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Everything posted by Ciraxis

  1. Well that was a relief. Knowing that Dox(or Hei Xue, as she preferred to call him) was acting on his own here, just like she did, made things so much easier.... "[Sigh....So you are here to take slice or two out of whatever cake I am baking? Since when did you took courses in 'witless minioning' Hei?]" she asked him with sarcasm, switching to the local tongue at the same time. It was nice to finally have someone around smart enough to have a 'sass-off'. "[Ha! No inns! No rooms! First, we going to buy suitable travel clothes at local bazaar. Then we finding the quickest caravan to Saddelon.]" Hou explained as she walked forward. "[I never was fond of Manephis and it's surroundings, and I refuse to stay here longer then necessary.]" she added. The port town they were at was not close to the city proper, but still close enough that Hou could eye capital with disdain. After all it's palace complex was HUGE. "[And take some of lady's luggage, would you? You don't expect me to haul all of this alone?]" she 'asked' while pushing one of her bags into his embrace. He will repay her for that with the prank later, but that's how they rolled with each other. "[...Also, since we here we might as well eat something. There is a family run tavern here. They serve GREAT kushari and......]" Hou kept talking as they dived into local street market. So it happened that way to it, run along local hotels....
  2. "<When they come without warning? Yes.>" Hou answered, switching to their native tongue before he did. "<And of course you wat....>" white mare attempted to continue, before she cut herself short as she realized something. They had this conversation before. As in literally, word for word....except their roles were reversed! It was in Maratonia if she recalled correctly, where she surprised him in the port...."<....Two hundred years...you really go extra mile for a punchline Hei, you old fox.>" Hou begrudgingly admitted that what he did was indeed amusing. She held a stern face for a moment before giving resigned sight. "<......Maybe you can help me, but before you do I want to know....Is this official Shadow's business, or are you here on your own?>" how asked. Usually Shadow's done their best to not rub each other the wrong way. But if three or more members found what she was doing not to their liking.... Her train of thought was broken by something...a sting, no...a feeling. Hou snapped her head to the side.....but she saw nothing. Was it just her? Perhaps some strong emotion in one of nearby natives or travelers? Not that she could properly locate it. The port was PACKED....with some many beings here, she could be here all day and don't find anything. Even her sense of dark magic was useless. There were at least ten bloodlines of her own sleeper agents here. In short - it had to be her own imagination. "<......That recent meeting really got into me....>" Hou mumbled. Just after Heartwarming, in Ponyville....
  3. And it's here! Took me long enough, but be free to go ham! Other potential players are still free to join, as long as the post in this thread here, according to the rules set in the original post.
  4. Week Later - Luxury Ocean Liner - RMS Arcania: "Hear this Dear. It reads here that ancient Temple in Long Guo burned to the stone." said the middle-aged stallion reading the newspaper. "Oh.My.Gosh! This is horrible? Did those...monks living there came out alright?" the mare - presumably stallions wife - asked in return. "Opposite my Dear. It appears no one survived." he husband replied with pity. The nearby mare, till now relaxing on sun lounger, lazily opened one of her eyes. Well...wasn't that interesting.... "So news got our already? I hoped I will have more time for myself, but oh well." she mused to herself in her thoughts. With the wave of her hoof, she summoned a hired help to attend her needs for this voyage. "I request a newspaper." Shuren asked. Not even two minutes passed, and she was already reading the article in question and sipping a drink. "Hmph....to think Empress Yù Yuè failed to keep this under the wraps. Pitiful." Back in the day, the Dragon Throne Sovereign would do everything to keep the information of spreading, sending her loyal servants for equinehunt to deliver the retribution on their Lord's terms. But should she be surprised? So far the fresh Empress - aside from diplomatic meeting with Shogun of Neighpon - displayed pro-activity of cold, dead fish. For Darkness sake, there wasn't even a bounty notice in that paper! For a moment Hou's though shifted to the Last Emperor of Long. Incompetent ruler he was, he didn't go gently. She knew...after all, his soul still resided within her. Of course it wasn't an only Dragon Throne seat warmer she interacted with, but even among them young Yuè appeared...bland - at least so far. That's what happens when bureaucracy overwrites the common sense. If she was in her horseshoes, Shuren would purge this system. Following by purging the bureaucrats themselves - Hou found them annoying, and with overblown sense of self-importance, but without any merit. At least harmonious monks - as much as she despised them - could throw a punch. Meanwhile pencil pusher at sign of proper action would just throw up.... ....Bah, wondering about shortcomings of modern Long Guo and it's ruler was not worth her time. Seeing that new about burning of Xuanwu Temple spread already, she will without a doubt be one of the suspects. It's certain that other nation like Neighpon and Equestria know already as well. In that light, sending Wūyún to Saddle Arabia waters on the roundabout way - around Hesperia and Unyasi - proved to be sound move already. No doubt her potential foes will be thrown off by her motives. It seems that her search for Teti-Ra won't be boring..... Three days later.... Ahhh finally the end of the voyage. While Hou was born in northern Long Guo, she always was drawn to more sunny, warmer climate of Tropics and Equator. ironic, considering her relationship with Celestia. She would visit Arabia more often, but it's political system was fluid, and difficult to influence. Still, the country was good for getting magical artifacts and relics. She learned some interesting curses too, after visiting a tomb or dozen. That said, this will be search unlike few others...which was why Hou took quite a bit of luggage. Some of it was hidden in pocket dimension of course, but she rather overestimate security measures Teti-Ra or Theth'Ka invested in then the opposite. Those were the thought that accompanied Hou as she disembarked the Arcania...which made her that all the more surprised when she saw who was waiting for her on the shore, even dropping one of her bags. Seriously, it was rare to see her eyes open so wide.... "........Alright. When and how?"
  5. Worry not! A proper first post is coming tomorrow.
  6. The first part - and the prologue of the adventure - is up! However that doesn't mean that signings are closed! All those dedicated and interested are still welcome, until end of the first thread!
  7. Prologue "I am so sorry." Hou said, while the body of last Temple defender hit the floor. Despite the wording, there was no hint of remorse in her voice, which was instead dripping with sarcasm. And why would she feel it? Defenders of Xuanwu Temple were her sworn enemies, Fenghuang Monks after all. But it was not a reason for today's invasion... Hou was stirred from her contemplation by the bang outside. Ahh...the first, pre-mature fireworks of the First Moon of this year....The holiday was one of few of the Empire traditions she still practiced, despite cutting herself off from most of Long-Guo customs.....But she wasn't above exploiting the opportunity it provided either. Shuren gazed for a moment at the display of lights and noise, appearing over the cold steppe - after all, Xuanwu Temple was north-most settlement in the realm - before averting her gaze and stepping over the body. Those monk's lives were like those fireworks - a promise of enlightenment and ability to spread their voice to converse with all things, but overall brief and pointless. She herself was like a planet - not as spectacular, but ultimately much more important, ever-present and only smart entities could understand her true influence. In the past, she wouldn't need any more reason then her enmity to start such slaughter. But it wasn't the past right now, and Hou wasn't the mare she was then. She had the temple in her sight's for a long time by now, but she was waiting for an excuse that would make her choose to claim what was underneath the temple.....And right now, she was carrying that excuse with her.... "Take anything of value. Especially books, no matter how unimportant they appear to be. Be methodical, take your time. This is first night of First Moon, and all knows that Xuanwu Temple dedicate it to prayer.....we won't be disturbed." sorceress ordered her masked minions. While she could very well do the job alone, she had to be sure that no-one escaped. This guaranteed that what happened here tonight won't get discovered for days, perhaps even weeks. Shuren walked to the now, mummified corpse of the head monk - a sign of her soul stealing - and took a key from around her neck. "I will be below. Follow me after you are done here." unicorn mare made yet another order, and took a walk to the hidden door. The door, the chambers below that it lead to, and their contents were supposed to be secret - known by few, important people: Emperors of Long Guo, Head of the Imperial Watch, Abbot of Fenghuang Monastery, Serpent King and of course, head monk of Xuanwu Temple. Naturally, Hou knew about it too. For a long, long time at that. And today she was ready to to claim what was inside..... "Let's see if today will bring more information about you...." she spoke to Remembrance Stone - safely resting in pocket of her dragon-leather duster - as she passed the hidden door, and down the stairs they revealed. Her descent was long, the prize was deep beneath the mountain, but finally the stairs had ended. The dark. that she was surrounded by didn't bothered her, but it would make the search all but impossible. A quick spell, and every underground chamber was illuminated by a ghostly-blue light, coming from now lit torches. Many Emperors and Empresses of Long Guo pasts have decided that there were certain types of knowledge that were too dangerous to be spread, but too important to be forgotten either. In their hubris they locked it up - never to be seen again, unless desperately needed. But they forgot that for clever mind, no prohibitions or obstructions were issue for too long. Especially if this was a mind of Hou Shuren. "Let's make some quick reading. Let's start...with foreign sources." she said. As she cleared the dusty desk that looked comfortable enough. The quick reading stretched into hours, and soon her Shadow Warriors appeared. Hou wasn't disturbed by the newfound bustle of her minions at all. Only ordering them to leave any scroll, tablet or book tied to relics alone for now - which they did, taking anything else that wasn't nailed to the floor instead. Finally, at what was perhaps three A.M. , Hou gazed at the book of Saddle Arabian origin. The volume appeared - and felt - very old, more ancient then even herself. It didn't speared to be tied to artifacts at all but..... Upon studying it, she found out it told about reign of Pharaoh Theth'Ka....who was grandson of infamous Teti-Ra. This would make a book a copy of even older written source...which still made it one of oldest 'true' books in the future Saddle Arabia, if not the oldest. But what really made Hou pay attention, was the brief mention of supposed power Teti-Ra possessed - an ability to rip the deepest of secrets, memories from the minds of those who oppose him. Unfortunately, it didn't elaborate on them further...apparently Theth'Ka took knowledge about secrets of his tyrant grandfather to his grave. Shuren grit her teeth in frustration and...wait...didn't that book was suspiciously heavy? After careful examination, sorceress discovered that one half of the cover was heavier - and thicker - then the other. Normally she would be vehemently against damaging the books, but.... After reaping the cover apart, Shuren was now holding a golden disc in her hooves. It radiated a magic similar to he Remembrance Stone, but ultimately different. It was a not a magical artifact, but a magical seal. perhaps one to a hidden vault or a tomb. And hieroglyphs adorning it, made it clear to what pharaoh it belonged to. "Theth'Ka...." Hour later Hou was standing outside. Every treasure inside was looted, every text secured. Thus she didn't hesitate to set the Temple on fire. The foolish peasants from the steppe won't find it suspicious at all, until well in the morning at least - after all, there were records of monks making similar celebratory pyres in the past. By the time somepony notices that was not the case, she will be far away, and tracks of her activity here will be covered by embers and ashes. "....It seems my search has only begun. It will be nice, a Saddle Arabian vacation..." Hou smiled to herself, as she turned away from now ablaze temple. She had get back to Wunyun. To get to prepared. Prepared for.......
  8. "They wont?" Squall expressed surprise at the fact that neither Luna and Celestia wouldn't probably be able to take their old jobs ever again. "That's...sad actually. Like hearing rainbow wouldn't contain color green anymore. I knew that those were their talents, but I came to believe it just required pure magical muscle - after all Celestia did her sister job for so long with no issue.....and I read unicorns used to control both before sister shown up. Although their control wasn't perfect....with moon having...phases? And something called....eclipse....?" Squall mused. He understood both phenomenons theoretically , but they were hard to imagine without seeing with his own eyes. The conversation moved back to aspects of arcane. Squall started to understand why Sparkle had founded School of Friendship, and why she taught there. Twilight was always ready to give comprehensive answer about magic...provided one was willing to listen. "And what if some-pony would find a way to slip past aetheric shielding? I read that there are ways to do that...although it requires old ritual magic, and spell modified for an individual. Like locks from mane, or hoof fillings.....And besides, you don't have to affect everypony - only key players. To vanquish an army using illusions you don't go for a corporal, you go straight to the general, making him do wrong decision with his altered perception." noblpony mused....."And since illusions are basically lies...if somepony really want to believe that lie, wouldn't it be harder for them to break it's hold? A return of loved one who passed away, getting your dream job, receiving present you always wanted etc....." Swift inquired further. When Twilight mentioned what they should do about books, he nodded in agreement. He could do that. After all TEMPEST performed transport services too and.... The apprentice of magical mist made him abandon that line of thought. "Sparkle?" he asked, but with no response. It appears that illusions could be used like that too....a visual equivalent of the white noise. Who needs subtlety, when you just can obscure everything, making somepony fall into a hole and break his or her neck? Knowing this, Squall drew his weapons, ready to counterattack, but rooting himself to the spot. Wrong move on his part, and he would loop Princess head off, instead of that of would-be assailant. When the voice came, swordstallion could only groan in annoyance. "The most unstable thing here is my patience. What's with the old ruins and riddles?! An desperate, post mortem presentation of how smart somepony was?" he complained, his mind shifting to memories of his tomb raiding days. He wasn't proud of it, but he certainly was good at that job. Didn't left the ruins in question a piles of rubble, unlike Pathfinder. On the other hoof, he didn't ponder over the riddle at all. After all, he already knew the answer. "It's 'E' , as in the letter. Now can we move along, or can I at least see Twilight back?" Squall asked, hoping that the voice was done, and not readying herself to bring an 'A Game' riddle wise.
  9. Well....at least he managed to not screw up too much. Still, it will take lot of effort on his part to make it up for Ice. After all, how he could help out a mare who had everything...? Business-stallion was stirred from his self-pity, when Spoiled Rich moved in for her inauguration. Dunnie may had to kept things professional, but Swift wasn't bound in such way - and he didn't liked one bit an attitude she shown to his friend. Something that he expressed by glaring daggers at soon-to-be mayor and doing 'Watching You' motion with his hoof. Squall knew, that she knew, that he was even more wealthy then her husband - thus he could cause a whole lot of trouble if he desired. She was wife of millionaire...and Count Squallcoast was billionaire. "While her choice may be one by Ponyville residents...I sure hope there will be somepony breathing down her neck." he mused to those close to him while joining the clapping - without much enthusiasm of course. "Not getting her too comfortable in the role. Being mayor is duty, not privilege." "Did you told your parents yet, dear?" Squall asked, when Fire mentioning visiting her family.. Come to think of it, withholding this information till Hearts Warming would be smart move on Fire's part. After all, what better present for her parents, then letting them know they would become grand-parents...again? Noblepony could only admonish himself for not doing the same, being the only child, that would make the reveal much more special. Yet another one, in his string of poor decisions. Squall stirred when he heard alchemist mentioning immortality. Swift had an occasion to see one such attempts recently, which made him exchange knowing glances with Twilight. Intentions were noble....but....well, they did paved a road to hell, didn't they? That said, he chose to remain silent - he made enough of a buffoon of himself already, he admitted to by paranoiac just moments ago, and if anyone should a say about giving this line of research green light or not, it was Sparkle.... Thankfully, as Dunnie, Blueblood and Star Crusader moved closer, another, more pleasant topic came up to distract the noble - namely how he and Fire are to become parents. "It will be filly." Swift expressed with confidence, while moving closer to Fire. "....When Fire told me, I could sniff smell of the sea in the air. It's...kinda hereditary to us, Squallcoat's. I am usually not into superstition's, but my family chronicles mention that every-time one of the parent's could smell sea salt, daughter would be born without fail." Squall explained. "That and.....Blue...I want to ask you...to be one of her Nameparent's." stallion asked. it was an old tradition, now mostly practice only by most ancient noble houses. According to it, each parent were to chose two ponies to bear the honor - male and female - and apparently Squall decided that Blueblood was to be first one. "And speaking of children....Well, what about you Blue?" Swift asked. "About time you should think about furthering main Platinas bloodline? Perhaps return to roots by adding some warrior blood hmmm? Can't expect me and Pretzy to do everything." he said, while knowingly gazing at Dunnie and Star, while reminding Prince of their shared ancestry.
  10. Sombra and Tongue Twister - added (see first post for details)! @PyroBlaze- Both characters are welcome, but be sure to pick one .
  11. In search of Hut-waret Following her successful acquisition of Remembrance Stone, Hou Shuren, Sorceress Eternal seeks to unlock the secrets behind her new possession. Her studies led her to one of most ancient pharaohs of ancient Saddle Arbia, Teti-Ra - a legendary - if infamous- sorcerer king, whose iron hoof united the until then divided nation. Now Shuren seeks to uncover the history behind the mythical king and his forgotten capital city, Hut-waret - all to unleash full potential of the Stone, and to acquire other relics that may still lie in lost city. And nothing, and no-pony will stand in her way! This thread will split players into two groups - one allied with the evil sorceress, and the other, dedicated to be a thorn at her side. Please link you character, and and tell which side you chose to join. This is potentially long running, however chronologically it happens just after inauguration of new Ponyvil mayor. Posting order will be maintained. Dramatis personae: Seekers of Hut-waret: Ciraxis - Hou Shuren - Ancient sorceress/alchemist from Long Guo, and perpetrator of the whole mess. To meet her goal she allied/hired a few less and more shady characters.... PyroBlaze - Dox/Hei Xue - Another sorcerer from ancient times, occasional mentor in magic and former hero. Dox - just like Hou - is member of Seven Shadows, a secret cabal dedicated to preserve existence of many forms of dark sorcery, with Codex enforcing the members to not betray the cause or turn on the other. Not without risking the wrath of other members that is. Due to this, him and Shuren go way way back, and are one of the few creatures of existence that can trust each other. Dox joins Hou on her quest partially to improve his own knowledge of magic arts, and partially for his own amusement. The Opposition: dragonofruin - King Sombra - Former Tyrant of Crystal Empire and Hou old acquaintance. After a meeting and short 'scuffle' in Whitetail Woods, grudge bearing ubrum resolved to be a thorn in sorceress side. NiktoBarada - Tongue Twister - Translator of ancient languages and equinologist. Tongue Twister found herself in wrong place at the wrong time, and in spur of the moment on sorceress part, ended up corrupted by Shuren's dark magic. Now apparently robbed of her species gift of flight, Tongue seeks to stop Hou, while struggling with new, malicious personality in her head.
  12. Splendid! Will be making OOC thread today then.
  13. I myself, am open to Sombra and Hou having another encounter! I even have a more...grainy setting for another clash.
  14. Ahhhh what a question! On surface, a simple one - but when pondered over it has shown how immature despite his maturity her unproven pupil was. "End game? Nothing ends, Magnus. Nothing ever ends." she started, while staring at him. Her body may be young, but those eyes.....they shown how ancient the mare he was speaking with really was. And she was about to imprint some wisdom on him, of the kind that only comes with age. "The moment you start to think about the 'End', the finish line, is when you start putting artificial limits on yourself. The reason I am still in the game, is because I realized the only real victory Is. To keep. Playing." Hou said with emphasis. She also appeared to summon a glass of wine from....somewhere. Classy. "The moment you set aside your pawns and dice is the time you yourself unravel. Oh sure, you can have 'goals' and 'dreams' but they shouldn't define you. Nightmare Moon, Tirek and innumerable others...they lost because they weren't able to see beyond their goals. You must've be better then this." the last words being something in-between a statement, a plea and an order. "At the same time, I mentioned 'artificial' limits. It's important the realize and know you real one's. When it's the time to break them...and when it's not. I clashed with Celestia numerous times Magnus. I even have battled Miss Sunshine and her sister at once - in good old days. But I never overstayed my welcome. To realize your limits, is to know when to fold, so you can be dealt a better hoof, later...." sorceress explained, using card metaphors. "I assume that's what you were asking me. And not something as bland as 'How come you look so young'? That said, I can answer that one too...." she added with a shrug, while throwing now empty glass into campfire, turning the flames into mixture a green and purple.
  15. If one would say Squall was taken aback by what Ice staid was understatement. He did take it too far, did he? As he always did...... Squall stared for a ceiling for a bit, before making a quick glance at Dunnie. As he always did..... Ice was right, he didn't knew her story. Oh sure, he was told about it but...it didn't really made it the same. He was just a rich colt who - at his puppy years - wanted his freedom to grow stronger in his talent....only to learn that with great power comes great responsibility. "......Yes. Yes, it's hard to me to forgive. And so easy, to accuse those that I...I shouldn't. Everywhere I look, I see shadows and threats and daggers.... I ask 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes' every night.....About you Ice. About you Twilight. About myself." noblepony confessed the extend of his paranoia, taking advantage of privacy bubble granted them. He should....By Harmony...why it was so hard? "And I...I realized how unhealthy that is. That I have a problem....... And I...I saw a doctor regarding this. She....she diagnosed me with PPD.....Please...don't tell Fire." he said quietly, finally getting to heart-to-heart part. Now they knew that he was slightly cuckoo. Great thing for pony with too much resources and power like himself. "Fire. She....she's my greatest anchor, my reality check. Especially now that we are to become parents. But...but now I starting to fear what can happen to our daughter. And...and I start to fear I will turn into knight templar of a father!" Speaking this, he turned to Sparkle. "Which is...why, I want to...take time out from EPIC. I shouldn't touch a sword...in public, for a while. Not until I...sort myself out. That and....I don't think it's working. If it did Ice...Ice here wouldn't feel a need to do what she did. There were no missions for year and a half. I have a feeling that the whole organization needs to be shut down or reformed from ground up. I also have a suspicions about commander-in-chief. Dexter Silverbeak is not a warrior, apathetic to dangers and I have a feeling that he puts Aquelia interests first, and world security sec...." Squall stopped, wide eyed, before face-hoofing. "Here I go again. But....but I still believe that EPIC needs new leadership, if you want to have it around. And there is one pony fit for it, the way I see it. She's standing next to us." he pointed at Ice Storm. "She was only other pony who gave a damn, and she was only pony who did something with it, unlike whining, like I did." swordpony pointed out. "....I am sorry, you two." he added, as magical barrier dissipated, his head hanging down in shame.... Only to grow wide-eyed AGAIN, when he heard Fire coming. The worst of timings. Or the best, depending how you seen it. "I am coming....DEAR! You shouldn't strain yourself!" he left two mares making beeline towards his wife-to-be, only to be barred path by Blueblood. Oh no...he mentioned him earlier did he? Yes, yes he did. And now I was getting a justified scolding for all his venomous words. "...I know. And...I am sorry." Squall said quietly...before pausing. Yes, Blue was his friends too, it was right for him/her to know too. "There....there is something you deserve to know. We talk...later, in private." he asked, as he excused himself to help Fire with the barrels. "Dear please stop straining yourself like that! I know you hardy-hard mare, but you have much more precious cargo then some barrels." Swift pleaded, as he effortlessly took out the drink from a cart and levitated it over everypony heads.
  16. The way that Ice dismissed what he said, made Squall's face twist into a furious snarl. Only once he as like this during this holiday - when they were confronted with rube of a dragon. Before he could shout some angry words, he was jumped by Blueblood and Twilight. It was nice, yes, and it helped him restrains himself - which was for the best. But he still wasn't finished with Ice. "She's and our daughter doing very well. Doing preparations for our wedding at home due to....you know." noblepony explained before walking past royal ponies and pursuing Ice again. "Never was in REN. Never went into proper service in any branch military at all*. Mine skyships are better. And we.Are Not....." Swift words were slow and calm, but it clear there was restrained anger underneath it.... Squall paused and inhaled deeply. Ice won't like what will comes next, but this was something she needs to hear nevertheless.... "You ask to 'Trust you'. But it appears to be one-way-street lately." he continued. "You holed up in hat casino of yours, for months, not answering to letters or anything...." noblepony ".....Not realizing that some may be WORRIED SICK ABOUT YOU!" Swift self control finally crumbled. "All for 'security reasons' APPARENTLY. Yet STAR Commander deemed it fine to be confidential with a pony, who - if I recall - BACK-STABBED HER OWN HOMELAND!" swordstallion continued with accusations. "...All for sake of secrecy. And yet you couldn't keep it away from me, the rich boy! Yes Ice, I knew for a long while by now." he confirmed "Yet I kept my trap shut. Convincing myself that I have to be silent, that you had reasons, that it was important for you. Because you were my friend........" Swift finally quieted down, but the look of hurt and disappointment. Then, his gaze shifted towards Twilight. ".....And you, you 'Your Highness'...You knew as well. Yet didn't saw fit to say what was happening to my EPIC teammate. Fire DID told you how worried I was, didn't she? And regarding the...partner....of Ice here...." his look steeled. "Forgiving this pony, I can swallow, you certainly know things that I did not, to decide that. But by all that is holy, why didn't you pressed for any restrictive order when it comes to working with military hardware?! There are second chances, and there is naivete!" he asked, beside himself. "I HAD to repel this pony, from doing to Blue what they did to Celestia, Luna and your Sister-in-Law! Which Blue can confirm." *
  17. "Is that what you though I was? A stuffy noble. .....You might be right." an familiar, deep voice came from behind the group. Approaching them, in the winter version of his white longcoat was Swift Squall. The noblepony wore a inscrutable expression as he neared them. "Hello Blue. Hello Ice. Hello.....Dunnie." his gaze met each of them in order, lingering for a while on the last pony. "It's been a while since...last time. But this is Heart's Warming a season of giving....And I couldn't stand aside when I can help so much." Indeed, Swift Squall and his TEPMPEST Industries Mega-Corp put some work. This time noblepony decided to give some less fortunate a homes. Literally. Hundreds of residences in Rome, Manhattan, Stalliongrad and, of course, Fillydelphia were given finished touches and furnishings before being presented to new owners. ".....But....as befitting it's name....it's also a season to heart-to-heart....." Swift said as he turned towards Ice. "....It make mind heart ache that you didn't believed you could trust any of us. Especially...." he waved at the 'necklace' that the blue mare wore. "Was mine judgment wrong...?" he asked, half accusatory, half hurt.
  18. "Protecting the royals? Redundant. Guardsponies in both cities? Abundant. And most of you, will agree, there is world outside those residences, out to see." a rhyming words of unicorn mare could be heard straight of the entrance. "Sorry I came, at such later hour. Had errands to run, and then - a shower." "Jade' continued smirking confidently - both because her smooth wordplay, and a dress she decided to wear. 'Good Doctor' decided to ditch the leotard, instead opting for an emerald evening dress that was chic, if bordering on scandalous. Completing the look were glasses with jade lens, and choker filled with dazzling green gemstones. "What I meant by that, Midnight, Hoofsome, your talents and potential would be wasted with doing your best 'Canterlot Museum Exhibit' impression. All of 'Guard' is an Oil, but not all of Oil is a 'Guard', yes?" she said with a wink. "I knew soldiers who would hack their limb for your position. To see new places, meet new ponies, get yourself acquainted with sights, customs. New, new, NEW!" she said while rearing up and spreading her front legs, in unabashed approval of hedonism. "We have one life, don't waste it. Rest is in the grave, for all....." she added, before adding in her thoughts "Except for me that is." With that clear vocalization of her worldview, 'Beaker' strode with towards the counter. Just the glance at the list of drinks left Hou pleasantly surprised. "My, my quite selection. As expected...well...aren't you one of 'successors' to be a next Queen of Cocktails Berry?" 'Jade' inquired. The few hours she spent between the race and her arrival were well spent...including some quick research on some of her fellow racers. "I would say 'Bartendress' but I always leave best for the last. So why don't you 'Wow' us with your mixing skills, Punch, Dear?" unicorn mare asked, with encouraging smile. "How about something.....upscale? Vieux Carré." 'Jade' asked, before leaning in and whispering into Berry ear. "You might only need to just stir it, but I hope by morning both of us will be shaking." she said, before taking a seat doing her best 'innocent' impression. "So..." she turned to rest of the room. "How about that karaoke session?"
  19. "Mmmmmm...." Jade purred, to nopony in particular. Today turned out food. Very, very good - far better then she expected. She didn't really achieved anything she aimed for at when she walked to staring line but....being flexible was a reason why she was still in the game, unlike some other nincompoops..... Of course Oil was here to put her away from unpleasant thoughts. "Oh, who could forget me?" she asked before stretching in the very same way she did at the start of the race. ..."And it's not Flappy I plan to put into bed Hoofesome." she quickly added with a half-lidded gaze. When Midnight made his question, he probably didn't expected a very detailed answer. Well, too bad for him, Hou was fully willing to commit to 'Doctor Jade' persona at the moment. "Well...the answer is - depends on species." 'Jade' started, while pushing up her glasses "Most wyverns are not fond of eating equines, contrary to popular belief. Mind you, they WILL eat it when pressured, but the same can be said about any desperate or crippled predator which can't go after their preferred prey. Ponies have too high levels of retinol in their bodies to be a preferred food, we simply don't taste good. They also have great requirements for vitamin A so....wild birds of large enough size, especially the livers, fish, boars and pumpkins. Unlike most creatures wyverns can switch to be homeothermic or poikilothermic at will, so how much nutrition they take depends only food availability. Also since they ARE related to dragons, many species consume gemstones like them, but unlike dragons they tend to specialize. Usually a whole genus will eat the same one like, sapphire, topaz etc. while not touching any other mineral." she explained before switching her gaze to her pet. "Flappy here is Forest Stripped-Stingertail. And since his species was considered extinct for over five hundred years, the literature about him is bound to be sparse. For now he certainly will be content with cart of fish and chickens. Maybe some eggs too. Wyverns like a yolk as well." she mused. "Well that being said, we still have something to do. Those two kids haven't turned out yet so....!" aaaand as soon as Shuren said this, the children in question roiled onto a scene. This made her blink. Before blinking again....and again. "Well that was quick. Who's for karaoke?" she asked. "After I tend the filly that is." "Beaker' said before walking towards babbling Apple Bloom and raising one of her hooves like a spear. Before anypony could do anything, unicorn's limb turned into a blurr and then, it was over. It was hard to tell WHAT just happened, beside the fact Apple Bloom was still there and apparently unharmed. "There we go. That should help with swelling and dizziness for the time being. You still need to see a medic child. That was some extremely irresponsible thing you did. Is your pride so much precious to make your family worry about you, hmmm?" she scolded the Bloom before turning away on her heel. "I need a drink. Berry do you have some nice Chanti at your place? I crave to taste some with fried fava beans. I bet Tiger here knows some eastern recipes other the Wingaporean ones..." further words died in her throat upon seeing stares of everypony involved. "What? Wingapore! Kung fu! Pressure points!" sorceress explained laconically while waving her hoof at earth filly.
  20. "Right?!" 'Jade answered Midnight, barely suppressing an excited giggle. She always had affinity for reptiles, and it's been a long while since she had a pet. If anyone would asked her, she would take beast with her, even if it wasn't Forest Stripped-Stingertail..... "Ohhh I think you challenged the wrong mare Hoofsome!" unicorn answered. "When I put my mind to it.There's Nothing. I.Can't. CATCH!" 'Beaker' proudly proclaimed before addressing her new pet. "Come, Flappy!" sorceress encouraged the creature. And the wyvern...the twelve ton wyvern had nuzzled her! While also speeding up. hose taming skills of hers! It's like magic! Well, actually it WAS magic, but anypony looking for dark arts, would come out empty. Hou just found a way to use her new acquisition.... While she was still far off from reading memories of others, and she couldn't erase existing ones at all, Remembrance Stone allowed her to make NEW ones from scratch. Like cramming a whole lifetime of experiences into this wyvern's head. Rising him from the egg etc. Becoming something in-between it's mother and bestest of friends.... Of course it still wasn't perfect. If she s tried to do the same to a sapient being right now, it would be full of whole....resulting in the end in tear-stained berserk rage. Probably. But for reptiles like this one? Worked like a charm. As a plus, it made him more docile...unless she decided otherwise. Speaking of alternative's, Berry took an offense to Flappy's presence. Silly mare! "Oh don't be ridiculous Berry! Flappy wouldn't fit through your door anyway! I just rent a stable or a barn.....before buying him whole lot of fish and chickens that is!" eastern mare shouted back a simple solution for this Punch's objection's. Coming back with giant wywevrn in tow also served as a distraction from how simply non-tired Hou was. While everypony else were panting and struggling to reach finish line first, 'Jade' looked like she took a pleasant jog ....Well distracting almost anyone. The Ponyville Major candidate looked at her really suspiciously. But it wasn't really an issue, was it? She just had to tell him to mind his own business. And if he turns.... persistent? Well....Hou wasn't know to be snake-tongued for nothing. It wouldn't be a first pony she left a nervousness wreck after a few harsh words.... She had centuries to practice this craft... "♪....Straddle the line in discord and rhyme, I'm on the hunt, I'm after you! ♪" 'Jade' sung along, while gazing at Midnight and Berry....
  21. It would a lie to say that Hou wasn't slightly infuriated that Apple Bloom...SIMPLY WASN'T IN THE FOREST!!! .....That said it would be a lie to also say that her time spent there was a wast either....for what she found quickly turned 'Jade Beaker' frown back into radiant smile. Just as Ponyville rooftops stared to become visible, a sound in-between roar and a loud hiss could be heard behind everpony. It couldn't have come from a mammalian throat.... Gaining ground, 'Jade' once again closed on her competitors.....an following her, was twelve ton predator! Those who had some knowledge about various monsters and beasts could quickly identify it as a wyvern - a very distant cousin of dragons, a genus that instead of developing sentience , evolved various venoms. But this wyvern was unlike one even those in the know recognize - forest green with a tiger like strips running along it's body. Despite being a winged beast, it obediently followed sorceress on foot. It even had a leash! And ribbon! Apparently all that time, she spent taming this monster. "Sorry it took me so long. But look what I found!" 'Beaker' greet her companions, clearly very pleased with herself. She wandered off to find a kind, and instead came out with true lazarus taxon! And this supposedly extinct species produced not one but TWO potent venom's!...Which until now, couldn't be obtained anymore! Shuren couldn't help but be excited at all potential research that awaited her back in Wūyún!
  22. 'Jade' movement slowed down to a trot..... The creature. It was near. Very near. It was.... "Gah!" sorceress yelped, surprised, as a mass of pink, reptile and disco on legs speeded by. It was her. The Laughter! The way she spoke, her very existence was rubbing Hou the wrong way. Humor? She could tolerate that (especially if it was as black as the strongest of coffees). But this? This cuckoo of a mare?! She was obnoxiousness incarnate. She wouldn't want HER soul, even if was offered with another Wūyún-size island in a package.... As she stood here, with twitchy eye, the group that she left behind caught up to her, now re-joined with Tiger Blood. "You hoofle yourself pretty well in dark. No reason guess to whom...." she mused to the group as she gave Midnight yet another look-over. This helped her regain control over her face too. "I...tired to sense presence of the filly - old trick of Unyasi 'Knowing' - but I got...distracted." 'Beaker' meaningfully gazed at the show of party lights, ahead in the dark. "It's shame that some put their own, ponysonal desires ahead of what's RIGHT." unicorn continued her criticism before continuing, even more morbidly. "It's...possible, that in her state, Miss Applebloom might have wandered off the path and get...devoured...." she said, summoning all her acting talent to make herself look nauseous. "Not by vampire though." she referenced Midnigh little family story. "Those DO exist - at least in Long Guo - although they are very different from what you depict here, in the west...." she explained. And she would know. Not only she Hou practiced necromancy herself - when she needed to. By studying jiangshi feeding habits, she improved her own soul absorbing powers. And she had to say, a fresh soul did far more for the living then for the dead.... "There is a presence in this woods, but so far I failed to grasp what it was. Smells and arcane currents are...inconclusive. I have my suspicions of course, but..." this explanation was better then admitting that she forgot how some souls tasted/smelled like, duo to amount of them she's gone through. "Now go." she waved at them "I will join with you shortly. It possible that my worries are baseless....but it's better to be certain." indeed. If Apple child was indeed hurt by whatever creature here was, all the potential that could bloom due to knowing her was...well...wilted before it could bore fruit...
  23. Underground Forest To Hou's great irritation, earth pony filly leapt to her hooves as soon as she answered the first question. Uhhhhgggrrrr! This will be a real test of her patience isn't it? "You saw or guess....? Hey! I am talking to....!" 'Jade' protested, but the filly already darted off. ".....To answer your question Miss Punch....I can't really tell because patient refused to cooperate! Is EVERY pony in her family so audacious and stubborn?!" she asked the purple mare. Shuren made a show of showing her irritation, but inside she was giggling. Pride. Good, good! This is something she could exploit in the future. If her sister shared the same traits, all the better! That said, she had to made sure that the foolish child doesn't doom herself in her arrogance! That would put premature end to any potential scheming Hou may do in the future, involving the Honesty. And that would be...such a waste, isn't it? "We have to follow her. See if she shows symptoms, and restrain this kid if necessary. She may seem and proclaim she feels fine now, but it may be just adrenaline talking." unicorn mare explained, while recommending the next logical course of action ,before giving chase herself. Of course the fact that they were keeping watchful eye on some unruly filly, didn't meant that they couldn't exchange some basic....courtesies. "Well hoofsome....it appears you caught this Dr. Jade Beaker...." she ' introduced' herself....while conjuring hoof shaped lights pointing at her for emphasis. "....Or was it me who caught you? Ha! Who cares about details?! Especially after return kiss like that." Shuren said while fluttering her eyelids behind the glasses. "So....will I get name to go with the image...? Or should I keep going with hunk, hottie etc. ?" she asked. Soon enough the three o them faced yet another dilemma. So go over the hill or through them. Worse yes, Applebloom was nowhere to be seen. Well wasn't that just great. "Well aren't we in a pickle. Judging from her bravado, she could have gone either way....." she said, before pondering for a minute over this choice. "Well I don't know about You but I choosing the forest. If she's gone through it, great, we won't let her shake us off. But if she gone over and around it...Well, we can bar her path when the routes rejoin if that is the case! Unless you want to really, really be sure....." she said as she ran towards the darkness. "Either way, strain your ears for sound of throwing up. This would mean she really got a concussion. Ta-ta!" she advised before waving at Berry and Midnight. Unlike others, 'Jade' charged into shadows with seemingly reckless abandon. And why wouldn't she? Darkness and shadows were her domain! She could tell her way as well, as if it was Unyasi noon! And any potential locators of this underground forest....? Well, they will have to step aside.....for a monster greater and more terrible then them has entered those dark woods! Speaking of denizens of the dark... 'Oh, what's this?' Hou sensed the soul of the creature. Unlike others, sorceress could tell precisely where and how far this being was. The question was...would it be stupid enough to bar her path? And what exactly it was? The 'scent' seemed familiar but it was simply so long ago, that Shuren couldn't pin it down.....
  24. Aaaaand something...or rather somepony got in the way. It always did. Can't have a time with hoofsome colt and pretty mare because a filly needed help! Can't rob ancient tomb in peace because of Watchers! Can't duel Celestia because of...actually, there wasn't that much interference during their duels. Which reminded 'Jade' that their last meeting happened around...80 years ago? Perhaps it's about time to remind about herself to Sun-plot.... Where as she? Right, a filly in danger of having her word rocked. While Hou wouldn't care much, usually, two points were to consider.... Point A', she's the sister of Element of Honesty. An opportunity to get into her good graces if she ever saw one. Point B', Refusing bat stallion cutie request would make 'Beaker' pretty suspicious to him, that was certain. "Of course I do it." she reassured Midnight, before moving towards Applebloom. More twirling and flipping ensued, and 'Jade' was next to filly in a flash. "Not the best place for sand-bath kid..." she said...before knocking away boulder four times her size with a roundhouse kick. Opps, that's bad, she did that on reflex, without thinking. She will need to talk her way out of this, but only after she pulls that kid to safety.... After getting Applebloom on her back, Shuren resumed her dance....much less gracefully of course, replacing some of more impressive maneuvers with quick side-stepping. That said, she managed to return to their little nook as quickly as she left it.... "Alright, I heard Apple ponies are made from stern stuff, but I have to check if you got concussion regardless." she addressed an earth pony filly. Not that she really cared, but again, further opportunity for brownie points.... "First....." she concurred four magic lines in the air. "How many light-sticks you see?"
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