Packing: Light Shines
Things are looking up, I guess.
To be honest, Royal Guard recruit training feels more and more pointless with every misadventure I have to go through. As far as physical practice is concerned the Griffon Legion desert trips were more than enough to surpass anything Heavy and Rising make us do. As for the weapon training though, where griffons rely on weapons, gadgets, natural strength and size, ponies rely on pure skill in their chosen aspect.
I wonder about my chances as once again Heavy Hoof's blue mane passes my peripheral vision, my world spins, and I end up on my back. When I blink the minor concussion off, the white, blue-maned earthpony is standing above me with hoof outstretched.
"Is there anything wrong? You seem even less focused than usual," Heavy raises an eyebrow when I grab his leg and jump back up.
"Sorry, my mind is just elsewhere."
"Trouble at home?"
We both might have things we dislike about one another - I, for one, still can't forgive him how he betrayed Mistake in Manehattan and he, erm, errrrm. Is there really nothing? - but there's no reason to point those out. Thinking about it, he's a good friend who just suffered a lapse of judgement.
"More like the exact opposite."
"Oh? Oooh!" he looks at Mistake who is doing some light exercises under the supervision of Darky while Rising Thunder is torturing the normal recruits, "Going to the next level?"
"Well then," Heavy grins sadistically, "I can't let my old sargeant and a good friend get bedded by some loser, right? Best three out of five, Cromach. If you lose I'll put in a good word for Darky and Blazing might just change his mind."
"Maybe, maybe not. Do you want to find out? Blazing has been after Darky for ages and now, with you in the picture, she finally realizes she has to start trying herself otherwise he'll drift away from her."
I take everything back. Deep down he doesn't like me and right now I hate him. Good motivation though.
"His name is Mistake," I growl, "You could at least use it! Shows how much you respect him and his choices."
Grabbing my practice mace I previously dropped on the ground, a training weapon closest in size and shape to my chosen battleaxe, my talons rip out bits of frozen earth that follow my upswing. Heavy doesn't bother dodging and just rears on his hind legs and spins his staff in the air, one end deflecting my strike and the following end sending me back on the ground.
"I made enough wrong choices in the past, Cromach, and I will do and say what I think is right. Blazing lies about his name because he believes anything he does will end up a failure. I've known him much longer than you and I know he is wrong. That's why I will NEVER use the name Mistake."
Jumping back up, I grab the large mace in both arms, get ready to swing and charge, and throw it at him. Normally, getting rid of my weapon would be suicide but this is a practice and a fight to prove my point. If Heavy doesn't believe I can be by Mistake's side and steer him right I will just make him unable to say anything. Following the flying weapon, I jump straight at where Heavy will dodge.
My charge knocks the wind out of him and when my talons lock around his neck I squeeze.
"One for me... friend," I heave and the titan's hind legs leave the ground. He might be huge even for an earthpony but I am a griffon trained by the Legion in the desert, taller, stronger, unbreakable. Letting him choke a little, I throw him on the icy ground.
Heavy's easy smile fades completely as he coughs and readies his combat stance.
"A suicidal charge? Is that the best you can do?" he taunts.
"Just so you know how far I'm willing to go," I turn my back to him and walk to the weapon I threw, ready to jump away at the sound of any movement. Heavy just stands there, watching me. That's his biggest flaw, the incurable sense of fairness... something I admire and despise at the same time.
With both of us facing one another, Darky finishes Mistake's exercises and leads him to our 'practice'. I wonder whether they're really done or whether she heard us. Batponies, am I right?
Today all of them will know the strength of my convictions. I swing wide with the mace and Heavy gets ready to block it. He avoids the blow at the last second just by pulling his staff back and stabs straight at me. Letting my weapon go again I take the blow, grip the staff, pull towards me. Ponies, not having the gripping ability of griffons, are usually easy to disarm. Aside from unicorns, damn unicorns. The staff slides out of his hooves but it's enough to make him stumble. Gripping his weapon, I stab him in the chest, grab the end of the staff in both arms, swing.
"Two out of five. If you don't think I'm the right one then you sure as hell should start trying, Heavy."
"Okay," he turns to Mistake, "Hey, Blazing! Stop hiding behind a false name and accept who you really are."
That motherplucker! How dare he?
This time I'm not waiting for him to get ready and just rush to him while his weapon is still gone. Heavy's never been a stupid pony though. I, on the other sharp-taloned arm, get overconfident from time to time. Just like now. I fall right into Heavy's trap as he turns back to me, kicking up faster than a staff would go without any wind-up. The followup is no less painful as the earthpony who must have been carved out of rock by gods themselves punches me so hard I think for a moment I've been banished to the moon. So much for being stronger.
"Heavy, I-" Mistake begins.
"I chose the name because it fit me. It still fits so I'm still using it."
"And it will fit you as long as you believe it. Do you know the magic behind pony names?"
"Never heard about it."
"A pony's name, whether given or chosen, affects their fate. It's very simple and I, for one, believe it to be true."
"Pfff, as if anything I've ever done fit the name Blazing Light."
"You were the torch that showed me the path when everypony hated me for being a colt cuddler. When Darky thought she'd never get out of Valiant's hooves you helped without any regard for yourself and your presence burned away any lingering shadows of his presence. Am I right, Darky?"
"Sort of, yeah," the batpony smiles.
"You destroyed the shadow king, giving Equestria brighter future and, from what I heard, your and Sharp's influence were the biggest things that made queen Chrysalis accept the peace offer. Do you now understand why I think you shouldn't be ashamed?"
"You just picked some of the good stuff out of all the bad things I've done," Mistake mumbles but there is something missing in his voice.
"I picked the ends I could recall at the moment. You fought your way through the darkness and emerged victorious. I am your friend and it's my duty to show you where you went wrong."
"Oh shut up!" I descend from the heights where Heavy's hoof sent me, "Friends support each other even if they disagree. You just think you know better than everypony else which you don't. Ehm, ehm, Manehattan."
"Calm down, Cro," Mistake says, "Friends forgive each other."
"And try to make amends," Heavy finishes his sentence.
Why do I get the feeling the situation turned against me? Am I really wrong?
"You gonna talk or fight, Heavy?" I arm myself again.
"Right, we have a little bet going," Heavy grins again and picks his staff up.
"Woo. Stakes high?" Darky's eyes sparkle.
"Everything's on the line," I growl, "I mustn't lose."
"You will," Heavy says assuredly, "Am I right, Blazing?"
"Yes, in both your assumptions."
I swing. Heavy blurs. World spins.
"Giving something your all is fine, Cromach. Being reckless isn't. Neither is being thoughtless."
"I've won against you before. I can do it again," I groan, picking myself back up.
"Use Blazing's real name and I'll let you win."
I swing my mace right into his block. His legs budge a little.
Another blow. Another patient block.
The practice staff cracks.
The staff breaks but Heavy dodges by leaning back.
My weapon hits the ground so hard it breaks as well.
Heavy's hoof reaches my face at the speed of a comet. I can't lose here. I can't-
"OW!" Heavy's strike stops, blocked by a small shield made of pieces of black crystal.
"Enough, guys. This is just a practice," says Mistake and turns to Darky, "Did I nail it?"
"Yep," Darky chuckles, "Pretty accurate for a blind pony."
"Heavy," Mistake says and Darky turns his head in the correct direction, "I'm not sure about the magic of names or whatever but you are the smart one, not me. You're right about me just running away though. Cro, if you don't mind, can you call me Blazing? If it bothers you I won't mind going by Mistake just for you."
I don't know whether to feel betrayed or... vindicated.
"Buddy, I don't care how I call you. You're still the unicorn I want to protect and see happy."
"Ya're not the only one," Darky steps in.
"You've had enough chances already," I hiss back at her.
"Enough!" Mistake says firmly, "I need all of you. It took me long enough to realize it but you got on this train wreck with me willingly. Well, let's leave that topic because I'm here to ask something more pleasant. Heavy, do you want to go with us on a vacation? Princess Luna is paying."
"Sorry, Blazing, I have a ton of work here. A new batch of recruits will be arriving after Heart's Warming and since we have almost no trainers it'll be up to me and Rising to get the Royal Guard back up and running. Also, I think the two lovestruck morons wouldn't take kindly to me being a distraction."
Successfully embarrassing all three of us, Heavy picks the broken practice weapons up and puts them back into the equipment box. Hauling the box away, he resumes assisting Rising Thunder with the recruit training.
"Blazing," I stick my tongue out, "Doesn't roll out of the beak too well."
"That's why I call him Blaze," Darky winks at me.
This might be a terrible idea.
"Ehhh, I have to ask for a favor, Darky."
"Blaze has already told me. Ya want me to take him in for tonight, right?"
"Yeah. Did-did he tell you why?"
"No, he was uncharacteristically secretive."
We look at each other. We burst out laughing.
"Yes, yes, I get it," Mist- Blaze scowls but I know he's not mad.
Now, why would he agree out of the blue? Why does it suddenly bother me?
Damn Heavy Hoof, too smart for his own good. Well, Heart's Warming is coming, as he said, and I might have a much better chance to make our night memorable. I'm much less sure about my decision now.
Of course it has to be still gnawing him from the inside.
[i]"I wanted to do something for you but I didn't have anything."[/i]
That's what he said and I refused then. Now, though, he feels firmer and more sure of himself than ever before. If I let it grow a little then things can only get better in the long run.
I hope I'm not making a mistake.
"Ehm, Blaze?" I mumble the unfamiliar name, "About our... arrangement. Can we leave it for later?"
"Eh? Sure, but why? I thought you were crazy about it."
"Meh, maybe Heavy finally managed to beat some sense into my head."
"So, should I stay tonight at Chokey's place or what?"
"Yes, please. I think she deserves to enjoy you a little. Can't be too greedy, can I?" I smile at him.
"MAKEOVERS!" Darky yells.
"You're kidding me," Blaze's jaw drops.
"Of course I am," she hits him softly with a hoof, "I'm not thirteen. We'll be banging, right?"
How can she say it so easily when I have to gather courage and think about every step?
"Stop teasing, Chokey. I doubt I was much good in bed before and when I can't even see what I'm doing it's not going to get better."
Oh right, I forgot they lived together for a while.
"Well, yeah," Darky admits, "I just love seeing Cromach steam so hard he melts the snow around him. I'm pretty sure I get what your 'arrangement' was. Ya're saving it for Heart's Warming evening, aren't ya?"
"Maybe," I squeak weakly.
"Good luck. I'll just have to settle for somepony I meet at the end of the year party. I'll be thinking of both of ya during the night though. With any luck, twice."
I think we might be very similar. Perhaps that's why both of us are in this situation.
"Darky, I solemnly promise that the next time it'll be the three of us in one bed and we'll do anything-"
I catch Blaze shaking his head violently and making cutthroat gestures with his hoof.
"-some things you want us to do. It's just that I want the first time together to be special."
"First time?" Darky gasps, "I thought you- wow, I had no idea."
"Well, we didn't have much time to do anything with all that was happening."
"Guys, sorry. I just thought you wanted to spend the festival together. I thought you've already- nevermind. I promise not to bother you and I'll sort all the packing out myself. I'll buy all the necessary stuff, I'm sure I know both of your sizes well enough. We'll be leaving two days after Heart's Warming so just have fun and leave everything to me."
"No biggie. We'll have two weeks on the beach to 'play' to our heart's content."
She might be my rival but all that means is that we have a common goal. I should just let things go for now, enjoy myself, and relax. Next step, find a good love hotel and reserve a spot. After that - the Griffon Empire.
Let the good times begin!