GREEN   53    33079   192.32 KB

Game Night 13: Celestia Game Night (Part 1)

By twilightgamenight
Created: 18th December 2020 10:03:18 PM

  1. >Well, this sucks.
  2. >You straighten yourself, stretching backwards to try to relieve the stress on your back from hunching all morning. Really need to get some higher counters put in if you’re going to keep cooking here. It’s been a week, dammit! Only took a few days for you to put up a hook for your coat, and that was simple convenience – this is pain!
  3. >The sound of Twi shutting off the shower snaps you out of your internal monologue – good thing the piping in this place is so loud. Ponies may have indoor plumbing, but you don’t think they’ve quite mastered it. Not yet.
  4. >For a second time in little over a week, you have to destroy the evidence. At least Rainbow Dash isn’t involved – this is purely your fault.
  5. >You can’t cook waffles for shit.
  6. >Somehow – somefuckinghow – it’s burnt AND runny. Raw batter pours out of the uncooked center as you try to pry the charred husk from the wafflemaker with a spatula, spilling everywhere.
  7. >Note to self – stick with eggs. You can do eggs. When you cook ‘em, bitches eat ALL the eggs. Don’t even have to tell them – they do it on their own.
  8. >You hold the wafflemaker over the sink, scraping out the last of the burnt heresy and washing it down the drain.
  9. >Steps on the landing – she’s coming. Oh gods, she’s coming!
  10. >The uncooked batter slowly falls out of the measuring cup as you try to pour it down the drain as well, as if gravity itself refuses to acknowledge its existence. The foul liquid – you think it still qualifies as a liquid – plops on the metal bowl of the sink, sticking there no matter how high you turn on the water.
  11. >Fuck it, abandon kitchen.
  12. >You turn off the water and check the stove one last time – good, the gas is off. Blowing up Twilight’s castle would just be the cherry on top this craptastic morning. You cast off your apron, not even caring to see where it lands.
  13. >Like a badass walking away from an explosion, you don’t look back at the devastated kitchen.
  14. >You meet your marefriend just as she reaches the foot of the stairs, blocking her path. Her mane is still soaked – she left a little trail of water droplets strung out behind her.
  15. “Showering two days in a row? Worried that even pony princesses can get gamerfunk?”
  16. >Twilight Sparkle rolls her eyes at your mocking, though she does smile.
  17. >”I thought you said you like the smell,” she teases, pushing you lightly with her hoof. You edge back, giving her just enough room to step down off the stairs.
  18. “Maybe.”
  19. >Of course you do – nasty funky Twilight smells like lavender and hibiscus mixed together – better than any perfume you’ve smelled in this world or the last. But you’ve seen how ponies react to it – one all-weekend gaming marathon taught you more than you ever wanted to know about pony hygiene. Maybe they can smell things you can’t…
  20. >”Burnt waffles for breakfast?” she asks you with an innocent expression, looking at kitchen door questioningly. “Good thing Spike is coming back today, because you’re *really* bad at this domestic stuff. Good thing you’re moderately attractive for a human. I think.”
  21. “Oh?”
  22. >Twilight’s face turns mildly lewd.
  23. >”It’s your fault I had to shower this morning,” she says patently. “You forgot to wash the sheets yesterday.”
  24. “Bah! You were okay with taking a nap –“
  25. >”I slept on the clean side,” Twilight explains teasingly, giving you a wink. She looks to the clock in the game room and frowns.
  26. >You can guess what she’s thinking.
  27. “Yeah, we slept in pretty late.”
  28. >”Spike could be back any second…” she frowns slightly. “I don’t want to explain the sheets to him, do you?”
  29. “Meh, I’ll just tell him it’s mayo.”
  30. >”Mayo!?” she giggles, despite herself. “Why!? No, don’t bother to explain – just go start cleaning up. I’ll make breakfast.”
  31. >She shoos you up the stairs with her wings. You’re halfway up before she heads into the kitchen. Despite the walls, you can clearly make out parts of her grumbling.
  32. >”Have to make my own fucking victory waffles… what the fuck, Anon, what the fuck… worst coltfriend ever…”
  33. >A knock on the door interrupts her ranting.
  34. “I’LL GET IT!”   
  35. >”No! You – “
  36. >What you do is dash back down the stairs, passing Twilight before she can do more than stick her head out of the kitchen. She squawks in outrage as you breeze past, heading for the front door.
  37. >You do a quick check – yep, pants. You’re wearing ‘em. Good.
  38. >Answered the door once long ago pantsless. Never again.
  39. >Never.
  40. >Again.
  41. >Casual nudity is one thing, but a stiffy at eye level…
  42. >It’s been nearly a year and Roseluck *still* avoids you.
  43. >Your pants-check delay costs you dearly, giving your marefriend time to catch up. Twilight tries to push past you to reach the door.
  44. >You reach for her – passing your grapple check – wrapping your right arm around her midsection and hauling her up. She squeals, flailing for the door handle with all four hooves.
  45. >”We don’t have time for this, Anon!” she shouts, twisting in your grasp as you stand.
  46. >You ignore her protests and reach for the door handle.
  47. >Twilight twists to the right, pushing down on your arm with her forehooves, moving it just enough to –
  48. >Her left wing snaps open, purple feathers slamming into your face. Your head jerks back and you drop your princess, both of you falling into a tangle on the floor.
  49. >”Anon!”
  50. >Your marefriend recovers quickly, climbing to her hooves and standing over you. She looks down at you in concern.
  51. >”Are you okay?” Her eyes flare as she begins to panic. “Oh Celestia, you’re bleeding!”
  52. >You dab lightly at your face, your hand coming away wet.
  53. >Twilight shifts, looking at your face from another angle. Relief replaces panic and she sighs happily.
  54. >”Just a nosebleed, Anon,” your princess tells you with a smile. “Still, I’m sorry…”
  55. “It’s okay, I think I deserved that…”
  56. >”No, really!” she says emphatically. “I am so SO sorry!”
  57. “It’s nothing – I’m fine.”
  58. >Your head *really* hurts, from the wing strike AND where your head slammed into the stone floor, but she doesn’t need to know that. You’re a man! Men don’t feel pain! Manly growl! GRRRRR! You reach up with your bloodied hand, grabbing onto your princess’s withers and pulling yourself up into what could roughly be considered a sitting position. Roughly.
  59. >”That was lucky…” she says, wrapping her forelegs around your neck. Her wings also embrace you, shrouding your back.
  60. >Lucky? Your marefriend smacked you in the face!
  61. >She giggles guiltily at your confused expression.
  62. >”Birds can kill with their wings,” she explains, kissing your forehead.
  63. “And pegasii?”
  64. >”And alicorns.”
  65. >There’s another knock on the door.
  66. >”Um, hello…?” a voice on the other side calls out. “Is everypony okay in there…?”
  67. >You try to stand, but can’t seem to figure out how to leg right now. Well shit. Brain damage. Crippled for life. You raise a hand and point to the door.
  68. “Better answer it, before they bring the guards.”
  69. >Twilight releases you but hesitates. It takes another knock on the door to make her turn. With one last concerned glance to you, she finally opens the door.
  70. >You can’t see much with Twilight in the way, but… yep. Grey legs. Dangling messenger bag.
  71. >”Is everything alright, princess…?” the voice asks again. A capped head peers around your princess, two wildly bobbling golden eyes taking in the scene.
  72. >Derpy’s face runs through a gamut of emotions, from shock to fear to nope-I-saw-nuttin.
  73. >”What brings you here, Derpy? Just doing your rounds?”
  74. >”Yep, mhm. Got some letters for you, princess.”
  75. >”Is something wrong…?” your princess asks, shifting slightly. “You’re usually a little more talkative…”
  76. >”Nope, everything’s fine,” Derpy Hooves answers. You can hear rustling sounds and see her bag swaying – she must be searching for Twilight’s mail. “Everything’s fine, princess! I swear!”
  77. >There’s a pause as Twilight takes her mail from the mare. Your marefriend looks over the letters, growling in anger and causing the mailmare to leap into the air, narrowly missing another pegasus in her desperate attempt to escape.
  78. >Twilight steps away, kicking the door shut.
  79. >”What the heck was *her* problem?” Twilight says, shuffling through the mail.
  80. “Um, Twilight…”
  81. >”What?” Her head spins around to face you.
  82. >You point to your bloody nose, then to her wing.
  83. “I think you’ve got a bit of ME on you.”
  84. >She extends the wing, looking at it curiously. It doesn’t take her long to realize what you mean – you can pinpoint the exact second. The letters fall from her hoof and her face glows bright red. The color almost matches the blood splattered across her wing and shoulder. Your blood. One particularly long streak runs along her shoulder and withers where you used her as a handhold.
  85. >”S-should I follow her and explain?” Twilight asks you hesitantly, still staring at her wing.
  86. “Chase after a scared mare while still covered in the blood of your last victim? Capital idea, Twilight!”
  87. >”Oh hardy-har. Fine, I’ll send her a muffin basket with a note asking her not to tell anyone.”
  88. >Pause.
  89. >”Nevermind, bad idea – shut up Anon.”
  90. “Already done.”
  91. >She rolls her eyes, gathering up the mail again with her magic.
  92. “So…”
  93. >You pull yourself to your feet. Oh hey legs, nice to see you’re back.
  94. “… just what made you growl like that? Bills? Is it bills?”
  95. >Do princesses pay bills? Hell yeah they do, if they don’t want to get their castle repossessed.
  96. >”Just some nutjob,” your princess answers with a sigh. “He keeps sending me letters – I can’t tell if they’re supposed to be love letters or hate mail. Wants to devour my flesh and blah blah blah.”
  97. >Her head wobbles from side to side, her eyes wide open and full of sarcastic enthusiasm.
  98. >”OH GEE MISTER STRANGER THAT WOULD BE SO MUCH FUN!”
  99. “Damn Twi, I knew you were a little kinky, but seriously?”
  100. >”Why yes,” she sighs at you, eyes rolling back in her head “it’s my greatest wish. After Burrows and Basilisks sixth edition, of course.”
  101. “Of course.”
  102. >Twilight chuckles as she torches the offending letter – envelope and all. She watches it slowly burn all the way back to the game room, dropping the ashes into a metal wastebin. She then lays out the rest of the mail on the gaming table, sorting them by priority, and immediately tears into the one from Princess Celestia, while you go for the last – and therefore least – important letter in the stack.
  103. >She frowns at you.
  104. “Oh, sorry. Don’t want me reading your mail?”
  105. >”You can read all you want AFTER you get the sheets washed,” she hisses, jerking her head towards the clock.
  106. >The envelope drops back to the table as you leave to get started – no sense wasting time and you really wouldn’t mind clean sheets.
  107. >”Wait!” she calls out before your foot hits the first step.
  108. “Huh?”
  109. >Your head twists back to face Twilight – she looks confused. Well, not exactly confused, but confused about how she should feel.
  110. >”Celestia is keeping Spike for another week,” your marefriend says. “I sent her a letter asking if everyone could stay at the royal castle, so she’s just going to keep Spike with her until then.”
  111. “Sooo… I don’t have to wash the sheets?”
  112. >”No, you still have to wash them!” she shouts, balling up the least important letter and flinging it at you. “You made the mess – you clean it up!”
  113. >You pick the wad of paper up off the floor, flattening it out and reading the envelope.
  114. “Fine, but I can dick around first, right?”
  115. >She grunts noncommittally as she continues to read the princess’s letter.
  116. >Yes, that means yes. Unless it doesn’t, but for now it’s a yes.
  117. >Huh, this letter looks like it’s from the publishers of Burrows and Basilisks.
  118. “Hey, this letter looks like it’s from –“
  119. >”I know,” she cuts you off. “Probably just another flyer or something advertising yet another product we already know is coming out thanks to the rumor mill.”
  120. >Probably, but it never hurts to check.
  121. >Unless this envelope is full of anthrax.
  122. >But it probably isn’t. Maybe.
  123. >Whatever, pony magic will save you if it is. You tear open the envelope feeling like the bravest, most courageous fucker in all of Equestria. Your eyes skim over the letter. This is… interesting.
  124. “Hey Twi… this isn’t an advertisement – it’s an invitation.”
  125. >”To buy their latest product?” she grunts, not even looking up. “Oh *damn*, Celestia and Luna are going to be busy this weekend. I was hoping we could convince them to tag along to the con.”
  126. “Really Twi – you need to read this.”
  127. >”Whatever it is, I already have it preordered,” your marefriend answers, opening the next letter. “Oh, good. Cadence will be coming with Shiny to Canterlot, though she is NOT going to the con. She wishes us well, though.”
  128. “Well, fine. I guess that’s four princesses that won’t be attending the grand unveiling of Bn’B Sixth Edition.”
  129. >Cadence’s letter falls to the floor as Twilight’s concentration fails.
  130. >Her head swivels slowly, her deep purple eyes staring at you the entire time. No, not you – the letter.
  131. >”That’s not possible.”
  132. “And yet…”
  133. >You wave the paper in front of her face.
  134. >“If you’re lying to me…”
  135. >She snatches the page from your hands.
  136. >”You’re not lying to me.”
  137. >This is the second time you’ve seen that expression in the past… three minutes – your princess doesn’t know what to feel.
  138. >”All of our supplements and splats are invalidated,” she whispers.
  139. “Keep reading, Twi.”
  140. >Her large eyes are easy to track, following line after line.
  141. >”Backwards compatible…?” she looks up from the wrinkled paper. “Then what’s the point?”
  142. “Wait, are you happy about that or angry?”
  143. >”I don’t know!” she grumbles loudly, returning to reading. “It’s just a setting change? WHY!?”
  144. >She closes her eyes, sighing loudly.
  145. >”We better attend,” she admits. “At least then we get to watch the trainwreck from a front-row seat.”
  146. “That’s right, Twi! Look on the bright side!”
  147. >”I’m trying…”
  148. >You pat her shoulder and turn to leave.
  149. >”Going to go wash the sheets?” she asks, moving on to the next letter.
  150. “No, going to go get a knife.”
  151. >”A knife? What for?”
  152. “Well… you did say being eaten was your greatest wish after Sixth…”
  153. >”Sheets. Now.” She raises her blood-splattered wing menacingly. “NOW.”
  154. “Or what, you’ll beat me again? I’ll call the guards!”
  155. >”I OWN the guards,” Twilight answers with a smile, taking one step forward. “Princess, remember?”
  156. >You dash for the stairs, chuckling as you go.
  157. >After one hour of boring not-worth-talking-about-AT-ALL sheet washing and other assorted housework, you hang the damp cloth to dry.
  158. >You really want to make some joke to yourself about it, but just can’t think of anything.
  159. >Besides, it’s worth it – there is no greater luxury than fresh sheets.
  160. >”Are you FINALLY done yet?” Twilight yells to you from the gameroom, where she is still going through the mail and jotting out replies. “I’d like to take a shower at some point and you’re using all the hot water!”
  161. >You come down the stairs – your princess is still at the table, like you expected.
  162. “*Another* shower?”
  163. >”I’m kind of a mess,” she smiles at you timidly, extending her left wing. “Some jerk went and bled all over me.”
  164. “That asshole.”
  165. >”I was wondering… do you have anything planned today?”
  166. ”Conquer the world, slay the gods, and ascend to my celestial throne of bone and iron, but look at the time –“
  167. >You wave your hand at the wall clock.
  168. “I *just* don’t think I’ll get around to it today.”
  169. >She giggles politely. Very politely. You don’t think she believes you.
  170. >”Well since your plans are *already* ruined,” she bats her eyelashes at you, “think you can run a couple errands for me?”
  171. “FETCH QUESTS? You’re giving me fetch quests!?”
  172. >”Yes, Anon, fetch quests,” Twilight answers,
  173. “Fuck fetch quests. I’m going to go become a god.”
  174. >”Careful, Anon,” Twilight chides you softly. “That sounds a little heretical.”
  175. >You throw your hands into the air.
  176. “FIIIIIIIINE!”
  177. >She jerks back as you shove a finger in her face.
  178. “But I better get some decent rewards.”
  179. >Twilight blinks in shock.
  180. >”Well… if you get home soon, you might catch me coming out of the shower… naked…”
  181. >She leans forward, lightly flicking your finger with her tongue.
  182. “You’re pretty much always naked, try again.”
  183. >”What about if I… I… I ask nicely?” she inquires, tilting her head to one side. “Would that work?”
  184. >You think about it for a second.
  185. ”Maybe.”
  186. >”Could you *please* run a couple of errands for me?”
  187. “Anything for my beloved. What would you like me to do?”
  188. >She rolls her eyes, sighing loudly.
  189. >”Just… go to Rarity’s and check on my order, okay?” she says, picking up yet another letter. Princesses sure get a lot of important mail – she really should get a secretary. “And pick up some new sheet sets on the way. *Please*.”
  190. >New… sheets…?
  191. >Wait… order?
  192. >Sudden horniness and curiosity war for your attention.
  193. “I – um – uh – yeah.”
  194. >You only realize you’re still pointing at Twilight because she licks it again.
  195. >”Well?” she asks, giving you her bedroom eyes. “Do whatever you want… I’m heading for the shower now.”
  196. >Twilight rubs up against you as she abandons her papers.
  197. >”I feel like a nice long soak,” she murmurs as she finally breaks contact, “but not *that* long…”
  198. >WELL TIME TO GET GOING.
  199. >You’re halfway out the door before you remember to grab your coat from the hook – your flail around blindly, not wanting to take the time to actually look. Your faithful companion finds your hand on the third grab. Carousel Boutique closes soon, so that’s where you head first.
  200. >Two minutes into your journey, you start looking around, expecting that brown stallion to show up and say something ominous. Every time you step outside.
  201. >Every. Single. Time.
  202. >Except this time, apparently.
  203. >Your quest proceeds smoothly – you arrive at the Boutique without delay, a bell ringing as you push open the door.
  204. >”I’ll be right ther-ere!” Rarity sings out from one of her back rooms. Her head pops out from behind one of the many draperies. “Oh, Anon! I’m afraid I’m a bit booked right now, but I’m *sure* I can work in something for you!”
  205. “For me? For what? I’m just here to check on Twi’s order, whatever it is.”
  206. >”Oh this… this is… oh dear,” the unicorn frowns, her brow wrinkling in concentration. “Not *quite* the worst possible thing, but…”
  207. “But…?”
  208. >She sighs loudly, shaking her head.
  209. >”Perhaps it would be easier to show you,” Rarity tells you with a graceful twist of her head. “If you would follow me?”
  210. >She leads you past private dressing rooms and themed displays, to the rearmost room of the shop proper – a room *full* of nearly-finished dresses and… other things. Not like Rarity to show off imperfect work. She must have noticed your bewilderment – your friend blushes slightly, the sudden coloration made all the more prominent by her pale white coat.
  211. >”Usually my clients put their trust in me, but sometimes…” she sighs unhappily “… sometimes they are rather particular and wish to review my work as it is in progress. It’s understandable, I *guess* - none of these are *original* designs after all, and my clients are *quite* demanding of authenticity.”
  212. >You can’t imagine Rarity copying other’s work, and obviously it embarrasses her. Uncomfortable, you turn away, examining the clothes on their mannequins. Two in particular stand out – not so much for their design so much as for their large size. The first is a plain red dress made for someone almost twice the size of a normal pony, the second a slightly smaller frilly black piece with blue and white accents.
  213. >”Oh,” Rarity’s voice perks up with pride. “Those two are for Sunny Smiles and Moonbeam. I had to redesign them *slightly*, just enough to hide their wings.”
  214. “Who?”
  215. >”*Sunny Smiles* and *Moonbeam*, of course!” Rarity repeats, as if you hadn’t heard her.
  216. “Let me rephrase that – who are they?”
  217. >”Only the most *famous* cosplayers in all of Equestria!” she answers with a shocked – or insulted – gasp. “No *wonder* you don’t have anything planned, you poor thing! You have no idea, do you?”
  218. >Oh shitpickles, just what has Twilight gotten you in to?
  219. >”You’ve been in Equestria for over a year now,” Rarity continues, “didn’t you attend the last CanterCon?”
  220. >Well, shit. You were in Canterlot, yes, but for some bizarre reason the guards wouldn’t let you out of your cell to attend some gaming con you had no idea about. Those faggots.
  221. “Nope.”
  222. >”Oh dear.” She draws in a deep breath, closing her eyes. “Calm yourself, Rarity,” she says quietly to herself, “you can do this… you can find the time *somewhere*.”
  223. “Look, I don’t really know what’s going on, but no need to –“
  224. >”There absolutely is, Anonymous!” she shouts. Politely, of course. “I will *not* be made a laughingstock!”
  225. >She frantically trots over to a red cape with a massive collar, examining it like it holds the answer.
  226. >”Perhaps a themed pair?” she asks herself. “No, impossible – I can’t imagine Anon playing a *minion*.”
  227. “Any chance you’ll actually explain any of this to me?”
  228. >”Oh, of course! My apologies – it’s been a stressful week.” Rarity gives you the fake smile of a mare seconds from snapping. “Between all the last minute orders and Sweetie Belle’s good fortune… I’m afraid I’m not *quite* my usual calm self. Can you *believe* she took her dress out last night!? I was *so* worried, but luckily it came back without any damage.”
  229. “Explanation?”
  230. >The unicorn’s phony laugh falls flat.
  231. >”Every convention has its *thing*,” she finally explains. “For CanterCon, it just so happens to be cosplay.”
  232. >Not that smile – that smile is genuine. She may be stressed out right now, but she’s looking forward to it and you can see why. All those costumes, all that creativity – and of course the chance to show everyone that she is the best.
  233. >”Everypony comes in costume,” Rarity continues. “Every. Pony.”
  234. “And the non-ponies?”
  235. >”And they as well.”
  236. “Any way for me to get out of this…?”
  237. >”None at all.”
  238. >Well, as they say – when in Rome… set shit on fire and play the fiddle.
  239. >But you’ve misplaced your fiddle.
  240. >”Most ponies dress up as characters from games or Japaneighs cartoons, but some go with other things…” Rarity tells you, clearly trying to think of a costume for you.
  241. >A thought strikes you – maybe this won’t be so bad after all…
  242. “What about movies?”
  243. >”That… could work…” she grudgingly admits. “What did you have in mind?”
  244. “Well… I could just wear one of the suits you’ve already made me.”
  245. >”Too generic,” she answers immediately with a shake of her head.”
  246. “I’ll bring a claw hammer.”
  247. >”And what would that be from?” she asks, suddenly intrigued.
  248. >You take a gamble – Equestria has many things your old world had – sometimes real in this world, sometimes fictional, but always ponified.
  249. “Oldcolt?”
  250. >Rarity blinks at you, pursing her lips.
  251. >”No, impossible,” she finally answers. “Too late to make a new outfit for Twilight.”
  252.  “But this costume is for *me*, I thought.”
  253. >Rarity snorts, laughing and shaking her head at the same time.
  254. >”No, no… *that* would absolutely have to be a set, with Twilight Sparkle as your daughter.”
  255. >Well, at least you guessed right – it *does* exist here. Shit, someone’s been hiding the good movies from you.
  256. >”Well… I guess it *could* work,” Rarity concedes after a second. “But let’s just keep that as a last resort, shall we?”
  257. >She sighs – for the first time today you can see just how exhausted she really is. You should have realized – no way would a sane Rarity admit to watching a movie like that.
  258. >”Ugh…” she grunts. “You and Rainbow Dash… why must you make things so *difficult*?”
  259. >So not *all* ponies go in costume.
  260. >”That mare absolutely refuses to wear anything,” Rarity whines. Sorry – complains. She’s not whining, not yet. “She says that *nothing* is ‘cool’ enough for her.”
  261. “Not even Kamina…?”
  262. >”Who?”
  263. “Kamina! Kami… neigh…?”
  264. >”Oh nevermind,” Rarity says, waving a hoof. “I’m afraid I don’t keep up with everything… and there’s certainly no way I can make anything for her *now*.”
  265. “You won’t need to… if you can tell me where Vinyl Scratch gets her glasses. That’s all Dash needs – a pair of custom shades.”
  266. >”I’ll ask around,” Rarity answers, smiling gratefully. “But still… what do I do about *you*?”
  267. “Well, what’s Twilight dressing up as?”
  268. >She waves her hoof towards the red cape, the gesture growing more and more frantic as you fail to respond. With a great sigh, Rarity rolls her eyes.
  269. >”*Zargon*,” she tells you, “because *of course* Twilight wants to cosplay as a dungeon master.”
  270. >First Starswirl and now this – your little princess seems to have a thing for dressing up as bearded older males. Well, you learn something new every day, like that this is… not your fetish. Not in the least.
  271. >Rarity sighs again.
  272. >”Her costume is *almost* finished – if you want to wait half-an-hour I could –“
  273. “No, no – you’re tired, take your time.”
  274. >”I don’t have time to rest, Anon,” she smiles sadly at you, but contently. “I still have one whole costume to make.”
  275. >Her eyes glaze over as she is struck by an epiphany.
  276. >”Oh. Twilight is going as a DM…”
  277. “Oh?”
  278. >”Paladin,” she says softly. “You’re going as Paladin.”
  279. “But what about the armor?”
  280. >”Please…” Rarity smirks at you. “Armor is easy.”
  281. >You scoff at that, examining another one of the costumes – expert stitching, as always. As if you’d really know.
  282. “You’re a seamstress – how are you going to work the metal?”
  283. >”A seamstress? A seamstress!?” your friend’s mouth drops open in shock at your – completely unintentional – insult. “I am a *designer*. Yes, I can sew but many of my designs require so much more than just that!”
  284. >She waves a forehoof around, gesturing to the dozen or so outfits – you hadn’t noticed until now, but more than a few of them include leather or metal accents – real metal, not painted wood or cardboard.
  285. >”It’s just a simple matter of shaping the sheets and attaching them,” Rarity explains. “Your costume may not be battle-worthy, but it will certain look the part and feel far more comfortable!”
  286. >She stamps her hoof into the floor.
  287. >”No, I *am* making you a Paladin outfit and that is *final*.”
  288. >You hold up your hands in surrender – Rarity’s work has never failed to impress, so if she says she can do it you are inclined to believe her.
  289. >”But I am afraid you are on your own for your other two outfits…”
  290. “Wait… other two?”
  291. >She shakes her head at her own mistake, sighing sadly.
  292. >”CanterCon lasts for three days – all of the *best* ponies will have a different outfit for each day,” she tells you regretfully. “Or more.”
  293. “So Twilight has other costumes…?”
  294. >Probably more bearded old men – come to think of it, she *could* pull off a decent Emperor Ming using the exact same cape…
  295. >”I tried to convince her,” Rarity answers, “but no. But everypony will understand – she’s a princess. She has other things to do. But you…”
  296. >She trails off, not wanting to say the obvious.
  297. “I’m basically a NEET.”
  298. >”I’ve seen your place, darling,” she responds with a grin. “You are anything *but* neat.”
  299. “Different meaning, but I get your point.”
  300. >She’s already vetoed your Oldboy – colt, Oldcolt costume. What else do you have that could be thrown together…?
  301. “Well… I do have a suit of power armor I was trying to build…”
  302. >Before you found out magitek didn’t really exist here and abandoned that project, leaving you with a bulky, cumbersome shell.
  303. “… I could paint it up and go as a Space Marine?”
  304. >And you had really been hoping it would work. Throw in a little magic to boost your strength and the protective capabilities of the armor… but no. No magitek, no matter what some of their devices look like to you. You’ve come to the conclusion that they must run on Orky physics – there’s no other logical explanation for why Pinkie Pie’s helicopter actually flies.
  305. “I’ll just have to find some red paint and –“
  306. >”No,” Rarity cuts you off, shaking her head.
  307. “What’s wrong with being a Space Marine?”
  308. >She laughs daintily, covering her mouth with a hoof.
  309. >”Why be a Space Marine…” her grin is wider than her hoof can hide “… when you can use *gold* paint?”
  310.  “Wouldn’t that be a little… gaudy…?”
  311. >”Of course, but it would also be *accurate* - I cannot recall you telling us any stories of your God-Emperor wearing *red* armor.”
  312. >Ah, so that’s what she’s getting at – no surprise that Rarity would rather be seen with a god than a lowly grunt.
  313. “Not sure I can do that justice…”
  314. >”Have faith,” she replies with a smile. “What of your third ensemble?”
  315. >None of your other gizmos or projects would be suitable, so you think of your wardrobe – what little of it you have. Anything that could be used, anything that could be modified slightly.
  316. “Well… you did make me that floral button-down two months ago, and those cargo shorts the month before that…”
  317. >”I’m afraid that one is also a tad on the generic side…” she frowns, tapping her chin with her hoof. “That description would even fit my *father*, if you grew a moustache. Perhaps the suit wouldn’t be so…”
  318. >Despite the sudden urge to go as Tom Selleck, you shake your head.
  319. “I’ll get some sunglasses.”
  320. >Rarity raises an eyebrow, tilting her head slightly to the left. She’s giving you what you call her “go on, you have my attention” look.
  321. ”Maybe put my hair in a mohawk.”
  322. >She rolls her eyes.
  323. >”Tell me, just who is that supposed to be?” she asks with a silly grin.
  324. “I’ve got no fucking idea.”
  325. >She shoos you out of the room with a laugh.
  326. >”Just go,” she says, apparently giving up all hope on you. “And try to find a lawn gnome to finish off the outfit.”
  327. “But we were –“
  328. >”It’s not as elegant or tasteful as I would prefer, but…” Rarity sighs “… it seems fitting.”
  329. >She laughs again, giving you a shove.
  330. >”Just go, before my better judgment tells me otherwise!”
  331. “I *do* have that effect on mares…”
  332. >”OUT.”
  333. >She almost – but not quite – shoves you out the front door.
  334. >”Tell Twilight her outfit will be ready tomorrow,” she calls out to you as you head on your way. “And try not to kill any gods!”
  335. >You shove your hands into your coat pockets.
  336. “No promises.”
  337. >Rarity giggles politely from the doorway.
  338. “By the way –“
  339. >You twist your head back to see the tired mare.
  340. “ – what are your outfits?”
  341. >”You’ll find out in a week,” she answers, trying to smile slyly, though the sagging eyelids ruin the expression.
  342. “Go take a nap.”
  343. >Rarity nods as she shuts the door. Hopefully she gets some sleep – it’s going to be a rough week for her, and she certainly won’t get a chance to rest at CanterCon. Between the cosplay competitions and other events and THREE SOLID NIGHTS OF BURROWS AND BASILISKS, you don’t think any of you will sleep this weekend.
  344. >And while on the topic of sleep… it’s time to go pick up some sheets.
  345. >Your stomach rumbles, reminding you that you never did get breakfast – though at this point it would be a late lunch. Maybe you should pick up something on the way home.
  346. >Maybe.
  347. >But Twilight can only soak in the tub with a book for so long, and it *was* a long walk to Carousel Boutique.
  348. >Meh, missing a meal or two won’t hurt you.
  349. >You have a fresh bowl of fruit waiting for you at home – you can snag an apple from that. Or Twilight might be making waffles… you’d hate to ruin the surprise, though Pinkie would probably stop that from happening.
  350. >Hopefully, your marefriend isn’t revisiting her breakfast-in-bath idea – for a genius, she can be remarkably… you wouldn’t say stupid, because you love her, but yeah, it’s the right word.
  351. >But you’d never say it.
  352. >With any luck Twilight left the toaster in the kitchen, whatever it is she’s doing.
  353. >You swing into the first home goods store you see, grabbing two sheet sets – one a light blue, the other and impossibly dark purple.
  354. >Seems a little silly to get purple sheets for a purple pony, but you like this shade. It’s rich and deep, regal looking. Sheets fit for a king. Or queen. Or princess. Whatever. The cashier gives you an odd look, but it’s understandable – you *are* the only human in Equestria, and this isn’t a shop you frequent. As you dig the bits out of your pockets, she offers you a paper sack to carry the sheets in – you hadn’t thought of bringing a bag, and you would have felt like a fool walking through the town with sheets tucked under your arm.
  355. >OH YES PONIES I AM BANGING YOUR PRINCESS SO HARD WE NEED NEW SHEETS BECAUSE WE WORE OUT THE LAST PAIR.
  356. >You like to think you’re still capable of feeling something akin to shame, so you accept the offered bag.
  357. >A plain brown sack in your arm, you exit the store and head home. Not quite walking or jogging, but certainly moving at a brisk pace. You’re not quite sure what motivates your haste at this point – Twilight is almost definitely out of the bath right now, deep in a book.
  358. >You *do* wonder how she’s going to react to the end of Void Stalker.
  359. >That will be an interesting day.
  360. >Your feat carry you home faster than expected – it’s surprising how quickly you reach your destination when ponies aren’t jumping out of nowhere and sidetracking you with portentous doom-and-gloom hints or wacky hijinks.
  361. >It almost makes life feel boring.
  362. >The door swings open easily – a little too easily, knocking over the wastebin that was set behind it. The metal bin rattles across the stone floor, banging into the far wall with a loud thump.
  363. >What the hell was that there for…?
  364. >The sudden squeal of the castle’s pipes answers that question.
  365. >Shaking your head, you close the door and begin picking up the scattered pieces of crumpled paper, stuffing them back into the wastebin. Curious, you unfold some of the pages – they’re all blank. She must have done this purely to delay you, but without making a serious mess. It doesn’t take long to clean things up – you move the bin to a safer place before heading for the stairs leading up to the gameroom. Halfway there, the pipes cease their shrieking – no way was the water running long enough to fill the tub.
  366. >You slow your steps, giving your princess more time to fulfill her scheme. Only when you hear her steps on the stairs above do you continue up.
  367. >”Hey,” Twilight greets you with a smile as you reach the game room, her mane soaked and dripping. “You got
  368. home earlier than I expected…”
  369. >Your marefriend takes the last few stairs slowly. The way she weaving her legs between each other with each step makes her hips rock back and forth in great swings.
  370. >”Soooo…” she draws the word out, looking at you expectantly.
  371. “Was - was I supposed to bring home pizza?”
  372. >Surprised at your question, she misses the last step, stumbling awkwardly. She tries to recover, but the moment is lost - gone is her sultry look, replaced by confusion.
  373. >Well now you feel like an idiot, but some questions have to be asked.
  374. >”Pizza?”
  375. “Nevermind. I brought home sheets!”
  376. >You hold the sack over your head, your quest victorious.
  377. >”Pizza!?”
  378. “Sorry…”
  379. >You can’t hold the laughter anymore.
  380. “I appreciate what you were doing, but *really* Twilight? This was like something straight out of a porno!”
  381. >She sits abruptly, pouting silently in a slowly growing puddle of water.
  382. >”I was just trying to do something sexy…” she mumbles. “It’s not like I have a lot of experience at this, you know.”
  383. >You did have your suspicions about that.
  384. >Twilight sighs loudly, her head coming up to smile at you dejectedly.
  385. >”Sorry…”
  386. “Don’t be – it *was* sexy, just…”
  387. >”Over the top?”
  388. >You nod, flinging the bag of sheets at the sofa. It bounces off the back, coming to rest on the floor. You’ll ignore that for now, pretending it was a perfect throw.
  389. “I was pretty sexy, my little princess.”
  390. >She smiles hesitantly as you cross the room and kneel at her side.
  391. “Do you know what’s even sexier than Sexy Twilight?”
  392. >”Anyth-” she begins despondently.
  393. “*My* Twilight.”
  394. >You kiss the tip of her nose.
  395. “My little nerd princess.”
  396. >Another kiss – this one on her mouth.
  397. “Really… dressing up as Zargon?”
  398. >Her face reddens.
  399. “The DM villain of a twenty-five year-old boardgame from another universe? That’s some impressive nerdery.”
  400. >”I thought it might be appropriate…” She snuggles up to you, her damp coat soaking through your shirt almost instantly.
  401. “Dork.”
  402. >You return her affection, putting your arm around her neck and holding her tight to your chest.
  403. “It’s more appropriate than you think.”
  404. >Twilight makes a curious noise, but doesn’t speak a word. She simply nuzzles your chest, rubbing her wet mane against you.
  405. “Want to know what Rarity decided to make for me?”
  406. >She repeats the noise, slightly sharper this time. You brush her bangs out of her eyes, the damp hair clinging together to one side. Your hand comes away dripping water.
  407. “You couldn’t have brought a towel, could you…?”
  408. >”I figured I’d be back in the shower within the hour,” she answers quietly, pawing at your chest with a hoof. “But I do kinda feel silly now... I got your shirt all soaked.”
  409. “Only the front – the back is still pretty dry.”
  410. >Twilight gasps in surprise as you push her away – not far, just enough for you to get your top off. She giggles as you use it to dry her, rubbing the cloth against her sides and finishing by wrapping it around her mane.
  411. “Feeling better now?”
  412. >”Maybe…” she peeks out at you from under a dangling sleeve. “That should be good enough.”
  413. >She unwraps the water-logged shirt, dropping it into the puddle at her hooves. With a happy sigh, she cranes her neck, rubbing the side of her face against your bare chest.
  414. >”So what’s this thing Rarity is making for you?” she coos, kissing you softly. “A costume?”
  415. “At first she wanted to make us matching costumes, but…”
  416. >”Kind of impossible,” she finishes regretfully. “Damn, I wish…”
  417. >You run a hand down the side of her neck.
  418. “Sometimes wishes can be granted.”
  419. >Twilight squeals as you lift her up, cradling her in your arms. She almost slips from your grasp, her damp coat still too slick – too soft, but she pretends not to notice. Instead she wraps her forelegs around your neck holding tight as you carry her over to the gaming table.
  420. >”So… what’s your costume?” your marefriend prompts.
  421. “Rarity insisted I have three…”
  422. >”I can’t imagine they *all* match up with mine.”
  423. >You shake your head.
  424. “The first one is Old Man Henderson – I already have the clothing, just need to put my hair up and talk crazy.”
  425. >She smiles slightly – she always did like that story.
  426. “The second is the God-Emperor.”
  427. >Twilight snickers – you KNEW she didn’t believe you when you said you would become a god.
  428. >”Neither of those match mine – what’s the third…?”
  429. “You’re dressing as a DM.”
  430. >She nods silently.
  431. “It’s not really important *which* DM, just that it *is* a DM... and it’s you.”
  432. >Your noses touch and Twilight purrs happily.
  433. >”Paladin,” she guesses. “You’re going as Paladin.”
  434. >Twilight shifts in your arms, resting her head on your shoulder.
  435. >”Just don’t let Luna see you in costume,” she whispers seductively into your ear. “I don’t want to lose my coltfriend… and it would be a shame if Canterlot was destroyed…”
  436. “Oh, that’s what you meant.”
  437. >She pulls her head back just enough for you to see her raise an eyebrow in her do-go-on expression.
  438. “Well… Paladin *did* steal the Moon’s heart…”
  439. >Twilight’s laugh starts with a snort of disbelief, but trails off into a nervous chuckle.
  440. >”No… no…” she says, doubtfully. “You’re mine – and mine alone.”
  441. >Her forelegs tighten around your neck.
  442. >”It’s been centuries since polyamory was the norm…” She tucks her head back in between yours and your shoulder, nuzzling your neck, but not before you see her cheeks redden. “I know she’s had trouble adjusting to modern times, but surely…”
  443. >Her voice takes on the whine of a worried Twilight Sparkle, one who is not sure the conclusion will match the evidence.
  444. “I did wonder about that – mares seem to outnumber stallions by… what… four-to-one? Unless they form… herds...?”
  445. >”Mhm.” Your princess nods without removing her head from its resting place, confirming you used the right word.
  446. “…then how does everyone… you know… pair up….?”
  447. >”Don’t pretend that humans are strictly heterosexual,” Twilight giggles into your neck. At least her voice has perked up – your princess loves nothing more than to explain things. “I’ve seen the pic –“
  448. >She suddenly stops talking, giving you another tight squeeze.
  449. “Pictures?”
  450. >She doesn’t answer.
  451. >Quickly, you wrack your mind, trying to remember – did you have PORN on The Device? No, impossible.
  452. >Impossible, right?
  453. >”I don’t have a lot of experience at this…” she says quietly, shifting again. “You’re my first –“
  454. “Your first?”
  455. >OKAY THEN. VICTORY FOR THE HUMAN RACE.
  456. >”– first *serious* coltfriend,” she finishes. Well, still a minor victory. “Everyone from my brother to Cadance to my friends have tried to set me up with stallions… or mares…”
  457. >For some odd reason, your mind focuses on the last word. That’s some pleasant mental imagery.
  458. >”… everyone except Pinkie Pie. Nothing has ever lasted more than a date or two.” Twilight sounds almost happy at that. “Certainly nothing… *intimate*.”
  459. >YES MAJOR VICTORY FOR THE HUMAN RACE. PREPARE THE MEDAL OF HONOR MISTER PRESIDENT.
  460. “So… this little sexy dance down the stairs and knowledge of human sexuality…?”
  461. >She buries her face deeper into your neck, almost choking you in her attempt to hide in embarrassment.
  462. >”I asked Pinkie for help,” Twilight admits timidly. “She brought me some interesting … research material…”
  463. >There’s PORN in Twilight’s castle. PORN. You’re suddenly conflicted – on the one hand – PORN. On the other… does it matter…?
  464. >”She didn’t let me *keep* anything…”
  465. >Well, there go your brief hopes of ever seeing boobs again.
  466. >You’re surprised at how fleeting the feeling of disappointment is.
  467. >It probably helps that Twilight’s last movement ended with your hand on her rump.
  468. >”I didn’t know pizza was required…” she says disappointedly. “If I had known… Well, we’re one-and-one now.”
  469. “One-and-one?”
  470. >”Last night I wasn’t… interested…” Not quite the truth, from the way she hesitates. “… and today, you’re not –“
  471. “Who said I’m not?”
  472. >You give her bottom a squeeze.
  473. >”But you laughed at me!” she yelps, jumping slightly in your arms.
  474. “Because you were being a dork.”
  475. >She pulls her head back so you can see her frown.
  476. >”Dorks are sexy.”
  477. >She giggles, closing her eyes.
  478. >Twilight’s body flexes in your arms, her still damp coat rubbing against your chest. You almost drop her – her slick body almost slipping out of your grasp but you manage to play it off, laying her down on the gaming table. A little quicker than you intended, but still according to plan.
  479. >The table is a long oval – a solid slab of varnished wood. Smaller than her – your – bed, but large enough to serve.
  480. >And much easier to clean.
  481. >Your princess gasps softly as she lies on her back, looking up at you. She realizes your intent – then she smiles eagerly, planting a hoof on the table to roll herself over.
  482. >She pauses.
  483. >”Did – did you want me to face you…?” she asks timidly. “From what I saw…”
  484. “This isn’t about me, it’s about *us*.”
  485. >”I don’t know if…” Twilight hides her face with a wing, peering at you from between two of her flight feathers. “… that might be *too* lewd…”
  486. “Having sex on the table our friends play at nearly every week is okay, but facing me is ‘too lewd’?”
  487. >”It would be better if we had our costumes,” she mumbles to herself, shielding her face completely with her wing.
  488. >So she’s into roleplaying too – not that it surprises you.
  489. “Just what the hell did Pinkie Pie show you?”
  490. >If it was /d/… you swear to all the gods…
  491.  “Heterosexual sex in the missionary position isn’t – “
  492. >She grunts sharply, crossing her hindlegs.
  493. >”No, it’s not that,” she whines softly. “It’s – it’s a pony thing…”
  494. >Oh.
  495. >Oh, of course. They’re ponies, they –
  496. >Twilight uncrosses her hind legs, spreading them wide.
  497. >Still covering her face.
  498. “I didn’t ask you to – I’m not asking you to. If you would rather –“
  499. >”I don’t know if the table will take our weight,” she interrupts, knowing full well it can.
  500. “We don’t have to –“
  501. >She whines pleadingly, spreading herself further.
  502. “You don’t have to do this to please me…”
  503. >”Maybe *I* want it,” she answers sharply, pulling her wing back enough to see you. Enough for her horn to glow and your trousers to fall.
  504. >She squeals at the sight of your tenting boxers, hiding her face again as you slide them off.
  505. “Should I…”
  506. >You climb onto the table, hovering over your princess on all fours. The table doesn’t so much as creak under your added weight.
  507. “Should I get you a blindfold…? Would that help?”
  508. >”No…”
  509. >Twilight retracts her wing fully, staring into your eyes. She pulls you down onto her with her forelegs, sighing in happiness as your body touches hers.
  510. >”Just fuck me until I don’t mind anymore,” she whispers into your ear, “then keep fucking me.”
  511.  
  512. >”The table is hard,” Twilight complains softly, pushing you away gently so that she can crawl off.
  513. “You didn’t seem to mind earlier.”
  514. >”Earlier, you were hard, too.” She gives you a peck on the cheek. “That makes all the difference in the world.”
  515. >You roll off the table and begin pulling some of your clothes back on. Boxers, pants – not your shirt, it’s still –
  516. >She’s using it to clean herself.
  517. “I have to wear that, you know.”
  518. >”Would you rather I drip all the way up to the shower?” Twilight asks you, raising an eyebrow. “It needs to be washed anyway…”
  519. >Well shit, you guess it never did your socks any harm.
  520. >”You have spares upstairs,” she adds. “I think.”
  521. >Her eyes narrow as she tries to remember.
  522. >”Maybe…?”
  523. “Maybe I should just bring all of my stuff over here and abandon the Anonshack.”
  524. >”No, you can’t do that! We aren’t married yet!”
  525. >Yet?
  526. “Yet?”
  527. >”Yet,” she confirms, rearing up and putting her forehooves on your shoulders.
  528. “Do you have something planned for the weekend that I don’t know about…?”
  529. >”I can’t tell you that,” your marefriend answers as she pulls you down far enough for her lips to reach yours. “What kind of DM would I be if I let you know about everything in advance…”
  530. >She thrusts your filthy shirt into your hands, and trots away giggling, bouncing up the stairs with the enthusiasm of a well-fucked pony.
  531. “MARRIAGE ISN’T A TRAP! YOU KNOW THAT, RIGHT?”
  532. >If Twilight heard you – and she definitely heard you – she doesn’t answer. You look at the puddle of fluids on the table, then at the shirt in your hands. Well, it *is* already ruined FOREVER…
  533. >You wipe up the mess with a clean – if soggy – part of your shirt. The table will need a proper cleaning later, but this’ll do for now.
  534. >The pipes scream as Twilight starts her shower – you wouldn’t mind one yourself, but the tub isn’t large enough to hold you *and* a pony. It’ll have to wait until she’s done.
  535. >Note to self – when talking to remodeling crew about new counters, ask about having a larger bathtub installed. Not just for sexytimes, but so you don’t have to sit around waiting for your turn.
  536. >Or maybe have some installed in the guest rooms. Or maybe – maybe it’s Twilight’s castle and you should discuss it with her.
  537. >When you flop into the sofa to wait your turn, your hand brushes the letters from earlier. Ah, so that’s where she put them. You glance back to the table, remembering Twilight’s smile as you placed her on it. Did she have that planned…?
  538. >The letters are still in order of importance, you notice, though the invitation to the sixth edition debut was shuffled to the top. Above Celestia’s letter. Well, that’s interesting. You didn’t actually finish reading it, might as well do it now.
  539. >You skim the part you’d already read, just to see if there was anything you’d missed.
  540. >Unveiling of sixth edition over a three-night event.
  541. >No previous books invalidated.
  542. >Major upset to the setting – though they don’t specify what.
  543. >Nope, seems like you remembered it all. Now for the second page…
  544. >Hrm. Invite up to four friends to join you… Well shit, that means two of your group will be left out, unless one of them happened to get an invitation too.
  545. >Everypony should have a level eight character already rolled up.
  546. >Huh, *everypony*. Looks like Twilight won’t be able to DM this thing. But your friends won’t even have to roll up new characters if they don’t want to – they all hit level eight at the end of the last campaign and the big moon smashy ending.
  547. >And at the very end of the invitation – “Dressing as your character is strongly encouraged.”
  548. >Damn, Rarity was right. Cosplay *is* this con’s thing.
  549. >You wish you had some clue about the new setting – it would make it much easier to break the game – but there’s been no hint, no rumors, no ANYTHING about a new edition. This didn’t come out of left field – it wasn’t even *in* the ballpark. There is nothing that would help you build another walking nuke. And while you could just roll up a character that complimented your friends’, it sounds like there might be multiple tables. No guarantee you would all be in the same group.
  550. >It’s unlikely that the event coordinator would do something so idiotic and callous, but if there’s one thing worse than a DM, it’s an event coordinator.
  551. >You sigh, leaning back into the sofa, though the back is at an awkward angle for you – almost as if it wasn’t built for a human to sit in. You search your mind for inspiration – immediately discarding the usual broken builds. Any DM worth their salt can get around those, and surely they’ll have some decent DMs running this.
  552. >Probably.
  553. >Hopefully.
  554. >If the stars align and fate smiles upon you.
  555. >You’ve seen too many gaming companies make too many stupid mistakes to have much hope, from TSR to Sabertooth to… well, if there’s a god – ANY GOD – EA.
  556. >Seriously, fuck EA.
  557. >Hopefully B&B doesn’t go that way – it’s a shame to watch *any* game die, let alone one that brought you to where you are today.
  558. >You stand and walk over to one of the many bookcases lining the room – you’d swear this castle has more bookcases than Candlekeep. Three – no wait, you almost forgot one – four books later, you’re sitting at the table trying to come up with an idea for a character.
  559. >Something that can break a game.
  560. >Or save it.
  561. >There’s no obvious way to break this… except… what did Twi tell you earlier?
  562. “Everypony always wants to be the heroes.”
  563. >You mutter the words with a smile, grabbing a sheet of paper and writing down Chaotic Evil.
  564. >The words seem wrong to you, no matter how long you look at them. This marshmallow world might be getting to you.
  565. >Fine, *Lawful* Evil.
  566. >Class…?
  567. >You flip open the core book to check. Oh bless these ponies and their hidebound adherence to doing what others expect. You almost giggle as you flick to the section on NPC classes. This is…
  568. >Oh yes.
  569. >It scales exponentially, without any caps.
  570. >This game obviously wasn’t meant for level eight NPCs.
  571. >A level one farmer takes ten weeks to grow a crop of turnips. At level two – five weeks.
  572. >A level eight? Thirteen hours.
  573. >Useful, certainly. Game breaking, possibly. But no, that’s not enough. That can’t triumph over Paladin’s one-man exterminatus. Not flashy enough.
  574. >You go two pages further.
  575. >Your character probably won’t have any combat capabilities, but… hey. That’s what flaws are for, right? You’ll work out all your perks and flaws later.
  576. >Right now… right now you’re satisfied with four levels of Merchant and your one million bits-per-day. Almost. Add one level of Leader – no, two…
  577. >”Well, that’s an *interesting* idea.” Twilight giggles over your shoulder as you write that down. You hadn’t even heard her come down, or noticed the silence of the pipes. “Who’s he supposed to lead?”
  578. “Adventurers!”
  579. >”And…?” Twilight leans low, her mane dragging across your back. “If you’re taking two levels, you get the perk twice.”
  580. >Of course Twilight would know the rules for NPCs better than anyone else.
  581. “I’ll figure that out later.”
  582. >You kiss the end of her nose.
  583. “*After* I shower.”
  584. >”What about your other two levels?” she asks earnestly, trying to puzzle out your plan.
  585. “*After* I shower.”
  586. >You stumble your way up the stairs into the shower adjoining the bedroom, stripping off your clothes and dropping them on the bathroom floor.
  587. >Reaching around for a bar of soap turns up nothing – with a grunt of displeasure you settle for using your princess’s shampoo – it’ll leave you smelling like a field of flowers, but what the hell…
  588. >You’ll smell like that anyway after a few minutes of Twilight’s snuggling.
  589. >Need to look in to getting some real soap, though.
  590. >And a bigger tub.
  591. >And higher counters.
  592.  
  593. >You tromp down the stairs, wearing boxers and a towel – no shirt, nothing was clean.
  594. >”Maybe” your muscular left buttock.
  595. >Twilight gives you a sly grin as you reach the foot of the stairs.
  596. >She knew. She *fucking* knew.
  597. >”I finished your character for you,” your princess tells you, indicating for you to sit down next to her. “I think you’ll like it.”
  598. “Oh?”
  599. >”One level of sorcerer and one of swashbuckler.”
  600. “Wow, one of each? So my character can suck at multiple things at once?”
  601. >”Hardy-har-har, Anon,” she rocks her head back and forth with each word. “You know where I’m going with this – he starts with one year’s worth of income.”
  602. “That *was* my plan. His stats may suck, but that much money can buy a lot of gear.”
  603. >”And henchmen,” she adds, snuggling up against your side. “Kinda wonder why no one else does this… or why you never did it sooner.”
  604. “Too impersonal, I guess. After all, everypony wants to play the hero…”
  605. >Twilight giggles at your side.
  606. >“You mean it’s not flashy enough for you.”
  607. “Well, yeah. That too.”
  608. >”Still, I like this character,” she says, holding up the character sheet and staring at it. “You’re basically playing a Rogue Trader, aren’t you?”
  609. “And I’m going to throw money at every problem until it goes away!”
  610. >Twilight laughs softly, ducking her head and pushing it under your arm until it’s around her withers.
  611. >”I left the flaws and perks for you to figure out,” she tells you, snuggling closely. “Any ideas about my character…?”
  612. “Well, we could go with the same gimmick –“
  613. >”Of course not,” Twilight responds, rolling her eyes. “You’ll be able to buy out all the resources in the area on your own.”
  614. “No guarantee we’ll be playing together.”
  615. >”I didn’t tell you?” your princess asks you, her eyes widening. “I got a letter from Shiny too – he’s spoken with the event coordinator.”
  616. ”Oh?”
  617. >”Mhm!” she answers, nodding happily. “They aren’t splitting up groups or anything. We’ll be playing with Shining Armor and two of his friends!”
  618. >Well, FUCK.
  619. “That sounds fun!”
  620. >Twilight looks at you suspiciously – she knows better than to trust that overly-cheerful tone – but says nothing.
  621. “But what about *your* invitation?”
  622. >”I’ll give it to Applejack – that’s the only way all of our friends will get into the event,” she smiles contently, extremely satisfied with her plan.
  623. “All of them…?”
  624. >”Yeah…” A hint of doubt creeps into her face – Twilight is so sure of herself, but knows better than to dismiss your words when you get this way. “You and I are with Shining Armor and Applejack will bring Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie Pie.”
  625. “And Cheerilee?”
  626. >”Oh fuck.”
  627. >You’re so very proud in yourself for not laughing at her disgruntled expression. She stares at the table in anger.
  628. >”Maybe… maybe one of them got an invitation,” she says quietly, not really believing it. “Maybe.”
  629. >A knock at the front door interrupts your conversation – Twilight looks at you expectantly, fearfully.
  630. “Go ahead.”
  631. >With your left hand you lift the corner of the towel wrapped around your shoulders.
  632. “I’m in no state to answer the door. I won’t race you this time, I promise.”
  633. >Twilight laughs politely, pulling free from your arm.
  634. >You flip through the core book while she’s gone, seeing if there’s anything that strikes you. Maybe a cleric for your princess? Or anything capable of buffing large numbers of mercenaries at once? Shining Armor is playing a paladin – you’ve never gamed with him or even heard how he plays, but you know this. That stallion is incapable of playing anything but a paladin. Probably a Sun Paladin – he doesn’t strike you as the vengeful type.
  635. >Hopefully.
  636. >That would suck.
  637. >”HEY, ANON!” your princess yells up to you from the front door.
  638. “HEY WHAT?”
  639. >”I WAS RIGHT – WE’RE ALL GETTING IN!”
  640. “WHO GOT IT?”
  641. >”LYRA! SHE WANTED TO KNOW IF SHE COULD HAVE YOU.”
  642. “SHE’S KNOWS WE’RE DATING, RIGHT?”
  643. >”NOT THAT WAY, YOU BUTTMUFFIN!” the unicorn finally joins the conversation. “BUT THAT’S FINE, I’LL JUST GET OCTAVIA!”
  644. “OCTAVIA PLAYS?”
  645. >”NOT YET!” she answers cheerfully. “NICE… UH… SEEING YOU BY PROXY ANON!”
  646. >The door closes with a soft thud as your friend leaves.
  647. >One more problem solved. Yay.
  648. >BAMPFH.
  649. >Oh, look who’s too good for stairs…
  650. >”Hey buttmuffin,” Twilight teases, nudging you with a hoof. “Problem. Solved.”
  651. “Cool, now are you going to solve the Case of the No Clean Shirts?”
  652. >”Psh, who do I look like?” Twilight asks, “Your maid?”
  653. “M-maybe?”
  654. >She sits down with a sarcastic laugh to take another look at the rulebooks, completely ignoring your brand new fetish.
  655. >”So…” your princess looks over the open books, trying to regain her train of thought “… where were we…?”
  656. “Trying to figure out your character.”
  657. > Twilight bumps her shoulder into your arm, sticking out her tongue at you.
  658. >”I know *that* much.”
  659. “Any clue what – um – Shining Armor’s friends –“
  660. >You just can’t bring yourself to call him “Shiny.”
  661. “– will be playing?”
  662. >”Not a clue,” she answers. “I don’t even know who they are! But knowing him…”
  663. >She sighs, grabbing her head with her forehooves.
  664. >”… probably a pair of meathead jocks.”
  665. “I thought you said he was into this kind of thing.”
  666. >”He is, but,” Twilight hesitates, searching her mind for a way to explain.
  667. “Can’t help who your friends are, right?”
  668. >”Right,” your marefriend jumps on your answer with a smile.
  669. “Like Rainbow Dash.”
  670. >”Right!” she agrees with a laugh. “That’s probably not a bad comparison – it’s just a good stomp n’ romp for him. He takes it seriously, but it’s still… you know.”
  671. >And that probably means two fighter-types to go along with his paladin. Or best case, two pyros.
  672. “So… support character…?”
  673. >The two of you look at each other, sharing a long hard minute of silence.
  674. “Nah.”
  675. >”Nah.”
  676. >The two of you laugh together.
  677. >”You can just –“
  678. “I can just –“
  679. >You both fall silent – eventually you motion for her to continue.
  680. >”Why should I play a cleric when you can hire a *temple*?” Twilight giggles, hoof covering her mouth. “Spellcaster?”
  681. >You tentatively nod in agreement.
  682. “Spellcaster could work.”
  683. >Twilight’s horn glows as she snatches up a pencil and begins writing.
  684. “Chaotic Neutral…?”
  685. >”Can’t quite make myself go evil,” she sighs. “Not quite.”
  686. “Won’t that be –“
  687. >”Hard to roleplay?” she finishes for you. “Yeah, you know how much I *hate* ponies taking this alignment and claiming it’s justification for doing whatever they want.”
  688. >She nervously taps the book with the pencil.
  689. >”I’ll just… limit things through behavioral flaws.” Twilight pulls over two additional splatbooks without moving from the table or even looking at the bookcase. “Now… what class…?”
  690. “Going to multiclass?”
  691. >Twilight shakes her head.
  692. >”I could, but it would get redundant fast,” she says, flipping open several books. “Damn, too many choices…”
  693. >She sighs loudly.
  694. “I know what you mean – some games just get too…”
  695. >”Bloated?”
  696. >You nod – that was exactly the word you were searching for.
  697. >”But you can’t just ignore them,” Twilight complains, “because they so often overpower the basic classes. But do we *really* need over ten variations of I’m-a-wizard? Seriously – does the game need swordmages *or* warmages? What’s wrong with multiclassing as a fighter/wizard?”
  698. >She closes several of the books, shoving them to the far side of the table.
  699. >”Fuck psions,” she grunts. “Don’t know why I even bought that book.”
  700. >Twilight crosses her forelegs on the table, resting her head on them.
  701. “Roll for it?”
  702. >”Huh?” she asks, her head still on the table, though her ears to perk up. “Oh, on the random NPC chart?”
  703. “Yeah, from The Complete Dungeon Master’s Guide. Just roll on the Academic NPC table and go with that class.”
  704. >”And if it comes up with something unsuitable?”
  705. “Then reroll it.”
  706. >”Doable,” she comments, sitting up and bringing that book over to her, along with a d100.
  707. >It takes Twilight a minute to find the right page and examine the chart – from a quick glance it reminds you of the character creation tables from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Lots of crap on there, but at least it’s justified – it’s meant for quickly generating unique NPCs.
  708. >With a deep breath, Twilight throws the d100 into the air. It clatters to the table, rolling… rolling… 35. Your marefriend consults the table and sighs.
  709. >”Student,” she reads off to you. “Wheeee.”
  710. “Reroll?”
  711. >”Of course!”
  712. >She throws the dice into the air again, watching it tumble to a halt – 78.
  713. >”Artillerist.”
  714. “Reroll?”
  715. >You share a glance with Twilight.
  716. “Well?”
  717. >”I’m thinking,” she grunts. “They can’t cast spells and the class has prerequisites, but I can fix both of those problems with five levels of wizard.”
  718. “But they suck.”
  719. >”They suck,” she agrees, “without proper funding.”
  720. >Your marefriend twists her head to face you, tilting it meaningfully.
  721. >”Well?”
  722. “Well, what?”
  723. >”Are you going to fund it?” she asks with an innocent smile.
  724. “Like a kickstarter for exploding kittens.”
  725. >You don’t know why those words come out of your mouth, but they seem appropriate.
  726. >”Do I want to know?” Twilight asks with a giggle.
  727. “I’m not sure *I* want to know.”
  728. >She laughs again, shaking her head at your… your *you*ness as she finds the right supplement and flips to the correct page.
  729. >”Could you find the transmutation spells for me?” Twilight asks, her nose buried in the Oddball Egghead Classbook as she hands the core rulebook to you.
  730.  “Want me to look up siege engines too? What’s your character’s weapon of choice? Catapult? Cannon? Ballista?”
  731. >Twilight smiles evilly.
  732. >”Physics.”
  733. “Let me guess – peasant railguns and shotcannons of holding?”
  734. >”What!? No!” Twilight looks up angrily from her book. “Both of those are far too unrealistic!”
  735. “You let me –“
  736. >”I *let* you get away with them *once*,” your marefriend explains harshly. “Once, because you had just told me about Dwarf Fortress. No way am I going to ruin the debut of Sixth with that crap.”
  737. “Is it too late for me to roll up an Urist?”
  738. >”Yes!”
  739. “But –“
  740. >”And no inventing new measurements of time to confuse the DM!”
  741. “Fiiiiiine.”
  742. >You peer over her shoulder, watching as Twilight selects her character’s spells.
  743. “Oh.”
  744. >She pauses, twisting to smirk at you.
  745. >”See it now?” Twilight asks, batting her eyes. She taps the eraser of her pencil against the table until you finally answer.
  746. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone or anything as much as I love you *right now*.”
  747. >”Not even earlier today when I did that –“
  748. “ – that thing with your tail?”
  749. >”Mhm.” Twilight has the most satisfied, most self-confident grin on her face that you have ever seen. She stretches over, giving you a peck on the cheek. “You don’t have to answer that.”
  750. >You sigh in relief and your internal screaming quiets down. Slightly. Just enough for you to think.
  751. >”But you *do* have to make the bed,” she teases you, giving you a slight nudge. “I think I can finish my character on my own.”
  752. “Then I also need to make dinner. I think that comes first.”
  753. >Don’t know about her, but you still haven’t eaten all day, not even that apple from the fruit bowl.
  754. >Twilight’s eyes widen as you head to the kitchen.
  755. >”Ooooo, yes,” she moans happily. “Food. Excellent idea.”
  756. >You think you can hear a rumbling pony tummy as you step into the kitchen – to your complete lack of surprise, Twilight must have completely forgot about food until you reminded her. You survey the kitchen, mostly cleaned but still showing some signs of this morning’s waffley miscarriage.
  757. >So *that’s* what she did while you were out.
  758. >What do you have available…? Still plenty of leftovers, but you feel like something hot and fresh. Hmmm…
  759. >Mushroom fajitas.
  760. >Fuck yeah.
  761. >Using mushrooms feels inherently wrong – like a sin against nature itself – but in the absence of beef, it works. Better than you expected, but it will take a while to cook.
  762. >You grab an apple from the fruitbowl to snack on. Maybe Twilight needs someth –
  763. >”Food?” she groans, bumping her shoulder into your hip. “Fooooooood?”
  764. “I’ll get something started in a sec – want some fruit to tide you over?”
  765. >”Food?” you princess grunts, nodding her head.
  766. >With a sigh, you stuff the apple into her open mouth – she immediately sinks her teeth into it.
  767. >”oooooooooph!” she cheers happily, trotting out of the kitchen with your apple in her mouth, juice dripping from her chin.
  768. >As you watch her leave, you fumble around the bowl for another apple, but they seem to be eluding you. Because that was the last one, you realize when turn back to the bowl. All you have are… pears…
  769. >Thank all the gods Applejack can’t see you now.
  770. >But she’s out there – somewhere – crying for reasons she can’t explain as you take your first bite. You know it in your heart.
  771. >You finish off the pear quickly and begin chopping – the fruit only seemed to make you hungrier, reawakening your starved belly.
  772. >Mushrooms, white onions, and peppers all go under your knife, cut into long ribbons. You briefly consider making pico, but meh – you settle for simply dicing up some tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. Not real pico, but good enough for right now.
  773. >You peek inside the refrigerator, looking for cheese. Bleh, all you have left is romano.
  774. >Wait.
  775. >This could work…
  776. >Yeah. This *will* work.
  777. >You toss a few tortillas onto a baking sheet and add some basil before sliding them into the oven to heat. Damn, you miss having a microwave…
  778. >Twilight looks at you questioningly as you bring out the mixed bowl of diced tomatoes and cilantro. She looks… disappointed.
  779. “Don’t worry, there is more coming.”
  780. >She reaches for the bowl hesitantly.
  781. “It’s not a salad – it’s a topping.”
  782. >”Ooooooh,” she coos, eyes sparkling. “Tacos?”
  783. “Fajitas. Just need to fry ‘em up – it’ll only be a minute.”
  784. >”I take back what I said,” your marefriend smiles, “you’re pretty good this domestic stuff!”
  785. “I’ll just leave the waffles to you.”
  786. >”Deal!”
  787. >As you spin to return to the kitchen, she reaches for the bowl again.
  788. >You don’t say a word as she pulls it over to herself and has a mouthful – you chopped up more than you needed. Besides, it’s food – it’s meant to be eaten.
  789. >Just… hopefully… she leaves some for the fajitas.
  790. >True to your word, you come back minutes later with a plate of mushrooms, onions, and peppers draped in shredded romano, the cheese still melting from the heat. Your other hand holds a plate of warmed up seasoned tortillas.
  791. >Twilight’s excited smile reminds you of something…
  792. “Berry Pinch was surprised that I do the cooking.”
  793. >”You don’t do *all* of it,” Twilight responds as she reaches for a tortilla. “Almost, but not *all*.”
  794. “That’s not what I meant.”
  795. >You begin loading up a tortilla of your own – luckily about half the bowl of toppings remains.
  796. >”Maybe we should have her and Berry Punch over for dinner sometime.” Your marefriend takes her first bite, moaning happily at the first warm meal of the day. “Teach them that a human can cook.”
  797. “It’s not that I’m human – she thought that *you* should do the cooking…”
  798. >She rolls her eyes, swallowing the food in her mouth.
  799. >”Yeah, we’ll definitely have them over for dinner,” Twilight responds once her mouth is empty. “Maybe this week…?”
  800. “I dunno about that – I’ve got an awful lot of work to do if I’m going to get my Emperor costume ready.”
  801. >”And we’ve got to catch up on all our duties before we go,” Twilight agrees reluctantly.
  802. “Yeah, gotta do all that important princess stuff.”
  803. >”I meant clean clothes for you and stuff like that,” your marefriend frowns at you before taking another bite. “And yes, there is some important princess stuff that has to get done.”
  804. >You’re still not quite sure exactly what “princess stuff” is – aside from the occasional official meeting or trade agreement, all she seems to do is act as Celestia’s happiness enforcer. Still, everypony seems okay with it – nopony has tried to lead a peasant uprising to dispose of the excess nobility. That you know off. Celestia *does* seem to be a little shady… with more secrets than you’re usually okay with princesses having, and Twilight *did* say there have been disappearances…
  805. >”Speaking of princess stuff…” Twilight smiles apologetically at you “… I’m going to be pretty busy tomorrow. Any chance you can run some more errands for me?”
  806. >Dammit, you should have seen that coming.
  807. “What do you need me to do? I will be pretty busy with that armor…”
  808. >You take another bite.
  809. >”Not sure yet,” she smiles apologetically at you. “We’ll discuss that tomorrow, okay?”
  810. >With a nod of agreement, the two of you finish your meal in the almost-silence of hungry people/ponies with good food.
  811.  
  812. >You wake the next day, your Twilight still asleep at your side. The alarm clock still has a few minutes left – off all the worst mutant talents you could have developed, it’s the ability to wake up before you’re supposed to. It’s like a built-in reverse snooze button.
  813. >Gently, you shake your marefriend awake.
  814. “Hey there pretty pony, it’s time to get up.”
  815. >She moans, pulling the blue sheet over her head to block out the light from the nearby window.
  816. >”Not yet, the alarm hasn’t gone off yet,” she objects, her voice muffled by the cloth.
  817. “Come on, we have a lot to do today and we *did* get to bed pretty early last night.”
  818. >After finishing dinner, the two of you finalized your characters, then she trotted upstairs with the new sheets to put them on while you washed dishes. Even after all that, the moon was barely up by the time the two of you crawled into bed.
  819. >”Only an hour early…”
  820. “And this is only…”
  821. >You twist to look at the clock.
  822. “… five minutes early.”
  823. >Twilight harumphs softly, scooting back to press against you.
  824. >”Fine,” she grumbles. “I’ll stay awake, but I am *not* getting up until seven.”
  825. “Deal.”
  826. >After five minutes of snuggling, the alarm sounds and the two of you reluctantly climb out of bed.
  827. >”Breakfast?” Twilight asks you as she runs a brush through her mane.
  828. “Fruit, I think. It sounds like we have a busy day.”
  829. >Her mouth twists in concentration.
  830. >”Fine,” she eventually spits out. “But let’s try to have a decent lunch and dinner. Maybe pick up some groceries.”
  831. “Definitely.”
  832. >Wait…
  833. “You’re going to make me do that, aren’t you?”
  834. >Twilight nods wordlessly, her purple aura fading from the brush to let it drop to the top of the dresser.
  835. >”I really have a lot to do,” she says, looking pleadingly over her back to you as you pull on some clothes. “I shouldn’t have slacked off yesterday…”
  836. >Princess stuff. So hard.
  837. >”Celestia asked me to look over all the old laws,” your marefriend sighs, “to strike out the old ones that are no longer relevant or modernize them.”
  838. “For Ponyville?”
  839. >”For Equestria.” Another sigh. “I think she’s actually trying to familiarize me with all of our legal code – I wish she would just tell me what she *really* expects from me for once.”
  840. >You cast around for a shirt, eventually finding a mostly clean one shoved under the bed.
  841. “Yeah, tell me about it.”
  842. >Twilight nods, opening her mouth to answer.
  843. >No words come out, just a strangled squeak as your words click.
  844. >”Sorry,” she bumps her shoulder into you lightly, face blazing, “but you – you could have –“
  845. “Asked? Yeah, I should have.”
  846. >She looks up at you, the corners of her mouth twisting up in a slight smile.
  847. “So can you – Celestia isn’t your teacher anymore, she’s your equal.”
  848. >Twilight breathes in deeply, letting the air out slowly.
  849. >”I will,” she says firmly. “I will, when we see her this weekend, but I *do* need to get this done. Princess Celestia might have a hidden agenda, but Equestria’s legal code *really* needs to be modernized.”
  850. >She closes her eyes, taking another deep breath.
  851. >”Could you bring some sliced pears and a pitcher of water to my study?”
  852. “Getting started right away?”
  853. >”Yes,” Twilight groans. “Going to try marathoning it, see if maybe I can get to some of these other chores on my own instead of pushing everything on you.”
  854. “Speaking of…”
  855. >”Breakfast first.”
  856. >She gives you another light nudge – the pony equivalent of a light shoulder squeeze or pat on the back.
  857. “Sure thing.”
  858. >You head downstairs, slicing up some pears and filling a pitcher. Might as well make some toast while you’re at it – it’s not like Twilight has to worry about ruining books with buttery fingers. You’re carrying a tray upstairs to her study just five minutes later.
  859. >The door creeks as you push it open with your hip – even though the castle practically new, this room has always been old. Probably because of magic. The walls are lined with bookcase after bookcase, all covered in dust. The only part of the walls left uncovered is the large window directly opposite the door – a window that Twilight must have opened to air out the room. But directly below – and above – the window are more shelves filled with books. There might be fewer books here than in the library, but that is only because these ones are so much larger. Massive, thick tomes that are – as Twilight likes to call them – “Not Fun Books” fill the shelves, volume after volume of laws and trade agreements and treaties and who knows what else.
  860. >”Thanks,” Twilight grunts happily as you set the tray down on the table – the only dust-free surface in the room. She looks up from the book she was studying, smiling at the tray of food. “Ooooh, toast!”
  861. >You sit down opposite her in one of the short pony chairs – it takes you a minute to find a way to sit comfortably, but you eventually manage.
  862. “So, what did you need me to do today?”
  863. >You ask earnestly – it does seem like she has a lot to do, but – perhaps more importantly – it’s nice to have purpose. More than nice – vital.
  864. >”Well, first off you really should wash your clothes.” Twilight wrinkles her nose at your used shirt.
  865. “I thought you liked the smell!”
  866. >”Yes, but…” she smiles at you, popping a slice of pear into her mouth and swallowing “… it still needs to be done, doesn’t it?”
  867. >You concede the point with a quick nod.
  868. “And after that?”
  869. >”Groceries and letting our friends know about the Burrows and Basilisks event. Fluttershy will need to make a new character, but everyone needs to be informed too since it wasn’t on the event schedule.”
  870. >Oh, of course they wouldn’t know about that – damn, this marshmallow world would be so much easier if everypony had a phone. But wait – Twilight hasn’t seen any of them since game night at Cheerilee’s –
  871. “You’ve already invited them all to the con?”
  872. >Twilight chuckles, shaking her head at you.
  873. >”They’ve been preparing for this since last year,” your marefriend answers. “Fluttershy finished up her costumes four months ago.”
  874. >Ah.
  875. “Yeah, I can take care of that, though it’ll probably take all day to track down our friends.”
  876. >You eat a couple slices of pear as Twilight continues to pour over the book before her, occasionally pulling a piece of toast or slice of fruit into her mouth with her magic.
  877. “I know you’re busy…”
  878. >Twilight makes a questioning noise, prompting you to go on.
  879. “… but you’re the one that can teleport and has wings. I can take care of everything else, but it would be much faster if you visited the others.”
  880. >She looks up from her book, putting a hoof to her chin in thought.
  881. >”Well… maybe I could… but…”
  882. >”But the story is from *your* point of view!” Pinkie Pie shouts as she tumbles through the open window, two cupcakes flying from her hooves to land smoothly on the tray of food. She slides under the table, coming to rest at your feet. “We can’t have Twilight do things alone!”
  883. >You and your marefriend exchange confused glances.
  884. “Throw her out the window?”
  885. >”Throw her out the window,” Twilight agrees with a firm nod. “By royal decree.”
  886. >”Wait!” Ponka yells as you grab her. “I can help you!”
  887. >”She does have a point,” Twilight admits, “and I *am* really too busy…”
  888. >Your princess takes a bite out of one of the cupcakes, moaning happily as she realizes that Pinkie brought her favorite kind.
  889. “Alrighty Ponks, you win. Don’t know what you’re up to, but you win.”
  890. >”Yay! I win!” she cheers, throwing her forehooves into the air.
  891. “I just need to wash some clothes so I have a clean shirt to wear.”
  892. >”But – but – but – awwwww,” Pinkie Pie groans, sagging in your grip like a soggy noodle. “I knew I should have brought some of your clothes over.”
  893. “Tell you what – it’ll take several hours for the clothes to dry, so why don’t you go ahead and do that? Just run over to my place and grab a fresh shirt for me?”
  894. >You dig into your pocket for the key to your shack, pressing it into the Earth Pony’s hoof.
  895. >Her face looks conflicted, rapidly flipping between Yay-I-get-to-explore-the-Anonshack and THIS-ISN’T-A-PARTY, before finally settling on calm acceptance.
  896. >”Okie-dokie-lokie!” Pinkie tells you with a smile.
  897. “I should be done by the time you get back.”
  898. >Your attempt to reassure her is apparently unnecessary – Pinkie sticks out her tongue at you.
  899. >”If not, I can work on my character,” she says. “I *still* haven’t decided what to do for her new level and I’m going to figure that out before the con!”
  900. >Ponks bounces cheerfully out of the room, your key in her mouth.
  901. >”Well,” Twilight smirks at you, grabbing some paper and pens to begin her revisions, “that was unexpected.”
  902. “Indeed.”
  903. >You finish off your breakfast in silence – Twilight working too hard to talk, you eating too quickly. You bid her farewell with a gentle pat on her head and exit, gathering up your dirty clothes.
  904. >True to your word, you’ve finished washing everything – including the shirt you had been wearing – and are hanging them up to dry when there’s a loud knocking at the door in Pinkie’s characteristic jackhammer style.
  905. >You pop your head out of the window – yep, that’s Ponka hammering away at the door. She must have brought a lot more than one shirt, though – why else would she have put on saddlebags?
  906. “DID YOU LOCK THE DOOR WHEN YOU LEFT?”
  907. >”NO!” she yells back.
  908. “THEN JUST COME IN!”
  909. >“Oh.” The mare pauses, looking around at everyone on the street. “OKAY!”
  910. >She pushes the door open and steps in, disappearing from your sight.
  911. >Damn, you just *know* you’re going to end up on Cops! Equestria some day. You just know it.
  912. >You quickly finish hanging the rest of the clothes and head down, meeting Ponks halfway – in the game room.
  913. >”Ooooooh,” she moans, circling you, eyes on your bare torso. “You toned up nicely. I knew I chose right.”
  914. >You don’t ask – there’s no point.
  915. >But she is right – no TV, no computer, and a healthier diet have done wonders for your waistline. Still no six-pack, but it’s not like anyone else here has one.
  916. “Shirt?”
  917. >You’re beginning to feel a little self-conscious due to her blatant examination. More than a little.
  918. >”Fiiiine…” Ponka pops her head into one of her bags, pulling out one of your plain blue shirts with her mouth. ”Wiw diff un erk?”
  919. >”Thanks, Panky.”
  920. >You take the shirt from mouth, pulling it on over your head.
  921. “Did you bring anything else?”
  922. >She shakes her head vigorously.
  923. “Then why the saddlebags?”
  924. >Pinko stretches up, reaching just far enough to grab your shoulders and pull you down slightly.
  925. >”I didn’t want anypony to see what I was bringing you!” she stage whispers into your ear. Pinkie releases you, dropping back down to all fours. “Besides, we have to do some shopping!”
  926. >Oh joy. Well, maybe. Sure, why not. Yay!
  927. >”SO!” She bounces around you energetically. “It sounded like Twilight wanted you to do some stuff for her – whatcha gotta do?”
  928. >Pinkie Pie beams up at you with her infectious grin.
  929. >Seriously, it’s pretty infectious.
  930. >Nurgle has nothing on her.
  931. “Get some groceries and talk to everyone.”
  932. >”Aboooooout?” she asks, tilting her head to the left.
  933. >Doh. Right. You just kinda assumed Ponka knew – she seems to know everything.
  934. >”I don’t know *everything*, ‘Nonny!” she giggles. “What’s going on?”
  935. “Well… they’re unveiling the sixth edition of Burrows and Basilisks at CanterCon and everyone’s invited.”
  936. >She blinks at you, waiting for you to go on.
  937. “Everypony needs an eigth level character – we’re assuming you’ll all use your current characters.”
  938. >”Aaaaaaaaaand?” Pinkie prompts, giving your shin a nudge with her knee.
  939. “… And I need to give the invitation to Applejack…?”
  940. >Good thing she reminded you – you almost forgot to nab that. You quickly stuff the letter into your pocket.
  941. >”And what else?”
  942. “That – that’s it.”
  943. >”Oh.” Pinkie Pie deflates visibly, like a balloon. “But hey, sixth edition. Should be fun, right? Right?”
  944. >She wiggles her eyebrows at you.
  945. “Should be, Ponk. Should be.”
  946. >You head downstairs, Ponka bouncing around you as she regains her usual enthusiasm for *everything*. She bumps into you more than once – on accident or purposefully, you can’t say.
  947. “Not that I ever mind your company Ponka, but why are you hanging out with me today? No work?”
  948. >The front door opens easily when you give it a slight tug and the two of you step out. Unlike Pinkie, you lock the door behind you – Ponyville is a safe town, but… your princess is nose deep in a book, she wouldn’t notice anything until it was too late.
  949. >You shudder involuntarily, your imagination running wild with dozens of scenarios in the space of a second.
  950. >”Yeah, I’m off today,” Pinkie Pie answers cheerfully, bringing you back to reality, “but that’s not it – you’re fun to be with!”
  951.  
  952.  
  953. >Never thought you’d hear someone say that about you, but from Pinkie’s smile you believe she’s telling the truth. What are you thinking – of course she is. Still, you shouldn’t let yourself grow any self-esteem – Ponka thinks *everything* is fun. Still…
  954. “What’s the real reason?”
  955. >”I think I need help with something,” she answers, her head and mane drooping sadly. “Maybe – if we have time after your stuff I mean – maybe you could help me out…?”
  956. >You freeze mid-step.
  957. >That wasn’t supposed to be a real question.
  958. >She wasn’t supposed to have a real answer.
  959. “No Ponks, let’s do your thing first.”
  960. >After all she’s done for you – after all you *suspect* she’s done for you – helping her with this is the least you can do. Whatever it is. But she shakes her head.
  961. >”No,” Pinkie Pie says, her mane poofing back up at your offer. “Later. We can’t do it now anyway.”
  962. “Well of course not.”
  963. >Ponka looks at you questioningly.
  964. “I’m dating Twily.”
  965. >She snorts, not expecting that answer, not expecting you to go there.
  966. >”Silly ‘Nonny.” She bumps her hip into your leg. “You aren’t my type *AT ALL*.”
  967. >You’re hesitant to ask just what her type is, so you settle for replying with a polite chuckle and knowing nod.
  968. >Pinkie Pie and you head towards Fluttershy’s place first. No particular reason, just your feet – and her hooves – point that direction.
  969. >Whatever Ponka needs help with, it’s troubling her – she’s content to walk in awkward silence, either too caught up in thought or too afraid of what she’ll say to speak.
  970. “So… I heard you brought Twilight some ‘research material’…”
  971. >”You can’t have any,” she responds instantly. “Nope, don’t even ask.”
  972. “I wasn’t going to. Just trying to make conversation…”
  973. >The little pony at your side twists her head to look up at you.
  974. “Got your costumes done…?”
  975. >Hopefully this topic works out better.
  976. >”Mhm!”
  977. >VICTORY!
  978. “Whatcha going as?”
  979. >”Welllllllll… obviously the *first* one is Mint Julep,” she answers, smiling proudly. “For the second costume, I got a skull pin and some red glasses…”
  980. >She bumps her shoulder into you as the two of you continue to walk, trying to draw your attention again. As soon as you make eye contact, she wiggles her eyebrows meaningfully.
  981. >”Eh? Eh?”
  982. “You’re going to make me guess?”
  983. >”I just thought it would be fun…” Pinkie Pie grumbles. “Need another hint?”
  984. >Oh fuck no, she doubts you? She doubts your power level!?
  985. “Yoko.”
  986. >Your friend squeals in delight.
  987. >”For the third costume,” Ponka grins, “I’m borrowing a white lab coat from Twi!”
  988. >That’s a little *too* vague for you – half a dozen possibilities pop into your head.
  989. “I – I dunno.”
  990. >”Me neither,” she responds. “I’ll just be whoever the pony seeing me wants me to be! What about yours?”
  991. “Rarity is doing up a Paladin costume for me –“
  992. >Pinkie Pie nods – she must have expected that one.
  993. “And I have the clothes to do a passable Old Man –“
  994. >”HENDERSON!”
  995. >You barely get your hand up in time for her high-hoof.
  996. >”What about the third?” she asks expectantly, eyes shimmering.
  997. “Well… remember when I tried to make a suit of power armor with magitek?”
  998. >”Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah?”
  999. >She bites her lower lip, eyes wide with excitement.
  1000. “Rarity suggested I paint it gold.”
  1001. >”This. Is! PERFECT!” she screams, jumping into the air. “I can totally help you with that!”
  1002. “What’s so perfect about it? Even with gold paint, it won’t be anywhere near blingy enough.”
  1003. >”I CAN HELP WITH THAT!”
  1004. “Why are you so excited about *this* costume?”
  1005. >Pinkie Pie stops her little happy dance, her eyes shifting back and forth in her head as she internally deliberates.
  1006. >”Because it is,” she finally answers. “I mean, I was surprised when they didn’t – NOPE, NOT SAYING!”
  1007. “Dang it, Ponka! Are you keeping secrets from me?”
  1008. >”Of course!” she answers with a giggle. “Everypony LOVES surprises!”
  1009. “*Important* secrets?”
  1010. >Panka falls quiet at that.
  1011. >After a minute or two of silent travel, the mare finally responds.
  1012. >”I won’t tell you everything,” she says, “but I will say I might need to make a new costume of my own.”
  1013. >Your friend falls silent again.
  1014. “Do I get a hint…?”
  1015. >”Hrmmmm…” Pinkie Pie’s brow wrinkles in concentration. “HRMMMMMMMM.”
  1016. >She sticks her tongue out, as it doing that somehow aids in critical thought.
  1017. >”AH!” Your friend beams up at you, eyes glittering. She giggles as she gives your hint – “Laugh when you are killing!”
  1018. >You freeze in place again.
  1019. >That’s a word you never expected to hear from Pinkie’s mouth.
  1020. >Ever.
  1021. >And certainly not in that phrase.
  1022. >She bumps her shoulder into you again – twice – her grin slowly slipping away at your continued silence.
  1023. >”Did – did I say something wrong…?” she asks hesitantly, the barest hint of a smile still on her face. “I don’t have to do it – I just thought –“
  1024. “I don’t know what else is going on, but – if you mean what I think you mean – that is perfect for you.”
  1025. >As perfect as a pony dressing as a primarch can be.
  1026. >”You figured it out…?” she asks hopefully.
  1027. “If you’re not planning to go as the Great Khan, you should be.”
  1028. >”Squee!”
  1029. >So that means somepony else is dressing up as a primarch – they’d have to be, right?
  1030. >Otherwise Ponks wouldn’t make a matching costume – shit like that is only for couples or groups, right?
  1031. “How many others?”
  1032. >”Two that I know of,” your friend answers impulsively. “Crap – I mean ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?’”
  1033. >You ignore Pinkie’s horrible attempt to cover up her mistake.
  1034. “Hmmm… Twi only has one costume – I might have to get her in on that. Maybe the sigilite?”
  1035. >Should be easy enough to find grey robes and a staff.
  1036. >The mare at your side whines softly.
  1037. “You think she’d rather be a primarch?”
  1038. >”No, but –“
  1039. >”HEY, A-NON!” Rainbow Dash plummets out of the sky, drowning out Ponka’s words. She slams her hoof into your fist before her hindlegs have even settled onto the ground. “What’s going on, Pinkie Pie?”
  1040. “Damn Aredee, feels like it’s been over a month since I’ve seen you!”
  1041. >”It’s only been a week,” the pegasus scoffs. “Don’t get so clingy.”
  1042. >Her wings beat once as she hops back, putting some distance between the two of you.
  1043. “I wasn’t –“
  1044. >”ANYWAY! Have you heard the AWESOME news!?”
  1045. >”Ooooooh!” Pinko bounds forward, tackling her friend. “More good news!?”
  1046. >”Yeah,” Dash responds,  trying to pry Pinkie Pie off. “Sixth edition is being released at CanterCon!”
  1047. >”Oh.”
  1048. >Ponka releases her friend of her own accord, slumping off into a little pile of bored cotton candy.
  1049. >”What’s wrong with you!? Isn’t this awesome!?” Dash demands of the little pink ball. “I just hope one of *us* got an invite!”
  1050. “Well, yeah it’s awesome, but we already knew.”
  1051. >Pinkie’s head bobs in agreement, drawing a friendly sneer from the pegasus.
  1052. >”You could show a little more excitement, you know,” Aredee growls. “I’m sure we’ll get in *somehow*.”
  1053. “I can get us in – *if* you promise to wear a costume.”
  1054. >”Sure, fine, whatever,” she concedes with a flip of her head, “I can probably throw together something for Mercury Flare.”
  1055. “That has *one* day covered.”
  1056. >”One? ONE?” Rainbow Dash wails. “What do you *want* from me!?”
  1057. “Three days – three costumes.”
  1058. >This little bit of extortion is the least you can do to pay back Rarity for the costume she’s making you.
  1059. >”Three!?” the pegasus whimpers. “I can’t do *three* - I’ll be lucky if I can put together *one* outfit.”
  1060. >”Ooooh, you can use these!” Ponka reaches into her saddlebags, pulling out – oh fuck yeah – a pair of spiked red glasses.
  1061. >Dash carefully takes the shades, holding them at leg’s length in that impossible way ponies can sometimes hold things with their hooves.
  1062. >”I guess they’re cool enough, but…”
  1063. >”…but…?” Pinkie whines.
  1064. >”… what *are* they?”
  1065. >Pinkie Pie facehoofs, followed seconds later by you though for a different reason.
  1066. >You don’t really know what you expected – Gurren Lagann *is* from a different universe. There’s no logical reason why Rainbow Dash would know about it. It’s kind of impossible.
  1067. >Which makes this moment all the more disappointing.
  1068. >”Fuck it,” Pinkie growls, throwing her forelegs into the air. “Tuesday night – Twilight’s place.”
  1069. >HOLY SHITTING DICKNIPPLES PINKIE PIE CAN SWEAR!?
  1070. >”I’m kinda busy Tuesday night,” Rainbow Dash responds with gritted teeth. “Can’t you just –“
  1071. >”Damn right you’re busy Tuesday night,” Ponka snarls into her friend’s face. “You’re going to be at Twilight’s place watching Gurren Lagann – that’s what you’ll be busy doing.”
  1072. >”Okay, okay! Fine!” Dash rolls her eyes, “I need to swing by anyway to borrow some BnB books.”
  1073. “Oh, right – the Sixth Edition premiere requires eighth level characters –“
  1074. >”I know that,” Dash snaps at you. “Why do you think I need to borrow some books?”
  1075. >”You’re not going to use Mercury Flare…?” Ponka whimpers – from her tone, you’d think *she* was the one that had just been yelled at.
  1076. >”I just need to level her up,” the pegasus answers with an irritated sigh. “You *know* I only own the core book. Besides, I want to see what Anon is rolling up to go with us!”
  1077. “Actually… it’s only five players per group. Twi and I will be playing with her brother and some of his buddies.”
  1078. >You grin apologetically at your friends.
  1079. >”What!?” Aredee claws at her face in horror. “Bullshit! With you in one group and Trixie in another, we’re screwed!”
  1080. >Ah, so learned about the unveiling from someone in Cheerilee’s group.
  1081. “I doubt it’s a competitive event–“
  1082. >”SCREWED!” Dash repeats, grabbing Pinkie by the shoulders and shaking her.
  1083. “Don’t worry – most of my character’s levels are in NPC classes.”
  1084. >This does nothing to reassure your friend – she simple quiets, staring at you out of the corner of her eye.
  1085. >”I’m – I’m going home now,” she finally says with exaggerated calmness, letting go of Ponka’s shoulders. “I have to read up on something.”
  1086. >Rainbow Dash leaps into the air, her wings beating furiously.
  1087. “IS IT NPC CLASSES?”
  1088. >”NO!” she yells back to you
  1089. >Yeah it is.
  1090. >”Silly Dashie,” Pinkie Pie sings beside you, watching the pegasus fly away. “She doesn’t get that you don’t care about beating other players, does she?”
  1091. “I guess not.”
  1092. >”Doing the silly merchant thing?” the mare asks as you resume your journey.
  1093. “What? You’ve noticed it?”
  1094. >”Mhm!” she answers proudly. “Let me guess – if every group is playing its own part in a single joint campaign, you’re going to try to form us up into one huge party?”
  1095. “Eh, maybe. I was thinking about my character’s backstory – maybe play him as a representative of the Adventurer’s Union.”
  1096. >”That would be *silly*, ‘Nonny,” Ponka giggles. “DO IT.”
  1097. “So… I didn’t want to say anything in front of Aredee, but what was up with that language? A little… inappropriate, don’t you think?”
  1098. >”Whatcha mean?” Pinkie Pie asks, bouncing around you again. “I *only* use appropriate language!”
  1099. “That wasn’t really appropriate – not for *you*.”
  1100. >It’s not hypocrisy – she’s a fluffy pink marshmallow pony – she can’t swear!
  1101. >”My language was *appropriate*,” Ponka snarls. “Dash hasn’t seen Gurren Lagann.”
  1102. >But… but…
  1103. “That’s not exactly her fault, is it? That show doesn’t exist here!”
  1104. >”Wouldn’t have stopped Kamina,” she answers. Panks hesitantly opens her mouth to say more, but closes it with a little shake of her head.
  1105. >There’s not really anything else to say.
  1106. >She’s right.
  1107. >But still…
  1108. “Am I a bad influence on you ponies? I’m pretty sure Twi didn’t used to swear as much, and you –“
  1109. >”Oh ‘Nonny, it doesn’t have anything to do with *you*,” the mare answers, smiling happily. “Everypony is just a *leeetle* bit stressed right now.”
  1110. “Because of me…?”
  1111. >”Grow some self-respect!” Pinkie Pie giggles, bumping her shoulder into you. “It’s really not your fault!”
  1112. “But I’m worried –“
  1113. >”No, seriously –“ Pinkie Pie jumps in front of you and spins, putting a forehoof on your chest. “Grow some self-respect. Like – right now.”
  1114. >She jerks her head backwards, indicating –
  1115. >Oh, yeah, Fluttershy’s cottage – you’ve arrived. And so has Trixie…? Why is her wagon parked outside?
  1116. >Pinkie Pie taps your chest with her hoof, regaining your attention.
  1117. >”If you go in there like this,” she hisses loudly, “you’re going to trigger Flutters’ mothering complex! So either accept that not everything is *your* fault or pretend!”
  1118. “Hey! Sometimes it’s nice to be pampered!”
  1119. >”I completely agree!” Ponka responds. “But we’re busy and so is she!”
  1120. >With wh – oh.
  1121. >Fluttershy already has a “project” – she doesn’t need another one.
  1122. >You don’t know if you approve, but this can’t be *too* bad for either of them – everyone needs to be needed.
  1123. >Pinkie Pie removes her hoof when you give her a nod.
  1124. “We’ll just pop in and give her the news, then head on to Sweet Apple Acres, okay?”
  1125. >”Okie dokie!”
  1126. >Ponka bounces on ahead, hammering on the door – gently, for her.
  1127. >Fluttershy must have been nearby – she’s already pulling the door open by the time you catch up with Pinkie Pie.
  1128. >”Oh, hello,” she greets you both. “Are you here about –“
  1129. >”About SIXTH EDITION!” the Earth Pony at your side shouts gleefully.
  1130. >”Ooooh, that…!” Fluttershy’s eyes shimmer in excitement! “Trixie told me all about it!”
  1131. >The pegasus looks over her back into the room, frowning slightly, and takes a step outside.
  1132. >”She wanted me to join her group,” Fluttershy whispers, “but…”
  1133. >”TRIXIE SAID IT WAS FINE,” the unicorn shouts from behind Fluttershy, making the pegasus wince.
  1134. >”She said it was fine if I played with *you* instead – if someone got an invitation…” your friend says with a false smile. “But if each group is only five ponies…”
  1135. “Twilight and I won’t be playing with you – we’ll be with her brother’s group.”
  1136. >”Mhm!” Ponks nods vigorously. “It’ll just be you, me, Dash, AJ, and Rarity!”
  1137. >”Oh, okay then,” Fluttershy responds quietly. She glances over her back again. ”Would you like to come in…?”
  1138. “Na –“
  1139. >”Sure!” Pinkie answers, “I want to see what you’re working on!”
  1140. >”It’s nothing special…” Fluttershy tells her friend. “We’re just working on some costumes.”
  1141. “I thought you had yours done?”
  1142. >”They aren’t for me,” Fluttershy answers, stepping back so you and Pinkie Pie can enter. “They’re for Trixie – she wasn’t expecting to go. It’ll be awfully hard to get everything done with only one week’s notice, but we’ll manage somehow.”
  1143. >She smiles at the two of you confidently.
  1144. >Hesitantly, you step into the doorway – freezing as Trixie greets you with a sneer.
  1145. >”Come to mock Trixie’s efforts, human?” she glowers at you as the sewing machine she was working with hums to a stop.
  1146. “No, I –“
  1147. >”Ooooh, what’s going on!” Unable to get around you in the narrow doorway, Pinkie Pie shoves her way between your legs.
  1148. “I can *move* if you let me!”
  1149. >”I don’t want to be a bother!” Ponka responds, nearly toppling you with a hip smashing into the back of your knee.
  1150. >With a grunt of effort, she pops out the other side into Fluttershy’s cottage.
  1151. >Really! There’s a popping sound, like an honest-to-Khorne cartoon sound effect, and suddenly Pinkie Pie is standing in Fluttershy’s livingroom, looking around in wonder.
  1152. >”Woooooooooooow,” she exclaims, looking at the nearest outfit – a blue dress. “Whose idea is this?”
  1153. >”Trixie’s,” Fluttershy answers with a smile.
  1154. “I didn’t know you can sew, Trix.”
  1155. >You lean over Pinkie Pie, examining the finished outfit. The stitching is… ambitious. Knowledgeable, but lacking skill – even you can recognize that.
  1156. >”I can’t,” Trixie grunts, dropping the piece of fabric she was holding, letting it hang upside down from the sewing machine. “I haven’t the faintest clue what I’m doing.”
  1157. >The unicorn sighs, drawing a whimper of pity from Fluttershy.
  1158. >”That’s not true!” she says encouragingly. “You’re doing better than I can.”
  1159. >Ponka slinks over, trying to stealthily sneak a look at Trixie’s unfinished work.
  1160. >”Even with your freaky knowledge of sewing?” the Earth Pony asks as she slides under the table to look at the dangling collar of the outfit. “Oooooh, is this…?”
  1161. >Fluttershy’s head droops, her mane curtaining out to hide her face.
  1162. >”I know *how*, but that doesn’t mean I *can*,” the pegasus mumbles. “I still have hooves, you know…”
  1163. “But I’m guessing Trixie’s skill at rope manipulation translates well to sewing, doesn’t it?”
  1164. >”Indeed – Fluttershy knows how to sew but can’t,” the unicorn answers, pulling the drooping cloth out of Pinkie Pie’s reach with a snarl, little pink hooves still trying batting at the air gently. “I can sew, but don’t know how.”
  1165. >The Earth Pony is unfazed by her plaything’s disappearance, flipping herself around to inspect the already finished shoulder pads.
  1166. >“Ooooooh, those are some BIG gemstones!” Ponks exclaims, circling the item. “This is… isn’t it?”
  1167. “Is what, Panka?”
  1168. >”I can’t give away *everything*, ‘Nonny!” she giggles, righting herself and prancing back over to you, Trixie’s eyes tracking the Earth Pony closely. “I don’t want to steal Trixie’s thunder!”
  1169. “Well how about it, Trixie? Give me a hint?”
  1170. >”Do I have to?” she huffs, rolling her eyes.
  1171. >”Well, you don’t *have* to,” Fluttershy says softly, “but it would be nice.”
  1172. >”Fine, Trixie shall graciously give you a hint, Anonymous!” the unicorn growls. “I am a beautiful genius sorceress!”
  1173. “Yeah, I know – but I was wondering who you’d be cosplaying as.”
  1174. >You laugh quietly as the unicorn’s mouth drops open, her expression caught in another of those odd I-don’t-know-what-to-feel expressions. Either way it turns out, you don’t want to be around for Trixie vomiting and/or creaming herself – you’ve done your duty, now it’s time to escape.
  1175. “Come on Ponks, we’ve got places to be.”
  1176. >The pink pony bounces behind you as you slip out the door, leaving the two shocked mares frozen in place.
  1177. >”That was mean!” Pinkie Pie chuckles as she springs alongside you back down the road. “Or was it nice? I’m not sure.”
  1178. “Neither am I, but DID YOU SEE THE LOOK ON HER FACE?”
  1179. >”OH CELESTIA YES!”
  1180. “So… that costume… is that…”
  1181. >Pinkie looks up at you with her characteristic eager grin.
  1182. “… is that show…”
  1183. >You can’t think of the right word, but that’s okay – Ponks will understand.
  1184. “… is that show… *native*?”
  1185. >”Mhm!” your friend answers with a snort. “Though there are some changes… mostly the names.”
  1186. “So Trixie is cosplaying as…?”
  1187. >”Line Inverse!”
  1188. >Huh. You were expecting something like Lineigh Inverse – but Line Inverse does sound like a more ponyish name.
  1189. “Well, I guess she picked a hammy enough character.”
  1190. >Pinkie’s head bobs in agreement as she swerves off to the left.
  1191. ”Where you going, Ponks? Fastest way to Sweet Apple Acres is this way.”
  1192. >You point straight ahead.
  1193. >”Are you drunk again?” she asks with a giggle. “You’ve forgotten about Rarity!”
  1194. >Oh, right – you were just picking places at random – completely forgetting that Fluttershy and Applejack live at opposite ends of Ponyville.
  1195. “Of course I didn’t forget about her! I was… just… saving the best for last?”
  1196. >”Silly ‘Nonny!” Pinkie Pie jumps up onto you, riding piggyback, “I found out first!”
  1197. “Got a bit of an ego today, doncha Ponks?”
  1198. >“Maaaaaaaybe!” She plops her head onto your shoulder, resting it right next to yours like the two of you are some kind of diminutive half-man/half-pony ettin. “Also feelin’ a lil’ SASSY!”
  1199. >You can see her vicious grin out of the corner of your eye.
  1200. “Just don’t sass Rarity too much, okay? She’s having a busy week.”
  1201. >”What! No!” she whines. “I would never sass my friends!”
  1202. “But… everyone is your friend!”
  1203. >”Yeah…” she groans, “makes it a little hard to be sassy.”
  1204. >You pass the time asking your friend about anime, finding out what does and does not exist here – it just hadn’t occurred to you to ask about it before, considering the scarcity of televisions. You’ve seen… what… maybe one or two?
  1205. >Projectors seem to be more common, but with their characteristic indifference towards technology ponies as a whole seem to prefer plays or books.
  1206. >Many of your favorites seem to be missing – they have Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, but no Fist of the North Star. The Slayers, but no Berserk. Scrapped Princess, but no Gunslinger Girl. Mostly the lighter stuff – though you nearly drop Ponka in shock when she refers to Bebop as “lighter stuff.”
  1207. >And oh hells yes. Captain Tylor.
  1208. >”I’ve wanted to show that one to Twilight for the *longest* time!” Pinkie exclaims, her hindlegs hammering gently against you in her excitement. “Think maybe you can convince her?”
  1209. “I’ll do what I can, Ponks. I’ll do what I can.”
  1210. >”Any others you want to ask about?” she asks hungrily.
  1211. “Well… we *are* going to a game con – and all I’ve really played since I arrived are RPGs…”
  1212. >”Aaaaaaaand….?”
  1213. “What about wargames…? I know that there’s something called Warpony… but…”
  1214. >It’s undoubtedly related to a game you know – but which one? Warhammer? Warmachine? Warpath? Warzone? Tabletop companies were just starting to branch out to semi-creative names when you were whisked away to Equestria – a new golden age of wargaming and you’re missing it.
  1215. >”Eh, it’s alright, I guess,” Ponka tells you with a shrug you feel more than see. “Hyperspace Hyperwars seems to be more popular right now…”
  1216. “Which one do you prefer?”
  1217. >”Neither one is wacky enough!”
  1218. >You really should have seen that coming.
  1219. >”They’re both all ‘GRRRR WE MUST FIGHT THE EVIL OH NO WE ARE THE EVIL!’” she growls mockingly. “Besides – can you imagine *ME* sitting down and painting minis!”
  1220. >She giggles loudly in your ear.
  1221. “Card games more your thing?”
  1222. >Somehow, Ponka manages a beverage free spit-take.
  1223. >”RPGs and board games, ‘Nonny,” she says, once she’s finally recovered. “Cards just… aren’t my thing. Not random enough.”
  1224. “Well, that’s a shame. There won’t be any room for a board game on the train to Canterlot, nor time for an RPG… and Cheerilee has Cards against Equestria.”
  1225. >”I’m in!”
  1226. “I thought you’d feel that way.”
  1227. >The buildings of Ponyville are beginning to give way to open fields and tent-like structures – you’re coming up on Carousel Boutique.
  1228. >”I can’t believe you never asked about these things before,” Pinkie Pie giggles, hugging your torso tightly with all four legs. “Why didn’t you?”
  1229. >That’s… a good question.
  1230. >Was it shock?
  1231. >Where you too distracted trying to build a life here?
  1232. >Or… trying to avoid disappointment?
  1233. “Because I didn’t think it was worth asking about things that didn’t exist.”
  1234. >”Huuuuh?” Ponks grunts, crawling forward over your shoulder to look you in the face. “What do you mean they didn’t exist? I’m pretty sure Hyperspace Hyperwars and Trigun exist!”
  1235. “Yeah, but *I* didn’t know that!”
  1236. >”That’s why you should have asked, ‘Nonny!” your friend whimpers sadly. “I thought you were happy without them!”
  1237. “Oh, Ponka…”
  1238. >You reach up, wrapping your arms around her neck – the little pony squeaks and squirms happily as you drag her off of your back.
  1239. “I don’t need games and anime to be happy – but they *are* fun!”
  1240. >”Good!” the mare smirks as she drops out of your grasp and dashes for the door of Rarity’s place. “Fun is fun!”
  1241. “So is losing!”
  1242. >Ponka does an abbreviated accidental backflip as her head jerks back to look at you, yet her legs continue forward.
  1243. >”I don’t th – ooooooh,” she asks from her back. “Yeah, that *can* be fun!”
  1244. >Your friend flips herself to her hooves as you stride past and give the door handle a light tug, but all it does is rattle in the frame.
  1245. >The door is locked? Why?
  1246. >From the lights on above, Rarity must be home. It’s certainly too early for her to have closed up for the day.
  1247. >Is she meeting with an important client?
  1248. >You hesitate, unsure if you should knock or slip away, maybe visit AJ first and hit up Rarity on the way to the market.
  1249. >Pinkie solves the dilemma, charging forward and battering the door like it owes her money.
  1250. >”RARITY!” she yells during a brief interlude in portalbashing. “RARITY! ARE YOU HOME?”
  1251. >The mare eludes your grasping hands, dancing around your efforts to grapple her.
  1252. “She might be busy, Ponka!”
  1253. >”This won’t take long!” your friend insists, resuming her eager hammering – she almost falls as the door opens unexpectedly, only maintaining her balance through a supreme act of Pinkieness.
  1254. >”What!?” Sweetie Belle yells in her face. “What do *you* want?”
  1255. >The sudden outburst does what the door could not, your friend falling on her rump in shock.
  1256. “We just wanted to talk with Rarity for a sec. Is she here?”
  1257. >You edge forward, kneeling to bring your head closer to the filly.
  1258. >Sweetie Belle looks at you in confusion, her lips losing their curled sneer. She hesitates, lost in her internal vacillation.
  1259. “I know your sister is really busy, but this will be quick.”
  1260. >”I don’t know…” the filly responds, breaking eye contact and grinding her hoof on the floor. “She doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
  1261. “Oh, is she with a client?”
  1262. >”No, she’s – she –“ Sweetie Belle’s mouth scrunches.
  1263. >Her eyes dart suddenly to her left.
  1264. “We can leave a message with you if –“
  1265. >”She’s in the back, in her *cosplay* room,” the unicorn says abruptly. “You know where it is, right?”
  1266. “Yeah, she showed me last –“
  1267. >”Go on back,” she cuts you off. “I’m sure she has time for *you*.”
  1268. >Well, that’s an odd word in that sentence to emphasize.
  1269. >”Go ahead without me,” Ponka encourages you with a predatory growl. “I saw something *fluffy*.”
  1270. >Distracted pone is distracted – she’ll only slow you down. You leave her to play with the dust bunny or whatever toy caught her attention and head back to the “cosplay room”.
  1271. >The door to that room is shut tight – you pause to listen for voices. Sweetie Belle said her sister wasn’t with a client, but you favor caution – a minute’s delay is well worth avoiding damage to your friend’s reputation.
  1272. >It’s not like Sweetie Belle has been on the ball when it comes to knowing when clients are in lately, though that *did* seem to turn out for the best.
  1273. >When your paranoia is assuaged, you rap lightly at the door and push it open.
  1274. “Rarity? Can I –“
  1275. >The unicorn freezes. The black latex outfit she had been pulling on is only tugged high enough to cover her hindlegs, leaving her plot – and the rest of the outfit – dangling.
  1276. >Oh fuck.
  1277. “That’s a pretty revealing outfit…”
  1278. >Shut up, mouth – you ALWAYS make everything worse!
  1279. >Rarity’s face turns bright red, accentuated by the wordless tea-kettle-whine coming from her mouth.
  1280. >This isn’t “complaining” – no, this is a full-on rarara-whining.
  1281. >Unlike your Twi, Rarity can’t hide her embarrassment behind her butterfly wings – the cloth and wire appendages sprouting from the harness on her back can’t bend.
  1282. >”SWEETIE BELLE!” she screams, pitch rising with every syllable. “THIS IS…”
  1283. >Rarity pauses for breath. Now would be a *great* time to cover your –
  1284. >”UNACCEPTABLE!”
  1285. >Too late. You’ll never hear again.
  1286. >”GO TO YOUR ROOM, SWEETIE BELLE! NOW!”
  1287. >Oh gods, she can get louder.
  1288. >”Explain yourself,” Rarity growls, voice alarmingly low.
  1289. >Yay! You aren’t deaf!
  1290. >She takes a step towards you, the latex outfit dragging along behind her.
  1291. “Well – I – uh – um – mercy?”
  1292. >”You dare beg me for mercy!?” The unicorn rears up, bringing both forehooves down in a loud stomp. “After –“
  1293. “Is that for a client?”
  1294. >Distraction is your only hope for survival.
  1295. >Rarity dips her head, turning away.
  1296. >”Would you believe me if I said yes…?”
  1297. “I can pretend.”
  1298. >She silently considers your offer, surreptitiously pulling off the latex outfit. Her body visibly relaxes once she pulls the second hoof free, as if she’s more comfortable naked than half-clothed.
  1299. >That makes sense, though – for ponies, even Rarity, nudity is the norm.
  1300. “For what it’s worth, it looked nice.”
  1301. >”It wasn’t even on!” she scoffs, though you can hear pride mingled with the anger in her voice. Her eyes flicker up to glance at you, so see if you’re being sincere – you are. Though you didn’t really see the suit, the wings look well done – the light shining through the thin fabric casting colored shadows on the floor.
  1302. “I almost could believe that it wasn’t for you – seems a bit…
  1303. >”Sultry?” Rarity offers glumly, undoing the buckles and straps holding the wings in place.
  1304. “Sure, let’s go with that.”
  1305. >You can’t think of how to adjective-ize cheesecake anyway, even if the word *does* seem more fitting for the little marshmallow.
  1306. >”I don’t know what cons are like where you’re from… but they’re a chance to… ” the unicorn trails off as she sets the wings aside, pointedly avoiding eye contact with you. It’s like she afraid to let you see her face – or is she trying to let you see other –
  1307. >Nope, don’t go there – that way lies heresy.
  1308. “A chance to be someone different?”
  1309. >”Well, I was going to say ‘push the envelope,’” she grudgingly admits, “but that works too.”
  1310. >She finally turns to face you, her cheeks still faintly pink.
  1311. “Does that mean your other costumes are as wild?”
  1312. >Rarity grimaces, flipping her mane with a shake of her head.
  1313. >”You will find out in due time, Anon,” she tells you, “unless you decide to make a habit of walking in on mares while they are changing.”
  1314. “Probably only Twilight.”
  1315. >Though as a hobby, “walking in on half-naked mares” does rank higher than “beating up princesses,” and a man does need his hobbies…
  1316. >Your friend smirks, raising a hoof to her mouth to hold back a laugh.
  1317. >”Well I guess –“
  1318. >Her words drop off as somewhere in the structure a door slams shut.
  1319. >”Oh this *better* not be what I think it is,” Rarity growls, pushing you aside and stalking towards the front door. “Sweetie Belle? You better be in your room!”
  1320. “She didn’t know you were half-dressed! You shouldn’t be so angry with her – it’s my fault for –“
  1321. >”Did you take her and her new dress out for another jaunt last night, Anon?” the mare demands angrily, not bothering to look back. “Because if you *did*, then yes, it *is* all your fault and I *will* be telling Twilight about it.”
  1322. >Well, that explains what Sweetie Belle said – that Rarity would have time for *you*.
  1323. >Time for you, but not for her younger sister.
  1324. >At least, that’s how the little filly feels.
  1325. “You’re being too harsh.”
  1326. >She sighs loudly.
  1327. >”I am sorry, Anon,” Rarity groans, “That venom was undeserved and unbecoming of a proper lady.”
  1328. “Wasn’t talking about me.”
  1329. >Rarity’s steps falter momentarily and her head twists back to look at you. To your shock, you don’t see anger in her features.
  1330. >You see fear.
  1331. >”You don’t get it!” she pleads, “Taking it out *once* I could understand, if not approve. Her friends won’t be there to see her audition, I can accept her taking it out to show them!”
  1332. >She canters into the open shop space – no Sweetie Belle in sight. No Pinkie Pie.
  1333. >”SWEETIE BELLE! ARE YOU –“ your friend deflates “ – oh what is the point…?”
  1334. “Want me to run upstairs and –“
  1335. >”Don’t bother,” Rarity groans. “She seems intent on ruining things. We have only *days* until her audition – I won’t be able to mend her dress if it is damaged.”
  1336. “Maybe she didn’t take it with her?”
  1337. >The mare sighs, looking up at you with exhausted eyes, her mouth curled in a half smile. You know instantly you haven’t cheered her up, that’s not why she’s smiling – she’s only amused at your naivety.
  1338. >”I still have a dozen outfits to finish,” Rarity says sadly. “None of them are as important as hers, but I can’t let my clients down.”
  1339. “Will they be finished before –“
  1340. >”No,” she answers flatly. “Sweetie Belle and I will be staying in Canterlot until the con – we leave tomorrow and I will be taking all of my work with me.”
  1341. >Damn, Rarity is burning herself out. But is it necessary?
  1342. “Maybe Sweetie Belle doesn’t really want to audition?”
  1343. >”I have asked myself that,” your friend responds. “I’ve even asked *her*. She would be throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime, but…”
  1344. >But it’s her life to ruin.
  1345. >”… but she said her one wish was to become a star.”
  1346. >Why did you give her that idea!? This *is* all your fault – Rarity’s exhaustion, the Crusader’s sundering. Dammit mouth, why must you ruin everything?
  1347. >Rarity sighs again, giving the front door an angry look, like it was somehow the door’s fault for letting her sister out.
  1348. >She slowly circles around, heading back to work.
  1349. >”She can’t keep doing this,” the mare moans, “I will have to punish her more severely…”
  1350. “Wait – go put on that latex suit and say that again!”
  1351. >OH FUCK YOU MOUTH. FUCK. YOU.
  1352. >Rarity snorts, almost tripping over herself in surprise.
  1353. >”Don’t make me punish you, too!” she threatens, standing ridged.
  1354. “Won’t you need Twi’s permission for that?”
  1355. >”I – I – NO!” Her eyes finally open fully for the first time during your visit. “No, I wouldn’t –“
  1356. >Her eyes flicker back and forth.
  1357. >”Not saying I would, mind you,” Rarity finally answers, “but yes, a herd’s lead mare… for the most part…”
  1358. >Crap, what is with you and asking silly questions that ponies have serious answers to today?
  1359. >”But I couldn’t,” your friend says with uncertain finality. “That practice is old-fashioned and has no place in modern Equestria.”
  1360. >Rarity walks away, back down the hall.
  1361. >”I have to return to work,” she says wearily, “I am afraid if you came over solely to tease me, I don’t have time for it right now.”
  1362.  “Actually, I came over to let you know about Burrows and Basilisks – they’re unveiling the new edition at CanterCon.”
  1363. >Rarity nods dully, either not registering the words or just not caring right now.
  1364. “Twi got an invite to the event – it lasts all three –“
  1365. >”Does it conflict with any of the cosplay events?”
  1366. >So she DID hear you!
  1367. “Don’t know… not sure about –“
  1368. >She sighs, head drooping.
  1369. >”What do I have to do…?”
  1370. “Just have –“
  1371. >”Is it something that can be done at CanterCon?”
  1372. “Yes.”
  1373. >”Then it is a problem for later,” she sighs, stumbling away from you.
  1374. “Look… do you need help? I’m sure Fluttershy –“
  1375. >”Fluttershy can’t help me – I can’t ask her to leave her charges and join me in Canterlot for the week,” she groans, turning back just enough to see you out of the corner of her eye. “I appreciate the idea, but some burdens must be shouldered alone.”
  1376. “If your friends here can’t help you, what about friends in Canterlot?”
  1377. >Rarity’s eyes shimmer with what could possibly be hope.
  1378. >”It is… possible…” she reluctantly admits. “Coco might be free…”
  1379. “See? Where there’s life, there’s hope, you know!”
  1380. >”And as you are so fond of reminding us all, hope is the first step on the road to disappointment,” Rarity answers sharply, sauntering away. “Go on, I am sure you still have other ponies to visit, and I *do* need to get back to my work.”
  1381. >But her voice is bright and cheerful for the first time.
  1382. “Will do, marshmallow. Good luck.”
  1383. >The door rattles shut behind you, bouncing hollowly in the frame. No Pinkie Pie outside either.
  1384. >So much for you being fun to be around.
  1385. >Hopefully she keeps Sweetie Belle out of too much trouble, assuming the two of them ran off together.
  1386. >You trudge on to Sweet Apple Acres alone, left alone with your thoughts. That’s never good – you wish you’d at least slipped a book into one of your coat’s pockets. Maybe…?
  1387. >A quick pat down reveals that no, you hadn’t left any reading material in any of the coat’s many pockets.
  1388. >Bah!
  1389. >Well, this *is* Ponyville – something wacky is due to happen any second now to keep you entertained…
  1390. >Annnnnny second now…
  1391. >Come on Mysterious Brown Stallion of Doom!
  1392. >Annnnnnnnnny second now…
  1393. >Well, at least the anticipation of shenanigans and tomfoolery keeps you occupied.
  1394. >You arrive at Sweet Apple Acres before you realize it, plodding past the main gate without even noticing.
  1395. >”Hey ‘Non,” Big Mac addresses you, snapping you out of your worry-trance. “You okay?”
  1396. >The massive stallion idles on his back beneath a nearby tree, a blade of grass in his teeth.
  1397. “Yeah, I’m fine. How about you?”
  1398. >”Eeyup.”
  1399. >He lurches to his hooves, rolling his shoulders to work out the kinks.
  1400. >”Whal, ‘bout time to get back to work, Ah reckon. You here for AJ?”
  1401. “Eeyup.”
  1402. >”About your silly little games?”
  1403. “Oh grow up, boffer.”
  1404. >He smirks obnoxiously, sauntering off.
  1405. >”She’s up in the house, helpin’ Granny make lunch,” he calls back to you, “Let’m know I’ll be there in a few, okay? Ah figgur Ah got time to bring up one more load.”
  1406. “Sure thing.”
  1407. >Your feet quickly carry you up the path to the farmhouse, and then around the building to the kitchen door. You knock, waiting for a response this time, unlike at Rarity’s. No clue what a pony could be doing in the kitchen that they would be embarrassed about – okay, correction, no clue what a pony could be doing in the kitchen WITH THEIR GRANDMOTHER – but you wait anyway.
  1408. >Note to self – buy brain bleach.
  1409. >You knock again after a minute of waiting, but still no response comes.
  1410. >What the hell… the door squeaks loudly as you push it open carefully.
  1411. >”APPLE BLOOM IS THAT YOU?”
  1412. “Sorry AJ, it’s just me.”
  1413. >Applejack pokes her head into the kitchen, frowning.
  1414. >Always frowning, this one.
  1415. “I knocked! I swear that I knocked!”
  1416. >”Yeah, I heard ya, just a little busy is all,” the mare huffs, looking around like she expects her sister to pop out of the cabinets. “You haven’t seen mah sister, have ya?”
  1417. “Afraid not, I’m just here to –“
  1418. >”Now where *did* that filly run off to…?” your friend sighs grumpily. “Well, she’ll turn up when she turns up – whatcha here for?”
  1419. “Heard about Sixth edition yet?”
  1420. >”For Warpony?” Applejack smirks at you. “Of course Ah have. Ah’m hoping they fix the –“
  1421. “For Burrows and Basilisks.”
  1422. >”Yer joshin’ me.”
  1423. >You reach into your pocket, pulling free the folded invitation and holding it out to the Earth Pony.
  1424. “Nope, read it if you don’t believe me.”
  1425. >”Of course I believe you,” she mumbles, taking the letter from you and reading it anyway. “Oh, dang, does everyone else know?”
  1426. “Yeah, I’m afraid you’re the last one.”
  1427. >She tries to pass the papers back, but you shake your head.
  1428. “Twilight was hoping you’d hold on to that.”
  1429. >”Why, she ain’t goin’?” Applejack asks apprehensively. “Not willin’ to lower herself to playin’ the game like the rest of us?”
  1430. >Well crap, you hadn’t thought of that… they better have a *good* DM for your group.
  1431. “Nah, just each group is limited to five ponies and Twily didn’t want to bump anyone out, and you’re the obvious choice to give this to.”
  1432. >Applejack sets the paper aside, nodding austerely. AJ cares about her friends and would never stand for somepony speaking ill of them, but even she readily accepts that nopony else could be entrusted with the invitation. Rarity, maybe… but she’s busy.
  1433. >”What about you?” she ask, concerned. “You’re bein’ ‘bumped’...”
  1434. “We’ll be playing with her brother.”
  1435. >”Oh, ol’ Shiny? How’s he doin’?”
  1436. “Pretty well.”
  1437. >Probably. It’s not like you really know. Wait – “Shiny”?
  1438. “You sound pretty familiar with Shining Armor – do you know him well?”
  1439. >Maybe you can get some info on Twilight’s family – know your enemy and all that. You’ve met Cadance before and seen Shining Armor at a distance, but that’s about it.
  1440. >”He’s Twilight’s brother, and she’s mah friend!” Applejack exclaims. “That practically makes us family!”
  1441. >YES! VICTORY! BEGIN DATAMINING!
  1442. “So…”
  1443. >”But naw, Ah’ve only met him a couple times,” your friend talks over you, not even noticing. “Just bein’ sociable.”
  1444. >Damn.
  1445. >”Speakin’ of… you wanna stay for lunch?”
  1446. “Are you really asking, or just being polite?”
  1447. >”Of course Ah’m really askin’,” she grins, “not offerin’ wouldn’t be polite.”
  1448. >You can’t tell if AJ’s being serious or…
  1449. >Her grin widens. She almost had you there.
  1450. “Thanks AJ, but I need to get back to Twilight. Celestia has her neck-deep in books doing princess stuff, so she won’t remember to eat unless I actually puts food in her mouth.”
  1451. >The mare grunts in agreement, nodding briefly. She knows just how bad Twilight can get when books and work collide.
  1452. “And I’ve been gone too long already. I *really* wish everypony had phones –“
  1453. >”We got one put in last week!”
  1454. “Words cannot describe how much I hate you right now.”
  1455. >”You still woulda had to come by to give me the invitation,” she responds with a smirk.
  1456. “Or… you could have come by the castle…?”
  1457. >”I’ve got work to do,” Applejack answers with a frown, “Gotta help Big Mac bring in the potato harvest, couldn’t have spared time, even if you *had* called. Gotta get everything wrapped up afore I head to CanterCon.”
  1458. >Right. Of course. That makes sense.
  1459. >It's not like you have anything better to do with your time.
  1460. “Of course. Sorry AJ, I didn’t think that one through. I better get going…”
  1461. >Oh, right.
  1462. “And Big Mac asked me to let you know he’d be right up for lunch. He’s trying to bring in one more load. But seriously, potatoes?”
  1463. >”Apples ain’t a year-round crop,” Applejack answers glibly. “Gotta keep Ponyville fed somehow.”
  1464. “So… how do you feel about pears…?”
  1465. >You lean over her, grinning wildly.
  1466. >”That’s heresy, Anon,” she growls, backing up. “And I suggest you keep that filthy mouth of yours shut if you like havin’ all those shiny teeth.”
  1467. >You back off, holding up your hands in surrender.
  1468. “Just asking, AJ – I was just asking!”
  1469. >”Mhm, yeah...”
  1470. >”I found ‘em, Applejack!”
  1471. >Granny Smith edges into the kitchen, a can balanced on the top of her head.
  1472. >”Took me some lookin’ but I finally found ‘em in the corner of the cellar!” she yells, tilting her head to drop the can on the counter. “That’s our last can of pears, better savor ‘em young’un.”
  1473. >“Pears? Well AJ… isn’t that interesting?”
  1474. >”Ah can’t lie for squat,” your friend grins wildly, “but Ah can bullshit just as good as *any* farmer. There’s a difference, you know!”
  1475. “And to think I trusted you. Never again.”
  1476. >Granny Smith steps closer and squints, eyeing you carefully.
  1477. >”Hey Granny, you remember Anonymous, right?” Applejack asks, smiling sheepishly.
  1478. >”Well of course Ah remember! He’s one o’ them minotaurs! Damn minotaurs, messin’ up our kitchen and poopin’ on the tables. Get!”
  1479. >She thrusts her walker at you feebly.
  1480. >”Ain’t nopony poopin’ on our tables today!”
  1481. “And on that note – I’m outta here.”
  1482. >You backpedal quickly, the old pony’s attacks missing by a mile, and shove open the door to escape.
  1483. >”Dang minotaur ain’t even got no horns on him!”
  1484. >You slam the door behind you to deter pursuit – it’s not that you fear Granny Smith, but you don’t want her to hurt herself chasing after you.
  1485. >”Heh, didja see that boy run?” you hear her asking AJ – oh, hey, there’s an open window. “That yella human thought I was serious!”
  1486. >”Just promise me you won’t do that again,” your friend responds, her voice growing louder. An orange head pops out the window, giving you a wink. “You got him runnin’ all the way back to town, that weren’t nice of you!”
  1487. “Did that actually happen…?”
  1488. >Applejack nods once at your whispered question.
  1489. “You’ll have to tell me that story sometime.”
  1490. >She nods again before pulling her head back inside and slamming the window shut.
  1491. With that, you head back towards town, passing Big Mac on the way. The stallion is pulling a cart of potatoes behind him – and you were *almost* suspecting that was more of the patented Apple Family Bullshit.
  1492. >”Not staying for lunch?”
  1493. “Nope, gotta get back to feed Twilight.”
  1494. >”Heh, only a week and she sure got you whipped.”
  1495. “Shaddup, boffer.”
  1496. >He only smirks at your customary insult – you’ve never been able to get a rise out of him. Stallion’s like a fucking Zen Buddhist monk – way too calm for his own good, yet you’re pretty sure he can break you.
  1497. “So, there is one thing I have to ask you: potatoes?”
  1498. >”We need a winter crop.”
  1499. “But… they aren’t apples!”
  1500. >”Shore they are,” he responds instantly. “Ask the princess, if you don’t believe me.”
  1501. “I – uh – okay.”
  1502. >He’s bullshitting you, right? Yeah, he’s bullshitting you.
  1503. >Big Mac dips his head in farewell and plods ahead, leaving you standing confused on the path.
  1504. >Maybe he really believes it? It takes a special person – or pony – to be a boffer in the first place, and he *does* seem a little slow…
  1505. >”By tha way, Anon,” Big Mac calls back to you, drawing your attention from your internal monologue, “we grow potatoes!”
  1506. >More than a little slow.
  1507. “I kinda noticed!”
  1508. >”And what can you make with potatoes?”
  1509. >Very slow.
  1510. “Mashed potatoes?”
  1511. >”I reckon you can do that,” he chuckles loudly. “*I* make vodka.”
  1512. >He is your very best friend.
  1513. >With a chuckle, the two of you head your own ways – Big Mac up to the farmhouse and you… into town to do some grocery shopping. The market is crowded with ponies doing their weekly shopping, or simply swinging by to pick up some fresh ingredients for lunch.
  1514. >Heh… fresh.
  1515. >You’d never really understood what that meant, until you arrived here. Back home – back in your old world – the closest farm was probably a hundred miles from your apartment. Sure, there were farmers’ markets and those over-priced organic food stores, but that didn’t fit your style. Not enough Cheetos and Mountain Dew.
  1516. >Fresh was food that wasn’t cut up nicely and stuffed into a little package ready for you to throw into the microwave.
  1517. >A nearby stall catches your eye and you head over, picking up a bundle of green onions – flecks of dirt still speckle the bulbs. They were in the ground only hours ago, probably picked this morning and brought into town as the sun was coming up.
  1518. >You grab a couple other items and pay the farmer before heading to the next booth. The shopping goes quickly – you aren’t looking for anything specific, just buying whatever catches your eye. If there’s one skill you have, it’s… well, it’s the ability to say the absolutely worst thing at the worst time. But after that, it’s the ability to throw together a meal with random crap, and Twilight’s kitchen is basically empty – she needs *everything*.
  1519. >The bags begin to pile up – you’re now hauling around two in each hand. Almost at your limit – it’s a lot harder to carry all of the groceries inside in a single go when you have to walk ALL THE WAY HOME. And fuck this two-trip crap – you’re a man, goddammit.
  1520. >You find an out of the way spot, setting the bags down and peering inside. Mostly vegetables, some roots, a couple things that are *technically* fruit, but not really. Not where it counts.
  1521. >Another stall lands you some more pears and peaches and HOLY SHIT KIWIS.
  1522. >EQUESTRIA HAS KIWIS. YOU DID NOT KNOW EQUESTRIA HAD KIWIS.
  1523. >THOSE LOVELY LITTLE FUZZY NUTSACKS OF NATURE.
  1524. >YOU ALMOST WANT TO NUZZLE ONE AND RUB IT ALL OVER YOUR FACE BUT –
  1525. >But you don’t want to look like a total fag in public.
  1526. >Also, you never really cared for kiwis. But shit, it’s been so long since you’ve *seen* one, you just assumed they didn’t exist here. Yeah, you buy one of those too. Just for the novelty of it.
  1527. >Every day this place feels a little more like home, a little closer to the world you felt you’d never see again.
  1528. >How much of what you always had and lost was always really here, just hiding under your nose like anime and kiwis?
  1529. >How much of what you always wanted but never had, like someone – somepony – who could love you?
  1530. >If you could go back home, would you…?
  1531. >If you had to go back home, could you?
  1532. >You drop the other fruits into your bags, but the kiwi stays in your hand as you walk off, staring at it.
  1533. >Lost in thought, you head back to Twilight’s castle, managing to weave your way instinctively around the ponies still crowding the market.
  1534. >Most of them anyway – you’re drawn out of your daydream when your shuffled steps collide with a rather robust stallion.
  1535. “Oh, shit! Sorry, I was – YOU!”
  1536. >”ME!?” the brown stallion exclaims. “No, you!”
  1537. “ME? What about me!?”
  1538. >”I don’t know!”
  1539. “Um, okay then…”
  1540. >You close your eyes and take a deep breath, holding it for a second.
  1541. >Cautiously, you barely open one eye…
  1542. >Shit, he’s still there, but at least he’s looking confused now.
  1543. >”Are you okay…?” he asks carefully, giving you a slight tap with his hoof. “Seem a little… out of it. Are you always like this?”
  1544. “No, it’s just starting to become my instinctive reaction to seeing you.”
  1545. >”But we’ve only met once before! I think.”
  1546. “I think you have a problem with your brain being missing – this is number five. Six, if it was you that left Berry Pinch that book.”
  1547. >”No, I’m pretty sure I still have my brain,” his says uncertainly, his brow creasing. “Fairly certain. Things do seem to happen, though.”
  1548. >Not this shit again…
  1549. ”Look, if I buy you a pretzel, will you finally explain some of this to me?”
  1550. >You gesture to the cart down the street – probably the same one you met at before. Ponyville can’t have too many of these.
  1551. >”Oh, that’s what those are called?” he asks, looking at you curiously. “I *was* wondering. The smell tasty.”
  1552. “But – you said – nevermind.”
  1553. >Fuck it, he’s just a brown, less-fun Pinkie Pie. Or an asshole.
  1554. >He follows you over to the cart, where you buy two pretzels. You consider getting one for Twi, but it would be cold by the time you get home and there is nothing worse than a cold pretzel. Not even buttrape. Or Lyra.
  1555. >You toss one of the pretzels to the stallion and he sniffs it carefully before taking a bite.
  1556. >He then makes the happy noises.
  1557. “So, are you going to explain now?”
  1558. >”Explain what?”
  1559. “Why you’re so worried about the fillies?”
  1560. >”And which fillies would that be, then?”
  1561. >You really want to facepalm, but with a pretzel in one hand and four bags full of food in the other, you’re kinda out of luck there.
  1562. “Dammit, are you just going to pretend you don’t know anything!?”
  1563. >”Oh, never. I know lots of things!” he answers between bites. “They just tend not to be relevant is all.”
  1564. >Another deep breath.
  1565. “How about this… can you tell me if there are other humans in Equestria…?”
  1566. >”Now why would you ask that?” he questions in return. “I think you might be getting unhappy here, all alone. I know what that’s like, to be alone. No fun at all.”
  1567. “I’m asking because of something you said two days ago! You said ‘humans’! Like you’ve met people like me before!”
  1568. >”Did I?” He seems shocked. “That shouldn’t be possible…”
  1569. “So there aren’t any others…?
  1570. >”I can’t tell you that,” he answers sharply. “Some things I can’t interfere in.”
  1571. “Then what the hell are you doing *right now*?”
  1572. >”Enjoying my pretzel,” he answers with a big grin, holding up what was left of the twist.
  1573. “You have no idea how badly I want to slap that smile off your face right now – but MY HANDS ARE FULL AND I HAVE TO GO MAKE LUNCH FOR MY MAREFRIEND.”
  1574. >The angry shout draws looks from the milling crowd, and more than a few grumbles.
  1575. >”You humans, always so quick to turn to anger,” he sighs, shaking his head sadly. “Every time I have hope for you, you just have to go and – and – and be *you*!”
  1576. “So you have met other humans before!”
  1577. >The stallion turns away from you, sighing.
  1578. >”I’m sorry,” he says softly, “but there’s nothing I can do – not if you’re going to try to solve everything with violence.”
  1579. “You know it isn’t – you saw how I dealt with Aryanne.”
  1580. >”Not yet, I haven’t,” he responds, popping the last bit of his pretzel into his mouth, “though now I think I’ll just have to check that out. Sorry… I forgot, fuzzy memory and all… when was this?”
  1581. “Two. Days. Ago.”
  1582. >”See you then,” he says with a wink, dashing off into the crowd and around a corner.
  1583. >What the impossible fuck…?
  1584. >You were wrong – he’s way worse than Pinkie Pie. At least her shenanigans are fun.
  1585. >With a sigh, you finish off your pretzel and head home.
  1586. >You should have known better than to expect a clear answer. Really, it’s your own fault, if you think about it.
  1587. >The crowds clear out as you leave the open-air market, moving into the nearly empty residential parts of town. A little odd seeing so few ponies around, but it certainly explains the throngs at the market – everypony must be there instead. With your mind free from guiding your steps – trying not to bowl your way through ponies actually takes a lot of effort – it turns towards other things.
  1588. >Twilight’s habits must be rubbing off on you, because you run through a mental checklist as you walk, even though you are sure you did everything she asked. Yep, you talked to everyone. The groceries are in your hands. That’s all, right? Just two things – why do you even have a mental checklist for this?
  1589. >A hiss of pain catches your attention – your head jerks to the left, to look down the alley you’re passing. Even with the sun almost directly above, the overhanging roofs let in only thin ribbons of light – a flash of pink stumbles through one of them.
  1590. >Pinkie Pie needed your help.
  1591. >Damn, you forgot something.
  1592. >Though… she did run off and abandon you. How were you supposed to help her when you have no idea what she needed help with?
  1593. >”Ow ow ouchie ow…”
  1594. “Hey, are you okay…?”
  1595. >”Yeah, ‘Nonny, I’m fine!” Ponka takes you by surprise as she stumbles out of the alley in a three-legged walk, the fourth tucked tightly against her body. “Did you get everything finished?”
  1596. >Her bright eyes sparkle in the sunlight.
  1597. “Everything except helping you, Panka.”
  1598. >”Don’t worry about that!” she giggles, eyes closed. “It’s too late for that now.”
  1599. >What does she mean, “too late?” Just a few hours ago it was too early and now it’s too late?
  1600. >More importantly…
  1601. “What happened to your leg!?”
  1602. >You drop your bags and rush towards her, dropping to one knee at her side. Ponka shies away from you, but even the perfect party pony can’t move quickly on only three legs. Certainly not quick enough to escape a concerned friend.
  1603. >”Oh nothing serious,” the mare giggles when she realizes she can’t avoid the question – or you, “I just ducked when I should have dodged!”
  1604. >Nothing serious your ass. You’ve seen pony legs bend in all sorts of directions – privately, you suspect they have 360 degree ball joints – but you’ve never seen a leg bend *there*.
  1605. >”I’ll be fine!” she insists, stretching out the injured limb. “Don’t worry about it!”
  1606. >”Yeah,” Sweetie Belle agrees, stepping out of the alley. “She’ll be fine.”
  1607. >Your eyes dart between the two ponies suspiciously.
  1608. “Apple Bloom…?”
  1609. >”Y-yeah…?” the little Apple answers, stepping out into the street to join her friend. Is that…?
  1610. >The filly flinches as she watches your eyes, trying to hide herself behind her friend. But you saw it – you know you saw it – an orange shield on her flank.
  1611. “Is that what you needed help with, Pinkie Pie…?”
  1612. >The mare looks confused, possibly because you used her actual name.
  1613. >”Maaaaaaaaybe?” she answers after a moment’s hesitation. “Kinda yes, kinda no.”
  1614. >”You saw…?” Apple Bloom asks, edging forward past Sweetie Belle.
  1615. “Yes. Congrats, and I really don’t want to take away from your special moment –“
  1616. >The little earth filly dips her head and paws at the ground.
  1617. >”No… it’s okay…” she says softly.
  1618. >Is she just being humble? You bet she’s just being hum–
  1619. >”It’s not like I *earned* it,” Apple Bloom continues. “It just… happened…”
  1620. “Okay then…”
  1621. >You turn your attention back to the little pink pony and her injured leg.
  1622. “… then could someone please explain to me what happened and why Ponka is… standing perfectly normally now…?”
  1623. >Pinkie waves energetically at you, standing on her injured leg.
  1624. >Sweetie Belle looks over her shoulder to her friend – you can’t see her expression, but assume she’s looking for her friend to answer.
  1625. >”Because… she’s a quick healer…?” Apple Bloom hisses through clenched teeth.
  1626. “Gee, why do I feel like you’re lying to me?”
  1627. >”Yeah, why?” Pinkie asks, shoving her face into the little Apple’s. “You’re telling the truth – it’s not a lie!”
  1628. >The filly squawks indignantly, backing up with eyes wide.
  1629. “Could anypone *please* explain this to me?”
  1630. >”It’s just like she said, ‘Nonny!” Panky cheers in your face, jumping up and wrapping her forelegs around your neck. “I’m a quick healer!”
  1631. >From a broken leg…?
  1632. >You could have been wrong – you must have been wrong. She couldn’t be dangling from your neck with a broken leg.
  1633. “You’re going to have to explain things to me eventually, Ponka.”
  1634. >She grins wildly as you pat the top of her head.
  1635. >”Maybe…”
  1636. “Soon.”
  1637. >The smile fades from her face – she tries to drop to the ground, but your quickly wrap your arms around her, holding her up.
  1638. >”Maybe.”
  1639. “Today.”
  1640. >”Maybe.”
  1641. “Pinkie promise – before the sun sets. I’m tired of being in the dark all the time.”
  1642. >She shakes her head, her curly mane smacking into your chin over and over.
  1643. >”I need to take care of the fillies!” she argues. “They’re –“
  1644. “No, the fillies need to go home. Their sisters are worried.”
  1645. >”Mah sister’s worried?” Apple Bloom asks, her eyes flaring in worry. “Why’s she worried!?”
  1646. “Probably because you ran off without saying anything to her. You should know better than that, Apple Bloom.”
  1647. >”But.. Ah –“
  1648. >”At least yours cares about you,” Sweetie Belle grumbles, turning away. “You can go back home if you want, but *I* have –“
  1649. “To go home, to you sister. Who loves you so much it’s killing her.”
  1650. >An exaggeration, but just barely – and it does the job.
  1651. >”What!?” The unicorn’s breathing grows ragged with panic.
  1652. “Take them home, Ponka. But promise me – Pinkie Pie Promise me. Today.”
  1653. >You gently set the mare down – no matter how healed her leg seems, no sense risking further harm.
  1654. >”Will it make you happy, ‘Nonny…?” she asks guardedly.
  1655. “Yes.”
  1656. >”Then I don’t have a choice, do I…?” Pinkie softly giggles with a distant smile. “Cross my heart, hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
  1657. “And Apple Bloom?”
  1658. >”Yeah…?”
  1659. “Congratulations.”
  1660. > The little Apple looks to be on the verge of tears, and you have no clue why – beyond that it must be your usual ability to say the worst possible thing at the worst time – but why would applauding her accomplishment be bad?
  1661. “Isn’t this what you wanted…?”
  1662. >You hadn’t meant to say those words – they slipped free before you realized what you were doing.
  1663. >”I don’t know,” the earth filly answers, with a fearful glance to Sweetie Belle. “I – I’m worried about Scootaloo…”
  1664. “Don’t worry, you’re still her friends and I’m sure she’ll find her cute mark soon.”
  1665. >Sweetie Belle smiles, relieved. Apple Bloom… finally lets a tear slip free. Just the one.
  1666. “Take them home, Ponka.”
  1667. >The mare nods with uncharacteristic seriousness, then – oh, there’s the Panks you know and love – gives you a pre-Unification salute, thumping one of her forehooves into her chest. She gives the two fillies a little nudge, pushing them on.
  1668. >”I’ll see you later today, ‘Nonny!”
  1669. “Sure – give me an hour or two for lunch –“
  1670. >”Ooooooooh, lunch!” Ponka licks her lips hungrily. “Who’s hungry? Are you hungry, Sweetie Belle? Let’s go by Sugarcube Corner for cake! You like cake, right Apple Bloom? Of course you do – EVERYONE LOVES CAKE!”
  1671. >With a smile, you gather your groceries, rounding up the few items that had spilled free of the bags when you dropped them, and head onwards to Twilight’s castle.
  1672. >Dangit! You want cake now, but following the trio would just be awkward.
  1673. >Damn fillies, eatin’ your cake. Who do they think they are, Celestia!?
  1674. >Not ONCE did you get desert with your meals during your stay in Case de Canterlot’s Dungeon.
  1675. >That bitch.
  1676. >You are *really* not looking forward to seeing her during your visit to Canterlot. If you had your way, you’d just camp the expo hall, but what are the odds Twilight will let an opportunity to mend your relationship with Celestia slip through her… hooves? Though… Twi *did* say that the sisters were going to be busy, so maybe it won’t be too bad. Show up, say hi, pretend you’re a loyal subject and NOT contemplating a revolution to put your princess at the top.
  1677. >Last bit *might* be exaggeration – but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It’ll mostly depend on how annoying Celestia is this time.
  1678. >At least Woona will be around – you’ll have three princesses on your side if things *do* turn ugly.
  1679. >Which – knowing you as you do – will probably happen somewhere after telling Celestia she can go fuck herself but before you can offer to do it for her.
  1680. >Thinking back, it’s kinda amazing you got out of that dungeon at all, let alone were deemed non a threat and let loose on an unsuspecting populace.
  1681. >You take a deep breath, trying to calm yourself. You doubt you could never say those things in real life – you’re way too beta. It’s time to stop fantasizing about growing a pair and go make lunch for your marefriend. And then probably help her with her work.
  1682. >Big Mac was right, you *are* whipped.
  1683. >You should probably be spending that time working on your God-Emperor costume for CanterCon, not that you intended to go there anyway. Or to wear costumes.
  1684. >Sometimes – always, if you’re being truthful – you feel like you’re just along for the ride, that you have no control over your life. You never asked to come here, you never asked to go to CanterCon. You never asked for Twilight to fall in love with you… or to return the feelings.
  1685. >The only time you’re in charge of your life is when you’re gaming, isn’t it?
  1686. >Is that why you always go out of the way to derail campaigns? To ruin the D<’s plans? To go your own way…?
  1687. >In real life… are you an NPC…?
  1688. >And this is what happens when you have time to think – you get maudlin. Like a goddamn episode of M*A*S*H with the funny bits stripped out.
  1689. >Resigned, you walk home, grocery bags dangling from your hands.
  1690. >Think – think – you need something to think about – something other than Celestia being a bitch or you being a failure.
  1691. >Lunch?
  1692. >You look into the bags as you walk – something hot or something cold…?
  1693. >The weather has started to warm up a bit, just a bit – but it will be chilly tonight. You’ll save the baked potatoes for then and go with a salad for lunch.
  1694. >You work your mind through the steps, picking out which ingredients you’ll use. It’s stupid – you’ll second-guess everything once you’re actually in the kitchen, or simply throw out your plans and start over – but it keeps you occupied long enough to reach Twilight’s castle.
  1695. >There’s – there’s someone in front of the door, grey hoof raised to knock.
  1696. >Derpy.
  1697. >You’ve never seen the blue cloak she’s wearing, though. She looks hesitant – she’s been holding that pose for far too long.
  1698. “Hey, Derpy Hooves…?”
  1699. >She shrieks as she spins, rearing up and pressing herself against the door.
  1700. >”Z-z-zombie!” she screams, digging in her mail bag for something. Probably the mail, but that would make too much sense for this town.
  1701. >And yet – SOMEHOW – the massive handgun she pulls out just doesn’t fit either.
  1702. “What the hell is that for!?”
  1703. >You don’t bother to duck aside – she’s pointing the gun off to your left.
  1704. “And what’s up with the blue cloak…? CanterCon is this weekend… and in a different city…”
  1705. >”It’s – it’s – it’s – SHUT UP, ZOMBIE!”
  1706. “I’m not a zombie…”
  1707. >Why the hell would she even think that…?
  1708. >”I saw you! Yesterday!” she shouts in panic. “You were dead!”
  1709. “Oh – THAT!”
  1710. >You had been bleeding quite a bit, but still…
  1711. “Silly Derpy…”
  1712. >You step forward, easily tearing the gun from her hooves.
  1713. >HOLY SHIT IT’S REAL.
  1714. >FUCK.
  1715. >FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK.
  1716. >You thought it was fake – it *had* to be fake! Guns don’t exist here!
  1717. >And neither do kiwis or anime, yet they apparently insist on being real despite your conviction to the contrary.
  1718. >You almost drop the gun in your surprise, and you look at it – actually *look* at it for the first time. The weapon looks like it came from home – from your old universe. This isn’t a pony creation – it truly doesn’t belong here.
  1719. “How were you even going to *use* this!? YOU DON’T HAVE FINGERS!”
  1720. >”Please…” she pleads as she slumps down, her back still resting against the door, “… please… don’t eat me… I have a daughter…”
  1721. “I’m not going to eat you!”
  1722. >Why… why does she start crying when you say that?
  1723. >Derpy’s eyes slam shut as she blubbers, begging for her life.
  1724. >You drop to one knee – something about being on their level seems comforting to most ponies – but not in this case. She quiets as she can sense you coming closer, but still trembles in fear. Her eyes remain shut tight, as if you can’t hurt her if she can’t see you.
  1725. “I’m not a zombie.”
  1726. >”You were dead,” she whispers, turning her head away from you.
  1727. “No, I just got a bloody nose, that’s all. Twilight accidentally clipped me in the face with one of her wings. I’m fine.”
  1728. >Fearfully, she opens – just barely – her good eye.
  1729. “Do I look dead?”
  1730. >”N-no…”
  1731. “Am I trying to eat you?”
  1732. >”No…”
  1733. >You sigh, digging into your pockets and pulling out two bits.
  1734. “Here –“
  1735. >She takes them with one trembling hoof.
  1736. “ – go down to Sugarcube Corner and get yourself a muffin, okay? Take a break and relax.”
  1737. >”I – I can’t,” she protests, trying to push the coins back on you. “I have to finish my deliveries or –“
  1738. “If anyone complains about their mail being a little late, tell them to take it up with me, or the princess.”
  1739. >She whines softly, not moving.
  1740. “Do you… do you want this back…?”
  1741. >You hold out the gun to her gingerly, but she shakes her head.
  1742. >”No… like you said, I can’t use it,” she mumbles. “I thought it would at least scare you, but …”
  1743. >Oh thank the gods – you weren’t entirely sure you had played that off well.
  1744. “Where did you even get it? I didn’t think guns existed here!”
  1745. >”They don’t,” she answers quietly. “A… a friend got it for me.”
  1746. “Knowing you couldn’t use it? Doesn’t sound like a very good friend.”
  1747. >”That’s probably the only reason he got it for me… just keep it.”
  1748. >You stand back, giving the mare room to stand.
  1749. >”And you’re *wrong*,” she says emphatically as she straightens her cloak, “he’s the very *best* friend anypony could ever ask for.”
  1750. >She pauses, looking at you uncertainly with her good eye.
  1751. >”He said something was coming, a monster – that I would need it.” She takes a moment to wipe away the tears that suddenly well up. “I thought he meant you… you *are* human…”
  1752. >Maybe Aryanne wasn’t exaggerating…
  1753. >”… but I can’t use it.”
  1754. >Derpy turns away from you suddenly, her cloak flapping in the sudden wind. She looks up into the darkening sky, as if she could find the answers there.
  1755. >”He said a storm was coming –“
  1756. “Anypony who reads the weather bulletin –“
  1757. >”Not this – why do you think I’m wearing my foul-weather gear?”
  1758. >Oh, so *that’s* what the cloak is!
  1759. >”I thought that’s why he gave me the gun, but no… in all of Equestria, only *you* can use that weapon, only a monster…” Derpy Hooves reaches into her bag and pulls out an envelope. “Here is your mail.”
  1760. >She holds the letter out to you, still looking away pointedly.
  1761. >As soon as you pull it from her hoof, Derpy’s wings shoot out and rocket her into the sky, away from the castle.
  1762. >Tomorrow – TOMORROW – you decide to put up a mailbox. You’ve never heard of a castle with a mailbox, but it’s going to happen.
  1763. >You watch Derpy Hooves as she corkscrews away from the castle erratically. At least she’s headed in the direction of Sugarcube Corner, though her reluctance makes much more sense to you now. Getting her deliveries done before the rain hits would be a good idea, just not as good an idea as a muffin right now.
  1764. >You unlock the door and start to head in, gently placing the gun on a nearby sidetable. Oh, right – the groceries! You grab the bags from where you dropped them, feeling quite sorry for whatever fruit or vegetables happen to be on the bottom. Hopefully not the tomatoes, otherwise you might have to go out for a second trip tomorrow after all. You lock the door behind yourself, suddenly scared at just what else might exist in Equestria.
  1765. >Twilight is nowhere to be seen as you haul the groceries into the kitchen. Hopefully she’s still hard at work in the study.
  1766. “HEY! TWILIGHT!”
  1767. >No answer.
  1768. >She’s probably too lost in the books to hear you, even if your voice *did* carry all that distance. Or asleep – those were some pretty boring books she was going through.
  1769. >You head upstairs, moving silently, and walk over to the study. The door creaks loudly as you push it open, but not loudly enough.
  1770. >She *is* asleep, head down on the table, stacks of books all around. From the pile of loose paper covered in her cramped chicken-scratch writing, you can see she did he best to make good on her promise to marathon the task. Yet… dozens of volumes still remain untouched, waiting for your princess to go through them.
  1771. “How did Celestia expect Twilight to do this in a week?”
  1772. >”She didn’t,” your princess answers groggily, picking her head up slightly and fumbling for her glass, sucking on the straw once or twice before realizing the cup is empty. As is the pitcher she reaches for with a frown. “I should have started this last week.”
  1773. >Twilight pushes her chair back from the table, standing on wobbly legs.
  1774. “Just how long have you been sitting there?”
  1775. >”I don’t know…” she looks around, frowning when she can’t find a clock. “What time is it…?”
  1776. “Probably about one-thirty. Maybe two.”
  1777. >”Okay then… what time did you leave…?”
  1778. “Let’s cut to the chase – you’ve been working all day without a single break, haven’t you?”
  1779. >”Until I fell asleep,” she admits with a slight smile. “How did your errands go?”
  1780. “Weird.”
  1781. >”Weird how?” Twilight asks, moving around the table to rub up against your legs.
  1782. “I’ll… answer that during lunch.”
  1783. >You need some time to compose your thoughts.
  1784. >”Oh – okay then…” Twilight says sadly. “Can you take care of making lunch while I clean up here?”
  1785. “Of course.”
  1786. >”I’ll be down in a minute…”
  1787. >Leaving your princess to her work, you grab the empty pitcher and trudge back to the kitchen. Putting away the groceries takes only a minute – luckily nothing was too damaged by the drops, and the few things that were are still usable. Root veggies are pretty tough. You quickly throw together a pair of salads, making sure to include the damaged things before they can go bad.
  1788. >Twilight hasn’t come downstairs by the time you’re finished, so you take them up to her, along with a fresh pitcher of water.
  1789. >She’s still in the study, still at work – your princess shrugs her shoulders, smiling sheepishly.
  1790. >”Sorry… I thought…”
  1791. “You thought you could get a couple more pages done?”
  1792. >Twilight nods silently.
  1793. “That’s what I thought. Don’t worry, its fine – I know you have a lot to do.”
  1794. >”Thanks.”
  1795. >Her smile turns sincere as you fill her glass – careful to not spill any water on her books or papers.
  1796. >”So, your day?” Twilight asks as she takes her bowl from you.
  1797. “Well…”
  1798. >Deep breath.
  1799. “Apple Bloom got her cutie mark!”
  1800. >”What!” she looks up from her salad, a leaf dangling from her mouth.
  1801. “But she doesn’t seem happy about it.”
  1802. >”Well… that happens sometimes,” Twilight tells you sadly. “Sometimes… sometimes a pony’s special talent isn’t something they want…”
  1803. >You raise an eyebrow at that.
  1804. “How is that even possible?”
  1805. >”Well, isn’t there anything you’re good at that you don’t like doing?”
  1806. “Being an asshole…?”
  1807. >”Oh, you don’t like that?” she giggles, holding a hoof over her mouth. “I was pretty sure you enjoyed being an asshole.”
  1808. “Only sometimes. Frequently. Fine, let’s pretend I said something else and your point was made.”
  1809. >Twilight leans across the table, waving for you to do the same.
  1810. >”Do you know what Cheerilee told me…?” she teasingly whispers into your ear. “As a little filly, she wanted a flower garden. And when the first flower bloomed – BAM – cutie mark!”
  1811. “But… she’s a teacher!”
  1812. >”Yeah.”
  1813. “How do those two relate?”
  1814. >”They don’t!” she answers smugly, sitting back.
  1815. “And why were we whispering?”
  1816. >”In case of sudden Pinkie invasion,” she answers, jerking a hoof towards the now-closed window.
  1817. “Good reason.”
  1818. >Twilight nods smugly.
  1819. >”So, does that explain things…?”
  1820. “Maybe, but it doesn’t explain Pinkie Pie’s broken leg healing in minutes.”
  1821. >”Well, that’s just Pinkie being Pinkie.”
  1822. >She shrugs, clearly having run out of fucks to give when it comes to Pinkie Pie’s powers of insanity. Your princess doesn’t even ask about her friend’s injury.
  1823. “Oh, and she ran off on me halfway through visiting everypony.”
  1824. >She shrugs again, rolling her eyes.
  1825. “Right, Pinkie being Pinkie. But don’t worry, I *did* get to everyone and gave the invitation to AJ.”
  1826. >”How’s Rarity doing…?”
  1827. “Pretty close to snapping, I think.”
  1828. >”Damn, I knew she was taking on too much,” Twilight grumbles between bites. “Any way we can help?”
  1829. “No, I asked – she’s going to Canterlot tomorrow for Sweetie Belle’s audition and taking the last of her work with her. But she thinks maybe somepony named Coco can help her.”
  1830. >”Oh, Coco?” Twilight’s eyes perk up. “I hope so, it would be nice to see her again! She was nice!”
  1831. “Speaking of helping ponies… any way I can help you with your work?”
  1832. >Her mouth full, Twilight simply shakes her head.
  1833. “Are you sure?”
  1834. >”Yes, it’s all interconnected – not the kind of thing that you can do only *part* of… it’s just…” she drifts off, smiling apologetically. “I mean, if I’m supposed to learn the entire legal code… then…”
  1835. “I get it, I get it. But couldn’t I at least haul books around for you or something?”
  1836. >”In this room? It’s tiny!”
  1837. “I’d just get in the way, wouldn’t I?”
  1838. >”Sorry…” she frowns. “Did anything else interesting happen today…?”
  1839. “Oh – I almost died.”
  1840. “WHAT!?”
  1841. “Wait! This deserves visuals! Wait. Right. Here!”
  1842. >”But – but – what!?”
  1843. “I’ll be right back!”
  1844. >You sprint out of the study, leaving your princess sputtering behind you. The gun is exactly where you left it – which makes perfect sense because they don’t usually sprout legs and run around on their own. Usually.
  1845. >”What is that!?” Twilight shrieks when you drop in on her table.
  1846. “You know what it is. Somepony pointed this at me today.”
  1847. >Well, about two feet to your left, but she doesn’t need to know that.
  1848. >“WHO!? I’LL FUCKING KILL THEM!”
  1849. “That’s not important.”
  1850. >”Like hell it isn’t!” she yells, standing with her forehooves on the edge of the table. “Somepony tried to kill you!”
  1851. “Not really, they were just scared.”
  1852. >”WHY!?”
  1853. “Because I’m human.”
  1854. >”Oh…”
  1855. >She sits back down, hoof to her chin.
  1856. >”… oh…”
  1857. “The ponies of Ponyville are all pretty open-minded, but still… this comes up from time to time. Why are some ponies so scared of humans?”
  1858. >Twilight frowns, clearly unhappy with the idea of explaining.
  1859. >”I… don’t really have the specifics, it’s just legends and myths – like the Mare in the Moon.”
  1860. >Is that why Luna was so sympathetic?
  1861. “Can’t you just give me a summary…?”
  1862. >”I’d rather not,” she says, shaking her head. “Let me finish this up and then I can look into it.”
  1863. “Sure, but I swear to all the gods, if you show me a picture of the Statue of Liberty or say ‘Great Mushroom War’ once, I will *shit on this table*.”
  1864. >”That’s a very… strange and precise threat, Anon…”
  1865. “Do you want me to explain?”
  1866. >”N-no,” she answers, shaking her head vigorously. “I think it would – um – lose some of its… uh… mystique?”
  1867. >She’s doing her best to stay polite about it.
  1868. “Good, because AJ still needs to tell me the story.”
  1869. >”Wait!” Twilight’s ears perk up. “Is this about the minotaurs?”
  1870. “Yeah! How did you know?”
  1871. >”AJ and her family have brought it up before, though they’ve never told me the full story,” she answers, intigued. “I get it now – just took me a bit to piece together what you were saying.”
  1872. >She taps her chin with her hoof.
  1873. “If I can’t help you with your work, can I at least help you with researching this?”
  1874. >Twilight shakes her head sadly.
  1875. >”No, I’m afraid I don’t even know where to begin.”
  1876. >You sigh, slumping in your seat.
  1877. >”Look, I know you just want to help –“
  1878. “You let Spike help.”
  1879. >”Well, yeah. He knows my system,” your princess response incredulously. “I know you feel… useless…”
  1880. >She winces at the word.
  1881. >”… but… I know you have your own projects to work on…”
  1882. >As if any of them really matter – building your little trinkets was just a way to pass the time.
  1883. >”… I’m sure it will take you all week to get your costume ready…”
  1884. >She’s almost pleading now, as you sit with your head in your hands.
  1885. >”… but… I’m sure I can… maybe…”
  1886. >Twilight whines wordlessly, looking around.
  1887. “No, you’re right, I should work on my armor… do my best to get it ready.”
  1888. >You reach out, gently petting the top of her head.
  1889. “I would hate to disappoint Rarity.”
  1890. >Twilight looks up at you through the fringe of her mane.
  1891. “Besides, who knows when another pony will decide to point a gun at me. I might need it.”
  1892. >You quickly stand before your marefriend can do more than squeak in outrage. Twilight hasn’t finished her salad, so you leave her bowl and the pitcher, but you gather the other dishes.
  1893. >”What does *that* –“
  1894. “I’ll be home in a few hours to make dinner. Good luck with your work.”
  1895. >You exit, shutting the door behind you. You stay there for a minute, waiting for her to call you back, to apologize, to ask you to –
  1896. >To what?
  1897. >Apologize for what?
  1898. >It’s not *her* fault Spike is a good assistant and you… well… you’re you.
  1899. >Still, she could pretend… couldn’t she…?
  1900. >You hear nothing. Nothing to call you back. Nothing to say that your presence is worthwhile. Nothing to say that you will be missed.
  1901. >And so you take the dirty dishes downstairs to wash them, to do what you *can* do. It’s doesn’t take long – you’re quite good when it comes to pointless tasks.
  1902. >The windows rattle in the high wind and the sky outside is dark – darker than the afternoon sky should be – but the rain still hasn’t started to fall. If you leave now, you should be able to make it to your place before it hits. You contemplate staying here – you *did* say you would be back in time to make dinner and the rain might not let up until the morning.
  1903. >But you also said you would work on your costume.
  1904. >She *told* you to work on your costume.
  1905. >There are leftovers in the fridge – Twilight will be fine if you don’t make it back tonight. It would be polite to let Twilight know you’re headed out, but she has so much to do – you decide not to interrupt her.
  1906. >You grab your coat from its hook, and almost pick up the gun from the side table, forgetting you left it upstairs with your princess. Damn, she did say there had been disappearances… you would feel better going out knowing you could protect yourself, but…
  1907. >You haven’t needed a gun before, why would you need one now?
  1908. >If a psychotic monster attacks, you can just beat them off with your hammer.
  1909. >The hammer is your penis.
  1910. >You pull your coat on and make a run for your shack. Halfway there, the rain beings to fall. Halfway there, you realize you forgot to lock the door behind you.
  1911. >The rain is still light – just a slight drizzle. You can head back…
  1912. >You head home instead. Ponyville is a safe town. Going back to lock the door would be the same as going back to pick up the gun – pointless.
  1913. >And you told your princess you would work on the costume – you can’t just… go back.
  1914. >You can’t.
  1915. >All you can really offer her is your loyalty – you can’t disappoint her in this, in the one task she trusts you to do.
  1916. >Almost there – almost home – the rain grows rapidly from an accidental sprinkle to a deluge.
  1917. >Damn, you thought you had more time, but that can be one of your flaws, can’t it?
  1918. >Thinking that you always have more time.
  1919. >Which is why you need to start on this *now*.
  1920. >You are soaked by the time you’re standing at the door to the Anonshack, fumbling for the keys. The door unlocks with a click that you don’t hear – there’s no thunder, but the rain is just as loud. Once inside, the door shut and locked, you hang your coat from its hook –
  1921. >No, you don’t.
  1922. >There is no hook here, not that it stops you from trying – your coat just falls to the floor, lying in a slowly growing puddle.
  1923. >Half of it is water dripping from your coat, the other half is water dripping from *you*. It’s a good thing you *didn’t* take all of your clothes to Twilight’s castle – you have something clean and dry to change into here.
  1924. >You drape the coat over the back of one of your dining chairs –
  1925. >…the other chair is… where did you put it? Oh, what does it matter…
  1926. > – and strip off your shirt – the blue shirt Pinkie Pie had brought you earlier today. You throw it at your hamper, getting… close. Close enough.
  1927. >Your trousers are halfway off when a yawn stops you.
  1928. >That… wasn’t you.
  1929. >Briefly, you consider reaching for your hammer, but what could would it really gain you in this situation?
  1930. >Besides an awesome police report?
  1931. “H-hello…?”
  1932. >”Hiiiiii ‘Nonnyyyyyy,” Pinkie Pie yawns sleepily from your bed. “You’re finally back…?”
  1933. >The words that come out of your mouth do not bear repeating.
  1934. >Suffice to say, many words of dubious nature were used, frequently and repeatedly.
  1935. >Luckily, your little friend is still too asleep to notice any of it.
  1936. “What the hell are you doing here!”
  1937. >With one last yawn, she hops out of your bed and stretches.
  1938. >”Silly ‘Nonny,” she giggles, “you made me Pinkie Pie Promise!”
  1939. “Yes – sometime today! Not right now!”
  1940. >”If not now, then when?” she asks innocently. “There’s only so many hours in the day!”
  1941. “But… I’m half-naked!”
  1942. >Her eyes widen as she realizes your state of dress (or undress) for the first time.
  1943. >”Th-th-th-that’s lewd, ‘Nonny!” she mewls, covering up her eyes – UNSUCCESSFULLY – with her forelegs. “Either put your clothes on or TAKE THEM OFF!”
  1944. >You look down at the trousers still in your hands – they’re soaked through-and-through. No way are you putting them back on.
  1945. >You look back to Ponka – she’s breathing rapidly and shallowly, like she’s having a panic attack. No way are you stripping down for the Panks.
  1946. “Just… turn away. I need dry clothes.”
  1947. >”Dressing with another pony in the room!?” she screeches, watching you intently. “Have you no decency!”
  1948. >You scrutinize her out of the corner of your eye as you walk towards your dresser – at no point does the little pink pony turn away. Or successfully cover both eyes at the same time.
  1949. “Is this really so much worse than seeing me naked?”
  1950. >”YES!”
  1951. >Well shit, maybe Rarity’s reaction was justified after all.
  1952. “What… what about facing your… partner… while…”
  1953. >“WHY WOULD YOU ASK ME THAT!?”
  1954. “Because you ponies are weird.”
  1955. >”BUT WHY *THAT*?”
  1956. “Well, Twilight –“
  1957. >”I DON’T NEED TO KNOW THIS.”
  1958. >You stop talking.
  1959. >”I didn’t say stop…” she whines softly as you pull on some dry trousers.
  1960. “Yeah, you did.”
  1961. >”No, I said I didn’t *need* to know,” she responds, sticking out her tongue. “Never said I didn’t *want* to.”
  1962. >You sigh, as you find a clean shirt and drag it over your head.
  1963. “Well, I can’t tell you *now*. Not that I know just how taboo it is.”
  1964. >”You don’t actually –“
  1965. “I can guess! TURN AWAY!”
  1966. >”YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!”
  1967. >She blows a raspberry as you finish getting dressed.
  1968. “So. Explain. What the hell is going on here?”
  1969. >”Did… did…” Pinkie Pie claws at her face in horror. “Did Twilight really *face you*?”
  1970. >You ignore her, looking around for – and finding – your other chair, the one *without* the wet coat flopped over its backrest. Ponka jumps back onto your bed as you drag the chair over and sit down opposite her.
  1971. “What does that have to do with anything?”
  1972. >”Everything. Kinda.”
  1973. “How?”
  1974. >Pinkie looks away, smiling happily. Are those tears bubbling up in her eyes?
  1975. >”She really loves you, doesn’t she…?”
  1976. “I… I guess so…”
  1977. >”Don’t be silly!” Ponka giggles, studying the rafters far too intently. “Of course she does. Otherwise she wouldn’t have… you know.”
  1978. >She giggles again, balling up as the laughter wracks her body.
  1979. “Or maybe she’s just kinky…”
  1980. >”Well, maybe…” your friend blushes, her cheeks going from pink to crimson. “Maaaaaaaaaaaybe.”
  1981. “And what does this have to do with everything?”
  1982. >Ponka shakes her head, her mane bouncing every direction but the logical one.
  1983. >”I’m getting to that!” she growls. “Can’t you just admit she loves you!”
  1984. “Sure, fine, for the purposes of this conversation I will admit that.”
  1985. >The Earth Pony sighs loudly, rolling her eyes.
  1986. >”Don’t be that way – don’t be so self-deprecating all the time,” Pinkie moans. “You’re always flip-flopping back-and-forth between believing you’re a god and believing…”
  1987. “That I’m nothing?”
  1988. >She jerks her head in a quick nod.
  1989. “I’m just being funny –“
  1990. >”No, you’re not, not really,” she argues. “And *I* would know!”
  1991. >She pulls a kazoo out of nowhere and blows on it to emphasize her statement.
  1992. “Well, if she does love me, why does she always get so… so…”
  1993. >It’s not that you don’t believe Twilight loves you – in your heart, you know it. But admitting it…? To others…? What if you’re wrong…?
  1994. >”So easily hurt…?”
  1995. >You nod.
  1996. >”Because she trusts you, you doof!” Ponka giggles. “Twilight trusts you completely!”
  1997. “So?”
  1998. >Pinkie Pie facehoofs, groaning at your stupidity.
  1999. >”If some random background pony said you were worthless, what would you feel?”
  2000. “Nothing, it’s just some background pony.”
  2001. >You shrug.
  2002. >”And if I said it?”
  2003. “I-I’d assume it’s a bad joke.”
  2004. >Pinkie Pie smiles sadly.
  2005. >”And what if it was Twilight…?”
  2006. >You… can’t answer that. It hurts too much.
  2007. >”See…?” she prompts quietly, patting your knee. “Twilight loves you, and you love her.”
  2008. “I’m getting tired of this, Pinkie. If you aren’t going to explain, I have things to do.”
  2009. >”Wait!” your friend shouts, half-jumping into your lap. “Why do you love her?”
  2010. “I don’t know, I just do.”
  2011. >You stand angrily, knocking the chair over backwards in your haste.
  2012. “Just tell me what the fuck is going on or get out. Twilight told me to work on my costume –”
  2013. >The mare jumps off the bed, quickly skipping past you to the pile of unfinished projects stacked in the corner of your shack.
  2014. >”And I told you I’d help with it!”
  2015. >Her voice is muffled by the pile of – if you’re honest – crap she’s got her head buried in.
  2016. >”Got it!”
  2017. >Abandoned trinkets and knickknacks tumble from the carefully balanced pile as she begins dragging free the parts of your armor with her mouth. She pauses, out of breath, once she has pulled both legs and an arm free. She runs her eyes across the mangled and dented metal plates, frowning dubiously.
  2018. >”Is this really more important than your princess…?” she asks quietly, giving a bracer a light nudge.
  2019. ”Like I said, she told me to work on it.”
  2020. >”She also told you to never leave her,” Pinkie Pie sniffles, wiping the tears from her eyes, “but you managed to do that, didn’t you…?”
  2021. “What does *that* –“
  2022. > – mean…
  2023. >Twilight said the same thing as you were leaving.
  2024. >Ponka sighs loudly, rolling a piece of armor back and forth.
  2025. “I didn’t break up with her or anything, I’m just here to do what she said! To try to be… useful…”
  2026. >”That doesn’t sound very convincing to me,” Pinkie Pie mumbles. “Does it sound convincing to you…?”
  2027. >She grabs a – well, you don’t remember what it is or even what it was supposed to be – a *thing*, playing with it while you try to answer.
  2028. >”No,” she answers for you. “You’re here because she hurt you…”
  2029. >Ponka sidles over, patting your foot gently.
  2030. “She would never –“
  2031. >”Neither would you, but you have… haven’t you?” She sits up and wraps her forelegs around your waist, hugging tightly. ”Go home, ‘Nonny,” she whispers, impossible quiet for the Ponyville’s premier party pony. “Go home.”
  2032. “It’s still raining, and what about your Pinkie Pie Promise?”
  2033. >”Some promises are more important than others.”
  2034. >Ponka drags you towards the door with a grunt.
  2035. >”Go. Home!” she growls when you resist. “You aren’t useless! Not to her!”
  2036. “I *am* home! This *is* my home!”
  2037. >”No, it’s not!”
  2038. >It’s just… temporary accommodations. You told yourself that two days ago.
  2039. “Her castle isn’t home either…”
  2040. >You lurch over to your bed, dragging along the pony, and slump down. Ponka crawls onto the bed, snuggling up to you.
  2041. “I asked Twilight about bringing over the rest of my things... and… she made it clear… Why am I even here, Ponka?”
  2042. >”Why *are* you here…?” she giggles lightly. “You should be –“
  2043. “I mean, what is my purpose? Why am I *here* if all I do is make everything worse?”
  2044. >”You don’t –“
  2045. “Derpy pulled a gun on me today. She was scared. Terrified. Of *me*. Where did she even *get* that gun!?”
  2046. >”It wasn’t –“
  2047. “I know it wasn’t you, Ponka. Whoever she got it from was male… but that’s not the point.”
  2048. >”That’s just –“
  2049. “I tried to help Twilight with her work and she threw me out of her castle – I was only getting in her way. That’s why I’m here right now – because being around was just annoying her.”
  2050. >You lean forward, holding your head in both hands. Somehow, it can’t hold itself up anymore. You can’t… your body can’t sit…
  2051. >Only Pinkie’s support keeps you upright.
  2052. “If all I do is hurt her, I should be here.”
  2053. >”Go home…” your friend whispers into your ear, patting your back.
  2054. “I should… if all I do is hurt her, I should go home. Find a way to get back to my world. I should just… leave.”
  2055. >”No!” Pinkie shouts, drawing back in horror. “No, you promised her!”
  2056. “And you promised me…”
  2057. >Your hands are wet – the roof must be leaking. Wouldn’t surprise you, this place is a shithole.
  2058. >”You can’t leave her!” Panks’ eyes dark around wildly, hunting the shadows. “Go. Now.”
  2059. “But you just said –“
  2060. >”GO. NOW.” she screams, shoving you off of your bed. “GO HOME. NOW.”
  2061. >You stumble, miraculously not falling from the unexpected push.”
  2062. >”Your princess needs you, go home. Now.” Pinkie Pie’s breathing is irregular again, her huge eyes dilated. “Go home.”
  2063. >Twilight *needs* you…
  2064. >Your heart skips a beat.
  2065. “Are you…”
  2066. >”NOW!”
  2067. >The door slams open at her shout – fucking Pinkie cartoon logic.
  2068. >You take two steps towards the door before you realize you do so alone.
  2069. “Aren’t you going to come, Panky?”
  2070. >”I have work to do here,” she smiles at you. “I’ll see you tomorrow, ‘Nonny!”
  2071. >You shuffle closer towards the open door.
  2072. “What about… the rain…?”
  2073. >”Apple Bloom…?” Pinkie Pie whines quietly. “Could you…?”
  2074. “What does she have to do with…?”
  2075. >You drift off as a tunnel appears in the downpour, the rain slamming into something unseen.
  2076. “Care to explain…?”
  2077. >”Magic!”
  2078. >Of course it is.
  2079. “No, seriously…”
  2080. >Her kick catches you off guard, sending you stumbling outside.
  2081. >”GO. HOME,” she shouts, slamming the door shut in your face.
  2082. >The door resists your every attempt to open it – Pinkie Pie must be holding it shut. You didn’t hear the lock engage, but then again you couldn’t have over the rain. Either way, you can’t turn back – there’s only one path available to you – a path clearly marked by the strangest magic you have seen in your time in Equestria.
  2083. >”…hurry…” the rain whispers “… I can’t… not for long…”
  2084. >Even now, even if you aren’t an NPC… you’re being controlled.
  2085. >Gods damn it, Pinkie.
  2086. >You *hate* being railroaded.
  2087. >But still… sometimes… it gets you where you need to be…
  2088. >You resist the temptation to dash into the rain, instead jogging down the invisible tunnel, head turned upward. At first, it’s out of worry, trying to figure out just what is going on, but then… curiosity. Watching the bizarre patterns the deluge forms, the almost-words that appear and fade instantly.
  2089. >”Scared.”
  2090. >”Worried.”
  2091. >”Safe.”
  2092. >”Promise.”
  2093. >”HURRY.”
  2094. “What the unholy fuck has Pinkie Pie done…?”
  2095. >You can barely hear yourself over the noise.
  2096. >”… my choice…”
  2097. >”… to save us all…”
  2098. >You’re careful to keep your mouth closed from then on.
  2099. >No sense tempting fate. Or whatever this is.
  2100. >Her castle is in sight – the only thing you *can* see as anything more than a dark blur – when your shield begins to fail. A few droplets slip through the half-formed words
  2101. >”…sorry…”
  2102. >They disappear entirely.
  2103. >The sudden shock of the cold rain hits you like a ton of bricks, soaking you instantly. Only the castle’s lights keep you oriented – a blazing beacon in the darkness and the madness.
  2104. >Your own personal astronomican.
  2105. >The door… you left it unlocked.
  2106. >It’s open.
  2107. >Oh gods, it’s open.
  2108. >You lurch inside, casting about for something – anything – to use as a weapon.
  2109. >”Hi, Anon.”
  2110. “Apple Bloom…”
  2111. >The filly shivers involuntarily, eyes closed.
  2112. >”Ah think…” she stutters, “… Ah think Ah made a mistake…”
  2113. “What the f – hell is going on!”
  2114. >That was close.
  2115. “Why are you in my – Twilight’s castle?”
  2116. >”Ah’m tired…” she moans, shutting the book she had been holding, tucking her pen inside. “Can Ah sleep on tha couch…?”
  2117. “Well, I –“
  2118. >You can’t send her out into the storm. Not even a heartless monster like you could do that. You close the door, making sure to lock it this time.
  2119. “Yeah, but I’m sure I can set you up in one of the guest rooms…”
  2120. >”Couch is good ‘nuff for me,” she answers wearily. “Ah *really* screwed up…”
  2121. “How…?”
  2122. >You reach down, picking up the exhausted filly in your arms – her book too, after she almost falls free trying to grab for it.
  2123. “I didn’t think you read much.”
  2124. >”Ah don’t. Not much.”
  2125. “O-okaaaaay then… I’m going to take you up to the library first, so you can call your sister and let her know where you are.”
  2126. >”Mkay…”
  2127. >You think she nods off before you even reach the stairs, but wakes readily enough as you place her in your seat in the library and phone over to her.
  2128. >”This room is comfy,” she purrs. “Are there blankets…?”
  2129. >You haul one out of the side table’s drawers, draping it over the little filly.
  2130. “Are you…”
  2131. >”Go,” she says, picking up the phone.
  2132. “You said you made a mistake –“
  2133. >”Go.”
  2134. >With a hesitant nod, you leave the filly.
  2135. >Twilight…
  2136. >Twilight isn’t in her study.
  2137. >The pistol is – still sitting right where you left it. It looks like nothing was moved since you –
  2138. >Since you left.
  2139. >You already know she’s not in the library, so… you slowly – carefully – push open the door to your – her – bedroom.
  2140. >Twilight lays curled up on top of sheets, her back to the door. She's been crying - her coat has taken on the colorless grey shade it always has when she's been crying.
  2141. ”Hey Twilight… I’m –“
  2142. >”Fuck off,” she whispers into her pillow.
  2143. “I can’t. I made a promise.”
  2144. >”And you’ve already broken it. Just go.”
  2145. “I can’t, I’m sorry.”
  2146. >”Why are you here?” your princess asks as you sit down on the edge of the bed, your wet clothes dripping onto the blanket. “Why are you even *here*?”
  2147. “Pinkie Pie sent me.”
  2148. >She snorts angrily, twitching away from your hand as you reach over to touch her shoulder.
  2149. >”Is that what it takes for my own coltfriend to care about me?” Twilight whimpers angrily, clutching a pillow – your pillow – tightly to her chest. “Am I really that pathetic?”
  2150. “No… I…”
  2151. >”You just like being an asshole,” she sighs, trying to hide the sob that wracks her body. “I get it – I’m just another game for you to break. Well good news, Anon – you win. You fucking win… just like you always do.”
  2152. “Stop it, Twi…”
  2153. >”Do you even love me?”
  2154. >Twilight extends one wing, wrapping it around herself and the pillow. Is it just you, or are the feather tips darkening?
  2155. “Of course.”
  2156. >”Then why would you do *that*,” your marefriend pleads. “Why would you tell me you almost died, make jokes about it happening again, and just *walk away*? I can’t –“
  2157. >She shudders, her extended wing twitching.
  2158. >”I can’t.”
  2159. >Are the lights…? No… her wing is definitely darkening.
  2160. “Twilight, are you okay…?”
  2161. >”Of course I’m not okay!”
  2162. “How can I fix this…?”
  2163. >”What makes you think you can?” Twilight sobs. “Just go. Leave. Find some new game to play. Rarity certainly seemed –“
  2164. “Don’t – don’t do that, don’t pretend this is somepony else’s fault.”
  2165. >”Well whose is it!?”
  2166. “Mine, and only mine.”
  2167. >She doesn’t respond – she doesn’t move a muscle. Not to speak, not to cry.
  2168. “I’m sorry… I didn’t… I didn’t understand. I just thought I was useless…”
  2169. >Twilight whines softly.
  2170. “All I really do around here is cook and… wash dishes… and…”
  2171. >She doesn’t pull away from your touch this time, as you lean back and lightly brush her mane from her face.
  2172. “What do I even do for you? Why do you even keep me around…?”
  2173. >”Friendship – no, *love* isn’t about doing things for each other,” she answers slowly. “It’s about… I don’t know. I just don’t fucking know. But it shouldn’t hurt like this. I am… I’m…”
  2174. “If you want me to leave –“
  2175. >”I’m just so fucking *broken*!”
  2176. >Twilight shudders under your touch, tears welling up from under her closed eyelids. The strands of her mane still in your hand turn black, almost impossibly so.
  2177. >”I didn’t even have friends until Princess Celestia sent me… sent me here!” she cries, convulsing. “It took a threat like Nightmare Moon to make *that* happen! Why would I ever dream *anypony* – even a monster like *you* – could love me!?”
  2178. “Because I do.”
  2179. >”Why!?” Twilight demands, the word coming out tortured.
  2180. “Because… sometimes… when the stars align and fate smiles upon us… sometimes…”
  2181. >She twitches as you brush your hand across her cheek.
  2182. “Sometimes… I make you happy.”
  2183. >”Don’t you mean *I* make *you* happy?” your princess responds dejectedly. “Sometimes. When I’m not screwing everything up.”
  2184. “I meant what I said.”
  2185. >Twilight’s eyes open in suspicious slits, her head twisting back just far enough to study you from the corner of her eye.
  2186. >”Why?”
  2187. “Because I care about you, Twilight. Because I love you, and I want you to be happy and that is honestly the most important thing in my life.”
  2188. >”Then why –“
  2189. “Because I’m a fuckup, Twi.”
  2190. >Your princess winces.
  2191. “I was a fuckup back home and I’m a fuckup here and nothing will ever change that. I don’t mean to hurt you, but I do and I will and I am *sorry*. All I can hope is that someday I make you laugh more than I make you cry.”
  2192. >Twilight smiles timidly, a bit of color returning to her face.
  2193. >”Is that the only reason? That you want me to be happy…?”
  2194. “What better reason could there be?”
  2195. >You lay back, resting your head on her shoulder.
  2196. “Without you… I would have no purpose. I never want to feel that way again. So if all I am here for – if all I *can* do – is make you happy, then yes, it’s enough.”
  2197. >Your princess giggles, dipping her head to give you a peck on the forehead.
  2198. “What…?”
  2199. >”Without the Emperor, there is nothing and we would have no purpose,” she quotes, nuzzling you gently.
  2200. “Where did you read that…?”
  2201. >”It’s how you opened the Deathwatch game, Anon.”
  2202. “Oh. Right.”
  2203. >You roll over onto your stomach, crawling further onto the bed.
  2204. “I love you, Twilight.”
  2205. >”Because I’m your Emperor?” she giggles.
  2206. “No, that’s heresy, but I love you anyway.”
  2207. >”And I love you too,” she responds, kissing you on the lips. “I think we might need some kind of emotional safe word…”
  2208. “I’ll think on it, but right now do you mind if I get out of these wet clothes?”
  2209. >She shakes her head, rolling around and fidgeting until she’s managed to crawl under the sheets.
  2210. >”And a dry blanket, too, please,” she asks with the exhausted smile of somepony who has just been through emotional hell.
  2211. “And dinner? I was planning on baked potatoes…”
  2212. >You strip off your soaked clothes while waiting for Twilight’s answer. You leave them piled on the floor – there’s no hamper here, no place to put dirty garments.
  2213. >Another thing to fix tomorrow.
  2214. “Twilight?”
  2215. >”No…” she finally answers.
  2216. “Then something else?”
  2217. >”No. Blanket.”
  2218. >Down to just your boxers, you jerk the blanket from the bed – adding it to the pile of things to be washed – and pull a new one from the closet. With a snap, you unfurl the cloth, throwing it over the bed. The pale blue blanket floats down gently, settling on the bed like a fresh layer of frost.
  2219. >The rain grows heavier – harder – the sharp pings and strikes of hail mixing in with the steady droning roar.
  2220. >”I can’t believe you came back,” Twilight murmurs as she rolls over to face you, taking one final sniff of your pillow and pushing it back into place.
  2221. “Why? I thought we just went over th –“
  2222. >”In this rain, I mean,” she responds, shoving her head into her pillow. “You must be freezing.”
  2223. >Adrenaline and worry kept you from feeling it, but now… reminded of the cold…
  2224. “A little. Nothing some clothes and a warm kitchen wouldn’t fix.”
  2225. >”Shut up and come here,” Twilight whispers, lifting the sheets with her wing just enough to make her intentions clear. “Let me warm you up.”
  2226. >You sit back down on the bed, rubbing a hand across the leading edge of her wing – the grey feathers turning purple as your hand passes, like they were just turned the wrong way to reflect the light.
  2227. “Apple Bloom is sleeping right down the hall… she’s crashing in the library…”
  2228. >Twilight gives the sigh of somepony who is just too worn out to care, dragging you into bed with her magic.
  2229. >*Somepony* squeaks in surprise – it couldn’t have been you, because you’re too manly for that. Nope, certainly wasn’t you.
  2230. >Your princess nuzzles your chest, breathing deeply.
  2231. >”I was so scared,” she whispers, “so scared that Spike would come back and accidentally wash your pillow. Silly, isn’t it…?”
  2232. >The color returns to her mane as you run your hand through it.
  2233. “Why would that scare you…?”
  2234. >”Because I thought I would never smell you again.”
  2235. >She clutches you tightly around your neck with her forelegs, winding one of her hindlegs between yours.
  2236. >”And all that would be left to show you existed would be a basket of clean clothes and a broken heart.”
  2237. “I will always come back, my little princess. Always.”
  2238. >” You didn’t really leave me, I know that,” she murmurs into your chest, “but that didn’t mean you couldn’t be taken from me…”
  2239. “And I told you – I will *always* come back. I will always be here for you.”
  2240. >”You can’t if you are – if you’re – if –“
  2241. >She sniffles, trying to keep the tears inside.
  2242. “Always, no matter what the laws of life and death forbid.”
  2243. >You cup your hand under her jaw, pulling her face upwards.
  2244. “Always.”
  2245. >She smiles as you kiss the tip of her nose.
  2246. “Your monster will always return to you.”
  2247. >”I shouldn’t have called you that,” she groans under her breath. “That wasn’t fair…”
  2248. “It didn’t sound like you meant it to be hurtful… not towards *me*, anyway.”
  2249. >”No…” she whines softly, pulling her forelegs back to hug herself instead of you. “I’m sorry…”
  2250. “It’s what I am, isn’t it?”
  2251. >Twilight whimpers as you pull her tight against you.
  2252. >”No…”
  2253. “But it’s okay. I’m glad I’m not a pony.”
  2254. >”W-why…?”
  2255. “Would you have loved me – would you have cared about me if I was?”
  2256. >”OF – of course I,” she pauses, pawing at your chest gently – pleadingly – with her forehooves, “of course I would still love you…”
  2257. “Would you have even met me?”
  2258. >”Somehow…”
  2259. ”Really?”
  2260. >Your hand gently caresses the side of her neck, letting the color come back to her coat.
  2261. “I can almost forgive Celestia for every horrible thing she has done, because she is the only reason we met. Because she thought you could rehabilitate this monster.”
  2262. >”As if that was necessary…”
  2263. “You did help me with The Device.”
  2264. >She laughs suddenly.
  2265. >”I definitely would have met you if you were a pony!”
  2266. “Oh?”
  2267. >”Love will find a way and that’s always true,” Twilight tells you, stretching up to kiss you.
  2268. >Oh.
  2269. “So you found the music on there…?”
  2270. >”Yes,” she giggles.
  2271. >Well, at least that’s not the worst thing on there…
  2272. >It’s basically Celestia’s fault you were so reliant on it – locked in a cell for over a month, no visitors save those who came to interrogate you. And *her*, when Princess Bitch came down every day to empower your device… or to mend it after you had shattered it in a fit of rage. Your one window to your past, to a world outside your cell.
  2273. >All you saw when released to Twilight’s custody was a larger prison with a smaller warden.
  2274. >A smaller, more adorable warden that dragged you outside and hid your toys so you would realize you were free.
  2275. “Thank you for helping me see this world for what it really is.”
  2276. >The words catch Twilight by surprise – she peers at you quizzically.
  2277. >”And what is that?”
  2278. “Home.”
Twilight Sparkle Anon Mane 6 Traditional Games Romance /tg/ Complete Nerds Author Went Off The Rails NSFW

For the Waifu

by twilightgamenight

Silver Spoon is an Expensive Friend - last updated a while back

by twilightgamenight

Regimental Standard: An Officer's Guide to the Equus Puella

by twilightgamenight

More 02: Something More

by twilightgamenight

More 01: Simply More

by twilightgamenight