“Angel... Angel Bunny… Angel, wake up…”
Angel pried open an eyelid and squinted up into the pair of big teal eyes staring down at him.
“What do you want, ‘Shy?” he groaned.
“It’s morning!” Fluttershy said happily. “You said you would take me to visit the place where the animals live today!”
Angel rolled over and buried his face in the grass. “Mmf,” he replied disinterestedly.
Fluttershy paced back and forth on the front lawn of the library as she waited for Angel to pick himself up off the ground. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon, but she was already excited to get started with her day. If all went well with Owloysius’ research, this could very well be her only remaining day as a rabbit; she couldn’t waste it.
Fluttershy giggled to herself at the thought of finally seeing the place where the animals spent their time when they weren’t visiting her cottage to eat or receive some other treatment. Surely, such a place must be some kind of friendly underground utopia, especially if it was under the careful care of Angel and his friends.
Angel finally sat up and glanced at the sun. He frowned. “Seriously, ‘Shy,” he complained. “I said we could go to the city today, but I didn’t think you’d wanna go so early.”
He got to his feet and glanced around. “Although I guess we might as well; since the ponies aren’t out and about yet, it’ll make for a quick trip back out of Ponyville. We’ll spend the afternoon down there, and then come back to town tonight, where hopefully we’ll find Feathers with the cure for this mess.”
Angel stretched for a moment before glancing at Fluttershy to make sure she was ready to go. Then he took off down one of the streets.
After only a few stops to avoid the passing hooves of a few particularly early risers, the two rabbits reached one of the pathways that stretched out from Ponyville into the countryside. He pointed to a large, low hill, at the top of which sat a gnarled old stump.
“That’s the place,” he announced. “Under that stump is the main entrance to the biggest animal residency in the immediate Ponyville area. It’s also the closest one to the Everfree; in fact, some of the furthest reaching tunnels expanding out from the main area reach right up to its borders.”
“Wow,” Fluttershy said. “The Everfree Forest is even further than my cottage. I didn’t know the rabbits even had tunnels that long.”
Angel smirked. “You underestimate us, kid. Where do you think my tunnel in the cottage ultimately leads?” he asked. “The cottage is directly connected to the master underground network by several tunnels, since everybunny knows that a visit to the Main Mare is a great way to get a bite to eat. You may not be available to provide right now, but your friends are doing a fair enough job in your place.”
Angel marched up the hill and hopped into a tunnel nestled between the roots of the stump. Fluttershy was able to easily follow. This tunnel was very different than the one they had used to sneak in to the library; while that one was incredibly cramped and uneven, this one was wide and smooth. It was clearly used very often, and probably frequented by animals larger than rabbits.
Angel hopped over a few roots growing across the path and turned another corner. As Fluttershy followed, the sounds of footsteps and the distant voices of small animals began to reach her sensitive ears. Fluttershy could barely stop herself from squealing in delight and her destination drew near.
The pair arrived at an obstruction; a pair of crude swinging doors fashioned from slabs of a rotting log. Angel pushed them open and motioned for Fluttershy to follow him inside the chamber. Cautiously, she entered, peering around the interior in interest.
This was unquestionably the largest underground chamber Angel had shown her thus far. The ceiling was so high, even a full-grown pony could have fit inside. The interior of the room was several pony lengths in both length and width, creating a considerably large space for a small rabbit.
The large chamber was packed with various creatures, milling around as they tended to their daily business. The impression Fluttershy got was not unlike that of Ponyville market on a busy morning, only on a much smaller scale. She scanned the crowd of animals, searching for any she recognized. The group consisted primarily of rabbits, but there were a variety of mice, squirrels, and other small mammals, as well as a few frogs and lizards. There was even a small water inlet on one side of the room where a few fish gathered.
“Oh my…” Fluttershy breathed. “It’s even bigger than I expected. But what are they all doing here?”
“This is just like the market in Ponyville,” Angel answered. “So, they’re socializing and trading, mostly. We don’t really have any currency like you ponies do. We just trade resources, for the most part.”
A few feet away, Fluttershy watched as a deal was struck between an old chipmunk and a little mole, who exchanged a few types of nuts and berries with one another before departing again.
“I wish I had brought something along to trade with somebunny,” she mumbled.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Angel said. “You’ll find that more than a few critters are willing to give me a little of theirs for free. I’ll just share a little with you.”
“For free?” Fluttershy asked. “Oh, they must want to thank you for providing them with all the help you and the other rabbits give.”
“Something like that,” Angel mumbled, glancing around the chamber again. “Anyway, come on, let me show you around somewhere else.”
“Oh, but aren’t we even going to meet anybunny here?” Fluttershy asked.
“Later,” said Angel hurriedly. He seemed a bit rushed for some reason, as if we wasn’t comfortable spending too long in this place. Fluttershy gave in and followed him onwards.
Angel proceeded down one of almost a dozen tunnels branching out from the central room’s perimeter, with his companion close behind. As the sounds of the main plaza began to fade, Fluttershy began to see small openings in the walls of the tunnels ahead.
“These are the dens,” Angel said. “Everybunny who prefers to live underground lives down in the tunnels surrounding the plaza. If you were becomin’ a permanent resident, I’d set you up with a nice place down here, but I imagine by this time tomorrow you’ll be back in your cottage and distinctly less rabbit-like, so I quick tour will have to do."
Angel peeked into one of the dens, where a chipper-looking grey rabbit was dusting his furniture. The instant, he noticed Angel standing in the doorway, he dropped his tiny dust cloth and stood at salute.
“Good morning, Capo! What can I do for you today, sir?”
Angel waved a paw, and the other rabbit dropped his salute. “Relax,” Angel said. “I’m just showing my friend here around town.”
“Well, make yourself at home then, sir!” the rabbit insisted.
“That won’t be necessary,” said Angel curtly. “We’re not sticking around; I just needed a good example den to show off and yours was the closest.”
Fluttershy smiled as she glanced around the rabbit’s home. A number of pieces of furniture were built from discarded scraps from the world above, much like the room Angel had taken Fluttershy to shortly after her transformation. A store of vegetables was stacked in the corner. The whole place had a comfortable feel; Fluttershy realized that if she was in fact a rabbit looking to live here, she’d by quite happy in a place like this.
“It’s very nice,” she complimented, earning a small smile from the den’s owner. “I’m guessing you’re another of Angel’s workers, then. It’s probably due to his hard work that you can have a nice home like this. He really is so good to everybunny, isn’t he? ”
To Fluttershy’s surprise, a brief look of worry crossed the grey rabbit’s face, and he glanced briefly at Angel. His small frown was quickly replaced with a nervous smile.
“Uh… yes, of course!” he replied. “Keep up the good work, Capo!”
“Yeah… well, come on, ‘Shy. Let’s leave this fellow to his business.”
“Okay,” Fluttershy agreed. “Thank you for showing me around, Mr. Rabbit.”
“No problem,” said the grey rabbit weakly.
Fluttershy hopped out. Angel waited until she was a few feet away, and then turned back to the gray rabbit, putting a paw to his mouth to hide his words from Fluttershy.
“Don’t forget, there’s a meeting tonight. 9pm.”
“I’ll be there, sir,” the gray rabbit replied.
Angel just nodded, before exiting the other rabbit’s home.
The day wore on in much the same way as Fluttershy was treated to several more highlights of the animal city. She became acquainted with a few more rabbits that worked for Angel, and was shown many of the shortcuts used to allow the animals to reach a number of key locations on the surface above them. The level of organization of the sprawling underground complex was incredible.
However, Fluttershy couldn’t help but feel slightly troubled about a recurring personality trait of many of the rabbits she encountered.
“Angel,” she said finally as she followed her guide toward another wide, public area. “Is it just me, or do some of the rabbits seem to get a little… nervous when we come in? Is there something going on?”
Angel stopped, thinking quickly. “Uh… no… no, nothing’s wrong. I think they’re just a little antsy about getting to meet you. I mean, you are the Main Mare, after all. They’re probably just trying a little too hard to make sure they’re living up to your expectations.”
“Oh! Well, I think most of the rabbits I’ve met today seem to be just splendid little dears,” Fluttershy said. “Their homes are lovely, and they’re very respectful. Come on, let’s go visit another one to prove it.”
Fluttershy turned abruptly to head down another tunnel, but Angel leapt into her path, spreading his arms and blocking her way.
“Not that tunnel!” he insisted.
Fluttershy cocked her head. “Why not?”
“Because… um…” Angel fished for an excuse, “…because we’ve bothered enough citizens today, don’t you think? I’m sure they’re fine. How about you an’ me go into town at get somethin’ to eat instead?”
Fluttershy paused, thinking. Then she shrugged. “Okay. I guess you know best, Angel,” she agreed.
Angel breathed a discreet sigh of relief and led Fluttershy onward up the tunnel he chose.
A few minutes later, the pair arrived at what could only be described as a laid-back rabbit version of one of Ponyville’s cafés. The fairly large subterranean room was dotted with tables built from a variety of wide, flat rocks or debris from above. Fluttershy giggled when she noticed a trio of bunnies in one corner, playing some soothing jazz using hollow twigs and pieces of grass.
“This’ll do,” Angel said. “You hungry, kid?”
Fluttershy’s stomach growled before she could respond. She smiled sheepishly.
Angel walked up to the counter. The rabbit standing behind it started when he noticed who was standing in front of him.
“Afternoon, capo,” he said. “What’ll it be?”
Angel shrugged. “Just a couple of carrot slices. And bring some for the lady, too. She’s with me.”
The rabbit glanced briefly at Fluttershy, then back at Angel. “I’ll get that right away,” he said. “And we happen to be lucky enough to have a little cider available today. Would either of you like some?”
“Cider?” Fluttershy asked. “You mean like the apple cider Applejack makes?”
“Yes, ma’am,” the rabbit behind the counter said proudly. “Care for a cup, little lady?”
“Sure!” said Fluttershy, excited to be able to enjoy a familiar treat, even here in the animal city.
The rabbit disappeared into a small chamber behind the counter to prepare the meals, while his customers waited in the front.
Angel and Fluttershy turned around, coming face to face with two familiar brown rabbits from the day before, as they hopped briskly towards Angel.
“Hi, Buttons!” Fluttershy said cheerily.
“Hello, boys,” Angel greeted. “What’s up?”
“Capo, we have some news to report,” one of the Buttons said. “Some more information about the ‘Big Job’.”
Angel winced, and Fluttershy looked curious.
“The Big Job?” she asked. “What kind of Big Job?”
“It’s nothing, really,” said Angel quickly. “Just a… uh… routine community cleanup project… or something…”
Fluttershy appeared to be ready to ask another question, but Angel managed to spot the perfect distraction, sitting at a table in the corner of the room.
“But never mind that,” he said. “It ain’t something you’d be interested in. But speaking of interesting, do you recognize that fella over there?”
Fluttershy looked at the table to which Angel pointed and was momentarily taken aback. Seated at the table was an animal which she had yet to encounter in this city. Contrasting starkly with the rabbits, the little creature had scaly green skin, and large, oblivious-looking purple eyes.
“Isn’t that Gummy? Pinkie Pie’s Alligator?” Fluttershy asked.
“Bingo,” Angel said. “Now I gotta talk to the boys here about some boring business stuff, so why don’t you go over and have a chat with him? I’m sure it will be more entertaining.”
“But Angel,” Fluttershy retorted. “You know I want to learn more about how you run this place! I don’t think your business is boring, I think it’s wonderful!”
“Alright, tell you what,” Angel said. “You go chat with ol’ Gummy now, and I’ll fill you in on the details about business later. After all, we might not be runnin’ into him again, and you don’t wanna miss the chance to meet one of your best pal’s pets, do you?”
“That’s true…” Fluttershy agreed. “Alright, Angel. I’ll talk to you about it later, then.”
“Atta’ girl,” Angel said. “The waiter will bring you your carrots and cider, and it’s on me, so don’t worry about it. Just… don’t take Gummy too seriously. He’s a little… uh…” Angel stopped, groping for the right words. “He’s a little unique. But he can be fun to talk to, provided he’s actually making any sense today.”
Fluttershy giggled. “He sounds a bit like Pinkie Pie,” she chuckled, before hopping over to the alligator’s table.
Angel waited until she was out of earshot, and then turned to the Buttons, who both continued to stand at attention. There was a brief, awkward silence, and then Angel proceeded to once again slap both his henchmen across the face.
“You two morons!” he scolded. “Sit down over here for a second. I don’t think either of you understand the gravity of our situation!” Angel motioned stiffly to an empty table, and the Button brothers immediately sat down.
Angel scowled at the Buttons as he sat down himself. “Listen, boys,” he said, as levelly as possible. “It should be clear that this whole incident with Fluttershy wasn’t supposed to happen. If everything was normal, she’d still be a cheerful and mercifully oblivious mare, shelling out food for us three times a day up at the cottage. But her being a rabbit now has changed the situation a bit.”
Angel leaned in closer, not wanting to be overheard by other patrons of the café. “Now, here’s the problem; Fluttershy doesn’t quite understand the mechanics of our little organization. She’s gone and convinced herself that I’m some kinda patriarch for this town, like her mayor is to Ponyville or something. She has no idea how this community really works.”
“And… we need to keep it that way?” One of the buttons guessed.
Angel put a paw to his forehead in disbelief. “You numbskull! Of course we need to keep it that way! Don’t you understand the implications of Fluttershy finding out what we’re really up to?”
The Buttons shook their heads in unison.
Angel sighed. “I’ve been going way outta my way to show off only the parts of the city that present qualities that fit ‘Shy’s delusions about us,” he said. “If she had any clue about how unsavory this whole operation really is… and what life’s like behind the scenes… what do you think she would think of us?”
The Buttons shrugged.
Angel banged his fist on the table. “She’d be furious! And don’t tell me you two haven’t seen the Main Mare when she’s furious. It’s downright terrifying. She’d hate us all so much that she’d probably stop providing us with the surplus that we need to keep this buisness running the way we want it to.”
Angel paused briefly to let the implied consequences sink in. “So, when all is said and done…” he summarized, “The Main Mare’s opinion of us is directly tied to the well-being of the organization. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep the truth from her when a couple of jamooks like you two keep blabbing about our plans right in front of her! Am I makin’ myself clear!?”
Finally, the Buttons nodded.
“Good,” Angel said. “Now, you two know we have a meeting to discuss the Big Job this evening. You can tell me whatever it is you need to tell me then. I’ll make sure Fluttershy is occupied somewhere else. And that feathered old duff who lives at the library is working on a cure for Fluttershy’s problem, so hopefully, things will be back to normal by tomorrow, and we can get on with planning this properly.”
“Right boss,” one of the Buttons affirmed.
“Sorry for the trouble,” the other added.
“Good. I’m glad we understand each other,” Angel said.
There was a short pause, and then one of the Buttons cautiously spoke up.
“Boss? Aren’t you worried that crazy green guy is gonna tell the Main Mare about our organization?”
Angel scoffed. “Gummy doesn’t understand the organization well enough to realize that it’s a bad thing,” he replied. “You know how he is; he just goes around spewing philosophical nonsense at anybunny who will listen. He doesn’t seem too concerned about the shady business we’re running here. He probably just gets outlook on life from that mare he lives with, but he’s no threat to us, and I don’t think he’s going to tell ‘Shy anything. At least not directly enough for her to understand it.”
Angel stood up. “Now we need to get going. After ‘Shy’s done here, I want to get her out of this place before anybunny else lets something slip. And I’d appreciate it if you two just keep your traps shut around her until she’s a mare again.”
Angel shot one final glare in the Buttons direction to emphasize is point, before turning and nearly bumping into the waiter who had been trying to deliver his order.
“And what’re you lookin’ at?” he asked testily. He snatched his meal from the tray and jammed it into his cheeks in one huge bite, before storming off to find Fluttershy.
“…Hello?” Fluttershy asked.
Gummy stared into space, unblinking, and apparently oblivious to Fluttershy’s presence.
“Um… you’re Gummy, aren’t you?” she asked hesitantly. “You can talk, can’t you?”
Gummy snapped out of his trance rather suddenly, rapidly turning and positioning his face just an inch away from Fluttershy’s. There was a long, long pause, in which the alligator stared directly into the poor rabbit’s eyes.
“Sorry. Didn’t see you there!” he said finally, returning to his initial partially reclined position. “As usual, I got a little caught up in thinking about this and that and whatnot. Too many things bouncing around inside my head like jumping beans, you know. Sometimes I get distracted when I’m concentrating too hard on everything I have to concentrate on.”
Fluttershy wasn’t sure how to respond to such a greeting. Luckily, Gummy continued after a moment.
“So, I heard you mention my name!” the gator gurgled. “That means we’ve met somewhere. Where was it? Did it have anything to do with the party Pinkie threw last week? I had too much punch to remember much of that. Or was it something less formal? Maybe we exchanged names briefly while passing by, and I simply failed to stop and take note of those around me. Like I said, I tend to get distracted. But maybe it wasn’t that at all. Maybe I…”
Gummy stopped speaking suddenly. His eyes went wide as he appeared to have an epiphany.
“Maybe I’ve met you in my dreams?!" he gasped. "Perhaps subconsciously, I’ve been warned of your arrival!”
“No, wait,” Fluttershy cut in, becoming increasingly confused. “You’re over thinking this. I’m just a friend of Pinkie Pie’s, that’s all.”
“I do tend to over think things,” Gummy mused, nodding his head to emphasize. “It often causes me to get very distracted. And repeat myself.”
Again, Fluttershy was left without an immediate response. She was saved the trouble for a moment the waiter arrived to deliver her meal; a plate containing a few carrot slices, and an upturned and hollowed-out nut holding a small quantity of cider.
“So you know Pinkie Pie, huh?” Gummy asked. “Lucky you. That mare knows what she’s talkin’ about. You just have to be able to understand it.”
“Um, yes, I’m sure she does,” Fluttershy said. “I’m Fluttershy by the way. I’m usually a pony, but there was a bit of an accident, so now I’m a rabbit for a bit.”
“Or are you?” Gummy asked suspiciously. “Tell me, Fluttershy, do you define yourself only by your outward appearance?”
“What?” Fluttershy asked. “I mean… I don’t know…”
“None of us know!” Gummy announced. “How can we know what the deciding factor is in determining who we are? Look at me; I’m a toothless alligator! Can I still be called an alligator at all, or am I some kind of pathetic lizard thing? And has my condition really caused me to move beyond the habits of my kind, or am I still some kind of cold-blooded predator who is simply unable to fulfill those predatory needs due to a simple dental anomaly!?”
Gummy paused and violently banged his head on the table a few times, nearly spilling Fluttershy’s cider. The rabbit looked on in extreme concern.
“But enough about me! Let’s talk about you!” Gummy suddenly announced, acting as if he hadn’t just had a violent existential outburst. “What brings you here today?”
Fluttershy remembered what Angel has said: trying to actually follow Gummy’s train of thought would likely be disastrous to attempt. She decided to follow his advice and just play along.
“Well, I came here to visit the city with my friend Angel,” she admitted. “Once I’m a pony again, I won’t be able to fit down here anymore, so I wanted to see-”
“You know Angel?” Gummy interrupted. “Well, how about that. So do I. Quite a busy one, that Angel. Always ruining the lives of everybunny living down here. Or maybe making their lives infinitely better. I guess that depends on both who you are and what your perspective on things is.”
Fluttershy blinked. Surely, that could only have been another of Gummy’s philosophical ramblings. She hadn’t seen anybunny here all day who had complained about Angel or the job he did for the community. She let it go without a further thought.
“So what brings you down here?” she asked the gator. “I assumed you spent most of your time in Sugarcube Corner.”
“Oh, not really,” Gummy said. “I wander around. It just seems like I’m always there, because if Pinkie needs me for something, she will find me. You know how she is. Just because I’m down here in a café in a secret animal city of which the ponies on the surface are entirely unaware of does not mean I’m out of the reach of Pinkie Pie. She’s just that good.”
“That’s true, she is,” Fluttershy admitted. “But, at times like this, when Pinkie isn’t looking for you, do you usually come down here?”
Gummy nodded. “I like to spend time down here. Nothing helps me contemplate a problem from every possible viewpoint like bouncing some ideas off a rabbit like you. Admittedly, most of the rabbits are less inclined to hold a conversation with me than you are though.”
I can’t imagine why… Fluttershy thought.
“It’s not really a problem though,” Gummy admitted. “That response in itself gives me plenty more to think about. I sit in here pretty often and think. And I’ve come up with all sorts of opinions and guesses about how life works in this land of Equestria. Only problem is, when I think too much, I tend to get distracted and repetitive.”
“I’ve noticed. You’ve said that four times.”
“Have I?” Gummy asked. “Case in point, then.”
Gummy looked at Fluttershy expectantly, as if waiting for her to ask another question. She paused briefly to nibble on one of the carrots and take a drink before continuing, although Gummy’s unblinking stare quickly became unnerving.
“So… are you actually part of Angel’s work force?” she ventured.
“Oh, no. Not really,” Gummy answered. "I’m not down here on a regular basis, and some critters tell me I’m not particularly reliable, so Angel never counts on me for anything he actually needs done in a timely fashion. But every now and then I’ll help him gather supplies that may be difficult for rabbits to get to. Being aquatic does have its advantages.”
He leaned in a little closer. “What about you? Are you helping Angel out?”
“Well, I can’t do too much right now,” said Fluttershy. “When I was a pony, I provided the animals with food and care whenever I could, but right now, I’m a bit busy working on finding a way to return to normal…”
Gummy finally blinked; Fluttershy was convinced it was the first time he had done so since their conversation started. “That’s not what I meant. But okay.”
“Oh. What did you mean?”
“I meant to ask if you were helping Angel out with any of his-”
“Alright, ‘Shy,” came a louder voice. “We’re done. Let’s go.”
Fluttershy turned around to see Angel approaching from across the room. She also spied the Button brothers rapidly exiting the café.
“One moment, Angel,” she said. “Gummy and I were just finishing our conversation.”
Fluttershy turned back to the alligator for a moment. “Now, what were you saying?”
Gummy did not respond. He gazed into the distance, his eyes fixed on an arbitrary point in space. Fluttershy waved a paw in front of his face, but he did not respond. In shock, she realized that the blank stare she normally received during past encounters with him were actually a result of his becoming lost in a trance-like state of higher consciousness.
“Never mind,” she mumbled, following Angel out of the café. “He’s a bit… distracted right now.”
Cool, fresh air washed over Fluttershy as she and Angel exited the tunnels and stepped out onto the hillside. She was shocked to discover that the sun had already disappeared below the horizon; only a few lingering rays of sunlight remained.
“We spent all day down there?” she asked incredulously.
“Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it?” Angel chuckled. “Ol’ Feathers won’t be ready for us for a couple hours though, so we should just find somewhere to relax for a while.”
Angel hopped along around the perimeter of Ponyville for a short distance, stopping on a ridge covered in a thick mat of moss. He sat down, and Fluttershy flopped down beside him.
“That was fun,” Fluttershy admitted, resting her tired legs. “Thanks so much for taking me to visit the city, Angel. It was so nice to meet all the animals.”
“No problem,” Angel mumbled. “Listen, ‘Shy, I gotta go and, um, take care of something important. I’ll be back in a couple hours, and we’ll go straight to the library and get you cured. In the meantime, just take a break here.”
Fluttershy nodded slowly. Angel turned and began to hop down the ridge.
“Angel, hold on.”
The white rabbit stopped, turning back to his companion. “What’s up, kid?”
Fluttershy hesitated for a moment, and then cautiously asked the question she couldn’t avoid any longer.
“Angel, you… you do run the animal community with everybunny’s best interests in mind, don’t you?”
Angel froze. In a fraction of an instant, his mind swirled with thousands of possibilities; things Fluttershy might have seen or overheard in the city that he hadn’t meant for her to notice.
I’ve been bending the truth over and over these last two days, but the only way out of this one is an outright lie...
The rabbit made his decision immediately.
“Of course, ‘Shy. I mean, come on, you know I’m a good guy, right?”
Fluttershy smiled. “I know. I just wanted to make sure.”
She laid down on the mossy surface. “See you later, Angel.”
“Yeah. See ya,” he replied as he hopped away.
Fluttershy sighed contently, gazing up at the dark sky, where the stars began to flicker into view. The stars were the one thing that still looked the same to her; all around her, objects she had become used to were now of intimidating size, and places and things that had previously been too small to capture her notice were now apparent, and often very interesting to discover. But, pony or rabbit, the stars still formed a comforting blanket of twinkling lights, indifferent to the size of the inhabitants of the land below them.
It was funny, Fluttershy thought, how this new perspective had changed her perception of Equestria. Every type of animal saw the world in a different way, and every object presented different uses or challenges to each of them.
Fluttershy smiled when she thought of herself, not two days ago, terrified and dismayed to discover her shocking transformation. But now that Owloysius had likely found the cure, and her time as a rabbit was drawing to a close, she found herself wishing for more time. She felt safe and ready to explore when Angel was by her side, and the experiences she’d had in the past two days were some she’d never forget.
This may even have been better than the trip to Las Pegasus, she thought. I guess the Heart’s Desire did its job after all; I really did get to learn more about my animal friends and the way they live. Grumpy little Angel, wise Owloysius, excitable Peewee, philosophical Gummy, and all the others as well. The animals really aren’t that different from ponies at all.
Still smiling, Fluttershy reflected on her day while she waited for Angel’s return.
Angel Bunny stood by the stump that marked the entrance to the underground city. After checking extensively to make sure Fluttershy had not followed, he ducked into the tunnel.
Why did she have to ask that? the rabbit thought to himself. What’s she trying to do, send me on a guilt trip?
The rabbit shook his head forcefully. Get over it, Angel. She’s just your caretaker; no need to get all sentimental just because she can talk to you now. By tomorrow, everything should be back to normal, and we can get back to work.
Forcing Fluttershy out of his mind, he proceeded to the large chamber that had been set aside for the scheduled meeting. Dozens of rabbits waiting within quieted instantly and turned to him expectantly as he entered.
“Hey boys,” said Angel coolly, as he strolled to the front of the room. “Let’s get started. You all know why we’re here tonight; it’s time for the official unveiling of “The Big Job.”
A murmur spread throughout the assembled rabbits.
“Now, as many of you know,” Angel continued. “The Buttons and I have been working very hard on planning this little thing. We needed to wait for the right season and conditions before it was safe to initiate anything. But now, we’re almost ready to go.”
Angel paused a moment before speaking again. “Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering what exactly we’re going to be doing during this job. Well, it’s time for me to shed some light on that. Every now and then, we send a group out to Sweet Apple Acres to do some ‘resource gathering’. Namely, the collection of apples. Sure, carrots and other veggies are a lot easier to get a hold of, but apples are quite a treat. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get more than a few; that pesky collie and the stubborn pony who owns her are onto us, and it’s a nightmare trying to smuggle any apples into the tunnels with them around. As a result, our supply of apple products, including cider, is always very low.”
Many rabbits nodded in agreement.
“Well, the Button Brothers stumbled across a useful bit of information a few weeks ago,” Angel said. “As it turns out, the whole Apple family will be out of town for one afternoon next week, and at the same time, a large field of apples at the farm will be turning ripe. So we’ve organized a large scale heist. We’re going to swipe hundreds of apples from Sweet Apple Acres, and issue in a period of unlimited apples for the rabbits!”
A cheer broke out among the crowd at the prospect. Angel raised a paw to quiet them again.
“Now, today is Thursday. The Apples are going to be out of town on Tuesday, so it’s Tuesday at noon that we’ll all assemble here, go over the plan, and head out. The whole thing should go off without a hitch; the entire property will be unguarded, and the Apples will never know what hit ‘em!”
Angel’s expression became more serious. “And as with everything this organization does, keep this on the down-low. We don’t want anybunny overhearing this that isn’t supposed to.”
An important thought occurred to Angel. “And on that topic,” he continued. “Some of you may have noticed the pink and yellow rabbit that’s been following me around for the last two days. That’s the Main Mare, and it’s extremely important that she doesn’t hear a word about any of this. If all goes well, she’ll be a mare again by morning and we won’t have to worry about it, but it’s still important to watch what you say.”
The army of rabbits nodded collectively. Angel placed his paws on his hips, satisfied.
“Alright, we’re clear. Tuesday. Noon. Be there.”
Quickly and quietly, the group of rabbits exited the room. After a moment, only Angel’s two officers, the Buttons, remained.
“Now what, boss?” one of them asked.
“Keep the situation under observation, and keep me informed of any more news,” Angel instructed. “Unfortunately, I have to go and babysit the Main Mare some more. I’ll probably see you boys on Saturday.”
The Buttons saluted. “Yes, sir. Good night, Capo.”
“G’night,” Angel mumbled as he darted from the room.
It was nearly midnight by the time Angel and Fluttershy reached the Ponyville library. Luckily, Owloysius sat perched on the windowsill, ready to carry them inside so they didn’t have to use the dangerous passage beneath the stairs again. After two quick flights, both rabbits stood once again in the interior of the darkened library.
“Hiya!” greeted Peewee, who fluttered from his perch to the table where his teacher sat. “Uncle Owly and I have been real busy! We found out all sorts of stuff about the Heart’s Desire!”
“That’s great,” Fluttershy responded. “What have you learned, Owloysius?”
“Erm… well…” Owloysius clacked his beak nervously. “Would you like the good news, or the bad news?”
Angel sighed. “I guess you should just start with the good, Feathers.”
“Yes, of course,” said Owloysius. “I do have very good news; Peewee and I have determined the cure for Fluttershy’s affliction.”
“Good,” said Angel. “I’m too busy to keep following her around. Hand it over so we can get this fixed up.”
“Well, therein lies a small problem,” said Owloysius. “You see, I don’t exactly have the cure available…”
Fluttershy and Angel both frowned. “Where can we get it?” Fluttershy asked.
“It’s not available anywhere in its finished form,” Owloysius explained. “We’re going to have to make it.”
“Well, that’s not a problem, is it?” Angel asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’re a smart guy. Can’t you mix it up for us?”
“I can,” Owloysius answered. “The problem is that I do not have the ingredients. You two will have to collect them for me.”
Angel groaned. “And how long’s that gonna take?”
“I… don’t know,” Owloysius admitted.
Angel placed his face in his paws. “Great. Just great. And here I thought this was gonna be over tonight.” He turned to Fluttershy, shaking his head in frustration. “Kid, looks like you and I are gonna be spending a little more time together than I thought.”
In the depths of her mind, Fluttershy acknowledged that this was perhaps not such a bad thing.
“Alright,” said Angel, turning back to Owloysius. “So the good news was that you know the cure, but the bad news is we have to make it ourselves?”
“Oh, no,” said Owloysius. “The fact that you have to make it yourselves was just part of the information about the cure. I haven’t told you the bad news yet.”
“Uh-oh,” Fluttershy squeaked. “What’s the bad news?”
“Well, while we were researching last night, Peewee came across a most interesting passage about reversing the plant’s effects,” Owloysius said.
“Yeah, yeah!” Peewee agreed. “It said something about the effects of Heart’s Desire being affected by the moon and the day-night cycles!”
“You see,” Owloysius continued. “We discovered that Heart’s Desire tends to take effect overnight, usually precisely at midnight. This has something to do with the moon’s positioning at that time, but since it’s irrelevant I won’t bore you with a further explanation. This explains why Fluttershy woke up to find herself transformed yesterday morning; she was fast asleep before the change occurred.”
“How is this bad news?” Angel inquired.
“It’s not, but it is required context to understand the real problem,” Owloysius said. “You see, we have come across a most troubling detail about the effects of Heart’s Desire. Its effects on the body… change after a certain period of time has passed…”
“How so?” Angel asked, noting the worried expression on Fluttershy’s face.
“Well, Fluttershy has already been a rabbit for two days now,” Owloysius said. “And according to the book, that means she has…” he glanced at the clock, which at that very moment began to chime, indicating the arrival of midnight. “…Precisely five days from right now to get a hold of the cure.”
Fluttershy didn’t like where this was going.
“And… let’s just say I don’t manage to get the cure in time…” she started. “What would happen then?”
Owloysius ruffled his feathers nervously. “Fluttershy, if you haven’t taken the cure by midnight at the end of Tuesday… I’m afraid you will be a rabbit forever.”