Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 141

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Chapter 141

I decide to go look for Clark. By a stroke of luck, he’s by the edge of town, in the field where we practiced, and he’s just sitting at the tree line. Perhaps it would be best if he tried constructing something that resembles a person. I just walk over and sit down next to him, staring into the trees along with him. “I really do think you can get better you know. I don’t think we could get rid of that arm without killing you, but I know that we can make this better. You’re here now, you don’t have to be a monster anymore.”

He doesn’t answer, hunched over. I note that the log he’s sitting on wasn’t there when we last practiced here, and it bears scratches and gouges near where it was apparently either torn or shredded until it came off.

“You make that yourself?” I look at the rough work. “Yeah, probably. Not nearly as good a woodworker as you were with pottery.” I try to get us on a track of a time we both remember, like school, or a summer before all went to Hell.

“Yeah... gave up on pottery because it took too much focus. Too much to do back then.”

“You can start again. I’m not sure, but I think clay is pretty easy to get around here, and aside from the occasional minor disaster, there’s time to do pretty much anything you want.”

“I- I need to get a job. Or go hunting. I can’t live off Twilight forever, after all.”

“Well... Technically you could. I mean, she gets income straight from the princesses, so it’s not like money’s a problem for her. I’ve been doing so for a while. About the last two years that is. She certainly doesn’t seem to mind, and if it’s causing trouble, she isn’t panicking like she normally would.” I think it over. “But I do understand the idea that you want to keep busy, though I’m not sure how well a game hunter would do in happy vegan-land over here. Any meat they need they already have the animals for, so hunting isn’t really a job around here.”

“I meant to eat. I burn a lot of calories each day. And... it helps the arm.” He shifts the limb to his knee, staring down at the yellow eye, which stares back.

“So... what’s up with the eye? Can you see through it, or is it just... demonically weird?”

“I can see through all my eyes.” Hmm... cryptic, but the yellow eye swiveled to look at me when he said that.

“So, when I was waiting for you to wake up, in the hospital... the eye was open. But you didn’t act like you’d seen me before waking up.”

“What, you’ve never heard of keeping a wary eye out? It doesn’t need to blink as often, and I’ll know if someone tries to assassinate me in my sleep. Probably when I wake up with another corpse at my side.”

“Dude, you don’t need to be all dark and stuff. Yeah there are still weirdos, psychos, rapists, the usual stuff. But it’s still safe. You don’t have to be all cryptic or secretive or moody. That kind of action is what will get you labelled as ‘weird’ and locked up or some shit. You can lighten up.”

“Sorry... got into the habit. Knowledge is power, and power helps you survive.” He takes a deep breath, inhaling deeply before exhaling slowly. “So... how about them Redsox?” He turns a shaky grin my way.

I shrug. “Sorry, you know I’ve never been good with soccer stuff.” I say, grinning at the intentional mix-up of the referred sport.

The two of us share a strained chuckle.

A few minutes of silence later, Clark speaks up again. “So, what do you do for entertainment day-to-day around here?”

“Good question. Kinda depends on what’s going on. Usually I have to entertain myself. It’s safe, but kinda boring at times.”

“That... doesn’t answer my question. What video games are there? Do you play board games? What about chess, does that exist here?”

The question of chess brings back images of the Chessboard, in that fucked-up wonderland. I shudder a little.

“Yes, but not the kind you want to play. Ev-er. As for video games... eh, still haven’t gotten to the ‘home-console’ stage yet. They have arcade machines, but as far as I can tell, no actual arcades. I mainly saw Asteroids and the like. No racing games... goddamn I miss Mariokart.”

“I haven’t seen a video game in... two years? Three? Not sure how long it’s been.” He thinks for a second. “Actually, I think I saw one, along with batteries, being sold at auction. I think the buyer traded a half-dozen servants and an arm for it. Terrible deal, there’s no way the batteries still worked.”

“Who’d give up all that anyway? Though I do have some bad news. They don’t like ‘fighting games’ here, so you can give up on ever having Smash Bros. And definitely no Shooters. Heck, they don’t even have guns really.”

“Probably for the best.” Clark says. “Heh, that said, I think they’d like some of the goofier ones. We could probably run through DOOM, if we did the thing where all the blood and stuff is rainbows and flowers.”

“Or Alien Hominid where all the blood is replaced with showers of daisies. It’s okay to bite peoples’ heads off, you’ll just get a bunch of flowers! Violence is Oh-kay!” Clark snickers. “So, the problem is that I don’t think they are that public yet. I mean, the machines were public use. Didn’t even need quarters or anything, but they were only out for Valentine’s day, so it’s kind of a ‘special occasion’ deal as far as I can tell.”

“Hmm... I’ll need to change that. I think a game of Gauntlet with gore turned off would do well, then. It’s just adventuring, after all.”

“Yeah. At least it’s not Final Fantasy where your first fight is to beat the shit out of a bunch of bunny rabbits and squirrels with your bare fists for money.”

“True, true. Hey, just as a question, you said this world’s peaceful, right?”

“Yeah, to the point of being boring at times, but trust me, there’s still violence and psychos. It’s just rare for it to be the populace who are the crazies, though I did come across some asshole who attempted to rape ‘Shy in an alley on Valentine’s day. Gave the asshole a bloody nose, but he got away. Have his name though.”

“Huh... then why do you have a sword on your belt?”

“Because it likes me.” I unsheath the sword and toss it behind me, not even looking at where it goes, then I count. “4, 3, 2, 1... poof.” and at that moment the sword reappears in my hand. “Figure I might as well keep it around if it won’t leave.”

“May I look it over?” Clark extends his left hand, eyes not quite meeting mine.

“Sure, just give it back. It’s... pretty darn important and only kinda mine.” I say, handing the sword over.

He takes the sword gently, with a murmured ‘thank you’, and holds it gingerly in his left hand. After a moment, he swaps it to his right, and gasps slightly, standing a bit straighter.

He slowly stands, and holds the sheathe to his hip, as if it were on his belt. Then, with a fluid motion holding far too much grace for the somewhat clumsy friend I know, he moves, and a golden-bronze blur passes in front of him. I barely see him sheath the Sword, and a small stand of trees slowly topple from the slice taken from them.

“Wow... I’ve never been able to do that before.”

“It’s an artifact of destruction, but it only works if you have a star core. It’s sort of a gift from the constellations. Like, as actual beings.”

“Constellations as beings? Doesn’t sound too weird, given the context.” he quips, before doing another flickering draw-strike-sheath movement, this time cutting the stumps flat at the ground.

“Yeeeeeeah, pretty strong, that sword. I’m not sure if they really need a lumberjack though, and I wouldn’t want to start evicting squirrels for no reason.”

“Don’t worry, those trees had  no other life in them. At least, none that was displaced by removing the trees.”

“Uh... huh. Anyhow, can I have the sword back? I’m kinda supposed to be keeping an eye on it or else I have my star core removed; I’m not sure if that would kill me in the process or not.”

“Ah, right.” Clark hands over the Sword, passing it back without another word. “So... how long has it been since you got here?”

“About two years and apparently five months. Earth was completely normal when I came through. It was 2014. Anne who’s from 2016 describes Earth as being, well, where you were.”

“Huh... only two years? It- it feels like it’s been so much longer.”

“I know, right? Though there might have been some time dilation when I went through that Lookingglass Gate, so it might have been more like a year and six months for me. Not really sure how long I was ‘gone’ according to the ponies, they just said they missed me a ton. I’m... pretty popular with the kids. Oh, that reminds me, we need you to meet the Crusaders.”

Clark turns a worried look to me. “What?!”

“Yeah, I know, weird name for their club. Sweetie Belle and her friends, they named themselves the Cutie Mark Crusaders-” I pause half-expecting a loud, distant ‘Yay!’ from somewhere. Shaking the thought away, I continue. “Anyway, they are just doing crazy stuff to earn their Cutie Marks, which are basically tattoos on their butts that tell you what you’re good at. No clue why they chose ‘Crusaders’ as a name though, really effed up, especially for kids.”

Clark’s breathing returns to normal. “So... not actual crusaders?”

“Pffft, hell no. Those kids are fucking dangerous but none of it is intended. No religious connection, no real goal other than finding their purpose in life. I’m a member because I’m kind of their babysitter, shooting down the really stupid, dangerous ideas.”

“Such as?”

“They wanted to earn their Cutie Marks as millionaires by building trebuchets and launching other kids as a business. This was an idea that sprouted from wanting to use said trebuchet to launch themselves into the sky. Without helmets or parachutes.”

“And... you want to introduce us... why?”

“Hey, if you want to stop them from pelting the entire town with produce or setting something on fire, the best way is to be involved and know in advance, right?”

“I- I suppose... Uhm, when should I be meeting them, then?”

“Well, you did agree to come by and see them when you chatted with Sweetie, but she didn’t really specify a date or time. I figure any time you want, but sooner is better. They really are nice kids though. I guess I’ll get my shirt... I’ll explain later, just make your way to Sweet Apple Acres and I’ll meet you halfway. Their clubhouse is in the orchard.”

“Ah, isn’t that Ms. Applejack’s property?”

“Yeah, Applebloom is, from what I can gather, the one who came up with the idea of the group, and she’s AJ’s sister so... yeah. It’s a little hard to find, but you might as well start on your way there, now, and I’ll redirect you if need be when I catch up.”

“Alright, if you’re sure.” Clark start walking off, and I get ready to head off to the library and change. Next Chapter: Chapter 142 Estimated time remaining: 13 Hours, 9 Minutes

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