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The chapter begins just where the last one ended with Shining still on the flight back to the Embassy. By now he is worried that the Blank Wolf might still follow him and the cynical pegasus interviewer notes that it is smart to think that it must be still alive if he isn’t 100 % sure that it is dead. The earth pony interviewer wonders if he will tell Cadence about these events involving the wolf but he is afraid that this would just cause her to be worried about his mental health. They fly past the riot zone and see “Roman's Taxis” (another GTA reference) burning. Next to normal fire fighting, the inhabitants are also able to move rainclouds above the fire and use magic to shield themselves. That all sounds incredible useful for extinguishing fires. The unicorn begins to think about how a fire would be much more dangerous in a small town like Ponyville. Shining realises that it is the stress that let him follow this train of thought in a time like this. Down on the ground a huge number of police officers are with struggling with the gang violence. Zebra tribes were fighting against each other as well as Ponisans fight against Hooviets. All of this destruction, the suffering and the deaths this must have caused, all of this just happened because of Mr. Makarov. Shining wonders where the others are and besides Running Gag they are all in the station. He borrows Thunderchild’s chamfron and radio and notices that he seems to have a bigger head than his friend. This time the cynical pegasus interviewer is able to hold back a snarky remark. He tries to reach Apple but after what he had seen, the Lance-Corporal isn’t feeling too good.

Countless LCPD officers and even a few Presidential Marshals are at the station. The griffins seem to take the carnage well and are surely just happy to have survived this insane night. Many only learn to appreciate life when they realise the possibility of death. But Shining’s troopers are shocked by what they had to see and do. The unicorn knows that silence is not a good sign. Not all of them were trained for this kind of violence and even then this preparation can only do so much. Especially Bitter Apple seems to suffer from what he had seen. For what he has done to his men Shining begins to hate Mr. Makarov even more. The pilots try to reach the Embassy by radio and instead they get Cadence using the Royal Canterlot Voice. Shining is surprised where Running Gag came from and it seems that either the unicorn was too exhausted to notice him getting onto the shuttle or he has other abilities besides his painful jokes. Shining takes the time to see if he has anything unfunny prepared for the time after their landing and Running Gag thought about improvising something. His superior immediately forbids anything like this.

Cadence is waiting for them and so are her three hoofmaidens. But it seems that Sunset is more interested in a pegasus than the landing group. Shining thinks it is Private Ranger. The Alicorn rushes at her bodyguard and gives him a “Royal Canterlot Hug.” If it is as powerful as the voice is loud, it must be quite painful. Minuette can see what kind of injuries he has (it seems many characters have more talents than you would suspect at the first glance). Doctor Watsun - unicorn with a surgeon's mirror cutie mark - agrees with her (he is surely a reference to Dr. John H. Watson from Sherlock Homes) and wonders if she had medical training. The earth pony interviewer seems to get the reference as well. And Shining makes clear that the doctor was not a griffin, cockatrice or minotaur. I somehow doubt that cockatrices would make good doctors. Strangely enough the Embassy doesn’t have a first aid room so Cadence orders them to bring Shining to her room. Running Gag can not resist making a joke about that but gets hit before he can finish it or the Alicorn would notice. Sunset also had to use a bit of violence to stop Twinkleshine from making a similar remark or bursting into song. The unicorn still thinks about delivering his report but the Princess orders him to let others take care of himself first. Thunderchild volunteers to take over for the moment and Shining tries to toss the chamfron to him but hits Running Gag by accident. And it was surely just an accident, nothing else.

Dr. Watsun takes Shining to his own room and is able to keep Cadence outside of it, while Minuette takes the role of the nurse. After explaining that he is part of Captain Baseplate's unit, the doctor orders her to remove the armor and sees the numerous injuries Shining got in the last night, including a very humiliating one. Amusingly the nurse isn’t surprised since Cadence told her that Mr. Makarov was “that sort of guy.” The unicorn is very embarrassed about the entire situation and the pegasus interviewer can hardly believe what she did. The earth pony interviewer doesn’t quite see what the problem is until Shining and the other two interviewers tell her to move on. Afterwards the unicorn interviewer reminds Twilight’s brother not to write in their notebooks. Then Shining does it again, he has a strange sense of humor. He briefly thinks about getting a notebook from a Thestral (likely a Harry Potter reference) and writing Mr. Makarov’s name into it (surely this one refers to Death Note). After a few spells and Minuette cleaning out the wounds, Shining begins to recover. The unicorn learns that Cadence desperately tried to reach to reach him over the radio but by that time his signal was blocked. Likely either by the tunnel, Mr. Makarov or maybe even by the Blank Wolf who was stalking him.

Eventually Princess Cadence is allowed inside and Minuette tells her that Shining was dead all along and only the colt who can see dead beings noticed him but didn’t notice all the plotholes this does cause if you think about it (a nice reference to the Sixth Sense). The others don’t find it funny but it could have been much worse. She could have told them the story of the aliens that tried to take over Equestria and make as many crops circles as possible but were weak to friendship and wooden doors. The Alicorn orders Shining to never do anything like that again. Dr. Watsun points out that as a bodyguard he will have to get into danger again to protect her. But Shining would rather not repeat these events and tells Cadence what happened but leaves out the wolf hunting him. He really wishes Minuette wasn’t here, especially when he talks about the nightmarish robots. For now everyone involved in this operation is allowed to take a day off to check out their sanity. They all had seen so much and since this involves Shining as well, they will need a replacement to command the unit. They also need to report the shooting to the Ministry of Defense. Especially Minuette seems to be devastated about a pony killing somebody else. Watsun tells her that the Royal Guard always tries nonlethal methods first but they also know that they might deal with deaths, both as a last resort and because accidents might happen when dealing with weapons and magic. He also talks about a program called “Black Thistle“ which gives certain recruits a training in performing life-ending acts and coping with the psychological results. It is clear that a sniper will need something like this.

Shining already knows that this way of thinking will hurt Minuette. He reminds her that while killing is never the first solution to a problem, sometimes it is the only way to save lives. Sometimes there is no other way to stop somebody from continuing to kill; sometimes there is no other way to take somebody down. Watsun tells her that doctors get a similar training since they are not able to save all of their patients and need to be able to continue saving lives, even after they have seen death. And as doctors they will see a lot of beings die. She says that this is something different but in turn he tells her a story and Shining wonders if the doctor might have experienced that tale by himself. Sometimes you can not save everybody. Imagine if a situation comes where your skills are needed but there are too many victims to save everybody. There are others that can help you but you are limited by the resources you have at hand. Shining knows what comes next, so does Cadence but she hesitates to stop the story at this moment. In this situation you can not help everybody in the limited time you have. And the resources are declining fast. Some are beyond saving no matter how many resources and effort you put into it and there are others that could still be saved. Sometimes the pain can not be healed and becomes only worse and worse. Sometimes the only kind thing would be to give euthanasia. That is one of the sadder parts of being a doctor. The unicorn can see Minuette’s innocence dying before his eyes. It is incredible sad and yet something that had to be said. How easily could have the attack of the last night ended with such a fatal injury? How easily could she have lost somebody she knew in this attack?

Minuette is absolutely devastated and wonders if everything she knew about Equestria was just a lie. Cadence is hurt horribly by what she said. But Shining wants to make it absolutely clear that allowing ponies to deal with the psychological effects of killing is not a program to turn them into emotionless monsters. Sometimes there is no simple right or wrong answer. Sometimes you can only lessen pain, not take it away completely. A world where nobody ever kills somebody else would be wonderful but mortals need to be able to cope with living in a world where murder can happen. In this case it happened in self defence. To calm her down the Alicorn hugs her friend and nobody says a word in this moment. Eventually the doctor and Minuette leave. But the Princess makes it very clear that she is there for her whenever she needs help.

Then Shining thinks about how this event would be handled officially. Private Audience would tell the story from his point of view and based on that he would either be placed back in duty under psychological observation or submitted to the Ministry of Defence (and be arrested). His own testimony, views of the officers he gave the testimony to and evidence from other troopers would be looked at before a decision is made. Depending on how long the investigation takes, the entire process might take a week. The Black Thistle protocol was added because the entire process was so long and stressful for the pony that even if he or she is found innocent afterwards, almost all of them retire anyway. Strangely Shining mentions that there were only three investigations in the last 200 years, while there were four cases in which a guard was behind the death of a suspect. Two of these investigations ended the career, while the third one came very close. And considering how the unicorn talks about it, it seems that he was the third case. Shining feels responsible for what Private Audience did under his orders and wonders if Cadence would be able to understand it.

Now when the Alicorn and her guard are all alone, she shows how much these events did hurt her as well, a few moments before this she had to be strong for Minuette. Cadence knows very well that she could have lost Shining in this ambush. Not only did he feel stalked by something, she felt it too. He tries to laugh that she sensed the Hooviet attack but considering that she is an Alicorn her feeling might be related to the unnerving wolf that hunts him. Because of this she tried to order him to come back to her and let the Diamond Dog go. Then she tried to use the flotilla to get into radio range but soon they went silent as well. It is almost like something cut off all of his connections to the world around him. He tries to calm her down but her fears are not so easily put to rest. She points out that Mr. Makarov might still try something stupid again. Then Sandgriff, Frost and General Goldeagle Shepherd (this one is likely a reference to the character from Call of Duty) walk in and want to talk about the same topic. In turn Cadence even says Celestia’s catchphrase: “That's quite all right.” The unicorn interviewer even knows the exact number of Shepherds and what each and every one does. And amusingly Shining doesn’t find this kind of power, you would only suspect in an Alicorn, suspicious at all. They have come to a mutual arrangement with Mr. Makarov. Should he repeat anything like this ever again, multiple special units will combine their efforts to take him down. In the last ten years the Hooviets managed to gain a lot of enemies and now just another foolish action could backfire horribly.

The irony is that while he basically insulted three gods (Celestia, Luna and Cadence) all of them would likely not risk a war for the life of one mortal. They would likely know how much more lives could be lost in such a conflict. Other mortals might declare him a Persona Non Grata or let snipers aim at him for causing widespread panic, destruction and death in their city. All his magic wouldn’t do him much good if he was dead. For now this entire incident is declared nonexistent and the Hooviets will have to do a lot for the crimes they have committed out of petty reasons. Understandable Cadence doesn’t like it at all how easily he will get away with everything. For now Mr. Makarov will just have to help to calm the Hooviet rioters down and the next day he will have to admit that he has overreacted at the Embassy. They ask if Shining would also play a role in the cover-up and also give a small apology. The Goddess of Harmony and Music shines with a bright light and makes it crystal clear that apologies were already made multiple times. This cover-up also includes the killing of the Diamond Dog and Private Audience will not have to face any consequences from this side. It seems that Mr. Makarov didn’t only let the Diamond Dogs they saw be killed, but annihilated the entire pack because they knew too much. Both Cadence and Shining are disgusted how Mr. Makarov treats his men and hired help. To him almost everyone is disposable and all these crimes will also be part of the cover-up. The two taxi ponies are only still alive because they know nothing.

But Private Audience will still have to face the consequences from the Equestrian side. Despite the entire event “not happening” Frost gives his perspective: Private Audience had no other choice because the Diamond Dog was positioned in such a way to make stun spells and other less-than-lethal takedown methods impossible. That was likely done by Mr. Makarov because he knew about the unwillingness of the Equestrians to kill. Also the canine was a threat to many other lives and his death was painless. Shining notices that this would exactly be the kind of argumentation Private Audience would need in this situation. They are about to leave when Shining shares what he knows about the nightmarish machines with them: They are powered by unicorn horns. Everyone is shocked and they promise to treat them with respect and investigate it.

Finally the two are alone again. Cadence tries to ensure him that Celestia would have cared for his death but he hadn’t doubted that. Shining knows that she would care but wouldn’t cause a war for it. That way only more lives would be lost. It is vey clear that his life means a lot to Cadence; he is Twilight’s brother and her…

Apparently as an Alicorn she knows exactly how many beings live in Equestria and for how many lives she is responsible. He would never want for his death to start a war and in his opinion Celestia would never start a war for one person. Cadence is clearly very emotional and angry about all of these events and that after everything Mr. Makarov did and everything he almost did, he will still get away with it. Shining is sure that Celestia wouldn’t do it because she loves everybody, yet as mortals they are destined to die and she is destined to watch them die. The Guards also try their best to protect life whenever possible. Cadence would never want him to die for her but he reminds her that this possibility is part of his job. Finally she breaks down crying and tells him why he means so much to her. She thinks that he and Twilight are the only ones who really like her for who she is and not for what she is. She believes that all others just love her because she is an Alicorn. She met everyone else just because of her status as a Princess and an Alicorn. She wonders how different her life could have been if she was born as a unicorn. Celestia wouldn’t have taken such interest in her and without her guidance she could have become a second Blueblood. And she has a point. Even Celestia herself turned into a racist when she was once raised as a mortal under such circumstances. The outside influences…

… are not everything according to Shining. He thinks she always was a kind, loving, and compassionate soul. She had a loving family and Celestia merely helped her refine these personality traits. He doesn’t see any way that she could have become as arrogant as Prince Blueblood. Shining tells her that Celestia would have loved her as a unicorn as well, just like she loves Twilight. Finally Cadence is able to smile again. She points out that he likes her for her personality but thinks that he himself could be an acceptable loss. In turn he says that this is simply part of their natures and despite everything he will always be a Guard while she will be a Princess. But just as he likes her for who she is, she will always see him for who he is: A friend, a son, a brother and a great, loyal and generous person. He will never be expendable for her. Shining assures her that he doesn’t plan to die and tries to use statistics to calm her down. This doesn’t work that well because she knows that he is in high danger of being assassinated because the insane Mr. Makarov still wants him dead. He tries to cheer her up with an unfunny joke and she begins to wonder if he trained Running Gag in the art of unfunniness. The unicorn is convinced that he simply was born that way.

Then she suddenly makes her move and invites him to do something after the interviews tomorrow are done. The Alicorn wants him to wear a suit to their date… I mean excursion. Twilight’s brother points out that he only has uniforms and a Maresenal shirt. For a moment she seems to consider this but since she isn’t allowed to wear her shirt on a diplomatic duty, neither will he. She thinks that it is purple because she mentioned it was one of her favourite colors to a director while she was inside the VIP box. Now she has to admit what great bonuses it has to be an Alicorn.

Instantly Shining asks her to marry him. And these were all the events that let up to the royal wedding. For a moment even the interviewers seem to believe him. Especially the earth pony was expecting something more romantic but considering how well everything went so far, their declaration of love could very well take place in the middle of a battle. He finds their reactions hilarious but they didn’t find it very funny. Strangely they are surprised that he knows about Tirek. Wasn’t he one of the most famous evil figures in history? Wouldn’t it be stranger NOT to know anything about him? The unicorn interviewer tells him that his joke just wasn’t funny for them and that it is time for the real story. He claims that he talked about all the pictures he has of her flank and this time they don’t believe it and begin to suspect that he really trained Running Gag in the art of bad jokes.

Actually he told her that everyone likes her for her genuinely good character. Even when she spiked the drink with the love poison she had good intentions, misguided ones but they were still good. Most conspiracies exclude her from the club of the Evil All-Controlling Alicorns. And even Sunny Day seems to like her. Then again Cadence seems to know who that really is. They talk briefly about what he should wear and as he suggests a fez, the Alicorn counters by saying he could walk around like his sister. He soon realises that Twilight doesn’t wear anything. Then she forgets that he is already in his room and it is her turn to leave. They are a really cute couple. But for now it is time for him to sleep.

Thinking about it, if the events of Shining Armor’s story and the desperate struggle against Discord in the Dark World run parallel, then either the conflict with Discord will take much longer than it seems so far or Shining Armor’s story will take up much speed in the next chapters. Why does the first option seem so much more likely to happen?

All in all this was a chapter that tackled the difficult task with how the ponies try to come in terms with the fact that one of them had killed a living, sentient being. It is very hard for them and everyone seems to react differently, depending on what they had seen and experienced so far. The story itself seems to have a non-judgmental view on the topic and is able to accept that sometimes there is no simply black and white.

And the story also develops the characters more and here Minuette grows much from the comic relief hoofmaiden she was before, but it is also clear that the price is her lost innocence. She will never see the world like she once did. Not to mention that Shining’s and Cadence’s relationship also develops further. They truly fit very well together.
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:iconalexwarlorn:
alexwarlorn Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
THANK YOU! HUGS!
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