King: And we're back here again.

Knox: I don't think a lot of people read this.

King: Don't care. I'm writing it because I want to. Even if it takes a bit to get chapters out.

Knox: Fair, I guess.

/\

Sunset found herself in a more appropriate opening than just waking up and accidentally kicking the plot. She opened her eyes to the inside of a ship's cabin room. It was a quaint little room with a small port window to let her look out over the ocean. She stood up and stretched, surprised how real it all felt this time. Before it was a bit fuzzy, but this felt like she just woke up from a full eight hours. Granted, it also felt like those hours involved tossing and turning on a less-than-comfortable bed constantly rocking in the waves. A glance to the bed she was using as a chair certainly upheld that story. She stood and felt a big wave rock the room. She groaned before moving to the side and finding her weapon resting nearby. A significantly more mundane katana was resting on the desk, devoid of the color and etchings it had in the demo.

Sunset sighed and nodded, "That's fair. The demo gives you better stuff after all…" She grabbed the weapon and placed it at her side before making her way out of the room. She found herself having to walk through the lower deck and to the upper deck. She looked around and saw the land approaching ahead of her. It was hard to tell much about it at the distance, but she could see a large port town. She took a breath and waited for her adventure to begin.

Only to find a pause as a menu appeared in front of her. She chuckled to herself, So that can still happen. She looked over the screen to see a map of the area, revealing it to be a giant island with several smaller islands around it. The map had a glowing point on the shore line saying, [Land Here?]. She tried to change it and check her options, but it was the only one she had. She nodded and figured there would be more options later, confirming her 'selection' and beginning the adventure.

Thankfully, this was allowed to skip time and move to her landing at the dock. She descended the access ramp and into the town. Unlike the town from the demo, this port town resembled an old western style that reminded her of Equestrian ports. She figured this game blended whatever aesthetics that the creators wanted to add. She actually liked the idea, enjoying seeing more varied locations. She might prefer gameplay over graphics, but she can still enjoy the beautiful scenes. Given her current situation, that wouldn't be difficult this time. As her foot touched down on the docks of the town, she couldn't help but take in a breath. It felt great to breathe in the atmosphere, literally.

She entered the town and found the populace to be rather non-distinct. Based on the demo, this wasn't that surprising. She made her way inland, looking around. Everything seemed perfectly peaceful, which was only slightly odd. She knew she'd find the plot eventually, she just didn't know where. She eventually found something, but it was not something she expected.

She found a man in full, dark blue armor having a loud argument with another, less distinct, man in the middle of the street. It was clearly bordering on turning violent on the part of the common man, while the armored man seemed to remain stoic. Then again, the armored man had his head covered by a full helmet, so it was difficult to tell. His body language didn't say anything hostile, at least.

The common man shouted, "I want him caught, damnit!"

The armored man, now likely to be a guard, held a hand up to the man, "We can only do so much, sir. We're short staffed as it is with most of the force working to reinforce the walls. We'll do whatever we can, but I don't know how long it will take."

The common man roared out in annoyance and stormed off.

Sunset figured this must have been the start of the first mission, or at least a side mission. She approached the guard, "What was that about?"

The guard turned to her, "Not your concern citizen."

Sunset was a little surprised. Most games like this didn't have reactions like that. She decided to try to keep things moving though, "I heard something about you being short staffed. Well, I'm willing to help out."

"Let me guess, for a price?" The guard sounded dismissive of her.

"We all have to eat."

The guard thought it over for a moment, "Tell you what, I can give you an idea and you can go looking. If you can bring him in, then you can collect the reward."

"That's fair."

"Right… So, here's what we know, a man from a tribe nearby came into the city and went on a spending spree. No one knows where he got the Bits, but it got people's attention. After he came through, though, more than a few items went missing. Right now, we have reason to believe he was responsible, especially after a team was assaulted on route to pick him up for questioning. If you want to try to take the case, I suggest finding a partner or two to help you. This guy is too dangerous to approach without backup."

"I'll keep that in mind." Sunset waved as the man left, leaving her alone on the street. "Okay, just need to bring this guy in, not too crazy, but definitely a side quest." She felt an idea form and she made to press the pause button. She felt something on her side shake a little and she pulled up a small scroll of paper. Unrolling it revealed the menu she was looking for, but a glance around told her it didn't pause anything. "Guess that makes sense being part of the game…"

She looked through the menus and found the Quests tab. She found [Bounty Hunt] in the Side Quest section, confirming her suspicion. Moving things to the Main Quest screen, she found no quests for her. A message was there instead, reading, [The world is yours to explore. As you make alliances and enemies, you'll find quests here to further the goals of you and your friends. Good luck.]

Sunset raised an eyebrow before putting the paper back in place. This was a first for her. She'd never seen a game without a main quest line to start, even open world stories like this one seemed to be. On a certain level, she appreciated the idea. It was her story to make. That said, it also meant she had to find the story to make. But right now, she decided to focus on her current quest and see where that takes her. First step was finding someone to help her bring the guy in. The usual gaming idea would be to go to the local tavern or inn to see if anyone was willing to help her for a cut of the reward.

Something in the street over caught her attention before her scroll rang out for her again. A quick read showed a new quest in the Side Quests called [No Good Deed...]. She decided to run with it and made her way through an alley to reach the sound. She found someone in the next street dressed in simple leather armor, but it was clear pieces were missing on his arms, legs, and one shoulder. Everything else about the man was non-distinct. From his face to his body, everything other than his armor seemed like he would blend into a crowd of one.

The person stepping out into the street after him, however, was extremely distinct. Her leather armor was primarily dark blue with yellow accenting underneath the leather 'plates.' She stood a few inches taller than Sunset and her bright yellow skin and fire-like hair stood out over her more subdued colors on the armor. As she looked down toward the man, she cracked her knuckles, "That all you got?"

Sunset knew this must be the mission in question. She had to pick a side here, either intervene or walk away. Sunset knew she only really had one option. "Hold on!" Sunset moved closer and between the two. "What's going on here?"

The woman huffed, annoyed at Sunset's appearance, "Who the hell are you?"

"Someone who saw this guy fly into a wall." That wasn't entirely true, since she arrived just after the moment of impact, but it was easy to tell what happened. Sunset didn't care though. She just put on her toughest face and stared the taller woman down as best as she could.

The woman never broke eye contact, glaring down toward Sunset before a smirk appeared on her face, "You've got balls to stand up to me like that. I like you."

Sunset was a bit surprised, but recognized the theme for her character. She knew it would be best not to react and keep eye contact.

The woman's grin grew a bit. "Name's Spitfire." She raised an eyebrow seeing Sunset's blade, "I work with the Wonderbolt Mercenary Group."

Sunset held her stance as she replied, "I'm Sunset Shimmer."

"Sunset, huh?" Spitfire now took more of Sunset's attire in, judging every small imperfection to be found. Or rather, the lack thereof. "Your armor is still new. Once you get some experience under your belt, you might have a future with the Bolts." Spitfire turned on her heel and started to walk off with a dismissive wave back toward Sunset. "Something to think about."

Sunset was a little surprised, but her innate gaming instincts told her not to question it. Said instincts told her to turn around to face the man that got thrown. After all, this appeared as a quest. However, he'd run off and left Sunset alone. She just sighed and pulled out that scroll to find the Quests updated.

[No Good Deed… - After Level 10, seek out the Wonderbolts. (Note: You can only join one faction at a time.)]

Sunset nodded to herself. That made sense to her. Some role playing games allow the player to become the leader of pretty much every faction in the game, even if they were in direct opposition to each other. Given this world was also in a state of multi-faction civil war, it made sense that you couldn't play the sides. She would need to choose wisely, if she could even choose at all this early in the game. Based on the mission, she had every reason to believe that factions wouldn't be open until Level 10. Right now, however, she had her mission to complete.

She sighed and looked around, almost hoping there'd be some way to advance the Bounty Hunt early on. Sadly, the streets were devoid of any fighters if their attire and lack of distinctive features were anything to go by. She could just go off and fight the Bounty by herself, but that optional box was taunting her. She needed to fill that box. "Question is, who can I get to be my backup? I can't get her help until maybe Level 10. But this is an entry quest, so it should be simple." She walked through the city and found the entrance area. She took a deep breath and sighed. It is an optional quest… So, she defied every instinct she had as a gamer and began her walk out to find her target.

The journey, to her surprise, was fairly quiet so far. She looked toward the forests around her, amazed at the beauty of nature. That said, she still preferred city or suburban areas. Forests were not her style. Thankfully, there were no bugs or any other annoyances; or if there were they left her alone. She continued her walk, looking through her menus. She found a cosmetic screen where she could change small things about her UI. Most of it seemed to need to be unlocked or bought in game, but she found one freebie being that she could change the scroll into a small, leather-bound book. She liked the scroll, but the book felt more immersive to her given each menu was a separate page. On one of the pages, she found a waypoint toggle, which was set to on for the moment. According to the info screen, it wasn't a physical waypoint she could see, but rather it told her where her target was like a sixth sense.

"Maybe if I play again, I'll turn that off for a harder game…" As she walked, that sixth sense told her she was close and to be ready for a fight. "Alright. Here we go Sunset. First quest." She slapped either cheek on her face to psych herself up. "Let's do this!"

She ran through the treeline and found herself in an old camp site. It was clearly a bandit camp of sorts and she just alerted every one of them that she was there. They drew their swords and ran toward her as a mob, ready to fight. Sunset, in turn, started to dismantle the first bandit line as they approached. As she tried to use some of the skills from the demo, she found that some were lacking. Must be like the gear. I don't have access to it all yet. Despite that, these bandits were so unremarkable that they were torn apart fairly quickly. As she swung through a few carrying banners, the rest around them would flee and disappear.

"Okay. So they're also easy to scare. Take out the commanders and they scatter." She flew through the group of bandits with little trouble or damage. She ran through, focusing on commanders whenever possible. She cut a bloody (but not really since it's a video game) path through the camp and toward her intended target. Her sense told her she was close now.

As she entered the center area of the camp, she found her target. He was sitting on a cushion, taking a drink from a metal flask. His skin was a light grey and his hair was a pitch black. He wore armor, though it was clearly damaged, including a piece with a single horn curving upward on his forehead. As he finished his drink, he looked up and smirked seeing Sunset. "So, that village send you after me?"

Sunset seized up a bit, recognizing the man in question. Or rather, his pony form. She read books in the Royal Library about the infamous King Sombra, and her time in the human world helped her be able to recognize people and ponies on either side.

Sombra laughed and stood up, grabbing a spear he had to the side. The spearhead was made from a deep red crystal, sharpened to match other weapons of its type. "So, what will you do now?"

Sunset adopted a fighting stance as though it was second nature, though it was just the game mechanics helping her. "I'm taking you in."

"You're not the first person to try. Now, shut up and fight me!"

Sunset leapt forward and swung her blade toward the Bandit Leader, only to find the staff of his spear blocking it. Sunset growled, a part of her remembering that the more distinct someone was, the stronger they seemed to be. Sunset kicked back against Sombra and gained some distance, avoiding a swing of his spear. Sunset spun her body to strike with a wider area attack, which seemed to help and chipped away at him. Sunset blocked another attack and countered with a heavy slash.

As Sunset fought, she wanted to figure out her super move. In hack and slash, 1,000 to one games like this, there's always a super move. She pictured her 'controller' in her head and mapped out what button did what. After a moment, she found two buttons that she hadn't used yet. Worth a shot.

Pressing one of the buttons, she felt her body move on its own again. She moved her stance slightly before swinging and creating a slash of air, then another, and another. After ten slashes, she spun around and knelt down with her blade prepared to be returned to its scabbard. As it slid back into its home with a metallic click, the area now behind her exploded with an orb of red energy resembling a setting sun at her back. Sombra's voice echoed out in the area, signalling his defeat.

With the battle over and the bandits fled, Sunset was alone with the now unconscious Sombra. She felt compelled to check her book and find her quest progress.

[Bounty Hunt: Return Sombra to the authorities.]

"Okay…" She glanced back at the unconscious man. "But how am I going to do that?" All it took was one look at him to know Sunet couldn't lift him. She wasn't weak, but a fully grown man built like a football player was more than a bit out of her range. She looked around and found a length of rope long enough for her to tie him up in case he woke up. "Now… How do I get you back to town? I can't drag you on the ground without risking the rope getting cut. Maybe a sled or makeshift wagon?"

As she tried to figure out how to transport him, Sombra's eyes opened again. He looked down toward the rope and sighed. "Guess that's the end of that then."

Sunset turned to him with her hand on her hilt, ready to fight if he escapes. "Don't try anything. I'm taking you in for multiple counts of theft." She learned to say it that way from a game a while back; a police simulator of sorts.

"Is that what they told you?" Sombra laughed for a moment. "I bet they didn't tell you why I took that money."

"Doesn't matter. You stole it."

"I won't deny that. But I just took what I was owed."

So, he's one of those guys here. Thinking he was owed something and decided to take it. Probably a soldier if his physique was anything to go by.

"I was a mercenary. They hired me for a fight with the promise of 10,000 Bits."

That's a lot…

"I fought, won, and expected to be paid. But they told me I was still on contract to complete the job. 'Okay' I thought. 'I must be on a payroll now. They'll pay me with the rest of the soldiers at the end of the month.' But no. I never received my payment. Not a single Bit."

"Then why not go to the authorities?!"

"Who do you think refused to pay me? I wasn't hired by a local family. I was hired by their council. Who was I supposed to go to when there's no one above them. I made a choice. I could either leave at a major loss or I could take what was owed to me. Either way, my reputation as a mercenary was dead. So I made my choice."

Sunset felt her book call her attention. She opened the page to the quests and found it had advanced.

[Bounty Hunt: Make a choice.]

[Take Sombra in]

Or

[Set Sombra Free]

She hadn't expected that. Then again, she was in a game that boasted to have complete freedom as to what you can choose to do. She glanced back to Sombra, still not sure what to think. She had to admit, she liked this kind of moral choice in games. It wasn't to act like a saint or become a total jerk. It was a true moral question. Does she follow the law and bring him in, or believe him about their taking advantage of him. She took a breath and turned back toward him. There is no right answer.

Sunset took a deep breath and sighed. "I find it hard to believe, you know."

"I don't expect you to." Sombra sat up as best he could while tied up.

Sunset turned toward the forest path heading back to the town. "Do you still have the money?" If she could return the money, she could hit two birds with one stone.

"Of course not. Unlike them, I pay my debts."

Sunset sighed. Figures… With one last breath she made a decision. One she really hoped didn't come back to haunt her. She swung her blade and cut through the rope, freeing the man. "There. I don't actually have the authority to take you in anyway."

Sombra stood up and rolled his shoulder, "Thank you all the same. I pay back my debts, and this is no exception. When we meet again, I owe you a favor." He grabbed his spear and started to pack his things.

Sunset opened her book again to find the quest.

[Bounty Hunt: Complete]

[Sombra was used by the town and took what he was owed. Now, he owes you and he always pays his debts.]

Another page demanded her attention. She turned to the [Important People] page. The first was a greyed out picture of Spitfire. The second was Sombra, though his picture was colored in. Sombra's picture also came with a series of stats underneath. She didn't take them into account yet, though. Her first quest was done and passed. She took a breath and looked up toward the sky.