*Far away from the land of Equestria, across the great ocean; Eternity's Crossing, was the island nation of Neighpon. A verdant, sub-tropical land of high mountains, dense forests and bustling cities and towns. Very similar to the country of Japan on earth, but Neighpon was a land filled with magic. Nestled in a large valley between two mountains was the kingdom of Yoketo, capitol of the island nation. Found in every home, bought and sold in every marketplace. To most of the creatures who live here, magic is simply another tool. A mundane part of their everyday lives. This must be established, or nothing that follows will seem wondrous. High on a hill, overlooking the vast city, sat the great porcelain palace of the Emperor Shigeru, supreme ruler of all Neighpon*
*In this palace, Shigeru sat on his throne of gold, basking in the luxury his station assured him and reading a large green book in his hands. He was a tall, slightly skinny man with a broad face, small brown eyes, long black hair braided into a four foot long ponytail and tied into a ceremonial topknot atop his head. He was dressed in elaborate silken robes of black and gold*
*Surrounding him, were three members of the royal court. One was dressed in dark gray robes with a black sash around his waist, had scruffy silver hair and whose face was painted in white kabuki makeup with black markings on his eyebrows and red markings under his eyes. This was the royal music master*
*The second man was dressed in indigo blue robes and a straw traveling hat on his head hiding most of his face. To his back was strapped a pair of katana swords. This was the head of the garden ninja, the palace guard*
*And the third man was dressed in blue robes with a black sash tied around his waist, along with a black cap on his head and a long skinny mustache on his top lip. This was Urameshi Hirotaka, Shigeru's Prime Minister and chief advisor*
*At the foot of his throne, winding about the legs of the emperor, was a young white serpentine dragon, Shigeru's most prized possession and dearest friend. But sadly, the dragon, who was named Hayao, had fallen ill and barely had any strength left in him. Some of his scales were falling off and his eyes were glazed*
*Just then, the royal doctor entered the throne room, approached the emperor and bowed before him. He was a elder male pony with white fur, black mane, tail and moustache, along with the kanji symbol for doctor as his cutie mark. He was dressed in a dark violet kimono with a red sash tied around his waist, along with a black cap on his head*
Royal Doctor: Your majesty
Emperor Shigeru: *looks up from his book at the doctor* Well? What is it, doctor? What is wrong with my Hayao?
Royal Doctor: I am truly sorry, sire, I've tried everything in my power to cure your dragon. Special tea, acupuncture, sacred herbs, but all ended in failure. I'm afraid he suffers from Bloodbain, to which, there IS no cure. I estimate that he will die within a week, if not sooner.
Emperor Shigeru: Oh no
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Oh, how dreadful
Music Master: Would you like me to write a dirge for his funeral, sire?
Emperor Shigeru: No! I refuse to lose my one true friend this easily.
Garden Ninja: But what do you plan to do about it, sire?
Emperor Shigeru: *closes his book* I understand there is a highly remarkable bird here called the Nightingale. They say she is the loveliest thing in my whole empire, with a magical voice that can cure the sick and heal the wounded. It seems the whole world knows that I possess this marvel, yet I myself know nothing about her. So, I wish for her to come to the palace and sing for my Hayao.
Music Master: *raises an eyebrow* A bird with a voice that can cure the sick and heal the wounded? Unheard of!
Prime Minister Hirotaka: I concur. It must be some fantastic story invented by the people who write books. Your imperial majesty shouldn't pay attention to everything that is written down. It's pure imagination, what we call "black magic".
Emperor Shigeru: *holds up his book* But I read this in a book sent to me by the high and mighty emperor of the Ib'xian
Therefore, it MUST be true! I insist on hearing the Nightingale!
Garden Ninja: My lord, any Nightingale is naturally swift and cunning; nearly impossible to catch. How are we to bring such a creature here?
Emperor Shigeru: Hmm
*snaps his fingers* I've got it!
Prime Minister Hirotaka: What is it, Excellency?
Emperor Shigeru: I remember in one of the many letters sent to me by Princess Celestia, she talked about a young pony in her kingdom who is able to communicate with the animals. I believe she said her name was
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Your divine highness, the sun goddess' kingdom is halfway across the world. Even if we could contact this pony, how would we get about bringing her here before poor little Hayao's time runs out?
Emperor Shigeru: I don't care how she gets here, my dragon's life is at stake and I'll do anything to save him! Scribe!! *takes out a small gong and hits it with a stick*
*Just then, a tall, gangly young man holding a roll of parchment and a scroll came rushing into the throne room*
Emperor Shigeru: Take a letter!!
Scribe: *bows* As you wish, majesty. *dips his calligraphy brush into an ink well*
Emperor Shigeru: *clears his throat* Dear Pony Fluttershy,
It has come to my attention from your ruler, Princess Celestia, that you possess the ability to communicate with animals on a level no one else can. Therefore, I require need of your special skills. Come to the royal palace in the capitol city of Yoketo at once! There, you will await further instructions from me.
His most imperial majesty; Shigeru, Emperor of all Neighpon.
*Two days later, a chariot drawn by four of Celestia's Pegasus guards and carrying Fluttershy came in for a landing in the royal garden of the imperial palace. Fluttershy shakily stepped off the chariot and bowed her head to the Pegasus guards*
Fluttershy: Thank you for the ride, sirs.
Pegasus Guard: Anytime.
Fluttershy: *look in awe at the royal palace* Oh my
*Soon, the Pegasus guards flew away with the chariot as Fluttershy made her way up the stone path to the castle door. She looked around, marveling at the magnificent gardens*
Fluttershy: It's all so pretty.
*Just then, the palace doors opened and out stepped Prime Minister Hirotaka, who greeted the young pony with a smile and a bow*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Ah! Young pony Fluttershy, I presume?
Yes. I received a letter asking me to come.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: I am Urameshi Hirotaka, prime minister to his imperial majesty, Emperor Shigeru. He is expecting you.
*Hirotaka lead Fluttershy down a long hallway. On each side of the corridor, stood a dozen heavily armed samurai warriors. On the walls were silk tapestries and priceless vases that sat on pedestals*
Fluttershy: Oh my
I've seen less elaborate museums.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: I must ask you to please refrain from touching anything. All you see here is well over a thousand years old and is very delicate and fragile.
Fluttershy: *eyes stuck on one samurai's halberd* I can relate.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Hurry now, we are almost at the throne room.
Fluttershy: Coming. *increases to a trot and follows after Hirotaka*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Now, once we enter, there are three important rules you must follow when in the presence of the emperor. First, you must bow before him and speak only when spoken to. Second, you may address him only as your highness, your majesty or your imperial majesty. Third and most important, no one, not even at the dinner table, may sit higher than the emperor.
Fluttershy: *nods* Of course.
*Fluttershy and the prime minister soon arrived at a pair of massive cedar doors. A pair of samurai guards bowed to Hirotaka and pulled open the doors with surprising ease. Once inside, Fluttershy quickly noticed, sitting at the throne, Emperor Shigeru himself, dressed in his black and golden robes and being fanned by a pair of white pony mares dressed as geishas*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *approaches the emperor and bows* Your highness, I present to you, Fluttershy of Equestria. *looks to Fluttershy* Guest Fluttershy, may I present his most imperial majesty, Emperor Shigeru, ruler of all Neighpon.
Fluttershy: Oh! *bows down* Your majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: Fluttershy, embodiment of the Element of Kindness, welcome to Neighpon! I hope your trip here was a pleasant one.
Fluttershy: As well as can be expected, I suppose. If I may ask, your imperial majesty, why did you call me here?
Emperor Shigeru: Ah yes, of course! Let us get down to business. *looks to the geisha ponies and claps his hands* That will be all, you may go now.
*The two geisha mares lowered their heads and backed away down two opposite hallways*
Emperor Shigeru: I understand you have the ability to speak to animals and have them understand your intent.
Fluttershy: Well, yes. It's my special talent. But
I don't understand why that would interest you, your majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: I have asked you here on a very urgent matter. Hayao, my oldest and dearest friend has fallen victim to Bloodbain, a rare and deadly disease to which, there is no cure. The royal doctor has informed me that he has only a week to live.
Fluttershy: Oh, that's terrible. But, if your doctors can't help, I don't see what I can do.
Emperor Shigeru: Oh, but there IS something you can do. I have heard there is a very special bird called the Nightingale that resides in my kingdom. It is said that she has a most beautiful singing voice, one which can cure the sick and heal the wounded, But unfortunately, no one has been able to find this bird. That is why I have asked you to come.
Fluttershy: You want me to find this bird and bring it to you so it can heal your friend?
Emperor Shigeru: That is correct, Fluttershy. If you are to present her at court this very evening, I will see to it that you are well rewarded.
Fluttershy: Oh, I don't ask for anything in return. If I can help someone in trouble, it's enough for me. I'll gladly help.
Emperor Shigeru: *smiles* Splendid!
where does the Nightingale live?
Emperor Shigeru: In the forest outside the city. My Prime Minister, Music Master, and head of my Garden Ninjas shall accompany you.
Fluttershy: If you think that's best, your imperial majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: *nods* I do.
Fluttershy: I'm ready to go at any time, if your men are.
Emperor Shigeru: Then go. But Fluttershy
Emperor Shigeru: Know this
If you fail to present the nightingale
I will have you and the others' stomachs pounded!
Fluttershy: *gulps nervously* R-R-Right away, your majesty
*Later that evening, Fluttershy, along with the prime minister, music master, and head of the garden ninjas were traveling through the dense forests outside the imperial city. Just then, a low bellowing moo could be heard coming from deep within the forest, startling everyone in the group*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Ah! There she is! What a powerful voice for such a little creature. But I seem to have heard her before!
Fluttershy: *giggles* That was only a cow, prime minister.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *blushes out of embarrassment* Oh yes, of course.
Music Master: If that's true, then where IS this cow?
Garden Ninja: I'm going to guess somewhere in the field of that farm we just passed.
Music Master: Humph!
Garden Ninja: *bends to whisper in Fluttershy's ear* Say the word and we can ditch them in the forest at any time.
Fluttershy: Oh no, they're alright.
*As the four continued their trek through the forest, they passed through the marshes, where another sound could be heard. This time, it was a quick but quiet croaking sound*
Music Master: I hear her! Lovely! She sounds just like the brass temple gong!
Garden Ninja: *face palms* That's a toad.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Even I knew that.
Music Master: Well, I still think it's lovely.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Could we please hurry up and find this bird already? My good shoes are getting soggy from this marsh!
Garden Ninja: *halts and puts a hand to his ear* Shh! I hear something
Music Master: What, what is it?
*Just then, a new sound could be heard coming from deep within the forest. It was a most beautiful sound, almost as if someone were playing a bamboo flute high up in the tree tops. Quickly, the four set off in the direction of the sound. They finally came across a gorgeous cherry tree in full bloom. All around the tree, animals are gathered; boar, sika deer, foxes, tanuki, and even an Asiatic black bear. Up in the branches was a small brown bird. The beautiful sound was coming from this plain little bird. It was the Nightingale*
Music Master: THAT'S the Nightingale? Certainly not much to look at, is she? I've seen more impressive roosters.
Garden Ninja: It doesn't matter what she LOOKS like, it's her SONG that's important.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *a tear slides down his cheek* It is like the tingling of crystal bells
And look at her little throat, how it throbs. It seems odd that we've never heard her before. She'll have great success at court! *nudges Fluttershy* Well, go on! Do your thing!
Fluttershy: Oh, alright. *walks out into the clearing* Umm
*Just then, all the animals turned and looked at Fluttershy, including the Nightingale, who cocked her head to one side*
Fluttershy: Oh, I'm so sorry to interrupt the concert, Miss Nightingale, but the emperor would very much like to speak with you. His friend is very sick and your song is the only thing that can cure him. Won't you please help?
*The Nightingale bowed her head and began to sing another song. The gathered animals all got up and walked back into the forest and the Nightingale flew down from her branch to land on Fluttershy's back. She then chirped into Fluttershy's ear, as if she were communicating with the little pony*
Garden Ninja: *steps out into the clearing* What did she say?
Fluttershy: She says if her song can save someone's life, she'll happily come with us.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *walks out into the clearing* Excellent! We shall escort her back to the palace immediately!
Fluttershy: Oh, yes. Let's hurry back while we still have time.
*A while later, Fluttershy and the others arrived back at the palace and entered the throne room, which was now packed with every member of the royal court, including the emperor himself, along with Hayao, who lay at his feet*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Your most excellent majesty, it is my great honor to present to you, the Nightingale. *steps aside to let Fluttershy and the Nightingale pass*
Emperor Shigeru: *raises an eyebrow* This little bird is the Nightingale I've read so much about? It looks so plain!
Fluttershy: Your majesty, it isn't what she looks like that's important. Her song will prove it to you beyond a shadow of a doubt. *sees Hayao and immediately begins to panic* AAAHHH!!! *hides behind the Garden Ninja*
Emperor Shigeru: Fluttershy, what ever is the matter?
Fluttershy: I-I-I'm sorry. It's just
you never told me Hayao was a dragon! I-I'm afraid of dragons!
Emperor Shigeru: Well, there is no need to fear this one. He won't hurt you, he's quite tame.
Garden Ninja: He is right, Fluttershy. Unlike the dragons you have in Equestria, Neighponese dragons wouldn't hurt a fly. They are symbols of peace and harmony and only live to protect and serve those who need them. Which is why we need the Nightingale to cure Hayao before it's too late.
Fluttershy: *comes out of hiding from behind the ninja* If you say so. *looks up at where the Nightingale is perched on her head* Okay, little friend. Do your stuff.
*The Nightingale fluttered over to Hayao's prone form and landed on one of his horns. She then looked him over, considered him some, then opened her beak in song. Everyone in the royal court gasped and awed at the sound of the little bird's beautiful singing. The emperor himself shed tears of joy and smiled as he listened, almost entranced by the wondrous song coming from such a small, plain looking bird. When the song was over, Hayao's eyes opened and he lifted his head. The illness seemed to lift away from him all at once. His scales returned to their luminous sheen. His mane returned to its full thickness. His magnificent yellow eyes regained their spark of life. He yawned and looked up at the emperor*
Emperor Shigeru: *looks down at Hayao, still shedding tears of joy* Hayao
you are well again!
*With that announcement, every member of the court went into thunderous applause. This delighted both the emperor, Fluttershy, and the prime minister*
Emperor Shigeru: *looks at the nightingale* Little Nightingale
*takes off one of his golden slippers and presents it to the little bird* I would be honored if you were to wear my golden slipper around your neck.
Nightingale: *flies up to Fluttershy and chirps in her ear*
Fluttershy: She says, "Thank you, but no
I have seen tears in the emperor's eyes. What could be more precious to me? An emperor's tears have a mysterious power. I am amply rewarded."
Garden Ninja: *smiles* You are an uncommonly wise little bird, my feathered friend.
Nightingale: *bobs her head*
Emperor Shigeru: Very well, little bird. But how CAN I reward you then?
Nightingale: *chirps into Fluttershy's ear*
Fluttershy: Perhaps you can give something to everyone else.
Emperor Shigeru: *stroking Hayaou's head* Hmm
*looks to the Prime Minister* Prime Minister, you may open the royal treasury and give everyone in my kingdom a ruby in honor of this remarkable bird that has just made the emperor so happy.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Your Imperial Majesty, we may not have that many rubies.
Emperor Shigeru: Emeralds then.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *eyes widen; gulps* Y-Y-Yes, sire
Garden Ninja: I think it's a splendid idea, majesty. It will surely make the common folk happy.
Emperor Shigeru: *nods* I am glad you agree, ninja. As for the Nightingale, she shall have a home here, in my palace. A golden cage with a jade perch shall be constructed especially for her.
Hayao: *crawls forward and rears up to look at the Nightingale that saved his life* Ssssss
*extends his long, forked tongue and licks her like a happy puppy*
Nightingale: *tweeting happily*
Emperor Shigeru: Fluttershy.
Fluttershy: Yes, your majesty?
Emperor Shigeru: You are to stay in the palace as well. I hereby bestow upon you the title of Chief Imperial Nightingale Interpreter.
Fluttershy: *blushes* Oh my. Thank you, your majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: It is the least I can do for saving my friend's life.
*wraps his long neck around Fluttershy and nuzzles her affectionately*
Fluttershy: *smiles* My, you're a friendly one.
*Later that night, Shigeru was in his chambers, dressed in satin robes and sitting up in his enormous bed. He then took a rope that hung near his bedside table and pulled it, causing a loud gong to ring. The large golden doors to the chamber opened and Fluttershy, now dressed in a kimono of rich green and gold, stepped in and approached the emperor's bed*
You wanted to see me, your majesty?
Emperor Shigeru: Ah, Fluttershy! I see you have already taken to our customs. How do you like the kimono?
Fluttershy: Well, it's certainly very colorful. Your Prime Minister insisted I wear this.
Emperor Shigeru: I see. It looks lovely on you.
Fluttershy: Oh, uh
*mumbling* Thank you.
Emperor Shigeru: In Neighpon, when we say thank you, we say 'Domo Arrigato'.
Fluttershy: Oh, I'm sorry. *bows* Domo Arrigato.
Emperor Shigeru: *laughs* Very good! Anyway, I wanted to thank you again for saving Hayao's life. I've had him ever since I found him in the forests when his mother had died. We grew up together, he and I.
Fluttershy: I have a friend who grew up with a baby dragon, too. Maybe she'd like to bring Spike so he and Hayao could have a play date. *giggles*
Emperor Shigeru: Hmm
Maybe. Before you go, there is another reason why I summoned you to my chambers.
Emperor Shigeru: *sighs* I cannot sleep! I'm too excited about the Nightingale to sleep. I've tried everything from counting sheep, to reading a magazine, to drinking warm milk, but I'm still wide awake!
How about I sing you a lullaby?
Emperor Shigeru: *raises an eyebrow* A lullaby? But I know all the lullabies in my kingdom. *pause* Then again
I have never heard an Equestrian Lullaby
Fluttershy: Okay. Now, you just lay back and close your eyes.
Emperor Shigeru: All right. *lays down in his bed* Proceed.
Fluttershy: *singing* Hush now, quiet now
It's time to lay your sleepy head
Hush now, quiet now
It's time to go to bed
Drifting off to sleep
The exciting day behind you
Drifting off to sleep
Let the joy of dream land find you
Hush now, quiet now
It's time to lay your sleepy head
Hush now, quiet now
It's time to go to bed
*Soon enough, Emperor Shigeru had fallen asleep in his bed and began to snore softly*
Fluttershy: *smiles and quietly tippy-hooves out of the room* Goodnight, your majesty.
*Five days had passed as the Nightingale had become the most respected creature in the empire. When two people met on the street, one of them had only to say 'Nightin' and the other to say 'Gale'. Then they would sigh in perfect understanding. Some of the court ladies filled their mouths with tea and made gurgling sounds in their throats whenever anyone spoke to them, imagining they were Nightingales, too. Eleven shopkeepers children were named after the Nightingale, even though none of them could sing a note and were tone deaf to the bargain. Once again, it seemed Fluttershy couldn't set her hoof out of the door without being mobbed by a horde of people, this time asking her to pass messages to the bird*
Peasant Pony: Fluttershy, could you please ask the Nightingale if it will sing for when my son is born?
Merchant: Please, most honored pony, ask the Nightingale to sing over my shop to bring my business good fortune.
Little Boy: I want the Nightingale to sing for my birthday party!
Fluttershy: Not this again! *gallops away and takes cover in a back alley, catching her breath* I knew leaving home was a bad idea.
Fluttershy: Gale. *eyes snap open* Oh, Celestia's Mane! Now even I'M doing it.
???: Not easy being the center of attention, is it?
Fluttershy: *eyes widen* Garden Ninja?
*The shinobi stepped out of the shadows of the alley, seemingly stepping out of nowhere*
Garden Ninja: Please, my name is Kenshin.
Fluttershy: Oh, I'm so glad it's you. I've been hounded by people wanting favors all day.
Kenshin: So I've seen.
Fluttershy: Maybe I should write to Princess Celestia and ask for help getting passage home. I never intended to STAY here. I just came to help a sick animal.
Kenshin: You know, you're not a subject here. You have no obligation to the emperor to stay. If you wish to leave, not even his majesty can stop you. However, the emperor doesn't have your ability to speak to animals.
Fluttershy: I know. That's why I stay. I can't help but worry about what might happen to the Nightingale if I left. Sometimes, I think she only stays because I do. She's a wild bird, after all.
Kenshin: But a bird with a very special gift.
Fluttershy: I know, but she misses the forest. She misses her friends. She tells me so almost every day. She likes the palace gardens and enjoys spending time with the emperor
*giggles* She says he reminds her of a hatchling.
Kenshin: Oh, does he?
Fluttershy: Yes. Always cheeping "Gimme, gimme, gimme!". She finds it endearing.
Kenshin: *sighs* Yes
The emperor can be selfish at times
but he is a kind and wise ruler
who might not have much longer to live.
Kenshin: *shakes his head* Nothing. Shall I escort you back to the palace?
Fluttershy: Well, alright.
*As Fluttershy and Kenshin walked back up the street, they saw the people backing away*
Kenshin: They hound you because they love and respect you.
they're backing away from us now because
Kenshin: Because they FEAR and respect me.
*Later, back at the palace, Fluttershy was in the garden, speaking with the Nightingale, who was working on building a nest in one of the cherry trees*
Fluttershy: I know you want to go home, but the emperor is so fond of you, and I don't think it would do to upset him. I'm sure he'll see that you belong in the forest and not a garden soon enough.
*Just then, Prime Minister Hirotaka approached Fluttershy and the Nightingale*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Mistress Fluttershy, you and the nightingale must come to the throne room at once!
*Later, Fluttershy arrived with the Nightingale at the throne room to see two servants carrying a large parcel up to the emperor. On it, was the word "Nightingale" written in kanji writing*
Kenshin: Majesty, this odd package was discovered by my men at the front gate moments ago.
Emperor Shigeru: It looks like a present. Does it say who it is from?
Kenshin: *takes out a card that came with the parcel and reads it* It's from Chano Hu of the Ibex Empire.
Emperor Shigeru: The Scorpion Emperor? Hmm
Well, open the box. Let's see what he's sent.
*As commanded, the lid was gently lifted off the parcel to reveal a small mechanical nightingale inside. It was made from the purist gold and encrusted with rubies and sapphires on its body and diamonds on its tail. Sticking out of its side was a small wind-up key made of silver. Everyone in the throne room stared in awe at the small, mechanical bird*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: A most extraordinary device, majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: But
what does it do?
Music Master: Only one way to find out. *reaches for the key and begins to turn it*
*When the Music Master had finished winding the key, the mechanical bird's eyes opened, stood up straight and sand one of the real nightingale's songs while its tail moved up and down*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Oh my
*Soon enough, the mechanical bird's song had stopped and went back into its unwound position*
Emperor Shigeru: That was
Kenshin: There's more, sire. *holds up the card and reads again* It says, "The emperor of Ibex'ian's nightingale is poor compared with that to the emperor of Neighpon."
Fluttershy: *to herself* I should say so. No machine can hope to compare to a real bird's song.
Music Master: Musically speaking, this new bird keeps perfect time, not like
Emperor Shigeru: *holds up his hand and looks to the two servants who brought in the parcel* From now on, you two shall be known as the Chief Imperial Nightingale Bringers.
Servants: *bow* Thank you, your majesty.
Music Master: Now, both birds might sing at once. A duet as it were.
Emperor Shigeru: *nods* Excellent idea.
*The Nightingale fluffed up her feathers and fluttered down to the floor, glaring at the mechanical bird with clear contempt*
Music Master: *pulls out a baton and stands before both the real and mechanical Nightingales* Ready?
Fluttershy: She's ready.
Kenshin: *winds the key again* Just about. *stops* Alright, ready!
Music Master: A-one, and a-two, and a-three!
*The Nightingale begins to sing one of her most beautiful songs. The toy bird merely repeats itself. Both songs together made nothing more than a cacophony of loud, irritating noises. Hayao hissed and slithered under the emperor's throne*
Kenshin: *covers his ears* I agree with the dragon
*The Nightingale immediately stopped singing. The toy, however, continued singing until it finally wound down*
Emperor Shigeru: *raises an eyebrow* What was that?
Music Master: The new bird is in no way to blame. It keeps perfect time, like clockwork. While that one
*points to the real Nightingale* sings whatever she pleases.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: And the new one's so much prettier to look at!
Emperor Shigeru: Yes
Gold, diamonds, sapphires, rubies
It IS a most beautiful sight to behold. But, we must be fair. Let us hear our old bird once again.
I'm afraid she's gone.
Emperor Shigeru: What?!
Fluttershy: *points out the window* She just flew out the window.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *runs to the window* She's right, look! *points out at the nightingale, flying away*
Hayao: *whines pathetically, staring out after his friend*
*All the courtiers began to murmur amongst themselves, angry at the Nightingale for leaving*
Courtier 1: And without even a thank you. What manners!
Courtier 2: Ungrateful creature!
Prime Minister Hirotaka: *walks back to the emperor* Well
we still have the better Nightingale, your imperial majesty.
Courtier 3: My thoughts exactly! That bird was so ordinary!
Music Master: If I may say so, sire, with the real nightingale, there was no telling what song she might sing, but with the artificial bird, the one song shall be heard and no other.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Frankly, your imperial majesty, I never trusted that other bird when she said your tears were reward enough. She was just trying to flatter you
but I saw through it.
Kenshin: Sandal-licking toads. *continues to grumble under his breath*
*Hayao glared at the mechanical bird and hissed like an angry cobra before returning to his place in the emperor's lap*
Emperor Shigeru: *breathes deep and stands up* I declare that from this time forth, the Nightingale shall be banished from my empire
Kenshin: Sire, I believe I will return to my rounds. *to a servant* I do not trust that bird. And I trust the one who sent it even less. Be on your guard.
Servant: *whispering* As you command, jonin.
Emperor Shigeru: Fluttershy, I no longer require your services. You are free to return to your home in Equestria.
Fluttershy: *bows* Thank you, your majesty
but I think I'll stay a while longer.
Kenshin: *raises an eyebrow* Hmm?
Emperor Shigeru: *nods* As you wish.
*Hayao trilled happily and glided over to Fluttershy, nuzzling her lovingly*
Emperor Shigeru: Play the song once more.
Music Master: As you command, your imperial majesty. *begins to wind the mechanical bird*
Fluttershy: I know. I don't like it either. And they say animals are the ones with no sense.
Kenshin: *approaches Fluttershy* I don't understand. You finally had an opportunity to go home and you turned it down. Why?
Fluttershy: I thought about what you said about the emperor. I think
what he needs is a friend.
*Once again, the mechanical Nightingale played its song as all the courtiers, the Prime Minister and Music Man listened with smiles on their faces*
Fluttershy: Those two mean well, I suppose, but their constant coddling is what made him end up so spoiled. He needs someone to be honest with him.
Kenshin: I think you are right, my equine friend.
Fluttershy: The problem is
how do you get close to the emperor without other people whispering in his ear?
*For another week, the emperor constantly wound up the mechanical bird just to hear it sing. Most often, he would stroke Hayao's head and simply watch the bird, rather than listening, as though deep in thought. One night, he sat up in his bed, listening as the mechanical bird sang its song for the two hundredth time, stroking Hayao's mane as the dragon rested his head in his lap*
Emperor Shigeru: I don't understand, Hayao. I should be happy, but I'm not. It IS a beautiful bird
something about it just doesn't make me happy anymore.
Hayao: *coos and looks up at his master with his large golden eyes*
Emperor Shigeru: *smiles* You know, Hayao, sometimes I think you're the only one who's willing to actually listen to me.
*Suddenly, something went CRACK inside the bird. There was a great whirring of wheels and the song stopped. The emperor turned to see the mechanical Nightingale's head had popped off and all sorts of wheels and broken cogs were sticking out from the hole in its neck*
Emperor Shigeru: NANI?!? What happened?!
Emperor Shigeru: The doctor! I must summon the royal doctor! *pulls the rope that hung from the ceiling next to his bed, ringing the gong*
*Just then, the Royal Doctor pony, dressed in his bed robes, was soon at the entryway to the emperor's bedchambers*
Royal Doctor: You summoned me, O Excellency?
Emperor Shigeru: Yes, there is something wrong with my bird. *point sat the mechanical Nightingale*
Royal Doctor: Uh
I'm not sure how to say this
but there's nothing I can do. I'm a doctor for living things, not machines.
Emperor Shigeru: Well, then summon the Royal Watchmaker! Now!
Doctor: As you wish. *gallops out*
*A while later, the Royal Watchmaker was in the emperor's bedchambers, examining the broken gears and cogs of the mechanical nightingale with his tool kit*
Royal Watchmaker: Hmmm
A textbook case of worn-out parts. I don't understand it. The workmanship is good enough to have lasted for years. It would need to have been running almost all day and all night to wear out like this.
Emperor Shigeru: Well
I have been playing it for over a week now
Royal Watchmaker: Well, there you have it, my emperor. Constant use has worn its mechanisms down and they no longer work.
Emperor Shigeru: Can you fix it?
Royal Watchmaker: I can't fix worn-out parts, majesty. I COULD replace them normally, but
I've never seen mechanisms like this. You said you have no idea who actually MADE the bird?
Emperor Shigeru: No, only the person who sent it. Chano Hu.
Royal Watchmaker: The Scorpion Emperor? Odd. I've never known him to commission anything out of the goodness of his heart. Unless he could tell you what jeweler made this bird and how to get in touch with him, I'm afraid there's nothing to be done. I suppose it could make a handsome statue
or you could just smelt it and feed the gems to Hayao.
Emperor Shigeru: *sighs* Leave it. *coughs* I'll just keep it at my bedside.
Royal Watchmaker: As you wish. *sets the bird down on Shigeru's nightstand and exit's the room*
*Hayao glided back up onto the bed and coiled up at his friend's side, resting his head against Shigeru's chest*
Emperor Shigeru: *coughs* It will be alright, Hayao. I promise.
*Hayao stared at his owner for a time, but soon yawned and fell asleep*
*The next afternoon, Fluttershy was out walking in the royal gardens when she spotted Emperor Shigeru sitting on a stone bench in front of a large koi pond*
Fluttershy: Oh! Um
Good afternoon, your majesty.
Emperor Shigeru: Ohio, Fluttershy-san
Fluttershy: Oh my. You're very pale. Are you feeling well?
Emperor Shigeru: I
don't know. I should be happy
but I am not. Instead, I feel
Fluttershy: I think there's a saying from this part of the world that goes something like, "the path to inner knowing begins with a friendly ear." My ears are open, your majesty, if you want to use them.
Emperor Shigeru: *pause* Last night, my mechanical Nightingale
broke from overuse
and my royal watchmaker cannot fix it.
Fluttershy: I'm sorry. I know how much you loved it.
Emperor Shigeru: Did I? Yes, it was pleasant to listen to
but it never made me as happy as when
Fluttershy: As when the REAL Nightingale sang for you?
Emperor Shigeru: *nods* Mhmm
Fluttershy: My, that's a nasty cough. Are you sure you wouldn't rather be in bed?
Emperor Shigeru: *coughs* That is a
good idea. Please
*tries to get up* Help me
*coughs* get to
*coughs more and then collapses to the ground*
Fluttershy: *eyes widen* Oh no! Help! SOMEPONY!!! ANYPONY!!! HELP!!!
*Moments later, the Music Master came running into the throne room, ringing a small gong he held in his hand, alerting all the courtiers who had gathered in the room*
Music Master: The emperor has been stricken! *rings the gong* The imperial doctors are with him now. We are to wait here. The Prime Minister shall rule on matters of state. *sheds tears*
Kenshin: *speaking with other garden ninja* And you're SURE no one got into the compound without us seeing them?
Garden Ninja 1: We are positive, sensei.
Ninja Pony: We never left our posts. If an assassin were to get in here to poison the emperor, he'd have to be
Kunoichi: And our sect was hired because we are the best. We can assure you, chu'nin, no living thing has crossed our perimeter without us seeing it.
*Just then, Fluttershy came running into the throne room and threw herself at Kenshin, crying into his robes*
Kenshin: Fluttershy-chan, what is it?
he's very sick!! We-we were talking out in the garden when all of a sudden, he started coughing and then
fell onto the ground! It was awful! *continues weeping*
Kenshin: *strokes Fluttershy's mane* I know. The royal doctors are with him right now. My men and I have already ruled out poisoning, so whatever it was, it's a normal illness.
*Just then, the Prime Minister came out into the throne room to address the courtiers and anyone else who happened to be there*
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Ladies, gentlemen, and ponies of the royal court
Our beloved emperor, Shigeru
ruler of all Neighpon
is gravely ill. The doctors say
it is Bloodbain. They expect him to live for a short while.
*All the courtiers began to murmur amongst themselves, some of them weeping for their poor monarch, others pondering of what would happen to the empire without their beloved ruler*
Music Master: I have composed a brilliant funeral dirge.
Prime Minister Hirotaka: It is our sad duty in these next hours to select a successor to our beloved emperor.
Music Master: A beautiful funeral dirge and a glorious inaugural anthem.
Fluttershy: M-May I see him
Prime Minister Hirotaka: Uh
of course. But please be very quiet. He is sleeping.
*A while later, Fluttershy and Kenshin slowly and quietly entered the emperor's bed chambers to find the emperor lying asleep in his bed, with two incense burners at the sides. The smoke filled the room with a sweet, calming fragrance. He was very pale, breathing heavily and sweating horribly*
Fluttershy: I didn't think it was possible, but Bloodbain looks even worse in an infected human.
Kenshin: *puts his hand to Shigeru's forehead* He has a very high fever
I don't think he'll live for much longer. *takes his hand away*
Fluttershy: If only the Nightingale were still here. But she was so offended by that machine. I doubt she'd come back, even if we explained.
Kenshin: *looks at Fluttershy* I'm surprised to hear such a thing from you, Fluttershy. You think a bird as magnificent as the Nightingale would be so heartless as to let someone as important as our emperor die?
Fluttershy: I'm afraid once a bird is offended, they become very hard to talk with. When I look after sick wild birds at home, I have to be very careful with my words. Birds are very sensitive.
Kenshin: *grabs Fluttershy's shoulders* Sensitive or not, that bird is the kingdom's only hope. I'm begging you, Fluttershy, bring back the Nightingale, save my emperor
please. *a tear wells up and slides down his left cheek*
Hayao: *glides over to Fluttershy and begins to chatter in Draconic*
Fluttershy: Well, yes. I suppose that COULD work.
Kenshin: What did he say?
Fluttershy: Hayao says he'll come to the Nightingale's nest with us and beg for her forgiveness himself. If a dragon humbles itself, other creatures listen.
Kenshin: *nods* Very well, you two go and find the Nightingale. I'll stay here and keep watch over Shigeru.
Fluttershy: Alright, Hayao, let's go! Your friend's life depends on it.
Hayao: *roars and flies out the window*
Fluttershy: Wait for me! You don't know the way! *flies out after Hayao*
*Later that night, deep within in his bed chambers, Shigeru lay asleep in his bed, tossing and turning uncomfortably. He could hardly breathe. He felt something heavy weighing on his chest. He opened his eyes and gasped in horror. Standing at his bedside was a massive creature. It was equine in shape, but appeared to be no more than a skeleton with black skin stretched over it. A pair of leathery, bat-like wings were folded against its sides and it glared down at Shigeru with two burning red eyes*
???: Do you know me, mortal?
Emperor Shigeru: *eyes widen in fear* Y-Y-You are
the god of death
Thestral: Indeed. Then you must also know why I have come
Emperor Shigeru: *shakes his head* No
No! I am not ready! It is not my time!
Thestral: It's not my problem whether you're ready or not. You're very sick with a disease that is almost always fatal. So, you see, it IS your time.
Emperor Shigeru: *tightly shuts his eyes* Music! Music! Strike up the great gong and drown out his voice!
Thestral: There's no use in trying to ignore me, emperor
*Just then, a piece of parchment appeared in midair, and on it were written various names. Illuminated in bright red was Shigeru's name*
Thestral: I've been sent to harvest your soul, and that is just what I am going to do.
Emperor Shigeru: Music! Music! *looks to the golden Nightingale at his bedside* Precious, little golden bird, sing to me! Sing! I implore you, SING! I've showered you with gold and precious jewels. I've even hung my golden slipper around your neck with my own hands! Sing to me now! SING!
Thestral: *looms over Shigeru, spreading his wings wide* There is no escape from me, human. All mortals must face me eventually.
*Meanwhile, deep in the forest Fluttershy and Hayao had managed to find their way back to the Nightingale's nest. Once again, she was singing while various animals gathered around the roots of her tree to listen. A mother Kyuubi wrapped her tails around her kits while they slept. A family of Tanuki sat still and listened. The father tanuki turned to see Fluttershy and Hayao approaching. The animals began to make threat displays. A pair of large boars blocked the path*
Fluttershy: Oh my. Now, there's no need for that. We're only here to talk.
Nightingale: *looks down from her nest* Hmm?
Fluttershy: Nightingale, please, Emperor Shigeru is sick with Bloodbain. He needs your help.
Hayao: *looks down in sadness* Hrrrmmm
*The Nightingale chirped and tweeted grandly, gesturing with a wing at the other animals of the forest and then stared out to where the very tip of one of the palace's many pagodas could be seen before jumping from her nest and sitting on a branch in her tree*
Fluttershy: Yes. I admit Emperor Shigeru's court seems to value what others think of you over what you think of yourself. A lot of what humans do makes no sense to me. But still, your music is a gift. You should use it for anyone who needs it. That includes the ones who've been mean to you.
Nightingale: *bobs her head and chirrups*
*extends his neck into the branches and cuddles the Nightingale*
Fluttershy: Oh, thank you so much. Now we must hurry!
*Back at the palace, Shigeru was forced to watch as the equine reaper drew closer, unable to move in his weakened state*
Thestral: If it makes you feel any better, your majesty, I don't get any pleasure from striking down one as young as yourself. *rears up, revealing that his forehooves were covered in greaves that surround his hooves with metal projections, like a set of talons* This is simply business to me. *aims his talons at Shigeru's heart*
Emperor Shigeru: No! No!! AAAHHH!!!
*Suddenly, through the window, came the sound of an exquisite song. Thestral and Shigeru turned to see that it was the Nightingale, perched on a branch outside the window. She sang, and the blood began to flow more swiftly through the emperor's feeble body. Thestral himself listened, closing his eyes and swaying his head to the beautiful melody*
Shigeru: *quietly* You came back
*Just then, both Fluttershy and Hayao flew into the room. Though at first frightened at the sight of a demonic figure like Thestral, she soon found the courage to stand up to him*
Thestral: Sing, little Nightingale
Nightingale: *chirps and tweets at Thestral*
Thestral: *nods* Very well. I shall forego this harvest. *looks to Shigeru* But be forewarned, Emperor. When next we meet, you will not be so fortunate. *spreads his wings and disappears into a black mist that fades away*
Fluttershy: Your majesty? Are you alright?
Emperor Shigeru: I
I feel fine! In fact, I feel
Fluttershy: Oh, how wonderful.
Nightingale: *lands on Shigeru's hand and chirps happily*
Emperor Shigeru: *looks to the Nightingale* You must never leave me! You may only sing when you feel like singing, and I will smash the artificial bird into a thousand pieces!!
Nightingale: *looks back at the forest sadly, and warbles*
Emperor Shigeru: *raises an eyebrow* W-What is the matter? You look so
Fluttershy: Your majesty, the Nightingale likes you and is happy that she could help you again, but
she can't stay here forever. She is a wild bird, and her friends in the forest need her. She says she will come to see you from time to time, but she must be allowed to come and go as she pleases.
Emperor Shigeru: *smiles* So be it. You are welcome to visit my palace anytime you like, but I only ask that you sing for me every night before I go to sleep.
Nightingale: *tweets happily*
Fluttershy: She agrees.
Emperor Shigeru: Then it is settled. *strokes the Nightingale's head*
Hayao: *licks Fluttershy's cheek* Truuummmm
Fluttershy: *chuckles* I know, Hayao! I'm happy, too.
Emperor Shigeru: As for the mechanical Nightingale, I don't think I will destroy it. *picks the mechanical bird up from off his night table* Instead, I wish for you to have it, Fluttershy-san.
Emperor Shigeru: A gift given by the emperor of Neighpon is considered a great honor. Take it as a token of my gratitude and so that you can remember my beautiful kingdom when you go home.
Fluttershy: Oh, thank you, your majesty. Thank you so much. I will treasure it forever.
Nightingale: *chirps happily, then flies onto Fluttershy's neck and cuddles her*
Fluttershy: *smiles* Aww. I'll miss you, too, little friend.
*The next evening, at Canterlot castle, Princess Celestia was relaxing after setting the sun in her private chambers. As she slipped off her greaves and tiara and laid down on a sofa to enjoy a cup of tea, a wisp of sweet-smelling smoke came drifting in through the window and coalesces into a scroll bearing the imperial seal of Neighpon*
Princess Celestia: Well, well. What have we here? *telekinetically undoes the seal and unrolls the scroll, revealing a message written in kanji* Oh, dear me. I really need to brush up on Nihongo one of these days. *concentrates as the message changes to English* There. Much better. Now, let's see
*Dear Princess Celestia,
We thank you for the loan of your subject, Fluttershy. She has been most helpful to us. Not only did she save the life of our people's Guardian, but through her actions, our own life was spared. Through this experience, I have learned a truly great lesson. Where none of my wealth or power have ever truly made me happy, a young river dragon and a plain forest bird have filled a void in my soul I never knew existed. For teaching us this, we thank you.
Kindest personal regards,
Shigeru, Emperor of Neighpon*
*Princess Celestia smiled and lowered the scroll. She then magically called over a thick book from a shelf on the wall and opened it to an illustration of a nightingale sitting on the shoulder of a Chinese Emperor*
Princess Celestia: *chuckles* Hans, you old clairvoyant, you.