Nuggets of Wisdom

Saturday, December 6, 2014

MLP:FIM: The Dark Stallion - Episode 04

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic presents

The Dark Stallion

Episode 04: An Old Rival Returns. Xander’s Wizard Duel.

**********

Last time on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:

Following a string of robberies in Ponyville, Twilight and her friends planned to capture the culprits responsible. Little did they know that they were going up against ninjas. The six would have met their end were it not for the intervention of a lone ninja sword pony. Introducing himself as Ninja Star, he explained that the ninjas were of the Shadow Clan. Though he himself knew little of their intentions, he suspected that they were after the Elements of Harmony, and vowed to offer them his protection. Just who are the Shadow Clan, and what are their intentions with the Elements of Harmony?

**********

“Father! Father, what’s going on?!” yelled a terrified young colt at the top of his shrill, young voice as he raced down a hallway engulfed in black smoke.

He ran towards the door from where the smoke emanated and kicked it open with a single leap. Inside was a study engulfed in flames, and in its center stood a light brown stallion with a wild, dark red mane and a deep scar across his right eye. The stallion grimaced, cackling as he stood over another stallion, dark blue with a silver-blue mane, who lay in a pool of blood before him.

The colt gasped as he recognized the fallen stallion. “Father! No!”

**********

Xander jolted upright in his bed. A cold sweat rolled down his forehead and back. Panting heavily, he surveyed his room, noticing that it was still night.

It was only a nightmare—the same one that had been haunting him ever since that fateful night ten years ago, and it felt just as real as when it first occurred.

With a light sigh, he reclined back into bed with his head resting upon his sweat-soaked pillow. He closed his eyes and returned to sleep. Hopefully, that nightmare would not repeat itself in the same night.

**********
It was around early morning, shortly after breakfast, when Twilight and Spike visited the downtown market, which was fairly busy for a morning such as this. While perusing the many stalls, Twilight happened across Applejack and her cart, its baskets overflowing with freshly-picked green and red apples.

“Morning, Applejack,” Twilight greeted the cowpony.

“Well, howdy there, Twilight! Spike!” Applejack stood behind her cart after having finished setting up. “Grocery shopping, I assume?”

Twilight nodded. “Just some errands before I open up the library for the day.”

“Well, speaking of which, one of yer regular patrons is coming this way.” Applejack pointed across the marketplace.

Twilight turned to see Xander approaching. She smiled and waved at him. “Hello, Xander!”

Xander passed by without saying a word. His somber expression revealed that he did not notice them.

Twilight appeared perplexed. “Xander?”

Again, Xander did not notice or acknowledge her.

Twilight grimaced. Her horn glowed light purple as she winked away, leaving poor Spike to fall onto the ground upon her disappearance. She reappeared before Xander, who gave a slight yelp as he jolted back in shock upon his flank. As he fell backwards, his satchel flew open, and from it flew a handful of old pages.

“You know, it’s common courtesy to return somepony’s greeting.” Twilight said, slightly frustrated.

Xander picked himself up and dusted himself off. He chuckled slightly. “Sorry. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t notice you.”

As he started gathering the fallen pages and returning them to his satchel, Twilight joined in and helped him, picking up two pages. Curiosity soon got the best of her as she studied them closely. Before she could fully read them, she felt the pages being snatched out of her hooves by Xander.

"Those are private!" He barked at her before realizing what he had done. "Sorry! It's just that these pages are very personal for me, and I don't appreciate them being seen by other ponies."

His half-hearted apology hardly fazed Twilight, who closed her eyes and turned her nose up as she returned to Applejack’s cart. “If you’re heading to the library,” she turned to face him, “it’s closed until I’m finished with my errands. You might as well stick around with me and socialize while I finish.”

Xander rolled his hazel eyes as he stepped in front of the cart and next to Twilight. “If you insist. Might as well get something to eat.”

“You’re in luck, then,” Applejack grabbed the brightest red apple she could find in the basket next to her and offered it to Xander. “No better way to start yer morning than with a fresh red apple.”

Xander accepted the fruit as he reached into his pocket to pull out a coin. “Well, thank you, um, Applejack, is it?”

“That it is,” Applejack replied, accepting the coin.

Just then, from out of the bushel of apples popped the head of Pinkie Pie, starling all three ponies and Spike.

“And I’m Pinkie Pie!” she chirped, oblivious to the startled expressions of the others.

Xander was especially shocked, clenching his chest as if he had nearly suffered a heart attack. He was not accustomed to the pink pony’s antics as the others were.

He relaxed, and gave a nervous chuckle. “Well, nice to meet you too, Pinkie.” He leant next to Twilight, covering the front of his mouth, whispering, “Does she normally do that?”

“Normal doesn’t accurately describe her,” Twilight whispered back.

Pinkie giggled, grabbing an apple from the very bushel she was sitting in. “Looks like you and your new coltfriend are getting along quite nicely, Twilight.”

Twilight and Xander both gasped in embarrassment.

“He’s not my coltfriend, Pinkie.” Twilight mumbled.

“Weeeellllll—” Pinkie gazed diagonally to her left as she twirled the apple in her hoof, “He is a colt, and he is your friend, so—”

Before she could finish, she began shaking up and down as her tail quickly twitched.

Applejack gasped. “Pinkie, is your Pinkie Sense tingling again?”

Pinkie Pie looked at her tail. “Seems like it. Could be a ditzy.” She gazed upward while resting her chin on her other hoof. “Or perhaps it’s a doozy.”

“Twilight!” Spike exclaimed, pointing to the sky.

Everyone turned to see a purple fireball barreling towards them. Twilight gasped.

Without second thought, Xander tossed his apple towards the fireball. The apple exploded upon impact, dissipating the fireball, and spluttering apple juice and sauce upon the four ponies and dragon. Everypony but Pinkie and Xander had their mouths wide open in disbelief.

Pinkie nonchalantly took a bite of her apple. “Yup. Definitely a doozy,” she said with her mouth full.

“Great galloping hornytoads!” Applejack wiped the apple mess off her face. “What the tarnation was that?”

“Nice counter, Xander!” A voice exclaimed.

Standing on a far-off rooftop was a male unicorn. He leapt off the roof, onto the canvas of a nearby stall, and somersaulted in the air twice before landing on the ground with a bow.

Now that he was closer to them, everyone could take notice of him more easily. He was a young male unicorn, around the same age as the others, with a beige coat and dirty blond mane with red highlights. He wore a jacket similar to what Xander wore, only blue instead of grey, and he also wore a golden pocket watch around his neck with matching ensignia.

His green eyes stared intently at Xander. “Using an apple to counter a purple zigbang? Very resourceful. But then again, what else can I expect from a prodigy such as yourself?”

Xander scoffed and rolled his eyes. “LaRousse!”

“You know him?” Twilight asked.

“We attended the same school,” Xander replied.

“Gringhorn’s, to be exact,” LaRousse added.

“Gringhorn’s?!” Pinkie exclaimed. “Did you hear that girls? Xander graduated from Gringhorn’s!” She then blinked twice before asking Twilight, “What’s Gringhorn’s?”

“Gringhorn’s Academy for Gifted Colts,” Twilight answered. “It’s only one of the most prestigious magical academies in Equestria—aside from Princess Celestia's School, of course.”

“What’s the difference?” Spike asked.

“Celestia’s is a magical academy for all gifted unicorns, whereas Gringhorn’s is more of a military academy for colts,” Twilight replied. "My brother, Shining Armor, graduated from there."

“Not just any colt attends that academy,” LaRousse bragged. “Only the most disciplined and learned can graduate, and Xander here graduated with highest honors, top in his class even.”

Applejack whistled, clearly impressed.

Twilight nodded. "My brother struggled just to graduate from there with a normal grade point average. I'd imagine what rigor a colt like Xander would need to graduate top of his class."

Xander pointed to LaRousse. “Enough of the phony flank kissing,” he exclaimed, his voice revealing that he was starting to get annoyed. “Just how did you manage to find me?”

“Oh, I just happened to stroll into town when I overheard gossip going around of a young stallion who single-handedly saved the dam with his magic.” LaRousse replied. “It didn’t take me long to figure out it was you. I assume it was you.”

Xander gazed away, unenthused. “Yes.”

“Well, of course it was,” LaRousse replied. “Who else but you could—”

“Look,” Xander interrupted, clearly annoyed, “Do you mind telling me what it is you want from me?”

“Why Xander!” LaRousse said, feigning shock. “Can’t an old friend catch up on old times?”

“We’re not friends, LaRousse,” Xander replied.

“No, but you could say that we’re rivals of a sort,” LaRousse continued. “And as rivals, we’re involved in, well, rivalry.” He rolled his eyes. “Oh, I’ll just cut to the chase: I wish to challenge you to a wizard’s duel.”

Twilight perked her ears and gasped when she heard that.

“Not interested,” Xander replied.

“Oh come now!” LaRousse said, feigning a pouty disposition. “Don’t tell me I came all this way for nothing. I was so looking forward to challenging you.”

“I have to say, Xander,” Twilight interjected, “it would be interesting to see you in a wizard’s duel.”

Xander threw a dirty glance at Twilight. “I said I’m not interested.”

“But I've never seen a wizard’s duel before,” Twilight replied, “especially between two Gringhorn’s graduates.”

“You’re marefriend has a point,” LaRousse said.

Both Twilight and Xander scowled at this.

“He’s not my coltfriend,” Twilight protested.

“She’s not my marefriend,” Xander said at the exact same time.

Both realized that they spoke the same thing simultaneously, and blushed.

“Well, if you decide to accept my challenge,” LaRousse said, “I’ll see you in the fields on the outskirts of town around noon.  I just hope you haven’t lost your edge.”

With that, LaRousse leapt onto another rooftop and disappeared out of sight.

**********

When the sun shone high at noon that day, Xander waited patiently on the east outskirts of Ponyville along the road that lead from town to Canterlot. He leant against the post of a wooden fence that segregated the dirt road from a grassy field that stretched as far as the eye could see, bordered by the Everfree Forest to the south and the river to the west. Save for a lone tree in the far distance, the entire field lay barren. A gentle wind blew, wiping the dew of sweat from Xander’s forehead, and ruffling the hairs in his mane.

Xander kept his gaze to the ground as he spoke to Twilight standing to his left, leaning over the railing. “Remind me again why you’re here again?”

Twilight beamed as the wind wafted through her flowing hair. “Like I said: I’ve never seen a wizard’s duel before, and I think seeing one would be a good learning experience for me.”

Xander then glared at Twilight’s friends, who all stood along the fence to her left. “And what about them?”

“We’re here for the entertainment,” Applejack replied. “This here wizard’s duel sounds a whole lot like wrestling, only with them unicorn magic-y powers.”

“That just makes it sound 20 percent cooler,” Rainbow Dash added. “And it’s not like we get to see unicorn magic in action around these parts, save for Twilight and perhaps the occasional huckster like Trixie.”

“And it’s not just any unicorn magic, darling,” Rarity continued. “This is magic by graduates from Gringhorn’s Academy. The colts there undergo the strictest, most rigorous of training—making them ample in both magic and physique—but more importantly, physique.”

Rarity gave a gentle sigh as she rested her cheek against her hoof.

“I’m here to cheer everyone on,” Fluttershy said. “Oh, I’m so excited, I feel like giving a big one right now.”

Fluttershy took a deep breath and gave a gentle, “yay!”

Pinkie Pie popped up behind them holding an assortment of snacks in her arms. “And I brought the refreshments: candy, popcorn, candy corn, chocolate, chips, cheesy puffs—of course, most of it’s for me.”

In a single gulp she swallowed an entire bag of popcorn and let off a gentle hiccup and giggle.

“And I’m here because Rainbow Dash is here,” Sky Wind explained. “It’s not like I have anything else to do, considering my memory is lost and all.”

Xander scoffed. “Well, just stay out of the way, all of you. These duels can get out of hand, and I don’t want any pony getting hurt.”

He looked to the ground. “Of course, I don’t even know why I’m even here to begin with.”

“Because you didn’t feel like chickening out to me?” LaRousse asked, appearing in the field before them in a burst of light with silver sparkles cascading around him.

Xander gave a rough chuckle. “I see you’ve made another dramatic entry as usual.”

LaRousse crossed his forelegs and gazed upon Xander smugly. “And I see you brought along your fangirls.”

Xander jolted in place as embarrassment shot across his face. “They’re not my fangirls.”

LaRousse chuckled. “So I’m assuming they’re mine, then?”

Xander only grit his teeth in frustration.

LaRousse casually strutted past Xander and towards the six fillies, giving a gentle bow. “Why hello there, ladies. The name’s LaRousse, proud graduate of Gringhorn’s Academy.”

He took Rarity by the hoof, and gestured toward her with a bow. “I’m sure you’ve all heard of it. It’s only the finest magical academies in Equestria, and it produces only the finest of gentlecolts like myself.”

He gently kissed her hoof, forcing her to blush, giggle, and hide her face with her other hoof.

LaRousse took one step back. “I assure you are all in for the most exquisite of presentations, a demonstration of what our fine academy can offer. And to make matters more interesting, I offer one of you ladies the chance to date whoever wins this duel. Sounds like a fair prize?”

Xander rolled his eyes and scoffed. “Oh, come off it, Casanova. Let’s get on with the duel already. I don’t have all day.”

LaRousse chuckled. “So be it. We’ll make our way to our chosen playing field now.”

Both colts took forty paces from the fence into the field.

“I just remembered why I decided to accept your challenge,” Xander said as the two walked alongside each other.

“Is it because I’m such a formidable opponent?” LaRousse asked.

Xander scoffed. “Hardly. If anything, you’re simply not worth my time. I wasn’t even going to come to this stupid duel. But then I remembered that you’ve always been full of yourself, being the unbearable braggart that you are. So I figured this would be the opportune moment to knock you down a notch.”

The two reached forty paces and turned to face one another.

LaRousse smirked confidently. “Such bold words. And this is why I so desired to challenge you.”

Both took one step back from one another.

“Standard regulations?” Xander asked.

“What else?” LaRousse asked in a shrug. “The duel ends when one combatant surrenders, loses all his magical energy, or falls unconscious. Other than that, no holds bar.”

The two turned to each other’s back.

“Ten paces until your first attack.” LaRousse announced. “Ready?”

“Ready.” Xander replied.

The two started pacing away from one another with LaRousse counting out loud in French (or rather, Fancy). When they had reached “Ten,” Xander turned and unleashed a fireball attack, only to notice that LaRousse was nowhere to be found. He felt a cold wind as LaRousse teleported ten paces behind him and unleashed his own fireball attack. Before it could strike, Xander stomped his hind hooves on the ground, bringing up a square wall of dirt behind him to shield him from the attack.

LaRousse gazed up and saw as a fireball fell towards him from above. It was the same fireball that Xander unleashed previously, and had manipulated with his magic to loop over him and towards LaRousse, who quickly back flipped out of the way as it bombarded the ground, leaving a charred impact as a meteor would.

Twilight and the others could only stare in awe at the duel. None of them had seen anything such as this before. They watched in silence, with Rainbow Dash mouthing “Whoa!”

LaRousse laughed as if the situation was anything but serious, as if Xander had merely missed him with a snowball rather than a fireball. “I see you’re still quick on your feet as ever.”

He back flipped once, twice, then leapt into the air—but before he could return to the ground, his horn and entire body glowed bright orange as he began rising into the air a good fifteen feet.

Sky Wind gasped. “He’s flying!”

“The proper term is ‘levitating,’ actually,” Twilight replied. “It’s just like levitating anything else with magic, only it’s yourself. A spell for very advanced unicorns.”

“Wonder if Xander can levitate, too?” Rainbow Dash asked.

From where he now stood in the air, LaRousse glared down upon Xander. “Let’s see how quick you can dodge this.”

As he spoke, electric sparks flew from his horn. In a blink of an eye, he sent a lightning bolt crashing down upon Xander, who leapt straight in the air, dodging the bolt as it crashed into the ground below him.

Aglow within a blue aura, Xander now stood face-to-face with LaRousse, who sent yet another lightning bolt at him. Xander flew several feet back as the lighting struck him—or rather, as the electricity gathered into a ball before him. When the ball became the size of a basketball, Xander spun around once and launched it at LaRousse, who countered it with an orange force field, sending it back at Xander who countered likewise. The two continued bouncing the lightning ball back and forth as though it was a mere tennis ball before it hit Xander off guard and sent him careening into the river below, creating a huge splash.

“Xander!” Twilight exclaimed.

When the water from the splash subsided, it revealed Xander kneeling upon the river’s surface as though it were solid ground. He stood and began walking toward the riverbank.

“Sweet apple dumplings!” Apple Jack exclaimed, “He’s walking on water!”

“Like Pony Jesus!” Pinkie Pie added.

Apple Jack raised her eyebrow. “What?”

“What?” Pinkie Pie replied, appearing equally confused.

Xander reached the riverbank as LaRousse lowered himself back onto the ground.

“It’s going to take more than that to catch me off guard,” Xander replied, standing on the bank.

LaRousse smirked as he tilted his head with his horn glowing orange. “Will it now?”

Xander felt a presence behind him. Before he could turn, he was swept up into a tidal wave.

LaRousse’s horn shone brighter, and the water from the wave began levitating in the air as a water bubble with Xander immersed within it, flailing and struggling for breath.

“Had I malicious intent, I’d simply let you drown,” LaRousse boasted before his horn gave a burst of orange light.

The water surrounding Xander instantaneously froze into an ice ball that crashed into the ground below. Xander remained frozen within, his expression like that of a statue.

“But I think this is the more humane way to defeat you,” LaRousse chuckled as he turned to walk away. “Don’t worry, it’s a hot day today. The ice should melt within the next hour or so. Then you’ll be able to let go.”

A blue aura surrounded Xander as his horn began to glow blue. The ice he was encased in began letting off steam at a swift rate, and soon enough, it had all melted back into its liquid state. As Xander landed on the ground, the water rose above him into individual droplets that quickly froze into icicles.

As LaRousse turned, he saw the icicles fly toward him. He back flipped several times, each time narrowly-missing an icicle. With the last icicle, LaRousse landed upon his feet and saw as Xander came rushing at him.

Xander leapt into the air, his horn glowing blue, and landed upon the ground. The ground beneath his fore hooves glowed with a circle of blue light, its shape that of a square within a triangle within a circle—the same shape as his cutie mark. From its center emerged an iron pole with a saber on one end and a flowing ribbon on the other—a pole staff. The new weapon floated before Xander in an aura of blue light that resonated with that of his horn. Xander rushed forward and swung at Larousse, who back flipped and landed upon his fore hooves, creating a similar circle from which arose an iron sword.

LaRousse landed on all fours and brandished his sword before him with his magic. “So it’s a normal duel you want? So be it!”

He rushed forward and swung his sword, clashing with Xander’s pole staff.

“That staff came out of nowhere,” Fluttershy exclaimed.

“Actually, it was created with the art of transmutation,” Ninja Star said, standing right next to her.

Everyone gave a startled gasp as they realized the ninja pony, who had come out of nowhere, was standing in their midst.

“You came out of nowhere!” Fluttershy gasped.

“How did you do that?” Pinkie Pie asked.

“Better question,” Twilight interjected, “How do you know about transmutation?”

Ninja Star leant against the fence as he watched the duel between Xander and LaRousse, both clashing weapons with one another’s. “I’ve traveled far and wide across Equestria and have seen the combat and techniques of different ponies. The technique we have just witnessed is the art of transmutation—the process of converting one form of matter into another through alchemy.”

From the looks of the duel, it would have seemed that LaRousse had the upper hand, but Xander quickly gained footing and began fighting back harder and harsher.

“The weapons those two now wield were created from the minerals in the earth below, their molecules rearranged into the form of staff and sword respectively,” Ninja Star continued. “I have met many unicorns of varying magical capabilities, many from Gringhorn’s Academy, but very few have been capable of conjuring such magic.”

Twilight gave a short hum. “No wonder Xander graduated with highest honors, then.”

The duel made its way down to the river as Xander forced his way with every blow at LaRousse. The two now stood upon the bank, with LaRousse’s back upon the river.

LaRousse made a wide swing at Xander, who ducked the attack and elbowed LaRousse in the stomach, sending him falling upon him rump into the river. Xander leapt in the air and was about to strike when LaRousse threw his one hoof forward, unleashing a gust of wind that knocked Xander back a few feet upon his back.

LaRousse got back upon his hooves as he stood in the shallow water. “Not so quick, are you, Xander?”

He then felt the water recede, and upon seeing Xander’s horn glow, looked back to see a tidal wave approach him. Before it could crash upon him, LaRousse leapt forward and out of the way.

“Ha! You think you can use my own attack against me?” LaRousse asked.

As LaRousse landed upon the ground, he noticed it felt softer than usual, and before he could realize what was happening, he found himself buried up to his chin in the earth which had swallowed him whole.

Xander chuckled. “No, just drawing you to my own.”

Xander leapt to his feet, raised his pole staff, and was about to strike LaRousse (forcing him to close his eyes and the other ponies to gasp in horror) when he stopped his saber only a mere centimeter from LaRousse’s throat. A few more centimeters, and his throat would have been slashed.

Xander dropped his staff and turned. “If I had malicious intent, I would have killed you right there—but considering as how I already won the duel by default, I’m not going to bother.”

LaRousse laughed in good spirit. “Good show, Xander. You’re feats truly have surpassed my own.”

He then realized as Xander was pacing away from him farther and farther. He quickly panicked. “Hey! You are going to get me out of here right? Right, good chum?”

Xander stopped where he was and sighed. “Might as well.”

His horn lit up, and LaRousse pop out of the ground like a cork from a bottle, flying several feet in the air before landing back onto the ground.

At that point, the other ponies had leapt over the fence and were racing towards Xander.

“Boy howdy,” Applejack exclaimed. “That was some mighty fine show you put on out there.”

“Yeah,” Rainbow Dash pumped her fist in the air as she flapped in place. “Those moves were just so full of awesome.”

“We haven’t seen such dazzling magical feats performed before,” Rarity bragged, “not even from our very own Twilight—no offense, dear.”

Twilight shook her head. “None taken.” She glanced at Xander. “That was really impressive magic you performed out there, Xander.”

Xander gazed at the ground, closed his eyes, and scoffed. “It was nothing. Now can we get back to the library? I’ve wasted enough time out here as it is.”

“Certainly,” Twilight nodded. “But first, we should thank LaRou—”

Twilight looked behind Xander, only to discover that LaRousse was nowhere to be found. “Where did he go?”

Xander casually looked back, not even phased by LaRousse’s sudden disappearance.

“Meh, his exits are just as dramatic as his entrances.”

**********

The rest of the day Xander spent at the library until it closed at 5 o’clock per usual. As he was leaving, Twilight followed behind him as he closed the door behind them.

As she followed him down the steps and along the street, Xander gazed back at Twilight with suspicion. “Any reason why you’re following me?”

Twilight was soon walking alongside him. “Well, LaRousse did say that we ladies could have a date with the winner, but I thought a simple walk back home would suffice.”

Xander turned his gaze forward. “So be it. But don’t expect a kiss good night.”

Twilight giggled. “That magic you used back there was quite intriguing. I had never seen anything like it before, not even from my own mentor. They must have really taught you well at the academy.”

Xander closed his eyes. “Meh, none of that stuff was taught to me at the Academy. I had learned it all on my own.”

Twilight stopped in her place for a second and gasped before continuing. “Really?!”

“When you grow up alone like I did, you tend to rely on yourself for most things, including your own education. It was because I had learned most of what I did on my own when I was in the orphanage that caught the attention of headmaster Gringhorn, who in turn gave me an all-expense paid scholarship to his academy. The graduation requirements are the strictest in all of Equestria, yet passing all my classes and graduating were hardly a challenge for me.”

“Twilight! Xander!”

The two turned and saw Spike rushing up behind them with a book in hand.

“Xander, you forgot your book back at the library,” Spike said handing it over to Xander, who opened it, scanned the pages, and placed it into his satchel.

“Thanks,” was Xander’s only response as he continued along the street.

“That book,” Twilight said. “The pages of it were the same ones that I had picked up earlier, correct? Back when we bumped into each other.”

“Correct,” Xander replied.

Twilight gazed into the corner of her eyes. “I know it’s personal to you, but if you don’t mind me asking, what were those two pages exactly?”

Xander sighed. His horn lit up, and the book levitated from his satchel and before him and Twilight (and Spike, who now sat upon her shoulders). He turned to the two pages that they had seen before.

The left page was a police report concerning a stallion by the name of “Flame Burst” and detailed how he had been arrested and charged with several accounts of arson. The photo was his mug shot: a light brown stallion with a dark red mane and a deep scar across his right eye.

The right page featured the front page article of a newspaper with the photo of the charred remains of a burned house. The headline read: “House destroyed by arson, leaves 8-year-old orphaned.”

“It’s the newspaper article of when my house burned down and I lost my father,” Xander replied. “The police report is of the suspected arsonist. He was a serial arsonist and vandal, and even to this day, the police have yet to capture him. I plan on tracking him down, along with the Amulet, so that my father can rest in peace.”

With that, he slipped the book back into his satchel.

“I can understand you wanting to find the amulet,” Twilight said. “But wanting to get revenge on some lone criminal? Nothing good ever came from revenge.”

Xander glared at Twilight, who recoiled slightly. “It wouldn’t be revenge, it would be justice. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep out of it.”

Twilight bit her lip as she sensed the tension between her and Xander. She didn’t say a word, though she desperately wanted to chew him out for that outburst.

They finally stopped in front of a shabby boarding house.

“This is where I’m staying,” Xander said as he stopped in front of it. He walked up the three steps, opened the battered screen door, and turned to Twilight. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night,” Twilight replied.

Xander closed the door and Twilight and Spike made their way back to the library.

“Spike, did you notice anything suspicious about those two articles Xander showed us?” Twilight asked.

Spike scratched his chin, thinking for a second. “Well to be honest, I didn’t even take a good look at them.”

“Did you at least notice the dates?” She asked.

“What about them?” Spike replied.

“That police record of the arsonist who killed Xander’s father—” Twilight replied. “It said that he had died—two days before the newspaper article was printed!”

“Are you sure you didn’t get the dates mixed up?”

“Not with my photographic memory.”

“Maybe the newspaper or police record got the dates wrong.”

“Perhaps,” Twilight said, her faced tweaked as she was in deep thought. “But if the dates are correct, then that means the arsonist was killed—”

“Two days before he had killed Xander’s father!” Spike exclaimed. “But how—?”

“Don’t ask me!” Twilight interrupted, shaking her head. “I have no idea myself.”

“You think Xander knows about that?” Spike asked.

“Considering his intellect,” Twilight replied. “He probably does, and it probably makes just as much sense to him as it does to me.”

**********

Along a darkened corridor lit only by torchlights walked LaRousse. He came across two figures near the end—Slash and Swoosh. He looked at them as though their presence did not phase them.

“So where was youse?” Swoosh asked in his heavy Brooklyn accent, addressing LaRousse as he would a close companion.

“What business did you have with those ponies in Ponyville today?” Slash added.

LaRousse smirked. An orange light ran up along him from toe to head. When it dissipated, it revealed the kappa wizard Squish in his place.

“Just analyzing the tactics of one of our more formidable foes,” he replied in a grimace.

**********

Fluttershy: Oh, hello, it’s me Fluttershy. Oh dear, with everything scary going on, why do I have to be so small and weak?

Ninja Star: I do not think you are weak, Fluttershy-san. From what I have heard, you can be quite brave and strong.

Fluttershy: You really think so?

Ninja Star: Indeed, and if you allow me, I can train you to reach your full potential.

Fluttershy: Next time on My Little Pony, “I Can Be Strong. Train Me, Ninja Star.” Oh my, this will be new.

**********

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and characters © Hasbro and Lauren Faust
Xander © Me
Skywind © ex626AKAKeon
Ninja Star © ninjaninjanoob23


Voice Credits

Twilight Sparkle .......................Tara Strong
Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy................Andrea Libman
Applejack, Rainbow Dash.........Ashleigh Ball
Rarity, Princess Luna................Tabitha St. Germain
Princess Celestia......................Nicole Oliver
Spike........................................Cathy Weseluck
Xander......................................Vic Mignogna
Sky Wind...................................Antony Del Rio
Ninja Star..................................Dave Wittenberg
Squish.......................................Samuel Vincent
Swoosh.....................................Derek Stephen Prince
Slash.........................................Roger Labon Jackson
Shadow Mare............................Susanne Blakeslee
Black Stallion.............................Ron Perlman
LaRousse...................................Sam Riegel