Spike, Rainbow, and Shining Armor finally get a taste of bitter revenge.
Cerebral Comet never saw himself as a hero, or a spy, or a guardian. He was never one to jump into anything like some kind of action hero. He was an intellectual, that was all. Not a stallion of might, but one of thought. So his current position perplexed him to no end. Crawling on the ground, his belly sliding over the dirt and debris of the forest; following behind one of his patents as she led himself, Rainbow Dash, Shining Armor and his young dragon charge, Spike, to the lair of a dangerous creature from foreign lands.
He knew his assignment in Ponyville would be bizarre, but this was reaching new heights.
Cadance, Rarity, Applejack, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo held their position further back. Once Pinkie Pie said they were near their target, Shining insisted the others wait while he scouted ahead with the earth pony.
Rainbow refused to leave them; Comet had an obligation to watch the unicorn prince, and ensure he didn’t do anything stupid; and Spike argued his presence by breathing fire.
So, as such, the five had to keep a low profile, and remain completely silent, as they navigated through the vegetation. Which wasn’t easy given their numbers.
“How much further?” Rainbow whined in as low a tone as she could manage. “My forelegs are killing me.”
Pinkie Pie put her nose to the pegasus’ face before answering. “Not far,” she whispered. “Not far at all.” She then spun in the dirt and continued on her way.
“Ugh,” the weathermare explained. “It feels like we’ve been crawling like this for hours.”
Comet interjected, “Oh, it’s not that bad.”
She stopped, and craned her head around. “What?”
“What?” he asked, puzzled.
“Why do you say that?”
He froze, and his face started to get slightly redder. “No reason,” he responded.
“Uh… huh…” Rainbow was skeptical.
“What are you two doing?” Spike asked from behind the two ponies. Their conversation held everyone up. “Can we go?”
“After you,” Rainbow said, squeezing to the right.
Comet crawled past the multicoloured mare as they continued on their journey.
The procession moved through the dirt, and it wasn’t long before Pinkie came to a stop in front of a thick, leafy bush. She stuck her head inside, confusing her companions.
Popping back out, she had a large smile on her face. No words were needed as Comet joined her.
Their three associates snuck into the bush as well.
Looking through their leafy surroundings, they could clearly see a large grassy clearing. Sitting in the middle was a charred pile of coal, but what stood out to Comet the most was a series of stones, which sat in front of a dark and damp cave.
The stones appeared to be arranged in a pattern, but it was unrecognisable from the angle they stood at. Comet wanted to get out to take a closer look, but he wasn’t sure if it was safe.
His fears were confirmed as a loud cry emanated from the heavens. The group looked up as a bright orange phoenix descended from the clouds. It perched elegantly on a nearby tree branch.
“It can’t see us right?” Rainbow asked.
“I hope not,” Shining responded.
Slowly, a shifting of movement came from the cave, as a blue pony emerged.
Except, it wasn’t a race of pony that most would recognise. He had two horns coming out the back of his head, and his tail was similar to a monkey’s, straight, long, and hairless.
In fact, this pony had no hair whatsoever. No mane, or fur. Instead, it was covered in bright blue scales. Most of those present found the sight to be foreign and mysterious, but two of them had actually seen a creature like this before. It was very familiar… a little too familiar.
“Oh, no,” Comet whispered.
“I don’t believe this,” Shining responded.
“What?” Rainbow asked. “What is it?”
The doctor explained, “Remember when we said there were exceptions to qilin xenophobia?”
He paused for a second. “Right, you weren’t there. Well, there is, Ambassador Dorin, the Neighponese Ambassador to Equestria.”
“Is that him!?” Rainbow asked.
“No,” Shining responded. “But I kinda wish it was.”
“That’s Perahitsu,” Comet explained. “The ambassador’s son.” He receded further into the bush.
“You know, I met that kid once before. I thought he was just anti-social.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions, Shining.”
“Jump to conclusions!?”
“Just because we found a qilin, doesn’t mean it’s the same qilin.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Are you guys listening to this?” Spike interjected.
The two stallions pricked up their ears.
“Ze cah kleh ko!”
“Eeekee koko klack kun.”
The conversation between the phoenix and the qilin, was complete gibberish to the crowd.
“What is it?” Pinkie asked.
“I’m not sure,” Shining said.
Cerebral Comet shook his head. “I think it’s Toranin. Or, at least it’s damn similar.”
“Toranin… that’s the language of the dragons.”
“Well, one of them.”
“You can speak dragon?” Rainbow asked.
“Learned a bit of it in college,” the shrink explained.
“Well that’s great!” Spike whispered. “I don’t know a lick of it.”
“Don’t get too excited, I failed the course.”
He angled his ears to receive the conversation. Trying to pick up as much as he could.
Comet shook his head. “I thought I’d remember something from that class, but…” he explained.
“Try harder…” the prince replied.
He made another attempt. “Something about… failure and… I don’t know… mentions a predecessor… next stage… I don’t know, I’m just guessing. I think they’re speaking an obscure dialect, or at least one I’ve never heard of.”
“Come on!” Rainbow Dash said. “Figure it out! This may be our only chance, you have to do something!” She violently stomped the ground and nearby trees gave a slight tremor, releasing a few leaves.
The forest was eerily silent.
“Maybe they didn’t notice,” the pegasus said in desperation.
But only Spike and Pinkie were watching the events on the other side of that bush. So, only Spike and Pinkie saw the two suspects had turned to face them, and were currently encased in bright white flames of rage.
“They did,” Pinkie explained. returning to her normal speaking voice. “RUN!”
But it was too late, as a beam of white flame shot toward the spies.
Neither Scootaloo nor Apple Bloom liked waiting. It was torture to the young fillies. As so often happens to children, they find every moment to be incredibly precious. So they want to make the most of them.
Waiting, as they did, was an insufferable experience. They could have trotted all the way back home, but that would have been even more insipid. Especially since Scootaloo left her scooter behind.
Their restless hooves trotted up and down the path. Driving Rarity insane.
“Could you two stand still for more than two seconds!?” she asked through gritted teeth.
“Come on!” Scootaloo cried. “Can’t we do something!? Why do we have to wait all the way over here!?”
“Because, it’s too dangerous,” Applejack explained. “We don’t know what that thing’s capable of, and I’m not going to risk-”
The sound resonated through the forest.
“What was that?” the orange mare asked.
“Sounds like a phoenix,” Rarity responded.
“An angry phoenix,” Princess Cadance explained.
Suddenly, a soft tremor resonated through the ground.
The princess jumped from her reclining position, and flew in the direction of the sound.
“Alright,” Applejack explained. “We’re gonna-”
She never got to explain her plan, because she was the only other pony in the area. She could see her former companions, including her baby sister, run toward the noise.
“Darn it!” she cried, chasing the ponies.
When Pinkie first saw Perahitsu, she could not understand how such a small pony could cause so much damage. She saw the remains of Carousel Boutique. Half of it was turned to rubble, the other was turned to ashes. How could one pony, even one with fire powers, do that!?
She now understood.
The qilin’s body was ablaze in white-hot flame. The vegetation around him was blackened from the heat. His speed was unparalleled. From his initial position, and in the time it took Pinkie Pie to blink, he was already on top of the group.
And his strength… Several nearby trees snapped in half as charged through them.
He could also fly.
And Pinkie knew, the only reason she was alive, was because of Shining Armor’s reaction time, and shield spell. It encased the group in a bright red bubble, protecting them from the creature’s wrath.
Cracks began to form in the barrier, and it took all of Shining’s strength to repair the damage before it accumulated.
Even Comet tried to help, but for some reason his repairs weren’t very effective. It wasn’t long before he started a more practical approach, throwing stones outside the barrier toward the assailant.
“We can’t do this forever!” the shrink cried, sending a large rock across the clearing.
A glowing white form dodged the projectile, before flying toward the group, and impacting the shield, sending out another series of cracks.
“You got a better plan!?” the guard replied.
Spike huddled next to the earth pony, watching the two unicorns argue and bicker.
Rainbow Dash had already flown off, to divide their attackers. Her plan worked, and the phoenix and pegasus fought in the air above, as the qilin engaged those on the ground.
The shield was impacted again.
“This isn’t working!” Comet explained, sending another stone flying. “We need a distraction!”
“We used our distraction!” Shining replied. “She flew after that damn bird!”
“HEY!” A voice screamed from the other side of the clearing. “Wouldn’t you rather an easier meal!?”
The qilin stopped a foot from the shield, and spun around to face the orange pegasus. Comet wasn’t sure if it was bravery or stupidity, but he did know one thing. Perahitsu was distracted.
“Drop the shield,” he whispered as his horn began to glow.
The moment the bubble dissipated, a single blast shot from the shrink’s horn, hitting their assailant square in the gut.
He dropped to the ground, and collapsed as his flame faded away.
“What was that!?” Scootaloo asked, as she ran across the clearing.
“Sedation spell,” Comet explained between breaths.
“Where’d you learn that!?” Shining responded.
“We occasionally have to deal with dangerous patients,” he said remarkably calmly. “However I don’t- …oh sh-”
He brushed the filly behind him as the qilin tried to get to his hooves. Then, he slipped and fell.
The group watched as Perahitsu managed to slowly stand on shaky legs. His stance was wide, and his eyes boiled with hatred.
Rarity and Cadance emerged from the other side of the clearing. And off to his left, the doctor noticed a yellow filly slide down a tall tree.
“Looks like you’re surrounded,” Comet said, between heavy breaths. “I guess we can finally talk.”
“Go to Tartarus,” the beast growled. “You’ll all pay for this.”
“I don’t think so,” Shining explained. “You attacked us.”
“It’s what we do to spies,” he said through gritted teeth.
“What are you doing so far from Canterlot?” Comet asked.
“That’s none of your concern.”
“Actually, I think it is, since a qilin attacked a building in Ponyville just last night.”
“And so you assume it was me!?”
“You’re right. That is an unjust assumption. Except for the fact that you attacked a member of the royal family.”
“I know who he is,” the qilin explained. “And I know who his relations are.”
Shining’s sword was suddenly unsheathed, and poised, inches from his opponent’s face.
“What, exactly, is that supposed to mean.”
“I only mean to give my condolences… for your loss.”
Comet noticed the smile on his face.
“You’re not telling us something.”
He turned to the doctor. “Prove it.”
“Speak!” Cadance screamed, approaching him from behind. “Or we’ll have your father deal with you.”
The grin faltered just enough for Comet to notice.
“Oh, I’m sure,” he said. “But first, you’d have to survive!”
His scales started to glow once again. But Comet was ready, once again hitting him with a burst of magic.
The qilin collapsed to the ground.
Shining’s sword remained poised over the unconscious assailant.
“Shining,” the doctor said. “Put that away.”
“He’s behind this,” the prince explained. “He’s a part of this.”
“You don’t know that-”
“-I know enough.”
He put a hoof on the warrior’s shoulder. “Yeah, maybe.” His other hoof rested on the sword, trying to manually lower it. “But it doesn’t matter. We’re better off keeping him alive. There are a lot of questions he could answer.”
A pair of hooves landed a few feet away.
“Hey, you got him!” Rainbow said. “Better than me.”
“What happened!?” Spike asked.
“It out flew me!” she explained, scratching her head. “I didn’t know phoenixes were that fast.”
“So it’s probably going to tell its masters,” Shining theorized.
“What makes you think it has any?” Comet asked.
“What’s going on?” the pegasus asked.
“I’m not sure,” the dragon replied.
“Shining, come on,” the shrink continued. “This wouldn’t do any good.”
He slowly lowered his sword to the ground, and as it clattered, he quickly turned away.
“That’s good,” he explained. “You see, Shining, it-”
Metal scraped across the ground. The sword rose high in the air, and was forced straight through the scales of the young qilin. Red oozed over bright blue, and the creatures eyes snapped open. He began to choke and cough on his own blood.
As he felt the life drain out of him, his head was turned, and he was forced to look in the purple eyes of the one who killed him.
Cadance’s face was cold, and unnerving, as she took the young pony’s life.
No one moved. No one spoke. And no one even breathed, as his last moments ticked away.
Under his breath, Spike commented. “Crap.”
Twilight held a damp cloth to Spike’s head. He’d been out cold for nearly twenty minutes, which worried the young unicorn.
However, she didn’t have the nerve to wake him.
But as his eyes fluttered open, a wave of relief washed over her. So great that part of her thought he’d just come back from the dead.
She held back her emotions and released but a smile.
“Hey, Spike,” she said. “How’re you feeling?”
The dragon cringed as he grabbed his head tightly. “Not good… How long was I out?”
“Twenty minutes,” Rainbow explained, as she trotted in his field of view. “Are you alright?”
His eyes swept the room, and he quickly realized where he was; the farmhouse at Sweet Apple Acres, lying on Applejack’s couch.
“Yeah,” he tried to sit up, when a burst of pain hit once again.
“Don’t try to get up, Spike,” Twilight explained, pushing him down with her hoof. “You got a nasty knock on the head. You should relax.”
“No, no,” the dragon objected. “If we don’t do something he’ll be gone!”
“There’s no point, little guy.” Rainbow Dash explained. “We have no idea where he went!”
“Rainbow, don’t encourage him,” the unicorn replied. “Spike, you can’t start blindly searching for revenge!”
“We can’t let him get away with this,” Spike rebutted, rubbing his head.
Twilight leaned in close. “You don’t even know if it’s the same dragon.”
He remained silent.
“Does it matter?” Rainbow asked.
Spike and Twilight nearly snapped their necks turning to look at the pegasus, shocked at her reaction. “What!?” they asked, incredulously.
“Oh come on, Twilight!” she replied. “That thing just destroyed Applejack’s farm! You wanna let that slide!?”
The unicorn responded, “Revenge isn’t the answer, Rainbow.”
“It’s not about revenge! It’s about… um… protecting Ponyville!”
“No it’s not, you want revenge!”
“Well, maybe I do!” she said, poking her friend in the chest. “And I don’t see why you don’t. Maybe you don’t care about your friends.”
The unicorn gave a look that would’ve given a windigo the chills. She pushed Rainbow’s hoof away with a wave of her foreleg. “Just because I don’t want to run around like a crazy pony, searching for something that might be long gone, does not mean I don’t care about Applejack… or Rarity.” She poked the pegasus in the chest. “And let me be clear, there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about tearing that dragon’s heart out with my bare hooves. So don’t you dare tell me I don’t care about my friends.”
Rainbow was frozen. “You’re right…” she responded. “I… I’m sorry.”
Twilight turned back to her patient. “But if we don’t know where he is, there’s no point.”
“There’s plenty of forest in the area, we could start-”
“Are you not listening!?” She snapped at her friend. “Which one!? There’s no way we could possibly know where he went!”
“That doesn’t mean we should do nothing,” Spike interjected, rubbing his head.
Twilight released a dejected sigh. It was the only response she could think of, since nothing else felt appropriate.
As the unicorn tried to organize her thoughts, a rapping came from the door. She opened it from across the room, and standing on the threshold were two pegasi, one yellow, one black.
“What’s up ladies!?” Thunderlane asked. “And Spike…”
Fluttershy trotted into the room, and dropped a basket of apples on the coffee table. “Are you feeling okay, Spike?” she asked. “Do you need anything?”
“No, I’m fine,” he said, jumping off the couch. “Absolutely fine, no need to be concerned, I’m fine.”
“You sure little guy?” Rainbow asked, skeptically.
“Yep!” He explained, straightening his posture. “Never felt better.”
“So, Rainbow,” Thunderlane said, interjecting. “We need to talk.”
“What is it?” the weathermare asked.
“Uh, we should probably talk about this outside.”
“No, what is it?”
“Um… well…” He started scratching at his head. “We think we know where the dragon went.”
Everypony’s head snapped in his direction.
“What?” Rainbow asked. “Where!?”
“Well, um… Daisy said she saw a dragon early this morning, before sunrise. He was flying in from the north, straight toward Whitetail Wood.”
As Rainbow and Twilight processed this information, Spike simply asked, “Whitetail Wood?”
“But…” Twilight pondered. “If he was coming from the north, it couldn’t have been the same dragon.”
“Unless,” Rainbow explained. “When he made his getaway, he didn’t go straight to his hideout. He flew around a bit to try to throw us off.” She clopped her hooves together. “Clever boy.”
She turned to the stallion. “What did he look like?”
“Well, um… it was dark,” he explained. “but… uh… green.”
Twilight released a sigh of dejection. “We still wouldn’t know where to look,” she explained. “Whitetail Wood is pretty big.”
“The southwest corner,” Spike interjected. “He’s in the southwest corner, there’s a cave over there he could be hiding in.”
“Why do you think that?”
He paused for a second and scratched his head. “I don’t know, just an idea.”
“So, it’s as good a place as any to start,” Rainbow suggested.
“Well, if we’re doing this, we’ll have to make sure we’re well prepared,” Twilight explained.
“No, you won’t. I’m going alone.”