Basic Training: Target
[Linked Book Entry]
I should thank the griffon somehow because he saved me from possibly making a fatal, heh, mistake, even more heh. Obviously not for staying alive but for the chance to think about dealing with Sombra more effectively. Going splat might not have been enough. Yes, he was weak but so was he when I accidentally summoned true death and burned myself. Despite that, he was able to make an entire new body out of ash and bind both of us to it.
That means I need a new way to end all this, one that will either obliterate Sombra along with me or one that will separate us and lock him somewhere safer than my head. The problem is that his survival and recovery of power thanks to harnessing the power of the alicorn of Life are hard to put an end to.
Void might help. With him being the counterbalance to the power of life he should be able to end my misery. Would he, though?
I'm still not sure whether to be bitter about what he did or whether to thank him. Mind is telling me to thank him and then ask him to finish me off but my heart...
...wants to punch him until he begs for mercy. Too bad that will never happen because if there's somepony who would want to repent for what he did then it is him. I can't hate somepony just because they made a mistake out of good will.
Seeing her again, I can't lie, hurt more than Discord's explanation. That time I was just shocked but being forced to hear her voice and look into her red eyes again was almost too difficult to handle, almost.
I can't afford to tangle with her again, especially now with a clear goal in mind. It can't lead to anything other than me hurting her again.
But I really, really, REALLY want to.
Especially now that the bucker Valiant is back. I thought Celestia banned him from returning to Canterlot for what he did. I haven't seen him for over three years but a psycho like him never completely leaves one's memory. It looks like I'm going to have to choose whether to deal with Sombra or Valiant. I don't want to just kill him but I'll probably have to.
I won't let him turn Chokey into a shaking, abused wreck again even if it means putting Sombra on hold.
Rising Thunder still being in the Royal Guard just means that neither him nor Blueballs were punished for killing me the first time. Heh, not many ponies can say that. Still, I'm alive only because I'm not important enough to die.
Note to self: Is there an alicorn of Fate? If there is one then after all this I'm going to find him and shove my hoof so far up his ass he'll end up kissing it.
Nothing I can do or say will be even close to how sorry I am for killing Sharp. I might love Chokey to my horseshoes but Heavy... he landed in things that shouldn't have involved him whatsoever and he still did his best. I know you loved me a little and I know that's impossible now but please don't hate me.
Not because of me, I'm nothing, but because you're too good to fester on the inside.
So... what next? The things I need to know to deal with Sombra won't be accessible in a normal library so the guard thing might be a stroke of luck. As a guard I should be able to get into the royal library as much as I want but that might take a year I don't think I have.
Still, the Royal Guard training might get me back in shape. I'm having to get used to this body since it's slightly taller and has a different center of balance than mine did and it hinders me quite a bit. It doesn't help that Heavy screwed my left front leg pretty hard with his staff. Well, I'm used to that leg being a bit iffy and at least it's not a prosthesis, I guess.
If he ever finds out that I somehow survived his fun then...
...no reason to bother myself with that. It's completely out of my control.
Heck, I finally have a fitting name to who I am.
I got into the habit of carrying the journal with me wherever I go and it seems to be paying off. Honestly, I wouldn't have expected the linked book to be connected with Mistake's but life's got its little jokes, I suppose. At least I got some perspective on ponies I'm around. Truth be told, I have my own problems, one problem specifically.
The earthpony from Sole Regret. I must admit it was a stupid idea to visit a mercenary bar with a bounty on my head but what's done is done. Last two days were calm aside from Mistake miraculously recovering from his injury as soon as the healer unicorns stopped trying to use magic to heal him. He disappeared somewhere after the evening practice and while I could go to the library and catch him during the act of breaking in I prefer using the book as a source of information for now.
I hide the journal back to my locker as I see a wet pony step out of the shower room and push a button on the wall starting the manedrier. I expected the castle equipment to be rustic and traditional but the castle gym and especially the showers are well-equipped, air-conditioned and built on griffon technology. The one really fun thing is that while the showers itself are divided into stallion and mare ones the locker room isn't, allowing me to carefully peek at ponies delighting with eyes closed in warm air flowing from the full-body manedriers getting them rid of the last remnants of water in their coat.
Every aching muscle thanks me when I let the warm water flow from the shower tap on the wall and proceed to massage every bit I can reach.
The mare and stallion shower distinction is actually funny in the current state of things as technically, and very cheekily, I'm neither and could easily talk my way out of anyone whining about me being in the 'wrong' one. I should try it some time just to mess with the mares. What's more interesting is the strange blue-ish female changeling showering next to me, trying to scrub dirt out of the deep scratches in her chitin.
Changelings probably don't really care about things like gender too much but I'm slightly interested in her as she looks different from any changeling picture I've ever seen.
"Uh hey, girl," I smile comfortingly at her.
"Yes?" she asks politely, not trying to blow me off and just waiting to find out what I want.
"Eeeh, how come you, well, don't look like a normal changeling? I mean like the ones I'm used to."
"Long story. I'm from Guiding Light's hive. We're not really bound by the peace treaty but princess Celestia seems to like our queen so we're on okay terms with ponies," is once again a full answer I don't really understand spoken in a warm tone with the changeling tilting her head slightly to see if I'm done.
I am. There's nothing I want to ask in the castle showers. In a private one with just the two of us... maybe later.
"Thank you," I nod.
She smiles and returns to attacking the grime on her chitin with a levitating sponge.
The recruit training isn't too difficult, at least not for me and some other experienced-looking ponies, but seeing Mistake almost cough up his lungs during endurance running was unexpected yet amusing. At least now I don't have to feel bad after seeing his combat prowess.
Toweling myself off, I get ready to leave. I don't feel like flying with wings still slightly wet so I have to trudge through snow to get home.
I freeze. The sound of steel being drawn out of a sheath.
Just a guard on patrol lighting a cigarette around the corner.
I might be just sliiiightly on edge thanks to being found by either a bounty hunter or some pony with a really sick sense of humor. Still, there's no reason not to be cautious while walking the dimly lit streets of Canterlot during late evening.
Just a rock being crushed by someone's horseshoe, nothing sinister whatsoever.
The streets are filled with ponies coming home after work and almost every single one is wearing a cowl or at least a cap or a hat to hide from the cold. The ones with short clothes are okay since while I can't see their faces I can at least see how they move but the ones with long sleeves or flowing clothes are dangerous. Every crease might contain a dagger, every fold could be hiding a poisoned needle.
I jump to the side and roll on the ground, shocking few passers by.
Every corner or dark alley could contain someone with a crossbow. Granted, the sound was just a street artist's guitar string snapping and the guy at Sole Regret was the pony without extra equipment...
Earthpony, damn. Think straight!
...so he probably wouldn't be able to operate a ranged weapon, at least not any of the ones I'm used to from the Legion. I have to ask if there are any projectile weapons used by ponies.
A cowled pony bumps into me.
"EEEEEEK!" screams the mare when I push her aside forcefully and she lands in the snow.
"Ah! Sorry, miss... just a bit jumpy, heh," I help her up.
"Be careful, young... griffon."
"Yeah, sorry once again."
Why is there a chill running up my spine? Why today? Why not yesterday or the day before? Why do I feel like sprinting home as fast as I can?
Just calm down.
I'm a soldier, I CAN deal with an attacking pony, armed or not. I can recover from an ambush fast enough to leave the ambusher begging for mercy. I have done so in the past. This is no different from a group of thieves ganging up on a guard responsible for protecting a shipment of whatever floated over the ocean.
My breathing slowing down, I stop seeing a threat in every shadow. I'm fully aware of the possibility of it being there but I won't let my imagination get to me. The darkness should know that it's ME who is the most dangerous creature here.
The apartment building comes into view and the cold sweat returns.
I don't remember leaving the window open.
Calm down, calm down!
Mistake might have returned from whatever he was doing after the practice and wanted a bit of fresh air. Oooor maybe not.
Don't think about knives and ponies waiting behind the door!
Back to basic training.
Entering an unsafe area.
Step one - break the door but don't charge inside, hide behind the wall instead.
Got my keys ready, no reason to cause property damage just on a suspicion.
Step two - flashbang.
If I kick the door open after unlocking it I should be able to quickly reach for the light switch right next to it without revealing anything more than just my arm.
Step three - send the riot shield in.
No heavily armored squadmates in sight unfortunately. I think throwing my backpack into the room and charging right after it might disorient any attacker.
The irony that the ones who taught me all that are the ones trying to kill me right now is completely lost on me.
The lock clicks under my touch, I kick the door open and roll behind the wall. Something grazes my arm trying to reach for the light switch and scratches the opposite wall in entrance hall.
I grin and rush inside. It's always nice to know an enemy is slightly less smart than you are.
Noone is there. Not under the bed, not in the bathroom, not in the storage closet. The semi-open window still taunts me and so does a little device on the table that had been moved in the middle of the room.
It's a spring-loaded dart gun with some tripwire contraption presumably activating it in the event of someone opening the door.
So, he knows where I live but underestimates me severely.
First of all, examine the projectile.
The tip doesn't smell in any particular fashion so the chance of it being poisoned lowers fairly drastically. The odourless poisons are usually extremely expensive and don't last long on the blade. The dart itself can't have been fatal unless it hit me in the neck but the trajectory is all wrong for it.
Hmmm, something is wrapped around the dart itself. Paper...
A wave of nausea hits me as I unroll the piece of paper.
The picture of me with my parents drops from my bloodless talons. and I sit down in the middle of the room and just watch it through blurring eyes.
The necks of all three griffons in the picture are crossed by a red line and underneath the picture there is an another message.
How does it feel to be all alone?
Does it comfort you when I tell you it won't be for long?
Time passes with me sitting on the floor and sobbing.
The only thing I can say when Mistake eventually jumps through the still open door and scans the area is: