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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As Violet placed another cup of hot, steaming, fragrant liquid of some sort in front of him, Bucky sighed, thankful that his morning was over. Overall, it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be; most of the parents weren’t snobby or horrible at all, much to his relief. Most just wanted to ask questions and quite a few of the parents could not make it down from Canterlot, saving Bucky from many, many meetings.

“Sir, your pupil sends a message,” Violet said as Bucky took a sip of coffee.

“Oh?” Bucky’s eyebrow raised.

“Yes… she claims that she is going to be your ruination in the dueling display this afternoon.” Violet’s lips pressed into a straight line and she shook her head. “I’m assuming that you have a plan to deal with her?”

“Of course I do,” Bucky replied with a wry grin. “I have a lesson planned for my student and for all the students watching.”

“Sir, I am still shocked that Princess Celestia agreed to a dueling league and competition between the schools.” Violet lifted several folders off of Bucky’s desk, organised them, and stuffed them into a filing cabinet. “Tours of the school are going well, most parents seem impressed, there is some worry about the construction going on though.”

“We have to grow somehow. We keep the students safe.” Bucky lifted his cup and took another sip. “Construction is a good thing. We need growth and development.”

“Of course, Sir, but the parents worry about their foals. Construction sites are dangerous.” Violet cleared the rest of the clutter from Bucky’s desk and left everything well organised.

“I hope that Berry and Barley are doing okay… I’m worried, Violet. Berry has some family issues and I know how those can be,” Bucky said to his secretary in a low voice. His brow wrinkled and he shook his head. “She’s had little to do with them for a long time now. Before she left, she told me that she fears that she’s grown apart from them. They look down their nose at her now because she went to university.”

“Sir, if I may speak openly, I was told by my parents that I didn’t need to go to university, I just needed to find a husband. My mother did finally agree that university would be an excellent place to find a husband. The last time I spoke to her was on the day of my graduation… she told me that I needed to get my priorities straightened out. I told her that she was right and I agreed with her completely. I haven’t spoken to my father or my mother since.”

“Damn… Violet, I’m sorry.” Bucky set down his coffee cup and looked at his secretary.

“I’m not. I have a rich, full life. I took up midwifery. My skills are valuable, respected, and demand a premium pay grade. I do what I love. I have an excellent employer that treats me with respect and dignity and not as a potential marriage option. I am a liberated, well educated, modern mare. It was painful losing my parents, but I do not regret it.”

“I dunno… Violet… marriage isn’t totally off the table. I’ve grown very fond of you.”

The middle aged unicorn mare threw back her head and laughed. Laughing, she staggered to a chair, managed to sit down, collapsing into the chair, and laughed until tears streamed down her cheeks. She clutched her stomach, kicked her legs, and bellowed with laughter. After several minutes, she wiped her face with her foreleg and looked over at Bucky, who was grinning while sipping his coffee.

“All jokes aside, you are very dear to me. I don’t think I express my appreciation of you very much. I couldn’t do what I do without you. You are a dear friend, Violet.” Bucky looked at his secretary and felt a little misty eyed. His office needed dusting.

“It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to work with you, Bucky.” Violet blinked a few times, still smiling, but her eyes were now teary for other reasons. “Hurry up, you need to grind your student into paste. If you don’t, it will be embarrassing and we can’t have that.”

 

 

This was a risky move, and Bucky knew it. There were many parents present, all of them gathered to watch the dueling demonstration. The students from the school had gathered and were now sitting in the grass in a wide circle, all of them sitting past the boundaries put down for safety. The dueling spells were simple, effective, and only caused minor pain when a point was made. Bucky wouldn’t be using the actual dueling spells, he and Sunset had agreed to put on a show. But the dueling league would teach both offense and defense with a simplified attack spell and easy to get started with defensive spells.

Sunset was already in the middle of the circle, getting warmed up, already wowing the crowd with amazing displays of fire control. Trixie was patrolling the outer perimeter with Witching Hour, checking over the protective wards. Nopony wanted the crowd getting hurt.

Somehow, this had turned into a spectacle. Bucky sort of expected that, but seeing the crowd, seeing the signs, and hearing the impatient cheers all drove this home for him. Ponies wanted to see a battle between him and Sunset. There was a roar and a cheer as he approached.

Bucky allowed himself a smug grin. This battle was already won. He felt a little bad for Sunset, but a lesson had to be taught. To her, his students, the parents, there was a much needed message that needed to be heard by all, and today, he was going to teach everypony a valuable lesson. He looked around the crowd, looking for Dinky, knowing that she was here. He wanted her to be here, he wanted her to see, he wanted her to learn.

“Don’t worry Master, I’ll be gentle and I’ll be a gracious winner!” Sunset shouted as Bucky made his way into the makeshift dueling circle. Hearing her words, the crowd cheered.

“After I put you down, perhaps more diaper duty is in order… you need humility, Minion!” Bucky flexed his talons and using his telekinesis, he adjusted his cloak around him. He turned and watched as Tiddlywinks tested the defenses of the dueling circle.

Crowd safety was paramount above all else.

“Master, that’s not fair!” Sunset replied.

“Life isn’t fair, Minion, that’s the point!” Bucky grinned, his muzzle peeking out from the shadowy confines of his hood. Twilight Sparkle was supposed to be here, but she was in Canterlot, fixing what she had broken. Bucky was relieved. With what he had planned, Twilight would lecture him, and he didn’t need a lecture. He needed to make a point.

As Bucky stood watching, Lyra’s horn flared with golden light and a transparent bubble appeared over the dueling circle. After a moment, it vanished. Yet another protective spell put into place. As Bucky waited, he contemplated turning Sunset into some kind of small, adorable rodent so he could further drive home his point.

With a faint crackle, Shining Armor appeared, the official safety inspector. He set to work right away, double and triple checking the protective wards and barriers to keep the audience safe. In the event of some kind of failure, Shining Armor would be there to fix anything that went wrong. There were going to be some spells that were designed to strip away defenses.

After listening to the crowd, Bucky realised that most of them were rooting for Sunset; this was good. This would make her crushing defeat all the more satisfying. Much to his surprise, he saw that Lugus was holding up a sign with Sunset Shimmer’s cutie mark drawn on it with marker ink.

“Are you scared, Minion?” Bucky asked.

“Of some stinky old warlock?” Sunset Shimmer pursed her lips together and blew a raspberry. “Oh please… I’m a paladin now… I can totally take you out. Besides, you have a soft spot for me. You’re not going to do anything awful! If you surrender now, I’ll be nice, I promise.”

“Minion… you should be scared,” Bucky said in a low, somewhat hissy dramatic whisper. He was enjoying all of this a great deal. Minion still had a few lessons that needed learning and Bucky was just the right pony to teach them.

The circle began to clear, the ponies working to ensure safety were now finishing up and moving off into the gathered crowd. The crowd was murmuring, the sound combining to almost make a roar. Bucky took a deep breath and prepared himself. He expected Sunset Shimmer to come at him hard; he would be disappointed if she didn’t. He had trained her as a destroyer, not a defender, though she had capable defense.

The circle, now cleared, was a large empty space with only he and Sunset as its occupants. Bucky stood there, waiting, looking just as relaxed and calm on the outside as he felt on the inside. Any moment now, the show would start. Bucky planned to put on a good show.

There was a ding from a bell and the crowd went nuts. Bucky dropped into shadow and began his defensive preparations. Sunset Shimmer teleported and when she appeared, so did a whole host of defenses. That was a neat trick and he wondered where Sunset had learned that. Probably from Twilight, or maybe Lyra. He winked out, diving deep into shadow, and appeared somewhere else. A crackling bolt of energy shot through the air where he had been a few seconds ago. Sunset was quick, much faster than Bucky had anticipated.

Tendrils of flame rose from Sunset, shifted, shimmered, and became wings. Sunset took to the air, gaining an aerial advantage to match Bucky’s. Becoming just solid enough to let rip, Bucky fired off a beam of pure cold at Sunset, hoping to drain away her flames.

A yawning black portal opened in front of Sunset, swallowed the beam, and another black portal opened elsewhere. The beam that Bucky had fired came shooting back out and Bucky was forced to dodge his own icy blast. That was clever. This was all about putting on a good show first and foremost, and Bucky heard the audience hooting and shouting.

Surging forwards, Bucky became a black streak moving at supernatural speeds, trailing tendrils of shadow behind him. Several blasts of magic burst around him, but nothing hit him. When he was close to Sunset, he let go of a pulse of cold magic, mindful not to let one go that was full strength. He didn’t need the crowd flash frozen.

The radiant cold battered Sunset’s defenses and made her flaming wings sputter, almost causing them to go out. With nowhere to run, Sunset shot upwards, using what was left of her wings to gain altitude. A globe of darkness appeared around her, causing her to go blind.

Bucky let out a maniacal laugh when he heard his student’s panicked cry. She was not a flying creature and she lost all sense of up and down as the darkness swallowed her up. A moment later, the darkness was dispelled as Sunset Shimmer let go of a sunburst spell, illuminating the magical darkness and banishing it.

Snarling, Sunset Shimmer righted herself in the air, gaining her bearings, and focused her angry aggression upon Bucky. Her horn flared with flames as she cast an anti shadow ward, and this time, it was Sunset that let out a maniacal cackle as Bucky was pulled from shadow and forced into the physical realm. She watched him plummet towards the ground and his body warped. In his place was a griffon, flapping his wings and squawking.

Sunset Shimmer unleashed a fiery fury upon the griffon and it was consumed in flames. Bucky reappeared with a pop several yards away from where the griffon had been. His horn flared with a brilliant blue-green flash and Sunset felt her shadow wards weaken.

Bucky dropped to the earth, drifting down like a feather, and landed with ease. As his hooves touched the ground, several Buckies appeared, all of them laughing, and they began to run and dance around.

Snarling, Sunset Shimmer made ready to dispel illusion before it was too late, if it wasn’t too late already. Her horn flared and nothing happened. Cursing, Sunset realised that Bucky had warded himself somehow against having his illusions dispelled. She went for the direct approach and zapped one of the prancing raspberry blowing mirror images of Bucky.

It popped like a soap bubble and as it did, Sunset Shimmer experienced a painful shock that tore through her defenses, causing her mane to stand on end as her teeth gritted together. She flapped her wings, determined to stay airborne, and zapped another image of Bucky, causing it to pop. She was shocked again, this one was far more painful than the last. She cried out as her wing spell fizzled, the painful electrocution had disrupted her concentration. The ground was rushing up to greet her with alarming speed. She teleported and with a great deal of care, canceled out her momentum, knowing that even with a good teleport, one could still splatter into the ground because of momentum.

Angry, frustrated, and in pain, Sunset needed to be rid of Bucky’s mirror clones that were the source of so much pain and trouble. She needed to put an end to his mischief. She launched a flame flare, a burst of fire that spread out from her in an incinerating nova. She received several teeth rattling shocks all at once for her trouble, the experience was quite painful, and there was no sign of Bucky anywhere. Sunset realised that he was invisible, or perhaps he was under a very powerful aversion spell. Either way, that was trouble for her.

Bucky had come a long way with his own defenses, Sunset realised. She had been teaching him, along with Lyra, and she now regretted the exchange of information. She began putting up more spell defenses, knowing that wherever Bucky was, he was doing the same.

Peering around, Sunset’s narrowed eyes looked for any sign of Bucky. Some shimmer, some glimmering, some faint sparkle. Her head darted from side to side and she knew, she knew that Bucky was toying with her. The smarmy son of a bitch was toying with her. She felt more anger and realised that Bucky was baiting her, he wanted her angry. She wasn’t about to give him that advantage. She took a deep breath and calmed herself.

The air filled with thousands of shrieking, squealing, flapping bats. Sunset screamed, unable to help herself, she felt her skin crawl as the flapping, flying disease bearing rodents flew and swirled around her, she could feel them against her skin, in her mane, and brushing up against her ears. She screamed again, filled with terror, not at all liking the creepy crawlies all around her, and a part of her mind told her that if Bucky couldn’t have her anger, then he would have her fear.

She burst into flames but was unable to set the illusionary terror bats on fire. One of them nipped her ear as it flew by, and her fear grew as she realised they were real enough to hurt her, but not real enough to burn. She blasted outwards with a powerful dispel magic and the bats vanished, popping out of existence.

There was still no sign of Bucky anywhere, but Sunset could hear his horrible laughter coming from all around her. She called upon her paladin training and the tiny spark of Celestia’s magic that radiated within her. Her body glowed with gleaming light, sunlight, and she felt her fear melt away. Shining like the sun, Sunset Shimmer felt her flagging spirits lift, her fear was gone, her pain was fading, and she felt Celestia’s love coursing through her.

She saw Bucky appear some distance away and he made a gesture with his talons, made a bow, and then laughed some more. Sunset made ready to give him a dose of his own medicine and as she did so, she heard the tinkling of glass near her. She felt her spell protections vanish in an instant and a second later, more glass tinkled.

The air was filled with choking dust that blinded her. Sunset tried to teleport away and found that she couldn’t. She had trouble making magic at all. She felt her horn fizzling and there were a few pops, magical backfires that were painful to endure. She coughed, seeing stars, and struggled to breathe.

“I’m sorry, Minion…”

 

 

“YOU CHEATED!” somepony out in the audience shouted.

The crowd roared, booing, and Bucky took it all in stride. The real lesson had begun. He looked up at Belisama who was flapping overhead. She landed a moment later near Sunset, putting away her leather sling and pulling out a soothing antidote to the irritating magic stealing dust.

Using a voice amplification spell, Bucky addressed the crowd. “Yes, I cheated. I wanted to make a point. The new dueling league will have a lot of rules and regulations. It will help students learn to fight. As we can see though, not everypony follows the rules. In war, there are no rules, there is only the living and the dead. We face treacherous enemies that will kill us in any way they can. Bad unicorns that do bad things, evil spell casters, necromancers, they do not follow rules. They do not fight honourably. They fight to win.”

Bucky paced around, walking in a circle around Sunset, watching as Belisama poured liquid over Sunset’s eyes and comforted the fallen unicorn. He took a deep breath and realised that the crowd had gone quiet. He had their attention. He lifted his head and addressed them once more.

“Students… I do not want you cheating during your duels. You will fight fairly and honourably… but I want you to think about it. When you write your report on your duel, I want for you to write down all of the ways that you could have cheated to turn the match in your favour. I want for you to be creative. I will reward your deviance. Those of you that show promise will be allowed to join a special dueling league that is being sponsored by the Black Cloaks… cheating is a terrible thing, except for when it is a necessary thing… and then it is cunning. You should deal fairly with your classmates. You should be honest, forthright, and kind. Except for those moments when doing so becomes a liability.”

Bowing his head, Bucky turned to Sunset. “You have my most sincere apologies, but a lesson had to be taught. I forfeit this match. I cheated.” Bucky could see Sunset trying to look at him, her eyes blinking, but he was almost certain that if she could see, she couldn’t see very well.

Sunset coughed and could not reply.

Lifting his head once more, Bucky continued. “We are to deal fairly and honourably with one another. When we duel with the Royal Pony Sisters’ School for Gifted Unicorns, we will deal with them kindly, politely, and with gentility, even as we grind them into dust. We will be gracious winners and we will not cheat. Really, I want to make this very clear… the dueling league is about following the rules. For those of you that earn it, the special dueling league will be anything goes, within reason. We don’t want ponies getting hurt, but we do want to teach you how to handle yourselves in combat.” Bucky cleared his throat. “Now if you will excuse me, this match is over and I owe my student an apology. I must make amends for my actions and hold myself accountable…”

 

 

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