Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 139

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Chapter 139

I get us back to the library in record time, my currently super-sized legs and feel of urgency of my friend collapsing kicking me into overdrive. Luckily, Twilight is still awake so I get some help getting him inside and onto the couch. Once we’re sure he’s stable and the nasal bleeding has stopped, Twilight begins with the questioning. I figure all the information I can give her will help so I don’t spare details. When I get to the part about him turning a tree into a human woman shape with independant movement she flips out.

“Independant? As in, capable of moving on its own? Where is it now?”

“Uh, no idea, I just left it there. I figure this is kinda big because doesn’t it take, like concentration to make something else move? She started moving about the time he blacked out and just kinda... stared at him while I carried him back here. Sure seemed independant to me, though probably still has some sort of link to him.”

“You just left it- what if it’s dangerous? What if it acts like a timberwolf, and hurts somepony?!”

I summon a fireball to my hand. “A wooden construct is no problem. My friend who seems to be having trouble with his powers is a little more important to me at the moment. Get it?”

“But- agh, you have a good point.” She begrudges me. Thinking over my story, she stops. “What did you mean, previously, that he was creating a ‘flamethrower’ with his hand?”

“So a flamethrower is a tool or weapon, depending on how it’s used by the individual, to shoot a large, constant stream of flames, the purpose of it is for incineration of the target. Rather than my fire powers where I just summon fire across my body, he projects it. I’m not sure if that’s all he can do with it though, he seems new to his powers. Either way, I consider the difference is due to one of two things or a combination of both: His star core is different from mine, or his demonic corruption which does not affect his judgement in any way alters the result.”

“Hmm... was there anything else about his powers that were different?” I think back, and remember the cloud that vented from his arm.

“Yeah, when he first tried to Spark Up, his arm kind of opened up some vents and let off some kind of stellar gas. Once I explained how I did it, he got it down, but his arm definitely changes what he can do, whether intentional or not.”

“Interesting... oh, did you say something to Fluttershy earlier? She’s been practically skipping since the party, but hasn’t said why.”

“I don’t know, though she spent a bit of time with Clark, him just petting her for a while. Might be related as it’s the only thing I can think of that’s different.”

“Hmm... alright, is there any medical notes I should have on him? Heart problems, seizures, anything like that? I want to be able to help if he needs it.”

“Not that I know of. He might have developed some stuff while he was... gone, but you’d have to ask the hospital staff about that one. Aside from conditions he had before that, I say he’s fine... relatively speaking.” I turn towards the couch and see that he’s still out cold.

With a slight groan, he opens his eyes, the transition from nearly comatose to waking faster than I’ve ever seen him get up.

Without a word, he sits up, eyes darting left and right before settling on Twilight and myself. His face softens a bit. “Ugh... what happened?”

I decide to answer. “Well, you turned a tree into a lady, and passed out. You feeling alright?”

“I- what? How did I...” His confusion clears away swiftly. “Yes, I’m fine. what happened with the tree? After I passed out, that is.”

“I kinda made you priority-one and got you back here. I just left that tree-woman to... be a tree-woman. I guess if she turns out to be dangerous I can take care of that quickly.”

“Weird... So, what’s next to do?” And he just... discards the moment?

“Well it actually kinda late. I suppose sleep, but I could go out and patrol for that animate tree for a while. It was a ways away from town, so if it’s headed here it shouldn’t take long to find. The other options are it wandered into the forest or is still out there by the field waiting for a command from it’s ‘creator’ or something.”

Clark shrugs. “Do I need to come with?”

“Not really, but I guess you can if you want. If you feel okay now then it should be fine. My blackouts usually last longer than what you had, and I’m wondering if there are any side effects to such a quick recovery. Again, up to you.”

“No, I feel fine. Would you prefer I come with?”

“Eh, sure. A walking tree shouldn’t be hard to find, but you never know.” With that, Clark gets up off the couch, seeming fine. Guess he just has it easier than me. Either way, we head out the door. “You check around the town for a bit. I’m gonna go back to the field and see if it’s there, then come back here. If I find it, I’ll come get you. Deal?”

“Understood.” He turns and leaves without a second word. If I didn’t know he was off before, I’d know it now. Guess surviving in a post-apocalyptic world just kinda makes you either get into the ‘surviving soldier’ mindset, or end up dead. Pretty obvious which one he chose...

Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I make my way back to the field to search for the tree construct.

It’s an easy search, as it hasn’t moved at all, other than its head turning slowly to track something in town. Clark, maybe? Most likely, actually, now that I think about it.

“So you do have some kind of mind link.” I get no response. “Uh... hello? Oh what am I doing?” All it has for a mouth is a gash. no tongue, no voicebox, no speech. “Fine, just... stay there.”

Talking to an unresponsive, mobile tree-person is getting weirder by the second. I look at which direction she’s facing and gauge where Clark is before heading off to find him.

I hear a weird noise, like footsteps and I realize that it’s following me. Huh... okay then, this just bumped up the ‘creepy-meter’ to about a six. Maybe seven considering it stops walking the very second I do, like it knows what I’m doing and is mimicking me... I’m gonna find Clark. An easy task as I just use the plant-chick as a compass, her head still pointed in whatever direction I assume Clark is in.

Sure enough, my All-Natural Compass has led me to him and I begin introductions. “This... is your latest uh... creation?”

Clark turns to look at it, and immediately goes white as a sheet. With a strangled cry, he moves backwards, tripping on a planter-box, falling over backwards. I turn to the tree and see that it’s rapidly decaying, falling apart. Within moments, the tree-thing is nothing but a decrepit pile of half-composted wood. I look back to Clark, and see that he’s curled up, hands over his face, wracked with sobs.

“Dude... did you just...” I wrack my brain trying to think of the right term and my head decides on one. “Unsummon her? Damn... Hey man, you gonna be okay?” Clark just shivers and cries, shaking from the force of his tears and sadness. What the hell happened? What about the plant-person was so bad it made him do... this?

Waitasecond. Hmmm... It’s been a while, but that tree-person did look like someone I knew. “Was that supposed to be... your mom?” He shakes his head. Hmm... too short, too slim. Who? Who else could it- Oh god.

“Gina...” The sobbing reaches a crescendo, and he curls tighter into himself.

I wrap my arms around him. “It’s... it’s gonna be okay. Everything’s gonna be fine just... let it out buddy.” I sigh. He lost his sister... damn, she was so nice.. I don’t think she’d ever deserve anything.

He continues to weep, quieting only after nearly four minutes. He finally quiets completely as he falls asleep. Damn... I need to know what happened to him. Not now, but tomorrow, maybe. Yeah, I need to work on getting him to tell me.

Sighing, we get up and head back to the library. I just hope that tomorrow doesn’t end on such a sour note too. Even I remember Gina... shit, now I feel like crying... I better get to the library before I become a wreck.

Today’s waking comes accompanied by the steady pitter-patter of rain on the window. I’d forgotten to check the weather schedule earlier, again. It’s still not a habit. Oh well, this looks like a minor rain, though it’s going to be cold, considering it’s already early fall.

Yawning and stretching, I get up and head downstairs. Clark’s already up again, reading. He doesn’t seem any different from normal. I head off to the kitchen and look through the cupboards for something to eat. After a while I give up and make a ball of dough and stuff it full of chocolate chips and cook it. I bite into my cookie-ball and walk back into the main room, figuring I’d wait for Twi to wake up.

By the time she comes down the stairs, she’s already looking awake. She’s also carrying an envelope, which looks to be stuffed full of golden dollar bills or something. Hmm... maybe there’s a Willy Wonka in this world? I could go with some of that candy... I miss Nerds. And the opportunity to claim cannibalism whilst eating them.

She hands me one and it turns out to be a ticket, reinforcing the Willy Wonka idea. I look closer and realize that it’s got a little admission notice on it. Like some sort of super fancy party. “So uh, what’s this for?”

Twilight sighs, a deep, heartfelt sigh. “They’re for the Grand Galloping Gala. I’ve been... drafted to go, and I can nominate five others. In the interest of trying to disrupt the tedium, I’m nominating you, Rainbow, and the first three ponies I come across when I step outside.”

I quirk an eyebrow. “Drafted? A gala is a kind of party, right? Why do you act like you’re being sent to war?”

“The same reason Celestia tries to ruin it every year. It’s basically the nobility asserting their collective right to boss around Celestia, thanks to the attempts at checks and balances she tried to make. I think they’re there to make it easier if she or Luna ever go rogue.”

“Sounds like they could use a bodyguard.” a smirk. “And I don’t mean those pussies in armor all over Canterlot.”

“Er, the guard? They’re ponies, not cats.”

“Oh Twilight, you’re so non-vulgar it’s cute.” I say and pat her on the head condescendingly. “Either way, seriously, if the problem is with nobles messing with them, I doubt they’d cross someone who is deliberately there to make sure they don’t annoy the princesses.”

“No, no, they’re civil. Too civil. Celestia can’t cancel the Gala without a nine-tenths supermajority, and they use it to posture and puff out their chests at each other... last time, I sat next to Princess Celestia for three hours straight while she shook with each arriving noble, and then we had no time to actually do anything. The first time I went to the Gala, there was something of an engineered disaster by Celestia. Er, using my friends as the catalyst.”

“I see. Sounds like a party in need of lightening up. I’d be happy to help if that’s the case.” I say, a wicked grin across my face. “I’m sure I can make quite the impression if I put my mind to it.”

“Oh, if that was all, she’d just send Pinkie. No, this is a party that’ll either go ‘swimmingly’ by the nobility’s standards, or whoever goes and ruins it gets ostracized for about half a year. Frankly? I look forward to getting amnesty from dealing with the nobles for half a year.”


I lean closer to Twilight. “Listen, if I was talking about Pinkie’s version of lightening things up, I’d send her too. I have my own ways. Don’t worry your little head, it might end up interesting after all. However, you might like to pretend you don’t know me afterwards, fair warning.”

“Fair enough.” Twilight turns and dourly walks out the front door, shouting at whomever she saw and shoving tickets at them. I quietly shut the door behind her.

However, this gives me time to deal with Clark. “So, man, you wanna talk about... screw it, I’m gonna get to the elephant. Your arm. How’d you get it if it was before coming here?”

He pauses. Just... sits in place and looks at the book in his lap.

“If it’s because of something you had to do to survive, I’m probably the best one to tell, because anyone else here will still consider you evil because you stooped to that level... I don’t want to see you threatened with execution... or worse.”

“I did what I had to... and I joined them.” He doesn’t look up, but slowly closes the book.

“Yeah, but you had a good reason. You didn’t want to die. As much as they wouldn’t like to believe it, that’s a perfectly good reason. Some of these ‘holier-than-thou’ ponies see anything like that horrible and evil... But I know you aren’t. You’re not some raging psychopath like the one I fought. You just did it to stay alive... Getting others to understand will be difficult, but we have to try. Your arm says you’re evil... but I know better.”

“They organize by threat level. Those on the bottom are the least scary. They ‘only’ murder innocents without a qualm, rape and kill for no reason. Those at the top... they’re nightmares, in living flesh.”

“And just because you joined them to survive does not make you like them. I know it. You could have woken up in the hospital and started doing horrible things to ponies. You didn’t, you hid under the bed. You were scared. You’re not a mon-”

“I was somewhere in the middle-top, before I arrived here.” His demonic arm slowly gouges a shape into the floor below.

“Are you trying to convince me that they’re right, that I should just kill you like the other beast? Because it’s not gonna work. No matter what you did, it wasn’t for the sake of doing it. There’s a difference. I’m not gonna hurt you...”

“Just don’t say I’m not a monster, if you don’t know what you’re talking about. My first instinct is to hide, then to strike. I wasn’t surviving. I was thriving.” Slowly, he reaches for the book again, opening it and starting to read again. “I have things I want to read today. I’ll talk to you later.”

I nod and get up to leave, but offer one parting sentence. “You may have been a monster, but you don’t have to be anymore.” With that, I exit the library and go to clear my head.

It’s not long before I realize I have absolutely nothing to do. The gala isn’t for another three weeks. What do I do until then? Next Chapter: Chapter 140 Estimated time remaining: 13 Hours, 22 Minutes

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