Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.

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72. Chapter Fifty-Eight—Life as a human in pony land is always busy

I found Kat and Jocasta sitting at a café around the time the sun was coming up. After a moment’s hesitation, I joined them. “The dog boss didn’t try to kill me,” I commented as I sat. I noticed Kat was sitting on a cushion. She flinched when she saw me.

Jocasta said, “She did not mention which dog would kill you. From the sounds of things, the dogfather is making things hard on you, and your princess doesn’t seem to be giving you any support. If you wish, we can protect you.”

“No, the princess tried giving me guards. I turned them down. Besides, if I really needed help, I’d rather go to my dragon friends. Just one gave Kat here a run for her money.”

“Oh?” Jocasta said with a smile, turning to Kat. “Is that why she’s been sitting stiffly and walking funny?”

“Yep. The dragon held her and I gave her a spanking. I think she enjoyed it.”

Kat opened her mouth, but very wisely decided to not say anything.

A waiter came up before Jocasta could reply. “What can I get you three?” he asked.

I looked up hopefully. “Don’t reckon you have coffee?” I asked.

“…What’s coffee?”

I sighed. “Milk. From a cow, preferably. Tea, if any is ready.”

“We have—”

“Surprise me.”

He shrugged and turned to the other two. They both asked for some weird tea.

He turned to go. “Hey bro, just give me whatever they’re having. Save yourself some trouble and bring a full pot.” He nodded.

Jocasta asked, “What’s coffee? And milk? And,” she said while looking at Kat, “what is a spanking?”

“I know you know what milk is. It’s the stuff that comes out of breasts or udders, often fed to babies or ca—Hmm.” That’s an interesting idea. Cats on earth liked milk. What about cat people here? “Coffee is a human drink. A spanking is good fun, as long as I’m the one giving it. If you’re interested, I can show you later. Or I could have Kat help me demonstrate.”

I actually got Kat to blush. I don’t think she had been on the receiving end of abuse like that in a while. Or maybe she was just terrified of antagonizing me in case I sold her out to the dragons.

“If it is something you did with her, I don’t think I am interested.”

“Shame. You strong willed ones are always fun.” I leaned back in my seat. “So what’s going on in Egypt? Any more revolutions in sight?”

“After we tracked the rich slaver with your assassin and executed them both, things have gotten frighteningly quiet. Miguel is constantly on edge, stabbing several shadows. If he wasn’t a war hero, he would be executed as a threat. Most of the citizens are content. Your ambassador is still doing her job.” Jocasta shrugged. “It’s a lot more fun leading a revolution than it is helping manage the country afterwards.”

“I’d rather do neither,” I answered. “I wish I could find me a nice female of some race and settle down away from it all. But the work never ends for us heroes, does it?”

The waiter came to our table with the tea and milk. He set down a few cups and left. I grabbed the teapot and poured everyone a cup and set it back down.

“It’s hard to imagine that the ponies consider you a hero,” Jocasta commented as she held her cup up and sipped at it. “I honestly believed they would condemn you for what you did.”

“They don’t know the full story. And I’ve done quite a bit since then. Hell, I’m a knight now, if you can believe it. Fucking Bitchlestia won’t let me stop.” I tried the tea. It was strong, but drinkable. It was also really fucking hot. I tried the milk to cool my mouth off. “Yup, that’s milk.” I passed the cup to Jocasta. “Try it.”

She shrugged and lifted it to her mouth. Her eyes lit up “My my. That’s a wonderful taste.” She passed it to Kat. “You need to try it.” Kat sighed and did so. Her eyes lit up as well, but she didn’t say anything. “Quiet today, hmm? What’s the matter, human got your tongue?”

Kat opened her mouth to say something, but her eyes focused somewhere between Jocasta and I and her pupils went to pinpricks. “Ihavetogo.” She stood up and sprinted from the table.

“Has she been acting like this back in Egypt?” I asked, grabbing my cup again.

Jocasta frowned. “No. Something is wrong.”

Before I could ask what, Pinkie joined our table. “What was that about?” she asked, probably meaning Kat.

“Dunno,” I answered. “Didn’t say a word until she burst out that she had to go.”

“Not a word, huh?” Pinkie asked, sipping at Kat’s tea. “Yuck!” She grabbed the sugar thing in the middle and dumped several spoons into a single cup.

While she tried to turn her tea into molasses, I asked, “Why do you think she might be acting like that?”

“It takes a lot to scare Kat,” Jocasta mentioned. “You said one of your dragon friends roughed her up. Maybe she’s afraid if she pushes your buttons wrong, it’ll happen again.”

I smiled. “The only way I’d let her push my buttons now is the right way. If she tries to do what she did to me during the March, I will kill her and eat her. I would break my code of not eating sapient animals just for her. But… there’s a reason we fucked the last time I was there. She’s good in bed. As long as she can play nice, I’m fine.” I noticed that Pinkie’s stirring gained a new intensity while I was saying that.

“Oh, is someone jealous?” Jocasta said with a giggle. “Might want to be careful, Nav. Your date here is looking a bit green.”

“She’ll get over it. She isn’t as clean as she pretends.”

“If you like rough,” Pinkie said coldly, “I can do rough.”

“I don’t. I broke that kitty; she was tame. My last lover made that mistake. You know how that turned out.”

“Oh?” Jocasta said. “I sense a story.”

“A story not for your ears,” I answered. “The short version is that my last lover had a blood fetish that I did not share. I left her.”

“I would have as well,” she said with a nod. She turned to Pinkie. “Well, he seems to be happy to ignore your needs. What about it, sweet thing? Want to make some music?” So that’s why she ignored my advances.

Pinkie shook her head. “Nope, don’t have time! I just wanted to remind Nav that he owed me a conversation. And that we’re going right back to our apartment after he finishes visiting with his friend and he’s going to give it to me.”

I shrugged. “Fair.” I looked to Jocasta. “I don’t suppose you’re interested in a threesome?”

“Oh, is that what mares consider conversations? While it would be amusing, I should probably find out what Kat’s problem is.”

“Leaving so soon? You never even asked me how my life has been.”

“That’s because, quite frankly, I don’t care. You were useful during the March, even if Kat did turn you into her little bitch. Unless you find a way to be useful to me again, I don’t see any desire in knowing more about you.”

“Hah, I always knew you hated me!” I shrugged. “If you’re ever interested in some hot sweaty hate sex, look me up.”

“I think I’d prefer Pinkie. Or better yet, Kat. You don’t know the catch you got with her. And she is still useful to me, so I actually care what is wrong with her. So I must bid you both adieu.” She drained her tea and stood. “Good luck with your mare problems, Nav. And Pinkie, good luck with your human problems. I suggest holding a friend hostage; it worked well for Kat.” With that, she left.

“Those two pussies left me with the bill,” I sighed. “Ah well.” I dropped a few bits on the table. “I suppose we can head back now, if you want.”

“I most definitely do. Let’s go.” It’s not like Pinkie to be so serious about something. I shrugged and followed her.

I’ve never seen Pinkie so silent, even when she was sleeping.

I heard Flo finally wake up and say, “You’re treading on dangerous ground, Nav. I know what you’re planning on saying. You need to be more tactful.”

I grit my teeth. On one hand, she was right. I was planning on being very blunt. But on the other hand, I wanted this over with. I get oh so tired of dealing with ponies thinking I need to ‘open up’ or tell them about my problems.

She led me right there with no interruptions. It was odd, in a way; yesterday I was getting caught off track by every little thing. She opened the door, ushered me inside, and closed it behind herself. I sat in an armchair so she had no way of getting in my lap. She somehow pulled a couch over so she could lounge upon it and stare at me.

“Come, ask me your questions,” I said.

“Why can’t you let anypony in?”

I smiled, nodding. “Good opening question. Almost every friend I ever had has betrayed me. Why risk telling anyone anything when it will very likely be used against me in the future? I could ‘let someone in,’ but it wouldn’t be worth it.”

“You said you forgave me!”

“But I can never forget! You stole my innocence, Pinkie! I will carry what you did to my grave. You and Rarity were the first betrayals among many, but both of you still burn the brightest. You say that you’re a good friend, that you want me to trust you. Remember what happened last time I made myself vulnerable and trusted you? It involved me getting fucking raped. Hell, just about every time I trusted one of you ponies not to do the wrong thing, you went and stabbed me in the back. So that’s why I won’t let anyone in, Pinkie. Ponies are terrible friends and are very untrustworthy. They read my journals without permission, they hurt me, they lie to me, and they tell secrets. You know all those are true, because you are one of those that read my journals.”

There was the sound of a balloon deflating as her hair sank back down to flat. She looked like she was about to cry.

I rolled my eyes and continued, “Frankly, I think most of you would make terrible special someponies as well. No, fuck that word. You’d make terrible girlfriends. I’ve never technically had one, so I won’t completely rule it out, but based on that track record and how horrible most ponies have been otherwise, I’m not about to hold my breath. Now, do you have any other questions?”

I probably fucked that up. Flo confirmed it with, “Yes, you most definitely did.” Do I even care anymore? “This is Pinkie, Nav.” The very same Pinkie that raped me? She shut up.

Pinkie whimpered. “I’m… I’m a terrible friend…” With that, she began to cry.

For some reason, I had a sick desire to stick more needles in, but I withheld. I knew that I had every right to after what she did, but I wasn’t going to.

I stood. “I’m going out. Don’t be anywhere without a number of ponies. If you need, we can talk more later.”

I walked out, Pinkie still crying behind me. She didn’t have anyone to comfort her this time. She could fucking live with what she did. God knows I’ve had to for this long.

 

I was chilling with some griffins a few hours later drinking illegal mead and playing poker when I got a tap on my shoulder by a hoof. I turned to find a very irate looking Shining Armor standing behind me. “Navarone, what is that?” He nodded toward the mug in my hand.

I turned to look at the table behind me. All the griffins were gone and most of the chairs were knocked over. The bits from the poker game were also gone. I turned back, drained the mug, and said, “An empty mug. Why?”

He facehooved, shaking his head. “Come on. The princess wants you, and with you always wearing that ring, she can never find you.”

“So how did you end up being the one to find me?”

“She sent me personally to make sure you came.”

“Well, Celestia’s going to be a bit pissed. I’m a little drunk. Think we can take a moment to get some food or something so I can let the alcohol soak up?”

“Nav… why are you doing this to yourself?”

“Because fuck you, that’s why.” I wasn’t that drunk, but my steps weren’t even and I was slurring a bit. “Actually… Flo?” It took me a minute to realize I said that out loud.

“What? What does that mean?” Shining Armor asked.

Flo sighed. “Yes, I can try to sober you up. Give me a minute to eliminate the toxins.”

Now that is fucking awesome.

“Just a buzzword, Shiny. I’m good, let’s go. What did she need?”

“She didn’t say,” he answered as he began leading the way. I followed. “She sounded distraught, which is odd for her. She usually has more control. Did you do something you shouldn’t have?”

“Not that I know of.” We passed a table of food and I grabbed a few chicken legs. “God I love griffins. I think I’ll spend the rest of the party here and at the dragon place. Shit, maybe I’ll take Bloodbeak’s offer of an advisory position. I ain’t got nothing holding me to Equestria other than a knighthood that’s name only.”

“You have nothing holding you back? What about Taya?”

“Better off without me.”

“Your friends?”

“Fuck ‘em. Tired of them all. Three of them raped me, one knocked out all my teeth, one almost got me killed, and one sold me out. Most of the others are cool, but I’m really not close with any of the ponies anymore.”

“Nav, I know you didn’t get raped three times by ponies without reporting a single one. You really have no right to complain after the first one if that’s true.”

“Well, your sister only did it because of love poison. That doesn’t change the fact that I still remember it, but I don’t think the law recognizes that as rape. The other two… They happened at about the same time. Hell, that’s not even counting what Luna did to me that last day. Shiny, unicorn 101: If you horn link with someone without a horn, what happens to the person without a horn?”

“They have no control at all in the environment created. If they are present, they are merely observers. Why?”

“Luna failed unicorn 101. She didn’t know that, somehow. Or if she did, she pretended not to. Shit, you want to know why I broke up with her? Here, let me tell you what she did.” I did. I told him everything she did to me in that dreamscape as we walked.

“Nav… there aren’t words in the Equestrian language for how horrifying that is.”

“Try holy shit. Or what the fuck. Or sorry, I’m leaving you. So you can tell your wife to blow it out her ass; I’m done with Luna, unless I have a good damn reason to change my mind.” I barked a laugh. “You remember that incident recently when everyone started dreaming about fucking me? Yeah, she did that on purpose, apparently. She looked through my eyes, saw me fucking someone, declared me a harlot, and turned the dream machine on so everyone could get a taste of it. It didn’t take her long to realize how badly she fucked up.”

“Do… do you have any proof?”

“A night guard told me. That’s all the proof I got. Shit, not like you’re going to arrest any of these people anyway. By now, I’ve seen how your law system works. Since it happens to me, Celestia doesn’t care. Raped by Kat? Look who’s walking free on the streets. Raped by Luna? Look who’s still in power. Raped by Twilight after Celestia herself gives her the poison? Look who I still live with. So yeah, I think I’m done here, unless I start sobering up and think of a good reason for staying.”

“How… how much… Are you lying?”

“Nope. Welcome to my world, Shiny.”

“Can I look through your mind to verify any of it?”

“Not right now you can’t. To do that, I’d have to take my ring off, and given the time zone differences Luna might still be awake. And since apparently she’s clingy, she’s watching everything I do. Man, I really need to sober up. You weren’t supposed to know any of what I just said.”

“Nav… Why aren’t you telling anypony about any of this? These aren’t things you hide!”

“Yeah. But at the same time, something something about showing weakness.”

“What? You just said ‘something something.’ How does that even make sense?”

“Shut up, I’m drunk!” Hurry up, Flo. “Look man, I’m from a very different place. That’s the only real excuse I got. Now, I really need to stop talking and start eating before I get to the pony quarter and they see me with chicken.”

He didn’t comment, which was good. I was tired of hearing ponies say how disgusting meat eating was. I quickly devoured the chicken and started feeling better almost immediately. When we finally got to the pony quarter, I grabbed some cake and started eating that; bread is pretty good for soaking up stuff, right?

“Man, she really needs to start sending pegasi to get me,” I said as we continued trudging through overflowing streets. “You damn ground pounders are so slow.”

“Nav, how can you be so nonchalant after everything you said you’ve been through?” Shiny asked.

I shrugged. “I’m used to it. Actually, no, that’s a bad answer. I should say that I’ve slowly built up an immunity of sorts. No one here knows about my life as a human or what it was like. I tell you, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. It wasn’t terrible, but it gave me the right mindset I needed to survive everything I’ve been through. And it’s all been a downward spiral of pain and misery ever since I got here. Seriously, for a place that has such happiness and sunshine on the cover, the people that have to keep all that happiness together have a shit life.”

He barked a laugh. “Think of me what you will, I have my share of experience there. I haven’t been through what you have, but my career in the guard wasn’t a walk in the park either. Nightmare Moon, that debacle in the Middle East, and Chrysalis were the three highlights—or perhaps low points—of my career. But they aren’t the only things. I’ve had to kill countless monsters that sought to make ponies lunch, I’ve had to track down and deal with several bandit gangs, I have to constantly practice and hone my magic, now that I’m a prince I have to deal with tons of royal stuff… And by Celestia Nav, the PAPERWORK! The difference between heroes like me and heroes like you is several thousand pages of unimportant, bureaucratic paperwork.”

“I wouldn’t mind filling out a few hundred forms if it meant I didn’t get raped.”

“You have a very fair point. By the way, can I get names for the other two that raped you?”

“Why? So you can drag them to jail, have their trial conducted by Celestia, and they walk free? I don’t want to waste your time. I’d rather keep breaking them down emotionally about it.”

“Navarone, there are other avenues you can pursue than getting them arrested. The princesses might be in charge, but they can’t undo several thousand newspapers that all say the same thing.”

“But if word got out, they could very easily stop those newspapers from ever going to print. I’ll think about it and I might tell you once I sober up.”

He sighed. “Alright, Nav. I know better than trying to take anything from you.”

“Yeah… I’m sorry for all the shit I put you through, bro. I know you’re just trying to do your job. Your job and my job just happen to clash sometimes.” For being a lawful good type, he really wasn’t all that bad. I don’t think I’d ever do another job with him, but he wasn’t that bad.

“Most of where we clash isn’t because of your ‘job,’ Nav.”

“Yeah, I know. I just needed an excuse for why I’ve been a dick. You know, aside from a few years of torture.”

He didn’t answer. I mean, what would he really say to that?

We were walking along in silence when I was whirled around. Before I could register what happened, my fist shot out to punch the person doing the whirling. I brought my hand back, wincing.

“That wasn’t very smart,” male Kumani said. “Where’s your pink friend? I’ve been stuck like this for too long and it is starting to get aggravating, dodging that insufferable Purifier.”

“I don’t know. Last I saw her, she was crying in our apartment. Did you look there?”

“I knocked and waited ten minutes. If she’s there, she’s not answering the door. You are going to help me find her.”

Shiny spoke up, “No he’s not. He’s coming with me to the princess.”

“Yeah, sorry. Shiny found me first. That means I’m going to Celestia. You are welcome to tag along, but she might not let you inside.”

Shiny said, “I was told to bring you alone, Nav.”

I shrugged. “There you have it. Sorry, doll. You’ll just have to keep looking.”

“Or I come with you and wait outside. You are annoyingly hard to find in this city.”

I looked at Shiny. He shrugged. I turned back to Kumani. “Alright.” We began walking again. I fell back to talk to Kumani where Shiny couldn’t hear us. “I don’t think he remembers much about the dogfather job. Don’t ask and don’t mention it.”

“O… kay.” It was kind of an odd thing to hear.

We finally made it to our destination. Kumani was made to wait outside. We left him glaring at the guards. Shining Armor and I were led to a sitting room where Celestia sat, alone. In front of her couch was a table with my gender stones on it. Another couch was on the other side of the table.

“Navarone, sit. Shining Armor, leave.” She didn’t sound amused. I shrugged and sat while Shiny left.

I reached out and grabbed the gender stones when I was down and pocketed them before saying, “I was happily getting drunk, until that killjoy scared away my sources. What do you want?”

She sighed. “Pinkie came to me a few hours ago, Navarone. She told me… many things. Some of which explained things I’ve wondered about for years.”

I held up a hand to stop her. “Celestia, why the fuck should I continue living in pony lands?”

She opened her mouth to respond before closing it. Eventually, she asked, “What do you mean?”

“Since I got here, my life has been hell. What is keeping me from moving away from Equestria?”

“I… Taya?”

“Would be better off without me. Try again.”

She was silent for a moment. “A sense of duty?”

I nodded. “That was what used to hold me here. But when I stopped caring about duty… What am I left with?”

“Nav, think about the friends you’ve made!”

“Bitch, you just talked to Pinkie! Tell me what she told you.”

She shut up.

“That’s what I fucking thought. Try again.” We sat in silence for nearly a full minute.

“The knowledge that you can still help my little ponies?”

“And why, Celestia, should I give one little damn about your ponies? Rape, kidnapping, attempted murder, mind rape, torture, lies, betrayals, and more. And your little ponies are afraid of me. Sure, some of them give me respect. But in Appaloosa, I was treated like trash. Some of the ponies here don’t mind me, but I’ve seen looks from others. Why should I stay in a place where I’m barely tolerated despite being a national hero when I could go somewhere like Egypt where I would be practically worshipped or Gryphus where I would be given a position as an advisor to the king or to Chrysalis, where I would become king? The dragons offered me a position in the horde. Another species, a member of the dragon horde! The dogs would probably love me, now that I took down the dogfather. So why am I still here, Celestia?”

“I don’t know,” she quietly answered.

“And neither do I. You are very, very fortunate in one aspect, Celestia. I never leave my debts unpaid. Even after every part of me that you ruined, I still have that. A year. You have a year to think of a reason for me not to leave your horrible kingdom. And if I find out that you told anyone at all about this conversation, I’m leaving that day. I’ll pack my bags, grab as much gold as I can carry, and you’ll never see me again. Do we have an understanding?”

She sighed. “I am saddened that it came to this. Believe me, I understand perfectly. If you had told me so much more, so much could have been avoided, Navarone. Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Be honest. What would you have done?”

“I… Navarone, you must understand, Twilight and her friends are important for the national security of Equestria. They’re the bearers of the Elements of Harmony. To lock any of them up… It would undermine our main defense strategy.”

That’s news to me. I had heard of the Elements, of course; I read every book in Twilight’s library at least once. It seems ridiculous to claim that Twilight and her friends were them, though. Yes, each embodied some parts of some of the elements, but some of them betrayed parts of the elements in dealing with me.

“So what you’re saying is that important ponies are above the law.”

“No, of course not!”

“So Luna is going to be punished for raping me. Or for sexually assaulting every single pony by making them dream sexually about me. And you’re going to be punished for casting that sex spell on me that led to me being given a drug that led to an orgy that I had no control in. Or for giving Twilight the love poison and leaving when you knew exactly what she was going to do to me.”

“Those were all a long time ago…”

“Less than a fucking year! And where I come from, there is no statute of limitations on rape, anyway. Or attempted murder, like Luna tried to do to me with that moth.”

“Luna is being punished for that—”

“By being locked in a city and given all the royal treatment a princess could possibly want? How terrifying.”

She was trapped. “Well what do you want me to do, Nav? Tell everypony the paragons of friendship and the princesses they’ve all grown up idolizing are guilty of terrible crimes? Sow fear and confusion in the heart of everypony out there?”

I crossed my arms. “One of the elements of harmony is honesty, Celestia. Would you want all of your ponies believing in idols that are so terribly flawed? You have two choices. Either admit you care nothing for justice and the ideals of friendship that your entire nation is built upon, or tell every one of your fucking ponies the truth.”

It was silent in that room for a while. I wish I could take a picture of her face. It was a mix of horror, anger, and shame.

Finally, she said, “Just because I built this nation does not mean I have to be a paragon of its values. Navarone, you have been through hardship after hardship. I’m not going to invite hardships upon my ponies by telling them the truth like that. Yes, it makes me a terrible pony. I’m so, so sorry. I swear upon my crown, I will force you to do nothing you do not want to do after you repay your debt. Upon my crown, I will force Luna to stop eavesdropping on you. Upon my crown, you will have whatever you want within reason. I know that can never undo what has been done to you, but I hope it can help you ease the terrible burdens on you. I hope that it can help you forget my injustices and the injustices of the pony race unto you. If at the end of the year you still want to go, no pony will stand in your way. In the roster of the knights, you will be marked as away on business of the realm. Think of me what you will, but I thought of you as a friend.”

“Then I’d hate to see what you do to your enemies.” I stood. “If you need anything else, then it’s a good thing you have an army of ponies that actually care.”

I walked out. Shining Armor was waiting on the other side of the door. When it closed, he said, “I heard every word.”

“And?”

“I’m seriously considering quitting the guard.”

“Don’t. The captain of the guard needs to know what the princesses are like, and you better believe the next captain won’t have a clue. Do you need anything else?”

“…No, Nav. I’ll talk to the… to Celestia.”

“If she steps near you, back away. She’s taken memories from you before. She could easily do it again.”

He nodded. “I will. Somepony needs to remember this.”

“Good luck, then.” I left as he opened the door.

Kumani was baring her teeth at a guard that was just glaring at her. She dropped her expression when she saw me. “Can we go find the pink one now?”

“No need,” I said, pulling the stones out of my pocket. I walked up to him and reached out the pink one.

“Hold on, Nav,” he said. I pulled the stone away. “Being a guy presents me with a few unique opportunities. Now that you have control of the stones… Well, let’s walk.”

We started leaving the pony area. “I’m not really in the mood for anything like that,” I commented when we were away from the guards. “I’ve had a shitty day. I want to go back to the griffin quarter and drink illegal stuff until I can’t think anymore.”

“Oh come on, Nav! When am I ever going to get to experience sex like this again?”

Fucking hedonist. “Fine. Maybe that’ll help pull me out of this damn dark mood. With my roommate, it might not be a good idea to use my apartment.”

“I have a friend whose place we can use. Don’t move.”

“What?” That’s all I had time to ask before he picked me up and jumped into the air, spreading his wings wide. “Dammit, I hate—mmph!” He kissed me again, jamming his tongue down my throat yet again. When he pulled away, I realized we were on the ground. “Will you stop fucking babying me?”

“But it’s so fun!” I think he could see the anger brewing on my face, as he quickly set me down. “Alright, fine. If I overstep, I’m sorry. It just seems natural for some reason.”

I grit my teeth. “Is there anywhere in this damn world where the females are actually submissive and sedate?”

He chuckled. “Not that I know of. Now come on. My friend might not be here, so we need to hurry.”

I sighed and followed him in.

 

The next day, I woke up with a splitting headache and not knowing how I actually fell asleep. It took me a moment to realize why it was so dark and it took me even longer to get out from under Kumani’s wing. She had a damn death grip on me. I sat on the edge of the bed, not knowing where the hell I was. I just cradled my head in my hands.

“Flo, did I do anything I’d regret last night?”

“Look on the other side of Kumani.”

I achingly turned my body around and saw Pinkie wrapped up around Kumani’s arm. “Huh. How the fuck did that happen?”

“You saw her down and depressed and told her to join you and Kumani. You got very drunk last night.”

“Was it worth it?”

“Look at Pinkie’s hair.”

I did. It was all poofy again. “That doesn’t answer my question. I don’t care if it was worth it for her. Should I regret it?”

“No.” Good enough for me.

I stood and went to look for a bathroom. When I found it, I drank as much water as I could hold. I returned to the room and gathered all of my junk and then jumped out the window, flying back to my apartment for a shower.

I didn’t really want to go back to that clothing shop alone; that guy was talking way too much about my ‘beauty’ and ‘form’ for me to be comfortable around him. However, what’s a single unicorn going to do against someone with a magic nullifying ring that’s decked out in weapons?

With that somewhat comforting thought in mind, I touched the pink stone, got dressed, threw on some weapons, and jumped into the air. It was around noon when I landed in front of his shop.

I walked inside to see a dog and a griffin standing in front of a terrified looking shopkeeper. “The dogfather ain’t in charge anymore, pony,” the griffin said. “We take however much we want.” That’s as far as he got before a bolt sent him off to Valhalla or whatever the birdbrains believe in.

The dog whirled around, surprise on his face. He turned just in time to see a knife landing in his chest. He looked at it in horror that quickly turned to rage. He grabbed it and tore it out, throwing it aside. He began charging at me just as the next knife hit him in the face.

“I’m here for my orders,” I said, stepping further into the shop.

“Y-y-you k-killed them!”

“Yeah. If the stuff’s not ready I can come back later.” I continued walking, up to the bodies. “But I’m getting my knives and bolt first.”

“I’ll… I’ll go… I’ll go get them.” He went into a back room. I heard retching.

I grabbed the knife in the dog’s eye and wiped it on his coat. I went over to where he threw the other and wiped it off as well. I sheathed them both and tried pulling the bolt from the griffin. It broke. I shrugged, took off the part with the arrowhead, and left the rest.

I removed the dog’s purse and checked it. There was a note inside. “The boss got pinched. The boss boss. The majority of the Flankfurt mafia heads will be meeting at the library safe house to decide who will be in charge. Those of you that want to change your colors, meet up there. Burn this note.”

I looked up. “Fuck, dogs are stupid.” I pocketed the letter and went into the back room where the shop owner was in the fetal position. “Do I need to just come back later?” He whimpered. I started backing up. “I think I’ll just come back later.”

“No! Please… don’t leave me…”

“Look, Mister Fashion Shop Guy, it’s kinda obvious you aren’t used to death. I am. Those guys were here to rob and/or hurt you. It’s probably for the best that I killed them.” He looked at me with bloodshot eyes. “Okay, that’s a nice touch. How did you get your eyes bloodshot that quickly?”

Flo sighed. “You could try being more sensitive.”

Flo, I still have a pretty bad headache. What the fuck am I supposed to say?

“Hug him.”

Dammit, Flo.

I sighed as I knelt down and wrapped my arms around him. “It’s okay, mister fashion guy. It’s over now.” Aside from getting rid of their bodies. And the blood. And the horrible smell.

After a few minutes, he calmed down enough to say, “I’m… I’m good now.” I quickly let him go and stood up, backing away.

“Sorry, man. I’m not used to dealing with civilians anymore, at least not when it comes to stuff like this. If you stay in here, I’ll go get some guards to… deal with the remains. Are you okay alone?”

He shakily nodded. He didn’t look pleased at the notion of being left alone, but I think he liked the idea of having bodies in his shop even less. I stood and walked out of the back room, closing the door behind me. I changed the sign on the window to say closed and left, looking for the nearest guard. I quickly found one, and he got a crew together to deal with the remains and aftermath.

When the bodies were cleared, I finally opened the door of the backroom to find the fellow in a relatively decent, if nervous, state. “Everything is gone,” I said. He sighed in relief. “Now, about that order?”

He nodded once, happy to have something normal to think about. He bustled over to a clothing rack and pulled off a very tasteful looking outfit that I could actually see myself wearing if I ever had to spend time as a girl. “I had a lot of fun making this outfit. To make something to fit you, your grace and beauty, calmness and precision… Its making was payment enough.” What is it with these fashion ponies and free clothes?

He then went over to a small chest and pulled out my goggles. “I did not like making these so… basic, but that is what you requested.”

I smiled. “Perfect. Both of them. Thank you, mister fashion store guy.”

“Please, try them on!” He passed the outfit to me.

“Do you have any kind of changing room?”

“…A what?”

I shrugged and began stripping down, making sure my weapons didn’t get too far away from me. It would be just my luck that this guy tried striking while I was naked.

He was definitely getting an eyeful and smiling like crazy. I didn’t really care, honestly. As long as he didn’t try anything, he could look all he wanted.

“Are all… humans like you?” he asked while I was putting on the new set of clothes.

“No. We’re all different in one way or another. Most aren’t cold-blooded murderers, if that’s what you meant. About half are males, with different body types.”

“Where do you come from?”

“A different dimension. I was brought here by accident. I think I’ve made a decent life for myself.”

“A knight of Equestria, if I heard right.”

“You did. Rumors spread far and fast, it seems. Shame not all have heard them.”

“You’ve had trouble with ponies in the past?”

“Yes. A place in the mainland was very, very cold toward me.” I shrugged. “Ignorant hicks. They recognized royal authority, but most of them weren’t happy about it. This fits well.” I finally finished putting it on. It was very form fitting, emphasizing the feminine curves I wasn’t overly pleased that I possessed.

His grin widened as he looked me over, nodding. “Yes, it does. It was a joy to make, and I’m glad you like it.” I didn’t say that, but I did like it.

“I do need one more thing, if you have the time. I need it today, preferably before I leave. I can pay plenty, if it would disrupt any other orders.”

“It’s no problem! Not for somepony that saved my shop from those crooks. What do you need?”

“A cloak and cowl. I need a way to stay hidden as I walk among the ponies, something that I can use to appear like a cat or dog.”

“You want to hide your wonderful body? Why?”

“I’ve become a target. As little as I like hiding, staying visible is likely worse of a choice. I could kill everyone that comes at me, but I’d prefer not to make a scene in every street between here and my apartment.”

He slowly nodded. “Yes, I can understand that. It should be very easy to make. Do you have any color preferences?”

“Pale white, something that would be seen in the deserts. If I look like a mercenary from Egypt, I’ll be left alone.”

His eyes got a faraway look for a moment before he nodded once and went back into his shop proper. I grabbed my stuff and followed him, strapping weapons on and putting the goggles around my neck, ready to be pulled up if I needed them.

So just what was that song you were singing, anyway?

Flo answered, “An old song about a man and a woman during times of war. The man gets called off to battle and the woman is mourning her loneliness, pining away until he returns. When he does, he comes home broken, an emotional wreck that can’t seem to handle a relationship no matter how loving the woman tries to be.”

Talk about a fucking bummer.

She didn’t answer.

The shopkeeper walked out of another back room carrying a few bolts of off-white cloth. The bolts floated over to a sewing machine and things began happening. I never knew much about the process, but half an hour later he pulled a very large cloak and cowl mix off and passed them to me. “Are these satisfactory?” he asked.

I took a moment to put them on. “Yes, very much so. It’ll be hot, but I’d rather be a little bit warm than under attack. You’ve been awesome, mister shopkeeper. How much do I owe you?”

“Oh, it’s nothing. You saved my shop, after all.”

I rolled my eyes and reached into the wad of clothing I removed and grabbed one of my coin purses. I tossed it onto an unrolled bolt of cloth. “If you need me for anything, just let me know.” I started for the door before he could open the sack of coins or try to pass them back.

I got out just as I heard his shout, “Wait!” I sighed and looked back. “Are you… doing anything tonight?”

I blinked. That, I was not at all expecting. “Unfortunately, yes. One of those criminals had a letter on him. I have to look into it and deal with what it said. The aftermath of that will likely take all week and then I’m going back to the mainland.” I shrugged. “If things were different, I would take you out. Sorry mister fashion guy.”

He did look a bit sad, but he nodded. “I understand. Thanks for everything.”

I waved one last time before exiting the shop. I removed the ring and leapt into the air, quickly flying back to my apartment. I got inside, removed my female outfit, touched the blue stone, put on a random set of clothes, then put on my armor, strapped on my bolts, knives, and sword, and finally put on the cloak. I filled its pockets with some of the human weapons and the letter. To finish off the bunch, I grabbed my crossbow. I was ready to fuck some bitches up.

I wasted no time removing myself from the apartment and flying to where I had left Kumani and Pinkie. Surprisingly, they were both still in bed. Their tails were intertwined in a way that I honestly found kind of cute. I was hesitant to wake Kumani up, but I knew she would want to get in on this if it meant the possibility of more money.

To that end, I poked her. She didn’t react. I poked her a few more times with no better results. Finally I just flipped her over, reached down to her tail, and pushed the base in.

She woke up with a moan, stretching and trying to buck at the same time. When she opened her eyes to confusedly look around, she flinched. “What in the… Get off me!” She pushed Pinkie off the bed, finally waking her up as well.

“Party?” Pinkie sleepily asked.

“No party,” I answered. “Kumani, you want a chance to make some bits?”

She yawned. “Can it wait until after breakfast?”

“It’s almost two in the afternoon. I don’t know what the time limit on this letter is, so you better fucking hurry. We gotta go and we gotta go soon.”

She started really waking up, then. “What’s this about?”

Pinkie jumped up. “Can I come?”

“No. It’s about a letter I found on some crooks. From the looks of things, there’s a big boss meeting tonight. You and I are going to fly down to the dogs and talk to their boss and offer him your services as a mercenary for this job. If he takes you up on it, cool. If not, well, at least you tried.”

She grinned, her sharp teeth flashing in the light. “Yeah, I like this idea.”

“Why can’t I come?” Pinkie asked, almost sounding sad.

“Because fuck you, that’s why.” Being hungover, in a hurry, and being kinda tired of dealing with her shit made me a little testy. “You ready, Kumani?”

Kumani stood, rolling her shoulders. “Yeah. I’d like to eat first… but maybe we can get something on the way.”

“Pinkie, stay out of trouble. Kumani, can you fit through the window?”

By way of answer, she walked over to it and threw herself out. I saw her soar up a bit before I walked over and put my foot up on the sill, ready to jump out. Something caught my back leg, stopping me. I turned to see that it was Pinkie, wearing a very sad face.

“Nav…” she whispered. “Please? I just want to help protect you.”

“No. Now, would you kindly let me go?”

The sad face instantly disappeared and a determined one replaced it. “No! I’m not letting you go without me!”

“You can’t even fly.”

“We could walk… Please, Nav?”

“Let. Me. Go.”

She just increased her grip, shouting, “NO!”

I spun around, sticking my hands on the window frame to hold me up. She looked at me in surprise before I put my metal boot to her face and pushed her off, trying not to hurt her but not caring overly much if I did. She sprawled backwards with a squawk. “Maybe you think last night meant something,” I growled. “I was drunk. You were easy. Simple as that. Get your mind out of the clouds, Pinkie. Forgiveness isn’t that simple. Maybe it’s time you realized that.”

With that, I pushed the rest of my body out the window, joining Kumani in the sky. I pointed her to the dog abode and we flew toward it as quickly as we could. We both landed right outside the gate, the dog stupidly staring at us.

“We need to see the boss,” I said. The dog stared. “Right now.”

He blinked. “I’ll go talk to him,” he dumbly said.

He walked up to the front door and pounded on it. A moment later, another guard opened it. The outside guard said something we couldn’t hear. The inside guard looked at us before nodding and stepping back in, yelling something inside the house. A moment later the boss came to the door, looking out at us. He smiled and exited, walking up to the gate.

“How can I help you, Navarone? If it is you, of course.”

I pulled a knife out and cut myself on the cheek, showing my amber blood. He nodded and his eyes went to Kumani. I turned to her. “Let me see your hand.” She held it out and I lightly pricked it, showing a bit of red blood. I turned back to the boss and pulled the letter out with one hand as I sheathed the knife with another. I passed it to him. “I pulled this off a dead criminal today that was trying to rough up a store owner. I figured this could help you out a bit.”

He read through it before looking up. “Are you sure this is genuine?”

“No, but I know I pulled it off someone who mentioned the dogfather before I killed him. I don’t know if it means tonight or last night or what, but it seems like a good opportunity to me.”

He put a hand to his chin, thinking. “I don’t have too many troops here…”

“Kumani is for hire, if you’re interested. A dragon is surely worth at least ten dogs, even one as young as she is.”

He looked up. “Yes, I would love to have you both.” Both? “I can’t offer you nearly as much, but hopefully there will be no fighting. Can you think of any others that might be worth paying for?”

“Celestia would probably give you all the guards you needed, if you asked her.”

He grimaced, shaking his head. “I do not like getting her involved with any dog business. I hated hiring her captain, but he did turn out to be useful.”

“The only others I can think of would be a few cats. Rock, Miguel, Kat, and Jocasta. They’re all ranking members of the cat government, but they would probably come if you offered gold.”

“And you can speak for their fighting prowess?”

“I can speak for Kat’s, Miguel’s, and Rock’s. I know Jocasta can fight, but I’ve never known her to do it.”

He nodded once. “It would be a good thing to do anyway; we need to build better relations with the cats.” He snapped his fingers and a guard jumped forward. “Send out sniffers for a few cats named Rock, Miguel, Kat, and Jocasta. Offer them three thousand bits each if they assist me in a matter. They have to come here to talk to me.”

The guard who listened blinked dumbly. “A cat named Kat?”

The boss lifted a paw up and arched one of his digits in, a ‘come hither’ motion. The guard moved his head down to the boss’s level and the boss slapped the guard in the face. “Go!” The guard quickly nodded and went inside. A moment later a few dogs without armor began running out and jogged past us on all fours, running like a dog from my world.

“Come inside, you two. Let us talk business.”

I sighed and followed the boss as he led the way inside. Kumani followed behind us and the guard took up his position back at the gate. “The dogfather has been reluctant to talk,” he said as we walked further inside. “We’ve gotten a few names out of him, a few things that will need to be confirmed. Turns out that he was definitely sent to Tartarus at one point.” He scoffed. “Why Celestia sent a big dog to guard a dog, I don’t know.” I assume he meant Cerberus. “We haven’t gotten him to say much. Do either of you think you could?”

“Kat can,” I said with a nod. “That crazy bitch specializes in torture. When she gets here, she can extract the information we need about the library safe house.”

He grinned, rubbing his paws together. “It’s good to have friends in high and low places, is it not?” he asked with a predatory grin.

“I have them in the lowest of the low and the highest of the high. It is definitely valuable. Now, do we need to do anything while we wait?”

He shook his head. “Just enjoy the hospitality of the dogs. If you don’t mind waiting here, I’ll go tell the torturers what to try to learn.” With that, he left us in the same sitting room where we first talked about the dogfather.

I turned to Kumani. “So. Wanna make out?”

She blinked. “…What?”

I shrugged. “Just checking.” I walked over to the bookcase and started looking over titles. I didn’t get far when I felt my wings grabbed and felt myself pulled backwards and then twisted to face Kumani. She gently licked the blood off my cheek before spinning me back around and repositioning me in front of the bookcase. I continued perusing titles.

When I found a book that looked slightly interesting, I grabbed it and sat on the desk. It was the only place I could comfortably sit, due to my wings. Kumani walked around, looking at various things in the room as I read.

It didn’t take the dog too long to get back with us. Behind him was some random female dog carrying some kind of drinks. Neither commented on me sitting on his desk. He just shrugged and walked to a chair and sat it in. “Tell me, what kind of fighters are these cats you want me to hire?”

“Rock is brutal in melee. Back when I knew him, he carried a giant fucking hammer that he would use to turn things he didn’t like into paste. Miguel used two nasty daggers, using the cats’ natural speed to eliminate entire groups of soldiers. He might not like the order of ‘take them alive,’ but he can probably be reined in by Jocasta. I’ve never seen her fight. I’ve never seen Kat fight either, but I know she’s an expert assassin.”

“Seems like a lotta hearsay,” he commented as he sipped on whatever was in the cup the servant gave him. She gave me and Kumani one as well, but I set mine on the desk beside me and didn’t touch it again; I didn’t trust the dogs for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on.

“I did see Kat torture someone, though. It was… horrifying.” She sure did a better job than I. “Trust me when I say that this group can fuck shit up if you let them. Now, my turn for a question. How did you hear about me? It seems I’m famous.”

He grinned. “Everyone keeps up to date with Celestia’s court. Or at least, the more interesting parts of it. And you, Navarone, are most definitely interesting. Ordering the captain of the guard around, making love with a dragon, killing criminals as they line up… And that’s all in four days. You have quite a history, too. Everyone in power knows who you are. Even if you do have some… unpleasant past associations, you are still quite useful.”

“Unpleasant past associations?” I asked.

“Changelings,” he growled. “We don’t like them. They don’t like us. Why you have any dealings with them at all is beyond me. We were rather displeased that Celestia formed a pact of sorts with them. And I heard that it was your fault it happened.”

“Partially my fault. I helped capture the queen when she tried invading Canterlot. I pacified her and the rest is history.”

“I’ve heard it said you had a more… personal history with her.”

I grinned. “I have exotic tastes. So does she. And when you have a lover that can turn into anything, it never gets boring.”

He rolled his eyes. “Disgusting bugs. Doesn’t matter what they turn into, they’re still gonna be a bug.”

“Which would you prefer, then: One of your female dogs, or someone like her?” I asked, waving my hand at Kumani.

He grimaced. “Even bitches are better than bugs. And dragons? I think I’ll stick to a race that doesn’t have flights of fancy that involve kidnapping lovers and keeping them for their hoard.”

Kumani growled. “Those are our laws, pup. If we get caught with a member of another race, marriage is forced.”

He crossed his arms, grinning. “So what happened between you two? Navarone is wearing a ring, but you aren’t.”

She sniffed. “Navarone refused my hand. It was… unorthodox, but Pyrite allowed for another punishment. An exception for one to whom exceptions are common.”

“Oh?” the dog said. “And how do you feel about that?”

“He has his own life, as I have mine. If they don’t happen to permanently intersect, then that’s just the way it is.”

The dog chuckled. “So you want him but you know he doesn’t want you.” Kumani looked away. “You don’t get to be my rank without being smart, hatchling.” He looked back to me. “How long do you think it’ll take those cats to get here?”

“Don’t know. If they answer the call, it shouldn’t take them long. Kumani, come here.” She slowly walked to me, not looking at me. I grabbed her hand when she was close and pulled her down to her knees, putting her face at about my chest. I gently lifted her head and kissed her for a moment before pulling back and whispering, “If you really want me, there’s a chance I’ll be leaving Equestria in a year. I was going to… help a friend, but if you want to tag along, you are welcome. We can see where it goes.”

She grinned before wrapping her arms around me and lightly hugging me.

“Blech,” the dog huffed. “So sappy.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said as Kumani pulled away. “So what’s our pay for this job? And do we want the bosses alive or dead?”

“You brought this to my attention, so you get five. Your dragon gets four. The cats get three.” He held up a paw. “That’s assuming this letter is legit. If this is a dud, you all get nothing. I’m thinking… two hundred extra for every living, ranking boss you bring back. I’d prefer them alive. But if not… well, I’ll understand.”

I nodded. “Good enough for me. Rules of engagement?”

“No civilian casualties. If any of the bosses fight back, use as much force as you need to get them compliant. We have the dogfather, so we can get all the information we need from him, but every boss we can get is good. There won’t be too many since this is just one city, but get as many as you can.”

“Sounds simple enough. How many troops are you giving us?”

“Fifteen. That’s over half of my remaining guards, so do not spend their lives pointlessly. You are in charge, Navarone.”

“What, you’re not going?”

He scoffed. “Me? I’m not a fighter. I make money so I can hire others to fight for me.”

I shrugged. “What about that girl you tried to get me to use to get the dogfather? She coming?”

“Minnie? Yeah, she’ll go. For a bitch, she’s smart and useful.”

I nodded once and went back to reading the book. A few minutes later, the door opened and a guard came in, saying, “There are four cats outside, sir. They want to talk to you.”

“Send them in. Leave two guards at the door, in case they’re changelings.” The guard nodded and went back outside. The boss turned to me. “You’ll have to check them, or convince them to let us do it.”

I shrugged. The four familiar cats came in. “Sup, guys?” I said.

Jocasta sighed. “I should have known you would be behind this. Well, what do you want?”

“First things first. We have to make sure you aren’t changelings. Would you mind bleeding?”

She crossed her arms. “Why should I even care? What’s in it for us?”

“Three thousand bits each, if the job goes well. But first, changelings?”

She rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers. Kat and Miguel pulled out daggers and lightly cut their arms, showing red blood. Rock growled before extending a large claw and running it down his face. Jocasta gently pricked her paw with a claw. “Happy?” she asked.

“Yep.” I raised a finger to point them out to the boss. “Jocasta, Rock, Miguel, Kat.”

He nodded to them. “I want your help in capturing a few crime bosses. Navarone here says you’re worth the money.”

Jocasta nodded once. “Give us details.”

He smiled sheepishly. “All we know is the name of the location. We have the big boss, but he ain’t talking. Nav here says Kat knows how to… acquire information. Think she can make him talk?”

Kat stepped forward, grinning. “Tell me the questions to ask and where the prisoner is. I’ll make him talk.”

The boss clapped his hands twice and a guard stepped in. “Take her to the dogfather. Tell the torturers that she’s in charge.” He looked to her. “They know what to look for. Just ask them and get the info as quickly as possible. Send Minerva up here.”

She nodded and followed the guard. Jocasta asked, “So what are the details of the job? What are we going to be doing?”

“Capturing and/or killing crime bosses,” I answered. “Assuming this isn’t a dud, at least. I got attacked by a few crooks today and pulled a letter off their bodies that said there was a big meeting tonight. It gave a location, but we don’t know where it is.” I looked at Miguel and said, “Capturing them is priority. Kill only if you have to. Every live boss is two hundred extra bits for everyone.” I turned back to Jocasta. “Keep Miguel in check. No civilian casualties. We want a nice and quick smash and grab. If we get bogged down in the streets fighting every crook in the damn city, there’s a chance none of us will get out alive, or at least without getting captured by pony guards and getting in some serious trouble for inciting a war in a pony city.”

She nodded. “I will keep him under control. Who is in charge?”

The dog nodded at me. “Navarone is leading this one.”

Jocasta sighed. “Oh boy, this’ll be fun.”

Rock rolled his shoulders. “As long as the little human learned how to fight, I’m okay with following him.”

The dog waved a paw. “Whatever. As long as the job gets done, I don’t care how.”

“Alright, I got a battle plan of sorts,” I said. “Jocasta, you take Kumani and Miguel and eight of the fifteen dogs around to the opposite side of the building, if it has one. You guard the exit, making sure anyone that’s running away doesn’t get far. I take Kat, Rock, and the other dogs in with me and scour the building.”

“Why am I waiting outside?” Kumani asked.

“Three reasons. One, so you can use your fire breath if needed. Two, so you can use your wings if needed. Three, so each group has a heavy hitter. I get Rock, Jocasta gets you.” She didn’t like it, but she couldn’t deny the logic.

Jocasta shook her head. “You take ten of the dogs. We’ll need less to apprehend anything that’s running. If you’re going inside, you’ll need more to break through resistance.”

I shrugged. “Fair enough. Hopefully we won’t run into too much resistance. So Rock, how’s the job as a guard captain?”

He shrugged. “I got demoted.”

Jocasta rolled her eyes. “He spent too much time hitting things and not enough time guarding things. By all rights, he should have been arrested.”

“That building deserved it!” Rock countered, crossing his arms. This’ll be good.

“And what did the building do?” I asked.

“Blocked my pursuit of a criminal—”

“That turned out to be innocent,” Jocasta interrupted.

“—A criminal. I removed the building. By the time I got to the other side, I realized someone else had already caught him.”

“What was the building?” I asked, trying not to laugh.

He shrugged. “Some kind of hospital or orphanage or something. I don’t pay attention to collateral damage.” I finally burst out laughing. “See! Someone else thinks it’s funny!”

Jocasta just sighed, shaking her head and face-palming. Miguel was grinning, Kumani looked a bit disturbed, and the dog had a look of ‘I can’t believe I’m paying you people.’

So Kat and Minerva were a little bit confused when they walked in.

“What did I miss?” Kat asked.

Jocasta said, “Rock explained why he was demoted.”

Kat chuckled. “That story? I remember that. Those orphans were whining for days!”

The dog cut us all off with, “Did you get the information?”

Kat nodded. “Yeah, it was no problem. The dogfather and me, we go way back. You shoulda seen his face when he realized I was coming to torture him.” She chuckled. “He pissed himself when I bared my claws and told me what I wanted to know.”

“Yes, yes. Where is it?”

“Flankfurt Public Library. You know, the only library in Flankfurt.”

We all looked around the room and we each shrugged. “I’ve never been here,” I said. “I don’t know how many libraries there are.”

“I don’t have any maps of this place,” the boss said.

I asked, “When does ‘tonight’ start? At nightfall or some other time?”

“Nightfall,” the boss said. “That’s what it means for dogs.”

I nodded. “Jocasta, take your cats and stake the place out. Watch who goes in and who leaves. Note any entrances and possible hidden exits. Try not to look too suspicious. We’ll start heading that way right before nightfall.”

“Very well,” Jocasta answered. “Come.” She led her group out.

“So… what do we do for a few hours?” I asked.

The boss hopped out of his chair. “I need to go do some work. You two kinda caught me at a bad time. You’re welcome to explore the setup we got here. Just stay outta everyone’s way.” With that, he left.

“You know,” I said, “no one here seems to want to tell me any names. I got asked on a date by a shopkeeper and he never told me his name. I called him mister fashion store guy.”

Kumani blinked. “You got asked on a date by a stallion?”

“Yep. Not important. I still don’t know that dog’s name.”

“A stallion asked you out.”

“Yeah. It’s not the first time. Hell, I’ve even had a bit of fun with one. It was… not something I think I want to try again, all things told.”

She sniffed. “I certainly hope not.” Oh fun, now I have another jealous woman on my case. When will I learn?

I shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose.” She didn’t answer and I went back to reading.

And then she plopped down in front of me. “Read to me,” she said.

I looked up. “This is a treatise on morality. Do you really want me to read that to you?”

“…What’s a treatise?”

I closed the book. “Why don’t I find you one you can read on your own?”

She shook her head. “Don’t bother. I can’t read.”

I blinked. “What?”

She shrugged. “I was never interested. My dad asked if I wanted to learn and I said no.”

“Well. I’m afraid I can’t let that stand. I’m sure there’s a simple book here I can use to help you get started.”

“Why would I want to learn how to read? Just pick a good book and read it to me.”

“How can you be willfully ignorant like that? Just knowing how to speak isn’t enough! You miss out on more than half of everything not knowing how to read. Signs, books, notes, letters… How do you send words of fire if you don’t know how to write?”

She shrugged. “Don’t know. Never questioned it. I don’t see what the big deal is. If I want to know where something is, I’ll ask someone. If I need something read, I’ll ask someone. Before too long I’ll be too big to read many books or go to many cities anyway. It just seemed like a waste of time to learn.”

I sighed, shaking my head. “Fine. I wouldn’t be able to teach you in a few hours anyway. That doesn’t change the fact that you should learn. There are entire worlds hidden in books, worlds you’ll never see or learn the nuances of if you can’t read. So much you could learn…” I stood. “Do you have any specific interests?”

“Come on, that… treatise you were reading can’t be that bad.”

“It isn’t something you would be interested in.” I walked to the bookcase and slid the book in. I looked over the titles and raised my eyebrows at what I found. “My my… Whoever owns this house has expensive—and illegal—tastes.” I pulled out the book that piqued my interest. “Heart of Darkness. I wrote this a little while ago and Celestia told me not to sell it.” I chuckled. “That didn’t stop me. Not this book. I found someone willing to deal in… less than pleasant works. Are you interested in a journey of despair and insanity?”

She shrugged. “Sounds cool to me.”

An hour later, she was a mix of horrified and bored. It’s a really short book. Good, but short. If any copies survive Celestia’s wrath when she reads this in my journal, I suggest looking for one. “Well?” I asked.

She blinked. “And you wrote that?”

“No, I transcribed it, bringing it here from my world. The original author was someone else.”

She shook her head. “Whoever he was, he had some serious problems.”

I shrugged. “Without understanding more of the history, it doesn’t make as much sense. It’s a dark, dark tale with an even darker history. And it’s not important.”

“That book didn’t really make me want to learn to read, you know.”

I stood and walked up to her. She rolled her eyes and I sat in her lap, wrapping my legs around her back. I wrapped my arms around her and kissed her for a moment before pulling back. “For me?” I asked in a seductive tone.

She sighed. “I’ll think about it. No promises.” I leaned in for another kiss, but she held me away from her. “I said I’ll think about it. Hm… If you do leave in a year and I go with you, maybe I’ll let you teach me.”

For some reason, that made me picture Kumani in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. That led to me picturing her bent over a desk while I held a paddle, ready to punish her for being a naughty girl.

“I know that look,” she said. “What are you thinking?”

“Do dragons ever wear clothes?” I asked.

She opened her mouth to answer, but the door opened, cutting her off. “I ain’t paying you two to… do whatever you’re doing,” the dog boss said as he walked in. “My guards are ready and it’s almost night. Time for you to get to work.”

I sighed, pulling myself off Kumani. “I’d have to take my armor off anyway.” She stood and we turned to the boss. “Where are the troops?”

“Come on,” he answered, stepping back into the hall.

“So how well trained are these guys, anyway?” I asked as we walked to the door.

“The guards I’m giving you are veterans. There are three squads, each headed by a smarter breed. They’ll get the job done, don’t you worry.”

They certainly didn’t look like anyone I’d want to tango with. I still didn’t know how to fight, even after all I had been through. I might be able to take down someone in a one on one fight, but that’s not really my style. The troops were each decked out in a nearly full suit of armor. They had varying weapons, all melee. Three dogs looked to be a different breed, but I don’t know dogs well so I couldn’t say what they were. Minerva was standing with them, unarmored. She had two swords on her, one on each side.

“So uh… I assume one of you knows the way to the library?” I asked. The boss face-pawed.

Minerva nodded. “I do,” she answered.

“Lead the way. Kumani, get in the air and provide cover. You see any large groups of anything heading our way, you warn us.”

They both nodded. Kumani jumped into the air while Minerva began jogging out of the compound. We all followed her. Thankfully, the streets were emptying now as the stores began closing and the diurnal ponies started going home. We didn’t have too many problems with streets being full or anyone trying to stop us.

I was seriously thanking my increased endurance when we finally met the cats a few blocks away from the library. Kumani landed and reported no problems while Jocasta began informing me what was going on.

“There are definitely a lot of people in the library,” Jocasta said. “Many were carrying weapons and seemed paranoid. If it isn’t the crime bosses we’re after, they could certainly pass for them.”

I nodded. “Good enough for me. How many entries and exits are there?”

“An entrance on each side. Kat scaled the building and found a roof access as well. What is your plan?”

“How many floors?” I asked.

“Two. One above ground and a basement.”

I crossed my arms, thinking. The plan I originally had wouldn’t work with that many entries and exits. “How good of a leader is Rock?”

She shrugged. “I used him back in the March because I had to, not because he was good.”

“Minerva!” I called. She looked up and walked over. “How smart are your squad leaders?”

She grinned, showing bright teeth. “Very. They’re all veterans.”

I nodded. “Alright, here’s the plan. Jocasta, you take your cats and Minerva and go in the right. Kumani, you reinforce one squad and go in from the back. One squad holds on the left. I take a squad and go in the front. Questions?”

“What if a door is locked?” Kumani asked.

“Well, Kat knows how to pick locks and I have a magic key… Minerva, are there any ex-thieves in the squads?”

She shook her head. “Thieves aren’t allowed in the guard.”

I shrugged. “If a door is locked and you can’t pick it, break the fucker down. Where there are crime bosses, there’s money. We should get a nice haul out of it, and we can leave enough with the library to ensure silence. That said, don’t go crazy. Too much collateral damage and the Equestrian guard gets involved and we don’t get paid. And if the library ends up burning down… Well, Celestia’s going to rake someone’s hide over coals for that. Now, if there are no more questions…?” There weren’t. “Alright. Kumani, take a squad and lead them around back. Jocasta, get your people together and move to the right. We move inside in five.” They nodded and began moving.

I grinned, smiling at the prospect of what was soon to come.

 

 

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