This is certainly a welcome change of pace.
Finally you can live by your own rules and your own accord, with some occasional funding by the Canterlot Academy.
Of couse, you do have to report to them after anything noteworthy, and you can't just bum around all day, but still, no regulations!
It's the reason why you are here in the first place - the freedom of route, that is.
After heading north to Neighara Falls and the nearby towns, you took a train to Manehatten outskirts.
The whole trip lasted a few months, since you took your time to get the feel to your new job, but from the recieved response, the Academy was glad with your work. Routine cases, by the book. Some illnesses here, some wild and untamed magic trimmed there, and order was restored.
You have been on the road for a day now from Manehatten on hoof, heading south along the hills between there and Fillydelphia.
You see a small town coming up between the hill, unmarked on most maps.
It's not uncommon, they are either new or are so unworthy some cartographers upright never find them, or they might have their pegasi have a rain over them when the scouts fly over and they are never added. For the most part, you know that the villagers in a similar place in Neighara Falls didn't mind, even enjoyed this, so it's better to leave it be.
Still, you should probably visit and see if they need any help with anything.
Well, alright then!
With my trustworthy bag of gear, stroll up a main road. Would be cool if I found a whole unmarked tribe or something, but dangerous.
You could head into the jungles even deeper south to look for tribes, but you doubt it is going to be the case here.
As you approach you see the town, which is more of a congregation of farmhouses, spaced out evenly so all of them have a large yard for chickens and such, some of them even owning pigs for smelling out truffles, probably in the nearby forests.
Farmes as usual, eh? hope they have services for travelers. Any ponies?
You do see an older stallion outside, throwing seeds to feed the chickens which cluck and jump around him excitedly.
"Hello, sir. Where is this place?"
He looks up, fixing his straw hat.
"Good day, mister. You're in Hilltop, mister. Are you lost?"
"Not particularly. I'm Aether Yin, or Yin for short. I go around solving certain problems. Any strange diseases, wildlife, or something along those lines troubling you?"
I must have practiced my pitch many times now.
And usually it was a clear answer! Sick this, wolf that, so on!
The stallion, however, looks puzzled for a second, scratching his blonde beard.
"Well… I do not want to seem like a bad neighbour, but for the past few weeks, every now and then, I saw Pea Pod in the morning… doing strange things. I think his chickens were killed, but he refuses to talk about it, and there's no wolves around these parts. Why would they leave the corpse behind anyway?"
Smile. Sounds good.
"Corpse of the chicken, presumably? Interesting. Who is this Pea Pod? Maybe I can help."
He points at the farthest building.
"Lives over there, on his lonesome."
Ready myself to move off.
"Anything else I should know?"
"Not that I know of. Just don't disturb the animals and you'll be fine with the folks here."
"Right, then. Thanks!"
Now head off to this Pea Pod's place.
A dog behind the fence of another building barks at you as you pass, but you think that the town is barren because most ponies must be working the nearby fields you saw in the distance at this hour. In a remote place such as this, you can understand why they would build a town instead of living on their own though.
You get to the fence of the building. You see a chicken coop on the front with just a few lingering around, and a larger yard in the back with stalks of pea.
Open the gate and walk up to the door to knock?
They are live chickens, yes? Look at them carefully before strolling in to knock.
They are, yes!
They look completely normal. Mostly hens with one or two roosters, pecking at the ground.
You knock on the door, and soon enough a green stallion opens the door. He seems a bit tired, and you see large bags under his eyes.
"Yes, hello? Do I know you?"
"Hi! Aether Yin, expert in diseases, strange beasts and other things. I heard you were having trouble with chickens?" Be as reassuring as possible.
You see cold sweat break out across his forehead.
"What? Who said that? You're not even around from here… I am fine! Everything is okay! There is nothing wrong with my stock! Now if that was all, please leave!"
He got defensive rather quickly…
Something clearly not right.
"It's alright. I'm not from around here, so if it's something you need to keep discrete, I'd have little reason to tell anyone else, right? Please relax, I'm here to help."
Flawless logic I hope
He chuckles, which almost breaks into manic laughter.
"Help? Help! As if you can do anything to help! Nothing can help… nothing is wrong! Just leave me be!"
"Listen, I've handled lots of strange cases before. I've broken curses and sent the remains back to Canterlot for new countermeasures to be developed. I've trapped and dissected strange beasts. If anyone can help you out, it's me. Now, let's sit down. What's causing you trouble?"
"I said leave!"
He grabs you by the fur, yanking you closer, and you think he is about to hit you, when he just whispers with a strangled sob."Come back at night… the gate is ope… please…"
He then pushes you away onto his porch.
"Go! Get away!"
Anything to do until night falls? Maybe I can find a place to dump my bags and nap, or something.
You could ask around, ponies are usually hospitable for travellers who look trustworthy, maybe you can get a guest room somewhere?
I sure hope Mr Pea Pod's troubles don't involve the townsfolk.
Look around for an inn, bar, or just ask the first friendly-looking pon I see.
You do see a kind looking old mare sitting at a porch.
She says her family is out working, but you can use a guest room upstairs! She even invites you for some lunch she made!
That's very kind of her! Accept the lunch and ask a little bit about the town.
"Oh, it's been here for a few decades now, deary. I wasn't a young mare even when we settled here, but the farmlands around are fertile! The forests are far away enough that wildlife doesn't give us trouble, and we do not really have to deal with bandits either!"
Sounds like a nice place. It could grow more, this town. Maybe I'll just take a nap till nightfall. go over a few notes so I'm ready.
You go over your notes and have a little rest.
You wake up on your own once night falls.
The rest of this family is home but asleep.
Head to the house of Pod now?
Sure. Pack up my protective gear and other tools and head out.
And make sure I'm not being followed, just in case.
You glance back, but see the house is dark.
Most houses have the lights out, actually.
Which is why you find it strange that you see a dim, crimson light seeping out from one of the upstairs windows in the house of pod.
The chickens are all retreated to ther coop too.
Oh dear, might be dangerous magic. Going to head in carefully.
You head inside and find total darkness.
Might be a good time to use your horn for light.
You also hear some strage scratching sounds… as if they were all around.
Prepare to teleport out in case, then light a flash. Oh dear…
The ground floor seems empty. Just tables and shelves. You might have to go up and see what is going up with that light though.
I'll keep a reference point ready for teleport, out the front door. Might be wise to turn down my light to minimal level too.
You tune down your light down enough that you can just barely see.
You open the door to the bedroom carefully.
You hear sobbing coming from the bed… and on top of the pony shaped blanket, you see a small, hunched over form, whispering in a tongue that you do not understand… but just the way it sounds makes you uncomfortable.
A tartarian? Or whatever other words they have for demons.
I'm not equipped to fight it as I am now. Stay here and watch, try to listen for anything I recognise.
Seems like a category 3 imp indeed… but that would mean there are a lot of cateogry 4 imp underlings around, which would explain the scratching…
Sadly, you do not speak demonic tongue, so you get no valuable information, but the constant speaking and sobbing is not doing any favors for your mental health.
Quick, what else should I know? Can I safely repel it for now? If not, it would be best if I left and came back in the morning, right? If the imp notices me, could be big trouble for us both.
Like, Return to Earth? would that work. Quick, I need to think…
It might work on the weak underlings, but definitely not on this 'boss' imp, as your notes would say.
If they hide during the day though, that might mean they have a hideout for it and only come out at night, which might be your best bet.
Then I have to leave. I'll stay outside the house a little before going back to my room to rest and prepare. And making sure nothing follows me, of course.
You quickly clear away.
You are somewhat sure nothing followed, at least.
Going to sleep is a bit of a trouble after what you've just seen, but you can manage.
You wake to the roosting of crows in the morning.
Go over my notes on imps. How to root out their nest and weaken the boss enough to destroy, or better yet, capture. Then I'll pay Pea another visit.
You're not very well versed on them, but your notes seem to suggest that they can only be tethered to the realm of Equestria either by a summoner or some sort of demon-gate.
Capturing one is next to impossible unless you are well versed in demonic magic.
There is no response to your knocks.