"Gold Watch and Blue Chip are bullies?" asked Apple Bloom as she walked to class with the two colts who looked and acted just like her Crusader friends at home. "I don't get it. Everypony seems to like them."
Scooteroll tossed his head, his purple mane rippling. "Well, of course everypony likes them. You know what these popular colts are like. That's how they can get away with everything they do. Nopony wants to be the first colt to say anything bad about them, because then everypony else will make fun of him. Even Mister Smiles never gives them detention – instead, we're the ones who get into trouble for standing up to them."
Apple Bloom looked back at Sweepy Bell, who nodded in agreement. "Well, gee," mused Apple Bloom uncertainly. "That does sound pretty bad. I guess I'd better be careful around them, then. I should still try to be friends with them, though. I might be making a big mistake if I don't," she continued, thinking about how things had almost gone so very wrong with Zecora when they first met.
Scooteroll shrugged. "It's up to you, but don't say I didn't warn you. Those two colts are bad news for everypony."
Sweepy Bell nudged her way in between the earth pony filly and the pegasus colt. "I don't wanna talk about Gold Watch and Blue Chip anymore. Why don't you tell us about where you're from, Apple Bloom?"
"Where I'm from? Gosh, I suppose so," replied Apple Bloom, her mind racing. How much could she say without giving away where she was really from? Twilight's stallion version had been awfully insistent that she not let slip the existence of another Equestria. "Well... I live on an apple farm just outside Hoofington. It's a lot like Sweet Apple Acres, really. I live there with my big sister and big brother, and our grandmother. I, ah... I don't really remember my folks, they died when I was just a little foal."
Sweepy Bell leaned over and gave Apple Bloom a gentle nuzzle, while Scooteroll nodded sympathetically. "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Applebuck lost his parents when he was little too. Is your big brother as cool as Applejack? He's gotta be the coolest pony in Ponyville after Rainbow Blitz. Did you know Applejack's won ten blue ribbons in rodeo competitions?"
"Oh, uh... yeah, I might have heard something about that," Apple Bloom said airily, feeling like she was walking through a field full of rabbit holes. "My big sister wins a lot of rodeo events too. My brother doesn't do much except work on the farm. So Applejack is pretty popular around Ponyville, then?"
"Yeah!" agreed Sweepy Bell. "He stopped a cattle stampede once! And he gave the Crusaders our very own clubhouse. I used to be really jealous of Applebuck for having such an awesome big brother, until I realised how lucky I was to have a brother like Elusive. He's a fashion designer, and I'm going to be just like him one day!"
"And everypony's parents and big brothers and sisters know Applejack, of course. Applebuck should be the most popular colt in school, but Gold Watch ruins everything for him. I just want to buck him in his stupid face and step on his stupid watch!"
Apple Bloom was taken aback by Scooteroll's vehemence, and looked back at Sweepy Bell, expecting him to object. Instead, the unicorn colt had fallen silent again, staring at the floor. Sweepy Bell sure doesn't say much when Scooteroll is talking, she thought. I wonder if Sweetie Belle is like that when I'm not around?
Fortunately, the awkward silence was broken by the three ponies arriving at their schoolroom. A tall stallion with a bright smile and a dark rose-coloured coat was waiting at the door, and nodded in greeting to Apple Bloom, while the other fillies and colts found their desks. "You must be Apple Bloom!" the stallion greeted her. "Dusk Shine told me to expect you. I'm Sunny Smiles, and I'll be your teacher while you're in Ponyville."
A quick glance at Mister Smiles's cutie mark – three smiling flowers – confirmed that this was Miss Cheerilee's stallion counterpart, and Apple Bloom breathed a sigh of relief. Outside of her family, Cheerilee was the adult she trusted more than anypony else. This new world was looking more and more safe – between the Apple family, the Cutie Mark Crusaders and her teacher, nothing too bad was likely to happen to her before she could go home.
"Oh, Mister Smiles!" replied Apple Bloom, nodding in recognition. "Yeah, Applebuck talks about you a lot! He says you're the greatest teacher in Equestria!"
A few of the nearby students giggled, while Sunny Smiles gave an embarrassed grin. "Oh, my, I didn't realise my students talked about me so much. Well, if you have any difficulties here in Ponyville, just ask me for help. Now, I'll sit you with..."
The stallion looked over the schoolroom. Scooteroll and Gold Watch were both waving their front hooves frantically in Apple Bloom's direction, while pointedly ignoring each other. Sunny Smiles passed over both of them and pointed to a pair of unicorn fillies near the back of the room. "... Sugar and Spice. There should be pencils and paper in your desk."
Apple Bloom thanked Sunny Smiles and went to her assigned seat. She had barely put her front hooves on her desk when the short, teal-coloured unicorn filly next to her greeted her. "Hi! You're Apple Bloom! I didn't get to meet you before school because everypony else was talking to you, but everypony says you're awesome! I just think it's great that there's another filly at school. Most of the colts don't want to talk to us. I'm Sugar! This is Spice."
The tall yellow filly sitting on the other side of Sugar nodded slowly and gave a lazy grin. "Hi," she offered. Apple Bloom waited to see if she would elaborate, but nothing more was forthcoming. "Well, I'm Apple Bloom, and it's real nice to meet ya'll," Apple Bloom replied. "So what do you fillies do for fun around here if the colts don't want to hang out with you?"
"Oh, we've got plenty to do! Sometimes we pick flowers from the garden at the edge of the schoolyard. Spice loves flowers. She's such a great cook – it's her special talent, you know! And look how nicely they go in her hair!" Sure enough, Spice's long turquoise mane was delicately braided and decorated with flowers from all colours of the rainbow. The tall filly patted her hair with one hoof, tossing her head playfully. "And we've got plenty of colouring books for when it's raining. Oh, and on the first Saturday of every month, there's the Rainbow Blitz fan club over at Sweet Apple Acres! Have you met Rainbow Blitz yet? He's only the coolest, fastest, awesomest, handsomest stallion in Ponyville!"
"You mean in all of Equestria, right?" interjected Spice.
"Oh, no, no, no!" objected Sugar. "That honour belongs to nopony but the Great and Powerful Presto!" Sugar grinned at Apple Bloom and drew a small poster out of her saddlebags, unrolling it on her desk. The poster showed an azure unicorn stallion in a star-studded magician's cape and hat. The picture reminded her of the travelling show pony who came to Ponyville last autumn – this must be the stallion version of the so-called Great and Powerful Trixie. It was odd to see these two fillies so excited about him, though – the only ponies in her Ponyville who still talked about Trixie were...
Snips and Snails?
Apple Bloom drew her head back and regarded the two unicorn fillies, who were grinning happily at her and arguing with each other as to whether Rainbow Blitz or Presto was the more "dreamy" of the pair. Now that she thought about it, their physical resemblance to the two goofiest colts in school was obvious – Spice was a lot taller than Apple Bloom, and Sugar quite a bit shorter. Their cutie marks were different, Sugar sporting a stalk of sugar cane for her mark, while Spice had a stick of cinnamon. Sugar had Snips's excitable way of talking, whereas Spice was as slow in her speech as Snails was.
But Snips and Snails had always been too aggravating for her to spend much time around. They seemed to epitomize everything that defined colts – they were loud, brash, bad-mannered even by Applejack's standards, and simply not very bright. Scootaloo ran the Rainbow Dash fan club with Snips and Snails, but other than that, the Crusaders didn't have much to do with them.
Sugar and Spice, though – as Apple Bloom was to discover in the hours leading up to lunch – were, well, nice. Their hobbies seemed to be the sort of thing that Fluttershy always foisted onto the Crusaders when she had them for sleepovers, but she had to admit that Spice's mane really did look pretty. Their enthusiasm was simply infectious, too. Apple Bloom had to hold herself back from telling them all about her karate training with Rainbow Dash, and she ended up promising her new friends that she would try to talk Rainbow Blitz into hanging out with them soon, through their mutual association with Applejack and Dusk Shine. Sunny Smiles's classes soon demonstrated that neither Sugar nor Spice was particularly clever either, but Apple Bloom was able to help them along with their mathematics and writing, earning an approving comment from the cheerful stallion when he saw how well the three fillies were working together.
The lunch bell rang almost too soon for Apple Bloom. Usually she would rush outside with her fellow Crusaders, but today she felt spoiled for choice for friends to hang out with. Sugar and Spice? Scooteroll and Sweepy Bell? Gold Watch and Blue Chip? She had never felt so welcomed and popular outside of an Apple family reunion.
Of course, Scooteroll and Gold Watch hated each other, and the Crusaders probably didn't want the "girly unicorns" slowing them down, and she doubted the popular colts even knew that Sugar and Spice existed. But then, hadn't Apple Bloom been the one to help Zecora make friends with the ponies of Ponyville, when nopony else would talk to her? Maybe she could make a difference here.
Apple Bloom ran into Gold Watch first as she shuffled out of the classroom, Sugar and Spice hot at her hooves. "Hey, Gold Watch!" she greeted him brightly. "You want to hang out for lunch?"
Gold Watch smiled, but scuffed his front hooves against the floor. "I'd love to, but... we're having a school newspaper meeting at lunchtime today. I'm really hoping to make editor-in-chief next semester, so I need to put in the hours now. We'll see you after school, though, right?"
Apple Bloom nodded. "Of course! That sounds really cool, I think you'll be a great editor! How about you, Blue Chip?"
The grey colt smiled awkwardly. "History club with Half Pint. Sorry, Apple Bloom." He waved a hoof to Spice, giving her a grin. "We should hang out soon, though!" Spice simply nodded and grinned back, almost as if she hadn't heard him.
Apple Bloom weaved her way through the crowd of students until she came to Scooteroll and Sweepy Bell. "Hey, guys! You got any lunchtime crusades lined up?"
Scooteroll offered Apple Bloom a high hoof, which the filly met without even thinking, feeling more and more at home with her old friends. "Totally! Applebuck said he had something planned for today, but he didn't say what it was. Did he tell you?"
Apple Bloom did, in fact, have a crusade planned for today, from before her humiliation at Diamond Tiara's hooves and subsequent journey into a new world. If she trusted Applebuck to have made the same preparations as she had, the equipment they needed should all be ready. "He did! Say... do you guys mind if Sugar and Spice tag along? I mean, they've got their cutie marks and all, but it could still be fun, right?"
Sweepy Bell nodded eagerly, but Scooteroll looked uncertain. "Sugar and Spice?" he asked, lowering his voice. "I dunno, Apple Bloom... Crusades are meant to be awesome and daring. A couple of fillies will just get in the way."
Apple Bloom raised an eyebrow. "Ya'll know I'm a filly, right? Besides, I reckon we'll need them to keep watch, to make sure Mister Smiles doesn't catch us."
Scooteroll's face lit up. "Wow, sounds dangerous. I am so there! Alright, fine. Hey, you two!" he called to Sugar and Spice, who had been milling around aimlessly while the Crusaders talked. "You can come hang out with us on today's crusade, just don't get in the way, alright?"
Sugar squealed happily, cantering along beside the orange pegasus colt. "You're the boss, Scooteroll! This is going to be awesome!"
A few minutes later, Apple Bloom had found the stash of ropes and climbing equipment that Applebuck had concealed in the school's basement, exactly where she expected it to be. The Crusaders and Sugar were standing at the back of the schoolhouse, away from the playground, gazing up at the bell tower on top of the roof, while Spice stood on lookout for Sunny Smiles.
"You really think we can get up there, Apple Bloom?" asked Sweepy Bell, eyeing the tower uncertainly.
"Of course we can! And do you know what's waiting for us up there?"
"A wall climbing cutie mark!" exclaimed Scooteroll. "This time we're gonna get it for sure! Gimme that rope!" The pegasus colt grasped the lasso in his teeth and stepped back, whirling the rope around his head three times before letting go. The rope sailed several yards into the air but failed to latch onto the bell or the weathervane on top of it.
Scooteroll cursed and gathered up the rope. "I can do this! I just have to get enough speed." She trotted away from the wall, then galloped towards it, flinging the rope wildly. The lasso sailed straight up and landed on Scooteroll's back, tangling in his mane. Sugar giggled as she watched him struggling with the rope.
"Hey, what are you laughing at?" demanded the pegasus, glaring at Sugar.
"You looked really awesome doing that!" gushed Sugar. "You're almost as fast a runner as Rainbow Blitz!"
Scooteroll blinked. "You really think so?" Sugar just nodded, grinning.
"Maybe we should let Apple Bloom throw the rope," suggested Sweepy Bell. "You know, since she does cow herding and stuff."
"No, I got this!" snapped Scooteroll, picking up the rope once more. He trotted back to his starting point and reared dramatically, giving a sidelong glance to Sugar, then charged at the schoolhouse, whirling the lasso around his head and tossing it at the bell tower. The loop flew straight and true, settling around the weathervane and tightening with a tug from Scooteroll. The pegasus laughed and flared his wings in triumph, eliciting coos of admiration from Sugar. Only Apple Bloom seemed to have noticed the faint orange glow around Sugar's horn as Scooteroll made his throw.
The four ponies clustered together and threw their front hooves in the air, executing a four-way high hoof. "Yeah! Cutie Mark Crusader Wall Climbers are go!" cheered Apple Bloom, hustling Scooteroll towards the wall. She knelt down and boosted Scooteroll up onto her shoulders, giving him a start in slowly ascending the wall, rope grasped firmly between his teeth and wrapped around his waist.
Apple Bloom, Sugar and Sweepy Bell all held their breaths as they watched Scooteroll ascend the wall. His hooves picked their way carefully up the wooden surface, finding a few places to gain purchase. "This is awesome!" commented Sugar, dancing from hoof to hoof in nervous anticipation. "I think he's gonna make it!"
"Of course he's going to make it!" exclaimed Sweepy Bell. "Scooteroll's the best athlete in school! Well, except maybe Applebuck. Look, he's almost at the top!"
Indeed, Scooteroll was just now teetering on the edge of the bell chamber itself. He stopped to wave to his friends on the ground, for just long enough to lose his balance. The young pegasus slammed into the side of the bell, eliciting a dull tone from the huge brass shape. He vibrated with the bell for half a second, then fell off the side of the tower, bumping down the roof and plummeting to the ground, dangling a few feet off the grass from a rope tangled around his fetlocks.
Apple Bloom skilfully extracted Scooteroll from the rope when Spice sounded the alarm, and the four children were standing around playing an innocent game of hacky sack by the time Sunny Smiles rounded the corner. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously at the two colts. "Have you lads been playing with the school bell?" he asked, his gaze briefly flicking to Apple Bloom as well.
"No, Mister Smiles!" said Sweepy Bell glibly, putting on his most angelic expression. "I think it must have been a bird hitting the bell!"
"Or maybe it was Rainbow Blitz!" suggested Sugar. Scooteroll nodded emphatically in agreement.
"Hmm, that wouldn't surprise me," admitted Sunny Smiles. He fixed Scooteroll with a firm glance. "I don't want to see you leading the new filly into any mischief, Scooteroll. I've glad you've made so many friends so quickly, Apple Bloom."
The children breathed a sigh of relief as Sunny Smiles disappeared back into the schoolhouse. "That was awesome!" Sugar said, prancing in excitement. "We should hang out with you guys more often!" Spice nodded her agreement as she came back to join them.
"I guess that'd be okay," Scooteroll conceded. "You two are pretty cool too. Any luck with the cutie marks, Sweepy?"
The unicorn colt shook his head. "Nothing. Sorry, Scooteroll."
"Ah, it's okay. We had fun, right? And you all got to see how awesome I am at climbing." He gave Sugar a wink, eliciting a surprised giggle in return.
That went well, thought Apple Bloom. We're definitely going to have to hang out with Snips and Snails more when I get home. I just hope getting Scooteroll and Gold Watch to talk to each other will be this easy.
Afternoon classes passed as quickly as the morning had. Sugar gushed about Scooteroll's climbing exploits at every break between lessons, and Apple Bloom shared her ideas for future crusades with the two unicorn fillies. Everypony who heard the story agreed that Scooteroll was daring and awesome, except for Gold Watch, who insisted that Scooteroll should be ashamed of breaking school rules, and Blue Chip, who didn't pass any comment at all.
The Crusaders met up with Apple Bloom in the schoolyard after the final bell rang, both grinning excitedly. "That was so cool, Apple Bloom! It's like you've been a Crusader as long as we have! What are we going to do now?"
Apple Bloom smiled apologetically. "I gotta get home. Applejack has me doing all of Applebuck's chores while I'm here. Sorry, guys. I'll try to get some time off for tomorrow afternoon, okay?"
Scooteroll nodded and butted his head against Apple Bloom's. "Sure thing. See you then!"
Apple Bloom reached the gate to the schoolyard and found Gold Watch and Blue Chip waiting there. "Hey guys!" she greeted them brightly. "Were you two waiting for me?"
The two elegant colts nodded. "Yes, we just thought we should wait until... you know." Blue Chip indicated Scooteroll and Sweepy Bell with a nod of his head.
The yellow filly sighed. "I'm sorry about that. Scooteroll really seems to hate you both, and I just don't get why."
Blue Chip exchanged a glance with Gold Watch. "It's a really long story," he said finally. "You don't want to hear the whole thing on your first day at school. Scooteroll's always just been kind of a bully when it comes to us."
Apple Bloom felt a chill settle in her chest at those words. "Scooteroll's a bully? That's... so weird. He said the same thing about you guys."
Gold Watch snorted angrily, stomping his hooves on the ground. "Us? Us? He's the bully here! He's the one who..."
Blue Chip cut his friend off with a gentle hoof placed on his shoulders. "Come on, Goldie. Let's not drag that whole thing out into the open, shall we?"
The pink colt took a deep breath, then nodded to his friend. "You're right. I'm so sorry, Apple Bloom. There's just a lot of history here that you shouldn't have to worry about. Anyway, we were wondering if you'd let us walk you home? We know you've got a lot of chores to do."
"That'd be real neighbourly of you!" replied Apple Bloom, smiling brightly. The previous topic of conversation still weighed heavily on her, but with her new friends trying so hard to be amiable, she didn't let herself think about it too much. "Are you sure you don't mind? I don't know where ya'll live, but it can't be anywhere near Sweet Apple Acres."
Blue Chip shrugged. "It's not like either of us have any chores to do. It's no trouble."
Apple Bloom laughed as they set off down the road towards the apple farm. "I guess not. You two are both pretty rich, ain't ya? What do your folks do?"
"Oh, my parents don't do anything," said Blue Chip. "They're old money, not like Mister Nouveau Riche here." He gave Gold Watch a playful shove with his shoulder, causing him to stumble off the path.
"Well, excuse the Lucres for having talent instead of good breeding!" he shot back, charging at Blue Chip with his head lowered. The two colts strained against each other for a few seconds, looking just like Applejack and Rainbow Dash in one of their many competitive moods, until they both grinned and then burst out laughing. Apple Bloom couldn't help but laugh along with them.
"Seriously, though, Blue Chip's family has got old, old money," Gold Watch explained once they had all caught their breath.
"Older than Granny... I mean Grandpa Smith?" asked Apple Bloom, impressed.
Blue Chip laughed. "Try older than Prince Solaris."
Apple Bloom felt her jaw drop. Older than Princess Celestia? She's over a thousand years old! How can that be possible?
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" continued Blue Chip. "But we've got proof. There's a letter in a display case at home from Chancellor Cream Puff, thanking one of our ancestors for funding the expedition to found Equestria."
"That's amazing!" replied Apple Bloom, figuring that this must be the local version of the ancient earth pony Chancellor Puddinghead. "Chancellor Cream Puff? That's the oldest bit of history I know! Umm... but wasn't he a bit... y'know... crazy?"
"She," corrected Blue Chip. "They usually get a stallion to play her, like Berry Bubble this year, but she was a mare. And... yeah, a bit. She settled down a lot once the tribes got together, though, and her secretary helped a lot. Anyway, my family owned a lot of farmland in those days, and since we earth ponies are the only ones who can grow food, that made them awfully wealthy. We've diversified since then, naturally. Investing is my special talent, so my father's put me in charge of a few of our portfolios. It's actually a lot of fun!"
"That's really cool," said Apple Bloom, still trying to come to terms with Blue Chip's ancient pedigree. "So that's all they do? Hang on to their money and invest it and stuff?"
"Oh, we do a lot of charity work. We just don't do anything for pay, because we don't want to take work away from ponies who need it. And then there's... well..." The grey colt fell silent and started looking over his shoulders cautiously.
"It's okay, Blue," Gold Watch reassured him. "We're all earth ponies here."
Blue Chip chewed his lip nervously. "Well, there is something else, but you have to be under Berry Bubble Bond not to talk about this to any unicorns, okay? Not Sugar and Spice, not Sweepy Bell or Elusive, nopony."
Apple Bloom blinked, suddenly not liking where this conversation was going. "Not even Dusk Shine?"
Blue Chip shook his head. "Especially not Dusk Shine. You'll understand why once I explain."
I don't like the sound of this, but I'm probably better off knowing than not knowing. "Okay then... um... cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye, I won't tell any unicorns about this." She stopped walking for long enough to wave her front legs and apply a hoof to her closed eye.
Gold Watch smiled. "I didn't know they had Berry Bubble Bonds in Hoofington! That's pretty cool."
Blue Chip looked over his shoulder again, then leaned in closer to Apple Bloom, lowering his voice. "The thing is, we make sure we've got lots of money, invested all over Equestria, so that we're safe if the unicorns in Canterlot try anything."
Apple Bloom felt a shiver go down her spine. "What do you mean, 'if they try anything'?"
"It's like this," the grey colt explained. "The unicorns of Canterlot have a lot of power, both political and financial. If they decided they wanted to go back to the bad old days of us – earth ponies – versus them, they could do a lot of damage to our economy. A lot of damage. They'd eat Ponyville for breakfast and Hoofington for lunch, and without strong financial backup, there's nothing we could do to stop them."
"Is... is that something that's going to happen?" asked Apple Bloom. This sounded like tribal nonsense, but it made far too much sense, and that scared her.
"I hope not. We're not looking for a fight, but we need to be prepared if the unicorns start one. Plenty of the old families in Manehattan are with us, too. I just don't want to see anything bad happen to Ponyville."
Apple Bloom nodded slowly. "What about Prince Solaris, though? He wouldn't do anything like that."
Blue Chip smiled and nudged Apple Bloom's shoulder with his nose. "Don't worry about that. Prince Solaris is an earth pony. He's one of us."
"Wait... what?" Now I'm really confused.
Gold Watch chimed in. "It's true. The Prince is an earth pony with wings and a horn, more than anything else. He's always been on our side."
Blue Chip nodded. "Who gave Grandpa Smith's family – a family of seed gathering earth ponies – the land grant that founded Ponyville? Prince Solaris, that's who. He's the only earth pony with any real power in Canterlot."
"And Frou-Frou," added Gold Watch. "Can't forget the fashion queen of Canterlot."
"Well, yes, alright. Prince Solaris and Frou-Frou. It's not exactly a huge list, is it?"
"I guess not," admitted Apple Bloom. "And I can't tell Dusk Shine because he's from Canterlot, right?"
"That's right," nodded Blue Chip. "Don't get me wrong, I really like Dusk Shine, and I know he loves Ponyville. But if he mentioned it to any of his friends back in Canterlot – especially his big sister – we could be in a lot of trouble with the nobility. So keep it under your hat."
"I ain't wearin' a... oh, right. Sure thing."
The three young ponies walked out of Ponyville and started along the hill leading to Sweet Apple Acres. They fell silent for a minute while Apple Bloom ruminated on what Blue Chip had told her. To break the silence, she turned her attention back to the other colt. "So what about your folks, Gold Watch? What do they do?"
The pink colt waved a hoof in the direction of Ponyville. "Mother runs her business, 'Greasy Lucre's Ponyville Produce'. We've pretty much cornered the market on agricultural supplies and equipment. We sold your cousin Red Gala her new plough last spring – she's wanted that for years. We also buy a lot of fresh produce and sell it retail. In today's economy, it just doesn't make sense for farmers to be running their own stalls in the market. Speaking of which, I don't suppose you could prevail upon Applejack to let us handle their cider sales next season?" Gold Watch grinned hopefully at Apple Bloom with that last suggestion.
Apple Bloom couldn't help but blush a little. "Yeah... sorry, but Applejack always says that runnin' the cider stall is part of the earth pony magic that makes the cider so good. And that having the family face out front is what builds goodwill in the community."
"It wasn't community goodwill that kept the Razzle-Dazzle Sisters from driving Sweet Apple Acres out of business last cider season, though. I really think Applejack should do more deals with Mother." He stopped and shook his head. "I'm sorry, that's none of my business."
"Nah, it's okay, you're just bein' helpful. And your mother sounds like a real decent pony, too."
Gold Watch smiled brightly, his blue eyes shining with admiration. "She's amazing. She built Ponyville Produce from the ground up. She could have used Grandmother's money to get herself started, but she did it all by herself. That's a Lucre family tradition – we're all self-made ponies. One day I'm going to take everything Mother taught me and use it to start my own business. She's such an inspiration."
"Well, that's just so cool! I really wanna meet her sometime, then. And what does your pa do?"
Blue Chip grimaced awkwardly, and Gold Watch lowered his voice. "He feeds the wolves in Whitetail Wood," he replied, his ears drooping.
Good job, Apple Bloom. Whitetail Wood was where Apple Bloom's own parents had been left after their funeral, to feed the wolves, raccoons and other scavengers that lived there, in accordance with earth pony tradition. Apple Bloom had been too young then to remember much about her parents, but Granny Smith took her three grandchildren on a walk through the woods every year to commemorate them.
She sighed softly and nudged her head against Gold Watch's. "I'm real sorry I said anything, Gold Watch. You must miss him heaps."
"It's okay," the pink colt replied, smiling sadly and returning the nuzzle. "Mother and I remember him well. Mother taught me about business, but Father taught me about leadership. His name was Gold Chain. He was Mayor of Ponyville before he died. He did a lot for this town, and one day, I will too."
Apple Bloom nodded slowly. "I believe you. You're... you're the kind of pony who makes things happen. So... he gave you your watch?"
Gold Watch fished his namesake accessory out of his waistcoat, holding it carefully in one hoof. "His grandfather gave it to his father at his cuteceañera, and his father gave it to him on his. After he died, Mother was going to wait until I got my cutie mark to give it to me, but she thought I should have it sooner, because of how much it meant to me. Good thing she did, too, or I'd never have gotten this," he added, indicating his cutie mark.
"It sounds like you both have pretty awesome families," Apple Bloom said as they began walking again and Sweet Apple Acres slowly came into view. "You're really lucky. And so am I. The Ponyville Apples might only be my cousins, but they treat me like their little sister." She turned and nudged her head against the two colts, smiling. "Thanks for walking me home, guys. It's been real nice."
Blue Chip smiled brightly and nodded, while Gold Watch gave Apple Bloom a polite bow. "It has been our pleasure. I do hope we'll have you in Ponyville for a good while longer."
Apple Bloom waved to the two colts as she cantered up to the farmhouse. "I hope so too! See ya'll at school tomorrow!"
Applejack wandered out of the kitchen when he heard Apple Bloom's excited hooves against the wooden floor. "Well, you're sure in a chipper mood. How was school, haystack?"
How was school? Well, I hung out with the two most popular colts in school all morning. Then I got to meet the Cutie Mark Crusaders as colts, and found out that the guys I'd been hanging out with were apparently bullies. Then I met Snips and Snails as fillies, and talked the Crusaders into letting them join in on one of our crusades. Scooteroll almost climbed to the top of the bell tower and then almost killed himself falling off it, and I think maybe Sugar has a thing for him. Then I found out that the Crusaders are apparently bullies here, and got to hear all about two of the most awesome families in Ponyville, along with some business advice and a weird diatribe against Canterlot unicorns.
"Oh, you know. It was okay, I guess."