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Everything posted by PrinceBlueblood

  1. It wasn't exactly reassuring to have his suspicions confirmed; whatever it said about his sanity, Prince Blueblood would most certainly have preferred to be wrong about an evil presence in the capital building of Equestria. If there was any comfort to be taken, it was in the power and competence of his companion. Considering Hogo-sha's questions, he pursed his lips. "No, but then, this isn't exactly my palace; somepony else may well have. It is somewhat similar to the feeling I got in my summer home, and that came from great-great grandfather Bluebeard bringing home cursed treasure." Clicking his tongue at the memory, he caught a sour taste in the air and grimaced. "Bleah... I think I'll definitely want you at your full power when we run up against... whatever's causing this." Taking a few more steps as he considered their options, he finally nodded. "We'll need to consult an expert. Fortunately, Auntie does keep one around, though not for that exact purpose..." It didn't take long for the pair to find Sombra, accompanied by Raven. Smiling in greeting, he turned to the Umbrum. "Yes, I just came back from another trip. I say, there's something in the air here, something not right. I daresay you know more about it than I do, so how about it, old chap?"
  2. Earth Writer nodded at the loyalty oath; only to be expected when one was recruiting a bunch of powerful ponies to do dangerous things. It was a bit of a revelation that Ice herself was solely sworn to the Night Princess, but again not wholly surprising. None of this elicited comment. Her remark about quills, however, did prompt him to pull a platinum-tipped pen out of his pocket. "I wasn't wholly deprived of my livelihood after being fired from the paper. Quills are cruelty to birds in any sense. No need to use archaic tools. Modern problems require modern solutions, after all; that's why you're doing this, right?"
  3. Chrysalis was no slouch when it came to psychological undermining; there were few things that could unsettle Blueblood than hearing those words coming out of Valen's mouth. The pony in front of him was in every appearance his maid, but it wasn't really Valencia behind the eyes... But he couldn't falter, couldn't let the brave face slip. If he broke, Chrysalis wouldn't find him fun to toy with, and his value as a decoy would be lost. Gathering his scattered wits with a snort, he put as much scorn as he could muster into his voice. "Really now? How dreadfully inefficient. You could make a half-decent case for our need of new management, but not if you waste energy by not channeling natural inclinations." Underneath his disdainful expression, he wondered if letting slip the fairly large amount of repressed subservience within him was wise. No matter, larger things than his dignity were at stake. *I hope Hope is living up to her name...* ~***~ Blueblood's efforts were not in vain, insofar as his erstwhile ally was not in any way accosted until she reached Chrysalis' chamber. The Bug Queen was currently indulging herself with spying upon her prisoners as she toyed with them, until she whirled around to confront the intruder. "What!?" She uttered in a voice halfway between a scream and a hiss. "You... I should have known there was something off about you." She apparently recognized the errant changeling as the one she encountered from her venture as 'Cadence' this morning, and seethed at herself for letting her pass as one of her own. Still, those rumors had been troubling, and this was a perfect opportunity to clear them up once and for all. The Queen's glare split into an evil grin, as laughter bubbled up from the festering cauldron of her soul. "BWAHAHA, but now you've come to confront me, at the height of my power and triumph!?" Her horn glowed with all the magic she'd siphoned from Equestrian royalty. "Thank you for sparing me the effort to hunt you down, I shall squash you right here!"
  4. Ponies often wondered why Prince Blueblood had a compass rose cutie mark. After all, it wasn't as if he was the captain of a ship, the sort of profession that a pony would normally adopt after discovering a special talent in navigation. But like most symbolic representations, the compass signified metaphorical talents as well. Blueblood was a navigator, yes, of social currents and atmospheres, able to sense which way the political winds were blowing, and the general good or bad vibes that could stir up and swirl about whenever you had enough ponies in one place. It served him well in his political and diplomatic career, and he was even sensitive to currents and atmospheres of a more... mystical origin. Thus, when he returned to the palace from his latest foray into the hinterlands, the Prince could immediately sense that something was off. Granted, it was fairly obvious that the guards were in lockdown mode, though they could hardly bar royalty from entering the palace. But still, there was an eerily familiar chill slinking down his spine, one that reminded him of a certain incident in his old summer house. *By the rising of my hackles, an evil force has shed its shackles.* It was at times like these that he regretted not having his regular crew of bodyguards and adventurers that accompanied him whenever he ventured someplace dangerous; though he hardly imagined that coming home to the palace would necessitate any such thing! Fortunately, he'd brought along a guest that seemed well able to take care of himself, a visitor from the eastern lands who fancied himself a hero. They certainly made quite an eye-catching pair, the pristine unicorn stallion and the katana-wielding diamond dog. "So... am I going crazy, or can you sense something wrong too?" He remarked in a low voice to his companion.
  5. I've got game night tonight, but I'll see if I can write an intro for Bluey into here tomorrow.
  6. Superhero/Supervillain Name: Kōkina Kyūkei (Noble Break; the closest native Japanese phrase I could find to ‘good hacker’) Powers: Construct Reading: Using nothing but her raw magic, she is able to get a read on how any complex magical spell, technology, or magitek construct works, and what it would take to get control of it. She usually wears a set of sunglasses especially enchanted to read them faster Computer and Construct Hacking: Kōkina is one of the premier hackers in Neighpon; given enough time and concentration, there is no piece of technology or magic that she can’t bend to her will. She wears a set of specialized gear to help her do it faster. However, she’s not especially skilled at building any of her own, making her overall power level dependent upon the technology level of her environment. Optmimize/Overclock: Constructs under her control run at maximum efficiency once she has enough time to get used to controlling them. She can even up their performance exponentially, at the cost of burning them out after a short time. Alias: Shiroi Boshi (White Hat) - Also her birth name Backstory: Born to a pair of ordinary salaryponies working for one of the great Zaibatsu of Nieghpon, Shiroi’s natural talent quickly became apparent to her parents, who were excited by the prospect of their filly becoming one of the great “salary heroes” of the company they worked for. This would mean a great increase of prestige for them within the organization, not to mention increase their chances of outright survival as the Tatakau Zaibatsu (War of the Companies) began to grow more violent within the islands. Shiroi, however, was not so easy to manipulate. Equipped with the finest skill-enhancing magitek the Zaibatsu could spare, she was soon able to subvert her would-be master’s own security systems, exposing to her the full extent of their more underhooved activities. An idealistic and patriotic mare, she was utterly disgusted at how all the Zaibatsu were pursuing their own power at the expense of Neighpon as a whole, and so she ran away from home, becoming a free agent hacker, evenhandedly seeking to undermine the power and influence of the warring companies under her new name of Kōkina Kyūkei. This brought her to the attention of the Shogun, a then mostly-sidelined figure aiming to restore peace and security to Neighpon by teaming up with all the powerful ponies that he could. Re-inspired by the dedication of the young dragon-pony, she immediately swore an oath of utter fealty to him, quickly becoming an important part in the Golden Restoration Movement. Her skills at hacking proved essential in breaking the power of the Zaibatsu, convincing many that resistance was futile. In the end, the Shogun was successful in bringing the Tatakau Zaibatsu to an end, and Kōkina Kyūkei soon found herself in his government cabinet, in charge of setting and carrying out the Shogunate’s magitek security policy. Today she remains fully dedicated to her purpose, aiming first and foremost to maintain the supremacy of the Shogunate over the Zaibatsu in terms of the magical, technical, and magiteknical capabilities they control. However, she also seeks to ensure the supremacy of Neighpon in these fields over all other nations, including that of Equestria. This has brought her into conflict with international heroes, as well as villains. But as far as she is concerned, what is good for the Shogunate is good for Neighpon, and what is good for Neighpon is simply good. End of story. Notable Allies: The Shogunate: Kōkina Kyūkei has the full backing of the Neighponese government, with access to the state budget and resources. Any character aligned with the Shogun is likely to be a friend to her, and may count on her aid if it is needed. Tobohime: Kōkina has fought alongside this Yo-Kaiju during the Golden Restoration, and on subsequent occasions when fighting off threats to Neighpon. Notable Personal Villains/Rivals: Disloyal Zabaitsu (Open to be apped) Halvard Breen/IRN-Bou: (Will be apped by me soon) This Caribou mogul has recently made a name for himself on the weapons and security market, first coming to Kōkina’s attention when she found his systems to be supremely resistant to her hacking. She considers him a personal threat to the future security of Neighpon, though few in the government think the situations so dire as that. General Notability: Within Neighpon, she is something of a public figure, being fairly prominent within the Shogunate. Due to the relative isolation of her country until recent times, this has not translated yet into outside fame.
  7. Ossia's whispered promises were enough to light a fire in Blueblood's core, inflaming his imagination to reach delightful peaks. "I very much look forward to that." And if subsequent nights were anything like last night, the interdimensional alicorn would never lack for an enthusiastic student. The Prince would work hard and play hard, now that he had the proper mentor and motivation. A pity for Equestria that such things came from the villainous, but that was the hand that Fate had dealt him, and who was he to question fate? Not an immortal alicorn goddess, who felt herself justified in raging against it for a stolen revenge. The ferocity of her reaction genuinely spooked him, sending the stallion skittering across the sheets and stumbling onto the floor. "Ah, uh.... like I said, it was, um, an inside job..." Still keeping a wary eye on Ossia, Blueblood eased back up on the bed, now fully awake and alert. "I... take it you're not from around here. You look similar to Cadence, but you aren't her, are you?"
  8. It was true, Chrysalis had let her guard down. Blueblood would never know why; perhaps it was an oversight with everything else that she had to plan for d-day, or h-hour, as the day of invasion was likely today, just not quite yet. Perhaps she was also drunk on Shining Armor's love. Either way, she completely neglected to ensorcel Blueblood before having Hope escort him to the dungeons. A fatal oversight? Or would the Prince prove to be too ultimately unimportant for it to matter either way? No doubt it was encouraging to Cadence for her to see her cousin in good, unenchanted health. "Keep your spirits up, Cadence. We'll get her, and get Shining back too." Hopefully without too much damage. His reassuring smile faded, however, upon seeing a familiar face. "Valen, no, she got you too?" The Queen had gotten him, alright, and badly to judge from the cute maid's eyes. The leash just added to his sense of humiliation and degredation (though it had to be said he wouldn't necessarily mind in other circumstances). And thus was the Prince put in his cell, suddenly finding himself alone... or perhaps not quite alone, to judge by the magical eyes on him. But perhaps this was a good thing; if he put on a show, that might give enough of a distraction to help Hope do her thing! "Well, it's not bad accommodations, but I was hoping to be able to prepare your boudoir. I'm no bad maid myself, as you'd see if you let me have a go." He addressed the room, as if Chrysalis were there, taking on his best nonchalant attitude. No reply was as yet forthcoming, though...
  9. There wasn't much that Blueblood could give in contribution to this plan, other than a sense of noblesse oblige. And to be perfectly fair to the prissy Prince, deep down he did have a sense of duty to country and family. It was just that, before today, nopony took him seriously enough to ask him to act upon this sense of responsibility. It was pretty ironic that it would take a changeling to awaken him, but that was life for you. Sometimes, it took twists like this, and one day, if he survived, he'd look back upon this day with laughter and with pride. For now, however, pride was far from his countenance. He was truly acting the part, to the point where even the emotion-reading changelings would have gotten nothing off of him but shame and anger at his situation. He could have been a decent stage actor, had he been born to the lower class. That said, his acting was nothing compared the the Queen, still playing her "role" as "Cadence", although definitely in a backstage environment, with nopony around her that wasn't either ensorcelled by her magic, or else her changeling subjects. She raised her brow at the approaching Hope, but grinned in a most unpleasant way at Blueblood, sending a shiver of genuine fear down the alabaster stallion's spine. "You have indeed, my daughter. I had hoped to keep inconspicuous until right up to the wedding, but it seems that suspicion is mounting beyond what I can control. Once my last units are in place, I'll drain Shining for the last time and bring down the barrier. But first, hm, what to do with you?" Still in her Cadence disguise, Chrysalis did not bother changing her voice at all, which was a very unsettling phenomenon from her cousin, who felt the cuffs chafe around his wrists. "Hm, I'll bet you never thought you'd meet a mare like this, hm? Or perhaps this was always what you dreamed of having happen to you~ Of course, I'll have to detain you for now, perhaps in the crystal caverns, but after my triumph, I will want a celebratory snack~" A snaky tongue slipped out from her lips, tickling Blueblood on the nose as he reared back. "St-stay back you fiend!!"
  10. It seemed that Blueblood's new companion had some sort of plan, at least. "Are you sure you're strong enough to take her on, though?" He had to ask. "I mean, you just said she took over the whole of your kind, and you didn't stop her then- hold up, what?" He was a little shocked when he got cuffed; the disguise made sense, he had to admit, but that didn't mean he had to like it. "Mph, won't be of much help to you like this." Not that he'd be much of a help in a fight in any case, being more for ornamentation than practical use. Still, as Hope led him through the guards, they seemed to buy the act he put on. To give the Prince credit, he could completely sell the 'utterly peeved' look. "Ugh, finally. The little brat's been nothing but a hassle all day. I dunno if the queen will appreciate being bothered, but she could use somepony to vent her frustrations on for sure." The guard, wearing a most unpleasant expression of schadenfraude, stood aside to let them pass.
  11. Blueblood, now even more bewildered, recoiled at the revelation of Hope's true form. Canterlot, his beloved city, invaded by a bunch of lovesucking bugs! It sounded... so gauche, like one of those comic books the commoners read. But, these were the times they lived in now. He would just have to face them. Him and this defector. "Uh, alright then. I... what do we do? Has the guard been replaced? That would explain why nopony has let me anywhere, but that means we can't get help! What do we do!?" He was starting to panic again.
  12. A little stunned by the whole revelation, Blueblood could do nothing but stand before her, nodding weakly. It didn't all make sense yet, but the one thing he did pull out was that Hope was the daughter of a Queen, and therefore technically a princess. Which he had treated as if she were a commoner. Apologies were in order. "I... see. And I do believe I owe you as much to say I'm sorry for my prior behavior. It was unbecoming of our respective stations. I just have one more question." He held up a hoof in inquiry. "What's a changeling?" It would be clear to her by now that she was not dealing with a pony of great intellect.
  13. With all the iron will that Blueblood could muster, which wasn't much to be honest, the Prince tried to tamp down on his own growing panic. "They... could be just out. You know, out on the town. Seeing to things. Big wedding and all..." The wavering in his voice betrayed the disbelief he felt in his own words. This would be, what, the third attack his country came under in the past several years? The increasing frequency of such things in recent times made the fear all the more plausible. Upon having his cousin pointed out at him, Blueblood looked over at Hope. "Her...? Surely not Princess Cadence..." It was clear that he had no idea about anything like changelings. He probably didn't even think that they existed, let alone that it was them responsible for these goings-on. Hope would have to take a little time to explain things to him if she wanted his help.
  14. "Changeling Hive.... what?" Blueblood had hardly any idea what she was talking about, and could only blink as she ranted at him and then rushed off. He contemplated following her briefly, as he very much doubted his Aunties would appreciate being interrupted by a random crazy pegasus from off the street. Still... it was weird that the guards which had barred him from going through the hallways weren't sounding any kind of alarm in attempting to detain her. They... were attempting to detain her, right? The changelings wouldn't have bothered Hope anyway, they recognizing her as one of their own, hence her being given freedom of the castle. That said, a few might have thought her behavior odd, especially if any saw her return to the Prince in panic. And truth be told, her panic was infectious. "Gone?" A pit of worry began to open in Prince Blueblood's stomach. "What- what do you mean, gone?"
  15. ( I was asleep? IRL happens.) "OOF!" The volume and affront of the stallion's reaction to the bump was far out of proportion to the actual impact. He jumped in the air slightly, rearing back as if Hope had suddenly sprung up from the ground. From the look he was giving her, he might have seemed to think that she was some strange mushroom-pony hybrid, too. Wiping off his coat as if it had touched something nasty, he huffed. "Don't you know who I am!? I am Prince Blueblood Platinum LVII, and I have absolutely no idea who you are nor why in Equestria you should be allowed to the see either of Princesses!"
  16. 'Cadence' kept a side eye on Hope as she smooched her 'soon-to-be-hubby', a faint green glow enveloping both their horns and causing his eyes to spin a bit as he blinked. "Uhhh.... yeah, got to get... back to the wedding." The stallion blinked in the haze, barely focusing on the pegasus as a pink wing draped over his shoulder, turning him around. "Uh, Blueblood, right! You can help by keeping watch over him. Keep him out of trouble, and... away from us. Or any important guests." "Oh, Excellent idea, Shining!" The smile on the disguised Chrysalis' face was truly genuine, shining through the alicorn guise. It seems the pompous Canterlotian had gotten on the Queen's nerves at least once during the wedding prep. "Do go on, Miss Hope, you should find him on the way to the palace. Tata!" Whether or not the Queen could mind read her subjects, she was in no fear of her perfect day being ruined. It almost made her want to sing! ~***~ Meanwhile, in Canterlot Palace... "Ugh, I cannot believe the nerve of these upstart servants. Barring the grounds to me! Me! The Prince of this city! I have as much of a right as anyone to look over the preparations, I'm the bloody Master of Ceremony, among my other high offices. No respect of bloody authority...." Another white stallion, this one with a golden mane, was ranting to himself as he paced in the gardens, clearly out of sorts. The staff were giving him a wide berth; Blueblood had a reputation for when he got into these moods, though truth be told he'd never really been himself since that Gala. Being covered in cake in front of all his peers had rather put him on tilt ever since. Hopes were had, faint but real, that some sort of character improvement could result from all of this, but it was baby hoofsteps yet. He barely noticed the approaching pegasus, who might well be inbound for another collision...
  17. "Your kind? Uuhhhh...." Shining Armor now stopped in his progress completely, confusion spread across his face like marmalade. "I... wasn't aware of anything like a Pegasus insurrection or disloyalty." He tilted his head, now curious and... not a little suspicious of his new acquaintance. "Are you from Equestria?" It was just possible that she was from Maretonia, a land where the tribes had never been unified by Harmony. That would explain her odd reference. Unless, there was something else going on. Something else that he, as Captain of the Guard, should definitely know about- "O-o-o-h-h Honey!" A breathy, melodic voice, sweet and smooth as grade-a maple syrup, rang over the street, followed quickly by its source, a pink Alicorn with a tricolored mane, slightly frazzled by the day's efforts. "The wedding planner's being a bit of bore, I need your help to straighten him out- oh." Her voice flattened and her eyes narrowed upon catching sight of Honey, her sharpened gaze almost seemed tinged with green. The "pegasus" would have felt herself exposed before the 'princess', and a much different, less sweet voice would be beamed straight into her thoughts. *How did you get past the barrier already, my child? No matter, thank you for retrieving my errant 'fiancee.' Do run along while I recharge the little enchantment I have on him, blend in with the crowds. You will know when the signal is ready for the invasion.* Chrysalis had found her out! Fortunately, the Queen seemed to mistake Honey for one of her own loyal hive, which was good, because she had a very nasty reputation when it came to the disloyal. Betrayal of her disobedience now, with Chrysalis having all the love energy from feeding of the stallion before her, would leave poor Honey as nothing but a smear on the cobbles!
  18. Shining did chuckle at the joke. "That's going to take a while to get used to. Though, wouldn't you just love to see the look on Prince Blueblood's face when he hears somepony else called by that title?" The stallion smiled, but sighed softly. "I hope he doesn't decide to be too insufferable today; poor Cady's starting to get a little stressed. You know how most brides can get." He seemed a little surprised at the offer of guard service from a guest, giving her a sideways look as they continued towards the train station. "I already have my ponies stationed everywhere a threat could come from, though I suppose I'm a little understaffed to watch over every guest. I'd hate to shunt you off to watch over a bunch of stuffy nobles, though."
  19. The pony she had run into, a white-coated unicorn stallion with a chiseled figure and blue, spiky mane, laughed good naturedly, rubbing down the spot where she had bumped. "No problem ma'am, my fault for not being more vigilant while on patrol. I've just got a lot of things to pay attention to right now." If his words weren't clue enough, his uniform and barding were obvious signs that he was part of the royal guard. If Hope was able to recognize his rank insignia, she would see that he was, in fact, the Captain of the Guard. Yep, Shining Armor, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza's fiancee, in the flesh. Thankfully, he wasn't stand-offish or taking out any pre-wedding stress upon the citizenry of Canterlot. Truth be told, though, few could have blamed him if he were; having to keep command of the guard, watch over the security of a city under threat, and maintaining a magical barrier around the whole of Canterlot was quite a lot to put on a buck that was about to get married. But Shining Armor didn't make the rank of Captain for nothing. "I take it you're in town for our wedding too? Most new faces I've seen today are. My little sister's due to come down by train in a couple of hours, so I'm going to oversee her transition through the barrier. Oh, and I'm Captain Shining Armor, in case you hadn't guessed." He grinned. "What's your name?"
  20. Earth Writer nodded at Icy's spiel. "Sounds reasonable. I'm just glad you have some realistic expectations." He raised an eyebrow as she continued, peering over the rim of the bowl as he finished slurping the broth. "*Acha-hah.* Ahem, yes, the palace guard do seem to be more decorative than functional these days, though it's hard to get an exact count of how many things didn't happen, you know?" He sniffed, blowing his nose as the spice cleared his sinuses. "Sorry about that. But yeah, I agree with your general point." Slurping up the last of the noodles, he followed her out, now feeling significantly less out of sorts with the world in general. Amazing what lunch can do for a pony. "So... what else did you want to talk about? I suppose there's some onboarding process I have to go through."
  21. "I shall pass on the wisdom, rest assured, my friend." Blueblood gave Hogo-sha another smile. In most other circumstances, he would have invited him over for tea; whatever his political status, he looked to be a good and useful fellow to know. There was something... heroic, in the Diamond Dog's stance; and heroism was always in demand somewhere. Be good to send him on with a referral at least. But, right at the moment, he had a huge cat with him, and the Prince was conscious that he ought not to push things too far. Let Niilavin get used to the idea of dogs existing before actually inviting them to share a house, even for teatime. *Do sphinxes drink tea? Must make a mental note to ask.* While doing so, he flashed a charming smile to Anu. "Well met, sir! I see from your bearing and breed that your family come from Saddle Arabia, or thereabouts. Are you an immigrant, or a traveler to our fair country?" Thinking about whether or not he should get back on the way home soon, as traffic was beginning to build up behind him, Niil's sudden question gave him pause. "[I... have never seen one of your kind in the flesh before. Nor has anypony I know. That proves nothing, but... another sphinx may be hard to find.]"
  22. "Oh my!" Blueblood exclaimed as the pulled-back curtain revealed just how long he had been out. "Well, what can I say? You bring up the best in the stallions, and it's admittedly been a while since I was able to go full out on anything like that." Likely, this wouldn't be the last time such levels of exertion were called for. The prospect was... rather enticing, to tell the truth. At least, at the end of all of this, he'd certainly be a a better stallion... or at least more of one. The blow aimed at his strained familial relationship struck true, with nary a sting of pain from the breaking bond. "Good guess on the latter." He snorted. "It was terrible; one could hardly ask for help without condescension from authority and mockery from one's peers. I wasn't even in Auntie's school, she sent me to the one for all the normal, non-powered ponies. Having to listen to all the hero-worship made me ill." There was enough there for Ossia to deduce that Blueblood wasn't so much a bad student as an unlucky one, having had a run of poor educators. It might take a little effort on her part to break some bad habits, but there was a good learner underneath here. He had to laugh, though, at the mention of knowledge and common sense. "Oh, yes. I'll have to introduce you at some point; he's good for a laugh. Or would be, if his blatant disregard for self-preservation wasn't so terrifying to behold. I drop by his lab every time I need cardio training; if I'm not running for the hills by the end of the day, the adrenaline has done have the work at least." Speaking of fellow powered ponies, the roster discussion continued. Blueblood had to admit, the thought of Ossia taking on Applejack was... exciting, to judge from his pinkening face. Said mood was quickly dispelled by the next picture, which brought out a less... appealing side to the alicorn. Hoping to avoid an outburst, Blueblood cleared his throat. "Ah, yes, them. Bit of a to-do about knitting together some worldwide network of heroes. Bit naive if you ask me, and I think circumstances backed me up. They got infiltrated and taken down; something about their core database being stolen or hacked or somesuch. All the offices are defunct; there's still some going around trying to revive the thing, they pop up in the news every once in a while. That dragon more often than most, but... well, that Haze fellow always seems to have their number. Probably why Auntie's interested in getting new blood into her heroes; they wouldn't be in the database, and thus less easily neutralized."
  23. Earth Writer had to acknowledge the strategical point. It wasn't wise to bait a trap with your vital rations, after all. Ice Storm had talked a big enough game for the reporter to have a perhaps exaggerated picture of her present capabilities; some re-calibration of his views was in order. "Gotcha." Another slurp brought more noodles into his mouth, washed down by a bit of the broth. Some of the pepper flakes caught in his throat, causing him to cough into his napkin. "Ahc, aha, ehem! Excuse me, probably shouldn't eat so fast." He settled back in his chair a bit, drinking down some cold water as he caught his breath. "I promise not to step beyond my knowledge in any advice, nor to try and show up the experts. That said, I hope you have a somewhat realistic expectation for your recruit base. You can make good bricks out of mud, but nopony's gonna mistake the edifice for marble."
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