GREEN   134    29293   160.38 KB

/bootleg/ Jacky Part Nine

By BlondieAnon
Created: 25th April 2021 03:06:05 AM
Modified: 23rd June 2021 08:21:03 AM
Jacky Sparking Shine Faint Prism Anonymous Nona /Bootleg/

  1. >"Hey, Anon."
  2. "Yeah?"
  3. >"How you doing?"
  4. >Every day, you've been asked that
  5. >One of the girls will ask that at least once a day
  6. >You swear they're on a rotating cycle of responsibility
  7. >Today it's Shine
  8. "Good, I suppose. Something up?"
  9. >"Nah. Not really."
  10. >Without any respect for personal space, she hops onto your bed and squirms right onto your lap, between your arms
  11. >You were playing a 3DS game
  12. >Now you can only see the back of her head
  13. "What are you, a cat?"
  14. >"Meow."
  15. "Ok, I'm convinced."
  16. >You've been keeping yourself busy for a while now
  17. >Or, more appropriate to say, you've shut yourself off from things
  18. >From them
  19. >The 3DS in question has been hacked to hell and back, and has more than enough games on it to keep you occupied for the next calendar year
  20. >"Still playing 4?"
  21. "Yeah."
  22. >You've been playing another Shin Megami Tensei game
  23. >Ever since Shine played her first one, she's been hooked on the series
  24. >Since you've revisited one of the games, she's opted for watching you play
  25. >She nestles herself in your lap, laying her face against your forearm
  26. >You're not entirely sure if she's doing this to bug you
  27. "I'm alright you know."
  28. >"I know."
  29. >The story has been really dull, but the environments are cool
  30. >The music really hypes her up too
  31. "Jack outside?"
  32. >"Yeah."
  33. "Cool."
  34. >To help keep yourself busy, you've kinda ponified the apartment for them
  35. >You've set up a taped up sort of handle for them to get onto the patio
  36. >You've invested in some oversized keyboards for the girls too
  37. >You've expanded the cooking space for them too
  38. >Shine has been using her magic more for cooking as well
  39. >Magic-fried steak is actually pretty good
  40. >You stay quiet for the better chunk of an hour, adjusting yourself so she can both lay on you and you can focus on your game
  41. >"Hey, do you think we could do a Demonic Whisper?"
  42. "What?"
  43. >"Well that's how you get spells in game... what if I can do that and teach you magic?"
  44. >Something about that sounds... dangerous
  45. >She's gotten far more creative with her magic lately
  46. >It's certainly impressive
  47. >You get the feeling she's showing off for you though
  48. "Yeah... nah. I'm more a stronkth build anyway."
  49. >"I guess that's true. Megaton Press?"
  50. "Nah homey, Javelin Rain."
  51. >More time passes
  52. >Jacky came in for a moment to ask you if you wanted to do something tomorrow night
  53. >You were planning on introducing them to more movies and even some D&D stuff
  54. >But things happened
  55. >You still feel bad about it
  56. >Of course you do
  57. >You're self-aware enough to know that you've isolated yourself after having an embarrassingly emotional outburst
  58. >"You know, Jacky and I have been looking at that website you mentioned about rules and stuff."
  59. >You have the feeling that Shine has been reading your mind
  60. >Whenever you ask, of course she says she wouldn't unless it were life or death
  61. >"When did you wanna get started on that?"
  62. >It's been almost two months now
  63. >Has it seriously been that long?
  64. >You look down at the red unicorn
  65. >You gaze at Sparking Shine
  66. >How long has it been since you last just... paid attention to her?
  67. >She's let the front of her hair grow out by a few inches
  68. >She still keeps a style similar to Twilight
  69. >But it seems like she's starting to favor her left side more
  70. >Her fur all over feels a little more soft and less shaggy
  71. >You did get them a sort of oatmeal shampoo
  72. >Technically meant for dogs and pets
  73. >Hell, you'd use it too if you ran out of your normal stuff
  74. >"...something up?"
  75. >Those eyes
  76. >They're alert
  77. >Sharp
  78. >Watching you watch her
  79. >Not an ounce of aggression in them
  80. >She relaxes into a sly smile
  81. >"You're looking at me like how Jacky looked at those yellow marshmallow birds. You know?"
  82. "Yeah... yeah."
  83. >All at once, you feel a form of mental whiplash
  84. >Sorta like you've been sleeping
  85. "I... guess I did buy a lot of those, didn't I."
  86. >Yellow for Jacky
  87. >Purple for Shine
  88. >Blue for Prism
  89. >Green for yourself
  90. "Sorry. I, uh... listen, I got a favor."
  91. >You close the 3DS
  92. "Can you go and get the other two? Ask them if they're up for a movie night or something."
  93. >The smile spreads to a grin
  94. >"Our usual?"
  95. "Yeah."
  96. >"You got it, get us set up."
  97. >She slinks off of you, practically dragging herself
  98. >She still does that from time to time
  99. >You've stopped paying attention to that
  100. >To be honest, you've stopped paying attention to a lot of things
  101. >You don't even notice when she comes back with the other two
  102. >Prism looks very well-taken care of
  103. >She's taken to using a sort of lotion that keeps her fur, mane and wings in frankly sublime condition
  104. >She's a fair bit shaggier than Shine, and her feathers look as straight and as sharp as razors
  105. >You remember that bracelet that has a few of her feathers in it
  106. >It's still on your desktop tower, when you don't wear it
  107. >How long ago did that happen?
  108. >She looks content, like she was waiting for this
  109. >Your eyes finally turn to Jacky
  110. >That smile of hers
  111. >You're sure you saw that smile yesterday
  112. >And the day before
  113. >Every single day since it happened, you've seen her smile but only now do you feel like you're seeing it with clear eyes
  114. >How could you have completely ignored these three?
  115. >Her short hair grew out a little, giving her more of a rough and tumble tomboy look
  116. >She beams
  117. >"Anon."
  118. "Yes."
  119. >"I'm going to tackle you."
  120. "O... wait, wh-"
  121. >In an instant she launches herself at you
  122. >It's a little less than graceful
  123. >She lands a few inches short and effectively headbutts just above your waistline
  124. >You double over, your face going into her back
  125. "...ahh... that was a bit heavy."
  126. >"...I slipped."
  127. >You think that's what she said
  128. >Her voice is muffled and rather than pull her face away, she'd rather speak into your torso
  129. >You exhale hard and wrap your arms around your chest
  130. >Before you can give her a chance to react, you wrench yourself back and let out a triumphant roar
  131. >You shake her back and forth, her hind legs flailing around in the air
  132. "TONIGHT I DINE ON PONY SOUP!"
  133. >You shift your arms down, performing the world's most lax Tombstone
  134. >You feel the top of her head bonk the mattress
  135. "You're dead now."
  136. >"Oh no."
  137. >Prism gives the most flat toned reaction
  138. >Truly an outburst that only the best of friends could give
  139. >You let go and her body flops on the mattress
  140. >"Bleeeeeegh...eeeehhhhh....eh."
  141. >She exhales a dying gasp
  142. >Just to inhale and continue the gasp
  143. >Capped with a light cough
  144. "Well that wasn't much of a boss fight. Anyway... it's been a while since our last movie marathon. Anyone up to it?"
  145. >Prism nods
  146. >"Anytime you're ready, Anon."
  147. >Shine shakes her head, mildly amused by how physical your antics with Jacky get
  148. >"Let's dump her body in the trash first."
  149. >Jacky's head darts up, her mane in an even bigger mess than before
  150. >"Hey, who are you calling a dump?"
  151. "Me, Imma dump my elbow into that ass."
  152. >You raise up your arm just to give a lazy elbow drop onto her flank
  153. >Naturally, it does nothing to damage her
  154. >With how solid she feels from your elbow alone, you're still not sure just how much damage she could do if she was dedicated enough
  155. "Anyway... let's get started, got five minute for drinks, snacks, whatever else you got."
  156. >It's not a lot
  157. >But watching some movies with them will be nice
  158. >As minor as the activity is, you feel invigorated
  159. >You're even smiling
  160. >No matter what happens, you gotta remember that they're still here for you
  161. >Maybe you shouldn't push that away anymore
  162.  
  163. "Pizza time, everyone get their plate."
  164. >Rather than do anything all that fancy for dinner, it was mutually decided that pizza would be best
  165. >You'd have thought that would be a bigger, more universal staple but it still isn't the most common thing in the world that you've set up for the girls
  166. >The girls
  167. >Your girls
  168. >Kinda
  169. >It has a nice sound to it, doesn't it?
  170. >Even after cutting up the slices, no one makes a bull rush to the kitchen
  171. "...well it worked well when Peter Parker said it..."
  172. >You grab two plates and make your way to the living room
  173. >Shine and Prism have been playing an emulator on the laptop
  174. >Tonight's flavor is Metal Gear Solid 3
  175. >By the looks of it, they're both engrossed in it
  176. >"Sigint knows a lot about these guns..."
  177. >"How does he know what Snake is holding?"
  178. >"Where does he even carry them?"
  179. >"Maybe I should use it..."
  180. >Shine is the one at the controls
  181. >From what you've watched, she's not exactly remorseful about killing guards
  182. >She'll learn
  183. "Shine. Try to remember the basics of CQC."
  184. >The unicorn looks at you from the corner of her eye
  185. >"Ehh... Boss Anon..."
  186. >Not a bad Snake impression
  187. "Eat this to keep your stamina up. Remember to save and rest frequently too."
  188. >You set the plates down near them and step back
  189. >It's kinda cool to see them explore the menus and discuss plans of attack
  190. >You don't think you've ever seen the map and sonar be used so much and so consistently
  191. >With your and Jack's plate, you head to your room
  192. >You've been watching internet videos with her for a good amount of time now
  193. >Namely YouTube Poops
  194. >You plop down next to her, a pro at the controlled fall
  195. >She stretches out, shaking for a few seconds
  196. >She looks at you with a funny face
  197. >"Sees?"
  198. "Saas."
  199. >"What's Dashie up to?"
  200. "Planning out a daring rescue with our resident sneak."
  201. >"Neat."
  202. >She flops up, digging in as soon as you set the plate down
  203. >She's been around for... how long now?
  204. >A year and four months now, if you recall right
  205. >Has it been so long?
  206. >You silently contemplate the reality of that while eating with her
  207. >To be honest, you don't miss being alone
  208. >You may have had some times where you distanced yourself from them
  209. >And recently you've kinda just gone into... some sort of shutdown
  210. >You didn't miss any work, of course
  211. >And you'd still goof around with coworkers
  212. >But when you'd get back, you wouldn't really have the will or energy to go along with the antics of the day
  213. >After the first few days, Jacky caught on that something was wrong
  214. >Then the other two did
  215. >It took them a few days to come clean with what happened
  216. >What was it, six weeks and three days ago?
  217. >It feels like it was yesterday
  218. >"Hey... Anonymous?"
  219. "What's up?"
  220. >You weren't paying attention until now
  221. >You've stared at your plate for so long that it basically became an abstraction that exists to hold Italian-based junk foods
  222. >"How are you doing?"
  223. >You refocus your view to her
  224. >Her mane has grown out a little from when it was cut
  225. >Her belly has become less concave compared to when she first popped up
  226. >She looks healthier
  227. >Happy, to say the least
  228. >More at ease
  229. >Even though she looks concerned
  230. >"I asked if you were ok? You kinda look like the plate owes you money or something."
  231. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess I'm just kinda zoned out. It's a late night, you know?"
  232. >"I'm sorry. Can I do anything to help you?"
  233. "Nah. I'm good."
  234. >She frowns at you
  235. >"Are you sure? You don't need to hold that sort of stuff in."
  236. "Yeah... yeah."
  237. >You ruffle her mane
  238. "It's all out in the open, you know? It's already been... done and done."
  239. >You really don't like when you're the focus of things
  240. "What's left is just me dealing with it."
  241. >"You don't need to deal with it alone."
  242. "Yeahhhhhhhhh well headbutt into pillow."
  243. >"Wait, what?"
  244. >You grab her plate, set it to the side with yours, and shift down the best
  245. >Without ceremony, you plop your head onto her back, right at the side of her ribs
  246. "I'll be honest. I kinda don't want to talk about it a whole ton. I think I already did. But you know what helps?"
  247. >"Talking pony pillow?"
  248. "Thank Christ, yes."
  249. >"Well you go and do that. I can call the other two in. Pegasus wings are pretty comfy. And... unicorn horns..."
  250. >She doesn't sound sure of where even she was going with that particular detail
  251. "No... nah, that's alright. I've missed you."
  252. >"Missed me?"
  253. >She laughs
  254. >It sounds a little uneasy
  255. >"Because you had to go to work?"
  256. "No. Just... I don't know. I feel like I should be more glad to be around you."
  257. >"Well don't you worry, I ain't going anywhere. And neither is Sparks. Or Dashie."
  258. >She trails off
  259. >"You aren't going anywhere, are you?"
  260. >What if you do?
  261. >Or something happens?
  262. >One thought you've been unable to shake is if something happened to you
  263. >Who else can they go to?
  264. >They can't go back to what they used to do before
  265. >You can't bring that up until you find an answer
  266. >If you can get some sort of nest egg or hit it big on something, maybe they could be taken care of
  267. >Enough for three nerds to be taken care of for...
  268. >How long is long enough?
  269. >How long do ponies even live?
  270. >You didn't notice that you grabbed hold of one of her front legs
  271. >What happens if they get sick?
  272. >What medicine works?
  273. >What do you do?
  274. >What can you do?
  275. >Can you handle that?
  276. >Can you stop it?
  277. >"Anon?"
  278. >You need to figure out the answer
  279. "Yeah... sorry Jack. I'm... I think I'm just tired."
  280. >You rotate to lay on your side
  281. >Immediately, the sound of her breathing calms your nerves
  282. "I think it's just work. I want to get a lot of stuff in order for us."
  283. >You rub your eyes
  284. >It helps to stop from any stray leaks from happening
  285. >You nudge the mouse over to her, refusing to open your eyes
  286. "Feel free to put on whatever. Just stay right there."
  287. >She giggles
  288. >"And if I need a drink?"
  289. >You bring your hand up to point at the nearby desk
  290. >You almost always have a cup or two of water available
  291. >"...pretty sneaky... what if I need to go to the bathroom?"
  292. "Then I'll have to throw out the mattress in the morning."
  293. >She sounds pleased with the answer
  294. >"Your dedication truly knows no bounds."
  295. "You know it. Just... don't do that."
  296. >"Not even a bit?"
  297. "Not up for debate."
  298. >"Dang."
  299. "Truly a shame."
  300. >"...ok... so what if you need to go to the bathroom?"
  301. "Jack?"
  302. >"Yes, Anon?"
  303. "I'm going to suplex you."
  304. >"You... can go do that."
  305. >You can feel her shift until she's laying on her side
  306. >Her legs bend down to loosely hug your shoulders
  307. >"And I'm gonna watch some more funny videos."
  308. "Just remember the secret ingredient."
  309. >"A mammoth!"
  310. >You can't let her know what's on your mind
  311. >Not yet
  312. >You need to take care of her
  313. >You need to take care of all of them
  314. >That is your main goal
  315. >It's almost all you have left
  316.  
  317. >It feels nice to sit outside
  318. >You haven't sat outside to just enjoy the night time air in you don't even know how long
  319. >It would be completely quiet too if it weren't for the song playing from your laptop behind you
  320. >Piano and what sounds like clockwork ticking and tocking
  321. >You recognize it well
  322. >Though it was raining out earlier, you set out a few towels to sit on
  323. >Jacky's laying between your legs, the back of her head on your lap and her legs relaxed
  324. >Shine has been sitting right at your side, her head leaning into your chest
  325. >Prism has been using your left knee as a pillow, half sitting and half laying
  326. >She was the first one out here
  327. >Then you decided to grab two towels and join her
  328. >Jack joined in and made herself at home
  329. >It didn't take long for Shine to grab her own towel to sit on
  330. >The wood of the patio isn't dry but it isn't exactly anything more than damp
  331. >The little pyro has been pretty tight with you lately
  332. >You haven't told her to not poke into your head but you don't think she has
  333. >No one has said anything for at least the last half hour
  334. >You feel your jaw clench and unclench
  335. >It feels like you're physically choking on something
  336. >You've been thinking it for a while
  337. >It just has to come out now
  338. "I'm... the last guy of my family."
  339. >The words come out dry
  340. >Stoic, even
  341. >No matter what could be said, that statement will never change
  342. >The only way it could change is when you die or have a son
  343. >One is assured, the other probably won't ever happen
  344. "I'm the last one. It's just me."
  345. >You would think that sort of realization would lead to an existential panic
  346. >But it just hits like a weight
  347. >One of many that already exist, of course
  348. >A mere niggling addition to the personal-sized mountain of concerns and worries
  349. >A fucking drop in the bucket that is your life
  350. "And I'm thinking of contacting Nona. If something happens to me, I need all of you to be taken care of and kept safe."
  351. >Every pony reacts in their own way
  352. >Jack, who was watching you, nearly flails and flips onto her front
  353. >Prism idly flaps one of her wings, possibly hiding some growing sense of agitation
  354. >You don't even bother to look down at Shine but you can feel an intense heat growing at your side
  355. "I could go at any time. Anything could happen. If I do, maybe two people will miss me. Outside of you three. And I gotta make sure that if and when-"
  356. >You end up cutting yourself off
  357. >You've been staring up at the deep night sky
  358. >You can almost feel yourself being pulled out of your own head
  359. >Maybe it's just tunnel vision toward the end
  360. >The only end you could hope to have
  361. >"You're not going to contact her."
  362. >Shine's cold tone almost fits with the heat radiating from her
  363. >She could put an electric blanket to shame
  364. >"Anon... you can't think like that. We can help keep you safe so nothing will happen, right?"
  365. >You would like to hope that
  366. >She could probably buck the skull off of the reaper itself
  367. >"From what you've told us, it didn't happen out of nowhere... I highly doubt you have anything to worry about. It's not like we don't have magic too. How many can say that in this world?"
  368. >You can almost hear some sort of quivering in Prism's voice
  369. >Everyone has their own points
  370. >You bring up your hand to rub your eyes
  371. >Whether its been stress or fatigue, your eyelids have been twitching for months now
  372. "Yeah... I know. I know I shouldn't. But who else can I honestly even talk to about this? She knows about me, and all of you. And Hans seems like an alright guy, he's just a li-"
  373. >"We are NOT going to her, Anonymous. If I see her again, I'm cremating her."
  374. >"That's murder, Sparks."
  375. >"Ask me if I care, Jacky. Fuck her."
  376. >"Jacky has a point. We can't do something like that here. Police are everywhere and it would create issues for Anon."
  377. >It's a little uncanny to hear all of them speak so nonchalantly about that
  378. >"If we get caught. Who would believe a witness saying that it was a talking pony that burned some bitch to cinders?"
  379. >"We've shown ourselves too much here for that to work."
  380. >"And Anon and I have gone out a whole lot together... so it's hard to separate anything we do from him."
  381. "We're not killing anyone. I can't believe I have to say that."
  382. >"Anon, it's going to be her or us one of these days, I promise you that. And I'm not going to let her ruin things again."
  383. "Again?"
  384. >That finally brings your visual attention back to them
  385. >They all look... different
  386. >Like they're on the same wavelength about something
  387. >Even Jacky looks serious
  388. >Kinda like a criminal that had enough joking around
  389. >A stray thought about her sneering at you kinda like that and poking a hoof into your chest keeps you from getting absorbed into the serious atmosphere
  390. "What do you mean, again?"
  391. >Prism gives you a side glance before sighing
  392. >"We've had issues before. But that sort of thing is all behind us."
  393. >She looks at Jacky
  394. >The dork pone needs a second before realizing that she was being stared at
  395. >The serious face melts into a more embarrassed smile
  396. >"Isn't that right, Jacky?"
  397. >"W-well yeah! I mean, obviously."
  398. >Jacky gives you an even wider smile
  399. >It looks a little ashamed
  400. >You've seen her smile before
  401. >This one feels different
  402. >A lot of this feels... different
  403. >"Yeah... well..."
  404. >Even Shine's cold, arguably murderous tone melts
  405. >"...whatever. Just don't do it."
  406. >Shine headbutts your chest
  407. >Thankfully it's more with her face than her horn
  408. >"You got us watching your back. You have magic on your side. And..."
  409. >She lets out a long 'ehhhhh'
  410. >"We're... we're all really kinda the only ones of ourselves anyway, aren't we? Any of us could just drop off like a fly and that would be the end."
  411. >You can feel her talking into your side
  412. >"We're all dead ends, if we're being serious. None of had any families or else..."
  413. >"We wouldn't be here."
  414. >Jacky glances at Shine, as if she were waiting for the chance to join in
  415. >"I mean... it kinda feels that way, doesn't it? Like if we wouldn't be here if anything else happened."
  416. >She looks at her two sisters expectantly
  417. >"Come on, back me up here! Would Tuco have gotten rich from all of that gold if he didn't choose to become a bandit?"
  418. >She kinda has a point
  419. >Prism seems to pick up on this
  420. >"Are you saying this is a coincidence?"
  421. >"No, dang it, I'm saying that this was meant to be!"
  422. "Fate?"
  423. >Jacky perks up, grinning
  424. >"Exactly, fate! Anon, we came up just when we were needed the most. And... well, you came up just when WE needed you most!"
  425. "Is that how that happened?"
  426. >Jacky looks like she was about to confirm that but stopped halfway
  427. >"...well I mean we're here to begin with. That can't be idle coincidence, can it?"
  428. >"Darling, we're going more than a few levels too deep to be taken seriously, aren't we?"
  429. >Prism sounds just a little condescending
  430. >"Oh you be... quiet! I mean it!"
  431. >Jack deflates
  432. >"Seriously though. If all of this was just random chance and means nothing greater in the wider world... should we worry?"
  433. >Shine, who slid her face against your side repeatedly to possibly dry her eyes, glared at her
  434. >"What are you even on about?"
  435. >"That... well if this is all coincidence. Shouldn't we consider ourselves extremely lucky? And if it isn't coincidence, and this is some... bigger thing like fate. Then shouldn't we relax and not worry so much? Because we may all end up standing on a cross with a rope around our neck. But someone will shoot that rope and we'll be alright in the end."
  436. "...who's gonna shoot the rope if we're all about to hang?"
  437. >That further takes the wind out of her sails
  438. >The more she spoke, the more she actually got into it
  439. >"...well if we all have guns..."
  440. "Jack, only one of us can operate a firearm to save our lives."
  441. >"I could probably use magic."
  442. "Correction, we have one of us that can operate a firearm and one that can use magic."
  443. >"I'm sure I could maybe fly and avoid getting hung..."
  444. "I've never seen you fly but alright. So three of us can do something."
  445. >All eyes fall on Jacky
  446. >She shifts uncomfortably
  447. >Focusing on Prism
  448. >Then Shine
  449. >Then you
  450. >"...y-you guys will save me, right?"
  451. >You rub your chin
  452. "...so if we're in theory about to hang. That means we're going to split treasure four ways. Right?"
  453. >Shine gives a dark chuckle
  454. >"Three, if one hangs..."
  455. >Prism exhales with a content sigh
  456. >"Two, if one has an accident getting loose..."
  457. "...technically only one if only one of us is strong enough to actually make off with it."
  458. >"A-anon?! Come on! If anything, we ditch the other two and just make out like kings!"
  459. >"Oh, so you would leave me to dangle while you make off and out with Anon? I see how it is."
  460. >"You forget about me and I would haunt you both."
  461. >You shake your head and lean back, going back to staring at the sky
  462. "Such a great group of friends. All it takes is a few bags of gold coins..."
  463. >"It isn't like you're above it. You would carry it all by yourself and leave us high and dry!"
  464. "I'd carry you three with me. But none of you could actually carry it. And if I'm carrying it, I'm spending it."
  465. >You can't help but relax
  466. >Not all of your worries have been addressed
  467. >And this certainly won't be the last time you'll have these concerns
  468. >You close your eyes
  469. >Whether it's dumb luck or fate, they're with you for good
  470. >You can't ever feel sad about that
  471. >You just hope that it won't be for a short time
  472. >You don't want to leave them alone
  473. >You don't want to let them down
  474.  
  475. >You flinch, one of your own hands slapping against your face
  476. >What the hell?
  477. >You look around your environment
  478. >You're in bed
  479. >Head on a folded up pillow that smells like Jack
  480. >You're in bed?
  481. >Well, naturally
  482. >The only illumination in the room is your laptop
  483. >Your playlist stopped
  484. >"You alright Anon?"
  485. "Yeah... yeah I'm good."
  486. >Whoever that was, thanks for being considerate
  487. >More internal systems reboot
  488. >There is someone laying against your side, their head on your stomach
  489. "Blue Moon attacking again?"
  490. >You've been playing a lot of an old GBA series lately
  491. >"Not more so than usual, commander."
  492. "Good. Fucking Grit..."
  493. >You raise your hand up and rest it on the pony's head
  494. >Ow
  495. >You forget the horn was there
  496. ...
  497. >Since when did Jack get a horn?
  498. "...Shine?"
  499. >"...yeah?"
  500. "...where is everyone?"
  501. >You feel like you have some severe sense of muddlement
  502. >"Are you alright? Jacky and Prism are out on the patio. They told me that they were planning something secret for you, and that I should keep you distracted."
  503. >She shakes her head free of your hand and rests her chin on it when it falls onto your stomach
  504. >"But... you were already mostly asleep and kept going 'uh huh'. You talk kinda funny in your sleep, did you know that?"
  505. "Gah... water?"
  506. >You hold out your free hand, quasi-blindly swiping for your insulated cup
  507. >Instead you feel a metal straw poke against your lips
  508. >Magic is kinda convenient, isn't it?
  509. >You gulp down more than half of the cup as if you hadn't drank in days
  510. "Ah... thank Christ. Thanks."
  511. >The straw leaves
  512. >Though your senses have been renewed, you've kept your eyes mostly closed
  513. >"Sure. What happened there?"
  514. "Where?"
  515. >"You had a bad dream, didn't you?"
  516. "Did I?"
  517. >You normally remember your dreams, no matter how good or bad they are
  518. >This one... it's completely gone, except for maybe a few isolated, senseless fragments
  519. >"Looks like it I guess."
  520. "Feels like I was in a blind panic. Like what I was trying to do was just almost enough to work."
  521. >Some fragments, like first person gifs, feel like they're starting to surface
  522. >It wasn't about any of them
  523. >It was about your mom
  524. >If you lost her next, you would be the last person in your family period
  525. >"...want to talk about it?"
  526. "No. Nah."
  527. >You're happy to shut that down before it even gets started
  528. >You talk about enough stuff as is
  529. >Your free hand wanders over to the laptop touchpad
  530. >The next video in the series plays
  531. >It's some neat bald Finnish guy
  532. >You think he's Finnish, anyway
  533. >It has been fun, introducing the girls to different nationalities and their goofy accents
  534. >Jack has nailed some of them well without really trying which was pretty neat
  535. "What's their secret plan supposed to be?"
  536. >You finally speak after maybe ten minutes of watching the guy spam battle copters
  537. >"I'm not telling you."
  538. "Seriously?
  539. >"What? They're entitled to their own schemes and stuff, aren't they?"
  540. "I guess that's fair."
  541. >"It's most likely for you, it's more than fair."
  542. >You feel... something massaging you?
  543. >Like some sort of broad, blunt force is pressing into your back and chest
  544. >It's enough to make your back pop pretty hard
  545. "That's..."
  546. >You don't even get a chance to adequately respond to the compression
  547. >"I've been trying this out on Jacky. Figured if I make a mistake and crush something, she would probably be most likely to survive it."
  548. >That's... confidence building
  549. >You struggle against the force
  550. >It eases up and fades, allowing you to finally inhale
  551. >It wasn't compressing you so hard that it was going to kill you
  552. >But it was a sort of mental reaction
  553. "Glad to know you'd test that out on her. I think I asked before, but when did you get so comfortable with magic? I remember when you were talking about blowing Jack and I away."
  554. >She grumbles something and lifts her head, just to drop her chin on your hand again
  555. >"I can still do that, don't test me."
  556. >Her tone is dull, completely lacking in threat credibility
  557. >"Well... if I can be honest, I wanted to impress you. But after that urge kinda came and went... and is still around, kinda... I didn't really know how to use it well. Safely."
  558. "Given you just pressed me into a sandwich and could have broken my spine and smashed various organs... I'd say that was pretty safe."
  559. >"Right?"
  560. >She pauses
  561. >You can hear her exhale
  562. >Feel it on the topside of your fingers
  563. >"You like asking me about magic, don't you?"
  564. "Yeah. It's pretty wild stuff. I guess it's kinda huge evidence that you're the real deal. Magic is... not really a thing here."
  565. >"What about those guys that can make balls vanish?"
  566. "Oh please, anyone who has a big enough m..."
  567. >You stop yourself from finishing that thought
  568. "...that's all just sleight of hand anyway."
  569. >"Like magic Trixie uses?"
  570. "Yeah, except that's also real magic too."
  571. >"Would you like Jacky more if she were a unicorn like me?"
  572. "Honestly if she were a unicorn I'm sure I'd be dead by now."
  573. >You get the vague notion of how that line of questioning could go
  574. >"I sometimes wish they were unicorns like me. We could have had so much more success if we could all use magic and think the same way."
  575. "Unicorns think the same way?"
  576. >"Well, no. But we probably do when it comes to how to approach topics. Like with you, how do you get a drink?"
  577. "Well, obviously I-"
  578. >"Without using hands."
  579. >That would be awkward to say the very least
  580. "...hm..."
  581. >"Exactly. Maybe being around you, seeing humans do stuff. It kinda gives me a new idea of how I can use magic. Or maybe I just relearn what magic actually is. Iunno. You're asking me to explain how I use my 'hands' like how you use yours. I guess."
  582. >She sounds unsure
  583. >Not frustrated
  584. >Not yet
  585. >But it's apparent that she's limited by her own thoughts
  586. >"I don't feel smart by using magic. It's not like in those RPGs where a higher intelligence gives you better magic. It's not like that at all. And I don't think I have any MP to speak of. I kinda got tired before but it wasn't like I would get a headache. I would just feel tired."
  587. "Like working out?"
  588. >"I guess? But no parts of me feel strained. My legs don't hurt. My head doesn't. Or my horn. It's just... draining. It can be. It was."
  589. "Wiggy."
  590. >"Yeah. Magic was so commonplace back home, no one ever really thought about it. But here? You guys have like a thousand ways magic can work."
  591. "Do any of them hit the mark?"
  592. >"I don't know. I really don't. What if a unicorn handles magic completely different than me? Or what if some can only do magic if they remember a 'spell'? What even constitutes as a spell?"
  593. "You're asking me?"
  594. >"Yeah! You know stuff."
  595. "I act like I know stuff really well."
  596. >"Then act up an answer."
  597. "I have no clue. Maybe it's a skill like typing or driving. Some people can't type without pecking at keys, speaking out what they're typing and that's on their best of days. But we also have pro stunt drivers who can steer better than they can walk. Maybe it's just... like that?"
  598. >Shine doesn't answer for a few moments
  599. >You've been watching the playlist the entire time
  600. >From the position of her head on your hand, you think she's been doing the same thing
  601. >"I guess that does make sense, doesn't it?"
  602. "Does it?"
  603. >"I don't know."
  604. "Alternatively..."
  605. >Your mind fails you
  606. "...scratch that, I don't really know what else would be a good option. It's magic. Twilight was a huge student of it, so you can apparently be a big scholar in how it can be used."
  607. >"And she had actual spells too."
  608. "But a lot of it was freeform too, wasn't it?"
  609. >"I think so."
  610. "You ponies are freaking weird, man."
  611. >You inhale
  612. >It's kinda relaxing, how your room has transformed
  613. >The scent of pone is strong
  614. >Your entire apartment has transformed
  615. >Where would you be if they weren't around?
  616. >Where would even they be?
  617. >"You're the one who wanted us. You're weirder."
  618. "I won't argue that."
  619. >You hear a satisfied 'heh'
  620. "I am super weird. But you know what? I wouldn't trade any of you for anything. There is nothing I want in life that supersedes having friends like you."
  621. >"You really are proud of saying things like that, aren't you?"
  622. "If it embarrasses you more than it does me? Yes."
  623. >Shine rubs her chin against your hand
  624. >"That's good."
  625. "...so what are those two goons planning?"
  626. >"..."
  627. >Shine giggles
  628. >She sounds so relaxed
  629. >She always used to sound so easily agitated
  630. >"You won't give up, will you?"
  631. "Not in a timely manner."
  632. >"I'm still not telling."
  633. "Really?"
  634. >"Really. They're my friends too. And you've taught me how to be a better friend."
  635. "Damn my lessons of friendship and loyalty."
  636. >"You really have yourself to blame."
  637.  
  638. "Alright, you nerds."
  639. >After a little extended morale boost from Jacky, you finally found it in yourself to stop putting it off
  640. >D&D night
  641. >Sorta
  642. >There was no serious devoted night to it, but you at least wanted things to get settled in and started
  643. "So who has their characters ready?"
  644. >Jacky is sitting across from you
  645. >Shine to your right
  646. >Prism to hers
  647. >In the center of the square is a thin segment of cardboard that can act as a tabletop surrogate
  648. >"Mine is on the laptop."
  649. >Prism nods to herself, visibly satisfied with whatever it is she made
  650. >"Mine too."
  651. >Jacky smiles at you
  652. >Her mane is pretty fluffy now
  653. >Helps that you've disheveled it considerably
  654. >"I think all of our sheets are... were we supposed to do those on paper?"
  655. "...do we have paper?"
  656. >After a short thought you shake your head
  657. "Gotta get some I suppose. Anyway. If we all do, who wants to start first?"
  658. >You twist the laptop around to the trio
  659. >None of them exactly aim to take it
  660. >"Well I guess I can start. Jacky and I-"
  661. >"Are sisters!"
  662. >Prism and Jack seem ready to go
  663. >"Well, I am a Rogue, alignment Chaotic Neutral. My skills aren't combat-focused, but I am capable of fighting if needed. My highest attribute is intelligence, second highest is dexterity. It means I'm getting the most out of my skills."
  664. >Prism speaks as if she rehearsed it
  665. >Somehow it fits
  666. >You're not sure how chaotic she'll be but she isn't the senselessly violent sort
  667. >"I am..."
  668. >Jacky rears back, trying to flex with her front legs
  669. >"BARBARIAN! I am also chaotic neutral, and I am Dashie's cooler sister! I leave the scheming and skills to her, my focus is beating down enemies and taking treasure!"
  670. >She poses, waiting for a reaction from the crowd of three
  671. >No one says anything
  672. >She wobbles a little before going back to a neutral sitting position
  673. >"I... well I don't like worrying about skills. And we need a strong fighter, and I'm strong. So it's kinda obvious, right?"
  674. "You have a point."
  675. >You scratch your chin
  676. >Jacky The Barbarian
  677. "Alright, we have strength checker to crush my head between her thighs. Good call."
  678. >"...wait, what?"
  679. >Your comment catches her off guard entirely
  680. "MOVING ON! Horny horse, you're up next."
  681. >Shine scoffs and straightens her back
  682. >"Well I... am a gorgous, wise sorceress. Neutral evil, I don't bother myself with petty violence. But I'm sure I could completely eliminate an entire group of guards with a single spell."
  683. "You're all level one so... I doubt it. But go on."
  684. >She gives you a dignified yet venomous glare and raises her chin
  685. >Her own attempt at an accent is... lacking
  686. >"All the same, I am the smart sister."
  687. "You're all sisters in this campaign?"
  688. >"Well... we are. Right?"
  689. >Jack seems to think it's the most obvious thing
  690. >Maybe it is
  691. >Prism nods
  692. >Shine shrugs
  693. >"Sometimes you can't choose your family..."
  694. "Fascinating..."
  695. >You focus on bringing up the character sheets while they bicker among themselves
  696. >Something about it involves which one gets to be the oldest
  697. >"Let's handle it like other people do, Rock Paper Scissors!"
  698. >"Jacky you're all hooves. We're all hooves."
  699. >"...you're all hooves."
  700. >"We can have Anon do it both ways."
  701. >"Isn't that cheating if he knows how both hands are gonna go?"
  702. >"I thought I would be the oldest sister. I am the more responsible one."
  703. >"Since when?"
  704. >You chuckle at their goofing around
  705. >You do find the character sheets, though they look a little...
  706. >Over-detailed
  707. >To the point that they're 90% description, 5% stats and 5% equipment
  708. >They certainly are giving their inventories a lot of thought
  709. >Prism has a variety of tools that boost her skill checks
  710. >Jack has a lot of small healing items and food
  711. >Shine has... nothing but smoke sticks, flasks of acid and a few thunderstones
  712. >They haven't gone off the rails completely when it comes to the cost of everything
  713. >But they're pretty dang rich in gear, for starting off
  714. >You shrug
  715. >You'll let them have it, but it doesn't mean you'll give them the leeway to just grab whatever
  716. >Not unless they're smart about it
  717. >"What if we flip a coin?"
  718. >They're still on about deciding who's oldest
  719. "How about we handle this like true nerds, since we're talking about D&D?"
  720. >Jacky points at you, excited
  721. >"IT'S SETTLED! How do I win?"
  722. "Dice roller."
  723. >"Dice what?"
  724. >You nod and bring up the browser, going to a dice roller site you've used since you were with your old friends
  725. "We all roll a D20. Highest number gets to be oldest. Second highest number is second oldest. Lowest number is youngest."
  726. >You nod to yourself, scanning over the expressions of the girls
  727. >Jacky seems confident
  728. >Shine's game face is on
  729. >Prism doesn't look so sure of it
  730. "And, of course, we all see it on the screen so there's no cheating. We're praying to RNGesus now, and he doesn't take prisoners."
  731. >You slide the laptop onto the cardboard tabletop and rotate it for all to see
  732. "D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20 and D100. Everything we need and then some, including modifier option and number of dice rolled."
  733. >"Sounds like this is D-stressing."
  734. >Shine smugs over her own comment
  735. "You're gonna handle D's nuts in a second. So, D first, J second, S third?"
  736. >No pone has any issues
  737. "So... first click."
  738. >Click
  739. >It's a 15
  740. >The pegasus sighs and nods
  741. >"That sounds about right to me."
  742. >Click
  743. >11
  744. >"Wha--but... dang..."
  745. >Click
  746. >16
  747. >"HA! I knew it, I'm the oldest."
  748. "I guess it makes sense, you're a spellcaster. It has probably taken a few years for you to learn how to do stuff. But I don't think it'll honestly affect anything stat-wise. It's not like you're going to be some old woman, unless you want to be."
  749. >They all listed the same age on the sheets anyway
  750. >All human, too
  751. >Except Prism did request wings on her character and Shine added that she had a horn
  752. >You're not gonna let that fly, no matter how goofy it would be
  753. >"Dang man... I don't want to be the youngest."
  754. "Think about it this way, Jack. Age before beauty. They're first on age but..."
  755. >That comment makes her bubble up some goofy giggle
  756. >That same comment leads to Shine giving a thousand yard stare at the unexpectedly victorious barbarian
  757. >Prism looks like she's trying to not let it bother her
  758. "...anyway, that's settled..."
  759. >The growing smell of ozone in the air is letting you know that the sooner you change topics the better
  760. "So do you guys have any other ideas of what you want settled? Since you're all playing as humans, no wings and no horn. Wings would allow flight and that would be pretty broken in terms of taking care of things. But let's not... turn away the possibility of personal enchantments. But that's gonna be really big too."
  761. >"There's no more words
  762. "...alrighty then."
  763. >You didn't think you'd see a sore winner but D&D brings out the most curious traits in some people and ponies
  764. >You can't help but wonder how things will turn out when it's all dice rolls and planning
  765.  
  766. >To more appropriately get the girls in the proper atmosphere to play, you pilfer the kitchen of all available snacks and drinks
  767. >Soda, chips, a few candy bars and even a few bottles of fruit juice and water
  768. >Everything is either in a bottle, wrapper or plastic bag
  769. >Just as nature intended
  770. >You couldn't find a proper notebook to save your life but in your room you d come across an old art book
  771. >You rip out the first four pages and stuff them into one of your dresser drawers
  772. >No one needs to see that shit
  773. >It does make you wonder where you left those light blue pencils though
  774. >By the time they transcribe their character sheets to paper, you form an...
  775. >Adequate
  776. >Ish
  777. >Start to the campaign
  778. >In true DM fashion, almost everything will be made up on the fly
  779. >You never used adventure modules with your friends
  780. >Old friends
  781. >Previous friends
  782. >It was always a lot of vague plot hooks and focus on what the characters did
  783. >"So Anon, how much money do we start with?"
  784. >Jacky's two sodas in already
  785. >The glass bottle real sugar stuff too
  786. >The good shit
  787. "You kidding me? Count yourselves lucky you aren't in debt. All three of you decided to add whatever you want."
  788. >"You aren't saying we can't do it though."
  789. >Shine shrugs, purposefully giving you an indirect stare
  790. >You get the feeling she's really regretting being the oldest one
  791. >Jacky seems pretty happy about it though
  792. "That's right. But you better be careful about using them. Those aren't common items. They aren't cheap either."
  793. >"Best to not look a gift DM in the mouth then... besides, maybe we just found them."
  794. >Prism has been pretty curt too
  795. >It's going to be real fun to see how they deal with role failures
  796. "Yeah, don't get me started on mouths or I'll start with yours. Everyone good?"
  797. >No complaints come from any of them
  798. "Alright, groovy."
  799. >You start a particular YouTube song
  800. >It's an accordion cover of something ambient
  801. >Foreboding
  802. >Almost a downer tune, when played by the instrument
  803. "Your country has never been one of peace. It has always been ruled by some war-hungry lordling or council. No matter the form of leadership, bodies have been thrown on the pyres of supposed fortune and glory that comes with an ever-stagnant border. Your home, your town, has become one of the latest outposts for a border covering militia. Your unique... skills. However they were honed, will make you stand out of the crowd. Your family coffers are low, your home is in modest disrepair and your future are bleak. But maybe."
  804. >You nod, looking over them
  805. "Maybe you can use this chaos to build your own future. To end up more than a mere tax payer and eventual casualty of this bloody machine. But nothing is certain in this life. Watch your backs, trust yourselves and do not let mere money change who and what you are."
  806. >The music begins to fade out while you continue
  807. "It's mid-day. The militia has taken root at the tavern where they're provided beds, food and drink. At the cost of slowly siphoning town supplies. Good for the merchants and local economy, not so good for finding your regular tier of dinner."
  808. >They all stare at you, engrossed in your storytelling
  809. "...that's it for now."
  810. >Jack shakes her head, caught off guard
  811. >"Oh, er... ok. Who goes first?"
  812. "Anyone. Ask each other questions, ask me questions. There's no limit to what you can learn, as long as you go about it in a fair way."
  813. >"Ok..."
  814. >She looks at her cohorts
  815. >"Alright... so where would we be? I guess I would be talking up the militia about joining. It's probably a job which means pay, right?"
  816. >Prism narrows her gaze on the cardboard table
  817. >A Milky Way is stuck in the middle
  818. >Apparently they're gambling it for something
  819. >"If Jacky is asking them upfront questions, I'm doing some investigating on the militia itself. Battles won, lost, where they're going and why they're making our home their base."
  820. "Right on. Shiner?"
  821. >A displeased look spreads on the mare's face
  822. >"I don't trust them. I try to check out their stockpiles of supplies. Check them for anything... a militia shouldn't normally have."
  823. "Like?"
  824. >"I don't know. But I'll find out."
  825. "Right on. Well-fucking-oiled machine we got."
  826. >"This ain't our first rodeo, Anon."
  827. >Jacky gives you a smirk and a wink
  828. >You certainly don't doubt it
  829. "Well, let's start in the order we heard things. Jack, you're up."
  830. >Thankfully you made a good few notes on the militia and most points of interest
  831. >But you didn't anticipate Shine asking about their supplies
  832. "You proudly make your way up to the tavern-"
  833. >"I have my great axe with me, right?"
  834. "Your... damn lady, you're one serious bruiser. Yes, you have your axe with you. Given you can cut wood like a monster, it's probably gonna be weird if you're without it."
  835. >You shake your head
  836. >You can't imagine Jack using a weapon
  837. "You're a familiar face to the old couple running the place. Not just once have you spent your pay on their pies and stew. Could go for some stew, actually..."
  838. >"Wanna have Sparky make some later?"
  839. >"Wait, who said I'm now the stew wench?"
  840. "Since right now. Anyway, you do find a new face at the bar. Some rough looking guy who looks like he hasn't slept well in months but is kept awake and alert with some stern sense of... something."
  841. >"Something?"
  842. "That's right. He can't help but notice the buff bumpkin coming up so he focuses keenly on you rather than his drink."
  843. >You shift your voice to sound a little more gravely
  844. "You look like you're itchin' for something."
  845. >"Am I?"
  846. "I'm acting as him now, just talk to me like I'm him."
  847. >"Ooh... oh! Oh, ok."
  848. >Jacky reseats herself, tipping over an empty glass bottle in the process
  849. >She tries to deeper her own voice
  850. >"I'm here to see if you're hiring for an-"
  851. "You don't need to really act like that. Talking normally is fine."
  852. >"Ah, alright. Well, I'm here to see if you're hiring. You guys do pay, right? Obviously you're looking for new hands if you're stuck here and not in some sort of city."
  853. >She shrugs with her words
  854. "Maybe. Not really the sort to hire random... wood cutters? You got any sort of martial training?"
  855. >She looks at you with a blank face
  856. >"...Do I?"
  857. "Probably not but since you're a barbarian, you can do pretty dang well in a fight for being an untrained brawler."
  858. >You speak in your normal tone to help show you're not being a character
  859. >"Well... I can swing my axe around pretty well. I guess I've been in a fight or two."
  860. >You nod
  861. "Is that so? Well consider yourself hired."
  862. >"Wait, just like that?"
  863. "Sure. We lost three men last week."
  864. >"Really? Did they die?"
  865. "No, fuckers deserted! They took half our rations and fled like whipped dogs."
  866. >All three of them flinch at your angry tone
  867. >"G-geeze... why did they do that?"
  868. >You shrug
  869. "The man shrugs. He claims that they've been fighting for months, and it hasn't even honestly been real fighting. Light skirmishing, chasing red herrings, like they're being led in circles."
  870. >"To be honest it sounds like easy pay, doesn't it..."
  871. >You nod
  872. "From what he's telling you, the most injury anyone has sustained was from occasional tripwire traps."
  873. >"Well dang, traps are nothing for Dashie."
  874. "As long as she's around."
  875. >"There are no traps in the tavern, right?"
  876. >The rogue's ears perk and twitch upright
  877. "Not there, no."
  878. >Jacky shrugs
  879. >"Alright... well... when do we get paid?"
  880. "For you? End of the week. You the only one?"
  881. >"No way! I got my two sisters to join in!"
  882. >Shine and Prism look at her with their own dubious expressions
  883. "Three of you then... are they like you too?"
  884. >"Well no. But they're trustworthy!"
  885. "Is that so? Tell me about them then..."
  886. >You nod and write down a note on Jacky's encounter
  887. "Alright, Jack is doing her thine. D-bash, you're up."
  888. >Her wings nervously flinch and flap once
  889. >"I guess if Jacky is also doing some recon and at the tavern... I go out around the town perimeter. The militia probably has guards that are posted outside, right? I go to find one of them."
  890. "Any in particular?"
  891. >"Anyone who looks like they would be wiling to talk."
  892. "You got it."
  893. >Given this is all home territory and basic searching, there's really no need for any dice rolls
  894. >But you occasionally fumble around and act like you have something going on behind the scenes
  895. >That usually makes the players antsy
  896. "After skirting through the outskirts of town, you do eventually come across a militia member that looks... uncomfortable."
  897. >"How do I know he's a militia member?"
  898. "Good question. You've never seen him before, he's armed and has well-worn padded armor. He also looks like he's waiting for someone."
  899. >"Apparently it isn't me... I step into his field of view and wave him over."
  900. "Very well. You make yourself known to him. It takes him a minute to register that you're a friendly face."
  901. >You shift to a vaguely trembling voice
  902. "I-identify yourself! You a local?!"
  903. >"...he's really concerned, isn't he."
  904. "Sure sounds like it."
  905. >"Diplomacy check. I tell him that I am a local and that I'm not a threat."
  906. "Works for me."
  907. >You hardly need to actually do an actual check
  908. >If it was a real check, she would have passed it anyway
  909. >"...can I see the results?"
  910. "You passed it fine. For skill checks, I'm going to keep that secret. Especially since some checks can't be revealed."
  911. >"Oh alright... well. I ask him why he's freaking out like this."
  912. >You resume the shaky voice
  913. "Why? Why should I be calm? We're on the verge of a real attack this time, I know it! We've been led in circles for weeks and weeks. We find traps laid out just for us, we had some deserters, we're fucked! We're in the middle of nowhere, we have no barricades. We've been hauling around some sort of sealed box like bait! It's a trap and I fucking know it..."
  914. >"...should he really be saying this much to someone who just came up to him?"
  915. "Honestly? No. But he looks severely bothered."
  916. >"I ask him why he's so worried. Surely skirmishes and clashes between factions like this isn't new, is it?"
  917. >You chuckle
  918. "He snaps his fingers like you get it."
  919. >The voice changes again
  920. "Exactly! But this is different... why? Because it's a new strategy. We're bait. We're bait and I've been on pay long enough to know that we're expendable. We are if we're out here..."
  921. >"That... is worrying."
  922. "It is. Do you keep talking to him?"
  923. >"Does he have more information?"
  924. "You can try to pump more out of him. Try to figure out locations, dates. Learn about the traps even?"
  925. >"I do that then."
  926. "Alright."
  927. >Things are going well
  928. >For an introduction
  929. "You're up Shine. Your two sisters are out getting what they know. You said you were going to their stockpiles, right?"
  930. >She looks... worried
  931. >they all look like they're taking this seriously, but the wheels in her head are turning fast
  932. >"Yeah... where would they hide their stuff anyway?"
  933. "They wouldn't hide it, you've probably seen them moving things around when they first came around. But it would be in one of the town barns, probably out near a farm or two. Or some sort of silo. Granary even?"
  934. >"...well what does our town have?"
  935. "Probably a barn at least."
  936. >"Well damn. Ok, I go looking for any sort of storage building that has guards."
  937. "You're sure they would have guards?"
  938. >"They're a militia, of course they have someone guarding money or backup weapons. Or other things."
  939. "Fair enough. You do happen to find someone hanging out in front of a barn that has been barred. You probably never once went into it but you know it never used to be barred."
  940. >She grins
  941. >"Jackpot."
  942. >She looks down at her sheet, the first one to do so, and exhales through her nose
  943. >"Alright... I approach him and... I have a bluff skill..."
  944. "Yeah?"
  945. >"Yeah. So I approach and tell him to unbar the barn."
  946. "Why would he do that?"
  947. >"Because I'm..."
  948. >She falters
  949. >"...does this town have a mayor?"
  950. "A local governor or something, sure."
  951. >"...you think this idiot knows him?"
  952. >That is a good question
  953. >You really do underestimate your girls sometimes
  954. "Probably not."
  955. >"Because I'm the governor's daughter, obviously!"
  956. "Right... alright, obviously. But let's see..."
  957. >You actually do make a roll on this one
  958. >It's a mere 5
  959. "The militiaman looks pretty... relaxed. Your high and mighty assertation doesn't phase him at all."
  960. >"Wait, seriously?"
  961. "Seriously. He doesn't look like he cares to begin with."
  962. >She grumbles and looks at her sheet again
  963. >"...crap. Can I at least talk to him?"
  964. "I presume so. You have social skills."
  965. >"Alright. Why are they taking up one of the barns for their own use? I need to use it too."
  966. >You adopt an almost surfer dude tone
  967. >Just more relaxed
  968. "Relax babe. It's just official business that's keeping us here. We'll be out of your hair before you know it."
  969. >Shine gets visibly flustered at your tone and words
  970. >"W-what's up with this guy?"
  971. "He's just kinda chill. He's out in the middle of nowhere and his job for the day is to stand next to a set of big, quarter-rotten wooden doors."
  972. >"Can I burn through the doors?"
  973. "Do you have any fire magic available?"
  974. >"I have Burning Hands!"
  975. "...so you're going to attack this guy?"
  976. >She pauses
  977. >Like she's actually thinking it over
  978. >"...I guess not. What can I do to convince him to open the door?"
  979. "You aren't going to talk to him about stuff?"
  980. >"Should I? I already heard what's going on."
  981. "You do but your character doesn't."
  982. >She watches her sheet, like she's expecting some sort of key to a puzzle
  983. >"...so why are they here? Who told them to come to my home and take everything for themselves?"
  984. "Finally, some sensible questions."
  985. >You clear your throat
  986. "Boss man told us where we were going... and to be honest? I'm sure enjoying the local brew more than anything else I've had. It's fresh, food is fresh, the air isn't stagnant."
  987. >Shine shakes her head
  988. >"That makes no sense. Forest air is fresh. Isn't it?"
  989. >She's quick to pick up on that
  990. "Well sure it is... except the parts where we go. Or the parts we leave."
  991. >"What do you mean by that?"
  992. >You make another dice roll
  993. >18
  994. >Even without her natural Charisma modifier, she passes the check
  995. "Well you're the governor's daughter... probably. Right?"
  996. >You tap her sheet
  997. "Remember to make a note of this."
  998. >You resume the character's tone
  999. "You were probably already told this. But we're setting up some traps of our own. Gonna suck for the wildlife. But hey, can't claim a border for yourself if it's too hazardous to your health, right?"
  1000. >All three ponies look shocked
  1001. >"...is this guy for real?"
  1002. >"Are they poisoning our land?"
  1003. >"Jacky is at the tavern talking to the leader and she's roping us into it!"
  1004. >Shine stands up, stamping her hoof down on the cardboard pseudo tabletop
  1005. >"I CAST COLOR SPRAY!"
  1006. >Neither Jack nor Prism seem to understand what that means
  1007. "You really chose that as your other level one spell?"
  1008. >"Well obviously."
  1009. "...alright, your choice."
  1010. >"What the heck, what are you doing?! I'm trying to get us some work!"
  1011. >"Yeah and we aren't going to have anything if they're hauling around poison! Do I succeed?"
  1012. "Well..."
  1013. >You want to roll... but you didn't exactly stat out everyone. But given it's just a first level guy, you allow it to succeed
  1014. >She is doing it out of nowhere too so that helps
  1015. >You act like you roll anyway
  1016. "A brilliant color swirl sprays from your hands and into his face. He doesn't even have time to scream about his eyes because he falls unconscious almost immediately for..."
  1017. >It's only supposed to be for 2-8 turns
  1018. >But given the situation you can give her a little something extra
  1019. "Probably a good few minutes. Long enough for you to escape and find your sisters. Or to open the barn door and see what's in it."
  1020. >"I can't believe you just did that."
  1021. >Prism sounds more than shocked
  1022. >"Oh whatever, you know I've done worse before. I unbar the barn door and go inside! We gotta figure out what sort of thing they're hiding, and then I'll leave!"
  1023. "As you wish."
  1024. >You sigh, making a particular note about this
  1025. >More than most of the plot details will be based off of their actions, whether they know it or not
  1026. "So you rush inside and find a good number of chests and sacks. Most of which haven't moved since before you were born. But there is a little wagon that looks new. Probably was led by a donkey or something."
  1027. >"What's on it?"
  1028. "Usual things, supplies, a few crates... and a red box."
  1029. >Shine perks up and leans toward you
  1030. >"...how big is it?"
  1031. "Big enough to hold a few bodies. Human sized bodies."
  1032. >"I get closer to it..."
  1033. "Alright."
  1034. >You fake another roll
  1035. >It's a 6 but this is story material to hopefully get her butt in gear
  1036. "You get close to it and it... shakes. It smells absolutely rancid. Like worse than rotting meat."
  1037. >This information makes her face go at least one or two shades more pale pink
  1038. >"...so is something alive in it?"
  1039. "I don't know."
  1040. >"Sparky, get out of there."
  1041. >"Find us, Sparking. Leave it there."
  1042. >Shine looks at them then at you
  1043. >"Can the box be opened?"
  1044. "It can. But it's covered in at least three layers of intricate rope work. Far beyond anything you've dealt with. Oh, by the way. The closer you get to the box, the worst it smells. If you don't back away from it immediately, you will become violently ill."
  1045. >"...oh fuck. I run out and go find Jacky!"
  1046. "Smart move. You leave the barn unattended, with the doors wide open and the guard still unconscious from his color-overloaded coma. I hope you know what you're doing."
  1047. >You yawn, nodding
  1048. "Alright. Let's put a pause here."
  1049. >All of them look at you like you're crazy to some degree
  1050. "W-what?! Seriously? But Sparks is gonna tell me about the box!"
  1051. "Not right now she's not. We have a very good hook... and to be honest, I need to make some actual notes on what happened. The town isn't that big but it's not like you can just randomly go from A to B in a few seconds."
  1052. >No one seems satisfied with such a cliff hanger
  1053. "By the way, add 100 experience to everyone's sheet. Good team work out there. Shine may have... been a little hostile. But she figured out something really great. I don't think anyone knows what they're doing right now. I guess it'll be coming to a head soon."
  1054. >You save the word document and make a few folders to hide it in
  1055. >You'll know if anyone opens it due to the date on it
  1056. >"How much do I need to level up? These spell slots suck."
  1057. "Well you did choose to be a sorceress. Thousand to gain a level, right now. Getting 100 isn't a bad thing at all. A lot of people, DMs, only give experience for combat. I don't think you guys should be trying to fight anything right now. Not unless you have no other choice."
  1058. >"Geeze... well hold on, I gotta go."
  1059. >Jittery from the soda consumption and cliff hanger, Jacky pops up and trots with a sense of quickness to one of the bathrooms
  1060. >"This is going to be hard, isn't it."
  1061. >Prism seems worried
  1062. "I'm not going to be brutal. But if you guys don't work together, it's going to be very rough. War has changed."
  1063. >"I thought war never changes?"
  1064. "Only if you believe Ron Perlman, D."
  1065. >This is going to be fun
  1066. >It's not exactly a video game that everyone is watching
  1067. >It isn't a movie either, for once
  1068. >You just hope they'll want to stick with it
  1069.  
  1070. >Though the girls have been excited to get back to the campaign, you've opted to make it a weekly thing
  1071. >At least one tries to find a new way to ask you something about the story
  1072. >You enjoy answering questions about how skills can be used and a few other things
  1073. >But your lips are sealed otherwise
  1074. >Jack rushes into your room
  1075. >She dives onto the mattress, belly flopping with enough practice to where she bounces once and ends up with her head on your thigh
  1076. "...skillful."
  1077. >It really is, she used to end up headbutting your crotch
  1078. >Almost always on accident
  1079. >"Hiya."
  1080. "Hey there."
  1081. >"Whatcha up to?"
  1082. "Tower defense game about monkeys and balloons."
  1083. >"Oaah..."
  1084. >You keep focusing on the game while she watches
  1085. >Pop pop pop
  1086. >Pop
  1087. ...
  1088. >poppoppoppoppop
  1089. >"Hey Anon?"
  1090. "Yes?"
  1091. >"Ahhhhh-nooohn?"
  1092. "Yessssss-sah?"
  1093. >"Awesome guy?"
  1094. "Bodacious babe?"
  1095. >"Fancy... pants...?"
  1096. "What's up?"
  1097. >"Are you sure we can't play until Saturday?"
  1098. >Knew it
  1099. >You shake your head
  1100. "Absolutely positive."
  1101. >She pouts
  1102. >"But why not? We're all ready!"
  1103. "Have you planned out everything?"
  1104. >"Completely!"
  1105. "Then you'll be ready by then."
  1106. >"Don't hold out on me, man... Jacky gotta smash bad guys with aaa-aaa-xeh..."
  1107. >She angrily nuzzles your leg with the side of her head
  1108. >You pat her shoulder, nodding
  1109. "Trust me, I know your pain. But... well, if you guys go forward too much, I'm gonna need time to keep up."
  1110. >She stops as soon as you finish talking
  1111. >Her medium-length mane floofs up from the accumulated static
  1112. >"What do you mean?"
  1113. "Well, we're not using a module so I'm making it all up so far."
  1114. >"Really?"
  1115. "Really."
  1116. >You keep playing your game but all you can really do is upgrade your existing units
  1117. >Your pat turns to a more massaging pet
  1118. >The firm muscle and short fur feels nice
  1119. >"So... how does it work?"
  1120. >When was the last time you ever really massaged her?
  1121. >Everything feels new again
  1122. >You really don't even know what has been going on during the last few months you were...
  1123. >Just not yourself
  1124. "Well, I'm kinda making it up as we go along. I have a good few ideas of where it could go."
  1125. >Since this coming wave is going to be long, you put your other hand on her neck
  1126. >Massaging her is nice
  1127. >It relaxes you as much as it does her
  1128. >She begins to melt, exhaling like a softly deflating balloon
  1129. >Those ninja monkeys are OP
  1130. "For the most part, you guys make the story. I just gotta keep up and make sure you have a good challenge to it.
  1131. >"So does that mean we can do anything?"
  1132. "As long as you can do it, sure. You're really only limited by your imagination... and your skills. And I suppose where the other two are. Why did you go for Chaotic Neutral anyway?"
  1133. >You squeeze the side of her neck
  1134. >Then her shoulder
  1135. >Back and forth, you focus on one side then the next
  1136. >Your reward is a series of moans that change depending on where your massage
  1137. >You're tempting to go to her chest or ribs but you'd get too distracted if you turned her into a musical instrument
  1138. >She probably would be too
  1139. >"Well..."
  1140. >She kicks out her legs, as if that was the singular thing keeping her from max comfort levels
  1141. >"I'm... not gonna lie. None of us were all that good. But we weren't bad guys either."
  1142. "Yeah... I guess I can imagine."
  1143. >"And we weren't the most... law-abiding...?"
  1144. >She sounds like she's trying to make light of it
  1145. >Not that you particularly mind it
  1146. >Though you have never considered her useless, you stopped seeing her as any sort of crook or anything bad
  1147. >It was never for no reason
  1148. "I suppose that works too. More force of nature or self-focused?"
  1149. >She nods, smiling
  1150. >"Glad you understand!"
  1151. "Well of course. When a lot of people focus on being Chaotic Neutral, they more play as violent... just crazy loons. A lot of people ban Chaotic Neutral because a lot of them just idly kill people, or do things that ruin the campaign and then claim they're just acting in character."
  1152. >"That sounds laaaaaaaaaame."
  1153. >She extends her neck up when you go to massage the front of it
  1154. "Very. Why did Shine choose Neutral Evil? Not a lot of DMs allow evil characters either."
  1155. >She doesn't answer
  1156. >After a few more hard squeezes and rubs, you release her
  1157. >She shivers hard from the sudden stop
  1158. >"Well... we kinda talked about it. We all went through the classes and stuff and whenever the question came to alignment she had a really solid 'yeah that's me'."
  1159. "Is it really her?"
  1160. >Jack doesn't answer
  1161. >After a few moments she shrugs
  1162. >"None of us were all that good... and I guess she really wasn't so good. More than the rest of us."
  1163. >You don't doubt that at all
  1164. >You don't think she's bad at all
  1165. >But she probably would not make for a friend to a lot of sorts
  1166. >Especially with her control of magic now, she might really be capable of harming someone if she truly wanted to
  1167. >That's a risk you're fairly mindful of
  1168. >But no more than anyone else who has the capacity to be violent
  1169. >You go back to massaging her
  1170. >More gently this time
  1171. "Yeah... she really has improved with stuff, hasn't she?"
  1172. >"She has. We have you to thank for that."
  1173. "I guess so..."
  1174. >"You know it used to bother me. How she kept looking at you."
  1175. >Your hands falter
  1176. "Y... yeah?"
  1177. >You kinda didn't think it would really bother her all that much
  1178. >Kinda dumb to think, in hindsight
  1179. >"Yeah. I was scared for a little while."
  1180. "Why?"
  1181. >"Because I really did think for a while that she was better."
  1182. >She kicks her hind legs out and shakes her head
  1183. >"...no, that ain't it. It ain't about being better or not. I know she has that mind reading thing she did. And I know you can do a lot more things with her because of magic."
  1184. >She shakes her head again
  1185. >"I don't know. She really is like my sister. I guess it's important to remember that above everything else."
  1186. >You have been hanging out with her more, that much was true
  1187. >Though to be fair, Jack and Prism have been hanging out a whole lot too
  1188. >It seems more natural that everyone partakes of the buddy system
  1189. >Though on more than one night, when things were at their worst, you'd just keep to yourself
  1190. "I suppose that's true. I guess we hang out as much as you hang out with D."
  1191. >"That's true too. It feels so much like the old days when we play around..."
  1192. >She sounds so content when she says that
  1193. "Do you miss the old days?"
  1194. >It takes her a minute
  1195. >You've since stopped messing with the game itself
  1196. >"I do. But that's because we still had some good times. I miss those good times. But I don't miss the bad times."
  1197. >She shifts as a result of your massaging
  1198. >"I could never go back to how things were. I would miss you too much for it to be worth it."
  1199. >It's that dreamy tone in her voice
  1200. >Something about it
  1201. >It isn't said as a compliment, not directly
  1202. "I feel the same."
  1203. >"Really?"
  1204. "Really. I really don't miss my childhood. It fucking sucked. It sucked in so many horrible, genuinely terrible ways."
  1205. >You don't even say that with any sense of emotional weight
  1206. >It just is how it is
  1207. "I still miss how I used to hang out with..."
  1208. >What even are they to you anymore?
  1209. "My friends from back then."
  1210. >"What did you guys do?"
  1211. "What didn't we do? We'd argue for hours over the most stupid of things. Play games together. Watch anime and movies together. Just spend time around one another, even if we ended up doing different things entirely."
  1212. >"Like what we do!"
  1213. "Yeah."
  1214. >You get the feeling you've said this before
  1215. >You know for sure that you've had a few conversations with her that sound almost exactly the same
  1216. >You don't mind it
  1217. >Sometimes each time a topic is broached there are different angles that are hit
  1218. >"Hey... do you think Sparks would get along well with any of them?"
  1219. >You snort
  1220. "Oh please. Nah, she would steamroll any of them. She's really the sort that seems to respect strength, you know?"
  1221. >The thought makes you laugh
  1222. "Ah... nah... they were pretty weak though. I suppose I mean both physically and maybe characteristically."
  1223. >"So you were the strong one of the group... like me!"
  1224. "Like you. But just a little cooler."
  1225. >"Wha-hey!"
  1226. >You close your eyes and nod
  1227. "So much a little cooler..."
  1228. >The ambient scent of Jack reminds you of when and where you are
  1229. "I do wish you could have met them. Even if they didn't care. I'd like them to meet the gang."
  1230. >"We're your gang now?"
  1231. "Yeah, see? We're gonna paint this town red, see?"
  1232. >You slip into a vaguely villainous visage similar to some Chigago mobster
  1233. >She reacts with a relaxed, breathy laugh
  1234. >"Sounds good to me, boss man."
  1235. >You shift focus quick
  1236. >Any longer on the topic and you might genuinely lose your composure
  1237. "Yeah... anyway, nah. It takes someone who's on track, I think."
  1238. >"For Sparky?"
  1239. "I think so, anyway."
  1240. >"Mmm... I agree."
  1241. >She looks up at you and grins
  1242. >"As long as she doesn't forget that I won."
  1243. "Oh, is my massaging a prize now for winners?"
  1244. >Jacky puffs out her chest and chuckles
  1245. >"Well I ain't sayin' nothin' but if the palm fits..."
  1246. >Is that hos it is now
  1247. >You got a fix for this
  1248. "Hey Shine, get in here!"
  1249. >It takes a few seconds but Shine eventually shows up at your doorway
  1250. >Her mane is a little out of place
  1251. >She looks tired, or like she was almost going to sleep
  1252. >"What's wrong?"
  1253. "Come over here. I wanna touch you."
  1254. >That sentence makes her eyes brighten up
  1255. >"You got it!"
  1256. >Jacky looks at you with a sheer perplexed expression
  1257. >She squints, her mouth wide open
  1258. >She remains that way, even as Shine hops onto the bed and lays right next to Jack, almost acting as the little spoon
  1259. >Like it's nothing, you start massaging her
  1260. >Almost the way you were with Jacky
  1261. >Just with less amount of force in your fingers
  1262. "She did win a match a few days ago. So I guess she's a winner."
  1263. >"R.... since when?"
  1264. >Shine doesn't seem to remember the match in question
  1265. >There isn't one
  1266. "Since that one time you cheesed my shit with Talim. Jack said that my massaging is for winners so... yeah. Thank her."
  1267. >"Wha-wha-what?!"
  1268. >Jacky is absolutely speechless
  1269. >"Heeehehh~ ThaaAnk you, Jaaaaahh-ck.."
  1270. >Shine melts hard from the neck and shoulder massage
  1271. >She looks shameless
  1272. >"A-Anon.."
  1273. >Jacky looks like she's starting to deeply regret what she said
  1274. "Oh yeah, that reminds me..."
  1275. >You nod and chuckle
  1276. >Shine has far less muscle on her body
  1277. >Must have a lot more nerves, given how much more likely she is to flinch
  1278. "Hey, D! Get your feathery butt in here! Jack said you were a winner of something!"
  1279. >"Wh-no I didn't! She hasn't won anything!"
  1280. "Tick-tock, everyone's a winner!"
  1281. >"That's not true! Don't come in, Sparky, get up!"
  1282. "Tick tock, wing massage included!"
  1283. >"You wouldn't even do that with me!"
  1284. "You don't have wings, Jack."
  1285. >"That makes it even worse!"
  1286. >Outside of teasing her, you ended up giving all of them massages
  1287. >You never did get back to finishing that level with the ninja monkeys
  1288.  
  1289. >Another night with Jack
  1290. >As is natural
  1291. >After your relative's passing, it has felt... more than natural
  1292. >Not quite supernatural but still really good
  1293. >It's another track you're playing, from that game last night
  1294. >Of Monkeys and Balloons
  1295. >You could probably turn that into some Ska album title if you knew how to play any instruments
  1296. >Jacky and the Bloons
  1297. >Banana Jack and the Peels
  1298. >Sparky Spark and the Funky Bunch
  1299. >You're sure someone already laid claim to that last title...
  1300. >While contemplating the legal difficulties of a talking pony band, Shine rolls in
  1301. >Jack has been watching you play
  1302. >Sorta
  1303. >Her head has been upside down and you've been patting her chest and belly for the last...
  1304. >While
  1305. >You've forgotten how long it has been and she never complained
  1306. >Shine hops up onto bed and goes behind you until she's on the opposite side of you
  1307. >After looking at Jack, she flops onto her side, her head landing on your other leg
  1308. >Sitting with your legs crossed felt like a good idea
  1309. >But now you're trapped
  1310. >Trapped like a rat
  1311. >"Hey Anon?"
  1312. >Shine broke the silence of nothing but lowered music and the maddening sounds of popping
  1313. "What's up?"
  1314. >"...I won today."
  1315. >You can see that she's trying to keep a straight face but it isn't working
  1316. >That growing shit eating smirk is visible to you but not to Jacky
  1317. "Oh yeah? Big winner?"
  1318. >"Yeah huh."
  1319. "What did you win then?"
  1320. >The growing irritation on Jacky is palpable
  1321. >She exhales and wiggles a little, as if to remind you to keep moving your hand
  1322. >You do
  1323. >"I..."
  1324. >She squints, as if she almost forgot what she was going to say
  1325. "Something game-related?"
  1326. >It wasn't a save
  1327. >Just a question
  1328. >Shine resumes her grin
  1329. >"Yeah, that's it! That bonus boss in Omega Ruins went down like a sack of stupid."
  1330. "Did you cheese it?"
  1331. >"No, I prepared for it and gave my guys the appropriate-"
  1332. >"She cheesed it."
  1333. >Jack mumbles in a dull tone
  1334. "Probably."
  1335. >"Wha-I did not!"
  1336. >"Total cheese."
  1337. "Cheesed it like gouda, it was so good-a."
  1338. >Being the natural born agent of chaos that you are, you aren't playing sides
  1339. >Not fully
  1340. >Shine grumbles, grumbling and squirming until she's on her back
  1341. >"I'm a winner. I demand winner's faire."
  1342. >"Really Sparks?"
  1343. >"What?"
  1344. >"Really?"
  1345. >"...is it bothering you?"
  1346. >"It sorta is."
  1347. >"Good."
  1348. >That admittedly gets a laugh out of you
  1349. "I swear, you're like cats that can talk sometimes."
  1350. >Jack furtively looks around, her eyes darting
  1351. >"...meow?"
  1352. >"Really Jacky?"
  1353. >"...well I mean if it works..."
  1354. >Shine looks dubious
  1355. >Until she looks up at you
  1356. >"...this doesn't work, does it?"
  1357. >You focus on the rest of the wave before thinking on it
  1358. "...actually yeah, it's kinda coming around."
  1359. >The realization on the unicorn's face is that of confrontation toward an unspoken truth of the world
  1360. >"...meow too. I guess."
  1361. >You inhale
  1362. >You've now gotten two ponies to meow
  1363. >You're not sure what you aiming to do for tonight but you've evidently achieved something somehow
  1364. "...A cat is fine too."
  1365. >You keep playing, your arm raised up to avoid smacking Shine
  1366. >Every once and a while you'll shift hands to shift who gets the patting
  1367. "So how much of this is just to mess with Jack?"
  1368. >The on-again, off-again patting ended up soothing her into a light nap
  1369. >It's a deeper sleep once she ends up rolling onto her side, or scoots her head off of you
  1370. >"More than none of it. Less than all of it."
  1371. "...fair enough. Did you actually beat that Omega Weapon guy?"
  1372. >"Anon, I'm hurt you would ask."
  1373. "Well you did say you did this to mess with Jackerant."
  1374. >"...fair enough."
  1375. >You keep patting her chest, unconsciously keeping from how you would pat or pet Jack
  1376. >She seems to notice after a while
  1377. >"Does this bother you?"
  1378. "Honestly? Not really. I guess it kinda reminds me every now and again that you guys are ponies."
  1379. >She scoffs
  1380. >"So you sometimes forget that I'm a talking, magical unicorn that could never naturally exist in your world?"
  1381. "Yeah, that about sums it up."
  1382. >"So what do you see me as?"
  1383. "A girl. Obviously. A friend. What else?"
  1384. >She smiles
  1385. >Definitely a more warm, genuine one
  1386. "But again. Sometimes you're a freaking cat."
  1387. >The smile drops like a lead weight in a fresh water river
  1388. >"Thanks. I mean, 'meow'."
  1389. "That's the good stuff."
  1390. >You nod in approval
  1391. >You glance down at Jackernaut
  1392. >Every now and then she looks like a new pony, thanks to her mane
  1393. >She really doesn't look that much like her Ma anymore
  1394. >Not to you, anyway
  1395. "Hey Shine."
  1396. >"Meow?"
  1397. "That's the good stuff."
  1398. >You repeat yourself
  1399. >It probably won't be the last time
  1400. "Call me curious."
  1401. >"You're curious."
  1402. "Thanks. When it comes to your mane, you've kinda kept the style. Have you ever thought about changing it up?"
  1403. >She looks surprised
  1404. >Then a little embarrassed
  1405. >"I... yeah. Sure, I have. But... what have you thought about?"
  1406. >You shrug
  1407. "Iunno. I guess it's just because Jack has changed her looks so much. Probably thanks to our feathery fashionista. I've seen that she kinda swaps things up too but she keeps to similar, more... safe, subtler changes?"
  1408. >Shine goes from embarrassed to full on flustered
  1409. >"Are you trying to tell me that you check out Prism of all ponies?!"
  1410. "No! No, get your mind out of the sticky gutter."
  1411. >That would be an awkward conversation right there
  1412. "Outside of my coworkers I see you guys every day. I don't think there's ever gone a full day without seeing any of you in any capacity. Ignore how weird that sounds."
  1413. >"No promises. I mean, meow."
  1414. "That's the good stuff."
  1415. >You repeat yourself
  1416. >It probably won't be the last time
  1417. "Anyway, I ask because you still have that very... I guess... I don't know. Whatever you consider Twilight's hair to be? I just wondered if you ever thought about that or cared. I'm not trying to insist on something."
  1418. >It feels kinda weird, talking about it
  1419. >But as long as you stay focused it should be ok
  1420. >It's not like you're bringing up something too personal either
  1421. >"That..."
  1422. >Shine furrows her brow
  1423. >"What would even work?"
  1424. "Well that's what I'm asking. Kinda like with me."
  1425. >"What about you?"
  1426. "Well I don't really do much for changing styles and all that. You see what I wear, and you see how I keep my hair and such. I'm a simple man with simple desires."
  1427. >"With a simple mare."
  1428. "Exactly."
  1429. >Whether or not she meant it as a compliment, you'll take it as one
  1430. "I guess if you want to do something like that it might be cool. At least if you have some sort of thing about Twilight still. Is that still a thing?"
  1431. >Shine purses her lips, like it's a question she wasn't prepared for
  1432. >"I... guess... eh? Not really? I haven't thought about that for a long while."
  1433. "Well that's good."
  1434. >"But you have a point too."
  1435. "Even when I have no points, I have a point."
  1436. >She slides her head left and right, as if the motion might help her think
  1437. >"Maybe I should ask around, huh. I don't think I ever really did much to change it. Cutting it and keeping it clean has been easy enough so it just became something I forgot about."
  1438. "I guess you can do a lot of things subconsciously with magic."
  1439. >"Like breathing."
  1440. "You need magic to breathe?"
  1441. >"No, idiot. But you breathe subconsciously too."
  1442. "..."
  1443. >"...right?"
  1444. "..."
  1445. >Her face shifts to a hard, stern glare
  1446. >"Breath, Anon."
  1447. >You derp your eyes out and gasp in, staving off death for another few minutes
  1448. "Alright, you have a point."
  1449. >Something feels odd though
  1450. "...wait, how did you ever even style your mane to that? That wasn't just what you had growing up, was it?"
  1451. >The question silences her for a good wave's worth of time
  1452. >"You know... I don't think I remember?"
  1453. "That's odd."
  1454. >"It really is."
  1455. "Do you remember a lot of things then?"
  1456. >"Well sure, I guess. Whatever is worth remembering."
  1457. "How you take care of yourself isn't worth remembering?"
  1458. >Her tone drops to a very particular level of apathy
  1459. >You're very well familiar with this tone
  1460. >"Who said I was taking care of myself?"
  1461. "Yeah... I guess so, given circumstances huh."
  1462. >You go through another wave
  1463. "...I meant to say 'meow'."
  1464. >Shine nods in approval
  1465. >She reaches up and pats your sternum with her hoof
  1466. >"That's the good stuff."
  1467. >Another wave passes
  1468. "Does it bother you when I end up asking about stuff from back then by chance?"
  1469. >"Not really. I kinda like that you're so interested. You ask about my past. Jacky's past. Even Prism's past. You actually care."
  1470. >She repeats herself, her eyes wandering away from you
  1471. >"I mean... you really. Actually care."
  1472. >She sounds almost amazed by the notion
  1473. "Of course I do. You guys are pretty much the collectively sole reason I'm still around and as healthy as I am."
  1474. >"...collectively sole reason."
  1475. "Yeah."
  1476. >"...why does that sound like that isn't how you say that?"
  1477. "Because it probably isn't."
  1478. >She frowns and wriggles on the bed, gently thrashing about
  1479. >She only stops when she ends up with her cheek on your knee
  1480. >Subtle way to break eye contact
  1481. >"Why don't you talk about yourself more? I, and we. Especially we care."
  1482. >You snort dismissively
  1483. "All we've done for the last calendar year was talk about me."
  1484. >She returns the snort
  1485. >"And all you've done for the last epoch was focus on us."
  1486. "... has it been an epoch?"
  1487. >"Well enough has changed technically so yes."
  1488. "Freaking Twilight-haired goober over here trying to school me on language..."
  1489. >"Don't call me that."
  1490. "I'm gonna call you Torchlight if you don't come up with some sort of good alternate costume look for that mop you have on your head."
  1491. >Shine looks like she wants to be offended
  1492. >But she isn't sure if she could pull it off
  1493. >"...Torchlight?"
  1494. "Yes."
  1495. >"... that sounds kinda bad ass."
  1496. "Really?"
  1497. >"Yeah. Like... bam."
  1498. >Her front legs push out in random directions
  1499. >"Here comes Torchlight, brightening up your night and giving you light."
  1500. "That's why I call you Shine."
  1501. >She nods with authority
  1502. >"And it fits completely."
  1503. "It fits because it's your name, dweeb. And that name was supposed to be a minor insult."
  1504. >"How?"
  1505. "Because a subpar RPG is also called that."
  1506. >She turns to look at you
  1507. >Now she looks officially offended
  1508. >"Are you calling me a subpar RPG!?"
  1509. "I'm saying your loot mechanic is whack, your encounter rate is too high and it takes me ten hours to level up once."
  1510. >She gasps as if you had just struck her
  1511. >"...I swear, I'm going to build a sauna for you, get it started, watch you get in and then forget to not lock the door."
  1512. "That's fine."
  1513. >"That's fine if you just die?"
  1514. "That's fine."
  1515. >"..."
  1516. "..."
  1517. >"..."
  1518. "Meow."
  1519. >"Meow."
  1520. >You both meow at the same time
  1521. >Nods of approval are given, as are mutual chest pats
  1522. >That's the good stuff
  1523.  
  1524. >Oh boy
  1525. >Tonight's the night
  1526. >You were expecting them to be interested in continuing the campaign but they've been acting as a unit all day
  1527. >Calling out their actions
  1528. >Watching each others' backs
  1529. >You're pretty sure that they'd all bathe together if prompted
  1530. >You would think that thought would be more alluring but it's not like they wear anything as is...
  1531. >...
  1532. >What's a weird thought to have
  1533. >With another hour spent of gathering snacks, drinks, drinkable snacks, and goofing around everyone is finally together and consistently ready
  1534. >Jack is sitting to your left, Prism across, and Shine to your right
  1535. >Each of them have their own pen, pencil, and notebook
  1536. >You even have one of your own
  1537. >You've filled entire pages with notes and idea, along with certain stats and skill check requirements
  1538. >And they're all lies
  1539. >Every single one
  1540. >You know that at least one of them would try to sneak a peek so almost everything is a red herring
  1541. "Alright, everyone remember where we were?"
  1542. >You thought about how you would actually write out an outline for them to go off of...
  1543. >But you blanked on it entirely
  1544. >You're sure it'll be fine
  1545. >"I was getting us work!"
  1546. >Jack seems happy with that, swinging her forelegs as if she had an axe
  1547. >"That one guard was... very suspicious. He's expecting a real attack on our town. He says that they're bait."
  1548. >She frowns at the fragments of a complete picture
  1549. >"Meow."
  1550. >Shine gives you the most genuine, sly smile
  1551. >She knows what she's doing
  1552. >"Mrow."
  1553. >Prism joins in, keeping a stoic expression
  1554. >"Mya!"
  1555. >Jack joins in
  1556. "Damn all of you, I'm going to do terrible, terrible things to Jack if this continues."
  1557. >Only Shine seems affected by the threat
  1558. >Prism keeps her plain expression
  1559. >"Oh nyo. Jacky can't hyandle that."
  1560. "I appreciate you trying to push the envelope but that isn't a meow, it just sounds like you're trying to talk like an anime cat. Anyway, what did you do last time?"
  1561. >You focus on your fierce little Big Red
  1562. >"Well, they're holding a box in a barn... and it moves. So there's something in it. Last thing I was doing was running to Jacky to let her know. When we first split up she said she would be at the tavern so that's where I'll presumably find her."
  1563. "Right. You also Color Sprayed a guy into a short term coma."
  1564. >"It doesn't hurt someone that bad, does it?"
  1565. "No, but if something happens that guy is defenseless."
  1566. >She shrugs
  1567. >"That's his problem."
  1568. "As expected of the Evil sorceress..."
  1569. >You fiddle with the laptop that is your main resource
  1570. >You start up the video of that accordion music
  1571. >...except you play it 25% faster
  1572.  
  1573. "So, war, borders, yada yada, shit's going bad because of low morale and a mysterious box containing... something. So as we dive back into this adventure, remember that you can only trust each other. Alright, so what are we doing?"
  1574. >Jack shrugs
  1575. >"Well I guess I'm still talking to the recruiter leader guy?"
  1576. >Prism shakes her head
  1577. >"If Sparking is heading back, I guess I am too. Let's say that I couldn't get enough out of him to really use."
  1578. >That leaves Shine
  1579. >"I hoof it to the tavern to get Jacky! We gotta either fight whatever that thing is and kill it or run!"
  1580. >That idea doesn't seem to sit well with Prism
  1581. >"You're serious? We have a hometown and we're supposed to abandon it?"
  1582. >"It's only our home because we're stranded here! This is just what we need to finally go on an adventure!"
  1583. >"And where will we stay?"
  1584. >The two of them are already at odds
  1585. >Jacky rubs her chin, thinking aloud
  1586. >"If... we're supposed to be heroes and adventurers, aren't we supposed to... like camp out?"
  1587. >The two stop their bickering
  1588. >Jack looks at them
  1589. >Then at you
  1590. >"I mean that's how every single game is, right? The home town gets destroyed, they go on adventures, they come back at the end or build a huge castle to replace it."
  1591. "Barbarian babe's got a point you know. Even if you were to join up with that border patrol group, you would leave your home for weeks at a time easy."
  1592. >Prism seems visibly bothered by that
  1593. >"But what about all of our stuff? We're going to end up with a squatter there or with our valuables stolen!"
  1594. >Shine scoffs
  1595. >"Yeah, like we would have valuables... everything of value we have is on us to begin with, right?"
  1596. "And you especially have a lot of valuables on you..."
  1597. >The feather flocking pony doesn't seem won over
  1598. >"And our parents, would they have left us that home to just abandon it to looters and thieves?"
  1599. "D, your class is a Rogue, you're pretty much ideal to be a thief."
  1600. >"That doesn't mean anything!"
  1601. >This must be a bit of a sore spot
  1602. >It is worth investigating...
  1603. >Later
  1604. >Right now it's just eating into campaign time
  1605. "Listen, if it makes you feel better, the house itself will be fine. This is a small town so outside of the tavern, no one's going to care about a few shacks or structures that are standing but not big enough to matter. Sound good?"
  1606. >It sounds pretty backhanded but you aren't sure what they expect a starting home to be
  1607. >It isn't like they're all that rich to begin with
  1608. "Now since Shine was where we left off, we'll start with you. So you leave the barn and hightail it back to regroup?"
  1609. >"Yes."
  1610. >You're surprised she didn't bother to loot the guy
  1611. >Not like she'd find much except for a little something
  1612. "Alright. You rush away from the reeking mystery box, over the dazzled guard and toward the center of the town. Sure enough you find your stronk sister chatting it up with the patrol leader guy."
  1613. >Shine stamps her hoof down on the cardboard tabletop
  1614.  
  1615. >You initially wanted it to be some sort of grid map for them to work with but it turned into a snack table
  1616. >At least four bags of chips, a few other wrappers of items that have been devoured before the game even started back up
  1617. >Feels like home, to be honest
  1618. >You've noticed that they don't even tough the stuff otherwise
  1619. >The types of chips they got aren't exactly to your taste either
  1620. >Who in their right mind would willingly eat kale chips?
  1621. >"Anon, what does that border leader guy say?"
  1622. "Eh?"
  1623. >Ah shit, you must've blanked out
  1624. >"I said I stopped them from talking and told him that he's carrying some sort of zombie."
  1625. >Did you blank out or were you just surprised by that?
  1626. "That's... well, he's as surprised as anyone else."
  1627. >You clear your throat and try to adopt the guy's accent
  1628. >You don't really remember it but at least you sound different than normal
  1629. "That's crazy, we aren't carrying any sort of undead. It's some sort of..."
  1630. >You shrug
  1631. "He shrugs and sounds like he really isn't too sure of himself."
  1632. >And back to the voice
  1633. "It's supposed to make trees wither and smaller plants die. Makes it easy for people not local to this area to get sick, makes it harder to forage. It's all been mapped out where it isn't supposed to impact locals that much."
  1634. >Jacky seems... dubious
  1635. >Shine doesn't seem convinced at all
  1636. >"Bullshit! I use a..."
  1637. >She glances down at the paper version of her character sheet
  1638. >"...Bluff skill check!"
  1639. "What are you trying to bluff?"
  1640. >"I'm bluffing that..."
  1641. >She looks at Jack
  1642. >She just shrugs as an answer
  1643. >"Well... I'm bluffing that I know it's a zombie and going to kill us all!"
  1644. "Really?"
  1645. >"How do you know that? We could probably fight it and win."
  1646. >Jack already seems convinced
  1647. >"No you idiot, I'm bluffing that to the border patrol guy because if he doesn't know and if he thinks he's doing the right thing, he'll want to stop it!"
  1648. >You have their opinions
  1649. >You glance at Prism
  1650. >She's smiling?
  1651. "Something you'd like to share with this?"
  1652. >She gives you a wink
  1653. >Something tells me they're playing a little too close to type here
  1654. "Alright..."
  1655. >Click
  1656. >...
  1657. >It's a 2
  1658. >Even if you gave her a situational bonus, it wouldn't be nearly enough with her skill
  1659. >"So did it work?"
  1660. >...
  1661. >Fuck it
  1662. "Hold on, I clicked the wrong dice bit."
  1663. >You didn't but you're going to say you did
  1664. >Click
  1665. >16
  1666. >That's the ticket
  1667. "Alright, so you say that with surpreme authority of... your ass."
  1668. >"Sorceress ass."
  1669. "Sure. So you're speaking out of your ass with enough seriousness that he... believes you. Which isn't difficult, it's not like the guy's a scholar."
  1670. >"Obviously."
  1671. >You focus on the guy's tone
  1672. >You're pretty sure this is the third separate, unique accent he's had
  1673. "A zombie... well... I suppose necromancy isn't off the table. You know, I've heard stories of even devils being summoned for these damned wars. I don't believe you but... you're serious, aren't you?"
  1674. >You tap your chin
  1675. "I suppose... we do have to report back."
  1676.  
  1677. >You grin and point at Jack and Shine
  1678. "Or I guess I should say... you do have to report back."
  1679. >"What?"
  1680. >"Who?"
  1681. >They react at the same time, as confused as they are intrigued
  1682. "Yeah! Listen, you two seem to know each other well, right?"
  1683. >Jacky beams
  1684. >"She's my sister! One of them, I don't know where Dashie is..."
  1685. >You hold up your hands and shake your head
  1686. "Yeah yeah, sure. Listen, you guys play runner to the governor and come back, you'll get paid and we can figure out what's going on. You'll be doing me a favor too because..."
  1687. >You act like you're pulling something of your your pocket
  1688. "The guy presents a big ass pocket book. He says it's full daily entries and reports and that he's two weeks late on returning it because no one has had the guts to actually split from the main force to go send it. Since both of you are locals, you know that if you leave today, you'll be back in not even a four full days."
  1689. >"What's he paying?"
  1690. >Jacky seems focused on the prospect of employment and pay
  1691. "He says that he can hook you guys up with some real equipment if you do this and prove that you're trustworthy."
  1692. >"And how do we know he isn't lying?"
  1693. >Shine sounds weary of that
  1694. "Because he isn't. The guy's outfitted by officials, he can send in an order to suit up three capable newbies just fine. Plus it wouldn't cost them all that much."
  1695. >"Why can't we get paid in money?"
  1696. "Well you ask that to him and... straight up, you'll be getting less in value. Raw money wouldn't get you much and to be honest, he's setting you up good if you just go with the gear."
  1697. >"What will we get if it's gear?"
  1698. >At least Jack is on track
  1699. >Probably because she's the one that needs it the most
  1700. "Well you'll have to find out. So do we all have a deal? You guys run off for a few days, come back, and they leave or hopefully we figure out what's really going on."
  1701. >You couldn't make a better quest hook if you tried
  1702. >Sure, you might be spoiling them with items but it is something solid
  1703. >Prism finally speaks up
  1704. >"Do I finally make it to there? I haven't been around at all but I don't have any issues with us going. From that one guard speaking, it might be better if we leave anyway."
  1705. "Sure, you make it there just as the deal it struck."
  1706. >Back to your voice
  1707. >You forgot just how chaotic D&D can be
  1708. "Oh hey a third g... wait, are you telling me you're all the three sisters Jacky mentioned?"
  1709. >"Yup, Dashie an' Sparky sure are! We'll get that book off to the governor, don't even worry about it! And don't worry, we'll take that gear as a reward, no need to do any less!"
  1710. >You make a dramatic point of grabbing an empty wrapper and handing it to Jack
  1711. "Alright, that's what I like to hear!"
  1712. >You point at the wrapper
  1713. "He's officially given you the book, since you've been here, you've been talking with him and frankly he doesn't trust the other two shady sorts."
  1714. >"How are we shady?"
  1715. >D sounds like she's taking offense to that
  1716.  
  1717. "Well you listed on your character sheet that you're sticking to a black outfit and cloak, right?"
  1718. >"Yes."
  1719. "And Shiner 69er, what did you say your character was wearing?"
  1720. >"A... dress?"
  1721. "Unless I'm wrong, you put it as 'an obviously evil but sexy dress'."
  1722. >"...so what if I did?"
  1723. "It means you look like a goober."
  1724. >She gasps, disgusted at your surely comical assertation
  1725. >"I do not!"
  1726. "Dude, you seriously do. You're all first level dorks and bumpkins and you're dressed up like you're... not. It sorta stands out."
  1727. >"Yeah well... what does Jacky say she was wearing?"
  1728. >You look at Jack
  1729. >She looks down at her character sheet
  1730. >"...I don't think I really specified that, actually..."
  1731. >"So she's naked and you're hating on my dress?"
  1732. "Now that's a thought..."
  1733. >You squint at her sheet
  1734. "Well you're a resident wood cutter and you actually work for a living. Sorta. You fine with just wearing normal work clothes? It's not like you've ever went out of your way to look for armor since it isn't cheap and your axe is a decent grade higher than the normal chopping tool."
  1735. >"Totally!"
  1736. "Then there we go. All settled, he's been talking to Jack the longest and she's dressed like someone who lives in this village."
  1737. >Neither of them look all that happy but they can't seem to come up with an argument against it
  1738. "So you have your first real job! Congrats. Is there any preparation you guys need outside of supplies and food?"
  1739. >Before you give them chance to ask about the cost of doing that, you continue
  1740. "Speaking of, this is more or less your backyard and beyond and since you're at your home and all that, you'll have that on hand. But it'll just be enough to go back and forth, no adventures across the world."
  1741. >Silence from everyone gives you your answer
  1742. "Alright! So after a little discussion about the finer points of the job-and your pay-you head out toward the neighboring town. The local governor is there for another week or two so you'll have your chance to give him the border group's reports. You can also get that box out of the area."
  1743. >Shine doesn't look happy
  1744. >"So... is it a zombie?"
  1745. "Well you bluffed your way into talking like it's one but no. I don't think it's a zombie."
  1746. >"But you know what it is."
  1747. "Yup."
  1748. >"So is it a zombie?"
  1749. "I don't know."
  1750. >"I hate you."
  1751. "That's just a shame because I love you."
  1752. >That flusters and agitates her even further
  1753. >This is gonna be fun
  1754. >You just need to roll for an encounter on the way
  1755. >And make sure at least one zombified creature is included
  1756.  
  1757. >"Psst."
  1758. >"Psst. Hey. Anon."
  1759. >"Get up, Jacky's pregnant!"
  1760. >You sputter out some quarter-coherent statement, head going up to-
  1761. >Conk
  1762. "Ah... fucking... why?!"
  1763. >You lament, incapable of proper expression
  1764. >Whoever you headbutted doesn't sound any better
  1765. >You look around frantically for a pregnant mare
  1766. >...
  1767. >You're in your room
  1768. >In bed
  1769. >Still under at least three blankets
  1770. >A glance behind shows that Shine is mumbling things while in some sort of perpetual chin rub
  1771. "...you know, I don't feel bad for that."
  1772. >It takes a few moments before Shine speaks up
  1773. >"I wasn't even supposed to wake you up, idiot! I told you I was making stew!"
  1774. >Oh yeah
  1775. >Guess she really was doing stew wench duties
  1776. "...oh. Sorry then."
  1777. >In your own defense, you were tired after work
  1778. >"Seriously... out of all of the things I said, you wake up to that?"
  1779. >She sounds disappointed more than anything else
  1780. "To be fair that is the one thing I would be concerned over. For one, biology questions must have answers."
  1781. >You yawn, waving your hand
  1782. "You saying inappropriate things to me on the other hand, completely normal."
  1783. >She snorts, pre-emptively cut off from a retort
  1784. >"It was NOT that!"
  1785. "Yeah-huh..."
  1786. >You've felt a lot more comfortable goofing off with the girls since you started the D&D campaign
  1787. >It really feels like the first group thing you've all done since...
  1788. >Since basically ever
  1789. >It has really felt nice
  1790. >"I swear, if I said..."
  1791. >She grumbles and kicks herself extra hard off of the mattress toward the living room
  1792. >Something does smell good
  1793. >You stumble up, keeping a light blanket wrapped over your shoulders like a poncho
  1794. >You follow behind her and see that Jack and Prism have already helped themselves to large bowls of the stuff
  1795. >Thankfully trays are underneath to catch any mess
  1796. >It still weirds you out how they can't use utensils but eat fine without it
  1797. >Shine uses a spoon
  1798. >"He's awake! I guess we won't be having seconds then."
  1799. >Jack scoots out her doll of her Ma from behind her
  1800. >"Hey, did Sparky tell ya? I'm eating for two now!"
  1801. >You grimace at the pair
  1802. "I'll have you know that I'm short on glue and I know where there's a factory."
  1803. >You're sure they might've planned that
  1804. >They're a sneaky trio
  1805. >You really can't give them too much benefit of doubt
  1806. >You plop down across from them, legs crossed like a fatigued, world-weary sage
  1807. "What time is it, anyway?"
  1808. >Jacky laps at her lips and looks to the side at the clock on the microwave
  1809. >"...dunno, you never set the microwave clock back to normal."
  1810. "Thanks."
  1811. >"But you haven't been back long. Sparky told you it would be another hour, you said you'd be up for it, aaaand you're up now and stew has been ready. So probably like an hour and a half?"
  1812. >She sounds pretty upbeat about it
  1813. >Stew must be good
  1814. "I guess that sounds about right..."
  1815. >A plate on a plastic, rectangle tray hovers over to you and sits itself down
  1816. >Stew on a plate?
  1817. "Ah... bread too."
  1818. >Shine sits down, watching you
  1819.  
  1820. >"Yup. I recall that you like dipping stuff into other stuff. So dip part of your baguette into my stew."
  1821. >You raise your finger and open your mouth to reply
  1822. >But...
  1823. >It is part of the dollar baguette you bought at Walmart
  1824. >That you bought expressly for the stew
  1825. "I'm still pretty sure you mean something else."
  1826. >You'd feel a little more awkward about the back and forth but after watching enough old internet personalities on YouTube with them it feels pretty natural
  1827. >It feels like they're just normal friends
  1828. >Equals
  1829. >And one of your friends made food for you
  1830. >Legit made, not just heated something up in an oven
  1831. >"...you gonna stare at it or actually have some? It won't be hot forever."
  1832. "Yeah, I am. Just... you know. Thanks, Sparking. I've never had any friends make something like this before for me."
  1833. >Shine gives her own type of chuckle and a long sigh
  1834. >"Oh... don't worry about that. You've already kinda said something like that before, remember?"
  1835. >"Yeah, don't worry about it! I haven't thanked Sparky and I got first bowl."
  1836. >Jack sounds proud of herself
  1837. >"And next time I'm making you pay for it."
  1838. >Shine sounds irritated
  1839. >"That's fine, I'll give you an hour of cuddle time with Anon."
  1840. "What?
  1841. >"Seriously?"
  1842. >You and Shine reply simultaneously
  1843. >Prism, who's been quietly drinking her stew, spurts out with a laugh
  1844. >Thankfully the tray is there but it isn't a small mess made
  1845. >"Oh boy... we've officially reached that point."
  1846. "Who the hell said I'm on sale?"
  1847. >"I did, Honey-Hands."
  1848. >Jacky points a hoof at you and winks
  1849. "...ok, we've watched enough Nostalgia Critic for one lifetime."
  1850. >This is worse than when you taught Jacky about internet memes
  1851. >At least then it was only really her keeping it alive
  1852. >The bread and plate goes by quickly
  1853. >It really does taste pretty good, saturated bread or no
  1854. "I dig this. Chicken stock?"
  1855. >"Yeah. Beef but chicken stock instead of beef."
  1856. >It sounds weird but on top of having grabbed the wrong broth, you did mention that it would probably turn out better because of how unique it would be
  1857. >Turns out you were on the money with it
  1858. "Right on. How much did you make?"
  1859. >You look over the pony-sized kitchen area
  1860. >It started as a pretty standard set of camping gear but you've sunk some money into it
  1861. >Cutting board, electric stove plates, air fryer
  1862. >A lot of things that only you or Shine could use
  1863. >You're sure Jack must've felt down in the dumps before after learning that cutting anything is near impossible with a knife in the mouth
  1864. >But she really does seem fine with it now
  1865. >At least, she tells you she is
  1866. >Prism doesn't seem to mind at all
  1867. >She's fine lazing around
  1868. >Which is cool
  1869. >You'd do the same too if you were some pegasus chilling with your friends all day
  1870. >"I have enough for... three days, I think. Things kinda got big so I used the actual stove and stuff."
  1871. >Guess it explains why the pony kitchen was mostly clean
  1872. "Neat. I know stew isn't the hardest thing in the world to make but you nailed it."
  1873.  
  1874. >"It didn't cost us a lot in resources either, did it?"
  1875. "Not at all."
  1876. >You look down at your plate
  1877. "So. Raise hands or hooves to make Shine our official stew wench and de facto chef."
  1878. >Jacky raises both of her front hooves up
  1879. >Prism, who cleaned both her bowl and her tray, holds up a hoof
  1880. >You hold up a hand
  1881. >You look to Shine and she has her hoof up
  1882. "...wait, you vote for it too?"
  1883. >"Dude, if Jacky's paying for it in cuddle time, I'll cook peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate cookies four times a day."
  1884. >Your eyebrows raise
  1885. "Wait, you know about those no-bake cookies?"
  1886. >"Prism brought them up."
  1887. >The mentioned pony nods in between pecking at her feathers
  1888. >"That's right. If we're going to seriously take a chance on cooking more than just the bare basics, we may as well try something nice."
  1889. >Jacky pipes in, like she's trying to take some credit
  1890. >"Hey, I decided on the recipe!"
  1891. >Prism continues
  1892. >"You did. That will make a big difference on how the batch turns out too."
  1893. >You can't help but think that sounds...
  1894. >Condescending
  1895. "Well... damn. I guess I'm selling cuddle time too then."
  1896. >You stand up, scooping up bowls and trays for the sink
  1897. "Well, make a list of what you guys need and I'll reckon I'll pick up whatever whenever."
  1898. >You put in the most earnest of half-assed attempts to rinse off everything and decide to mostly just fill the bowls for later
  1899. >You return to the living room, tightening the poncho-turned-blanket around your shoulders
  1900. "So how's everything going otherwise?"
  1901. >You had the urge to just slump off to your room but you don't want to wander off after a good meal
  1902. >"Good. Though I am going to go out onto the patio for a nap. It's been rather windy out and I..."
  1903. >She shakes, her wings flapping
  1904. >"I'd like to enjoy it. Thank you for the meal, Sparking."
  1905. >Acting like a dignified princess that didn't blow stew a few minutes, she nudges open the glass patio door and hops out
  1906. >"Ah... she's weird sometimes. Think it has something to do with the wings?"
  1907. >Shine shakes herself and stands up, her head held high
  1908. >"Well I, for one... am going to Anon's room. The electricity is on and I..."
  1909. >She gently puffs her chest out and tilts her head back and forth
  1910. >"Would like to play some video games. Adieu."
  1911. >With a theatrical way of her flank, she trots off to your room
  1912. >That leaves you and Jack
  1913. "It's a good thing you're not weird, Jack."
  1914. >She tries her own snooty pose
  1915. >But gives up halfway through
  1916. >"I'm weird, I just don't feel like putting on airs."
  1917. >You hold out your arms
  1918. "Fair enough. C'mere, airhead."
  1919. >She gets up, steps sorta-sideways toward you, and hurls herself into you
  1920. >You catch her fine
  1921. >As if you'd have any issue catching a lazy pony
  1922. >You both watch Prism position herself at the right angle and lay down
  1923. >Her wings spread out and catch the wind
  1924. "...so what's her deal again?"
  1925. >Jacky shrugs
  1926. >"I wish I knew. I think... I don't know."
  1927. >She sounds unsure
  1928.  
  1929. "I guess that's a good a reason as any. Though to be fair I guess if I were her, I'd worry about falling."
  1930. >"Falling?"
  1931. "Sure. Say you can fly. You can test it out but if you fall, it's gonna hurt."
  1932. >You can hear some sort of concerned whine
  1933. >"...are you saying she fell?"
  1934. "I have no clue. But I'd be careful about that sort of thing. Kinda like how if I had magic. If I wasn't confident in it or never learned how to, I'd be cautious too."
  1935. >"Would that fit her though?"
  1936. "Maybe. You'd know better than I."
  1937. >You both watch her wings slowly flap in the breeze
  1938. >"Hey."
  1939. "Yeh?"
  1940. >"...you know I wouldn't sell you for anything. Right?"
  1941. "Of course I know."
  1942. >"I mean it."
  1943. "I know you do, Jack."
  1944. >"I need you to know... just in case."
  1945. "I do know. It's just goofing around, you know?"
  1946. >"Yeah... I know."
  1947. >She pushes herself against you harder
  1948. >You both watch Prism glide on the breeze
  1949. >You're sure she's sleeping at this point
  1950. >Every few moments, her wings flap and catch the wind
  1951.  
  1952. >You planned on playing some games tonight with Shine
  1953. >More, like you were wanting to introduce her to a few games like Days Gone and Dead Rising
  1954. >You brought up Days Gone last night, and played it a few hours of it with her
  1955. >But tonight...
  1956. >Eh
  1957. >You've been listening to a Zeldawave playlist while laying on your back
  1958. >She's been laying on her back too
  1959. >You've been pretty much face to face, watching the ceiling
  1960. >With the trippy visualizations on full screen, and with no other lights in the room, it gives off enough of a psychedelic vibe
  1961. >You've both been nodding and rocking your heads in tune
  1962. >It feels nice
  1963. >"Hey Anon."
  1964. >She sounds relaxed
  1965. >Ever since this D&D stuff started, you've noticed that she's mellowed a lot
  1966. >Or maybe the groovy tunes are just doing a number on her
  1967. "Nothin' like the old school..."
  1968. >"The old school..."
  1969. >The beat drops and the song starts to hit hard
  1970. >You get the feeling that she wanted to ask something but that can wait until the song's over
  1971. >You both rock your heads back and forth, in sync
  1972. "Ain't nothing like the old school."
  1973. >Only when the song fades out and into the next one do you answer
  1974. "What's up?"
  1975. >The next song isn't nearly as much as a banger so it isn't nearly as exciting to listen to
  1976. >"I know Jacky's like... your girlfriend."
  1977. >The thought isn't new
  1978. >But it still makes you smile to hear
  1979. "I suppose she is, yeah."
  1980. >"...so what can we be?"
  1981. >She's lucky the current song on isn't so fancy
  1982. "Honestly? You're kinda the cool sister I never had."
  1983. >"Why do you say that?"
  1984. "Because I know you have my back as much as I have yours, if not more so."
  1985. >This next song coming up isn't all that much of a banger either
  1986. >But you still like it
  1987. >"Do sisters usually..."
  1988. "Expose themselves repeatedly and try to push away girlfriends out of jealousy? I'm gonna say 'no'."
  1989. >She fidgets on the bed and mumbles something
  1990. >"I don't know if I should be more proud or embarrassed that you remember that..."
  1991. "Both."
  1992. >"...you're weird, you know that?"
  1993. "I spend my time around three chicks that are also talking ponies. You're gonna have to find a more obvious thing to decide I'm weird."
  1994. >"That's true. I guess I forget that isn't normal for humans."
  1995. >The next song is some more classic vaporwave
  1996. >But still not a banger
  1997. "It sounds weird but after my friends... I don't know. You're family. I guess sister-in-law?"
  1998. >Shine snorts
  1999. >"That implies Jacky is your wife... I have a long way to go before I'm ok with that on any level."
  2000. "Why?"
  2001. >"Because it'll mean that both Prism and I just won't have anyone."
  2002. >You sigh
  2003. "Yeah... I guess that is a thing."
  2004. >"I got another question. How do you say this sort of stuff so casually? Isn't this supposed to be really deep, touchy topics to tiptoe around?"
  2005. "...you want me to chew the fat and tiptoe around you?"
  2006.  
  2007. >You hear a laugh
  2008. >"First off, ew. That saying sounds gross. Second... no. I really don't. Both of them are honest but you... don't have any ulterior motives. If you say something, I can bet on it and win every time."
  2009. "You don't trust them as much as you do me?"
  2010. >You don't hear a response for a bit
  2011. >Long enough for there to be two new songs
  2012. >The current one still isn't a banger but it's pretty smooth and jazz-like
  2013. >"I don't think I can. I've changed. I know that. I know Jacky has change. Prism has... improved. But I don't know if she's changed."
  2014. "What about that whole 'honor among thieves' thing?"
  2015. >"I'm not a thief."
  2016. >Her retort comes quick, coming out before you even finish your sentence
  2017. >"I mean... I don't want to be. I really don't."
  2018. >You lay and listen to the music
  2019. "So are they still thieves?"
  2020. >"I don't think Jacky is, no."
  2021. "But you think D-Ash is."
  2022. >No answer
  2023. "...do you think she might still do something?"
  2024. >No answer
  2025. "You don't really think she would push Jacky to something, would you?"
  2026. >"They talk, Anon."
  2027. >You scoff
  2028. >You roll your head from one side to the other, knocking your temple against hers
  2029. >Just hard enough to nudge her head a bit
  2030. "We're talking right now you goof."
  2031. >"I mean like... seriously talk. Prism asks a lot about you."
  2032. "I guess that's good. Why does she ask a lot? She could always ask me directly."
  2033. >"I know that. You know that. She knows that too. But she doesn't want to."
  2034. "Wiggy. What does she ask about?"
  2035. >"Personal details. Intimate details."
  2036. "...how intimate are we talking?"
  2037. >"All five senses, Anon."
  2038. "...ew. Why?"
  2039. >"They just share everything. They always have. They probably always will."
  2040. >You guess that isn't so shocking
  2041. >You've heard Jacky go on entire rants about you when Prism was still fresh and recently out of the box
  2042. >Both literally and metaphorically
  2043. "So you don't trust them because of that?"
  2044. >"I know that if I tell you something, you'll keep it to yourself if it's important."
  2045. "And this is probably important."
  2046. >"It really is."
  2047. >You forgot where all of this was going
  2048. >At least the next song is nice
  2049. "Anyway. Something something, me being casual about saying things?"
  2050. >"Yeah. What's with that?"
  2051. "It takes far more effort to lie to someone, or to not be yourself completely. And you guys are my friends. At least, I like to think so."
  2052. >"You should know so."
  2053. "I should."
  2054. >You inhale
  2055. >You like this playlist but you only actually really like a few of the songs
  2056. "I'd rather just end myself if I had to choose between being myself fully and still having friends... is what I want to say."
  2057. >"...huh?"
  2058. "That's right."
  2059. >"I don't get it. You just said it."
  2060. "Yeah. I want to say that. But I think I'm at the point that I just have to believe what I do, say what I mean, and stick to honesty."
  2061. >You clear your throat
  2062.  
  2063. "Let's drop the moral posturing, shall we? We both know there's no altruism in this pursuit. Your reckless indignation led you here. I counted on it."
  2064. >Your voice is hard, confident
  2065. >Rehearsed
  2066. "There's no shame in it, Sparking Shine. Revenge is motivation enough. At least it's honest. Hate me, but do it honestly."
  2067. >"...woah."
  2068. "Let's be honest, Shiner. Independent of how you guys are, I'm a low working class guy. And I probably only ever will be one. The best thing I could give, and keep, is my word. That means saying what I will. Not because it would hurt someone and not because it would put me into a better position. But because it's the only path I have as a man."
  2069. >"Ichiban... he'd say the same thing I think."
  2070. "Sure. Him, Kiryu, Kain, a lot of... admittedly fictional characters would. Whether a vampiric lord and ruler of millennia, some walking legendary bad ass... or some fucking dork that can throw away half of his life for loyalty's sake."
  2071. >You sigh
  2072. "If they can pledge themselves to their ideals and have at least have one thing they stand by, why can't I? What excuse do I have to lie, of to betray? What would that say about me, in my most solemn hour, that I would do that for personal gain? What scars would I leave?"
  2073. >"...two things."
  2074. "Yeah?"
  2075. >"One... you're kinda having an effect on me."
  2076. "Is it due to the mood music?"
  2077. >"Sorta, it's kinda more sad than comfy. Two. Is the music making you say this?"
  2078. "It's only making it easier for me to make an ass of myself, mon amie."
  2079. >"I guess that's why every Yakuza character gets such bad ass music."
  2080. "Probably."
  2081. >You roll to the side a portion and set up a different playlist
  2082. >You lay flat again
  2083. >"Hey Anon."
  2084. "Wat."
  2085. >"I want to stick by those standards too."
  2086. >That makes you smile
  2087. "Letting that fire temper you into something better, huh?"
  2088. >"I'm being serious. But also yes."
  2089. "Good. You should. I don't rightly know if me being a guy has anything to do with those ideals. But I think if you care enough, it'll do you right."
  2090. >"You should talk to Jacky more like this."
  2091. "Think she has a lot to add to it or take away?"
  2092. >"No... not really, honestly. But I think she would appreciate hearing it. You could tell her to jump off the balcony and if you said you'd be down there to catch her, she wouldn't think twice."
  2093. "I hope so."
  2094. >Something nags at you from inside
  2095. "I don't remember, have you told me about how she was back then?"
  2096. >"I don't know. Probably?"
  2097. "Well... tell me more about her."
  2098. >"Hm... well she was just as dumb as she is now."
  2099. "Is that supposed to be an insult?"
  2100. >"You'd think so but no. She's still as... wide-eyed as ever. But she's got more going on upstairs than I give her credit for. Probably more than what you give her credit for too."
  2101. "Well I don't think she's dumb."
  2102. >"She is. But she really isn't."
  2103. >She fidgets
  2104. >You can feel that she's trying to favor one side specifically
  2105.  
  2106. >"I'm... only really gonna say it once. But maybe you should talk to her some time. Tell her that even if we hang out a lot. Even if I can cook and all that stuff. Even if I still may sometimes try to steal your attention because I'm still not completely ok with having lost to her. Just remind her that she isn't dead weight. She really isn't. She just wants to be that steady rock. A smile that's consistent and real no matter how much things change."
  2107. "I never thought of her as dead weight."
  2108. >"But you aren't sure how you can let her do more things. And she's kinda afraid to keep failing."
  2109. >She always just seemed happy to chill and laze around
  2110. >It would be natural for most people to want to feel useful or accomplish something
  2111. "...have you talked to her about this?"
  2112. >"No."
  2113. "...have you been doing something with your magic?"
  2114. >"I don't think I need to answer that, Anon."
  2115. >Crap
  2116. >You're not really embarrassed or bothered if she did do that sort of thing
  2117. >But it does shine a spotlight on your flaws, and Jack's
  2118. >"Find something that you two can do together."
  2119. "Like what?"
  2120. >"I don't know. More shopping or stuff."
  2121. >She rolls onto her side, her face resting on your shoulder
  2122. >"She was never really all that skillful, you know. She didn't get a lot of chances to learn anything. Prism really kept her distanced away from skills that could really pay off if you were dedicated enough. And now, here... she tore herself up when you were stuck in your low point."
  2123. >It sounds a little like she's speaking into your ear
  2124. >"To be honest... I want to believe I haven't lost. But that's just my thing. She's a rock. Help her to roll around a little."
  2125. "The ol' rock and roll..."
  2126. >"I guess, if that's what it's called."
  2127. >You want to feel bad but you don't
  2128. >Instead, you're putting that energy into how to make it right
  2129. >Feeling bad won't really fix anything, and it won't help her
  2130. >It sounds cold but that's the way you need to think if it's for her
  2131. >And it is
  2132. >She deserves an answer to her problem, not pity
  2133. >That is part of the ideal you want to live up to, anyway
  2134. >"Maybe you are kinda like a big brother to me."
  2135. "Because I let you mooch off of me?"
  2136. >"Because you're really the only person I've ever met that I genuinely respect."
  2137. >She nuzzles your shoulder
  2138. >"Now keep the music playing and shut up for a bit. I want to sleep."
  2139. >What a great way to end things
  2140. "Pain in my ass..."
  2141. >"Now you know how it feels. I love you too Anon."
  2142. >You spend the rest of the night listening to her and the music
  2143. >You're tired
  2144. >But you need to think of a way to help Jack
  2145. >Sleep can wait
  2146.  
  2147. >Delicious summer
  2148. >Almost
  2149. >Long gone are the nights, mornings, and days of hanging out under the blanket with Jack
  2150. >Now it's nights, mornings and days of hanging out with her with a fan buzzing constantly
  2151. >Same amount of clothing is used so it's actually nicer in the summer
  2152. >Rather than playing games, you've just decided to listen to a playlist of high level Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 fights
  2153. "Hey Jack, what do you think about our campaign so far?"
  2154. >To help spread out the tutorial bits, you've made the trip to and from the governor guy full of encounters and convenient skill checks
  2155. >You've managed to sell them on the idea of dealing with traps and finding chests and other items due to deserters and that border patrol group doing things
  2156. >Last Saturday no one was really focused on playing
  2157. >Shine was playing an RPG
  2158. >Prism found some new music she wanted to enjoy
  2159. >Jack shrugged and went 'eh' when you asked if she was ready to play
  2160. >You get the feeling that she doesn't actually care for the dice rolling as much as she enjoys the role playing of it
  2161. >In other words
  2162. >She's a complete normie
  2163. >Not that you mind
  2164. >You've been taking Shine's words to heart
  2165. >You've been trying, anyway
  2166. >It's all you can honestly do
  2167. >You've been taking her out more
  2168. >Not necessarily dates but you've found things to do to take her with you
  2169. >Honestly that doesn't include a lot of things
  2170. >What has been neat is that you've been taking her out to just drive around and usually find a nice parking lot to nap in
  2171. >It's nice to be alone with her again
  2172. >You've both come pretty far since then
  2173. >You don't think you've really changed all that much
  2174. >You have seen how she's changed, and adapted
  2175. >She's still one of a kind
  2176. >"Anon... is it really gonna be like this if we go camping?"
  2177. >It's a particularly muggy day
  2178. >Not overly hot, but humid
  2179. >Honestly it's not even hot compared to down south
  2180. "You bet. No AC, no running water, camp cooking, fishing..."
  2181. >"Fishing?"
  2182. "Yup."
  2183. >"...I've never seen you eat fish."
  2184. "That... is true. Can't say I'm fond of fish. But I grew up fishing."
  2185. >"Ew, why?"
  2186. >You've both been laying back in your car's front seats
  2187. >The backs reclined out fully
  2188. >A windshield cover on to help reflect heat
  2189. >Car engine off
  2190. >Windows rolled down
  2191. >Pretty comfy
  2192. >You're close to work too
  2193. >Just focusing on a little scenic off-shoot that shows a lot of trees
  2194. >And with trees come pollen
  2195. "Iunno."
  2196. >You finally reply
  2197. "It was nice to be able to do that with my old man, or my uncle. It was fun."
  2198. >"Isn't fishing just sitting and watching a pole every few minutes?"
  2199. "Yup."
  2200. >"How is that fun?"
  2201. "Because you go fishing with someone you like so you goof around with them. And if you catch a fish, that's just a bonus."
  2202. >She's been laying on her back, legs kicked out as far as they can go
  2203. >Good view, good way to cool off
  2204. >Presumably
  2205. >All she needs is a soda with a silly straw and a pair of shades to really be in
  2206. >Maybe with a baseball cap on backwards
  2207.  
  2208. "To be completely fair, all we're missing are fishing rods, a body of water, and worms."
  2209. >"...worms?"
  2210. >She hasn't opened her eyes for at least a half hour now
  2211. >But you know she's awake because whenever your hand goes to her stomach she flinches and let out more of that goofy laugh
  2212. >She can't stop you from doing anything if she's not paying attention
  2213. "Yup. You stick them with a hook, fling them out, badabing you get a fish."
  2214. >"What would you do them once you caught them?"
  2215. "Eh, toss them back."
  2216. >"Really? Doesn't that hurt them?"
  2217. "Well some do get hurt if the hook goes up their nose and out their mouth or something."
  2218. >Jack recoils and pokes her tongue out with a 'blegh'
  2219. >"Just kill me at that point."
  2220. "Right? But nah, it was just for sport. It's the best, safest sport to enjoy while doing absolutely nothing. Alcohol doesn't really impede it outside of a hook to the hand... or to the neck, depending on situations."
  2221. >"...is it ok if I stick to more modern sources?"
  2222. "Like pre-fished fish and pre-hunted meat?"
  2223. >"And pre-squeezed juice."
  2224. "Well sure. That's what most people would do."
  2225. >She lets out a long sigh and kicks her hind legs out
  2226. >"Anon... I have come to a realization."
  2227. "I'm incredibly good looking."
  2228. >"No."
  2229. "Damn."
  2230. >"I mean, sure, but that's not it. I don't think I could ever live like Tuco and all that. Electricity, heating, safe running water? I don't think I could go back."
  2231. "You don't need to."
  2232. >That's the end of that
  2233. >You can tell that she's had something on her mind but she hasn't been saying it
  2234. >The silence persists until it visibly bothers her
  2235. >"Anon, what's my role? I don't want to fish, I can't really cook, I don't offer sage advice, I can't use magic, I lack manimal thumbs, I don't really mind if I just lay around all day... how do I add value to the apartment? How do I add value to you?"
  2236. >She's been tiptoeing around that for days now
  2237. >It has probably been far longer than merely days
  2238. >Despite her criticism she doesn't sound or look bothered
  2239. >"I'm a barbarian."
  2240. "Your character's a barbarian."
  2241. >"But she's me. Except even then, I can fight and chop wood and..."
  2242. >She finally opens her eyes
  2243. >"I'm one note. I'm a one trick pony. Not even Ma was one and somehow all she did was turn everything into an apple themed cooking thing. I even stopped with the memes because too many of them started to get too confused and needed me to learn about even more memes and..."
  2244. >She grumbles something you don't catch
  2245. >"What am I here for? Why couldn't you have been a stallion that found me? Why couldn't I have been a human? Why couldn't you be the pony instead so I could take care of you? What should I do? What can I do?"
  2246. >What if you were a pony too?
  2247. >That would be weird
  2248. >You know what she's talking about though
  2249. "What if I was a pony?"
  2250. >"Then we'd be on our fourth foal by now, bucko, Sparky would be a highly jealous aunt and I could terrorize Dashie with being nanny."
  2251. "Ha!"
  2252.  
  2253. >That would be a fun scenario to have
  2254. >Especially pushing Prism to nanny duty
  2255. >Shine probably would be very jealous at that point
  2256. >Maybe she would have more reason to be jealous, given the biological compatibility would actually be there
  2257. >She sinks into her seat
  2258. >You do as well, actually
  2259. >It would be nice to have a family, wouldn't it
  2260. "Yeah... that would be nice, wouldn't it."
  2261. >You nod to yourself, smiling
  2262. "Though to be honest, wouldn't stop at four. Hope you'd recognize that."
  2263. >Your quick response makes her squirm with another trademark goofy laugh
  2264. "...you think Nona might know if... uh, that could happen?"
  2265. >"W-what? You're serious?"
  2266. >She nervously brushes her mane with her front legs
  2267. "Well... if something happened we'd have known by now surely, right?"
  2268. >You lean over and pat her belly
  2269. >It used to be pretty steeply concave when she first was around
  2270. >Now it has flattened out to something more even
  2271. >Another nervous horse noise is your only reaction
  2272. "Just sayin'. But... I don't know. It might help to know. You know?"
  2273. >To stop from embarrassing her to death, you shift topics and shift back to your reclined seat
  2274. "As for skills and things you can do... well, that's the question. Do you know what I did before I got you? When I was still down south?"
  2275. >"H-harassing mares, I'll tell you what!"
  2276. "No... well, yes. But no. Not mares. I was dumb muscle."
  2277. >You sigh hard
  2278. "It was worthless work. Dead end. And I was living in a complete shit hole. I had less than a hundred bucks a month that wasn't already immediately for a bill or rent, or food budget... which was a hundred bucks."
  2279. >"But when we went to the store we got more than a hundred bucks worth of food and part of that was just Sparky's stew wench stuff."
  2280. "Exactly. It sucked. I never thought I'd be where I am now. Silly question, but did you think you'd ever end up in some alien world?"
  2281. >"And get harassed about having some buck's hundreds of foals? Well, of course not."
  2282. "Hey, I'm not saying hundreds... just three dozen. At the very least. So... y'know. Get ready."
  2283. >She squirms until she lays on her side
  2284. >"I ain't hearin' none of that now, y'hear?"
  2285. >She's channeling her Ma in full force
  2286. >"One dozen and not one higher."
  2287. "Not unless I really feel the need."
  2288. >"Yeah."
  2289. >You're surprised she didn't push back against that
  2290. >Just the tip of the wedge to get to the multiple dozens
  2291. "But yeah... I don't know. Maybe you haven't found your ideal skills yet. And that's alright. There's no rush, right?"
  2292. >That's presuming she has been trying to find her skills
  2293. >You've known some people who put off finding things that they were good at
  2294. >You were one for a while too
  2295. >"Yeah... sure. Maybe. But why does Sparky get it so easily?"
  2296. "Because she's... her. You gotta remember, without her magic you could bounce her like a ball all day long and she wouldn't be able to stop her. You gotta give her props for her doing... whatever it took for her."
  2297.  
  2298. >"I guess so. Can you tell me what might help?"
  2299. "I can tell you where might be good. But it still kinda just comes down to you, you know?"
  2300. >It's hard to give her answers that you don't have
  2301. >That's almost always what you have, isn't it?
  2302. "It's you and me, Jack. I have certain skills and you have certain skills. What's important is that we're aiming to compliment each other."
  2303. >You adjust your seat to a more legally acceptable driving position
  2304. >'Maybe I have certain skills you don't have... and maybe you don't have as many skills as I do. But you can change that, right?'
  2305. >You want to say that
  2306. >But you can't
  2307. >She's not just a friend you can give advice to
  2308. >She's more important than that
  2309. >You need to say something more valuable
  2310. >You need to do more than merely say something
  2311. "Whatever you want to get into, I'll help you out however much I can. Just let me know, y'know?"
  2312. >You lean over and ruffle her mane
  2313. >It's starting to grow back out a lot more to how it used to be
  2314. >Her hair grows back pretty fast
  2315. >Likewise, your hair grows pretty slowly
  2316. >She looks up at you
  2317. >"You mean it?"
  2318. "Damn skippy, Miss Hippy. Before Shiner and Prism popped up, it was just you and me. And that means something, doesn't it?"
  2319. >She smiles
  2320. >That smile reminds you of so much
  2321. >And just like before, there are so many details about her body and her face that just don't register to you
  2322. >It's just that smile that matters
  2323. >That's how you know she matters so much to you
  2324. "Since we're already out, wanna grab something to eat and rub it in Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum's faces after?"
  2325. >She bolts upright to a sitting position, stars in her eyes
  2326. >"Heck yeah I do! Onward, to pancakes!"
  2327. >Maybe it's time for Jack to harass another waitress
  2328. >She's so nice except to them for some reason
  2329.  
  2330.  
  2331. "Don't wanna be just another guy, working for that rent money..."
  2332. >You've been waiting in the living room for around a half hour now
  2333. >Jack has been sitting in your lap, swaying with you while you sing through a few songs
  2334. >Shine and Prism have been keeping things on hold for a while
  2335. >The D&D campaign has been going well
  2336. >Thanks to Jack, their trip to the governor went well
  2337. >But they got sidetracked with helping a caravan go to a town near their own
  2338. >You didn't expect them to care but it does pay well and it gives them excuses to get more experience
  2339. >Though it may be quick, you've already given them a level's worth of experience to help trot things along
  2340. >Last night was supposed to be the game night but the unicorn was busy with a JRPG, the pegasus was doing some sort of zen meditation goofy shit outside in the admittedly light rain and the dork pony in your lap decided that she wanted to do things that took advantage of others having loud volume on
  2341. "How much longer are they gonna be? Did they tell you whatever the plan was?"
  2342. >"Lips are sealed."
  2343. >That was a quick response
  2344. "Yeah huh, I'll just have to pry them open then."
  2345. >"Barbarians have a high strength mod though."
  2346. "That's fine, we both know that words trump muscles."
  2347. >"Then why didn't 'stop' lead to me stopping?"
  2348. "Because you're an evil, evil mare and sooner than you think I'm gonna get my revenge on you ten fold."
  2349. >She squirms on your lap
  2350. >"Y-yeah right."
  2351. "Ten fold. You keep that in mind."
  2352. >"You don't have the grapes."
  2353. "Ten. Fold. Jack."
  2354. >You sink your head down next to hers
  2355. "Ten. That means an entire day."
  2356. >No reply from her
  2357. "And. Most of a night."
  2358. >"SPARKY, DASHIE GET YOUR BUTTS OUT HERE BEFORE ANON DOES SOMETHING!"
  2359. "Ha! A cry of help won't stop me from having my way with you! Saving throw this d-"
  2360. >In a crack of sound and a bright flash that makes you cover your eyes, her allies come to save the evening
  2361. "Ah, Jesus Christ what did you do?! Do you make a flash bang spell or som...ething...?"
  2362. >Jacky takes that chance to flop out of your lap
  2363. >She hastily takes her place at the center of the trio
  2364. >She rears herself up on her hind legs, trying to flex
  2365. >Shine is... wearing one of your long sleeve shirts
  2366. >You could've sworn that it was white as the driven snow but it looks completely black
  2367. >The right sleeve is rolled up
  2368. >The front only has three of the middle buttons together, leaving a mostly exposed chest
  2369. >The bottom of the shirt is drooping down so much it could almost look like a skirt or something
  2370. >Prism is...
  2371. >That's one of your hoodies
  2372. >She stuffed herself into it, with the hood up
  2373. >Only part of her face is visible, and a lot of that part is hidden by her mane
  2374. >"You rang?"
  2375. >Shine gives you her most seductive, evil glare and raises her hoof up to her face
  2376. >"Barbaric man..."
  2377. >Prism has adopted that odd upper class tone again, like when she freaked out from you offering to help her get into your car
  2378. >"We are ready! To CRUSH ALL!"
  2379.  
  2380. >Jack screeches and flexes again
  2381. >She actually does have some visible muscle to show off
  2382. >The dent in your fridge door is still proof of that
  2383. >You stare at them... actually, genuinely freeze in their pose
  2384. >You wait
  2385. >God above, none of them are blinking
  2386. >And Shine wants to so badly
  2387. >You blink
  2388. >Hard
  2389. >She squints
  2390. >Jacky wobbles just a little
  2391. >The war of attrition ends when Prism blows a tuft of mane away from her nose
  2392. "HA!"
  2393. >You point at them
  2394. "HA HA HA!"
  2395. >Shine stamps her hoof into the floor
  2396. >"Dang it, don't laugh it took a lot of effort to turn this black!"
  2397. >Jacky flexes even harder, straining her face to seem threatening
  2398. "YOU FUCKING LARPERS!"
  2399. >"I'm gonna larp your balls off if you keep laughing, I look hot!"
  2400. "You're gonna throw a beanbag at me and shout 'fireball!', you dork! Oh damn, where's my phone..."
  2401. >You reach down to grab your phone
  2402. >That's when you hear it
  2403. >"Nothing personnel, Anon."
  2404. >Wat
  2405. >Prism tackles you from behind, latching her front legs around your neck and her hind legs around your stomach
  2406. >"Jacky, now!"
  2407. >"SMAAAAAAAAAAASH!"
  2408. >Jacky charges fully at you, taking a leap
  2409. >Oh fuck
  2410. >She thankfully turns herself to the side, giving you a severe hip check to the stomach
  2411. >It didn't exactly hurt but it made you give an exhaustive 'oof'
  2412. >"Take this! Color Spray"
  2413. >Shine's horn glows and three pillows fly at your face
  2414. >They are at least all different colors
  2415. >Stunned and blinded for 1d4 turns, you fall back
  2416. >"Waitwaitwaitwait!"
  2417. >You land on your back
  2418. >Except it's not all on your back, Prism took most of the fall for you
  2419. "...well played."
  2420. >You can see Prism's legs flailing
  2421. "Sorry, I'm stunned. Looks like I'm crushing you now."
  2422. >"Get OFF already, you can't treat me like I'm a pillow!"
  2423. "Should've thought of that before you attacked me."
  2424. >Jacky cackles and jumps onto your chest
  2425. >Your ribs can stand her attack but the added weight causes her to give another sharp scream
  2426. >"Defeated! Quick, let's check his pockets for loot!"
  2427. "Jacky I'm wearing shorts, I have two pockets and they hold nothing without dragging the shorts down."
  2428. >Shine slinks her way into your limited viewpoint
  2429. >"Then I guess we'll be taking those shorts then, won't we..."
  2430. >You see it in her eyes
  2431. >She's serious
  2432. >You bolt upright, launching Jacky off of your chest
  2433. "Alright, that's not gonna happen right now."
  2434. >You look behind your back on reflex and see Prism completely splayed out and vulnerable
  2435. >The hoodie fits pretty well actually
  2436. "So... is this really how you guys are gonna dress up for this?"
  2437. >Jack, who landed on her back, nods
  2438. >"Yup. I just gotta dress up and we're set."
  2439. >You can only imagine what that's going to be
  2440. >Shine pulls out a bandana and a belt
  2441. >Yellow bandana and your normal belt, specifically
  2442. >Jack scrambles to lay on her stomach
  2443. >The bandana goes over her head, with her ears poking out from it
  2444. >The belt, thanks to magic, snakes around her chest and fastens itself
  2445. >Looks like a bandolier
  2446. >Almost
  2447.  
  2448. "You know I'm not buying an axe for you to wear and swing around."
  2449. >"Thanks for reminding me..."
  2450. >She sounds well and truly saddened by this revelation
  2451. >Prism recovers from the backward body slam and finds herself back to Jacky's side
  2452. >She is actually quite quiet when she wants to be
  2453. >Like nothing happened, all of them go to their usual D&D spots
  2454. >Just this time Shine is to your right, Jack is to your left and Prism is across from you
  2455. "Well... points for you guys getting into character I guess. Did you really use some sort of magic bullshit to turn my shirt black?"
  2456. >"I'll show you how later but it'll cost you your shorts."
  2457. "I'll short your smug face you..."
  2458. >You shake your fist at her like the most infuriated of lethargic geriatrics
  2459. "Alright. So. This was quite the experience. Are we ready to actually play for the night?"
  2460. >All of them seem good to go
  2461. >"Actually..."
  2462. >Prism speaks up
  2463. >"I think it might be good if we went through some practice events."
  2464. "Say what."
  2465. >"Well we are relying too much on dice, and not enough planning. I think you should give us some practice for the night so we can play better."
  2466. >Jack nods
  2467. >"I think so too. Like, you mention us and where we are against enemies and I get it on the map but... like, it's hard to think of it actually happening."
  2468. >Shine pipes up
  2469. >"I agree. We also need to get more into character. Alignments are important and I don't think we're playing close enough to them to be authentic."
  2470. >She keeps emphasizing certain syllables
  2471. >Given the bedroom eyes she's giving everyone, you can tell she's seriously attempting to be what she thinks is some evil sorceress
  2472. >She just looks like she's undressing whoever she can with her eyes
  2473. >Easy to do in the other girls' getups
  2474. "Well... damn. I guess you all have good points. So what first?"
  2475. >You get a mixed answer of "combat", "roleplaying" and "tactics" hurled at you all at the same time
  2476. >Nice
  2477. "...right. Alright, first will be tactics."
  2478. >Prism nods and smiles
  2479. >It's kinda hard to tell that she's smiling with the mane in the way but it does look funny
  2480. >"The best choice. There are rules for grappling and shoving, but what about being surrounded? Getting attention?"
  2481. "There are hit modifiers for surrounding, attacks of opportunity and skill checks for intimidating and threatening are a thing."
  2482. >Her face scrunches
  2483. "...you've read the website I'm using I take it?"
  2484. >The scrunch intensifies
  2485. >"I... think there should be home rules to make it easier for us to do."
  2486. "What? Why?"
  2487. >"Because none of us have skills in intimidation but we've been able to surround ponies before and never lose when we do that."
  2488. "Yeah well you aren't ponies here and you won't tackle me into giving you bogus bonuses."
  2489. >You already fudge their results enough as is
  2490. >Not terribly but a +1 or +2 to a few rolls so they don't fail
  2491. >You do still consider this something of a tutorial area, after all
  2492. "Next?"
  2493. >"Combatcombatcombat!"
  2494. >Jack beats out anything the shirt wearing mage could say
  2495.  
  2496. "Alright, what about it?"
  2497. >"If I'm angry at the enemy I should get a bonus to hit!"
  2498. "What?"
  2499. >"Well Final Fantasy Ten does have the verbal commands that spike up your stats..."
  2500. >Shine adds to the argument in a lusty voice
  2501. >It doesn't suit her, she's trying too hard to put effort into her throat
  2502. "Yeah, and those are boss fights. And they're only available to certain characters because it is important to them in the story. Getting angry at random mooks doesn't count."
  2503. >Jack looks taken aback by your rebuttal
  2504. >"But I almost died that last fight!"
  2505. >You point an accusatory DM's finger at her
  2506. "That's because you kept rushing from one enemy to another out of support range!"
  2507. >A second verbal blow makes her fling herself onto her back
  2508. >Drama queen
  2509. "So, third is rol-"
  2510. >"Wait!"
  2511. >Jacky scrambles up
  2512. >"You gotta stop giving your enemies buffs! They're too hard for our level!"
  2513. >You squint at her
  2514. >She squints back
  2515. "They're more than fair because the biggest fight you had was three of you against two of them. I make it any easier, on paper, and you'll be curbstomping every singular encounter without feeling it."
  2516. >"Ack..."
  2517. >Jack reaches for her chest and falls over
  2518. "You are dead. Not big surprise."
  2519. >With a shake of your head you focus on Shine
  2520. "Alright... and roleplaying, right? You guys already stay in character for the most part."
  2521. >"I know but we aren't playing true to our alignments."
  2522. "Says who?"
  2523. >"Good roleplaying is supposed to lead to experience rewards at the end of the session... you owe us at least another seven hundred XP."
  2524. >That nearly blinds you
  2525. "Exsqueeze me? Seven hundred? You're lucky you get seven for color spraying nearly everyone who looks at you funny!"
  2526. >"Hey, it was that one guard! One!"
  2527. "And that hunter's dog!"
  2528. >"That doesn't count, it was going to steal our rabbit!"
  2529. "You were poaching to begin with, it wasn't yours to hunt!"
  2530. >"And I'm evil, I'm not supposed to care!"
  2531. >Good grief
  2532. "...alright. Maybe the roleplaying bit could help. But you guys gotta remember that you aren't all that fancy. You're just three bumpkins that are getting some work."
  2533. >"Even though we're the main characters? When do we get our powers?"
  2534. "You cast magic, you already have powers!"
  2535. >"Yeah well it's not strong enough to one-shot!"
  2536. >Now she's just being a pain in the ass
  2537. >But
  2538. >She's being true to character
  2539. >If you're being charitable
  2540. "Not gonna happen. Fight smart, you don't get your Pony Sue powers to flatten the continent."
  2541. >Jack frowns and waves one of her legs at you
  2542. >"Hey, what about me? When do I get a real berserker rage?"
  2543. "You already have some sort of barbaric adrenaline rush."
  2544. >Prism shrugs
  2545. >"I would rather we not fight at all. Every time we do, we have to rest too much to heal. None of us can reliably heal without using items.
  2546. "Thank you. All of you, stop asking for extra benefits. Do what you can to work with what you got."
  2547.  
  2548. >Shine doesn't like that answer
  2549. >She leans over, puts a hoof on your knee, and drags herself across the carpet toward you
  2550. >"There isn't anything we could possibly do...?"
  2551. >Her character hasn't tried to seduce anyone since the campaign started
  2552. >This is really just an excuse for her to act more outwardly evil
  2553. >You're sure someone would fall for this without a second thought
  2554. >Instead you want to punish her by beating her butt in Soul Caliber
  2555. >It isn't a complete failure at least
  2556. >You rub your eyes with your fingers and sigh
  2557. "Alright. If you three dorks can stay in character for a full week, I'll give you each a buff of your choice. But I get final say on what it is and how much it matters. No arguing."
  2558. >That seems to be the right choice
  2559. >Shine chuckles
  2560. >"See girls? That is how you Bluff someone."
  2561. >Alright, that's over the line
  2562. >You flick her nose
  2563. >That breaks the spell that is her attempt to be a sorceress with sex appeal
  2564. >Not that she doesn't
  2565. >But still
  2566. "Oh come off it, Bluff isn't anything like seduction. Jack has intimidation and that is the exact opposite effect. If anything, our little rogue should be trying to seduce me!"
  2567. >You point at Prism
  2568. >She grimaces
  2569. >"Yeah... no thank you. It's all you, Sparking. I'm not that sort of rogue anyway."
  2570. >Temporary thwarted and wounded in both spirit and nose, she slinks back to her spot
  2571. "If you guys are gonna take this seriously, maybe try to plan out how to do things as a team too. That might give you better tactics because you'll have to actually work together. Just remember that your skill checks are you just... actually doing things."
  2572. >You glare at Shine
  2573. >"So don't show me a dice roll and tell me I have to do something."
  2574. >She looks offended
  2575. >"I would never do that! I would just stun you or knock you unconscious."
  2576. "God save the man you turn full Juliet for."
  2577. >"Hey Romeo, what if I intimidate you into giving me a berserker rage?"
  2578. "You already have your adrenaline urge or whatever it's called, Jack. And how are you gonna intimidate me?"
  2579. >"Don't ask what you don't want answers too."
  2580. "Ah Christ..."
  2581. >You stand up and head to the kitchen
  2582. >You're gonna need a drink for tonight
  2583. >You gotta give them credit for sticking so close to character though
  2584. >It means they really are taking a shine to this sort of goofy business
  2585.  
  2586. >Night one
  2587. >None of them are really letting up on the larping
  2588. >Jack has been stuck with her barbaric ways but you get the feeling that she doesn't honestly know how she's supposed to act
  2589. >So instead she's been less a blood-stained brawler and more a sleepy princess
  2590. >She's at least been more forward with stuff
  2591. >Not like 'stuff' has amounted to anything more than extra mane petting
  2592. >To help her get into the groove of being the most adorable murder machine, you've been setting up action movies to watch with her
  2593. >Almost all of them involving the Terminator, Sumarian, and most American of Austrian-sounding meat trucks himself
  2594. >She lasted for most of the first Terminator before nodding off
  2595. >Damn shame she fell asleep before the bar scene with the chick with the three lumps
  2596. >Nothing to do with being a strongmare but still good fun
  2597. >"Pst. Anon."
  2598. "G-GAH!?"
  2599. >You jolt, stopping yourself from bolting up from laying on your side
  2600. >You don't want to wake Jack up
  2601. >You bend your neck back to see... your hoodie
  2602. >With a long, white muzzle poking out
  2603. >It's Prism
  2604. >She's fucking laying on you
  2605. >How did this happen?
  2606. >When, even?!
  2607. "...do I wanna know where the hell you came from?"
  2608. >"Just checking up on things. How's Jacky doing?"
  2609. >You refocus on the snoozing sledgehammer in pony form
  2610. "Pretty good I think. Did some flexing, brushed off the dust from my dumbbells so she could do some stuff. Not really sure what all she should be doing as... her character."
  2611. >"Do me a favor?"
  2612. "Take a picture of you so I can immortalize that goofy look of yours?"
  2613. >You seriously aren't sure how she's supposed to see anything at all with the hood so tightly pulled over her head
  2614. >"She wants to go for a run. Tomorrow can I trust you to take her out and run her until she's exhausted?"
  2615. >That sounds weird
  2616. "Why?"
  2617. >"Because I want to test her too. She needs to realize what she's capable of doing physically."
  2618. "How is this gonna help her get into character more?"
  2619. >"It's not. But it'll help her feel better."
  2620. >Has she been feeling bad?
  2621. >"And... if it isn't obvious. I'm giving you my approval for you two to go out. So don't blow it."
  2622. >You don't think you ever got her spoken approval before
  2623. >You feel a quick peck on your cheek
  2624. >"If you don't, I know where you sleep."
  2625. >You've been focusing on the stomach-mutant talking about opening your mind but that kiss did it
  2626. "Alright, I'm gonna take a picture. You just signed your own warrant."
  2627. >You reach over to grab your phone, which was right under Jack's ear, and turn to take a snap at...
  2628. >...
  2629. >Where'd she go?
  2630. >You don't feel any change in weight or anything like that but she's gone
  2631. >How the hell did she do that?
  2632. >Last you checked, no amount of Move Silently, Escape Artist or Hide can make her that light
  2633. >And that's only when it comes to dice rolls, not actual physical movement
  2634. >You set your phone aside and nudge Jack by poking at her ribs
  2635. "Hey... hey. Jackuzi."
  2636.  
  2637. >She mumbles something
  2638. >The bandana has more or less been undone by this point, leaving the belt-bandolier as her only piece of apparel
  2639. >Which somehow makes it even more apparent that she's been almost always nude for... always
  2640. >While you certainly don't mind, maybe you could surprise her with something...
  2641. >What sort of items would a barbarian wear?
  2642. >Warrior paint is messy
  2643. >You don't have a lot of leather and it certainly wouldn't fit her
  2644. >Leather doesn't seem the most appropriate either
  2645. >Would a skirt work?
  2646. >Maybe a scarf or something like a neck gator...
  2647. "Hey. Countess Jackula. I summon you."
  2648. >Her lips animate like she's trying to say something, or drink water
  2649. >Probably both
  2650. "I got my cup if you're thirsty. But you gotta rise to partake."
  2651. >She mumbles something and kicks her hind legs out in a heavy shake of a stretch
  2652. >"Mmm... Anon water."
  2653. "Well when you put it that way it doesn't sound nearly as appealing."
  2654. >"Says you. What's up?"
  2655. >She brings up her head, just in time to see Quade start the reactor
  2656. >You grab your nearby lidded cup with metal straw and hold it to her face
  2657. >She slurps down almost all of what remained, maybe two thirds of the max capacity
  2658. "You wanna club elk and wear their skins tomorrow?"
  2659. >She twists until she's laying on her back
  2660. >She looks at you with the most fatigued of squints
  2661. >"...what did you say?"
  2662. >You rub her chest with a nod
  2663. "You heard me, Xena. We're going out and are gonna barbear it up."
  2664. >"Wha-now? But I'm comfy..."
  2665. >She looks at your laptop monitor
  2666. >Just in time to see the big bad of the movie screaming with his tongue and eyes bulging out of his head
  2667. >"...man you watch some weird stuff... what time is it?"
  2668. "Not now, Ponesaw. But tomorrow. Think your schedule's gonna be free for it?"
  2669. >She inhales, closes her eyes, and nods
  2670. >"Yeah-hm. You can club me with whatever you like."
  2671. >Well that sounds promising
  2672. "I'll hold you to it."
  2673. >You lean down and give her throat a peck
  2674. "You can keep chilling then. Don't mind what unspeakable things I'll do."
  2675. >"Mmhmm... saving throw against you waking me up again."
  2676. >With a melodious yawn, she relaxes all over again
  2677. >She acts goofy as is, you can't imagine going out with her in character is going to be so bad
  2678. >If you had the environment or knowhow, you know she'd love swinging an axe and splitting wood
  2679. >Not like she has very far to swing so it... might not be dangerous
  2680. >You'll have to find something a bit more befitting of your town
  2681. >Oh well
  2682. >You have a day to think of something
  2683. >For now, you can just enjoy petting her
  2684. >You set up another movie too, not that she'd be awake to watch it
  2685. >Maybe the idle gunfire and screams of murder will help her connect to her inner action star
  2686.  
  2687. >Morning of day three
  2688. >You feel sore as shit
  2689. >Not only did you go out running with Jack last evening, she challenged you to a fight
  2690. >It wasn't so much of real fight as it was her wanting you to grab and hurl her around
  2691. >It was fun though, you just had to find a stretch of grass that wasn't used as a dog park
  2692. >You even found a little hill to fling her down
  2693. >To relax, you sat around while you beat up her butt with repeated punches
  2694. >What wasn't smart for your hands was to enter a boxing match with her
  2695. >Fists to hooves, that sucked
  2696. >She knows how to avoid a flying hand though
  2697. >Slapping fights and pony rolling aside, it was fun
  2698. >By the end of it, you carried her back inside
  2699. >And you texted your supervisor to call in for the day
  2700. >You couldn't exactly use 'got in a fight with a pony as per her request' so you stuck with some nondescript reasoning
  2701. >Rather than dirty your bed in an entirely new way, you opted for the living room instead
  2702. >"Anon, you up?"
  2703. >Dammit
  2704. >You were mostly asleep
  2705. "Ehhhh."
  2706. >"Have fun?"
  2707. >Sounds like Prism
  2708. >You refuse to answer her
  2709. >You've slept for long enough, probably
  2710. >But you want to sleep more
  2711. >As long as you don't open your eyes, she can't presume you're awake to speak to
  2712. >"Jacky's taking a bath now. She told me that you didn't go easy on her."
  2713. >She doesn't know the half of it
  2714. >"She said she was happy that you didn't treat her like she was some sort of... what did she call it, an invalid?"
  2715. >You highly doubt Jack has that particular word in her lexicon
  2716. >"Shame you aren't awake... she would like to reward you with a rematch of sorts."
  2717. >Fight the temptation, Anon
  2718. >Fight it
  2719. >Wait, she woke you up
  2720. >And bringing you good news
  2721. "..."
  2722. >Your body lacks the capacity to hide that you find the offer agreeable
  2723. >"It sounds like you're going to accept this job too..."
  2724. >A hoof pokes against your arm
  2725. >"She already started the water... I might hurry if I were you."
  2726. "...dammit."
  2727. >You finally open your eyes
  2728. >She's still wearing that hoodie
  2729. >Worse, the hood is still tight around her face
  2730. "You look ridiculous. I hope you know this."
  2731. >"I'm not the one who's sprawled out on the floor in his underwear."
  2732. "No, you're usually the one who's sprawled out on the floor naked."
  2733. >Her face muzzle scrunches
  2734. >She kinda reminds you of Kermit
  2735. >"...all the same. Thank you for playing with her. She likes video games but both of you know that she can't play them that well, if at all. This is something she excels at. Don't deny her what she can do well."
  2736. >You avert her hidden eyes
  2737. >She has a point
  2738. >You do want to do better for her
  2739. >Of course, that also means doing more things that she enjoys
  2740. >And getting her to more openly admit what she really wants to do
  2741. >It isn't that there is a problem to address
  2742. >Just that you want to be better for her
  2743. >"I'll take Shine and go for a little walk. We have planning to do."
  2744. >She smiles
  2745. >"That means it'll just be you and her here for... say an hour?"
  2746. "Two."
  2747. >"Hour and a half. I'm not a charity."
  2748.  
  2749. "Two and I'll order a pizza for the night."
  2750. >"Add bread sticks."
  2751. >Why this little...
  2752. >All pizza crust are bread sticks
  2753. "Deal."
  2754. >"Two hours it is."
  2755. >She pats your chest and trots off
  2756. >You listen to them bicker to each other, both in their own exaggerated forms of speech
  2757. >You sleep
  2758. >Or you pretend to
  2759. >You hear them both leave
  2760. >Real shit
  2761. >You go from laying on your back to standing in record time
  2762. >Such a record time you lose your balance
  2763. >But your body perseveres
  2764. >Your rematch will be had
  2765. >If Jack is waiting for you, good
  2766. >If she isn't expecting you...
  2767. >Even better
  2768. >You feel glad that you called in for the day
  2769. >You won't feel the need to rush
  2770.  
  2771. >Night of day four
  2772. >You have been reminded that it is, in fact, summer
  2773. >And summer is hot
  2774. >This summer is very hot indeed
  2775. >Or at least this heat wave is
  2776. >You know what would help too
  2777. >Not having a God damned pony on your lap
  2778. >"It's like a sauna..."
  2779. >Shine is on her back, stretched out with the shirt still on
  2780. >You've been reduced to underwear and it still isn't enough
  2781. "It would be less like a sauna if you got off of me."
  2782. >You've been focusing on a handheld game
  2783. >No matter how overly dramatic she has been when it comes to stretching and seeking attention, the heat has destroyed any of her chances of sparking interest
  2784. >"You know what would help?"
  2785. "You getting off of me?"
  2786. >"You prying this shirt off of me button by button..."
  2787. "How about-"
  2788. >"With your mouth."
  2789. >She has the most shit eating, obvious grin on her face
  2790. >She knows that you know that she knows that she's milking this whole 'in character' bit for all it's worth
  2791. "...tell you what. Figure out a spell to make the apartment cold and you got a deal."
  2792. >You're willing to play along
  2793. >More so, you're sick of this intense, uncomfortable warmth
  2794. >Last you saw Prism, she was nearly dead
  2795. >You offered to help her take off the hoodie but she mumbled some sort of goofy excuse
  2796. >Jack doesn't seem that negatively effected by her bandolier or bandana
  2797. >Shine's eyes widen
  2798. >What looks like a smile grows
  2799. >Just to sink completely
  2800. >"...cold?"
  2801. "That's right."
  2802. >"...are you sure you don't want things to get even h-"
  2803. "Nope, I require cold snap. Anything less and I won't snap you."
  2804. >What you would never admit is that she actually did the trick just by sliding off of you
  2805. >She drags herself to a normal sitting position and immediately her horn starts to grow
  2806. >"Cold... cold..."
  2807. >She mumbles to herself
  2808. >You want to focus on your game but you can't help but keep an eye on her
  2809. >If she accidently burns something, you're in trouble
  2810. >If she figures it out, you're in bigger trouble
  2811. >You can hear something... crackling
  2812. >"Cold... chilly..."
  2813. >She grumbles
  2814. >Her horn is crackling
  2815. >Did that happen before?
  2816. >"Cold..."
  2817. >Should you say something?
  2818. >"Anon..."
  2819. >Should... you reply?
  2820. >"MOUTH!"
  2821. >She rears her head back and headbutts the air
  2822. >A ball of fire combusts in front of her
  2823. >Before you can grab her and ask what the hell, you see...
  2824. >Well you're not sure what you see
  2825. >Rather than it be red
  2826. >It's blue
  2827. >Blue fire
  2828. "What the hell are you doing?"
  2829. >"Mouth.... COLD!"
  2830. >The blue fire twists and folds into itself into a perfect ball
  2831. >It stops
  2832. >From the bottom to the top, the ball starts to freeze
  2833. >It's actually starting to freeze
  2834. >Maybe it's fatigue
  2835. >Maybe you're getting a heat stroke
  2836. >But holy shit, she's actually doing it
  2837. "Holy shit you're doing it."
  2838. >"H... holy shit I'm doing it! ICE MAGIC, THY NAME I-"
  2839. >The fire fizzles out
  2840. >The bottom third of the frozen fire drops on the floor
  2841. >"ANON, I DID IT, I MADE ICE!"
  2842.  
  2843. >You aren't sure that you can believe it
  2844. >Not only did she not burn down your apartment
  2845. >Not only did the fire that she made not actually produce any heat that you could feel
  2846. >She turned some of it to ice
  2847. >She turned fire
  2848. >To ice
  2849. "Wake the girls. I'm not sure one witness is enough."
  2850. >She has no hesitation in running off at full force, shouting some sort of mishmash of word regarding ice, cold, and your mouth
  2851. >You aren't sure what message that will send but you're too delirious from the sight to care
  2852. >You grab one of your many discarded shirts and scoop up the quasi-sphere
  2853. >It has some weight to it
  2854. >The quick loss of heat to your fingers through the shirt proves that it is, somehow, ice
  2855. >Is it... normal ice?
  2856. >Dry ice?
  2857. >If it's dry ice, your hands are done for
  2858. >But it isn't hissing out carbon dioxide or whatever that stuff is made of
  2859. >"AND THEN I MADE BLUE FIRE AND BLUE IS COLD AND CHECK IT OUT!"
  2860. >Shine has the look of madness in her eyes
  2861. >Jack is eager
  2862. >Prism looks like she's about to melt
  2863. >She really should at least take down the hood
  2864. >You weren't keeping track of her rambling but you hold up the evidence to them
  2865. >"SEE?! HE'S HOLDING IT TOO!"
  2866. >"Whoa..."
  2867. >"I... did not think you could do that."
  2868. >"RIGHT?!"
  2869. >You set it down in front of them
  2870. "...I don't think it's melting."
  2871. >You look over the trio
  2872. >Shine looks like she's over the moon
  2873. >Jack looks...
  2874. >Well she looks like you
  2875. >Prism looks like she's about to die because she won't take off that stupid damn hood
  2876. >Everyone sits around it
  2877. "..."
  2878. >"...so can we cool off the apartment with it?"
  2879. >Jack finally speaks up
  2880. "No."
  2881. >"YES!"
  2882. >You and Shine speak up at the same time
  2883. >"Wha, why not? This is enough, isn't it?"
  2884. "It's not."
  2885. >"IT IS!"
  2886. >Another simultaneous reply
  2887. >"But wouldn't it help?"
  2888. >You don't say anything this time
  2889. >"ABSOLUTELY!"
  2890. >She beams at Jack
  2891. >At the ice chunk
  2892. >At you
  2893. "...how?"
  2894. >You can watch the steam leave Shine's engine
  2895. >"I... what if I make more?"
  2896. "More might be dangerous."
  2897. >"Wait, I got an idea!"
  2898. >"Jacky, you don't know magic, why would your idea work?"
  2899. "You don't even know how you did this, why wouldn't her idea work?"
  2900. >Crap, you don't want the idea to work
  2901. >"Exactly!"
  2902. >"...ok, I'm convinced. What is it?"
  2903. >"Snow cones!"
  2904. >Snow cones?
  2905. >Shine doesn't look convinced
  2906. >"...what do snow cones have to do with cooling everything down?"
  2907. >Jack scoffs, as if it's the most obvious thing
  2908. >"We eat big snow cones, we cool off, we have the rest of the ice on us so even if the apartment doesn't cool down entirely we'll be able to cool off individually ensuring that we are able to relax."
  2909. >What in the ever loving hell
  2910. "..."
  2911. >"You know, you're smart for a barbarian. You know that?"
  2912. >"I rolled a natural twenty."
  2913. >You glance at Prism
  2914. >You catch her pulling down her hood by an inch
  2915. >At her realization that you saw, she pushes it back up
  2916. >Damn it all
  2917. "...how do we know this is safe to eat?"
  2918. >"Why don't we taste test it first?"
  2919. >Jack looks hopeful
  2920.  
  2921. "I'm not sticking my tongue anywhere near that."
  2922. >Shine smirks at your comment
  2923. >"You made the rules."
  2924. "You can shut it."
  2925. >You huff through your nose
  2926. "...well shit. I guess if anyone's gonna test this out, either none of us do or all of us do."
  2927. >That sounds fair
  2928. >Shine shrugs
  2929. >"If you're really that worried, I can just try a piece for myself. I made it anyway, right?"
  2930. >"Nah, it's for all of us s-"
  2931. "No, I like that idea better."
  2932. >Jack squints at you
  2933. >"And what if it's poisonous?"
  2934. "It's magical ice, it's not poisonous."
  2935. >"Then why can't we all try it at the same time?"
  2936. "That bandana is doing miracles for your brain circulation, you know that?"
  2937. >She winks and sticks out her tongue
  2938. "Alright, fuck it. I'm getting up and getting spoons. And a big bowl."
  2939. >"Don't forget the syrup."
  2940. "Yeah yeah."
  2941. >You stumble to stand and head to the kitchen
  2942. >You're really iffy on this, but you're outvoted two to one
  2943. >It would be two to two but your little rogue compatriot is too dense to speak up
  2944. >By the end of the week those flapping feather bits better become fully cooked chicken wings
  2945. >After some preparation, everyone has a large bowl of blue ice chunks
  2946. >Blue ice chunks covered in syrups of various kinds
  2947. >No one is quick to take the first bite, now that push has come to shove
  2948. "...you know. I wonder if the ice itself has a flavor."
  2949. >"I wasn't thinking of flavor when I did it honestly."
  2950. >"Can you eat magic?"
  2951. "Feel free to speak up whenever you want P-Dash."
  2952. >She looks transfixed on the bowl
  2953. >You take your spoon and scoop up the first small chunk that is effectively drowned in strawberry syrup
  2954. "This is gonna suck, isn't it."
  2955. >"If it sucks, I'll make it up to you."
  2956. >"That's right, I'll make sure of that."
  2957. "Neither of you are helping."
  2958. >"Please hurry up and test it out. I'm about to drop in this."
  2959. "You have yourself to blame for baking in that shit and not taking it off like any reasonable moron."
  2960. >...well crap
  2961. >Time to be an hero to them all
  2962. >You slide the syrupy chunk into your mouth and crunch
  2963. >It doesn't feel like it's dry ice
  2964. >All three of them are gawking at you like you might turn into a dragon
  2965. >Eat your peas, professor
  2966. >Very slowly, you push the chunk back to the corner of your mouth
  2967. >You close your mouth on it
  2968. >It doesn't shatter
  2969. >It...
  2970. >Squishes?
  2971. >You bite down harder on it and it breaks
  2972. >It's over and you gulp before you really comprehend everything about it
  2973. >"Well?"
  2974. >"Are you magical?"
  2975. "..."
  2976. >You chew a few more times and shrug
  2977. >You feel a little underwhelmed
  2978. "It's... kinda like some fiber cube snack I've had before. You know it's not honestly... oh."
  2979. >"Oh?"
  2980. >"'Oh' as in 'oh crap'?"
  2981. >You can feel it go down your throat and rest in your stomach
  2982. >You can feel it just sit
  2983. >And spread
  2984. >To their surprise you take another chomp
  2985. >"Are you sure you should be doing that so quickly?"
  2986. >"Is this supposed to weird me out that you're eating my magic?"
  2987. >You gulp down the easily fragmented bits of cold and syrup
  2988.  
  2989.  
  2990. >That feeling of cold...
  2991. >It's actually working pretty well
  2992. >It's better than drinking a bottle of frozen water in one gulp
  2993. >But without the brain freeze
  2994. "If you guys aren't gonna eat your own, I'm gonna get them."
  2995. >That comment before a third spoonful spurs them to action
  2996. >By the end of it, the bowls are empty
  2997. >As is a lot of the syrup
  2998. >A chunk the size of a fist remains
  2999. >"Oh sweet heavens, Sparking I could kiss you."
  3000. >Prism shivers in her hoodie
  3001. >Jack nods, nursing off of a bottle of maple syrup
  3002. >The 100% raw, true blue stuff
  3003. >"Yeah well what's stopping you? I'd say I've earned it. Right Anon?"
  3004. >You cooled off enough that you actually got dressed
  3005. >Somewhat
  3006. >At least a shirt
  3007. >You have no clue what the side-effect of this could be but at least you can feel a strong... lack of warmth
  3008. >It feels kinda nice
  3009. >It means you won't be sweating anytime soon anyway
  3010. "...Crap."
  3011. >"Mm?"
  3012. >Jack can't seem to bring herself to care about what's going on
  3013. >That syrup wasn't cheap either
  3014. >Shine cackles
  3015. >"Ahh... I'm gonna enjoy this."
  3016. "No you're not. Prism, back me up-seriously?!"
  3017. >"I appreciate your efforts in stirring her to new heights, Anon. Jacky can always help if needed."
  3018. >That's cold
  3019. >She's just up and leaving like it was nothing but a casual snack
  3020. "Jack..."
  3021. >The born again Canadian nods to herself, content to have gulped down far too much syrup for it to be safe
  3022. >"Don't worry Anon. I always help out with stuff. What does Sparky need us to do?"
  3023. >The newly proven ice queen cackles even harder
  3024. >This ain't gonna end well
  3025.  
  3026.  
  3027. >Night of day five
  3028. >The heat continues
  3029. >Not as much as yesterday, but still bad
  3030. >Maybe it isn't as bad because you ate something you probably shouldn't have
  3031. >At least you didn't crap lightning to complete the cycle of elements
  3032. >Shine has been more than full of herself
  3033. >Everyone else was thankful for that trick, sure...
  3034. >But she's really getting an ego
  3035. >"Anon..."
  3036. >Nope
  3037. >You're not going to open yourself up to more
  3038. >You have a pillow on your lap and your eyes are focused on your game
  3039. >"Look over here."
  3040. >Not gonna happen
  3041. >"No really, look."
  3042. >Not even a once
  3043. >You can remain stalwart longer than she can remain attention hungry
  3044. >"Look at me and I'll leave you alone."
  3045. >You can agree with that
  3046. >You look over and see her posing with her-your-shirt still on
  3047. >And wearing Jack's hat
  3048. >"I'm a witch hunter now."
  3049. "...huh."
  3050. >"Impressed, right?"
  3051. "You would probably work with a wider brim."
  3052. >She relaxes from her pose and looks up at the hat
  3053. >"...really? I thought witch hats were only wide."
  3054. "Witch hunter hats are also wide."
  3055. >You nod as your speak
  3056. >Your sage wisdom gets her to start nodding
  3057. >"I guess that makes sense."
  3058. >Jack's hat lifts off of her head and flings itself back up onto your dresser
  3059. >"I feel like I'm missing something to make the outfit complete."
  3060. "What, a random shirt isn't enough for you?"
  3061. >"No."
  3062. >She sits herself on the floor
  3063. >"Jacky has a bandolier and a bandana. Prism has that hoodie and glasses."
  3064. "Wait, she's wearing glasses?"
  3065. >"Yeah...?"
  3066. >Shine looks at you funny
  3067. "Where did she get glasses?"
  3068. >"They're yours, I'm guessing."
  3069. "I don't own any glasses, Shiner."
  3070. >"Yeah you do. Black lenses?"
  3071. "Oh! Yeah, those are my shades."
  3072. >"Yeah, she's wearing those."
  3073. >She looks at you like you're stupid
  3074. >You must be
  3075. >You have no clue how those are supposed to fit so well on her
  3076. "That... just means she has an even harder time of seeing."
  3077. >The unicorn shrugs and rolls her eyes
  3078. >"Listen, you don't know how magic work, Jack doesn't know how to parry or execute a combo, and I don't know how Dashie does anything."
  3079. "Idiot, you don't even know how magic works."
  3080. >She puffs out her cheeks and leers
  3081. "...when's the last time you even called her that?"
  3082. >"What, Dashie?"
  3083. "Yeah."
  3084. >Her face softens
  3085. >"I don't really know."
  3086. "Not a fan of nicknames?"
  3087. >"I guess not. Just feels weird calling her that, it's not like I know her like that."
  3088. >Fair point
  3089. >You go back to your game
  3090. >She doesn't seem that keen on moving
  3091. >You manage to make some good progress, albeit mostly grinding, until she speaks up
  3092. >"Hey... uh, question."
  3093. "Shoot."
  3094. >"I'm not breaking character but... I'm supposed to be neutral evil."
  3095. "Yeah?"
  3096. >"Am I... supposed to feel bad?"
  3097. "Feel bad? For what?"
  3098. >She keeps a straight face but she isn't looking at anything in particular
  3099. >Her eyes do avoid you
  3100. >"Last night."
  3101. "I'm not going into detail about that."
  3102. >"What's to go into detail about? You talked Jacky into undoing most of the buttons anyway."
  3103. "...y... yeah. Like that."
  3104. >You finish your latest fight so you can focus on something else
  3105. >Apparently this is going to be a conversation now
  3106. >You'd really rather not just not bring it up and blame it on the stuff you ate
  3107. >You bought yet another fan so it is stopping you from asking for seconds
  3108. >"I kinda wanna make you do that sort of thing again. You know. It felt like I won. Like it was real victory."
  3109. "So what's stopping you?"
  3110. >"I don't know. I'm worried that I might go over a line. Or get too wrapped up."
  3111. >You can see that happening
  3112. >"I feel like I'm really the main character of this. In the campaign, it's my bluffing that got us so far."
  3113. >While true, there were far more obvious solutions that they could have taken instead
  3114. >"And... in real life? I can actually do magic. I can do what's really impossible. What's supposed to be impossible."
  3115. >That is a good point
  3116. >"I can... see me getting ahead of myself. And making everyone really mad."
  3117. >You squint in thought
  3118. >Yeah, you can see that
  3119. "I suppose so, depending on how much you rubbed it in."
  3120. >"So... how do I be evil but not bad?"

Angel Cake's Quest

by BlondieAnon

/yandere/ Mr. Pear Bear

by BlondieAnon

/yandere/ Your Night Mare

by BlondieAnon

/bootleg/ Jacky Part Nine

by BlondieAnon

/Jacky/ Themes n' Songs

by BlondieAnon