This sneaky fox, always clad in a blue mask and gloves, has long been a bane of unwary travelers with loose accouterments.
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Twilight brushed her nose, feeling something icky and sticky on top of it. She tried her best to stay asleep, tuning out the weird clip-clop noises coming from downstairs. A wet something or another smacked against her nose once again.
Ugh, seriously... what time is it? She staggered to the side out of her bed, hooves waving aimlessly in the air. She called out, "Oh, for goodness' sake, what is it tha--" Her eyes suddenly grew wide as dinner plates.
"Oh, Twilight! Do you how do?" Pinkie Pie, her mane and tail puffed up as if she'd had five thousand volts ran into her, leapt up onto the pillows. "I've-waited-to-welcome-this-pleasently-new-day-to-you-isn't-it-such-a-nice-and-there's-the-door-closed-but-your-window-was-open-and-I-flew-like-a-birdie-inside-cheeper-cheep-cheep!" Twilight covered her eyes as red sticky goo flew through the air, splattering into her mane.
"What is this!" Twilight leaned up against the bed, watching Pinkie hop around with bottle upon bottle of strawberry jam rolling around her back. Pinkie whipped out knife after knife, coming almost from thin air, and spread the goop across Twilight's sheets.
"I'm just buttering your toast for you!" Pinkie said, gazing straight at Twilight with a 'cracked' expression-- teeth stuck out like daggers. "Only butter would be too fattening and go straight to your flanks--"
"Pinkie, please calm down," Twilight squeaked, trying to climb up to the bed with her but slipping.
The pink pony took a deep breath, tongue drooping out of the side of her mouth. Voice slowed down, she went on. "Why so then not just something try more strawberry jam-like given more antioxidants filled since according to a new Equstrian Daily Times study it prevents both explosive diarrhea and enhances beard growth, you purple butterfly!" Pinkie yelled, bouncing up at least five in the air from sheer joy.
"Pinkie, maybe you should-- whoa." Twilight ambled up onto the pillows and stared at Pinkie as the mare made a victory pose, jam dripping down the pink earth pony's sides like blood.
"All true unicorns--" Pinkie hollered, her eyes lighting up with some kind of white and pink flame, "must. have."
Twilight magically reached out and opened up the curtains, hoping that somepony else might hear what was happening. "Pink--"
Pinke flew through the air and throttled Twilight, hooves locking over the unicorn's cheeks and squishing her face like a fish. "Beards! Twilight-- it's all about growing the beards!"
"Does Applejack now what you're doing?" Twilight muttered, not liking Pinkie's strawberries soaked mane curling around her shoulders. Is she controlling it like... like a hoof or something? Like magic?
"Oh, she's just outside murdering the ghost muffins so that they can't steal the moon from the Emperor of Toilets." Pinkie rattled off, making horribly smug expression. She suddenly leaned forward, face locking less than an inch from Twilight. "Everypony knows that the ghost muffins are far more devious than the regular muffins, those horrible bucking m-m-m-m-monsters." She poured spittle onto Twilight's cheek with the last word.
Murdering? Oh, no! "I'll, uh, see you later!" Twilight's eyes jerked around, seeing how Pinkie had taken countless jalaphone peppers covered in piano wire and hung them from the ceiling. The bookshelves, dressers, and tables littered haphazardly all across the floor, covered in something like a black soot. "Later!"
Twilight hurled herself out the window and landed onto a pile of white canvas besides her library. She jiggled around, trying to get back on her hooves. She looked back at the side of her house. Symmetric black-and-white paint dripped down from the chimney to the back door, making the whole thing like a massive chessboard. What... the... hay... She looked up and down the street for a second, seeing similar coats on the walls of building after building. There was nopony in sight, making her feel tense.
"Oh, Twilight! You're just in time!"
Twilight flipped around, coming face to face with Applejack. Black, white, and grey paint coating all across her fur, the earth pony made a determined grimace. Applejack snorted before coughing, snot flowing out of her nose. Twilight's eyes moved down from the mare's hat, covered with what seemed like a thousand bird feathers, to her hooves, all of them placed into thick woolen white stockings, and finally to the ominous looking big grey gun between her legs on the ground.
"Applejack, please," Twilight whispered, trying to be as calm as possible. She put on a sweet face and moved forwards, not liking how Applejack's ears kept on fluttering like wings and how her pupils looked small as tacks. Twilight raised her voice a liltte bit. "Let's not get over things."
Applejack slammed a hoof into Twilight's face. The earth pony stood up, grabbing the gun between her front hooves and managing to stand like a dragon would. "Bea wery, wery quiet. We're wunting wuffins." She cocked the gun, thrusting a shell onto the ground. "Wah wah wah wahwahwahwahwah."
"Hold on a moment, please." Twilight tried to lean up against Applejack, putting a reassuring hoof over the pony's shoulder. She rubbed up and down, feeling Applejack's hair charged with some kind of magical energy.
"There's one now!" Applejack screamed, tossing herself down on the ground and pulling Twilight with her. Her eyes darted in all directions, panting hard. She passed totally over the blue-jay that just landed on the 'Cherry's Candles' sign several buildings over.
"It's just a bir--"
"PREPARE TO DIE, MUFFIN!" Applejack lept up, grabbed Twilight, and pulled the unicorn behind her. She aimed with the gun, standing up so oddly well just on two hooves, and fired. Twilight watched as a black and white blob sailed through the air and smacked onto the front wall of Cherry's place, two gigantic chessboard squares
"That's a paint-gun?" Twilight asked, trying to get off of Applejack. Oh, thank Celestia! That's a relief!
The other mare simply nodded and made a content sigh. She guestered at Twilight to run off, pointing down the street. The unicorn frowned, feeling totally exasperated.
"Quick, there's not much time. We have to stop the muffins or else they'll keep stealing our navels." She thrust her hooves to her belly, rubbing in cirlcle. "You have to warn the others."
"Applejack, you need help, and so does Pinkie--"
"I'll lay down covering fire, just move!" Applejack twirled into the circle, preparing to fire once again into a mass of empty bushes. "Go! Now! For the emperor!"
Twilight hesitated. She's... I guess she's safe. I have to find out what happened. She glanced down, looking at the turn of the corner over towards Rarity's boutique. Oh, goodness! I hope she's not losing it too! She trotted down the street. Twilight glanced back in between steps, seeing Applejack leaning her head to the ground and rubbing gravel all over her face. She heard the earth pony gurgling and moaning, almost like an upset stomach.
"I promise I'll help you, Applejack," she declared to herself. The roads, completely deserted without even squirrel in sight, looked so ominous and threatening. She felt the cold wind smacking against her, and she chattered her teeth. Where is everypony? She parked in front of Rarity's boutique. "Oh, gosh, it's perfectly untouched."
She stepped forwards, suddenly feeling even more scared. A soft sound of gunfire off in the distance brought her some relief, odd as it felt. At least Pinkie and I aren't the last ponies in Equestria. She took a breath, held up a hoof, and knocked.
She knocked once more. She lit up her horn, and she made a soft clunking sound appear from inside the shop. She pressed her face against the glass, trying to magically see inside.
Nothing happened once more, and Rarity's place appeared just as deserted as Sugarcube Corner, Lyra's pushcart spot, Colgate's dentistry, and everyplace else in the city. Another burst of wind curled up around her mane, still wet with some of Pinkie's jam, and Twilight sat down. She buried her face in her hooves, making a low moan. It has to be... yes. I know it. It's the ball. I messed things up. I let everypony touch it. I opened it. I activated it.
"Oh, what have you gotten yourself into?" Twilight asked herself. She sniffed.
The night before...
"I'm not a little foal. You don't need to help me unpack, dag-nab-it," Applejack sputtered, pulling back the suitcase with her teeth.
"Aw, no need to get all complain-y about it," Pinkie remarked, bouncing over to the nearest table and nudging Spike's plate of teas. "Silly." Twilight and Fluttershy just watched the scene, still poking through the various clothes and souvenirs scattered across the library floor.
"I ain't being silly!" She rubbed her hooves against the edges of the suitcase.
"Ah-okie-ah-dokie, then," Pinkie commented, "no need to shout." She clutched the tray with her mouth.
"And ain't complaining! And I ain't shouting!" Applejack called out, standing up and glaring at the pink pony, "I'm--" She stopped. She had a blank look come up over her face, and she slid a few inches to the side. "Yeah, yeah, I'm shouting."
"Please, girls," Twilight interjected. Thank goodness for her element of honesty, at least. She stepped right into the center of the room, trying hard not to trip on all of the things littering the floor. "Fighting won't make us find Fluttershy's charm any faster."
Applejack said nothing back, just looking sheepish. She grabbed one of the sweet mint teas that Pinkie passed over. Twilight picked up one as well. It's so frustrating, though! I love Princess Celestia. I love Canterlot. But sometimes that royal staff just mucks things up completely, those imblicles.
Bad enough that they mixed in whole extra bags that we'll have to send back, all of these fancy clothes that aren't ours... what do they think we are? Circus performers or something? But now, losing our things too? Seriously? She noticed Rarity walking up from inside the kitchen, magically carrying a plate of scones. Well, maybe I'm being too hard on the royal staff. Being attacked by that horrible changeling queen and her army was a lot on their plate! Not to mention the clean-up for the traps and trickery that they left. She mentally kicked herself for being so mean.
"Oh," Fluttershy muttered. In her own natural way, her soft voice brought so much instant attention that she might as well have been screaming. "It was hidden..." She turned what Twilight viewed as a very cute shade of pinky-yellow across her face. "Sorry, it was inside of my sweater the whole... time..." She lifted up a tiny red double-cross icon, attached to an even tinier necklace chain, with her wing.
I wish I knew who on earth gave that charm to her. Twilight hated to have Fluttershy keep secrets from her, even though she knew that she shouldn't be so focused on it. She's allowed to have a life outside of our whole friendship. The unicorn saw Fluttershy put the charm into a small keepsake box and tuck it beneath her legs.
"Well, that's a relief," Pinkie said.
"Finally, we can put all of this absolutely horrid dresses away," Rarity said, making a relived face. She magically held up a tall blouse with a color scheme that looked like an explosion in a Rainbow factory next to an explosion in a marshmallows factory. Even with her limited fashion sense, Twilight cringed. "How could they... even..." She didn't even finish the thought.
The ponies packed stuff back into the suitcases. It seemed as boring as watching the clock tick, but at least it went by fast with two unicorns there. Twilight kept the group well medicated with more of Spike's teas, which she hoped she hadn't become too attached to. I can quit whenever I want. Twilight chuckled at her own little joke.
"What the hay is this?" Applejack called out.
Twilight, Pinkie, Rarity, and Fluttershy all crowded around the pony's back as she leaned under a dresser, spying something round and shiny. She nestled her hoof down, coating it with dust, and softly pushed the thing over. The horses heard a rolling sound along with some kind of interesting, low hum. They all then stared at the shiny ball.
"I guess it got rolled over when I unpacked that green suitcase," Twilight said. "So it's, maybe, from that big, really beat up one?" But what is it?
It looked a lot like an egg. The solid white ball had a soft, white sheen over it, shining in the light. Applejack nudged it with her hooves and picked it right up. Somehow, it seemed to hover just a few inches from her hooftips. "Some kind of... what'cha call 'em? Optics illusions?" Applejack murmured.
"I wonder who that belonged to?" Pinkie chimed in.
"I have no idea, darling," Rarity said, leaning over and taking a look. The ball seemed to just naturally shift upwards into the unicorn's grip. "It certainly looks like a keepsake. It's most likely some kind of royal accouterments. Maybe some gift to either Princess Cadence or Shining Armor."
"May I... see it... if you don't mind..." Fluttershy muttered. She flinched when Rarity abruptly moved it over, sitting back against the wall. "Wow, it's... the shiniest thing I can recall seeing... for a while..."
"Wouldn't it be crazy if it was something that belonged to that horrible changeling queen? Something she forgot after getting booted out of there?" Pinkie commented, hopping around Fluttershy. The two of them gripped all four sides of the ball, holding it up above their heads. Rarity simply stood in place, eyes growing wide as the ball reflected inside them.
"Don't talk like that!" Twilight called out-- suddenly recalling that horrible moment with Cadence alone, rocks lining up around them both with no idea if they could ever escape to stop the imposer's wedding. "We shouldn't even joke about that."
"Oh, Twilight darling, we're sorry," Rarity said, shivering her head at the moment.
"And you've all touched it, that might have... done something... what if we broke it, or worse if it's enchanted?" Twilight magically lifted up the ball and covered it up with a thick brown jacket. Her four friends made various kinds of sheepish looks. I don't know for sure if it's enchanted, but it sure... rubs me the wrong way. Just being around the ball felt like rough sandpaper tickling across her fur.
"Let's jes' forget it, Twilight," Applejack remarked, going back to packing the extra clothes. "Ya'll can take that to your lab-ar-atoral thingy later."
Twilight just nodded. Her mind started to zone out of the situation, merely sitting in place and holding the jacket as her friends worked. I've seen this before. Haven't it? Was that more than a joke? Did the phony Cadence carry this at some point? She merely grunted and make little 'yes' and 'nos' as her friends made their goodbyes. She looked out the window after then, still deep in thought.
"Wow, it got really dark outside very fast," she said to herself, tracing Rarity with her eyes as she trotted to her boutique. "Is that a metaphor for something?" She frowned. Oh, praise Celestia, what is wrong with that ball? It just feels so ominous. She magically lifted over some books as she headed for her basement laboratory.
Spike called out something about leaving for Sweet Apple Acres, helping Applebloom with some kind of special project the Cutie Mark Crusaders have planned. Twilight dismissively waved a hoof and smiled. As she nudged shut her lab door, taking a deep breath, she placed the brown jacket and her books onto a massive table. Her eyes trailed around her familiar set-up of test tubes, burners, bookcases, dressers, sinks, and everything else.
She thrust the jacket off. Her eyes grew wide. The ball seemed to just glow, even brighter there with the lack of light. She leaned forwards, a hoof sticking in the air. She wiggled it, feeling some weird kind of energy. It didn't seem magical; she'd faced off as Nightmare Moon, Discord, the impostor Cadence, and other magical mischief-makers. It's more... scientific. She took a gulp. I know that I can't touch it. My insides are screaming at me not to.
She lit up her horn and tried to magically examine the outside of the ball. Immediately, a rainbow-colored aura appeared, intermixed with her own purple arua. She paused. Rainbow-magic? Or no... that's not magic at all, is it? It's like a magnetic something or other?
She pulled up her textbooks, trying to look for anything like that mysterious white ball. She flew through pages, seeing nothing quite like it. She stopped, resting her head against the table. She slightly off even just looking at the thing. Her friends had held it without anything happening, though. Am I more sensitive? Or less sensitive to something? The blasted ball had no labels, no markings, and nothing else on it than gave any clues.
She combed through another book, this one focusing on old legends and related monsters. She came across something interesting, detailing a strange 'homo economicus' creature with pale skin and four claws that walked upright. Those creatures seemed not just resistant to magic, but they often carried simplistic, token or keepsake like items with anti-magical powers. Twilight ran her hoof along an old drawing of a solid white box with a silver casing, about the same size as the mystery ball, with a description claiming "dangerous high frequency electromagnetic emissions". The box had labels on it, though, calling it an 'iLife 3'... whatever that meant.
"Similar, I guess," Twilight muttered, "but not close enough." Hours of studying and various ways of poking and prodding the ball came to nothing. She finally wanted to give up, eyeing the clock that already put it at 1 am. "Stupid ball! Stupid, stupid, stupid-- ugh!" Before she could even think, she bucked her hind legs up against the table.
The ball rolled right off and landed onto a basket of test tubes, making a horrible crunching sound. Twilight felt like having a heart attack, scurrying right under the table. She gripped the basket and looked inside.
The ball had somehow opened up, sliding into two halves. It reminded Twilight of when Mr. Cake cut a deviled egg right in two with a knife, leaving two semi-spherical sides. It didn't seem broken. On the contrary, it looked like she had opened it just the right way, ridges going along both sides.
One side had a large black switch, stuck somewhere between the left and right side. The other had a mysterious label. Twilight flew over a blank scroll, and she jotted it down. The ball glowed with some kind of light white energy, seeping into the floor and right out the door towards the outside.
Nous sommes très, très heureux que vous avez acheté l'un des articles de notre catégorie or. Votre patronage continue signifie beaucoup pour nous. C'est des clients tels que vous-même que faire du monde un endroit joyeux heureux.
Comme indiqué dans les instructions, il suffit de laisser vos amis toucher à ce dispositif. Ils seront pas les plus sages. Puis, au moment opportun, il suffit de glisser sur l'interrupteur animateur d'activités physiques. Les effets dureront pendant environ trente minutes. S'il vous plaît ne pas utiliser sur vos animaux de compagnie ou d'une autre les animaux en dehors des gens.
Beaucoup de plaisir lors de fêtes! J'espère que vous apprécierez notre boule idiot nouvelle, la Reine Chrysalis!
Cheval-ville Blague Jouets Inc.}
"What bucking language is that?" Twilight called out. She stood up, slamming her head against the bottom of the table. "Oh, horseapples!" Her bottom hooves swung around, kicking the basket a few inches. She leaned over and stood back upright, away from the table.
She magically pulled over the jacket and picked up the ball once again. She froze, seeing that she had somehow shut it again. How... how did I do that? How! Ugh! She felt tempted to hurl the ball against the wall over and over again, trying to hit it in just that right way to get it to open again.
She sighed. "It's already too late." She wrapped up the ball completely with the jacket, picked up the scroll, and she headed up twoards her bredroom. She set her things under her bed before walking over to the bathroom. As she lifted up the toothbrush and toothpaste, she made an angry breath. "I'll wait until morning. But I will get the bottom of this. And I know I can do it without calling the Princess. I know I can. I'm smart enough."
The description singled out a "Reine Chrysalis". That has to be somepony's name. I know it. If only I knew what those words mean. After she was all ready for bed, Twilight hopped in, snuggling deep into the covers. Time for a good night's sleep. I deserve it. After dealing with that horrible impostor Queen and leaving my brother-- but not for forever, of course-- I've had enough emotional turmoil. Things getting nice and normal-- that's better. She smiled as she fell asleep.
To Be Continued...