Hey, just a heads up! This chapter takes place around two weeks after the last one!
Chapter 13: Borderline
"Interesting." Twilight muttered, her and Spike sharing an exasperated look before turning back to Danny, who was currently out cold in his seat. In front of him, a bowl of cereal lay untouched, the flakes inside quickly turning into mush.
"I don't know why this even surprises us anymore." Spike mumbled as he hopped off his chair and grabbed his and Twilight's empty plates, which once held a high stack of pancakes, silently walking into the kitchen to get started on the dishes.
Twilight watched the little dragon leave before turning back to Danny, whose snoring form slowly began to tilt forward. Suddenly, his head dropped down and slashed into the bowl of cereal, milk splattering onto the table. Surprisingly (though not really), the teen didn't stir. Instead, a small stream of bubbles could be seen in the white liquid.
"Ahh . . . death by cereal. What a way to go." The mare muttered to herself, a small grin appearing on her face as the teen suddenly lurched awake, coughing and hacking in surprise as to why there was now milk in his nose.
"Wow, you lasted a whole thirty seconds this time." Twilight said with a roll of her eyes. "I think that's your best time yet."
Danny said nothing as he slowly blinked back into reality before grabbing a few napkins off the table, wiping the milk away from his face. "Well, nothing like a nice bowl of milk and diabetes to wake you up in the morning." The teen said with a grin of his own.
His mirth was not shared by his companion, who merely gave him a small look of concern. "I'm going to guess you didn't sleep too well last night." She said softly.
Danny's smile faltered at her words, instantly realizing what she was referring to. "Twi, I know what you're thinking, but I'm okay. I just didn't go to bed as early as I should have, that's all." He said reassuringly, the mare giving a small hesitant nod after a moment's thought.
Well, not a total lie.
The truth was, Danny hadn't had a nightmare last night, partly because he'd only been able to get two, maybe three hours of sleep at the most. And while Twilight could only assume it was his nightmares to blame for his fatigue, that was only a small part of it.
In truth, Danny was never even near the castle during most nights.
Ever since the teen had arrived in Ponyville, he had made it his routine to wait till everyone was asleep before transforming into Phantom, scouting over the town and the ones nearby. In the beginning, he would never go too far, just a town here, a city there.
Then, after a month of nothing, the teen knew he had to expand his search.
From then on, Danny would sneak out as soon as possible and travel as far as he could, sometimes even going as far out to places like Las Pegasus, Fillydelphia and even Manehattan. Often, whenever he did travel to the farther cities, he would barely get back to the castle before dawn.
Yet all of his searches yielded the same result.
Nada. No evil castles, no booms of thunder or cracks of lightning above a dark and menacing cave, not even an evil villain cackle in the distance. In fact, if he didn't know any better, Danny would assume Vlad wasn't even in Equestria.
Though, of course, the teen knew better than to go and doubt Clockwork.
Still, the teen couldn't help but worry. He'd been in Equestria for around two months, and he still hadn't been able to dig up any leads as to where Plasmius might be hiding. After the first month passed, Danny quickly began to wonder what would happen back home if he didn't return before summer ended, but then he remembered Clockwork was the Master of Time and had promised he would take care of any problems back home.
He'd just have to trust the ghost.
In fact, Clockwork did have everything under control. All it took was a wave of his staff followed by a stern scolding from the Observants to fix the problem. Before sending Danny to Equestria, both it and Earth traveled through time equally. A day in Equestria equaled a day on Earth. But knowing that could soon lead to problems, Clockwork created a temporary solution.
Unbeknownst to Danny, his time problems were completely handled. With some of Clockwork's meddling, a day in Equestria was now only around six to seven hours on Earth, a week was now roughly equivalent to two days, and a month was around ten days.
Still, there were times Danny considered leaving Ponyville. After all, it meant not having to worry about making it back to the castle in time before anyone woke up. It'd mean exploring new areas he had yet to discover. But every time the thought appeared in his mind, he'd instantly shoot it back out.
He knew what the right choice was, but he just couldn't bring himself to leave. He couldn't leave his friends, Spike, Twilight. They'd given him so much; a town, a home, friendship. They'd greeted him with open arms, even when he'd denied them.
He . . . . he just couldn't leave them.
So, if that meant flying a little faster to get home on time, then so be it. If that meant losing a few more hours of sleep, then so be it. And if that meant being stuck in Equestria for a little while longer, then so be it.
They hadn't abandoned him, so how could he abandon them?
Still, the teen worried sometimes. After all, it'd only be a matter of time before he did find something that would lead to Plasmius. What would he do then? Obviously, Plasmius would either send some goons after him (if he even had any in this world), or come after him himself.
What if he came to Ponyville? What would happen to the girls? Would he try to use them against him? Would they find out about his secret?
Those thoughts would always make Danny tense up. What if the girls found out about his secret?
He could only hope they'd accept him, as he hoped his parents would. But just like with his parents, Danny had his doubts. Oh sure, Equestria wasn't exactly like Amity, but . . . but he couldn't help but think back to when he'd first met Twilight and the girls.
The mare explained to him that she'd seen a vision of him - no - a vision of Phantom, and it had been enough for her to distrust Danny. That obviously meant the vision had scared her, meant Phantom had scared her. So what would she say if she found out the creature from her vision was not only real, but that he and Danny were one in the same? That he'd been lying to her the entire time.
And, just like when Danny would have these thoughts about his parents, the teen couldn't help the fear that crept into his heart.
Danny couldn't deny the fact that he cared about his friends. Which meant it'd only be harder if they didn't accept him. It'd crush not only them, but him as well. And it was those thoughts that stopped the teen from ever telling them about his powers. Just like back home, that fear was enough to freeze his mouth shut.
And that's how it'd stay.
Though the teen had to admit patrolling in Equestria was a lot easier than patrolling back home. Of course, the lack of ghostly enemies seeking revenge might have had something to do with it. Then, there were the days he didn't patrol.
Boy, were those nights fun.
Danny had been having nightmares from ever since he had received his powers, and they had ranged all across the spectrum. At first, he would dream about his ghost half overtaking his human half, becoming full ghost, disappearing from existence, things like that. But as time wore on and he stopped fearing the powers inside of him, his fear extended outwards towards the world around him. And most recently, they had been centering on a certain pink-eyed man.
Back home, sure the nightmares had been bad, but the most they would ever do was jolt him awake. Here in Equestria, it was like his nightmares were cranked up to maximum. Maybe it was the magic in the air, maybe it was the mingling of his ghost core with the elements around him, or maybe it was the fact that they combined his worst fears of abandonment and betrayal from those closest to him, but whatever it was, it set his heart racing.
He cursed the fact that they made him scream aloud, barely able to keep it together when he was jolted awake, the ordeal becoming even harder with the fact that Twilight would burst into the room not even ten seconds later.
Still, Danny couldn't help the small twinge in his heart at the fact Twilight seemed so concerned for him. Then again, maybe it was a figment of his imagination, but the teen couldn't help but wonder if the mare really did care for him.
Yep, even through all the problems swimming through his mind at times, Twilight and the girls could always bring him back down to Earth, usually with a cake waiting (oh, Pinkie).
"Hey, space cadet!"
Danny blinked back into reality as Twilight placed her hoof back down. "You okay, Rookie? You spaced out for a good few minutes there. I was seriously considering drawing on your face." She said with a roll of her eyes, hopping off the dining room chair.
Danny snorted and hopped off as well. "Oh, Twi. I'd love to see you try. Plus, it'd give me an excuse." He finished with a wicked smile, Twilight's smirk instantly being replaced with wide eyes that slowly narrowed into thin slits and a small pout. "Hmph . . ." She huffed before walking into the library, Danny giving a snicker before following.
"Come on, you little moron. We're meeting the girls at the market today." She explained, watching the boy hop onto the couch and roll over onto his back, black hair for once not in his face, even if he did look ridiculous. "Why's that, Chief?" He asked.
Twilight cocked a brow at her new nickname before shrugging it off, merely assuming it was her new name for the day, which Danny just loved to come up with. She gave a shrug of her shoulders at the question. "I don't know. Although, I do recall Pinkie saying something about some new recipes she wanted us to try out."
That instantly got Danny's attention.
"Tasting dummies, huh?" He asked with narrowed eyes, deliberating the proposal for a moment. " . . . . Alright, fine. But you're eating whatever we get first. I am not getting my stomach pumped again!"
Twilight rolled her eyes. "Oh, quit your bellyaching."
The mare let out an exasperated sigh. "I don't know why I take you anywhere . . ." She mumbled under her breath, turning back towards the dining room to tell Spike they were leaving when suddenly a loud BOOM sounded from inside, the entire castle rumbling from the force.
Twilight and Danny stumbled to the floor at the violent shaking, sharing shocked looks when it finally stopped.
"What the heck was that?!" Spike screamed, running into the room.
Twilight looked back towards the door. "I don't know." She confessed before glancing back at Danny. "Come on." She called before rushing out to the foyer, the boys right on her tail. Yanking open the door, she quickly noticed a thick black plume of smoke was rising from the center of town. "This way!" She called, running down the stairs, waiting at the bottom for Danny to catch up, Spike hopping onto her back.
Galloping to the marketplace, the three quickly noticed a large group of ponies gathered around what appeared to be a wooden market stand, or what used to be a market stand. Now it was nothing but splintered wood engulfed in roaring flames.
"What the heck did th-" Twilight started, only to stop as a loud laugh filled the air, harsh words echoing out around the clearing. "Where are you, Whelp?! I know you're here!"
Danny's pupils shrunk down to small black pinpricks as his ears flattened down against his head. "No . . " He barely even whispered, his ears instantly picking up on the recognizable tone of voice.
The ponies around the marketplace gasped as a creature they'd never seen before descended from the skies and hovered above them. His body was made completely out of metal and his hair consisted of green flames. He had toxic eyes of the same color and a wicked row of sharp, jagged teeth. Strapped across his chest were strange metal contraptions that were unfamiliar to everyone in the crowds, save for one little colt in the back.
The two ponies turned their heads and watched as Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie ran over, Fluttershy and Rarity quickly coming up behind them. "What the heck is that thing?" Dash whispered, watching as the creature continued to swoop through the air, piercing green eyes scanning the crowds for his prey.
"Do you think it came from the Everfree Forest?" Rarity asked.
"I don't think so. I've never seen a creature made entirely out of metal before." Twilight whispered back.
"Come out, you little rat!" The creature snarled before raising his arm, a bright blue blast firing out of one of the metal contraptions. The blast hit another nearby stand, which quickly exploded upon impact, fiery pieces of wood showering down around the now screaming crowds. Danny felt his heart hammering in his chest as he watched Skulker continue to zoom through the air. How? He asked himself. How is he here? I-It's not p-possible.
Suddenly, bright green eyes locked onto deep blue as the two saw each other. Skulker grinned as he narrowed his eyes. "There you are, Whelp." He snarled. The girls didn't even have time to blink as Skulker smashed into the ground, the force of the blow throwing them backwards.
"Girls!" Danny yelled, only to gasp as Skulker wrapped thick, cold, metallic fingers around his next, flying back up into the air.
He grunted and kicked out with his hind legs, only to hit empty air, Skulker giving a vicious laugh at the futile attempt. "What are you doing here, Skulker?" Danny growled, barely able to cough out the words at the amount of pressure the ghost was applying to his neck.
The ghost grinned at him, eyes narrowed in contempt. "I'd think it was obvious. Plasmius sent me." He barked, watching as Danny's eyes widened. "He wanted me to capture you and bring you back in one piece." He explained, his fingers beginning to press down harder into Danny's fur.
"But he didn't say which piece."
Twilight groaned and pushed herself up off the ground, vaguely aware of the other girls and Spike doing the same. Raising a hoof to her head, she could feel a small bump forming alongside her ear. Suddenly, her eyes darted up, quickly remembering a certain blue-eyed teen.
"Where's Danny?" She yelled at the others, who whipped around, quickly scanning the crowds for his shockingly white coat. Applejack lifted her head and flattened her ears at the sight. "THERE!" She shouted, trying to be heard over the panicked shouts of the galloping ponies around her, each looking for sanctuary inside of their homes.
Twilight followed where Applejack was pointing and gasped at the sight. The strange creature was back in the air, only this time, Danny was in his grasp. He had his hand clamped around the teen's throat while the boy struggled to pry the metal fingers off of him and suck in as many burst of air as he could, which was obviously becoming a losing battle as his motions began to slow.
"DANNY!" Twilight screamed in fear before her eyes instantly filled with rage. Unfurling her wings, she shot into the air and fired a huge pink blast at the creature, who roared out in shock as he flew backwards, Danny flying out of his grasp.
Twilight quickly dove down and caught the teen before he could hit the ground, the others quickly running over as the pair landed. Twilight placed a soothing hoof on the teen's back as he continued to cough and hack as he tried to suck in as much air as possible.
"Heh, surprising. The Whelp's managed to scrounge up a couple of little friends." The girls gasped as Skulker returned, glaring down at them with an amused smirk on his face. "No matter, I could always use some new wall art." He said with a wicked grin.
The girls each shared similar looks of disgust. "Uhh, eww . . ."
"There, you see! I told you it's gross!" Danny shouted up at the ghost, ignoring the strange looks his friends were currently giving him.
Twilight extended her wing out, pushing Danny behind her with it. "Danny, stay back. You too, Spike." She whispered, the girls quickly moving around to stand in front of them. "But I-" Danny started, only to be cut off as Skulker dove down.
The girls instantly scattered, Danny and Spike leaping backwards before the ghost could flatten them. His bright green eyes rose up and instantly fell on the pair, his grin sliding wider. Before he could take another step forward, another bright pink blast flew into the air, slamming into Skulker's side.
The hunter let out a roar of rage as he was sent skidding across the dirt path, eyes locking onto the six ponies before him, rage evident in his fiery gaze. "Boys, run!" Twilight shouted, barely dodging the blue blast that shot towards her.
"But-" Danny started, only to be cut off as Spike wrapped his claw around the teen's shoulder. "Come on!" The dragon shouted, sprinting down the street, Danny quickly following, eyes quickly narrowing before melting into a toxic green.
Spike panted as he stopped, placing his hand on one of the nearby building walls as he tried to catch his breath. "I . . . t-think we're s..safe here." The dragon panted, glancing over his shoulder for the teen, only to do a double take when he realized the teen wasn't even behind him anymore.
"Uhh . . Danny?"
Skulker let out a furious roar as another pink blast slammed into his chest, sending him flying through the air. Quickly righting himself, the ghost raised his arm, another set of blasters popping up. Twilight gasped and quickly dove for the ground as a frenzy of blue blasts whizzed through the air towards her.
Quickly pulling up at the last second, she let out a sigh of relief as the blasts slammed harmlessly into the ground, only to grunt in pain as a large metal arm slammed into her chest, sending her plummeting to the ground.
Before the hunter could dive down and finish off his prey, he was yanked to the side by a long thick lasso that was now wrapped around his leg. Staring down below him, he watched as Applejack, Pinkie Pie , Fluttershy and Rarity each pulled hard on the rope. Skulker scoffed and rolled his eyes, only to let out a shout of shock as he felt something ram into his shoulder, sending him crashing to the ground.
Whipping his head up, he watched Rainbow Dash hover above him, face contorted into a look of determination. "Hey, Rust Bucket! How 'bout you high-tail it out of here before you get your flank kicked?!" She shouted at him, only to yelp and quickly duck to the side as another blast fired from the hunter's arm.
"Fine, looks like we have to do this the hard way!" She yelled, diving down, only to watch Skulker smirk and wrap his fingers around the rope tied around his ankle. Swinging his arm forward, he whipped the rope through the air, the three mares in tow as they went sailing through the air, smacking Rainbow Dash down along the way.
"This is too easy." He murmured to himself with a smirk, only to let out a growl of annoyance as another bright pink blast slammed into the ground next to his feet. Whipping his head to the side, he leapt backwards as another barrage of blasts rained down upon him, Twilight's horn sparkling brightly as she continued to fire.
He narrowed his eyes and raised his arm again, only this time, instead of a blast firing, a large glowing blue net shot forward, entangling around the airborne mare. Twilight let out a yelp of shock as she quickly fell to the ground, suppressing her screams as the net began to burn into her fur.
Rarity and Fluttershy quickly galloped over, trying to pry the net off without burning themselves or Twilight any further. Skulker watched with a gin as he raised he readied his guns once more, only to gasp as a boom sound from down below, the force making him stagger backwards as confetti? rained down around them. Turning to the side, he noticed Pinkie Pie was glaring at him, a large blue cannon now in her hooves. '
What the hell? He muttered to himself, only to quickly snap back into focus as Rainbow Dash slammed into him once more. "Ugg! Enough of this!" He snarled in rage as he latched onto the mare's wing and hurled her to the ground. She slammed into the others, sending them all to the ground.
Loud groans floated up into the air as the mares tried to blink away the stars from their eyes. Skulker landed a few feet away from them, glaring at them heatedly. "I've had just about enough of your nonsense." He growled. "I don't know why prey protests so. All I want is your pelt." He said with a sigh.
The girls glanced at each other before turning back to the hunter. "Umm . . . see, that's not usually the kind of thing ponies are willing to give up." Twilight called.
Skulker's face grew thoughtful for a moment before he shrugged his shoulders. "Oh well. Consider it a compliment." He grinned, raising his gun once more, the barrel quickly lighting up in a bright blue light as the whine of the charge filled the air. The girls gasped and shut their eyes, tucking their heads as they waited for the searing heat.
Suddenly, a loud shout of pain filled the air, followed by a large crash. Opening their eyes, the girls noticed three things. One: the liquid green dome around them that slowly began to melt back down into the ground, Two: Skulker was now lying on top of a crushed wooden stand, the wood quickly catching aflame, and Three: The new figure floating above their heads.
They blinked in shock at the scene before them before lifting their gazes to the newcomer. Twilight's eyes widened and her breath caught in her throat, which quickly squeezed shut.
Hovering above them was a colt, probably only around fourteen to fifteen years old. He had stark white hair and a midnight black coat which faded into sleek white hooves that matched the tips of his ears and the inside feathers of his wings. Protruding from the sea of messy white hair shone a dark black horn, which was aglow in green light. On his flank was a mark of a P inside of a D, which seemed to be ablaze in a green light.
But what really stood out were his eyes.
They were a toxic green.
"Hey, Skulker! Looking for me?!" Phantom shouted down to the ghost, who was rubbing his head from the last blast. The teen stole a concerned glance behind him at the girls, painfully aware of the fact they were all staring at him in shock and slight fear, especially Twilight.
The hunter whipped his head up towards the voice, a grin spreading onto his face as he realized who it was. "Finally. I was beginning to wonder if you'd have the guts to show up at all. It'll give me great pleasure to rip them out of you!" He snarled, flying forward.
Phantom narrowed his eyes and flipped onto his back, kicking up with his back legs as Skulker hovered over him, sending the ghost flying up into the air. "Ugg! There you go again with those mental images. I'm gonna have nightmares!" He shouted up at the ghost before flapping his wings, propelling himself upwards.
Skulker snarled and raised his arm, firing a stream of energy at the boy, who quickly twisted around it. Narrowing his eyes, Phantom lit his horn up with energy and began to fire his own blasts of bright green ecto-energy. Skulker snarled as one blast hit him in the shoulder. Before he could recover, Phantom shot forward and slammed his hooves down on the ghost, sending him crashing down to the ground.
Flying down, the teen landed beside the newly formed crater in the ground, narrowing his eyes as he tried to see through the smoke billowing out around him.
Suddenly, a large hand shot out of the smoke, wrapping around his neck as it slammed him into the ground. Phantom gasped and raised his hooves, quickly trying to pry the hands off as Skulker leaned over him, eyes full of malice. Eyes shimmering brightly, Phantom quickly turned intangible and phased through the ground.
Skulker gave a roar of frustration as he scanned the ground for the teen to reappear, only to gasp as Phantom shot out of the ground, slamming his hoof into the hunter's chin, sending him flying backwards. "So tell me, Tin Man. How come you aren't a pony like me?" Danny asked as Skulker flew back into the air.
The ghost gave a roll of his eyes. "Imbecile. My body is artificial. No matter where I go, it's not going to change forms like your organic body." He growled out, firing a small blast from his shoulder. Phantom phased through it without even moving from his spot. Suddenly, as Skulker's words sank in, his eyes grew wider. "Hold on! Does that mean your natural tiny green gremlin body . . . . is now a tiny green gremlin pony?"
"Oh my god! That's priceless!" Phantom laughed, clutching his stomach as Skulker's eyes blazed green. "Shut up you pathetic little WHELP!" He snarled, the slots in his shoulders opening to reveal a large handful of rockets. "Crap . . ." Phantom muttered as he quickly whipped around, flapping his wings hard as he tried to out-fly the missiles that were currently hot on his tail, literally.
"While this form may not be what I quite imagined, I'll still enjoy having your head at the foot of my bed!"
"Again with the mental images! Would you knock that crap off already?!"
Phantom narrowed his eyes in determination as he continued to zoom through the air, the missiles relentless in their chase for their prey. Flying over to one of the nearby buildings, Phantom zoomed up at the last moment, one of the missiles connecting with the wall, exploding on impact, destroying a good section of the building. Phantom winced at the destruction, but pressed on nonetheless.
Four more, come on, Danny!
The teen flew higher into the air before quickly taking a sharp U-turn. Eyes locking onto Skulker, the teen felt a smirk form on his face as he flew down, prepared to give the hunter a taste of his own medicine. Phantom quickly flew past the hunter, causing the ghost to gasp and put up a shield of his own to block one of the missiles that strayed from its path and shot towards him instead. "Watch it!' He snarled, clenching his fists as he heard Phantom give a laugh.
Flying back up into the air, Phantom quickly leveled out his flying before whipping around onto his back, firing a green blast of his own at the lead missile, the projectile exploding on contact. Phantom grinned before flipping back to normal, diving back for the ground.
Eyeing the ground as he continued to get closer and closer, Phantom could feel the heat of the missiles behind him as he turned intangible, phasing through the ground. The missile connected with the ground, exploding into the Earth, creating a large crater of dirt and rocks.
Flying back out of the ground, Phantom hovered in the air, scanning the skies for Skulker once more. Suddenly, his ears perked in thought. Wait, weren't there five mis- He didn't have time to finish his thought as something slammed into his side, exploding in fire and metal as it sent him shooting backwards, where he slammed painfully into one of the building walls, a sickening crack filling the air.
He groaned and slid down to the floor. His ears rang loudly, the world around him sounding far-off and distant. He winced as he tensed his muscles. Glancing down, he noticed bits and pieces of shrapnel were embedded into his fur. Quickly turning intangible, he watched the metal clink to the floor, but the damage was done.
Blood dripped onto the floor, red quickly mingling into his black coat, seeping into his white hair as he felt the crimson liquid slowly drip down the side of his face. Shaking his head back into reality, the ringing began to die down as Skulker came back into view . . . unfortunately much faster than Phantom would have liked.
The ghost rammed his shoulder into Danny's chest, sending him skidding across the ground. Quickly righting himself, Phantom flew back into the air, ignoring the sharp stabs of pain, and fired a barrage of green blasts at the ghost. Skulker flew up into the air, nimbly dodging the attacks as he zoomed closer, ramming his fist into Danny's chin, the teen reeling backwards.
"You've gotten sloppy, child. Apparently you've been slacking off with your training." Skulker teased as he fired another round of blasts at the teen.
Phantom turned intangible before glaring back up at the ghost. "Yeah, cause the new body and appendages don't have anything to do with it!" He shouted, eyes melting into a pale blue as he fired a laser of ice at the ghost's chest, encasing him in a thick layer of ice.
The teen took the time to take a small breather. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Skulker was right. Fighting in his new body was much harder than Danny had first suspected. God, if I can barely fight Skulker, how on Earth am I gonna beat Plasmius? He wondered fearfully.
Thankfully, he had no time to dwell as Skulker broke free of his prison, the ice shattering into a million pieces. Taking another small breath, Danny flew back into the air, Skulker quickly giving chase.
. . . . . .
From the ground, the girls had been quick to take cover behind one of the remaining market stands, watching the fight over their heads commence with wide eyes and parted mouths. "Uhh . . ." Was all anypony had been able to mutter, all at a loss for words.
Finally, Rainbow Dash cleared her throat before giving her third attempt. "Umm . . . anypony else seriously confused?" She whispered, receiving five nods of agreement.
Applejack continued to stare at the mysterious colt fighting the strange creature before tuning back to Twilight. "Isn't that the creature you saw in your visions?" She asked.
Twilight remained frozen, eyes locked onto the teen fighting a few paces away. All she could focus on were his piercing green eyes. They seemed to cut through her, stabbing through her heart, gripping at her soul. The icy chill she'd experienced from before slowly began to crawl up her spine as she watched the creatures battling each other.
She was instantly snapped from her thoughts as Applejack tapped her shoulder. After taking a moment to recall her friend's question, she gave a small nod of her head. "Yep. That's him." She said softly.
"But . . . but how is that possible?" Rarity asked.
Twilight turned her gaze back to the battle before her, eyes locking onto the toxic green pools once more. "I don't know."
. . . . . .
Twisting around in the air, Phantom fired another stream of blasts from his horn.
Skulker dodged most of them, except for a small stray blast which connected with his shoulder, throwing him off balance. That was all the distraction Phantom needed as he flared his wings out, the tips quickly shimmering a bright green. Narrowing his eyes, he let out a loud grunt as he flapped his wings down hard, the energy shooting out, slamming into Skulker's chest, sending him to the ground once more.
Before he could even fly back down, Danny felt something loop around his hoof. Glancing down, he noticed there was a glowing green whip tied around his hoof. Skulker narrowed his eyes and dragged the rope down, Phantom yelping as he was dragged down as well.
Swinging the rope over his head, Skulker swung it towards a few nearby buildings, Phantom slamming painfully into them as he was swung through the air like a ragdoll. Eyes shimmering brightly, Phantom focused his ecto-energy at the rope, the whip disintegrating around his hoof.
Glaring down at the hunter, the teen dove towards him. Skulker tensed as he watched the colt dive straight towards him, only to blink in confusion as the boy phased right through his chest. Suddenly, he let out a roar of rage as he felt a large blast slam into his back, sending him stumbling forward.
Phantom growled and flew forward once more, only to gasp as Skulker latched onto his front hoof before he could even blink. The hunter snarled at him before hurling him over his shoulder, the teen barreling through the wall of another building. Before he could regain himself, Skulker raised his arm and fired at the roof of the building, the entire structure collapsing in a matter of seconds.
Silence rang out over the area as everypony held their breaths, wondering if the small alicorn would reappear as they watched the fight from inside homes and closed shop windows.
Suddenly, the large mound of rubble began to rumble before a large green blast shot out and into the sky. Skulker narrowed his eyes as he watched Phantom dig himself out of the pile of rocks. The teen gasped in pain as he tried putting pressure on his left hoof. Glancing down, he realized the white hoof was now stained red, the skin tearing where the large piece of metal had stabbed through, lightly grazing the bone as he tried to move.
Nevertheless, Phantom grit his teeth before pushing himself out of the pile, gingerly testing his wings before flying into the air. Skulker narrowed his eyes before lunging once more. Phantom tensed his muscles before leaping forward as well, bucking out with his back hooves, connecting with the ghost's chest, sending him stumbling backwards.
Flying up, he fired a large green blast, which connected with the disoriented ghost's shoulder. Satisfaction rang out through the teen as he realized that last blast had torn away at some of the ghost's circuits and wiring, the metal shining an orange tint as the shining surface became super-heated. Skulker took notice of this as well, though satisfied was not the word one would use to describe his reaction.
He surged forward once more, but Danny-a new determination setting in his core-was ready.
Ducking underneath the ghost's blow, he slid underneath the hunter's legs and flew back up into the air, ramming his hooves down on the ghost's jetpack, circuits and sparks shooting up into the air as the metal bent and snapped. Skulker let out a roar of rage as he quickly shook the teen off, eyes narrowing into tiny green slits.
The ghost screamed in fury as he shot forward faster than Phantom expected. Ramming into the teen, the two ghosts began to wrestle on the ground, each fighting for dominance as they continued to exchange blows and blasts. Whenever one would land a blow on the other, the other sent one right back. A hoof to the face, a fist to the stomach. A buck to the chest, a slash to the cheek.
Suddenly, Skulker's hand shot out, clamping down around the piece of metal still embedded in the teen's hoof, which-in the heat of battle-he'd forgotten to remove. Ramming it deeper into the colt's flesh, Phantom screamed as he felt his bone snap, sharp corners of metal ripping at the skin, blood rushing down his hoof at an even faster rate as the piece was yanked out. Nevertheless, he didn't give up the fight as they continued to exchange blows.
Suddenly, Skulker raised his arm, which quickly morphed into another gun. Phantom ducked underneath one blast, which connected with the dirt next to his head. Grabbing Skulker's arm, the two began to fight against the gun, neither refusing to let go. As Skulker continued to fire randomly, hoping to land a blow, Phantom continued to kick out with his back hooves, continuously throwing the ghost off balance.
Suddenly, Skulker's arm shot out, the barrel lighting blue once more as another random blast shot out, only this time, it wasn't as random. Phantom let out a shout of pain as the blast slammed into the side of his head at point-blank range, sending him flying backwards, tumbling along the ground before falling still into a motionless heap.
Skulker blinked in mild shock before shakily rising to his feet, groaning at the effort. His circuits were all but fried, the wires snapped and tangled together. Most of the weapons in his arsenal had been damaged or dented, and his suit was burned and scratched in more than one place. But Phantom didn't fair much better.
The teen let out a soft groan as he tried to rise to his hooves only to fall back to the ground more than once. His body was littered with slashes and bruises, most hidden underneath his black coat. Though it was hard to hide the blood on his white hooves, especially his front left leg, which was more red than white. Though, it was only slightly worse than his head. His stark white hair was dripping crimson drops as blood continued to pour down the side of his face, staining the ground below.
Finally, after a moment, the teen was able to rise to his hooves and meet Skulker's gaze. The two stared at each other for a moment before the hunter took a step forward. He leapt back at the large green blast that exploded in front of him before lifting his head once more. Danny glared at him, eyes burning their fiery green color as his horn sparked. He panted with exhaustion, but he continued to flare his horn nonetheless.
"Get out of here, Skulker." the teen snarled, impressed with the fact he was able to keep his voice from shaking.
Skulker hesitated for a moment, realizing it wouldn't be wise to continue the battle any further considering the amount of damage his armor had sustained, yet none pleased with the option to simply leave his prey. After a moment's thought, the ghost decided on the former, a small smirk falling onto his face. He wasn't about to leave without inflicting some mental scars as well as physical. "Very well, Child. I'll leave you be for now." He said as he turned away, only to tilt his head back. "But Plasmius won't."
And with that, the ghost turned intangible and flew into the ground, disappearing from sight.
Phantom stared at the spot where Skulker had disappeared, his last words ringing in his ears, leaving an unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach. Nevertheless, the battle was over and that was enough for him to let out a small sigh of relief, wishing for nothing but to collapse onto the ground and sleep. But he quickly became aware of the ponies that were staring at him, more specifically, the six mares that were emerging from the wooden market stand.
The colt let out a small groan. He could barely even remember where he was, let alone explain anything to the girls. Still, he weakly flew up into the air until he was hovering above them. Blinking the black dots out of his eyes, he focused all his energy on keeping his voice level and clear.
"Umm . . . hi." He called softly, watching his friends stare up at him, giving no signs of responding. He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Hey, l-listen. If anymore . . . creatures c-c-come around here like that o-one, just avoid it ok-kay." He said, straining to keep from slurring his words anymore than he already was. "You won't b-be able to beat them."
Instantly, Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes, a frown forming on her face. "Hold up! You saying we aren't strong enough to handle ourselves?!" She challenged angrily, quick to hide all signs of her past fear in anger.
Phantom sighed in annoyance. He so did not have the strength for this. He could barely handle Rainbow Dash when he was at full strength. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying." He growled irritably, before taking a calming breath, the pounding in his skull not helping his situation in the slightest. "Look, it's not that you a-aren't strong enough, it's j-just that you don't know how to fight th-ose creatures, alright. They're t-too dangerous."
Rainbow Dash opened her mouth to retort something, only for Phantom to cut her off. "Oh, would you just keep quiet and listen to me, please?!" He growled out, wondering if his skull was beginning to splinter into a million pieces, cause that's what it sure felt like. "There's already enough variety among the g-ghosts. I don't need to add talking horses t-to the list, alright?" He sighed.
"Just, please listen to me." He said softly before turning invisible, disappearing from sight.
The girls blinked in shock at the colt's disappearing act, though it was far from the strangest thing they'd seen that day. The soft sound of chattering ponies slowly met their ears as the surrounding building doors and windows opened up, revealing the many confused and nervous faces of the ponies of Ponyville.
One did not have to listen to their conversations long to understand what they were all muttering about, for it was the same topic on everyone's mind: What the HECK just happened?
Applejack broke off from the group to survey one of the nearby buildings, the particular structure one of the unlucky ones who had been caught in the middle of the fray. The whole right wall had been smashed in, the roof caving slightly now that it had no support. The windows were nothing but piles of broken glass and the floor was a sea of cracks and shattered tiles.
"Phew! Whoever they were, they sure did a number on these here buildings." Applejack called, walking back over to the others, each with concerned looks etched onto their faces. "Any idea what those things were, Twi?"
Her question was met with silence.
The girls glanced over at their friend. "Twilight?" Fluttershy called as she noticed the girl was staring at the ground. Staring through the ground.
How could this be happening? How could that . . . that thing exist. Is shouldn't exist. It couldn't exist. It . . . it was just a figment of her imagination. A conjured up image from her mind. Nothing more than a mirage, a vision, a hallucination. It wasn't real.
So then, how come it was?
Twilight felt her heart thumping wildly in her chest, her mind swirling violently as she fought to find an explanation, only none would arise. And the notion frightened her. There was always an explanation. Always. It was the one thing she could count on. The one thing she could fall back on. Through all the crazy things that happened in her life. Through all the impossible feats that her and her friends proved to be possible. She always kept a level head by thinking through the reasons, the facts. And every time she did, it made those impossible events just a little more possible. Just a little more tolerable.
But this time, there were no facts. There were no reasons. There were no explanations. There was no tolerance.
This can't be real. She continued to replay the phrase over and over in her mind. That colt, that...creature, it shouldn't be real. Through the past few months, ever since she had first experienced the Vision Field, she'd relayed that message over and over in her head. She'd pushed it down, created a barrier between her mind and those . . . those images. If she could block out everything she'd see, everything she'd heard, everything she'd felt, then perhaps she could pretend they'd never happened in the first place. She could pretend she'd never felt what she had at all.
But now, with the reveal of the colt, now her words were unraveling. Her barrier was tearing down.
It all came flooding back.
Everything she'd felt with that Vision came rushing back, instantly overwhelming her to the point where she had to resist the urge to curl up on the ground and scream in. Her heart seized up, her stomach curled around itself, her throat began to tie itself into a knot. She couldn't see. She couldn't breath. She couldn't think. She couldn't do . . . anything. it was as if she was paralyzed by an unknown force, freezing her in space and time.
But in the back of her mind, in the core of her heart, she could feel it. She knew what she was experiencing, and it made her struggle for breath.
Such an overwhelming wave of fear continued to wash over her. But the thing that frightened the mare the most was that she had no idea where the fear was coming from. Sure, it had first arisen when she experienced her Vision, but the sight hadn't been exactly frightening, just confusing. Though, to some ponies, the two words could be interchangeable.
But, nevertheless, as those mental barriers broke, she was instantly overtaken by that soul-freezing, mind numbing fear. How could anything overtake one's core so quickly, so suddenly?! It was as if her mind was no longer her own. Instead it was being swallowed up by something else. A fear that wasn't even her own. No, whatever it was, it was coming from something else. It came from her Vision. Her Vision of that colt...
Around her, the mare was so focused on escaping her thoughts that she never even noticed her friends around her. Not even when they began to call her name louder, the panic in their voices quickly rising to a noticeable level. Why wasn't Twilight responding? And why was she shaking...?"
Twilight continued to fight for control over her thoughts as she resisted the urge to drown in the thick black sludge of terror clouding her mind. Little by little, she began to pull herself away from the abyss. She'd read plenty on the subject of Dark Matter, and she'd done quite the number of research papers on how they could affect a normal pony body, but she'd never expected it to be so overwhelming.
But what still continued to elude her was how she'd been infected with the magic in the first place. As the fog slowly began to release her, Twilight tried to recall back to when she'd first experienced her Vision Field, vaguely aware of muted voices filling her ears. Muted shouts...
Reeling her mind back months, she tried to pick her way through her memories, which were still shrouded behind the veil of fog that concealed them. The Vision Field. It was months ago. Back at the Hay Burger. Sunset. Where she'd first met...
Her friend's reeled backwards, the cloudy look in Twilight's eyes instantly lifting as she shouted out the name, all the sludge shrouding her mind dissolving. The other mares shared shocked looks. They'd been screaming the mare's name for a good solid five minutes, to no avail. No amount of shaking, slapping or screaming had roused the mare from whatever trance she'd been stuck in. Not even Spike-who'd quickly arrived at the scene at hearing the girls shout the mare's name-had been able to wake her. A small crowd had even started to gather as they all wondered what had become of the princess.
But the mare seemed unfazed by it all as she whipped her head around, quickly trying to spot the little white colt through the crowd, ignoring the way her head pounded against her skull, making her stomach churn in protest.
Rising to her hooves, Twilight ran over to the damaged line of buildings, eyes desperately scanning for the colt. She was so focused on her task that when Applejack placed a hoof onto her shoulder, it made her jump violently.
Applejack shot the mare a concerned look. "Maybe you should sit down, Sugar Cube. You're looking a little pale." She confessed, the others giving small nods of agreement. Twilight, however, gave no notion of heeding her friend's words as she backed away, letting the work horse's hoof fall back to the ground. "No. We have to find Danny."
"But I thought he was with Spike." Fluttershy stated, the group turning to look at the baby dragon. Any hope she'd been keeping that the colt was off somewhere hiding deflated as Spike shook his scaly head. "No. I have no idea where he went. We were running, I turn around and he's just gone. Like he disappeared or something."
Twilight turned a desperate look towards her friends. "You see? We have to find him. What if he's hurt?" She begged, eyes filled with almost as much fear as what she'd felt just moments ago. "Please..." She whispered, turning a desperate stare onto her friends.
Applejack stared at her friend, reluctant to let the mare run off once more, especially after whatever episode she'd just had. But, the look in her eye; that dripping desperation that seeped out of every word she uttered...
"Well what're we standin' around for? We got us a colt to find!"
Phantom felt his invisibility flickering with every passing second. Just hold on a little longer... He thought to himself, pushing his powers to the very brink as he tried to find someplace dark and secluded enough to stop and rest. Finally deciding on a nearby alleyway just down the street from Sugar Cube Corner, the colt began to fly over to it.
But immediately, he felt his energy levels drop significantly. Having enough sense to dive closer to the ground as his flight gave out, the impact was far less than what it could have been, but it still wasn't relatively...pleasant.
Crashing to the ground, he let out a yelp as he tumbled across the dirt-covered ground before slamming up against some of the debris that had piled up alongside the damaged house next to him. Coming to a stop, he collapsed onto his stomach, cheek pressing up against the cold ground as the familiar icy rings appeared from his waist, traveling up and down his body until Danny replaced Phantom.
The teen burrowed his head into the crook of his hooves to silence the scream that shot out of his throat before resting his exhausted head back down onto the dirty alley floor. Back home, transforming back into human form was always dangerous, especially when he had sustained injuries as Phantom. Whenever he'd morph back, his human body would instantly be overcome with a wave of indescribable pain as all the injuries accumulated into one bolt of agony.
Though his injuries were not as life-threatening now as they had been as Phantom, they were still bad enough to warrant concern.
The loud pounding in the boy's head made him want to curl up into a corner and pray for death as it cracked and smashed his skull into bits and pieces. That last blast from Skulker had sure done a number on him. Though if there was one positive from the pain in his head was that it was distracting him from the pain in his hoof, an injury he didn't think he had the stomach to look at, let alone think about.
Though, even through all the pain radiating out from his body, it was not enough to distract from Skulker's last words...
"Very well, Child. I'll leave you be for now . . . . But Plasmius won't.
The teen let out an exhausted sigh. "I can't do this anymore." He whispered to himself, the words dripping with sorrow and regret.
He'd wasted enough time here. Scouting wasn't enough anymore. Skulker's appearance had theorized it. His words confirmed it. Plasmius was still here, still plotting, and he'd just made the next move in their battle. I can't believe I let myself get so distracted! The colt screamed at himself, sure he'd say it aloud if he had the strength.
He knew from the start staying in Ponyville was a bad idea. This had only proven him correct. All the time he'd been spending here was just more time he wasn't out there completing his mission: finding and defeating Plasmius. No, instead, he'd been wasting his time with ponies he wouldn't even remember in a year, if even that. The ponies weren't a part of his mission. They weren't a part of his plan. They weren't a part of his life.
So why had he made them exactly that?
There were plenty of theories the colt could ponder, but the one he knew to be most true was that he didn't want to be stuck in this new world without anything familiar. He didn't want to go months without confiding in someone all his problems and thoughts.
He didn't want to be alone.
The colt let out a tired sigh. I've made a big mess of this. He sighed to himself. If he'd just gone on his way after maybe a few weeks, then none of this would have happened. He wouldn't have placed his friends in danger. He wouldn't be battered and bruised. He wouldn't have this guilt gnawing at his stomach at knowing he'd have to leave his friends. His home...
He shut his eyes tightly and felt his anger spike once more. This wasn't his home. It was just a distraction. A distraction that was keeping him from his actual home. A distraction that was keeping him from his actual family. A distraction that was keeping him from his actual frie-
Instantly, all the anger and resentment the boy had been feeling melted away, leaving only guilt and sorrow. No, that was a lie and he knew it. These girls were his friends. And that's what made his next decision all the more heartbreaking.
I have to leave.
The colt knew it was true. The only way he'd be able to keep his friends safe was if he left. The only way he'd be able to help Equestria was if he left. The only way he'd be able to protect his world from Plasmius was if he left. He had to leave. He had to. He had to. He had to.
. . . . .
. . . . .
. . . . .
So why couldn't he?
It wasn't just the pain from his injuries that paralyzed his muscles. He literally couldn't leave. He couldn't even move. But why? Why couldn't he just force himself to get up and start walking? Why couldn't he move on and never look back? Why couldn't he leave?
His eyes shot open as the word pierced his ears. Lifting his head up with as much strength as he could, the teen watched Applejack, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Spike and Twilight all flood the street, each calling his name up and down the road, eyes scanning for his form. Farther down the road the colt could just make out the shape of other ponies doing the same.
They were looking for him.
Great. That's gonna make this a lot harder. The teen muttered to himself as he began to think of a way to escape without being seen. But after a while, he found he couldn't keep his mind focused. No matter how hard he tried, his eyes kept peeling back over to his friends.
As the others continued to search the block, Danny watched as Twilight moved into the center of the road. Her eyes were wide with panic and her chest heaved up and down, as if she'd been sprinting for the past twenty minutes.
Danny could only take staring at the mare's face for so long before he had to turn away, his throat instantly swelling shut as he fought to keep his breathing steady. Why was he so short of breath all of a sudden? He lowered his head and stared down at his hooves. I can't do it. He repeated once more. I can't stay with them anymore. Not if I want to keep them safe. Not if I want to help them.
Yet even though he knew the words were right in his head, they could not feel more wrong in his heart. Not when he could see just how scared and upset Twilight really was. He knew what would happen if he left. It wouldn't just affect him. It would affect the girls. He would be lying if he said they hadn't become good friends over their time together. They'd formed a friendship. They'd formed a bond.
This only meant that when he left, that bond wouldn't just break. It would shatter. It would shatter just like glass. Only glass didn't just crack here and there, affecting only a few places. No, if hit correctly, the cracks would stretch from each and every corner until it couldn't take anymore. That's what he'd do. Breaking that bond wouldn't just crack him, it would crack all of his friends, creating that possibility of them shattering.
The thought made him want to hurl.
He stared at the ground, his eyes scrunching in hate. But the feeling wasn't driven towards the girls. It was driven towards himself. You're supposed to be the hero, Fenton. He growled to himself. So what kind of hero saves people by hurting them?
The teen could only stare down at his shaking hooves as his mind twisted and tossed back and forth over what he should do, only to lift his head as he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.
Twilight had stopped running and had finally collapsed to the ground, panting as she pushed herself into a sitting position. Even from afar, one could easily tell the mare was shaking, though whether from exhaustion or fear even she didn't know. Her heart pounded against her chest as she watched her friends continue to search. She watched on, taking in a shaky breath before turning her gaze back down to the ground in front of her.
Where could he be? That was all she could think of as she'd searched. He had to be here somewhere. Ponies did not just disappear. And yet, as she had searched, the hope that burned in her very core, the same hope that told her Danny was around somewhere, waiting for her to find him, it slowly began to get dimmer and dimmer.
As more time pressed on with no luck, the mare felt that fire be replaced by something else: dread. There had to be a reason the boy hadn't been found yet. Perhaps he had hidden somewhere they just hadn't looked yet. Maybe he went back to the castle and they just missed him when they'd gone over to check inside. Or maybe. . . .
She pushed the last thought out of her head. She couldn't think that. Danny was out there somewhere. He was alive out there somewhere. He was resilient. He was smart. And yet, as the time passes, the mare couldn't ignore that last thought as it grew in possibility. No it couldn't! HE COULDN'T!
The pieces began to come together in her head no matter how much she willed them not to. Throughout that fight, buildings had been demolished left and right. Debris had been flying everywhere and stray blasts of magic flew throughout the sky. What if one beam hit the wall of a building? What if that wall was turned into nothing but large chunks of boulders and burning ash? What if somepony had been standing net to said building when it exploded? What if that pony had been a colt?
Twilight's last scream rang out throughout the air as her worst fears finally began to bubble to the surface. She craned her ears as she begged and prayed for a response. When none came, the mare flattened her ears, a look of devastation spreading across her face as tears pricked at the corner of her eyes.
Danny felt his heart crack as he lowered his ears and buried his head in his hooves, tears threatening to slid down his face. I . . . I have to . . . have to- He couldn't finish the thought as he continued to replay the look of sorrow on his friend's face.
Finally, the colt couldn't suppress a sigh as he rested his head on his hooves. "I can't." He finally realized, the notion making his head hurt even more than it had before, his stomach churning uneasily. He couldn't leave them. He couldn't hurt them like that. Not after everything they had done for him, everything they had taught him.
He opened his eyes and stared back at Twilight. The thought of leaving the mare hurt more than all of his injuries combined. He shut his eyes tightly with a newfound determination. He could do this. He could still complete his mission. The first thing he needed was information. Snd perhaps he could use the ghost attacks to his advantage.
No doubt Plasmius wouldn't relent in the attacks. More ghosts would keep coming. This only meant the information was coming to him instead of him having to search it out. All he would have to do is shake it out of them. The colt let out a tired groan. It was a stretch, but he could make it work. He had to make it work. So eventually, when he finally obtained enough information, then he could...
He glanced back over at Twilight. "Guess you're stuck with me for a little while longer, Twi." He sighed. Though first thing's first, he had to actually get up. That was gonna be a problem. Much time had passed as Danny had thought and all the energy he had been saving in his body had been quick to fizzle out, leaving him with virtually nothing. Still, the teen knew he couldn't just lie there forever.
Taking a deep breath, the colt focused on shifting his hooves. Even with closed eyes, he could tell just how badly his legs were shaking as he slowly began to push himself up. Panting with the movement, the teen continued until he had to stop and lean up against the wall to keep from sliding back down. Just the small action had caused his head to split apart and screech at him in protest, his stomach flipping left and right.
Letting out a groan of pain, Danny squinted his eyes open, bloody black tips of hair drooping down in front of his face. Gritting his teeth to resist screaming, the teen placed one hoof in front of the other, barely able to stop himself from collapsing back down to the ground.
I'm gonna need to practice fighting as a pony if I'm ever gonna hope to defeat Plasmius. The teen thought angrily, finally beginning to realize just how injured he was. And it was all from a simple fight with Skulker. Granted the ghost wasn't an enemy to bat an eye at, he shouldn't have been so beaten and bruised as he was.
Blinking the swarming black dots out of his eyes, the teen continued to slowly move forward, so focused on staying conscious that he never heard Spike shout his name in surprise as the reptile saw the colt out of the corner of his eyes. Rushing over, the baby dragon gasped as he saw the kid's condition. Hearing Danny's pained breaths was enough to snap him back to attention as he reached up and placed his claws on either side of the colt's face, Danny's eyes clearing to focus on the dragon in front of him.
The dragon stared fearfully at the colt in front of him before calling over his shoulder, "Girls! Girls he's over here!" He screamed, feeling Danny shaking underneath his claws.
"DANNY!" Twilight gasped out, never even feeling her magic swirl around her as she automatically teleported over to him, the girls not too far behind her. Danny blinked open his eyes once more and caught sight of Twilight's fearful gaze. He couldn't help but crack a small smile. "Heh . . . h-hey, Twi..."
Behind the mare, her five friends couldn't suppress their gasps of shock and stares of disbelief as they caught sight of the colt, Twilight faring no better than them. "Oh my gosh, Danny . . . ." The mare breathed.
Danny more or less looked like he had gotten into a fight with a rabid bull . . . in a patch of broken glass . . . while on fire. His hair stuck to the side of his head, dripping wet with blood as it stained down the side of his face. Across his chest and back there were different slash marks, all varying in size and severeness. But none of that compared to his left hoof. Something had obviously pierced through the limb because the fur and skin was ripped to reveal muscle and bone as blood oozed down, pooling on the ground underneath his hoof, staining the dust and dirt black.
Following the gazes of his friends, Danny shifted his head slightly to glance at the wound. Instantly wishing he hadn't, he yanked his eyes up immediately before a weak smile drifted onto his face. "Oh . . . t-that? Pshh . . . it's j-just a scratch . . . n-nn-no big . . . d-deal."
Suddenly, the teen's body began to shake more violently as his legs finally gave out, buckling underneath him as he toppled forward. Twilight gasped and caught the colt before he could hit the ground. He struggled to lift his head, letting out an uneasy chuckle, though it sounded more like a strangled groan of pain.
Twilight's eyes scanned over the colt's injuries, her body seeming to freeze for a moment as her mind whirled once again. Though it was the warm crimson liquid that began to drip onto her hooves that finally broke the alicorn out of her trance. She blinked away her shock and whipped her head around. "We need to get him to the ER." She told her friends, the concern and worry evident in each word she spoke.
But as she felt the colt push away from her, she instantly knew something was wrong. "No w-way, Twilight." Danny croaked out, using what little strength he had to struggle in the mare's hold. "I-I'm no...not going to s-some...hospital."
"What?!" They all screamed out, staring at the colt as if he had just grown ten heads. He flinched at their shout, but stood his ground...well, as best he could considering...
"I'm n-not going"
Twilight shook her head in disbelief. "Danny, you have to go to the hospital! I mean, just look at you!"
The colt shut his eyes and shook his head back and forth. He didn't mean to put Twilight in a difficult position, but he couldn't go to a hospital. Most people would write off said proclamation for a silly phobia of needles, medicine or doctors, and Danny would be lying to say said fears didn't exist in him. After all, it wasn't as if he'd had many pleasant experiences in hospitals, especially considering his fight with Spectra and Bertrand a few months back still lingered in the back of his mind. Though his fear wasn't as pronounced or severe as his Techno Geek friend, it was still there.
But that wasn't why he couldn't let the girls take him.
No, it was for the same reason he tried so hard to keep his parents from finding his injuries. For he knew if they did, they would immediately take him to the doctors. They would then take his temperature, his heart rate and dish out many other tests.
Safe to say, they would find some very...interesting readings.
A few weeks after obtaining his powers, Danny had been quick to realize just how much the accident had affected his body. Not only had it given him a new ghostly half, it had also affected his human half as well. His average temperature had dropped to 94.6, which was an average temperature . . . . for someone with hypothermia.
This alone would raise many suspicions, not even factoring in the altered and confusing readings that would come from more tests. No. If he allowed the girls to take him to a hospital, he'd be putting his entire secret on the line.
That wasn't an option.
Danny narrowed his eyes and tensed his jaw. "I'm not going." He growled out, his words so full of determination that they didn't even slur or stutter.
Twilight could only blink in shock for a moment before her eyes narrowed as well. "Yes, you are." She voiced, her words tense and firm.
"No, I'm not."
The girls glanced at each other as the tension between the two ponies quickly filtered into the air. Finally, Applejack stepped forward and placed a hoof on Twilight's shoulder. "Don't you have medical supplies in the castle?" She asked.
Twilight turned to look at her. "But he-"
"Why don't we just take him to the castle and treat him here." The mare leaned in closer and whispered into the alicorn's ear, "So you can take him to the doctor later." She urged, motioning to how the colt could barely even keep his head up anymore, let alone wait for them to finish arguing.
Twilight hesitated for a moment before letting out an exasperated sigh. "Alright, fine. Spike, run ahead and get everything ready. Fluttershy, Rarity, see if you can help him." She instructed, the dragon nodding his head as he began to sprint towards the castle the two girls following behind.
Wrapping her magic around the colt, Twilight gently levitated the teen into the air, resting him onto her back so that his head leaned up against the back of her shoulder. Sadly, Danny still let out a whimper of pain, despite how careful the mare's movements had been.
"Come on." She called to the others as she beckoned them closer. As the girls huddled together, Twilight felt her horn begin to shine brighter as the group was enveloped in magic. Suddenly, with a bright burst of light, the ponies disappeared, shimmering embers floating through the air.
A small ball of white light suddenly appeared in the castle foyer, growing in size until another blast of light enveloped the room, leaving the group in its wake. Twilight winced as she placed a hoof to her head, the large magical outburst doing little to ease her headache.
Nevertheless, the mare quickly rushed into the library, where Spike, Fluttershy and Rarity had already set up everything they needed. A thin blanket had been spread out on the floor, rolls of gauze, scissors, tape and pill bottles covering the table beside them.
Gently lifting Danny off of her back, the mare floated him over to the blanket and set him down as gingerly as she could, mindful of his hoof as she did so. Danny groaned in pain as he tried to curl up on his side, tucking his tail close to his body as he scrunched his eyes in pain, his breaths coming out in short pants.
Twilight's eyes glossed over in sympathy as she reached out and stroked the boy's bloody locks, brushing the hair out of his face. The teen fluttered open his eyes and stared up at the mare, exhaustion evident in his glossy eyes.
"H-he'll be alright, right T-Twilight?" Fluttershy asked softly, watching the rise and fall of the colt's chest worriedly. Rainbow Dash tried to smile, but it ended up looking more like a grimace. "O-of course he'll b-be alright. It's Danny w-we're talking about. This li-little punk's too stubborn n-not to be . . . . right?" She called, everyone turning their gazes to the alicorn currently measuring out the gauze.
Snipping off the proper amount, Twilight didn't even lift her head as she set to work. "I think so. I just need to take care of this quickly before he gets any worse." She said calmly, trying her best to remain cool and collected, despite how hard her heart was pounding or how painfully her head was cracking.
Twilight grabbed one of the small rags Spike had collected and lifted up the bottle of antibiotics. Coating a small portion of the rag in the strong-smelling liquid, she glanced back down at the colt's leg. If she hadn't been in such a rush, the mare would have noticed how the wound was now less severe than when she'd first seen it, the teen's healing abilities finally having kicked in slightly.
"This is probably going to hurt." Twilight said gently before lowering the rag onto the bloody wound. Danny hissed in pain and squeezed his eyes tighter as she ran the rag over the slash, cleaning the blood and grime away from the injury. After deeming the wound clean enough, she moved onto the gauze and began to wrap Danny's hoof. After making sure the wrap was tight and secure enough for her liking,she turned to the girls. "Go on ahead to the throne room. I'll be there in a minute." She said before turning back down to the colt.
The girls glanced at Danny for a moment, hesitant to leave their young friend but eventually complied, filing out of the room. Twilight gave a small glance at the door before drifting her eyes up to her horn. Feeling her magic begin to pool, she lowered her head and rested her horn on the top of Danny's head. She was glad her friends had listened to her instead of insisting they stay, for she knew they probably would not approve of her current actions.
She watched silently as she began to transfer some of her magic to the young colt in front of her. A small smile began to form on her face as she watched the pain in his face lighten slightly as his energy levels were slowly refilled. Finally, as she felt her head spin slightly, Twilight stepped back. The spell was risky, that she knew. After all, one could always exert themselves too much and release more magic than required...or desired. That could then lead to two injured ponies instead of just one. But Twilight knew she couldn't let Danny sit and suffer for longer than he already had. He was worth the risk.
Still, one could never be too careful. Turning her head, she floated the bottle of pills over to herself. Removing two, she handed them over to Danny. "Take these." She said, wiping the blood off of his cheek.
Danny glanced at the pills before complying, swallowing them with ease before resting his head back down onto the blanket, staring off into the distance as he let out a small sigh. Brushing the colt's hair out of the way, Twilight placed down the bandages on the side of his head, casting the boy a small glance as she noticed how dull and tired the boy's normally bright blue eyes were. "Are you okay?" She asked softly, brushing the tip of her wing against his cheek.
Danny gave her a small smile. "Yeah, I'm fine." He said with a shrug before adding as an afterthought. "I've been through worse anyways."
The comment made Twilight's face scrunch in confusion, but decided against asking the colt anymore on the subject. If past experiences had taught her anything, it was that Danny wasn't one to share his thoughts. Still, her eyes couldn't help but drift over the colt's injuries, a pang of guilt shooting through her heart. "Danny, how did this happen?" She finally asked, noticing how nopony else seemed to badly injured from the fight.
Danny tensed slightly before giving a small shrug of his shoulders. "I was hiding o-out between these t-two buildings when a stray bl-blast hit the wall. Safe to say, I-I didn't come out u-unscathed." He joked. He hated to lie to the mare, but the truth just wasn't an option for him.
Twilight found no humor in it as she flattened her ears slightly and turned away, an action Danny was painfully aware of. He placed a shaky hoof on the mare's shoulder as he slowly sat up. "Hey, it's no big deal, Twi. I-I'm fine. Really, I a-am." He called with a small smile.
Twilight turned her head to stare at the colt before a smile formed on her face. She wrapped her wing around the colt and brushed a hoof through his hair. "How are you such a magnet for trouble?" She sighed before wrapping her magic around the colt, placing him on her back once more.
Walking out of the library, Twilight was quick to make her way to the throne room, the girls and Spike already seated in their respective seats. Twilight took her place on her throne and placed Danny next to her in the chair, considering it was big enough for the both of them.
"Alright, somepony want to explain what the hay just happened out there?!" Applejack asked with a frown.
Before any of the girls could even open their mouths to voice a theory, Danny raised his good hoof, causing all eyes to turn to him. "Umm...I think I can explain." He said as he silently began to try and figure out just how much information he could share with the girls without exposing himself. After all, they deserved to at least know something. "That big metal thing was Skulker: Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter." He explained, jumping slightly as Twilight's gasp met his ears.
"The Ghost Zone?" She echoed. "B-but that's just a myth?" She exclaimed.
Danny shook his head. "Nope. Afraid it's all too real." He sighed. The others around the table shot them confused glances. "Uh . . . what's the 'Ghost Zone'?" Rainbow Dash asked, the others sharing her look of confusion.
Twilight glanced down at Danny before raising her head. "The Ghost Zone is an alternate dimension where are ghosts are said to reside." She explained. Danny nodded at the mare's explanation as she continued. "I've read plenty of books on it, but I never thought it was real." She said in disbelief.
Danny merely gave a shrug of his shoulders. "Ghosts Exist. Why not a Ghost Zone?"
Rarity furrowed her brow in thought as she finally clicked two and two together. "Ghost Zone's greatest hunter? Wait! That was a ghost? They were both ghosts?" She asked, the others' eyes widening at the realization.
Danny nodded his head. "That's why it was so hard for any of your attacks to land on him. Ghost bodies are much different from physical ones. They're a lot more resilient to mortal attacks, though magic does have a greater effect on them. Though if you really want to hurt them, then you'd need ghost weapons or something of equivalence, as long as it can disrupt the molecular structure of ectoplasm-which is what all ghosts are made of." He explained to them.
Fluttershy placed a hoof to her chin. "But why was he after you, Danny?" She asked, Rainbow Dash tilting her head beside her. "And...and how do you know so much about ghosts anyways?" She asked, fighting to keep the suspicious out of her voice, though one could tell it was present nonetheless.
Danny sighed. "Well to answer your first question: Skulker doesn't like me very much." He muttered.
"But why? You're so fun!" Pinkie Pie said, spreading her hooves wide to emphasize her point. Danny merely shrugged his shoulders. "Who knows? That guy's always been a little . . . loopy." He finally settled on. "And as for your question, Dash . . . ." He trailed off slightly, biting the inside of his cheek before continuing. "My home is pretty much infested with ghosts. So ghost attacks have basically become a daily thing." He explained, vaguely aware of the fact his muscles were beginning to get heavier and heavier with each passing moment.
"What?!" Spike shouted, voicing everyone else's thoughts. Twilight stared down at the colt incredulously. "Well if it's that bad, then Princess Celestia should know about it." She exclaimed. "Maybe she can do something abou-"
"No!" Danny shouted suddenly, everyone quickly falling silent at the teen's outburst. He blushed slightly as he felt their eyes on him and rubbed the back of his neck. "No, that's really not necessary. It happens everyday. We're used to it." He said quietly.
The girls glanced at each other for a moment before turning back to Danny. Everything was finally starting to click now from when they'd first met him. The hesitant attitude. The multitude of scars. The reluctance to return home. Applejack raised her hoof. "Are you sure, Sugar Cube? I mean, based on those scars you have, these ghosts aren't the friendliest bunch."
Danny merely shrugged it off. "It's fine, really." He said, a yawn escaping his mouth before he could even process just how tired he was getting. Whatever pills Twilight had given him, they were working, and working fast.
Twilight hesitated for a moment before nodding her head. "Alright, if you say so. But...I still want to keep an eye out on that. And you'll have to tell me more on that later." She instructed the teen, who gave a small nod. The teen's confession had left the mare floored. Ghosts? Infesting his town? She would be lying if she said the information hadn't left her a little hurt. Sure, she knew he wasn't the most open pony, but she would think he trusted her enough to tell him about something like that. Still, she decided to shrug it off and question him about it later. After all, there was an even greater subject on topic. "And what about that other ghost?" She asked.
If Danny wasn't sitting right beside her, Twilight was sure she never would have noticed how he instantly tensed at her words. "That's Phantom." He finally uttered softly. "Nopony really knows much about him." He said, realizing he wouldn't be able to reveal anything on him, considering. The answer obviously wasn't good enough for Rainbow Dash as she folded her hooves. "Well I don't trust him." She growled out.
Rarity merely rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. You're just upset because he made you mad." She scoffed with a wave of her hoof. After all, anyone who injured Dash pride was sure to get on the pegasus's bad side.
Across the table, Applejack shook her head. "Actually, I have to agree with Rainbow Dash. I mean, this guy shows up right after the other ghost does. Doesn't that seem a little weird to ya'll?" She asked. Fluttershy's face scrunched up in confusion. "But he saved us from the other ghost. Doesn't that make him a good ghost?" She questioned.
Twilight shook her head. "There aren't that many books on the subject, but from what I have read, most ghosts are shifty and distrustful. They'll do whatever they can to complete the task at hand, if they even have one at all. There are even some ghosts who don't even have a right mind. Some are just senseless, mindless monsters. But for those ghosts who are a little more evolved, they're willing to feed, haunt, conquer, you name it." She explained.
Now, she couldn't be sure, but Twilight was almost certain she heard Danny let out an annoyed groan beside her before he buried his head in his hooves. Merely writing it off as the teen's medicine finally kicking in, she took little concern in it. In actuality, Danny was considering leaping through the window if only to ease his suffering. Come on! I knew they'd be a little skeptical, but this is frikkin ridiculous! He muttered to himself as another yawn filtered out of his mouth. He was sure he would have kept pondering the problem if he was able to see straight, or even think straight for that matter as the medicine continued to filter into his system.
As the teen continued to fight sleep, the girls kept discussing the newcomer to their small town. "Well did you see that guy? He had wings and a horn." Pinkie Pie pointed out.
Twilight nodded, her eyes flickering with questions. "I've read almost every book on the history of Equestria there is, and I've never heard of an alicorn colt who died." She stated to the girls., who passed each other strange looks. "Well then, where did he come from?" Rarity asked.
the alicorn shook her head. "I don't know. But judging from that fight, he's powerful. Really powerful." She hesitated for a moment in thought before continuing slowly. "And...and if there's even a slim chance he's like all those other ghosts, if there's a slim chance he's actually our enemy, we'll have to be prepared for it." She instructed, the others tilting their heads at her in confusion. She let out a small sigh. "I really hope this ghost is a good ghost, but from what I've read, it doesn't seem likely."
Fluttershy furrowed her brow. "I don't know girls. I don't think we should judge this colt too quickly. After all, he hasn't given us any reason to." She explained. "Maybe he just wants to help."
Rarity lifted a hoof. 'But why would a ghost fight its own kind?" She asked. "I mean, from what Twilight's books said, don't they basically all want the same thing?" She questioned. Pinkie Pie tilted her head. "I don't know. Maybe he's different from the other ghosts." She theorized.
Rainbow Dash narrowed his eyes. "But if we let our guard down again, who knows what could happen?" She growled out.
Twilight let out a sigh. "If we let him get into our heads and he does turn out to be like the other ghosts . . . . then he'll easily take us down. And Equestria will be one step closer to devastation." She explained, the girls gasping around the table. It was hard to forget the fight that had just ensued. It was hard to forget just how powerful the little alicorn was.
"Well, as soon as that ghost steps out of line..." Rainbow Dash started.
"We'll be there to stop him." Twilight finished, the girls nodding around the room. "So be on your guard, girls. We need to be ready for anything. She explained. The girls nodded their heads, looks of determination spreading across their faces. No ghost was about to destroy their town. Suddenly, Twilight watched as the hard looks melted into large smiles as her friends let out a long "awww..."
She tilted her head in confusion, a look which soon disappeared when she looked down and saw that Danny was now fast asleep, his face buried into one of her wings.
Twilight couldn't help the small smile that slipped onto her face. Quickly realizing the mare would probably want them to get out of her hair, the girls stood from their seats and bid their friend goodbye, finally noticing how late it actually was.
The mare said goodnight to her friends as she watched them all walk out of the room. Letting out a small sigh, Twilight stood up from her seat as well-careful not to disturb the sleeping colt-and levitated him onto her back once more.
Motioning her head towards the door at Spike, the dragon quickly deciphered what the mare wanted and nodded his head, rushing out of the room and up the stairs, towards the young colt's room. Slowly following the young dragon, Twilight stepped out of Throne Room and began to slowly move up the stairs, balancing her wings around the colt to steady him on her back.
Once on the second floor, Twilight began to walk down the hallway towards Danny's room, where Spike had already set up the bed and moved onto his own room, leaving the two ponies alone.
Lifting the teen off of her back, Twilight gently placed Danny down onto the bed, lifting the covers up over him. For a while, Twilight just sat there, on the corner of the bed, brushing the stray strands of hair out of his face. She watched his chest slowly move up and down, the slight flutter of his eyelids as he slept, the small twitches of his tail. As as she watched, she couldn't help the wave of guilt that washed over her as she caught sight of his bandages once more.
I'm supposed to be watching him. I'm supposed to be protecting him. How could I let this happen? She shut her eyes, letting out a tired sigh and wrapped her wing around the sleeping colt, her eyes narrowing in anger. That ghost wasn't going to cause anymore trouble. She wouldn't let him. Not when there were so many ponies he could end up hurting. Not while Danny was here with them in town.
She hadn't told her friends this, but just the fact that Danny had gotten hurt was enough for her to distrust the new ghost. After all, that fight had done a lot of damage to the town. How long until somepony else got hurt . . . . or worse.
She looked back down at Danny and placed a gentle hoof on his cheek, a small smile spreading on the colt's face at the touch. "I won't let them hurt you again, Danny."
Oh my f ***ing GOD! This is the longest chapter I have EVER written! AHHHH! My hands hurt like hell. Well, this should keep you guys preoccupied for a little while so that's good. I'm actually really happy with this chapter . . . well at least the last half. I took a break from this chapter and came back to it later. Maybe you can tell where the writing seems to change slightly.
Well anyways, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter cause it took frikkin forever. Thanks to these people for favoriting and/or following: Gundoru, OfLifeDeathAndAllBetween, antgigi4, Born-From-Black-Lightning, Vates Despero, anonex, Bleeding Mind, crystal-shinobi, Phantom Fan 21, BlackPanther0138, EndlessToday, Penyonthehedgehog16, HalfaGhostGirl13, Crimson The Fox-King, kival737101, Phantomdream, Thanatos The Forsaken, bleach1990, Hamato Sakura, Chrono13, Anima Reader, Blazingkill, KittenClaws76, Lord Curly, Betor, HyperPerfectNazo, SARAH-BEBO, striker93, agent00skid, gagaking, archangelmephisto136, Legacy of the Thirteen Primes, Prime71, TheGirlOfCrazyLand; Spero Omens, He Who Listens, anonex, Bleeding Mind, cyrstal-shinobi, moons-eclippse, The Order of the White Knights, HalfGhostGirl13, Batwish, , Anima Reader, Cobalt IceDragon, Coppa-Cola, WyrdGuardian
gamelover41592: Thanks so much. I really hope you like this next chapter.
YouCanOnlyPretend: Yeah, usually I am too, but I do like to slow it down and make sure people understand the bond I'm trying to create. Plus it helps to have some lighthearted moments especially before these kinds of chapters which are just a little darker. Helps to balance things out.
FanFicFan920: Thank you, that's kind of what I was going for. And as for Luna and the other princesses, I'm saving them up for a later reveal so just stay patient.
AstroGravity Phan: I guess you'll just have to wait and see.
Specter14: Thanks, I hope you enjoyed this next chapter
Phantomdream: Thanks, I've been trying to balance these things out together to create a fuller story. Hope you like it!
TimeGear: Thank you. It's always nice to hear from someone who's read more than one of my stories. Hope you like this chapter!