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The House on Flathoof Avenue [ATTN: Aisede]


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The detective's cheeks reddened as he realized what her explanation meant. He had just spent the past few minutes looking for meaning where there was none to be found. And had made a bit of a fool of himself in front of his mysterious benefactor. No wonder why she seemed to be amused by something.

 

He watched the plate float over onto the coffee table. As the tendrils laid it down in front of him, he recognized it was meant for him.

 

"Oh - uh - Thank you. It looks great." He said, slightly surprised, but genuinely grateful.

 

He scooted over towards the coffee table and sat right in front of it. He set the device off to the side of the plate. He looked down at the plate of food. It was a pasta with red sauce. It was simple dish but it smelled wonderful. He instinctively reached for a utensil to use, but he stopped halfway as he noticed there was no utensil sitting next to the plate. Probably because there were no clean utensils in the kitchen. His absent-mindedness once again biting him in his flank. He needed to remember to actually wash his dishes sometime.

 

He brought the plate of food closer to the edge of the table. No utensils meant he'd have to eat it the uncivilized way. He cast a sidelong glance towards the kitchen. Shai was no doubt still in there. He brought his head down and began to eat the pasta straight off the plate. He just hoped he wouldn't be making too much of a embarrassing display.

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Detective Sundown was afforded all the privacy he desired. After all, it was meant to be a kind gesture, and it'd be rude to intrude upon him. She could see everything he was doing irregardless, so the intent mattered much more.

 

About halfway through the meal, her shadowy apparition emerged from the floor next to the sofa, sitting down to watch him with her inscrutable face. 

 

"Is it satisfactory?" She queried. The extra portion, naturally, went to herself. But he really needed to upgrade his kitchen, or at least make it respectable. 

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The detective watched her emerge out of his floor out of the side of his eye as he ate, and then listened to her ask him his opinion of the meal. The areion lifted his head up from the plate and rubbed some errant splotches of sauce off of his muzzle with the back of his hoof. After a quick swallow to make sure he wasn't speaking with his mouth full, he spoke.

 

"Oh, yeah. It's actually very good," He answered, but he then quickly appended; "Thank you again for making it."

 

After he finished speaking, he went back to chowing down on the pasta. Although, now since he had an audience he slowed himself a little to make sure he didn't act like a complete pig while eating.

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"A pleasure it is,

Sustenance you will need,

For trials ahead."

 

A perfectly logical reason to cater to the aerion, she thought. Although she must admit she enjoyed making that meal as much as he seemed to enjoy consuming it.

 

"The seals grow weaker,

By the morrow she will be free,

May my charm protect ~"

 

Nodding, she took one glimpse at the golden trinket before dissipating once again. This time, she took the odd sensation of being scrutinized with her. Maybe she just wanted to spend some time with him and make sure he was alright, or maybe she just wanted to make sure she chose correctly. Whatever the case may be, he was effectively on his own now... But at least he was eating something homemade tonight. 

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The detective watched her disappear once again into the wind. Except this time the feeling of being watched left with her. He supposed she was truly gone. He thought a little on what happened as he chewed on his meal.

 

His thoughts fell on his mysterious benefactor. Despite her shadowy appearance and enigmatic speeches, she did seem benign overall. After all, she was helping him avoid a horrible death. And she did make him a nice meal. Although, he didn't know much about her other than her name. But, the detective had to admit that was probably because of his own failure to understand her answers when he asked her what she was and where she was from. And now some details of those explanations were being lost to memory. He found himself wishing he had the forethought to have written down her answers. Eh, if he really needed to know something, he could just ask her the next time he sees her.

 

A glance down at his plate showed that he had finished his meal. He stood up, grabbed the plate, and walked over to put it in his kitchen sink. It barely fit, with the entire sink almost on the verge of being overflowing with dirty dishes and utensils. He'd have to wash some of the dishes in the morning.

 

After a quick check to make sure the oven was off, he didn't want to burn his residence down after all, he trotted down his hallway and made a quick stop in his bathroom. However, before leaving his living room he made sure to grab the golden device and bring it with him. After arriving in the bathroom, it took him only a couple minutes to do his evening routine. A quick use of his toilet, a wash of his hooves, brushing his teeth, etc. As soon as he was satisfied, he trotted out of his bathroom, closed the door behind him, and went into his bedroom.

 

His bedroom was a mundane affair. A simple wardrobe sat against a wall, he used that to hold some of his loose belongings and the few pieces of clothing he owned. An average-sized bed sat with it's headboard against the opposite wall. His bed had a matching set of sheets and blankets and a couple comfy pillows. Nothing extraordinary, but it was comfortable and did its job. Next to his bed there was a simple wooden nightstand and atop that was a plain lamp. Most of this furniture was already here when the Royal Guard rented it out for the detective, and Sundown hadn't really added anything of his own to the room other than his belongings and the bedding. If his stay in Manehattan ended up taking a bit longer, he might end up adding some furniture of his own to the room.

 

He sank into his bed's comfortable embrace. He was exhausted after all the excitement he endured today, and after turning off the lamp and laying the device on his nightstand, sleep came easily to the areion...

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Unbeknownst to him, something else accompanied his trip to bed. He'd miss the glimpses in the mirror, of a smiling face and unnatural warm, red eyes. Once he was in bed, and he shut his eyes, sleep would come easy to him. A little too easy, perhaps.

 

At first, nothing was there. He was adrift in a void, blacker than night and senseless. Flashes of strange symbols imprinted in a darkened sky, lurid, angry red. They were unfamiliar to him, yet he understood what they meant, even if he couldn't put words to them.

 

Then he heard it, a voice. It was distant, but desperate. A feminine cry. Somepony was hurting!

 

A flash of crimson lightning cracked the sky in two, and in the fading whiteness of the flash, a city block came into view. It was raining now, and the voice became muffled and quiet. He'd need to get closer to require their direction. 

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He shot up when he heard the scream.

 

Lightning cleaved the sky in two, momentarily blinding the detective. As the thunder rumbled, his eyes adjusted and he took stock of his new surroundings. He was standing in the middle of a city block. Tall buildings towered over him. Dim streetlights lit the sidewalk. Rain pounded on his coat and mane. Where was he?

He listened. The voice was softer now, muffled almost. As if the distance between him and the speaker had increased substantially in the past few moments. How did that happen?

 

He shook his head. Now wasn't the time for questions. Somepony needed help!

 

He ran towards the sound of the voice. Or at least the general direction of where it was coming from. He had to get closer to tell exactly where.

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As he ran, he'd race past sigils carved into the wall. They radiated an ominous red aura as he passed them, and a familiar sensation of being watched fell over him. Only this time, it wasn't passive like with Shai, but something more oppressive. Malevolent even.

 

Concrete and stone made way for twisting ivy and fusing bark. City blocks became dominated by nature, as if it made a violent reclamation of the area, the occasional root erupting from the ground to trip him up. Eventually, the buildings fell away entirely, crumbling up and sinking down into the fertile soil as the rain grew in intensity.

 

Another flash, and the stone was gone entirely. The voice was closer now, clearer. It was coming from a clearing up ahead, the only source of light in this dismal place, granted even that was dim and feeble. The trees here we're littered in carvings of arcane signs, pulsing through the veins of the trees themselves as if tied to the heartbeat if a memory.

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Sundown ran as the tall buildings gave way to tall trees and as nature overtook the structures. Rain pattered down relentlessly on the detective, soaking him thoroughly. Mud squelched underhoof as he galloped through the now bare ground.

 

He hesitated when he felt the feeling of being watched return. But it was not the familiar sensation he had come to know from his shadowy benefactor. Instead, it was harsh and hostile. It made him want to shrink back and hide. Or to get onto his knees and beg for forgiveness from whichever force he had angered.

 

The detective steeled himself. This was no time to dilly-dally. Somepony was hurt and needed help. After a momentary stop, he continued his charge towards the voice.

 

His eyes focused on the clearing ahead. Dim light flowed out from the one entrance, illuminating some of the dismal forest that laid right outside it. He slowed down to a trot. The forest had just become very familiar. Like he'd been here before many times. This caused the areion some disquiet. He could swear he's never seen these woods before in his life; so why did it feel like he had? As he got closer to the entrance, he called out to the pony within, raising his voice so they can hear him.

 

"Hello? Are you okay?"

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The once-distant calls turned into crying, a smooth transition as if there had always been an undercurrent of sorrow. As he nearest the edge of the clearing, he'd realize that he'd heard this voice before, long ago. It was young, like a filly, and so very lost and full of pain.

 

"How could you?

 

The word was so quiet, yet the trees themselves seemed to echo her querie, causing the three solitary words to become a legion of accusations. The light in the clearing began to shift into a different shade, and the glowing sigils intensified. 

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That voice. He knew that voice. It'd been a long time since he had that voice. But how did he know it? She cried. The sound of the filly's sobs tugged at Sundown's heart. This poor filly had to have been hurt bad. She needed help.

 

Then came the accusation. The words reverberated and echoed through the trees. Assaulting his ears with the question over and over. He took a step back instinctively and folded his ears against his head. Was that directed at him? What had he done?

 

He called once again into the clearing.

 

"Listen - Uh - You just stay where you are. I'm coming to help."

 

With that said, he trotted the last few strides towards the entrance and stepped into the clearing...

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Sat in the center of the open space was a small, grey pony, hunched over and wracked by sobs of undeniable grief. As he got closer, he'd begin making out more and more unsettling details, the most obvious of which being her injured wing. It bent at an odd angle, hanging by a thread of exposed muscle and tissue as if rent by the claws of some nefarious monster.

 

... And then the filly was quiet.

 

The sudden calm took with it even the roar of the tempest, hushed rainfall barely audible past the now weather-neutral glade as she turned to look at him out the corner of one, bloodshot pinkish eye. 

 

"How could you... "

 

The rest of her body soon followed suit, turning to face him head on with wide eyes filled with terror and betrayal. Her messy mane was in tatters now, stray bangs hiding nicks and scratches across her face from tree branches, but nothing could cover the huge, weeping scar that rose from one side of her barrel and up along her chest. 

 

"How could you lose me?"

 

 

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Sundown's heart sunk in his chest. No. That couldn't be. No. No. No. She looked like she hadn't aged a day since that terrible night. His heart felt like it had been rended in two. He had been looking for her all these years. And now she was here. In the clearing with him.

 

His heart broke when he saw her injuries. Nopony deserved that. Especially not his sister. The filly who had always looked upon the world around her in constant wonder. The filly who had spent her days as her big brother's shadow. The filly who had told Sundown that she wanted to be just like him when she got bigger. The filly who could brighten a room with just her smile. The filly whom the detective had loved with all his heart.

 

And now, that filly was staring him down, her eyes filled with fear and anger. Sundown was speechless. Tears began to well in his eyes. His sister blamed him for losing her. His sister blamed him for not finding her. His sister blamed him for her injuries. His sister blamed him. He got choked up as he tried to speak, barely finding the strength to talk.

 

"Aurora... I'm - I'm so sorry."

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His words had no effect on her, beyond upsetting her more. The light above, which previously washed the glade in a sterile white beam, now gradually curled red like the blood of a crimson moon mourning its lost lunar child. 

 

"You're sorry for leaving me? You're sorry for losing me? Are you sorry for killing me?" Like a gavel coming down, the word carried a force that rattled the trees and ground with the weight of her accusation, her coat beginning to pale and eyes growing cloudy. 

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The tears began to flow on his face as the full force of her statement hit him. He choked back a sob. She blamed him. She really did blame him. And now she was... No... She couldn't be...

 

The waterworks opened up. He sobbed and cried. Mourning his sister. Mourning the life she never got to live. She was right. He left her. He lost her. He was the reason she was like this. He was the reason her wing was hanging off her body by a thread. He was the reason she had massive scars criss-crossing her body. He was the reason the hope had vanished from those bloodshot pink eyes.

 

He cried and sobbed pathetically. Muttering half-formed apologies in between his tears. He reached out a hoof to her, reaching out to the gray filly...

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With the coldest, most disgusted look he had ever seen, the filly turned around and limped away, trailing blood and broken dreams. In no time at all, she vanished into the black abyss that had swallowed up the area beyond the clearing, leaving him alone and broken in the wake of his failures. He didn't even get to say goodbye.

 

He was left there, alone and broken, with nothing but silence and sharing red light to keep him company.

 

and then, all of a sudden, it lifted.

 

a pegasus- no, an angel- came down upon him to drape a wing over his shoulder, banishing the chilling of cold, hard fact, and spreading a warmth throughout his body that induced an odd calm on him. If he dared to look up, and furthermore, if he dared to look her in the eyes, he would see a pony he had clearly never met before smiling down at him with an almost motherly grace.

 

"We'll find her again," she promised in a sweet, silk soft voice. "I can take you to her, if you wish."

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He didn't know how long he had sat there. He didn't know how long he had cried. He didn't know how long his sister had been gone. All he knew was that it felt as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest. All he knew was that she was gone. He sobbed.

 

It took a while before he noticed the wing that was wrapped around his shoulder. A pleasant warmth radiated from it, bringing a small measure of comfort to the heartbroken stallion. The wing was soft and welcoming. It made Sundown want to cuddle into the wing-hug even further and hide from all his troubles and issues.


Then came the promise. The promise that they'll find his sister again. The promise that she wouldn't remain lost. And then... the offer. The offer to bring him to Aurora. He was sorely tempted to accept that offer.

 

After choking back a sob, he looked up at his consoler with tear-filled and bloodshot eyes. She was angelic, her presence calming and matronly. The detective felt almost like a foal in her motherly embrace.  He looked into her eyes.

 

"Y-You can?" He asked, his voice trembling and on the verge of cracking.

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Her smile grew as they locked eyes, and he found all of his fears and doubts melting away under a beam of sunshine that pierced the blackness and bathed the glade in promise and security. Flowers sprouted underhoof, and tomorrow was looking like a brighter day.

 

"Yes, I can. Promise me you will be my friend, and you will see your sister again. You will see Aurora." She raised her other wing and, with the gentlest touch of her feathers, brushed away his tears. The red light and strange symbols were gone, obscured by the sunlight streaming down from an indeterminate source above them.

 

However, something else was there with them. It was dark, and roiled like a living storm, pushing against the light that burned it as it approached. There was a voice there, too, but it was so quiet and faint as to have been a figment of his imagination. The strange pegasus didn't react at all.

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He stared into her eyes, and a familiar feeling of captivation came over him. He felt at home in her embrace. She would protect him. She was going to make everything right. Everything would be okay. He sniffled and wiped his nose, and a slight smile began to form on his face. The tears had stopped flowing, although his eyes were still wet. Maybe everything would turn out alright.

 

He heard a faint and wispy voice come from outside of the clearing, his ears perked up. What was that? He tried to listen closer, but he couldn't make out anything distinct. Did she hear it too? She didn't seem to react. Was he imagining it?

 

He spoke, voice still unsteady.

 

"O-ok... I'll be your friend."

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The pegasus hummed, face wrinkling in mirth and joy as she looked down on her little captive detective.

 

"It fills me with untold joy to hear you say that, detective ~ " She laughed, and as she did so, the seraphic facade she'd built up inside of his fabricated reality began to become undone, the red light returning with a vengeance as it shone down on him like an oppressive interrogation lamp. The pegasus, while never losing her charm nor beuty, still managed to pull off a menacing leer. 

 

The voice, once distant, now became a booming, thunderous roar as a tide of black, writhing tendrils and smoke tore through the ground of the clearing at a slow but inevitable crawl, kept at bay by some invisible force.

 

"SUNDOWN!"

 

The pegasus laughed, and her winghold clutched him in a fashion that was decidedly not tender. 

 

"You will see your sister again, Sundown. Of that I can promise... And then-" the light overhead became more and more narrow as the sky above darkened. "-you will pay the offering of friendship due ~"

 

It was at that moment that the floodgates opened and whatever resistance the demon was putting up ceased. Within moments darkness overcame them both-

 

---

 

- And Sundown would awaken to find his room choked by a fog of shadows, the leering red eyes of Shai's apparition looming right above his face with more tendrils covering his face. 

 

"Sundown!"

 

 

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Sundown's eyes shot open and he awoke with a start. He was surprised to see Shai's gaze boring right through him and her shadowy tendrils over his face and body. His surroundings were darkened by a thick dark fog filling his entire room.


It took him a couple seconds to process what was going on. She had been yelling his name, probably trying to wake him up. His mouth was dry and his fur was partly matted, he had been sweating in his sleep. His head ached slightly, just about to the point where it was noticeable. He brought a hoof to his forehead and rubbed it. Trying to alleviate the soreness.

 

"Ugh... W-what happened?"

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"You foolish pony,

A deal once struck cannot die,

A bargain made ill."

 

Shai sounded particularly perturbed, but she did back off once she realized he was awake.

 

"A new strategy we will have to employ,

A fact most concerning, it does annoy.

Disappointing, but not wholely unexpected,

At least a funeral stone for you will not been erected.

Although for a pony's soul, there is no decoy..."

 

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"A new strategy?"

 

It took him moments to process what had happened. He remembered his dream. He remembered seeing his sister, she was hurt bad. She was crying. She had blamed him for what happened to her. But was that actually her? No, that was a dream. He must've imagined her. It was like those nightmares that would sometimes plague him. He had broken down in his dream, crying and sobbing. And then a pegasus appeared, she was warm, comforting. She offered him a deal, that she'd bring him to his sister, if only he accepted her 'friendship'. Was that the demon from before? That pegasus spoke of 'friendship' the same way the demon did back in the chamber.

 

And he agreed to be her friend.

 

What was the price of her friendship?

 

"What do we do now?"

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"a bargain has been made,

And for that, the bargain must be paid."

She made the whole ordeal sound quite grim, although this was his immortal soul they were talking about here.

"The cost of avoidance is most severe,

The loss of your soul, by comparison, a tap on the hoof will appear.

New plans will have to be laid..."

 

The shadows receded, and only Shai's apparition remained as she stood above him, thoughtful. Eventhough her paws touched the bed, he may note that he couldn't feel her added weight, if there was any. There were barely any wrinkles in the sheets where she stood.

 

"A plan I can lay in motion,

But it may come to you as an ill notion.

Greater powers lie below,

A gamble should be made, some dice that you must throw.

Be forewarned, it is likely, should you be found, that you will face amotion."

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Sundown looked up at the shadowy figure standing over him, paying close attention to her explanation. It seemed he complicated things, and now he had to somehow avoid the debt he owed to the demon. He had no idea what to do, his experience with demons and malign entities had, before yesterday, only been through imaginative fiction novels and stories. He certainly wasn't prepared to deal with the real deal.

 

Shai said she had a plan, a way which he could get out of his new obligation. Apparently it would be a gamble, and he could lose his job if he was found out. Maybe even be prosecuted. But, considering what would happen if he didn't do anything, he was willing to listen to her proposition.

 

"What is your plan? What do I have to do?"

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