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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120. Chapter Ninety-Eight—On the Road Again

“So what do you expect?” Watcher asked as the room slowly heated up.

“Again, I honestly don’t know. Waters aren’t supposed to be violent, but she was trapped in Sombra’s mind for a while, not to mention whatever the hell happened before she was frozen.”

“You never did explain that history very well,” he commented.

“I know. Hopefully, this elemental will be able to do that for us. Assuming, of course, she’s not violent.”

“The one you have didn’t tell you anything?”

“Oh, she did. But it’s always good to have more than one account.”

“True… So what happened in the mine? Honestly?” I explained it quickly for him. “Unpleasant. And a shame. Should we ever have to dig again, you’ll have to find a new miner.”

“Yeah.” Not to mention the fact that it was my fault the poor guy got killed, but I’ve been down the road of self-blame before. “So how long do you think this’ll take?”

“Depends. To completely thaw out, probably an hour. To get enough of it thawed for it to do anything, probably about—” Before he could finish talking, a long column of water shot out from the ice cube and slammed into my face.

Instead of knocking me down or breaking anything, it sucked my face in, surrounding my entire head in very frigid water. I panicked and breathed in, sucking some of the elemental inside of me, but Flo immediately took control of my body, lobbing me back into my mind.

“What the hell just happened?!” I shouted in my mind, trying to slow my heart-beat.

“I’m communicating,” Flo answered. “Wait.”

“If she kills me, I’m going to be very upset,” I warned, sitting on a chair that suddenly appeared under me. Flo didn’t reply, which was probably for the best. After all, she was in the middle of saving me. Distracting her would be a poor decision.

Not too long later, she said, “I have pacified her for now. I’m giving you back control.”

Less than a second later, I blinked and was in my own body. My head was wet, but the elemental was no longer attacking me. Instead, the column she was controlling, still connected to the ice, stared at me with a human face.

“Sir?” Watcher asked.

“Continue thawing,” I tried to say, but my voice was fucked from the water. I coughed a few times and tried again, more successfully. He nodded and began working again. “Aqua, is it?” I asked the elemental.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice thick and unclear. “I read much from you, Navarone. Things of consequence, of much concern. You would use us.”

“For your intended purpose,” I shot back, crossing my arms.

“Our… intended purpose? You know not why we were created.”

“Humanity has a single goal in mind for everything we make: Serve humanity. We made you. Your purpose is to serve us toward some goal. That goal can be repurposed.”

“More discussions on this will be had later,” Aqua answered. “Where is Sombra?”

“Dead.”

“I feared as much… When he ripped my essence out of himself, I knew there was no longer anything I could do… Chaos and darkness had his mind. And yet… I can still feel myself nearby.”

“We can find the rest of you after we get you free,” I replied. “Why would you be afraid that Sombra was dead? That dude was a total dick.”

“He started his reign as perhaps one of the most loving and brilliant rulers that ever graced the pony kind. But dark times led to brutal measures. And I fear that I may have had a part in that… Above my prison were crystals, put in place by the element of chaos when I was imprisoned. Some of those crystals had a corrupting influence, and they wormed their way into his mind. I did not notice until it was too late.”

“That sucks. So what are you going to do when we free you?”

“I see that my sister has had little influence upon your mind.”

“Not for lack of trying, I assure you.”

“Disappointing… But to answer  your question, I will seek out my sisters in the ocean.”

Flo whispered, “Allow me a few moments, Nav.” I shrugged and let her take over, setting up some screens to watch from my eyes. “Sister.”

“Flo,” the elemental answered.

“Despite what my host seems to think, there are other reasons that it is imperative to gather the elementals together again. Chaos is still alive and active. If it can be killed, we need to band together as elementals to do so.”

“Such a thing would be difficult,” Aqua said.

“But not impossible. We found you, after all. And Navarone has also found an air elemental that follows us without much contact. She can be used for the fires.”

“It will take convincing the others, even if I do agree to it.”

“There is an elemental free in the south. If we allow you to have congress with our sisters in the water, we can get to the elemental there and convince her to join us as well. With two of our sisters back with the pack, they can be convinced that it is a possible endeavor. Like this or not, we must do it.”

“...I will think on it, after you provide me with more evidence. I gleaned some from his mind, but not everything. Much of what I obtained was filth.”

I chuckled in my mind, muttering, “Hope you choked on it, bitch.”

“Yes,” Flo dryly said. “Imagine living it. It has been an interesting few years.”

“Don’t you dare pretend to be innocent,” I said. “I know what you did with Doppel!”

“I would prefer not to imagine it,” Aqua answered. “But a host is a host. We shall talk more later, with fewer witnesses.”

“Sombra instilled paranoia in you, sister,” Flo said, trying to put as much kindness into my voice as she could. “You are among friends. There is no reason to guard your words.”

“I would still prefer to speak with you in private for some time before talking with the others.”

“That is, of course, your right,” Flo replied with a shrug. “Navarone, take back over.”

I did so with a blink. Watcher said, “We should hurry this up, if you want to keep it secret. Someone might well question it.”

“True. Aqua, can we speed up the melting process without hurting you?”

“Elementals cannot feel pain,” she answered. “But if you are worried about damaging me, just do not use enough heat to create vapor. Why would you desire to hide me?”

“Politics,” I answered. “Watcher, heat her up. The sooner we can get her on the ship, the sooner we can get on our way again. I’m tired of these damn crystals everywhere.”

“Better than freezing while digging,” he replied, his horn glowing slightly brighter. “Do you have a plan for an excuse if anyone finds us?”

“Fuck ‘em. They find us, they find us. I’m not going to lie. Celestia’s powerful, but it’s too late to stop us now. We have one free, and that’s all that matters.”

“You speak of politics,” the elemental slowly said, waving her head slightly to the side. “Are you a noble? A lord?”

“Nah. I work for a living,” I said. Watcher snorted. “Okay, fine. But the point remains that I’m not a noble. But that isn’t to say the games they play don’t concern everyone else. And let’s just say I have particular cause to avoid those games. Watcher, how long should this take?”

“This isn’t normal ice,” he said. “I honestly don’t know.”

“Once enough of me is free, I can begin assisting,” she added. “What actually happened to Sombra? How did he meet his end?”

“Explosively,” I replied with a shrug. “When I got here, he was trying to break in and start oppressing people again. So we set out to stop him. Unfortunately, we were just a little bit too late and he broke through the big shield thing. I challenged him to a duel to buy some time. We fought some, I kicked his ass, he got all pissy that he lost, then the people I was doing the distraction for got their shit together and cast the spell that blew his ass up. The end.”

“That is a shame,” she sighed.

“Not really. Dude was a fucking dick. But whatever.”

I had a feeling that she was about to reply when the double-doors to the chamber blew off their fucking hinges. Before I even registered what happened, I was facing that way with my gun raised. In walked Princess Cadance, head held high. “Hello, Navarone,” she warmly said, continuing to walk in. Twilight followed in behind her, looking at the doors in awe. Of my crew, there was no sign.

“Cadance,” I replied with a nod, slinging my rifle. “I can’t imagine those doors will be cheap to replace.”

“I’m sure I’ll manage. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about some members of your crew telling me I couldn’t enter, do you?”

“I’m afraid not,” I said, shrugging.

“They said they were following your orders,” she flatly replied, dropping the smile.

“Interesting. Well, I’m sure you have a kingdom to run…” I said, smiling.

“I do. My kingdom. I suggest you remember that before attempting to tell me where I can and cannot go. I consider us friends, Navarone. Friends don’t hide things from friends.”

“That is bullshit and you know it! Relationships are built on a very delicate balance of lies and truths. You’re hiding things from Shiny and he’s hiding some from you. And I know Twilight’s been hiding shit from me just as I’ve been hiding stuff from her. Be mad at me if you want, but don’t come spouting that sentimental crap at me.”

“Hey!” Twilight butted in. “That’s not crap! It’s—”

“Don’t change the subject!” Cadance said. “What is this, Nav?”

“Water elemental,” I said. “Now leave us be. The sooner I can get her melted, the sooner we can leave this kingdom.”

“That explains things… Is she safe?”

“I am,” the elemental answered, using some of her newly freed mass to extend out to my shoulder, where she hovered next to me.

“It can talk,” Twilight whispered, her eyes widening in wonder.

“Yep,” I said. “Now if you’d just get out of our hair, we’ll go back to melting her so we can leave.”

“I want to know everything about you!” Twilight said, trotting closer and staring at the elemental.

“And I have no desire to talk or be studied,” Aqua said, shrinking backwards so she was closer to the ice. “Leave me be.”

“But just think of what we can learn from each other!” Twilight yelled, getting even closer.

“I do not need to speak to learn from you,” Aqua replied. “I could merely sink into your mind and know everything.”

“Ain’t that the fucking truth,” I muttered.

“Could you put information into my head while you’re doing it?” Twilight asked.

“No, but we could talk in your mind.”

Twilight squeed and immediately said, “I want you inside of me!”

The elemental pulled back farther away. “Waters are usually very selective of our hosts. I do not even know you. I have no interest in adopting you.”

“But… the knowledge! Think of what we could share!”

“I learned all I cared to learn about pony culture from my time in Sombra.”

“You knew Sombra?” Cadance asked, stepping forward.

“I did,” Aqua confirmed. “But again, I have no desire to speak of it.”

Cadance looked my way. “Hey, don’t look at me. She didn’t tell me nothin’ either.”

“She… ‘didn’t tell you nothing’?” Cadance asked, mimicking my speech. “Or she didn’t tell you anything?”

“The second one. Sometimes my old accent kicks in. You should know that by now. So what did you do with my crew?”

“Suspended animation,” Cadance answered. “Why are you hiding things?” she asked the elemental.

“Because they are not your business,” Aqua said. “And until I know whether I can trust any of you, I believe I shall keep my knowledge to my sister and myself.”

“Sister?” Twilight asked.

“That’s enough, Twilight,” I said. “She doesn’t want to answer your questions.” The purple mare didn’t seem overly happy about that. “Cadance, I trust this isn’t going to be an issue?”

“You tried to hide this from me,” she said.

“Not you in particular. And hell, it’s not like it matters. Once she gets free of that ice, we’re probably going to leave. The only consequence to you will be that broken door and some water on the floor. Oh, and the miner that was murdered by ghosts.”

“...What?”

“That mine is crazy haunted. I watched that poor guy get dragged into a furnace after having both of his eyes ripped out. It was… awful.”

Her eyes seemed to lose focus for a moment before she said, “Repeat that.”

“It’s somewhat saddening that you don’t trust me enough to take my word for it.” Her horn lit up, revealing the obvious lie. “Just checking. Yeah, that miner was murdered by ghosts.” Her horn stopped glowing. “And man, it really was horrifying… If I dreamed anymore, I’d probably have nightmares about it.”

“I will have somepony seal the mine for good,” Cadance said. “It is for the best.”

“Why does nopony want to investigate anything anymore?” Twilight asked. “Nav’s mentioned ghosts before, but this is my first chance to ever study one! Why can’t the girls and I go learn about them?”

Cadance beat me to the obvious answer. “Because they murdered somepony, Twilight! You can’t fight ghosts. You can’t reason with them. If they want vengeance, they will get it. If they don’t want to be studied, they won’t let themselves be studied. If you went into that mine, you would put yourself and everypony who went with you in danger. Navarone and his crew are full of trained soldiers and even they seemed horrified by what happened. If you want to study ghosts, find a few that do not want to harm anypony. Don’t study those that are out for blood!”

“And besides,” I added, “they seemed to have left after they killed the miner. They all just up and vanished. Now seriously, are you two going to leave us alone to finish this or what?”

Cadance sighed. “I don’t particularly want to see you leave, Nav. But nor do I want to keep you here when I know you have apparently important business elsewhere. Just… don’t leave in the middle of the night, Nav. That was absolutely awful.”

“Heh, it was pretty dickish, wasn’t it? Yeah, I probably won’t do that this time. I’ll give my quartermaster a day or two to make sure we’re stocked up as well as we can be before leaving. Oh, and I know this is probably too late, but don’t let your people gorge themselves. After too long of starving—”

“—they’ll die if they eat too much,” Cadance finished. “I know, Nav. Tell me before you leave. I’ll get Shining Armor and Skyla together to bid you farewell.”

“You know your brat hates me.”

“I know… But hopefully she’ll grow out of it in time. Now, I must go back to running my new kingdom.”

“And I should go with you to make sure my crew doesn’t wreck your shit when you let them go.”

She snorted, but didn’t comment as the two of us started walking out. But when one set of hooves did not join us, she said, “Come, Twilight. This is Navarone’s operation, not yours.”

“But… It’s so interesting!”

“Then ask Navarone if you can stay. Don’t just assume he’ll say yes.”

“But he’ll just say no!”

“Then maybe you should respect his decision. Did you not tell me you were trying to better his opinion of you? Start here.”

Twilight sighed and most of her body drooped as she started following us out. “So what are you going to do about these doors?” I asked.

“This palace feels way too closed in anyway. So many things need fixing up… And we’re still finding curses here. Like, in Sombra’s bedroom, there was a guardian set to activate whenever somepony was at their weakest.”

“...I forgot about that,” I slowly said. “It tried to kill me when I was blinded.”

“Thankfully, one of your crew found it and disabled it. Such a vile thing…”

When we finally got to the hall, I found out what Cadance meant by ‘suspended animation’. All of my crew were stuck in place. Kumani looked like she was about to shoot fire, so I was glad I came to make sure they were pacified. “Release ‘em,” I said, walking over in front of my dragoness and crossing my arms. Cadance’s horn lit up and my crew looked around, confused. “Can’t even keep a pretty pink pony princess out,” I said, shaking my head in mock disappointment.

“...What? What happened?” Kumani asked.

“They both walked right past you,” I said, nodding at the destroyed door.

Her head slowly turned to look at it before turning back to me. “How?”

“Magic. Doesn’t really matter. We came to an… agreement. But if you want to make up for it, you can repay me in kisses later.”

“I’ll… Okay. Magic?”

“Yep.” I turned back to Cadance. “You got a kingdom to run, right?”

“I do,” she said with a nod. “Enjoy your… repayment.” She began walking back down the hall. A sulking Twilight joined her.

“Yo Twilight, you’re going the wrong way,” I said. She stopped and looked at me, confused. “The elemental is in there.”

“But… What?”

I walked over and knelt down, putting my hand on her shoulder. “Twilight, I’m not always against you. In this case, I’m against Aqua more than I am you. Because she seems like a fucking bitch. So go annoy her with your questions while she’s stuck in ice, because you might not have a chance later.”

“When you put it like that, I don’t really want to anymore…”

“Don’t be silly, Twilight. This is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.” I stood, walking back toward the room. “Come or don’t. But I won’t stop you. Same goes for the rest of you, if anyone wants to find out why we’re doing this.”

The vast majority of the people in the hall joined me as I walked in. Twilight was among them. “So that’s an elemental?” Kumani asked as we walked closer. “She don’t look so tough.”

“She’s also still half-frozen,” I said. “And of course she doesn’t look tough to you. You’re a fucking dragon and she’s made of water.”

“Fair enough. Anyway, she doesn’t look that interesting. Want to go cash in on those kisses?”

“Sure. Just let me talk to Watcher for a sec.” She shrugged and I walked over to him. “This is boring as hell and I’m not really needed here right now. Make sure Aqua doesn’t answer any questions she shouldn’t.”

“I won’t,” the elemental said.

“...That also works. Anyway, I’ll probably either be having sex or cuddling, so warn anyone you send to get me if you need me.”

“Understood,” he replied. “You want to keep the troops on station?”

“Nah.” I looked around and called out, “Everyone, you can take off. Leave a unicorn here to spot Watcher in case he gets tired. And I need a pegasus to head to the ship to tell our quartermaster and blacksmith to get into town to find whatever they need. We leave on their schedule, but I don’t want it to take longer than two days. If we have to, we can pass through Gryphonia or Equestria to pick up more supplies on the way.”

“That reminds me,” Twilight said, looking over to me. “If you’re passing through Equestria, can you drop me and the girls off? The supply train already left… before Cadance told us that she didn’t need us anymore. We’d be stuck here until the next one arrives, otherwise.”

“If I can’t drop you off in Equestria itself, I’ll drop you off in Gryphus with enough gold to get you home,” I said. “That’s the best I can offer.”

“I’ll take it,” she replied, nodding. “Thanks, Nav. Now, I don’t want to… distract you. Just uh… how does that work, exactly?”

“Same as it did for us. See you later.” With that, Kumani and I left the large room behind.

After Kumani and I finished our interesting session, I immediately went to take a shower. After Taya decided to finally tell me that the smell was so strong, I figured it was a good idea to keep myself cleaned. Unfortunately, my shower was interrupted by a rather irate daughter.

When my shower door blew open, the first thought that came to my mind was, Do people not know how to knock anymore? The second was, Oh shit, I don’t have any weapons. And the third was, Oh God, Taya looks pissed. Since she looked so very displeased, I said the first thing that came to my mind. I’ll admit, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say. “Since you’re in here anyway, can you get my back?”

To make a fairly short story even shorter, soon enough I was being held down in the tub by magic with her standing on my chest and glaring down at me. “We need to talk,” she finally said.

“I would imagine so. There are considerably more comfortable positions I’d rather be in while we do so, though.”

One of her eyes twitched and the pressure holding me down increased. “What is wrong with you? Why won’t you treat me like a daughter?! WHY WON’T YOU BE ANGRY!?”

“Because I’m not generally an angry person? Why do you want me to be angry?”

“Because you don’t care about me! Nothing I do makes you happy! Nothing makes you proud! Nothing makes you sad! No worry, no anger, no fear, NOTHING!” Each noun there was accompanied by a little more pressure.

Oh boy. “Taya, let me tell you a little story.”

“I don’t want to hear it!”

“Too bad. It’s about the time I got shot and almost died back on Earth.”

“What does that have to do with—”

“If you shut up and fucking listen, you’ll find out.” She wants me angry, she’ll get me angry. She shut up. “A friend of mine named John was… somewhat of a delinquent at a young age. Someone tried robbing him at gunpoint once. That someone quickly lost their gun, relinquishing control of it to John. He cleaned the old piece of shit up and decided he wanted to see how well it shot, so he invited—dragged—me down to some land his family owned without telling anyone where we would be. My parents, of course, didn’t even ask when I left. The land was in the far end of nowhere. And the gun he had was very poorly maintained and it looked like the bullets had gotten wet at some point in their life. So he pointed the gun at a target of some kind and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. So he shrugged and turned my way, still holding it up. Turns out the bullet was just delayed and it shot straight at me. I was in the hospital for a week. My parents didn’t bother coming by until two days had passed. Of course, they didn’t come together, but that’s a different story. And my dad only showed up to drop off the school work I was missing before leaving again. I saw him one more time in the hospital. That is the story of my childhood, Taya. I practically didn’t even have a father. I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to act. I’m doing the best I can and everyone tells me I’m fucking up but no one says how! No one tells me what I should change. I’m treating you like I would want to be treated, but obviously that isn’t fucking working. When I was strict, you hated it. When I try to be lenient, apparently you hate it. What do you want from me, Taya?”

“I want you to care! To show emotion! I know you can, I’ve seen you mad once!” Shows how little you know about me. “Stop making excuses. You keep saying you’ll try to be a better father and then nothing ever comes of it! I’m tired of it, Navarone. I’m giving you two options. Either treat me like a daughter or help me relieve my heat!”

Oh. Oh no you fucking didn’t. “Alright, I’ll treat you like my child,” I said, the iciness in my voice chilling even me. “Let me go.” She didn’t move. “Did I give you a choice?” With a grim grin, she hopped off my chest, letting me go. I slowly stood before walking right past her without a word, going into my room.

“Where are you going?” she asked. I didn’t reply, just walking to where I left something. “D-daddy?” When I got to the nightstand next to my bed, I slipped my ring on before turning back and walking to her, now standing in the doorway. She saw the anger in my face and her eyes went wide, her horn glowing.

I didn’t give her the chance to teleport away, snatching her by the hair and sliding the ring from my finger to her horn. “You want me to treat you like my daughter?” I growled, dragging her to the bed. “I’ll treat you like my daughter!” I sat on the edge and propped her over the knee. “You want emotion? Don’t you ever threaten me again!” I slammed a hand down on her flank. “Don’t even think about having sex with me!” I spanked her again. “And hell, anyone else!” And again. “Stop being so rude!” Again. And since I ran out of things to say, I gave her another ten good licks to finish her off.

By the time I finished, she was a crying wreck and her ass was bright red from all the slaps. I wrapped both of my arms around her and picked her up, carrying her out the door and over to her room. Thankfully, there were no servants passing outside to see me, completely naked, carrying a crying filly with a bright red ass out of my room. That would have raised a few questions.

When I got in her room, I set her down on the bed. “You’re grounded,” I said, standing up and backing away. “No magic for a week. No studying for a week. You are to stay in your room unless I give you permission to leave. And so help me, if I see you without that ring on your horn, what you’ll get will make this seem like fun. Do you understand me?” She gulped and whispered something. “I can’t hear you!”

“Y-yes, Daddy!” she whimpered.

“You wanted a dad. Congratulations. You got one.” She was still crying when I left, slamming the door shut behind me.

“That’s certainly one way of dealing with it,” Flo commented.

“Shut up, Flo,” I growled, walking back into my room to finish my shower. “If you aren’t going to help me while I’m dealing with my problems, you are no longer allowed to bitch when things don’t go well. I ignore your advice and things go bad, sure, bitch all you want. You didn’t say shit, so keep it to yourself.”

She didn’t reply. I finished my shower in peace.

Some time after I dealt with Taya, I was visited by a more black personage. “...Doppel?” I guessed.

“Close,” Poly answered. “Can we talk?”

“I swear to God, if you tell me to be your dad, I’m going to be pissed,” I replied, standing aside to let her in.

“More of a big brother…” she said, walking in. “But where did that come from?”

“Problems with Taya. What do you need?” I asked, closing the door.

“First, I… We have a question. Do you need us?”

“...Need you in what sense?” I slowly asked.

“Are any of our talents actually required on the ship?”

“Honestly? No. Now that said, don’t think you’re just taking up space. I know you guys pull your weight. At least enough of it for one person, anyway. What brought this up?”

“A few of us were thinking about staying. While staying with you would be fun and we’ll all miss you—except for Mimeo, but that’s expected—you aren’t going anywhere safe. We have a little magic, but no combat experience. And none of us want Eva to get hurt. But we already spoke to Cadance and she offered us a position here.”

“If you guys think you’ll be happier here, by all means, stay. And I can almost guarantee you’ll be safe. What about food, though? Eating from me is easy. But eating from a pony? I don’t want you guys to go hungry.”

“The princess spoke to us about alternatives, as well. We were working on something back when she lived with us and she finally figured it out. Her magic love works to feed us directly. We’ll have all the food we need from her.”

“Then you guys have my blessing to stay. Just… be careful here. The ponies seem xenophobic and the nobles are scheming bastards. I don’t want any of you getting hurt.”

“We’ll probably be in disguise,” Poly answered. “Well, when we’re in the city, at least. We’ll have a few different duties. Some of them will thankfully take us away. Even if I can’t explore the world with you, at least I won’t get tied down forever.”

“I know that feel,” I sighed. “If you guys change your mind, you’re welcome to stay with us. I certainly wouldn’t mind the loyal company. And torturing Mimeo is always fun.”

“He does have cute reactions, doesn’t he?” she giggled. “Now, Eva wants to say bye.”

“Let her talk, then.”

Poly blinked and suddenly I had a bug pony across my face, hugging me. “I’ll miss you, Navi,” Eva said, snuggling in against me.

Since I couldn’t currently talk, I pried her off my face and hugged her back. “I’ll miss you too, Eva. But you guys really will be better off here, I bet. Less danger. More friends. Plenty of food. I’ll miss you and you’ll miss me, but you’ll be happy here.”

“I know… But I’ll still miss you. After all you’ve done for us, it doesn’t feel right to just leave you!”

“You guys have to think about your needs, not mine. You’re still young, Eva. You can find a really good place in life here. There’s no reason to risk all that by going with me. Part of the agreement we had when I offered to let you come with me was that you guys could stay wherever you wanted. You upheld your end. I’m upholding mine. So you’re all free to stay.”

“Are you sure?”

Once again, I pulled her away from me and nodded, setting her down. “Yes. And hey, if Cadance can use Spike for letters, you guys can write me whenever you want. It’ll be good practice.”

“We’ll be sure to, whenever we can!” she said.

“I’ll definitely look forward to hearing from you,” I replied, nodding. “And don’t forget to get all your stuff from the ship. And tell everyone important that you’re staying. I know everyone’s gonna miss you guys.” And by everyone, I mean me, Doppel, and maybe Taya. Ames might, but he might not.

“I will, Navi,” she said.

A knock upon the door stopped the conversation. Eva’s horn lit up and opened it. “Nice to see you practicing,” I said with a smile. She beamed back at me.

In walked one of my troops. “The elemental is fully free, sir,” he said. “Watcher’s asking for orders.”

“I need to talk to her anyway. Are they still in the same room?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then I’ll head there. Eva, go tell everyone bye. And I suggest starting with Taya. She’s probably really upset right now and could use a friend to talk to. But if she’s not wearing my ring, come find me immediately. Okay?”

“Okay, Navi. Tell me before you leave, alright?”

“Of course. I’ll make sure to hug you all before we go.”

She giggled and said, “I don’t think Mimeo will like that…”

“Then I’ll hug him extra. Now, I have business to take care of. I will see you again soon, Eva.” And then I was once more on the way to deal with the elemental. “Is she being problematic?” I asked as the guard escorted me back.

“Not particularly, though I believe Twilight is annoying her. Watcher just didn’t know if you wanted to move her to the ship immediately or wait until night.”

“Secret’s out. Might as well move her now to make sure she’ll be fine in the ship. But I want to talk to her first.” The guard didn’t reply.

When the two of us got to the big room, most of the other guards and crew had cleared out. It was just Watcher, his squad, Twilight, and Fluttershy. As soon as Aqua saw me enter, she surged past them all and flowed over to me. “I wish to have congress with my sister,” she said.

“It’ll have to wait a few minutes,” I said. “Can you climb a ladder?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Getting you on the ship will be easy. You can talk with her when we get there. Twilight, interview’s over.”

“What does she mean, her sister?” Twilight asked.

“Ask Fluttershy,” I said with a shrug. Fluttershy blinked in surprise. “Aqua, Watcher, let’s go.” I led the way out of the room, leaving Twilight to ask an ignorant Fluttershy a question that she couldn’t answer.

“There is the topic of my missing piece,” Aqua said. “I would like to find it before leaving for good.”

“Then we can go look for that first. Any idea where to start?”

“I can lead us right to it,” she said, taking the lead. The rest of us followed.

“Thoughts, Watcher?” I quietly asked him.

“None yet,” he replied. “Haughty, though.”

Silence reigned for the rest of the trip as the elemental led us down the passages of the large palace. Soon, we reached the stairs leading out. She flowed right to the crystal heart at the center of the large area. “Such an… odd construction,” she said. “It resonates with my power…”

“It… does!” Flo said. “No wonder it felt so familiar!”

Thanks for waiting until now to mention that.

“Nav, if I told you all the strange feelings I’ve had, I would never stop talking. But you know she can’t take the heart.”

I said aloud, “If that heart is your missing piece, I’m afraid it’s going to have to stay here. That artifact is what killed Sombra and what keeps this city safe even now.”

“I feared as much,” she sighed, lifting a tendril to caress the heart. “Why did it have to be like this, Sombra?” she whispered, turning a darker blue.

“You ready to go to the ship now?” I asked.

“Yes. How you got a ship here, I will be interested to find out.”

“Well, let’s show it to you, then.” And so we did. She was suitably impressed, even as she slid up the ladder to the top. I met her up there. “What do you think?” I asked.

“An interesting design,” she said. “It is something that… brings back memories. But you have delayed long enough. I will speak to my sister, now.”

“Alright. Flo, do what you gotta do.”

“I’m going to take over now,” she said. “You’re going to be stuck in your mind for some time. There is much for me to discuss with her.”

Take your time. I’m sure I’ll find something to do. And just like that, I was once more in the glade.

I suggest you settle in, Flo thought at me. Explore, if you desire. There have been a few changes since the last time you were in here. Or relax. Some time off would be good for you.

Instead of wandering around, I decided to just lie back on a nice bed and relax. It was… nice.

When I got control of my body next, Aqua and I were still on the deck and the eternal day was growing dim, signalling the coming night. “You are an interesting being,” Aqua said from where she standing.

“Interesting is a word you could use, yeah,” I said, stretching. “Do you want me to show you to a room now, or do you think you’ll be fine on the deck until we start leaving?”

“If you still want me hidden, I should go below. Flo and I discussed this. But you need not exert yourself. I know the way.”

“Go for it, then. As late as it is, I need to get back down.”

“Very well. Before you depart, Flo and I have a plan for speaking with the air elemental. Ask her about it. But farewell for now, Navarone.”

“Enjoy the solitude of the ship,” I replied with a nod. “Things will get hectic soon.”

“I look forward to it. I have spent far too long in silence and solitude. The scampering of many feet will be a welcome reprise.”

“Eh, we’ll see if you’ll keep thinking that when you meet everyone. Now, I’m off. You need anything, find the captain and bother him. Hopefully he won’t freak out when he sees you.” She nodded and began moving to the stairs going down. I spread my wings and took off, flying down to the palace. “So what’s this about a plan?” I asked as I flew.

“The air elemental is likely to feel Aqua and come seeking her. When she does, we need to talk to her. That will probably be our only chance to get her on our side for a long time. All three of us need to speak to her if she appears.”

“And if she doesn’t appear?”

“...Then I honestly don’t know what would make her appear. Airs are very different, Nav. I think this is something that will pique her curiosity, but it might well not be. We’ll find out soon. But before we do, you need to make sure Taya gets dinner.”

“Yep, I do.” I alighted on the ground under the palace and immediately began walking to the stairs. “I assume there’s still food in the damn larder. If someone looted all the shit we brought down from the ship, I’m going to be pissed.”

“It’s probably around dinner time for everyone. If there is anything, it shouldn’t be hard for you to find it.”

“But if there’s not anything, I’m gonna have to smack a bitch. If we’re going to drop Aqua off—The fuck you looking at?” The servant in question flinched and dropped to the floor, cowering. I kept walking. “If we’re going to drop Aqua off in the Pacific, we’ll have to go to Gryphus to drop the girls off and then southwest to get there before heading to South America. We won’t have that much time to get food for the ponies, unless the griffins have some in stock. We can’t stop in or around Detroit, because I’ll get arrested by Robocop.”

“What about Mexico?” Flo asked.

“That lawless hellhole? From the books I read, it’s more dangerous here than it was back in the day. We either have to hope we can get all our supplies from here or Gryphus or we’ll have to take another delay to get what we need. And I really don’t want to risk bringing Aqua anywhere near Celestia.”

“We’ll manage, Nav. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, probably.” That conversation was mostly just something to do while passing the time to getting to the kitchens, which worked well. The only other person in there was Gilda. “I was starting to wonder if you wandered off again,” I said, walking over to one of the cabinets.

“Nah. Just spending time with Dash. Doesn’t seem like much else for me to do here. I mean, you need a scout for anything?” The cabinet had food in it, thankfully. I started preparing something relatively simple as we talked.

“You coulda been useful earlier, but that miner was pretty much going to die anyway, so it’s not like it matters. Just try not to disappear for days without telling me you’re at least leaving. If I do need you, I’d like to know where to find you.”

“Lame. But sure, I guess. So when are we leaving this place behind? It’s boring already.”

“Tomorrow or the day after, hopefully. First stop is Gryphus, where we’ll drop Dash and her friends off and pick up some supplies. After that, we’ll head to an ocean. And finally, our next real destination, where we’ll almost definitely see some action.”

“About time! I was beginning to doubt coming with you. Sure, this crystal stuff is cool to see, but I coulda covered more ground by myself.”

“Probably. But you’d miss out on the unique company. And besides, we did run into some action today, of a considerably more deadly sort. That big mine was haunted and long story short, the miner’s dead because of it.”

“Psh, ghosts. Do you really believe that crap?”

“I believe that something murdered the shit out of the miner right in front of me that no one had any control over. I can sense magic, so I can only assume it was something more mundane. And I’ve met a ghost and a vampire before, so I know there are things out there like it. In a world with magic, necromancers, and dozens of species, does it really surprise you that ghosts are out there?”

“Ehhh… I guess it makes sense. But it’s still pretty stupid.”

“No denying that… Hey, can you take this to Taya for me?”

“Why can’t you do it? I’m not your servant!”

“She was being a bitch, so I gave her a spanking and grounded her. I’m going to let her stew until tomorrow. That means no contact with me until then. All you have to do is drop it off and then leave. Won’t take you but five minutes.”

“Ugh. Whatever. But don’t think you’ll make a habit outta this!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it. Thanks, Gilda.” She just muttered something as she took the plate and walked out. And then immediately back in. “Her room’s to the right of mine.” And then right back out. “So now what?”

“Kumani might be awake,” Flo said.

“I’m tapped out,” I sighed, leaning against one of the counters. “The mind is willing, but my body… Not so much. I wouldn’t mind spending time with her, but I have a feeling that time would end in sex. There’s not really much we can do aside from that in this town.”

“You could start teaching her to read.”

“And you just know that she’s going to want some kind of positive reinforcement to keep going.”

“Nav, your tongue works just fine right now.”

“...Oh yeah.” With that in mind, I wandered off to find some paper and a pen or something. It didn’t take long to find both in my room. With those in hand, I walked on down to Kumani’s room and let myself on in.

“I was wondering when you’d come back,” she said from the bed. “You finally ready to go again?”

“Nah. I’m going to teach you to read and maybe write.”

“Ugh. So pointless! When will I ever need to read?”

I smiled and answered, “Remember just a few days ago at the library?”

“That was one time!” She was a little beyond annoyed.

“And you asked for when you’d need to read. That was a case in which you being able to read would have been really helpful. What if we run into that situation again?” She sniffed and turned her head away. “Look, how about this: For every five letters you learn well, I’ll eat you out.” Sure, it doesn’t divide well, but I had no idea how quickly she’d learn and that worked as well as anything.

“...All I have to do is learn letters?”

“For now, yeah. We’ll move onto words once you have the letters down. We can come up with a new deal then. So you’ll do it?”

She sighed and looked back to me. “Fine. But only because your tongue is so weird!”

“Right, of course. Now come over to the table so we can get started.”

“What’s wrong with the bed?”

“If we’re on the bed, you’ll spend the entire time enticing me. This way, there’s at least a chance you’ll learn.” She sighed again, but got up to sit next to me at the table. And so began Kumani’s lessons. On the first night, she successfully learned the first five letters, though I had no idea if she’d remember them the next time we started working.

The raging beast within her tamed for the moment and her rather tired I decided to—“Where do you think you’re going?” Kumani asked as I started to get off the bed.

“...I was going to let you sleep,” I said.

“I will sleep. Cuddled next to you. Now lose the clothes.”

...I suppose dreamwalking is acceptable for tonight. So I just shrugged and stripped down, joining her in the bed.

She pulled me up against her and breathed in deep. “Mmm, I always like how you smell,” she sighed, one of her claws stroking my wings.

“We’re trying to sleep, not get me ready for sex,” I said. “My body needs some time.”

“Oh, fine. I can get you in the morning instead. So sleep well, because we’re going for a ride in the morning…”

After I finished with Kumani and took yet another shower, I quickly got some breakfast made for Taya and went on back to her room. I only had a small moment of apprehension before letting myself inside, hoping she wasn’t doing anything I didn’t need to see.

Thankfully, she was just moping on the bed, the ring still on her horn. She looked up when I entered and then immediately turned away. I walked in and set the bowl on the table before sitting next to her on the bed. We sat there in silence for a few minutes before she slowly and quietly said, “I’m sorry, Daddy…”

When she finally said that, I pulled her into a hug. “It’s okay,” I replied, stroking her back but stopping well short of her flank. “It’s hard for both of us. But we’ll be leaving the city either today or tomorrow, so we’ll have plenty of time to spend together on the ship.” When I’m not spending it with others. “I’ll do my best to treat you like a daughter as long as you do your best to treat me like a dad. Less snark. No thoughts of having sex with me. And don’t threaten me again. Alright?”

She sniffled and replied, “Okay, Daddy.”

“Alright.” I just held her in silence for another minute before pulling her away and letting her rest back on the bed. “If there’s anything you want from the town, let me know and I’ll see if I can get it for you. If not, Flo and I have a plan we need to get started on.”

“I don’t need anything,” she said.

“Alright.” I stood and began walking to the door. “I’ll see you later,” I said when I got there, stopping and turning. “You’re welcome to read any entertaining book you have. But if I come back and find you studying magic, I’m going to be pissed. Understand?” She nodded. “Good.” And I let myself out, heading to the nearest exit.

“You handled that well, I think,” Flo said.

“Good. It’s about time I did something right. So are we just going to go find Aqua and wait?”

“It probably won’t take long. Elementals have ways of purposefully hiding from detection. It doesn’t work well against others of the same type, but it works fine against the other types. Aqua has had her detection off. She’ll turn it on when we’re ready. Then it’s just a matter of time.”

“Think we should be on the ground? Or will the air elemental not hurt the ship?”

“We’ll be fine on the ship, unless something makes her mad. And it’s pretty hard to anger an air.”

“Excellent, we don’t have to take her anywhere. You going to go active while we’re dealing with her? Or am I talking with her?”

“I’ll let you try your luck. You are the one that saved her, after all, not I. If it doesn’t seem to be working, I will step in.”

“Easy enough. Just means I gotta use my silver tongue. Shame Kumani was so intent on burning it last night…”

“You know you liked it, Nav.”

“That’s beside the point.” I finally found a large enough window and casually tossed myself out it, flying up to the ship. Aqua was on the ship, as were a few of the crewmembers, most of which were surreptitiously staring at her. “You ready to find the air?” I asked, landing next to the mass of blue liquid.

“I am,” she said. “There is no guarantee that this will work, but I hope it will. Prepare yourself.” With that last statement, her body went from opaque to translucent. “My body is ready,” she sighed, sinking slightly to a larger pool. I shivered as I felt her running over one of my shoes and backed away. “My apologies,” she said, pulling herself together. “I forgot that apes have an aversion to water.”

And just like that, I was instantly pissed. But since it seemed like she said it more out of ignorance than racism, I pushed the anger down. “I am no mere monkey,” I said. “We conquered our fear of water long ago, around the time we conquered the rest of the planet. Well, except for black people. They’re still afraid, but look at what happened the last time they let a whitey lead them near an ocean.”

“I have no idea what that means, but something inside of me is telling me that I should be offended.”

“Probably just gas,” I replied with a shrug. “How long do you think it’ll take for her to show up?”

“Depends on how curious she is. Hopefully it won’t take long.”

It didn’t. The first thing we heard was a light blowing of wind, followed by a giggle. Then I felt a breeze flowing through my hair and across my wings. Finally, I heard a light whisper say, “So interesting… You’ve freed a water.”

“Indeed I have,” I said. “And I would like to talk, if you’d be interested. Talk about freeing the fires.”

“Ooh! You want to free them all, don’t you?” she asked. As she spoke, I felt something feeling around me, caressing my body gently. “Two are trapped. One is free, but stuck. My oh my, how I long again for their caress, their warmth… And you would free them?”

“No one deserves to be locked away forever,” I said by way of reply. “My goal with this ship is to free all the elementals, or at least all of those that I can find. I have to start with the waters because it will take them to free the others, though.”

“Oh? And what of my sisters? Would you not free them as well, allow us to once again freely roam the skies?”

“They’re included in ‘all the elementals’. But finding air elementals is hard, I was told. You were luck, random chance. How will I free more without just as much luck? Or without, perhaps, some assistance?”

“You would shackle me to you. I am no slave.”

“Asking for assistance that I can rely on isn’t shackling you. Yes, you’ve helped me in the past. And I’m thankful for it. Hell, you saved my life against Miguel. But there are other times you could have helped. Asking you to be around more often isn’t shackling you. If anything, it’s giving you plenty more people to talk to. You’ve stayed in the shadows up until now. If you begin working with me more, you’ll have all the company you could want. And of course, I wouldn’t make you do anything. I would just ask for your help.”

A light howling sound came from elemental. I realized after a few seconds that she was humming in thought. “I will… consider this deal. On a few conditions.”

“Let’s hear ‘em,” I said, smiling.

“I want to spend time with the male dragon you have. It has been too long since I knew the touch of a fire and that is the closest thing I have.”

“...I will certainly ask Spike about that,” I said, nodding. Weirdo. “What else?”

“Make the fire elementals your first goal after the waters. Wait to free the earth until the fires are all with me.”

“That… is not a decision I can make,” I said. “I can agree to push the waters to do it, but I have a strange feeling they’ll do what they want to do, not what I want them to do.”

“I will push them for it as well,” Aqua said. “It would be a sign of trust that we go for them first. After our past disagreements, that is what we need. So that condition is met.”

“Excellent… And I want a host,” the air elemental finished.

“You are free to talk to the crew about that,” I said. “I just about guarantee someone here will agree to hosting you. And if no one else will, I’m sure I can manage two voices in my head.”

“Bad idea,” Flo said.

I’ll manage.

“Wonderful! Now go speak to your dragon friend and perhaps we can work together.”

“Alright. How will I find you once I’ve spoken to him?”

“Simple,” she replied. “Just call my name.”

“...Which is?”

“Aerie,” she breathed, her mouth right against my right ear. I shivered and felt goosebumps grow on my skin as the air elemental sailed away in the sky, flying off to wherever she was when she wasn’t confusing me greatly.

“I think that went well,” I said.

“Indeed,” Aqua replied. “Will your dragon be easy to convince?”

“Probably. I just hope she doesn’t hurt him. Now I just gotta go find him.”

“I will remain here,” Aqua said. “You said we will begin moving today?”

“Or tomorrow. One of the two. If you get bored, just start talking to the crew. The air isn’t the only one who needs a new host. You need to take someone before you leave so we can keep in contact with you and the others.”

“...Very well. But remember that not all of our kind desire hosts, Navarone. They can be wonderful, but waters choose hosts with much care. Getting to know someone in the short time I will be here is going to be… interesting.”

“Well, get to it. The sooner you get started, the more time you’ll have, and all that.” She went to one of the crewmembers without another word to me. In response, I jumped off the side of the ship, flying off to seek Spike.

It took me a long damn time to find him, too. He was with Pinkie and Applejack in the palace, just spending time with them. It felt bad to ruin it, but I wanted an answer quickly. “What’s going on, Nav?” he asked as I let myself in the room in which they were.

“I need your body, Spike,” I said.

His eyes went wide and he smiled. “Finally!” He jumped off his seat and ran across the room, grabbing my hand and dragging me down the hall. “Oh, I knew it!”

“Knew what?” I asked, digging my heels in and dragging the dragon to a halt.

He froze, tearing his hand away from mine in surprise. “Er… What… what did you need me for?” he finally asked.

“Dude, just lead the way to your room. I’ll show you then.” He did a quick fist pump and began walking down the hall again. For some reason, I thought his tail was shaking more than usual, but I didn’t exactly spend much time paying attention to it. “Don’t worry too much about saying bye to your friends again,” I said. “They’re coming with us to Gryphus, but we’re dropping them there.”

“I know,” he replied, his voice sounding strangely giddy. “Pinkie told me.”

Before we got to his room, we bumped into the naga in the hall. “I have been seeking you two,” he said, crossing his arms. “Spike, you have been neglecting us. I believe some time in a threesome will make up for it.”

Spike’s eyes went wide. “You… and Nav both on me? I don’t know if I could take it!”

“Your body is strong,” the naga said with a nod. “Young and supple.” One of his hands reached over and traced Spike’s side. “You can take it. Though I can’t promise you’ll enjoy it.”

“But we will,” I said from behind him, reaching up to tweak one of his little spine things. “And that’s all that matters, right?”

“Y—Ooh, I don’t know!” He was blushing, at this point.

“Unfortunately, we can’t,” I said, draping my arm over Spike’s shoulder. “I need him right now, naga.”

He snorted. “This relationship will never work if you do not share, human,” he gruffly replied. “But so be it. I will dominate him extra hard later to make up for it. You’ll be forced to watch instead of helping.”

“Ooh, I don’t mind watching instead…” I said with a smile, letting Spike go and pushing him forward. “It’s a date. But we need to go. So we’ll see you later.”

“Very well. There will be time to practice soon. I need to get my things to the ship anyway.”

“Hey, if you have time, can you help Taya get her stuff up there as well? Tell her she has my permission to leave to go to the ship, but nowhere else.”

“If I have time, I will assist her.”

“Excellent. Spike, get that little tail waggin’ again. We don’t have all day.” And so we once again began walking.

After about a minute of silence, Flo finally sighed and said, “Do you ever listen to what any of you say?”

What do you mean?

“Ugh. Never mind.” I shrugged and got it off my mind.

Finally, we reached his room. He let me in first, but I turned in surprise when I heard him locking the door. “...What are you doing?” I asked.

“Just… you know, making sure we’re private,” he said, seeming nervous.

“Eh, whatever. Look, this is going to seem really weird, so just listen. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“There’s an air elemental that wants to have sex with you.”

He was silent for a good ten seconds before saying, “What.”

“Alright, there are four types of elementals. Water, earth, fire, and air. Air elementals love fire elementals. This one has been estranged from fires for a while. She said you’re the next best thing and wants to fuck you. I said I’d talk to you about it.”

“Oh. That’s… not what I was expecting. Not at all. Uh… So you don’t… need my body?”

“Well, not me. But she does.”

“...Oh. Well, what do you think? Should I?”

“Dude, I’d be all over her if she wanted me and I didn’t have Kumani. I say go for it.”

“Alright, I guess… When does she want to meet me?”

“Now. Aerie, he said yes.”

We stood in silence for a few seconds before Spike loudly cleared his throat and opened his mouth.

The sound of giggling and whispering cut him off. “Wonderful,” the air elemental whispered. “Oh, we’ll have such fun together… Leave us, Navarone.”

I shrugged and walked to the door. “Have fun, you two,” I said, unlocking it and opening it.

“Oh, we will,” Aerie said, grabbing Spike and making him yelp in surprise. “Come to me, my new love…” And that’s when I closed the door, quickly walking away.

“Spike is really weird,” I said as I walked aimlessly.

“Uh huh. He’s the weird one.”

“Glad you agree, Flo. Think I should go ahead and start moving my shit to the ship? Save me some time later.”

“You’re going to be hungry again soon, so I suggest that you eat first and then do it.”

“Easy enough.” Thankfully, there was a nice little lunch rush, which meant servants were actually cooking. I got a good plate of stuff and took a table in the main hall.

Shining Armor joined me soon after. “So you’re leaving soon?” he asked.

“Yep. Today or tomorrow.”

“We’re going to miss you,” he said. “Are you going to say bye to your new god-daughter?”

“Dude, Skyla hates me.”

“I know… But you aren’t going to leave in the middle of the night this time, right?”

“Nah. Twilight and her friends are going with me so I can get them where they can catch a train going south. I don’t want to make them stay up like that.”

“Good. Everypony was really upset when you did that before.”

“Eh, I’m sure they got over it. Just make sure to talk to Twilight soon, because I don’t plan on waiting forever to get going once we leave.”

“Of course. I don’t think I’ll be seeing her again for a while, after this… We’re going to be so far away now.”

“Move her and your parents up here, then. You’re a king. Get them out of Equestria before it goes further downhill.”

“Twiley would never leave Celestia, not for long. I’d like to have them here, but I don’t think it’ll happen.”

“Eh, whatever. I’m sure you’ll make time to visit her. Or she’ll do the same.”

“If I’ll even have time… I have no idea if I can rule an entire kingdom,” he quietly said.

“You’ll manage. And hell, you have Cadance here to help you. Between the two of you, I think you’ll be fine. Probably. And if not, I can come to pull your asses out of the fire. Just whatever you do, stay independent from Equestria. You rely on them right now for food, but when you start getting crops going, don’t follow them blindly.”

“Oh, don’t you worry,” he said with a grim smile. “We won’t.”

I took that as a sign to stop talking and start eating. Since I could feel the pangs coming, I knew it was a good idea.

Eventually, though, he said, “So where are you going next?”

“Got to drop Twilight off. Then we’re going to the Pacific. And finally, to the large land mass south of Equestria.

“Whoa. Are you sure you want to go down there? It’s really dangerous, from everything I’ve heard!”

“I know. But there’s something there I need. Whatever danger lurks there will learn not to fuck with me by the time we leave, I can tell you that.”

“I certainly hope so. I don’t want you getting hurt.”

“I don’t want me getting hurt either.” That said, I went back to eating. He let me finish in peace. “If I don’t see you again before I leave, well, bye for now.”

He snorted. “No wonder you left like you did last time. You’re bad at goodbyes.”

“Yeah, I know. See you when I see you, Shiny.”

“You too, Nav,” he replied, trying to finish up his small meal as well. And with that, I left to begin packing.

We started getting everyone to the ship a few hours later. The quartermaster and Jak had everything they needed and we were very ready to go. Spike had very unsteady legs after his time with the elemental, but he seemed to have enjoyed himself.

Gathering Twilight and her friends up was fairly easy. It seemed they were all in a hurry to get home as well. Each had reasons to get back. Twilight, to continue her studies. Rarity, to catch up on orders. Fluttershy, to see her animals again. Applejack, to spend time with her family and kick some trees. Rainbow Dash, just because. And Pinkie Pie was tired of not being able to make the crystal ponies smile very well.

Of course, to Pinkie, that necessitated a party on my ship, but I skipped out. As did the vast majority of everyone else, as it turned out. Apparently, only her five friends, Spike, and Doppel showed up.

And of course, I said my farewells to Cadance, Shining Armor again, and Eva before we left. I didn’t really want to leave them behind, but I could definitely understand why they wanted to stay.

But pretty soon, it was just my ship on the open sky, finally sailing south to our first destination of many. I definitely found myself looking forward to it. And to getting Twilight’s friends off my fucking boat. Some of them weren’t that bad, after a day of being with them.

Rarity and Applejack, for example, were making themselves useful by volunteering around the ship. Twilight spent her time with Watcher or Zecora, talking to either of them about magic. Fluttershy did almost nothing at all, just sitting in her room.

It was Dash and Pinkie that fucking pissed me off. When they met the air elemental, they thought Aerie was just the coolest thing. And then they learned that it liked pranks. Needless to say, things very quickly went to shit as each of the three tried to outdo each other with pranks on various crewmembers.

I put up with it until I was one of the targets. A struggling Dash and Pinkie were both promptly barred in their rooms. Thankfully, the trip was supposed to only take about three days. They were locked in at the middle of the first day.

“Was that really necessary?” Twilight asked.

“No, probably not,” I replied with a shrug, leaning back on my comfortless bed. “I just got tired of it and this was the easiest solution. If they feel like behaving, I might let them back out tomorrow. But otherwise, they can stay in their damn rooms until we get there. It’s only a day and a half more, so I’m sure they’ll manage.”

“...Have you ever tried locking Pinkie in a small place?”

“Nope. But I have a feeling that she’ll know exactly how pissed I’ll be if she lets herself out, so I don’t think she’ll do it. I’m not willing to put up with her shit on my boat, so she either stays locked up or I’ll have a unicorn put her to sleep.”

“You could have just talked to them, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. You can talk to them about it tomorrow, after they’ve had time to cool down. Hell, Spike’s gonna need some time to recover by then anyway, with that air elemental all over him.”

“Which is really creepy,” she said, shuddering. “I know I never would have let him do that…”

“Eh, I gave him the choice. So what are you up to today?”

“I was just talking to Watcher when he remembered something he was supposed to tell you. Since he was busy with something, he asked me to deliver a message. He just said to remember the strange book, whatever that means.”

My eyes lit up and my body jerked up from its leaning position. “Oh yeah! Twilight, you’re not gonna believe this, but Taya and I found a really weird magic shop full of magical artifacts. The lady behind the counter was really weird, but she gave me a book and told me that I would soon be reunited with a friend that would help me explore it or something, whatever that means. I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but you’re probably that friend. So you want to help me dig through an old, weird book?”

“Before we do, can you tell me anything else about the shop? Did she give you anything else?”

“She gave us two other things. One is something you don’t need to know about. The other was a magical horn. I used it in the Crystal Kingdom. And the shop… Well, the lady said it was a magic building that existed where it needed to exist. She said we needed the stuff inside, so the shop appeared for us. And she was a pony. That’s really all I can tell you.”

“Hm… I’ve heard of something like that… I don’t remember where, though. I just know I dismissed it as superstitious… So where’s the book?”

I dragged myself off the bed and walked over to my gene-locked chest. It opened to my thumb, revealing all it contained. “Right here,” I said, grabbing the heavy thing and holding it up for her. “The cover’s completely blank and I have no idea what’s inside, because she told me not to open it without you.”

She levitated it away from me and it began glowing a different color than her aura. “It’s magical in nature,” she mused aloud, setting it on the small desk I had in my room. “So are you ready to open it?”

“Can you tell me anything else about it?” I asked, pulling one of the naga daggers out of the box to pick at my nails.

“Not really… Not without opening it, at least.”

I shrugged and said, “Open that fucker up, then.”

She smiled and did so as I walked closer, still toying with the knife. As soon as she cracked its cover, the thing slammed open and flipped to a random page. “That’s weird…”

When I looked in closer, I saw that the words on the pages were moving, flowing around… and out! “What the hell?!” Four tendrils of inky blackness shot out of the book, grabbing both me and Twilight as she yelled in horror.

Before we knew what was happening, the two of us had been dragged inside.

 
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