The Shining Silver Star of the Apple Family
by SilverStarApple
Categories:
Characters: Mane 6, Original Character(s)
Canon: S4
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Pairing: F/M
POV: 3rd
Status: In Progress
Warnings: None
• Everypony •

For some ponies, winning is everything. Always coming out on top, no matter what the losers say about you. And when you're the sixth-richest CEO in Canterlot and one of the youngest, despite only arriving in Canterlot a few years ago with a sack of bits, good eyes and a greater vision, you can't afford to care.

For the past six months, when not seeing just how far he can push his luck when it comes to deal-making and deal-breaking, the well-connected, unforgiving and brilliant Unicorn known as Silver Star has been running a rather profitable side business: Donning a disguise and conning the richest and stupidest members of the Canterlot Elite out of everything they own. Not because they wronged him in some way, but because it's fun, and because he prefers good targets to Good targets. Sometimes, the law firm he bought will pass cases to him. Other times, he seeks out his own prey. The risk, the rush, the thrill of a good plan executed perfectly, or better yet, salvaged despite unforseen complications... It's brilliant.

But when even gold loses its lustre, Silver - formerly Star Apple - must make new friends, reconnect with his family, and rediscover what it means to have fun. But what does it mean when feelings start to appear in a heart he had believed to be beyond even the warmest touch? And when something is traded away... is it possible to get it back?

In the heart of Ponyville, oblivious to the machinations of Canterlot in his absence, as a blooming disaster of his own making threatens to tear Equestria asunder, Silver Star Apple is going to find out.


Series: None
Chapters: 1
Word count: 18701 Read count: 88
Published: 23 Oct 2017 Updated: 23 Oct 2017
Ch1: The Silver Spire by SilverStarApple
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First published 27th of October, 2014

For some ponies, winning is everything. Always coming out on top, and whatever the losers may say about you... You can't afford to care. But when even gold loses its lustre, one pony must put that life on hold and rediscover what it is to feel.

For some ponies, winning is everything. Always coming out on top, no matter what the losers say about you. And when you're the sixth-richest CEO in Canterlot and one of the youngest, despite only arriving in Canterlot a few years ago with a sack of bits, good eyes and a greater vision, you can't afford to care.

For the past six months, when not seeing just how far he can push his luck when it comes to deal-making and deal-breaking, the well-connected, unforgiving and brilliant Unicorn known as Silver Star has been running a rather profitable side business: Donning a disguise and conning the richest and stupidest members of the Canterlot Elite out of everything they own. Not because they wronged him in some way, but because it's fun, and because he prefers good targets to Good targets. Sometimes, the law firm he bought will pass cases to him. Other times, he seeks out his own prey. The risk, the rush, the thrill of a good plan executed perfectly, or better yet, salvaged despite unforseen complications... It's brilliant.

But when even gold loses its lustre, Silver - formerly Star Apple - must make new friends, reconnect with his family, and rediscover what it means to have fun. But what does it mean when feelings start to appear in a heart he had believed to be beyond even the warmest touch? And when something is traded away... is it possible to get it back?

In the heart of Ponyville, oblivious to the machinations of Canterlot in his absence, as a disaster of his own making threatens to tear Equestria asunder, Silver Star Apple is going to find out.

Chapters 1 - The Silver Spire 1 - The Silver Spire

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Two nine-foot-tall chocolate-brown doors with glass panes lined with gold were pushed open with a faint screech to reveal a large and warm room that reminded one of an artificially-welcoming yet creatively sterile chain hotel lobby, complete with a colour palette of browns and reds. Two brown earth ponies in matching black suits, black ties, and black glasses held the door open and watched their boss enter the room, a brown Unicorn with a fluffy white mane shaped like whipped cream, a matching tail, a black suit, a brown tie, and purpose and hunger blazing in his light chocolate eyes. Followed by two similarly-dressed Pegasi, Coffee Grounds walked toward the desk in front of them, behind which an extremely bored yellow pony with a pale orange mane and teal eyes was waiting.

Despite the nagging reminder in his mind that all four of his guards were actors he hired on the cheap, as she looked up and uncertainly forced a bright smile, he felt powerful. Like he was on an epic quest, like the ones in those books he read as a foal. This was it, today was his chance to really hit it big. “I'm here to speak with your boss,” He said, and didn't wait for a response. Dramatic music roared in his mind as he turned and strode to the elevator and struck the call button with his right forehoof like it had wronged him and his family for generations, and glared at the closed doorway.

He continued to glare, the soft mechanically-triggered bell of the slowly-descending elevator meeting his ears every four seconds, and the dramatic music inside his head grew quieter, and eventually stopped.

The Pegasus at his right flank coughed awkwardly.

The chocolate-brown Unicorn began to wish he knew a powerful time magic spell. Or any powerful spell that would be useful here, really. Perhaps, if he'd spent more time studying and less time reading fiction, he'd have happened upon some excessively powerful spell he could use for a mundane task like this. That was, after all, what magic's main use was: Enhancing the quality of life. Well, that, and fighting monsters. But he didn't want to fight monsters. Or, now that he thought about it, study. He knew a handful of spells, and only one of them would be useful in this scenario. Sure, it seemed excessive, and sure, he'd never used that spell on something this big before, and sure, he wanted to conserve his magical strength in case something went southwest today... But this elevator was annoying, and waiting around was boring.

Coffee's horn lit up with a pale brown glow, like the colour of milk tea, and focused on the elevator. Using the only time spell he knew, his horn's light targeted the pieces that made up this elevator and cast a spell that would have multiplied the speed at which it moved, functioned, and existed by four, if his magic was strong enough. The ringing of the bell increased in pace to one ring every two-and-a-bit seconds, and his horn's glow ceased as he let out an exhausted sigh. That was the best he could manage, but it was better than nothing.

The dramatic music resumed in his mind. He glanced at the secretary, hoping to see an impressed look of shock. Instead, she looked underwhelmed. He ignored her and focused on the dramatic music in his head, which grew even more dramatic as the elevator doors opened with a pneumatic hiss. He stepped inside and turned around, his Earth Pony and Pegasus guards following him into the elevator, which quickly became cramped. The dramatic music stopped once again as he was awkwardly squashed on both sides, the doors closed, and the elevator began a rapid ascent.

Some may say his coffee store was less than perfect. Some may say his coffee was less than stellar. Some may say his coffee was less than good. Some may say he was bad at managing a store. And while they were technically right, he didn't care. He didn't need to be the best in the world, because he'd snapped up the best location in town, winning it in a game from his previous owner. Picking the best location and riding on it, living the easy life for as little effort as possible, that was his true talent. Well... His true talent was making coffee, something he didn't really do much of when he was ordering his three workers and one order-taker to make coffee for him, but he was smart, he knew what he was doing. His store was right next to two massive office buildings full of hardworking salaryponies and just as close to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns as it was close to that other school that advertised itself as the cool even-better alternative for studious ponies that didn't have connections, the school that focused on “Practical magic”, The Canterlot Academy of Magical Duelling, ponies from all walks of... Ponies from three walks of life attended his coffee store, and you just couldn't beat an awesome number like three. Sure, his coffee wasn't anything spectacular, but by snapping up the best possible location, his success was guaranteed!

...Or so he'd thought, until this week's bills arrived. In truth, even his brilliant location-selecting skill wasn't enough to save his business from going under. Normally, he'd give up, throw in the towel, and look for some other guaranteed way to make money and make it fast. However, he had planned for everything, even the unlikely event that he failed! Everypony would want his coffee store's location, now that it was officially on the market, and all he had to do was sell it off to the highest bidder and make out like a bandit. If nopony wanted it, he'd have to walk home with his tail between his legs and beg his parents for help and admit that his insufferably smug and oh-so-perfect elder brother was right all along, but what were the odds of that happening?

Coffee Grounds grinned, and gave a quiet foalish giggle to himself and himself alone. He wouldn't walk home in shame, he'd trot home victoriously with enchanted saddlebags full of money floating behind him. He wasn't just going to meet with any pony today, he was going to meet with the powerful, the connected, the elusive, the legendarily and utterly unnecessarily rich Silver Star. Though he'd done his homework on this Unicorn the best he could, the Unicorn had been a complete nopony before he walked into town one day years ago, so his contacts only knew of the rumours. The rumour that he had contracts still valid with beings not of this world, not as a servant of monsters, but as their business partners. The rumour that he had a hoof in every auction, sale, trade, theft, and black market transaction when it came to rare books, magical items, or anything magical and dangerous, yet cared not for things like gold. The rumour that he once challenged an art collector to a game of four-dimensional chess and wagered an absurd amount of money, and won from the collector only the certain priceless piece of art he wanted – some weird “Art” piece with a that was really just a bunch of lines – and forged six copies in an afternoon - despite how the experts believed the piece's lines were too precise to ever be copied by hoof - and sold each one to different collectors while telling each one he was giving them the real one and the others fakes to discourage thefts. The rumour that he was a con artist under the guise of a businesspony that lived for the thrill of breaking those that believed themselves above the masses and the rules and limits that bound them, and the government turned a blind eye because he could do what they could not. The rumour that he was a being without mercy or limit in any sense of the word, a being that made play at being good so he could hunt the corrupt and feed on them in peace.

All absolute nonsense, of course. An all-powerful being would not go around showing his or her power off to potential rivals by ruining some and leaving others around to give warnings, and he doubted anypony with incredible supernatural abilities would waste his time conning rich idiots out of their ill-gotten gains and inheritances when something more profitable and enjoyable like world domination would be on the table. No, this 'Silver Star' was likely a charlatan and fraudster, one with mediocre magic and considerable skill solely in the art of illusion, if that.

The elevator's doors slammed open with magic-enhanced speed and Coffee Grounds dramatically strode out of the room, flanked by his guards, the dramatic music in his head blaring at full blast. Imaginary timpani players were striking their drums faster and faster while imaginary violinists went berserk and imaginary cellists glared jealously and continued to play that same section of eight notes cellists always seemed to be stuck playing. The scents of paper and panicked sweat met the Unicorn's nose as he crossed the room. The top floor was divided up into rows and rows of desks and cubicles, filled with large numbers of busy ponies frantically rushing around as they each tried to finish their heavy workloads before their deadlines while middleponies screamed for them to work faster, knowing they'd all be out if a job if they were even a single second behind schedule.

Coffee Grounds reached the far wall and opened a door, finding a black metal staircast sharply angling upwards and around into the top floor. He reared up, stuck his hooves out to the side, and let his Pegasi guards carry him up the stairs while his Earth Pony guards followed at a brisk trot. Coffee and his Pegasi quickly quickly reached the top, his right guard opening the door for him while he and his left guard entered.

The room was set up with dark browns coating the room, an air of majesty and richness filling the void, an aesthetic ruined by a surprisingly-saturated bright-yellow Pegasus in the center of the room with a short white three-pointed mane and a pair of bulging jet-black saddlebags stuffed full of randomly-shaped junk. He was arguing with a Pegasus with a forest-green body and rose-pink hair seated in a big brown velvet chair too big for him.

"No, YOU don't understand." The yellow Pegasus said firmly, his voice... Northern? “I came here to find Silver, and I'm not leaving here until I give him a piece of my mind!”

"Do we really need to remove you from the-?" The green Pegasus asked wearily.

"Do YOU really need to keep believing you COULD remove me? I didn't come here without more than enough weird magic stuff to take him on, what can you and a few henchmen possibly do to stop me from finding your boss?”

“Silver is not my boss!” The green Pegasus shouted with the air of one that had said that multiple times already, and never once been listened to. ”I've never even met the pony! A friend of mine worked with him in the past, he's supposed to come today, to assist in internal matters,”

“Sure, like somepony that's not your secret boss is gonna show up and help you out,” He said sarcastically, and grew curious. ”What is he even helping you with?”

The green Pegasus grew furious. “That's a private matter, and I have no reason to tell you anything, just like I have no reason to let you stay here! Now leave!”

“No!” The yellow pony snapped, slamming his right forehoof into the ground. ”Not until I get some answers!”

“I don't HAVE any answers!” The green Pegasus insisted, slamming the desk.

As much as Coffee Grounds wanted to gather information by listening in on whatever it was he'd walked in on, this conversation didn't really seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

"HEY!" Coffee barked in irritation as he glanced around the room, searching for a hidden door or magic remote-viewing sigil or anything that would give him a clue as to what was going on. The yellow Pegasus turned to him in shock like a thug insulted by the hero of a young adult's novel, while the green Pegasus's expression would have far better suited a miserable cashier whose life and joy had long since been worn away by the monotony of an unfulfilling life and the unforgiving sands of time, his smile and enthusiasm gone, to return only when off the job with his friends. “My name is Coffee Grounds. Who are you?”

“Lemon Fields,” The yellow Pegasus said, sizing up the new arrival.

“Comet Trail,” The green Pegasus said flatly.

"I have a meeting with Silver Star, I was told he'd be here." Coffee explained.

The green Pegasus looked like his hopes for the immediate future just fell through the floor. "Well, he's not here,” He said.

“You keep saying that, but I know he's here. He told me he'd be here!” The yellow Pegasus insisted, stamping the ground with a hoof.

“He also told me he'd be here. Is this some kind of trick?” Coffee Grounds wondered.

“Oh, if it's a trick, I swear, I'm gonna find that Unicorn,” The yellow Pegasus growled as his wings puffed up. Coffee Grounds stole a quick glance at his Cutie Mark, and saw that it was a big lemon. He resisted the urge to make a lemon joke, or point out that this pony seemed like a complete lemon.

“I'll help you! I was supposed to talk to him about my stores,” Coffee Grounds declared.

The pony with a Lemon for a Cutie Mark paused, and grew dangerously quiet.“So what you're saying is... Silver isn't here,” He observed.

“Congratulations,” The green Pegasus snarked, not even slightly bothered by the Lemon's tone. ”You've finally caught up with the rest of ponykind. It only took you half an hour. Do you need a minute to rest after that mental exertion?”

Absolute fury broke out on the yellow pony's face. “THEN WHERE THE-”


In the Business District of Canterlot, in an area full of office buildings and storage containers, there was a building that just didn't belong there. Rather than a rectangular block, it was a long, wide spike of metal over fifteen stories high, hollowed out and with small glass windows on each floor, and it shot into the sky like a giant metal spike waiting for a giant falling adventurer. It was called the Silver Spire. It had been built by one Unicorn, who had bought the office building that once stood here, demolished it, and replaced it with this colossal monument to himself in a self-indulgent act of vanity.

The mysterious Unicorn that had called himself Silver Star had suddenly showed up in Canterlot one day, a sack of bits floating behind him as he strolled right through the front doors of one of the Canterlot headquarters of one of Equestria's finest cabbage buyers, sellers and suppliers. They had deals going on all over Equestria, buying the finest of cabbages from Earth Pony farms and placing them into the kitchens of high-end restaurants across town. Though accounts of what happened vary and rumours about the event range from 'A mind-controlling bird monster with eyes as black and vast and dark as the blackness of space was summoned' to 'He offered them an unreasonably good deal because he knew he'd make more than them soon enough'. Regardless of what actually happened, the facts stated that he left the building an hour later, several thousand bits richer.

With each day, he kept multiplying and multiplying his own funds, making deals and using ponies and doing whatever it took to get ahead in this fast-paced game that anyone could play but few could win, a game where the winner laughed as he or she literally rolled in money while the losers were rendered homeless, faces pressed up against the glass as they stared miserably at the winner like an orphan in a Jarls Chickens book. And to speed up his ascent to the top, he conned. He rarely lied, because he rarely needed to. It was so much more satisfying to make his con his mark's new reality, until it all came crashing down.

In the penthouse suite on the Silver Spire's peak, there was a darkened room, black curtains and metal shutters covering most of the three large windows that would have normally let in all the morning sun you could ask for. Most ponies would have found the darkness ominous or irritating, but it soothed the keen magically-enhanced eyes of the pony in the large cobalt-lined steel chair, who was currently using his time to catch up on some light reading, a small hardback book and a sizeable faux-leatherbound hoof-crafted tome both held in the blazing cobalt glow of his magic.

A cobalt-blue glow erupted around a wide bowl of small pre-unwrapped chocolates on the desk in front of the pony, engulfing the confectionery delight and tossing itself into the mouth of the silver-coated unicorn, his hooves clad in steel shoes with three upwards spikes, like small silver versions of Celestia's shoes. A blend of dark chocolate and strawberry-flavoured cream met his tongue, as did its caramel center, and a smile spread across his face as his horn's blue magic gently gripped a page of the larger book and turned it, revealing more intricately-detailed diagrams of magical spells. He didn't read the ancient language this book was written in, but he could easily read the diagrams, the frequency of certain symbols and words, the weight he gave the quill and each inked letter, and the author's intent. The rest could be pieced together from there as easily as assembling a foal's jigsaw with laughably few pieces.
His eyes drifted toward the other book, a fantasy novel, a trashy and derivative piece of genre fiction. He'd like to say he didn't know why he was still reading this trash, but he knew perfectly well. He wanted to know everything about this book, he wanted to read it all, and then he wanted to lock it away somewhere and never read it again. If he ran into any fans of this book, he wanted to be able to launch himself into a ten-minute rant about this book. He hated this book, but after seventeen chapters of garbage, simply giving up would be like... well, simply giving up.

Two nine-foot-tall steel doors decorated with long pale-blue neon lines, the kind of doors that would look more at home on a nightclub, swung open, bringing in the light of day and illuminating the seated Unicorn. Silver perked up, flung the hardback book to the side like it was contraband, and focused his attention solely on the more respectable magic tome, feigning interest in it, only to get lost in it for real. A Griffon, a focused and lean blue-and-white Panther/Hawklike beast that had her longer head-feathers pulled back into a loose black-banded ponytail with 'bangs' of feathers hanging down the sides of her avian face, which was adorned with a serious frown, stepped into the room and looked at the face of her boss, who didn't seem to notice her.

Rather than the neat, straight, small, precisely combed and sculpted manes of most Unicorns in Canterlot, he had a large and sleek windswept orange mane, and it likely would have looked more at home on a Pegasus. His long mane was brushed back into five points, like the points of a star or the trail of a comet, each curved back and up. Two points were in line with his the top of his neck, two were in line with the center of his head, and a taller piece peaked at the back. A crest at the front that some – himself included – would have referred to as a 'Crown' had formed at the front of his mane, curved like fire, emblazoned with a five-pointed yellow star like the yellow center of a flame.

"Sir, your 6 A.M. is ready."

The Unicorn seemed to purposefully ignore her presence and her words, but in truth, he was simply engrossed in his book.

"Sir?" She repeated.

No response.

She closed her eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and puffed out her chest while widening her stance, as if preparing to pounce. "SILVER!" She snapped.

Almost instantaneously, Silver's book was closed and slammed to the table in front of him with significant force, the blue glow of his horn flaring like a roaring bonfire as his eyes darted around the room. When he realized there was no threat, the glow of his horn calmed down and levitated his closed book back to him, opening it up as his forelimbs relaxed and hung limply at his sides. “What?” The bored tone of a cultured Canterlot Unicorn asked her.

"Your 6 A.M. is ready,” She told him. “Coffee Grounds, Lemon Fields, and Comet Trail,”

Unimpressed, the Unicorn returned to his book. “You know what else is ready? This book. It's right in front of me, ready to be finished,”

“When you started reading that book six hours ago, you said, and I quote, 'Get me when it's time to see those three failures and take from them what I can', sir,” She pointed out dutifully.

He gave a short chuckle. “Six hours,” He said, as if that was something funny.

“Time distortion field?” She guessed, knowing him and his abilities well enough. “Sir, you really shouldn't use them back-to-back like this, it can't be good for your perception of time,”

“My perception of time is fine, I chose to spend the past seventeen hours reading while building up speed,” He said pointedly.

That impressed and distracted the bird, who whistled. “Seventeen? You're getting good at those time spells, have you improved your range at all?”

“No, my cubed field is still too small to use on anyone besides myself. It took long enough to get it large enough to cover my whole body, and I still can't move it more than two meters away from my horn,” He said with an irritated frown. “It's irritating, it works on similar principles to my pocket dimension spell, so it should be as simple as changing a number in an equation while keeping it valid, but time is a far more stubborn pet than space,”

“We're getting off topic,” She said, facehoofing. ...Facetalon-ing? She rested her face in the talons of her right forelimb for a second. “You just read for seventeen hours, likely without any breaks to stretch your legs, and you probably ate while reading, if you remembered to eat at all. It's official, you have a reading problem,”

He chuckled haughtily, which, she knew, meant he was trying to laugh something off. “I don't have a reading problem. You know the old saying, don't you? 'When reading gets in the way of real life, you read too much. When real life gets in the way of reading, you have a problem',” Silver recited, and chuckled, his magic turning a page. “How absurd! I can't lose track of time if time has no objective meaning any more. As long as my reading problem doesn't cause any problems for me, I don't have a reading problem. I'm fine! I don't have a reading problem, reading has a ME problem. Because if I carry on at this rate, I'm going to run out of good books to read,”

“Sir, you specifically set this three-pony meeting up so it would be a more appealing prospect to Future You than the prospect of finishing whatever book you ended up reading,” Aquilla pointed out. “Past You took your present self's reading problem into consideration and accounted for it like he'd account for a thieving fashion designer's egomania and inability to deal with pressure when playing her like a fiddle.”

He frowned. “That's right, I did,” He reluctantly put the book down on his table, upside down and still open, letting gravity and his own table serve as a bookmark. “Very well. It's time for this experiment to begin!”

“Experiment?” She asked curiously, tilting her head to the side.

“I've been feeling... different lately. Average excitement levels have been down by sixty-three percent, and I'm finding it harder to find sufficiently good reasons to do things besides research magic and read,” Silver admitted, and if he wasn't the type to memorize things instead of writing them down, he'd have brought out graphs charting his mental state over the past several weeks. He raised and hooked a forehoof, and his horn lit up with a blazing blue aura, like a dangerously hot flame. His magic brought into this world a large metal mug filled with a cool dark liquid known to some as hot chocolate, topped with a too-wide and too-high spiralling mountain of thick white whipped cream, pink and white marshmallows embedded in the cream like darts in a dartboard. As his hoof held the mug, two thin gold-coloured vials with labels that read 'Sirius-7hE' and 'Alphard-7a2' were summoned forth, which Aquilla eyed distrustfully. The vials poured themselves into his cup and drilled through the cream, meeting the drink and for a moment with a painfully bright golden light that made her flinch and failed to get any reaction from his magically-enhanced eyes. “My recent victories have mattered less and less to me, which is the opposite of how the increasing scale of my recent victories should make me feel, so I'm covering all my bases today. Well, except for the cons, I haven't found any particularly good marks yet, but if this keeps up, I'll choose a name from my B-list.”

“Sir, that looks far stronger than your usual daily dose of Magic-Amplifying-”

He reared up with his horn aglow, threw his head and hoof back, and spiralled the drink perfectly into his opened mouth, drinking the potion-enhanced hot cocoa down like he was being encouraged by a both a crowd of partygoers cheering him on and a pony with a stopwatch and book of world records. When he had finished, his magic tore the remaining liquid from his cup, pulling it into a ball and throwing it into his mouth like a piece of chocolate. He slammed his mug onto his table, snapping its handle off and denting the metal desk. “I'm making progress,” He whispered, a wide grin spreading on his face, holding still as he pretended he meant to do that.

“You're progressing toward something,” She muttered to herself, and then said to Silver, “We should go to that meeting, unless you want to show up fashionably late for dramatic effect,”

“We're going,” Silver said, his horn lighting up with a blazing blue aura. Without needing to turn his head, his magic targeted the ground beside him and flashed with a blue light, burning a circle into the ground about as wide as he was long, a circle with the hollow skeletal frame of a ten-pointed star in the center. His horn still alight, the blinds covering his window shattered apart like glass, the fabric pieces falling to the ground in perfect scalene triangles, revealing a whole wall covered in massive metal-reinforced windows, sunlight streaming into the room. Rectangular cracks formed in the wall as his horn blazed, and a part of the wall double his size opened outwards like a set of double doors, leading out into a sheer drop outside. “Aquilla, follow me,”

“You aren't going to teleport us?” She wondered.

He got out of his chair, turned around, and faced the hole he'd made in his wall. An orange crystal shaped like a tiny perfect pearl emerged from his shoes and became embedded in the front of each one. “I didn't spend four hours of what could have been light reading time last night researching esoteric momentum magic to upgrade these shoes of mine to just teleport from place to place. One of the contributing factors to my current state of mind may be a regrettable lack of physical movement,”

She knew what this meant, and grinned. “Yes. YES!”

He raised his right forehoof, his horn flashing blue, and a large orange piece of glass appeared in his hoof. It was shaped like a five-pointed star, each point sloped like a triangular prism, perfect for keeping wind and any dust out of his eyes. He placed it atop his muzzle, in front of his eyes, and despite lacking any sort of hooks or glue, the enchanted glasses stayed there, as if they knew better than to fall off. Despite its shape, looking through it was as easy as looking through an ordinary pair of jade sunglasses. Thank you, Minor Enchantments For Seemingly Small Enhancements.

A wide smile on her face, she let out a soft and anticipatory hawklike screech. “Skriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii..,”

He suddenly stopped, got up, and his horn lit up as quadruplet orange auras flared out from his shoes and covered his whole body. He conjured some metal balls the size of baseballs, and dropped them into his orange aura, where they stayed suspended, rotating slowly.

“What are you doing?” Aquilla asked, disappointed, her extended wings slowly lowering.

“Accelerating my de facto speed,” Silver began to explain, pointing his head towards the doorway, straightening his neck, and aiming his head towards an office building on the other side of the road like he was aiming a cannon, aiming for the sections of the wall between the windows. “Simply put, the maximum speed available to me, when I tap into the momentum this enchantment has absorbed. Of course, it isn't the speed I'll actually travel at, I'll hold back enough momentum to spend on mid-air flight corrections, energy for enhanced mobility spells, and so on.”

“Didn't you just finish building up speed for 12 hours?” Aquilla asked.

He kept his body still, pointed straight ahead, like he was waiting for something. “Yes, but you can never have too much of anything. I'd say my launching speed is at around... fifty right now,”

“Fifty what?” Aquilla asked curiously.

“Fifty speed,” Silver answered bluntly. “It's a measurement system I came up with to simplify both the act of teleportation and momentum-based magic in general, converting it into a more standard system of speed measurement would take effort I don't currently feel like expending. In two hours, remind me to give that measurement a better name,”

“Yes, Sir,” She said, nodding once. “So, how much faster are these shoes going to make you?”

“You'll see,” He said, and his orange aura retracted, allowing the steel balls fall around him. “Try to keep up,”

She crouched down, ready to pounce, and spread her wings.

He didn't crouch or jump, or move his body in any way. One moment, he was right beside her, and the next, he wasn't, like a... like a... She didn't even have any words for how shockingly fast he had moved and how suddenly he accelerated from a standing position, even a slingshot would have made some kind of sound or indication of what had happened, but she realized why he had challenged her to keep up. She didn't even see him move from one place to another, he was just suddenly... There, on the other side of the street, backflipping off the side of that building and glowing orange as he built up speed again.

Like a firework taking off, the falling Unicorn's absorbed momentum launched himself up and to the side, twisting around in the air and suddenly absorbing his own momentum to fall directly down and land perfectly on the extended stone balcony of a building next to his Silver Spire. He began running across the building's balcony, forehooves and rear hooves moving in pairs like the limbs of a fox, until he got to a grey stone statue of what he assumed was the Earth Pony owner. He leapt up to its head, his forehooves pulling him forwards so his rear hooves could find purchase on it and leap off it, towards the next building, which had a flat roof. Soaring up through the air and almost landing on it, he swung his forehooves down onto it and flipped his hindlegs up, his whole body spinning up and landing on the roof, running forwards to keep his momentum.

Instead of continuing to run straight ahead, he turned and leapt towards a nearby lamppost, hooking his fetlocks around it and swinging a full three hundred and sixty degrees around it. He pulled himself up and towards the windowed office building's side, landing on the vertical flat white wall between the windows. The orange gem on his right forehoof began to glow, and an aura of orange energy blazed to life around Silver's body, absorbing what should have been his downward momentum as he began to run along the side of the building as if it was flat ground, picking up speed and turning to run up the wall, making it up another five stories before backflipping off, falling with a bright orange glow surrounding him. His magic launched himself towards the top of the building, soaring above it and absorbing his momentum when he was near the middle of the roof, falling gracefully and landing on his rear hooves, forehooves stuck out to the sides as though encouraging an invisible crowd to applaud. Sweet Celestia, ponies simply had to be noticing how cool he looked right now!

A confident grin stretched across his face as he began to pant and his eyes widened from the rush of adrenaline. Yes, this was what he needed. This was what he'd been missing! This was intensity! This was speed! This was perfection!

Like an athlete that had just finished a marathon, he took a moment to victoriously lie on the ceiling, catching his breath. When it was back under control, he got back up, grinning widely. Like a starved fox searching for his next meal, he looked around, searching for something to jump off, something to jump onto, something he could use to keep on going. He spotted a hyperrectangular metal vent and went for it, running in perfect synch and leaping at it, his forehooves slamming onto the vent and pushing him upwards, landing on the building's smaller top half-floor and leaping from it in a tall arc, going for height rather than distance, sailing off the building and towards the ground.

He twisted around in the air so he was heading towards the ground back-first, and a thoughtful frown crossed his visage as he looked up at the portal he'd made. His mind brought up a map of Canterlot and possible ways he could continue his journey, his current path towards the ground marked as an orange pulsating spherical light that continued to travel down, and his horn lit up with the manifest willpower that was his magic. The feel of wind against his face and especially his horn was pleasurable and oddly soothing, and despite how many times he'd done this, he still loved it.
He was glad this city didn't have a lot of Pegasi flying around near or above the skyline, cluttering up the air and getting in the way of his Epic Movement... No, that name was terrible. Anyway, He was glad this city didn't have a lot of Pegasi flying around, cluttering up the air and getting in the way of his preferred method of movement, but he still wished the town had SOME. After all, flying Pegasi would be able to watch him soar through the air, his spiky hair majestically flapping in the breeze, and they would be able to admire how cool he definitely looked right now.

He could almost see the whole city, orange lines plotting the potential routes he could take through blue portals. Like a sculptor making tiny alteration after alteration to get his work of art looking just right, he angled that portal ten degrees forward, then ten more, and then he rotated it two degrees back, and tilted it just three degrees to the right, moved it a millimetre forward and two centimetres up...

His body fell faster and faster toward the ground, his attention solely on the portal and how he'd make his way around the city, completely ignoring the ground he was rushing towards faster and faster each second. Like it called his name, he glanced back at the ground when he was moments away from touching it.

For the briefest fraction of a second, a spherical orange magic barrier erupted from his right forehoof's shoe, expanding to shield his whole body as he hit the ground-

And then he shot up into the air with double the kinetic force of his descent, screaming like he was on a rollercoaster as his tongue lolled out of his mouth, flapping in the breeze like a dog on a fast kart. His horn blazed to life as he formed a blue portal fifty feet above him, rushing into it in less than a second, shooting out of the portal he'd angled perfectly like a cow launched from a catapult, though one that left behind an orange, gold, and silver and black contrail. Thanks to his bubble of magic now expending stored momentum to clear air out of the way, he ignored air resistance and didn't lose speed as he flew up. He soared high above the skyline, easily overtaking a flock of birds flying in the same direction, and when he reached the peak of his jump, he tilted himself forwards in his orange bubble, straightening out like a Pegasus, specifically so his stomach wouldn't lurch when he began to fall towards the ground. He hated that feeling. He noticed Aquilla in the air below him, following him from fifty meters away, watching his acrobatics with a proud smile.

The orange aura flared up around Silver again like a meteor igniting from air resistance, the aura of momentum magic slowing his descent for a few seconds as he began to glide, and then shooting him forward with an even bigger burst of speed, blasting himself from one end of the city to the other in just a few seconds. His lips opened to reveal a grin, his eyes glancing around at the massive town that stretched out under him, taking in every detail and catching the eyes of thousands, his four-coloured contrail visible for far longer than the living advertisement for momentum magic books was. He flew past his intended location and didn't care, he was having fun just flying around town. Well, not exactly flying... He'd think of a better word for this manner of magic-enhanced free omnidirectional movement later. 'Falling with style' rolled off the tongue rather well.

He remembered the meeting he was supposed to go to, and changed his plans from Fly around for a bit to Make the most dramatic entrance possible. His eyes darted around as he slowed down, glowing orange, and planned his new course in his mind: He'd grab an upcoming lamppost's horizontal part and spin around it, arc through the air, bounce on the ground to build momentum, and direct his ascent straight up until he had a straight shot at the building he was really supposed to be inside by now, then shoot himself right into it, and it would be epic.

As he locked his hooves around the lamppost and flipped his rear legs up to spin around it, the lamppost began to bend and the ground beneath it cracked, Silver's eyes widening in shock. That shock turned to rage as he let out a growl and let go, his horn glowing as he used his favourite fire-and-forget repair spell on the lamppost, slowing down its descent as his orange momentum aura flared up and slowed him down as he landed almost weightlessly on the ground. He furiously spun around and bucked the still-glowing lamppost with both hindlegs, knocking it to the ground with a loud crash. He gripped the lamppost's top and let the restorative energies pick the lamppost back up, fixing itself up until it was as good as new while flinging himself through the air like a cow launched from a catapult, and he gave up on being fancy, tapping into some of his stored momentum to shoot himself straight up, his eyes locking onto Comet Trail's home.

His orange aura flared and pushed him forwards, smashing forehooves-first into the jaded window of Comet Trail's home. His orange aura forced the glass shards into the room, his horn giving a blue flash that targeted the glass as his orange aura slowed him down, absorbing his momentum and allowing him to neatly land on the table with no sliding or any kind of fanfare beyond his entrance. He simply and casually stepped from the air onto the table, as elegant and seemingly normal as trotting off a stopped train. As the other ponies in the room looked at the newcomer, shards of broken glass lit up with his blue magical light and floated back up to the window frame like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle moved by invisible hooves, reforming itself and altering as the glass's colour condensed, becoming a clear glass window with a stained-glass five-pointed orange star in the glass wall's center.

“Comet Trail, Coffee Grounds, Lemon Field,” Silver greeted each one with a descending tone of voice and decreasing amount of patience. “Shall we begin?”

Silver Star had entered the room.

[br]

"An entrance like that, and you didn't even consider apologizing for being late. Good to know that rumour about you was true." Comet Trail said.

Despite his outward serenity, his mind was still racing, just like his heart. This held no challenge for him. He decided to provoke them and learn what he could from their reactions and the microexpressions his eyes would pick up on. "It would waste time, we both know this. Your immediate opening move has failed. Would you like me to leave and come in through another window, so you can try again?”

“No, that won't be necessary,” Comet Trail grumbled.

“Good, good,” Silver said in thought, and then frowned. “Let's make this quick, shall we? All three of you, speak at the same time."

"Wh- This is ridiculous, you can't possibly-" Coffee began.

"You two don't have anything to say?" Silver asked pointedly, eyes rapidly moving to glance at the other two ponies in turn.

They spoke in unison.

“Oh, I've got something to say!” Lemon Fields growled.

“I don't see how you can-" Comet Trail began.

"Fine, we'll do it this way." Silver decided.

In one moment, his horn lit up like a blue flame, and many eyes in the room widened as they remembered the rumours about what that horn could do. Lemon Field began to bite at and fiddle with his saddlebags, the metal clasp refusing to cooperate. In the next moment, they were all bodily picked up and removed from the ground - something that made the Earth Pony guards more skittish - separated into four groups, and unceremoniously dropped to the ground like nothing more than somewhat heavy bags of trash. They each landed on their hooves, but as they hit the ground, walls of metal shot up from the ground to separate the four groups from Silver and give them each a pyramid-shaped room seven feet wide, as though they were all livestock. The metal thickened before they'd even gotten a chance to fully process what was happening.

His horn still alight, the silver Unicorn cast a spell that would have given a skilled Unicorn trouble if he hadn't already used it hundreds, if not thousands of times in his lifetime, and using it had eventually become as easy as blinking or reciting your favourite song. Replicas of himself with closed eyes blinked into existence in flashes of blue light, their eyes snapping open in perfect synch. They had a tenth of his physical strength, less durability than a sheet of paper, and all of his agility. Each of the replicas teleported into one of the makeshift rooms while the real Silver gave a flash of blue magic to summon forth the book he'd been reading earlier, opening it with his hooves to the exact page he was recently on, smiling at how good he was getting at precise book-opening. If only that was a sport officially recognized by the Equestrian Games. That, and throwing apples at things.

"I'll talk to you, first." Each of the three Silver replicas said to the ponies they were talking to in unison.

"Good." Coffee Grounds said with a hungry smile.

"Thank you,” Comet Trail said genuinely, his sarcasm gone, replaced by a face of nervousness and need, and Silver focused on this one first, storing the memories of the other replicas to review later. “You got my letter, right?”

“Yes. I invited the others so anyone watching me would find it harder to guess what I came here for. So... Comet Trail. You came to me in your hour of need. You need something taken care of quickly, and discreetly. Somepony has evidence that you did something unforgivable, and you want that pony dealt with, and all evidence of your most recent failure covered up in the process,”

“Please,” Comet said needily. “I... I know I messed up, but I want to fix this. That scoundrel only sent the threat to me yesterday, but he hasn't sent any demands, only a warning that should his informants in the royal guard find out, I'll be ruined! I don't know what he wants and there's nothing I could do! If word of this gets out, I'll be ruined,”

“I know. But here's the thing... what can one such as yourself offer me?” Silver asked in an utterly detached tone, as if holding Comet Trail's life in his hooves and having the ability to save it was little more than a purchase he was thinking of making. ”You aren't the first to ask me to help them, but I don't usually get hired by somepony like you. If I have the connections and power necessary to do something you can't, so what can you offer me to make me do this?”

“I have a lot of mo-

“Be silent,” Silver snapped suddenly, his horn blazing to life. No spells were cast, it was simply a reflex. Though in some places, it was the Unicorn equivalent of your pants getting caught on something and torn off, Comet heard stories about what his horn could do, stories he was putting a lot more stock in now that the pony in question had flown in through his window and thought nothing of it! Comet quietly and fearfully nodded his head.

And just like that, Silver's rage had vanished, along with the glow of his horn. “Money's nice, but I'm not really strapped for cash,” He mused aloud, horn lighting up and flashing as he summoned a small unwrapped ball of chocolate into his rising hoof, throwing it into his opened mouth. He casually looked around the metal room he'd made as he chewed, swallowed, and talked. ”The only reason I don't top the 'Richest Ponies in Canterlot' lists? I don't care about it enough to pay the listmakers to put me on top. I also invest my money and start businesses, I actually use that money, I don't sit on my fortune all day like some idiotic Dragon. I have plenty of ponies that owe me favours, I'd much rather have something concrete, something tangible. Now, there are few things you have that I don't, so I think I'll take them. All of them,” Silver decided, and stared directly at Comet Trail. ”I want your place in the world,” Silver decided, eyes gleaming with hunger.

Comet wordlessly made a confused noise of shock.

“You heard me. I want your home. I want your name, your title, I want your claim to the throne, I want all the properties and assets you own, I want the stipend the throne pays you purely for existing and being born into the right family- Which is, simply put, an utterly outdated and idiotic practice I plan on having abolished some time in the future. I want the right to call myself Prince Silver Star, and I want the right to replace you with an illusionist Spy that will impersonate you and serve me whenever I desire.”

Comet made a questioning sound of fury.

“You can speak,” Silver said with a roll of his eyes.

“D-Don't you already have an official title?” Comet asked nervously.

“Yes, but consider the following: Firstly, your claim to the throne is stronger than Wild Wind's or Shining Diamond's ever was. They were numbers 183 and 140 in line for the throne, respectively, and you are number 79. Secondly, if I have more than one, I can trade one away whenever I want. Thirdly, I don't think anypony else has that many claims to the throne, as far as I'm aware, and finally, I want it.”

“But... I've been a prince my whole life!” He protested, starting to sweat. “I can't just give that up for-”

“For what? For your wife?” Silver asked pointedly.

Comet's tone softened, and his body weakened. “I...”

Do you care for her at all?" Silver wondered.

Comet's tone softened, and his body weakened. “Yes, but-”

“But what, do you love your bragging rights and money more?” Silver asked pointedly.

He looked down. “I..,”

“You lost your right to call yourself a Prince when you did something even young foals know not to do. I've seen pictures of your wife, and she's adorable. She also doesn't seem like a legitimately terrible pony, so tell me, what possessed you to betray her trust – and betray her – like this?”

Genuine sadness filled his voice. “She's hasn't talked to me in days, so I thought I'd try to get some happiness back into my life by-”

“By stealing the jewelry you'd gotten her over the years, replacing it with COSTUME JEWELRY, and selling the gems on the black market for money you spent on collectable miniatures.”

“I can't help it!” Comet yelled, bursting into tears. “They're just so cu-hu-hu-huuuute!”

Silver frowned. “To add insult to injury, you don't even play the game, you just paint the pieces and put them on a shelf in a hidden room in your house and you just... you just look at them like they're a foal's doll collection! Such a waste. Relationships are about communication and mutual understanding. Not some foalish zero-sum game where whoever apologizes first loses and whoever has more power over the other and gets away with being terrible to the other more often wins! I won't ruin you, I'll make a deal with the blackmailer and keep him or her quiet, and if you're lucky, the blackmailer will do something stupid. If you want, I'll set you up with a job and house in Manehattan. You won't be recognized there. Maybe some good, honest work will make you a better pony. But tell me, did you consider asking her what was wrong?”

“Whenever I asked her, she got madder and said everything was fine,” Comet said sadly.

Silver rolled his eyes. “How are you supposed to fix whatever's wrong if she does that? What an idiot,”

“Hey!” Comet warned, despite the Unicorn's reputation.

Silver smiled, which surprised Comet. “Correct option. Now, are you going to take the correct option again? Keep in mind that I refrained from mentioning this at the start purely for more dramatic impact, but I also want you to sign my contract,”

Silver's horn lit up for a moment as he summoned a long scroll of white fabric-ish paper bound by two orange cylinders lined with gold, opened it up, and levitated it to him while pulling out a ballpoint pen from a compartment hidden in the top cylinder. Another compartment opened up, revealing a tray of identical semispherical chocolates. His magic levitated one into his mouth, and the segment snapped shut.

“Sure, I'll sign-” Comet said, and then he saw what was written on it. ”What,” He said flatly.

“It's in a language you don't speak, and no existing translation spells have been programmed to recognize it. Still, my contract would not take effect if it wasn't written in an actual language with a concrete system of grammar and a community of those that speak it. It's more dramatic this way, wouldn't you agree?”

“And I'm supposed to sign this, despite having no idea what it says?” Comet asked skeptically.

“You're supposed to choose which of your possible future parallel universees you want to live in. In one hoof, you have a future in Manehattan with your wife. If you told her some story about having to give up not just your gems, but everything you had to save your lives from something or somepony, that'd work, but scare her. You could say you suddenly lost everything thanks to political machinations out of your control, but she might resent you for not being able to hold on to anything. Then again, I have no idea what your wife is like. You could say you donated everything to charity because you felt like it and you want to see how the other half lives. You could say Princess Luna came to you in a dream and convinced you that both of you would be happier this way. You could say a time-traveller warned you of an incoming disaster, and you had to give everything up and move to Manehattan to complete or permanently break the time loop and prevent the universe's destruction. The other universe is one where you tell me to go eat candy in someone else's office, and I do so. Your blackmailer will likely reveal your failings to the world, and the love of your life will likely leave you in disgust or fury. On top of that, Princess Celestia would likely strip your title from you, if not to please angry citizens or angry nobels or the readers and writers of magazines that'll pounce on you like you're worse than Sombra, then because I'm pretty sure she'd want to. Upon leaving your office, before I crash through your window one last time on my way out, reshaping the tasteful stained glass star into a tasteful depiction of my flanks, I'd consider saying to have fun living in a world without any of your loves. And then I'd decide to not bother, because you wouldn't be able to. And not just because you won't choose this universe. Right?”

Comet was silent, and Silver decided to switch to the replica dealing with Coffee Grounds, reviewing his memories to get him up to speed. And rather than reviewing that replica's memories properly, he viewed a sped-up version of what had happened. It was amusing to watch the fellow Unicorn move and sell like an amateur, and seeing him summon charts and graphs coated in blatantly manipulated statistics was even more amusing. It was irritating to note that the replica hadn't blinked once, the entire time, and it made Silver wonder if he remembered to have the other replicas blink. Like finding a typo in your work you had once failed to notice, it was irritating in a way nothing else could possibly match.

[br]

"So as you can see, Mr Star... may I call you Silver?" Coffee asked with a wide grin.

"You may not." Silver said flatly, staring at the businesspony with his barely-interested, unblinking ice-blue eyes that seemed far too old, cold and wise for his young-adult age.

The three ponies looked deeper into his eyes, and were once again reminded that throughout the entire fifteen-minute meeting, he hadn't blinked once. They assumed he was using magic for that... or rather, hoped it was magic. Ponies that age should be out partying the night away, not working as Canterlot's sixth-youngest CEO and Businesspony to not only make it into the Financial Signs magazine, but to even get onto the 'Ponies Who Have Far More Money Than You' list.

Coffee had done his research, and he knew about as much as he could about Silver: The Unicorn known as Silver Star had shown up one day in Canterlot with an unusually large sack of money guarded by needlessly-complex layers of protective charms he had cast that only he(and maybe the Princesses, if they had a few weeks to spend on it) could bypass. Aside from his creativity and magic skill (Which was impressive, but not quite good enough to get him into Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, not that he was young enough to enter), he seemed to have a much more useful ability, one related to the Cutie Mark he was said to have, due to how often the symbol showed up on things he owned: A pattern of ten orange stars linked by blue bands in the design of a a tree-shaped constellation.

He had an eye for connections, and despite how lame 'My Cutie Mark represents my ability to make Connections' sounded in a world where Cutie Marks could be for things like Supersonic Flight or Every Form Of Magic, or he could accurately see everything connected to something, along with what influences it would have. He could solve puzzles that used connections or ciphers just by glancing at them, and easily calculate the force and trajectory needed to win just about any game of skill or the mind. Then, with his own intelligence, he could figure out what move was best for him, tipping over exactly the right domino to have everything he wanted fall right at his hooves. He'd occasionally state in a factual and non-boastful manner that he 'Knew everything', and when he was doing business, he certainly seemed to... though Coffee was pretty sure that it was just an act he used to intimidate others and build up his reputation, and he had a ton of spys everywhere. After all, the rumours said he was great at summoning magic, and though rumours about what houses he was aligned to and exactly what he could summon differed, his go-to summons seemed to be birds. After arriving in Canterlot, he began playing the stock market and other ponies for all they were worth, multiplying his funds almost daily. He bought out small businesses and moved his way up the chain, going from small corner-shops and independent restaurants to conquering larger companies and franchises with enough worth to interest him. He'd even take down lawbreaking or shady businessponies who sold faulty goods, artists and fashion-ponies who dared commit the unforgivable sin of plagarization, and even corrupt nobles who didn't deserve their riches and thought themselves untouchable. He'd make a game out of it, plant the seeds of ruin and set the dominoes of disaster falling, and at the end of it all, he'd pocket their funds as an unofficial reward to himself and leave them at the mercy of Celestia’s finest. Or the royal guard, if Celestia's finest were busy.

Yet tonight, these businessponies had booked a meeting with him, and paid the fee for booking a meeting with him, for they were trying to sell their failing Coffeehouse to him. They knew he wanted the place, or rather, the land upon which it stood. It was a good location: close to the Castle and the town's Library(As opposed to the castle library or Canterlot Archives, which was stuck inside the Castle and therefore off-limits to average ponies), so it would be visited by those studying at the local library, and most Royal Guards when they were off-duty, as well as anypony else in the general area. He'd just have to fire the current mediocre coffee-makers, and bring in some ponies who knew what they were doing. Silver seemed to have connections everywhere on a good day, and he knew a few drink-makers and coffee-brewers that wouldn't mind moving to Canterlot on short notice if he asked nicely and offered a somewhat sizeable bonus.

Yes, he could do great things with that location. He just had to get it from these mediocre businessponies at a price he was willing to pay. And these fools, who had squandered such a great location with mediocre and VASTLY overpriced coffee that drove away anypony who didn't somehow convince themselves that the generic 'Black fancy chairs in one corner, wooden tables on the whole left wall, walled-off food counter with workers behind it and an easily-changeable chalkboard for prices, orange lighting with black and brown highlights on the room's colour scheme' ambiance was worth the outrageous prices... These fools were not worthy of owning a business.

"Very well... Mr Star. We have finally come to an agreement on our price." Coffee Grounds said, trying to shake off the shivers continually running down his spine as Silver Star's icy gaze seared into his heart. He held out a hoof, pointing a white scrap of paper at the Unicorn, his hoof subtly shaking, trying to stop it by tensing the muscles of his limb.

A shimmering blue glow formed around the note and the silver Unicorn's horn, and he slowly levitated the scrap of paper closer to himself, drawing out the suspense. He read the number on the note. 2500 bits. "Interesting offer." He said coldly as the magic glow around the paper intensified for a moment. "Here is my counteroffer."

He levitated the paper back to them, and the three looked at it together. It now read... 25 bits.

"This... This is... You just removed the last two zeroes from the price!" Coffee shouted incredulously.

"Yes, this is the maximum price I am willing to pay." Silver Star stated. "I know of your business, if it can be called that, and your mediocre coffee. Everypony in Canterlot knows of your mediocre coffee. Your latest move, your attempt to sell the business and 'Jump ship', so to speak, may be the smartest thing you have done in a while. However..."

The temperature in the small metal room lowered by a few more degrees.

"You have a recipe for disaster on your hands." He said ominously. He spoke with such certainty, such apathy, it was as if he'd already seen the events that would come to pass and barely cared about them enough to mention them. "Your crops have been planted, and are slowly dying. Your hourglass is slowly ticking down... and when you run out of time, when you reap what you have sown, are you prepared to bear witness to the vile fruits of your labour? Are you really willing to wait and watch as your business falls apart and drags you down with it, like a cursed anchor dragging you to the depths of the ocean? Or, will you take the smart route, and sell your business and its properties to me, somepony strong enough to lift that anchor?"

"I want to sell, but 25 bits?! l couldn't buy a decent meal in this town with 25 bits!" Coffee protested.

"Very well... Would twenty bits cause you to feel less guilt over your own failures?"

"That's it, I'm out!" Coffee snapped, turning and aggressively staring at the wall. “...Could you open this up?” He asked awkwardly.

Silver decided to bluff. “Sure. But first, tell me, when ponies hear that you denied Silver Star, will ponies want to buy something from you, or will they fear me too much to want anything to do with you? You have many potential futures where things go badly for you, and the future I'm offering you is the only one you really have. Will you rid yourself of the dead weight you call a business and gain 25 bits? Or will you cling onto that weight until it pulls you under?"

The oppressive cold air seemed to lift slightly, as he became disinterested once more. Coffee turned around, right on cue. "So... do we have a Deal?" He asked, his eyes flashing with a bright silver light during that final word.

"Deal!" Coffee and his guards suddenly cried out in unison. Then they came to their senses, but still agreed that selling was a good idea. After all, making twenty-five bits was better than nothing at all. Besides, the business was about to go under anyway. Better they sell it off now than deal with it going under. That way, it'd be his problem, not theirs.

Silver Star opened up another hidden drawer in his desk, near the first one, and got out a contract he'd already written up that morning. Everything was going exactly according to plan. He levitated his quill and contract to Coffee. "Here's the contract, and my quill. Just sign on the bottom line." The businesspony did so, and held them up to Silver. The silver Unicorn magically took the contract, placing it in his desk and sliding the hidden drawer back into the desk.

Silver Star gave a cold smile, the smile of a pony who was marginally pleased, but not quite enough to show. "Pleasure doing business with you."

"Likewise," Coffee said, taking it as his cue to leave before he got an even worse price. Then, he realized that he couldn't leave, not until the metal walls were removed.

[br]

"I'll talk to you, first." Each of the three Silver replicas said to the ponies they were talking to in unison.

"Well, that fits, considering what you did to my family." Lemon Field growled.

“Did what?” The Silver replica with Lemon began to wonder aloud. “Gave them another chance at life, saved them from their own incompetence, got the banks off their backs? Or expected a reward for doing so?”

“You're taking seventy percent of our earnings! Seventy percent!” Lemon snapped.

“You make enough to live, and that's it. If you want anything more, you'll have to earn it yourselves. Perhaps you could try selling food made with lemons, or some lemon-themed merchandising? Something the contract I offered intentionally didn't cover? Branch out. Find something you don't suck at, make it work for you. Make a toy, a ponified lemon.”

“We don't know how to make that stuff, we're farmers!”

Silver looked down on the pony like he was a judge condemning the worst kind of criminal. “Don't insult farmers. You were not farmers, you were fools. Would you like to know why?”

“Why?” Lemon asked angrily.

“To reduce the chances that you'll do something stupid, how about a joke, to lighten the mood? It'll likely soften what comes next. Why did the chicken cross the road?”

Lemon was surprised, and his mental guard was lowered. “Why?”

“No, you have to say it. You have to say 'I don't know', and then repeat the question,” Silver explained.

Lemon rolled his eyes, then grit his teeth, looking at Silver like he was now the most annoying pony he'd ever met. “I don't know, why did the chicken cross the road?” He asked.

“Because it was your job to cook it,” Silver said smoothly, a smile slowly breaking out on his face.

Lemon paused for a moment, trying to figure that out. And when he did...

“Hey!” Lemon snapped curtly.

“Physically speaking, your farm was so clumsily mismanaged, I'd be amazed if you told me you didn't have your youngest handle the shift timetables." Silver casually informed him, as if he thought the pony beneath him to be exactly that in every way. "You had four ponies working the same section of land, casually talking to each other instead of working separate parts of the farm in a basic crop rotation on your separate shifts. A simple rotational crop system is the foundation of all good farms, but you didn't know that, and didn't care enough to look it up. You all worked from Mondays to Thursdays, taking Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays off... Even though the weekends are when many have the free time needed to visit the markets! You lack understanding of the basic logic and science behind farming, the books bought and added to your debt should help you with that, and if you're using the fertilizer company I recommended, crop yields should be increased far beyond what they are now. Earth Pony magic may be great for farming, and little else without techniques rarely seen in Equestria, but it can't do everything alone. And finally, you sold your food at an unfairly low price at the market, I raised them to comply with Canterlot standards. When you sell an item, you also sell the time it took to make the item, calculated by calculating how much money you'd make if you spent your time working for somepony else doing similar work while getting a fair price for it."

"'You calculated' the prices?” Lemon asked angrily, doubting the silver unicorn's ability. ”Who will buy our food when you've put our prices that high?!"

"In terms of mentality, you've clearly forgotten the first rule of salesponyship. I should charge for this, but here's some advice for you, for no additional fee: Ponies do not buy things! Things are sold to ponies! That's the real first rule of business, some might even call it the only rule of business, and you failed to accept it, you failed to understand it, you failed to realize it. Simply put, you failed,” Silver intoned, and then he began to find this amusing, a smile slowly spreading on his face while Lemon grew more enraged with each word. ”And if you cannot sell food to the hungry, you don't deserve to call yourself a Farmer. On every level, every possible level, you failed! Your farm was mismanaged so badly, I'm almost impressed at how badly you failed! Do you have to put effort into being terrible at literally everything, or do you just wake up that way every day, wide-eyed and empty-headed? Is there some kind of curse on you I haven't detected because I don't care about you enough to check? I'm actually considering hiring you, just so I could give you a position you aren't qualified for, and then have others pay me for the right to watch you fail at it amusingly! After all, I don't find your incompetence amusing, I find it pathetic, but others may find you funnier than me. Perhaps, when the joke that is you and your existence gets old even for them, I'll trick a rival into 'Poaching' you, so I could watch your complete lack of ability ruin things for them! After all, defeating an opponent is sweet, but making an opponent defeat himself is so much sweeter,”

Lemon Field grit his teeth. “Are you done?”

“Are you done failing at everything you attempt?”

Lemon Field opened his mouth, Silver's eyes gleamed, and he and Silver spoke in perfect unison. “What do you get out of talking to me like this, you jerk?”

Lemon gasped and took a step back, and Silver smiled. Even after hours without sleep, he still had it. “Simply put, the more unpleasant I make this experience for you, the less likely you are to come back,” Silver explained. “Tell me, does your complete incompetence bother you, or have you simply gotten used to it with age? Have you improved at all in any skill from the day you were born, or were you as hopeless then as you are now? Does sheer incompetence run in the family? Does-”

As if getting a signal from somepony Lemon couldn't see, Silver stopped. “No, that joke's just tasteless. You can work on improving yourself, you can be better than the pony you were yesterday, you can be better than the pony you were an hour ago. You have potential, but when you think there's nothing left to do, or that there's no point in using your skills in any way other than the way you're currently using them, you're wasting them. You can do better, so stop disappointing Past You and stop embarrassing Future You. I offered you and your whole family a second chance to hit it big, and while you'd probably like me more if I gave you a better deal, my predictions are always 100% accurate. I gave you what you needed to succeed, and no more. I know you and your family can be better than this.”

Lemon Field growled. "Give me the contract.

"A wise choice." Silver said, giving the contract to the lemon pony, along with an inked quill. "Sign on the dotted line, and I'll forgive your mistake here today."

Lemon Field glared at Silver. "I'm doing this for my family." He said, and took the quill.

Silver's pupils shrunk, and his body tensed. "No." He said quietly, his horn lighting up with a wild and shaky blue aura, sparks flying from the tip.

"What?" Lemon wondered, confused.

"No." Silver repeated, transmuting the quill into a living Goose that squawked aggressively, causing Lemon to drop it in shock. Silver's magic grabbed not just the contract, but a spherical segment of air around it, tearing it away from the farmer so hard an audible pop was heard in the small space. Eyes unfocused and unmoving, he opened his mouth and swallowed the contract whole. A confused Lemon Field wondered why his head started to feel strange, then he gasped as several thousand hours of knowledge in the art of woodworking, smithing, tailoring, and making toys out of fabric and stuffing did not drill its way through his skull or ears like in the books he'd once read, but instead suddenly appeared there, as if written by a quill or typewriter. Specific techniques for working with felt and silk and harvested leather, why buying materials in bulk was always the better option, knowledge of the Golden Ratio, Golden Rectangle, Golden Spiral, the perfect, beautiful, ever-present spin, the perfect symmetry of the rectangles in art, it was all there and it was all beautiful.

"I just gave you a crash course on art." Silver explained, his mind seeming to return, along with some rage, staring right into Lemon Field's eyes. Without even needing to turn his head or move his eyes, a blue beam of magic fired from his horn and struck the Goose in the face, teleporting him away. "Go make your family proud. And never come back here again, do you understand me?"

"Understood."

Silver closed his eyes for a moment, as if sending a signal to the other replicas, and opened them. "Now..."

“Will you sink and drown, or will I bail you out?” A Silver replica asked Coffee Grounds.

“Will you get back to work, or will your family pay for its mistakes yet again?” A Silver replica asked Lemon Field.

“A life with your love, or a life in the gutter?” A Silver replica asked Comet Trail.

Each of the three Silver Star Apple replicas spoke in unison. “It all depends on what you say next. So tell me... Do we have a deal?”

[br]

Back at home, fixing the hole he'd blown in his wall with his horn's blue light, Silver Star was glad his office was now once again soundproof, as it prevented anypony outside from hearing what he was about to say.

"EEEYESSSSS! EEEEEYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEESSS!" He bellowed, his horn glowing with a beautifully bright and full blue light (He did not know this, but Twilight's was both fuller and brighter) as he telekinetically levitated his body up for the split second it took to cause himself to stand atop the seat of his heavy steel, marble and cobalt throne. Like a pony that had just scored the winning goal in a Stormball game, he punched his hooves into the air. "YES! YES! YEEESSSSSS!"

He punched a hoof not just towards the door the coffee-seller had walked out of, but where he calculated the center of that pony's head currently was. "EAT IT! EAT EVERYTHING! EAT! GRASS! GET ON MY LEVEL, CANTERLOT! GET! ON! MY! LEVEL! I HAVE EVERYTHING YOU EVER HAD AND EVER WILL HAVE, AND THEN SOME!"

He swung a hoof down onto the top of his chair's back as if he was trying to break it, hopping up with his other hooves and sailing through the air in a slow, lazy backflip. "I AM THE GREATEST! I AM THE ULTIMATE! I AM PERFECTION!" He yelled as he descended, landing on his rear hooves, his forehooves landing down in front of him. He strutted around the room like a peacock, and then started waving his rear around while rotating his tail. "I! AM! THE! BEST! I! AM! THE! BEST!"

His horn lit up and he vanished in a sphere of blue magic both perfectly-formed and devoid of character, reappearing in front of his doors, facing them and facing away from his windows. He smirked, rearing up, and he flipped back and landed on his forehooves, riding the momentum and flipping back again onto his hindlegs, flipping back again and landing on his forehooves, and so on until he reached his desk, flipping higher to land on it forehoof-first and continue the flipping, jumping back again and landing atop the thin back of his thronelike chair, spreading out his forehooves and coming to a perfect stop on such a narrow and dangerous platform. "NAILED IT!" He yelled, bending over just a little and pointing out his flanks, rapidly rotating his tail in victory. His throne suddenly had its back extend and rocket up. "I am so AWESOME!" He yelled as he hopped back casually from the top of his throne, falling down in midair head-first, teleporting at the last possible second and landing on the seat of his chair, sitting on it. "AAAHAHAHAHAHA!" He laughed. "AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA-OH SWEET CELESTIA, I'M SO BORED!" He yelled furiously.

He twisted in his seat and extended his body, his back ending up resting on the seat of his chair while his forelegs and head dangled over one side and his hindlegs and tail dangled over the other, letting out a moan of frustration. "MMMNNNNNYAAAAAAAAARGH!" He roared ineloquently. Flicking his tail to the side, he flung an apple hidden inside it at a wall, splattering against the wall like paint. His horn lit up, casting his favorite quick fire-and-forget repair spell on the apple pulp, apple juice and apple chunks converging on one point so hard it bounced off the wall while spinning, bouncing four feet off the wall and falling to the ground, rolling away. He grumbled and considered trying again, hoping to make the reconstituted apple bounced harder, but he decided against that.

Bored, his horn lit up as he lifted his throne with his magic and rotated it 180 degrees as its lengthened back returned to normal. The chair faced the windows, and he set it down with a loud thud that would have kicked up a few small dust clouds, if the immaculately clean room actually contained any dust. He got up from his position with practiced ease and gazed out the window, deep in thought, an expression of curiousity on his face. "I'm doing well for myself." He said, and sighed. Then, in a more uncertain tone, as if he was trying to convince himself, he said, "Today was good for me. I now have another plant in Canterlot, just in case, I can invest in and improve that coffeehouse, and make it into another one of my main moneymakers, and that lemon . This is... good. This is very good. I can do a lot of good with this. My projected profit is higher than it was yesterday."

His mind started to wander as he stared out of the window, looking at the ponies below him rushing about like panicked animals as they tried to get to where they had to be, at the jobless fancy high-society ponies who simply walked around because they could and had nowhere to be, at the ponies working away in the buildings at jobs they either loved or hated, and finally, at the horizon, the sky, and everything far away, everything beyond even his sight. "I'm doing really, really well for myself." He added. "I am happy. I should feel happy."

"So why doesn't it feel that good any more?" He asked himself, not dramatically looking off into the distance with no clear goal in mind, but fixing his eyes on one particular point on the horizon, one place he was starting to think held nothing for him any more. "My parents would definitely be proud of who I've become, not that it really matters any more. I am myself, not one of them. I... I'm happy. I should be happy. I've won. I hardly ever stop winning. I have not seriously gotten tired of winning. That would just be... insulting. And stupid. Me from the past would travel through time to buck myself in the face if I ever did, I'm sure of that. Maybe music will help."

Silver sighed. Perhaps singing would shed some light on this situation? His horn lit up with a bright blue light, and he summoned forth an instrument, an eight-stringed magically-charged electric metal guitar with small holes providing access to a built-in speaker arranged in the shape of a five-pointed star.

"Gold has lost its lustre, just as gems have lost their shine." Silver sang, starting with a melancholy chord, air solidified by his telekinetic grip serving as the pick.

"I'm getting bored of victory, and making everything mine.

I've fought hard to get where I am, and I have come so far.

Aside from the sun, which doesn't count, I shine as the brightest star.

I've reached heights I once dreamed of, just as I once fortold!

So why is this starry void... so cold?

Why do I still feel this way?

What is this void inside my heart?

I've reached the goal I've been aiming for,

Since my journey's start.

I've fought to build a throne,

And claim it for my own

And I've done it all alone.

I've built a brighter future,

I've left the past behind.

My will is steel, so why is my heart a stone?

I've travelled so far from where I began

My life's gone according to my plan

I used to break locked doors, now they open for me

I used to be alone, and I still am,

But now I see...

Two replicas formed behind him, singing harmony in the background for one line. “Now I see...”

I've reached heights I once dreamed of, just as I once fortold!

So why is this starry void... so cold?"

Star sighed, dismissing his instrument in a flash of blue magic, eyes closing. "That helped a little. Maybe if I play it a few more times...? Nah, it must be the challenge I miss. When I've finished this book, I'll look at my B-List of jerks in this town and decide who gets an all-expenses-paid trip on the Ruse Cruise today. Maybe it's the challenge that I'm missing... So when grifting, I'll disguise myself as a Zebra, and speak only in rhyme-No, no, that's too obvious, and too easy. I'll pretend to be a crazy pony! Yes, a crazy pony! A crazy pony that thinks birds are stalking her, and stealing her thoughts. I shall only speak if I can start the sentence with the letter B! And every sentence needs at least one R and two Ses, or it cannot be said! And I shall substitute letters with the letter B seemingly at random- No, that's stupid. That's the stupidest possible thing.”

He felt something on his neck, and opened his eyes. Aquilla was right in front of him, her talons awkwardly resting around his neck, as if she was trying to choke him, but lacked the strength to do it. “Am I doing this right?”

Silver chuckled. “Very funny, Aquilla. But weren't you raised by ponies? If you don't know how to hug, something's wrong.”

She gave up, and hugged him properly, the side of her face rubbing against his neck. Her feathers were so warm, so soft... She was the fastest Griffon he knew of, she was the most naturally-talented being he knew of, and she truly gave the best feather-rubs. He'd say he was lucky to have a secretary as amazing as her, but luck had nothing to do it, he'd chosen her himself.

“That's better." He said, giving her back two soft pats, and giving her head one pat. "Now, what brought this on?”

“Seeing you mope around like this is painful in ways you can't even begin to imagine.” She mumbled in a heartfelt tone, despite the sentence's content. ”I can almost feel my spleen organizing betting pools on when my other organs shut down. You are a train made of win and you are crashing into a train made of suck, I want to look away and I easily could, but it wouldn't change the fact that you're moping around and it's annoying me. Go get some friends!”

Silver rolled his eyes. “Please. The scientist Elucidia once famously claimed a pony is only capable of having 2,000 meaningful friends. Any more than that, and the mind can't handle it, they become little more than collections of names and faces. I have over seventeen thousand friends, because limits are made to be broken so hard they regret even thinking they could stand in your way,”

“Oh, really?" She asked sceptically. "What's the name of the last mare you spoke to?”

He smiled, and his horn flashed blue as he summoned a thin azure notebook into a rising right forehoof. He flipped through the pages with his magic seemingly at random, holding the book so she could see it, but not him, quickly coming to the right page and showing her.

“Breaking Dawn, former Wonderbolt, left when about to be replaced with someone younger, been one of Celestia's guards for the past year, brilliant Buckball player. Nicknamed Scorch because she once accidentally set fire to a crate full of prototype flare-type fireworks. She found-

“Silver, this is an image of an orange Earth Pony stallion with a blue mullet,” Aquilla pointed out.

His magic flipped to the correct page almost instantly, and he pretended that mistake had never been made. “-it embarassing, but she pretended it was part of the show, and it ended up making things far more impressive, even though some self-proclaimed important ponies almost got hurt. The fireworks shouldn't have been there in the first place, but she'd suggested adding fireworks to their aerial show to make it more interesting, and Spitfire said no, but some new recruit ordered them anyway to try and get in her good books. Rather than blaming the newbie responsible, they blamed Dawn for accidentally giving the newbie the idea, because the newbie was born with natural talent Dawn had to work for. They wanted to kick her out over all this, I helped her stay in by rigging it so the newspapers thought the fireworks were put in that particular spot on purpose and enchanted to target those ponies, so she could be kicked out for daring to question the 'eeeeeevil training-obsessed slave driver'. Why they obsess over that aspect of Spitfail's feigned persona, rather than her genuine complete lack of ability or dignity she or the Wonderbolts as a whole so often display, I'll never bother to find out. Everypony stopped caring about it after a few weeks, but that was probably a factor in her getting quietly phased out and eventually made to quit, rather than fired on the spot. Thinks Buckball is better than Stormball. Her favourite place to get some juice is staffed solely by my Silver Replicas, not that she knows. One day and four hours of realtime ago, we talked for three minutes in a teledate about some random stuff, I got intel on Royal Guard operations and sold it to Gold Standard for five thousand, five hundred and seven bits. It was going to be two thousand, but I haggled, because I was bored and he has too much money.“

“Wait, teledate?” Aquilla wondered.

“It's the cool new way of saying 'She goes somewhere private I can teleport to while on her break, I show up for a short amount of time, and I leave when the conversation is over',”

“Sounds efficient. And you don't remember what you talked about, or what her favourite colour i-”

“Purple,” Silver interrupted. ”She thinks it looks good on her orange-red body and snow-white mane. I agree,”

“Great, now what's her favourite band?”

Silver frowned. “I don't think I've asked her that, but-” He turned, seemingly at random, to another page. “Featherbreak, nicknamed Fatso, short for FAster Than SOund, can fly up to Mach 2, but incapable of Rainbooms or anything more impressive than actually managing to stay in the air despite his size and how bad he is at turning. He likes garbage, and pretending whatever bad dubstep he likes is a new genre, usually one with few to no other songs in said genre so it can't be compared to anything better. I set him up with a smithy in the Crystal Empire, he got the place when I they branched out because I told them to, he pays good for the applicable enchantments I sell him, but he has no interest in magic beyond 'Does it work? If so, good.',”

“Great, they're both profitable for you,” She said flatly, and rolled her eyes. ”Now tell me, do you like either of these ponies?”

“I suppose so?” Silver shrugged, not expecting that.

“See, that's the thing. If you really liked them, if they were really your friends, you'd answer yes, and wonder why I asked something so stupid,” She pointed out, her wings ruffling. ”The names in that book aren't friends, they're business partners!”

“Remember last time I tried 'Meaningful' relationships?” He asked, raising an eyebrow. ”Didn't exactly work out,”

She facetaloned. “Are you still punishing yourself over that?”

“I never did, self-flagellation is for dumb ponies. I accept that what I did was the perfect summation of everything wrong with who I am as a pony,”

“That was one dumb mistake, it doesn't prove anything about you, no matter what Cypress thinks,”

Silver frowned. “If you could avoid saying any of their names, that would be great,”

“You need to get over all this, until you're so over this that I can say all their names in a row and you'll feel nothing,”

“I always feel nothing,” Silver said dramatically, looking off into the distance with a somber expression. “My soul is an ever-expanding void I can sate only with that which I hunger for. Though the emptiness within me is that which drives me on, seeking out greater challenges and new tastes and other forms of fulfilment, the emptiness erodes my will to continue on with each breath, like an animal gnawing at its bars. Yet without that hunger, I am no more than a satisfied Elder Dragon, sitting on his hoard and doing nothing with it. What does it mean to desire? What does it mean to have? Does life exist to eat, or does life exist to want to eat? Are you truly alive when searching for your next meal, or when consuming it?”

“You know what?" Aquilla asked, exasperated. "You can write these thoughts down in a book, AFTER you make some friends! Real friends, not just a bunch of ponies that HAVE to put up with you because they owe you money or favours,”

“Actually, some of them are nonponies, like those foxes or that giraffe or that nest of-” Silver began to point out, his horn lighting up and summoning a black notebook in a cube-shaped flash of light. Without even looking at it, the book opened up and letters began to inscribe themselves on the paper, despite his current lack of a quill.

“You're missing the point, stop acting like an underage filly at a Pseudogothic poetry jam!” Aquilla demanded furiously, wings flaring out like she was about to attack, and then her voice, eyes, and heart softened. “You're better than that. Come on, find a small town with some ponies that won't care what you have, and make some friends. You always wanted to go to this town? Great. You want to try everything in life? Try befriending the ponies you wouldn't find in a town like this,”

“That's a good idea,” Silver noted. “I'll likely meet a varied range of personalities, and time spent away from this town might be good for me, perhaps it's overexposure that's dulling my senses.”

His horn lit up, and he started to reenergize the teleportation seal he'd burned into the floor.

“The purpose of a vacation is completely lost on you, isn't it?” She asked flatly.

“It's only for emergencies,” He assured her.

“And for when you teleport back every morning to check on stock prices,” Aquilla muttered.

“I'll hardly need to do that if I bring my enchanted newspaper, which still needs a better name. You know, the one that scans paper. That's in the Silver Zone right now, right?” Silver asked.

“Yes.” She confirmed.

He summoned a map of Ponyville. “All of these towns look good, except for the Canterlot Knockoffs and Superior Canterlots, but I hear this town right here was built on top of the door to Tartarus, and that's pretty brutal. Besides, I know ponies there... I mean, the pony I used to be knew them. One of them ...Huh. Should I reveal myself to them? Applejack never seemed like the type to blab... Nah, it'll only complicate matters. I'm Silver Star, here for a vacation. Perhaps I'll set up a shop for enchanted items? Then again, hearing that pony- I'll consider talking to Applejack in private and magically swearing her to secrecy, that'll help if I need it.”

“Sounds great! Can we FINALLY go?” Aquilla asked, stretching her rear legs out.

Silver glanced at his hooves. “Sure, just let me calibrate my shoes for synching speed, and-” He said, and there was a loud explosion of air as he seemed to vanish, leaving behind an almost-solid orange blur that shot right through his building's wall without harming it.

"Ruddy showoff." Aquilla remarked and swung her right taloned claw as though attacking an invisible punchbag, ripping a hole in reality into a dimension of alternating large gold and small purple sine waves. The scent of grapes wafted from it. She flew into it, the dimensional hole closing up behind her.

[br]

Rainbow Dash's rear legs struck the final puffy white cloud floating above Ponyville, and she zoomed back down to the grassy grove where Pinkie Pie was waiting for her with a stopwatch in her hoof, hitting the top so fast her hooves were momentarily a blur. “How fast was that?” Rainbow asked hopefully.

Pinkie Pie excitedly looked at her stopwatch, and then a wide grin spread across her face. "Six seconds!” She chirped merrily. “That's less than ten seconds!”

“Alright!” Rainbow cheered, punching a hoof into the air. "Personal best! World record, here I come!"

And then her cheer suddenly went away as she noticed something up in the air, something flying towards Ponyville very quickly. "Uh... Pinkie?"

"Yes, Dashie?" Pinkie said cheerfully, hoping Dash had stopped smiling because she’d just remembered there was something fun and awesome she’d forgotten to do with her, but there was still time left for them to do it before her break was over, and hoping she didn't see something big and scary approaching Ponyville that'd force her to return to Sugarcube Corner late.

"What's that behind you?" Rainbow Dash asked, pointing straight ahead with her hoof. Pinkie Pie looked behind her, peering overdramatically, and she saw a solid orange contrail rapidly heading for their town.

"It looks liiike... a grey Unicorn flying this way!" Pinkie said cheerfully. "I've never seen him around here before." She said happily, and then she gasped so overdramatically her mouth expanded more than it should have been able to. “Maybe he wants to be our friend!" And then she gasped harder. “Maybe he wants a party! Go say hi to him, Dashie!"

Meanwhile, in the sky, despite moving at a ludicrous speed that slowed down to mach 2 after leaving Canterlot airspace, Silver Star's ears twitched as he sensed somepony calling him grey. Years of dealing with that had given him a near-supernatural and utterly-useless sense for that one particular thing. He wasn't grey, he was silver, dagnabbit! Also, looking at Ponyville, he noticed a completely out-of-place crystal castle monstrosity around all the nice, normal, thematically-fitting cottage houses. He’d have to be blind to not miss it, considering how the thing was a giant eyesore. Then again, he lived in a giant silver and steel tower he’d built himself in a town filled with buildings made from marble, ivory, and stone, so what right did he have to tell strange ponies to get better taste in interior and exterior decorating? ...This right, really, since his Steel Spire was awesome and thematically fitting while not fitting, while this big crystal temple just looked weird in an old-looking town like this. Like someone had found a nice diorama of a city from a hundred moons ago, and slapped down a big pink gem where their megagem turbodream megaprincess hyperbeauty infinicastle would stand. He was reminded of what's-her-name, from Duel Academy. The absurdly powerful defective Unicorn mutant. The "Twonicorn". He was almost glad his original contract was never used on her. Then, he felt a pang of regret over who it was used on.

Silver re-absorbed his momentum as he landed outside the town of Ponyville, preventing his hooves from automatically perfectly diverting his kinetic energy into the impact, making a colossal crater - And worse, a bad impression on the ponies of this town, like the Pegasus he could sense flying toward him – in the process.

He turned to look at the approaching Pegasus, noting her impressive speed. Which made sense, now that he looked at her beautifully lithe and toned aerodynamic body and the pure magnificence of her strong-looking wings. With wing muscles like those, she could probably crush multiple apples with her feathers alone. Her prismatic mane was odd, but cute, a rare mutation, and despite how 'rainbow' was a collection of colours and not a colour in its own right, it seemed to suit this mare perfectly. "Hey, how'd you do that?" The blue Pegasus he recognized as Rainbow Dash, one of the heroes that had saved this world from Nightmare Moon, asked him, getting right to the point. He liked her.

"I'm the fastest Unicorn in the world.” Silver boasted with a proud smile, something she seemed surprised by. “I’m here to visit somepony. My name... is Silver Star." Silver told the Pegasus in a calm, slightly-proud, and seemingly well-practiced manner.

Rainbow Dash had the weirdest sense of deja vu. There was something eerily familiar about the tone, inflection, emotion, and everything else about the way that Unicorn said his name. It sounded like Twilight's weird no-accent-at-all correct-pronunciation-but-not-overbearingly-fancy accent. "Are you from Canterlot?" Rainbow Dash asked.

“Eeeyes.” Silver admitted. “Are you from here?”

"No, I’m from Cloudsdale, but I moved here a while ago.” She admitted. She then puffed out her chest and pointed her hoof at her chest in a cool-looking way, turning her side to him, and she puffed up her wings. "You are talking to the one, the only, the awesome... Rainbow Dash!"

His eyes widened in surprise. "Hey, I've heard about you!" He said, realizing who she was. The information was already there in his mind, he just wasn't really paying attention. "You saved Equestria a bunch of times, right?"

"Yeah, but my friends helped." Rainbow humble-bragged.

"Cool. So, what can you tell me about The Light of Harmony, or as some call it, Rainbow Power?" Silver asked.

"Uh... not much. We got six rainbow keys, and a big tree, and we got awesome new rainbow forms-" Rainbow said.

"What in rainbow colouration?" Silver joked, to her confusion. "Nevermind, just a bad joke," He said, deciding to write that one down later.

"Yeah, we got the keys when we did stuff, and... You should ask Twilight, she'd explain this magic stuff way better."

"I will, next time I see her. What is she like?"

"A total egghead, a good friend, and the smartest pony I know."

"Cool. Anyhoof..." Silver said, wondering if it was worth taking additional steps to avoid the risk of blowing his cover. "First, I should find a landmark, besides the giant castle, which wasn't on my map. Where is Sweet Apple Acres?"

"Over there." Rainbow Dash said, pointing a hoof. "It's the big orchard with a ton of apple trees, you can't miss it."

“Thank you.” Silver said, and looked around slowly, as if imagining his place on a map. “So if the farm's that way, that means... Who do I talk to if I want to build my own house in this town?”

“Mayor Mare, in Town Hall. That way,” Rainbow said, pointing him in the right direction.

“Thanks.” Silver said, tapping his orange-glowing right forehoof onto the ground and launching himself in that direction like a kicked beach ball, the sound of a cannon firing escaping his enchantments, soating through the air and landing thirty feet away and beginning to walk normally.

Rainbow Dash suddenly landed right next to him, taking him completely by surprise. She'd pounced and glided without flapping, so he wouldn't be able to hear him coming, flaring her wings out at the last moment to put some strain on her wings and a lot less on her hooves, though those weren't really happy with her choice of landings, either. And since he wasn't really paying attention, he hadn't noticed the sound of displaced air approaching, either. Hmm... This Pegasus was certainly smarter than she appeared. Or, he was just an idiot for not paying enough attention and not realising that he'd just ended a conversation without actually ending it or making the other party end it, and so it was likely that she would follow him. Or both, probably mostly the former. "By the waaaay..."

"Yes?" Silver asked curiously.

"Aren't you that pony that tried to enter himself and a bunch of magic copies of himself as the Canterlot Team at the Equestria Games?" Rainbow Dash asked, starting to recognize him.

"Yes, and I'm certain that if I'd been allowed to enter with my team, I would have taken home enough medals to break records, and break Canterlot's losing streak at everything non-magical, while I'm at it."

"Oh, really? Even the aerial relay?"

"I bet I could throw the baton faster a lot faster than most Pegasus could fly with it." Silver shrugged.

"But that'd be cheating." She pointed out.

"It shouldn't be considered cheating. It's an alternate baton transportation strat." He decided.

"But there's already an event for stuff-throwers."

"Point." Silver admitted.

"So, what brings you to Ponyville?” She asked, flying up and hovering in the air beside him.

“That’s classified.” He said, thinking it'd sound cooler.

“Classified? Do you work for Princess Celestia?” She asked, pulling a lazy barrel roll in the air above him, going from one side of him to the other, displaying her absolute mastery of the air. Did she want to race him?

“From a certain point of view.” He said with an auditory shrug. He did not shrug physically, he did not need to, the fact that he was shrugging on the inside could be heard in his voice. Internally, he realized that MISTAKES WERE MADE. HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO SAY TO THIS PONY, and he wanted to leave before this got awkward.

Deciding that this line of inquiry wouldn’t get her anywhere, she moved on, the possibility that he may be one of those Canterlot High-Society posers looking to get favours from Twilight popping up in her head. “So, what are you doing after you get a home here?”

“I'm on vacation, so I'm going to read some books and have fun. Read any good books lately?” Silver wondered.

"I read Daring Do." Rainbow pointed out, wondering what his reaction would be.

That surprised him. "I love Daring Do." Silver admitted, smiling.

"Me too!" Rainbow Dash said happily, glad she’d found a fellow Daring Do fan.

"You know, a lot of pretentious ponies like to claim those books are 'just' generic action stories, but no, they're straightforward action stories, they're THE action stories. Interesting traps, a smart protagonist – always a plus in my book – and the sense that the world is this big, beautiful place full of danger and excitement. While Caballeron does get samey after a while, he isn't unbearable like some villains I've read in other stories. Worst case scenario, he's just there when Ahuizotl would have been a more interesting foe. Read anything else?"

“Not really. But Twilight did send me some 'Y-A' stories a while back, and she did say I'd like them. I'll read them when I run out of Daring Do books.” She said, pronouncing it Why-Ay rather than Whyay or Yah. Rainbow Dash gained a cool point in Silver's eyes. "The next Daring Do book is coming out in a few months, and it's gonna be so! Awesome! And A.K. Yearling's promised to send me a signed copy! I can't wait!”

“Cool, I was just planning on camping outside the nearest bookstore for over sixteen hours.” Silver admitted.

“I've always wondered what that's like.” Rainbow admitted.

“Depending on the fandom, either boring until you realize it's a good chance to catch up on reading, or a genuinely fun time. For the superior fandoms like Daring Do, it's like a tiny convention outside every bookstore,” Silver said with a warm smile, memories of all those tents and ponies in line eagerly and genuinely excited coming back, and he could almost hear a loud and overdramatic voice announcing their new friendship with a deep, echoing yell of 'FRIENDSHIP'. He smiled, getting an idea. She was cool. She'd helped save Equestria multiple times. So if he showed off like a massive plonker, to make her realize how cool he was, she'd definitely think he was cool! “You know those enchanted comic books that suck readers into their world, only letting readers out if they finish the story or say the emergency exit password? I own the best publishers of the best Daring Do fanzines. And when I say best, I mean the ones that offer fanmade interactive puzzles and temples. Of course, in the interest of fairness, I submit my puzzles anonymously. I've had fanzines accept my temple and puzzle designs and feature them for winning their monthly design contests, and I've had fanzines reject my designs in horror and quietly feature them in a corner while thanking their lucky stars that I didn't design ancient temples, claiming they're far too hard for the average reader to beat.”

“I bet I could beat them.” Rainbow bragged with a cocky smirk. Oh, he really liked her.

He gave a cocky smirk right back. “I bet you could, but can you beat my best time?”

“Is that a challenge?” She asked, grinning.

“That just became a bet. Nine thousand bits says my scores can't be beat, and the loser has to treat the winner to the best meal in town.” He said, and internally wondered if that sounded too forward.

“What, nine thousand?” Rainbow asked in surprise. She wasn't exactly broke, but she still wasn't made of money.

“Scared, Rainbow Dash?” Silver asked tauntingly.

“You wish!” She declared. “You're on!”

“Really, if one thousand is too much, I can make it ten. What I'm really after is the meal.”

“Oh, really?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah. What's the best place to get something to eat in this town?” He wondered, deciding not to admit that he wasn't sure when the last time he ate was. Aquilla would remember boring details like that for him, it was her job.

“Sugarcube Corner. So, what's your pen name?"

He grinned. "Silver Fox."

She chuckled. "Yeah, right. As if you're actually-"

Silver's horn flashed with the blue light of a quick and temporary illusion spell. The silver of his body and the orange of his mane left his body as orange balls of colour and switched places, the yellow five-pointed star on his crown fading away as the silver paint-like substance dyed his mane and the orange paint-like substance dyed his body. His tail's end condensed, errant curls straightening until it properly resembled a fox tail. The golden stripes of his massive tail sunk down to the base, where it dyed the tip as a five-pointed star that also resembled the stereotypical white tip on an orange fox's tail. Two seconds later, his body returned to normal, though his tail remained in its foxlike state. Glancing back, he decided he liked the orange foxy tail with yellow more than his old orange one with yellow stripes.

Her jaw dropped. "...Silver Fox."

"That's right, I'm THE Silver Fox, creator of Silver Spiked Space, False Sense of Infinity, and Imperfect Suffervoid 9X!" The nerd announced with dark glee, as though the pony was a costumed supervillain announcing that HE was the one who dumped countless tonnes of pudding mix into the ocean and stole every puppy in the world. "He who made Rain Supreme herself, the best interactive comic tester in the business, spend two hours in one room, eight hours in the next room, and four days stuck in the next, only to find she'd wasted all that time on a dead end! He who made her break down in tears and use an emergency exit password for the first time in her life, and take a two-week vacation from all interactive comics before the next interactive puzzle on her list made her rediscover what she loved about puzzles and temples, an interactive puzzle I also created. He who made the still-unbeaten A Special Silver Variety of Velocity! He who slakes his thirst with the tears of the unworthy and feasts upon the shattered hopes and dreams of the poor tortured souls that once knew what it was like to hope!"

"This just got interesting... " Rainbow said with a daring gleam in her eye, and it faded quickly as she noticed something. "Hey, wait a second... Where's Pinkie Pie?"

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