This is the business center of Ponyville! Seldom quiet but usually peaceful, this minor mercantile hub combines aspects of the bustling and the bucolic. A multitude of colors and patterns make it visually busy. Carts brimming with baskets, charming stands and ornate tents with pennants are used to sell wares here. The most common products on sale are vegetables and fruits, such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, apples, and even pineapples. Sweet treats like tarts and cupcakes can also be found, as can non-edible items like books or cookware. The marketplace is more than just a place of business, however. It's a common area for the community! Anypony who wanders through Ponyville is likely to pass through here, which makes it a good place to look for friends new and old. It's not unheard of to see painters at work or sportsponies at play here, as the market is a great place for communal activity. Even gentle animals like rabbits and ducks are known to find its lively atmosphere welcoming. Don't you?
The Princess of the Night is not considerate of the schedules of her servants. There is no warning. A flash of blue, and Virga is dropped onto the road in the middle of Ponyville Market. Luna stands a few ponylengths away, tall and proud and severe, with hooves a little past shoulder width apart and her glittery mane and tail whipping behind her. "Heart of Ice. We cannot mourn forever. The champion of the Night must be the greatest of pegasus warriors, and though both our hearts bleed for our last student, the time has come for thee to face the same training."
As it so happened the Heart of Ice was in the middle of tea with absolutely no pony. Being shifted from one place to another by a summon was not so bad a thing; the tea was boring. The same, good and well settling but also boring tea. The white pegasus sat there as if this was expected, normal, every day but it wasn't. His mane subtler lifted in a faint breeze and he stood to face his Princess. His ears forward , he gazed at her with a subtle fire. "Speaking freely, Princess," he said, "be as hard as you can be."
Luna's cold demeanor cracks, enough for a smile to pull up an inch on one side of her face. Her voice remains impassive and lecturing, but the smile softens the stare of those bluegreen eyes. The rest of her is very, very still. Statue-like still. Except for her mane and tail, of course. "We have full faith in thy physical power, although if that faith wavers, we shall see thy strength and speed tested and tested again until thou satisfy. It is technique that concerns us, the skills of pegasus combat that appear forgotten now, and may never have been known in the far North of thy birth. First, accept this command - in training, never shall thou use thy powers unless ordered. In our service, they shall be always the last resort. With wing and hoof, it is our intent to make thee superior to any challenge mere ponies could level at thee."
Virga's golden eyes were hooked on Luna's in a way few ponies ever saw. He knew what to expect from an alicorn, but not 'this' alicorn. "This purpose is acknowledge, and this command is accepted," he answered. "The end of line is absolute." He bowed like he had the night she summoned him for the Viewing, and that was all he had to say. Talking only went so far.
Luna chuckles, the smile spreading a bit more. The lines of her regal eyebrows soften, but her eyes still watch Virga intently. "So speaks a warrior and a champion. That is one step. We shall begin with a bit of theory, a test if thou will. Our last student found it both harsh and informative." One wing unfolds, flicking forward, up, and then sweeping to point back behind in one slow arc. "If a pegasus in the air swoops down to attack a pony on the ground, which has the advantage?"
"That may vary per condition and terrain. One would think the pegasus, but the pony on the ground is steady, may have surrounding elements the pegasus does not see for the pegasus is blind to everything but the target. And if the pegasus does not strike, either he or she must land thus making themselves vulnerable or take flight, also making themselves vulnerable to ambush from the ground if not fast enough." If that wasn't the answer she was looking for...it would be a new theory.
Luna nods, very solemnly. The other wing unfurls, both extending out to Luna's side, flexing once, and then curling back - but not completely. Instead of still, she is now poised, and the small smile regains a hard edge. "Then having tested thy knowledge, let us test thy skill. As seems to be the word these days, 'divebomb' us." Her head jerks, just a little flip of invitation.
Virga's wings slowly spread their full span and flexed upwards. Divebomb, she said. Without a word and one downstroke, he launched from the market square and broke through the clouds. It was such a nice day, cloud cover was moderate, but there were few places that would give away his position. Thin clouds in the sun were asking to be a target for they cast a silhouette, and open air was equally a mistake. The pegasus disappeared, letting his absence sink in for only a short moment before he shot through in a speedy descent at a near vertical angle from the side, her left side...wings shut. He made himself a smaller target, maximized his airspeed--risky, risky!
At night, a high speed drop to rely on stealth is a good idea, and might have worked if Virga weren't the kind of bright white that glows in even a little moonlight. Or maybe Luna cheated and magically detected him. She doesn't move at all, or betray any sign of knowing he's coming until he's close enough that action passes in an eyeblink. During that time her left wing flips up, curled like a scoop to intercept Virga, guide him aside and away from her body, and curl over and push him down towards the ground - all in one fast wave.
Even if Luna cheated, it wouldn't matter. He expected her to sense things or use her magics to make the training hard. In that blink of an eye when she moved and thus moved him, his instincts lead to the most unlikely recovery. THUMP! His hooves hit the ground with his wings still closed, momentum aided his turn to face her and he pushed. That energy, it worked wonders as he sailed backwards and anchored his hooves to an apple cart. The wheels spun, the earth churned and apples reigned a new terror, pelting ponies, splattering against walls. His wings opened in a thunderous flap, bringing him to a stop. Splat, splat, thumb, creak, splat. It was almost an art.
Thunder rumbles, and Luna's smile splits into a gleeful grin. Her joy lends a distinct phosphorescence to her bluegreen eyes, but as manic as her expression looks, she turns to face Virga sedately. Her voice sharp, she calls over, "*Excellent*. Sharp reflexes, a good sense for recovery, and a focus on stability and defense. I can teach thee well." Her wings spread and lift, angled up dramatically like an eagle as she barks, "BEHOLD. These are the reason pegasi are the world's preeminent warriors hoof to hoof. An earth pony may be stronger, but she has but her four legs. Thou may turn aside every one, and still have two wings to strike with, their reach longer and their muscles stronger and more exercised than thy legs. Thy wings are shields, blades, and indeed hooves to stand on in extremis. In our lessons, we shall focus most upon the 'shield' aspect. If the Night's Champion cannot be touched, then sooner or later he will win any battle against any foe."
Splat, crash, roll, thump, clonk. Those apples? They continued a short lived runabout as Virga kept his wings outstretched there, on top of that cart. True, wings were formidable. They could strike, protect, but most pegasi he encountered did not use them in that way. As well seasoned as he was, the defense Luna enacted was not something he encountered before and that made his face light up like a young, eager student, an echo of the stormy one. "I am prepared to learn, Master," he said. For him that was a more suiting title than Princess. He was now the apprentice, not the master he was with his own trainees.
Luna laughs at Virga's response, her face raised in a loud and long, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!" When her muzzle lowers again, though, there are large and gleaming tears at the edge of her eyes. "So she reacted, almost word for word, Heart of Ice. She was rather more beaten up at the time, for defense never came naturally." Closing her eyes, Luna takes a very deep breath, and lets it out slowly. "Thou see the difficulty in training thee. Too many fresh memories. Yet we must move on, and thou seem a prime student for the pegasus fighting arts. Having mastered crude brawling, thou art hungry for finesse." One of her wings reaches forward, the pinions at the end giving a beckoning flip. "Come."
How did it feel to be compared? Good, though he felt the same hardness. Others would expect him to live up to her. He too breathed and dropped from the cart. To the pony who owned he expressed compensation for the cart and apples were to be applied within one week. This 'was' a market place after all. "She would smile at this," he answered, tightening his wings as he neared Luna. "I hunger for everything since that was the appetizer."
Luna chuckles again, and nods past Virga at the cart. "Speaking of, that is some poor pony's livelihood. Thou shall return to pay for it, as thou shall pay for all damage done in our service. Thou have free access to our accounts. Do not be stingy, or to thyself. We do not demand asceticism from thee. In the astonishing event we find thou have betrayed our trust for thy own greed, we shall dismiss or decapitate thee personally, but we would sooner expect the moon to betray us than thyself." One wing flutters, waving the tip from side to side in a dismissive motion, while the sleek royal nose pinches up in disgust at such a ridiculous idea.
The pegasus eyed the cart. "This is true," he said. "Though I have received pay from the Crown since my commission, I've rarely taken from it. The damage to this cart, the payment for the apples, and a further percent of additional proceeds will be taken from my own account. I'd have done the same for the vassals that once served under my lands." He turned face to Luna, eyeing that nose pinch. "I've truthfully no use for bits. Everything I have is right here, inside myself, on the thrones, and standing before me."
Luna's face resettles solemnly, and she echoes Virga's sentiment with a curt nod. "We feel similarly. Our sister wishes us close, or we would sleep in the wind and rain in the old palace. We do much for our loved ones." A faint flicker of a smile crosses her mouth again, and then she raises her head, looming over Virga and giving him the cold instructor expression and voice. "But back to our purpose for bringing thee here. We have impressed the basic technique upon thee. Do not block - turn aside. It works as well against groundbound as airborn foes. It is thy turn to evade our blow. Make ready." She gives Virga almost one second before she attacks, spinning around on her forehooves in a smooth, snake-quick pirhouette and kicking her back hooves at him!
Ah, yes, that mentor's face, the one that hid any sort of pleasure at success! He knew it well. Luna's words and actions didn't give Virga time to acknowledge Scarlet's smile as his mind snapped back into a combative mode. The pegasus had avoided many circumstances with his wings since entering Equestria, and the training was indeed something he needed otherwise the Slate, the thing that broke and shattered his wings long ago, would perpetually haunt him. One second, a blur of a spin, a kick--he turned aside, her hooves narrowly kidding his head, and a wing struck out, a fine pinion stopping just short of Luna's neck. instinct? Habit? Or did did that basic technique already become weaponized?
Luna has very, very quick reflexes, too. When Virga dodges and strikes instead of blocking, she's caught unawares. From him, she was expecting strict obedience. When things happen too fast to think, ancient habit takes over. A wing swings for Luna's neck, and since she already has her back to him and her legs out, her hooves kick up, lashing at the base of the approaching wing.
Virga withdrew his wing, but not before suffering a hit that tore plumage and stammered him back from Luna. With as quick as she rounded the circumstances on him, it was a miracle it didn't break or fracture. He breathed and shrugged off the pain. it wasn't the worst he'd been hit with, certainly not. "My apologies if my wing has displeased you," he said. "If not, then...whatever it may be to you."
Luna finishes her spin, hooves spread farther, head low and horn pointed, wings spread out ready at either side. Then as soon as she's slid to a stop, she pulls herself back up and barks another laugh. Stepping forward, she reaches out her wing gently to give Virga's mane an affectionate rub, like she might a foal. "Perhaps I should cry instead of laugh. So like our lost love thou art. Every training session would end like this as well, when she did more than I asked and got hurt for it. In this case, Heart of Ice, I believe 'twas a misunderstanding. I wished for thee merely to use thy wing to deflect my blow, not strike back. That thou did well, by the way - very well. This comes naturally to thee." The friendly pat over, she steps back again, eyes Virga's wing, and orders in a distinctly pleased and friendly tone, "Rest that wing, and when thou are supple again we shall go another lesson. It shall not take long, I think, to make of thee a weapon of precision as well as power."
Noise. Quite a lot of noise, and Holly can't help but be attracted to it. Following her ears she finds herself in the market, where she finds just what it is that's making all that racket. She sands there at the mouth of Seed street, her eyes wide, mouth agape. This is not something she was expecting to see. This is not something she was ever expecting to see.
Virga had partly expected a displeased Luna, and her laugh surprised him. His wing outstretchd when she rubbed, and lowered when she said to rest it. Was he such a mirror to Firefly? Would he be her shadow? More importantly, as they were husband and wife, had she influenced him in her ways? That wasn't such a bad thing if so, and no pony would ever know for sure, not even himself--he was supposed to be the reserved one of the two. "My only excuse is muscle memory," Virga answered. "Your kick was similar to one of Sombra's during our duel, and I performed the same maneuver on him. He defected with his unicorn shielding. He certainly didn't pat or praise that." The tone of humor was ripe in Virga. Quite, Sombra lost his temper after that. "I will rest this wing. It pleases me much that I can make you laugh."
Hefty_Nibble looks around curiously as he heads to the market to check on things there, he's got that little tasting tray that he had a while back and various plates of different omlets on it, as he wanted to test out and see what people thought, get a feel for which ones worked the best.
Luna raises one of her fine, princessly eyebrows. "A laugh of delight and approval, at that - not humor. It delights thy princess to have such a good student. It means that she will soon have the champion she demands - the greatest pegasus warrior alive." A slight toss of her mane, and she adds teasingly, "If thou remain dedicated, of course. Thou might consider finding a playmate to strike at thee so thou can practice the wing parry. It is only the most basic technique and thy partner is unlikely to challenge, but it is good to be familiar with the forms." Folding her wings again at her side, she turns and walks away from Virga. Her horn glows - and she stops, just long enough to look back over her shoulder at her champion. Sternly, she adds, "But be healed first. That is an order." Then she resumes walking, stepping into nothing, but a nothing that consumes her in starlight blue flame as if she'd passed through a door.
The greatest? That would be something, and humbling. Once he sought glory and had glory with the Crystalbolts before and during the rise of that infernal unicorn. Glory hadn't been his in over a thousand years, but was it glory so much in this capacity? No. Responsibility, that came with glory. His ears turned and turned again upon her words. He'd always sparred with Firefly, never any pony else. They rampaged through the palace in their own combats and never did he ask another. Who? Who could that be? He knew who to ask. Virga's attention remained on Luna until she disappeared. "I've now found a kingdom worthy of my soul," he said to himself. It was time for a drink at the local tavern.