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The Long and Short of It (RGRE) Part 2

By SQA-non
Created: 24th October 2020 01:51:48 AM
Modified: 23rd October 2020 03:34:29 PM

  1. AKA A Guardsmare Of Half Height And Double Spirit Finds Love Twice As Tall And Thrice As Strong: A Reverse Gender Roles Equestria Story of Epic Proportions And Minuscule Stature
  2. Special thanks to Comfy, Uh-hmmm, Ephemeral, ScribblesAnon, APA, HotKinkajou, LaP, Rot, Editfag, and Shu for prereading/editing help.
  3. And and super special thanks to NigNogs for the top tier fan art, and de facto cover art, which can be viewed here: ponybooru.org/images/33009?q=artist%3Anignogs
  4.  
  5. >The weekend passed by in a flurry after that.
  6. >You and Anon, enjoying each other’s company.
  7. >You constantly rubbing your scent all over him, him [spoiler]squeezing you tight like the little mare you are.[/spoiler]
  8. >And of course, making good use of those socks he bought.
  9. >But sadly, as all good things come to an end, it is now Monday.
  10. >Or at least, it will be once your alarm goes off.
  11. >Until then, you can safely rest in peac-
  12. >”AHHHHHHHHHHHHH PIKE WAKE UP!”
  13. >Your eyes shoot open at Anon’s scream, just in time to see him reach his hooves around you and start shaking you.
  14. >”IT WAS NIGHTMARE MOON!”
  15. >Considering your rude awakening, it’s amazing you can even kind of comprehend what he said.
  16. >Something about Princess Luna?
  17. >But why would he be? Unless...
  18. >Oh sweet Her, did she visit his dream!?
  19. >You’ve always wanted her to visit!
  20. “That’s great honey! What did-”
  21. >”OSWALD WAS A PATSY!”
  22. >
  23. >Uhhhhhhhhhhhh.
  24. >/That/ certainly woke you up the rest of the way.
  25. >Which allowed you to actually take a look at your coltfriend.
  26. >His face is soaked in sweat, his breathing is heavy, and his eyes are frantically darting around.
  27. >”We’ve- we’ve got to...”
  28. >Seeing him like this, it’s obvious what ailed him.
  29. >A nightmare.
  30. >”to... what was I saying?”
  31. >Aw, poor Anon.
  32. >Even if he seems to have come out of it, you wrap him in a comforting hug just in case.
  33. “Nothing, it was just a nightmare.”
  34. >A very conveniently timed nightmare, if the clock next to the bed is any indication.
  35. “Come on, let’s get up.”
  36.  
  37. >Contrary to the precedent set by your rude awakening, the rest of your morning routine went off without a hitch.
  38. >Complete with the most important meal of the day!
  39. >So here you are, Anonymous, sitting at the breakfast table enjoying your fillyfriend’s company.
  40. >”Are you /sure/ you don’t want to talk about it?”
  41. >Shoving a forkful of eggs into your mouth, you roll your eyes at her.
  42. “It’s fine, it was just a stupid dream. Can’t even remember it now honestly.”
  43. >”You seemed pretty freaked out about it when you woke up...”
  44. >Casting your gaze back to Pike herself, she’s got an odd look on her face.
  45. >If you had to peg it, it’d be somewhere between concern and pity.
  46. “Whatcha lookin at me like that for?”
  47. >”Well, I’m just kind of worried is all. Are you sure you can handle this? Syncing up our schedules?”
  48. >You quirk your brow, indicating for her to continue.
  49. >”Diurnal ponies have a lot of trouble going even semi-nocturnal, stallions especially! Y-you know, since they have weaker constitution than mares?”
  50. >She stops at that, waiting to see how you’ll respond.
  51. >You choose not to however, content to let the mare ruminate on what she just said.
  52. >And after about ten seconds, nervousness wins out over common sense.
  53. >Desperate to salvage what she assumed was a faux pas, she starts talking again.
  54. >”I-I’m not saying you’re weak or anything! J-just that, you know, y-your body might not be able to handle it! A-and having a nightmare might be a symptom of that! And-!”
  55. >At this point you can’t stop yourself, laughter breaking up her nervous rant.
  56. “Haha! Come on, Pike. That’s totally bullshit!”
  57. >And with that, her worry is replaced with indignation.
  58. >”WHAT!? No it’s not! It's a well documented medical fact that stallions-”
  59. “No, Pike. I mean ‘You had a nightmare because you stayed up too late’! That’s like, something a mom would say when she’s trying to get her ki- foal to go to bed!”
  60. [spoiler]>You heard enough of that ‘stallions are weaker’ stuff when you first got here, you don’t need to hear any more.[/spoiler]
  61. >Pike’s just about fuming now, her face a cute shade of red.
  62. >”No it's not!!! That’s a perfectly plausible idea!”
  63. >Hopping off your chair you move to put your plate in the dishwasher, as a good housemate should.
  64. “Yeah, yeah. Just be happy you have a coltfriend that can actually live with your weird schedule, and stop worrying.”
  65. >She lets out an annoyed huff.
  66. >”Fine. But if they name a condition after you; I’m praying for Luna to drop a star on your hospital bed.”
  67. >You chuckle, walking off to let her finish her breakfast.
  68. >As you make your way into the main room, you can’t help but acknowledge that you are kinda lucky.
  69. >Sure, a three AM to noon sleep schedule is pretty mild considering how you lived in college.
  70. >But nonetheless, you doubt you could have actually gone full nocturnal, even for Pike.
  71. >So you’re /very/ thankful you don’t have to!
  72. >Plus with the flexible hours your boss afforded you, she doesn’t even mind if you come in at one!
  73. >In fact, she’s happy if you come in at all!
  74. >Speaking of...
  75. >You turn your gaze to your typewriter.
  76. >The one downside of living here.
  77. >Pike’s apartment is, unfortunately, not very conducive to your writing.
  78. >You’ve grown VERY used to having a large workstation these past couple months.
  79. >And the tiny coffee table Pike glued the legs back onto just isn’t going to cut it (not to mention liable to fall apart at any moment, but you’re not telling her that).
  80. >It just doesn’t make sense to use it when you have a desk waiting for you in the office, that quite literally has your name on it.
  81. >Huh, that’s strange.
  82. >Just a few months ago, the idea of spending long periods of time in the office would have been unbearable.
  83. >You wonder what’s changed.
  84. >Maybe actually having a long term relationship with a mare has started to make them seem less... alien?
  85. >They’re no longer just strange creatures out to harass you, now they’re more like, well dudes.
  86. >Dudes who like talking about your balls, but dudes nonetheless.
  87. >So it’ll be interesting to put to the test just how much more comfortable you are around them.
  88. >Will you be able to actually get work done in the office?
  89. >You’ll sure find out!
  90.  
  91. >And so, eventually breakfast came to an end, forcing the two of you part ways to head off to your respective careers.
  92. >Which led you to another thing to be thankful for, how much closer to the office Pike’s place is than your old one.
  93. >Because honestly, you don’t know if you could have made it from your old place.
  94. >Carrying this typewriter has got you beat.
  95. >You thought magic was supposed to be easy mode goddamn it!
  96. >But a couple blocks of hoisting this bad boy has got you feeling run down, and craving sweets something fierce.
  97. >On the upside however, your labor is almost over, as now the office is in sight.
  98. >Hallelujah!
  99. >And who else should be standing in front of it than your tan coated, bespeckled, brown maned, semi-decent acquaintance: Cut N. Paste!
  100. “Heeeeeeey Cuuuuuuuuut!”
  101. >Looks like you startled her just a little bit, because her head whips around so fast it may have given her whiplash.
  102. >”Ahh... Oh, h-hey Anon. I didn’t know you were coming in today!”
  103. >You smile at her as you finish your approach.
  104. “Haha, that’s cuz I didn’t tell anybody!”
  105. >”Oh well I’m happy you...”
  106. >Inexplicably, she trails off mid sentence as you get close.
  107. >And... she starts sniffing the air?
  108. >As she does, you feel like you see her posture slump ever so slightly.
  109. >But, you're pretty sure just seeing things.
  110. >It was only for a split second after all, before she sees something that’s got her happier than she was when you walked up.
  111. >”Woah, hey, is that your typewriter?”
  112. >Turning to the side to look at said writer, you’re suddenly reminded of how much you /REALLY/ want to put it down.
  113. “Ooof, yeah. Say, let’s continue this inside. I’m dying to get this bad boy off my hands er, hooves.”
  114. >Unexpectedly your statement leaves Cut looking... offended?
  115. >”I can’t believe nopony asked to carry that for you! Quick, put it on my back!”
  116. >Now it’s your turn to look slightly offended.
  117. “What, why?”
  118. >”Are you joking? No stallion should have to carry something like that!”
  119. >You opened your mouth to fight her on that, you really did.
  120. >But honestly? Fuck it. This thing’s too heavy.
  121. “Well, if you insist.”
  122.  
  123. >You are Cut N. Paste, and you made a mistake.
  124. >How was that Anon carrying this all by himself!?
  125. >It must weigh fifty pounds!
  126. >Fifty pounds your out of shape flank is now hauling up the office stairs.
  127. ”*Huff* *Puff* So, does this *hooo* mean we’ll be seeing more of you *huff* in the office?"
  128. >Thankfully he seems uninterested in ribbing you, focusing on your question instead of the embarrassing huffs and puffs.
  129. [spoiler]>Come on Cut! You’re an Earth Pony, this should be easy! So what if somepony looking at you head on can see both your cutie marks, being out of shape is no excuse!![/spoiler]
  130. >”Yeah, the long and short of it is, I moved in with my fillyfriend and there just isn’t a good place to set up shop in her apartment.”
  131. >Celestia damn it! Your worst fears are confirmed!
  132. >That /was/ a mare you could smell on him!
  133. >Internally you kick yourself for being such a sperg.
  134. >You can’t believe you waited so long he actually got with another mare!
  135. >BUCK!
  136. >But, you keep the frown off your face.
  137. >Sure he’s kind of weird, but the odds of him being a Cadenzian living in Canterlot are astronomically low.
  138. >You just gotta ask him to be his beta.
  139. >Come on Cut.
  140. >You gotta do this.
  141. >You CAN do this!
  142. >Annnnnnd now!
  143. “T-that’s really good to h-hear Anon! I-I always enjoy having you around the office!”
  144. >...
  145. >Buck.
  146. >”Hey, thanks Cut. That actually means a lot coming from you.”
  147. >It does!?
  148. “It does!?”
  149. >He looks back at you (come on Cut, you can keep pace with a stallion!) and gives you an easy smile.
  150. >”Of course! You’re the only one here that doesn’t constantly make me uncomfortably aware of the fact that you know how big my balls are.”
  151. >You thank the sun in the sky that he turns forward again before your face lights up like a Hearthswarming tree.
  152. >”And the upside is, now that I’ll be coming into the office, we can actually hang!”
  153. >Do not squee Cut N. Paste!
  154. >Grown mares do not squee!
  155. >”Did you hear that?”
  156. >Bucbuckbuck
  157. “P-probably just one of the doors. Some of those hinges really need to be oiled haha!”
  158. >Thankfully he seems satisfied by your explanation, and just shrugs.
  159. >Right as you reach the top of the stairs!
  160. >Mare, not a moment too soon.
  161. >This is more exercise than you’ve gotten in months!
  162. [spoiler]Maybe you should take Auntie Jargon up on that gym membership.[/spoiler]
  163. >Sighing in relief, Anon’s magic lifts the burden from your shoulders.
  164. >”Thanks again Cut. I don’t know how you managed to balance that thing on your back all the way up the stairs.”
  165. >Is he?
  166. >No...
  167. >Deciding to play it safe, you just stammer out a response.
  168. “Oh, i-it was nothing!”
  169. >He gives you a little nod in response, and turns away.
  170. >”Cool cool, I’m off to ask Jargon where the hell my desk actually is.”
  171.  
  172. >You are the one, the only, J. Jargon Justification.
  173. >Chief of the Canterlot Canterer.
  174. >And your finely trained nose is wrinkling.
  175. >It smells like a new mare is in the office!
  176. >Wait... no. It smells like...
  177. >”Hey chief!”
  178. “Anonymous! Why didn’t you tell me that you finally went and got yourself a fillyfriend?”
  179. >He looks taken aback, like he’s surprised you knew.
  180. >Ha! Stallions /do/ love to play coy.
  181. >No fillyfriend could mark a stallion that thoroughly without cluing him in that every mare in a ten foot radius would be able to smell her.
  182. >At least, you /hope/ it was a fillyfriend.
  183. >You’d hate to see a sweet colt like Anon turn into a slut.
  184.  
  185. ”I uhhhh, didn’t think it was relevant.”
  186. >You are once again Anon, and Jargon is currently setting a new record in making you uncomfortable.
  187. >You sort of presumed all that stuff about scent was a joke.
  188. >But clearly though, it wasn’t.
  189. >And now you’ve got to deal with Jargon beaming at you like a proud parent.
  190. >”Of course it’s relevant! Look at you, why if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re finally starting to find your place!”
  191. >You suspect the words she’d rather use are “you’re finally starting to know your place”, but at least she’s being kind of nice about it.
  192. >So you respond the only way you can to a ‘kind of’ compliment, ‘kind of’ thanks!
  193. “Uh, thanks... I think”
  194. >”Think nothing of it!”
  195. >Without missing a beat, she turns around and starts rummaging through a drawer.
  196. >“Now then, down to brass tacks. I don’t know why you came in, but I’m glad you did. As while you had news for me, I have news for you!”
  197. >Oh no, you’ve got a bad feeling about this.
  198. >Finding whatever she was looking for she turns back to you.
  199. >”A special assignment has come up, and I want /you/ on it!”
  200. “Wait, really!?”
  201. >She nods enthusiastically and holds out whatever she pulled out.
  202. >Looks like a manilla folder, with pictures of some really weird looking unicorns on it.
  203. >”That piece you wrote on Upper Crust put you on a lot of pony’s radars. And I think it's time we took advantage of that!”
  204. >Oh wow, for once it seems your feelings were wrong, this is great!
  205. >Pulling open the folder, more photographs spill out.
  206. >If you had to guess, it looks like they’re an envoy?
  207. >”You’ve heard of the Kirin before right?”
  208. >To be perfectly honest, you haven’t.
  209. >But you’d be completely retarded to admit that when cheif’s finally giving you a real assignment.
  210. “Of course! Who hasn’t?”
  211. >”Good, and a lot of ponies haven’t actually. So that just means I picked the right mar- er stallion for the job!”
  212. >Gee, thanks chief.
  213. >But score one for dishonestly!
  214. >”You see, our sources in the castle claim these photographs are of the Kirin envoy, currently on their way to Canterlot to meet with the princesses themselves.”
  215. >Damn, sounds important then.
  216. “And you want me to get an interview with ‘em?”
  217. >”Aha, that’s my colt! I forgot how fast you were on the uptake.”
  218. >Turning her attention to the photos she points to the one with the (seemingly) abnormally tall Kirin in it.
  219. >”I need you to get into the castle and find out why they’re here.”
  220. >Holy shit, this /is/ a real assignment!
  221. >The excitement you’re feeling bleeds into your voice.
  222. “So how do I get in? Do we have an inside source to smuggle me in? Do we know a secret back entrance? Oooo, do you guys have leverage over some guardsmare?!”
  223. >You stop listing ideas after that one, expecting Jargon to either confirm or deny one of them.
  224. >Instead she just sits there.
  225. >What is she...?
  226. >”Pffffffffffffft hahahahaha! Oh that’s rich Anon! Smuggle you in! HA! I’m going to have to remember that one!”
  227. >The look on your face must betray the confusion you feel, because her laughter quickly cuts out a moment later.
  228. >”Oh wait you’re serious. No we don’t have a way to get you in, that’s your job! But you’re a resourceful colt, you’ll figure it out.”
  229. >Jesus, alright. Better get thinking.
  230. >”That envoy gets here in three days, try to figure it out beforehand.”
  231. >You barely acknowledge what she said, your mind is already racing.
  232. >Levitate yourself through the window? Nah, you’re too heavy.
  233. >Ask Pike to let you in? No, you don’t want to lean on her like that.
  234. >Maybe you could-
  235. >”Hey *clop* *clop* Equestria to Anonymous.”
  236. >Chief clapping her hooves like that in front of your face startled you a little bit, but it did succeed in getting your attention.
  237. “Huh?”
  238. >”If you’re going to brainstorm at least sit down at your desk first.”
  239. >Oh your desk! That reminds you...
  240. “Say chief... where actually /is/ my desk?”
  241.  
  242. >Turns out it was in the far corner of the office, so far out of the way the only neighbor you have is Cut.
  243. >At least this implies the chief /somewhat/ takes your feelings into account.
  244. >Less harassment when you’re basically isolated.
  245. >So here you are, sitting at your desk, forced to confront one simple fact.
  246. >You don’t know fuckin anything about Kirin.
  247. >And going into an interview knowing nothing about them is a terrible idea.
  248. >What if you accidentally called them the Kirin equivalent of the N word?
  249. >You wouldn’t even know until it was too late!
  250. >So step one is to gather information about them, you’ll worry about castle infiltration later.
  251. >Hmmmmm that book you bought on pony customs would be a good place to start.
  252. >Although... you’re not sure /how/ useful it’d be, you’re not trying to seduce them after all.
  253. >So that leaves you back at square one.
  254. >Where do reporters normally go when they need information?
  255. >Like a library? You guess.
  256. >But where /is/ the library?
  257. >Ah, Cut would probably know.
  258. “Hey Cut?” you ask as you lean over the cubicle wall.
  259. >Cut’s reply is a simple “Mm hm?” as she continues to edit-
  260. >Hey is that a picture of you?
  261. >Dang, by the time you had a good look, she already moved on to the next one.
  262. >Ah well, it's probably nothing.
  263. “Say, do you know where the nearest library is?”
  264.  
  265.  
  266. While Anon tries to figure out what a Kirin is...
  267. >You are Nocturnal Pike, hard at work.
  268. >Apparently a lot happened this weekend, because you are up to your neck in paperwork.
  269. [spoiler]>Probably literally, if you actually bothered to stack it all up.[/spoiler]
  270. >Let’s see here, what’s next.
  271. >Ooo, some missive from a higher up?
  272. >You wonder what it could...
  273. >!?
  274. >Arg, what in the name of all that lives under Luna’s sky did Rookie do!?
  275. >This is the third straight month someone higher up has personally ordered her to mare the blue shift.
  276. >”From the Office of His Esteemed Prince” your sorry flank!
  277. >Mare, they’re lucky you’re in such a good mood...
  278. >This is /your/ squad dang it! And you can’t run the unit effectively if middle managers are constantly meddling!
  279. >You’ll have to talk to her about this asap, because this obviously isn’t happening for no reason.
  280. >And the only way you’ll be able to weasel her out if it, is if you know what ‘it’ is.
  281. >Unless of course, the ‘it’ is something from BlueBlood himself.
  282. >But what are the odds of that?
  283. >Either way, there goes the roster you had guarding the east wing.
  284. >If you’re lucky maybe Astral could-
  285. >BANG!
  286. >The sound of the door to your office flying open tears you out of your thoughts.
  287. >Oh hey, speak of Discord, it’s Astral.
  288. >”Well hey there, Pike. You look like somepony who’s day /just/ got worse.”
  289. >Figuring it’d be faster to show her rather than tell her, you toss her the missive.
  290. >Which of course she snatches right out of the air.
  291. >Taking it in her wing, she gives it a quick once over.
  292. >”Hmmm, I’m surprised.”
  293. >You are too, honestly.
  294. “*Sigh*, I know. They can’t just-”
  295.  
  296. ”I wasn’t talking about the note, Pike.”
  297. >You are Astral Blade, and you know one thing for certain.
  298. >Pike /hates/ it when other ponies mess with her squad.
  299. “On any other day this would have you stomping up to BlueBlood’s office to ‘shove their hoof up their plots and out the other side’.”
  300. >And she’d do it too.
  301. >She actually did it once to the day guard sergeant before Sepulcher.
  302. [spoiler]>It was horrifying, and something you hope to never see again.[/spoiler]
  303. “So, you must have had a damn good weekend.”
  304. >You know you’re right. Pike, evidently does too, if the smile she gives is any indication.
  305. >”*Sigh* Yeah, I did. And those bitches are damn lucky for it.”
  306. >You match her smile, immediately guessing what’s got her so happy.
  307. “Your coltfriend finally decide to put out, then?”
  308. >In a move that shocks even you, that comment sends Pike straight from ‘annoyed’ to ‘bucking furious’.
  309. >”He did not ‘decide to put out’! WE decided the time was right to take the next step!!!”
  310. >Oh sweet Luna.
  311. >”In fact, I’ll have you know that before that, we had a wonderful romantic evening!”
  312. >You... you can barely believe what you’re hearing.
  313. >”And I’ll have you know Astral, not every relationship needs to revolve arou-”
  314. >You can’t take anymore of this.
  315. >Before she can dig herself any deeper, you cut her off.
  316. “I-I never thought this day would come! You, Nocturnal Pike, the mareliest of mares... /bridled/.”
  317. >You spit it out like a dirty word, and Pike recoils fittingly.
  318. >”I am /not/ bridled!”
  319. >Crossing the office in an instant, you throw your hooves over Pike’s shoulders and desperately shake her.
  320. “Pike, LISTEN to yourself! I was /kidding/, but you were ready to duel for his honor like Luna hadn’t returned!”
  321. >You lean back, a haunted look on your face.
  322. “Face it sis, your reins are in /his/ hooves.”
  323. >Meanwhile Pike looks away, either unwilling, or perhaps unable, to meet your eyes.
  324. >”I-it’s not like that...”
  325. >You’re not convinced.
  326. >Sure, you don’t have the full story.
  327. >But that’s not your fault!
  328. >Every time you bug Pike to introduce you to him, she just keeps putting it off!
  329. >So how are you supposed to-
  330. >Wait... this might be your chance!
  331. >This may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, unintentionally handed to you on a silver platter!
  332. >The chance to finally force her to let you meet him!
  333. “Oh yeah? Why don’t you introduce me then? I can judge that myself.”
  334. >Pike knows you’ve got her number, as her eyes widen in panic.
  335. >”What? N-no. It's fine!”
  336. >Unable to keep the devilish grin off your face, you go in for the kill.
  337. “Come on Pike, I’m your best friend aren’t I?”
  338. >You bring your face so close to hers, that she /almost/ can’t not look you in the eye.
  339. “And you can’t keep your best friend from meeting the stallion that turned you from a one night stand addiction, to ‘waiting till the time was right’.”
  340. >In a last act of defiance, Pike eyes flick around the room. Desperate not to meet your gaze despite the closeness of your snoot.
  341. >”I-it’s just... you’ll...”
  342. >Come on, Pike! Commit!
  343. >Quit dodging this!
  344. >As your excitement mounts, Pike finally stops frantically looking around and settles her gaze on the floor.
  345.  
  346. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and it doesn’t take a genius to see why Astral meeting Anon is a bad idea.
  347. “It's just... *sigh* you’ll think he’s weird.”
  348. >And this isn’t some unfounded fear, you know Astral will think Anon’s weird.
  349. >Because the fact of the matter is, he /is/ weird.
  350. >And while you’re more than ok with that (that's why you love him after all), you definitely don’t think Astral will be as understanding.
  351. [spoiler]>Understanding of him, or understanding of how unmarely you act around him.[/spoiler]
  352. [spoiler]>If she found out... you really would be ruined.[/spoiler]
  353. >So as much as you would love for your coltfriend and best friend to be friends, you’re almost certain it’s a pipe dream.
  354. >So that’s why you’ve been putting it off every time she’s asked.
  355. >And this time will be no different.
  356. >”Pike I remember how tall he was, sure that’s weird but /come on/.”
  357. >Unable to help yourself, a smile breaks out on your face as you swat her on the shoulder.
  358. >You can’t tell if she was being sincere or just trying to lighten the mood, but you appreciate it either way.
  359. “Not that! It's... listen, I’ll introduce you soon. But, when you meet him, just keep an open mind please?”
  360. >Astral gives you a look of genuine worry at that.
  361. >”He’s not like a... stallionist is he?”
  362. “What? No no, Luna no. Just be patient, I’ll-I’ll put something together, I promise.”
  363. >Finally willing yourself to truly meet her gaze, you can tell she doesn’t buy it.
  364. >But she can also tell if /that/ couldn’t get you to commit, continuing to push won’t either.
  365. >”Alright alright, I promise I’ll keep an ‘open mind’. But you better introduce me!”
  366. >Relieved at your successful delay, you nod your head.
  367. “Of course, now if you’ll excuse me,” you say as you turn back to your mountain of paperwork, “I need to get these done before we start drills for the evening.”
  368. >In response Astral simply gives an affirmative “Yes ma’am”, and turns to leave.
  369. >But as she does, you’re reminded of the thing you were /actually/ talking about in the first place.
  370. “Actually, wait! Before you go, do you think you can cover next month’s east wing?”
  371.  
  372. >You are Astral Blade, and it is much later.
  373. >Not late enough for the shift to actually start, but late enough for drills to be running.
  374. >Although, you’re not taking part.
  375. >Pike took some of the lower level day and night infantrymares out to run some laps, while you and some of the higher ranked mares were left to ‘coordinate between the units’.
  376. >Which basically meant you goofed off while Night Sky did all the work.
  377. >So right now, all you were doing was ‘miring the legs on that new colt they put on the day squad.
  378. >Watching him run around the track gave you the perfect view of his legs.
  379. >Mmmm mmmm! Maybe Celestia had the right idea letting colts in the guard after all...
  380. >”Hey.”
  381. >YOWZA!
  382. >Only by the grace of all your years of training are you able to keep yourself from yelling that out loud.
  383. >Whipping your head around, you spy the culprit of your startling.
  384. >Cloak N. Dagger, professional nightstalker.
  385. >Mare that bitch is creepy.
  386. “Oh uh, hey Cloak.”
  387. >Moving up beside you without making a sound, Cloak also looks out at the track.
  388. >Luna’s teets she is /right/ next to you.
  389. >Does this mare have no concept of personal space!?
  390. >Looking around for a little bit, she eventually spots her target, Pike (who’s currently chewing out some poor day guardsmare).
  391. >After she stares at Pike a /touch/ longer than you feel is proper, she poses you a question.
  392. >”Sarge seem like she’s getting softer to you?”
  393. >Keeping your eyes on Cloak, you consider your answer carefully.
  394. >Because if you're being honest, she /has/ seemed like she’s been mellowing out somewhat.
  395. >But she almost certainly wouldn’t appreciate you saying that, much less to other guardsmares behind her back.
  396. >So instead, you play dumb.
  397. “What do you mean?”
  398. >Swiveling her head like an owl, Cloak proceeds to make /very/ uncomfortable eye contact with you.
  399. >”Oh come on, you had to have heard about Mulberry, right?”
  400. >Of course you had, who hadn’t?
  401. >Her stallion recently ended their year long relationship, seemingly on a whim.
  402. “Yeah, but I don’t see what that has to do with Pike.”
  403. >Cloak, defying all logic, somehow leans /even/ closer, like she’s sharing some kind of secret with you.
  404. >”Well, she hasn’t been in for a few evenings right? That’s because four shifts ago, Sarge caught her crying in the shower.”
  405. >Oh Luna above that poor mare.
  406. >Crying over a stallion? Pike must have-
  407. >”And Sarge gave her two weeks off!”
  408. >
  409. >/That/ gives you pause.
  410. >The surprise must have shown on your face, because Cloak leans back (to a distance most /normal/ ponies would be at to begin with) and smiles smugly.
  411. >And you suppose you can’t begrudge her for it, your jaw just hit the floor.
  412. >It’s no secret that in the past, Pike could be a real flankhole about anything remotely ‘colty’.
  413. >If that had happened a few months ago, all Mulberry would have gotten would be some extra laps and a lecture about how, ‘only stallions cry about stuff like that’.
  414. >So for Pike to give her time off instead, is almost inconceivable.
  415. >Coupled with the fact that you’ve tried to get her to lay off on stuff like that before, but it was always unsuccessful.
  416. >Now that her coltfriend is in the picture though...
  417. >Bridled or not, maybe Pike’s far better off with him than without.
  418. >Seemingly sensing that you were through thinking, Cloak chooses then to interject.
  419. >”Not that I’m complaining mind you. Sure we probably won’t be running /as/ efficiently as we were before, but a chiller Sarge means less work for us.”
  420. “Heh, can’t argue with that.”
  421. >Although as of right now, any excitement you’d normally be feeling about less work, has been replaced with an all consuming curiosity, and a desire.
  422. >A desire to meet Pike’s coltfriend.
  423. >”Speaking of work,” Cloak continues, “I heard you met with Sarge earlier.”
  424. >Oh no she’s leaning in again!
  425. >”She say anything to you about those VIPs coming in?”
  426. >Ugh, you can’t keep yourself from rolling your eyes.
  427. >Is this really what all that was leaning up to?
  428. >It’s practically nightstalker interrogation 101!
  429. >’Use information you have to throw them off balance, and then get the information you want out of them’.
  430. >Luna above it’s printed on the front of their damn operation manual.
  431. [spoiler]>Which you DID read thank you very much, sometimes you DO go above and beyond.[/spoiler]
  432. >The joke’s on her though, because you don’t /have/ any information!
  433. “You mean the Kirin? Nothing that we didn’t already know. Keep reporters off em, make sure they don’t get so mad they burn down the castle, etcetera etcetera.”
  434. >Cloak frowns, clearly upset her gambit failed.
  435. >Luna, why didn’t she just straight up ask that to begin with? Furthermore, why does she even care?!
  436. >Turning your attention back to the mare, you can see now that ‘frown’ was an understatement.
  437. >As her face is twisted into a massive scowl.
  438. >”Am I the only one who wants to know why they’re coming here? Are we really supposed to accept that they just /decided/ to drop in for a ‘diplomatic summit’ after nopony’s heard from them in years?! What do they want!?”
  439. >Ahhhh, now you understand.
  440. >Nightstalkers are all about information and recon, and not having all the details is /really/ bugging her.
  441. >She may not have raised her voice, but after about a year of working with her you know her well enough to say one thing.
  442. >She’s bucking STEAMED about this.
  443. >Hahahahaha! Sucks to suck!
  444. “If no one wanted to know, there wouldn’t be so many reporters showing up, would there?”
  445. >Clearly realizing you really don’t have anything for her, she looks down, defeated.
  446. >Tribal politics are neither your forte nor your area of interest, and she knows it.
  447. >”*Sigh*, I suppose.”
  448. >The two of you lapse into a brief silence after that, and you’re more than happy to get back to watching that stallion go round and round.
  449. >Eventually Cloak starts tracking your eyes to see what you’re watching, leading her to the stallion as well.
  450. >Which, seemingly, reminds her of something.
  451. >”Say...speaking of reporters, I heard there’s going to be a stallion reporter there when the Kirin arrive.”
  452. >Oh? Now that’s got your attention.
  453. “No manure?”
  454. >”Nope. My aunt Jargon runs the Canterer. Seems like she wants to see if the stallion is really up to par with the mares.”
  455. >Arg, again with the leaning in thing!? What is it with this gal!?
  456. >”So him and his F-cup balls will be paying /us/ a visit.”
  457. >Discomfort quickly forgotten, your eyes widen at that.
  458. “F cup... woah....Wait, how do you know how big his balls are?”
  459. >The same smug smile she had earlier returns to her face.
  460. >”When he first started working there, my sister, Cut, bought him a ball bra. I found the receipt in her trash.”
  461. >Well you guess that makes...
  462. >Wait, hold on, what the buck?!
  463. >IN HER TRASH?
  464. >No amount of training could keep the horrified look off your face after hearing /that/.
  465. >What the buck was this crazy mare doing rooting around in her sister’s trash!?
  466. >Luna’s teets, being a weirdflank must be a nightstalker thing.
  467. >Cloak however, continues on oblivious to your disgust.
  468. >”I can’t wait to get an eyeful of this Anonymous myself.”
  469. >Luna, you feel bad for that poor-
  470. >Wait a second.
  471. >A stallion reporter, works at the Canterlot Canterer, named Anonymous...!
  472. >Pike’s coltfriend is coming to the castle!
  473. >An evil smile spreads on your face.
  474. >If Pike wants to keep putting off introducing Anon to you, you suppose you’ll just have to take matters into your own hooves.
  475. >Oooooh this is perfect!
  476. >She owes you for agreeing to take that east wing shift last minute, so you could get her to set you up whenever you want!
  477. >So all you gotta do is get posted in the place that's got the biggest likelihood of running into him.
  478. >Now then, if you were a reporter trying to get an interview with some VIPs, where would you break in...
  479.  
  480. >The promised day has come and you, Anonymous the unicorn, are ready.
  481. >The Kirin delegation arrives today, and you’ve got to meet them!
  482. >So you’ve spent the last three days learning everything you can about the Kirin (do NOT use the hard r), and planning your castle infiltration.
  483. >Now it's time to put that plan into action!
  484. >Any schmuck /could/ try their luck with the main entrance.
  485. >Through some maybe-less-than-legal investigation, you found yourself a perfect little side door to slide right in.
  486. >You’re crouched in a bush, eyeballing it now.
  487. >There’s only two guards, one day and one night, you’ve just gotta distract ‘em...
  488. >Which, thanks to a chance meeting with one of your sources, has already been arranged.
  489. >All it took was a kiss on her cheek, and the next words out of her mouth were, “How can I help m’lord?”
  490. [spoiler]>Well actually before that she said, “Ha! Take that mom! I’m NOT a /kissless/ virgin!” but you’re in no place to judge.[/spoiler]
  491. >From there the two of you worked out a simple plan: she distracts, and you run inside while she does.
  492. >Easy!
  493. >Speaking of the plan, now that you’re in position, she should start riiiight aboooooout-
  494. >CRASH!
  495. >Now!
  496. >Looking towards the source of the noise, you see the bush you and her picked out as ‘the most ideal place for a distraction’.
  497. >Say, if you focus on the bush she just dove into, you could swear you can see a peach colored trail leading right to where she went in.
  498. >Jeez, how fast was she going?
  499. >You hope she didn’t /actually/ hurt herself.
  500. >But whether she did or not, she starts struggling right on schedule.
  501. >”HELP!”
  502. >Turning toward the guards, you pray they’ll take the bait and wait for your chance.
  503. >”PLEASE, HELP!”
  504. >The first shout seemingly didn’t break their concentration, but the second one...
  505. >All they do is share a quick look, but it's enough to let you know you’ve got em.
  506. >>”Was that, /Bombshell/?” the night guard asks.
  507. >Bombshell? But she told you her name was Seashell?
  508. >Has she really been caught snooping enough times that they’ve got a nickname for her?
  509. >Damn, makes you feel kind of bad.
  510. >>>”Celestia above, she better not have been snooping again,” replies the day mare.
  511. >>The night guard just shrugs, “Eh, the klutz probably just wasn’t watching where she was flying.”
  512. >Seemingly done discussing the matter, the night guard walks over and starts trying to pull Seashell out of the bush.
  513. >Damn! But the day guard is staying put!
  514. >Luckily the two of you planned for this!
  515. >Having seen that only the night guard is helping her, Seashell starts thrashing even harder.
  516. >”HELP HELP HEEEEELP!”
  517. >Which of course makes it far harder for the poor mare to get her out.
  518. >>”Luna’s sakes, I’m trying to! Calm down!”
  519. >After a few more minutes of this, the night guard finally turns to her companion.
  520. >>”Would you help me out with this?”
  521. >Which prompts the day guard to finally leave her post to ‘help’ poor Seashell.
  522. >YES!
  523. >Without wasting another minute you duck out of the bush and run to the door.
  524. >And by the time they’ve dragged poor Seashell out of the bush, you disappeared into the castle’s interior.
  525.  
  526. >From there, infiltrating the castle was a relatively simple matter.
  527. >After all, back when you first arrived the princesses stuck you in one of the very ambassador suites you’re looking for right now.
  528. >/And/ left you with ample time to wander the (thankfully visitor friendly) castle grounds!
  529. >So now you’ve just got to retrace your steps!
  530. >...from over a year ago.
  531. >But that’s ok! If that fails all you need to do is follow the guards.
  532. >It stands to reason the closer you get to where they’re staying, the heavier the patrols would be.
  533. >So between those two pieces of knowledge, finding your destination shouldn’t be the hard part.
  534. >Indeed, the hard part would be not getting caught.
  535. >Which, so far, isn’t /actually/ proving to be the hard part.
  536. >Because either this entire castle is held together with scotch tape, or all that working out you did when you were still human went to your head.
  537. >CRASH
  538. >That’s another suit of armor down!
  539. >Peeking out from behind the pillar you’re currently crouched behind, you spy the guard pair you just scared the helmets off of.
  540. >”BUCK! Did you touch that suit, private?”
  541. >>”Wha- no!”
  542. >”Well, help me set it back up before somepony sees!”
  543. >Ehehehe, works every time.
  544.  
  545. >You’re in the final stretch now.
  546. >The L shaped hallway you’re in is lined with suites meant for diplomats.
  547. >You’ve been going room to room trying to figure out which the Kirin will be staying in.
  548. >You’ve narrowed it down to the last few, but after ducking in the most recent wrong room, some guards rounded the corner.
  549. >Meaning you’re stuck in here until they pass by.
  550. >Thankfully, considering the state of the furniture, the only things coming in here are Yaks.
  551. >Ooooo! Hey, the guards have gotten close enough to eavesdrop!
  552. >Sticking your ear against the door, you take a listen...
  553. >”I can’t believe Sarge put me so far in! I’ll never get a look at that stallion reporter in here!”
  554. >The other guard just chuckles.
  555. >>”Your aunt’s taking you for a ride, Cloak. A stallion? As a reporter? No way.”
  556. >Oh, that puts a devilish smile on your face.
  557. >If only they knew...
  558. >Unfortunately after that, all they talk about is the kind of stuff that you would put in an /actual/ gossip column, leaving you terribly bored until they move on.
  559. >Thankfully though you’re not bored for long, as you can already hear their voices fading down the corridor.
  560. >Peeking out the door, you catch a glimpse of their retreating backs turning the corner into another hallway.
  561. >Meaning it's time for you to skedat!
  562. >Moving back into the hallway itself, you start making your way towards the bend in it’s L shape.
  563. >Beyond that bend there should only be two more suites, and either one of them will be the Kirin’s room-
  564. >Or you are in the complete wrong place, and probably fucked.
  565. >And as you peak around the bend you can’t help but worry that it’s probably the latter.
  566. >Neither of the rooms have guards in front of them.
  567. >In fact, it seems like this section of hallway has no guards at all!
  568. >Shitshitshitshit
  569. >You stop yourself from turning around and heading back, though.
  570. >Better to check them and confirm they’re not the ones, than to leave and miss the room you’re looking for.
  571. >So walking on the very tips of your tippy... hooves, you make your way down the hallway.
  572. >Even as you keep your head on a swivel, you can’t seem to see any guards.
  573. >Alright, first room.
  574. >Slowing pulling open the door you see...
  575. >Jackpot!
  576. >The walls are covered in Kirin iconography!
  577. >Things like fire, portraits of notable Kirin from history-
  578. >This is the room!
  579. >Celestia does this for all visiting ambassadors.
  580. >Something to show them that she cares about their history and culture.
  581. >She even tried to do it for you when you were staying here.
  582. [spoiler]>Although when you told her you were from ‘Earth’ she proceeded to cover the walls in pictures of dirt.[/spoiler]
  583. [spoiler]>Hey, it's the thought that counts.[/spoiler]
  584. >So this is without a doubt the place you were seeking.
  585. >Kinda weird there were no guards in front of it, but far be it from you to complain about not having enough work.
  586. >Now let’s see, where should you wait...
  587. >Ooo! That chair looks like it spins, maybe you could-
  588. >You’re startled as something hits you right on the back!
  589. >Hard enough you need to suppress a /very/ strange and instinctual feeling to whinny.
  590. >You manage to keep it down though, and instead put that energy into pivoting to where you think the projectile came from.
  591. >...Only to see an empty room.
  592. >Oh hey! That little red ball wasn’t there before!
  593. >But where did it come from?
  594. >”Pretty impressive I couldn’t get a whinny out of you.”
  595. >The sudden voice from behind you startles you far more than the ball did.
  596. >So you do the only thing any red blooded American would!
  597. >Scream at the top of your lungs and throw the ball as hard as you can!
  598.  
  599. >You are Astral Blade, and it is seconds beforehoof.
  600. >Sure, it was a bit of a gamble getting stationed /at/ the room he was trying to reach.
  601. >But, you figured if he’s half as good as Pike seemed to believe, he’d show up.
  602. >And show up he did.
  603. >The second you saw that oversized green stallion walk in the room, you knew it was him.
  604. >You also knew your gameplan.
  605. >The old ‘bounce a ball off their back while secretly being in front of them, and then appear to appear out of thin air’ routine.
  606. >Which so far, is going perfectly.
  607. >Honestly, you are impressed, that ball nailed him right on the withers.
  608. >You’ve never seen a stallion get slapped on the withers, /and/ have the wherewithal to keep quiet before.
  609. >Emerging from your hiding spot (which is currently behind him, as he turned to face where you bounced the ball off the wall to hit him) with a cheeky smile on your face, you call out to him.
  610. ”Pretty impressive I couldn’t get a whinny out of you.”
  611. >Much to your surprise, your response was not in fact a stern ‘where do you get off slapping a stallion’s back’, but a shriek, and your ball coming back at you far faster than you’d ever expect a stallion to throw.
  612. >Thankfully though, your lightning reflexes allow you to duck under the ball, and let it sail right over your head.
  613. “Woah, lord! Take it eas-”
  614. >SMASH!
  615. >...Oh no.
  616. >Whipping yourself around, much like Anonymous did just moments ago, you spy the window you were standing a few feet in front of.
  617. >With a brand new, and very ball shaped, hole.
  618. >”Fuck.”
  619. >You would have said buck, but the sentiment still stands.
  620.  
  621. >”WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW ANY REPAIR SPELLS!?”
  622. >You are once again Anonymous, and this is a VERY TENSE SITUATION!
  623. “I don’t know that much magic, ok!? I’m a beginner!”
  624. >”Yeah a beginner who just blew a hole in thick-as-buck glass!”
  625. >You and this guard mare are currency scrambling around, to find a way to cover up the window she spooked you into smashing.
  626. >Sure you could just leave it as is, if it were in the middle of summer.
  627. >But as of right now the temperature outside is in the negatives, /and/ there’s a veritable snow storm brewing.
  628. >So there’s absolutely no way ponies won’t notice if you just leave it.
  629. >Which then leaves you with a major problem, neither of you have any idea what to do.
  630. “If you have, like, a spellbook or something I could certainly read it and /try/.”
  631. >Your answer however, is nothing.
  632. >Honestly you’re not even sure if she heard you, she’s so preoccupied scanning the room for something.
  633. >”Alright... alright here’s what we’ll do. You help me pull this manure off the walls, and we’ll set it all up in the room across the hall. That way, when they get here, I’ll just direct them to that room like nothing happened. Considering my station is right outside the door anyway.”
  634. >It /seems/ like an alright idea, sure.
  635. >But a glance at a clock fills you with anxiety.
  636. “Are you sure there’ll be enough time? If my information is right, they’ll be here pretty soon.”
  637. >In response you’re hit with a deadpan glare to end all deadpan glares.
  638. >”You got a better idea?”
  639. >And admittedly, you don’t.
  640.  
  641. Meanwhile, outside of the castle...
  642. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and as is fitting for your rank, you and Sepulcher are the mares who will be escorting the Kirin to their suite.
  643. >Which would be a lot more interesting if they GOT HERE ALREADY!
  644. >As it /stand/s the two of you are just /stand/ing around.
  645. >Which is only serving to augment your frustration at having to deal with them at all.
  646. “*Sigh* Luna above, what is taking them so long? Can’t they hurry up and get here already?”
  647. >Sepulcher gives you a sidelong glance, refusing to break her gaze forward.
  648. >”What’s the matter Nocturnal? Eager to be done with our esteemed guests before they even arrive?”
  649. >You roll your eyes. Sepulcher was always a little formal for your tastes.
  650. “A little bit, yeah”
  651. >Sepulcher returns her impassive gaze forward, ever the picture of guard stoicism.
  652. >”I suppose I can relate to your position. Were I not comfortably herded, I’d likely feel similarly.”
  653. >Hold on, was that a dig?
  654. >Coming from Sepulcher of all ponies?
  655. “What’s that supposed to mean!?”
  656. >She doesn’t even flinch.
  657. >”You’ve seen the pictures as well as I, Nocturnal. And you’ve undoubtedly come to the same conclusion-”
  658. >As she says it, you can see the photo in your mind, and it puts a frown on your face.
  659. >You’d never seen a taller mare before (that wasn’t an alicorn).
  660. >And her floof...
  661. >Lucky bitch probably has teats as flat as a board too!
  662. >”-that for /at least/ the next several months, every mare in Canterlot will be measured against Rain Shine, and fail.”
  663. >For a split second her mask cracks, and a small smile slips through.
  664. >”And while /I/ have little to worry about, you on the other hoof....”
  665. >She doesn’t even look at you.
  666. >Rather she looks /above/ you.
  667. [spoiler]>Where your eyes would be if you were normally sized.[/spoiler]
  668. >”Will undoubtedly find your stallion prospects... hampered.”
  669. >You put up a valiant effort, but you cannot keep the peeved look off your face.
  670. >The audacity of this mare!
  671. >Deep down, you know Sepulcher probably doesn’t mean anything by it. She’s just too blunt for her own good.
  672. >That’s deep down though, on the surface you’re mad as Tartarus!
  673. “Buck you, Sepulcher. I’ll have you know, I’ve got a steady stallion too. So my “prospects” are just fine.”
  674. >Your comment (very satisfyingly) shatters Sepulcher's stoic look, replacing it with one of shock and confusion.
  675. >”Oh, I... didn’t know. What are you worried about then?”
  676. >You open your mouth to let her have it-
  677. >Buuuuut she’s actually right. You /aren’t/ sure what you’re worried about.
  678. >It’s not like Anon will leave you for Rain Shine or anything!
  679. >Besides, he’s not even going to meet her! So it's totally impossible they’d meet and fall in love!
  680. >You’re just getting yourself all worked up over nothing.
  681.  
  682. >Back in Rain Shine’s bedroom...
  683. >You are Astral Blade, and thank the stars above Pike apparently isn’t into airheads, or lifting this comically over decorated dresser would be waaaay more of a hassle.
  684. “Alright this is the last one. You lift this end, and I’ll lift this end. One, two, three!”
  685. >And that she’s apparently got a barbarian fetish.
  686. >Although, is he really a barbarian if his strength is mostly magical?
  687. >Some questions, science still can’t answer.
  688. >”Jesus, where did Celestia even get all this crap?”
  689. “I...”
  690. >You grunt as you struggle to lift your end of the dresser.
  691. >”...heard this stuff’s all been in storage since the last time the Kirin visited.”
  692. >”Christ, she just had this lying around? Hate to say it, but I think yo- /our/ god-princess has a little bit of a hoarding problem.”
  693. >What does he mean ‘our princess’ Luna doesn’t... oh wait! Pike /did/ say he was a foreigner.
  694. “I’ll have you know /my/ princess made do with nothing but moon rocks for a thousand years, and urges all her followers to live similarly minimalistic!”
  695. >”HA! Explains why my fillyfriend’s walls are so barren.”
  696. >Coming to a stop, the two of you drop the dresser and shove it into place.
  697. >Annnnnd bam! This room is now a perfect recreation of the previous one.
  698. >Now nopony will ever know.
  699. >Until maintenance goes into the other room that is.
  700. >BUT it’ll be long past your problem by then.
  701. >More importantly, long past /his/ problem.
  702. >Pike would never forgive you if you played a part in getting her coltfriend involved in an international incident.
  703. >Sure, some would consider having to do all that work a complete waste of your precious time.
  704. >Not you, though!
  705. >After all, how could you call it a waste when you've already learned so much?
  706. >When the chips were down there was no squabbling over whose fault it was, he just immediately set to work with the same determination as you.
  707. >He didn't even try to pawn off the work either, he was more than willing to take his fair share.
  708. >So while janefillies aren't your type, this certainly showed you the appeal.
  709. >Especially to somepony as easily annoyed by coltiness as Pike.
  710. >Furthermore, taking a good look at him, he isn't /that/ bad looking either (even if he is too tall for his own good).
  711. >Plus he’s worked up a little bit of a sweat, and you do like seeing colts work out.
  712. >However the closer you look, you can’t help but feel that something's... off.
  713. >You can’t quiiiiiiiiite figure it though.
  714. >Maybe it has something to do with seeing a stallion’s features on somepony taller than the average mare?
  715. >No, that’s not it.
  716. >Maybe...?
  717. >Hmmm.
  718. >You give him another look up and down.
  719. >Eureka!
  720. >It’s his posture!
  721. >You’ve never seen a stallion /stand/ like him before.
  722. >Usually they’ve got their heads down and forward.
  723. >However, Anonymous, he stands with his head held (relatively) high.
  724. >Like some kinda weird half mare half stallion.
  725. >Oh well, just another thing to file away under ‘he’s foreign you suppose.
  726. >”So uh, what happens now that our moment of camaraderie is over? You throwing me in the dungeon?”
  727. >There’s another difference between him and the average stallion.
  728. >He gets straight to the point.
  729. “Not at all. You want to interview Rain Shine right? Well I propose a deal: an interview for an interview.”
  730. >His only response is a raised eyebrow and an, “Oh?” which you take as indication to continue.
  731. >You lean in closer.
  732. “You’ll get to interview her...”
  733.  
  734. >”...after I interview the stallion that’s got my best friend wrapped around his hoof.”
  735. >You are Anonymous the unicorn.
  736. >As the guard takes off her helmet, it all comes together.
  737. >As the enchantment fades, you are greeted with the sight of a deep indigo coat and a pale dark blue mane.
  738. >A set of colors that is deeply familiar to you, after all, Pike’s got probably a dozen pictures with this mare peppered around her apartment.
  739. “You’re Astral Blade!” you cry with an accusatory hoof point.
  740. >”And you’re Anonymous, we meet at last.”
  741. “Yeah, no fucking kidding.”
  742. >Your response seems to throw her for a loop, her jaw practically hitting the floor at your flagrant disregard for conversational etiquette.
  743. >”Huh?”
  744. “I mean, I’ve been trying to get Pike to introduce me to her friends for /months/! But it’s always ‘I’ll do it soon Anon’!”
  745. >Her eyes light up in recognition at that, and her voice shifts into a (surprisingly good) Pike impression.
  746. >” ‘Just be patient, you’ll get to meet him eventually’.”
  747. “ ‘They’re pretty rowdy’...”
  748. >” ‘He’s pretty unique’...”
  749. “ ‘I just want to wait until the time is right’!” the two of you finish off simultaneously, before brushing into a laughing fit.
  750. >”I can’t believe she was giving you the run around too!”
  751. >Honestly, you can.
  752. >Considering how many of your outings leave her red in the face...
  753. >She’s probably worried you’d make a fool of her in front of her gal pals.
  754. >Which you would have her know you would absolutely not (intentionally) do!
  755. “Yeah, at this point I was boutta just follow her to her next poker night.”
  756. >”HA! Oh Luna that /would/ have been a mess. At least two of the players would have tried to turn it into dress poker the second you got to the table.”
  757. >Dress poker?
  758. >Like- oh wait you get it.
  759. “With what, their armor? Would it even fit me?”
  760. >”Ha! It would definitely not fit you, and /that’s/ why they’d want to see you in it.”
  761. >Taking a moment to pull up a mental picture, you... really can’t see the appeal.
  762. >It’s not like it’d look like bikini armor on you. Maybe tight clothes themselves are just appealing?
  763. “Huh. I feel like that’d look better in their heads.”
  764. >She chuckles and walks over to the coffee table and chairs at the other end of the room.
  765. >Taking a seat, she gestures to the chair across from her.
  766. >"Enough dilly-dallying. Come on, let's get this interview started before the Kirin get here."
  767.  
  768. >You are Astral Blade, and sure, that wasn't the most natural way to change topics.
  769. >But if you didn’t make /some/ attempt to focus the conversation, the two of you would probably have spent the rest of your precious time just cracking jokes about Pike and your horny comrades.
  770. >While you’d normally be unopposed to that, time is of the essence, and you want to dig a little deeper than ‘he’s got a good sense of humor for a stallion’.
  771. >So you’ve taken your seat, and now you’re waiting for this little ‘interview’ you’ve set up to begin.
  772. >Anonymous thankfully seems intent on humoring you, as he’s pulling back a chair with his magic right now.
  773. >By the time he’s actually taken his seat, you know where to start.
  774. “So Anonymous, tell me, how did you manage to get Pike bridled?”
  775. >Surprisingly Anonymous neither laughs it off nor gets defensive over it.
  776. >Instead he just looks confused.
  777. >”Whaaaat are you talking about?”
  778. “You know, like... bridled,” you say while making a crude gesture with both hooves on the sides of your muzzle.
  779. >Unfortunately, it seems that he is no closer to understanding, despite your flawless explanation.
  780. >”I legitimately have no idea what you’re talking about.”
  781. >You frown.
  782. >How has he never heard of-
  783. >Oh!
  784. “Oooooooh right! Sorry, your Equish is so good that I keep forgetting you’re not from Equestria.”
  785. >At the mention of his non-native status, he starts chuckling and sheepishly rubbing the back of his head.
  786. >”Thanks, but back home we basically spoke the same language, so really it’s not /that/ much of an accomplishment.”
  787. >That’s not exactly surprising though, Equish is the standard across the known world.
  788. >That does bring up an interesting question though.
  789. >Being in Equestria’s capital, you hear a lot of visitors with a lot of different accents.
  790. >But his seems fairly unique, almost one of a kind.
  791. “So where are you from anyway?”
  792. >Now normally at this point you’d expect him to launch into a happy little story about whatever small western country he’s from.
  793. >Instead, your question seems to suck the life right out of him.
  794. >He sags and lets out a soul-wrenching sigh.
  795. >”... It doesn’t matter. I got here in a teleportation accident. No o- pony will ever get to see it in your or my lifetime.”
  796. >Stars... you honestly don’t know what to say to that.
  797. >’Undiscovered West’ indeed.
  798. “That’s uh, that’s pretty rough.”
  799. >”No kidding. For all intents and purposes, I just popped into a whole new world one day. Right smack dab in the middle of the Canterlot gardens.”
  800. >Mare, that’s genuinely awful.
  801. >It's coming back to you now that there was an unsolved case of non-consensual teleportation a little over a year back.
  802. >You had assumed it was just some schmuck from the school, but to think it was that far...
  803. >Really, you honestly don’t know what to say beyond ‘that really sucks’.
  804. >Thankfully, he seems just as eager to switch subjects as you are.
  805. >”Yeeeeeeah it was rough, things are a lot better now though.”
  806. >Ah, and you can probably guess why.
  807. >He may be foreign, and he may be a janefilly...
  808. >But nothing perks up a stallion more than finding a home to make.
  809. “Because now you’ve got a fillyfriend now, right?”
  810. >”Well I wouldn’t say it like that. She’s done a lot more than /just/ be a fillyfriend, you know? Like how many mares would be willing to do a couple's cooking class so their coltfriend could learn how to cook?”
  811. >Ha! Pike doing a cooking class?
  812. “How in Equestria did you convince her to do that?”
  813. >”I didn’t, it was her idea.”
  814. >WHAT!?
  815. >Luna, you can feel your eyes trying to bug out of your head!
  816. >Pike learning a remotely colty skill!?
  817. >Buck, you can still remember when she got an easy bake oven as a secret Hearth’s Warming gift at last year's party.
  818. >She smashed the darn thing in a rage!
  819. >(No way in heck was anypony claiming to be /that/ gift giver.)
  820. >Now she’s apparently doing a couple’s cooking class?
  821. >What could have changed?
  822. >Ooooooh wait, you get it.
  823. >For years Pike has been complaining about how she wished stallions could be ‘just like us mares’.
  824. >Now that the universe has seen fit to provide her with a coltfriend that’s exactly that (cons and all), she’s finally realized maybe having a stallion who acts like a mare /isn’t/ all that.
  825. >She’s trying to have her cake and eat it too, clever bitch.
  826. >It looks like she’ll get to as well.
  827. >Janefilly or not, it seems like Anonymous is earnest about learning.
  828. “So your dad didn’t teach you then?”
  829. >”No, it’s... just not really something dads do back home.”
  830. >Luna, does that mean he comes from an entire nation of janefillies?
  831. >That’s a scary thought.
  832. >You like your stallions masculine, thank you very much.
  833. >Not to imply you haven’t been enjoying Anonymous’ company!
  834. >While Pike is clearly bridled, if this janefilly to end all janefillies is willing to be more colty just for her...
  835. >Well, you’d wager that bridling goes both ways.
  836. >Makes you want to see these two together doing something.
  837. >BEEP BEEEP BEEEP
  838. >Oh! Times up.
  839. >Anonymous, clearly not expecting the interruption, cries out.
  840. >”What the hell is that!?”
  841. >Holding up your right forehoof, you show off the now flashing and beeping shin guard.
  842. “It’s some new magic communicator we’ve started using, and this signal can only mean one thing: they’ve arrived.”
  843.  
  844. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and this... this is Tartarus.
  845. >”Wow, if all bats are that short, snagging some bat stallions should be E Z!”
  846. >You don’t think you can handle this.
  847. >Take a deep breath in, let a deep breath out.
  848. >Don’t even turn to look at which one said it, just keep walking.
  849. >>”Fern, control yourself!” cries the voice of their leader.
  850. >”But isn’t why we’re-”
  851. >>”Shhhhh!”
  852. >When you read the memo warning you that ‘the visiting ambassadors have no filter’, you assumed they were just overly critical.
  853. >Not that they said the first thing that came to mind.
  854. >Every time.
  855. >”Oooooh, I didn’t know they had stallion guards! /You’d/ look good pressed into my floof!”
  856. >The grimace on your face threatens to tear it in half.
  857. >Just the thought of all the official complaints you and Sepulcher are going to have to deal with is threatening to give you a brain aneurysm.
  858. >"That armor is very becoming on you. But if I were on you, I'd be coming too."
  859. >Please make it stop.
  860. >”You think Princess Celestia got us complimentary concubines?”
  861. >>"Don't be ridiculous, they haven’t done that in centuries."
  862. >For the love of—wait what was that about concubines?
  863. >”Seriously why /is/ she so short?”
  864. >AHHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRRGGGGGG
  865.  
  866. >You are Astral Blade, and you have returned to your position.
  867. >Just in the nick of time too, Cloak and her patrolmate rounded the corner only a few moments later.
  868. >On one hoof, this is good. Rumormonger Cloak is the perfect pony to start spreading your cover story for what happened to the Kirin’s former room.
  869. >On the other hoof, this also means you’ve got to listen to her conspiracy theories.
  870. >”I’m telling you Astral, ponies don’t want it getting out, but there’s been an awful lot of mysterious accidents happening today...”
  871. >Let’s see, what’s she going to pin it on this time? Gryphons or ghosts?
  872. >”I think the Kirin are haunted!”
  873. >Ahhhhh ghosts it is then.
  874. “Come on Cloak, I’m sure it was just some feather he-”
  875. >Oh manure Pike just rounded the corner!
  876. “Quick, get in position!”
  877. >Thankfully years of getting away with slacking have finely turned the reflexes of every mare present, and you all snap to position as soon as Pike looks your way.
  878. >And what a look she gives!
  879. >She is about to go BERZERK!
  880. >It’s not hard to figure out why.
  881. >”Awwww, bat mares /are/ normal sized!” chimes one of Rain Shine’s entourage.
  882. >Pfffft hahahahaaa! Oh mare, if only you were allowed to laugh outside your head!
  883. >You swear to Luna you can see steam coming out of Pike’s ears!
  884. [spoiler]>Huh, maybe she does have some pegasus in her after all?[/spoiler]
  885. >Although that steam is quickly replaced by a look of bliss as she realizes she’s reached the end of her ordeal.
  886. >”And /here/ is where you’ll be staying,” she says with a flourish.
  887. >...Toward the wrong door.
  888. “Uh, Sarge?”
  889. >You tap the door behind you with your hind hoof, hoping she gets the message.
  890. >Pivoting to face the correct door she amends, ”Oh! It appears there’s been a last minute change, /this/ will be your room.”
  891. >As you open the door, their leader bows gracefully.
  892. >”Thank you Sergeant ,” she says, “that will be all”.
  893. >From there you just step to the side and let them file on in.
  894. >Which you were more than happy to do, until you heard one of them whisper.
  895. >”Probably had mangos on the brain.”
  896. >But (luckily) before you could get heated too, Rain Shine grabbed that particular Kirin by the floof and dragged her in, slamming the door shut behind her.
  897.  
  898. >You are Rain Shine, and things are not off to a good start.
  899. >While Fern and Cinder are indeed some of your most trusted advisors, it appears the silence took its toll on them.
  900. >Thankfully at least you’ve got the level head needed to somewhat keep them in check.
  901. >Although the only thing allowing you to keep that level head is years of prior political experience.
  902. >As long as nothing truly shocking happens, you should hopefully be able to keep your thoughts in your head, and this meeting on track.
  903.  
  904. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and it’s showtime!
  905. >You’re currently seated in a chair turned away from the door, and waiting for the perfect moment to swivel it to face your interview subjects.
  906. >Which originally was going to be as soon as they walked into the room.
  907. >But now on the other ha-hoof...
  908. >”You two need to control yourselves!” you hear Rain Shine chide.
  909. >”But...” they reply.
  910. >”No buts! You think Celestia’s even going to give us the time of day if you keep insulting her guards!? Have a little self control, mares!”
  911. >”We’re sorry Rain Shine...” they answer in tandem.
  912. >Oh wow, they really can’t help but speak their mind by the sounds of it!
  913. >And that is either going to make this interview incredibly interesting or incredibly awkward.
  914. >Probably the latter, if you had to guess.
  915. >But enough dallying! Spinning your swivel chair to face them, you call out.
  916. “Good evening lad- *ahem* gentlemares! My name is-”
  917. >>”HOLY COW I WAS RIGHT, SHE DID GET US A CONCUBINE!”
  918. >...
  919. >N-now hold up.
  920. >>>”He’s got black hair! Is he our complimentary big-balled goth cf!?”
  921. >W-wait a minute here!
  922. >”He’s almost as tall as /me/! To think Celestia would go through the effort to find a /perfect/ stallion...!”
  923. “EVERYBODY HOLD THE FUCK UP!”
  924. >Thankfully your totally-not-panicked cry seems to have brought the situation back under control, as now the Kirin are seemingly waiting for your lead.
  925. “I-I'm not a /concubine/, I’m a reporter!”
  926. >Reaching to your side, you pull out your notepad.
  927. “Equestria wants answers and I’m here to get them!”
  928. >Cue all three visibly sagging.
  929. >The two regular sized ones let out a tandem “awwwwww”.
  930. >And Rain Shine lets out a deep sigh, followed by,”Horse apples, I thought I was /finally/ going to get /pounded/.”
  931. >A statement that seemingly surprises her as much as you.
  932. >”Oh buck no, I just said that out loud,” she says as she throws a hoof in front of her face.
  933. >>”Ha! Now you’re doing it too!” says the Kirin on her left.
  934. >”Quiet, Fern!”
  935. >>>”No way! You’ve been getting on our cases since we left Kirin Grove, now it’s /our/ turn to get on yours!” replies the Kirin on her right.
  936. >”Not in front of the reporter, Cinder!”
  937. >Deciding this has gone on long enough, and having recollected all your wits, you interject.
  938. “Look, let’s all just calm down. We clearly got off on the wrong f-hoof.”
  939. >Even if she doesn’t seem like the kind of ruler that would care, you give a customary bow.
  940. “My name is Anonymous, and if it’s not too much trouble I’d enjoy being able to interview you.”
  941. >Peeking up from your downed position, you just barely catch Rain Shine’s relieved expression.
  942. >”Well met Anonymous. As I’m sure you know I am Rain Shine, regent of the Kirin.”
  943. >”And these,” she says as she gestures to her right and left respectively, “are Fern Flare and Cinder Glow.”
  944. >>”Hey.”
  945. >>>”You sure you’re not a concubine?” Fern asks, earning her a swat on the snoot from Rain Shine.
  946. >Thwak!
  947. >>>”Ow, hey!”
  948. >”Fern, why don’t you make sure our luggage arrived undamaged. Cinder and I will handle this.”
  949. >>>”But...”
  950. >”Now, Fern.”
  951. >Fern, seeing Rain Shine left no room for arguing, swiftly departs, grumbling all the way.
  952. >Which allows Rain Shine and Cinder Glow to take the seats across from you.
  953. >”Alright Mr. Anonymous, what do you want to know?”
  954. >Perfect! You’ve got her right where you want her.
  955. >You got to open up with something good, something that really shows you mean business.
  956. >You start flipping through your notepad, but you find the answer right away.
  957. “So your Ladyship, about the rumors relating to the beverage ‘Kirin Beer’...
  958.  
  959. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and your office has seen better days.
  960. >There’s a reason you keep a training dummy in here, and that dummy is doing its duty.
  961. “Stupid dragon ponies! Let’s see how tall and mighty they are after I PIN THEM IN TEN SECONDS FLAT!”
  962. >Wrapping your forehooves around its barrel you suplex it directly into the wall.
  963. >You can hear the impact knock several things off the wall, but you’re far too angry to care.
  964. “BUCK YOU AND BUCK YOUR FLOOF!”
  965. >”PIKE!”
  966. >Whipping your head around, you're surprised to see Astral standing in the entrance.
  967. >You didn’t even hear the door open!
  968. “What Astral!?”
  969. >”I’m here to stop you from wrecking your entire office.”
  970. >You’d give her a snappy retort, but a look around at your thoroughly trashed office tells you that you probably should stop.
  971. “Bucking scalies...” you grumble as you climb out from under the dummy.
  972. >Meanwhile Astral’s already started picking up the pictures that fell down.
  973. >Holding up whichever one she most recently picked up, you notice its a picture of you and your family, now sporting a massive crack in the glass.
  974. >”Gonna need to get this one reframed.”
  975. >Trotting over to your office chair, you plop down with your head in your hooves.
  976. “Ugh, I’ll put it on the list of things to do after this whole mess is over.”
  977. >Astral just chuckles, and sets the items down on your desk (which at some point made its way to the other side of the room).
  978. >”That bad huh?”
  979. “I counted at least fifteen potential sexual harassment complaints.”
  980. >In that instant Astral’s tone went from mirthful to terrified.
  981. >”Sweet Luna, I didn’t even know we /had/ that many stallions on our shift.”
  982. >The thought just makes you dip your head even further.
  983. “Celestia brought in reinforcements from the other shifts, and wouldn’t you know, most of those reinforcements ended up being stallions.”
  984. >”Bucking amazing, what next?”
  985. >As if to punctuate that statement, a letter appears right in front of your face.
  986. >Oh buck, it's got Sepulcher's stupid little official seal on it.
  987. >Wasting not a moment, you tear open the letter, and feel your heart sink.
  988. >”What’s it say?”
  989. “Celestia wants Sepulcher and I to personally guard the meeting. I’m going to be stuck listening to the Kirin till the night shift starts.”
  990.  
  991. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and that was really fascinating.
  992. >”And so mister Anonymous, I give my personal word to both you, and the population of Equestria as a whole, that Kirin Beer is NOT pee.”
  993. >You didn’t even know stuff like that could be DONE with barley!
  994. >About halfway through Rain’s answer, Fern returned with their luggage in tow.
  995. >Luggage that included a twelve pack of the very beer!
  996. >You’re holding a bottle of it now, admittedly dying to crack it open.
  997. “In that case, may I?”
  998. >”Of course,” Rain replies, “but do be warned, stallions typically aren’t fans.”
  999. >Well most stallions are typically little bitches too.
  1000. >So without further ado, you pop off the cap and take a swig.
  1001. >Hmmm, what do you know, it's beer!
  1002. >Come to think of it, the first beer you’ve had since getting here.
  1003. >...you kinda missed it honestly.
  1004. “This isn’t half bad!”
  1005. >It's with no small amount of self satisfaction you take in the sight of the Kirin’s jaws dropping.
  1006. >>”He even likes beer!?” you hear Fern cry.
  1007. >Rain, as fitting with the running theme, is the first to recapture her composure.
  1008. >”I-I’m glad you think so. Equestria should have it on the shelves of their stores soon.”
  1009. >Continuing to take gulps of the drink, you turn back to your notepad.
  1010. “Is that why you’re here then. To secure some new trade deal?”
  1011. >”Well, in a manner of speaking...”
  1012. >>>”Yeah we’re trading our village!”
  1013. >>”For STALLIONS! WOO WOO!”
  1014. >That’s... probably not going in the article.
  1015. “Uhhh care to clarify that?”
  1016. >The other two attempt to speak up, but Rain Shine immediately seals their mouths shut with telekinesis.
  1017. >”*Ahem* Yes. After the recent success of reintegrating Thestrals into Equestria, and after the conclusion of our self imposed exile, Celestia approached us with the offer of annexing Kirin Grove. And due to many... extenuating factors... I’m inclined to consider her offer.”
  1018. >Considering what her entourage just said, you can probably guess what those ‘extenuating factors’ are.
  1019. >But that’s no reason not to ask anyway!
  1020. “Oh? Like what?”
  1021. >”Well for starters, being able to make use of Equestrian infrastructure-”
  1022. >Unable to hold their tongues any longer, the other Kirin break out of Rain Shine’s grip.
  1023. >>”Buck that manure! It’s because ever since the silence ended, all the stallions have become unbearable!"
  1024. >>>”Everyday it’s ‘you haven’t been mindful enough’ or ‘I have a headache because you talked too much’, and the mares of Kirin Grove are sick of it!”
  1025. >>”It’s like they've just been saving every complaint they’ve had since the silence started, and they’re all coming out now!”
  1026. >>>”Don’t even get us started on what they look like- have you ever seen a Kirin stallion before?”
  1027. >Socked by the fact they actually gave you a moment to speak, it takes you a bit to respond.
  1028. “Uh... no?”
  1029. >>>”Well,” Cinder says as she reaches up and... covers up her eyelashes?
  1030. >>>”There you go!”
  1031. >It really takes you a moment, to figure out what you’re looking at.
  1032. “So... they look exactly like you, but without eyelashes?”
  1033. >>Throwing her hooves up in the air in exasperation, Fern replies, “Exactly!”
  1034. “Wait hold on that was a questio-”
  1035. >>”Where are the broad shoulders!? The chiseled jaws!? If I wanted to kiss someone who looks like a mare, I’d just turn myself ga-”
  1036. >”ENOUGH!”
  1037. >Throwing your hooves over your ears did very little to shield them from Rain Shine’s cry.
  1038. >”I would rather the first impression we give to the Equestrian ponies, NOT be that we’re just horny creeps who’ve come out of isolation to steal their stallions!!”
  1039. >The righteous fury that previously possessed her advisor, is now seemingly gone in a flash as they hang their heads.
  1040. >>”B-but Rain Shine, t-that’s why we’re here.”
  1041. >”Yes, but we don’t want them to KNOW that!”
  1042. >Honestly all this has left you hanging your head too.
  1043. >What the fuck are you going to write this article on!?
  1044. >You can’t include any of that unless you want to start a race war!
  1045. >So that leaves you with, what, Kirin beer isn’t pee!?
  1046. >Better think of something quick.
  1047. “So uhhhh, haha about making use of that infrastructure...”
  1048.  
  1049. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and you are currently escorting the WORST princess and her student.
  1050. >Stupid Celestia, this mess is all her fault.
  1051. >Why can’t she just buck off to the sun for a thousand years and let the best Princess run things for a change!
  1052. >Unfortunately, it seems your mental rant has triggered her uncanny ability to read ponies.
  1053. >”You seem upset, my little pony, what is the matter?”
  1054. >’My little pony’ buck you, the only pony you’re a little pony for is Princess Luna!
  1055. “It’s nothing Princess. It’s just been a rough day.”
  1056. >”Ah, been taking some rough jabs from our visitors?”
  1057. >Arg, of course she’d guess it on her first try.
  1058. >Probably been spying on you all day or something.
  1059. “N-no.”
  1060. >>”Although she’s too proud to admit it, Sergeant  Pike was savagely mocked during most of our time with the ambassadors. The fact she managed to keep her composure was legitimately impressive.”
  1061. >Like always, you’re left fairly unsure if that was a compliment or not.
  1062. >”Well your service is appreciated Sergeant  Pike, and I shall have to keep that in mind.”
  1063. >Sure you will.
  1064. >If she /really/ wanted to do something for you she’d give you some time off.
  1065. >But what are the odds of you getting that?
  1066.  
  1067. >Alright, you are Anonymous, and you think you’ve finally got enough ‘legitimate’ information to write the article.
  1068. >You’ll need to do some heavy statement editing, but this should get the truth out in a way that won’t start a massive race (tribe?) riot.
  1069. >Rain Shine even gave you some beers for the road!
  1070. >Sanding up and starting to pack your saddlebags, you prepare for the journey back whence you came.
  1071. “Well gentlemares, thank you for your time. But I think it's about time I-”
  1072. >*Knock Knock knock*
  1073. >Your hair stands on end at that sound.
  1074. >>”Hello? I’m sorry to intrude, Rain Shine, but I did hope to get negotiations underway.”
  1075. >No way, that voice...! Oh fuck!
  1076. >Sparing only a moment to let out a “Please don’t tell her I’m here,” you bound across the room towards the nearest hiding place.
  1077. >You manage to slip in a closet just as Rain Shine calls out to the visitor.
  1078. >”Oh, Princess, of course! Come in!”
  1079. >With that the door opens, and in walks the Princess of the day herself, Celestia.
  1080. >Followed immediately by some day guard, her student, and... Pike!
  1081. >>”Once again do I apologize, but I do want to get things started.” Celestia says as she bows to her fellow leader.
  1082. >”It’s no trouble,” replies Rain, “I understand your time is valuable. I, too, don’t wish to be away from Kirin Grove for too long.”
  1083. >Giving another one of her motherly smiles, Celestia gestures toward the door.
  1084. >>”Then my guards shall escort us to the meeting room post-haste.”
  1085. >Yes!
  1086. >Soon they’ll be gone and you’ll be in the clea-
  1087. >Oh no.
  1088. >Oh no no no no.
  1089. >Your notebook!
  1090. >You were so panicked you forgot to grab it!
  1091. >It’s sitting there right on the table!
  1092. >Fuckfuckfuckfuck.
  1093. >Wait, wait, it’s ok.
  1094. >The only one who would probably recognize that as belonging to anyone other than the Kirin is Pike.
  1095. >And there’s no way she noticed it from across the ro-
  1096. >She’s walking over to it right now.
  1097. >God damn it, why does she have to be so good at her job?
  1098.  
  1099. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and you can’t shake the feeling you’ve seen that notebook before.
  1100. >So while the Kirin busy themselves chatting with Celestia and her student, you take it upon yourself to investigate.
  1101. >The closer you get, the stronger that feeling becomes.
  1102. >But where would you have-
  1103. >Wait... this is a /reporter’s/ notebook!
  1104. >And the cover....
  1105. >’Property of Anonymous’!?
  1106. >It can’t be... how did this get here?
  1107. >Rapidly flipping through the pages, you find today's date and begin reading in earnest.
  1108. >No way... he... he broke into the castle?
  1109. >To interview these motherbuckers!?
  1110. >The things they said to him...
  1111. >It makes your blood boil.
  1112. “Excuse me... Rain Shine?”
  1113. >Considering that’s the first thing you’ve said in her presence, she looks very surprised.
  1114. >”Yes, Sergeant ? What is it?”
  1115. “The only thing getting pounded today, IS YOUR BUCKING FACE!”
  1116. >Kicking off with as much force as you can, you aim yourself right at the dumb halfbreed’s stupid head!
  1117. “MY COLTFRIEND IS NOT A LUNA DAMNED CONCUBINE!”
  1118.  
  1119. >Oh fuck no!
  1120. >You are Anonymous, and this is going way worse than you could have possibly imagined!
  1121. >You can’t let Pike beat up Rain Shine! She’ll go to jail!
  1122. >And then, and then... then what’ll you do!?
  1123. >You can’t let that happen!
  1124. >Throwing open the door you slam every ounce of power you’ve got through your horn, praying it's enough.
  1125. “PIKE WAIT!”
  1126. >Thankfully your cry distracts her just enough for your telekinesis to grab a hold of her.
  1127. >Letting out a quick sigh of relief, you focus on holding her suspended in the air, fuming.
  1128. >”Anonymous!? L-let me go! I need to teach these bitches a lesson in respect!”
  1129. “No!”
  1130. >Goddamn it Pike quit struggling so hard!
  1131. >You’re trying to preserve her career here!
  1132. >Arrrg! Why do her wings have to be so strong!?
  1133. >She’s gonna break free-!
  1134. >Fuck! NO!
  1135. >As she slips out of your grasp, you watch in horror as-
  1136. >She immediately gets caught again in another aura.
  1137. >A /golden/ aura.
  1138. >>”Sergeant  please, control yourself!”
  1139. >Oh no why’d it have to be Celestia!?
  1140. >Pike /hates/ Celestia.
  1141. >”Listen here Princess Fa-”
  1142. >>>”EVERYPONY STOP!”
  1143. >For briefest of moments, you can /feel/ Rain Shine’s cry just as well as you can hear it.
  1144. >For the briefest of moments you saw the fire the Kirin are known for, but just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone.
  1145. >For a little while nobody moves, everyone’s just standing (well in Pike’s case, floating) and breathing heavily.
  1146. >Until eventually, Rain Shine speaks up.
  1147. >>>”Sergeant  Pike, our loose tongues have clearly offended you and for that you have my sincerest apologies.”
  1148. >She then surprisingly, turns to you.
  1149. >>>”And Mr. Anonymous, I’m sorry I assumed you were a simple concubine. Our interview was very enjoyable. If only every stallion in Kirin Grove was as understanding as you.”
  1150. >Thankful for the break in the tension, you bow to the regent.
  1151. “Uhhh, thanks!”
  1152. >Looking nervously around the room, you attempt to wrench Pike from Celestia’s grip.
  1153. “So haha, if you all don’t mind, I think I’m just gonna take my fillyfriend and dip.”
  1154. >For a second you almost thought they’d let you do it too.
  1155. >But then a voice speaks up from the back.
  1156. >>>>”WHAT IN EQUESTRIA IS THIS!?”
  1157. >At the sound of that you slump so hard your forehead practically smashes against the ground.
  1158. >Of course just when the situation’s looking de-escalated, something else has to go wrong.
  1159. >And wouldn’t you know it, that something is Twilight Sparkle.
  1160. >Apparently while all this was going on, she decided to spend her time reading the notebook Pike dropped.
  1161. >Great.
  1162. >>>>”Princess, these notes say that the Kirin are here because they want to steal our stallions!!”
  1163. >>”Well, my faithful student-”
  1164. >>>>”There’s so few already! We can’t these- these DOUBLE NIRIKS take them too!”
  1165. >...
  1166. >There have been many times today, you’ve felt fear.
  1167. >But here, now?
  1168. >This is the worst.
  1169. >>”Twiggles no! You can’t say that!”
  1170. >>>”WHAT DID YOU SAY NIKKA!?”
  1171. >Oh my God they just combusted!
  1172. >>>>>”YOU CAN'T SAY THAT! THAT’S OUR WORD!”
  1173. >Everythings on fire! You need to get Pike the fuck out of here!
  1174. >The door! It’s right over-
  1175. >FWASH!
  1176.  
  1177. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and everything’s white....
  1178. >The last thing you remember is fire.
  1179. >Did—did you and Anon die?
  1180. >Wait, your vision’s coming back!
  1181. >You’re... right outside the suite.
  1182. >Celestia, Sepulcher, and Anon—you all made it!
  1183. >Wait hold on, where’s the Princess’ student?
  1184. >Oh buck she must still be inside!
  1185. >You gotta go back and get her!
  1186. >Jumping to your hooves you make a beeline for the still open door.
  1187. >Only for a golden glow to slam it in your face.
  1188. >>”While I appreciate your initiative Sergeant ,” speaks a voice behind you, “my student has a long history with fire. She’ll be fine. Best to leave them to work it out.”
  1189. >Turning around to face the Princess of the day, you see Sepulcher has already gotten to her hooves as well.
  1190. >>”Sergeant Sepulcher, please go ahead to the meeting chamber and let my sister know negotiations will /not/ be starting this evening.”
  1191. >With that, Sepulcher wordlessly departs, leaving you alone with your coltfriend and your boss.
  1192. >Speaking of your coltfriend, this leaves you in a pretty tough spot.
  1193. >But before you can even attempt to come up with a way out, Celestia speaks up.
  1194. >>”Sergeant  Pike, I believe I will need some help escorting this, troublemaker, off the castle grounds. Can you assist me?”
  1195. >Deciding you’d much rather be there for whatever judgment Celestia is going to pass, you nod enthusiastically.
  1196. “Of course Princess.”
  1197.  
  1198. >Not long after that, the three of you depart.
  1199. >You on Anon’s left, Celestia on his right.
  1200. >Surprisingly Celestia speaks up first.
  1201. >>”Now Anonymous, while I do always enjoy your visits, I would appreciate a bit of a warning next time.”
  1202. >What.
  1203. >Anon knows the Princess?
  1204. >”Oh come on, you cannot seriously think I knew any of that was going to happen the way it did.”
  1205. >>”I’m not saying you did, all I’m saying is there’s never a dull moment when you’re around. So a bit of forewarning would be nice.”
  1206. >Hold on, you’re clearly missing some vital information here.
  1207. >You knew Anonymous had spent some time in the castle but you didn’t think he knew Celestia.
  1208. “Psssst Anon!”
  1209. >”Huh?”
  1210. >His head swivels around from Celestia to you.
  1211. >”What is it?”
  1212. “How do you know the Princess?”
  1213. >He doesn’t answer immediately, but the face he makes tells you everything you need to know.
  1214. >It's identical to the one he made when you met Silken.
  1215. >”Eeeeeeer let’s not talk about that.”
  1216. >But it appears that’s not good enough for the Princess.
  1217. >>”Haha! Does she want to know how we met? Oooo I love that story!  Well you see...”
  1218.  
  1219. >You are Princess Celestia, ruler of the day, and co-ruler of Equestria.
  1220. >It had been a day much like any other, you were sitting on your throne, waiting for petitioners to come in.
  1221. >That was until two guards rushed in, claiming a delirious stallion had appeared in the gardens.
  1222. >Fearing foul play you rushed to the infirmary to comfort and hopefully assist him.
  1223. >Upon arriving at his room however, you found that ‘delirious’ was a bit of an understatement.
  1224. >”WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO ME!?”
  1225. >And the situation was rapidly spiraling out of control.
  1226. “Please my little pony, calm down!”
  1227. >”I AM NOT YOU’RE ‘LITTLE PONY’!”
  1228. “Please I’m trying to-!”
  1229. >”SHIT LIKE THIS DOESN’T JUST RANDOMLY HAPPEN! YOU BETTER CHANGE ME BACK RIGHT NOW AND I SWEAR TO GOD IT BETTER BE JUST AS INSTANTANEOUS AS LAST TIME!”
  1230. >At this point you were prepping a sedation spell.
  1231. >“IF YOU MAKE ME SIT THROUGH SOME BODY HORROR FETISH SHIT I’M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS!”
  1232.  
  1233. >”Yeesh. Yeah that was rough.”
  1234. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and Celestia just got done telling about the day she met Anon.
  1235. “Well, you fixed whatever was wrong, right Princess?”
  1236. >Neither she nor Anon answer though, putting quite the pit in your stomach.
  1237. >Before you can ask about it though, you feel one of Anon’s ‘hands’ on your shoulder.
  1238. >”Don’t worry about it.”
  1239. >He casts a smile Celestia’s way.
  1240. >”And after all that, she still let me stay in the castle for a couple months.”
  1241. >For the first time ever, you hear Celestia chuckle.
  1242. >>”When you get to be as old as I am, you learn to treasure such interesting days. I even offered to let you stay longer.”
  1243. >He shrugs.
  1244. >”I needed to get out here. Couldn’t live the rest of my life on someone else’s dime.”
  1245. >>”An admirable way to live.”
  1246. >From there the three of you lapse into silence.
  1247. >A silence that continues all the way until you reach the castle gates.
  1248. >When you get there both you and Anon know what that means.
  1249. >Judgement time.
  1250. >”So,” Anon asks, “what now Princess?”
  1251. >>”Hm, the two of you have had quite an eventful day. Trespassing, destruction of property, attempted assault on a diplomat...”
  1252. >Every new crime listed is like a burden on both you and Anonymous’ shoulders.
  1253. >>”...and harassment. I think that covers it.”
  1254. >Oh no! You’re going to get fired!
  1255. >All your life’s work, gone!
  1256. >>”As such, Anonymous, I am banning you from the castle grounds for two weeks!”
  1257. >”Wait what?”
  1258. >>”Indeed! You shall not be allowed in these halls for any reason!”
  1259. >Then she turns her stern gaze upon you.
  1260. >>”And you, Sergeant , for your actions, most unbecoming of a mare in your station, I am giving you the most laborious of tasks!”
  1261. >As Celestia speaks, she raises a hoof above her head.
  1262. >For a brief moment you're sure she’s going to smash it against the ground, but instead she just points at Anonymous.
  1263. >>”I task you to enforce this ban upon this stallion! You must watch him day and night! Never leaving his side!”
  1264. >Wha- you can’t believe this!
  1265. >You’re getting off scot free!
  1266. >>”This all comes on one condition, however.”
  1267. >”Name it.”
  1268. >Suddenly Celetia leans down to be eye level with you.
  1269. >>”Say I’m best Princess.”
  1270. >Your eyes widen.
  1271. >”You’re best Prin-”
  1272. >>”Not you Anonymous.”
  1273. >Celestia’s smile turns downright evil.
  1274. >>”I want her to say it.”
  1275. >Oh come on Pike, you can do this.
  1276. >Just lie, and you won’t have to go to the dungeons.
  1277. >Just say ‘You are best Princess’.
  1278. >Come on!
  1279. >Say it!
  1280. >Before you can, you feel something bubble up from your very blood.
  1281. >Something you can’t resist, even if you wanted to.
  1282. “/Never/!"
  1283. >Much to your surprise, Celestia’s smile turns far more pleasant, and she nods to you.
  1284. >>”I’d expect nothing less from my sister’s finest.”
  1285. >Standing back to her full height, she pulls something from behind her.
  1286. >>”Ah! I almost forgot.”
  1287. >Bringing it around to Anonymous you both recognize it immediately.
  1288. >”My notebook! I assumed this thing had burned to a crisp.”
  1289. >Celestia just gives him one of her insufferable motherly smiles.
  1290. >>”Make sure it's a good article. And I’m sorry I didn’t speak to you more when you were here Anonymous, you seem like an interesting stallion.”
  1291. >With that, she turns around and starts walking away.
  1292. >>”Take good care of him Sergeant !”
  1293. >Huh. You never expected to hear /that/ from the Princess of the day.
  1294. [spoiler]>She better not think this entitles her to officiate your bucking wedding.[/spoiler]
  1295. >”Well, I guess that wraps that up. All's well that ends well, am I right?”
  1296. >You suppose so, but it's not over yet.
  1297. >You’ve still got one burning question in your mind.
  1298. >A question he’s going to answer as he turns to face you.
  1299. >”Let’s get out of-”
  1300. >-And boops himself right on your waiting hoof.
  1301. >”Bwah, h-hey!”
  1302. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
  1303. >”Huh, tell you what?”
  1304. >Luna dang it, stallions are supposed to be the ones who are sensitive to these things!
  1305. “That you’d be doing... this! That you’re breaking into the castle! Do you know how this /could/ have turned out?”
  1306. >”Of course.”
  1307. “Then why didn’t you-”
  1308. >This time, you’re the one cut off, as one of his spectral fingers covers your lips.
  1309. >”I knew the risk, and /I/ took it. This was not your problem, it was mine.”
  1310. “But-but I could have helped you...”
  1311. >Much to your surprise, he looks genuinely offended at the offer.
  1312. >”What do you take me for? You seriously think I’d put you in that position? That I’d ever force you to choose between your career and me? Absolutely not.”
  1313. >To punctuate his statement, he grabs you and pulls you into a hug.
  1314. >”I love you way too much to do something like that to you.”
  1315. >Awwwwww.
  1316. >Wrapping your hooves around him as best you can, you hug back.
  1317. “I love you too Anon.”
  1318. >Eventually pulling yourself out of his grip, and wiping something out of your eye (it was DEFINITELY not a tear), you turn towards home.
  1319. “Well Anonymous, shall we get out of here?”
  1320. >He sighs, sliding his notebook back into his saddlebags.
  1321. >”Yeah, let’s. I’ve had my fill of this place for /at least/ two weeks.”
  1322. >Not even bothering to hold back your laugh, the two of you set off.
  1323. >Honestly, you’ve been looking forward to having some time off with him.
  1324. >Ooo! Maybe the two of you should plan a vacation.
  1325. >They do say Prance is nice this time of year...
  1326. >”Oh by the way, I feel like I should warn you now. While I was in there, I ran into Astral.”
  1327. >...
  1328. “YOU WHAT!?”
  1329.  
  1330. >You, Nocturnal Pike, have known this was coming for over a week.
  1331. >It’s nothing worth worrying about even.
  1332. >It’s just a couple's cooking class.
  1333. >But no matter how many times you say that, you can’t keep yourself from trotting back and forth on this Sunday morning.
  1334. >At this rate you’re going to put a hole in your living room floor!
  1335. >Thankfully Anon’s in the shower right now, and so you’ve got some time to get it under control and keep your dignity intact.
  1336. >You’ve just got to focus on something else!
  1337. >Definitely not what your mom would say if she knew you were doing this.
  1338. >Nope, that would be a terrible idea!
  1339. >So don’t do it!
  1340. >...
  1341. >OhLunaYourMomWouldBeSoDissapointedInYou.
  1342. >Wait, stop.
  1343. >Take a deep breath.
  1344. >You are the marliest mare on the evening shift.
  1345. >There’s nothing wrong with helping your coltfriend fill a hole in his upbringing.
  1346. >So what if you’re more eager to try this than he is?
  1347. >There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
  1348. >Sure you may be... discovering new things about yourself recently.
  1349. >But you're still a mare’s mare!
  1350. [spoiler]>So what if you wouldn’t mind spending all day every day cooking nice meals so Anon could come home to a delicious dinner every night!?[/spoiler]
  1351. [spoiler]>There’s nothing unmarely about prancing around in a tight little apron, hoping Anon comes in and—[/spoiler]
  1352. >Oh hey, the shower just turned off!
  1353. >Anon should be coming out momentarily.
  1354. >Seeing as your kitchen is only a few steps away, might as well get started on breakfast.
  1355. >But what to make?
  1356. >Hmmm, Anon does have that strange affinity toward eggs...
  1357.  
  1358. >Ahh, you are Anonymous, and you are feeling fresh and ready to start the day.
  1359. >Towel wrapped around your head (hey, your mane takes awhile to dry ok!?), you push open the bathroom door, and are hit with a wonderful smell.
  1360. >It's almost like...
  1361. >Eggs, pancakes, and... BACON!?
  1362. >You know deep in your heart that there must be some absurd catch to this.
  1363. >But now you’re too psyched to care!
  1364. >Supremely excited to see what Pike’s got cookin’, you charge heedlessly out the bedroom and to the kitchen.
  1365. >And what do you find?
  1366. >She actually /is/ cooking bacon!
  1367. >Pike, having noticed your charge, gives you a sly little side eye.
  1368. >”Well somepony’s hungry.”
  1369. >She has no idea.
  1370. “I didn’t even know you guys /had/ bacon!”
  1371. >Your statement turns her side eye into a direct look.
  1372. >A direct look of confusion.
  1373. >”How the heck have you never seen bacon here!? The hay stand always has a ton of it.”
  1374. >Ah.
  1375. >You want to scream.
  1376. “So it’s /hay/ bacon then?”
  1377. >”Is... there another kind?”
  1378. >And just like that, all your enthusiasm is gone.
  1379. >Who the heck thought to oil fry hay!?
  1380. >Pike however is thankfully oblivious to the death of your joy, instead returning her full attention to cooking.
  1381. >”Say can you grab the plates for me? My hooves are kind of full.”
  1382. “Sure... sure.”
  1383.  
  1384. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and you outdid yourself.
  1385. >Both you and Anon just got done enjoying a full Equestrial breakfast.
  1386. >Well, Anon’s wasn’t /quite/ full.
  1387. >He tried to get rid of it stealthily, but nothing gets past your trained observation skills!
  1388. >He didn’t eat his hay-bacon!
  1389. >The question is, why?
  1390. >He seemed so genuinely excited for it!
  1391. >...before he found out it was hay.
  1392. >Hmmmmm, originally you thought he was just being thoughtless.
  1393. >But a pony going out of his way to not eat hay?
  1394. >More than a little suspicious.
  1395. >The fact he’s strapping into his jacket right now only highlights the fact you need to talk to him about it.
  1396. >”Say hon, how far is it to this place?”
  1397. >Asking because you know that jacket won’t be enough?
  1398. “It’s a bit of a trek.”
  1399. >He grits his teeth and lets out a sigh through them.
  1400. >”Aw really? Well, might as well get going then.”
  1401. >Suddenly he looks back at your bedroom, as if something just occurred to him.
  1402. >”Say, this cold is havoc on my legs. Think ponies would be ok if I wore a set of socks?”
  1403.  
  1404. >By the time the distant lights of the bakery came into view, you /still/ hadn’t managed to convince Anon it wasn’t worth it.
  1405. >”I’m telling you, they wouldn’t have even noticed!”
  1406. >Rolling your eyes at his unrepentant whimsy, you press forward through the snowstorm.
  1407. “They absolutely would have! Those socks aren’t even meant to keep you warm anyway, you’d just end up looking like a sloot!”
  1408. >You can’t be too hard on him though, at this point the cold’s starting to get to you too.
  1409. “Besides, we’re almost there anyway.”
  1410. >Thank Luna the bakery’s just down this street.
  1411. >And picking up the pace, the two of you find yourselves at the front door in no time.
  1412. >Pulling open the door, you’re suddenly washed in the relief of sweet sweet warm ai—
  1413. >”Outta the way Pike!”
  1414. >You squeak as Anon barrels through you with the force of a train.
  1415. >It appears that in your relief to be out of the cold, you unintentionally stopped right in the doorway.
  1416. >And as you stumble to regain your hoofing, it becomes obvious that Anon was not having that.
  1417. >Finally coming to a stop, you shoot him a glare.
  1418. “You could have just /asked/ me to move.”
  1419. >”Would have taken too long,” he says as he rubs the snow out of his fur.
  1420. >Deciding to let him handle that, you take the opportunity to gaze around the bakery.
  1421. >It was a small cream colored building, filled with display cases of various sweets.
  1422. >Honestly if it wasn’t for all the ambient chatter coming from behind a curtain in the back, you wouldn’t have ever suspected they /could/ even hold a class here.
  1423. >Speaking of the curtain, a portly brown earth pony stallion emerges from behind it.
  1424. >Based on his cake cutie mark, you’d suppose he’s the owner of this bakery.
  1425. >>”Oh wonderful!” he says in a sing-song voice, “you must be our last students.”
  1426. >Walking over to Anonymous he puts out his hoof.
  1427. >>”I’m Cake Batter, and I’m so glad you and your daughter could join us today Mr. Anonymous!”
  1428. >Anon’s about to go for the hoofbump, when what Cake Batter actually said hits the two of you.
  1429. >Needless to say, he takes it a lot better than you.
  1430. >”HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA!”
  1431. “What did you just say!?”
  1432. >Howling laughter fills the store as you march up to a thoroughly confused Cake Batter.
  1433. >>”Well, ponies have brought their children to our classes before a-and I just thought that y-you know.”
  1434. >Before you can even say anything though (you were /not/ going to yell, a gentlemare doesn’t yell at stallions), Anon grabs you and pulls you tight against his chest.
  1435. >”Cut the poor guy a break, Pike. I'm sure it was an honest misunderstanding.”
  1436. >Anon follows this by shooting Cake Batter a smile that’s /just/ not quite genuine.
  1437. >”Right?”
  1438. >>”O-of course! I’m dreadfully sorry. It’s just that she’s so much sma—”
  1439. >Anon wisely cuts him off again, knowing how you’d react if he finished that thought.
  1440. >”So yeah, this my fillyfriend Nocturnal Pike, and yes, we signed up for your couples class.”
  1441. >Cake seems more than happy to switch subjects, instantly relaxing.
  1442. >>”Well that is wonderful! Now if you two will just follow me...”
  1443. >Falling into step behind the stallion as he shows you to the ‘classroom’ you focus on de-souring your mood.
  1444. >You’re not /that/ much shorter than Anon!
  1445. >...ok you are.
  1446. >But that’s just because he’s freakishly tall!
  1447. >You’re not that close to being filly sized!!
  1448. >Anon of course, notices this, and leans down to whisper in your ear.
  1449. >”Look at it this way Pike, he was only half wrong. I may not be your dad, but I /am/ your /daddy/.”
  1450. >Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
  1451. “Anon that’s foul!”
  1452. >Taking a look to make sure Cake didn’t hear, you lower your voice even further.
  1453. “H-have I ever actually...?”
  1454. >This, of course, prompts another bout of laughter from him.
  1455. >”Nope! But now I’m keeping an ear out for it!”
  1456. >Great.
  1457.  
  1458. >From there, Cake showed you to your small baking station in the back.
  1459. >It’s one of six, each with a different couple or herd at one, and all of them have a view of the front, where Cake will be.
  1460. >It's a fairly impressive set up, implying this isn’t the only class he runs.
  1461. >Your little station came stocked too!
  1462. >Stocked with basic tools and ingredients, but stocked nonetheless.
  1463. >>”Alright everypony,” calls out Cake, having taken his place at the front of the room.
  1464. >>”I’d just like to, again, welcome you all. It’s always nice to see so many mares trying to lessen their stallion’s burden.”
  1465. >In response, the room fills with appreciative ‘hmms’ from the stallions, and some minor grumbling from most of the mares.
  1466. >>”Since most of you probably aren’t that experienced, we’ll be starting easy. Today we’ll be making a full course dinner featuring: an appetizer of sauteed vegetables, a small portion of seared salmon for those of you with feathered family, a main course of hayburgers—”
  1467. >You caught it! Anon’s almost imperceptible wince at the sound of ‘hayburgers’.
  1468. >>”—and finishing up with a lovely chocolate cake!”
  1469. >A part of you is sincerely tempted to try to use this to get to the bottom of Anon’s hay hang up.
  1470. >But for now you’d much rather just enjoy the moment.
  1471. >Who knows? Perhaps an opportunity will present itself.
  1472. >>”So to begin, please pull out your skillet...”
  1473.  
  1474. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and Pike’s really gotten in the zone.
  1475. >”Is there any garlic in the spice cabinet Anon? I bet that would make the salmon really pop!”
  1476. >She took the lead pretty early on, and has been the head of your little kitchen ever since.
  1477. >Sure, her doing /basically/ all the work might be defeating the purpose of you both coming here.
  1478. >But, you don’t really mind.
  1479. >Besides, you’re still picking up quite a bit, even if she’s getting all the ‘hooves on’ experience.
  1480. “Found some!” you say as you pass her the spice.
  1481. >”Yes! I’m telling you Anon, this’ll be great!”
  1482. >Honestly it’s pretty cute to see her so into it.
  1483. >”Bada boom!” she says as she throws some on with a flourish.
  1484. >As you watch your fillyfriend go to town, you hear someone walking up behind you.
  1485. >Turning your head you see Cake, having come over to check on your progress.
  1486. >>”My my, is that garlic I smell?”
  1487. >”Yep,” replies Pike, “I hope you don’t mind that I added some. I just thought it would really add something, you know?”
  1488. >>”Not at all, it’s why I stock those extra spices! Just in case some of my students are feeling creative.”
  1489. >Pike just lets out a content ‘hmm’ and continues to focus on the filet, while Cake turns his attention to you.
  1490. >>”I must say Mr. Anonymous, you are very fortunate. In my experience it's very rare for a mare without a cooking related mark to take such an interest in learning how to help her stallion around the house.”
  1491. >Well really it's because neither of you have any idea how to cook anything beyond the basics.
  1492. >Buuuuut you see no reason to tell him that.
  1493. “Yeah, it’ll be nice to be able to double team dinner. We’re both just so tired after work.”
  1494. >Suddenly recognition flashes in Cake’s eyes.
  1495. >>”Work? *Gasp* Oh my, I don’t suppose you’re /the/ Anonymous of the Canterlot Canterer!?”
  1496. >Oh no.
  1497. “A-as a matter of fact, yes I am.”
  1498. >>”Oh my goodness! May I just say, my son and I LOVE reading your articles!”
  1499. >Oh God please don’t ask about anything fashion related.
  1500. >>”I would have never guessed that long sleeved coats were coming back into style! If you don’t mind me asking: who’s your source?”
  1501. >Nobody, you made it up.
  1502. “Haha, sorry Cake, a reporter never reveals his sources!”
  1503. >>”Oh pish posh. Come on, you can tell me! Just a secret between us guys.”
  1504. >Please stop asking.
  1505. “Sorry, Cake, I’m serious. They’d be really upset if I revealed them.”
  1506. >For a brief moment you’re afraid he’ll keep pushing, but he lets up.
  1507. >>”Oh phooey! I suppose I’ll just have to wait for your next article, then.”
  1508. >Suddenly his attention is directed to one of the other workstations, which has suddenly begun spewing black smoke.
  1509. >>”Oh blast! Sorry to run dearie, but duty calls!”
  1510. >Giving the portly stallion a nod, he runs off to the poor mare who just burned the shit out of her filet.
  1511. >Speaking of fillets...
  1512. >”Aaaaaand, done! Come on Anon have a bite!”
  1513. >Your mouth is already watering.
  1514.  
  1515. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and you’ve been (metaphorically) chewing through Cake’s instruction at a rapid pace.
  1516. >It’s just so much fun!
  1517. >Mixing and matching ingredients, trying out new techniques, [spoiler]dreaming of the praise Anon will give you for doing such a good job with dinner.[/spoiler]
  1518. >You feel like you were made for this.
  1519. >Of course Anon’s been a big help too, having everything you could want or need at the ready.
  1520. >The two of you make such a good team that you’ve even already got the cake in the oven!
  1521. >So while that bakes, that leaves you to make the last dish: hayburgers.
  1522. >And as you start them, you can help but notice that for somepony so seemingly averse to eating hay, Anon is /really/ eyeing up those burgers.
  1523. >He hasn’t dared to take his eyes off the patties, ever since you put them in the pan.
  1524. >Maybe this is your chance.
  1525. “Those are some fine looking burgers aren’t they Anon?”
  1526. >”Yeah...”
  1527. “Just imagine them when they’re ready. Covered in Equestrian cheese, topped with lettuce, onions, and tomato.”
  1528. >”Yeah...”
  1529. “Why, you could probably eat two or three in one sitting.”
  1530. >”Yeeeeeeah.”
  1531. >Wow, he’s actually started salivating.
  1532. “As soon as these are done, you and me are eating the heck out of these hayburgers.”
  1533. >And just like that, the spell is broken.
  1534. >Anon closes his mouth, steps back, and looks away from them.
  1535. >”A-actually I’m not that hungry. Maybe later tonight.”
  1536. >Luna damn it!
  1537. >Was it the fact you called them /hay/burgers!?
  1538. “You sure? They’ll be much better fresh!”
  1539. >”Yeah,” Anon says, while refusing to look at either you or the burgers.
  1540. >That’s it, tonight you are getting to the bottom of this!
  1541. >Either Anon’s going to give you the reason he doesn’t eat hay, or he’s eating those dang burgers!
  1542. “If you’re done salivating then, could you pass me the paprika?”
  1543.  
  1544. “Aaaaand violà!” you say as you put the finishing touches on the cake.
  1545. >Anon, looking at it with an appraiser’s eye, seems pleased.
  1546. >”Looks like it turned out pretty good! Just like everything else really.”
  1547. >You beam with pride at the praise, look at how far you’ve come in just one day!
  1548. “Thanks Anon, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
  1549. >”Ha! I doubt that.”
  1550. “Don’t be ridiculous! Without you I—”
  1551. >Just then it dawns on you, you didn’t actually let Anon do any cooking.
  1552. >You were the one at the stove the entire time, just giving him orders.
  1553. “Aw, well gee Anon. Sorry I hogged all the actual cooking.”
  1554. >Good natured as always, he just waves it off.
  1555. >”Nah, it's fine. Besides, you were the one who wanted to do this to begin with.”
  1556. >While that is true, you do still feel a little bad.
  1557. >”Plus, nothing stopping us from just going over it again at home. I could even get us some aprons from Silken’s shop, that’d be fun.”
  1558. >For some reason that idea tickles a distant part of your brain.
  1559. [spoiler]>You in a tight little apron that shows off your flanks, Anon towering over you...[/spoiler]
  1560. >Shaking your head to clear those strange thoughts, you smile.
  1561. “Y-yeah, sounds good.”
  1562. >Before the conversation can continue however, Cake draws everypony’s attention to the front of the room.
  1563. >>”Alright, I see some of you have already finished up, if that’s the case, you’re free to go! Feel free to grab some to-go boxes for anything you didn’t eat, and again, thank you so much for coming!”
  1564. >At that, Anon turns excitedly to you.
  1565. >”Wanna pick up some liqueur on the way home? Have a cake and alcohol night?”
  1566. “You bet I do.”
  1567.  
  1568. >You are Anonymous the Unicorn, and you and Pike have successfully returned home with your goods.
  1569. >The class took basically the whole day, so by the time you got home, the sunset was visible through the window.
  1570. >And what better time to have some drinks and eat some cake!
  1571. >Placing the cake box on the kitchen table, you waste no time pouring yourself a glass of some Equestrian Kahlua knock off and grabbing a cake cutting knife.
  1572. >You practically shiver with anticipation as you sink the blade into the chocolatey goodness.
  1573. >”And /what/ do you think you’re doing?”
  1574. >Freezing mid cut, you turn your head to the left to see a very stern looking Pike.
  1575. “Uhhhh, cutting the cake?”
  1576. >Hopping up next to you, she reveals the other box you brought back from the class.
  1577. >”Not before you eat your dinner you don’t.”
  1578. >Instantly putting two and two together, your heart freezes as she puts the other take out box on the table.
  1579. >Whatever you were going to say in an attempt to put this off dies on your lips as she pops open the lid, and your nose is flooded with the smell of burger.
  1580. >Preserved by some charm Cake Batter put in the box, it smells just as fresh as it did when you made it.
  1581. >Putting one on a plate and passing it over to you, she gives you a smile that tells you she knows exactly what she’s doing.
  1582. >”Well? Dig in!”
  1583. >Oh how you want to.
  1584. >As it sits there right under your nose, you can’t deny the fact it smells just like a regular burger.
  1585. >Every American bone in your body is currently screaming at you to take a bite out of that sucker.
  1586. >But you can’t!
  1587. >ITS HAY!
  1588. >Mustering up all of your remaining will power, you push the plate to the side.
  1589.  
  1590. >”Pike... I can’t.”
  1591. >That’s it, you’re getting to the bottom of this.
  1592. “Anonymous, why? It's just hay—”
  1593. >”THAT’S WHY!” he suddenly cries, “IT’S HAY! P-people don’t eat hay!”
  1594. >By now you know Anon’s accent well enough that you know by ‘people’ he means ‘ponies’.
  1595. “Anonymous, that’s ridiculous! Ponies need hay, it’s a major food group!”
  1596. >”It’s-it’s just not something I ate back home, alright? I know it's not really healthy for me to go without it, but just drop it. Please?”
  1597. >No way you’re going to drop it!
  1598. >What kind of bucked up culture keeps ponies from eating hay?
  1599. >Why would somepony—
  1600. >Suddenly, something occurs to you.
  1601. “Anon, back home, did all ponies have coats as thin as yours is now?”
  1602. >He seems to ponder the question a bit, as if he’s unsure what to say.
  1603. >”I-I guess so...”
  1604. >In that moment, it all clicks.
  1605. >You’ve heard stories of stallions starving themselves because they thought it would make them more attractive.
  1606. >To think that Anon’s own culture would encourage him to do that!
  1607. >It breaks your heart.
  1608.  
  1609. >You are Anonymous, and you really aren’t sure where Pike’s line of questioning was going.
  1610. >This sense of confusion is only compounded, as she looks at you with newfound tears in her eyes.
  1611. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
  1612. >Suddenly she hops over to you and raps you in her hooves.
  1613. >”Oh, Anon! You don’t need to do this to yourself, you’ll always be handsome to me!”
  1614. >It's obvious she’s misunderstood the situation, but nonetheless, you can help but feel comforted by her words.
  1615. “E-even if I was some freaky... ape thing?”
  1616. >That gets a chuckle out of her.
  1617. >”Anon what are you talking about? Turning you into a freaky ape thing? Eating some hay isn’t going to change who you are.”
  1618. >She’s right.
  1619. >Eating some hay /isn’t/ going to change who you are.
  1620. >At this point you’re just holding onto the no hay thing, just for the sake of it.
  1621. >There’s no real reason for you not to eat hay, hell it’s even making getting around in the Winter a genuine ordeal.
  1622. >It’s just... not worth it.
  1623. >Prying her off yourself, you turn your attention back to the burger.
  1624. “Alright, alright. I’ll do it. But if I don’t like it you have to promise to leave me alone.”
  1625. >Wiping the tears from her eyes, she nods.
  1626. >”Ok.”
  1627. >With that, you steel yourself.
  1628. >Picking up the burger in your spectral hands, you take a big old bite.
  1629. >...
  1630. >Holy shit.
  1631.  
  1632. >You, Nocturnal Pike, are starting to get worried.
  1633. >Anon actually took a bite of his burger, which is good!
  1634. >But he’s just kind of been sitting there with the burger in his mouth for a couple of minutes now.
  1635. >He’s also got this wide eyed look on his face.
  1636. >Hey, wait a minute, are those tears!?
  1637. “A-Anon? Are you alright?”
  1638. >Wait, you can hear him whispering something through the burger!
  1639. >”It’s... it’s...”
  1640. “It’s what Anon!?”
  1641. >”DELICIOUS!”
  1642. >You’ve never seen a pony eat a burger like that.
  1643. >He absolutely tears into it like a wild animal.
  1644. >”Oh burger, how I missed you!”
  1645. >Honestly this is starting to feel kind of filthy.
  1646. >Like, you’re intruding on something extremely personal.
  1647. >M-maybe you should go.
  1648. >But as you try to leave the room, you feel yourself get hoisted up.
  1649. >This time, you’re the one pulled into Anon’s hooves.
  1650. >As he squeezes you tight, he rests his somehow not filthy chin on your head.
  1651. >”Thank you, Pike.”
  1652. >Picking you up with his spectral hands (Luna above he already finished the burger!?) he places you back in your seat.
  1653. >”Now eat your dang burger, I’m trying to have some of this cake!”
  1654.  
  1655.  
  1656. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and tonight, you have to make a tough choice.
  1657. >Because tonight was poker night.
  1658. >You haven’t missed a poker night in three years!
  1659. >Tonight though, is different.
  1660. >While she may be your least favorite princess, Princess Celestia had given you an assignment.
  1661. >An assignment you were going to take seriously, no matter how many times Anon insisted it was a joke.
  1662. >This was your career on the line after all!
  1663. >So that means Anon can’t leave your side.
  1664. >Which, for tonight, leaves you with two options.
  1665. >Either skip out on poker night, or bring Anon.
  1666. >And you are not missing poker night.
  1667. >So here you are, seated across from Astral at the usual table.
  1668. >Anon is off getting the two of you drinks, and Astral is giving you the lashing of a lifetime.
  1669. >”I /cannot/ believe you brought him to gals night.”
  1670. >Checking over the mostly empty bar to make sure Anon didn’t hear that, you fire back.
  1671. “Oh buck off. He said the two of you hit it off!”
  1672. >”That doesn’t mean you should bring him to gals night! That’s like, the first rule of gals night! No. Stallions.”
  1673. >Rolling your eyes, you pull a deck of cards and begin the preparatory shuffle.
  1674. “He’s not even going to be at the table.”
  1675. >Astral, looking like you just said you raped a colt, leans over the table to get right in your face.
  1676. >”He’s WHAT!? Pike are you insane!? I get that he’s a janefilly, but you seriously told him he /had/ to come to the bar with you, but he /couldn’t/ sit with you!?”
  1677. >You just groan and shove her back into her seat.
  1678. “No. HE said that HE didn’t want to ‘buck up the table’s vibe’ so he’d invite some friends to go drinking with. See, it’s perfect!”
  1679. >Despite how air tight your plan is, Astral still looks at you like you should be sectioned.
  1680. >”If you end up sleeping on the couch tonight, I don’t want to hear you complain about it ONCE.”
  1681. >>”As if I’d ever be that much of a bitch-er, bastard,” chimes in a voice from behind you.
  1682. >Turning your head, you see the stallion himself, Anon, returning with three... somethings, in his telekinetic grip.
  1683. >As you take one from him, you take a peek at the label.
  1684. >’Kirin Beer’?
  1685. “What the heck is this?”
  1686. >>”That stuff Kirins make, apparently it's all the bar has and is going to have. For the next several weeks at least.”
  1687. >Ah, that reminds you.
  1688. “Say Astral, what happened with all of that? I’ve been pretty out of the loop.”
  1689. >Astral, taking a beer herself, cracks a smile at your question.
  1690. >”You’ll have to ask Night Sky, she can tell you all about it.”
  1691. “Did you pass all the work onto her, you bitch?”
  1692. >You should hope not, Night’s probably got enough on her plate as is.
  1693. >”Of course not! Just /most/ of it. I’m a slacker, not a sadist.”
  1694. >Suddenly, something directs her attention behind your head.
  1695. >”Oh! Speaking of.”
  1696. >Turning around in your chair, you see what caught Astral’s attention: the arrival of Night Sky.
  1697. >Anon, seeing Night’s arrival as well, decides to take his leave.
  1698. >>”And that’s my cue.”
  1699. >Giving you a quick peck on the cheek, Anon whispers in your ear.
  1700. >>”Clean these bas- bitches out."
  1701. >Returning his peck, you reply in kind.
  1702. “You bet your sweet flank I will.”
  1703.  
  1704. >You are Anonymous the unicorn, and it took a while but you’ve found yourself the perfect table.
  1705. >It’s a semi-circular booth situated in a corner of the bar that should be relatively conducive to conversation, while also being within eyesight of Pike’s table.
  1706. >So settling in, you prepare for the wait until Silken and Cut show up.
  1707. >Which thankfully, was not very long.
  1708. >You’d only been there a few minutes before the first of your two friends, Cut N. Paste, walks in the front door.
  1709. >Tailed by someone who looks suspiciously like her (except she’s a bat)!
  1710. >A bat that’s currently making her way over to Pike’s table, while Cut makes her way over to yours.
  1711. >She /did/ mention at one point she had a sister in the guard.
  1712. >It’s a small world you suppose.
  1713. >Waving her down, it doesn’t take long for Cut to make her way over to you.
  1714. >”H-hey Anon.”
  1715. “Hey Cut! Come on, have a seat. I hope you like beer.”
  1716. >She chuckles nervously as she slides in across from you.
  1717. >”I’ve uh, never had it.”
  1718. “Well, it's all they got.”
  1719. >Gesturing over toward Pike’s poker table you point out Cut’s batty doppelganger.
  1720. “Is that your sister over there?”
  1721. >”Yeah, she’s here to play poker with her squad. Why?”
  1722. “My fillyfriend is her boss.”
  1723. >Cut inhales sharply, shocked at this revelation.
  1724. >”Your fillyfriend is /Nocturnal/ Pike!? The s-stallionizer!?”
  1725. >A stallionizer!?
  1726. >Pike’s not a stallionizer!
  1727. >Or, you suppose, she isn’t /now/.
  1728. >She was neck deep in that whole macho mare lifestyle before she met you.
  1729. “The very same.”
  1730. >Cut seems shocked and somewhat distressed at this revelation.
  1731. >You guess her sister’s description left quite an impression.
  1732. >”Wait, why aren’t you over there sitting with her then?”
  1733. “Well, I’m /technically/ not allowed to leave her sight, on account of the whole I broke into the castle thing, and I neither wanted to crash her poker game nor keep her from it. So, here we are!”
  1734. >At the mention of what probably should have been counted as a felony, Cut’s face lights up.
  1735. >”Oh yeah! I uh, edited your article today Anon. I-it was really good!”
  1736. >Considering all you went through to write it, you would hope.
  1737. “Thanks, Cut! Think it’ll make the front page?”
  1738. >”Considering Celestia still hasn’t released an official statement? Absolutely.”
  1739.  
  1740. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and turning your attention away from Anon and the chubby mare he’s sitting with, you focus on what matters right now.
  1741. >The Table.
  1742. >The other two players for the evening have, at this point, arrived.
  1743. “Tonight’s game is Appleloosan Hold ‘Em.”
  1744. >With Night and Astral to your left, followed by Cloak and Rookie on your right, you start dealing the cards.
  1745. >Passing the first card directly to your left, to Night, you see she’s fixed with a scathing glare.
  1746. >”You know, Pike, I’m a little offended.”
  1747. >Continuing to look at her, you pass the next card to Astral.
  1748. “Why’s that?”
  1749. >”We’ve been friends for so long, yet you wouldn’t even let me in on the fact you’ve gotten a serious coltfriend?”
  1750. >The card you were going to toss to Cloak falls limply out of your hoof.
  1751. >Oh buck.
  1752. >Looks like the secret’s out.
  1753. >Astral’s already facehoofing, while Cloak is cheering triumphantly.
  1754. >>”HA! I knew it!” cries Cloak.
  1755. >”Really,” replies Night, “/you/ knew?”
  1756. >>”Well it was either that, or Sarge had been replaced with a filly-fiddling shapeshifter.”
  1757. >Picking up the card and actually passing it to Cloak, you chose to tactically ignore her statement.
  1758. “How’d you find out, Night?”
  1759. >”Sepulcher, of all ponies, told me. Said Celestia gave you some ‘time off with your coltfriend’ after the Kirin disaster.”
  1760. >At the mention of the Kirin, all the other mares burst out laughing.
  1761. >”Oh mare, what a mess.”
  1762. >Astral, having pulled the hoof from her face, turns your way.
  1763. >>>”Hey, you got to see Sparkle blow up, right? How was /that/?”
  1764. >Pretty terrifying if you’re being honest [spoiler]but you’re not going to be honest.[/spoiler]
  1765. “It was hilarious, I thought she was going to catch fire too!”
  1766. >This gets another laugh out of the gathered mares, one that you (weakly) participate in this time.
  1767. >>>>”Aw mare,” pipes up Rookie, “you got to see that /and/ skip out on the fallout? You’re one lucky bitch Sarge.”
  1768. >Passing the last of the hole cards out, you begin flipping the community cards.
  1769. “So how exactly did that all turn out?”
  1770. >This time Night Sky is the one to facehoof.
  1771. >”An absolute nightmare. They’re /still/ renegotiating.”
  1772. >Flipping the third and final community card, the game begins.
  1773. >Hmmmm, a six, a three, and a jill. While you’ve got a prince and a three.
  1774. >Let’s see how long you can ride this pair of threes.
  1775. >Night, being the one sitting to your left, opens boldly by tossing in five bits.
  1776. >”I was starting to suspect the Princesses would give up and send them back, but apparently the Kirin are as desperate as they are angry.”
  1777. >If Anon’s interview notes were any indication, they have no idea.
  1778. >Astral, having taken a sip from her ‘Kirin Beer’ calls Night’s bet.
  1779. >>>”I heard that part of that renegotiation is why all we’ve got to drink are these. Something about, ‘supporting Kirin owned enterprises to show solidarity amongst tribes’.”
  1780. >Cloak, keeping a close eye on everyponies’ expressions, calls as well.
  1781. >>”How are those, by the way?”
  1782. >Astral takes another, longer sip of the beer and smacks her lips.
  1783. >>>”Tastes like bread.”
  1784. >Suddenly reminded that you too have a beer, you take a sip yourself while Rookie folds.
  1785. >Huh, it /does/ taste like bread.
  1786. >>”Come on Rook, already folding?”
  1787. >Throwing down her ten and two, Rookie shrugs.
  1788. >>>>”Just got a bad hoof.”
  1789. >Calling Night’s bet, you flip the next card.
  1790. >A seven.
  1791. >You doubt you could win on a pair of threes, but maybe you could bluff though.
  1792. >Or maybe not, Night’s definitely got something.
  1793. >She just bet a whopping ten bits!
  1794. >”Did you hear though? Celestia’s making Sparkle do some ‘sensitivity training’.”
  1795. >A loud sigh from Cloak, pulls the attention over to her.
  1796. >>”Sparkle’s not the only one.”
  1797. >Astral’s got the world’s largest manure eating grin as she calls Night’s bet.
  1798. >>>”Oh, you too, Cloak? Let me guess, was it the manifesto?”
  1799. >Cloak, in a rare moment of anger, slams her hooves on the table, unintentionally revealing her prince and ace.
  1800. >>”It’s not a manifesto!”
  1801. >Meanwhile Night, Astral, and you burst out laughing, while Rookie just looks around confused.
  1802. >After a fews minutes of laughing so hard it puts tears in your eyes, Rookie elbows you.
  1803. >>>>”Uh, Sarge? What manifesto?”
  1804. >Calming your laughter just enough, you manage to get your question out.
  1805. “What did you call it Cloak? ‘Industrial Society and It's Future’?”
  1806. >”No no no,” chimes in Night, “that wouldn’t have done it. Must have been one of the times you gave your opinions on Griffonstone.”
  1807. >Cloak, having noticed she revealed her cards, angrily stands up.
  1808. >>”Fold. I’m getting a drink.”
  1809. >>>>”Oh, me too!”
  1810. >As the two of them march off, that makes it your bet.
  1811. >Bluff time.
  1812. “I raise you five more bits.”
  1813. >The two remaining at the table ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhhh’.
  1814. >”Playing teatsy tonight are we? I’ll call that.”
  1815. >>>”Same.”
  1816. >Buck.
  1817. >Alright, time to flip the final card.
  1818. >A prince!
  1819. >Oh, you’ve got this in the bag.
  1820. “So, you think anything else will come of that disaster?”
  1821. >Night replies to the new card by nonchalantly tossing in another five bits.
  1822. >”Probably another week of negotiations at least.”
  1823. >Astral, after taking another look at her cards, does the same.
  1824. >>>”I heard the crown’s footing the bill for a bunch of Kirin to move straight here, /and/ we’re going to be building a new train line that goes up the mountain to Kirin grove.”
  1825. >Considering what you’ve got, you feel pretty confident upping the bet again.
  1826. >Tossing in ten bits, you shake your head.
  1827. “I hope Celestia takes it out of Sparkle’s allowance.”
  1828. >Night, taking a look at your bet and you, smiles.
  1829. >”You’re bluffing. I raise to fifteen.”
  1830. >Astral, taking a look at her cards and sighs.
  1831. >>>”I fold.”
  1832. >And then there were two.
  1833. >If it wasn’t for that prince sitting on the table, you’d be feeling a lot less cocky.
  1834. >As it stands though, you meet Night’s gaze with a smile of your own.
  1835. “I call.”
  1836. >Adding another five bits to the pile, you wait to see what Night Sky will do.
  1837. >>”Hmm, it’s only the first hoof, I’ll stay.”
  1838. >Glancing at your personal bit pile, you tap the table to stay as well, signaling the end of the betting.
  1839. >”Alright, Pike. Let’s see those cards.”
  1840. >Dropping them on the table, you savor the sight on Night’s smile falling off her face.
  1841. “Two pairs, prince and threes.”
  1842. >A statement that causes her to throw her hooves up in exasperation.
  1843. >”Buck me! Pair of jills.”
  1844. >Reaching across the table to (barely) get your hooves around the pot, you laugh.
  1845. >Oh yeah, you’ve got a good feeling about tonight.
  1846.  
  1847. >You are Silken Evening, and you’ve been at this booth for quite some time now.
  1848. >Things were going much better than they could have.
  1849. >Upon your arrival it became extremely obvious that Anon didn’t actually bother to find out if you and his other friend, Cut, had anything in common before inviting you both out.
  1850. >But luckily for the three of you, you and Cut had one very big thing in common.
  1851. >You’re both blue-trixies.
  1852. “Yeah, my one blue deck lets me summon infinite 1/1 tokens that, after one turn, can do infinite damage.”
  1853. >”Oh that is disgusting! I love it!” says Cut.
  1854. >Anon, struggling to keep up with the conversation, speaks.
  1855. >>”Wait wait, you said this game is called ‘Cyber: The Assembly’ right?”
  1856. “Yeah.”
  1857. >>”Ha! If that's what I think it is, back home we called it ‘Magic: The Gathering’!”
  1858. >Cut does on honest to Celestia spit take at that, with a look of utter disgust on her face.
  1859. >”Ugh, I’m sorry Anon, but what is it with your home country and having stupid localizations for everything? Power RANGERS, STAR TREK, and now this?”
  1860. >Star Trek?
  1861. “What the heck is a Star Trek?”
  1862. >Cut, who’s become a lot more animated after her fifth beer, swings around to look at you.
  1863. >”Don’t even get me started. For /some/ reason, his home decided to make ‘Sea Trot’ take place in space! The E.U.S. Enterprise is a /SPACE/ ship!”
  1864. >What.
  1865. “No way. That’s not real.”
  1866. >>”Yep,” Anon cuts in, “minus some name and gender changes, it's the exact same show but in space.”
  1867. >Cut throws up her hooves.
  1868. >”Unbelievable.”
  1869. >Anon, after taking a generous swig from his bottle, speaks up again.
  1870. >>”Ok, but what /I/ want to know is, why’s it still called the Enterprise? We called it that after one of /our/ battleships.”
  1871. >That gets you shaking your head.
  1872. >You thought incoming citizens had to be tested on Equestrian history?
  1873. “It was named after the explorer Captain Chase ‘Em’s ship, the Enterprise.”
  1874. >Despite what you said being historical fact, he looks confused and unconvinced.
  1875. >>”What? Jason’s ship was called the Argo!”
  1876. >”Sweet Celestia!” interjects Cut, “Not even historical events are safe!”
  1877. >To be honest, you find yourself feeling similarly.
  1878. >What a seemingly bizarre massive waste of time.
  1879. >What whimsy could have even prompted the need for such extensive ‘localizations’?
  1880. >Does a /stallion/ run his country or something?
  1881. >Wait... /does/ a stallion run his country?
  1882. >For somepony who’s said a lot about his home, Anon sure hasn’t /actually/ told you anything about his home.
  1883. “Say Anon, where are you actually from again?”
  1884. >interestingly, a look of panic crosses Anon’s face.
  1885. >>”Uh, the United States?”
  1886. >You and Cut share a look at that, a look of confusion.
  1887. >”I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.”
  1888. >Anon, looking increasingly sweaty, stammers out an answer.
  1889. >>”Y-you wouldn’t. It's out west. Way way way out west.”
  1890. >”Past Labyrinthia?”
  1891. >Anon’s eyes have started rapidly shifting between the two of you.
  1892. >>”Oh absolutely.”
  1893. “I thought past Labyrinthia wa-”
  1894. >>”Oop,” he says suddenly standing up, “Igottapeerealquickholdthatthough.”
  1895. >And by the time you’ve even figured out what he was saying, he’s gone.
  1896.  
  1897. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and it seems that early win lulled you into a false sense of security.
  1898. >Because you are currently down.
  1899. >A lot.
  1900. >>>”Aw, what’s the matter, Pike? Down on your luck?” Astral mocks.
  1901. >”Quit jinxing it, Astral!” cries Night, “I don’t need to tell you how many times we’ve lost to her!”
  1902. >This is getting you nowhere, you need to recollect yourself and rethink your strategy.
  1903. “I’m taking a piss, feel free to play a hoof without me.”
  1904. >Hopping off your chair and heading the restroom’s way, you begin thinking on a strategy.
  1905. >Hmmm, Rookie’s inexperienced, and seemingly only bets if she’s actually got cards.
  1906. >Maybe you can work with that.
  1907. >As you lift your hoof to push open the door, a sudden voice to your side distracts you.
  1908. >>”Well hey there stranger.”
  1909. >Looking over, you see a sight for your sore eyes.
  1910. “Hey there, Anon.”
  1911. >Like the dutiful stallion he is, he picks up on your mood almost immediately.
  1912. >>”Aw, now don’t tell me you lost our kid’s college fund.”
  1913. >Chuckling, you give him a playful little shove.
  1914. “That's our /foal's/ college fund. And, no. I’m just on a losing streak.”
  1915. >>”A losing streak that’ll almost certainly continue if you go back out there feeling as down as you look.”
  1916. >Darn, he’s right.
  1917. >Poker is a mental game after all, just gotta focus on improving your mental state.
  1918. >Think about something happy like...
  1919. >...Like the feeling of Anon’s balls slapping against your flank.
  1920. >It appears while you were deep in thought, he took a rather /raunchy/ position directly over you.
  1921. >As such, when he speaks you can feel the vibrations of his baritone voice throughout your body.
  1922. >>”You know, I think I’ve got just the thing to cheer you up...”
  1923.  
  1924. >You are the Pegasus Cloud Garrison, and you are taking a quick piss in this seedy restroom stall.
  1925. >You and your friends came out here to celebrate your graduation from flight school, and you’re really looking forward to—
  1926. >*SLAM*
  1927. >Celestia above!
  1928. >You know the mare can't see your scalding gaze through the stall door, but she deserves to feel it!
  1929. >What’s got her so excited that she needs to slam open the restroom door like that?
  1930. >...Hold on... you can hear two sets of hooves on the tile.
  1931. >Wait a second... oh no!
  1932. >The door being thrown open, the two sets of hooves awkwardly shuffling around outside?
  1933. >Are these two ponies fighting!?
  1934. >Oh jeez, what are the chances!
  1935. >Thankfully they just entered the stall next to you.
  1936. >Maybe you can make a break for it—
  1937. >*THUD*
  1938. >S-something just hit the wall of the stall the two just went into.
  1939. >It sounded kind of hard too...
  1940. >What if something bad happened, you can’t just leave!
  1941. “H-hello? Are you ok in there?”
  1942. >Straining your ear, your only answer is a shuddering breath.
  1943. >Then a series of thuds begin.
  1944. >Sounding almost... rhythmic?
  1945. >Then finally, much to your shock (and shamefully, arousal), a /stallions/ voices echos from the other side of the wall.
  1946. >”You hear that, hon? They can hear you.”
  1947. >>”Mmmmmf.”
  1948. >Those thuds...
  1949. >Th-they’re not fighting at all! They’re...!
  1950. >“You /love/ that she can hear us, don’t you? I bet you wish she’d open the door and see you like this. All small and submissive, like the little mare you are.”
  1951. >You feel like you shouldn’t be here for this, and the feeling of your wings involuntarily extending only hastens your decision to leave.
  1952.  
  1953. >You are Astral Blade, and what is taking Pike so long?!
  1954. >She’s already missed three hooves, and Night’s about to deal the next!
  1955. >She’s just pissing, what’s the hold up—
  1956. >Hold on, *sniff sniff*.
  1957. >Hmmm, a /very/ peculiar smell just hit your nose.
  1958. >A smell that is gradually growing stronger.
  1959. >The others have noticed it too, slowing both the chatter and the game.
  1960. >Curious, you turn your head to follow the scent, only to find the trail leads you to an approaching Pike.
  1961. >And then, you realize /just/ what that scent is.
  1962. >No way, she didn’t!
  1963. >But your nose doesn’t lie, she did.
  1964. “Pike, you animal! Did you fuck your coltfriend in the restroom stall!?”
  1965. >While the smell (that you’re now certain is sex) had previously slowed the game down, your comment brings it to a screeching halt.
  1966. >As all eyes turn to Pike, who surprisingly bristles under the attention.
  1967. >”Um... no?”
  1968. “You totally did!”
  1969. >At that, the table bursts into laughter and various other reactions.
  1970. >>”WHAT!? How did I not know he was here!?” cries Cloak.
  1971. >>>”You’re incorrigible,” laments Night.
  1972. >>>>”Aw he didn’t make you be the one to lay on the bathroom floor, did he Sarge? I hate when my stallion does that...” chimes in Rookie (which you can’t lie, leaves you just a little concerned).
  1973. >Pike meanwhile, just sheepishly retakes her spot at the table.
  1974. >”Yeah ok, turns out were we both headed to the bathroom at the same time and... well...”
  1975. >Before she can say another word, you reach over and give her a slap on the back.
  1976. “Pike, you lucky bitch.”
  1977.  
  1978. >You are Anonymous, and after a deliciously dirty tryst, you’ve arrived back at your table.
  1979. >Hopping on to your seat, you give a smile only a man who just plowed his girlfriend can give.
  1980. “So, what were we talking about again?”
  1981. >Only to be met with Cut and Silken’s best owl impressions.
  1982. >Which at first, doesn’t really bother you, but it gets old after about five minutes.
  1983. >Seeing as they seem unwilling to break this awkward silence themselves, you decide to take matters into your own hooves.
  1984. “Uhhhh, what’s up?”
  1985. >You actually speaking seemingly startles them out of whatever trance they were in, and Silken’s look turns into one of disappointment.
  1986. >”Anon, you didn’t,” she says.
  1987. >What does she mean? Did what?
  1988. >Wait... oh fuck they can smell it can’t they.
  1989. “Hahaaaaaa whatcha talking about, Silken?”
  1990. >Sighing, she just shakes her head like a disapproving parent.
  1991. >”I can’t believe you let your fillyfriend buck you in a bathroom stall.”
  1992. >Wha- HEY! You resent that!
  1993. “I’ll have you know I didn’t /let/ her do anything! /I/ was the one doing the fucking!”
  1994. >Silken seems surprised by your word choice, but before she can ask you to elaborate, Cut throws her face into her hooves and cries out.
  1995. >>”Why can’t I find a coltfriend who let’s me do that? WHAT AM I DOING WRONG!?”
  1996. >Aw, poor Cut, your heart goes out to her.
  1997. >Sounds like nerds having love trouble is a universal constant after all.
  1998. >Deciding to give her some support you- JESUS CHRIST!
  1999. >As you turn towards her to give her a supportive hoof, you notice how many empty beers surround her.
  2000. >It’s gotta be /at least/ twenty five!
  2001. >These things aren’t pisswater either (probably)!
  2002. >How is this mare still conscious!?
  2003. >Ok she /definitely/ needs a comforting hoof then... and maybe a horse ambulance.
  2004. “Come on Cut,” you say as you pat her on the back, “you're a great mare! I’m sure you’ll find someon- somepony. All you’ve got to do is go out and actually ask. Which granted is pretty hard, but that’s just your best option.”
  2005. >Your words at least pull her head out of her hooves to look at you.
  2006. >Aw man, this is really eating her, you can see tears in her eyes.
  2007. >>”R-really?”
  2008. “Of course! That’s how I met Pike after all, she just randomly approached me and introduced herself! At this very bar, no less.”
  2009. >Strangely, she turns her head to look at Pike and gets a look that seems a little less than friendly.
  2010. >>”Is that so?”
  2011.  
  2012. >You are Nocturnal Pike, and it's been a few hooves.
  2013. >Turns out you and Anon’s ‘stress relief’ session was just what you needed to turn this game around!
  2014. >But not for the reasons you’d expect.
  2015. >”Night,” says Cloak, “I think I’ve got it figured out. There’s a stallion sitting at the left end of the bar...”
  2016. >Night, only barely paying attention to the game at this point, turns to where Cloak is pointing.
  2017. >>”Nah, can’t be him. Pike likes tall guys, remember?.”
  2018. >The mares have been so distracted trying to figure out who your coltfriend is (except for Astral, she’s distracted because she’s laughing so hard) that their playing has /tanked/.
  2019. “Hey, Night?” you say, hoping to just keep the game moving.
  2020. >Which works, her attention snaps back to you for /just/ long enough to shoot out a “huh? Oh, I fold,’ before she gets back to gawking.
  2021. >Ha! You don’t even think she even looked at what the last card you flipped was!
  2022. >You’re cleaning these poor bitches out!
  2023. >>>”Come on Sarge,” whines Rookie, “can’t you just tell us who he is?”
  2024. >Taking one look at how your pile of bits has grown, you let yourself laugh out loud.
  2025. “Nope!”
  2026. >Although, the fact that Rookie’s the only one still in does give you an idea...
  2027. >Are you willing to risk your advantage on curiosity, though?
  2028. >Taking a quick glance at your hoof (oooh, it's good) you figure the risk is worth it.
  2029. “Actually, I’ll make you a bet, Rookie. If you win this hoof, I tell everypony who my coltfriend is.”
  2030. >Her eyes light up at that, clearly she’s got some decent cards.
  2031. >>>”Alright Sarge, I-”
  2032. “Up, up, up, let me finish. But if /I/ win, you have to tell everypony what you did that made Blueblood hate you so much.”
  2033. >Rookie’s face turns a deep red at that, and you're pretty sure she’s actually about to turn you down, but unfortunately for her...
  2034. >>”Take the bet Rookie!”
  2035. >”I NEED to know!”
  2036. >...the other two overheard.
  2037. >>>”Ok, ok! Y-you’re on Sarge!”
  2038. >Aha! Big mistake!
  2039. “Then show me your cards.”
  2040. >Suddenly gaining a burst of (misplaced) confidence, she throws down her cards.
  2041. >>>”I’ve got three princes! Ha! Beat that Sergeant!”
  2042. >Ahhhh, you’re about to ruin this rookie’s night.
  2043. >Gently placing your cards down, you put the world’s largest manure eating grin on your face.
  2044. “Flush of spades, read ‘em and weep, rookie.”
  2045. >>>”WHAT!? AGAIN?”
  2046. >The other two cry out, having lost their chance at their question being answered, while Astral just continues to laugh.
  2047. >>>>”Pfffft, hahahahaa! Talk about a throwback!”
  2048. >Leaning forward, you put the rapidly paling Rookie on the spot.
  2049. “Well, Rook? What’s the deal?”
  2050. >Her eyes dart around the room, as if she’s worried somepony is lurking in the corners of her vision.
  2051. >>>”Uh uh uh.”
  2052. >At this point the other mares have stopped their lamenting and guffawing, and smelled the blood in the water.
  2053. >>”I am the one making the schedules Rookie, it’s imperative I know.”
  2054. >”Has he chosen you as his next blood sacrifice?! I heard the blood of mares is what keeps his coat so shiny!”
  2055. >>>>”Come on spit it out already!”
  2056. >There’s visible panic on her face as her eyes dart around the table.
  2057. >>>”Uh uh UH!”
  2058. “Come on Rook,” you say, bringing her attention back to you winning cards, “a bet’s a bet.”
  2059. >>>”We- we!”
  2060. >>>>”Oh come on! How bad could it possibly b-”
  2061. >>>”We’re seeing each other!”
  2062. >Stunned silence fills the table, and you’re right there with them.
  2063. >As soon as what she said clicks, you cry out.
  2064. “You, a night guard, are bucking /Celestia’s nephew/?!
  2065. >Rookie sheepishly looks away.
  2066. >>>”I-I’m not supposed to tell ponies, but... yeah.”
  2067. >There’s another brief moment of silence as what she said truly sets in.
  2068. >Then everpony at the table erupts into cheers.
  2069. >You yourself immediately close the distance and give her a congratulatory wing slap right on the back.
  2070. “Hot dang! Sounds like you’re moving up in the world Rookie!”
  2071. >>>>”Ey barkeep! Another round of drinks over here, on me!”
  2072. >Surprisingly, Rookie doesn’t share everypony else’s enthusiasm.
  2073. >>>”I guess...”
  2074. >Suddenly Cloak shoots forward, leaning out of her chair to get what you’d describe as uncomfortably close to Rookie.
  2075. >”How long is his cock?”
  2076. >>”Luna above, Cloak!”
  2077. >Cloak looks back over her shoulder to shoot Night a scathing glare.
  2078. >”What?! It's the only piece of information missing from my physical profile! What if he gets replaced by a changeling but the changeling didn’t know his penis length!? How will we—”
  2079. >Ok you’ve heard enough of that.
  2080. >Standing up in your chair and shoving Cloak back into hers with an “Enough!”, you turn your attention back to Rookie.
  2081. “So Rookie, tell me, how’d you manage to bag the most exclusive stallion in Canterlot?”
  2082. >She starts awkwardly twiddling her hooves, and somehow manages to look even more nervous.
  2083. >>>”W-well on that first day he s-started flirting with me, and well you know, you can’t say no to Blueblood, so I played along. Then one thing led to another, and well, the next thing I knew I was handcuffed to the bed and he was calling me his ‘naughty little filly’.”
  2084. >Much like before, the table goes silent.
  2085. >Astral’s the first to crack, letting out a snort, before eventually, all the mares are laughing hysterically.
  2086. >>>>”No bucking way! Seriously?”
  2087. >Rookie, finally cracking a smile herself, shakes her head.
  2088. >>>”Nah, we just talked for awhile and he cried an awful lot. I guess most noble mares are just in it for his looks.”
  2089. >Considering your past encounters with the Prince, you’re admittedly skeptical that there /is/ more than his looks.
  2090. >>>”He- he could get in big trouble if his Aunt finds out though, so please don’t tell anypony else. He really is a sweet guy.”
  2091. >A sweet guy? Blueblood!?
  2092. >No way!
  2093. >But before you can contest that, you hear the sound of stomping.
  2094. >Turning your head, you see a /very/ angry looking Earth Pony on the approach.
  2095. >Hey... is that Cloak’s sister?
  2096. >The closer she gets, the surer you are that it is her, and the surer you are that she’s headed for YOU.
  2097. >Just as she reaches you, you hear Cloak call from over your shoulder.
  2098. >”Uhhh hey Cut, what’s up?”
  2099. >And that’s when Cut jams her hoof into your chest.
  2100. >>>>>”WHAT’S UP!? I-I’ll tell you what’s up! YOU, PIKE! I know the kind of mare you are! I know you just /picked/ Anon up at a /bar/ like one of your conquests! B-but he’s one of the sweetest colts I’ve ever met! So you better treat him RIGHT or y-you’re in f-for a wallop!”
  2101. >At the end of her diatribe, you just kind of sit there, stunned.
  2102. >You mean, what the buck?
  2103. >As you sit there though, you notice something.
  2104. >Earth Pony or not, it's a miracle this mare’s standing up.
  2105. >Her breath reeks of alcohol, and she’s obviously swaying unsteadily on her hooves.
  2106. >Dang, she is sloshed!
  2107. >No wonder she’s so willing to make a flank of herself!
  2108. >>>>”Ok, SIMP!” cries Astral,
  2109. >And before you know it, the other mares swept up in laughter once again.
  2110. >”Luna almighty sis, I can’t take you anywhere!”
  2111. >>”How embarrassing.”
  2112. >You meanwhile, feel kind of bad.
  2113. >Knowing Cloak, this pony’s probably heard the exaggerated versions of many of your previous hookups.
  2114. >If she really is a friend of Anon’s, you suppose being concerned for him after hearing all those stories is understandable.
  2115. >She does seem a few steps beyond ‘concerned for her friend’ though.
  2116. >There’s only one way to find out for sure.
  2117. “Why are you so concerned about my relationship with Anon anyway? What, trying to be our beta or something?”
  2118. >With an almost fighting clarity, all traces of Cut’s drunkenness instantly vanish, and she answers with a look on her face that suggests dead seriousness.
  2119. >>>>>”Yes.”
  2120. >Bingo!
  2121. >All the other mares let out another laugh, and you can see Cloak facehoof.
  2122. >”For the love of the moon sis /PLEASE/ quit SIMPing!”
  2123. >What a way to accidentally confess your love, she didn’t even do it to the right pony!
  2124. >Speaking of, the sound of hurried shuffling draws your attention over Cut’s shoulder.
  2125. >It appears Anon was following her from his table, but unfortunately not fast enough to stop her from getting to yours.
  2126. >By the time he arrives, he instantly realizes something went down.
  2127. >>>>>>”Aw, jeez. I’m really sorry hun, me and Silken definitely should have stopped her like ten beers ago.”
  2128. >You can hear Cloak shout, “The bucking stallion reporter!? WHAT!?” but you figure it's best to save that for later.
  2129. >Cut did, technically, ask to join your herd so you suppose you ought to get Anon’s opinion.
  2130. “Aw, it's no big deal. She just wanted to ask me something is all.”
  2131. >Your intentionally vague statement does nothing to wipe concern off Anon’s face.
  2132. [spoiler]>It's those little moments of teasing him that are the sweetest.[/spoiler]
  2133. >>>>>>”Uhhh, ask you what?”
  2134. “If she could be our beta.”
  2135. >You expected Cut to swivel around to hear Anon’s answer, but apparently whatever second wind she had has long since worn off.
  2136. >She’s back to swaying in place while her eyes are focused on nothing.
  2137. >A shame, drunk or not, what she did took some teats.
  2138. “Well?”
  2139. >>>>>>”Well what?”
  2140. “Is she our new beta?”
  2141. >Now, as every filly learns when they’re young, there are a finite amount of answers a stallion gives when posed with that question.
  2142. >Anon’s however, was not one of them.
  2143. >>>>>>”What the hell is a beta?”
  2144. >All the remaining laughter at the table is instantly silenced.
  2145. “Anon.... what do you mean, ‘what is a beta’?”
  2146. >Anon pales, realizing he just said something terrible.
  2147. >>>>>”Aha... well, you see... PIKE LOOK AN APEALIEN!”
  2148. >Despite knowing that it almost certainly was a trick, you’re compelled to look over your shoulder anyway.
  2149. “What the heck is an apealien?”
  2150. >As you turn back towards him though, you’re met with a very concerning sight.
  2151. >Anon’s managed to pick himself up by his own weird magic hand-things and— oh sweet Luna he just THREW HIMSELF OUT AN OPEN WINDOW!
  2152. >>>>>>”YEET! WellitsbeenfunhonbutIgottagoseeyouathome!” he calls back as he runs into the night.
  2153. “Anon get back here!” you cry as you rapidly gather up your winnings.
  2154. >Once you’re pretty sure you’ve got most of your bits in a bag you wave a hasty goodbye to the gals.
  2155. “See you next week, bye!”
  2156. >Turning around and running out the door, you just barely catch a glimpse of them waving back, and Cut hurling her oats all over the floor.
  2157. >”CUT NO!”
  2158.  
  2159. Continued in part 3:
RGRE Reversed Gender Roles Equestria NSFW Anon OC Romance Comedy

I D O L

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The Long and Short of It (RGRE) Part 4

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