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The First Contract (Closed:PyroBlaze)

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City of Sisterly Love, Fillydelphia.

 

For it, today....was not the best time to leave first impressions. Especially for passengers of now landing vessel from Neighpon.

 

It really wasn't surprising. During the two week of travel in the first class airship they were surrounded by all kinds of luxuries. Now lights of the landing strip were getting closer and closer, and so was unavoidable reality of leaving their comfy cabins and stepping into mother-of-all downpours. It seems that weather ponies had quite a slip up.

 

As airship landed in less-then-gentle manner thanks to rough conditions, it was swarmed  by airport staff, doing their best to secure in place the sky leviathan.

On the sidelines of the airstrip however, was something that clearly wasn't part of the airport service. A droshky with darkened windows, and before it two mares in black suits and sporting equally black sunglasses. The chick looking pair studied travelers leaving the vehicle, clearly waiting for someone....

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Yūrei really wasn't one for all this fancy stuff, though it was fun on occasion. The mare was currently disguised as a unicorn in her typical colors, though her mane was long and tied back into a ponytail. She looked around as she exited the airship, using her magic to hold an umbrella over her head. 

 

She really was curious about this employer though. Why would someone from Equestria with that kind of money want to hire her clan? Spotting the vehicle off to the side, she took a moment to smile over at a Pegasus that just exited the craft. The stallion returned the smile, giving a friendly wave as he trotted off to his destination. After that, Yūrei made her way over to the mares in the suits and smiled at them. 

 

"You wait for me? For Henka?" She asked in broken Equestrian, making it clear she was from Neighpon with her voice.

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The two mare didn't bothered which any response beyond a small nod and opening carriage doors. Almost stone like faces the they spotted seemed to confirm they were professionals. Somehow it looked more like they were escorting dangerous convict then awaited guest.

 

Soon the carriage was speeding thought the city, going straight into it's developing part. Yūrei could see construction yards everywhere, a clear sign of prosperity. Of course there was the question, where it come from. Especially after seeing the one yard the were driving past right now. Still not finished, but it was already clear that this building will higher then famous buildings of Manehattan. That's some megatall skyscraper under work here.

After a few more minutes before another, much more humble building in terms of high, but still very wide.

"This is it. The Boss is waiting." said one of the mares signaling end of the ride, first word spoken to Henka since her arrival.

Yūrei - with one of the Mares in Black on either on her sides - entered inside to room that could be only a lobby. The trio stopped before a counter where they were greeted by receptionist. Behind her on the wall - a logo of 'TEMPEST CORPORATION' could be seen.

'Oh? You back faster then anticipated. Go ahead, Boss just returned to the office."

Only a short elevator ride separated Yūrei from her secretive would-be-employer. The elevator doors opened....

Leading straight to the huge...gargantuan office. It appears that most of the floor was taken by it. Combined with a large window stretching through the length of it, it resembled more the throne room then residence of some CEO. And at the opposite edge from the elevator was.....a sigle desk.

"Faster then anticipated." mused the stallion sitting behind it, who apparently until now was shifting through some documentation. "Splendid job. You two have the rest of the day off. Now please....leave us." said the unicorn, his words accompanied by crash of thunder.

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Yūrei remained silent through the whole ride and through the journey to her employer, partially from taking in her surroundings and partially from wanting to see what they would let slip. Not much, it turned out, as the only things she learned were the name of the company and that she was to meet the boss of it. 

 

"<Those two were no fun.>" She mumbled to herself in Neighponese as she watched the two mares leave. Once the door had closed, she turned her gaze to the stallion and began to make her way towards him. 

 

"Impressive. Why you hire us?" She asked him, perpetuating the image of her ignorance of his language. 

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"<There weren't supposed to be. At last not today.>" said stallion.

In Neighponese. Fluent one at that. He even got the accent right!

 

"<So Miss...Henka. Henka Yūrei, isn't it? I wasn't expecting you to come in person. Especially now that I can hear you are not in Equestra often.>" unicorn lampshaded shinobi poor grasp of Equestrian. "<Unexpected....but not unwelcome.>" he said, and indeed his voice was clear that he was quite pleased from this turn of events. "<I always prefer to avoid intermediaries if possible.>"

 

Businesspony stood up and walked around the desk. He was wearing a stylish black trench coat with long back-tails and company emblem on the left side of it. White dress shirt with black stripes all over was what he was wearing underneath that. Careful observation revealed that both of those was from the latest Itaily fashion line. But was less significant then the stallion himself. This pony was big, and part of his body not covered by garments showed rippling muscles just under the skin and his orange coat. He moved nothing like a pencil pusher, instead his movements was more similar to a panther - giving away both strength and lightning like reflexes. His gaze however was akin to a hawk, showing sharp mind and experience far beyond his age.

 

"<You can probably already tell who am I...but let's proceed anyway. I am Swift Squall Squallcoast. Count of the Fillydelphia, one of five richest ponies in the world, founder, owner and CEO of Strand Technologies, Squallcoast Constructions, South Equestria Chemicals and of course Tempest Corporation who unites them all. As well as heir of the fortunes of both my father and grandfather, and quite good swordstallion.>" Squall introduced himself before walking towards the window.

"<And yes. I indeed have job offer for you. Hopefully first of many. As for why you...it's because I in need of skills that come with your profession.>" he mused.

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Well well, this one knew her language. It was to be expected when hiring a Neighponese clan of ninjas though, so it wasn't really that surprising. When he greeted her by name and said he preferred to avoid intermediaries though, the mare grew visibly confused for a few moments before giggling quietly. This giggling grew into full-blown laughter over the course of his words, culminating as he looked out the window. 

 

"<I apologize, but really? Yūrei? You thought my sister was in charge?>" She said, having calmed herself down enough to speak. Another giggle escaped her lips and she waved a hoof in his general direction. "<Well, at least that layer works, even if most never get to it. No, I am Karada Henka.>" 

 

The 'unicorn' smiled as she walked closer, her eyes roaming over his, admittedly impressive, body looking for any hidden weapons. She stopped next to him at the window and patted his cheek lightly. 

 

"<And you looked so sure of yourself too.>" She said, frowning slightly before looking out the window. "<Enough of that though, what are the details of this job? What would we be doing, exactly?>"

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The mare wasn't personal with Squall for long. No more then two pats on his face she could feel her limb being caught into firm, telekinetic grasp and pried off.

"<Don't. Toy. With. Me.>" he growled coldly, while staring straight at her, his eyes glowing slightly. A few seconds of nervousness silence later he put her hoof back on the floor before releasing it from grip of his magic.

 

"<'Thought' implies benefit of doubt, I know that Yūrei Henka is leader of the clan.>" noblepony said while he returned behind the desk while recomposing himself.

 

Squall could only scoff when his guest 'introduced' herself. "<Nice to meet you, Miss I-Don't-Exist.>" he snarked before more serious expression returned to his face.

"<Miss Yūrei... to be honest I almost, almost convinced by your story. You know what tipped me off? You're way too calm. In very impressive way I must add.>" he explained.

"<Even an elite shinobi, a shadow warrior would be slightly unnerved when walking into lions den. Not you however, you hold you emotions in check, being completely in control of them - as befitting true leader.>" Swift praised her.

 

"<Well that, and the fact I did background check before sending my invitation. You didn't really believe I would send Your Clan an invitation just like that, didn't you? No, I hired other ninja groups to gather as many crumbles of information about Your Clan as possible. They weren't befitting the future, much more important tasks I have in mind, but they were more then adequate in an effort to know you better. And they indeed confirmed that there is no better candidate then You and your Clan.>" Squall paused while resting his chin on his hoof.

 

"<Miss Henka, I am not interested with just one single job. What I seek is permanent and fruitful partnership. And I can offer you gift that no other employer could give before, my friendship and loyalty.>" he continued "<Of course for this to work...there is need of honesty. Something that You - as I believe - may have an issue with. For understandable reasons.>" Swift expressed sympathy before pausing again.

 

"<Of course.....requesting one to open up themselves so completely without anything to compensate would be bluntly unfair. So....Miss Henka, I heard you have a great fondness for games. So....how about we play Game of Honesty? For lack of secrets on you part....I offer complete transparency from mine in return. I offer to answer all and any of your questions truthfully, now and in the future - as long as our partnership will hold. And in case that you may doubt my word, I offer something much more solid as an insurance. Does that sound like a fair exchange...Miss Henka?>" billionaire asked.

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Well, he was a touchy one. Yūrei simply gazed back at him, raising an eyebrow until he released her leg. After that, she looked out the window again, remaining completely silent through his words about hiring other ninjas to provide information on her clan. Not unexpected, actually. 

 

"<We are a clan that prides itself on deception and illusions, and yet you simply trusted the information from some outsiders?>" She said, leaving it at that as Swift continued talking. The mare looked over as he talked about honesty and wanting to play a game of honesty. 

 

"<Honestly? Those other ninja weren't a waste of money. And I must admit to being curious about this partnership and the compensation for my honesty.>" Yūrei turned fully to face him after that, letting her horn disappear and her wings emerge. At the same time, her hair changed into its bun form and she pulled her pins out of a pocket and stuck them into the bun. All in all, it simply looked like she was releasing an illusion spell. 

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"<Simply trusted? Good Harmony, no, I am not that naive. A lot of information I got was completely useless - at least in regards of You and your Clan that is. I learned long ago that to find pieces of truth, you need to select right sieve. I am just happy that I chose correctly. Because illusions and deception is exactly what I need. Between us things may be crystal clear, but for others......I want them to see only haze, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.>" he confessed with slight smile.

 

"<Oh I know that.>" Squall agreed with Yūrei observation. "<I never stated they weren't. It was indeed capital well spent, seeing we have this talk right now. But as I said earlier, they aren't adequate for kind of missions I have in mind. You and your clan, on the other hoof, are.>" noblepony again expressed his belief in Clan Henka abilities.

 

"<Compensation hmmm? You already can say how much I can reward you for your assistance, thanks to my...invitation. But alright, how about this?>" swordstallion hummed why he reached towards the drawer. A second later a very official looking document landed on the desk.

"<As I mentioned earlier, not only I have companies of my own, but I am to inherit those of my father and grandfather in the future. My father is owner of media conglomerate, with many any press titles that he owns. As you can guess it's very cheap advertising for my businesses - among other things. My grandfather on other hoof...>" Squall explained while putting his leg on the paper, and shifting it towards Yūrei. "<....deals with with real estate and land tenure trade.>" he finished, while smirk creept on his face.

 

"<In Germaney Mountains there is little known and heavily forested valley, untouched by pony hoof. This valley has a river and a small lake, a number of rare herbs growing here and there, and few meadows on the mountainside - perfect for some small crops. Under any other circumstances it would be tourist destination by now. However there is only one obvious entry to the valley by land - all others required much better physical condition then that of an average pony. Worse yet, air currents above the valley make approaching it by wing a very risky tenure - overall a true logistical nightmare. What do you think Miss Henka? Doesn't that sound like a perfect place....for shinobi retreat?>" he asked while leaning back in his chair.

 

"<Now then, I am far from telling you how to lead your Clan. But wouldn't it be nice to have a base of operation for your people on this continent? Better yet, with this you wouldn't be so reliant on good will and whims of the Shogun. Neighpon is you home, but what if....current or any future leader would find that...shinobi are cumbersome for his politics? Surely you must agree that's it's not wise to put all the eggs in one basket Miss Henka.>" Squall tempted her, while lifting the ownership deed into the air with telekinesis. "<And you may find it hard to believe, but this is just one of the 'bonuses' I am willing to provide for your service. I may have a three companies now....but I am more then willing to expand into other businesses opportunities.>"

 

Swift Squall eyebrows rose and his eye widened at the display before him. "<My my. When it comes to surprises you are  agift that keeps on giving Miss Yūrei.>" he said, before rubbing his chin in stunned silence. And few moments passed, and during them Yūrei could see a glint of realization sparkle in stallions eyes, before he once again leaned into his chair. The smirk too, returned, telling the mare that her display told Count Squallcoast more them she may have wished.

"<Indeed very impressive. You know Miss Henka, you remind me of the two close friends of mine.>"

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Yūrei raised an eyebrow as Swift began talking of the companies he already owned and the ones he was set to inherit. He floated up the piece of paper, which she took into her hooves for a better look. 

 

Easily defensible land in Germaney? Land that is empty and not likely to be visited at all... hmm... The mare looked over the paper as Swift dropped the implications and straight up suggested she expand her clan into this new location. It certainly was interesting, and likely a good idea in the long run. 

 

"<And you are willing to give me this land? In return for the work my clan would preform, we would get a new clan base in Equestria... It certainly is an interesting proposal, one that sounds very agreeable as well.>" Yūrei said, putting the paper back on the desk as Swift spoke of his friends. His smirk worried her a bit, though all she did in response was raise an eyebrow and chuckle. 

 

"<What? You have a couple friends who regularly disguise themselves through illusion magic? There are unicorns in my clan, I simply had one of them put the illusion on me.>" She said, watching him. She paused for a split second as she caught a glint outside, though her eyes never left him. She chuckled again, shaking her head slightly. "<Sounds like you have some interesting friends.>"

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"<Among other things, yes. Did I mention that the valley also have cave system? Because it does.>" Squall answered Yūrei's question with a tip of additional trivia, before leaning forward in his chair, his hooves forming a bridge before his mouth. "<Oh, so you find my proposition fair then? Should I take it as acceptance of my offer?>" unicorn dropped a question of his own, in regards of their possible partnership. "<Yes or no would suffice. Unless you have other questions....which I am obligated to answer per spirit of the...game.>" Swift reminded the Neighponese mare while waving his hoof.

 

"<You could say that.>" noblepony mused when Henka inquired about friends of his "<While they indeed disguise themselves they do without unicorn's help. You can say that they have....natural talent with it.>" buissnesspony said with emphasis, his aggravating, all-knowing smile still present. "<Those two are indeed very special.>" he added in agreement with 'pegasus' observation.

 

"<But enough about my acquaintances. Let's talk about the first assignment I would have for your Clan. If you willing to work with me.>" Squall said with emphasis on the last part. A small hint that he viewed Henka less as possible employee and more as potential business partner.

"<And perhaps after that we can talk about you....if you not against the idea Miss Yūrei.>" unicorn added, turning up his charm. "<Say, would you like something to drink? I am teetotaler myself, but I keep small cabinet for benefit of guests.>"

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Hmm... a cave system too. That would be useful to have, especially if they could open secret entrances into it and use it to get in and out without using that one path Swift mentioned. The mare hummed to herself as Swift asked if she agreed to their partnership. 

 

"<Yes, this sounds like an enjoyable agreement, not to mention useful.>" She said, smiling at him. She chuckled a bit as he talked about his friends, though she had a feeling he suspected what she was. No matter, the conversation quickly turned to the work that was to be done. 

 

"<Alright, let us talk of this assignment of yours. As for being against speaking of myself, I suppose that would depend on what you want to know.>" Yūrei said, sitting in the same spot. She tilted her head at the offer of drinks, not sure what was available. "<Sake, if you have that.>"

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"<So we reached an accord. Very well then, allow me to explain circumstances of your first assignment. Please bear with me, this can take a while.>" Swift asked as he opened a cabinet. At the same time, from one of the shadowy corners of the vast office flew one of the chairs, at last offering Henka something to sit on.

 

"<Sake? Sticking to something we know I see. Are you traditionalist Miss Yūrei? By the way which one? I have Seishu, Nigori, Taruzake and Amazake.>" unicorn paused, clearly waiting for 'pegasus' choice.

 

<"Now, back to the task. First, please look outside.>" noblepony asked. This wasn't hard, seeing that the whole left wall was made of glass, and as such one giant window. The single glance was enough to confirm that weather was still horrible, storm clouds making everything so dark that city skyline was barely recognizable - aside from the brief moments when flash of lightning illuminated Fillydelphia. However one particular landmark stood out despite that the darkness, floodlit by reflectors. The very skyscraper that the mare passed on the way to this meeting. Only now, when viewed from the distance one could appreciate how tall it was, even if it wasn't finished yet.

 

"<Quite a sigh isn't it? They working over it even as we speak - deadlines wait for no one. But worry not, at times when weather turns foul - such as today - a magical field is extended to protect building and workers both from the water and lightning.>" Squall explained. "<You see, the very building inside which we are now is nothing but a temporary HQ for my company. This impressive spire you can see - The Tempest Tower - will be true center of my businesses, both present and future. When it is finished, this skyscraper will be highest on the continent.>" he added with smile.

"<You may wonder what your mission have with construction. I assure you - quite a lot - which will be clear soon enough.>" noblepony added before pausing. The next thing that he did was to open the drawer in his desk, retrieving a couple of photographs, a map and some documents. Apparently Squall had enough foresight to have them written in Neighponese. First couple photographs showed beached shipwreck in very bad shape. From the looks of it had to be in far north or during winter, judging from all the snow and ice on the rocky coast. But the last one showed something different. It showed inside of the wreck, and what had to be it's cargo. Two rusty containers - both large enough to house a train wagon.

"<Two months ago, a survey team on my paycheck was looking for natural resources in northern parts of the continent. This shipwreck was found east from the Crystal Empire. Naturally I immediately dispatched a team both for salvage and to survey it's contents. Finders-keepers as they say. They found no bodies or other remains belonging to the crew, but last photo shows what my workers uncovered in cargo hold. Do you know what was inside those containers Miss Henka?>" Squall asked. Before the 'pegasus' could answer his question, unicorn opened a drawer once more, before laying on the table something that appeared to be mental ingot.

"<This. Despite their apparent poor shape , both conditioners were expertly sealed with magic, protecting the cargo from elements. Now please take a look at this piece.>"

swordpony asked, pointing with his hoof at the ingot. The metal was phlox in color, but it seemed to radiate barely visible glow in dim lit office. On the surface of the metal was inscription in Neighponese. From it one could read that it was apparently 190 years old.

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"<A traditionalist? On occasion, I suppose. Then again, I'm the one that opened my clan to all species.>" Yūrei chuckled to herself, taking a seat in the chair provided for her. "<Amazake sounds good.>" 

 

The mare hummed to herself as she looked towards the building under construction, listening silently as she read over the document. So far, he had talked of construction and shipwrecks, not things ninjas were typically hired for. She had no idea where this was going really, it was quite intriguing. 

 

"<What? Do you want us to hunt down more of this metal?>" She asked, looking at the apparently very old ingot. "<You do know what ninjas are for, yes? So far it sounds like you need miners or treasure hunters.>"

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"<Ahh so you are more of pragmatist then? As benefiting you profession I suppose.>" Swift commented while pouring Yūrei her drink. "<I must confess I share similar, if little more liberal mindset. Tradition....what a weird best it is. Born from necessity, then it's purpose falls into obscurity, until one day a daring mind casts it aside when it becomes liability.>" he mused, getting a little philosophical for a moment. "<But debate about this can wait for later. Let's keep focusing at task at hoof.>" he requested while shifting the now sake filled cup to his guest.

 

"<For hunt I wish to sent you indeed, but not for the metal itself. And yes, I am certain that You and your Clan are the right people for the job. I would hardly bother you with voyage across the ocean if this wasn't the case.>" business-stallion reassured the winged mare. "<Now have patience Miss Henka, the story of mine is not finished.>"

 

"<Now where I was? Ah yes contents of the wreckage. After this metal was found I passed it to the scientists in my employ for identification, experimentation if needed and....forgot about the incident for a few days. You must understand Miss Henka, I am a very busy stallion. Aside from managing my company and other duties on my shoulders, I also wish to have a little life of my own. Not to mention events like these happen all the time.  However a week after a discovery I was presented with...very interesting results.>"

Squall paused for a moment and leaned back in his chair.

"<Despite the best efforts, analyzing those ingots proved to be mostly a failure. My employees found out physical characteristics of this metal, and are quite certain it's not  pure element. Rather it appeared to be some alloy, unknown by Equestrians - and even then it's components proved to be mystery. Thus the metal received moniker 'Metal U'.  But what even more interesting was what further experiments yielded.>" Squall said, before reaching toward the drawer once more. On the desk landed another, larger, ingot that was soon illuminated by light from Squall's horn. The difference in appearance was astonishing. This new piece of metal was dark green instead of shade of purple, lacked any metallic shine and the glow that was.

"<This new alloy was what was produced after some trial and error. And it's characteristics.....>" he paused while levitating some documents from lockers behind him. He then proceeded to read aloud from the pages.

<"Exposed to sea and sweet water, corrosion, heat, and most acids with no ill effects. Extremely hard and capable of supporting great weights - but has melting point low enough for processing, and the production itself is also non issue. The experimental building frame built from it shrugged off simulated earthquakes all the way to Magnitude 9, so it's also resistant to vibrations. At the same time it's elastic enough to withstand strong winds without snapping. A very desirable trait when building super-tall structures. We even hit it with simulated tsunami, dragonfire and arcane explosion that would vaporize mithril. Neither of these leaved a scratch on it. The only things that damaged it were carborane acids, and liquid nitrogen - or rather cryogenic temperatures below -180°C, when it becomes brittle as glass.>" Squall finished before putting the papers down.

 

"<So as you see Miss Yūrei this new alloy produced from ingots found in the shipwreck turned out to be true wonder among building materials. Compared to it, even hardest steel seem like a joke, and not funny one either. It surpasses even hardened adamantium. Structures build from it will outlast even pyramids in Pharaoh Vale. We named this new metal.... galvorn.>" Swift fell silent for a moment before continuing.

"<As you can imagine I was quite exited by this discovery. With galvorn we can build things that previously were straight up impossible to make - a possibility that my company plans to use to it's full effect....but.....>" noblepony gave a deep sight at this notion.

"<While making galvorn using 'Metal U' and...some other substances is easy enough, we have no idea how to produce 'Metal U' itself. Our research yielded no results, and most of the ingots found in containers were used out in experimentation. As you can imagine, this is quite a problem.>" unicorn waved his hoof.

"<At this point, I stepped in to resolve this issue myself. To do this I needed to explain the mystery of 'Metal U', and I had only two clues to start with. The date on the ingots, and apparent place of origin - Neighpon. As such I buried myself in historic books about you homeland for straight two weeks. And, pleased to say, my search was fruitful.....>" said Swift Squall said with a content smirk.

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Well, it was still very unclear as to what Swift actually wanted ninjas for. It was interesting to learn about what he'd been able to find out about this metal though. The mare listened silently, sipping her drink as she did so. 

 

All she knew was that the mission involved a search for this metal in some form or another. That probably would be useful, considering what he said it could do, but she still had no idea how she would be helping with that search. 

 

Now he was pausing again, great. She was starting to get annoyed with those, especially since all she had gotten so far was background information and not much about the mission itself. Really, she would prefer to know what she was being hired to do first, so she could take note of the more relevant information. 

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"<You see Miss Yūrei, it turns out 190 years ago was quite a special time for certain form of entertainment popular in your homeland. I am sure you familiar with it - the golem fighting.>" Squall continued with a smile. If he did notice mare's annoyance then he apparently opted to ignore it.

"<It existed longe before then, true, but it used to be exclusive pastime of nobility. Two centuries ago however was the time when it become popular with the masses, thanks to rising prosperity of the country. I guess it's thanks to Neighpon tendency of...taking Polyneighsia islands under it's protectorate.>" unicorn said carefully, not sure how much of a patriot his guest was. "<It lowered the cost of the production, and so golems became more available. As a result, small family trades that made the golems grew to the businesses they are today.>"

 

"<Anyway....golem fighting was my only lead I had, so I sent my employees for investigation. And here's the thing. Turns out that just like some companies held formulas of their flagship drinks secret, so does producers of golem frames and parts too keep secrets of their production a mystery.>" Swift kept going, his smile only widening.

"<Even golem trainers and maintenance crews of those machines are kept in the dark. True they know of properties of every single part, and are free to mix and match those coming from various manufacturers. More then that, those wealthy or successful enough are able to order a custom made ones for their toys. But how they made in first place?>" noblepony spread his forelegs and shook his head."<This is secret to everyone but the companies that makes them.>"

 

"<So of course I ordered some of those parts and shipped them in secret back in Neighpon. Turns out the materials that's make many of them matches very closely with 'Metal U'. Differences are not surprising really. The methods tend to change, improve over time.>" he mused, more to himself then to Yūrei.

"<And here, is where You and your Clan comes in Miss Henka. Your first assignment for me.>" Squall leaned forwards, his expression serious as he pointed at the 'pegasus' with his hoof..

"<I want you, Miss Yūrei, to infiltrate five biggest golem producing companies and bring the secrets of their production to me. Material that allows the creation of miles high buildings should not be used just for some entertainment. As a reward for beginning of our....cooperation, you will receive the land deed for the valley I mentioned. As well as ten time the about of bits I sent in my...invitation.>" business-stallion said while leaning back in his chair. "<And if your shinobi will find other, interesting secrets you will judge as worthy of interest, in the process....>" Swift paused for a moment, thinking over something as crack of thunder rumbled outside "<......I am willing to reward you for those as well.>"

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Ah, corporate espionage. Well, that was certainly something she could do. Now she had to figure out who to send where though, considering he wanted to hit five companies and she didn't feel like making him wait any longer than she had to. 

 

"<Very well, espionage it is. If that is all, I would like to get started. No point in making you wait unnecessarily.>" Yūrei said, taking another sip of her drink and watching him. She was waiting for his confirmation before leaving, to make sure she didn't miss anything. 

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"<This isn't a race Miss Yūrei, I am not putting any time limit for this assignment. I am both a patient pony, and quite busy with various other things.>" Squall said as he stood up and walked to the window. "<You have all the time to make this endeavor successful. And it may sound strange from a stallion who hired you - but if will be in need of resources or gear to pull this off, then don't hesitate to bring this up. I can remedy the shortage of both.>"

"<That said there is no reason to not enjoy yourself when able. I assure you with our partnership established you will have much more time to do so.>"

With those words noblepony levitated a beverage filled glass. Judging from his statement made earlier, it had to be some kind of juice.

"<Speaking of free time, is there is something you enjoy doing outside of work? I know that your...chosen profession demands constant attention, but we work to live, not live to work, isn't it?>" Squall asked.

"<Well most ponies know this. I mean some don't, but they weird.>" he mused be fore continuing. "<That and you want you Clan to be something more then just shadows, don't you Miss Henka?>"

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"<Free time? Like you said, my position requires constant attention. Besides, you've already outlawed my chosen form of entertainment.>" Yūrei said, watching him. Not to say she wasn't trying to find ways around the truth game, but hey. "<And I'm not sure what you mean. We're ninjas, it's our job to be shadows. What else would we be?>"

 

All in all, she was starting to wonder how much Swift already knew about her and her clan. Obviously, he knew what they did and that she was in charge, but she got the feeling he at least suspected more. 

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"<Well I told you not to rush. There is big city out there, with plenty of stallions who wouldn't mind. Go, have a blast.>" Swift waved his hoof at the view outside the window.

 

"<Shadows need light to exist Miss Henka. This light is an age you live in. Just like shadow needs something to cast it, so you too need current era to have a purpose. And just like the shadow can not change anything about itself, you too are unable to change your existence.>"

 

"<Miss Yūrei, you can task a pony to change the course of history with a slash of a knife, perhaps some of you ancestors did. But with the way you and your Clan live their lives, it also means that the very same history will never acknowledge you. Even if you live you mark on the ages, no one will realize it was you.>" unicorn mused.

 

Squall turned his head around too look at the sitting mare. There was something foreboding in the gaze of his.

"<Miss Henka....your Clan could've disappear in the span of the single night....and the world wouldn't notice.>" Swift said in a serious voice.

"<No one to pass your legacy on. The story never told. Unseen. Unheard......>" he paused searching for the right word "<....Forgotten.>"

 

"<Now, tell me Miss Henka. Do you want such possibility, to loam over your people?>"

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"<True. I may have to do some exploring before I head home.>" Yūrei said, smirking slightly. As Swift started talking of her clan though, her smirk faded and her mouth pressed into a thin line. 

 

"<Yes, I am aware of the nature of my work. We live in the shadows, it's who we are. I've made my peace long ago with the possibility of the world not remembering me. What's your point?>" She said, a bit more tersely than probably necessary. 

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"<You may have to brush off your Equestrian before you go 'hunting'. You don't want your pickup lines to sound bad, do you?>" unicorn joked.

 

"<My point is, it doesn't have to be that way.>" Squall answered.

"<Did you ever pondered why you live the way you do? Why are you shinobi? Is it because it's something you family always did? Is it because you don't know any other way? Or is it because...destiny.>" the last line was said with great disdain.

"<Miss Henka, I may not look the part right now, but I seen lot of things. I've been on four continents and despite many have said, I never seen the instance of 'destiny' other then the one made by pony's own hooves.>" he mused before giving a slight smile.

"<And noting in this world  had 'always been this way'. Everything has a beginning, something that you, people of East across the ocean often forget - with your zealous commitment to tradition. At the beginning of every custom there was a pony, quilin or any other being who said 'No, I will do the things my way!'. A spirit so fiery that others had been mimicking it ever since. Even if passing years erased a reason why she or he did what she or he did.>" a glint appeared in the noblepony's eyes, something in the conversation stringing a right note in his otherwise stoic persona.

 

"<And then you tell me you are at peace with a memory of you, falling into oblivion?! Those are the words of a defeated mare!!>" Squall said with conviction, and for a moment a passion that he let loose likened him to his namesake. "<A victor must speak not of the current state of the world, but of how it can be changed for better!>"

Swift pointed out at the winged mare with his hoof. "<Tell me what you want to be Miss Yūrei! Defeated, or the victor?!>"

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Yūrei stared at Swift as he finished speaking, her face starting at surprised and ending up at amused. For the second time during this meeting, she broke out into laughter. At least this time had nothing to do with deception. 

 

"<First you want to hire us because we're ninjas and are good at going unnoticed, then you try to get me to go and be noticed? Make up your mind!>" She said jokingly, her laughter dying down. "<I am a ninja. Despite the possibility of fading into obscurity, I like being a ninja. I enjoy my work. I bring victory my own way.>"

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"<...You do not understand.>" Squall shook his head and turned around, once more gazing at the city outside.

"<I mentioned before, didn't I? We work to live, not live to work.....even if we enjoy it.>" he mused.

"<Our choice of employment may give us certain characteristics, but it isn't wholeness of us as a person.>" Squall pointed out.

"<The world may not remember Kage Henka, and you may even wished for it to be this way, but it isn't a reason for it to forget Henka Yūrei.>"

 

Swift turned around, and next to his head - levitating in the air - shone a golden coin, sanding out even more due how dim lit was the enormous office.

"<Some say, theorize, there are two sides of everything. I believe this is gross oversimplification, but at the same time, that the very core of the theory rings true.>" he said while walking next to his desk.

"<This...is the world!>" he suddenly said, waving his hoof at the desktop "<And this, is Henka Yūrei, living in this world.>" the coin flew between unicorn and 'pegasus' before taking positioning above the desk. "<And she believes that she can be either ninja, or a person. But the truth is that with some care, experience....>" the coin started descending "<...and patience, a balance can be achieved.>" Squall finished with a coin now standing on it's edge.

"<Of course things are not perfect. Sometimes something happens, close or far, and the tremors of it will disturb the state of events....>" noblepony mused, before kicking the desk.

"<....other times it will be someone...>" he continued while pulling coin-Henka upright again "<...who will roll up and knock down what we built for ourselves.>"

This time the metaphor took the form of the silver coin, rolling on it's edge. Predictably one one metallic circle crashed into the other, knocking the both flat.

"<That, or dozen other things. Of the kind we can predict and kind we can't. Of the kind that's our fault, and those that don't have anything to do with us....But....>"

 

 

Suddenly, Swift's focus shifted to Yūrei and he smiled. But for the first time, it was the smile filled with genuine warmth, not self assurance.

"<Let me tell you something you already know Miss Yūrei. The world isn't all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it's a very mean and nasty place, something that a pony of your profession has full awareness off. It doesn't matter how tough you are, world will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, everypony is gonna hit things as hard as life. But it isn't about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!>"  Squall turned his head back to the desktop, while something small and metallic flew from one of his pockets.

"<And sometimes, when you really feel like this is the end, when you feel that you can't take anymore hits....>" he mused as the object flew to the laying coin "<...if you do enough of the right choices....>" a pair  of tweezers seized the golden disk and lifted it up "<...there will be someone else there to picks you up, dust you off and remind you what great person you are.>" swordpony finished, just like the small tool released the coin, now back standing on it's edge.

"<In Equestria we call those 'right choices' friendship.>" he added, picking up her hoof with his own, swiping the coin from the desk, and putting it on her frog*. Only now she could see that this wasn't an Equestrian bit, but some other, unidentifiable ancient currency.

 

"<I won't held you anymore Miss Henka. It's getting late, you no doubt want to do some sight-seeing, and to be honest I have some more paperwork to do if I want to get home before midnight.>" he mused. Behind the, the sound of the opening door could be heard. Telekinesis sure did come hoofy sometimes.

"<And.....Yūrei, if you would wish to talk...or just ask me anything, you are welcome in Squallcoast Manor. Just make sure to write a letter beforehoof, I tend to be on the road quite a lot. Don't want you to knock the door uselessly, and waste your time, do we?>"

 

*

Spoiler

Frog as in, part of the hoof of course.

 

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