Chapter Three: Honesty
I saw a bright light, and a room came into my vision, albeit somewhat blurry, but I was able to hear people converse. Oh god, I remembered that. It was eighteen years ago, and I was at a bar, completely drunk off my ass. I remembered that I was trying to pick up this girl, but I was so wasted that my speech was worse than bad.
"Then… I told that… guy, that lady was your… mom!" I slurred, tipping back and forth as I chuckled.
"Well that was… interesting," said the girl, who was completely unimpressed as she avoided eye contact with me. She had regular clothing on, as in, a pair of jeans and a white blouse.
"So…" I said, raising my eyebrows suggestively, "You want to… my place and…"
"Look," the girl said with a deep sigh, closing her eyes in frustration, "You're… something, but I'm here with my boyfriend."
Then a big, muscular guy came over with two drinks in his hands. "Sorry I'm late, babe," he said to his girlfriend with a shrug, "The line was long."
"Now… who's this… guy?" I asked, blinking stupidly as I eyed the man.
"Hey, has this guy been bothering you?" he asked rather aggressively, gesturing to myself.
"Yes," she answered with a roll of her eyes, "I would like to move to another table."
"Hey hey hey, you can't take her, I already called… dibs," I announced as the girl stood up from her seat.
"Look man," the man growled, looking intimidating, "I know you're drunk, but that won't stop me from kicking your ass if you treat my girl like that."
"You think… you can take me on? I can kick… your ass so hard that… so hard that… What?"
"Darwin, there you are," Mark said with relief and concern, walking up to me hastily with an annoyed expression, "I've been looking for you all night. Come on, man, it's late and you're shit canned. You need to go home."
"Not until I… kick this guy's ass and… get some pussy," I replied sounding worse than before. I remembered seeing her boyfriend getting really angry from what I said.
"Now look, he didn't mean that," Mark told the angry boyfriend with a nervous laugh, grabbing one of my arms as he lifted me out of my seat. "So I'll just take him home and we'll forget this ever happened."
"Yeah, you better," replied the boyfriend, jabbing a finger at him. I remembered the room spinning and Mark was escorting me out of the bar. As soon as we were outside, I pushed him away with an irritated look.
"What was that for?" I asked him.
"Dude, I just saved your ass," Mark explained with a shake of his head, "Did you even get a good look at him? He would have kicked your ass, or worse, put you in the hospital."
"Well, you don't know that," I snapped back, swaying a bit, "Maybe I… could have taken him. Or maybe I wanted … him to put me in the hospital. Or better…"
Mark interrupted before I could go on, his face very agitated, "Look man, I know what you're trying to do to yourself, and I'm not letting that happen. Face the facts, Darwin, she's gone. She's gone, and you need to move on."
"Shut the hell up man!" I shouted, sober enough to feel the sadness, "Shut your goddamn mouth! you know nothing and… and…" Before I could finish my sentence, I fell back onto the hard cement and blacked out.
Restoring corrupted data. Process: 10 percent.
I slowly woke up, my mind groggy as a small headache set in. Rubbing my eyes, I tried to remember what happened the night before, and it all came rushing back. A fire, my team, Mark, death.
"Sweet Jesus," I muttered to myself, rubbing my head. I looked around seeing that I was still in the hollow tree. Then my eyes landed on the two sleeping foals, with my jacket still placed over them.
"Oh yeah," I said in remembrance. It was a downpour the night before, so I had taken shelter in the tree and they both ran into the the tree as well. And I reminded myself about something else.
I faced the gun that was in my front pocket, and glanced at the foals who are still asleep. I wanted to finish what I had started, and quietly I snuck out to do just that. I walked a ways away from the hollow tree, to avoid having the foals seeing me, and found a nice spot to end it all. I remembered that I was going to do it last night until my uninvited guests arrived. I didn't want to scar them for life, so I had refrained myself. At that moment, I was still depressed to hell, and I just wanted relief. I stopped behind a tree, giving a small nod at the location.
"This'll do," I whispered, sitting down against the tree. I pulled out my gun examining it again as I check the clip again to see how much I had left. Still only one bullet. I closed the clip, took a deep breath, put the gun to my head, and began to carefully pull the trigger, before…
"What are you doing?" said an innocent voice, scaring me into losing my grip with the gun and nearly dropping it. Quickly, I caught my gun, glad that it hadn't fired, and I turned my head to see the foal from before. The older white coated one with the pink flowing hair.
"Hi…" I stammered, setting down the gun, "You're awake. I thought you were still asleep?"
"I was until you woke me up," she explained, "So I followed you. Which brings me to my question: what are you doing?" asking me the same question.
"It's… It's nothing. What do you need?" I asked her.
"Well it's a good thing that you asked," she said with an authoritative tone, "I was hoping when we all wake up, I could speak with you about a manner of most importance. But you decided to leave before we had a chance to talk. We should return to your… tree. My sister is waiting."
As she turned away, she started walking back to the hollow tree, and for some reason I followed her instead of running away. I may have been completely weirded out, but I had no other place to go. As I followed her, we soon arrived at the hollow tree, and poking out of it was the head of the young, blue-coated foal.
"Tia you're back!" She said excitedly, running towards who I assumed to be her older sister. When she got close enough, the two wrapped their hooves around each other in a hug. As the younger foal was hugging her, she notices me and got scared. "Who is that?" She asked her sister.
"He's going to help use," she replied with a smile.
I wondered what she meant by helping them, and it kind of made me upset. I never agreed to anything like that.
"Please sit," the older sister directed to me. She was awfully commanding for a filly. I took a seat opposite of them, and waited to hear what they wanted from me.
"Let me introduce myself," she started with a smile, "I am Tia, and this is my little sister, Luna" she gestured to smaller foal, "and we request your assistance."
"I'm hungry," groaned the dark-colored foal known as Luna.
I pushed myself to my feet, and went into the tree, grabbing my bag that I had left behind, and returned to them. I opened my bag to see many days worth of food, and reached into it to pull out an apple. I was hungry as well, and I was willing to bet that the older foal, Tia, was just as famished. Pulling out my knife, I cut the apple into six equal pieces, dividing it up for each of us.
"Here," I said, handing two slices for each of them. Then something unexpected happen. I saw a strange yellow glow covered the four apple pieces and soon they were levitating out of my hand. I freaked out, as expected, wondering what that was. I looked at Tia and Luna and soon realized something. Horns, they had horns on their foreheads. I couldn't believe I didn't notice that last night, though I was a bit delusional. They were unicorns, another mythical creature that only existed in myth and legend.
"Is there a problem?" Tia asked with a raised eyebrow, noticing my stare as she dispersed two apple slices to Luna, who used her hooves to hold them instead.
"Your unicorns!" I replied excitedly.
"Alicorns," she corrected.
"What?" I questioned, tilting my head to the side in confusion.
"We're not unicorns, we're alicorns," she explained, and when I got better look at them, I noticed they had wings as well. They truly were alicorns. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was utterly speechless, so speechless that I dropped my own apple slices.
"Damn it," I muttered to myself, picking up my apple pieces and brushing off the dirt as best I could before eating them.
"Alright, now that we have introduced ourselves, I would like to know your name," Tia informed, taking a bite from her own apple slices.
"Darwin," I said with a nod, "Darwin Maximus."
"Well, Darwin," she said, testing the name out, "I may inform you that we require an escorting to a specific location. I'm not going into too much detail, but I would really appreciate it if you would help us."
I swallowed my bite and said, "Look, I would like to help you two, but I'm afraid I can't."
"Well I guess I have no choice," Tia said as she stood up, "As the daughter of the royal rulers of Equestria, I command you to be our escort!"
I replied simply, "No."
She stared at me with wide eyes before narrowing them at me, "Didn't you hear what I said? We are of royalty. Don't you know what that means?"
"Not… really," I answered honestly. I knew what royalty meant, but they didn't realized I wasn't from this world, so therefore they didn't have jurisdiction over me.
"Look I really want to help you, I do," I said, causing both of the fillies to frown sadly. "But I have my own set of problem I have to work out first."
I wasn't going to tell them I was still planning to kill myself. They didn't need to know that. After finishing my apple pieces, I looked through my bag for more food for them, and when I found a few apples, I placed them on the ground. "Here, this would feed you if you conserved it right," I explained, standing up. I then gave a small wave, turned around, and walked away. I wasn't even a few meters away when I heard sobbing from behind me, and I figured it was just Luna, seeing as she was the youngest. When I turned to face them, I was a bit surprised that it was Tia.
"Please…" she said in between sobs, a few tears falling from her eyes, "We beg you." She turned her gaze to the ground pitifully, her body shaking from pent up sadness. Luna was on the verge of tears herself, but was somehow able to keep it locked up. "We're just two fillies. We don't know how to take care of ourselves. Please, we need your help."
"Sorry," I told them, guilt tugging at my heart, "But you don't want to be with me, trust me."
Feeling bad, I took a shaky breath, and walked away. I could hear Tia calling my name, but I ignored her cries, continuing forward. I felt horrible, leaving those two fillies alone like that, but what could I do? I don't have any knowledge about this world; I know nothing about their culture, and I had no weapons to defend them. I eventually stopped walking and pulled out my gun. I was dead set on killing myself, but I suddenly felt conflicted whether it was a good idea, leaving Tia and Luna like that. Before I could think more of the matter, I heard a branch snap behind me, and when I whipped around to see who that was, I saw a blue tail hide behind a tree
"Luna?" I asked, furrowing my brow in puzzlement. She slowly brought her head out from behind the tree, looking quite adorable as she bowed her head, her eyes fixed on me. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be with your sister?"
"I came to convince you about helping us," she explained quietly, "I know my sister and I don't know anything about you, and I don't know why we have to leave our home, but my big sister knows best, and I trust her. So I like to ask you for your help. Please."
I made my way over to her, and knelt down. "Look kid," I said softly, making her look away, probably already knowing what I would say. "I want to help, really, but I have my own problem I have to sort out."
"What's so important that you have to do right now?" Luna asked desperately, her eyes quivering.
"You're only a kid," I said, shaking my head, "You wouldn't understand."
All of a sudden, a terrifying roar resonated through the forest, making my spine shiver instinctively.
"What the hell?" I asked myself. I heard someone coming this way, and when I looked back, I saw that it was Tia, running like a bat out of hell.
"Run, Luna! It's a manticore!" she screamed, and my eyes widened in remembrance. I almost forgot that manticores existed in this universe. One even killed Doug! If a professional wasn't able to take down a beast like that, then I knew there was only one thing we could do.
"We need to run, NOW!" I told Luna.
I started running, but when I looked back, I realized that Luna, with her small body and stubby legs, was falling behind. Tia was the same way, not even close to keeping up with me. "I don't have time for this," I growled, spinning around and sprinting for Luna. When I was close enough, I grabbed her into my arms, and held her next to my chest. Then, I did the same with Tia, holding each filly in an arm.
"Put me down this instant! "Tia complained, squirming in my hold, "I'm not a baby, I can run on my own!"
"Well, you're not fast enough, so shut up," I told her, causing her to flinch from my forceful voice.
Running. All I was doing was running while carrying two foals. The crashing and roars behind me was all I needed to know that we were being chased. There was was no way I could outrun this creature with these two fillies with me. I doubt I could fight it either, as even Doug, a mercenary, couldn't even kill one. However, Grass Snake was able to kill one with a headshot, but he used his rifle. All I had was a handgun with one bullet, and I needed that for myself.
Unfortunately, with my mind occupied with these thoughts, and I wasn't paying attention to where we were going. We ran right into a rock wall, and I stopped abruptly, looking up to see nothing I could use to climb up. I turned back from where we came, and could hear the manticore was getting closer and closer.
"Damn it," I whispered to myself, breathing heavily from the fear and exertion.
"What do we do?" Tia asked with a scared tone, as I placed the two on the ground.
"I don't know," I replied, my face contorted with uncertainty. The manticore was getting closer, but I couldn't see him through the brush of the forest.
"Stay behind me," I instructed as I stood in front of them like a shield, "I'll deal with this."
The sound of the manticore was getting close, trees crashing and footsteps booming. Finally, it came into view, stopping a couple meters away from us, probably in intimidation. It was a real manticore. Like legend said, a lion's body, a scorpion tail, and bat-like wings. Then, I noticed something else in its mouth. it looked like blood and… clothing. Dear god, that monster ate the remains of one of my people who had died. I could recognize clothing color was the same as… Brittany's. No, it ate Brittany!? She didn't deserve to end up like that, and my mind was full of rage. All I wanted was to kill that monstrous bastard. Soon, the monster roared again charging at us, and my instinct kicked in. I pulled my gun out quickly and fired. The bullet hit right between the eyes, and the manticore fell, sliding a few feet before stopping completely. Grass Snake was right, only a headshot could kill one.
"You… you stopped it," Tia whispered, sounding impressed though fearful, "I never saw a weapon like that, even one that could kill a…" she stopped talking after seeing the expression on my face. I wasn't happy, I wasn't even angry, I was downright pissed. Then I sprinted right to the manticore's corpse, and just kicked the lifeless husk with aggression, putting my rage into each swing.
"You stupid… son of a… bitch! Ugly… piece of… shit!" I hissed, with each kick. So much anger, so much rage. I didn't know if it was because my one shot at peace was gone or what the thing did to Brittany. Either way, all I wanted to do was hit the monster, even if it wouldn't change a thing. While I was kicking, something grabbed my other leg, snapping my mind back to reality. When I looked at my leg, I saw Luna clutching it with both hooves, crying her eyes out.
"Please, stop…" she asked me, sinking her head into my leg. I also saw Tia was terrified, seeing me act like that. I realized what I was doing by that time. I was beating a corpse because I couldn't kill myself, and for eating someone I cared about in this world. God, what the hell was wrong with me? I looked to Luna, my mouth hanging open as I searched for a response, but before I could say anything, I heard another noise. It was another roar, but this time, it was much louder, and it was coming this way. Then, it burst from the foliage, showing that it was another manticore, but it was three times bigger than… at that moment I realized something. That manticore was a mother, and I just killed its baby.
Without hesitation, I quickly grabbed Luna and made it over to Tia, picking her up as well, and ran off along the rock wall. getting the hell out of there. Luckily, the mother was too distracted looking over her baby, so I was able to slip out. I knew it was only temporary, but I would take what I could get. Once again, I was running for my life with two native aliens from this world. Looking back for an instant, I saw that the mother was chasing us, having gotten over her baby's death, seeking revenge. It was definitely faster than the baby, and there was no way I could escape unscathed. So I made a quick turn, hoping to confuse it and get some distance. Luckily I did. I stopped for a second, and dropped Tia.
"Can you fly?" I asked quickly.
"What?" she said with confusion.
"Can you fly? Yes or No?" I repeated hastily, glancing behind me.
"Of course I can fly, but-"
"Okay, take Luna and hide in that tree," I ordered, placing Luna beside her as I pointed to the tree, "I'll distract the manticore. Wait ten minutes, then get down and get out of this forest."
"No 'buts', just do it!" I snapped, not wanting an argument when we were short on time. Tia cringed but did what I told her. Luna climbed onto her back, and with a flap of her wings, Tia flew to the top of the tree, out of sight. Then I notice the manticore emerge from the bushes, not looking so happy. As soon as the manticore poked its head out, I started throwing rocks at it while yelling at the top of my lungs.
"Hey, bitch, I'm over here!" I screamed, hitting the mother right between the eyes with a rock, "I'm the one who just killed your little bastard, so come and get me!" My plan worked, but I still had to deal with a rampaging manticore. I instantly took off away from the monster as it gave chase yet again. I turned my head several times to make sure the manticore was still on my tail. It wasn't really necessary, as I could hear it quite easily. I broke out of the forest only to nearly run right into a deep ravine, catching myself before hand.
I groaned, "What the hell is with all these roadblocks!?"
I whipped around to see the manticore was only a few feet away from me, growling as it keep its eyes on me. Instead of attacking me right there and then, the manticore was being patient, waiting more the right moment to attack without falling into the ravine with me. Honestly, I just wanted it to pounce already so I could take that monster with me down to the bottom of the ravine. I would get what I wanted, and Tia and Luna would get away safely. I just hoped that they would find someone who would take care of them.
"Wait!" I heard a voice cry out to me, causing me to turn to the noise, momentarily forgetting about the manticore.
"Luna, stop!" Tia's voice said as I saw the two fillies running towards me, "He told us to stay put!"
They stopped right between the manticore and I, with Luna in tears as Tia was looking worried, glancing over to the manticore.
"Please you don't have to do this!" Luna cried out.
"Yes, I do, Luna, this is the only way," I said sternly, slightly angry that they would come back for me. "Like I told you, I have my own set of problems that you just wouldn't understand."
"I do understand!" she retorted, her breathing growing ragged, "I can see you lost something you care about, and you feel sad and lonely but… but… I don't want you to die!"
She knew… she knew the whole time. She was younger then Tia, and she knew about my suicide attempts, and at that moment, she could see I was doing it again. I don't know what to do. I had no way out; I left the gun where I killed the other manticore, and even if I had it, it didn't have any ammuition., and worse, the mother was getting ready to strike. God Damn it, what do I do?
"Really, Darwin?" a voice echoes in my mind, one that made my breathing stop, "Is getting yourself killed really the answer?"
That voice, I knew that voice, "M-Mary?"
"That's right," she answered, almost making me faint in surprise, "And what are you doing? You're going to get yourself killed like this. You can't just die now, you have to help these girls."
"No," I whispered aloud, causing the two fillies to look at me funnily, "This can't be real. There's no way this could be happening. You're not here, and I can't do that. I just…"
"I know everyone you have ever known is dead," she said smoothly, "This was exactly what happened with me. You just fell apart, and what did you do? Chose the path of destruction, and tried to get yourself killed."
"Shut up," I told the voice in my head, closing my eyes tightly, "I don't want this I just want peace."
"Then stop lying to yourself. I know you, Darwin. Now tell me the truth!"
I hesitated a moment, my mouth hanging open as I said, "I don't… want to… "
"Louder!" she shouted.
"I don't want to…"
I screamed, "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!"
That set the manticore off, and it lunged, its claws ready to slash through us. Tightening a fist, I screamed again, "I DON'T WANT TO BE ALONE!"
With that said, I threw a punch at the manticore, and my world faded to darkness.
I opened my eyes slowly to see I wasn't dead. I was still in the forest, and I was alive. My first thought was what had happened to the manticore. When I sat up, I saw a row of trees flattened, and at the end was the manticore with a bruised face. It was on the ground, motionless. It didn't die, but its injuries showed that it wouldn't be moving for a while. Then I looked at my arm, and realized my arm had transformed. A bright, orange-colored armor was covering my arm, looking like it was responsible for what it did to the manticore.
"I… I did this?" I questioned myself. Then, I noticed a soft glow, and figured it was Tia, but this one was a different color. It was the amulet, the citrine gem was glowing with light. How was that possible? I wondered what could have caused it, and remembered what I said before.
'I don't want to be alone'. it happened after I told the truth. Honesty, I wondered?
"HEY!" I heard crying again, it was from Luna. She ran to me and clutched my chest, crying. But it wasn't of sadness. It was tears of joy. "You… you did it! You… beat a manticore!"
Tia trotted over to us, "I have to agree, that was amazing. I know magic but never anything like that. How did you do it?"
"Honesty," I answered, even though I was one-hundred percent new to this power. Soon, the orange armor disappeared, and was replaced with my arm once again. "Well, this is interesting," I muttered to myself, testing my hand, "Very interesting."
"Well, I guess we'll just take our leave" Tia said with a sad tone, dipping her head as her ears folded back, surprising both Luna and myself. "I know you have your own business to take care of, and we shouldn't make you help use. We appreciate the food and protection, so have a good day. Let's go, Luna."
Luna smiled at me one last time and said, "Thank you." She hugged my chest again and galloping back to her sister.
"Wait," I called out to them, standing to my feet as they both turned back to me, "You know, Luna, you're right. I shouldn't have to die. I wanted to, but then I realized I was lying to myself. I didn't want to die, I just didn't want to be alone. I had someone that left my life a long time ago, but when that person was gone, and I just fell to pieces. I just didn't want to live anymore, but I had a friend who helped me get back on my feet. But now… he's gone too, and fell to the same depression all over again. Then, I met you two, and I didn't feel sad anymore. Now, I realize I don't have to be alone anymore."
Wiping my tears I had shed, I beamed brightly as I said, "So, I've decided to become your protector, and escort you two to your destination."
I soon saw the look on both their faces, they were crying, and I knew they were tears of joy, but then they simultaneously jumped on me, making me fall back down to the ground. They were thanking me over and over again, and I gave a soft laugh.
"Okay, okay, just get off please," I requested kindly, and the two complied, stepping off as they looked to me with smiles. "So Tia, Luna, where do you want me to escort you to?"
Tia tapped her chin with a hoof, "Well, we're seeking refuge at the Crystal Kingdom."
"So I'm guessing you have no idea where it is."
"Yes, I'm afraid," Tia replied with a frown, "I don't know where its exact location is, but…"
I stopped her by putting my hand on her head, patting her gently as I said enthusiastically, "Don't worry, we'll figure it out. We just need to find a town where we can get a map and a compass, and we'll be there before you know it."
"Thank you, Mr. Maxwell," Tia thanked with a nod, making me rub the back of my head.
"Please," I waved off, "Just call me Darwin."
She nodded at my request and I sighed, pushing up to my feet yet again, "Alright, let's get moving. We have to use what little day light we have left."
The two gave a nod and we started our journey. After that night of bloodshed, monsters, and even lost hope, I found a new reason to keep moving, and their names were Tia and Luna.