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My Little Pony: Orange-Cross Empire, Chapter 16

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"Aston Dartmoor," I said.

"You're sure?" Mr. Orange pressured. "That was who he said he worked for?"

"I'm sure," I replied. "It wasn't just some coincidence that he was there, either. It wasn't like he was a random passer-by. He was consciously watching the house, and moved in after I tried to bring Farleigh back."

"Did you catch his name?"

"I think so," I said with a slow nod. "A mare showed up. She had a purple mane and seemed really rich. She spoke as if the property belonged to her."

"That would be Ambrosia Clemency," Mr. Orange nodded. "She's Cross' set of rigged dice."

"His set of 'rigged dice'?"

"He rolls her out whenever he takes a gamble, but it always seems to pay off," he sighed. "She's his mistress, or lover, or whatever you want to call it."

I recognised her, sort of. I had seen her once before months ago, when I had encountered Mr. Cross on a train to Manehattan. She had been with him, and now I thought it odd, because I had come to learn that she wasn't his wife despite him claiming that she was. Hearing that she was his mistress made sense, although I did feel a little bit sorry for Farleigh; growing up with Mr. Cross for a father and that whore as his side-order fuck must have been difficult.

"What was his name? The one who approached you?" he asked again.

"That 'Ambrosia Clemency' mare called him 'Dreadfuls'."

I saw a look of sheer scorn overtake Mr. Orange's otherwise composed face, and I knew that he had had dealings with this 'Dreadfuls' character in the past.

"His name is Penny Dreadfuls," Mr. Orange explained disdainfully. "If he's working for Aston Dartmoor, that doesn't surprise me. He's been paid off to protect Cross' property. He clearly predicted some sort of attack from me and took measures to defend himself and his family."

"Why would either of these ponies help Cross? The one I encountered - Dreadfuls - didn't seem like a businesspony."

"He's not," Mr. Orange spat. "He's a shit-eating Old Manehattanite who doesn't deserve to breathe the same air as upstanding folk. The same applies to Aston Dartmoor - he's a disgustingly brazen stallion who runs a circle of prostitutes in Old Manehattan. In the past I've had dealings with them when they've attempted to undermine the art of dress-making. Tell me: did Dreadfuls wear a bandage on his head?"

"He wore a hat," I said from memory.

"Good," Mr. Orange said, but he projected nothing else on that matter.

It's possible to wonder why I had returned to Mr. Orange after the threats made to me from him prior to going to Mr. Cross' home. I had a few reasons, one of which was, perhaps, some sort of unwavering loyalty to a stallion who, although he had proven himself to be dangerous, also appeared to be a character not wisely made an enemy of. When I had been at Mr. Cross' home, something had become very clear to me in what Penny Dreadfuls had said; he'd assumed that I was working for Mr. Orange, which suggested that this dispute between him and Mr. Cross was more serious than I had predicted. And, while I wanted to get away from it all, finding myself unable to escape and on the outside of the Cross circle of allies, I had decided to prove my loyalty to Mr. Orange instead, at least temporarily.

It was clear that Farleigh had Ambrosia Clemency and Penny Dreadfuls, as well as this Aston Dartmoor chap and, of course, her father – and, presumably, Mr. Dorimant - all on her side. I had no such luck. And, in times of feeling alone, it's not hard to imagine that one would require some form of stability and unity, even if from the most unlikely of individuals. I had sided with Mr. Orange and returned to him in the hope that he would see my gesture and the information I had returned with as a sign of my loyalty, which appeared to be of great importance to him. He hadn't reached for a gun, either, which suggested that my plan had partially worked. I still didn't know how Gidrán would behave around me when he returned – he'd gone to visit Canterlot and Mr. Dorimant in the hope of proving that I had tried to act against Mr. Orange – but at that stage I thought it best to appeal to the stallion I now worked for. I could worry about Gidrán later.

"Mr. Cross seems to have a lot of ponies on his side," I said as Mr. Orange took a seat behind his desk, leaning back with his hooves crossed.

"He's been lucky," he replied.

"What's going to happen now?" I asked, consciously aware that I had failed to bring Farleigh back. "I can try and get Farleigh again another time."

"No," Mr. Orange said. "She's fallen too far now. The police have been notified of her return and the house is being watched. I am without a dress-maker, but this hasn't been an entirely wasted effort."

He asked if I smoked. When I declined he pointed out that I was different to Gidrán, which I took as a great compliment.

"More of my enemies have now emerged from the shadows," he continued, oddly happy considering that he was outnumbered by those on Mr. Cross' side.

"That's a good thing?" I asked.

"I know that I have many enemies," he said. "You have to kill a few ants to claim the nest. Prior to this little mishap, I did not know who those little ants were. Now that they have revealed themselves, I can crush them."

"Aren't we outnumbered?" I could think only of myself and Gidrán working for Mr. Orange. I couldn't speak for Gidrán's motives, but I could say with reasonable confidence that despite his obvious skills as some sort of hired gun for Mr. Orange, he would struggle against such a strong network of opposition as Mr. Cross'.

"It's not about the numbers," Mr. Orange said confidently. He was toying with the cigars he had offered to me, but he didn't smoke one for the duration of our conversation. He felt the practice to be unclean, which wasn't dissimilar to me. Maybe that was one more reason why I preferred the idea of his employment than Mr. Cross', who I remembered was a horrifically avid smoker.

I attempted to make further conversation with Mr. Orange, but he had said all that was on his mind. He set about thinking while humming the same tune from the Symphony of Seven Paladins as before, which I came to realise meant, without fail, that he was concocting some sort of plan.

We sat there for several hours. I was offered a drink by the receptionist, who knocked on the door and asked through it if we would like anything. Mr. Orange declined, but I requested something light and hearty. I was presented with a glass of cider, which was exactly what I had been thinking of.

"-Made with the best apples from Ponyville," Mr. Orange informed me, chewing on the end of his hoof in thought. I nodded, thinking of the farms in the town, although I didn't know if Mr. Orange had some sort of connection to the cider industry. It wouldn't have surprised me; he seemed to be involved in just about everything, and had his hoof in more pies than I could count.

Eventually we were informed that Mr. Gidrán Reyes had returned, which caused the hairs on the back of my neck to rise. He'd been gone for several hours, but I imagined that he hadn't stayed in Canterlot for long. I didn't know the details of his mission for Mr. Orange, but I made every assumption that he had killed Mr. Dorimant. Strangely enough, the idea of Mr. Dorimant solving my problems now seemed to be incredibly slim, which made me wonder why I had believed he had the power to do something in the first place.

Gidrán tapped on the door a few minutes later and Mr. Orange instructed him to enter, but not before putting away the cigars. I remained in my seat, pondering quickly over what I could do if Gidrán revealed that I was some sort of traitor. The thug entered the room looking much the same as he had prior to leaving, although he seemed a little more worn-down.

"We have news, Mr. Reyes," Mr. Orange said. "I trust you have some for me, as well?"

Gidrán passed me a subtle glance and then looked back to Mr. Orange.

"Mr. Dorimant definitely knows we're responsible for the death of Fratello," he said gruffly. "I practically admitted to him that I was the one who pulled the trigger."

"How did he respond?" Mr. Orange asked.

"He held back on the waterworks," Gidrán answered, "although he's also definitely in cahoots with Friesian Cross, and he plans on doing something in retaliation against you soon."

"Any idea what?"

"Something local, I'd predict," Gidrán shrugged. "He knows you wouldn't be stupid enough to go somewhere where he might ambush you. Watch out for any new members of staff or strangers in the building, boss."

"What of our friend here?" Mr. Orange asked, hinting to me. "Is he the assassin sent to kill me?"

"This clown is no assassin," Gidrán said with a sigh. He'd probably been looking forward to killing me. It was a pity that I was making it hard for him.

"Good," Mr. Orange replied. "Then, for now, fewer guns on him, Mr. Reyes."

"Whatever you say, boss," he replied dutifully. For whatever reason, he mentioned nothing about my own conversation with Mr. Dorimant days before.

"We need to keep our friends close," Mr. Orange said. "Our friend here has brought us some useful information, one bit of which you'll be very interested in."

"Give me the part less relevant to me first," Gidrán said, seizing a chair from against the wall and sitting opposite Mr. Orange. "I'll have the thing I'm more interested in for dessert."

"Aston Dartmoor has stationed stallions around Friesian's home to protect him. Friesian knows we're onto him and he's sought help from the black market."

"Dartmoor?" Gidrán questioned. "Fucking idiot. Why would he help Cross? Dartmoor is an old-school Old Manehattanite. Why would he help that rich bastard?"

"-If there's one thing he hates more than Friesian, it's me," Mr. Orange said. "He's siding with the adversary to take out the enemy."

"So what's my bit of news, boss?" Gidrán asked. Mr. Orange was grinning from ear to ear.

"Penny Dreadfuls is working with him," he said. "Our friend here was approached by him when trying to bring the girl back. He was spouting off some nonsense about how he's working for Dartmoor to protect the Cross family."

"Dreadfuls?" Gidrán growled, colour draining from his angry face. "That fucker didn't learn when I cut off his ear? This is too rich. I'll make him wish he'd never bothered to get up off that brothel floor." With that, the mighty stallion emerged from the chair, ready to charge to the manor and murder Penny Dreadfuls on the spot.

"Good plan, but restrain yourself," Mr. Orange ordered. "We'll have to find the right time to strike. Now we know the enemy we can lash out against them."

"Dorimant and Cross know that we know they know," Gidrán said, almost confusing himself. "Do we want Dartmoor thinking we don't know what he's doing, or, like Cross, do we want to send a message?"

"We'll send a message," Mr. Orange smiled.

"Dreadfuls' testicles served up to him in a drink at his brothel?" Gidrán growled.

"And his head impaled on the wall above the grand piano," Mr. Orange laughed. "We need Dreadfuls to go. Dartmoor will be harder to get rid of, but now that they've revealed themselves, it's up to us to get rid of them both. Fuck Friesian Cross and his little bodyguards."

"What's the plan, boss?" Gidrán asked eagerly.

"I'm thinking of one," he said. "We must reflect on what we know will happen next. The girl is refusing to work with us again, according to our friend here. That means we need to find ourselves another dress-maker pronto. However, we have a much larger concern heading our way from Cross. There is still time for him to win the mayoral election. He'll use Farleigh to boost his chance of winning the campaign."

"He's a fair way behind in the votes, isn't he?" I asked, speaking for the first time in a while.

"He's in all the papers again," Gidrán said. "Manehattan is waving flags for the return of one of their youngsters. The little mare is exactly the right kind of pony who, when she goes missing, everyone is supposed to care about. She's a looker and she's from a wealthy family; rich parents all over Equestria are scared of their foals getting kidnapped. Cross will play into that sensationalism; this story will be seen as a 'happily ever after' bullshit scenario. It won't help if he gets Gazette to write the story – that clown is stupidly popular with the shit-munchers."

"Gazette?" I asked. "You know him?"

"You do as well, I take it?" he replied.

"Yes," I sighed.

"He used to work for the boss," Gidrán pointed out.

"-Until Friesian paid him more," Mr. Orange added. "Then he stopped being my journalist and started being a prickly little thorn bush. He felt it appropriate to print an article about me that my ex-wife didn't take to."

"He did the same to Rarity..." I said quietly. "When he worked for Mr. Cross he printed that she did all sorts of disgusting things. He's a liar."

"That was when she agreed to work for me," Mr. Orange mused. "I wish she was still here now..."

"So do I..." I sighed.

"-I could use a dress-maker like her," he continued.

"So what happens next?" Gidrán asked slowly. "If Friesian Cross is going for the electoral victory and gets it, where would that leave us? Let's not forget that the mayor has the power to veto businesses he feels could be a threat to Manehattan. With the current mayor we managed to convince him to keep us in the city. With Cross, we'd be the first he'd go for."

"Friesian doesn't require a dress-maker," Mr. Orange said, returning to the subject of dresses. Perhaps thinking of Rarity had reminded him of the significance of making them. "He's a distributor. The dresses are made on Lusitano's end in Canterlot. We need to bring that production to a halt."

"Kill Mr. Dorimant?" I asked nervously.

"Killing Lusitano Dorimant isn't just a matter of pointing a gun at his head and pulling the trigger," Gidrán said, shaking his head in annoyance.

"He's part of a fashion dynasty; he has a legacy that extends beyond his person," Mr. Orange said. "You kill Lusitano, you also need to kill his entire family and all of their employees. Lusitano doesn't personally make the dresses, after all."

"If I'd thought that shooting Lusitano Dorimant was a good idea, I'd have done it earlier today," Gidrán added sternly. "Bringing production to a halt is about more than just killing the individual in control."

"What can we do, then?" I addressed Mr. Orange, as he appeared to be holding every key.

He thought upon my words. Gidrán was restless, finding it difficult to stand still. He was eager to make some sort of move, but it was clear that Mr. Orange hadn't yet decided on a possible route that we might take. I placed my now empty glass of cider down on the desk and his eyes flickered in its direction.

"We do nothing," he then said under his breath.

"Nothing?" Gidrán asked.

"Nothing," he repeated. "Let Cross win his election. Let him think that he's in a position of power. The taller he gets, the harder he'll fall."

"Are you sure that's a good idea, boss?" Gidrán questioned.

"We're in no position right now to tackle the industry in Canterlot or entirely cut off Cross' supply of dresses," Mr. Orange said. "We will be soon, if we bide our time. Cross will make his own enemies if he gets into power – you'll see. And when he does, we'll strike."

"What about making dresses? You said that production cannot stop," Gidrán observed.

"We have a few that the mare made for us still to replicate," Mr. Orange said. "By the time we've used those up, we'll be in a better position to act."

Gidrán frowned but returned to his seat, following orders like a faithful hound.

"-Oh, don't look so glum, Mr. Reyes," Mr. Orange joked. "You can still kill Penny Dreadfuls. He's a bottom-feeder: not important enough to be noticed if he dies, and not close enough to Friesian to be worth his time in getting revenge for. It would succeed in sending a very real message to Aston Dartmoor, which is a good idea – the sooner he realises that we're onto him, the sooner he can stop interfering in my world and return to his own. Old Manehattanites need to know their place."

It was fortunate that I considered myself to be a Trottingham resident, or else I would have been offended by his words. It was true that Old Manehattan was a husk, hollowed out by latent cynicism and debauchery. Occasionally, among the rusty copper and the crumbling sandstone, though, there were gems, who would, like a phoenix, rise from the ashes of a forgotten place and bring forth a creative spark.

"When?" Gidrán asked bluntly.

"Tonight might be a wise idea," Mr. Orange said. "Do this last little job for me and then you'll have some time to spend with those lovely daughters of yours while we wait for Friesian's next move."

"Understood," he replied.

"Oh, and," Mr. Orange spoke up when Gidrán stood, "take our informant here with you."

I hadn't expected to be taken along for the confrontation between Gidrán and the Old Manehattanite that had been protecting Mr. Cross' property. I did partially wish to reap some form of revenge against him; it was because of him – and that Ambrosia Clemency mare – that I had been unable to bring Farleigh back. Had I been given a little more time without distractions, I would have convinced her. I knew it.

I left the office with Gidrán, who took the lead. He didn't have a private conversation with Mr. Orange that time, instead just keeping his distance ahead of me. I struggled to keep up, as he moved quickly. Outside, he kept to the shadows and back-alleys, and I noticed that although a carriage was available, we didn't travel by it. Gidrán was either feeling a little portly and had a strong desire to lose weight, or he did not wish for a carriage to go anywhere near wherever we were going.

"You have a family?" I felt compelled to ask as we navigated the back-streets. He slowed down a little as he came to a turning point.

"Because I work this job you assume I don't have a family?" he challenged.

"I did make that assumption," I admitted. He didn't seem like the caring type.

"Yeah, I have a family," he said. "And that family is together today because of this job, so keep your bullshit opinions and judgements to yourself."

"Daughters?" I felt inclined to ask. He sighed and turned to me, pressing a strong hoof against my torso, which pushed me back against the wall of a residence.

"Don't ask about my family," he said bluntly. "I ain't going to bond with you or anything, so stop trying. The only reason you're being kept alive is because the boss knows he's outnumbered."

"He trusts me," I said.

"Maybe so," Gidrán replied. "But when I spoke to Lusitano Dorimant, don't for a minute think that he defended your interests. I know exactly what you were doing there during your little lunch meeting."

"If I wasn't on your side then, it looks like I am now," I said. "I've been forced into it. I bet you were too, right? Nobody would ask for any of this."

"You're doing that thing again," he growled.

"What thing?"

"The thing where you ask too many fucking questions," he replied. "You're going to help me murder Dreadfuls, so you better stop acting like some fucking psychiatrist and start behaving like a criminal."

"I'm not a criminal," I mouthed, shaking my head.

"Believe me," he replied, smirking with a sadistic edge in the curl of his lip, "the moment you stepped into the bosses' office, you became a criminal. You'll resist it for a while, but you'll be willing to call yourself one soon enough."

"And why is that?" I asked as Gidrán moved away from the wall, ready to continue towards wherever our destination was. Before setting off, he gave me what I can best describe as some sort of criminal manifesto – advice that he had learned and wished to pass down to me:

"-Because, like everything that fucking sucks – getting shot; opening stomachs; losing those close to you – you get used to it."

"Opening stomachs?" I asked nervously, but Gidrán said nothing else on the matter: he merely reached into his jacket pocket and took out a knife, throwing it back to me. Even in the darkness of the approaching night, I could tell that it was already caked in blood.

Gidrán had been busy.
© 2012 - 2020 Cuddlepug
Chapter 16 of My Little Pony: Orange-Cross Empire, (OCE), entitled Future Malaise.

OCE is the spiritual successor to Hospice, which can be found here: [link]

While it is not required that readers check out Hospice first, it is advisable, simply for the fact that it establishes a lot of what will be elaborated upon in this narrative. However, it is still very possible to view Hospice as a singular work, as its particular themes are concluded by the Epilogue. In addition, efforts have been made to ensure that OCE can be enjoyed by its own merits and content.

OCE follows the lives of two very different individuals, and how they are brought together through a common interest. In addition, the corporate world around them begins to spiral out of control, consuming all of Ponyville and, ultimately, Equestria in its wake.

Artwork by *Polar59
Comments5
anonymous's avatar
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Rated-R-PonyStar's avatar
Can't wait for the next one. Lets see how the main character deals with taking part in murder
FredAFKTH's avatar
FredAFKTHStudent General Artist
The dark side is calling our Protagonist!

This was a great chapter, pushing the story forwards, and building the excitement for the next one.

Keep it up!!
Cuddlepug's avatar
The next set of chapters will be delving into the criminal mindset. Thanks for the comment, bud.
Avino's avatar
Why are there no comments yet? x'D
Anyways, I'm SO super happy to see the chapters being posted again~!
And, of course, I just can't wait to read more! <3333333
Cuddlepug's avatar
Ah, I didn't submit to any groups or anything this time ;P I was trying to work out how many people are roughly reading the story by keeping it to people who would actively seek it out. I'm going to be uploading the story in its entirety to other sites once it's finished, but that won't be for a fair while yet. Thanks for the comment.