The Demon's Angel

by Radiant Dawn

First published

Wake up, go to work, be a human...but what if this all changed by the arrival of someone special? How much will change, and will it be a good change? Most of all, how important is your universe to you?

Wake up, go to work, be a human...but what if this all changed by the arrival of someone special? How much will change, and will it be a good change? Most of all, how important is your universe to you?

T rating for language, violence, use of alcohol, and some suggestive material.

A heads up to readers: This story has a very unique spin on it, so I recommend reading slowly and letting everything absorb so that you don't miss anything. You'll see what I mean as the story progresses.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters directly associated with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, nor the original story. Any and all original characters are owned by their respective creators.

Chapter 1: The Angel's End

Chapter 1: The Angel's End

Work. Oh how I dreaded the thing. A word to the wise, there's a reason smart parents tell their kids to do what they love...what they have a passion for. It's because no matter what you do for a living, you're going to come home feeling exhausted and mentally fried. No matter what, it's going to suck. Doing something you love just makes it suck less. I was so lucky.

I was a tattoo artist who played one-man shows in my spare time. It's not the most popular choice if you want a mansion or something but hey, it pays the bills and I like doing it. That and the fact that it offset my few guilty pleasures. These included liking flowers and sparkly rainbows, sappy romance comedies, and My Little Pony. Yep, I'm a closet brony. Needless to say this was a secret so deep in the closet, it was better hidden than my Christmas presents (which I still hadn't found). I'm all for the whole "love and tolerate" mantra, and most of my friends would agree. All the same, teenagers who have just hit eighteen and adults who are having a midlife crisis tend not to want the business of a guy who watches a children's show, no matter how many tattoos he has. Thankfully after a few years, I had saved enough from my two career choices to open up my own tattoo parlor in the outskirts of Fremont in California. It was a great town to be so long as you didn't have kids, and there was always something to do. This also brought about all kinds like-minded people for me, and before I knew it I had great, trustworthy friends and a fully-staffed tattoo shop.

Even with all that being the case, I was still burned out by the end of the day. I loved what I did, - both of what I did - but I was still well ready for bed at the end of the day.

"Yo Koa, you out?" said Mike, a good friend and the manager of my shop.

I nodded and waved. "Yeah, I'm out for now. I'll be just hanging by The Bird if you guys need me. Please...don't need me."

He chuckled and slapped my hand in a high five as I headed out the shop, heading towards a rocky beach near my house.

The day was nice, so I just walked the whole way there, deciding to leave my car at home. I got to the beach in only a few minutes, and took a deep breath of the salty sea air I loved so much. I chuckled as I walked up to the rocky beach and sat by myself in the cool surf.

My friends and I were some of the only people who actually came to this beach that we'd affectionately named "The Bird" because of a big rock that looked like - you guessed it - a bird (the animal, not the sign-language). We didn't come here because of the beach itself...because of the rocks and strong current, it was too dangerous to go in unless you were ready to swim hard and fast, or else get pulled out to sea. No, we came here because of the quiet.
All the haoles ("Haole"[pronounced "how-lee"] is "white" in hawiian. Fucked up, I know...but still funny) always wanted to go in the water, so they all kept to the resort beaches and the ones with the least amount of danger. Safe for kids no doubt, but this also made them crowded as hell. I liked this particular beach because it was nearly always empty, save for myself and a few other people. When I was here, I could just relax in the warm sea breeze and let my thoughts wander to a great many things. It was a place of peace...and of revelations. Some of my greatest ideas had come to me on this beach, I had my first kiss on this beach, and...she had her funeral here.

As my mind started to race to dark thoughts, I pushed them away and just relaxed in the late afternoon. To the west, there was a drizzle oversea, and this caused a rainbow to appear over the city I called home. As un-manly as it was, I always loved the rainbow. It was a thing of beauty that was not created by men, and it had been around since ancient times. It was, in itself, an artifact of old times. Rainbows held more meaning to me than that, though. From my hidden pleasure of My Little Pony, Rainbow Dash was always my favorite. As a matter of fact, I had gotten her tattooed on my right arm, although you'd have to be looking for her to see her. Kinda stupid for a tattoo, I know...but it's my body. Sometimes when I'd fall asleep on the beach, I'd have dreams that she'd come see me and we'd just play and laugh. Laughter...that wasn't something I did much anymore.

Ever since she died - my wife - I'd lost my will to laugh. Sure I chuckled and even giggled from time to time (don't judge me), but I no longer was able to have that loud, body-shaking laughter that would leave you winded and hurting, but also happy beyond belief. That also was part of the reason I watched MLP. While I never had that kind of laugh, it's one of the only things that's gotten me close.

While laying on that beach thinking about my past and my future, I was watching as the sun slowly slid towards the horizon and the moon came out from behind me. Deciding that it was probably about that time to head on home, I grabbed my beach shoes and walked back up towards town. Mother nature apparently had a sense of humor that night, as the city started to rumble and shake with a small earthquake. I chuckled again...this quake wasn't big enough to do any real damage, but I knew for a fact all the tourists were flipping out in their rooms. Serves them right.

As I came to my house, I noticed that my mailbox had fallen over...again. I picked it up and stuck it in the ground, promising myself that I'd replace it for probably the millionth time. Eh...procrastination is all good so long as it's a mailbox...or that meeting I was supposed to have with my weird uncle. As I mused about how strange things had become in the past year, I opened up the door to my little two bedroom beach house and stepped in. I was happy that the only thing that had broken was an empty bottle of tequila that had been on the counter, so I quickly swept up the broken glass and threw it away before heading upstairs.

I showered quickly and shaved before leaning over to a picture on the mirror and kissing it. The picture contained the last photo I had of us. I remembered the entire day so vividly, as it was my birthday and we were at a place called the "Mystery Spot". I'd seen the place so many times as a kid growing up that it was kind of boring, but Kayla loved it. There was a reason that this was the last picture we took...and that reason was called lymphoma. Kay was always kinda obsessed with tanning, and one day was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after we went to the doctor when we found a weird purple bump on her arm. After that, Kay wasn't much for photos anymore, and neither was I. She passed on not six months after her diagnosis...and we'd only been married a year. I remembered lashing out at Mike one time when he remarked that at least we hadn't been married that long. Mike was never one for thinking before he spoke, but I wasn't able to let that one slide...not so soon anyway.

I forgave him later on, but it still hurts to this day.

One of the tattoos I had was a pair of devil wings I'd gotten on my back, made to look like they were breaking through the flesh on my back. I was young (well younger...) and stupid...don't ask. Anyhow, Kay used to remark that I was her little demon, and so one day she got a pair of gold angel wings on her back to match. Around my friends, we were known as "heaven and hell" and as messed up as it is, I took it as a title of endearment. Kay was my angel, and while I didn't want her to leave me, I guess heaven was calling her home. It wasn't as bad as it once was...but I would always miss her.

I was brought out of my reverie by the feeling of all my hair standing on end...as if there was static in the air. This was followed by a loud popping sound, like electricity arcing between two points. I rushed around my house to the source of the sound, only to find it was my bedroom. I noticed my hair had fallen flat again, and there was no more noise, so I cautiously opened the door and turned on the light. What I saw next had me really confused, as laying in my bed was a young girl, probably my age or a little younger. She had softly tanned skin and what I assumed was rainbow-dyed hair.

The next thing I noticed was that she was completely naked...

Though this was a stranger in my house, I covered my eyes and looked away, grabbing the comforter and throwing it over her. She must have been a light sleeper because this woke her up, so I turned to look at her. Instead of having a panicked or worried expression, she blearily sat up and rubbed her eyes before yawning cutely. Her expression changed to innocent confusion as she looked at me.

"Wh-who are you?" she asked softly, her eyes widening a bit.

I frowned and threw the comforter back over her, which had fallen off when she sat up. "Please keep yourself covered, girl. As for who I am, I'm Koamalu and this is my house. Who are you?"

She grabbed the blanket and hugged it against her, closing her eyes and apparently thinking. She was like that for a few silent moments before she opened her eyes and had an even more confused expression. "I...I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know? You can't remember your own name?" I asked, getting a little nervous. If she was a crazy naked chick, that's one thing. I didn't know if I was ready to deal with an amnesiac though.

She shook her head and sighed a little sadly. "N-no. I got nothing. I can't remember anything about anything...at all."

I decided to stop the incessant questioning, as odds were I was probably going to make her cry or something, so instead I turned around and rummaged through my closet, finding a small pair of shorts and an old shirt of mine. I tossed the clothes at her and started to walk out. "Put those on miss...whoever you are. When you’re dressed, come meet me in the living room and we'll figure this out." I took a deep breath and started to walk downstairs, but she then called out to me before I could leave.

"Umm...Koa..mayloo?" she said softly.

I facepalmed and shook my head. "Koh-ah-mah-loo. Just call me Koa. Anyway, what do you need?" I could hear her stand up and abruptly fall over. 'Great...she's drunk too.' I averted my eyes from ogling her and instead focused on her hair as I walked over. I helped her up and sat her back on the bed, covering her again with the loose comforter "Okay, what is it miss rainbow?"

She seemed to get a shock or something, as she twitched at what I called her. "Wh-what did you call me?"

I gestured to the mirror across the room. "Rainbow...like your hair. Anyhow, what did you need?" I asked, getting a little annoyed.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts I guess and looked up at me. For the first time I saw her eye color. She had an unnaturally vivid shade of rose which caught me off guard. Luckily before I could say or do anything stupid, she replied.

"Umm...I don't know how to put these on. Can you help me? Please?" she asked in an innocently sweet voice.

She must have one hell of a case of amnesia if she can't even remember how to put on clothes, either that or this is the worst come-on I've ever had used on me. All the same I figured it couldn't hurt. If it came down to it, I'd just tell her to get out...but for now I'd humor her. With this in mind I motioned for her to turn around, which she did and I sat behind her. I grabbed the shirt and prepared to pull it over her head when I noticed something on her back.

It was a pair of beautiful cyan feathered wings.

This brought a tear to my eye as I remembered my Kay, but what happened next completely dumbfounded me. As I leaned to the side to grab the shirt that I'd dropped in shock, I noticed another marking on her left hip.

It was Rainbow Dash's cutie mark.

At this point I was floored. My mind started coming up with the most weird thing I'd ever thought: that this naked, innocent girl was Rainbow Dash. The logical part of my mind was still there, telling me this wasn't possible...and yet things made an odd amount of sense. Unnatural-colored eyes, rainbow hair, and tattoos of wings and the cutie mark.

"R-Rainbow Dash?" I mumbled to myself.

The girl turned her head and stared at me with her mouth wide open. "I...I know that name." She closed her eyes and almost seemed to be in pain as her face strained in thought. After a minute her eyes shot open with the same shocked expression. "Thats my name!"

I decided to push a little further. "Do you remember anything else?"

She turned around and stared at me before nodding. "I remember everything else. I know who I am...I'm Rainbow Dash, fastest pegasus in all of Equestria!" I had to turn my eyes away as she puffed out her naked chest with pride. She then slumped a little and her face took on a somber expression. "Well...at least I was."

I started to play into the whole thing until my brain got control again. This is impossible...Rainbow Dash is a cartoon! I might not be a physicist, but I know this can't be possible. Still...if this girl is really as damaged as she seems to be, she's going to need some help. I hated to admit it, but I had a weakness for those in need, and I couldn't just turn her away. Crazy or not, she needed help, so at least for the time being I would humor her. I then grabbed her firmly by the shoulders and turned her back around so that I wouldn't be tempted to stare at her chest.

I motioned with my hand. "Arms up." She complied and I pulled the shirt down over her body, taking care to be as gentle as possible. Now that she was clothed enough so that I couldn't see anything, I pulled her up with me. "Okay then, now hold on to my shoulders." She did as I asked and I held the shorts open down low, looking away to give her privacy. "Okay, one leg in each hole." She wobbled a bit when she stood on one leg, but did as I asked while holding on to me.

She fell against me as she put the other leg in and blushed nervously. "Umm...s-sorry."

I shrugged. "It's okay. I'm just glad you have clothes on now."

She raised an eyebrow. "Speaking of clothes, why do I have to wear them?"

'See? She's Rainbow Dash!' "Shut up, brain..." I mumbled to myself. I then turned my attention to the girl in front of me and said, "Well, I don't know how it is with ponies, but humans are quite a bit more modest. As a matter of fact, if you walk outside without clothes on, you'll probably get arrested."

"Why?" she asked innocently.

I scratched the back of my head in nervousness. "Well, because the only person who should see you without clothes is someone you plan on being intimate with..."

Her cheeks lit up a bright red and she turned away. "Oh...so then that's why you were all..."

I nodded. "Yeah. Not to say you're not attractive or anything, you're very attractive. Umm...I mean..." 'Where the fuck was I going with that?' I sighed and lowered my head in embarrassment. "I'm just going to shut up now."

She giggled and grinned at me. "Well, um...thanks Koa."

I then sat us both down on the bed and looked at her right in the eyes. "Okay then, do you have any idea how you got here? Do you remember that?"

She closed her eyes and strained in thought for a few minutes. Suddenly her eyes shot open in shock and her mouth dropped open.

"I died."

Chapter 2: Broken Rainbow

Chapter 2: Broken Rainbow

"You died?" I said with just a hint of disbelief...okay, more than a hint.

The girl who for all intensive purposes I'm just going to refer to by her persona - Rainbow Dash - simply sat quietly and nodded. I noticed a few tears dropping from her eyes, but she just turned away and growled angrily. "I-I'm not crying, o-okay?"

I shook my head with a snort. "Well fine then. When you're ready to drop the tough act, I'll be down the hall."

I left without another word and walked to my studio, leaving the door open so Rainbow Dash would know where I was. I picked up my Les Paul and turned on my amp, then started to strum the opening licks of a song I wrote, which was pure instrumental. The soft tones of my guitar carried throughout the house, and I soon lost myself to the music.

The notes flowing from the amp took my mind to a better place...a more peaceful place. I was sitting on the beach with my grandfather, just like I used to when I was little, only now instead of sharing two glasses of pineapple juice, we were sharing two beers. As we sat and watched the waves crash against the shore, he finally spoke to me.

"Koa, when you gonna let it go? This isn't good for you, keiki." he stated, not taking his eyes off the frothy waves.

I looked over at him with confusion. "What do you mean?"

He then gestured to the waves and I froze at what I saw. There, playing in the soft surf, was Kayla. I was about to get up and run to her, but I was stopped by a hand to my wrist. I looked over to see my grandpa shaking his head with a solemn look.

He pulled me back down to sit beside him and frowned. "That's what I mean, boy. She's gone...let her go. You're just hurting yourself by trying to keep her alive when she's already passed."

In my heart, I knew he was right...but it was just too much to ask, I felt. "I'm sorry kapuna kane, I can't just stop loving her."

He chuckled and shook his head. "You think I stopped loving your grandma when she passed? Never. Do you think I don't know that you still care about me even though I'm gone? I do. I never said to stop loving her...I just said to let her go. You have yourself to worry about now, and that girl you found today."

I turned to him with a shocked expression. "H-how did you..."

He smiled and waved. "She needs you now, Koa. See you next time, keiki."

I was startled out of my "vision" by a tap to the shoulder. My hands were still playing a soft riff on the guitar, so I stopped and noticed Rainbow Dash was standing in front of me on unsteady legs, looking rather embarrassed.

She laced her fingers together and looked at the floor for a moment before sitting down in front of me, still not taking her eyes off of the ground. She was still for a moment before she looked up at me with glassy eyes, wet with tears. "...I'm sorry...for earlier."

I placed my guitar down on the stand next to me and turned the amp off before looking back into her vivid violet eyes. "Okay...what part?"

She rolled her eyes and groaned. "Ugh...are you really going to make me say it?"

I nodded and smirked. "Yes, I am. What are you sorry for, Rainbow Dash?"

She huffed and crossed her arms, but didn't break my gaze. "I'm sorry...for being all walled-off." She dropped her arms and sighed, more relaxed now. "It's just that...I'm all alone here. I'm not used to being alone."

I let my expression soften, and I gently placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked at it, then back up at me. I smiled warmly and said, "You aren't alone. I don't know why you're here or how, but I'm not going to leave you hanging. Just because you're the Element of Loyalty doesn't mean you couldn't use someone to be loyal and helpful to you." She let a little smile grace her face before I continued. "I understand it might be a little painful, but could you tell me how it happened?" I didn't need to say any more, she knew what I meant.

The girl nodded and closed her eyes, taking a strained breath. "It was at my last training session for the Wonderbolts. Wonderbolts...you know who they are, right?"

I nodded and smiled. "I would rather not say how yet, but it's safe for you to assume I know most of what goes on in your world, and how it works."

She shrugged and continued. "Fair enough. Anyway, I was doing my flight routine, and everything was going smoothly until the last trick. I was trying to go for a quadruple corkscrew while pulling off a Sonic Rainboom, but I got hit by an updraft that shot me off course, and before I knew it, I was headed towards the bleachers really fast. Then, everything went black." I could tell this was hurting her to remember, but I admired her bravery to continue, and she did. "The next thing I remember was that I woke up in the hospital surrounded by all my friends."

-Flashback - Canterlot Royal Hospital: 20:49-

Rainbow Dash woke to a spectrum of colors in front of her eyes, and after gaining her vision back, she smiled and let out a weak cough, getting the attention of everypony in the room.

A certain yellow pegasus mare rushed over to her best friend with tears in her eyes and whispered excitedly, "Girls, she's waking up!" Rainbow Dash welcomed a warm, gentle hug from the timid mare, and even went so far as to nuzzle against her friend's mane.

It confused the cyan pegasus when she saw a saddened face on every other pony in the room, including the two princesses of Equestria, who had graced her with their presence.

"Wh-what's going on? Why all the sad faces? You all look like somepony just died or something." the speed-demon said softly. This one statement caused everypony in the room to bow their heads and begin crying, some softly, while others - like Fluttershy - openly sobbing loudly. The group was then broken up by a brown earth pony with a dark brown mane, wearing black eyeglasses and a white lab coat.

He stepped forward with a somber expression and sighed sadly before speaking. "Rainbow Dash, I am so sorry, dear. We have done everything we could..."

Rainbow Dash was now even more confused, and though she felt like she should panic, she instead felt very sleepy for some odd reason. She fought back the drowsiness and instead asked, "What do you mean, Doc? What's wrong?"

He bravely held her gaze and continued. "Your internal injuries are too great. Your pancreas has ruptured, and we can't stop the bleeding. I..." His voice faltered, but he regained his composure and gave a sad frown. "I am so sorry, my dear...but you should say your goodbyes." He then turned to look at the princesses and held an expression of brokenness, but whispered so that only the two monarchs could hear. "I am so sorry your majesties, but she has maybe another ten minutes, twenty at the most. Make it worth it." With that, the doctor sighed softly and left the room.

The daredevil pegasus merely stared at the ceiling in silence as the realization came upon her. "I'm going to die...aren't I? This is it..."

The princess of the moon stepped forward slowly and nodded sadly. "It is true, Rainbow Dash. We..." The princess's voice broke for a moment before she recovered, and while tears threatened to break free, none fell. "We are so very sorry. If there is anything We could do, We would do it. We..."

The dying pegasus dismissed the princess with a weak wave of the hoof. "Don't apologize, Princess Luna. You didn't make me do that stupid trick...I did it because I wanted to." She then turned her eyes to the rest of her friends at the foot of the bed, glancing at the butter-colored pegasus still in her hooves. "That goes for the rest of you too, girls. I don't want any of you to blame yourselves for this. It's not your fault..." at this, she turned her eyes to the crying mare in her forelegs and hugged her tight, "least of all yours, Fluttershy. You tried to talk me out of it, as a matter of fact. Of course with me being me, I just had to do the craziest thing out there." She let slip a few tears before drawing in a ragged breath. "'Shy, please take care of Tank."

The mentioned mare let out a sad whimper, not taking her face out of her best friend's chest, but when she spoke, her voice was comforting and surprisingly strong. "Okay, Rainbow Dash. I promise I'll take good care of him for you."

In an unheard of display of affection, Rainbow Dash kissed the pink-maned yellow pony on the forehead. This small gesture broke the composure of all the ponies in the room and they all rushed to the bedside with tears flowing freely. Rainbow Dash simply smiled weakly and giggled. "I love you girls...all of you, so much."

A certain orange cowmare flung herself upon the bed and sobbed into the stomach of her best friend, her mane frayed and frizzy from stress and hours without sleep. "Ah-Ah love ya RD...Ah'm gonna miss ya somethin' fierce."

Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty, displayed her loyalty again in attempting to comfort a mourning friend, even on her own deathbed. She lifted the chin of Applejack with a hoof and let her usual confident smirk grace her face again as she said, "AJ, it's not goodbye...it's see you later. You better pick up my awesome slack until we see each other again." The cowpony simply nodded and buried her face in her friend's chest again, not attempting to hide nor stem the tide of tears that fell from her eyes. Rainbow Dash then lifted the face of her oldest friend, Fluttershy, and looked into her beautiful cyan eyes. "And you...you better never stop being the most amazingly kind pony I'm privileged to call one of my bestest friends. I'm so proud of you, Fluttershy. Don't ever change...you're perfect just the way you are." This just caused the older pegasus to cry harder, but she nodded and lay her head against the rainbow mane, stroking it softly.

As the other Elements released their fallen friend, the timid pegasus and Stetson-wearing earth pony climbed onto the hospital bed, nuzzling into the soft coat of a dear friend, saying a final, silent goodbye. The rest of the group shuffled out, unwilling to summon the courage to watch their fallen friend’s last moments, but the two mares stayed with their friend, holding her as she began to slip away.

The doctor then re-entered the room and smiled sadly at the fading pegasus. "This is not the end, Rainbow Dash. You will see them again, I promise." With that said, he simply checked the readings on the monitors around the bed and left.

Even in her weakening state, she was confused at this remark, but realized he must have meant in the afterlife. She had never been the kind of pony to believe in that sort of thing, but now she found herself oddly taking comfort in the thought. As she felt herself begin to fade and darkness began to overcome her vision, she hugged her two best friends in the world tightly and smiled at them one more time.

"Don't forget about me...because I'll never forget about any of you."

The last thing she felt were two pairs of lips kissing her cheeks...and then nothing.

-End Flashback-

As Rainbow Dash finished her story, I was in tears, as was she. Fuck it...at this point I now completely believed that this girl was Rainbow Dash, impossibilities be damned. I still wasn't sure how or why it happened, but I believed it with all my being now, and I was going to make sure she was taken care of. She needed me more than ever now, and I was going to make sure I was there for her. I was about to get up to get her some tissues when she grabbed my arm tightly.

"P-please don't go! Please don't leave me!" she pleaded in between sobs.

I shared tears with her, but smiled as I sat down next to her and pulled her into a gentle, yet firm embrace. "I'll never leave you, Rainbow Dash. I promise. I'll be around for as long as you want me to be."

She looked up at me with a slightly pensive expression. "R-really? Well, w-what if I always want you around?"

I responded by hugging her tighter and pulling her head against my chest. "Then I'll always be here. I'll never leave you, and that's a Pinkie promise." She finally pulled her arms up and held me in a death-hug, tightening her arms around me so much that if not for my muscle mass, she'd be squeezing the air out of me. After a few minutes of this, I just released her and held her at arms length. "Alright, Rainbow Dash, we've both had quite the day just in this last hour, so we should get some sleep. We'll figure out what to do next in the morning.” I pulled her off the ground with me and slowly walked her to my room, sitting her down on the bed and covering her up before whispering, "Alright, I'll be downstairs if you need me. Sleep well."

A tight grip around my wrist stopped me again from walking away, and I looked back to see the same panicked expression in her face. "Please...please don't leave me...not tonight at least. I really don't want to be alone tonight."

I sighed and looked at her pleading eyes. "What are the implications of a male and a female sleeping in the same bed in Equestria?"

Her eyes widened and she shook her head quickly. "I know where you're going with this, and yes, it usually means the same thing. That's not what I'm meaning by this at all...no offense."

I held a hand up. "None taken."

She continued. "I just really don't want to sleep alone tonight. Please...please just stay with me."

Normally with any other woman, red flags would be shooting up in my mind. However, I could see the honesty in her eyes and hear it in her voice. I knew in my heart that there were no sexual innuendos in her request. And so, against what would normally be my better judgment, I nodded. "Okay Rainbow Dash. I'll stay."

She smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Koa. And please, Dash is fine."

I smiled and nodded back at her. "Okay Dash. Just give me a second to get some sleep clothes on and I'll be right back." I then went back to my closet and pulled out a pair of pajama bottoms and a tank top, then went out in the hallway to change quickly before entering the room again, throwing my day clothing in the hamper in the corner. I switched off the light, leaving only the faint glow of the full moon to illuminate the room. I decided that tomorrow would be a day off, so I opted not to set my clock, and instead slid over the covers into the right side of the bed, Dash scooting over to make room for me. "Goodnight Dash."

She shifted a bit and cleared her throat. "Um, goodnight Koa."

It took me awhile to get tired, as my mind was still abuzz with all that had happened just in the past few hours. While I sifted through my thoughts to make sense of this recent turn of major events, I felt soft hands wrapping around my arm as a certain girl pulled herself close to me. In all honesty, it made me a little uncomfortable, but my comfort wasn't as important as hers at the time. After all, I had lost a wife. This girl...she had lost everything she'd ever known, and was now a stranger in a strange world.

I guess just this once, I could put up with it.

Chapter 3: A New World, a New Life

Chapter 3: A New World, a New Life

I woke up to the smell of the sea, and to my beautiful angel by my side. I hugged her tight and kissed her forehead, and she moaned in her sleep and pulled herself tighter against me. However, as I began to become more alert, I noticed the hair was not blonde, but rainbow-patterned...and the tip of the wings along the back of her collar were blue, not gold. The realization of what I just did to my company dawned on me, and I fell backwards off the bed in shock, slamming my head against the ground.

Ugh...what a fucking great way to start the day. Nice job, dumbass.'

As my vision began to clear a bit, I noticed the concerned face of Dash looking down at me.

"Oh my gosh, are you okay? I'm so sorry...I didn't mean to startle you or anything!" she explained quickly.

I waved a hand in dismissal. "You didn't do anything, Dash. It was just me being stupid."

She looked down at the floor for a moment before looking back up at me. "Who was she?"

"Who was who?" I asked, raising an eyebrow as I stood up.

She held my gaze with a blank expression. "The girl you thought I was...who was she?"

"Wh-what do you mean?" I stuttered out.

Dash rolled her eyes at me, but still held a concerned and gentle look. "I'm a lot smarter than my friends - or you - think. And besides...I was awake, Koa."

I was honestly shocked. The show never showed this side of Rainbow Dash...was I speaking to the same person? And she was awake? Now I felt even more like a dumbass. I could have just made something up...but something about her made me not want to lie to her...ever. And so, with a heavy heart, I sat next to her on the bed.

I dropped my gaze to my feet as I drew a sharp breath in before speaking in a somber tone, "She was my wife." I heard a gasp next to me, but I continued. "She died a few years ago after getting sick." I then placed my hand on Rainbow Dash’s back. "She had a tattoo of golden wings on her back, a lot like the one of your wings on your back. She was my godsend...and I miss her so much. I used to call her..."

Dash finished for me. "My little angel..."

I stared at Dash in awe, wondering how the hell she could have known that. "How did you know I'd say that?"

She smiled softly at me. "Just a feeling. My mom used to talk about me the same way, and called me the same thing." She looked down at the ground and sighed sadly. "She was struck by lightning during an unregulated thunderstorm that hit Ponyville when I was four."

I rubbed her shoulder softly as she sat there. "I'm sorry Dash...I didn't know."

She shrugged and looked at me with those bright rose eyes. "It wasn't your fault, Koa. It wasn't anypony's fault. I lost my mom...but I know she was doing what she loved and she was trying to protect me." She smiled and gained a look of pride, even though there was a tear in her eye. "All of the other pegasi left and let the storm rage. But my mom...she wasn't going to just give up. If it hadn't been for her, there might not be a Ponyville left...and more than just her would have died that day." She then placed a hand on my shoulder and frowned. "But you? You lost the one pon- er, person that meant most to you. You're a lot stronger than I am, Koa."

I dropped my hands to my sides and stared at her. "Me, stronger than you? I never took down Discord, or Nightmare Moon, or the queen of the changelings. How the hell am I stronger than you?"

She smiled sadly again and closed her eyes. "You know me somehow, so I take it you noticed that I don't let myself get close to anypony." I nodded and she continued. "Well, there's a reason for that, Koa. After I lost my mom, I withdrew into myself a lot. I was little...just old enough to know my mom, but not old enough to be able to be okay when she died." She shuddered a bit before clearing her throat and continuing. "I never wanted to go through that kind of pain again...so I put a distance between myself and everypony else. If I never got close to anypony, it wouldn't hurt as bad when I lost them." She then opened her eyes and looked at me. "That's why you're stronger than me, Koa. If I lost somepony I cared about that much to want to marry them, I don't know if I'd be able to go on."

I shrugged and lay back on the bed. "Well, I can't say it's easy, Dash...but I'm not going to just give up. My 'never stop fighting' attitude was one of the things she liked most about me...and if I just gave up, I'd be insulting her memory." I felt the bed move as Dash lay down as well, a few feet away from me. I turned to look at her and smiled. "She'll never really be dead...I make sure she lives on in me. I keep her in my heart always, and remember the good things she taught me - like how to smile even when you want to cry. She taught me how to always find the joy in life...and because of that, she'll never be gone."

She smiled back at me and nodded. "That's why I worked with the weather team, and why I never gave up becoming one of the Wonderbolts. My mom always told me that if I worked hard enough for it, I could have anything I wanted. I took that to heart, and I guess it's kinda became who I am." She giggled and shrugged. "It gets me into trouble sometimes, but it's also led to some of the best things I've ever experienced."

I nodded and stood up, looking at the brightening sky as the sun prepared to rise. I smiled and pulled Dash up with me. "Come on, Dash...there's something I want you to see."

We walked out into my back yard (if you could call about thirty square feet of grass a back yard) and I climbed up to the roof of my house. I then reached down and took her hand, pulling Dash up with me. We sat on the roof of my home, and then Dash's eyes widened as the first part of the sun peeked over the horizon. I chuckled and held onto her hand in case she slipped. As she watched the sunrise over the city, she squeezed my hand lightly in excitement. Oddly, where just yesterday this would send discomfort through me, it calmed me, and I squeezed her hand gently as well.

I smiled as she looked over at me. "Not bad for your first sunrise on Earth, huh?"

She nodded and smiled right back, though her gaze didn’t break with the horizon. "Not bad at all, Koa. Thanks for this...really. It's beautiful."

'Not as beautiful as you.'

The thought suddenly made me feel very conflicted...and with the conflicted feeling came the discomfort again. 'What the fuck are you doing, Koa? This isn't Kay! Stop that!' I released Dash's hand, and she looked confused at me. I got up to step down off of the house and ended up slipping on a shingle. The last thing I saw as I tumbled headfirst towards the ground was the concrete driveway leading to my garage...and then nothing.

I "woke up" to find myself looking at Kay, her beautiful green eyes twinkling in the sun just like they always had, and her blonde hair seeming to glow with its own radiance.

"Kay?" I asked with great apprehension.

She nodded and walked over to me, reaching down and pulling me off the ground. As soon as I stood, she threw her arms around me and pulled me into a tight hug. She even smelled the same...like jasmine and coconut.

I pulled away from her so I could look at her, and tears came to my eyes. As I began to take hold of my emotions, I had to ask a question that was now bothering me. "Is this a dream?"

She shook her head and smiled. "No, my demon. It's not a dream."

Then the other option dawned on me. "Wait...did I die?"

She shook her head and giggled. "No, you're very much alive."

I was now even more confused. "Okay, if I'm not dreaming and I'm not dead...how is this possible?"

"It is not a dream, but neither is this happening in reality. And yet, it's real. I'm here because you needed me." she said softly, her smile starting to change to a look of loving concern.

I nodded. "I do need you, Kay...I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. I miss you so much." I stated softly, nearly crying.

She smiled sadly and sighed. "You need to let me go, Koa."

"I...I don't know if I can, Kay. It wouldn't be fair to you to just forget about you." I cried, falling to my knees in quiet sobs.

She stood over me and raised my chin with a hand, smiling down at me. "I never said forget me...I said let me go. And how is it fair to you that you keep torturing yourself like this? Live your life, Koa."

I stood up and looked into her emerald eyes. "You are my life, Kay...I love you and I can't just let it go so easily."

"I never said it would be easy, hun. Do you really think I want you to be alone for the rest of your life? Just completely alone, passing through life on your own holding onto what's gone? If you're trying not to be an insult to me, you're not doing a good job." she finished, her face now turning to a look of frustration.

"I-I don't know what you're talking about, Kay." I stammered out.

She crossed her arms and held an unamused expression. "You're going to fight this the whole way, so I'll just say it: she needs you, Koa. I love you very much...but I'm not the one that needs your care...and your love right now."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing...this couldn't be happening. This had to be some sort of trick. "No...I can't do that. You know I can't do that."

My angel simply walked away from me, stopping before looking over her shoulder and saying the words that hurt me more than anything I have ever felt before...

"I'm disappointed in you, Koa. I thought you were better than this."

I woke up to a slight stinging sensation on my forehead along with a agonizing throbbing wreaking havoc on the pain receptors of my head.

I groaned and pulled my hands to my head. "Ugh...someone please just kill me now and get it over with."

I opened my eyes to see a crying girl a foot or so away from me...Dash. I coughed and she flinched, turning around to see me. Her eyes widened and she wrapped me in a bone-crushing hug as soon as I sat up.

"Thank Celestia you're okay, Koa! You were out for hours..." she said as she buried her face in my chest.

I was again surprised by the gesture, but wrapped my arms around her. "Sorry about that, Dash. I didn't mean to scare you. I just got a little clumsy, I guess."

She nodded and stood up. I noticed that even though it's only been one day, she seems to be adapting to her new body well. She no longer wobbles when she's standing, and her dexterity with her fingers has been increasing a lot. How did I notice this? Because she was now running a stick through her fingers, back and forth. I'd been trying to do that for years in high school...how does she master it in one day?

She noticed me staring at her hands and blushed. "S-sorry...I'm a little stressed out is all."

I nodded and smiled. "Well Dash it's okay. I understand."

She grinned and blushed. "I...I was just worried about you is all." She then looked up at me with a tear in her eye. "You're my only friend...I don't want to lose you, Koa."

'Let me go, Koa...'

Maybe Kay was right. I couldn't say what would happen here, but maybe it was time to let someone into my life again...and actually care about another person. Dash needed me - she needed someone who was going to guide her in her new life and be a good friend to her. She needed someone to care about her and show her that maybe, just maybe, this new life didn't have to be bad. It would have to be me...and I would have to genuinely care about her to do that properly. I knew it wouldn't happen overnight...but I felt that admitting this all to myself was the first step towards a new life for myself as well. Maybe it was time to stop living in the past. Kay was a love I could never forget, but maybe that doesn't have to keep me from caring about another.

And so, in an act of spontaneousness, I walked over to the rainbow-haired girl and hugged her tightly. "You're my friend too, Dash...and I wouldn't want to lose you either."

For a moment she froze, but once she got a hold of herself she returned the hug and giggled. "It's good to have a friend." She released me and laughed. "If only AJ could see me now...she'd think I'd lost my mind."

I chuckled. "And why is that?"

The girl giggled again and explained, "Because, I never hug anyp- erm, I mean anyone...except for AJ and Fluttershy. And I never get this sappy."

"Well, change isn't necessarily a bad thing, Dash. I like you this way. I mean, not that I've known you any other way...well, you know what I mean." I said with a nervous cough.

She sighed and smiled. "Yeah, maybe you're right. I mean, it's not like I have a reputation here or anything. Maybe this can be a new beginning for me."

I walked over and placed an arm around her shoulders as we both looked out at the ocean. "A new beginning for both of us, Dash...and I want you in mine."

She then placed her hands around my waist and snuggled in close to me...and I didn't feel uncomfortable now. Quite the opposite...she was comforting me and giving me hope for my better tomorrow. I didn't know what it was, but this girl gave me the confidence to keep going towards a better future than what was originally given to me.

I looked down at her and smiled. "Hey Dash, you want to go into town with me?"

She snapped out of the moment and nodded furiously. "Yeah, that'd be great! No offense, but I'm getting a little stir crazy here. I gotta get out and stretch my wings..." She then trailed off, her expression darkening. "Ugh...I miss flying already..."

I nudged her with a smile. "Just because you can't fly doesn't mean you can't still be one of the best athletes out there, Dash. There's so many things for you to do in this world, you'll never be bored. That much I can guarantee."

She nodded and after cleaning up, we headed into town.

Our first stop when we reached town was a convenient beachwear shop. I would have to take her shopping at some point to get some real clothes for her, but since we were on the beach, this would do for now. No surprise, she turned her nose up at the bikini. Instead, she settled for a tight-fitting pair of blue and gold shorts with sports-style blue tank top. After paying and heading to a changing room near the beach so she could change, we headed towards the nearby shoe store. She fell in love with a pair of rainbow skater shoes, so I grabbed them for her along with a pair of flip flops. As she put her new shoes on and smiled, I couldn't help but crack a smile as well. It was great to see her smile, and I hoped I could get her to do it more and more.

I then placed a hand on her shoulder to get her attention, and she looked up at me. "Okay Dash, we're gonna head over to my shop. I want to show you what I do, and I think some of my friends would like to meet you. However, we do have a bit of a problem..."

She looked at me confused. "What problem?"

"Well, we're going to need a name for you to go by when you're in public. Rainbow hair is easily passable around here. A name like Rainbow Dash...not so much." I placed a hand to my chin and thought for a moment. "Well, how about Rosabela? It starts with the same letter your name does...and I think it suits you."

She shrugged. "Sounds good to me. What does it mean?"

I grinned and winked at her. "It means 'beautiful rose' in Italian, which is a different language from what we’re speaking now."

She blushed furiously, but smiled. "W-well...thanks Koa. That's really nice of you."

"No problem, Dash. Alright, let's head over to my shop. Follow me." I said with a smirk, noticing she was still blushing.

We reached the shop ten or so minutes later to find the place luckily pretty dead, with it only being the early afternoon. The first one to notice us was Lily, the youngest of us. She reminded me a lot of Vinyl Scratch from MLP, and she even shared her love of music. I had a feeling her and Dash were going to be great friends.

Lily eyed Dash with a smile and giggled. "Wow...wicked hair." She then looked at me and winked. "Nice pick, Koa. It's about time."

Dash blushed and I just chuckled. "It's not like that, Lily. She's a friend from...out of town."

Lily smirked but nodded, ogling Dash's toned figure. "Mmm...and quite the friend she is..."

"Hey easy, easy!" I said quickly, eliciting a giggle from Lily.

She walked over to Dash and slugged her softly in the shoulder. "Oh c'mon, girl. I'm just messin' with ya. I don't swing that way anyway."

"Y-yeah, you got me good. Umm...I'm Rosabela." Dash said with a smile, raising a hand to shake.

Lily took her hand and shook it firmly. "Name's Lily. Nice to meet you, Rosabela."

"You remind me a lot of someone I knew back where I come from. She was really cool." Dash said, smiling at her new friend.

Lily grinned and giggled. "Well, I'll take that as a compliment."

For the first time Dash seemed to notice all our tattoos. "A-are those..." I interrupted her by a shake of the head, and she fell silent.

"I'll explain later, Rosa." I answered with a soft smile.

Lily looked utterly confused. "Explain what? What's going on?"

"It's personal, Lil. Sorry." I stated plainly.

She just shrugged and walked towards the back. Dash then walked over to me, and I had a feeling I knew what she was going to ask.

She ran her fingers over some of the tattoos on my arms and her face scrunched up in thought. "So what are they then?"

"They're called tattoos. They're not magical in nature at all. It's just ink put into the skin by needles," I explained, and she recoiled a bit at the mention of needles, "and unlike cutie marks, you can get them anywhere and they can be whatever you want."

She sighed. "They're really cool. If it weren't for the whole needles part, I would totally get some."

"Nah, it doesn't feel like a needle much at all. It just feels like someone's dragging their fingernails across your skin hard. Unless of course it hits a sensitive spot on the skin. Then it hurts...but I think it's worth it." I marveled at my body art and smiled. "I love mine. You might change your mind one day. I mean, I used to be afraid of needles for the longest time."

She looked up at me with wide eyes. "Really?"

I nodded. "Yeah. At the mention of needles in a doctor's office, I used to run away."

She giggled. "Yeah, I did that a few times. Well, flew, actually."

We had a long laugh and spent the next few hours talking with Lily. As expected, Dash and her blended really nicely, and I was glad she had found a friend other than me.

I noticed the sun was starting to touch the horizon, so I got up and grabbed the shopping bags before turning to Dash. "Alright Rosa, it's about time to head back. You ready?"

She turned to me and smiled. "Mmhmm." She turned back to Lily and slugged her playfully. "See ya later, woman."

Lily giggled and returned the gesture. "You better, Rosa."

After waving goodbye to Lily, we both headed outside and back to the house.

We got home later than I expected, as I made sure to stop by a small clothing store that sold things other than beach wear. I had Dash grab a few outfits for herself, as well as underwear and socks (after explaining the reasons for wearing them). When we finally got home, night was well on its way as the last light of day died on the horizon. The moon was still mostly full tonight, so thankfully it was still rather bright outside. As my stomach started to grumble at me, I felt bad because I had forgotten about meals. I would be fine, but Dash hadn't eaten in almost two days. Not wishing to try and ease her into meat tonight, I instead fixed her a bowl of vegetable soup with toast. She ate it in earnest while I simply ate some buttered toast, and she thanked me afterwards.

As we got ready for bed, I found myself smiling the whole time. The beginning of today had started out a little sad, and kind of weird...but now I was closer with Dash than I had been before...and I felt that I could finally be okay with letting my feelings for Kayla rest. I climbed into bed and lay on my back, staring up at the ceiling. My mind was blank as I just traced my eyes along different shapes I saw in the paint of the ceiling, until I heard a soft knock at my door.

"Koa? I know you told me it was only for one night...but would you mind if I slept in here?" Dash said, twiddling her thumbs nervously.

I smiled and scooted over, patting the empty spot in bed next to me. She ran and jumped in the spot as a young child would, and I couldn't help but let my lips curl into a smile. To think that just a day ago, I was dreaming on a beach of playing with a certain cyan pegasus...and now she was laying next to me in human form. Can you say best day ever? I'm sure if I told Mike about this situation right now, he'd just be asking if I'd "hit that" yet. In all honesty, I wasn't even thinking about that. Dash was amazing, but I just liked having her around me. I wasn't ready for any sort of relationship with much of anyone, and I had a feeling she felt the same way. Still...it was nice to have someone to have next to me, even if it might only be temporary. I could tell Dash felt the same as she again wrapped her arms around my right arm and literally wrapped her entire body - legs and all - around me.

I was unfamiliar with pony sleep etiquette, but apparently this would be considered normal, because she didn't seem the least bit uncomfortable about it. Sure, the human rationale in my mind told me that this was dangerously close to "playtime", but if she didn't see it that way, I wasn't going to allow myself to. She was definitely still adjusting to this world, and so she still needs to know that she is safe, and that I wouldn't let anything happen to her. So, ever so gently, I lifted my arm out of her grasp and instead wrapped it around her.

She fell asleep almost instantly, and I felt myself following soon afterwards.

Chapter 4: Flight Without Wings

Chapter 4: Flight Without Wings

I woke up before dawn to the sound of crying. In a groggy state, I reached around the bed to find that Rainbow Dash was missing...although I had already figured it must be her. I looked over at the window to see her staring at the horizon, soft whimpers escaping her lips.

"Dash," I asked softly, "what's troubling you?"

She sniffled a few times and turned to me. Her pretty eyes were bloodshot and she had dried tears all over her cheeks. "Oh...sorry if I woke you up, Koa."

I shook my head. "No, it's alright. I was worried about you."

She sighed and looked back out over the ocean to the west. "I was just thinking about my friends. You know on nights like this, Fluttershy and I used to go out late at night and just fly in the night air." She sniffled a few more times before clearing her throat. "I don't think I ever told her how much that meant to me. We wouldn't race...we wouldn't prank anypony...we'd just fly. It was one of my favorite things to do." She then turned back to me with a broken expression before running to me and hugging me tight. "I miss them so much, Koa."

It was at that moment that I had a great idea for us both...something to lift both of our spirits.

"Hey Dash...let's go skydiving."

Next thing I knew, we were on the road while it was still dark, headed towards Santa Cruz. I called up a friend who worked there and let them know I needed a jump chartered, and I'd be bringing a plus one. Since I had a USPA "A" license, I would be Dash's guide. I found it funny that a human - who couldn't even fly - would have to take a former pegasus and strap her to his body. I tried as best I could to explain to Dash exactly why humans got a thrill out of skydiving.

"I don't get it, Koa. I mean thanks, but I don't see how this is supposed to be fun." she said, a little bored.

I smiled and placed a hand on her shoulder as we walked. "Because Dash, we have to rely on parachutes to keep us from making a mess on the ground. We won't have wings to stop us...and if the parachutes fail, we'll be fertilizer."

Now she actually looked afraid, and she stopped with a look of grave apprehension. "Wait...this sounds really dangerous all of the sudden."

I grabbed her hand and pulled her along as we continued walking. "You've gone faster than the speed of sound. You can't tell me you're afraid of jumping out of a plane with me."

She cocked her head to the side in confusion. "What's a 'plane'?"

We walked around a big hangar and I pointed to the mid-sized propeller plane we'd be taking. "That's a plane. Human's can't fly by themselves, so we build machines to help us do it."

Her eyes widened and she wore a smile of pure joy, and I knew exactly what she was thinking. She was the fastest thing in the air back in Equestria, but here she was just another flightless human.

But now maybe, just maybe, she'd soar through the sky again someday.

"Yo, Koa!" shouted a voice from near the plane. It was my obsidian-haired friend Desiree from college, and she would be our pilot for the day. She rushed over and clapped a hand on my shoulder with a smile. "Man, it's been forever since I've seen you last. What have you been up to?"

I chuckled and slapped her lightly on the back. "Oh not much, just inkin', strummin', and killin'." I then turned to Dash and held an arm open, beckoning her over. "Dizzy, this is Rosabela. Rosa, this is my good friend Desiree. She's gonna be the one to fly us up there and kick us out of the plane."

Dash held out a hand to shake and smiled. "Hey Desiree, nice to meet you."

She shook Dash's hand and smiled back. "Likewise." She then turned to me and smirked. "First date and you're already wanting to jump out of a plane? She must be something."

I chuckled and shook my head. "She's just a close friend is all. I wanted to give her one of the ultimate thrills, so here we are. Can you go and get her suited up?"

Dizzy nodded and beckoned Dash over to her. "Alright girl, come to the hangar with me. We'll get you suited up and I'll give you a crash course in basic skydiving procedure. Forgive the phrasing, please." Dash giggled and nodded, following my friend into the hangar.

I followed and went to the men's locker room, grabbing my suit out of my rented locker and getting dressed in it. I was itching with excitement, mostly because I knew that once Dash got over the fear of hurtling towards the ground at terminal velocity, she would love every second of it.

I walked back towards the plane to find that Dizzy was going through the motions showing Dash proper positions and whatnot, as well as basic safety procedure.

"...lastly, whatever you do, stay calm. Flailing could send you into a spin, and that's bad." She said to Dash, and the rainbow-haired girl nodded.

I chuckled. "Yeah. Plus if you hit me in the face and knock me out, it's all over anyway."

Dash rolled her eyes at me but smiled. "Well don't worry, I'll be cool."

"Alright then...you two ready?" said our pilot with a smile. We both nodded and boarded the plane. After a short safety check, the engine started and we started moving down the empty runway at a slow speed. Dash was fascinated by the plane, and wore an expression of awe the whole time we made our way to the main runway. There was an unknown co-pilot in the cabin already, and we just waved at him.

I clipped myself up to Dash and she giggled. "Well now...this is a fun position."

I called her bluff and whispered into her ear, "Even more fun without clothes."

She blushed hotly and looked over her shoulder at me. I couldn't contain it anymore and burst out laughing. After rolling her eyes, she joined me in laughter, but immediately stopped as we started to pick up speed. I positioned us so that she could look out the window as we took off, and she was in relative heaven. I'd never seen her smile so big and as corny as it sounds, it warmed my heart to see it. As we started to climb, I could see Dash's demeanor change from excited to afraid.

At that moment, Dizzy called back to me, "Alright Koa, I've got clearance for a twenty-five thousand feet high-altitude jump, that means you two need to put your masks on." I nodded and started to fix the oxygen mask to my partner's face, and Diz continued with, "Koa, I'm taking a big risk in doing this...but you told me she needed it. I'm trusting you not to make me regret it."

I nodded as I fixed the mask on my face. Dizzy nodded back as we climbed higher and higher into the air. I watched the altimeter until it reached just under twenty-three thousand, at which point Dizzy started to level the plane out and turned back to us. "Alright you two, landing zone is two miles to the east of the runway. Look for the giant red square with a yellow circle in the middle." The plane leveled out and she held up a closed fist. A light came on in the cabin as the plane started to depressurize, and once the light turned green Dizzy gave me a thumbs up.

I could feel Dash shaking a bit so I hugged her tight from behind and whispered, "Dash, I promise...you'll love this. I'd never let anything happen to you on my watch. I swear it." This calmed her down a bit and she nodded forward, so we stood in tandem and walked towards the door. I lifted the latch handle and the door came open, at which point the co-pilot grabbed the handle and pushed it the rest of the way open, smiling.

The plane slowed considerably and Dizzy cleared her throat. "Okay, we're on target. Koa, it's on you, bud! You're gonna have about ninety seconds of safe freefall before you reach minimum altitude for your parachutes!" I nodded and placed my arms against the frame of the door. Dizzy then started the countdown.

"Alright, this is it! Jump in five!"

I crossed my partner's arms against her chest and held them there.


Dash closed her eyes in preparation.


Even through the cloth of our suits, I could feel Dash's pulse through her wrist.


We stepped out right on the edge of the doorframe.


I held onto Dash tight with my arms wrapped around her in a firm hug.


With a push off the balls of my feet, we were now airborne. Before the sound of air rushing by my ears started to drown out all sound, I heard Dash screaming. I couldn't help but smirk, but focused on the jump. I leveled us out and Dash took the "frog" position, as she was told to.

Dash reached back and tapped me to get my attention, and then crossed her ankles and put her arms at her sides in the "bullet" position. I grinned and took the same position, angling us forward. Our speed quickly increased and I could feel her shaking against me. However, she didn't break the position so I continued. With our increased speed, we soon reached the minimum altitude, so I motioned for her to spread out again as I did the same, slowing our fall speed. When we slowed as much as possible, I pulled the ripcord and felt a large physical shock as we stopped falling. We were some distance away from the landing zone, so I steered us towards it. We landed right in the middle, and fell over. Dash was still shaking...but she was laughing.

She took off her mask and laughed even louder. I unhooked us from each other, and once her laughter subsided, she looked back at me. "Koa...that. Was. AWESOME!"

"I knew you'd like it, Dashie." I said with a wide grin of my own.

She stopped laughing when she realized what I called her, and when I realized as well I was mentally kicking myself. More than likely that nickname was a sensitive subject for her, and I probably crossed a huge line. However, instead of her crying or yelling, she smiled warmly.

The rainbow-haired girl crawled over to me and patted me on the shoulder. "Thanks a lot for this, Koa. This just made my day."

Now relieved, I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding and smiled. "You're welcome, Dash. I'm happy to see you smile."

After relaxing for a bit, Dizzy came around with her car to pick us up. We headed back to the hangar and got dressed again, then went out for a late lunch.

We stopped by a hole-in-the-wall shop that sold funnel cakes and burgers. I decided to share a pastry with Dash while Dizzy went with a burger. As Dash and I ate the glazed apple cake, she eyed the cheeseburger that Diz was eating. After Diz got up to run to the restroom, Dash kept staring at the lovely creation of meat and cheese.

She pointed at it with confusion, whispering, "Koa, what's that?"

I sighed and closed my eyes. "I was really hoping to break this to you easier than this, Dash...but humans are omnivores."

She gasped and drew back. "Y-you mean..."

I nodded. "Yes...we eat other animals as well as plants. That right there used to be part of a cow." I said, motioning to the cheeseburger.

She took it surprisingly well, considering. As soon as Diz got back, Dash rushed to the restroom as well, saying she had to "clean up".

Diz watched her leave and smiled at me. "It's good to see you back on the market after all these years, sea monster." she said, using the nickname she picked for me back in college.

I chuckled and waved a hand off, dismissing her. "I said it's not like that, Dizzy. We're just close friends."

She stared at me with a face that said she didn't believe me. "Please...I see how you look at her. You really like her, don't you? And don't lie to me, Koa...or so help me I'll call Lil and tell her about that one time yo-"

"Okay fine, I like her!" I yelled.

Diz smiled and nodded. "See? Was that so hard?"

I grumbled and then sighed sadly. "It's just...a part of me feels like I'm betraying Kay just by feeling attracted to the girl."

"Koa...Kay's gone." Diz responded softly. She placed a hand on my shoulder before continuing. "I miss her too, man, but she was my best friend as well. I knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't want you to forsake possible relationships simply because of her. Kaykay loved you more than anything, but she also was far from possessive. She'd want you to move on, man."

I took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah...that's what everyone keeps telling me."

She rolled her eyes and pulled my face to look at her. "Well why don't you start listening then? I'm not saying forget all about Kay, because we both know damn well that you could never do that. What I'm saying is allow yourself to live your own life again."

Before we could continue the conversation further, Dash came back looking quite a bit better than when she left. The color had returned to her face, and even though I could tell it still bothered her, she didn't have the same utterly disgusted look when she saw Dizzy's sandwich.

"Sorry about that, Koa." Dash said softly, smiling. She then pointed at the funnel cake. "Are you gonna finish that? I'm starved." I shook my head and pushed the pie tin over to her, and she voraciously chowed down on the sweet doughy mess. Diz couldn't help but giggle at the rainbow-headed girl's antics, and I joined her in laughter.

It was starting to get late, so we got up to leave. Dash headed to the restroom one more time to clean herself up (the food got EVERYWHERE), and Diz stood next to me as we waited.

She nudged me and nodded towards the restrooms. "She's got beautiful eyes the likes of which I've never seen before, and fucking rainbow-dyed hair. That and the fact that she obviously likes you a lot and her personality gels so well with yours." She patted me on the back. "She’s perfect for you...just give her a chance."

I rolled my eyes, but nodded. "Yeah...I think I can do that. You're right."

She puffed out her chest and beat it with a fist. "Of course I'm right, did you forget who you're talking to?"

I smirked. "Slenderman."

Her demeanor instantly changed to embarrassment, and she glared at me. "Fuck. You. You swore you'd never bring that up."

I chuckled and hugged her affectionately while she pouted. "Aww come on, it wasn't that bad. You only had nightmares for what, a week?"

"Yeah, and it wouldn't have been so bad if you hadn't dressed up in that costume and chased me down the boardwalk that night." she said with annoyance.

I let go of her and laughed. "Well, at least you made it in the paper as 'The Slender Wailer'."

She shoved me and I just laughed some more. Dash then came jogging out of the restroom with a smile, so we grabbed our stuff and left.

It was early evening by the time we got home, so I took a quick shower and proceeded to tidy up the spare bedroom while my new roommate took a shower. After putting new sheets and a thin blanket down, I walked out into the hallway, right into a very surprised Rainbow Dash. Her head slammed into my forehead and we tumbled backwards, landing with a grunt from each of us. When I opened my eyes, she was laying on top of me with her eyes closed, a grimace on her face. She opened her eyes as well, and upon seeing the position we were in (and the fact she was only covered in a towel), she jumped off of me, pulling the towel tight to her body.

"Erm...sorry Koa. I'll just...go get ready for bed." she said quickly before running off to the bedroom I'd set up for her.

I shook my head and headed to my bedroom, quickly dressing down and slipping into my own bed after turning out the lights. As I stared at the ceiling and thought about the day, I found my thoughts starting to drift not to Kay...but to Dash. As dirty as it was, I was finally allowing myself to admire the image of her body. Those lean, toned legs and stomach. That tight, firm butt...

'Dude...you need to get laid.'

I sighed and pushed the thoughts away again, figuring I should cut it off before it goes too far.

I lay in my bed for another hour or so, unable to sleep. As weird as it sounded, my bed felt...empty. It was the same kind of feeling I had after Kay had passed, and it confused me.

There was a near undetectable sound of footsteps coming down the hallway, and I pretended I was asleep as my door opened softly. Through near-closed eyes, I could see the slender figure of my houseguest stand in the doorway for a moment before walking over to the other side of the bed. I felt the bed shift as she lay down next to me, and I felt the warmth of her skin as she got closer.

I rolled over onto my back and draped my arm around her with a smile. "This is going to be a permanent thing, isn't it?"

For reasons unknown she got shy all of the sudden and looked away. "Oh, w-well I'm sorry. I can go if you want me to..." and she started to scoot away.

I stopped her by pulling her close again, holding her against my side with my arm. "No...you don't have to go unless you want to."

"I don't..." she said softly.

It was at that moment that I realized something: in my bed with my arm around her, the feeling of loneliness was gone. My bed no longer felt empty...it was like she belonged there. Deciding not to push the thoughts any further, I simply lay my head back and closed my eyes, falling soon into a peaceful slumber.

Chapter 5: Prismatic Dreams

Chapter 5: Prismatic Dreams

My dream last night was simple, short, and sweet. I was actually in the exact same place I fell asleep in, and Dash was asleep at my side as well...but we had a visitor. Because of the realism of the dream, I questioned whether it actually happened in reality or not, but it was vivid enough to make an impression on me. In the dream, I was "awakened" by a soft hand brushing my left cheek. I looked over to see Kayla standing there with a blank expression on her face. Her lack of speech unnerved me at first, until she looked over at the girl in my embrace. Kayla stared at Dash for a few moments before her eyes wandered back to me. What I saw was nothing like I expected. Instead of pain, betrayal, or even unhappiness, I saw the most loving, genuine smile I'd ever seen on her face. With that, my lost love simply nodded, and I woke up.

In case you haven't noticed, my dreams seem to be more like visions than anything else. From what I know about the world and the way it works, communing with the dead through dreams shouldn't be possible. That being said, the personalities of the people in my dreams and daydreams are way too complex for it to just be my own mind populating the dream with my interpretation of these passed loved ones. With that in mind, I'd taken to believing these dreams of mine, and what the people in them told me, and how they guided me when I needed it. My previous night's dream was a perfect example, and so like always, I took the "advice" to heart.

The sound of the ocean was the first thing I heard upon waking up in the real, waking world along with the cool, salty smell of the ocean air. I also found that I hadn't kicked the covers off of me in the night, which meant that with it being late September, Fall was in full swing. Luckily with this being the bay area of California, Fall (or "Autumn", if you want to be a prissy prick) was the perfect time of year - not too hot, and not too cold. The last thing I noticed was a new occurrence today: a soft-skinned, rainbow-haired beauty in my grasp, a smile on her face.

The occurrence was not new because of the fact this lovely creature was in my grasp - as it had happened the previous night. No...it was a new occurrence because now it felt right; it felt perfect. The guilt and heartache that would surface every time I would realize I was developing feelings for her were gone, instead being replaced by peace. I wasn't sure if it was because of the dream I had or because my emotions and loneliness were becoming so strong that I didn't care. Personally I'd like to think the former. Still, at the moment I was too tired to really care, and so instead I simply hugged her tighter against me and she moaned in her sleep, smiling even larger than before.

I was unwilling to wake her, as she looked so cute sleeping beside me - of course I'd never tell her that. Something told me the word "cute" might sound patronizing or condescending to this particular female. And so, instead of waking my bedmate and possibly incurring the wrath of said person, I opted to simply enjoy the feeling of warmth and security that sated my loneliness.

One thing had bothered me a bit, as I made a mental list of things we would do today to further integrate her into human society. What bothered me was what the Doctor had said to her as she lay dying in Equestria.

That she would see her friends again.

Now don't think me an asshole, because I'm not. I didn't mean it in such a way that I didn't want her to see her friends again. I did, very much so, because I could tell how much they meant to her. No...what I feared was far more grave, at least to me. Let's say that I open my heart to this amazing girl...what then? The Doctor had hinted that this would not be the last time she saw her friends, and I had the distinct impression he meant that they wouldn't meet again in the afterlife (or heaven, or Shangrila...whatever you believe), but this one. It felt like he meant everypony (ugh...that feels weird to say that) would still be alive when said reunion happened. What did that mean for me? Would I fall in love with Dash just to have her taken away from me, or would I be able to stay with her? A wise man once said that the unknown is what gives excitement to an otherwise dull existence...but in this case he was wrong. Very very wrong. Not knowing such a thing was making my apprehension towards my feelings of attachment for this girl just grow.

I would never be so selfish as to want to keep Dash for myself. I reminded myself that even though she may have the body of a human, she doesn't belong on Earth. And so I made a vow to myself in the silence of morning that no matter what, Dash and her happiness - her needs and wants - came first. Besides, without everyone's favorite speedy pegasus, I could only imagine how the other Elements of Harmony were doing without Loyalty.

My thoughts were interrupted from continuing by another soft moan from my right, as well as grumbling. I opened my eyes to see Dash getting out of bed, but something was very different.

She was naked...in front of me...again.

This time I knew it was a completely different scenario, because I had explained to her the reason for clothes in human society. Frantically, I lifted the blanket up to find that thankfully, all of my clothes were still on, which means I hadn't done anything exceedingly stupid last night and not remembered. I was about to say something when my body decided to take control of my eyes and forced them to look at the stretching woman at the foot of my bed.

Even with all of my rational brain screaming at my eyes to look away (to which they refused to respond to), I couldn't help but take in every detail of her literally flawless figure. Blemish-free soft tan skin covered all of her toned, but not overly muscular body. When she turned around I found that yes, rainbow-patterned was the color of any of the little body hair she had, and that her chest was a large B- or small C-cup at least.

In my opinion, she had the perfect body.

As she turned back around with a decidedly sultry smile and headed out the room, I got a good look at her "natural tattoos". Just like in her other body, she had cutie marks on both of her hips. Lastly, I saw a very big difference between hers and Kayla's wings: Dash's were a realistic size and covered her entire back, stretching all the way to her buttocks.

As much as my horny "primitive" brain was enjoying the show, I was glad she left (as gay as that sounds). Let's just say that I hadn't gotten morning wood since I was seventeen, and I was definitely not wishing for her to see this morning's relapse. Thankfully the problem resolved itself in a minute or two of concentrating on utterly non-sexual things, which allowed me to stand up and walk towards the washroom. I could hear her singing - yes, singing - in the shower to some tune I thought I should know, but couldn't recognize. Something about a lot of smiles or something.

A few minutes later Dash left the bathroom with a smirk, mercifully covered by towels as she walked to "her" room. I just sighed heavily and walked into the bathroom, cleaning myself up for the day by shaving, showering and whatnot. The entire time though, I couldn't help but wonder exactly why I'd woken up next to a naked girl when said girl was fully clothed when I went to sleep. I had explained to her that someone seeing her naked was a thing that should only happen if she planned on being intimate...with...them...


'Nice, Koa...you're about as quick as a corpse.'

"Wait wait...that can't be fucking true. I mean we just met what, three days ago? There's got to be another explanation. Maybe she just got too hot. Yeah...I was an extra body heat in the bed and the blankets were on. That makes sense. She must have just gotten too warm and had to cool down." I said out loud to myself (a bad habit of mine). 'Okay...then why didn't she cover up when she got out of bed? And dude...she was practically eye-fucking you when she walked out, remember that?'

Well shit...I had me there.

My mind continued to reach out for possible explanations until I found one that was actually plausible: she must be ovulating. From what I remembered from high school health class - as well as my own experience - women always got really fucking horny around said time of every month. I mean, that made more sense than the alternative: that she actually was attracted to me so soon, or even more unbelievable...she was falling for me.

I was startled out of my mental debate by a loud knock at the door. "Koa? Come on, you've been in there for like a half-hour! If you love the water so much, let's go to the beach."
I sighed and finished up in the shower. I figured at this point I'd just bite the bullet and ask her straight out why exactly she was naked this morning in my bed...with me in it. No doubt it would be an uncomfortable conversation, - for me at the very least - but I needed an answer or else the wondering was going to drive me crazy.

As I stepped out of the shower and toweled myself dry, I stared at myself in the mirror, suddenly becoming oddly concerned with my appearance. I was bright enough to know when I was being too self-conscious, so I quickly finished drying and headed to my room. Since I had already gotten more than ten eyefuls of Dash, I resolved to lock my door so that she wouldn't get the same image in her head. Even if she was obviously less modest than me, I wasn't going to throw all caution to the wind with a loud "fuck it".

I took my time getting dressed as I continued to think of how I would phrase my question to her, and decided I should just come straight out with it. Quick, easy, and straight to the point...kinda like ripping off the band-aid. Hopefully there wouldn't be as much blood though.

I heard a knock on the door and luckily I was dressed in some "board shorts", so I opened the door to see Dash standing there with a big smile. "Come on, Koa! I've never been to the beach before. Let's go!"

I flashed a confused look her way. "What? Why? Don't you have beaches in Equestria?"

She nodded. "Yeah, but I had wings back then. Feathers soak up water like a sponge, so pegasi aren't really suited for swimming. I guess I should have been more specific - I never swam at the beach before."

I mouthed an "oh" before slipping on my sandals and starting to walk out. Dash stopped me with a look of confusion before motioning to my upper body. "Oh, I'm not wearing a shirt." I said calmly.

She motioned to her outfit consisting of a bikini top and the shorts she bought the other day. "You told me I have to wear all this when we're in public, so why do you not have to wear a shirt?"

I chuckled and smiled. "Because I'm a guy and I don't have," I motioned to her chest, "those. A female's breasts are intimate. A man's bare chest is not."

She cocked an eyebrow but then snorted in frustration. "Well...that's kind of sexist if you ask me."

I nodded again and chuckled. "I think Lily would agree with you. All the same, it's still a law."

I turned to leave again when - yet again - she stopped me. This time however, she was holding her hand to my back. She was tracing her finger lightly over the outline of the wings on my back, which were the same length as hers. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel really nice.

"You have wings too?" she asked with no small amount of excitement bleeding through into her voice.

I turned my head back to see her and smiled. "It's just a tattoo, Dash. Believe me, I wish they were real."

She frowned, but finally followed me as we walked outside.

It was a short walk to the beach from my house, and it was still pretty early in the day. Also with the fact it was Wednesday, it meant that number one: I'd be able to play hooky for another day from work. Number two: the beaches would be relatively clear, save for locals. We headed for my favorite swimmable beach we called "gull snack shack", simply because the seagulls of the area had become so accustomed to people that any food brought was not safe. Many a time have tourists been holding a nice tasty sandwich, only to be nearly attacked by a flock of gulls. Thankfully, Dash and I ate before we left, so no food would be the bane of our day at this beach.

We found a nice spot a ways away from the high tide mark, so I proceeded to lay out our two towels on the sand as well as a small beach parasol in case Dash wanted shade. However, after I set out everything and Dash set her things down, I was surprised as she ran towards the waves as if they were diamonds instead of salt water. She without fear ran into a wave that had already broken on shore only to shriek and jump back.

I chuckled as I walked up to her. "Cold, isn't it?"

She rolled her eyes. "Maybe a little bit." She then changed her expression to one of pleading. "Umm...I know how to swim...but can you stay near me? I'm just scared something's going to grab me out of the water."

I chuckled again and smiled. "Nothing's going to grab you at this beach, I promise. I'll still make sure I stay next to you, though. Only thing you need to know is that the current is a lot stronger here than you might expect. If for some reason you start getting pulled away from the beach, swim parallel until you don't feel a current anymore, then swim back."

She raised an eyebrow in confusion and a little bit of fear at the statement. "Why? Is there something dangerous out there?"

I shook my head. "There's no monsters or anything in this water, at least not here. It's just that if you try to fight the current and swim against it, you'll just tire yourself out and likely drown. Just do as I say and you'll be fine, I promise."

She looked up at me with those beautiful violet eyes and a look of innocence. "Pinkie Pie promise?"

"Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye." I said, mocking out the movements.

That was apparently all the encouragement she needed, as she jumped into the seafoam created by the breaking of the waves against the shore. I followed her in with a smile as she shrieked again from the cold.

This was going to be fun.

I was amazed at how long she was able to swim, but remembered exactly how athletic she must be, even in this body. She took to the water like a fish, and I was surprised to find she was almost as strong a swimmer as I was. Unfortunately for her, an undercurrent caught her - just like I predicted. Going against my instincts, I followed her out to the second sandbar and helped her swim back to shore. By the time we made it back to the sand, we were too tired to continue playing in the water, and so instead went back to our towels to rest.

It was only about midday by this time, so I pulled out one of the beers I had brought with me (I know it's before 17:00, but it's a beach in California, so fuck you).

Dash stared at me incredulously as I popped the top of a Grolsch - my favorite beer.

What's that?" she asked, pointing at the bottle.

I smiled as I took a swig of the lovely drink. "This is Grolsch. It's a beer, to put it simply."

She scrunched her face up in distaste. "Ugh...never could really stomach beer."

"Well that's okay Dashie, because I've got something I brought just for you." I said as I reached into the bag, pulling out a creamy white drink made by SoBe.

She took the drink from me and unscrewed the cap. I was amazed at just how well she had adapted to having fingers. As she took a sip, she smacked her lips before taking a bigger drink. She then looked over and smiled at me. "Wow, this is really good. What is this?"

I pointed at her drink with a smirk, "That is a non-alcoholic version of a drink called piña colada. It's basically milk, coconut milk, and a hint of lime."

She smiled and lay down as she muttered a "thank you" to me.

A few minutes passed before I worked up the courage to ask the question that was bothering me earlier. I turned on my side and propped up my head with my arm, looking over at the rainbow-haired girl before me. "Hey Dash? I have a bit of a question for you...about this morning."

She opened her eyes and also turned towards me, resting on her arm. "Yeah? What part?"

I shifted a little nervously before collecting yourself. "Umm...well the whole 'you not having any clothes on' thing."

She blushed a bit but smiled. "Oh...liked that, did you?"

"Well yeah, it was really ni- wait, that's not what I meant, Dash. What I meant was why weren't you wearing any clothes while you were in bed with me? When I first met you it was different, because you didn't know. I have to know then, why did you decide to get rid of your clothing in the middle of the night while in bed with me?" I asked, hoping she wasn't going to say what I thought she was...though at the same time hoping she would.

She blushed even harder, but held her gaze looking right at me. "Well, it was kind of warm during the night."

A part of me felt very relieved, but what bothered me is that an even stronger part of me felt disappointed.

"And," she started, "it just felt like it was okay..." she explained, trailing off.

I cocked my head in confusion, but held an otherwise impassable expression. "Well I did tell you that nudity was a thing of intimacy between two people. You should only be like that around someone you really, really care about."

She was still blushing, but smiled warmly. "I know Koa, I remember. That's why I felt like it was okay."

Wait a minute...was she saying what I think she was? No...I must have heard wrong or must be reading too deep into this. I figured I'd just bite the bullet - again - and just ask her straight out. "Dash...how do you see me? Do you see me as just a friend or as something more?"

Now she sat up and looked straight at me, no longer blushing. "More...much more."

I was utterly shocked. If I had been a pc, I'd be getting the blue-screen-of-death right now. For the longest time I was in my own world, though even I'm not sure where that was. All I know is that the next thing I realized was that Dash was waving her hand in my face.

"Hello? You there Koa?" she said with a hint of a giggle.

I shook my head and coughed nervously. "Y-yeah, sorry about that. I was just..."

"Surprised?" she finished for me.

I nodded. "Yeah...that."

She giggled again before suddenly taking on a very serious expression. "Look Koa, you know how I feel about you now. Still, I don't want to force you into anything you're not ready for. It wouldn't be very loyal of me to be selfish."

I sighed and almost felt her deflate a bit in disappointment. I looked at her with a blank expression before responding. "If you'd said the same thing to me maybe a day or two ago, I'd have turned you down immediately." She nodded, and I could see the flashes of hope sparking in her eyes. "However...things have changed a lot in just the past few days for me." I sat tall and took another drink of my beer before continuing. "I can't say what's going to happen, Dash or where life's going to take us." I stopped and cleared my throat, getting a little nervous before my next statement. "However...I'd love to have you in my life as mine."

She sat completely still for the longest time, and I feared maybe I'd said something wrong...but suddenly as more time passed, I noticed a smile slowly growing on her face. Thankfully for me, there was no awkward corny request I had to make for us to "go out"...Dash was a girl of action. She simply crawled over to me and hugged me tight against her, the feeling for some reason giving me goosebumps. She released me and looked right into my eyes for a moment before closing the distance with a kiss. It was soft, yet passionate...and it spoke all the words that her voice didn't.

I still didn't know why or how this was happening so fast...I didn't even fall for Kay this fast, but at this point I didn't care. There was no doubt in my mind - I could easily grow to love Rainbow Dash...and I felt she could easily do the same with me. So, for the first time in half a week, I stopped thinking and just enjoyed the moment.

"Aww...that's sooo cute!" said a voice from my right.

I broke the kiss with Dash and looked towards the boardwalk to see Lily and Dizzy standing there with amused expressions. They walked over to us and joined Dash and I with equal smirks.

"What?" I asked them both.

They just giggled and Diz slapped me on the arm, hard enough to leave a handprint, even on my dark skin. "I knew you two were perfect for each other from the moment I saw you."

I rolled my eyes with a grin. "Yeah yeah, Sergeant Dizzy, matchmaker. I know, I know."

Lily didn't say anything, she just stared at Dash for the longest time. Slowly, her eyes started to get wider and wider as Dash turned around to pick up her sunglasses. Lily went to the hips, then the hair, then the back.

She grabbed me by the arm to pull me away, looking at the two bewildered girls we were leaving. "You two just talk or whatever, me and Koa got to have a little chat." She basically then threw me on the sand and sat down next to me. "Dude, who is she? Really?"

For reasons unknown, I suddenly became really paranoid. "Umm...I already introduced you, didn't I?"

She shook her head. "I know, I know...you said her name was Rosabela." She then squinted her eyes in a glare at me. "But that's not true, is it?"

Okay...now I know the reason I was paranoid. "W-what do you mean, Lil?"

"Don't fuckin' 'Lil' me right now, Koa. I'm not fucking stupid. Two cutie mark tattoos matching a certain pony's, and huge blue wings on her back? Okay, those could pass...but her hair? I've seen rainbow hair dyes before, and they were far from perfect. Not like hers. That and the fact that this 'dye' goes all the way to the fucking roots. Now I'm going to ask you again, Koa: who is she?"

I was flabbergasted...there was just no way she could have figured it out. Dash basically dropped in my lap one night, and even I had a hard time believing it at first. I decided to take the safe route and let her answer the questions. "Who do you think she is?"

She glared at me before holding up her arms outer-forearms out, then placed them on top of each other. The markings on her arms never made sense to me until now. Through the seemingly random squiggles and graphics, one sentence now stood out: "Rainbow Dash is best pony."

'Well fuck...'

I was quiet for the longest time before I sighed, telling her everything she needed to know. Lily sat beside me with a look that crossed between excited and confused. "How the fuck did this happen? Why is she here?"

I then proceeded to quietly explain to her everything that Dash told me the first night...about her death. Like me, at the end of the story, Lily was sobbing. Dash noticed this and walked over with Diz, a concerned look on her face.

"What are you two talking about, Koa?" my now-girlfriend (or marefriend, depending on how you look at it) asked.

I simply sighed and looked over at her. "She knows, Dash."

My look and the fact I had called her by her real name in front of the two others told her everything she needed to know. "How...how did she figure it out?"

Lily laughed and pointed at her. "You should have at least dyed your hair or something. Along with the other stuff, it's a dead giveaway."

"Um, hello? Completely confused as to what's going on, here." Diz said in annoyance.

I sighed and stood up. "Okay Diz, do you recognize her tattoos at all?"

She nodded. "Yeah, they're Rainbow Dash's off of My Little Pony."

I raised an eyebrow. "How the hell do you know that?"

"I'm a pegasister, Koa. You didn't know that? I could have swore I told you that at some point." she stated.

I didn't remember her ever telling me any such thing, but nonetheless I continued. "Well Diz, there's a reason she has them...they're not tattoos."

Now she looked even more confused. I turned to Dash. "Do you mind if she touches them?"

Dash looked confused, but shook her head. "No, I don't mind."

I then turned back to Diz. "Okay Diz, you know what tattooed skin feels like compared to normal skin. Feel them, and tell me what they feel like."

The confused expression never left Dizzy's face, but she complied and gently ran her fingers over the cutie mark on Dash's right hip, causing said girl to blush at the contact. After a moment of investigation Diz stepped back with a shocked expression.

"Those aren't tattoos...that's normal skin. But how-" She stopped as her eyes grew even larger - if that's possible - in realization. "No...no, it's not possible."

I cut her off before she could go into the whole schpiel I went through the first night. "It's possible, Diz...and it's really happening. I don't know how, I don't know why, but yes...it's really her."

She calmed down after a moment as she quickly - if not unexpectedly - accepted what I said. She had a smirk on her face when she replied. "So let me get this straight...you're in with Rainbow Dash in human form? I know a lot of people who are going to be really jealous of you."

I waved my hands frantically. "No, no! You two can't tell anyone about this! Promise me right now - in fact, Pinkie promise - that you will not tell a soul about this at all!"

Diz slumped and rolled her eyes. "Fine...cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."

"Lily?" I asked, turning to the mentioned woman.

She nodded. "Ditto."

I shook my head. "Do it."


"Yes, really."

She sighed, but complied. "Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye."

I then nodded in satisfaction, relaxing. "Thank you...both of you. I know how cool this would be to tell everyone, but I have to think about her safety as well. While it's true most government officials would just pass something like this off as being some crackpot rumor, with our luck that one not-so-stable one will catch wind of it. I can't afford to put her in that kind of danger, so we all have to shut up about it." Diz and Lily both nodded in agreement, thankfully. I then turned to Dash. "I don't want anything to happen to you is all, Dashie. I really care about you a lot."

She smiled and held my hand softly in hers. "I know, Koa. I understand the need for secrecy, believe me."

The rest of the day was pretty calm, otherwise. The three girls chatted like mad about all sorts of things, mostly Dash's life "behind-the-scenes". Thankfully they didn't tell her about the show, simply giving the same line I had told Dash the first night. I just relaxed, drinking the rest of the six pack of beer and napping. Before I knew it, I was being softly shaken awake by a girl with rainbow hair.

"Koa, c'mon get up. The sun's going down and I'm hungry. Let's head back to your house and get something to eat, please." she said with urgency.

I grumbled but nodded, standing up and grabbing everything we brought before heading towards the road.

We arrived home a little after seven, so I quickly fixed us up something to eat. For Dash, I made a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms with her choice of dressings, while I heated up and made some Khalua-marinated shredded pork with some two-finger sweet poi. As I sat down and began to eat, I noticed the girl next to me staring at my food intently.

"Do you want to try some?" I asked, holding a small forkful of the meat up towards her.

She seemed a little apprehensive at first before shrugging. "Well I'll probably be here for the rest of my life. Might as well try and adapt to a human's eating habits." She then took the small bite and chewed, moving the sweet pork and onion around in her mouth a bit to taste it. To my surprise, she swallowed and didn't actually look disgusted. "Alright, I'll admit...that was really good. What animal was that, if you don't mind me asking?"

I took a bite myself, chewed, and swallowed. "Pig, also known as pork when it's food."

She shrugged and smiled. "Well I guess I could get used to the diet. Still kinda bothers me that I just ate another animal. I mean, in Equestria, we ponies wouldn't even crave the stuff to eat. I guess it's really different here though."

"Well Dash, I only allow myself to eat meat once every few days, if that. The human body needs a lot of protein to survive, but most of it we can get from vegetables and even eggs. Most of our diet will be vegetables, eggs, and fruits. Too much meat is bad even for humans. Makes you fat and clogs your arteries." I stated plainly.

She nodded and finished her salad quickly, walking over to the sink and washing it out. "Hey Koa, I have a question for you. I mean you don't have to answer if you don't want to, but..."

I nodded. "Shoot, Dash. You can ask me anything, and I mean anything. I don't have any reason to hide anything from you."

She placed the clean dish on the drying rack and walked over to me as I continued eating. "How do you see me? Be brutally honest, please."

I swallowed the last bite of food and walked over to the sink, also washing off my plate. "Well Dash, you're really impulsive. You rarely think things through before you take action, and you have a bit of a temper when it comes to someone trying to hurt or insult your friends." She was about to say something but I held a hand up to silence her. "Let me finish, please." She nodded and I put my plate away before sitting on the couch. She joined me, sitting a small distance away. "You're a bit conceited, and you tend to have a hard time taking things seriously.

Her face fell and I could tell she was about to cry. "So...I'm that bad, huh?"

I placed a hand on her shoulder, and when she looked up at me I shook my head. "I never said it was all bad, Dash." I smiled before continuing. "You're impulsive, but when you or your friends' lives are on the line, you can't afford to sit there and think...you need to take action. You have a bad temper, but righteously so. You get upset not because of yourself being insulted, but because of your friends. You're arrogant and conceited, but only because you know how good you are because you've worked so very hard to get there. You joke around a lot, but you do so to try and lighten the mood when everyone else is too tense and taking things too seriously." I squeezed her shoulder a bit affectionately. "Lastly, but certainly not least, you are loyal to the end to your friends. You would do anything for them...even sacrifice your dreams. I saw what you did when the Shadowbolts tried to recruit you in the Everfree Forest. A pony that wasn't absolutely loyal to herself and her friends could never have had the strength to do that." I leaned over and placed a kiss on her forehead before sitting back and looking into her glistening violet eyes. "I don't know how you got here, why you're a human now, or if you're even the bearer of the Element of Loyalty anymore. What I do know is that even though you're not a pony anymore, you're still every bit as awesome, amazing, loyal...and beautiful as you ever were."

"You...you think I'm beautiful?" she said softly after a few moments of silence.

I found this funny that out of that little speech, that of course was the thing she wanted clarification on. Instead of laughing, I leaned towards her again and planted a gentle kiss on her smooth, soft lips. "Do you know what I just did?" She shook her head and I smirked. "I just kissed possibly the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on."

Her cheeks turned a bright red with blush as her eyes almost seemed to glow with happiness. She hugged me tightly and smiled. "Thank you, Koa. Nopony's ever told me that before. Um, I mean no one...you know what I mean."

I chuckled and hugged her back. "Yeah, I know what you mean." I then released her and nodded towards the stairs. "You go take a shower first." She nodded and headed upstairs to the washroom. I made my way up to my room, cleaning up a bit and setting my clock, as I need to stop slacking and go into work tomorrow. I sighed and lay back on my bed while waiting for the rainbow wonder to finish her shower. Just like most things so far, she was fast and was done in about five minutes. She jerked her thumb towards the washroom before heading down the hallway to get dressed.

After taking a shower of my own and brushing my teeth again, I opted to simply sleep in a pair of boxers with no shirt tonight, not really caring anymore if she saw me. After all, I still had underwear on. As if on cue, she walked into the room in nothing but a tank top and tight shorts. She didn't even ask as she turned off the light and lay on the right side of the bed beside me, getting comfortable. I was about to wrap my arm around her like I had been doing, but instead she rolled over on top of me, straddling me with a grin.

"Dash? What are you doing?" I said, grinning back. She said no words, and simply leaned down, planting a firm kiss on my bottom lip, nibbling very lightly. I let loose a very soft groan and responded, "That is so not fair, Dashie. I swear this can't be your first time. That was a pro move."

She shrugged. "I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm some innocent little girl and that 'you're my very first kiss and it means so much to me'. Well...it does mean a lot to me, but no...you're not my first."

I shrugged right back and smiled. "Fair enough. I appreciate the honesty."

She nodded and leaned down again to continue tracing her lips on mine before running her tongue on my lips. I opened my lips as well and was met with the sensation of her oral muscle twirling itself around mine, as if by magic.

This continued for at least twenty or so minutes, eventually graduating to her grinding her hips against me while she continued to fervently make out with me. Had I been a lesser man, I would have been pitching a hell of a tent right then, but thankfully I controlled myself.

As lust started to cloud my mind, I found myself wanting to push it further, but I stopped myself. Thankfully she didn't push any further either, apparently thinking the same thing. No matter how well we "gelled" together, three days was way too soon for anything really intimate. Still, we were both out of breath and simply lay in each other's embrace for another few minutes or so before falling asleep in each other's arms.

Chapter 6: Visitor

Chapter 6: Visitor

I woke up in a death grip with the rainbow-haired woman next to me during early morning, the sun not having come up yet and my alarm mercifully not screaming at me yet. I grumbled as my brain refused to let me go back to sleep, and so I instead tried to think of a way to get Dash to release me. I tried the conventional means of simply prying her off, but her grip was much tighter than I thought. She was holding on to me as if letting go would make me disappear. It was endearing, but I still had to get ready for work. Suddenly, I had an idea and I grinned maniacally as I turned my head towards her and started to trail kisses down her neck. As expected, she moaned softly in her sleep, but still didn't let go. I became frustrated and bit her hard behind her shoulder, causing her to moan even louder and even start panting a bit...but it did wake her up.

'Hmm...she likes it a little rough. I'll have to keep that in mind for later.'

She released me from her grasp and yawned before her eyes fluttered open. She smiled dreamily for a moment before sitting up. "Mmm...I had the best dream just a second ago..."

I tasted blood in my mouth and pulled her towards me, noticing the mark I left was bleeding where my canines were. 'Great...' "Sorry about that Dashie, but I don't think what you were dreaming about was just a dream."

She reached behind her shoulder and pulled her hand back, noticing a small bit of blood. She grinned at me seductively and placed her hand on my thigh, giggling a bit. "Oh, so that was real. Hmm...this could be fun."

It killed me to do it, but I stopped her, shaking my head. "I'm sorry Dashie, but I have to go back to work today." I grinned and kissed her on her cheek, causing her to blush. "We'll have to finish this later, if you're up to it."

"I'll be holding you to that, Koa." she said, her grin still wide. She then frowned and looked at me quizzically. "Umm...what am I supposed to do for however long you're at work?"

I shrugged. "Well there's always the beach, or you can just walk around town. It's pretty safe around here, so you don't have to worry about anyone snatching you or anything. Just...cover your markings up." I said, stroking the wings on her back. She shivered at the touch and gasped, and I noticed an abnormally large amount of muscles in her back, which oddly didn't show. I cocked my head in confusion, and felt the marking again, causing her to shiver and fall against me.

"C-careful, Koa. I don't know why, but it's really sensitive." she explained with a small smile, her rose-colored eyes shining.

I raised an eyebrow in interest. "Strange...hey Dashie? I want you to try and flex your wings like you normally would." She nodded and I placed my hand against her back, but then snatched it away in shock when I felt muscles moving in her back. "Weird." I stated with confusion.

"What?" she asked, equally confused and interested.

I placed a hand on my chin and scrunched my face in thought. "Well, I could be wrong, but it seems like even though you're a human, certain things on you didn't change at all. This seems to include your cutie marks, your hair...and apparently your flight muscles."

She looked at me, equally confused. "Why would I still have flight muscles if I can't fly?"

I shrugged. "Dunno. Gotta remember, I don't even know why or how you got here in the first place, so something like this doesn't really faze me."

She pondered for a moment and then shrugged. "I guess you're right. Okay then, I'll just wander around town until I get bored, I guess. What time do you get off work?"

"Well Dash, I mean I don't get off until about 18:00." I explained, but then placed a hand on my chin in thought. "Hmm...you know, if you're interested I might be able to get you a job there. Oh wait...no, that might be a problem. I forgot, you don't have a birth certificate or anything."

She eyed me quizzically. "What's a birth certificate and why do I need one to work?"

"Well Dash, a birth certificate is just what it sounds like. It's a certificate basically confirming that you were born. It's a way to prove your existence, and that you are who you say you are. I mean, there are ways to get you one, though. I have a friend up in the state records department who could pull some strings for me, we just need to come up with a last name and a date of birth." I said, straining to think of everything to handle this.

She shrugged and smiled. "Well I was born on April 23rd. As far as last names, why don't I just use yours?"

I waved a hand off. "No, we can't really do that. If we were to have the same last name, that would imply that we're related. I don't know how it is in Equestria, but here relatives dating is highly frowned upon in most areas of the world."

She smiled sheepishly and blushed. "Oh...yeah. I didn't think of that, sorry."

I thought for a second longer before smiling. "Well, what about Kapule? It's a Hawiian last name, like mine, but the family line has kinda died out. So at this point, it's not like anyone's going to come and challenge your claim to the name."

She nodded and smiled. "Sounds cool. Does it mean anything?"

"Yeah, I think it means 'the prayer' or 'the magic' or something like that." I explained with a grin. "So in essence, you'll be 'the beautiful magic rose'."

She blushed and pushed me bashfully. "You planned this didn't you? Gosh, you're corny."

I threw up my hands and grinned. "I swear, I didn't plan this. Although, I do say it works out nicely." I then headed out the door to the shower. "Alright, well I'm gonna shower and get ready for work. If you need me, you know where the tattoo shop is, okay? We'll go and get you set up for a birth certificate and I.D. card tomorrow."

After cleaning myself up and making us a quick breakfast, I headed off to work...but not before a certain girl decided to pull me into a very steamy makeout session. I swear, the television show must not do any justice to the real life of the ponies, because there is no way she could have learned that keeping things G-rated in her life.

Anyway, as I headed off to work with my beauty by my side, I couldn't help but notice all the stares that we got walking down the strip towards my shop. I had opted for a simple pair of white Converse shoes, cargo shorts and no shirt, while Dash was wearing a white tank top, her shorts, and her rainbow shoes. The looks we were getting were not ones of confusion, but rather jealousy...and I couldn't help but smirk, as if to say, "That's right bitches...she's mine." Pride and arrogance was never something I had before, but I honestly couldn't help it with the lovely eye candy beside me. Sure, she was so much more than that, but no one else knew that, and so I simply smiled all the way to work.

When we arrived to find Lily, Mike, and Viktor (a Russian in California...go figure), Dash gave me a big kiss before leaving. As she left, I felt stares from all three, and I just gave a smirk before walking to the back. When I got there to go through my morning job of looking through the finances really quick and checking the profit - you know, boring stuff - Mike and Vik walked back to meet me there.

"Dude...how? How did you get that?" Mike asked, his mouth agape with shock.

I turned to meet him with a look of offense. "And what the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

Vik answered in his strong accent, "We mean no offense, Koa. Simply that you haven't been the most open to the women lately."

I shrugged and smiled. "Well, when you find one worth it, you go for it. Even I'm smart enough to know that."

Vik shrugged and walked away, but apparently Mike wouldn't let it go. "That can't be the whole story though, man. There's got to be something you're not telling me. I mean for fuck's sake, she's a fucking model!"

I shook my head with a smirk. "No, she's not into all the modeling thing. She's more into sports, and I'm pretty sure she could kick your ass in pretty much anything. She's a lot stronger than she looks." I then decided to end the conversation before he could let it go any further. "Look man, she's into me, and I'm into her. That's all you need to know, and that's all that matters." I then left to get to work.

The day was pretty uneventful, a few regulars, a few newbies, and of course one person that thought it would be a smart idea to get really drunk before getting a tattoo. Normally we don't do tattoos on people who are intoxicated - simply because of the fact that the thinned blood causes the ink to just bleed out - but this guy offered to pay an extra 50%, so of course, I obliged. Hey, it's his money...and he'd just have to come back to get a touch-up anyway...which of course means more money for us.

Dash had apparently gotten bored at around 16:30, and so she spent the next hour and a half with me, which I didn't mind at all. With her fiery and fun personality - as well as her rainbow hair - everyone was more than excited to meet her, employees and patrons alike. A few of the little kids some of the customers brought even started calling her Rainbow Dash. She was a little scared at first, until I told her to just play along. Everyone thought she was simply a great actor, telling stories of her life and playing with the kids while their parents got tatted up, but Lily and I knew the truth and just smiled knowingly the whole time.

As I finished my job and waited for my last appointment, I sat on the couch in the "lobby" and drank a glass of pineapple juice and coconut milk. Dash joined me on the couch, sitting right on my lap instead of the seat next to me. I could have swore I saw Mike giving me a scowl out of the corner of my eye, but when I looked at him he was simply working on sketching out new tattoo ideas. I figured I'd talk to him about it later, and just dropped it for the time being.
My relaxation was interrupted by the door opening, a full twenty minutes before my next appointment. The person that walked in was a young teenage guy, probably not much older than my younger sister (sixteen years old). He had a vivid green mohawk and he was wearing an equally vivid purple shirt and brown shorts. His eyes were a vivid green as well, which seemed unnatural for some reason. Then again, the younger generation that lived in the area always made it a point to stand out, so I just ignored it. At least I would have, had he not strolled right up in front of me and Dash, a look of shock and happiness in his face.

"Umm...can we help you?" I said with a hint of annoyance.

The young boy just smiled and nodded. "Yeah, you can. Can the two of come outside with me? I have something I need to talk to you about."

Dash shrugged. "Fine kid, let's go."

We followed the young boy outside behind my shop at the edge of the beach, and he then turned around and smiled at us. For some reason his smile unnerved me...then I saw why. His canines were unnaturally long and sharp, sitting outside his lips even when his mouth was closed.

He must have noticed because he pointed at me and grinned. "It's not polite to stare you know."

"Sorry kid, it's just..." I tried to explain.

"The teeth?"

"Yeah...the teeth."

He grinned again and pointed at me. "I'm not the only one, look in the mirror."

"What do yo-" I started, before Dash cut me off.

She gasped and grabbed my face to turn it to hers, looking over me. "He's right, Koa. Your teeth are really sharp too. I guess that explains the mark..."

"What mark?" the young teenager asked.

I turned back to him and stuttered, "N-nothing, just forget it." I composed myself and stared him down. "Well you've dragged me away from work and shown me that I have fangs now - thanks for that, by the way - but you still haven't told me why. So what's the deal, why did you need to pull me away from work?"

He shook his head and pointed to Dash. "I really only wanted to talk to her, but something tells me you wouldn't be having any of that." He then walked forward and looked up at her, smiling. "It's good to see you again, Rainbow Dash."

I swear...any more gasping from her and she's going to turn into a balloon or something. Dash stared wide-eyed at the young boy while I was completely confused, but before I could ask what was going on she spoke. "S-Spike?"

Mind...you are now full of fuck.

The young boy nodded and smiled. Before he could speak again, Dash bent down and embraced him in a tight hug, causing him to groan as the air was squeezed out of him.

"Urk...Rainbow Dash...can't breathe!" he wheezed.

She released him and giggled. "Heh, sorry Spike. So how are you here?" she asked, before her eyes widened in fear. "You aren't dead, are you?"

He took a few deep breaths and shook his head. "Nope, I'm alive and well. Princess Celestia sent me here to make sure you were okay and all."

I had to have my questions now, so I interrupted somewhat rudely. "Whoa whoa whoa, Spike? Like the Spike from Equestria? Little purple dragon that breathes fire?"

He nodded. "The very same. I take it you're Koamalu Kamakani?"

"Wait, how did you know my name?" I asked in complete confusion.

He chuckled and smiled. "I personally didn't, the princesses did. I mean, they had to make sure that Rainbow Dash was in good hands."

Taking that all in, I was smart enough to know what was going on, and it suddenly became really depressed. "So you're here to take her back now, am I right?"

Before he could speak, Dash interrupted. "No...I'm not going back without Koa." she stated firmly.

The fact that she didn't want to leave without me made me feel such a huge amount of awesome that I thought my body would explode, but I couldn't let her do this. "Dashie, you don't belong here. This is a chance to go back to all your friends, to be home...to fly again."

She shook her head and stomped her foot in defiance. "I don't care, Koa. I'm not going without you."

Finally, Spike interrupted our argument with a loud, "QUIET!" We both stared at him in surprise and he sighed. "Look, I never said I was bringing anyone back." He turned to Dash and placed a hand on her arm. "Rainbow Dash, we're working on it...believe me, but because you died in Equestria we can't just bring you back. There's a lot of magic involved in doing this and it will happen, but it's going to take time. Bringing a dead body back to life is a lot harder than you'd think, and we don't want you to look like a zombie. Rotting flesh is not attractive." He then turned to me. "As for you, I'm sure we could work something out. It's pretty clear that Rainbow Dash isn't going anywhere without you, so I'll talk to Twilight and the princesses about it." He smiled and nodded. "We are working on a fix for all of this, but you have to give us time. I don't know how long it's going to take, but we'll send you letters to update you whenever something changes."

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "And how do you plan to do that?"

"Like this." he said, before releasing a large gout of green flames from his mouth at me. The pain was so intense, I started to black out, the last thing I heard being Dash screaming my name in fear.

I woke up to two pairs of eyes looking down at me with concern, one green, and one soft violet. I sat up and rubbed my head, as I now had possibly the biggest headache I've ever had along with a weird tingling all over my body.

Spike helped me sit up properly and grinned sheepishly. "Um...sorry about that. I probably should have told you that was going to hurt."

I glared daggers at him and rolled my eyes. "Yeah...you probably should have. What the hell did you do to me?"

He and Dash helped me up before he responded, "I awakened the latent magic in your body and connected you to me. Along with some physical changes that I'll let you figure out, this will let me send letters directly to you. It's not going to be like it is with me where you just burp them up - as I'm pretty sure that would draw a lot of attention to the two of you. Rather, you're going to feel a message waiting for you to answer at your convenience. I can't really explain how it'll feel, I'll just say that you'll know it when you feel it."

I nodded. "Okay then, I guess I can deal with that. Now on to the next point of importance, how long was I out? No matter what's going on, I still have a job to do to make sure we have food to eat and a place to live."

"It's only been like five minutes, Koa." Dash said quickly.

I nodded and looked back at the boy. "Okay, so what now?"

"Well, I can't stay here any longer or I'll risk being stuck here. I said what I came to say, and now I'll be going." he said with a smile. He looked at Dash and then me. "You two take care of each other. We'll be in touch." With that he simply disappeared in a gout of green flame. Luckily no one was around, because it was freaky to watch.

I looked over at Dash and she shrugged. "Well, that was interesting." She then kissed me and pushed me back towards the shop. "Come on, you still have a job to do for now." I nodded and headed back in.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful considering, even though we got to see some drunken asshole get his ass beat by a bouncer out on the corner (which was a riot to watch). After my last appointment was done - which was some unimaginative teenage girl getting a butterfly on her lower back - Dash and I headed off towards the town to get some food.

We stopped at a sushi bar near the outside of town for some sushi and sake, which I happen to have a weakness for. Dash was feeling adventurous, so she shared a round of tuna and shrimp finger rolls, along with a quart of warm sake. I have to say, Dash gets really happy off of sake. Not to the point where she's laughing obnoxiously, but so much so that she's smiling non-stop and she gets really handsy. Luckily it takes a lot to get me drunk, so I was still sober enough to keep her in line and walk us home.

When we got back to the house, it was probably around 20:00 or 21:00, so I forced Dash into the shower and readied a Powerade for her to make sure she wouldn't wake up with a hangover in the morning. The cool water must have brought her to her senses a bit, as she mercifully was covered in a towel and was not stumbling as she made her way off to her room. I then quickly jumped in the shower myself and brushed my teeth before meeting her downstairs. I had left a note near the electrolyte-heavy beverages telling her to drink them and why, so when I came downstairs she had gotten the hint and was sipping them while watching some late-night Cinemax.

I quickly grabbed the remote and changed the channel when I noticed just what the program she was watching was (hey, I was a single guy...don't judge). She looked up at me with confusion and I just shook my head. "This channel tends to have some rather adult-rated material on it late at night. By adult-rated, I mean people having sex on tv."

Her eyes widened and she blushed. "Oh...I-I'm sorry. I didn't know."

I chuckled and sat down next to her, embracing her in a hug. "You're not in trouble Dash, I just don't want you to catch sight of something that you didn't want to. Here, we'll watch a movie instead." I explained while changing the channel to a movie channel, a movie ending and Clash of the Titans coming up next. I got up to grab myself a Sprite from the fridge and sat down next to her.

She snuggled up against me and sighed contentedly. "Koa?"

"Hmm?" I hummed in response.

She hugged my arm tight and lay her head against my shoulder. "Were you really ready to let me just leave?"

I nodded and set my drink down on the end table before reaching over and cupping her face and kissing her softly, yet passionately for a few seconds. I then pulled away and smiled at her, looking into her shining violet eyes. "Dash, if it meant that you could go home and be with your friends again, I would gladly let you go." I sighed and looked down, a little sad. "I mean, I'm not going to lie, I would miss you a hell of a lot, but you belong with your friends, not on earth." I then looked back up at her with determination in my eyes. "That's why if it comes to the point where you have to choose between me and going home, I'll die before I let you give up your life and your friends for me."

She just looked at me in defiance. "Since this involves me, I think I have a say in what I do."

I shook my head. "Look Dash, I really understand what you mean here...but you don't belong here on Earth. Would you really be able to look your friends in the face and tell them you don't want to see them again? Would you be able to tell Applejack that...or Fluttershy?"

This apparently hit a nerve, as now all her defiance was gone, replaced with uncertainty. "I...I don't know."

I decided to push the issue a little further. "Imagine looking into those big blue eyes of Fluttershy...one of your best and closest friends in the entire world. Now imagine basically telling her that you'd rather spend the rest of your life with some guy you just met as opposed to her, who you've known basically your whole life."

Her uncertainty vanished, now replaced with cold resignation and a little depression. "Y-you're right...I couldn't do that to her."

I freed my arm and hugged her tight against me ,kissing her cheek and smiling when she looked at me. "Dashie, I care about you a lot. Believe me, I don't want you to leave me in any sense. Still, I also know that you won't be as happy here with me as you will at home in Equestria. Not only do you have a duty to your friends as their friend, but also as an Element of Harmony." I then stroked her soft hair and smiled wider. "Besides, Spike said he'd tell the princesses and Twilight Sparkle about your wish for me to come with you. If they're going to get you to come back, I'm pretty sure they don't want you to be miserable."

She seemed relieved and smiled. "Yeah, you're right. I've always thought of Princess Luna as kind of a big sister after we became friends. She'll watch out for me."

I nodded. "See? It'll work out, babe. I promise."

She looked at me and raised and eyebrow. "Babe?"

I shrugged. "Pet names are a token of endearment, and you're endeared to me. At least that's what I think I mean...I don't know what I mean. You know what I mean."

This caused her to burst into laughter, but she nodded. After she calmed down she smiled and nodded again. "Yeah Koa, I know what you mean and it's okay...I kinda like it."

The movie started a few minutes later and she scooted away before laying her head down in my lap, me resigning to stroking her soft rainbow-colored hair. This of course didn't last long as the movie went through the prologue, and she sat up almost immediately in excitement.

She looked at me with joy in her eyes and I nodded, chuckling. "Yeah, I kinda figured you'd like this movie."

My assumptions were correct in her taste of movies...she was definitely an action/adventure type of girl, which opened up my mind to many more possibilities of movies she'd like and things she'd want to do. The movie finished about an hour and a half later, Dash luckily being nearly completely sober because of the Powerade and her fast metabolism. We cleaned the living room up and headed up to bed for the night, the clock informing me it was well past 23:00. As usual, Dash chose to share the bed with me, opposed to sleeping alone. With us being together now - as well as me honestly missing having someone by my side in bed - I honestly didn't care, even liked it. Although, the alcohol must have still been in her system at least a little, as she became a little handsy again, running her hands all over me as she started kissing my shoulder.

I turned to her with a wide grin. "Well well, someone's feeling a little frisky tonight." She nodded, but then her eyes widened in surprise. "What?" I said in confusion. She pointed to the vanity mirror on the dresser and I walked over to it, shocked at what I saw. My eyes were now flames of white and my skin had changed to a dark red as well, with tight scales running the length of my entire body. I had sharp canines that protruded from my mouth, giving me an ominous appearance. Lastly, I had seven rear-facing horns on my head and spikes on my elbows and knees.

And so, I did the only thing I could do...I screamed like a bitch.

It was at that moment I felt a pressure in my head. It wasn't painful, but it was definitely there. I placed my palm on my forehead to try and rub the dull throbbing away, only to be rewarded with a flash of light and a scroll materializing in front of me. 'Oh...this must be the message system.' I glanced at Dash, who still had a shocked expression and just shrugged. I opened the scroll and proceeded to read it.

**Dear Koamalu Kamakani,

I assume by now your power has awakened if you are able to read this. You may have noticed that your appearance has changed radically, though you need not be worried. By simply focusing on willing your appearance to change back to normal, you can avoid any unwanted attention. Your appearance was set to change by Spike's spellfire upon immersion in a very dark area, which I assume was upon preparing for sleeping. I am sure you are smart enough to figure it out. With that being said, I wish to offer my apologies for springing this on you so suddenly. I will advise you however that your new form has abilities and strengths far beyond what you ever thought possible. In privacy and seclusion away from other humans, experiment and find its limits...I believe you will be pleased with the results. Please watch over my most loyal subject, Rainbow Dash.

We will contact you again at a later time.

Princess Celestia - Sun Princess of Equestria

P.S.: Spike has told me of Rainbow Dash's wishes to bring you with her when the time comes. I will work that request into the spell...though I will warn you it will require a great sacrifice. I will advise you further when the time comes.**

I placed the letter on the dresser and did as I was instructed, focusing on the image of my normal body. I wasn't really sure how everything was supposed to work, but then I felt a tingling all over my body and opened my eyes when it stopped, pleased to find my body was normal again.

"What the hay happened?" I heard Dash ask from across the room.

I grinned, noticing that my teeth were the same sharp canines still. "Well, apparently Spike's spell would only take effect when it got really dark. That's apparently a new form Princess Celestia asked him to give to me, though I'm honestly not sure why."

I walked back over to the bed and lay down, enjoying it when Dash pulled herself against me again.

"Now...where were we?" she said rather seductively.

We spent probably the next hour or so making out, eventually stopping when Dash became too exhausted to continue. Something about my biology must have changed, as the room had heated up like an oven. I didn't notice the temperature change, but Dash kept complaining about how hot it was since she was covered in sweat, so I didn't really care when she got rid of all her clothes save for her bra and underwear.

"So," she started, still panting a bit, "I take it things are going to start changing a lot now, hmm?"

I grabbed her and held her close against me, feeling her soft, warm skin against my own. I kissed her on the forehead and smiled as she looked at me. "Well, I hope this doesn't change."

She rolled her eyes but smiled. "You're so corny...you're just a big ol' goof."

I nodded and chuckled. "Yeah, but you love it."

She sighed and snuggled against me. "You know, it's kinda weird, but you actually feel cool. Like I'm laying against a bag of cold air."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Is that a good thing?"

She nodded and wrapped her body around mine again, and I couldn't help but notice certain parts of her were warmer than others (*hint*hint*). "Oh yeah, it's a good thing. It's like I'm sleeping outside on a cloud."

"I hope I'll know what that's like one day, Dash." I responded with a smile.

She said nothing more and just settled herself against me. I reached over and switched the alarm for the clock to "ON" and lay my head against hers. She fell asleep literally a minute afterwards and I spent the next twenty or so minutes contemplating how things were going to change for me. I mean, Kay always called me her little demon, and now I looked like one. It was unnerving in some ways, but at least I didn't have to look that way if I didn't want to. Apprehension turned to mild excitement as I began to think of all the possibilities I had now. Soon after though, I felt my eyes begin to get heavy...but before I could fall asleep I heard Dash say something that caused me to seize up.

"I love you, Koa."

The statement stunned me, and even though it was in her sleep, I knew she meant it. The question was, did I feel the same way? I mean I'd only known her for near a week now, it wouldn't make sense.

And yet, it did. I felt a connection with her that I never felt with Kay, as much as it bothered me to think about...at least not this fast. I had always in some abstract way believed in the concept of soul-mates, and as I looked over at the beautiful woman beside me I felt myself confirming my own thoughts.

I did love her back.

As crazy as it was, I felt like I had always known her...and getting to actually hold her in my arms now just tipped me over the fence. So I brushed a few stray strands of rainbow hair out of her eyes and kissed her forehead again.

"I love you too, my rainbow angel."

Chapter 7: Heart Storm

Chapter 7: Heart Storm

"...and hurricane Florence has reached category four, and is expected to make landfall today along the east panhandle. In local news, we have a wave of thunderstorms moving in from the northwest, so prepare accordingly. This is Michael Vadasz, with your Action 5 News weather rep-"

I slammed my hand on the clock at that moment, cutting off the annoying voice. I groaned as I sat up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and looking blearily out the window. I did notice that some clouds were gathering in the distance, and even from here I could see lightning jumping around in the approaching storm front.

'Perfect...just perfect.'

There was a rustling beside and I turned to see Dash rubbing her eyes with a smile. "Mmm...well good morning, Koa."

"Good morning, beautiful. Sleep well?" I asked with a wide smile of my own.

She nodded and giggled. "You know, you're probably the first person to ever call me beautiful."

"Really?" I asked, an utterly confused expression on my face. "I mean I can't say that I ever really thought that ponies were sexy, but all the same, I always thought you were very pretty."

She raised an eyebrow at me. "Why do I get the feeling you're trying to butter me up or something?"

I shrugged with a smirk. "Maybe I am, but that doesn't make it any less true."

"Rarity would just love you. I hope everything works out okay and you get to come with me, because all my friends would dig you big time." she said with a grin.

I shrugged. "I mean, I'd be there for you...but I guess making friends with your friends would be a plus." I then stood up and stretched, popping my back a few times before sighing in relief. "Well Dash, let's get cleaned up and get dressed. Today, you become Rosabela Kapule on Earth."

It took a few hours to get all the paperwork and questions done for Dash to get her new name, but by 13:30, we walked out of the city hall with a new birth certificate and social security card.

Next we headed over to the DMV to get her an ID so that she could get a job and whatnot. Since she was twenty-three, we made her birthday April 23rd, 1989 to coordinate with her real birthday somewhat (I couldn't very well tell them she was born in the year 1189).

After all that, I took her to the local department store so she could pick up some more clothes, as right now she only had like three outfits. It cost a few hundred dollars and now my wallet was crying, but Dash was happy and I was glad that she was happy. It was only about 3:00 by now, and my first appointment wasn't until 18:00, so we headed to the beach to chill for a few hours.

"We're going to the beach? It's going to rain though! No, not just rain, thunderstorm! We can't go to the beach!" Dash was ranting.

I smirked at her. "And why not?"

She raised an eyebrow in confusion before speaking again. "Well, because it's a thunderstorm. I can't fly in a...oh wait...nevermind."

I nodded. "Yeah, you don't have wings to get wet and besides, I've always found thunderstorms to be really relaxing. You'd be surprised how many locals enjoy the beach on a rainy day."

She shrugged. "Well, I can't say I'm all that crazy about it, but if you're cool with it I guess I'll give it a try."

I nodded again and we headed home to get dressed for the beach.

We arrived at the local public beach about twenty minutes later to find it deserted save for a few locals, which was just the way I liked it. The clouds had cooled the air down quite a bit, and the lightning dancing around overhead added a cool atmosphere. Dash was a little nervous, which was to be expected, but once she realized that there wasn't much danger as a human, she relaxed and started smiling.

"You know Koa," she started, "I never thought I'd like thunderstorms, but it's pretty cool actually. I mean, as a pegasus we always have to worry about getting struck by lightning or the rain making us unable to fly, but without those to worry about, it is pretty nice."

I nodded with a grin. "Yeah. I mean, we could be struck by lightning still, but it's highly unlikely." I then pointed to a cell phone tower about a mile away. "That thing is going to get hit before we ever do." I then grabbed her with an arm, holding her close against me. "I will protect you, my lady! The foul lightning will not harm you whilst I still draw breath!"

She giggled and shoved me away playfully. "You sound like Luna when you talk like that."

I smirked and chuckled as well. "Well, I'm sure she'll just love me then."

We stopped by a small outdoor restaurant on the beach and ate lunch, watching the blue and white lightning dance around the sky. Storms had always been a sort of relaxation tool for me, and because they were free to watch, it made it even better. As we sat and ate lunch, I could hear a lady that was sitting behind us mumbling to her son.

"...you see son? They're everywhere around here. We are in the belly of the beast, but it's God's work we're here to do. They need to know what they're doing is wrong, and since they're deaf to the Word, we'll make sure they hear it." I turned around in time to see her pointing a finger at Dashie. "That thing is an abomination."

The whole time I was listening to the conversation, I was hoping with every hope-cell in my body that I was wrong about what I thought she was talking about...but now I was pretty sure I knew. I stood up in anger and growled at the lady. "And just why is she and abomination?"

The forty-something lady stood up as well, practically snarling at me. "Because God hates fags, and she's one of them. She needs to know the way she lives her life is wrong."

I heard Dash push her chair out and stand beside me, but I shushed her. I looked into her shining eyes and smiled maniacally, whispering, "Let me take care of this, love." She blushed at the pet name, but nodded. I then turned back to the ignorant wretch in front of me and smirked, not bothering to hide my canines. "Well, I need to advise you of a few things then, Miss Bible-thumper. First of all, God loves everyone, even the 'fags', as you so offensively put it...so if you're going to sit there and try to preach your misguided beliefs to your son here, you might want to go back and read the book again." She stared at me, wide-eyed and I smirked even more. "Yeah...didn't think you'd come across someone that actually knows the truth, did you? Second, one of the Bible's teachings was 'judge not, lest ye be judged', which basically means to leave the judging to God. The reason why I say that is because my friend here," I gestured to Dash, "or should I say girlfriend, is perfectly straight as far as I know. So far not only are you guilty of hate - which is something God and Jesus preached against - but you're also a poor judge of character, which in all honesty makes sense. Lastly, I advise you to leave and go in peace, before I give you the backhand of peace for trying to ruin a relaxing day for me. So pick up your shit and get the hell out, you aren't welcome here anymore."

She growled at me and stood firm. "What are you, the owner of this place?"

I shook my head, still holding a grin. "Nope, but a good friend of mine is. If I tell him that some ignorant, hateful cunt is going to drive all his customers away, he'll have you out of here so fast you'll turn into a man."

The lady huffed and walked off, leaving her teenage son standing there looking really embarrassed. I patted him on the shoulder and smiled. "Don't worry man, I'm not going to judge you for your mother's stupidity. So far, you're still cool in my book." He smiled and nodded before walking off as well.

Dash held my arm and leaned her head against my shoulder, giggling. "My hero."

I looked at her with an eyebrow raised. "What? She pissed me off."

"Yeah, but you sound like Twilight when you're ranting." she said with a grin.

"Well then, that's yet another friend of yours I'll get along with then." I then took a pensive demeanor. "They're not going to try and get with me or something, are they?"

She placed a finger on her chin in thought. "Hmm...can't say for sure. Why, are you interested?"

"Not really." I slung an arm around her and pulled her close again. "I have the one I want right here."

She smiled and nodded. "Good, because otherwise I'd have to maim you or something."

"Really now? I'd like to see you try." I said with a grin. Before I could react, she tackled me to the ground with a loud laugh. By the time I had gotten my bearings, she had already mounted me and held my hands against the sand. I tried to force her off with some borderline-sexual hip movements, but she was in complete control. I then tried to raise my hands, but to no avail.

'I really need to work out some more.'

Eventually I gave up and just lay on the sand.

She grinned evilly at me, her bright cerise eyes shining. "Now, I have you completely at my mercy. Oh, what ever shall I do with you?" She then leaned down and planted a deep kiss on my lips, moaning as she did so. She held the kiss for a long time, me of course reciprocating happily. Unfortunately, a certain organ decided to make his presence known at that moment...and Dash definitely noticed. She pulled away in shock, blushing a deep crimson.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..." she recited endlessly.

I just groaned and sat up, trying to think of anything to get it to go away faster. "Dash, it's okay. It's just proof that I like you, so think of it as a compliment."

"I...I'm sorry if I'm coming off as a prude...it's just that I'd prefer my first time be special is all." she said, stuttering a bit with embarrassment.

I stood up once my "problem" had resolved and smiled, pulling her into a hug and kissing her on the forehead. "Dashie, I already told you that I'm not going to force you to do anything against your will. You want to wait, I'll wait for as long as you need. You're special to me in a lot of ways for a lot of reasons, and I'm not going to screw this up by pressuring you." I then cleared my throat and grinned. "Um...don't take too long though if you're going to tease me like that."

She giggled and nodded. "Don't worry, I'll make it worth the wait, I promise."

We started to walk away towards town again when I realized I lost my wallet in our scuffle. "Dammit...wait here love, I have to go get my wallet off the beach. I'll be right back." She nodded and I darted towards the spot where she had me pinned, quickly finding my wallet. I was preparing to jog back when my hair started to stand on end, as well as the hair on my arms and legs.

"Uh oh..."

That was all I had time to say before a blinding flash took the world away.

It felt like I was floating, though I didn't know where to. I kept hearing voices all around me, some crying, some not. I blinked my eyes a couple times to clear my vision, only to see the inside of an ambulance with a young paramedic trying to calm a hysterical Rainbow Dash down. I sat up and coughed, my throat feeling a bit dry but otherwise normal. The look I got from the medic was priceless, and I had to fight to keep from laughing.

"Stop the truck." I said simply, while looking directly into Dashie's eyes. When I got no response, I looked over at the paramedic again and repeated myself louder, "I said stop the truck."

The medic in the back simply nodded before banging on the wall beside me.

"What?" said a voice from the other side.

I started to get frustrated, so I got up against the small window myself. "Stop the fucking truck, now!"

The passenger paramedic nodded as the ambulance began to slow. Once it came to a complete stop, I stood up and opened the doors myself and jumped off, holding up my arms for Dash to jump down as well. Once we were off the ambulance, all three medics swarmed me with questions, which I started to become more and more frustrated with.

I finally stopped them with a weird growl-like noise and they shut up. "Look, if you want me to get checked out, fine...but I can make my own way to the hospital, thanks." With that, I just turned around with Dash and started walking towards the hospital.

We were walking for a good ten minutes before Dash spoke. "Koa...what the hay happened back there?"

I shrugged. "You tell me. Last thing I remember was a bright flash of light, and then I woke up in that ambulance."

"You..." she choked down a sob before continuing, "you were struck by lightning, Koa." She then stopped us from walking and hugged me tighter than she ever had as she simply held her face against my chest, which was covered in a burned shirt. She let loose a few shaky breaths before looking up at me with frightened eyes. "I thought I lost you like I lost my mom, Koa. I was so scared."

I ran my fingers through her hair and smiled. "Well I feel fine...better than fine, actually. I'm alive and you're here, so nothing could make this better for me." My stomach growled and I chuckled. "Well, almost nothing. Lets head to the hospital so I can get checked out and then we'll go for dinner before I head to my appointment, how does that sound?" She nodded and we continued walking the few blocks to the hospital.

When we arrived, the driver of the ambulance was standing in the ER waiting room. As soon as he saw me, he pointed at me wildly with wide eyes. "That's him! That's the guy!"

I sighed and closed my eyes before facepalming. I then looked at the receptionist nurse and the few nurses and doctors that were in the room. "Let me guess, he told you all the story, right?" They all nodded before a female doctor whose nametag said D. Smith stepped forward.

"Hello Mr. Kamakani, my name is Dr. Smith. Would you come with me please?" she said in a sweet, caring voice.

I nodded before gesturing to Dash. "Only if she can come with me." The doctor nodded before signaling me to follow her as she stepped down the hallway.

We arrived at a normal checkup room with one of those weird checkup bed-chair things, and I hopped up onto it. "So doc, let's hurry this up please, because I'm starved and I have a job to get to in an hour or so."

She nodded and pulled out a wide array of machines, taking my temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. She then pulled out some sticky pads, placing them around my chest and on my temples before turning on a machine, taking some readings, and then pulling them off. She left for about a half-hour before returning with a folder of papers.

She sat down and sighed before opening it. She read over the numbers quickly before gasping and looking up at me.

"What?" I asked in confusion.

She shook her head, mumbling, "That can't be right..." under her breath.

I started to get frustrated again as Dash was holding my arm in fear. "Doc, please just tell me what's up. My girlfriend here is scared I'm gonna explode or something, and like I said, I still have a job to get to...and I’m hungry!"

She was startled out of her thoughts and looked up at me, clearing her throat before speaking. "W-well Mr. Kamkan-"

I cut her off. "Koa...just Koa please."

She nodded. "Okay, Koa...well there are quite a few strange results we have here."

I raised an eyebrow. "Strange for what happened or strange in general?"

"Both." she answered quickly. I waited for her to continue, and eventually she did. "Well Koa, first off your temperature is far lower than it should be for a human being. Average temperature for the human body is 98.6, yours is 90.0. By all accounts, you should be entering hypothermia."

I shrugged. "I feel fine. Anything else?"

She nodded. "Well we did an EKG as well as a basic test for brain activity, and your results were off the charts..." she trailed off.

I was now even more confused, and a bit scared, to be honest. "In a good way or a bad way?"

She shook her head. "I'm unsure. The amount of electricity running through your body is enough to power an average house for a year."

"Wow...that's a lot of volts." I said in disbelief.

She nodded. "Lastly, other than some light dehydration, you are otherwise perfectly healthy. You have no burns to your skin, no nerve damage, no heart or brain damage, and no other injury of any kind. It's baffling, to say the least." She looked right at me and took a very serious expression to her face. "Koa...you should be dead. Not to sound negative or offensive, but I actually expect you to suddenly drop dead any second now. Very few people in history have taken a lightning strike to their head and lived to tell about it...grounded or not. You are the first in recorded history, however, to have no injuries, save for a small bruise to your left eye socket from when you fell on your face."

I brought my hand up to my face and winced as it passed over the bruise. "Ugh...what a pain. Look doc, I'm really happy I'm okay and all, but can I go now?"

She nodded before looking down at the folder containing my results. "I was wondering if you'd give us permission to release your medical records to study them."

I shook my head. "I'd rather not, thanks. I've seen enough movies about weird people to know how that would go. Just point me towards where I can sign out, and I'll be on my way."

Dr. Smith visibly deflated a bit, and sighed. "Fine...it's near the front waiting area where you came in. Just ask the nurse and she'll sign you out."

I nodded and held Dash's hand as I walked with her down the hallway.

After signing out from the hospital and heading to my shop, I started working as normal. I'd missed my appointment, but after hearing what happened both the customer and Vik were willing to work with each other instead. When I arrived, everyone just stared at me.

"Seriously? I got enough staring back at the hospital. Just go back to what you were doing, people." I said, while ripping the remnants of my shirt completely off and throwing them in the nearby trashcan. I then walked to the back office, holding Dashie's hand the whole way until we got there.

Once I sat down, the first person to come back and see me was Lily...and she was not happy. I thought she might actually break down and cry for a moment until she walked over and smacked me upside the head. She then glared at me before saying anything, but once she did...it wasn't nice.

"You stupid, cum-guzzling, shit-eating asshole!" She slapped me again before I could respond, then tried to do it again, but I caught her hand.

"Jesus Lil, chill out!" I yelled at her, holding both of her hands in a vice. I had to bow my head to keep from snarling at her in anger. The next time I looked up at her though, I felt like every bit the person she just said I was.

She was crying.

Perhaps I should explain something: Lily is one of those friends that I've literally known my entire life. By that I mean that I met her as soon as I could walk, and we've been friends ever since. Call it dysfunctional, but she's the younger sister I never had, but always wanted. That being said, I've only ever seen Lily cry once in twenty-three years - when her dad hung himself. With that being the case, I'm sure you can now understand just how serious it was for her to cry.

So there she was, not just crying now, but bawling. What hurt the most though, was that I knew what she was crying about...but she wouldn't even look at me. After her mom died, I became the only person in her life she could count on...so when she thought I was going to die from my little touch with God a few hours earlier, she lost it. Dash didn't know what to do, and in all honesty, neither did I. The last time she was like this, she didn't leave her house for almost a month. I just hope things aren't that bad this time around, with me not actually being dead and all.

For the longest time we sat in the back while she just cried on my shoulder. This of course was interrupted by Mike, who has a penchant for coming in at the worst possible times. The guy's my bro, but he has a shitty sense of timing.

"Yo Koa, we got customers out here, man." he said, not caring what was going on.

It didn't really surprise me, so I just nodded. "Tell my next that I'll be out there in a minute." He nodded and left, leaving me with the two girls. As much as I hated it, I still had a job to do, and so I hugged Lil tight and kissed her forehead. "Lil, Dashie here is going to stay with you until you're ready to come out, okay?" She nodded. "When work's done, we'll all go out for drinks and food." She nodded again and I looked over at Dash. "Dashie, I need you to keep an eye on Lil, please. Something tells me that you'll be able to level with her when it comes to death." Thankfully she nodded, so I hugged the both of them again and headed out to the main room.

Work dragged by with everything that was on my mind and while my art didn't suffer, my mind did. Not only was I worried about Lil and Dash (as well as how Diz was going to react), but the fact that my body was all weird now kinda bugged me. I mean, was this part of the change that Spike did to me, or was this something else? What do I do with this? The questions threatened to derail my sanity, but luckily I was a trooper, so I powered through the next four hours and finished work.

As Lil, Dash, and myself all left the shop, my mobile phone started buzzing in my pocket. 'Right on schedule...' I looked at the phone face and saw that it was indeed Dizzy, and even though it was just a phone conversation, I was dreading it. And so, I picked up the phone with a sigh.


"Koa! You stupid motherfucking asshat! Tell me where you are so I can kick your ass myself!"

"*sigh* Lil, Dash, and myself are all going out for drinks and food at Corner Pocket. You can meet us there and do all the beating on me you want."

"Good, I'll meet you there. Prepare yourself for a lot of pain, Koa..."

And with that she disconnected the call. Now I don't normally worry about Diz, because she's always been very cuddly and fun. However, I've also never seen her mad before...not like this. She's also never cursed at me before.

Tonight was going to be rough if I couldn't fix this.

We arrived at the local pool hall/bar/grill about ten minutes later, Lil luckily having composed herself by then. I was curious of why Dash wasn't as broken as Lil was, but then I remembered that she had experienced death firsthand, so it probably didn't hold the same shock factor to her as it did Lil. All the same, she still looked a little stressed, but then that's nothing a little alcohol and good food couldn't fix.

As we walked in, the familiar aged biker-looking owner - Max - waved at me. "Hey there, Koa. Been awhile since you've been here. What's the occasion?"

I shrugged. "My friends here and I need some food and drinks, and you're the best place I know of to get them."

He smiled and headed to the back, grabbing me a bottle of Grolsch and Lil a bottle of Raging Bitch (yes, it's a real beer. Look it up). He then looked at Dash and smiled. "ID please?"

Dash reached in her pocket and pulled the ID out, showing it to him as he nodded. She then looked at me and then, so did Max.

I smiled and took a drink of my beer before responding, "Let her have a piña colada with Bacardi Gold, double."

Max nodded and headed off to the bar to prepare the drink.

Dash scooted closer to me and lay her head on my shoulder with a sigh of stress. "Koa, I don't remember seeing that tower ever get hit with lightning."

I took another swig of my beer and grinned. "I did say that it would get hit first, didn't I? Oh well, sorry about that. I can't be right all the time."

Max came back soon after with Dashie's drink and we all ordered some food, Dash surprisingly opting for a cheeseburger and fries.

And then Dizzy arrived.

I didn't even see her coming, but all of the sudden my cheek felt like someone hit it with a hammer, and I was on the floor looking up at a very upset woman. "Umm...hi there Diz."

"Don't 'hi' me, Koa. I was working on the plane with Tim and all of the sudden I hear you're in the hospital! After being struck by lightning no less!" she yelled. A few guys started to come over to help me, but I waved them off.

I stood up and caught her in an embrace, hugging her tight against me. She tensed at first, but then lay her head on my shoulder and silently cried. I rubbed her back while holding her close against me as I spoke. "Diz, I'm so sorry. You know damn well that worrying you is one of the absolute last things I'd ever want to do...right next to cutting my own dick off and necrophilia." She giggled a bit, and I smiled while I pulled away from her. "Come on, Dizzy, have a few drinks with us and chill out. It's been a hell of a day for all four of us, and I know I could use a drink."

She nodded in response and we all sat down again.

It was about 03:00 when Max finally closed down, and so we all stumbled home. I was still sober enough to know that Lil and Diz driving home would be bad, so I forced them to stay in my guest room for the night. Dash and I quickly showered and brushed our teeth before heading to bed, giant smiles on our faces. Luckily I'd made sure we all drank plenty of water after getting smashed, so at the very least Dash and I wouldn't have to worry too much about hangovers. The rum must have gotten to my bedmate, however, as she didn't stop with just taking off her clothes...she took off her underwear too. At this point however, I was too inebriated to really want to tell her no, so I climbed into bed after stripping down and lay next to her.

"Koa?" said a soft voice beside me.

I looked over to see two shining violet eyes. "Yes beautiful?"

Her cheeks were flushed pink, though I couldn't tell whether it was the alcohol or if she was embarrassed. "W-well, I was just thinking..."

"Yeah?" I responded while running my hand along her side.

Her blush deepened and she shivered a bit. "It's just that, I'm worried about you is all. The princess has a reason for changing you like you were...I'm just worried that it's going to cost me you though. I'm even more worried about this 'sacrifice' you're going to have to make. "

I pulled her close against me, feeling the warmth of her skin against mine as my nerves lit up with excitement. Even so, I forced myself to focus. My rainbow angel needed me now, and I wasn't going to let her down. "Dashie, I want you to listen to me right now." She turned her head up to see me, her eyes shining in the dim moonlight. "I will fight through hell and back before I let myself be separated from you. I swear it. I lost one love already...I will not lose another."

"But what if-" she started before I cut her off.

"No buts, babe. If I have to fight Celestia herself with my bare hands, I will. I don't care what it takes, I'll make damn sure that we can be together." I stated sternly.

She wrapped her leg around me and pressed her chest against my side before letting out a small moan of pleasure and a squeak of a yawn. "Okay Koa...I trust you." She shifted again, and my leg made sure to tell me of how she grinded into me a bit, but I let it go for now. Instead, I placed my arm around her, my hand resting against her right hip, rubbing her cutie mark softly. She moaned again softly before looking up at me, her eyes shining just a bit brighter than they had been. "Koa...I love you."

I smiled and kissed her, squeezing her thigh a bit for good measure before pulling away. "I love you too, my angel." I then smirked. "You know you said that you loved me last night, right?"

"I-I did? When?" she asked, with a small bit of panic in her voice.

I shrugged. "It was after you already fell asleep, I think. Why...did you not mean it then?"

She shook her head with a grin. "No...I still meant it. Seems my brain wanted me to say it sooner, I guess."

I nodded. "Well, I mean it too." Before I could react, she rolled over on top of me with a sultry smile, and I smirked right back. "What have you got planned, love?"

She shrugged. "I'm just winging it right now." She started to grind into me again, but this time it was obviously on purpose.

Before she could go any further though, I stopped her. "Dash...are you sure you're ready for this?"

She then pushed herself up so that I could see her whole body, and she nodded. "My mom told me that I should wait for somepony - or in this case someone - that I love. Well, I love you Koa...and you love me back. I've never been more ready."

I nodded and grinned at her, pulling her down on top of me again.

Tonight was going to be fun...

Chapter 8: Demon Rising

Chapter 8: Demon Rising

The sound of a deep rumble woke me up, as well as the feeling of soft skin and arms wrapped tightly around me. I blinked a few times to clear the last vestiges of sleep from my eyes and mind before looking down at the frightened girl clutching onto me for dear life. I looked out of one of the windows to see a storm raging outside, and immediately realized why this had my angel so afraid.

I hugged her close and kissed her forehead. "What's the matter, love? It's just a storm."

She sent me a look that just screamed annoyance. "It's not just a storm, Koa."

"C'mon Dash, I didn't mean it like that and you know it." I explained softly.

She sighed and nodded. "Yeah, I know. You have to understand though, Koa…my mom died from a storm…and I thought you did too." She started to tear up a bit, and she hugged me tighter. "I thought I lost you, Koa."

I ran my fingers through her soft shoulder-length hair and breathed deeply. "I don't know what it is, Dashie, but the lightning didn't hurt me. I mean, I actually feel better than I ever have. Stronger..." I sat up quickly and hopped out of bed. "I need to go to the beach today. I need you to stay here, for your own safety."

"W-wait, what do you mean 'for your own safety'?" she asked, slightly panicking.

I smiled and rubbed her cheek softly with a hand. "Well I'm going to go see what these new abilities are. In case I spontaneously discharge all this electricity in my body, I don't want to hurt you." She looked unsure, so I leaned over and kissed her again. "I love you, Dashie. I'll be back in an hour or so, I Pinkie promise. Make yourself some breakfast and clean up and such. I'm taking you to the movies tonight after work. I just have one appointment, so we'll go at around 9:00." She finally nodded with a smile, so I put on some swim trunks and sandals before heading out into the torrential downpour.

Normally such a heavy storm would worry me a bit, but now that I knew I had nothing to worry about as far as lightning, I was unconcerned. It was still weird to no longer have one of the most basic human fears, but I guess this dog can learn new tricks after all. With the weather being as it was – as well as the fact I was heading to The Bird – I didn't have to worry about people seeing me…which was a good thing, because who in their right mind would head out into a storm like this holding a nine iron.

When I finally arrived at the beach, I was pleased to find that even with the storm raging, the tide was out, so I didn't have to worry about the waves washing me out. I stood in front of the rock face that dominated the beach so that no one could see me, and tentatively stuck the golf club up in the air. Every instinct in me was yelling at me to run and get to cover, but I was adamant and stood my ground. Soon, I began to feel the now-familiar feeling of tingling, and I looked up to see lightning flashing just overhead, loud booms of thunder making my chest vibrate. Finally, I got what I was waiting for as a bolt of lightning hit the golf club (Jesus…never ever thought I'd say that sentence). I could feel the electricity dancing around my body, but it oddly didn't hurt. Instead, it felt like every muscle on my body had gone "asleep", and I chuckled a bit at the feeling. Yet another thing I never thought would happen – I was just struck by lightning…again…and now I was laughing about it, not being dead and all.

I focused to see if I could change to that form Spike gave me, and I felt the tingle intensify for a moment as I closed my eyes. When I opened them, I noticed some big differences. First off, my skin was no longer the blood-red color it first was. My skin was still covered in scales, but it was now a drab gray. Large spikes were protruding from three points on my arms – two on each forearm, and one on my shoulder. There was electricity arcing between the three points, and even with how weird this was, I had to admit, it was pretty badass. There were also four small spines on each hand where my knuckles were, though they didn't seem to do anything at the moment. Just for the hell of it, I held a hand palm-out in front of me, and the electricity from my lower forearm spike jumped to the spines on my hand, and a bolt of lightning shot out of my palm. The deafening sound, kickback, and surprise almost caused me to scream like a little girl, but I kept from doing so. Not that it would have mattered with how loud the rain and lighting from the storm was, but still.

Five days ago, all this would have me freaking out, but with Rainbow Dash coming to my world in human form, I believed damn near anything was possible now. I dissipated my form after playing around for another half-hour or so and headed back to my house with a big smile on my face, holding a burned and partially melted golf club in my hand. When I arrived home, soaked to the bone, Dashie had luckily gotten a towel ready for me.

She handed the plush towel to me with a smile and kissed me. "Well, it's good to see you're okay. What did you find out?"

"Stand back and I'll show you." I said with a smirk. She did as I asked and I changed my form again. I heard her gasp and I also heard the familiar crackle of electricity going along my body.

She looked at me with a look of awe and excitement. "Koa, you look awesome! That's so cool!"

She stepped forward towards me but I backed up. "Don't get too close, babe. I don't know if I'm dangerous to you or not, so let me change back first." I focused on changing back to my normal form again and opened my eyes after a moment, relieved to see my own skin and hair again. "There we go. So, pretty cool, huh?"

She nodded. "Yeah, that was awesome! You're like some kinda electro-guy now!"

I couldn't help but laugh hard when I got a look at her shirt. She had decided to wear my shirt I had made a few years back that said "WARNING: Package contains large parts, keep away from small women," with an arrow pointing down.

…fuck you, I thought it was funny.

Anyway, she ran over and hugged me tight with a little grin before passing a sandwich to me. "Well, this is the first food I've made since I got here. Let me know what you think." I took the sandwich and took a bite, immediately enjoying the taste of it. Mmm…egg salad with celery.

"It's really good, Dashie. Thanks for breakfast." I said with a smile. I quickly finished the sandwich and washed it down with a swig of milk as I heard heavy footfalls coming down the stairs. It was Lil, and she had definitely looked better.

"Coffee…" she muttered. I poured a cup and added two spoonfuls of sugar and handed the hot brew over to her. She took it with a grumble and sipped the drink, muttering a thanks and sitting down at the dining table.

Apparently Diz was much more of a morning person than Lil was, as she sailed down the stairs with a bounce in her step and smile on her face. Upon seeing me, she smiled even wider. "Well good morning, Mr. Lightning Rod. How are you feeling this morning?"

I held a stoic stare at her for a moment before grinning. "Mr. Lightning Rod…that has a nice ring to it, ironically." Dash couldn't help but chuckle at my sick sense of humor, and I laughed as well.

I looked to Lil, but she still had a sour look on her face. She glared at me and frowned. "I'm still mad at you, Koa. You're not out of the doghouse yet."

"Aww come on, Lil. I said I was sorry." I finished with a pouty lip.

She glared at me still. "Number one, you can't pull off the pouty face. Second, if saying 'I'm sorry' fixed things like this, Hitler would have been considered a great guy."

"Hey, maybe Hitler was just misunderstood. The poor, poor man…" I finished with a mock sad face.

Dash looked at all of us confused. "Um…who's Hitler?"

"He was a dictator during World War II that attempted genocide of an entire race of people." I explained. She still looked confused, so I continued. "It would be like Celestia becoming evil and corrupt, and then imprisoning and trying to kill every pegasus in all of Equestria."

Dash gasped. "H-how could someone do that? I mean…how many?"

"Over six million." I answered flatly.

The color drained from her face and she looked down at her glass of orange juice in her hands. She was silent now, having learned exactly how fucked up humans could be. I couldn't blame her…most people have had the same reaction when they first learn about it in history. I mean it doesn't matter where you're from…six million is a hell of a lot of people to kill because of some misguided grudge against an entire race of people.

I stood up and walked over to Dash, placing an arm around her, to embrace her softly. "That's one of the reasons why we need to get you out of here soon, Dash. Please forgive the language, but humans are fucked up like that." I then turned to Lily and Diz, who were staring at me. "Celestia's working with Twilight Sparkle to get Dash back home…and I'm going with her."

They both gasped, but Diz was the first one to me. "Koa, what the hell do you mean?"

I shrugged. "I don't know how much clearer I can be. When she leaves, I'm going with her."

Lil then stood up and walked over to me, tears in her eyes. "Koa…please…don't do this."

"Girls I'm sorry, but I love Dash so much and I want to be with her. If at all possible, I'm not going to let her go back home alone." I answered with a stern look. "Besides," I started, "I'm pretty sure the princess has something planned for me."

They both looked confused before Lil spoke. "What do you mean by that."

"Well, stand back and I'll show you." I responded with a grin. They all stepped away from me, Dash now grinning, as she knew what I was going to do. As I focused on the change again, I heard our two guests gasp. I opened my eyes to see the two of them staring, so I quickly changed back and smiled. "Pretty rad, right?"

There was silence in the room for the longest time before Diz finally replied. "Umm...that's really cool and all - disturbing, but cool - but how would this prove that the princess of Equestria has something in store for you?"

"Dude, she made me into some sort of magic demony thingy. I'm pretty sure she wouldn't do that for no reason. I mean, I'm not the brightest guy in the world, but even I know that." I said with a smirk.

Diz seemed to accept this, but as expected, Lil wasn't so into it. "Koa, w-why do you want to leave though?"

I could tell she was taking this personally and was fishing for an answer. I put my plate in the sink and walked over to her, embracing her in a hug. "Lil, you're not the reason I'm leaving. Understand something: for the longest time after Kay's death, I had no direction, and in all honesty, no reason to live anymore. I mean do you even know how many times I've thought about downing a bottle of pills or slitting my wrists open?" She gasped, but I shook my head. "I mean I'd never do that Lil, and you know that...but that doesn't mean I've not wanted to. Lily, you're like a sister to me...but there's nothing left for me in this world once Dash leaves. It'll just go back to the same boring routine of working, coming home, and going to sleep...just to get up and do it all over again the next day." I stroked her hair softly and kissed her forehead. "With Dash, I've found my reason to live again. She's not my reason...but she did help me find it. I mean, I want you to be happy Lil, and you can be here on Earth...but don't you want me to be happy too?"

She looked down, a little ashamed now. I felt bad about leaving her...I really did, but for the past five years I had made sure she was happy and taken care of. Now that she was an adult that was perfectly capable of taking care of herself and finding a man, it was time to live for myself again. She looked at me again with her glassy eyes of tears, but nodded this time. "I-I know, Koa. You're right, I'm sorry."

I rubbed her back softly and smiled. "Look, by the time this thing is worked out, a year or more might have passed. I mean, it's not going to happen right now. I'll be around for awhile yet."
She sniffed a little, but nodded, standing up. "Okay Koa, I'll be alright." She smiled. "Well, with all that out of the way, I have to get to the shop, so I'm gonna head home to shower and get some clean clothes on, and then I'll see you there later, okay?"

I nodded. "I'll be there around six for my appointment. I'll see you there, Lil." I stood up and kissed her forehead again. "Love ya, Lil. I'll see you later."

She smiled and rubbed my shoulder. "Love ya too, Koa. Bye."

As Lil left, Diz looked at me and pouted. "I never got an 'I love you' from you."

I rolled my eyes. "You did, actually. The last time I said it, you called me a fag."

"I was plastered, don't judge me." she said with a huff.

I headed to the kitchen, ruffling her hair as I passed. "Well, I love ya too then, Diz."

She grinned and let out an oddly Fluttershy-sounding "yay" before heading out, leaving just Dash and I alone in the house again.

I headed upstairs and took a shower, letting the hot water run over my skin as I let it relax my cares away. I felt something strange as I stood under the shower head, and opened my eyes to see what. Nothing out of the ordinary, just the water running down my skin and to the drain. However, as I lifted my hand from my side to grab my shampoo, I noticed a stream of water rise up to meet it.

This makes the third time in the past few days I've screamed like a girl.

A few seconds later, the door burst open. "What happened, Koa? Are you okay?"

Any other time I'd be a little perturbed that she was in the washroom as I was showering, but at this point the shock was too much, so I pulled the shower curtain back to see her staring at me. With my hand at my chest, I pointed down. "Look at this, Dash." Of course, she looked straight at my crotch, and I just sighed. "Not that, Dash...look down at the water." She stepped closer and looked at the little bit of water that was running in the shower towards the drain. I raised a hand again, and this time the water shot up to meet my palm. A swirling orb of water sat in the palm of my hand, and she gasped.

"What the hay is going on, Koa? How are you doing that?" she asked, blushing a bit.

I realized finally that she was staring at my naked body, and I coughed. "Um...perhaps you should let me finish washing. I'll be out in a minute, Dashie." She nodded quickly and left, leaving me feeling really stupid for exposing myself to her like that.

I finished washing up and dried myself quickly before walking to my room and getting dressed. As soon as I walked down the stairs to the living room, Dash looked up at me and immediately started blushing...and I looked down in embarrassment.

"Umm...can we just pretend that didn't happen?" I asked pleadingly.

She sighed and focused on the glass of orange juice in her lap. "Koa...why do you have so many scars...and where did they all come from?"

I'd forgotten just how many scars I had on my legs, and just her mentioning them made the memories of how they got there come flooding back to me. I sat down on the couch beside Dash with a solemn look on my face, and began to explain my childhood to her. The beatings...the cruel torture brought about by my father...it all came out. To be honest, I didn't really want to talk about it, but she hadn't hidden anything from me, so I wasn't going to keep the truth from her. I told her of the carving knife that was used on me, and why they were only in my private area.

"The reason they're only there is because that way they'd be hidden. Around here, hardly any guy with a decent body is going to wear a shirt at the beach, and even as a kid, I was no different. So the only place he could do..." I cringed as I subconsciously ran my hand along my inner thigh, "this, was where my shorts or underwear would normally cover." I groaned a bit as I thought about the past and all the tears I'd shed in pain because of it. "I'm sorry Dash...I never wanted you to see any of this. This is something that only Lil knows about...no one else...and I had meant for it to stay that way for this very reason."

She sat silently, holding my left hand in both of hers tightly. She looked up at me with teary eyes, "How could anyone do that to their own child?" She took a breath before continuing. "It's...evil." she spat out.

I shrugged. "He wasn't always that way. I mean he was never a really loving father, but he never hurt me like this until after my mom died. I don't know what it was, but something changed in him when she left us. After Lil found out, she told the police and they put me in my grandfather's care. I was only nine when it happened, and I lived in Hawaii with my grandfather until I was nineteen...then I moved back here." She tried to say something, but I shushed her. "Dash, it's in the past now. I've gotten over it and in all honesty forgotten about it until now." I was surprised to feel a tear drop down my face, but I continued anyway. "I won't lie to you babe...it still affects me sometimes, but for the most part I just keep living as I always have. I think of it as a positive in the sense that since I know how damaging what he did was - both mentally and physically - I'll make sure that I never do that to another person."

"What ever happened to him?" she asked softly.

I raised an eyebrow at her. "My father?" She nodded. "I don't know. I mean he disappeared after I went to live with my grandfather...and I haven't heard from him since. Not that I really want to, but all the same it's weird of him to just disappear."

She nodded and sat up, a happier look on her face. "Okay, well I guess that'll do." She then looked at me confused. "Now...what the hay were you doing with the water?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. I mean, I'm not even sure how I was doing it, but if you'll follow me to the sink, I'll see if I can do it again."

We walked over to the kitchen sink, and I turned on the water. I tried to raise my hand again like I had in the shower, but nothing happened. After about five minutes of trying to recreate what I had done before, I turned off the water and let out a frustrated sigh.

"Maybe you have to be touching the water. Try that." the rainbow-haired girl suggested.

I shrugged and turned the water back on and placed my hand in the stream. Just like before, I felt a strange sensation in my hand, and I placed my palm up. The water stopped dripping over my hand, instead collecting in it in the shape of a ball. Once it was the size of a baseball, I turned off the faucet and held the clear drop of water in my hand. I shrugged again and dropped the water into the sink, where it immediately fell apart and went down the drain.

"Hmm..." I hummed to myself. "I wonder how varied this new ability of mine is. It seems that I can control an element so long as I'm touching it."

She eyed me curiously. "What about the lightning? You weren't touching it when you showed us this morning."

"Well the human body uses electricity to move muscles, transmit data with the nerves...even for brain function. Makes sense that I'd be able to store excess in my body. I just hope it doesn't have any side effects or anything." I mused.

Just then, I felt a strange pressure in my head. I recognized it as a "waiting message" from Equestria, so I copied the original gesture by placing my hand on my head, and a small scroll burst into existence with a flash of light.

"Oh, another letter! What does it say?" Dash asked curiously.

I opened the letter up and started to read.

***Dear Koamalu and Rainbow Dash,

We have completed our work on the spell sooner than anticipated and are prepared to bring Rainbow Dash back...along with yourself, Koamalu. We have been monitoring your progress with your new abilities and are quite pleased with what you have discovered. Know that your form will change greatly upon arrival, so please prepare for it.

As I have previously notified you, a personal sacrifice is required for the spell...a sacrifice from the one who we are bringing here. For Rainbow Dash it is different, as she belongs in Equestria...but because you are a human from Earth, payment is required. It was not our choice, it is simply how the spell works. There are two parts to your sacrifice. The first is rather self explanatory: you will not be able to return to Earth once you leave. I assume you have already come to terms with this, but the second sacrifice may be far more difficult to accept for you. Your mind will be wiped, erasing all of your memories not having to do with Equestria or Rainbow Dash. From what I understand, some of your experiences are quite valuable to you, so I apologize in advance for this.

Along with this letter is a golden medallion. When the two of you are ready, you are to press the medallion together with each of your hands - one from you, and one from Rainbow Dash. The transition will be...uncomfortable. Be sure that you perform this somewhere secluded from the public eye, yet somewhere outside and away from anything, as everything in your immediate vicinity will be brought with you. Once you arrive, we will explain to you as we can what the reason for your form is.


Princess Celestia and Princess Luna
Monarchs of the territory of Equestria***

I set the scroll on the coffee table and looked over at Dash, noticing she had the same shocked expression that I had.

"Wow...Lil is not going to be happy." I said with a sigh. I then looked at Dash. "When do you want to do this?"

She looked pretty unsure, but after a moment responded with an uneasy smile. "I mean, I'm ready to go now, Koa...but I know you already have a life here and friends. It's up to you."

I was now at a crossroads of sorts. My mind had been made up: I was going with Rainbow Dash. What I hadn't prepared for was it being this soon. On the one hand I had the rainbow-haired girl by my side, along with her wants and needs. She hadn't been on Earth long, but I knew without asking that she wanted to go home. On the other hand though, I had Lil. I mean, what was she going to do when I left? The asshole part of my brain kept telling me that she wasn't my responsibility...that she was a grown woman that was perfectly capable of taking care of herself just fine without me. However, my big brother instinct was just as strong, telling me that she needed me and I shouldn't abandon her.

Goddammit...what do I do?

After an hour of silent thought in my room, I decided it was better to just do it quick, like ripping off a bandage. This was for two reasons: one, it wasn't fair to Rainbow Dash to make her wait for me. Two, I had already explained to Lil that I was leaving. Granted neither she nor I had expected it to be this soon, but for Dashie's sake, I had to do it. With that decided, I picked up the phone and dialed Lil's number.


"Um...h-hey Lil, it's Koa."

"Oh hey Koa, what's up?"

"Well...I just got a letter from the princess..."

"...you mean Princess Celestia? That princess?"

"Yeah. Pick up Diz and head over here as soon as you can. We need to talk right away."

"Um...o-okay. We'll be over in about twenty minutes."

I set the phone down and sighed. This was going to suck on a previously unheard-of level.

Dizzy and Lily arrived about fifteen minutes later, both with very worried expressions on their faces...which I expected. I mean, they had just left my house, when I all the sudden called them back and told them I needed to talk to them immediately. Probably not a smart idea on my part when it comes to keeping everyone calm, but then again I wasn't thinking too clearly. Chalk that up to leaving for a previously unheard-of world soon.

Anyway, once they arrived I went about explaining what had happened since they left. They didn't believe me until I let them both read the scroll, which they believed because of the fact that you can't even buy scrolls like the one the letter was written on in California, and they both knew what my handwriting looked like. Lil reacted pretty much how I expected, but for some odd reason, Diz didn't say anything at all...she just walked outside. I asked Dash to keep an eye on Lil while I checked to see what Diz was up to.

I found her right outside, sitting in an old wooden chair I had on my front step. She had an unreadable expression, and I couldn't help but feel a little intimidated by that fact. I steeled myself quickly and sat myself down on the step a few feet away from her.

"So Diz, how are you taking this?" I asked politely. She stayed silent, just staring off towards my shop. I quickly became frustrated and got up, standing right in front of her. "Diz, talk to me."

She finally looked up, sorrow on her face. "Koa..." she whispered softly...just before lunging forward and knocking me off balance and onto the ground, with her landing on top of me. Even in the compromising position we were in, she didn't let go...and didn't really seem to care either.

"Umm...Diz?" I asked openly. She only responded by standing, and then pulling me up with her...where she continued to hug me. I returned it a little haphazardly, utterly surprised by such a display of affection from her, but eventually I closed my eyes and held her tightly, her head placed against my chest. As we stood there, I noticed two other pairs of arms joining the hug, and I opened my eyes to see Lily and my angel.

As much as it hurt, I wanted this...because I realized that this would be the last time I'd see them...or remember them, probably. The logical part of my mind told me that because I wouldn't remember, this was a pointless gesture...but my heart and soul told me to do this, not for me, but for them. As far as I would be concerned, my two best friends might very well cease to exist to me...but they would forever remember me.

After a few minutes we finally headed back inside and I popped open my last bottle of rum, and started sharing it with Lily and Desiree. I mean, it's not like I could take it with me, right? Dash sat in a chair across from me while Lily and Desiree sat next to me on the couch, leaning against me or holding an arm tightly, respectively. All this was just making it harder and harder to do this, but finally the raven-haired girl stood up with a sad smile.

"Well Koa, it's been a hell of a ride." She then took a more serious tone, placing a soft palm on my cheek and letting a tear fall. "I'm going to miss you, sea monster, but I have work to go to." She then leaned forward and kissed the top of my head, rubbing the spot as she walked away. "I love you Koa, and I'll never forget you." And then...she was gone.

Lily still kept her spot next to me, holding my left arm for all she was worth, so I grabbed an empty envelope on the coffee table and a nearby pen, writing eight numbers down on it and handing it to her.

"What is this?" she asked in confusion.

I smiled and placed the pen back down before looking into her eyes. "That's the combination to the safe in my studio. There's something in there for you, Lil."

She looked a little surprised, but nodded. "W-what is it?"

I smiled and kissed her cheek before standing. "You'll just have to find out for yourself, won't you?" I then looked to Dash and nodded before looking back at Lily as she stood up. "Your mom would be proud of you, Lil...I'm proud of you. Don't ever forget that." I hugged her once again before breaking away, leaving my phone, my keys, and my wallet on the table, only taking with me the scroll and strange medallion. As I neared the door, I turned around to look back at the bright turquoise eyes of Lily. "You're going to be okay, Lil...I promise you that. I love you, little sis."

She vaulted the couch and caught me in one last hug before I could walk out the door. She said nothing, simply crying silently against my bare chest as I stroked her messy head of dirty-blonde hair. After a few more minutes, she released me to go, but not before standing on her tip-toes to plant a soft kiss on my cheek. She finally smiled as I backed out the door, and although tears were in her eyes, I could tell she was actually happy. With that last goodbye, Rainbow Dash and I walked towards the empty beach on the outside of town.

As we walked the street towards The Bird, Dash immediately asked a question, one I knew was going to come up.

"What was in the safe?" she said with the utmost curiosity.

I smiled warmly and laced my fingers in hers as we walked. "My Last Will and Testament, as well as legal documents and property documents as well." She raised an eyebrow in confusion before I explained further. "I had no delusions about my own mortality...I haven't for a long time. I mean after losing both my mother and grandfather like I did, I've been planning for death for a long time now. I was always most worried about Lily, like I am now...but that's all taken care of." I looked over at the rainbow-haired girl beside me and smiled. "Lily will be completely taken care of. Not only is there a five-hundred thousand dollar life insurance set to be paid to her upon my death or disappearance, but everything I own - my house, my car...even my shop - goes to her."

Dashie's eyes widened at this, and she gasped. "You're leaving everything to her?"

I nodded. "My real sister and I are about as close as two worst enemies, and my father and I are no closer, obviously. Lily is my family here on Earth, so it's only right that she is the one everything goes to."

We walked for awhile longer before arriving at the beach...but something was off. There were people here, and I was pretty sure I'd never seen any of them before. I was a little paranoid and was about to walk away when I saw one of the people look at another after catching sight of me, and nodded at his friend.

By all that is holy, please let me be wrong about what's going on here.

I wasn't...

I heard the telltale sound of sirens along with black SUV's driving up, as well as thirty or so people forming a circle around us. They pointed guns at us, and I could feel Dash take a defensive stance next to me, although I could tell she was scared out of her mind. The crowd parted a bit to reveal an older woman with a smug look on her face.

"Well well, mister Kamkani, it's a pleasure to meet you." she said with a smirk.

I growled and stood my ground. "The pleasure's all yours...what do you want?"

The older female agent (I figure they must be FBI or something) continued grinning, then pointed a finger at Dash. "We want her."

"What? Why? What did I do?" Dash asked, quickly becoming panicked.

Apparently the agent had enough by now, as she dropped the smug façade and nearly snarled. "Look, cut the bullshit, little girl. We know you're not from here, and we want to ask you some questions about that." With that little outburst, the smug look returned. "So just come with me, and no one gets hurt."

"Over my dead fucking body, bi-" I was cut off by the familiar barbed hooks of a tazer embedding in my skin, running a huge amount of electricity through me. I hissed in pain, but still stood tall, unflinching. "Like I said, over my dead body. Is that all you got?"

The agent looked shocked for a moment before gritting her teeth and motioning to another of the men surrounding us. "Hit him again!"

Another pair of hooks shot into my body before releasing its normally deadly payload of electricity in me. I grinned as I felt the power start to flow through my body. "I'm still waiting for you to-" I was cut off again, but this time by a loud *BANG*...and I looked down at a now bleeding hole in my leg. Pain shot through me as I recognized I'd been shot, and I collapsed to the ground. I looked over at Dash, who now had tears in her eyes, and just smiled. "Dashie...you might want to get down low and cover your ears for this." She nodded and did as I asked. I stood up, wincing in pain as I did so, but standing all the way up still. I focused and let my other form come through, eliciting a cluster of gasps from everyone around me.

"W-what are you?" one of them asked in surprise.

I grinned maniacally. "Something you'd never have to deal with if you'd just left us alone." I could feel the massive amount of electricity in my body, and let it build up in my hands before releasing it in a potent burst on either side of me. The lightning arced to each of the people in the circle (standing close together was perhaps not too smart on their part), causing them all to drop to the ground in convulsions. Not pausing to see if they would get up, I grabbed Dash off of the ground and pulled her towards the water while limping, palming the medallion in my hand. She looked at me confused, but I just smiled. "Jump in, Dash. You'll be okay, I promise."

She followed my lead and jumped in the water, easily finding the current and getting swept out with me to sea. Once we'd gotten a fair distance away from shore, I grabbed her hand and pressed it against mine, which held the medallion. A bright glow covered the both of us as I felt my skin tingle. Then a bright flash...and nothing.

Chapter 9: The Other Side

Chapter 9: The Other Side

Ugh...my fucking head. Feels like something just raped my eye socket. Why does this feel so familiar?

There was darkness all around me. I turned my head to look around, only to see more darkness. I start to panic, thinking I've gone blind...only to realize my eyes are closed.

'My, aren't I a smart one.'

I open my eyes to blinding light, groaning in pain and rubbing them. At that point, I start to hear a voice.

"Oh...quick, get in here! He's waking up!"

The shouting person's voice assaulted my tender eardrums and caused an earthquake in my head. I swatted at the air for no apparent reason, as if doing so would lower the volume. "Could you please talk more softly...I feel like someone bludgeoned me with a sledgehammer. And I would greatly appreciate it if you could get me something to drink, preferably with lots of alcohol in it." I heard a hearty laugh and sharp footsteps away, as if he was wearing fucking clogs or something. I groaned again in pain, not bothering to open my eyes.

"Well, it's about time you woke up, lazy bones." said a very familiar voice.

'That voice...'

"Rainbow Dash? Ugh, am I ever so glad to hear you. For the love of all that's holy, please turn out the lights." I pleaded. I heard a click and noticed the light coming through my eyelids had reduced to near nothing, so I gently opened my eyes again. The first thing I noticed was that I was in a room colored soft blue, looking like it was built in the Renaissance era. I was in a gaudy palace-style bed with those really tall bedposts and curtains. Thankfully, the bed was nice and firm, so I pressed down and sat up...instantly noticing something very different. I looked down at my hand to notice they were gray and scaled, and ended in long white claws. Okay...that didn't bother me so much. What did catch me off guard was when I noticed what looked like a tail and large leathery wings...and I could feel them.

Screaming seems to be my mantra right now.

"Koa, Koa! It's okay...it's o-kay...calm down." Dash said to me gently.

I looked towards her voice to find a familiar rainbow-maned blue pegasus mare. That must mean... "I'm in Equestria, aren't I?"

She nodded and smiled. "Well you did say you wanted to come with me."

I was confused. "Come with you? Wait...what are you talking about?" I slammed a fist down into the plush bed. "Argh...why can't I remember anything?!"

"It was the sacrifice you chose to make...for her...and for yourself." said a very gentle yet powerful voice from behind me.

I turned to see a stark white alicorn with a multicolored mane and tail, and a golden necklace and crown. Even with my shock, I knew immediately who it was. "P-P-Princess Celestia!" I struggled, trying to bow somehow. "I'm already sitting...do I stand and then bow? Do I just bow my head? What do I do?!" I just settled for leaning forward, overextending my back muscles, and succeeding in pulling muscles in my lower back, but I stayed bowed, muttering an 'ouch'.

A heavenly giggle came from in front of me, and a hoof lifted my chin. I found myself looking into magenta eyes and a white face. "Dear Koa, you must calm yourself before you faint from the stress."

I nodded and sat up, wincing from my now screaming muscles. "Y-yeah...sorry about that. I just freaked a bit is all. I'm okay now, I promise."

"Well chosen, Rainbow Dash. He is quite amusing." said yet another voice with a giggle, this one coming from behind me where Dash was.

I turned to see the lunar princess, Luna, standing next to Dash. I immediately bowed the same way I did to Princess Celestia, and instantly regretted it, groaning in great pain. From there, I didn't get up.

'You're a fucking idiot...'

I heard the sound of hooves on the soft carpet walking over to me, and then a soft gust of wind and a movement on the bed as someone landed next to me. I felt a soft...something...on my back. "Oh gosh, Koa. Are you going to be okay?"

I sighed and did a mental facepalm. "Of course I'm okay, Dash. I'm always like this, all the time. Just call me Mister Fold-Up." I groaned as my muscles refused to lift me. "I'd love you forever if you could help me up."

Dash giggled as her two hooves reached underneath my stomach, and with a gust of wind I was dragged up to a sitting position. My back ached, but from here I would be able to stand. I scooted softly to the edge of the bed, noticing that my feet were much the same as my hands. I just let my tail and wings kinda do their own thing, as I swung my legs and stood up. I now only had four toes on each foot - three webbed in front and one in back - but luckily they were spread wide enough to offer good support, so standing wasn't too much of a problem. I noticed that I towered over Dash, easily by about three feet. As I stood, I also noticed the feeling of new muscles in my back, as well as where my tailbone would be...which makes sense, since I did have a tail now. I took a few tenuous steps, smiling at the fact that at least walking wouldn't be an issue.

I guess I should have been freaking out a bit more, but I did remember making some sort agreement with Dash...and I do remember knowing her as a...human? I guess that's the word, as my brain is telling me it is. For some reason, all memory was gone, save for some hazy ones about Rainbow Dash as a human...and me. We were walking together along a beach and holding hands...and later, kissing. The memories progressed and came to one particular memory that made me blush like crazy.

The sun princess ahead of me cleared her throat, and I looked at her. She smiled and gestured to a large mirror beside her. "Would you like to see yourself?" I nodded and walked to the mirror, which was luckily as tall as me.

I had gray, scaled skin everywhere except for a large patch of grayish-white that stretched from just under my chin, all the way down underneath my...erm...area (which, I might add, wasn't there, so I assume it was under scales or something because I could still feel it), and then back to my tail. I had a long snout now, with a large amount of sharp teeth protruding over the lower jaw, even with my mouth closed. Two white horns swept back on my head, making a tangent about halfway down towards each other, almost meeting at their ends. My wings were gray as well, but with the same grayish-white on the inside, and a little claw-looking thing at the joint. I had white spikes growing in a row along my jawline on either side, as well as small white spikes running from the back of my neck all the way down my tail. My tail had a sort of fin on it, most likely for stability while flying. Lastly, my eyes were bright blue, with a sort of lightning-looking energy constantly moving around the iris, giving a really cool effect.

I looked over at the princess with a confused look. "I'm a dragon?"

Princess Celestia shook her head. "The correct term for what you are is an Elemental Draconian. You are the fusion of a human, large amounts of magic, and a Great Wyrm."

I raised an eyebrow. "Great Wyrm?"

She nodded. "As dragons age, they become more attuned to their element, and thus slowly change and evolve over thousands of years. A Great Wyrm is a dragon that has reached the epitome of attunement with his or her element, and thus becomes the element itself."

"Wow...that's heavy." I said dumbly. "Question: where did you get a Great Wyrm to agree to this?"

The alabaster alicorn pointed up, towards the sky. "The sky, of course. Zizzanasx, the Lord of the Sky, offered himself for this. He is..." the princess trailed off, letting a tear slide down her cheek, "was a dear friend of mine. As his life was nearing its end, he offered what life he had left for the spell to bring you here. He saw great potential in you...as do I."

So not only was I a magical dragon dude-thing, but an ancient and powerful dragon literally gave his life to bring me to Equestria. I guess there's only one thing left to ask...

"Umm...not to be a total tool or anything, but is there a fridge I can raid somewhere around here? Preferably with lots of meat and alcohol. Okay, maybe just meat for now." I stated firmly. Both of the princesses gasped and I raised an eyebrow. "What...what did I say?"

Dash walked next to me and cleared her throat. "Um Koa, ponies don't eat meat. Since meat comes from animals and technically ponies are animals..."

I smiled sheepishly at the princesses. "Whoops, sorry about that. Um...how about a nice tasty mushroom salad with lots and lots of mushrooms...and mushrooms. Oh, and don't forget mushrooms. Did I mention mushrooms?"

I felt an elbow in my side and I winced, looking down to see a glaring cyan mare. "Koa, you're talking to the princesses! Show a little respect, please!"

"Umm...a salad, please? Pretty please? Super, ultra, mega pretty please with sugar on top and a cherry? Oh, and some chocolate sauce...gotta have chocolate sauce." I responded.

The moon princess giggled, while Dash facehooved. "Oh Tia, we will have fun with this one."

I noticed Dash glare at Princess Luna. "Easy there, cowmare. He's taken."

Princess Luna rolled her eyes and smirked. "Come now, Rainbow Dash...I did not mean it that way and you know it."

I raised a hand, waiting to be called on like at school...how I knew this, I don't know. Finally Princess Celestia nodded towards me and I smiled. "Umm...I wasn't joking about the food...my stomach is eating itself. It's saying 'FEED ME', and I must comply."

Dashie facehooved...again.

A few minutes later, I was happy beyond belief. My stomach was no longer screaming at me, and was full of some wonderful salad that some royal chefs had made for me at the princesses' request. Now that I had a full stomach, I could think more clearly...and realized how much of an ass I had been.

"Umm...I'd just like to apologize for how I acted earlier, princesses. I don't know what came over me." I explained lamely.

Luckily, it seemed the two royal alicorns had a good sense of humor, as they both giggled and smiled at me.

"Think nothing of it, dear Koamalu. Dragon instincts are very strong, and it will take you some time go get used to them. Wait...oh no..." Princess Celestia said before turning to Dash. "Rainbow Dash, when is your...time to be?"

I was confused, but Rainbow Dash blushed. "W-well it didn't happen the whole time I was away. I guess humans must work differently than ponies do...so...any time now?"

I was still confused, but was snapped out of my confusion as a very odd scent caressed my nose. I can't describe what it was...but I was instantly hooked to it, whatever it was. It was like the best damn drug in the world, and I had to find the source...and that's when I pinpointed it.

The scent was coming from Dash.

I stood up to walk over to her, like my body was possessed. For some reason I started drooling a bit and I felt a burning in my stomach like a fire had been set in it...but it was an amazingly good burn. I wanted more of it, and I wanted...no...needed Dashie now.

Before I could take a step towards her though, I felt myself restrained, and looked to see a strong magenta aura covering my entire body. I turned to notice the aura was coming from Princess Celestia's horn. I don't know why, but I had to get away from it...so with all of my strength, I flexed every muscle I could, and the aura shattered like glass. This aura was replaced by a more powerful one, one of light blue. This one was coming from Princess Luna, and unlike the first one, it was much stronger than I was.

The younger alicorn sighed and looked at the elder. "Your strength was never in restraining spells, dear sister." She then turned her attention to my Dash. "Rainbow Dash, you are to stay away from the palace until this ends, do you understand?" Dashie nodded. "Return in a few days when your heat has ended."

As Dash flew away quickly, my clarity of mind returned...as I could no longer smell the scent. I turned to the night princess and raised an eyebrow. "Dashie's in heat?"

She nodded. "When a filly comes of age, it happens once every five to seven months, and lasts from three to six days. A dragon's senses are much more powerful than a human's, so you pick it up easily. As I am sure you know, a female's heat cycle is used to ensure procreation. However, in your current state with your lack of control over your new body's instincts, you would likely seriously hurt her." She cleared her throat and blushed a bit. "Dragons are known to be rather...rough.”

I then heard an echo-ey voice say, “Though I would not mind that in the least...”

I chuckled and grinned. "I heard that."

The night princess raised an eyebrow. "I did not speak."

"Umm...I clearly heard you say that you wouldn't mind that in the least..." I replied with a smirk.

The elder sister shot a look at her younger sister. "Luna! For your own sake, please control yourself!"

The dark blue mare stuttered. "B-but I d-did not..." She leaned over to whisper in her sister's ear, but I could clearly hear her say, "Sister, I did not speak that aloud."

I just grinned until they both turned back to me, mortified looks on their faces. The sun princess spoke first, however. "She did not say that, Koamalu."

I waved a hand at her. "Just Koa is fine, princess...and what do you mean she didn't say that? I clearly heard her."

The princess shook her head. "No, I mean that she did not say that aloud."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Umm but I...okay...I don't follow."

She sighed and closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again and staring at me intently. "What I mean to say is that the words you heard did not come from her mouth…she thought them."

My mouth dropped open in shock for a moment before I regained composure. "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute…you're telling me I just heard her thoughts? Not to mention the fact that I just severely invaded her privacy, but is that even normal for a dragon to do?"

The sun princess shook her head. "This ability, if it exists, is unknown to me. However, a great amount of magic was required in making you and your body. Perhaps this is a side effect."

"Well can you undo that part? There's a ton of stuff running through everyone's mind that I do not want to know." I asked pleadingly.

The princess again shook her head. "Never mind the fact that it is impossible to 'undo' the spell, I would not know where to start. I apologize, Koa. Perhaps with practice, you can learn to suppress it, or control it."

"I sure hope so…" I said, thoughts from the two ponies in the room running through my head…and no, I'm not going to mention them. Luna's are…private.

I was then led to a wide open area about a ten minute walk away from the palace. It was a large valley of sorts, with nothing but bare ground and mountains all around. I turned to Princess Celestia and she smiled.

"This area is for you to practice in. Learn your new abilities and master them. I cannot tell you at the moment exactly why I chose to bring you here, only that there is a great purpose in store for you." The princess explained gently.

I raised an eyebrow and smirked. "So Rainbow Dash wasn't the only reason you brought me here, hmm?"

She nodded. "That is correct. At a later time I will explain to you your place here, but for the moment, get accustomed to your new body and its abilities. All I can tell you is that you will need them."

I shrugged. "Fair enough. Where will I be staying, princess?"

She gestured to the large stone archway we passed through on the way to the valley. "As you reenter the palace through that gate, take your first right. You will be staying in the room with silver doors depicting a dragon on them."

"How convenient." I remarked with a smile.

She nodded. "Indeed. Anyhow, I would leave you to your devices, unless there is something else you need from me."

I nodded. "There is actually." I swallowed hard and sighed. "You might want to talk to your sister about her feelings about me."

The solar princess cocked her head in confusion. "What do you mean, Koa?"

"I don't know if you could tell, but she really likes me. I mean a lot. Her thoughts were practically screaming that fact." I explained with a sigh. "I don't know if it's because of who I am or what I am, but I'm loyal to Dash. I just don't want to see anyone get hurt needlessly."

She nodded. "Well I can certainly understand that, you make quite the handsome Draconian." She smiled warmly and added, "Still, I can understand your concern. I have seen many times a relationship handled incorrectly tearing friends apart. Since her return, Luna has been closer to Rainbow Dash than anypony, and I would hate to see such a beautiful friendship fall to ruin. I will speak to my sister on this matter and advise her of your loyalty to Rainbow Dash. Hopefully her infatuation can be broken and a friendship can blossom instead."

I nodded and smiled. "Thanks princess, I appreciate it."

She smiled warmly and nodded back. "You are most welcome, Koa. Now, I will leave you to do as you will. Please be careful so as not to injure yourself, but do feel free to explore your body's limits. If you do not turn in, I will return before lowering the sun to fetch you for an evening meal. Until then, be well, Koa."

Without another word she flew off, leaving me alone in the rocky valley. Perhaps at some point I'll try my wings out for flying, but not today. For now, I'd focus on what I already knew I had – my strength, my reflexes, and my magic.

From some of the memories I could salvage from my previous life, I explicitly remember standing outside during a thunderstorm with a golf club in my hand. Exactly what possessed me to do that, I don't know…but I remember getting hit by a bolt of lightning…and not dying. It seems that I had some sort of resistance or power over lightning, so I figured I'd give that a try.

I closed my eyes and slowed my breathing, feeling my heart rate slow drastically as well. I searched within myself for something, though I didn't know exactly what I was looking for.

Suddenly, I found it.

In my chest, I felt a strong tingly energy that seemed to move through my body wherever I willed it. I willed it to my arms and heard a crackling energy in the air, so I opened my eyes to see that six black spikes had grown seemingly out of nowhere on my arms – three on each arm. Electricity was arcing from each of these points to the next, and the knuckles on my hands had turned to black spikes as well. As I placed my hands palm-facing forward in front of me, the electricity jumped to my knuckle spikes and shot out of my palm in a burst of lightning, causing a deafening roar of thunder. I noticed as I was doing this, dark thunder clouds were beginning to gather overhead.

'Would be really awesome if I could control those.'

I willed the electricity inside me to recede to my core again, and instead looked up at the clouds. For some reason, I felt calmer with them gathering overhead. It was strange…almost like I had a kinship with the storm itself. I instinctively reached out to the storm, only to notice a cloud start forming that looked strangely like a funnel. Debris and dust started to swirl around me, and once I realized exactly what was happening, I snatched my hand away and started to run…but upon doing so the wind stopped. I looked up to see the funnel had disappeared, leaving just a roiling mass of clouds.

"Hmm…" I hummed in thought to myself.

I reached out to the cloud again, feeling an odd tingling in my hand. The funnel began to form again, only this time I didn't run away. The wind formed all around me, and while I could feel it whipping at my skin, I stayed put. The funnel got closer and closer to the ground, until it was upon me.

'Fuck me, I'm in the middle of a tornado!'

The core of the swirling winds was oddly calm, and I couldn't help but chuckle at the surreal feeling of it all. I became curious, and focused on the winds themselves, willing them to become stronger. I noticed the wind pick up on the edge of the funnel, but where I was standing it was not much more windy. I willed the wind to become even stronger, and now I noticed pieces of rock beginning to chip and break off the ground.

"Okay, that's enough." I said to myself, and released my hold on the winds. The funnel weakened and dissipated, leaving me standing in a patch of rocky earth that had been chewed up by the ferocity of the winds. I couldn't help but smile a bit at this newfound ability. "Oh, this might come in handy for some fun."

Now that I was confident that I could control the separate elements of a storm, I attempted to try and make it rain. I focused on the thought of it raining…willing it to happen. At first, nothing happened at all, save for the clouds getting bigger and more ominous. As I was about to give up, however, a drop of rain fell on my head…then another, and another. Soon the entire area was filled with a downpour, and before I could cause a flood or anything, I released my hold on the clouds themselves, and the rain promptly lightened up before stopping completely.

As I finished up, I noticed the sun had started to fall from the sky, so I headed back to the palace and towards the room the princess had told me I'd have. The silver double doors were massive, easily my wingspan in width and a bit taller than me.

"Must be a royal thing…" I remarked smugly.

I pushed the doors open to find myself in a room that was oddly set perfectly for my tastes, with just a large firm bed, one chair near a bookcase full of books, a few windows, and a balcony. The room was simple stone, with a very rustic look to it, which was fine by me, but thankfully it had a soft, plush blue carpet as well. I decided I'd read up as I could on history and whatnot of Equestria, so I grabbed a book marked "History of Modern Equestria" and started reading.

A few hours must have passed, as the next thing I knew there was a knock at the door. "You may enter." I answered while placing a stray piece of paper in the book as a bookmark before closing it and standing. The two princesses entered my room and smiled.

Princess Celestia smiled warmly and nodded. "It's good to see you're settling in well. How was your day?"

I smirked and shook my head. "Intense. For example, I'm sure you saw that freak storm earlier, yes?" Both of the princesses nodded. "Well…that was all my doing. I hope I didn't scare anyone."

The lunar princess looked thoroughly impressed and nodded. "Very impressive. It appears you are discovering your abilities much faster than we could have hoped." I appreciated her praise, but once again her thoughts betrayed her expressed emotions.

I looked over at Princess Celestia with a roll of my eyes. "You haven't spoken to her yet?"

The princess shook her head with a heavy sigh. "Not yet, and I apologize. Royal duties have kept me busy. I shall speak to her after our evening meal is finished."

The princess of night looked utterly confused. "Speak to me about what?"

"About your personal thoughts about me that right now are finding their way to my mind." I deadpanned.

The mentioned princess blushed, the redness showing through even her dark coloring. "O-oh, well…"

I waved a hand at her in dismissal. "Don't worry about it, princess. In all honesty I'm flattered. Your sister will explain everything later on, okay?"

She nodded and relaxed a bit. "Very well." She then turned towards the door and started to walk out before looking back at me. "Would you join us for dinner then, Koa?"

I nodded. "I will, thank you. I'm pretty hungry, actually."

I was lead once again down the winding hallways and corridors of the princesses' palace, and arrived once again in the huge dining hall. This time, however, there was a young violet unicorn with a dark blue mane and tail sitting at the table as well. Her mane had a single streak of pink in it, and I couldn't help but think it was cute. The unicorn noticed me walking in and smiled, and I noticed her vivid violet irises in her eyes.

"Oh, you must be Koa! Rainbow Dash told me a lot about you." the young unicorn said enthusiastically.

I nodded. "Yeah, that's me. And you are?"

She looked embarrassed and smiled sheepishly. "Oh, I'm sorry about that. My name is Twilight Sparkle. It's a pleasure to meet you, Koa." she finished, while holding out a hoof.

I shook her hoof in my hand and smiled. "The pleasure's all mine, Twilight Sparkle. It's nice to meet a friend of Dashie's."

"Dashie?" she asked in confusion. "She only lets Fluttershy or Pinkie Pie call her that."

I tapped my chin with a claw. "Fluttershy, Fluttershy…why does that name sounds so familiar?" I then widened my eyes in shock and realization. "Wait a minute, does Dashie also have a friend named Applejack?"

The unicorn nodded as a plate of food was placed in front of both of us. "Well we're all her friends, but she's a lot closer with Fluttershy and Applejack."

I nodded solemnly. "I see. She told me about that day in the hospital. Applejack and Fluttershy were the last ones to see her alive."

Twilight Sparkle's smile diminished a bit. "Yes, that was a sad day for us all…you have no idea." She then looked at me and smiled widely again. "She's back now, though. I can't tell you how great it is to have her back with us again."

I shook my head. "Death is always hard to deal with." I then grimaced. "I mean, I can't remember if I've ever lost someone that way before, but I can imagine it would be horrible."

The unicorn nodded. "It was. Applejack was severely depressed, and Fluttershy stopped talking. It tore them apart." She then smiled again. "I was there today, however, when Rainbow Dash went to see Applejack. It was the single most wonderful feeling in the world to see Applejack so happy. I don't think I've ever seen her smile so much."

I couldn't help but grin, happy that my Dashie got to see her best friends again. "Well that makes me happy. I really wish I could see them all sometime. They sound like the kind of people-"

I was cut off by Princess Celestia. "Ponies, Koa. Words of address are different here. Everypony, somepony, no pony, and so on. You'll confuse ponies around here if you say 'someone' or 'people'."

I nodded. "My bad." I turned back to the unicorn. "Well I think they're the kind of ponies I'd like to meet. If Dashie's that good of friends with them, I think I'd like to be too."

"Well I'll warn you then, Fluttershy is extremely protective of Rainbow Dash, and probably will be even more so with having to watch her die. I don't think you have to worry about Applejack, though. Just keep in mind that her family is everything to her, and that includes Rainbow Dash. If you don't insult her family, you'll be fine." Twilight Sparkle explained.

I nodded. "Thanks for the tip, and I'll keep that all in mind." I then looked down at the steaming sandwich before me. I took a bite and savored the wonderful taste. "Mmm…shroomburger. I could live off of this."

"I am glad you approve, Koa. It is my own recipe." Luna explained with a smile.

I swallowed my bite and smiled at her. "I definitely approve, Princess Luna, thank you."

We finished our meal shortly thereafter and went our separate ways, me heading to the room provided for me, and Princess Celestia heading to bed after lowering the sun (which I should add, was pretty damn cool to watch). Luna seemed to want to follow me for a second, but thankfully decided against it and went off to her own room, behind a pair of ebony double doors with a large emblem of a crescent moon carved into them. I headed off to my room on my own, but because I was wide awake, decided otherwise. Instead, I headed off to the valley I had been in earlier in the day and caused a thunderstorm for my own comfort. Light rain and lightning arcing through the air above me…it was truly beautiful.

The moon was high in the sky, as I could see it through the breaking clouds, so I assumed it must have been near midnight. What surprised me next was the voice from behind me.

"Beautiful…" said a silky soft voice from behind me.

"Gah!" I yelled before falling back against the ground, the muscles in my back screaming in pain. I opened my eyes to see two cyan eyes looking right back at me from above.

"You must learn to not be so paranoid, dear Koa." the pony remarked smugly.

I groaned in pain and sat up, rubbing the back of my head. "You should learn to be a little louder so I can hear you approach and don't get the life scared out of me." I then looked at the pony standing before me, noticing it was Princess Luna. She was, however, missing something...

"Umm…Princess Luna? Where is your crown and everything?" I asked nervously.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "You do not honestly believe I wear my crown and royal garments all of the time, do you?"

I smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "I guess not. So, what can I do for you?" This was a stupid question on my part, because I could already hear what she was thinking…and I didn't like where the conversation was going to go. She was very nervous and troubled about it, however, so I listened.

She sighed and sat next to me, looking up at the stormy sky overhead. "What do you think is going to happen to you and Rainbow Dash, Koa?"

Now I was confused. "I'm not sure what you mean, princess. Care to elaborate?"

"What I mean to imply is that you are becoming the very embodiment of storms…the very thing that killed her mother, and the very thing she has feared more than anything else in this world. Do you really think a relationship between the two of you would work?" she asked with a blank expression.

I sighed as well and lay back on the damp ground, looking at my storm. "Look princess, I'm not stupid…I know what you're getting at here." I turned my head to look up at her and held a stern look. "I love Dashie, and she loves me back. She's already accepted who I am…what I am, and that's all that matters to me. If she had a problem with what I'm becoming, she would have told me." I then glared at her. "What's your stake in this anyway? What is it you want with me?" I snorted. "I mean let's be honest, you're one of the most coveted mares in all of Equestria. You're smart and beautiful, not to mention a princess. Why do you need me?"

She looked a little embarrassed, but returned my gaze. "Koa, I will live for millennia to come, if not longer." She laughed painfully. "No pony really knows how long we will live, not even myself or Tia. For all we know, it may be forever. We may never know the peace and comfort of a mortal death." She hung her head in sadness, letting a few tears fall. "This is why we are alone, Koa. If we choose just any stallion – and there are many willing to fill the position – we will be forced to watch him slowly age and die, while we are forced to live on through the ages." She then looked at me with a small smile, placing a hoof on my shoulder. "But you, Koa, will live many millennia before your life ends. You will outlive beloved Rainbow Dash by thousands of years. Think of it for a moment…is it fair to you?"

As much as I hated to admit it – and I really did – she was right. I mean in essence, the very fact that we both would live such long lives made us perfect mates. And if I was honest with myself, I couldn't deny that she was attractive to me on a number of levels. Still, I was adamant. "No…it's not fair. However, it wouldn't be fair to her either if I decided to leave her simply because I don't want to have to bury her someday. I love her and want to be with her for the rest of her life." I then reached over and stroked the hoof on my shoulder softly. "I can't say that you and I could never be together, princess, because we both know Dash won't live as long as us and I can't say what the future holds…but for now at least, I'm with Rainbow Dash. God willing, I'll be with her until the day she or I draw our last breath."

She removed her hoof from my shoulder and smiled down at me genuinely for once. "Rainbow Dash is privileged to have such a loyal male in her life…there are very few of them it seems." She sighed and smiled sadly. "After the life she has experienced, she deserves to have you in her life, and you in hers. Though you do not remember your old life, I do…and you deserve this." She then turned away from me.

I stood and placed a hand at the back of her head and rubbed softly against her mane. "I can't be your significant other, princess…but I would be more than happy to be your friend. After all, regardless of what happens between Dash and I, a good romantic relationship always starts with a good friendship."

She looked up at me and smiled. "I would be most pleased to have you as a friend, Koa…and please, call me Luna. If you are to be a friend, then no formality is needed."

Luna and I spent the rest of the night like that, just talking about different things. As her thoughts poured out to me, I was pleased to find that they were no longer the intense longing for me that they originally were, but instead a happy and giddy feeling of making a new friend, and a respected one at that. Now that she had let her guard down, she was funny and carefree, a stark difference when compared with her sister, who seemed to be all business most of the time. I couldn't remember my past life, but I imagined this would be the kind of girl I'd be friends with, so I went with my instincts on it. Contrary to her normally composed attitude, she was quite the prankster, and loved playing jokes and such on me. I was much the same, so I took all very well, and was beginning to see just why Dash considered Luna an older sister to her, as the two were a lot alike in actuality.

I had dissipated the storm quite some time ago, and so we both noticed the moon about to fall below the tree line in the distance. Luna stood and walked towards the palace, beckoning me to follow. We arrived soon after in a garden of sorts, with a large elevated platform made of stone with an emblem of the sun on one side and the moon on the other. I noticed Princess Celestia was already over the sun emblem, levitating a mug of what I assumed was coffee, her flawless multicolored mane and tail billowing in a nonexistent breeze.

Princess Celestia looked at her younger sister and smiled. "Are you ready sister?"

Luna nodded. "I am, Tia."

Princess Celestia set the mug down on a small podium-like thing beside her before taking her sister's hooves in hers as they both stood on their hind legs. The both spread their wings and ascended into the air, their horns glowing brightly. I watched as the moon descended to behind the horizon, while from behind me, a burst of brilliant light shone forth. I looked behind me at the burning sun, causing the first light of day to shine on Equestria. The two sisters were smiling as they landed, the new light of day shining behind them both. I couldn't help but clap.

"Wow, that was amazing! Do you two do that every morning?" I asked excitedly.

They both blushed slightly and giggled. Celestia responded in a warm tone, "Well Koa, it would be untrue to say we didn't put on a bit of a show for you…but yes, we do this every morning."

I smiled and nodded. "Well nonetheless, it was incredible. To think that something as important as the passing of days is controlled by two very special ponies." I did a little bow with my wings held tight against my sides. "I'm honored you let me be a part of this."

The sun princess giggled. "My my, what a charmer." She then turned to her younger sister. "Luna, you are going to bed, yes?"

Seemingly realizing just how tired she was, the younger alicorn yawned and nodded. "Yes sister, I am. Thank you for reminding me. I will see the two of you tonight then, yes?"

I nodded. "I'll be there, Luna. I promise."

The princess of the night smiled in happiness before yawning again, and then trotting off towards her room down the corridors of the palace.

Princess Celestia hopped off of the platform and smiled at me. "It is good to see you bring such happiness to my sister, Koa. If only she could find a male such as yourself. I trust your night together was not uncomfortable?"

I shrugged. "It was at first, but we worked everything out. We're good now, I promise."

She smiled. "I'm glad to hear that, Koa. Now, unless you're feeling tired, I would like you to join me for breakfast. Are you interested?"

I nodded. "I'm not really tired at all, actually, so yes…I'll join you."

She giggled and began walking towards the dining hall with me. "The circadian rhythm of a dragon is going to take some getting used to for you. Because of the way your metabolism works, you will find that you often can go for a week without sleeping and be just fine."

"Really now? Well…that's going to be strange. Any ideas how I should occupy the time I would normally be sleeping?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Well, my sister will always be awake with you during the hours of night. If however you wish for other things to do or she is busy, I would recommend either training yourself, or finding a hobby of some sort." She rolled her eyes up and pursed her lips in thought for a moment before looking at me again. "I could always enlist you in the Royal Nightwatch. We could always use one such as you to watch over the sleeping world and be sure that all is well while the rest of us slumber."

I raised an eyebrow. "What could possibly happen in a place like this that you can't handle?"

She sighed and stopped, and I stopped with her. "I suppose it's time you learned the reason I chose to bring you here, Koa." She looked up at me and nodded curtly. "It is true that part of the reason I did so is because both you and Rainbow Dash chose for you to come here, but there is a more important reason than that. You see, when a magical being such as Rainbow Dash dies before their time, it seeks out safety with a kindred spirit that will understand and protect him or her…a pure spirit that holds life in high regard and holds in his or her heart the morals that we value here in Equestria." She continued walking, but then continued explaining as well. "Sometimes, the magical spirit ends up in a completely different universe or dimension, and often times cannot be retrieved…but through her connection to all of us as the Element of Loyalty, we were able to track down and find her." She sighed and narrowed her eyes. "You see Koa, all is not as well as it seems in Equestria. It is true, we live in relative peace, but Equestria is not without its enemies…or its own darkness and evil." She then stopped again at the double doors leading to the dining hall, looking at me seriously. "When we found you, we saw who you were…and what you were. Magic lives in every being, but cannot be realized in a world without magic itself, unless a magical being awakens it. You, Koa, are possibly the most magical non-alicorn being I've ever come across who is not from Equestria. You see there are many universes and thus many dimensions, and I have been privileged to see or experience most of them." She blushed a bit before shaking her head and continuing. “Anyway, what I am trying to say, Koa, is that in my long life, I have learned that anything is possible…anything. The reason I have brought you here is because I need a sword of Equestria that can move unseen and unheard. He must be powerful, yet kind and gentle. It was no coincidence that Rainbow Dash found you, Koa. I believe in fate…and fate has chosen you. Will you answer the call? Will you protect and be vigilant for your new home?"

I was completely in awe of what she just told me. Not only did Rainbow Dash seek me out (albeit unconsciously), but I was magical? Not only that, but now the princess wanted me to be some sort of unseen protector of Equestria? I was shocked, to say the least. It was a great honor, to be sure…but I was still in shock.

"Umm…" I started, "m-maybe we should eat first, princess."

She giggled and nodded. "Very well, come with me and we will sate your hunger."

After we both ate, I was feeling more clear-minded and was able to weigh my options better. I mean on one hand, I was kinda being forced into this, being told that this was the reason I was brought to Equestria. On the other hand though, I'd be lying if I wasn't shaking with excitement. I mean, not only was it a great honor, but it was the single greatest purpose I'd ever had. Even with no memories…I somehow knew that.

Without any further ado, I stood and nodded. "I've decided, Princess Celestia…this humble dragon would be honored to serve Equestria."

She nodded and stood. "Very well, Koa. Kneel, please." I did so and she touched her horn to both of my shoulders. "From this day forth, you will be known as Storm Rider, the Demon of Equestria. The enemies of Equestria and those that would do her harm will come to quiver in fear at your very name, and Equestria herself will welcome you as an honored hero." She stood back and smiled. "Arise, Storm Rider."

I stood and smiled. "Thank you, princess."

She waved a hoof at me in dismissal. "There will be none of that, Storm Rider. You are now an Equestrian citizen, but more than that, a friend. I ask you do not use my title unless we are at a formal gathering. Simply refer to me as Celestia, please."

I nodded and smiled. "Sounds good, Celestia. So what should I do until Luna wakes up?"

She shrugged. "Well, I recommend you visit Ponyville and meet the other Elements. Rainbow Dash will be staying in Cloudsdale for the next few days with a friend, so you need not fear losing control of yourself. You have already met my protégé, Twilight Sparkle. She is the Element of Magic of the Elements of Harmony, and you should start with her. She will introduce you to the rest of her friends. Look for the large tree library near the center of town. To be sure you do not cause a panic, I will have Captain Shining Armor escort you. I am sure Twilight will be happy to see her older brother."

I nodded and followed Celestia through the doors on the other side of the room.

We arrived outside to find a white unicorn stallion with a dual-hued blue mane, waiting for us with a smile.

He stood at attention and saluted the princess before looking to me with a smirk. "Well now, how's your headache?"

I recognized the voice immediately. "Well…much better now that you're not yelling after I just woke up."

He chuckled and extended a hoof to shake. "Well, I'm Captain Shining Armor. It's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too, captain. I'm Koa…er, I mean Storm Rider." I said with a sheepish grin.

He chuckled and motioned to a nearby carriage with two pegasi hitched to the front. "Shall we?"

I nodded before looking back at Celestia. She smiled and nodded as well. "I will be waiting for you when you return, Storm Rider. Enjoy yourself." I shrugged and stepped onto the carriage.

First thing I have to say is that these royal carriages are fast…very fast. What would have normally taken a few hours by train was cut down to twenty minutes by flight. I mean I understand that flying is the best way to get around, but damn.

When we landed, I couldn't help but notice a large crowd of ponies gathering all around, probably wondering who was in such a noble-looking carriage.

'Okay…first impression is the most important. Make a good one.'

I opened the door and stepped out, much to the surprise of all the ponies. They looked like they were all about to run until they saw the captain come out behind me with a smile on his face.

"Ponies of Ponyville, I assure you that you are in no danger. This is a personal friend and guest of your princesses. He has come to Ponyville at Princess Celestia's suggestion, so I assure you, all is well. Go about your business." He stated simply. At this the crowd began to disperse, much to my pleasure. A familiar violet unicorn still remained however, with a huge smile on her face.

The captain noticed this and bolted over to her with a large smile as well. "Twily!"

"Shining!" the younger unicorn squealed.

The two ran up to each other and embraced tightly, and I just chuckled.

Twilight looked at me and stuck her tongue out. "What, I can't miss my BBBFF?"

"Your what now?" I said with a snort of laughter.

She glared at me. "My big-brother-best-friend-forever...now stop laughing at me."

I just snorted a laugh again. "I'll stop laughing when it stops being funny." I then composed myself and smiled. "Ah, so this is Ponyville. Nice place." No sooner had I breathed in the fresh air of Ponyville then I was tackled to the ground by a yellow blur of fluff. My head swam with a resurfacing headache, and my back was still sore from my stupidity when I first woke up, but I was able to move enough to look down at what was now sitting on my chest.

The first thing I saw was pink, and as my vision started to clear, I noticed it was actually a very soft straight mane. This mane was connected to the body of a delicate yellow pegasus, who was at the moment crying into my chest. Hoping I hadn't already fucked up my chances at friendship, I ran a clawed hand through her mane softly, and finally the pony looked up at me. The first thing I noticed was that it was, in fact, a mare...and she had the most vivid turquoise eyes I'd ever seen. Tears were streaming down her face, and while she was not openly bawling anymore, her lip was still quivering.

"T-t-thank you..." she muttered softly.

I showed a confused look to her. "For what?"

She looked like she was still about to cry, but she let a soft smile grace her gentle face. "For bringing Rainbow Dash back to us...to me."

As I stared at the pegasus, something seemed to click in my mind. I smiled when I realized who it was. "You must be Fluttershy."

The pegasus nodded and smiled again, but didn't release her grasp from me, so I just stood up, cradling her against my chest like a small child. I looked around to see Twilight Sparkle and what I assumed was a friend of hers - a bleach-white unicorn with a styled violet mane. Both of them had their jaws hanging open in shock.

"What...do I have something on my face?" I asked, feeling a little self-conscious.

Twilight Sparkle shook her head, not breaking her stare on me. "N-no. It's just..." She was silent for a few moments as she composed herself. "It's just that Fluttershy never acts like this around somepony...er, dragon new. Most ponies are lucky if they can even get her to talk."

The soft voice from my chest spoke up. "He's not a stranger, Twilight." The pegasus turned her head around to look at her friend, but didn't break her grip on me. "A stranger wouldn't have chosen to get Dashie home to us...and he wouldn't make friends with the princesses as easily as he did." She looked back at me and nuzzled under my chin cutely. "He's a friend...the best kind of friend."

'Making friends already, Koa. Good job, man...good job.'

Chapter 10: The Elements

Chapter 10: The Elements

Things had started out well so far, and I was pretty damn happy about that. I mean, from what I've been told by Twilight Sparkle and Rarity - the white unicorn - Fluttershy is extremely shy. The very fact that she was so forward towards me and friendly was a great sign on my part, and I was confident that if I could make good with the shyest pony most of the denizens of Ponyville know, the rest couldn't be that hard.

"Well darling, I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you before. Where did you say you were from?" Rarity asked.

We were on our way to meet another one of Dashie's friends, Applejack, at a place called Sweet Apple Acres. The two unicorns took it upon themselves to find out as much as they could about me, which I didn't mind. I didn't remember much, so I didn't really mind telling them what I knew.

I sighed and shrugged to the brilliant white unicorn. "I'm not sure, actually. I come from another world - I know that much - but beyond that, nothing. Dash could probably tell you more than I could, in all honesty."

The pale yellow pegasus that was currently flying beside me nodded to her friend. "Oh yes. Rainbow Dash told me all kinds of things about his world. She made it sound so beautiful. And she was able to swim at the beach!"

Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow. "Rainbow Dash swimming? Now that I'll have to see before I can believe it."

I shook my head. "Not likely. I distinctly remember her telling me that it was because she had wings here that she never swam. Apparently feathers soak up a lot of water, and as you can imagine, that would cut down on swimming by a lot."

The violet unicorn smiled sheepishly. "Oh...yes, I guess that makes sense." She then nodded towards a gate leading to a huge orchard of apple trees. "Well, we're here: Sweet Apple Acres."
I stepped forward into the orchard and instantly heard a strong-accented voice coming from in front of us.

"Big Mac, Ah need them shears over here pronto! Ah can't clip these dead branches without 'em." the obviously female voice said.

There was a deep grunt before I heard a heavyset set of hooves approaching from the left. "Hold yer horses, sis, Ah'm comin'." A huge red stallion stepped out in front of me. I mean this guy was big...almost as big as me. He looked over and noticed us and looked towards a tree. "Uh, sis...we got comp'ny."

The tree he was looking at rustled around a bit before a brown stetson hat fell out, with an orange pony right behind it. The pony - obviously female - had a long blonde mane and tail. Beautiful as they both were, it was clear her purpose was working, not eye-candy. With every trot she made towards us, I could see the thick muscles of her body move, and I couldn't stop staring in awe.

She finally stood right in front of us with a warm grin. "Howdy Twi, Ah wasn't expectin' y'all ta be here so soon." She then looked up at me and smiled again, extending a hoof. I took it and she started to shake my hand violently. "Howdy there pardner, and welcome ta Sweet Apple Acres. Ah'm Applejack, owner 'a this fine farm." She released my now sore arm and kept right on smiling. "Ya must be Koa, raht?"

I rubbed my elbow joint and smiled. "Yep, that's me. I take it Dashie already told you about me?"

"Yep, she did. Told me yer one hay of dragon, if ya get mah meanin'." she finished with a suggestive eyebrow raise.

A gasp was heard from next to me, and Rarity laid into the orange mare with anger. "Applejack, that is hardly proper! Apologize for your lewd behavior immediately!"

I waved a claw at the two of them and grinned. "No need, Rarity, it's all good. Dash had to know Applejack was gonna ask me, which means she also knew it wouldn't bother me." I then looked directly at Applejack and smirked. "To answer your question, I'm not sure. I didn't hear any complaints for any of those three hours though...unless of course complaints sound like moans. In that case, I didn't get the memo of that change."

The three mares standing (and flying) next to me were now blushing furiously, Rarity with her mouth open in shock.

Applejack just grinned back and patted me on the arm. "RD was raht, you 'n me are gonna get along just fine." She then turned to my stunned companions. "Anyway, we're just about ta have lunch. Y'all wanna join us?"

Rarity finally found her voice again, but she looked embarrassed. "Oh dear, we wouldn't want to impose..."

Applejack cut her off before the unicorn could go further. "Y'all wouldn't be imposin' none. Ya know we always make more 'n we can eat anyway. Yer friends, and yer always welcome." She turned to me. "And fer you, y'all ain't lived 'til ya tried one 'a our apple pies."

I nodded and smiled. "Sounds great, Applejack. I'd be happy to join you, since you say it's okay." My stomach growled loudly and I chuckled. "I am a little hungry, to be honest."

She let out a hearty chuckle herself before turning and leading us to the farmhouse. "Y'all dragons eat a lot it seems. I hate ta think 'a how Twi keeps up with Spike's appetite."

Twilight Sparkle giggled and shook her head. "Spike's still a baby, so it's not bad. When he starts getting older though, I'm going to make him get a job to help me pay for it."

As we approached the farmhouse, the big red stallion stood by the door with a smile. "Well howdy Miss Twilight, Miss Rarity, 'n Miss Fluttershy." He then looked at Applejack and gestured towards me. "Who's yer friend, sis?"

Applejack patted me on the back with a grin. "This here's Koa, the guy RD told us about."

The stallion nodded and held out a hoof, which I took and shook firmly. "Well howdy, Koa. Ah'm Big Macintosh, AJ's big brother." He then gestured inside. "Washbin's in the back. Y'all wash up b'fore ya sit at tha table."

We all followed the two farm ponies inside and did as we were told, washing our hooves - or hands in my case - before sitting down at the large wooden table laden with all sorts of good-smelling food. Being ponies, there were no chairs, of course, so I just sat cross-legged on the ground as well. Luckily, I was tall enough so that I could still rest my hands on the low table.

Before I could grab anything, Rarity slapped my hand with a hoof and shook her head with a scowl. "It is polite to wait for everypony to sit down first."

I nodded and watched as a little yellow filly with a big red bow sat down, and then an old green mare that hobbled and did the same. After that, everyone dug in.

I was about to ask what was what before Applejack passed a plate to me, with a few items already on it...only one of which I recognized. She pointed to the plate and started explaining. "Now that raht there is an apple fritter, those 'r apple dumplin's, and that," she ended, pointing at a slice of pie, "is our world-famous apple pie."

I smiled at her and picked up the apple fritter first. I took a bite expecting something perhaps a little bland, but my mouth exploded with flavor. I tasted baked apples, cinnamon, and a light flaky crust, all done perfectly. After that, I tasted the dumplings, which were soft fried dough with apple mush inside (AH-MAZE-ING!). Lastly, I took a bite of the apple pie.

We have a winner...

The pie was by far the best thing on the plate...and honestly, was probably the best thing I'd ever tasted. To put it simply, I didn't even know food could be that good...but I was wrong...very wrong.

We finished lunch pretty quickly and I, wanting to be a gracious guest, volunteered to do the dishes with the small filly. Applejack seemed a little put off at first with wanting to be a great host, but I assured her I just wanted to do a little something to pay her back for the best meal I'd had. She finally caved and let me do the dishes while she went off to speak with Twilight Sparkle and Rarity about who-knows-what. I could tell the small filly wanted to say something to me, as she kept glancing over at me curiously, opening her mouth for a second, but then going back to drying the dishes I handed to her.

As we finished, she finally worked up the courage to speak to me and tapped me on the leg. I kneeled down so that I could speak to her without her having to look up so far. "Yes?"

The filly giggled and smiled. "Ah like yer voice, mister." She then composed herself and grinned. "Anyway, Ah was just wonderin' if it's true that y'all were tha one that saved Rainbow Dash."

I shrugged. "Well technically, it was the princesses and Twilight Sparkle who brought her back...but I was the one who looked after her while she was away."

"Really? Where was she?" the filly asked with curiosity.

I pointed out the window to the sky. "Somewhere out there is the world I came from. That's where we were." The filly was about to ask another question, but I headed her off. "Yes it's true...I'm not from this planet at all." I then smiled and nudged the filly with a finger. "By the way, what's your name, little one?"

She giggled again. "Y'all sound like Princess Luna when ya talk like tha'." She cleared her throat and stood proudly. "Ah'm Applebloom, youngest of tha Apple family. It's a pleasure ta make yer acquaintance mister..."

"Storm Rider." I answered for her.

The filly smiled and nodded. "Tha's a strong name ya got there. Ah can't wait ta introduce ya to mah friends!"

I chuckled and patted the filly gently on the head. "All in good time, Applebloom."

I walked outside the front door to find Applejack up in a tree snipping off branches again, and when she saw me she smiled and waved. "Hey pardner. Ah'm real sorry, but Ah got work ta do. We'll talk another time, kay?" I nodded and waved back. "Alraht then, see ya later."

With that, I joined up with the three other mares that were waiting for me near the gate.

"Well darling, it seems as though you've made quite a good impression upon Applejack. She is one of the most loyal friends you could ever hope to have, next to Rainbow Dash, of course. It appears you are already making valuable friends." Rarity said with a wide smile.

I nodded and sighed. "Yeah, that's good." I looked towards the sky, where Fluttershy had told me the pegasus city of Cloudsdale was. "I miss Dashie though. I wish I didn't have to go these few days without her. Maybe I'm being needy, but I don't want to be away from her."

The kind yellow pegasus rubbed my shoulder gently and smiled. "We know you miss her, Storm Rider, but you don't want to hurt her, do you?" I shook my head. "Well until you learn to control your new body and the instincts better, you have to be careful about things like that. Animal instincts are very strong, so you need to be careful. Oh...I don't want to think about what would happen if you lost control."

I sighed again and scratched my face. "Yeah, me neither...which is why I'm not trying to follow Dash to Cloudsdale."

Twilight Sparkle nodded and gestured back towards the town. "Well Storm Rider, we have one more Element of Harmony to meet: the Element of Laughter. I'll warn you ahead of time she can be a little…intense."

We walked through the town until we came across a building that looked as if it was made of candy, with a colorful sign on the front that read "Sugarcube Corner".

Rarity smiled at me and gestured to the building. "This is the Sugarcube Corner bakery where our eccentric friend works and lives. Whatever you do, don't mention cup-"

She was interrupted as a pink ball of fluff burst through the front door. "CUPCAKES!" The ball of fluff happened to be a pink mare with a poofy magenta mane and tail. She had beautiful blue eyes and wore a smile that could melt the coldest ice. The pony looked at me and gasped. "Hey, you're new here! I know that because I know everypony in Ponyville! Well, you're a dragon, but Spike's a dragon and I know him! Spike's so mu-" Her rambling was cut off as Twilight Sparkle placed a hoof over her mouth.

The violet unicorn smiled sheepishly at me. "Told you." She then looked back to the pink mare and smiled, gesturing to me. "Pinkie Pie, this is Storm Rider. He's the dragon that Rainbow Dash told us all about."

The mare named Pinkie Pie removed the hoof from her face and smiled. "Oh, so you're the awesome dragony-guy! Dashie told me all about you. She said that you took care of her after…" the bubbly mare trailed off, and her demeanor completely transformed…even her appearance. Her mane went from fluffy to straight, and she seemed to lose a lot of her color. Tears began to well up in the corner of her eyes and she looked down at the ground. This stark transformation of character was scary, to say the least. Pinkie Pie took a shaky breath and continued. "I remember that day so well…it was one of the saddest days of my entire life."

Fluttershy landed next to her friend and hugged her tight, cooing to the teary earth pony softly. "There there, Pinkie, it's okay now. Dashie's back. She's safe, and everything's okay now. Everything's okay…"

Both mares then looked up at me with smiles, and Pinkie Pie's mane started to poof up again. The pink pony stepped away from her yellow friend and stood on her hind legs, wrapping me into a hug with her cheek against my chest. "Thanks for taking care of Dashie for us." She then released me and her mane exploded to full poofiness. "Well, that's over…no more saddy-waddy time! All of you come inside and get some fresh cupcakes. I just baked them!"

We all headed inside the bakery, and the first thing that hit my nose was the lovely smell of baked goods. I originally guessed that the diet of a dragon would be radically different from what it was when I was a human, but apparently it was much the same…save for the fact that I had to eat more often. We all sat down at a table near a window by the door, and I could instantly feel the stares of every pony in the room, save for the four mares I was with now.

Fluttershy noticed this, and she spoke up with an uncharacteristically loud voice, "It's not polite to stare, you know!" She then seemingly realized what she just did and squeaked cutely in embarrassment. "Um…I-I mean, p-please don't stare…"

I placed a hand on the pegasus' back and rubbed lightly, causing her to look up at me. "Thanks for that, Fluttershy. I don't like being stared at. It makes me feel like a freak."

The white unicorn then placed a hoof on my hand that was on the tabletop, smiling gently. "Darling, you are not a freak in any sense of the word. True that Spike is the only dragon that resides in Ponyville – and he's just a baby – but simply because you are a rarity in Ponyville, that does not make you an outcast." She gestured to her friends that sat around the table, and even Pinkie Pie who was now walking out from the back with a tray of cupcakes. "You have watched over our dear friend after the terrible incident that took her from us. It is because of you that she was able to return safely, and you have both our respect and friendship. Any pony that is so uncouth as to judge you before getting to know who you are and what you have done is not fit to be in your presence. Remember that."

Twilight Sparkle gazed at the other unicorn curiously. "Wow Rarity…that was very deep."

The bleach-white unicorn smiled and tousled her mane softly. "Well dear, I am much more than beauty and style, after all."

I smiled and squeezed the white hoof before pulling away. "Thanks Rarity. That actually makes me feel a lot better."

Pinkie Pie then set a wonderful-smelling tray of rainbow-frosted cupcakes on the table, smiling as she did so. "Alright everypony, this batch is on me! Dig in!"

To put it simply, the cupcakes were incredible…literally. By that I mean I can't even think of a word to describe how perfect they were. The outside had just a slight crisp to it, while the inside was moist and flaky. The rainbow frosting had a wide array of flavors – none of which I could identify – that all blended perfectly together without being too sweet. The best part, however, was that I could have more than one.

Amazing, right?

We all finished the heavenly treats and waved goodbye to the fun pink pony before heading back out to the main square of Ponyville, which held a small park where foals, young colts, and young fillies were all playing, with or without their parents nearby. It was a great image, one that I thoroughly enjoyed and treasured. It was then that I took the image to heart for a personal reason.

This was what I would be fighting for.

Rarity then decided to speak up, a slight sigh escaping her lips. "Well my friends, it has been lovely spending time with you all, but I must get back to the boutique. I have a few orders to fill before the week's end, so I bid you all adieu." We all nodded and waved goodbye to the fashonista.

Twilight Sparkle spoke next, looking a little ashamed. "You know, I left Spike all alone at the library. I should really get back to him, okay? I'll see the two of you later then?"

I nodded. "Yep, I'm staying up at the palace for now I guess, so you'll know where to find me."

The violet unicorn nodded and smiled, reaching out a hoof and shaking my hand again. "It was a pleasure, Storm Rider. We'll meet again."

After Twilight Sparkle returned home, that just left Fluttershy and I alone now. She looked up at me and smiled. "Well I've already done my chores for the day, so I don't mind spending time with you if you want some company."

I nodded. "Well I'll be heading back to the palace in the evening, but that's probably not for another few hours. I'm free until then. What do you want to do?"

She looked up at the sky, thinking to herself for a moment before grinning cutely. "Well, I've always loved to spend time by the river near Sweet Apple Acres. The environment and cute animals there always help me relax."

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement. "Relaxing is good for me, let's go." I then followed the pegasus towards our destination.

We arrived at an open field to the north of Applejack's farm to find a huge rock sticking out of the ground, and a small river next to it. Fluttershy was right…it was beautiful here. Something about the area and having the kind pegasus by my side calmed me as much as the night I had spent with Luna, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. So, with nothing else to do, I lay my head back with my hands behind my head and closed my eyes, simply enjoying the ambience around me.

"Storm Rider?" said a soft voice a few feet away from me.

It took me a second to realize she was calling me, as with a new name, it was going to take some getting used to. I turned my head to look over at the pegasus with a smile. "Yes Fluttershy?"

She blushed a bit and cleared her throat. "Umm…do you l-love Rainbow Dash?"

"I do…a lot, actually. Why do you ask?" I responded, now curious.

She sighed and smiled. "I just wanted to make sure that you really cared about her. Rainbow Dash has had some bad relationships before. I just want to make sure you wouldn't be another one."

I smiled and nodded to her. "Twilight Sparkle told me that you were protective of Dashie. I'm glad she has such a caring friend."

The pegasus smiled back at me and nodded in return. "Oh yes. Rainbow Dash and I have known each other for a long time…ever since flight camp when we were just fillies." She smiled as she looked at the sky, laying on her back. "She protected and stood up for me when some bullies made fun of me because I'm such a weak flier."

"Oh…I'm sorry. They shouldn't have done that, Fluttershy. That was mean." I said with as much empathy as I could muster.

She shrugged and smiled. "Thank you Storm Rider, but I've never been a strong flier. Not like Rainbow Dash." Her expression then turned a little sour and her voice dropped to a whisper, though my sensitive hearing could still make out what she was saying. "After all, what kind of pegasus is afraid of heights…"

Just from that one sentence, I could tell that a fear kept her from doing what she wanted to do. She wanted to fly…but fear of heights kept her from doing so. She wanted to soar through the sky and feel the wind in her mane…but fear caused her to be unable to.

I crawled over to her and looked down at her. "Fluttershy…I don't even know how to fly. You're not the only one who has trouble with flying. And just like you…I really want to." She started to deny it, but I raised a hand to silence her. "Fluttershy, I see the way you stare at the sky…and I can tell just by the way you talk about Rainbow Dash's flying ability. You wish you could fly like she does, don't you?"

The mentioned pegasus said nothing, but after a few seconds nodded. She then sighed and lay down on her stomach, her face resting on her hooves while looking at the sky. "I do…ever so much. I just wish I weren't so afraid…"

I smiled and patted the pegasus on the back, taking sure not to touch her wings…afraid I would break them or something. "Well Fluttershy, I'll make a deal with you: if you help me learn how to fly, I'll help you get over your fear. How does that sound?"

"Y-you really think you can?" the yellow mare asked, a tint of hope in her voice.

I shrugged. "There's only one way to find out. I mean I might be incapable of learning to fly…but like overcoming your fear, there's only one way to find out." I then looked at her again directly into her vivid blue eyes. "If you don't give up on me, I won't give up on you. Deal?"

She seemed to consider the options for a minute before nodding and smiling, shaking my hand with her hoof. "Deal."

I nodded resolutely and stood. "Alright, well let's get started with the hard part first…" I then tried my best to mentally locate the muscles, feeling around my back. I felt them for a brief second, and knew I'd found them when my wings extended with a gust of wind, knocking my poor pegasus companion over. I rushed over to her and helped her up with a sheepish smile. "Heh, sorry about that Fluttershy."

She shook her head a bit to clear it before her eyes widened. "I've never come across wings that strong before. I think yours might even be stronger than Rainbow Dash's."

I raised an eyebrow and stood up again, using the newfound muscles to flap my wings in a forward movement. This caused a blast of wind to rush towards the forest, shaking a large number of the trees and blowing some leaves off. "Hmm…must have something to do with my abilities. I hope I can learn to control that."

"What do you mean, Storm Rider?" Fluttershy asked with a confused expression.

I pointed towards the sky and smiled. "Watch this." She turned her eyes skyward and watched as I conjured up a cloud out of nowhere, quickly growing it in size until it was dark and menacing. Her jaw dropped open in shock and she stared at me. I just chuckled and nodded. "Yeah…I have power over storms, it seems. I can control wind, rain, and…" I flexed my magical "muscle", and a bolt of lightning forked its way across the sky, causing the little mare to jump into my arms.

She looked at me and blushed at what she'd done, flapping her wings and floating in the air in front of me. "Wow…I know Rainbow Dash will think that's incredible…but that's a little scary for me. I don't like storms."

I dissipated the storm, returning the day to a sunny afternoon. "Well don't worry Fluttershy, I'm not going to do it for no reason. I just did that to show you. Something tells me you wouldn't believe me if I just told you."

She nodded. "Okay Storm Rider, look at how I flap my wings. I want you to do the same thing."

As I watched, time seemed to slow down as I focused and analyzed her wings during hovering. With each upward flap, the wings would fold a little to move through the air easier, but upon the downward flap, the feathers would all spread out and the wing would fully extend, increasing its surface area. While watching her, I carefully angled my wings to be perpendicular to the ground (I had to hunch a little to do this) and gave a downward flap to see how it worked. To my surprise, I actually lifted off the ground about a foot, though I immediately felt myself wobble, so I landed again. As Fluttershy continued to hover, I tried again, but this time with about four times the force. I shot into the the air, about twenty feet above the pegasus. I wobbled a bit again, and instinctively used my tail and some wing movements to steady myself.

When I turned my head, I noticed that Fluttershy had flown up to me and was smiling. "Okay, good...now watch my wings when I fly forward." I nodded and did as I was told, simply flapping my wings to hover in place. I noticed that her wings were now moving in an elliptical shape, and the force of the flap was not just down, but also back. I leaned my body forward and did the same, surprised at how easy it seemed to be. Before I knew it, I was whizzing by the trees...and while I probably wasn't going anywhere near as fast as Rainbow Dash could go, I was definitely moving a lot faster than I would have been if I were running on the ground.

When I flew down and landed - albeit a little roughly - I found Fluttershy standing there with a huge smile on her face. "You did it, Storm Rider! That was amazing! I've never seen a pegasus pick up flying that fast...it's almost like you were born to fly!"

I chuckled and nodded. "Well I distinctly remember taking Dashie skydiving once. With how well I did it, I guess that I've been doing it for quite some time. It must be all that training I guess." The pegasus looked at me confused, and I just sighed. "It would be like an earth pony being dropped out of the sky some few thousand feet in the air, and then using a parachute as the only way to keep from splatting into the ground."

Fluttershy gasped in shock. "Oh my...that sounds really dangerous."

I shrugged. "Yeah it is, but that's why people do it. I mean so long as you know what you're doing, there's no real danger...but it's the feeling of falling that fast towards the earth with the wind whipping by you that makes it so thrilling. I guess that's what Rainbow Dash must feel like all the time."

I practiced for another hour or so until the sun was hovering above the horizon, and then walked Fluttershy home. I kept getting more weird looks on the way there, but by now I didn't care. I'd learned to fly and met some good friends...so today was a good day. The hour of twilight was truly beautiful, the oranges, violets, and reds of sunset adding a perfect atmosphere for me.

As I arrived with Fluttershy back at her cottage, I couldn't help but notice the abundance of animals around us. She must have quite the gift to have so many wish to be around her, and I smiled at the sight.

She turned to me as we reached her door. "Thanks for today Storm Rider...I really needed it." She then looked at me hopefully with a small smile. "D-did you really mean it when you said you would help me?"

I nodded. "Of course I did. If you want help with something like fear, I'm more than happy to assist. You just let me know when and I'll be there."

She nodded and stepped into her home, standing at the doorway with a smile. "Thank you...I really appreciate it. I'll tell Rainbow Dash all about your first day when I talk to her tomorrow."

I smiled and bowed. "I'd appreciate that, Lady Fluttershy."

"Dashie was right, you're silly." she said between giggles. "Well goodnight Storm Rider. I'll see you in a few days then." With that she closed the door and walked inside.

After leaving Fluttershy's house I immediately used my new flying capabilities to make my way back to the palace, racing there much faster than the carriage I rode to Ponyville (I mean I wasn't carrying anything, but still...it was pretty rad).

I dropped in at the palace in time to see the two princesses helping each other to bring night into being. Not wanting to interrupt, I simply hovered overhead, actually having the best vantage point to see it. After the moon and stars had taken their places in the sky, I landed with a light *thump*, causing both of the princesses to gasp from being startled.

"Storm Rider? Ugh...you frightened us." Celestia said with a deep breath. She then raised an eyebrow. "Wait...did you fly here?"

I nodded. "Yeah...Fluttershy taught me how to fly. That's what I spent most of the day doing." I pointed to my wings and smiled. "These babies are pretty strong, actually."

Celestia then nodded and yawned. "Well that's nice, Storm Rider. I'm glad to hear you're progressing. However, I will be off to bed now, so goodnight to the two of you."

"Goodnight Celestia. Sleep well." I responded.

Luna hugged her sister and smiled. "Sleep well, sister." Luna then turned to me and smiled...and then everything started to go dark for me. "Storm Rider? Are you alright?"

As my vision started to tunnel and darken, I could hear her screaming my name...leading to silence and darkness.

Chapter 11: Homecoming

Chapter 11: Homecoming

Another day, another headache…fan-fucking-tastic.

I woke to find myself in what must have been a hospital, because I was surrounded by monitors of every kind and had an IV drip in my arm. The last thing I remembered was seeing Luna after the day with Fluttershy…and then nothing. Just as I was about to sit up, though, a hoof pressed down on my chest to keep me down.

I turned my head to see Dashie with a frown on her face. She looked haggard and sullen, and she was shaking her head 'no' to me. "You've been through a lot, Koa. You need to rest some more."

I raised an eyeridge at her in confusion. "What do you mean I've been through a lot?" I looked outside to see it was daytime now, when it was night the last time I remember. "Ugh…what day is it?"

"It's Tuesday. You've been here for the last four days." she explained quietly.

I sat up quickly, instantly regretting it as my head swam with pain. "Ugh…four days? What happened to me?"

She shook her head and shrugged. "We're not sure. Luna told me that you just kinda fell over when you got back." She then looked a little ashamed and lay her head down on my arm. "Sorry I couldn't be here sooner, but…well you know."

I nodded. "I remember why you had to stay away, Dashie. I'm just glad you're back." I then smirked. "Maybe next time you won't have to go away, and you can just stay with me."

She giggled and shoved me. "Missed me that much, did ya? Yeah, Fluttershy told me about you two's day together. I'm glad you made friends with all the other girls, it means a lot to me. How did you and Luna get on?"

I sighed and shook my head. "Not well at first. She had kind of a thing for me."

Surprisingly, Dash nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I figured she would. We're a lot alike when she lets herself relax, so it would make sense she has the same taste in stallions – or in this case, a dragon. Did the two of you work it out?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I explained everything to her and she's okay with it now, I think."

"If Luna wasn't okay with it, you'd know. She's not good at faking emotions." Dash explained with a smile.

I smiled and pulled her up off of the floor and onto my chest, causing her to smile and hum happily. A moment later, I heard hooves from all the way down the hallway outside my room, and felt the distinct presence of both the princesses. I can't explain how I knew it was them…but I just felt it in the air. This feeling of mine was confirmed when the door swung open gently to reveal the concerned faces of both princesses, Luna looking to be the more worried of the two. As soon as the two demigoddesses saw me, however, they smiled and looked very relieved.

Luna walked forward and nuzzled the disheveled mane of my cyan pegasus. "Rainbow Dash…it is good to see you." She then looked to me and placed a hoof on my hand, which I squeezed softly. "It is good to see you are awake as well, Storm Rider."

I nodded. "It's good to be awake. So…what happened to me?"

"Well, it appears that you overexerted yourself during your body's adjustment. To put it simply, you did too much too soon and your mind and body had trouble catching up. I recommend taking it easy for awhile and being more careful." Celestia explained.

I shrugged. "That's weird. I mean, I didn't feel tired or anything before I passed out."

Luna nodded. "Yes, that is because your mind is still adjusting to your new form. This is also part of the reason you've been experiencing headaches so often. Give it another few days and you will be fine. However, until then I must ask you to please keep physical activity to a minimum. That means no flying, no running, and no…" she trailed off with a blush, eyeing the pegasus on my chest.

I was confused at first, but quickly realized what she meant with a blush of my own. "Oh, umm…you don't have to worry. I'll keep from exhausting myself, I promise. So, when can I get out of here?"

A white earth pony with a pink mane and tail entered behind the princesses, bowing her head in respect as she passed and walked up to me. "Well, you can leave just as soon as I've checked you out. I need to make sure nothing was damaged and that you have no injuries we need to keep an eye on." She then extended a hoof to shake my hand, so I reciprocated. "I'm Nurse Redheart, by the way. It's a pleasure, Mr. Storm Rider. Now, let's get you checked out and you can leave."

The check-up was a little invasive, but then again it was all professional of course, so I just kept calm and let the nurse do her job. Luckily it didn't take too long, and before I knew it I was walking out of the hospital with Rainbow Dash flitting beside me, following both princesses to Ponyville.

Luna turned around to meet my eyes and smiled. "Well, now that Rainbow Dash is back, you have a choice on where you wish to stay. You can either continue to stay in the palace, or you may stay with Rainbow Dash."

Dashie looked a little nervously at the princess. "Umm, Luna? I live in a cloud home, remember? Can dragons even walk on clouds?"

Celestia replied, not turning around. "Dragons of the sky can indeed, Rainbow Dash. So if it's what you choose, he can stay with you."

The rainbow-maned pegasus looked at me and I shrugged with a grin. "Do you even need to ask?"

Dash smiled and nodded. "Alright then, looks like you're rooming with me then until you can get a place of your own. I'd ask you to just stay with me permanently, but it'll be a little cramped in there with you. Fluttershy told me that you have power over clouds and such though, so I'm sure you could make your own place, right?"

I bobbed my head side to side in thought and smiled. "It wouldn't be such a bad idea, actually. I guess I'll get started once I finish adjusting and all that."

Both princesses stopped at the entryway to Ponyville and turned to me. Celestia smiled and nodded in agreement. "Very well then, we will leave you to settle in. Always remember that if there's anything you need, you can always contact me or my sister. Twilight Sparkle can help you with that. You will always have a home in the palace with us." The sun princess then turned around and spread her wings. "Well, we must be off to bring forth the night. Goodbye you two."

Luna watched as her sister flew away, and then stepped forward hugging both me and Rainbow Dash. "It was good to see the two of you together, it warms my heart." She released us and looked at me with a warm smile. "Take care of her, Storm Rider. Rainbow Dash means very much to me."

I nodded and placed my hand on Dashie's neck, rubbing her mane softly. "I will Luna, don't worry."

Luna nodded to the two of us and took flight to catch up with her sister, quickly vanishing in the distance. Rainbow Dash then turned to me, a tired smile on her face. "Well I don't know about you, but I'm tired. Unless there's something else you need to do, we should go back to my place so I can get cleaned up and go to bed. I've got work in the morning."

I nodded. "Sounds good to me. Lead the way."

We walked through Ponyville a ways until we came across an open field about a mile away from Twilight Sparkle's library (or tree-brary…something). I looked up into the sky to see a giant house made completely of clouds and rainbows. It had huge columns made from clouds, as well as fountains of rainbows.

"You made that?" I asked, trying and failing to hide my awe.

She nodded and smiled with pride. "Yep! Took me a little over two weeks to get it just the way I wanted it, but yes, I built it all by myself."

"Wow…that's intense. I hope my house looks that cool." I responded with a smile.

She shrugged and smirked. "Maybe if you have Equestria's most awesome flier helping you it will."

I smirked right back and looked around. "Well where is she? Point me in the right direction and I'll go find her."

Dash shoved me with a giggle. "Jerk. Come on, let's get up there. You should be able to make it up there without hurting yourself. Just be care-"

Before she could finish I jumped into the air and flapped my wings hard, shooting up into the air and flattening the grass all around us. I then opened my wings and glided down to softly land on the doorstep to the cloud house. Rainbow Dash then landed next to me with a glare.

"What?" I asked, looking innocent.

She sighed and shook her head. "You're supposed to be taking it easy, Koa. I don't want you passing out just because you're trying to show off."

I smiled and patted her on the head. "Don't worry about me, Dashie, that took no effort."

She glared at me a moment longer before walking over and opening the door. "Just don't strain yourself, Koa. I mean it."

I walked in after her and sat down on a cloud couch, which was unbelievably soft…a little too much, actually. Still, I guess I'd have to get used to it if I was going to be staying here. I looked up at Rainbow Dash now, noticing she was looking at me expectantly. I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Alright Dashie, I'm sorry. I'll be careful."

She nodded and smiled. "Good. Now then, I'm going to go take a shower, so I guess you can watch some TV until I get out." She started pointing around the house. "Kitchen's over there, bathroom's up here. I've also got a few cases of Applejack Daniels on top of the refrigerator if you want a drink."

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "Applejack Daniels? What's that?"

"It's liquor made from fermented apple cider. Applejack makes it by adding some special ingredients and aging it in a steel barrel for a few weeks. You had me try some stuff called Jack Daniels when we were on Earth. It's a lot like that, except sweeter and it has more of a kick." she explained.

I nodded slightly and pursed my lips. "Sounds good, Dashie. I might take you up on that. I guess I'll take a shower after you then. Let me know when you're done."

She nodded and left the room, and I immediately got up and grabbed a bottle of the sweet whiskey. I didn't know why, but some alcohol sounded really good right about now. Of course, I can't remember if I'd ever had any before, but Dash said I had, so I figured it couldn't hurt. As I took my first sip, I felt a warm feeling in my throat and stomach as I swallowed the sweet and tangy liquid.

Mmm…like liquid gold.

I sat on the couch nursing my drink as time ticked by, enjoying the warm feeling it gave me. I accidentally belched, and half-expected a jet of flame to come out. What happened instead left me chuckling. Upon letting out my "uncouth emanation", a grey cloud sparking with electricity came out instead, slowly dissipating into the air.

"Well…glad to see you're having fun." came Dash's voice from upstairs.

I looked up at the top of the cloud stairs to see Dash standing there, her mane and tail combed to the normal spiky style I loved, and her cyan coat shined with the dampness that it was now. I smirked and raised my eyebrows suggestively. "I love it when you get all wet for me." I then smacked myself at realization of what I just said. "Uh…s-sorry about that, Dash. I didn't mean to say that, it just kinda slipped out."

She was blushing like crazy, but looked down and grinned when she saw the bottle. "Well those new dragon instincts plus alcohol are gonna get to you. I'll let that one slide, but the next time you say something like that, you better mean it."

I smirked right back, and my mouth moved again, seemingly on its own. "Well why don't you come here and sit on my lap? I'll show you whether I meant it or not." I again realized what I said, growling in frustration and standing up before finishing off the rest of the liquor and throwing the bottle away. "I'll be taking a cold shower if you need me."

She giggled and nodded. "Good idea."

Taking a shower was a chore at first, as I was nearly twice the size of Dash, which meant her shower was only half the size I needed. I had to hunch over the whole time on my knees, but luckily I was able to use my manipulation of water to get the liquid where I needed it without too much trouble. After a few minutes, I was clean and sparkly, so I shook myself dry and walked out of the bathroom feeling very refreshed.

I looked at a wall clock to see that it was 21:44, so I slowly walked over to the couch and lay down. I was not tired in the least, which made sense seeing as how I was physically able to go for a week or more without sleep, so instead I just lay there and looked out the window across the way. The stars were shining brightly and I wanted nothing more than to soar through the night sky, but I knew that I couldn't risk unconsciousness again, so I stayed put.

I was broken from my thoughts by the soft sound of wings flapping from the stairs, and as they got closer I heard Dash's breathing. She smelled like a summer thunderstorm (yes…it does have a smell), and I couldn't help but smile when she stood in front of me.

"Are you really going to lay out here all by yourself?" she asked curiously.

I shrugged and sat up. "I mean I guess. That is unless of course you want a horny dragon in your bed with you. You might not be in heat anymore, but that doesn't stop me from thinking dirty thoughts every time I see you." I growled and rolled my eyes. "These dragon instincts are pissing me off. I remember reading somewhere that the average human man thinks about sex once every ten seconds. Well, let's just say that's a vast understatement for dragons."

She giggled and shook her head. "Who said I mind?"

The message traveled in through my ear and was instantly interpreted by my brain as an invitation…and this set the draconic primal mind on fire with activity. I grinned seductively and stood up. "Well in that case I'm more than happy to oblige, my beautiful vixen."

"Beautiful vixen, hm? That's a new one. But…I like it." she responded with a giggle and blush. She then inclined her head towards the stairs. "Well come on, don't keep me waiting."

Before she could fly away, I caught her in an embrace and carried her bridal-style up the stairs her bedroom, which was easy to find as it was the only other room upstairs besides the bathroom.

When I stepped inside, I noticed Wonderbolts paraphernalia everywhere, as well as a huge circular cloud bed right in the middle of the room. I set my rainbow-maned pegasus on the bed before laying down on it myself, letting my wings splay out on either side of me. The room was small in comparison to my size, so I wasn't surprised when I felt the tip of one of my wings hit a mirror that hung on the wall.

Dash giggled and scooted over to me, resting her head on my chest. "I can see already that your house is going to be a lot bigger than mine."

I nodded. "Well, I'm like twice your size. Big dragons need big houses."

She then rolled over on top of me, splaying her legs off of me and laying chest-to-chest. I could feel the bits of electricity moving all throughout her body, as well as her strong heartbeat against the sensitive scales of my chest. When I closed my eyes, I could oddly still see, except that now my vision was entirely different. There was no color and the room was not there, but I could very clearly see the shape of the pegasus on my chest. As I turned my head around, I could see other fuzzy shapes in the distance, and through this new ability I assumed they were other ponies around Ponyville.

"Dash…I can see you. I can see everypony in Ponyville." I remarked.

I couldn't see her face, but I could tell she was confused. "What do you mean you can see them?"

I chuckled and began stroking her mane, watching the bits of electricity jump around my hand and the point of contact through my closed eyes. "I mean that somehow with my eyes closed, I can see you by seeing the electricity in your body. I can also see every other pony in Ponyville. I have a feeling this is really going to help sometime in the future."

I opened my eyes and saw her smiling at me, her head resting on her crossed front hooves. "You just get weirder and weirder, you know that?"

I chuckled and continued stroking the soft rainbow mane. "Yeah, but you love it. Makes me more interesting."

She rolled her eyes and smiled. "You're an ex-human from another world that's now a dragon. I think 'interesting' doesn't quite cover it." I chuckled and used my thumb and forefingers to gently massage the pegasus' neck. She groaned and smiled. "Ah…that feels good."

I allowed a very small amount of my latent electricity to flow through my fingertips, causing a small static charge in them. As I moved my fingers across Dashie's mane and coat now, I could see small white-blue tendrils of lightning jumping from my fingertips to her body. As soon as this happened, she let out a long drawn-out moan and looked at me in confusion.

"What did you just do?" she asked, panting a bit.

I smirked and ran my fingers over her hoof, where she could see. "Just a little something I thought I'd try. I take it you like it?"

I returned to running my hands down her body, passing between the base of her wings and her cutie marks. As soon as I touched the tattoo-like marks, she arched her back and yelled as her eyes rolled back in her head. Her body convulsed for a few seconds until she collapsed on top of me, panting heavily. I was confused as to what had just happened to her and worried I had hurt her…until I felt a dampness on my lower abdomen where her flank was positioned.

I smirked at the panting mare and let the electricity flow back to my core, resuming running my hand through the rainbow mane. "Well now…it seems a certain somepony got a little excited, hm?"

Dash continued panting on my chest, but spoke in between breaths. "That's…not…fair…Koa."

I chuckled softly and continued running my hands through the soft rainbow mane. "I warned you, Dashie…but no, no one ever listens to me. Now you have to face the consequences."

She took a deep breath and regulated her breathing, then looked up at me with a grin. "I never said it wasn't awesome. Maybe we can continue this after work tomorrow?"

I nodded. "Sounds like a plan, love. I'll spend time with the other girls until you get home, I guess."

She smiled and lay against my chest, and I couldn't help but feel sleep starting to overtake me. Somehow, being with Rainbow Dash just made me relaxed, and I loved the feeling.

"Hey Koa? C-could you maybe not tell anypony about this?" she pleaded.

I grinned and placed my hand on her hips, rubbing my hand gently over the cutie mark on her right flank. "What, tell your friends about how you got overexcited from me barely touching you?"

She moaned as I touched the marks, smiling the whole time. "Y-yes…that. Especially don't tell AJ, because she'd never let me live it down. Besides, you used magic. That's cheating."

I shrugged and continued rubbing the sensitive area, eliciting pleased sighs from my mare. "Well, it's not really their business. I won't be telling anypony about anything we do privately."

She nodded and rested her head on my chest, closing her eyes and falling asleep almost immediately. Utterly relaxed and happy to be reunited with Rainbow Dash, I soon followed her into the dream world.

Chapter 12: A Storm in the Heart

Chapter 12: A Storm in the Heart

PoV - Princess Celestia

Ah...coffee. The wonderful beverage is by far the greatest gift earth ponies could have given to Equestria.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not a morning pony at all. Without coffee to start my day, I would be one cranky princess. I keep this a secret, after all, for if my ponies were to find that the sun princess herself would prefer to sleep in...who knows what sort of talk may begin to flutter about Canterlot. Having just recently reintroduced Luna into modern society, I did not wish to have more on my plate to deal with than needed.

As I approached the gardens, I noticed Luna waiting for me with a very bored look on her face. She had taken to our new arrival much better than I could have hoped, so my only guess as to why she seemed bored was that she had nothing to do all night with him staying at Rainbow Dash's house the previous night. Luckily for all parties involved, my sister had gotten over her infatuation with the draconian, and instead formed a strong friendship with him.

"Sister, could you possibly trot any slower?" my younger sibling complained. Just to spite her, I slowed to a near crawl of a pace, and her left eye started to twitch. "Tia, I thought we were beyond this by now. Please hurry, I am exhausted and wish to rest."

I could not help but roll my eyes and smirk at her impatience. "Very well, dear Luna. Let us bring forth the day so you may rest. Perhaps tonight you could visit Koa, hm?"

At the mere mention of the dragon, her eyes lit up in happiness. "Yes...I do hope so."

As usual, we faced away from each other to bring forth the day - Luna lowering the moon while I raised the bright morning sun. As the last vestiges of night retreated for the western horizon, I could not help but gaze in awe at my younger sister's domain of power. It always pleased me with just how beautiful Luna's night could be, so much so that most times - like today - I honestly wish night could linger just a few more hours.

If only Luna would believe that her greatest admirer was her own sister.

As we both headed to the dining hall to have breakfast with each other, a loud boom caught both of our attention. Both of our eyes swung round to a dangerously large thunder cloud above Ponyville.

I turned to my sister in fear. "Luna..."

She looked at me in shock. "A storm was scheduled for today for Ponyville, but it is not supposed to be anywhere near that large. We need to investiga-" she could not finish, as she let out a large yawn.

I shook my head and smiled warmly. "No sister, I can handle this. You get some sleep."

"Are you positive? I do not wish to leave this to you to handle alone." she responded, her eyes beginning to droop with exhaustion.

I stepped forward and nuzzled her affectionately. "Fear not sister, I am quite capable of handling this. Please, get some rest."

She sighed and began to trudge towards her room. "Very well, Tia. Please do not hesitate to wake me if-"

I shook my head. "I will be fine, Luna. Rest and put your mind at ease."

Luna nodded curtly and left to get some much needed rest. I, on the other hoof, charged my vast magic in preparation for a void-step, and disappeared in a flash of magenta light.

I arrived a moment later and opened my eyes to see I had indeed phased directly into Twilight Sparkle's library. The unicorn herself was sitting at a small desk looking up at me in surprise.

"Oh...hello princess. I was just about to send a letter to you. I take it you saw the storm from Canterlot?" she said quickly.

I nodded. "I have. Do you have any idea why it is so intense? I understand there was a storm scheduled today, but I assume it was not supposed to be this strong."

My protégé nodded and looked out the window at the storm. I joined her and watched as frequent bolts of lightning arced across the sky, causing large amounts of thunder as well. The numerous ponies of Ponyville were also outside, watching the largest storm since the creation of the weather team of Ponyville nearly fifty years ago. None of the powerful discharges of electricity left the clouds, so while bright and loud, the storm did not appear to be dangerous.

My thoughts on the matter were interrupted as the door to the library opened, revealing the Elements of Laughter and Kindness. Twilight's pink friend was giggling madly, while the timid yellow pegasus was blushing a deep crimson.

"Oh...h-hello, Princess Celestia. It's such an honor t-to have you h-here..." the pegasus mumbled, still blushing.

Twilight walked forward and eyed her two friends with suspicion. "Okay girls, what's going on? I know you know something, because Pinkie only giggles like that when she has a great secret."

The pale yellow pegasus nodded meekly and hid behind her mane. "Um...I-I know what's causing the storm to be this bad."

I was now thoroughly interested, so I gently smiled and nodded. "Very well, what have you discovered, dear Fluttershy?"

The pegasus was silent for a moment before stepping nervously towards the door. "M-maybe I should just show you. Please...f-follow me. Um…if you want to, that is…"

We all followed the timid mare to an open field with the beautiful cloud house of Rainbow Dash hovering above it. I was confused as to why she brought us here and eyed her suspiciously.

"Dear Fluttershy, why did you bring us here? I don't know wha-" I tried to ask, only to be cut off in shock from the noises being heard from above us. It was a mixture of growls in one voice, and moans in another.

Oh dear...

My face matched that of our pegasus guide now, as did Twilight's. The pink pony known as Pinkie Pie simply giggled even louder, now holding her sides and rolling in the grass. I realized that this was in fact the source of the storm, as with each...erm...sound, a flash of lightning would follow.

With awkwardness at an all-time high for me at the moment, I still had to stop this. I took a deep breath and amplified my voice, using what my sister referred to as our "Royal Canterlot" voice. "Rainbow Dash, cease this instant and come out here!"

The noises stopped, and a certain gray draconian popped his head out a window. He looked down at me and looked back inside. "Umm...can you come back in like twenty minutes?"

His remark irked me more than it should have. I knew that it was just his instincts speaking for him, but that did not stop the aggravation from rising within me. And so, in a rare display of public anger, I stomped my hoof and glared at him. "No, you come down here right now or I'll come up there and get you!"

The anger in my voice must have been apparent, as now he was snapped out of his lust-filled frenzy and was now fearful. "Um...o-okay, we'll be right down."

As we waited for the two residents of the cloud house to come down, I noticed Twilight staring at me. I sighed and lowered my head in shame of my behavior. "I apologize you had to see that, my dear ponies. Make no mistake, being a princess does not prevent me from feeling anger or frustration."

A moment later Storm Rider landed before me, holding the cyan pegasus in his arms...who was still panting from their recent physical endeavor. He eyed me with apprehension and smiled sheepishly. "Er...sorry about that. I didn't mean to sound like such a...um...jerk. Yeah...let's use that word."

PoV - Koa

I was embarrassed, aggravated, and afraid all at once. The fact that Dash was currently panting to catch her breath as I cradled her in my arms didn't help, and looking at Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle's expressions just made me feel more awkward.

The princess simply shook her head and smiled. "I will forgive you if you can forgive me for my outburst. Now," she then pointed at the clouds overhead, "this was supposed to be a simple rain storm, not a thunderstorm of record-breaking proportions."

I looked up at the storm clouds that crackled with lightning every now and then...soon realizing what those booms I had heard in the back of my mind were. "Oh...er, I can fix this. Just go on home and I'll make it rain normally. Sorry about the noise, the storm...and the awkwardness."

"Indeed. Well, I have royal duties to attend to, so I assume you can handle things from here, correct?" the princess responded, barely hiding a blush that was rising to her cheeks…but definitely not hiding her thoughts of curiosity about me now. Let's just say her thoughts were a bit lewd for a princess and leave it at that.

I simply nodded and smiled. "Yeah, I got things from here. Thanks for letting me know about this. I'll fix it now so no one-"

"Pony….no pony." Twilight Sparkle corrected.

I rolled my eyes and nodded. "I'll fix it so that no pony will get hurt or anything."

The sun princess nodded and smiled warmly. "Thank you. Now then, I'll leave you to…um…continue."

I still felt really awkward, but I just nodded. "Okay then. It was nice seeing you again, princess. You take care."

"And you as well, Storm Rider. Farewell." the princess then spread her majestic wings and took flight towards the mountain city of Canterlot.

I then looked over at the group of young mares and noticed Twilight and Fluttershy still blushing like crazy, while Pinkie Pie was giggling softly. Dash had fallen asleep in my arms, so I just sighed and shook my head. "Look, I'm sorry you girls are caught in this awkward situation, but unless you all want to get wet, you should get away from me and go home." I then chuckled. "That sounded a little dirty…" I shook my head and smiled. "Anyway, I need to go ahead and calm this storm down so Dash and the other pegasi have a job to do, so you should all get going. Once Dash finishes work this afternoon, we'll all meet up at the library and chill out, okay?" The three mares nodded and walked away…except Fluttershy. I was confused at first until I heard the soft thought-voice of Fluttershy thinking a great many things in curiosity…specifically what could be making Dash moan that loudly.

The yellow pegasus blushed a deep crimson and looked very embarrassed. "W-well I'll s-see you later, S-Storm Rider. Um, that is, if that's okay…" She then quickly trotted away towards her house, and I couldn't help but smile at how cute she was.

I then looked down at the sleeping mare in my arms and kissed her cheek, causing her to stir. "Dashie, you got work today. Wake up, love."

Her eyes opened slowly and she yawned. "Mmm…what a great morning this has been, hm? Wait…why are we outside?"

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "You don't remember?" She shook her head, causing me to chuckle. "Well apparently during our actions this morning, I accidentally caused a thunderstorm. This caused Princess Celestia to come to Ponyville to find out what was causing it. Let's just say it all ended with a severe amount of awkwardness between Fluttershy, Twilight, Celestia, and me."

"Fluttershy was there? Oh, by Celestia…she's probably mortified." she responded with a frown, flying out of my arms to float in front of me.

I chuckled and nodded. "Yeah, she was. She'll get over it though, trust me. Anyway, we're going to hang with them after you're done with work. Just meet us all at the library as soon as you get off, mmkay?"

The cyan pegasus nodded and smiled. "I'll be there. Just make sure you don't go causing any more natural disasters, okay?" With a smirk and a giggle she sped off with amazing speed, leaving me to figure out what to do for the day.

"Hmm…I guess I could go see what Applejack's up to or if she needs any help on the farm. Should keep me busy for a few hours at least." I muttered to myself.

PoV – Applejack

The storm this morning had me pretty worried, but I hunkered down and got to work anyway, pruning the dead branches off of the apple trees in the north field. It was mindless work, and it let me relax a bit while I wiled the day away.

"Hey Applejack!" yelled a voice from down below. I got so surprised I fell out of the tree I was in. I didn't hit the ground though, and instead felt myself being held by strong scaled arms. I turned my head to look up at the face of Storm Rider, and he was smiling softly.

He let me down onto the ground and I nodded politely. "Well thank ya kindly fer catchin' me, friend. Ah coulda gotten a nasty bump on mah head from tha' fall. So, what can Ah do ya fer, Rider?"

He shrugged. "Well Dash went off to work and Celestia has yet to tell me what I need to do as far as the job she gave me, so I figured I'd come over and see if you needed any help with anything in the meantime. So, do you need any help?"

I looked around at the orchard, noticing all the branches that were laying on the ground from the trees I'd pruned. I looked back at the dragon and nodded. "Ah could use some help, actually. If ya would, please gather up all them branches and put 'em in the barn fer me. We gotta let 'em dry out so we can use 'em fer firewood durin' winter."

The dragon nodded and set about walking around the north orchard, gathering all the clipped branches I had left around. I couldn't help but watch him as he worked, actually feeling a little jealous of my rainbow-maned friend. Not because of the draconian specifically, but simply because of the fact that RD had a special somepony and I didn't. It definitely wasn't because of lack of ponies interested or even my older brother…it was simply that I didn't have time to do the whole dating and "getting to know you" thing. Maybe if I could meet a pony that I was already friends with, we could just move straight to the "together" phase.

I guess I have RD to thank for that kind of "efficient" thinking.

As I continued to prune the trees, my mind started to go even farther, thinking about who I found attractive. I hadn't had much time to really think about it, even in my teen years because of the farm. Not that I didn't love my family business, but it certainly didn't leave much personal time for me, except during the winter. As I thought more and more on the subject, I found that there were a few stallions that I really liked to look at, namely Twilight's older brother, as well as some of the other guardsponies.

Maybe I just have a thing for stallions in uniform.

Still, I found it strange that I also found a few mares attractive too. Rarity, for example, was unbelievably beautiful. She was the kind of pony you could see easily fitting in with nobility or even royalty, but was as kind and generous as could be. I mean sure, she got a little frou-frou sometimes, but that was only once in a great while. Cherilee, my sister's schoolteacher, was also a really pretty mare, but more as a down-to-earth style like me (or so I've been told). She was intelligent and in her mid-thirties, but she had a young soul that all her students loved.

And then there was Fluttershy.

I had met Fluttershy through RD years ago, and she was still easily the most beautiful mare I'd ever seen. She had a profound natural beauty that mares envied, including me. She was kind, gentle, and infinitely loving of her friends and the animals she cared for. She was easily the sweetest and most compassionate pony I knew, which was saying something. Another unique thing regarding her was that she was the only pony I'd actually thought about being with romantically. I never told anypony about these thoughts of course, because I was pretty sure she didn't like mares that way. Still…the daydreams wouldn't stop, and the few times she would let me see that beautiful loving smile of hers, I always felt weak in the knees. Me and Fluttershy were almost as close with each other as we were with RD…and I didn't want to ruin that relationship by saying something stupid and scaring the shy pony.

"Why don't you just tell her? I mean, what's the worst that could happen?" Storm Rider's smooth deep voice said from behind me.

I turned with a look of confusion. "Tell who about what?"

He just smirked a toothy grin. "Tell Fluttershy how you feel about her."

"H-how-" I started, only to be cut off.

He smiled and kneeled, placing his free hand on my shoulder. "I may have forgotten to mention that I can hear the strong thoughts of a pony…and the thoughts you were thinking about you and Fluttershy were pretty loud, if you know what I mean."

The shock wore off and I just sighed, closing my eyes in frustration. "Ah want to, Rider…really I do. I just don' want her ta not wanna be around me anymore because 'a how Ah feel."

The dragon stood up and took flight, quickly dropping off the load of branches at the barn before heading back to me. When he landed he sat down in front of me so that he could look me in the eyes. "Applejack, Fluttershy loves all of her friends…you and Rainbow Dash most of all. Do you think that in a million years she'd ever want to be away from you because of something like this? I haven't even known her that long, but even I know that the worst that could happen is that she doesn't return your feelings…in which case she'll be a little embarrassed, but otherwise nothing would change. Just pony-up and do it. I'll even go with you for moral support if you need me to."

The thought of him being by my side when I told Fluttershy about my feelings made me feel a lot safer and more confident for some reason. The more I thought about what he said, the more it made sense. I knew Fluttershy well enough to know she wouldn't stop being my friend simply because of how I felt about her. If anything, she'd be flattered. It was no secret that the pony didn't think much of herself, so even if just as a confidence boost, she would want to know what I felt.

Besides…keeping secrets was a little dishonest, and that didn't sit right with me, being the Element of Honesty and all.

I looked up at him after a moment with a smile. "Awright Rider, Ah'll take ya up on that. Let's finish up here and get goin' before RD gets off work, okay?"

He nodded and continued walking around the north field, picking up the rest of the branches as I moved from tree to tree, pruning them.

We finished just a little over a half-hour later, the job having gone much faster since I had help. As we walked towards Fluttershy's cottage, we were talking about random things when somehow the subject of this morning's freak storm came up.

"Ah tell ya, Rider, Ah ain't never seen a storm tha' bad. How do ya think it happened?" I asked him.

He chuckled and looked a little embarrassed. "W-well, that was kinda my fault. Sorry."

I raised an eyebrow in confusion. "You caused tha' storm?" He just nodded in response. "Why would ya do somethin' like tha'?"

He rubbed the back of his head nervously and looked down. "That was the result of multiple accidental magical discharges on my part. I didn't even know I was doing it, to be honest."

I was still confused and stopped him, looking at him curiously. "How was it an accident?"

"Well…" he started, then sighed before continuing. "Remember how you remarked I was one hay of a dragon?" I nodded, and couldn't help but giggle at the thought. "Well, let's just say this dragon wanted to show Dashie how much he missed her…and during this morning fun, I didn't realize that I was making lightning with every...um…action." My eyes widened in shock, but he just continued. "Yeah…imagine my surprise when I get a visit from Princess Celestia herself so that she could yell at me for it. It was awkward, to say the least."

I felt the giggles bubbling up inside of me, but I couldn't control it. Before I knew what was happening, I was rolling on the ground in laughter. Thankfully for me, the dragon was a good sport and was chuckling too. After gasping and catching my breath a few times, I stood up and wiped a tear away, still giggling softly. "Hooey, you dragons are a raunchy bunch, aren't ya?"

"I guess. The funniest part was when I stuck my head out the window and told the princess to come back in twenty minutes." he replied, a smile on his scaled lips.

I couldn't help but gasp in shock. "You what?"

He just nodded. "Yes…I told the ruler of Equestria to give me twenty minutes to finish my not-so-secret intimate relations with my marefriend. I attribute it to dragon hormones, because normally I'd never say something that stupid."

We walked for another few minutes laughing about this morning's events, but then stopped as we realized we were now standing a few yards away from the yellow pegasus' cottage.

PoV – Koa

I couldn't sense the emotions Applejack was feeling at the moment, but from the way she was staring at the house, I knew she was very nervous…and even a little scared. To remedy this, I placed a hand on her neck and massaged the tense muscles.

She looked up at me and I just smiled. "Applejack, you got this. I'll be right next to you the entire time. You'll be fine, I promise. I mean if worse comes to worse and she turns you down, at least you can say you tried. And I truly believe with every ounce of my being that Fluttershy would never ostracize you or anything simply because you like her. If anything, she'd feel good that somepony likes her that way. Just trust me, it'll be okay."

The cowmare smiled warmly at me and nodded. "Thanks, Rider. Awright, Ah'm ready."

I nodded and knocked on the door. Some shuffling was heard from inside as well as the soft sound of fluttering wings. A moment later the door opened a crack to reveal two vivid blue eyes and a soft pink mane.

Once the pony realized it was two of her friends, she opened the door wide and smiled. "Oh, hello, you two. Please, come in…I was just brewing some tea. Would you like some? It's jasmine and chamomile."

I nodded and smiled. "Some tea sounds awesome, Fluttershy. Thank you." Applejack nodded softly as well, but didn't speak. I looked up at the yellow pegasus and gestured my head towards the earth pony. "Applejack would like some too, please. We appreciate it."

The kind mare smiled and nodded. "Oh it's no trouble at all. I'll return in just a minute with some hot tea for the two of you. You can sit on the couch if you want to."

Fluttershy left the room for what I assumed was the kitchen, humming a tune in her beautiful singing voice. As I looked to Applejack, who was now sitting on my left, I could tell she was very nervous.

"Applejack, what's wrong?" I asked with concern.

Her eyes darted around nervously before she looked up at me, her bright emerald eyes filled with fear. "Rider, Ah-Ah don't know if Ah can do this…"

I patted her back firmly and shook my head with a look of determination. "No, Applejack…you can do this. Now come on, you're supposed to be one of the most loyal friends and toughest pony in Equestria, by what Dash has told me. You got this, AJ. I know you do."

Just then Fluttershy returned carrying a tray in her mouth. She set it on a small table in front of the couch, and we each took a mug of tea. I took a sip of the steaming liquid to find a relaxing blend of herbs and scents that instantly put my mind into a pleasant state. I looked to the earth pony to see it was having the same effect on her, as she was smiling pleasantly now. After a few more sips Applejack set down her mug of tea, standing up and sitting next to her pegasus friend next to me.

"Ah…Ah got somethin' Ah need ta tell ya, sugarcube." She stated, now with much less nervousness.

The pink-maned pony set her mug of tea down as well and looked at her friend curiously. "Um, o-okay. What is it, Applejack?"

Applejack's eyes shot to me for a moment, looking behind her friend. I just nodded and smiled. The cowmare then looked back to her close friend with a smile. "Well it's about us, Fluttershy…you 'n me. It's somethin' Ah've been thinkin' about fer awhile now, and I gotta tell ya." I watched as Applejack put her front hooves in her lap and stared at them nervously. "Ah hope it don't change nothin' b'tween us fer worse, but Ah need ya ta know how Ah feel." She then looked up at her friend and smiled softly. "Ah really like ya Fluttershy, and Ah don' mean just like a friend." The timid pegasus gasped, but Applejack continued. "It's awright if ya don' feel tha same about me, but as tha Elemen' of Honesty and yer friend, Ah gotta tell ya tha truth. Ah don' want no secrets b'tween us."

The pegasus was blushing madly now, and she looked back at me. I just nodded towards Applejack and smiled. She turned back to her friend and looked down at her hooves as well, nervousness overcoming her. "W-well Applejack…um…"

The earth pony's smile dropped and she sighed sadly. "Ya don' feel tha same about me, do ya? 'sokay, sugarcube…Ah wasn' really expectin' ya to. Ah mean Ah hoped, but…" As I watched from behind Fluttershy, a single tear dropped from the orange pony's eye. However, she looked up and smiled warmly at her friend. "Ah hope we can still be friends though."

The pegasus was silent for the longest time before whispering, "I…I don't want to be friends anymore, Applejack."

The orange pony was immediately devastated, and I was surprised beyond belief. "W-what? Y'all don' wanna be mah friend no more either?" The pony immediately started to let tears flow, but she then turned her gaze to me, glaring. "You…this is yer fault! If y'all hadn' talked me inta tellin' her abou' mah stupid feelin's…" She then stood up and snarled at me. "Some friend you are…"

Before she could continue Fluttershy stood up and glared right back at the angry earth pony mare. "Stop it right now, Applejack!" The fact that Ponyville's shyest resident was now yelling at Ponyville's toughest caused the cowmare to stop in her tracks in shock. The gentle pegasus then sighed and fluttered over to Applejack, a soft smile on her face. "You didn't let me finish, Applejack. I don't want to be friends with you…because I want more than that. I…I just never thought somepony as pretty and strong as you would ever like somepony like me. I'm just so plain, and scared of everything…"

Applejack's face was one of shock, happiness, and contentment, all at once. She looked at the fluttering mare in front of her and smiled. "Ah'm scared 'a stuff too, sugarcube. Ah was scared 'a tellin' ya about mah feelin's, and I was scared 'a losin' ya as a friend. Fer tha record though, y'all are tha prettiest mare Ah've ever seen…and nothin' ya say or do is ever gonna change mah mind about tha'."

"R-really?" Fluttershy squeaked out.

Applejack stepped forward and nuzzled her hopefully soon-to-be marefriend with a smile. "Ah never lie, sugarcube." Applejack then stepped back and looked to me. "Ah'm real sorry about what Ah said to ya a minute ago. Can y'all forgive me?"

I nodded and smiled. "Of course I forgive you, Applejack." I then looked between the two mares and grinned. "Well, it looks like you two got things from here. I'm going to head over to the library and see if there's anything I can do for Twilight while I'm waiting on Dash to get off work. Meet us there when you can, okay?"

The two ponies nodded, and Fluttershy nuzzled my hand affectionately. "Thank you for making Applejack brave enough to talk to me, Storm Rider. I don't think I'd ever have been brave enough to talk to her."

I kneeled and pulled the two ponies into a hug, which both of them returned. "Well, the two of you are welcome." I released them and stood up, smiling. "Well I'm sure the two of you have a lot to talk about now, so I'll leave you to it. Remember, library tonight. Don't miss it, we're all going to be there."

The two ponies nodded in response, so I opened the door and walked towards the center of town, where I was told the library was.

I walked into the library a bit later, immediately seeing a young purple dragon cleaning up some books and parchments that had been strewn about. He looked up at me with a smile and nodded. "Oh, you must be Storm Rider! Twi told me you'd be coming around at some point." He placed the books and scrolls on a table and walked over to me, holding out a small clawed hand to shake. "I'm Spike, Twilight's personal assistant and previously the only dragon in Ponyville. I can't tell you how awesome it is to have you here."

I kneeled and took the small clawed hand in my own, smiling. "Well Spike, I'm Storm Rider. I work for Princess Celestia directly, I'm from another world, and I'm Rainbow Dash's boyfriend…or dragonfriend, or however you refer to it."

He looked surprised and smiled. "Really? Wow…I didn't think Rainbow Dash would ever date again after that last guy. You must be pretty cool to get her attention."

I shrugged. "I mean I guess I am. I don't think I'd be where I am now if it weren't for how we met."

"What do you mean?" the small dragon asked.

I stood up and sat in the small chair at the table, looking down at the small dragon. "Well I'm sure you remember what happened to Rainbow Dash, right?"

He nodded and looked really sad. "Yeah…that was horrible. I didn't think Fluttershy would ever speak again after that."

I nodded. "Yeah…it blew hard. Anyway, for some reason when she died in this world, she came to mine, more specifically, my house. I looked after her until Twilight Sparkle and the princesses found a way to get her to come back."

His eyes widened and he smiled. "Oh yeah, I remember you! Your name was...Koa, right?"

I nodded. "Yep, that's me. I go by Storm Rider around here, though…except for the two princesses and Rainbow Dash. They still call me by my real name in private."

Spike smiled. "Wow…I don't know why I didn't realize sooner that you were the guy I met on Earth. Well, Twilight will want to talk to you since you're here, so I'll go and get her for you, okay?" I nodded and he turned around, hopping up the stairs quickly.

I sat back in the chair, letting some electricity flow into my hand. I held my hands slightly apart and let the miniaturized bolt of lightning pass from hand to hand for a few minutes while I thought to myself about what had transpired so far today. Well, I had scared most of Ponyville with a storm, caused a large amount of awkwardness for myself and five mares, and got two crushing ponies together. All in all, a pretty good day so far, and I was excited as to how it was going to progress from here.

My thoughts were stopped when I heard the familiar clop-clop of hooves coming downstairs, and I looked up to see the violet unicorn descending them with her dragon assistant.

When she saw me she smiled and nodded. "Hi there, Storm Rider. Sorry, but I was upstairs studying a minute ago...I wasn't expecting you here for at least another hour. What can I do for you?"

I shrugged. "Well Dash won't be getting off work for another hour or two, so I came by to see if you two might need help with anything while I wait."

The unicorn looked around the room and at the bookcase then turned her gaze to me with a smile. "Well, I was actually planning on re-alphabetizing the library. When I finish up my late-night studying, I tend to just re-shelve the books haphazardly, not really paying attention to where I put them, so I usually reorganize them at least once a week to make sure I will be able to find everything. With you here, we'd be done in about forty-five minutes as opposed to a few hours." She then looked down at her assistant. "No offense Spike, but you can't carry too many books all at once without dropping them."

The purple dragon shrugged. "None taken Twi, I'm still a baby after all. I'll get stronger as I get older."

Twilight smiled and nodded. "Well alright then, let's get going. Help me pull all the books off of the shelves and I'll go through them one by one. Once I have them all organized, you two can put them back on the shelves, okay? After you two pull them off the shelves for me, I guess you can sit and talk until I have them alphabetized. Sound good to you?" Spike and I both nodded and proceeded to pull all the books off of the shelves.

The job went a lot faster than I thought it would, and before I knew it we were done. This was all well and good, of course, as at that moment, Pinkie Pie walked in the door with a wide smile on her face.

"Hi everypony! Or is it one pony and two dragons? Whatever…hi!" the bubbly pink mare exclaimed. She then dropped a box that was on her back onto the floor. "I brought cupcaaakes!" she replied in a sing-song voice.

I quickly grabbed one of the amazing baked treats and sat down, taking a bite. I moaned in approval of the cupcake and smiled at the baker. "By Celestia, Pinkie Pie, you must be magical to be able to make things this good. Thanks so much."

The mare giggled and patted me on my knee. "You're welcome, Stormie! I love to see my friends smile, and if I can do it by making super-amazing-awesome cupcakes, then that makes it even better!"

I nodded in agreement and smiled at her. "Well you've definitely succeeded, Pinkie Pie."

"Good afternoon, my friends! I apologize for being so early, but I simply had to gift something to the dragon that makes our Rainbow Dash so happy." said the regal-sounding voice of Rarity. She walked up in front of me and levitated a bottle of expensive-looking wine out of her bag. I took it and she smiled warmly at me. "That is Canterlot Royal Reserve honey mead. It was a gift from a customer of mine who was attempting to woo me many months ago. Unfortunately, I do not partake of alcohol often, and I am actually allergic to the cloves put into this wine to give it its unique taste and texture. With that being the case, I thought that perhaps you and Rainbow Dash could put it to more use than I could…perhaps for a romantic evening under the stars some night?"

I smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Rarity. I have to admit, I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I do have a soft spot for sweet alcohol. I'll be sure and put this to good use sometime soon."

The next two ponies to walk in the door were none other than Applejack and Fluttershy, and it was clear that the two were thick as thieves now. I simply looked up at the two of them and smirked when I caught their eyes. Both of them blushed and nuzzled each other softly before looking to their friends.

"Girls, we got an announcement ta make." Applejack stated loudly.

Twilight nodded, although by her expression, I could tell she already knew what was going on. "Okay girls, what's going on?"

Fluttershy kicked her hoof against the floor nervously. "Umm…well, me and Applejack…" She swallowed and sighed. "We're dating now." The room was silent for a long time before the three other mares nearly bowled over the new couple with hugs. Fluttershy was surprised, and made that feeling known. "Y-you mean you all are okay with this? You're not mad at us?"

Rarity let loose a light, airy giggle and shook her head. "Dear Fluttershy, why would we be angry with either of you? I will admit that I do not understand the dynamics of a relationship between two mares, but that does not make me any less happy for the two of you. Two of my closest friends have found love, and in each other no less! Oh, this is simply wonderful!"

Pinkie Pie was hopping around happily. "Oh yay! This is just so amazing! This calls for a huge fun-erriffic party!"

Applejack shook her head. "Now hold on there, sugarcube. Ah'd prefer we keep this quiet until we know how tha rest 'a tha town'll act about us, kay?" The pink pony seemed instantly deflated, but then Applejack continued. "But, Ah was thinkin' 'a takin' 'er out for 'er birthday next week, ta have a picnic in tha Whitetail Wood. We could use some treats, Pinkie."

The bouncy baker smiled and nodded. "Okay! I'll make you the most amazing picnic basket ever!"

Applejack smiled at her eccentric friend and nodded. "Ah know ya will, Pinkie. Ah trust ya."

The door then opened again to reveal a shiny and freshly-showered Rainbow Dash. "Hey there everypony, sorry I'm late!"

"You're not late, Dash. Just in time, actually. Although, you did miss something rather important." I answered to her. I then motioned to the yellow pegasus and orange earth pony. "I'll let them tell you."

Dash turned to her two friends and smiled. "So, what's going on?"

"W-well…" Fluttershy started, "me and Applejack are…" She gulped and looked into her friend's violet eyes. "We're dating now…we're a couple, Dashie."

The rainbow-maned pegasus just looked at me and I nodded. She then looked back to her friends and smiled, pulling the two of them into a hug. "I don't know why, but I always had a feeling you two would be perfect for each other." She then released her two closest friends and smiled. "I mean come on, this calls for a celebration…and I have just the thing…" Rainbow Dash reached into her saddlebags, producing three bottles of the sweet whiskey I had quickly come to love. My mouth immediately started watering, and Dash smiled. "I know all of you except Rarity enjoy AJ's whiskey, so here ya go." She then pulled a bottle of sparkling apple cider out of her other pocket. "For Rarity, some sparkling cider. Alcohol-free, of course."

Rarity took the bottle with a smile. "Thank you, dear Rainbow Dash. You always know just what I like."

Dash chuckled softly as she passed out the bottles of cider to us to share. "Well I've been friends with you girls for years. Stands to reason I'd know at least some of the things you like. Oh yeah, I almost forgot." She reached into her bag and produced a wooden box a little larger than my fist. She then hoofed it to the small purple dragon. "A fire ruby for Spike, aged four months in a silk-lined mahogany box."

Spikes eyes widened, and he licked his lips. "Wow…how did you get this, Rainbow?"

She shrugged with a smirk. "I have my ways." She then took a serious expression and placed a hoof on the small dragon's shoulder. "If not for you, Storm Rider and I might not have gotten to Equestria. I just wanted to say thanks…for everything, Spike. Thanks for being awesome."

The dragon dropped the box on the floor and hugged the cyan mare tightly. "You're welcome, Rainbow Dash. I'd do anything for my friends."

The two released each other and smiled. Rainbow Dash then turned to me and gestured to the window. "Well the clouds are all in place and are awaiting your command, Koa."

I nodded and looked out the window, noticing the silky sheet of stratus clouds covering the sky. I focused on the clouds and let them flow with a light rain. I then released my hold on them, letting them do their own thing as I looked back to my marefriend (still feels awesome to be able to say that). "If I may ask, why do I have to be the one that makes it rain?"

She shrugged. "Well Luna told me that an old dragon used to be the one that did that. Apparently you're the one that inherited that ability through his sacrifice and the spell that was cast to get you here."

I raised my eyebrow and smirked. "So…you move the clouds and I make it rain or storm, hm? It's like we were made for each other."

She rolled her eyes and smiled. "Corny…but I'll take it." She then turned to the group and grinned. "Well come on, this is supposed to be a fun time. Let's chill out and enjoy the rainy day with friends!"

A few hours later, the fun was winding down for the group. Applejack and Fluttershy had fallen asleep on the aptly-named love seat in each other's hooves while Twilight and Rarity were sitting on the couch talking near the bookcase with their limbs curled under them like…well, like ponies. Spike was curled up against Rarity with a smile on his face as she slowly stroked his spines with a hoof as he slept, and lastly Dashie and I were laying on the floor together.

The night was in full swing by now, and I knew we had to head home. After all, I might not have a job to get to yet, but Dash did. So I regretfully stood up and motioned to the cyan mare to follow me.

I then looked at our host and her alabaster partner and smiled. "Well girls, I really enjoyed this but Dash has an early morning, so we should probably get going."

Twilight stood up and nodded. "Well we hate to see you go, but I guess you're right. Will we see the two of you again soon?"

I looked at Dash and she just nodded to her friend. "Sure, Twi. We'll come by this weekend after I finish work, okay? I'm sure you can find something to do for the next two days until Saturday."

Twilight smiled and nodded before stepping forward and shaking my hand with her hoof. "Well Storm Rider, it was a pleasure to get to know you better. We'll meet again soon, okay?"

I nodded and smiled. "Sounds good, Twilight Sparkle. Goodnight everypony."

Dash and I arrived at her home a few minutes later, and seeing as how I was nowhere near tired, I simply showered and lay in bed with her until she fell asleep. It was probably a little after midnight by this point when I heard a tapping at my window.

I looked up to see Luna flying outside of it, so I gently rose out of the bed and opened the window. "Luna? What's going on?"

She smirked and motioned out the window. "I thought we could have a little fun tonight, Koa..."

Chapter 13: Celestial Secret

Chapter 13: Celestial Secret

"Luna, for Celest...well, your sister's sake...for someone's sake, why are we doing this again, and why do I have to be the one that gets hurt?" I whispered in a panicked voice.

The lunar princess giggled and smiled. "Well to answer your first question, we are doing it because it will be entertaining. As to why you must be the one to put yourself in a bit of danger, you are not a princess. I surely cannot return and have my sister find a bruise or scratch on me, Koa."

I sighed and growled softly. "You owe me, Luna."

She rolled her eyes and smirked. "Oh come now, it will be fun. I promise you." She then leaned extra close and whispered, "And, if you do this, I will put in a good word for you with Rainbow Dash."

I hunched lower in the bush and crossed my arms, glaring at her. "Did you forget what happened today and why your sister had to come to Ponyville? I'm about as good with Dash as is possible, next to asking her to marry me...which will come with time. So, try again. What else you got for me?"

She smirked and looked off in the air coyly. "Oh I do not know...how about a steak dinner Saturday night?"

I started drooling immediately and my eyes widened. "Steak? As in, meat?" She nodded. "I thought ponies didn't eat meat."

She nodded. "Ponies do not...but gryphons do. I am in strong diplomatic relations with the Gryphon Kingdoms...so I could pull some strings and-"

"Done." I said with a nod.

She giggled and pranced in place happily. "Huzzah! I knew that would work."

I rolled my eyes. "Offer a hungry predator meat and he becomes putty in your hooves. Big surprise, Luna."

She flicked her tail in my face and nodded towards the house. "Focus, Koa. Now, I want you to wake her up gently, say your line, and then I will do the rest."

"And by gently, you mean shock her and jump out the window. Great plan. Have you forgotten that I'm not allowed to fly yet?" I retorted.

She shoved me towards the window and giggled. "It is only five or so feet, dear Koa. You will be perfectly fine."

"I better be...or else when I get out of the hospital, I'm coming straight for you. You can find out what it's like to be flown around in a tornado for ten minutes." I said with a maniacal grin.

She gasped and stared at me. "You would not dare..."

I smirked and shrugged, looking away. "Well if I don't get too hurt and this is as funny as you say it should be, you'll never have to find out. Who knows, I might just do it for fun." I looked at her and grinned. "You have no idea what devious even is, sweetheart...believe me. Tonight, we do it your way. The next night - whenever that is - we do it my way. Deal?"

She extended a hoof and I shook it firmly. "Deal. Now go before she wakes up on her own."

With that I lightly flapped my wings and landed on the small balcony of the home, opening the bay doors. Once inside, I noticed a mint-green unicorn sleeping soundly, splayed out over the bed. I stepped close and pointed a single finger at her, charging it softly and releasing a small shock that caused the sleeping unicorn to jump out of the bed in fright.

"Wha? Wh-who's there?" she mumbled, still half asleep.

I had already dove off the balcony, thankfully only bruising my knee in the process. I then cupped my hands and started yelling, "Help! It's the humans, they're here and they're running all around town!" I then turned to Luna and rolled my eyes. "Now how is that supposed to work? She doesn't even know about hu-"

"Humans? Where?!" the unicorn screeched before bounding off the second-story balcony with a large net, a safari helmet, and...a blowgun?

A mare that looked just like Luna - but with a silvery blue mane and tail and no wings - rushed up to the panicking unicorn. She pointed wildly down the street. "There, they went that way! I believe I spotted one entering Berry Punch's house!" The hunter-unicorn nodded and scampered off. Once she was out of sight, the mare that looked like Luna began to glow, transforming back into Luna.

I smirked and crossed my arms. "Oh...you're good. I'm pleasantly surprised, Luna. Well done, but now what?"

She held up a hoof. "Wait for it..."

All of the sudden there was screaming and the sound of glass breaking. "Lyra? WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HOUSE?!"

Luna looked at me, barely containing her laughter. "Run!" I nodded and sprinted.

While running, I realized how much my body wanted to run on all fours, so about halfway back to Dash's house, I obliged. I was amazed at how natural it felt, and noticed just how much faster I could run this way. Instead of taking ten or so minutes, it only took two and a half to make it back to the cloud house. Luna of course had arrived before me, but not by much, and when I arrived, we both collapsed in laughter. We were luckily far enough away not to wake up Dash, but for some reason Luna's deep and mirthful laughs just made me laugh harder. Have you ever laughed so hard that your groin and ass hurt? Well yeah...that's what happened.

And it was glorious.

After several more minutes of loud laughter, Luna began to find her voice. It was incoherent at first, but she finally calmed down enough to talk, wiping a tear away from her eye. "Ah...I have not laughed that hard in centuries." She then patted me lightly on the shoulder with a bright smile. "Thank you, Koa...I do appreciate this. It is so hard to find ponies to entertain me during the night. As you well know, most of the populace sleeps during my night." She then stopped smiling and frowned a bit. "It is...disheartening at times."

I gently placed a hoof on her shoulder and rubbed it, causing her to look at me. When she did, I smiled as gently as I could and looked up at the starry sky. "For the record, Luna, I enjoy the night much more than the day. No offense to your sister, but the day can just be so..."

"Bright..." she finished.

I nodded and sat beside her, leaning against her warm fur. "Exactly. I mean don't get me wrong, I love the day too...but the night holds a special place in my heart for some reason. I...I can't really explain it, but the night is definitely my favorite. It's soft, comforting...safe. Ponies may not revel in your night as much as you believe they should, Luna...but think of it this way: the day is where ponies work and tire. It is when all work of the day is done. Your lovely night offers them respite. You allow them to rest...to recover. The day drains energy and even spirit...your night replenishes it."

She seemed to mull this over. "I...I have never thought of it that way."

I nodded, then smirked. "Besides...no adult pony parties happen during the day. Real parties don't start until after the sun goes down."

The princess thankfully giggled again, and I was happy her mood had changed for the better. "Yes, this is true. No offense meant to Pinkie Pie of course, but her daytime parties are rather...well, for the younger generation."

I chuckled and lowered myself to the ground, looking up at the stars. "Technically, I'm the younger generation when compared to you, Luna."

She lay down on her stomach next to me, huffing lightly. "I thank you, dear Koa, for making me feel so young tonight."

I laughed and patted her side lightly. "Oh come on Luna, you know I didn't mean it that way." My eyes wandered over to her in awe. "In fact, I find it mysterious and even intriguing that both you and your sister are so youthful in spirit. How old are you again?"

She gasped and glared at me. "Dear Storm Rider, a classy mare never reveals her-"

"Her age, her weight, or her privates. I know the proverb, princess. I was just curious is all." I finished.

She sighed and lay her wings out beside her, tickling my side a little. "Let it simply be said that I was present for the rise of the first sun and first moon in nearly twenty millennia."

"Twenty thousand years? Excuse the language, Luna, but what the hell was going on for all that time? And how do you know it was that long?" I asked.

Luna was quiet for a moment before turning her head, looking at me with a pained expression. "What I am about to confide in you must not be spoken to another soul, Koa. Promise me."

I was a little taken aback by her sudden change in demeanor, but I nodded. "I promise, Luna."

Her aquamarine eyes looked heavenward. "It was known as the Age of Darkness...and for good reason. You see, Tia and I often tell ponies who ask that we are immortal. This however is only a half-truth." She turned again to look at me, and I could see the agony in her eyes. "Our bodies are far from immortal, Koa. In truth, I may likely pass on before you do."

I gasped in surprise, metaphorically floored by the confession. "I-I'm going to outlive you?"

She nodded sadly, bearing into me with those powerful aqua eyes. "When we die, our essence passes on to the elemental plane to live until we are needed on Terra again. Usually, my sister or I will cast a summoning spell to summon the other from the elemental plane to be reborn upon Terra. However, I fear this time will be different." A tear dropped from her eye before she continued. "The Age of Darkness was caused when the summoning spell failed, as Celestia had fallen in battle before I could be reborn upon Terra. Without their masters, the sun and the moon ceased to be...leaving Terra in darkness." I noticed that she cringed a bit in what appeared to be pain. "Billions of living things perished because of us." She then smiled sadly. "But then...you were born. You...you called us back."

"Me? I'm pretty good at math, and I'm pretty sure that you've been around at least a few thousand years longer than me by now." I answered skeptically.

She smiled softly and nodded. "Yes, you are correct. However unlike us, you are reborn each time your mortal body dies. Every being on Earth, Terra, and a few other choice worlds do the same. However, you are different." She then smirked and eyed me coyly. "Have you ever felt feelings of...oh how do you say it...deja vu? A feeling saying that you have met someone or done something before?" Before I could respond she shook her head. "Forgive me, you have no memory. I had forgotten. That, however, actually ties into reincarnation. Like us, any time you are reborn, all of your memories are wiped clean, save for memories of living beings that are or were closest to you. In this case Rainbow Dash, for you. For Celestia and I, it is usually each other." Before I could ask a question she interrupted me again. "The reason why your memories are gone is because you were reborn here now. You see, your essence was split eons ago, living upon many different worlds as different beings at once." She then smiled and nodded towards me. "Zizzanasx was one of your separate incarnations. This is why we are so friendly towards you, Koa. We have known you our entire lives...all of them."

I was frozen...utterly frozen. This was all a lot to take in. First finding out that reincarnation does exist, and that I had personally known the princesses since...well by all accounts, probably forever. Not only that, but that I was special somehow. But wait a minute...

I looked back at the princess, her eyes shining in the moonlight. "Were you and I ever...romantically involved?"

"Yes." she answered without hesitation. "Before you ask, you and Rainbow Dash have been as well...and a filly named Scootaloo."

Wow...I was a ladies' man.

I smirked and raised my eyebrows suggestively. "So that's why you..."

She nodded solemnly. "To make it fair, we tend to trade off upon the passing of one of us, or you."

I was silent for a long time before speaking again, just looking at her. "Do Dash and this Scootaloo know that this happens?"

She shook her head softly. "No, and I must ask you do not tell either of them. You will now forever know, simply because you clearly care for me on some level."

I nodded. "I do. Perhaps not romantic, at least not now, but I do care about you."

She smiled. "The memory of me telling you is now tied to me, and because I will always be, that memory will also always be. So long as a relationship in some way with a special pony is in good standing, you will always remember them."

"So wait," I started, "that means that if I screw up whatever we have, and then die...I wouldn't remember you anymore...or this conversation."

She nodded softly. "It is the universe's way of keeping us sane. Imagine if you remembered all the horrible things that have happened in your life."

Not really knowing why, I grabbed her hoof with my hand and squeezed softly. "I don't have to be telepathic to know you've seen something having to do with me, Luna. What is it?"

She raised an eyebrow while eyeing me carefully. "It is not a pleasing instance, Koa. Are you sure you wish to hear this?" I nodded, and she pulled her hoof away from me and looked back towards the sky. "It was during the founding of Old Equestria, nearly four-thousand years ago. During the last battle upon what is now the Everfree Forest, you were assassinated in your bed...as I lay next to you." She sighed and looked towards the sky again. "We were married, Koa...and you were a draconic warlord."

"So I've always been a dragon?" I asked, now coming to terms with who and what I was...what I had been.

She just smiled. "Not always. Though your form and even color has changed repeatedly, you have always been you, Koa."

I felt a little ashamed now...as this was probably very uncomfortable for the princess. "Luna, I'm sorry if this is so awkward to you. I know it's probably pretty weird to be around me while I'm with Dash..."

She placed a hoof on my shoulder and smiled. "It was at first...but all is well. It is your loyalty to your mate that I have always found so wonderful about you. What happened the first night...that was simply my greed."

I reached over and caressed the hoof gently and smiled. "Well we're going to live a long time. Your time will come, I'm sure. Now that I know that I'll see Dash again, death isn't all that scary anymore."

She frowned and shook her head. "Perhaps not for you, but it is for those you leave behind. The last time you were as you are now, I was forced to watch you die in my arms."

"You mean forelegs." I corrected.

She glared at me. "No, I mean arms."

I raised an eyebrow suspiciously at her. "Ponies don't have arms, princess."

She sighed and shook her head. "We were not always ponies, Koa. We were humans once…many, many eons ago." She then gestured a hoof to the sky. "This world was not always known as Terra, and I was not always known as Luna." She then turned back to me with a blank stare. "When you crossed the celestial barrier, you were not only traveling to a different dimension, you were travelling through time."

I had an inkling as to what she was talking about, but it just couldn't be true…it didn't make sense. "Umm…you can't be saying what I think you're going to say."

She nodded. "Tell me Koa, do you remember anyone else from your previous life on Earth?"
I closed my eyes and thought hard for a moment, straining my mind. In a few minutes though, I came up with only two faces and two names. "Desiree and Lily. I…I can't remember anything about them other than they were really close to me."

"And what have I said about the memories you keep?" she asked with a grin.

I shrugged. "That I only keep the memories pertaining to those still living that I was close to."

The princess was silent for a long moment before she spoke again, in a soft and steady voice. "My name was once Desiree Stewarts, Koa…and Celestia's was Lily Thompson." She then smiled at me and looked around the field. "Ironically, you are laying in what was once our home of Fremont, California."

In an odd way, it made sense. I had always felt as if I'd known the princesses, even when I first met them…but I still had my misgivings about the whole thing. Namely… "Okay fine, maybe Terra is some alternate Earth and maybe I've known you all for…well, forever. Why don't I remember you two then?"

"Those were past lives, Koa. When we took up the mantle of the sun and moon, our lives were changed forever. We are the same, and yet we are not." she explained. She then smiled and placed her hoof on my shoulder. "Rainbow Dash's name was once Kayla…she was your wife."

Something clicked in my mind, and memories flowed through it so fast it hurt. I remembered everything about Kay…including how I lost her. I then noticed the similarities between Kay and Dash…and it all made sense now. That was why Kay had told me to let her go. She knew...and was trying to tell me in her own way.

"You used to call her your angel, and we all called you her demon." she stated. "I remember the day we met her. I didn't believe it at all at first, until you asked me to feel her cutie mark." She looked away in thought. "So much has changed since that day. Never in a million years had I thought we would be bestowed with the powers over the day and night. And then there was the cataclysm that caused the world to change."

"What cataclysm?" I asked, now thoroughly intrigued.

She looked away, but I could still see a glistening tear run down her cheek. "A massive asteroid slammed into Earth upon the dawn of the twenty-second century of Earth's recorded history. Most of the population was killed in the following weeks, and many more for the two hundred years after until the dust from the impact settled and the ice age ended." She then looked back to me in sorrow. "What we did not know was that the asteroid was magical in nature, and imbued what was to become Terra with magic. This in turn transferred to all of Terra's inhabitants. You were among the first to change…one of the first dragons to walk the earth." She was silent for another moment before she continued. "With the introduction of magic to the solar system, many of the physics that made night, day, and even the seasons, ceased to work. In a stroke of luck – or fate, I do not know – the universe corrected this by giving Tia and I power over the celestial bodies." She looked at her hooves, as if examining their very being. "Over the next hundred years, the form of Earth's inhabitants quickly changed to more animalistic forms. The only advantage humans once had over other animals was their ability to think rationally and use tools. Ponies, however, were just as smart, and were every bit as dexterous as humans were...they were also stronger and more hardy. Beings of mythology became reality, and magic became the basis of the entire world."

"Were there wars?" I asked.

She nodded. "Many. It was pure chaos, as what forms changed for whom seemed to be random. Of course, the different races sided with their own. This however meant that siblings killed siblings, fathers killed sons, and we were forced to watch. The concentrated magic power that was released from the death of so many magical beings created the god of chaos – Discord. He is the very embodiment of hundreds of years of war and chaos. He cannot be killed, only imprisoned."

The more she explained things, the more they made sense. I still had one question though… "What about this Scootaloo? You said she was a filly. I'm not a pedophile, am I?"

Luna giggled and shook her head. "No, dear Koa, simply because she is a filly now does not mean she always has been younger than you. You must remember, death can happen in many ways…murder, illness, or simply age to name a few. Perhaps you should meet her at some point. Rainbow Dash will be able to help you."

"We uh," I started nervously, "we've never been like family or anything, have we? I don't know if I could deal with incest."

She giggled mirthfully and shook her head again, her sparkling mane flowing softly. "No, that seems to be one of the factors that are constant. We have never, nor will we ever be blood-related family."

I took that to heart with a smile, but then frowned again. "I have to ask, Luna…how are you so okay with me being with another mare?"

"When you have lived as long as I have in one life, you gain a large amount of patience and understanding for all things." she explained.

"Okay, one last question, Luna." I stated. She looked at me and listened attentively. "I'm no master of time or anything, but won't me coming here have caused a paradox or something? I mean, you said that I'd been around for a long time."

She nodded and smiled softly. "You are correct, it normally would be a problem. However, we will send you back at the proper time to keep the time stream flowing normally. This exact thing has happened in the past, and will forever continue to do so in the infinite timestreams of this one reality. You have many years to spend with us until that time comes, so do not worry." She then stood up, looking at the horizon. "It appears morning is approaching. Reluctantly, I must depart." She looked up at me as I stood and smiled. "I will meet with you tomorrow night if you are up to it."

I reached forward and rubbed her cheek softly, smiling. "I'd like that, Luna. I'll see you then."

Luna nodded before taking flight, stealing one last glance at me before disappearing into the sky. As she flew away, my mind was swirling with all this new information. She had just given me several lifetimes of secrets all in one night…and some of the thoughts actually made me a little sick from how insane they seemed. Still…something deep inside told me that Luna was telling the absolute truth, and I trusted her. She'd known where I'd lived, known what I called Dash…everything. I still had questions, but for the most part everything had been answered. Terra was once Earth…and I was ironically staying in what was once my home.

By now, I was mentally tired and ready to rest. Not sleep, but rest…so I flapped my wings once and sailed onto the beautiful cloud house that my angel was sleeping within. After entering the bedroom, I climbed in the bed just as the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon and pulled Dash close against my chest. With my memories about Kay and the truth about who she was revealed, I just felt that much closer to my rainbow angel. She wrapped her hooves around me and moaned in her sleep for a moment before opening her eyes.

She blinked a few times before smiling. "You know Koa, I don't normally get up this early…but somehow with you here, I don't feel so groggy. You must be magic."

"Not as magical as you, beautiful." I responded in a low, sultry growl.

She shivered at my tone and giggled. "There's something about that sound that just turns me on. Weird, huh?"

Thinking about what I'd found out with Luna, I shook my head. "It's not weird at all, Dashie…trust me."

She shrugged. "No, I'll tell you weird. It's just that whenever I'm around you…I feel so calm. It's like I've known you forever or something." She then chuckled softly. "Crazy, huh?"

I cupped her cheek in my hand and smiled. "Not at all, I feel the same way about you."

She giggled again and kissed my hand. "You're so corny sometimes."

"Yeah, but you love it." I responded before pulling her closer to me, resting my hand on her cutie mark.

She moaned softly in response and then sighed happily. "I kinda wish I could just stay here all day, but I have work to do in preparation for winter."

I slapped my forehead and groaned. "That's right, winter's in like two weeks, right?"

She nodded. "You're gonna have your work cut out for you, Koa. We've scheduled a lot of snows and even a few blizzards."

"Um, I'm pretty sure I can only make rain, Dashie." I said with a smirk.

She smiled back and nestled her head against my chest, drawing circles on my sensitive stomach scales with her hoof. "You let the princesses handle the seasons. You just handle the weather. It'll be cold enough to snow, I promise."

I then realized exactly what the cold meant, and with me being a reptile of sorts, I was a little worried. "Hey Dash, what should I do during the winter? I mean, aren't dragons cold-blooded?"

"Do you feel the need to bask in the sun? Are you attracted to all sources of heat?" she asked.

I shook my head. "No, not really."

She nodded and smiled. "Dragons are warm-blooded reptiles. I know it doesn't really make sense, but Luna once told me it has something to do with how they were made."

'Well, we all used to be human, so that makes sense.'

She then poked me in the side and giggled. "Besides, you're warmer than I am. I mean last night was cold, but you were out all night, weren't you?"

I nodded. "Yeah. Luna invited me out for some fun."

She raised an eyebrow in suspicion. "What kind of fun, Koa?"

I chuckled and hugged her closer to me. "The kind of fun where we convince Lyra that there's humans about and she freaks out and breaks into Berry Punch's house."

Dash burst out laughing and shook her head. "Classic. I remember the first time Luna took me to do that. Still funny all these years later."

"You mean this isn't the first time she's done that?" I asked with a small chuckle.

She shook her head. "Not by a long shot. She knows about humans somehow, and has always been more than a little obsessed with them. No pony really knows why." She then reluctantly stood up on the bed and hopped out beside me. "Well since I'm up early, I guess I'll take a shower now and have some breakfast."

I nodded. "You go shower then. I'll handle breakfast for the two of us."

She smiled wide and nodded. "That would be awesome, Koa. You better make something good. And don't blow up my kitchen or anything." The cyan mare then floated out the door towards the washroom.

After I'd prepared breakfast for the two of us, I was well aware of some newfound physical exhaustion, which meant that my body had finally synchronized with my mind and soul – or essence…whatever it's called now. This meant that I would be able to safely handle physical activity, as I'd be able to know how tired I was getting.

I looked over at Dash and sighed. "Well Dash, it looks like I'm all set now. My body's adjusted, so I'm going to start building my house today."

She looked a little crestfallen. "Oh…this is a lot sooner than I expected, Koa. I…I'm gonna miss you." As I watched, a single tear fell from her eye and she quickly looked away.

"Hey hey hey…I'm not going to be far, Dash. As a matter of fact, I'm only going to be a little ways away from you and about another hundred feet up." I said, attempting to comfort her. I ran my fingers through her soft mane and smiled. "I mean geez, you're acting like I'm breaking up with you or something. You're always welcome at my home, love. Besides, I seriously doubt that I'll be done in only a day."

She looked at me a little ashamed. "I…I'm sorry, I just thought that…"

I shook my head and rubbed her ear softly, causing her to sigh and smile. "Fluttershy told me you had some shitty relationships in the past. I assure you, Dash, I'll never be one of them." I then pushed her off towards the door. "You go on and go to work, Dash. I'll get my cloud house built and you can meet me there later today. It'll be higher in the sky than yours though, but it'll be dark clouds. Should be pretty easy to spot."

"What's with you and dark colors? You're light gray, in case you forgot." she retorted.

I shrugged and smirked. "Dark colors are easier on my eyes. The only vivid colors I like are the ones that make up your sexy body."

She gasped and swatted my hand away. "Don't talk to me like that right now, Koa. I'm already questioning whether or not I should go to work today and you're not helping that decision. I need to keep a roof over my head and to do that I need to keep a job. Save that talk for after work so I don't end up homeless."

I then smirked and raised my eyeridges twice suggestively. "You might be homeless, but you'll be well-rutted." I then growled at myself. "New rule: if I talk like that, I want you to slap me." Without hesitation, she smacked a hoof hard across my face, causing my cheek to sting. I looked back at her and nodded curtly. "Thank you."

She giggled and nodded. "No problem. So, do you want me to just meet you at your place after work?"

I shrugged. "Unless you have other plans. If I’m not done though, we’ll meet back here, okay?"

She nodded. "Sounds good to me." She fluttered forward and kissed me on the cheek. "Alright Koa, I'll see you at around six then."

I nodded before grabbing her tail. "Oh wait, I need to meet someone named Scootaloo. Luna said you'd be able to help me with that."

She raised an eyebrow and stared at me. "Why do you need to see Scoots?"

I decided to keep the truth from her for now, as Luna said not to tell anypony about it. "Well Luna said that she was a nice filly and that I should get to know her. She said that you knew her pretty well, and that I should get to know her too."

She stared at me a moment longer before shrugging. "Well today's some sort of school holiday for the colts and fillies, so it's likely she'll be at the clubhouse behind Sweet Apple Acres with her two friends, Sweetie Belle and Applebloom." She then glared at me. "You better be nice, Koa. She's like a little sister to me."

I nodded and smiled wide. "I'll be sweet as can be, Dash. I promise. Now go on and get to work, I've got things from here. I'll clean up your kitchen really quick and then get going."

She nodded and kissed me again before speeding out the front door and into the sky towards Cloudsdale.

After doing a quick run of the dishes and wiping the countertops (which were made of hardened cloud fibers…cool), I headed off to Applejack's farm. I felt comfortable enough with flying, but noticed a big difference in that I felt tired when I landed. I guess I'd need to work up my stamina with flying.

As I landed, I saw the orange mare carrying some loose tree limbs from the ground to her barn, so I grabbed a big load of them and followed her. She didn't notice I was there until I set them down next to her, and she gasped and jumped from being startled. "Ah! Oh…it's you, Rider. By Celestia, y'all almost gave me heart attack!"

I chuckled and slapped her lightly on the shoulder. "Anything I can do to get your blood pumping, AJ. So, Luna told me I should meet with Applebloom's friend, Scootaloo. Any idea where she is?"

The earth pony nodded and pointed to the rear barn door. "Go out this door and follow tha fence to yer raht. Y'all will see tha tree house when ya get over tha hill."

I nodded and smiled. "Thanks Applejack. I'll see ya later, okay?" She nodded before heading back to the orchard, so I followed her directions to the tree house.

Just like she said, I saw the little clubhouse that was nestled in a lone pear tree near the fence. I walked over to it slowly and noticed the sound of giggling and three distinct voices – one that was a little raspy like Dash's, one that was squeaky and cute, and one that had a southern accent. As I listened, I felt myself drawn to the young raspy voice, and I assumed that must be Scootaloo. I strode up to the tree house and knocked softly on the tree trunk, causing all three voices to go silent.
The head of an orange filly with a violet mane popped out, and somehow I knew it was the one I was looking for. I smiled up at her and waved. "Hey there, Scootaloo. Dash told me th-"

I was interrupted when she dove out of the window at me and landed on my chest, knocking me to the ground. She hugged me tight and was smiling. Her two friends – a yellow earth pony and a white unicorn - were staring at the window at the sight.

Applebloom looked down at me and smiled. "Oh hey there, Rider! What are y'all doin' here?" She then looked down again at her friend and raised an eyebrow at the small pegasus. "And why are ya huggin' a dragon like tha', Scoots?"

Scootaloo sat up on my chest and looked back up at her two friends. "This is my friend I told you about. This is Zizzy!"

I chuckled and rand my fingers through the violet mane and smiled. "Well I go by Storm Rider now Scoots, but yep, that's me." I had to remember that she knew the other me, so I'd have to play a bit of catch up. "I'm also the guy that saved Rainbow Dash too and brought her back."

She smiled at my touch and nodded. "Mmhmm, Rainbow Dash told me. She said you were one hay of a dragon…whatever that means."

I laughed nervously and sat up. "Umm, I'll tell you when you're older."

The orange filly giggled and blushed. "Oh, so that's the way she meant it."

The two other fillies had descended to the ground and were looking at the two of us in confusion. "What are you talking about, Scootaloo?" asked the unicorn.

"Nothing!" the pegasus replied quickly before hopping off of me.

I glared at her. "You're just a filly…how do you know about that?"

She laughed nervously as well. "I'll tell you later."

The unicorn – who I assumed was Sweetie Belle – stepped towards me and looked at her pegasus friend. "So who is he, Scootaloo? Introduce us!"

The filly smiled wide and patted me on the leg. "This is Zizzanasx, the Skylord. I've known him ever since I was a foal. He's my best friend in the entire world next to you two."

"Skylord?" the farm filly asked. "Wha's that?"

I smiled and looked towards the sky. "It means I can do this." I formed a cloud above us and shot a lightning bolt across the sky, then quickly dissipated it.

The unicorn smiled in excitement and hopped around. "That was amazing! Do that again!"

I shook my head with a chuckle. "No can do, little one. If I do that randomly like that, ponies are going to panic. I'd rather not be the cause of a riot in Ponyville." The little filly looked a little crestfallen, so I tilted her chin up and smiled at her. "Tell you what though, there's a storm planned sometime this weekend. Just…make sure you have a clear view of the clouds that day."

She nodded furiously before looking up at the sky, noting the sun's position. "Oh no! I was supposed to help Rarity today! Sorry girls, I gotta go!" The little filly sped off faster than I thought possible towards the town.

Applebloom looked up at us next and nodded. "Well Ah gotta help mah sister in tha fields. Y'all wanna join us fer lunch?"

I shrugged. "If your sister says it's okay, I'm always in the mood for some good Apple family cooking. When you see her, tell her I'm more than happy to help out with anything she needs, okay?" AJ's little sister nodded before trotting off towards the barn, soon disappearing from over the hill. I then looked back at Scootaloo and raised an eyebrow without amusement. "So…how do you know about what me and Dash were doing?"

She shrugged, blushing. "I…I don't really know. It's like I have these memories that aren't mine…but they feel…normal somehow. And I know it's me in them, for some reason. I look different though, and so do you. And we were…well, I'm pretty sure you can guess."

"Wait…you have sex dreams? About me? Well...this is awkward. How old are you, Scoots?" I asked, panicking just a little.

She giggled and shook her head. "About the age when that starts happening for fillies – nine."

I sighed and closed my eyes, shaking my head. "You're far too mature for your age, Scoots." I then opened my eyes and looked seriously at the young filly. "I'm with Rainbow Dash though. I can't and won't be doing any of that to you, Scootaloo."

She sighed as well and looked down, a little saddened. "Yeah…I know. You wouldn't get upset if I was with somepony else, would you?"

I shook my head with a smile and ran my fingers along her mane again. "Of course not, Scoots. You deserve to be happy, no matter who that's with. Besides, just because I won't be with you that way doesn't mean we can't still be close. You're still one of the most important girls in my life, and always will be."

She showed a bright smile and nodded. "I know…and you're my best friend in the whole world." She launched herself at me and hugged me tight, and this time I returned it. "No offense to Sweetie Belle and Applebloom, but I've obviously known you a lot longer than them." She sighed as I held her and nuzzled her head into my chest. "Do you still go out at night or do you sleep now?"

I shrugged as I held her against my chest, feeling her heart beat against it. "Depends. Normally, I stay up all night just fine. I'll need at least a day per week to sleep though. Otherwise, I'm good. Why do you ask?"

She released me and hopped off of me. "Well I still have trouble sleeping without you. I used to visit in the Whitetail Wood. Do you still live there?"

I shook my head. "Nope. I'll be staying in Ponyville now. Today, I'm actually going to be building my own cloud house near Rainbow Dash's."

She smiled up at me and bounced a bit in excitement. "Really? That's so cool! Now I can see you whenever I want!"

I stared at her for a moment. "Well that depends…how well can you fly?"

"I…" she suddenly looked very ashamed, "I can't. I can't fly yet." She then stomped her hoof in anger. "It's not fair! The other fillies can at least float a little, but my wings just won't cooperate with me…no pony wants to train a pegasus that doesn't even have her cutie mark anyway…"

I then stood up and looked down on the filly. "Show me how you try to fly, Scootaloo."

"But I told you, I can't-" she tried to say.

I interrupted her with a hand held up. "I know you can't fly right now. I said show me how you try."

She shrugged her shoulders and sighed. "Okay then."

As I watched, she immediately did a few things wrong. First of all, her wings weren't fully extended for the power flap, and the feathers were not extended either.

"Stop stop stop…" I said after watching for a minute.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "I told you I can't fly."

I rolled my eyes right back and knelt beside her. "You're doing it wrong, that's why." I reached out and gently held her wing in my hand causing her to gasp.

"W-what are you doing?" she asked, her eyes wide and her cheeks flushing pink.

I chuckled and shook my head. "I'm not trying to 'get you off' or anything, Scoots. I'm just showing you what you need to do. I'll be as gentle as I can. Now…first I want you to spread your wing as wide as you comfortably can." She complied and the wing spread out in my hand. "Okay good, now what you're feeling right now is about to change, and I'm pretty sure you'll be able to feel it." I then looked at her nervously. "I apologize if this seems a little intimate, but that's not what I'm trying to do at all, so please don't take it that way." She nodded softly, so I proceeded to gently straighten out all the thick flight feathers. She sighed a few times as I did so and even twitched once, but kept her cool otherwise. I released the wing and smiled. "Now…do you feel the difference?"

She nodded. "Yeah…it feels a lot better this way."

I nodded back at her. "All of your feathers are straightened out. In order to get the most lift, you need to make sure all your feathers are like that before flying. Now, I'm going to show you how I fly. I want you to watch the way my wings move. Watch close and commit it to memory. I might not have feathers, but I have to move my wings the same way to fly. In fact, because you have feathers, you will actually have an easier time learning to fly than I did. Feathers give more lift than bare skin." She nodded and watched me, so I took off, hovering a few feet off the ground. I angled my wings to turn around in circles so she could see it at all angles before landing. "Okay, now what were they doing?"

She scrunched up her face in thought and seemed to look up at the sky. "Well, whenever your wings went up, they folded a little."

I nodded and grinned. "Good observation, Scootaloo. That's to reduce air resistance and thus reduce the amount of energy you need to spend on getting your wings back up to a ready position. Also since you're trying to stay in the air, you obviously want the brunt of your energy flapping down, not up. What else?"

"Well," she started, thinking hard again, "whenever you brought your wings down, they were spread out all the way."

I nodded. "That's called the power stroke. That movement is what gives you lift and lets you fly higher. The more power you put into it, the faster the flap and the more lift you get." I then leaned down and patted her on the back of her neck. "That's pretty much it, actually. The rest we can learn later. For now, I want to see if you can hover in place a foot or so off the ground. Start with just a little tiny bit of strength and slowly work up until you get to the point where it picks you up off the ground. When you get about a foot of air, lower the power so that you stay in place."

She sighed. "But what if I can't-"

I cut her off with a growl. "You can Scootaloo. I know you can. You have the right technique now and you're the right age to start flying. You can."

My aggressive attitude must have changed something in her, because her eyes immediately took a look of fierce determination…and I was already proud. She started flapping her wings very slowly at first, getting a feel for the technique, but after a minute or so she eased into it, and began to flap faster. I could feel the slight wind coming from her and before I knew it, she was lifting into the air. Her eyes were shut tight, however, and she didn't seem to notice.

I then smiled and leaned down to her eye level. "Don't look now Scoots, but you're flying."

Her eyes shot open and she looked down, noticing that her hooves were no longer touching the ground. Her eyes glistened with tears and she smiled wider than I ever thought possible. She then wobbled a bit and fell to the ground with a thud.

I instantly picked her up and brushed the dirt off her face. "Ouch…are you okay Scoots?"

When I looked at her face, she was giggling madly and smiling. "Of course I'm okay! I'm great!" She embraced me tightly and laughed. "Ha, I did it! Thank you so much, Zizzy! Oh, I mean Storm Rider."

I stroked her mane softly and smiled. "When we're alone, you can call me Koa. That was my name back on Earth and that's what Dash and the princesses call me."

"Rider!" shouted a voice from behind me. I turned to see Applebloom at the top of the hill. "Mah sis says she could use yer help gatherin' up the rest 'a tha branches b'fore lunch."

I turned to her, still holding Scootaloo in my arms. "Right. We'll be right there, Applebloom." The farm filly stared at us for a moment before shrugging and walking way. I looked down at the orange pegasus filly and smiled. "Feel like some lunch?"

The rest of the day passed very quickly and before I knew it, the basic shape of my cloud house was done. I wasn't sure exactly how to make the hard cloud surfaces like Dashie's house had (countertops and the like), so I figured I'd ask her later. Still, it was something to behold for me, as it was my first home here in Ponyville…and I'd built it myself no less. There wasn't a bed or any of the hard clouds in it (I'd ask Dash how to make those), but the basic shape and setup was complete. It was about three times the size of Dashie's house, and while I wasn't sure how to make the shower - or plumbing for that matter - all the rooms were built. I'd figure out the specifics later and tweak it when I'd learned how to make those hard cloud fibers, but for now it was awesome. Let's just say that being able to directly manipulate the clouds really helped.
It was still without a bed though, so I would be staying with Dash for at least another day.

The day with Scoots had been good, and while it had been a bit awkward at first we had grown very close very quickly. I chalk it up to residual memories, but as with Dash there was just something more that seemed to be between us...something that transcended mere memories.

I'd ask Luna about it tonight perhaps.

Chapter 14: A Broken Reverie

Chapter 14: A Broken Reverie

It's odd the way days pass for me, since I only have to sleep maybe once a week, if that. Time passes very quickly and the days blend together. Before I knew it, a month had already passed and I was on my first mission from Celestia.

A radical pony cult called the Lunar Republic – a group that was intent on bringing back Nightmare Moon and returning her to power – was my target, namely the leader, who was a stallion named "One-eye" Brass Bolts. Brass Bolts was a master machinist, and was fond of automated defense systems and surveillance around their little "hideout" – a place called Celerity out in the middle of a lake to the extreme west of Ponyville. It was a small island covered in trees and was unassuming…but what was most unexpected was the huge underground fortress that had been built underneath the lake itself, with the cave on the island as the only access point. The good news was that as far as I knew, this would be the only place they'd come out or go into. The bad news was that this entrance would be heavily guarded and monitored because of it.

I had been given a few pieces of equipment by Celestia herself, some of which I still didn't understand how they worked but was thankful for all the same. These included a small communications device with a video screen, magical explosive charges, and a personal cloaking device that could bend light to render me invisible. I found it odd that magic was used in lieu electricity as a power source, but then again it was much more abundant in Equestria than electricity was. Plus the fact that the ambient magic in the air would charge my devices when I wasn't using them.

All of these were not going to help me enter the base, however, as I could see cameras that were most likely thermal, along with a few tripwires connected to either explosives or alarm systems, and five heavily armed unicorn guards. As I watched the entrance from across the lake (dragon senses FTW) I kneeled down and pressed the button on my communicator, calling Celestia to report.

The device "rang" for a moment before a click sounded. "This is callsign Shine."

"Callsign Shock reporting." I responded.

I could almost feel Celestia's relief as she sighed. "Shock, we are glad to hear you're okay. What have you discovered?"

I peeked over the hill I was crouched behind, watching the cave entrance. "Target is heavily guarded and monitored. Is this the only entrance?"

I saw Celestia frown and nodded. "I'm afraid so, Shock. Can you enter without being seen?"

I shook my head. "No. I'm pretty sure those cameras are thermal. I don't have a way to hide my heat signature, so it would be pointless to use the cloaking device." I then had an idea come to mind. "Shine, what is my objective considering the target?"

"Capture the target if at all possible. If this is impossible, eliminate him." she responded in a monotone voice in an attempt to hide her disdain for this group.

I smiled evilly and nodded. "Roger that, Shine. In that case, I have this covered. Will call with sitrep upon capture or elimination of target. Shock out." I then closed the video screen and turned the device off before looking to the sky above the island. I quickly summoned large storm clouds and caused a torrential downpour upon it, quickly causing water to start running off of the sides of the island. Just for extra measure, I then placed my hand in the water along the bank of the lake and let my consciousness flow through it. I willed it to gather and flood the island, and upon this order the water began to batter the island repeatedly with large waves. From my vantage point, I began to see a large amount of standing water along the entrance of the cave, which meant that by now the lower levels were getting flooded as well. A large amount of ponies began to pour out of the tunnel's entrance, including my target. The problem was, he was surrounded by what I assumed was his personal security team – five very bulky and tall unicorns, their horns glowing with charged spells.

So…I now had my target in sight, but how to separate him from his guards?

I looked up at the swirling mass of clouds and raised my hand to it. I felt the familiar tingle as my consciousness wrapped around the cloud itself, so I began to pull the clouds down while moving my hand in a circular motion to give it some spin. This caused the cloud to quickly form into a large funnel that started ripping branches off of the trees as it descended lower and lower. The guards reacted just like I hoped they would, ordering Brass Bolts to flee with two guards while the rest stayed and prepared for whatever threat they thought there was. I smirked and activated my cloaking device, quietly and quickly flying towards the north bank, where they were retreating to.

When I landed, I heard the leader yelling at his guards in anger.

"What the hell is going on here? Come on, colts…we need to get out of here. Somepony is clearly out to get us." he said with a large amount of frustration.

I chuckled, casing all three of the stallions to turn and look at the seemingly empty space where I was. "I wouldn't say some pony…" I then deactivated my cloaking device and grinned. "More like some dragon."

Brass Bolts grimaced and turned to the black unicorn on his right. "Take him down, Sureshot!"

The unicorn nodded and charged a spell in his horn, but before he could fire I let a large bolt of lightning lance out from the palm of my hand, shooting into his horn. The unicorn's eyes widened and he collapsed to the ground immediately, his limbs twitching slightly as he tried to recover. I then activated my arm spikes, causing lightning to arc between the three points and reached down and grabbed him by the throat before letting a much stronger blast of lightning flow through my hand, directly into him. I let him scream in agony a few seconds until his skin started to burn, and then I released him and let him drop to the ground.

I looked at the remaining guard, who looked terrified. I inclined my head towards the open fields. "I'm just here for your boss. Go."

The young unicorn nodded and ran away, causing Brass Bolts to scream at him. "What are you DOING?! GET YOUR SORRY FLANK BACK HERE!"

I stepped forward and sighed. "I really hope you aren't planning on fighting me, because if you are, I'll kill you slowly and painfully. It would really be better for both of us if you'd just give up and come quietly."

The unicorn stallion growled and stood his ground. "Did you really think I'd just surrender? What makes you think you cou-"

I interrupted him with a punch to his jaw, and I heard a loud crack as a bone somewhere broke. I then held a hand to my ear canal. "What was that? Oh, I'm sorry…I couldn't hear you over the sound of your face breaking. So tell me again what you think I can't do to you." He tried to talk, but was interrupted as a loud crack sounded when his jaw moved, and he fell to the ground in agony. "Yeah…that's what I thought." I then proceeded to knock the kneeling stallion to the ground and sit on top of him. "Don't move. If you think you're going to cast a spell," I placed my hand on his horn, "I'll feel it before you ever release it. You'll get to feel what a few million volts directly to your horn feels like." I then activated my comm and called Celestia.

She looked at me as soon as she answered with a look of surprise on her face. "Shock? Well…that was fast."

I nodded. "Yeah, all's taken care of here. I'll be back in a few hours." I then pointed the camera of the device at my prisoner. "Where do you want me to bring this guy?"

She placed a hoof on her chin in thought for a moment before smiling. "Bring him directly to the palace to meet with Dizzy. I'm sure she'll want to meet that stallion personally." I nodded and closed contact.

The flight back to Canterlot was pretty uneventful, save for a few times when my charge tried to fight me while I was flying. A few claw marks along his underside and throat attested to just how slowly he learned to stop struggling. When we landed, an entire platoon of guards was waiting for us, along with Luna and Celestia.

Over the past month, we would often call each other by the names that we'd had back on Earth. Somehow it just seemed more personal that way, and I had noticed just how much the two girls I knew in the past had remained virtually unchanged as far as their personalities. Diz was still the playful and sarcastic beauty I remembered, and Lil was still the bubbly cute girl I considered a sister. They didn't let these personalities show in public, of course, as they considered it unbecoming of a princess…but whenever we were alone, it was like old times. Like Dash, my memories about them had been restored to show who they really were…so while there were still a lot of parts of my life on Earth that were missing, I remembered the three of us growing up together.

I set the prisoner down in front of the two princesses, still keeping a firm grasp on his horn in case he was going to try anything. A weird little chain-like thing was put around his horn, and the guard told me I could let go, so I did.

Celestia then stepped forward with an unnerving grin. "So…you are the one that plans to not only bring on the return of Nightmare Moon, but also remove me from power." She then glanced at her younger sister with a smile. "Dear Luna, what do you make of this?"

Luna looked down at the unicorn with a fierce glare. "The fact that thou would threaten Equestria is more than enough to cause Us to loathe thee…but thou also aims to resurrect Our darkness again…" Luna shivered before gritting her teeth in anger. "Tell me, hast thou ever wondered what it is like to reside in a place devoid of all light? To know not of color…nor any sort of vision." She then grinned evilly. "Well…thou shalt discover it." She turned to the guards and nodded. "Take this wretch to the void cell." The guards all nodded and ushered the wide-eyed unicorn towards the dungeons without another word.

I looked at the navy-blue alicorn with a grin. "Is it weird that you speaking in Old Equestrian turns me on a little?"

She giggled and shook her head. "I only do it to frighten him. Somehow that way of speaking seems to be more intimidating for some reason."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Good to know that you're still a good actor after all this time." I then looked at Celestia and smiled. "Well, was there another mission for me or can I go see Dash?"

The white alicorn shook her head with a gentle smile. "Nope, you're free for now, Koa. Go see her and tell her we both said hi."

I nodded and embraced the two of them tightly. "Love you both." I then released them and pointed to my earpiece. "You know how to get a hold of me should something come up. I'll be spending time with Scoots and Dash today at the park if you need me."

Luna stepped forward and smiled. "Don't forget that Rainbow Dash's birthday is coming soon. You need to get her some kind of gift."

I slapped my forehead and groaned. "Damn…is it November already?"

Celestia shrugged with a smile. "Time flies when you're having fun, Koa." She then levitated a large pouch of bits over to me. "This is your pay for the job with a bonus for bringing him in alive. Well done on that, by the way. There's no telling what sort of intelligence we can gather from him."

I nodded with a smile. "Well you're both welcome. I'm going to head off to meet Dash at the park then. You're both welcome to drop by if you have any time." I then raised my eyebrow, looking at the younger sister. "Speaking of time, aren't you usually asleep at this time of day?"

She nodded with a grin. "Yes, but today is also the day when Cadence and Twilight Sparkle are visiting, so I wanted to make sure I was awake to see the two of them."
I nodded with a smile. "Oh okay, well that makes sense. Well I guess the two of you will be busy then." I turned away and motioned to my earpiece again. "Like I said, call me if you need me. Bye girls." They both said their goodbyes, so I opened my wings and dove off of the landing area, angling myself towards Ponyville.

With Pinkie Pie and Rarity's help, I had eased into life in Ponyville pretty easily, and once the residents saw I wasn't some greedy fire-breathing dragon, they all relaxed. I was now just another friendly dragon, like Spike (who by the way was actually a great guy. Here's hoping Rarity notices him someday).

I landed gracefully next to the fountain in the middle of the park and opened my pack to pull out some beef jerky while I waited for Dash and Scoots. Thanks to Luna, I could get the stuff whenever I had a fix for some meat from a contact she had in the Gryphon Kingdoms. I had found that actually ingesting real meat made my dragon instincts easier to control, which had become very important. A good example of my instincts taking control in a bad way was when I was following Dash to Canterlot one day and she decided to race me. My chase instinct kicked in and I almost attacked her when I caught her, luckily noticing what I was doing just in time to keep from hurting her.

I called in Luna's favor for a steak dinner that very night.

As I sat on the fountain and munched on the dried beef, I couldn't help but think about just how much my career had changed my life. Even though this was my first "official" mission from Celestia, I had a few training exercises that I did prior, and there was already talk of me in Canterlot, though no one knew who I was yet. To them I was just a ghost, and that was exactly the way I wanted it to stay. After all, if any enemies knew who I really was, they could use that against me in some way…potentially putting my loved ones in danger.

"Hey Rider!" shouted a strong southern voice.

I looked behind me to see Applejack and Fluttershy trotting towards me, so I quickly put my beef away and stood with a smile. "Hiya, girls." I kneeled down and embraced the two of them in a hug, which they gladly returned. I then stood and smiled after releasing them. "So, what are you two up to today?"

Fluttershy blushed while AJ smiled wide, pulling the pegasus close to her with a foreleg. "Well, we're goin' on a little date, Koa. Whatcha think?"

I chuckled and nodded. "I think you should do it more often. I know Fluttershy loves spending time with you and loves the romance, and I know you like showing her off to the jealous stallions and mares."

"W-what do you mean?" Fluttershy asked, blushing.

I chuckled and shook my head. "'Shy, we all know you're one of the prettiest mares in all of Ponyville…probably all of Equestria. You and I both know that AJ has a lot of pride in herself for the work she does, so it makes sense that she'd be proud of herself that out of all the stallions or mares in Ponyville, you chose her."

The orange farm mare nodded and nuzzled her marefriend gently. "He's raht, sugarcube. Y'all maht not believe me, but ya coulda had any mare or stallion ya wanted. Yer real purdy 'Shy, and not just b'cause of yer looks. Even a blind pony can see yer beautiful, ya silly filly."

The canary-yellow pegasus was now blushing a deep crimson, but she extended a wing to cover her partner. Dash had explained to me that in Equestria, a wing-hug was considered very intimate considering just how sensitive wings were, and was only done between the very best of friends or most trusted and loved of special someponies. So the very fact that Fluttershy was making such a gesture in public said more words than her mouth ever could.

AJ also knew the significance of the gesture, so she leaned close and planted a gentle kiss on Fluttershy's cheek. "Ah love ya, 'Shy."

Fluttershy kept blushing, but smiled as well. "I love you too, Jackie."

I chuckled and shook my head. "Jackie? That's a new one." I then placed a hand softly on the pegasus' mane and brushed it gently. "Still…I know just how few of your friends you give nicknames to. AJ must be a very special mare to earn that."

Fluttershy nodded, but didn't break her gaze with the emerald eyes of the mare beside her. "She is…she's one of the most special ponies I've ever known."

I nodded in agreement. "Yep, I have to agree. It's a good thing I'm already with Dash and that you have Applejack, or I might fall for her myself." Fluttershy looked up at in me in shock and I shook my head. "It was a joke, 'Shy. Besides, you know full well that AJ only has eyes for you."

The farm mare nodded with a bright smile. "Yep! Ah mean Koa's a good dragon 'n all, but Ah'm perfectly happy with ya, 'Shy. Yer tha only pony fer me." AJ then looked at me out of the corner of her eye. "Y'all better not tell Dash Ah said that, or Ah'll find ya and buck ya ta next Tuesday."

I moved my fingers across my lips in a "zipping" motion and smiled. "I heard nothing." I looked off in the distance at some familiar voices I heard and smiled, pointing towards them. "Well, there's Dash and Scootaloo, girls. You have a good date, ya hear?" Both the mares nodded, so I flew off towards the cyan and orange pegasi.

I landed in front of the two pegasi, immediately receiving two enthusiastic hugs from two of my favorite ponies.

"Koa! Gosh, it's good to have you back." Scootaloo exclaimed.

I chuckled and released the mare and filly. "I was only gone for a week, girls. I didn't miss anything too big, did I?"

Dashie shrugged with a grin. "Not really. I mean Twilight started dating Big Macintosh but…"

I raised an eyebrow. "Wait, what? Twi's dating Mac? When did this happen?"

"The day you left, actually." the orange pegasus filly replied. "She was really nervous though. It was funny to watch her when he came to ask her."

I chuckled. "I wish I could have been there to see that. What does Spike make of all this?"

Dash shrugged. "Not really sure. Sweetie Belle keeps him pretty busy."

My jaw dropped open in disbelief. "Don't tell me…"

Scootaloo nodded with a smile. "Yep! Her and Spike are special someponies with each other now! You should have seen Sweetie Belle that day he asked her out. I don't think she's ever smiled that much all at once."

I raised an eyebrow. "Whatever happened to Rarity? Wasn't he like all in love with her?"

Dash shrugged. "I thought so too, but apparently he got sick of waiting. Rarity is actually pretty upset that he doesn't come by anymore."

"I expect so. She doesn't have her own personal boutique assistant anymore." I responded with a smirk.

Dash sighed and shook her head sadly. "No…that's not the reason why. The truth is that Rarity actually misses Spike…not what he did for her. You have to understand, there aren't too many stallions on Terra compared to mares. For mares like Rarity – who's as straight as an arrow – that makes finding a special somepony really hard to do. Most of the stallions around here are just looking for a quick rutting, not a relationship…and because there are so many love-hungry mares around here, they usually get what they want." The cyan mare closed her eyes in sorrow for her friend. "It's not fair to Rare. I know she's a little flirty sometimes, but she's actually a really good mare who deserves a good stallion. She's been depressed since Spike started dating her little sister because she thinks she blew her one chance because she didn't want to 'corrupt' Spike, as she put it."

"To be honest," Scootaloo added, "I don't see a relationship between Spike and Sweetie Belle lasting too long. Spike's really relaxed, and Sweetie Belle is really…well, you know how she is. I mean they're cute together and all, but I can tell she gets on his nerves sometimes."

I nodded solemnly. "Well, if Spike decided to ask out Sweetie Belle, it likely means that he's sick of being alone. If I know Spike like I think I do, his loneliness is soon going to be overcome by his incompatibility with Sweetie Belle. Celestia bless her because she's a nice filly, but I don't really see them together for long either. Personally I think she'd be better off with that colt named Pipsqueak."

"Pip? Why him?" Scootaloo asked, confused.

I shrugged. "He might be a little small for his age, but he's got a big heart. That and he likes to talk just as much as she does, so I think they'd get along great." I sighed. "Well either way, it's not really our place to meddle. We just gotta be there for Rarity no matter how this pans out, and if Spike ends up being single again, we need to let her know she needs to tell him how she feels."

Dashie nodded and smiled. "That sounds like a good idea, Koa. Right now Rarity's finishing up an order from some high-class pony in Canterlot, but she'll be free later today. Do you want to drop by later then?"

I nodded. "Sounds good, Dashie. It's been awhile since I've seen her anyway, and I miss her."

Dash nodded and smiled. "Hearing that from you will make her feel a little better. We'll meet her later on then." The cyan pegasus then looked at Scootaloo with a smirk. "For now though, let's see what you got, Scoots. I hope you've been practicing!"

The orange filly giggled and nodded. "Yep!"

I chuckled and pointed up to my house. "You think you're ready for that then?"

Both mares looked to my now-finished cloud house, high in the sky. It was a deep gray color with most of it being made of those hard cloud fibers, giving it a castle-like appearance. It was triple the size of Dashie's house and had a foundation nearly five times as thick. The foundation clouds were what allowed it to float, so to accommodate my heavier house I had to increase the amount of foundation clouds. It took a lot more work than I thought it would, but when it was finally done with furnishings, plumbing, and a working shower, I was very pleased with the result. I now had my own home on Terra…making Terra itself my home as well.

Dash looked at me in shock and whispered, "Koa, she can't fly that high!"

I nodded and smiled. "Yes she can. Don't doubt her Dash, she's a hell of a lot stronger than she looks. Just let her try." I then looked at the orange pegasus filly, noticing she looked pretty nervous. I smiled and nodded. "I'm going to fly with you, Scootaloo…but I'm not going to touch you unless you start to fall. That means you'll be doing the flying all on your own. You don't have to be scared…I'll protect you."

Her confidence seemed to surge at my words, and she nodded with a smile. "Okay Koa…I'll try." The filly spread her wings and took them to their normal ready position before crouching low to the ground. She then surprised both me and her mentor by launching herself into the sky with a force that made Dashie's eyes shine with amazement. With training from both myself and Equestria's best young flier, Scootaloo had learned to fly with agility, speed, and grace.

Dash leaned over to me while still keeping her eyes on the filly, who was now standing triumphantly on my house's front step. "Am I the only one who didn't think she'd be able to do that?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Maybe now you'll have a little more faith in her, Dashie. She's ready to get into the official Rainbow Dash training program."

The pegasus beside me looked up at me with those gorgeous rose eyes and smiled. "You're right…she's so ready!"

"Are you two going to stand down there and talk all day or are you going to fly up? Sometime this lifetime would be awesome." Scootaloo shouted.

I chuckled and motioned towards the house. "We better get up there before she starts breaking my house or something." Dash nodded so we both launched ourselves with one powerful flap of our wings, landing on the soft clouds of my front porch a few seconds later. I then looked down at the filly and smiled. "C'mon inside. I'll get us something to eat and drink. It's about lunchtime anyway." My two guests nodded and followed me inside.

This would be the first time either of them had actually been inside my finished house, so I wasn't surprised when they both gasped in awe. To me, everything was normal sized…but to both the ponies, everything was giant. The fact that I had a vaulted ceiling didn't help their awe, and they just stared and marveled at the room for a good two or three minute span.
I snapped my fingers at them a few times to get their attention, causing both of them to look at me. "Food? Drink? Anything?"

"Oh, umm…some apple juice if you have any. I'm not really hungry." Scootaloo replied.

Dash thought for a moment before smiling. "I'll have some apple juice too, and a daisy and tomato sandwich."

I chuckled and nodded before rifling around in the fridge. "You know, that's how you can tell I like having you girls over…because I don't stock the fridge with hay, tulips, and daisies for myself. That's for sure." I handed my two guests their food and drink with a smile before turning towards my stairs. "Well, I'm going to take a shower really quick. I have a TV now, so feel free to watch that until I get back." The two of them nodded, so I headed upstairs to my shower.

It always mesmerized me just how hot running water could come from a cloud, but then again unicorn spells were a lot different than the magic I used. Besides, Twilight Sparkle herself had been the one to put the spells on my house, so it would be unlikely I'd ever understand them.

After getting out of the shower and brushing my teeth (hey, a dragon doesn't necessarily have to have "dragon breath"), I walked back downstairs to see a cute sight. Passed out on my couch in front of the TV were Dash and Scoots, the smaller resting her head on the side of the larger as they lay with their hooves curled delicately underneath them, looking absolutely adorable. It was then that I realized just how close the two must be, as Dash had her wing draped over the smaller one's figure. Having already heard what this meant in pegasus society, it just made the sight even more endearing. I smiled softly and leaned down to kiss the two of them on the forehead before opening my door and diving off the edge towards the forest to the west of Ponyville - Everfree.

I landed right at the old ruins where the Elements of Harmony had originally been stored. Luna had told me that these ruins were actually the old castle they had lived in before she was banished. She told me she didn't feel bad in the least about moving to Canterlot…because it was in these very fields that I had been assassinated. Even with the morbidity of it all, I felt a strange connection to this place. This was the last place I had been known as Koa before becoming Zizzanasx the Skylord. It was going to be strange going back in time to do all this over again, only to give my life for…well, for me. Still, I had yet to figure out exactly how that was going to work. Luna had explained to me that I now had two pieces of eight within me (of myself), so the one that was known as Zizzanasx would be returning…while I would stay with all of my memories and life. It was still odd to me exactly how this all worked, but a strange pony that went by the name of Doctor Whooves told me he'd explain it all to me when the time was right…whenever that was. I just let it go and figured things would work themselves out whenever that time came.

As I wandered around the grounds, I noticed a great many headstones that marked the royal cemetery. Most of them were worn away and those that weren't had names I didn't recognize…but towards the area closest to the castle were three large mausoleums, with a statue upon each. The two on either side were of beautiful women, flawless in figure and poise. The center structure was the unmistakable shape of a dragon. The lettering was very difficult to read at first, as if it had been worn throughout the years into indistinguishable shapes, but the longer I had looked at it, the easier it was to read. I had already read mine, but every time it choked me up.


First Dragon King of Equestria, Last Casualty of the First War

Husband to Desiree "Luna" Kamakani, Father to Janice Kamakani

Born 4, November 1987

Died 22, July 2671 (171 NE)

"May thy wings always have wind beneath them, and may the moon light thy path in darkness.

Our dear husband, thy death shall not be in vain.

Equestria will forever remember thy sacrifice thou hast wrought to make her.

Slumber in peace, Our love…until we meet again."


I placed my hand upon the cold stone, feeling the pain that she must have felt as she wrote this. I then moved to the structure on the left, and began reading that as well.

Desiree "Luna" Kamakani

Queen of the Moon, First Queen of Equestria

Wife to Zizzanasx, Mother to Janice Kamakani

Born 12, March 1989

Died 16, January 2941 (441 NE)

"I miss you and daddy so much, mommy…but auntie Lily told me you will be back one day.

I love you both so much, and I'm going to make sure that I'm a good princess for our people.

We'll all be waiting for you, and I'm going to bake you a big cake, mommy."


Tears were freely running down my face now. My daughter lost not one, but both of her parents. Granted she still had Celestia to watch over her, but that still can't have been easy. I had to find her.

The fact that I had a daughter at one point was simply awe-inspiring. I'd never tell Lulu that, but I had always wanted to be a father for as long as I can remember…and it seems like sometime in the past, I got my wish. The thing I found odd was that unlike the other two, Celestia's grave was not written in a language I could decipher…and my daughter's grave was missing. I'd looked over the entire cemetery multiple times before, but found nothing. I knew I had to be missing something, as a princess wouldn't suddenly vanish off the face of the planet. Still…I had traveled through time, so stranger things had happened.

I strolled around the grounds for a little longer, just getting a feel for what was my past...and thus, my future in a way. To know that I was a king, and a father...it was breathtaking. I wanted so badly to know who my daughter was that it hurt. I'd have to ask the two princesses at some point just who she is/was.

I figured now was probably a good time to head back home, so I quickly flew back to my cloud abode and walked in to find Dash lounging on the couch with a sleeping Scootaloo. My angel looked up at me and smiled as I walked in, and from that simple smile, I felt so loved.

"Hey awesomely-beautiful." I said with a grin.

The cyan mare giggled softly and whispered, "I like how you threw some awesome in there for me."

I nodded and smiled, beckoning to the door. "I saw Rarity walking around town on my way back. Want to go see her now?"

Dash nodded and prodded the filly sleeping in her lap. "Scoots...Scoots, wake up." The young pegasus groaned and opened her eyes, blinking a few times. Dash smiled down at her and brushed some of the messy violet mane away from her face. "We're going to head off to see Rarity. Will you be okay here on your own until we get back?" The filly nodded, so Dash scooted away and let her lay down on the couch before walking over to me. She could tell I wanted to ask a question about that, but she just shook her head and motioned outside.

When we stepped out on my front porch and closed the door, I looked back at my house with a frown. "Dash, I'm cool with you or Scootaloo at my house, but aren't her parents going to wonder where she is?" The way that my rainbow angel sighed, I could tell something was very wrong. "Dash, what's up? I know that sigh, so spill it."

The cyan mare looked up at me, clearly saddened and frowned. "Scootaloo doesn't have any parents, Koa."

My demeanor now matched my partner's, and I nodded. "She's an orphan then." Dash nodded in response. "Who has she been staying with?"

Dash shrugged her shoulders. "She used to stay with an uncle somewhere in Manehattan, but he just disappeared. To this day, neither of us know what happened to him. She basically wandered until she found Ponyville, and the orphanage took her in." She then tapped a hoof on her chin. "Usually though, she stays with someone called 'Zizzy'...whoever that is. She said she trusts him, but she won't tell me who he is. It kinda worries me, actually."

Okay...I had to talk to the princesses about this. I didn't want to keep lying to Dash like this, but they told me not to tell anyone else about who and what I was. One of the things I knew would ruin a good relationship was dishonesty...and even though this was like national-security-level secrets, I still thought Dash deserved to know the truth about everything. Hopefully if I presented my case strong enough, they'd make an exception.


I just smiled at my lovable mare and stroked her mane softly. "Well that's good enough for me. If Scoots feels safe enough around me to fall asleep in my house, she's welcome anytime...and I mean anytime."

She smirked at me and snorted a small laugh. "It's a good thing I know what you're talking about Koa, because you sounded like a pedophile right there."

I grimaced and face-palmed. "Ugh...well you know what I meant though, so it's all good. Thank Celestia I have you here to bring these things to my attention or I'd look like a complete tool."

My pegasus mare laughed and nodded. "Yep! You should consider yourself lucky I feel nice enough to grace you with my awesome presence."

I rolled my eyes with a smirk. "Yes, your majesty. I am humbled by both your beauty and charisma. I am not worthy."

She giggled and shoved me playfully. "C'mon you goof...let's not keep Rarity waiting."

We arrived at the Carousel Boutique a little over ten minutes later, just in time to see a white hoof turning the sign in the door to "closed". Dash quickly walked up to the door and knocked a few times before the resident could walk away, and the door opened to reveal a very exhausted-looking white unicorn.

She sighed and shook her normally beautiful violet mane out of her face, not even opening her eyes. "I apologize dear, but I am closed for the day." She then opened her eyes and her face change to an expression of surprise. "Oh my, hello Rainbow Dash." She then looked back at me and blushed softly. "And hello there, Storm Rider."

Dash just stared at her friend in awe of the unkempt look before shaking her head and frowning. "Rare, we need to talk. Can we come inside?"

The unicorn seemed a little apprehensive, but nodded. "Very well...please come in." We followed Rarity into her immaculately clean home and business and sat on the couch she motioned us to. She then sat beside us on a separate chair and sighed. "I believe I know what this is about, Rainbow Dash."

"Spike." Dash responded plainly.

Rarity was silent for a moment before she slowly nodded. "I..." She swallowed the lump that must have been in her throat. "I miss him, Rainbow Dash. I know I should not, but I do." In an uncharacteristic gesture, the mare slumped back on the chair with her left foreleg across her forehead, looking very...well, un-Rarity. "I am jealous of my own baby sister...and what is worse, it is because it is Spike."

"You didn't really think he was going to wait around forever, did you?" Dash quipped. I thought it was a little harsh, but I kept my mouth shut. After all, she knew Rarity better than I did.

Rarity kept her posture and just sighed. "I had never given thought to Spike in that way, dear. In all honesty, after seeing just how destructive he was when he allowed greed to control him, I was certain that a relationship between a pony and a dragon could never be." The white unicorn then brought her hind legs up and sat down properly, looking at us with a sad smile. "When I see the two of you though, I see that I was very wrong. Rainbow Dash, I honestly could not see a better fit for you in any...anyone. Yes...that seems to be the correct word. Perhaps love is not to be restrained by the bonds of species."

'You have no idea, Rarity'

I smiled and nodded slowly to her. "You should tell him that, Rarity."

She looked over at me with surprise. "Y-you truly believe that?"

Dashie nodded with a comforting smile for her friend. "Spike has had his eye on you ever since he met you. Even if the two of you don't hit it off, he needs to know how you feel." She then frowned a little and sighed. "Sweetie Belle needs to be there when you do it, though."

I looked over at Dash in confusion. "Umm...won't that be really awkward?"

She nodded but smiled. "It will be, but Sweetie Belle is her sister. It would be all kinds of wrong for her to go behind Sweetie Belle's back. All three of them need to be there so that all three of them can work through this together." Dashie then stood up and sat next to her friend on the small loveseat, wrapping a foreleg around her in a half-hug. "At the very least, you and Spike can get some closure."

Rarity sniffled a bit, keeping her eyes on the floor. "B-but Spike's special somepony is Sweetie Belle. I-I am not sure I can simply throw caution to the wind and confess my feelings for the poor dear." She then grimaced and stomped a hoof into the soft fabric of the chair. "How foalish I have been. All this time my perfect gentlecolt was right in front of my eyes, but I refused to even entertain the idea based off of a misguided principle." She then started to tear up and leaned into her pegasus friend as she let tears begin to fall. "I have lost my chance, Rainbow Dash. I had an amazing gentlecolt that may have loved me, and I have driven him away. I am a terrible pony...I do not deserve him."

"Hey!" Dash shouted, getting the attention of her sobbing friend. She looked into her eyes and glared. "You know what's not attractive? Self pity. If you're looking for a way to drive Spike away, that would be it. What you're going to do is stop doing that, and when Spike brings Sweetie Belle back today, you're going to sit down with the two of them and talk all of this out."

The unicorn overcame her momentary shock and stuttered, "B-but what if he-"

"No buts, Rarity." Dash interrupted. "The Rarity I know is strong, independent, and works hard for what she wants." Dashie's expression softened, and she smiled. "I guarantee, if you work even half as hard as you do on your career, you could have Spike in a heartbeat...because that's the mare he likes. For now though, he and your sister need to know how you feel about him...and about them. Get it off your chest, Rare. I promise, you'll feel better when you do." The door opened at that moment, causing the three of us to notice a specific dragon entering the boutique with a young unicorn filly. Dash then smiled and hugged her friend tight. "You've got this, Rare. I'll leave you to it."

Hesitantly, the unicorn nodded and smiled. "Thank you, Rainbow Dash. I will speak to you soon."
We quickly stood up and started to walk out the door, much to the confusion of the young dragon and filly. As we closed the door, we both smiled as we heard Rarity ask the two of them to sit down on the couch.

Dash looked up at me and smiled wide. "It's about time Rarity was honest with herself. We all knew she had a soft spot for him."

I nodded and sighed. "I just hope she doesn't try and steal him away from her sister or anything."

"No, I don't see that happening." Dash replied dismissively. "Rarity's a lot of things, but a thief is not one of them. She has a good heart, and doing something that bad to the dragon and filly she cares about most just isn't something she'd ever do. She'll be fine, Koa...I promise." She then looked at the horizon, noticing that the sun was setting. "C'mon, let's head back to your place. Scoots will probably want some dinner, and I'm sure you're hungry."

I chuckled. "I'm always hungry, Dash."

We arrived back at my home to find Scootaloo still sleeping. I chuckled and scooped up the small filly and took her to my guest bedroom, placing her on the soft cloud and tucking her in with a soft blanket before kissing her forehead.

I then turned to Dash as I walked out in confusion. "Doesn't the orphanage wonder where she is?"

Dash shook her head as she followed me to the kitchen. "No. I don't know how orphanages are on Earth, but in Equestria, they offer just a bed and one meal a day. There's no rule saying they have to stay or anything. It's more of a 'come-as-you-need' type thing."

I raised an eyebrow with skepticism. "What if someone wants to adopt one of them?" Dash gasped, but I waved a hand with a chuckle. "I'm not thinking about adopting her, I'm just saying. Besides, Scootaloo has made it clear that she wants to just be close friends with me." Because of not being able to tell Dash why that was, I had to just hope that was enough.

"Why not? What's wrong with her?" Dash said with a frown on her face.

I grabbed a few pans out from some cupboards and placed them on the stove (still not sure how this thing can physically work. Unicorn magic is still a mystery to me). I then shook my head solemnly as I started to heat up a bit of oil in the pan. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with her, Dashie. She's amazing...but she just doesn't want to be family with me." Suddenly, I could tell Dash thought that Scootaloo didn't like me, so I chuckled and shook my head. "Don't worry Dash, I'm pretty sure Scoots trusts me more than anyone else, so please don't take this as a bad thing." She looked at me with a raised eyebrow for a moment before shrugging and grabbing some vegetables out of my fridge, along with a large bottle of AJD (Applejack Daniels). She passed the bottle to me and I took a swig of it before handing it back to her, and she did the same. She then passed the vegetables to me before setting a bit of brown rice on to boil, so I cut up the veggies quickly and put them in the pan.

"So," she started, watching me as I sautéed the medley of vegetables, "I got a letter in the mail yesterday...from Spitfire."

I kept my eyes on the sizzling pan, rocking it back and forth to cook the food properly. "Oh? That's the captain of the Wonderbolts, right?"

"Yeah." she answered. "She uh...she wants me to come to Cloudsdale for tryouts..."

I nearly dropped the skillet at hearing this. It was no secret that Dash had wanted to be in the Wonderbolts for as long as any of her friends could remember...but for her to actually have a real shot...it was incredible.

The food had cooked enough, so I removed it from the heat and turned off the burner before turning to Dash with a big smile on my face. "Dash...that's amazing! I mean, Spitfire offered you a tryout? That's just...I'm so proud of you!" I enveloped her in a hug and kissed her passionately. When I set her back down, however, she didn't look all that happy. I kneeled down on the ground to look at her eye-level. "Babe, what's wrong?"

She sighed and looked down in what appeared to be shame. "I...I'm not so sure I want to do it, Koa...not anymore." She looked up at me with genuine tears in her eyes, and she sighed again, sadly. "If I get into the Wonderbolts, I'll be away for a long time from practice, tours...all of that stuff."

I was flabbergasted...my angel was actually thinking about turning down this chance of a lifetime. I quickly shook my head and tilted her chin up to look at me. "Dash, you're going. Scoots and I will be fine, and I'm not going to let you throw away your dream just because of me. Dash..." I groaned in frustration. "Dash, what if you and I break up at some point?"

Her eyes shot up and widened in shock. "You're breaking up with me already? It's only been a little over a month!"

I shook my head and sighed. "No, I'm not. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't give up this chance because of me. I hope we're always together Dashie, I really do...but facts are that life is unpredictable. If you and I should separate sometime down the road, I don't want you to have to sit there by yourself and regret not taking this opportunity." I then braced both hands on her shoulders and smiled. "You're going, Dashie. If it works out, awesome...we'll find a way to work with that. If not, at least you know you tried your very best and didn't waste the opportunity."

A few tears dropped down her cheeks, and she looked at me with remorse. "I don't know if I'll have the willpower to say no if I get in though."

I shrugged. "Then don't. If you make it, live your dream Dash. You've worked so hard for this...so don't let all that hard work be in vain." I then cupped her face in my large hands and kissed her nose softly. "I'll always love you Dashie, but your life is a lot shorter than mine is going to be. You need to grab your dreams when they come to you, okay?"

She looked a little forlorn, but nodded. "Okay Koa, I'll do it." She then grinned and puffed her chest out with pride. "I'll destroy that tryout! I got this in the bag!"

I chuckled and ran my fingers through her mane affectionately. "There's my girl. Now come on, dinner's finished."

We ate dinner while finishing off the bottle of AJD, talking about all kinds of things. After finishing, I cleaned up and showered before heading off to bed with Dash. It was about that time of week that I needed a good rest, so I resigned myself to sleeping tonight. As I lay in bed next to Dash, she laid on her back with her hooves behind her head...which I found rather uncharacteristic for a pony.

"Hey Koa..." she whispered.

I looked over at her to see her looking right back at me. "Yeah babe?"

She averted her eyes for a second before looking back at me, a concerned look on her face. "If I do get in...you'll watch out for Scoots, right?"

At that moment, said young pegasus walks in the room and hops up on the bed, laying down next to me and falling asleep. I covered her up and kissed her forehead before turning back to Dash with a smile. "Does that answer your question? I'd never let anything happen to her, Dashie. I swear it."

She nodded and settled herself into the soft cloud pillow. "Good. I feel better about this now, Koa. Thanks."

I nodded and kissed her once again before she rolled on her stomach, sleeping the way ponies normally do, but not before settling herself into my arm and laying her head on my chest.
I smiled at my angel and hoped with everything I possessed that she would make it. I'd miss her, but a dream is a dream...and not even love should stand in the way of it. Regret is a strong corrupting factor, and I didn't want it to be a part of what we had. With my mind made up, I pulled my two sleeping companions close to me and closed my eyes, quickly slipping off into sleep.

Chapter 15: Demon's Song

Chapter 15: Demon's Song

Another week passed, and just another long day for me.

As I woke from sleep, I couldn't help but smile at the sight next to me: Dash and Scootaloo, cuddled up next to each other as they slept against my right arm. It was a sight that I would probably never get sick of, as it always put a smile on my face.

As I rose out of bed and took a shower, the events of the last month were on my mind the whole time. Talk had been floating around town that I was many things, ranging from a spy of some evil being, all the way to being a hero from another dimension (which I guess wasn't far from the truth). Thankfully, Lulu put a stop to these quickly, letting the ponies of Ponyville and Canterlot know that I was in her direct employ. This caused a massive shift in the way the two cities looked upon me.

And since I was with Dash, not in a good way.

It was now not uncommon for me to have multiple mares following me from afar as I did my daily work (mostly pegasi, for obvious reasons). While I guess I should have been flattered, it just bothered me. I was in love with Dash, but for whatever reason, mares just don't take no for an answer. I guess this had something to do with that 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of mares to stallions...whatever it was. No matter the reason, I was constantly being followed by the single mares wherever I would go. The good news is that none of them could cruise as high as I could, so more often than not I would fly some fifty-thousand feet up whenever I'd go somewhere, so as to avoid the stalkers.

Dash didn't seem bothered by this, which I was utterly surprised by. I don't know why, but I figured her more of the jealous type. I guess with her confidence and arrogance came a security in knowing that she was the only mare for me...and it was completely true. Besides, most of them wanted me simply because of what they heard or seen. There were all sorts of rumors going around ranging from dragons being more well-endowed than Big Macintosh (I wouldn't know), all the way to dragons being able to do all sorts of things with their tongues. By Celestia, is that all the mares think about? I mean I know stallions are in short supply, but damn.

Back to the matter at hand, however, I needed to go into town to stock up the pantry and fridge, as well as get some more AJD. Thankfully for me, today was scheduled to be a day for rain, which meant the town would be relatively clear of traffic. I checked the clock as I walked out of the shower, seeing it was 09:58; the storm was set to begin at 10:00. This gave me just enough time to hang up my towel, grab my coinpurse, and head out to my front step before I had to start the storm. As the first few drops of rain hit my scales, I sighed and smiled with my eyes closed for a moment before taking to the skies.

As I expected, most of the ponies of Ponyville were indeed inside, save for a few choice mares and stallions. AJ, Big Macintosh, and Fluttershy were all out on their front porch of the Sweet Apple Acres house, watching as the soft rain fell with occasional strike of lightning. The Doctor, odd fellow, was looking around curiously as he trudged through the rain towards his house. Pinkie Pie was dressed in a bright yellow raincoat with Wellies, playing in the rain with her pet, Gummy. Lastly, Spike was rushing back to the library, Sweetie Belle in tow.

I landed a few minutes later outside of a small area of different food stands and hole-in-the-wall buildings that were my stop for groceries. Some of the ponies I knew, some I didn't...but they were all fair and kind enough. I quickly gathered what groceries I needed before taking flight again with my filled bag, heading towards Sweet Apple Acres.

The two earth ponies and pegasus were still sitting on the front porch of the farm house – Big Macintosh chewing on a piece of hay as he watched the rain while Applejack and Fluttershy snuggled together on a bench swing.

Big Mac noticed me first and smiled warmly. "Well howdy, Rider. Whatcha doin' out here in this weather?"

I shrugged and smiled back at him. "Just picking up some things from town. Besides, I make the weather, remember?"

The crimson stallion chuckled deeply and nodded. "Tha's raht, Ah fergot. Guess yer wantin' som'more drink?"

"That's right, Big Macintosh. Thanks." I responded as I set my bags down.

He stood up and nodded. "Wait here with mah sis then and Ah'll go'n get it fer ya."

I nodded and sat down in a chair next to the two mares. "So girls, how have you two been?"

The earth pony and pegasus looked away from each other and back at me, apparently just realizing that I was there. Fluttershy floated away from her marefriend and hugged me tightly. "Oh Koa, I missed you!"

I chuckled lightly and wrapped an arm around her, hugging back. "Heh, I missed ya too, 'Shy."

I heard the clopping of hooves as AJ sauntered over, so I snatched her up into the hug too, causing her to let out a really un-Applejack squeak of surprise. She rolled her eyes and smiled. "Y'all better not tell RD Ah did that or Ah'll buck ya."

"A ponypile, hmm? Why didn't anypony invite me?" Rainbow Dash's voice carried through the rain.

I looked up to see her floating through the soft rain. She landed on the covered porch and shook herself dry, then smiled. I grinned back as I released the two mares and let them get back to their lovey-dovey snuggling.

With a snap of my fingers a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky, followed by a loud crack of thunder. This startled the hell out of Dash, who leapt into my open arms. She looked up at me in annoyance and I just smiled back. "How about we have our own ponypile later on?"

"Shh, Koa! Not in public..." she whispered, a blush finding its way to her face. I grinned mischievously and ran my hand over her cutie mark, causing her to have to stifle a moan. I then moved my mouth to her exposed ear and breathed warmly on the back of it, causing her to shiver. She looked up at me with glazed eyes, breathing heavily. "Koa please...this isn't fair."

I raised my hand in the air and allowed a bit of lightning to arc around my fingers with a grin. "Then stop me." Dash looked at me with pleading eyes and I sighed. "Fine...you're no fun."

She then leaned in and ran her tongue along my "ear" ridge and whispered, "Later I'll show you just how not-fun I can be."

I growled low and sighed again. "See, it's things like this that make it hard to not just take you in the middle of town right now. Hopefully I've got my instincts under enough control this time so that you don't have to go away when your next heat rolls around."

The cyan pegasus giggled and nodded as her two friends were blushing in embarrassment. "Yeah, let's hope so. Anyway, are you almost done? Scoots is awake and wondering where you are."

"Wait a minute, Scootaloo's been stayin' with you?" AJ asked, now utterly surprised.

I looked over at the couple and nodded. "Yeah, why?"

Fluttershy then looked very embarrassed and blushed. "Oh my...so that's why that rumor was going around."

I began to get a little annoyed so I snorted, causing a small cloud of electricity to flow out. "What rumor?"

I must have let out a little more anger in my voice than I meant to, because even AJ looked at me with apprehension. "W-well sugarcube, there's talk 'a you bein' a foal-fiddler..."

"What's a 'foal-fiddler'?" I asked, now utterly confused.

Dash wriggled out of my grasp and sighed as she eyed both me and her friends. "A 'foal-fiddler' is what Equestria calls pedophiles, Koa."

I jumped off of the chair and the sheer anger that was radiating off of me because of this accusation was causing lighting to bolt through the sky in large amounts. "WHAT?! Who the hell started that lie? Tell me now so I don't have to tear through the entire town looking for them!"

The next thing I know my face was burning from the hoof I caught across my face, and Dash was floating in front of me with a concerned look on her face. "Koa...calm down. Get a hold of yourself." I nodded and took a few deep breaths. "Better?" I nodded again. Dash then turned to the two mares and slowly fluttered over, sitting next to her two friends. "Girls...who started this?"

Surprisingly, Fluttershy was the one who spoke up first, albeit in a near-whisper. "W-we d-d-don't really k-know, Rainbow D-Dash. I'm s-s-sorry..."

Dash sighed and turned back to me. "Sorry Koa...guess for the time being we're just going to have to put up with them."

I growled and shook my head. "I don't know if I can do that, Dash. It was one thing when they were saying things like I had a big dick or something, but this is different." I looked over at Applejack and Fluttershy with pleading eyes. "Sorry if I've said anything in the last few minutes that's offended or scared either of you." I then closed my eyes and sighed. "For the record, I am not nor have I ever been intimate with Scootaloo. She's a close friend and I care a lot about her, but that's as far as it goes. Yes, she sleeps in my house most days, but I care about her as an older brother cares about a little sister. I stay out all night with the princess of the night and no pony bats an eye, but I let an orphan filly stay with me and all the sudden I'm a pedophile. That's just great. Glad to know that gossip is the same no matter where I go."

"Oh my...we don't think you're a foal-fiddler, Koa." Fluttershy said as she stood up off of the swing and floated in front of me. She motioned to her two friends and smiled. "All of us know that you're a good dragon, Koa. We all know you'd never do something like that."

I nodded and sighed, realizing what a fool I'd acted like. "I know, 'Shy. Sorry if I scared you."

She shook her head and embraced me in a soft hug for a moment, her smell of summer flowers and a fresh stream wafting into my nose. "It's okay Koa...I know you didn't mean it."

I released her and smiled. "Thanks 'Shy."

"Ya lucky dragon, you." said a deep voice from behind me.

I turned around to see the large crimson stallion with a grin on his face. I grinned back and shook my head. "Yep. You got Twi though, so I'm sure you got your hooves full too."

He chuckled and shook his head as he pushed the crate of sweet alcohol over to me. "Nah, she's a good mare. Gotta admit, it's a li'l intimidatin' bein' with Princess Celestia's studen', but she don't treat me different fer it."

I reached into my coinpurse and and pulled out two twenty-five bit coins, placing them in the small coinpurse that Big Mac had for himself. "Well it's good to hear that everything seems to be going well so far. Anyway, thanks a lot for the talk and the drink, all of you. If any of you need me, you know where I'll be."

The three ponies all nodded and waved goodbye as Dash and I took flight again into the rainy day.

We arrived back at my place a little after 14:00. After I finished putting all the groceries away, I fixed up a lunch for myself and my two guests. Luckily for me, Scootaloo and Dash had gotten over the fact that I ate meat, so I fixed myself a large steak with potato wedges, then I made a salad each for the girls. As we ate, drank, and laughed, I couldn't help but feel extremely nervous about tonight.

After all, it's not every day a father meets his daughter.

A few days ago, I had asked Lulu about our daughter. I mean, what father wouldn't want to know his daughter, right? The reason I was nervous was because I had expected her to be dead...or at the very least unreachable. No...Diz told me that not only was she alive, she knew about me. She didn't know I was her father, but she knew what I was.

"Koa, yoohoo? You okay?" Scootaloo called as she waved a hoof in my face.

I shook my head to clear my thoughts and smiled. "Yeah. I'm okay, little one." 'Little one? Since when do I talk like that? Ugh...this multiple lives thing is getting to me.'

The filly giggled and patted my leg softly. "You sound old when you talk like that."

"Scoots is right, old man. You might want to 'young that up' a little." Dash added with a grin.

I rolled my eyes with a soft growl. "I'm older than both of you already, but I've got more moxie than both of you combined. Age isn't everything, girls."

Dash snorted. "Yeah...like that's not something an old pony would say." I pointed a finger at her rump and let a small jolt of lightning hit her, causing the cyan mare to jump into the air in shock. "Ow! What was that for?"

I shrugged and smirked. "You get to make fun of me for being old, I get to shock you. I mean, there are better ways I can use this power...you know that."

Dash blushed, but Scootaloo looked really confused. "What do you mean, Koa?"

The mischievous side of me decided to rear its head again, so I calmly walked over to Dash with a light charge in my hand and ran my hand along the base of her wings, causing her to let out a very loud moan. I then turned to Scootaloo with a smirk, noticing the blush that had made itself known on her face. "Well, there's one example." Dash then composed herself and flashed a glare at me. "What? I can be a spontaneous young person too, you know."

The cyan pegasus shook her head and sighed. "That's not it, Koa. Scootaloo's just a little filly. I'd rather not scar her for life, thanks."

I raised an eyeridge and looked at the orange filly. "You didn't tell her?"

"Tell me what?" Dash asked loudly.

I motioned to the cyan mare while looking at the filly. "Go ahead Scoots, tell her."

Scootaloo nodded and sighed, looking at her idol. "W-well Rainbow Dash, I have dreams about Zi-er, Koa."

Dash stared at her charge for a moment before furrowing her brow. "I'm not sure I get what you're trying to say."

"I have special dreams about him, Rainbow Dash..." Scootaloo elaborated.

At this, Dash's mouth dropped open in shock, and I just continued smirking as I drained my bottle of whiskey. After a minute or so Dash slowly looked over at me and stuttered out, "I-i-is that t-true?"

I nodded as I drank down the last of the sweet liquor, throwing the bottle away. "Yep, it is. As a matter of fact, she told me about it the first day I met her after I came back from Earth."

Dash quickly looked back and forth between me and Scootaloo. "Am I the only pony here that feels really awkward all of the sudden?"

I nodded. "Yep. We worked all this out a long time ago. I explained to Scoots that I'm with you and am completely faithful, and she said she was fine with it. We're friends, Dash. You're the only mare on my mind...and frankly, one of the only ones that can handle me."

This seemed to calm her, as she nodded and grinned. "Yeah, you're right about that. I don't think anypony else besides maybe Luna could keep you in line."

"You all make it sound like I'm some wild animal that needs to be wrangled." I said with a huff.

Dash "booped" me on my nose and giggled. "You can be. Did you forget why Princess Celestia had to come to Ponyville last time?"

I sighed in exasperation. "That was one time that happened and I already apologized to her, and you. Are you ever going to let that go?"

She shook her head with a smirk. "Not until it stops being funny."

I looked over at Scootaloo who was also laughing, though she stopped as she met my eyes. She huffed and rolled her eyes. "Oh come on Koa, that was funny!"

"Yeah, and also incredibly embarrassing." I retorted.

"Hey, you weren't the one who was passed out in front of the princess." Dash added with a look of annoyance.

I nodded a few times and grinned. "This is true."

Dash then seemed to come to some sort of realization, as she looked at the pegasus filly inquisitively. "You know squirt, you seem really cool with all of this, considering how you've dreamed about Koa."

The filly shrugged and smiled. "Well being an orphan grew me up a lot. I mean don't get me wrong, Sweetie Belle and Applebloom are still my best friends, but I relate better to older ponies. Point is that I understand that Koa is your dragon, and he's faithful. I don't think I could anyway, but I wouldn't try and steal him from you or anything. I care about the two of you too much." She then glared at both of us. "If you tell Applebloom I got sappy, I'll pay both of you back with interest." She then sighed and closed her eyes as she lowered her head. "I mean, I can't say that I don't still think about it as a kind of fantasy, but you both are my friends...and the closest thing I have to family along with Applebloom and Sweetie Belle. I don't want to mess that up by trying to be greedy." The filly then smiled again. "Besides, it would probably be better if I found someone around my age, right?"

I just stared at her in utter surprise. I mean, I knew she was more mature than most her age, but this was pushing it. She was talking like someone my age should talk.

"Scoots, how old are you again?" Dash asked the filly, apparently reading my mind.

The orange pegasus giggled and stood up from the table, taking a seat on the cloud couch instead. "Nine. Why, is that too young to be grown up?"

I nodded. "Yeah, it is. Fillies your age are normally playing with their friends, or having little get-togethers with signs that read 'no colts allowed' or something like that."

"Well Sweetie Belle is with Spike. No one says anything about that." she remarked.

I nodded and sighed. "True, but she still acts like a filly is all. I see older stallions in your future."

We all had a good laugh about this before splitting up for the day. Dash had some late-day work to do, and Scootaloo was meeting up with her friends at Sweet Apple Acres. This left me to meet up with the princesses as my last event of the day, so I quickly took flight and headed for the palace.

I arrived a little over twenty minutes later to find that I had indeed been followed, but luckily I lost my procession at the palace gates, thanks to the guards. I merely nodded at the two royal guards as I passed and they shut the golden gates behind me.

I walked through the winding halls and corridors of the palace until I came upon the large doors that lead to the throne room, where Celestia would be having court at the moment. I checked the sun's position and estimated that court would be over within the next few minutes, so I took a seat a ways away from the many ponies that were gathered outside and went about munching on some beef jerky.

I couldn't help but notice a young unicorn mare watching me as she sat next to who I assumed was her mother or sister. The mare was a dark blue – almost as dark as Lulu – with a stark white mane and tail, which seemed to glimmer in the rays of the sun. Her eyes were also an oddity, being gray with an inner ring of blue in them. Like me, she was sitting apart from the rest of the group...but she didn't take her eyes off of me the entire time. I looked away and continued absentmindedly chewing on the dried meat, just trying to pass the time as quickly as possible.

When I looked back, however, the mare was standing right in front of me with a wide grin.

"Umm...can I help you?" I said as I swallowed my mouthful and put away the rest of the meat.

She shrugged and sat down next to me. "I don't know, can you?"

I sighed and closed my eyes, rubbing the bridge of my nose. "Listen ma'am, I don't mean to be rude but I get enough attention back in Ponyville. If you're interested, I'll just tell you right away that I'm with Rainbow Dash and I'm completely faithful."

She giggled and shook her head. "Look, I know being the new skylord might have gone to your head a bit, but I'm not here for that. I just want to talk and you look interesting."

I shrugged. "Well, I've got some time to kill before I meet with the princesses. What are you here for?"

She shook her head and grinned. "Uh uh, not telling. That's a secret."

"Well that's no fun." I retorted. "What do you want to talk about then, hm?"

She giggled and smiled at me. "Well how about what you're doing here?"

I raised my eyeridge at her. "So you don't want to tell me what you're doing here, but you're going to ask me?" She nodded vigorously. I sighed and shrugged. "I guess it couldn't hurt to tell you. I'm here to see my daughter."

The mare's eyes widened and she smiled. "Wow, you're a father?" I nodded. "How long has it been since you've seen her?"

I couldn't help when my head drooped a bit. "I can't remember the last time I saw her."

The mare was silent for a moment before placing her forehoof on my shoulder. "Hey, it's going to be okay." I looked at her and she smiled gently. "I never knew my father, so I can tell you that just the fact that you want to make sure you know her is a lot more than some fillies get."

I nodded. "I know. I can't help but think that she's going to hate me for not seeking her out sooner though."

She nodded slowly a few times. "She might...for a little while. It's your job to make sure she knows that you love her though, and that she'll never have to be alone again. I kinda wish my father would do that, actually."

"Wouldn't you be angry at him?" I asked, now interested in her story.

She snorted a laugh and nodded. "Of course I'd be angry with him." She then looked down at her hooves and smiled softly. "But I'd rather have a father to be mad at than none at all." I noticed that when she looked up at me again, there was a stray tear on her cheek. "Don't make the same mistake mine did. Make sure your little filly knows how much you care about her, from now until the end of life."

I placed a hand on her shoulder and nodded. "I swear. I've already screwed up this much, I'm not going to do it again."

She smiled and nodded as the large doors opened, revealing one of Celestia's personal guards. He looked around the room for a moment before spotting the mare at my side, then nodded. "Fillies and gentlecolts, day court is closed for today. Night court will begin promptly at 10:30. Thank you all, and have a good day." He then turned to us again and motioned for one of us to come forward, so the mare got up and walked over.

She looked back at me once more and smiled. "Good luck."

I nodded with a soft smile. "You too."

The next few minutes were pretty quiet, as I was now the only one in the foyer. Without any ponies around, I pulled out my bag of dried meat and continued snacking on it.

"Enjoying yourself, Koa?" whispered a voice from my side.

I turned to see the dark blue alicorn standing there, so I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Not really. This dragon metabolism is getting to me lately. It's like I have to eat every other hour or I get mad hunger pangs."

She giggled and shook her head. "Most dragons aren't anywhere near as active as you are, Koa. Dragons tend to spend a lot of their time napping or lounging when they're not fighting."

I shrugged. "It's always something, isn't it."

She smiled that warm smile I loved and gestured for me to follow. "Come. It's time, Koa."

I stood and put my snack away, zipping the bag closed and hoisting the knapsack onto my shoulder. As I followed her, I actually started to sweat with nervousness...which was a first for me. Out of all the things to make me uneasy, it had to be meeting my daughter.

"Nervous, Koa?" Luna quipped.

I nodded and readjusted the bag on my shoulder. "More than I've ever been before."

She frowned and eyed me with concern. "Why?"

I sighed and dropped my gaze to the ground as we walked. "What if she hates me?"

"Why in Equestria would she hate you?" my companion asked softly.

"Because I haven't been there for her entire life up to this point, Diz." I responded. I looked towards the large doors in front of us and stopped. "I've wanted to be a father for as long as I can remember – which isn't much, but still. I don't know if I'd be able to live with myself if my own flesh and blood despises me." I then pressed my hand to the door and let another pained breath out. "But it has to be done. I also couldn't live with myself knowing that I passed up this opportunity."

She nodded and pressed her own hoof to the door. "Are you ready?"

I shrugged. "As I'll ever be."

We both pushed the door open and entered the throne room, and standing in front of us was none other than Celestia herself.

The sun princess smiled at me and inclined her head towards me. "Good evening, Koa. I hope you have not been waiting long."

I shook my head. "Maybe twenty minutes or so. No big deal."

She nodded back and then looked at her sister. "Luna, go and fetch her please." With that, Luna nodded back and went down the corridors of the palace to go and get who I assumed was my daughter.

I walked up to the brilliant white alicorn and smiled warmly. "So Lily, how was work?"

She rolled her eyes as she sat back onto her throne. "Boring, as always." She then jumped up in shock. "Oh, I'd nearly forgotten. I have another mission for you in six days. Are you interested?"

"Always, Lil. What's up?" I responded cordially.

She shook her head as she stepped next to me. "I don't have all the details just yet, but I can tell you that it will have you away for at least two or three weeks."

I sat down on the steps in front of the throne and shrugged. "Well in all honesty, I've been getting a bit antsy. I'll tell Dash and Scootaloo when I get home today what's going on. I'd prefer not to leave them out of the loop."

Celestia was about to respond when the sound of a door closing down the hallway could be heard, so we both turned towards it...and what I saw caused my mouth to drop open in shock.

Standing before us was the same mare I had met in outside the throne room...and she looked every bit as surprised as me. Emotions and thoughts swam through my head so fast that it became too much, and I fainted.

I woke up to a numb feeling in both of my wings, only to realize I'd slept on them while they were folded. I sat up and stretched them out, quickly restoring the blood flow and feeling. I opened my eyes and looked around the room to find that I was completely alone, and was in the room that was "reserved" for me in the palace. It seemed that Luna must have decided to check on me, because she opened the door and popped her head in.

When she saw that I was awake, she leaned back out and opened the door fully...revealing herself and the mare...my daughter.

"H-hey..." I stuttered.

The mare just stared at me for a moment before looking at Luna. The night princess nodded. "It's alright, dear."

The mare nodded and tentatively stepped forward before stopping a few feet in front of me, sitting down on her haunches with an inquisitive look. It was dead silence for the longest time, and yet again, I started sweating in nervousness. This was made worse by the fact that try as I might, I couldn't read any discernible thoughts emanating from her, which meant I had no idea what was on her mind.

"Where have you been..." she nearly whispered.

I was glad she'd finally spoken, but the answer I had in store wasn't a good one. "I...I'm not sure. Away...that's all I know." I shifted uncomfortably and attempted a smile. "Could I know your name?"

"Moonbeam." she responded quickly. "My name is Moonbeam now."

I nodded. "So you don't go by Janice anymore?"

She shook her head and motioned to Luna. "No one except mother and auntie Tia calls me that."

I nodded and then shook my head in realization. "Wait a minute, why couldn't I find a gravestone for you in the old royal cemetery?"

She looked to Luna and the blue alicorn sighed. "Half-breeds like her were not officially recognized in Equestria until the Second Age...the age that took place after Tia and I returned to Terra after twenty millennia. Her kind were not considered naturally occurring before then."

"So instead, ponies simply denounced her existence? That doesn't make sense. I mean, I saw the engraving on your stone, Diz." I responded.

Luna stared at me in surprise. "You could read that?"

I nodded. "Yeah, why?"

"Because," she started, "that was written I the ancient language of dragons...a language only taught to and known by royalty." She then smiled. "If you ever wanted proof that you were who we say you are, then that is it."

I furrowed my brow in thought for a moment before responding. "What about Lily's headstone? I couldn't read that for some reason."

Luna shrugged. "Neither can we. It was meant only for your eyes. She said once that it was a code only you would be able to break."

I tapped my chin for a moment and then grinned. "Ooh...she's a sneaky one, she is." I then looked back to Moonbeam and nodded. "Back to the matter at hand though," I took a step towards her and eyed her suspiciously, "she's a half-breed, right?" Luna nodded. "Okay, then why does she only look like a pony?"

At this the unicorn stepped away from me and closed her eyes. As I watched, deep blue fire engulfed her hooves and started to travel up her body. The fire burned brighter and brighter until I had to shut my eyes to keep from being blinded. Once I saw from behind my lids that the fire had died down, I opened them and gasped at what I saw.

Before me stood a blue dragoness, shorter than me and different in form. Unlike me she held a more bestial form, with large hind legs made for running on all fours and a long serpent-like neck. Her eyes burned with blue fire and her scales shined in the afternoon sun. The wings were large – larger than mine. Lastly, atop her head sat a single horn – a unicorn's horn.

I pursed my lips and nodded. "Okay, that's a bit more like it. So you can change form?"

"Technically so can you, Koa." Luna responded.

"What do you mean?" I asked, now utterly confused.

"Well," she started with a smile, "do you remember how you changed your form in the past?"

I shrugged. "Kinda. That's one of those memories that's pretty hazy."

Luna nodded and smiled. "Well, it's all about your will. You must simply will the change to happen, and it will happen." Before I could do anything however, she stomped her foot to get my attention. "Not here, Koa. In the gardens."

We all arrived outside a few minutes later in the middle of the royal gardens, which were mercifully empty.

Luna turned to me as we stopped and smiled. "Okay, now you may will your change."

I nodded and did as she asked, focusing on my body changing. I figured it worked the same way with the rest of my abilities, so I put my full focus in to the intent of my body changing forms. Thankfully, I apparently didn't have to know what the form looked like, as I started to feel my body crackle with energy as the change began. I could feel clouds gathering overhead as my magic flowed through my body, and I felt the soft pitter-patter of rain on my scales. I could feel my body's bones elongating, changing, or shortening accordingly.

It didn't hurt, but damn did it feel weird.

After a few minutes or so, the energy stopped flowing, so I opened my eyes. For the third time today, I was shocked. I now towered over both Luna and Moonbeam by a lot. I was able to look over trees and even the palace roof, and I noticed that my neck was long and serpentine, like Moonbeam's. My tail was much longer with multiple fins on it, no doubt for flying. My rear and front limbs had shifted their place and lengths and were now suited for quadrupedal movement instead of bipedal. Lastly, I felt on top of my head to feel seven large horns as opposed to my normal two.

"Whoa." I breathed out, and noticed my voice was now much deeper, and held more of a growl-like quality to it.

Luna giggled and shook her head. "Such is the power of the Great Draconian. I assume this will help you on your missions, yes?"

I nodded and flexed my large claws. "Oh yeah, this will help."

I felt a tap on my knee and I looked down to see Moonbeam doing so. I craned my neck down to meet her and she smiled for the first time since learning who I was to her. "Now you look how I remember you." She then slapped me with a clawed hand and frowned. "Don't think this is over..." She then caressed my cheek with the same clawed hand. "I'm happy you're back though." She then turned to Luna and nodded. "We should go, mother." Before leaving however, Moonbeam looked back at me with a smile as she shifted back into her pony form. "Come have lunch with me tomorrow. There's a lot for us to catch up on."

As the two mares walked back towards the palace, I allowed myself a large smile as I turned towards Ponyville and took flight.

I decided to get a feel for my new body, so I didn't change back into my "normal" form until I arrived back in Ponyville. The storm was still going on, so the gray stratus clouds covered my approach, which meant that I didn't have to change back until I had literally arrived at the doorstep of my house. I thought I'd experiment a little and attempted to change forms while flying. Much to my surprise, it worked perfectly and although I was a little tired now, there didn't seem to be any noticeable negative effects.

I opened the door and walked into my house to find Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo already waiting for me...with a nice meal already cooked. I looked to Dash and smirked. "Keep things up like this and I'll think you love me or something."

"Oh, we wouldn't want that. Don't worry, I'll beat you up or something before we go to bed." she remarked with a sadistic grin.

I chuckled and sat down at the dining table. "You're on, speedy." I then took a bite of the mushroom salad and looked to the orange filly to my left. "So, how was your day, Scoots?"

She shrugged. "Eh, it was alright I guess." She then huffed and blew her mane out of her eyes. "I'm telling you, we're so close to getting our cutie marks it hurts."

"You'll get it soon, little one. I can feel it." I responded with a smile. I then rolled my eyes and growled. "There I go again with the 'little one' thing. As if I need to sound any older or more goofy."

This prompted the orange pegasus to nuzzle against my arm and smile lovingly. "That's okay, Koa. We like you that way."

I raised an eyeridge at her. "You like me to be goofy and weird?"

Dash nodded as she finished off the last of her salad. "Yep. Makes us feel better about ourselves."

I rolled my eyes as I took my last bite as well, then got up to gather both my bowl and Scootaloo's. "You know, you all should be nicer to me. After all, I'm a big scary dragon."

"Pfft, you're not scary." Dash remarked as she poked me in the side. I then turned towards her with my wings extended and roared menacingly. She simply stood there with a stoic expression and smiled when it was over. "Nope...nothing. I guess it's because I know you'd never hurt me."

I sighed and flopped down on the cloud couch. "Well that's no fun." Both pegasi joined me and gathered on either side as I wrapped my arms around the two of them. "Oh by the way, Celestia told me that I've got another job coming up in about six days. It's gonna keep me away for about two or three weeks though."

"THREE WEEKS?!" they both yelled at the same time.

I sighed and nodded. "Yes...three weeks."

"B-but...that's such a long time, Koa." Dash responded, her voice cracking halfway through.

I felt as Scootaloo held my side tight. "Koa...please don't leave us."

I closed my eyes and sighed again. "I'm sorry girls...I have to do this. So long as Equestria is safe, so are the two of you. I swear I'll be fine and I swear I'll be back as soon as I can be."

"But three weeks? I mean..." Dash mumbled.

I grabbed the cyan mares face and forced her to look at me. "Dash listen to me, okay?" She nodded. "If anyone else could do this, I would gladly pass the baton to them. However, I'm the only one who is capable and available to take care of these threats safely. The princesses are certainly strong enough, but they're needed here. If something were to happen to me, Equestria would keep on going strong. If one of the princesses were lost, all of Equestria and perhaps even reality would come to a screeching halt." I sighed and pulled her into a hug. "I love the both of you...and if that means leaving for such long periods of time so that you'll be protected, then so be it. I may not be a king anymore, but I still have a duty to Equestria."

"What do you mean 'anymore'? You've never been a king, Koa." Dash remarked. I slapped my hand on my mouth in shock of what I just let slip, but Dash wasn't letting it go. "What do you mean, Koa? Don't lie to me."

I dropped my hand and looked down at my lap. "It's not for me to say, Dash. You need to ask Luna. If she thinks it's safe to tell you, she'll do so. She made me swear not to say anything about it."

"About what?" the cyan mare nearly growled out.

I shook my head. "I'm sorry Dash, but I can't tell you. I swore to Luna and Celestia that I wouldn't. Ask Luna tonight about it if you want. I'm sure if you ask she'll trust you enough to tell you."

Dash eyed me suspiciously for a moment before nodding. "Fine. I'll go and ask her tonight then. Guess that means I won't be staying the night after all."

"Are you angry with me or something?" I asked as she trotted towards the front door.

She rolled her eyes as the door was pushed open. "What ever would make you think that finding out you're keeping secrets from me would make me mad?" She then sighed and her wings drooped a little. "I thought you trusted me, Koa." Before I could respond, she slammed the door and took flight towards Canterlot.

Without another word I turned off the lights and headed to my bedroom, Scootaloo at my heels.

As the two of us lay in bed, I couldn't help but feel like a shithead. I should have been the one to ask Luna if I could tell Dash about everything...about my past and her past...about Equestria. Instead I put it off, and now the mare I loved was pissed off at me. The fact that I had told her I would be away for almost an entire month probably didn't help, so now I felt afraid of what was going to happen. I mean, what if she left me? A part of me kept telling me that she wouldn't be so petty over one little speed bump like this...but because of how much I cared about her, it was a very real fear for me. Luna had told me that both her and Scootaloo were part of my past and likely my future...but as bad as it sounded, I just wanted Dash right now.

"Koa? Are you going to be okay?" a soft filly's voice asked from beside me.

I unconsciously hugged her small frame tighter against me as I shook my head. "Not if I have to be without Dash." I sighed painfully. "I screwed up bad, Scoots. I should have asked Luna a long time ago about this. What if..." I was cut off as I was forced to choke down a sob. "What if she leaves me?"

I felt the filly hug me tighter as well and also felt her head shaking. "I don't think she'd do that, Koa. Dash is fiery, passionate, and hot-headed. She gets mad easily but doesn't stay mad for long. Once she cools off, she'll realize how unfair she was to you."

I smiled and kissed the filly on her forehead. "Like I always say, you're too mature for your own good."

"If it helps my friends, I'm okay with that." she remarked. She then nuzzled her head into the crook of my neck and smiled. "Goodnight Koa."

I smiled as I used my hand to slowly pet her back. "Goodnight, Scoots."

Even though I didn't need sleep at the moment, I figured that some sleep would do me good right now, so I closed my eyes and let myself slip off into the darkness.

Chapter 16: Coming to Terms

Chapter 16: Coming to Terms

I woke to the sound of sobbing, and upon looking at my side and noticing that the filly at my side was still slumbering, I became very worried. I was pretty sure I wasn't crying, and I didn't really believe in ghosts, so who...? It was then that I looked to the source of the weeping – my bedroom window.

A very familiar rainbow mane was draped over a crying cyan mare.

I gently sidled out of bed so as to allow Scootaloo to sleep a bit longer, but apparently Dashie's sharp hearing caught the sounds. Without turning around she said, "I know everything, Koa...everything." I heard her sigh as she looked at me with puffy eyes, no doubt from hours of crying. "I'm so sorry I got mad at you. It wasn't your fault and now I know why Luna told you to stay quiet about this."

I nodded. "I'm sure now that you can understand the ramifications of telling everypony about this. It would cause mass hysteria."

Dash floated over to me and embraced me tightly. "I'm so sorry, Koa. I had no idea..."

"Exactly Dash, you didn't...and that's why I don't blame you." I responded as I rubbed her back soothingly. "I was freaked out as well when I learned about everything."

"S-so that means me and Kay..." she whispered.

I nodded and smiled as I lay my chin on top of her head. "You're the same person...just from different times. It's why we fell for each other so easily, Dashie. We already knew each other at one point, just at different times."

"And Twi and all my friends..." she whispered again.

I nodded in affirmation. "It's likely that at some point in the time period I'm from, we met all of them. You probably did as Kay, and when part of me goes back to correct the timestream, I'll meet them as well."

She then freed her face from my chest and looked at the sleeping filly in the bed beside us. "Scoots' name used to be Sylen. I remember now; her and I were best friends." She then looked up at me with a wide smile. "AJ's name was ironically Jaquelin, and Fluttershy's was Dalila." Upon seeing my surprise, she continued. "Luna told me I could tell them if I wanted to. She knows both of them are trustworthy."

I nodded. "How do you think they'll react?"

The cyan mare shrugged. "Probably the same way I did, if not worse. Fluttershy will believe it and deal with it pretty quickly...she's good at that. Applejack however..."

"She's going to resist." I finished for her.

My rainbow angel nodded softly with a pensive expression. "AJ's not the kind of mare that believes things she can't see or touch – she's always been that way...even as a human."

I nodded. "Luna told me that as far as personality, we don't change a lot through each life. Makes sense she's pretty much the same then." I then looked deep in her eyes. "Do you want to still go by 'Rainbow Dash' now or 'Kay'?"

"Rainbow Dash." the pegasus replied immediately. "I'm so much cooler now than I was as a human...that life's behind me."

"Sounds good to me." I responded. I immediately raised my eyeridge in surprise. "So, you're okay with me having been with Luna and Scoots at some point?"

Dash nodded with one of her megawatt smiles. "You're mine now...that's what matters to me. They can fight over you after I'm done with you."

I snorted a laugh in my deep dragon-esque voice. "Luna fighting Scootaloo...I'd pay to see that." I then sighed and shrugged. "Well Dash, now that you know the truth, I'd like for you to come and have breakfast with my daughter and I this morning."

"Yeah, Luna told me about that." Dashie responded with a warm smile. "Does Scoots know?"

I shook my head. "Not yet, but I'm going to ask Luna if I can tell her. AJ already told me yesterday that Applebloom and Sweetie Belle were going to be playing with Scoots today, so that'll give her something to do until we get back."

The both of us quickly got the young filly up and moving before fixing a small breakfast and talking over the meal.

"So what does your daughter look like?" Dash asked as she swallowed a mouthful of apple oatmeal.

I smiled and took a bite of my steak. "Let's just say that looks can be deceiving." She eyed me curiously and I added, "When we leave, I'll show you what I mean."

At that moment, Scootaloo bounded down the stairs happily. "Morning guys!"

"Hey, I am not a guy." Dash retorted.

The filly rolled her eyes as she sat down at the small table beside us. "You sure do act like one sometimes."

I just chuckled, causing Dash to glare at me. "What's funny?"

"I'm staying out of this. This is between you two." I responded as I grabbed my empty plate and Dash's bowl and glass. "Anyway, it's time to go. You ready Scoots?"

The filly nodded. "Yep!"

I smiled and placed the dishes in my sink for later. "Alright then, finish up and grab your scooter and we can head out."

As we stepped out on my front "porch", I stepped away and motioned for the two pegasi to wait. "I think I'll give the two of you a lift today. Watch this."

I closed my eyes and focused like I had the previous day, willing the change to take place. It was much easier this time seeing as how I knew what I was shooting for, and I felt the change take place much quicker. After just a minute or so, I felt my magic stop and I opened my eyes to notice that I now had to look much further down just to see the two ponies looking up at me.

Dash was in shock, but her personal fan just smiled and hugged my leg. "Now you look the same way I remember you, Zizzy."

I nodded and turned my eyes to the cyan mare, noticing she hadn't moved an inch. "You okay there Dashie?"

My voice was now a deep layered voice that reverberated through the air. This seemed to snap the speedster out of her thoughts and she smirked at me. "I had a feeling you were holding out on me, dragon-boy. I always thought it was strange that you were so much smaller than other dragons."

I shrugged. "Well now with that out of the way, we can head out." I got on all fours and lowered myself to the cloud. "Climb on girls. Your dragon-carriage awaits."

This caused both of them to roll their eyes and giggle, but they did as I asked. I felt as they took their places between spines on my back and neck, and also felt when their hooves wrapped around said spines. Now that I felt they were secure, I took to the skies with a mighty flap of my wings and soared through the open air.

My new form flying through the air caused a bit of a stir in the local populace, but one they all noticed two ponies riding on my back, everypony calmed down. After all, a ravenous dragon wouldn't be giving ponies a piggyback ride...or dragon-back ride...or something. Whatever, I'm not good with coming up with new terms. **GASP** Draconic-transportation-facilitator! No wait, that makes me sound like a machine. Heh...a dragon-machine!

(Many more ADD-related ramblings later...)

After dropping off the filly at her and her friends' clubhouse, Dash and I flew to the palace. I changed forms before approaching so as to keep the guards from attacking me, but they still looked surprised to see a gray dragon flying towards them. Once they realized it was me though, they nodded and lowered their wings, allowing Rainbow Dash and I entrance to the Celestial Palace.

We arrived in the banquet hall a few minutes later to find the two princesses and Moonbeam having breakfast together. Luna looked a little tired with it being morning and all, but still managed a smile when she saw us.

"Welcome you two." Celestia greeted. "Have you already eaten?"

I nodded. "We did, but we're always in the mood for pleasurable company with royalty."

Dash elbowed me and whispered, "That sounded kinda dirty, Koa."

I smirked and looked at the three royals present. "I meant that in the dirtiest way possible."

Needless to say, Dash was mortified. Upon the princesses dismissing their servant staff and guards however, both of them erupted into laughter...including the unicorn hybrid. The cyan mare just eyed us like we were crazy, and I just shook my head.

"You need to loosen up, Dash. Come on, you're supposed to be the most awesome pony out there." I quipped.

The rainbow-maned mare stuttered, "I – but...we-"

"Come now Rainbow Dash." Luna said through giggles. "Now that you know the truth, you know that we must keep up appearances in front of our subjects...but among friends we are allowed to be ourselves. As Koa here has said, you must loosen up."

Celestia took deep breath and composed herself with a smile as bright as the sun itself. "We are friends, Rainbow Dash. We were in the past, and I pray that we always will be." The princess then lowered her voice a bit. "Just don't reveal that to Twilight, I beg of you. She believes she is my only true friend, and I fear that she will no longer feel special if she believes otherwise."

"Isn't she special?" Dash responded, now in control of her tongue again.

Luna nodded. "Very much so, but I fear that if she is not the only one to be on a personal level with her mentor, she may feel she is being replaced. You are a dear friend of hers Rainbow Dash, and you understand how she can be."

The cyan pegasus nodded. "Yeah, I do. The egghead can freak out a little about things like that. It's okay, I won't tell her."

"Thank you, Rainbow Dash." Celestia responded warmly. "I love her as my own daughter and I hate to keep things from her, but I fear it would be detrimental to tell her at the moment. When she grows up a little more and becomes more confident in herself, we will reveal things like this to her more often."

Dash nodded as she sat down in a chair, and I did so beside her as well. "Just don't let AJ know. AJ's my best friend, but she is horrible at keeping secrets. Since she's the Element of Honesty, I don't want to put her in that situation."

The princesses nodded and I motioned to Moonbeam. "Dashie, I want you to meet Moonbeam...my daughter. Moonbeam, this is Rainbow Dash...my marefriend."

I was surprised to see Moonbeam sporting a very friendly smile as she nodded towards the pegasus at my side. "It's an honor to meet Equestria's fastest flier."

Dash giggled and shook her head. "Please, I'm meeting a princess and Koa's daughter. The pleasure's definitely mine."

I leaned over to Dash with a smirk and whispered, "Not yet it's not."

This caused the cyan mare to blush a bright crimson, which in turn caused all three princesses to giggle. Luna looked to Dash with a mischievous smirk. "I am sure I can guess what he just whispered to you."

The pegasus leaned to me and elbowed me hard. "Not in front of the princesses, Koa!"

I rolled my eyes with a huff. "Fine...I'll be good."

"You truly have no shame, do you?" Luna quipped from across the table with a smirk.

"None at all, Dizzy." I responded with an equal smirk. "You know that from our previous lives though, don't you?" Luna blushed a deep crimson at my remark and I raised an eyeridge. "Do I even want to know?" She shook her head vigorously, so I shrugged. "Very well." I then looked at Moonbeam with a smile. "So, how has life been?"

The next two hours or so were spent catching up with my daughter, and Dash learning about our past lives. The talk ranged from our past selves all the way to what our favorite foods were – now and as humans. There were a few heartfelt tears shed and a great many laughs laughed, and when it was all over I was pleased to find that my relationship with Moonbeam was mending. It was far from 100%, but I was pleased to find it was a few steps in the right direction. Where once there was awkwardness and even a little hostility, she was now warming up to me. I knew for a fact she didn't consider me "daddy" yet or even her father, but I was glad that I was at least a likable acquaintance.

When we finally broke apart so that Luna could sleep and Celestia could attend to her duties, it was with hugs and smiles...even from Moonbeam. I can't even explain how great it felt to be able to hug my little girl...er, filly...mare-dragoness. Whatever...the point is that it felt great to be able to hold my daughter in an embrace for the first time I could remember. It was an amazing feeling and even though I held it a little longer than necessary, she smiled all the same and returned it before bidding me goodbye and inviting me to the Grand Galloping Gala...whatever that was. She then handed me nine golden tickets and sent Dash and I on our way.

On our way out, I was getting the strangest looks from all the ponies of Canterlot. I turned to Dash and whispered, "You'd think they've never seen a dragon before or something."

Dash leaned in and whispered back, "It's because they haven't. Even when Twi and Spike were living here the rest of the ponies never really saw either of them. Before he moved to Ponyville with Twi, the only ponies that knew about him even existing were Twilight, her parents, and Celestia."

"Oh..." I responded.

"I can take care of this for you, dear Storm Rider." a voice said from behind me. I turned to see Celestia standing behind us with Captain Shining Armor. She winked at me with a smile before turning to the crowd of gathering ponies. "This dragon is known as Storm Rider, and is a friend to both myself and Princess Luna. I ask all ponies to please treat him with the respect garnered by any other citizen of Equestria. To insult or accost him is to insult me, so I ask you please do not do so." She then extended a protective wing behind me with a smile. "I assume you are pleased with this, yes?"

I chuckled and nodded. "I was expecting to have to work things out the hard way, but this takes care of everything, Princess Celestia. Thank you." I then bowed my head in respect because of all the ponies around us.

The solar princess nodded and smiled to the crowd. "I offer my thanks to all of you for being so attentive. If anypony has questions regarding Storm Rider or his origins, you may petition Captain Shining Armor to meet with me during day court. Thank you and have a wonderful day." Celestia smiled at me once more before making her way back to the palace with the captain.

Dash shrugged with a smile. "Well...that went a lot better than I expected."

I nodded. "I agree." I then inclined my head to the skies. "Let's go see Fluttershy and Applejack. I'm sure I'll be able to support you as you explain things to them."

Dash nodded as she flitted up into the air. "Good idea, Koa."

As I was about to take flight, I was stopped by a small group of fillies when one of them tapped on my leg to get my attention. I turned around with a smile as I looked down at them. "Yes?"

A young unicorn filly with a vermillion coat and white mane giggled at me and blushed. "Umm mister...we were wondering if..."

I raised my eyebrow. "Wondering if...?"

The filly shut her eyes tightly in embarrassment and shouted, "Wewerewonderingifyouhadamarefriend!"

I chuckled and kneeled in front of them, pointing at Dash. "See that pegasus over there?" The filly nodded. "Well, that's my marefriend. Her name's Rainbow Dash, and one day she's going to be a Wonderbolt."

"Maybe she will..." quipped a voice from above me.

I heard Dash gasp as she started stuttering, "Sp-S-S-S-Sp..."

I looked up to see a bright yellow pegasus mare with a dual-colored orange mane and tail that mimicked the colors of a fire. The mare chuckled heartily as she landed next to me. "Spitfire's my name, kid."

I heard a thump and looked to see that Dash had fainted. "Miss Spitfire...I think you broke her."

The Wonderbolt captain chuckled again as she nodded. "I think I just might have." She motioned to the downed pegasus. "Pick her up and follow me. I want to talk to you."

We arrived a few minutes later in a small park that looked an awful lot like the one in Ponyville. I set Dash down on a bench and sat beside her, stroking her mane softly with my claws. I then looked at the yellow pegasus and shrugged. "Alright, so what's up?"

Spitfire grinned before pointing her hoof at the sleeping pegasus next to me. "So I take it she's already told you about the letter I sent her, right?"

I nodded. "She has. I think you should know that she actually thought about turning it down...for me."

"Really?" the Wonderbolt asked, shocked.

I nodded again. "Yeah. I talked her back into it though, so it's all good now."

Spitfire stepped in front of me with a look of inquiry. "Wow...I would never have expected that from her. I mean I don't know her personally, but from what I've heard she's wanted to join the Wonderbolts ever since she was a filly in flight school. You must be a hay of a dragon to get her to reconsider like that."

"Yeah, but I'd like to think that what truly makes me good is the fact that I couldn't let her do that. If you all decide she's got what it takes and she has to go away, that's fine. I'm not going to allow myself to come between her dream." I responded while looking fondly at the sleeping mare beside me.

Then Spitfire asked the obvious question. "Why would you do that though? I mean, won't you miss her?"

I sighed and nodded. "Of course I would, but I'll tell you the same thing I told her in regards to that." I looked back at Spitfire with a solemn look. "I don't really even like to think about the possibility, but what if her and I should break up at some point? However unlikely that may be, it's still a valid possibility. The last thing I'd ever want is to know that I let her pass up this opportunity on a gamble that we'd always be together." I then turned my eyes back to Dash. "I mean, I love her so much...but there is no certainty with love. There never is."

The Wonderbolt was quiet for the longest time before smiling. "I see why she likes you now. You care more about her than any male has before."

"How do you know that?" I responded curiously.

At this Spitfire sighed and closed her eyes. "Rainbow Dash told you about her mom, right? About what happened?" I nodded, so she continued. "Well, what she might have forgotten to mention was that she used to have a sister."

"You mean..." I whispered.

Spitfire was silent for a moment before looking up at me with a smirk. "Nah...but I had you going for a second there, didn't I?" I rolled my eyes and she smiled. "No, I know a lot about her because of the research I've done. Obviously before my team and I allow somepony into the Wonderbolts, we have to know all about them. I've read things, asked questions, and observed. Save for actually knowing her personally, I know just about everything there is to know about her."

"You know," I started with a grin, "some ponies might think you're stalking her."

The yellow mare shrugged. "Some ponies might be right." I was confused, so I waited for her to continue. "I've had my eye on her for a long time, even before the incident at the Young Fliers' Competition. In all my years of flying, I've never seen a pony with the raw speed and ability that she has, and I can honestly say that with some training and refining, she could be a better flier than I could ever even dream of being." Spitfire then looked at the sleeping Rainbow Dash. "I'll be honest with you Storm Rider, I want her on my team. Because of the rules and regulations she still has to pass the tests and initiations fair and square...but if there's a way to get her in the Wonderbolts, I'm going to find it. I want you to promise me that you won't tell her."

I nodded. "I won't, but I know Dash and I know she doesn't want special treatment. She's a great mare, but she has a hay of a lot of pride. Her pride is as much a part of her as her wings, and if you damage it, you damage her."

Spitfire shook her head. "I'm not going to do anything that's illegal to get her in. She's going to have the same chance as any other pony to get in...but I'd be lying if I said I'm not going to put through personal effort to give her the best chance possible." Spitfire then sat down on the bench beside me. "Now then, for the real reason I called you here. We need to talk about your work with the princess."

I raised my eyeridge at her. "How do you know about that and how do I know I can trust you?"

The Wonderbolt captain sighed and closed her eyes. "Your real name's Koa Kamakani. You're from the past and you were the one that took care of Dash before she was brought back here. You're friends with both the princesses, and your favorite color is violet. Princess Luna used to call you 'sea monster' back where you came from." I stared open-mouthed in shock. No words came, so Spitfire continued with, "The princesses figured you'd be a little distrusting at first, so they gave me the lowdown on some things only you and they would know. I've been in their employ for as long as I can remember, so they trust me enough to know that information."

I shook my head to compose myself and smiled. "Well that would cover it. So what's up?"

"Well, I know that Princess Celestia has a new mission planned for you in a few days, but I need your help tomorrow if you're free." the yellow pegasus responded.

I shrugged. "Sounds groovy. What's the problem?"

"Well," she started, "I know about your little form-change that you can do...and we need that power for a problem we're having at Dragon Mountain. Seems that awhile ago there was a dragon sleeping there that caused a huge black cloud of smoke to drape over Canterlot and Ponyville. Well, he's returned and he's not sleeping this time. He's claimed ownership over the lands of Everfree and Ponyville, and has told us that we have a week to evacuate, or risk casualties."

"Wow...that's kinda dark for a dragon that Fluttershy was able to handle." I remarked.

The yellow pegasus nodded. "I'm not really sure how that friend of Rainbow Dash's does it, but she was able to tame him. Problem is that this time he's actively threatened the entire town. We can't risk her getting hurt or any of the other ponies, so we need your help. As a Skylord-class dragon, you're the only one that's going to be able to intimidate him into leaving, or stand toe-to-toe with him if he won't. This is an enforcement mission only. Do not, I repeat do not kill him. We just want him gone, not dead. You'll receive compensation upon completion of the mission directly from me."

I raised my eyeridge skeptically. "You're paying me out of your own coinpurse?"

Spitfire smiled sheepishly. "Well the princess paid up front for our services...and since we can't take care of it, we were going to return the money. However if you take care of it, the compensation goes to you instead. So, are you interested?"

I bobbed my head in thought for a minute before nodding. "Yeah, this'll be a cinch."

"Great!" the mare exclaimed. "Anyhow, just look to the northwest of Ponyville, past the Everfree forest. It's the tallest mountain there, you can't miss it. I'll meet you outside your place at around 0400 hours tomorrow so that I can observe."

"Sounds good, Captain Spitfire." I responded.

The Wonderbolt smiled and nodded. "Excellent. Well, thanks a lot for your help, Storm Rider." She then looked down at the sleeping mare, who had crawled into my lap during our conversation. "You take good care of her...she means a lot to me."

Before I could ask about that remark, the pegasus flew away. I just shrugged and sighed. "This is going to be a long day..."

Chapter 17: Blinders Lifted

Chapter 17: Blinders Lifted

I landed outside of Sweet Apple Acres with Dash in my arms, feeling very upset with the crowd that had harassed me the entire way out of Canterlot. After all, I couldn't very well take flight with all of the pegasi that were swarming the air, so I ended up having to take the train out of Canterlot...which took a while.

I ended up arriving at Sweet Apple Acres at around midday, which meant it had been almost seven hours since we had left and come back. Dash had slept the entire way, which I was happy with because she needed the sleep. I mean I love her to death, but she tends to push herself way too hard when it comes to training. Then again, I'm not trying to be a Wonderbolt, so I guess I don't really know what she feels like in that respect.

"Well howdy, Koa!" shouted a familiar voice from the fields in front of me.

I broke from my thoughts and looked to the orange earth pony with a smile. "Howdy, AJ. How has work been?"

The mare bucked a tree and shrugged. "It's harvestin' season, so it's hard work. Ah could use yer help if ya have a minute."

I lay Rainbow Dash on the grass by the fence and walked over to Applejack. "Sure, what do you need?"

The mare wiped some sweat from her brow and took a deep breath before exhaling. "Well Big Mac went 'n hurt 'imself pullin' that ol' rusty plow, so we need someone ta finish plowin'. Ah tried ta do it, but Ah'm not strong enough ta pull that thing."

"Why don't you get a new plow?" I asked curiously.

"We saved fer one, but won't be able ta buy it 'til next month." she responded with a sigh.

I shrugged. "Sure, I'll lend a hand. Just tell me what you need me to do."

"Thanks." she said gratefully with a smile. AJ then pointed to the already plowed parts. "Ah need ya ta follow tha lines Big Mac already left. Just start from where he started until you've covered," she gestured to wide open plot of land, "all of this. With as strong as ya are, it shouldn't take ya too long."

I grinned. "I can be even stronger...watch this." I focused on changing my form again, and now that I knew how it worked, the change took place quickly. I found myself feeling more drained, but the explosive increase in both strength and size was more than worth it. I'd deal with the crash later...for now AJ needed my help.

"Wow...y'all weren't kiddin'." AJ remarked with a grin. "Well, that'll help ya get done faster Ah guess. Jus' don't break nothin'."

I opened my eyes and smiled. "Gotcha, AJ. I'll be done in a little bit." I then wrapped my tail around the harness for the plow and began pulling, finding that while the plow did move, I could also feel it catch and drag a bit more than it should have. Oh well...I suppose I now know how the crimson stallion hurt himself pulling this thing.

Time passed quickly and before I knew it a few hours had already already gone by, and the sun was well on it's way towards the horizon. I was nearly finished with plowing when Applejack and Rainbow Dash arrived beside me with a pie and an entire pitcher of grape juice, which I couldn't help but smile at. I'd seen how hard it was for the earth pony to make grape juice, but when she heard that it was in fact my favorite, she made sure to get me plenty for my troubles.

Celestia bless that mare.

I reverted to my smaller form upon finishing and downed both the pie and grape juice in one bite and gulp, then stifled a belch and nodded. "Thanks, girls. That was just what I needed after today."

"Is that all you need?" Dash asked, clearly with an agenda behind that question.

I grinned back. "Well I could use something else, but that something isn't something that somepony named Applejack could give me. She's saving that for Fluttershy." The mentioned earth pony blushed hotly while the cyan pegasus burst out into laughter. I pointed at AJ and fist-pumped with my other hand. "Yes, I got you to blush! Success!"

The farmer mare rolled her eyes with a grin. "Jus' because Ah'm a workin' mare don' mean Ah'm not still a mare."

"I don't know AJ, you can be a pretty big tom-colt sometimes." Dash replied with a smirk.

"Yer one ta talk, sugarcube. R'member when that Prince Blueblood guy thought y'all were a colt?" Applejack responded with a grin, causing the rainbow-maned pegasus to gasp and blush.

"Th-that doesn't count!" she yelled. "He was a jerk to begin with. You saw how he treated Rarity!"

AJ shrugged with a roll of her eyes. "Ah guess yer raht. Ah'll let ya have that one."

"Oh, hello girls!" said a soft voice from behind me, which caused me to jump and yelp in surprise. This in turn caused the owner of the voice to squeak in surprise and hide behind Applejack.

I looked to see a familiar pale yellow pegasus, and placed my hand on my chest in an effort to calm my pounding heart. "By Celestia Fluttershy, we need to put a bell on you or something." I caught my breath and kneeled with my arms outstretched. "Sorry about that. It's good to see you."

Once she had composed herself, the meek pegasus trotted over and pulled me into a tight embrace. "It's so good to see you, Koa."

I squeezed the mare tightly before releasing her with a grin. "Likewise, Fluttershy. Anyway, it's good that you're here, as Dash has something she needs to tell the two of you."

The two mares looked at Rainbow Dash and she nodded as she nervously ran her hoof through her mane. "Yeah...it's kinda weird too, so please don't freak out or anything." Dash took a deep breath and looked at her two friends. "Girls, how long does it feel like we've known each other?"

"Oh my, forever Rainbow Dash. You're my best friend." Fluttershy responded softly with a loving smile.

"Is there somethin' wrong sugarcube?" AJ asked suspiciously.

The rainbow-maned mare shook her head and sat down. "No, nothing's really wrong, just weird. Please...just please don't freak out like I did, okay?"

"And more importantly, you can't tell anypony about this, okay?" I added.

The two mares nodded and Rainbow Dash looked to her two friends again. "Alright...what would you say if I told you that this isn't the first time we've been friends?"

Applejack raised her eyebrow and took her hat off. "Ah'm not sure what yer tryin' ta say, RD."

I took it over from there, to explain from what we both knew. "Well, when Rainbow Dash was sent to my world, she was actually traveling into the past...not to a different world." I stomped my foot on the ground. "This world is and was my world...and we've all met before."

The farm mare eyed me with suspicion for a moment before her eyes widened. "Ah-Ah don't know what's goin' on."

"A-Applejack, w-what do you m-m-mean?" Fluttershy asked extremely nervously.

The orange earth pony just stared at me in shock. "He ain't lyin', sugarcube."

I glared at AJ and stooped down low so that I could look her in the eye. "I don't know what makes you think I'd lie about something like this, AJ. That hurts."

Applejack shook her head furiously. "No Koa, I didn't mean it that way. It's just..." She was silent for a moment. "Y'all realize this sounds crazier than a bear ridin' a unicycle while playin' the Equestrian anthem on a banjo, raht?"

I nodded. "I do realize that. I thought something similar when Princess Luna first told me, as did Dash. It's insane, but if you want validation, I can ask Luna tonight."

AJ shook her head with a resolute expression. "Naw, it's alraht. It's crazy, but y'all ain't lyin', so it's gotta be true."

I looked to the pale yellow pegasus, only to see her staring off into space. "You alright over there Fluttershy?"

The timid pegasus simply muttered, "Dalila..." She then looked up at me with a blank stare. "That was my name, wasn't it?"

Dash nodded and went to stand in front of her friend. "Yep. You were always one of my best friends, even back then." She then looked to the farm mare. "What about you, AJ?"

The orange pony stood still for a moment with her eyes closed, her face scrunched up in thought before her eyes opened softly. "Somers...mah name was Jaquelin Somers." AJ looked to me with watery eyes and forced out, "How long has it been?"

"Somewhere in the ballpark of twenty-five thousand years." I responded softly.

"Mah word..." Applejack muttered.

I nodded. "Wanna hear something even crazier?" The earth pony and yellow pegasus looked at me expectantly. "I've been in a relationship with Rainbow Dash, Luna, and Scootaloo over all these years. In fact, I was once the King of Equestria."

"Y-you were married to Princess Luna?" Fluttershy asked shyly.

I nodded. "Yep. It was a long, long time ago, but I was indeed. I was also married to Rainbow Dash's past self back on Earth. Her name was Kayla then."

The previously silent yellow pegasus smiled before embracing her cyan friend. "I remember you, Dashie!" She hopped a few times in happiness before releasing the pegasus mare. "You used to live in umm...California, right? We all did!"

I chuckled and nodded. "Wanna hear another crazy part?" The two mares nodded once again, and I smiled. I gestured with my hand to the surrounding area. "This entire area used to be home. I find it kind of ironic that we all ended up here again."

For the next few hours, we spent time catching up with past lives and friendships. As my past memories awakened, I realized that I had in fact known Fluttershy before, but I didn't remember Applejack. Probably because she moved to home from a different part of the country.

I found it also ironic that Fluttershy had indeed gone to veterinary school as a human, which I guess made sense with how good she was with animals. We'd had classes together in college when I was younger, and I distinctly remember her being every bit as timid and gentle as she was now.

I guess that even with new life, who we are doesn't change too much.

The two mares took the news surprisingly well, at least better than Dash and I had taken it. They were still a little shocked to say the least, but were quickly assimilating the new information. It was strange to meet old friends like this. On the one hand, I was meeting them for the first time. On the other, my ancient memory told me this was not the case. It was something I was still getting used to, as I had an episode of deja vu nearly every day. I figured that this must be what Celestia and Luna felt like most times, so I simply shrugged the feeling off.

As the day began to come to a close, I waved goodbye to Fluttershy and Applejack and flew home with Rainbow Dash. The late afternoon sun was just about to touch the horizon, with added a beautiful shade of warm orange to the sunset.

As we both landed at my house, we sat down and watched the sun set and the moon and stars rise. It was romantic to say the least, and I was happy that I got to spend it with Rainbow Dash.

"It's beautiful, isn't it? I always love the sunset." Dash whispered as she leaned against me.

I chuckled. "Careful Dashie, you're getting a little sappy there."

The mare shoved me with a giggle and a smile. "I'm going to call you 'Captain Mood-killer' from now on."

I shrugged and looked away with a grin. "I prefer 'King of the Bedroom', actually." This caused Rainbow Dash to blush, and I smirked mischievously. "You know...Scootaloo won't be back for another few hours..."

The cyan pegasus' competitive streak came on full force as she grinned. "Race you to the bedroom."

Spitfire's PoV

I sighed as I watched the sunset, another day behind me and another night ahead. For as long as I'd been alive, I'd always been amazed by the amount of skill that the two princesses put into the day and night for us. I mean, while Princess Celestia did a wonderful job of both, there was just something more powerful and beautiful about the night when Princess Luna created it. The twilight of dawn or dusk always gave me the extra boost of energy I needed to get my work done, and tonight would be no different.

Luckily for me, tonight would be quiet. I had forms to complete as well as different edicts to approve or disapprove regarding our team, and while I wasn't crazy about it, I was pleased to have a night to myself for once in such a long time. Sure, it was work, but it was mindless work that didn't require physically exerting myself for once. As most pegasus did, I loved to fly...

But a mare's gotta have a break every once in awhile.

I had a radio in the corner softly playing some background music while I went over the many reports, forms, and news that covered my desk. A certain song called "Wings of Eternity" came on, and it made me think of another time and place...a place with...

'No...not going there.'

I sighed and closed my eyes as I rubbed the bridge of my nose, only to be brought to attention by a small knocking at the door frame that led to my office.

I looked up to see a familiar blue pegasus stallion standing there with a smile on his face. I smiled back and motioned him in with a grin. "The door's open, Soarin. You don't have to knock. That's kinda the point of the door being open."

The young stallion chuckled as he trotted in and sat down beside me. "I just always have to make sure, boss."

I rolled my eyes and placed the stack of papers to the side. "Rapidfire and Fleetfoot aren't here, you don't have to call me 'boss' anymore."

He shrugged as he pulled a bottle of red wine out from his saddlebag, along with two glasses. "I know, I just like messing with you is all."

I watched as Soarin began to pour two glasses of wine, and then took one and sipped it slowly. "You know, that mare in Ponyville is lucky to have you. If you're doing this for me, I can only imagine what you do for her."

The blue stallion popped the cork back in the bottle before nodding. "And she makes great pie...how awesome is that? I mean not as good as the Apples', but still great."

"The perfect mare for you, Speedy." I responded with a warm grin.

"So," he started, taking a sip of his wine, "how did it go today?"

I shrugged. "He took the bait. We'll see what he's got tomorrow."

"No, you'll see what he's got. There's no way I'm getting up before the sun comes up." Soarin responded with a smirk. I stuck my bottom lip out in a pout and he just laughed. "Now you see, if I didn't know you, that totally would have worked on me. I think we both know that you and 'cute' just don't go well together."

I sighed and nodded. "Yeah...my 'cute' phase seems like it was a lifetime ago. Next thing you know, I'm going to start sprouting gray hairs."

"Careful," he answered with a smug grin, "I think I see a few already."

I glared at him. "Easy there colt, or you can find out what it's like to be pink for a month."

He glared right back. "You wouldn't..."

I chuckled and shrugged. "Well I do have a unicorn that owes me a favor, so..."

His stern gaze was held for a moment before he burst into laughter, the kind that seems to cleanse the very soul. After a few minutes, he caught his breath and smiled at me. "I've missed this, Sparky. It seems like we never have time to just hang anymore."

I sighed and nodded. "Comes with the job, Soarin. Hopefully soon we'll have some new recruits to take the load off though." I shuffled through the papers before pulling out a report on a certain cyan pegasus. "Like this Rainbow Dash..."

"You've had a hard-on for that mare ever since the Young Flier's Competition. What's so special about her?" Soarin asked curiously.

I raised an eyebrow and passed the file to him. "You mean besides the fact that she is the only pony in known history to have pulled off a sonic rainboom? Or maybe it's the fact that she saved me, you, and Misty Fly all at the age of seventeen? Oh wait, I know what it is...it's the fact that she has more potential than any pegasus I've ever seen."

The blue stallion looked over the file quickly before setting it back down on my desk. "She's a little rough around the edges..."

"So were you." I responded flatly. "She just needs some refining and she could literally be the best there has ever been."

Soarin raised his eyebrow at me. "Better than you?"

I grinned and nodded. "Better than I could ever dream of being...I mean, she's already faster than me. Her wings are strong enough to make her more agile than you are, and her body looks like it was carved by Celestia herself. She could easily take center stage if she were in the performing squad, and from what I heard, she's no slouch when it comes to fighting either. She's the Element of Loyalty as well as the manager of Ponyville's weather team. What's not to like about her?"

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind, Spitz." the friendly stallion quipped.

I sighed and sat back in the comfy chair. "I became the Captain when I was twenty, and I've been doing this for the last decade now. I have to know what to look for in order to do my job right...and she's what I've been looking for all these years. She can take the Wonderbolts to the next level, Soarin."

It hurt me that I couldn't reveal everything to him. There was in fact another reason why it had to be her, but he couldn't know why...not yet. The princesses had trusted me with some of their deepest secrets, and with that honor came the need to distance myself from everypony else.

Soarin had been my friend ever since I was a filly in flight school...and it hurt to have to keep things from him.

I still remember the day I first met him at the Cloudsdale Academy. I was a young filly, just barely learning to fly and with no confidence in myself, and he was the hotshot prodigy from Manehatten. The coaches were walking down the line where we had formed up, and were going about pointing out anything that might be wrong – whether it be ruffled feathers, a messy mane or tail, or in my case, the lack of a cutie mark. All three of the coaches that were there that day had stopped at me with at the very least, a disapproving glance...and as the day went on, I felt smaller and smaller under their critical eyes.

Flashback – twenty-three years ago...

I feel like such a foal after all that criticizing, but that meathead Soarin showing off is just making it worse. Of course I just had to get partnered up with him for training.

Great...just great...

I sat there as inspection continued and just mentally cursed myself for getting stuck with Mr. Popular. I mean, of all the things that could screw up training, that had to be the one that happened. I just figured that perhaps this time, I might get a break in life...but I guess it just wasn't in the cards.

Princess Celestia must hate me...

"Alright new-bloods, listen up!" shouted a large stallion that was one of the coaches. "You and your partner are going to have to run through the entire obstacle course ten times. You are to do it together, and you are to help your partner. If your partner starts to struggle, you help them. If they lose, you lose. Got it?"

We all recited a "yes sir" and he nodded, then blew a whistle.

I looked to my unwanted partner and sighed. "Alright, let's do this."

The young colt eyed me with curiosity for a moment, but didn't speak. He just nodded, and we were off.

Like I had expected, he was remarkably agile and skilled when it came to flying, which meant that most of the time he spent going slow enough so that I could keep up. Somewhere deep inside, I knew it wasn't his fault, as it was the rules...but him doing it made me feel like he was pitying me, and I began to detest him within just four laps around the course.

By lap seven, I was completely spent. My wings were screaming for rest, and my heart and lungs felt like they were about to fall out of my body. Normally I would have been fine, but my pride wouldn't allow myself to fall behind this Soarin colt. No...I pushed myself to keep up with him the entire way, and was now paying for it.

"Are you okay?" Soarin asked as he floated effortlessly next to me.

I growled and responded, "I'm fine. Just don't get in my way."

I could feel his gaze linger on me as we flew towards the start line for another lap. "You don't look fine. We should stop and rest for a few seconds so that you don't hurt yourself."

I gritted my teeth again and flew off with a burst of speed, leaving the confused colt behind. As I flew though, my vision began to tunnel until I lost feeling in my wings and the entire world went dark.

I woke up feeling really groggy and in a lot of pain, only to open my eyes and see white walls, a white ceiling, and white sheets that I was laying on. This confused me for a moment until I shot up at the realization of where I was...

A hospital.

I was deathly afraid of needles and hospitals in general, so to be stuck in one was not going to work for me.

"Oh, you're awake." said a gentle voice from beside me.

I looked towards where the voice had come from to see literally the last pony I'd expected to be there, other than my father...

It was Soarin.

He smiled warmly and stood. "I was worried you wouldn't wake up for a little while there."

I felt a little dizzy, so I lay back on the bed. "What happened?"

"You were pushing yourself too hard, and your body just gave out." he responded flatly. "Maybe if you weren't trying to show off..."

"I was not showing off!" I yelled, instantly regretting it as my head started pounding in pain.

I looked to see the colt smirking, and he just nodded. "Yeah...sure."

I grumbled and turned on my side to face him. "Why are you here anyway?"

He smiled again, that same inviting smile that he always gave, but this one was different somehow. "Who do you think caught you when you fell?" I gasped, and he just nodded. "We're partners...I couldn't just leave you behind."

"Well I'm fine now...so you can leave." I replied coldly.

This seemed to strike a nerve, as he instantly stood and grit his teeth. "What the hay is your problem? I saved you, I've tried to be nice, and I even stuck around when no one showed up for you. What is your deal?"

"You are!" I yelled in anger, again regretting it when the headache flared. I lay back on the bed and glared at him with one open eye. "You're my problem. Mister hotshot flier from Manehattan, come to show the newbies how it's done, right? Well I don't need your help."

"Is that what this is about?" he asked with frustration, and I nodded without hesitation. He sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before planting his hooves on my bedside and pulling himself up so that he could look at me. "Well let me give you some insight little filly: I never wanted to be 'Soarin the prodigy'. I just want to be Soarin...nothing more, nothing less. When anypony finds out that my father was the legendary hero Shadowsong, everypony always gets weird around me." He then glared back at me. "Contrary to what ponies like you think, I don't like that attention. I just want to be a normal pegasus with my own path in life."

"You could have fooled me with the way you were soaking up all that praise." I retorted angrily.

He sighed and looked away. "What am I supposed to do about it? No matter what I do, I'll always be the son of Shadowsong. I'll always be expected to take after his hoofsteps, regardless of what I want." Soarin's green eyes locked onto mine, and in them I could see pain and sadness. "Do you have any idea what it's like to be forced to be something you don't want to be? If I wanted to be...I don't know, a Wonderbolt...I'd be letting down not only my entire family, but also most of Cloudsdale. Now you tell me how much of an awesome life I have."

With that confession, I began to see the colt in a new light. No longer was he the arrogant meathead that was always trying to best me...instead, he was a prisoner of his own life. As I thought about it, it was so unfair of me to just judge him like I had, without even getting to know the guy first. Very suddenly, I found myself feeling pretty dirty.

As the colt sat there with his eyes closed in grief, I slowly reached over and placed my hoof on his shoulder, causing him to look up at me. I offered him a friendly smile. "Soarin, I'm sorry...I shouldn't have treated you like that. I didn't know."

"No pony does." he responded sadly. "No pony cares. Most of them are just like you are – they see me and immediately judge me for what everypony wants me to be. No pony cares what I'm really like, or what I want in my life. Ever since dad died, it's always been that way."

I nodded sadly, but rubbed his shoulder gently. "At least your father was a war hero. Mine is just a weather manager."

"Just a weather manager?" he asked, and I nodded. He scoffed as his eyes met mine. "Okay, let me explain something to you: weather managers have one of the most difficult careers in Equestria. It's dangerous, it's stressful, and a lot of times, it takes over their personal life. The truly great ones do it for a reason though...to protect ponies." He looked past me out the window, into the night sky. "Without ponies like your dad, there would be a lot of ponies in danger because of a rogue storm, or food shortages because rain wasn't put where it was needed." This time, he placed his hoof on mine with a gentle smile. "Your dad is what my father used to call an 'unsung hero'. Your dad is one of the ponies that make life easier for everypony else, and you should be proud of him for that."

Here was this colt I had literally just met, reorganizing the way I saw my entire world. Because of him, I was now seeing my dad in a much different perspective than I had. Here was a colt that was misunderstood and just a pegasus in a gilded cage. Where once I despised him, I found myself feeling sorry for him. He was right...no pony really cared what he wanted. I know I didn't...I just started judging him right away.

Well that was going to change.

I took his hoof from my shoulder and held it in both of my own hooves with a smile. "I'm Spitfire...it's nice to finally meet you, Soarin."

End Flashback

As my trip down memory lane ended, I noticed Soarin looking through Rainbow Dash's file as he sipped the last of his wine. He had chosen to live his own life instead of that of a soldier, and because of that had risked losing not only the respect of his fellow pegasi, but also his family. During the whole schpiel, I remember quoting an ancient philosopher named Dr. Seuss:

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter...and those who matter don't mind."

Upon making his choice to become a Wonderbolt with me, his family deserted him, save for his little sister. He lost a great amount of respect with the pegasi of Cloudsdale, but I stuck by him the entire time. He was my first real friend, and has been my very best friend through everything. I felt I could tell him anything and that he would give me an honest answer as to his opinion on anything.

This was why keeping the truth from him felt so wrong.

I finished writing my recommendation on the last of the forms from the night and stood with a yawn, looking to the stallion that had kept me company – both tonight, and for the last twenty years. "Come on Soarin, let's get out of here. I've got to get some rest so that I can meet Storm Rider at his house in the morning, and you probably need sleep as well."

Soarin placed the file back on my desk and stood, placing his empty wine glass and the bottle on my desk. "Sure...I'll fly you home."

Chapter 18: Hidden Glow

Chapter 18: Hidden Glow

The morning was a normal one for me, in that I watched the clock until it was time to get out of bed and get ready, the only difference being the time. It would be one of the only times I would leave Dash's side before the sun came up, but it was because of what I was going to be doing today and for whom.


Personally, I didn't have a lot to gain from the Wonderbolt Captain, other than a paycheck, but perhaps if I showed a little goodwill, it might put her in a better mood for whenever Dash competed to join the Wonderbolts...and for something like that, I'd fight Luna herself (which I had done before, but never in this context. A story for another time).

It appeared the fiery yellow pegasus was a stickler for punctuality, as she arrived at my home promptly at 04:00, just as I was stepping out of the shower.

"C'mon kid, let's go!" she whispered "loudly".

I sighed and rolled my eyes as I stepped outside my home. "Don't call me 'kid', feathers."

The Wonderbolt glared at me for a moment before smirking. "I like you already. Come on, let's get going. I'd like to arrive at the A/O before the sun rises."

I wore my own smirk as I said, "I hope you can keep up then." And with that I flapped my wings with a strong gust of wind and took off at breakneck speed towards the mountain I had been told about, the pegasus mare struggling to keep up.

When the two of us arrived at the aptly named "Dragon Mountain", it was to the sound of snores that shook the mountainside, along with a plume of smoke that accompanied them. Spitfire looked at me warily and pointed to the sky, then to her eyes, then to me. I got the message and watched as she flew off to a safe distance. Once she had done so, I sighed softly and turned to the smoky cavern that held my target.

From what I'd been told by Twilight Sparkle, dragonhide was fireproof, so much so that dragons could bathe in the lava from a volcano without fear. Even with that being the case, there was no word on me being "fang-proof" or "claw-proof", so I still had to be careful, as it was likely this dragon was not going to take kindly to being told to fuck off to somewhere else.

As I approached the innermost reaches of the cavern, both the noise and heat increased to uncomfortable levels until I saw my quarry, slumbering on a large gathering of different shiny treasures and the like.

"Um, excuse me?" I vocalized softly. The dragon didn't so much as twitch in response, so I shouted much louder, "Excuse me!" My voice that time was more of a roar than a normal voice, and this got the dragon's attention.

The eyes fluttered open and the large red dragon yawned and stretched, then looked to me in confusion. "Can I help you little one?"

The dragon spoke in a different language, but one that I for some reason both understood and knew. Pieces in my mind clicked in place and I recognized it as ancient draconic word. I smirked and nodded, responding in the same language, "Yes actually, you can. I've been sent by Princess Celestia to-"

"Oh, so you're that one." he growled out. The larger form glared at me and said, "These lands are mine by right of my family, so you can tell your beloved princess she has three days to evacuate the area, or I will take it by force."

I let loose my own growl and responded, "Look buddy, I'm trying to be nice here, but I'll personally kick your tail from here all the way back home if I have to. You're in direct violation of the treaty of the year 460, so if you want to continue breaking that code, I'll remove you myself."

The red scaled beast stared at me for a moment before erupting into laughter. "You remove me? Oh, that's a good jest, little one."

"You obviously have no clue who you're talking to, do you?" I asked with a tired sigh.

He shook his head, still chuckling. "I do not. Should I?"

I planted my feet and stood as tall as I could. "I'm Zizzanasx, the Skylord."

A deep threatening growl was my response as he said, "You are not fit to speak his name, whelp. Get out of my sight before I am forced to get violent."

I sighed and lowered my head. "You know, I had hoped to do this nice and easy, but it appears you're dead-set against that. Fine...I'll turn up the heat a little." I closed my eyes and changed my form, becoming much larger and thus, much more intimidating. With practice, the change now took only a few seconds to finish, and when I opened my eyes again, it was to be looking eye to eye with the standing red dragon.

"L-Lord Zizzanasx!" he exclaimed in shock. Immediately the dragon's head bowed in reverence. "A thousand apologies for my behavior. I did not know-"

I waved a large scaled hand at him and shook my head. "Really, it's fine. I keep a smaller form so that I won't be recognized and will blend in easier, so it makes sense that you had no idea who I was." I then sat back awkwardly on my rump and crossed my front legs across my chest. "Now, the fact still remains-"

I was interrupted with, "My lord, I apologize for how this sounds, but I am not leaving simply because you ask me to. The fact still stands that this is my land, stolen eons ago from my family by the pony princess of the sun. It is mine by right, and I will not give up that right, not even for my king."

"That's a pretty bold statement..." I responded, fishing for an answer to my unasked question.

"Duenos, my lord. Son of Temuul." he answered.

I didn't know either one of those names, but he didn't know that, so I just played it off and nodded. "I understand your feelings with this matter Duenos, but please explain to me why you believe this land you claim 'stolen' should be given to you. Have you no home?"

The red dragon grunted a laugh and said, "Of course I do, my lord. That does not change the fact that this land belongs to me."

I nodded slowly and grinned smugly. "So let me get this straight: you – who have a home of your own – would drive away all these ponies, who have nowhere else to go. Oh, and let's not forget me as well." The dragon gasped at this and I nodded. "Oh yes, I should have mentioned that these lands are my home as well, and most of the ponies you wish to send away from their homes are my friends."

"You live among these...these insignificant creatures?" he responded, gawking at me.

I growled out, "One of these 'insignificant creatures' happens to be my mate, thank you very much, and before you say anything about that, I should remind you that you're talking to the skylord. Insults to me I let go, but insults to my mate or my friends I do not. Choose your next words carefully."

For the first time since my transformation, the other dragon stood defiantly in front of me. "Apologies, but I will not give my lands to ponies."

Yet again taking knowledge from what Twilight Sparkle had told me, there was only one way to address this...

"Very well...then I will take your lands from you, since you are being so selfish as is." I growled out.

Duenos glared at me. "You would have me wager my lands in a duel against you, but what do you wager?"

I thought for a moment before smiling. "My life."

"You would give your very life for these wretched ponies?" he barked back.

I held his gaze and nodded slowly and deliberately. "I would give that and more, if I had more. Do you accept the terms or do you submit?"

Another glare was my response as he grinned evilly. "I accept the terms. Prepare yourself for battle, ancient one. You will find your life forfeit today."

The field of choice for this duel was to be an uninhabited valley within the mountains, where nopony would be injured in the crossfire. As the two of us made our way to the spot, I could see Spitfire following from a fair distance away.

"Why is that pony following us? Is she one of your 'friends'?" Duenos asked in annoyance.

"More like an acquaintance." I responded. "She's here to keep an eye on things and make sure I don't kill you."

As we landed, he turned around and raised an eyeridge at me. "The ponies do not wish me slain?"

I shook my head as I glanced at Spitfire again. "They just want you gone, not dead. That means if I win and you leave as we agreed upon, you never have to worry about me again. If you don't it could get mighty painful for you."

"You are rather confident, speaking as if you've already won." he mused as he took a place far away from me.

I shrugged as I turned back to him. "What can I say? I'm an arrogant prick sometimes. It's why my mate loves me."

"I'll never understand ponies..." he mumbled. He then spread his wings and growled menacingly. "Let us begin."

I took my stance just in time to take a fireball to the face. Once the smoke cleared, I laughed, "Fire? Seriously?" My momentary smug feeling was wiped from my very being as a claw embedded itself in my face. I roared in pain and responded to the pain by shooting my head forward in an attempt to bite my attacker, only for the claws to be ripped from my cheek and a fist replacing it. My vision swam as stars floated in front of my eyes, and I nearly lost consciousness. 'Okay, time to stop playing around. Keep acting like a jackass and you're going to get your ass handed to you.' I trained my senses on the dragon in front of me, now completely focused on him. I roared loudly, this time in a rage, and lunged forward towards the larger dragon. As I collided with his side, I realized that a head-on tactic wasn't going to work. This guy was built for battle. He was solid as a mountain, and just as heavy. Thankfully, I was a smaller target than he was, and much more mobile because of my species.

I flapped my powerful wings and shot into the air like...well, like Rainbow Dash. Now that I had more room to move around (and thus, an advantage), I was much more relaxed now. I had to work out exactly what would and wouldn't work on this guy, so I took a deep breath and roared loudly, letting a torrent of lightning shoot out of my mouth. It hit the red dragon on his side, but it didn't seem to do much more than just piss him off. 'Great, well there goes that plan' I continued flying around to avoid the slower dragon as I tried to think of a plan to overcome him, and that's when I thought of the sky. I continued fluttering about, lazily dodging his attacks as clouds began to gather overhead, blotting out the sun and turning the day into night. Duenos either didn't notice or didn't care, as his attacks became more wild and angry. He was getting a little sloppy now, and I grinned in anticipation of what was to happen next.

Just to give him some room to feel superior, I let myself be hit from one of his strikes, taking an overhead double-hammer to the ribcage, which I knew for a fact was going to bruise. I fell out of the sky and onto the ground, a crater being left from where I fell. I gasped for breath and rolled over on my side as the dragon screamed through the sky, right for me. 'That's right, just a little closer...'

The wind began to pick up as the black cloud above us began to creep down from the supercell thundercloud, causing the red dragon to pause and finally look up. Three more funnels began to form, then a fifth, and a sixth. As the wind began to pick up more and more, he finally looked at me with an expression I knew well by now: fear.

"You wouldn't!" he shouted over the roaring winds.

I just smirked in response and nodded. "Oh, I would. I hope you like flying."

With that declaration, I increased the power of the winds tenfold, which caused the larger dragon to slam his claws into the rock in an attempt to stay grounded. This proved futile, as a second later the earth itself was torn asunder, and he was brought into the sky against his will. While still controlling the storm, I reverted back to my smaller form and held my hand in the air, feeling the winds caressing my sore scales. I watched with a sort of twisted pleasure as the crimson dragon was flung about in the air like a ragdoll, and occasionally against a tree or cliff face.

"Stop!" shouted a voice from behind me, and I turned my head to see Spitfire looking on in horror.

"Oh hey, Captain. Just taking care of business, that's all." I answered in amusement.

She came up beside me and punched my leg. "You're not supposed to kill him! That isn't how we do things!"

I rolled my eyes as I continued to give the dragon the flight of his life. "If I wanted to kill him, I could have the wind tear his skin off. I'm just giving him a little something to remember the next time he thinks about doing something like this."

"Are you sure?" she asked, still mistrusting my tactics.

I nodded with a smile. "He'll be sore and really sick, but still very much alive." I looked back to the scene and grinned. "I think that will suffice." At once I dissipated the twisters and the clouds, and the scene was once again a bright and sunny day. I walked over to the dragon in time to see him lurch to his feet and begin heaving as his stomach contents emptied on the ground, and I just chuckled. "So, have you had enough or do you want to spend the rest of the day flailing around like that?" I asked in draconic.

Duenos coughed and sputtered a few times before wiping his mouth and groaning out, "Please...never again."

"Does that mean you submit then?" I asked as I stood near his head.

He nodded slowly. "Apologies, my lord...but I could not let my lands go without a fight. You fought and won fairly, so I concede defeat to you."

"If you and your people can be civil, I have no problem with dragons being in the Everfree or in the mountains. I never did. It was when you threatened to hurt the ponies living in these lands that it became my problem." I responded firmly. I then eyed him curiously. "Although your size might be an issue."

"That is easily corrected." he responded, just before a fiery torrent engulfed his entire body. I was about to shout in horror, but then the flames began to burn out. What was once a towering inferno was now a small bonfire of sorts, and when the flames finally dissipated, I found myself looking at a much smaller dragon, with a form akin to myself. He stood shakily and I reached out to support him, and he grinned in thanks. "Thank you, my lord."

I nodded in a welcoming gesture and raised an eyeridge curiously. "I thought only me and my daughter could do that."

The once-large dragon shook his head and smiled, finally regaining his balance as I released him. "It is a latent ability we all possess, but that few use anymore. In the circle of draconic civilization, power and might is respect, and so there is not much use for a smaller dragon."

"So what's the use for it in the first place then?" I asked in confusion.

He smiled sheepishly. "To allow for positive relations with the other beings of this world."

I smirked in victory and crossed my arms over my chest. "I bet you're feeling pretty foolish right about now."

"Somewhat." he responded in embarrassment. "I let my pride get the best of me...again."

I chuckled and nodded. "You're just lucky it was me to come and get you and not Fluttershy. She's the small yellow pegasus that scolded you last time, in case you're wondering."

I noticed him cringe a bit at the mention of the timid pony. "She frightens me."

I barked a laugh and shook my head. "If you actually knew her, you wouldn't be afraid of her in the least. She's literally the kindest pony you could ever hope to meet."

"Why does it sound as if you're inviting me to the pony lands?" he asked curiously.

I shrugged. "Maybe I am. Dragons and ponies don't have to live separately. I'm not the only one that lives there either. Little purple dragon? Went to the colony a few years back?"

Duenos tapped his chin with a claw a few times before nodding. "I do vaguely remember a young dragon by that description. He lives in the pony lands as well?"

I chuckled and nodded. "He was raised by a pony. In fact, he feels more at home with ponies than he does dragons."

"That is saddening." he remarked softly.

I nodded. "Yeah, it kinda is...but that's not the ponies' fault. Dragons are known to be temperamental, territorial, and violent. Other than Spike and I, they don't have any other dragons to change that outlook." I looked into the dragon's orange eyes and smiled. "But you really don't seem like all of that to me. I understand things are different between dragons and ponies, but maybe it could be your calling to mend that connection between the two races."

Suddenly he looked a little bashful (which was really odd to see from him) as he looked away. "I'm not sure I'm the right one for the job, my lo-"

"Just Zizzanasx is fine, thanks." I interrupted.

He nodded and continued, "I'm not sure I'm the right one to do that, Zizzanasx."

I chuckled and shrugged. "Better than me. I'm no ambassador, and I know that. You seem to be better with words than I am, and because of your presence, probably have more charisma than I do. You'd be perfect for that."

"Are you asking or ordering me?" he questioned warily.

"Neither." I answered with a smile. "I'm just saying it would be a good idea is all, and I'm sure that the ponies would love to meet a 'wild' dragon...providing you can behave yourself. Long ago, our two people lived in harmony before the great wars of past. Perhaps it's time to mend that bond."

"I am not so sure they would welcome me as you seem to think." he mumbled out loud.

"Does that mean you're interested?" I asked him.

The dragon nodded once. "I've always been fascinated with the other cultures, truth be told."

"Ah, a fellow intellectual. Nice to meet you, good sir." I quipped with a grin. "Well like I said, if you can promise to not be uncivilized, I will vouch for you."

The dragon nodded a few times before smiling a toothy grin. "It is possible I may call in that favor sometime soon." He then reached out a clawed hand towards me, which I took without hesitation. "For the record, that was a well-fought battle. That was the first time in centuries I've been bested."

I released his hand and smirked. "Yeah...and all it cost me was my face. Oh well, you can't have everything." I then pointed towards Ponyville. "Anyhow, if you need to find me, I'll be in the darkened cloud structure in the sky. Find me if you choose to take me up on my offer, and I'll help as I can."

He nodded once more before changing into his larger form again, then flying off.

"What was that all about?" I heard the pegasus mare ask from behind me.

I looked back at Spitfire and laughed. "You know, I'd completely forgot about you. Sorry about that."

"What language were you speaking?" she asked in confusion.

"Ancient draconic, apparently." I responded. "Don't ask me how I knew it, because I couldn't tell you."

"Well," she started, now sporting a smug grin, "not only did you get him to leave, but it appears he was pretty pleased with something. And that whole shrinking act he did...I was not expecting that."

I chuckled and then sighed. "To be honest, neither was I. Caught me completely by surprise as well."

The Wonderbolt grinned and nodded. "Well whatever you did worked, because you got him to leave. Granted you got a little bloodied, but it's not gonna kill you or anything."

"Yeah...I'll just tell Dash that it's your fault." I joked.

Spitfire rolled her eyes and took to the skies. "Well, let's head back to Canterlot. You'll receive your pay when we arrive, and I'm sure the princess will want to hear about this as well."

I nodded and also took to the skies, following the mare towards the capital.

When we arrived, it was to an entire platoon of royal guards, with Captain Shining Armor at the front. The unicorn stallion and his comrades were dressed in full armor, but as he removed his helmet, I could tell he was calm and pleased with something.

"Welcome back, Mr. Hero." he remarked smugly.

I rolled my eyes and bumped a fist with his hoof. "I assume you've already heard then?"

He nodded. "I have, and Princess Celestia requests your presence in the throne room." He then looked to Spitfire. "Both of you." Both Spitfire and I nodded before following the captain of the royal guard towards the throne room.

I knew Lily and Diz really well, so I wasn't fazed in the least by a request to see me, but apparently it was a big deal for the Wonderbolt at my side. Her eyes were nervously darting around the entire way there, and even though I tried not to, my mind did pick up on a few fears she was having...namely getting fired for not taking care of things herself.

Even though that wasn't going to happen – and if Spitfire was really as close to the princesses as she claimed – I knew that Lil wouldn't be able to resist messing with her.

As soon as we entered the room and I saw Celestia's fake scowl, I knew I had been right.

"Captain Spitfire, step forward!" the sun princess bellowed, not even waiting for her to bow.

I stayed put about a dozen or so feet away from the stairs that led to the princess' throne and waited with a smirk, an expression that Celestia didn't miss. As Spitfire was treading up the steps with her head held low, the princess winked at me before turning her gaze back to the pegasus mare.

Upon reaching where the throne was, Spitfire bowed before the princess as low as she could, and Celestia just grinned since she couldn't see her face. "Captain Spitfire, am I to understand that the Wonderbolts could not handle a dragon?"

"W-well princess, you see..." the mare tried to explain, almost shaking on the spot. At this point I couldn't contain myself any longer and I burst out into laughter, causing both the princess and pegasus to stare at me, one in shock and the other with a barely-contained torrent of laughter. Spitfire turned back to the princess to see her on the verge of laughing and sighed as she rolled her eyes. "Okay, alright. Ha ha, let's all bag on the pegasus. Ugh...don't do that to me."

As opposed to me, Celestia let out only a few princess-ly giggles before replying with, "Oh dear Spitfire, I couldn't resist." After a few more seconds of light laughter, she cleared her throat and looked at the pegasus mare with a warm smile. "In truth, I must actually commend your actions. You took the correct path in seeking out Storm Rider upon finding you could not handle things on your own." Celestia beckoned me closer, and I strode forth to stand beside the Wonderbolt Captain. "I trust Storm Rider – or Zizzanasx as you may know him – as much as I trust you, Spitfire. If ever you need assistance with anything of this sort, do not hesitate to ask him."

When the yellow pony looked at me I offered a friendly smile. "Yep. I'll help however I can, so don't be afraid to ask if you need anything."

"So," Celestia started, gaining both of our attention, "how exactly did the encounter go?"

Spitfire started first with, "Well it was fairly standard. They fought."

"Loathsome, but still expected." the solar princess remarked.

I nodded. "After I won, he agreed to leave Ponyville in peace...but I offered him amnesty as well."

The white alicorn raised her eyebrow in surprise, stating, "I'll need to hear good cause, Koa."

I smiled and pointed to myself. "Well, I had thought that Moonbeam and I were the only ones who could change our form. It appears I was wrong about that. The dragon's name is Duenos, son of Temuul. He is actually very interested in pony culture, and wishes to study them if you would allow it."

She eyed me suspiciously for a moment before asking, "Do you trust him?"

Even though I had just met the dragon, I felt no deception in his words. He had composed himself with honor, so I had no reason to mistrust him. With that being the case, I nodded. "I do, Celestia. He would not hurt anypony."

She nodded a few times before smiling. "It has been many centuries since we have been in good standing with the draconic inner circle. This could be our chance to repair that bond. Very well, I will allow it if you keep watch on him and introduce him to the Elements."

I nodded back with a grin. "I'll let you know if and when he arrives."

"Good." she responded warmly, then frowned when she gazed at me again. "You may want to clean your face a bit before heading home, Koa. I don't think Rainbow Dash will be too happy about the state of your face."

I shrugged as I stepped up towards Celestia. "Better a few cuts on my face than to be missing it completely."

"Indeed." the alicorn responded with a grin. She then turned her gaze to Spitfire. "All in all, well done on the mission, Spitfire. As always, a resounding success on your part."

The mare blushed a bit at the praise and bowed her head slightly. "You're too kind, princess. I'll take my leave now." The pegasus then stepped back and trotted towards the large double doors before disappearing out of them.

The princess then widened her eyes and said, "Oh, and before I forget," she levitated a large pouch of bits over to me, "Spitfire dropped this off this morning before leaving. I believe it belongs to you now."

I took the pay gratefully and then made my way to stand near the princess. A certain question had been plaguing my mind lately, and now that we were alone I felt compelled to ask. "Lil, why is Spitfire so trusted?"

She sighed and closed her eyes. "I suppose I can trust you with that information, although unlike the rest, this must stay between us and Luna...do you understand?" I nodded and she smiled. "Thank you. Well, it's quite simple really...she's my daughter."

I guess I should have been more surprised, but with finding out things as I had the past few months, I wasn't really shocked. I just nodded a few times and answered, "I guess that makes sense. When I think about it, the two of you are actually a lot alike." I then glanced back at the double doors for a moment. "Does she know?"

"Yes." Celestia responded as I turned my gaze back to her. "I must however ask that you do not reveal this to anypony else. It could destroy her career."

"That's fine, I'll keep it quiet." I responded. I then smiled and turned around. "Well Dash is probably wondering where I am, so I should get back home to clean up. I was planning on taking her and Scootaloo out for lunch, so I'm hoping to get home before then."

Celestia looked at the sun for a moment before grinning. "Well it is nearly noon. You should hurry if you want to make it in time." Before I could turn and leave though, she placed a hoof on my back to get my attention. She then surprised me with a tight hug as she nuzzled my non-injured cheek. "It is good that you are okay, Koa. I worry about you."

I kissed the mare's cheek affectionately and smiled. "I always need you to look out for me Lil, because I sure as hell don't. Thanks for that by the way." I then stepped back and spread my large wings. "If you need me for any reason, you know where to find me." Celestia nodded with a smile as I took flight out of the palace and turned towards home.

Spitfire's PoV

This guy just gets more and more interesting.

Not only did he fight off a dragon, but he then makes friends with it while speaking an ancient royal language. I guess I should be more surprised than I was, but from what the princesses had told me about him, he was more than capable of something like this...which probably meant that the only one surprised was me. The more I thought about his actions thus far, the more and more I started to realize something very upsetting:

I was actually jealous of Rainbow Dash...again.

This just tacked on another thing to the list of things I envied her for. Her speed and ability while flying were two thing I could live with. After all, I didn't become the Captain of the Wonderbolts by being an arrogant foal. This was different though...it was the first time I was envious of her because of a stallion – or in this case, a dragon. Had I been a weaker mare, I would have attempted to take him for myself...but no, those days of my life were over. I had made a lot of mistakes in life so far, and I was dedicating the rest of it to righting those wrongs and becoming a better pony...

A pony mother could be proud of.

I never referred to her as that in public – mother, I mean. It was so rare that I had time alone with her that I could actually refer to her as anything besides "princess", but it was something I longed for. In her own way, she always looked after me as a mother should, and was there when I needed to talk. The only thing missing from my life lately was that comforting embrace and warm smile when I would wake up from nightmares, or the ability to candidly talk to me when I needed guidance. As a filly, I would blame her for this, but as I grew I came to realize that it wasn't her fault, and when I would see her face, I could also see regret at not being able to be as close as she'd like. She was just as much a prisoner of this as I was, wanting to be and do something she couldn't, instead having to smile and put on a mask of indifference. I knew she did it to protect me and allow me to live my own life, but sometimes I would honestly question whether it was worth it or not.

The part of me that said "yes" had over the years grown weaker and weaker, to the point where I looked to Rainbow Dash as my way out.

I honestly believed the feisty cyan pegasus could be the best, and while she couldn't be promoted directly to captain, she could go into training under me when she got in. At this point it was only a formality, as I knew not only did she have the skill to pass our test with flying colors, but also that I would do almost anything to get her in. It would be a break not just for her, but for me as well. It was a win-win scenario, where we could both walk away happy.

At least that's what I told myself.

The honest truth was that I was just tired. I was tired of the secrets I had to keep from everypony, but most of all I was tired of having to keep my best friend at such a distance. I hated the fact that I had a friend that would listen to anything I had to say without judging me...but I couldn't actually do it. My only two honest choices in life were to continue living as I was...

Or embrace who and what I truly was and give up the freedom to be "normal".

Celestia, guide me...

Chapter 19: Forty-Eight Hours

Chapter 19: Forty-Eight Hours

As the sun crested the horizon, I saw its first light and smiled as Dashie’s mane seemed to glow in the rays, making her more beautiful than normal (if that’s even possible). She shifted around on my chest as I ran my claws through her mane, and Scootaloo snuggled up closer to my left side. It was times like this that I was reminded of just how blessed I was to have them both in my life, along with my other friends. It is truly sad to think that so many go through life, struggling to find even one pony that truly cared for them. I however, had at least six...and two of them were royalty. I was never one to brag, but it felt nice to be loved by so many, simply for being me.

Last night, the three of us had decided to sleep outside for one of the last warm days of the year, as Fall was nearly over, which meant that winter would arrive within the week, and I would orchestrate the first snow two weeks after that. With all that in mind, I had remodeled my house a bit, using Dashie’s advice to use loose, puffy cloud fibers along the inside of the walls to insulate my home for winter.

By what Twilight told me about dragons, my kind were warm-blooded, but tended to have a lower tolerance for the cold than ponies did, what with dragons having no fur. In short, this meant that I was going to be spending a lot of time indoors during the winter season, save for a few missions that Celestia would give me here and there. Luckily, Fluttershy had invited me to spend time at her home whenever I wished, including Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. This meant that so long as I could help her with gathering wood throughout the winter, I would always have a place to keep warm and stay out of the cold.

What a sweet, thoughtful mare she was.

My thoughts on the coming season were momentarily broken when Scootaloo mumbled in her sleep and curled herself into a little ball, nuzzling my side a bit. I used the thumb of my free hand to softly rub her side, underneath her wings, and the young pegasus giggled very softly in her sleep as she leaned into the caresses. As I held the two pegasi against my body, I felt happier than I ever had before, perfectly content to lay there all morning.

My body had other plans, however.

My stomach growled, loudly, which woke the cyan mare upon my chest. Dash fluttered her eyes a few times before grinning at me and saying, “I guess it’s time to get up and eat, hmm?”

I chuckled softly and nodded. “Yeah. Scoots has school in a few hours, so she needs to get up and going too. You go ahead and get yourself cleaned up for work...I’ll get the filly ready and slap something together for breakfast.”

Dash smirked as she swished her tail in my face and walked away, leaving me to get a prepubescent filly up and running, and while I could not remember my time as a father, I somehow knew that this was not going to be easy.

And so I did the first thing that came to mind...I tickled her.

The orange filly’s eyes shot open as my fingers danced over her belly and sides, and she giggled uncontrollably, squirming and flailing. “K-Ko-ho-hoa! S-s-s-sto-hop i-it!”

“Why? You’re laughing, so you must love it!” I replied with a grin as I continued tickling her. After a few more seconds, I released her and sat back with a smirk. “So, are you awake now?”

The young filly shoved me with a pout. “Meanie.”

I stroked her mane softly and stated, “If you get cleaned up quickly, I’ll make you blueberry muffins for breakfast.”

Scootaloo’s eyes shot open again in excitement as she smiled and dashed away, leaving me sitting comfortably on the plush clouds that were my “porch”. I sat for a few more minutes with a smile on my face before heading inside.

After feeding the three of us and giving Scoots a lift to school (she basically became a celebrity at her school, what with riding in on the back of a dragon), I waved goodbye to Dash as she headed to Cloudsdale. This left me with not a whole lot to do in the meantime for the day, as Lil was going to be busy with royal stuff, Diz would be sleeping, and I didn’t have any active missions at the time. And so, I decided to take a walk around town to see if I could find something to do.

Thankfully, I was well-known in town by now, which meant that the ponies of Ponyville no longer feared me, and many were actually very friendly. It was common knowledge that both of the princesses trust in me was on par with that of Twilight, so my position in the community was rather secure.

I just had to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid.

As I came upon my first destination, I smiled at the familiar sight of the orange mare working outside diligently, preparing her farmlands for the coming winter. Big Mac was still out of action for the time being, so without asking if it was needed, I hefted two full baskets of mixed vegetables (carrots, turnips, celery, and the like), and began carrying them to the farmhouse.

AJ caught my eye as I walked, and winked at me with a smile. “Howdy Koa! Tha’s mighty neighborly of ya ta help out.”

I shrugged. “I haven’t got anything to do today, so I figured I’d help where I was needed, and you were the first pony that came to mind.”

The earth pony chuckled and retorted, “Don’ let RD catch ya sayin’ that. She’ll get jealous.”

I rolled my eyes as I dropped the baskets next to the farmhouse and began to head back. “Everypony in town knows I’m with her, and you’re with Fluttershy. So, if she feels the need to get jealous, I’ll just make her feel stupid for feeling that way...just like she’d do to me.”

“Tough love, sugarcube.” Applejack commented.

I shrugged as I pulled two more full baskets away from the field the mare was working in, heaving my body to get them up on my shoulders before walking away. “Deep down, she knows she doesn’t have anything to worry about. She might have the Element of Loyalty, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less faithful to her. I mean, it’s stupid how many mares follow me around like lovesick fillies, but I make it quite clear to everypony where my loyalties lie. I’m in no way secretive about it, which I’m sure is an ego boost for Dash.” I dropped the two baskets next to the two previous ones I’d brought to the farmhouse, then headed back for another load. “I mean, you and Fluttershy are pretty open about your relationship, right?”

“Well y’all know mah filly, she’s a might bit shy.” AJ explained before she used her teeth and hooves to pull the vegetables from the ground.

I chuckled. “I never would have guessed.”

The farm mare rolled her eyes, but tossed the vegetables in a basket before moving on. “Y’all know what Ah mean. Anyway yeah, Ah’m pretty open about who Ah’m with. ‘Shy...not so much. She’s just...”

“Shy...I get it.” I replied with a grin. “We both know how much she cares about you though...it’s like you two were made for each other. Both of you work hard, but are easy-going mares. Both of you hold family and friends close to your heart, and both of you can always be counted upon to be there for your friends and family when you’re needed. The only difference is that she’s meek, and you’re not. The only problem I could see cropping up would be some assertive mare or stallion hitting on her, and she’s too afraid to say anything to stop them.”

“Yeah,” AJ answered with a sigh as she wiped her brow, “we’ve already come across that once or twice.” She grunted as she pulled a particularly stubborn carrot from the ground, then tossed it into the basket behind her. “But even though ‘Shy’s quiet, Ah know she’d never hurt me that way. It ain’t her Ah worry ‘bout...it’s tha other ponies.”

I shrugged as I got on my hands and knees and began pulling out some of the vegetables and tossing them in the basket to fill it. “Well, you can’t be there all the time. Just don’t let your anger get the best of you...that’s all I can recommend.”

The mare nodded as she tossed a few more veggies into the basket. “Ah know. Ah jus’ worry about her sometimes is all. Ah mean, it’s pretty lazy ‘round this town compared ta a place like Manehattan, but it’s got shadows too. Ah jus’ worry every day that some sick pony’s gonna abduct her or somethin’.” AJ then shook her head with a snort. “Ah don’ know...maybe Ah’m jus’ bein’ silly, but it scares me.”

“I’d consider you foolish if it didn’t.” I replied solemnly as I tossed a few more turnips and carrots into the basket. “Thankfully, like you said, this town is pretty quiet in comparison to the big cities. There’s lots of young ones around, there’s plenty of nice ponies that are friendly toward everyone, and the ‘small town’ mentality holds true here. If there was something suspicious going on, the ponies that live here would be quick to expose it.”

The orange mare pulled the last few stalks of celery from the ground before tossing them in the basket and wiping the sweat off of her forehead. “Yeah. Some ponies think they’re bein’ nosy, but they’re jus’ tryin’ ta protect their own. If ya ain’t up ta no good, ya ain’t got nothin’ ta hide, right?” I was about to respond, but AJ waved me off. “Yer secret is different...ya can’t go spreadin’ that kind of thing without causin’ all kinds ‘a ruckus.”

I smiled and nodded as I lifted the last basket up onto my shoulder and followed AJ to the farmhouse, then set the basket down with the others. “Thanks AJ. I appreciate your understanding attitude.”

AJ motioned to the water spigot on the porch, which I turned on and began washing my feet, knees, and hands as she explained, “Ah mean Ah ain’t gonna lie...Ah was pretty surprised when Ah found out the truth about us all. Ah can understand why tha princesses wanted ta keep it quiet.” The farm mare then followed my actions by cleaning off her hooves of the dirt before turning the water off, allowing the muddy water to flow down the metal chute and off the porch. “We all got our secrets, Koa. Ah jus’ think we should keep ‘em to a minimum.”

I nodded as I patted my friend on the side of her neck. “I agree, AJ. Anyway, ya need any more help?”

At that moment my stomach growled fiercely, causing said mare to giggle. “Not right now, but y’all fergot ta eat a good breakfast, didn’t ya?”

I chuckled and nodded. “Yeah. I was in a hurry to get Scoots to school, so I only had time to have a muffin before we left.”

“Y’all would be a good father to a young’un, ya know that?” she replied as she led me inside.

Her comment, though meant to be a compliment, hurt a bit..and she noticed.

“Koa, what’s wrong?” the mare asked worriedly.

I sighed and lowered my head a bit in shame. “I already am a father, AJ...and I abandoned my own daughter. I was dead, but that’s no excuse...”

I felt as Applejack nudged me, causing me to open my eyes and look at her. “Do y’all even listen to yerself? How are ya supposed ta be around when ya ain’t even livin’?”

I shook my head angrily. “I don’t know...but it doesn’t make me feel any better.”

AJ placed her hoof on my leg and said, “Koa, Ah lost mah parents years ago. Both of ‘em got in a carriage accident when Ah was just a filly, and Ah had ta grow up without mah ma and pa.” Her eyes grew a bit misty as she sighed. “It’s been almost twenty years, but Ah don’t care how long they been gone...Ah’d want ‘em back if there was ever a way.” She then stood up on her hind legs and poked me in my stomach, glaring at me. “Don’ waste this chance. You be tha best darn father y’all can be, and ya take her bad feelin’s in stride. Ah know ya don’ deserve it, but Ah’m not yer daughter. Once she tuckers herself out, she’ll be ready ta love ya again. Jus’ give it time.”

I smiled warmly at her words and rubbed her ear gently, making her sigh and relax against me as I placed my other hand along the back of her head and held her against me tightly. “You’re a great friend, AJ...one of the best I know of.” I then released her and took a knee, brushing a few stray strands of her blonde mane out of her eyes. “Fluttershy’s one lucky mare to have you love her.”

Applejack smiled and sniffled before leaning up and kissing my cheek, then wrapping her hooves around me in a hug. “L-let’s jus’ say we’re all lucky ta have each other as friends, and leave it at that b’fore Ah start blubberin’ like a filly.”

I wrapped my arms around the orange earth pony and hugged her tightly for a moment before releasing her and wiping her tears away with a smile. “Alright. As Dash would say, ‘It’s getting sticky with all this sap.’”

AJ chuckled and nodded. “Yeah. How ‘bout some grape juice fer helpin’ me?”

I smiled down at the mare as I stood. “You’re amazing, AJ.”

After leaving Sweet Apple Acres, I looked to the sky to notice that it was barely noon, which meant I had another hour and a half before Scootaloo got out of school, and another five after that before Dash would get off work, so I spent my time moseying around town.

Around this time of day, all of the younger colts and fillies were at the Ponyville Elementary school, while the teens were at Hurricane High School, at the foot of the mountain that housed Canterlot. This meant that the only ponies out at the time were the full-grown ponies, working and such.

By now, I had learned to ignore the interested leers from the single mares, and more recently (and disturbingly) a few stallions. A few of said ponies would try to start up small talk here and there, but once I displayed quite clearly that I wasn’t interested, they backed off.

Most of the time.

An exception would be an off-white earth pony mare by the name of Roseluck, and her two-toned magenta and pink mane and tail always bobbed playfully as she trotted around, tending to her beloved roses. If I was honest with myself (and in this situation, I really didn’t want to be), she was rather attractive. Her form was toned and athletic (which I found strange for a botanist), and her coat and mane shined in the sun and moonlight. She was kind and intelligent, but simply would not take no for an answer...which was too bad, because she would make a good friend. With that being the case, I normally avoided the side of the market she tended to set up her stand at.

As I was walking throughout the town, I didn’t watch where I was walking, and I nearly tripped over the rose-tending mare as I paid no attention to my path. While I did not fall on her, I did fall in front of her, much to my aching nose and embarrassment.

I heard giggles as a set of hooves clopped in front of me. “Oh my, Zizzanasx. Are you alright?”

I groaned and pushed myself up. “Yep, yep...peachy.” I gave a light flap of my wings and landed on my feet again, rubbing the end of my snout. “Sorry about that. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going...I almost flattened you.”

The mare winked her green eye at me and giggled mischievously. “Well you’re welcome to ‘flatten’ me anytime, Mr. Skylord.”

There it was again...

I sighed and rolled my eyes, after many weeks of this finally just done with it. “Rose, when is this going to stop? I told you, I am with Rainbow Dash and I’m completely faithful. Nothing you do or say will ever change that.”

The mare tilted her head cutely as she asked, “Am I not beautiful enough for you or something?”

I shook my head with a growl. “No...that’s definitely not it. You have more to flaunt than half of the mares in Ponyville or Canterlot...I’m just in love with a mare already, and I will be for as long as is physically possible.” I had never spoken to her in such detail about my relationship with Dash, but I felt that perhaps more detail and explanation was what was needed to get her to back off.

Roseluck stared up at me for a few moments before smiling and closing her eyes with a sigh. “Finally...”

I quirked my eyeridge in confusion and asked, “What? What’s going on?”

The pony smiled warmly and pointed to me. “I had to be sure you were truly as loyal as you said you were, even in the face of temptation.”

I became further confused at this, and my mouth cracked open in surprise. “So this was all just an act? You’re not really trying to steal my attention?”

“Heavens no.” the mare replied with a shake of her head. She then giggled and added, “No offense dear, it is just that I am already happily taken by a stallion, and like you, I am completely faithful.”

I nodded with a grin. “That’s a lucky stallion.”

“And Rainbow Dash is a lucky mare.” Roseluck assured. “I do hope you don’t think me mean by doing what I did...I just wanted to test you is all, and you passed with flying colors. So few decent stallions are in this town, so I needed to be sure of what and who you were.”

I thought about the confession for a moment before chuckling. “You know, I should be really upset that I was just played by you for the past few weeks...but honestly, I’m humbled. I had no clue you weren’t serious, and had no idea what was going on.” I then leaned close to the mare and whispered, “You’re good...”

The mare giggled and shrugged. “Well, I did act a bit for fun during my younger years.”

I raised my eyeridge again and asked, “Younger years? You can’t be older than twenty-four.”

A loud, and yet delicate laugh answered my statement, and after a moment the mare shoved me playfully. “Is that what you think? Well in that case, I am flattered...but no, I am in the second-half of my life at forty-four.”

I stared at the mare slack-jawed for a moment before grinning. “Well whatever you’re doing, keep doing it, because it’s working.”

Roseluck smiled and nodded. “I will do so. Now if you don’t mind,” the mare then gestured to her collection of roses, “perhaps you would like to get a few roses for your special somepony?”

I chuckled and nodded. “Sounds like a good idea, Rose.” I looked over the selection and grinned. “I think I’ll take one orange and one cyan, please.”

The mare nodded before carefully snipping and wrapping the roses in paper before placing them in my waiting hand. “Very nice. Is there anything else I can get for you?”

I smiled and shook my head. “Not unless you have one that’s rainbow-patterned or something.” To my utter surprise, faster than I could blink, the mare produced such a rose from within the bush itself, each one of its petals being a band of seven colors. I gasped in shock and choked out, “H-how?”

Roseluck shook her head with a smile. “If I told you that, I could lose my business. I am the only one in Equestria who knows how to grow them, and for my livelihood, it must stay that way.”

I pulled my bit pouch out of my bag and smiled. “Well I’m alright with that. How much?”

“Twelve bits normally, but since you have surprised me with your fidelity to your mare, it’s eight bits for you.” she replied happily. I smiled and pulled a five-bit and three single-bit coins out, then placed them on the top of the stand. She quickly counted out what I had given her and then wrapped the roses up in paper and tied a red ribbon around it with a smile. “Here you go. Thank you so much, and do come again, Zizzanasx.”

I smirked as I took the roses and replied, “Call me Koa.”

I put the roses in a vase at home, and then headed to the schoolhouse to wait for Scootaloo to get out, since I had nothing better to do. After all, it was a nice breezy day, the sun was shining, and I had gotten a very good rest the night before. So, I was in a very good mood.

As I waited outside of the school, I caught sight of quite a few young fillies and colts playing outside in the recess yard behind the school, and many of them were looking at me with interest of some sort. Many of them were curious in a way that would make them want to ask me questions, a few were smiling broadly, while one familiar orange pegasus filly was smiling as if she had just gotten the best birthday present in the world.

“Koa!” shouted Scootaloo as she dashed to the fence, looking up at me with a smile. “What are you doing here?”

I shrugged. “Waiting for school to let out so you and I can go do something. It’s pretty boring today, so I’ve been just wandering around for the most part.”

“Who are you talking to, Scootaloo?” asked a melodic-sounding voice from the left side. I then watched as a pony I recognized as Cheerilee, the elementary school teacher, trotted over to her student before looking up at me with a skeptical eye. “Can I help you sir?”

I smiled and shrugged. “I’m just speaking with my friend Scootaloo here. That’s no problem, is it?”

I then watched as the young pegasus filly nudged her teacher and whispered in her ear. The schoolteacher’s eyes widened and she then smiled at me. “Oh, so you’re the dragon that Scootaloo has spoken so much about! I will be honest, for the longest time I had believed she was making it up.”

I grinned and shook my head. “Not at all. I go by a few different names around town. Strangers call me Storm Rider, acquaintances call me Zizzanasx, and friends call me Koa.”

The mare gasped as she exclaimed, “The skylord!”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “It’s just a title, ma’am, and I don’t press it. I’m a humble draconian who just happens to control the weather...and I do it because it’s my job and I enjoy it, not because I want to be praised or anything.”

The schoolteacher smiled warmly. “Well your humility is refreshing. Are you the one who Scootaloo has been staying with?”

I nodded with a grin. “Yes ma’am. I thought it would be better if she stayed with someone who cared about her, as opposed to the orphanage. Besides, that means she gets to see Rainbow Dash almost every day, which I’m sure she loves.”

Cheerilee then approached closer to the wooden fence and eyed me suspiciously. “Forgive the nature of this question, but what is your interest in Scootaloo?”

Compared with the first time this specific issue had come up, I was very calm and composed.

“Well,” I began with a smile, “she is a dear friend of mine. When I used to live in the Whitetail Wood, Scootaloo would come and keep me company, and many times, she would spend the night with me. She was and is one of my closest friends.” I then looked the mare directly in the eyes. “That is all...nothing more, no matter what you’ve heard around town.”

The schoolteacher stood on her hind legs, with her front hooves on the fence so she could look me in the eyes easier. “Well surely you can admit it looks bad, skylord.”

I shrugged. “Ponies can think what they want. The truth doesn’t change, and the lies don’t affect me. I love Scootaloo dearly as an older brother would love his little sister...but it ends there. Scootaloo and I are not special someponies, and nor do we do anything that is reserved for special someponies doing together.”

The mare stared at me for a moment before smiling and nodding. “I’m glad the rumors were wrong. Scootaloo needs someone like you in her life to guide her as she grows.”

I chuckled as I looked at the young orange filly. “Oh trust me, she’s a lot more grown up than you give her credit for.” I then turned my gaze back to the magenta mare and smiled. “Anyhow, I’ll be waiting for Scoots when school lets out. I’ll keep from eating up any more of your time.”

The earth pony mare smiled and nodded. “Well, it was nonetheless wonderful to meet you, Zizzanasx. Farewell.”

I nodded before walking over to the schoolhouse steps and taking a seat.

I was leaning against the fence next to the front doors as I waited for the final bell to let the ponies out of school, letting an arc of electricity shoot from one hand to the other, and then back again.

Let it simply be said that I was never the most patient person.

“Getting a little bored there, Koa?” said a voice from above me.

I looked up to see Dash pushing a cloud out of the way before flying down in front of me. I just nodded with a sigh. “This is my first real day with nothing to do. I mean, I went to help out AJ, but even that didn’t last that long. Much as I never thought I’d say it, I wish there was more for me to do.”

Dash looked at the ground for a moment before nuzzling up against my thigh. “Well enjoy it. In two days, you’re going to be working for the next three weeks.”

I took a knee and embraced my mare, then pulled back and softly kissed her eyes lovingly. “And I’ll think about you and Scoots every second I’m gone.”

The rainbow-maned pony nudged me playfully as she grinned. “You big ‘ol softy.”

“A dragon that’s soft and smooshy...go figure.” I replied with a chuckle.

“Smooshy?” Dash questioned with a giggle. “What the hay kind of a word is that? It sounds like a word Pinkie would use.”

“Smooshy: adjective...something that can be smooshed or is smoosh-worthy.” came a voice from behind me, and I nearly jumped out of my scales when I turned around to see the party pony standing right behind me with a pair of reading glasses on and a book titled, “Oxhoof’s New Equestrian Dictionary”.

I raised my eyeridge at the mare and grabbed the book from her. “That can’t be a real word.” I then looked to the page it was opened to and gasped in surprise. After a few seconds of staring, I handed the book back to the pink mare and chuckled. “Well I’ll be...it is a real word.” I shrugged as I turned back to Dashie. “I had no clue...I just kinda made it up.”

“Leave it to Pinkie to surprise you then.” she replied with a smile. We both then looked around for the pink mare to find that she had disappeared, and Dash stomped her hoof. “Ugh...I hate it when she does that.” The cyan pegasus then floated into the air in front of me. “Anyway, I gotta get back to work. I’ll see you at your place tonight, kay?”

I nodded as I cupped the pony’s face in my hand and pecked her nose. “Sure thing, Dash. We’ll meet you there.”

The speedy pegasus nuzzled my face before flying away with a strong gust of wind.

I went back to what I was doing before, playing with a tiny bolt of lightning, but a few minutes later, the bell finally rang. Within a few seconds of it doing so, a stampede of young fillies and colts burst through the front doors of the school, and immediately looked to me.

“Wow! A real dragon!” shouted a young colt, who I recognized as Pipsqueak, Luna’s young friend.

I chuckled and nodded. “Yes indeed, Pip. Luna’s told me a lot about you.”

All of the group of filles and colts gasped as I mentioned this, while the mentioned little colt was beside himself with joy. “Luna talked about me?”

I nodded with a warm smile as I took a knee before the group. “Of course. She says that you were one of her first friends when she came back from the moon, and she’s so thankful for how much you made her feel special that Nightmare Night.”

Pip looked back at a certain tiara-wearing filly and stuck his tongue out at her. “Told ya!”

The filly and a friend of hers grumbled and walked away down the path to town, leaving the rest of them to stand in awe of me. I just smiled as I saw Scootaloo running from behind them to me, and caught her as she jumped and extended her little wings, sailing over all of them.

I hugged the orange pegasus filly and smiled. “Hey Scoots.”

“Hey Koa!” she said excitedly before looking to her classmates. “This is Zizzanasx the Skylord, everypony. He’s my friend!”

The young ponies gasped, and I just nodded as I placed Scootaloo on my knee. “I am indeed.”

A little blonde-maned lavender unicorn stepped forward and eyed me curiously. “My mama said that dragons are dangerous.”

I shrugged. “We can be...but so can ponies. If you don’t do anything wrong or hurt anypony though, then you have nothing to fear from me. This town is under my protection, and that includes all of you, providing you don’t do mean things to the ponies that live here.”

“Cool! Our very own guardian dragon!” the little unicorn filly exclaimed.

I nodded and patted her head gently. “Yep. That means that if there’s ever any dangerous ponies that you’re hearing about or anything, I want you to tell Twilight Sparkle, and then she’ll find and tell me. We need your help to keep Ponyville safe...can you do that?” The assembled colts and fillies nodded, so I smiled. “Good. Now go on home, I’m sure your parents and such are expecting you.” The small group of young ponies all began to clear out, but not before many of them looked to me and Scootaloo. Some with curiousness, some with jealousy, and some with confusion.

Whatever...not my problem.

“So what are we gonna do?” the young pony asked from my knee.

I smiled as I looked down at her. “Well first, I thought we’d stop by Sweet Treat’s ice cream shop for a little treat.” The filly’s eyes widened and her smile grew. “Then, I was thinking we could spend some time flying before Dash gets home...just you and me.”

Scootaloo jumped into the air and hovered with a look of excitement. “Cool! Let’s go!” She then took off flying down the road towards the ice cream shop, with me soaring not far behind her.

As I walked down the path with a rather happy pegasus filly on my shoulder, I couldn’t help but smile at what a nice day it was, in so many more ways than just the weather. I mean, I had come to find out that the most annoying stalker of mine was in fact just testing me, Cheerilee approves of me, and Scootaloo was very happy.

Very little could make this day much better.

I looked to my left to see Scootaloo chew and swallow the last of her ice cream cone, so I smiled to her. “Alright then, you ready for a little fly through the the sky Scoots?”

The little pegasus flapped her wings and soared into the air. “I’m ready. How high are we going?”

I shrugged. “Higher than my house. That way you can get used to how the thinner air of high altitudes affects your flying and your stamina. It’s something that all pegasi need to learn to be careful of, so I’m going to teach you.”

“Are we going to do anything special up there?” she asked curiously.

I shook my head. “Nah. We’re just going to take a leisurely little flight through the air so that you can feel the effects. I’ll warn you ahead of time that you’re going to get tired easier, and that’s normal. When it gets to that point, just let me know and we’ll stop to rest so that you don’t hurt yourself.”

The pegasus nodded before following me up into the air, high enough that ponies on the ground looked like ants.

We stopped and hovered in place, and I asked, “Alright, so what do you notice so far?”

Scootaloo gained a far-away look as she focused on her flying and then looked to me. “It feels like I have to flap my wings harder to stay in the air, and it’s harder to catch my breath.”

I nodded. “Yep, that’s because of the thin air. The air being thin means that with each breath, less oxygen goes into your lungs, and with each flap of your wings, less air is moved to give you lift.” I then looked off into the distance below us to see some late-day weather pegasi working to add some cloud cover for the coming night. “It’s one of the things you have to be really careful of, because if you’re not, you could pass out from lack of oxygen...and falling to the ground from thirty-thousand feet would kill you...so you have to be very careful, understand?” She nodded to me, and I smiled. “Good. Now we’re going to take it nice and easy here. No racing, and no tricks. For these first few times, I just want you to get used to the effects of the thin air. Stay close to me.” She nodded once again before following me through the air towards the plains to the south of Ponyville.

A few hours later, Scootaloo and I lay together on a lone cloud in the sky, watching as the sun headed ever closer to the horizon. With the days getting shorter, it meant that more of Luna’s beautiful night would cover the hours of each day...which of course was never a problem for me.

Scootaloo had finally caught her breath from flying so strongly through the thin air high above us, and was now laying on my back as I lay on my stomach, with my folded arms under my chin. The pegasi filly’s head rested atop mine as the twilight of the coming evening changed the hues of the sky to orange, red, and violet, making for quite the beautiful end to a nice day.

“It’s so pretty.” Scootaloo commented from her perch.

I smiled as I stretched my wings out before folding them on my back again. “It is. Reminds me of just how blessed I am to have you and my other friends in my life.” I pointed to the colorful sky and added, “Those many colors remind me of all the colors of the ponies I care about. Cyan, lavender, orange, violet, indigo, yellow...the list can go on. Those colors in the sky always remind me of why I’m having to go away soon...because I need to make sure those ponies are safe.”

I felt as two small forelegs wrapped around my neck, and a warm body pressed against the back of my head. “Just be safe, Koa. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

I firmly grasped one of the orange forelegs and ran my thumb on the soft fur. “I’ll always make sure I can come back to you and Rainbow Dash. Discord himself couldn’t keep me away.”

I felt as the little forelegs hugged me tighter, and Scootaloo nuzzled my right ear ridge softly. “I love you Koa...”

“Not in love though, right?” I asked with concern.

“No.” she answered softly.

I smiled as I reached back and ran my fingers through her mane. “Well I love you too, Scoots.”

The filly released me as she slid down my shoulder and onto the cloud in front of me. She looked at me with worry and said, “Promise you’ll be back, Koa. Promise you’ll be okay.”

I nodded as I brushed her mane out of her eyes. “I promise Scootaloo.”

The little pegasus smiled and nodded. “Good. Come on, we should get home...it’s getting cold.”

For some reason when she referred to “home” in such a broad sense, I didn’t feel the need to correct her. After all, I realized that my home was her home. With me and Dash, she was with a pony and a dragon that cared a great deal for her.

Her home was my home.

With that last warming thought, I grabbed the filly in my arms and flapped my large wings, flying towards our home.

Scootaloo had helped me cook vegetarian pizzas for us, which meant that flour was everywhere, and we were both looking like ghosts when we were done.

Luckily for me, we had time to clean up as the food cooked and before Dash arrived, so that it wouldn’t look like we were just foaling around the kitchen like idiots.

I had just walked back into the family room when Dash walked in my front door, looking rather frazzled and tired...but she instantly perked up when she smelled the cooking.

She licked her lips as she sniffed a few more times at the tantalizing aroma. “Mmm...something smells good.”

I smiled as I brushed my head fins back. “Yep. Scoots helped me make some pizza for dinner.”

Dash’s eyes widened as she smiled. “Wow! You know how to make pizza? I haven’t been able to find any of that since I was last in Canterlot!”

I shrugged. “It’s pretty easy to make. Luna taught me how.”

“Gotta love that mare.” Dash remarked with a grin.

I nodded with a smile. “Yes, one does.” I then motioned to the table. “Anyway, Scoots is cleaning herself up and the pizza’s nearly done, so take a seat and I’ll bring it to ya.”

Dash giggled as I walked away, remarking, “You’re a regular homemaker, you know that?”

“Yeah yeah, don’t get any ideas though. I’m not wearing an apron.” I replied with a smile.

The cyan pegasus snickered as the other pegasus entered the room, a slightly damp mane and tail still steaming from the hot shower. She looked to her young fan and greeted, “Heya Scoots! How was your day?”

The filly smiled as she glided over to the table with a grin. “It was awesome! Koa showed me how to fly at high altitudes today!”

Dash looked at me worriedly, but I just shook my head. “I was just teaching her the dangers and warning her about the differences between high altitude and regular flying. You know, the same thing you would have done. I made sure she was safe and didn’t get too tired.”

Dash nodded and patted my arm as I walked by. “Good job Koa, I knew I could count on you.”

Dinner was rather routine that night, which in honesty I enjoyed. There were no surprises, no sudden revelations that would change our view of the world, and no random pegasi ponies crashed into my house.

Yes...it’s happened.

After filling ourselves with the hot food and cleaning up, the three of us were now laying on the roof of my home with a blanket, gazing at the stars and talking about what was to come. As much as I hated to think about it, three weeks was a long time to be away, and I knew that Dash and Scoots weren’t going to be the only ones down with me gone. Applejack and I had become exceedingly close over the months, and Fluttershy was my go-to mare when I was feeling hopeless about something or other, or just needed a sensitive, caring ear to listen.

Then of course, there was Luna.

I was completely in love and devoted to Dash ‒ there was no question to anyone about that ‒ but I had come to understand the love and affection my past self had come to feel for Luna...so well in fact that I many times had to remind myself that I was already with Dash. I would never betray my rainbow-maned angel in such a way, even for a princess, but when spending time with Luna, I would sometimes start to forget that her and I aren't married anymore. I had come to the revelation that I did in fact love Luna...more than I would as a mere friend.

Which of course posed a problem.

A few days after said revelation I had spoken with Fluttershy on the matter, simply because she was more in touch with her emotions than anypony else I knew, and love was as much a part of her life as air or her animals. Fluttershy had spoken words that day that calmed my mind and gave me peace, explaining that I wasn’t the only one that loved more than one pony that way. She told me that we can’t force our heart to love or not to love someone, and to do so would destroy us. She confided in me that she too was in the same situation with Applejack and Rainbow Dash...

But unlike me, she had come to a very simple solution to the matter.

“Let your heart love who it will, and let that love flow. The heart isn’t ruled by culture, rules, or laws, and it doesn’t know boundaries. Let your mind keep the bounds to the pony you choose to be with, but still acknowledge to everypony involved exactly what you feel. Dishonesty will corrupt you, and walling off your emotions will destroy you.”

She had spoken those words of wisdom to me a few weeks ago, and just like she recommended, I told Luna and Dash both what I felt. As I expected, Luna took it all in stride, but Dash was upset...with good reason. It took explaining to my angel exactly what I meant for her to forgive me, as well as some soothing words from her oldest friend, Fluttershy...and the timid pegasus’ own secret towards the cyan mare.

Let it simply be said that day was awkward, but the following weeks had brought all of us closer together. Honesty truly was the best policy, as though the truth might not always be ideal, it allows the trust between the parties involved to grow and mature. Dash now knew that I loved Luna, but that I was completely faithful to her. It was then that my cyan pegasus made me promise something that utterly surprised me, and made me see her in a new, more mature light: she made me promise that should the worst happen to her ‒ should her life be taken before mine ‒ she wanted me to love Luna the same way I loved her. Her face that day had been more serious than I ever thought she could be, but after her soothing words of love and understanding, I agreed.

I don’t think there’s a word for just how our relationship evolved that day, transcending mere mortal bonds.

It’s a strange thing once one truly understands that we never truly end. We merely...transform. Should we be open enough to it, we come to find that we never lost anything to begin with, and neither did those who care for us. It allows one to see the world in a new and beautiful way. A way free from the fear of an eternity without the ones we love, or the end of life as we know it. Those loves and that life can always be reacquainted with, if we are willing to work hard enough for it. The mental breakdown that Dash had was proof that it wasn’t easy, but anything worthwhile rarely was.

The night chilled, and the day as a whole came to a close, so me and my two pegasi settled upon my large bed and rested from the trials of our days...some more than others.

Scootaloo fell asleep rather quickly, curled up in the grasp of my left arm, but Dash simply gazed at me lovingly with her chin upon my chest as she was nestled against my right side, me softly stroking her mane. My angel spoke no words, and none needed be said. Our eyes and soft smiles to each other conveyed all the thoughts and emotions that weren’t said, and as our eyes began to close, neither of us even muttered a goodnight...with it being unneeded.

I was loved by an amazing angel that meant the world to me...the night couldn’t be any more good.

Chapter 20: Thunderhead

Chapter 20: Thunderhead

Like most nights, I found myself not needing sleep, so I simply relaxed with my eyes closed as I held the two smaller pegasi in my arms, relishing in the warmth of their bodies and the softness of their fur. Much as I liked it, I would never be able to bring myself to tell Dash and Scoots that I could literally spend all day just holding them...feeling their warmth against my own body and feeling their breathing and heartbeat against my chest.

Dash would never let me live down something so sappy.

Today was an important day for me though, as it was the last day before I left for the mission Lil had for me. I had to make the most of it, because no matter the pony, three weeks was a long time to be away from loved ones...especially when the loved ones were as awesome as mine. The six ponies that meant the everything to me were unique in their own right, and though I was only in love with one, I cared for and loved them all.

Rainbow Dash...the love of my life. Though I’d never use the term out loud, it was as much a truth as the fact that I was the skylord, or a draconian. She was one of the reasons I smiled every day, and was the one who constantly kept me on my toes as far as sarcasm or jokes.

Scootaloo. The young filly was a lover from my past, and though I did not care for her in that way at the present time, she was still as valuable to me as my wings. In many ways, she was my wings. She lifted my spirits when I was feeling low, and her youthful attitude reminded me to play and enjoy myself. She helped to remind me not to judge simply by looks alone, as her maturity surprised me time and time again.

Applejack was the sister I never had, but always wanted. She was a tough no-nonsense girl that could work out in the fields all day without a second thought...but at the same time, she was as soft and loving as anyone could be. Her deep reservoir of love that she held for her friends and family constantly surprised me, and her unshakable honesty was often blunt, but always welcome.

Dear, sweet Fluttershy. The often-timid mare was every bit as kind and loving as the princesses themselves, and her loving warmth could melt the ice off of even the most cold and barren heart. Thoughtful and caring, the mare was doing what she truly loved by tending to the animals that often stayed in or around her house, and there was not a doubt in my mind that she would be able to calm even the most anger-ridden pony. She was the only pony I could honestly say loved everyone she came to know, no matter how big, small, young, or old. Her heart was easily as large or larger than that of Celestia, and her kindness truly knew no bounds.

Celestia was quite possibly the strongest person I had ever known. She had weathered centuries of hardship, and ruled an entire kingdom while still keeping a startling amount of her people happy...nearly all of them. In addition to that, she cared more for her ponies than she did herself, often working well into the later hours of the day to assure her subjects were happy and well taken care of. She was benevolent to all who met her, and yet I sensed she would not hesitate to destroy any threat to her people, should it come to such a thing. More than anything though, her strength was proven by banishing Luna to the moon for a millennium. Many ponies that did not know her personally did not think this was very serious, but in fact, it nearly destroyed her. To those that were close to her, it was clear that Celestia loved her younger sister more than her own life...and so in sending her away, it caused her to give up hope. She told me stories of days when the sun would rise an hour late, just so she could look at the moon a little longer. And, she told me of a time she once attempted suicide because of her loneliness. Thankfully for her people, she was unsuccessful, but it was a testament to just how much sending away her sister had damaged her. And yet, she overcame that. She still ruled her people and looked forward to the day when Luna would return.

I only hoped that one day, I could be half as strong as her.

Lastly but certainly not least, was Luna. Long ago, she was my wife...my queen. We had remained close through the eons, and little to nothing had ever broken us apart. She had been forced to trudge through my death, and was now forced to watch me have the love of another. Even with this being the case, she still loved me...and with honesty serving true, I loved her. Just like Dash, I would always love Luna. There was a bond that transcended life itself that held us together, and not even separate romantic interests could ever break that. Was it awkward sometimes? Of course...but we knew it would not change anything. The thing that Luna constantly reminded me of was the fact that even in our darkest times, we always have a choice to be the bright and shining light of the world, both for ourselves and our people. Luna also taught me that our mistakes will always be a part of us...but they do not have to define us. Her corruption by the entity that made her Nightmare Moon was proof of that, because after her cleansing, she had reverted to the pony she was before.

These six ponies helped me hold onto the world and not become the monster I could be with the amount of power at my disposal...as well as the instincts that constantly screamed at me to hunt, hoard treasure, and mate with as many females as I could.

Let’s just say I’m thankful that Dash has a high sex drive.

Nearly an hour and a half into the dawn, Dash and Scootaloo began to stir, each stretching their wings and groaning as the bones popped.

“Ah...that felt good.” Rainbow Dash remarked as her back popped a few times.

“Ew...” Scootaloo commented, a rather disgusted look on her face.

I chuckled and allowed my wings to lift me up off the bed, stretching out the coiled muscles and feeling a pleasant tension release as I did so. I then looked to the two pegasi and asked, “So what do the two of you feel like doing today?” I looked to the schedule on my bedroom wall that Dash had been kind enough to give to me and noted that today was supposed to be cool and overcast. “Seems like a pretty simple day so far as weather is concerned, so I thought maybe we could go see the princesses today.”

Scootaloo’s eyes widened at this, and she nodded furiously. “That would be so cool! I’ve never gotten to meet the princesses face-to-face!”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Koa?” Dashie asked as she shook out her mane and tail. “I mean, I know you’re chummy with them, but I’m sure they have better things to do than hang out all day.”

I smirked. “You see, that would normally be true had Luna not personally filed all of the tax forms, met with the nobles, helped to plan the Grand Galloping Gala for next year, and made sure the Canterlot weather teams were scheduled correctly for the next month. Usually Cel takes care of all that, but Luna’s noticed lately that she’s been working herself too hard...like she normally does this time of year.”

“So she figured she’d lend a hoof and help her.” Dash finished for me. I nodded, causing her to smile. “Now see? That’s an awesome sister. So I take it you kinda planned this then?”

I shrugged. “You’ve got a short workday, Scoots is out of school because it’s Saturday, and I have nothing to do until nightfall...so yeah, I kinda planned it a little.”

She stared at me for a moment before patting my wing. “You’re awesome, you know that?”

“Just trying to keep up with you, Dash.” I remarked, causing both pegasi to giggle. I then jerked my head to follow, adding, “Come on, I’ll make us some breakfast before you get going, and we can meet outside the town hall.”

”Alright, I’ll meet you two outside the town hall later!” Dash shouted as she soared away, heading towards the weather factory of Cloudsdale.

“So what do we do until then?” Scootaloo asked from beside me. “We have a few hours to kill until she’s done.”

I reached down and picked up the filly, placing her up on my shoulder. “Hmm...how about we go visit Sweet Apple Acres first. Your friends should be there today, right?”

She nodded. “Yep.”

“Cool.” I replied with a grin. “I’ll see if AJ needs any help then, and you can see your friends in the meantime.”

“Koa?” she asked softly, and I looked to see her smiling hopefully. “Do you think that maybe Applebloom and Sweetie Belle could come with us?”

I shrugged. “I personally don’t have a problem with it, so long as their sisters say it’s alright. If they want to go, you need to tell them to ask their sisters about it.”

Scootaloo bounced excitedly on my shoulder, and replied, “This is gonna be so cool!”

I chuckled as we walked through the town, noting the many friendly waves and smiles I received from the residents, as well as more than a few confused and curious expressions asking why the orange filly was with me, riding on my shoulder. I simply put the questioning glances out of mind...it wasn’t their business, and their often-incorrect inferences about the situation didn’t really bother me anymore.

“So Koa...” Scootaloo began nervously, “will you be able to come home sooner if your job-thingy goes fast?”

I shrugged, not really knowing myself. “All I heard from Cel is that I can expect to be on the job for at least three weeks...I don’t know much more than that, and for my own safety as well as everypony else’s, she’s not telling me anymore than that until I meet her tomorrow morning.”

She sighed and nodded her head, which I saw from my peripheral vision to the right. “I guess that’s gonna have to do.”

I reached my hand to my shoulder and took one of Scootaloo’s forelegs in it, the small limb just fitting in my palm. “I know that Dash is technically the grown-up, but I want you to watch out for her, okay? She’s going to get really lonely without me around, and she doesn’t do so well with loneliness.”

“You want me to keep watch over Rainbow Dash?” she asked skeptically.

I nodded. “And I’m going to ask the same thing of Fluttershy and Applejack. She’s going to need her friends while I’m gone.” I thought for a moment before sighing. “She’d hate me to tell you this, but she’s actually really sensitive at heart...even more so because she hasn’t had much practice with her feelings.”

“Neither have I.” Scootaloo replied dryly.

I nodded. “Perhaps that’s true, but all the same you are one of the ones that knows her best, and as much as I hate it, you’ve had a lot of practice dealing with loneliness.”

I continued walking towards the large farm that was looming behind the hill I crested, and Scootaloo had gone completely silent. I had come to know her well enough by now to recognize when she was thinking, but I also knew that she tended to like to work things out herself, whether it be thinking, a new trick, or even flying. So, I kept the silence comfortable by softly rubbing the hoof I held with my thumb, hopefully adding to a more relaxing atmosphere for her.

“Koa?” she whispered, her tone suggesting she was rather worried about something.

No longer at odds with myself or my speech, I simply responded, “Yes little one?”

I felt as the filly fidgeted nervously. “What if...” she began, only to sigh and lean against my head, “what if...something happens?”

She didn’t need to say more...I knew exactly what she meant. In honesty, the possibility of me not returning one of these times had crossed my mind quite a lot. As far as I was concerned, so far I’d gotten lucky...but that luck might not last much longer. I was well aware that I was not immortal, felt pain, and could be killed. After all, it had happened in the past when I was married to Luna, and whether it was another assassin or a large screw-up on my part, the possibility always existed...

I could lose my life.

“Scoots, I want you to listen to me closely, okay?” I began, and I felt as the filly’s head turned to look at me. “I’m not going to lie to you or skew the truth, because I believe it’s important that you and all the others know exactly what’s at stake here.” I saw her nod from the corner of my vision, so I sighed and continued. “I can’t promise you that nothing will happen...and I think you know that. “ Again she nodded. “Well, the very reason I’m doing these things is because they’re too dangerous for anypony else to do, and while I’ve yet to come across a situation I couldn’t handle, there’s always the possibility for the worst to happen.” I moved my hand to the back of her head, and stroked my hand through her mane lovingly. “If something should ever happen to me, I want you to be strong. That doesn’t mean don’t cry and that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel sad and depressed that I’m gone...what it means is that I don’t want it to beat you. I don’t want you to lose the will to live...because I’d like to think I taught you more about life than that. What I’d want you to do is live your life, knowing that someday, we’ll meet again. I’ll never truly leave you, Scoots...I care about you too much.”

I could tell that she was trying not to think of the worst, but she still graced me with a determined nod. “Okay Koa...I’ll be strong.”

“I know you will.” I replied with a smile. I then turned my eyes to the path in front of us and smiled. “Well here we are. You go and see your friends...I have something I need to talk about with Applejack.”

The filly nodded and sped away towards the rear of the property, leaving me heading for the open farmhouse.

I was near-family with the Apples, so I didn’t think twice of it as I simply knocked on the open door frame and entered the home, and saw Applejack and Big Macintosh sitting at the table with several large baskets of washed vegetables, separating them into different piles.

Applejack looked up at me and smiled. “Well howdy, Koa. How you doin’?”

I smiled in return as I made my way over to the two Apples. “I’m doing just fine, AJ.” I then looked to the large red stallion, who looked a little worse for the wear. “How are you feelin’, Mac?”

The burly pony shrugged with a sigh. “Threw mah back out. Doctor said Ah can work again when we get tha new plow.”

I thought of what day it was before shrugging. “A few more days then. Not too much longer, just be more careful, bud.” The stallion nodded before getting back to sorting vegetables, so I sat down at the table next to AJ. “So what are you two doing exactly?”

“Sortin’ vegetables.” the mare replied as she continued her work. “Already washed ‘em, now we gotta sort out tha bad ones ta use fer a compost heap.”

I nodded. “Sounds good. I’ll lend you a hand then.”

The orange farm mare smiled gratefully and pointed at a basket behind her. “Haven’t started on that one yet. Grab it and get sortin’. Ah’ll fix us a nice lunch after we’re done.”

The sorting didn’t take too long, and it was mindless enough that it allowed me to just stop thinking for once, and enjoy a bit of silence in my mind...and the good meal of apples, a few carrots, and apple juice relaxed me.

As we all sat at the table, I thought it would be a good time to bring up the matter with my little “field trip” today, so I cleared my throat and called, “AJ?”

The mare swallowed the juice she was drinking and then looked to me. “Yeah Koa?”

“I was going to take a little trip to Canterlot today, to visit the princesses, and Scoots is coming with me.” I began, also taking a drink of the sweet beverage provided to me. “And she asked if your sister and Sweetie Belle could come with. What do you think?”

“Ah don’ know. Mac, whaddaya think?” AJ replied cautiously.

“Well,” the red stallion began, pushing his empty plate away, “she’ll have Koa ta look out fer her, an’ she knows ta be respectful to her elders.”

The orange mare nodded before turning back to me. “Well, Ah don’ see a problem with it then. Jus’ have her back b’fore midnight.”

I nodded and stood before taking all of the dishes to the sink and dropping them off. “Sounds good, AJ. You need help with the dishes and such?”

The mare shook her head with a smile. “Ah appreciate tha thought, but if Ah know them fillies, they’re already more excited than a pig in a fresh mud pit. Go an’ see to ‘em, and Ah’ll see ya later.”

As I approached the CMC clubhouse, I heard the three fillies speaking quite loudly about something, and their words only became clearer as I began to descend the hill that gave way to the field the small grove of apple trees the clubhouse was in.

“And then she said he was just a big faker!” exclaimed the squeaky voice of Sweetie Belle.

I then watched as the three fillies descended the small ramps that led up to their meeting spot, and they all smiled when they saw me.

“Hiya, Koa! How are ya doin’?” the yellow earth pony asked.

I shrugged. “Pretty good. By the way, I already asked your sister and she said you could come so long as I have you back by midnight.”

The yellow filly hopped a bit in excitement at this and exclaimed, “Ah’m gonna meet tha princesses!”

I chuckled and nodded. “Yep. I’ll warn you ahead of time to...well, just be prepared for anything unexpected.” The three fillies stared at me warily, and I just chuckled again. “You’ll see what I mean. Anyway, I guess we should go ask Rarity and get going then, yeah?”

“Sounds good, Koa.” Scootaloo commented.

Luckily for all involved, Rarity agreed as well (though not before some clever persuasion on my part), which meant that currently, the three fillies were riding my back as I flew through the air around the town hall, waiting for Dash to get off work.

It went without saying that the three young ponies were whooping and squealing in delight the entire time. I mean, it’s not everyday a pony gets to ride to Canterlot on the back of a dragon to hang out with the princesses. Luckily after the weeks had gone by after my first appearance in my true form, ponies were no longer frightened of a large gray dragon flying through the skies. Quite the contrary...we were getting an admiring audience by a few ponies down below.

“Is it normal for all those ponies to be staring at us?” Sweetie Belle asked curiously.

I shrugged as I began to lower us to the ground. “One gets used to it, I guess. It’s not like seeing a huge dragon flying around with ponies on its back was a regular occurrence before I came around.”

“Just walk away like it’s the most normal thing in the world...you’ll look so much cooler.” Scootaloo suggested to her friends.

And then, I watched as all three of them fell off of my back...and flat on their faces.

“That was an awesome set of faceplants, girls.” I remarked mirthfully.

The three pushed themselves up and stood, while Scootaloo shot back, “Shut up, Koa.”

I willed my form to become my more compact shape, and after a few seconds I opened my eyes to see the three fillies and every other gathered pony staring at me.

I chuckled. “That never gets old.”

Scootaloo nodded in agreement. “Probably the twentieth time I’ve seen that, and it’s still cool.”

I looked up at the sky and used what knowledge I could to estimate it was almost noon, so I smiled as I turned my gaze back to the fillies and sat down on the building’s steps. “Dash should be meeting us here pretty soon, so we’ll just chill out and wait for a bit.”

“How long is it gonna take us ta get ta Canterlot?” Applebloom asked curiously.

I shrugged. “Maybe twenty or thirty minutes. Takes a lot longer on the train only because it rides through the countryside, through the hills, and around the mountain three times until it gets to the city. I guess it’s meant to be a pretty scenic route or something, but it’s so much faster to just fly there.”

“Y’all are tellin’ me. It takes eight hours ta get there on tha train!” Applebloom exclaimed.

I nodded. “Well you don’t have to worry about that. You all will be taking the Dragon Express flight straight there.”

Scootaloo rolled her eyes and nudged my knee. “You’re a dork.”

“You love it.” I replied with a smug grin.

The orange filly rolled her eyes again and then jumped up on my lap, the same a cat would...which of course caused her friends and the other ponies milling about to stare at us. Like usual, I ignored the looks of confusion and just gently massaged the filly’s neck with my thumb and index finger.

“Um, Mr. Koa?” Applebloom called nervously.

I chuckled lightly and shook my head. “Just Koa is fine, Applebloom.”

“Oh...a-alright then.” the farm filly replied carefully. She then looked around us and continued with, “Do y’all think it’s smart ta be all touchy in public like that? Ah mean, Ah know ain’t nothin’ goin’ on here, but tha other ponies don’ know that. They might think y’all are special somponies with each other.”

I shrugged, utterly nonchalant about the whole issue by now. “If they want the truth, they just need to ask. Besides, I enjoy making ponies feel stupid about making incorrect inferences about what they observe, especially when it’s something that lewd.” I then gestured with my head to the pony in my lap. “Scootaloo and I are just good friends...she’s like a little sister to me at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, that’s all that we’re going to be to each other.” I turned my gaze to the many ponies not-so-subtly shooting questioning looks our direction. “Once all these other ponies grow a pair and actually just ask us the truth, they’ll find out that there’s absolutely nothing going on in a romantic sense...at all...as if the news about me being with Rainbow Dash wasn’t enough.”

“Who’s talking about me?” answered a certain raspy voice from behind me.

I turned to the cyan mare who was trotting over to me, and smirked. “I did. Whatcha gonna do about it?”

“Oh, I can think of a few things. I just can’t do them in public for the most part.” she shot back smugly.

I chuckled and nodded. “Don’t want Celestia to come to Ponyville in a tiz again, do we?” I then looked to the fillies for a moment before motioning to the sky. “Their sisters said it’s cool, so let’s get going.”

Dash nodded to me before launching herself into the sky. I changed to my larger form to allow the fillies to take places on my back, then also took to the skies towards the city of Canterlot.

When the five of us arrived at the landing pad that was set up for visitors outside of the palace, I found that the guards were all milling about rather suspiciously, and a lot of them looked pretty nervous. They nodded to me as I passed, but still looked pretty shaken up.

“Something’s going on here.” Dash commented.

I nodded, keeping alert. “Yeah...something’s up. I’ve never seen the guard this nervous before.” I then looked to the cyan pegasus warily. “Dash, go on ahead and see if you can find Cel and Lulu. Make sure they’re alright. I’ll keep the girls safe.”

Dash nodded with a salute and sped off, leaving me with three fillies, two of which were extremely nervous.

“K-Koa? There ain’t nothin’ bad happenin’, right?” Applebloom asked worriedly.

I put on the best comforting smile I could and shook my head. “Probably not, AB...we’re just being cautious is all. ‘Better safe than sorry’ and all that.” This seemed to reassure the two fillies at least a little bit, though it was clear they were still nervous.

Scootaloo on the other hand, thankfully, had complete faith in me.


Dash’s upset voice shocked me out of my thought processes, and she nearly barreled into me as she flew back to us.

The mare took deep breaths for a few seconds to catch her voice before tapping her head with her hoof. It took a moment for me to understand what she wanted, so I released my hold on the ability I normally kept under lock and key, for other ponies’ privacy. I nodded as I did so, and Dash began to tremble a bit as her panicked thoughts began to flow to my mind.

“I’ll take the girls away. Celestia’s hurt bad...get in the throne room right now.”

Dashie’s thoughts nearly caused me to drop to my ass in shock, but for the sake of the three other ponies, I didn’t react other than a short nod.

Rainbow Dash then looked to the three fillies and sported a rather stern look that left no room for rebuttal. “Girls, come with me. Don’t ask questions, just follow.”

The young ponies looked even more nervous now, and even Scootaloo was beginning to show signs of panic, but the three of them followed the rainbow-maned pegasus as she led them out to a small garden with a fountain in it.

As soon as they all could no longer see me, I broke into a sprint towards the throne room, in utter terror at what was happening, and the fear propelled me at a speed that didn’t seem fast enough.

After an agonizing five or so minutes later, I arrived in the throne room to find what seemed like the entire Solar Guard gathered...and to my horror, it was around a prone Luna, who was laying next to a shivering white alicorn on the ground. Along with these who were gathered were a number of small piles of ash scattered about the room, but I paid these no mind as I made my way to them.

The guards all recognized who I was and made way for me...but when they had, I almost wished they hadn’t.

Laying trembling on the ground was Celestia. I hadn’t thought before that there was such a thing as “pale” white, but I was very, very wrong. The sun princess hue had gone from radiant to ghastly. She was sweating profusely, and yet her teeth were chattering violently as Luna had her entire body draped over the sun princess, attempting to keep her warm. I caught sight of numerous puncture wounds along the white alicorn’s side, each with a bluish tinge around it.

“Koa.” spoke a rather distraught voice.

I looked at the source of the call to see my daughter standing there, tears in her eyes as she gazed at me. Without warning, she rushed to me and embraced me as her tears began to run down my scales. It was a warm, elated feeling to have my daughter so close and willingly embracing me, but I gently pushed her away when I remembered that things were not under control yet.

I took a look around the room and loudly spoke, “I need a report of what happened from any of the guards that were in or around the room. Quickly, please.”

A rather beaten-looking white stallion in gold armor stepped forward, and as he removed his helmet, his long orange mane splayed out over his neck. I could see multiple bruises and cuts along his exposed body parts, but they did not seem to bother him much.

The stallion saluted me quickly before stating, “Pony-at-arms Spearhead, sir.”

I nodded. “At ease, soldier. Tell me what happened.”

The pony relaxed a bit before nodding. “I was the only guard in her majesty’s throne room when the attack happened, as the others were ushering out her personal masseuse.”

I thought it strange that Cel employed a personal masseuse, but that could wait until later. “Attack?”

“Yes sir.” he responded gravely. “At least a dozen cloaked ponies sprang from the shadows as the other guards left.”

I raised my eyeridge at this, becoming more anxious as I looked around. “And where are they now?”

At this, the guard smirked as he gestured to the room. “I’m sure you’ve noticed the ashes, Skylord.”

I nodded with a proud smile. “Well done, soldier.” I then looked to the downed alicorn and frowned. “What’s happened to the princess?”

The stallion turned his head and nodded to a pony who held a steel tray in a magical aura, which the stallion took in his own magical grasp and gave it to me. I took the tray and widened my eyes when I saw nearly twenty small metallic darts, each with blood on them.

“I was able to dispatch them all, but they still caught us by surprise. The princess was struck multiple times.” he explained.

My expression darkened further as I picked one of the darts up and brought it to my nose, taking a large whiff of it before coughing and placing the dart back down on the pan. “Neurotoxin.”

“Beg your pardon, sir?” the stallion asked.

I looked to the soldier in front of me and sighed. “It was some sort of neurotoxin on these darts, likely the venom from an animal. Neurotoxin is a venom or poison that affects the brain and nervous system.” I then looked to the shivering mare with a deepening frown, noticing that her cheeks were flushed though it was clear she was freezing. “What are the common venomous animals around these areas?”

“Well sir,” he began, seeming a little unsure, “Equestria as a whole is host to a great number of living things, but the only one I can think of off the top of my head that would have this kind of effect would be a manticore.”

Fluttershy had taught me much regarding survival training at my behest, seeing as how I would be travelling a lot for my career. With that being the case, I understood just how serious this situation was.

“If she weren’t an alicorn, she would be dead already.” I spoke softly. I then raised my eyes to the guard and sighed. “That doesn’t mean she will survive this without help, though. Her strength can only go so far on its own.” I pointed to a few guards milling about, just watching the event unfold. “You four, take a carriage to the edge of the Everfree and look for a cottage on the outside of Ponyville. A young pony that goes by the name of Fluttershy lives there...we’ll need her help. Tell her exactly what happened,” I then took one of the darts and held it out, “and bring this to her. If anypony will be able to accurately identify exactly what we’re dealing with, it’s her. I’ll warn you, she’s really shy, but if you mention that the princess could be dying, she’ll be more than happy to help. Don’t delay...leave immediately.” The four guards did as I asked and took the dart from me before putting it in a leather pouch and immediately leaving the throne room. I then turned to the guard and sighed. “As much as I hate to say it, we’re pretty helpless without something to counteract the poison. We have to wait for her to get here.”

“Anything else, sir?” he asked nervously.

I shrugged. “Not much we can do except scour the entire palace for-”

“Already done, sir.” the stallion interrupted.

I nodded with a smile. “Good.” I then looked nervously around me and said, “Umm...I need a private moment with the royals, please.”

The guard nodded and ushered his fellow guards off to continue searching the premises, leaving me alone with three royals, one of which was slowly dying.

Luna was completely silent and devoted to her sister, but my daughter was in need of comfort, so I sat down on the steps that led to the thrones and held my arms open to her, which she graciously accepted as she snuggled herself into my embrace.

The unicorn sniffled a few times before muttering, “I’m scared...”

I nodded, placing my head atop hers as I worriedly eyed two of the most important ponies in my life. “Me too, Moonbeam.”

“It was them...” Luna growled angrily, her rage nearly palpable. She looked up and met my eyes as she elaborated. “The Lunar Republic.”

I furrowed my brow as I replied, “I thought I took care of them. That one guy, what was his name...Brass bolts, right?”

Luna sighed and shook her head. “No...that was just the one hideout we found. There are likely to be many more, and this is proof of that.” She then gazed down at her fellow alicorn, which was now whimpering as the shakes threatened to overtake her. “It was the mission that Tia had planned for you...she found another base in the mountains bordering Canterlot.” The dark alicorn then levitated a scroll over to me, dropping it in my outstretched hand as my daughter and I looked at it. “These are your orders.”

I narrowed my eyes as I let out a soft growl. “I better not be ordered to bring them back alive...after this, I don’t think I could control myself.”

“Then if you must, give them quick deaths.” Luna remarked without even so much as flinching.

The doors that led to the landing platform were thrust open, revealing a very frightened yellow pegasus mare being chased by a dozen or so guards.

I held up my hand to the guards and shook my head, which caused all of them to stop and nod before again leaving the throne room.

Once we were again alone, Spitfire quickly galloped to the downed alicorn, and began letting tears of fear and sadness drop down her face. “W-what happened to her?”

“Assassins from the Lunar Republic.” I replied softly. “We think she’s been poisoned with manticore venom.”

The mare looked down at her mother and attempted to keep from breaking into sobs as she asked, “What can we do?”

I released Moonbeam and made my way over to them, taking a knee next to the three ponies. “We sent for Fluttershy for help. We have to wait for her.”

I could tell this wasn’t what the mares wanted to hear, but they nodded as I said so.

Please hurry, ‘Shy...

Chapter 21: Pour Gas on the Fire

Chapter 21: Pour Gas on the Fire

Time passed agonizingly slow, yet at the same time, it seemed there wasn’t enough time. Every second was agony, but I still attempted to hold onto them. Each moment counted another tick of time that worked against Lily.

Fluttershy, thankfully, arrived relatively quickly, but in the thirty minutes it took for her and the guards to return, the alicorn’s condition rapidly deteriorated. She was now violently shivering as her body temperature continued to drop, and it took the four of us that were there just to keep her from freezing to death. Furthermore, her eyes had begun bleeding, giving a very frightening appearance to the whole thing. Her heartbeat slowed to near-nothing, and she no longer even opened her eyes.

Time was running out.

“It’s not just manticore venom.” Fluttershy explained as she looked over the princess with worry clear on her face. She fished a small bag out of her saddlebag and tossed it in front of us, causing a small white mushroom to fall out. “That’s a Icecap mushroom. It’s a magical mushroom that grows naturally only in one part of the Everfree Forest. By itself, it can be used to add a slight cooling sensation to foods, a little like mint.”

“But...?” I asked warily.

Fluttershy was too worried to be shy at the moment, and simply sighed as her head dropped low. “When combined with the magic venom of a manticore, its properties are radically increased. It becomes highly volatile when exposed to fire or water, and can freeze an entire lake solid on contact.” Fluttershy then turned her eyes to the shivering princess, who was likely in a great deal of pain. “When used as a poison like this though, it causes the victim to slowly freeze to death, turning the water within their body to ice.” The pegasus then walked closer to us and shook her head at the fallen alicorn. “The only reason Princess Celestia has survived this long is because of the amount of magic she has inside of her. Her magic is protecting her, but it will run out soon.”

I took a deep sigh of resignation and nodded. “Alright...so what can we do?”

Fluttershy actually smiled, and her change in expression caused me to hope. “We can make the antidote.”

“Cool,” I replied, trying to speed the process along, “what do we need?”

She looked to me warily again. “The ingredients are very difficult to find, and I think her attackers were putting their bits on that. What we need is five things: a tuft of phoenix down, phoenix tears, two drops of liquid rainbow, a pinch of moondust, and a pint of dragon’s blood.”

I thought for a moment before asking, “Okay, the rest of those things seem relatively easy to get, but what the hell is moondust?”

“Just what it sounds like.” Luna replied worriedly. She then turned her eyes to Fluttershy and stated, “If it will save her, I will fetch it.”

“It will.” Fluttershy assured. She then turned to me. “Luna can get the moondust, and Moonbeam can get some feathers and tears from Philomena...I’ll get Rainbow Dash to help me get the liquid rainbow. You have to wait until we get back for the blood, because dragon’s blood is too acidic to keep contained in anything but a crystallized magic vial...and I don’t think even the princesses have any of those.”

“We do not.” Luna affirmed.

Fluttershy nodded again. “Like I thought. Alright then, we’ll be back soon. Keep watch over Princess Celestia and keep her as warm as you can.”

I nodded and watched as the two mares flew away, leaving me with two very frightened ponies and a dying princess.

“Dad?” Moonbeam spoke softly, and my heart soared at the term she used.

I looked to the unicorn and nodded. “Yes Moonbeam?”

“Is...” she began, only to trail off as she fought to compose herself, “is auntie Lil gonna be alright?”

“She better.” Spitfire answered with an angry grating of her teeth. “Otherwise Koa won’t have to do his mission...I’ll personally take them out myself.”

I couldn’t muster a snappy response at the moment, and instead turned to my daughter. “Moonbeam, go and get the ingredients from Philomena. If you tell her what’s at stake, I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to help.”

“Okay,” she answered as she released me, “just keep her safe...I’ll be right back.”

As the unicorn galloped away, this just left me and the Wonderbolt captain alone in the throne room.

“She’s your daughter?” the yellow pegasus asked curiously.

I nodded with a grin. “Life has a funny way about things...I’m sure you can attest to that.”

“Yeah.” Spitfire replied sadly, wrapping her wings around her mother in an attempt to keep her warm. “I could’ve been a princess, you know...even an alicorn, like her.”

“But you chose not to be.” I observed. I then laid my large wing around Lil and pulled myself close to her in an attempt to keep her warm with my body heat, and while her shivering did not stop, she unconsciously scooted a bit closer to me.

The pegasus mare nodded a few times slowly, as if remembering a painful memory, “Yeah...yeah, I did. I’ve been wondering lately if I made a mistake though.”

In the back of my mind, I knew why we were keeping the conversation going. A part of me really was interested about Spitfire, but like her, I also wanted to distract myself from the severity of the situation and the truth of the fact that at the current time, there was nothing I could do other than what I was already doing.

“Why would you be second-guessing yourself?” I asked in confusion. “You’re Spitfire, captain of the Wonderbolts. Most pegasi in the world want to either be you or be with you...what’s bad about that?”

The fiery-maned pony looked sadly at the shivering alicorn in our grasp and sighed. “How would you feel if you couldn’t tell your own mother that you loved her in public? Or even call her that for that matter? How would you feel if your entire life, who you were, was a lie?”

I thought about it for a moment before nodding. “Perhaps I don’t know exactly what you’re feeling, but regardless of what you are, who you are wouldn’t change. You’ll still be Spitfire either way.”

She leveled her gaze with me and replied, “There’s a big difference between Spitfire the Wonderbolt captain and Spitfire the princess.”

“Only if you let there be.” I replied calmly. She looked quizzically at me, and I sighed. “Spitfire, look at me. I’m a freaking dragon when I used to be a human. I have memories that span thousands of years, as well as strange abilities that make no sense to me. Celestia is my best friend from eons ago, and Luna used to be my wife...my queen. Now I’m reunited with both of them and am still working to play catch-up with everything that’s happened, as well as trying to find my place in the world.” I then looked to the pegasus’ amber eyes and smiled. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have a say in the matter though. No matter what you believe, ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’ don’t decide our places in the world...we do. We are who we choose to be.”

From beneath me I felt and heard a large crack of what sounded like glass breaking, along with a whimper of pain from the white alicorn. I looked to see her right forehoof beginning to ice over, and a large crack ran through the center of it, along with a large amount of bloody ice crystals.

Spitfire gulped audibly, and extended her wing to cover my own as she pulled herself closer to the princess. “I hope they hurry up...we don’t have much time left.”

A mercifully short amount of time later, the three mares returned with the ingredients, though Luna looked rather shaken up by her return to the moon, short as it may have been. I could also see a fire in her eyes, however...the determination to save Celestia that overrode her own discomfort. Philomena herself returned with them as well, and the phoenix also looked rather worried for her master.

Fluttershy pulled a scroll out of her saddlebags and began to combine all the reagents together into a ceramic bowl, and after all was well and done, Philomena dipped her head over the bowl and let a few tears fall from her golden eyes, causing the different objects within the bowl to liquify with a hiss into an odd-smelling paste.

“Now,” Fluttershy began, all common timidness discarded, “we need your blood, Koa.” She pointed to a line drawn on the inside of the bowl and stated, “Fill it up to there.”

I nodded and brought my teeth to my wrist, tearing open my scales and skin and allowing arterial blood to flow as I brought my arm over the bowl. The concoction hissed again as my blood touched it and changed color from a grayish mess to a golden, glowing liquid.

As the last of the blood needed dropped into the bowl, I used my free hand to squeeze the crease of my arm at my elbow, slowing the blood flow to a gentle ooze. I thought for a minute about how I should go about stopping the wound (perhaps I was a little hasty in ripping open my wrists).

“Here.” spoke a gentle voice within my mind, and I nearly shouted in surprise.

I looked around a bit until I noticed Philomena holding her wing out to me, before plucking a single feather from the outstretched limb. I took the feather before turning to the others and asking, “Okay, did anyone else hear that?”

“Hear what?” asked Spitfire in confusion, though her gaze didn’t break with Fluttershy as she watched the fellow pegasus whisper to the ill princess, coaxing her to drink the liquid in the bowl.

I stared for a moment before the same voice from before added, “They cannot hear me, Koa...only you.” I turned again and caught eyes with the phoenix, whose intense stare seemed to soften somewhat. She gestured to the feather as the voice said, “Rub it on the wound...it will heal it and stem the flow of blood.”

I took the feather and did as the voice asked, and nearly instantly, the blood vessels, skin, and scales knitted back together with an itching sensation.

Within a few seconds, the wound was closed and my hide like new, and I again turned my eyes to the phoenix. I came to terms with the fact that somehow Philomena was talking...well, thinking to me, so I went about asking, “Why am I the only one that can hear you?”

Though her face didn’t change, she seemed to smile slightly. “You know of how avian hatchlings imprint on the first being they see, yes?” I nodded. “Well, for a phoenix, the bond goes much deeper than a mere parental figure.”

Not wishing to disturb Fluttershy as she worked, I moved closer to the tall bird and whispered, “How so?”

“Well,” she began, also moving closer to me, “we share certain aspects of one another. The one who I have imprinted upon would gain my ability to hear the thoughts of others.” It took a few moments, but all the pieces fell into place in my mind and I gasped. Philomena nodded. “Yes...who do you think introduced me to Celestia?” She then giggled lightly and said, “And now I shall add one more piece of the puzzle to your life. We knew each other, long ago in the time you came from. Think...Kailua, 1992.”

I thought for a moment before responding. “I was living with my mother and father in a house in town. I don’t really remember having any friends per-se, although there was this one girl...that...” My words petered out as the memories washed over me, and I remembered my childhood.

I was five at the time, and I remember a little girl with bright blonde hair and a smile that could melt a glacier. We grew up together...and a lot of times, she was my only friend. I didn’t care that the other boys in the town would make fun of me for hanging out at the beach with a girl, and I didn’t care that I liked it when she would hug me or hold my hand. What I did care about was when her father took her and moved to the mainland of the States...not even giving me a chance to say goodbye.

As most young memories do, this particular memory was buried deep in my mind, becoming a fleeting shadow among a sea of memories. Sure, there were times I would have dreams about her, or be reminded of the memory, which I could never quite grasp.

There are many times as a young child that we begin to experience romantic attraction, before we understand what it is and before our psyche even knows how to handle it. Adults call it “puppy love”, but the truth was that girl from my past was my first love. She was also my first friend, which cemented her in my heart forever.

But there was just no way...this was too coincidental to be real.

I shook my head in disbelief. “N-No...this can’t be real. This is just a little too unbelievable...even for me.”

“Really?” the phoenix commented, her voice smiling. “Well how about this then: you must remember the first time we met. As I remember it, it was your fourth birthday, and I was invited. I mean, everyone from our preschool class was invited since there was only five of us, but I still brought you a present anyway. It was a wreath of flowers my mother taught me how to weave, along with a kiss on the cheek that I surprised you with.”


“What color were the flowers?” I asked gently, shuddering a bit from the worry that she may be messing with me...or even worse, that she wasn’t.

Philomena stared right back at me and answered, “Blue to match my eyes, and white, since it was your favorite color. In fact, I remember commenting that white isn't a color, and we argued for a few minutes about it...but you still liked my first gift. The second, I’m not so sure of...you never told me if you did.” Another tear drops down the feathers of her face, but this was not one of healing...it was instead a tear of loss. “I never forgot you, Koa...even after you left. Ever since I came to understand the way the world works now, I’ve been searching for you...hoping one day to find you. Lo and behold, it appears you never left...I was just looking in the wrong place. That day I first hatched as a phoenix, that first glimpse at your face and your smile, I knew who you were. I’d never forget your smile.”

Had I not already been sitting down, I would have fallen over.

Philomena then used her beak to brush away the feathers of her chest, and she reached in and pulled out something...and my mouth dropped open. It was a shark-tooth necklace...the gift I gave to that girl so many years ago before my dad up and stole me away from her, and from home.

“You gave this to me the day before you left, and promised me we’d always be ‘bestest friends’.” she explained gently.

It took a few minutes for me to compose myself, but the first question I asked was, “But why am I the only one who can hear you? I still don’t get it.”

The phoenix stepped over to me and extended her wing across my back. “Because the bond you and I share is stronger than distance...stronger than time. You were my first friend in the world, both in Hawaii and now. When I first hatched as a phoenix four-thousand years ago, you were the first face I saw...and my mind and heart reached out to you. Your ability to hear me is the culmination of that. Magic found away...let that be the simplest explanation.” She then sighed and slumped a bit. “However, rebirth as another is no longer possible for me. When I chose the form of a phoenix, I became locked into this form. As a phoenix is already a being of endless rebirth, I will forever be what I am now.”

Emotions long-buried bubbled up within me, and I didn’t stop myself as I brought my arm around the back of the tall avian, and closed my eyes as I pressed my cheek to her own. To know that I had such a loyal friend who literally never forgot me was amazing. It seemed I was more popular in my life as a human than I originally thought.

“She’s stabilized,” I heard Fluttershy state from behind me.

I turned to look at the scene and was pleased to find that the sun princess was no longer shivering violently...but she was, however, bleeding from all four of her hooves, her eyes, and her ears.

I released Philomena from my grasp and crawled over to the five mares. “So, what do we do now? She’s losing a lot of blood.”

“She will be fine now,” Luna assured. “For a normal pony, this would be dangerous...but an alicorn will survive just fine.” The night princess motioned to me and said, “Please carry her to our private infirmary. Moonbeam can show you where it is.”

I nodded and turned to Spitfire. “Cool. It’s been awhile since I left Dash and the girls though. Can you go and tell them everything’s alright? They’re probably freaking out a little.”


I turned my eyes to the source of the noise to find that Fluttershy had fainted. It seemed the stress of the day had finally caught up with her now that the problem had been resolved.

I sighed as I turned my eyes to Luna and asked, “Can you make sure she gets home alright? She’s a dear friend and she’s been through Hell today.”

The night princess nodded before making her way to the timid pegasus and using her muzzle to nudge Fluttershy onto her back. Luna then smiled gently at me before walking away.

Spitfire then turned to me and said, “Thanks for everything, Koa...I really do appreciate it. I’ll take the train with this filly and be back in the morning.” She then walked closer to me and whispered, “Take care of my mother for me...please.”

I nodded. “She’s dear to me as well, so don’t worry. Celestia will be fine.”

Spitfire nodded once more before slowly trotting away, making her way to the atrium where Dash would be waiting.

I sighed before kneeling before the white alicorn and gathering her into my arms as gently as possible. I then lifted her bridal-style and stood, quickly making my way with Moonbeam and Philomena towards the palace infirmary.

It goes without saying that the infirmary staff were in an uproar over what had happened, mostly because of the fact that this was the first time in written history they’d actually tended to Celestia directly...or needed to, for that matter. Moonbeam and I did our best to calm the panicky doctors and nurses, but for the most part, it was useless. It was unlikely they would calm themselves before they were positive their princess would be fine.

And so, we waited.

Philomena and Moonbeam kept me company of course, though I had to explain to my daughter just who the phoenix was to me. Let it be said that it took some convincing for Moonbeam to believe I could “hear” Philomena talk to me, and it came at the cost of revealing some rather personal information about my daughter that only Philomena had known...namely the fact that two nights ago, Moonbeam had snuck a colt into her room after curfew.

Though open-minded I may be, there are some things about my daughter I am fine not knowing about...specifically, her love life.

However, after the three of us had settled in a bit and waited for news from the clinic staff, I had a rather important question pop up in my head regarding my daughter’s change of heart.

“Why so loving all of the sudden, Moonbeam?” I asked bluntly.

The unicorn looked up at me with a raised eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

I shrugged. “I mean that the last time I saw you, you were reluctant to call me by anything but my name.”

Moonbeam smiled at me and said, “A long time ago, you told me that the definition of love is someone you care enough about that you would bleed for them...kill for them...die for them. Maybe you’ve been gone a long time and maybe you don’t remember a lot of things, but you’re still my dad. You’re still the same, whether you remember or not. What you did today proves it.”

“How exactly does that prove it?” I asked skeptically.

Moonbeam was silent for a moment before asking, “What did mom tell you about how you died? Back during the Old Kingdom, I mean...before the Age of Darkness.”

I shrugged. “She told me that I was assassinated while we slept.”

“Untrue.” Moonbeam stated firmly. I arched my eyeridge and waited for her to continue, and with a sigh, she did. “Mom blamed herself for it, and let you think that because you couldn’t remember.”

Dread began to set within me, and I unconsciously started clenching my hands. “So what really happened then? And why would she lie to me?”

“Because she hates herself for it...” Moonbeam explained, though cryptically. She then took a deep breath and said, “It was a rival dragon faction that no longer exists. Basically, they found it blasphemous that a human and dragon were together...mom wasn’t a pony yet at that point. Dragons have always idealized their kind, some more so than others.” My daughter leaned against me as she continued. “Auntie Tia told me that the three of you fought them off together until the end.”

“The end?” I asked, demanding clarification.

She nodded. “You sent both of them away while you stayed and fought alone.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “I know the two of them pretty well, and I think it’s safe to say me asking them to leave wouldn’t work.”

Moonbeam shook her head and sighed. “It didn’t...that’s why you had a tornado pick them up and drop them off on a mountain summit. By the time they made it back to what is now the Everfree, you had already been slain. To pay homage to your memory, they forever marked the spot where they appeared on the mountain...and eventually built a city around it. Care to guess where this spot is and what the city became?”

I thought for a moment, trying to imagine how Lil and Diz would have acted in the situation...

“The Pedestal of Sun and Moon...and Canterlot.” I stated slowly. I then turned my eyes to the unicorn and asked, “Why? What makes me so important to, well, everyone? Seems almost everyone I’ve met has had a stake in my life at some point, or does now, or will in the future.”

Moonbeam smiled warmly and answered, “He who has a kind heart, an open mind, and the strength to defend those he cares for is likely to draw the attention of many. It makes sense that so many would want to be a part of your life. You have a great presence about you...you have the power to do a lot of good with it too.”

I chuckled and shook my head. “I’m just trying to do as good as I can without screwing up too much. So long as I don’t accidentally kill anyone, that’s good enough for me.”

“It’s good enough for us too, Koa. We missed you for so long.” Philomena commented.

I sighed and leaned back against my seat, feeling the two females close against me. “I’m going to have to talk to Luna about the past. It’s not right that she should be carrying around this pain for so long, especially when it wasn’t her fault.”

“That’s a stubborn mare you’re dealing with, dad...good luck.” Moonbeam quipped.

I felt a big goofy grin cover my face as I said, “Call me sappy, but I love it when you call me that.”

“Sappy.” Moonbeam prodded with a smirk.

I rolled my eyes and nudged her with a smile.

Hours passed, and I began to notice a pattern in the behavior of the nurses that would enter and leave the room Celestia was in. It seemed that the innocence in their mind that had once seen their princess as invincible was destroyed, but with this also came the determination to make her well again.

Sometime during all of this, I must have fallen asleep, as the next thing I knew I was being gently shaken awake by a white coat-wearing burgundy stallion with a yellow mane and tail.

“Skylord Zizzanasx, please wake up.” he whispered, being careful not to wake the unicorn and phoenix at my sides.

I sat up slowly and rubbed my eyes, mumbling, “What is it?”

“She is awake...and she wishes to see you.” he explained with a relieved smile.

I had to restrain myself from jumping up and doing a flip in the air, mainly because of the fact the building wasn’t big enough for that. Still, I allowed myself a beaming smile as I slowly stood and nodded. “Sweet. Take me to her.”

The doctor nodded and gestured down the hall. “Follow me, please.”

“So how is she? All things considered, I mean.” I asked him eagerly.

The doctor smiled and replied, “Very well. Had she not been an alicorn, she would not have survived. However, she should make a full recovery. I will warn you, she will be quite weak for the next few days at least, and now that you know she is being targeted, I would keep a close eye on her.”

“Now that the guards know, they’ll be on red-alert 24/7.” I replied.

The doctor nodded before stopping outside the door, his calm façade falling away as he pleaded, “Please...please watch over her, skylord.”

I nodded with a smile. “I’ve given my own blood to save her...and I would gladly do it again if needed.”

The pony nodded with a relaxed smile before pushing the door open, and we walked through the threshold.

Within the room were all manner of different monitors, some of which I recognized, others I did not. The most notable feature of the room however, was a bright smile from the princess of the sun herself...and the smile was for me.

“Lil.” I choked out, not caring if the doctor heard me.

The white alicorn looked ragged, and her pastel mane looked duller somehow, but the smile did not waver as she reached a hoof out to me. “Koa...”

Foregoing all pretense, I quickly made my way to the bedside before leaning down and embracing one of my oldest friends in a tight hug, though I took care to keep from hurting her. As relief finally washed over me, the tears I had held back all day finally broke free, and I wept heavily. The worry and fear I had felt all day seemed to leave my body through the tears themselves, and after a few minutes when I had finished, it felt as though a great weight had been lifted from me.

I pulled my face away from the chest of the pony and smiled warmly. “Heya, Cel. I’m so glad you’re okay.”

“I think ‘okay’ is a relative term. I will survive, yes, but I have not felt this weakened since after my battle with Nightmare Moon before she was banished.” the alicorn princess replied dryly.

I smiled in response and turned to the doctor in the room, who was checking over the different monitors and taking readings down onto a clipboard, his levitating pen scribbling furiously. “So when can she leave?”

The doctor looked up from the chart and said, “We would like to keep her overnight for observation, but if all is well, she will be able to leave tomorrow morning at around 08:00.”

I looked down at the princess and nodded. “Alright then. I have to go and do damage control with Luna, as I’m sure the palace staff is worried for you, but I should be back tomorrow morning to take you home.” I then leaned down and gave a soft brush of my lips to her forehead, and rubbed my thumb gently on the spot. “Get some sleep, Lil.”

She nodded softly before closing her eyes and turning away, taking care to be gentle with her bandaged hooves.

I turned to the doctor and commanded, “Take good care of her.”

He nodded before taking my place beside her, checking over her different bandages and taking down more readings from the monitors. With the peace of mind that she would be okay, I excused myself from the room and headed back to the waiting room.

Moonbeam, Philomena and I all arrived back at the palace ten or so minutes later, and immediately set about reassuring everypony there, as they were on the verge of a full-blown panic when we arrived. I confirmed with all of them that their princess was indeed okay, and she would likely be returning the following day, which calmed the nerves of most of the palace staff, though the guards were still very on-edge. It was clear that they were keeping their eyes open for any infiltrators in the palace.

Truth be told, had I not had more personal matters to attend to, I would have flown to destroy the organization that attacked Lil.

It took some doing, but I eventually convinced Luna that Cel was going to be alright, and thanked her profusely for her efforts in retrieving the moondust we needed so much. It was clear she was more than a little shook up by the whole incident, but stated she would do it all again if the situation called for it.

With everyone finally caught up to speed and calmed as much as they could be, I headed home...ready to see the two ponies I had missed all day.

”Koa!” squealed Scootaloo as soon as I entered my home, and I felt as her small frame slammed into my chest at a speed that would likely leave a bruise. Still, it was more than worth it, and I chuckled as I hugged the filly tight against me.

“Heya, Scoots. Sorry about bailing on you and your friends at the palace.” I apologized gently.

The orange filly shook her head with a smile. “It’s okay. Rainbow Dash told me you were helping the princess because she was hurt, so it’s okay. But hey, I got to meet Spitfire! It was so cool!”

I nodded with a grin. “Yeah, she was pretty cool. I figured you’d want to meet her, so I asked her to escort you and Dash home. Speaking of, where is our rainbow-maned friend?”

“Up here, Koa!” shouted Rainbow Dash’s voice from upstairs. “I’m all sweaty from practice, so I had to shower. I’ll be down in a few minutes!”

I chuckled and nodded before turning back to Scootaloo. “Alright then. What do you say we make something to eat then? I don’t know about you, but today has really given me an appetite. As the gryphon saying goes, ‘I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.’”

Scootaloo giggled and said, “I don’t think there are any horses around here, and ponies might get upset anyway.”

I raised my eyeridge with a smirk and said, “Well then...I’ll just have to eat the witnesses...”

The pegasus filly backed up a bit in fear before I scooped her up and started nibbling all over her shoulders, arms, legs, and cheeks, making “nomming” noises as I did so. Scootaloo began flailing wildly, laughing very loudly the whole time.

It was then that I was caught off guard by a loud and passionate voice singing from upstairs...

“...Between the velvet lies
There's a truth that's hard as steel
The vision never dies
Life's a never ending wheel
Holy Diver..”

A certain rainbow-maned pegasus then descended to the main room, and smiled at me. “Oh hey, Koa.”

I had stopped tickling Scootaloo and was now staring blankly at Rainbow Dash. “You were just singing ‘Holy Diver’.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I was.”

I raised my eyeridge as I asked, “How by the power of Luna’s royal rump do you know that song?”

The cyan mare giggled and shook her head. “It’s one of the most popular songs out there right now, done by Dio.”

My eyes widened as I asked, “Dio? As in Ronnie James Dio?”

Dash quirked her eyebrow up as she replied, “No, as in the artist called Dio. His real name’s Shiny Diamond.”

At this, I burst out laughing, dropping Scootaloo as I fell onto my back and literally rolled on the floor in laughter. This lasted for a few minutes until I could finally compose myself enough to sit up.

I chuckled a bit and wiped a stray tear away as I looked to the two pegasi, who were staring at me in confusion. I cleared my throat and said, “I don’t remember much from my time, but the one thing I do remember is the music I liked, as well as who did it. I don’t even know who Ronnie James Dio is, but my mind is telling me that’s who originally did the song, and I’m willing to bet bits that this Shiny Diamond guy is his reincarnation...especially if he came up with the same song and it’s as popular as I think it should be.”

“It’s number one on the music charts, and has been for the past three months.” Dash explained.

I chuckled. “Yep, that’s him.”

Rainbow Dash pursed her lips and nodded. “Awesome. He has a concert coming up at the Wonderbolts show if you want to go see him. I think it’d be pretty darn cool, I’ve always wanted to see him...and it’s at a Wonderbolts show! It’s win-win!”

I nodded. “Sounds like a plan, when is it?”

Dash thought for a moment before answering, “In about two months. I’ll get the details for you when I can.”

I grinned as I stood again. “Sounds like a plan, Dashie. Anyway, I’m actually feeling kinda lazy right now, so what say we all head out to dinner. I don’t feel like cooking.”

“Sounds awesome, Koa.” Dash replied with a smile.

Dinner was a calm affair, thankfully, though I ended up having to explain to Applejack what had happened, since we met her at the diner we went to. She had been worried, rightfully so, when her sister returned home saying that something bad had happened in Canterlot. I did my best to calm the earth pony mare, but not with much luck. Applejack was known to worry quite a bit about things she had no control over, a trait she shared with Twilight. Still, she conceded to go and relax at home when I told her I would forward any new information we received to her though she had been content with this, she was still nervous.

When the three of us arrived back at my place, I started the light overnight rain that was scheduled before closing the door with a sigh.

The day as a whole had been stressful, and I still had a job to do tomorrow.

The three of us didn’t do much else besides bathe (for the two of us that needed to), so we all ended up in my bedroom after such a long and stressful day.

The crescent moon rose high into the sky, obscured by the clouds, and yet I could see its light through the breaks in the clouds. It was a very relaxing night, and yet I still could not find rest.

Thinking about what was to come tomorrow and the next few weeks was worrying me.

It would mark the longest amount of time I’d been away from my loved ones and friends, as well as the first time I would have no backup available to me. Should something go wrong, I was utterly and completely on my own, and would be at the mercy of fate if worse should come to worst. For the first time I could remember, I was afraid of death. I had so much in my life worth living for now, and this would be a very dangerous task I was set upon. More than just my own fears though, were thoughts of how Dash or the others would react to my mission going badly.

I tried to push the thoughts out of mind as I attempted to rest some, though I knew I would not be able to sleep...not that I really needed to.

It took Dash moving at my side to snap me back to reality, and as I looked at her and the small filly by her side, I allowed myself a smile. In that moment, my hope and confidence was renewed.

Dashie and Scoots...they were my reason for doing what I did. To protect them, to provide for them...it was my entire reason for being. I wished to give Dash a stable and happy life and a mate she could be proud of, and I drove to give Scootaloo a world where she wouldn’t need to be afraid of the shadows. It was idealistic, but it was a goal worth fighting for.

As I thought about who I would be targeting during the next few weeks, I allowed myself a malicious smile.

For the first time, the Demon will truly be unleashed.

Author's Notes:

Song mentioned is "Holy Diver", by Dio on the album Holy Diver.

Chapter 22: Shards of Memories

Chapter 22: Shards of Memories

PoV ‒ Rainbow Dash

I watched with worry as Koa slung his rucksack over his arms and shoulders before doing a walk around his house, making sure everything was in order before he left.

It was scary...I’d never seen him like this before. The gentleness in his eyes was gone, and in its place was a raging storm the likes I’d never seen before. It was like while he slept, someone swapped out his heart and soul with somepony else, and while he would offer a smile to me or Scootaloo whenever our eyes met with his, the smiles were nowhere near as warm and inviting as they normally were. It was the first time that Koa was actually scaring me...

The gathering thunderhead outside didn’t help my nerves either.

I knew why he was like this though. Celestia was like his younger sister, and with how protective he already was of his friends (in addition to his natural dragon instincts), I was actually surprised he’d kept himself calm for this long. I didn’t really want him to go...but I also knew he had to. This was something he had to do, more now than ever because these enemies attacked Equestria directly...I couldn’t truthfully say I wouldn’t be equally upset if they had come after Scootaloo, or any of my other friends.

Still...I didn’t want him to lose himself to revenge.

An hour later the three of us ‒ me, Scootaloo, and Koa ‒ were gathered out in front of Koa’s home to see him off, and we were greeted by a massive cumulonimbus cloud the likes of which I’d never seen before. Its base covered all of Ponyville, as well as extending to cover both the Whitetail Wood and the Everfree Forest. Lightning jumped around inside the cloud itself, causing it to flash every now and then, and the amount of wind shear coming off of the cloud structure was enough to cause my instincts to make my wings flare in a flight response.

I looked nervously to my stallionfriend (or is it dragonfriend?) and said, “Not the most subtle.”

Koa stared at the cloud with a stern gaze. “I’m done with subtlety. I want them all to know I’m coming from dozens of miles away...I want them to know I’m hunting them, and no matter where they run or try to hide, they’re going to be found and will pay for what they tried to do to Lil.” He then turned to Scootaloo and I and pulled us into a tight hug, which even though I was nervous, I returned. “Keep each other safe, and keep an eye on the news.”

“Wait, what?” Scoots asked in confusion as he pulled away.

He turned away from us before saying, “So long as the storm lives, so do I. For our enemies, it will be something to be feared...for our friends, it is a sign of power and respect.” He then looked back at us with just the tiniest bit of electricity buzzing around his eyes. “It will also be an example of what will happen to anyone who threatens Equestria or its ponies.”

I stepped forward a bit, now actually scared for him. “Koa, you’re freaking us out.”

He shook his head. “Don’t worry about me, Dashie. I promise I’ll be alright and I’ll come back as soon as I can.” He then flapped his wings once and landed on top of the flanking line of the monstrous cloud before turning back to us. “I’m going to go and escort Celestia home and then I’ll be off. I can’t send letters, so just keep an eye on the news. I’ll try and let you all know somehow that I’m alright whenever I can.” His expression then finally softened and he added, “I love you both so much, and I’ll be thinking of you when I’m gone.”

I could feel the fear bubbling up within me, but I offered him a smile as I said, “We love you too...please be safe.”

Scootaloo suddenly shot past me and wrapped herself around his leg, pleading, “Please Koa...don’t go.” Her eyes teared up as she turned her gaze to his, and it broke my heart to see the normally-tough filly so afraid and vulnerable.

Koa reached down and pulled her off of him before bringing her up to his chest for a tight embrace. “Scoots, I have to go. I’m sorry, but I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can be. Everything’s going to be okay.”

She shook her head as tears continued to drop. “You don’t know that, though! Something could go really, really wrong!”

Koa looked down at the filly and ordered, “Scootaloo, I want you to listen to me.” She looked up at him attentively, and he smiled gently at her. “I am coming back. I don’t care if both my wings are broken and I have to crawl on my hands and knees...I’m going to make it home. Nothing will stop me from coming home to all of you.”

The determination in his eyes spoke of the truth of the statement...that no matter what, he would come back home to us. I felt better for some reason, just because of the sheer confidence he held.

Scootaloo nodded slowly. “Okay, Koa...be safe.”

He gave her one last squeeze before letting her go to fly back to the cloud home, and with one last look at the two of us, he closed his eyes and turned towards the northeast. Wind began to blow from out of nowhere, and the huge monster-cloud started to move towards Canterlot, and I watched as Koa flew straight up the side of it to stand on the anvil as it sped away.

I looked to Scoots nervously and asked, “I’m not the only pony who’s feeling really bad about this, am I?”

Scootaloo shook her head. “I don’t like it either. He’s being too...”

“Cold.” I offered.

She nodded. “Yeah. It kinda scares me.”

I shrugged. “Keep in mind what happened to Princess Celestia though. I gotta say that if I were in the same situation ‒ like if something happened to you ‒ I can’t say I would be anywhere near as calm as he is. Even though Celestia is...” I thought for a moment, “you know what, I’m not actually sure which between the two of them is older, but Koa sees her as a little sister.”

Scootaloo stared into the distance as the huge storm retreated. “Yeah...I can’t really level with you two on that though. No siblings, remember?”

I let out a soft, halting laugh before going silent again for a few moments. I then thought of something to distract both of us, so I looked to her and said, “Alright Scoots, we’re doing endurance training today. You’ve got flight mechanics down and you’ve got no problem as far as strength is concerned, but you’re not able to fly for very long.”

I looked over the young filly in front of me and smiled wide at the changes the years had brought upon her. Her once-tiny wings were now much larger and stronger, proportionately larger than mine, actually. She was steadily growing into quite the athlete, and already I could see the graceful, ropy muscles of a flier beginning to show. She was still thicker than I was, but only because she was still growing. A few years of good training, and she’d be the picture of pegasus athleticism. For the time being though, she had to deal with me, and I was far from an easy trainer. She had to stack up to me, after all.

I grinned evilly as I shouted, “Ten laps around Ponyville. Go!”

She grinned right back and took off as if she had been shot out of a cannon, and I followed her closely, never having been more proud of another pony.

PoV ‒ Celestia

It was a novel experience, being dependant on another. Yet, as I leaned on the reassuring strength of Luna as I walked back and forth across the room, I couldn’t help but smile. I was tired, sore, and more than a little grouchy, but having Luna beside me during the whole process was more than worth it.

“Uh, princess? I believe you should come take a look at this.” Doctor Steady Hoof beckoned.

I groaned a bit at the request, but limped (with Luna’s help) over to the large window that fed light into the physical therapy room. Quickly approaching in the distance was a storm front the likes of which I’d only seen before once...

“Koa.” I found myself whispering. I then looked to the doctor and Luna as I ordered, “Help me outside.”

A few moments later we stood outside the front of the royal infirmary, the clouds stopped overhead, save for a soft rotation that looked rather ominous. There was no wind, and only the occasional rumbles of thunder broke the silence.

Suddenly the clouds directly above extended down towards the ground, but in a column rather than a funnel. The column of cloudmass touched down directly in front of me, and when it dissipated, Koa was standing before us.

He smiled gently, obviously glad to see me standing. “Hey Cel.”

I tried to smile, truly I did, but I only showed worry on my face as I asked, “Koa, what’s happening?”

He sighed and jerked his head towards the palace. “I’ll explain when we get you home.” Without waiting for me to respond he bent down and picked me up in his arms effortlessly, reminding me again of just how strong he was. He then turned his gaze to Luna as he said, “Sign her out please, and then meet me in her quarters.”

Koa didn’t wait for Luna’s response before walking away, carrying me home...and I couldn’t stop myself from rubbing my cheek against his chest affectionately as he did so.

We arrived to my palace some time later, the guards eyeing us both curiously as we did so, but the questioning gazes were cut off when my private quarters’ door closed behind us, and I found myself gently set upon my own bed. A moment later I felt Koa sit down beside me as he began stroking my mane in an incredibly relaxing manner...almost making me forget about his behavior.


I raised my head weakly to look at him and asked, “Koa, what-”

He placed a finger on my lips and smiled gently. “I’ll explain when Diz gets here. For now just rest.”

I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get much out of him until Luna arrived, so I settled my head upon his knee as he continued stroking my mane, massaging my scalp gently.

A few minutes later Luna pushed the door open before stepping in and closing it behind her. I cracked open one eye to see her looking equal parts worried and relieved (a rather curious combination). Still, she was silent as she made her way over to us and sat in front of Koa as she glanced at me with a forced smile.

“I’ll explain,” Koa began, breaking the silence, “because I’m sure both of you want to know what’s going on.”

“That would be nice.” I replied softly.

Koa sighed before nodding. “Alright. Well to put it simply, this little spat with the Lunar Republic is going to be ending, and I’ll make sure the entire world witnesses what happens to someone who attacks Equestria or its people.”

I gasped at the sheer hostility in his voice and shook my head. “You cannot simply slaughter indiscriminately, Koa. It goes against everything Equestria is."

He shook his head. “I’ll announce my arrival and my intentions, giving those who are simply ‘following orders’ a chance to leave. I’m in this for justice. I mean, they had to know to expect retaliation. Them and groups like them have to know they can’t continue their activities without consequence, and since negotiations haven’t worked, it’s time for force. I’m not going to have you risking the lives of your ponies either...this is something I have to do.”

Luna moved forward with her brow furrowed and a frown upon her face, lifting her hoof to Koa’s face. “Koa...you do not have to do this. We can think of something else.”

He shook his head resolutely, leaving no room for a rebuttal. “Not at the cost of more ponies’ lives. One way or another, this will end.”

I strained my weak muscles as I sat up, my hooves shaking from the effort. “K-Koa, what about you?”

Again he shook his head. “I’ll be fine, I swear.” He then turned to me directly and said, “I need to speak privately with Luna for a moment, okay?”

He didn’t wait for a response before kissing me on the forehead, just below my horn.

The gesture, the emotions...it all reminded me of that time so long ago in the past when we were just regular people. He was my best friend...my brother. He cared about me and took care of me when I needed it the most, and I never got to truly thank him for it.

The four of us ‒ me, Dizzy, Koa, and Kayla ‒ always spent time together. We were as close as four unrelated people could be, and I don’t think blood could have ever made us any closer. Then came the time when Kayla became ill, and eventually passed on. It was one of the most difficult times of all our lives, and at times I still don’t know how we got through it...but we did. We survived and continued with life.

And then she changed everything.

The animated stories of what was now our world ‒ commonly known as My Little Pony ‒ took Earth by storm, becoming a worldwide sensation in a matter of months. Somehow someone had found a way to glimpse the future, whether they knew it or not, and began producing our events as a television show. It was truly confusing now that I thought about it, as even though it was not entirely accurate, it was enough to realize that someone had seen what was to become of Earth.

The Element-bearers ‒ commonly called the “mane six” ‒ became iconic within the community of those who followed the My Little Pony program. Even back then, I would often find myself having a strange connection with Celestia ‒ with my future self. Desiree too felt the same sort of connection with Luna, though she didn’t admit it...but I could tell. By far though, the one we always felt the closest to was Rainbow Dash. I suppose it was why when she suddenly showed up one day with Koa at the beach, we welcomed her easily. I remember thinking back then just how comfortable it felt to be around her, as if we’d always known each other.

The next few days after Rainbow Dash’s arrival in the past stuck with me for a long time, because it all happened so quickly. It seemed that one moment we were all getting to know Rainbow Dash, and then the next she and Koa were together. Shortly after that, Koa was struck by lightning, changed into some sort of monster, and then advised me that he was leaving everything to me as he traveled to some world that might not have even existed.

If only I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have worried.

Koa’s departure was not without its downsides, however. Not a day after he left, government agencies sought us out and detained us, taking away our freedom as if it were nothing to them...which I suppose it wasn’t. For weeks they interrogated Desiree and I for anything and everything we knew, but we told them nothing. They even resorted to torture the likes of which I never even knew existed...

But thankfully, the end of the world as we knew it freed us.

One day I found myself sitting alone in my solitary cell, awaiting whatever was going to happen to me next, and then suddenly the sky itself seemed to scream as a massive ball of flame tore through the atmospere. It exploded high in the sky with enough force to level buildings and flatten mountains. Thankfully for Dizzy and I, the blast was far enough away that only bits and pieces of the place we were held in were damaged...just enough so that we could escape. We got away, found each other, and ran. We ignored the strange glowing dust that fell from the sky upon our hair and skin, and just sought out a place to be safe.

The years passed quickly for Dizzy and I, as we were always on the run. We kept up with current events of course, and found that the glowing dust began having some strange effects on humans throughout the world. Strange mutations became commonplace among every race and every country. The different governments around the world saw the mutations as a pandemic (though no fatalities as a direct result of the mutations were ever reported), and attempted to find a cure or vaccine. These mutations were in response to the magic that had infused our world and the people that lived upon it, and so of course mere medicine was not enough to combat it.

And then one day, he was back.

Koa was the first of the three of us to fully mutate into his new form, that of a bright bronze dragon, the first skylord. He assured Desiree and I that all was progressing as it should, and that her and I were going to have a place in the “new” world of paramount importance. When our hair began to change and we started to manifest our magical talents, time began to skew. It didn’t seem like it at all, but hundreds of years began to pass in what only seemed like a few months. I suppose it was my first dose of the life of what was to be an alicorn...watching many pass on while we persisted.

One fateful day, the sun did not rise.

As the mutations had taken hold across the world, civilization as a whole collapsed. Vicious wars were fought, the power grids went completely offline, and we were thrown back into the dark ages of technology. The tense atmosphere that gripped Earth was only made worse when the sun and moon, the only two constant things about life for us, stopped. The sun never rose on its own again, and the moon simply sat in the sky, unwilling to move.

The flora of the world began to wither and die, and the fauna was not far behind.

We were starving ‒ me, Koa, and Diz. We were desperate. Severely malnourished and giving up on life as a whole, we would often just sit on the rooftop of our home (a log-cabin we’d found out in the mountains of northern Colorado), waiting for death to come to us.

I felt...something. As a human I could not explain it, but it felt like something...warm. It was calling to me, as if asking me for help, and as the days passed slowly, Diz confided in me she felt the same thing. So, one day ‒ one life-changing day ‒ I opened my heart and mind to the call as I instinctively reached my hand towards the horizon, where the call seemed to be coming from. Warmth and strength washed over me at that moment, and Diz gasped as she advised me the sun was rising into the sky.

She spoke to me...the sun.

Not in words, but in emotions and pictures. It was like speaking to an old friend, and by the end of our silent conversation (which only lasted a few seconds), I understood what I needed to do for this world. From that day on, I was no longer Lily. With my change of duty in the world, so too did my name change. I chose the name of Celestia, after the solar princess of Equestria. it just felt...right for some reason. Diz learned her own calling once night fell, and took the name of Luna, after the pony princess she seemed to take after. Little did we both know at the time that those same ponies were us, but even though we knew not who we were to become, we knew just how important we were.

Just like in the timeline we resided in now, Koa protected us. With our new power and Koa’s frightening new visage and strength, we were constantly hunted. The few remaining religions of Earth branded us demons or monsters, and we were seen as a stain upon the Earth, not its salvation. It was a thankless job in many ways, but for the continuation of life upon the planet, we all bore the burden of exile from the world as a whole.

For many, many years, it was the three of us...then Luna died.

It broke Koa and I, and even though I continued my duties, I found it difficult to truly find joy in life anymore. I took solace in the fact that I could at least move Luna’s moon in her stead, but it wasn’t much of a consolation. Luna had been taken so suddenly, becoming ill and then passing on within a month. It was true that we were finally showing wrinkles and other signs of age, but I hadn’t thought we had that little time left.

The two of us that remained soldiered on as life continued for us.

Five years had passed since Luna’s death, and I finally took the time to notice a familiar feeling gripping me. It was the same enigmatic “call” as when the sun was first calling for me, but it was different somehow. It felt more like a person than the sun, though I didn’t know (and still don’t) how to explain it. Once again I allowed the feeling to overcome me, and I reached out my consciousness.

I felt an explosion of magic somewhere in the world, though I didn’t know what it was at the time.

Three years passed since the night I had reached out to the “call”...and then suddenly one night, the moon moved on its own.

Years passed since the moon began moving of its own accord, but then Koa (or Zizzanasx as he preferred to be called) advised me that a young girl was being held in a bandit’s hideout in the long-destroyed city of New York, which was now known simply as “The Great City”. What caught my attention was the fact that the girl was rumored to be able to speak to the moon.

We moved to find her immediately.

With a full-grown dragon on our side, the girl was saved in record time without any casualties. Of course, I was stopped dead in my tracks when the sleeping girl awoke later that night to raise the moon...and she called me “Tia”.

Somehow, some way, it was Luna. No matter how we asked her, she was adamant that her name was Luna and that she knew who we were. She had memories that no one should have known but the three of us, dating all the way back to when we all met together in college.

It was then that I first understood that Luna had been reborn because of me calling her back.

With the next twenty or so years that passed, things began to change much more rapidly for us all. Most people didn’t even resemble humans anymore, and truth be told, I was rather nervous about the stark white fur growing over my entire body. I couldn’t even think about the changes to my hair, which had become a rainbow of cyan, turquoise, lavender, and magenta. And...I grew a tail as well. Both also defied gravity, and it was at that time that I realised I was Celestia. I didn’t just take after her, Celestia was me.

And that meant...

Yes, Luna was the Luna. Her skin had changed to a royal blue color, she was growing fur all over her body as well, and her hair had changed as mine had. She was much smaller than me of course, being a fraction of my age, and it was also at that time that I realized I’d have to explain to her how to “call” me home when I passed on.

Passing on and being reborn is an odd sensation. It happened in my sleep one night after Koa had been killed in battle by some rogue religious sects, and the next thing I knew, a bright light filled my vision as the world came back to me. It was a little like the horrible sleep that happens when you fall asleep and seem to wake up moments later, unrested and exhausted. I remembered very little about my previous life, only keeping memories having to do with Luna and Koa...which after I figured out how reborn memories worked, I realized it meant he was already alive again.

Just like I had found Luna, Luna found me and brought me home, telling me that Koa hadn’t come back. The both of us wept tears of loss, but moved on with our lives, keeping the sun and moon rising and falling over the world.

Normal people passed on in only a little over sixty years, but Luna and I persevered through millennia before we would pass on. We never saw Koa again after that, before the world went through the Age of Darkness.

And then suddenly...he was there.

Somehow he had called both Luna and I from across the void, and since one side of the planet was an inferno while the other was a frozen wasteland, I was unsure of how exactly he had been reborn, or even survived for that matter.

He was the first thing Luna and I saw when we returned to the world as mere children, a massive golden dragon that ruled the skies and brought life-giving rain to the parched world. Luna and I had been away from the world for so long that we were forced to re-learn nearly everything. The only things that were kept within the recesses of our minds were memories of Koa, and the instinctual ability to control our magic and the sun and moon.

The only safe area for Luna and I was the area of twilight, the space in between the halves of night and day where neither ruled over the other. It was light enough where strange breeds of plants could grow, but cool enough where it didn’t turn into a hellish world of fire. It was the place where we began anew.

It took many, many years, but eventually plant life began to return to the planet as a normal solar and lunar rhythm was set.

The residual magic of the planet itself, which Luna and I renamed Equis (a testament to what was to become of most of its people), did what science deemed impossible. It accelerated the evolutionary process from millions of years to a scant few thousand, and once sentient life came about, Luna and I spent time developing spells to give them sapience.

It took a few failed attempts, but eventually Luna and I formulated a spell to speed the evolution process even further, giving the simple life that existed a strong boost for future generations to advance. It only took a few decades for the planet to be as it was before the Age of Darkness, though it was noticeably lacking in any large cities anymore due to the twenty-thousand years of half firestorm, half darkness.

The three of us taught them all we knew, though somehow Koa retained more knowledge than we did. We instilled in them the values of harmony, while Koa gave them science, medical practices, and basic construction. He was no true master in anything, but he gave them enough to get a head start.

As we had basically created life from the ground up, I finally knew what it felt like to be a mother. Though not born of my flesh these people were my children, and I loved them as such.

Life moved on.

As time passed and the people became self-sufficient, they began to wish for someone to watch over them. Dragons were now in great numbers compared to the anthropomorphic ponies (ponies with humanlike characteristics) that were populating what would become the kingdom of Equestria, and my people cried out for protectors...for structure.

Thus, what would be known later as the Old Kingdom was born.

Koa had many diplomatic ties as the first and strongest of his kind, and so was often gone for long periods of time, leaving Luna and I to govern our people...or learn to anyway. After all, Luna and I were new to being exalted instead of hunted, and so it took some time for us to learn the correct way to rule such a large group of people. It was not without its “speed bumps”, but as a whole things turned out rather well. Something I found strange was that because of the nature Luna and I had with the moon and sun ‒ being equal yet opposite beings ‒ they believed we were sisters. It was untrue of course, but we were close enough to be just that, so I saw no reason to correct them...and Luna had far too much fun referring to me as “big sis”.

I had grown rather lonely for a suitor over the years, and so had chosen a mortal named Sweet Shop as a courter, who was also my first bodyguard as regent of the Celestial Kingdom. I was with him for forty years until he passed, and while his passing was a grievous wound on my heart, he left me the gift of a daughter of my own flesh.

Koa on the other hand had a rather active “social” life.

Over the next thousand years he courted the mare that would one day become Scootaloo, and after her passing (and his grieving of her), he found love again in the most unlikely of places...in Luna.

Truthfully I hadn’t thought the two of them compatible after all, as they had both been rather platonic for as long as I could remember, but one day the two simply hit it off without warning or pretense (as far as I knew). In all honesty though, the two of them worked quite well as a couple, and even had a daughter named Janice Kamakani, using the old human style of names for her own.

At the official marriage of Koa and Luna, the two were crowned King and Queen of the Celestial Kingdom by the populace. After all, save for Koa we were all still technically humans for the most part. Odd-colored skin and fur aside, of course. With that being the case there wasn’t much point in the kingdom being named Equestria yet, and certain things were different than what the television show in the past had portrayed.

A few things that I was able to experience and learn from were also some of the hardest.

First was war with the Blazing Scales radical dragon faction. Dragons as a whole were much larger and more powerful than most of the other races on the planet thus far, and a small group of them had come to the idea that because of that, they should rule everything however they see fit.

This, of course, didn’t go down so well with Luna.

Even as a normal human she had always been the more volatile of the two of us, and she never took anything “lying down”. With the help of Starswirl the Bearded (a rather brilliant but queer fellow, if ever there was one), she began producing new spells in scores. Where once we used our vast magic on a rather basic level (besides manipulation of the sun and moon), we were now preparing for war. It was a new situation on my part, as even though the world had its share of wars over the eons, this would be the first conflict I directly took part in.

It happened again...we lost him.

The three of us had been the last stand against the dragons before they reached our people, and it was a losing battle. We all knew it, but we couldn’t simply abandon our kingdom after four years of war. They needed us...all of us, and we would not leave them behind.

It was then, when times seemed the darkest, that Koa made a decision...one that would change our lives forever.

He pleaded to the sky itself, to the winds and the clouds, to save us. Not him...just Luna and I. The winds answered to his call immediately, whisking us away in a powerful whirlwind to a mountain summit as he fought alone against the enemies that remained.

After Luna and I gathered our bearings and realized what happened, we sped back with all haste to our castle in what would one day become the Everfree Forest. We had not grown wings as of yet, and so we simply ran the entire way. Even with enhanced strength and stamina, it took a long time...too long, actually.

When we arrived, the field was devoid of life. Save for a few smoking corpses and burnt patches of ground, there was nothing of note to be seen...until the blood. From the steps of our castle, a trail of blood led inside. The blood itself sizzled and smoked against the stone, which we had come to know was a familiar attribute of dragon’s blood.

We followed the trail to find a large golden dragon bleeding from several large wounds on his abdomen and throat, but we were already too late. Koa had passed possibly minutes before we arrived, sacrificing his own life to save those he loved the most.

The funeral itself was heartbreaking, and Luna took it the worst, of course. For a dragon, he had died very young, and so it was a tragedy in itself. After all, he could not be summoned back as we could. We had to wait for him to be reborn in his own time, and since something about the magic that made it possible also required the “slot” in time to be run out before another could be placed, we were forced to wait for him to return in what could be several thousand years.

Finally, though we didn’t know it at the time, the mutations for humans ceased.

Many, many years had passed, and I was reborn with Luna a great many times. Time itself seemed to blend together as Luna’s daughter and my own grew, started families of their own, and moved away from us...so that eventually it was just the two of us again.

We were ponies now, ponies of wings and horn; of magic, strength, and wisdom. In response, we renamed the pony nation Equestria, realizing that this was now who we were, and Equestria was our home.

We should have expected certain things, however.

Discord was, in fact, real. He was every bit the same as he had been portrayed in the silly television show so long ago, and was every bit as dangerous. He was able to make our magic useless against him, and even turned our own subjects against us. Again, we became fugitives in a hostile world.

The Elements of Harmony were created by Luna and I, over many, many years. The spells that created them required the sacrifice of a pure being though, and so Luna and I sacrificed our own lives time and time again while calling each other back to the world. It seemed like a simple enough issue to deal with, but because we had to wait for the sacrifice (by the stars, I hated that reference) to fully mature, the process spanned thousands of years, and the whole time, we hid while Discord tore the very world asunder in such a chaotic fashion that it would never look the same. The face of the world as a whole had been changed in a way that continental drift could not account for. Still we hid, even once the Elements were created, gathering our strength and planning for how to approach a being of chaos.

The world we returned to was alien. The races of the world had been scattered, the very laws of reality warped, and even night and day were constantly in flux. Our beautiful world, and even our children, had suffered because of our absence, and while I wanted to hate myself for it, I knew there had been no other way.

But now we could fix it.

The battle was not as it was in the stories. Before being given time to “cool off” in a stone prison for such a long time, Discord was a much different person. Violent, more chaotic...more dangerous. Luna and I nearly lost our lives multiple times before his vast magic stores finally exhausted themselves, for though ponies believed it otherwise, not even Discord’s magic was infinite.

We cornered him, beaten and exhausted, atop a certain mountain plateau, which would one day become the building site for Canterlot. Discord could not be killed, and he knew this, but what he didn’t know about was the Elements of Harmony. Luna wielded Honesty, Kindness, and Generosity, while I wielded Laughter, Loyalty, and Magic. For the first time, we unleashed their power into the world, and it turned the great chaos being Discord into a harmless statue.

Though further damage was prevented, Equis was never to be the same again.

A few years after the battle with Discord, Luna began acting strangely.

She assured me that all was well and I shouldn’t worry, but I knew she was the opposite of well. She mourned the loss of her husband, as well as the many casualties of the conflict with Discord...one of which was her daughter and her family.

She became cold and angry as she watched our subjects go about their lives. Even after the calamity with Discord, she found them to be contemptuous and petty, squabbling over the most unimportant things. The way she saw it, her losses far outweighed their own, and yet even she was able to put things aside and focus on what was important.

A part of her soul was festering with hatred, and the powerful magic within her transformed her into a true nightmare.

My battle with Nightmare Moon was legend, though the truth behind it was carefully hidden. What was written down in books and scrolls was that she had become jealous of me and held scorn for the ponies that did not revel in her night (which was never true). It was in an effort to keep the truth hidden, which was that she truly hated the ponies she had seen, and wished to punish them. Should the ponies ever learn that it was in fact punishment she’d had in mind, they would never trust her again...so I wove a lie to protect us.

Our dear Luna was not around to greet Koa when he returned, though he seemed...different somehow. True that any others but Luna and I would change in minor ways here and there if they were reborn, but something seemed to be missing that time. It was as if someone had taken his humor, his mischievousness, and even his laugh away. True that such things were not what the average pony would consider “important”, but knowing who he was and how he was supposed to be, it was just wrong somehow.

Still, he and I picked up where we left off, more or less. Some things changed however, namely the fact that he explicitly requested to be referred to as Zizzanasx instead of Koa, and he was much more calm and reserved. There was no mistaking who he was though, so I obliged with his request.

From there events unfolded as normal, or as normal as I could remember.

Twilight Sparkle was born, and with her, the cogs of fate were set in motion to bring Luna back to us, cleansed of her hatred and insanity. Discord escaped once again, but the new Elements of Harmony imprisoned him. The changelings invaded, Sombra was defeated, and life as a whole moved on.

Then, Zizzanasx began dying.

It was frightening to behold, my ancient friend again passing away, but this time he assured me he would return as he was. I was unsure at the time what he had meant, but when he advised me what needed to be done and what was to happen, I realized my place in the events.

I foresaw Rainbow Dash’s passing, and knew where she would be going. And then, I sent Spike to check on her and the past Koa. Lastly, I worked with Luna and Twilight to weave the spell that would bring them both back to us...

And I hoped with my whole being that I would hear Koa laugh again.

I came out of my past memories to see both Luna and Koa standing in front of me, Koa with a small smile, and Luna stifling giggles.

I raised my eyebrow as I asked, “What’s so funny?”

Luna pointed at me and explained, “Did you know whenever you are thinking very hard, you wiggle your nose and bite your tongue?”

“It’s adorable.” Koa added.

I snorted in indignation and stuck my tongue out at the both of them. “Stop making fun of me.”

Koa said nothing, simply making his way to me and embracing me tightly once again. After a moment he kissed my forehead again before stepping away. “I gotta go now, Lil. Luna’s going to take good care of you, okay?”

I nodded with a slightly worried expression. “I understand. Please be safe, Koa.”

He nodded before looking to Luna, who looked much more worried than I did. He then did something that likely surprised the both of us...

He cupped Luna’s face in his large hand and kissed her strongly.

Luna’s eyes went completely wide in shock, and I imagine mine were not much different, but after a moment, Luna’s eyes fluttered closed, and she pushed into the oral embrace. Koa wrapped his arms around her as he deepened the kiss, and after a minute or so, they broke apart.

Luna was panting slightly as she breathed out, “W-what...why...?”

Koa caught his breath and smiled gently, tracing his thumb along her jawline. “Because even though I’m devoted to Rainbow Dash, I do love you, Luna...I’ll always love you, just like I’ll always love Rainbow Dash. Should the extremely unlikely happen and I’m killed, I want you to know that...just in case.”

She smiled gently at his words, and I saw a tenderness in her smile and her eyes that I had not seen in what felt like several lifetimes, which might have been the case. She simply nodded before stepping over to me, and we both watched as he left without another word.

After the doors closed, I smirked with newfound confidence.

“The sun and moon will watch over you, Demon of Equestria.”

Chapter 23: Rolling Thunder

Chapter 23: Rolling Thunder

PoV ‒ Rainbow Dash

Following Koa’s recommendations, we all kept our eyes on the news. With me being me, I didn’t like not being able to actively do anything, but there wasn’t much I could do. Luckily, Luna and Scootaloo kept me company at night, while AJ and Fluttershy kept me busy during the day, but for the most part, I was just anxious about it all. After all, three weeks was a long time no matter who you were. At first things were pretty quiet on the news, with nothing any of us would have been able to pin on Koa happening.

Then the reports began to come in.

Just two days after Koa left, a huge storm front the likes of which nopony had ever seen was building outside of Stalliongrad, meaning he had had covered over a hundred miles with his storm. I guess normally that speed would have been considered slow to me, but since he was moving an entire storm front with him against the normal wind patterns, it was unreal. Since Equestria hadn’t had an unplanned storm in over a century, such a large storm front was causing nervousness across the entire country. Luckily for us (and Koa), no damage or deaths had been reported. Frankly, the very fact that the storm just kept building without release was worrying the nearby weather pegasi almost as much as the fact that the storm wouldn’t respond to their attempts to redirect or dissipate it. Even more unsettling to the average viewer was the fact that eyewitnesses would often report what sounded like roars coming from the storm, along with ominous shadows that would sometimes show up between the flashes of sheet lightning that would jump around within the clouds themselves.

Well, I suppose Koa’s plan was working perfectly. If this Lunar Republic didn’t know he was after them before, they would soon. Of course by the time they realized that the cloud was headed straight for them, it would likely be too late. I guess I should have been more worried about the fact that Koa had taken such a dark turn in his work, but I couldn’t really blame him after what had happened to Celestia. If I was honest with myself, I knew I would probably react the same way if the same thing had happened to Scootaloo or any of my friends.

I could only hope that he wouldn’t lose himself to his need for retribution.

Contrary to the weather surrounding the plains between Dappleshore and Derbyshire to the west, the sky over Ponyville and Canterlot was clear and blue. It was the perfect weather for flying, as the cool air of autumn was just chilly enough to keep me from sweating while I practiced, without being obnoxiously cold.

Like most days recently, Scootaloo had joined me. Her flight skills had improved vastly with my training, and it was clear she had the potential to be one of the best fliers alive. Needless to say, I was more than happy to have a flying buddy that could keep up, and Scoots was happy just to spend time with me.

As I stopped to rest on a nearby cloud with Scootaloo, I inhaled deeply with a smile. True that in the back of my mind, I knew that things were getting intense for Koa ‒ and through him, me ‒ but while I was flying, I could just allow my cares to slip away. After all, worrying was Twilight’s thing; being awesome was mine.

“Hey Rainbow Dash?” Scootaloo called, barely even winded from the flight.

I turned towards the orange filly and grinned. “What’s up, Scoots?”

She trotted over to me, the cloud beneath her hooves displacing only a little bit as she did so. “I uh…” she began, seeming to try to put her thoughts in words, “I was wondering if you knew the princesses well enough so that we could go see them.”

I raised my eyebrow at this, a little confused. “Why the sudden interest in the princesses?”

She shrugged, stretching her small (but quickly-developing) wings. “Well Koa said that both of them mean a lot to him, and so if I’m going to be a good friend to you and Koa, I should get to know them. I mean that makes sense, right?”

I thought about it for a minute before shrugging as well. “I mean, I guess.” I scanned the skies for a few seconds before turning back to the filly beside me. “Well the air’s clear, which means I don’t have work today. I can take you up to the palace if you want. It’s likely Princess Celestia’s the only one awake right now, but she’ll be happy to see us if she’s not busy.” I smirked and pointed to the palace, which was just visible in the distance. “Think you can make it all the way there?”

Scootaloo looked to where I was pointing and stared at the city for a moment before turning to me and nodding. “Yeah. I wouldn’t beat you there, but I can make it.”

“Alright then,” I began, stretching my wings out a bit and flapping them a few times to warm them back up, “let’s get going. If we hurry, we can get there right after Princess Celestia’s done with day court.” With those last words, I took to the sky with Scootaloo close behind, and headed towards the capitol.

It didn’t take anywhere near as long flying to Canterlot as it took by train, which just made me feel a little more sorry for unicorns and earth-ponies. I mean they already couldn’t fly, but taking the train was just so boring. I mean, if you’re going somewhere, why not get there fast? That way you have more time to do stuff when you get there. Poor ground-pounders…

Anyhow, as Scootaloo and I approached the castle, I couldn’t help but take in the sight of everything in the late afternoon sun. The palace as a whole had taken on the same yellow-orange hue as the sky, which made it look like polished gold in the fading light. Maybe being around Koa was making me a little soft…

“It’s so pretty.” Scootaloo said over the rushing air.

I glanced over to my flying buddy for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, it really is.”

We landed just outside the palace to see Celestia talking to the two gate guards, and upon seeing us, she waved us over.

“Rainbow Dash, Scootaloo! How wonderful to see you both!” she greeted happily. While she put on a brave face for the rest of the ponies, I knew her well enough to know she was beyond stressed, and it wasn’t because of the minor limp in her steps.

The fact that Celestia, the friggin' sun princess of Equestria, was limping made me feel a little sick to my stomach. Maybe it was unfair or even a little selfish, but Celestia wasn’t supposed to be weak. She’d battled Discord and Nightmare Moon both, and came out of both of those fights alive; she wasn’t supposed to limp or get sick like normal ponies. But, just as I was getting scared, I remembered something important: she was just a different path at a fork in the road. A long time ago, we were all just friends in California, hanging out at the beach and having fun together. Inside, she was still that same person; I knew it. I just had to remember that under all the royalty, she was still the person I made friends with all those years ago.

With that in mind, I led Scootaloo over to Celestia and the guards as I replied, “Good to see you too, princess. Feel like a little company from a friend or two?”

The princess made a show of considering the offer, but from the twinkle in her eye when I’d suggested it, I knew she’d made a decision from that instant. Looking to her two guards and then to me, she nodded happily. “I think that would be wonderful, and Luna would love to see the two of you as well. Will you two be staying tonight?”

I shrugged. “I mean we can, but only if it’s no trouble. Scoots is a pretty good flier now, so we can fly back to Ponyville if we need to; it’s only like twenty minutes.”

I saw the twinkle of a tear in Celestia’s left eye as she stated, “It’s a long flight to make this late in the day, Rainbow Dash. Stay ‒ I’ll have a room prepared for you and Scootaloo.”

Just from her expression alone, as well as the well-hidden sadness in her eyes, it was clear she was asking for her sake as much as mine. She was hurting, and she knew there weren’t many ponies she could talk to about what was likely causing her grief. I guess in some ways knowing the truth of the world and its people was a little bit of a burden, but it just made the few of us that actually knew the truth that much closer.

So, I nodded gratefully. “Sounds awesome, princess. Thanks a lot.”

Celestia nodded as well, turning to one of the guards. “We’ll retreat to the dining hall for an evening meal with Princess Luna. Please have one of my personal guest rooms prepared.”

The guard nodded with a salute. “As you wish, your highness.”

With another glance at me and Scootaloo the princess tossed her head toward the palace. “Shall we?”

When the three of us made it to the dining hall, it was to see Luna already taking her seat near the head of the table, next to her sister. True that during diplomatic meetings and such they sat at opposite ends of the long table, but in private, they wanted to be close. I could understand that, as I chose to sit on Celestia’s unoccupied side, with Scootaloo sitting next to me.

“So,” Luna started, twirling a spoon around a cup with her magic, “how have things been for you two?”

I shrugged, shifting my wings a bit to sit more comfortably. “Alright I guess. We spend most of the day practicing when I’m not working, so things are pretty good.” I then glanced to Celestia before returning, “How are you both doing?”

Luna hesitated for a moment. “Good.”

It was clear to me just in her hesitation that there was far more to be said, but I left it alone for now. I knew that they wouldn’t want to show particular weakness in front of the palace staff, as they were just getting over the assassination attempt on one of their princesses. Finding out that she was emotionally fragile probably wouldn’t be a good thing for them to deal with right now, as selfish of them as that sounds.

Secrets can really be a burden.

Still, I was hungry and knew the others were as well, so I set my concerns aside as I waited for our food to arrive. Instead, I busied myself with relaying to the two princesses just what had been going on in Ponyville lately, keeping them up to date with those they cared about the most. Scootaloo simply listened in silence as we spoke, likely awed at the fact that a “regular” pony like me was just talking to the princesses as if they were old friends ‒ which they were. I suppose it was still a bit of a shock for her, even though frankly, I was still getting used to it too. I mean, I had been just a regular pony my whole life, and yet just in the last year I learned so much about our mutual past that it redefined my whole world. It made feelings of deja vu make so much more sense now.

Drinks were brought to the table, pulling me out of my private thoughts again as I turned my attention to the princesses; it was then that I noticed something a little upsetting. While it wasn’t uncommon for Celestia to have a glass of wine with dinner, I noticed that she had instead traded wine for a glass of amber liquid, with little cube-shaped stones in it. Even from a foot away, the sharp scent of whiskey tickled my nose. I frowned at Celestia, but she said nothing as she levitated the drink to her lips and took a sip, sighing as she did so. I was used to Koa drinking, but Celestia wasn’t known to be a big fan of alcohol besides dinner wines.

It became clear to me she was much more stressed than I originally thought.

Scootaloo apparently had the same idea as me since she kept glancing at the princess out of the corner of her eye, but a nudge from me broke her stare.

“We’ll talk later.” Celestia spoke aloud nodding to both of us before sipping her drink again.

I nodded in return and sipped my own glass of grape juice, promising myself that I would help Celestia in any way I could. Maybe to the rest of the world she was the infallible princess that led and protected her ponies, but to me, she was a friend who was clearly hurting; a friend that needed to be reminded that she still had a few who understood what she was feeling.

A well-dressed trio of unicorn stallions walked into the dining hall through one of the side corridors, followed by a few earth pony maids wheeling in several carts filled with covered dishes. I glanced at the table, seeing that there were indeed only four of us, and raised an eyebrow at the princesses.

“Are you expecting other company?” I asked curiously, awed at the sheer volume of food that was being brought in.

As the three unicorns began uncovering and setting the dishes on the table in front of us, Luna shook her head with a grin. “Not at all, Rainbow Dash. This is all a regular dinner for us.”

I raised my eyebrow. “But, this is enough food for like a week for me!”

Luna smiled, gesturing to herself and Celestia. “We are quite big ponies, with quite a large amount of magic and energy being used every day. That energy must come from somewhere, Rainbow Dash.”

I looked to the food, to the princesses, and then back to the food. “Wow...I never actually figured you two burned that much energy every day.”

After Luna thanked the crew that brought in the food, she turned to me with a smile. “Well, now you know the truth. To keep healthy, we must eat no less than twenty-five thousand calories a day.”

I wasn’t as smart as Twilight, but I could work out the math in my head. I figured out that the princesses ate five times the amount a normal pony needed daily, though ponies like me and Scootaloo needed more because of our active lifestyles, and I remembered pretty well just how much food Applejack and her family made for every meal.

I suddenly felt a little sorry for the kitchen staff.

As I got ready to serve up some food for Scootaloo and me, I came across a bit of a problem: hooves suck for holding ladles and spatulas. I spent a few seconds glaring at the platters of food, trying to figure out how to get some of the goods without making a fool of myself, and painting my fur with roasted peppers and cheese.

Just as I was about to give in and grab the stuffed pepper with my hooves, the platters all lit up with a soft golden glow, and as I watched, a few bits of food from each one was deposited on my plate and Scootaloo’s. I looked to Celestia, whose horn was glowing softly as she smiled, and offered her a grateful nod before leaning down and taking a big bite of stuffed pepper. As I chewed the cheesy, roasted goodness, I focused my mind on the food to give it a break from worrying about things.

“No offense to your cooks,” I began, swallowing before continuing, “but Koa makes these way better than they do. One of these times you have to ask him to cook for you both.”

Luna smiled with a nod of agreement. “I remember long ago he would often bring me breakfast in bed, consisting of fresh fruits, a buttered bagel, and orange juice.”

“He still cooks breakfast for us when he’s awake before I am,” I said, chuckling as I did so, “which is most of the time, considering he sleeps like once a week.” I then glanced at Celestia, only to frown when I noticed she was staring straight ahead, her glass shaking in the air as she levitated it. “Princess Celestia?”

Her magenta eyes slowly rolled to look at me, and I could see the fear and pain in them. Without a word, she stood and hurriedly limped out of the dining hall and toward the Solar Wing. A part of me wanted to dash after her and make sure she was alright, but I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea with all the guards around. They might misunderstand my intentions.

Luna, thankfully, took control of the situation as she announced, “We are all retreating to Princess Celestia’s quarters. Please have three gallons of ice cream brought to the room, the flavors of caramel chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla.” Two of the guards watching the room nodded before retreating down one of the hallways, while Luna turned to me. “Follow me, please. Your princess has need of your presences.”

I’d only been to Celestia’s room once, just after Koa brought her home from the hospital. Even though I knew what to expect and knew that she wouldn’t mind us entering, I still felt a little nervous about it. Maybe it was the fact that Celestia was always so strong and radiant, but whatever the reason, I found a creeping dread settling in my stomach as I walked with Luna and Scootaloo toward the personal quarters of Celestia. Scootaloo wasn’t faring much better, since even though she was leaps and bounds more mature than most ponies her age, she was still just a young filly when it came right down to it. No matter who somepony was, none of us in Equestria wanted to know that one of our princesses was in pain.

The three of us stopped in front of the large gold-trimmed wooden door that led to Celestia’s room, and Luna pushed the door open before peeking her head in. After a moment, she opened the door fully and ushered Scootaloo and I in before shutting it behind us.

The room was pretty plain considering it was a princess’ bedroom, featuring only a large bed, a chest in the corner, a few sitting cushions, and an armoire with a TV in it. Koa had a more lavish room than this; heck, my bedroom was flashier too. It goes without saying that I had expected a more fancy bedroom, considering royalty slept in it.

Celestia was huddled up in her bed, the comforter and sheets wrapped around her form as she looked out of the open window across from her.

“I never believed that we would need protection sigils cast on the walls of my own room.” Celestia whispered, raising her head to look at the glowing golden magic markings along the walls of the room. “To think that we are not safe, even in Equestria.” Turning her eyes back toward the window, she sighed ruefully. “And now one who I love is off to fight the very organization that attempted to end my life. Where did I go wrong, Luna? What could I have done to prevent this?”

Luna moved to her sister’s side, nuzzling her as she did so. “Prevent evil in a world with free will? That, dear Tia, is impossible. This is not the first time we have dealt with those who wish to overturn the balance in our world, and it will most certainly not be the last. Until the sun burns out and the moon crumbles away into nothingness, we will forever deal with those who wish for some form of insanity.” She then smirked as she added, “As I recall, it was a certain night princess who wished to drape the world in everlasting night. Maliciousness can come from anywhere, with little to no reason for it sometimes. Powerful as we are, even we cannot hope to fully stamp out every bit of evil in the world.”

“Then why did Koa have to go?” Celestia whimpered pitifully. “Why does he always have to be the fighter?”

Luna wrapped a wing around Celestia and leaned against her, offering both physical and emotional support. “Because it is who he is; it is who he has always been. He fights because he must.”

“Even when I first met him years ago,” Scootaloo interjected, “he protected me from a bear that was chasing me through the Everfree. I know who I am and who I was in the past, but at the time I just saw a kind dragon that was looking out for a homeless filly. I don’t think it would have mattered whether we knew each other or not though; he would have come after me anyway.”

I stepped forward and put in my own two-bits worth. “When I got sent to Earth as a human, Koa looked out for me before he even knew who I really was ‒ before he knew who we were to each other. He protected me from some religious bigot, and even made sure I was happy and healthy the whole time.”

“A dragon protects his realm and all within it; by force if necessary.” Celestia commented. She then turned her head slightly until I could see one magenta eye. “His home is not the land nor the sky ‒ it is the ponies he loves, and he will protect his home with everything he has. In essence, we are his hoard.”

Luna nodded with a smile. “He has never cared for gems or precious metals; his treasures are the ponies who he cares for.”

Feeling the mood lift a little I added, “As long as he doesn’t stick me in a cave, I’m alright with that.” A soft laugh from Celestia made me grin in triumph as I finally trotted over to the two princesses, joining them on the large bed. It was by no means as soft as a cloud bed, but it was pretty nice for a spring-filled bag of soft stuff.

A knock at the door caused the four of us to look toward it, which was followed by the same guard from the dining hall pushing open the door and ushering in a servant pony, who wheeled in a cart with what could only be cartons of ice cream on it. Princess Luna said nothing as the steel cart was left next to me, only offering a grateful nod as the servant pony left again, the guard closing the door behind them.

All three cartons of Dairy Delight ice cream were encased in a golden glow as they were levitated onto the bed, and they opened as a spoon levitated to each pony present.

“I know I could use something to calm my nerves, so please, eat.” Celestia said softly as she turned to face us and opened the caramel ripple chocolate ice cream, digging a spoon in and moaning as she took the bite. “Mmm...chocolate makes everything better.”

I shrugged, using my hooves to dig my own bite of the strawberry. “I don’t know; I’ve always been more of a fruity kinda pony, myself.”

Celestia smiled softly, running a hoof through my bangs. “It shows.”

I gave her a dead stare and retorted, “Ha, you’re hilarious.”

For several minutes, we all ate the sweet treats in silence. It felt nice to just sit with friends and just be. So many ponies underestimate the power of good company, even if no words are said. Granted I wasn’t as much a talker as, say, Pinkie Pie, but silences usually made me uncomfortable unless I was with Koa. I was surprised then to find that in the presence of the two princesses and Scootaloo ‒ three ponies that were probably as close to Koa as I was ‒ I didn’t feel the need to talk needlessly. It was nice to just sit with each other and know that ponies who cared about me were right there.

“Do you think he’s doing alright?” Celestia asked quietly.

I thought my words through carefully. “I think so. I mean even if-”

A knock at the door interrupted me as a guard stuck his head in and said, “Apologies for the intrusion princesses, but I think you should all turn on the television.”

Luna raised an eyebrow as she levitated the remote from the nightstand next to the bed. “What channel, Slipstream?”

The guard backed out of the doorway. “Any channel.” The door closed, leaving us in dim light before the TV flickered on.

A banner ran across the top of the screen with the title, “BREAKING NEWS”. As we watched, the camera panned to what could be only Koa’s storm cloud, which seemed to have grown even larger since the last time I had saw it. It now had a huge shelf cloud at the beginning of the front, which was roiling ominously like a monster in the sky. Flashes of sheet lightning and thunder accompanied the storm, but the news anchor seemed too in awe of the storm to talk.

“Where is this?” Scootaloo asked nervously.

I looked down at the corner of the screen and read, “Tramplevania.”

“He’s arrived already.” Celestia muttered as her jaw dropped open. “In just under a week, he’s traveled nearly a thousand miles.”

I raised my eyebrow as I looked to Celestia. “Only a thousand miles and you planned for three weeks? You do know he can outfly me, right?”

“I...honestly never thought you would say that about anypony ever, Rainbow Dash.” Scootaloo muttered in shock.

I shrugged. “I’m all for being the best, but he’s on an entirely different level. He owns the sky, Scoots. It’s his domain; I just fly there.”

“Shh!” Celestia hissed, pointing her hoof to the television.

The camera panned once again, this time to a young unicorn mare that was holding a microphone. She swallowed noticeably before greeting, “If you’re just joining us, I’m Orange Cream here in Tramplevania, where the storm of the century seems to be brewing. The weather factory of Cloudsdale has been tracking this particular storm since it began building just outside Canterlot, but all attempts to disperse or redirect it have been fruitless. No damage or fatalities have been reported as of yet, but we will be keeping an eye on the situation as-” The anchor was interrupted by what could only be a dragon’s call, and she turned toward the ominous shelf cloud as the camera panned toward the storm. “W-was that a dragon?”

Just after she asked the question, a bolt of lightning struck the ground only a few feet away from her, and the flash caused the camerapony to turn away as screaming ensued. After a few seconds the camera turned back toward the storm, only to show an unfamiliar figure.

It was the form of an adult dragon, complete with a long serpentine neck and an impressive wingspan, but all other similarities stopped there. There was no skin or scales, only pure electricity. The body itself was made of living lightning, only a vague outline, seven horns, and claws giving it any clear shape. The shape seemed to stare with sightless eyes at the camera for a moment before it extended its neck, placing its face only a few scant feet away from the lens of the camerapony.

With a low growl it announced, “Greetings Equestria, and any others that are watching this. Know that I mean the good ponies of this land no harm, so you have nothing to fear from me.”

“W-what do you want?” Orange cream asked nervously.

Two circular sparks that could only be the eyes swiveled to her before it answered. “A short time ago, a malicious organization calling themselves the ‘Lunar Republic’ attacked Princess Celestia, nearly killing her in the process; I am here to enact retribution upon this group, who has taken refuge just outside this city.”

“His elemental form.” Celestia muttered in disbelief. “He is not even a century old yet, and already he has fully integrated himself with his elemental form.”

Before I could ask a question, the dragon ‒ or Koa, rather ‒ continued with, “I have no doubt that there are agents in this very city at the moment, and that more than a few of you even know who they are. While I could certainly simply destroy the entire city to be sure I have disposed of them all, such a thing is not very productive. Instead, I ask that all of you keep in mind these were the same ponies that tried to kill your beloved princess, and are focused on bringing Nightmare Moon back to this world.” His voice crackled with buzzing and pops of electricity as he spoke, and even though the situation was intense, I couldn’t help but think of how cool he looked and sounded.

“Excuse me, sir!” called a voice from off screen, just before a male royal guard galloped over to Koa and bowed respectfully. “Captain Keen Spear reporting! I lead the guard detachment stationed here, and have been keeping tabs on the group you speak of for months now. I believe we could help each other.”

PoV ‒ Koa

“Captain Keen Spear reporting! I lead the guard detachment stationed here, and have been keeping tabs on the group you speak of for months now. I believe we could help each other.” the guard greeted with a stern expression.

I nodded slowly, shifting my electric wings to rest more comfortably on my back. “I’m listening, captain.”

He looked around warily before suggesting, “This is confidential information, sir. Perhaps we should speak somewhere more private?”

I thought for a moment before nodding again, then turning to the camerapony again, whose mouth had dropped open in awe of my form. “I will be working with the local guard to find those who committed the crime I mentioned. Any citizens who have useful information regarding this are encouraged to seek us out at…” I shot a look to the captain.

“The Bunk and Bale Inn.” he answered for the gathered crowd ‒ both in person, and listening over the televisions across the kingdom.

I looked back to the crowd and camera. “We appreciate any assistance given. Thank you.”

As the captain and I walked away (well, he walked. I sort of...lumbered), he looked up to me with a grin as he whispered, “Quite the display you’re putting on here.”

I grinned back, even though he probably couldn’t see it, seeing as how I didn’t currently have a physical mouth. “Intimidation of one’s enemies can do wonders to lessen or eliminate resistance. Furthermore, it inspires allies and friends to know that such power is for them instead of against them.”

He chuckled and nodded. “I guess, but do you think it was such a good idea to basically announce to your presence and intentions to the very group you’re after? It’ll give them time go escape.”

I shook my head and motioned with a jerk to the sky, which was beginning to clear as the clouds settled over the mountains and began to drop their payload of torrential rain and lightning. “They’re not going anywhere; trust me. The rain will cause a few mudslides, there’s too much ambient energy in the air with all the lightning for any unicorns to safely teleport, and it’s too dangerous for pegasi to fly.” I let some of my magic seep back to my core, revealing more of my natural form as scales, though arcs of electricity still ran along the surface of my skin. It allowed the ponies we passed to feel a little less apprehensive around me, as I didn’t want to be feared by any except my enemies. I knew some fear was warranted, as dragons weren’t generally known as the most diplomatic or approachable beings on the planet, but I didn’t want to cause more; let’s go with that.

“So the only ones you currently have to worry about are…” he suggested.

I nodded. “The ones in the city, yes. I don’t expect to get them all mind you, but even sixty-five percent would decimate the organization. I would like to arrest them if possible,” I then growled, anger returning to me, “but after what they did to Princess Celestia, I am ready to end their lives if it is required.”

Captain Keen Spear nodded before calling down one of the pegasi guards floating nearby. “Private, spread the word: no pony leaves the city. Any caught sneaking over the walls are to be detained.” The pegasus nodded before speeding away, presumably to deliver the message to the rest of the guards in the city. The captain then turned back to me. “That should keep things handled until we can track down the members of this organization. I have quite a few suspects, but nothing entirely conclusive. What we need is a way to separate the members from innocent civilians.”

I shrugged. “That is why I’m only expecting to find part of them instead of all of them. This isn’t a movie where everything ends happily ever after. Ponies are going to get hurt, and some are going to die, but if I can stop this group it’ll be worth it.”

“How many innocent casualties are you predicting?” he asked worriedly.

I sighed and shook my head. “None, if I can help it. The only problem is I’m unsure how they will react to pressure, so we’ll have to wait and see. I can only hope to end this before things get too bloody.”

“Well what should I call you?” the captain questioned carefully, shifting his wings with anxious energy. “Simply calling you ‘dragon’ or ‘Skylord’ seems a little impersonal.”

I thought for a moment. Only my friends and family called me Koa, and looking back on it now, “Storm Rider” was more than a little cheesy. “Call me Zizzanasx. It’s the only name the public needs to know.”

The captain gasped and exclaimed, “You’re the dragon from-!”

I closed my hand over his muzzle, holding it shut as I whispered, “Yes, I am. However, on the off-chance that someone wants personal revenge against me, I’d rather they don’t know where I live, alright?” He nodded rapidly before I released his face, and worked his jaw.

The captain stepped back and continued leading me to the inn in the distance before looking to me skeptically. “I don’t mean to cause offense sir, but you aren’t going to fit inside the building.”

I smirked before focusing, feeling my body shrink in size. A moment later I opened my eyes and pushed myself off the ground to walk on two legs, noticing I was quite a bit closer to the ground than before. Captain Keen Spear was staring at me with wide eyes and a gaping mouth, while I just chuckled and kept walking. However, I let the visual of lightning arcing all over me continue, so as to hide my identity a little better.

“You uh,” the captain began, unsure of how to address me, “don’t look like I heard you did.”

I nodded. “That’s the idea. If I conceal my identity, it protects my home and loved ones. Zizzanasx is just a name to ponies; no one but my friends and family know what the owner of that name looks like.”

Captain Keen Spear nodded with a chuckle. “I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty big honor to have you here though. It’s not every day a pony meets an elder wyrm, let alone the Skylord.”

I cleared my throat and answered, “I’m, um, not really an elder. In fact, I’m only in my twenties.” I gestured with a hand to myself as he looked at me. “To be honest, I don’t know how I’m doing this. It just sorta...happened, and somehow I can control it.”

“So if you’re not an elder wyrm,” he began, apparently trying word his question correctly, “what exactly are you?”

I pondered the answer to his question; just what was I? In the most basic sense, I was a dragon, but so much more than that ‒ that much was clear. I thought about what I felt like the most, and how I felt.

I looked to the sky with a smile. “I am the storm. I am the howling winds and the stinging rain. I am the thunder, the lightning, and the whirlwinds. I am the hurricanes and the blizzards.” I then looked to the pony, who had a look of abject horror. “However, I am also the cool breeze on a warm summer’s day. I am the autumn winds, and gentle snows that blanket the land in a sea of white. I am the gentle rains on a balmy day in April, and the cool mist of morning.”

“That’s a whole lot of things to be all at once.” he replied, his expression having softened to something akin to respectful awe.

I shrugged. “In the abstract, that’s who I am. Otherwise, I’m just a dragon that loves his home and the ponies in it. The former is a lot more interesting, I think.” I turned my eyes back to the sky. “I feel the ground when it rains, and can taste the electricity in the air when lightning forks across the sky. It’s a connection that I’ve always had, though it seems that I’m just now noticing it. It’s a little difficult to really explain it; it’s the kind of thing you have to experience to truly understand.”

He nodded before jerking his head in front of us to a stone-brick building with a thatched roof. “Here we are, the Bunk and Bale. It’s a private place we guards tend to wind down in, as the barracks aren’t big enough for much besides bunks.”

I raised an eyeridge. “Not even a mess hall?”

He chuckled and shook his head, motioning with a hoof around us. “This city isn’t big enough for a full-sized barracks. It’s alright though, because the owner of the inn gets reimbursed by the crown for catering to us.”

I nodded before pushing the decidedly low door open for the captain, ducking and entering after him.

The interior of the inn had a very warm feel, as inside the stone walls was a lining of dark oak wood, which gave the building a very homey atmosphere. A large firepit crackling merrily added even more of a comfortable environment, and I felt myself relax just a few hairs.

The captain trotted over to the barpony ‒ who was busy staring at me ‒ and knocked his hoof on the counter to get the pony’s attention. “My guest and I will have two pints of Black Bull ale to start, and keep them coming; we’ll be here awhile.” The barpony nodded before getting to work, while the captain reached in his saddlebag and fished out a bag of bits, which he tossed onto the counter before making his way back to me.

Unfortunately for me, the table and chairs were designed for ponies, which meant they were three or four sizes too small for me. So, with no other place to sit, I planted my behind directly in the firepit, sighing happily as the flames began to warm my body. While it was true that I didn’t have fur to keep me warm during the winter, ponies couldn’t sit in a hearth to warm up.

Up until recently, I had never thought to myself, “Damn, it’s cold. Is there a fire nearby I can sit in?”

“Um, I’m sorry but there doesn’t seem to be any chairs large...enough…” the captain began, trailing off before asking, “are you seriously sitting in the firepit?”

I shrugged, leaning back and digging my hands into the glowing coals to warm them. “What? It feels good. It’s a dragon thing; fireproof hide, and all.”

Captain Keen Spear smirked before reaching into his saddlebag again, pulling out a very large folder...then another, and another, and another.

“Well,” he began, working his jaw a bit as he did so, “we’ve got a lot of suspects to go through. We should get started.”

I sighed heavily and shook the coals and ashes off my hands before grabbing the first large folder. “I’m going to need a lot of drinks.”

Author's Notes:

For those who don't know (or are too lazy to look it up), this is a shelf cloud.

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