...sex in it?"
  1917. >You can almost hear the awkward in the room, and you sigh and shake your head.
  1918. "What you do with your time is up to you. I don't care if you write Daring Do and Anon or if you write about flying evil bananas."
  1919. >She relaxes a little, but still looks like she just asked out a colt she had a crush on.
  1920. >"So... um... would you like to read it some time?"
  1921. "I'll have to pass for now. Good luck with it though."
  1922. >Like a weight is lifted off her chest, Twilight lets out a sigh of relief, and you slip outside.
  1923. >Winging it back to your house, you try and reconcile everything that just happened.
  1924.  
  1925.  
  1926.  
  1927. Chapter 7
  1928.  
  1929. >With a loud whistle, the train pulls into Ponyville station, and you sling up your rifle, ready to disembark.
  1930. >Daring loads her pack, and you both head for the exit.
  1931. >Stepping off onto the station, you get a number of concerned glances, but none of the ponies make any moves.
  1932. "So, what's first on our agenda, Daring?"
  1933. >"Perhaps you should hand over the map," an annoyed voice replies, and you turn to see Richtor and a number of thugs.
  1934. >Letting out a slow sigh, you let your hands drift into pockets.
  1935. "Sorry about having to break our deal, Richtor, something came up."
  1936. >"I can understand, just like you should be able to understand that I'm looking to get rid of that something."
  1937. >Slowly circling around you, his thugs block most of your exits, and many of the ponies on the streets start running away.
  1938. >Digging a coin out of your bag, you hold it up, much to everyone’s confusion.
  1939. "In this situation, there's an old rule that is very important."
  1940. >"And what's that?" Richtor replies.
  1941. >Flicking the coin straight up, you watch all their eyes follow it, and you reach under Daring and grab her, before bolting straight at Richtor.
  1942. "Never watch the coin."
  1943. >Bowling him over with a heavy straight punch to the face, you rush past and start running while Daring snaps out of her daze.
  1944. >Behind you, the angry cries of the thugs and Richtor reach your ears, and you quickly set Daring down.
  1945. >"Thanks for getting us out of that, but now what?"
  1946. "We run, and hopefully we outrun them."
  1947. >Both of you start sprinting through town, ponies scattering away from the giant plant monster looking thing.
  1948. >Of course, this also means that the ponies chasing you have a clear path as well.
  1949. >"Hey, this would be a great time for some of that human magic, Anon."
  1950. "I'm thinking okay. Unless you want me to blow them all to smithereens, it's going to be hard."
  1951. >Taking a sharp corner, Daring vanishes from view, you following right after.
  1952. >An idea strikes you, and you direct Daring to a narrow alley and detach your caltrop line.
  1953. >Just in the shadows, you drop it behind you, making full use of what few spikes there are.
  1954. >Rounding another corner, you hear some pained cries from the alley.
  1955. "That'll slow them a moment, but we have to get to the woods."
  1956. >"How? The moment we leave town, they'll spot us."
  1957. >Reaching into a pocket, you fiddle with one of your three .308 rounds.
  1958. "I'd hate to waste it, but I could slip away and use it draw them off, before loosing them in the forest."
  1959. >"No, keep it. If we can make it to the trees, you should be able to play around with them, right? You know, spook them here and there."
  1960. "It might work, but if I get caught, they're probably going to end up dead, fast."
  1961. >Daring lets out a sigh, before saying, "It's worth the risk. Let's go."
  1962. >Breaking from the town, you hear cries going out, and ponies start coming out of the streets behind you.
  1963. >Muscles burning and legs flying, the two of you rush for the trees.
  1964. "Keep going straight, or at least, as best you can. You're less likely to get lost like that."
  1965. >"Fine, just don't get caught."
  1966. "Worry about yourself," you reply, shooting to the side and rolling into the undergrowth.
  1967. >Daring disappears from view, and you work on silencing your breathing.
  1968. >Heavy rustling approaches, Richtor's thugs forcing their ways through the trees.
  1969. >You can't help but smile, getting to play the hunter with so much prey.
  1970. >The unsuspecting ponies approach and pass you, and you reach out and snag the last in line.
  1971. >Hand over his mouth, he doesn't make a peep as you slowly squeeze the breath out of him.
  1972. >When he first goes limp, you lay him down quietly and gently lay them down.
  1973. >Rising to a low crouch, you silently head off after the group.
  1974. >You quickly catch up, the ponies having slowed down considerably, looking for traces of Daring's passing.
  1975. >To your trained eyes, the path is obvious, but these guys seem to be just ordinary thugs.
  1976. >One of the thugs has a very pronounced limp, likely a victim of your caltrops.
  1977. >Also an easy target.
  1978. >Silently grabbing a large rock, you throw it ahead and to the right, the thugs attentions immediately drawn to it.
  1979. >"Come on, boys, lets pick up the pace!"
  1980. >"Yeah, we got her now!"
  1981. >They redirect and start running, the one with the limp slowly falling behind.
  1982. >Keeping pace with him, you grab him like the first, make him pass out from air loss, and lay him down.
  1983. >A sudden, loud horn blares out from overhead, and you look up to see a giant air balloon ship flying overhead.
  1984. >The sounds of the thugs stop, before reversing, following the giant balloon.
  1985. "Fuck, Daring must have been spotted," you curse under your breath, breaking away to cut around the thugs.
  1986. >Running as fast as you can, you make a long curve, hoping to intercept Daring's path, but the ponies running along under the balloon keep a quick pace too.
  1987. >Swerving around trees, jumping logs and rocks, you push your body as far as it will go to get ahead of the thugs.
  1988. >A midge of tan catches your eye, and you turn to it, your path getting close to that of the thugs.
  1989. >Underfoot, a large branch cracks, and the thugs turn and see you, cries going up to the balloon.
  1990. >Several bolts of magic shoot by, but none come close as your adrenaline kicks in.
  1991. >With it's extra boost, you catch up to Daring quickly, and you notice she's already given up on stealth.
  1992. >"Bucking... Richtor and his... bucking balloon!" she lets out between breaths, helping you understand the situation.
  1993. >Glancing back, you see the balloon slowing down, probably to pick up the ponies on the ground.
  1994. "Daring, they're slowing a moment, we need to find a way to pick up speed."
  1995. >"There's a river near here. If we could find a boat or something..." she says, her pace dropping only a tad.
  1996. "Alright. Lead the way."
  1997. >She turns slightly and you follow after her, the trees thinning but the underbrush getting more tangled as you go.
  1998. >After some fighting, everything clears, and you find yourself on a gravely river bank.
  1999. >Daring looks downstream, while you look upstream, neither of you seeing anything.
  2000. >"This isn't good, they're probably coming after us already."
  2001. >To prove her point, a thrumming fills the air, similar to air plane propellers.
  2002. "I don't suppose you picked up an inflatable raft, did you? The places I checked were sold out," you joke, trying to make light of the situation while formulating a plan.
  2003. >"A what now?"
  2004. "Human joke, not important. What about a tree? could we ride one of those down the river?"
  2005. >"Yeah, but we don't have the time or gear to chop one down."
  2006. "If we find a dead one, I can handle it," you say, starting downstream and digging into your pockets at the same time.
  2007. >Pulling out a firing cap, you prime it and jam it into your c4.
  2008. >Daring cuts off to the side, inciting you to follow.
  2009. >"Here's a good one, I think. How are you going to get it down?"
  2010. >Rapping on the lower wood, you hear a place that sounds thin, and wind back.
  2011. >Delivering as hard a punch as you can, it cracks under your fist.
  2012. >Chucking in the c4, you grab and drag Daring away.
  2013. >"HEY! What are you doing?" she shouts as you let her go.
  2014. >Priming the detonator, you hold it out to Daring.
  2015. "Do you want to do the honours?"
  2016. >"Huh?"
  2017. "Flip the switch."
  2018. >As she flips the switch, a loud boom rocks the area and Daring dives to the ground.
  2019. >"Wh... what was that?"
  2020. "Explosives."
  2021. >Creaking, the tree slowly tips over, before falling to the ground with a crash.
  2022. >Between the two of you, you haul the tree to the river, just as the balloon comes into view.
  2023. >Shoving Daring onto the log, you push it out and jump on, the current starting to push it down river.
  2024. >Between the swift current and the cumbersome shape of the log, it only manages to move at a moderate speed, the balloon easily catching up.
  2025. >"Can't you make this go faster?" Daring cries, looking back at the approaching balloon.
  2026. >Ignoring her, you pull out a cigarette and light the end.
  2027. >Losing focus on everything, you let the smoke do its work and calm your body and mind.
  2028. >The crashing of the water, the thrum of the propeller, it all fades into the background as your mind starts working overdrive on how to fix this situation.
  2029. "Current terrain knowledge, minimal; weaponry, insufficient; explosives, none; Fucking hell this sucks..." you list off to yourself.
  2030. >"Will you stop mumbling to yourself and do something!"
  2031. >A bright streak of light shoots past your head, snapping you to attention.
  2032. >Another comes whizzing by, and you shift down, creating a smaller target.
  2033. "Are they shooting to kill?"
  2034. >"No, they're probably just stun bolts, but it hurts a lot getting hit by one."
  2035. >Unslinging your rifle, you check the 'chamber', making sure it is loaded, before aiming up at the balloon.
  2036. >"W... wait, you're not going to..."
  2037. >Before she can finish the sentence, you pull the trigger, your gun roaring as it's projectile rips through the air and balloon fabric like it was paper.
  2038. >While the initial damage isn't major, the fabric starts to rip, and the balloon starts loosing altitude.
  2039. >Panicked pegasii jump from the balloon, some helping others as it heads for the treeline.
  2040. >The empty casing hisses as it drops into the water, and you load your second round.
  2041. >Giving you a shove from behind, Daring says, "What the buck man! I just about went deaf from that, what was is?"
  2042. "That was a Three-O-Eight round, travelling beyond the speed of sound."
  2043. >"That was... scary."
  2044. "Good, because it's a technology I don't want ponies getting a hold of."
  2045. >Turning back to the river, you watch for any of the ponies that may have landed near the river and may try and block your path.
  2046. >The log jumps as it hits a rock, the river's current slowly picking up.
  2047. >Small cracks start forming, the dead tree's rotted shell starting to fall apart.
  2048. >"Anonymous, I think we have a problem..." Daring says, pointing upriver to where you can see seriously choppy water and several pissed off looking thugs on the banks.
  2049. "That's not the only one. The boat's breaking up."
  2050. >"We can't get wet or the map'll be ruined!"
  2051. >Grabbing the bag from her back, you start digging inside it.
  2052.  
  2053. ~~~~~
  2054.  
  2055. >Feeling Anonymous pull your saddlebag off your back, you turn and look up at him, before a piece of folded paper is shoved into your mouth.
  2056. >"Take the map and go, Daring, I'll catch up somehow."
  2057. >You feel yourself lifted before being thrown into the air, where your reflexes take over and your wings shoot out.
  2058. >Flapping up to gain altitude, you watch as Anon throws himself onto shore with your bag, the log shattering against a rock.
  2059. >The ponies immediately go after him, several pegasii chasing after you.
  2060. >Taking off downriver, you see Anon do the same, encumbered by the added weight.
  2061. >A small, but powerful air current pulls you along, and you quickly lose sight of Anonymous down below.
  2062. >Those following you catch it as well, minimizing your distance gain.
  2063. >Catching a thermal, you try and gain some altitude, but it quickly fades and your left wing gets caught in a down draft.
  2064. >Fighting to regain control, your altitude drops as you spiral towards the ground.
  2065. >With a slight snap, your wing straightens out, stabilizing you, but the damage is done.
  2066. >Your wings get forced to your sides as the pegasii chasing you catch up and press in, pinning you between them.
  2067. "Get off me!" you exclaim through clenched teeth, struggling to get free before they force you to land.
  2068. >Right as you touch down, a third pegasus lands on you, forcing you to the ground.
  2069. "Damn it," you curse, shaking and bucking, trying to dislodge the ponies holding you down, but to no avail.
  2070. >Ropes are soon bound around you, and before you know it, you are thrown over ones back as they haul you to Richtor.
  2071. >The map is yanked from your mouth and stuffed under one of the ponies wings.
  2072. "Let me go, featerbrains."
  2073. >Before you can say more, another rope is wrapped around your mouth, effectively silencing you.
  2074. >Deciding to conserve your energy, you don't fight any further, letting the ponies tire out carrying you.
  2075. >They make their way to the crash site, where a VERY pissed of Richtor fumes.
  2076. >A muffled chuckle escapes past your ropes, and his attention snaps to you.
  2077. >His mouth twists in a grin, and he walks over.
  2078. >"Ah, Daring, again I have you in mt clutches."
  2079. >You can do little but growl from behind your ropes, but you do.
  2080. >"Trapped like a beast, and you resort to growling like one. How the "mighty" have fallen," he sneers, loading sarcasm into his tone.
  2081. >Struggling against your binds, you get knocked off the pony's back and dumped in the dirt.
  2082. >"Out here, there is no law, you know. I could do whatever I wanted to you, and get away with it."
  2083. >Stepping towards you, he lifts a hoof and rests it on your head.
  2084. >"And who wouldn't want to get rid of their only competition?"
  2085. >His hoof presses down, and you feel pressure slowly increasing, making you grit your teeth on the rope.
  2086. >"It would be so easy, crushing your little head right now, but..."
  2087. >He lifts his hoof away and steps back, before you feel the ropes around you start to lift.
  2088. >They twist and bite into your flesh, your entire weight held up by the few.
  2089. >"...I've got a much better plan for you. You'll make the perfect bait for that conniving human."
  2090. >Twisting and squirming, the ropes around you shift, and with a moments looseness, you manage to spit the one in your mouth out.
  2091. "What makes you think he will even come for me? And besides, even if he did, he would still beat you and your goons."
  2092. >"Because he gave you the map, and now I have it," he gloats; and you notice one of your captors approaching.
  2093. >"Uh... Boss; We've got a problem. It's not the map, just a doodle of a face with it's tongue sticking out..." the thug says, holding out the paper.
  2094. >The glee practically melts from his face before being instantly replaced but rage, the paper ripped from the thugs grip and shredded by Richtor's magic.
  2095. >Biting your tongue to hold your laughter, Richtor's fuming scowl alleviates some of the unpleasantness of being captured.
  2096. >"It figures," Richtor says, his smile returning a bit as he turns to you, "He broke contract with me, it's no wonder he did the same to you."
  2097. "He wouldn't..." you start, but thoughts of Anon stop you from continuing.
  2098. >Memories of him play in your head, shaking your resolve.
  2099. >*"If I get rid of you, I get all the profits. Also, I'm wanted by so many countries back home, another one on the list is like a drop in the bucket."
  2100. >*"We nothing. I'm heading to the nearest town. You can do what you want."
  2101. >"But he would. I can see it in your eyes," Richtor says with a smirk.
  2102. "He's coming to rescue me right now," is your reply, trying to hide the lump in your throat.
  2103. >The ropes around you tighten, locking you in place.
  2104. >"Well, if he is, he'll be walking right into our clutches."
  2105. >Several ponies pull out crossbows loaded with darts rather than bolts.
  2106. >"We can't kill him, but capturing him and using his human knowledge to conquer the lost human city is well within his 'protection'."
  2107. >"Still, we could do with some entertainment while we wait."
  2108. >His eyes drift towards your flank, and thought of the zebras come rushing back.
  2109. >"Geez, Daring, what is it with you and getting caught by guys who want to fuck you?" a familiar voice calls out.
  2110. "Just shut up and get me out," you call back, ignoring Anon's chuckles.
  2111. >"I dunno, I kinda like you like this, trussed up like an oversized turkey."
  2112. >Crossbows twang, and darts fly off into the trees, but there is no sound of a hit.
  2113. >"Wow, you guys are as bad a shot as your typical bad guy," Anon's voice taunts from the other direction.
  2114. >Those who didn't fire spin around and shoot, those who did fumbling to reload their crossbows.
  2115. >"Ach! Ya got me," Anon exclaims, a mass falling in the bushes.
  2116. >The thugs look to Richtor who nods, and several step cautiously towards the bushes.
  2117. >They vanish from sight briefly, before tumbling back into view, bowled over by Anon.
  2118. >"Geez, how lame can you get..." he says with a sigh, walking over the dazed ponies.
  2119. >Half a dozen crossbows fire, each dart scoring a direct hit on Anon, but he doesn't flinch.
  2120. >"And suck tiny projectiles. They don't even get past my Ghillie suit, and it isn't technically armour."
  2121. >Metal glints as Anon draws his knife, the blade drawing the eyes of all the aware thugs.
  2122. >Like a wordless challenge, he settles into what looks like a defensive stance while slowly edging forward.
  2123. >A few of the ponies have small knives or sticks, and they advance towards him, ready to attack.
  2124. >With a loud cry, they charge, and before the cry ends, they are taken down, none killed but all injured.
  2125. >A final barrage of darts stick harmlessly into Anon's clothing, before the remaining thugs drop their bows and charge.
  2126. >"Pathetic," Anon sighs, taking out each one as they get close.
  2127. >Soon, only you, Anon and Richtor are left standing, though in your case, you don't have much choice.
  2128. >From under Richtor's cloak, he pulls out a long, tin knife.
  2129. >"Don't think I am unskilled like those fools. I'm more than a match for you."
  2130. >Held by magic, the knife dances around him, a show of "dexterity".
  2131. >Anon hardly seems impressed by this, continuing his defensive advance.
  2132. >The knife shoots straight, only to get deflected aside before Anon makes a small dash forward to reduce the gap.
  2133. >Returning to Richtor, the knife makes an easily avoided pass at Anon.
  2134. >A flurry of stabs and slashes are launched, each one parried or avoided with ease.
  2135. >Frustration begins to show on Richtor's face, though his technique remains strong.
  2136. >"I suppose I should have expected you to be skilled, but there is one difference between us," Richtor says, halting his attack a moment.
  2137. >"Oh?"
  2138. >"Money, and through that, better gear."
  2139. >From inside his cloak, a second knife is drawn, and while it looks like gold, you know it's bronze.
  2140. >Both blades swing at Anon, forcing him back as he is forced to block, rather than just deflect.
  2141. >Each time the knives collide, a spray of sparks burst into life, before vanishing.
  2142. >You can only watch as Anon is forced to defend against an intangible enemy.
  2143. >Those thugs who have gotten up watch the fight from the sides, too scared to approach the dancing blades.
  2144. >Focusing intently on the blades, you notice Anon's blocks and parries change.
  2145. >The angles changed subtly, but you can't see why.
  2146. >In the blink of an eye, the knives dip back, before looping and swinging in from the side at blurring speeds.
  2147. >Anon's knife swings around to intercept, the three razor sharp blades meeting nary an inch from his side in an explosion of sound and sparks.
  2148. >All three blades hold there for a moment, before Anon's strength sends them flying away.
  2149. >They don't fly far though, as Richtor's magic regains grip on them swiftly, bringing them to bear.
  2150. >"Come now, give up. You knife must be near breaking, after having to block mine."
  2151. >A huge smirk crosses Anon's features, and he calls back, "I think you better look again, buddy, you've hardly scratched mine, while yours, well; that last hit certainly did a number on them."
  2152. >Richtor pulls back his knifes, and you can see the damage.
  2153. >Dozens of tiny nicks and cuts mar the surfaces of both blades, and each bears a massive, triangular hole along the blade as a result of the final attack.
  2154. >"But... how?"
  2155. >Anon's knife spins in his hand, and he rushes forward, "Superior human metals, fool."
  2156. >Stumbling back, Richtor raises his blades to block, but they are knocked aside, fear erasing the strength of his magic.
  2157. >The cold steel of Anon's knife approaches Richtor and incredible speed, but at the last second, Anon pivots, driving his elbow into his face.
  2158. >Bone cracks from the impact, crimson leaking from Richtor's face as he falls back.
  2159. >Following through with a kick to the ribs, you see Richtor collapse against a tree, unconscious.
  2160. >The thugs stare in awe, all to afraid to move as Anon straightens up and heads over to you.
  2161. >"Hey, you okay?"
  2162. "Yeah, fine. Especially compared to him."
  2163. >He gives you a rough smack on the shoulder, before cutting some of the ropes.
  2164. >"We'll be fine now, those fools aren't going to mess with us."
  2165. >Cut free, you flex your wings a bit, and smile.
  2166. "Let's get going, partner."
  2167. >Walking close beside him, the two of you walk out of the impromptu camp and back towards the river.
  2168. >Anon ducks aside and snags your bag from a crook in a tree and slings it over his shoulder as you walk, the river coming into view quickly.
  2169. >"So, just gotta follow this a ways and we'll be there, huh..."
  2170. >"Thank's fot thaht," Richtor's says from behind you two, and you spin to see him standing there, face bloody, but pissed.
  2171. >Magic flares in his horn, before a massive bolt fires off at the two of you, detonating and knocking you back and out before you hit the river behind you.
  2172. ~~~
  2173. >"... ring."
  2174. >"... Daring."
  2175. >"Hey, Daring."
  2176. >A strong hand shakes your shoulder, and a voice calls to you.
  2177. >"Come on Daring, get up."
  2178. >Suddenly, you convulse and turn to the side, coughing up a bit of water, the same hand moving to pat your back.
  2179. >"Come on, you're fine," Anon says, helping you up, "Besides, I think we're close."
  2180. >Shaking some of the water from your coat, you take a brief look around.
  2181. >A vast plain of green greets you, punctuated by the occasional rock or tree.
  2182. >No sign of the human city though.
  2183. "Do you have the map, Anon?"
  2184. >"Yeah, I stuck it in a waterproof pocket just after we split up."
  2185. "Do you think of everything, Anon?"
  2186. >"No, otherwise I wouldn't be in this crazy pony land of magic talking ponies and shit."
  2187. >Unfolding the map, you give him a playful shove.
  2188. "Oh come on, it's not that bad."
  2189. >"Yeah, I guess not," he says with a sigh, lying down on the grass, "Still, I'd rather be home right now."
  2190. >Comparing everything you know with guesses, you plot your path on the map.
  2191. >While the map is a little dated, it's still accurate enough to tell you the City should be right in front of you.
  2192. "Uh... Anon, could humans make their stuff invisible or anything like that?"
  2193. >"No, why?"
  2194. "The city should be right here, according to the map."
  2195. >"Lemme see," he says, sitting up and scootching next to you.
  2196. >His finger traces relatively the same route as you did, arriving at the same place.
  2197. >"Hmnn... well, if it is here, I would guess it may be underground."
  2198. "So I should look from the sky," you start, but before you can take off, he grabs your leg.
  2199. >"No point. Any entrance would have likely grown over, so you'd have to be close to see it."
  2200. >Rising to his feet, he scans the field, before pulling out a roll of string.
  2201. >"We should grid the area, so we don't search the same place twice or miss a spot."
  2202. >Following him out, he suddenly stops and drops the roll.
  2203. "Anon? What's up?"
  2204. >You get no response as he stands there, as if turned to stone.
  2205. "Hey?" you say, flitting up and waving a hoof in front of his face, "Are you there?"
  2206. >Still no response.
  2207. >As you are about to poke him, a hand twitches, then rises, reaching for his chest.
  2208. "What's..."
  2209. >Before you can finish your sentence, he pulls out the blue book and opens it.
  2210. >A light flares briefly, and words, symbols, numbers, all of the ink in the book begins sliding off the pages.
  2211. "Hey, let go!" you say, trying to knock the book from his grip.
  2212. >The moment you touch it, you feel yourself freeze, the ink flowing onto you as well.
  2213. >Like demonic little cutie marks, they soon cover your body, along with his, and with a blinding flash of light, everything around you changes.
  2214.  
  2215. ~~~~~
  2216.  
  2217. >A quiet but piercing siren rouses you from sleep, a sheet of parchment sticking to your face as you jerk upright.
  2218. >"Twilight, the book do-hicky is going off," your assistant calls from the other room.
  2219. "A'ight..." you grumble, still mostly asleep.
  2220. >Stumbling into the other room, you look at the readout papers slowly churning from a machine until you process what you are seeing.
  2221. >All traces of sleep vanish from your system, and you sprint for the door.
  2222. ~~~
  2223. >Shoving the last cloud into place, you look over your work.
  2224. >Everything is ready for today's rain, and you have the rest of the day off.
  2225. "Buck yeah, finished with plenty of time for me."
  2226. >"DASH! YOU HAVE TO COME NOW!!"
  2227. "Huh, what's up Twi?"
  2228. >"BOOK! COME NOW!"
  2229. >Before you can reply, her magic grabs you right out of the sky and pulls you along at speeds you never thought Twilight could maintain.
  2230. >The two of you are at the library within moments, Twilight dragging you to her room seconds later.
  2231. >Her magic releases you, but not before throwing you on her bed.
  2232. "Twilight, calm down or you're gonna pop."
  2233. >"I can't, not with these readings!"
  2234. >Grabbing Twilight by the cheeks, you stare at her intensely, and after a moment, she sighs and sits down.
  2235. "Good, now, explain it in terms I would get."
  2236. >"Book make magic stronger than sunpony."
  2237. "Twilight..." you groan, eliciting a chuckle from her.
  2238. >"The book just gave off more magic than Celestia does for a whole year when she moves the sun."
  2239. >Sitting there stunned, the thought of the sheer amount of magic slowly percolates through your head.
  2240. "That's... The book! We have to read what happens!"
  2241. >"Of course, give me a moment to get it out."
  2242. >With barely contained excitement, Twilight disables the spells while you watch.
  2243. >The book soon drops and is immediately scooped up and brought over.
  2244. >"Do you want to read again this time, Dash?"
  2245. "No, I'm fine with letting you do it."
  2246. >"Fine with me," she says, flipping the book open.
  2247. >"Here we are, Chapter Seven."
  2248. >"With a loud whistle, the train pulls into Ponyville station, and the pair disembarks."
  2249. >Stepping off onto the station, they get a number of concerned glances, but none of the ponies make any moves.
  2250. >"'So, what's first on our agenda, Daring?' Anon asks, looking down at her."
  2251. >"'Perhaps you should hand over the map," the annoyed voice of Richtor asks, drawing their attention."
  2252. "Geez, Richtor sure caught up fast."
  2253. >"He probably took a balloon. They're usually faster than the trains because they can go straight over everything."
  2254. >"'Hey, this would be a great time for some of that human magic, Anon,' Daring says, sparing a glance at the human."
  2255. >"'I'm thinking okay,' he replies, 'Unless you want me to blow them all to smithereens, it's going to be hard.'"
  2256. >"Taking a sharp corner, Daring slips into an alley, Anon following right after."
  2257. >"There is a clinking sound behind them as Anon drops something, and rounding another corner, she hears some pained cries from the alley."
  2258. >"'That'll slow them a moment, but we have to get to the woods.'"
  2259. >"Again, they hint at human magic, but don't show anything..."
  2260. "Meh, they never said it was magic. Could just be some kind of trap."
  2261. >As Twilight turns back to the book, a look of concern appears.
  2262. >"D... Dash, I think something's wrong..."
  2263. >Flitting over, you see what she is talking about.
  2264. >The letters are twisting and fading at an alarming rate.
  2265. "You don't think..."
  2266. >"Something happened, yeah. Maybe it has something to do with that spike of magic."
  2267. >A quill floats over, and Twilight starts speed copying everything she can, but the books writing is fading fast.
  2268. >Skimming what Twilight gets down, you make out fragments of the story.
  2269. >Taking down the balloon, a mighty explosion, travelling on a log, splitting up and Daring getting captured...
  2270. >The bits get more and more fragmented, and you can no longer understand it after something about Anon fighting the thugs.
  2271. "Twilight, what about the rest?"
  2272. >"I have the other chapters written elsewhere," She pants, the quill dropping from her magic.
  2273. "Twi, you're the best," you say, wrapping your hooves around her in a hug.
  2274. >She leans on you a moment, resting, before breaking off.
  2275. >"Okay, we have a lot to do now. We have to inform Celestia, we have to copy what we have for her, and we have to try and fill in what's missing so we can read the chapter."
  2276. "Ugh, can't we skip the first two and work on the third instead?"
  2277. >"No, proper ordering is very important."
  2278. "But wouldn't it be better to send a completed version to her, rather than an incomplete one?"
  2279. >This makes her pause, and you press more.
  2280. "If you want to, you can send the letter first and tell her what we learned and the data so she can figure out what it means."
  2281. >Smiling, Twilight nods before gathering up the machine's papers and binding them together.
  2282. >A blank scroll floats over, a quill and ink joining it.
  2283. >"Lets see..." Twilight says as she begins writing, "We need to tell her about the amount of magic, and..."
  2284. "Wait, what do you think the magic was?"
  2285. >Her quill pauses above the parchment, your question making her think.
  2286. >"I... I don't know. I kind of hope it's everything going into one book. Maybe it will have the finished story."
  2287. "I hope its Anon and Daring being teleported here. Oooh, or maybe to Anon's world. That'd be cool to read."
  2288. >"Dash, do you realize how much magic it would take to do that?"
  2289. "Enough to move the sun for a year?"
  2290. >Again, Twilight goes silent, before turning back to her letter.
  2291. >Swiftly finishing it, she rolls it up with the data sheets, before calling for Spike.
  2292. >Popping in the doorway, he snags the scroll from Twilight before turning it to smoke.
  2293. >It drifts out the window, and Spike wanders back into the other room while Twilight turns to the copied down chapter.
  2294. >"This is gonna be tough, we're missing so much of it."
  2295. "Hey, if there's anyp0ny in Equestria who could do it, It would be you, Twilight."
  2296. >"Thanks Dash, that means a lot coming from you."
  2297. "Yeah, you're the biggest Egg-head I know."
  2298. >Ducking under the flung book, you swoop in beside her and wrap an arm around her shoulder.
  2299. "Hey, I think it's one of the cool things about you. You're a smart cookie, even if you do read a little too much."
  2300. >"That's probably the best I'm going to get from you, huh?"
  2301. "Lighten up Twi and let's get to work."
  2302. >With the fragmented story laid out, you and Twi start trying to fill in the blanks.
  2303.  
  2304.  
  2305. Chapter 8
  2306.  
  2307. >Vision and mobility returning, you see Daring drop to the ground, no longer suspended by the book's spell.
  2308. >With a sigh, you start thumbing throught the pages, and like last time, each is as blank as a brand new sheet.
  2309. >The distinctive musk of aged paper permeates your nostrils, drawing your eyes up.
  2310. >Countless books line countless bookshelves while motes of dust dance in the sunlight.
  2311. "Hey, any idea where we are, Daring?"
  2312. >"I don't know," she replies as you start looking around, "I've been to librarys all over but this place is completely different."
  2313. >Scanning the shelves, you almost immediately determine why.
  2314. "It's human, English, specifically."
  2315. >Daring flies over next to you, exclaiming, "No way! You know what this means, right?"
  2316. "Either we got pulled to my world, or we found the lost human city."
  2317. >"What do you say we find out?" she asks, bumping against your side, "We already hit the cultural motherload here, why not find something worth a few bits."
  2318. "If this is my world, you'd be the most valuable thing here, being an alien."
  2319. >"But you wouldn't turn me in, right?"
  2320. >Wrapping her with an arm and pulling her against your side, you smile.
  2321. "Of course not, partner. Now, what say we find out where we are?"
  2322. >Following a few signs, you lead Daring to the front where a partly boarded up door is the only thing seperating you from the rest of the city.
  2323. >"Wait, before we go, we should grab a few books to bring with us, as proof, you know."
  2324. "Sure, but we should snag them from a return box, so we don't disturb the order."
  2325. >Rifling through the return box, you snag a few different books, ranging from fictional stories to an atlas.
  2326. >Books stored away, you rear back and kick the door, knocking out the boards and sending the doors flying open.
  2327. >Dust obscures your vision a moment before you get a clear view of everything.
  2328. >Skyscrapers dot the skyline, stores, cars, everything human filling the streets save humans themselves.
  2329. >"This is..."
  2330. >You don't hear the rest, as you are already down in the streets, looking at a car.
  2331. >It's design is reminicent of early fifties, but seems to be in pretty good condition.
  2332. >A quick check of the tank reveals it to be empty, so you move on to a bike with a sidecar.
  2333. >With no key, you open a panel and start hotwiring it while Daring comes over.
  2334. >"What are you doing, Anon?"
  2335. "...And here we go," you mutter, sparking the engine which roars to life.
  2336. >Like a scared cat, Daring jumps onto your shoulders for a moment.
  2337. "Come on, Darning, scared of a little bike?" you tease as she flits down and you climb onto the seat.
  2338. >"I was just startled is all," she retorts, "What is this thing?"
  2339. "Think of it like a self powered carriage. Hop in the sidecar and we can explore quickly with this."
  2340. >Somewhat cautiously, she settles into the sead and you rev the engines a few times.
  2341. "Hang on to your hat!" You call out, releasing the brakes and sending the bike into motion.
  2342. >She manages to clamp a hoof on her hat before it's blown away as the two of you fly through the street.
  2343. >Like a child in a candy store, her eyes flicker everywhere while you search for specific places.
  2344. >A large golden M passes by, and you chuckle and drive on.
  2345. >Turning a corner, your ride is cut short as a metal domed machine with a gun barrel sticks turns towards you.
  2346. >Kicking off the bike, you grab Daring and roll behind a car as the sound of full auto gunfire punches holes in the bike.
  2347. >"Wh... What's going on?"
  2348. "Automated defenses, probably programed to kill on sight."
  2349. >Peeking over the edge for a split second, the report of rounds hitting metal sounds as you duck back down.
  2350. >Leaning against the car, you open your rifle and load one of your two remaining rounds.
  2351. >Edging towards the front of the vehicle, you pop your head and rifle over, aim and fire before dropping to the ground, bullets whizzing overhead.
  2352. >Loading the last round, you pop out and fire again, this time as you duckthe sound of firing doesn't come.
  2353. "Daring, kick off that mirror and pass it to me, you whisper, indicating the side mirror.
  2354. >Rearing back, she delivers a swift kick that sends the mirror flying right into your hand.
  2355. >Using it to look over the edge, you see the turret sparking and inactive.
  2356. "Looks like we're clear for now, but we are gonna have to keep an eye out for more."
  2357. >"Yeah, but is there any way to stop them all?"
  2358. "Not likely, but if we can find the control center, we could disable them or better yet, make them ignore us.
  2359. >Gesturing around, she says, "This place is huge, how are we going to find it?"
  2360. "It's going to be in the town hall or a military center or some other important place like that."
  2361. >Looking around for something, Daring says, "We might want to put our exploration on hold."
  2362. >Turning to her, you lift an eyebrow questioningly.
  2363. >"We don't have any food, the pack didn't teleport with us."
  2364. "A good point. We have no idea how old any of this food is, and besides a few things that last for ages, I'd rather not risk it."
  2365. >Checking out the bike, you find the tank and several parts of the engine busted, meaning you will have to find an alternate vehicle.
  2366. "If we can find a convenience store, we should be able to find a map and then we just take another vehicle, and we can get going."
  2367. >"So we're leaving the defences up?"
  2368. "For now," you reply, walking down the road.
  2369. >Flying alongside you, Daring sticks close, watching for more turrets.
  2370. >Twice, you have to duck and move carefully to avoid turrets before getting to a gas station, and you slip inside.
  2371. >Power seems to be running at minimal levels, all of the fridges not operating.
  2372. >Snagging a map from the front, you eye some of the snacks along the aisles, but decide against it, though you snag a bag of jerky, one of the few things that stay fresh a long time.
  2373. >Daring is right next to you the moment you step outside, trying to snag the map from your hand.
  2374. >"So, let's see where we are," she says as you lay out the map.
  2375. >Waiting with a bit of a smirk, you watch her struggle with the foreign writing for a while before stepping in.
  2376. "We're here, at the corner of Seventh and Home. Now, if this is correct, north is that way, and from there, I have no clue."
  2377. >"Alright, where is the library?"
  2378. >Indicating it on the map, she starts doing calculations in her head, before pulling a small charcoal stick from inside her vest.
  2379. >"Alright, we're going to have to backtrack a bit, going down here, and then turn here..."
  2380. >She draws your route on the map, leading to an exit on the south west side.
  2381. >"If we get out here, based on the size of everything, we should be able to get to Canterlot in two days including time taken to travel in the forest."
  2382. "And if we can get a vehicle, how much time would we save?"
  2383. >"We could make it by dinner tomorrow, if we stop for sleep."
  2384. "Alright, I'll see if I can get a jeep or something designed for offroading. In the mean time, you want some jerky?" you ask, opening the bag.
  2385. >It passes the sniff test, and shows no signs of mould, so you pull out a piece and take a small bite, holding out the bag for Daring.
  2386. >"What is that?"
  2387. "Jerky. It's dried, seasoned meat."
  2388. >"Eugh, no. I can wait till I'm home for food."
  2389. >As the two of you start walking, a thought hits you.
  2390. "Wait, how do you know how far away Canterlot is even though we teleported?"
  2391. >"It's my talent. I can't get lost because I always know the way home. In this case, Canterlot."
  2392. "That's a pretty usefull skill, I'll admit," you say, giving her a pat on the shoulder.
  2393. >While you walk, you watch for suitable vehicles as well as jerry cans, since you never know how much gas a vehicle will have.
  2394. >By the time the two of you find a suitable truck, you have five cans between you, and you set them in the back.
  2395. >While you start hotwiring, Daring cleans out the inside, chucking away a bunch of rotten wrappers and empty bottles.
  2396. >With the engine starting up, you check the gas guage, and find it nearing empty.
  2397. >Shutting it down, you pop the gas cap and fill it up before climbing back in.
  2398. "Ready to go, Daring?"
  2399. >"Yeah, let's get back to Canterlot."
  2400. >As you drive around the stopped vehicles, a thought strikes you.
  2401. "Hey, didn't you want to get something worth a little money?"
  2402. >"I did. There are a bunch of high quality human tools in the back of this vehicle, we can just sell those."
  2403. "Alright," you say simply, not losing focus on the road.
  2404. >Whenever you come across a turret, the two of you duck below the window and slow down to a crawl.
  2405. >The edge of the city soon looms quickly, and beyond it, a forest.
  2406. >"Are you sure this thing will work in the woods? The ground can get fairly rough."
  2407. "Yep. These things are built for rough terrain, all I have to do is switch to four wheel drive, and we'll be cruising."
  2408. >Changing gears, you hear the parts shifting to it's new state.
  2409. >The road beneath the tires peters out, and soon you are driving through the woods, bouncing along.
  2410. >"Wow, this thing is really something, no carriage could move this fast on ground like this."
  2411. >Hitting a bump makes the two of you wince as yout butts are abused by the thin seats.
  2412. "Wish it had better seats though."
  2413. >"Agreed. Almost makes me want to walk."
  2414. >Rumbling through the woods, you and Daring swap stories as you go.
  2415. >The day wears on, and trees thin until you see the forest edge ahead.
  2416. >Stopping the truck for the night, you finish off the jerky before setting up in the back of the truck.
  2417. >Daring curls up inside, and you quickly drift off despite your nagging hunger.
  2418. >The early sun's rays wake you from a dreamless sleep, and you work the cold stiffness from your joints.
  2419. >Knocking on the back window, Daring motions for you to let her out, and she zooms off the moment you do.
  2420. "You could have said good morning..."
  2421. >Shrugging, you drain your bladder, and start up the truck before waiting for her to return.
  2422. >After a couple minutes she returns and takes her seat in the passengers spot, and you start driving towards Canterlot again.
  2423. >Driving across the plains is a lot easier on the butt than the forest was, and you soon reach a well worn road to take.
  2424. "Almost there, huh. This is gonna be quite the entrance, isn't it."
  2425. >"Rolling up in a self powered human carriage, Yeah, this is going to make a big splash."
  2426. >Stones flying behind you, you rev the engine up and you are soon zooming down the road.
  2427. >The roar of your engine slowly grows louder, despite the fact you aren't accelerating any more.
  2428. >A rapid prodding on your shoulder draws your attention over to Daring, who shakily points a hoof out the window.
  2429. >Your eyes follow the line, and your jaw hits the floor.
  2430. "Oh, Shit..."
  2431.  
  2432. ~~~~~
  2433.  
  2434. >"Princess Celestia, one of the Ursas has moved, and is dangerously close to the main road between here and Ponyville!"
  2435. >Rising to your golden shod hooves, you turn to the guard.
  2436. "Has the road been cleared?"
  2437. >"Yes, but..."
  2438. "Is there a problem?"
  2439. >The guard shuffles his hooves unsuredly, looking towards the direction of Ponyville.
  2440. >"There was... something else on the road, something the scouts had never seen before, heading in this direction."
  2441. >Walking to your balcony, you look out towards the town in the distance.
  2442. >Mostly hidden by trees, you can see the sparkly pinkish purple back of the ursa major moving towards the road.
  2443. >A small dust cloud is on the road, indistinguishable from this distance.
  2444. >"Our scouts dared not approach it, as it was giving a loud rumbling roar, but it's pace was incredible."
  2445. "Lock all the gates to Canterlot, and put the guards on alert. We can hope this thing will pass us by, but we must prepare for the worst.
  2446. >"Yes, Princess."
  2447. >He hurries off, leaving you alone, your thoughts locked on the mysterious thing travelling towards Canterlot.
  2448.  
  2449. ~~~~~
  2450.  
  2451. "What in the everloving fuck is that?"
  2452. >"A... an Ursa Major, we are so dead!"
  2453. >Slamming the accelerator, you push the truck to it's limit, the bear slowly loosing ground.
  2454. >The bear refuses to quit, continuing its chase of you.
  2455. >Everything shakes as it's mouth opens in a roar, the wheels skidding from the force of its breath.
  2456. >"We can't keep on running, it'll destroy Canterlot if we keep leading it this way."
  2457. "what would happen to us if we injured or killed it?"
  2458. >"ARE YOU INSANE!?! THAT THING WOULD KILL US BEFORE WE COULD SCRATCH IT!"
  2459. >Pulling your pistol from it's holster, you flick the safety off.
  2460. "We have to try."
  2461. >Aiming at the beast is easy, and with each pull of the trigger, the gun lets out a softish thwip.
  2462. >The Ursa doesn't so much as flinch as you empty every round into it.
  2463. >"That's not going to hurt it, it's like ants to something that big."
  2464. >Digging into the pocket, you pull out your last bullet, the skull marked .45.
  2465. "It's probably just decoration, but in this crazy land, it might just do something."
  2466. >Ejecting the mag and sliding the bullet in, you offer a brief prayer to God, Buddah, Celestia and whatever other gods that may watch over you.
  2467. >Letting out another roar, the Ursa's massive maw bears down on you as you lean out the window.
  2468. "Asta la vista, Baby,"
  2469. >You pull the trigger.
  2470.  
  2471. ~~~~~
  2472.  
  2473. >From your balcony in Canterlot, you watch the dusttrail flee from the Ursa, the bear now fully visible.
  2474. >Even here you can hear it's roars, and you can see the guards calming any panic and locking down the city.
  2475. >At this point, it's too late to call the Elements, you and Luna the only things standing between Canterlot and the Ursa.
  2476. >Turning to get your sister, another roar comes from it, closer and louder than the last.
  2477. >Grasping the doorknob, a sound rings out, like a firework but a thousand times louder.
  2478. >Rushing back to the balcony, you are stunned by what you see.
  2479.  
  2480. ~~~~~
  2481.  
  2482. >The recoil almost shatters your wrist, and the sound is deafening as the shot rings out, ripping through the air.
  2483. >For a second, everything is silent save the ringing in your ears, before there is a sickening sound.
  2484. >Through flesh and bone, a massive hole is ripped in the Ursa's shoulder, severing it's arm from it's body.
  2485. >Twitching like a headless snake, the severed limb, slams into the ground with enough force to cause you to lose control of the truck.
  2486. >Fighting to regain control, the truck swerves into the field beside the road.
  2487. >The ground rumbles as the bear runs away, it's injuries appearing to regenerate slowly.
  2488. >"Holy Shit!"
  2489. "You can say that again," you say, rubbing your sore wrist.
  2490. >"Holy Shit!"
  2491. >Giving her your best 'You serious' look, she gives you a serious look back.
  2492. >Like a rubber band, the tension in the air snaps, and the two of you burst out laughing.
  2493. "Oh god, ha ha, that was intense!"
  2494. >"I know, *gasp* I can't believe it."
  2495. >Laughing it out, the two of you slowly calm down, before you bring your truck back on the road.
  2496. >The bear's arms slowly disintegrating behind you, and Canterlot in front, you and Daring continue on your quest.
  2497.  
  2498. ~~~~~
  2499.  
  2500. >Impossible.
  2501. >Completely impossible.
  2502. >Nothing should be able to damage an Ursa like that, save an alicorn or something equally powerfull.
  2503. >Unless...
  2504. >Bringing over all of Twilight's letters, you scan through them all, searching for one in particular.
  2505. "He has dangerous weapons, and should be considered an orange level threat, should he be angered or aggressive."
  2506. "To do that... he's far more dangerous than an orange level threat."
  2507. >"Sister! Sister! Are thou in here?" Luna calls, rushing into your room.
  2508. "Yes, and I have dangerous news."
  2509. >Your sister skids to a halt in front of you, before asking, "Does it concern the Ursa we just saw?"
  2510. >Floating the letters over to her, you nod.
  2511. >She skims them quickly, and just like you, she takes on a solemn look.
  2512. >"We see, this, Anonymous is most likely the one who did that. We can only hope he is as peaceful towards ponies as the book showed."
  2513. >Nodding, you ring for a guard, who arrives promptly.
  2514. "Unlock the city, but remain in a wary state. A dangerous, but potentially friendly creature is coming, and we don't want to seem agressive against him."
  2515. >With a crisp salute, the guard takes off, spreading the word.
  2516. >Slowly, the city moves out of lockdown, but very few ponies go out, those who need to or those brave enough.
  2517. >Truthfully, you'd rather stay here, but duty dictates you greet important strangers to Equestria.
  2518. "Sister, I will greet him, and should the worst come to pass, I want you to escape to Ponyville and protect the Elements."
  2519. >"Nay, we shall join you. We couldn't allow you to stand alone in this."
  2520. >Hugging her, you nod and the two of you take the long, slow walk down to the palace entrance.
  2521.  
  2522. ~~~~~
  2523.  
  2524. >The great stone gates of Canterlot loom ahead, and you slow the truck down to a moderate speed.
  2525. >"So, this is it, huh, time to see how the city will pay off."
  2526. "Hey, remember, that's our little secret right now. We just need to get Celestia's permission to get it signed to us, and then we're good."
  2527. >Soldiers stand at both gates, and besides their gaping looks, they don't act against you, and you slow down again.
  2528. >The streets are fairly empty, meaning your travel is easy and swift as you head straight for Canterlot Castle.
  2529. >More and more guards are seen as you approach, but like those at the gate, they simply stand and gape.
  2530. "I think we might have made too big a splash."
  2531. >Daring bobs her head in agreement, shifting a little in her seat.
  2532. >Despite being a city, it's fairly small, and within ten minutes of entering, you reach the castle.
  2533. >Standing on the steps are Celestia and a pony you don't recognize, a deep blue Alicorn with a flowing mane like Celestia.
  2534. >Bringing the truck to a stop on the side of the path, just inside the castle gate, you turn it off and open the door.
  2535. >"Greetings, might you be the one known as Anonymous?"
  2536. "Yes, but we've met before, at least, you and I," you say, before turning to the blue Alicorn, "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you, though."
  2537. >"Our name is Luna, and we are Celestia's sister."
  2538. >"That's impossible," Daring says, trotting up beside you, "Celestia doesn't have a sister."
  2539. >The two alicorns share a look, before turning to you and Daring.
  2540. >"I regret to inform you of this, but... you're characters from a book. Some sort of magic brought you here."
  2541. "Characters?"
  2542. >"From a book?"
  2543. >The two alicorns nod, and Celestia levitates a book over.
  2544. "Daring Do and the quest for the Saphire Statue."
  2545. >"Give me that!" Daring says, swiping the book from you.
  2546. >"No, there's no way..." she mutters, skimming through it.
  2547. "So I don't actually know you, Celestia?"
  2548. >She shrugs, saying, "Possibly. I don't know what the Celestia from that world was like, so I can't comment."
  2549. >"What I can say is, so long as you don't intend to harm anypony, we will get along fine."
  2550. >Holding out a hand to her, she places a hoof in it and you shake on it.
  2551. "Deal, though I do have a request. Daring and I discovered an abandoned human city not too far away from here, and we'd like full ownership of it. Of course, we will share all discoveries and technology with Equestria."
  2552. >"Am I to assume this... vehicle is one of those things?"
  2553. "Yes, as well as high quality tools and machinery and countless other things."
  2554. >Daring lets out a squeak, and the three of you look at her.
  2555. >"There's... I can't be..."
  2556. "Daring, you're as real as I am, and being here shows that."
  2557. >"It's still creepy, ponies reading my everyday life and work."
  2558. >Taking the book from her, you hand it back to the princesses.
  2559. >Yours and Daring's stomachs rumble, and Celestia smiles.
  2560. >"Come, lets get something to eat and we can discuss this deal."
  2561. >Daring practically jumps on the opportunity, and you follow the ponies inside.
  2562. >Even for your size, this palace is spacious, white marble everywhere sparkled with banners and paintings.
  2563. >Gold armored white guards and blue armored grey and black guards stand at every door, weapons at the ready.
  2564. >The royal sisters lead you and Daring to a spacious dining room, and guides you to some seats.
  2565. >Serving ponies come in from what you can assume to be a kitchen to take yours and the ponies orders.
  2566. >"So Anonymous, Daring, tell me about this city, what is it like?"
  2567. >"It's huge, but empty of humans," Daring says, "It's got all sorts of defenses set up, but we should be able to turn them off."
  2568. "Or set them to ignore us, we're not sure yet. Either way, the city's backup power grid is still up, so we can get access to a ton of stuff."
  2569. >Celestia rests her chin on a hoof, saying, "Isn't that dangerous though? Just the two of you?"
  2570. "Very, but we can keep in contact with you, give reports every so often."
  2571. >"Hmnnn... reports," Celestia murmurs, before shooting upright, "I know, there is a pony I would like you to meet. She will act as a go-between for us, since the city is closer to her than Canterlot."
  2572. >You and Daring share a look and a smile, before turning to Celestia.
  2573. "So, I assume we have a deal?"
  2574. >"If you can agree to work with my contact, yes."
  2575. >The two of you reach out, clasping hand and hoof.
  2576. "I look forward to working with you."
  2577.  
  2578. ~~~~~
  2579.  
  2580. "*Achoo*"
  2581. >"You catching a cold or something, Twi?"
  2582. "*Sniffle* I dunno, but lets keep working this out, Dash."
  2583. >"Alright."
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