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The Mountains of Morning (Closed, PM for Invite)


Blueblood
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Fēng Yīnhǎitāo watched the sun rise over the mountains, and knew that he too had returned to his place of origin.  In the contours revealed by the morning light, he could see the old trails of his stomping-grounds, the rocks he had roamed as a young longma, desperate to prove himself something more than an energetic troublemaker.  And there, right over there, was where the Imperial Watch had first entered his life, when a bemused agent had agreed to look for the puppy of one of his village playmates.

 

Years of effort an energy now brought Fēng back to this point, older certainly, wiser perhaps, and stronger in every way.  He was now an official member of the Empress' most elite guard, and he was here on a mission.  Not that he knew what kind of mission exactly, but he knew it was important!  The High Censor of the Watch himself, Calamity, was leading this patrol, and he had decided, out of all the agents, veterans ready for service, to select Fēng to accompany him!  The young agent was not without ambition; his early assignment was to the Palace to guard the Empress personally... accompanied by a score of others, of course, but that was beside the point.  The point was, he felt then that he couldn't ask for more out of life than to serve in the presence of Yu Yue herself, and yet Life, Fate, or what have you was giving him more.  It was hard to believe...

 

And so there was one part in his mind that didn't believe it.  That was the part that Watched the Watcher, holding everything in suspicion.  It was probably that part which made him qualify for the Watch in the first place.  Threats to the Empress could come from anywhere, and the Watch had to be one step ahead.  So far, the best explanation was that Calamity needed a local guide, which was why Fēng was here, but that left the question open:  Why was the High Censor here?

 

He didn't know.  And until Calamity told him, Fēng was determined to stay one step ahead even of him, which was why he had gotten up so early from their camp, waiting for his commander...

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Calamity stared at the sunrise, feeling none of the sun's warmth.  Instead, he was fueled by the cold, fueled by his anger and wrath at the world.  He watched the sunrise from his window-being part of Empress' Royal Court meant that he had private rooms within the Palace.  His room directly faced the mountains, a direct request from him.  When most had heard about his room request, whispers were mainly of 'Old Quilin robably wants more nature in his life" and 'Always faces the indoors and the Royal Court, so some nature would do him good".  But, in truth, it had nothing to do with nature, his age, or his job.  The calm, stability of the mountains were a symbol to the mask he wore daily-and the shifting clouds that one could never quite see clearly was like his truest self.  Many times he had forgotten his true nature, believing all-in-all that he truly was a 'kind, fatherly, old Qilin'.  Many times he had enjoyed himself so much he forgot his wrath...or his past.  

 

He stepped from the quiet of his room into the buzzling Palace, donning on some light gold armor.  The golden plates shifted with his every step, struggling to adapt to his long body and fluid movements.  He took breakfast quickly, a few pieces of toast and a cup of green tea.  He smiled at the attendant and gave her some spare change for her to 'spend on herself'.  All the usual.  All to keep up his kind mask.  

 

But-unlike most days-today was a day he wanted to reflect.  It wasn't normal for him to feel these heart-softening emotions, and it sickened him to think he was going soft.  But he knew a long days' mission awaited him, and holding onto feelings of...pain would do no good if his heart was to prove as strong as his mind.  

 

The meditation room was peaceful...to him, anyways.  A small red cushion lay at the center of the completely white room, the sole decor to the sterile surrounding.  He closed his eyes and felt his breathing steady, and he let his mind drift off into thoughts.  Here, I am safe to feel as I truly do.  Here, I can think of her.  I have a big day ahead of me, and I will not go soft reminiscing about a Qilin long gone.  

 

By the time he had reached the camp, all emotions that had lingered were gone.  He felt cold, and it fueled him once more.  Once more, he donned on his kindly mask.  Once more, he was nothing more than a hard shell of his past.  He spotted his guide already at location, awaiting him.  Well someone's early~  He took a deep breath, steeling himself against all odds, and went to meet his 'new friend'.  

 

 

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While no seasoned veteran, Fēng was amongst the brightest of his class, in terms of Imperial Watch training.  He wouldn't have been able to detect the High Censor's approach if the Calamity did not desire him to, but he would be able to detect him the instant his superior wished to be.  And be ready with the appropriate gesture of respect, be it a salute or a bow, depending on whether they were in civilian or on-duty company.

 

Not that the golden armor was all that stealthy.  Fēng had been under the impression that this patrol wasn't supposed to be public, and so had dressed in armor more suitable for blending into the mountain forests.  What shiny bits of metal there were had been tarnished with soot, as well as the golden parts of his wings.  "Honored Censor, was I mistaken in this mission?  I had thought our mountain patrol was to be a covert one."

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On 9/30/2016 at 3:40 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

"Honored Censor, was I mistaken in this mission?  I had thought our mountain patrol was to be a covert one."

Calamity gave a kind, fatherly smile towards the young Longma, "I trust you are Master Feng," 

He bowed his head in greeting, ignoring everything Feng had said earlier.  Do not be foolish, young one.  Everything I do is with great purpose...do not ever think that I work without thought.  

"You may call me Calamity, as most do.  And you are indeed correct-this patrol is not one meant for the public eye.  But how we will embark on this patrol, is another idea.  Gold-as you see," he shifted his long body a few times for the sunlight to dance off it's metal, "-is worth quite a large sum of bits.  In order to truly see an area, one must belong to it.  The mountain we are patrolling is full of organized crime, and it would be uneasy to enter the mountainous towns as guards of the Imperial Watch.  We will use this gold to buy our way into the towns, and we will act as one with the mountain.  We will be..." he tilted his head to one side, as if jokingly challenging Feng, "Lawbreakers for a few days,"

 

 

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Feng had his faults, and the longma would have been the first to admit it.  Mostly, because he knew from experience that it was useless to deny them, and that one could gain a conversational advantage by an unexpected admission.  A kind of verbal martial arts, of which he was a prodigy, if not a master; at least, probably not a master compared to Calamity.

 

All  the same, no one could have possibly accused him of being slow on the uptake.  Only a few second after he acknowledged, "Yes, that's my name, sir!Fēng Yīnhǎitāo knew three things: One, for whatever reason the High Censor wished to put their relationship on a casual footing.  Two, Calamity was the sort of qilin not afraid of unorthodox missions.  Three, these facts together were going to make for a fantastic time!

 

"Ah!"  Feng's eyes lit up in realization an excitement.  "Undercover, yes, I see it now.  Now, is this reconnaissance, or are we going to strike a blow at these promoted bandits?  What scope and mandate has the Empress granted us?"  The tone of his voice, and the light shining in his eyes, might be slightly worrisome to one who knew his propensities for... slightly unbalanced enthusiasm.  "Well, I don't want to brag, but I think you've got the right longma for the job!  Everyone at the village always said I'd end up in one of those gangs one day.  They were wrong, but I think I could give the law around these parts a run for its money.  For the greater good of the Empire and Empress, of course."

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  • 2 weeks later...

It was interesting the way this...Master Feng acted.  Too excited, too young.  A quick flash of Calamity's true nature crossed his face.  How disgusting~  I have to waste my time with an impudent, stupid creature that would dare taint my beautiful race of Longma.  So annoying~  Such a naive and obedient soul.  But the expression left his face as soon as it came, as if it were nothing more than the trick of an eye in the beautiful morning.  Do not be foolish, Calamity.  No-one must ever discover your true nature

 

He gave a smile to Feng, "I see your excitement-but if I may...offer you a word of advice~" 

He turned his head towards the expanse that lay ahead of them, the roads that they were to take on their voyage, "Be careful who you trust, be careful your words, and only speak and act after you have thought of the consequences,"

 

There was a time when Calamity too became excited over every inch of the world.  But those days were long beneath him, hidden by cloaks of shadows and thoughts of grave disaster.  Once, his abilities to forsee the future in meditation had let to luck and gratitude; now, it was nothing but a depressive reminder of the world he had left behind.  Every move he took was carefully calculated, every word he spoke was manipulated for his greatness.  He grew up under manipulation, carved from the young, optimistic Longma into the dreary figment he now was.  And now-he would do the worst of all...he would re-enact what had happened to him...onto Feng.  

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Hasty Feng might be, but that also made him quick.  Quick enough to catch the change of expression on Calamity's face.  Perhaps some degree of irritation was to be expected, given the young watcher's worrying excitement, but there was something deeper behind it, something much colder.  It was gone soon, seemingly evaporated with the morning dew.  But Feng would not forget it, though he did not let his own expression change for that.  Perhaps it was just a thing that happened to you when you grew older.

 

"So, that is the greatest tactical wisdom, Calamity?  I shall be sure not to forget it!"  Nodding firmly, the longma set his face to the morning sun, ready to set off on his new assignment.  They would probably fly, he estimated, unless Calamity did not wish to be so public.

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Calamity gave another internal sigh, Well...if I intend to make him fit for this journey, it seems as if I will have a lot of work to do.  Nevertheless, he began following the young longma, before pausing.

 

"Master Feng...the path we are taking is that way,"  

With that, he began flying-low-in the opposite direction of Feng.  Silly Longma.  I swear he doesn't even have a map!

 

His flight path was low, hovering so that he was just kept from touching the ground.  It had a more strategic idea then it looked: If he chose to walk, he could set down his legs smoothly in a second-and whatever invader would have thought that the 'flying Longma' was but a trick of the light.  His armor added to this effect.

 

"Well come along, young one~ We don't have all day,"

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Feng did not, in fact, have a map of this area.  He didn't need one.  The local knowledge he possessed was more than the mere physical geography; the social landscape as well was imprinted on his mind and memory.  *I wonder if I should tell Master Calamity that this road is traveled by the most talkative and persistent merchant this side of Long Kong.  If he desires speedy travel, this is not the fastest way.*  Feng mused as he followed behind, copying his superior's technique.  It only took him about two minutes to get it down pat, too.  Whatever the longma's opinion of his base knowledge, the young Watcher could pick up things quick.

 

*I doubt that he would listen to me anyway.  The consequences of speaking will not be the ones desired.*  He couldn't help but smirk behind Calamity's back, as he applied the advice he was just given.  *Only experience will teach him.*

 

Experience was not tardy in appearing, in the form of a hardy-looking qilin, pulling a cart with not visible effort on his part.  He was barely a speck in the distance when they sighted each other, but soon he was closing the gap, having started his sales pitch before even getting within earshot.  "...orable sirs, You surely cannot be undertaking such a journey to the mountains with the meager supplies you carry!  Please, allow this humble carrier of goods, available at the most reasonable of prices, provide you with..."  And so on.  And on.  And on.  Feng took advantage of his camouflage preparation to skirt off to the side of the road, mostly invisible in the brush, as the merchant executed a brilliant turning maneuver to trot right alongside Calamity, barely disturbing any of the merchandise stacked upon his cart.  Feng decided that the best course of action would be to watch and learn.  How does his superior handle the unforeseen?

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Calamity hovered along, before he spotted a merchant bumbling forwards from the distance.  As they approached, the merchant began his loud sales pitch, and he let a sliver of annoyance slip through.  Perhaps I should have followed Feng...his path may have been less...loud.  He shook the thought away quickly, do not think as such, Calamity.  Nobody is better than you, and do not let any opinions change that fact.  

 

He noted that Feng had skirted towards the side of the road, successfully camouflaging himself.  Calamity almost laughed, We're the one of the most Elite guards, and I stand at the top of that ladder.  We don't need to put so much effort into trying to stay hidden.  He slipped out a small bottle of dust, before carefully tilting some into his hooves.  He cupped his hooves carefully, leaning his head away from the powder.  

 

The merchant neared, and began blabbering on and on about some goods.  Calamity lowered his hooves to the ground, walking at a brisk pace towards the merchant, "Good day, sir~  And what goods may you have to offer myself?"

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Kash the Merchant, for such was his name, was one of those Qilin born into his trade.  From birth, his parents had trained him in the art of the sale, sizing up the customer at a glance, and having such a variety of goods available that for each type he was likely to meet, he would have goods worth purchasing.  It was a pity that he could sometimes over-do it, though.

"For the traveling guardians of Long Sun, there is no worse sap to the divine energy than a lack of food.  But normal rations are such a pain, such a voluminous burden to carry!  Worry not, honorable sirs, for I have a selection of dried and compressed fruits, nuts, and fish so that one bar will keep you on your hooves all day!"  With one sweep of his coat, he revealed a selection of faintly-unappetizing looking bars of dried... stuff.  They smelled better than the ration bars normally distributed to the Watch, though.  They were probably spiced better.

 

Feng, remaining hidden, observed Calamity prepare a bit of powder in his hooves.  Having no idea what it was, he stayed hidden, curious as to his superior's purpose and plan.

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Scopolamine.  A little bit of that powder can turn anypony into a hypnotized zombie.  Being in such a high authority had it's perks, and getting permission to use illegal substances was one.  All Calamity needed to do was to blow a bit of the powder into the pony, and he or she would do exactly as Calamity wished.  With a snap of his hooves, the pony would once again 'awake' into reality.  

 

As the merchant continued his ongoing blabber about rations and bars, Calamity focused on maintaining eye contact with him.  He appeared extremely interested in the bars of dried...oh Celestia that looks disgusting...whatever that was.  He smiled and nodded, carefully concealing the powder while moving closer and closer to the merchant.  

 

"Indeed your proposal sounds very fascinating.  What's even more fascinating, however, is what you're going to do~" 

He gave a soft, kindly smile, before blowing the powder towards the Merchant.

"Now, go along your way.  I am but a passerby who showed little interest in your goods.  Continue wherever your going, and forget this entire conversation,"

With a snap of his hooves, Calamity began walking away-as if he had barely acknowledged the Merchant at all.
 

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The powder... seemed to have it's desired effect.  At least, the merchant wasn't paying attention to Calamity anymore, or to anything, in fact.  He just stood there, blinking as if dazed by the sun.  Feng waited, watching him until he finally turned his wagon back, going off in a huff.  But was that a flicker of his eyes back to Calamity?  

 

It was hard to tell at this angle.  Feng himself wasn't so sure what that substance was, anyway, though he had seen his superior blow some in the Qilin's face.  Maybe that was how it was supposed to work?  In any case, the longma rapidly caught up with his superior, duly impressed.  "Are there any other tricks that I should know about?  I know the roads and who trots them here, but if you feel there is no need to evade such obstacles, I will allow you to continue leading."

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  • 3 months later...

Calamity gave a slow smile to Feng, noting his apparent impression and adoration, "Master Feng, there are many tricks that hide within our Kingdom, right before your eyes.  Only those that know what they are looking for will be able to find them," 

 

He reached from beneath his armor and extended out another, smaller bottle of powder to Feng.  The powder looked so peaceful, resting in a tempered glass bottle with a small pearl as a cork.  It seemed so harmless, devoid of its poisonous intentions.  

"Here-take this.  Do what you may with it, but its consequences are out of my hoof,"

 

Another test.  Another challenge.  Always another battle.  This was a trial he had given to many of his Imperial Watchers, to test the limits of their hearts and to see-if given the opportunity-what great good or evil they might condone.  He remembered the young prospect, born from a powerful family and the brightest of his training regiment: using the powder to make fun at the civilians and to hurt the pets.  He remembered the genius Unicorn, who used the powder to help himself focus and passed all the components of admittance into the Imperial Watch with flying colours.  He remembered the young Qilin...himself.  The Qilin that swore on the Scopolamine to never be hurt by anyone, and to never let anyone see his weaknesses.  He remembered the Qilin throwing the bottle of powder onto himself, trying to forget his own misery and his pain.  He remembered feeling cold and heartless, but feeling alone all the same.  And as he looked at young Feng, Calamity wondered what he would do with his newfound power.  Would Feng prove to be a wicked heart and use it to hurt others?  Would Feng use it on himself to increase his limits and to dissolve whatever pain he had?  Would Feng pass the test, and truly join the ranks as one of the Calamity's closest allies?  But, most of all, what would Feng reveal inside?  

 

He gave Feng one last look, a cold, harsh eye that came only from years of seasoned power and hatred and bitterness and anger; and he turned his smile back on and said, "Lead the way, Master Feng~  This is your place, afterall."

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It was fair to say that Feng had not been expecting to just be handed the powder that could so powerfully affect other minds.  Was there not supposed to be some kind of test before a Watcher was allowed to carry such things?  There were so many ways one could abuse one's power and position with this...

 

*A moment alone with the Empress.  Just enough to get her to notice me-*

 

The longma's head jerked, as if his better nature had just screamed at him to 'snap out of it!'  He blinked, looking down at the white powder again.  What was this stuff, anyway?  Did it just make you befuddled, or open to suggestion?  Well, Feng could do that to people without any alchemical mumbo-jumbo, long before he'd ever joined the Watch!  Familiar surrounding brought back early memories, suppressed under his training in the capital, and the presence of the Empress.

 

"Heh."  He laughed slightly, his face seeming to drop a mask.  The rambunctious troublemaker showed through for an instant beneath the veneer of training and obsessiveness.  He tossed the vial into the air lightly, like a toy, caught it, and handed it back to Calamity.  "Never needed nonesuch to get my way before.  If I started relying on a crutch, I'd lose my touch."  

 

He seemed more relaxed now, back in familiar territory.  He was aware, too, that he'd just set down a gauntlet for himself.  He would have to prove to his superior that his natural talent needed no supplement.  *And to myself, that I'm not the kind of sneak who'd... do that to Empress Yue.*  In that respect, the cocky look he briefly assumed as he took the lead might in its own way be a mask, worn around a person who was much better at seeing through masks than Feng was at making them.  *Yeah, but you haven't seen me in my natural habitat...*

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  • 2 months later...

Calamity blinked in surprise, controlling his breathing as not to show any excess emotion.  Throughout his many years, this test had been administered many times.  Yet, time after time, he had always been disappointed.  And even those that did pass the test always chose to keep the powder, never to so blatantly refuse it.  Maybe he's better than you give him credit for~did you ever think of that, Calamity?  He took a deep breath, putting on the "kind old stallion" face, before accepting the vial from Feng.  

 

"Interesting decision, Master Feng,"

 

He took the bottle and looked it over, turning it around and around.  The dust glimmered in the sun, and he swiveled his head around the vial.  He shifted ever so closely towards Feng, smiling lightly and still turning the bottle.  So tempting...isn't it beautiful?  You must take it Feng...you must fall into temptation.  Once again, he extended the powder to Feng.

 

"All your dreams could come true..."

 

He smiled, and leaned close towards Feng, staring into his eyes.  What a curious pair of eyes!  Everyone's eyes are different, but his are so...so...him.  So bright and full of potential.  So righteous and clever, thinking that he could rule the world. He almost sniffed, but froze when he saw something.  Love?  Romance?  Inspiration? But for whom...  He glided behind Feng, his body winding around him and trapping him.  

 

"You could get her to love you,"

 

A little bit of him wanted Feng to reject the vial, and to thrust it onto the ground.  He wanted Feng to stand firm in his beliefs, and to become one of hist most trusted Watchers.  He wanted to watch him succeed in his path, and be strong in his own abilities.  He wanted what a good Censor would want from his guards: loyalty, confidence, and power.  But inside, Calamity was a lot more than a pretty face.  He wanted to watch Feng fail, and to feel the power as he squashed Feng.  He wanted to see Feng beg for his position back, his job back, his country back.  He wanted to see Feng cry and break down, and he wanted to be the one to lift him back up.  I want to do for him what I couldn't do for my sister.  Looking into his eyes...the power and the confidence and the potential and the talent...it was like looking into her eyes.  And despite how much he wanted to deny it, his eyes were glistening from tears, not the sun.

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Had Feng still been grappling with temptation at this point, it would have all been over.  He'd have taken the second fall out of three, shortly followed by the vial, so close had been the contest.  But as it turned out, Calamity was, if anything, too skilled at breaking down a personality for his own good.  In the space of two minutes, he had peeled the onion of Feng's soul, leaving everything that the young longma's outward training and personal discipline had given him ever since joining the Watch, leaving the bare core in the morning sunlight.  Instead of that being a forlorn and desperate lover, however, Calamity was to find out that Feng was at heart the village troublemaker, a quick-witted lad desperate for approval from those from whom he had little respect.

 

*He's testing me.  And he wants me to fail.*  The realization leaped into his brain ahead of the reasons behind it, which being few, were shortly to follow.  Of course, all members of the Watch had taken an oath to forsake all lovers for the sake of the Dragon Throne (Feng still hoped that meant a loophole applied for the Empress herself).  Calamity of course was aware that lovers were forbidden to Feng, and yet had offered him a chance to have one.  He was practically pushing the drug on Feng.  *You think I don't know how this works?  I've... people I know in the Long Kong Triads.  You're no better than them, for sure.*

 

The whole realization came in the span of an instant.  And for one moment, Feng desired above all else, even more than recognition and reciprocation of his affections for Yu Yue, to make Calamity feel as foolish as Feng saw him right then.

 

Slowly, a grin spread across his face.  "Ehh... what makes you so sure it's a she, hot stuff?"  He clicked his tongue and waggled his brows at his superior, managing to keep his expression going for a full ten seconds before bursting out laughing at Calamity's reaction.  "Ahahaha!  Ha... tell you what.  Since you seem to care about this so much, why don't we make a little wager?  Why don't you let me take the lead on this little operation?  If, at any time, I get myself in such a pickle that I have to ask you for that little magic bottle just to get by, well, I'll never go anywhere without it.  If I succeed, however... eh, well, I won't ask for more than a commendation for doing my duty on your next report to the Empress.  In full, sparing no secret details.  Sound good?"

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Calamity watched Feng re-deliberate his choice, smiling and fully expecting him to take the bottle.  A thousand thoughts raced through his own mind, detailing every event that would happen soon after should Feng take the bottle.  It was strangely exciting, but strangely peaceful.  Deep inside, Calamity wanted Feng to pass the test.  Deep inside, Calamity was bored of watching everypony fail-and he knew that each one that had taken the bottle hadn't meant it to be a harmful act.  His eyes stared into Feng's, and he watched for the slightest twitch for emotion.

 

On 4/27/2017 at 5:17 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

"Ehh... what makes you so sure it's a she, hot stuff?"

He blinked.  Did he really just say that?  His eyes grew wide for a split second, and be stopped himself from gawking.  He withdrew his pose, and landed on the ground.  His eyebrows furrowed, and his rapid blinks proved his surprise. This is...unheard of!  What sort of answer is that?  What sort of mockery is this?  How dare he attempt to make a fool out of me?  I will not concede!  he stopped himself before any more thoughts, realizing that he had already conceded to making a fool of himself-Darn it!  

 

On 4/27/2017 at 5:17 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

"Ahahaha!  Ha... tell you what.  Since you seem to care about this so much, why don't we make a little wager?  Why don't you let me take the lead on this little operation?  If, at any time, I get myself in such a pickle that I have to ask you for that little magic bottle just to get by, well, I'll never go anywhere without it.  If I succeed, however... eh, well, I won't ask for more than a commendation for doing my duty on your next report to the Empress.  In full, sparing no secret details.  Sound good?"

 

He swallowed, and bit his lip.  Ridiculous!  On one hoof, it would definitely prove to be a terrible idea letting Feng take the lead: should anything go wrong, Calamity would be blamed and he would have to take full responsibility.  On the other hoof...it really was a curious idea.  Interesting...Feng has proven himself to be a very interesting Watcher...

It took less than a second for Calamity's decision:

 

"Master Feng, this operation is now yours to handle~  But take care to handle it with care: it's fragile,"  

 

That little wink at the end didn't hurt, either. 

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It was a lesson Feng had learned early in his village life: most Long Sun lived their lives according to scripts they had mentally planned out before hand.  As long as what they encountered was within the narrow scope of their habits, environment, and expectations, they could stand their ground against any unwanted influence.  But knock them back, just for a second, onto completely unfamiliar ground, and you could get them dancing to your tune.

 

Chemical inducements not required.

 



"Master Feng, this operation is now yours to handle~  But take care to handle it with care: it's fragile."  

 

And just like that, he got his way.  This was the sort of thing that was practically unheard of in the Watch; a junior officer taking charge from Calamity himself!   Of course, in Feng's eyes, most of the reason that it was unheard of was that none of the junior officers ever bothered to actually try.  "Eh, no need to worry.  This is my homeland, I know it as well as the back of my hoof.  And I'm going into it with the training you gave me!  Should be nothing to worry about, right?"  And returning his superior's wink, he set off on the road.

 

While it was fair to say that his brash confidence was somewhat in the nature of a bluff, Feng was playing with a few good cards in his hand.  He still got letters from home, which had mentioned an odd thing or two about changes in the maple sap and syrup prices.  Not to mention a sister in Long Kong, with... less sweet or savory connections, noting a possible correlation in the dream-cloud market.  Interesting times, indeed...

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Almost immediately after he handed the "keys" to the operation over to Feng, Calamity began his list of regrets.  Even as he began to follow Feng, the anxiety had already begun to build up.  Ohh...this is such a bad idea!  I clearly didn't think this through enough, and now I will pay the consequences should he mess up.  What am I saying-he's a junior officer-of course he's going to mess up!  Oh dear, oh dear... What kind of punishment will I get?  Would I get reprimanded by the Empress?  Or worse-would I lose my position as an Imperial Watcher?  

 

While he may have looked calm and indifferent as always, his fists were tightened into fists.  The only sign of nervousness allowed is ones that will be seen as courage.  He breathed in and out, controlling his breaths while carefully hiding the sweat under his brow.  What a bad idea...this is a CALAMITY!  

 

On 4/30/2017 at 5:00 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

This is my homeland, I know it as well as the back of my hoof.  And I'm going into it with the training you gave me!  Should be nothing to worry about, right?"

 

...Right...just thing.  Nothing to worry about at all.  

 

Something twinged in the back of his neck, and his eyes narrowed.  His entire demeanor seemed to change in a sudden, and it was such a drastic, strange shift-but there was nothing particularly different about him one could point out.   There was an aura of cold sarcasm, and he twisted his body around to stare at the that he and Feng had came from.  

There's nothing to worry about at all.  Remember the days when were shadowing court officials?  What do you do when you're stuck in an unfavorable situation?  You get rid of the situation...whether that may be an unpleasant chef...or a far-too-gung-ho Imperial Watcher.  

 

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Fearless in forging ahead, Feng was unaware of the fact that Calamity was going through serious internal flop sweats behind him.  Unaware, but not unsuspecting; the junior officer still had respect for his superior, even if his trust had just been shaken by this little incident.  He just didn't think that he had the power to really unsettle Calamity.  The Censor had been caught off-guard, yes, but surely no long sun could rise so high in the Celestial rankings without being in the habit of having plan B's ready.  Or creating plan Z's on the fly.

 

As for Feng himself, he was internally scrambling for a plan Z, not having anticipated being the investigation lead when he woke up this morning.  He was a quick thinker, though, and hadn't traveled more than a quarter mile before he had one ready.  "We better get our stories straight before we run into anypony else.  I brought a couple of disguises with me; based on the intel I've received, the best approach would be a two-layered one.  The people around here might possibly recognize me, even underneath a mask or makeup.  But, since I left my village, there have been many at home who doubted whether I actually managed to pass the Imperial Watch exams.  Wouldn't be too difficult to convince them, if worse came to worst, that I dropped out and fell into unsavory company.  Which, incidentally, would provide a good answer to the question why I would choose to arrive in disguise in the first place.  Not bringing shame on the family, and all.

 

"As for the disguise itself, I packed along a pair of shades and a shirt from Long Kong.  To the average citizen, a tourist, and to the... unsavory types, a representative of the Triads.  Makes it harder for them to cross-check claims.  You up to that?"

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Calamity turned back around and continued to follow Feng, hiding quick frowns with an endearing smile.  

On 5/11/2017 at 4:49 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

"We better get our stories straight before we run into anypony else.  I brought a couple of disguises with me; based on the intel I've received, the best approach would be a two-layered one.  The people around here might possibly recognize me, even underneath a mask or makeup.  But, since I left my village, there have been many at home who doubted whether I actually managed to pass the Imperial Watch exams.  Wouldn't be too difficult to convince them, if worse came to worst, that I dropped out and fell into unsavory company.  Which, incidentally, would provide a good answer to the question why I would choose to arrive in disguise in the first place.  Not bringing shame on the family, and all.

He nodded, scanning Feng's saddlebag.  It did seem...fully packed, something he hadn't noticed before.  He glanced at his own saddle bag, a rather unpleasant thought growing in his head: You know...we could just use the scolopamine and enchant everypony.  He quickly shook the thought away, disheartened by his lack of trust in a fellow Imperial Watcher.  There isn't enough powder, anyways~  And I wouldn't want to "cheat" on a mission.  He second-checked himself, and the more he tried to reason on why he shouldn't follow with his wild plans, the more odd it seemed that he even considered it an idea in the first place.  Nevermind myself~  This is Feng's mission now: and I'll follow through with my promise to let him lead.

 

On 5/11/2017 at 4:49 PM, PrinceBlueblood said:

"As for the disguise itself, I packed along a pair of shades and a shirt from Long Kong.  To the average citizen, a tourist, and to the... unsavory types, a representative of the Triads.  Makes it harder for them to cross-check claims.  You up to that?"

The Triads...not exactly the most pleasant place.  He looked around, a move based solely on habit before speaking, "As for myself, I'm sure you can convince them that I was a fellow initiate that failed to pass the Imperial Watch exams.  Perhaps my older age was a deterrent? "

He smiled, adopting a mock expression of shock and curiosity, "A Qilin that had wanted to be a Watcher since he was little, and gave up all that he owned for armor and weapons to train.  Alas, he did not pass the examinations and found himself fundless and with no family left to run to.  Fortunately, he met a very kind stallion that offered to take him to the Mountains, where he could start anew in life"    

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"That's the spirit!  Two fellow drop-outs, trying to make their way in the world!"  Feng had truthfully been a little worried about getting buy-in from his superior.  Honestly, given Calamity's reputation, the junior officer had been expecting that any minute his commander would revoke his newly-given leadership.  But no, it seemed that he would at least be given enough rope to hang himself.

 

First order of business, not tripping at the first hurdle by letting himself be seen undisguised.  Feng kept his eyes peeled for a private copse of trees to change into his new look at his leisure, free from prying eyes.  It took a couple of minutes, but he located a promising location at last.  The maples stood tall and thick, curtaining the clearing from the road.  Beyond could be heard the gurgling of a little brook.  "There we are, if you've got anything to put on, that'll be as good a spot as any."  With one quick look around and behind to spot check for followers, the longma darted into the copse.

The whole process took about five minutes.  First was the frantic splashing of water to remove the charcoal from his face and body, then the donning of his new clothes, stuffing his old gear in the saddlebag.  "Hm, 'Liberated on the way out of the Academy,' yeah, that's what we'll call it..."  And last, but not least, the coup de gras: actual mane gel!  Slicking his hooves up, he slathered the stuff into his green mane, parting his mane on the left, with spikes jutting out sideways to the right.  As a plus, the gel gave his mane a purplish tin, adding to the punkish, modern, urbanized look.

 

The young stallion that strutted confidently out of the copse was... almost unrecognizable, frankly.  The loud contrast of his accouterments to his surroundings was the first, and probably only, thing a stranger would notice about him.  Even those who knew him would have to look hard to recognize anything familiar in him.  He pulled his lips back in a sneer, clicking his tongue.  "Wouldn't ya know it, buncha trees and nothin' else."  He spoke in the clipped, bored tones of the southern city dialect.  Letting out a short laugh, he shot a look back at Calamity.  "Well, old-timer, time we sniffed out the goons the boss told us 'bout, yeah?"

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  • 3 months later...

Calamity nodded towards Feng's words, letting a hint of a smile fall across his face.  Oh, it's been so many years since I've been as chipper as him.  He reminds me of the days when I was shadowing Court Officials...eager to charge at any opportunity and pretending to be strong and powerful.  Going headfirst into a world I thought was full of light and beauty.    He took another glance at Feng, before following him towards a clearing of maples.  The sound of water trickled nearby, and his armor reflected the red leaves to give a pale, pink tint.  Feng instantly began changing, going towards the brook and splashing water over his face.  

 

Calamity took a spot away from Feng, and took off his armor.  His saddlebag was already relatively full, filled with supplies, an assortment of weapons, and tactical clothes.  He reached inside and pulled out a ragged cloak sown out of hemp cloth.  It's edges were faded and tan, with rips at the seams and trails of thread.  Like I came from the rougher parts of city.  He took a few sips of water from the brook, relishing the sweet taste of fresh water.  Then, he took a handful of dirt and mud, and began rubbing it all over himself and the golden armor.  He took out a second, collapsible saddlebag from his first one and dumped his dirty armor inside.  With two saddlebags stocked, he deliberated his method of travel.  Can I carry all this?  Perhaps it would be better to wear some of my gear, leave the clothes and inexpensive materials for the saddlebags lest any thieves find us.  He took out several toolbelts, and tool pouches, cleverly hiding a variety of small weapons.  He took out a compass, a few pouches of various chemicals, and a canteen.  He strung them onto a string and dangled it from his neck, donned his toolbelts and pouches across his body, and piled his two saddlebags onto his back.  Wow...I look like a one-pony moving company.  Combined with the dirt and matted look...I really do think I could pull this off.  

 

He stepped from the grove, letting his left hindleg drag behind as he walked...and blinked.  Feng was nearly unrecognizable.  He looked like some sort of city punk, run out of the competition for the Watchers due to his rebellious nature.  His purple spikes shone in the sun, a bark contrast to Calamity's dirty appearance.  "Master Feng, I think it is best if we came up with a different name to call me,"  his natural accent disappeared, replaced by a slur and southern drawl.  "We wouldn't want anyone to catch any hints that the Royal High Censor of the Imperial Watch was in town."        

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  • 2 weeks later...

Feng flashed his-temporarily-not-superior a cocky grin.  "Not bad.  I'm thinking something sweet and simple for ya, as far as the name goes.  Let's just go with Pocket, shall we?  Not likely to forget in the heat of the moment, not wit' dat get-up."  He gave a half-mocking laugh, not once breaking character.  "Long Yang's the name on my papers right now, so we'll work with that.  All cool?  Cool.  Now let's get this show on the road!"

 

Feng led the way, strutting up the dirt road as if he owned it, unshakeable in his confidence.  It was an act he could play very well, which he had learned by necessity.  If you couldn't be absolutely secret and stealthy, you could act in such a way that no one would dare question your right to be where you were, doing what you were doing.  It was a bolder game, taking refuge in audacity, but it suited his character well.

 

Underneath the act, though, his mind was racing.  Where exactly was he going to take this little song-and-dance next?  Until they came upon any clues to the criminal activity, there wasn't a whole lot to give a direction to the Watcher.  And, likely as not their first clue would turn out to be an ambush by said criminal element.  Well, best keep one's hooves ready to get dirty, and eyes and ears open to pick up any warning signs...

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