The Chase

Bucky Bitters struggles to escape the airborne affections of Derpy Hooves after a chance encounter caused them to bump noses together. His real mistake was trying to comfort the mare after the snoot-bump. Little does the poor stallion realise that their meeting was only the prologue to a journey that will change not only his life, but the lives around him forever.

This story is a sequel to The Catch

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From inside of the farmhouse, sitting on the bench at the kitchen window, Shining Armor watched as life went on and the school opened. He heaved a small sigh of weariness as he watched groups of ponies enter the school. Shining Armor was a pony with a lot on his mind.

Buckminster’s offer both terrified him and yet was so tempting. There was no way of knowing if Cadance was still the pony he loved, but there was a chance he could take that would buy him time if she was. He owed her that. With each moment that passed, Shining Armor felt his resolve growing just a little bit stronger. Being in the house with Cadance had some strange effect upon him, just being near her seemed to clear his mind and bring him some focus. He had needed some time to think. To figure out what was important. Buckminster had been correct, Shining Armor had duties, and Cadance would never forgive him for slacking off.

Princess Mi Amore Cadenza took the protection of the Crystal Empire seriously. The crystal ponies had been left broken by Sombra, the entire populace had broken thinking. Cadance viewed them as her foals practically… and for a moment, Shining Armor had actually thought about abandoning them, leaving them all behind. Shame overcame him, burning shame, and a powerful feeling of self loathing accompanied his feeling of self realisation.

He was the defender… the tireless defender... his cutie mark marked him as the protector, the watchpony, the defender of all ponykind. Princess Celestia herself had said that Shining Armor’s cutie mark was a mark of greatness, and that Shining Armor was meant to do great, if sometimes quiet and rather boring, things.

Yet, here he was, moping about rather than doing his duty. His obligations. The duties required of him. Doing what was right, what was good, and what was necessary. He was shirking his duties. Right now, the Crystal Empire was defenseless. If something were to happen right now, something awful, there would be no protection, no defense, no way to save them.

Suddenly, Shining Armor felt angry, mostly with himself. He resolved to take Buckminster up on his offer. Even if they were petulant, ungrateful, and whiny, the ponies of the Crystal Empire needed him.

Unknown to Shining Armor, his cutie mark has shifted slightly, taking on a faint crystalline appearance as his new sense of resolve began to clear his mind and his sense of purpose began to overcome his sense of despair.

 

 

“...and this is the cafeteria where I plan to serve bugs on Tuesdays,” Bucky announced.

His announcement was met with thunderous silence by the crowd.

“Right… moving right along then. The cafeteria will be available to the foals that live here on the grounds in the dormitory towers. All staff, teachers, resident caretakers, employees, will be able to eat here as well. So… if you are feeling peckish or the cupboards are getting a little bare at home, food will always be available… it is my intention to keep this cafeteria open day and night,” Bucky announced.

“This sounds wonderful,” a unicorn remarked. “I suppose I could get used to the bugs.”

“You… yes you there. I know you… you are one of my resident employees. One of the on site staff… a surviving noble that offered servitude in exchange for mercy,” Bucky said in reply to the unicorn that had spoken.

Bowing his head, the unicorn nodded. “Yes sir. It was my desire to do something meaningful. I never agreed with the nobles and their culture of exploitation.”

“I am sorry, but I cannot place your name. Please forgive me. Perhaps you could give these nervous looking parents here a word of reassurance,” Bucky said as his eye flashed beneath the dark shadow of his hood.

“My name is Daylight Shadow, once a Scion of House Avarice, one of the many minor houses that only existed to be exploited by the greater houses of Avarice. I never once bought into the deceitful notion that unicorns were the tribe meant to rule. I distinguished myself in the Royal Guard and survived the destruction of my own house. I was one of the first to heed Shining Armor’s call and denounce my house and my family. I now live to serve. I am forbidden from having wealth or coin, owning anything, and I am dependent entirely upon the goodwill of others, very much like Princess Twilight Sparkle’s parents, Night Light and Twilight Velvet, who are loved and trusted public figures,” the unicorn answered in a cultured, refined voice.

“I am pleased to have you among my staff,” Bucky stated. Pausing, he turned to look at the crowd. “I assure you good ponies, he would not be here and in my presence if I was in any way in doubt about his character. I think we can all recall how I dealt with House Avarice and even my own family… hopefully my students will listen and learn from the mistakes made in the past so we do not repeat them in the future,” Bucky said to the collection of parents and students who were staring at him.

“Very well said sir,” Daylight Shadow said in a low voice as he once more bowed his head. “I am grateful for this opportunity to redeem myself.”

“We have not yet looked at the dormitory towers… perhaps you could give the worried parents a few words?” Bucky asked as he took this chance to sit down upon the floor and take a load off.

“Rather than one large sleeping hall or a series of communal rooms, the dormitory towers are actual bedrooms, with two foals to a room. Each floor has a couple of rooms and a bathroom, with a small cozy nook just off the landing for that floor to read, study, or otherwise spend time together with one another. All of the stairs will ensure that the foals are healthy and fit, they will get plenty of exercise, especially those that live on the top floor. I myself have a room at the very top of one of the towers and I am quite pleased by my accommodations,” Daylight Shadow responded in a low calm voice.

Standing up, Bucky stretched out one hind leg as he cleared his throat. “Well then, I do believe it is time to go and meet the school’s drama instructor,” Bucky announced to the rather pleased looking crowd.

 

 

“Trixie pledges to earn the public trust and to be a good pony. The Humble and Apologetic Trixie does indeed remember placing Ponyville under a shield spell to keep you all trapped inside. Trixie is quite sorry and politely begs for your forgiveness,” Trixie said to the crowd that was staring at her warily.

A few angry words had already been spoken and it seemed as though more were about to be said. The crowd seemed rather upset to find Trixie Lulamoon waiting for them in the classroom.

“This is a place of second chances. For a lot of ponies, this is the last chance we have to redeem ourselves. Please, please, I ask that you keep this in mind,” Sunset Shimmer said as she walked in between the crowd and Trixie. “I understand that there are some trust issues, but I know for certain that some of you remember me and the things I’ve done before I was banished. One of the most important lessons we can teach our foals is how to forgive. How to let go of those old hurts. That is the point of this school… reforging new bonds, bringing the tribes together… I ask that you please just give her a chance to work and earn your trust.”

The mood of the crowd softened.

“Trixie admits to making a mistake. Trixie… I… there is much I regret,” Trixie admitted.

As the crowd parted around her, Princess Twilight Sparkle moved forward. She approached Trixie slowly, lifted one front leg, placed it around Trixie’s neck, and gave the troubled mare a hug. After a moment spent squeezing, Princess Twilight Sparkle stepped away and stood near Sunset Shimmer. She looked at the crowd. “It was friendship that brought our Founders together. They had to end their petty squabbling, forget their past hurts, and get over their resentment of one another. The earth ponies had no good reason to trust the pegasi or the unicorns, who had exploited them up  to that point. Each tribe had their grievances and things they expected from other tribes. There was a reckless sense of entitlement that had to be dealt with. Had they kept bickering, it would have been their death. We can either keep bickering about what was done in the past or we can follow the Founder’s example and choose a new way. Choose now.”

The Princess of Friendship’s words had a certain feeling of finality.

The crowd’s mood seemed to soften and Trixie took a deep breath. “Trixie will work very hard to earn your forgiveness and trust. Princess Celestia and Prince Buckminster both have been very kind to me and saved me from myself. Princess Twilight Sparkle has been my friend. I value their friendship so much and it means so much to me… it has made me wish to be a better pony.”

“Pay attention students… there will be a lesson about this later… you would do well to remember this moment,” Bucky said in a soft almost whispering voice from beneath his hood.

 

 

Moving into the astronomy tower, Bucky was pleased to reveal a surprise that his griffons had been working on. He made a mental note to thank Rising Star, Lugnut, and Spanner for all of their efforts. He felt an immense amount of pride when he heard the crowd gasping and students crying out in delight as they entered the room at the base of the tower.

“This is the orrery. Our planet, several other planets, the moon, and the sun. This is powered by steam and will allow students to study the complex workings of the heavens. A group of very hard working griffons made this possible before the school opened,” Bucky announced as he looked up at a planet slowly passing by overhead.

Mouths gaped open as the crowd lifted their heads and stared at the heavenly bodies slowly moving above them, with their own planet locked into place at the center. A brass version of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna circled the planet, each chasing the other, one on one side of the planet and one on the other side of the planet.

“At the top of the tower we have a small astronomy lab with a few telescopes. Princess Luna herself has offered to drop in occasionally to offer instruction and insight into the workings of the heavens,” Bucky stated as he gestured at the stairs along the wall. “This is nothing like the astronomy tower in Celestia’s school, but it’ll have to do.”

“Everything is steam powered in this here school… tell me, will a foal be able to learn about engineering, tinkering, and making stuck contraptions work?” Applejack inquired.

“Yes,” Bucky replied. “Rising Star has offered to teach blacksmithing. There are some griffons who are willing to share their amazing mechanical aptitude, and in time, I am sure we will attract even more talent.”

“I could stare at this all day,” Babs Seed said in a small voice that was full of wonder. The little orange foal peered upward, her eyes wide, she was completely transfixed by the orrery. “I could never see the stars in Manehatten… there was too much light. The stars make me happy.”

“Babs, when you have a little spare time, please, speak to Galaxy Guide and Shining Star. They are our astronomy instructors here at the Founder’s Forge,” Bucky said to Babs. “I want my earth pony students to have their heads in the clouds and their eyes upon the stars.”

“I know we’re doing a tour… but… could I just stay here so I could keep looking?” Babs asked in a pleading voice, her eyes still affixed to the slowly moving orrery. “There are stars on the ceiling. I can see constellations!”

Looking first at Applejack, who gave him a nod, Bucky then looked at Babs. “Babs, you may stay. I think Applejack will enjoy watching the orrery with you. When we leave, we will turn off the lights so you will get the full effect.”

Lost in a sense of wonder, Babs continued to stare upwards as the group slowly filed out. Reaching out, she grabbed one of Applejack’s front legs and gave it a squeeze with her fetlock. As the lights went out, Babs was unaware that a profound change had taken place upon her body as her purpose was finally made to manifest.

 

 

 

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