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Foxhunt! (Invite-Only)

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Well, this was turning out to be a most interesting visit overseas for Fēng Yīnhǎitāo.  The sort of interesting that was probably implied in the proverbial curse from his far eastern homeland.  Not that this visit had been at all unenjoyable, far from it!  He'd come here to represent Long Guo at the Annual Iron Pony Event and win glory for his Empress, and that he had certainly done, if being crowned the Iron Pony was anything to go by!

 

That level of concentrated athletic exertion had taken its toll on him, though, leaving a deep sense of exhaustion in his muscles that extended rest would need to cure.  On top of that, his free time was pretty much all taken up with turning strangers into friends, which was almost equally taxing and rewarding to his primary mission.  Ponies like Tempest Shadow and Sunset Shimmer might not have been the easiest mares to get along with, but he sensed them to be the sort of friends that one ought to cherish.  

 

And he ought to know!  He'd come over with a friend like that, Yanhua the head Imperial Chef and fellow Long-Guo Representative.  The qilin, in addition to putting in a respectable performance herself, had regularly cheered on Feng in his events.  Honestly, he'd felt a little bad about ignoring her during this trip, and thus had sat out the last event to cheer her on from the sidelines.  He had to admit, she put in a performance on the rock wall he didn't think he could have matched.  But he was distracted from her prowess by something else, what looked like some kind of magical transformation from a qilin into something decidedly more... vulpine.

 

The fact that Yanhua immediately fled the scene, not even coming back to receive her medal, was what tipped him over the edge from concern to outright worry.  He needed to track her down, and being a stranger in a strange land, he wanted to get some local help.  It was a bit of a pity, then, that the two ponies he knew best here weren't exactly Ponyville locals either...

 

"Thanks for helping out here, Tempest."  He remarked to his fellow-searcher, trying to betray neither his creeping dread nor exhaustion.

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“I needed a way out.” Tempest says back with a few worried glances back at the town, she was in something of a rush to get out of town it seems. “And something about repaying kindness or something.” She looked away from the town and at Feng. She was good at reading others and he was looking weak. Tired. He did a lot and it showed! He even won the race. Somehow. Stuiped judges will never make that mistake again. But Feng had won a lot of respect in her eyes. Strong, swift, skilled and handsome.That last one made Tempest double take her own thinking. Why did she care about that? 

 

“Can’t be too hard to track down your friend. I think we will have her before sundown so don’t worry too much about her.” Tempest says moving up to walk alongside Feng. “The woods out here are pretty soft. She’d have to really get lost and head far deeper to get in to more dangerous parts. At least for the unskilled. The Everfree can be kinda fun to go camping in if you know what to do. Lived in it for almost a year way back.” She added looking over at Feng, she did hope her words helped him relax. This can’t be that big of a deal can it? It was just a friend. Pones have like... Hundreds of them or something. Well he was not a pony… maybe he did not have a lot. Is that how that worked? Tempest really had no idea. Her so called friends never looked for her when she ran away! Other than the newspapers and some posters. But that was lazy! She was already doing more than they EVER did! This firendship thing is easy. 

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What a day for Sunset Shimmer! It started out with a fouled-up attempt at shooting a Golden Cupcake, only for the fiery mare to come across the almost-infamous Tempest Shadow, and now... Sunset, Tempest, and the newly-crowned Iron “Pony” were looking for a fellow contestant — a qilin friend of Fēng Yīnhǎitāo — who started transforming into a fox in the middle of her rock climb? Equestria; twas a strange and silly world at times.....


Miss Shimmer trailed behind the others, herself lacking much experience in wilderness ranging or tracking. “Everfree or not,” she advised; “We should watch our step. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves tumbling through a hidden portal into a- who knows where?” She hastily corrected herself, not sure if Princess Twilight was cool yet with letting people outside their small group of Equestrian friends know about the Mirror World.


Sunset shook her head to refocus on their mission; finding Yanhua... and solving the mystery behind her transformation! “Anyway,” she interrogated Feng; “Is there anything we should know about Yanhua? Do you have any reason to believe that your friend has consumed any questionable potions or other brewed substances? Is it likely she’s been exposed to a magical relic or any plants native to the Everfree Forest? Has she been in contact with anybody suspected of illicit enchanting?” As a former student of Princess Celestia’s, her research instincts were naturally kicking into high-gear; once all impossible possibilities were ruled out, all that remained — however improbable — was the truth .....

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It was a good thing that Tempest seemed more comfortable now that the search party was on the outskirts of town; it had taken a quick intervention by Feng to prevent a rather... disharmonious scene from occurring.  Hopefully the need would not arise again.  The longma took a deep breath, trying to relax himself.  Being tensed up only helped in combat, not in search missions.  He needed a clear head, one that could see the most likely probabilities.

 

"Yanhua always did seem comfortable in nature, at least more so than most of the palace-dwellers."  He mused, looking towards the forest.  "And from what I have heard, the ponies here distrust the Everfree because they do not control the weather over it.  Which... is pretty much every forest in my homeland."  Granted, there was little truly dangerous in the forests of Long Guo, by the standards of the inner Everfree, but he did ultimately share Tempest's not-so-frightened attitude towards it.  "Still, I'm not really sure that's where she'd run to.  She might have ended up closer to the train station, or perhaps to a local kitchen."

 

While Tempest was concerned with where Yanhua was, Sunset seemed more focused on what was going on with her.  "Hum, not really.  We didn't meet up with any alchemists, and I saw no potions when I helped her pack.  We never stepped hoof in the Everfree, and I don't know of any relics, either."  His brow furrowed, understanding the implications of a negative answer, but not quite believing them.

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This was THE worst case scenario for Yanhua. 

Alone, undisguised, and exhausted in some Foreign land. She could only hope that the spectators and judges didn't notice her failing glamour. She hadn't taken account of how much her shape had shifted back after being so rattled. She remembered her paws and pads were back but she was sure she kept her kirin face and body together for the most part. Had her tails already shown during the dive back down the rock-wall? Honestly, she had no idea. The very thought of it only deepened her panic... and the more panicked she got, the harder it was going to be to go back to what the palace knew as 'normal'. 

 

Currently Yanhua had gotten a fair distance away from the Iron Pony grounds. It took some special magic to be able to manage that. Needless to say, A fox as big as a pony with eight long, glowing tails was hard to hide in the middle of a festival of ponies. Some distracting lights, and some illusions here and there gave her the openings she needed to slip through gaps in crowds and behind stalls. One thing managed to escaped the crafty cook's notice as she booked, the tracks she left behind in the grass. When you're in such a hurry to find some place to hide on such short notice, such mistakes were easy to make.

 

Now she was catching her breath by a tree away from the grounds. The Fox taking deep breaths in the hopes of steadying herself, until she heard a very familiar voice...

 

"Thanks for helping out here, Tempest."'

 

... and just like that her heart sank. After all the work she'd done trying to get out of that festival, Feng had managed to track her down?! He wasn't too far away, just out of earshot for a normal pony. Tempest? Wasn't that the moody looking unicorn by the pavillion? The sound of her voice confirmed who it was, and then a third voice certainly made Yanhua arch a brow? Was she the other mare who had approached Feng and Tempest back there as well? Another spike in fear as she considered why he'd bring someone so tough. She noticed that Tempest was clearly a strong mare in many areas, almost as many as Feng... and that other mare she radiated magical energy like a tiny sun. They'd imprisoned another spirit in this country already, hadn't they? 

No, Feng wouldn't do that to her. Well maybe not to Yanhua... or that really old friend of his. Did he even remember her back in the forest that long ago? She had the same face and expression as back then but to the young feng of those days she was just an overly large Fox who could talk. Not an eight tailed youkai who could breath magical fire... She had to hide, to think of some bluff that could get her out of this. She could hear hoof-steps getting closer. 

The Fox took a deep breath to conjure up some of her hypnotic wisps of Fox-fire... only to get a few flickering embers. Oh no. Between her longtime glamour as a qilin, the intense worry brought on by the rockwall, the big display in the cupcake contest, and the hypnosis she'd inflicted upon the fairgoers who came across her she was exhausted.  WIth how close the party was getting all she could try to do was outrun them. If she could calm her nerves she might be able to raise her disguise again, then things could go back to normal again! ... at least she hoped.

Before the group could get too close she broke into a dash out from behind the tree. An orange coat stuck out like a sore hoof in the green grass. The fickering green flames clinging to the end of her tails made it especially hard to hide so she tried to use some tall grass as a cover to get to somewhere she might be able to hide more effectively. With everyone so busy with the festival, she might be able to make it to the town and hide out in some shop... though that was all assuming she could even lose two of the fittest equine in the land while she was still sore from her climb.

 

 

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“There are no hidden portals that’s stuped.” Tempest says looking over at Sunset. She did not know why Sunset tagged along. Maybe she just wanted to get out of town as well but did not want to openly say so. “Well at least none here… But the one I know of is not really hidden if I know about it.” She added thinking on it for a moment before looking back at Feng. 

 

“Maybe she got stressed out and ran off in the woods? If she feels good out in nature maybe she just needed some space. I can understand that…” she says with a shrug. “And maybe she had spells all along to do that. Transformation magic is...  rare and hard but you never know. I can’t say as I don't know her at all. But if she does have transformation magic I am going to ask about it. Maybe I can change into a wolf! That’d be so… cool. Thunder wolf… oh I like that. If I ever get transformed in to a stallion I am going by that name.” Talking more to herself at this point she looked about her surroundings.

 

“Oh hay.” Tempest says hitting Feng in the shoulder and aiming a hoof out at the grasses just outside of town. “Fox was it? Can we sit here for a few minutes? I want her to get more of a head start. If we run her down now it will be boring…” She asked with a tiny grin.

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A short snicker escaped Sunset Shimmer’s lips as Tempest Shadow boldly rejected the existence of hidden portals. Tsk tsk... if only she knew about Sunset’s adventures. That feeling of smugness came to a quick end when the broken-horned unicorn cockily suggested to take a break from tracking, which touched a nerve within Sunset. “Ugggh!!!” The worried mare’s voice oozed with frustration; “We’re NOT on a trophy hunt, Tempest! There’s a girl out there who’s scared about what’s happening to her and NEEDS our help! And we can’t do that if Yanhua thinks you wanna MOUNT HER on your wall!!!”


Sunset Shimmer sighed as she gave herself space to cool down... and to mull theories over. “Hmmm, it doesn’t seem likely that a palace chef is capable of transformation magic. Qilin earn cutie marks just like us ponies, and whichever cutie mark you get tends to limit what spells you’re capable of. Even IF Yanhua’s special talent was magic instead of cooking, transformation spells aren’t easy by a long shot! I’d know; I dabbled in them once or twice back when I used to be Princess Celestia’s student.”


She pondered some more, accounting for everything Feng mentioned earlier as she mumbled; “If anything, considering all the physical exertion Yanhua would have felt while doing the rock climb, it should have been even more difficult for her to accidentally trigger a transformation. Not to mention that spells aren’t supposed to spontaneously happen if you have control of your powers. No, it’s far more likely that somebody using a magical glamour would have that wear off due to physical activity than the other way around. But then, that would have to mean..."


Miss Shimmer stopped dead in her tracks; everything concerning Yanhua’s freak out now clicked together. “Hey guys? You might think I’m crazy, but maybe we have to consider that Yanhua..."


“...Isn’t a qilin at all.....”
 

Spoiler

 

 

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Transformation magic?  That was a possibility, perhaps; though now that Feng thought about it, he couldn't name any qilin who were able to do that with their breath magic.  "You think so?  I've never seen her do anything like that.  Unless there's stuff going on in the kitchen I don't know about."  Obviously, there had to be; transforming raw ingredients into delicious food was surely magical!  But turning oneself into a fox was a whole order of magnitude different from transforming dough, shrimp, and veggies into delicious dumplings.

 

In light of this context, Sunset's theory, as wild as it was, held some merit by process of elimination.  "If she's not a qilin, though, what would she be?"  His brow furrowed in thought as the eyes beneath scanned the horizon.  Oddly enough, a picture was coming into his mind, a strangely clear memory of younger days, playing alone in the woods by his mountain village.  Or not quite alone, but rather with-

 

"Excuse me, what!?"  Feng was jolted from his reverie, first by the glimpse of orange fluff in the corner of his eye, but mostly from the rather insensitive remark on the part of Tempest Shadow.  The shock robbed him of eloquence, but thankfully the other unicorn present was able to reply for him.  Saving time, no doubt.  "Thank you, Sunset.  I'm not wanting to involve my friend in what we find exciting Tempest, and there!"  While scanning the grass where he'd last seen the telltale orange of a fluffy tail, a fairly obvious trail of broken grass could be seen, leading into the thicket.  Without hesitation, he sprinted off into a full gallop, content to leave speculation as to the situation to the brains of the group.  He was a stallion of action, first and foremost, and there was a foxy friend in trouble!

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Yanhua had been scurrying away at a steady pace, but was still just within earshot. The last words she heard were tempest's and if anything they only made her more frazzled. This was terrible. They really were going to hunt her? Did Feng remember the stories back home about her told back in the palace and by talespinners back in the capital? Why were things turning out like this?! She knew by now it wasn't right to hypnotize a queen and take on her looks to get a good,free meal, but to be sealed up for so long just for that... She couldn't go back to being imprisoned in those woods. Or whatever woods they had in this area...

 

Wait a minute wasn't some spirit imprisoned as a stone statue not long ago? This was equestria, what if that was how they punished rogue spirits here?! If there was anything worse than being stuck in the woods with no magic, it had be frozen in place for eternity.  She had to run and get back to normal now, Just come back to the group as Yanhua. Tell them it was some sort of weird prank or some mean fox foal-napped her! ... They'd only seen a few glimpses of her tails, right? If she could turn back now she could make something up!

She got low into the grass, trying to keep her extremities out of sight as best she could. looking back up to the group behind her through the tall grass, she could make out the magical one talking at length about something. While the fox couldn't put her paw on it, something about this pony seemed unique in addition to the magical gifts emanating from her.  This Sunset seemed very astute. She could only just barely make out what she said by reading her lips in between the wind stirred blades of grass...

 

The first thing made her panic spike again as she thought she read "Head on a wall..." Were they not even going to bother with the imprisonment?! This seemed like such a pleasant country! Were the ponies here really so secretly brutal to their enemies?  As Sunset's lips waggled Yanhua only felt more restless, enough that she started to back up further and further into the grass. Something inside told her she should start running. If one of them got close she had at least one spell she could use to defend herself and inconvenience them...

 

In her fear it seemed she failed to notice one of her tails drifting above the upper limit of the field of grass. Feng took the lead and as much as she knew she could use some magic on him and he'd be unscathed... she couldn't bring herself to cast it. The Fox turned tail and ran as fast as she could towards the mostly empty town, heart pounding away in her chest and sore muscles pushing her to flee. while she was surprisingly swift, her time on the wall was catching up to her and Feng was finding himself gaining on the vulpine runner.

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“Oh for the love of…” Tempest rubs her nose with a hoof. “That is not… you know what forget it. She’s ove-” She was cut off as Feng spotted the fox and ran after her. “There.” She rolls her eyes, looking over at Sunset. “You know, yelling things like that is… not the smartest move. Oh well. The hunt is on.” She smirks and winks, dropping her saddle bags off Tempest took off like a thunderbolt but did not follow Feng. Veering off to the town she hoped to cut the fox off. 

 

Where the fox was aiming for in town was more hard to judge… with all the pathways it will be easy to lose her. So Tempest took the high road. Leaping up on wagen than up onto a rooftop in one fluid movement. Stopping she looked out to see where Feng and the Fox was. She’d have to move fast and know what road the fox was going to run down on hitting the town… oh, this was too much fun.

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With the spotting of Yanhua by Feng, the time for chatter and speculation came to an end. Sunset Shimmer followed behind the longma stallion; again, there was no way a city girl like her could gallop as fast as experienced trackers. The good news was that Yanhua was fleeing in Ponyville’s direction, which meant the pursuit was now entering the cleared lands between the outlying woods and the town proper. Being able to clearly see the terrain in front of her, Miss Shimmer felt she could now deploy her own little tricks to head off Yanhua!


All of a sudden, a bright flash blocked Yanhua’s path of escape. Within a second, the light subsided to reveal Sunset, who had used a teleportation spell to get in front of her. “Yanhua, wait!” the fiery unicorn cried out desperately, only to rear up in astonishment; WO-AHHHHH!!!!! Whatever Yanhua had transformed — or more likely, reverted — to, it wasn’t like any fox Sunset had ever seen in her life!


Since when did foxes have four twisty-looking tails!!???

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Amateur pursuers focused on where their quarry was.  Intermediate-level pursuers focused on where their quarry would be.  Professional pursuers could track their quarry's trajectory alongside that of their partners, coordinating to pen in their prey.

 

Feng was a professional, as all in the Watchers were; pursuit of miscreants was an essential part of the job.  Not that the longma felt the same way towards Yanhua as he did towards all the ne'er-do-wells that would dare harm the Empress, but he was no less keen to catch up with her.  So, he naturally and unconsciously fell into the role of foxhound to the kitsune in front of him, aiming to direct her towards were Tempest was coming in from the town side.  No easy task on an open field, but thankfully Sunset was able to change the geography of the chase through teleportation!

 

She was headed towards one of the back-alleys that opened into a field, no doubt hoping that a couple of twists could leave her pursuers in a puzzle.  But, as long as Tempest was quick on the draw, they could lock down both ends, bringing the chase to a halt behind Sugar Cube Corner!

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This was not going well at all. Having already made her way into the tall grass and trying her best to lose Feng, She was still tired from her earlier climb. At first she thought that she might have caught a break when Feng wasn't able to just tackle her to the grass... but this wasn't the first time she'd been chased. By the time she realized she was being led somewhere she was already scampering through the town. A shadow repeatedly flitting across her path drew her eyes up until she saw the outline of the broken horned unicorn leaping from wagon to rooftop! What kind of ponies were these equestrians?! Was everypony a borderline super-equine athlete?

 

Out of the corner of her eye she spotted an a path  she might be able to make a quick turn. If she used some of her remaining non-fire based magic maybe she could slip away! That was a good a plan as any. 

 

Before she could execute it she was cut off by a flash of light and swell of magic as Sunset teleported right in front of her. With all the adrenaline pumping through her system, "Yanhua" was incredibly rattled and at first was terrified when the mare called out... and only panicked further when the unicorn reared and let out what to a scared fox sounded like a vicious warcry. Thoroughly spooked, Yanhua's tails stiffened and frizzled out. All eight spread apart in a perfect radius and giving Sunset a presentation not unlike a frightened peacock. She looked back to see Feng still coming up behind her, then the ominous silhouette of Tempest Shadow above and the sun colored unicorn in front she tried to come up with some idea.

 

... She tried to slip herself past  Sunset and make it to the end of the alley to the field.

 

 

Edited by Pretzelparty
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Oh this was… boring. Tempest had a flawless shot at jumping the fox here and now but what fun will that be? She was only warming up! So she just watched the fox run past the shocked Sunset with an uncaring smirk before turning and running alongside the rooftops following her pray. The hunt was fresh and the games only just starting. “Come now fox~ Is this all you have!?” She shouted down at Yanhua. “You are a beast of magic! Show me what you can really do!” she added before leaping to the next rooftop.

 

What power did this fox have? Shape shifting was one. But there must be more… fire? Her tails did end in green flames. Tempest wanted to see what this magic fox can do. Rather or not the others liked this did not mean much in the face of some real fun. They’d get her in the end, why did they care how long it takes? She’d hoped Feng may understand that but even he seems to want to make this as boring as one can. A pitty.

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Dang it!!! Sunset Shimmer’s lapse in concentration allowed Yanhua to slip right past her! While the unicorn’s feeble attempt to tackle the fleeing fox creature only caught ground, it did allow Sunset to notice the tips of Yanhua’s (eight!) tails were actually made of green flame! What in the world WAS Yanhua?????


.....And then there was Tempest Shadow to make everything worse. Why did she have to treat this very serious situation as a GAME??? “Don’t mind our gung-ho friend, Yanhua!” Sunset shouted a panicked apology as she picked herself up and continued the chase; “I won’t let anything happen to you if you stop running away from us! We just want to help!!!”

 

*...Most of us, anyway.....*

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Almost there, almost there!  Feng was close, close enough to call out to his friend as the chase ran inside the town.  "Yanhua, wait, we just- HEY!"  By all things the ancestors held holy, what was Tempest Shadow doing!?  "Don't make this any longer than it has to be!"  He yelled up to his fellow-pursuant on the roof.  "This is no hunt!  We're trying to help a friend here!"

 

Be that as it may, calling up to Temmy had caused Feng to lose a few steps on his pace.  Snorting, he clamped down his jaw to prevent any further talking from taking away energy, and put on another burst of speed.  The trail was zooming past Sunset, who would have felt the breeze from the pursuing longma's wake.  The streets were still empty, with pretty much all of the town's inhabitants still out in the Stands for the Iron Pony.  This meant that Yanhua would feel free to run through the town; Feng could only hope that they caught up to her before she lost them by ducking into another alley...

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Yanhua was astonished at this sudden good fortune. The nimble fox dashing past Sunset and speeding down the alley. It wasn't until Tempest called her out from the rooftops, the pony keeping pace with ease. This wasn't going to get her anywhere. With how exhausted and sore, Yanhua felt she knew running wasn't an option much longer... and with Tempest above her there was no chance she'd be able to outrun them -and- not be spotted again. 

 

... and those taunting words. Something about this pony really was irking her. If Yanhua couldn't run, She'd have to try and deter her pursuers. She was using magic before most of these ponies were even thoughts of their parents. Most of her flames may have been used up, but before the day's end she'd have them back to their full strength. For now.. There was always illusions and the more vanilla skillset. 

Already her muscles were burning. There would be no more running. Instead, She spun around in a smooth movement to face her pursuers. Her eyes seemed to be glowing the same color as the flame that clung to her tails.  Those eyes met with all three. First Sunset, Then Feng, and finally Tempest on the Rooftops. "If she wants to see what I can do, I'll show her and all of you! ... And if you want to help. No more CHASING!" Her voice sounded shaky, like she was trying to sound more confident than she was. The Fox took a deep breath and let out a rather hoarse sounding scream-like howl. For the trio it sounded much louder than it actually was... enough to make them wince. But when they opened their eyes things were... VERY different.

 

Suddenly this quarry seemed... bigger. Much Bigger... Big enough that she was towering over the various cottages. The sound of a howling wind met all of their ears. A now gigantic fox stood in the clearing between mostly vacant houses. Tails seemed to wave and thrash about like whips across the horizon. The green flames dancing off her fur and pelt as this monster of a yokai bore it's teeth at her hunters. She did not move from her spot and instead looked down at the three, "You... Wish to Help?" As she spoke, the trio could see wisps and motes of flame escaping her maw...

 

Spoiler

Can you spot the strange thing about this?

 

Edited by Pretzelparty
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Tempest slides to a stop on the roof, looking at the now giant fox in aw. For a blink of an eye she saw that… Bear again. But she choked down that feer. This looked nothing like it. “Well this is new.” She says blinking, then grins as here horn flairs to life with a thundering clap of power. She had no plans on hurting the fox, not at all! But if the fox wanted to play hard ball she was going to do the same. “GOOD SHOW!” She yells up at the fox. “IS IT MY TURN?!” She shouted as her horn sparked with power that rolled over her body like a thunderstorm.

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The situation was going from bad to worse! Yanhua ended up minding Tempest Shadow very much so, fretfully addressing her in particular as she warned her pursuers to back off. Before Sunset Shimmer could respond, the fox creature emitted an ear-piercing scream. Once she recovered from the deafening, Sunset opened up her eyes and saw a most horrific vision: a giant monster of flame ready to burn everything in the vicinity to cinders!


And as if Sunset wasn’t shocked enough already, Tempest was STILL clamoring for her epic showdown! Hey gang, being a friend is boring, so let’s instead risk reducing Ponyville to ashes just so I can get a fight in! The frustration in Sunset’s heart boiled over; her horn erupted with a bright aetherial light almost immediately after Tempest issued her latest provokation. With one swift move, Miss Shimmer furiously turned and fired a burst of dispelling magic straight at Tempest!  


“NO TEMPEST, IT’S NOT YOUR TURN!” Should Sunset’s blast make direct contact with Tempest Shadow, the broken-horned unicorn would find herself incapable of summoning magic for a good half-minute or so. “DO US ALL A FAVOR AND STOP MAKING EVERYTHING WORSE!!! ARRRRRGH!!!!!”


Having sufficiently vented at Tempest Shadow, Sunset Shimmer was able to turn back towards the apparent fire-demon with a more conciliatory expression on her features. In her heart, Miss Shimmer knew that despite Yanhua’s fearsome transformation, the scared vixen didn’t really want to fight. Besides, the unicorn’s six sense was telling her that everything about this scene felt off... but she needed to keep her focus on getting through to Yanhua while she was still stationary.


“Look, Yanhua!” The mare pleaded, taking several steps forward and placing a heartfelt arm on her chest as she stared down the beast; “If you just want some space, fine then...... we’ll stop getting in the way. But I urge you NOT to drive away all those who care for you! I swear Yanhua that everything’s gonna’ get better; whatever you’re going through... you can count on your friends to be there through thick and thin!” Even if Yanhua chose to run away once more, it was at least worth the effort to deescalate the situation before somebody got hurt.....

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Well, this certainly wasn't going as planned.  The sudden transformation of the fox they were pursuing into something of legendary size brought the trio up short.  Or, at least, it brought Feng up short, staring at the vulpine enormity in front of him.  Tempest seemed merely excited by the prospect, while Sunset seemed mainly peeved at Tempest's excitement.  Hence, the two ended up being more distracted with each other than with Yanhua.  At least at first, long enough for the longma to get a good look the kitsune.  There was something... familiar about her.  The little niggles that the back of his mind were sending him triggered something like a memory.

 

*Really, could it be?*  While their quarry was being distracted by Sunset's talk of friendship, Feng took to his wings, approaching the large fox with caution, right up until the little suspicion in his head solidified into a solid hunch.  Yes, he was willing to bet on this one...

 

Quick as a golden dash, the Watcher darted in to boop the enlarged muzzle before him.  "Tag, you're it Hanabi!"  He called out, face split by a grin.

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Well, Hayseeds. This isn't working half as well as she'd hoped. The purpose of this kind of grand illusion was to ward off chaser's who meant you harm. Thank goodness she'd only targeted these three. Trying to make everyone in town see this image would probably draw even more unwanted attention. To any who hadn't been chaser her it just looked like Tempest was showing of a massive display of... whatever kind of magic that was, Sunset staring down Yanhua from several yards away.

 

Tempest not backing down was the worst of it. Yanhua had never seen magic quite like what she was channeling over her body from her horn. It seemed like just raw magic potential, just aetherial powers unfiltered through the arrays and matrices of the arcane arts. Thankfully she knew how to take care of overly powerful magic users... it's a shame her foxfire had fizzled for the day. With only the option of trying to force the mare to back down, she steered the illusion bare its fangs at her. The giant fox's maw spilling over with great, green flames. She'd hoped to give a show that would make her back down... 

But thanks to a certain unicorn she didn't have to.
 

Even the illusions visage had changed to surprise when She saw that spell engulf Tempest shadow.  She could smell the magic sizzling away around the broken horned pony's horn. The beast turned it's gaze down upon Sunset. The giant fox beast stared own the mare, the air hanging heavy around them untils he spoke up. "I ... You barely even know what I am... Why are you so worried about me-" Attention was diverted. Feng had took flight and flown up to the beasts muzzle. Placing a hoof right on the giant fox's septum. With that poke to her nose, the skies all cleared up, and the giant fox's body seemed to scatter like dust in the wind in tiny green motes of flame. 

It was a shock to her system. The feeling of years and years of repressed emotions all bubbling up to the surface. The fox stared dumbfounded at Feng and company.... and stepped towards them. "... You... Remember?" She asked as she carefully made her way towards the stallion and Sunset, "H-how much?" Her voice was quavering, eyes already thoroughly misty from this emotional turbulence.

 

 

 

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Tempest started down the giant fox, unflinching as its muzzle filled with green flames and fang. She steps closer, her horn thundering as the thatch roof underneath her hooves smolders and smokes from the rolling storm of magic flowing down her body like a living lightning rod. Hooves space out, horn aims. She did not plan to hit the fox, they were not out here to hurt her after all. But if the fox was going too show off so was she! 

 

 

Than a spell hit her. Tempest was taken back from the shock as her magic sputters out. Betrayed! That word screamed in her head. She was Betrayed. Swinging her head to aim at Sunset, her eyes full of rage. Than nothing… The rage faded away from her face as her eyes go wide. “No.” She mutters, trying to channel her magic again. “No no no no no!” Is the only word leaving her muzzle as she back pedals and looks up at the giant fox. Towering. Fangs. Just like the ursa. She saw it replay in her head. A small helpless filly with no magic. Helpless, screaming for her life. 

 

Tripping over her own legs Tempest falls off the thatch roof out of view of the others well they were busy talking to Yanhua. In her panic and fall she failed to what see happened between Feng and the fox.

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It came deep out of left field seeing Feng fly up to the fox-demon and boop its nose, seeing how Sunset Shimmer was this close to reaching a breakthrough. But by Celestia; whatever Feng did worked spectacularly, because the visage of the fiery monster immediately vanished, revealing the true form of the eight-tailed vixen. As the tearful reunion between fox and longma commenced, Sunset started feeling way out of the loop, as if she wasn’t missing the full historical context between Yanhua and Feng.


Sunset took a quick peek at the house rooftop Tempest Shadow had made her stand on to judge how she was reacting to unfolding events... only to spot nobody! How peculiar.  As Sunset blasted Tempest with a dispelling Fail-Safe spell moments ago, she felt compelled to at least check up and see if the other unicorn was all right. That was, if the broken-horned mare hadn’t wandered off yet.


“Tempest???” Sunset cried out as she walked back in the opposite direction from Yanhua and Feng; “Tempest Shadow, you there???!!” Still no response or sign of her. “Hmmph,” Miss Shimmer reflexively grumbled to herself; “Go figures she runs off the moment there’s no fox to hunt anymore.”


Just as Sunset was just about to call off her search, the mare rounded the corner of the house and found Tempest Shadow sprawled on the ground! “Tempest!”; Sunset cried out in worry as she galloped on over; “Are you alright?!” Tempest didn’t appear to be in physical pain, thank goodness, but why did she look like she just saw a ghost? A minute ago, Tempest had been aching for a fight, so what was up with this sudden 180?


...Was this all because of that dispelling spell?

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If there was ever any doubt, the sight of the fox at normal size dispelled it for Feng.  This was Hanabi, his forest foalhood friend!  He'd wondered, in later days, whether he had simply imagined her in a fit of loneliness, but training as a Watcher had made him pretty sharp in when his senses and memories ought to be trusted, and so he had to believe in talking foxes.  But to see her, here, now, so far from his home village...

 

"I remember playing, with you, in the forest."  He approached her slowly now, the bravado and adrenaline of the chase draining out through his hooves.  "I was never able to find you after I left; well, I mean, I never did go back to my home village, but I never saw anything like a talking a fox.  I almost thought I made you up!  But here you are..."  He beamed, almost made as if to hug her, before curiousity struck him, and he tilted his head.  "Were you... disguised as Yanhua, or were you always Yanhua?"  Feng was quite unfamiliar with the concept of Yokai, and thus had no context for how all this was working.

 

He was also totally unfamiliar with Tempest's trauma, or indeed the present effects of it on her, as his attention was wholly taken up by his reunion

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"I... Wasn't able to leave the forest, Feng. When you left that long ago... I was stuck there. Until the seal expired."  She drew closer until she was now right in front of Feng, "I ... was always Yanhua. Before that I was Hanabi-no-mikoto."  moved with surprising speed to hug the sturdy stallion. She felt as if some weight had finally come of her chest: a weight that had sat there for years. Soon that hug Feng found himself in was enhanced by eight fluffy appendages enshrouding them and making things oddly warm and cozy. The Fox let out a dreamy sigh, "I haven't felt so relieved since I escaped the control of that mad wizard."

She soon stepped back slowly, all the tails wagging slowly and almost fanning  the air behind her. Soon, they stopped. She looked up to the roof noticing that the unicorn who had been son adamant on keeping this chase going was gone. 

Her sharp ears caught the sound of the other Unicorn's voice. Had she gotten hurt after she fell from the roof? As much as Hanabi disliked her conduct earlier... she knew how vulnerable one could feel when separated from their magic. This whole chase had started because Hanabi had failed to keep control of her emotions and struggled on that blasted rock wall.  The Fox let out a soft sigh and  looked to Feng. "We should check on your... Friend. I think you and The orange one may have questions I'll answer."  She moved with an almost fluid grace as she came to the corner where Sunset had found Tempest, "She seems... very scared." 

Hanabi hadn't yet gone around the corner, for now she merely peaked. Her concern was genuine, but so was her wariness regarding this mare.

 

 

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