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The Road of Courage - Chapter 5Chapter 5: Taking ActionThe seven ponies stand before the door to the room. At this point, they knew the truth and they need to act now."Ok, everyone. This is it..." Twilight took a deep breath before opening the door and letting her friends and herself in.When they got inside, they found him: Johnny, who was laying on the hospital bed with his arms bandaged and several medical stuff attached to him like a breathing device and a liquid to stop him from losing blood.Dukey's heart cracked at the sight and he felt the ache again, however it felt more painful than before. Applejack was the first one, who noticed they hybrid clutching his chest with tears."What's wrong?" The southern mare asked."It's...it's really painful to see my best friend like this...fighting for his life..." He wiped his tears away, when Fluttershy hugged him."We feel the same thing, friend. It's really tragic that he did it...all because of those terrible monsters..." she responded with her voice cracked."I..I swear if they come for you guys, then I will give them a taste of my wrath.." Rainbow Dash hasn't recovered ever since she read the blue diary."Same here, pal." Applejack agreed.There was no opposition from the other ponies, considering that Johnny's story of pain and abuse shocked everyone. So much so, that they feel no sympathy towards the people responsible for Johnny's misery.Rarity was wiping her tears and the wet mascara with a tissue, when she said: "Those people are despicable...despicable!""They're a bunch of nasty party-poopers!" Pinkie Pie added."Normally, we forgive someone, who feels remorseful after what he or she did. But what they did was unacceptable and unforgivable, because of their remorseless behaviour!" Twilight was just as outraged as her friend.Even Fluttershy, the quietest pony and the sweet Heroine of Kindness, snapped:"They...they...THEY ARE A BUNCH OF ROTTEN MEANIES!" she yelled.When he saw the Mane 6's reactions to the story as well as Spike's tears, Dukey felt something, he never felt before. He felt...touched."Those ponies...They're...concerned about him as much as I am...Normally, in my former world, nobody gives a single shit about him...But this isn't the case for the ponies in Equestria..." He remembered the time in his old home, where people never give a single shit about the issues and only care of what they expect him, rather his true nature. However, ever since they arrived in Equestria, the reactions from the 7 were more genuine and actually real.He walked towards them, before they can let their anger out and spoke to them:"Girls, please! I know, that you are concerned and outraged about the whole mess. But let's face it: Johnny and I left our original world and everything else for a good reason. We should stop thinking about the past or the future and instead focus on the here and now, in order to change it!"Twilight was moved by Dukey's words and told to her friends: "He's right. We have to be strong this time. We handled situations with a broken heart before, but this is serious. We have to do it together and get our friend out of the darkness!""Yeah!" her pony friends and Spike agreed.Then they heard groaning and looked at the black pegasus, who slowly opened his eyes."Johnny! Thank god, you're alive!" He hugged his friend with tears of joy in his eyes.But something about him was off. His hair is still covering one of his eyes and the eyes itself looked blank, like all of his emotions being taken away, therefore feeling empty. Plus, he had a somber expression on his face."It seems like, the pain broke him completely." Twilight said with a sigh."Why are you here...?" Even his voice became quiet like Fluttershy, but without the spark of joy or any positive emotions."Johnny, this is serious. You need stop lying and destroying yourself." Said the hybrid with a serious look."We found out about your story, thanks to your diary." Twilight added and showed him his diary.The black pegasus looked away in disgust. "So, you came here to laugh at my misery?"The prismatic mare snapped and yelled at him. She said: "What are you talking about!? We're not gonna laugh at you! Seriously, there is nothing to laugh about your pain! We're not heartless like those jerks! You really need to lay it off and just listen to us!""Okay okay. Thanks for your words, Rainbow, now it's our turn." Twilight told to the blue mare and ushered her to the others. "Listen, we're not gonna laugh at your misery, because it feels very wrong to do so. Instead, we're trying to help you to get out of the darkness.""It's too late..." he replied with a lowered head."No, it's not! There is still time, so don't give up just yet!" The purple alicorn replied,"We were shocked by your story...I couldn't believe that they broke you so hard, you lost your spark! We really feel sorry about you..." said the white unicorn."Those people really brought you down to an abyss. But we're not like that! We are concerned, that you lost your smile!" Pinkie Pie added."See, Johnny? There ARE people or in this case, ponies and a dragon, who genuinely care about you." Said the stallion hybrid.However, Johnny didn't answer anything and looked away. This enraged the blue pegasus mare and hit her hoof to the wall hard."HEY! We are literally trying to help you and you just ignored it!" she yelled, causing the young pegasus stallion to shiver in fear."Rainbow Dash!" Twilight scolded, but Dukey stopped her."Let her. I'm pretty sure, she is just as upset as I am." he responded."You've been hurting yourself all the time, without anyone knowing! Yet you decided to hide it, in hopes that it will be over! It doesn't, if you keep faking yourself! You seriously need to face the music and accept our help for once!" the prismatic mare continued.The black pony shivered more and more in fear, as the ponies around him are looking for him. They want his confirmation or in other words, the truth."Johnny...you have to admit it...please.." Fluttershy begged.However this caused the black pony to move erratically and tried to get out of the hospital room, however Twilight and Rarity used their magic to restrain him."Let me go!" He yelled."Johnny, stop it! If you keep doing this, then your would scare anyone away and you will be forever alone!" Twilight yelled back.The words "forever" and "alone" made him stop in shock and lower his head in silence. He really hated those two words, as it caused distress.Dukey sighed and said: "It's no use... he would continue doing it..."The pegasus stallion feels shaken from the words from his own best friend."We should leave now.." said Applejack. The other ponies lower their heads, since their attempts led nowhere.But before anyone can leave..."Please wait!"They heard a yell and looked back at Johnny, who at this point, was in tears. The pressure had given in and showed them his true colors: Broken and helpless."Don't leave me..." said the pegasus with a weak voice. "I confess...I confess...""Is it true, that you've been suffering?" the southern earth pony asked. There is no point of lying and faking any longer. They knew his story and now it's time to wake up from the delusion and confess the truth."Y..yes... It's true... The times, I smiled was all fake! My whole facade before was all fake! And I did this, so nobody would see my true self... Those damn idiots hurt me so much, that I started to despise them! That's also why I didn't bother to come out, because they will not respond to my cries for help and only make the pain worse! And to add insult to injury, they always tell me, that I'm responsible for the chaos, when in reality, they started my downfall! It's no wonder, why I decided to move to this world, but even then...They would still follow me... That's right, they would still follow me even after I left that stupid world! They're the reason for the constant nightmares each night, the constant pain throught the day and the paranoia and distrust all the time!"Tears were still streaming down his face, when he looked at the ponies and expected the same results like the people from his old world. But it wasn't the case, when he was pulled in to a hug by Fluttershy. Soon, Dukey and Rainbow Dash joined in. and later the others. He was given something, that he lacked from the majority back in Porkbelly: Care.This caused the black pegasus to be extremely emotional and started to cry very heavily. It sent chills in their spines, as his cries echoed around the hospital room. Soon, the mares and the dragon feel a painful ache in their bodies, like their hearts being broken by his story. The same painful ache, that Dukey felt, back when he first heard about the agonising tale of abuse and pain in the apple orchards."It's alright...we're here." The yellow pegasus mare said softly to the broken stallion.As the stallion kept crying, the pain got worse and the gravity of the ache got heavier. For Dukey, it was really painful. For years, he always has been by his side, helping him, doing fun activities and having a good time, even if the whole world are against him. For Johnny, he is the anchor to keep him sane. And after the hybrid ran away, the guilt had overwhelmed him and without his best friend, Johnny became vulnerable for mental attacks and the constant guilt and pain, he had, made him to do that suicide attempt. The hybrid felt guilty. Hadn't he run away and stayed by his side as always, then the suicide attempt would have never happened. He placed his paw on his head with tears in his eyes."L-look. I know, that you are in pain...But b-believe me...There are ponies, who g-genuinely care about you... And we can...help you to...to.." Unfortunately, the earth pony hybrid couldn't finish his sentence, as he couldn't hold his emotions any longer. The guilt and sadness, he surpressed, became too much for him to handle and he soon starts to cry alongside his best friend. Similarly, Rainbow Dash also couldn't hold her emotions any longer, but this time, it was due to the horrible story making her messed up and she too cried as well."Oh, you poor, poor thing..." The sorrow caught up to the yellow pegasus mare and sobbed quietly."It's really sad to see a broken pony cry, especially from the horrible treatment, he's given..." Rarity's makeup was ruined again, because of the tears, but at this point it didn't matter anymore."I know...It's really tragic!" Even Pinkie Pie, the most joyful pony in Equestria, couldn't hold her tears any longer.Eventually, they joined with the five ponies in the crying session. Meanwhile, Twilight, Applejack and Spike couldn't help but watch the sadness unfold. Soon, Spike felt like, he is about to cry."Come here, Spike." The purple alicorn hugged the tearful dragon, who started to sob quietly.The pain felt real and Twilight was so close to let her tears out. But then something prevented her to do so: Her will. She took a deep breath and had a serious expression on her face. Applejack did the same thing. They knew, that it's time to take action."Girls, come with me. We need a plan." She said to her friends.Eventually, they stopped crying and came to Twilight, Spike and Applejack. Then the Princess of Friendship gave them a speech:"Listen, everypony. We've been through intense situations before. Chrysallis, King Sombra, Tirek, Discord. They tried to tear our friendship apart, but in the end we stayed together and defeated them with the magic of friendship. We also helped ponies , who fell victim from the vile actions of evil. Guiding them to the light and helping them regain their spark of life. But Johnny is different. He is not a victim from any of the vile creatures in Equestria. I mean, he didn't originate from Equestria from the start. He is only a victim from his own personal demons and the monsters, who broke his spirit. The reason, why he and his friend moved here, is because they want to escape from their horrible world, where he was tortured. He thinks, he can't be saved and it's too late, but it's not. There is still a chance and he needs help. We must get our friend out of the darkness and into the light! The light of guidance, friendship and hope. It's time to take action!"Her friends nod. Their friend is stuck in the darkness of sorrow and despair and they need to help him now."Dukey, stay here and guard your friend. Make sure, he wouldn't do it again." Twilight told to the hybrid and he saluted and said: "Got it!"And thus, the Mane 6 and Spike exit the hospital with a mission: Get Johnny out of the darkness.When arriving at Twilight's castle, they got together around the Cutie Map, thinking for a plan."So, how are we gonna help him?" Rainbow Dash asked."How about a giant party?" Pinkie Pie suggested."I'm not sure, if this would help him, Pinkie." Rarity replied."Rarity is right. We need something more than just that. However, before we can think of something, we have to get help." The purple alicorn used her magic to get a paper and a writing feather, in order to start to write a letter to someone important. Meanwhile, Rainbow Dash and Applejack were thinking about some suggestions. And so do Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Spike and Fluttershy. How can they help him? That's a good question.While this was going on, the lavender unicorn mare went to them."Hey, girls. I learned some things about friendship and...uhm...What's going on?" She was confused about the mares thinking."Starlight, we are busy finding a way to save someone." Twilight replied."Who?" Starlight asked, not knowing about the story, in which the Mane 6 told her about the whole story about their friend being stuck in despair due to painful experiences from the past."Oh my gosh...I'm speechless.." She was just as shocked as her friends."We all are. And that's why we have to act now." said the purple alicorn as she finished writing the letter. She gave it to Spike, who used his fire breath to send the letter to someone important. "We are currently thinking of a plan.""Can I join? If it means to help a friend, then I'm willing to help." The lavender mare told to her friends."Sure, Starlight!" Twilight agreed.The purple alicorn went to her library and used her magic to get some books about pony psychology, trauma, depression and visions. She started to read them, in order to understand the subjects and learn on how to help a pony suffering from something traumatic. This was all done, in order to find ways to help Johnny."Why are you reading books?" Spike asked. In which the purple mare answered: "It's because, I have to know about those subjects first before we can spring into action.""I see." the young dragon understood.Meanwhile, her friends came to her."We have discussed each other for a while and we came to a conclusion, that we should give him the best day full of love and care." Rarity reported."I was thinking about performing a Sonic Rainboom in front of him, so at least he can appreciate the colors and the awesomeness." Rainbow Dash suggested."So far, we have some good ideas. But we still have to think about an effective way. That's why we have to learn about the subjects, what Johnny mentioned and felt, first." Twilight replied."Why not doing it now?" Rainbow Dash asked in an impatient tone."That would be risky." Starlight replied. "We have to prepare first, then act."Meanwhile in Canterlot...The two alicorn sisters were sitting on their thrones and doing their duties as usual. However, Luna couldn't stop thinking about the nightmares, as she recently saw another one. Princess Celestia was also thinking about the nightmare and the mysterious boy and the unknown pony, who had those nightmares. Then she saw the green flames and it turned into a letter. Using her magic to hold it, the princess began to read it:Dear Princess Celestia,the reason, I wrote this letter is because there is a serious problem.The pony in question is named Radiant Thunder, who's been suffering from depression and trauma, all thanks to the horrible abuse and humiliation of the monsters in his original home world. This is also the main reason, why he decided to move to Equestria. However recently, he was seeing visions of those demonic creatures and couldn't sleep because of the nightmares. And the worst part is, he attempted suicide. Thankfully, he got resuscitated and is currently recovering in the Ponyville Hospital. But I'm afraid that if he got released, he would likely do it again.That's why we need to act fast. We need to get him out of his darkness, where his inner demons reside and bring him into the warming light of friendship, love, hope and happiness. However, we are currently thinking of a plan on how we can do this. We need your suggestion.Sincerely,Princess Twilight SparkleShe also saw a photo attached to the letter. A photo of how the pony looks like. Princess Luna saw the picture and gasped. The mane looks suspicially familiar to the hair of the boy. He also had blue eyes, just like him. After some logic thinking, she connected two and two together: The pony and the boy are the same and it's this pony, who has those nightmares!"Oh my gosh..." Luna was shaken to the core."I know. What Twilight described of him, it would make sense with these nightmares." Celestia answered."Do you have any ideas on how we can approach this issue?" the blue alicorn asked.The princess of the sun took a deep breath and replied with:"Since we are dealing with a pony with a broken soul, who recently atttempted to end his own life because of the horrible trauma from his original world, we have to gather everypony.""Are you sure?" Luna asked."Yes. Since the trauma is so severe, that he has trust issues, it wouldn't be surprising, that he would end up isolating himself, turning over to the dark side or even worse...doing it again. We have to prevent this from ever happening! That's why we have to gather everypony and give him the most love and trust, he needs. It's so far the most effective way to save him." The white alicorn replied and used her magic to write letters to Twilight and the ruler of the Crystal Empire.The first letter went as follows:Dear Princess Twilight Sparkle,I recently got your message and it was loud and clear. We have to do something.I suggest to gather everypony around Equestria and inform them about the situation, so they can be ready to help. And as for your friend, I will send some of the royal guards to keep an eye on him, so he wouldn't do it again.Sincerely, Your MentorPrincess CelestiaAnd the second letter:Dear Princess Cadence,I decided to write the letter because of an urgent emergency. It's about a pony with a broken heart and soul. Please come to Canterlot immediately.Sincerely, your auntPrincess CelestiaThe messengers were called to send the letters to the two other princesses.Back in Ponyville, the Mane 6 received the letter from Princess Celestia. At the same time, Dukey came back from his visit."Hey. The reason why I came back is because of some guards visiting Johnny." he said."Those are the royal guards from Canterlot. Princess Celestia sent them to guard Johnny and preventing to kill himself again." Twilight answered."Oh. I suppose, that would make more sense, I think." He was unsure. Normally, he would be taken to a mental hospital, but then again the rules in Equestria are probably different from their former home."Wait a minute. You look...familiar." said Starlight after she saw the dog/pony hybrid. "Aren't you the one, who bumped into me a while ago?""Oh...You see, I was in a hurry. To help my friend and all." he scratches his head with a nervous smile."It's ok. Now that I learned the whole truth and since you are his best friend, I forgive you." the lavender unicorn smiled.Meanwhile, Twilight calmly stated to her friends: "Okay, everyone. Princess Celestia wrote back with a suggestion, which would help him to get him out of the despair. We have to gather everypony from Ponyville and beyond and helping us on this mission.""Everyone?" the hybrid asked."Yes. Everyone." Twilight replied."Now that you mention it, it would be very helpful, since thanks to the trauma, he would have a hard time coming out in front of everyone, in fear of making the pain worse and assuming, that they're just like those scums. However, after you heard the story, you felt worried and wanted to help him. So I assume that, if we can gather everyone and tell them about his story, they can prove him wrong by showing him affection and care!" Dukey expressed his opinion about the suggestion."Exactly!" Spike agreed and so did the mares.Then he reached his arm in the front. "So, are you ready?" The ponies put their hooves on his paw."Of course!" said Rainbow Dash."We are ready." Applejack added."Ready, when you are!" Pinkie Pie responded with her chipper attitude."We have to do this." Fluttershy agreed."We will save him." Rarity also agreed."Let's do this!" Starlight was determined."For Johnny's sake." So does Twilight."Yeah!" And also Spike.With determined looks on their faces, they went out on a mission. A mission to get everyone in Equestria.Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie went around Ponyville and the Changeling Kingdom to tell everyone to gather on the centre of Ponyville, while Applejack, Starlight Glimmer and Fluttershy went to the Crystal Empire and the Dragonlands to gather them to the goal. Twilight, Dukey and Spike went to Canterlot to do the same thing and also went to the castle to meet up with the royal sisters. Upon arriving, they saw the sisters alongside Princess Cadence waiting."Cadence!" Twilight was excited to meet her sister-in-law again."It's so good to see you again, Twilight!" And so was the Princess of Love. It's been a while since they met last time. They hugged each other in joy.However, while this was going on, Dukey felt dizzy for some reason. Around the same time in the Ponyville hospital, Johnny was still laying on his hospital bed, looking depressed, while being watched by the royal guards. Inside of his head, the demonic creatures were still taunting him and hurting him relentlessly. As if his soul wasn't weakened by them enough, it took a toll on his body. He tried to escape, but one guard, who is a unicorn stallion, used his magic to restrain him to the bed, preventing any escape. The taunting voices became louder and louder and his sight fading in and out. Soon, he felt sick in his stomach and his heartbeat began to speed up. All of those factors and the continuous mental torture made the black pegasus pass out. Meanwhile, Dukey's body felt weaker because of Johnny's mental condition taking a toll to his body and when the pegasus stallion passed out, the hybrid soon lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor."Oh my god! Dukey!" Twilight immediately rushed to him, followed by Spike and the Princesses."What happened to him?" Cadence asked."Guards! Get him to the infirmary now!" Celestia called her guards.The guards immediately picked up the hybrid and carried him to the infirmary, all while the ponies wondered, how it happened. It seems like, there are more unanswered questions, they need to answer and they followed the royal guards.To be continued...In the next chapter, the princesses will soon find the answers about Dukey's link to Johnny and why he collapsed, while the ponies and other creatures enable their plan to help Johnny. Find out next time in Chapter 6: Operation: Healing Light!
The Road of Courage - Chapter 6Chapter 6: Operation: Healing LightIn the centre of Ponyville, everyone was gathered. Every mare, stallion, filly, colt and even foals were here, looking confused as of why they were gathered."Why are we here? Why did they tell us to go there?" Those are the questions, that they asked to themselves."Hey! Listen up!!"They heard a voice and looked at the centre, only to see Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie stood there on pedestals. Rarity was also holding some copies of Johnny's diary entries. Then the snow white unicorn gave them a speech:"You maybe be asking as of why we gathered you here. And we're sorry for interrupting your schedule. But the reason why we did it is because of a very tragic story of a new pony arriving in Equestria. He has been suffering his entire life back in his former world, because of the horrible, horrible monsters abusing him! So much so, that his spirit has been broken!!""And who is the pony in question? The great and powerful Trixie wants the answer!" The blue unicorn, known as Trixie Lulamoon, felt impatient."Well his name is Radiant Thunder! But we call him Johnny." Pinkie Pie answered."Do you have the evidence?" A mare, who is also the mayor of Ponyville, asked to the three ponies."We have. Rarity has the copies of his diary entries, which she will read it for you. Those will make you understand, how crushed he has become." Rainbow Dash answered.The white unicorn started to read the first entry, which was written on Monday and contained his troubled life in school. At first the ponies were confused, but when she read the entry written on Tuesday, which contained his life on home being hellish, they start to feel a bit worried. And it wasn't until the entry on Wednesday, which raised an alarm:Wednesday,It keeps hurting... During school, I was I involved in a fight between Bumper and his goons. Why? Because they love making trouble. After a long time of bullying and with no weapons whatsoever, I fought back and punched at his face with my anger. Obviously, we were sent to the principal's office. Normally, the principal is quite a nice dude and very caring. Unfortunately, he was sick on that day and someone has to fill in. And fucking hell, it's that damn teacher... Idk why they chose him over others, then again, ALL of the teachers are mean. And to my shock, he suspended ME, instead of Bumper! He got away scottfree? How unfair is this!??!? They seriously don't care about my suffering! And on home, I didn't even bother to go inside from the door, so I have to climb to the window of my room. However, my sisters were already here with a coupon. And I have to test something again. This time, I had to drink a portion to have a beautiful look. Why? They want to make Gil notice them, even though it will NEVER work. And Dukey warned me, but at the same time, I felt pressured so I did it. Needless to say, something went wrong and even after I got cured, my body felt weak. After that, my best friend carried me to the bed, so I can rest. However my dad heard from my suspension and was obviously pissed, even though it was wrongfully done! But he doesn't care. He just doesn't. I was caught in his shouting when he entered my room. Because of my weak body, I didn't have the power to explain. As if that wasn't enough, I was later tied up on a pole by my dad, just because I refused to brush my teeth! Why do they only care for their expectations and not my well-being!?!?This caused outrage from the community. Especially parents. They know, that kids don't want to brush their teeth, even though it's good for them. However, tie them to a pole?? That is too far."How dare they?!?!?!" One angry mare responded."It's only the tip of the iceberg." Said the prismatic pegasus.As she continued to read the remaining copies, the outrage grew. They can't deny it. Everyone was so mean to him. They also feel sorry for him, for dealing through the pain and anguish."How could they to the poor thing? This is sick and twisted!!!" A stallion was really angry."Hey! I know, you're as outraged as we are. But we have to do it, because we can help him! It crushed him so hard, that he attempted suicide! We have to work together to get him out of his sorrow! Are you ready??" The pegasus mare asked."Yeah!" The crowd agreed. They want to help him."Let's go!" She confidently replied.And thus, they worked together on a plan to save Johnny.Everything was black for a while, until the eyes opened a bit and a voice can be heard:"Twilight, Celestia, Luna!! He's waking up!!"As the sight became sharper and the eyes opened further, we see the four princesses, Celestia, Luna, Cadence and Twilight looking worried."Dukey, are you okay??" Twilight asked.It turns out that it was Dukey, who is waking up and it took place in his perspective."Ugh....w..where am I?" He asked with a weakened voice."You're now in the Canterlot Infirmary. The guards brought you here after you collapsed to the ground." Princess Celestia explained."We want to know, why you collapsed." Luna was curious and so are the other princesses as well as Spike, who has just arrived.Then something flashed in his eyes and remembered about something. He looked extremely worried and asked the princesses with: ",Johnny!! Is he okay??"At the same time, one of the guards arrived with a report, who gives it to Celestia. She read the whole report and was horrified."They said, that he felt dizzy and nauseous. Like something is damaging inside of his body. He even threw up on the floor and later passed out." Celesita responded with a sigh."Oh fuck! Fuck, it's getting worse!!!" The hybrid became panicked."Calm down! We are still doing the plan. We will assure you, that everyone will help him. It's gonna be okay." Luna assured him."I do have a question. Why are you so worried about your friend?" Cadence asked."Because I am his best friend. We've been through together through hard times, no matter what. He saved me from the animal shelter on his 11th birthday and he chose me over the other dogs. I never felt so grateful for a second chance of life until that the cage opened and being welcomed by him. Since he saved my life, I vowed myself to do everything to make him happy and save his life from dangerous situations. " he explained to the princesses, while telling about his story on their first encounter. They were moved by the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Even Spike was moved to tears."What he did was so noble." Luna replied."Indeed. He does have a good heart." Celestia agreed."Which was unfortunately shattered by those bastards...And that hurts. Speaking of which, I need to confess something." he told them to the royals."What is it?" Twilight asked.His expression turned a bit sorrowful, when he began to explain:"You see, I've been thinking about a stronger connection between me and Johnny since all the way back in the apple orchards, in which I witnessed him breaking down for the "first" time. Actually, I've seen it for the first time, but the painful ache in me wasn't. It was after I was sent back to the animal shelter, where I first felt it. It stung to my heart hard. I didn't realize that Johnny was in a mental breakdown until after I've seen it happen. As more breakdowns happened, the ache got worse. Then I remembered something: Every time where he was mentally tortured, I was there. And during which, I always had a twisting feeling in my stomach. So I tried to comfort him, like I always do. And god knows, if it worked. Not to mention, while I saw Johnny being in a panicked state in the skies, a memory flashed in front of me. A memory about those monsters blaming ME. That's right, they also blamed me as well, calling me a devil's accessory. That memory came up again, this time they had Johnny being badly hurt. I tried to charge at them, but I was paralyzed! Paralyzed by....fear. And as I was thinking about it and the connection during the visit at the Sweet Apple Acres, the Everfree Forest and even in the hospital, I came to a conclusion...""That you are a witness?" Cadence asked.But Dukey rebutted the question with: "No, Cadence....In fact.....I'm as much as a victim as he is..."The princesses gasped. They didn't know, that the hybrid was also a victim as well."How so?!" Spike asked."I've been also tortured by them, both mentally and physically. Why I endured all of it and still kept calm, is beyond me." he answered."It must take a willpower made of iron, to endure all of it.." said the princess of the sun."And as for your friendship with you and Johnny. Based on what you said, it seems like, you have a stronger connection to him than anypony else. Almost like brothers. Not to mention, I have a feeling, that the connection is also telepathically and psychically. Like if Johnny has a mental breakdown, you feel that painful ache. And if Johnny became sick from the trauma and passed out, that means..." Twilight assumed.Dukey finished the sentence with: "....then that means my body also felt weak at the same time.""Interesting..." Twilight was curious about that psychic connection."This would explain, why you passed out. Your friendship with him is much stronger and unbreakable than any friendships with other ponies, I've seen." Celestia wondered."We never witnessed a connection like this until now." Luna was also curious."I can't believe, he was also tortured much like his friend...How tragic..." Cadence was in tears, but Twilight hugged her sister-in-law."I feel the same thing, Cadence." Twilight responded."We all do. However, if we stick together with our plan and get his friend out of the darkness and into the light, then he would get the closure, he deserved." Princess Celestia assured the others, that things will be okay."You're right, sister. We need to be strong!" The princess of the night agreed.At the same time, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy and Starlight Glimmer came back from their mission to spread the news. They were confused as of why Dukey is in the infirmary."There is a simple explaination for that." Twilight explained to her friends.She explained about Dukey's strong and psychic connection to Johnny and his confession, all of these were the reasons as of why he passed out. The ponies were shocked. They didn't know, that Dukey was sharing the same pain as Johnny."Oh my goodness..." Rarity was speechless."You too!?" Rainbow Dash asked to the hybrid, in which he nodded."I can't believe it..." Fluttershy was worried."It's sadly true, Fluttershy..." Twilight sighed."How is the progress?" Celestia asked."We managed to convince everyone to helping us with the plan. Although it takes a lot of convincing for the dragons to get on our side." Starlight answered.Then the hybrid starts to tear up. The whole time, he was keeping himself together for Johnny's sake, despite the shared pain. Now, cracks were beginning to show, as tears streamed from his face. Cadence was the first one, noticing him like this and hugged him. As Twilight watched, she felt sorry for the earth pony hybrid."Girls...?" She pointed at Dukey being hugged by the princess of love. Soon, they all engaged in a big group hug. As he felt the warm embrace by everyone around him, he got more and more emotional. At this point, it has reached to a point, where he couldn't take it anymore. All of the same pain and abuse and all the time, that Johnny has to suffer all of it, caused the hybrid to burst into tears instantly."It's okay...We're all here." Fluttershy softly spoke to him.His cries echoed throughout the walls and the whole area. Loud and clear. The ponies suppressed their tears, since they already shed some thanks to Johnny and his confession. They need to be strong, because Johnny and Dukey need them. They need their care, love and guidance. And if they want to succeed, they have to work hard...together. They need to get them out of the sorrow, the monsters have caused and guide them to a better future full of light and genuine happiness.After what it felt like hours, the crying soon got quieter, until it became silent. Everyone looked at him wiping his tears away and looking at them."You're all very caring and nice..." he spoke."Hey, that's what friends are for. Ah swear to my honesty for that." Applejack smiled warmly."We're all here for you and your friend with all of our kindness, guiding you." Fluttershy nodded."We're making sure, you can smile with laughter!" Pinkie Pie smiled brightly."And giving you something special in the act of generosity." Rarity added."We'll always be there for you, guys. No matter what. This is true loyalty." Rainbow Dash smirked."And finally guiding you with the spark of magic. After all, as the guardians of harmony and friendship, we're making sure, we will help anyone from a shattered bond or even from a broken past. And I, Twilight Sparkle, the Princess of Friendship, will do our best to help you and your friend guiding to a new future!" Twilight finished the combined speech."And no matter how hard the situation is, we can do it, as long as we get together." Starlight smiled.The whole speech from the ponies, along with the warm smiles from the princesses, made the hybrid feel grateful for them. Soon, his body was filled with confidence and determination to help Johnny and be there for him until the end. Now, there was no time to spare."Okay. With that out of the way, let's get it started! Time for Operation: Healing Light!" He spoke to the ponies."Oooh! I like that name!" The joyful earth pony jumped in excitement with a smile."Okay, everypony. It's time to enact our plan now. Twilight, Cadence, Starlight, Spike, make sure, the crystal ponies follow our plan. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow and Applejack, go to the other worlds and do the same thing. As for Dukey, Luna, Rarity and I, we will go to Ponyville to prepare for it. This is for Johnny's sake. We gather all of them to Ponyville in order to make it work. And when he arrives, we will give him the most care, he needed." Celestia spoke to everyone about the plan."Exactly. However, he has to be released from the hospital first, but the guards will keep an eye on him for his safety, both physically and mentally." Luna added."And if we managed to get him out of it, he can finally feel loved!" Dukey nodded."We'll see." Cadence answered."Let's get this party started!"With those words from Pinkie Pie, the ponies split up to make the final preparations of their plan. Operation: Healing Light is now in effect.In the Ponyville Hospital, the guards were still standing around Johnny, who is still depressed. His arms have now less bandages, now that the cuts were healed. However he still saw the scars. Soon, he heard a voice from a nurse:"Radiant Thunder. You can go now.""Whatever...." he quietly mumbled."Remember, we still keep an eye on you! Don't you even think of running away and end your life again, understood!??!" The guard scolded at the black pegasus.However, the stallion guard was met with silence from the young pony.When they exited the hospital, Johnny's mane still covered one of his eyes and he has a long, yellow scarf around his neck. He looked down, as he walked, with the ends of his scarf sliding on the ground. The guards were still close to him, making sure, he wouldn't make another suicide attempt again. But that hardly mattered to him anymore.He then lifted his head up, only to see the ponies looking at him. However, he ignored them, thinking that they're here to make his pain worse. Later, he saw Rainbow Dash, waiting for him, as the colors of the skies turn into the colors of the dusk."Hey, uhm...You okay?" the prismatic mare asked.However, he didn't say anything. Just pure silence. Rainbow looked at him and rubbed his head."Come on, where is the smile?" she asked, but she saw none. Just sadness."Excuse me, are you making trouble?" The guards asked."What? No! I am trying to hang out with him." she explained before getting Johnny's attention. "Hey, wanna fly?"No answer. However, he slowly went to her, as she prepared to fly. She looked back at the guards, who are pegasi."That's good. So they can keep an eye on him in the skies." she thought to herself.She flew up and performed some loops, while the guards and Johnny watched. Eventually, he flew up, albeit slowly. The guards were following him, as he flew up. As all the four ponies soar the skies together, they witnessed the beautiful sunset before the skies got covered by the stars and the moon . She started to hold Johnny's hoof, so at least he can feel something other being left alone. After some air time, they all land down near the entrance of Ponyville."Look, I know you are trying to help me, but don't you see? I'm already a lost cause, since everyone would probably ignore my help." he mumbled.The prismatic mare started to think of a way to get him to the centre of the village. Eventually, she had an idea and as she rubbed his head, she said: "Look, I've been in Twilight's castle and-""No no...Knock it off.." he looked away. Appearently, rubbing his head turned him off, so she stopped."As I was saying, I've been in Twilight's castle and brought to the centre of Ponyville." she explained."What is it?...." his voice became quieter, but Rainbow listened, since she was close to him."Come on, I'll show you!" she grabbed his hoof and dragged him. The guards followed them, as they didn't want to lose their sights at Johnny. However, even though he struggled, the pegasus mare tightened her grip and dragged him all the way to the centre of Ponyville."Why do you have to drag me?..." he asked."Because I want to show you something awesome, duh!" she answered."I don't want to see anything at all, It's just really depressing and-"Suddenly, before he can finish his sentence, he was surrounded by colorful lights and the sounds of popping confetti can be heard. He shielded his eyes a bit, until he realized, that the lights were not that bright and he looked in the front."Surprise!!"He saw everyone gathered infront of him. The ponies, the changelings, the dragons and so on. He also saw some packed gifts, delicious sweets, drinks, smiling ponies and non-ponies, wearing yellow party hats with his face on it. The princesses also stood there with necklaces with his cutie mark in a sapphire heart. Even Twilight and her friends wear wigs, which look just like his hair. Soon, Rainbow Dash put her wig on. Johnny didn't know, what to react. Should he be weirded out or flattered? He didn't know."We all heard your story and decided to help you." Mayor Mare spoke to him."I..I..I don't know what to say." he was speechless."Say wha? Excuse me? We all did this! For you!" Rainbow Dash snapped."Are you serious?" he asked.The six ponies and Spike drop their wigs and went to him.,"Yes, of course! Everyone heard your story and they were all concerned! Those bastards were all greedy, more concerned on your expectations than your life! But we're not like that! We're generous ponies and we value your life more than anything material!! Rarity spoke to him."They were so mean to you, it broke our hearts. But we will assure you, we'll be very kind." Fluttershy added."Everytime, you attempted to have fun, those party-poopers always ruin it! However, you will have so much fun with us, filled with laughter and joy!" Pinkie Pie looked at him."They were always lying to protect their reputation, even though it's already too late. They've poisoned you. But we are honest, that everything will be fine." Applejack resumed."They've betrayed you! Stabbed your back way too many times, then toss you to an abyss! We're not like that! We are loyal until the end!" Rainbow Dash continued."What they mean is, they tortured you so much, that you lost your spark. However, as the Princess of Friendship, I will assure you, that we will guide you with magic, hope and embrace." Twilight finished."Trust us... We will never betray you." Spike looked at him.He looked at everyone with concerned faces, realizing that what they said, wasn't fake. The looks weren't fake, the gifts weren't fake, everything felt genuine. The Mane 6 and Spike put their wigs back on.Rainbow DashI know the world can get you down Things don't work out quite the way that you thought Feeling like all your best days are done Your fears and doubts are all you've gotBut there's a light shining deep inside Beneath those fears and doubts, so just squash 'em And let it shine for all the world to see That it is time, yeah, time to be awesomeEveryoneAh, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome!Ah, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome!Pinkie PieIt's true some days are dark and lonely And maybe you feel sad But we will be there to show you that it isn't that bad There's one thing that makes us happy and makes your whole life worthwhile And that's when we talk to everypony and get you to smileEveryoneAh, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome!Ah, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome!Pinkie PieCome on and smile!Then out from the giant cake, Dukey came out, wearing a white tuxedo and a white tophat with a gold band and holding a gold microphone.DukeyNo matter what obstacles stand in your way You can shine brighter than the stars Just crush the voices in your head And let the light guide you!Dukey with Starlight GlimmerEmbrace the warmth Fight the dark Fly high and reach the stars!Burn bright like a phoenix Rise from the ashes Show them your bright side!Starlight GlimmerBecause your friends are always there for you!EveryoneAh, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome! Ah, ah, ah-ah, awesome! It's time to be so awesome!The Mane 8, Dukey and the princessesA true, true friend helps a friend in need A friend will be there to help them see A true, true friend helps a friend in need To see the light! (To see the light!) That shines! (That shines!) From a true, true friend!So shine bright! Brighter than the stars!You are better than them!Because we are always there for you!EveryoneShine bright!It ended with Rainbow Dash performing her famous Sonic Rainboom in the night, this time creating a message that says:We love you, Johnny!followed by fireworks, thanks to a pony called Tempest Shadow.Those events of love and appreciation made Johnny feel moved with tears in his eyes. He never felt this before, back in his former home world, but now. He witnessed everyone caring for him. He lowered his head and sobbed. This made the main heroes worried, thinking that their plan didn't work."Oh no...Did it work?" Twilight was in disbelief.However, his next reaction was a surprise to everyone: He laughed!"Wait, what!?" Rainbow Dash was caught off guard."Didn't see that coming." Applejack agreed."Oh my..." Fluttershy was in surprise as well.Then as he lift his head back up and looked at them, he did something, that was impossible back then: He genuinely smiled!"I just want to say...I never felt the love and appreciation back then. Instead, they crushed me completely. So much in fact, that my faith has been lost....until now. That 'It's too late and I'm already a lost cause' quote? Whoever said that, must be a jackass, because you proved me wrong and gave the most love, warmth, care and hope, I desperately needed.So...Thank you! Thank you, everyone!"Tears were streaming down from his face, however those were tears of joy.Everyone celebrated, that their plan succeeded in a big way."He's finally back to normal!" Pinkie Pie jumped in joy."Not quite. He still has to deal with the other issues, in order to be completely free from the past. However, if we stick together and continue to help him, then it will be all over." Celestia added."Whatever, he is finally back!" Dukey was filled with happiness. "Although I also have to face my demons as well. But first!" He went to his best friend and fixed his hair back to his original state. However a bit of his hair popped out on the front."Must been from me screaming in the pillow." the black pegasus scratched his head.Rainbow looked at Johnny's scarf and said : "Eh, it needs to be 20% cooler." She took the scarf off from him and gave it to Rarity."I can fix this. Alongside making a bonus!" The white unicorn went to her boutique in order to do those tasks. After a while, she came back with two boxes."These are for you!" She used her magic to give those gifts to Johnny and Dukey. They opened them and for Johnny, he received his new and improved scarf. Torn to fit his style. And for Dukey, he received a red scarf with a diamond. They put them on their necks."Oh my god! This looks awesome!" Johnny was amazed by his new scarf."Indeed! We are cool scarf buddies!" Dukey hugged his best friend and soon, the Mane 8 joined in, all while everyone watched in awe."Thank you everyone..." Johnny smiled and shed a single tear in happiness.Meanwhile, in a different universe...In the night, where the moon shined, inside of a room of a house, a teenage boy with blond hair was punching a wall in sheer anger and sadness."Damn it!!" he shouted.It appeared, that he is missing someone....like a friend...he cared.To be continued...
A Royal Pain - Chapter 35"Members of the Crimson Retribution, this is Princess Allura of the Voltron Coalition. If you are hearing this, please respond."The princess's shoulders slumped as static echoed throughout the main deck. Her disappointment made no logical sense given that the Crimson Retribution had ceased all communications with the Coalition following Lotor's trial, but she supposed somewhere deep inside her, she still held out hope that they could peacefully resolve their differences."Members of the Crimson Retribution, this is Princess Allura of the Voltron Coalition. If you are hearing this, please respond."Again, only static answered her, so with disheartened resignation, Allura closed the radio channel and rose from her seat. Coran, who had up until that point been lingering hesitantly in the shadows near the set of double doors at the back of the room, chose then to quietly approach her, his melancholy eyes clashing with the smile stretched beneath his bushy mustache."I can handle the rest of this matter, Princess. You needn't trouble yourself any further-""No, it's alright, Coran. I'm more than capable of dealing with this." Placing a hand on his shoulder, Allura offered her advisor a weary but warm smile to avoid any misconception of her being cross with him before brushing past and heading out the door. Once she was out of his sight, however, her hands began wringing themselves of their own accord while her mind obsessed over exactly how she was going to break the news, predictable as it was. The halls and stairs leading from the bridge to the reconstructed lounge, a bittersweet herald to yet another victim of Lotor's destruction, could've stretched on as far as the distance from one end of the universe to the other and it still wouldn't have been a long enough time for Allura. Unfortunately, her destination was actually a mere three floors down behind the first door to her right, and she had hardly blinked before she found herself standing at the threshold.Inside the room, Zethrid was already on her feet, pacing back and forth across the floor with balled fists and clenched teeth. Acxa, meanwhile, sat hunched forward on one of the sofas, eyes closed and brows pinched together while her chin rested atop her folded hands as though she were engrossed in a desperate prayer. At the swish of the door, their attention snapped to Allura, who wanted nothing more than to shrink back beneath their gazes. Her lungs burned, filling with suffocating tension rather than sweet air, and without their support, she couldn't utter a sound. She didn't need to speak, however; as though reading her mind, Acxa's head sank once more, weighed down by the disappointment and fear swirling around inside."They didn't answer."Allura visibly flinched; the sting of the words was even worse coming from the lips of another. "They did not. I'm sorry-"Snarling, Zethrid drove her fist into the nearest wall, a portion of which gave way beneath her strength with a dry crunch."Zethrid-""Don't start, Acxa! Ezor is missing, and after four quintents, we still have absolutely nothing! She could be anywhere by now, assuming she's even still…"She couldn't bring herself to say it. They had already lost Narti; the thought of losing Ezor as well was just too much."We are still waiting to hear back from a few of the scouts we dispatched as well as from several Coalition representatives." Allura chirped with a somewhat weary smile, eager to lighten the stifling atmosphere of the room. "Surely one of them will know something-""Stop! Stop pretending like you care!" Suddenly, Allura found herself ensnared in Zethrid's scorching glare as the latter stalked towards her as a predator cornering its prey. "You could be hunting those Crimson Bastards down, but you're more concerned about stepping on people's toes than finding Ezor alive!""Zethrid, I understand you're worried, but without proof, we can't-""Proof?! We three stood up against Klara at the trial, and in the end, she didn't get her way. Next thing we know, Ezor is gone and the Crimson Retribution has disappeared into thin air! How is that not enough proof for you?!""That isn't hard evidence-"Zethrid's fist made contact with the wall for the second time, creating yet another indent, before she made for the door. "Asking for your help was a mistake. I'm going to look for Ezor myself like I should've done in the first place."Allura's feet were already carrying her after Zethrid's fleeting form when she was jerked to a halt by Acxa clasping her shoulder."Let her go. She needs to clear her head before she can realize that working with the Coalition is our best chance at finding Ezor." Slipping past the Altean, the general paused in the doorway momentarily before departing as well. "She isn't wrong though, princess. I understand that you are apprehensive of another war breaking out so soon, but you need to consider that the choice may have already been made by someone else."Left alone in the lounge, Allura drew her arms around herself, her head bowed as her mind played Zethrid's accusations and Acxa's cold rebuke on loop. The war against the Galra Empire had cost so many so much. Entire planets had been destroyed, and thousands had been forced to don the roles of displaced refugees or vanquished subjects. Was it truly so wrong of her to waver at the prospect of more fighting and bloodshed when so many were still recovering from the Galra's treachery, assuming they ever truly could?Nonetheless, there was one point upon which Allura could agree with Acxa, although the idea robbed the air from her lungs and the warmth from her body. It was very likely indeed that, for all her worrying, the choice had already been made for her by another, and she was helpless to stop what was to come.-----------------------------------------Time was a most curious thing . Instead of ticks, dobashes, and vargas, Lotor now found himself measuring its passing by the rhythms of his body and the routine delivery of meals that were surprisingly palatable given his circumstances; he supposed he had Hank to thank for that. Even with these new increments, however, his world had begun to lose its shape and certainty, his body, mind, and soul slowly succumbing to limbo's sweet siren song as he sat in his cell of fortified glass, tethered to reality only by the steady thumping of his heart in his chest. His thoughts were his only company as all the other prisoners had been swept away to some other prison wing before they could be swayed by his charms, and though once a blessing in which he took great pride, his mind proved a baneful curse left unchecked. That was the whole point of his sentence though, was it not: to remove all distractions and isolate him in this dark dungeon where he would spend his days replaying his sins over and over again in his head without relief? Perhaps Klara's demands for his death hadn't been so cruel after all.The acoustics were perhaps the only aspect of his new home which Lotor could truly appreciate as they gave him some insight into his surroundings. An Altean mouse could sneeze in the farthest corner of the room and he would still hear it as clearly as if the little creature were perched on his shoulder, and likewise, visitors' footsteps always heralded their arrival as Allura's did now, ensuring that no one would be able to get the jump on him from the start of his sentence until whenever his miserable life came to its end.Inclining his head ever so slightly, he studied Allura's face as she drew as near as she dared, and his natural curiosity was roused from dormancy when he noticed a fierce frigidity had replaced the usual calmness of her sapphire eyes."Something has happened." Pleasantries were superfluous at this point; better to get straight to the point and not waste his air."You admit that you know something then?""All I know is what's written all over your face, Princess."While the existence of spiteful undertones in his words was debatable, Allura could already feel her blood starting to boil. "Ezor hasn't been seen or heard from since your trial. Coincidentally enough, Klara and her confederates have also disappeared without a trace."If she hadn't known what to look for, Allura would've entirely missed the little changes in his otherwise impassive expression which hinted at his true state of mind: the slight puckering of his lips, the faint wrinkling of his brow. Was Lotor actually perplexed? So focused was she on studying him that she did not notice him studying her in return, scrutinizing over her own involuntary mannerisms in hopes of deciphering what she was thinking."You are more than capable of piecing together such an obvious conclusion yourself, Allura. What do you need that only I can give you? We both know all too well that you wouldn't be down here if you could obtain what you desire from another source."Even locked away behind a barrier of the strongest and thickest glass, he was still an unnerving foe, but Allura dug her heels into the floor beneath her, refusing to yield even an inch of her ground. "I need information. You are going to help me fix this by telling me everything you have on Klara."A dry, sorry excuse of a chuckle puffed from Lotor's lips and the faintest traces of a smirk flickered along the corners of his lips before he thought wiser and suppressed his mild amusement; however, his reaction did not go unnoticed by the princess, her face darkening while the air around her rippled from the sizzling heat radiating from her skin."You're humored by this, are you? Tell me, what is so hilarious about your former friend losing her freedom because she stood up for you?"The laugh had truthfully been a self-deprecating one, but Allura's already bountiful scorn for him rendered any defense on his part utterly ineffective and pointless. "I'm sorry, Princess, but I can be of no help to you. I knew Klara as she once was, not as she is now. If any remnant of her former self still lives, it is buried away deep within her where you have no hope of reaching it.""You cannot know that for sure. If you have anything with even the smallest potential of being helpful to us, you need to tell it to me now!"Another laugh puffed from Lotor's lips, this one more defined, curt, and actually aimed at Allura this time. "If you were truly willing to do anything, Princess, you wouldn't be down here talking to me; you would be out hunting Klara down until she has nowhere left to run. Do not toss around such an absolute so carelessly lest you find yourself someplace you really don't want to be.""I didn't come here for a lecture, Lotor; I came to you for answers! If you have even an ounce of remorse for the things you've done, you will tell me whatever you know this instant instead of continuing to waste precious time!"It may have been decaphoebs, but to Lotor, it still felt like little more than a movement ago that he had been quietly admiring Allura for her many queenly properties, including her determination. Even now as he found himself in the role of an obstruction marring her path, he could not bring himself to belittle her as obstinate or difficult but rather found he was still in awe of her tenacity. It didn't require much effort on his part to imagine how poorly Allura would react once she had the information she sought, but seeing as she would hold him in this deadlock until she got her way, his best option was to relent and cease pushing off the inevitable. What did it matter if Allura had one more reason to despise him?"As you have likely observed yourself, Klara possesses a will of magnificent strength and resilience; she is not unlike you in that way, Princess. During our time together, I came to understand that direct attacks against her were a waste of effort as she found the strength to endure every trial thrust upon her. What brought her to her knees before me was not her own suffering but rather the persecution of those for whom she held herself responsible, those whose suffering was rooted in their ties to her. If you wish to subdue her, my humble experience suggests that striking the body instead of the head offers you the best chance of success."Just as he expected, Allura's face was a bloom of abhorrence as she abruptly recoiled from him. It was as if she believed that she could flee beyond the reach of him and his heinous nature, thus preserving the perfect purity of her heart and head. However, his words had slithered beneath her defenses and made themselves at home in some dark corner of her being the moment they took flight from his lips, and whether or not she chose to heed their whisperings, there was no way for her to ever completely eradicate the idea from her mind now."I tried to warn you."To say Allura was regretting her dismissal of Coran's offer was an understatement. It was all so much: Acxa's and Zethrid's poignant rebukes, Lotor's callous proposition, the looming threat of an enemy she still knew so little about. Perhaps she had gone somewhat soft since the end of the war for the escalating pressure was threatening to overwhelm her. She needed time and space to think, to sort through and make sense of everything that had been thrown at her within just the last few vargas without being scrutinized and nagged for answers she did not yet have."...Thank you for your honesty." Turning her back to him, she urged her feet to move but they remained planted where they were, tethered down by a force not entirely under her control. She had one last question, and though her heart begged her not to ask it, her curiosity promised to hold her there until it had been appeased. The last thing her already frayed wits needed was more information to process, but she had to know."I may not know everything that happened between you and Klara, but I would have to be a fool not to detect the traces of a scorned woman's wrath woven in with the other motives of her vendetta. Did you care for her as well or did you merely play along to make her more compliant?"Lotor was completely silent, and when Allura glanced back at him, she noticed rueful sadness had dampened his eyes."Correct me if I am wrong, but based on all that I have heard, your relations with Klara went sour not long before you were declared a traitor by Zarkon and joined our ranks shortly thereafter, yes?""...Yes."She didn't want to look at him, but she had to see his eyes to know if he was being truthful with her. "What was I to you then? Did you actually care for me or was I just an immediate source of relief and distraction for your battered heart?"The long, retrospective pause that followed was eventually broken by the crackling of intercom static and the boom of Shiro's baritone bark."Paladins of Voltron, report to the bridge immediately. I repeat, Paladins of Voltron, report to the bridge immediately."Allura did not move; she needed an answer."What was I to you?""...I do not know." It wasn't much of an answer, but it was the truth and all Lotor could give. "Perhaps that is for the better.""How could that possibly be for the better?""If I don't know the answer, I can't hurt you with it.""Just when I thought you could sink no lower." Through with wasting her time, Allura shook her head and stalked back the way from which she had come, leaving Lotor alone with his thoughts once more.------------------------------------------------There was supposed to be a planet somewhere in front of them. However, as the IGF-Atlas emerged from its wormhole, it was greeted by expanses of inky darkness broken only by spatterings of stars. As far as they could tell, they were the only source of life for miles."This isn't Kythra.""Gee, you don't say? And here we all were thinking the planet had turned itself invisible! You're a genius, Keith!""Lance, don't start." A quick survey of the many faces scattered across the bridge multiplied the sinking feeling in Shiro's gut by at least tenfold; no matter where he looked, he saw unsettling expressions of collective confusion worn by some of the most brilliant minds he had ever met. "Somebody figure out what just happened here! We've got pirates rampaging on Kythra without a care for who might get hurt and not a moment to lose!"The air erupted with frantic chatter and digital chirping as technicians scurried about and clustered together around various stations of the ship's dashboard, each group silently pleading for their area of expertise not to be the source of the issue while also booting up their problem solving skills in the backs of their minds in case it was.It was Iverson's voice that finally rang out above the rest of the noise. "All the ship's diagnostics are coming back normal. The coordinates system is being rebooted and the location will be reentered as an extra precaution.""How long is that going to take?""Not long.""Make it quicker.""Um, I'm all for the whole turning-it-off-and-back-on-again method, but this seems like a pretty big malfunction for just some overloaded software." Hunk piped up, a few beads of sweat glinting on his brow. "Maybe you should run those diagnostics again just to be sure-""We don't have time. We can look into it further once the tribes of Kythra are safe again." Allura cut in sharply, her nerves still somewhat frayed from her visit with Lotor. "Make the jump as soon as you can, Commander.""Readying the teladuv now."In the blink of an eye, another portal had opened before them, the light and the darkness swirling together into a whirlpool of stardust. A resonant purr rumbled throughout the Atlas as it chugged forward, and a few of the less coordinated crew members locked their knees or grabbed onto the nearest anchored object for support when the ship gave a sharp lurch as it was sucked into the wormhole's maw."Paladins, get to your Lions and be ready to take off on my signal! Iverson, round up the MFE pilots; I want them on standby in case these pirates pack a particularly nasty punch!"Lance, Keith, Allura, Pidge, and Hunk had hardly made it to the door before the wormhole spat the Atlas back out again, and an ominous hush fell once again as more empty space stretched out before them."Sir, the coordinates system malfunctioned again! The numbers are completely scrambled!"Shiro's attention shifted over to the paladins who had all ceased in their tracks and were now staring at him expectantly, his gaze eventually settling on Allura in particular. The princess's abnormal agitation had not escaped his notice, and just a brief survey at her rigid face, clenched muscles, and hard eyes warned clear enough that she was on the verge of bursting if something was not done to alleviate the pressure swelling up inside her."Take the MFE pilots and go on ahead of us. Fixing whatever is wrong with the coordinates system is going to take some time, but the citizens of Kythra need help now. We'll call ahead if we're able to make the repairs in time to provide additional backup."Without missing a beat, the paladins were off with Allura sprinting just a little faster than the rest as they made for the hangars. As they ventured beyond his line of sight, worried whispers nipped at Shiro's ears, but in an instance, he brushed them aside and returned his attention to the matter at hand, the matter that was his immediate responsibility to address.----------------------------------------------Damaged buildings. Flashes from firing blasters. Clouds of disturbed sand. Angry shouts. Frightened screams. These were the sights and sounds the paladins and the MFE pilots were expecting to greet them as they descended upon Kythra's vast but still fairly humble capital, so when cheering rose to greet their ears from a large crowd gathered near the center of the city, they were confused to say the least."Um, I don't see any pirates. Do you guys see any pirates? Because I don't see any pirates." Hunk rambled nervously, having obviously convinced himself yet again that the threat would spring upon them from some unseen place and scare him half to death."MFE pilots, give us some aerial cover and keep your eyes peeled for any trouble. We're heading down." Keith felt stupid even as he gave the command; from what he could observe, the only ships in the area were their own. Still, there was no harm in being cautious, for just because the fight seemed to be over didn't mean the danger had truly passed.Guiding their ships into a gradual dive, the paladins set down at the edge of the crowd, which they soon noticed had ceased in its revelry in order to stare back at them with less than pleased expressions."So they weren't cheering for us?" Lance frowned as he and the others descended from their ships, his voice sporting more notes of hurt and disappointment than confusion. "What's all the excitement about then?""We are rejoicing over our deliverance from our attackers by another when you, our protectors, left us to fend for ourselves." Some of the natives gracefully glided apart so their leader, a being towards the latter end of middle age with some of if not the largest fans of ear feathers out of the whole group. The aura of indignation radiating from the others seemed to conjoin within him, multiplying its potency more than tenfold so that even Allura in her state of heightened passion struggled with an innate urge to cower."We did no such thing," she retorted with a dash of heat while holding the Kythran's gaze. Her fury quelled somewhat, however, as Lance slipped closer to her and placed his hand on her shoulder, an understanding passing between them without a need for words. "Our main ship is experiencing some technical difficulties with its teladuv, so we had to fly all the way here ourselves.""My people were under an attack which we could not withstand on our own, and we were relying on you to help us. Had the Crimson Retribution not intervened when they did, many of our most vulnerable surely would've-""The Crimson Retribution saved you?!" Allura cut in, pulling loose from Lance's grip as her ferocity reignited. "Are they still here?!""No, they took the pirates prisoner and left a short while ago.""Did they say anything about where they were headed?!""No, they did not. Even if they had, I'm not sure that I would tell you. We owe them a great debt." Having apparently had his fill of Allura, the leader turned to Keith and stooped in a very shallow bow. "We thank you for coming all this way despite your technical difficulties, but the citizens of Kythra are no longer in need of your services for the time being.""Fine then. We won't keep you from your festivities any longer." Spinning on her heel, Allura stormed in the direction of her lion without so much as a glance behind her to make sure her teammates were following. "We've already wasted more than enough time here. If we hurry, maybe we can pick up on the Retribution's trail before they vanish again. Let's move!"Lance was the first to trail after her and was soon followed by the others, their shoulders sagging and their heads held low as their dragging feet kicked up sand around them."Why does it feel like we just got majorly played?" the usually spirited paladin mumbled with surprising melancholy.Pidge was the one to answer him. "Because we did, Lance. I don't know how, but they played us and they played us good."
Mash-Ups
(TRoC Scene) Thank you... by PrismaGalaxy514
(TRoC scene) Confession in the Rain by PrismaGalaxy514
(TRoC Screenshot) I tried to help him... by PrismaGalaxy514
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Ducktales: Let's Get Dangerous (Review): "When there's trouble, you call DW!" Just finished watching the Ducktales Darkwing Duck special episode Let's Get Dangerous and I got to say that it was pretty awesome. I won't go to deep into the plot and you shouldn't be ready what I've written next because it does contain spoilers. That being said. The main story is that Drake Mallard (former stunt actor for the Darkwing Duck movie, who now plays the real role of the caper crusader) is trying to start up his superhero gig in St Canard, only to find that theirs ironically zero crime. Plot goes on to set up Darkwing meet Gosayln Waddlemeyer who along with Launchpad work together to stop Taurus Buldba from opening an interdimensional rift machine from ripping all of reality apart. Introducing the original Darkwing villains QuackerJack, Liquidator, Megavolt and Dr Bushroot. One of the main things that interested me in this was that the rift machine (Ramrod) is a lot like the machine used in the Spiderverse movie. Opening different realities in time and space. Also the fact that Taurus himself is portrayed as a sort of Kingpin/Lex Luthor character. The other subplot involved Scoorge and his nephews finding out that Brad Buzzard one of the Buzzard Brothers is a member of F.O.W.L (Fiendish Organisation for World Larceny). Which will defiantly add more drama elements with the McDuck clan facing off against them in upcoming future episodes. Also confirmed, Launchpad will be working with Drake as his sidekick. Duckburg at day and St. Canard at night. This episode is probably my most favourite so far in the 3rd season and I hope that perhaps we can get a spin off show of Darkwing Duck someday. All and all, I give it five out of five stars...
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:iconkevmann:
kevmann Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2019  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the request!
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NickFan0402 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Fan Art folder is full...
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mdbruffy Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2018
Need a new Fan art folder.
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CloudDG Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2017
Thanks for requesting !
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AryaSamasta90 Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Can i join here?
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CloudDG Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2017
Thank ya for requesting my work! :)
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:iconkevmann:
kevmann Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the request!
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NyrusNightcore Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don't care what humans think is impossible.
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:iconmdbruffy:
mdbruffy Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2016
There is a boy, he's five years old. He lives in North Carolina here in the States. He's fighting Leukemia. The doctors say he's currently in remission, but he has at least 3 more years of treatments.
   All he wants for Christmas are Christmas cards. Mine's going out in the morning.
  Here's his mailing address:
   Hayden Drake
   1637 Lum Buck Rd.
   Greenville, NC 27858

I'm asking everyone to send him a card. Especially those folks who don't live here in the States. I think he'd get a big kick out of getting a Christmas card from Britain, or Germany or Australia.

Okay?
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Ratvarg Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
How long do it usually take for a submission to be accepted or declined
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